Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Note: Listen to Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings by Father John Misty while reading this blog to get you in the mood…for murder…

[cue evil laughing]

Memorial Day weekend I hopped a plane and flew to California to visit my cousin. Luckily, in her, I have a freakish spirit animal that enjoys the same type of macabre fascinations as I do.

While relaxing by the pool, chilling at the beach, or taking in an art museum is what some normal people do, I’d much rather have my vacation involve the weird. Take me to a new place and I’ll instantly ask to be pointed in the direction of the nearest graveyard. Or wine bar. And hell, if those two ever combine then I’ll be in heaven.

Our dark day in LA consisted of three things that I most heartily (and gruesomely) recommend…

 

American Horror Story House

 

AHS

First, a pit stop at the locale of the American Horror Story house – the Rosenheim mansion. It’s a weird scene; a beautiful mansion set in the middle of a random street of normal-ish houses. Sadly, the mansion seems to have fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair. The backyard was covered in weeds, while in the front it was apparent the owners have had all they can take of gawkers, because numerous signs warning against stepping foot on property dotted the front yard as well as a flock of foreboding ravens. I kept expecting to see a face staring down at us from one of the upstairs windows before we bolted for the safety of the car.

 Find the Alfred Rosenheim Mansion at 1120 Westchester Place, Los Angeles CA

 

Dearly Departed Tours – Tragical History Tour
 Dearly

Founded by Scott Michaels, this tour is THE tour for morbid curiosity seekers everywhere. Seriously. If you’re in LA and like this kind of weird, dark Hollywood history, book this tour STAT. While numerous tours are offered (Ahem, Manson, anyone?), we booked the Dearly Departed Tragical History Tour.

The Dearly Departed Tours office on Sunset Boulevard was a museum in its own right. Celebrity death memorabilia line the walls and the floors. Jayne Mansfield’s pink suitcase, a signed Sharon Tate autopsy report, a letter from John Wayne Gacy, door pulls from Room 105 of the Landmark Hotel where Janis Joplin died.

Our senses were overstimulated, and after craning and nearly climbing on top of a desk to get a better look at the John Wayne Gacy letter we were stopped by a man. Instead of getting a lecture about keeping my slovenly body off the furniture, the man instantly launched into the story behind the letter, keeping the cousin and I in rapt attention for about fifteen minutes.

After purchasing a souvenir Hotel key chain, we climbed aboard the tour bus and the cousin and I were instantly elated to learn that the man we had been speaking with about the Gacy letter was our tour guide.

He announced to the small group, “I would kill a small child for a Yuengling right now.”

And with this quote so began our tour on Dearly Departed Tours with Brian Donnelly.

Donnelly, an amazing, energetic tour guide, can navigate the city like a pro and show us about 150 sights in two and a half hours. He had a mic and an opinion and like he said on the tour, it’s the perfect combination for someone with ADD. He knew his Hollywood history, was proud to live in LA and didn’t skimp on the gory details.

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Some sights/discussions included: Rebecca Schaeffer’s apartment, Storybook Homes, Scientology Celebrity Center, Lana Turner scandal, The Viper Room, Bela Lugosi, Black Dahlia rumored murder house, Knickerbocker, Beverly Hills homes, Whisky a Go Go, Bugsy Siegel’s murder house, Château Marmont, the Menendez Brother’s family mansion, the spots where Janis Joplin and Sharon Tate ate their last meals (Barney’s Beanery and El Coyote respectively)…and a shit ton more.

I’ll stop here since it can’t even sum up the awesomeness of this tour. All I can say and all I can do is pimp it out. If you’re ever in LA, take three hours and make this a priority.

Dearly Departed Tours haunts 6603 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA

 

Museum of Death
 PicMonkey Collagemod

When all you want to see is genuine serial killer letters from Richard Ramirez The Night Stalker and artwork by John Wayne Gacy look no further than the Museum of Death. The last stop on our frightful escapade.

Nestled in a  nondescript location on Hollywood Boulevard, the Museum of Death lures in the curious, crazed and unassuming. Sadly, photographs were not allowed and I resisted the urge to snap secretive stills. This museum is not for the faint of heart. I asked the front desk clerk about the pass-out quota and he said that they probably give smelling salts to someone about once a week.

The cousin and I have cold hearts and iron-stomachs as we braved the close confines of the small museum, only once getting slightly woozy as we took the self-guided tour.

Divided up into sections, each room is dedicated to a morbid curiosity or real-life tragedy. We feasted eyes on the Serial Killer Room, the Manson Murder room, the Black Dahlia Murder room, Heaven’s Gate recreation, Execution room, Mortician and Autopsy Instrument room (this is where our knees almost buckled), Taxidermy Room, Cult Room, Suicide Room, and more…

One section titled “Heads and Tales” involves a murderous methhead couple that’s an I-CAN’T-EVEN experience probably no one should have, but the cousin and I gawked in horror at the ghastly photos lining the wall and braced ourselves for the night terrors to come.

Leaving, we lingered in the gift shop, where Charles Manson’s vinyl recordings were being sold, and as we walked outside into the bright sunlight, pondered just how chillingly intimate we had just gotten with the gruesome side of death.

The Museum of Death rests-in-peace at 6031 Hollywood Boulevard, CA

 

I can attest to the south. I can raise a hand and fall to my knees. I can count the Cracker Barrels and the Chick-Fil-A’s and the Waffle Houses by the dozen.  I can pass the churches with just a little bit of guilt. Hell, I lived in Kentucky for two years and the south is an experience you should have at least once in your life. The people, kind and awesome souls. The food, fattening and deliciously fried. The dialect, slow and composed. Sometimes so slow in fact, I’d often listen to someone speaking to me and wish I had a remote control to speed ‘em on up.

And after visiting Nashville, TN to bring in the 2014 New Year, I miss the south. If I moved again, I would tell you true, I’d make Nashville my next home.

There’s something about it. Something that isn’t anywhere else – and believe me I’ve traveled like a sonofabitch so I know my states. Though I can do without the new fangled hipsterness of Nashville and I would never be brave enough to venture karaoke in a city where probably 50% are aspiring singers with a better warble than I, I do adore the laid back charm and southern drawl and music in every  single place you stop. Even the airport bars had a lounge crooner.

Nashville turns you devoted.  It makes you loyal. It makes you dear. It makes you ogle the fry cook with a blazingly sweet pompadour on Broadway. It makes you buy three CDs from local musicians. It makes you beatific on Honky Tonk row with a PBR in your hand.

In fact, Nashville is extra special to me because a part of my maybe-it’s-a-future-book? takes place in Nashville, so anything I did was looked at as an opportunity for literary research.

Yes. Eating an ice cream sandwich counts as research.

