What do the Holocaust, Beer and Flowers have in common? ( #2)


Here I am in the second weekend of my quest.  Remember that I’m starting out slow and doing the easier things on my list at first.

(PS…listening to Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Marricone makes this blog so much more intense…)

This weekend’s shenanigans included:

  • Visit a museum alone
  • Have a meal (out) solo
  • Discover something quirky
  • Give back

I figured since WWII is one my strongest interests I’d visit the Holocaust museum.  I’ve been to the one in DC and also in London – both of which were terrifying and heartbreaking.  Houston’s done a wonderful job of preserving the memory of such a horrific tragedy in such a tasteful way.  If you haven’t visited this gem you must carve out a few hours on a weekend.  There was a sweet, little man who greeted me at the door, wearing his Holocaust survivor pin.  When I exited the tour he was there behind his podium to collect my headphones, “You look stunned – I’m 91 years young,” he smiled, took my phones and scurried off.  I really wanted to grab him and give him a hug, but I didn’t feel that would be appropriate, and my openness sometimes seems to a little too much for others.

On Sunday I headed to Brasil (the cafe, not the country) to have brunch…alone.  A place I’ve been a lot with friends.  When I walked in I noticed a few people at tables by themselves, busy with their iPhones/iPads.  For some reason, when I’m doing all my alone things recently I’ve become less aware of myself, and more aware of what the hell is going on around me.  It’s a great feeling not questioning if my pants are too tight, out of season or if my purse matches my outfit.  I ordered my food and walked confidently around the cafe, looking for a place to sit – careful not to choose a tabletop with 5 chairs.  Dining alone allowed me to eavesdrop (the loud guy across from me wasn’t making it hard) on random conversations.

I got my food and wrote in my journal and left.  It was nice to eat solo – I don’t recommend it if you have nothing to do, though.  Staring at people in a room while they eat is shady.


This girl was on a date with her husband and his cell phone.



Someone’s first time using a toilet, I guess.

After that I headed to the Beer Can House.  At first glance you’d think you walked into a glorified frat house – aluminum cans flattened in long sheets, empty, rusted bottles, placed strategically inside fences and walls, marbles embedded into the concrete yard, lengthened lips of cans hanging like streamers, tops of beer cans looped together, swaying in the wind.  This man’s passion for beer took hobbies to a whole new level.  John Milkovisch and his wife Mary lived in Rice Military – his house  (today and even then, I’m sure) sticks out like a sore, shiny thumb (not in a bad way) among renovated houses and upscale town-homes in a posh area of the city.  Over 30,000 beer cans/bottles, manipulated into a work of art was more than just a project to me.  Apparently John wasn’t sure why anyone even cared about his masterpiece; he said he wouldn’t have even bother to walk a block to see it.  A quote on the wall read: I don’t consider this art.  It’s just a pastime…but sometimes I lie awake at night, trying to figure out why I do it.

I know that feeling all too well…as I’m sure you do or have.  His words resonated in my head as I walked through his house – almost identical as the way it was back in the ’60’s.


2nd Weekend
John and his wife Mary who said he believed beer cured everything.




His son’s footprint


This ladder was taken from his dad’s house and John set it up in the front yard, saying that each step represented a stage in life and when you got past the black step you were home-free.



Lips from the cans (lengthened)




My favorite part of this weekend was today.  Maybe I’m a little emotional and over-the-top at times, but this was especially touching for me.  I wrote down 30 quotes (encouraging words from Harriet Beecher Stowe, Winston Churchill, Dr. Seuss and Einstein). I purchased yellow flowers and some carnations.  Hermes and I went to a local cafe, punched holes in the pieces of paper and attached them with blue ribbon to the flowers. 30 small bunches later, we got in the car and tried to decided on an appropriate location to distribute the tokens.  I started to immediately regret my idea as Hermes steered us down various streets:

Me:  Oh, there’s Whole Foods – should we go there?

Hermes:  (not an advocate of overpriced produce and hippies) No way, f that.

Me: This is a bad idea

Hermes:  This is a great idea

I began to get nervous:

Me:  Why is everyone out walking around?  What if I get beat up?

