All posts by Bohemian Babe

Getting to Jeju Island to Teach – One HELL of a Trip

Well that was certainly the roughest journey to get to the other side of the world I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to the Himalayas!
It all started on a Thursday, March 19th of 2020 at 9 AM when my mama called and woke me up. My flight wasn’t until 12:30 PM and I had been up for a few hours in the middle of the night, so I hadn’t exactly been in a rush to rise. Using her call as an alarm clock, I groggily pulled myself, recently bleached hair sticking up everywhere, out of bed to finish packing and to make one last trip to drop stuff off in storage. Running a little behind on my way back, I still drove through a neighborhood taqueria for what was to be the last of the delicious burritos of San Diego I was likely to have for the next year and then jammed the five more minutes home to where my sis and mom were waiting for me. Mom had lent me their spare car for the couple days after I turned in my rental and Wendy gave her a ride to pick it up back and to say goodbye. Living ten minutes from the airport, I was relieved and thankful, especially after the painful $50 to get to my family’s house a couple days before, that Mama came to me and dropped me off at the airport.
Mom being Mom, though, was making me feel a little rushed when seeming a bit impatient to head out. I assumed because she wanted to get home but also because it was too hard to grasp leaving a little later than I had originally said without triggering her anxiety. Understandable, and I was probably unintentionally stalling because my heart was torn to leave the home I loved so much, but rushing someone before they can do their final sweep is never a good idea. Something that proved itself to be true when I hurriedly threw all of my Promacta meds (for ITP) in a medicine bag that was in the big beat-up blue suitcase about to be checked. Before that I had planned on taking ten minutes to borrow her pill cutter and throwing one of the bottles back in my purse. She had instead told me I could have it and didn’t seem to be in any mood to wait. I wouldn’t realize until later that I checked them all but what I did realize about thirty seconds after locking the front door was that I had forgot the newly purchased portable battery and international converter that was plugged into the wall next to where I was planning to split the pills. Que swinging by the local OB Target that I had sworn I would never go to for a new converter. Still managing to let feeling rushed distract me from grabbing the right one, I’d later find another surprisingly cheap attachment at a little store in my hotel in Japan. Already off to a typical hot-mess of a Robin start and I hadn’t even hit takeoff.
Oh how I fell in love with Japan Airlines. My small experience in Japan in general, actually. I think I had flown them before but hadn’t had the experience yet to know how good I had it. So unlike me to “pansy out” and actually think smarter than harder, I sprung for the $5 cart to take my gigantic 48 lb suitcase, 41 lb medium-sized one, 22 lb backpack, huge puffer jacket, hoodie and pillows (both regular and neck) for the short ride to check-in. From there it was as smooth as Barry White singing “Let’s Get It On” at last call. The staff was so sweet, helpful and I even got a lot of them to giggle with a little of my happy and bubbly Care Bear stare. Something easy to channel at the beginning of such a trek but oh so not by the end.
The flight attendants continued to be just as lovely the whole way through both flights, as was the two impressive meals served on the first of 12 hours and second of 4 1/2 the day after. Indulging in three mini bottles of complimentary wine of both flights, the attendants didn’t blink an eye. I even managed to watch all but one of the movies offered that looked decent while I, unsurprisingly, didn’t sleep more than dozing just enough to bob my head into being jerked awake. Realizing that I had a 16 1/2 hour layover once making it to Japan, a few hours longer than expected, I sat outside the baggage claim thankful to pull down my mask for a minute and eat the rest of the breakfast burrito from home while contemplating whether or not I should splurge for a last minute hotel. Seriously debating the pods offered in the airport that I’d heard about, in the end I opted for a hotel ten minutes from the airport that offered a shuttle, complimentary breakfast and was even a wee bit cheaper. Cheaper than I’d expect in general given how expensive I’d heard Japan to be. Still, I was balling on a budget until I got reimbursed by the school so the free breakfast tipped the scales for the win. That and needing the de-stimulation time that I wasn’t going to get using the communal bathroom and shower situation that was offered with the pods. Making a mental note to go for the cool experience next time, I hit a few buttons, walked across the street to an almost empty shuttle bus and was on my merry way.

