Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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#51: Learn the Basics of How to Play the Piano or Violin

I have a new respect for rednecks.

I mean, seriously, it takes a special kind or person with a special kind of patience to learn how to fiddle, or play any instrument really, and I, my friends, am not one of them. There seem to be hundreds of thousands of rednecks playing away like Charlie-fecking-Daniels below the Mason-Dixon line alone, however, so how hard can it be, right? OMG HARD.

But, in an effort to continue the checking-off my way towards my impending demise, I enrolled in a class called “Absolute Beginners Fiddle” at the Irish Arts Center of NYC. The class was described as one suited “for those with no prior fiddle experience”, with instruction on how to hold the fiddle and bow, tuning, and producing a good tone. Best of all, it declared that “by the end, students will be able to play one or two Irish fiddle tunes”. Intriguing – tell me more.

The class was to meet once a week for an hour for two months (that’s 8 hours, BTW), and I immediately pictured myself fiddling away like Sharon-fecking-Corr and participating in jam sessions at local pubs, you know, wearing like an Aran sweater, or perhaps something more sleek and all black, like they do in Riverdance. “Who knows, maybe I have an unrealized gift? Maybe my destiny is to play the violin! Maybe I will be an adult prodigy!”

No, you guys, seriously, these thoughts went through my brain and I now know what it’s like when fat people see weight loss pill commercials on TV: “Wow! You mean with through hardly any work at all and very little commitment I could be on the cover of Shape magazine?! And wear jeggings?! Sign me the hell up!”

Ah, but what do we live for if not those momentary glimpses of hope?

So I rented myself a violin (by the way, a violin and fiddle are the exact same instrument – the names are just more descriptive of the style of music being played, sort of like “piano” and “piany”) and was ready for my first class.

If there is one sound more horrifying than nails on a chalkboard or silverware scraping a plate or a baby crying for more than 5 minutes, it’s the sound of beginning violin players en masse. Unlike with small children, there’s nothing really endearing about beginning adult violin players.

Oh my god, I cannot even begin to tell you how horrible I was – by far the worst in the class. Everyone was supposed to be an absolute beginner, but I was the only one without any real training in instrumental music. One guy’s mom was even a violin teacher! Come on! That’s just not fair. How can I compete with that? Needless to say, I was an absolute beginner in the sense that it sounded like I drank a bottle of Absolut and then headed off to class.

But, I did learn how to hold the violin and bow, finger placement, and the got the general idea of the instrument, which I suppose is something. An earnest attempt was made, so I think it counts.

I can’t play any songs.

I sort of tried.

Fiddle-dee-dee.

Flip Flop and You Don’t Stop

Though traveling with friends can be a great experience, it’s always important to be self-reliant. Maybe your companion doesn’t mind sleeping the day away to nurse a wretched hangover even though you only have three days too see everything in Rome and you woke up at 7 AM to get in line to see the Colosseum not-that-anything-like-that-has-ever-happened-to-me-I’m-just-saying.

Ahem.

It’s always best (when traveling together, moving in together, marrying each other, etc.) to be honest about your expectations and your style. Even though you may be great friends in normal circumstances, familiarity, as they say, can breed contempt, so be prepared to be flexible, tweak a bit, and be comfortable going off on your own. It is your trip too, after all.

There are, of course, times when the planets align and you find your PTC: your Perfect Travel Companion. They like all the things you like, they start and end the day the same time you do, they’re as organized as you are, and they don’t hog the bathroom. A PTC is hard to come by, so when you finally do find one, know that it’s something special – a trip is no fun if you spend half of it arguing.

Over the last few years I’ve had a terrific PTC, but sadly it has come to my attention that their traveling days are over.

Yes, Rainbow Sandals. What? I mean, really – they’re strong and supportive: able to withstand stressful situations and lots of walking without whining. They’re low-maintenance and know how to get through security checks quickly: slip off, slip on. Socks and laces? Are you kidding me? Get out of my way.  They’re protective: I have avoided countless diseases just by not walking barefoot on creepy hotel room carpets. They’re flexible: I mean really, what outfit doesn’t match an ugly brown? But most importantly, they go where I tell them, when I tell them: the most important feature of my ideal PTC.

