Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Judy Wreath, a Celebration of Life

Over this past weekend our family suffered a terrible loss.
Handsome's sweet Mom, Judy Goddard Wreath,
passed away suddenly very early Saturday morning, 
and we have been reeling ever since.
Every routine, naturally, is on pause for a while 
as we tend to each other's grief and make 
final arrangements for a truly great lady.

In the days since her passing, we have received dozens, 
perhaps hundreds, of phone calls and emails 
describing the myriad ways Judy has touched people's lives.
It is humbling, inspiring, and comforting all at once.

Following is a small tribute to her for her loved ones to keep 
and hopefully for adding their own memories.

If you knew Judy Wreath,
then this little memorial should make you nod your head 
and maybe laugh, and maybe cry, 
and probably want to tell your own stories.
We certainly hope you join in.

If you never got the chance to know her,
I bet you'll want to.


   Judy Goddard Wreath was born to Edgar and Goldie Goddard on January 22, 1947 in Tipton, Oklahoma. She lived all her life in Oklahoma but worked hard, spread the love of God, and made lifelong friends everywhere she went.

Judy Goddard as a pretty little girl, already full of ideas and adventure.

   As a young teenager she moved to Oklahoma City with her family then graduated from Western Heights high school in 1964. She lived a full, generous life and died unexpectedly on Saturday, October 19, 2013 in her home in Moore, Oklahoma. Judy was preceded in death by her parents, by her brother Danny, and by her husband Harvey’s parents and two siblings. She is survived by a large family including one sister, cousins,  and many nieces and nephews.

They started their marriage in prayer, and they have maintained that standard.
They prayed together every morning before starting their day,
right up until they would have celebrated their fortieth anniversary this week.

   Married on the balcony of the Liberty bank tower in downtown Oklahoma City on October 21, 1973, Judy and her husband Harvey Wreath were just shy of celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary when she passed. Their decades together exemplified marital union and teamwork  in every way possible, from how they raised their blended family to the careers they shared and the church they helped grow and pastor. Judy was truly Harvey’s right arm just as he was hers, and thinking of them apart feels unnatural to everyone who loves them.

I adore this photo, the way she is looking at her husband, my wonderful father-in-law.
I hope he always feels her love.

   Judy leaves behind her beloved husband, Harvey Wreath, three beautiful daughters and their husbands, Angela and David Anderson, Cindy and Roger Wagner, and Tyrene and Shad Turoczi; two loving sons and their wives, Eddie and Amy Wreath and Brandy and Marie Wreath; twenty-one grandchildren of whom she was so proud, Courtney and Eric Fillebaum, Nicole and Matthew Lee, Jennifer Anderson and fiancee Jordan Brandford, Amy Jo Anderson, Jami Canfield, Lacy and Joe Echelle, Tanner Wagner, Tehran and Catherine Turoczi, Haven Turoczi, Koston Turoczi, Trevor Wreath, Matthew Wreath, Samantha Wreath, Harley Bell Wreath, Jocelyn Hartley, and Jessica Hartley; and seven wonderful little great-grand children, Kylen and Holden Fillebaum, Wesley Canfield, Grant and Taryn Echelle, and Jaxson and Milani Turoczi.

   And she was called “Mom” or “Granda-girl” or “Grandma Judy” by countless other children through the years, from Sunday School students and foster kids to children she helped in her work as a police officer and child advocate.

   Judy’s love for children was matched only by her deep affection for the elderly. Her example of how to treat the Golden Generation is one we all should follow.

   The list of friends she leaves behind is long and varied, rich with love and admiration, but one friend in particular, Carolyn Schultz, was like a sister to her for most of their lives. And a cousin, David, was as much a brother to her as well.

   Judy’s professional life was as richly textured and meaningful as her personality. She worked as a bookkeeper , as an apartment complex manager (where she and Harvey first met), as business manager of Harvey’s Body Shop in Moore (where she was also known to pinstripe cars), as an organist for different churches, and much more. For more than twenty-five years, she and Harvey worked not just one but many jobs together, certainly a testament to their love and compatibility.

   Judy was a talented seamstress who never sold her creations but instead donated dress after dress to women and children in need, as well as drapes, baby blankets, and much more. She sewed for her own home and others, and she has passed on to her family that craving to create with fabric.

   Judy was a sometime street racer over the years and she loved cars, especially hot rods, but not yellow ones. But she hated motorcycles just as much and took it personally that her loved ones continued to ride them.

   Judy was active with and devoted to her children from the cradle through adulthood. She placed a high value on play and joyfulness in the home, from playing dress up and having fashion shows to painting little hot wheels or burying them in the dirt. She knew how to play and never wanted any child to go without or feel lonely.

   She was an amazing grandmother, a loyal, dedicated friend, and a tenacious fighter when necessary.  She was someone you wanted in your corner, and she had a talent for seeing through to the root of a problem or to the essence of a broken heart. She was a woman of action, not often idle worry, and the few times she couldn't directly help you, she was right there just pouring out much needed comfort.

   Most importantly, Judy knew how to pray, and she shared that knowledge with anyone who would listen. She believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38). She believed in leading a good life and making an honorable name for yourself. At her death she was busy writing a book all about the power of prayer as she had seen it play out in her lifetime, while watching her own grandmother closely. The Democrat Granny Brandstatt.  She often stated that she knew miracles are real.

   Judy was quick to laugh, quick to forgive, quick to defend, extra quick to help anyone in need, and quick to gather people together for a meal. She loved to talk. So much. And her strong, feminine voice and giggle will be missed.

   No one could throw a party quite like her, whatever the occasion, and she was always happy to do it. She made every holiday memorable,  and she made every person feel important. From her trio of elegant Christmas trees and the family’s crab boil in December to Easter egg hunts in the spring and elaborate Halloween galas, Judy kept the family’s rhythm strong with rituals and traditions.

   In Harvey and Judy’s home, the grand kids ruled. The bedrooms were always decked out with fun toys, electronics, and comfortable beds, and the kitchen was always overflowing with exactly the right junk foods. Judy wanted all children to feel safe and secure, and her home was meant to be an oasis for them. This included late night movies, marshmallows in the fireplace, video game marathons, and even prayer. She always made room for everybody.

   As if all of this wasn’t enough, Judy was one of the most dazzlingly effective workers in Oklahoma’s broader political scene. Judy’s maternal grandparents were famously bipartisan, her Granny being a Democrat and her Grandpa being a Republican. This fundamental duality informed Judy’s values well, and she applied it to her political energy, often supporting Republicans but always supporting the best candidates (even if they were Democrats). At a Republican Women’s gathering she once delivered a speech saying that if her polar opposite grandparents could raise eleven kids together, then surely the state’s elected officials from both sides of the aisle could get along! Judy organized fund raisers for men and women at every level of government. She spearheaded successful grassroots campaign strategies, advised politicians, and generally impassioned people to care about what happened around them. She taught her children to respect and appreciate the political process and helped her husband gain election to the Moore City Council in 1978.