We decided on Memorial Park – I’d like nothing better than a greasy hamburger after a good workout (something I’ve never done – need to get that on the list), but a flower is just as fun.  I hopped out of the car, Hermes creeping slowly behind me (I’m sure onlookers thought he was a rapist out on the prowl) – I ran past the cars, placing the flowers on door handles and windshields.  One girl happened to be in her vehicle…it took me a second to affix the flower on the handle.  She looked through the window and I gave her a quick smile and a wave.  I’m sure I scared the hell out of her.

Random girl that I didn’t see called out:  Well, isn’t that sweet!!

I ran up to her, saying nothing, handed her the gift and got back into the car.

On the back of each quote was a Gmail account I made up in the event someone wanted to leave a message:  bekindtoastranger@gmail.com

2:03 2:16, 2:28, 2:30, and so on…messages started coming into the account – I added a few below.  One guy snapped a picture and sent it back and another asked me about my ministry.  The last couple of messages caught me by surprise – that there had to be something behind this, and maybe it seems unnatural for a selfless random to try to change the world one carnation at a time.

Anyway, as I read the messages I got goosebumps and felt excited.  If you can change someone’s mood (for the better) even for a moment, it makes all the difference.  One of my favorite quotes I used from Dr. Seuss: A person is a person no matter how small.

This weekend meant to me that you don’t have to be “anyone” in this world to be someone’s somebody for one second.  When I walked through that exhibit at the museum the faces in the pictures were about courage, resilience, despair and hope.  A reminder that one person can make an impact.

No matter how big or small…we all make a difference; we all make some sort of impact, and I wanted to choose wisely.

A collage of the quotes and flowers.


A few emails I got:

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Heels on Wheels (#1)

Houston had a population of over 2.1 million people within a land area of 599.6 square miles according to a census in 2011 and sadly only 2.7% of professionals ride the Metro.  I know what you’re thinking – how the hell could this be on the list?  It’s sad that I have never utilized our public transportation system in all the years I’ve lived in this city.  I’ve spoken to quite a few people, though, and they’ve never set foot on a bus here.

Houstonians primarily use cars to get around town; we are the leader  of the losers with the lowest participants using mass transit.  Growing up in a suburb I was clueless where the hell the bus went let alone where to catch the dang thing.  So I figured this would be the best introduction in going against the grain.

Mission for weekend #1:

  • Ride the Metro
  • Ride the rail
  • See movie solo

I asked my good friend (let’s call him Hermes – Greek God of travelers, the underground, border crossings and much more) numerous questions about the bus.  He’s no stranger to the Metro, completely depending on it to shuttle him around to auditions, concerts, church, to run errands, etc.  He promised to help me through this journey, giving me his Q-Card (my ticket to the city for the day) and 5 lines of instructions on how to get around.  This is no phenomena to 50% of of the people I know – they have been riding busses, bikes, trains or subways for half their lives.  Being a kid of the suburbs, though, this was new to me.  I’d been on my fair share of busses and subways domestically and internationally, but never in my hometown.

The last time I travelled alone was when I decided to visit Westminster Abbey on a work trip in London.  I had a taxi drop me off, enjoyed the guided tour and then couldn’t get back because the majority of the taxis didn’t take credit cards.  I was screwed and felt very alone.

Anyway, back to Saturday at the bus stop with Hermes.

Me:  It’s hot as hell out here.

Hermes: Yup.

Me: Do I have time to run over to that Starbucks to grab a snack?

Hermes:  Nope

Hermes could already tell it was going to be a long trip.  He was going to ride a few stops with me, helping me get the hang of things.  When we got on the bus I instantly felt out-of-place.  I hugged my backpack close to my chest and thought: I wonder if you can get any type of weird diseases from a bus seat?

Me: Can you get any weird diseases from a bus seat?

Hermes: <shakes his head and cracks a smile>

I took in my surroundings.  Now, I had changed about five times before leaving my house – skirts, sundresses…I decided on a pair of jeans, a summery blouse and my cloth Toms (an ensemble I’d regret later).

Hermes told me he’d be getting off soon and that we’d meet up later at our favorite fro-yo joint.  As he exited the bus, my hands felt clammy and there was a rush of anxiety.  There were two fun homeless men sitting behind me.  I couldn’t make out half of what they were saying but they were really enjoying themselves.  I learned that this was a place for them to escape the heat of the summer; a community where they could congregate and talk.

The woman who was once a man, that I had noticed earlier, pulled the cord to alert the driver we were approaching her stop.

