Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bullwinkle's Human Bullhorn

If there is one skill I wish I had, other than flight, it would be to sing well. If you have a voice box you can sing - mostly, but to sing well is a gift and a skill I just don't have. That doesn't stop me from singing along in the car, or during Sunday night Celtic singalongs, but otherwise I avoid it. And as you'll soon see, there's a reason!

While I can't sing well, my friend Sarah P. has an amazing voice. So, we headed out to Bullwinkle's (622 Lake Ave.) in Rochester on Saturday night for the weekly sing along.

We had been a few weeks ago for the first time, and it was like Sarah had found her people. When we tried to leave everyone begged her for one more song. Considering she's a professional singer, she killed 'em. Great fun.

So, back we went.

It was quieter, but no less fun because our friend Andre, also a professional musician, and his girlfriend joined us.

Then Cindy came along. Cindy, whom I have dubbed "Bullwinkle's Human Bullhorn."

We had never before heard good old Cindy, a bleached-blonde mom from Irondequoit who was seriously smashed... and more importantly, sounds like a cross between a cat in heat and a cow giving birth when she sings. Oh no, it was our very first introduction to Cindy's vocal stylings.

Dear drunk Cindy, donning a white and silver boa and pink satin hat shaped like a cone, decided to screech "Leaving on a Jet Plane" for her captive audience. It was so bad we didn't even recognize the opening "all my bags are packed..." We sat in stunned silence.

The owner cringed and shuddered, and so did the Christmas lights around the piano station. When Cindy hit - or rather missed - the chorus, the lights flickered and died. Most of us felt the same.

In a desperate act of self preservation we all started shouting along with Cindy, trying to drown her out.

Finally she finished. The handful of patrons paused in pregnant silence, then weakly clapped - I suspect more out of relief the song was done than praise - unless they were all deaf.

As Cindy put down the microphone, the owner glared from his wheelchair and said, "I'd shoot you if I had a gun to put us out of our misery."

Like Teflon, it didn't stick to Cindy. She came over to bask in praise, and to complain about the lack of contemporary songs for her to slaughter, excuse me - I mean singing.

"Maybe you should try something from a musical," I said through my bitten lip.

With an intent drunken stare she pushed her fleshy face towards mine and said, "You mean like Pulp Fiction?"

I almost lost it then and there. "Nooooooo. I don't think that's actually a musical, but a movie."

"Oh. Well... Like "The hills are alive?" Cindy started to screech.

"Umm, like that, but not that specifically," I said. She nodded, stumbled, and then paused to listen to Sarah singing a beautiful tune in an obvious attempt to balm our bleeding ears.

Cindy groaned and rolled her head, taking most of her body with it.

"Holy shit. She's trying to make me look bad. I was sounding great until she got up there. Listen to her. She's like the next damn American Idol. This isn't American Idol, damn it. This is Bullwinkle's!
Next to her I'm Peter Wong (She meant Wlliam Hung, the horrible contestant that butchered a Ricki Martin song and became quasi-famous). 'She bangs, she bangs, oh baby...' SHIT man. How do I sing after that?" Cindy nearly shouted while leaning heavily on my shoulder.

Throughout the next hour or so Cindy only tortured us with one other song - "Delta Dawn". But she spent plenty of time telling us how nice it was to meet us, saying goodbye with a kiss on the cheek, going to the bar for a minute and then coming back to tell us that Andre "is a great singer, but I mean, I don't want to sound mean here because he's attractive and talented, but all I'm saying is Milli Vanilli. Is he Milli or Vanilli? I mean, the dreds..."

Sarah, the woman with taste, asked who Milli Vanilli was. I sorta sang "Blame it on the rain...." and then she got it. Wow.

For the record, Andre does have dreds but DOES NOT look like either Milli or Vanilli!

And I should have sang at Bullwinkle's. Even though I don't sing well, I also don't screech like an angry hyenna.

Compared to Cindy, I would have sounded like Bette Midler.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Couch Surfing

One of the most exciting aspects of my upcoming road adventure is the possibility to meet new people from all walks of life.