Yes. Eating an ice cream sandwich counts as research.

So what does a Nashville Itinerary consist of? Music, drinking and face meets floor.

Day One – The King’s in the (City) House

A three hour drive to Memphis from Nashville ain’t no thang, especially where the King of Rock and Roll’s concerned. Graceland has been on my bucket list for probably more than 15 years (ever since I found his records in my grandmother’s basement), so using the excuse of when-are-we-ever-going-to-be-near-Memphis-again? I dragged my husband along.

Graceland was not what I expected. And not in the bad way. I expected a HUGE mansion; instead I got a gorgeous, quaint house with rooms decked out in all their 60s/70s beauty. Touring where Elvis used to live and seeing the amount of gold records he racked up was amazing. You truly get a glimpse of the King’s professional and personal world. When we made it to Elvis’s grave, I slipped on sunglasses. I couldn’t help tearing up.

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Though Graceland is uber-touristy and slightly tacky, as we passed through the crowd I couldn’t help but hope that the 13-year-old kid whose parents had dragged him/her along developed an appreciation for the King. If Graceland can convert one kid a day from listening to Kesha (I refuse to use the “$” sign) to the King then life is pretty fucking beautiful.

After three more hours in the car, a quick pit stop at the hotel, we headed into East Nashville – Germantown – to have dinner at City House.

Rustic, brick, hipster is what City House is. It feels like you’re eating in a very well decorated warehouse. Concrete and brick walls, metal chairs, loft-like stairs, urban atmosphere, a menagerie of decorative pigs dotting the walls.

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Known for their pizzas and fried chicken, the menu had surprisingly interesting dishes like head cheese and scrapple and Tripp ham. Mmmmm, ham.

Usually I’m the adventurous sort when it comes to putting things in my mouth but the waiter did have to talk me and the Husband into ordering head cheese lettuce wraps mixed with pimento cheese. The rest of the menu was rounded out with pizzas that were unique creations topped with Kale, Catfish, Chard, random and odd combinations on a crackling crust.

The best part of the meal came at the end. It was gloooorious. No, it wasn’t stuffing my face with the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever had in my life; it was the gentleman to my left politely tapping my arm and offering up his table’s uneaten appetizer they couldn’t finish.

WHAAAAAAAA?

Where else would this happen anywhere but the south?

Well played, Nashville. Well played.

Day Two – Coffee, Beer and Whiskey

Up, early morning.

Pleasedeargod if you ever go to Nashville hit up Barista Parlor. A magical coffee shop in East Nashville that now sits where a mechanic shop used live is vintage and modern cool all at once, with coffee brewers that looked like they came straight out of a laboratory, taxidermy on the walls, record player in the corner and garage doors that open out onto a stage, Barista Parlor would need to look hard to find competition.

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Look at this menu. LOOK AT IT.

Look at this menu. LOOK AT IT.

Order the sausage biscuit and one of the gourmet coffees. With selections like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Four Barrel, you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to jumpstart your morning.

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To while away the afternoon, head over to Antique Archaeology in Marathon Village. Featured on the History Channel, this shop has odd and historical wares that are too expensive to purchase but sure make for fun browsing and conversation.

Look ma, an old-timey sign.

Look ma, an old-timey sign.

After checking out The Old Time Pickin’ Parlor and Grimey’s Pre-Loved Music Record Store, we braved traffic and made our way to the Sheraton to claim our spot in downtown Nashville.

Next stop, Honky Tonk row. A street of fine and rascally drinking establishments and shops on Broadway. The bars lining the back alley of the Ryman Theater are the best and all have classic histories and star sightings, not to mention delicious, delicious PBR and live music. Hit up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner, Second Fiddle, The Stage, and Robert’s Western World.  I’m pleased to say I hit up all five of them in about 24 hours.

Making dad proud.

Making dad proud.

8pm, dinner that night was at the white-table clothed (la di da) Merchants, a restaurant on Broadway, right across from the boozing bars.

Merchants serves locally sourced produce and meats. A simple menu with familiar dishes that have interesting twists (Scallion hoecakes, anyone?) the dinner at Merchants was very good but not the highlight of the trip by any means.

From there, 10pm, we hit up the Station Inn.

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BY GOD GO TO HERE. A small space, twelve bucks a head, drink PBR on card tables and sit on non-matching folding chairs. It is an insanely amazing time. The husband and I got a table right in front of the stage. No matter where you sit the venue is so intimate, you feel like you’re getting your own personal show. That night we saw Robert Cordle and a better time could not have been had.

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Midnight, we go dancing at Legends Corner and drink whiskey sours while watching the confused country singer on stage try to sing Weezer for a $100 tip before heading back to the hotel at three AM.

 

BEEP DO BEEP BOPP

BEEP DO BEEP BOPP–

 

Day Three – The Mother Church

Sleep in until ten. We’re beat. Too lazy and bleary-eyed I order a $15 pot of coffee. I move slow. That is until we have a Ryman Auditorium tour at noon.

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This tour is a must. Hearing the history, learning about original bluegrass singers who played there is a testament to Nashville and country roots.  Tour this gem. Educate yourself about Ray Acuff. Drool over the Hatch prints.

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From there we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame. And…

Meh.

In the right mindset this could have been fun. But I was tired. My feet hurt. I was probably biased BUT…there were too many people and it was hot and it was crowded. I get that it’s a Hall of Fame but there were just teeny tiny snippets of information that didn’t really do anything for me.

From there it was a drink, a nap at the hotel, a quick dinner, pregame with Buffalo Trace, and then onto the Ryman. The main reason for this New Year’s Eve trip to Nashville — Old Crow Medicine Show and Parker Millsap at the Ryman.

Seeing a show at the Ryman is a must. Add it to your Bucket List, STAT.

You have not heard music until you have been at the Ryman. You have not felt throbbing until you experience the floors hum and pulsate with the stompage of fellow music lovers. It sings through your soul and vibrates your bones.  It is an experience every music and concert lover should have in their life and pays a true homage to those who stand on its stage.

Parker Millsap and his crew killed with their opening act, the majority of songs coming from their new album debuting in February.

Old Crow put on a righteous performance. Clad in tuxedos and ties, they played a two and a half hour set like goddamn champs. They had their timing down, sang the classics and we rang in the New Year with bells and whistles and a whole bunch of beautiful balloons.

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Someone handed me a noisemaker that had my husband looking instantly regretful.

Oh, the regret.

Oh, the regret.

After the concert, Broadway in all of its crazy glory was a sight to behold.

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The line for a taxi was probably a half mile long; people were starting fights in the back of the bars and hot dog vendors were slinging wieners and raking in the dough. I bought chicken and grits from a food truck and posed on the Ryman’s steps.

My chaos is riveting.

