Sunday, September 15, 2013

Holy Hatteras

If you know me, you know that I am obsessed with all things seaworthy, so it should come as a surprise to no one that a few weeks back when I spent lazy days seaside collecting seashells and trekking up old lighthouse steps, that I was in the throes of nirvana. I have had a few places in my lifetime truly dear to my heart, that somehow have anchored themselves deep in the recesses of my soul with no intention of ever getting carried away by the tide. Though I have traveled quite a bit thus far, I would say only two places have ever taken up permanent residence within me, as places that call back to me time and time again--troublesome sirens they are--and never really seem to leave my mind. Those two places are the upper peninsula of Michigan and New York City. Well, Hatteras Island now has the distinguished honor of joining these two places that constantly duke it out for my most loved and yearn to go back to's.

How can I make you understand?

Well for starters, upon driving down the narrow stretch of highway late at night surrounded by sand dunes rolling down to the Atlantic on one side and the Pamlico Sound on the other, smelling the fresh sea air wafting in DC's window and right back out mine, I discovered something else, the night sky. It was vast, black, glistening with more stars than I had ever seen, and untouched by even a speck of artificial light to detract from its splendor. It was a perfect arch of night sky meeting earth, or in this case sea, and it was just as God intended, stupefying. I don't know how else to describe it other than it took my breath away and my words, so I stuck my head full out the window, let my eyes roll upwards, beamed, basked, and offered up a humbled prayer to God in my mind, of simple thank you's and you outdid yourself on this one, sir. It took me awhile to duck my head back in, and even after doing so I still shook it in disbelief. How was a night sky ever so perfect and how could anyone sleep with that outside their windows?
If my excitement was somewhat contained before, it now burst through the dam, unchecked and flooding everywhere.

The next morning, I greeted the sound from the back porch, shallow water and reeds straight ahead and giant four story houses, painted in Jamaican brightness, standing on stilts to my left. I loved it. After breakfast we made the short walk from the beach enthusiast's condo (pictures of lighthouses and fisherman's poems a delightful touch, the furniture from 1979 could have used a can of white spray paint to shabby chic it up but I wasn't complaining) to the beach, which was out our door, across the street and over a sand dune. The beach went on and on in both directions with very few people taking up space on the sand. I loved it more. I dropped my things and wasted no time, sprinting into the ocean and this time as I had DC to be my shark bait, I let myself enjoy swimming out to my waist versus staying only ankle deep.

Every day went a little like this:

Wake up, coffee, breakfast, beach, swim, sit in a beach chair in the surf, try and read but ultimately get distracted by enticing sound of the surf and end up going back in to laugh like a five-year old as waves knock me down and I utilize my got on sale for $5 goggles that allowed me to keep an extra vigilant eye for sharks and scope out the ocean floor for shells and other exciting treasures.
Lunch break at one of the many incredible local dives. Best part of the island, not a 7-Eleven, McDonald's, CVS, or any corporate chain of any kind in sight. Locals catching fish and bringing 'em in to be served up hot and scrumptious at the Hatterasman. Locals purveying coffee that wasn't Starbucks and was delicious at The Dancing Turtle. Locals making a lemon berry cake that finally made me break my anti-lemon bakery rule, umm, more than once, at Captain Beaner's.

Then it was back to the beach for more swimming, more of my trying to stay underwater for little schools of tropical-looking fish to stare me down while I stared them down, more seashell collecting and more of my sad attempts to read while ultimately just wanting to be lulled by the crash of waves meeting shore and then retracting back in a frothy sashay.
Dinner in the condo, then trigger-happy behind the lens of my camera for sunset or an adventure.
Repeat with added adventures like exploring the many shops on the island, kayaking, taking a ferry over to Ocracoke Island, touring the nearby lighthouses, with the added delicious bonus of a mere $8 and entering the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, climbing all 257 stairs, swirling up and up for an experience that I have been dying to have since my love affair with lighthouses began lord knows when.

Now there were a few downsides. I know you probably weren't expecting that but I will be honest with you. I'll start first with the least troubling and work my way up.

1. Because the island was so magical and enticing, (I saw dolphins one day when the sea was relatively calm, need I say more) I panicked nearly every day, because I knew every day was one day closer to going home and I was filled with a gut-wrenching dread that ultimately put a dreary raincloud on my living in the moment. My crazy fault? Of course. Why couldn't I just be present and enjoy it and not ruin it with worry? Well there was no doing! It was too delightful! I saw dolphins, storms roll in over the ocean, imagined I might see mermaids with my goggles, lighthouses, ate way too much lemon cake and drank cup after cup of hot and tasty flavored coffee with the likes of surfers! What else could I do but begin to dread going back to reality? Reality doesn't have dolphins. Reality isn't waking up on the ocean and swimming all day. Reality isn't lemon-berry cake for breakfast lunch and dinner! Oy but the panicky dread was a beast, but a small price to pay for Island life.

2. Then there was the seaweed in the sound. So the sound side of the island is mostly two-feet deep, with some spots where it gets ominously deeper, but then there was the seaweed. In fact there were whole sea forests down there, branches sticking up, and green patches of swaying plant life! In my kayak I was prepared with not only water-shoes, but a life-jacket in case I should've tipped for some reason, God forbid in the seaweed. The water shoes would then prevent my feet from actually feeling the slime of the plants caressing me, and because even though the water was shallow, surely the seaweed would attack me should I fall in and maybe just maybe the life-jacket would save me. Yes, I said it, were I to flip, I just knew the seaweed would wrap me in its creepy, malevolent, waving arms of hideousness and take me down while I screamed like a deranged banshee. I have been certain of this fact my whole life: that if seaweed ever so much as brushed my calve, it would sense my deep fear, therefor attacking me by wrapping itself around me and taking me down into its murky lair. I am not alone in this fear, either. Ask my sister Kia, who is even more scared of seaweed than I. This caused my kayak trips, though very fun, as I love to kayak, to be laced with an air of paranoia and rushing so that when I paddled back into shore, I felt a huge relief that I made it back alive.

3. There are ghosts. They come out at night and scurry about near the water's edge and up and over the dunes and it is horrifying. Well, they aren't so much ghosts as ghost crabs, but quite frankly after encountering a ghost crab I think I'd rather take my chances with an actual ghost. The first time I saw one, I was sitting on the beach at dusk talking to my dad on the phone with my camera around my neck, having just snapped several pictures. I saw this gigantic crab run up to the water in front of me and at first I was excited. I told my dad what I had just seen and told him to hold on while I tried to photograph Mr. Crab up close, but as I neared him, I saw him panic at the sight of me and run back to his hole and disappear. At this time I had noticed his almost transparent legs and the fact that he went back down into a hole I had seen before. On my way to the beach every day I noticed numerous holes everywhere but thought nothing of it. I had now realized they were crab dens and I was aghast. I looked around me and saw the eery crabs everywhere, most of them little ghost crab babies. I felt a tremor of instant heebs rush up my spine and no longer wanted a picture, I wanted outta there. I ran for the dune while dodging crab after crab.
A few nights later, DC and I made the mistake of deciding to go on a romantic moonlit walk, I hesitantly asked what about the crabs? And he told me he thought they wouldn't be bad. I spotted a few as we made our way over the dune but tried to be brave as I dug my nails into the flesh of his arm, hugging closer and closer to his body. By the time we reached the water I wanted to simply be on DC's back and not have my feet anywhere near the sand, and still I saw the ghostly creatures running to and fro from the surf.
"No. No. No. I can't do it! I want to go back! They are going to crawl up into my vagina!"
DC immediately burst out laughing and said, "That's not the kind crabs that go into your vagina."
"They could get up there somehow though! The baby ones. They are fast and shifty!"
"Why would they want to go into your vagina?"
"UM! Why wouldn't they?! Their home is already a dark, wet hole, my vagina is exactly where they would like to be!"
DC laughed harder and said, "Wow, I love you. And that actually makes sense."
He turned me around and we went back, as soon as I crossed back over the dune, I ran across the street, borderline convulsing over my fear of the ghost crabs while wondering if any of them had made a mad dash for my vajayjay. I slapped at my legs.

I loved the island but the ghost crabs haunted me my entire visit and if I was paranoid about seaweed and sharks getting me, at least I could take the proper precautions, but there was no way to protect my lady parts so I avoided the beach from dawn to dusk everyday, except the one day I did brave it to see the sunrise and still met a few lingering crabs running about, but I daresay it was worth my irrational fear of ghost crabs in my vagina to see the suns rays lighting up the whole sky with pink and purple hues behind clouds nestled on the sea.

All in all other than my paranoia over seaweed attacks, shark attacks, ghost crab attacks, my daily dread over leaving, and a building resentment that my ancestors hadn't decided to be lighthouse keepers so that I could now own one, I would say Hatteras was the tops. Oh, was it ever the tops. Go and see for yourself. But don't crowd the beach as I prefer it uncrowded, don't tell anyone I sent you as I promised to keep Hatteras a secret, gem that it is and don't say I didn't warn you about the ghosts!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I have had it. I really have. I don't want to work for anyone but me. I have actually known this since childhood, as I always envisioned myself in a screened in porch with lots of oversized furniture in whites and blues and a huge oak writers desk facing the sea, writing away whilst my children run amok in the backyard or forest as I am whimsical like that and hope my children are as much of tree-huggers as I was. I literally did hug trees as a child. I would sit in one in my yard with my arms lovingly embracing the trunk and pretend it was my boyfriend. Crazy? No, just wildly imaginative, thank you very much. Anyhow, in my fantasy I've already sold numerous New York Times Bestsellers and am penning another. My kids would come running into my creative space hollering and being kids and I would turn and look at them and say, "Mommy's working. This is mommy's writing space and writing time. You know this. Do you run and badger daddy in his working space? No you do not, so go play with frogs and build a fort and I will make you cookies when I am done."

