IRMAGORGON and a Waffle House

There is a chain of restaurants in the US named Waffle House. They are small, one room “diners” usually seating no more than 40 people in the eight or so booths and the six stools at the counter. The kitchen is right in front of you, so you can watch your “covered and smothered” hash browns or “patty melt” being cooked as you wait. And of course, they have waffles. The menu is simple, unvaried, and most items arrive on your plate with a not inconsiderable amount of grease included at no extra charge. However, they can always be relied on to be open 24 hours…usually no matter what. In fact, FEMA…(the Federal Emergency Management Agency),  uses Waffle Houses as a guide for how severe a hurricane is affecting an area. They call it “The Waffle House Index”. Managers and owners of Waffle Houses are so loathe to shut their doors that even when they lose power during a storm they have been known to start their generators running so they can continue to go about waffle-making.  During hurricanes, FEMA calls around to the Waffle Houses that are in the path, and after the storm has passed to see if they are open. If they are closed, then FEMA knows that an area is being hit hard and they then prepare accordingly.

Both a hurricane and a Waffle House featured prominently in my life very recently, although not at the same time.

I am well aware that I have been keeping some of you unfairly in suspense waiting for the next part of my “deportation” story, and I apologize. The experience left me in a profound state of insecurity and self doubt that I am quite frankly not used to. After all, I am the person who just gave up most of her possessions to spend a year traipsing about Europe and the UK on her own. How could I be a person who lacks “self confidence”?  But I am afraid I spiraled down into a funk of severe depression and anxiety. Every time I tried to work on the next part of the blog post I had a panic attack. I’ve heard of what people go through but never expected to experience them myself. I’ve always suffered from bouts of depression, but that I recognize. And I have felt anxious about things, but this was some other damn beast entirely, and it kept springing out at me and yelling YOU ARE A FAILURE!! in a very nasty tone.  Also during this time I had finally come to the realization that a friendship that had meant a great deal to me and I had been fighting to maintain and believe in was irrevocably broken and it was time to let it go.  Needless to say, that did not help my “failure” mindset at ALL, the beast just gleefully added that to its repertoire of seemingly endless examples of my ineptitude. (Although there is a bit of relief to be found in finally making a decision and walking away from a painful situation.)   And… in the midst of this, as I am sure most of you are aware, we here in Florida and in many other areas were visited by Hurricane Irma, or as I named her, IRMAGORGON. There is nothing like the imminent threat of a Category 5 hurricane to distract you from the mental mind fuck you have been putting yourself through.

For those of you who have never had the singular joy of preparing, going through and then recovering from a major hurricane I can tell you from my own two experiences that it is exhausting…mentally, physically and emotionally.

First comes the constant checking of the National Hurricane Web site for the latest projected track. They put out updates at 5 and 11, (both am and pm) and you find yourself obsessing over each little change. Is it coming our way or not? Will it still be a Cat 5? Should I evacuate or hunker down? How many supplies should I get? Most Floridians don’t start to get worried unless it is at least a Cat 2, and are even proud of their unflinching nonchalance in the face of “minor” hurricanes. Well let me tell you…IRMAGORGON had us scared…even those of us who secretly enjoy all the excitement of it. For the week prior to her actual arrival we were all in constant heightened state of agitation. Watching the news and seeing the devestation the storm had already caused on her trek across the Atlantic didn’t help. Stores were packed with people stocking up on supplies and tempers flared as water, batteries and generators became harder and harder to find.

I live near Orlando and my daughter lives in Tampa so the track of the storm was going to be the deciding factor in where we rode it out. I wasn’t too concerned when it’s path seemingly led it near Orlando, as we are the second safest city in Florida to be in as far as hurricanes go, but when the path was projected to head right over Tampa I begged my daughter to leave and stay with me at a friend’s house near Orlando.  I had seen the horrible footage of people stranded on rooftops during Harvey and wanted her away from the Tampa Bay Area which would surely flood if IRMAGORGON continued on her projected path. She acceded, and the Saturday night before the storm was to hit we were tucked safely in the home of my dear friends, the Buckos in Altamonte Springs.  I had brought an air mattress, food, and plenty of wine to last the next two days.

