Phase Three – Turning Matter to Liquid

Today I woke up at 5:30 AM, threw on a bikini after getting some morning doggie-love and walked out the door. Working my way to OB (Ocean Beach), I got stuck behind a man being pulled on a skateboard by his dog. Traffic these days.
A few hours later, work lead me to a spot where I could walk barefoot in the grass and then an hour after that, to spend some time at the beach in Coronado for some fun reading and writing. Continuing on, I got to to meet cool people through driving for rideshare (so fun but pay is shit) and hit a lot of my beloved spots in San Diego. I also worked out, met half of my minimum earnings goal for the day and handled all my other business, all before noon. Not every day is as on point (not even close) but this particular day is an example of how much closer my life has come to hitting it’s stride.

Yeah, things are going good. More than good and boy did I luck out with the roomie/pal for this stint in the country who you were introduced to in my last post, Jewels. Also with her lovely pups and awesome pad. Perfect location, style and in the rare moments I’m not working, we have a blast. Not too surprising considering how much we already knew to be in common. It’s also a relief to finally have my whole family together and heart-warming to think about how we’ve never been closer. Yes, my super sweet mom still drives me bananas. Last but not least, I’m also seeing my honorary sisters-pals more. Score.

Until really thinking about the details, I thought that all of this meant that I was at the beginning of year three. In reality it’s only been two years, four months and eleven days since I lost my pup. In other words, the moment that changed everything. What’s really going on is that I’ve entered the third stage, not year, of this Digital Nomad lifestyle. Wow. Third stage. I’m really in now.

The first was when I broke down my old life and got rid of not only my belongings but also my ego. Remember that? Ouch. I said no to a couple good job offers even though broke and most of the people in my life, not to mention the universe, seemed to be against what I was doing. Thank God for discovering the healing and support of Burning Man. Now a main focus in my life. Just got back from my third burn, BTW. Expect those posts next. Oh yeah, baby. Oh yeah.

Stage two: finally starting to travel. That happened when finally jetting off overseas to Thailand the first time and locking the train onto it’s track in terms of career, travel and The Burn. Graduating to that step meant that it was time to dive into the world and accept all the hot-mess that came with it. It’s a good thing that I was that so gung-ho when leaving for Phuket the first time or I never would have had the tenacity to keep going once I got there and reality kicked in. Originally adamant that I was going to move there, it only took me a couple days to realize (more like finally to stop being stubborn and admit) that I had no idea what I was doing. Also that I’m not the type to travel the world without money or without needing a few days here and there in nicer places in order to stay rested, balanced and sane. Also that I should probably get around the entire world before committing to one place (duh) and that my lifestyle will likely continue be too fluid to commit to anything for quite some time. The most unexpected lesson I have learned is that I will probably experience more cultural immersion through other travelers and expats than locals. Makes sense now, don’t it.

That brings me to where I am today. The people in my life believe in me now. They help, love and support me. That’s how I got to this burn. My burner bud, Brigit, refused to allow me to accept defeat and helped me figure it out. Even my much more mainstream sis stepped up to help make it happen with comments about how proud she is of me. *tear*

The new roomie, Jewels, being both fun-loving and nurturing, has been the newest and strongest constant source of great support. Not to forget the folks and my pals Juliette, Wren (RIP), Bonnie, Chris and, once again, Brigit and Aaron, who helped me figure everything out when I was stranded in Thailand. SHOUT OUT!

It’s hard, if not impossible, to do it all without the help of others. That being said, it’s my time to graduate up. Pay off old debts and make sure I have a better pad before leaving again. Also enough income coming in when I’m overseas. Fingers crossed that an online ESL teaching gig I just landed works out. I’ll keep you posted.

Moving forward, travel plans have changed from visiting friends in France and Barcelona for a few weeks this summer to a few months in Central and South America starting in February. Who really knows, though. Fluid, baby. See? I’m learning!

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Road Trip! New Pals, Wine and Dog-Loving Along the California Coast.

Jewels and I had known each other for a couple years via Facebook when realizing that we were both a part of the same San Diego beach community, Ocean Beach, and had graduated on the same day from the same school. Her with her masters and me with my BA. Finally. Without ever having met, she had offered me a place to stay if/when ever needed during the time that I was stranded during the ‘ol pickpocket incident in Ko Phi Phi. After that, when I started thinking about my plan for where I was going to crash back at home for the summer, I thought it good karma to give her first shot at some extra cash. Something that, having lived on her own in her (I was soon to find out) amazing pad for years, she was a little nervous about but still gave an excited yes! On a weekly trial period, of course. Perfect for the life of a digital nomad.

Back in the Bay a week or two later I was getting excited for departure finally closing in but also a bit bummed about doing another trip alone. On a whim, it dawned on me that she just may want to join. Something that proved to be true when I asked as a similar trip she had been planning fell through. As it turned out, we also had both being going through hell with things that had recently happened to loved ones. We were in the right zone to feed our souls and recover while sprinkling in some fun. It was certainly feeling like one of those serendipitous moments where people are brought into each other’s lives for a reason.

When pulling up to the Oakland airport, I instantly knew it was the right decision when spotting her at the curb in her floppy hat, cutoff shorts and shirt that read “Fuck it ⚓️ Let’s Drink”. Driving up, my expectations had already surpassed as I jumped out of the car for a big hug before hitting the road with instant laughter as she told the story of her rad flight with drinks, a cute dog and a handsome man. Oh yeah. We were on our way.

Hitting the road directly to Napa Valley, it was time for wine. And a lot of pictures with dogs everywhere we went. Crazy dog-ladies unite!

