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Monday, November 17, 2014

Beautiful Space...Lose the Used Car Salesman Pitch (Chateau Elan Spa - Braselton, GA)

(This review is specifically about the spa located on property at Chateau Elan and not the entire winery/resort.)

Chateau Elan's spa is tucked behind the Inn, nestled among low hanging trees. The walk there puts you in the mindset for what's to come.

Eucalyptus puts me right into the mood - very Pavlovian. The ease and quiet of the stone structure readies you for many delights.

While my husband and I frequent spas whenever we can afford it - the time and the money - we had a newcomer with us. We were delighted with how they made him feel very comfortable and welcome.

The space swirls around downstairs and up, making it sometimes hard to keep track of where you are or where you're going. We each were escorted to individual rooms for deep tissue massages (only 50 minutes, which I've felt is a tease...just as you relax, boom, it's done.)

My masseuse was fantastic and really able to dig in, which made it all the more sad that it was only 50 minutes long. However, at the end, I was escorted into a little shop room to purchase this, that, and the other. I wasn't interested. I never am. I have enough random bottles of miracle-touting products in my bathroom drawers already.

I located the rest of my party and we fluctuated between the first bright lounge area, which overlooks a pond, and the quiet room, which for some reason encourages no one to be quiet.

My husband and our guest wandered up to the café (which I'm told the food was healthful, clean, and delicious. I write "told" because I booked an extra service and missed lunch.)

I went upstairs for a back facial (a weird name since a facial is about the face, and a back has no face...anyway.) Again, when I finished, there we were back at the little shop. Again, I wasn't interested.

Our party found each other again and soon afterwards were brought to another floor for our facials. Again, when I finished, here I was right back inside a little shop.


What was even more irritating was to learn than neither of the males were ever offered this "opportunity."

Overall, we're fans - except for the obvious. We're looking at coming back and staying at the spa as a hotel.

It's slightly overpriced, but that may be a perception thing, too. They include the 20% when you check in, so you don't have to bother with all that later, if you don't want to. Is this a benefit; I'm not sure.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Q: How to Catch A Liar? The Lance Armstrong Story (Previously posted on ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

(Previously posted on January 15, 2013, as my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

A:...have Lance Armstrong for dinner.

Always tell the truth: it's a lot easier to remember when people come asking," my Grandpa Bailey always said.

I sure wish Lance Armstrong had listened to my old grandpa.

Just a few minutes ago, Twitter went nuts with word that Lance Armstrong had apologized to his staff after having taped an Oprah Winfrey show. Rumor is he's finally 'fessed up to having put junk in his trunk to help him win repeatedly. First word out of the camp is that his supporters are still just that - his supporters. They are rallying around him - yet again - in spite of the fact that he's lied to them, officials, the public, his family, and his own grandpa repeatedly. It's ridiculous.

Firstly, let me say I don't much care about the whole steroids thing. I don't. We don't put astrixes besides the names of Hall of Famers who benefited from new workout techniques not available to Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth. We don't force teams to throw out fresh coaching or pretend players didn't learn anything by watching tapes of their predecessors. We don't hem and haw about adding new records of athletes that used technology to study how better to turn or squat on the slopes. We accept these advances for what they are, moves towards even better athletes.

Prescribed medicines are used repeatedly and without any notice. Steroids, used properly, can have phenomenal restorative properties. Those are just facts. Sure, some medicines make it so you have side effects that give a player an advantage. However, without and training, steroids just make you fat and make it easier to stay up for the Late Late Show. Just ask my cousin Carter.

Like anything good, in the wrong hands, it can turn to something awful. Even something as benign as glue can turn a brain to mush and an art project into a pillow. That's not what bothers me. No, for me, it's the lying.

Mr. Armstrong seems to be pretty darn comfortable making other people uncomfortable. There are thousands of people who have supported him and stood up for him. He's shook a finger and said it wasn't him and tried to make others feel bad for even putting the question to him. How dare they, he says. Well, here's how they dare. You lied. You keep on lying. You only admit to lying when put in the most excruciating of spots (let me be clear, it wasn't when his staff or his family were put in a bad way. No, no.... The lies kept flowing out of his mouth like pudding. No, it was only when he reached what has seemingly been the very last problem for himself. That's just selfish served on a platter.)

I don't fancy liars, if you haven't guessed. Honestly, if Mr. Armstrong got up in front of the lot and said, "Yes, I did this. I did this because I think it's wrong that we're not allowed to do this," then likely I would think he was brave. He'd have recognized his mistakes and focused the attention back to the real issue of allowing performance enhancing drugs to be used in sports without the currently required burning stake. Not to mention, he'd probably be in a heap less trouble and his foundation and the people running it wouldn't have contributors falling off like dandruff from a teenage boy's scalp.

Now, I haven't seen Mr. Armstrong's interview with Ms. Winfrey. I could be wrong. He could be getting up in front of the whole world to yet again say he hadn't done anything wrong. But then, why would you have to apologize to your staff for something like that? Why would you even need to?

By now, Mr. Armstrong, maybe you've realized it might have been easier to stick with the truth. it would have been easier to remember. That and your family and staff wouldn't feel like you've hooked them to your hitch and went for a backroads ride. I'm just saying...

(originally posted:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Brent Musburger: The Feminist Pendulum Swing and Other Fun Things to Worry Over (Previously posted on ESPN Las Vegas blog)

(Previously posted on January 11, 2013, as my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog)

Brent Musburger

When any extreme is corrected on a pendulum, the equal but opposite extreme takes its place. With each swing, the movements become gradually smaller, eventually finding its way to center.

By now, everyone has heard about this - ESPN Announcer Brent Musburger's comment on Miss Alabama Katherine Webb's looks . He also collectively commented on A.J. McCarron's mother, Dee Dee McCarron, but no one seems to be wrapping her up in this non-issue tornado. Lucky woman. She's actually dealing with the correct amount of frou-frou surrounding comments like these; in other words, nothing.

Having been born and bred in the midst of "consciousness raising" and bursts of feminism throughout the South, I am well-versed in the shenanigans that make even the most closeted feminist put her roast on low, take off her apron, and snatch up a picket sign (or in these more modern times, take to their Twitter accounts.)

I actually went about this in opposite. I heard all the opinions about the clip before actually clicking on the numerous links to listen to the source. By the end of it, I was in shock.