The Buckos are the type of large family that you see portrayed on TV and I had always wanted as a child. Their home is filled with love, laughter and LOTS of “boisterous communication”. Except they are better than the families on TV because you are allowed to visit with them for more than a half an hour.(in our case… 41 hours ) And, I can tell you…they are a hell of a lot more fun than “The Brady Bunch” could ever hope to be.   It was a full house…my friends Jim and Cathie, four of their children, three of whom are grown and had with them their own little ones. All total, there were eight adults, four children under three years old, two dogs and two cats and one teenager. (she turned 13 on Sunday, the day the storm hit.) We were calm that night, but still wary of what the next day would bring.

We woke Sunday to a dreary, drizzly and slightly windy day…nothing to get excited about. The track of the storm was still projected to go over Tampa, and much of the day was spent with us all just lolling about, tucking into our hurricane snacks and watching the Chicago Bears play the Atlanta Falcons (American football) Hannah and I are Green Bay Packers fans and the Buckos are die hard Bears fans, (the two teams are long time rivals) so there was much yelling and friendly rivalry. (The Bears lost. So sad. Green Bay won their game that Sunday against Seattle by the way. Just pointing that out. )

As the day went on, one by one various counties in Central Florida were put under Hurricane Warnings, and Tornado Watches. “Warnings” indicate that the effects of the specific weather phenomenon are imminent, while “watches” indicate that the phenomenon “could” happen.   The winds started to pick up, and at 6:30 pm Sunday evening all of our cell phones started loudly screaming the first tornado warning alarm for our area, which meant that the local weather service had noticed significant cloud rotation in the area that usually predicted the formation of a tornado. Tornado’s are the scariest part of hurricanes as you have no idea when or where specifically they might strike, and the conditions outside make it impossible to see them coming. The only thing you can do is listen for a “wind roar” that is much louder than the already constant wind sound caused by the hurricane. Most of us gathered in the master bathroom shower, as the safest place to be in a tornado is in an interior room on a ground floor that has no windows. A bathroom is excellent as it is also has the benefit of being more secure to the ground due to the water pipes. After about ten minutes the warning was lifted and we went back to the living room. The mood in the house was now changed however, going from a sort of hyperactive ennui to actual concern.

Around 8pm the lights started flickering as the power went off and on. We were ready with candles and flashlights. Large gusts were coming down the chimney and making an eerie “whooooooooo” sound. We were still calm, and in all honesty, kind of enjoying this bit. We had been hyped up for over a week for this thing and it was finally happening. We took turns going outside on the back porch to feel the wind, and you could see large flashes of light that were either power transformers blowing up, or lightning flashes. (You can see one of the “flashes” in the video I have attached.)

Then shit started to happen. My daughter came running into the living room and announced that the skylight in the master bath had blown off, the tiles under it had fallen down and there was a gaping hole in the roof. After taking a look, Jim and his son Colin (an army reservist) grabbed a tarp and tools and bravely headed out on to the roof to secure the tarp over the hole, which was about 2’x2′. The winds at this point were about 50 mph, and as they were out there on the roof struggling to secure the tarp all of our phones started sounding the alarm- another tornado warning.

That black bit, yeah, that is the sky.

As the master bath was now out of commission, we decided to get everyone into the hallway, but we weren’t panicked. Cathie’s daughter Hannah (yes, there are two Hannah’s in this story) went outside to get the men off the roof, trying to yell over the wind to her father and brother that there was a tornado warning. Cathie and I were standing in the living room when we heard it…the “louder roar”. We looked at each other as it got louder and louder and we both knew…it wasn’t the hurricane. She ran to warn the others and corral anyone who wasn’t yet aware. I scooped up one of the little ones who was sitting on the sofa and went to stand in the hallway with her in my arms. But where were Jim and Colin? Cathie was trying to find her daughter Hannah, and I remembered she was outside trying to get the men. I set down my precious bundle and ran outside to find the men still working on the roof! Hannah had been yelling at them to come down but they had kept working and poor Hannah was hoarse from yelling.

