Explore Costco Travel

I got an email from Costco telling me to explore their services. Explore Costco Travel, it said. Oh my god, please. Let me explore Costco Travel. Costco Travel, can you give me some travel for FREE? I’d really explore that. Please? I’d like to explore New Zealand, Australia, Paraguay, Uraguay, the south of France, Barcelona, and Scandinavia. That about covers it for now. Once I’ve Costco Traveled my way through these places, I’ll come up with some others.

I’m sure this isn’t what Costco Travel has in mind, but it’s what I have in mind, so I’m putting it out there, Secret style. I’ll just manifest a free trip somewhere in the world by thinking of it. Costco sent me this email; it must be the universe setting me up to send me somewhere lovely. It wants me to manifest such exploration. Doesn’t this sound feasible? I think it does.

I’m going to go burn some essential oils and hum and hold my thumbs and fingers in a circle and hope something manifests in accordance with my thoughts. Thank you, Costco.

I started typing in the words for the tags on this post and was going to type “meditation,” but accidentally typed “medication” instead. I think maybe my blog is trying to tell me something.

Lifting Their Legs on the World

When I was a girl, my family took car trips around the country. I know there were many long, uninterrupted and rather boring stretches where my sister and I complained and asked, “Are we there yet?” Five minutes later, “Are we there yet?” I used the time to read, still a favorite pastime, or to stare out at the landscape.

Yet as time has ebbed, it isn’t the long drives I remember so much, it is the places along the way. I have several ethereal, out-of-context memories, such as an intersection in the middle of nowhere stopping us at a light in the middle of the night. I was in the backseat. It was dark. We were in the desert. That is all I know. Or the Native American roadside stand in New Mexico or some other southwest place, selling strange toys and dolls covered in actual fur. We stopped at a place to go to the bathroom, and I was given a plastic pony covered in grey felt. It was short and fat, a Thelwell style thing. I can’t remember if I was given the pony before or after my crying fit, the one that seems as if it lasted hours, because I hadn’t gotten something I wanted. I remember the stickiness of the car seat, my raw facial flesh from the salt and water and rubbing. It was cloudy, but it was also hot — our cars never had air conditioning. It seems unlikely my parents would have given it to me after crying in such a manner, but I also seem to have some vague notion of there being some unfairness too, and so I was given this trinket. This episode was obviously linked to some emotional overflowing, and therefore this is the reason it sticks in my brain. I know it was summer and I was 10 or 11.

Mostly though, I remember the places: the museum at the petrified forest, the fluorescent lights shining on off-white, speckled formica tile, the bits of hardened wood under glass on tables, and the signs explaining the geological phenomena. I remember a roadside dinosaur we could climb inside. I remember campsites in far flung places, usually the desert, because we traveled every summer to visit my grandpa and uncles and aunt in New Mexico. I remember Los Alamos and the mesa stable, walking out and looking over the cliffs at what seemed to be vast canyons. I remember the Grand Canyon, and the Great Hoover dam and its unbelievable, terrifying, breath stealing bridge. I could see the water, trapped on one side and then far, far below, the canyon on the other, empty of water. I would marvel that the water caught on the far side could be that deep. I remember the Glen Canyon damn, and riding wide boats among the sheer rock faces. We roamed wax museums, and visited the pretend old west in Carson City, Nevada. We stopped at roadside attractions showing the path of the pioneers along the Oregon trail, and visited ghost towns that had thrived in the heyday of the gold rush. I remember passing billboard after billboard, announcing the coming attractions, as well as signs you had to read as you passed by. Roadside poetry. So it went. Summer after summer, we took our yearly drive. Sometimes in the winter we also visited, and skated on iced-over ponds, or hiked through snowy forests.

Last summer, I took my daughters to Europe. We trekked through several cities. I found myself feeling sadness and a little frustration that in city after city, the same corporate shops dotted the landscapes. Museums were large, crowded, and expensive, certainly not the best option for my then 2 year old. I could not find a small chocolate shop in Antwerp. A shop owner in the Netherlands told me it was because the multinational corporations had driven up the cost of real estate and all the small shops had gone out of business.

When Milla was three, we trekked to our annual family reunion in South Dakota. It was the first time I had been to the small pioneer cemetery where one part of my family has been buried since settling on the plains in the mid-1800s. Many of those buried there were born in Scandinavia. I have a great, great, great aunt who was one of the only white people Sitting Bull befriended. She brought food to them because the American government was purposely starving them. She ignored the prohibition against it and fed them. There is a book about her. These hardy (and hard) people moved from a very cold, harsh place to another cold and harsh place. Some of them were run off their Scandinavian farms by political unrest in their countries. For this, I think some of them identified with the Natives on those plains and perhaps this is why they became allies.

The trip was a complete and utter disappointment on one level. I expected it to look like South Dakota. I expected a “South Dakota-ness” to the place. No. It was Target. It was Walmart. It was Burger King. It was the same ugly, conforming corporate crap we have where I live. Later I traveled to several other US cities. The same thing.

Something erased these individual places and made them homogenuous and boring. I know what it is: capitalism. Capitalism took away the South Dakota-ness, and the Oregon-ness, and the Arizona-ness and replaced them with bland, ugly sameness. There are no little shops selling trinkets made by locals. If there are, they are now in the upscale, “artsy” places and the people making things sell them for a small fortune to tourists whose tours are to shop. Tour brochures in motels feature the “best” malls and the “best” shopping. Going to places and finding things to do that are not shopping is difficult. Oh, you can pay a fortune to ride on some guided boat, or to rent some piece of equipment you likely own at home such as a bicycle or kayak, but it’s rare to go to places and find things about that place that you can’t find in every other place all over. Even Europe has lost its uniqueness in each city. Family trips are taken to destination resorts that are exactly the same as every other corporate resort. Even the lines are the same. All that might change is the weather. Too bad the corporations can’t control that.

Bill Bryson, in his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid describes rides in cars visiting places in the US. I’ve read many memoirs where the author remembers such things. I have also read stories where such summer trips played a key role in the plot. Driving around in the backseat as a child is a key cultural memory for those of us born between the 1930s and early 1980s.

Since taking vacations as an adult, I have spent many trips trying to find places like those I visited as a child, unusual places that I can take my children that define the place they are in. I’ve been frustrated by the search. I’ve raged against travel brochures that feature shopping as a tourist attraction. What, so I can buy the same shit made in China that is sold all over the world and then lug it home? I drove across the country in 2009. Every single roadside, every single town was monochromatic, exactly like the one before. Nothing had its own identity.

In another favorite book of mine by Bryson In a Sunburned Country, Bryson describes a town called Alice Springs, Australia, near the site of an Aboriginal holy place at the base of the MacDonnell Mountain Range. It is overrun with McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a Kmart. He says that Americans have created “a philosophy of retailing that is totally without aesthetics…” He also says it is totally irresistible, but I do not agree. I absolutely hate it and I do resist it. I avoid these places like the plague.

