Category Archives: Travel

Last Morning

I left a homemade bottle light on the huge deck at the Airbnb house. In the deep dark of the valley, it shone like a beacon, looking down on the valley floor where the pond rests. Erika and I left my last Jackie cup up near the ridiculously distant game room/building. I took a picture of the very first part of the driveway. Words can’t describe how steep, serpentine and long it is. Attempting to walk up it is a cardiac stress test even for the fittest. Don’t forget to ask Erika how much she enjoyed the attempt. 🙂 The house is beautiful, especially at night. But if towering windows and isolation give you the heebiejeebies, you would have to sleep in one of the closets here. All of the bedrooms on different levels have uncovered sliding glass doors with a deck that defines description of size. If you’re a fan of light, the huge living area is flooded during the day. The last picture is of camera- shy Erika’s silhouette.

Airbnb Modesty Test

Modesty test. Erika found a mid-century Airbnb house on the fringe of Fayetteville. 12 acres, encompassing an entire deep valley, complete with a meandering stream. It’s an aging, gargantuan beauty, a multi-level labyrinth. Lots of eccentricities. Towering glass, no shades or curtains. The light-flooded interior recedes to the enveloping darkness in the valley at sunset. I’m certain the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, although just on the fringe of the city, would run some people’s imagination into weird quarters. I climbed onto the apex of the roof, with a long view of the sloping property, stream, and emerald pond on the opposite side. I felt like I was 12. The master bedroom and accompanying bathroom is not for the timid soul.  If you bathe or shower, if any wandering soul were to jaunt down the long serpentine driveway to the house, they could easily see what God gave you. When I showered, it evoked a laugh. I felt like Chris Farley in his infamous Chippendale dancer skit with Patrick Swayze. I’ll leave it to you to capriciously decide which character I felt like.

I used one picture of Erika from a bird’s eye perspective after I descended from the roof. As always, she’s reluctant to let people see her the way I do. Her hair was illuminated like soft fire in several of the pictures I took surreptitiously. She reluctantly stood next to me and let me take a picture of her with a backward view of the valley and pond below.

The sun finally made its way above the towering valley ridge. Everything is backlit with it and amber orange bloom.

I would describe it as beautiful, but it’s a fragile cliché compared to being present and witnessing it.

Love, X


This coffee cup is the one I’ve had longest. It’s from one of my two trips to Mexico decades ago. It reminds me of exotic margarita sunrises and sunsets, salt in my eyes from my first trip to the ocean, beautiful sand stuck in places all over my body,  people working way too hard for too little money, tasting unlimited food and drinks I never had before. Being able to enjoy people even more because I loved their language. And trying to like shrimp made at least three dozen different ways. (I still didn’t.) When I was in Mexico, I filled this cup with a variety of drinks, “surprise me” concoctions of coffee and whatever the servers wanted me to try. One of those workers went beyond; one drink was made by a cabal of her friends, all shouting ideas. She put a 1/4 lb. sliver of homemade coffee-flavored chocolate in the cup, followed by bitter coffee and liqueur. I walked down to the darkening beach with the cup. My wife, now long absent, had a preposterous fruity drink that defied gravity.

I paid one of the resort people $20 for the cup. He reluctantly but joyously accepted it. He said I could buy a case for that amount. I told him that the cup was full of the memory of that moment. He said, “¡Eres loco pero simon!” (You’re crazy but yes!)

I’ve been leaving cups when I make special trips or when I want an on-demand lemon moment.

This morning, I walked down the leaf-covered and rain-drenched hill. I put my Mexico cup on one of the lower branches. I wanted to climb up one of the trees but these were slippery and the bark laden with water. Erika was inside cooking and preparing us a meal.

I left my Mexico cup there for future observers, a silent witness to the forest below. If this world were comprised of magic I would hope that anybody that looked at it or touched it could feel the salt and sand on their skin and that feeling of being in another world. I experienced it literally two lifetimes ago. I didn’t know at the time that those memories would be foundational for me or that life had shockingly different plans than what was in my head when I was there.

I clambered back up the hill and into house filled with bacon smells and presence.

This life.

That’s all there is and it’s more than enough.

Love, X

A Weekend Away From the World



Dawn wanted to take pictures using her phone; her camera is significantly better than mine. She handed me the phone as she said, “Here, you can take them better.” She said that despite the years of insurmountable proof that the opposite was true. ” Thus, two of the best photos are obscured by my inexpert fingers. They are my favorites, of course.




After painting a couple of rocks, something Dawn said that triggered a thought in my head, which is usually a dangerous sign. We were outside the cabin admiring the rocks that had surprisingly survived months (and even years) exposed to the elements. One of our previously ambitiously executed projects was somewhat intact but missing a couple of elements.