Before you furiously open a window to start your anonymous angry retort, let me say this: I don't get it either. I was shocked anyone even bothered to mention it twice, let alone let it spin into this atrocious non-issue. (seriously...? This is how people want to spend their copious free time? Aren't there children in Africa that need to be saved from diamond mines or something like that?)

In my opinion, Musburger stated a fact that sounded more like an opinion, and maybe that's the real issue here. Miss Alabama is, you guessed it, beautiful. (Imagine that, right? It was a total shock to me, too. I mean, honestly, I really started buying into the advertisement-disguised-as-a-movie, "Miss Congeniality"'s idea that these were all scholarship events where girls worry themselves over pizza slices and sound-bite-sized answers.) And Musburger took that time to comment on it, along with another commentator who joined in. Musburger finished by jokingly advising young Alabama boys to start throwing the ball around with Dad so they could be as lucky as the quarterbacks. Honestly, that was the only comment I came close to having an issue with...but I have other things to do with my time than complain about my job, my schoolwork, raising my kids, and catching up on "Nashville."

Speaking of which, let's back this up juuust a bit. Suppose Musburger had been perusing the GMAT scores of Auburn graduates while waiting for the next play and came across Ms. Webb's enormously gorgeous score. He then blurts out how really smart she is and how lucky A.J. McCarron is. Do we have an issue then?

Anyway, in these current times where sitcoms are filled with dopey husbands with condescending and much-too-smart-for-them wives, we seem to be comfortable batting at anyone - even a complimenting announcer - not because he actually did anything wrong but because when the pendulum swung against us (meaning women), we weren't allowed to say anything. Now, though, we are constantly up in arms about this stuff. We (meaning everyone) are hypersensitive and are allowing horrible behavior (meaning by the people who criticized Musburger.) We are teaching people that it's okay to treat people (meaning men) the way we were (meaning women). Wasn't the point that we didn't want anyone treated like this?

Long and short of it, I'm waiting for the pendulum swing to right itself and settle in the middle. Right after the Oompah-Lompahs deliver my breakfast...with toast.
(original post:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Pic: NASCAR: Hot Chicks Added to The Pit Crew (Previously posted on ESPN Las Vegas blog)

(Previously posted on February 26, 2013, for my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

Christmas Abbott - Photo by Warwick Saint


     She weighs less than my Golden Retriever, yet she could take him and my other two dogs in one hand and lift them over her head. Badass? Well, that's what they're calling Christmas Abbott, the newest member of Jennifer Jo Cobb's NASCAR pit crew in the Camping World Truck Series. For Sunday's Daytona 500, she shadowed the Michael Waltrip racing crew as he slid into 22nd place. I'm not overly familiar with racing terms, but I'm guessing shadowing is like being an intern of sorts. A badass intern, mind you.

     She's not new to the sash of Miss Badass. At 22, she followed her mother over to Iraq when she (mom) joined up. (Apparently, it runs in the family.) Then later, she became one of the few head trainers for CrossFit (which, for all you P90Xers, you're playing with five and dime plastic pistols compared to the AK-47 roughness these CrossFit people take on. And she was one of the top people doing it. Yikers.)

     From all that's told, she's not really seeking the spotlight, but it seems destined to find her. Between the tattoos and the rippling muscles, she's hard to miss. Network reality programs are chomping at the bit to get her to let them follow her around. I'm never a fan of people who let cameras catch their every telephone call, pregnancy test, and bowel movement, but I can understand her motivation. She won't get the same dollars as the guys – or even the girls – on the track. I don't know that the retirement plan for the pit crew is anything she's dreamed about, so having some TV dollars to rest on later can't suck.

     It's got to be a sock to the jaw for Danica Patrick after she's loaded her trophy case based on her talent and determination, even if Sunday did end in an eighth place finish. However, Danica's fairly buddy-buddy with a spotlight that follows her because of her glossy dark hair and wicked toned thighs. Anyone that takes on a Go Daddy commercial in their free time (firstly with beavers, then with random girls who strip and gyrate - as she reminds one not to scratch her car) understands the delicate balance between keeping them interested in your talent without focusing only on how you dressed it.

     Still, when a newcomer who's not even on the track starts stealing the spotlight, it's got to sting a little. It's kind of like being a Broadway star only to have autograph hounds crowding the prop girl after the show. 

      NASCAR is just around the corner with its color, speed, and crashes, but if you see the cameras focusing more on the pit rather than the track, you'll know why: Christmas has come to town.

Tip from Eric Adelson's blog.

(original post:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Spider Venom & Kangaroos: What the Hell is Going on with the LPGA Australian Open? (Previously posted for ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

(Previously posted on February 14, 2013, for my part of the ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

 - Stefan Postles of Getty Images

I realize kangaroos aren't one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but man, if you were there, wouldn't you be wondering if they were?

The photo above was taken a few hours back in Australia during the LPGA Women's Australian Open. In the middle of the tournament, the place was overrun by kangaroos and joeys. While there are plenty of rules around gophers and other rodents, they seem to be particularly lacking info on how to handle a marsupial delay. Cute as they are from a distance, these guys can put up a fight and are better kept across a field. (cue old Looney Tunes cartoon.)

According to stories floating around, this isn't the first odd incident of this tournament. Seems one of the players - Daniela Holmqvist - was bitten by what was thought to be a Black Widow (turns out it was one of its equally dangerous cousins), and the player whipped out a golf tee, cut the bite area open, and squeezed the venom out. Then, though she was told the venom could kill a small child in 30 minutes, she went directly (wait for it...) back to playing. After the game was done for the day and she was four strokes light of qualifying, she finally sought out a doctor. That's commitment.

I have to say these ladies are definitely being tested and tried. They are tough. They're swinging clubs and tees around like Lara Croft sans the amped up iPads and Doc Martens. Still, if I were these players, I'd keep my head up. I'm a wee bit superstitious. If frogs started falling from the sky spontaneously, I'd be getting my zombie equipment together.

Still, I will say am looking forward to the movie they're bound to make of this whole thing. Zombies be damned; creepy arachnids and hoarding marsupials make for great Wes Craven material. Well... maybe Wes Anderson.

In any case, good luck, ladies. We're rooting for you to survive the Apocalypse. You're welcome in our bunker any time!