I’m currently reading Roger Ebert’s memoir Life Itself. In it, he describes perfectly how we are losing the identities of the world’s places. He describes his love of London, his visits there for thirty years, spanning from 1966 to 2006. Every year he went at least once, many even more. Yet in the last decade, London is losing itself because of the corporations “lifting their legs along London’s streets.” Oh, my good man, what an apt description. In it I had an Ah ha! moment that identified what has been missing from my vacations and visits to places that are not home. I thought it was something about me, that maybe I have lost my luster, and that this is why I haven’t been able to fully enjoy these places I’ve gone. I had an expectation of that feeling of newness, visiting something different from myself that I experienced as a child vacationing in the backseat of our family car.

Yet it wasn’t me at all. It was this erasing of individual identities from the places in the world. It was all the hideous conformity, with no regard whatsoever for the place that had been there. It’s the chasing of the almighty dollar.

We have to do something to change this. We have to stop the reign of capitalism. Something has to shift. People have to believe it is possible before we all become Stepford robots keeping up with the Joneses to buy ugly, plastic junk that destroys our planet. We need to go out of our way to find the few places that still exist where homogeneity isn’t the rule and take our children to these places.

Last summer I visited my friend in Ephrata, Washington. There isn’t much there; Walmart took care of that, although some small shops are trying to make a go of it. Yet they are shops, not tourist destinations. My friend took me for a drive out to the Columbia Basin plateau, a site of magnificent geology, where lava flows and massive floods created incredible landscapes. Up on the edge of one of the cliffs over a coulee there was a little museum telling the story of the geology, the ice age, and its effect on the land. My 13 year old actually read the information on the exhibits. It reminded me of the places we visited as a child. These places do exist. Find them. Take your children. Give them memories that are worthy of reminiscing. Don’t let us all turn into monochromatic robots, shopping our way around the world.

BedandBreakfast.com is a Big Lie Site

I used BedandBreakfast.com, also Inns.com, to locate a B & B in Barcelona.  The reviews for the B & B I ultimately chose were fantastic, not one bad one in the bunch.  They raved about the owner, the cooking, the facilities, all of it.  I sought reviews on other sites, but there weren’t many available for the place I wanted to stay.  After searching for a month and gathering quotes, I made my choice, primarily based on the information on BedandBreakfast.com, as well as the email conversations I had with the owner.

Unfortunately, our experience did not line up with our expectations, so much so that when we returned home, I wrote a diplomatic, but negative review.  The owner wasn’t there. The woman who replaced her was nasty.  The only breakfast was a couple of slices of bread with jam.  The location was a good one for Barcelona, but was situated next door to a fire station, not exactly relaxing for a vacation.  And the rooms had no air conditioning or fans, which was next to impossible to tolerate during August.

After I wrote the review, I received a message back from BedandBreakfast.com asking for proof I stayed at the B & B.  I sent the confirmation email from the owner.  Not good enough.  I sent the Paypal receipt for the deposit.  Not good enough.  I even sent a photo of us in the room. Not good enough.  We had paid in cash, and since the owner was not there and her replacement could not understand my request for a receipt, I had no further proof.  They would not post the review.  I have sent the owner 6 requests for a receipt, but except for one response in which she claimed to be out of town and that she would send one upon her return, I have had no response.  BedandBreakfast.com claimed I could have been a competitor trying to bring down that B & B.  Right.  I fabricated emails with the owner, I sent $45 through Paypal to some fabricated account.  I made up the whole thing, just to give a bad review? It’s ridiculous.

Don’t trust BedandBreakfast.com. I looked through their listings, and could not find any negative reviews. They filter them out. Don’t use their site to make your travel decision because you won’t be getting an accurate picture.  Their site lies.

Eggs in Spain, and indeed the Netherlands, too.

I have two observation about eggs from my trip to Europe.  A couple of days after my arrival in the Netherlands I was dispatched to the grocery store to fetch eggs.  I could not find them.  I searched and searched and returned empty-handed. Both Milla and Anne told me the eggs were by the cereal, so the next time I was in the grocery store I looked for the cereal.  Lo and behold, there on the shelf next to the cereal sat the eggs. They were not in the refrigeration section, which is why I had not located them previously. I had gone around and around to all the refrigerated sections in the store.  No wonder I hadn’t found them.

This was quite a revelation, these eggs on the grocery store shelf. I have known my mother to toss out entire cartons of eggs because they sat on the counter all day.  What a waste.  I will let her know, and everyone else who might care, that Europeans leave their eggs on the shelf in the grocery store.   There have been no major outbreaks of  Salmonella in the Netherlands (I checked, via the internets, so if the internets can be trusted, this is likely the case), which must mean that leaving eggs out of refrigeration for a while won’t hurt anyone.  I wonder how much money could be saved in the US on refrigeration if eggs were not kept cold.  Or maybe it’s that the US leaves them out longer than the eggs in Europe.  I will have to do some investigating and get back to that one.

I made another egg discovery in Europe.  You can buy, off the shelf, actual eggs from chickens that are truly free-range.  I’m not talking about the bullshit US version of free-range where they keep them locked up until they are 5 weeks old, then open a tiny door at the end of a long shed, knowing full well they will never leave that shed until the day they die.  No.  I’m talking true free-range from a field chickens who eat bugs and grass and scratch their little feetsies in the dirt.  I get my eggs true free-range from a field chickens.  I have to go to a neighbor’s house who has them brought in from a ranch and sells them to willing buyers.  I pay $5 a dozen, which isn’t horrible considering true free-range eggs at the local farmers markets are usually $10 a dozen.  The true free-range eggs in Europe were about $3 Euros a dozen, which was the same price as the non-true free-range eggs in Europe.  Not bad. Imagine that, true free-range eggs sold in the grocery store on the shelf for a moderate price.  And we’re told it can’t happen here. What a load of dooky (dookie?).

Finally, the absolute best egg discovery I made in Europe was in Spain.  Every single huevo I ordered in Spain was perfection. They were fried, with the whites completely cooked but not burned, the yellows still runny, and salted. NO PEPPER!!  Perfect.  I could not have ordered an egg more to my liking if I tried.  I have never, I repeat NEVER gotten an egg exactly as I like it at a restaurant in the US.  It is seemingly impossible here.  For some reason, either the whites not runny, or the whites not burned, or the yellows still runny, or the just salty part is a little too difficult for cooks here to manage.  Cooks here also seem to find it nearly impossible, even when asked, to leave off the pepper, which drives me to distraction because I can’t stand pepper and I really can’t stand it on eggs. I don’t send the eggs back for having pepper unless the pepper is so heavy I can barely see the egg, so I’ve had to scarf down peppered eggs on many occasions even when I didn’t want to.  Now I just rarely eat eggs out because it’s so hard for US cooks to figure them out to my liking.  But not the Spanish cooks, and I didn’t even SPECIFY!! They just came to me exactly as I like them, every single time I ordered them.  I loved it.  Maybe I was a Spaniard in a past life and this is why I like eggs the way they make them there.  I don’t know.

And another thing…the Spanish eggs, like the Netherland eggs, and like my true-free range eggs here, had the same bright orange, tasty yokes.  I suspect these Spanish eggs were true free-range as well.  Eggs that are not truly free-range, including the pretend free-range version in the US, simply do not have these healthy, tasty yokes.  They are anemic and bleah, with no flavor at all.  The Spanish eggs were utter perfection, through and through.