   Some of the friends she and Harvey made along this path are the late Senator Helen Cole, Congressman Tom Cole, Senator Gary Gardenhire, Governor Frank and Cathy Keating, Representative Jan Collins, Vice President Mondale, and the late Lillian Carter. Judy never took lightly her opportunities and honors, but she certainly earned every one of them. Many of us were lucky enough to ride her coattails.

Judy with Oklahoma First Lady Cathy Keating.

   Judy was a sort of self-taught politician, psychologist, counselor, attorney, custom painter, and physician. She helped people in thousands of ways, for free, all without a formal education. She researched things that interested her and allowed God to lead her, and we were all blessed by her enthusiasm.  She was always willing to tell you exactly what you needed to do, and was usually spot on, and never she never sent a bill but hoped for your love.

   One of the career paths Judy and Harvey shared was law enforcement. When Harvey was Under Sheriff at Cleveland County, she worked for him as a reserve police officer then again later at the Hallpark Police Department, where she worked as the Juvenile Officer, protecting and mentoring children. They were known to ride the streets together keeping the world safe, taking home lost children, and protecting the innocent.  She never stopped looking for the lost and she had a gift to find them. The children of Hall Park will never forget the special years of trick-or- treating with officer Judy.

Harvey and Judy in uniform together.

   When the Murrah Building was bombed in 1995, Judy worked alongside Harvey to identify victims and notify their families, both awful burdens which she carried with grace. She spent more than two weeks in the morgue under unimaginable circumstances, and all these years since she has testified repeatedly how the Holy Spirit protected and comforted her, kept her sane and happy despite the horrors. She felt honoured to protect the youngest of victims in their last hour. She has also been able to spread that sense of protection to dozens of other people, inspiring them, rescuing them in their darkest hours, pushing them toward hope and peace. This is no small thing.

   Judy was a lover of music. She enjoyed Elvis, heavy symphony music, old fashioned spirituals, and anything her Daddy played on his guitar. Her favorite song was Dream Lover by Bobby Darin. The kids always loved for her and Harvey to sing a duet of Chantilly Lace. She was a talented pianist herself and over the years has kept thousands of worship services moving with her organ music. She loved to share this love of music and secretly bought many instruments for the needy over the years.

   She had a wonderful penchant for the dramatic, which was evident in every room she decorated and every event she planned. She was a history buff and infused her surroundings with special artifacts from the past. Many of our families’ homes are filled with treasures that Mom had found that she thought we just had to have in our homes.  She loved to give so much that you couldn’t tell her something she had was pretty or she would make you take it with you.

   You could count on a Judy Wreath party to be big, beautiful, and memorable. Still, she appreciated little favors people did for her, the small welcoming gestures that made her feel loved.  She threw countless weddings for the the needy and every friend that would let her just take the reigns.  Her talents threw many birthday parties, graduation celebrations, and more. None could throw together a bigger party on a smaller budget and have people leaving in awe.

   Judy liked for women to dress their best and for little girls to be made to feel pretty. She would light up at the chance to make a wedding dress or a little flower girl fluff.  A great honor was also to make special clothing for any baby’s dedication to the Lord. She had so much fun making hundreds of Halloween costumes from clowns, to puppies, to princesses. She also loved for men to be gentlemen and for little boys to get to dress as Batman as often as they wish.

My Handsome with his sweet Momma, after his college graduation ceremony.
I have not known a more proud mother.

   The stories and descriptions about this phenomenal lady could go on and on. There is no one quite like Judy Goddard Wreath, and we all have lost more than a wife and matriarch, though she certainly was that. We have lost more than a friend and mother and grandmother, though of course she was those things too. She was a woman who knew her gifts and used them to the best of her ongoing ability in order to serve others, to make their lives better and to make hers meaningful. She was a woman who wanted more than anything to please her living God so that she could one day be called up to heaven and be reunited with so many loved ones.

   She wanted her friends and family to know how much she loved them. The only time she spoke of fear was when wondering if people loved her back.  When you are missing her and wondering what she thought of you, rest assured, if Judy Wreath knew you, she loved you.  She was a Biblical example of unconditional love.

   The vacancy she leaves will be felt more deeply with every day; but the legacy she leaves can only thrive.

   We all love you, Judy, and miss you terribly.

   And Mr. H says he’ll see you in the morning.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tiny T: Episode 9

   T thought for a moment about Olivia's response, measuring her effervescent voice and testing his own cravings. As he took a breath to speak, he glanced upward. The willowy blonde in the pencil skirt was standing right in front of him, smiling quite directly while eating a fried shrimp po' boy. Standing elegantly on those vaulted high heels, she rattled him more than women usually do. He scowled and looked away, having to make an effort now to focus on his conversation with Olivia.

   "Well, if you want to have some real fun, let me help, " he said into his phone as he made a quarter turn away. "You girls shouldn't be wandering around town alone anyway. It's just not safe. Let me meet you." It felt a bit too aggressive really, but the blonde's stare was ramping him up and he felt this strange need to assert himself in her presence. Plus, he didn't want to lose the chance to see Olivia again.

   "Umm, okay, what did you have in mind?" Olivia answered gently and with curiosity. Despite a faltering cell phone connection, T had her full attention now. "We are on our way to Frenchman Street now, to see some antique stores. Carly knows the owner of one and my hotel is nearby."

   "Okay. Just hang loose. I'll find you." He clicked his phone off, locked it, and slipped in into his pocket, making a point not to look at the blonde. But he definitely felt her watching him still and after a few seconds couldn't resist. He squared his considerable shoulders once more and made deliberate eye contact.

   "Hi," she opened. "I'm Heather."  Her voice was sticky sweet and decidedly Southern, unlikely to ever give utterance to a stray word or an uncalculated invitation.

   "Hey. I'm T." He noted the vivid difference he already felt with this woman compared to Olivia. With Heather, he already wasn't sure who was in charge. Or whether he could trust himself.

   "So where are you rushing off to? And no lunch?" She teased him a little and continued to eat her paper-wrapped meal.

   "Yeah, no lunch after all. I'm meeting some friends across town." T was surprised by his choice of the words friends and waited for her response.

   "Girl friends? How many do you have?" She pulsed one shoulder up and winked playfully. The fact that she was eavesdropping didn't surprise him, but the fact that she admitted it freely did. She wiped hot sauce from the corner of her mouth, still made up with lipstick, and took a sip from her drink.

   T had spent so much time digesting the small interactions with Olivia and deciding what to do, and felt so confident with her, that this was really confusing. He just scowled at Heather, trying to not let her hear him breathing harder.

