Saturday, October 30, 2010

Without a sign, without a clue.

It's the day before Halloween and it is GORGEOUS.  It's cool and clear; it poured last night so the sky is blue with no haze, only happy little clouds, and the trees around my house are bright green & shiny like they're smiling.  All my clothes are in the laundry so I'm sitting outside in my pjs letting the beauty of the day soak into me.

As y'all probably know from my recent Stratejoy post (I've been terrible about linking to them, but you can find them all here, or by clicking the Stratejoy box on my sidebar, if you're interested), I have had a lot on my mind recently.  I feel like everyone's asking me for a decision and that decision will determine the course of the rest of my life (big booming voice - echo, echo, echo...)

I realize that's silly because I can always make a new decision, change my mind, go in a different direction, but I'm still feeling that pressure.  And weirdly, the only place that is offering up reasons to be there is the one place I had decided not to be.  Los Angeles.  Oh you devious Angel city...

You know that saying, "when you love something let it go & if it comes back to you, it's meant to be"?  If you've really let something go but it just keeps finding it's way back into your life, and no matter how many times you shy away from it, it slides up beside you and gives you new reasons to love it again - is that a sign?  Is there such thing as a sign, or is it just something we tell ourselves to take the pressure off of making a decision?  What if all that happens but your gut still stays silent?  Is it waiting for the right moment to flare up in positive or negative response, or is ambivalence the same as indifference the same as a big fat NO?

Sigh.  Anyway, I've been working A LOT, which is really great for my paycheck, not so great for my psyche.  I can't even tell you how amazing it feels to know I have money in my account and money coming in - especially overtime & double-time money.  How, after a whole year of not working steadily - a one month job in Australia & then random bartending jobs the rest of the time - it is incredible to me to buy food somewhere other than the 99cent store.  But, then again, I haven't had a job with these kind of hours for about two years - even during my last year at the accounting firm before Australia I was only working 20hrs a week - and I've gotten out of practice.  It is exhausting.

I don't do well when I'm tired.  I'm generally an easy-to-get-along-with person, but I'm a bitch for two reasons: I'm hungry or I'm tired.  Little things feel like big things, problems seem to have no solutions, and my brain gets stuck on repeat with thoughts I don't want or need to have.  So maybe that's part of this whole "I need to make a decision" dilemma.  I'm probably blowing it out of proportion.  ("oh little one..." haha, that's for you, Amanda)

Last night was the best night's sleep I've gotten in 3 weeks (besides all the weird anxiety dreams) and I'm going to let it do for my brain what the rain did for LA - wash it clean, give it brightness & clarity.  I'm wandering but I'm not lost, I'm undecided but I'm not confused, I'm uprooted but patient.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ a comfortable bed in a comforting room
~ calm
~ money coming in
~ Halloween plans

xo! n.

[photo source]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hitting the Ground Running

I know I've been way behind on posting and I'm sorry.  I've been back in LA for a week and a half now but it feels like 3.  Seriously.  I jumped right into a job and have been working long days (yesterday I was there for 16 hours!), so when I get home, I crash.

HUGE difference from the past month, or even the past year - ever since I left for Australia (one year ago last Sunday - can you believe it????  I can't), I haven't worked steadily.  It feels funny.

I'm working in the special events department for one of the major studios here, and I'm working on the studio lot.  Which is pretty neat.  The parties we put together are on the backlot (the fake city streets with facades of buildings) and they are SO. COOL.  Really, it's not a bad job, even though it does involve some long hours and sitting in an office, which just makes me antsy and tired, a strange combination.
an example of a backlot, undressed

I like to drive my golf cart past trams full of tourists.  It makes me feel important.

It's been cold and rainy in LA - I have my down blanket and fleece on my bed, which makes it extra cozy (thanks, Lee Anne for letting me borrow!) and even harder to get out of in the mornings.  I like the gloomy weather, though; the other night as I was drifting to sleep I heard the sound of rain & thought, what is that weird noise...?  That's how often we get rain in LA.