Barcelona

I have noticed since being in Barcelona, and indeed I have noticed in all of our European travels this summer, a lot more men carting around children than I see in the states.  And here in Spain I have noticed many, many sets of grandparents or a grandparent caring for young children.  I wonder if instead of placing children with daycare centers, more people here utilize family for childcare.  I’m talking about babies and very young children.

Today while swimming in the Mediterranean I was drifting in from a swim out a ways from shore, when a turd floated by.  I immediately exited the water, packed up the baby, and went to take a shower.  I just could not swim with turds.  Call me particular.

Düsseldorf

We spent 2 days in Düsseldorf, Germany.  Actually, we stayed in a suburb called Ratingan at the in-laws of my friend, Anne. However we went into Düsseldorf both days we were there.  The weather the entire time was pretty abysmal, especially for August, but this did not stop us from exploring.  Sunday morning in Ratingan we were all soaked on our way to breakfast at a lovely bakery.  Breakfast, while damp, was quite delicious. There was a lot of construction going on downtown, which Anne says has been going on for years.  I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  I don’t know enough to judge.

In any case, we made it around the construction zone and wandered up and down lovely alleyways to the Rhine. At the Rhine, the sky in the distance looked quite menacing, so we beat a fast track back to the car.  We seemed to miss the rain, which was a first for the trip.

I snapped some photos of my beautiful daughter along the Rhine and with her umbrella.  Her smile is truly breathtaking.

Milla on the Rhine, August 14, 2011

Milla in Düsseldorf, Germany, August 14, 2011.

Amsterdam, I love you.

August 15, 2011:

Magical, magical, magical.  I fell in love with Amsterdam nearly immediately.  Exiting the central station and moving out into the sun was no more unusual than any other such exits, except that the sun was shining and we’ve been trudging through thick raindrops since we arrived.  This alone made the departure special.  We had planned to take a boat ride around the canals, but after a snack, I wasn’t so interested in sitting in a plastic, encased tube, which is how the canal boats are, so we headed off towards Dam Square with the intent to catch a boat ride later.

We wandered down a busy thoroughfare that was much too touristy, but fun in a campy way.  Marijuana smoke drifted in and out of the crowd, and Milla wrinkled her nose and smiled at this.  We smell marijuana when we visit the Last Thursday festival in Portland, but it’s not legal.  We also passed a sex museum.  Milla found this quite salacious, marijuana smoking and sex shops right out in the open, which of course gave her another giggle.

Dam Square was crowded and full of life.  A Scot danced and played, then asked for tips.  Around the square various persons stood attired in an array of costumes that must have been hotter than hell.  One was a knight, covered in shiny, green stones, with a brilliant, diamond encrusted shield.  Every few moments he shifted slightly to his left, then again, then again, until he circled and faced us.  As he turned away I could see beneath his helmet. The skin there was red and sweaty.  He must have been roasting there in the sun wearing such a heavy costume.  Nearby Poseidon posed with a family of three. He allowed one of the sons to hold his pearly blue, shell covered staff.  Darth Vader stood alone to one side.  No one seemed much interested in him; modern gods pale in comparison to Poseidon and knights.  I can only imagine the level of sweltering under his black cape and hood.

As we passed through the square and crowds, pushing Isabel in her stroller along the bumpy cobblestones, I felt a gradual welling of desire for this place in my chest.  I wanted to get past the tourism and into the very old city. I did not so much mind the crowds, but had no desire for McDonald’s and other hideous modern entrapments.  Come, I said to Milla. Let’s head off this way.  We took a narrow road away from the square and moved along until we came to a quiet street along a canal.

As in Delft, a small town we visited a couple of days ago, cars parked right along the canal.  There were no fences or other obstructions between them and the water.  Surely parking must be a stressful affair, even when one is used to doing it.  Later on our boat tour, we heard that an average of one car per week falls into a canal.  Yikes!

We rambled along and came to a busier street with another, larger canal running through it and decided then to take a boat tour.  We stood and purchased our tickets, and proceeded down onto the wooden boardwalk to wait our turn on a bench.  The sun was really warm and I commented to Milla that I would take being warm any day over the rain.  Isabel peeked over the edge of the boardwalk into the water, turning to tell me about the sloshing water and ducks.  Hoo? she asked, pointing into the depths below.

We sat for ten minutes before a boat came to pick us up.  The best part about getting to such a tour before the boat arrives is that you are near the front when it boards, which affords you the opportunity to choose the best seats. The boat was long and narrow, an aisle running between booths of vinyl benches with tables between.  The entire thing was encased in a plastic windows.  Two sets of the windows were open on top, and at the very front and the very back, windows were open on either side as well.  We chose a booth at the very back next to an open window, and for the rest of the ride, i was so grateful for this choice and opportunity.  The boat groaned, its engine grinding and smelly as the contraption turned to begin its journey, turning and snaking along the wider canal.

Moments later the boat turned down a smaller channel and as the sun shined upon us, the breeze gently pulling at our hair, with Milla smiling and Isabel giggling, I fell completely and utterly in love with Amsterdam.  The boat ride was completely enchanting.  We passed crooked, skinny houses, built on uneven piles driven into the sticky muck that is the city’s base.  Our guide recited in four languages the story of early taxation based on a building’s width.  He pointed out overhead the wenches attached to gables and used to swing furniture through open windows because the doors are too narrow to admit anything of consequence. We heard stories of ancient merchants and mariners, and cars falling in channels, and the cost to build small fences, and as the boat moved along, I thought, I would love to live in this place.

As we floated along, my 22 month old daughter waved at everyone.  We passed groups of young men hanging out on the edge of the canal.  Isabel waved and they all broke into bright smiles.  We passed two old people snuggling together on a bench.  Isabel waved and waved, and they smiled and waved vigorously in return.  We slid beneath a stone bridge.  A handsome, dark skinned man ambled along its side.  Isabel waved at him and his smile was so genuine and lovely, my heart nearly broke at its beauty.  My sweet child was making many people happy, if only for a moment.  Her wave is flat-handed, like a royal waving to her subjects.

After 45 minutes, the boat moved out of the canal and into the broad channel near the central station.  It passed a bicycle parking garage filled with thousands of bicycles, and the central train station.  As we rounded the corner into the main channel, we looked up up up at the bow of a giant cruise ship.  We thought we were going to hit it, it was that close!  At the last moment, our boat curved round the ship and made its way further down the channel.  It then turned back into the canal and back to where we began.

I loved Amsterdam.  Then entire time we floated through the beautiful canals, I was in complete bliss. After our ride we wandered until we came across the Waterstones Bookstore.  More bliss.  Four stories of books, which for me is like putting a drunk in a bar, I’m such a book addict.  I could never give up paper and covers in favor of some electronic reading device.  There is so much more to the experience than the reading of the words.  Milla and Isabel settled into the children’s section and I was able to have some free moments wandering by myself, which was heavenly.