After conspiring to turn Jewels into my freelance assistant in order to work the perks angle of my writing for a luxury lifestyle magazine at home in San Diego, we made a quick stop at Robert Mondavi Winery (nice venue though too commercial for our taste) before making it to a spot that was expecting us down the street by the name of Peju Province Winery. Proving to be much more in line with what we were looking for, both the grounds and interior offered a unique and creative atmosphere with a Pinocchioesque style building (as the friend who had taken me the month before described) with a beauty and uniqueness that radiated through design and art both inside and on the grounds. All details that make it one of the wineries I eagerly recommend in the region.

With tastings by invitation only, we should have known better, but were quickly misbehaving by jumping into the property’s focal point, a fountain, behind a sign expressly asking not to do so with a fun group from Texas who were regulars. Love me a bad influence.

After tasting some good wine there, Jewels, in honor of being an interested horticulturist, got the lowdown from a long-time older gentleman filling her in on the detailed history of the beautiful and unique plant life at the end, of which, we enjoyed a greatly entertaining “drop the mic” moment when he turned abruptly once done and unexpectedly walked away. Adding even more to that moment of entertainment, his turning around to repeat after our giggled comments that, yes, he had indeed dropped the mic.

Moving on to V. Sattui Winery, (another nod to the same friend, Renee, for the intro) not far down the road, we tasted wine and shopped in their gourmet marketplace full of fancy cheeses (a weakness for us both) and other deliciously fancy options that can easily add up to a worthy picnic to be enjoyed on their ample grassy grounds. Something we took full advantage of until the day started to slip away. Looking for a place to witness one of her beloved sunsets, something I’m sad to say we didn’t end up finding, we did find an amusingly awkward happy hour at a lovely restaurant that looked like an old and large white-washed barn turned restaurant with live music. Excited at first, until scoping the crowd of which appeared to be a little too uptight and awkward, even amongst their own. Something that gave us a *scratch our heads* moment considering we were from from the super friendly and social beaches of San Diego.

Moving onto a large local dive bar with a lonely older gentleman stuck in his glory days in tow (we were taking pity on him because he had a cute dog), I promptly mistook the grandson of a winery owner as an employee by the way he was leaning with arms back on the side of the bar with a bored expression on his face. Something we thought he had blown off with a laugh until a woman came up to us with a “do you know who he is” kind of comment. Cutting her off with a stern “OK, BYE”, sure it was annoying, but it also came with it’s own level of entertainment.

Taking our leave somewhere around the 10 – 11 PM hour (driving meant no more drinks for me) and stopping to charge my fully-electric car, we made it to our hotel around midnight and even managed to get up in decent shape for the next day’s escapades.

Hitting the main strip of downtown Monterey first, a street named Cannery Row, we got right back to tasting at a wine room by the name of Carmel Ridge Winery of which I had already given a mention in that month’s magazine issue. Afterward we made our way to an Airbnb I had insisted on staying at, as it had both a Robin and a Wren Room. The name of a friend who had recently been lost to heartbreaking circumstances. Having an emotional moment with the older woman who owned the house and her husband, she had added to the symbolic nature of that brief (and expensive) stay by showing us some bird eggs that were due to hatch any moment. Even more, Jewels spotted a Blue Heron. Also symbolic in a way that heightened the depth of our trip, whether in our head or not.

Stopping at the Big Sur River Inn for a bite before heading to our shuttle pickup in Andrew Molara State Park, we lucked out in that we made it there on the first weekend of the Sur Transportation shuttle service. Something now offered for folks to once again have a way to get around Big Sur until the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge rebuild is complete. Well, “up” may be a better way to phrase the service than “around” as participants are taken to the bottom of a mountain where a steep and notably challenging, though not too terribly long, trail by the name of Pfeiffer Canyon foot trail had been forged by locals and those working on restoration for a beautiful option that allowed us to make it to Nepenthe Restaurant. A place with views of the ocean, forrest and even horseback riders that falls pretty high up in the “wow” moments of my travels.

Continuing on our trip as traveling road warriors, we made it to Paso Robles later that night and had an amazing time at Tobin James. A winery Jewels was eager to go to as she was already a fan of their wine. After that, LXV Winery. A tasting room that pairs sensual and exotic wines with spices that I had also previously written about. Happy campers with the new friends we made and stream of pups coming in with them, we were even lucky enough to be given an impromptu performance from one of the women working there.

It was all fantastic. It was also time to go home.

Home….San Diego… It had been too long and my world had changed. Evolved. What did “home” mean any more? I can only imagine how much more I’ll continue to feel like that as I get further in.

What I can’t imagine is San Diego ever not being my life’s location foundation. I was absolutely homesick for it and, with a couple more coastal stops to charge the car, was super excited to get back. Even so, I was already thinking about buying my next ticket.

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Compartmentalizing – Learning How to Lift My Spirits

Life almost always brings us shit and shine at the same time. Until somewhere in my thirties, I had been so consumed with trying to find happiness without hardships also weaved in that I often looked right past the good stuff. Somewhere within the last few years, I have finally started to understand what so many have tried to tell me. Life will never work like that.

My last post was full of the darkness and pain of recent losses. Now it’s time to switch over to the beautiful moments I’ve managed to create in order to cope and remind myself of the beauty in this life.

The Garden of Eden in Felton, CA is a natural watering hole surrounded by redwoods. Getting to it requires a moderate hike, partially along railroad tracks, that I’d estimate to be a little under a mile. Hitting that spot was on my bucket list and well worth it. Redwood trees are one of the things I miss most when away from Northern California. They are gigantic and beautiful. Something out of a fairytale full of mythical creatures. As such, so was the watering hole. Add to that getting a beautiful hike in, something I have been trying to do on a regular basis, I was a very happy gal. Especially with how much one of my biggest struggles with this lifestyle has been keeping up with my Amazon training in regard to fitness and nutrition.