I've been in an off mood since I got back, although everything is really quite good right now.  My little room in the Eagle Rock house is as adorable as ever, I've been slowly catching up with friends here, and this job fell into my lap & is the money I desperately need to replenish my empty bank account.  But I feel like everyone is expecting answers from me and I have none.

I'm taking it one day at a time.  Things just keep coming to me and I keep saying yes.

As for now, it's 9pm and I'm going to bed.  Yes, really.  Goodnight lovely people.

Today I am so grateful & happy for:
~ free lunches
~ gmail chat
~ green tea
~ new delightful music

xo!  n.

The Perfect Country Wedding

My last stop on my Jet Blue adventure was the same as my first stop: Raleigh, NC to see some friends get married.  The ceremony was outside a church next to a centuries-old graveyard, and the reception was in a barn on the bride's family's farm.  With the sun setting over autumnal trees, a fresh farm-grown & church-made BBQ supper, and the Chris Lane band playing country songs on a trailer bed, it was a movie-perfect southern wedding, and it fit them perfectly too.

Congratulations, Kelli & RJ!!  Lots of love to you both.

I am so grateful and happy for:
~ great food
~ great parties
~ great people

xo!  n.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Austin Perfection

We got to Austin just before the sun came up and, thanks to G's mad awesome friends, had a place to crash until we could drag ourselves into daylight, intoxicated on misfit sleep, teeth fuzzy and pits stinkin' around 2pm.

G had already reserved a hotel (real-deal!  No more couch crashing!) for the next few nights, and since it was finally check-in time, we stumbled in there, ga-ro-dy at the front desk of this marbled lobby where all surfaces are mirrored to look Grand, I suppose, but really just reminded me in every direction how greasy my bangs were.  Upstairs we went, showered, changed - brand new people! - and headed down to begin our first day in Austin & prove to the hotel staff that we weren't just dirty zombie ruffians.

After breakfast & a big coffee at a crepe restaurant (where the owner spoke French!  My ears swooned), we headed down to Lake Austin (which looks like a river, very confusing) and walked along it, rejuvinated by the perfectly gorgeous weather.  It seemed like everyone was outside with their dog, that fine Sunday afternoon, and we watched big ol muscular dogs un-selfconciously belly-flop, the object of their desire bobbing just out of reach, and bitty munchkin dogs tottering down the path like overstuffed sausages with toothpick legs.

We crossed a bridge & into City Park, which was full of people enjoying the day; there were four guys playing a roving game of bocce ball, downhill, uphill, cheering like it was a football game, and there even seemed to be some sort of tutu party (yes, AB, we thought of you!) under a tree in the distance. 

Shoeless, shirtless (well, him), we climbed a grassy hill and found our ideal spot; we could see the lake and the city skyline, people-watch and close our eyes to the sun.  After a while of sitting there talking, watching dragonflies land on the cuff of my jacket and deciding that the next time we're here (when will that be?) we'd bring a frisbee, we rolled down the hill like in "The Princess Bride" - aaaaas youuuuu wiiiiiiish...
Ok, no, we didn't, but we wanted to; we walked down the hill like the sane & normal people we aren't, and found a nice flat spot for G to practice walking on his hands and me to practice spinning in a circle until I fell down dizzy drunk.  It was one of two perfectly perfect outdoor Austin afternoons.

The second one was also on the lake; we rented kayaks and paddled our way downstream, past rows of turtles lined up on half-sunken tree branches, wrinkly necks and feet stretched taut to catch the sun (they need a tan to be attractive to other turtles, of course).  It only took a few minutes of being on the lake to completely forget we were in the middle of a city; the traffic noise faded ghostly next to the alive sounds of birds and bugs and the slap of paddles on water.

We had the lake mostly to ourselves; G said, "I thought there'd be more people out - it's a beautiful day."
"It's a Tuesday afternoon; they're probably all working."
"Ugh.  What are they doing with their lives."
Not this, I thought, not living.