Now, anyone who has ever been in a show that I have directed knows that when necessary I am capable of producing a mighty bellow. I took a deep breath and hollered at the very tippy top of my lungs “Get off the fucking roof, there is an actual fucking tornado so get your asses down NOW!

They got down.

(Once inside they poo pooed the idea that there had been an actual tornado, but the next day while surveying the damage in the neighborhood they saw a tree that had been TWISTED out of the ground only a block away and Jim conceded that yes, there “might” have been an actual tornado. But Cathie and I knew. Oh yes we did.)

Everyone now was safely back inside the house, but there was more drama to come. All the local news stations were announcing that the hurricane had shifted course and was now headed toward Orlando. I checked the NHC website for the new 11pm update, and sure enough, IRMAGORGON was now coming our way. (A similar surprise shift toward Orlando also happened during Hurricane Charley in 2004. I guess the allure of a visit to Walt Disney World is just too strong.) The eyewall, where the winds are the strongest, was predicted to hit us sometime between 1 and 3 am. So we waited. There were no more tornado warnings as we were now closer to the heart of the storm. (Tornado’s are usually spawned by the rotation of the outer rings, especially in the right front quadrant….right where we were.)

By 1 am, most everyone had fallen into an exhausted sleep. Isa (the now 13 year old) was out cold on a pile of pillows in the hallway. We had managed a birthday celebration for her in the middle of everything, complete with a cake and presents and a heartfelt rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.

The birthday girl.

There were a few hardy souls still hanging in there trying to stay awake in the living room, but the events of the past several hours had taken their toll. Cathie and my Hannah were dozing in and out…leaving Colin and I the only ones in the living room still awake…both determined not to miss a moment.

Finally, the worst of the storm arrived. While our county was not directly hit by the eyewall, we still had sustained winds between 70-80mph.  A few of us went outside to the front of the house, where you could better SEE the wind. We were protected a bit by the eaves on the garage and the wall of the house, but we could still feel the powerful winds as they blew through. I stepped out briefly from the protection of the garage and was surprised at how little rain there was. And we all found ourselves thinking about the poor souls on whom Irma bestowed her most dangerous winds on her way to us…those hitting 185 mph. What we were feeling was nothing compared to that and yet still filled us with awe. I cannot fathom 185 mph winds, and my gut twists when think of the terror those in the islands must have felt.

Eventually, around 3 am we all went back inside and everyone started to drift toward their beds. The wind had dramatically died down, and the silence sounded strange as we had been hearing the background noise of the storm for almost 24 hours. I was dragging my air mattress (already inflated, thank goodness) into my assigned sleeping area….when the power went out. (FYI, the Bucko’s power was out until today, Sept 18th., and many still have not gotten it back) I plopped myself onto my temporary bed, and it took all of two minutes for me to fall in to a deep and exhausted sleep.

I returned to my own little flat the next morning to find my own power out as well, but it was restored the next day. The fence around the property had blown down and there was debris EVERYWHERE, but other than that my abode had sustained little damage. My Hannah stayed with me for a bit as there was a curfew till 6 pm in Orange County and she would have had to drive through there on her way home to Tampa. While they lost power briefly, her home sustained no damage, thanks to IRMAGORGON shifting her butt our way.

Most people who have never been through a natural disaster don’t realize that the effects of the event are felt long past the end of the event itself. Millions of people have to re-adjust their lives, and even something as seemingly trivial as being without power for a long period of time can instill in a person a sort of mental lethargy…a constant state of tiredness and anxiety. Hurricane Fatigue Syndrome is a very real thing, with the preparation , the event itself, and the recovery causing long lasting mental and physical health issues. If you have a friend or family member who has experienced one of the recent storms…be kind. Get in touch and let them know you care for them. Let them tell you their story, and be patient if it seems they are struggling for longer than you “think” they should. Until you have gone through a similar experience it can be hard to understand that not only does the actual “physical” recovery of clean up and repair take a lot of time and effort, so does the “mental” recovery.

