Friday, July 27, 2007

the vacation answered prayer

Nuria from Ethiopia took me to Alamo Car Rental out by the airport in New Orleans. She misses her family and has been in the States four years now, driving in NOLA for a year. She was smart and pretty, and honked and waved at every cab driver we passed.

She took two phone calls on the drive and I took one. Thirty minutes later I hugged her, thanking her for her kindness, with my mind prepped to drive into the sunrise toward the Gulf Coast.

Problem: I had no idea where I was heading.

Solution: There's a Ramada up ahead on the right, I'll pull in there, get out my travel atlas, ask the front desk clerk how to get out of town, and I'll be on my way.

Problem: My briefcase is missing.

Solution: It's in the trunk.

Problem: It's not in the trunk.

Problem Magnified: My briefcase is in Nuria's cab.

Solution: None in sight.

Panic starts to overtake me. What am I going to do? I have to have that back. Ohmygosh---I'm never getting that back. I don't even have a receipt.

I manage to think clearly for a second and call my only hope...the bellman at the Hilton Riverside who put me in Nuria's cab at 6:30 a.m., less than an hour ago.

"Hi, My name is Casey and I was a guest in your hotel. I checked out this morning."

What can I do for you?

"The bellman put me in a cab and I left something in that cab? Would you have any idea if I could talk to my bellman?"

Let me put you through to security.

This is Terrance.

"Terrance....Hi...I....I took a cab from the hotel this morning to Alamo Rental Car out by the airport...and I've left something in that cab. Do you think there's anyway the bellman would know the cab driver?"

What color was the cab?

"Ummm. I have no idea? Tan? It was a mini-van. Maybe it was multi-colored. I don't know. Ohmygosh. I have no idea?!"

Did you get a receipt?


Do you happen to know the cab number?


I'm completely defeated.

Honey, can you tell me anything else about the cab?

My voice is deflated: "I had a woman driver, from Ethiopia, she's been here four years, she misses her family, she likes driving a cab...." I shake my head and close my eyes.

Well, that certainly narrows it. I'll go out and see if she's possibly returned here. How can I reach you?

"Do the cab drivers usually head straight back to the same hotel? Do you think she's gone over to the airport or somewhere else?"

No, usually they do come back here.

"Then I'm on my way."

Terrance takes my number and tells me he will call as soon as he knows anything. He gives me directions and on the 30 minute drive back to the French Quarter I silently, and selfishly, pray that my bag falls into the hands of good people. I had faith in that, but doubt planted by the media after Hurricane Katrina kept seeping into my thoughts..."New Orleans is full of crime...everyone steals in New Orleans...beggars will take your belongings...." How will I explain this to the school? What is Mrs. James going to say? How am I going to pay this back?

Please...let it fall into the hands of good people. Someone who will find me.

There was nothing in my bag that would identify who I was or where I lived. But my school computer was there, my I-pod, a digital camera, my planner for work, and most importantly, something far more of me and my mother...I brought them along to do some writing about us over vacation. My praying intensifies.

Please...let it fall into the hands of good people. Someone who will find me. Or one good person. Someone who will do what it takes to find me.

Problem: When I arrived at the Hilton, my good buddy Terrance, the security guard who calmed me on the phone, was on break.

Solution: Call another security guard.

Second solution: I'm going out to talk to cab drivers.


I'm in the middle of Poydras Street and Convention Center Blvd when the new security guard yells at me. I turn around to walk toward her when, from behind, someone else yells..."Casey!"

I turn back around to find Nuria. I started running toward her, my hands on my head in disbelief.

"I have your bag."

Ohmygosh! I cannot believe you found me.

"I drove all the way back out to Alamo to find you."

Ohmygosh. I cannot believe it. And I hug without even getting my hands on the bag yet.

"You have pictures in there. And journals."

I don't even understand...those are of my mother and me...before she died. I was 10. You don't even know how important it is to me to get those back.

"I was going to find you."

Thank you. Thank you! Thank YOU!!

She leads me to her cab and I grab the bag and look at the envelope with the pictures. I don't even think about the computer, the i-pod, the camera. The photo I pull is a faded one, but my mother's smile still glistens when I kiss her cheek in the dining room.

I kiss Nuria's cheek. "Thank you," I whisper one last time in strong embrace.

She walks me to my car and says a prayer for my safe journey. Two hours later, I'm finally heading toward the sunrise.

Problem: Doubtful of the goodness in the human race.

Solution: Leave important belongings in a cab on a Saturday morning in a city of 2 million people, still living in disaster zones, and meet Nuria, an immigrant from Ethiopia.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Beachside: Day __???__ (who cares)

Just a run down of today--maybe mixed in with yesterday--possibly tomorrow too:

8:20: Wake up: I don't what is wrong with me...I can sleep and sleep and sleep here. Must be that 10 months of the year I don't sleep. So this is me, like a big mother bear hibernating, but in the summer, and at the beach. So nothing like a big mother bear hibernating.

8:30: Sporting tennis shoes, I head down the beach for a morning jog to the pier and a walk back. Whew! It was hot. I had to stop a few meters short of the pier though: the Daytona Beach Shores Lifeguards were running in front of me and they all ripped off their shirts and ran into the ocean. I thought this was what were were all supposed to do, so I ripped off my shirt and followed. haha. Just kidding. I planted my rear in the sand and watched them all dive into the water, swim their "lifeguard" lap, and swim back to the beach. This was a pleasant divergence from my run.

