Sunday, May 29, 2011

Royal Gorge Holiday Creates Royal Fright and Mutism

From Wikipedia: The Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the Arkansas) is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of 50 feet (15 m) at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet (380 m) in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. Hop the train for a 24-mile round-trip within the canyon and see everything first hand. Here is where you'll find the incredible history of this great Colorado attraction.

royal - adjective - one of three definitions: a : of superior size, magnitude, or quality <a patronage of royal dimensions — J. H. Plumb> —often used as an intensive <a royal pain> 

The scene is set:
Memorial Day Weekend - 1971

My little family drove cross-country for a Western tour to visit my brother-in-law and his wife living in Colorado Springs and then on to California to visit my childhood friend and her husband to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. We hadn't seen each other since we were young girls of 11, although we wrote to each other every other week (back in the days of hand-written letters!).  We planned on visiting as many local attractions as time would allow along the way and Santa's "North Pole" Workshop located at the base of Pike's Peak in Cascade, CO was going to be a special treat for my girls. (Well, us, too, but we were grown-ups and couldn't really admit that we wanted to see the Workshop, too! And, of course, we signed up for a Letter from Santa that the girls would receive in December!) It was my brother-in-law's idea that we also visit Royal Gorge, a tourist attraction that was very different from the entertainment park you see, today. But, this scene is pretty close to the 1,250 feet of space that you would see, if you bent over the parapet at the end of what was a dirt and stone road on the mountain side opposite the train ride. That's what it was -- no buildings, no market, no bathrooms -- nothing but a parapet just under the height of a 3-1/2-year old child.
Since my husband really wanted to visit with his brother and didn't particularly care to spend too much time on the parapet, we divided parent-care duties. He was off to the side next to the car with his brother and my youngest; I had my 5-1/2 year-old in hand as we looked out at the cable car suspended over the Gorge. We could also see the train beginning it's ascent on the opposite wall.
My daughter and I  both decided we preferred standing on old terra firma as the best way to enjoy this incredible view. It was a gorgeous day and we also chatted a bit with the two or three other families next to us. Precise timing is lost but the numbness, the tremors, and all the horror of that day is as real to me, now, as it was then.

My oldest and I were just talking about who-knows-what, but chat we did, until I felt the pounding fill my body and heard the very soft voice telling me to turn around. Never letting go of my daughter's hand, I pivoted just enough to look toward my husband and his brother and my youngest -- No, I wasn't seeing my youngest daughter, at all! Nowhere! He was busily discussing whatever it is brother's busily discuss but my baby wasn't anywhere to be seen! I couldn't breathe. I couldn't cry out. My mouth went tight and my eyes begin to fill with tears. Where was she? Why are they chatting and laughing? He was supposed to be holding her hand! Where could she be? Where -- oh, shit! those are her -- her FINGERTIPS on the other side of the parapet wall near them! Oh, shit. Oh, damn. Oh, hell. Oh. My. GOD!! I'm screaming inside my head!

I don't know how the next happened, but you will never convince me I don't have a Guardian Angel -- don't even try.  Somehow, I leaned down to my oldest and quietly told her to run to her father -- NOW! I then moved as quickly as I possibly could over to my baby's fingertips. I looked over the parapet to the site you see above, except now you have to image a chubby little 3-1/2-year-old toddler, face flat against the stones, feet dangling above a whole lot of nothing but 1,250 feet of empty space beneath her! Can you do that?

Somewhere buried in my subconscious (my Guardian Angel) was the knowledge that I couldn't show panic. Of its own volition, my voice very calmly said, "If you're through looking at the cracks in the stones, now, I can help you up, Sweetie," and  my precious little baby said, "Okay, Mommy, 'cause I'm really tired, now."  While talking to her, my hands were grasping her forearms. I pulled her straight up and into my arms and held her -- just held her -- for hours, days, months, years, I just don't remember how long. I couldn't let go. I couldn't talk, but I do remember one lady coming over to me and wondering how I had remained so calm. I could only nod because I couldn't talk.

It wasn't really his fault. I knew my husband was also in shock. I knew I would forgive him for not paying more attention. But, not right then because I couldn't talk. And, I truly believe that that's what saved my marriage. I couldn't talk.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Really Won American Idol? Scotty or Lauren?

Update: The morning after!

Courtesy USA Today
I'm just a little miffed, right now. With Scotty McCreery from my neck of the woods, I have supported him with my votes from the beginning. He's a wonderful young man with a bright future and I thoroughly enjoy his singing. And, I also enjoy Lauren's singing -- not as much as Hayley, but, then, again, they're all in the Top Ten and have a year's worth of touring to make their mark. American Idol is a show that allows young people a chance to side-step the serious work of a career and jump right into all the horrors that come from being plunged into that position, while the wheelers and dealers fill their pockets.

I really believe that's one of the reasons most of them fade into oblivion. There's no solid base to work from and the whole family gets caught up in the chaos of suddenly available fame and money. Your mid-teens show you can sing -- but the mid-teens have nothing to do with the maturity to run your own career, see through the charlatans and hangers-on who will whittle away your money, and all the new "friends" who will disappear at the first sign of your not picking up the check. If your family hasn't dealt with large sums of money, they don't develop the skill the moment you win the title. And, more importantly, you haven't LIVED enough to give a good song a solid telling of its story -- a reason, I believe, that most of today's songs are nothing more than the same phrase being repeated over and over to a great beat. (BOY! I really am miffed.)