Gosh I am going to be the best mom. I am literally already so pleased with my handling of sternness, and love, yet complete embrace of my children's needs for adventure and cookies. Anyway. I digress.

After getting a call about an interview today, only to realize it was one of those scammy companies that wants you to sell some unbeknownst product on commission, while pretending I am going to get to travel to the Bering Sea, I realized that I cannot work for The Man anymore. The job was a farce and I was prematurely wooed in with words of travel and growth opportunities, but the second I realized sales were involved--yuck, blech, vomit--all bets were off.
For a moment I was genuinely disappointed though as the job had seemed so splendid initially. So I did my usual song and dance of wanting to flail myself on the floor and cry over my crushed hopes, or take a dramatic two and half hour bath, just to showcase my disdain for being a part of the working class, or nap.
I huffed, flailed and produced about two tears for about two minutes, until I realized the effort wasn't worth it. Taking a bath, when admittedly I was already clean, seemed semi-pointless even for the relaxation and I realized the bathtub was in more of a need of cleaning than I was and that too seemed like far too much work just to make a statement. I opted for the nap. I laid down, but felt restless and not at all tired. Ten minutes later I was up and feeling vigilant.
I would work for no one I vowed! Well for now, I am going to continue being a bartender 12-24 hours a week, because Sallie Mae is a persistent lil snatch, but in the meantime I am going to tirelessly pursue a career working for myself. It dawned on me while I was trying to force a nap on myself like a reticent two-year old hell-bent on continuing playtime that if I were going to work for myself I had to be my own boss. And what would my boss say to me about sleeping at 12:30 in the afternoon?

"Get your keester out of bed and get to work! There is so much to be done! You don't have time to dilly-dally."

And just like that I was out of bed. And working on a whole slew of projects I have been putting off. That included getting out of my pajamas and even putting a scarf in my hair. Admittedly I've gotten into a terrible habit of not putting on real clothes until I have to leave the house. So DC comes home at 5 and I am still sitting in a nightgown with crazy hair (unless I have to work that is, then of course I am in my magician's garb). Lord knows why that man loves me so much.
The thing is I genuinely love accountability. I thrive on it, hence why it would stand to reason that I shouldn't be my own boss, because I like being accountable to someone. However, my complete restless and creative soul really doesn't mesh well at any job I've ever had. It has occurred to me that if I want to work somewhere that supports all my values and whims, yet fulfills and challenges me, I shouldn't keep tirelessly looking for jobs for someone else when I already know what I want, which is to work for one Ms. Cassandra Lee. I hear she's quite charming when after she's had her coffee and put on a bra.
I want to then say to DC, "Honey, I have to go write about the Great Wall of China, see you later," and go. Or take my treasure trove of vintage, refurbished items and photography and sell them around the country at little fairs and boutiques. Or run a Dude Ranch/Bed and Breakfast. Or make jams and pickles and sell them from my farm. How much do goats run these days and is it true that farmers have to be up at the God forsaken hour of 6 A.M.? Or teach white-water rafting and yoga. Or open a bakery. But that's still up in the air as I don't know if I trust myself around sweets all day.
So this is it folks, if I have never rose up in the hierarchy of any job I've ever had, it wasn't because I was unmotivated it was because I surely did not want to. But I want to if it involves, art, the outdoors, adventure, writing, photography or horses. I am telling you as I embark upon new business ventures because you should probably be a part of it. How you ask? By checking out my inventory of cool new crafts on my etsy page, for starters, as that's one thing I am doing for myself.

And if you don't want to support me there, fine by me, look and get ideas for your own crafts, or maybe you don't like crafts at all, in which case, I suggest you talk to my boyfriend about sports and get out of my hair.
I kid, I kid. Just support me here instead, by reading or donating as I happily accept fundage to foot the bill writing about adventures like the Great Wall of China, well the adventures are a little more localized for now, but mark my words that will be written about one of these days.
But, anyhow my new boss is a real slave-driver and she tells me I am just being verbose now and have to get back to work photographing and listing treasures for etsy and looking into the cost of goats and old victorian houses.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Not everyone has a DC

I am not sure what to say other than I'm hungry. So hungry. For success, fulfillment, travel, chocolate croissants, an old wagoneer and surfboard, though the surfboard a little less now that Shark Week has been on religiously in our house all week. Oh and I am dieting, so basically every time I have seen food today, whether it's a food I like or not, I pined for it right fierce. Actually at one point I started drooling prematurely during a commercial and it turned out to be cat food. This is why I hate to diet, any time I restrict all I can think about is the fact that I am restricting and it drives me mad. But that's not the point of this post.
I honestly don't really know what is, I just felt compelled to write and not hound DC. I have been in the throes of yet another existential crisis, almost all day and have been trying not to burden him with it.

What's there to say?

Honey, I am deeply fulfilled by your love, yet somehow there is still a gaping abyss inside of me that yearns for a purpose that is more than pouring decaf coffee and making Bloody Mary's. That combined with feeling an acute sense of shame over the state of my checking account has left me positively drained.

I'm just rotten aren't I? I've begun to think that's it. That I can't just happily accept my starving artist status and say I'm a bartender/writer and believe I am on my way. Instead today when I tried to pay for my gym membership and found the cost a little steeper than I imagined it to be, yes poor planner me, I promptly left the gym sans a workout as I could not pay, got in my car (correction my boyfriend's car) and wept, repeating to myself, you're just a waitress. You are just a waitress.

Then I watched Steve Martin on Conan, playing his banjo, cracking jokes, being brilliant and I simply ached. Ached for all of it. I want to write music and then play it. I want to be in skits and plays. I want to walk the red carpet. I want to see the whole world and I want to tell everyone about it, while being superbly witty and sensational. I want to be grand and I always have. I am not ashamed to say so, either.

I can't understand why I yearn for so much, though. I saw a commercial where this guy looked as if he were at some big bash in Mexico, there were a lot of colors, people, and a painted elephant. I didn't really get the gist of what the product was, probably beer, but I just thought, I want to be at a party with a painted elephant.

It's not even that I don't appreciate the small beauty of what is, I truly can and do, it's just the what isn't feels so large that it swallows the what is.

But here's a what is that was really wonderful. I found a sliver in my thumb today, one that I suspect I got days ago and didn't realize was a sliver until now. I panicked as I don't have my mom to take it out and I surely couldn't do it as I am a sissy and a half.

I told DC and held up my thumb to show him. He promptly said, "I'll get it out." I would say I was stunned because I would never have the cojones to get a sliver out of his thumb. Nor would I offer to share my frosting off my cupcake, or give away my pickle spear that came with my meal, or any one of the things that DC easily and lovingly does for me without thought because he knows how happy it'll make me. So it came as no surprise that he again knew how much I would appreciate not having to remove my own sliver and took initiative.

He couldn't get it out, as it was really down in there, but the gesture has been warming my heart all night. I mean truly, I am more impressed with this man and the fact that he was willing to stick a safety pin in my thumb, than I would be if he bought me a dozen long-stemmed roses and a Tiffany's necklace. I mean it. He is the tops.

So I guess that's the point. I had to write this to understand that I may not be parading around with a painted elephant (today at least) but I have a man who loves me enough to share his pickles with me and do pre-op on my finger. And while people may have nice jobs and 401k's, not everyone has a DC.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Treasure Trove

I went for a walk in town today just to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. First stop was the thrift store that is literally a block from my apartment. It is a wonder that I don't go there everyday, but my self-control isn't great in thrift stores, so I try and limit my visits, especially since I recently made the executive decision to not start saving for retirement, nay, but to start saving for every trip I want to take ever, which is basically see the whole world. What this means is I can't fritter away money on books and home decor every other Tuesday anymore.
Today's finds included some vintage treasures for my etsy shop, a scarf for my hair as I am growing it out and not loving the stage it's at, and a cotton old lady house robe complete with embroidered flowers because I legitimately have been needing one (the only robe I own is very thick fleece with a hood and I do so enjoy lounging in a robe for hours on end and not getting dressed until it is an utter necessity). All of this for $4.24 because turns out the robe was half off today, so, yeah I shouldn't be spending money, but c'mon. C'mon. What a steal.
Then I made the mistake of popping into the beyond darling bookstore in town, Prospero's Books, which again I avoid like the plague as I mentioned before, books and home decor have a way of finding themselves in my hands against my better judgement. But you see, the bookstore was undergoing some construction for the past few months and now that the construction was complete, I felt I owed it to myself to see what had changed. I made a mental note not to let my eyes latch onto any one title or promising book, but to just walk through and do a general once-over, simply getting the feel and ambiance of the stacks and rows of old books.
I was almost through the whole bookstore, having wove to the back and this way and that, making my way to the front when I saw what looked like a stand of cards.
I love cards and just needed a quick peek. It wouldn't hurt to support this darling local bookman with a $3 card I thought. The cards turned out to be old Civil War postcards, which, while neat, I had no interest in the scary soldiers somber faces staring back at me from my fridge were I to purchase one.
Then from the corner of my eye I spotted what looked like rare and old editions of childrens books. Uh-oh. I could feel myself being pulled as though on one of those people-movers at the airport. And suddenly, there I was oggling the display of antique, colorful, and beautiful books. Calmly, I thought, it's okay. All this stuff looks really old so I am sure the prices are far beyond what I'd be willing to spend, so it's okay to just appreciate.
I picked up a card, laid against cardboard and covered in protective plastic that had a silly poem on it. I turned over the card and it said 1918, $5.00
$5.00 for a clever poem from 1918? It's almost like I am making out like a bandit, I thought. Does this sweet old man know he is under-valuing his merchandise? This poem is almost a hundred years old. I have to buy it. I mean I just have to.

