Travel for the Faint of Heart

Balk all you want about the agonies of airline travel, the bitch of baggage, the crunch of crowds, or the plethora of peddlers trying to pawn off umbrellas in the rain, but travel rocks.

Sure the first day is an overload of exhaustion, logistics, and deer-in-the-headlights incomprehension of the local ways of doing things. Or in many cases, simply not doing things. Because, you know, there’s so much to celebrate, to savor, to explore, to talk about — who cares about schedules? If you’re thinking Romans, you’re oh so very helplessly wrong. But once you throw your own expectations and habits out the window, it gets pretty damn interesting.

If Travel Season isn’t quite upon us, it’s knocking on the door. Have you made plans? Picked a country? A city? Five cities? Five countries? You’re my Girl!

Things I Learned in Rome, or Travel Tips for the Squeamish, by Pam

1. Relax. The hardest thing I’ve had to do on this trip is gut it up to open the prosecco bottle by myself. It didn’t kill me.

2. Rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. More for your money, room to spread out, the option to eat in (or have a pre- or post-dinner Prosecco at the ready, and best of all, it’s yours.

3. Reserve a room with a tub. You’ll be glad.

4. Prearrange a car from the airport to your hotel/apartment. You don’t want to be hauling-too-much-luggage while trying to find the right train unless you’re 22 and tireless. You’ll still be tired. Reserve the car.

5. Bring at least one pair of shoes that you can walk in for 10 hours a day, and the bandaids to go with them. Good bandaids. Strong bandaids. Bandaids with as much cushion as you can scare up. Keep the bandaids right next to the American Express (as in, don’t leave home . . .).  NOTE: And yes, you CAN stack 10 bandaids between a blister and a shoe. Ask me how I know.

6. Find the closest grocery store the first day. You’re sure to need something, and you probably won’t know the Italian/French/Croation word for shower cap. Knowing the closest pharmacy will also be useful.

7. Don’t bother learning to pronounce Arrivederci. The go-to phrase when leaving a shop is Grazie-Ciao-ByeBye-Buona Sera-NightNight. Apparently in Italian-speak, this is one word.

8. Don’t worry about what’s going on at home. Stuff will happen. It will get taken care of. And you’ll come home with a clearer perspective — and the travel bug.

9. Mornings and evenings are the best time to wander. Fewer tourists, less noise, and the locals you run into will be doing interesting things, like scrubbing down the step into a cafe, polishing a crate of tomatoes, or setting out tools in their workshop.

10. There is much less crime in Europe, and people out walking at all hours. Take a deep breath and look around; you are so much safer here than in the US. It feels good, free.

11. WARNING: There have been a few moments on this most recent trip to Italy that have made me wonder if my traveling days are coming to an end. I can pretty much sum up those moments in one word: Cobblestones.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Italians don’t really use grout, do they? Add a few centuries of freeze/thaw cycles and it’s increasingly rare to find two contiguous stones at the same height. So I should have anticipated that navigating the streets/sidewalks/lanes is less an act of walking and more a sort of calculated selection and tentative toeing from one 3″ x 3″ island to the next. But hey, if the Italians can do it in heels, and they do, then I can find a way.

12. Which brings me back to my son’s mantra: It’s All About the Shoes.

5 Things I’ve Learned about Being an Artist


Late Bloomer, © Pam Goode. Glass, Stone, Beads, Thread, Carborundom

I still remember, and always will, the moment I decided to draw. Pretty much everyone in my family was artistically inclined, and at 7 or 8 I wanted to try my hand. I scrounged up a pencil and some paper and set to it — nothing too difficult — just a self portrait (insert laughter and/or groaning here). I was pretty chuffed at the result, but it only took one comment from one person (who was NOT an artist), to send me right back to the closet for a few decades.

Older and wiser, I now realize that art is created differently by each of us; that art has deep power no matter the subject or colors or latest craze; and that whatever originates from your hand and eye always, always contains something magical.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Do it your way. Do it every way. If your art looks just like the photograph, what’s the point?

2) It doesn’t matter if anyone likes it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if YOU like it. We’re here to create, to learn from both our successes and failures, and to keep at it. Don’t allow your psyche to get stuck on any one piece. It’s a waste of your time. Keep creating.

3) If it moves you, it will move others. Work in a vacuum. Don’t listen to anyone. Follow your heart.

4) And then get out of the vacuum. Input feeds output. If you don’t point your brain in a new direction every now and then, it gets crusty and stale.

5) People, and often strangers, will sprinkle insights here and there that never occurred to you. It’s a gift. Take it!

6) Step back. Look away. Reunite. See with fresh eyes. If something nags at you more then once or twice, rip it out, smooth it over, and make it speak your voice. That’s what we’re here for.