After making a few purchases (of course), we left Waterstones and discovered two more bookstores, the American Bookstore and a small local shop.  All were in Spull Square, a delightful place full of trees, birds, sun, and visitors.  Dogs romped.  Birds chirped and ate crumbs.  Groups congregated.  The sun shone.  We sat for a while on a bench eating our purchases from the AH grocery.  This was a fine discovery, minus the vomit on the stairs out front–ewww!  We were able to purchase lunch meat, cheese, bread, and fruit.  We ate these in Spull Square until a yellow jacket decided to chase us away.  Milla screamed and some locals laughed at her.  It was kind of funny.  We then waited for Anne at a coffee shop and drank decaf Americanos.  Isabel played and nursed.  Once Anne arrived, we caught a train to the theater where we watched her fiance in an opera.  It was all wonderful fun.

Good:  Trains are fast.  Weather is lovely.  Buildings are charming and crooked.  There are hooks from the tops of the buildings with which to swing furniture in through the windows of narrow old houses.

Not so good:  Vomit in front of the grocery store and the smell.

Sublime:  Isabel waving at people on the shore and their smiles and waves in return.  She took them by surprise, this tiny person waving at them from a boat.

Isabel in front of a canal in Amsterdam.

Milla in Amsterdam.

Traveling is Exhausting

Traveling is exhausting.  I find it difficult to adjust quickly to time changes and whatnot, especially when I’m not sure how much of an adjustment I want to make.  Lately I have been awakening at east coast time (5 am where I’m at) and going to bed at west coast time (11 pm to midnight).  I keep hitting these walls in the middle of the afternoon and taking longer and longer naps.  This is exactly what happened to me when we moved east and I had to adjust there, only I got completely screwed up, taking horribly long naps and going to bed much too late.  It took having a regular job, going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, to force my body to figure things out.  Then I go and screw it up by coming home for a visit, and a long enough visit to make a difference.

Several mornings I have wanted to write on this blog when I wakened too early, but I was just too tired to rouse myself enough to do it.  So I would lie there and compose in my head.  That’s a useful enterprise.  Then when I got up we had to start on our marathon running around sessions and I didn’t write a word.

Not surprisingly, the prior two paragraphs were the only one I wrote.  I was interrupted to go and do something and five days later, I’m finally sitting down to finish what I started to say.  This is how it has been since we got here.  We have gone from one place to another to another ever since we got here.  Tomorrow we leave.  Today we don’t have any specific plans except to pack, only Dan hasn’t see one of his best friends since we arrived, and he is hoping to connect with her today.  I hope that’s all we do besides eat and pack.  I’m tired.

Midwest Out of the Rockies

Here are some photos from Colorado, Kansas, and the Mississippi River.

Wyoming

Wyoming was scary. By the time we got to it, we had experienced two of our near death rocks in the truck and were fairly terrified. We decided we would stop in Rock Springs, then head out early the next day to reach Colorado and Milla in Boulder. When we woke up on the morning of January 9, we were greeted with an unexpected surprise: snow! The weather reports had all predicted temperatures in the 40’s. Unfortunately this forecast changed while were sleeping. The storm was a surprise to many and left many traffic accidents in its wake. A couple of the photos are of trucks we saw crashed on the side of the road. We had another truck rock in Wyoming and the final one we experienced on the trip as we headed south into Colorado. Needless to say, we were nervous wrecks upon our arrival there!

Welcome to Everywhere

We tried to capture photos of the Welcome To signs as we drove across. I left off the photos of missed signs (there were a few). We crossed California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and finally New York. Of these 14, we captured 8. The photos are below.

Windmills

I took photos of windmills all along the trip. I can’t even remember all the states where we photographed windmills. Wyoming and Kansas. Maybe Indiana?

Clear Cuts National Forest

One thing that struck both of us immediately as we set out early January 8 was how shocked we were at the bright, sunny, and simply warm weather.  As we crossed the Siskiyou Pass, there was so little snow, the landscape around us looked almost summer-like in places.  Then as we headed into California and passed through national forests, Shasta and Lassen, we were apalled at the level of clear cutting. The forests there were simply obliterated.  We decided to take some photos.

Photo Diary: January 8 and 9, 2009

We left our house in Portland at about 6:00 p.m. on January 7. We headed south on I-5 because I-84 east was closed in places. We decided we would check out the weather in Wyoming once we hit Reno, and if things looked dicey, we would go south through Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first night we drove to Grants Pass and spent the night there before heading south the morning of January 8.

Get Us Home Safely Please

This trip has turned into a horror show. Driving this truck is like driving a giant death mobile. We are both so fearful of the nightmarish wobble and fishtailing, we are total nervous wrecks.

For the record, so far Colorado handily beats every other state for the most poorly maintained roads, at least Interstate 25 from Wyoming to Denver. Denver was also a beast, although eastern Colorado was somewhat of an improvement.

We are currently driving toward Salina, Kansas. The road in Kansas has been lovely, although the fact we stopped, purchased, and took vitamin B for stress may have provided some assistance toward that view.

January 8, 2009 Driving to New York

Day three of the trip.  I have not been able to post much of anything because, as I explained in my mini-iPhone post this morning, we have not had internets in our motel rooms, in spite of promises by Expedia to the contrary.

My last long piece was written before we reached Susanville, California at about 4 in the afternoon.  Heading into Susanville tested my driving mettle.  Leaving the mountains we headed down a 6.5% downgrade curving into the town.  The final curve is 20 mph 180 degree turn at a ridiculously steep downgrade.

The road leaving California and heading into Nevada is mostly flat, long and low across the desert.  We decided we would stop for the night in Elko, Nevada, nearly across the state.

When I was twelve, my dad worked in Alaska for part of the year.  He and my mom decided to have her drive up in a truck with a camper on the back, taking my brother and step-brother.  For years after the trip my mom would tell the story of the drive on the narrow freeway, trucks passing and causing the camper and truck to rock back and forth, back and forth.  She was terrified, but my brother was little and my step-brother had only a learner’s permit–the job was hers.

I fully and completely sympathize.  I had been driving comfortably on the long, flat straight highway.  For the most part the road was smooth.  Bridges were a different story.  There were seams at the beginning and end of each bridge, some dipping a good four inches below the surface of the road.  Driving along at 60 mph, I hit a dip and the truck began to rock side to side, back and forth, the up wheels completely off the road.  Boyfriend had experienced a similar rocking on I-5 in Oregon, but not nearly to the extent of this.

Fear of that magnitude is a physical experience.  As the truck rocked side to side, I felt my body blanch, sweat pouring from every gland.  My heart raced.  I thought I was going to wet myself.  Seconds later as I managed to straighten the truck and slow significantly.  My heart was pounding.  My only thought was that I wanted to get to Milla.  Minutes later, I began to weep.  Weird, this fear response.  I continued for my portion of the drive, then Boyfriend took over.  He kept braking, terrified of a repeat.  He had experienced the same terror as I did.  When we finally arrived in Elko after midnight, all we wanted was a bath and sleep.

This morning we headed across Nevada towards Salt Lake.  Our intention was to get to Boulder in one day.  The roads were clear, the sky was bright with sun, and we were optimistic.

The desert there is quite lovely.  There are snow-capped mountains in the near distance.  Sagebrush dots the landscape contrasting beautifully with spots of snow.  Its expansiveness filled us both with awe.  Ours is such a beautiful planet.