9:30: Hot and sweaty and back at my umbrella and chair, I rip off my shoes and walk through the water. Then head up to the room to make lunch and pack my cooler.

10:00: My rear again is planted back down on the beach. I'm trying to finish my Greg Iles book (my fourth book since I've been here.)

10:10: Ice cream truck...ding, ding, ding. Sounds good, but I pass.

10:30: oops. Think I dozed off.

11:00: I'm dying of a heat stroke so I head to the water. The surf is up today...waves nearly five and six feet tall. I steal a board from a little kid and ride the waves for a while. Not really, I made friends. We boogie boarded until after 12. I think my back is burnt. :(

12:30. Lunch...egg salad sandwich today. yum.

1:00ish: send hateful text msgs to friends and family not at the beach with me. hehe.

2:00ish: asleep...well, pretending to be asleep, but watching a group (I'd say 20) of college boys playing football about a hundred yards up the beach. This keeps me from sleeping.

3:00ish: finished my book...thankfully, this one has taken me two full days at 646 pages. Whew.

4:00ish...head back to the room to have my daily dose of the Internet.

Tonight...dinner at Boondocks...where I'll sit on the dock, feed the fish, look at the boats, and find a place to sit and dip my feet in the Atlantic. :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Sun Also Rises....

...on the Atlantic at 6:26 a.m. Delicious!

After a supposedly nine hour drive from New Orleans, (I took the touristy Beachfront Blvd across the Panhandle), I finally arrived in Daytona Beach Shores Saturday night.

Yesterday, I sat at the pool and drank my coffee and watched the ocean. That's it. Just watched the ocean. It wasn't going anywhere but I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

After that, a brief jaunt to check e-mail.

And then down to the beach to sit in my lounger under my umbrella all day. The first thing out of Cindy's (the beach chair lady)mouth was..."I bet Cindy (my aunt) is so mad at you!" And of course, I said "Yes, and I'm rubbing it in!" Then she instructed me to call to let her know how beautiful of a day it was on the beachfront. :)

At 2:30, the rains came. At 3:30, it was sunny again.

At 5:30 I came in and fell asleep on the couch watching Pretty Woman. At 7:30 I woke up, showered, and went down to Caribbean Jack's for dinner and Bananas Foster. I made friends with the valet guys, and they recommended the Ocean Deck. I've never been there, so that's on tonight's schedule.

So...that was my first day at the beach. Enjoy work this week Cindy and Caron and Dad! And Lindsey and Jordan. And Tonya and Whitney. I guess I've just covered my readership! :) haha. I will be thinking of all you while I'm snoozing this afternoon. Well, maybe not. I've just finished one book and starting a new one today. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

the miracle of life...on sale at Wal-Mart

It was the 4th of July...a hot, breezeless Wednesday. Montana and I had packed up the car for a day at Aunt Cindy's pool and an evening of fireworks. A stop for gas in Mountain Grove ($2.59! YAY!) and a brief entrance into Wal-mart. (Don't worry...I left the car running with the AC full blast for Montana.)

I followed a couple in through the double doors. I was in a hurry. They were not. Bickering back and forth, she was limping, pushing a cart with two barefooted, dirty-faced children in it, and he walked with a cane and carried a diaper-clad boy. I wanted to rush around them when they stopped the foyer...between the entrance doors and real entrance doors.

Their attention to their left made me look too. Between the quarter motorcyle ride and the 50 cent "Claw a stuffed animal" game lay a tiny Pug dog. "Wow, Mama! That thing sure is fat!" one of the barefooted kids in the cart shouted. Mama replies "Look at that thing,'s bloated." Denny, looking closing, says "She's not bloated, she's having a baby" and using his cane as a pointing stick he adds "look at it's butt." And sure enough, this little Pug dog was laying, pregnant on the cool tile of the Mountain Grove Wal-Mart, giving birth to little Pug babies on the Fourth of July.

Oh, the chaos that ensued. I felt for this little girl, now an exhibition. Wal-Mart employees were quickly notified, and by the time I left the building, the floor was being disinfected and the Pug lay outside under a parking lot tree with kids surrounding her watching the miracle of life...for free.

Monday, July 2, 2007

i've been googled...

I feel kind of bad for not writing anything recently. I haven't been on my blog much because of the Writing Project (which doesn't even make sense) and I've been trying to catch up on commenting on that blog, reading Janet's blog (and all my other blogging brothas and sistas), and blessing, pressing, or addressing pieces on the NWP's E-Anthology.

But I just checked my blog and SOMEONE out there was trying to find me. That's awesome! :) (Wink if you know who you are!)

In the last couple of days, my blog visitor number has jumped up dramatically...I've been googled twice...and someone else came to my blog by searching for Kermit the Frog! Sweet. I don't have the answer to why there are so many songs about rainbows...but there is some semi-good reading in bits and pieces throughout the blog.

So today Grandma and I at at Ocean Zen (my first experience) and, yes, Cindy, the California rolls were pretty dang good. Grandma overloaded on wasabi, but we didn't have to resuscitate her or anything. I enjoyed, ????, hmmmm, something so good I forgot what it was. Chicken with fresh pineapple and mandarin oranges and jasmine rice. Scrumptious. Grandma, nearly cleaning her plate, had Shrimp Fettuccine.

After a stop at MSU, Caron's, Bass Pro, Sears, Penney's, a mall walk, and Barnes and Noble, we headed back to Sparta with a cup of Cinnamon Sunset tea...just in time to watch Wheel of Fortune.