7) Do I still draw? Yes I do, but now I do it with thick glass instead of a skinny pencil. Find your passion.

An Armful of Days


I don’t have cancer.

Not uterine cancer anyway, or at least not on this beautiful day in a (momentarily) beautiful world. It feels so very, very good. I do know how lucky I am.

And here’s how the news has affected me:

I’m suddenly doing all the things I’ve put off. All of them, with glee and abandon. It feels so very, very good.

I’m smiling more and worrying less, visiting those I’ve missed, creating, loving, talking. It’s a very good place to be. A very good place to create. A very good place to make jubilant new plans.

Why does it take an ISSUE to jump start us? Are we tired, depressed, discouraged, tired? Did I say tired?

I get it, especially the exhaustion, BUT it comes and goes, does it not? And when it goes, and we’re suddenly energetic again, do we choose to dive in with gusto? Or do we hang about?

I think I need to tape this to my bathroom mirror. And maybe to the kitchen window. And slathered across the front door.

I’m not sure why we forget to live sometimes, but it will be quite a while before I forget again.

And when my armful of days runs a bit ragged, I’ll be grabbing the next one.

Lots of love to all.

What is the Cost of Vulnerability?

What is the cost of vulnerability,
the cost of living
without thought to self ( -protection  or  -deceit ),
to stress and stretch my ego
thin and imperceptible as wire
pulled high above the cloud that crowds
the net until it lays full
burdened, flat upon the ground.

What cost
to loose my soul like yellow kites
unbound by human hands but
simply, gladly,
taking to the sky quite unconcerned                                       
like heat and wet to tea-bag,
grasping nothing more than my
free-willed collision with unknowing.

Change.

What cost
to walk the wire and follow free the soul,
to answer yes, to hear, to feel, to know.

c. Pamela Goode

On Hold

STOP

Today, as yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, I’m on hold.

It’s not a good kind of hold, where you wait for your best friend to come over, your children to visit, or your new puppy to stop chewing the furniture (it WILL happen, right???)

It’s closer to the kind of hold where toilets overflow, your husband gets stuck at the airport, and there’s no food in the house.

But it’s closest to fear, to possible loss, to an unwelcome “change in schedule” that you can’t undo.

I’m not a stranger to cancer, having worked my way through that nightmare ten years ago and I’m in no way inviting it back. But I’m dealing with a suspended moment in time, and in several days, my life will either remain cancer-free and open to (almost) endless possibilities, or … well I can’t say it. I don’t want to say it.

To be blatantly honest, cancer fucking sucks. I’ve lived it, I’ve watched friends live it, and I’ve watched friends die from it. It fucking sucks, period.

Waiting sucks too, BUT … … … it does give you time to reassess your life, and that’s no small gift. I’ll admit that I’m currently in pain from an ungodly tryst with a masochistic female doctor who felt the need to burn off every uterine particle with an 18 inch fire stick while I literally screamed in agony for 10 solid minutes until I almost lost consciousness and whom I will never, ever, ever use again, BUT … … … there is still the presence of time, the gift of awareness, the opportunity to reassess, relive, re-love, and renew. Only the timeline is missing.

In truth the timeline is always missing, and always a surprise, and always (almost) too soon.

So yes, I’m mad as hell, and yes, that’s okay.

The Woman Sitting Near Me

There’s a woman sitting near me, and she’s gorgeous. Low suede boots, a forever-long black dress with tortoise shell buttons down the front, suede purse with a very long strap, and a topknot of lovely red hair. She’s chatting with another equally lovely though less bedecked woman, but I’m unaware of the words they exchange. They seem to be friends, and yet each is carrying a slightly irritated humor throughout their time together.

I’m glad I’m not with them. In just this glance, they feel Heavy. Burdened. Tired, and I feel myself coming perilously close to gulping their attitudes into my own. I’m glad when they stand and walk away in thinly veiled versions of themselves.

Thinly is an odd word, and yet so appropriate.

THinlē, adverb. In a way that creates a thin piece or layer of something; “thinly sliced potatoes.”

THinlē, adverb. With little flesh or fat on the body; “he was tall and thinly built.”

THinlē, adverb. Minimally interacting with life; “she was thinly present.” (my addition)

I love to watch. Or … I love to watch, in theory.

In reality, most people are far too heavy for me — or you — to carry around in either our brains or hearts, and this is good to remember.

Confessions of a Shoe Girl. Or Not.

I’m something of an icon in certain circles. Small circles, and few of them, and only something rather than the thing, but still, people tend to associate me with shoes. Frankly, it’s all a bunch of hooey. Or not.

The truth is, I have a lot of shoes because, well frankly, I despise them. I know that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but hear me out.