Because I had exhausted the obscenely bright neon color as the base of the two large rocks, I had an inspiration. Because I had a surplus of gloves, I opted to collect 5 medium rocks and approximately 50 small rocks. I sprayed a huge glob of several colors on aluminum foil and used my hands to roll the rocks around in my hands and paint them that way. Luckily for me, my unreplenished grab bag of paints contained about three dozen bottles of varying paints. It was a bit of overkill. Once we painted the large number of rocks, it looked quite striking against the backdrop of the surrounding forest and subdued colors nearby.



I made the png cutout version to better see the first two rocks we did. Not wanting to be outdone, I completed mine a nod toward my two favorite cousins, Beth and Lynette. I added a face on the bottom that was supposed to register surprise. I hope they don’t mind that I might exposed their secret identities again. Visitors to the cabins will drive up and see the two neon rocks and undoubtedly question what “X, Cheetah, Falcon, and Rojo” have to do with a getaway cabin. I challenge them to exceed my creativity and/or weirdness.



I took one from over the top of our heads, in case anyone needed to see such a picture.


When we arrived back to our normal lives here in Springdale, we went to see my in-laws. While the adults talked, I took the time to build a little town from what I could find in the yard. (Plus my invaluable index cards, of course.) You have to find your fun wherever it may be found.

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This picture is when Hell broke loose, pun intended. It was implied that I couldn’t leave my creation standing. For that reason, I had to pretend a tornado hit Hell and demolished it. I hope everyone is okay.

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Wisteria Lane Getaway For Labor Day


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This is the porch on Cabin #3. The porch and its swing is one of the best features that many other places surprisingly fail to include.


Last weekend, we had a chance to get away for the weekend to Wisteria Lane Lodging. At the last minute, we decided to extend the weekend by a day, if possible. The owner at Wisteria Lane gave us the green light. Instead of 2 nights and three days, we stayed for three nights. We stopped at the grocery store and loaded up on food for four days. The difference the extra day made was immeasurable. Vacationing in far-flung destinations has its appeal, I’ll admit, but knowing that we can drive less than forty-five minutes to be in the middle of nowhere with no one to intrude is difficult to surpass.

No cellphone, no internet, no outside world was imposing upon us. Unlike many of the competitor’s cabins, it’s possible to go and see no one during the entire stay. The cabins have satellite television; the solitude is best experienced without the world’s intrusion, in my opinion. I took a laptop loaded with shows and music, along with cables to use the flat screen television to project them.

Dawn and I don’t leave the valley unless we must. Many people who know me superficially are surprised that such isolation is enjoyable to me. Going without wifi and cellphones probably scares those who haven’t experienced it in the last few years. The disconnection is a welcome privilege. It’s a great way to measure your addiction to connectedness.

For those who love to walk or ride mountain bikes, the area is ideal. It’s possible to encounter no cars during your ride or hike on the maintained dirt rods.

While it only rained a bit during our stay, we sat on the hanging porch swing and listened to the thunder of the insects around us as the sun sank below the upper rim of the valley’s treeline.

Wisteria Lane is located North of Eureka and Holiday Island, in a deep valley populated with five billion trees. Cabin #3 & #4 are the best, in my opinion, given their location toward the inside of the forest. Each cabin has a long, covered porch facing the creek running through the valley. Each porch has a gas grill, which allows guests to cook in any weather, either using the grill or the full kitchen inside.

After our trip, I noticed that I hadn’t been billed for the extra night. The owner told me that she was treating Dawn and me to the extra night at no charge. A great trip made more exceptional due to the generosity of the owners.



We usually take the time to paint rocks during our stays. We tend to go a little further than most guests.


Wisteria Lane Lodging Main Page

Wisteria Lane Facebook

Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans



It’s unfashionable for me to be underwhelmed by the Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

People discuss it as if it embodies some unseen quality and conjoining of history and cuisine. The cafe’s proximity to so many of the sights of New Orleans is certainly an advantage. If you get take out, you can walk a short distance and sit by the Mississippi to eat your beignet and drink one of the coffees the cafe offers.

If you’re visiting New Orleans, it’s imperative that you come early if you’re going to try Cafe Du Monde in the morning. Otherwise, you’re going to be crowded into a throng of other visitors. Many tourists don’t know that the French Market location is open 24 hours a day. I’d argue that ambiance is better in the evening, when most of the revelers are elsewhere destroying brain cells with their favorite beverage.