   "It's okay, You don't have to answer," Heather teased again and feigned injury. "But if this city isn't safe for two women, it sure can't be safe for one. Walk me back to my office? I'm sure your friends won't mind." She grinned and nodded toward a chromed sky scraper behind them. Of course, it was in the opposite direction of Frenchman Street, where music and antiques and a soft, mysterious brunette waited for him.

   "Yeah, sure, of course." T had chivalry built into his DNA, protectiveness programmed into every aspect of his character, so no matter the circumstances he was powerless against the needful requests of women. They didn't even have to be attractive women to enslave him to their service, but Heather certainly was. And she seemed to know it.

   "Good! Let's go." Heather pitched what remained of her po' boy into a nearby trash can and twirled the straw of her drink with her tongue, chewing on it a little. She slid one arm through his crooked, muscular elbow and spun him around like they were dancing.

   He had created a small, delicious mess for himself. With less than an hour and a half before his downtown meeting with the journalist, he had promised to find Olivia and Carly on the opposite end of the Quarter and show them a good time. And for what? He really had to idea where it would lead. The sweet, funny, slightly awkward but beautiful brunette was going home soon. Now this tall blonde woman, clearly flirting and leaving no room for doubt about what she wanted, was imposing herself into his day.

   Audience Participation!
Bring it.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tiny T: Episode Eight

   T only had to deliberate with himself for a moment before deciding to call her. Of course he was always going to call her. How many of his hours since last night on Bourbon street had passed without him thinking of her? He moved to the side of the po' boy stand and under the shade of an ancient magnolia tree. He studied the phone number once more, admiring her handwriting, then folded it and slipped it back into his wallet. Did he really need to keep the paper scrap once he dialed the number? No. He grinned to himself while dialing.

   It rang three times, then a long pause, then he heard her voice giggling and trying to say "Hello?"

   "Hello? Hey. It's me, T."

   "T? Oh my gosh, hello! I... Hello! I can't believe you called. I sort of didn't expect you to."

   "Why?" He felt steady in the wake of her flustered sentences. And he liked the idea of being her ballast.

   "Well, I missed our breakfast date, I mean I tried to make it, but the guy told me I'd just missed you. I am so sorry!" She rattled out her feelings like an overtime buzzer was about to disconnect their call. Her friendly desperation pleased him a little.

   "Well, it happens," he said smoothly, "and I pity the fool who can't understand that."

   "Oh, well thank you so much. And thanks for the spinach croissant too. That was so sweet of you."

   He cleared his throat.

   "It's almost lunchtime, are you leaving town soon?" He was excited to learn whether he had a chance of seeing her again. While he stood beneath that magnolia tree, chatting with her and avoiding eye contact with another po' boy customer, a tall willowy blonde woman wearing heels and a pencil skirt, he noticed himself standing even taller than normal and holding his shoulders even more squarely. Was he sucking in a little too? Nah.

   "Well, I really should. Yes. I need to be home by tomorrow morning and had planned to drive to at least Shreveport by nightfall. The thing is, I met this girl and we are having so much fun! I kinda don't want to leave!" More giggling now, including some from another female voice in the background.

   Audience Participation:
Does T interpret her answer as a brush-off?
or does he jump on the opportunity 
to convince her to stay in town?
Or does he do something completely different?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tiny T: Episode 7

   Once the young women were clear of Ben's duplicitous gaze, escaped from the wide open vulnerability of Fortune Tellers' Row, they slowed down to a comfortable stroll. Each had one arm wrapped around the other's waist, and both were laughing and trying to catch their breath.

   "So I guess you'll never know whether he's the one," Carly teased.

   "I guess not," Olivia admitted playfully and with a false air of drama, "my love life remains a mystery."  Then, after a pause, she said, "I wonder, do you think Zane found him?"

   "I bet he did. He sounds like he's pretty hard to miss." 

   "That is for sure!" Olivia giggled and had no trouble recalling her mysterious date's features. A pang of guilt lingered in her belly, and she hoped his feelings weren't hurt. 

   "So what's next, since you won't have your palm read?" 

   "Well, I could definitely eat something. Are you hungry?"

   "Always!" And just like that, they followed their noses to the nearest greasy spoon local cafe, dragging a cloud of giggles behind them.


   T couldn't tell exactly whether it was his run in the brisk morning air, or the hearty breakfast, or the plain and simple magic of his favorite city, but he was feeling a maximum charge, both bodily and mentally. Having returned all of his emails and firmed up his next move for work, he showered and dressed in fresh clothes then took that same elevator back downstairs to that same ornate hotel lobby.  Piano music was still lilting across the ferns, and his thoughts drifted to the brunette. He had to admit, it felt wonderful that she hadn't skipped their breakfast meeting. That she had reached out to him, better late than not at all, had to be part of the charge he felt.

   He pushed through the tall brass-framed doors to the street outside. Almost midday now, the sun was warming up and the humidity was thickening, but the air was still fresh and comfortable enough to enjoy a walk. He had an hour and a half to burn before a meeting with a journalist downtown, so T strolled easily down the sidewalk toward Louis Armstrong Park, hoping to catch more street musicians. The Quarter did not disappoint. Every other block offered a different sound, a different dream expressed, a different face or collection of faces. 

   Half a block away from the park, T stopped at a walk-up po' boy stand to buy a quick lunch and soft drink. Inside his billfold was the torn off piece of the paper bag where Olivia's cell phone number was written. He looked at it in the glare of sunlight and smiled. Then he slid his i-Phone out from his back pocket and stared at it, considering...

Pause to Praise the Garden

   I garden for a million and a half reasons. In the garden I find poetry, purpose, art, science, sustenance, exercise, rest, imagination, miracles, defeat, and hope. Lots of my like-minded friends are fond of saying that the garden is all sex and death, and I absolutely agree.

   It's mid-October now, and Oklahoma is moving gently into autumn while trying not to think too much about the fierce winter predicted. While most of the growing and harvesting activity is tapering off, plenty is still happening if you pay attention. And a lot of it is edible. See these gorgeous hot peppers? All harvested this past week. And about ten times as many are still green, on the plants. Plus bell peppers, eggplant, and cucumbers. I am not even kidding you. I know.

   Don't even get me STARTED on the herbs and all the beauty and potential there. Swoon.

   Well, a few days ago I was taking stock of the herb garden, just sort of checking things out and maybe planning a few things in my head... when I got the nicest surprise. The marigold plants had all grown pretty big and fluffy, and more than half of the orange blooms were going to seed. So I stooped down to collect them into an empty mushroom tray and squat-scooted around the garden, exploring. That is when I found a stray watermelon vine, still bright green and well hydrated! Overly excited, like I was on a spontaneous Easter egg hunt or something, I followed it out from the plant.