I should've walked away at this point with my hundred-year old poem on villains, but of course I didn't. Now it was like I was drugged. I felt I had found some sort of mini miracle, with a $5.00 ancient poem, and I wanted to now know if I could find more. I picked up a miniature volume of Alice in Wonderland and opened the cover, feeling hopeful: $2. Oh my heavens! I stacked it on top of the poem and searched for more, even though a small voice inside was insistent that I didn't need a funny poem or Alice in Wonderland, I needed trips to Switzerland and the Badlands.
But of course the artist voice was squelching the reasonable voice, with insistence that of course I needed a miniature copy of Alice in Wonderland as I wasn't even certain I owned a normal sized copy of this iconic book, so that was a done deal, and then the villain poem was witty and it was a poem and it survived a hundred years, so that was a given. Plus I could always sell it, as it was clearly worth more than $5, although already I could feel myself forming an attachment to this silly poem and picturing framing it and putting it in my future child's bedroom.
I have a heinous attachment to things and not in the material way like I crave new Gucci bags and chandeliers, but in the way like I am an adventurer and am collecting my treasures, as every purchase I make I can tell you has some sort of story and significance to my life. Like this poem is a part of the human language and language speaks to me, or old trunks that I imagine survived the Titanic and now probably haunt my apartment with their lingering spirits, but it's totally worth it, as they are enriching my life and my home, because if I am not seafaring at the moment or in Italy at least my home looks as if I am. They are treasures, don't you see!
Then I saw out of the corner of my eye on a bright red children's book covered in jungle animals, the name Kipling. My heart stopped. No. It couldn't be. I pulled the book all the way out and saw, sure enough, the book was penned by none other than Rudyard.
His poetry is tattooed on my arm! Oh no. I could feel myself coveting this book something fierce. I had no idea he wrote children's books. I flipped open the cover to pray that it wasn't $45 or more. It was $6. Okay this was madness! Madness! How were all these treasure so cheap? Though they were now adding up to more than I wanted to spend today I could feel myself trying to rationalize to put something down, maybe Alice in Wonderland or the poem as I clearly couldn't give up Rudyard now. But my fingers wouldn't unlatch any of the finds, in fact the same pull I felt toward the case, I now felt toward the cash register, while the feeble attempts of my rational mind were drowned out with my need for classic literature at an unbeatable price.
There was no stopping me.
And the best part. The sweet old man behind the register investigated each piece with as much love and attention as I had, reading the poem aloud, and nodding his head like he got it. He told me he read Alice in Wonderland with his book club and what fun that was. Then he spotted Kipling and said, "ah, Kipling, yes."
My stomach got nervous like all the prices were wrong and when he told me the total it would really be close to $100 instead of $13. No. All the prices were right.
He asked if this was for a child's room. I sheepishly shook my head and said, "no, all for me." He smiled again like he completely understood.

"You have good taste."

I beamed. I do, sir. I really know that I do, I thought smugly, but extra pleased that he could see it too.

I left the bookstore surmising that was almost $20 that could've been in my travel fund, but so happy with my finds that I couldn't be truly upset. Besides then I spotted his sign out front that I hadn't seen on my way in.

I just purchased food for the mind and what could be more priceless than that? I dare say I haven't a clue.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Weird bumps, white wine, and Lena Dunham

I went to Warrenton today to write in an undiscovered coffee shop, undiscovered by me that is. I love the town of Warrenton Virginia, as it is hilly, reminding me of the U.P. and quaint, like where I imagine Ben Franklin would live. Upon walking into Jimmie's Market, a dark, eclectic place with lush dark brown leather armchairs and a hodge-podge of art, the woman behind the counter said,

"What happened to you?"
"Excuse me?" I said.
"What happened to you," she asked again sounding more insistent and slightly alarmed. I began to panic a little thinking my face had manifested some sort of hideous rash I didn't know about.
"You're all red."
Oh. I am always slightly flushed just from being alive.
"It was probably from walking outside."
"Ohh. You're really red."
"Do you have a bathroom?" I asked.
"Two. Take your pick."

Ladies. Or Gents. I went into the ladies as it was open.

In the bathroom mirror I checked to see how ferociously red I was. My cheeks were a perfect rosey hue against my creamy complexion. I thought it looked rather nice, not like the flaming wildabeast the store owner clearly thought I resembled. I rolled my eyes and made use of the loo. I then took out a small hand-held mirror to inspect my nether regions. No I am not a pervert and this is not something I often or ever do, but I recently discovered a small red bump down, ahem... there and my mind has been wreaking all kinds of havoc. Namely that a tick is lodged in my vajay-jay. I saw it on an episode of House once after this girl was dangerously close to death with seizures and the culprit happened to be a tick, tucked down in her lady bits causing some sort of allergy. Ever since I had a real life run-in with ticks in the deep woods of Michigan a few years back, I have been petrified of this very scenario.
I went to the coffee shop with the intention of writing but after getting a Limeade instead of coffee, I couldn't stop myself from webmd-ing obsessively over my tiny bump/could be freckle or mole for all I know, to the point where once I started clicking on the picture portion of my research in webmd I was near hyperventilation and my writing trip was all but destroyed.
I shakily left Jimmie's making a mental note to come back and appreciate it more at a later date, called a local gyno from my car and then drove home to get a bigger mirror and obsess over my bump.
Despite being in the comfort of my home with a larger mirror and a flashlight I was no closer to diagnosing myself. The effort and obsession had grown rather taxing and I felt exhausted from the whole ordeal, deciding to leave it to the professionals and stop assuming I had cancer/was pregnant/riddled with disease.
I went to DC's warehouse and painted some shelves to get my mind off of it. Although my mind got a little more frazzled when I asked DC his level of interest in backpacking Europe and he said 10% or "low to moderate." I asked because I was reading the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book earlier today and marking the ones I've already seen, which is a handsome few I might add.
Low to moderate, though DC? Low to moderate?! He said maybe if he were still in his 20's. But I am still in my twenties and something about backpacking, sleeping in hostels and maybe some European farmer's field, and then running out of money and having to work in said farmer's field just sounds magical to me. I think it's the struggle. I would do mostly anything, drugs and nefarious deeds aside, for a good story.
So I came back home and per my usual distraught artist self didn't know what to do with myself but flop down in bed. I watched a program on the aerial view of Maine for a little bit, then found Lena Dunham's film, Tiny Furniture and began to watch that. I love Lena Dunham. Just the sight of her improves my mood. Then as soon as she opens her mouth I feel a kindred sisterhood that I'm aware of, but she isn't as she doesn't know me. Her quirky and offbeat wit, combined with her delightful awkwardness makes me feel less abnormal.
I stopped watching, not because I was uninterested, but because all of a sudden I felt compelled to write. Well, and drink the white wine I forgot I had in the fridge. Normally I ignore my compulsions to write when it strikes me at an inopportune moment, instead making a note of what it was I wanted to write about, thinking I will do it later. More often than not, I don't end up writing my ingenious idea later. Not that writing about my vagina is stop-the-presses writing, but I wanted to be writing and so I am.
DC challenged me to do 21 blogs in 21 days, to you know, make it a habit. I read somewhere that if you do something for 1,000 days you master it. So of course, being me, I can't just be happy with a 21 day challenge, now I want 1,000.

So anyway, that's that. I might have a tick in my vagina, I'm drinking wine without having eaten dinner whilst sitting in my flashy orange workout tank-top that did not see a workout and wishing I were as driven and successful as Lena Dunham. That is my day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Eiffel Tower Cafe

Yesterday I ate blood sausage.

Okay it wasn't blood sausage, but it looked like blood sausage, or what I imagine blood sausage would look like. I was at The Eiffel Tower Cafe in Leesburg, VA. I had been wanting to stop there simply for the name. A good name, like a good book title will get me everytime. I asked a local what she thought of the Eiffel Tower Cafe and her face lit up as she oozed compliments. It was a done deal. The cafe also boasted a quaint side patio with twinkly lights, (favorite, favorite, favorite) an abundance of plants and umbrella'd patio tables with flower-filled glass vases. It was warm enough outside for me to feel flushed but there was a breeze and the patio was shaded, so it seemed as if I could close my eyes and imagine I was actually in France.

I perused the menu outside and saw the prices were a little on the steep end for my wallet, the $9-$17 range for the lunch menu, but everything was written in a fancy twirly script and sounded trés French indeed. I walked inside to investigate further. A small bespectacled woman with sprouting honey colored hair greeted me immediately and informed me that the kitchen closes for lunch at 2:30. It was two so I hesitated but she waved her hand insisting I had time. As I was still unsure I asked to see the menu again. I spotted a slew of awards on the restaurant by newspapers and magazines hanging to my left. That combined with the local's fervent recommendation of the place sealed the deal and I asked for a table on the patio.

