Monday, April 18, 2005

Apartments, lunches, and surprises

After working 11P-7A Friday morning, I left for Colorado Springs to have lunch with a friend. I made it in time, called him and he met me for a great Southwestern lunch. We had a good time laughing, talking, and eating. I took him back to work. He had a big canvas bag (one of mine) with books and tapes he had given me and a few books I loaned him. We were supposed to meet up again later but when I called he wasn't able to come. Saturday was off as well since he had to attend some part for his daughter.

I called a local metaphysical shop about a dream book. They didn't have it, but Lisa (what a truly wonderful, bright and sweet person) told me there was a metaphysical fair downtown. I do not know downtown Colorado Springs, but I got a crash course in directions, got turned around, and finally made it there when I pulled into a parking garage that wouldn't take anything smaller than a one-dollar bill. I had the wrong place anyway and when I circled the block I found the right place and a parking place on the street. I only had fifteen cents in my wallet for the meter and I put that in so I could get some change from the cashiers in the building. I found out I didn't need change. The meters are free after 6. It was 6:30P. Oh, well, it was only fifteen cents.

I looked at the listing and saw that a friend of mine had a booth there doing reflexology. The numbers on the booths were set up strangely but, after asking directions, I found Ruth. Thom wouldn't be there until Saturday and I needed some guidance so Ruth suggested speaking to Robin. Back on the hunt thru the strangely arranged booth numbers and I found her up on the stage. She was very helpful and even knew about a children's book I had been thinking about writing. We talked for a very long time and Robin, Ruth and I walked out together. They had parked in the parking garage that wouldn't take my ten dollar bill and I walked the other way to get my car parked on the street.

It was a beautiful night, warm with a light wind, and bright. I hadn't eaten since lunch so I stopped at the Waffle House near the motel. One bacon cheeseburger with extra pickles, salad with bleu cheese dressing, two big glasses of water with lemon, and a decadent piece of fluffy light lemon pie later and I was ready to leave. The waitress, Tricia, was really nice and she talked me into having the lemon pie since I decided it would be really bad for me to have the pecan pie. It was worth it and she was a lot of fun to talk to and joke with. I highly recommend the Waffle House at I-25 and Fillmore (Exit 145).

Back in the room I tried to read but I was wired so I (GASP) watched cable television -- HBO2 movies actually -- and I even switched back and forth between HBO and TBS because they were playing Sleepless in Seattle. I cried at the end like I always do, falling asleep somewhere along the way during a movie on HBO, waking up long enough to turn off the TV, getting up to go to the bathroom, and falling back into bed and crash diving back into the abyss of sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, I looked thru The Independent, which I hear is no longer independent since they were bought out by another major newspaper. Guess we'll see if that is another alternative paper that bites the proverbial edgy dust.

Anyway, I looked thru the rental section and found a whole bunch of listings on the west side of town in Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. I called all the promising ones, leaving messages when actually people failed to pick up the phone, got directions, answered one callback, got up, took a shower, got dressed and headed out to see what I had come up with.

The first place was a converted Victorian about two blocks from the middle of downtown Old Colorado City. The owner is a Bavarian massage therapist who is a little older than me. She has a huge (and I do mean really BIG) German Shepherd who paced in front of the sliding glass doors to the deck. The other tenant (the house has only three apartments) was sitting out on her deck with her Kitty Socks and told me where to go (No, not THERE). I knocked on the glass doors and a woman, who was not the owner but one of her friends and clients, answered the door, wandering off talking about finding Barbara and I followed. Barbara appeared as if by magic and we talked for a moment while Pastor (pronounced pas TOR, which is Spanish for shepherd) begged me to play with him and his squeaky squirrel. Barbara kept telling him to be calm and gentle and I just wanted to pet and hug the big lug. (My parents raised German Shepherds when I was little and I love them.) As far as Pastor was considered, I was the right person.

Barbara led the way upstairs -- very steep stairs I might add -- to this lovely apartment that is a mix of Victorian and modern. The kitchen is very modern with lots of cabinets and brand new appliances. The living room is big and looks out over the front yard and street. In the bedroom, which has hardwood floors, I found another room that is a little bit bigger with one door leading to a quaint converted bathroom that is a little like a maze, and the other door leading to a light-filled, east-facing sun porch with windows along two walls. That's where I could put my computers and office, I thought. I was in love, but I had about ten more places to look at.

