Warm home, cold home.

“California is MESSING WITH ME.”

That was my predominant thought as I drove through that wonderful chaos of a state. It was a little bit like bumping into your ex, I imagine, after you haven’t seen him for a few years, and suddenly you remember all of the things you loved about him, and you wonder if maybe things could work this time, if things have changed, maybe, just enough that things could work.

Where California is concerned, I am into the longitudinal extremes. I love the far northern counties where the population hasn’t yet bled over and the air is still clean and the trees and mountains are still the loudest and quietest presense around. I love San Diego, the north’s near opposite and perfect complement. Los Angeles can smog itself to oblivion for all I care; San Francisco is a total bore. But San Diego, oh. I love it.

My trip was wonderful, I had such a great time. I’m sorry I dissed LA and San Francisco, they are nice enough cities. We spent one day in LA, mostly on the UCLA campus and then up to Griffin Park at night to see the Hollywood sign (we could see it, although it wasn’t illuminated. The rest of the city was illuminated, though, and stretched on forever.) We spent the rest of our time in Oceanside and San Diego, with a few daytrips to Orange County (home of some of my biggest life lessons, 3 years back).

On my way into the state I had no idea what my reaction would be. It had been home, however briefly. In some strange way, it was home before I had ever moved there. And this was the first time that I would be back, at least to this part of the state.

Maybe because our first stop was LA I didn’t feel nostalgic at first. Granted, it felt really good to be zipping along the I5 again, but I wasn’t seized with emotion like I suspected I might be. As our time continued in San Diego, though, it began to creep up on me. I love it there, really. I had to remind myself that I was on vacation, and as fun as it was to spend entire days in the sun with some of my best friends, that isn’t what day-to-day life looks like. That’s vacation. Real life is harder, and often lonely. Regardless, I couldn’t help but thinking, “How can I get back here?” I’ve been out of college too long to just go on a whim, I would need a reason. A person can find a reason for anything, if they really want to. While I was there, I wanted to.

I had some back-of-my-head worries about returning to Wisconsin. It was unseasonably warm when we left San Diego, and I heard rumors it would be 15 below zero at home. It would be dark, snowy, and cold, and I would be depressed, I was sure of it.

Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t. Maybe I just can’t conjure up depression like I once could (what kind of artist does that leave me?) but when I got back to Wisconsin last night I felt nothing but home. I’m really thankful for that, to be honest. I may go back to California at some point, I may look for a reason or the reason might come to me unsolicited. I might stay in Wisconsin forever, who knows. I’m here now, and that’s what counts right now.

Haha, can you tell I use this blog as self-therapy sometimes?  Okay, most all of the time.

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This will hurt.

I’m leaving you.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s something I have to do.  It’s who I am.

I’m going to the west coast.  And I’m never coming back.

Just kidding, I’ll be back next week.  And I’ll miss you!

(Don’t count on any blogging while I’m gone.)

In lieu of a parking receipt.

My last boyfriend and I broke up over the phone.  The last time I saw him was at General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, and at the time I didn’t know that we would be broken up within a month, but I was certainly upset enough just saying goodbye.  Well, the very interesting thing about that morning was when I pulled my car up to the toll booth as I was leaving the parking ramp, the attendent took my money and said with a very genuine smile, “Have a blessed day.”  Not a mumbled “have a nice day,” or an obligitory “thanks for your money, ” but, “Have a blessed day.”  My parking attendent gave me a blessing!  Maybe she says that to everyone who passes by her stand, but I like to think this was a sincere prayer for me.  Somehow she knew that my stoic face was hiding emotions much more turbulent.  Somehow she knew things would only get harder, would eventually splinter and then break.  Somehow she knew that a little encouragement could go a long way.  Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on a stranger’s life!

The reason I was thinking about General Mitchell Airport at all is because I’ll be returning there in January, this time to fly to California with a good friend who is interviewing for an externship.  The interview is actually in Los Angeles, but rather than spending our time in smelly LA we are going to stay with friends in San Diego.  I haven’t been back to San Diego since 2006 when I decided that I was too homesick to function.  I’m looking forward to the brief respite from winter, of course, and to seeing my friends and my beloved #2 state, but I am really not looking forward to flying.  The way I see it, we’ve been flying planes for something like one hundred years now.  It should not take hours and cost hundreds of dollars to get from one time zone to another.  It should not be an overwhelmingly unpleasant experience.  This is the 21st century.  But I won’t complain… we’re going to the warm-land!

