I'm sort of in the process of just working on what is speaking to me at a particular moment. That's very common for me right now. --Bruce Springsteen, January 9th, 2014

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Conversations With Grampa"

We're gettin' there. We're not there yet. But we're gettin' there. --Bruce Springsteen, 2005

Blogging Friends.... This has been my mantra--a reminder to be patient--as I have worked hard from before sunrise, all day long, and in between Life's busyness on writing/editing April's fictional story.... Thanks, Bruce!! 'Conversations With Grampa' was finished on Wednesday and I finally completely edited it today!! During The River Challenge {read 'Triumph' to understand what I am talking about!!} Life definitely did not stand still. And among all of the deaths that happened in 2016, {sadly} 'The Grim Reaper', claimed my Grampa. On March 19th, he lost his long battle with cancer. Death won. This is an emotionally autobiographical, fictional 'book'--with true stories throughout it--that I wrote in Grampa's memory!! {Three times!! It took about twain years for me to write 'Conversations With Grampa'!! The first version--'Remember When'--sucked.... My second attempt--'Purple Balloons'--was good, and written in longhand.... 'Conversations With Grampa' is the third {and final} version!! Well, what do you know, I actually like it!!} Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, Raelyn

Note.... It just recently occurred to me why my fictional stories are as long as they are!! Because I do not write 'books'. No, I create 'movies'--with scenes literally playing in my head--and films are always at least two hours long!! So there you go. 'Conversations With Grampa', this particular fictional story, this 'movie' {or however way you want to phrase it} is what I am calling a 'Hallmark'-like movie!! And, yes.... I did take out a 'deleted scene'!!
   
"Conversations With Grampa"

Cancer sucks. So say patients, family members, doctors, nurses and scientists alike. Cancer sucks. And they are absolutely right. Cancer does, in fact, suck.... When--after a long, arduous, physically, emotionally and mentally painful fight--my beloved Grampa succumbs to that devastating, Life-changing, godforsaken disease. Cancer sucks. I have seen this oh-so truthful phrase Online. But when that disease ruthlessly 'chooses' my Grampa {with two completely different variations of cancer, one of which spread} and, ultimately, it contributes to taking his Life? Cancer does not just suck. It is deeply personal. When Grampa was still alive, I would frequently drive my 'old' 1970's red-painted Nissan pickup truck and I'd visit him.... Either at his house or at the hospital. I talked to Grampa. I gave his wife {my Grammy}, a much-needed break so that she can go shopping, one of her favorite pastimes. During which I helped care for Grampa. I served him.... When he was not on a feeding tube, I heated Grampa up some soup. I brought him crackers. I made Grampa coffee. I brought him water or juice. I helped Grampa with his medication. When he was not on a catheter, I supported his ailing body toward the bathroom, if necessary. Should Grampa need to sleep, I either quietly wrote, or I read. But mostly?

We exchanged a Lifetime--for me, anyway--of stories and memories....

"Grampa," I said one day, "Do you remember when my youngest brother, Thomas was born? We saw his tiny little body for the very first time. He sure was a cutie!! And then, as we walked through the hospital parking garage toward your car, you teasingly, jokingly said, 'Well? We gonna keep him?' Which was the same exact thing that you said after my sister, Joy was born, too!!"

I smiled.

"You need some new jokes, Grampa!!" I said.

"I do remember that!!" said Grampa, "And speaking of Joy.... Do you remember what her point blank reply was to my silly question?"

"Yes!!" I answered, "She said, 'We can't give him back!!'"

"And Thomas is, indeed a keeper!!" said Grampa, "You all are!! My grandkids. My children. My great grandkids. You are all keepers!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "You {and Grammy} are a very supportive Grandparent!! I was never the athletic type. I did not play soccer for years and years and years like my oldest brother, Matthew. I was never the agile type, either. I did not perform in dance for several years like my cousins, Lushelle and Celine. However. I--as well as Matthew--did sing in the choir during Easter and Christmas programs at my family's church every single year!! Remember that? Because you {and Grammy} were always there, sitting in old, antique church pews, watching me sing!!"

"I remember...." said Grampa, "One particular Christmas when you were finally given an acting part in that year's program...."

"And she was the main character!!" I exclaimed, "Ah, Bethany.... That was my character's name!! Of course, our Children's Church leader, 'Dan The Man' gave me a script to read. Which was an incredible help, because I am visual!! But 'Dan The Man' also gave me a cassette tape of our Christmas program that I could listen to."