It’s a pleasant shock to realize just how much even being home now feels like travel. Staying fluid, outside of my head and focused on experiencing as much of what the Bay Area and San Diego have to offer as possible, I now do it differently. Pride in San Francisco was another way I remembered happiness during a difficult time. Such an amazing celebration of life and love, how could it not lift my spirits? Experiencing my last few days of San Francisco, the city I consider my second home, and identifying as Pansexual myself, it meant a lot beyond just a general party. Especially after missing the Burning Man Precompression event in Oakland due to dealing with my uncle who is working as the Real Estate agent to get my parent’s house sold.

Life compartmentalizes in that it gives us good, bad and everything in between at the same time. Learning how to do the same with emotion and response as well as how to fit them together in return is one of the puzzles of life that I’m learning how to handle.

I have my moments of being sad, angry and everything else that comes with loss. Usually because of triggers such as hanging with a mutual friend of someone lost. Also things that remind me of her/him such as my pup’s beautiful personalized pet garden memorial that a friend made out of concrete and sand, a Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood concert I took my bud and girlfriend to (best show ever) or one of their names constantly popping up as a main contact in social media and my phone. Not to mention all of the times I default to thoughts about them being the first person I would invite or go to for something.

I think that’s good, though. My history of avoiding big losses and trauma has just fed that pain to grow as a spiritual cancer. As much as I’ve tried, there has been no ignoring away the hard stuff. I’m proud of myself for learning when is the right time to compartmentalize and when to process. It’s certainly a first.

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Monster May – Four Deaths in Three Weeks

Four people died within the first three weeks that I was back in the US.

I hate May.

Before all this death it was an expensive and chaotic month but for reasons that I loved. Tons of celebrations with my pup’s birthday on the 1st, sister’s on the 4th, mom’s on the 5th, dad’s on the 11th, brother’s finance and two other buddies. Last but not least, who can forget Cinco de Drinko?

It was a constant and happy party. That was until May 5th 2015, my mom’s birthday, when my dog was hit and killed by a car. I still replay every moment of thinking it strange to have gotten a call from a 408 number when in a meeting in my SF office and then begging the woman on the other line, the one who had hit my girl, to not leave her body until I could find someone to pick her up.

I had told my family not to let Layla out without watching her because she was little, would eventually get out of the old beat up fence and get hit by a car. My sister swore she didn’t do it but I don’t know how it would have been possible otherwise. My parents were in Tahoe but our mom had long-since set the precedence of not listening to me. Her excuse later was that Layla was part of the family and I was never there so she had the right to ignore me. From what I remember they never took responsibility nor apologized. There are three sides to every story and I still hope I missed something that will allow me to let it go.

Layla was my everything and it was the worst loss of my life. Even now. Even with the four people I lost in that horrible month of 2017. It was also when I made the decision to go for the lifestyle I am currently living. Losing my fur-baby, I didn’t have any fear left in me. I didn’t care what happened to me.

The current lives lost all impacted me in different ways.
umber of years, and we hadn’t been lovers long, but we had a permanent bond that deserves it’s own blog post. It had an affect on me that messed with my head. Not emotional so much as losing a connection to my body.

The most traumatic loss was a buddy who I had known as not only a close friend for a time, but also a sweet and loving man who had been one of two who saved me when having a grand mal seizure. He also had sat by my hospital bed through that night. Months later, I noticed he acted a little off when I saw him and guessed it was from a bit of trauma from my seizure. Also possibly due to a tiff with my friend, his girlfriend. I had no idea what it really was until he went on a rampage, shooting people and killing one, while waiting for the police to get to him for a police-assisted suicide. He kept my friend on the phone blaming her at the end of it.

Next was an old Vietnam vet bud in Thailand. Just a couple weeks before we had been sitting around for hours with a couple more friends telling stories over drinks. ‘Ol dog had even managed to steal a kiss. Losing him was sad but also beautiful and happy in that he was no longer in the pain of old age. My only regret was planning to record his stories to write the next time I am there instead of doing it then.

At the same time my social media feed was flooding with pictures of his funeral, I got a call that my closest girlfriend in the Bay Area had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. To make matters worse, her best friend, a self-absorbed and uber dramatic older woman, thought it a good idea to run her mouth to others who continued passing it on to a large community of whom many (not all, some are rad) love to gossip and find what ever outlet they can to get attention. The multiple messages I was getting from these people within hours of finding out destroyed me. Losing her was the most heartbreaking of all those lost. While I don’t blame myself, I was also the one who understood and saw the signs. My family’s history with mental health made it pretty easy. I didn’t see that she was so far along but I knew those demons well and that they were after her.

Saved by those there for me once finding out but still destroyed a bit by the one who ghosted after telling her in person. Then there’s the people who would never have been expected to be there and were. Thank God for my sister being there in person at the beginning.

I understand that for others, it’s much easier to go into denial and run than face someone who is going through so much all at once. It can also be a trigger and bring out strange reactions from people fighting to be supportive. Relating a little too strongly, my sister (who has been awesome) told me about something horrible that happened to another loved one as well as telling me multiple times about how one of her worse fears has always been that I will commit suicide.

At the beginning of it all I was in shock. I couldn’t handle thinking about it and was threatened by anyone who tried to make me. It wasn’t real yet. Then I got angry. Angry at the world and more than anything, at mental illness. Somewhere stuck between enraged bitch-mode and denial, there were moments like when I almost collapsed on the floor of a grocery store. Unable to cheat the grieving process, I am now just so sad that I can barely function. I pray it will move on quickly and that I can skip the depression stage, but I can already feel it creeping in.