I felt I owed it to myself to go whole hog and get something particularly Frenchy. I ordered the Merquez Sausage. I of course butchered the name while ordering as I knew I would. If my sister Kia were with me she could've ordered it right, as she is a French snob. The server, the same small woman took my order, then brought me a bread basket and glass of water, saying bon appétit very convincingly. This is why I don't say it at the French-American restaurant I work at, because it will just sound false and contrived. I am not French. If I were to say bon appétit after placing food in front of someone I would feel somewhat inclined to dip into a graceful bow, and then roll my hand out, then saying eat, eat, bellissimo! buéno sera! and start kissing my fingertips. See, now I think I am mixing French with Italian and Spanish. I would be a disgrace to France. Hence why I don't say bon appétit at my restaurant, I simply say enjoy, then smile and walk away.

I am trying a gluten-free lifestyle right now, but I was in faux France for the afternoon and speaking of being a disgrace to France, not eating a warm baguette when in front of you after hearing bon appétit seems the epitome of disgrace and disrespect. So I dug in, happily munching, watching the twinkly lights, feeling the breeze and that contentment I am always yearning for. Ah, bread, you make everything right.

Then my sausage arrived. My waitress again said bon appétit, smiled and walked away. There were three sausages on my plate, long and slender, sitting in a brown sauce, accompanied by a fresh green salad and french fries. I took a bite and as soon as I looked closely spotting the red almost fleshy looking tightness of the sausage wedged into its casing, the words blood sausage kept flooding my brain. Those words truly do not belong together.
The sausage was... interesting. Not bad. Just unlike any sausage I had tasted before. The sauce was delicious as were the salad and fries, but I realized maybe my palate wasn't quite extensive enough yet for authentic French sausage. I ate one and a half sausages to be fair and open-minded.
I am a voyeur of fine cuisine and most certainly won't write off French fare, but maybe anything in the sausage or would-be blood sausage family is not for me. However, I will say this. I adored this little French Cafe. After leaving my money for the check on the table, I got up, took one more look around the patio and stepped under the arch toward the street. My waitress opened the door to the restaurant beaming and waving, goodbye mademoiselle!
The $17 for lunch was entirely worth it just to be called mademoiselle. And for a little piece of France, peace of mind and the joy of trying something new. Although next time, I am getting the smoked salmon and capers.

I also found some wonderful information on the website about Madeleine, who I suspect was my waitress and how the restaurant is said to be haunted by a civil war soldier. If I wasn't already going to go back for the darling French ambiance and beautiful service, I would be back for this little tidbit.

Recommendation: Highly

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Congratulations. You've lost your mind.

I worry about everything. Constantly. Everything. If I find myself without a worry, I worry that I've stopped worrying and I rifle through my memory bank until I find something sufficient: lack of funds, no dream job, what if my relationship fails, those are all solid standbys and have served me well, so I ruminate on one of those for awhile to calm my worrying mind.
I have this theory that if I worry enough, turn over a problem so many times in my mind, check it at every angle, I will air out the worry and it will go away. It doesn't. I just find new angles or unforeseen problems that had not occurred to me yet. So it is an endless cycle.
I have been on such a worry whirlwind as of late that I have been giving myself full blown panic attacks, where I can't breathe properly, am prone to more tears more drop of the hat than usual, and can't make it through the night without something infinitesimal setting me off on a crazed spasm of the mind where insomnia then kicks in.
To fully appreciate my crazy I have to offer full disclosure here. As a writer I owe it to myself to be honest, even if the honesty is ugly. I don't care much for ugly, mostly because I have a fixation on the beautiful. In fact I have such an obsession with the beautiful that I pride myself on it. I am smitten with aesthetics and constantly make proclamations about what I can or cannot do based on aesthetics.

I could never work in a tire store. Think of looking at grey walls and tires all day. Horrif! I say everytime I enter a tire store. It's like I have to reiterate it in case I should be cursed and put in a lifelong position at a tire making factory.
I would borderline sell my soul for a screened in porch overlooking Lake Superior. I think or voice this upon spotting my favorite house on Ridge St. in Marquette Michigan, high up on a bluff with swirly staircase included. I dream of walking up to that house, with enough money to knock on the door and say how much? And the owner would look befuddled and say, ma'am this house is not for sale. And I would again, arrogantly shake my head and say, no. How much? I saw it in a movie once so now I think it's possible.
I look like a lesbian magician in my waitressing uniform. In other words, I have to quit, I told my best friend when I started my most recent loathsome waitressing job. She replied, Why do you think I quit Family Video? They made me wear khakis. And tuck in my shirt. Which was a polo. We just get each other. Some things in life are just unacceptable, people. Un.Ac.Ceptable.

Back to my insomnia and confession. I fell asleep fairly easily last night, thank heavens, but then was woken up several times by my boyfriend's newest addiction: True Blood. I blame myself for getting him started, but by the third time that I woke up from the noise of his iPad, however, my patience was running as thin as the blood from the victims meeting their demise by vampire death. Except now I couldn't hear Bill Compton's deep timbre yelling for Sookie, I heard instead Steve Carell making jokes. The Office was on. DC cannot fall asleep without listening to The Office and this is a fact I have grown accustomed to, even need it myself on occasion to fall asleep. But this time, the noise was just a racket that wasn't soothing but a circus marching through my mind that was craving a break with sleep. I asked him to shut it off. Just like how I was starting to panic that I had been woken up too many times and insomnia and worry would set in, as I could already feel the sneaky rots creeping up to the bedroom door ready to pounce on my awakeness, I heard DC's voice sounding equally alarmed at shutting off his sleeping security blanket. He asked if he could finish the episode.
My nerves started coming alive and wrestling about in agitation. And then worry walked through the door and sat down beside me with his sadistic smile, asking:

Can you really live with this?
Live with what, I questioned, nervous.
Having to listen to The Office, every. single. night. For the rest of your life?
Oh my gosh. That is a long time.
It is a very long time. Dare I say is it worth it?
Oh my gosh I have to break up with my boyfriend because he won't shut Steve Carell's mouth!

Then I proceeded to worry about how awful that would be. Until my entirely kind boyfriend who knows me sensed my frustration and began to draw on my back. This has been working to put me to sleep since childhood with all the comfort and warmth of giving a fussy baby her bottle. I tried to fight the gesture as I was already in the throes of a worry festival, flags and streamers flying, but he knows me well and I began to immediately feel soothed, contentment coming back to me amidst the onslaught and I drifted back to sleep.
Okay. Keep in mind this was my sleep-deprived, crazed and worried mind taking over last night. I told you. Ugly.
So what do I do, but assume the worry is right and I am now a powerless prisoner to it and succomb all morning. I can feel myself drifting to the bottomless depths of it, when it occurs to me that I need to save myself. I really do. I need my best friend, Ash, but don't call as I assume she's at work. Fifteen minutes later, as if I summoned her with my mind, she calls me. I explain everything. My panic attacks and crying and crazed thoughts and meditating and wanting to run away and how I have forty-seven dollars on me and I thought I could make it to Nashville on a train maybe and how what if I get married and have babies and then can't go to the Redwood Forest or Nova Scotia whenever I feel like it? I purge and purge and purge. She listens and listens and listens.
And then laughs.
And proceeds to tell me I do this every time I get back from vacation. And that I am always searching for contentment or the new or adventuresome.

"Is running away to the Redwood Forest going to make your problems go away?"
"And marriage isn't the end. Why can't you keep doing what you want when you're married?"
"I don't know. I am just worrying."
"Because worry is your best friend."

It's true. I have let worry become my constant and favored companion.

"Ash. I feel like I am losing my mind."
"Congratulations! You've lost your mind! Now go write about it! Quit acting like you need constant adventure to be a good writer. You have a laptop. You have ten fingers. Fucking write. You could write in a padded cell. It is what you want to do. Writing is all you talk about. And when you don't do it, but instead stare at your walls in your apartment instead of getting it out, you project that worry about not writing onto other things, like your relationship. Get your head out of your ass and just write. Write about being insane. Because you are."

I am insane. But all the best artists are. In fact my madcap mind already has jumped ahead to starting some sort of artist collaborative where we crazed artists can go to talk about how our minds work. And strum on guitars. And drink quality coffee and brews. And paint. Okay, that really could work.
If talking about my manic thoughts with my best lady makes me happy then what does writing about it do? It soothes my restless and rattled soul. So here I am writing. Sure I drove forty-five minutes to a posh coffeeshop full of hipsters to do it, my own artist collaborative for the time being, but I needed to get out of the house and feel free. And no I don't need Nashville or the Redwood Forest today. I just needed my words. And of course my best friend.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am who I am

I ate homemade peanut butter cookies this morning for breakfast, one after another until I could feel cookies in my esophagus. There were about 9 on the plate. Now there are two and a half. I couldn't finish the half. I haven't exercised such little self restraint in a long while. Honestly I don't feel that guilty. I should I guess. But I don't.

I have been craving Xanax something fierce.