   Somehow, at summer's end, I had missed a whole, beautiful, unmarred watermelon! Tucked discreetly behind a thick boxwood shrub sat a heavy, striped, dark green watermelon about the size of a volleyball. They curcilue strand of stem directly above it was brown and crispy. This is the surest sign I know that the fruit is ripe. So I snapped the stem and carried my little green baby into the kitchen, more or less dancing all the way.

   A few good whacks from a butcher knife, plus a few scoops with a spoon to remove the plenteous seeds, and I had this beautiful bounty...

   I'm just so happy about this!

   In a few short minutes, without even breaking a sweat, I was rewarded with all of this:

  • a neater flower edge in the herb garden (from deadheading marigolds)
  • marigold seeds to dry and keep for next spring
  • a juicy, healthy, practically FREE snack for me to nibble
  • sweet, crunchy, delicious snack for my horse! (Chanta LOVES watermelon rinds. LOVES em.)
  • watermelon seeds for next summer

   Truly, instead of trying to answer why DO people garden, I wonder why more people DON'T. Next to reading, it is the most complex and rewarding solitary activity I can imagine.

   Okay. Back to Tiny T soon! Thanks for stopping in!

Grow Yourself Something Wonderful

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Folded Paper Fortune Teller, an easy peasy tutorial

   Hello again! If you have read the most recent episode of Tiny T's New Orleans story, then perhaps you have the unpleasant aftertaste of Fortune Tellers' Row in your mouth. It's okay. I'm here to help.

   Do you remember those fun folded paper fortune tellers from middle school? I was a whiz at making them way back when, and it made me feel like I could do real origami. (My classmates could fold notebook paper into those slender little cranes, remember? Not me.) It also made me feel like I could bestow otherwise untold fortunes upon my audience. Well, today, that's you. And today your fortune is to learn how to make your own folded paper fortune teller. It is so easy and so much fun! Modern middle schoolers probably have "apps" for this, but those cannot possibly be as much fun as our generation's version. With this little project, you get to write in your own fortunes! Let's do it.

If you have square paper, use it. If you have legal sized paper, like this...

Just flip one corner over to the bottom, crease, and trim off the exposed short end. Now you're square. (haha)

Now fold your square paper in to a triangle, once in each direction, so you get creases in an "X."

Unfold, then rotate your paper and aim each corner toward the center, creasing.

Then, keeping it folded like this, flip the whole thing over and reinforce your perpendicular creases, between each of the paper edges.

Now aim each new point (folded point) toward the new center.
The square is getting smaller.
Now fold it in half once in each direction, not diagonally, creasing well, and unfold.

Sort of fold the whole thing in on itself a little, toward the new center, gently spreading out and expanding the four corners. When you do this and flip it upside down, this is how it looks...

This is how it looks on your hand... Remember now? How you operate it like a sock puppet, opening first in one direction, then the other, like a weird mouth? Cool.

Now the fun part. Write your choices on each little aspect of the fortune teller...
You can make it themed or whatever you like!

Don't forget the final aspects on the inside... these are your fortunes. Make 'em good!

So do you remember now? Start with a closed fortune teller. Invite your friend to choose one of the first four corners. Then, spelling out that word, or counting out that number, open the fortune teller in alternating directions one time for each letter or digit. When you get to the end of that choice, your friend gets to make a second choice from the new set of exposed aspects. Spell or count again, then on the third choice you flip open the little triangle where you land to reveal your fortune. So silly and fun! 

I dare you to make one for your kids for their lunch box. Or for your girlfriends. Or your cubicle mate. Or your waitress. Or your spouse (hubba-hubba). 

I made this one for Tiny T, but he as much as he likes a good game, he's disappointed. "I pity the fool who thinks my hands are that big!"

   Okay, so there you have it! If you are new to the Tiny T saga, please join the fun! Just click over there on the upper right --->>> ^^^  on his photo then follow the series of links at the bottom of his page. More choose-your-own-adventure episode are right around the corner. In the mean time, I would love to hear what fortunes you write in for yourselves, and what fortunes your friends stumble upon.

   Thanks for visiting!

"There are good and bad times,
 but our mood often changes more often
 than our fortune."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tiny T: Episode Six

   His body depleted from the long run and almost refueled by the rich, flavorful breakfast of fried eggs, buttery, peppery grits, and andouille sausage, his heart kept strong and tender by the series of odd interactions that morning, T settled back into the broad iron chair. He closed his eyes and let the banjo music wash over him along with the cool breeze. Background noises of car horns, bicycle bells, early Bourbon Street revelers breaking into drunken song, and that same classical piano filtering in from the hotel lobby… all of it combined into a perfect spell. He inhaled the chicory coffee, the flower vines, the pool chlorine… a pleasant gumbo of fragrance that kept him seated in that perfect moment.

   His email messages had put him at a crossroads. One job offer was to hop on a plane that evening and fly to London to do a candy bar commercial, but the script was tainted with a homophobic undertone which was extremely offensive to T. Man, I pity the fool who thinks that stuff is funny, he had thought to himself after reading it. Thankfully, his agent’s assistant, Carin, had given him a good warning about that. Another job offer tempted him out west to Los Angeles to make an appearance at a Derby Dolls skating bout. That would be fun, and he had some good friends out there named Gen and Julia who could talk all night about books and would probably take him to eat at Umami Burger. But every intense detail of this city, of this small neighborhood that was its own universe, made the choice easy. He was staying a bit longer. Two days in New Orleans is never enough. And besides, he had offers here too. He treasured the freedom and flexibility of his profession.

   T swallowed the last of his pulpy, sweet orange juice and dabbed his mouth with the thick cotton napkin. He thanked his server and made sure to leave a generous tip which would be billed to his hotel room. He made his way to the sidewalk, wanting to hear the end of the musicians’ set right up close, then dropped a handful of quarters and dimes into the open banjo case. They thanked him in heavy, mysterious Cajun phrases, smiling and bowing and dancing, blessing him with their particular street magic as if he had laid down a hundred dollar bill. He did not resist the grin this time. T even danced with them a little, shuffling his high-top sneakers on the sidewalk and letting that feather earring swing. Then he nodded goodbye and turned back to the hotel. He had some emails to send before showering and getting on with his day.


   Reluctant at first to abandon the coffee shop and leave unanswered the question of her weird message being delivered, Olivia needed very little time with Carly to feel not only distracted but completely fascinated. She had never really seen the Quarter in daylight, much less in these misty morning hours while a whole new slice of the city was getting started to work, and she was rapidly falling in love with it. Why do I keep feeling this here? She wrestled silently with her constant swell of romantic inclination in this city. From the dark, handsome stranger who had kept her awake all night though he was in a different hotel, to the instant communities that formed at every street corner for various reasons, Olivia felt knitted to this place. Drawn to it for her own reasons and craved by it all at once.