For now, I’ve spent a little time with another friends dealing with the same loss of the most recent and will soon be going to group grief counseling with another friend mentioned earlier. I’m also looking into volunteering in the mental health field and am desperately looking for some pups to snuggle. Two of the only things that have been able to save me in my darkest times in the past.

We’ll see what’s tomorrow. For now, one foot in front of the other.

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Leaving London and an Intro to Iceland

Leaving such awesome friends in London was sad. Especially after an endearing dinner for Emma’s dad’s birthday at a tapas restaurant with her amazing family, which consisted of a shy and quiet younger brother, Scottish father’s thickly-accented teasing, her friendly Welsh mother and honorary aunt (mum’s long-time bestie) who I was tempted to plan a girl’s weekend with by the end of the night.

Heading to the train about 11:30 PM for an hour and a half ride to the airport, I was off again. Pouting and exhausted but my heart was full.

Getting there too early, I had something like five hours to kill overnight before boarding. What was surprising was how easy it ended up being to separate my huge 75 lb suitcase into two items by using a net laundry bag. Looking back, it’s incredible how those miserable nights spent in airports all over the world have come to mean so much.

Finally catching and crashing out on my first flight, I touched down in Iceland and instantly started trying to work out a few hours at the Blue Lagoons along with asking about any restaurants close enough to hit while being able to get back during my nine hour layover. I even turned to Tinder for a potential last minute tour guide and date. No luck with any, thought the challenges of not having a bank card were more than I had the energy for anyway.

Managing to get outside to at least leave the airport, it was a surreal feeling to be out in the bite of cold as it started to snow after, just a couple weeks ago, I had been in the tropical heat of Thailand. An odd experience that’s hard to explain to those who have not done it.

Reminding myself, once again, to work on booking layovers for at least a 24 hour windows in order to explore wherever I land, I did my best to stop from beating myself up with reminders that I was making progress. I also did my best to write from a makeshift office of my tablet on top of my suitcase while hanging as close to locals as possible. Once finally boarding Iceland’s airline, WOW, it was frustrating that they don’t offer entertainment or complimentary food/drink, and that the man in front of me could use a shower, but the ample leg room was Valhalla for an Amazon such as myself.

Noting to do more research for things like amenities on airlines, it didn’t end up being an issue on that particular flight, as I ended up with my own row and drugged myself into being able to sleep eight hours of the nine and a half hours. At least as well as one can who is in the constant pain of being jabbed with seatbelts and other painful parts of airline chairs that were obviously not meant to be laid across.

Landing in San Francisco, I was finally back in California. Zooming past the torturously long lines in order to use my Global Entry Card, I don’t know if I have ever felt so thankful or proud of myself for such a good investment. If I had the energy, I probably would have started cheering and being an asshole by showing off to everyone who didn’t have one.

Originally planning on taking the train to my family’s house, my mom ended up coming to get me after her 12 hour shift, the third to last before retiring as a nurse at Stanford Hospital. Another thing I was more than a little thankful for. If you ever want to do a solid for a traveler, do this. Even better, bring something delicious, comforting/refreshing (outside of food) and a dog to cuddle on the way home.

Catching up during the 45 minute drive, I had very little idea what I was in for. I knew the rest of the family was finally moving to San Diego to join me and my brother’s family in our homebase of the last 17 years but I had no idea there would already be a For Sale sign up and the house would be half moved out.

Dealing with the aftermath of this trip, already having begun planning the next and pulling into the driveway for what was about to be family chaos for the next few weeks that was to bring us closer together than ever before, I was onto my next adventure before I had stepped foot out of the car.

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Sexual Sabbatical

In an age of instant gratification, you probably have no interest in reading through an entire blog post before getting to the the juicy stuff about the Sexual Sabbatical. In honor of that, I’ll give you a heads up that you may want to continue by reading the last couple paragraphs before starting up here.

I also want to assure you loyal FRFers that we’ll continue with my time in London in the next post. For now, and thanks to an inspirational reminder from one of my own personal Wonder Women, I feel it important to look at the more serious and soulful side of what fueled my last post, A Gas of a Good Time.

Like so many, I was raised with some pretty rough guilt and shame about my body and sexuality through the beliefs of the Catholic church, being plus size since puberty and from sexual assault. All things that are so devastatingly common that, even if you are one of the lucky ones who haven’t experienced it personally, you are likely surrounded by people who have.

Before fully backtracking into the last post, let’s keep it present when pointing out that the most primal reason why a sexual sabbatical was thanks to maternal genetics inclined to a high sex drive (I get it from my mama). Many aspects sound great in such a sexualized society but the reality is that it causes physical discomfort, creates issues in relationships, challenges with self-esteem and other such problems. Turning to the deflection tactic of humor, I you may have noticed me tease on occasion with the saying “crazy in the head, crazy in bed”.

Continuing in ways that affect both posts as well as who I am in general, another area that has been challenging since close to the beginning is religion. Confusing without direction to help make sense of it all, I finally found some help when reading Angels & Demons by Dan Brown somewhere in my twenties. I will always be thankful for that book first opening my mind to the idea that I need to research and think for myself about how organized religion is often used as a tool of control, hypocrisy, sexism, money and power. That isn’t to say that I don’t believe in a higher power, or that there aren’t amazing people and churches, but over all my experience was traumatizing and killed most of my belief in organized religion. I don’t feel comfortable going anywhere near it.