(originally posted:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Getting Smoked (Previously posted for ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

(originally posted on January 28, 2013 as my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog. The video cannot be posted on this site nor linked because it was removed. I will attempt to link to similar ones)

The 1950's must have been a time - Mad Men-type ad men constantly coming at you from every angle, trying to just get you to pick it, try it on, see how sexy a cigarette felt in your hand. It was a time of ignorance - and let's be clear, it wasn't stupidity. Stupidity is when you don't have the faculties to comprehend something. Ignorance is just not having some facts.

So all these people - even Lucille Ball - were touting how great it was, how fantastic it was, how it made all your troubles go away. Who wouldn't take it up?

What's interesting to me as how hardcore these companies went after their audience. You'll see in the videos how one company is talking about how mild their flavors are because of their fantastic filters, while the next one is talking about how you get the full flavor from theirs because they DON'T have a filter. They were getting people coming and going.

Coincidentally, yesterday a huge report came out saying how women were finally catching up to men in one big area - lung cancer. How's that for progress? It also says that apparently we're stubborn, too, because once we start, we are the least likely to stop. Yea!

When I was a kid, Virginia Slim went after the coming-out feminist who wanted to take her place in the world and still appear feminine. Our next door neighbor lady went through them like they contained oxygen from her home planet. My little sister, only four at the time, would go into the neighbor lady's gravel driveway and pick up her lipsticked butts, pretending she was smoking while walking a four...that's how easily we were persuaded.

My own mother went back and forth between shaking her finger at smokers in enclosed cars with children in the back to puffing on the slim sticks until finally she quit for a solid eight years. It wasn't until a trip back to visit her own mother sent her right out onto the carport, dragging on one cigarette after another like she'd just stepped out of a Kent commercial herself. From that point on, she gave up trying to quit pretty much and even after her cancer came back, she couldn't stop.

After she died, her apartment was so drenched with the smell of the cheap generic cigarettes she had been reduced to on her limited salary, that we sprayed parts of the place down, put baking soda in boxes, and set books and furniture out on the lawn, just to get the first layer of Ode De Ashtray out of her things. Even two years later when I opened a Ziploc-ed bag with a shirt of hers in it that I wanted to preserve, the first thing that hit me was the familiar stench of cheap cigarettes. Not exactly what you'd like to be remembered by.

I've never done it myself, but I understand. Addiction of any size is hard to kick, whether it comes in a 40 oz. liquid form or a crushed leaves made to look like a thin white stick. Just remember, whether it's tomorrow, next month or twenty years from now, no matter how much they push you, taunt or tempt you, it's just not the way you're going to want to be remember.

(original post:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Manti Te'o - Catfish, Red Herring... It's What's For Dinner (Previously posted for ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

(originally posted on January 28, 2013 for my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

Honestly...can we please stop talking about this thing like it matters?

Apparently not... or so says Dr. Phil. He's decided he just must have Ronaiah Tuiasosopo on his show. Don't know who that is? Shame on you. He's only the second tier character in the soap opera we call the Manti Te'o Incident.

He's decided he wants to go on Dr. Phil and talk about what he to Manti Te'o and his (wait for it) obsession with we couldn't have guessed that. I mean, seriously, four years you keep this hoax up. If that's not obsession then we need to rewrite the definition.

Truthfully, I was agog why no one chose to focus on this little puppy long ago. He's the real story. I mean, who does that? Junior high cheerleader wannabes? He's one Pixie Stix away from dressing up a gerbil in Christmas clothes and calling it he's new girlfriend.

Obsession is a dangerous thing. Think about it... for four years he kept up this hoax and played with this guy's emotions and then embarrassed him publicly when it finally came out (Not many people even knew the name of the alleged perpetrator until just recently (Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, by the way) nor has anyone bothered to get him in front of a microphone to ask him why in the world he would ever do something so mean. Until now...

Previously, it seemed like it might have something to do with his family. One of his uncles was quoted on CNN as saying,

"It definitely takes two to tango. This is not just a matter of blaming it all on Ronaiah."

Wow... nice way to take responsibility there. The uncle also later says,

"And if not for this young man and his strength and family with God, he would have done something stupid."

You mean like torture an acquaintance for four years while pretending to be a woman online... or does he have something worse up his sleeve?

The more I hear of this story, the more I think fiction is entirely unnecessary. Why would you need it when the truth is so much more crazy?

(original post:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Manti Te'o - Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places (Previously posted for ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

(originally posted on January 22, 2013 as my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

Manti Te'o

The 15 minutes of notice that should have been devoted to the Manti Te'o story has well expired and our collective heads should have already turned to the latest Kardashian pregnancy or sex video tape (or both, in their case.). However, I woke up yesterday to a fine Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday here in Las Vegas only to hear the radio blasting about how Manti has decided (in all his agent's wisdom) to prolong this horribly painful and embarrassing event into, that's right, and even more painful and embarrassing event (I'm sure this is in his agent's mind a great way to "forward Manti's brand." Whatever.)

For those of you just coming in on this story, Manti Te'o claims he was the victim of a catfish scheme. "
Catfish" in this context comes from a 2010 documentary by the same name, which follows a Facebook-induced relationship that turns out to be an elaborate hoax. It's called catfish because one of the characters says when live cod were shipped here from Asia, the cod would be sluggish and this made their meat "mushy." When fishermen put catfish in with the cod, they found it kept them active. The character states that the person behind the hoax is like the catfish, keeping other people active in their lives. (The documentary makers have their own issues with truthfulness which causes one to pause.) After figuring out or being told his online love and her subsequent death were all a hoax, Manti went about lying to cover up the aforementioned painful and embarrassing event.

Firstly, let me say, lying is lying is lying. I'm not a fan of how Manti decided to cover the tracks of this unusual relationship (actually, can we call it unusual in this day and age? My own brother-in-law found true love one state away through the magic of the Internet and it's worked out fine.). I understand Manti was embarrassed during the relationship and lied to make it seem less weird. When he found out it was a hoax, he lied about it some more...because that worked so well the first time. And now, he's struggling a bit with why people won't just simply believe this thing happened to him. Look, maybe Manti missed out on his fair share of Saved by The Bell, but even my 12-year-old understands this was not the smartest thing to do. Unless you're lying to some serial killer in order to save your life, I think Manti helped prove that lying - even when well meaning - really just never, ever works in your favor. (And, yes,
Mr. Armstrong, that was pointed at you...)

