Category Archives: family

New Year, Old World

As I experience more and more years of being, um, alive, I’ve learned three important lessons:

1.)     There isn’t a magic age where people figure things out: everyone is generally clueless for the vast majority of life;

2.)     Stick to one kind of alcohol per night; and

3.)     The time between August and Christmas is 10x faster than any other period of the year

You guys, really . . . is this the next stage of old age? No more prolonged anticipation periods? Am I going through anticipation menopause? No more anticipatory cramps? No more moodiness? Because it wasn’t that long ago when, if I had something exciting coming up on the horizon, the time would s l o w l y  d r a g  b y  f o r  w h a t  s e e m e d  l i k e  f o r e v e r .  .  .

Now, everything happens in the blinkofaneye and it’s really disturbing me.

For example, I’m going on another trip, a relatively big trip, in 13 DAYS and it’s coming up so quickly that I don’t even know how to feel about it. I haven’t even had time to brag about it!

For those of you who don’t know, my sister has been living in Berlin since May. She’s in an au pair program, taking care of two little boys, and living with a German family. I don’t know why my family is being infiltrated by all things German, but it’s starting to get a little ridiculous. Thank god my brother doesn’t like white girls or else I’d be calling the History Channel. I think they’d be interested in a conspiracy theory about Germans weaseling their way into American families by seducing their most promising youth.

Oh, right, I’m not a youth.

Or very promising.

Aaaaaaanyway, when my sister moved to Germany, it was always my intention to go visit her at some point during her year there, but again, time has passed in a blink and half of her year has already passed.

Luckily, my parents must be part of this conspiracy and had the great idea to send me and my brother to Berlin for New Years’ as our Christmas presents. So perfect and amazing and so, so generous! Great parents to the rescue yet again!

Somehow (these things tend to happen in my family), this little rink-a-dink snowball of a sibling trip to Berlin has rolled into an 8-person, multi-country, multi-city, multi-currency gigantic snowman of a trip that can only be described as nothing less than a Euro-Extravaganza! Final headcount is me, my sister Brighid, my brother Conor, John, my cousins Katie and Colleen, Brighid’s best friend Cheyenne, and Brighid’s German boyfriend (see! it’s happening!) Erik.

I mean, why would 3 people meet in Berlin? That is so ridiculously boring. It’s much more fun to have 8 people travel from Budapest to Vienna to Prague and then to Berlin to ring in 2012 at a pace that would disturb Usain Bolt. Duh.

And if you can believe it, we actually have everything pretty much under control and at a low cost. All hotels/hostels are booked (including one slumber party night of all 8 of us in one dorm room), buses and trains are booked (well, mostly – anyone know the cheapest bus or train from Vienna to Prague?), and fun stuff to do and food to consume has been thoroughly researched. We’re going to be stuffing ourselves full of currywurst, goulash, schnitzel, glühwein, beer, and trdlo!

Haha, trdlo.

Traveling with a group as large as this is really challenging – I think especially when you all know each other. It’s hard to make sure that everyone is included and no one feels like they’re compromising their (especially in this instance) precious time by doing things that they don’t want to do. I don’t really know the best way to go about it, but I’m thinking that it’s probably good for everyone to be up front about what they want to do and feel free to split up into groups or go off alone, and then have a meeting point . . . whether it’s a meal or drinks or just hanging out in the hotel.

But, as we all know, when you travel, shit happens. Hotel reservations get lost or end up costing more, buses are cancelled, you miss a flight, you get freaking pink eye or the bubonic plague – you name it. I guess the best thing that you can do is to be prepared but remember that plans don’t normally work out the way you, uh, you know . . . planned.

But enough with the Greek chorus!

I just can’t believe that I’m going on a trip with this group of people! I can’t believe that I’m going to visit my sister who lives in Germany! There are so many crazy parts to this crazy trip that I can’t even really wrap my head around it, and as I said, it’s seemed to have happened so quickly that I can barely believe it’s real. Christmas time in Central Europe! With a very good selection of some of my favorite people on Earth! Unbelievable. When will it seem real?

Oh, probably when I contract some bizarre gum infection in Budapest.

That’s when I will be par for the course and shit will get totally real.

Can’t wait!

Christmas Market in Prague

Advertisements

Where Do I Begin? To Tell a Story of How Grand a Canyon Can Be?

Well, here I am, back from my trip, and I am now a full-fledged, red-blooded, low-maintenance, rootin-tootin’ outdoors woman. Bring me a tent and I will pitch that bitch like there is no tomorrow.

No, seriously. Time me.

Well, kinda.

Ok, probably not.

But I loved my trip to the Wild Wild West! I always get a little nervous that places won’t live up to the hype or that I get so excited that things won’t meet my expectations . . . but they do! They always do!

They usually do.

I really can’t wait until I have the chance to go back. There is so much more to these parks than I got to explore, and while it was a great overview and introduction, I am dying to go back and focus on one park to really have a full experience. It sounds like most people do what we did and spend half a day to one day at each park, and that’s awesome, but if you’re serious about hiking or canyoneering or biking or rafting, you really need a couple of days at least to do the real trails, and I have now decided that I’m serious.

No, seriously. I told John that I want to move to California and be a two-armed Aron Ralston.

This is a trip that every American should do. It’s like nowhere else in the world, and I have to say, I did feel some pangs of patriotism . . . even though I had to constantly explain why people are so fat. And why there are so many fast food places. And why people are so poor and dirty. And listen to why everything is better elsewhere. There were times at which I felt like I understood the mindset of Sarah Palin. Mostly the gun part.

So anyways . . .