"I remember...." said Grampa, "That you put your cassette in tape players.... And.... You listened to Bethany's lines, memorizing them!!"

I laughed.

"Over and over and over and over!!" I said, "I was probably a cosmic pain in the neck who drove everybody absolutely crazy!! But I gave Bethany my one-hundred and ten percent!! Although, I did not really act out that character.... I impersonated her!! My unnatural, high-pitched 'Barbie' voice sounded just like the recording on that cassette tape!!"

"You did great, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "You're an incredibly beautiful singer and a talented actress!!"

I smiled.

"You are just saying that because you're my Grampa!!" I said, "But thanks!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned that that you {and Grammy} are a very supportive Grandparent. Do you remember when I participated in an annual pro-life fundraiser/two-mile long walk downtown called 'Steps For Life'? I did it every single year!! And you sponsored me!! All because I am your granddaughter!! Thank-you!!"

"You're welcome!!" said Grampa, "You were very passionate about 'Steps For Life'!! So.... Of course we would support you!!"

I smiled.

"And not only that...." I said, "You encouraged me to raise even more money year, after year, after year!! 'Think big!!' you said. 'Aim higher!!' you said. 'Shoot for the moon!!' I think you said. Guess what, Grampa?! Think big, aim higher and shoot for the moon, I did!! Because one year? I raised a thousand bucks for Pregnancy Resource Center!! And it was all thanks to your sweet encouragement!!"

"That is wonderful, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "I knew you could do it!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "Do you remember when I was only two years old and I performed a face plant against my cement city sidewalk? I had been riding on our horse 'car' when an uneven crack in the sidewalk caught a wheel or two. And that was when I did my face plant!! I probably got a huge fat lip.... Because that face plant knocked out my two front teeth!!"

Grampa winced at the memory.

"I remember," said Grampa, "You have certainly suffered from a lot of injuries throughout your Life!! Rae.... You are one resilient girl!!"

I smiled.

"My two front teeth did not grow back in until I was, like, six or seven years old!!" I exclaimed, "Each holiday season, whenever the radio played 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'--whether it was sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks or someone else--you would teasingly, jokingly declare, 'They're playin' Rae's song'!!" Oh man!! Now that song is stuck in my head!! But 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'? Well.... It is my song!! I love that story!! Every time I hear 'All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)'--whoever is singing it--I think of you, Grampa!! Every single time!! I probably always will!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "This is going to sound weird, quirky.... And maybe a little bit cute. But hey, I am an oddball, alright? As a little girl growing up, I loved to sit on your lap, because you were comfortable!! This is also going to sound weird, and quirky. As a little girl growing up, {if memory serves me right.... No one else seems to remember this part.... Maybe I imagined it!!}, I called Grammy's lap 'bony'!!"

"That's right!!" said Grampa, "Someone asked you who your favorite Grandparent was. And.... Your answer was 'Grampa'!!"

"Well, although I do not like to 'play favorites' when it comes to people or loved ones," I said, "You are still {to this day}, my favorite Grandparent!!"

I smiled a cockeyed smirk.

"But just do not tell Grammy that I said that, alright?" I finished.

"Your secret is with me!!" said Grampa, "My lips are sealed!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I--as well as Matthew--used to 'work' for you as a girl growing up. We did some 'odd jobs' here and some 'odd jobs' there!! Before your retirement, you worked at our local newspaper office. So.... We delivered daily newspapers!! You taught me how to throw them and aim at people's front porches.... Or at least hit their lawns? And, guess what? I actually hit some front porches!! Even though I have an incredibly wild aim!! I mean, I throw like a girl!!"

"You did great, Rae!!" encouraged Grampa, "I appreciated yours and Matthew's help!!"

"Then, when we were finished delivering the daily newspapers, I would eat cheeseburgers, French fries and I'd enjoy myself a strawberry milkshake at Burger King!!" I said, "Matthew did too, of course!! Only he enjoyed a chocolate milkshake!! That was lunch and our 'thank-you' treats all rolled into one!! We probably got paid, as well.... But I only remember lunch!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "Before your cancer struck, you {and Grammy} used to drive me downtown so that we could attend the largest Christmas bazaar together!! Joy came, as well!! It was an all-day event!! Because there were literally thousands of booths with various diverse, unique, for the most part hand-crafted items!! And we tackled that Christmas bazaar every single year!! The entire thing.... From its first booth to their last!! Grampa, you always stayed by my side the entire time {watching me like a hawk} while Grammy hung with Joy!! I've always considered that a unique bonding experience between you and I!!"