The main thing people keep going back and forth on is whether or not it's plausible Manti knew what was going on or was in on it. From what little I've read and heard about this story and from my perspective, it's nobody's business but Manti's. However, he and his ill-advising agent are making it our business by furthering this story that would have been dead this week were it not for the fact Manti's going on TV with Katie Couric. That's crazy. Up until now, Manti might have made it through this life with this story only making a slight imprint on the pages of his life. Now, it'll be branded in there. And I hate to tell you, Manti, but it's not true that any publicity is good publicity, no matter what Chris Brown says.

But back to plausibility... is it plausible? Is it possible to have a long distance relationship with someone you've never met? I think it is, especially now when electronics are the communication norm (my old roommates used to sit in our living room and each other...five feet away.) So, when someone is far away - whether the contact is by Skype, phone, letters, or Morse code - we fill in the blanks of what we cannot see day-to-day in front of us, we fill them with things we would like the other person to be. And we ignore things that should raise red flags. So, absolutely I think it's possible.

In Manti's case, he may have complicated trust issues (and this will not help them any) because of who he is and why women might want to become involved with him. This may lead him to approach a relationship from a different angle. He may have felt this was one of the few ways to ferret out who was real and who wasn't...okay, so that didn't turn out so well. So, yes, I think it's completely plausible that it went down as he said. However, four years...? Four years and you never got tempted to Google her or check her out on I don't know...


Anyway, the more I hear of this story, the more it feels wildly invasive. This should have been a private story. This should have been something Manti Te'o was allowed to deal with in his own space without the whole world peering in and judging. The most the greedy public should have gotten was a cautionary tale, minus the names. Maybe even that was too much.

(original post:

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jeans or Tuxedo: Everyone Feels Comfortable (Cork & Cow - Franklin, TN)

As many times as I had been passed Cork & Cow while eyeballing pastries at Merribelle's in Downtown Franklin, when my husband and I had a chance to finally go, it seemed perfect.

The old wood, wood-fired smell as you come in evokes lawyer's bookcases and first edition novels. The U-shaped bar takes up most of the downstairs floor, but is usually filled with locals. Our first time, they seated us upstairs. I'm not a fan of being stuffy, especially as I eat, but the temperature was mostly mild. The view and "floor entertainment" were well worth it, in any case.

From our perch, we could see the majority of the restaurant and the bar conversations kept us entertained between courses. A particularly loud, short-clad fellow was busy trying to - I'm sure in his mind - subtly pick up the woman sitting next to him. Smartly, she made her way discreetly to the other side of the bar, but not before we heard their entertaining conversation.

Cork & Cow has a wonderful mix of steaks and standards that have a bit of a twist. The bartender that night served Crown Royal to our table like it was water - in other words, to our liking.

The owners sport two other neighborhood restaurants - The Red Pony and 55 South - both of which are on my list to try. They seem to know how to keep a look, a theme, and idea clean and clear and not muddy it with other conflicting things. Likely, having three restaurants within a few feet of each other helps with that, too.

Watch your bill because each item is separate - no bundling of side dishes with the meal. IT can add up fast. We think it's worth it, but better to be warned than surprised.

The desserts are a little uneven, but this seems to be an ongoing theme. We've yet to find a restaurant that's solid from start to finish in Nashville (editor's note: We have since visited The Catbird Seat and can amend that statement.)

The relaxing and low key vibe make you feel like you finally found some place grown up to go.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Surprising, Adventurous - Worth The Experience (The Catbird Seat - Nashville, TN)

Foodies R Us... yep, we're a bit picky. We just moved from Las Vegas where we had our pick of high-end restaurants and hidden gems. We made our home in old haunts that glamorous stars would hide out to get an excellent meal. We were prepared to be disappointed when we moved here. Boy, were we wrong!

I had heard quite a bit about The Catbird Seat - eclectic, unusual, a place that changes and makes you think about your food. However, after a month or so of having to chase a reservation, I was about to give up. Luckily, a cancelled reservation was posted just as I happened to look one last time.

The place is intimate, and while we dressed up because we came straight from work, there's no need to bother. Your money spends just as well as anyone else's.

We lucked out and were seated on the corner, so we each had a great view of the chefs, each other, and the door (and once in a while, we got a nice breeze - yes, being in the kitchen does make it a little warm.)

Trevor, the head chef, is funny and personable. He comes across as a kid with a science kit - all giggly about his latest invention...and he should be.

Granted, I was a little wary when he brought around our first dish - almond "snow" with a still-live longneck clam on top with herbs. He delighted in telling us that not only were the clams so fresh, one of them knocked an herb off its back, but likely when we put it in our mouths, we might feel it still throbbing.

Admittedly, I wanted to walk out then.

I'm adventurous, but I have a few limits.

In any case, I tried it and it was amazing. Trevor has a real knack for subtle flavors.

All in all, we had about 13 courses (!), each one different; each one with its own personality. We took our time eating so we could savor the smells and textures.

I have to stress one major point with us: both of us have unusual allergies - him, mushrooms; me, peppers (all), jalapenos, chilies, paprika, etc. It can make a dinner out difficult for us and the restaurant staff, However, their staff seemed to take it as a fun challenge, to see how they could rethink the night's menu to accommodate us and still make something spectacular. They did not fail.

The pricing is steep. It's not Joel Robechon/Las Vegas-steep, but it's significant. For us, it was worth it. We like how adventurous and experimental the food was.

The only thing I would change is the temperature. Towards the end, it got a bit stuffy.

But, as they say, if you can't take the heat, get out of their kitchen.

P.S., we will do this again, and again, and be luckier for it every time.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Hometown Feel, German Delights (Bodensee restaurant - Helen, GA)

Every year for our anniversary, we try to go somewhere new or different. There have been a tough couple of years.

Last year when we had to live 2000 miles apart while we piecemeal moved from Las Vegas to Nashville. He flew in early and we had dinner at The Old Steakhouse inside the Opryland Hotel, but the actual day, we spent most of the day texting love notes back and forth.