I despise their voluptuous forms that pinch and blister. I despise their endlessly breathtaking hues that just as endlessly endlessly attract maligning black smudges. I despise their manufactured tilt that perks up my derriere and plants my face on the pavement. I despise the tactile thrill of their butter-soft camel leather that rips free as I step onto an escalator. I despise their strappy straps, their buttons and bows, their silk embroideries, beaded delusions and peeping toes. I loathe the fit, the seams, the pads, the heights, the flats, the price.

And? you ask with lips pulled thin and accusing eyes.

And … most of all, I despise having to wear them.

I’m pretty sure we all have more shoes than we need. I’m also pretty sure we have fewer shoes than we want. And why? Because NONE OF THEM FIT.

And then a few weeks ago, I did a thing. I stuffed each pair of lovelies with tissue paper for safe travels ahead, lined them up in the back of my car, stared at their magnificence one last time, gunned my engine, and drove them damn straight to the thrift shop. Yes I did. The boots, the heels, the flats, the embellished, the RED, the toe peepers and marchers, the gladiators, mules, and platforms, and even the kitten heels.

I know you’re wondering. I know you want a peek. I know you’re waiting patiently, so here it is.

I kept one pair of Converse All-Stars (yellow), one pair of ballet flats (black), and one pair of flip flops (pink with yellow soles) for the beach.

That’s it. And I’m not even missing the rest.

The Choices We Make

Today, or maybe every day, I can’t help thinking how so much of life is about the choices we make — and those that are made for us — sometimes by our allowing and other times in spite of our kicking and screaming. I can’t help wondering how our choices combine to make us who we are. What would you have done, and who would you be, if life — in all its incarnations — had not interfered? Who would I be? Would I still make art if I had grown up like other little girls? Would I write if I hadn’t been too shy to speak? Would I have danced if I had been good at kickball? Would I be a mosaicist if drawing came naturally to me? Am I a laundry list of second choices, or was I blind to a deeper truth for too many years?

Have my choices been internal or external? Of me, despite me, or not me at all? And the choices I make for 2023, now that I’m old(er) and (wise)er, will my choices be more on target, or have I learned to settle? Will I wish for more of the same because my life is blessed, or does my spirit still long to blaze a trail?

I’ve never been called spontaneous, and I’m tickled pink to love what I love. I’m happy to eat the same cereal every morning, wear the same leggings, and walk the same well worn streets (of Rome, preferably).

But in the minutiae of life, I confess that I have a special affection for the unexpected — the tarnish on the bling, the twisted touching skirts with the sublime. Our time on earth is so very much not a one-note dance, and I love the barely-noticed reminders of LIFE where we seldom think to look. And so it’s a no-brainer that I will select at least a bit of the everyday to tell my story through mosaic.

And of course here’s the thing: I like to think that my choices in art, as my choices in life, are intensely deliberate. But 90% of the time it’s the deliberate choices that I end up tossing into the bin, and the seemingly random finds that grab my heart. It’s almost as if my presence on this earth is not only arbitrary, but completely unnecessary — as if the “I” that I so carefully cultivate is no more than a worker bee robot for someone else’s fresher ideas, clearer vision, spot-on choices.

And so I end 2022 much the same as I started it — working, dreaming, becoming, creating, loving, encouraging, choosing — and wondering how much of my life has to do with me, and how much of it could have been the guy down the street.

But I’m learning one thing: in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Maybe being the vehicle is a cool enough ride.

Sex in the Fifties

Prelude for Younger Audiences: “Ewwwwwww!”

So what’s the deal with Sex in the Fifties? Despite the hemorrhaging availability of botox, breast bags, hair weaves, penile implants, financial security, liposuction, hormone helpers, testosterone patches, mobility, anonymity, familiarity, butt lifts, viagra, and f***buddies, are we really getting any? Or are we just sick of the whole last-year’s-dance, preferring instead to curl up with a bottle of cabernet?

Frankly, we look old. We feel tired. We are Not in the Mood.

I wasn’t planning on giving up sex, ever. But even for those armed with a fistful of dollars and a bulge in the libido, nature keeps cropping up with a plan of her own. My mother always gleefully tittered that the years after menopause were the happiest of her life. Sorry Mom, but I beg to differ. If you’ve never had a hot flash, and by that I mean never been working away happy as a clam only to find yourself suddenly awash in a skim of sticky, smelly, pore ooze, usually in the midst of 1) a business meeting , or 2) clasping the Beloved, then get thee to a more approriate blog.