They won’t be offended when I say that they’re starting to look a bit haggard. The move to Manhattan really took a toll on them, especially the super rainy summer we had last year. At one point we were caught in a downpour and stepped in a pretty massive puddle; they haven’t really been the same since. They’ve known it, I’ve known it, John has REALLY known it, and they agree that it’s time to retire.

These particular bad boys have been in my life for nearly five years and for flip flops, that’s a pretty impressive lifespan when you take into account all the adventures we’ve endured.

Like the one time when we explored the Forbidden City together.

And the time we almost slipped off of that rock in Dominica and almost died. We really bonded after that.

And then of course we also fulfilled their dream of seeing the Great Pyramid at Giza. That was cool. They were so excited.

I was kind of pissed that they wouldn’t let me read the prayer they stuck into the Western Wall, but we got over it quickly, especially when they told me that it was about me and if they told me what it was it wouldn’t come true. That was kind of sweet.

Always the conspiracy theorists, they of course loved to go alien hunting, too.

 

Looking back on it, we really have seen a lot of beautiful things together.

In the next coming weeks I’ll give in and buy a new pair, deal with the blisters that they’ll give me for the first week until they suddenly know me as well as their ancestors did and are ready for their initiation trip. But don’t worry: though in retirement, the old pair will be “lovingly” taken care of. I think someone has their eye on them . . .

Pack it Up, Pack it In, Let Me Begin . . .

 

When planning a vacation (as opposed to everything else in life), I am no procrastinator. Well, of course, except when it comes to packing. Packing totally sucks, unpacking is a million times worse, and all of these new airline charges and regulations don’t make things any more pleasant.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has sat on the floor at three in the morning before a trip, surrounded by a behemoth pile of clothes that resembles the laundry pile from hell. Totally frustrated by this scenario, I created some guidelines that take all of the guesswork out of the task. Ladies, our biggest challenge is this open-ended phrase: “but I need to have choices!” I know I know, and I’m totally with you, but over-packing (like most things that begin with “over”) is so passé. Here are my tips for being cute, comfortable, low-maintenance, and stress-free.

 

 

Tip #1: Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now

“Tourist” is a travel dirty word (none of us want to be associated with fanny-packs, visors, or overly large camera equipment) but there’s nothing wrong with coming to terms with the fact that you are in a new place to see sights, and as such you will be doing a lot of walking. Be smart. It hurts my heart to see tourists hobbling around Fifth Avenue in completely impractical heels because they’re under the impression that everyone in New York dresses like Carrie Bradshaw. Trying too hard is never attractive. Anyone can look good in a nice dress and heels; real style is proven in your ability to pull off casual chic. And it’s totally possible! Here’s a sampling of shoe styles that are comfortable, versatile, and affordable:

TOMS Canvas Classics – at $40 a pair, these shoes are a true steal. Plus, with every pair you buy, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need – looking good and feeling gorgeous! They’ve got really great cushioning so you’ll be able to walk all day without having to apply a single band-aid to your heels. Imagine a cute red pair with a casual a-line black sundress – very Audrey and very effortlessly chic.

Flat Sandals – be they gladiator style or woven, beaded or buckled, flat sandals are a low-maintenance travelers god-send. They’ve got all the comfortability of a flip-flop without . . . well, wearing nasty old flip-flops. I recommend something in a metallic for versatility – they’ll go with just about anything. Plus, they’re still on trend so they’re very easy to find in a slew of price ranges and styles. Something as simple as these styles will go a long way.

Fashion Sneaks – Walking through ruins, a lavender field in France, or *gasp* rain? You might want something with a bit more protection. Try a style from a brand that has a more fashion-forward, feminine line, like Puma’s Black Label or Adidas’ Stella McCartney. For example, these ballet flats are supportive and comfortable, but they won’t cramp your style. Too girly for you? You can’t go wrong with a good old classic pair of low-top Chuck’s.

 

 

 

 

Tip #2: Clothes-Minded

Oftentimes we’re tempted to pack outfits, but the key to keeping things low-maintenance and all in one reasonably sized bag is mix-and-matchable basics. Luckily this is so, so easy to do in the summer, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money at all. When traveling, it’s best to take things that aren’t fussy or too near and dear to you. Everything mentioned below can be found at cheapo-depot retail stores found in malls all across the country.