(By the way, BOTH of the Waffle Houses near us closed, and were still closed the following day. And indeed, our county was given the dubious honor of being a Federally Declared Disaster Area. Never bet against the Waffle House Index)

As for me, while the hurricane did distract me for a while from my internal turmoil, it wasn’t until this weekend that I started to find relief. It started with something very simple…an invitation from a friend to see him perform in a one act play being held in a small local venue. I attended, and not only experienced an enjoyable performance by my friend, I was also boosted in my confidence by a small remark made by him that he most likely has no idea influenced me as much as it did. Another friend attended the show with me, and during a conversation she too said something that also pushed back the dark curtain in my mind a bit and let a little light shine in. If you were to ask either of them what they said that brightened me, I doubt they would be able to tell you. But that is the beauty of moments like that…when you know a thing is said not to placate you, or try to cheer you up….but is said simply because to them it is the truth. And since my entire depression was caused by people not believing the truth of me…those two little tiny moments created a small spark of light that I will do my best to keep lit.

The day after the show, I decided to go for a drive. I only planned on driving locally for a bit and then finding a coffee shop….but I enjoyed DRIVING and feeling the thrill of freedom so much I ended up driving 340 miles up I95 all the way into South Carolina…where my brain finally said. OK…this is far enough. “Far Enough” turned out to be Waltersboro S.C.  and I pulled off the highway at 10 pm and into the parking lot of a Waffle House. I wasn’t hungry, but did want some coffee, so I headed in. I was the only customer, and after ordering a grilled cheese and coffee I started chatting with the women working. I asked them about the FEMA thing and they said yes indeed, they had been called. They had lost power during Irma, but true to form had started up the generator and served many meals both to locals and hungry evacuees. I enjoy chatting with the people who work at Waffle Houses. They are usually very open and freely tell me all about their lives, including many personal details most people hesitate to tell strangers. And they are a perfect example of why you should never judge someone by their job. Chatting with them reminded me of what I had been missing by locking myself inside my head and forgetting that there is a big old world full of people out there who don’t see “failure” written on my forehead.  I ate half of my grilled cheese, drank three cups of coffee, thanked the ladies for the food and conversation and headed home.

Ten hours and 680 miles of singing with the radio at the top of my lungs and FINALLY  giving my mind permission to let go of the past and return to moving forward. Plus, a damned good grilled cheese sandwich.

I’m not going to pretend I am all “peachy keen” now. But I do feel better. Ready to finish my “deportation’ story, hopefully with the panic attacks a thing of the past.  Ready to move FORWARD.


P.S. I have attached the link below if you have been emotionally affected by Irma and need someone to talk to. Of course, you are more than welcome to try my “680 Mile Grilled Cheese” method of creative therapy. If you do, let me know how it goes. 😉


Crisis counseling available to those still feeling stressed after Hurricane Irma







(Before I get into this next part, I want to let you know I found out that I was not “deported” from the UK, I was “removed”. There is a big difference. “Removed” is much better and is far less punitive.)

So, we last left me sitting in a small room with only a desk, two chairs(one on either side) and my luggage. I was alone for a few moments, enough to send one last text to Hannah before a woman in a white uniform came into the room. She introduced herself and confirmed that I had all my luggage with me and that there wasn’t anything circling forlornly around the baggage carousel. She then very politely informed me that she had to search through my bags.  I must say, she was very kind and not at all aggressive which was a huge relief at this point. She then took me to another room where a gentleman took my fingerprints and a photograph.  It’s not one of my best, although weirdly I did try to smile for it. (I was unsuccessful.)Anyway, I’m quite sure my immigration photo will not be showing up on any social media lists of “hot deportees”. I ended up having to go through the process twice, as for whatever reason the initial prints and photo didn’t save.  Then I and my luggage were taken through a locked door and into the area in which I was to spend the majority of the next 24 hours.  It consisted of one main center room that contained the guards desk, and two locked rooms branching off that were for detainees. There was also a small room where all of our luggage was stored, and a “kitchen” area with microwavable meals, fruit, chips(crisps) and instant foods of the “add hot water’ variety. The most important thing in the kitchen however was the machine that dispensed coffee, tea, juice and water.  During the entire time I was there I only managed to choke down two banana’s…but I used the hell out of the drinks machine. Lots of coffee…and a lemon tea that I have to reluctantly admit was rather delicious.  (Seriously, it you ever find yourself locked up in Gatwick Airport South Terminal Immigration Control, go for the lemon tea.)

