Dining Out – Maybe

I need a break from my cooking. Eating out presents me with a conundrum. For some, unexplained reason, when I offer an invitation, my friends increasingly make excuses not to join me. They tell me they have Bible study. Their sister’s coming over. Lemo, her cat, is blue and she needs to there for her. I mentally go through my checklist of people I’ve asked to join me for dinner.  I’m looking for someone who’s compassionate, forgiving, and with a short memory. I run through 15 possibilities. I decide to text Eileen.

Want to go out for Mexican?

Eileen texts back, Are you going to embarrass me again?

I text, All I did was ask to see the Health Department Inspection Report.

Eileen texts, We were fourth in line when you shouted, “Where is the Health Grade. It’s supposed to be displayed in public view? Everyone turned and stared at us.”

I was trying to protect you. It’s a guy thing. We can’t help ourselves, I text back in protest.

Eileen texts, When we got to the front of the line, you wouldn’t give them your name until you saw the health grade. Do you know how long the line was behind us? 

I was protecting them as well. It’s a burden, few will accept. You can see why my shoulders are bent. I used to be 6’4″ now, I’m only 5’11”. I’ll be shopping in the boy’s department before long. If you go with me, I promise I won’t ask for the health report. 

Eileen texts, Is this conversation going to appear on your blog?”

Blog? This conversation? I don’t think you trust the male species.

Eileen texts, Your species has a track record.

I change the subject, I hear El Toro has great nachos.

You don’t eat nachos, texts Eileen.

Good point, you going to dinner with me? I’m hungry.

K. Give me an hour.


An hour later I pick Eileen up. We decide to go to El Toro. I don’t care for the prices, but I like the name’s masculinity. My species, all I can say, “Mercy, por favor.”

We arrive at El Toro. I’m on my best behavior. We walk in. Eileen quickly points out the block A on the wall to my left. I said, “I feel better already. Does it give a date of the inspection?”

Eileen whispers, “Don’t press your luck.”

We chit chat for twenty minutes, munch on chips and sip iced tea. I hear a squeaky, I want to say prepubescence voice, but I know the woman is at least sixteen going on twenty-eight if you know what I mean. The voice says, “Ray, par tee of two.” How do you write in a prepubescence voice? I’m calling NASA and asking for help. Maybe Watson at IBM can solve my dilemma.

She lead us to a table near the kitchen, I said, “I don’t want to sit near the kitchen.” I see Eileen roll her eyes.

The young woman said, “Let me see what I can do.” The voice, my eardrums ache. It affects me like fingernails drawn across a green board or blackboard.

“How about over there?” she says pointing with her right arm while she checks Instagram with her left hand. She points out a table next to the women’s bathroom door. I point to a different table,  “No one is sitting there,” I said.

“The table by the bathroom door is better. If you have to go, you don’t have to go far,” she laughed at her joke.

I said, “I don’t want to sit next to the bathroom door. ”

The voice rolls her eyes, grabs two place settings. I know I’ll make some social network in very descriptive terms. Eileen is staring at a knife on the table near us. I’m wondering if I crossed the line? Maybe I’ll offer to pick up the tab.

I hold Eileen’s chair while she sits. I’m thinking this gesture will go a long way to erasing the last ten minutes. I said, “Nice place, El Toro. It’s on me tonight,” I check to see if Eileen has a concealed weapon. They’re legal in Texas.

Eileen said, “I’ll have a glass of wine, too.”‘

That one hurt.

We look at the menu. Eileen’s done quickly. I ponder a bit longer.

“A problem, Ray?” asked Eileen.

“Oh no. I’m going to have the fish tacos.”

“I’ve had them here before, they’re very good.”

Marco, the waiter, comes by to take our order. Eileen orders enchiladas Verdura. I like it, a nice modest entree. I’m thinking about my Mastercard balance.

“And, for you sir?” asks Marco.

“I have a question or two about the menu, Marco. Can I substitute salmon for the tilapia in my fish tacos?”

“That’s highly irregular. Our chef has a certain way of preparing tacos. He’s very sensitive.

