Gray is the Color of Lonely Street

It happened the other day, I tuned into a local Texas country and western music station on my way to the Laundromat (a part of the RV life style) and bounced down the road to Elvis singing about  “lonely street” in the song Heartbreak Hotel.

Remember his crooning “I found a new place to dwell, its down at the end of lonely street, at heartbreak hotel.”  Perhaps it’s the December time of year.  Within the last week or so I have had several long conversations with strangers; widows and widowers, divorcee’s, a woman, lonely, though living with her husband in a campground filled with people. Lonely men, lonely woman, we encounter people’s stories so often in campgrounds and count our blessings.  People open up, tell more than they may have wanted. It just pours out of them.  They are friendly but the nuances of their loneliness are hard to miss, their eyes often cast with a longing stare.

One widower stands out in my memory.  He had traveled with his wife and supported her as her Alzheimer’s condition progressed for several years.  How hard it was when she passed, but he found solace in continuing what they had done for years.  He showed us a sort of shrine that he has kept in her memory in the kitchen of the RV.

One man told us of his divorce with uncertainty in his expression, as if he did not quite yet believe it. He wanted to travel, she was tired of life in a trailer, so they each went in their own directions. He got the truck and trailer, but she “is costing me lots and lots of money,” he complained.  He volunteers (work camps) in campgrounds and lost no time in expressing his pride that day in having scrubbed and cleaned the bathrooms.  No need to feel sorry for him, his other duties get him out and about the campground, doing repairs, ground work and other chores he enjoys.  “Best of all”, he says, “I get to meet and greet people like you, from all walks of life who give me some reprieve from the loneliness.”

A woman decried her loneliness to me, seemingly opening up her inner soul to a stranger, even though she and her husband are together work-camping in Texas all winter long.  Her husband goes off daily doing his work and she stays home trying to keep busy, not choosing to work-camp and wishing they’d resume their travels.  “Forget staying put year after year in the same place,” she complained, “I still want to see the country.”

It is possible to be lonely, even among other people.  We reach out to folks when we can. “Come in for a drink, join us for a walk, sit with us and share stories. “ We count our blessings, of course, that we have our health, great energy and a quest for adventure.  None of us knows how long we have or what status we may face down the road.  But facing Elvis’s lonely street gives pause for introspection. 

How true it is that there is strength to be gained through other people by reaching out for human contact.  Perhaps that is the power behind the urge to open up to strangers;  receiving human kindness may be the pathway to turn down the next road away from lonely street. 

Ann Carol Goldberg

Seeking “Gems”

What place did you like most on your travels?–the most common question we hear referring to our motor home cross country treks.  Answers are hard to come by.  Picking one place  is impossible but we now have one more to add to the list; The Liberty Opry in Liberty, Texas, a top notch country music house tucked into a corner of Texas.  Visit www.libertyopry.com if you’d like to see pictures or the performance schedule.  For you map lovers, Liberty is located north and slightly east of Houston and 45 minutes south of Livingston, (another corner of Texas where Paul and I frequently hang out in an Escapee membership campground.)

The ad for Liberty Opry appeared in the campground brochure.  As great fans of country, western and folk music, we called. They generally perform every Saturday night at 7:00 but for New Year’s Eve (2010-1) they featured a Friday night 4 hour long show . We reserved two tickets (would you believe at only $11.00 per person) and drove the 45 minutes to Liberty.  The theatre is located on the town square and was built in 1938 as a movie house. It was converted many years later into a performance hall with classic stage and theatre seating. Next to the theatre is a large hall serving as a cafe, sales counter for CD’s and such and collection center for local food banks. (I wish we had known to bring canned food to donate).

We had good seats, in row G and settled in to be entertained. Our row mate was a lovely woman, native to Liberty.  She told us about the history of the Opry and we knew we were in for a real treat!!

The people of Liberty and in our experience, all of Texas are friendly and helpful to strangers.  As we drove through Liberty, there seemed to be more retail shops , businesses and malls per 8500 residents than one would expect. They must love to shop and even have a Walmart.  I believe that every one of those business advertises in the playbill and lends their support to the theatre.

THE SHOW features a “resident” country swing-style band of talented and professional musicians who love what they do and are glad to have a venue in which to perform. The bill featured 3 performers for the New Year’s Eve show+ plus the master of ceremony and his comedy side kick “Booger Lee,”  The performers were Donna B, the Ebony Cowgirl and wonderful singer, Jabbo Cannon Liberty native and cousin of our row mate, raised in the Gospel tradition and Heath Spencer Philip, the “energizing bunny” Elvis/60’s style rocker and over-the-top performer. There were two intermissions where we could mingle with the performers, people watch and talk to other attendees.

The hardest part of listening to the show was staying in my seat.  I habitually bounce and react to upbeat rhythm be it classical, rock and roll, country or folk; I can’t sit still. How many times I came close to grabbing Paul and dancing in the aisle. I could have–should have I am sure but, not knowing the “protocol” for this theatre, did not want to be first. (no one else did either).  Shucks, I have regrets, I love to dance.

We heard the likes of Ring of Fire, One of These Days, All I Have to Do is Dream, 15 Tons, Nadine, Unchained Melody, Jailhouse Rock, Stagger Lee (you get the era) and finished at midnight with the audience standing to AULD LANG SYNE.  The 4 hours melted away. The locals stayed for the after show buffet, racing into line even after they were asked to let the musicians eat first.

Paul and I chose to head on home, setting the GPS for the campground and singing and reliving the show.  We were even greeted by a fireworks display on the way.  Liberty Opry is another addition to that list of what constitutes “Americana”.

Ann Carol Goldberg