So, to make a short story even longer, American Idol is a competition and should be treated as such. I think Scotty made a huge mistake in being a gentleman and giving song delivery placement choice to Lauren. This is when being a nice guy shoots you in the foot. Was his special song great? No, but it was a nice country song and folks will enjoy it. Was Lauren's song great? Oh, yes -- as only a true country tearjerker can be -- short of singing about Jesus or someone dying young.

But Scotty did his job and sang his songs. Lauren showed her true immaturity - personal and physical -- for the job ahead. Her voice doesn't have the strength to perform under heavy conditions. She's nervous and has missed more than she has succeeded -- yet, Haley (a far superior singer) lost out because she dared be her best at what she does and show some confidence. No one has ever taken issue with the judge's and made it to the finish.

So, Lauren (or, her people) decide she needs help. Did she have a vocal chord problem; yes. Did we need to know? No. But, let's put out a story that she probably won't be able to sing on the final night of competition. Well, that will bring in viewers. Yup. Oh, wait, let's make sure the viewers all know about her problem at the top of the show -- and, that she's bravely ready to carry on. Now, let's bring on the doctor to make sure we all understand that she's able to go on! Well, folks, for those of you who don't know, professional singers/entertainers have this problem all the time, and it's taken care of behind the scenes -- the audience doesn't have to be told, because the show goes on, without trying for the sympathy vote. And, if that isn't enough, we're going to go for one more pity vote. Let's let Lauren, hand-held by Ryan, walk down the stairs to her Mother (in the MIDDLE of her final competition song!) and with teary-eyes let them embrace, so that we all understand just what a difficult obstacle she's overcome to be here for this moment. Okay. It was a great song but a very heavy-handed biased presentation.

Why am I miffed? (Just so you know, I'm not alone, here. There have been too many complaints from other voters online, as well.) I tried over and over to cast my online vote (calling and texting, as well) and simply couldn't get through, ever! When you picked Scotty to vote for, the screen just locked up. I tried for almost two hours -- longer than the average old lady would ever do it, but I'm tenacious and had a mission. For some of those who made it through, according to the commenters, they were immediately greeted with a screen that said, "Thank You for your vote for Number Two!" That was Lauren's number. She had all the even numbers! Scotty had the odd numbers. Even though you are told you could vote up to 50 times (WTF?) for your favorite, you couldn't even get into a screen to cast your first vote. Then, for the few who did make it through, they get thanked for voting for Lauren! I'm usually not the suspicious type, but this same foolishness happened when we tried to vote for Fantasia, a few years ago. In fact, the number belonged to a private individual who wasn't the least bit happy about all the calls. By the time they got that problem straightened out, the voting was over.

Something is just not right. Until you can actually see the demographics and voting results, you can only take the word of the producers. But, when you are prevented from voting and there's been a declared favorite, you start getting that funny feeling... I hope and pray that Scotty wins because he did it by following the rules, and he's a local boy. But, if Lauren wins, I'll never believe it was a fair vote -- and, that's too bad. I still think the whole premise of American Idol is ludicrous because the voters never back up their votes with spending their money for recordings; but, it should still be fairly done.

I will wait, with America, to whoop or weep.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflecting on The A-Z Challenge
As most of you have figured out, I've been involved with the A-Z Blogging Challenge from Arlee Bird's group at Tossing It Out, using the letters of the alphabet for a daily posting (excluding Sundays) for the month of April (or, beyond, if you were a little slower in posting). There was well over 1300 participants and we were supposed to visit them all, make comments, and post our own stories, or themes, to fulfill the challenge. And, today, we're in a linky, as folks follow up with their feelings about the experience.

I remember being excited starting out, because it would take a month to accomplish. Then, as each day arrived, bringing a new letter challenge for posting, the reality of it all settled in and, on a few occasions, became onerous. It isn't that I didn't enjoy the exercise but that it had become something that seemed to take over my day.

You see, here's my problem (and, it may well be the same for others): I love to research -- anything! I was once asked to speak to a senior's class on writing and my first question  was, "Who likes to do homework?" No one raised a hand or blurted out their response (as is the wont of so many, today) and all were stunned to find out that being a successful writer requires non-stop reading and non-stop research (homework). Don't know how many from that class have since become writers, but it did change some minds that day. That being said, I repeat, I love research. So, what did that mean for this exercise? Nothing got done, as I had hoped, because I was up to my chin in lovely, lovely, research!

The dark side of research is that I was led to even more interesting things and my days became blurred whilst I submerged myself in discovery heaven. That I was actually able to put a post together was even more surprising. I would research, take a nap, and then wake up to write my post, and it would all come together. Were the posts perfect? No, that's not the point. The point, for me, is that I was able to write on many things that have been kept inside for a long time, as well as clarify the unknown by having to make it understood by others.

I think that's the joy and wealth of writing, really, being able to bring something new to others and sharing in such a way that it invites even more study on their part. If that has happened from just one of my postings, then, it was an even more cool exercise.

The benefit, of course, from the challenge was in meeting so many bloggers I might never have found and discovering their way of sharing their lives, either through prose, poetry, or imagery. Since I'm still trying to get Frogger off his lily pad and safe across the street, I'm probably not going to be following the gamers. But, that still leaves hundreds of kindred posters. The Internet is an exciting place to travel, a world vibrating with so many others reaching out to share and make permanent their own voices during their own personal journeys. Please continue to use the Surprise Me button to discover these wonderful people for yourself.

I will be getting to everyone, sooner or later, but 1300+ is a big number. I hope you will do the same and come visit me on my porch, share some rockin' chair reflections on a life of adventures and anecdotes. Who knows? I may even throw in some tooth-suckin' wisdom.  It's been a pleasure and lots of fun, and will definitely look forward to next year's challenge. Come visit when you can. I'll start the tea.