There is a lot that happened on this trip that I really, really, really want to write about because it would be so entertaining and hilarious and gossipy and fun, but it would come across as mean and when I was little and really into writing in a diary (because I loved Anne Frank and Jo March) my mom taught me not to put anything in writing that I wouldn’t want to have read. Which, hello, is the point of a diary for a young girl, but nevertheless it kinda stuck with me. But you guys . . . really. Some of this stuff is golden, cannot-make-this-scheiss-up stuff that I would LOVE to gab about, so let’s plan a dinner, you’re all invited, and I will fill you in.

Let’s just say:

Me = Maureen O’Hara

Someone-else-on-the-trip-that-shall-remain-nameless-let-me-throw-in-some-untranslatable-words-into-this-like-skidamarinkydinkydinky-cromulent-embiggens-atchison-topeka-santa-fe-dinglehopper-so-that-it-confuses-non-english-speakers = forgettable actress that plays the stepmother

Such an understatement. And while it didn’t uinray the iptray, it did idday akmay emay an ittleay . . . annoyed to say the eastlay.

But whatever, it got to the point of being comical, so not too big of a deal.

Bitching aside, this was the (loose) itinerary . . .

Vegas – fun, but you know, it’s Vegas . . .

Stop in Williams, AZ – typical little town on Route 66 with stores wherein you can/should buy things like this . . .

Grand Canyon – it’s just so . . . grand. Too grand. Literally too large to even conceive.

Petrified Forest/Painted Desert – Interesting. Sort of cool. Skipable, so here’s a picture of the group . . .

Hubbell Trading Post – The only reason I’m including this is because this is an example of precisely the kind of dorky, historic places that I wanted to stop by, but was met with glazed eyes and bored stares. OH god I mean azedglay eyesyay and ordbay arestay! Oops.

Canyon de Chelly – Amazing. So beautiful. Astounding. Needed more time there.

Monument Valley – This is in Navajo Nation, and you can pay an entry fee ($5 per person) to drive and see the “monuments” up close and personal. We did this, but the roads aren’t paved and our family van couldn’t deal. We drove through the “normal” road, however, and it was just as impressive. I think.

Camp in Bluff, UT – You can drive for very long stretches in this part of the country without really coming across any civilization. Or having any 3G connectivity. But then every once in a while, little towns like Bluff pop up and have a campground and a few restaurants. We found (meaning, drove down the one street in town) a really cool restaurant here.

Arches – More amazing than I thought it would be. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t a movie set or an art installation. Visiting this park was #12 on my life list, so I’ll write about it in greater depth soon.

Moab, UT – Not one of the little towns. This place is relatively booming and full of outdoor adventure outfitters, hotels, restaurants, & shops. We went rafting.

Canyonlands – This is sort of like a miniature Grand Canyon. In fact, Thelma and Louise, who supposedly died driving off the GC in actuality died driving off a cliff in Canyonlands. It’s gorgeous and compact in comparison, plus nowhere near as crowded. I’d like to have spent a few days here.

Camp in Capitol Reef – We didn’t really have plans to go to Capitol Reef, but we read that the campground is really nice so we decided to visit there for a night. Gorgeous, not fun. So cold. So, so cold. Ground, so hard. But, we did wake up to a beautiful view and ate goodies made from apples from the orchards in the park, so it was in a way worth it.

Bryce Canyon – When we first got to Bryce, I wasn’t that excited. It’s weird looking. But it’s got a few easy-peasy hiking trails, and going that extra mile really changes your experience. I ended up loving it and it turned out to be one of the most memorable (not to mention picturesque) points of the trip.

Zion – Was. Not. Expecting. Zion is one of the most incredibly beautiful places I’ve ever been. Have you seen the Land Before Time? No? Well they make this trek to a place called The Great Valley, a wondrous place where everything is lush and there is water and happiness and an endless supply of love . . . this is Zion. Unreal. I need to go back for a week at least.

Back to Vegas – Ick. Don’t get me wrong, Vegas is fun. And it’s funny. But I’d rather have been in Zion. There is absolutely no reason to be in Vegas for longer than 2 days. You can only eat and drink and spend money for so long. OMG, listen! I really am a wilderness girl now!

I crossed a few things off the old Life List, so stay tuned. And let’s plan that trash talking dinner.

I Say Potato, They Say Vodka

 

John and I were away for about ten (10) (ten?) (TEN!!!!!!) days around Christmas, and with all of the days off of work, etc., I feel like things are just starting to get back to normal. Plus, I finally did laundry this past weekend so nothing smells like cigarettes anymore – a sure sign that the holidays are over, thanks to my faux-in-laws. I mean, smell is supposedly the most sentimental of all senses, so now when I think of Christmas, I’ll think of trees, freshly baked cookies, & tobacco. It’s new, but I’m trying to be very Euro and play along like it’s as second nature as, I don’t know, an uneaten fruitcake.

People tell us that we’re lucky because Christmas-related logistics seem easy for us: John’s family celebrates on Christmas Eve in the German tradition, so we’re able to fly to DC on Christmas morning to celebrate with mine. No hurt feelings, no one sad about missing their own traditions, easy peasy. Right? I guess, but it was definitely more convenient when we lived near my parents, and going to DC from Florida was the same as going home. Exhausting. I think it’s probably the reason most people end up having kids – to have something to blame. “Oh, yeah, you know we’d love to visit, but man, this kid is REALLY high-strung. I read it has something to do with mercury in fish? I don’t know, but we have her in a therapy group/meditative yoga class for newborns so hopefully next year she’ll have worked through her issues.”

I love John’s parents (and I certainly can’t complain about getting to visit Florida) but like any family besides your very own, they just do things a little bit differently, and unlike most “other” families, you can’t just leave their house after an evening. You’re there. For life. I’d just like to say up front that the only reason I’m even writing about this is because I think it’s entertaining and harbor absolutely no ill-will. I think it’s funny, plus John doesn’t read my blog, and I should probably take advantage of that sometimes.