We talked for quite a while and I noticed the yard had some plants struggling their way thru the dirt and beds that were nearly empty of plants. Evidently the squirrel population considers it their personal salad buffet. We talked about plants and trees and animals and I suggested that if she rented to me I would be glad to help her work in the yard and plant some flowers and herbs. Then Barbara told me about the spirit who lived in my apartment. His name is George and he's a protective spirit, but he's very much there. Seems Barbara has a psycho (her name for psychic) friend who told her he felt a male energy coming as her tenant. I began to wonder why she agreed to show the apartment to me if she felt a male would be moving in. Hmmm Anyway, we went downstairs and she introduced me to the lady who met me at the door -- Kirsten -- who has MS and is a long time friend and past tenant. Out on the deck we chattered like, well, like squirrels. Barbara is very spiritual and intelligent and interesting -- if a little anal, but she admitted that up front. She's Virgo and German; it just follows. Pastor begged me to play with him some more and we played tug-of-war with his squeaky squirrel, which he squeaks repeatedly when he wants you to play with him (German Shepherds are very smart dogs), and swapped histories and stories. Nell, the other tenant, and Kitty Socks came back out on the deck and we chattered some more. Then Barbara said something I had dreamed the night before -- and I told her. She said she needed 24 hours 3 minutes to sleep on it and I told her I had other places I promised to see. I wasn't sure how the day would turn out, but I knew at least one place confirmed my feeling that the west side was for me.

I followed my directions down into Manitou Springs, which has the reputation of being witch central. Home! The next apartment was a long dark apartment in a converted carriage house. There was even a fireplace in the bedroom, but only a shower stall in the bathroom. Still, even though it was dark (due to being built under the deck upstairs and having lots of other buildings blocking out the sun), the view from the porch was nothing but roofs and mountains, and the place itself was charming. Pat, one of the owners, was babysitting his grandson Willy who had a fine old time opening drawers and cabinet doors and racing around. By the time we went back outside and into the main house, Willy was holding out his little arms for me to pick him up. Love at first sight. Pat introduced me to Rah Rah their poodle and the biggest, fattest, ugliest boar hog I have ever seen. Squinty-eyed, dark skinned, fat pinch-faced snuffler with a modestly dangerous looking tusk hooking up out the left side of his big jaws, he snarfed a cookie in such a way I decided to keep my distance lest he mistake a friendly hand out to pet him as an appetizer. I need my hands. Pat is an artist and a Native American who was raised in a Catholic orphanage and the copper work and design of the house (marble, copper, geode, metal mixtures for all the built-in appliances and architectural features) was truly beautiful. I asked about an application and he said the place was mine if I wanted it. I explained I had made appointments to see several other places but I would let him know my decision.

After I got directions to my next destination, I realized that one of the places was right down the street from the carriage house, which is also next door to a stone castle and just a few steps from the post office, and I drove down the road, found out it was a dead end, turned around, followed the numbers across a little bridge over a streamlet into another dead end, maneuvered around, found the place, parked, and looked in the windows. It was a poky little basement apartment that had seen much better days as a roach motel (it was clean just had that dark, dank, cockroach breeding ground look). I decided to cross it off my list and add the phone number of a little house just down the street from it.

Back in the car and off again to find the last house on the left at the end of Manitou Springs. I turned around in a little parking lot near Ute Pass and up the first street on the right (which was the left when I was going in the other direction) and found my destination up the steep side of a hill where four cream and green-trimmed cottages perched on different terraces. I went back down the road to Tubby's Turnaround -- a local small independent grocer and long time landmark), called the owner and drove back to the cottages. I struggled up the steep cement stairs -- all three levels of them -- and found out the one I thought was the cottage for rent wasn't the right one. I walked farther west and found the right one. It was beautiful, built in the 1920s, with windows all around and a sun deck with a little apartment underneath the deck that had windows on three sides.

While I waited a pony tailed guy walked past me to one of the other cottages carrying a guitar. Turns out he is a multi-talented musician who plays a list of instruments too long for me to remember right now. He smiled and disappeared inside just as the owner came up the walk from the road. He let me inside and I wandered around. The front door let into a combination kitchen-breakfast nook with the original cabinetry and new appliances. A door between the counters led to a small bathroom with a shower stall AND an old pedestal cast iron tub and a door that led thru the bedroom closet to a spacious bedroom with beautiful hardwood floors and lots of windows. The bedroom faced the living room thru open double doors, which also had hardwood floors, and led onto a neat little deck that looked out over a burbling stream and the rocky face of the mountains of Ute Pass. A terraced stone garden lay at my feet beneath whispering trees and spring flowers. The feeling was peaceful. The price was good, too, but the owner wanted an application fee, first and last month's rent and a deposit to move in and, he informed me, there were other people looking at the cottage and I would be in contention. I took the application and promised to return it the next day with the fee. I also told him I had other places to see.