As so many of my friends make a point to tell me, I have no trouble starting a conversation with a stranger.

With that in mind, I joined the Web site community Couch Surfing. It's a brilliant place to meet people traveling or willing to host travelers. There are more than 20,000 members.

You should really REALLY check this out! (I also have a permanent link on my blog.) If you have an open couch, that's cool. If you need one, this is the place to go.

I have started introducing myself to people on the site, and have already met people I'll probably stay with in Indianapolis and Kansas City.

NOT to worry - they are both female (one lives with her family), and I am going to meet them in a public place first.

Just to update those of you who care - I leave for NYC on Aug. 15 to spend two days with friends. Then DC Aug. 17 to see the Michaels. Aug. 18 is Indianapolis, 19 is Kansas City and 20 is Denver. (If it takes an extra day, ok).

In Denver I'm meeting some people who are also going to Burning Man (one is a friend who lives out there) and we are going to drive out as a group.

Feel free to let me know where you think I should go after that. It's an open atlas!

Speaking of - props to AAA. Yesterday I went in and asked for "one of everything, thank you." Less than 30 minutes later I left with five, yes five, bags of maps, tour books and a trip-tik to Denver. I got my money's worth already, and I haven't even started getting discounts on the road.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Reiki Rocks

Sometimes, despite my bitching and moaning and my upcoming departure, there are perks to my current job as a community reporter. Sometimes working on a story comes with unexpected and nice benefits. Like today.

I am writing a story about a local woman - Shari - who just opened an alternative medicine store in Brockport. She's a Reiki master.

I had no idea what Reiki (ray-kee)was, besides my brief Internet search that basically explained it as a way to unblock energy. People use it during cancer treatments, to combat depression and anxiety or to help with Western medicine's treatments of other medical problems. Shari said she wants to use Reiki on abused women to help them heal internally. Nice sentiment, but I figured it was a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

Then Shari said it's easier to show me than tell me, and offered me a sample.

I didn't see any exotic torture tools (as opposed to generic torture tools) in the vicinity, so up on the table I went. Thirty minutes later I didn't want to get off it.

I put on headphones to listen to hemi-sync music (some sort of instrumental music that makes your brain focus on your body), rested Chinese meditation balls in my palms and closed my eyes.

Shari's lavendar-scented hands grew hot, and then she placed them on me in a series of spots that help my energy flow. First the bottom of my foot, then my ankle and knee, then my knee and thigh. My stomach, my diaphragm and wrist, my chest and throat and my head- she gently pressed against them all.

And when her hands moved, I felt heat and energy move to the area between them. Honestly, I couldn't believe it at first but I felt my body responding in a way it never has.

The Japanese call a person's energy his/her chakras, and there are 7 different kinds. Reiki is used to align them all and allow your chakras to flow easily. Shari said she envisions a person's energy as a waterfall flowing through them.


(This is the symbol for chakra #5 - the throat: "related to communication and creativity. Here we experience the world symbolically through vibration, such as the vibration of sound representing language." It is the selected chakra of Shari's new store - Soulshine.)

When she was done, my body felt easier, lighter, calmer. oooooohhhhhhmmm

Not to sound all goofy spoofy, but it really seemed to flow together internally and be in balance. I'm tense all the time from work, and somehow everything had eased.

I was euphoric. It was an amazing experience, and came at the perfect time. My last day of work is in two weeks! Hurray!!!

Shari said I might get sick tomorrow - toxins flushing out of my system - but that just means I'm really cleansed. And - good news - she said she didn't feel any major health problems when she channeled my chakras. I guess she can feel or see the energy changes caused by various conditions.

I still don't really understand how Reiki works, but it ROCKS! And now my energy is nicely balanced for me to leave in less than a month!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Catching up

So much has gone on since I last published a post that I'm not sure where to begin. Bear with me, it's going to be a long one...

I guess I should start with a brief overview of my trip.

It took 10 hours to get from Rochester to Athens, Ohio. On the way my friend and I tried to have dinner in a strip club in the projects of Cleveland - I'm not kidding.

