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Photo title: Old Boo

Baltimore, Maryland.

Quote of the day: “A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the  window, the latch rises.  Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.”  —  J.M. Barrie

Daily gratitudes:
The person wandering around downtown Denver in the Angry Bird costume
The man with the scarlet socks
That I forgot that it was Halloween today, which makes people in costume a special surprise
Working late in Starbucks
Watching the night fall and glow
Anything silk

I’m not a big fan of Halloween, and I never have been. But I surprised myself this year. Somehow or other, I found out about The Shining Ball.  And somehow or other, I asked my new beau, MKL, if he’d like to go. And somehow or other, he said he would. So a few weeks ago, I found myself renting a real Halloween costume.

Image of The Ritz courtesy of http://www.metromix.com

I don’t know why I’ve never liked Halloween. I like the concepts that it encompasses – souls, spirits, alter egos, revelry, chocolate. Still, not my favorite holiday. Kelsea has always loved it, so I did the dutiful costuming of myself to accompany her when trick-or-treating. Generally those costumes would consist of nothing more than a neon colored wig.  I like neon color wigs.

A couple of years ago, I did fall into possession of a slutty pirate costume, that I still have and like very much.  But that was a seriously bizarre Halloween that will never be discussed. It did make me contemplate why 95% of Halloween costumes are slutty.  Is that seriously what women’s alter egos are?  Slutty cheerleaders, slutty pirates, slutty nurses, slutty vegetables? I really couldn’t say.

What I can say is that Friday afternoon found us making our way to The Ritz in Boulder to pick up my costume, and, after a slightly aborted start, we were off  to the lovely little town of Estes Park.

Estes Park view from the Stanley Hotel

Estes Park is known as the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Founded in 1859 at an elevation of 7,522 feet, it was long ago a summering area for the Ute and Arapaho Indians. It earned the nickname “The Gutsiest Little Town in Colorado” after it rebuilt itself following the Lawn Lake Flood in 1982, in which an earthenware dam collapsed, flooded the main street and beyond, and killed three campers .

Image courtesy of http://www.estesnet.com

Our destination today was the famous Stanley Hotel. Opened in 1909, this beautiful Georgian architectural style hotel was built by F.O. Stanley, one of the inventors of the Stanley Steamer automobile.

F.O. Stanley and his mirror image

The hotel has housed numerous famous visitors, and most notably, Stephen King, whose stay in Room 217 on a blizzardy night inspired him to write “The Shining”. While the Stanley Kubrick film by the same name was not filmed here, because Kubrick didn’t think that audiences would find such a hotel believable in a location like Colorado (hello? reality check?), it does run on a continuous loop 24/7 on one of the stations on the hotel’s televisions. On the other hand, the mini-series, which was much less violent because it was made for TV, and much more accurate, because Stephen King was involved in the production, was filmed on site.  And coincidentally, my boss’ husband appeared on-screen several times in his role as an “extra”.

I have never seen either the movie or the mini-series, nor have I read the book, having sworn off Stephen King some time ago. I have tremendous respect for his writing, but reading it is simply destructive to my psyche. But The Stanley makes the most of the connection, with exhibits pertinent to the novel, and The Shining Ball, a wonderful costume ball and Halloween tradition. Room 217 is also included on the hotel’s Ghost Tour, which we missed out on. But not entirely. More about that in a bit.

On the lobby typewriter

The Stanley offers rooms in the original building and the Manor House, built slightly later.  Our room was in the original building in a little dormer on the fourth floor, which is the most haunted floor of the hotel.

Our little dormer

Dormer rooms are small, but cozy.

Word to the wise (and now head-injured) - the shorter person takes the side of the bed with the low ceiling.

Since it was so late, and cold, and parking spaces were rare, we decided to have a light supper in the Cascade Room, taking the stairs this time, instead of the terrifying cage elevator. I’ve had a deathly fear of cage elevators since I was a child, but I took it when I had to.  The staircases though, were too beautiful to resist.

Beautiful balustrades

Dinner was expensive but delightful, made all the better by our wonderful server, MaryAnn, who had worked at the hotel for 21 years and told us her own personal ghost stories. She made us promise to come back the next night in costume so she could see us.

Shadow play at dinner.

We had wasted no time upon arrival in exploring our creepy hallway. Fortunately for me, MKL is rather a sensitive in this area, as I am, so at least he doesn’t think it’s nuts when I pick up on energy or see stuff that would spook most humans. In fact, he often shares the same experience. So it’s quite a pleasure for both of us to have someone who understands.