   Carly was dragging her now past the restaurants and narrow alley ways, a few blocks away to an expansive stretch of pavement and flat rock, a walkway laid like a dangerous wide ribbon between two spiritual lakes. On one side stood the bleached white, vaulted cathedral called St. Louis, an historical icon that instantly cast shadows onto Olivia’s heart. It pointed to an emptiness in her lungs, an old hunger she had forgotten about. On the other side, just at the edge of the lush and meticulously kept Jackson Square gardens, the cathedral’s antithesis: A string of mismatched chairs and folding tables, umbrellas, and hand painted signs all populated by men and women who could be gypsies. Or vagrants. Or mystics from another realm, most of them holding mangy but smiling dogs on leashes: Fortune Tellers Row. At night, this place was packed with people, mostly risky tourists, but this morning barely a dozen souls lingered at the park benches and not one street performer had taken up residence yet. This patchwork of fortune-telling characters and their piercing eyes sent inky black tendrils of fear onto the flat, wide walkway, snaking coldly toward Olivia, sucking all the noise out of her ears despite the growing activity around her. She had never felt such a distinct spiritual fear before, and to feel it at a moment when she was enjoying so much romance and possibility was very much like being splashed with cold water from behind.

   She stopped walking and pulled back a little, asking Carly, “Uh, what are we doing here?”

   “We’re gonna have your palm read, silly! Let’s see if Mow-hawk Man is the one!” Carly giggled and huddled in close like they were old friends at a slumber party. Like they were just opening and folding a little boxy paper fortune teller, for fun. Olivia enjoyed the smell of Carly’s patchouli and noted the odd mix of it with her own expensive perfume.

   “No, that’s okay. I mean, I don’t have any cash on me anyway.” She lied. Olivia was stiff now, once again adjusting her call cap and hugging herself, and her senses were on high alert, all of the romance quickly draining from her veins. She caught herself glancing around for an escape route and felt ridiculous. In every direction, rationally, there were only lounging people and leashed dogs. Plenty of space to bolt if she needed to. Wide open air and daylight, what could happen? Still, that icy snaking feeling of assault wouldn't go away. And her companion was oblivious.

   “No problem, Ben here owes me a read.” Carly was aiming them toward a guy perhaps in his twenties with a scratchy four-day beard, a yellow and red knitted cap, and a sun-bleached trench coat covering up an old Madonna t-shirt. Like a prayer? Yeah right! Olivia thought. He wore a stack of plastic Mardi Gras beads around his neck, and Olivia judged how dicey they looked, how unnatural, compared to the stunning jewelry T had worn. She suddenly missed him, this man she barely knew, and wished he would appear to help her out the way he had protected her from the drunken collision last night. Then she worried that Ben could read her thoughts, especially her lie about having cash, and decided she had better shut up.

   “No, seriously, I don’t want to.” In a rare resolute moment, Olivia stood firmly on her high-heeled boots and thrust her skinny arms down to her sides, and shook her head. “I really, really don’t want to. I’m sorry.”

   Carly was dumbfounded, “What? Why?” She giggled again, this time trailing off a bit as she realized her brunette friend wasn't kidding. Carly's long, colorful skirts were swishing around her legs from the brisk walk. “Hey, are you okay?”

   Olivia glanced around, trying hard not to look directly at Ben for fear of him casting a Stephen King-style curse on her, and said in a high-pitched voice feigning casualness, “Yeah, I’m okay, I’m just… hungry. You know, you did eat most of that spinach croissant.” Maybe a smile and a joke would trick Carly into forgetting about her abrupt halt a moment ago. It did not.

   “Okay, whatever you say. But I’m telling you Ben is the best palm-reader in this town. You ought-ta try him out.” Carly wrapped her cozy arm around Olivia, pretending to only be warming her and not chasing away her obvious fear, and they turned back the way they had come.

   “See you latah, alligatah!”  Ben called out after them in a booming voice with no trace of a Cajun accent. Phony. Then he threw a bright green puff of chalk dust or something at the concrete in front of his table. The women squealed a little and broke shamelessly into a run.

This episode is dedicated to Carin, sweet and creative blogger at Artfully Carin.
who recently told me a story about the REAL Mr. T 
declining a candy bar commercial in Great Britain
because of its offensive homophobic undertones.
This episode is also dedicated to my little sister Gen and my literary mentor Julia,
who both skate with the Los Angeles Derby Dolls and have all my love from Oklahoma!
Finally, it is dedicated to my husband who always thinks it's hilarious 
to peer-pressure me into voo-doo type activities 
when we visit my favorite city in the universe.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tiny T: Introducing His Friends

L   Hey T fans! While our philanthropist gentleman digests his New Orleans breakfast, listens to the banjo and washboard, and prepares for the next leg of his journey, I thought I'd introduce you to a few of his buddies. 

   These guys are always in the wings somewhere, either encouraging T, harassing him, or tricking him out of his cool van. They may even make appearances in this love story... Who knows?

   On the far left, in the black leather jacket, is Felix. He is a womanizer if ever one walked this earth. His classic good looks and penchant for working any room against any odds always give him the frustrating advantage with ladies and business dealings alike.

   There in the middle, the elegantly aging man with the silver crew cut, is Hargis. While not always the man to walk away arm-locked with a beautiful woman, he is definitely the man with the plan. He is the alpha presence in this motley Crüe, and he knows it.

   Finally, seated, is Martin. Martin enjoys a weird stroke of genius in his character, but his numerous oddities make it difficult for T to relax around him. In fact, it's usually Martin who causes T so many headaches and tries to swipe his van. But it's cool.

   So there you have it! Three of the people who keep T both grounded and a bit crazy. Who are your friends who provide this blended service?

   Thanks for checking in! See you tomorrow for what happens after T's breakfast. 😘


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tiny T: Episode Five

   T thanked Zane for delivering the message and tucked the wrinkled, scrawled-on paper bag into a pocket on the front of his denim vest. Zane asked, "Aren't you going to send her a note? Or have me tell her something? I'm sure she's waiting for us back at the coffee shop." The bicyclist's voice had a needy, questioning edge now. 

   "Nah, don't think so, man. But thanks again. You be safe on these streets. People don't watch." With that, T turned his back on Zane, on his unusual morning in the French Quarter, and quite possibly on the beautiful brunette. But he was no longer disappointed. The street car was long gone, so he leaned forward and once again found his rhythmic, soothing pace. 

   Soon he crossed the tracks, climbed the sidewalk and grassy hill edging the river, and stopped just at the rocky slope there. T smiled broadly at the muddy, churning river below him. Just a few minutes ago, it had been a beacon for peace. A place he could rest his eyes and his thoughts. Now, the swirling brown waters just stirred up his imagination. He was alive again with the possibility of the new day. 