I smiled.

Grampa is always overprotective of me, I thought, It's as though I am still a little girl!! Even though I'm a adult now in my early thirties who can--and does--look after herself!! I wonder if he still remembers me as the wanderlust little girl who I used to be? But I do not know.... Grampa always takes care of me.... And everyone else who he loves--

Suddenly, Grampa interrupted my thoughts.

"I remember that your Grandmother and Joy always had to look at every single booth where jewelry was being sold!!" he complained, "Necklaces. Rings. Bracelets. Earrings. Anklets. Toe rings. After a while, you'd think that every single piece of jewelry would look the same!!"

I laughed.

"Oh Grampa!!" I said, "You always say that!! You're so predictable!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned how when we strolled through the Christmas bazaar side-by-side every year, it created a unique bonding experience between you and I. Well, here is another example!! Do you remember our vacation to Maui, Hawaii?  We met Grammy and Uncle Robert on the island.... Because they were already there!! Joy and Celine flew with us, too!! Well, neither you or I can swim. So, while Grammy, Joy, Uncle Robert and Celine went snorkeling? Or when they all partook in boogie boarding? You and I stayed on the beach together!! We sat side-by-side each other!! You and I watched them boogie board!! I collected seashells, we talked, I made mountains in the dry sand!! While Grammy, Joy, Uncle Robert and Celine swam in our condo's pool? We sunbathed!! Somebody once told me that she could not imagine flying all the way to Hawaii without even touching its warm ocean waters. But, honestly? I have absolute zero regrets!! For it was because of that mutual thing which we have in common {being unable to swim} that created our unique bonding experience in Maui!!"

"Yeah...." Grampa regretfully said, "It is a shame that you never learned how to swim, Rae. Like I didn't. Swimming is a good ability to have!! If you were ever in an unfortunate situation where you're drowning, it can obviously be Lifesaving!!"

"I know, I know...." I said, "But I could always rely on my 'superpowers' of being hard to kill and, one way or another, I'd survive!! Somehow!! You know I would!!"

I smiled.

"But you did go in the pool during our vacation to Maui, Grampa!!" I suddenly remembered, "I even have a picture of it as living proof.... You and Joy are in the pool together, smiling for my camera!! Was it Celine....? Or Joy....? Who teased you, begged you and annoyed you into {finally.... According to Grammy, you never did that for anyone!!} putting your swimming trunks on and going in the pool? Because I do not remember!!"

"It was probably Celine," said Grampa, "What does your Grandmother always say about her....? She was the one who constantly tried to shock us!!"

"But then again...." I said, "Joy had an unbelievable personality change while she was in Maui!! So you never know.... Because Joy went to Maui as a shy girl who would not talk. But then.... She came home as a talkative, bold, friendly, outgoing girl!!"

"You're absolutely right!!" said Grampa, "So you never know!! It could have been Joy!!"

I smiled.

"Whoever it was--Celine or Joy--she would not quit!!" I continued, "'When will you go in the pool, Grampa?' 'When are you gonna go in the pool, Grampa?' Either Celine--or Joy--asked that question day after day after day!!"

"And what was my answer?" asked Grampa.

"'When hell freezes over'!!" I replied, "And you said that teasingly, jokingly, with a smile written on your face!!"

"Well, I guess hell froze over!!" said Grampa.

I laughed.

"Our vacation to Maui, Hawaii happened in April 2000!!" I exclaimed, "Wow. Time flies, huh?! April 2000.... Where does the time escape to, outer space?! I was sixteen years old!!"

"You were young, Rae," said Grampa, "Time certainly does fly!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "I recently mentioned how when we travelled to Maui, Hawaii, it created a unique bonding experience between you and I. Well, here is another example!! Do you remember our 'whirlwind trip' to Conroe, Texas? You and I flew together {just the two of us!!} so that we could attend a Houston Astros/Boston Red Sox game on June 28th, 2008!! We also, of course, visited with {Great} Aunt Zoe and Wyatt!! {Great} Aunt Zoe's nice, generous, well-to-do boyfriend, Alberto--who works for the Houston Astros--purchased both our airline and our baseball tickets!! I was a shameless, proud Red Sox fanatic, an outsider!! You and I sat next to each other at that baseball game!! Our seats were absolutely incredible!! They were located right above the Astros dugout!! Do you remember those seats?! I screamed my vocal chords and lungs out for the Red Sox--they lost by one lousy run--but I enjoyed that edge of your seat, uphill/downhill, 'it ain't over 'til it's over' game, anyway!!"

