Tag: travel

Salt Lake City Surprise: Spring Break Part 2

ominous fairytale

One of the things I enjoyed the most about Salt Lake City were the trees. While it’s situated in a desert state and surrounded by desert, SLC has so many beautiful trees in bloom this time of year or just beginning to bud.

SLC surpriseOnce in J and E’s neighborhood, it’s easy to forget the nightmare of trying to find it through a string of freeways that look like gummy spaghetti thrown down violently on a map.       old truck

There are strange corners in Salt Lake City. Not bad neighborhoods, necessarily, but strange and creepy exits that lead to nowhere and have NO WAY OUT.

wrong exit

J and E live on Capital Hill in the Marmalade District at the “dodgy” end and the hill itself is like a giant wall enclosing it all. There are houses looking down on you that appear to have a slightly hostile stare. Also on that hill is Fort Douglas, an old army base that was built to look over the city and keep an eye on the Mormons back when they were restless to separate from the rest of the country.

slc hill

Like the history of all human beings, Mormon history is full of dark deeds, illicit fornication, and scandal. There is no history involving humans without bloodshed or creepy sex. Doesn’t matter what religion you belong to or if you have no religion at all. Where humans go, so goes the whole neighborhood. Says the birds who click their tongues in disgust as we savage each other and desecrate the planet… but wait – back to sex!


The legend of J and E’s house might not be true but we enjoyed believing it and considering how many wives the dude supposedly had, the chances that one of them was housed where we stayed isn’t all that outrageous.

Luna and BenderLuna and Bender are J and E’s rescue dogs and we had such a good time hanging out with those looney-tune dogs. Such sweeties. You know what I love about dogs? They don’t give a shit who you have sex with or what you do for a living and they really couldn’t be bothered to worry over how Jesus does or doesn’t fit into your life, as long as you are kind to them and feed them and play with them. They don’t care if you have both boobs and a penis or if you had to get a leg amputated to save your life or if you were born with no hair.

hang tight

You can tell most Mormons from non-Mormons even if they’re wearing modern clothes. They have a quality. They have a je-ne-sais-quoi. It’s the same way you can tell I’m a Californian and that I’m liberal.

too bright

Maybe it’s my make-up or my Keen’s that give the show away. Maybe it’s my nose ring and my messenger bag. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Then I open my mouth and give the whole show away to those who haven’t guessed it yet. So yes, you really can spot Mormons in a crowd most of the time. And it’s fun. And I feel a little twinge of guilt saying that and feeling that because Mormons are not a side show. Mormons are not in a zoo. They are not living their life to amuse me.

I have been stared at and pointed to all my life. When people clearly express derision or hatred it hurts me or angers me. But the truth is that if you live and dress differently than the majority of the people around you, they will be curious about you and they will stare. Often it’s simply because you’re interesting and it’s enjoyable to see new and different things and people around us. Sometimes they stare because you’re like a strange dream they had once when they took too much Vicodin and there you are in front of them in all your vibrant weirdness like a flashback. Human curiosity is a beautiful thing. It keeps us asking questions, looking for fresh inspiration, for new horizons, for deeper understanding of our fellow beings.

So what I’m saying is that traveling to Salt Lake City and seeing lots of Mormons is just as interesting to me as hanging out in Paris to watch the parade of French fashion and culture drift past me or as cool as it was to hang out in Old Jerusalem and see the train of medieval looking Christian nuns pass solemnly by after the group of Muslim tourists stopped to get refreshments near our table. People watching is one of my favorite things to do and comes from a place of clean curiosity.

I love trees

So I sat in Temple square watching the crowds walk pass by, picking out the Mormons from the non- Mormons, enjoying the gorgeous trees, the Gothic architecture, and thinking about all the things that bind humans together across belief systems, race, origin, politics, and personal tastes. Salt Lake City is a strange mix of progressive and conservative politics and lifestyles. There’s a lot of opportunity to witness people attempting to find where the middle is between extremes.

Bender and ball

Bender doesn’t have time to think about how religion and politics mix and – well – should never mix. He’s a dog with a ball. The ball may as well be Jesus as far as he’s concerned.

Max and Luna

Luna was skittish around Max the first day of our visit. Bender loved him at once. This is Luna the second morning we stayed with her after she decided Max is awesome.

dogs hanging with Max

J and E are incredible hosts. They always have such wonderful homes – their decorating is warm and full of art and J’s handmade furniture. We always feel at home hanging out with them.

pretty living room

Philip relaxing in the morning before we head out for a walk to down town with Max to get lunch and see what there is to see.

pretty succulents

I clearly need more succulents in my life. I also need to spend a little more time arranging my space so that it’s inviting and inspiring and pretty. This is something I can work on until I have to get a day job again. Today I’m going to work on Winters Apothecary and procuring some needed supplies so I can make more products for the shop while Philip works on making my labels better. So much to do!