Despite what visitors say after the fact, I observed many people as they approached, entered, sat, and walked away. The open air quality of the cafe is appealing to some and unappealing to others, especially as they are confronted with crowded and small tables, sticky surfaces, or birds flying inside the canopy where they are dining. Because the cult of the ‘must do’ demands it, most people leave with a notable lack of the ‘wow factor.’ Like a movie that people rave about, the cafe owes much of its appeal due to the cult of tourism more than its actual experience. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Beignets came from France, of course, which means that Cafe Du Monde didn’t invent the wheel, so to speak. I enjoy listening to people enthusiastically argue about the originality of Cafe Du Monde’s namesake food. Even when the Acadians brought them to Louisianna, they were likely to be filled with fruit. Today’s version is simply a rectangle of fried dough in a cloud of powdered sugar. If I point this out to people, it makes them a little irritated, as if recognizing the deviation somehow is an attack on their opinion.

If you’re visiting New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde is invariably on the ‘must do’ list for visitors. Unfortunately, many people are caught off guard by the massive lines, crowded tables, and sometimes long table service waits.

It’s important to note that the cafe doesn’t offer other breakfast foods. Many of the New Orleans partiers visit and find themselves eating large portions of dough and powdered sugar, which leads to the expected result.

As for me, the best part was feeding the birds which fly under the streetside canopy and hunt for morsels. It’s dumb on my part to have enjoyed feeding the birds.

Don’t get me wrong, the beignets are worth trying once. I personally can’t say that the taste of a Cafe Du Monde beignet was noticeable compared to the ones served a little distance away at the Cafe Beignet on the outside of the forgotten Jackson Brewery building. Saying this out loud amounts to heresy, so if you find yourself in agreement with me, it’s best to keep your opinion quiet.

A visit to Cafe Du Monde brings you to the edge of the river, too, so you’re at least in a central location to start your day.

It’s true that visitors should try a beignet if they’ve never had one.
My takeaway is that tourists would be better prepared for the experience if they go to Cafe Du Monde as an locale experience more than a dining choice.
Like New Orleans, it probably should be experienced once.

When We Went To Boston



Boston gets fairly rowdy around St. Patrick’s Day. My wife Dawn accompanied me as I attended an event there three years ago. While we’re not drinkers like so many others who attended the conference held around the holiday, we tried to socialize and give our contemporaries a run for their money. It was likely it would be our only trip to Boston as adults.

The first night, we went to the House of Blues near Fenway Park. It was loud, raucous, and phenomenal. We left before the Dropkick Murphys made their annual appearance mainly because I wanted to get up early the next morning and see the start of the Southie Road Race.

The race was impressive. As is the case most other years, many of the runners dressed in bright green costumes, complete with wigs and shoes to match. People had warned us to be careful around the fringes, given the occasional idiot who might want to start a fight, ‘borrow’ $100 or just cause a problem.

It wasn’t until Sunday night that we had any problems. I wanted to hear some live music at Lansdowne Pub. My wife was a little reluctant. She knew I was going to want to walk the strip toward Fenway. Cities can only be really enjoyed by walking them. By 7 p.m. we were walking along and watching people and admiring the array of brick buildings lining the streets. To knock some time off the walk, we cut through a parking garage near Lansdowne Street.

As we traversed the garage, we heard shouting somewhere above us, and then a ‘boom.’ The squeal of tires punctuated the ‘boom’ sound. My wife looked at me in alarm. We decided to move along up against the inside wall of the garage. A few seconds later, a car raced around the corner nearest to us. Simultaneously, a man wearing a green jersey and green top hat stepped from the street outside into the parking garage. A man inside the racing car leaned out the window, pointing a pistol at the top hat-wearing pedestrian.

The pedestrian didn’t move out of the way. The man leaning from the window began shooting toward the pedestrian. At least 5 shots rang out. The pedestrian didn’t flinch. He stood his ground as the shots were fired. The car swerved around him at the last second and popped out of the garage to escape.

My wife and I ran over to the man in the top hat. Our adrenaline was pumping. “Oh my god! Are you okay?” we shouted as we neared him.

“Thanks, mates. Yes, I’m fine. Bullets can’t hurt me.” He seemed to be completely calm. Surprisingly, I don’t think he had been drinking.

He held out his right hand as if to shake mine.

My wife, as always, had a million questions.

“What do you mean, ‘Bullets can’t hurt you.'” she asked.

“My name is Rick O’Shea,” he said, as I shook his hand, and answering my wife’s question.