Tops – at a store like H&M (or Old Navy, J. Crew, etc.) you can find tees and tanks in a full spectrum of colors, sometimes for under $10 a pop. Get crew neck, v-neck, whatever you want, as long as it’s neat and fitted. Be sure to have your basic black and white, but go for something bold, too. Jeweled tones (think magenta, Kelly green, orange, royal purple, turquoise, etc.) look great on everyone and are the key to creating an easy starting point for putting together a complete look.

Bottoms – ladies, are we over 18? Then I do not recommend wearing shorts in a non-athletic environment. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. If you’ve got slim legs up to your chin, you can probably pull it off, but most of us are not so blessed. Um, also, get off my website, I hate you. Luckily us mortals have some lovely alternatives. A-line skirts are cool, comfortable, and compliment just about any body-type. To avoid looking matronly, look for cuts just above or at the knee, especially since you’re likely to be wearing flats. Another warm-weather staple is a linen pant. A wider-legged white linen pant is so perfectly summery. Get a quality pair and don’t wear black undies. Keep your bottoms in neutral colors so that you’ll be able to swap tops easily and fool everyone into thinking you’ve packed a dozen outfits.

Dress Up – a cute dress instantly creates the illusion of being put together. I’ve seen some perfect jersey-knit cottondresses for under $20 at places like Old Navy and Forever 21 in a-line and maxi cuts. Feel free to go for color, but I love the effortlessness of a black maxi-dress, which happen to be ideal for plane rides, too. These fabrics can be clingy, so again, be sure you’re wearing proper chonies.

 

 

 

Tip #3: Dress to Impress with Access . . . ories

And now finally, accessories: the rabbit in the hat, the disappearing ink, the greatest form of travel-fashion magic trickery. Since you’ve now stocked up on basic pieces, you can really have fun and express yourself in so many ways with accessories. Forget the neutrals: with these pieces be creative and daring . . . just don’t wear them all at the same time!

Scarves – scarves are an instant chic-afyier and aren’t just for winter. In warmer months, go for the lightweight linen and cotton numbers in large squares or oblong shapes for versatility. Look for pretty patterns and subdued colors that will compliment (but not “match”) your bold colored tees and tanks. Wear them around your neck, around your waist like a cummerbund (really! It can work!), or as a headband. I go nuts for them in H&M where they’re about $10 a piece. If you’re traveling to a more conservative part of the world (say, the Middle East, a small country town, or visiting a place of worship) these are great impromptu cover-ups. They’re also perfect for museums, theaters, and restaurants which can be chilly.

Jewelry – as with shoes, metallic jewelry is very versatile, so that’s an easy place to start. In the summer I personally love big, filigreed statement earrings, especially in these gold Middle-Eastern inspired looks. A long stranded necklaceor bangles really pack a punch, too. Leave everything fussy, delicate, expensive, or important at home. You don’t want to spend your time untangling things or worrying about anything being lost. Don’t pack too much, though, because jewelry is  THE perfect souvenir. Forget stupid t-shirts or random tchotkes that are useless: buy locally made and designed jewelry! It’s something unique to the locale and when you wear it back home you’ll always be able to say, “oh this? Oh, I bought it in _____” and sound absolutely fascinating and exotic. My favorites are flea markets and vintage shops, but even something special in a touristy market can seem gorgeous when taken home and out of that context. And trust me: if you see and it and love it, buy it. If it’s something one of a kind, it may not be there if you wait until a few hours later.

Bags – ladies, when you decide to carry a large bag on a vacation, you’re only asking to become a pack mule. “Oh, can you hold my water bottle in there?” “This camera is too small for my pocket, can you carry it?” “I don’t want to be pick-pocketed, can you hold my wallet?” You know, NOT THAT THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME EVER IN LIFE. Be ye not so accommodating. Luckily, travel-friendly cross-body bags are very much in style at the moment. These styles are  lighter-weight and make for happy backs and shoulders. Get a nice one with room for a thin wallet and your necessities, but don’t invite a collection of crap by carrying around a *gasp* backpack, or anything in which you could carry a baby or a small dog. One handbag and a clutch for evenings should be all you need.