"That was very bold, Rae!!" said Grampa, "Your {Great} Aunt Zoe commented that she was surprised no one kicked you out of Minute Maid Park!!"

I laughed.

"I was called 'traitor' by a curly brunette-haired Astros fanatic, though!!" I said, "Who I affectionately named 'Frank'!!"

"Grampa," I said on another day, "You and I both have January birthdays!! Yours comes first, though!! Every time that I have a birthday, you always say {teasingly, jokingly}, 'I wish you'd stop gettin' older, kid. 'Cause every time you get older, that means I have to!!'"

Grampa smiled.

"I was neither teasing nor joking, Rae!!" said Grampa, "You are in your thirties already!! Me? I am in my eighties!! I remember when you were just a little girl...."

"Well, it is like we were recently saying...." I said, "Time flies.... I swear it does escape into outer space...."

I blinked back wet, hot tears.

Damn you, cancer!! I frequently thought as I drove home in my 'old' 1970's red-painted Nissan pickup truck, Damn you!! Why did you have to go and attack poor Grampa's body? What did he ever do to you? Damn you, cancer!! Damn you!! Damn you!! Damn you!! Damn you!!

It was Saturday, March 19th, 2016. Weather-wise, God had given us a lovely pre-Spring day where there were blue skies, fluffy white clouds and sunshine!! It was exactly the kind of environment that Grampa loves.... No rain, no ebony-colored clouds, no snow.... It was a perfect, seemingly carefree March day!! I had just finished hip swaying/dancing/cutting loose/working out for several insane hours. I was still high on adrenaline, endorphins, chocolate and sugar. Then our phone rang. Which I answered. It was Grammy on the other end. Her voice sounded emotional, it sounded distressed, it sounded urgent.... And rightfully so. For my always high pain-tolerant Grampa was in excruciating, unbearable pain. No paramedic, no doctor, no nurse--nothing--could make him feel better. Grampa had suffered from a blood clot in his lungs. He was dying, the inevitable was happening, and death--as well as cancer--unfortunately, ultimately would win that day.... I could feel it.

And suddenly, I felt my entire world come crashing down....

Fast forward to ten months after Grampa passed away. January rolled around, which only meant one thing.... Grampa's birthday was fast approaching us!! So, to celebrate an incredible Life well-lived--a husband, a father, Grampa--everyone.... Mom, Dad, Matthew, his wife {my sister-in-law}, Margaret, their daughters {my nieces}, Amethyst and Opal, their son {my nephew}, Capricorn, Joy, Thomas, me, Uncle Robert, his wife {my Aunt Pearl}, their son {my cousin, Alexander}, Lushelle, Celine, her husband, Wilson, their daughter, Bristol and their sons, James and Aster {my second cousins....} All drove to Grammy's house for Grampa's favorite dessert of home-baked carrot cake, as well as ice cream and brownies!! Which, truly honored Grampa's memory, because he loved it when his family got together more than anything in the world!! Then, as we each carried purple balloons {which was Grampa's favorite color!!} in our hands and Grammy carried a Mickey Mouse head-shaped balloon {which was Grampa's favorite classic Walt Disney animated character!!}, everyone all stepped outside in the backyard, released them and watched a sky of purple balloons drift Heavenward.

Happy birthday, Grampa.... I thought, as wet, hot tears streamed down my cheeks, Thank-you for the memories....  
           