We Are All Stories For Other People

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As I was once again in the Little Rock area, I had no choice except to get up early and creep outside. Moronic it may be, but as I’ve aged, I’ve been delighted to discover that walking deserted streets is among my favorite ways to enjoy life. I walked across the river bridge this morning, trying not to scare anyone. I was dressed in black pants and jacket in hopes of being mistaken for a suspicious character as I walked the streets. I left my ID in the car in hopes of increasing my chance for a foot race in the event of a ‘suspicious person’ call and ensuing police foot chase. Note: coffee is redundant if you’ve been tased below the waist. (As is the need to use the restroom, depending on the voltage of the device used.)

Regardless of its purported problems, this town is spectacular in the pre-morning hours. If you’re asking if it feels unsafe to be out alone in the dark, the answer is still no. Potato chips are a more realistic threat to me than what some shadowy danger might plan for me.

Walking across the bridge, I could see the top of the capitol building. I passed a moment wondering if anyone was perhaps already inside, possibly leafing through piles of large bills, quietly but maniacally laughing to themselves.

Leaving the hotel property, I edged into the dark sidewalk near the baseball park. A man walking two harnessed and incredibly large labs tried to dodge me at the last second. The dogs, seeking new people to adore them, jerked him back into my path and began to dance and whimper as I petted their heads. “Sorry,” the man said. “Don’t be. The day just improved for all of us,” I told him.

There were a few joggers this morning. Two of them were very athletic women who were trailed by a bodyguard. All of them looked like they could throw me into traffic if I looked at them wrong. I briefly considered pretending to chase them to see if they’d run faster. Since I didn’t have my health insurance card with me, I thought better of the idea. I don’t know who the two ladies were but they reeked of ‘famous.’ They were wearing perfume that undoubtedly was made using the scent of money.

As invariably happens when I walk the Little Rock metro area in the early morning, I had a couple of moments of divinity, the brief seconds of recognition that I’ll always remember this morning in indistinct yet fond imagery. The breeze above the river was a caress and the sight of the river below me reminded me of how lucky I’ve been in this life. I’m too observant to think that the scythe isn’t already arcing to meet me at some point in my life. It’s probably disguised as an anvil or extra large pepperoni pizza.

Coming back through the motel parking lot, I startled a couple as they gossiped and smoked cigarettes. Whoever Ellen is, the couple would like her to know that she’s a vile excuse for a human being. I wish I knew which Ellen they were discussing. I’ll bet she’d had a vigorous reply to their parking-lot gossip.

As I write this, I’ll note that despite having my “Do Not Disturb” on the door, a housekeeper knocked and waited 1/10 of a second before entering with her master key. The look on her face was priceless as I said, “Hold on, I’m just starting the security cameras now.” It’s worth noting that I was sitting at the desk with two laptops and a pile of jumbled electronics, so my joke was probably taken as serious commentary. “I’m SO sorry” she yelled as she turned and fled. It’s too bad I hadn’t yet started my 30 minutes of naked jumping jacks. I went to the hallway and asked one of the housekeepers in Spanish if the lady who just exited my room was the supervisor. She said ‘yes,’ it was. If she tries any shenanigans tomorrow, let’s just say that her reaction will be befitting of a Halloween scream as I surprise her.

I really did walk past the governor this morning. I instinctively checked to see if my wallet was still in my back pocket as I passed by. Just joking, of course; small bills are a nuisance in a world of wealth.

The picture is one from the riverside walk. Those are fallen leaves rather than crumbled currency. I took a couple of the panorama of the bridge, the jutting dome of the capitol building, and even a selfie as a confused driver passed me as I held the camera aloft. I ran through the leaves, scattering them into the air and breeze. The river breeze blew across me, bathing me in the delicious fall smell. As I walked away, I could see someone sitting on a bench in the near distance, smoking. I hope he was wondering if he had just witnessed a middle-aged white man begin his inevitable nervous breakdown.

We are all stories for other people.

It’s A Place Which We Never Leave



On the way back home from Texas, I turned off the discolored and uneven blacktop highway and drove through a small farming town in Arkansas. It was almost 7 p.m. on a windless Sunday evening. My windshield was a graveyard of hundreds of insects. The richness of the delta has its gifts.

I had lost all sense of urgency and time. Because I knew I wouldn’t drive all the way home that evening, I chose the blue highways to take me across part of my journey. These highways were once the only way to traverse the country and each one of them pierced rural communities, loosely connecting them to the outside world. As interstates rose to meet the demands of speed and commerce, the blue highways remained, like half-forgotten pictures tucked away in the top drawer of a dresser in one’s extra bedroom.

Downtown was a disintegrating and deceitful testament to the past. The solitary water tower still stood, rusting, and even the town’s name, once proudly emblazoned there, was long erased. The youthful graffiti always found on such a tower was illegible. The few young people who might live nearby attended school in another town, their own hometown mascot supplanted with another. Each of them quietly reminded themselves that they’d leave as soon as graduation came.