Anyway, so John’s parents are a bit older than mine, are retired, and living in Florida. John is an only child (which, honestly, is just flat out weird) which means that all eyes are on him. He knows it no other way but I feel badly for him. No offense at all to my parents (or other only children, sorry), but I’m glad that I have siblings (and tons of cousins for that matter) to take the focus off of me and my issues most of the time. Plus, there’s hardly any yelling or crying or insult-slinging in John’s family . . . I mean, what kind of holiday is that? My cousin is in town from California this week, and we were laughing about how she and her siblings will regularly tell their dad to shut up or tell him that he’s bipolar or their mom that she is acting like a total bitch . . . you know, at the dinner table. That’s just the way our families work – we’re extremely close and therefore loud, rude, and insulting to one another. Maybe it’s because the kids outnumber the parents. Any “normal” family who “respects” each other (such as John’s) might find this unbelievable – I find it comforting.

Ok, so maybe I’d find that in most homes I’d visit, but the other main difference in my family and John’s is what exactly constitutes a day – like, as in the hours one is active and/or constructive. Since John’s parents are retired, they have the added luxury of basically doing whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want, and for them this means that cocktail hour starts at midnight. It’s five o’clock somewhere? Eh, all I know is that it’s a sad state of affairs when your retired “in-laws” can party harder than you. I’m not new anymore so I’m not shy about calling it a night and going to bed alone at the pitiful hour of 2 or maybe even 3 AM , but they’re Lionel Richie-ing it up and partying, Karamu-ing, fiesta forever-ing, all. Night. Long.

Ok, it’s not like they’re exactly doing lines off the coffee table, I’m exaggerating slightly, but they do stay up all night and therefore sleep through a pretty good chunk of the day . . . like until 3 PM. You can imagine after you get used to that schedule how INCREDIBLY LOUD my dad’s singing along to whatever ridiculous 70s song he’s currently revisiting at 9 AM can be, hence, exhaustion.

Normally when we visit his parents, John and I will plan little day trips or go to the beach so as to not disturb them, but on this trip John had to continue his latest hobby of working 18-hour days, and so I had to (ever so quietly) entertain myself. For an entire week. Without TV. Or WiFi. That probably sounds like bliss to lots of people, but I can only read for so long. I felt like Anne Frank, tip-toeing around, cautious of every noise I was making . . . in a house full of Germans.

Though it’s different, a quiet Christmas is kind of nice, and for some reason things seem a bit more meaningful. With my family, it’s meaningful, but more than anything, it’s fun. It’s about family and eating and drinking and doing fun things with each other. So after a week of quiet European time, we crammed in about two days of good old American insanity.

And I think that maybe it’s true, and that everything does happen for a reason. John and I were meant to be together because we need a good, solid week of quiet rest, slow and steady, in order to prepare for my family, the last leg of the race, when the adrenaline starts to kick in.

These Are Their Stories: DOINK DOINK

 

It’s hard to believe, but I won yet ANOTHER set of exclusive John Mayer tickets. How is this happening? Why is this happening? What does it all mean? Does he have a friend like Tiger’s who hand-picks girls for him (OH MY GOD, TIGER!)? Does he have a thing for brunettes who look like they shop at J. Crew and Anthropologie? Judging by his audiences, I’d say that there must be someone on his staff who does. I know it’s becoming John Mayer central up in here, but I promise that this is the last of him for a long time . . . unless I win more, in which case, shut up, this is my site, a-hole!

If you’re really sick of him, you can scroll down towards the end where I talk about my sister and I almost appearing on an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

I’d like to first of all thank Wendy for keeping me updated and always re-tweeting these contests. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t find out about these things as quickly as I have, and I think that the rapid speed in which I have entered has been a big advantage. I also think that actually living in NYC (where these shows are taking place) has a lot to do with it. Sure, many people all over the country probably enter, but what is the likelihood of someone from hundreds or thousands of miles away actually showing up, especially on such short notice? I’m here, I’m obsessed, and I have nothing better to do, so they can count on me.

This was a taping of VH1’s Storytellers, where the musicians play their big hits and then tell the story behind them. It was taped at Steiner Studios, which is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is conveniently located by, oh, right, um, NOTHING ELSE. My sister, Brighid, came up from Maryland just to go to the show, and as soon as she got into town we took the bus to take the subway to take a taxi to this studio in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn. I should also mention that it was 12 degrees . . . with the wind chill, but still, BUTT-COLD. After about an hour of travel time we got there with time to . . . wait two hours until the show began. Where that time went I will never know, but thankfully it didn’t seem horrifically long.

John Mayer’s music is pretty honest and straightforward, so I wasn’t really expecting any hugely revealing stories, but he did surprise me here and there.

The first song he played was “Comfortable”, which he wrote and first recorded with a friend as a freshman at the Berklee School of Music. One thing I love about his music is that it’s so “in the moment” – I remember hearing this song for the first time when I was 18, and I thought it was so beautiful, so sweet, and that it captured everything that I thought love was supposed to be. Eight years later, I’ve grown out of it and never play it, but when he sang it . . . it was as if I was that sad 18 year old girl again, having never been in love, never been in a real relationship, and just wanting someone to accept me as I am, “grey sweatpants, no makeup, so perfect”.  It was so innocent I could have cried. I hope I always feel that way whenever I hear it, even if I know now that that’s only a small part of love.

 As much as I enjoyed the performance, I was really surprised that he opened with such a slow, melancholy song. He continued with his big hits (“No Such Thing”, “Bigger Than My Body”, etc.) and for some reason I wasn’t really feeling it. I certainly wasn’t thinking “this sucks” in any way at all, but I wasn’t singing along, I wasn’t dancing . . . something was off, but it wasn’t so obvious that I could place what it was. After an audience Q&A session he took a 5 minute break, and when he came back, he told us that they were having some sound issues, and compared the earlier performances to an NBA player shooting bricks. He was really frustrated and disappointed, and decided that he was going to redo some of the songs. He made a few allusions to the fact that he was really nervous and “inside his head”, and that he decided to have a drink backstage.