I fell asleep two hours outside Elko.  A half an hour later, I woke and sat up sleepily.  As I stared catatonically into the distance (I have had only 4-6 hours of sleep each night in the last week.  My insomnia has returned with a vengeance.), I felt the truck jerk and bump, then it began its furious side to side weaving.  Boyfriend attempted to drive over the anti-sleep ruts on the shoulder.  This did not work and the truck veered madly toward the edge of the road, tilting and rocking.  That fear hit me again.  Boyfriend managed to straighten it out and slowed to nearly 35 mph.  He had not been going faster than 55, but the combination of a monster tractor-trailer and massive dips after a bridge created the turbulence.  I could smell the sweat on him after, fear palpable between the two of us.

A short time later we made our driver switch.  Driving into and through Salt Lake, I was a wreck.  There were tons of tractor-trailers.  They buzzed by proving just how piddly our truck and trailer were to them.  The roads were terrible.  There were repair seams everywhere crossing all lanes.  Construction projects forced cars into narrow, cement-sided passageways.  I spent the entire trip taking deep breaths, constantly wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans.  As we headed into the mountains east of the city, I was not sure I would be able to manage.  I was so afraid and I could not talk myself out of it.
I am not normally a very fearful person.  I will often push through situations when fear seems to want to take over.  But too many nights without enough sleep, a lot of pretty crappy road food, and the stress of driving the monster weaving truck had me completely out of sorts.  I felt on the verge of tears at every turn.  Finally as we headed towards a sharp 45 mph curve on a 6.5% downgrade slope, I lost it and started bawling.

Boyfriend had called my dad who has driven trucks across the country before.  My dad described the physics of what was happening to us.  He said that rather than braking or stopping acceleration, when the truck began to rock we should actually accelerate.  Once the truck straightened, we could then brake.  He said the worst thing to do was brake.  This made sense and we wondered that we hadn’t figured it out ourselves, but our automatic response was to try to slow down not speed up.

As we headed towards the severe downgrade curve, Boyfriend told me to brake.  So afraid of rocking back and forth, I had stopped wanting to brake altogether, taking the advice to avoid it to the extreme.  It’s okay to brake, we aren’t rocking, he told me calmly.  I managed to slow from 50 to 35 and we made it through the curves without incident.

We continued on through Park City, Utah.  I had managed to accelerate through a few minor rockings and discovered that it did indeed work.  Then we saw a sign indicating that Cheyenne was 427 miles from our location.  I quickly calculated in my head and realized we would not reach Boulder and Milla at a reasonable hour.  Boyfriend was on the phone with a friend and at that moment, after describing how slowly we were going to avoid tipping and rocking, said We aren’t in any hurry.

I realized he was right.  Why were we breaking our necks to get to Boulder tonight?  I wanted to spend time with Milla.  We had forgotten to change the clocks so our calculations put us in Boulder even later.  When Boyfriend got off the phone, I told him I wanted to stop somewhere right inside Wyoming, get a good meal, a solid night’s rest, and relax.  He said, I think that is the best idea we have had in a while. What a man.

Our trip from that point on was much more relaxed. I drove to Edmonton, Wyoming.  We stopped at the corporate addiction palace to get some caffeine and to log onto the internets to make motel reservations in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  When we left, Boyfriend took the wheel.  We are almost there.  I am looking forward to some time to relax an enjoy ourselves.  It is 5:45.  We’ll be there in under a half an hour.  Boyfriend has been driving like a pro.  Now that we have figured out a way around the horrible careening truck swings, and since we know we’ll have a night to relax, we’re both much happier.

January 7, 2009 Driving to New York

We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure.  We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home.  I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time.  It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person.  We are both thrilled and a little scared.

The last few days have been exhausting.  We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano.  Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.

A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job.  They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour.  I was mightily impressed.  We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house.  They led from the yard down to the street.  The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across.  They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck.  Viola, piano loaded!

After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump.  That was an experience.  We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is.  There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile.  The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps.  I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters.  I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore.  Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.

After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up.  Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning.  I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade?  Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet.  We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time.  A friend came to help, but things were slow.  Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help.  It was dark but things were moving.  Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver).  Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).

One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair.  Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome.  He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically.  When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife.  Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend.  He was indispensable.

It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit.  We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer.  The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday.  Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food.  It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat.  After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep.  We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.

Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side.  She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily.  I can only imagine her doggy thoughts.  Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave.  Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me.  It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man.  She was a worthy substitute.

The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street.  They had trailers we could look at.   As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly.  It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over.  A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other.  Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.

Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us.  An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time.  We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours.  We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano.  We also repacked a bit more securely.  It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.

We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night.  We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us.  We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer.  It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.

Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer.  I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life.  I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required.  I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle.  Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain.  Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.

Today, however, is a different story.  He is driving like a pro.  At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane.  The truck began rocking side to side.  He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased.  Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.

Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition.  Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night.  I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night.  Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath!  Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran.  Good dog, Tanya!

Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today.  It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure.  Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded.  We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass.  At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance.  Everywhere else it looks like late August.  I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight.  Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.

Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest.  It is breathtakingly lovely.  Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining.  We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January.  Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems.  We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south.  Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder.  We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides.  Sounds good to me.

I Have Other Posts

I have a very long blog post about packing and the start of the trip. Unfortunately neither of the two motels we stayed in had the wireless Expedia advertised, and so we have had no internets access except for iPhones (from which I am typing this blog post). Tonight we are staying in Boulder where I know we will have the internets, and I can post the longer stuff there.

Something to note: if you hit crappy, concrete road in a ginormous, heavy truck going 65, the truck will begin to wobble side to side to side. This is rather terrifying, causing heart palpitations, dry mouth, shaky limbs, and immediate sweat of both driver and passenger. Side effects may include poopy pants, deployed airbags, and insurance issues. Driver may weep when truck slows and decides not to tip over.

Holiday Season

I’m learning how to be.  I’m seem always to be failing at it.  Maybe I need to change my standards.  I don’t know.

Last night was infiinitely better than yesterday.  I finally opened my mouth to the man I love and once we started speaking, things were better.  I find it odd to have roles reversed for me in this relationship.  In the past I was the one prodding and speaking and working to make the other say something.  I have now become the one who clams up.  Weird, this.

We cleaned the house and decorated for Christmas last night.  Then we wrapped too many gifts. The gifts are small, but we have quite a few of them to hand out so there was a lot to wrap.  It’s satisfying that it is done.

Portland is buried in snow. The city does nothing when it snows like this.  I find it completely frustrating.  I just left Boulder, Colorado, where it snows like this all the time.  The city plows the roads, puts down gravel, and gets on with it.  Portland just turns stupid.  We went to the mall today with a friend.  While there a customer service person at Ross accosted us upon walking in the door, WE’RE CLOSING!  We’re closing in TWO MINUTES!!  He was frantic.  This was four hours before the store was scheduled to close.  God forbid anyone is open past dark.  None of the stores salt or gravel their walks.  It’s slick, but not unmanageable.  I don’t get it.  People keep saying it is because no one here is used to it.  I say that argument is bunk.  People are from everywhere these days.  We drive in rain in Oregon; we can drive in snow if we so desire.  It would help a lot if the city actually did something productive like scrape and sand more roads, but to stop everything is ridiculous.  We did not even get mail today.