Then there was our first anniversary where I was in the hospital for nine weeks. The week-long Hawaiian cruise we planned was being enjoyed by his brother and my best friend so it wouldn't go to waste. The day of, he arranged with my nurses to ferret me out of the room. When I returned, Hawaiian music was playing, a tiki head was blowing bubbles, and blowup palm trees filled the room. We feasted on Hawaiian pork and he danced with me in my wheelchair.

For this latest anniversary, I remembered him going on and on about a little town called Helen, GA (Though, I kept mistakenly calling it Helena.) 

The town is sweetly Bavarian and you can find wooden shoes and trinkets from Germany even in the grocery store. The German bakery near the far end of town has a raised porch and succulent pastries. Eating the popovers became my cardio for the day.

We had been asking around from the first day about where the best meal was. Everyone said Bodensee. Secretly, I was worried because I had been to my fair share of tourist-popular restaurants that were as bland as Olive Garden. The upside I knew would be that German food generally has no peppers - of which I'm very allergic - so I wouldn't have to worry about my lunch revisiting me later (nor me visiting a hospital.)

We went for lunch to avoid crowds, so we had plenty of time to strike up a conversation with our delightful (and heavily pregnant) waitress, who was extremely sweet and super helpful. My husband knows his way around a German menu, having spent many visits there, but I needed help.

Being used to places that skimp on portions, we over ordered. But it was worth it. We had plenty for a late snack in our hotel.

When we asked out waitress about places to go to celebrate, she told us about the weekly bingo game that all the locals go to, just behind our hotel. Since my husband had never played bingo (and I mean n.e.v.e.r.,) it was tons of fun for both of us. The locals helped us with our cards and were inviting (even when I won the coverall jackpot - the big win of the night!) We went back the next day and left a "finder's fee" for our waitress.

Granted, during the day, the place is a bit nondescript, but the people make up for it. They are welcoming, sweet, and genuinely want you to have a good time.

We did.

Every time we are in town, we will be back.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Dollywood: Woodsy Park, Standard Rides, Folksy Exhibits

Arts and crafts, clogging and square dancing, glass blowing and blacksmithing always get me. I love homey, folksy exhibits that remind me if how things were done - and, in some cases, still are. Dollywood has wonderful examples of all of these.

Tucked up in the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is hidden beneath old-growth trees and behind a sprawling, nonsensical parking lot. Maybe I'm spoiled by Disney - okay, I'm definitely spoiled by Disney - but the tram system here is lacking, for sure. While we waited to board to return to our cars, I saw a couple of people nearly get hit. We ended up parking much farther away because there was no one directing traffic into the sparsely populated, closer lots.

The lines were nonexistent, which was super fun. The Wild Eagle was one that the majority of our 22 people walked onto - twice. The ride straps you into a wide span made to mimic an eagle's wingspan...a gigantic eagle, mind you, that can fit eight across in both directions. You dangle from the wing, hurling through the air as if you are flying yourself. I'm told it's amazing. (Let's be serious. There's no way I'd get on it. I'd be the one hurling...)

Most of the patrons disappeared when a sudden rainstorm hit (which coincided with several of our party being on a looping roller coaster when it went full-force. We have pictures of them upside down, mouths full of water - and loving it!) There a few accommodations for rain other than waiting it out in a restaurant or store. 

The setting is what really makes Dollywood different. It's welcoming and homey, but beware; it Is overtly Christian. Gospel events and God-based exhibits abound. For someone who does no practice this faith, it might be distracting.

Overall, we all liked it - even our pickiest attendees (and we have the pickiest, for sure.) However, none of us bought the discounted season passes. Maybe that says more.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.


Over the last few months, I've been taking to writing reviews of restaurants, amusement parks, museums, towns - all sorts of things. In general, there's been a great response, so I thought I would repost them here for anyone who cares to read them. least I'm writing something.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Lightning Bugs

Lightning Bug
I liked that one best - noctiluca. I found it in the encyclopedia Mama brought home from the Piggly Wiggly that a lady paid for with S & H green stamps but never picked up (Mama only got A through L because that’s all the lady had ordered, but she promised me she’d get the rest someday.)
The book said in Latin that’s what they called them, noctiluca. It sounded like castanets when I said it aloud, but I preferred lightning bug. The colloquialism made me think of the luminous glow in their bellies, flickering in the dark. (Colloquialism was the section I found on language, just before the encyclopedia ran out, but Daddy says to quit using it ‘cause it sounded nasty.)
Our front yard back in Pearl, Mississippi, was filled with lightning bugs. When I was little, I thought they were invisible during the day, hidden by the sunlight like fairies, revealing themselves when the sun disappeared behind the hill’s edge. I’m eleven now, so I know better. Now I know they sleep during the day; and at night, after they stretch and wake up, they go to look for dates, much like my Uncle Rudy.
After the sun dims in our neighborhood and the yellowed living room lights seep out onto the roads, the steps in front of the clapboard houses crowd with mothers. They sit with their daughters between their legs, untangling their daughter’s long hair with their fingers and the local gossip with their tongues. 
Mama likes to sit with the ladies, sometimes messing with either of my sisters’ hair. Both Lou Ann and Amy still had flowing strands that cascaded down their backs. Mine was short and bobbed, making me look more like a boy to all my classmates.
I used to have long braids on each side of my head, but one night I stumbled into the bathroom and didn’t see one of my braids had ended up wet until it was too late. Mama chopped my hair off rather than, “…let you end up with typhoid.” I didn’t want to tell her that the encyclopedia said I’d have to ingest the toilet water for me to get sick.
I told anyone who asked that I cut it off because I was going to be a scientist when I grew up and it didn’t make sense to let it catch on fire in a Bunsen burner. I tossed my head at my sisters, them trapped between Mama’s knees, showing off how I got to run and play while Mama dug deep into their scalps with her Barbasol-dipped brushes. I liked it better chasing the lightning bugs with my cat, Brown Kitty, than listening to stories and having my head pulled raw by combs.
Once in awhile, a lightning bug would fly into my hand. For one moment, I would watch its tail light, the glow luminously lighting my own hand where it landed. I got so excited, cupping my hands around the lightning bug, feeling it flutter lightly against my palms. Over and over I would do this, feeling the lighting bug land calmly, getting so excited when it realized it was trapped, how frantic it became, not knowing I had no intention of hurting it ever. When the ache of holding one prisoner for too long tugged at me, I opened my fingers and let the lightning bug flutter clumsily away.
It was two months since we left Pearl and our pretty front yard, having been skirted away in a 1959 Ford van Daddy bought from Mr. Humphreys. He told Daddy the shift was on the column, but that it could pull stumps out like no ox ever could. And it was a good thing, seeing as Mama never could bring herself to get rid of half of the things she bought. Grandpa and Daddy hooked up a rented trailer to the van’s hitch, both taking turns to cuss out my mother’s frugalness, then turning to smile gently when she approached, arms loaded with sweet tea and Girl Scout cookies.
In the near dead of night, we set off for Hot Springs, Arkansas, exhausted from packing and crying good-byes. It was to be the first time we had ever lived more than 10 miles away from Grandpa and Grandma and I wasn’t quite sure we’d find our way back in a timely manner. Mama and Daddy promised we’d still all go to Florida later that summer with them; my Aunt Lavetta; her toy poodle, Punkin; and Uncle Rudy and his latest girl. (They didn’t add that last part, but I knew as sure as Uncle Rudy’d be smoking his cigars, he’d have some teased-haired woman from Branson on his arm if he could stand up straight long enough to ask her.)
The ride to our new town was simpler than I expected. The trailer swayed back in forth on the road, forcing Daddy to drive with two hands the whole time. Summer was easing into its middle, causing my sisters and me to sweat profusely while we slept in the back seats, even with all the windows rolled down. I was the only one who didn’t mind leaving; the only one who didn’t have someone other than family to see them off.