Who would think the "Gateway Steak House," located in a plaza with a Chinese restaurant, dentist and convenience store, was actually selling a different kind of meat?

Check out these pictures:After we saw the dress code sign, we started to notice the bump and grind music coming through the wall. So I took pictures as I laughed and then we went and found an Applebee's (damn it!)

When we finally arrived in Athens, we met my friend's brother. Picture long frizzy braids, torn jeans cut off mid-calf and beads around his neck - this was a fun guy known around town as the "Daffodil Guy" because he gives away daffodils as he sells them. I liked him immediately.

We followed Daffodil Guy up to "The Far," a commune he has lived at for nine years.

There was no electricity or plumbing (yup, that means outhouse), and his neighbors were the spiders in the big webs in the corners of his home.

Folks, I had "gone to Far."
This is the "house."

I don't have time for many details, seeing as I am probably going to write a story about it for a travel site and I am really tired right now, but I ended up having a great time roughing it with the organic worm-poop activist farmer and his polar-opposite, matching sweater-set teacher sister (my friend).

I learned that worms really like organic coffee grounds and my face really doesn't like mosquito-larvae infested water.

I also got to make sculpey clay stuff with Tibetan monks randomly visiting Marietta, Ohio. They're really funny guys who made fun of my poor flame-making skills.

Check out Sopa on the left "fixing" my clay flower - he added the elevated center and the snake and flame.

Beyond that, I also had some of the best organic food - Athens has an organic coffee shop, worker-owned restaurant and three, yes three, organic bakeries. It was great!

We left Friday morning for Pittsburgh. About four hours later we arrived in the city, and just as we approached my friend's old mechanic near the University of Pittsburgh, smoke started billowing out from under her hood. We pulled in to the parking lot, and a river of fluorescent green coolant bled from the engine. Yes, we were screwed.

The mechanics couldn't work on it until Monday, so that left us hanging out with at my friend's parents' house without a car, and for a day longer than we planned.

But it was a nice visit, and we got out of there alive. I could go into details about long bus rides into sketchy neighborhoods, not feeling well, sneaking icecream, starting the new Harry Potter book and watching hilarious episodes of What Not to Wear and Iron Chef America, but... wait - I just sort of did.

Anyway...

We left Monday just in time for me to be really behind at work and miss a big meeting. Oh well.

It was worth is just to see this ridiculous road "art" made out of traffic signs in Meadville, Pa. I don't know what they were thinking, but it wasn't good. They should have paid more attention to the "STOP" signs.

So Monday I got home, sort of unpacked, finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I proudly admit to being a fan!) at about 3:30 a.m. and then fell asleep in front of two fans on the couch in my living room. It's disgustingly hot in my apartment.

Today I woke up early, went to work, wrote four stories, went to my bank to take care of some business, picked up my new glasses, went to my mechanic's to get some stuff out of the old car that died and then had dinner with my parents and brother. I went to BJ's, bought some stuff for the road, and then came home to write two more stories and then post this blog.

All in all, it has been an insane, but mainly fun, week. Now I need to go pass out because I have to be at work early tomorrow.

Next post I'll be more... or maybe less... something. Until then, go read Harry Potter and eat organic baked goods!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Worm Poop and Pittsburgh

Well, I'm off for a weekend of worm poop and Pittsburgh.

The brother of my friend Sarah P. lives on a commune in Ohio and farms worm castings, aka worm poop. We're going to stay with him - sans electricity and running water - for a day or two. Then we're going to Pittsburgh to take a shower at my friend's parents' place.

I've never been on a commune, talked with a worm poop farmer or visited Pittsburgh. It should be an interesting mini vacation.

So I won't be posting anything on here until Sunday at the earliest. Check back to see how the trip went.

By the way, I did a little looking into worm poop farming - interesting stuff.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bull Sh*t

There are times when reporting is just fun. Read this July 11 press conference transcript to see how reporters put the screws to the White House over Karl Rove.

Just a few of my favorite highlights (my emphasis):

Q Scott, what was the President's interaction today with Karl Rove? Did they discuss this current situation? And understanding that Karl Rove was the architect of the President's win for the second term in the Oval Office, how important is Karl Rove to this administration currently?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is coming at it from --

Q It has nothing to do with what you just said.

