Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Like a Pair of Old Shoes

We drove out of Rocheport at an hour so early on Friday we saw the other end of night for the first time since we arrived in Missouri. Headed straight into the first rays of sunrise topping I-70 east towards St. Louis. Along the roadside, in blue gray fields, thick mist steamed from warm ponds into air not yet warmed to above freezing. A nonstop 2 hr. flight later, we landed at Bush Airport, disembarking in Terminal B where waiting passengers filled every chair and lined every wall, all the way up the concourse. We had expected a bit of big city re-entry shock but this was extreme even for Houston. And then the further strangeness of catching the rental bus, picking up a car and heading to our downtown hotel. After a four month absence, Houston seemed changed in one of those vague and unidentifiable ways, like it had shaved its beard or gotten its braces off or colored its hair.

But an hour later we were sitting at our old table at Khyber Pass, enjoying Chicken Tiki Marsala, and the world had untilted and it was if we’d never left.

Friday night friends who’d come for the reading joined us at Last Concert Cafe. We walked the couple of blocks to the warehouse district to a restaurant I had not been to in years (not since the days when the Galactic Cowboys had rented a rehearsal space in a warehouse opposite), one in which you had to know to look for the red door and knock three times for entry. What could be more comfortable and comforting, more stimulating and gratifying, than sitting around a table laden with bottomless bowls of just hot enough salsa, still warm tortilla chips and familiar laughter of friends with whom you have trekked through the myriad ups and downs, the joys and the idiocy, the twists and turns and inevitable dramas of your one and only little life. Your friends/cast mates in the story you were plopped into, a story bigger than the sum of its actors. You become each other’s biggest fans, severest critics, most accurate mirrors. True friends are one of life’s most inadvertent gifts, and most necessary. We left there warmed and filled.

Saturday allowed us ample time to revisit places we’d taken for granted for years as just around the corner including the CAM, Harris Gallery, Brazos Bookstore, etc. as well as a bit of shopping at Rice Village and a nice long visit over coffee with Maleah at Solento. Maleah has been beside me, literally, at some of the most pivotal moments of my life: her desk was feet from mine as we worked on the 7th floor of the Worthem Tower on Allen Parkway, overlooking the bayou through floor to ceiling windows. She was there when I “met” Wayne; she was there when I got the phone call telling me I’d lost my brother. She was there, too, when our boss dropped his drawers and mooned the window washers. Now there’s some mileage for you.

Saturday night all our former neighbors/friends from Branard came downtown for a festive dinner at Mia Bella, only a block’s walk from our hotel. Through the years we’ve shared our lives, our kids, our porches and backyards. Fed each other’s pets, picked up mail, babysat kids, blown out candles. Had a lot of laughs, a lot of hugs. A great night.

Sunday, after getting in half a service at ecclesia and coffee and bagels at Brasil, it was time to head back home. A place we are making our own—softening the leather, acquiring scuff marks, achieving just the right patina for a still quite new pair of shoes.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I've been eagerly awaiting this post. You did not disappoint!!! aargh, only to have been there sharing coffee, bagels, and pico de gallo. But you barely mentioned the whole reason you went. Someone please tell me how things went at the poetry fest!!

Jenni said...

It was fun to see y'all!

And Karen, Allison did a GREAT job at the Poetry Fest.

Maleah said...

Allison was the best at the fest. Naturally. And there was cake! But for me, the coziest part was "the rest." Sort of like the best part of apple pie is all the sweet goo that holds it together and not the apples themselves, even though the pie owes it's very being to the apples. Sweet goo... hmmmm, I'll never be in a poetry fest. But I did find a penny on the street as we walked out of the Last Concert Café and it occurred to me that I was... lucky. To be in good company on such a night. And I dropped the penny in my little red purse and tucked the memory in for a lifetime.