Getting a decent night of six hours sleep, something I rarely do when traveling, I was happy to get back in the sky with Japan Airlines and relaxed when I got off the plane in China. Impressive as I had only had bad experiences flying through the country in the past and had sworn to never fly through it again. Unfortunately those bad experiences took all of about two seconds to continue once walking into the terminal. Holding a paper questionnaire regarding Covid-19 that the flight attendants had given everyone, something I was to find out later was only meant for those going into China, I asked an employee where to go for a transfer to Asiana Airlines. As was to become the norm during my time stuck there, next to no one understood English (how does that happen at an international airport?) and instead of trying to figure out what I was saying, she blew me off by pointing me to the line for quarantine after seeing the paper. Quarantine at the airport, ladies and gentlemen, was only for those entering China; not for transfers. Something I would also find out about half way through the four hours I was detained by employees in full hazmat suits that made them look like astronauts. Asshole astronauts taking their time who were holding my passport hostage and refusing to communicate with me when I tried to express that I was going to miss my flight. Finally being called an hour after I did indeed miss the connection (which would make me also miss the one after that), I found out that checking “yes” to whether or not anyone had tested positive in my community meant in my direct contact areas such as work or home, not city. Also, after multiple employees couldn’t grasp that I was neither leaving China or going in, that the form wasn’t even something I needed to fill out and that I never should have been there in the first place. Double the “oh shit” expression on their faces once the light bulb finally went off. Being told I could go on my way with regretful expressions, not a damn thing was done to help me about the position I had been put in. Cue adding an additional two days of hell, one and a half of which was in China. The country I was least comfortable going through amid the Covid-19 endemic, even for what was originally supposed to be only three hours. Lucky me.
Sent out of quarantine and into airport purgatory, the sparse white-washed large room meant as an exit for those coming off flights and others on their way to go through security was to become my horrible home for the next day and a half. First was the help desks that proved to be no help at all. Once again, no employees understood or spoke decent English and tried to blow me off instead of helping. The closest I got was vague comments about calling the airline to which I did but not before first spending an expensive hour first holding for the booking company with an automated voice telling me it would be twenty minutes for at least forty while I also double-tasked to try to get help online. When a rep in India for finally did get on the line, all he did was tell me after another brief hold that I was neither covered by the guarantee nor the additional insurance I had bought. In a panic, that would be when I did call Asiana Airlines direct and was told that not only would they not help but that I was also being charged a $150 no-show fee. But hey, after that I’d have an open ticket for a certain amount. How does that even work? I mean, how the hell is that justified? I admit that I hadn’t done my homework to try to figure out why but I just couldn’t see how the airline lost out on any profit. If anything they made some by not having to provide meals, having an extra seat to sell last minute and/or making for a more pleasant experience for another passenger by providing extra room. Not that it was needed. The airports and planes were sparse. I had my own row in all three of my four flights. That part was glorious.
Fighting with my recruiter about leaving me abandoned and stranded (it’s got it’s own story), I finally had money wired to pay for a last minute flight a day and a half later on Korean Air. With little in the way of options, I was to be stuck on three plastic chairs in an isolated corner until 6 PM the next day but not before my third or fourth attempt at the help desk. Once employees finally got enough communication through to let me know that no one could help me until a rep for the airline got there the next evening, I gave up. Selecting the option on to buy a new ticket on my own and get partial reimbursement (suck it Mr. India man!) I melatonined myself to sleep on and off while also walking around like a miserable zombie ghost to look for a place to plug in my phone and extra battery. With only a guy in his early twenties who had a hard to understand super strong Australian accent to keep me company, the two or three cumulative hours sleep I did manage to get would leave my hips feeling bruised and favorite jeans ripped from the button on a pocket getting caught. Thinking about how thankful I was for the snacks I brought as I would have had nothing else to eat otherwise, I was even more thankful when an employee actually was the one to come up to me at 6 PM that next day. Without explanation as he went back and forth from somewhere out of sight, he finally gave me a hand-written ticket for my flight (that’s a first) and told me to follow him. Thankful the Australian kid was given a meal (still can’t figure out why he turned down some open-bag trail mix from me a few hours before during those virus times), we said a goodbye and good luck as I followed the once again astronaut-looking employee to an isolated security line. Always without explanation, he spoke back and forth in Korean with other employees, often with others walking up to join the conversation, for long enough to make me feel weird and wonder even more what the heck was going on. Finally walking thorough security there and into another empty washed out room to put my belongings and myself through the security x-ray machines, I was then dropped of at a waiting room that had a friendly young German woman who reminded me of someone I would meet at a hostel. I tried to be friendly and converse but all I really wanted to do was distract myself with watching Grace and Frankie while trying to keep it together.
Once again not being given any update as to why I hadn’t been picked up to go to my flight in a totally different terminal until after the time my it was supposed to leave, I was finally informed that my flight was delayed as I was taken to a shuttle where I was to be the only passenger. A long ride in itself, by that point I honestly wondered if I was about to be dropped on the airway somewhere to fend for myself until I could figure out where my plane was and board the steps. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Finally reaching the terminal, still clumsily struggling with the tons of carry-on stuff that I swore had grown in weight to a million tons, I found out that the flight was indeed delayed two hours. By then the whole thing just felt like one big hot-mess sitcom joke.
Finally getting on the flight with very little notice for me to heave all my stuff back up, especially challenging given that I had tweaked my anterior ankle the day before (I would make a terrible sherpa), I awkwardly made my way onto the plane, once stopping to put all my stuff down to help a woman struggling with her own only to be told by an impatient stewardess to move into the seats while I got my belongings together. She hadn’t seen me put it all down to help the woman who was the one really holding everything up.
So incredibly relieved to get out of that hellish place, I finally made it to and fell into what was once again my own row, spinning out on crestfallen thoughts about how I had sworn I would never fly through China again, how I knew that in reality I always would if it was the only option and how I would rather sit in L.A. traffic. Passing out in a comatose sleep within a few minutes, I only managed to wake up long enough to eat the small meal of a sandwich, piece of pineapple, grape yogurt and brownie. Happy to have it after all that time without a real meal, I was surprised that a meal was served on such a short flight. A flight so short that I was in astounded disbelief that it required such a terrible experience and so much time.
The fun wasn’t over yet. Getting into Seoul at 2:30 AM, I felt a vague sense of internal celebration and hint of relieved happiness for finally making it to S Korea. It was already a huge improvement to see an employee at an information booth where I could ask about the luggage that should have arrived the day before. Having to explain a few times that it would have been delivered via Asiana Airlines even though I had checked it in with Japan Airlines (and grasping to understand how it all worked it myself), I never once thought to use Google Translate to help as I had in the past. When she finally got it regardless, she told me that I’d have to go to Asiana Airlines at a different terminal with a shuttle that wouldn’t start running until 4:30 AM. Knowing that I was probably already fucked before having even gotten there, I stared at her defeated, exhausted and delusional for a short moment before deciding that going to sleep could screw me even farther. Heading upstairs to the door where she had directed me, I continued to dull the pain by watching Grace and Frankie and The Witcher until I was able to catch the shuttle. Another long one, I walked up and down the terminal looking for baggage with the only small moment of success being when I stumbled upon a place to convert my money for what was probably a large enough fee for me to be glad I didn’t understand the conversion. Finally giving in when seeing another information booth after that, I jumped back on the merry-go-round until finally conceding to being told that I had to go to the lost baggage office of Asiana Airlines and that it wouldn’t open until 9 AM. I had only asked where baggage was and, like every other time, no one would give me a straight damn answer. I knew finding my luggage was going to be another battle, so much so that I refused to buy another flight to the island in advance regardless of my recruiter’s insistence (plus I didn’t have the funds to forfeit for another missed flight), but I couldn’t believe it was turning into THAT much of a nightmare. The employees weren’t as uncaring and just plain bad as in China but ugh.
Finally conceding to lay down on another hard bench by a pretty rocked pond with gigantic goldfish, I sat up a couple hours later, still rubbing my eyes, when a thin Korean man in his fifties walked up with the fake friendliness of someone in sales while trying to get me to donate money for kids. A little offended while brushing him off, I thought about how the headache I was getting was so out of character until it dawned on me that I hadn’t had coffee in a couple days. Like a ray of light from the heavens, there just so happened to be a coffee shop right next to me with more comfortable seating. The coffee did indeed cure my headache and there was a caffeinated moment of happy almost human again awakening as the sun rose and I didn’t want to watch shows anymore. Instead I tried to catch up a wee bit on emails not related to the current situation and Facebook socializing only to realize I had calculated the time wrong to join a virtual hangout with the Spanky’s crew. In fact, I had just missed it while sitting there not knowing what to do with myself. Add the bummer to the mountain of bummers of the last four days.
As soon as 9 AM hit, I was on my feet heading to the lost baggage offices of Asiana Airlines to one again go through the process of trying to reach understanding through a language barrier followed by being given a complicated answer that didn’t answer my direct question. Adding to it, I was becoming more and more of a klutz with all the large and heavy stuff that I was carrying. Struggling to get out paperwork to address what a women at one of the stops was asking for, I managed to add to the party when dropping my phone to the ground, breaking it to the point of it’s death. With her not skipping a beat as the look of pain crossed my shut eyes, I continued on until somehow being sent back to the terminal I had been at in the first place in order to meet with someone at Korean Airlines. The good news was that I had first spoken with the man and he not only was pretty fluent in English (my having practiced Korean for months seeming to have gotten me nowhere) but also seemed intelligent and like he could be one of the people in charge. As a side note, it had been nice to watch the sweet women in her twenties at that particular information booth (I made it to that one twice) get excited that I was from the US because, as she told me, her grandmother lived in Texas. Que fighting the blank expression of that being a pretty different world from California.
Taking the shuttle once again and also once again having a hard time finding the place he had instructed, I miserably went to information knowing what was going to happen and was unsurprisingly sent to the wrong office. Continuing to be given wrong information at that wrong office, I argued with the woman I was speaking with until she finally gave in and called the number of the man I was looking for instead of just instructing me how to get to what was undoubtedly another wrong place. Embarrassed at looking like an idiot who couldn’t follow general instruction after she ended up physically leading me, a couple of guys who reminded me of military guarding a door took my passport and started another exhaustive process of procedural BS when the man walked out like a guardian angel, telling them I was with him. The intelligence I had heard through the phone showing behind his eyes, I had a little faith once again but still reminded myself to be ready to crash and burn. It didn’t happen though. He, the first one after all that, actually got it. Having me fill out a basic lost luggage form, he explained that he believed the luggage to still be in China given the complications of my trip and then explained the process of trying to track it along with how and when I would be contacted.
Relieved that it was coming to an end in a way that I felt confident would get it taken care of, I hadn’t had my Promacta for a few days so I was still a little panicked. Especially given that I had started getting the bruises that indicated internal bleeding. At least I thought some of them were from that. There were definitely plenty from getting bumped and banged along the way and a few from my brother in his dark place. Either way, it was especially hard to keep what was left of my cool when he said there was no way to know how long it would take. I managed to compose myself pretty quickly, though, both because I didn’t want to freak out on the person ending my nightmare and also because of remembering oh so many previous experiences where I had felt like the world was ending and just shut down. As a way too high-strung and anxiety-ridden person who lived in the moment, I had always done that, feeling as if there was no other option and that I had once again proven myself to be a fuck up. From those many painful and intense experiences, I had finally learned the hard way (the only way I ever learned) that it just wasn’t true. Telling myself to turn on my brain to think of the big picture in regard to other options, I reminded myself that the next bottle of meds had been delivered to my mom, the three changes of clothes with me should be enough given that I was going to be on quarantine for a couple weeks and that I had made due MacGyver style plenty of times in the past. Both through travel and especially through the burn. I had better survival skills than most.
Thanking him while being surprised by my little moment of glowing up, I figured out how to catch the next bus to the more local airport that would finally take me to my new home. On a roll, I was also thinking about how not having to figure out all the difficulties of dealing with that gigantic luggage with me was pretty damn rad. Floating down that Buddhist river of letting go and going with the flow, I went to the counter once getting to Jeju Air to see if I could get any small amount of refund on the flight I had missed, either to go toward a new ticket or just a regular refund. Already seeing online and through IMing with a rep when I was in quarantine in China, I knew I would be lucky to even get half but it was worth a try. So after explaining that I had kept being cut off with the IM rep when trying to cancel after I couldn’t figure it out online, I crossed my fingers and waited. Not having to pay extra for the luggage meant that the flight would only be around $35 anyway, so it wouldn’t be too painful either way. Well that wait turned into a long one of multiple employees talking about whatever was going on with it while going back and forth between working on their screen and looking on the e-ticket on mine. Once again with new employees walking up to join in, I was starting to jokingly wonder if I was some kind of person of interest and didn’t know about it. In the end they surprised the hell out of me by giving me a full refund. I couldn’t believe it. It was the rainbow at the end of a dark and ugly hurricane tornado. As far as flights and other forms of public transportation went, I could finally exhale. It was over.
With an aching ankle, hips and belongings that still felt next to impossible to manage regardless of checking in the trekking backpack, I treated myself to a bowl of traditional Korean bibimbap as a celebration of making it and then headed to security for my 2:30 PM flight. Grabbing a couple of canned coffees that would be desperately needed the next morning after passing security, I found my seat on the plane, hid the fact that the seat belt didn’t fit, and tried in vain to read a book about the smartest kids in the world that a neighbor had given me at our teenie block party on my birthday back in OB. The attempt was almost a joke as it took less than ten minutes to black out in exhaustion for a flight that was so short that it reminded me of flying from Southern to Northern California in that pretty much all we did was go up and down. Once off the plane and to the baggage claim, mine was one of the first ones out. After going to the bathroom to wash my hands (as my recruiter had asked me to do an annoying amount of times), I opened my laptop planning to send him a message that I was ready to be picked up when I had one last moment of fun as an employee impatiently asked me to move away from the carts so he could add more. Whatever. I balanced my laptop preying that I wouldn’t drop it like I had my phone and sent the message.
Walking out to a pretty tropical setting of trees and shrubbery, I instantly felt the darkness of suffocating hibernation from not going on enough on new adventures over the last year start to break away. A few minutes later, the middle-aged Korean man with salt and pepper hair who had mostly helped and sometimes hindered me so much over the last few months drive up in his small SUV. Opening his trunk for me to put my stuff in (thanks for the help, dude) while uncomfortably expressing how he didn’t know what to say about all that happened to me on the trip, he asked me to sit in the back and we were on our way. Being more than comfortable to sit back there, no doubt both from his being scared of the virus and also from being over me, I was happy to be able to check everything out while not talking. It was about 5 PM on Monday, what was Sunday morning in the US, when I finally pulled up to my new home. Making as quick of an exit as he could, I looked around with a new sense of excitement, confidence that I had made the right decision and being touched by all of the treats and furnishings the manager of the school had left. My favorite of which being a couple of coffee mugs that had little removable spoons built in. Looking at the helpful little post-it notes everywhere, I was surprised by the studio being better than I had expected. It even had a washing machine. Before coming I had thought myself likely to move into a bigger place within a few months. Looking around and quick to organize and clean enough to feel settled, I was already seeing plenty of potential to stay.