My luggage was placed in the small side room along with that of my fellow detainees, and I had to say a temporary goodbye to my phone as it had a camera and no photos are allowed.  I was then taken by yet another woman into the first of the locked rooms (which was empty of people), and as she proceeded to put on a pair of latex gloves my heart literally stopped. I am fairly certain I was dead for at least two seconds. I looked into her eyes and said “Please tell me those gloves aren’t for what I am currently freaking out that they might be for”. She started to laugh…a good hearty belly laugh…and assured me that no, I was not getting “probed”. She just needed to pat me down and it was procedure. Once that was over, she asked if I would like anything to eat or drink, and when I answered “No, thank you” she moved me to the other locked Room, opened the door and ushered me in. She showed me where the toilets and shower were, asked me again if I needed anything and then out she went.

(Before I go any further, it is very important that I let you know how amazingly kind our “keepers” were.  They are completely separate from the “immigration officers”…the “keepers” don’t give a hoot what brought us into their realm. Their only job is to keep us as comfortable as possible.  Without the genuine care and concern these men and women showed for each one of us “detainees”, an already fraught experience would have become downright unbearable.  They also often served as therapists of a sort…listening to those of us who just needed a kind soul to lend an ear in sympathy. I have been in churches and doctors offices whose staff haven’t been even as half as genuinely kind as these people. )

So, now there I was, locked in a room with strangers in the heart of Gatwick airport…frightened, alone and exhausted and not having any damn clue what was going to happen to me. All I knew was that I was to wait to be ‘interviewed” by an immigration officer. When that was going to happen and what that would consist of I had no idea.

I looked around my new surroundings, trying to decide the best place park myself. I’m horrible at measurements, but if I had to guess I would say the rectangular Room was 25’ long by 12’ wide with a long window on the wall that faced the “keepers” area. (For the sake of a better name, I am going to call the center area between the locked rooms as “the Yard”. ) That wall also contained the door to the Yard.  Along three sides of the Room were long metal benches consisting of 5-7 “seats”, and in the center were two diner type tables with benches on either side.  You know the kind…like a picnic table but in one piece of molded plastic with no padding.  Clearly all the furniture was chosen for its inability to be used as a projectile or weapon.  The other locked Room across the Yard was decked in a similar manner, except with the addition of a crib and toys, as that was the Room for minors or anyone with children. At the far end near the doors to the toilet were two faux leather mats laid on the floor. Also inside, directly opposite from the main door, was a very large, weird looking phone and a television high up in the front corner near the window.

I chose one of the diner sets to sit at as they were empty and wearily laid my head down upon the table. By this point I had been awake for 30 hours and four of them had been spent in crisis mode. I think I dozed off for five minutes or so before the door opened and a person dressed in a black uniform called out the name of one of one of my “roommates”.  This tossed me cruelly back onto the real world, and I was instantly wide awake. I began to scan the Room for anything that might distract my brain from its current situation. I did see a ledge by the window that held a number of magazines and books…and while reading is usually my “go to” de-stresser I was highly doubtful that I would find any relief in an issue of Vogue.  I found myself more interested in the other occupants of the Room. The first person I noticed was the young woman I had seen earlier in “the pen”.  We made eye contact again, but this time we didn’t manage any smiles, weak or otherwise.  Just the raised eyebrow and grimace that conveys “you too?” I found out later that she was from Portugal, so that will be her name henceforth. In fact, I will reveal no names of any of my compadres in this adventure, they will only be called by the name of their home country or other pseudonym if country is not known or applicable.