Hot Springs National Park was considered a thriving tourist town. Ladies in bathing suits and sunglasses in the hotel lobbies; men in three-piece suits, fanning themselves in the air-conditioned insides of the auction houses; shopkeepers filling their cases with horehound sugar sticks and cedar souvenirs, marking them all with a “Hot Springs, Ark. – The Natural State” stamp, a keepsake for every budget.
It had been like this for centuries, bringing in Frank and Jesse James to rob the Northerners on the trains when they came to town to rest and play the horses. Even Al Capone and his gang came down for a summer, holed up in the Arlington Hotel when their rival gang checked into the hotel across the street. Al and the other fellow meet in the middle of the street and shook hands, saying how there wouldn’t be any fighting on account of everyone being on vacation.
But for me, it was just one long day that was so hot and humid, that as soon as I stepped outside, it felt like I was walking through mud with a blow dryer on my face. Some days, I took my bike down to the Piggly Wiggly to trade in bottles so I could buy sheet music down at the piano store, but no matter what time I went, the streets were deserted like I had walked out in the middle of “The Andromeda Strain” (which Daddy let me watch with him the other night when Mama went to go to the new neighborlady’s house to play Hearts. She was always making friends so easy like that while me and Daddy stayed at home watching Andy Griffith reruns.)
At night, I went to play with the lightening bugs, but the heat kept them hibernating in their own homes, the humidity too heavy on their wings. I had only seen one or two since we moved and didn’t even dare catch them for fear of harming them. So few had appeared in our time there, I half thought I’d have to write to President Ford to see about getting them on the Endangered Species list.
I was thrilled when after months of either playing alone or sitting watching Perry Mason reruns, Mama announced we’d be starting school two weeks earlier than back home. She said when she went to register us, the superintendent told her it was because of the roofers.
“These men,” he said, taking a puff on his Marlboro, “they cain’t work the tar once the devil has gotten in the wind. The air’ll burn ‘em when it touches them. Tar’ll do worse. Get ‘em in here earlier, I say, and the children don’t got to smell it neither.”

School was my most favorite thing in the entire world. I could barely sleep nights before a test, not from fear, but from excitement, the sheer pleasure of handling the freshly mimeographed pages, smelling their sweet ink in the air and feeling the dampness of the pages, and then looking down the pages at all the questions lined up in rows.
When my old teacher, Mrs. Robinson, assigned us fifth graders a project of selecting a country and then presenting it, most of my classmates showed up with discarded shoeboxes filled with cutouts from their mothers’ Good Housekeeping magazines. I had carefully selected Italy and spent the prior three weeks shaping a dome to mimic the cathedral foyer I read in the section on Caravaggio, holding myself nearly upside down to paint the interior with the cobalt blue I bought over at the Ben Franklin store.
I used gold for the fleur-de-lis I painted on the ceiling, fresh sprigs of rosemary to imitate the decorative bushes in the foyer, and then I rigged Daddy’s leftover tiny, white Christmas lights to look like sconces near the alter. I turned the lights off in the room when I presented my diorama that Friday, and had borrowed my cousin Kyle’s Walkman so I could play Pavarotti singing like he would be in my chapel.
The room was quiet and chilled, even after I turned the lights back on. Nobody in the room would talk to me, not even Mrs. Robinson. Kim Crittenden whispered behind her hand to Christy Whittington and I heard the word brownnoser behind her fingers. I wiped my face, just in case.
It wasn’t the first time the room got quiet after I was done, but I didn’t mind. I was used to sitting by myself at lunch. Sometimes, I’d sit with June Connell, who nobody – not even the girl with purple fingers that everybody teases and says she has lice – would sit with June. But even that tapered off after awhile and I began eating my bologna sandwiches alone while I reread the outside of my Partridge Family lunch box.
Still, I loved school. I loved hearing Mr. Stiles, our principal, announce my name first when he called out the scores for the state tests or every six weeks when report cards came out. Mama would pat my head when I showed her and dig into the back of the freezer for a drumstick ice cream just for me.

Mama took me, Lou Ann, and Amy over to Little Rock to pick out new school dresses. She said, “Hot Springs don’t have nothing that nice girls can wear outside a they front yards. We just have to find the next big town over.”
And Little Rock was the biggest - four Sears, two JC Penney’s, and a full 2-story mall just like they had in the movies with its own Swenson’s and Casa Bonita.
Hours later, we emerged with white crisp bags full of dresses, tights, and slightly-high heeled shoes that tapped like dance shoes while I walked. My favorite dress was the creamy colored one with bright red cherries all over it that Mama found for me hidden in the size 8s. When I turned around to show Mama how I looked, the skirt lifted up and made me look like a ballerina in the mirror. I made sure I carried that bag all around the mall and kept it with me the whole two hour drive home, rather than let it sit in the trunk and get car fumes all over it.
“This year will be different, girls,” Mama said to the three of us. “Won’t it, Grace?”
“Yes, Mama,” I replied happily.
“We’ll get you some friends for sure,” she said more quietly, but she looked in the rear view mirror at me and smiled.
“Yes, Mama,” I replied hesitantly.