Back on the road driving thru Manitou Springs was like driving thru what I've always imagine Haight Ashbury in Berkeley must have looked like. People walking the streets among restaurants of all ethnicities, art galleries, parks, laughing children and dogs walking their owners, stores selling crafts and magic supplies and color and sound and light, and people of all ages and cultures.

I looked at a couple other places, but it was getting late and the metaphysical fair would be over in a couple hours so I hurried back downtown. There were 30 minutes to go before six, so I dumped my remaining coins in the parking meter and hurried into the building, stopped to say hello to Ruth and get a big hug from my fast disappearing, all too skinny friend, found out where Thom was holding court and walked back toward the stage. I stopped at the Celebrations booth and found Lisa who had been so helpful and sweet. In the few minutes I stood there I felt as if we had known each other forever. She's vivacious and beautiful and animated. We exchanged numbers and emails and then these two women walked up and Lisa explained she had never seen these people. It was her mother and her best friend. Jan looks like what I have been led to expect from residents of Pueblo, but she has a good heart and an open and easy smile. Marlo, Lisa's friend, is getting married soon to a guy she met on the Internet (Gasp! Do such things really happen? Can you find true love on the net?). We talked for a couple more minutes and I explained I needed to see Thom, who was busy with a line of people waiting to see him. He's always in demand. I put my name on the list, wandered over to say hello to Robin, who was also busy, watched a massage therapist do some energy body work on a woman whose face was buried in the round keyhole of the chair's back while she grunted, moaned, sighed, and generally sounded like she was having an altogether different and definitely not G-rated pleasure. I asked if I would make him nervous if I watched and he said no and we chatted while he worked.

Glancing at the clock, I realized it was time to see Thom for my scheduled time and I went to sit near him. A frowsy, thin-faced, sharp-angled stick of a woman with thin bleached hair, leather tanned skin, and a harried air asked about how good Thom was. The guy sitting a couple seats over waiting for his wife, who was still with Thom, and I told her he was the best, about 97% accurate. She twisted the plastic Baggie in her hands with a desert camouflage hat and a couple pictures inside in her hands and looked around at the other readers spaced along the perimeter of the stage. "Are you sure?" she asked. We told her we were very sure. She went up to the list to sign up, but the last appointment had been scratched out after me. She seemed desperate so I told her I was a friend of Thom's and she could take my appointment, just scratch thru my name and write in hers. She did. About ten minutes later Thom called my name and I explained the switch while she took the seat in front of him. I told him I'd catch up with him afterwards and wandered thru the rest of the fair.

Everywhere I stopped people came up to me to chat and compare notes on whatever I was looking at. It was a little strange but at the same time felt familiar and comfortable. Before long it was time to head out and ten people had asked for and exchanged business cards with me. After Ruth, Robin, Thom and I walked outside, we split up and agreed to meet on Sunday, and I went to my car, got in and headed for Denny's for dinner. I hadn't eaten all day.

As I sat at Denny's forking up bleu cheese drenched iceberg lettuce and reading another book on the Appalachian Trail, the waiter seated a couple in the booth in front of me. The woman was tall and large with a beautiful platinum ponytail curving down her broad back and she wore a flowing gown of cerulean blue with a shawl to match. She caught my attention, smiled, and said hello, then asked how I was doing. I smiled back, said fine, and asked how she was doing. "Just great!" And they sat down. Something about her prompted me to get her attention. She turned around at my "excuse me, ma'am" and laughed when I told her the dress she wore was really pretty. "It's my goddess dress," she said and started to talk to me.

"I just had to speak to you," she said. "You have this light shining from you and it drew me to you."

I smiled, not quite sure what to say.

She went on, explaining they were in town from Minnesota for a conference. We chatted a few seconds about jewelry and such and I asked if she knew about the metaphysical fair. This is not something I usually do with strangers, although I do talk to strangers and carry on some very interesting conversations, as nearly all my friends will tell you. This was different.

Turns out she and her husband had a booth at the fair and had just come from there. She said again how she felt drawn to speak to me because of the light radiating from me. A few pleasantries later I went back to my book and she and her husband discussed the menu.