I have a wretched bladder infection.  Can you believe tha when I called my doctor.  The office was closed…of course, it’s snowing! Who goes to the doctor in the snow?  Foolish me to expect otherwise.  So the message at the office claimed it would forward me to the answering service.  Guess what?  The answering service never answered.  I called and called.  No answer.  I guess it’s too hard to answer the phone in the snow too.  Let’s hope it isn’t true that the climate is changing so drastically that snow will be a norm here.  If so, Portland might disappear considering no one can function when it snows here.

So today we are comfortably ensconced in our warm house.  I am grateful for the warmth in our home.  We are packing and getting ready for our big trip across country. I’m kind of scared, but excited too.  It’s a big step.  I hope our apartment works out.  It’s big by apartment standards, but so small in many ways.  The kitchen is wretchedly small. There isn’t even a counter.  We’re going to have to create our own.  Anyway, it feels better when I consider the prospect with Boyfriend, but I’m still sort of freaking out about fitting it all in and wanting to get the goods at Ikea to make it all fit.  We don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around.  Certain things simply will not work without Ikea to help us.  Yikes.  We’ll work it out.  I will definitely be glad when we are on the other side of the move and have actually had to do it rather than just think about it.  Soon enough.  For now, Christmas awaits.  Santa is coming to see Milla.  The tree is up.  Snow is falling.  It should be lovely.

On a Plane

This is a first for me.  I am writing this while I fly on a plane to New York.  I am going to find an apartment for Boyfriend and me.  I am pretty excited about doing this.  About the only thing that would make it better is if he or Milla were here with me, but I’ll manage on my own.

I am flying Jet Blue.  This is my first flight on this airline and I am impressed.  After I booked the ticket, people told me to let them know if the seats were bigger as rumored.  I can’t tell if the actual seats are wider, but I can absolutely attest that there is more leg room.  I have a good 8 inches between my knees and the seat in front of me. That is a HUGE improvement.  I usually touch the seat in front of me.  Planes are made for tiny skinny people.  I’m thin, but tall, and I am usually very uncomfortable on a flight of any duration.  Not on this flight, however.

I just stopped and turned on the little t.v. in the back of the chair.  This is not something I get, this need for a screen on every seat, on every corner, hanging in stores, blaring noise and advertising all the time.  I don’t own a television.  I can’t stand advertising.  But I digress.

So I turned it on because I was sitting here and it was there.  First I discovered that as I am flying, another aircraft has crashed in San Diego.  It appears to be a military plane and it crashed in a neighborhood.  I need to call my friend Megan who lives there and check on her.  I changed the channel, and discovered a thing called Live Map.  it has a map with a little plane on it showing where our plane is at.  Looks like we are over Pennsylvania, nearing Scranton.  What a trip.

Our flight is on route to being forty minutes early.  That is nice.  The flight was also not full.  I had three seats in a row to myself.  I did not get a lot of sleep last night and the second we took off I laid down and fell asleep.  I slept for almost three hours.  I feel a million times better.

Some other little details about Jet Blue.  They charge you for a pillow and blanket, but they don’t charge for one piece of luggage or a snack.  And they have good snacks, enough to actually feel like you ate something, not just three piddly pretzels.  And you get the whole bottle of a drink, not just a cup full of ice with a quarter cup poured on it.  I would rather have the snack, drink, and piece of luggage than a pillow and blanket, given the choice, but I’m sure there are others who would want the bedding instead.  Also they charge a dollar for headphones, but I have my own, so I didn’t buy those.  In fact if I did not have them, I would not use them anyway.  I have already had my five minute fill of the television.  I’m listening to Shirley Horn on XM, but would have listened to my ipod if the desire overcame me.

Now we are flying over some water.  It looks like a big river.  Oh wait, no. We’re here!  Okay, Lara is a dork.  Look at that!  I can see the Statue of Liberty!  How silly.  How cool.  I can see Manhattan Island and Staten Island.  I’m a serious dork.  I love the little ribbons of road and river.  Now the plane has turned south so I see New Jersey.  Ah, too bad.  But we must be going to circle around….OUCH!  I was listening to a song called Empty Pockets when suddenly Miss Stewardess came on to tell us to fasten our seatbelts.  Okay, fine, but does it have to be so much louder in the headphones than the music?  Shit.  In an effort to preserve my hearing I changed to my ipod.  I have that song on there.  Also the plane version kept breaking up.

Ohhhh boy.  We’re turning quite sharply left and circling around, just as I predicted.  I’m all up in the air.  The sun is setting on the horizon.  It is so lovely and orange out there, the sun spreading across the clouds.  Apparently it is 31 degrees out there.  I’m glad I brought a warm coat and wore a hat.

Well, I’m going to end this odd, stream-of-consciousness, in-flight review.  Looks like we’ll be landing shortly, way ahead of schedule.  We weren’t supposed to land until 5:40 and it is only 4:45, and we’re on our way down.  And they just told us to put everything away.  Hopefully the next time I write something it will be to rave over our brand new New York apartment!

America the Ugly

Milla’s dad informed me that a store I was looking for was in Longmont, Colorado.  Considering I have explored the south and the east of Boulder fairly well, and also considering Milla was spending the day with her dad, I decided to traipse on over to see if I could find the store and check out the town.

No offense to Longmontites, but what a disappointment.  Longmont is covered in ugly, bland, spread-out big box stores and their smaller corporate cousins.  The houses were modern bland equivalencies, the sort preferred by developers who buy their blueprints from Plans-R-Us.  Maybe I turned around to leave too soon, but I did not discover a prettier town center.  I had to get out.  The place sucked the life out of me.  Like so many truly homogenized American towns, the place had no aesthetics, no character, nothing.  No wonder so many Americans are depressed.

Going to Longmont, Colorado was exactly the same as going to Redding, California, which was exactly the same as going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which was exactly the same as going to Beaverton, Oregon, only flatter.  With few exceptions, American towns have zero character.  It is impossible to tell you are in another city in another state other than the fact that the license plates are different.  People lament the lack of community in America today; perhaps part of the problem is that we can’t tell one community from the other any more.

Longmont resembled the tri-cities area of eastern Washington nearly identically.  One thing Oregon has that seems to be sorely lacking in both Washington and Colorado is an urban growth boundary.  In both Colorado and Washington, buildings sprout seemingly out of nowhere, randomly placed wherever the landowner had a whim, regardless how well it fits with the landscape or where a town ends.  Lots of developers in Oregon bitch about the growth boundary, but I’m all for it.  It forces people to be creative with the space they do have.  In towns in Oregon where the boundary has been extended, the decimated orchards and fields are replaced with cloned McMansions, cloned townhomes, and hideous utilitarian corporate chains.  In the coming weeks, yards will be filled with hideous, plastic, walmart holiday atrocities.  Wretched.