MR. McCLELLAN: This is still coming at the same question relating to reports about an ongoing investigation, and I think I've responded to it.

Q Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have questions on another topic?

Q No, no, no, no. Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this current administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the question, April. I think I've responded.

----

Q Does the President continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you've heard my response on this.

Q So you're not going to respond as to whether or not the President has confidence in his Deputy Chief of Staff?

---

Q Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003 when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliott Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this" -- do you stand by that statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation we're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time, as well.

Q Scott, I mean, just -- I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said, and I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation --

Q Why are you choosing when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish --

Q No, you're not finishing -- you're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke out about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved, or was he not? Because, contrary to what you told the American people, he did, indeed, talk about his wife, didn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Q Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fate Or Fluke

Some people hear a special song on the radio and take it as a sign. Others pay attention to actual road signs - like speed limits and stop signs - and don't get numerous tickets like some bloggers I know. Go figure.

Personally I don't put much stock in signs of either type, as my radio listening and driving record can attest. (Well, I've gotten better with the speed limits ... usually.)

Same for palm reading and tarot cards - I've never paid much attention. But yesterday I was spending time with two new friends who had just felt like they should buy a deck of tarot cards and use them this weekend.

So one of them shuffled the deck and randomly pulled out a card - the Chariot.

He told me he and my other new friend had been pulling this card - one of about 70 in the deck - throughout the day. I looked up the definition in the book, and I thought it really fit him and me.

Then it was my turn. Shuffle shuffle shuffle. Cut the deck, shuffle shuffle. I pulled out a card... and it was the Chariot. Weird!

I don't know if it's fate or a fluke, but the Chariot just perfectly fits me right now.

Here's how one site describes The Chariot:
Picture Julius Caesar riding his chariot triumphantly into Rome. He has defeated his enemies and conquered vast, new lands. This is the spirit of the Chariot. Card 7 represents the victories that are possible through willpower and self-mastery. A military image is appropriate for the Chariot because this card stands for the strengths associated with combat - discipline, grit, determination and assertiveness.

The Chariot represents the positive aspects of the ego. A healthy ego is one that is strong and self-assured. It knows what it wants and how to get it. We can get annoyed at someone whose ego is too healthy, but we often turn to that person to lead us through difficult moments. We know he or she won't be wishy-washy.

In readings, the Chariot often appears when hard control is or could be in evidence. At its best, hard control is not brutal, but firm and direct. It is backed up by a strong will and great confidence. The Chariot can mean self-control or control of the environment. This card also represents victory. There are many types of wins; the Chariot's is of the win-lose type. Your success comes from beating the competition to become number one. Such moments are glorious in the right circumstances.

Some qualities, most of which also sound familiar:
achieving victory
reaching your goal, winning, being successful, dominating, coming out on top,
beating the competition

using your will
being determined to succeed, focusing your intent, rising above temptation
letting nothing distract you, sustaining an effort, concentrating your energies,
fixing on a goal

asserting yourself
being ego-focused, establishing an identify, knowing who you are, feeling self-confident,
having faith in yourself, looking out for your interests

achieving hard control:
mastering emotions, curbing impulses, maintaining discipline, holding in anger,
getting your way, assuming the reins of power, showing authority
Adding just a few more layers to the whole thing, let's consider two things.

First, I pulled the Chariot card just hours after purchasing my new van - a modern-day silver chariot to set my world on fire.

Second, there's actually a song on the radio (I know I know) that I heard on the way to my friend's house. Sure, it's in heavy rotation around Rochester, but consider the title and read the lyrics: "Chariot" by Gavin DeGraw.

Think what you will, but I've got a tarot card, a new van and a song on the radio - all pointing at a successful adventure.

So if any speed limits or stop signs crop up, to hell with 'em!

Bike With 2 Brains

I got to ride the coolest bicycle ever on Sunday.

It's called the Bike With 2 Brains, created as a Burning Man funded art project by my mad genius new friend Jason.