My chaos is riveting.

While I have come away with the knowledge that I will never debut my karaoke skills in Nashville, Nashville isn’t just the south; it is a well-oiled city that knows their food, has beautiful scenery and brims with music. So work on your manners, develop an affinity for whiskey, and practice your white-trash-debutante curtsy because Nashville is a trip that must be had.

Hell, it made an honest woman out of me.

A behind-the-scenes photo of my Nashville pose and attire.

A behind-the-scenes photo of my Nashville pose and attire.

If you travel and you don’t make a mix CD/playlist with the song of the place you’re going to, you’re dead to me.

A few weekends ago, the husband and I set off to wonderful Telluride, CO. Of course, the first song on my mixed CD was Tim McGraw’s Telluride.

Hello, 2001

Hello, 2001

After a quick pit stop at the Easy Rider gas station…(woot!)…we headed into CO.

All that's missing is the LSD.

All that’s missing is the LSD.

In every state I travel, there’s always a different vibe. You can feel it hanging in the air. I had been to Denver before but driving through Colorado, the small towns, the mountains, there was a very striking “you’re on your own” quality to it.  Get lost in the wilderness and let a bear eat your face kinda vibe.

It made me miss Montana.

The adorable town was similar to a Montana fave of mine – Red Lodge. Quaint, everything within walking distance, a main street with overpriced and indulgent shops.

We went during the off-season but that was peachy keen because the lines weren’t long and the streets weren’t crowded. Telluride was seriously a dream. No worries, no cares, hey screw email! and yay! let’s drink!

This blog post could be a million miles long but for the sake of your sanity I’ll try to narrow down the trip. I’ll leave out the part about kidnapping a hitchhiker, so you’re welcome.  Although, is it really kidnapping if he stole my mescaline?

The Basics:

Stay:

Viking Lodge – condos and relaxation. Walking distance to everything and the slopes. Great service and amenities. Can’t go wrong. So don’t.

viking

Eat:

All of the food was hands-down amazing in Telluride. There was no shitty bar food that gave you gas and cramps. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. Just good food, tasty Colorado brews and serious cooks.

Brown Dog Pizza – drink Dirty Hippie Beer and order the award-winning 3-1-3 Specialty Detroit Square Pizza. Take photos of a man who reminds me of one of my story characters at the bar. (sorry to the husband)

Floradora Saloon – four star cuisine in a dark bar. Duck tacos. Baked Brie and Apples. Gourmet Burgers.

Baked – go eat donuts every morning and gain five pounds. It’s worth it.

dog

Shop:

Telluride Sports – one of the best sport shops there – although a bit pricey – the items they have are unique and very furry.

Telluride Music Company – I bought a harmonica.

Overland – a leather and fur shop with steampunk and aviator hats. Fun to browse and try the merchandise.

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The Signs:

As prior posts tell you, I love signs. They’re so much fun. Story ideas. Insights. Neuroses. Honesty scrawled on walls. Stuck with stickers. They can lead the way. Not everything prophetic, but still. Telluride was filled with goodies.

On the literal front, some of my favorites consist of:

When it rhymes, you know you're in for a good time.

When it rhymes, you know you’re in for a good time.

Clearly, the condo was expecting me.

Clearly, the condo was expecting me.

Douchebag check #1.

Douchebag check #1.

Douchebag check #2.

Douchebag check #2.

A Telluride shop was awesome enough to put this at their registers.

A Telluride shop was awesome enough to put this at their registers.

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Beautiful sticker graffiti.

Beautiful sticker graffiti.

Like my vagina.

Like my vagina.

A toilet stall scrawl.

A toilet stall scrawl.

Best. Sign. Ever.

Best. Sign. Ever.

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Love this.

Love this.

And this.

And this.

The People:
Story #1

I don’t talk a lot. But on vacations I’m a little bit less like Patrick Bateman and instead turn into a veritable Elle Woods – minus everything annoying about her.

P.S. I seriously hate myself for that reference.

Kismet is a strange bitch. This particular Sunday (Nov 10, 2013, to be exact) was filled with so much “coincidence” it was scary.

To set the stage – I’m at a bar (odd, right?) with a book, ignoring the football game and listening to these two men’s conversations. And I’m eavesdropping because 1) I’m a writer 2) I love their accents and I reckon they’re from Tennessee.

How I watch football

How I watch football

One catches me ogling (I’m real sly) and tells me I can laugh at his accent. He’s getting used to people laughing at his drawl.

Feeling like a dipshit, I say I’m just listening because I love his accent and the current book I’m writing is set in TN and I was wondering if he’s from there. Smooth, Jules, smooth.

The man – Terry – is kind. He’s got a smile that makes me want to buy him a beer.  Genteel manners. He asks my husband if it’s okay with him that we’re chatting. Asks if he can buy ME a beer. Southern charm can kill me now.

So we strike up a conversation. He’s on the road to visit all the sites on his bucket list, having had a heart attack about six months ago. He was on his way to see the Grand Canyon, got turned around, flipped a coin on where to go, and randomly ended up in Telluride. Traveling by van and meeting new friends along the way, he’s been posting his story on Facebook.  I ask if I can follow him and his trip and this leads to phones being whipped out.

When I find him on Facebook, I see we have mutual friends.  A bit mystified, I scroll closer.

Um, what?

Our mutual friends are my ex-neighbor’s (“ex” as in because they moved away, not “ex” as in because they are severing-ties assholes) who just recently moved to Salt Lake City. He met them a day ago at Arches in Utah.  They had dinner together. That very same day, my husband and I had been considering going to Arches but decided to postpone.

Needless to say, small what-the-fuck world.

It was kinda surreal. Here, Terry had somehow stumbled into Telluride. My husband and I chose a bar we probably wouldn’t have chosen if the other bars weren’t so crowded.

We invited Terry to dinner. Shared stories and drank beers. Though I hung out with Terry for maybe eight hours total and had never met him before in my life – I love him so hard. There’s something incredibly special about him and I feel so, so honored to have spent the time I did with him. It also makes you think about – and believe in – fate. A whole hell of a lot.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

Meanwhile…that same night…

Story #2

At that very same bar I met another man with a sweet fedora. A cool cat, we chatted about motorcycles, writing, art, books and a variety of other random topics. Come to find out he’s a DJ at the local radio station KOTO on Sunday nights.  He invites the husband and I to come down and hang during his 9pm – midnight shift.

And so after dinner with Terry we grab a bottle of wine and a bottle of whiskey and head to the station.

DEARGODIMINHEAVEN.

Praise jebus.

Praise jebus.

Glorious CDs everywhere. A small space and music. He tells us to start picking tunes and it’s like a shrimpfest going on in there. Sensory overload of awesome. I’m hanging with a Telluride DJ, drinking wine out of a coffee cup, and helping choose the music that is going on the radio.