I was quickly soaked from the splash of rowing (and had stupidly worn clothes over my bathing suit even though G had warned me and, really, I know better) so when G found rope swings tucked away in the overgrown trees lining the shore, I was game.  We ended up on the island in the middle of the lake, G swinging like the monkey boy he is over a long stretch of land to a 10 point dismount into the water - once startling a female rowing team and once being filmed by a stranger who, I think, kind of wanted him to hurt himself for the sake of YouTube.  I, knowing my lack of upper body strength and lack of rope-swinging experience, decided to try an easier one first.  Good thing I did; from the minute I launched myself off the side of the tree, my grip was loosening and my feet were dragging, and I barely missed the rocks at the edge of the shore.  Lame.  So I jumped off gnarly roots & went swimming instead.  Still fun.

We went as far as we could go until the dam cut us off then headed back, chasing the setting sun.  We played bumper kayak wars til G resigned (you did!  You said "I give up!") and admired the houses on top of the flanking hills, dismayed at how not a single one of them had a water slide into the lake.

As we neared the bridge, a main road and pedestrian walkway, G stopped, pulled my kayak over so we were side by side, and we both leaned back, drifting, enjoying the last patch of warm sun, looking up at the busy people scurrying above us with somewhere "better" to be.  But you can't get much better than this.  A few people looked down & noticed us, waving, smiling, a couple even taking pictures.  We would be a story over someone's dinner.

The rest of our time in Austin was spent in much less healthy pursuits.  Drinking in bars filled with filthy blues guitar, cabbing to kareoke bars to make fools of ourselves ("Purple rain..."), and eating fried pickles and reuben sandwiches at 3am.  Our tabs were taken care of because G is friends with everyone; even people he doesn't know gave us things for free (like margaritas at Lake Travis).  

We met up with G's high school friend, his wife & their new baby; they took us for Mighty Fine burgers (mmmm...), which had the coolest hand sanitizing machine I've ever seen (yeah, that sounds dorky but you would be impressed too, it's like a massager!), and we brought over beer and totally corrupted them.  Hence this photo:

We had a lot of fun, I was impressed by their musical knowledge (the three of them, sans baby, are like a musical superpower!), and we laughed loud enough to wake the baby - but didn't.  I got to see one of my high school friends too; we caught up over a couple beers & I wish I could've had dinner with he & his wife (also from high school) but alas, it didn't work out.  It was great to see him though.

Our last night in Austin, G & I went to the Salt Lick, which is about a half hour outside of Austin but well worth the drive.  OMG OMG OMG so delicious.  I have missed southern BBQ in LA.  We both almost got family style (all you can eat) but decided we wanted dessert too, so settled for a plate - which was still a ton of food.  Let me just tell you, I had a BBQ baby a'growin in my belly that night, and I was haaaappy.

I was really sad to leave Austin.  Especially because it was the last flight of my All-you-can-jet jetBlue pass.  BUT it wasn't time to go home yet - I headed back to Raleigh, NC for yet another wedding!

I am so happy and grateful for:
~ good friends, food, drink, music, fun
~ kayaks
~ living in the moment

xo! n.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Texan Hospitality

Texas woos like a frat boy, with shots.  Houston hit on me brashly, under the fluorescents at last call; Austin was more subtle, luring me in with a sweet guitar solo pouring down 6th street, a cocktail waiting at the bar. 

I arrived in Texas red-eyed and exhausted but super excited to see my good old college friend G as he pulled up to the rocking chairs at the airport.  He's a musician in Houston and I jumped right into his musician's hours, taking a long afternoon nap that then kept me energized to meet him at 12am, after his bar closed, and go out for welcome drinks with his buddies til 3.

This also, I'm ashamed to say, caused a hangover the next day that only perpetuated the cycle I couldn't seem to break in Texas, of going to bed just before the sun came up and not waking til the afternoon.  That's ok though; Texas knows how to party.