   The ferry shuttled another load of cars across from Algiers. T wondered how many people on that boat believed in true love. Seagulls circled and screamed at the wind, hunting for their breakfast, and out of  nowhere a homeless man wearing a tattered coat and dreadlocks approached T for help with his own breakfast. "Got anything to spare, man?"

   T looked at him and felt a deep, clenching grip on his heart. This man was young. And probably sick. Definitely somebody's son. He reached into his wallet to see what cash he had left.

   "Sure I do. Here you go. Go get something hot." T pressed a five dollar bill and three ones into the man's dirty, calloused hand and gently clapped his other hand against the man's thin shoulder. I pity the fool who won't help, who thinks we're all in this alone, T thought to himself. Then he said aloud, "It's a beautiful morning... Anything is possible." He looked at the man firmly but with a rare sort of brotherly love. 

   The homeless man regarded T with caution, perhaps expecting to endure a little preaching as payment for the breakfast cash. But none came. Just a silent, grateful evaluation of the moment. "Yeah, sure, I suppose you're right. Thanks man." The young man's blue eyes were cloudy. He marveled at this stranger's get up and gave inward thanks for his gift.

   T nodded respectfully then furrowed his brow. He never let people stay in his reverie too long. 

   After a moment the two men parted ways. The young man with dreadlocks walked hungrily west toward the market streets, already planning how he would feast. T gazed at the the big Crescent City Connection bridge, squinted happily against the sun, and decided to get on with his day. It would be lunchtime before he knew it, and he had work to do. Emails to return, calls to make, and travel to plan. Maybe.

   For the next forty-five minutes, T ran through the Quarter to sweat out the last of his thoughts. By the time he had reached his hotel again, he knew what to do next. But he'd worked up a spectacular appetite so he ducked into the adjoining open-air restaurant for a late breakfast of eggs, grits, and andouille sausage. Just outside, a street performance was building steam. It was a couple playing the banjo and spoons against a corrugated metal washboard. I love this city, T thought to himself as the waiter served the steaming plate of spicy fare. A cool breeze ruffled the banana leaves standing an easy guard between him and the musicians. He filled his belly, inhaled every detail, and smiled.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tiny T: Episode Four

   Where we left him, Tiny T had just received an empty paper sack bearing a note of apology and phone number from the brunette he'd met in the French Quarter. He was feeling homesick but pleased to know she hadn't stood him up at the coffee shop. 

   Sometimes a person has to be ready and willing to heal himself if needed. He has to strike out and shore himself up, and often a large body of water helps. For Tiny T, the mighty Mississippi was nearby and exactly what he needed.

            Do you follow Tiny T on Instagram? You totally should.

   Then sometimes, out of the blue, we are pleasantly surprised. We just have to be watching for the messenger.


   Tiny T has lots of choices about how to proceed with his day. He needs your help! Does he send a written reply with Zane? Does he continue his run to the river bank? Does he write off this mysterious beauty, knowing she will be leaving town a few hours, and he must stay? Or something entirely different? 

   Thanks a ton for all of your comments and emails cheering Tiny T to a successful love connection! I hope you keep it up. My goal is to incorporate as many suggestions as possible. ❤ 

   Now, back to your regularly scheduled happy, restful, memory-making Saturday! Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tiny T: Episode Three

   At a full run now, fueled by the disappointment- alright, the embarrassment- of not finding the beautiful brunette where she said she'd be, T covered almost half a mile in just a few minutes. He was threading through the busier and busier streets, dodging many more cars and pedestrians than just an hour earlier. Without knowing exactly why, he was aiming for the river. The mighty Mississippi. He ran another mile, past three more coffee shops, a convent known to be haunted, and a bakery with wicked, wide open doors. The fragrance of sugared donuts and rising yeast rolls made him homesick, and that empty feeling reminded him of being stood up by a woman. A woman who had smiled at him so sweetly, so warmly, last night.  Why do they do that?

   He could hear the river traffic now. the barges and the ferry, the seagulls screaming and spiraling wildly. Just another quarter-mile. As his feet fell rhythmically, his solid arms pumped and ached through every emotion as if their physical strength was holding him together mentally. Man, I just wanna go home. 

   He slowed to climb a hill. At the top, a streetcar was filling with downtown commuters and about to slice across his path. So he waited. He laced his gold-decked fingers together on top of his mow-hawk and drew several long, deep breaths, pacing in easy loops. Summoning to mind the rocky slopes next to the Mississippi river bank, now only yards away. I just wanna go home.

   Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a burst of activity just downhill, behind him. It looks like someone trying to get the attention of a streetcar passenger, but the streetcar is gone now and the guy's gestures are getting bigger and bigger. It's someone on a bicycle, waving one arm- which holds a small paper bag- and screaming, "Hey Mr.! Hey, T! I'm supposed to find you!"

   Mr.? T?? man, is this fool yellin' at ME? T turned a dramatic semi-circle and looked quizzically at the fast-approaching messenger.

   "Oh man, T, you are not easy to catch up with, but you sure are easy to spot! Can I call you T?" The guy was wearing corduroys with a wrinkly button up shirt and a narrow orange neck tie. He laughed generously at his own remarks but enjoyed no response, just a studying gaze. So he combed his free hand through his curly, moppy hair then thrust the small paper bag forward. "This is for you. The girl- the girl at the coffee shop? She wanted you to have it." The orange-tie comedian was panting. It must have been quite a ride.

   Feather earring still gently swaying from his run, T accepted the bag. It was the same one he'd left for her with the spinach croissant inside. It was empty now and boasted a brand new message:

I was such a jerk to be late.
I'm leaving town today, around lunchtime.
here is my number...
thank you for breakfast!

   T furrowed his brow a little extra to conceal his grin from the panting messenger.


   Could Zane possibly have found him yet? She felt ridiculous for caring so much. As soon as the young clerk with the gauged earlobes had told her "T" was gone, and pointed to which direction, Olivia had flown out of the north door, yelling the dumbest thing anyone has ever, ever said on a first date, ever: Thank you for the spinach croissant! It was still warm!

   When she didn't hear his gruff voice in reply, she tried once more: Thank you!!

   This time someone from an upstairs balcony a block away in the wrong direction answered her, "You're so welcome, dahlin'!"

   This little outburst had garnered the attention of a few people. Zane, wearing his orange necktie and laptop messenger bag, riding by on his bicycle. Carly, a redheaded girl dressed in so many layers of patchwork cotton and hemp that she was probably headed for a fortune-telling gig on Decatur. And Anthony, a local Italian limo driver dressed in a black suit, black shirt, and black tie. He was not quite on duty and freely explaining to other coffee shop customers the differences between cold press brew and traditional hot drip.