Homeless man #1:  That girl’s kinda odd

Homeless man #2: Yeah…

More banter back and forth that I couldn’t make out.  I looked out the window.  It was nice not having to stress about driving – am I going too fast, too slow, guy behind me is on my ass, person next to me is going too slow/fast, driving too close.  The burden was now all on the bus driver and I could sit back and…relax.

Homeless man #1: It don’t matter where ya goin’, it’s what ya see.

I scribbled his words in my journal which was an array of jargon, incomplete sentences and random thoughts.

When the bus stopped we spilled into the sidewalks of downtown Houston – its streets vacant, with the exception of a few stragglers.  It was clean, quiet and the shadows from the tall buildings offered more than enough shade.  I walked to the rail, as instructed.  A man wearing a baseball cap two sizes too small for his head, a bright, neon orange t-shirt and filthy jeans stood behind a newspaper stand – leaning on it like a pulpit, only letting go to point to the sky:  God’s a’watchin’.  Yes, He is!

The platform was littered with various types of people: young, old, dirty, clean…

I swiped my Q-Card.  Hermes told me the rail ran on the honor system.  Neon t-shirt started singing – his voice filling the air.  Onlookers texted on their phones or fiddled with their belongings.  The guy’s voice took me by surprise.

“I thank ya, Jesus…” he started singing.  I couldn’t believe more people weren’t crowded around to witness this lyrical wonder, but maybe I had just been missing out on something normal – living in my car world.  I took a video of him.

The rail rolled up and we all piled in, no spare seats.  Guys on the rail do not offer up their seats for women…even if they’re with children or pregnant.  A short guy stood three inches behind me, wearing an oversized Rockets t-shirt and baggy jean shorts, sporting dirty Nikes, gripping the pole we shared to steady ourselves.  His phone rang, an annoying rap tune.

“Yeah, man.  What’s up?  Haha!  Yeah!  No, it’s slick – it runs all the way down here and then by the campus.  You don’t even gotta pay!”  I rolled my eyes, upset that he cheated the honor code.  Maybe he didn’t know, though; I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.  He was probably a rail virgin too.

He continued on, in a loud voice, all I could see were his white knuckles, holding on to the pole, “I don’t drink a lot, but last night I had a 12 pack of Dos Equis (he pronounced it Dos E-queeze) – yeah, man…I think it’s Spanish for toothpaste. (Whaaaaat the hell, I thought)

Dos E-queeze continued on: Bud light?  I can make that by just letting water sit out in the sun for a day.

I tried to enjoy the ride with this clown yelling into his phone.

The train stopped and spit me out into an area of town that was pretty undesirable and known for a rough street.  My mom had once taken the bus in this same area over 30 years ago, pregnant with my brother.  Walking around the slum to make it to her job at Southwestern Bell where she’d scale ladders to twist wires in her stockings and tweed skirts.

I crossed over to my bus station.  The only girl waiting, scribbling in my journal until a man on his cell phone came up and stood just inches away.  I quickly flipped over the page and pretended to draw a bird that looked more like a dysfunctional duck.  I can barely handle stick figures so there was no convincing a poor onlooker that I was a street artist.  I definitely did not fit in at this bus stop and got quite a few stares.

Four men sat on the bench talking about their “bitches” and how they weren’t worth a damn.  A short guy in his house slippers spewed the f-word religiously, and hurled a sandwich into the road.  I saw the bologna peeking out over the crust.  A few birds pecked at the bread and I quickly snapped a few shots of them and also the sign that read not to feed pigeons.

Feeling nervous and completely out of place, I felt like I needed to make a new “friend” at my stop. The bus didn’t appear to be coming anytime soon and my fellow bus riders looked like they were just taking advantage of the shade.  I noticed a man on the other side of the plexiglass shelter finishing up his lunch, his bike thoughtfully propped up against the station.

I peered around the glass, and he took notice and said hello.

Me: Hey, that’s a nice bike.

Bike Guy: Thanks.

He patted the seat of his cruiser.

Me: So it’s easy to get that thing on and off the front of the bus?

Bike Guy: Yeah, you just snap it in.  It’s nice to have a good, comfortable seat.  You don’t wanna tear up your ass, ya know?  ‘Cause tearin’ yo ass up is bad.

Me: No…yeah, that’s the worst (I laughed and smiled).  This is my first time riding the bus.  What do you enjoy about it?