Crossing the Great Basin Desert: Spring Break Part 1

dangerous weeds

The last vacation we had was in 2008. We never have the money. In spite of being laid off two weeks ago we decided to take off on a road trip to visit our friends J and E in Salt Lake City during spring break in a spur-of-the-moment decision. To get to Utah from California you have to cross 400 miles of Nevada on the I 80E highway.

400 miles

It looks pretty much like this for all 400 miles. Considering how big the United States is, 400 hundred miles might not seem like much, but believe me – it’s a punishing drive. I’ve been through part of the Mojave desert in California and Nevada and thought that was a thirsty god-forsaken stretch of land but it’s nothing compared to this endless empty stretch of country.

hard living flower

This hearty wildflower/weed was the brightest thing in that desert not including the sun beating down through God’s giant toy magnifying glass of a sky. Did I say God? If I believed in God I would feel abandoned in this landscape.


I couldn’t quite shake the fear that our clunker of a car would break down somewhere between Fernly and Winnemucca. Too bad if you’re bleeding out from a car wreck, expect to die. Emergency services are all very far away. I admit that I packed food and water as though I expected to get stuck on I 80.

picnic for desperados

This is how I imagine al fresco dining in prison yards to be. I will say that most of the rest stops had decently clean and equipped bathrooms. I can’t say the same for the rest stops on I 5 through California and Oregon. But at this stop I couldn’t bring myself to use them. Truly, I worried I might get murdered in it.


By the time we made our way to Winnemucca, the only decent habitation along the entire length of that Nevada Highway, it had become our favorite game to come up with epic insults about Nevada to vent our feelings.

Great Basin Desert

Max’s final assessment of Nevada:



But our insults must be tempered with the fact that I know quite a few very cool people who come from Nevada. Please forgive our violent feelings!


One of the great things about trips like this is to see with our own eyes the wildly different landscapes that are part of our country. We looked up information on The Great Basin Desert as we drove through it and learned some things about it. My son will never forget Nevada now. He’ll never take trees or water for granted.


After 400 miles of brown desert, casinos lodged in every available crevice of habitation, and the endless parade of tiny townships that were no more than a handful of dilapidated trailer homes with a broken down barn or store, the salt flats just inside the Utah border were delightfully refreshing. We got there at dusk just in time to see the pink sky reflected in the pale expanse of salt crust.

I have myrrh should anyone’s life depend on it.


This is the fourth week at my new job. I’m still scrambling to adjust to my new schedule that includes 20 hrs of working outside the home. I’ve started (and then stopped) riding my bicycle to work. I have only stopped because this week I’m preparing for a weekend trip over which I’m pretty spastically excited because I haven’t taken a trip of any kind for 3 years. I’ll resume riding my bicycle to work next week.

I’m most looking forward to hanging out in the airport, staying in a hotel room and watching crap tv, meeting my friend Kele, not having to worry about anyone but myself, hogging a bed all to myself, being alone, people watching, writing field notes, drinking everywhere (you can judge all you want and it will deflect off of me like water off a duck’s back), seeing a new place, being alone, change in routine, being el mysterioso woman abroad who rocks a beret, knowing that I’m a person who has myrrh should anyone’s life depend on it.

I’ve joined NaNoWriMo and I still hate that name after all these years hearing about it.

I’ve chosen to work on my idea for “The Nightmare Club” for it. The main character is Perla who looks a lot like Jasika Nicole. This work is close to my heart. It’s what haunts me. It lives inside of me. Perla starts a club for people who suffer chronic nightmares like she does to discuss the psychology of nightmares and to be around other people who understand what it’s like to suffer from them.  But when a member of The Nightmare Club is murdered and elaborately staged in a scene from one of the nightmares shared with the group, suspicion settles on the members of the group and everyone wonders it they’re next.

My online friend John is reading Cricket and Grey and has said such encouraging things about my writing that I had to open up my own book and read a little to believe the good things he said. My favorite scene in the whole book is the first kiss (chapter 10) and I believe it’s because of the scarlet and peaches line. Summer coming before the spring. Another writer acquaintance of mine read my novel recently and also said such kind and encouraging things – it isn’t that writers are necessarily vain motherfuckers, they need some perspective that only readers can give them. The bad things help them grow if they’re willing to listen and the positive things reinforce their passion.

My passion is reignited.

Not that it was out.

But it’s been so hard to write lately with all the changes going on, adjustment to working outside the home again, writing endless emails on Max’s behalf, doing an endless daily mountain of dishes. I have but one professional life’s ambition. I don’t let go willingly. I wrote 1600 words today. It wasn’t easy to push myself but I’m glad I did.

