Monday, November 19, 2007
Packin' up - packin' out
5 days! 5 days!!

So what do I bring on this solo journey?

Of course I generally need clean underwear and an extra pair of jeans. But what else is essential for a happy vacation alone?

Here is my list of things I never travel without.

  • Ziploc bags - Essential. You just never know. I've used them for laundry, for toiletries, for the remains of a snack that I wanted to save for later.
  • Hand wipes - Again. Never know.
  • A first aid kit - Usually just involves the hordes of band aids, antibiotic ointment and alcohol swabs I already own thrown into a ziploc (see above)
  • Ear plugs - I have been in places that I was sure I'd need ear plugs. Sam's Town, Las Vegas - never needed them. I've been to other places - nice places - where I was on the other end of a headboard that needed to be bolted to the wall. Bring earplugs.
  • Bug spray - I don't care what time of year it is. I get eaten by bugs. One of the worst souvenirs is an ankle covered in welts. Not the worst, certainly.
  • A fake wedding ring - depending on the situation, I wear a fake wedding ring I bought at Macy's for $10 - looks real, doesn't matter that it's not. Basically it tells people (including old ladies looking to set up their grandsons) that I'm not available. If it gets stolen - no big whoop.
  • Camp chair - they're super light and I hauled one along on a sunrise hike a couple of years ago. Never regretted it.
  • The journal I'm currently writing in and a fresh one. Last year I ran out of space in my journal. It was a disaster. Of nightmarish proportions. Equivalent to, say, multi-drug resistant staph or an earthquake. (Hyperbole much?)
  • Instant hot cocoa - mmmmm
  • My iPod - I cannot listen to faith-based radio for 400 miles. I just can't. Not even for curiosity sake. I have a "drive" playlist. It includes some Night Ranger. And Beastie Boys. And some Golden Earring. I'm a total dork.**
  • A candle - I don't know why. I love lighting candles when I'm away from home...
  • A flashlight - It doesn't matter if you're staying in a hotel. Bring a flashlight.
  • A blanket - I have a picnic blanket in my car with a fleecy underside (yay Target!). If I need to use it as a pillow, as a blanket or for it's original intent as a foundation garment for a picnic, there it sits in my car - my trusty blanket. It also happens to be bright red - so I can use it if I need to flag someone down.
  • 3 books - I just never know what I am going to want to read at any given moment. Fluff, good fiction, drama? I just don't know. I'm thinking about getting Valerie Plame's highly redacted book Fair Game. Sounds juicy.
  • Scissors - you just have no idea how handy these come in...

New things I'm going to try this year:

  • My dream camera - Purchased for my trip by one loving and wish-granting genie known as my husband. He's awesome. And really hot.
  • an electric kettle so I have hot water in my room for cocoa and soup!
  • an audio language lesson on my iPod (Yiddish, if you must know - cause that's how I roll)

**By the way, my playlist also includes Justin Timberlake. And Britney (Toxic). And Ozzy (Crazy Train). Why, oh why do I feel the need to confess to all of th....Salt n' Pepa!!!! OK! And Nick Gilder! only gets worse.

I'm not kidding.

I do have some episodes of This American Life podcast. Does that help at all?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007
Safety on the Road
It's not that I'm soooo brave. It's not that I'm an idiot either. I travel alone very, very wisely.

Here are my tips for traveling alone.