Houston is a business city that seemed, to me, mostly sterile in the daytime.  Tall, sleek buildings and carefully groomed parks in the heart of it, and then, out by the stadium and what G calls "homelessville," squatty dirty clubs, chain link fences and, incongruous in it's affluence, his very nice, very new apartment building.  Someone's investment in gentrification gone sour.  But it's a nice building, gated, and he can bike to work so it's understandable, although I (usually somewhat fearless when traveling) didn't walk his neighborhood alone after dark.

Even though I was practically nocturnal, we still managed to do some cool stuff during the day.  We went to the Science Museum where we marveled at dinosaur bones (when they find a petrified egg, how in the hell do they know what kind of dinosaur egg it is???), warily eyed an exhibit on energy funded by BP (took the overly cheery kids ride down into a simulated oil well), and read up on immigration in the late 1800s/early 1900s (it slowly dawning on us that you could easily change the dates & country names to write practically the same story about our present situation).  We wandered through a beautiful park where we sat next to copious amounts of duck poo, made up stories about the goose sitting next to us (we named her Monica), and G did what he does best - climbed a tree.

We had some good Mexican food, drank veggie juice, and went to a riverside trail where I walked around examining the city skyline from different angles and swung on a swingset for so long that I got a blister on my hand.  I spent my last evening in Houston watching the full 6 hour dueling piano show he plays in, sitting alone at the crowded bar, and was not bored once; it was so much fun.  And he is a great musician and super amazing at his job.  If you're ever in Houston, go see him at Pete's - but make sure you've got your drinking pants on, the place is ca-ra-zy.

But my favorite night in Houston was the night I wandered the city on my own.  I don't usually do that; if I have friends in a place, they usually are off work and hanging out with me in the evenings, and if I know no one in a place, I usually stay at a hostel and meet people to hang out with.  But obviously, G works nights.  So this was a cool experience, even though when I first stepped on the platform of the light rail, feeling conspicuous even in my jeans and sweater next to the bums stumbling from the ticket machine, I thought what am I doing...?

My first stop (besides the stop I made because I went too far and had to go back - you're not really a traveler if you don't get lost) was The Continental Club where 80's cover band Molly and The Ringwalds (great name, huh?) were playing.  They were fantastic.  Another first - I've never gone to a live music venue where it's solely a dance floor alone; at first I felt stupidly self-conscious (no one to yell over the music to!  What do I do with my hands?  Do I look dumb dancing alone?) and then I slapped myself mentally with "you'll never see any of these people again & if you do, they won't remember you!" and just let loose.  So fun.

Unfortunately(ish), after they played, the door started enforcing a retroactive cover (lame!) so I headed out.  There was another bar next door, Big Top Lounge, a kitschy dive complete with a giant velvet elvis and a fooseball table; I was literally one of 4 people there but a band was setting up & the beer was cheap, so I decided to stay.  I'm glad I did because the Allison Fisher Orchestra, a damn good (and motley) blues band deserved an audience. 

During their break, I was sitting at the bar, texting chick and enjoying my PBR and olives (yes, I know it's weird - I'm a fool for olives!!), when the guy at the end of the bar asked me to dance.  Not to dance to the live music, no, to dance to the radio intermission.  It didn't take me long to realize he was drunk as a skunk and an absolutely horrific dancer, as he steps on my feet and holds me way closer than is comfortable between strangers.  But he's harmless and funny, and I haven't had anyone to talk to for hours so I humor him.  He tells me he's from New Orleans and I'm "right" (apparently a complement), and that he's a chef here in Houston.  He tells me he just recently slaughtered a goat; he wants to learn how to butcher every meat that he prepares.  Logically (and stifling laughter at the randomness of this story), I ask, "Oh so your restaurant serves goat?"
"No, I've never cooked it.  But my sister raised a 4H prize goat."
"Oh, was it her goat?"
Then he tried to dip me.

