Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Smudges

This morning George and I drove to the dog park and stopped at a red light next to two motorcycle cops. The car behind me also contained a dog on the way to the park – it was a small dog whose hair was dyed pink. So George, the pink dog, and I stared at these two cops while we waited for the light to change.

While the CHIPS theme song ran through my head, I noticed how impeccably clean their bikes were. The mirrors had no smudges. The chrome trim shined in the sun. Even the tires seemed clean. I started to daydream, wondering what their day was like. Do they spend the first thirty minutes of every day cleaning their motorcycles? Are they given a special motorcycle cleaning area at the station, like the drive-through car washes at Fabulous Freddy’s? Do they clean them at work or at home? On the clock or off?

But more than anything, I thought about the notion that their job requires their equipment to be immaculately clean. And that says so much. They are required to respect their motorcycles and their jobs. They care about the image they reflect to the public. And their bosses require it.

How I wish that all workplaces instilled in their employees a pride of profession and a pride of a job well done. If only everyone cared more. Wouldn’t we all be better off?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tourist In My Hometown

Back home in Indiana this past week, I visited with family and explored my hometown of Paoli, Indiana. I always appreciated living there, but now it’s fun to visit there as a tourist. I now see my hometown with different eyes - eyes that have been wiped clean of childish boredom that made the town seem humdrum-normal.

My hometown is, in fact, not the norm. Or, you could say it is normal in the sense that it is almost a stereotype of good ol’ rural Midwestern living. The whole area was a great place to grow up – full of the benefits of small town life plus the perks of the nearby cities like Louisville and Indianapolis where we would shop, see shows, or go to museums.

But Paoli has shopping, shows, and museums, too. Just this weekend I went into a shop on the town square and chose from several designs for a custom-printed sweatshirt. Down the street I could have gone into a music shop, gift shop, and antique store. The Orange County Museum is in the corner of the square. And just a few steps past the old library is the Lost River Market where I got some homemade soup and an internet connection. There is also a Chinese restaurant and a Mexican place. Those didn’t exist when I was a kid – they were too exotic!

Just north of town on a windy drive through the hilly countryside are two Amish farms where I like to shop. These aren’t touristy Amish stores – they’re stores meant mainly for the Amish families – where they can buy herbal remedies, solid color fabric, and pots and pans. I love to hear the echo of my footsteps on the bare wood floor while I decide what type of bread or homemade candy to buy. The only other sound is from the nearby horses, goats, chickens, or from the men working in the barn.

Paoli’s central square is a gently sloping lawn with a grand white courthouse in the middle, complete with huge white columns and wrought iron staircases. This is where festivals are held, and where old men sit on the benches to watch the world pass by.

The surrounding county adds to Paoli’s charm. In French Lick, 8 miles to the west, there is the French Lick Springs Hotel, and the West Baden Springs Hotel, which was at one time the largest freestanding dome in the world. Both are old charmers with sweeping verandas and rich histories. Also in French Lick is the historic train depot which offers train rides, the French Lick Winery, and Larry Bird Blvd which honors its most famous resident. Farther past French Lick is Patoka Lake with fishing, boating, and swimming.

To the north is Spring Mill State Park with its pioneer village, tree-surrounded Inn, and many hiking trails. On the trip up there, you can go to the Orleans Farmers Market for some fresh veggies and to listen to the musicians who gather there every Saturday, to the Gus Grissom Memorial to pay tribute to the historic astronaut, to Appleacres for a free sample of Apple Cider, and to the Mitchell Opera House for a bit of music.

I strongly suggest you plan a little weekend getaway to Orange County, Indiana. Stay at the West Baden Springs Hotel if you want to splurge, or the Artists Inn & Cottages in French Lick, or the Big Locust Farm B&B in Paoli. I guarantee your weekend will be jam-packed with activity.

And did I mention that Paoli has a ski resort?

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Friends Hugh and Tony

This weekend my family and I watched the Tony Awards, and I saw my old friend Hugh Jackman.

Okay, maybe he’s not really my friend, but I have to say that watching the Tonys makes me feel like I know all those actors. We all have shared the same background – the same experiences of long rehearsals, challenging roles and difficult directors.

And seeing Hugh Jackman reminds me of the time when he saw me perform. I was singing Italian opera in a show at the Venetian, and he walked by and stopped to watch our show. This was unusual; celebrities usually passed by quickly to their next gig or to avoid paparazzi. But Hugh saw us singing, stopped, and watched a whole song. He stood there smiling the whole time. It was obvious that he was one of us – he remembered working low-paying jobs, being a lowly actor – and he stood there and gave us the respect that one actor gives to another.

The Tony Awards remind me that dreams can come true. I can see the path that these people took to get where they are - training, auditions, casting, rehearsals, performances. I understand their world, was a part of it at one time. And here they are, accepting awards for their hard work. It makes me feel that anything is possible.

Everyone who has achieved greatness was once a younger person with dreams. No matter what those dreams are, no matter where that person is in life, those dreams are possible. I truly believe that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Our Birds Are Back

Earlier this Spring, we had two bird families who built nests around our house. First, a tiny hummingbird built a nest in our courtyard, in a spot where I could watch her perfectly from our front window. We saw her feed the two babies that hatched, and over time we watched them grow – could tell they were bigger from the tiny beaks that stuck up from the nest and got longer over time.

In our backyard, on the top of one of our patio posts, a finch couple raised a family in a messy nest where we could barely see the top of the mom’s head where she sat protecting them.

The hummingbirds were the first to leave – one flew away, and the other was unfortunately buried in our yard after we realized it had been sitting in the nest for too long. I read on the internet that the nest might be used again by the same bird, or by another, so we left it there in the courtyard on its branch in the magnolia tree.

We never did know when the finches left. We knew when they were fed because they cried loudly in high-pitched chirps. And after a while the nest was empty. But then we saw the male on the fence nearby, feeding the two “babies” who were now bigger than him. I read on the internet that once the babies leave the nest, the dad feeds them while the mom starts a new brood. I kept an eye out for the mom, but I assumed she had picked a new location for her family, maybe one with a better view?

Then this weekend, searching for the finch mom, I stood on the patio and squinted to adjust my eyes to the darkness where the nest sat, and suddenly I realized I was looking at the mom’s eye, peering at me, cautiously.

And the hummingbird is back, too! The whirring motor of a hummingbird caught my attention in the courtyard again, and I was happy to see her sitting on the courtyard nest! Now I run to the window every chance I get, and I worry again because it’s windy and her branch gets whipped around in the wind.

These families aren’t the only ones who like our yard; finches and sparrows love our birdbath and feeders. And while I watered the grass with a hose a few days ago, a sparrow landed next to me on the trellis and looked at me and my water. Then he flew down next to where the water landed, walked into the spray, and began to drink the water from the blades of grass. I was careful not to spray him too much.

So, our birds are back – the families and the passersby. And from what I’ve read, they will probably increase the size of their families several times during this summer. So all summer long, I will be a very protective, watchful…Grandma?