Daniel's Esperanza

Daniel's Esperanza

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mid-South Arts Against Hunger

The second annual Mid-South Arts Against Hunger food drive to benefit the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis will be underway soon.  Officially scheduled to run from November 27 until December 21, patrons of participating arts organizations are asked to bring non-perishable food items when attending events during this time.  Some groups are hosting free admission specials in exchange for donations. Collection boxes will be at each location.
The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis will be showing the holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street, on December 20 with free admission to anyone bringing a non-perishable food item for the food drive. Santa Claus will be on hand for photo opportunities. Patrons of the Orpheum can also simply donate during the entire run of the drive when attending anything at the theatre, and at the Halloran Centre.
The Dixon Gallery & Gardens is offering free admission until Christmas to anyone who brings three canned good items for the drive.
In addition to the Orpheum Theatre Group, and the Dixon Gallery & Gardens, some of the other arts organizations participating this year are Opera Memphis, Arts Memphis, Ballet Memphis, New Ballet Ensemble, University of Memphis College of Communications & Fine Arts, Brooks Museum, and the Blues Foundation.  
Many thanks to all of these great groups for participating and for helping to ease the pain of hunger this holiday season. For more information, check the community events calendar at www.midsouthfoodbank.org.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The War of the Worlds

Between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. on October 30, 1938, listeners tuning in to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio broadcast thought they were listening to live orchestral music from Park Plaza in New York.  What they weren’t expecting to hear were special bulletins and interviews interrupting the hour-long program.
Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars…Ladies and gentlemen…Seismograph registered shock of almost earthquake intensity occurring within a radius of twenty miles of Princeton. Please investigate…Could this occurrence possibly have something to do with the disturbances observed on the planet Mars? Ladies and gentlemen…It is reported that at 8:50 p.m. a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey…we have dispatched a special mobile unit to the scene…Ladies and gentlemen…object itself doesn’t look very much like a meteor…looks more like a huge cylinder…I’ve never seen anything like it…Just a minute…something’s happening! Ladies and gentlemen…this is terrific…the top is beginning to rotate like a screw…she’s moving…the darn thing’s unscrewing…keep back, keep back! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed…SCREAMS AND UNEARTHLY SHRIEKS…now the whole field’s caught fire…EXPLOSION THEN DEAD SILENCE.
Then a little bit later, “Ladies and gentlemen…I’m speaking from the roof of the Broadcasting Building, New York City. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to evacuate the city as the Martians approach. Estimated in the last two hours three million people have moved out along the road to the north, Hutchison River Parkway still kept open for motor traffic. Avoid bridges to Long Island…hopelessly jammed. All communication with Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. No more defenses. Our army wiped out…artillery, air force, everything wiped out. This may be the last broadcast. We’ll stay here to the end…People are holding service below us…in the cathedral.
Now imagine what might have been going through listeners’ minds who had tuned in to the program midway through it, hearing claims that aliens from Mars had invaded New Jersey.  With the concerns of World War II imminent, hysteria and panic ensued; the phone lines at CBS were jammed with callers, and police officers arrived at the studio ready to shut down the production.  It wasn’t until the close of that long hour that all was revealed to be what it really was: a Halloween hoax, orchestrated by a young Orson Welles.  The above was taken as excerpts from the radio transcript airing that night.
The twenty-three-year-old Welles directed and narrated an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ (no relation) science fiction classic, The War of the Worlds, for an episode of the Mercury Theatre on the Air, complete with live bulletins and sound effects. While the novel’s aliens invaded Great Britain, Welles and company had the Martians landing in the United States with actors reacting to the fictional tale.  It stirred up a lot of trouble for the network and the actors, with the Federal Communications Commission launching an investigation into Welles that would eventually be dropped.  The actor even lamented that he feared his career was over.
Legend of the panic escalated and grew over the years.  Decades later, some say the panic was nothing more than myth and hype created mostly by newspapers taking vengeance against broadcasters. They argued that the Mercury Theatre on the Air had few listeners, and the newspapers sensationalized the coverage to place doubt with advertisers about the integrity of radio broadcasts.  It seemed to be about revenue.
Orson Welles didn’t disappear; he lived until the age of seventy, working in theatre, film and radio.  I first learned about the early radio broadcast during a film class in college.  We researched Welles and watched his 1941 classic, Citizen Kane (with Welles’ character based on newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst). Told in flashback, the movie is about a reporter who goes in search of discovering the meaning of Kane’s dying word, “Rosebud”.  While I won’t give away the meaning behind it, I do recall being rather close in what I thought it to be. I also remember thinking Orson Welles (as co-screenwriter) was very clever with that script; some probably believe he was just as clever in what he did with that radio broadcast three years earlier, even though he claimed there was no intent behind it.
Finally, as we near the 79th anniversary of that infamous broadcast which instilled fear and belief that Martians were walking on earth, I’ll end with the final statement of the transcript.  Also, Happy Halloween, everyone.  May there be no Martians threatening tricks this All Hallows’ Eve.
Orson Welles:  This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be.  The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! Starting now, we couldn’t soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night…so we did the best next thing.  We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C.B.S.  You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn’t mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business.  So, goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight.  That grinning, glowing globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian…it’s Hallowe’en.”