August 2019 – Dying to Have a Good Time

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It was the month of Burning Man. That meant a lot of saying no to most other events popping up, though I’m sure it won’t be all too surprising to know that I did still manage to sneak in a fair amount of smaller things. It was also the Month of Mia, as I like to call it, as we kicked off on the first with brunch and another go-round at a burner bike decorating party. Throughout the rest of the month, the two of us got rowdy at a Hash House Harrier event and hung at the burn. I also managed to do the smaller non-party things I loved like farmer’s market, beach time, taking my parents to an event called Tiki Oasis and hangs at the houses of family and friends. Free time on most days, though, was consumed with thrifting, Amazon orders, sorting through my storage unit and lots of other organizing before taking off for the burn on the 22nd.
The biggest event I allowed myself was the aforementioned Hash House Harrier weekend with Mia. Lots of hedonistic shenanigans that ironically ended up playing a roll in saving my life and doing so in enough time to still be able to go to the burn. The Red Dress Run of the Hash House Harriers (a drinking group with a running problem) had been sparked in 1987 by a woman named Donna Rhinehart and then made official in San Diego the following year. Mia told me that it was the biggest event of the year. Something easy to believe given all the other related gatherings over the weekend. Now you may remember from previous posts that I had been getting more and more self-conscious about bruises that had been appearing out of nowhere. By that point they had gotten bad enough that I and the abundance of nurses surrounding me in family and friends knew I needed to get checked out. I had no other symptoms, though, so I never would have guessed it to be too serious. That was until a hematology nurse I was hot-tubing with at the event told me it really could be and that I needed to get to the ER right away.
I had known I wanted to go to the doc before the burn so I didn’t have to “hear it” from other campers but after that nurse’s comment, I finally committed to going within the next day or two. A big part of why I hadn’t already was because I didn’t have insurance and didn’t know how to do it. That had been more stressful than the actual bruises. Go ‘Murica, huh? Anyway, heading over to visit my family the next morning on Monday August 5, I pulled over to the ER on Coronado Island with the intent of leaving if the wait was too long. Good thing it wasn’t as I was told by the ER doc with very little explanation that my life was in danger from the platelets in my blood being too low and I was facing being hospitalized.
I’d be in shock for months but things became a lot clearer as far as what was going on over the next week. I was assigned to an oncologist, as they are “blood doctors”, and was indeed hospitalized on the 13th. Turned out that I had developed a super rare autoimmune disorder called ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpa) where my immune system was misreading the platelets in my blood as a foreign entity (think germs) and killing them off. All I had really known about platelets was that I used to donate them so it was going to take me an extra minute to try to understand and grasp the whole thing. Especially because I had no other symptoms.

What was explained to me was that the platelets in our blood are what causes clotting and stop us from bleeding out. Because mine had gotten so seriously low, I could have started bleeding out of my orifices like a horror movie at any moment. From there, the reaction of professionals would be constant enough to get annoying as they exclaimed over and over about how they couldn’t believe I was OK, not to hit my head and constantly questioning as if I had forgotten that I had shown signs of internal bleeding. I was told such things as how not having a period (I have an IUD) may have saved my life and had a nurse practically doing an interpretive dance over how OK I seemed when he expected to walk into my hospital room to find someone on their death bed. Like so many other times in my life, I was some kind of freak. That time, however, it saved my life. I must note that throughout it all, it was fun to put a smile on the nurse’s faces. I was in the oncology unit so they were used to being around super sick people dying of cancer. I came off as healthy and was full of my normal fun and smiles. Shit, the day I was hospitalized, I was even having a good hair day.
When meeting Dr. Vlad, an oncologist and hematology specialist originally from Eastern Europe, I had no idea he was about to become the main man in my life for the foreseeable future. Attractive, close to my age, taking trips around the world to do goodwill work and with other similarities, it made the connection a bit odd in that it sometimes made things a little less comfortable while at others a little more. Picking up on a relaxed side of his personality underneath the front of professionalism, I had to fight the urge to see him as a challenge and force myself to focus on the ITP. The best part of being paired with him: he had been to Burning Man and knew it was important. For my condition, his plan for the next couple months would be to use (absolutely horrible for the body) steroids like chemo is used to kill my immune system in order to balance my body back out.
When they looked to be working right away, he said he didn’t see any reason I wouldn’t be able to go to the burn with the reasoning being that I still had to live my life. I was more than appreciative for his understanding. It was healing to experience a doctor who actually thought of me as a person and considered the things that actually made my life worth living as opposed to just telling me not go. The ominous question on my mind about that was how much his point of view had to do with, as an oncologist, being around death on a constant basis and how much he categorized me with that group. I couldn’t grasp it but I really was walking a tightrope of life and death. I’ll always be thankful to him for realizing how much more important that made to be able to go to the place that was the foundation of my heart, healing and soul. I’d imagine it to be the reason I was able to get through the next couple months.

