Category Archives: Personal Stories

The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“The opposite of love is not to hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Close your eyes and imagine a place where children can climb trees, slide, rollerblade, swing, and run around without their parents fearing for their safety. A place where children under four are securely gated in space for running around. Parents sit on benches and chat with each other while their children are safe. No hard surfaces to fall on. The ground is made of spongy colorful material. None of the children are playing with iPhones, iPads, or other electronic devices. Children cry not because they fall down, but because they have to go home. Now, open your eyes. You have entered The Gathering Place.

Children climbing on pods

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is open 365 days a year. It has 80 plus tree species. It is a place for both adults, teenagers, and small children. It engages, excites, and educates. Children use their muscles, improve their physical growth, laugh, run, and learn about getting along with others by interacting peacefully with each other face to face.

Tulsa has its problems as do other towns and cities in the USA. People tend to stay close to home. Children don’t play with neighborhood children. There are cultural tensions. People who don’t meet with others who are not like them are more apt to hate or have bad feelings for those who are different. The Gathering place was an idea by George Kaiser to serve as an anchor for the community of Tulsa.  A ship that won’t sink. The Gathering Place will help to improve the social, economic, and environmental sustainability in Tulsa.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and my adult daughter has brought me to the park. It is 2:30 and an unusually warm day in Tulsa. The turkey is in the oven, and the cranberry sauce is made. We have two hours to explore the park.

The park brings together all people, black, brown, Muslim, Indian, Native Americans, and white. Grandparents and parents holding tightly on to the hands of children walk the pathways.

It is a place that inspires imagination. A place to play, learn, interact, relax, and “gather together.” There are 120 ft. of a suspension bridge. There is a pirate ship, a small village, canoes, kayaks, restaurants, and bathrooms.

A small children’s village

It is funded by the George Kaiser family foundation and given as a gift to Tulsa. There were no tax funds used. A combination of 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations was involved. The project began in September 2014 and opened to the public in September 2018. It is built on 100 acres of Tulsa waterfront along the Arkansas River at the cost of 465 million dollars. It is the largest public park gifted in US history.

If you live or visit Tulsa, don’t forget to include the Gathering Place in your itinerary.

Rocking chairs facing the water

 

 

I am Lucky

irishimmigrants_Fotor_Fotor

Early Irish Immigrants

I am lucky

I have never been raped, sexually abused, or beaten

I have never been homeless, hungry, or unemployed

I have never had my husband, brothers, or father dragged out of my home by policemen and killed in the streets

I have never had to walk 2,000 miles to enter a country for a better life

 

I was born in a country where

I can speak against the government without going to jail

I can attend the church I want or not attend any church

I can go to the supermarket and buy food for my children

I can choose the school my children will attend

 

I am the great-grand child of immigrants

Who came to the US on a ship from Ireland

They (my great grandparents) were seventeen and eighteen years old

Their parents sent them to the US alone

There were no jobs in Ireland

The English  had taken over the country and refused to hire them

The English kicked them out of their own country

The Irish were starving, unclean, and carried diseases

Look what the Irish have done for our country

 

Immigrants are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras

They are walking 2,000 miles to the US border

They are dirty, hungry, and homeless

They are children, babies, women, and men

They have seen the male members of their families taken away, shot and killed

The women have experienced rape, sexual abuse, and beatings

Their children can’t attend schools

The majority of them are not criminals, rapists, or murderers

They are people seeking a better life

Look what the Hispanics have done for our country

 

The US exists because of immigration

Imagine if the Native Americans won the war against the Europeans who invaded the USA

None of us would be in the USA

The Europeans came ready to fight

They had weapons

The Central Americans making their way to the border

Don’t have weapons

The American military has called 5,600 soldiers to protect our border against this “caravan”

This is not who we are

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on the Rain

It is raining. I am feeling happy. My friends in the Midwest would probably not agree with me. Rain in the Midwest is an unwanted guest. It arrives at graduations, carefully planned weddings, summer BBQs and state fairs. I can’t count the time’s events were canceled and rescheduled when I lived in Michigan.

The lighting would cut the dark black sky in half and perform the most spectacular fireworks display. The thunder would shake the house until I was convinced the house was strong enough to last. Hurricanes in Japan scared me the most. The rain beat against the outside aluminum doors used to protect the windows from getting broken. The sky would turn a very dark color, and a strong wind began to blow. The house would shake back and forth, and I would hide under the blankets. I never knew if we were going to escape these storms. We always did. I was born a desert rat.

My husband was fascinated with the weather. He would stand out on the patio while I pleaded for him to come in. I didn’t want him to get hit by a bolt of lighting.