The jolt of crossing a desolate set of railroad tracks caused me to reach over and turn off the radio. A town’s railroad crossing conveys a clear message: a smooth transition indicates a thriving economy and nicer vehicles, while an uneven and poorly maintained one usually means that people live lives filled with less. People with money and separated from their agricultural roots clamor for better roads, ones devoid of historical reminders of commerce and transport.

History accompanied me as I made my way slowly across the brick-paved street. Without any evidence, I knew that several years ago, some well-meaning resident with a little money had vainly attempted to rejuvenate the corpse of this place, one founded on the backs of farmers. With his passing, the enthusiasm for saving the heritage of the place no longer loomed large on the psyche of the town. His tombstone, larger than those surrounding his resting place, is easily found in the cemetery not too far from the train tracks. In a generation, most of the cemeteries would be overgrown and many of these buildings would fall in on themselves, a gradual shattering and splintering of history. If I were to look, somewhere in the juncture of the small side streets would be a shuttered museum; its existence once contained within but with time, opened to spread out and include the entire town. My own hometown shares a similar and degenerative trajectory; the fiercely loyal will stay until nothing remains. They are the geographical observations points for entropy. Death need not make haste in these places.

Somewhere within the 4 blocks traversing west to east, I noticed a particular vacant storefront, displaying a single white rocking chair perched haphazardly up front, undoubtedly home to the bones of a once-thriving furniture store. The setting sun illuminated the faces of a hundred stacked cardboard boxes near the front windows. As carefully as the boxes were stacked, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they had been packed in haste and then abandoned, much like the store and probably like the town in general. I was certain that human hands hadn’t touched the boxes in years and that no one had relaxed in the rocking chair since its placement there. People were choosing to leave with as small a burden as possible.

Something about this store spoke to me. I pulled unevenly toward the broken curb and hesitated as I shut off the engine. The brick pavers had ended with the last block, probably as fund-raising dried up and people chose to leave instead. Every few feet a clump of grass was triumphantly sprouting from the untarred cracks in the road. I sat there, hands on the wheel, watching. Nothing moved around me. Maybe nothing had moved in the last hour, day, or week. A block ahead, the only traffic light in town blinked a dull red, casting a strange pall on an approaching evening. The light wasn’t blinking to any certain tempo and its arrhythmia went unheeded.

Looking at the sun reflected in the terrible facade of that building, I felt a creeping sadness wash over me. It seemed like I could feel the glances of the thousands of inhabitants who had passed here, reluctant to leave their hometown, but certain that they must. Brake lights always yield to a foot on the gas as nostalgia loses inevitably to hope. The fondness we so often feel for the places in our rearview mirrors softens our doubts about leaving yet rarely detains us.

The sun gave me its warmth as I sat in my car. Though the air was still and uncomfortable, I couldn’t break the silence by starting my car. The heat seemed to stir the ghosts of this place. I could hear their whispered names: Robert, Henry, Thomas, Samuel, Maggie and Jane Elvira. It was both melodious and cacophonous, like a choir warming up to an unspecified crescendo that would never quite arrive.

I could picture a shotgun house not too far from here, its ancient inhabitant eating cold cereal or buttermilk-soaked bread from a chipped white bowl. The metal fan nearby would be loudly alternating air through the cramped room. Around the person would be dozens of pictures, spanning generations, each of them revealing the face of someone long departed or of one who visits with less frequency. Next to the stubborn resident was a small wooden table. It was adorned with dozens of pill bottles, knick-knacks, and an older telephone, one wired to the world. In the rare event of a call, I could hear the fizzled and tired ring and recite almost every word that would ensue in the phone call, one measured by regret, loss, and small details.

I imagined the smell of cornbread, mustard greens, and fish quickly fried under the shade of any available tree. This place, once dominated by the sounds of screen doors casually slammed, pitchers of iced tea, and enthusiastic summer baseball games, was losing its voice. It seemed that even the echoes of lives once lived were fading now, departing with their particular smells and customs.

Before leaving town, I turned on the radio again. I pressed the ‘next station’ button and to my surprise, Merle Travis was singing “No Vacancy.” I smiled, pressed the gas pedal with enthusiasm, and took one last glance in the driver side mirror.

As I passed over the railroad tracks, I didn’t even notice the jolt.

I would wake up in another town tomorrow morning and this haunted place would fade to become an uncertain memory. All who had departed this place would unknowingly share this in common with me.

I, too, am from such a town. It is with me, always, in my quiet moments.