Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A pox on!

So, I spent most of Tuesday composing the rundown of last week's road trip, only for it to get erased when I was sentences away from being done, even though it had told me it was saving my post all day long.

That was the deciding factor on moving my blog, which you can now find over at the more accomodating and attractive host Type Pad. Here is my new blog location. Read all about my trip there, and don't forget to adjust your bookmarks and links!


And please pardon the appearance of the new blog while I catch up with everything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Northeast: Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

I've been traveling since October 11. Today is what, November something? The magic of travel time is in effect, when you pack so much into every day that a week seems like a month. I'm somewhere in the middle of this country right now (which I'm rediscovering is quite enormous) but this post will recap the visit to the area I like to think of as civilization.

On the 11th I flew into Newark airport. On spying a Brooklyn Brewery logo on a bar, I wanted to start running like George Bailey at the end of It's a Wonderful Life: "Hello Newark Airport! Hey ohhh all you Italian-Americans!" [kisses one] The feeling reappeared the next day, as I went to pick up the bf in Williamsjerk (he'd taken a car from the airport): "Merry Christmas, Hacidic Jews! Happy Halloween, hipsters on old-time roller skates!"

Then it was time to rush up to the Berkshires for the bf's dad's wedding, the purpose for our trip. Southerners like to think Baton Rouge has bad traffic. Baton Rouge hasn't even seen traffic. We were hopelessly stuck for hours, surrounded by people escaping NYC for a weekend of fall foliage, and it felt like, Welcome back to the Northeast. But the setting for the wedding was just gorgeous.

The bf's dad (above) is a reader and now patron of this blog, because he upgraded his camera and gave me his previous high quality cam. Here's the first photo I took with it, from my favorite part of their house.

After just over 24 hours back North, the bf got on a plane back to Baton Rouge, unable to spare any more time out of the studio. I spent the next few days with my family. I also found a pair of ugly Prada flats for TWO DOLLARS at a thrift store. I had to buy them, because as my pal Julie pointed out, ugly Prada= still Prada. I have learned to like them.

I then departed for glamorous New York City in my bus Wolfgang, and we all know how that turned out (see last post). So it was a bittersweet return, having to settle the affairs of the dear departed (aka sell the dear departed) while there. After the van broke down, Karin put me up for a night in Jerse, then I took the train in retracing my old commute from my first city job ten years ago. Back then, the commute slowly ate away at my soul, but now I'd love to be only a train ride away from the city.

Not having my car while in the city really threw a wrench in the works, because I didn't have a home base, so I had to lug my bags around. I could stow some stuff at Therese's workplace in SoHo, but still had to schlep my heavy old laptop. But as the bf was jealously aware, pain in the ass time in the city= still time in the city.

Here's a shoe-repair guy I liked. I didn't get a good photo, but he was wearing a paper hat that said GOLGOL BORDELLO. I tried asking him if he was into that band but he didn't seem to know they were a band.

While loitering with my laptop at Union Square, I was reminded of all the damn weirdos you see in New York on a daily basis. One guy, with no introduction, started in to me about Ben Affleck, Ben's brother, Anthony Hopkins, and Denzel Washington. I think he stakes out the morning shows to get their autographs. When I apparently didn’t show enough interest, he said,
“Take care babe. Lookin' good, you got a computer machine out there.”
Then he walked off and settled down again about 8 benches away.
Later he puttered by again, going "Cleveland mob wowowow."

The next guy was wearing a crown with big crepe paper flower on it and had a dead animal fur around his neck, the kind with the face and paws included. He plunked down next to me and thankfully honed in on the gal on his other side:
"I am messed. Up. I lost all my youth. The city is trying to tear me apart." He went on about losing his teeth, being hauled into the police station, and how he tries to sleep all the time to escape reality, so that his dreams were his reality. He was even drawing stares from New Yorkers, and the guy sitting across from us gave him the thumbs up.

For its next act, Union Square presented a gothic cross-dresser in a pink flouncy skirt, walking down the park path like it was a runway, looking like the cat that ate the canary. This was much to the delight of the men across the way: "Yo! Grab the rail and bend over! I gotta condom!" And, "Halloween ain't here yet."