On the road:
  • When I'm stopping in a town, whether for gas, food or sightseeing, I park out in the open. I don't park behind trucks. I try to park on the end so I can watch my car from where ever I am.
  • I only drive during the day. Driving at night especially across long highways is pretty unsafe in general. Too many sleepy drivers. If I'm going on a day trip, I make sure I am back by sunset. After all, sunset in the canyon is so beautiful - I try never to miss it.
  • Go to family friendly places - when I say truck stop, I do not mean a huge parking lot of 50 trucks and my PT Cruiser. I mean a Denny's, Cracker Barrel-type place. Especially if it's not a chain. My favorite! Sometimes the souvenirs in those places are freakin' priceless!
  • Triple freakin' A. I've had a membership since before I started driving (I'm serious). I could change a flat if I needed to, but getting on my back on the highway is not my idea of a good vacation.
  • Don't roll down your window for anyone. I don't help strangers stranded on the side of the road - I'll keep driving and call the police but I won't get out of my car. Even for a woman. I don't accept help from strangers. You never know. Sad but important.
In the Canyon:
  • Scope it out beforehand - I went to the Grand Canyon with a pack of queers before going by myself. I had no idea I would love it so much. About half-way through my trip I decided to come back alone so I could explore at my own pace.
  • The National Parks cost $$ to get in. You can't just drive up and assault someone without people knowing you're there. This makes things quite a bit safer since the output of $25 bucks just to do something illegal seems ... somewhat futile. Anyway, it tends to screen out some sick people. Also, you can't camp without a permit so there aren't a bunch of crazies out there in the night.
  • Since I have been there before, I know where I am going so I don't tend to wander around lost.
  • I walk confidently. Walking like you have somewhere to be is a big turn off to criminals. They usually aren't going to chase you down and they don't know who is expecting you.
  • I don't look like I have wads of cash. My shoes are not new. My sweatshirts are certifiably antique and my jeans are every day jeans. I would not be a prime target, since I don't look like I've got anything good to get. If there are people paying $25 bucks to rob the tourists, I don't look like I have anything worth their effort. Believe me, there are busloads of tourists who DO look like they have stuff worthy of robbing.
  • I know where the closest ranger point is. If I need to run, I know which way to go.
  • I have a pretty heavy backpack and a fine imagination of what I could/would do to anyone who tried to throw down. Water bottles in a backpack is an excellent weapon. So is your elbow.
  • I park in open areas and take the shuttle. The Grand Canyon has a natural gas shuttle that runs from dawn to after sun-down. The drivers are all lovely and I won't get out with someone creepy unless there's a crowd. The drivers also don't care how long you can ride around for hours if you want.
  • I take knitting and headphones. If there's someone weird, annoying or loud on the shuttle, you can always pretend not to hear them.
Honestly, most of the time I don't worry. Even on a quiet day in the canyon there are plenty of other tourists around and I generally stay within the confines of the park for the majority of my trip. I've met people from all over the world but I'm there to be with myself so I am mostly by myself. Although some people have tried, mostly older couples who feel sorry for me, I don't allow myself to get dragged along into other people's adventures.

It's not for everyone but if you have a desire to travel on your own, I can tell you it is worth every moment.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Vacation - All I ever wanted
In about 10 days I leave on my annual solo road trip. This year in my adorable new PT Cruiser.
Apparently, most solo road trippers are women.

Of course, my family (of origin) thinks I'm nuts to be driving around by myself and having breakfast alone in truck stops. I have never felt unsafe though.

I grew up here in L.A. and spent a year in Israel where I took a number of solo bus trips. In both places I have been verbally and physically assaulted enough to eventually figure out how to handle myself. I also think now that I'm not 17 (or 27 - or 35) anymore, I'm not quite the target I used to be (this makes me sad - not because I'm not 17 - heaven forfend - but because the younger you are the more at risk you are and that women are at risk at all...).

I also look like I can take care of myself. I wear boots. I walk with purpose. Important when you are alone in truck stops. I don't want to give all truckers a bad name either. There are some mighty nice truckers out there. People who were home trained. Then there are some that just want to see your tits. And they think you should want to show them. I've never understood it.

Back to the good stuff. I've already started my pre-planning. Oh, how I love lists!!!

For the car:
  • My iPod (as my Cruiser has a very fancy iPod jack!!!)
  • Maps
  • Water and snacks.
  • First aid kit.
  • Blanket and pillow. Just in case.
For the cabin:
  • an electric kettle for making oatmeal in the morning and cocoa at night.
  • a coffee mug for oatmeal and cocoa
For hiking:
  • boots
  • hats,
  • scarves,
  • gloves,
  • thermal undies
For my head:
The only thing I don't have yet...I'm actively trying to figure out a way to afford my dream camera before I leave. The old one - though she has seen me through the last 4 years - is not quite what she used to be.

Stops on the way:
  • Cameron, AZ (part of the Navajo reservation. This is a new one for me. I have been wanting to stop here but haven't yet.)
  • The Petrified Forest National Park and The Painted Desert - apparently this is super close to the Canyon and I've never seen it!!!
  • Williams, AZ (home of the Red Garter Bed and Bakery - a former bordello and now a very sweet bakery/bed and breakfast)
  • Kingman, AZ (there is one of the best thrift stores in the world - Bubbee's Goodz - owned by a big Jewish biker - I love this place. Also, there's a yarn store NEXT DOOR - but I don't really need anything here. I might just stop in to say hi to the nice biker dude.)
I will not have:
  • cell phone coverage (for most of the trip)
  • my laptop
  • obligations
  • a schedule
  • a care in the world.