Part of the transcript for the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds


  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Montana's Big Sky

The first indication of warning was from the Montana Department of Transportation.  The portable road sign with its changeable message flashed, “Wildfire Situation Ahead. Do not stop along the shoulders. Reduced speed enforced.”  The next message was about a mile farther, painted on a wooden plank and propped against a tree in someone’s front yard.  It read: “Thank you firefighters. Stay safe.” 
Unbeknownst to us, we were driving into a wildfire zone.  I suppose under normal situations, the haze and smoke would have been indicators, but we’d been in Montana for several days and were leaving Glacier National Park, which had been dealing with recent wildfires that started the day before we arrived.  As a result of a severe thunderstorm, 150 lightning strikes sparked several wildfires due to very dry conditions, so the haze had been part of our visit.  Three fires in the park are still burning, with officials speculating that the larger one won’t be completely contained until the first snowfall of the season.
Sperry Chalet on July 21 - Photo by Bret Bouda
But this particular wildfire had been burning longer and continues to spread.  The Rice Ridge Fire in the Lolo National Forest started July 24.  It, too, was triggered by lightning.  Driving south along Highway 83 and nearing the town of Seeley Lake, we saw and smelled what residents had been dealing with for a while.  As one local said to us, shrugging, “You get used to it, but it’s frustrating.  What are you going to do? Lightning.”
As of this writing, the Rice Ridge Fire is still burning, consuming over 139,500 acres and the town of Seeley Lake has been evacuated.  Its residents not only have the worry of what might happen to their homes and businesses, they also have been breathing some unhealthy and toxic air for weeks.  Yet very little about this or any of the forty-eight active wildfires that are ravaging the state have been reported nationally.
Sperry Chalet/Sprague Wildfire - Glacier Natl Park Photo
Our visit to Montana originated in Salt Lake City, Utah.  As my husband and I drove closer to Idaho, the haze became part of the landscape and stayed with us until we headed home from North Dakota.  Except for one afternoon.  Clear visibility occurred the day after some heavy rains cleared the smoke for a bit in Glacier National Park.  It briefly revealed to us what I had traveled there to see.  Stunning vistas, rugged terrain and Montana’s big sky.  However, those rains didn’t contain one little fire.  From the shores of Lake McDonald at Apgar Village during those clear-sky hours, we saw the Sprague fire smoldering just behind some peaks, its smoke rising into the sky as if being released from a smokestack or chimney.  Nothing more.  However, it became a lot more.  It has now burned over 14,000 acres, destroying a National Historic Landmark, Sperry Chalet (built 1914), in the park and forcing early closure of nearby McDonald Lodge and the west entrance to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  It’s the fire that some think that only Mother Nature can entirely contain with snowfall.  That might seem fitting since Mother Nature was its cause.
My iPhone photos of Lake McDonald 
I had originally planned for this blog post to be about our visit to Montana, with descriptions of the beautiful scenery accompanied by photographs I had taken.  I couldn’t wait to see “Big Bend” along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, its carpet of wildflowers leading down to a valley, with four separate mountains and peaks jutting against blue sky and white clouds along the horizon.  It wasn’t to be. The breathtaking drive up to Logan Pass in one of the park’s official Red Buses (something I highly recommend doing given the narrowness of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the amount of traffic on it) was special.  But “Big Bend” couldn’t offer the usual spectacular view, as haze and clouds hung low like curtains shuttering away the setting behind it.  Logan Pass was the same.  Mother Nature’s theatre was dark.  Still, glimpses of the grandeur were there, better caught with my eyes and my imagination, if not with my camera.  And while I had hoped for more photo opportunities of that big sky, I feel it was good to see first-hand what was happening, and unfortunately what was to come.   
Montana is burning.  As are Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.  Over eight million acres burned thus far; people, wildlife, homes, buildings and livelihoods continue to be affected, with air quality unfit in many places.  Lives have been lost. And the word needs to spread, just as rampantly as those fires have.  The nation’s attention has been focused on the hurricane devastations in the south, and rightly so.  But there is need and attention north and west, and it’s a desperate situation.
In addition to The American Red Cross, there are other donation and giving opportunities available in Montana such as The Missoula United Way, the 406 Family Aid Foundation, Garfield County Fire Foundation Relief Fund (via fundly.com), Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department (on its Facebook page), Lolo MT Community Outreach Group, Eureka Chamber of Commerce and the Libby Ministerial Association. The same exists for all of the other states affected, as well.  Simply do a google search to find what’s best for you.  Everything helps, and pass the word.  Share the need, this post, news articles and the like to your Facebook and Twitter pages.  Tell your friends and families.  Hopefully, the media will take notice.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Person Grows Old While Waiting for Her Book to Get Published