And in a cafe, I was reminded what a pain New Yorkers can be:
"What's the difference between the rolls in the front and the rolls in the back?"
"They're the same."
"Well they look different."
"They're the same."
"Let me have one from the front then."

I stayed with different friends on each of three nights, and on Friday, the last night in the city, friend and commenter julepandme and I met up with a few fellow blogging nerds for drinks, such as Jew and Clinton, and I also finally met Internet friend/ BaRou expat Amy.

Jew and I found some ridiculous fun when we went to get her a sandwich. Or should I say, SANDWICHE, because that's what the sign said.

You might notice that it also says BEYERAGES, BEGEL, and HAMBERGER. We certainly noticed, and I think everyone else in there noticed how much we were laughing. Jew insisted on saying sandwiche, pronouncing the e, about ten times while ordering, thus ensuring it would include all manner of bodily fluids from whoever prepared it.

As you can see, this section (which includes EGGS W. BACON POTATOES) is called MILK.

Then this clown came in and started hassling the woman, trying to order crack.

So of course he sits with us. I think we invited him.

Note his creepy facial hair and bloodshot eyes. As I took this pic, he was muttering "five bucks" over and over, but I was not having it. Nice try, clown.

By the time we got back to the others and they all descended on the sandwiche plus body fluids, Jew had streams of makeup down her face from laughing so hard, and prob also from posing with the clown. I returned early Saturday to New Jersey for the sad task of cleaning out ten years of camping supplies and general car crap out of Wolfgang: the final goodbye. I'm surprised to say I held it together and didn't cry until driving away in the 16-year-old dorkmobile my parents gave me. (Dorky vehicle= still a vehicle.)But all I had to do was remember the night before to cheer myself up.

Then Karin and hit a church sale and observed nature at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which was practically in my back yard when I was growing up.

The Great Swamp is one big reason Jersey's bad rap as a factory wasteland is undeserved.

That night, we went to carve pumpkins at the beautiful new home of some other Jersey friends. Mine's the owl on the right. FYI, It has pumpkin-scrap ear tufts.

We talked and laughed late into the night. The following day, other good Jersey friends held a gathering in my honor with tons of food and drink like this delicious homemade vegan cake.

I get a little choked up thinking about leaving my awesome friends again. And speaking of a little choked up, I sold Wolfgang. A gal bought it for her epileptic son, who's about to turn 16 but can't get his license yet until they figure out the proper dose of meds. Meanwhile, his mom got him the bus he's always wanted so he can work on it until he gets his licence. He's going to be thrilled. The story couldn't be much better unless it also somehow involved saving kittens. The buyer and her partner came to the gathering and we were both so pleased with the deal that we hugged. It's amazing how it all worked out the night before I left for this road trip that I'm now on.

I've packed in enough concentrated friend time to sustain me until the next trip, and while in the Northeast decided I have to return at least every other month. I already know when the next two visits will be. And now Leah and I are laughing our asses off across America. Stay tuned for the recap.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We had seasons in the sun

So here I am in NYC. Yesterday afternoon I was traveling north to the city on the Garden State Parkway from my parents’ home. I had my trusty ’79 VW camper bus Wolfgang vacuumed and scrubbed, and all the cargo organized, and he was fresh out of a random foreign-car repair shop in south Jersey sporting a new inspection sticker. He was ready as he could be for the road trip back down South that my friend Leah and I had planned to begin on Monday, after I spend a few days in the city. Old Wolfgang didn’t have as much pep as I’d hoped him to have after the tune-up and other adjustments, and after about 40 minutes of driving, the power got weaker and weaker, the bus went slower and slower until I was only going about 30. Finally blue smoke came billowing out from the dashboard vents and I was leaving a cloud back behind me, so I pulled over. And I didn’t know it then, but that, on one of the biggest arteries of my home state, turned out to be the last gasp of my longtime companion Wolfgang.