There was Phone Lady, a black middle aged heavyset woman who had staked her claim to the telephone and stood next to it as if she were guarding the Queens jewels. The phone rang about every five minutes and she would lunge at the handset possessively and begin speaking loudly in a language I did not recognize. Then she would slam the handset down, shake her head, mumble to herself (and sometimes us) and retake her stance by the phone. Occasionally it would ring and turn out to be for the man I shall name Young Asian. She would aggressively glare at him till he was finished. It got so bad they eventually let him use the phone in the minors Room.  Young Asian spent most of the time he was there just sitting on one of the bench seats and staring. Not AT anything, just staring. The only other person in the Room at that time(that I recall) was a very tall and muscular bearded man in his late 20’s wearing a black track suit who was reclining on one of the mats on the other side of the room. More about him in a bit. The other mat was unoccupied.

After some time watching the goings on both in the Room and outside of it via the large window, I began to shiver. I’m sure part of it was that the adrenaline that had been coursing through me was beginning to wane, but the main reason was because it was freezing cold in the Room. I don’t know if they keep it that cold as a “tactic”, or if the AC needs to run that high in case the Room is full of warm bodies. But with only the few of in there, it was nigh unbearable. I knocked on the door and asked the answering Keeper if I could please get my coat from my luggage. I was allowed, and after putting it on I was comfortable for about ten minutes before I started shivering again. You know that shiver…the one that starts deep in your bones and is impossible to stop. As I was sitting there shaking, the door was opened by a man in a black uniform and Portugal was taken to be interviewed. This is how I learned the difference between the people in white uniforms and those in black. The white uniforms were our kind Keepers, the black uniforms were the Immigration Officers, the ones who interview you and decide your fate.  I wonder if anyone has ever noticed the irony of those two uniform color choices. Everyone in the Room sat up and took notice if they saw a person in a black uniform enter the Yard. It meant one of us was going to be called.

Eventually the exhaustion began to creep back in, and I looked over at the empty mat on the other side of the room. My usual reluctance to lie down on the floor next to a stranger was overcome by a deep need to rest and I eventually succumbed and flopped on to the mat and laid down. The man next to me took immediate note of my arrival and cheerily initiated conversation. Now, there are times you want to chat, and times you don’t.  To my surprise, I found myself responding to his overtures. Apparently my need to connect with another human was stronger than my desire for sleep. He told me his name, but we shall call him Albania. He had no qualms at all about telling me his story.

Albania had been living and working in the UK for the past three years on a visa. (Albania is not currently part of the EU, it is only a potential candidate, hence his need for a visa. If you are a citizen from a EU country you do not need a visa to live and work in the UK. At least for now. There is a good chance that Brexit will change that policy) He told me that he was involved in brawl that ended up with him being arrested and jailed. He said that at his first trial, the jury had found him guilty, but that at his second they had found him innocent and that all told he had spent the last 21 months in jail.  After his release from prison he was sent to an immigration detention center and had to make a choice to either continue to live there while waiting to see if a new visa application would be approved (which he said could take 6 months) or to go home. He decided he wanted to go back to Albania and was brought here to wait for his flight home.  Now, I don’t know enough about British jurisprudence to know if his tale was based in truth, but I didn’t care. He was intelligent, well spoken, and interesting and right now the only person in the room who spoke English fluently. Chatting to him was like water in the desert.  He also had the kind of forthright charm that can be a warning sign of a “player”, but I was hardly the person to succumb to it.(I found out later that someone in the Room HAD in fact succumbed to it while I was elsewhere. More about that further down the road.) He talked to me a bit about his home country, and how it is poor but very beautiful. He bemoaned the fact that all people know of his country is from the movie Taken and that not all Albanians are kidnappers. I told him a bit of my story and he seemed surprised that someone from a wealthy country like America could end up here. I archly replied that ‘Not all Americans are rich and privileged”. I asked him why he seemed so casual and calm about his situation, and he explained that after his stay at the deportation center, the Room felt like luxury.(Pretty sure he was also happy because the Room contained women, unlike his previous lodgings) I enjoyed my conversation with Albania and was grateful for the distraction.