And there you have it. All of this should fit in one medium to large sized suitcase with some inventive packing. Fold, roll (my favorite), squish, squash, and take a very small travel steamer. You’ll be able to mix and match tops, bottoms, and accessories enough so that you’ll never have a repeat outfit in your pictures!

“But Kiki, I have this really gorgeous Pucci dress that I wanted to wear in Rome! Are you telling me I’m not allowed to take it?!” Yes, chances are that you’ll be going to a club or to a nice dinner or to a show while on vacation, particularly in a city. Pack one or two special items (like a fab dress or a pretty top and some sexy heels) but don’t go overboard. Plus, it’s just another excuse to shop should you find yourself needing another dressy something. Bon voyage, bitches.

Meow Mix, Meow Mix Please Deliver

Ok so where were we?

John and I have lived together for nearly four years now, and for the majority of that time we’ve wanted some sort of pet. A dog has always been our natural instinct since we both grew up with them, but we’ve never been able to fully convince ourselves to take on this endeavor. We like to go out, we like to travel, we don’t like waking up any earlier than we possibly have to, we don’t like walking in the cold and rain or picking up piles of crap off sidewalks, our apartment is too small for a non-yippie dog, we’re afraid of it barking and annoying our neighbors when we’re not home . . . basically, we don’t enjoy responsibility.

Enter cat.

Cats really are the perfect pet for people who want some sort of cute, furry thing roaming around their place but are too lazy and commitment-phobic to take on a needy dog. Let me put it this way: dogs are like orchids – they’re good looking, perhaps bring more enjoyment to your life, but if you water them too little or too much, or give them the wrong amount of light, they will die. Very quickly. A cat is like a generic green plant. “Oh, it’s looking a little wilted – when was the last time you watered this?”, “Oh, I don’t know, three weeks ago? Hmm, maybe a month. Oh, actually, I think Thanksgiving.” And with a little watering: bam, back to life.

Clearly not ones to jump into anything we decided to first become foster parents to a cute cat named Emmy. This obviously not being a sufficient name for a pet, we’ve decided that her formal name shall be Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam. As awesome as that is, Emmy is admittedly easier to say. We got her last weekend, and I’m not sure she has really accepted us yet. With a dog, all you have to do is show them attention and play with them for five seconds and they’re ready to sleep in your bed. Cats hide in the closet until . . . well, we’re still waiting. Intellectually I respect that, because I am much more “catlike” than a dog. I too am leery of people’s motives, not quick to trust, and generally want to be left alone and allowed to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Excitable, overly sociable, reliant doglike people tend to bother me.

But then again, I am an eye-rolling snobby beeyotch.

I’m sure we’re annoying her because we’re trying very hard to be nice when she does grace us with her presence, to play with her, to show her affection and that she’s safe with us, etc., and she is TOTALLY NOT RECIPROCATING. I now know how my parents must have felt when I turned 13. “Hi! How are you? How was your day?! How was school?! What are you thinking about?! How is that friend of yours?! Do you have any homework?!”, “No.” Door slam.

They probably asked themselves the same questions that we are now: “are we doing something wrong?” “Why does she hate us?!” “We just bought her this awesome toy and she is NOT even interested or grateful!” “Maybe she needs a psychiatrist!” “WHY IS SHE SPENDING ALL OF HER TIME IN THAT ROOM BY HERSELF?!” We’re, like, a day away from asking her if she’s on drugs.

But despite her general sulkiness, it’s been really nice to finally have a pet, to have something greet you at the door and to occasionally pet when she lets you. We don’t know how long we’ll have her at this point, but we have to remember to give her time to warm to us and we’ll see what happens. Besides, I am totally a sucker for someone who plays hard to get . . . just ask John.

Girl on Girl Crime

I’ve read or seen several things over the past few weeks which have inspired this post. It started off with a piece by Maureen Dowd and a study that finds modern women to be the unhappiest they’ve been since this sort of thing has been kept track of, 1972. I didn’t find this to be particularly shocking, as I’m sure it probably isn’t to you if you are a woman or happen to know women or just one woman, any woman, take your pick. These are tough times for everyone (well, most), but it’s always tough times for women. And don’t you roll your eyes at me, mister, I will yell and am not above crying.