It took two separate tows thanks to the rules of the Parkway by two friendly dudes who were both about five years younger than Wolfgang and ten years younger than myself, but I got the bus to my trusted mechanic. Long ago, I dubbed my VW specialist the Leprechaun, since he's a wee little man from the auld sod. Maybe I’d been foiled by that sketchy repair shop in south Jersey, but that wouldn’t happen with these guys. The Leprechaun’s son Billy, who loves me, welcomed me with a hug and asked had I been back to Ireland lately. As he told me about his recent visits, along came a guy from the next town over from where I grew up, who I learned was the uncle of someone I went to high school with. It was so comforting to be back where people knew me and knew where I was from, where people looked the way I was used to people looking, and where they assume everyone's cool with a little casual racism.

After the Leprechaun assessed Wolfgang this morning, Billy called me with the bad news: the engine was shot. It would have to be replaced, to the tune of several thousands of dollars that I do not have. And so I had to make a decision about my old friend who’s been with me through through modest speeds and slower for the past ten years.

Ten years ago, Wolfgang brought me to Florida for the wedding of my first friend that got married. She has divorced, remarried, and had a baby since then, and my other friend at the wedding has married, divorced and remarried since then. My brother went, too, and he’s married and had two kids since then. It seems like the only one those adult milestones have never reached has been me, and I'm still happily driving the same car a decade later. (By the way, the first tow-truck driver was astounded to learn my age, he claimed he thought I was more like 22.)I'm not saying the car equals eternal youth, but I might be saying that it has helped.

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I've had more fun thanks to Wolfgang than most folks can attribute to a vehicle. Wolfgang has taken friends and I camping in Vermont, PA, NY, and NJ. I never had to worry about where I'd be crashing at night as long as I had driven. Since Wolfgang comes with two built-in, fold-out beds, I’ve been known to stay in the motel Volkswagen at the Jersey Shore or outside of friends' places when the couches were full. My friends all know the 'ganger, and he has absorbed some of their cassette contributions, which have in turn faded to uniform pastels. I've stocked the little cupboard under the sink with a collection of vintage camp supplies and cookware in the official colors of the '70s, which not coincidentally are also Wolfgang's colors: avocado green, goldenrod, and orange. And just to be extra ridiculous, I installed yellow shag carpeting inside, recycled from KarTek's house. Just the other day, my three-year-old neice called the camper van my house, which wasn't that far off; Wolfgang has been like a little second home on wheels.

Many people probably thought it folly to drive such an old car they assumed was a clunker, but I’d bet that Wolfgang broke down a lot less than most other cars, and at nearly 30 has had a hell of a lot longer lifespan. Other onlookers would just be happy to see the old breadloaf running; many was the time I'd stop for gas, see a certain look in an older dude's eye, and know he was about to tell me that he used to drive one of these years ago. Kids would just point and smile. And then there's the secret club of fellow VW beetle & bus drivers--we beep and wave when we pass another one. And, in a way, Wolfgang's continued functionality was a nose-thumb at the disposable culture of today.

After Billy gave me the news, I waited til the train pulled into Penn Station so as not to make a scene, then called the bf and bawled into his not-very-surprised ear, and he said it wasn't like it was a family member or a pet and I said that it was. Then I called my parents and cried into both of their not-very-surprised ears. My dad, reknowned for some of his folksy wit and wisdom, said with no lack of sympathy, "You ran the shit out of that thing. You ran it into the ground." And it was true.

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The decision was clear even to stubborn old me, and even I had known embarking on such a long trip was taking a big gamble. One hour after I was first told I had a choice to make, I was walking downtown from Penn Station and sat down in Madison Square Park to call Billy back to tell him I was going to have to sell the bus. Like everyone has been saying, he pointed out that it's better the breakdown happened here than somewhere in the Deepest South. He's letting me keep Wolfgang there for two weeks while I find a buyer, no charge, and he's going to put the word out at the VW show this weekend. Just as I hung up, bagpipers at the other end of the park began playing a mournful song. It was not a tune of the happy parade variety, it was a sending-off-dead relatives song, a dirge for shooting Spock's coffin into space. I had to keep walking out of earshot so I wouldn’t dissolve into a puddle.