I stopped on my way out and she took my hand and smiled up at me. Her husband even smiled and said he was honored to meet me. (don't know why) I left and went back to the motel.

I tried to read True Believer by Nicholas Sparks, which just came out and which I conned out of who had just bought it two days before but hadn't read it, but couldn't concentrate. Everything about the day spun thru my head like kaleidoscopic swirls of color on a tie-dyed shirt. I watched a little TV, but couldn't get into it. I read a little more. Didn't work. So I went to sleep -- or rather tossed and turned and dozed a lot. Couldn't shut my mind off. I woke in the dark hours of the night and managed to read True Believe, settling into the familiar rhythm of turning pages and devouring the words at last, until my eyes drooped and I woke up to thin sunlight sneaking around the corners of the drapes. There wasn't a clock in the room so I turned on the TV, pulled up CNN and looked at the time: 7:23 AM. I read some more, getting up a few times to go to the bathroom, and checked the time every half hour or so.

I needed to get moving because I had applications to fill out and drop off and I wanted to go back to the fair to see Thom, Robin, Lisa, and Ruth. The phone rang and I jumped. I wasn't expecting it. An effete-voiced man told me he had left a message for me the day before but didn't think it got thru because the desk clerk didn't seem to understand English -- he was Bengali. He told me about an apartment in Manitou Springs I called on the day before. I took down the address and directions and his number and told him I'd call if I felt the place was something I'd want, explaining I had seen several places the day before and I noticed his place during my hunt. I hung up, washed up, got dressed and was tying my shoes when the phone rang again. It was Barbara.

"I thought about you all night and couldn't get you off my mind," she said. "I even called my girlfriend in Germany this morning to ask what she thought and she told me to go with my gut."

I held my breath.

"I want you to move in. I don't need you to fill out the application. Do you still want the apartment?"

I strangled a high pitched squeal and as calmly as I could told her I definitely did want the place. She sounded relieved.

"Are you excited?" she asked.

"No," I joked, holding back more squeals of excitement.

"Oh, you don't do excitement."

"I do excitement but I don't think it's a good idea to burst your new landlady's ear drums with screams and squeals of happiness."

She laughed.

She asked if I could come over and I told her I was just about to leave to get something to eat and would be over afterwards. She said she'd see me soon and was going to take a shower because she didn't smell very good. She'd been out walking Pastor.

I didn't do the hallelujah, bless the universe screams of happiness until I got in the car and was on the freeway. Before Barbara called I had decided to go back home and try again the following week. I was even going to skip the fair so I could get home while it was still light out.

Three hours later I was on the way home with a full tank of gas and a smile big enough to split my face from ear to ear, singing with the radio and dancing in my seat. I had a home. Barbara had a small deposit and I was going home to pack and figure out a way to get my things from Tabernash to Colorado Springs in a couple of weeks.

The last thing Barbara said as I was leaving while I was petting Pastor and he was kissing my cheek is that she and her friend Kirsten and Nell, the upstairs tenant, all agreed that there was something special about me. Barbara said that even though her psycho friend Ken told her he felt a male energy when we talked about how much I loved to dig in the dirt and work with tools she realized that I had the male energy he sensed, balanced with a very female essence. I'm not a girly girl, although I do clean up nice. I never have been frilly and fussy. But I am very definitely female.

One thing I am sure about now is that Colorado Springs is where I belong. I'll be two blocks from the weekly Farmers Market in Old Colorado City and not far from Celebrations either. There are parks to walk in and tree shaded avenues to walk and get to know. The west side of town is magical and I have been amply welcomed. I am going home.

The only thing that marred my joy was coming home to find out someone had been in my cabin while I was gone. I didn't need to ask who, it was the landlord. They didn't notify, as per our lease agreement, they were coming; they just came. This is another reason why I am leaving here, besides the fact that they summarily, two months ago, told me they've decided to start using the cabin again (probably once or twice a year for a couple days or a week each time) and I'm in the way. I leave behind me their intrusions and their lies to me. I leave behind a place I have come to regard as home. I leave the trees, animals, hummingbirds, and mountain views and trails, and the solitude that I needed two years ago. But now I'm going home to people, parks, animals, friends, love, and mountain trails to hike just a short drive away. There will be movies to see and people to meet and an energy that fits with my own. I am also going home to George, the spirit who lives in my new apartment.

I am going home.

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