“Tell the chef, I’m maxing my omega 3’s.”

“What’s that sir?”

“While you’re checking with him. I want to substitute fat-free black beans for the refried beans. I want my Pico de gallo on the side. No cheese on my tacos. But I want extra sides of your hot salsa.”

“Is that it sir?”

“Can I have two flour tacos and one corn taco?”

“I’ll have to add an extra dollar.”

Marco leaves. I look across the table, “Eileen? Eileen?

Lesson learned. Enjoy the moment. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Being with a good friend is priceless.




The Wedding

My name is Ray, and I’m not on Facebook. It’s humbling to admit. Everyone I know is on Facebook. The barista, the old woman down the street on a walker. The skateboarder who zips by and waves while jumping the curb. Even my lawn guy who said, “No estas en Facebook, estas loco (you’re not on Facebook, you’re crazy).  Even Lady Lucy’s on Facebook.

My neighbors held an intervention. When that didn’t work they brought in an exorcist. When that failed, they asked a free-spirited couple to chant and channel light energy to me. Why do I bring this up? Keep reading.

It’s 2:15 p.m. The wedding begins a 4 p.m. I charged my iPhone. I ask Siri, “Get me directions to 320 Artist Drive. How difficult is that for Siri? Not very. She’s back in a jiffy, “Proceed to the route,” she said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. Like she has to tell me to proceed to the route. If Siri doesn’t tell me, am I about to sit in the lot waiting for further instructions? Give me some credit, I made honor roll once in second grade, or was it fourth. No, it wasn’t fourth, I barely escaped.

I follow Siri to 320 Artist Drive. It can’t be right. I’m staring at a condo. The condo supposed to be a lodge that handles parties, weddings, wingdings, soiree’s, and the annual Facebook Anonymous Convention (FAC for short). I circle around the condos. No sign of a lodge. Lots of pickup trucks,  satellite dishes, pizza boxes sticking out of a dumpster. I caught a glimpse of a scrawny looking guy, arms like overcooked angel hair spaghetti, a bit of facial hair covering a receding chin, and a T-shirt with a peace sign that looks as old as Woodstock (if you remember that). I estimate his age anywhere from twenty-two to seventy-one. I roll my window down, “Excuse me, do you know how to get to Hyde Park Lodge?”  He tucks his right arm behind his back to hide something he was smoking. He says, “Lockman? No

He tucks his right arm behind his back to hide something he was smoking. He says, “That where they’re having the smoke in?”

“I don’t know about a smoke in, I’m going to a wedding.”

“Wedding man? Cool. Who are you marrying?”

“I’m not getting married, it’s …”

He interrupts me, “Does she know that? That’s bad karma dude.”

I change my strategy. “I’m looking for the lodge. Do you know how to get to the lodge?”

“Locks? Don’t worry about locks. Break in, take what you want, leave a nice note, you’re only borrowing.”

“No, a lodge,” I repeat.


“Hey man, don’t freak out. Everything’s cool. There’s a logging camp about thirty miles from here.”

“Thanks, man. Peace.”

“He scratches his head with his free hand, and says, “I’m searching for it, dude.”

Hw either promoted or demoted me from man to dude. I’m sure this isn’t the lodge. Although I see a stream of people going in and out of a first-floor condo and coming out with plastic to go baggies.

I check my iPhotos where I have a pic of the invitation. Maybe I got the address wrong. No, I got the address right. It’s being held at Hyde Park Lodge. I stop a man and woman, I ask them for directions. He’s talking at her. She’s talking at him. No one’s listening. It must be the U.S. Congress. I’m confused. They start arguing. “Jill, you’re thinking of the Hide Park Lodge.”

“No, Don. I’m thinking of the Hyde Park Ledge.”

“I interrupt. All I need is the direction to Hyde Park Lodge. Hyde with a Y.”to Hyde Park Lodge. Hyde with a Y.”

“Oh, Hyde with a Y Park Lodge,” they say in unison. They look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. In unison, “Sorry, can’t help you.”

I leave and head for the center of town. I park, go into the first tourist trap I find. “Can I help you?” says a guy who looks like he’s a retired CPA.

