Friday, June 23, 2006

the orange route, part one

“I’m not from these parts—I’m what you call a transplant,” she tells me in what I discover later is a manufactured southern drawl. “Moved here from Chicago seven years ago. Packed up three kids, two dogs, four cats, two iguanas and my houseplant—which has a story of it’s own, you understand, couldn’t leave it behind—and headed out here on a whim. My boyfriend followed three weeks later—the cord is short, I tell you. What else can I say? I’ve been here long enough, though. ‘Bout time I move on. Can’t stay in one place too long. We’ll see who follows me this time.”

I gauge her to be early sixties, with long, fading red hair that blows, unstyled and untamed, around her seasoned face. Her freckles pop out around her glasses, which she passively nudges back up to the bridge of her nose after each drag on her cigarette. The blue in her eyes matches that of her wide assortment of accessories, and as she leans forward, I discover she is braless under her flowing, similarly blue shirt—a fact that somehow doesn’t surprise me.

“What they call a lake here is a joke,” she informs me, and though I can’t get a word in edgewise, I am inclined to agree. Having, like her, been reared along the Great Lakes, I have some difficulty conceptualizing the small river that runs below my hotel window—which, I’m told, is dammed on both ends—as a “lake.” But, always one to participate in the spirit of things, I squint real hard and tilt my head to one side and try to visualize a lake where a river flows. “A friend took me to see a lake up north of here—I stood there and could see the other side. ‘Where’s the lake,’ I asked her. ‘That is the lake,’ she told me. ‘That ain’t no lake—I could ride my bike around that in an hour!’ I told her. ‘Show me a real lake.’”

She pulls her hair back from her face—a futile gesture—and attempts to light her third cigarette with an emptying lighter—yet another. As she talks, ash flutters down around her, covering her lap and neighboring white straw Stetson, smoke swirling mercifully in the opposite direction from where I stand. She blows more sideways out the corner of her mouth, motioning perpetually with both hands like a marionette with the mouth and the arm strings somehow connected on the same stick.

“I’m a decent at the Austin Museum of Art—I love bringing art to life for kids—and I consider anyone under thirty a kid, let me tell you.” She points at me with her cigarette, looking me in the eye to see if I flinch. I do not let on that I am no longer a child. She continues. “So many docents are just ‘blah, blah, blah.’ I like to liven things up a little.” As she goes on, I learn she docents as well at the Texas State History Museum as a Ranch Hand, and went through training to lead “Haunted History” tours for The Hide Away which includes a pub crawl through the adjoining basements of several historic 6th street bars. Once again, I am not surprised.

Her delight in story telling, immediately evident upon sitting down next to her at the bus stop, is no doubt an asset that has served her well in these pursuits. Indeed, I remember encountering her a few hours before as she explained to a seven-ish looking young man the advent of branding cattle. “Image that someone suddenly decides that any steer that doesn’t have your name on it is fair game to add to his herd! Now, wouldn’t that just get under your saddle?” She punctuated her question with a finger into his chest—he stared back at her blankly, uncertain how to respond to her animated inquiry. I seem to recall chuckling—men of all ages seem uncomfortably uncertain what to do with a lively woman.

(to be continued…)


Anonymous said...

I am totally sucked into this storyline.I can just picture her so clearly....I'll be checking in till it is continued!

Beth said...


Great vivid writing as always...I'm still debating what to do about my blog?? Are you happy with blogspot?


lorie said...

yeah, pretty happy with it. only think i don't like is i'd like to be able to do tags/categories so that someone could click on "marriage" and see all the posts on marriage, etc. But other than that, i'm pretty happy with it. i like the way it looks, too. the blog thing for me isn't as big as it is for some people--i just need an excuse to write and it gives me one. it's just a bonus that a few people read it!