Later, when he pulled up a chair next to me at the bar & ordered a shot, I thought how I would word my refusal of said shot and the possible invitation home that usually occurs when a strange drunk guy asks a girl to dance at a bar.  But sweetly, wonderfully, the opportunity never arose; he took his shot, we chit chatted some more, and then he said nice meeting you and wobbled out the door.  The whole thing was actually kind of lovely in it's oddness.

Whenever I travel alone, I have a rule that I'm not to get drunk because I have to keep my head clear and find my way safely back to where I'm staying.  I'd had a couple beers and was feeling a little tipsy, so I decided to pop into the taco place next door, where I got a coffee (it was midnight but I knew G wasn't off til 2) and the BEST veggie verde taco I have ever had.  Tacos A Go-Go.  I sat savoring and sobering, enjoying the eclectic decor and the booth all to myself like a cozy king bed.

Sufficiently awake, I hopped back on the light rail going the opposite direction to The Flying Saucer, a large bar that boasts over 200 beers on tap (apparently it's a chain but I'd never seen it before).  I had a really delicious stout and laughed to myself at the girls sitting next to me drinking Miller Lite bottles - why would you drink that here?

Then it was almost 2am so I headed to Pete's in time to see G's last set.  It was last call, and within 5 minutes of being there, I was swarmed by drunk guys, flinging bad pick-up lines at me like slow-moving and mis-aimed arrows, desperate to take somebody home so their night wouldn't be a waste, even though they wouldn't remember it anyhow.  The first guy slurred like he was on sedatives, leaning in so I could smell his liquor breath, and even tried to grab my ass, but I could've knocked him over with my pinkie, he was so wasted, and I easily kept him at bay.

Then his two friends came over, buzzing like flies but not quite as drunk, under the guise of "sorry about our friend."  One was Scottish and the other Norwegian; the latter kept telling me I was a "beautiful butterfly" and the former telling him that was an insult because it implies that I flit from flower to flower (ha! Never thought of that before).  They stole my camera and took a picture of me, in all my butterfly glory, which resulted in this face <------------------

They were comical and actually nice, without the guts or drunkeness to do anything worrisome.  Though the guys behind me must've told me four times that they'd pretend to be my boyfriend if I needed saving.  I have never been hit on so much, all at once, in my life.

Of course, when G was done & came out from backstage to put his arm on my shoulder, they scurried away like so many rats.  The whole thing cracked me up.

On Saturday, after I got the full (and uninterrupted by any major flirtations) Pete's dueling pianos experience, G and I went back to his house, packed up and drove to Austin.  Yes, it was 3am when we left, no we didn't know where we were going to crash that night, (don't worry mom, he was sober and awake), but that was all part of the fun...  to Austin!

I am so grateful and happy for:
~ hanging out with one of my favorite people
~ an unpredictable night of adventures
~ live music!

xo!  n.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Travel day from HELL and friends from HEAVEN

On the way from NYC to Charlotte, NC I wanted to punch some suckers in the face.  I am a patient traveler & don't figure there's any use complaining about things that are out of my control, but seriously, dude, it was a rough day.

My NYC morning was rainy but we decided to walk Central Park anyway and got soaked to the bone.  Which meant that I had to throw my wet clothes in a plastic bag and partially unpack to get dry clothes out & then re-pack, and that I was kind of freezing so I layered hardcore but once I got into the subway, hefting my suitcase & two carry-on purses up & down stairs, I was frying.  It is not fun trying to remove layers of semi-wet clothing on a crowded New York subway with luggage precariously tipping at every stop.  At least, because of the debacle of getting into NYC (which I didn't go into detail on here but trust me, it was a debacle), I took all the right trains & made it to the airport in plenty of time.

Plenty of time because, it turns out, my flight was delayed an hour.  This is after my original direct flight to Charlotte had already been canceled and I'd re-booked onto a new flight with a layover in Boston.  An hour's no big deal, so I read and we boarded, and we sat there... and sat there... and sat there.  Finally we got word that due to inclement weather, we were delayed two more hours, and everyone had to get off the plane.  Groans all around.