Shit. I’m listening to the soundtrack to Bridget Jone’s Diary. I used to blast this as loud as my stereo would crank it while I cleaned house and I would sing to every song (poorly) and feel so happy. But there’s a song missing. I wonder if it’s from a different soundtrack? Can’t figure out what I’m looking for that isn’t here.

Let it be.

Let it be.

Let it go.

Two days until I get to sit in an airport and pretend to be anyone but myself and no one will know. No one will question.

I get to write myself completely new.

San Diego Travel Notes

I am writing from the land of palms and honey.  The land of perpetual mean light, wide streets, very few pedestrians.  San Diego is a city of trains.  Really long-ass trains.  So long that it cost me $3 in taxi fare to wait for one to pass.  San Diego is a city I’ve known since I was a young child.  I have never liked it.  It has always struck me as a reflection of what hell would be like for a person like me.  I still don’t like this city at all.  It’s creepy because there are so few pedestrians.  In New York it doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is there are people walking the sidewalks everywhere.  Here the streets are eerily empty.  I’ve never seen a downtown more devoid of people.

What San Diego does have, and which I appreciate, is the food.  The place to go for food is 5th Street in the gaslamp district.  Within a ten block radius there must be at least 50 restaurants of every type: Indian, Thai, pub food, fast food, Mexican, Persian, Retro American, Italian, and Irish.  There’s one place I’ve found outside of the gaslamp district that I really enjoyed.  The food is mostly pedestrian but the beer is stellar: Karl Strauss.  They brew their own beer and you can buy and fill growlers.

Some travel notes:

  • People ignore the directions and mandatory edicts of flight attendants.  I find this disturbing when it’s for everyone’s safety like “turn your electric devices off because they might interfere with the flight signals”.
  • 500 West Hotel is shabby.  There’s a stain on the carpet in my room that looks suspiciously like a male pissing contest.  My first impression was Barton Fink without the delicious antique charm but with all the sense that things happen here behind closed doors.
  • I have never seen so many uncomfortably high heels in my life.  The wedge is queen.  6″ heels are the new stocks.  Heels are everything and most women are not good at walking in them.
  • Tube top maxi-dresses are everywhere.  I have a word of advice if you want to wear this style: wear real underwear with them.  You’d think no one can see what’s going on underneath a maxi-dress but your butt will shimmer and shake and – oh wait, you wore that so we would be transfixed by your ass!  Job well done.
  • Lots of half-naked men here.
  • Lots of mostly naked women here.
  • No air conditioning in my hotel.  !!!!!!

That’s all I’ve got for now because it’s 1:30 am and I have the hiccups.

Good night!



I was electrocuted yesterday.  I didn’t see it coming.  There were signs.  For one thing, Armageddon failed to impress, so obviously something else bad needed to happen to the sinners like myself, and what better than a little sudden frying of flesh?

This guy saw it coming and was actually trying to send me a warning message telepathically which, afterwords, I translated as “Don’t touch that fence.  Seriously, lady, that wire is charged.  Are you a fucking idiot to not listen to me?  Stop- don’t- yeah.  You’re dumber than a pile of pellets.”  It HURT.  It was startling and weird.  I’ve had little shocks a couple of times before but this went THROUGH me, buzzing.  It was also embarrassing.  Naturally I immediately had to tell someone.  So I told my mother, who was waiting at some distance from the goats with her salivating dog, that I’m as dumb as a pile of pellets.  I patted her on the back and told her not to sob too hard over all her shattered hopes and dreams for me.  There are still group homes and rousing games of Go Fish for people like me.

All those farmers who say their fences aren’t charged strongly enough to hurt their animals are lying.  I realize that those fences are effective, but don’t tell me they don’t hurt cause they do.  All this excitement took place at Max’s charter school.  These windows you see above are his school building which is located on some church property behind which is goat pasture.  He goes to school in the real countryside in an old decrepit gymnasium.  It’s not for everyone but as Max pointed out, we’re a funky family.  School ends for him in three days.  He’s been going for two and a half months and he claims not to have had a single bad day at school.  I’m a realist and know he’ll have them at some point, but it’s looking like he might not have his first bad day there until next year.  Is it weird that I’m not sure if he’s graduating as a fifth or a sixth grader?  Yes.  We’re hardly living a usual life and this kind of stuff happens in irregular lives all the time.  He’s been doing some high school math, apparently.  And he may be ten years old entering seventh grade.  I was 12 years old entering 7th grade.  The kid will do alright.