So what is our problem now? Precisely what is supposed to be making us happy: having it all.

Modern women are supposed to have the capability of Barnum & Bailey level juggling, attaining everything school tells their hearts to desire and Disney has their imagination concoct, all the while looking like one smokin’ hot MILF. In order to stay sane, wouldn’t you think that something must (and inevitably will) give? It seems the first and perhaps the easiest thing for women to let go of is their own personal happiness.

The aforementioned article says this:

When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.

There’s validity to that statement, but I’d argue that men feel the stress of all those things as well. However, sirs, you don’t have to deal with the stress of this:

Conspiracy theorists: did the government dole out drugs throughout inner-city neighborhoods to keep the poor down? Yes? Ok, well then they’re handing out a different kind of drug to women through the media. There is a maddening level of youth, beauty, and sexuality being injected into the veins of women every. Single. Day. And not just women, men, it’s to you too.

I have a wonderful boy (err, man) friend who is thoughtful and caring and smart and all of those good things, and you know what his reaction to this video was? “Yeah, ok, but that girl isn’t even hot. There are lots girls out there who are much more naturally beautiful than her.”

Oh John, John, John.  I saw this video and was so disturbed, sickened, and saddened that I had to show him and THAT was his reaction? But then it made me realize, ok, women (SOME women) are being affected by this sort of thing in an obvious way; work hard, be smart, I can do that. But how do I change my face, my body, my hair? And as stupid as we know those things technically are, they’re what’s being shoved down our throats (hmm, eyeballs?) every day. We’re being objectified, and we’re doing it to ourselves.

In a less obvious way, men (SOME men) are stressing about this too. Otherwise completely average-looking men are under the impression that they are entitled to a “hot” girl. The first question any single guy asks me when looking for me to set him up with friends? “Is she hot?” Um, are you? NO! Get over yourself! I have an unhappily single male friend who is holding out for a woman who is “dark, brunette, between 5’7-5’9, athletic, and well-read”. I have an unhappily single girlfriend who was recently dumped because her long-time boyfriend “didn’t see himself marrying someone who looked like her”.

W.

T.

F.

Ok, maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

The key to happiness? I have no idea, but I’d say it’s clear that we all need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Hardly anyone looks like the photo-shopped alien they made that woman into in the video or these bizarre Ralph Lauren famine-survivors/models.

WTF

WTF

WTF 2

WTF 2

No one can do it all, and if they are, their nerves are probably so frayed that they’re likely going to go all D-Fens on you at a moments notice. Ladies, just stop looking at stupid Vogue and Cosmo and judging yourself against those standards. They might as well be robots. Take care of and put effort into yourself, and be happy with that. Guys, you are no Brad Pitt and your car definitely does not warrant a supermodel, and in no way are you going to become some hot-shot older guy with some little chippie dangling from your arm. The dream is over. Let us all accept our delicious mediocrity.

Illegal Aliens

They say that Europeans are like coconuts: a rough exterior that is hard to break, secretly hiding a sweet, milky center, and I have found this to be true with John. When we first started dating I wasn’t really aware of this analogy, and though I really liked him and thought he was very cute, I was worried that maybe he was a little too dry for me. “You mean you DON’T like singing along to oldies in the car?” “Wait, you DON’T think Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth?” “it’s THREE strikes and you’re out, HELLO!”

I am after all, like an American:  a soft and fuzzy peach in which one little bump will produce a saccharine sweet juice that will leave everything an annoying, sticky mess.  But I managed to cracked my coconut, and it’s due in large part to Area 51.

Yes, that Area 51. One day in the early stages of our relationship, I was looking through some of John’s photo albums and found out that he has done like 10 cross-USA trips, has been to every National Park, and has basically wreaked havoc from east to west coast with multiple coconutty friends. These trips seemed to always include Area 51 where the wreaking seemed to be the havoc-iest. These photos exposed me to a John that I hadn’t yet been formally introduced to and I was intrigued, not to mention hopeful, that something of the wild and crazy, wacky guy in the photos still existed.  I won’t go into the details of the pictures or videos that were taken on his various trips (strict confidentiality agreement), but like the soft-headed peach that I am, I fell in love. Space is John’s passion, and so I knew that visiting this place during our trip would make him happy and would shed some light on this bizarre part of his life. No judgement.

