Sunday, December 31, 2006

Waukesha Hotel & Bath House

I only recently came across this old postcard in my research of local history. The Waukesha Hotel & Bath House once stood on ground now occupied by two of Hot Springs' most recognizable landmarks. I'm thinking that the bath house may have originally been a hotel itself, named The Grand Central Hotel, before the adjacent Waukesha Hotel was built.
To the far left of the photo, one can make out the grey limestone face of the infamous Southern Club, now Josephine Tussaud's Wax Museum. The location of The Waukesha Bath House (the smaller structure on the right) is now occupied by the Medical Arts Building. Once it was completed in late 1929, the Medical Arts Building was Arkansas' tallest office building, and would remain so until the construction of Little Rock's Tower Building in the late 1950's. Notice in the photo below, you can still see the Waukesha Hotel next door.
I love the lines of this building. Aside from the boutiques at street level today, the structure remains, sadly, empty. Two newer medical complexes were built elsewhere in town, and as a result, the medical and dental practices housed here vacated and followed. I do recall stories about my ex-in-laws' good friend Tyler, who once lived in the two story penthouse back in the 1970's.
In 1960, the last remaining structure of The Waukesha was demolished to make way for The Aristocrat. How about that mid-century statement? First built as a hotel, it eventually was converted into apartments. Two of my favorite people that lived there were Stuart and Dottie Dobblestein. They were a sweet little Jewish couple who I've lost track of upon leaving the clinical setting in dentistry. Stuart, I'm quite sure, has passed away. Perhaps Dottie has too. I miss them.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why all the Good Karma at the end of the year?

Perhaps I'm not alone in how karma plays out in my life. Maybe I don't see it with the proper perspective, but it seems that I have short bursts of either good or bad luck, with long episodes of normal life in between.

This has been an amazing last couple of days. I am ignoring the cold I have come down with, so that I can enjoy some of the good fortune that has made it to me as of late. But I can actually say that several personal challenges I've been pondering the past few weeks and months have worked themselves out.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

I Awoke Early Friday Morning

3:28 AM to be exact. I never can decide if I am an early bird or a night owl. I find rare and sweet moments in both. Friday morning was to be no exception.

I had fallen asleep at the computer...again. I have a chair-a stylish black leather and chrome piece-which is likely more comfortable than a wannabe writer's chair should be. It would best be described as a reading chair, as I read there far more than I write, and have frequently begun a writing task there but likely never finish it. It swivels. It reclines. It has a footstool. And many times is more inviting than the king-size bed just across the room. I'll set the iTunes player on shuffle, place the keyboard on my lap, and I'm set. Many of my entries are written in this setting, and in this condition of being wide asleep.

Having dozed-off at what I'm guessing was around 8:30 the night before, I awoke surprisingly well rested. Going to the bed at this early hour would be absurd. So I got up and started my day: Sweats, t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, an off-brand iPod strapped to my upper left arm and I was out the door for a one hour walk, with my fashionably red police-sized MAG LITE in hand.

Not a sign of dawn on the east horizon. Not a trace of a late-stage moon. Above me, only brilliant infinity. The celestial bodies glistened uncommon radiance that morning. Twinkling a quicker tempo than I usually notice. And the deeper into the darkened golf course I walked, the more mesmerizing it became. I felt like I was walking into space. Just enough light reflected from the stars for me to visualize the blacktop golf cart trails I walked upon, so use of the flashlight was minimal. Besides, I couldn't seem to take my eyes off of the amazing sight above.

I thought I might get a glimpse of the space shuttle passing by, but no. I suppose the sun was at too low an angle. However several planes dotted the north sky, oddly, all travelling to the West and all precisely spaced from each other. Odd to me, until I recalled several early mornings just like this when I lived in Memphis. It is at this moment above the Memphis sky, that scores of jumbo jets make their Westward exodus from MEM. I would often witness this from my 17th floor balcony in Bellevue Tower.

It was then that I realized that these planes I was watching carried only crew... and freight. FedEx planes. I imagined them stuffed to the gills with Christmas packages-boxes of Love-all making their way across the face of this tiny floating orb of matter. At that given moment, I could see four planes. I chose a destination for each of them: Oklahoma City. Salt Lake City. San Francisco. Tokyo. Corny yes, but something I've done since I was a child was to guess a plane's city of departure and it's destination. Just for the fun of it.