In my late twenties, the final crucial factor that helped me break through feelings of shame in these two areas was when I trained my body into a more traditional physical form of what is considered “hot”. Dealing with a dangerous PTSD marine brother, health problems and the beginning of the crash of my first career in subprime mortgage (mixed feelings there), I had coped with it all through extreme focus on fitness and nutrition. Centering aim on my Amazon warrior side, something that came naturally to me, had helped to empower through strength and control. Something that consisted of three to four days a week of over two hours in the gym followed by surfing. Also eating clean and going as far as to limit socializing if it caused damage to that training.

Looks were farther down the line in terms of importance as to why I was doing it. If anything I was aiming on becoming less exposed to the horrible treatment of weight prejudice. I also just wanted it to be easier to keep up with my athletic friends.

What especially changed my reality with body image and weight prejudice was experiencing how I was just treated like shit in a different way once having lost the weight and muscling up. A noticeable number of women were nastier to me (I’m a girl’s girl, so this especially sucked) and many men and women cared a lot less about anything I was beyond looks. Not by everyone of course, but by enough to remind me that all good things have their own set of flaws. Since then I’ve become pretty good at accepting, loving and being forgiving with myself. As long as I’m doing the best I can and never give up, I’m good.

“If the goal you’ve set for yourself has a 100 percent chance of success, then frankly you aren’t aiming high enough.” – Benny Lewis

The moment that brought it all together along with what inspired me to come out as an actual advocate was when it became clear that I was actually helping people. To see beauty, healing, strength and love in the eyes of another and knowing I was a part of that…wow…how could I ever turn back? Being that person to others has given me more confidence than anything else could touch.

With my last post, while hilarious, I wasn’t completely comfortable putting it out. Sometimes that’s when it matters most.

All of these details give reason to so much of what I do, who I am and what you read. Included is the sexual sabbatical mentioned below that I am just now coming out of.

Why I did the sabbatical was pretty simple. My sexuality was adding too much complication to an already difficult transition into this new and untraditional lifestyle of writing and traveling as a digital nomad. It also set me up to hurt one lover after the other. While always having had been clear about my leaving within a few months to continue life as a bohemian nomad, and having always been reassured that it was OK, it never was. That was the bottom line. Hurting people is the opposite of who I fight to be and I just couldn’t handle the added complications or emotions of it all.

That sexual cleanse was great for mind, body and soul. Especially as someone whose identity is so strongly tied into it. While a little hesitant to jump back in, it’s time to. My last post celebrated how I just started the transition back in with a wonderful man in an experience that will always fill my heart.

There you go. Now that we’re caught up on the emotional and spiritual journey, back to the literal.

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A Gas of a Good Time – My Last Night in London

We’d just started dancing the horizontal hula when he froze on top of me, positioned on all four and let one rip.

“What!” He proclaimed joking around before watching me transition from shock to horror to anger. “I thought you were supposed to be a naturalist,” he said making things worse not only with his question but also because he was laughing.

“BERNARD,” I screamed up the stairs with G still on top of me. “EMMA! GET DOWN HERE!!”

Let me break here to say that I’d normally never share this kind of story (as a writer that may not true) but this particular night was way too priceless to keep to myself.

Before we continue from the middle, let’s take a step back and take it from the top…

Within my first couple days in London I had been giving Bernard a hard time to fix me up with a friend. I had been on sexual sabbatical due to previous lovers making a pattern of becoming upset after originally being OK with my new lifestyle as a traveling writer who was gone for a few months at a time. Needless to say, that was making my life way too complicated and made me feel like shit, so I had just shut it all down. Well, Mama Bear was coming out of hibernation and I was starving.

When asking Bernard and Emma if they had any friends to hook me up with (I’d been hitting Em up since I was in Thailand), I was kidding but not kidding and was thrilled when B had automatically thought of G.

At the time, I was about halfway through my stay in London. Bernard and Emma both forgot but I was determined. Taking action with a thirsty third, and what was to be final, reminder two nights before flying back to the states, G finally got the invite for a dinner party the next night. Emma was going to make Bobotie, the traditional dish of South Africa, where Bernard is originally from.

G showed up completely unaware, innocent of the shenanigans planned and showing appreciation through constant excited words of gratitude in a display that showed what a great guy he was. Half amused and half feeling bad considering our devious plan (which, of course, would really only happen if progressing organically on both sides), I was soon distracted with the thought of how I didn’t know when the moment had been that I had gone from the innocent one to being on the other side. It happened later than most but somewhere along the line, it had happened.

A big smile and being super sweet along with just the right amount of endearing awkwardness that hinted at a touch of shyness happened to be qualities he possessed that also happen to be my weak spots. I still wonder if it was a fluke that Bernard thought of someone with such traits or if he is just that good at reading people.

First saying hello with a hug, G blushed as I made a joke about jumping right into making out when moving our heads the wrong way had almost caused a kiss. A cute and entertaining moment but boy did I feel forward. He did tell me a couple of weeks later, however, (we’re now friends) that he fancied me quick, so in hindsight, I wasn’t too terrible.

Still unaware as he stuffed himself with Emma’s yummy cooking, we talked about dessert, but decided instead to go out for a smoke. A dead giveaway that I’d had drinks. Once outside, G mentioned he was cold while shivering. While also feeling the bit of the chilly temperature, I wondered if it was legit or an attempt to get closer. Either way, I was quick to tell him to come in for a hug in which, being a little shorter than me (I’m 5’10”), he was more than happy to be swallowed by my ample bosom just made for the task of warm snuggles.