My manuscript for Williamsburg Hill
The month has almost slipped away and I've yet to make a blog post for August, so here it is. I'd planned on sharing some things about a recent trip I took to Montana and Glacier National Park (including info on wildfires, smoke and haze, too), but I've only written a couple of paragraphs, so hopefully it'll be ready for September.  Other things have occupied my time and mind, so I've not been able to finish the post yet. Updates on my work will have to fill this space for now.

My book, Williamsburg Hill, continues to be considered. The manuscript remains in the possession of literary agents and publishers and the timeframe is out of my hands. Truth: A person grows old while waiting for her book to get published.  However, I've been working on some other projects.  I wrote a blog post recently called "Stardust" that's actually a short story. It's an idea of where my next book will go, and the book is in the outlining/planning/research stage, but I'm almost ready to go with it.  I'll have to prioritize with this one though, as it's competing with a couple of other ideas: rewriting a book (that has never been published) that I'd finished about fifteen years ago into a stage play; and I've an idea for a musical, so I'm close to starting the book for it.

I continue to add photographs I've taken to Fine Art America. Please visit my page at www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com to view them.  Any purchases are always appreciated.

My books Daniel's Esperanza, Funny Pages, and Billy's First Dance are still available in paperback and as ebooks. The easiest place to find them is on Amazon.  I appreciate those purchases, as well.  If you're inclined to leave positive reviews for them, give shout-outs and such, all the better. Thank you.

Finally, I posted an abbreviated version of this on Twitter recently (hey, you only have so many characters there):

Things aren't always as they seem or appear.  Simply having an internet platform doesn't make you an authority on something; the ability to make comments online doesn't make you an expert either.  Neither of these gives anyone the right to harass, make threats or ruin reputations or lives.  Think before you speak, type, or "fly off the handle".  Words can do damage.

We should all remember and live by this. As always, thanks for reading my blog.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lake Winnepesaukah