      
   


Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Triumph"

Blogging Friends.... To quote Bruce Springsteen.... Is there anybody alive out there?! Have you, my dear Blogging Friends, ever wondered about me, about this little Blog, about where I've been all this time? Seriously.... Is there anybody alive out there?! I am now awaiting an eruption of thunderous cheering from all across the Internet.... Well.... It works for Bruce's fanatics at his shows, anyway!! Nah.... You, Blogging Friends, have probably no doubt forgotten all about me.... About my fictional stories.... And walked on, moving forward with your lives. Which is all my fault. Yes, yes, I have dropped off the face of the Internet planet, become a loner and I've gone into hiding. I also took an unplanned break from creating fictional stories.... For the most part. So.... Where have I been all this time? Well.... On January 16th, 2016, I went down to The River.... Yeah.... It was only going to be one day, one The River-themed Bruce Springsteen Workout {in an effort to avoid Self-Pity} not about ten months {in total}, not 89 The River Challenges {in total}!! Well.... On February 25th, 2017, I tackled my very last The River Challenge.... And.... Yesterday, I relived The River Challenge by tackling a Born In The USA/The River-themed Bruce Springsteen Workout!! Anyway.... This deeply personal, metaphor/analogy-filled emotionally autobiographical fictional story will explain everything.... It is The River Challenge 2016 'in a nutshell'!! Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, Raelyn

Note Number One.... You know what? Comebacks can be a funny thing. Oh, 'Triumph'.... I have worked on, edited and 'tinkered' with this 'comeback story', like, ten thousand times.... Or more. It's not exaggerating in any way, shape or form to say that 'Triumph' is my most edited fictional story.... Ever!! This is actually my second completely different version of 'Triumph'!! Well.... Not counting my 'Blog version'!! You know.... Like Bruce has twain completely different recorded versions of 'The River', for example? And I've never done that before!! I have even since set 'Triumph' aside and I've since written four--going on five--fictional stories!! More to come!! Because, yes, I am creating fictional stories again!!

Note Number Two.... This story was completely unplanned.... Just like The River Challenge!! Actually.... I somehow managed to write it during The River Challenge last year. This is basically a true story.... Bruce did arrive in 'my hometown' for a show.... Then, on February 20th, 2016, after Reality hit--hard--that I could not attend his concert, I finally crashed and burned {emotionally, mentally, spiritually} and then I was suddenly in the mood for a Born To Run-themed Bruce Springsteen Workout!! Honestly? I cried, like, the entire time. Weirdest. Bruce. Springsteen. Workout. Ever. And that is saying a hell of a lot!! However. It was also one of my most healing--one of my most unforgettable--Bruce Springsteen Workouts ever!! And that is saying a hell of a lot, too!! I felt everything--each word, each verse, each song lyric--like I'd never, ever, done before. Lookin' back now? I absolutely realize that I was in the mood for Born To Run {yes, yes, on an impulsive whim} because I needed to escape, I needed to get away, I needed to hightail it out of here..... Emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Enjoy....

Note Number Three.... Yes, I know that 'Lucky Town' has absolutely nothing none whatsoever to do with 'The River'. However. On February 16th, 2016, I chose 'Lucky Town' as my closing song for that day's The River Challenge!! Little did I know? That 'Lucky Town' would be such a sentimental, symbolic, therapeutic and healing song!!

Note Number Four.... I just learned that today is #WorldBookDay!! It's actually trending on Twitter!! So here is a shout-out to Bruce, whose memoir, Born To Run--the biggest damn book that I ever read in my entire Life--officially made this self-proclaimed non-reader a reader!! Ah.... I think he would like to hear that!! Now will you excuse me.... I have some reading to do on #WorldBookDay!!

"Triumph"

Lucky Town. I went down to that emotional, mental, psychological place {on Tuesday, February 16th, 2016} my one month anniversary of when I started this wild, crazy, insane, unplanned, adventure, journey, quest and time travel to 1980!! Let me explain. See, I had recently learned {on January 27th, 2016} that Bruce Springsteen was potentially adding 'my hometown'--also known as our beautiful, oft rainy, green Pacific Northwest--to his The River 2016 Tour dates. And it had officially been confirmed just four days ago {on February 12th, 2016} when concert tickets were being sold Online for $150.00 that I would be unable to afford any, amongst other obstacles. Sadly. Meanwhile, I have been hip swaying, dancing and cutting loose to epic, marathon, five hour-long The River-themed Bruce Springsteen Workouts every single time when he performs a show.... Which in total lasted about ten months!!

This is always an intimidating, arduous, exciting 'mountain climb'!!

The River Challenge. That is what I affectingly call these Bruce Springsteen Workouts. But.... What is The River Challenge, exactly? Well.... It is my self-serving mission trip, because somewhere along this journey, God has taught me {through Bruce's beautiful, profound, poetic, brilliant, well-written songwriting} that I possess a heart of stone which definitely needs softened. Such as comparing myself to others, and, as resulted, feeling envious/jealous toward particular people. Yes, yes, I am a sinner with faults, with flaws, with character defects. But I also suffer from what I call 'mood swing-infused pity parties'. It will be an actual clinical diagnosis someday. Just wait. I can suffer from Self-Pity issues. I am sometimes a moody, irritable, agitated, brooding, edgy jerk.