My generic iPod was shuffling through songs by Dirty Vegas, Telepopmusik, Moby, Depeche Mode & Queer As Folk-Season 4 Soundtrack. Every song sounded SO fabulous. It seemed that this playlist had been intended solely for an early morning, star-gazing stroll. More precisely, for THIS morning and for THIS moment. Cosmic, I tell ya! I felt the pulse of my very being was in beat with the pulse of the whole Universe, and that I was the only human priveledged to enjoy this wonderous moment.

I neared the turning point in my journey as my northerly direction slowly began to curve to the east. Belvedere's golf course has about two miles of frontage on Arkansas Highway 7, and it was there that I realized I shared this slice of time with others, as a Coleman Dairy truck whirred by on it's early delivery run, followed soon by an even longer and louder Budweiser truck. But I knew in my heart that these drivers did not have the chance to observe the wonders taking place above us.

All of the FedEx planes had passed over the horizon now. Not a plane in sight.

Halfway into my hour long walk, I noticed the unusually calm water hazard on the 3rd fairway. A medium-sized pond with gently sloping banks, I found myself at the water's edge to look upon it's face. No wind. Not a ripple on it's surface. It appeared to be a port into another world. Each and every detail of the sky above shown on the watery mirror at my feet. It gave the impression one would fall into the sky below if one were to step into it. What wonder and amazement! I was feeling as if I was seeing it all again through a child's eyes.

One final hill laid before me. That was all that separated me from my front door. The walk, the sights, the emotional experience I had just lived recharged my soul. I felt more alive than I had in weeks, and if anyone awake had the ability to see in the dark, they would have witnessed a free-spirited lip-synching walker making their way back home, eager to

Just steps away from my front door, I spied a plane in the sky to the south-southwest. It was headed to the northeast and being quite low, I immediately made my assesment:

Departed Houston-Arriving Little Rock.

I stepped inside my condo, looking forward now to the damp warmth of a well-earned shower, and to the remains of this day.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Alone for the Holidays

This is my fourth holiday season since my life made a drastic turn. The first couple of years, I was paralyzed by the solitude. All that had been crazy in my life had come to a warmly welcomed end, and was being enjoyed only by me. Random threats commonly heard by me made mention that my ex would not remain a member of the single adult world one moment longer than necessary. As a matter of fact, I relished the thought of my ex finally having a diversion from making my life a living hell. Another victim would be...could be... my ticket to personal, albeit not financial, freedom. I had always enjoyed the concept of 'being married', it just so happened that I had spent several years married to the wrong person.

It worked. Our divorce became final on March 17, 2003. She married husband #2 on March 18, 2003. Had our hearing not taken place so late on that day, I'm quite sure the new couple would have been able to file a marriage license just minutes after our divorce decree had been stamped and registered. Oh well, we all can make bad choices. Mine was getting married in the first place. Had I come of age in a less sheltered environment, perhaps I would have had the chance to see a better choice. Coming out of the closet post-divorce and in one's 30's sets into motion all sorts of regrets. Three kids in tow can make it even more complicated. But I'm slowly learning my own way.

I always thought that coming out would be one of the most freeing experiences I could ever do for myself. Personally, it was just that. Socially though, I've gotten a few scrapes. Hell, I should just be honest and say that I've bled quite a few times. Those were some of the lonliest times in my life. Even more lonely than much of my pre-coming out days. And I really wondered if trying to live in a way that was true to myself was worth the ever increasing amount of hurt that I was encountering by being a gay bachelor or part of a gay social group. Was it even worth trying to find a date? It's still a question I ask myself often. Sure, I'd think it was great to find someone who I could consider my best friend, but who could also fulfill the role of boyfriend, partner, and eventually...husband. But I don't hold my breath anymore. At least not continuously.