   They all circled around Olivia and wanted to hear the story she was happy to tell, short though it was. She so convinced the three that she and T were meant to be acquainted, that she might have even felt love at first sight, that they sprang into action. A passionate, spontaneous, well oiled machine of human nature: 
   Anthony, the limo driver, in his bizarre Cajun-Italian musical accent, rapidly explained to Zane, the bicyclist, how best to navigate the labyrinth roads at rush hour. Olivia interjected to describe T to a, well, to a t. And Carly shoved an ink pen into Olivia's hand, saying, "Quick! Your number!"

   Carly's swift, affectionate movements wafted their little sidewalk air space with patchouli. And maybe something else.

   Loaded with the empty, message-bearing paper sack, a mental image of T, and a ride plan, Zane checked for cars behind him and launched his bike, orange neck tie flapping. "Wish me luck!"

   "This is for love at first sight!"' Anthony bellowed. "Find T!"

   That same balcony voice from the wrong direction sang out, "That's a'more!"

   Now, a little while later, Carly and Anthony still kept Olivia company. They all three nibbled at the spinach croissant, though it was no longer warm. And they took turns going inside for more coffee. The clerk with the gauged earlobes was greedy for updates every time. "Any sign of the big guy?"

   "Nope, not yet."

   Olivia must have checked her silver watch two dozen times. Eventually she grew worried that she had sent her cell phone number with a total stranger. 

   Around 8:15, Anthony received a text beckoning him to the Windsor Court hotel downtown. Some clients needed to arrive at breakfast in elegance. He extended his best southern wishes, and Olivia believed him. He kissed her hand and was gone.

   Carly offered Olivia a sisterly little hug now, though they too were strangers, and said, "I'm sure he'll come back or at least call. I've just got this feeling!"

   "I basically stood him up. If it were me, I'd be pissed."

   "Well, yes." And her face bloomed with enjoyment. Something in Carly's unfiltered agreement was very comforting. Either way, it would be alright. They both laughed and laughed. Then Carly's eyes flashed with mystery and she said, "Come on with me. Lemme show you somethin' you won't see anywhere else..."


Tiny T and Halloween Costumes

   Greetings, Tiny T fans! 
Thanks a bunch for all of your brilliant, often hilarious comments and emails
suggesting where his search for love goes next. 
While that chapter percolates today, 
T is linking up with Mama Kat to share his favorite Halloween costume. 
Please tune in either this evening or first thing tomorrow morning 
to see what happens after the coffee shop!
New here? Welcome!
Start reading Tiny T's love story adventure
by clicking on the button to your right.


   Mama Kat wants to know my favorite Halloween costume? Tiny T don't wear costumes. Costumes impede my mobility and anyway... what is better looking than what I already wear? I pity the fool who thinks a denim vest and feather earring can be improved upon!

Tiny T and Batman are known compatriots in Oklahoma.

   But I do love a good Batman costume. Batman and Tiny T have a lot in common. We fight crime. We defend the defenseless. And we rarely smile.

   Now. Who wants two tickets to this gun show?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tiny T: Episode 2 (please vote!)

   Dressed in tight sweatpants, high top sneakers with striped socks, and a faded denim jacket with the sleeves long since removed to accommodate his building musculature, he closed his hotel room door and rode the elevator down one flight to the ornate lobby. Classical piano music was raining down all over the giant green ferns and baroque furniture. A concierge wearing a gray suit and matching hat offered him any help he might need, which was none, thanks very much anyway. A pretty young woman behind the front desk smiled and said good morning in a Louisiana accent that just dripped with honey. Everything in the expansive room said elegance. It did not escape him how differently he might have been treated a century earlier.

   Outside, the morning was bright but very cool, especially between the shadow-casting buildings, so he eyed an empty stretch of sidewalk and decided to jog a zig-zag path through the French Quarter to reach the coffee shop on Royal.

   Finding his rhythm was easy. Though not too tall and heavily burdened with muscle, he had always been light on his feet. Swift and sure. He glided though the bicyclists and pedestrians and admired the tidy, creative neighborhoods that spanned between the hotel and his destination.

   He noticed some plastic beads hanging from an iron gate and recalled their meeting last night. He remembered her face, the way her eyes smiled at him, and the gloss of her straight, dark hair reflecting all of that colorful light. Despite himself, he grinned into the open air.

   He picked up his pace now, excited to see her again. Come on, man.


   By ten minutes after seven, she had scrubbed her face and reapplied a little makeup, brushed her teeth twice, and decided a ball cap was all she could do for her hair. She found soft but snug jeans and the only clean tee shirt still in her suitcase. One spritz of perfume and she was out the door.

   The lobby of her quirky little hotel offered a family-style spread of pastries, but she ignored it.

   She walked quickly, hastened both by her limited time and the brisk morning. She hugged herself a little and rubbed the outsides of her slender arms. This brought to mind his massive arms, how very different they are, and how he had used one of them to protect her last night. She wondered cautiously how those arms might feel wrapped around her. Why didn't I wear a sweater?

   A quick glance down at her watch told her time was running out. 7:26 and the coffee shop was still more than ten blocks away. There was no way she could make it, but since they hadn’t traded any personal information she couldn't very well text him a warning. Oh I hope he’s still there.


   A block away from their meeting spot, he stopped running and allowed himself to cool down. He took several long, deep breaths, grateful for the roses and bougainvillea. This picturesque area of the Quarter was a far cry form Bourbon Street, and he tried to memorize the details. As he walked up to the corner coffee shop, it occurred to him that he couldn't remember her name.

   He swung open the tall, heavy door on the north end of the shop and stepped inside. Heavy, pleasant café sights and sounds bombarded his senses and stimulated his appetite. Scanning the L-shaped room, he saw no one who might be her. He looked again, even prying to see around newspapers and laptops to find her. Not here yet.

   After a short wait in line, where he resisted every tempting confection behind the domed glass case, he paid cash for a chai latte. Then he sat down at a marble table with two chairs, facing both the east and the north entrances. The screen lock on his phone told him it was now 7:41 a.m. He took one studied drink of his hot tea.


   Absolutely late now and panicking a little, though she chided herself for it, she was enjoying the rush. She didn't mind admitting how excited she was to see him again, somewhere quieter. And after so much speed-walking and nervous thinking she was glad for the cool air and to not be dressed in warmer layers.

   Finally the familiar brick building was in view. She saw the coffee shop shingle hanging at the corner and slowed down. This normally self-possessed woman adjusted her shirt, took off her hat and replaced it three times, and tried to walk as casually as she could up to the east door.

   Once inside, her gray-brown eyes searched the lively cafe for her breakfast date. She smiled brightly in anticipation but didn't find him. Her watch now said 7:46 a.m. Had she missed him? There was no line at the register, so she asked the young clerk with the gauged earlobes whether he’d seen an African-American guy with a Mohawk and (she fiddled her fingers in the air near her own face at this) a feather earring?

