Monday, October 25, 2010


nyc, new york to london, england
after i graduated from college, i moved into manhattan for a few months, saving my sheckles from a waitressing gig i had at the once famous cafe wha? and comedy cellar (some of our regulars were ray romano, dave chappell and jon stewart - it was a very amusing place to work). i had a vague plan of travel, but it was pretty abstract. i didn't particularly know where i wanted to go, what i wanted to see or when i wanted to begin. such is the headspace of the recent college graduate.
a few happy accidents helped push me in the direction of moving to london. again, no plan, but at least it was action and vaguely exotic, being across the ocean and all.

my first living situation was in a stoke newington house with twenty aussies and kiwis, all transients. no one stayed at the house for more than four weeks. this was my first real look at the life of a vagabond - i liked it! my housemates introduced me to mr. bean on the telly, walked me to the best local for sunday roast/lock in (pubs in london closed between 2pm and 5pm on sunday afternoons, they got around the law by locking their doors, with folks inside, and those folk could continue to drink, on a tab that they would pay at 5pm - at the right place, this was a lot of fun) and told me the best places to go hunting for a job.

one of my favorite moments from this time was when i learned that my modesty was more powerful than my desperation. i had moved to a house in brixton, a hood with a slightly unsavory reputation. i'd had a miserable job at a coffee shop, where the owner felt he didn't have to pay me, i finally realized, as i kept dipping further and further into my meager savings, that i had to quit, and fast, to find a job where i actually got money in exchange for my time and effort. i had been job hunting for a month, and despite being legal, i was having no luck. i was down to my last ten quid (approximately $15 at the time), i didn't have my rent which was already a couple days past due, i hadn't eaten anything but rice for two weeks and i was getting depressed and desperate, a terrible combination.

i found an ad in one of the locals about a bar looking for a waitress. i called, made an appointment and showed up on time and crisply attired. i had my first tingle of apprehension when i saw the big glittery sign above the door, 'toppers'. too desperate to make snap judgments, i walked in. the main room was really dark but there was a little light over the bar and the man loading cases of beer behind the counter told me to 'go on down'. there was a second floor to this bar below street level. as i headed for the stairs my eyes adjusted and allowed me to catch a glimpse of a lady carrying a tray wearing black shorts, tights, dark shoes and nothing else. i am pretty smart so it only took a second for me to understand why this place was called 'toppers'. i fervently hoped that she was a performer and not a waitress. my need for a job and near pennilessness pushed me down the steps. i met mona, a large, fiftyish, no nonsense woman, thankfully totally clothed. she gave me an appraising look and asked 'do you have a problem with nudity?' i answered honestly 'not with other people's nudity.' she told me that the position require that i go topless. before i could respond she went on to say that while she thought i had "talent", she could tell that i would not be working there and that if i changed my mind, to come in any time.
i walked out slightly dazed and thinking, rashly, that maybe i could do the job, ignoring the years of high necked shirts and oversized sweaters that i had used as camouflage, trying to deflect attention.
and then i started laughing, really laughing. i felt lighter than i had in weeks. no way was i taking that job, i simply don't have the guts to do it, not to mention i don't think i'd last long in an environment where men were being encouraged to objectify me - i'd be sure to slap someone and fast.

desperation doesn't rule me!

i went home and cooked myself a bowl of rice and began scouring the days want ads and there it was - the shuckburgh arms needed a barmaid and i was the gal they were looking for!
my home for 6 wonderful months

Saturday, October 23, 2010


buxton, me to new york city, ny.
when i was seventeen my mom, step-dad and i piled into the car and drove down to nyc, ostensibly to look at colleges i was considering. for me it was love at first sight. for my mom it was a whole new passel of dangers her daughter would face and a precursor to what i would put her through for years to come.
stupidly fearless is great for the girl, but hell for the people who care about her!

while i adored manhattan, it was brooklyn that won me over. all of that wonderful brick architecture was so welcoming and pratt institute had a campus, with a quad and trees and everything! i put everything i had into getting accepted to that school.

my first taste of the big apple included great food, subway adventures and culture, so much culture - the metropolitan museum of art, the frick, the guggenheim, moma, not to mention a gazillion galleries.

that trip introduced me to my first home away from home, a place that has always held some magic for me. while i could never call myself a new yorker, i only lived there for four and a half years, i've always felt like a part of me belongs there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

odds and ends of entertainment

in preparation for the trip i have been stockpiling various bits of media. i found that the easiest way to cure homesickness when backpacking is a visit to the local mcdonald's (i know, yuck! but it really does work) and jumping into a book or a movie. the nook and ipod are getting stocked up with all sorts of goodies.