“Yes, how do I get to Hyde Park Lodge? There’s a Hyde Park up on the Hudson. Hell of a drive from here. Has a great sushi place. Used to go there all the time. I miss it. You like sushi? I just moved here from New York. Would you like to see some of our postcards?”

“Raincheck on the postcards, por favor. I’m going to a wedding. It starts in less than an hour. I have no clue where I’m going.”

He says, “You came to Sante Fe with no clue as to where you’re going? Martha, Martha, red alert.”

“It’s a metaphor for my life. No need for a red alert,” I answer.

He turns, “Downgrade it to an orange alert, Martha.”

His eye stops twitching. I buy two postcards and leave.

I’m a proud man, but I’m a desperate man. I have no choice. I call my daughters for help. It’s humiliating, humbling, I’m already generating a list of excuses. I call Pru, no answer. I call the bride’s sister, Monica, a granddaughter, no answer. I call Cathy, the bride’s mother, no answer. I know they’re at the Lodge. I’m feeling paranoid. I always thought I was the life of the party. I try Googling Hyde Park Lodge. All I get is the Hyde Park Ranger station. Close enough. I call and a Ranger answers. That’s good. It’s a recording, that’s bad. The recording tells me to call 911 if it’s an emergency. I consider the advice. I have thirty minutes and two postcards.

I start driving toward 320 Artist Drive again. Why? It’s a guy thing. If it doesn’t work the first ten times, it’s got to work the eleventh time. It’s written in the Real Man’s Guide to the Universe. I arrive again at 320 Artist Way. The condo is still standing. My toking friend waves. I wave back. He hollers, “I found it.”

I holler back, “Found what.”

He waves his joint, “Peace, man. Peace.”

I flash the peace sign and head up the road away from town towards the mountains. I call Angie, another daughter. She and her family pull off the road somewhere in Michigan. She tells me the address is wrong. It was changed on Facebook (now you understand). I ask for help finding the lodge. She asks me where I am. The answer is easy, 320 Artist way.

“I’m Googling. Which direction are you facing?” she asks.

“Straight ahead,” I answer.

She’s a professor. She’s good under pressure. “That’s good Dad. Where is the sun?”

“In the sky.”

“I’m getting a sense of where you are,” she says.

“I have 15 minutes until the wedding starts,” panic creeps into my voice.

“No worries. I’ll get you there. Head in the direction of where there are the fewest houses and keep on going until ….”

“I hear until and then I lose the signal. What choice do I have with only 15 minutes? I keep going. The road goes into the mountains. It narrows. A large dropoff appears to one side. I keep watching the road. It’s all winding and up, up, and up. I’m fearful my nose will begin to bleed. Does my rental have an oxygen mask that will drop out of the roof in case of an emergency?

A motorcycle passes on a double yellow, blind curve. I’m hoping whoever is driving doesn’t become bug splatter. Maybe they’re late for the wedding too. They squeeze in a second before a jeep comes in the opposite direction.

Ten miles later at 3:55 I see something that looks like a lodge. It is a lodge. I pull in. Pru and Cathy are staring at the road. I blast the horn. I wonder if I disturbed the wedding  (I wonder if the daughters think, you can’t bring dad anywhere). We hug and they tell me there is no cell service).  The wedding hasn’t started. I breathe a sigh of relief. All the guests crowd four deep around a table. I inquire as to what is going on. Cathy says, “Open bar.”

I muscle my way to the front of the crowd and get the bartender’s attention, “Do you have Perrier?”

“Perry who?”

I need a service dog. Where’s Lady Lucy?

I made it through my misadventures. The wedding was a success. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson couldn’t find the Lodge. I heard they joined the dude at 320 Artist Way.

I had a great time. Lots of laughs. Lots of love. Lots of celebration. Not a sad face in the crowd. It’s what weddings are meant to be. I decide everyone needs a bit of wedding in their day.

My granddaughter and me at the wedding. It was worth the adventure. Don’t miss out on the big things. They come by once. Grab hold and hold on tight.