When my daughter was in college, she spent a summer working at Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  Calling itself the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”, it has seventeen coasters in addition to nineteen thrill rides.  Given that billing, I suppose the family and kid oriented rides in the park don’t garner as much attention, but there is something for everyone.  I saw this when we returned to collect her at the end of that memorable summer.
I should add that my daughter loves roller coasters so it was probably a dream job for her at the time.  She returned to the park recently for a fun weekend with her husband, and I couldn’t help strolling down memory lane, recalling my own amusement park experience.  While I like to think her love for coasters might be from me in some small way, it really isn’t.  She also loves horror movies, and well, that definitely is not from me, but coasters/horror films/being scared out of your wits might go hand-in-hand.  I do, however, have fond memories of an amusement park that I grew up loving.
At Lake Winnepesaukah
In 1924, Carl and Minette Dixon purchased approximately 100 acres around a nine-acre lake in Rossville, Georgia (just under ten miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) with the intent of creating a family swimming and picnic park.  On June 1, 1925, it opened to 5,000 guests.  A year later, the Dixons added a concrete swimming pool which was one of the largest in the south and the amusement park was founded.  Named “Lake Winnepesaukah” (its Native American meaning being “bountiful waters” or “beautiful lake of the highlands”), the park saw its first ride within the year.  The Boat Chute, designed and built by the park’s founder, is the oldest and last mill chute water ride in the U.S. according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association.  It remains one of the most popular rides in the park today.
Staples of the park followed: Mad Mouse Roller Coaster (1960), Cannonball Roller Coaster (1967), Antique Carousel (1968), and The Castle (1969).  While the swimming pool was eventually removed, the rides took its place, and no one seemed to mind.  In addition, the Ferris Wheel, Alpine Way (Sky Lift), Antique Cars, and Bumper Cars can still be enjoyed today.
As a child, I remember the Kiddie Boats, Swings, Motorcycles, Train, and picnics under the shelter.  The spectacle to see was always the beautiful Carousel, or “Merry-Go-Round” as I remember calling it.  It is one of the oldest and largest carousels in the United States and features 68 hand-carved wooden horses, and was originally featured in Atlanta in 1916. I loved it even when I grew taller and brave enough for the “older” rides.
While the wooden roller coaster was recognized for its vertical drops and speeds up to 50 mph, I gravitated toward the rides that would spin and fling.  The Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl and Bobsled (now known as the Matterhorn) provided my fix for thrills at the amusement park level, but my favorite ride was called “The Spider”.  Spinning, flinging, up, down and all around, simultaneously.  Other than those who got sick on it, who couldn’t love it?  While I can proudly say that I never lost my lunch, I was once the unfortunate recipient of someone who wasn’t so lucky.  Maybe that’s why the beloved ride is no longer in operation.
As for those roller coasters (and this is for my daughter):  if I had to choose a favorite, I would head south a couple of hours. The Mindbender at Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta was it for me.  Three loops.  I suppose that’s all anyone needs to say about it, but by today’s standards it is probably rather mild.  And while the large mega-parks no longer appeal to me because of huge crowds and long lines, I do have a special fondness for Six Flags Over Georgia.  Hey, when you got to see Cheap Trick in concert there in the early 1980s as part of your admission price, how can it not be special?  But give me Lake Winnie any day.
Lake Winnepesaukah holds many memories for me; it was my introduction to amusement parks, and provided a lot of childhood fun.  It was special and something to look forward to during those carefree days of summer.  Years later when I worked in television, I was at Lake Winnie producing a television show and judging a weekly “Battle of the Bands” competition. Fast forward a few years and I, too, introduced my small children to the excitement of the amusement park rides.  I watched while they rode and laughed on the same rides of my youth.  Full circle.
For over 90 years, the park continues to be family-owned and operated with nearly 40 rides and attractions. A five-acre waterpark was added just a few years ago.  Lake Winnepesaukah was named by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of America’s Top 10 Family Amusement Parks.   For more information, visit the website at www.lakewinnie.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

More Photos on Fine Art America

As I wait indefinitely to hear from agents and publishers regarding the status of my latest book, Williamsburg Hill, I've been editing and adding photographs to my Fine Art America account at www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com.

The most current image is shown here.  I took this photograph last week at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado.  Near Denver, this 15,000 acre urban refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is home to over 300 species of wildlife. I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful place, and for more information check out the website at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/rocky_mountain_arsenal.

Thanks for reading this blog and for viewing my photographs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Mighty Woman