For Bruce--based on my own observation--writes about characters who possess hearts of stones in his songs an awful lot!!

The River Challenge is.... Well.... Challenging.... In every single sense of the word!! Physically challenging? Check!! Mentally challenging? Check!! Emotionally challenging? Check!! Spiritually challenging? Check!! The River Challenge is my ultimate therapy session.... Which happen regularly. For, in an effort to avoid 'mood swing-infused pity parties' {as best as humanly possible} because I cannot attend even one The River Tour 2016 show {which will eventually all add up to seventy-five concerts!! Eighty-nine, if you include 2017!!} I dance!! Because, that much is within my control!!

For to quote Bruce from his song, 'Thundercrack'.... Dance with me, partner, dance with me, partner, dance with me, partner, all night; All night; All night; All night....

Lucky Town. It is not an actual, literal, real place. I can't find 'Lucky Town' on the map. No, it is not a city in New Jersey!! Or anywhere on the East coast, for that matter!! Because Lucky Town is a state of mind. In my own deeply personal experience? There is always forgiveness, there are always second chances, there is always redemption!! But I have to work on it. In Lucky Town, there are happy endings, new beginnings and lots of love!! But I have to work on it. Lucky Town is a place where I can find happiness and contentment.... Right here, right now, right where I am!! But I have to work on it. Lucky Town is eternally within my heart, within my soul, within my mind. It's beautiful, it's healing, it's welcoming!! Lucky Town is like a community {it's obviously an imaginary, creative place} where this learning disabled, misfit, different, freak, obsessed 'Bruce Springsteen lover'--I mean, fangirl--finally belongs!!

And I saw Lucky Town, because I traveled there!!

But then.... I crashed and burned my beautiful sky blue-painted motorcycle--I named her 'Triumph'--on 2-20. Yes, in Lucky Town. Saturday, February 20th, 2016 just so happens to be the date of when I crashed and burned 'Triumph'. Oh yeah.... 2-20 is also a dangerous, germ-infested, busy, litter-covered, noisy, graffiti-decorated, potholed, homeless people-residing, filthy highway. Yikes!! My sky blue-painted motorcycle crash left me severely, emotionally, and mentally injured, with psychological bruises, with an incredibly broken heart, with a bloodied soul. But I never fractured any bones. Why? Because I am impossible to break!! Therefore, I did not even bother driving toward emergency, urgent care or my doctor's office. Oh yeah....

I am also still alive--somehow--because I'm hard to kill!!
 
 "What happened?!" I thought aloud, "I do not know. It happened so fast, so sudden, so unexpectedly!!"

I had been riding on one long, cosmic The River Challenge high to another. It could be scheduled for two {or, quite often, three} days a week. Now, this can feel quite emotional, mental and psychological. Some in good, positive ways.... Others in bad, negative ways. I had been riding 'Triumph' at an extremely risky one hundred miles per hour. So it was completely inevitable that I would eventually crash and burn. Right? It was totally expected. Right? I probably should not have felt shocked, surprised or blindsided by it at all. Right?

But I did.

"What happened?!" I repeated, "I have no idea. I was handling being unable to afford attending Bruce's show in the Pacific Northwest--which would have been my very first time--so well!! Seriously?! I had even impressed myself!!"

I was uncharacteristically mature, I was uncharacteristically grown up, I was uncharacteristically rational.... None of which comes easily--or naturally--to this self-proclaimed Drama Queen!! I was doing so good!! And what shocked me the most? This hopeful optimist--this delusional daydreamer--was even uncharacteristically thinking, acting and being realistic!! Me!! Wait a minute. I went down to Lucky Town on February 16th, 2016.... But then I crashed and burned 'Triumph' just four days later?!

What on Earth happened?!

"I wish I knew...." I said, "I thought that in Lucky Town, there would always be warm sunshine, clear blue skies and beautiful multi-colored rainbows!! I guess I was wrong about this extremely dirty, shabby, unpleasant place...."