I obtained a whole new vocabulary of weather terms while living in Michigan: black ice, whiteouts, lake effect snow, blizzards, tornados, and gustnados (a term invented by the insurance companies so they wouldn’t have to pay for damages).

I moved back to Phoenix, AZ after living away for more than 42 years. We have monsoons, dust storms, haboobs (a word taken from the Arabic language meaning powerful dust storm), and flash flooding.

Phoenicians don’t know what to do when it rains. They slow down on the freeways or speed up on the local streets. The rain causes flooding in the desert. There is nowhere for the water to go. Washes are constructed with river rock to guide the water to run off into various valleys of the desert instead of the streets.

donotenter

Signs are posted everywhere warning drivers not to drive in areas when it rains. People don’t read the signs. Many natives and visitors are not aware of the dangers rain causes in the desert areas. They drive past signs warning them not to operate in this area when flooded. They end up in ditches or dips in the roads that have flooded. They get stuck in the sand and water and have to be rescued.

I am happy for the rain because it makes the flowers bloom and the other plants to multiply. The desert is beautiful after the storm. The smell of the wet dirt, howls of coyotes, and the sound of chirping birds. Rain in the desert is a welcome relief of the constant heat we have felt for the last six months.

Bring on the rain!

Forty Plus Years Later

Finding an old friend is like finding a lost treasure.

Anthony Douglas Williams

I don’t remember much about my High School classmates. What are their memories of me? I didn’t really like High School. I wasn’t popular. I didn’t excel in sports or academics. I dog-paddled my way to graduation. After graduation, I left my home, my city, my state, and my country. I didn’t come back to live until 2010, forty-five years later.

I sit in a pink plastic Adrindock chair on the front porch of a rented Airbnb in Sedona, Arizona. I have a glass of red wine in my right hand. I am mesmerized by the full moon encased in a very thin cloud above the peak of the mountain right in front of our rental. It is very quiet except for the voices of four women sharing their stories and laughing. We are reconnecting.  After communicating with each other for almost one year on Facebook we decide to have an adult “slumber party” with wine, lots of wine, crackers, and cheese sounded like a great idea. This brings us to the Airbnb in Sedona.

We sit on the porch sipping our Arizona produced wine supplied to us by Nancy who is an Arizona wine connoisseur. Myra, Nancy, and Shelly tell stories about some of our other classmates. I don’t remember many of them. Their names sound familiar, but I can only match up a few of them in my mind. Why can’t I remember these people? Nancy tells us about her grandchildren and how she gets along with both her ex-husband and her now husband. Shelly tells us about taking care of her aging mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Myra tells us about her children and how she thinks about their future. Both Myra and I lost our husbands to cancer in the last three years. I tell stories of my travels and previous life. First living in Mexico, then living in Japan, followed by living in Michigan. The end of the journey was moving back to Arizona. We try to fill in the memory gaps. I am the only one who seems to have memory gaps. I don’t feel too bad because Myra also suffers from memory gaps too. Not as much as I do.

What happened to me? Why can’t I remember my classmates from Bourgade High School?

We talk, eat, and drink for two days. We get to know each other once again. I feel like I have found three new friends. We visit wineries in Page Springs, eat cheese and crackers, and chocolate, we stop at antique and clothing stores. We eat dinner in town, drive back to the cabin, open another bottle of Arizona wine, and continue to talk. We talk about our families, other classmates, those who have passed away, those who are sick, and those who are doing well.

I wasn’t sure if we would get along. We could just pretend that we liked each other. That was not the case. I am so happy to have this great group of women as friends. I don’t remember being their friends in High School, but I don’t need to. They are my friends now, and we have a whole new future to continue our new found friendship.

Reconnecting is not all that hard and has its benefits. We can relate to each other as adult women with experiences, grown children, and work experience.  No permission slips needed.

Why didn’t I learn to fish?

A walk along a creek brings back memories of my husband, Sumio.

My family and I used to go camping when I was a child. My grandfather would patiently sit on the banks of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona, Arizona and put the worms on my fishing line. I hated the feel of the worms. They were so slimy. He also used salmon eggs. Nobody really paid much attention. My three brothers ran through the creek kicking up water and throwing stones and watching them skip and yelling. My grandfather would say “Don’t scare the fish”.  My grandfather never became angry. He would get them to be quiet for about three minutes. The noise started again. I was the only girl and I wanted my grandfather to like me. I sat there patiently waiting for the fish to bite. They never did.

I met a man who loved to fish. This time I am catching eel in the Toyokawa river in Japan. I still do not like touching worms. Sumio carefully puts the bait on the hook and I throw the line into the river. Fishing for eel takes place at night. I can’t see anything. The moon is very bright and is giving off some light. My pole begins to wiggle, and I scream, “It’s a snake.” My husband calmly says, “It’s an unagi.” I continue to fish with Sumio.