The official line is this:
The Bike With 2 Brains is a 2-person, human-powered vehicle where the riders sit side-by-side. Each rider can pedal a wheel in front of them forward of backward, so to go straight, both riders must pedal at the same speed. The Bike likes to be ridden around and uses light and sound to attract riders. It tries a variety of patterns to attract a first rider, and will change patterns to attempt to attract a second. It is most happy with two riders.
The real deal is that people try to pedal together, but they just end up suddenly spinning around in a frenzy. It's fabulous! I could have zipped around Jason's backyard for hours. I can't wait until he puts on the lights and the sound machine and we can whirl around the desert.

This is what a copper model of the best bike ever looks like:

The real thing is going to blow people away.

P.s. Jason runs a great site for Rochester folks looking for things to do in and around the city. His taste in choice events is spot on, except he needs to add the free Celtic shows at Milestones every Sunday night at 7 p.m.
Visit JayceLand.com.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Name that Van

I bought a van!

Finally, after considering VW buses, RVs, trucks with trailers, and minivans, I have made my purchase - a silver 1995 Plymouth Voyager with 89,000 miles on it. And it didn't break my budget.

"Life is a highway. I'm gonna ride it all night long..." has been running through my mind all day.

I'll post a picture of my beautiful new ride soon. In the meantime, my baby needs a name.

So, I am starting a contest to "Name that Van!"

The rules - be creative.

The prize - a special place in my heart, bragging rights here on the blog, and endless amusement. (I'd offer more, but I still need to buy a lot of things before I leave. On the list still: a tent, an air mattress and storage units, just to name a few.)

The deadline - reply to this post by Sunday, July 17. I will announce my baby's name sometime after that. I reserve the right to use a name not offered during the contest. After all, it is my new van!

I hope there are a bunch of submissions. Good luck!

A Great Night

Correction. A great Saturday.
It's now 3:51 a.m. Sunday, and I just got home about 10 minutes ago.
Since I left my apartment approximately 12 hours ago, I have had a GREAT time.
Generally I don't write about the exact events of my day, but I had such a fun Saturday that I want to share. Plus, since I have been feeling bad since Thursday's parental bomb, this was great.
So, here's what I did today.
I slept in - hurray no work today!
Then I went to Gander Mountain where I tried on no fewer than a dozen pairs of hiking boots.
I found these Salomon Canyon Mid Gtx Gore-Tex Lined Hiking Boots. And they were on SALE for $70 instead of $100. Hurray.
After quickly opening a new checking account with Citizen's Bank and briefly grocery shopping I returned to my apartment to prepare for a coworker's barbecue/apartment-warming party.
We drank a bunch of margaritas, played ping pong and chilled on her porch on Park Avenue. It was fantastic.
As I was leaving I got a call, and my plan to go see a movie changed.
Instead I went to meet two awesome people at LUX, quite possibly my new favorite bar. It's at 666 South Avenue, and everything has a red glow. There's a window seat with soft and abundant cushions, a pool table and a back yard with a chimea, hammock, random mannequins in a corner and a bunch of benches.
It's a great place to while away the time with cool people.
Then we went to Bullwinkle's on Lake Avenue. It's only open on Saturday nights, and is owned by this really old woman who has had the place forever.
If it wasn't so late I would try to describe the amazing vintage decor and the cool people singing old standards, but I'm tired. Plus, if I say too much people might go there and mess it up.
On to Monty's Krown and a parking adventure. I really hate finding space for the minivan.
We got there around 1:15 a.m. and not only closed the bar, but got kicked out after they had cleaned.
At about 2:30 or so we left and decided to get trash plates at Mark's on Monroe Avenue. What a scene.
People wait in line outside for the bouncer to let them in. And what a bouncer. He has shaved off all the facial hair on one side of his face (including his eyebrow) and has a wildcat tattoo on his half-bald head. The other side of his face and head has hair - including a beard and mustache - but they've been buzzed to look like claws have scratched through them. I wish I had taken a picture.
Any way, we ate at Mark's and finally left when a drunk bitch started yelling about coffee or something. Whatever.
Now I'm home and I need to sleep, but it was such a fun night.
Thank you S, J and S. I had a great night, and I feel so much better now!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Heartbroken

I should have seen it coming. It's been building for months. But naively I hoped I could avoid what happened this afternoon.