Well whatever he drank, it worked, because he then played “Heartbreak Warfare”, one of his new songs, and it was as if someone flipped the switch to “on”. At that moment everything changed. He should open EVERY show with that song. You could tell he was comfortable, happy, and ready to jam, and so the audience was too. When he replayed “No Such Thing”, etc. it was like they were new songs, and I remembered why I love them. I was singing, dancing, and at one point he tried to get everyone to jump up and down, but I think I was the only one who did. We were close, and so he could see me. He looked at me and smiled, almost laughed. That was awesome. He didn’t sing my favorite songs, like “Stop This Train” and “Wheel” and “I’m Gonna Find Another You”, but he did play a few lines of “The Heart of Life”, and that was good enough for me. Pain throws your heart to the ground, love turns the whole thing around – no, it won’t all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good. I’ve adopted it as my personal mantra.

I know that this is very Ed Grimley of me to say, but I think that part of the reason that I relate so much to John Mayer’s music is that we have very similar personalities. He talked about how he would love nothing more than to be the mysterious guy, the cool guy who only speaks when spoken to, but he just can’t help opening his stupid mouth, and that Twitter and Facebook only exacerbate the problem. I clearly suffer the same dilemma. He also talked about his fear of coming across as a “sarcastic ass” when really his intentions are always to just be amusing or funny. Hi, here, me too. Oops.

I have a strong sense of self, but at the same time I’m insecure – something kind of like, “I am so sure of who I am that I know I can’t change it, so I’m insecure that people won’t accept or like what is unchangeable about me”. From what he expressed last night, it sounds like he shares the same feeling.

. . . unlike my sister who asked one of the staffers at the show if we could have our seats changed to something better AND went up to John’s producers after the show and said, “oh, hi, I have a message for John, could you give it to him for me?” HA.

They were actually really cool and obliged to play mailman (WHY HAVEN’T I LEARNED TO BRING MY RESUME TO THESE THINGS?!?! WHAT THE?!). During the concert, Brighid and I (being the Beatles freaks that we are) came up with the idea that John should cover “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road”. Much to my shock, the producers actually looked intrigued and impressed and wanted to know what else we thought he should sing. We chatted for awhile and had fun, but what we really should have done was asked them to give us a ride home because OH MY GOD WE FORGOT WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

Ok, so now the already Arctic temperature has dropped significantly, and we’re like “oh shit, there aren’t any cabs”. When there aren’t any cabs, my strategy is to just start walking in the direction of my destination, thinking that eventually a cab will come by. So we did, underneath the BQE, in the dark, which is breeding ground for thuggish trolls, just like in the fairytale. Ok, so we’re walking, we’re not seeing any cabs, and lo-and-behold, we enter the projects. Number one, I’m NOT the kind of white girl that throws around the word “ghetto”, like “oh my god, you drink Powerade and NOT Vitamin Water, that is sooooooooo ghetto!!!!!!!” or “ew! Aspen Hill is like, soooo ghetto!” No. When I mean “ghetto” or the projects I mean, we were in the PEE JAYS projects.

So there we were, two cutesy little girls in our cutesy little outfits, Brighid in her Juicy Couture puffy coat, adorable little hat and ballet flats, I in my urban cowboy boots and decidedly destructed jeans, with looks on our faces as though we’d, um, just come from a John Mayer concert, walking around looking at the GPS on my iPhone. Um, hello, rape us much?

I could just imagine the episode of SVU: “two girls found raped and murdered near the Brooklyn Navy Yard under the BQE.” “What were two white girls doing in the Brooklyn Navy Yard at midnight?” <click> Everyone would think we were part of a high-end prostitution ring, would blame my boyfriend John for being our pimp, and then arrest him, my parents inevitably turning on him. <click> And then in the last four minutes it would be revealed that the two record producers saw us, offered us a ride, took us to a party with John Mayer who proceeded to reject us and toss us back onto his producers, one of which became angry at always getting John’s 3rd rate leftovers and decided to take it out on us.

But we pressed on, dodging a one-legged woman in a wheelchair, cats, and all sorts of other characters. Meanwhile, my phone was down to 10% juice, and John (my John, unfortch) was yelling at me over the phone for being so stupid and how my parents would certainly blame him if anything was to happen to not only one but TWO of their daughters. Clearly I had to hang up on him – the GPS was OBVIOUSLY A LOT MORE HELPFUL. We finally made it to the Manhattan Bridge, and our tall, dark, and handsome savior was a Pakistani cabbie.

Ok, maybe he wasn’t tall or conventionally handsome, but one out of three ain’t bad, and more importantly, he was on duty.

So in the end we made it home alive, John had ordered us pizza, and we got to dissect and rehash and laugh about every moment of the night. Worth every nerve-wracking, cold second!

Only in America

I’m back, I’m alive, and after five days of not being glued to a computer, I’m trying to relearn how to stick myself to one for 8+ hours a day. The biggest hurdle I suppose is slowing down the pace from an absolutely jam-packed, exhausting weekend of absolutely jam-packing myself to the point of exhaustion.

 

My clever plan to arrive early and leave late led to a traffic free trip, and besides the morons wanting to watch a movie on the bus rides, it was relatively painless. YEE GADS. I mean, really, you’re an adult . . . you SERIOUSLY want to watch The Game Plan starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? At 8 am? Blasting from overhead speakers? I don’t even know if there is a strong enough insult for such a person. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I have little patience for lots of noise in confined spaces, especially during hours in which I am supposed to be SLEEPING. On a vacation day, 8 AM qualifies. I guess I’ve been away from home too long, but I should have remembered that noise would be a running theme over the long weekend and it would serve me well to, um, get used to it.