Ray with his granddaughter

My Wedding Adventures & Misadventures Pt. 2

I arrive in Albuquerque. The plane arrives on time. And, Lady Lucy won my heart. I asked her to like my blog, all she did was lick my cheek. How can a guy push away a girl with brown eyes as deep and rich as Lady Lucy’s eyes? Impossible (Lady Lucy’s selfie below –  she was using a selfie stick – eat your heart out guys).

Lady Lucy

Sante Fe is 60 miles north of Albuquerque. The wedding is at 4 p.m. I took a photo of the invitation so I can Google the address when I drive to the wedding. Wait a minute, I need to get my reserved rental car. I got a good deal online when I purchased my airline ticket – that’s the last time I fall for that pitch.

Let put it this way, there’s a reason they call it Budget Rental. The person at the counter greeted me as if were her ex and was behind on child support. Honest, it’s the first time I ever saw her. It got worse as I declined additional coverage, promised to fill the tank, and not surrender my first born as collateral. Our conversation ends with me asking, “Where do I get my car.”

She shook her beehive hairdo toward the right. I was too frightened to look, my mind told me to duck if killer bees swarmed out of her hair. I mustered my courage and said, “Do I have time to go to the restroom?” She laughed and said, “Oh yes, take your time.”

I didn’t care for her tone. My bladder empty, hands washed. I was ready. I walked past her counter and she glared at me. I felt her eyes following me as if she were a sniper. I hope she didn’t have a gun with a laser site. I kept looking for a red dot on my clothes.

I made it safely outside and waited, and waited and waited. After fifteen minutes, I asked someone about my car. She had to consult with another person who has to make a phone call. I can see inside the building. I see beehive pick up a phone. Lots of nodding heads and heads turning toward me. I’m ready to scream, “I’ll give a DNA sample, I’m not your ex. I don’t owe child support. I’ll go on Judge Judy. Just give me my car.” Ten more minutes a black Jeep Patriot pull in. I give it the once over and pull out. My cell battery is nearly empty. I’m down to six percent. I don’t know exactly where the Residence Inn is located. The car they gave me doesn’t have a USB port. I quickly check my iPhone and the year. I was under the impression it was 2017, not 1997. I use one percent of battery life to log into my Marriot app and check in. The app promises me my room will be waiting for me.

I glad I didn’t ask the room to the prom. When I arrive at the Residence Inn, the clerk tells me I’m not in the system. Surely, I was.

“No, sorry.”

“Did you spell my name correctly? It’s Ray. One vowel, two consonants.”

“Oh yes, there it is. No, nothing is ready.”

I say, “I have a wedding in three hours. I’m a first born Italian male, it’s in my DNA to look good. I haven’t shaved since 3 a.m. Can you help me?”

“No sorry, come back in an hour or so? If everything goes right, you should be in your room by 3:30.”

I shrugged and said, “Do you mind if I call my Uncle Tony and he calls your manager? What is your name?”

The clerk gets a worried look, and said, “Where does your Uncle Tony live?”

I said, “I’m family, I can’t tell you.”

The clerk said, “Let me see what I can do.”

I had two uncle Tony’s, one on each side. One is in heaven and the other in witness protection (only kidding). Ten minutes later, I’m in my room. I charge my iPhone. I’ll need Apple or Google maps to get me to the wedding. I leave at 2:15, I want to schmooze with family and snack on any available finger foods. I hope they have Perrier.

You’d think my misadventures were over, but they were only beginning. Stop by tomorrow to discover if I even make it to the wedding. And, if I did, what were Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson doing there?


My Wedding Adventures & Misadventures

My Wedding Adventure

My granddaughter, Mary, is getting married in Sante Fe this afternoon. In the next few blogs, I will describe my adventures and misadventures on attending the wedding.

It all started out innocently enough when I packed for my flight to Albuquerque (Hey, I spelled it correctly, first try – wish Miss Sleeper or Miss Sleepy as I called her behind her back in fourth grade could see it). I placed my suitcase on the bed. I neatly folded my blue blazer and white shirt and placed them in the suitcase (so far, so good). My right brain directed me to load up my one-quart plastic baggie with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and my razor (my chest is swelling with pride), I’m hoping the TSA tells me I’m their poster boy for the year. I polished my shoes, put them in a plastic bag and placed them in the suitcase.

