Monthly Archives: December 2022

The Prequel That Disappeared

As I was saying last Sunday, when our big kids were teens, Jude was very online, busily teaching himself computer programming languages. One day, I happened by his desk and heard some music that captured me immediately. “Who is this?” “Porcupine Tree.” That moment was my introduction to the musical love of my life, Prog Rock.

Porcupine Tree’s leader is Steven Wilson, quite the musical prodigy, who has created unique music over the course of many years. In 2015, Greg was working in Phoenix, and I heard that Steven Wilson’s tour was going to play in Phoenix and I thought it would be fun to fly out and spend a couple days with Greg and go to the concert.

After the brilliant concert (Hand. Cannot. Erase. tour), I started looking at the other projects of the band members, including Craig Blundell (drummer). The rabbit trail that I went down about Craig introduced me to a band called Frost* as he also played drums for them. At that time, they had two albums, but their first one, Milliontown, captured me immediately at the time. “It had me at hello.”

Greg and I make ourselves very grateful for having found the Imago Dialogue and Radical Honesty, two separate concepts that work very well together for us. With the Dialogue, over the course of a couple of years with an excellent therapist, we were able to extract ourselves from the power struggle that most (all?) couples find themselves in at some point.

You can love each other with your whole hearts and still have these sticking points that are seemingly unresolvable. Once we learned the Dialogue concepts, we started being able to really hear each other, empathize and validate. Being heard? Empathized with? Validated? about all the things we’ve tried to communicate to each other? Priceless.

Then along came Radical Honesty. The thumbnail sketch here is that most of us hide our true selves in a lot of areas in our lives. I personally would say I rarely shared any “difficult” feelings and often said yes when I wanted to say no! Attending the RH workshop separately, and then together in October, this year has been a rich experience of beginning to share both appreciations and resentments with each other. We NEVER said “I resent you for …” before we found Radical Honesty.

Expressing resentments while paying attention to what is happening in my body helps me make a connection about the sensations (tight stomach, clenched jaw, heavy shoulders) with the emotions that are co-existent with them.

Frost* were to tour in April, this same set of five concerts. I knew about the concerts and had a desire for Greg and me to go, but we couldn’t quite pull it off and then the tour got cancelled anyway. When I found out their tour was rescheduled for November, I knew I wanted to go, and I imagined I would go by myself because of the short notice, Greg having to work, etc. But I imagined this would be a huge thing to pull off on such short notice.

When I knew for sure that I wanted to do this (Monday, November 21, 2022), we were preparing to go to Ithaca for Thanksgiving. Greg was out with Kepler when he received a text from me saying I would like to go to England the following Saturday (November 26, 2022). He did not respond by text and when he got home, I imagined I was seeing a very angry Greg.

Now here’s the thing about emotions. They don’t necessarily make any sense whatsoever logically. To wit: Greg was furious with me for texting that to him and putting emojis in the message. He also imagined making the plans would take me out of really participating with the holidays with family. I asked if he had any resentments to express. Spoiler alert: he did. All I can say is that because of the work we have done, he was able to express all of it, and I was able to witness what he was expressing.

When you do this kind of expression, what happens is you come to a place of forgiveness in your body because you expressed it until you are complete. While some people raise their voices when they express resentments, Kepler is usually nearby, so we very intensely, but also mostly calmly say what we want to say.

The main things with noticing and reporting is your emotions do not get to stay stuck in your body, but are rather expressed and the intensity is discharged. We got through the conversation. I hadn’t known that it would bother him so much to send him a text, and I’m still not exactly sure I understand the piece about the emojis, and I am so grateful he told me what was going on with him.

The next morning before we got up, I asked him about England, what he was thinking about the idea. He said, “Oh, I thought we had that all figured out.” He was all in favor of me going. (NB: Before the Dialogue and especially before Radical Honesty, we would simply not have been able to resolve the conflict and I definitely would not have been going to the UK). I tried to think about things I might need to quickly find to take to Ithaca because I wanted to fly from JFK, so I packed my passport and a couple travels items, and off we went to Ithaca. This is Tuesday. I have no arrangements made yet.

On the drive to Ithaca, I first buy my concert tickets for the five concerts. Next I arrange my flight. Then I need to get a britrail pass to ride those lovely trains around the country from place to place. Greg encourages me to get a first class coach pass, which I do. Finally, I search “lodging near [venues where Frost* is playing].” I am able to make lodging arrangements.

By the time we reach Ithaca, my trip is pretty much planned and I’m leaving for the UK on Saturday. Mitzi (Greg’s sister) and Vanessa (our niece) help us brainstorm how to get to JFK on Saturday. I end up taking a bus down to the city, and then making a transfer to the subway, and eventually finding my way to JFK.

Greg and Kepler headed back to Ohio on Saturday morning, and Mitzi and I did some last minute shopping for travel size thises and thats, and she walked me to the bus two blocks away. And I was off on an adventure of a lifetime.

Almost there!

I am the only passenger in this wing of the airport
My own private LaGuardia
Gate 68 is at the land’s end

While making “plans” for this trip, I blithely decided to fly back to JFK, then hop over to LGA to catch a morning flight direct to CVG rather than staying at JFK and only having the choice to travel for 6-8 hours today with a significant layover.

So the thing is, LGA pretty much closes for the night. Security closes, there are no humans at the ticket desk, and besides the floor polisher, only an occasional worker walks by now and again.

How thrilled was I to arrive at closed security and realize my flight wasn’t for 8 hours yet.

Being the resourceful Frostie that I am, I spied a Delta luggage carrier. I blame traveling for my fuzzy brain that forgot to take a picture of my snug little home away from home for the night. Big enough to hold me and my bags, I sat down and wondered if someone was going to come along and inform me I couldn’t be there.

Edited to add:

I was feeling a little exposed right out there in the (empty) security waiting area, so I found a little nook where I could be hidden from most people.

I realized at some point that while I might have no options for food or water until security opened, I was probably going to need a bathroom.

Imagine my surprise when there happened to be one right next to the security area. This entire area is new and very clean, including the bathroom. This is important for later.

A brainstorm! I decided to see if the handicapped toilet could be used as a secure hotel room for a few hours. Imagine my delight when me and my portable home fit right in there without coming into contact with the actual toilet.

Suddenly, as I slid the lock bolt into the slot, I felt safe and secure and even thought I would be ok going to sleep for awhile. It was about 12:30 and I didn’t think security would open until 5am.

About the best that can be said for using a luggage cart as a bed is it certainly does keep you off the floor. But a Sleep Number bed it is not, unless there is a number called Concrete.

I set my alarm in my en suite for 4:30 am. Lo and behold, at about 330, Poppy and her granddaughter Chatty Cathy came into the Salle de Bain Hotel.

This is when I learned that the light on the ceiling glows red if the stall is occupied and green if not. Chatty was mystified why the light over my en suite would be red since she had seen nor heard anyone.

Time to get up, I decided. Poppy and Chatty gracefully covered their shock at this (homeless?) person exiting the handicapped stall.

Thankfully security was now open at 330am and my security staff took care of screening and then they sent me off to my own private airport corridors.

I make myself amused for so many reasons. First, unless you were there (and I definitely did not see you), I imagine you are imagining something awful. Sleeping in a bathroom?? What is this madness??? Please believe when I say this was definitely the best option I could see.

So now I wait. I’ve made it to the gate and have about four hours before takeoff. Some of these food places better open pretty soon as some part of me is insisting it needs food.

Coming to you at 4:12 am from Gate 68, I remain very truly yours, Siouxsie.

Planes and trains and buses, oh my!

Ok now look. I don’t know what those three words conjure up in your brain but let me tell you, in the UK they contain multitudes.

We barely have (passenger) trains in Ohio. I suppose Amtrak rolls through now and again. But obviously no rail system. And we do have buses, but they don’t come out as far as we live and anyway I have a car so who needs a bus.

In the UK, my friends, public transportation is a thing. And if you’re new to it all, deep concentration and focus are required, along with a real go-with-the-flow attitude. Not because the trains are late — they rarely are; but because figuring out which train to take is a lesson in persistence. It helps if you know some serious geography as well.

When you don’t know the location of every last city and town , then the fun begins. Let’s say the towns are called Morgle, Skiffer, Pork, Chop, On, A, Sunny, and Day. The train will advertise it’s going to Day. But you need the train going to Pork so you have to watch the many screens to figure out which train is going to stop at Pork. (NB: not actual city names. These are lyrics to a Hank the Cowdog song.)

Really, the amount of detail to describe would probably be tedious to read. So I’ll just give some highlights.

First of all, every single train and bus I took was a first for me, so I made myself attentive and humble as I for sure wanted to get on the right train or bus.

Some embarkment points required a walk from point A to point B, none of which were very easy to find, of course. Apple Maps is da bomb but I always found getting started in the right direction to challenge my spatial intelligence. Last night I walked .4 miles in the wrong direction and was rescued by a panhandler.

“Can you ‘elp me, miss?” Very focused on getting to the venue for concert 5, I replied, “No, I’m actually trying to help myself!” He asked where I was trying to go and told me to turn around and go the opposite direction. The walk to the venue was already a mile so I alertly added on another .8 miles!

I walked/jogged by a number of stores and my stomach was saying “girl, get me some food. I’m not trying to go hungry until tomorrow.” Finally, after her third entreaty, I stopped in a store and hoped I didn’t accidentally buy myself dog food since everything has a different name here.

I did make it to the venue in time to be about 7th in line. Met another American in line. The “small world” connections really amazed me here. I met so many good and kind people, like I said before, and that kept up throughout the entire trip.

One other transportation tidbit: last night was the only night my hotel was not close to the venue. Getting there required just a shuttle from hotel, a one hour train tide, and that aforementioned one mile walk that I made into a 1.8 mile walk/run.

Getting back to hotel however was much more complicated. First step, walk to different train station, jump on train to Moorgate, then with only five minutes, board a different train. I made myself somewhat stressed about this short transfer time because I’m not a complete novice, but it takes time to figure out where things are.

I made myself very relieved to arrive at the first train station and find I was able to catch an earlier train to Moorgate. Yay, I was going to have more than five minutes but all the people who got off at Moorgate and were catching my train were hoofing it and we all helped each other figure it out.

I screen shotted the train stops so I could meticulously track the progress of the train

I did arrive to catch the second train in time. From that one I needed to disembark and then catch the “N140” bus.

When you exit the train station, you have to find the bus stop. Surprise! There’s a stop on both sides of the street! Would have helped to know which way was east and which was west but of course I didn’t.

Stumbled to the one on this side of the street and thought I detected info about the N140. 24 minutes to its arrival. Alright, cool, it’s cold but if I manage to catch this bus I’m almost back to hotel. With about 7 minutes left to wait my bus info disappears from the sign.

I’m momentarily flummoxed. A very tall, well-dressed handsome man is talking on his phone and he is apparently in the same boat. I approached a working man who indicated he doesn’t hear well and asked what do.

While THM and I were discussing this dilemma, after about five minutes the info for N140 mysteriously reappears. We all laugh and breathe sighs of relief and the British working man is actually very kind and helpful and celebrated with us that we weren’t actually stranded at the Hayes and Harlington bus stop.

Bus arrives and I want to kiss the bus driver but this is frowned on. Nor would I actually do it but man it was a relief.

Bus stops screen shot. When you aren’t 100% certain your internet will work, you plan ahead.

From Nene Rd, I had a short walk to my hotel. I blessed my hotel’s little heart for its excellent signage.

Except it was dark.

So pretty much, adventure after adventure. But I did it! With help from others and some good old fashioned problem solving but I am at the airport waiting for my flight so I think I managed the public transportation system here just fine!

The concerts

I’ve been thinking about what to write about the concerts. First off, yes I am glad I came! Each day and each concert has had its own gifts, but how to write about them in a meaningful way?

Photo by Simon M Trott

The man with the guitar is John Mitchell. The drummer is Craig Blundell. Two more band members (Jem and Nath) aren’t in the frame. John has several projects and through all of them, I hear a thoughtful, reflective man who has a way with his words about human existence.

Jem (Godfrey — keyboards) and John write lyrics that capture the inevitability of death and the journey through life. “Afraid of all that might have happened, and all that never came to be.”

Jem’s hands are a national treasure, if you ask me, and I love how he layers sounds and combines textures. Between his keyboards and vocals and John’s guitar and vocals, and their lyrics, I make myself certain these guys somehow get what it’s like to be me.

Isn’t that what art is? A creative endeavor that touches people in ways that meet them where they are?

Sometimes John’s guitar will enter the song with a solo and I just have to close my eyes and raise my fist into the air in solidarity with the beauty and poignancy. (Example: halfway through Black Light Machine)

I recognize this same longing and fulfillment with John’s other projects, especially Lonely Robot. I appreciate the artistic musical sophistication and richness in the music and lyrics these guys create.

Their opening act on this tour-ette (as Jem calls it) Quantum Pig, are a thoughtful, intelligent duo whose lyrics and themes resonate with me deeply. What are we doing to our home, “Sagan’s dot,” our Mother Earth, in the name of “progress?”

I imagine the music of Frost* is thoughtful, reflective, resonant, angry, true, clever, British, universal, and human. Yeah, I love this band.

British train station

Platform cleaner at Bath train station
Chatty Cath the British Pigeon of the Day
Spires in the fog

Of all the places I was on my trip — airplanes, trains, hotels, concert halls, train stations, shops, walking from place to place, a majority was spent on trains and in train stations.

Besides the concerts each day, considerable time was spent planning the route to the hotel, the route to the venue and back, and later, the route back to the trains

So my days went like this: charge phone as much as possible, plan routes while charging phone, ride train to the right city (charge phone on train) go to concert with a fully charged phone, go to sleep and let the phone charge, sleep as late as possible, wake up and plan transport for today, ride train, etc. Make sure phone is charged.

Route planning got easier as the week went on until the last concert when I had to avail myself of multiple modes of transportation. Each day, I spent some time sitting in the open air stations. The morning I took these photos, the air was crisp with a light layer of fog covering everything as the morning commuters waited for their trains.

The trains are a way of life in England. My experience of the train system was that it is a unifier for the country. Nothing’s perfect, and there are train stoppages and routes that are truncated or cancelled owing to staffing issues, but the staff were always so helpful in guiding passengers to alternate routes to get to their destination.

I found this poem by Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston) on Twitter after I’d already posted this blog but it’s too perfect not to include.

We are a much larger nation with many more people but I wonder what is possible to create that would make transportation more possible for people, especially people who cannot afford the costs of owning and maintaining a car. Seems like a good project for one of our multi-billionaires to tackle! Just imagine!