 

Obnoxious noise aside, I love Thanksgiving – it’s only about eating ridiculously buttery, starchy food and drinking lots of wine with family, and mine happens to be awesome. There’s no gift-hunting pressure, no smiling and saying “thank you” while thinking, “nice, but do I really need more crap?” stress – it’s perfect. We ate turkey, ham, mashed potatoes (red with lots of skin left on, of course), sweet potatoes cooked with about a pound of butter and half a bottle of Grand Marnier, creamed spinach, cranberry sauce, green beans, you know, the typical American OMFG dinner wherein by the end you are literally moaning from the pain. Excellent. Oh, and dessert? Ha. Along with the usual pie varietals, we had the dessert version of a turducken: a pecan pie BAKED INSIDE OF A PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE. You guys, is that not the most disgustingly fabulous thing you have ever heard of in your life?

 

I wish I could say that I have since stopped eating all together to make up for it, but alas, I just keep eating more. But this year, I had to. There was a purpose. Like a marathon runner carbo-loading the night before the big race, my gorging turned out to be for a specific reason: on Friday morning, I got up at 4:00 am to go to Target. You may be surprised by this, as I am the kind of person that normally makes fun of these kinds of people, but I did it.

 

I’ve always pictured hordes of middle-aged white women with blonde bobs, mom-jeans and turtlenecks, as roided-out football players playing chicken with gigantic shopping carts, growling at anyone who might dare rip that Tickle Me Elmo-Cabbage Patch-Furby-whatever the kids are into these days thing. I imagined them playing tug-of-war with large boxes and beaming each other over the head with See-n-Says – “the insane woman who got up at 4 am for her spoiled children says ‘MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE”, you know that kind of thing . . . so when my cousin asked me to join her on Wednesday, I agreed, obviously.

 

Said cousin, my mom, sister, and I arrived about 4:45 to a decent sized line, anxious to snatch up the things on our respective lists. Besides what my cracked-out imagination pictured, I really didn’t have any idea of what to expect, but as soon as the doors opened, people sprinted and pushed their carts inside and started throwing things into them a la Supermarket Sweep. And by people I of course mean me. I headed over to the bed & bath section in search of towels and sheets and, always the indecisive one, started throwing any and all in my cart for fear that they might all suddenly disappear. I mean, isn’t that what happens on Black Friday? Wouldn’t I have to go all American Gladiator for $12.99 bath sheets? Oh, and I SO would have won if it came down to a joust on a balance beam.

 

Unfortunately, the scene was much tamer than I had expected. It was a little hectic at first, but there was nary a death-match nor blood-bath in sight. No one even got trampled! You disappoint me, Rockville soccer moms.  I did escape with some great deals, though. All in all I spent $135 and walked away with bath sheets, hand towels, wash cloths, three movies, two sweaters, a dress, two tubes of toothpaste (don’t ask), a queen-sized set of flannel sheets, four pairs of socks, and all of my limbs in tact. Was it necessary to get there at 5 am? For the things I purchased, probably not, but it was still fun and funny to walk out of a Target at 6:30 in the morning with several bags in tow. Who knows, maybe it will become a tradition.

Me, Mayer, Maryland

It’s Monday and I’m supposed to write about music, but I think I’m going to skip a week. There’s been a bit of music overload here as of late, so instead I’m going to write about silence. Here are the lyrics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So first things first: as part of the Great Interview Experiment (see below), I too was interviewed and was paired up with Adam of Avitable. You can read my interview here. He’s a really funny writer so check out his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you are offended by images of ice cream or Hitler or men with facial hair in general, I wouldn’t suggest this site, but I also wouldn’t suggest that we be friends either so . . . go away, loser. I see in the comments section for my last post that there is some controversy regarding the boringness of the questions I was asked. I would like to go on the record (STOP THE PRESSES) to say that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are stupid answers. I tried to make my answers as non-stupid as possible, although I did misspell Gloria Steinem. Thank you for including that, Mr. Avitable, by the way. Meez smart.

This whole interviewing thing was really fun, but it also made me think of my blog and how it’s set up and what it looks like and what other people think of it  . . . something I of course have always considered, but haven’t really focused on too much. Maybe I’ll try to work on making it prettier. Luckily I have so much substance . . .

Ahem.

So just a quick update, I guess. Thursday John and I went to see John Mayer at the Ed Sullivan Theater which is where Letterman is taped. John got in line for us at 5:30 and we were FINALLY ushered into the theater around 7:45. For the last hour we were stuck inside of the main lobby and being shoved in a small room with a lot of people doesn’t sit well with me. AT ALL. But luckily they had free hot chocolate and cookies and I knew that it was all worth it. Like Ryan Seacrest, the theater is much, much, MUCH smaller than it looks on TV and only seats 400 people, so I had reason to hold off the panic attack. We got to sit smack dab in the middle of the  first row of the upper level, so were basically right on top of John Mayer, which is pretty much how I like things to be. In fact, you’ll never believe it, but we made eye contact.

You guys, seriously. He smiled at me. And you’re not going to believe me, but he made the little phone gesture with his hand and mouthed “call me”. He wrote his number on a piece of paper, fashioned a small airplane out of it and flung it my way. He winked. He sang “Your Body is a Wonderland” and stared at me the whole time. I went home, glowing. I called him from the bathroom so that other John wouldn’t hear. He didn’t answer. I left a voicemail. I said, “Umm, hiii this is the girl from the show, you know, the brunette whose body is a wonderland? Ha ha! Um, I just thought I’d call to say “hey”. Hey. The show was really great! I LOVE “Heartbreak Warfare”! Really great job. Really amazing. I’m so glad you played “Gravity”, too – so beautiful. Love that song. One of the best you’ve ever written, in my opinion. But um anyway, so yeah. I live in the city, so if you want to give me a call, that’s cool. Whenever you want, you know, or not, it’s no big deal. Whatever works, ha ha! I’m sure you’re busy, ha ha ha! We could just get a drink or something, you know, if you’re free. Just let me know. Ummm . . .  ok, so well, thanks again for such a great show, I really loved it and love the new album. It’s really fantastic. Ok. Byeee!”