Goodbye, old friend.

(If anyone reading this sees me in the next few days weeks, it's probably best to not even bring it up unless you want the waterworks to start. And if anyone out there is interested in buying, let me know.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Favorite costumes ever

Colleen is traveling and not on the Internets quite so constantly as usual, but has thoughtfully prepared ahead and has some blog posts on deck. This is one of them. NYC-area blog buddies and other pals, the blog nerd and friend gathering will now be Friday night, location TBA.

I'd like to tell you about one or two of my best Halloweens ever, but parts of most of the best Halloweens aren't for general audiences--For awhile there, each Halloween was getting increasingly more debaucherous and legendary. But instead, I'll do a little show and tell about my favorite costumes.

In high school, I went as a guidette. This was late 80s/early 90s central Jersey, aka, the heart of Guido Country during the Guido Renaissance. I made a Z.Cavaricci label for my one diapery-cut, peg-legged pair of pants and tried to do my hair all big, though it always refused to go as big as I wanted. Real guidos didn't really notice because I wasn't in classes with too many of them, from what I recall, but in Spanish class we all had to stand up and announce what we were dressed as, and there probably were a few guids in that one. I didn't get my ass beat, though.

In college I went as Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas (I was a little obsessed). Here I am with Gene Simmons doing our best Sears catalog poses. I wish now that I'd gone much heavier on the eye makeup; this was before I had false eyelashes. We went to a super fun party in a big old house, and I met a Jack Skellington! Fate! But somehow the dude I ended up dating from that party was dressed as a vampire and had frizzy long hair. I was way cuter than he was, WTF.

In 1999 or so I went with Amanda as Patsy and Edina from AbFab. I was Patsy, with a blonde beehive wig, miniskirt suit and stilettos, and carried a vodka bottle. As the night wore on, we only got more in character. The most fun part was when we'd theatrically fall down, then hang out on the ground for a bit. I would totally do this costume again.

In about 2000 or so I went as Vicki the robot from Small Wonder, and Amanda and I went to NYC's Halloween parade. Here we are being robotic (note the control panel in my back), but in retrospect, I wish that I'd cut the apron a lot shorter. That was one of the nights I can't tell you about.

What I can tell you is that giant towering drag queens in elaborate costumes pulled us into their party, and nobody got my costume, but they all adored Amanda's Cyndi Lauper costume. I felt decidedly not fabulous, and also robbed of the accolades my costume deserved. It was still an awesome night, though, and those queens live on fondly in my heart. (You're going to want to enlarge that photo.)

About three years ago, I went as a bad Valium mom from the '60s. I wore a fall and all vintage costume components and transformed my slide heeled mules into fuzzy marabou slippers. My props were a martini glass, a cigarette dangling from my mouth, and a bottle of pills in my muumuu-robe pocket. I can't tell you about that night, either. I attempted to wear that green polyester robe in the house recently and it was fervently vetoed by the bf.

Two years ago I went as the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. My roommate Hannah did an amazing job sewing up the lampshade. Some bum in the subway yelled, "You ain' THAT pregnan'!" (Thankfully, I wasn't at all pregnan'.) I flirted with some flirty williamsjerk who looked like the 70s but was not in costume (Hannah dubbed him "Bread" like the band), even though our respective eras didn't match and I don't think he knew what I was dressed as (nor for that matter do I imagine he was very quick on the uptake), until his model girlfriend arrived, then I was vexed. Ha HA! I do not miss being single and looking to mingle.

Last year, I went as Joan Crawford for the second time (drawing on the eyebrows and lips make the look) and carried wire hangers, but that's more of a backup costume, really. This year I think I'll just go as a majorly awesome writer working on her first book and handing out candy to kids from a house for the first time. (I know, they're not all winners.)

Now if only I could find the photos of my cat Gypsy's best costume ever, when she went against her will as Gypsy-Bot 5000. College kids can be so cruel.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Live from New Jersey, it's Saturday Night!