I closed the suitcase, put the suitcase where I won’t forget it when I leave (right in front of the door leading to the garage) and got ready for bed (my flight departs at 6 a.m.). I woke up with a start at 10 p.m. OMG – I didn’t pack pants or my boxers. I’m out of the bed, the suitcase is back on the bed, my pants and boxers go in (pants neatly, boxers, not so neatly).

It takes me a half-hour to get back to sleep after that near miss. I finally and gratefully doze off. It’s 1:30 a.m. I’m sitting straight up in bed. Can you imagine being all dressed up for the wedding but not having stockings? Major faux pax. I take care of it. I now have it covered. I toss and turn. I look for the cold side of the pillow. Nothing helps. I go through a packing checklist – a voice in my mind screams at me, “Hold on Ray. Where is the tie?” Where is the tie? I know where the tie is, it’s on the tie rack and not in the suitcase. I’m getting aerobic exercise carrying my suitcase back and forth to the bed for packing.

I did not go back to sleep. That’s the bad news. The good news – I got to the airport on time. The bad news – the flight was delayed. The good -news. I slept for the two hours on the flight to Phoenix. Wait a minute, I thought you were going to Albuquerque (spelled it correctly again, Miss Sleepy, oops, Miss Sleeper). Phoenix is where the brilliant minds at American Airlines decided I have to go to get to Albuquerque. So, we fly over the entire state of New Mexico. Change planes and come back to New Mexico.

It was all good because in Phoenix I met Richard and David from Hawaii. One seat between them. I asked if the seat was open, Richard said yes, David shrugged. I said to David, “Will you accept a 2-1 vote?” “Ho k,” he said. I said to Richard and David, “If you guys haven’t had coffee, let me know, I’ll get a different seat.” David looks past me at Richard and says, “We let him stay. Where you going, man?” I said, “It’s Ray, what’s your name amigo.” I turned down an offer from David when we boarded the plane to learn the gang signals. When I boarded the plane, Jim and Lady Lucy were sitting in my seat. Lady Lucy a cute service dog with big brown eyes. My apologies, Lady Lucy, your eyes almost got me. But you do have my seat.”

Tomorrow: The wedding.

Put A Smile On

Every day is a great day. “What a minute, Ray. You don’t a bad day? Are you on work release from a rehab center?”

“What a minute, Ray. You don’t have a bad day? Are you on work release from a rehab center?”

“I’m serious, every day is a great day. Every day you can find to give you a bit joy, a touch of happiness, a hint of love. Put it together and you had a great day.”

“What about when everything goes wrong. I mean everything goes wrong.

“I see I’m dealing with a cynic. I’m dealing with a dude who’s bent over, cramped up, looks like he waiting curbside for the mortuary van. “Come on, let me see the edges turn up. When was the last time you smiled? Sing it buster.”

“There’s nothing to smile about. You watch the news? You read the online blogs? You follow politics, terror, crime.”

“I know the problem. If I know the problem. I can suggest an antidote. Don’t delay, your life hangs in the balance.”

“Hey tone it down a bit. I can hear you.”

“You kidding me. It’s a great day and tomorrow has all the making of an even better day. And, I’m FDA approved.”

“Are you dangerous? Or, simple minded?”

“I’m neither depressed dude. Here’s the deal. It’s your diet. Plan and simple. I’m putting you on a one month diet. It’s rough. You’re going cold turkey. Actually, cold turkey is better than turkey left out on the cabinet for a week.”

“I’m suffering enough. How much longer do I have to listen to you?”

“I’m doing the writing, so you’ll have to hang around as long as I want you to hang around.”

“Let’s get it over so I can rest.”

“No listening to cable news shows. No listening to the talking heads who think they have every answer. Watch the comedy channel. Read inspiring books. Take extended walks in nature. Meet every one of your neighbors. And, most importantly, do two kind acts a day. Do it all for a month and you’ll be The dude, not a depressed dude.”