I got ambushed.

My parents blew up in my face over my decision to live in a van and travel and write.

I don't want to go into details - it hurts too much to think about the things said, let alone type them. But the gist of their shouting consisted of them claiming I will go broke in less than a year, get raped and killed on the side of the road, and then come crawling home. Or something like that.

I don't really remember - it's like my mind has blocked out the trauma. I'm just left feeling heartbroken.

It's not going to stop me from going. Oh no. I'm still leaving Aug. 15. But something in me, a part of my relationship with my parents, died today.

I wish it didn't have to be this way. I wish I could find the words that would appease them. But nothing short of "okay, I'll stay" is going to do it at this point. And I can't tell them that.

I can't spend my life afraid of hurting the people I love with my actions. I can think about them and weigh the consequences - which I have - but in the end it comes down to one fact:
This is MY life. I have to live it for me, and do what's right for me. They see it as selfish and irresponsible. I see it as the only SANE thing to do.

And I am going to be fine. Scratch that. I am going to be great!

There are LOTS of people who agree with me. They're not my parents, but every vote of confidence counts. So thank you to all the people who have called or sent me notes of encouragement and support. They mean a lot to me.

Below are just a few I got today from my coworkers when I sent an email explaining my plan.
I hope they don't mind me sharing. Thanks everyone! They made me feel a little better.

How wonderful for you!

How awful for us!

I wish you the very, very best and hope we share one more Bacardi Lemon and Pepsi before you go.

K

___

Wow! That's really bold of you. Good luck, and keep us posted!
- Anne

___

Elliotte I think it calls for an afterwork get-together.
___

Very cool!

If only I could dump the mortgage etc. it would be great to travel again. Must be both exciting and terrifying to be doing this.
I took a very quick glance at your blog (enjoyed "guys gone wild"), and you have inspired me to create one. Nothing there for now, but if you feel so inclined to add
http://ramblingdan.blogspot.com/ to your bookmarks, I may just have something to say one day soon.
While we have not gotten to know each other, I have enjoyed the brief time I have spent working with you, and look forward to living vicariously through you as you travel around.

___

How dare you leave and do something fun :)
___

Hi Elliotte,
Wishing you all the best as you continue to make your dreams come true.

John

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Leaving Limbo

Leaving is harder than being gone

It is a little-known, seldom-acknowledged fact that the act of leaving is much more difficult than actually being gone.
Leaving, especially the events leading up to your departure, is an excruciating stay in limbo. You’re ready to go, but you haven’t gone yet.

Limbo is far worse than hell. At least in hell you can adjust and deal with the situation at hand. Plus, you might find some interesting people to share a drink with at the bar - I‘ll take a Jack and Coke, thanks.
In limbo, it’s like you have no hands. And the situation, well, that’s a constant flux of ulcer-aggravating bullshit to handle - without hands. And the people - they’re the ones causing the bullshit! And there’s not a bar in sight.

Being gone, whether it’s heaven or turns into hell, means at least you’re not in limbo.

It’s like studying for a final at college. You live on chocolate and orange juice and spend hours in the library agonizing over your notes. You don’t know what the questions will be, or if you’re ready for them. You wonder if the classes were worth it and if you can hack it.
Then you sit down with your pen in hand and open the test. You might not know the answers, but at least you have the questions. You take the damn thing, and it might not be easy, but it’s so much better than the agony of uncertainty while you study.

I know. I’ve taken a lot of tests. I've been in limbo before, and I’m there again now.

Last year, between January and March, I was ready to go to Europe but I hadn’t left yet. So I had to deal with heaps of limbo bullshit. Not least were the questions I asked while I planned to be gone.
“What do I pack? What guide books do I buy? How do I get money? Do I have enough? Where will I go?”
And the BIG HUGE one - “AM I MAKING A MISTAKE?”
Plus, I had to listen to the doubters and deal with their endless questions.
I counted down the days, hours and minutes until departure.