So, the former love of my life/ full-time obsession Jon Bon Jovi
hosted SNL last night, and as KarTek mentioned in the last post's
comments, how apropos that I was able to watch it from our shared
homeland. So, a couple of observations:

JBJ: What a businessman. The first commercial during
the show was for their new album, and the band played during the
opening monologue and I think again later, even though they weren't
the musical guest, the Foo Fighters were. And he mentioned the new
album during the opening monologue. Which brings us to...

Richie Sambora: Drunk! Poor guy. He totally forgot
his second line out of only two!

David Bryan, formerly David Rashbaum, the keyboardist
who I have totally talked to on the phone when I worked at an
entertainment law firm: What is up with this man's style. His
aggressively curly hair was bleached blond and he appeared to be
wearing an oversized, wide-necked, bespangled '80s mom sweater. Is he
going through some sort of life change?

Then I fell asleep, because I've been traveling for the greater part
of the past three days.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007


If I may, a couple of homecoming songs.

Somebody give this guy his own reality show (bf's idea). Rock of Dr. Love?

And, because you know I love cheese, and I am, after all, from Jersey:

I have to say, as someone who fully bought into all the cheese metal, then later came to my senses, some of Cinderella's songs hold up a hell of a lot better than the other hair bands. "Gypsy Road"? "Somebody Save Me"? I'd be stoked if those came on the jukebox somewhere.

And you've gotta love the semi-literate comments on YouTube--I found this in the comments under one of the Cinderella videos, a resource I highly recommend visiting if you want to get bowled over:

u cant compair tommy lee to neil pert. tommy lee is like a 5 year playing drums compaird to him

Bravo, sir, well argued! I hope you have reproduced.

Now off I go, into the wide blue yonder.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Status report on living somewhere not suited to me

I'm nearly two months in here, and on Thursday I'm setting off on a journey I could not be more excited about: flying back home for a wedding, and visiting, and super concentrated NYC culture absorption, and getting my beloved VW bus, then road tripping back down to BaRou. Any friends or blog buddies who want to get together, give me a call or email.

I'm going to kiss the ground when I get back to the sweet familiar Northeast, only not at the airport because I'm flying into Newark. I'll wait til I get to my parents' place.

To be perfectly honest, if it weren't for the fun road trip aspect to ease me back down South, I don't think I'd be returning to BaRou so soon. If I think of this move in terms of the nearly three years that it is planned for, my brain goes into instant denial mode. So I just think, OK, it'll be fun til Leah leaves BR, then family is coming for Thanksgiving, then we'll be traveling to and fro for the holidays and I'll see my bff ecs, who'll be visiting from Australia. And then the second semester hopefully won't be as brutal for the bf so we'll spend more time together and he'll be more rested and relaxed, and then for the summer we'll hopefully live somewhere else entirely. And so on, with as much travel figured in there as financially possible.

Sorry BR readers, I am giving it a shot here, and there are some aspects I like and all, but that's just how I feel.

Even though exciting things are in the works, a little too much is still up in the air for comfort, and I'm nostalgic for nearly every other time in my life that isn't now. I happen to have gotten emails from three friends in the past week who are unhappy in their situations, and it seems like the one handling it best is my family member who is keeping herself busy with loads of activities so she won't dwell too much about the loved one she lost recently. She is doing something about her situation. So I have to remind myself that as glamorous as NYC seems now from afar, I wasn't satisfied with my situation there, nor was the bf, and now we're doing something about it, and it's not all going to be easy.

Here's a quote from Rufus Wainwright in June's Radar magazine, on why he recorded his latest album in Berlin rather than New York: "I love New York, and I intend to stay here and never forsake this town and always pay my taxes and everything, but I do feel sometimes, living in this city and this country, like there's an odd disconnect to what's really happening in the world."

I hear him. I am now essentially living in a foreign country, compared to where I spent my life up until now,with its own traditional ethnic music, its own cuisine, even the people here look different (not just fashion-wise, but in the face). And I'm not going to say that we're going to run screaming from here in 31 months (1000 or so days, but who's counting) never to return, but I'm certainly not ruling that out. Stay tuned to see how that all progresses... but first, I'm going home.

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