We move to Michigan. Sumio checks out all of the lakes and streams. On Saturdays and Sundays, we leave the house about 4:00 am. We prepare sandwiches, onigiri, fruits, boiled eggs, and coffee. We throw blankets and pillows into the car for our daughter to sleep on. The happiness he feels when he catches a fish shows all over his face. Sometimes he is not very successful. There is always tomorrow.

We travel to California for the holidays to visit my family. We always stop at the piers. He walks up and down the pier and looks inside the plastic buckets and identifies the fish. He knows the name of all the fish. He wants to go ocean fishing. We inquire about the cost and the equipment. He decides that it will take too much time. An ocean fishing trip is about 4-5 hours. He fishes off the pier a couple of times. He doesn’t have much luck. He never goes on vacation without his fishing equipment.

His daughter takes him on a fishing trip on Lake Michigan. He isn’t feeling to well because of the treatment he is going through. He is living with lung cancer. He never gives up. He catches fish with the help of his daughter and the men on the boat. He is thankful his daughter gave him this opportunity.

We move to Arizona. He goes fishing in Payson, AZ. He finds the perfect spot and keeps it a secret. Chloe and I sit with him.  I read and Chloe sleeps. He gets me a fishing license, so he can catch beyond his limit. I never touch the pole only if the rangers come around. He always catches rainbow trout. He throws it into the ice chest and cleans them as soon as we get home. Sometimes I can’t go with him because I have to work. I can smell the fish as soon as I walk in the door. There he stands proud of his fish. The fish is displayed on the dish surrounded by grated cabbage and a slice of lemon. The fish doesn’t have bones because he has already removed them. He knows how bad I am at removing fish bones.

I can still taste that trout. We froze the trout and ate it for the next month. Fishing was his way of dealing with the problems he was facing. In Michigan it was the pressure of work. In California it was vacation time. In Arizona it was a release from the grueling pain and knowledge he would not live for much longer.  On the day he died there were a dozen trout in the freezer. I would eat two each month. The day I ate the last trout, tears poured down my cheeks. My fisherman was gone. I will never eat fresh caught rainbow trout again.

Why didn’t I learn to fish? Oh, how I miss you, Sumio!

One Night Stance in Bisbee, AZ

I almost felt like I was entering an ashram when I opened the old wooden door and heard the bells ringing, but the building quickly made
itself known as an old boarding house.
Myra

Two friends, Myra, Ruth Ann, and I arrived at our hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Myra was the designated driver, I was in charge of reserving the hotel, and Ruth Ann sat in the back very quietly biting her lips and gesturing with her index finger the way we ahould turn as we became confused and circled a roundabout 5 times before we exited. The drive was 3.5 hours from Phoenix. It was not a straight shot. We stopped at a monastery, St. David, bought homemade prickly pear jam, walked around the meditation garden, took pictures, visited the cemetery, and entered the church. I bought a small medal and had it blessed in hopes that it will ward off any future dangers.

St. David’s Monastery

Bisbee is an old mining town inhabited by ghosts, antique shops, locally owned restaurants, bars, and hotels. The Lavender mine is located on the outskirts of town. It was one of the main employers from 1950–1974. Phelps Dodge opened the mine in 1950. The mine produced 86 million tons of ore averaging about 0.7% copper. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.
There aren’t many miners running around town these days. Some of them have returned as ghosts and are said to inhabit our hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock.

Lavender Mine

I chose the hotel by cruising through the listing on booking.com. The first hotel I made reservations with was the School House Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was listed as a room for three people. Four days later I went to review the reservation. There was a picture of only one king size bed. I knew we were not all going to sleep in the same bed. Those days are over. I wanted to keep these friends. I canceled the reservation and made another one at the Inn at Castle Rock. There was a room with three separate beds. Yes, we will take that one.

A delightful quirky, squeeky , old building with lots of history… Nothing fancy. Frank (Comment on booking.com)
“Kitschiest, strangest property, but really interesting and cool.” — shannon

Quirky, unique, quaint

I became nervous as we approached the hotel. We arrived about 5:00 pm. The front desk clerk, a very friendly young man, carried our luggage up a narrow steep flight of stairs to our room on the second floor. I unlocked the room and walked in. I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t sure what was going through the minds of my friends. Would they trust me to find the hotel on our next excursion or will this be the last time they ask me to make the hotel reservations? We were all very happy to see that we would have our own beds. There was a balcony outside. The balcony was decorated with very colorful “Christmas” lights, red, green, and blue. The porch had a rocker and two chairs. The location was great. We could walk everywhere. We parked the car and didn’t use it again until the next day when we went home.