Exhibit B.

Exhibit B.

For three hours, this is my life. FUUUUUCK YES. Writer’s gold. How many people can say they wrangled their way onto a radio station in a strange town?

I ask him to show me how he works the controls – for future story knowledge – and select The Velvet Underground as my first song.

Cut to later at night when I realize I have a CD from Parker Millsap in the car. Mister Millsap is a singer/songwriter from Oklahoma who I interviewed about a month ago (interview to be published in December). I goddamn adore his music and what better way to spread it than on the radio? Hey, I’m a pimp, okay?

So I slip into my husky voice and the DJ puts on the tune and I introduce the song. Boom! Parker Millsap blowing your minds out in Telluride.

You can watch the clip of me introducing the song and trying to be suave afterwards. Please note, it’s my first time ever on the radio. It’s not my forte to speak off the cuff. I’m proud I didn’t gag like Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

fffff

Instead I just got all giggly and silly. So enjoy the herp derp moments.

*If you’re reading this blog while you’re drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage, take a sip every time there’s a Point Break reference.

POINT BREAK!

Take drink #1, bitches.

Take drink #1, bitches.

 

So it comes as no surprise that I am no fan of manual labor. In fact, it is uncharacteristic of me to participate in aerobic exercise or any sort of fast movement. Really, just roll me to the fridge in my desk chair.

However, last weekend I branched out. While in glorious San Diego, CA I took a surfing lesson. The FBI didn’t pay me to. I’ve always wanted to surf. Maybe it’s because of Annette Funicello or seeing Point Break too many times; either way, I decided to do it.

 

Just as long as Keanu Reeves wasn't there.

Just as long as Keanu Reeves wasn’t there.

 

I wasn’t nervous about sharks or not being able to master the wave. The most nerve-wracking thing about the whole ordeal was trying to put on a wet suit.

After much wiggling and frantic hopping, I was suited up. I was assigned a surf instructor who had a very non-surfer name: Carl. However, Carl did have the typical surf body and all was quickly forgiven.

 

See these lines? SEE THEM?

See these lines? SEE THEM?

 

At first Carl seemed all business as we practiced on dry land.

 

Carl:  “Surfing is just like riding a skateboard…”

Me: “Never done it.”

Carl: “Okay, well, what about a scooter?”

Me: “Nope.”

Carl: “Boogieboarding?”

Me:  “Negative.”

Carl: “…”

Me: “Dude, I’m 30. I’m not expecting much.”

Carl: “Let’s just get back to business.”

 

Man, I couldn’t even crack a smile.

[Side note: The most disheartening thing in life is when I can’t make you laugh. If I can’t make you laugh then I consider myself unsuccessful. Either that or you’re a robot, ROBOT.]

Anyway.

After semi-mastering moving my limbs into positions long lost on me we ventured into the ocean.

I didn’t stand up right away. But I did work on Carl. Carl began to warm up as I successfully managed to toss in a few Point Break references that earned me a smile. Imagine me saying, “God forbid I surf like Keanu Reeves!” and then tossing my head back to give a throaty laugh while running a hand through my snarled curls.

Imagine.

In time, Carl he became pretty chatty. He chuckled. Made a few quips of his own. I was pleased.

 

Mr. Burns Pleased.

Mr. Burns Pleased.

 

Jokes aside, I practiced my surf skill, appalled and not pleased as seven-year-olds hopped on their boards and stood with ease. I’ll admit it. I was jealous. Oh, to have the lightness and spunk of a child.

 

I gave them the finger behind their backs.

I gave them the finger behind their backs.

 

My very first try I fell off the board and jammed my arm on the bottom of the ocean floor. It tweaked my elbow but I pushed through. I must have operated on sheer adrenaline because for the entire session it didn’t hurt. I pressed up, slid my knees and stood. And fell. And repeat.

I held my arms up too high (thanks, Hollywood), I didn’t keep my eyes on the beach, I kept glancing back at my instructor for approval. I wasn’t too frustrated though. I didn’t have high hopes for myself. I knew I wouldn’t be a regular Johnny Utah but was still psyched to be out in the waves and trying something new.

And yet, through all this, the mistakes, the seaweed, the salty water in my mouth, idiot kids screaming “Shark!, I eventually did it.

 

This counts as standing.

This counts as standing.

 

As the session wound down, so did my upper body strength. My god, I worked muscles I didn’t know I had. I could barely press myself up on the last few waves.  When we wrapped up, the trek to shore was a sweet relief.

Surfing is a sport/hobby I’ll do again. You pay for it the next day with crippled limbs and thighs, but it’s totally worth it, dude.

Somewhere, out there, Patrick Swayze is giving me a slow clap.

 

"I swear to god Keanu, you ask me to spell "cat" one more time..."

“I swear to god Keanu, you ask me how to spell “cat” one more time…”

This summer, my husband and I have a pact.

 

No, not that kind of pact.

No, not that kind of pact.

 

We have a pact to travel through Arizona and see the sights. Road trips to cities like Payson, Flagstaff, Sonoita, etc. Our state – every state – has those fun, unique getaways and you should see them, damn it.

Whenever I take a road trip I always wonder two things: 1) Where is the nearest prison? 2) Where is the closest cemetery?

This weekend we decided to head down to Biosphere 2, located in Oro Valley, AZ.

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I’ll tell you in advance that I’ve never seen Bio-Dome so you’ll be spared many Pauly Shore jokes.

Apologies all around.

Apologies all around.

I’ve always wanted to visit Biosphere 2  ever since I was a little girl and read about the Biospherians living in those self-contained domes. Back then a 10-year-old Jules’ thoughts probably were: “Habitats are cool.” “What food can they eat?” “Are they scared in the dark?”

Well, yesterday, 30-year-old Jules’s thoughts were: “Did anyone bone each other?” “Did they have to murder their own animals?” “Were they allowed wine? Because if not, goddamn it.”

"Go, world, go!"

“Go, world, go!”

The grounds of Biosphere 2 were so peaceful. Gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains. Little habitats set up that reminded me of some hedonist community. Instantly, I wanted to live there. We joined a group of 30 people and watched a video that oddly glossed over the awkward reason why the Biospherians exited the Biosphere. I still do not know. It was like the people living in the community were a black mark. No one really wanted to mention them. It was odd.

 

It was because of the interior decorating.

It was because of the interior decorating.

 

The video also stressed the importance of science. DUH.

From there we traveled to five different habitats: Savannah, Ocean, Tropical rainforest, Mangrove wetlands, and Fog desert.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

 

 

The coolest was the rainforest habitat. It monitors the current rainforest temperature in South America, so what we felt was true atmosphere on the other side of the world.  The earth was blowing my mind.