The night before school started, I tossed and turned, excited to wear my new dress and use my new supplies. Fresh pencils have such a fine sharpness that makes my signature look even more daring and creative. It irritated me to no end when one broke, especially during a test when I was concentrating hard. Every time, I’d be forced to walk to the back of the class, being watched as I was, listening to the snickering behind the boys’ hands, a slight push as I went by.
One time, right after pep club started, Mama spent the night before making my gorgeous regulation gold puffed sleeved shirt. I had worn it that morning in spite of having a test because there was a pep rally after school. I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil and on my way back, I saw Kim Crittenden whispering to Mark Bailey. Before I could figure out what she was saying, Mark’s foot went right out into my path. I came down hard on the floor. Kim rushed to help, she said later, but instead she jabbed my elbow hard. Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered, but Kim knew I was harboring a large scab under the silky golden fabric, a scab she put there just the week before, a scab that easily came loose, causing blood to ooze out and permanently stain the elbows of the shirt. I sat in my seat, in front of Kim and Mark, making sure to wipe my tears only when I could make it look like I was scratching an itch.
I didn’t want Mama to see the stain after all her hard work so I lied and said I didn’t like pep club afterall and I quit.
I laid in my bed remembering, looking over at the fresh white plastic bag on my new dress. They were going to ruin it, I just knew it. I got up and took it out, pulled it over my sunburnt face. I wanted one chance to wear it before they messed it up.
I stood in front of the mirror, turning from one side to the next, the cherries dancing even in the pale light. I smiled as it shimmered as I turned. But then I saw how my belly pudged out just a little, making me look fat and round. I saw the choppy haircut the girl from the beauty college had given me, taking the shine and bounciness out of my face. I could see the wrinkles under my eyes that had been there since I was a baby, always making me look a little older. I could see what they saw, Kim and all the rest. “No wonder,” I whispered. They had ruined my dress and I hadn’t even worn it yet.
I nearly tore the dress off, leaving it in a crumble on the floor. I fell back into my bed, my fresh pillow now burning against my cheek, fresh tears collecting on the pillowcase. I fell asleep without dreaming about my new crisp folder or my scented notebook paper or my brand new cherry dress.

The next day, Mama made me wear the dress after she picked it up off the floor, “Must have fallen in the night,” she said, dismissing any other possible reason. “None of them kids’ll notice the wrinkles.”
I shuffled through the morning silently, going from the office to get my New Student cards then going to each office to drop them off. When I came to my new sixth grade teacher’s room - Mrs. Hart – she had already started by having the whole class get up individually to introduce ourselves to each other by coming to the front of the class.
When Mrs. Hart leaned over to talk to me, I saw the boys in the class try to look up her dress. She was still young and wore a one-piece mini dress that came just above her knees, just like the girls on Charlie’s Angels. Her Love’s Baby Soft perfume floated around me as she told me quietly to sit in the back row. When she turned back to the class, they all quickly turned their attention to a little shiny-haired girl who talking about her summer at Springdale church camp.
Everyone took turns talking about themselves, and as each one came up, the others would make jokes or say their names in funny ways, the way they had for all the years they had known each other. I was the only one in the room who had not been in kindergarten up until now with the same children.
Mrs. Hart called me to the front and I hesitated. I had never not done something a teacher asked me to do.
“Don’t be shy,” she said warmly. “Everybody here’s your friend.” I figured she must be very young if she believed that.
When I stood at the front of the class, they were all silent, listening intently. I saw the shiny-haired girl, called Savannah, lean in to whisper to the boy named Elmer. When she pulled back, I saw her smile at me.
I started slow, talking about back home and school, but after awhile I forgot where I was and I started telling them all about my piano and Brown Kitty.
When I finished and started to pass by Savannah’s desk to reach mine, my whole body tensed and prepared for the fall. Instead, she reached forward with a fresh pencil, offering me one of hers with butterflies on it. “I like your dress,” she whispered. “I think the butterflies would look nice with them.”
When lunch came, a small group filtered out and crowded around me, asking me one smiling question after another, so curious about this place so far away, farther than they had ever been. A few of the boys looked on with curious gazes; others nodded with seemingly knowing and understanding nods, as if they knew exactly where I was talking about and that we were compatriots in our great travels of the world.
After school, we all clamored together, teasing and tickling as we walked through our new neighborhood. When we came to our house first, Mama seemed surprised but she recovered quickly and asked would “Miss Savannah” like to join us for dinner. She did indeed and went inside to call her mother, who was only too delighted to have one less person for her maid, Elsie, to cook for.
Mama made me change and gave Savannah one of Lou Ann’s old dresses to play in. We ran around my new front yard while Mama cooked dinner and Amy and Lou Ann argued over whose hair was longer. Savannah ran her pudgy fingers through my bob and said, “I like yours better. Looks like an ice skater.” I mentally made a note to see if I could be both a scientist and an ice skater.
Daddy got home and Mama called us in for supper and root beer ice cream, Savannah went back outside in the oncoming dark to wear a new path in our new yard. We pulled out my sisters’ Barbie cases and played with their Wal-Mart dolls, playing fairyland in our bushes.
As the sun dipped below the hang of the trees, three lighting bugs appeared, twinkling under the weeping willow. Excitedly, I pulled Savannah over to watch. I didn’t dare touch them myself, but Savannah easily put out her fingers and let one light on her fingertips. I watched her and then finally did the same.
I peeked inside and watched the lightning bug lighting the inside of my hand, turning it pink. I hadn’t seen one up close since we left Pearl. I smiled, wanting to tickle his belly. As I watched, I saw my lighting bug start to become agitated. I was just about to let him go, when Savannah said, “Wanna see something neat?”
Suddenly, she took a hold of her lightning bug between two fingers and dragged its tail across her shirt, leaving an iridescent trail. She looked at me, smiling, the remnants of her bug in her hand. “See, isn’t it pretty?”
I smiled back weakly, feeling my lightning bug clamoring against the bars of my fingers. I picked him up by his thorax, shaking. Looking at Savannah, I dragged his body against my shirt, leaving a shimmering trail behind. I quickly dropped the remainder and looked down at my belly, all beautiful and lit now, already beginning to fade.
I smiled at Savannah and she returned it, all big and loopy and giddy. She grabbed my hand and off we ran into the bushes, into fairyland.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.