Eventually moving to the couch in the sitting room, one thing lead to another until the fated incident, but not before we all cracked up in light-hearted fun from Bernard’s prank of having successfully snuck up behind G once we had progressed into an old fashioned makeout session in order to poke him in the bum hole. Typical bromance humor and definitely funny to watch G jump in surprise. Em having picked up on G being a bit more conservative than the rest of us, she then pulled B upstairs to their room in order to give us privacy. Hence why I had to yell to get them back down.

Having a bit of an idea in the back of my head that he was really embarrassed by the notorious incident and trying to play it off (which he later admitted to), I was too pissed to care in the moment and too into the idea of turning something that would normally bother me into something hilarious. Not just for myself, but I wanted both of us to feel more comfortable.

Once they were back in the room and adding to my rant about what happened by pointing out that G had even still been wearing his socks, Emma then pointed out through shouts of laughter that they were both in their socks and boxers. With the fellas giving each other fist-bumps while almost crying in laughter, Emma and I tried to argue through our own giggles about how wrong it was. At some point in the disarray, Bernard started exclaiming over and over about a situation in which he had his own trouser-cough incident in a much more awkward sexual experience. He even had a dance to go with the story. The whole thing was insane and I hadn’t laughed so hard in years.

Bernard stepping it up to another level, pulled out a laptop to Skype one of their buddies for a women vs men argument about whether G should have gone to the bathroom vs the incident being natural and funny as it was. The fellas were still in nothing but their socks and underwear, G being a good sport, and I was in nothing but a sarong. I can only imagine what their bud thought as he played the Judge of Poots with women vs men shouting our side of the debate through a pandemonium that only increased with roars of victory and refusal to accept defeat as our virtual referee sided with us ladies.

With the scene soon to calm down after that, Emma and Bernard returned upstairs and I started thinking about what a great sport G had been along with how I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with the whole thing. As mentioned, I already had a feeling that he hadn’t been quite as comfortable being so exposed and that he hadn’t been feeling well. Something I could very much relate to from traveling. Such a sweetie with his good spirit, we switched gears into a much more tender and compassionate stage for a couple hours until passing out so he could get a wee bit of rest before heading back to work.

I have never had an experience like that, nor would I have ever imagined myself to be OK with it. I’m not one who thinks the ‘ol anal exhale is funny, or any other kind of bathroom humor for that matter. What I am into, and believe to be one of the most important parts of life, is celebration. With the best moments often coming in the most unexpected situations, places and people, our night together had become just that. Having recently lost four people over the course of one month, three of which being due to traumatic circumstances, that memory is one of the only things that has been aboe to make me smile. Who would have ever thought.

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Kickin it in Camden

When Emma woke up the next afternoon after all of our adventures (woman can sleep), we decided to stay cuddled up with takeout, a marathon of watching Grace and Frankie and a constant flow of tea (naturally). I couldn’t have been more relieved for the down time and both of us were totally

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley. 

content. Me especially because of the pleasingly productive routine I had inadvertently started that morning of toast and coffee while getting some writing done. Centering back in with that much needed “me time” not only gave me a chance to process and chill, something especially important when rocking out with much younger pals, but also kept me tolerable for everyone else.

Balancing out our shenanigans with the day of chilling required nothing beyond laughing, shooting the shit and cuddling Trevor. It was just what I needed and a fur-baby requirement by Bernard and Emma, or “Burma” if we’re using a rediculous-but-fun combined couple name. It was also twice as entertaining because of the eyebrows we had drawn onto that four-legged bundle of excitement and love. The scene over all made me nostalgic for the hangover days of my teens in which my sister, our friends and I would lay around in front of the TV all day on the mattresses I would drag down from the beds on the second floor. I’m not sure if we ever actually watched any of the movies playing on the TV back then, the old days of VCRs, but it sure was the best bonding time I can remember.

Fully rested and ready for a little Sunday Funday after that, Lucille had found a reggae event in the once ghetto but now up-and-coming hipsteresque neighborhood of Brixton. Popping bottles of Prosecco in the tube and almost giving another passenger a corresponding heart attack, we were once again up to no good of the best kind.

Giggling while observing the honorary sister badge these two had so obviously earned over the years, they bickered about which way to get to the bar as we sauntered around enjoying the sunshine until finally finding that elusive reggae event. Making it too late for the happy hour and the corresponding free entry, the music was also a bust, but it was still entertaining in that it further added to the comical scene of the three of us just wandering around London slightly perplexed until meeting back up with Bernard and getting more PROSECCOOOO! After that was another awesome night of partying until dawn. It was just as much fun as the first night (from what I remember) if not more. I’m tempted to tell you, my dear readers, but some things are better left censored *giggle*. I will give you a hint by saying that there were naked massages and I’m still being teased about accidentally going way too hard.

A couple days later was Camden. Oh Camden, how I love thee.
Walking up to the colorful, edgy and ultra-eclectic neighborhood of the Stables Market (as in used to be horse stables), the cobblestoned neighborhood’s array of personality quickly made it clear that my eclectic-arse had found the spot in that city that I was most likely to feel at home. Located along the Regent’s Canal, the district’s touch of hippiness, pubs, street vendors and a trace of the seedy side of it’s history combined with upper-scale options like the Indian-chic/Pan-Asian fusion restaurant, Gilgamesh, and festival-futuristic store, Cyberdog, to produce what could be the most diverse array in one place that I have ever experienced. Add to that one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever had from The Cheese Bar (CHEESE IS LIFE), the personal history Emma shared and the streets she pointed out that best represented what it used to be before gentrification and I was beyond enamoured. Even the creepy Amy Winehouse statue added to it’s strange and awesome magic.

It was such a lovely day. They all were. For the Grand-London-Finale in the next post get ready, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time to laugh your tails off.