It is hard to keep track of time in the Room, but It had at least been two or three hours and I hadn’t even been interviewed yet. I realized I needed to get in touch with Hannah and at least let her know I was alright. There was the phone, but you could only receive calls, not make them. Also, Phone Lady was still on guard. I had no desire to go anywhere near it. I knocked on the door and explained the situation to the Keeper. Bless him, he allowed me to get my cell phone from my bag, and as long as I stayed in the Yard and there were no other detainees being brought in and assessed, he would allow me to text her. He even showed me an outlet so I charge my phone, as it was dead. As soon as I had it powered up, I texted Hannah, and sure enough poor thing had been frantic. Now, this is the part of the story when you find out that my daughter is a bad ass. Right out of the gate she informs me that when she hadn’t heard from me in a few hours, she called the American Embassy in London to track me down. That’s right. She called the fucking embassy to make sure that I hadn’t been hauled off to some secret prison and wasn’t being tortured by being force fed mushy peas or beans on toast.  I shared that information with my Keeper, as we had been chatting while I was texting. Then, at the EXACT moment I was responding to her text, my Keeper received a phone call…from the American Embassy checking on my situation. I could hear his side of the conversation, and he looked over at me with a rather amused expression on his face. I must admit I felt a huge surge of pride in my 25 year old daughter. (Tinged with embarrassment, I will admit. I don’t like a fuss, but in this case her instinct was spot on) Don’t tell me all Millennials need their hands held when things get tough. My Millennial jumped in on her own and took action as best she could from 4336 miles away. I assured her that I was alright, that yes, there was food if I was hungry, and that no, I had no idea when I when I was to be interviewed as they were short on staff and things were taking longer than usual. After many “I love you’s” and mutual assurances of mental and emotional stability I turned off my phone and returned it to my bag. My Keeper let me stay and chat with him for a while before eventually returning me to the Room.

I returned to my “luxury lounger” and chatted with Albania a bit more when the door opened and a woman in a black uniform appeared.  She was for me. I was called.


Here ends part two. I am sorry, but apparently this is going to be a 4 part story. Just this bit is almost 3000 words. I’m damn near going to have a novella by the time I finish.




Things ain’t all bad. 

I’ve finished writing part two, and now I just need to edit it, as I was up till 4 am working on it and got a little loopy. (I’m fairly certain it gets rather weird in the middle. I seem to have a vague memory of several paragraphs of me waxing poetically about grilled cheese sandwiches.)  I haven’t gone back and looked at it yet, as I just returned home today from finishing a large “Under the Sea” poolside mural I was contracted to paint before I “left”. I needed to add a turtle and some flourishes, which I have now completed. My clients were very pleased and happy with my work…which made me happy as well. And I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity as this was my first big solo freelance gig. 

I found myself relieved to have this project to complete as it afforded me the opportunity to gain back a bit of my confidence. Although for the first two hours I admit I just stared at the wall…terrified of a damn turtle. But I did it…and with each brush stroke I could feel my “mojo” forcing it’s way to the surface. Besides, as I always remind myself and any artists I’m working with….it’s just paint. Nobody dies if you screw it up…you just have to fix it and then carry on. Which can be frustrating, but at least nobody gets carried off on a gurney if your turtle ends up looking more like your Great Aunt Marge than a large aquatic reptile. 

I enjoyed the project, and would love more freelance opportunities…so if you feel a hankerin’ for some art to be done in your home or business feel free to get in touch. Just the US for now, of course. Need a work permit for out of the country.  You do know I love to travel. 🙂

I’m attaching some photos. You never know from where an opportunity may arise. It’s scary to put your work “out there” for comment or criticism, whether it be painting or writing. But it damn sure  isn’t scarier that being unwillingly “removed” from a foreign country.  

Back with you soon,