to this end, i've been gathering book suggestions from friends and family and getting them for the reading gadget. so far i have the complete works of mark twain and jane austin (yay for free books online!), the girl with the dragon tattoo, into thin air, the wizard of oz series, me talk pretty one day, three cups of tea, american tabloid, a is for alibi, saving fish from drowning and the adventures of cavalier and clay. with all the bus riding i will be doing, i am guessing i will get through this list by the time i get to patagonia. seems i won't be able to buy new nook books from outside the us, so i am on the lookout for more!
(if you are hesitant to recommend something, let me just say the last four books i've loved are kon tiki, beat the reaper, where men win glory and generation kill. i am happy to dive into any well written non-fiction on just about any topic, mysteries, spy thrillers, adventures, chic lit, classic kid lit and novels about angsty gen-xers - but in all honesty, i'll give just about anything a gander!)

i've put together a swell collection of movies that i can play on my ipod (star wars, it's a wonderful life, the princess bride, footloose, saturday night fever, mr. smith goes to washington, wizard of oz, the thin man, twilight and the matrix) and tv shows (wonder woman, charlie's angels, starsky and hutch, the bionic woman, dean martin roasts and pushing daisies).
one of the things i will miss most while on the road is streaming media on netflix.

i have some great music mixes. a couple of years ago i started making these collections for a friend - 'the last 18', 18 songs from the last 18 albums i had listened to. i have no taste, i like everything, and my music collection is eclectic to say the least, so these mixes were fun to create and revealed little or all about me! (here is the latest: violent love - oingo boingo, hysteria - muse, boom swagger boom - murder city dolls, it's not fair - lily allen, oklahoma stomp - spade cooley, have mercy - loretta lynn, long hard times to come - gangstagrasse, mahatma's message - mc yogi and sukhawat ali khan, right down the line - gerry rafferty, hold the line - toto, let's get physical - the black ghosts, you can't win {the wiz} - michael jackson, sitting, waiting, wishing - jack johnson, mystify - inxs, oh my love - john lennon, people are strange - the doors, bring it to me - she & him, no.3 la campanella {liszt} - andre watts)

and lastly, a whole season of real time with bill maher podcasts! it is so hard to resist listening to them now...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

a little plan for a big adventure

okay, so a loose itinerary for the 2011 Odyssey has been set...

island that shall not be named (january)
brazil (january/february)
argentina (february) - a detour to anarctica may occur if the fates line everything up just right for me
chile (march/april)
peru (april)
easter island (april)
pitcairn islands (april) dropped from itinerary in november
gambier islands (may)
french polynesia (may)
cook islands (may)
american samoa (june)
samoa (june)
tonga (june)
fiji (july)
vanuatu (july)
new caledonia (july)
new zealand (july/august)
australia (september)

some of the decisions regarding this itinerary were influenced by heyerdahl's book. i probably would have flown from easter island to tahiti to new zealand if i hadn't just read kon tiki. instead, inspired by the baddest badass adventurers ever, and game for a few memorable exploits, i have decided to cross the pacific using whatever mode of travel the locals use to get from island to island...this means i may fly, or use a water taxi, ferry, small boat, canoe or just wade across (okay, so it isn't a medieval raft, i am not a badass, just your average non swashbuckling adventurer!) it also means that i will be at the mercy of weather and transportation, so the above dates, loose as they are, may fluctuate wildly.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


buxton, me to washington, dc.
so we moved to maine and for several years travel was limited to visiting family back in s.f.
when i was sixteen we finally went somewhere new, our nation's capitol to visit my aunt (the same one from EQUATOR) who was there studying. we arrived in a blizzard that produced about 2 inches of snow and the entire city shut down. as it began to move again we visited a hundred and one museums - it was absolutely amazing! aside from the glorious john singer sargents and georgia o'keefes, i also got to see the ruby slippers judy garland wore in the wizard of oz (click here to see why i might get such a kick out of that). after we had our fill of museums, or rather, once my step dad couldn't take another minute of looking at paintings, we rented a car and drove to amish country.

i'd never heard about them before, so it was kind of exotic. as we were making the drive, my stepfather, who is a retired baptist minister, shocked everyone in the car by making the risque old joke 'you know what town comes before intercourse? foreplay! hahaha! you know what town comes after intercourse? climax! hahaha!' i think he had a few more, but i was so busy being mortified i tuned them out. now, i find it as funny as he did, and love that he shamelessly shared his cracked sense of humor with the rest of us.

while in DC i read the declaration of independence and much of the constitution (granted it was a homework assignment), and i was struck by the enormous promise my country held. this was probably the beginning of my personal brand of patriotism - pride in what the country could be and hopefully would be some day. don't get me wrong, we have a ways yet to go, but we have a path with a little light showing the way, and not to get too political here, but if we temper capitalism a little (profits are grand, greed is not) and keep working on equality and race issues, we will get there.