A little suddenly, we’ve decided that we can just afford for me to go to Blogher 2011 in San Diego.  I wasn’t going to push to go, originally, because I am allergic to southern California.  It’s the land of eternal and purgatorially perpetual sunshine.  It’s bright as HELL down there unless the smog is especially thick and then you can’t even go outside unless you want to get instant cancer.  They have this thing called Santa Ana winds which blow 120° gusts of wind at you and fry your skin until it feels like cracklins.  I know whereof I speak.  I have been to southern California many many times.  I have family down there and consequently, most summers, we took a family trip down to LA hitting La Costa, Carlsbad, and San Diego.    I have many poignant memories of our Ford Van crawling up the grapevine, me counting the number of smoking cars on the roadside that broke down because their radiators couldn’t take the crazy pounding heat, me imagining us breaking down and a week later the highway patrol finds our vulture picked sun-bleached bones.  When we reached the top and saw Los Angeles sprawling like a malignant sore across the landscape we saw it through visible waves of heat rolling across the road.

On the other hand, my sister has made her home in Los Angeles (she refuses to live her life according to the comfort of my skin) and that’s only a couple of hours from San Diego.  I couldn’t possibly go down to the mouth of hell just for a Blogher conference, but the chance to see my sister was enough to tip the balance.  So I’m going.  Even though I promised I would never travel again as a fat person.  Nor see all those cute pretty women looking chic and getting drunk while my stomach protrudes farther out than my boobs.  Being fat in hot weather is definitely the worst, the humidity in New York definitely made me look like a really creepy sausage person with a sheen, but I had so much fun anyway.  So I caved to my desire to take part in the panels and to see my workmates and bosses.  I caved to the overwhelming desire to have a week away from my family, all to myself, with my camera, walking until my shoes fill with blood and I wash them in beer (or maybe the Pacific Ocean).

I’m going.  I’ve already been doing things to take better care of myself in general and this trip has given me the push I need to make greater strides.  Before this sudden decision to go, I weighed myself.  I haven’t done so in months because I know what I’ve been eating and drinking and I wasn’t eager to find an excuse to hate myself.  Kindness seemed like not knowing too much and working blind to improve my self discipline.  I was surprised to find that I had not reached my highest weight again, or if I did (who can say what truth the scale may have revealed in January?) my recent efforts have kept me 13 lbs under that depressing top weight.  This was pleasing.  But what’s better is that in the past 5 days I’ve lost more weight.  Exercise + less cheese + less beer = less weight.  That’s an equation that nearly always works.  But do any of you remember all those years when I was plugging in the factors and coming up with this: exercise + less cheese + less beer = 20 lbs weight gain?  When I gained weight no matter what I did I seemed to constantly spiral downwards emotionally and upwards weight-wise.  So regardless of whether or not I maintain the self discipline necessary to lose weight, what is uplifting is that my body is working like it should again.  I have not forgotten (and if I’m being honest, I am still traumatized) all those years of frustration when my body wasn’t doing what it should have been doing.  Paxil did me many great services (sleeping at night even though an earthquake could happen at any time is a luxury I didn’t have before paxil) but that weight gain was evil and has damaged my self esteem severely.  I’m recovering.  Things are behaving the way they should scientifically behave.  I’m making effort and seeing results.  This gives me hope.  It is a world I understand.

After so many times I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and put the boxing gloves back on here in public only to fall flat on my face again, I’m reluctant to discuss it over-much.  I’ll probably be fat the rest of my life.  I’m not going to record the minutiae of my efforts here with regards to food and weight.  Not unless there’s some philosophical angle I’m thinking about.  I just thought I owed it to long time readers and friends to report that there really was something working against me all those years that was out of my control and if I do stay fat now, it’s definitely my own doing, and I can live with that.  But all those times I complained, railed, cried, and pounded the walls in frustration and gave up and resumed poor habits because- why not?, that wasn’t because I was failing myself.  I think I spend enough time taking responsibility for myself, for my life, for my mishaps, that it’s a relief, for once, to know that something WASN’T MY FAULT.

I’m amazingly sore today from practicing forms and walking distances.  It’s good to be sore from physical efforts that my body craves.  I love walking more than any other exercise.  I walk fast, in case you don’t know that from the personal experience of walking with me.

I need a striped sun hat.  The kind you can crush in your luggage and reconstitute.

I am really happy that the death penalty is now administered by lethal injection in most places.  Not that I’m a big fan of capital punishment, in general.  I am a fan of it in very very limited circumstances which I’m not going to explain right now.  Electrocution is truly ghastly.  Farm animals everywhere think we humans suck.  Oh, for so much more than the electric fences.  Our crimes are huge, but that one, that one is such an insult.  I get it.  I’m with the goats.  I’ve always loved goats.  I now think they may be smarter than humans.