I nearly found what I was looking for. It was just over one year ago. I met Stanley. He was as genuine a man as I had ever met. What soon followed were several trips back and forth, whether via Delta Airlines or Interstate 30, between Dallas by both of us. Stanley had every quality I needed in a friend and boyfriend. At least every quality I needed immediately. Just before we had met, both of us had been through the typical emotional roller coaster of severing ties with our previous romantic interests which, unfortunately, he was more deeply invested than myself. I had just closed the doors on a one month old potential romance, but he was ending something of a much greater magnitude. We were each other's shoulder to lean on. We still are. I love him like a brother, and I bounce every problem I'm having off of him. It is a friendship I will always treasure. We're both so lucky that we saw fairly early that things between us could only go that far and romance was not in our cards. I really needed to find a friend like him years and years ago.

New Year's will be here so soon. I will be celebrating it just as I always do. Alone. And I doubt I'll even be able to stay awake. But that's okay. As much as I feel lonely, I also relish my solitude. I guess I'm still experiencing the burns from a bad marriage and a couple of bad boyfriends. It would take an awfully great date prospect for me to give up my usual New Year's routine.

I suppose it could happen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12, 2006

My calm day yesterday was no indication of the remainder of my week. Today was a very busy work day. 7AM to 630PM. I did take a break for lunch at 230, for 20 minutes or so. Tomorrow and Thursday may prove to be even more demanding than today, as I already have work piled up, and much more may come in. I'm beat! After getting a couple of errands completed, I didn't make it home until after 7PM. I then had to make a couple of calls. 8PM-Dinner. Thank goodness for 'cooking for the week'. White Chili. Homemade, and damn good.

I don't know why I'm writing again. Last night's entry was lame. Tonight's...even more.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Monday

What a great day it's been. I cannot say anything extraordinary happened. I just felt such peace all day...and I didn't even feel guilty about not working-out this morning. I awoke at my usual 4:30, but rather than squeezing into sweat garb, I enjoyed a slow-paced shower (where I even sang this morning), made my bed, dressed and made my way into the laboratory thirty minutes early. I resumed my work exactly as I had left it on Friday, and by the time my co-worker arrived at her usual time, I had knocked out a full two-hours worth of work. I can't have angry dentists breathing down my neck. Or, at least I don't want that. Then as the day progressed, it seemed that every case I touched turned out wonderfully. Why can't all days be like this?

I had a great visit with the kids over the weekend. It was our first visit since they moved away. They really were thrilled to see me and be in their second home again, too. But no matter how long they stay away, I cannot seem to be able to tolerate Cartoon Network nor Nickelodeon any better than the day they left. Yes, I'd rather leave Food Network or HGTV playing continuously than to endure 'kid tv'. My oldest, Spencer, is just getting old enough to enjoy the new music of the day. It is really funny to see him react when I begin singing along with the radio to music from my day.

"Don't you forget about me, I'll be alone dancing you know it baby..."

"You're really scaring me" is a typical response. Then to let him have it, I'll turn the station over to KLEZ, and give him a taste of whatever is playing there. Usually, it's Frank Sinatra, Linda Rondstadt or Barbra...or something of that nature.

I've found that KLEZ is my usual station. I listen to it at work... in the car... as I go to bed. Oh my gosh, I sing to it in the shower too!

Am I acting too old for 37?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

This Space I Occupy

It's amazing to me how our brain can work out problems by itself and without the influence of our consciousness. My biggest dilemma as of late, has been finding a place I can consider my own. I'm coming upon the end of my current lease, and as much as I would love to find the perfect pad...I utterly despise the thought of moving yet again.

I am living in a condominium now, on the north-east end of Hot Springs. The Belvedere Country Club, which I can see just across the fairway, has a definite place in Hot Springs' colorful history. The setting is beautiful, quiet and safe...when not considering the occasional stray golf ball from the 18th tee just up the hill from me. I gather orphaned golf balls into a bucket on my patio, and it is growing at a surprising rate. Sadly, one of them was the culprit in shattering the back glass on my neighbors' new Acura.

I moved into the condo last February, along with my very good friend, Stanley. He had fallen in love with the setting immediately when we had driven by at the beginning of one of our many road trips. And when the lease on our previous home in the Quapaw-Prospect Historic District had expired, we made the transition to The Belvedere. I was glad to bid farewell to the $300 montly gas bill, but I was still a bit uneasy, as the condo just didn't feel like it was 'mine'.