July 2019

Before heading to Nor Cal, JerseyJ had been pushing me to stay with her when I got back. Partly to be thoughtful (and so I could more easily pay her back) but mostly because she didn’t like being alone. By two weeks before coming home on July 3rd, I hadn’t heard anything. Calling to basically confirm that she was flaking out, it was a relief when she did. It was unfortunately also something that added to my resentment. Not exactly a shocker to find out soon after, who should had moved in but her hot-mess of a loser boyfriend. A guy who had not only tried to screw me when whacked out of his morning on God knows what (I had given her written proof) but also tried to make her believe that I was the one trying to bang him AND his friend. She knew I wasn’t like that, luckily, and he was a ridiculously terrible liar. Even so, she made excuses for him and swore (more to herself than anyone else) that she wasn’t going to let him move in when it was so obvious that he already had. The whole thing was too familiar. She liked to tell herself that she was such a loyal friend but I had watched her betray anyone who got in her way when it came to men. Often putting old friends and roomies in traumatizing situations when her and her ex would unleash on each other around them. And then she would be heartbroken, worrying why they distanced themselves as she played the victim and ranted about loyalty. I had loved her so much and she had been so good to me in so many ways but the other shoe was dropping. Hard.

I already had my finger on the “publish” button to nail down a place before even making the call and boy did I luck out. Scoring a pad half a block from my favorite beach in SD, I finally met my sweetheart of a new roomie (big sigh of relief) for about two seconds before she disappeared for what would be most of the rest of the summer. Jenny was a soft and sweet woman to the point of being Disney-princess surreal. A blond cutie close to my age, she was about half of my width and, following in the vein of nurses taking over my social and family life in SD, an LVN from the Midwest. Just having gone through a big breakup, this was her first time having a roommate. She was gone a lot as part of her recovery was to travel for the first time in her life. In the famous words of George Strait, she let herself go. Let herself go to Central America to do goodwill work, to visit family and to a surf camp for women. We had just met and I was excited, happy and proud of her in a way that made it seem like we had been friends forever. It was a slightly strange feeling to feel that way about someone I had just met but I did.
As always, I was working myself to death. Because that’s what I did no matter what (I kept meaning to go to therapy for it) but also because of the more legit reason of it being time to start hardcore prep for Burning Man. Part of that was saying no to most of the stuff that came up for the summer. That part sucked. Mini moments of redemption managed to work their way in, though, by finding a few hours here and there for some good times on a smaller scale starting with when I had finally checked off the goal of making it to Venice Beach when hanging at Grandma’s in Eagle Rock for a couple nights. Once home, I started catching up with my regular haunts and habits in OB. Writing at Te Mana, foodie moments such as eating the seasoned fruit more typically sold on the beaches of Mexico when a woman walked around with it on Dog Beach and finding a 3.2 mile path to walk along the coast that started and ended at our duplex with a turn around at the local skate park. It was perfection to be able to hang with Team OB for the 4th of July. Such a great feeling to be back in the mix with the old group of friends, it was a little foreshadowed not only from still feeling insecure (and a little worried) about the mystery bruises but also because of being distracted as I tried to ignore the painful knowledge that the bond would once again break when I next left. I hated that part of travel so much.

Going to Mexico with Mia and friends for a day was a great snack for the growing hunger to get back out of the country. Previously flying off on one of her own adventures through the Tijuana airport, she had met the sweetest guy who happened to live there in TJ (also flying off one of his own many adventures) when they bonded over the challenges of finding a morning mimosa. Josswell was a sweetheart who was excited to show us around his city those months after their first meeting. If he could have talked us into staying all night to paint the town, he would have. A lovely day but those damn bruises were distracting as I was becoming more embarrassed and even a little it worried. There was plenty of other distractions to pull me out of it though. One being when our server was so high that he didn’t listen to our orders at all as we gave them and then just randomly sat down at our table. Even Josswell’s jaw was on the floor. It was later hilarious to us and had to be in the moment to others as we must have looked like confused cartoons with eyes bugging out of our heads.
I got to spend a lot of time with family, both blood and honorary. I even managed to have a few one-off homie hangs with Jewels and a friend, Rachael, who I only saw once or twice a year. She had gotten in a relationship, moved 45 minutes away and later had a baby. Unlike the expired wedding dress she ditched that stared at me every time I went to my storage unit, I was lucky to see her at all. I was proud of myself for getting better at those moments of making a point to spend time with loved ones. I was also feeling pretty good at myself for getting better at executing the goal of using the rideshare work as an outlet for sightseeing and making it to events. It was fun people-watching at ComiCon from the safety of my car. Way more than it would have been navigating through the packed crowds. Balboa Park offered free museums to locals on Tuesday so I managed to make it there a couple times. Once being when it was the day for MOPA (Museum of Photographic Arts) given that photography was the second of my creative passions. I even managed to meet up after a work shift to Gay Pride with some girlfriends I hardly ever got to see. A valiant effort but I arrived a little too late based on the amount they had already drank. Them and everyone else.

Continuing on as a foodie, I made my way around by mouth *insert dirty joke* to, among so many other places, my always-favorite OB farmer’s market. So much of the magic in Ocean Beach radiated through the festival-style event on Wednesday nights. Great food, people watching, happy hour, musicians and acro-yoga that was followed by a drum circle and fire spinners once sunset hit. It made me think of the burn just a little. I also got the chance to share some traditional fun with Wendy by taking her to a very old community event called OTL. Over the Line was a rowdy bat and ball social sporting event related to softball that had been around since the 1950s. Inappropriate team names, lots of drinking and a notable amount of men in their fifties and sixties who had been playing for years took over Fiesta Island for a couple of weekends a year. Not being too far from my place, it gave Sis and I a chance to bike there so that I could test-drive the one I had newly decorated for the burn. A big fail that I should have seen coming given that the bike had been shit on the playa the year before. Puffing away on our way there, she did me the service of switching when I was too exhausted from the malfunctions of mine. Her effort solidifying that mine was a heap of donezo, we eventually gave up and locked them up on the island for me to pick up the next day.
Having a blast there, especially her, we got to have another special sister moment a few days later when I went with to watch one of her salsa classes. A hobby that made her so happy, it made me happy. Good times together had been on a roll. For the next hang, we added in not only more of the family for more of the fun but also a couple of the friends who I had met up with at Pride and OTL. Pool party at the Satterwhite Sanctuary, baby! Fun for sure though my dear sister screwed up royally with her behavior toward one of the amigas badly enough to threaten our long-standing friendship. Well, if it could even been considered a friendship anymore. One of the sad examples where, once inseparable, we had become something between acquaintances and party friends who hardly ever communicated let alone hung. The reality was that it might not have made a difference either way if sister caused any damage. That hurt. What felt victoriously validating, though, was Wendow taking the crown as the family fuck up. Oh how the mighty had fallen. Even if just for a minute.

It was a good month for getting back to my “normal” life at home. There was something anything then normal that was about to come around the corner, though. Instead of getting better, the bruises were getting progressively worse. A lot worse. By July 29 I had one the size of a baseball. There was no more trying to ignore while hoping it would go away. Something was wrong.

June Not So Much Gloom 2019

Brigit and I started out June with one of the hikes that I loved so much. It was one of the Nor Cal things that hurt to be away from when home in So Cal or overseas. There had come to always be someone or something that it ached to be away from. It was one of the heartbreaks of the life that I had always dreamed of and was finally living. The day after, though, I experienced the opposite when being happy and proud to make it to an art preview in SF for the years upcoming Burning Man. Something I didn’t yet know was that it would have extra meaning due to my not being able to make it to most of the art in person thanks to serious health stuff was about to pop up.