  She scratched out the pre-printed homemaker and wrote in neat school-girl handwriting occupation: artist. 
     She would lean over my school papers, and Daddy’s tax returns, muttering to herself, sometimes rubbing her eraser so hard she bore a hole right through. She felt she had earned the right to the title. She taught classes on weekends at the Fine Arts Center – a wide-load mobile home, transformed after it had been turned over to the city,
     With expansive, theatrical gestures, she would encourage a roomful of smock-covered students to experiment with their brushes and pens – to be brave and explore. To not only attempt what the instrument could do, but what it might do.
     Being seven and too young to be left along, I would be dragged down to the Arts Center every Saturday in the heavy heat. I would watch as the ladies in pastel polyester pants would arrive, one by one, in boat-sized Fords and Lincolns. They would wrestle with the supplies in the passenger seat, pulling and tugging, all the while fighting with their overzealous, pink-bowed toy poodles to stay in the car.
     Most of the women would smile as they went by, first to me then to their reflection in the front door glass. Usually a touch to the teeth to remove some lipstick while the dogs yapped in the background. Mama always opened the door with a friendly, “Hey, how you doing?” letting the sweetness of her heavy Southern accent wrap around them.
     Before the class would start, Mama would come out, slipping a slice of cold air with her. She would sit down beside me on the scorching concrete steps with a lemon tea, half-melted ice floating on top. She rearranged her shorts to keep from burning herself, knocking off loose gravel that collected on her exposed thighs. Time and again, she would sit beside me, brushing my hair back off my face, trying to convince me to come in the air-conditioned coolness of the fake wood rooms. 
     She wanted me to sit still for one of her classes instead of waiting for her outside, feeling the tiny pin-pricks of heat and exhaustion of being along – she wanted me to experiment and be brave like the others.
     But I couldn’t. I always said no.
     She’d shake her head and go back inside, hurt, positive I just did not want to be with her. But it wasn’t true. I loved Mama, but I admit I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with her when she was like that, her swooping arms and graceful movements, so different from the woman I knew. A fist grabbed my insides and squeezed when I would watch her.
     Brave strokes were not what she made in front in front of her face when he thrashed his arms at her. Her wiry arms would instead wrap around her head. She would huddle in a corner while he stood over her, screaming her name, breathing out words I was not allowed to use, waving wildly, throwing his arms at her face, her arms, her body, anywhere he could hurt her. Sometimes with fists. Sometimes not. Sometimes his hand filled itself with the nearest instrument – a pillow, a book, a wrench. Wherever he could reach, whatever was nearest.
     I could not move to help her. Instead, I would lay waking in the night, listening carefully, fingering the handle of the butter knife I kept under my pillow – I was not old enough to be allowed to use the steak knives even at the dinner table.
     One night, I heard her, her voice different, more fearful, more desperate. I crept out of the bed and pressed my ear against the door. I could hear nothing then, not even her breathing. I pulled at the door slowly, making sure to not go further than an inch, otherwise I would wrestle awake an oil-hungry hinge.
     I could see her, her back against the wall. Her hands were still sweaty from clenching them tight over her; matted hair clumping together. Light from the kitchen bellied under the door. She breathed in deep, wiping her hand across her forehead. He had left her alone.
     I could hear him in the kitchen, clanking through drawers, the suck then pop as he opened the refrigerator. He would be hungry. Exercise always had that effect.
     She was trying to lift herself up with one hand when he came back around the corner, a gleaming flash of light in his hands. He pushed her back to the floor and crouched in front of her, drops of spit on his balloonish lip. He pushed his face into hers, grinding his temple against her sticky forehead. The light flashed again and then in front of her face. He held himself so close to her the barrel almost toughed both of their temples.
     “We’ll go together, baby. Isn’t that what you want? Huh? Be rid of me and you? Isn’t that what you want, hmmm?”
     Her arms dropped like doll parts, attached only with rubberbands, useless, at her sides. She was so quiet.
     “Please…,” she whispered to him.  “Please.”
     I was standing behind the door, nightgowned and wondering what it was she was asking him to do – to stop it, or to do it?
     He laughed, a crack of sound in the darkness. He reached for her head and pulled it back, looking almost as if he were cradling her in his hand. He started slowly, caressing her neck with the barrel. He let it glide languidly across her dark skin, her strong collarbone. I saw her shiver from the cold metal. He smiled to her, then drug it between her breasts while he watched her. His fluid movements stopped with the barrel pointed down, directly into her belly.
     “It wouldn’t take but one shot and I’d be rid of you both,” he said as she stared at the luminous flash of metal. “Just one shot.”
     She closed her eyes, her shoulders loosened. I watched her as she breathed, carefully. Slowly, she raised her lids, trailing the barrel, his hands, arms, face, eyes; she stopped. Her filmy gaze looked past his black slits.
     “Please,” she said again.
     He watched her eyes go wide as he drug the pistol down, between her legs, resting his other hand on her thigh. But she didn’t move. She only looked forward, one hair to this side of him.
     He wrapped his arm around her head and pushed at her face, holding it, pointing directly at his own. His meaty fingers were digging into her cheeks. A grin broke across his face.
     A shudder went through her.
     He let her head drop on the hardwood floor as he rose from the corner and laughed. Mama pulled herself up, her back against the wall now. Trembling, she had her eyes open, but still glazed and unfocused, still staring past him. His shadow engulfed her body as he glared down at her. With one swift movement, his foot flung out, kicking her where the gun lay between her legs. She crumpled into a ball, groaning, clutching her curving belly.
     “Fat bitch,” he muttered as he left the room.


     “Free yourself. Don’t be restrained by what is expected. Go boldly and daringly into your work,” she would still tell the blue-haired ladies who sat clinging to every word.
     Broad strokes she would make, colorful, but without once ever leaving a piece of herself on canvas; so crippled inside and unsteady. Boldly and daringly, she told them as she heard the definitions of her life come from a man she would never leave.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.