And then I was gone.

The nagging worries and fears fell away, I threw out all the junk I had over packed, and I split my time between heaven and hell - mostly the former, occasionally the latter.
Compared to the limbo of leaving, every “disaster” while being gone seemed minor.
I can’t figure out the buses in Seville? So what, it’s not like figuring out travel insurance policies!
Every museum in Florence is closed this week? Okay, that’s better than people’s closed minds about my plans this year! (Well, not everyone hated the idea - just a select few that made it harder than it should have been.)

Leaving is a process; being gone is the end of that process. There are adventures once you are gone, but the agony of leaving itself is over and done - finally!

And leaving is agony. At least, it is for me.

It might be easier if I wasn’t leaving so much behind. My family loves me and I have a steady job, a growing career and amazing friends with whom I haven’t gotten to spend enough time. I sleep on a big pillow-top mattress that I can’t take on the road and my aunt has a heated swimming pool. My dog is old and my little cousins are still young enough to think I’m cool.

It’s agony to leave all that. It’s hard and it hurts and today I had my first panic attack about buying a van that costs too much or might break down.
But every time I’m torn apart in the limbo of leaving, it proves how much I want to be gone. Because I could back down. I could punk out and call it quits. I could let the fear and worry and pain stop me. But I want to take the test enough to deal with preparing for it.
I want to be gone enough to deal with leaving.

Being gone is so much easier than leaving.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Yikes

These are seriously messed up links from BoingBoing...

Liquid Man and Falling Woman - you move your mouse around to make them move.

All I have to say is yikes.

Home

This is mine.

It's the only home I've ever known. College and my current apartment don't count - they've always been temporary.

This weekend I went home on Friday evening. I intended to just spend the night, get my laundry washed and clean out all the junk I'd left behind.

In and out in less than 24 hours, I figured.

Then, suddenly, it was Sunday afternoon and I still hadn't left.

After procrastinating for most of the morning, I threw out a bunch of the past on Saturday.
I gave some away to family and Good Will. Then I put the rest in boxes and stacked them in a corner. That's my physical history, filling less than one closet.

It was strange to look at the box of books I kept, and the one I gave away - what made the difference? I'm still not sure.

And packing clothes into a trunk, knowing they'd be out of style or might not fit me physically when I see them again, seemed silly. But travel sure cleans out the wardrobe.

As I learn every day, I have too much shit. It's time to clean.

So I started. And then I took a break to swim and watch a movie. Saturday just slipped away.

Sunday my parents invited me to take a drive, just the three of us.

I haven't been on a summer drive around the area with my family in at least a decade. Seriously.

Dad used to pile us three kids into the back of our minivan, mom in front, and tell us we were going to get ice cream. No less than an hour later, he'd have made a dozen stops to look at crops and we'd finally be on our way to get the ice cream.

I still think about those drives whenever I eat an ice cream cone.

So, for nostalgia's sake I couldn't turn them down. Off we went.

"Boy, the hay needs water. Look at that field. Those guys must be cryin. It needs to rain."

Every utterance took me back in time. But this time I was a little more patient. I didn't moan and groan - ok, only a little. And I even joined in to discuss the "knee high by the Fourth of July" rule about sweet corn. I've always wondered whose knee, exactly?

Any way, we finally got ice cream - and lunch, too.

But my favorite moment of the entire day was talking to my parents on the car ride back. We were laughing about how similar this trip was to so many so long ago.

My dad reminded me about the time I fell into a fish pond when I was five.

Mom wanted to jump in after me, but he said if I could fall in, I could get out. I was screaming and yelling, and my sister and brother were laughing.

I remember little fish running into me and feeling slimy - blech.

When I finally got out, we went back to the van to dry me off. Mom's mommy-sense had known one of us would fall in, but she thought it would be my 2-year-old brother so she had only packed his clothes. I spent the rest of the day barefoot with my tummy bare below the tight t-shirt and my rear end hanging out of the pants-turned-shorts.