While I’m not a huge fan of overly ornate, clean has translated into purely utlitarian, which basically means completely ugly.  Who knows, maybe clean wasn’t the culprit.  Perhaps it has more to do with rape and pillage development, make as much money as possible and get out.  Whatever happened to wanting to make something look nice?  Whatever happened to originality?  It was all sacrificed at the alter of the almighty dollar.

There is that Cree proverb that states, “Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will you realize you cannot eat money.”  It seems when money is the only consideration or the highest consideration, not only are life and nature sacrificed, so too is beauty.  What a shame.

We should change the name of the song “America the Beautiful.”  It does not hold true any longer.  We are now America the Boring, America the Utilitarian, America the Ugly.  We don’t need some futuristic, sci-fi warning of a world in a plastic bubble to worry about.  We’re already there.

Solo Ambulant

I don’t fit.  I just don’t.  I feel like I spend my time in groups of people who fit in whatever they are in, but I’m not of them, I am just there.  I wonder if this is a manifestation of mine or if I’m meant simply to be always alone.  Surrounded by people and always alone.  I am certainly not a part of Hawaii.  I knew that coming here though, so it was not a surprise.  I suppose I had harbored some hope, albeit small, that I would not feel my aloneness as acutely here as I had in Portland.  But such thinking was naive.

The first few days here were a struggle, primarily because any move is a struggle.  We were worn out and travel weary.  Upon arrival we had originally intended to look for an apartment.  We started out renting a room in the house of a friend of a friend.  It was supposed to be the bigger of two rooms the homeowner had for rent.  Upon seeing it, I knew we would have to find our own place because it was simply not big enough for the two of us.  However, after settling in, spending time with the homeowners, and looking at what we could get for similar money on our own, I determined that we would have plenty of space if we rented both rooms.  So here we will stay.  The house is expansive and comfortable, in a good neighborhood, and our housemates could not be better.  The apartments we looked at for a similar price were ratholes in neighborhoods I would not want to live in.  This house is also quite close to Milla’s school and near nice shops and restaurants.  It will be a good place to live.

I also had to buy a car.  This would not on the surface appear to be a daunting task, but for some reason every person I called about cars was a complete freak.  The two cars we ended up actually getting to see were trashed beyond belief and there was no way I would purchase them.  And looking at them and apartments was a day long ordeal and a huge pain in the ass, simply because getting around Honolulu can be a huge ordeal and a pain in the ass.  This is because the main interstate through the city has off ramps with no coordinating on ramps and vice versa.  In addition, directions to exits are not well marked, or at least marked to coincide with the directions provided by Google maps.  I suppose this could be considered an error on the part of Google maps.  There also seem to be several roads with more than one name.  One sign will have the first name but not the second.  The second sign will have the second name but not the first.  The final sign might have both or simply a number.  By the time I figured out that all were one and the same it was too late to take the exit thereby necessitating taking a further exit.  However, on return the previous exit was not accessible so I would have to go on to the next exit to try and head back.  Only then there would not be an on ramp, so I would have to drive down further through town and attempt to locate one.  This happened to me four times.  Each occurrence took over a half an hour.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Luckily at the end of the day one person who had placed an ad for a car on craiglist without a phone number responded to my email inquiry.  She was female and sounded like a normal human, unlike any of the other sellers to whom I had spoken.  I made arrangements to see the car the next day and bought it after a drive.  It’s a good car.  I like it better than our clunky rental.  It is a 1992 Toyota Camry.

Milla also started school yesterday.  This was the big reason for our arrival at the beginning of August.  Milla’s school experience has been the most satisfying part of this trip.  I have had many moments of homesickness for a place that does not exist, moments where I long for a place that is mine, knowing it is not Hawaii or Portland.  It has been lonely and painful.  But finding a school that seems so good for Milla is a blessing.  Her teacher met with her for a half an hour.  Within that half hour, he knew Milla better than most people who have known her for some time.  He was able to identify parts of her personality and character and discuss these traits with me.  He seemed genuinely delighted to have her in his class.  I am so pleased Milla may finally have found a place where she is welcome.  Finding a place where Milla could thrive was one of my primary reasons in choosing to come here; in this at least we are blessed.

Non sequitur…but not really because I’m listening to him, but Chet Baker’s voice turns me inside out.  He puts me in tune with the universe. Him and Nina Simone.  Milla has become a Nina Simone convert.  I can’t play Nina enough to satisfy my daughter.  She has good taste.

I saw a ghost last night.  I told it to leave.  It did not belong in our room.  It did not belong here.  It needed to leave and it left.  I was not afraid.  For a moment, I felt a strength I only occasionally know I possess and wondered if my being lonely all the time is so I can someday use this strength.  I do not know.  There are so many times I do not know if I will make it to that point.  Perhaps I can use it if I ever get over this blinding loneliness.

Locomotion

I leave for Hawaii on Thursday. I feel like I’m going forward, getting it done, but observing from the outside.  It’s like I can’t let myself feel anything about it before I go because I don’t know how I feel about it other than that I know I have to do it.  In some regards I feel like immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s must have felt.  I’m leaving pretty much everything behind except a few small belongings and Milla.  Even my animal babies won’t be with me.  Thank God it’s the 21st century and there are phones, the internet, email, Skype or Gizmo, whatever, to keep us connected with our families and friends in a way the immigrants could not enjoy.  In that regard, we have it so much easier.  But that’s about the only situation I can find analagous to this one.  Similiarly though, I do think it is something that will improve our lives.  So off we go…

Have you ever spent a good deal of time helping someone with something just because you wanted to help them (for whatever reason), then made an offer to help further and the person acted like the further assistance was expected or even required?  Such things make me less inclined to want to help out, you know?  Such things make me want to say fuck you and give the proverbial finger.  Instead of thanks a bunch for helping out, it’s how come you’re not doing more or doing it faster?  Nothing like a little ingratitude to keep me from offering up assistance in the future.

Today is colder than it has been.  It is the first of August.  Incidentally, this is also my mom’s birthday.  She seemed pleased when I called and wished her well.  I gave her a gift some weeks ago because I was moving and did not want to lose it.  She told me all about where the gift was at and how much she liked it.  She was appreciative.  My daughter is visiting my mom this weekend.  I picked her up at the airport and very nearly took her straight over to my sister’s where my mom was going to pick her up.  I figured I would let Milla keep traveling and stay in that mode before coming to me and moving to another state.  There will be a lot of changes for both of us coming up.  I’m looking forward to parts of it, but honestly, I’m scared shitless.  I guess that’s how it goes.

little bits

I’m in the middle of so many books.  About ten I think.  This non-sequitur comes from nowhere, as non-sequiturs are apt to do, the sort of thought that has probably been floating in his brain for a bit and is finally expressed seemingly out of the ether.  I am in the middle of so many books too, I tell him.  Later I think that I would have finished these books, but I’ve been fucking instead.  Quite a lot actually.  I could have said that. He would have chuckled.  He would have known what I meant.  But that response only came just a bit ago when I was reading one of the aforementioned books.  Actually, this is a new one.  I’m already in the middle of how many books?  Maybe five or six instead of ten.  Then I found one of my favorites yesterday while sorting through boxes, one I have been wanting to read lately, one I went searching for a few weeks ago and did not find.  So this book moves to the top of the pile in the bathroom and will go with me when I’m a passenger in the car with him or have to go somewhere and wait.  I will finish it quickly because it has been tickling my brain begging me to read it again.  In fact I had to stop myself from buying another copy because I knew this one was nearby.  I just had to search further into the boxes.  And I did that.