Everything else was enjoyable.

Except for the doomsday tour guide, who would issue warnings like this:

“This is a strenuous workout. Many, many stairs and habitats. If you feel faint, tell me.”

Wait what?

Then there was this classic –

“Now, keep to the left on this hallway. When you come to the grate on the floor, do not step on it. I repeat, it is imperative that you DO NOT step on it. Make sure to duck and lift your feet when you come to the door and then you’ll descend at a steep incline into this tunnel, which you will need to conform your body to a 90 degree right angle…”

Holy overload. Instructions with the fear of impending death or agony are too much to follow.  I’m naturally prone to mishaps so I kept picturing stepping on the grate and setting off alarms around the Biosphere 2.

But in the end, everything went well. I didn’t step on the grate and we were led into this room.

In movies, this is the murder room.

In movies, this is the murder room.

After a demonstration that involved screaming and air pressure (don’t ask, because I don’t know) we headed outside, passed a structure that sounded like a dirty oral sex act (a Falaj?) and the tour ended in the hot and sweaty desert. The trip was fun. Worth it, sure. I’ll admit I was a little bit disappointed because for some reason I had expected the opportunity to frolic in the habitats, instead of just inspecting them from handrails.

But I get it. I shouldn’t trample the ecosystems.

I’m glad I went. I’m smarter. Better for going. I have a new understanding for our world and seeing science and research in progress was pretty damn cool. And so, I took the opportunity to thank it in style.

 

"I love earth."

“I love earth.”

Ah, Montana. That land of the free and home of the brave. Or buffalo. Or odd water fountain signs.

Or something like that.

Or something like that.

I haven’t been home in two years and on a semi-spur of the moment decision last week I decided to get my Arizona ass up there.  Up to the land of my people. Rough hewn cursers and tobacco chewers. PBR and Hamm’s. Antlers and guns. I am from this world. And I love it.

I used to live there. But now I just visit it.

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With abandon. Visits to my family typically involve food, booze, and a lot of laughing and cursing. I tried to cram as much as I could into a five-day visit.

And as can be expected, shenanigans were had.

The Airport, The Trip

I did not spy any wrinkly elbows like my last time here but you can always recognize the folks going back to Montana. Camo, cowboy hats and bejeweled tees, oh my.

Oh my, indeed.

Oh my, indeed.

Once on the plane, I ordered a drink and finished up Hell’s Angels by HST. Halfway through, I realized I was mumbling to myself about Cassady and Kerouac as I sipped a bloody Mary, while the woman next to me read the bible and typed up Psalms on her iPad.

Traveling the right way.

It was…awkward.

My sister, Chrissy, and her boyfriend were there to greet me at the airport. They whisked me away for a delicious sushi dinner at Asian Sea Grill. When we got back to my sister’s house I was given the most precious gift I could ever have wanted.

A raccoon penis.

“We got you something,” The sister said.

Her boyfriend held it out to me. “Guess what this—”

“IT’S A PENIS!” I roared, snatching it away.

They were baffled. I was proud to have recognized the appendage.

As you can see this penis clearly resembles a J. It’s a J-Boner. And I shall make a necklace of it.

"Just the tip."

“Just the tip.”

The Garage/The House

When we all get together at my dad’s house we hang out in the garage and in the kitchen. Things get wilder than Lindsay Lohan’s cocaine eyes on a Saturday night. Beer, food and beer pong is the typical MO.

And my dad’s garage is amazing. It’s a true man cave. This is where everyone hangs out. Not the house or the living room. We’re in the garage, bitches. You can’t take a picture in the garage without being photo bombed by a naked chick.

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I didn’t do it.

And what a garage it is.

And what a garage it is.

It has an A/C and a heater and a stove and three fridges. The only thing missing is a toilet. But I bet we’ll get that soon.

and did I mention a shit ton of alcohol?

and did I mention a shit ton of alcohol?

Cooking dinner takes place in the actual house and my sister and I manage to make it an elaborate affair.

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223

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Dinner got out of control fast.

Dinner got out of control fast.

So we ate. Then it was a beer pong face-off. Words are not needed.

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The Sister

My little sister who uses the word “gal” with a frequency I’ve never heard is a doll-face, blue-eyed…gal. We can make any situation fun. If I’m on a desert island I’d want her there, not only for the laughs, but for the possible cannibalization factor.

But I digress…

FACT: We went to an antique store and caused trouble. But they were asking for it. On a table they had block stickers spelling out H-A-R-T-S. This is not how hearts is spelled. Strike one. Strike two – you’re just setting it up for us to spell SHART with that ill-spelled combination.

You just got shart attacked.

You just got shart attacked.

Needless to say many shart references were made the entire trip.

FACT: We took a road trip to Powell, Wyoming to see The Mother.

"You call those mountains, Wyoming? Fuck you."

“You call those mountains, Wyoming? Fuck you.”

The sister, mother and I met at a coffee shop called Uncommon Grounds, which seemed fitting since when the three of us get together it can be slightly crazed.

This sign's advice did not bode well.

This sign’s advice did not bode well

But I 80% jest. It was a great trip. I dug seeing the town where my mom lives and her college. She’s a baller.

After making our mark on the city…

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Screening a phone call from my grandmother… (side note: the last time my grandmother and I spoke she called me chubby and I called my mommy to be soothed.)…

MY mother gave us a tour around her apartment, the tiny campus and led us through many, many alleyways. The woman has a healthy obsession with alleyways as do I. Nothing good can come from them.

She's plotting our alleyway shankings.

You’d never know it but she’s plotting our alleyway shankings.

Fact:  We stopped at the Little Cowboy Bar and Museum in Fromberg, MT.

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Swinging the front door open, five old men swiveled their heads our way, judging whether “our kind” was right for their bar. Grudgingly, they nodded their assent and we entered, giddy to be accepted into their barland.

A gorgeous old gal named Shirley Smith with Dolly Parton nails and Liz Taylor hair seemed delighted when we asked to tour the museum. She led us back to a dust filled room full of cowboy thangs, which included alien fetuses.

This is a face of fear.

This is a face of fear.

After our tour, we sidled up to the bar and ordered two Coronas. My sister tried to sweet talk a dear old man and I think the women’s restroom was clearly and exceptionally marked.

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“Sir, you look in need of a good time.”

"This is the women's restroom, correct?"

“This is the women’s restroom, correct?”

Fact: We ate and drank at Uber Brew. Montana has good beer. And what better place to get it than a delicious brewery. But the main reason for choosing Uber Brew wasn’t the beer. It was the cheese crunchies, bitches.

Behold my glistening beauty.

Behold my glistening beauty.