“Do I have to?”

“Afraid so. If you don’t, I’ll bring you back in the next blog.”

“I’m on it.”

happy children

Gypsy, The German Shepherd’s Wisdom

I had a German Shepherd. Her name was Gypsy. One of my daughters painted a portrait of Gypsy I keep hanging on a wall. If you’ve had a pet you’ve considered a friend, you can understand the relationship I had with Gypsy.

She was an athlete. She could run with the wind. Catch Frisbees tossed at seemingly impossible angles. I’d toss a tennis ball sixty feet in the air and she’d snag as if she were playing centerfield in the majors. Most of all, Gypsy was a friend. Where I’d go, Gypsy wouldn’t be far behind. I’d often go in the yard with Gypsy to relax. She had a way of helping me forget work and setting aside other things holding my mind captive.

Today, I picture Gypsy lying on the ground in front of me. She has a look in her eye, partly mischevious, partly playful, and always loving. In my mind’s eye, I ask Gypsy, “Tell me about life, Gypsy. You enjoy every moment. What’s your secret?”

Gypsy cocks her head a bit to the side and gives me a quizzical look. She says, “Ray, what’s all the fuss? Lighten up.”

“Easy for you to say Gypsy. Cut me a little slack.”

Gyspy shakes her head, “I’m going to give you special dog secrets.”

I look incredulously at her, “Dog secrets?”

“That’s right, dog secrets. Heads up. If you nod off, I’ll wake you with a ferocious bark.”

“I’m all ears, don’t take that remark personally.”

I think she is smiling. Some claim dogs don’t smile, but I believe Gypsy smiled all the time.

Gypsy says, “Don’t interrupt me. I’m giving you wisdom that’s evolved in the canine breed over ions.”

“I’m waiting.”

“Whenever you get a chance, curl up in the sun and enjoy its warm rays. If you can do it on the sofa, all the better. When someone you love comes through the door, meet them, greet them, and hug them. Whatever food is served, be grateful for it, it’s all good and it’s all going to the same place. Get exercise – plenty of it. Exercise is always better when you’re doing it with someone you love. Most of all, enjoy the moment. Don’t think ahead. Tomorrow comes quick enough. And, be loyal, protect those you love. After all, we’re family. It’s all good, Ray. It’s all good,

Thank you, Gypsy. Thank you for your enduring wisdom.

German Shepherd

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t

Well before talk of walls and pathways to citizenship, I met Consuelo Garcia (the first name is real, I kept the second name private). Consuelo is an American citizen by birth. Her parents crossed into the U.S. somewhere along the Rio Grande illegally. She was born two years after her parents settled in San Antonio. The first of seven children. When I met Consuelo, she was 35 years old.

Consuelo’s father worked as a day laborer getting jobs wherever he could find one. Her mother worked as a maid in the homes on the North side of San Antonio. I relate Consuelo’s story as she told it to me.

Consuelo was an excellent student. In high school, her GPA was 4.0. (My note: I only saw a 4.0 in a dream). She never received a grade lower than an A in all her college prep courses. In the fall of her senior year, she went to her guidance counselor to seek advice on how to apply to college. The counselor said, “The girls in this school (98% Mexican-American) get pregnant and get a job. That will probably happen to you. Let’s talk about the kind of job you want.”

Consuelo walked out of the counselor’s office crying. That night she told her parents what happened. Her uneducated father and mother were angry. They told her they would take her to university and find out how to apply. The next morning, Saturday, they drove to campus. Not much was happening. All offices were closed. They walked around campus and found the library. The entered the library. A staff member saw the bewildered look on their faces and asked if she could help. Consuelo spoke to the staff member (her parents’ English was limited). The staff member brought her application materials and made sure she understood what she had to do.

Four years later, Consuelo graduated from the University magna cum laude. I met Consuelo in my graduate level Change Class. She was and is a remarkable woman of courage.

Consuelo’s story is one of courage, tenacity, and believing in dreams.

Today, I will continue to believe in my dreams. I will have the courage and tenacity to chase them, no matter the challenges. Hoping you do the same.