We sat on the porch, chatted, and watched the people go by. I was worried that my friends did not share my interest in the hotel. Should I ask them what they think? Maybe later.

Entry into the hotel was past what appeared to be a hitching post in days of long ago. The sign clearly stating Kiwi Parking Only mystified all of us. The door was not welcoming but gave the suggestions that one enters at their own risk. The lobby, and I use that term loosely, featured a natural spring that one could look over the edge of it and see what appeared to be water.
Ruth Ann

 

The well

We returned from dinner about 7:00 pm. The room didn’t have much light. There was a ceiling light which appeared to be yellow, and lamps on each bed table. Not enough light to read a book. A view of the Peace Memorial and a projection of a bat on a rock were directly across the street. A bathroom with a kitchen sink. A shower we couldn’t use because the water was too cold. We didn’t let the water run long enough. A fake wall between the bathroom and a very small private bedroom. Two beds in the main room, one double the other single. Pictures of interesting people on the walls. Strings of colored lights on the balcony, outdoor gazebos, and two fireplaces in the community rooms. A breakfast room with coffee available at all times. Breakfast included: cereal, bread, toast, bananas, and a few oranges. Help yourself. Don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them in the sink. Everywhere we explored we found a “surprise”.

We sat on our beds and chatted until about 11:00 pm. The beds were comfortable minus the nylon sheets. There was a little noise coming from the outside. We were on the main drag. The noise died down about 11:00. We slept and no one snored.

ladypicture

The picture above the bed

It was hilarious and I’m sure not too clean, but the room named Return to Paradise was way too dark to make a judgement. It had the required three beds for us. It did have a delightful porch overlooking main street, but as my feet were planted I had the feeling one might go through the very old plywood floors. We sat in rocking chairs looking out across the street at a giant boulder where the hotel had displayed the Bat call signal from the Batman television series.
Ruth Ann

Our friendly front desk young man, Alex, gave us a tour. The hotel was built over the flowing Apache Springs Well. Yes, there is a well next to the front desk. Every room has a theme: Jungle, Victorian, Cherlys, and Return to Paradise. We stayed in Return to Paradise.

well

Apache Springs Well

The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1890 as a miner’s boarding house. The mine shaft is in the dining room of the bed and breakfast serving as a koi pond. The hotel has survived fires and floods including a fire in 1908

Did you sleep well last night? asks the lady at the front desk
Did you see any ghosts?
Ghosts? we asked

Little did I know we had just slept in a hotel that is haunted by some of the miners who lived there .
One miner has stayed around as a ghost. Slept in the same room we did, Return to Paradise. He is rumored to play with your toes if you sleep in his bed. He wants to disturb your sleep so he can get his room back.

One story from the early 1900’s is of a soldier cleaning his rifle on the front verandah when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting a woman walking up the other side of the road. It is said that she still searches the Inn looking for the reason. The shooting is documented in local news of the time.

The boarding house opened up as an Inn in 1980. The owner of the hotel, Chris Brown, is from New Zealand but settled in Bisbee in 2002 “because it is the nicest place in the world”. It is his vision to bring the Inn back to its former glory.

I was disappointed because I wanted to eat at Hazel’s Table 10
Hazel is from Nicaragua and a successful interior decorator. She came to the states with one of her wealthy clients. He died in Las Vegas. She tried to live in Phoenix but it was too hot for her.
She rented a room at the Inn at Castle Rock and launched Table 10. She only cooked three evenings a week. According to the reviews, her meals were a surprise to all. She no longer lives in Bisbee. She moved to Tucson.

Were there bugs in the room? Was the carpet clean? Were the sheets clean? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. There was no strange smell and the bathroom was clean. Ruth Ann brought a nightlife for the bathroom. That helped.
Were there ghosts? If there were, they didn’t bother us. We just ignored them.
Would I stay here again? Sure, it was a unique experience. Would my friends stay there again? I am not so sure.

marketcafe
Market Cafe

We had breakfast at the Market and Cafe. It is a five-minute walk from the Inn at Castle Rock. We sat outside on red plastic chairs with brightly colored red and blue umbrellas. The store sold homemade cookies, honey, biscuits, and juices. Pottery, odds, and ends, and quirky items. The food was tasty. A great way to end our one night stance. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would my friends? I hope that would.

Welcome to Historic Old Bisbee’s High Desert Market and Café
Come enjoy our gourmet food and gifts market, our delicious café offerings,
and our new smoothie, juice and espresso bar.
Open 7am to 7pm, 7 Days a Week!