For the past week I've been obsessively cleaning and organizing my house in order to avoid my art. The house is now polished like the top of the Chrysler Building, but no adventure blogs have been written and my book is nowhere near done. But DC has clean underwear and hasn't had to do the dishes in days. I even pulled his inside-out socks the right way before cleaning them. I don't know why inside-out socks gross me out so badly, but just picturing sweaty feet rotting in hot shoes all day and then pulling them off from the top of your ankle downward, so that you trap all the dirt and smells inside makes my skin crawl. I started washing DC's socks in the inside-out ball to make a point about how I would not stick my hands in that cavern of filth, but the socks were coming out of the wash crunchy and then I was throwing them out. I told him he had to undo the ball himself and he did for a time, but now they are back to inside-out balls. I made myself undo all of them yesterday for the laundry. If that is not true love, I don't know what is.

I have also been catching up on True Blood as a way to avoid my art and because the show is tops. But the violence combined with my overactive imagination has gotten to me. I was shaving my legs on the side of the tub yesterday with my bathroom door open, when I thought I heard someone in the living room. I assumed it was DC so I kept shaving. He didn't come in or call my name, so I got nervous, quietly stood up, shut the bathroom door, locked it, stepped into the shower and as I washed my hair kept picturing a vampire ripping open the shower curtain and my eyes flying open in horror like they do on the show right before I am fanged. I practiced my best blood curdling screams. I told this to DC later.

"You practiced blood-curdling screams?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
"Well in my head of course." Honestly I thought that went without saying.

I feel tremendously lost lately and it makes me want to run away. In fact I took DC's car last night without telling him and just drove around for awhile at dusk, purposefully getting lost on back roads. When I came home, he called me on it.

"You were running away weren't you?"
"Yes you were."
"Okay fine. But just a little. I came back."
"Why did you want to run away?"
"I always want to run away when I don't know what to do with my life."

We proceeded to talk about why I do it, and DC asked if I wanted tough love. I said no thank you. He gave it to me anyway which infuriated me, so I told him I was done with the conversation, turned away and cried. He came over and kissed my cheeks, my tears and my mouth. I kept my lips and eyes shut tightly, but didn't push away his lips. He went to the office for a bit and came home. He asked if I hated him.

"No. But you're not my favorite person right now."

He nodded and said he was sorry, looking genuinely contrite and went to bed. I came in an hour later and he reached for me and held me very tight to him. So tight, I got hot and felt sort of smothered but couldn't let go because it felt like love. A lot of it.

That's why I came back from running away. Well, and I had his car. If I were serious about running away I would have taken the train and a stick with a bandana filled with my most prized possessions.
Who am I kidding? I could never have done the stick pouch thing, only carrying a postcard from my mother and an old lighter from John Wayne. I would pack four suitcases and overly flowing bags and then when I really am homeless like I was in New York City for a time, carting all those bags through the rain-soaked streets of Brooklyn would seem quite stupid and thoughtless and the weary traveler with the stick pouch makes all the sense in the world. Alas I am who I am.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chincoteague: A love story

Day 1:

When my boyfriend mentioned to me, many months ago that there was an island in Virginia that touted roaming, wild ponies, I became fixated and knew I had to go. The wild horses of Rodanthe are well known and now even more popularized by Nicholas Sparks, but wild ponies in Virginia, the very place I was currently residing? Seemed like fate to me! I have loved horses since before I even knew how to speak. I have pictures as a wee babe, leaning out of my mothers arms to feed a neighboring horse an apple. It's always been love, between us, horses and I that is. The island is named, Chincoteague and it is off the coast of Virginia, right smack on the great big Atlantic. I drove five hours down from D.C. to reach the ponies and the coast. Upon crossing over a marshland onto the small stretch of island that is Chincoteague, my heart was thrumming with delight. Who am I kidding, my heart had been thrumming with delight since I had woken up at six a.m. that morning, a half hour before my alarm even went off, but upon reaching the island, now that was nirvana.
Is that a pony? I narrowed my eyes looking off into dense marshy waters. I saw a brown shape, quite large actually, as I quickly darted my eyes from the road to marshy waters trying to make it out, it seemed rather boxy and maybe more the size of a smallish vessel, not a smallish pony.
Oh no, that looks like a lobster trap of sorts.
Clearly, I was getting ahead of myself.
Upon checking into my hotel, appropriately named the Refuge Inn, near the back of the island, closer to the ponies and having ponies of their own grazing near the parking lot, I was all but rushing to drop my bags in my, it must be noted, beautiful sea-like room and make haste to where the ponies were on the adjacent island of, Assateague. I bought a day-pass for eight dollars and drove on in. No more than a few minutes later and I saw another marshy area on both sides of the paved drive where cars were pulled over. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I expected to see some cranes, really, as it seemed quite happenstance to just pull into the park and bam, see ponies, but that is exactly what happened.
I was near hyperventilation here, turning this way and that, wanting to point and screech,
"Ponies! Wild ponies! Ponies, I say! Are you seeing this?"
But I felt I shouldn't do that with strangers, so I just did it inside my head, as well as clapped.

After driving around the island, pulling off many a time to take pictures of wild life and the surrounding beauty of the island, and dipping my feet in the ocean for a bit in complete bliss, I decided to go explore town, buy some sunblock and plan out my itinerary a bit. My boyfriend would be so proud. Really if he only knew how much of a planner I was while I am on location like that. I say on location, one because it sounds tremendously cool, and two because I really was in Chincoteague for work if you'll believe it. Work of my own doing. If Conde Nast won't send me to write about new places, then I will send myself, silly gooses. So that is what I did. I called up a local hotel, asked for the owner, and inquired what she could tell me about the island, because I wanted to write about it. Not only was she incredibly helpful but when I arrived there was a packet of welcoming information with my name on it. I had never felt more like a writer. And I truly understood why Hemingway chose to live near and write about the sea, as nothing was more fruitful for my creativity than the sound of the sea and the turquoise sea ambiance of my room. My room even smelled like the sea! And cologne, actually, but not like someones crummy leftover cologne, but a lingering deliberate smell. Like a sexy merman might smell. Heavens, but I loved it! Every moment that I wasn't adventuring I spent writing in my seascape room, with red wooden chairs on the little patio outside and overstuffed crisp white bungalow chairs inside. Sheer, bloody perfection if you ask me.
After driving through town and spotting many a quaint sea item for sale: seashells, minnows, duck decoys with just a rinky-dink rusted box for you to leave cash in exchange for your item, pure honor system, I began to see that this town wasn't just the sea and wild ponies. This town had a whole other kind of allure and magic all its own. I pulled over and parked in town to get out and walk around. I peeked in Neptune's bookstore and Sundial Books, two of the most magnificent bookstores I have happened upon and I adore bookstores. Neptune's was a combination of mermaids and the sea, very Hemingway-esque, while Sundial's was two stories, open, airy and sunny with loads of chairs and even window seats to sit, read, or look out on the water. I honestly, could have moved in it was so perfect. I told the owner that her bookstore was exactly what all bookstores should strive to be. Upon seeing that this town had not one, but two sensational bookstores, on top of ponies and seashells for sale, I pretty much wanted to call DC and tell him I wasn't coming back. In fact, I did.

"Oh honey, I love it! It's everything I dreamed! There are lobster fisherman and the sea and the library is the cutest little clapboard white building I have ever seen and it's the library! You know how much I love cute libraries! I want to move here! So, yeah I'm not coming back."
"Yes you are. You have my car."
Such. A. Killjoy.
After finding that every building that housed books was a dream, I started to feel hungry and went looking for seafood. I pulled into a bright multi-colored building that had nets and buoys dangling from the exterior. I couldn't see the sign but it looked like a fish shack to me. There were two men and a woman sitting outside the entrance talking as I walked up. I glanced at the sign and saw that it said Chincoteague Treasures. Oh yes. I asked the man sitting closest to the door if they were still open, he pointed to the open sign and said yes, with a chuckle. I smiled and walked in. If the bookstores in Chincoteague were what bookstores were meant to be, then this treasure store was made just for me. It was overflowing in complete disarray with ropes from ships, bird sculptures, record players, driftwood, buoys, lanterns, old traffic lights, moose antlers--moose antlers! I immediately went to find the lady who had followed me in to ask her the price. She told me the antlers weren't for sale and I was crushed but a little relieved. They would have easily been $500 and I probably would have sold a kidney quick to buy them. I wanted desparately to take a picture of the overflowing sea treasure madness but there were signs that said not to take pictures of the merchandise. I at least needed a picture of the outside of the building because it was equally intriguing. I asked the woman if that would be all right, because I was working on a travel writing piece on the island and she perked up and said,
"You're writing a novel about Chincoteague!"
"No. No. Not a novel. I just have a travel blog. I mean, I am writing a novel, but not about the island." She beamed and went out to ask her husband.
"Can she take pictures? She's writing a novel about Chincoteague!"
I interjected, "I am not writing a novel, just an article."
The man said, "So you want to promote my store, eh? You take pictures then. Of my store, me, my wife." He smiled.