And that’s pretty much how it ended.

Ok you’re going to have to figure out how much of that is true, but the show really was great and it was  surreal seeing one my favorite musicians that close in such a small venue.

The rest of the weekend John and I (my John, ugh) just sort of did nothing. Went to the gym, watched some movies, walked around a bit, and slept. A lot. I guess we’re resting up for the holidays which start on Wednesday with what I’m sure will be a super-fun-amazing bus ride. I love Thanksgiving and am excited to see my family and visit friends in DC, but it’s funny, I really am not looking forward to leaving New York. Even though I’ve only lived here about six months, I feel comfortable here. I feel relaxed here.

Like I mentioned, I’m claustrophobic, and a common misconception about claustrophobia is that it only pertains to confined spaces, when it actually has more to do with escape, ability to be mobile. In New York, everything is so easily accessible – walk out the door and you can have just about anything you want in a matter of minutes. In the suburbs, in DC, it’s not as easy. Like, we’re actually going to have to drive places. Like sit in a car and drive for 30-40 minutes. And there’s going to be lots of grass. And we’re going to have to wait for 20 minutes for a Metro train to show up and then take a long ride. It’s unbelievable how quickly I have adapted to being mobile here, and how I never really adapted to being mobile in the DMV. Sometimes big spaces can be just as claustrophobic. I am, however, so excited to see my family and all my cousins and eat my mom’s amazing food and see friends and go to Georgetown and eat Booeymonger fries and . . . ok I admit it, go to TARGET!

Anyway, even though I stealthily tied all of that together with a big neurotic phobia-bow, I am sorry for the schizophrenic nature of this post. And for making light of psychological disorders. If anyone is coming here for the first time due to the Interview thingy, I swear I can be better. Please don’t judge by this awful post. That is all. Thank you.

I Know the Heart of Life is Good

 

So yeah, the 47th week of the year. We’re in the midst of it, and it’s been a pretty good one for me. Not only did I win tickets to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Fall Gala as mentioned below, I also won tickets to see one of my very favorites, John Mayer, in concert this evening. He’ll be on Letterman tonight and after the taping will be doing a “fan only” concert at the Ed Sullivan Theater. How is this happening? Why is this happening? It certainly can’t be my karma. Maybe the Universe is trying to make up for all of the important things I haven’t won like, you know, JOBS, and let me tell you, she’s making a good effort. Now if I could just win a very large amount of money or some trips or shoes or handbags, maybe then we can truly start the healing process, Miss Universe. The ball continues to be in your court. I’ll be waiting here, as always, doing nothing.

 

So in honor of tonight, I thought I’d share a picture of me and my sister at a John Mayer concert from last year for my first “Picture Pages” post. I’ve got to come up with a new name for that. Sorry, Bill.

 

 

 

This picture is entirely unflattering, but it’s one of the few that really does capture a raw moment. I love how I am unabashedly mid-squeal, Brighid may in fact be crying while she howls, and you can just barely see John (my John), taking the picture,  who is just sort of looking at us with absolute amused bewilderment. I’ve had so many moments like this with my sister and my family, and I think they’re really the only people I truly feel comfortable enough with to be a complete squealing, singing, dork of a lunatic. When you’re seeing one of your favorite musicians play live, the first seconds you recognize the first few chords of a song that you cherish is something so thrilling that it’s difficult to explain, but I think this picture does a good job of it.

 

My sister is a huge John Mayer fan, and last year I took her to his concert as a birthday gift. The outdoor venue has cheap lawn seating, but I decided to be nice and splurge for something covered. The night of the concert, as torrential downpours turned the lawn into a Woodstock-esque mud slick, I was glad to have spent the extra money. I love John Mayer, but I don’t know if I love any musician enough to sit in a ginormous, steaming mud pie with a bunch of teenagers. Bleh. Our clothes are way too cute for that nonsense.

 

This was our first time seeing John Mayer in concert though we’ve been concert buddies for a long time. Music is so important and meaningful to us, and I think we love John Mayer (it feels weird to keep saying “John Mayer” but I don’t know if I can just call him “John” and “Mayer” doesn’t have the panache as say, “Hendrix” or “Clapton”, Mayer is like the last name of my 2nd grade teacher . . . anyway) because of his honest lyrics and ability to, in the words of my sister, “make the guitar cry”.

 

His music is sad in a lot of ways, but always kind of hopeful. His first single No Such Thing came out just as I was finishing high school and I immediately responded to the line, “I never lived the dreams of the prom kings and the drama queens, I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve”. Now that I’ve been out of high school for eight, almost nine, years, I do think that the best of me was and still is hiding up my sleeve, and I think the same goes for John Mayer’s music, and I love that it’s something my sister gets, too. I feel badly that she can’t make it into the city tonight for the show (even though she’ll be thisclose in Albany for a volleyball game), but I know that if I ever want to recreate that moment in the picture, it won’t be hard. Those moments are, fortunately, a dime a dozen.

There’s No Place Like . . . H-H-Hawaii? H-H-Havana? Ohh. Home.

 

I was just about to cry about the fact that it’s been SOOOOOOOOOOOO LONG since my last trip, like over six moooooonthssss and I’m DYIIIING to go somewhere NOWWWWWWW! WAHHHH.

But then I actually thought about it for five seconds and realized, “oh, haha, it’s been less than three”. Oops.

So why does it feel so long? Because I’m spoiled and irresponsible? So? Shut up. Jealous?  

Sorry.

No, you would never say those things about me. It’s mostly because John and I always have a trip up our sleeves; months rarely go by without something, or at least the potential of something, on the horizon. We’re constantly looking at atlases, travel magazines, travel TV shows, maps, you name it – we’re total co-dependent travelholic enablers, junkies of the worst kind. And as of right now, we’ve got nothing, and it’s very depressing.