Continuing in the same vein of making progress in my goal of taking advantage of all the amazing things a lifestyle of vagabonding offered, I continued my days and nights by hanging at the beach in Santa Cruz and making it to that hood’s monthly burner mixer. More Sound Camp than the parts of the community I was into, it was still nice to spend the first couple hours with the community before the EDM took over. Keeping with the beach theme a few days after that, I also stopped to spend sometime in Monterey when a ride took me there. A goal with driving rideshare that I had tended to fall short on more than I would have liked.
The most important event of the month toward goal-advancement was a virtual interview for the public teaching system in S Korea by the name of EPIK. Excusing myself from a lovely tea Brigit was throwing in the garden of the front of the house, I was worried before it even began about how hot it was that day. For good reason as I was disheveled, distracted and sweating through the entire interview. In a culture I had heard to be somewhat vain, I was more than a little worried about that being even more of a problem than what I was already worried about in regard to weight and age prejudice. So yeah, when I found out soon after that that I didn’t get it, I wasn’t exactly shocked. I was, however, a little unjustifiably resentful that I had been in such a bad situation for the interview in the first place by trying to make the tea while not having a decent option of where I could set up. An example of my weakness of FOMO, still being too much of a people pleaser and something I should have been more proactive to solve beforehand. I may not have been shocked by the rejection but the wind was definitely taken out of my sails for a hot minute. It had been my main focus without paying attention to a plan B (more like plan F) for a while. A lifetime of experience gave faith that I’d pull myself up by the bootstraps but ugh…it was a blow.
It was always a pleasant piece of magic to experience how the little things made such a helpful difference. The hiking, of course. B and I even managed to get Aaron out and I made it on my own to a trail called Garden of Eden that lead hikers along a forested railroad to a set of connected lagoons that were used as a swimming hole. Beyond freeing myself with taking a weight on my shoulders by paying JerseyJ back money she had very generously loaned me to get into a rental car for work after an unexpected situation, I avoided her most of the month. Speaking of that car, it felt empowering to change my own tire in the middle of the night when getting a flat during a work shift. I also found a big breath of peace when seeing a deer as I pulled out from the house on my way to another. With the all too common reminder of all the small moments I’d be sad to miss, I stopped to take a picture of a beautiful house, grabbed a beer at Monty’s, spent time with compadres and tried to continue going out to new restaurants at least a couple times a week to foodie it up instead of just looking for the most convenient, cheap and/or healthy option. Being the hot-mess I was, I found the humor when that included rubbing my eye with Sriracha when eating pho. I got to celebrate Brigit’s birthday before heading back to SD at the end of the month. A happy ending that added to a life of detail that had me mostly over my job rejection and moving onto the next step within a couple weeks.

Something big happened at the end of the month. Big and scary, though I wouldn’t know it until later. I had been getting random bruises and was finally starting to trip about them enough to ask someone. I had been getting them for a while, actually. Before then, I had been blowing them off as one of the clumsy times I ran into something or when I bruised easily after knocking a few back. I wasn’t drinking enough for that to be the reason though. And I had started getting them too often to believe I was forgetting clumsy moves. They were only about the size of a thumbprint at that time but a tiny internal alarm was going off. Tiny but big enough that on June 25 I sent pictures to my nurse brother. As usual, he blew me off in his out of sight, out of mind way. I was self-conscious about them enough to bring it up again with folks from my Burning Man camp, Spanky’s, a few days later at a work weekend held at the farm of a couple awesome burners in Garden Valley, CA who were were part of a sister camp named Black Rock Bordello. Not just a farm by the name of Skunkworks, they had huge tents set up that they traveled with to help those in need and let Spanky’s use for those work weekends along with storing camp stuff the rest of the year. One of the hundreds of examples I could give about why I love the spirit of Burning Man. Making it to one of the pre-prep work weekends had almost been as important to me as going to the burn itself. It was also a great break in driving across the state between my two homes for the second time in a month, even if it did add just short of 300 miles to the trip.

Oh My May! 2019

As expected and hoped for, the rest of May was pretty low-key with the one small hiccup of a semi-shitty situation with JerseyJ. She had said I could stay with her the night of my return from Sint Marteen but then retracted when I checked in before my connecting flight. Her reason being that it was going to be too late. To be fair, I hadn’t thought of how late the hour would be before then. It was hard to keep track of all details with travel and she was a night owl so it hadn’t occurred to me to make sure she knew. Maybe it wouldn’t have been but I had a hunch it wasn’t the real reason anyway. As I saw coming but she had been in denial about, RJ had moved in. I was trying to work on salvaging our friendship but also unintentionally testing her, as I expected the final nail to be hammered down into the coffin at any moment. Since St. Patty’s, we both had switched over to our frustrations with each other taking precedence over the good stuff. The situation with him was a whole new level of trouble adding to the challenges we were already facing.
Given the situation, I was forced to spend the night at my paren’t house. Something I wasn’t comfortable with and a situation that was made even worse by an allergy-caused cough from the pups that popped up every once in a blue moon. Also the folks waking me up at 8 AM after going to bed in the wee hours due to the maid, gardener and pool guy coming. I swore I was never going to sleep a decent night again. Feeling horrible physically, we still managed to spend a nice morning and early afternoon together with breakfast burritos, pizza and watching GOT. Then it was time for me to get back into the daily life routine of managing the headaches of my rental car, working on applications to teach in S Korea and the always unavoidable, bills.
Three days passed and, trying to not be resentful, I visited JerseyJ. Or should say I visited her dogs given that she was MIA for a couple hours. Once more miscommunication to add to the mountain that was building. A much happier visit was to Nikki, Brent and the boys just ’cause and also to see the progress on their new house before heading back to Nor Cal. Back to Brigit and Aaron’s the next day with a stop at Grandma’s in L.A. for the night, a much smaller commitment of socializing was on the roster. It was nice, though, to have brief moments like when B’s friend Hondo visited. A sweet guy involved in the music scene of Indiana (among other creative outlets), he was such a sweetheart that he even went as far as to help give Brigit’s elderly cat Meowlie fluids intravenously.
From there it was back to my every day life of hiking in those mountains that I loved so much, sometimes by myself and sometimes with Brigit. Also with her tenancy to scold people with dogs. One of the pleasures that came with driving all over the Bay when working too much was the delightful opportunities of being a foodie. Munching on fish and chips when hitting my old stomping ground, Britannia Arms, I was flooded with memories of drinking Long Islands with my bestie at the time, Nicki (not to be confused with Nikki), in my very early twenties. It was nice to add a little nostalgia with the new spots.
href=””>Mia (as in the person) came to town for Bay to Breakers, something I had always been excited to check out, and I spent the night to join in. More than a little bummed, we never made it but did instead to a crazy Hash House Harriers party. A fun and hedonistic group that managed to make even me blush. Picking up Svetlana‘s son Nick from school a few days later, I even squeezed in one night with them and her great cooking before the end of the month. A visit that always managed to be accompanied by too much vino and my forever trying to get her evil cat Daisy to love me. Nice and scratched up, I said goodbye to May and got ready for summer to start creepin in.

March 2019 – St. Patty’s!