I do not like packing.  I do not like moving.  It’s worse this time because I already did it once last month and it lasted several weeks.  I’m down on stuff, but these are things I did not finish or sort or have to decide whether they go to Hawaii or storage for another country I hope.  I have to pack so things can be shipped without breaking.  So far this hasn’t been too terribly difficult because the belongings are not breakable.  My friend, Noelle, helped me with breakable things at the old house, so I’m hoping not packing breakable things will remain not too terribly difficult.

Okay, I know he got his own post a few days back, but Chet Baker…baby.  I’m listening to Chet Baker in Paris.  I’m so in love with that voice.  Man says Chet made the ladies’ panties wet.  You know, I can see it.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), heroin and cocaine addiction isn’t exactly attractive, so I don’t think he would have done much for my panties, but still.  The man can sing and blow a horn.  Man told me a joke that goes What does a trumpet player use for birth control?  His personality.  This may be true, unless one is Chet Baker.  He could have the worst personality and that voice and face would go a long way to alleviating any personality flaws…like drug addiction for instance.

Well time to go investigate iphones.  Yes, I know.  How cliche’ is that to go and get an iphone right when they come out?  I don’t care.  My contract is up with Sprint and my phone is broken, so I’m going to get an iphone to go with my ipod and macbook.  Then I can write all of them without capital letters on the fronts of their names.  The computing world’s version of e.e. cummings.  Brilliant.

Empathy for Kurt Cobain

Life is surreal. It’s amazing how twisted up people can make things.  I constantly hear stories that from the outside seem to have such simple solutions, yet the parties involved are fully unwilling to act simply, choosing instead to remain mired in complications.  Humanity.  It appears we are doomed to destroy ourselves, but before we go we are all going to make certain we’re as miserable as possible.  How often, I wonder, could one’s life be different with the simple choice of just letting something go?  Ah, what do I know anyway?

Blogging non-sequitur: I did not know that Willie Nelson wrote Crazy.

So yesterday I went to Aberdeen, Washington.  The trip was an homage to Kurt Cobain.  We listened to Nirvana the whole way there.  Okay.  I’m joking.  That would have been pathetic.  Aberdeen was an afterthought.  We listened to a lot of music, but none of it was Nirvana.  My friend and I decided to go to Long Beach to get out of Portland since we both had the day free.  We got to Long Beach and although it was brilliantly sunny, the wind felt like it was blowing off the side of a glacier.  We walked out to the ocean then turned around and went right back to the car.  Our ears were frozen.  The best part of the visit was our dogs.  His dog was thrilled to pieces.  Oh my God, we’re at the beach!  There is sand!  There is water!  There are people to sniff!  I can get wet!  I can run!  I can wag! My dog was not thrilled to pieces and clearly thought we were insane.  He followed behind me whimpering.  You have got to be kidding.  Can’t you pick me up?  My paws are freezing!  Is that water?  That’s water.  No way.  I am NOT crossing that water.  Oh for Christ’s sake, are you crossing that water?  What is wrong with you people?  That water is freezing.  Do you feel that wind?  Seriously.  I can’t believe you would volunteer to come out here into the sand and water and wind.  There must be something deranged about human beings.

I think Piper was right.  It was too cold, windy, and wet.  So we decided to leave Long Beach and head to Aberdeen.  It was only another hour north and Kurt Cobain grew up there.  We had to see if the town was anything spectacular, particularly since he’d become famous and then died.  I mean, towns love that stuff, don’t they?

Apparently not.  Wow.  That is about all I can say.  We both lamented having failed to bring any sort of recording devices beyond the cameras in our mobile phones.  I don’t know that I can convey in words the pitifully depressed state of the place.  I actually had the thought that I could understand why someone living there would want to commit suicide.  Of course, Kurt wasn’t there when he committed suicide and had probably not been there for a long time, but it gives one the sense of the place to know that the impression it leaves is that of the will for self destruction.

The approach into town from Long Beach leads one by miles and miles of decimated forests.  Good for you, logging companies!  It appears you have ensured there will be no lumber to harvest for decades!  The land was fully raped and pillaged.  We passed the Weyerhauser Mill, drove along a stretch of uninviting highway lined with storage warehouses and beaten down manufactured homes.  We came to a bridge and wondered whether Aberdeen continued on the other side or if the next locale was Hoquiam.  We discovered to our delight that Aberdeen did indeed continue to the far side of the bridge. Unfortunately since our visit was an afterthought, we arrived just shortly after six p.m.  This meant that nothing was open except the corporate strip mall and a porn shop.  We browsed the porn shop.  It was the same as all other porn shops I have ever frequented.  The funny part of the visit there was that a man sat at a counter and another man browsed horrible videos.  There were rooms in the back and we heard noises leading us to believe there were men back there as well.  But as far as we could tell, other than me, there were no other women in the place.  I informed my friend that the other men in the place were probably impressed he had a real girl with him and not a plastic pussy.  Good times.  The other highlight of our Aberdeen visit was the Star Wars store, but unfortunately it was closed.  Today I discovered quite by accident a similar store less than a mile from my house.  Since we missed the Aberdeen version, we’ll have to hit the one here.

The homes in Aberdeen were run down beyond belief.  My friend suggested that perhaps I could purchase one there for cash out from the money received in the sale of my house.  We took down the address of a place for sale to look it up.  I did and it is actually possible to buy a house there for 1960’s prices.  I saw several for between $40k and $80k.  The only problem is why would you want to?  Yuck.

Visiting freezing Long Beach and decripit Aberdeen was a fun impromptu road trip. We went to the grocery store in Aberdeen and bought jelly beans and went to the bathroom.  The bathroom had a beautiful view of the bay.  Seriously amazing.  Too bad it was wasted on a grocery store bathroom.  We drove home on the non-scenic highway through Olympia.  An enjoyable time was had by all.

Fah Fah Away

030.jpgTomorrow morning my darling 1920 bungalow goes up for sale.  Once it is sold and Milla is done with school for the year I want to move far, far away from this city of unrequited love, toxic workplaces, illness, and too much unhappiness.  I loved Portland but it did not love me.

I have a friend who has had one thing after another after another after another happen to her here.  She wants to leave as well, but she told me she is worried somewhere else might be just as bad.  I told her if somewhere else is just as bad, then she wouldn’t have anything different, and it could very likely be better.  If it’s worse, well…  I guess I just figure I need to try.  Portland and I have worn out our welcomes on each other.

I am a tidy person, so it was not much difficult getting the place looking spiffy so I can sell it.  I touched up paint and finished some long overdue projects.  Today I spruced up the outdoors.  Luckily the weather has been quite springlike so it was easy to get things done.  I actually mowed the lawn for the first time this year.  I planted some flowers in pots that have been empty all winter.  I swept and blew with the leaf blower.  The house actually is quite lovely.  I will be sad to see it go.  Too bad I cannot pick it up and put it in another city.