The Seemingly Normal Creepy 4th Floor Hallway

About halfway down the hallway, I got dizzy. I got queasy. My head ached. And the farther I got towards the end, the thicker the air became, until it felt like walking through goo. And yet everything appeared perfectly normal.  Energetically, however, normal it was not.  We experimented with the hallway many times, and with other hallways in the hotel. The experience was always the same, hitting at the same place, and it never happened in other hallways. On one of these little escapades, I turned and quickly took a photo, and caught the culprit in orb form.

My little orb

It vanished in the next instantaneous photo. I know there are plenty of naysayers out there, but I’m a believer in my orb.

The next day was gorgeous.  But bitterly, freakishly windy. Painfully windy. Wind that, as MKL put it, was throwing dirt and rocks and branches and small children at us as we tried to make it to the car from breakfast at The Egg and I. It totally deterred us from our planned explorations of town. So we stopped at the excellent combination pharmacy and liquor store to pick up some champagne (who can’t love a store that sells both drugs AND alcohol?) and retreated back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches for late night post-party consumption.

A lovely Colorado day and the lovely Stanley Hotel

Our room was, as I said, on the haunted fourth floor. The hotel runs ghost tours from around 10:00 am until 10:00 pm, taking small herds of visitors (who, by the by, sound like baby elephants tromping around the old creaky floors) to the spookiest places in the hotel. Room 401, which housed the infamous Lord Dunmore, who remains a mischievous ghost, was just down the hall next to the elevator. Room 428, home of the kissing cowboy ghost, was next door to us.  Room 418, supposedly one of the most haunted rooms, where ghost children take candy if it’s left out on the dresser, was down the hall. Room 406 , where we started getting the most creepy vibes wasn’t specifically mentioned on the tour, but in the hallway itself numerous ghost children run up and down it at all hours, playing ball, and flushing toilets in rooms repeatedly. Including ours.  Yes, that toilet started flushing itself on our second night, periodically, refusing to stop.

A glimpse into the eternal flushery

So, all of this knowledge we gleaned from listening to the ghost tour outside of our door. We also ran into a crowd outside Room 217, where Mr. King found his muse, and outside of Room 237, where Elizabeth, a former chambermaid, “looks after” guests. Elizabeth is very benevolent, and MaryAnn told us that when she first started, she could feel Elizabeth looking after her, leaving lights on and such. It was rather awkward, though, when guests in these rooms would open their door when a tour was stopped in front of it. And slightly startling to find people taking pictures of your room door.

Mirror,mirror

The time came for us to get dressed up and head down to the ball. The Shining Ball. In full costume with about three hundred other people in the haunted MacGregor Ballroom. We felt like such royalty going down the beautiful staircase.

Almost time

We came as the Phantom of the Opera and Christine. While I don’t yet have any photos of the two of us together, we were told by many people that we were a gorgeous couple.

My slightly blurry phantom

A slightly overexposed Christine

We are waiting for our new friend Natalie to send us some of the photos she took of us. I didn’t like the only two I have – I felt like they made me look big as the hotel. Natalie looked stunning as the Black Swan.

Natalie as the Black Swan

Her adorable mother Mary came as a slutty gypsy. We ran into these two right in our hallway when we first checked in, again at breakfast and later, they saved us some seats at the Ball.  I loved watching these two. I hope that when Kelsea is Natalie’s age, she and I have a similar relationship. In fact, I look forward to it.

A Mother-Daughter Moment

And so we had cocktails, we danced and danced, we went outside to cool off in the chill mountain air, and we people watched. There were some amazing costumes. I’ll share a few here:

A well-decorated MacGregor Room

An extremely intoxicated wood nymph..

doing highly inappropriate things with Tigger.

The Blues Brothers got their own solo.

The Shining Twins and the Headless Bride (her costume was AWESOME)

Cousin It

Twin swans. Or ducks.

My favorite horns - he made them with cotton balls, red dye, and something else.

We had a marvelous time. There were lots of people dancing on their own, which is great, although sometimes it got a little creepy because of the costume.  There was a jester always at our elbow, checking out MKL.  There was the incredible hulk who kept sort of thrusting himself into all partners.  There was the red toga lady who was really getting into grinding on me from behind while MKL and I were trying to dance, until her husband (Nero) called her off (literally). And there were a phenomenal amount of exceptionally tall people there.  Really.  Close to seven feet tall. Weird. And lots of my photos of partygoers also contained orbs, so the ghosts enjoyed the festivities too.

Stopping for a final martini in the bar before bed, we watched a very tall guy dressed as a cowboy trying to decide if he wanted to accept the attentions of either of the guys who were hitting on him.  He looked pretty drunk and pretty confused.  We wished him well, and turned in at almost two. I haven’t stayed out that long in years.  I felt like a princess. It was so cool.