   The young man’s face flashed in recognition. “Oh yeah! Sure did. He said you might ask. Here- this is for you.” He handed her a brown paper to-go bag. On it was the coffee shop logo and a neatly printed personal message in handwriting she did not recognize:

Sorry we missed each other.
Maybe another time.

   Inside the paper bag was a spinach croissant, still warm.

   “Where?” She muttered. The excitement in her chest was already sinking into a heavy ball of disappointment in her stomach.

   The tattooed clerk with the gauged earlobes nodded toward the north door. “You just barely missed him. By like, a couple of minutes.” And he smiled, clearly enjoying this miniature drama.


Audience Participation!
Does she go after T?
or is she too ashamed, 
and shrinks back and goes home?
or something else entirely?

Tiny T: Episode 1

   As he lay there on the warm, blurry threshold between asleep and awake, sunlight pressed hard against his eyelids and he needed a few moments to remember he wasn't home. The pillows were smaller and plumper than normal, and more plentiful too. Who needs five pillows? He gently slammed his head back on one pillow then covered his bearded face with another. The sheets, while smooth enough for a hotel, only reminded him he was alone and far from home. Enough with the pillows! He stretched, glanced at his phone to note the time- 6:43 a.m.- and swung his legs over the bed's edge.

   Though shirtless, he only felt naked with out his gold chains. So he draped two or three over his head then walked to the double wooden doors leading to his rented room's outdoor balcony. The cracked doors, thick with many years of paint, opened with much creaking and ushered in great, gold, pulsing streams of morning air. Now everything in the room was gilded. Glowing with the energy of the fresh new day.

   He stepped out onto the slightly drooped and ancient hotel balcony, barely six feet wide and half as deep. Below him on the narrow streets, overflowing trash bins were clustered at every corner and every alleyway, awaiting another collection. Waiters in white shirts and long black aprons rode bicycles to their morning restaurant shifts. A few early-bird tourists, overdressed except for their sensible shoes, walked the skinny brick sidewalk in search of coffee, beignets, and adventure. Only cars driving and honking, a dog barking from behind a garden wall, and the voices of early workers were audible so far. No jazz quite yet. He surveyed the neighborhood calmly, wondering where she might be waking up, whether he might see her today. He hoped so.

   Then he grinned. She was so beautiful. Nearly black hair, silky straight and bobbed to her shoulders. Olive skin. And a full, smile-ready mouth. How much more beautiful would she look in the daylight?

   Then a motorized street-scrubber came barreling around the corner, replacing the liquor-vomit stench with an unnatural lemon-soap fragrance. It left in its wake a four-foot wide ribbon of wet, sudsy blacktop. He wondered if anything would scrub his memory so clean of her face. He hoped not.

   The sudden sights and sounds of water broke his reverie and sent him hurrying back inside, to the bathroom. Wake up, man! I pity the fool who daydreams his life away!


   A few miles away on Frenchman Street, she had been awake for hours. A band playing at the nearby Spotted Cat club had filled her minuscule hotel room with rolling, thumping, soul-rattling tunes well into the wee hours; then in the relative quiet she had found her thoughts to be even more distracting. Should I go meet him? Was he serious? I'm driving home soon... maybe there's no point. 

   Of course, she had a talent for spotting interesting men, maybe attracting them, but something in his intense gaze had gripped her. Somehow in the midst of so much activity around them, he had focused all of his steady attention on her. She was slowly allowing herself to enjoy the feeling, slowly admitting to herself that she liked it. He was neither needy nor aggressive about it. Just- ready. Captivated and captivating. He spoke to her with simple words and easy invitations. 

   Was he serious with that feather earring? You can never tell in this city. Last night, his unusual ornament had given her something to look at, a focal point to break their mutual gaze when it became so warm and heavy she had felt hypnotized.

   I really need to sleep before driving. I've got to. But what if he's there waiting for me?

   She closed her eyes to block out the garish lime-green wall paint of her weird little hotel room, rolled onto her side, and burrowed deep underneath the thick, scratchy comforter. One pillow on each ear, like giant marshmallow earmuffs, she strained to remember the conversation exactly.

   "Well, maybe coffee tomorrow then?" She had offered. A safe enough idea. Tomorrow morning always seems so far away when you're strolling through the French Quarter and have barely finished supper.
   "Sure. That sounds great. But not Starbuck's okay? Or Cafe Beignet either. Can't do it," he had said firmly, furrowing his dark brow, "I pity the fool who falls for those tourist traps."

   She had suppressed a giggle then, remembering how on her first-ever morning in New Orleans she had fallen for exactly that tourist trap and, fool that she was, pitied herself indeed. She had waited an hour for a three-dollar cup of coffee with no refills. "I know a great spot," she had offered last night. "It's on Royal Street near Jackson Square. Not too crowded, mostly locals, and it has great spinach croissants. How about we meet there tomorrow?" Anyone could tell by looking at this man that he prized fitness and nutrition; surely a spinach croissant would be appealing.

   "That sounds real nice." His heavy gaze returned now. "How about 7:30?"

   "7:30 is perfect." She had smiled at him with her entire face, even her eyes, allowing the gaze to root so deeply that she felt it tugging at her lungs.

   Lively zydeco music spiraled and thrummed at them from an open-air souvenir shop. Our of the colorful, excited darkness a tipsy reveler had stumbled and nearly crashed into her. With ninja-like reflexes, this dark-skinned, muscle-bound stranger with a feather earring had just raised one thick arm and barricaded her in safety. It was an accident, of course, and the tipsy reveler had offered them some green and purple Mardi Gras beads as an apology.

   She found it remarkable and hilarious that her new friend- What's his name again? Tony? Terry? Tommy?- barely altering their warm, lungs-deep eye contact, had kept the beads for himself. Not only had he not made one lewd joke about how she might earn the beads; he just never offered them! Instead, he had draped the plastic trophies around his substantial neck like it was the most natural thing in the world. And she had to admit... they looked perfect nestled there between his other eleven or twelve necklaces, though these were the only ones made of plastic.

   Thoroughly soaked now in the memory, she peeled one of the marshmallow earmuffs away just enough to glimpse the glowing red digits of the hotel alarm clock. 6:43. Plenty of time still to throw herself together and run over to the coffee shop.

   She definitely wanted to. Wasn't that what had kept her awake? But this looming road trip and no sleep... She knew she really should get some rest and drink some water instead of rushing out for caffeine and a meeting with a very, very distracting stranger.

   So she laid there, torturing herself and fake-punching the pillows, for eight more minutes. Then she raced to the closet-sized bathroom, stared at the mirrored medicine-cabinet door, and commenced with an emergency grooming routine. This is crazy, she thought, I'm never gonna make it in time. And despite herself, she grinned.

Episode 1 is dedicated to Handsome,
my husband and my best friend,
in honor of all of our New Orleans adventures.



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