And what’s with the weight thing, damn it? Decreased Appetite plus Decreased Intake = 10 pounds weight gain. Eliminating soft drinks, chocolate, and cream sauces (kill me now) = 2 pounds weight gain. Increased Exercise = a pleasant 1 pound weight gain. So tell me why, with all the additional padding, are old people always cold? My Dear Mother Nature, if you want me to keep warm, drop the pound baggage and Let Me Have Sex! Friction = Fire, you know.

They say that menopause causes irritability. Not true. Sweat swells, bulky girth, and a dearth of hickies cause irritability. Big time.

The sad truth is that I know why Mother afflicts us in the 50’s. She has caught a whiff of rotten eggs, and wants to protect the Future of Civilization by causing hunkish males to blanch at our bulbous pretties and eau de locker room, fleeing to wantonly spew seeds into the incubators of twenty-somethings unaquainted with palimony.

And what of those man-type humans? Is their procreational rivulet spiked with preservatives? Does Mother just turn a blind eye to their dalliances, secure in the supposition that no DNA will be mangled by the Over-50 Male? I suppose it’s entirely plausible that she anticipates an occasional dip in the fertilizer population. I, myself, have considered popping off a few somewhere between the gynecologist’s office and the bank.

No one cares if a man grows fat and bald, least of all the man. But I can’t complain, really — as my Dearest insists, “I didn’t marry you for your body.” Ass.

And yet we manage well, all things considered. And, all things considered, perhaps extraordinarily well. We kiss and clutch in restaurant parking lots as gratefully as adulterers, and roll about gamely on sundry pieces of furniture more carelessly than teenagers . . . until I heave him to the floor gasping for a deep throat of air conditioning, nipples thrust greedily toward the ceiling fan, “Faster . . . faster . . . come to Mama NOW, you Bladed Beauty, NOW!”

At least the neighbors think we’re doing it.

(Copyright 2007. All rights reserved Pamela Goode.)

I Can’t Believe I Ate the . . .

It’s cold. Not as cold as it is at my sister’s, with a wind chill in single digits and 49 mph gusts of other-people’s-trash, and not as cold as it is for friends in Edmonton, Alberta, due to hit -25 on Wednesday, and certainly not as cold as the -80 recorded in Alaska in 1971. We won’t even talk about Antarctica, because no one is intended to live in that sort of frozen perpetuity.  But I am cold, nonetheless, and it’s the sort of cold that triggers the hunched-shoulder-body-tensing daylong headaches. Unpleasant for me and a bitchiness-breeder that haunts my husband, but cured rather nicely by hot tea with honey, languid baths, and browsing wildflower catalogues. However, there’s one winter reflex that I find more difficult to control.

No tail, no arboreal agility, no penchant for darting back and forth across streets, but suddenly I’ve triggered the squirrel syndrome. I can’t stop eating. And I’m not even picky, and though I haven’t yet stooped to scooping acorns, pretty much anything else is fair game. Something in my brain is craving the feeling of fullness, the defense against winter and sparsity.

I hear that creeping age lowers the  appetite, and I’ve seen mothers and grandmothers who ate like birds, and great grandmothers who refused food of any kind. I’m old enough to witness the skin begin to sag beneath my jawline, but apparently young enough to eat like, well, a squirrel. Saggy skin does not pair well with bulging midriffs, and I expect to sprout bristly hair across my chubby cheeks at any moment.

We have a gargantuan turkey, beautiful breads, Spoons barbecue, fennel slaw, caramelized butternut squash, a huge tin of sugar-molested pecans, boxes of mint cookies, sweet pomegranate seeds, sugared cranberries, lots of prosecco, those smashable dark chocolate oranges, and a 10X-dusted pear clafouti, which is some sort of French Kiss made by pouring heavy cream and butter over a few sliced pears and cooking it into a 2000 calorie romp through the Jardin des Tuileries. Scratch that — I finished it off last night. Heading back in for some barbecue now.

When I was a girl, my father once came in from the garden muttering blasphemous un-niceties after the crusty man-over-the-fence grinningly brandished his .22 and a handful of dead squirrels dangling by the tails from his fist. We were not a “gun” family, and were even less enamored of the idea that a crotchety old man was shooting in our city neighborhood full of young children. My dad probably figured he shot them because they dropped nuts on his car. My mom probably thought it was the ticks, fleas, chiggers and mites.  At the time, I just thought he was crazy. Now I know why.

But seriously, what’s the deal with binging? I don’t need the extra food for energy and I don’t need the extra fat for warmth. I’m blessed to have heat, fire, a stove,  warm water, sweaters, coats, scarves, and ear muffs, and it rarely dips below freezing here. There’s food in the pantry and I can still use a can opener. No twitchy tail, no pointy black toenails, and no visible mites, but, apparently, a generous set of expandable cheeks.

Sigh.