Have you ever solo road tripped? What did you love? What did you not love? Where do you wish you could go?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Tuesday Tzedakah
I hate asking for money. It is one of the reasons I could never work in fundraising. It is this thing that makes me curl up inside and cringe.

HOWEVER. I can fully support an auction for the National Eating Disorders Association. There is a bunch of cool stuff is up for auction. Two fold fun! First, you get to support an incredibly worthy cause. Second, you get to buy holiday gifts (or something lovely for yourself!). There's a Beverly Hills mani/pedi going for 17 bucks right now. You'd pay more at Happy Pretty Beauty Nails on Pico.

Go check out the auction. Totally worth it.

Hat tip to H4H.

*Tzedakah = charity
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Thursday, November 08, 2007
One of those days

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. -Mary Pickford

Yesterday I had "one of those days" ™.

Everything in me wanted to numb out, make it go away... For me, that usually involves a binge, which ends in a purge which leads to me feeling shitty about myself (not to mention a sore throat, bad breath, shame and various other problems). This is a cycle that has been going on (and off and on) for almost 20 years.

The good news: I didn't. I didn't do any of that.

The better news: I found a slide show called the BMI Project that shows what bull crap the body mass index (BMI) actually is. The show includes snapshots of beautiful women (and a couple of men) of all kinds of shapes.

I want to imagine that none of the people in these photos hates her body. I want to believe that they are shame-free. I hope they grew up in homes where their body size was not a topic of discussion. Where how much they had on their plate was not scrutinized. I really hope they love their bodies exactly how they are in the photos. I want to be like them - like I imagine/hope they are.

I recommend watching it.


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Friday, November 02, 2007
Hallowe'en roundup

Hallowe'en was awesome. Everything I was hoping for and more.

I had a party during the afternoon at work for which I made the kitty litter cake. Total hit. In fact, such a hit that the daughter of the woman I sent it home with sent me back candy as a thank you. How's that for a hit!?

Michael and I came home early on Hallowe'en, put on our scrubs and lab coats. I stuck an Anatomy of the Brain poster in my front hallway so it was the first thing trick or treaters would see upon opening the door.

About 1/2 hour after sunset the first of the kidlets arrived. They kept on coming until about 9 p.m. I was already cleaning up. I think as the doorbell rang I heard Michael yell, "Those better be some damn good costumes to be ringing my doorbell at 9 p.m." Grumpy ol' grouch.

Anyway, in the hour before sunset I finished off the tombstones. The tombstones read,
Here lies Jeff - Quit talking about me!
(a phrase he frequently said)

Your Name Here


Christine Amen
(who was the lovely and talented but dearly departed alter-ego of my husband)

Then I lit candles on our mantle and set up the fog machine. I downloaded about 2 hours worth of really, really scary sounds off iTunes and set up the speakers in the front window.

Needless to say, we had a few young kids who were afraid to come all the way up to the door and some smart-assed teenager who I heard as he was coming up to the door, cough out "I have asthma." Duh. It's a fog machine kid, not a smoke machine. The wind was perfect so that we had the gauze curtains blowing in the light breeze and the fog would come out of the entryway in billows and then hang over the graveyard like I designed it that way...yeah...I designed it that way...!

Then on November 1st, we had the Stitch and Bitch dia de los muertos party. So fun!!! I went as La Calavera de la Catrina. I won the prize for the best dia de los muertos themed costume!!! Made the hat and shawl that afternoon with one trip to Michael Levine and some stuff I had in my craft room. I love CRAFTING! Not only that - I got the best damn bag in the whole world - handmade by Natalie! Woo hoo! (I'm the one on the left. Middle - Monkeygurl, Right - Crazy Aunt Purl - Photo credit L.A. Ell)

(P.S. I have to note that I have absolutely no makeup on my neck or chest. I am just that white. I am..."the whitest white girl in whitetown.")

Finally, I just had to share pictures of my niece on Hallowe'en. Oh my. She is just out of control cute!!! Baby Elvis has left the building!

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