I’ve never heard of this sandwich anywhere other than Billings. A grilled cheese sandwich that’s dipped in mayonnaise (I think) and then deep fat fried. All you get from this sandwich is third degree burns and a healthy case of guilt. But it’s so worth it.

The Father

My dad proved how much he loves me by spending one afternoon driving around and looking for Schlitz. Why? you’re asking. Well, because I have always wanted to try this beer. I write about it in stories and hear it referenced. It’s research, damn it.

My grandmother, dad and I piled in the car one bright day. “Where are we going?” I had asked.

“South side,” dad grunted. “I’m taking you down where the Schlitz drinkers live.” I dug fingernails into my palms to keep from whimpering.

Now the south side is the part of town that everyone refers to as, “across the train tracks”. You know you’re in a good part of town when every window has bars on it.

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In the end we couldn’t find any original Schlitz. Instead, like all good fathers, my dad brought me back Colt .45 and Schlitz High Gravity.

Fancy cans for such shitty beer.

Fancy cans for such shitty beer.

My dad is the only person I can talk with about hutterites and boiling skulls. He’s learned me well. And though it’s a shame I see him far too often, nothing can beat the times I have when I’m there. (Collective AWWWW, everyone).

He’s really pissing. But he makes it look good.

He’s really pissing. But he makes it look good.

And so, that concludes just a fraction of my trip pictorial.

But I’ll be back. I’ll be back and I’ll find a real Schlitz. Montana would have it no other way.

December 25, 2012 was kept very secularist, suckers. No garland, no presents, the only fat man I encountered was the one sitting next to me. And let me tell you, the only acceptable fat person is John Goodman.

Hey baby, turn that frown upside down.

Hey baby, turn that frown upside down.

But getting back to the blog at hand…

Christmas Day, I was on a plane. The husband was gnawing on a cheese platter in the seat next to me and there was some movie playing where Ashton Kutcher wears the same pair of pajamas in every damn scene.

Someone get the poor guy a wardrobe.

Someone get the poor guy a wardrobe.

In a spur of the moment decision, the husband and I decided to eschew the typical “family” Christmas plans and book a trip to Ireland. I am now a world traveler. I’ve never been overseas before and I now realize there are two phrases that should always be uttered on overseas vacations: Emilio Estevez and the perfect storm.

No relation between the two.

Or is there?

The bow tie is code for "the perfect storm".

The bow tie is code for “the perfect storm”.

Because this blog post will get out of control pretty damn quick, kinda like my bowels on a hot Saturday night, I’m going to break this down nice and easy into a three-part extravaganza. Just how your mom likes it.

The Sights

When I travel I must take in the sights. Museums. Scenery. Hobos in dumpsters. Stuff like that. Hotel be damned, I will not stay in it long. I will wake you from a good night’s sleep so we can ramble the town. I will slip you energy drinks. And I’ll especially jump on the bed if you try to nap.

The Gresham on O’Connell Street was our lodging and it was very nice with its pointed toilet paper tips and heated towel rack.

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Eff yes.

Eff yes.

A week before the trip I made a super-sweet itinerary and kept it carefully tucked away in my super-serious planner.

I shit you not. I carried this folder halfway across the world

I shit you not. I carried this folder halfway across the world

First thought scouring the city: Man, I love how old things are just lying around in Ireland.

Everything I saw was a lesson in giddiness. Shit’s old, people. Damn. I always knew that…but having never been overseas before and only traveling here in America one just experiences buildings/culture from the 1700s, so it really blows your freaking mind to see buildings from Jesus Times.

Here’s a brief recap of the sights we saw…

Kilmainham Gaol

One of the largest jails in Europe, used during the 1780s to the 1920s, this tour really helped us get a sense of Irish history. Sobering history and what gorgeous lines on this jail.

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any time there’s a glory hole I’m taking full advantage

any time there’s a glory hole I’m taking full advantage

The Guinness Storehouse

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The tour started off with me going up to an Irish guide.

Me: “Excuse me, I would like a map.”

Guide: “What language?”

Me: “In American, please.”

Guide: “You mean English?”

Me: “That is correct, sir.”

Firstly, this is why you do not take me overseas.

Secondly, GIVE ME MORE GUINNESS NOW.

Over here in the US, I never cared for Guinness. But in Ireland…oh baby. I drank that dark foamy beer more than my husband. Thick, creamy and just made for a scoop of ice cream, I’ll never get that true Irish taste out of my mind.

And my mouth.

And my mouth.

Plus, how can you NOT love a company where Rutger Hauer was a goddamn spokesman.

Dear god, run.

Dear god, run.

Thirdly, I guess what I’m saying is the Guinness Factory was delicious. Especially the 360 degree views at the Gravity Bar.

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Dublinia – the Viking Museum

The Vikings settled Dublin. Did you know that? Yeah, well, neither did I, until we took the tour of Dublinia. We started off with a tour of Viking family life, with my husband wolfishly uttering, “Oh, you’d have so many kids by now…”

Moving on.

It surprised me to learn that Dublinia means “Dark pool of water”, especially since that’s what I call it when I lose control of my bladder.

Basically, this museum was super cool and gave many ripe photo opportunities for me to wear my pouty-face. As evidenced below.

SHE DEAD.

SHE DEAD.

"MY TRAVEL ADVISOR TOLD ME THIS WAS LEGAL!!!"

“MY TRAVEL ADVISER TOLD ME THIS WAS LEGAL!!!”

"No, YOU'RE the man."

“No, YOU’RE the man.”

Churches

I am not a religious person. But I love touring old churches. The history, the beauty, the corpses buried beneath floorboards…

"Hey! Jon Swift! Sup, buddy?"

“Hey! Jon Swift! Sup, buddy?”

We stopped into two of the more famous ones – St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral.

This is my how-I-look-when-enter-a-church face.

This is my how-I-look-when-enter-a-church face.

Words can’t really describe these.

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Just…beauty and epic, epic history. Thank god Henry VIII wasn’t the prick that he was and burned these to the ground. It really made me wish I had a better understanding of art history so I knew the difference between medieval and gothic architecture. Instead I just ended up calling everything a flying buttress and snickering silently in a corner.

BONUS.

Cliffs of Moher

I’ll admit it. My first thought was – I wonder how many people commit suicide here, HERPDEPRWHAT? After a stern scowl from the Husband I decided to NOT ask the question. It was difficult and later that night Wikipedia helped me out with the answer. (4 suicides in 2008)

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But I digress…yay, prettiness!

DAMN YOU, WIND

DAMN YOU, WIND

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The bus ride to the cliffs did not bode well.

The bus ride to the cliffs did not bode well.

Corcomroe Abbey

Give me a graveyard and I am a happy girl.