His wife waved her hands at the prospect of being photographed but the man looked genuinely interested in me now. He introduced himself as Harry and his wife as Maria. He was not a small man and he had a grey beard and matching hair, but right away something about him seemed kind and inviting, like he had stories to tell and somehow magnetized I felt compelled to stay and listen. I flurried around photographing the shop at all angles while I felt him eyeing my camera. Once satisfied that I had gotten every angle, Harry motioned for me to come try his wife's homemade pear preserves. Maria brought me out a little dish with spoon, a glass of water and a chair at Harry's insistence.
"Sit, sit. Try the preserves!" He commanded in a congenial tone.
I sat and began to eat, feeling very excited, like something good was about to ensue with Harry and Maria here at this unusual treasure trove in Chincoteague. I couldn't have been more right. While I nibbled on my preserves, good though they were, eating straight jam was a little tough for me without some sort of bread or cracker, but I didn't want to be rude so I ate spoonful after spoonful. Harry asked me about photography and then told me about his business. He pointed out the strawberries he had just bought sitting on a bench near me and talked about a fish tank he bought from a sea captain for $8,900, the only one ever made. Maria came out and asked if I would like some coffee. I nodded a profuse yes and smiled as I wasn't going anywhere. I didn't want to and I got the sense Harry just wanted to visit.
So we visited. I found out both Harry and Maria were Greek. Ah-ha. That explained the beautiful lilts to their voices. I asked Harry about this and he told me he moved from Sparta, Greece to Connecticut when he was sixteen years old. Now I wanted to know everything about Harry! He told me about how he would share his food with the homeless or the alcoholics of Chincoteague, sometimes offering them a beer as well. My heart warmed to him immensely.
Then Harry asked if I would like a glass of cognac. Yes. Yes, I would. He yelled for Maria. "I want her to try the cognac. Bring it out here so she can try it." I saw Maria's eyebrows go up in surprise, but he insisted she bring me some. She dutifully went, gathered three small plastic shot glasses with stems and poured us each a hefty amount. Maria and Harry raised their glasses in a salute and I raised mine to meet theirs.
"To good health and good fortune," Maria said.
"And to you settling down," Harry piped in. I laughed and cheers'd. It was an expensive seven star Greek Cognac, Harry pointed out and it tasted as such, smooth and delicious, but burned a fiery trail down my innards. Now Harry asked if I were twenty-three. I said, twenty-seven. He nodded and said that was the perfect time to settle down. I got quite a kick out of him wanting me to settle down. I hadn't even mentioned DC yet when he asked how long I'd been with my boy. I said 8 months. He nodded and offered to give me some advice on marriage.

I was giddy. Just giddy. This man was kindly and reminded me of my late grandpa Rajala who also loved to visit. I wanted his advice. I wanted it greatly.
This is what he told me:

"Don't be jealous of one another. There is no room for jealousy in marriage, neither you, nor him." I nodded, intently wanting to take notes but not wanting to ruin the moment. "Also. Don't worry about what you're bringing home. If you make $500 a week and he makes $800, don't you pay this and he pays that. You put it together. You share. You are a family and you share and you take care of one another. And it's not important what you make. Don't worry about that. Worry about what you save. I made $12 today and I spent $7 on strawberries. Do you know what I'm saving? $5. And you be faithful to one another! Oh, today you've got the husband going out to the bar and then the wife is doing it. No. You be faithful and loyal to each other! And say he has a bad day and he comes home and is telling you about his boss riding him and this and that and you think I don't want to hear all this, well, why do you suppose God gave you two ears?" he asked me.
"So you could listen twice as much?" I offered.
"No. So it can go in one ear and out the other. Just listen to what he has to say and don't let it bother you. And he'll do the same for you. In one ear, out the other."
At this point an elderly couple looking to be about 75 came into the shop. Harry greeted them kindly. They didn't stay long so when they walked past us again, he asked how long they'd been on their honeymoon. The man paused looking at Harry, confused.
"We're not on our honeymoon."
"Sure you are. How long have you been married?"
"Twenty-eight years," the man replied.
"Well I have been married for forty-three," Harry answered. "I have been on a forty-three year honeymoon." And I loved him.
At this point he yelled for Maria again and told her to bring us some pizza. I laughed to myself wanting to insist that he didn't need to do that, but there seemed to be no point. Harry didn't seem like a person you could argue with. I stayed and ate my delicious pizza, visited some more, including with a friendly older woman who seemed to have all the qualities of a very loving hippy. Harry insisted I photograph her as well and I did.

She was silly and delightful and had more patience than anybody I've come across in my lifetime. Anytime she tried to haggle with Harry on some piece from his shop and he wouldn't budge where I couldn't see a reason not to budge, she smiled like it made no difference and was completely and utterly kind to him. Not that I could imagine being unkind to Harry, but there was something about her that was so full of grace, much more so than the average lovely individual. It was astounding to me, the kindness and love radiating from her, and Harry and Maria. Honestly, I felt changed from meeting all three of them. Eventually the conversation died down and the hippy left and Harry still insisted on entertaining me, showing me an African mandolin made out of a melon and strumming on it while waiting for another picture to be taken of him. I did. It was getting late and I knew I still had loads on the island to see so I thanked Harry and Maria profusely for all their kindness and wisdom and said I had to be going.
"You come back tomorrow and see me," Harry said.
"I will do my best."
"Well, you are welcome here anytime," he smiled. Maria nodded and told me what a beautiful girl I was, while Harry reminded me to settle down. I beamed, feeling warm from the entire interchange, the cognac and the hot sea air. I waved goodbye and lazily made my way back to my steaming car.

Day Two:

I wanted to bike everywhere! I had wheels and I would not be reigned in! The Refuge Inn has a very handy bike shanty with bikes available for rental and I picked one up the night before to cruise around at sunset. Immediately I was reminded of, who else, but Hemingway and a quote I once read from him:

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."

I didn't know why I hadn't bicycled around every place I'd ever been before, because darn it all if Ernest wasn't right! It was the way to see the world! And straightaway after my waffle, banana and coffee from the complimentary breakfast, I hopped back on my bike with that exact intention. I wanted to explore the whole of the island of Assateague, the island that housed the wild ponies. I wanted to see all the hidden trails, more animals and birds, the lighthouse and of course, be one with the ocean. How could I not? I happily pedaled in and out of every trail I spotted, feeling very connected to Mother Nature, very present and blissful, pausing on my bike to photograph trees, or marshland. There were rabbits, a deer darted out right in front of me, snowy egrets, and ample pony poop which should have excited me that the wild ponies were so near, but of course my frantic mind played a worse-case scenario of me coming upon a wild pony herd on my bicycle and the ponies immediately becoming suspicious of me and trampling me while I screamed, No, ponies, no! I came upon a mystery shack that was in the ocean resting precariously on wooden stilts, that looked long forgotten about. I felt like I was on Treasure Island and had just discovered something precious and wonderful that no one else knew was there. I think it was being alone that was having this affect on me.

Then I biked around the island to the beach. I walked up to the ocean after locking up my bike, snapped a few photos and then quickly disrobed down to bathing suit and made my way to the water's edge.

Now, here's the thing. I am crazy over the sea. I have a clipper ship tattooed on my arm. My entire bedroom is a salute to water, ships, and lighthouses. On countless occasions in my life I have proclaimed that the sea was calling to me and I must go! However, with that being said, I am slightly scared to swim in the ocean. Which really rankles me as I am a free-spirited and bold adventurer; I can't have limitations! See, I grew up in Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes. These lakes are vast, deep and ocean-like in their own right as they go for miles upon miles with no opposite shoreline in sight, however they are crystal clear and when I swim in them, I can be as far out as my neck and still see my feet. This is a fact I have always taken great comfort in as I don't care for seaweed, murky waters, or the possibility of unknown sea creatures grazing my feet while I swim. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that more often than not, I have worn water shoes well into adulthood while swimming in a lake where I couldn't see the bottom because my nerves just can't handle the unknown. Ask my boyfriend about how well I reacted the other day to a cicada landing on my shoulder and you will understand how I feel about a slimey fish grazing my foot in some murky depths.
The ocean combines my nervousness over murky unsettled waters and stories I have heard about shark attacks and jelly-fish incidents involving a sting in shallow water and then having to pee on yourself. So being my dramatic self, before I even set one toe in the salty water I already was convinced I spotted a fin darting in a zig-zag pattern in the distance. My heart stopped and then picked up, accompanied by the soundtrack to Jaws immediately playing in my head. I squinted my eyes and looked closely. On second thought it kind of seemed more like a duck than the fin of a shark but I was still leery. Then I spotted a man fishing straight from shore, nearby with large fishing poles that were wedged into the sand for support. Oh dear lord! What could he catch with those? I inched away from him and closer to the gaggle of children running and dive-bombing the waves. That seemed the best place to swim, by the brave five-year olds.

I waded in, little bit by little bit until I was up to about mid-calve. That was fine, I thought, because the waves were gigantic that day and when they swooped in and hit me, it got me wet all the way up to my neck. I don't count it as a swimming experience unless I dunk, so I was gearing myself up to move out a little deeper and submerge but I was so nervous anytime so much as an errant piece of sand grazed my foot and I mistook it for an eel or piranha--wait, mental catalog are there piranhas in the ocean? Nope, I think that's the Amazon my mind supplied. Okay, so it was probably an eel, then but like that's better--I would shimmy all the way back to ankle depth in the water until my nerves weren't requiring a Xanax and then make my way back into the waves. I glanced over to my left where the young girls were playing. They were up to their chests and neck in the waves, much further out than me. Okay, that's a little embarrassing. Who were these advanced swimmers making me look bad?
Then I realized that all four little girls were moving forward in the surf in a line while holding hands. Oh that's the way to do it girls, a buddy system! That way if one of you goes down by shark, the rest of you can see it coming and scatter. Brilliant. I wanted to go over and see about getting in on their ingenious hand-holding system, but I felt the watching mother might mistake me for a pervert. I already had my explanation ready.

It's okay, ma'am. I am the oldest of ten. I am really good with kids.