March started out with a laid back wine tasting trip in a small city about three hours away called Murphys . Svetlana and I hit Costco along the way to grab our contribution before meeting up with a handful of friends for a rainy and cuddly weekend that was perfect for that cute little town. Over all it was a low-key weekend away with only a couple hiccups. Brian was the friend of Svet and I who had all but disappeared a couple years before after reacting with anger to our friend jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. He came for the second night and got hostile when I gave Svetlana his keys while dramatically pleading with him not to drink and drive. Thanks to my brother I don’t give men, especially ones so much older, a second chance after they flash on me. Back home in a blink, the next morning provided the second hiccup when I had to fight through my hangover to grouchily change a tire in the rain, snapping at Svet who was always sweet and only getting in the way because she trying to help. I was way too used to doing things alone and way past an age of doing it any other way without notable effort.
Getting home, it was nice to be back hanging with Aaron and Brigit in those forested mountains of Felton. for a short while before heading back down to San Diego. Stopping to hang with a a burner bud in Long Beach along the way, I got right back to business once in SD when picking up my nieces up from school and helping with LanaBell’s elaborate birthday party. Spending the night and getting more quality time with my family the next day, I was happy to settle into my own life in OB that afternoon. Enjoying lunch a day or two later at Karl Strauss with the owner of my long-term car rental, Tavian, we enjoyed the venue of what was once a Japanese restaurant with beautiful grounds of koi ponds, small moon bridges and Japanese-style trees such as the evergreen. Later that night I got the chance to stop at my favorite SD Irish pub, Blarney Stone, where I was surprised by great live music of the crooner type and the day after that got the chance to take my pop to a Barona Casino about an hour away for an all you can eat lobster buffet on Wednesdays and gambling. It was soon to become our special father-daughter tradition and one of his favorite things to do. He even loved to check in by phone multiple times for a couple of days before to make sure we were still on.
Continuing on with traditions, I did laundry at a OB local laundromat while going for the $10 burger and a beer deal next door at The Stick.. Important family time with my honorary sister’s, I stopped in to see Nik and fam and hung at Te Mana with Kate and her daughter Audrey for some impromptu kid’s yoga hosted by Playful Peace Yoga. At some point I even made it over to Sean’s friend’s house to snuggle on a new litter of puppies.
Come mid March, it was finally time for my favorite holiday. More than ready to celebrate, I started the St. Patty’s day weekend festivities on Saturday the 14th with the family when we met up for a local parade around Balboa Park and continued on after they left to watch my favorite local Irish band, The Fooks. Leaving from there, I worked in prep of the next day being the main event of St. Patty’s Day brunch with Mia at the always rowdy bar in our gay district, Urban Mo’s . Unlimited champagne brunch amid a venue that looked like it had thrown up clovers and green eventually grew into a shit-show of shenanigans as it always did and was always fun. Being rowdy and playful ourselves, of course were right there to join in. That was until mid afternoon when Mia went home to sleep it off and I was picked up by JerseyJ who I had made the unrealistic promise of not being too drunk when she came to meet up. I wasn’t but it wouldn’t take too much more to get there.
From there we headed back to OB where my roomie at the time was going to meet up with us. Jersey J had previously told me how she wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and, while I couldn’t imagine it, it also wasn’t too surprising given that I tended to like strong, rowdy and outspoken women. To my chagrin, that ended up being the first time I actually saw it when she rubbed my roommate the wrong way within minutes of walking into our local Irish pub, The Harp. More specifically, when she unknowingly stole the attention of a guy my roomie was talking to and then proceeded to intensely lecture her about how he was lame. Looking back, I should have stopped her, but at the time I just felt awkward tension and ran away. I wasn’t about to let anyone ruin my favorite holiday, after all, and justified it as adults being able to take care of themselves. Besides, I was already getting annoyed with JerseyJ for causing drama.
Too soon after, my roomie went home feeling upset and buzzed (something I wasn’t fully aware of until the next day) while Jersey J and I moved on bar hopping. That was the epicenter of where our friendship apart. Making it to our long-standing local music venue, Winston’s, her idea to do tequila shots and my too quickly say yes led to my getting too drunk as I had promised her I wouldn’t. Even if I had promised her I wouldn’t be when she showed up earlier, not a couple hours later, she was pissed when those shots had my eyes rolling back in my head. My day was obviously done.
It was the moment that unlocked the beast in her. That, my verbal diarrhea about stuff that had been bothering me and she had blown off (if I’m being honest with myself, I was never as outspoken as I needed to be to be heard) and, as she would tell me later, a wee bit of party drugs. Lame but then again so was I when taking the booze too far.
Already not exactly thrilled with each other, when she starting loudly nagging and bitching at me on repeat, all I wanted to do was go home. Even though it was only early evening and daylight out, she refused to let me walk the half a block alone in my slovenly state. Well-intended but not really doing me any favors as she continued to bitch and I to defend my emo frustrations until she was at the point of screaming at me at the top of her lungs kitty-corner to my house. Me shutting down and not saying a word almost the entire time, I thought about how she had admitted to losing it on her ex from time to time though I had never experienced it. Neighbors stopping to stare in concern, I knew I was done. We were done. Able to read my wall going up and the emotional distance kicking in at a Star Trek level of warp speed, she started screaming even louder. “I’m done” I said and continued to say over and over as my only response. It didn’t help that her screaming was putting me in the potential position of being kicked out of my home. Thank God my roommate was passed out.
I did try to work on it later when she came to me with the mentality that it was just a fight, I was hurting her by ghosting and that we should work through it. Telling myself that I needed to stop shutting people out like that when I reached the end of my rope, I also told myself that she was worth giving it a shot for. So I did try. It was too late though. The well had already run dry. It seemed from both sides, or maybe the dam had burst from her end as she continued to nag, lecture and bitch at me from thereon out in repetition. I suppose one could say the honeymoon phase was over.
I was bummed for a couple days over what happened with us and that the second half of my favorite holiday was thrown in the shitter but soon mostly compartmentalized it away to feel the relief of heading back to the beauty, peace, nature and lack of partying in Felton. Being the social slut I was, saying no when in the middle of it wasn’t exactly my strong suit. Needing to lick my wounds, I kept my head down for the rest of the month working, writing and plugging away on my TEFL certification. I may have been at the end(ish) of one friendship (more to come) but wasn’t going to take too long to recover. I was focused on looking forward to the next step of my travel life as the plan to teach English in S. Korea grew closer and closer.


Mia was an awesome little lady I had met when looking for a rideshare to get to Burning Man in 2018. She was a kick-ass Asian American about my age (though of course she thought I was younger at first) who, of the group of ladies we went with,I knew I wanted to be friends da with.
Organizing the whole thing, she would also drive and be out doing the physical things with the gigantic RV that I was used to either a man or myself doing. Hurray for breaking gender rolls!
Doing burner things, our own thing and her introduconge to the Hash House Harriers, we had been friends ever since.

Big Red’s 40th in Sint Marteen!

It was finally time to go to Sint Maarten, baby!
Sister was turning 40 and, after finding the tiny half Dutch half French Caribbean island on a cruise, it had been one of her favorite places. Excited to finally be on the go again, I was also nervous about doing the all-inclusive resort thing given that it was pretty much the opposite of my style. Still, I was happy to do it for her and tried to focus on the potential of it being a way to take it easy and get some rest for once. Something that didn’t happen, of course, bit it was worth a try.
What had been more than a small challenge leading up to the trip on the $25k a year I was netting was the $1k room cost for the six nights we would be there along with the $1k in additional expenses. I had damn near killed myself during the two or three weeks before by working 80+ hours to cover it and even had that first grand-mal seizure of three years talked about in the last post. I had wondered if it was a fluke the first time but having one again put me in a position of trying to process the upsetting reality of having epilepsy and what that meant to my future.
Working so much in Nor Cal while also plugging away on getting my TEFL teaching certification had me all turned around with trying to keep track of anything else. That included thinking that I was on different flights from my family when in fact we were all on the same both to and from. Well, all minus our brother and niece/his daughter who didn’t come. Not flying solo as I had initially though was bitter-sweet as I could have used some alone time to decompress and process. At the same time, I was happy start to the adventure together.
Finally getting there after half a day’s travel, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort was just OK by my tastes. Lots of sparse white walls with big open spaces and there was only one elevator working among the construction still understandably going on in recovery from the hurricane. Luckily nothing too bad considering. Especially given that we got the rooms at half price because of it. Always the little things, what did bother me was that the booze in my room wasn’t stocked. Regardless of the discount, I didn’t pay that much to be shafted on “all inclusive” treats and it was my vacation too, dammit. Especially if I was going to be stuck in a place full of young middle-class mostly American families and the elderly. Not exactly a crowd I related to.
That afternoon being the first time hanging at the large peanut-shaped pool (which had one of the palapa-covered pool bars I loved so much), we grabbed a drink with Dad and I splashed around with Sienna as she climbed all over me. Loving seeing Dad actually have an adult beverage and Sienna letting go to play with me, it would end up being one of my favorite family moments of the trip. Later but not late enough for anything to be poppin, Big Red and I headed out to a hookah bar called Beirut sxm that was set up like an(atthe time) empty dark disco on the strip next to the resort. It was OK but I didn’t like that she let an arrogant bartender from our resort of whom she had befriend partake in the hookah she paid for. I didn’t like his cocky energy and wasn’t hiding it. A few drinks in, I eventually started calling him a fuckboy. Not my proudest moment.
Like other friends of mine, I loved how generous she was but throwing money around forever reminded me of the gluttony and shadiness of the subprime mortgage industry. I hated it.
After that, and as was to become the norm, she went back to the resort and I stayed to hang with the locals. Quite the introduction, that first night turned into my meeting a cute guy who had a puppy I wanted to pet when trying to blow off a different guy. The one with the pup just so happened to be the son of the chief of police and the only (rated PG 13) romantic interlude of the trip. Being what must have been in his mid twenties, way too young comparatively, he was a pup himself and I pretty much a cougar. On our impromptu date of the night, we walked the puppy around (he was also a dog trainer) as he told me about the area and then we dramatically argued with the resort staff saying that he was who I was there to visit and so should be allowed in. Asshole move on my part as they could get their pay docked if caught.
After waking my parents up to steal their booze in the middle of the night (whoopsie) for a last drink while hanging a wee bit longer, I sent him packing before things got too hot and heavy. Going to bed for the few short hours of sleep I’d get before Wendy woke me up bright and early, it was a somewhat alarming rise-and-shine as I was covered with all kinds of mystery bruises. I didn’t know it then but that was to become a serious autoimmune disorder that was going to get worse over the next few months. A lot worse.
Best part about the resort and it’s three restaurants: best jerk chicken ever! We ate it almost every day. It was also fun to spend time at the beach with Sienna who was was once again crawling all over me in the ocean, both of us cracking up as my sunglasses were lost to the ocean while she turned into a sea-monkey smothering me. Later we set off for the day with a laid back local taxi driver, Walter, of whom we had hired independently. One of the things I had been adamant to my sister that we do and we all ended up being super happy about.