Bike Guy: You get to see all sorts of things, and you don’t get all stressed about driving.  You get to meet people.  If you weren’t doing this today, we would never be talkin’.

He was right.  Any other day, I would walk right past this guy and not think twice.  I felt a pang of guilt, talking to him to lessen my chances of  getting my throat slashed trying while trying to complete such a “simple” task on my list.

We chatted for a bit longer.  The bus came and I grabbed a seat in the front.  A skinny, averaged sized guy entered the empty bus and pointed to the vacant seat next to me, “Do you mind?”

I moved my bag over and he sat down.  I asked him where he was from (Seattle) – he was a music producer back home and has lived here for quite a while; coming here to chase a musical dream that never quite panned out.  He’s happy, though, and he and his partner live in the Montrose area.  Today he was on his way to get his hair cut in Bellaire.  We had something in common: our passion for music- playing the guitar and the piano by ear.  He had been quite the athlete and showed me his withered left leg – he had been in an accident as a kid and seven surgeries reconstructed his limb that was significantly smaller than his right.  We talked about George Jones and he sang his favorite song by the artist – a pleasing voice.

I shook his hand as I exited the bus, I shouted: I’m writing a blog – Againstmigraines on WordPress – check it out if you remember.

Also coming off was my bike friend from earlier.  He walked his bike over to me, “You ride this line often?”

Me: No, I’m just doing a project…

Bike man:  You’re a good person.  I can tell it in here (he pounded his heart with his fist) and then gave me “dibs”.  I would like to have dinner and smoke a cigar with you!

Me:  Haha!  Thanks, I appreciate that!  Maybe one day.

Bike man:  Hey, it’s a small world.

He turned to leave, but I stopped him.

Me: Can I take your picture?

Lewis:  Sure!

After fro-yo, Hermes and I decided to take the bus together to do some shopping nearby.

Unfortunately, my attire, as earlier noted, was not suitable for walking around in 90-degree heat, so I had to stop and buy an entirely new outfit.

I had survived my first bus excursion.  I felt a little closer to society and a little sad that it took 32 years.  I talked to people who I would have never met, and taking myself outside of my comfort zone relaxed me.  There was a whole world I was missing because I was so busy being caught behind the steering wheel of my car, darting in and out of traffic, 5 minutes late, low on gas and frustrated by our busy highways.


Today I scratched another thing off my list: seeing a movie solo.  I couldn’t believe it was the first time I was going to the movies alone.  I just always have had someone to go with but that’s no excuse.  I found the most gigantic purse I own so I could take a coat (which I would usually steal from my movie-going buddy), a bag of 98% taste free, salt free popcorn and a bottled water.

Gatsby in 3D.  I’d heard it had gotten terrible reviews but I’m a softie when it comes to Leonardo DiCaprio and convince myself that if it sucks at least I get to stare at a handsome face.

The theatre was pretty packed to my surprise and I choose a middle row, middle seat and set up shop.  I’m sure I looked very trendy in my disposable 3D glasses that were covering my eyeglasses.  About an hour into the movie I realized I had to pee, and also realized that I’d either have to trust everyone around me not to steal my things and go pee, or pack up everything and run to the bathroom.  I didn’t know what to do so I resisted the urge and told myself I could make it another hour and 22 minutes and I did.  The music in the movie was great and it was beautiful.

The most confusing, frustrating and time-consuming event was me trying to find my damn car in the parking garage – walking up stairs, back down the stairs and up and down rows of cars.  I should have just taken the bus…

Pictures from my day in no particular order:

At the movies - my 3D Gatsby experience.

At the movies – my 3D Gatsby experience.

All the crap I loaded into my purse.

All the crap I loaded into my purse.


Waiting at one of the stops

One of the stops

Not even sammiches

The sandwich that was tossed in the road.

The sandwich that was tossed in the road.

Another stop

This lady kindly thanked the security guard and gave him a hug.

This lady kindly thanked the security guard and gave him a hug.

House Slippers

Another stop

This guy totally invaded my space

This guy totally invaded my space

My guide

My guide

My guide

My guide



The most beautiful stop of the day

The most beautiful stop of the day

This mother with her beautiful girls

This mother with her beautiful girls

A woman actually asked if this stop was the closest to the Galleria.

A woman actually asked if this stop was the closest to the Galleria.