Nope. Still wouldn't work. I would surely look like a creep. Well, drats, I thought, they really are able to have much more fun in the ocean when they've got back-up like that, but whatever, I guess I just had to get as brave as a seven year old and push forward, with or without hand holding. After many tries of going forward until I was up to my thighs, then feeling something touch my foot (it was sand every time, being pulled up by the strong waves) I got skittish still convinced I was about to be attacked and featured on CNN in a pool of my own pee or blood and back-tracked to the shallow shore. But I did eventually just start face-planting into the waves so I could consider it a dunk in the ocean and could then proudly proclaim I swam in the ocean on a Thursday afternoon while everyone else I knew was being a slave to the man. Ha. Ha. Ha.
After my ocean swimming debut was official I proudly walked out of the sea and back up to my mound of clothes and put them back on nonchalantly. I didn't leave without first collecting seashells and listening to the waves hit the shore. There is nothing in this world so beautiful as the sound of waves crashing onto land. Well, that and when babies coo. Or my parents laugh. Those are my top favorite sounds.
I was mesmerized and then had to stop and place what the sound reminded me of. The salty waves racing up to shore, gaining momentum and then collapsing on themselves at the shoreline, made a fizzing sound, like the opening of a shook up bottle of pop, then when the waves slipped back to the sea, I watched the bubbles dissolving from a white foam, to a luminous sparkle as they scurried and dissipated on their way back to where they came from.
I very begrudgingly left the sea. As soon as I was out of it, though I missed it. I went back in one more time, and my nerves no stronger for having just spent a half an hour frolicking came right back and I turned around and went back to shore. I didn't bring a towel, but I figured the wind could dry me on the bike ride back to the hotel. I stopped at the lighthouse on the island and photographed it.
By the time I cruised into the parking lot of my hotel I was sweaty again from the several hours long bike ride and felt like there was a bucket of sand left over from the ocean, waiting to fall out of my bathing suit the moment I stepped off my bike.

I realized something while biking through the forests of Assateague, the streaming sunshine, smelling the sea air and feeling as free as those wild ponies, that there was a reason I despised closed spaces of any kind, as well as always finding horses so relatable, almost on a primal level, not just love but understanding. I am not someone who can be reigned in. There is a reason I find it hard to work any job for more than a year because I start to feel trapped and corralled and like I need to break free.
No waitressing, or cashier job has ever been able to hold me for too long because in the deepest recesses of my soul, I know I am meant to be out exploring the world, writing about it, introducing myself to every creature, ponies and wise old Greek men, alike. I felt a deep connection to Chincoteague, this island that is known for the wild ponies, but made a sincere impression on me in the way of kindness and goodness.
Not a single person who helped me made me feel like it was just because I was a tourist and might spend money. One man who was mowing the lawn at a shop in town offered to put my bike in the back while I shopped, then brought it back out for me when I was done. Others riding their bikes through town smiled and waved. Seeing the tin boxes to put money in for seashells on the side of the road all speaks to a kind of honesty and good intention you don't see much of anymore, or at least I haven't in a long while. This trip wasn't just good for me as a writer, to feel empowered and full of purpose, seeing and exploring a new place, then writing about it, it reached me on a very intimate human level and I felt incredible for having met Chincoteague in all its splendor. It so moved me that upon returning home, and not smelling the freshness of the sea and surrounding marshland and feeling enveloped in a sort of warm inviting community, I simply cried myself to sleep. I yearned for more.

I offer a sincere wish that you put Chincoteague Island, on your list of places to visit in life. Stop in and see Harry, admire the ponies and their wild freedom, take a moment to feel like Hemingway, bicycling included, and just be present. Present enough to notice every single sound the sea makes, flicker of the wind through your hair, and innate kindness of strangers. I say, it will be more than worth it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Smother or Not to Smother

I am reading Augusten Burroughs right now and I forgot how much I love that hilariously inappropriate gay man. In all his wit and candor he has reminded me that a writer writes best when they don't hold back. So here goes nothin.

I was talking to DC last night about writing, my life, existential crisis', the usual and he brought up to me that on numerous occasions he tells me to write and wouldn't it be nice if I actually listened to him and wrote? Furthermore, he also pointed out that it would be good for us to sometimes, (and this is where he started talking very delicately and carefully as if wisely and diligently avoiding bombs in Minesweeper) have time apart, as in independently, then he did make the treacherous mistake of pointing out that at times I can be... and this is where he mis-stepped and hit a mine, "smothering." In his defense, he was trying to avoid the usage of the word smothering by saying, "not smothering, but..." and then searching for a synonym to smothering that isn't as harsh, but I had already stopped listening at smothering. It was beyond my control; I blinked for a moment waiting for my highly sensitive emotions to catch up with my brain that was scrambling to register the onslaught of horror at the word smother.

Red Alert, the fiery independent portion of my mind was screeching. How did this happen? Smothering? Were you not paying attention, she accused the side of my brain that has been in a lovesick delirium, while the lovesick side was waving her hands in a frantic I don't know how this happened gesture because she has been tripping on dopamine for some time and it feels out of her control.

While growing up in a big family and sharing beds with my siblings and drawing on backs to fall asleep has prepared me for a life of sharing that I greatly enjoy, my life in the dating realm included ample rejection and boyfriend-less years making me rather adept at going it alone, seeing movies by myself, opting for solo museum dates and wine tastings because I enjoy those excursions and, bonus, my own company. I still pride myself on being able to go on road trips by myself, or venturing out with nothing but my thoughts, music and God. Also I think I am kind of the cat's fucking meow when it comes to girlfriend duties.

So it was rather alarming to find that I might be getting a little too comfy in the world of cohabitation with my boyfriend. Sure I fall in love with the kid more every day and am real keen on the place we're in of complete comfort and understanding. We get each other's little quirks and habits and we work, but was I getting too codependent? Apparently, as when I left for work yesterday I pouted that I was twenty minutes early and DC just couldn't wait to be rid of me. I don't know why I did it. I mean, sure I wanted to keep garage-sale-ing with him and not spend my Saturday serving wine instead of drinking it, but I think it was a whole mixture of things.

We are in the best place with with our love. That place I couldn't wait for. Where I don't worry if my hair doesn't get washed everyday or if I am doused in perfume, lotion or wearing fifteen coats of mascara. Where I tell him I am not shaving my legs that day, mmm, or the next and he surprisingly still wants to touch them. Where nights like Friday when we laid in bed and massaged each others feet and then dozed off while reading our own separate novels--too darling and perfect for words. At least in my mind. It also means, however, that the new fresh, beginning period of dating where DC sought after me relentlessly and couldn't get enough of me and upon seeing me had this raw passion of needing to kiss me long and good, like in an old black and white flick has passed.

I cling to wanting him to still be crazed with longing for me because there are still times when I look at him, like this morning and my land! I am bowled over. See, he is the cutest lil babe when he wakes up, his hair is mussed and he walks into the living room looking slightly dazed and almost like a kid. I can't stand it! I want to tackle him and kiss his face off and then I worry, because, um it's me and that's what I do, that maybe that feeling has worn off for him, but not for me, hence why I pull little antics like having a fit before I go into work.

So naturally after the smother comment and my brain going into hysteric meltdown mode, the passivity began. I refused to cuddle him last night because I didn't want to "smother" him. He cuddled me anyway. Then this morning after hearing his sweet sleep murmurs and seeing his messy hair after waking, I wanted to throw myself at him, but then remembered the word smother and tried to keep it cool and disinterested. I kissed him maybe three times instead of devouring him like I wanted to. Then, normally Sundays, my favorite day, I like to spend the day doing something pleasant like driving the countryside or eating pancakes with none other than my favorite, sir. I opted to go to the coffee shop and write without him. Oh and about him. Perks of dating a writer, baby. He commented that I didn't mind going and doing my own thing today? I answered that I wanted time alone.

"I know what you're doing," he said.

I pretended not to hear. Then on my drive to the coffee shop I contemplated all the ways I could stick it to him. I would be so non-smothering, so occupied and driven to my old independent ways that he would altogether ache and yearn for the days of my wanting too much cuddle time! Until I realized, I was being slightly insane and needed confirmation on whether I was justified or not. I relayed my conundrum to my best friend, Ash. She saw my side and understood, however, told me not to go too far in my Anti-Smothering Movement, because then we'd both lose. She also knows me really well because she gave me this sound advice:

"Now don't just drive around listening to the Lumineers, staring out a rain spattered windshield and crying."

Okay, so I would scratch my melodramatic drive into the mountains and stop plotting to get back at DC with my extreme passive-aggressiveness. Except it was easier said than done. Every time I would calmly think, he's right, it's fine for us to have our own separate interests, I would become incensed over the fact that he used the word smother in the first place and I already did loads of adventures on my own, not to mention working two jobs that oftentimes overlapped with his work schedule. When did I have time to smother, I fumed?

And though I got myself back round to the notion of letting the whole, to smother or not to smother issue rest, when I walked in the door after my independent time at the coffee shop to see that DC wasn't yet dressed for his niece's baptism I was a little surprised. It was 1 and we were going to leave at 1:20 according to DC's planning timetable. I asked him if he was going to get ready and he seemed nonchalant like he had all the time in the world. Odd. Then after getting ready and coming out of the bedroom at 1:17 he casually sat back on the couch, while I was already up and waiting in the dining room. Okay, now I was suspicious.