One of the first stops was to feed wild iguanas lettuce. Something pretty cool and fun in it’s own right but especially watching Mom enjoy it and Sienna freak out. Driving along the coast as we headed to the French side of the island (we were staying on the Dutch side), it was a mental trip to see so many boats on their sides from the hurricane, many of them looking like multi-million dollar yachts that had never been used. I was snapped out of it when our guide informed us that it was Carnival. Forever in FOMO mode, I was all over checking out what was going on with the list he gave me as I giggled to myself with the thoughts I always had of how much our family reminded me of National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. The classic National Lampoon with Chevy Chase, not the newer one. Remember, I was 41.
Stopping to shop on our day’s sightseeing trip of the island, Wendy was ecstatic to find a wooden sword. She had gotten one taken away from on her first visit to the island when goofing off too much with it. Something she continued when accidentally hitting me in the head with the new one.
The French side was definitely, at least the part we saw, more run down and less touristy. Walter told us it was due to being less focused on tourism and it’s inhabitants living off the French version of welfare. The ability to earn on the island was almost at the same income level as what they got from that so it didn’t make sense to work. I got where the concept was coming from but my workaholic-ass couldn’t relate. It just seemed depressing.
Stopping to get French pastries for later, we made our way to a cute and quaint French restaurant Wendy had found with light pink walls, flowers, candles and a live lobster pool that we watched be filled with the crustaceans that had just been caught in the ocean that day. Opposite to what is often expected from the French culture, I was surprised and charmed by how friendly and charismatic the staff was. It was over all an enchanting culinary experience.
Sleep deprived and hungover being the theme of the trip, it was a lovely day but I was happy for the chance to end it with a wee bit of recovery and more quality time with Sienna back in our rooms while Wendy and Dad went to the casino across the street. Causing multiple people to wonder what the heck was on my legs over the next couple days, that included letting her use the henna from India on me that I had given her. Regretting not having spent the night in her and Wendy’s room as Sienna requested, night two was the second in a row of not sleeping much. That time, though, was due to insomnia, not partying. C’est la vie.
The next day, May 4th, was Big Red’s actual birthday. Heading to the pool and beach, she managed to find thw 40s club of the resort. In other words, we made friends with a couple and two ladies who were also there for 40th birthday celebrations. I, of course, eventually had a tray full of colorful drinks with little alcohol and a lot of sugar brought out to the waterfront for the grand finale of our hang. From there, sis and I headed back to our rooms to get dolled up for the dinner she had reserved at one of the resort’s nicer restaurants. A dinner of lovely family time that was temporarily interrupted with a hiccup when a man was being abusive to his wife at a table nearby. Both Wendy and I told staff and I shot him eye-daggers when he looked over but other than that it didn’t affect the dinner too much. Actually, I was proud of sis and I for being lionesses who weren’t about to let someone be abused without a little protection.
Among other things, Sint Marteen is known for Maho Beach. More specifically, a small strip of land where people can stand on the sand while being blasted by planes taking off from the island’s airport runway. While too tired to do it myself, we did manage to watch a little boy do it while dining at the neighboring Sunset Bar and Grill. An awesome restaurant next door that we all loved enough to visit twice. Foodie note if you ever make your way there: it had the best coconut shrimp I’ve even had.
That night was the major “fun” event for me. Carnival’s Wet Fete! I had found it on the list from our tour a couple days before and, while Big Red and I had been too tired to go to the party of Carnival the night before, I was determined to make it to this one. I mean come on. Water and soca music with almost all locals? So much so that we only saw two other white people and they weren’t even American. I couldn’t miss it! Good thing I didn’t given that it was the total highlight of doing something more my style.
Set up on a big asphalt area half an hour from the resort, of course I happened to be one of the first people sprayed with a big hose when picking up Wendy’s shoe to put back on her Prince Charming style.
Prior to coming in, she had talked Walter into coming in instead of waiting in the car, telling him she would pay him to hang and be our bodyguard. Something that was about to cause a big fight between the two of us back at Sunset Bar the next day with the after I had ended up being the one to pay him after she passed out. Back to Wet Fete, sis also made friends with a woman from the islands of whose drawn on eyebrows I couldn’t stop staring at.

Dancing away while Big Red continued to lead us to the bar to keep the drinks flowing (her generously paying once again), we were all free flowing and having a blast until sis had one too many and started getting a wee bit too feisty. Amusingly liking to tell dudes I was a player when she was loaded and that particular time acting like I was lame for not letting her drink anymore (too much booze made her feisty and made me cry), I decided it was time to leave somewhat early before we were both too much of a hot mess and would have regrets. My little sis had to enjoy her epic 40th, dammit!
After putting Wendy to bed, Walter continued on with me to go out on the strip by the resort after and we immediately ran into our 40s group friends at the fun outside bar next door called Tres Amigos. Cool but would have been better if Wendow was there. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for him to try to kiss me (go home to your wife, dude) and I sent him packing. Then I sat on the strip chatting until shortly after sunrise with another guy who had come back on foot to say hello after driving by with a fancy car. Dr. Philing him (AKA: I think I’m a therapist after I’ve had a few), the guy seemed to think we were in a relationship until weeks after I was back in the states. There I went again. *Rolling eyes at myself.*
Sis showed up to my room still buzzed a couple hours after I had gone to sleep claiming that she was waking me up to make sure I was OK. I believed that she was really just excited to get the day started and still loopy from the night before. From there, she took me pointless wandering so much that we never got to eat before leaving for a snorkeling excursion. Not a good combo with a lack of sleep, booze the day before and a boat. She had been excited and inadvertently not letting me sleep the whole trip. Something that wouldn’t fare well by the end. Still, the snorkeling trip was fun and the guides were cute (well, one of them) and playful. We got to see the wrecked ships even closer, sad and surreal, and check out the tropical fish of that Caribbean island. Cool but somewhat sparse and not overly-impressive compared to other places I had been. I had spoiled myself!
Feeling shitty and way too tired by the time we got back, I went to lay down for little more than an hour before Mom called my room to say that the family was waiting in the lobby for me to go back to the restaurant by the airport. No one had given me any notice and it felt like I was an afterthought. Let’s just say it didn’t help my mood. Grouchy and especially not happy with Wendy, I finally lost it when she tried to say she paid Walter, not me, because of how much she spent. Then we went into full sister-syndroming when she said that I always freaked about money, which she hates. As a reminder, I was netting $25k a year and had just spent a couple grand (as well as a seizure) on the trip. Also that I hadn’t felt comfortable and didn’t want Walter (who was lucky his wife was still with him after impregnating another woman) to go. And then I had ended up being the one to pay him $100 as she hadn’t been in the state to do so by the time we got back. As was all too common, she took no responsibility for her own actions and I was hostile as hell about it. Yeah, we were both sister-syndroming each other like crazy. I was usually the crazy, wild and irresponsible one but she had her moments too and I had hit my limit. Even if it was her 40th. I did take responsibility for not handling it well though, at least to myself. I would spend a long time sadly regretting that one. Maybe forever.
The next day was our last. That trip being no exception, I had a habit of getting burnt out and bummed at the end of being somewhere. Travel, Burning Man, between my homes of Southern and Northern California, you name it. Riding the coat tails of the night before, breakfast and hanging by the pool the next morning with the rest of the family tolerating my shitty energy, we made our way home and me to finally get the rest I had thought I would get there. Yeah, I needed to work on my grand finale skills. Nobody’s perfect.
Happy 40th, sister. Even with the lows, it was one hell of a high. I love you.