Beatrice Quimby takes the Bird Quiz.

I’ll be in St. Louis this weekend visiting a dear friend, so let’s pretend it’s for that reason, and not the lack of internet, that I won’t be blogging.   Well actually, my visit is the main reason.  I wouldn’t waste a second of our time together on the computer, and that’s not to belittle my affection for blogging, but to emphasize how much I’m looking forward to this time with my friend!  Plus, as bonuses, I get to see one of my buddies in Milwaukee and another in Chicago on my way down.  Since I’ll be away for awhile, though, I wanted to leave you with a little something to chew on.  The Bird Survey.  (Feel free to leave your own answers in a comment!)

1. Where in the world do you live? I live in Madison, Wisconsin.

2. What kind of habitat do I live in? Madison is a unique habitat in that a large portion of the city is located on an isthmus (a strip of land between two large bodies of water).  The weather in Madison is fairly typical for a Midwestern city, with hot and humid summers and cold, white winters.  Madison is home to a variety of wildlife including humans and red-wing blackbirds.  Politically, the climate is fairly liberal.

3. What does my house look like? My house is a 3-flat in a nice neighborhood.  It looks like a pale yellow barn.  I like it.

4. What do I look like? I have two eyes and a mouth that smiles to reveal 28 teeth (one of them crowned).

5. What color am I? My skin is a Caucasian flesh-tone with somewhat of an olive cast.  I also have brown hair and grayish green colored eyes.

6. How big am I? I am fairly average in height for a female.

7. How much do I weigh? (Maybe birds don’t consider these types of questions too personal.)  I am fairly average here too.

8. What do I eat? I am an omnivore, which means that I eat both meat and plants (but probably a lot more plants).  My favorite types of food are spicy ones, particularly Mexican dishes and curry chicken.  I also love potatoes, avocados, and mangoes,

9. How do I protect myself from my enemies? I try to avoid any people or animals who would be hostile to me.  I try to diffuse potential aggression with kindness.  If I have to curl up in a ball and play dead I will do that also.

10. What is so interesting about me? Well, hopefully some of these interesting things have already been hinted at in other areas of this blog.  As far as birds go, I cannot fly, I don’t have a beak or even feathers.  I have never had a pet bird and I don’t usually feed the birds.  Sometimes I eat them (see question number 8).  I was once pecked violently in the head by an angry red-wing blackbird, and yes, I’ve been pooped on mid-flight.  But I like birds.  They are all right with me.

Birds.  Okay.

Maybe after this you’ll be happy I’ll be taking a few days off from writing.

To swallow a stick pin.

I witnessed a car accident today. Well, I didn’t so much witness it as I did hear it, that horrible crack of steel on steel, and spun around to see that a pickup truck had just smashed into the side of this other smaller car in the middle of a busy intersection. I was a pedestrian when this happened, and as such I was able to linger from a safe distance, crane my neck a bit and make sure that no one was hurt, but regardless this event did remind me of how terrified I am of being in a car wreck. It’s one of those fears that I rarely think about, but at any given moment it can creep up on me. When I am pulling out of an intersection, making a simple right turn, I’ll imagine a car ramming into me at full speed. I will imagine this even if I am the only car on the road, which leads me to believe it is a fairly irrational fear.

This is not my only irrational fear. I am also afraid to travel abroad. Did you know this about me? It’s true, and it’s not really that I am afraid of terrorism or anti-American sentimentality; mostly I am just afraid that I would lose my passport and any kind of proof that I am an American, and that I wouldn’t be able to get back into our country. I can trace to the root cause of this fear with embarassing accuracy: Brokedown Palace. You know, that really awful movie from the late ’90s starring Claire Danes as a spoiled American college student who goes on spring break with one of her friends and ends up in a foreign prison that is equal parts depressing and brutal, and no effort by their American lawyer can get them released.

One of my best friends is traveling in Ecuador right now and would assure me that such fears are completely unwarranted, I’m sure.

She is probably right.