We got a slightly late checkout, had a wonderful breakfast at the Mountain Home Cafe, and talked about what we might be if we go next year. It would be a lovely tradition.

A view to a future

Photo title: Where I Am (Do You Miss Me?)

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado.

(Sorry I missed posting yesterday – it’s only the second time this year I’ve missed a post.)

Quote of the day: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”  ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Daily gratitudes:
Friendliness
Haunted places
MKL
Kelsea and Joy’s laughter
Getting all gussied up

 

Photo title: Bichon Love

Swansboro, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.”  —  Leo Buscaglia

Daily gratitudes:
People flailing joyfully in public
Making new friends gradually
Chicken tortilla soup on cold days
Gary Cooper
Wind so sharp it brings tears to your eyes
Mule deer

It’s here. The decline and fall of Fall.

Autumn has fallen with a big, heavy, wet snow. I’d rather have a lot of snow than a skimpy snowfall, but of course, the first one is the most shocking in so many ways. I needed more time to prepare, as I didn’t believe the weather forecast, just like I don’t belive the “Road Closed” signs until I see the actual end of the road.

That says something about me, I think. Stubbornness. Determination. Pigheadedness. Since I like pigs, I like that term the best.  Just like road endings, I won’t see the end of a relationship until I open my eyes to its bloated, mouldering, ashen corpse’s face breaking the surface of the waters of my soul. Only then do I say, “Hmmmmm…”.

The mountains are gone today, smothered by snow clouds, forlorn railroad tracks stretch into infinite white, and here feels more like endless prairie than cozening foothills.

The weight of the snow is too heavy for my windshield wipers to cope, so they give up with an exhausted sigh several times en route to the bus stop. I have forgotten gloves, hat, and scarf, a fact that is more noticeable every time I pull over to encourage the wipers to carry on by lightening their load. I text MKL that apparently I forgot my brain as well.

On the bus, my toes in their heavy boots and socks start to warm just a bit. MKL texts back that I am already in my tropical mind, and he is likely right. Three weeks and a day until I set a course south for the trade winds and turquoise waters, a trip designed to be a saving grace each year, a reminder that, regardless of the cold and snow, there is a world of always warmth and it is one where my body and my heart will reside for good one day, a day that gets closer and closer with each night that passes.

This storm was not as bad as feared, though the combination of our first biggish snow and our President being in town, resulting in closed roads and snarled traffic, has inspired the term “Snobama”. I wonder if his opponents will now begin criticizing him for the weather, as if he is some ancient god with power over all things.

Image courtesy of http://www.DotPenn.com

The marginal woman two rows back does nothing to suppress a wet, grinding series of coughs. The grey roads slick by under our wheels. The still-leafed trees arch and bend with their burden of snow, which flies sideways by my window.

Just as the mountains have vanished, so has the city skyline. We are all moving in a searching rush to nowhere but more white emptiness.  Still we go. We have faith that there is an actual destination within the cold shroud of clouds. Just as I have faith there is always somewhere warm, waiting for me.

On the return, hours later, come the end of the onslaught, the end of the day, the trees have plops and clods and dollops of snow, and the South Platte runs brown and cold, flowing with its own vague memory of providing paradise for shirtless transients on a scorching July noontime. Clouds are lowered in layers over a now visible horizon, though the mountains are still buried beneath their cold cotton wool masquerade. Their greyness matches the color of the skyscrapers of downtown, poking up like a patch of fat, dirty icicles from the middle of nowhere.

But right now, I am going home.  And that thought is warming. Although the flamingoes disagree.

Photo title: A Flower For Loss

This could be anywhere in the world.

Quote of the day: “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”  —  Albert Camus

Daily gratitudes:
The snow (yes, the snow)
That I figured out how to get my heater to work
Friendships that can’t end
That Charlotte is celebrating her birthday in London and Paris
Earl Grey Tea

Photo title: Place of Peace

Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”  —  C.C. Scott

Daily gratitudes:
Morning light
Loving concern
Ice cold drinks first thing in the morning
Bow ties
Spinach

Photo title: Ku Umbrellas

Lower Shoal Bay East, Anguilla.

Quote of the day: “It is the false shame of fools to try to conceal wounds that have not healed.”  —  Horace

Daily gratitudes:
Temper
Green grass (still)
Self-regulation
Green tea
Passion

Photo title: Rose Colored Glasses

Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.”  —  Betty Smith

Daily gratitudes:
Cats
Love
Gorgeous fall days
Thrift store finds
The reaction of that dogs that don’t recognize themselves in mirrors

 

Photo title: Defending the Bar

Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”  ~Anna Quindlen

Daily gratitudes:
Sharing books
Our lingering autumn
Finding a nice dress really quickly when you need one
Weekends
Stamina

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