I could seriously make out with our tour bus driver for stopping at this Abbey. This 13th-century Cistercian monastery is the oldest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was beautiful. We stopped as dusk was falling and it was complete with that old eerie feeling.

Probably one of my majorly favorite parts of the trip.

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The Signs

I fucking love street art.

As mentioned in last year’s San Diego blog post, I’m a sucker for signs. I see something on the street corner (no, not that call girl) and I’ll snap a shot. This usually ends with my husband being five blocks ahead of me as I mutter to myself and frantically hurry to catch up with him…

I always take a camera to the bathroom for pics like this:

Spiral flavored?

Spiral flavored?

GOOD GOD YES

TOO MUCH PUNNY

TOO MUCH PUNNY

Even in Ireland I couldn’t escape the Kardashian’s

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Reminded me of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters

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Pretty Ballerina

Bansky?

Bansky?

Making me proud, Ireland

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Book depot on the street,

Book depot on the street.

This toilet was mine

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The name of this drink deserves a medal

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CANNOT. STOP. LAUGHING.

TRAPPED WIND.

TRAPPED WIND.

I hope you enjoyed me shoving Dublin down your throat. Believe me, that is not a euphemism…as much as I’d like it to be.

Coming up next week…The people, friends, and sweatpants of Ireland.

 Until recently, I’ve been a no-means-no type of person.

Well, except when it comes to cake. Or wine. Or when it comes to trapping cats in laundry baskets because, c’mon, that shit’s just hilarious.

Admit it. You laughed.

But back to the no.

 Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that BY GOD THESE PLANS MUST NOT BE RUINED. It’s just that I hate having plans. I’d rather wing my free days. I hate commitment. I hate wearing pants. I hate exhausting the energy to plan stuff…and move around in some sort of movement-thingy-motion. I’d rather lie on my office floor and let that cat lick my eyelids. That’s a lot more fun than picking out window treatments.

[side note: when you’re choosing blinds and  staring at window selections named "fudge truffle" and "tranquil tea" you’ll very soon want to strangle yourself with the pull-cord.]

I do like a set schedule. I like to come home during the week and do my thing. I like free weekends. And I realize I’m contradicting myself. But weekdays are for the ordinary and weekends are for me. That’s an apt summary. Now…this brings us to the writing bit. Sundays are my day to write. Try to ruin my carefully laid writing plans and I’ll cut you. This is one thing I stick to faithfully (not the cutting thing but the writing thing). I’ll cancel your birthday before I give up my writing day.

But not really. You have cake.

Okay, so now we get to the part where I become a better person or AKA: My point.

Lately, I’ve been trying to see things in a new light. If I have to do something or an opportunity creates itself, instead of moaning and whining, I’ll take it. For example, I’m not a fan of travelling for work. Sure, it’s fine. But I get homesick; I miss my husband and my cats and my writing schedule. But I can do it. And I do. When I’m there I rock it. 

Like this. I rock it like this.

I use my travel to write disgusting blog posts. Travel’s the best part about all of this. Absorbing the atmosphere, learning the language, meeting new people. Whenever I travel I look at it as sweet, delicious knowledge.

Yet life isn’t always about travelling and sweet, sweet blow up penises. I’m a brave person but sometimes situations or persons I’m not familiar with can sometimes make me uncomfortable. Such is life. Bad stuff has happened. It happens to everyone. For myself, being able to think about it, take a step back, and put it to good use, makes me feel better about it, makes me feel in control. I can turn it into something positive.

For example, last week, I was followed to my car in broad daylight by a possibly shady character. I got courage of the not-liquid-but-I’ll-kick-your-ass-variety and warded it off, whatever it could have been.  Nothing happened. But you know what they say about possibilities.

Anyway. The thing I took away from it was that I was angry. And that it scared me. Yet becasuse of that now I know a true physical and emotional reaction of a scary and hopefully isolated scenario.  Did I want it to happen? No. And sure, I could write about this scenario without experiencing it but it happened. I now have the memory in this synaptic-firing brain. So I use it. I’ll log it away. I’ll pimp the shit out of it when I need to write and relate.

Now I’m not saying go out and slash some tires and get your ass tossed in jail. Although, think of the stories…

We’ll laugh about this later.

I’m just saying, every new/different/odd/(even) bad situation has potential. Use reverse psychology of the writerly variety. We’re voyeurs. We have to observe.

Put together your writer’s toolkit. I truly believe in the write-what you DON’T know notion (because imagination is fucking bliss) BUT experiencing the different and the abnormal can be a good thing too.  The more experiences you have as a writer, the more authenticity you CAN give to your writing. You don’t have to. Hell, I wrote a story about a diver based on pure research and someone asked me if I dived in college. And yet the only diving experience I have is with bars.

My drinking motto lives on.

I never dived in my life. I’m a poser. I LIED. But it worked, suckers. Imagination is a truly wonderful thing.

But so is living.

Lucky you get to choose both.

In July, my friend and I took a special visit to a magical land called Palm Springs. The Ace Hotel was our lodging for the two days we were there and it truly did not let us down. Neither did the characters and contraptions we stumbled upon. It made for instant writer fodder. Tales were spun in this fiendish brain. Characters were met and I couldn’t resist logging them down into righteous history.

Allow me to present…

Special Ed

Now I wish I had a photo of this girl because, sweet baby J, she was amazing.

Imagine a cross between Dorothy Hamill, the body of an Olympic swimmer and face of a small planetary moon. This is the only appropriate way to describe her. And I’m sorry if it’s not politcally correct, but I’m not politically correct, and that is my only disclaimer.

Tagging along with a bachelorette party, she was THAT girl. That one girl you just know the bride’s mother had made her invite. The female-version of Zack Galifianakis in The Hangover.

But to her credit this girl hit on every man in the pool. She set her sights on a sweet military kid, stroking his arm (“Are you from Army?”) and flirting until he excused himself and escaped to the bar.

I mean hell. This girl flirted like a pro. A PRO. And good for her. I say, good for Special Ed.

But we haven’t gotten to the best part of her skilled moves. There was the face. The face she’d pull on all the guys. That thousand-yard-let’s-fuck-but-wait-what?-stare.

Allow me to demonstrate ‘the face’. (Yes, I practiced this in the wilderness of my most recent camping trip).

I shit you not.

The girl literally haunts my dreams and waking nightmares. I wonder what Special Ed’s doing right now. I imagine that her name is Molly. And that we’re secretly best friends.

The Sandwich

I dropped my sandwich on the floor of the diner and ate it. Yes. You heard me correctly. I scooped it back up in front of about ten other people and promptly devoured it.

This is the sandwhich in question.

This is the face of a dirty-floor-sandwich-eater.