For Stanley, it suited him quite well. Not too long before, he had made the transition to Hot Springs after being subject to the massive layoffs by Delta Airlines at DFW, and the condo was very similar in layout to his Dallas apartment of 18 years. What was quite different, was the city of 2 million just outside his door, and he would sit for hours either gazing out the living room windows or out on the patio, watching the golfers go by...or the tall pines sway...or the occasional squirrel or deer that had found their way onto the fairway.

For me, the story was quite different. I had lived in this same type of setting much of my life. I was intending, before Stanley came along, to finally make a move downtown. My ideal move would have taken me to a walk-up apartment above a store-front on historic Bath House Row & I wanted to feel the pulse of the street below. I wanted to know the feeling of being able to walk out my door and know that within steps, I could have within my grasp, many of the day to day necessities of life without having to get into a car. Even on days I didn't feel like walking or driving, a taxi or bus could take me anywhere in town I wished. Scores of art galleries, restaurants, nightclubs, coffee houses, cafes, my bank and a convenience store are all within a very close proximity of each other. Whenever I wanted to become one with of the country's most beautiful National Parks lay just across the street, laced with miles of hiking trails that extend up the mountainside and beyond the city-like park seen at streetside.

Soon after the move, Stanley unexpectedly returned to Texas, and I found myself alone in a condo ill-suited for my desires. I had already taken pleasure in replacing most of the 80's era mauve and blue wallpaper while he was still here. But, the kitchen still reeks of it, dah-ling! I just haven't had the energy NOR the will to invest my time in replacing the remaining rolls of wallpaper still lay in waiting, in a box in the utility closet.

There are many things about the condo & the neighborhood that I do like. The master bedroom has to be as large as many studio apartments I've seen. I have four full feet on either side of a king size bed...and enough room at the other end of the room for a sitting area. The master bath, although without a shower, does include a mirror-flanked double Jacuzzi that is so large, it takes a full twenty minutes to fill. There's a working fireplace in the living room/dining room, which also has room for a dining table that seats six, two wing chairs, a sofa & a love seat. A full size washer and dryer are tucked into a closet in the hall that serves the 2nd bedroom and bath. And a kitchen so well planned, it more than makes up for it's outdated skin.

Most of the homes within the confines of The Belvedere are upper-middle scale, many of which are owned by transplanted retirees. This means that the neighbors are friendly enough to wave or say hello when you walk or drive by...but they'd never take it upon themselves to make "your business" their own. Nope, no Mrs. Kravitzes here! My neighbors within the condominium complex are a much younger set. Just above me is a simply delightful, newly divorced attorney and her 13 year old son. I was so flattered when she attempted to 'set me up' with a good friend of hers. Without revealing too much about myself, I only knew to say, "I really appreciate that, but I'm not quite ready to date just yet." I hate that she will be moving sometime next year, as she is building a new home, and it will soon be complete. I'll miss hearing her baby grand...she's quite good... and she always gave out popsicles when my kids were outside playing. I don't know my other neighbors quite as well, but we all get along nicely. The state police detective sometimes gives me the willys, but he's always been pleasant.

I've been stressed far too long about finding a downtown address. I have let it consume far too much of my free thought. I suppose that message was made clear in a dream that awoke me very early this morning. I will spare the details of driving a bicycle, nude, through the streets of my old hometown...but I will simply say that I was 'searching for a place to call home', and I was desperate. It is rare for me to have such a colorful and emotional dream, but it was a loud message from my subconscious. I heard it loud and clear, because when I awoke, I knew I had found closure. I have not felt more at ease here since that brief moment at 3:12 this morning. This is home for now.

Now, about that wallpaper...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Light A Candle

World AIDS Day is today. Even if HIV/AIDS has not reached into your world, take the time to click the following link. For each candle that is lit, Bristol-Meyers Squibb will donate $1. After your candle is lit, it will then light another...and another, until the screen is full of lit candles. For each candle, there is a story. Please take the time to read some of them. Thanks, Joe in AR, for the info.