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Laughing and Lounging in London

I left Thailand and was on my way to London. Determined to figure out how to take long flights without getting sick, and also enjoying any excuse I could find to give myself Burning Man flashbacks, I covered my face most of the time with the pashmina scarf I had bought to share with my mom in the hopes that it’s magic would keep the germs out. I was also amused by how wearing it seemed somewhat in theme given which country my flights connected in.

The English teachers from the UK who I had met on a long-tail boat in Pai, along with others who have lived in or visited Abu Dhabi, had opened my mind and interest the the country over the few years before that. An interest that had quickly faded during the short amount of time spent there while waiting for my flight on Etihad Airways. Not the worst, by the way, but also nowhere near the best airline experience I’ve had. As someone who is normally enchanted by other cultures and curious to learn about them, including adornments such as the hijab and burqa, I find exception to that interest when encountering such details as people being excessively rude or taking over the space with intense B.O. A part of certain cultures I could use help understanding better. It’s important to be reminded of how stereotypes can be a great misrepresentation to the individual and that traveling tends to bring out the worst in some. Still, it sent me moving as fast as the crowds and constant security checkpoints would let me.

Once finally touching down in London, I instantly felt like I was on holiday for the first time since leaving America. Excited to see my friend, Emma, I was close to being the last one to get off the plane due to our eager texting back and forth before the doors had even opened. Em and I knew each other from living together for a month at Shanti Lodge in Phuket the year before. We had instantly become close with a friendship that had immediately fell in line with the kind of connection that usually takes much more time to establish. One of the great things I see a lot more of amongst the world of digital nomads and expats as opposed to those who stayed put back in the ‘ol U.S. of A.

Emma didn’t want to wait for me to take public transportation so she sent an UBER to pick me up. A great treat considering I was still hustling from the aftermath of the pickpocket and worn out after all that travel. Especially given that I was lugging the world’s largest and heaviest suitcase. Finally getting to her place and already having discussed how excited she was for me to meet her man along with how they already had a little celebration ready to go as soon as I arrived, I wasn’t too terribly surprised when being greeted at the door of their lovely Cricklewood flat with a big kiss from that fun-loving, outgoing and nurturing South African stud I had heard so much about.

Not even being able to get my bag open before their fur-baby, Trevor, started to climb in, that sweet boy gave me one more reason to be in a great mood. After a quick tour, Emma and I got comfy for a long night of yapping away with a constant flow of prosecco. Or should I say “PROSECCOOOOOO!!!” Something that was to continue through the night and into the wee hours of the morning, not to mention pretty much becoming our theme song and drink of choice while I was there. Bernard was a natural at jumping right in and I instantly loved him. Especially after one of his first excited comments being that he had heard me to be a nudist and that he was was, too. While I self-identify more of an advocate for body positive activist than a nudist, I wasn’t about to argue at that particular moment. Needless to say, we were naked quite a bit of the time from thereon out.

Finally calling it a night (or early morning) and after getting a few hours shut-eye, Emma was so excited to take me sightseeing, I thought she was going to erupt into human fireworks. With her little-girl enthusiasm and my crowd-induced anxiety, we pushed our way through droves of Spanish tourists to explore along the River Thames while checking out such tourist attractions as the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Definitely grand and impressive. Continuing on, we happily spent a few moments here and there watching amazing street performers such as talented musicians and an impressive group of African dancers interlaced with moments of her pointing out sentimental spots like where a romantic French-style book fair was held along the South Bank (*swoon*) and a beautifully graffiti-covered skatepark she hung out at as a teenager.

Making note of the Tate Modern and grabbing a bite at the darling but very crowded Borough Market, we then stopped at Las Iguanas in the South Bank Centre for some caipirinhas. Em loves to eat and is a pro at the food scene in London. Heading over the beautiful Tower Bridge from there, we also managed to take a peek at the London Bridge and Tower of London before our last stop. For the grand finale of this personal sightseeing tour, she brought me to a darling little tucked away marina by the name of St. Katherine’s Dock. My favorite spot of the day, it reminded me of a place that was meant for a relaxed day of brunching in the brisk sun before wandering around a farmer’s market.

Heading back to the flat and meeting up with Bernard and his big smile, even after our signals had got crossed and he had already been waiting for us at a pub in the neighborhood of Waterloo (gotta love that name), we headed to another one of their awesome local pubs, North London Tavern, with one of Emma’s besties from the time of being naughty teens. Soon to be my pal as well, Lucille had managed to drag herself over regardless of not feeling well. Something you’d never imagine to be the case after the way the rest of the night went.

One of the bitter/sweet things about hanging with B, it’s impossible to stay sober around him. A truth, at least, if you’re starved for a little spoiling and being taken care of. That guy was fun and a gentleman. Who wants to say no to that? Not me! Even if I had wanted to, Emma wouldn’t have let me anyway.

With the party moving back to their pad after the pub and with the prosecco continuing to flow, us ladies eventually headed to a charmingly cheesy bar theme-night, another spot of their old stomping ground called The Goodship, where we danced and had fun regardless of the creepers who we had to fight to keep off of us. One of which being a super wasted young Italian man I ended up socking in the cockadoodledoo after he had been way too touchy for way too long. I’ll tell you, it felt good to be able to defend myself after being in a country in which I didn’t feel as safe to do so prior. A definite to take into account when traveling. Especially alone, double when a woman and triple when an amazon.

Hearing way too many times from sauced locals about how surprised they were to like me since they typically didn’t like Americans (most of whom admitted to never actually having met any of us), it was that amusing time of the night when these new friends also seemed to think me and the only other woman from the U.S. should be bonding. Thoroughly entertained but ready to move on, Lucille, Emma and I headed back to the flat and kept the party going until long after dawn was upon us. Our little crew had been formed and I already loved it.