"I thought we had to leave," I said.
"Yeah we've got time. We don't have to be early." Ohhh, now I saw what he was up to. DC has never been casual about being late or early. For not being early to him is being late.
"Um, what are you doing? Are you trying to prove some sort of point?"
"Were you trying to prove a point earlier?"

I didn't answer because I am a bad liar so why bother? He seemed satisfied that he made a point as well (though the point being that he can be less rigid about time was kind of a funny one to me) and jumped off the couch and said, "no really, we should get going though, we don't know how traffic will be."

"And he's back," I quipped, knowing all too well DC couldn't be casual about being late if his life depended on it.

Honestly, after leaving the coffee shop I had really good intentions to stop being coy and planning ways to act like this whole smothering affair had rolled right off me, but every time I looked at him and imagined at what point I had supposedly smothered him, I got back to being angry.

To quote Mr. Augusten Burroughs here,

"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."

I am flawed. Besides being highly over-sensitive, something that serves me well in the empathy department, but not so well when it comes to even a whiff of criticism, I also happen to have a huge problem with being passive. Am I working on it? Yes. My intention to be better is there. Just like my intention not to smother my boyfriend is now there. Truly it's a good thing I leave for vacation in two weeks. While I don't think my irritation over this will last into tomorrow, for I am a lover not a fighter, (I had a camo shirt that proclaimed as much, that I proudly wore in high school) the three week hiatus away from my boyfriend will be a built in Anti-Smother Movement all on its own and he will rue the day he used the word smother, whilst counting down until I am nuzzling his beard again.

No, but seriously, my boyfriend is probably a mad genius and did all this as reverse psychology to get me to write. In which case, kudos, honey, kudos. What a brilliant ruse. For with the word smother, I am getting back at my boyfriend by... feverishly writing. Yeah, look out undercover ops, this girl plays dirty.

Now if you will excuse me I think I need to go photograph the rain or attempt to learn guitar on my out-of-tune five string guitar to prove to myself that I don't need to be oozing relationship romance every second and there is more than a morsel of independence still in me. Or it's just to stick it to DC. I kid, I kid, of course it's just to stick it to DC.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oh ocean! Where art thou?

Last Thursday I went searching for the ocean. Now don't be confused, the ocean isn't hard to find or that far away, but I haven't seen it since landing in Virginia and I was jonesing the sea something fierce. As much as I wanted to simply type "ocean" into my GPS and be off, sadly technology isn't that advanced yet, so I had to do a small amount of planning. I know, I know, planning is not my favorite word and definitely more my boyfriend's department, but alas even with my more than keen navigational skills I only had one day off to locate the sea, and couldn't wing it and run away for days. Well winging it is always something I do, and before I'd even left that day, apparently I started getting that maniacal look in my eyes as DC specifically said,

"You can't run away."

Such a stick in the mud that one. I kid, I kid. He filled up the gas tank for me and didn't altogether lose his mind when he checked in on me later in the afternoon for me to ask,

"How much do you love me?"
"Ummmm... Where are you?"
"You love me a lot right?"
"Okay then, I may be almost to North Carolina. Oops."

But I am getting ahead of myself. I had the knowledge that the ocean was roughly two and a half hours away so that was how far I intended to drive, roughly, give or take four additional hours for lollygagging. All I had to do was find someplace enticing that was on the ocean and type that place into the GPS. It should also be noted that I have gotten really wise with utilizing the GPS for this sort of thing. When I want to go somewhere with no exact coordinates, I always locate a town with a promising name and stats, in this case it was Smithfield, VA and then type in Main St. or Church Street, address 100 or 1. So 100 Church St. or 1 Main St. Works every time in getting me right into the quaint downtown and then I use my bloodhound skills to sniff out the good stuff, A.K.A on this adventure, the sea.
With my coordinates mapped out and my beach bag packed with sweet potato chips, pistachios and a bathing suit of course because once I thought of the sea, I also thought of submerging in the salty water and frolicking about, I was on the open road chirpy as a new baby bird.
After a bit I spotted a Waffle House in timing with me needing a bathroom break and decided to check something off the list of Things I've Always Wanted to Try. I whipped into a parking spot, went right up to the high topped bar with red swivel stools inside, plunked down with my camera and ordered a single waffle and side of bacon, $5.60. When I took out my camera to start documenting my very first, sitting at a bar of a Southern Waffle House experience, a passing middle aged waitress saw my camera snapping away and proclaimed,

"Are we going to be famous?!"
I laughed and answered,
"Well, you will be featured on my travel blog."
She gave the other servers an excited glance and then they all not so discreetly stayed in a lot of my shots. I didn't mind, I felt sort of famous for making them feel famous.

The pit-stop put me back by about a half hour, but the waffle was scrumptious and totally worth checking off my list. I got back in the car and felt the seas fingers beckoning to me.
After two hours of highway driving, however, I was starting to get way antsy and I sort of wanted a shortcut or better scenery at that point. Lucky for me I exited from the highway and was soon on back country roads. This area of Virginia looked nothing like the Virginia I was familiar with.
Not only were there no rolling hills or horses anywhere, but it had a distinct Old South feel. I spotted run-down red gas stations with rusted Coca-Cola machines out front, several dilapidated houses with chipped white paint, and then I started to see signs for plantations. I got excited and turned abruptly to go see the Shirley Plantation which as it turns out is Virginia's oldest Plantation. Talk about a find!
But soon after leaving Shirley I did begin to wonder how far down the coast I was exactly. Then I saw a sign for Williamsburg and noting that I was near the James River began to put two and two together.
So I pulled over and bought a map opening it up to find, that yes my suspicions were correct. I had sort of thought I was just going straight over to the ocean. Instead I went way down and over and then down some more. Oh. Hi, North Carolina, you're an awful lot closer than I realized. Ah well I was already almost to my destination, so I kept going.
Upon reaching Smithfield and driving through the promised darling streets of the downtown I hardly noticed as I was fixated on the water. It was nearly ninety degrees outside and even with the air blasting in the car I felt a strong need to submerge and de-sweat.
But. Here is where my lack of planning sometimes gets me in trouble. The town of Smithfield did say it was coastal and true enough it is on the James River which does in fact reach the sea, but as always my crazed imaginative mind believed I would just drive up to a sand dune, park and run gaily into the water like the scene in the Notebook where Rachel McAdams chases the seagulls.
I drove to the water. But it wasn't the ocean and there were no dunes, just some tall reeds and a pretty posh looking row of brick buildings that seemed to be high-end condos or a country club. I circled around trying to find somewhere that I could dive in the water, but it looked kind of deep and murky and I got frustrated. This is not what I signed on for! I looked at my map now more determined than ever to swim in the ocean at all costs. I had been in the car since 9:30 in the morning. It was now 2:30 in the afternoon. I spotted Newport News on the map and recognized the name and it seemed Newport was closer to the ocean. So I whipped through Smithfield, the town I had been jonesing to see all day and opted for Newport.
This is when my boyfriend called. Refer to the earlier conversation. When I told him I was going to Newport News because I needed to see the ocean, he said,

"I don't think it's the kind of town you're imagining it is."
"A cute sea town? It has to be. I've heard of it. And it's by the ocean and the name sounds like it would be."
"Okay, then go."
"But I feel like you don't want me to."
"You've already made up your mind to go, so go and see for yourself."

I did. And he was right. It was not the sea-scape town I expected. It seemed a lil rough around the edges and I didn't spot one bright blue and white awning boasting seafood or a beach with a lighthouse. Now I was pissed. I called my mom as I did a big loop around Newport trying to find the darn ocean. I spotted one beach near a power plant that was also by the highway and debated going for a dip there but once I have high expectations it's hard for me to lower them. I ranted to my mother that this is why DC planned all the time, to prevent these kind mishaps and I can't believe I had been driving for five hours and had only seen a river and hadn't tasted any lobster yet! Let it be known, though that the James River had been exciting me all day, water of any kind is still my favorite and I do so love to be near it as nature is never wasted on me. I was just a smidge disappointed. When you go looking for the ocean and only find a river it's a little like Galileo looking for the sun and finding a firefly. Fireflies are great sure, but they're no blazing star.
My mother who is beyond wise and has more patience for me than anyone I know, researched local seafood gems with me on the phone and calmed me down, reiterating that the trip could still be salvaged.
I ended up back in Smithfield and at a restaurant my mom approved of, which means it was going to be really tops because my mom doesn't trifle when it comes to finding the best local hotspots.
It was called Smithfield Station and it was on the water. Sure it wasn't the right water, but I enjoyed the view of sailboats as I ate my fresh crab quiche and fruit. My stomach was happy. I was happy.
I finished off my trip with a walk around Windsor Castle Park. A boardwalk over marshy river water in the muggy heat was the perfect calming agent after my near hysterics about the trip being an almost bust. Of course it wasn't a bust. This is what I love and hate about myself simultaneously: my antics. They prove to be quite fun and quite infuriating almost all the time; but my life isn't dull I'll tell you that much.
When I got home my boyfriend pointed out that I could've gotten to the ocean and the kind ocean I'd envisioned to boot, a lot sooner and with a lot less hassle. True enough. And I knew that for next time, but I wouldn't have discovered that I love the town of Smithfield, VA and can't wait to go back and try the famous Ringo's Donuts, that Shirley Plantation and Bacon's Castle are incredible architectural gems indeed and that Northern Virginia is the farthest South I will ever live.
It's all about perspective folks. And that is why no adventure is a wasted adventure.