I am also afraid of swallowing a pin. I was a pen chewer most of my life, but now that I work in an office I find myself occasionally chewing on the blunt end of a stick pin. After doing this for a bit I will start thinking, “What if something bumped me and I accidentally swallowed this pin?” I will imagine it going down my throat, into my stomach, and through my intestines, scratching up my insides when not ripping through them completely. It’s DISGUSTING, but even as I imagine it happening it takes a few minutes to convince myself to take the pin out from between my lips and put it back into the wall of my cubicle (oh, Gwen, that wonderful crunching sound!) Anyway, am I weird? We all have fears, right? I don’t let my fears control me. I still drive my car with confidence. I still take an occasional trip and will some day travel to another continent. I still use stick pins at the office for both their intended and unintended functions. Life continues.

Hey, it does.  Life continues.

Do something pretty while you can, don’t fall asleep.

Oh my friends, I’m back in Wisconsin, and it’s cold, but I’m back, but it is very very cold. But I had a lovely vacation, so I really can’t complain, or if I can, if I’m entitled, I will choose not to. Complaining is for dorks! Here is the sad part of my vacation: I let Rachel down. By not blogging this past week, that is, which is really too bad when you consider what an awesome hostess she was, nearly wrecking her car to drive me to every beach in Maui and then putting up with my unquenchable cravings for soda and agreeing to give up that thing that we were both going to give up but then I kind of stopped giving up. Rachel, you are awesome, thank you!

So the thing is, if I were actually going to write about the good times I had in Hawaii it would be pages and pages long, because there were many. Use your imagination: if it was glorious and Hawaiian, we did it. So instead I am going to write about the one bad day that we had which was a Friday, which is not the day of the week that you would expect to be the bad day. It all started out with a cloudy, windy day at the beach. At some point we both admitted that we were cold and not really enjoying ourselves, so we decided to get an early start on the evening’s activity, which was to be an epic beach-side camping trip, capped off the following morning with some surfing! (I had already tried surfing a few days earlier which might have been more successful if I knew how to swim). Somehow it took us four hours to pack, but we managed to get to Lahaina before sundown and set up camp. We hung a hammock with rusty bungee cords, and when we both climbed into it it broke, which was very funny and not at all painful, thank God, but there went our plan for sleeping arrangements, and maybe that was the first sign of bad things to come. Our friends started a fire and some more friends joined us and as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean we enjoyed some hamburgers off the grill and a few drinks and everything was going so well.

And then the man with the blinking yellow light approached. We watched as he stopped at a few camping sites before ours and then when he reached he asked (was it in Pidgen?) if we had a permit. We did not and he told us he would be back in an hour and we’d better be gone. We tried to be friendly and he changed his tune–he’d be back in a half hour and give us a ticket if we were still here. So we packed everything up and moved a mile down the road where the man with the blinking yellow light had informed us we were free to camp without a permit. Maybe it was free because it was right on the edge of the freeway with a million cars zooming past us. The ceremony continued–there was fire dancing and s’mores and White Russians–we were unstoppable. Until it came time for bed, and without our hammock or a tent or a cushy van with an air mattress (like SOME people had), Rachel, DJ and I found ourselves squashed into the trunk of DJ’s car and as the violent wind shook our car about, I slept the worst, most uncomfortable sleep of my life. And in the morning I woke up and I was covered in ketchup. And best of all, which is to say worst of all, there were no waves, ergo, no surfing, which had been kind of the thing that started the whole adventure. But I’m pretty sure that if you have a series of lousy events but share them with some really great people it still ends up being a great experience, which is what happened. It was the worst day and also the best day, and to celebrate we drove into Happy Valley and crammed together into this little booth at this little dive called Tasty Crust, and when they boast of having “World Famous Pancakes” they really aren’t exaggerating.

Tasty Crust

If you want to hear about some of the more classically good times, I have stories of those as well. Or just take it in by pictures. Full photo album here.

Now, from an island.

I am in Hawaii! I was planning to write a quick post before I left, sort of a send-off, sort of an “I’ll be back with a vengeance!” because I know I’ve let my writing slip. But now that I’m here I just feel like I need to rub it in. It’s below zero at home, and I’m in Hawaii. Rachel is making me pancakes and I can see the ocean if I look over my left shoulder from where I’m sitting. This is very, very nice. I’ll have more to say, of course, but it will likely be after I have returned. There is just too much vacation to be had :) Blessings to you in the arctic!

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