Corinne Smith (Photo: The Detroit Times)
For nearly a decade, I lived next-door to a woman in Michigan who was a pioneer of her time.  I never knew it until now.  Corinne Smith was elderly and retired, very independent, lived alone, and didn’t share anything about her life.  She was reclusive, yet friendly when we saw her.  If there was ever a need for her to ring our doorbell for something, she wouldn’t come inside, preferring to talk to us on our front porch.  Likewise, when we wanted to check on her or needed to share something with her, it was done just outside her front door.  We were never invited into her house.  Assistance and help were rarely accepted from us, yet occasionally we would find a grocery bag of fresh vegetables from her garden placed inside our screened porch.  It seemed she appreciated our efforts.
We lived in Grosse Pointe, a walkable community with sidewalks fronting neighborhood yards on both sides of every street; a grocery store and retail shops were just a few blocks away.  Every day Corinne walked somewhere, often with scarf over her head and the ends tied under her chin to keep her hair in place.  It’s a visual memory I carry about her and I always wondered where she was going.  Sometimes she pulled a folding shopping cart behind her; most of the time she was without it.  I later learned many of those walks were to places where she volunteered, something she did from the moment she reached retirement age.  I’ve no idea if she ever drove a car as we never saw her behind the wheel, but given her past it is very likely she did at one time.
When we moved to Chicago in 2004, she wished us well and told us goodbye.  That was the last contact we ever had with Corinne, and I just recently discovered that she passed away in 2015.  She was ninety-four, and her obituary stated that “even as her health declined, Miss Smith resolved to live with as little assistance as possible.”  It was her obituary that surprised me.
A journalist with a Master’s Degree, she traveled extensively in the 1940s and 1950s, served with the American Red Cross in such countries as India, China, Japan, Korea and North Africa; travel writing took her overseas, as well.  In 1952, she became “one of the few women ever to ride in a jet plane,” according to a Detroit Times article.  She worked as a writer and editor for the Wyandotte Tribune, Detroit Times and Detroit Free Press, eventually having her own column.  Retiring in 1986, she was once quoted as saying, “I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel all around the world. Not many people can list the countries they haven’t been to easier than the ones they have been to.”
When you’re a vital and active person walking through that door of retirement, hearing it slam shut as you cross the threshold might cause the outlook for the rest of your life to be a little sobering.  This would be especially so for a woman who, as far as I know, never married and had no children.  I often wondered how lonely she might be, yet she lived a healthy and independent life for twenty-nine years after retiring. 
I wish I had known this information about her when we were neighbors, even though given her solitary lifestyle, knowing wouldn’t have changed much, if anything.  It’s doubtful that any knowledge of her past would alter how and when she wished to interact with us, and it would not have modified her guarded privacy.  As a former colleague once said of her, “She was a trailblazer…ahead of her time.  She was a wonderful role model, a wonderful mentor.”
Saying such words to Corinne Smith would not have mattered much to her, however, having the opportunity to do so held greater meaning for me.  I hope she at least knew of that trail she blazed, and the barriers that were dented due to her life.  It meant something to women in general and to me; to the little girls who looked toward the future with promise and hope, wondering what they were capable of doing, she was a role model.  How I wish I could’ve thanked her.
  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stardust

This is the first time I've written a short story that potentially wraps up a book that's still in the outlining process.  In other words, I haven't started the manuscript yet, but I'm giving a bit of a back story at the end of it.  At this point, I don't have plans for the book to be titled Stardust, and I don't really know where it's going until I start writing it.  I just have an idea and I'm sharing part of it (but the protagonist will see Ava again).

Nat King Cole's version of Stardust (originally composed by Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics by Mitchell Parish) was the song I had in my head when writing this.  Thanks to all for reading, and as always, copyright applies (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).


Stardust

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson) 


“That’s yours,” he told the waitress as she brought his change to the table. 
“Thanks,” she smiled, trying to strike up the nerve for conversation.  “It’s just that me and the others, well, we’re certain we’ve seen ye somewhere before.”
“I’ve often been told I look like somebody,” he replied, shrugging. “Casualty of having a common face, I guess.”
“Aye, a casualty maybe, but your face isn’t common, I promise ye,” she winked and sashayed back to the counter, whispering to two other women who had been working that afternoon.  They glanced his way.
He thought they were around his daughter’s age, much too young to remember who he was, and he certainly didn’t look as he did three decades earlier at the height of when everyone knew his name.  He’d primarily stayed out of the public eye by choice since then and was photographed very little.  It would surprise him if they knew.
Then as if he needed reminding, the background music in the little cafĂ© nudged him toward his purpose.  The song began, stirring memories.  He grabbed his keys, got his coffee to go and strode outside.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

         He walked the sidewalks of Pitlochry, glancing into stores, recalling how the town used to be, and delaying the inevitable.  He had been in Scotland a little over twenty-four hours, yet still hadn’t found the courage to see her.  The flight from L.A. had been tiresome and when he landed in Edinburgh, all he wanted to do was go to the hotel, catch up on his sleep and figure out what he’d say once he lost the fear of facing her.  Instead, he took the rental car and headed for the Highlands to clear his head and think.  The more he drove, the farther away he was from the woman he’d traveled over five thousand miles to see again.  One more day didn’t matter to the twenty-five years that had already passed.
His first stop the morning he arrived had been in Callander, just shy of the Trossachs where he had spent summers as a seasonal ranger in the park.  It had been a while, but driving the hills of his youth came back to him naturally, as did driving on the other side of the road.  His behind the wheel experience began at the age of fourteen when his dad suffered a broken leg, and no one else had been around to make the trek to the hospital.  He’d maneuvered the roads as well as could be expected and, for his efforts, had been rewarded a birthday present one month early.  A guitar.  He knew it had taken his father months of working and saving to afford it.  The instrument helped decide his career path; that decision led him to Ava.