Well, this meant I would miss my connecting flight, so I got in line to fix that and stood there the entire two hours.  When they called us to board, I was the 2nd person from the front & they told me I had to go wait in another line!  No way.  I refused & the guy conceded but had no good news.  I would miss the last flight out of Boston and there's only one more flight to Charlotte from JFK but it's full.  He told me I could fly standby but with my All-You-Can-Jet pass, that sort of change incurs a penalty of $100.  No way; this was not my fault.  He couldn't help me & the line at the help desk was out of control so I called jetBlue customer service & got connected to an agent just as they were calling final boarding for my flight.  Trying not to panic, I explained my situation and asked for her to please, please waive the fee and she agreed.  Whew.

BUT she couldn't put me on the standby list; I had to see the help desk for that.  Sigh.  So I got into another line.  When I finally reached the front, all the agents but one went on their break.  Really??  The agent who stayed (bless her!) was very nice and acknowledged she could waive the fee, but for some reason, couldn't get me on the standby list.  She had to call her supervisor, who had to call her back, and I was probably standing at the desk for 45 minutes.  Fiiiiiinally, I was put on the list and, fingers crossed, walked over to wait at the gate.

The plane started boarding, the gate agent called out one name - not mine - and then said, "sorry everyone else on standby, there are no more seats."  Fuuuuuuudge.  I sat down on the floor and cried.  Yup.

Oh, and by this point, my phone was dead because I'd had to call jetBlue so many times, and I couldn't even call my friends that were picking me up from the airport.  Thank God for free wifi and Facebook.

Resigning myself to sleeping on the floor - since not only were all hotels I found online booked up, but they couldn't even give me a real ticket for the next flight out so I'd have to be back at the airport at 4am to get a boarding pass - I went to the bar, where the bartender had just seen what happened and gave me a free glass of wine.  So nice.

I managed to nab a weird little couch at the end of the terminal for my bed and met another AYCJ-er traveling solo so we traded off watching each others bags & guarding our coveted sleeping spots.  All my toiletries were in my checked bag but luckily I had my eye mask, neck pillow and ear plugs, so I did manage to get, oh probably 3 hours of sleep.

The next day, waking to the sound of floors being cleaned and polished, I blinked my contacts clear, got my boarding pass, got a coffee, and finally boarded a plane.  ...Which then, of course, was delayed.  We sat on the runway in NYC for about 45 minutes and then when we landed in Charlotte, they had no open terminals so we sat on the runway there for about an hour, and then when we pulled into the terminal, the jetway was broken and they weren't authorized to pull up a stairway, so we sat there for another hour.

I wanted to cut a bitch.

Everyone around me was complaining - I'm missing meetings, this is ridiculous - and I just sat there loathing everyone and everything, thinking miserably to myself:  I've been in an airport or on a plane since 1pm yesterday!!!!  GRRRR!  As my friend Jen would say, what fresh hell!

BUT.  We finally did disembark and I guess bad luck figured I'd gotten clobbered enough because magically my bag, which had gone to Boston without me and taken the first flight from there to Charlotte, was waiting at the carousel.  I used a pay phone (remember those?) to call my friends & then suddenly, joyfully, there they were and I was whisked away from the evil airport to their welcoming home.

So my two day trip to Charlotte got shortened to 19 hours, but my friends took me for shrimp & grits and sweet tea, blew up the air mattress for an afternoon nap, and it is indescribable how just being around them made me feel infinitely better.

We went to a museum where we spent some time checking out their platform shoe and haute couture exhibits, then had a make-your-own-pizza party in our pajamas, falling asleep all piled up on the couch and air mattress watching a movie.  It was so lovely.  You girls are the best.

At 4am I got up again & T took me to the airport (thank you so much, girl!) for my 6am flight to Houston.  I boarded the plane and immediately fell asleep.

(PS - I still love jetBlue; the problems were with the weather and the airports, and everyone from jetBlue I talked to did their best to help me).

I am so happy and grateful for:
~ eyemasks & earplugs
~ patient friends
~ safe flights

 xo!  n.
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