*Editorial shoutout to Emma Victoria Tooki Laird. Never would have gotten the details even half way straight without her!

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Two Nights in Bangkok

I was down to my last two nights in Thailand.

Up at 6 AM, I was at the bus station by 7:20 AM and, after realizing that my ride was leaving at 9 AM instead of 8 AM like I had originally thought, it didn’t take me long to become more relieved than frustrated to have both gotten away from our horrible Airbnb hosts and also to have inadvertantly eliminated the stress of being rushed. Though still tired, I was had slept 11 hours on and off the night before, so I reminded myself that I had no right to wine about it. Especially considering that I was about to successfully sleep nine of the upcoming eleven hour drive. Thank goodness for the motion pills I still had knocking me out. Also for the bus smelling like air freshener instead of the nasty raw sewage and rotting garbage smells that are all too prevalent in Thailand. What wasn’t easy to deal with was that I was sat next to another lovely lady of ample curves. Though trying to not make each other uncomfortable, we were practically on top of each other. Looking back, I should have made pals and asked her to cuddle. Something I would normally do if feeling well but I was suffering from a case of the travel-exhausted leave-me-alones.

When finally pulling into the station in Bangkok, I instantly exhaled at the more familiarly built up and somewhat Westernized city. Quick to notice a few high-level Mercedes driving by, it was the fuchsia taxis that really got me excited. Within the first hour I had already grown to like this city more than I thought I would and when finally getting to that Shanti location, I was unsurprised to love it just as much as I did expect. Well, the restaurant and staff at least. The rooms were small and minimal (as I had heard) but still cute and came with a lovely shower/bathroom combo with shells and other great adornments. Fine for me as I don’t require much though my 75 lb suitcase was singing a different tune. Happy to have my stuff back, I also couldn’t wait to get rid of that thing.

After a friend from GLT reached out about her twenty year old honorary niece who was alone in a hospital in Bangkok with Dengue Fever, I quickly changed my plans for the next day in order to go check on her. Grabbing snacks from 7-Eleven, a fresh watermelon drink made by a street vendor and the stuffed elephant originally bought in Chiang Mai for my five year old niece, I stumbled upon a temple (hard not to do in T-Land) looking for one of those fuchsia taxis I got such a kick out of until finally making my way to the hospital. Meeting and sitting with this tenacious twenty year old, I remembered the strength and adventure of being so young as she told me about studying abroad and then parting from her friends in order to travel Thailand alone. Had I not known, I never would have guessed she had been so sick, though the relieved-excitement of finally getting better is pretty great. Something I regrettably hadn’t slowed down enough to enjoy after food poisoning. All the same, it was fun to see her relieved excitement when given the drink and cookies that resembled Oreos. Familiar in a land of strange is everything.

Satisfied that my niece’s elephant had been gifted for a good cause and also feeling a little re-inspired, though at the same time reminded of the sadness of not being able to do these adventures at her age when stronger in spirit and body, I left thankful for what was to become one of the more meaningful experiences during this visit to the country.

Still daydreaming about the future of my nieces traveling, adventuring and how I may be able to be a part of that, I was only half paying attention on the ride back in yet another fuchsia cab as I PMed back and forth on Tinder with a sexy businessman from the Middle East until agreeing to let him meet me in the restaurant of Shanti for a quick date. A few hours away and getting back before his arrival, I finally had a chance to sit with Kim, the owner of Shanti. Down to earth and friendly, she distractedly told me about a lowlife who had been trying to twist her daughter in Portland’s generosity as a landlord after she had done so many kindnesses by this man. I’ve only heard one side of the story and haven’t seen proof of any kind, but based on what I do know of Kim, I have reason to believe this to be a case of a lowlife and predator targeting her. On the off chance that any of you out there can help, throw me a shout and I’ll get you in touch. Sounds like this lovely South African woman doesn’t have too much of a support network over there. Sure would be nice if I could be a part of introducing her to one or two Portlandians who could help her build her one.

With Kim departing thanks to the stress making her feel ill, I hung out working on my book until the date I had been waiting for finally got off work and arrived about an hour before I said I wanted to go to bed. Quite surprised as I expected to be more annoyed than anything else, I was thrown off by how attracted I was to him as he walked up. Young, intelligent and exuding powerful energy, it was no surprise that he ran his own IT company and flew around the world for it. Thank you Tinder.

As we talked, he told me about a fun street not far away, Si Lom, and about enough fun stuff in the city to make me wish I was staying longer. Not to mention the Unicorn Cafe I completely forgot about until shortly after leaving. I had already been thinking about how I wanted to hit Thailand at least one more time so I could put all I have learned into play. Kind of a symbolic thing. Now I had an extra reason to not only come back but to celebrate Songkran one more time and to do it in Bangkok.

After all my talk about wanting to get to bed at a decent hour, I ended up being the one who wanted to throw it all out the window and stay with him. Regardless of the way my tune was changing, he was a perfect gentleman in advising that I should get up at 5:30 AM, not 6:30 AM, and made sure I know that he wanted to be with me longer but respected that I needed to get some rest. An idea that I had completely thrown out the window once he had kissed me. Needless to say, I was one smitten kitten and now have something fun to look forward to.

With my cab being MIA the next morning thanks to a staff member writing the time down wrong, something that would be hypocritical for me to get too upset about given that I was the one speaking the foreign language, I managed to get to the airport on time and even get my gigantic suitcase on without the hassle than expected. My time in Thailand was over. I was officially on my way to London.

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