We planned to arrive in Vegas on a Tuesday and drive out to Area 51 on Thursday, spending the night at the Little A’le’Inn and then heading out to Palm Springs for my family reunion on Friday. John warned me that the Inn isn’t much more than a trailer park, but I thought the experience would be cool and promised I could hack it out in the middle of nowhere Nevada. “Hmm, do you think this outfit makes me look white trash? Yes? Perfect!” So we rented a car and took off into the desert. It’s amazing how desolate the landscape becomes only minutes out of Vegas. Lanes became fewer and fewer, cars became fewer and fewer, and the bars on my phone and the radio quickly became non-existent. Wow. Was not expecting that in this century in this country.

Once we got on the Extraterrestrial Highway we were pretty much on our own (well, just counting Earthlings). Apparently this is just a little too desolate for most people to make the trek. Or they get lost because their iPhone GPS stopped working. Just saying.

John took us down the famous Groom Lake Road as we drove into Dreamland. The scenery was beautiful, full of Joshua trees, mountains, and roads that took us all the way to the horizon, and I couldn’t help but think of the John Mayer lyric, “today skies are painted colors of a cowboy cliché, and strange that clouds that look like mountains in the sky are next to mountains anyway”.  We spent a lot of time taking pictures and finally drove all the way to the border of the base-that-does-not-exist where there was a white Jeep making sure we wouldn’t go any farther. This is actually punishable by death, clearly marked on the signs which we weren’t allowed to take pictures of, so we drove (I mean, I drove!) back in the opposite direction to head to the Little A’le’Inn. On the way back we came across another car, a rarity, and so we stopped for a minute to talk to them. We told them we were on our way to the Inn, and that we had plans to stay there the night. The woman in the passenger seat (who, mind you, looked something of a mix between Louie Anderson and Danny DeVito’s mother from Throw Momma From the Train) looked at us in horror. “You’re going to STAY there? Have you BEEN there?” If Momma couldn’t hack this place, could I?

The answer will sadly have to be revealed at some other time because we didn’t get to stay the night. The Inn was preparing for the E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon (and about 800 people) in the coming days and wasn’t taking any visitors, so we weren’t able to stay the night.  We did, however, get to eat a world famous Alien Burger and check the place out and talk to some of the, what’s the word . . .  colorful locals. The burger was very tasty, the beer was cold, and I regret not getting a piece of pie. The actual establishment was full of crazy crap of both the alien and the anti-Democrat variety, so take what you will from that connection. It was fun, though. We said our goodbyes and headed back on the Extraterrestrial Highway for some out of this world star-gazing.

The trip planning gods continued to be against us, however, as above us shone a huge, glowing full moon; pretty, but not the best conditions for checking out the night sky. Even though the moon was bright, we were still in relative pitch darkness. No street lights, no other cars, no buildings, nothing. Black silence. My immediate reaction was, “wow, this must be what it sounds like when you die”. I quickly realized how creepy and morbid that was and changed my process to, “wow, this must be what it sounds like when you transcend” – I’ve never experienced quiet like that ever in my life. Quiet so deafening that you feel as if your ears might cave in. Quiet so disorienting that, for a moment, you forget where you are or why you’re there. Since we had to make the drive back to Vegas (two and a half hours away and still the closest lodging) we weren’t able to stay all night and alien hunt, so I can’t say that we saw anything strange (well, in the sky anyway, but we’d get our fill of that at the Luxor where we ended up staying the night). But from what I hear, if you stay long enough you will see something. Maybe not a UFO in this sense, but new flight technology, weird lights, things like that. John has seen things, and I trust him, so one day we’ll have to do it up right, trailer and all.

Overall I’m so glad that we were able to have this quick adventure. The drive was beautiful and getting to see a small glimpse into what life is like in the middle of NO HORSE town, no PHONE, no RADIO, have to make a trip into town to stock up on groceries FOR THE MONTH nowhere was interesting to say the least. If you’ve got several days in Vegas, I say go for it!

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