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Nat King Cole crooned the song over the radio the first time he saw her, and every time he heard it his thoughts returned to that time.  He’d found himself in Nashville in 1976, just as his career was getting started.  She was a pretty eighteen-year-old innocent with a transistor radio to her ear, leaning against a tree as it played.  She hummed and swayed to the music and instantly he’d felt a connection; a friendship took root that day and grew into something greater over time.  There was no attempt at impressing him; Ava treated him with genuine kindheartedness, just as she did everyone else.  It was needed in a business that was starting to suck the life out of him, even early on; he soaked up every bit of substance she exuded and that sustained him until demands of the road took him away.
It was nearly eight years later that they had their first date.  By that time, he was burned out with the music industry, had risen quickly, made the money, needed rehab and was ready to turn away from all of it.  Then Ava walked back into his life, a young woman with ghosts of her own, and their relationship took a different turn.  He fell in love. 
“Do you remember this?” he had asked her once, turning up the volume on the car radio as the Cole song suddenly played.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

“Of course. It came on the radio when we first met. I was so nervous when I saw you, I’m surprised I remember anything though,” she’d replied.
“You nervous? You hid it well.”
“An act,” she’d laughed.
He remembered taking her hand then and what followed were the happiest eighteen months of his life.  They became inseparable.  When he had commitments that couldn’t be canceled, he made sure she was there with him.  The togetherness and relationship weren’t approved by everyone.  Their whirlwind romance was endured much to the chagrin of Ava’s aunt, along with his long-time agent, Sonny, who usually didn’t care what anyone did as long as a potential deal wasn’t axed as a result.  Both had expressed displeasure at them being a couple, often enough for him to suspect their hand in what ultimately happened.
The last day he ever saw Ava, she’d been excited to share some news with him.  He remembered how happy she seemed.  Before she could tell him, Sonny called to arrange a meeting, saying it was urgent and couldn’t wait.  Ava encouraged him to go and said they would talk that evening.  Three hours later she was gone.  It was as if she’d just disappeared.  The vanishing act caused him to panic and he called everyone they knew, including Sonny and her aunt Dorothy, asking if she had contacted them.
“Why, honey, I haven’t seen her.  You two have a lovers’ spat?” Dot’s voice had drawled, the southern accent accentuated a little too much.  He’d learned long ago that southern hospitality was genuine in some, but with Dorothy he had known to watch his back.  Her knives were sharp.  She was as tough as nails, and he didn’t believe her.  Sonny had been no help either, denying any knowledge of Ava’s whereabouts.
Hours turned into days; weeks followed, blending into months until a year had passed with no sign of her.  The police found no clues, ultimately deciding she had left him on her own free will, encouraging him to move on.  He never did.  He turned to the only ‘friends’ he trusted at that time, his old buddies he referred to as alcohol and drugs, once again finding solace in the vices that Ava had given him reason to leave.  An overdose and breakdown followed, and he spent two months in a detox facility getting clean and sober.  The day he walked out, he quit the business, fired Sonny, and became a recluse.  A marriage and divorce happened, but he never forgot the woman he loved.
Of all people, it had been his daughter who found her.  Dear sweet Haley and her tech-savvy boyfriend who, until that point, he’d always found a little annoying.  They broke the news to him a week ago with Haley giving him a hug and saying before she left, “Dad, there’s something else, but she owes you that explanation.  Go to her.”  He had no idea how Haley had known about Ava, yet she’d made the same mistake he had all those years ago with the assumption Ava meant something to an old friend of his.  Uncertain what had given his daughter that notion, his own belief at the time had been driven by stupidity and insecurity.  He had wasted too much time then, and he was doing so now.

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom

He glanced at his watch; Edinburgh was about an hour and half away.  If he left now, he might just miss the worst of the traffic, have time to check in to his hotel and shower.  Beyond that, it was anyone’s guess with much depending on Ava. 
As he drove away, the sights of Pitlochry behind him, he started to have hope.  He’d told himself to expect nothing, but insist on answers and to walk away with assurances she was happy.  He made no promises to himself.

Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

  
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)