Every day I get emails from TripAdvisor or Travelzoo, updating me on the hottest deals, cheapest fares, and other euphoria-inducing phrases. “$79 — Cancun 5-Diamond Resort w/Oceanview Upgrade”? “$499 — Ireland: 6 Nights in Private Villa w/Car & Air”? It’s like holding an AA meeting in a liquor store – mean, hateful, and completely unfair . . .  and yet so, so delicious.

But today I find myself in the position of actually having to purchase travel fare! Woo hoo! What a glorious day!!! Right?

Wrong.

I get to buy tickets to go home for Thanksgiving and to visit John’s parents in Florida around Christmas!

Ok, before my whole family has yet another reason to dislike me, I have to say that I am of course very excited about the holidays and can’t wait to celebrate with them. I love my family and can think of very few things better than sitting at a table that would rival the Mad Hatter’s in kookiness for a delicious, starchy meal. But this is the first time I’ve had to make an effort to “go home” for a holiday, and frankly, it sucks.

Getting to DC from NYC is really easy in theory: buses, trains, and planes are all linked from DC-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston. We normally bus to get to DC because at about $20 each way it’s the cheapest option and doesn’t take significantly longer than the train, which can cost upwards of $100 each way. All in all it’s about a four hour trip, and with free wi-fi to distract you and my severe case of carcolepsy (you know, falling asleep in moving vehicles), it ain’t no thang . . .

. . . but I’ve never done this around the holidays. DC, Baltimore, Philly, NYC, and Boston are pretty big cities. And guess what?  Everyone from each of these areas has family in one of the other. It’s no wonder, then, that only 23% of all travelers actually make it to their holiday destinations alive.*

If money were no object I’d choose to fly, obvi, but since we’d like to save our money for locations slightly more exotic than Rockville, MD (I know, I can’t think of one off the top of my head either), we’re going to be bussing it with the rest of the students (ohmigod, you guys, seriously: just THINK of all the colleges in each of those cities) and will likely be sitting in traffic for 8, 10, or 382 hours**. So that’s $100 for two roundtrip tickets on the nice bus with the reckless drivers who speed like a teenage Asian boy in a souped up Honda Civic (wait, is that only in Montgomery County, MD?).

I think there should be a law that states you don’t have to pay to travel home. It’s not a vacation, it’s an obligation, like work travel, so we should be able to expense it to the government. Sweden does it, so why can’t we?*** Are we not better than Sweden?

And even though New York is already celebrating Christmas (Radio City and the Cartier store are already donning their gay apparel, for example), I think I’ll choose avoiding and leave it to John to figure out how to manage visiting his parents and my family . . . at the same time.

This obviously means a real trip is a must in the month of January, even though I don’t actually have health insurance at the moment.

I need to go on Intervention.

*Statistics may or may not be completely made up
**Dependent upon weather
***Not responsible for accuracy of facts presented  

Ni tanto que queme al santo, ni tan poco que no lo alumbre

 

“Ask the later-generation descendants of earlier waves of Mexican immigrants, and they’ll tell you that “Where are you from … no, where are you really from?” are questions that they have to field all too often.”

 

This quotation from this article on CNN.com is something I live with every day. When I saw it, it was really the first time I had read about someone else’s experience with this phenomenon, which is shocking seeing as how this country is a relative pound to its mixed-breed puppies, and it got me really excited for the Latino in America special that aired Wednesday and last night on CNN. “Finally” I thought, “an in-depth look at Latinos in this country that includes my experience!” What I saw, though, was so much of the same and so disappointing and inevitably, useless.

It tended to focus on racism and violence, pregnant teenagers and failures. These are, admittedly, things that must be discussed in the Latino experience in this country. Racism is alive and well, and it seems as though it’s only getting worse. It’s heartbreaking and should be exposed so that people can see how truly ugly people can be to other human beings who think, feel, and only want the same things for themselves as everyone else on the planet does, solely based on where they’re from. As an aside, Mexicans get the worst of it because the very vocal ignoramuses who unfortunately walk among us don’t care to realize that not all brown people are Mexican, and now non-Mexican Latinos are taking the generalization as a slur. Beautiful. It’s horrible, but the hate crimes, the racism, the struggles, the families that are ripped apart: people need to see these things and know the souls they affect.

That being said, Latino immigrants are not a new phenomenon to this country (HELLO, we kind of are, um, well, how do I put this? Oh right, INDIGENOUS, bitches.) Immigration is only the first chapter of our collective US story – what happens next? And why isn’t that page ever turned? That’s what I hoped Latino in America would uncover, and unfortunately it didn’t, choosing to focus on stereotypes, the sensational, and the negative.

I am a 2nd generation Mexican-American. Though my mom never taught me or my brother and sister to speak Spanish (yeah thanks for that, mom, good choice), Mexican culture has always been important in my family, as is my dad’s Irish descent (it’s a good mix . . . I like to think of us as the Puggles of the aforementioned American animal shelter). When I see the hardships that new Latino immigrants have to face, how can I not think of my grandfather? How can I not take it personally? He too came here illegally, and his struggle was the same as their struggle. The first chapter hasn’t changed, and the second doesn’t have to either. My grandfather’s story is truly unbelievable and the best of the American Dream. Not everyone can or will achieve that, but they have just as much right to try as anyone else.

So given that there already are Latinos in this country with deep roots here, why didn’t Latino in America show what the future will look like? By 2050, you know, when all hell breaks loose and Latinos take over as the majority of the country, (gringos, might I suggest Alaska? It’s too cold for us up there.) new immigrants will no longer will be new . . . nor will their children . . . or grandchildren . . . or perhaps their great-grandchildren. What might their stories be? It’s not a total mystery because we already have accomplished these things.