However. Beautiful, multi-colored rainbows do not happen without dark, gloomy clouds. Clear blue skies don't occur sans loud, incredible, somewhat frightening thunder and lightning shows. Warm sunshine doesn't happen without pouring rain or hailstorms. Not from where I was born and raised--the Pacific Northwest--anyway. And in order to be resilient--truly resilient--you have to fall first. I absolutely, wholeheartedly, one-hundred percent believe that!! For resilience doesn't come sans crashing and burning 'Triumph' first.

I absolutely, wholeheartedly, one-hundred percent believe that!!

For Life is a combination of both happiness and sorrow. This existence has its share of broken, shattered, unobtainable dreams. Life is a combination of good times and bad. This existence is filled to the maximum with disappointments, missed opportunities, chances. But it is how you deal with Life's dark, gloomy clouds.... This existence's thunder and lightning storms.... Life's rain. With courage, with strength, with resilience. It is how you handle Life's happiness and sorrow.... This existence's broken, shattered, unobtainable dreams.... Life's disappointments, missed opportunities, chances.

You triumph over them and move forward as best as humanly possible!!

"What happened?!" I said once more.

I gingerly lie poor, busted up 'Triumph' into the bed of my 'old' 1970's baby blue-painted Ford pickup truck. I then drove her toward a mechanic shop so that she could--hopefully--be repaired. Yes, in Lucky Town. I gave the mechanics my cell-phone number--575-7575--to call me after they fixed 'Triumph'. I was frightened.... I felt completely confused.... I was all alone. So I hopped back into my 'old' 1970's baby blue-painted Ford pickup truck and I left Lucky Town.

I completely abandoned that dreadful, terrible, extremely dirty, shabby, unpleasant place.

"I am busting out of here!!" I declared, as I rolled down the window and let the wind blow back my hair, "I'm breaking free!!"

"Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend, I wanna guard your dreams and visions; Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims and strap your hands 'cross my engines!!" I sang, {on the top of my vocal chords, my lungs, my heart, my soul} as I blasted Bruce's album, Born To Run in a portable CD player, "Whoo!! ....Tramps like us, baby we were born to run!!"
 
Then the uncontrollable, wet, hot tears freely streamed down my face. I tried very hard to stop them, but I couldn't. For I was emotionally and mentally injured, with psychological bruises, with an incredibly broken heart, with a bloodied soul because of my sky blue-painted motorcycle crash. Remember? Honestly, I was one hot mess, as 'mood swing-infused pity parties' knocked on my heart and soul's door. Which 'he' very well owns a key to. Who? My 'mood swing-infused pity parties'. How? Because I gave 'him' a key several years ago when I was either thirteen or fourteen years old. From 'Thunder Road' to 'Jungleland', I kept on driving--running aimlessly away from Lucky Town--in that 'old' 1970's baby blue-painted Ford pickup truck.

But I could not regain my composure.

"Where am I going....?" I asked myself, as wet, hot tears continued to freely fall and blur my vision, "I do not know.... I am going anywhere but Lucky Town.... I do not have a map.... I don't own an electronic GPS system.... I do not have a compass.... I don't know where I am.... I'm lost.... All I know for certain is.... I am never returning to Lucky Town ever again...."

Ring!! Ring!! Ring!! Ring!! Ring!!

It was my cell-phone. I jumped and, as a reaction, I screamed. Meanwhile, I had been maintaining radio silence in nothing but my head, with complex thoughts, with mixed-up feelings, with complex emotions. So obviously, that cell-phone's ringtone scared me!! I pulled my 'old' 1970's baby blue-painted Ford pickup truck over and I answered it. A friendly, talkative, bubbly, swearword-speaking mechanic--named Shelton--was on the other telephone.

Yes, in Lucky Town.

"Damn, you sure did some major wreckage to your bike!!" Shelton said in a deep voice, "I mean, she was badly messed up!! Your bike lost some real important parts in that crash!! But, don't worry, we fixed her!! Your bike was all twisted up, man!! But, don't worry, we fixed her!! Your bike's scratched paint needed a major touch-up job!! But, don't worry, we fixed her!! It ain't nothin' but a miracle that you survived that nasty crash with no broken bones or serious visible injuries!! Because, damn!! In my twenty years of workin' here as a motorcycle mechanic, I ain't never seen no one with his or her bike this badly messed up walk in here.... Alive!! And I mean no one. You sure as hell were lucky!! Anyway, she's all repaired now and ready for pick-up!!"

Shelton has never seen anybody with his or her motorcycle this busted up walk into his shop alive? I thought gloomily, I'm 'lucky', huh? Oh, if only he knew how emotionally and mentally injured I truly am....

I hung up my cell-phone. Wow. That was seemingly quick!! I thought for a second. How long have I been driving, forty-five minutes to an hour? I have no idea. For when I'm listening to Bruce, I lose complete track of time!! Honestly? I did not think that the mechanics in Lucky Town could possibly repair 'Triumph' so soon. For, like Shelton said, she was badly busted up!! Besides, in my own personal experience? Workers--such as mechanics, plumbers, electricians--are highly unreliable people. They will show up at your house several hours late. Workers--such as mechanics, plumbers, electricians--never call you back. That, or they do not come to your house at all. Now, I absolutely understand being busy and forgetful. I, myself, have premature short-term memory loss like Dory from Disney/Pixar's animated film, Finding Dory. But.... How do these workers--who were employed for so-called 'reputable' companies--ever keep themselves from getting fired?!

I cannot help but wonder.

"Great...." I sarcastically said after hanging up my cell-phone, "Now I must return to that dreaded place called 'Lucky' Town!! But I do want 'Triumph' back. Right? So what choice do I have?"

The tears had finally dried up. Born To Run was no longer blasting in my portable CD player. I looked out the windows. I read weathered, green-colored, reflective street signs, trying very, very hard to figure out where on Earth I was.

Shermann Road? No. Cane Street? No. Depaw Road? No.

"Where am I?" I said, "Let's see.... I am on Heartbreak Avenue.... Alright...."

I immediately turned my 'old' 1970's baby blue-painted Ford pickup truck around. I then drove north, west, east and south. I knew that I obviously had to locate Lucky Town again, but since I was lost without any maps, an electronic GPS system or a compass as my guide, I had no idea how that would even be humanly possible. Oh well.... I am a self-proclaimed 'landmark person'!! Translation? I simply observed familiar-looking billboards, houses, apartment buildings, barns, stores. I read weathered, green-colored, reflective street signs. That served as my trusty map, electronic GPS system and compass all rolled into one!!

So I simply drove on.

"I just need to find Lucky Town," I thought aloud, "Then I'll pick up 'Triumph' from the mechanics shop, pay them some money, and as soon as I do, I'm out of there!!"

That was my plan. I would arrive in Lucky Town, pick up 'Triumph' and leave that dreadful, terrible, extremely dirty, shabby, unpleasant place as quickly as humanly possible. It made sense to me!! The problem? That was my one and only plan!! Because I had absolutely nowhere to go after I entered Lucky Town. Yes, I was lost, lost in this cosmic world. I still felt utterly alone. Then, suddenly--completely out of nowhere--this verse, these words, this lyric from Bruce's song, 'Better Days' resurfaced within my heart, within my soul, within my mind like an amazing lifeline!! It spoke a direct message to me, loud and clear!! Because this verse, these words, this line felt so very poetic!!

Every fool's got a reason to feelin' sorry for himself and turnin' his heart to stone; Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell and I feel like I'm comin' home....

I inhaled one long deep breath.

"Alright," I told myself, "I will drive to 'Lucky' Town.... Pick up 'Triumph' from the mechanic's shop.... Then I will hightail it out of there!! Stick to the plan!! Gabeesh?"

The only problem was that my heart and soul absolutely, positively disagreed with this plan. Because once I finally arrived in Lucky Town? There was so much more in that dreadful, terrible, extremely dirty, unpleasant place than just 'Triumph', Shelton, or the other motorcycle mechanics waiting for me!! So much more.... For Lucky Town feels like home!! And even if I leave, {I feel sorry for myself.... I suffer from yet another 'mood swing-infused pity party'.... I crash and burn 'Triumph'}, I can still come back home!! Always. Maybe Lucky Town truly is a good place!! Where there's always forgiveness, always second chances, always redemption, always happy endings, new beginnings and love!!

For Lucky Town has promise.... Lucky Town is definitely home!!

"I am on a soul-searchin', rock 'n roll healin', The River Challenge journey!!" I announced, with determination, happiness {and a triumph over this particular 'mood swing-infused pity party'} within my voice, within my heart, within my soul.

For to quote Bruce from his song, 'Open All Night'.... Hey ho rock 'n roll, deliver me from nowhere....