April 2019 – Developing Nor-Cal Routines

Hike, hike, hiking in Henry Cowell State Park.. Those redwoods, the doggos and horses on path…I coveted it and was happy to get it on a regular basis. Hitting the Santa Cruz burner happy hour wasn’t my thing once the EDM started but I was happy to make it over to hang with burners for an hour or two. What was my thing was going wine tasting in the mountains and for a couple drinks at of course our local dive, Monty’s Log Cabin. Routines sounding familiar yet?
Dinner with Brigit & Aaron at Casa Nostra, an Italian restaurant that was becoming a routine, was quite a treat as was Svet and I enjoying White Russians at Morgan Hill’s dive bar M&H Tavern both in celebration of our late friend Wren and to say goodbye to the little town before she moved out.
The siblings were annoying me with the sis being all about her body and getting six-pack abs for her 40th birthday the next month (though I got it at the same time) and the brother with messages about studding out his purebred dog. Superficiality and breeding dogs, especially when I had seen so many in trouble during my travels, were topics that didn’t sit well with me. They knew that.

Highlight of the month: I got my ticket to Burning Man! Or should I should say that Brigit did. We both sat on laptops plugging away the second they went on sale, each facing error messages that weren’t all too unexpected until she finally got through. Yay! True to a burner’s heart, her and Aaron even gifted me with covering half of mine as well as our friend Melissa’s. B kept saying that she had been gifted in her earlier days and now it was her turn. I love, love, love our community. And them. My little man-made family.
Sad to have to cancel a flight home for my brother’s birthday and Easter, the reason was happy as it was to save money for Sint Marteen for Big Red’s 40th! Instead I got to celebrate the holiday with Brigit and Aaron where she, in her smirk of dark humor, carried on a tradition of cooking rabbit.
A couple more hangs in Santa Cruz, meals in San Francisco, hot tubbing under the stars with Brigit, Aaron and even Melissa finished off the month. That along with finally making it to Muir Woods for a hike (Pelican Inn is a cute place to stop to eat but I wouldn’t recommend the stew) and signs of the second time having grand-mal seizure/s (first being years before) when waking up on the 25th with a majorly bit up tongue. I may have been stressing my body out by working too much for the sister’s birthday trip. Whopsie-doo.
It was a short and sweet month in Nor Cal enjoying the peace and pals. Not my norm and not so bad. Probably overdue, actually.

Feb 2019 – my 41st birthday month

Starting the ‘ol birthday month with my grandma in LA was a nice way to warm up. Always getting to her house late for initial arrival, that particular time was due to hanging with burner buds in Long Beach the night before. The next morning started with her making brekkie, something she was sweetly stubborn about doing, and even the repetitive nagging of wishing I visited more while at the same time on repeat about the effort it took to do so added to the Grannie magic. Of course it drove me crazy (duh) but it also warmed my heart to see her being amped about my being there. She was getting used to my coming around on a semi-regular basis. That made me happy.
After breakfast I took her out to run errands and for lunch, took her to a place in her neighborhood called Zankou Chicken that a podcast I had been listening to called My Favorite Murder had talked about. It had been covering the story of how the founder had killed members of his family. Delicious food with only a hint of murder.
2019 was a year with more traveling back and forth within my home state as opposed to the overseas tornado of 2018. Something I was especially enjoying given that I was planning on being overseas for just about all of 2020. Going home to SD on the specific date I did this particular time was for the purpose of watching the dog of my homie and old roomie Jewels. Poor baby had cancer, as had her other pup who had passed a few months before. It already wasn’t hard to get my help with doggos and the year had been turning out to not have quite as much time at home as I was comfortable with (though was loving my second home) so I was happy for the push to come back for a couple weeks.
2019 had been, and would continue to be, a year of family. Probably the most of my entire adult life up to that point. Of that, Kati, Nik and their families were lower maintenance than my blood family. Not to infer that my blood family was high-maintenance in a bad way, we were just close for the first time and when I saw them they were usually all together. Mostly because they lived on the same estate (the Satterwhite Sanctuary) and it was a half an hour away. Even more challenging, totally outside of the central-coastal bubble I lived in. Yeah. Not easy. Going to their property was the hardest of all the time we spent together as it meant an entire day of different stages. All of us together, Mom and Dad in their house, my niece’s at the pool, my sis at the bar, socializing with their friends, my bro on the couch in front of the TV…it was a family circus. And something I didn’t want to miss. I’d eventually learn to give up on accomplishing anything else on those days and to just plan on spending the night but wasn’t quite there yet.
On the opposite, going out to eat was a norm with them and maybe the only way time management stood a chance. It was super fun being able to take them, especially my parents, to places in SoCal I had always thought they would like. For instance, taking them and their dogs to Julian for the town’s famous pie. Special times that would always warm me up to think about later on.
Being a traveler and living in NorCal part-time sometimes magnified the ticking of life’s clock a little too loud. I never felt like I had enough down time at home in the comfort bubble of my small community beach town. Not being home all the time did make me especially love my routines more than ever though. Even doing laundry was fun and something I looked forward to. For example of how, the $10 burger and a beer lunch special at our local dive, The Stick, was directly next to the laundromat and something I always paired with it.
Home when my birthday once again hit on Feb 8th, for once I wouldn’t have made a big deal about it given that it was coming on the heels of the big 40. Sis wasn’t having it though. She arranged an awesome fondue dinner with the Kid (little bro Sean) stepping up to have her back to make sure we fondid it right. Even Grandma surprised me by being there! I wasn’t the most thrilled that Wendy invited her ex-husband knowing that I had strong mixed feelings about him given that he was usually super cool but also a leach on our family and would once in a while would go getto. Something I had no tolerance for even from someone who was usually super cool. Otherwise, all happy sparkles.
It didn’t take long after that for me to be back up north in Felton with a stop along the way to visit the peacocks at Casa de Fruita. Back to work right away, the sightseeing of driving for Lyft was part of the fun and something I enjoyed getting back to. Every once in a while, the destination of passengers would even take me by the house I grew up in that my parents had only moved out of a couple years before. I, of course, used those opportunities to send photos to the fam though I didn’t miss that city in general at all.
Besides using rideshare to sightsee, socialize and network, there was also the usual stuff of my NorCal life to keep me happy. Hangin at Cafe Gratitude in Santa Cruz, visiting my pal Renee in wine country and small lingering birthday celebrations such as Svet getting me shoes I emo-loved thanks to their raising money for doggos being a few examples. Of course I accidentally rubbed part of the heel off from driving within a couple weeks of wearing them non-stop but that just made them rep me with all the more accuracy.
The big event of the month, and why I was back in Nor Cal so fast, was Brigit and Aaron’t party to celebrate his being done paying alimony. Money to Burn was the name and it was a 1920s theme that was the absolute bee’s knees. Fabulous as the parties she threw always were, I got a huge kick out of their goal being to use the budget of one month of what the payment had been. They even flew out a friend from Hawaii to cater the food and hired a fan dancer. It was full of bohemian-spirited people and a level of the cat’s meow that would be hard to match.

For the perfect ending to my 41st birthday month a week or two later, I went for a low-key hang at Monty’s that started with my walking into dogs abounding, a fresh couple dancing to “Magic” by Kenny Chesney (love!) and ladies from Hawaii chatting away. It was one of those enchanted moments that made time slow down for a minute. Something that didn’t happen as much at home as when I was traveling. You better believe I grabbed onto it when it did.