Big Gay Dance Party

Friday night The Ace held (and we stumbled upon) the most swinging party around. The Big Gay Dance Party –was $45 a head (pun intended), benefitting the Southwest Center for Aids, and we happily ponied up the dough.

And then some.

And all for a good cause, we met amazing drag queens, drank sub-par Chardonnay and danced our gay asses off.

DJ Mike

DJ Mike was simply put a DJ. Sadly, he was no Magic Mike.

But this guy was.

DJ Mike played good tunes.

He was also insanely angry.

The Big Gay Dance Party was in full swing, plastic beach balls being lobbed and bobbed over heads when one bounced over to DJ Mike, hitting his equipment.

Ahem, DJ equipment.

Ahem, his turntables.

In an instant, with the fierce intensity of a stabby person, DJ Mike grabbed up the beach ball and popped it. An audible gasp went through the crowd.

HULK SMASH

But then he played “Call Me Maybe” and we all forgot about it and raved on.

The Record Player

It was the selling point of the room. Yes, the Ace Hotel includes a super sweet record player in every humble abode (Swoon). Jazzed about this, I had dutifully brought along a few choice albums – The Doors, Elton John and Aerosmith.

The first thing I did when entering the room was turn that bad boy on.

Well, tried to at least.

The instructions had me befuddled. SAYWHAAANOW??

The instructions called for attaching wires to rods and all sorts of manual work I am not experienced with nor do I want to be. An hour into it – Michele opening the wine – I finally broke down and rang housekeeping. I was exasperated. I needed help.

Yeah. Thanks a lot, assholes.

But most of all I was frustrated. Vinyl is my one true love and not being able to start record machine was sheer agony.

So they sent someone from tech. A big brutish guy who did not look in the slightest happy to be there. I waited. Waited for him to connect thingies and when he bent over he simply pressed the play button.

It started.

He left and I wailed.

I follow instructions to a goddamn T and they did not make themselves useful.

Mortification set in.

I have a record player at home. I break that thing in half.

I stand by my word – the instructions said to connect wires. CONNECT WIRES PEOPLE.

(someone validate me. someone. somewhere).

Ogre Girl

And the last one on our list is Ogre Girl.

This was another divine delight at the Big Gay Dance Party. Ogre Girl was a six foot tall drink of water with a body like a brick shithouse. She plundered through the dance floor, arms skimming air, mashing people out of the way. Imagine Will Ferrell in Old School, drunkenly shoving co-eds out of the way with brute (AKA drunken) strength.

If I had moves like Ogre Girl accompanied by the rock-solid body, you can bet your ass I’d be hauling a mule-cart in Siberia somewhere.

 

That’s my wrap-up. The breakdown of The Ace hotel. People watching, check. Amazingness, check. Half-naked men, check. It’s a writer’s dream all wrapped up in one lazy weekend.

Get out your bear skins and prepare the Montana Bananas because this blog post is all about a little thing I love to call “camping”.

Ok, so everyone calls it camping. Jerks.

Everything I learned about this great hobby (is this a sport yet Olympics?!) I learned from my dad.

My dad is awesome.

The great father is a cross between Jeff Bridges and a mountain man at its finest. He’s taught me many things in life; probably the best and most important have been (in no particular order): camping, fishing and swearing like a sailor (thanks dad!).

From the time I was a wee child, swigging watered-down apple juice like a baller, I was camping.

Nature is amazing, bitches.

My parents would let me climb on rocks and frolic in the wilderness (probably in the hopes that I’d be carried off by a mountain lion but that’s another story).

“Now drink the juice and just forget…”

Every summer my father would pack up me and my little sister and we’d hit the forest. Out in the Montana wild it’s beauty and awe. Nothing compares to Red Lodge or Cooke City or Forest Lake.

Bask in my beauty.

We would rough it too. I’m a true Montanan – I can go for days without a shower, sleep on the hard ground and chop wood with the best of them.

My dad taught me well. Even today I make him proud (hi dad!). At least in the camping realm. On the “lady-like” front I can’t speak to that.

Exhibit A.

So this weekend, my husband and I packed up our cache and hit the road for Flagstaff, AZ. Arizona may seem un-campable but up north are great little forest areas that could almost, almost, be mistaken for Montana.

Squint hard.

I have three requirements for camping:

-books

I call this the “Blair Witch” pose.

-music

-wine

The dynamic duo.

Sometimes I require a fire, but this being dry Arizona, fires are prohibited so sadly, we were unable to start one. I can make an exception. One other thing I do when camping is I always compare it to camping with my dad – something that I’m sure makes my husband want to throttle me.

“My dad always starts a fire. He doesn’t need gasoline.”

“We always would fish when we camped with my dad.”

“MY DAD IS BETTER THAN YOU. NEENER NEENER.”

So we arrived. And wearing my lucky Outsiders t-shirt…

We set up camp…

From this…

…to this

I had a glass of wine while the husband toiled with pitching a tent. I made a makeshift paper towel holder. Classing up the forest one day at a time.

The time on my hands astounds me.

From there we went on a walk where we stumbled upon the cutest horny toad. I really wanted to pick this little guy up and put him in my pocket.

All together now, “Awwwww…”

Eventually we settled in for the day/night. I discovered a few things in my newest camping attempt. Peeing in the woods is impossible when you’re on the GODDAMN ARIZONA TRAIL.

This is not the correct way to pee in the woods. I repeat IT IS NOT.

Yes. We camped right on the main trail where every 10 minutes hikers and bikers would come traipsing through. This resulted in a Jules, pants down around her ankles, scouring the forest, only in mid-pee have to yank said pants back on.

Now, as mentioned in an earlier post, I can shit/pee in the woods with the best of men. In fact, it was my stepmom who showed me the correct way to do this. I just do the P90X squat, with my back against the tree, and pray to baby Jesus that a spider doesn’t go skittering down my backside.

Tony Horton would be proud.

From there…more wine was poured, the music came on and I whipped up a delicious dinner of blue cheese burgers, beans and creamed corn.

Order up, mofos.

We lounged in chairs like sultans and enjoyed the beauty of the forest. Although I must say, drinking wine and watching mountain bikers drive by and their stares of envy was a bit intimidating since they were working out and I was not. I felt guilty.

I lied. I don’t feel guilty.

Darkness descended. There ensued the bright idea of trying to map the stars and constellations using only my phone and my drunken knowledge. I traipsed through the woods. Walking tipsy in flip flops was probably not the best idea but it worked out for the best. I found the big dipper – a third grade rookie move – and promptly called it quits.

The best part of the trip came at about 10pm. The coyotes started their howling.

LISTEN HERE

It was all sorts of creepy, majestic wonder, making me realize that whenever I’m out in the secluded woods at night is usually the precise moment I start to regret my love of horror movies.

I regret it so hard.