Today we laughed and laughed about that, and I realized two things:

1. My dad remembers stuff I thought he had long since forgotten. We both cherish that crazy little moment 18 years later. We'd never lose our past.

2. My future isn't going to have as many moments with him. When I fall into the next fish pond, and lord knows I will, dad won't be there to holler at me to get my fool self out.

But I'll remember our ride today, and laughing together.

I won't always get to go home for the weekend, but when I need a reminder on the road I'll stop to look at the crops and get an ice cream cone.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Guys Gone Wild

Old men seem to love me. I don't know why.

After helping an old gentleman in Paris read the expiration date of a yogurt, he bought me Greek food and invited me to Monaco for Christmas.

In Amsterdam the drunk Greek chef in a restaurant asked me to marry him. He was downing shots of ouzo with Heineken chasers, because "Being in love means never drinking alone. I love you I love you I love you," he said to the shot of ouzo. "Oopah!"

These are just a few examples.

So I should have known better when I had the brilliant idea of writing a story about a group of guys meeting to hang out at the senior center. Me, a handful of frisky geezers and a game of pinochle... what did I think was going to happen?

Well, this is the story I wrote for the July 7 Brockport Post:
Guys Gone Wild

Walking into the billiards room at the Sweden Senior Center last Wednesday morning, I couldn't help but laugh.

"You fellas are gonna have to watch your language," Bud DeTar immediately said as he played pool.

"Why? She's heard darn it before," Walt Fisher, 75, said while he played pinochle.

Walking by, Dick Herzog stopped and asked, "Did they clean up the language while you're here?"

As a disagreement about the pinochle score broke out, and the language wasn't so clean, Lorne Day, 66, shook his head.

"There's a lot of jealousy at this table," the Kendall resident said. "We come up here to argue, honey."

As the other pinochle players told me their names and ages, DeTar leaned over my shoulder to look at my notebook.

"I just want to make sure they're not lying about their ages," the 82-year-old Brockport resident said.

"That's Bud," Fisher, of Hamlin, said as he threw down a card. "Trump that!"

"Bud Bud Buuuuuud," said George Seewald, 84, sounding like a frog. "Buuuud Bud."

For years, the guys at the Sweden Senior Center have met at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays for a men's morning. Day said he's been coming to play cards and escape the ladies since about 1987.

"If you look at any senior citizen place, the men are outnumbered nine or 10 to one," Day said. "At least on this morning we're not. I like having time away from my wife."

His wife, Thelma Day, overheard him from the doorway when she stopped to say hello.

"I love you too. You can walk home now," she said. The guys chuckled.

Fisher started to tell marriage jokes. He kept them clean, and then asked me,"Why aren't you married?"

"Tell him it's none of his business!" Ed Forys said.

"Watch it old man!" Fisher hollered.

Fisher said he comes to the center with his wife of 53 years.

"The poor woman deserves the Purple Heart," Day joked.

As a pinochle round concluded, Forys started to gloat.

"I think we sunk their ship, George," the 87-year-old Brockport resident said to Seewald. "Oh did we sink the ship that time! It's still sinking."

"Blub blub blub blub," Seewald, of Hamlin, said.

"Hey! Don't be like that!" Fisher interjected.

"There's nothing worse than four cranky old men," Day said.

"Four cranky old women are pretty bad," DeTar piped up from across the room.

"I didn't want to say it," Day said under his breath with a grin.

I kept the part about one of the guys asking me what I was doing that night out of the story - his wife might not appreciate it.

Check it out

Mark your calendars. I've been published.

It's my first official travel story. Hurray!

Check out the article on BootsnAll: Nocturnal Nightmare- A Spanish Sleeper Car.

For those of you who received my e-mail missives from Europe in 2004, you'll recognize the story. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I backpacked through Europe for two months using a Eurail Pass. This train ride was the craziest.

I hope you enjoy the article - it's rougher than I'd like, but I just thought I would go for it and voila! Published.

Now if I could just get some paid gigs, I'd be all set...

Any one else with a story - check out the BootsnAll site's writer's guidelines.