Latinos need to see that this progression is natural and still possible; that there are people out there (including some of my amazing relatives who should have been featured in this program) who believe in their potential and are fighting for them. We need to see the children of undocumented workers who are incredible, college-bound students who are beating the odds every single day and their parents who are working two, three, four, five jobs to get them there.  And white Americans need to see this, too, so that they may imagine what it may have been like for their ancestors and have some compassion. After all, someone in their family once was an immigrant too.  

Those kinds of extraordinary stories are awe and hope inspiring, but most of all, there needs to be some light shed on my type of Latino experience: one as just a “normal” girl from a run-of-the-mill middle class family. It doesn’t always have to be gangbangers or George Lopez. We’re normal people, too, just like you. Although unlike you, most of us actually do look like Eva Longoria. That is one thing that definitely is not a stereotype . . .

I hope CNN does a follow-up story. From what I am reading on their Facebook page, there is a general consensus among the Latino community that this was far too focused on negativity and stereotypes, adding fuel to the fires being lit by fear-mongers (à la their very own Lou Dobbs) without many examples positive outcomes.  Oh well, I guess you have until 2050 to get used to us. By then it’s almost certain that someone in your family will be named Garcia.

No Parents Were Harmed in the Making of This Post

When we moved to New York we were threatened by the promise of many visitors, and we were warned by other New York friends that this would happen. Don’t you people know I moved to ESCAPE you?! I kid, I kid. I love to play tour guide, and whenever I would catch wind of friends or family or mere acquaintances coming into DC I would offer (read: beg to give) suggestions on things to see, do, and eat. I’m in a new city and am figuring these things out for myself, but have already discovered so many great things that I’m itching to share them.

Luckily I got to scratch when my parents came to visit a couple of weekends ago. This was your standard “New York 101” visit as my dad has never really done the tourist thing in the city. Not to mention, it was typical for my family in the sense that the women decided on everything and the men just sort of followed. Well, maybe it’s not typical just for my family. Is that not the way the world works? Case in point: we stood in the TKTS line and ended up with tickets to “Altar Boyz” on Saturday and spent a good chunk of time walking around the Bastille Day street fair on Sunday; basically three to four hours of our weekend were devoted to gay, and really, what middle-aged, American, white  father isn’t into that? And I’m labeling the Bastille Day festivities as gay because the words “French” and “street fair” might as well be “drag show” and “ass-less chaps” to most middle-aged American fathers. Oh, and rewind, I’m sorry, did I say middle-aged? I meant SENIOR CITIZEN, because that’s what my father is, an AARP card carrying SENIOR CITIZEN and don’t you dare try to charge him full-price for anything because he is OLD.

Consistently, and in true Casey style, we couldn’t visit the Museum of Natural History/Rose Planetarium without calculating exactly how we could spend the least amount of money possible. I mean, obviously my dad with his huge old man discount was one thing, but, “hmm, well maybe we should just get a membership?” “Wait, is MOM considered a senior citizen?” “John and I both have student IDs on us – great!” “Can Kiki pass for under twelve? Maybe if she gets out of line they won’t question it.” All in all, we didn’t pay full price (SUCKERS!) but I’m sure wasted minutes, hours, potential YEARS of our lives weighing in on all the money saving potential in this situation.

All jokes aside though, I know my parents had a good time and I had a lot of fun showing off what we’ve been up to, showing them what a great area we live in, and how much we’re enjoying it.

John’s parents also came into town this past weekend, but it was a little different because both of them lived here for a period in the 70s. They’d been back to the city since then, but it was still nostalgic for them, remembering places they liked to go to and seeing how much everything has changed. And not to continue picking on dads, but why do men have such a hard time grasping the concept of change? I had to laugh because my dad recommending bars in DC that were cool 30 years ago? Happens all the time. Complete with absolute shock when met with “what the hell, that place closed like 25 years ago”! John’s dad did the same thing with New York establishments, so I guess it’s in the Y chromosome. They did introduce us to two things, however, that haven’t gone anywhere in a very, very long time.

The first was McSorley’s Old Ale House on the Lower East Side, which being established in 1854 makes it New York’s oldest pub. This place is unbelievably awesome, which is a word I hate using, but I really don’t know how else to describe it. This could very well be somewhere that just tourists go at this point, but I really don’t care. Two choices of beer, light or dark, and it’s a two for one special. Irish men in their 50s and 60s holding down the fort amongst posters of it’s most famous guests; you know, like Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt. Crowded, friendly, full of life, has stood the test of time, and Irish. Could you ask for anything more in a pub?

Secondly we made the trip out to Jones Beach. John and I have been very excited about the prospect of living near (well, under 3 hours) to a beach and were looking forward to testing out some of the closer options. I’ve read that basically everything besides the Hamptons is ghetto and to be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, I grew up going to Ocean City, MD, and a good ghetto beach is like Proust’s madeleine in my mind. Yes, there are people in Kmart bathing suits who aren’t speaking English. Yes, that old woman with the cottage cheese ass is wearing a thong. Yes, that morbidly obese child is being fed chicken tenders and hot dogs. Don’t expect Ina and Jeffrey Garten to show up with a pesto and peas pasta salad and a bottle of wine. But it’s a beach, and it’s relatively close, and it works for me.

In other news, tonight this woman attempted to cross the street when it wasn’t our turn and cars were turning towards us. This is commonplace, but the woman was almost run over and came back to the curb, turned to me and said, “typical New Yorker, can’t wait for the light”, and I just looked at her, gave her a confused, semi-disgusted look, and ignored her completely. She made a second attempt, but got spooked yet again and retreated back to our curb. “Pshaw”, I said to John. “Number one: if she were a REAL New Yorker, she wouldn’t have even talked to me. Number two: 57th runs east-west and the lights are different. Even I know that.”

Slowly but surely.

%d bloggers like this: