Monday, February 4, 2013

Signs That the Apocalypse Happened, and Other Oddities So Far

So I've been silent a few months, but that's mostly because I've had so much to say that just figuring out how to start it has been a challenge. The long, crazy story about the move, the settling in to the apartment, the going back to California for the holidays and the fact that coming back home meant coming back to NY.

Since I haven't figured out yet how to write about them, this is all I'll say on the subjects for now. The people I see every day already know about the drama, and those that don't will probably get hints of it in the ensuing months.

At any rate. I am here now, and I still don't regret it. Even when the dickhead super of the next building over blasts his crappy Latin music, I am still in a better state of mind than I was the last three years in SF.

But we're here to talk about signs of the apocalypse. I mean, the world ended just over a month ago, and I'm definite that we're living in a brand, new crazy universe.

How do I know? Because I registered for this:

And today I did the first day of this program:

And I didn't die from it yet.

But don't fret. I have also signed up for Fencing classes (as in swords, not as in white picket), so this new world is not so completely off from the previous one. Just a different shade of Sarah is Weird.

PS: Someday I'll update the name of this blog to something not so SF-specific. Still trying to figure out what the NY version of my life should be called.  - S.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's Night

I asked for weather. I anticipated weather. I lauded weather.

I got weather. Oh, did I ever.

So yeah, there was that hurricane thing that happened last week.  We were out of work for three days, because the subways were out of work for three days. I'm just glad I am still staying with Karen and Mike so I didn't have to go through it alone.

And now, it's snowing outside. And I have no waterproof shoes, as I found out on the way home today.

However, I do have a signed lease, and a move-in date. And an address. This means that as of November 15, I'll end my two-plus-month bout of homelessness.

I'm relieved, and a little scared. It really means there's no going back, not really for a year at least.  Am I living the dream, or is this the biggest mistake I've made in my life?

Friends, want my new address, to send Christmas cards and gifts of money?  Shoot me an email.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Almost Rooted

Apologies for the silence. From touristing D.C. to "touching down" in Brooklyn, to work, to apartment-hunting, it's been a busy, exhausting few weeks. I've tried picking up the tablet to blog here and there, but the motivation was somewhat drummed out of me.

Moving is an emotionally-draining process. And the Epic Road Trip of Awesome was also overwhelming in its ... epic awesomeness.  When it was finally over - when I crested a hill on the New Jersey Turnpike and saw the New York skyline in the distance - I cried. I know: not a huge surprise, those of you who know me. But I think anyone who had been on the road for four weeks, conquered 5500 miles of highway and byway, and reached a longterm goal that she never even expected would be in the realm of motivation ... I think anyone would have cried at that moment. I'm just kind of glad I was alone, to savor the moment.

I've been staying with a couple of friends since getting into town. It's been nice - almost like having awesome roommates, I'm starting to get comfortable - but I'm getting to the point of wanting my stuff back, wanting a place to call my own and walk naked around and fill with my own presence. I've been hunting since the first week, seen almost a dozen places, and am homing in on the finish line.  Thisclose to having a place, thisclose to it all being over.

At the moment, I'm sitting in a cafe in Park Slope, waiting for a broker to get back to me about seeing an apartment nearby this evening. I was supposed to see it an hour ago. He was suppose to have the keys an hour ago. But instead I'm here, drinking a macchiato and waitng.

Which is fine: I don't need this place.  Last night I handed over a check for a deposit on another place, but two hours later I got a text from this broker, letting me know about a place right by where I want to be (Park Slope), in my price range, and in my size. So I'm giving it a shot, in the hopes that if it pans out I can get a refund on my deposit on the other place (I haven't signed a lease yet) (else I'm going to learn an expensive lesson in ... something). And if it doesn't pan out ... well, I'm set anyway, aren't I?  The cafe's a comfortable place, the coffee is pretty good, and they have a WiFi connection.

Life is good so far. I'm sorry my San Francisco friends, but I think this is the best life decision I ever made. I still miss you though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Winding Down the Road

Dateline: HUNTINGDON, W.V.

I'm not sure I've mentioned before that I like weather. Really, what I like is weather that changes, as seen in my (in)famous complaint about San Francisco's entirely-too-consistant 62-degrees-and-overcast year-round climate. It's been warm, it's been hot, it's been cold, it's been muggy and dry and it has rained for me on this trip at different points. There was one day in Wyoming where I started it at 34 degrees (that's Farenheit, y'all) and hit a peak of 95 by the middle of the day. There was a downpour my first full day in Nashville that necessitated staying in and watching Wilfred while eating pizza.

Yesterday, I met weather face-to-face, was humbled, still loved it.

I wish I could say I came thisclose to a tornado, but I cannot. (I think I would crap myself if I saw a tornado on the horizon, much less within a dangerous distance of my car or person.) Weather this time was merely a thunderstorm, with rain so heavy I could barely see the car driving in front of me, and lightning that seemed to touch down just over the next hill. I was driving alone alone narrow two-lane roads, on my way to visit the Maker's Mark distillery, and while I tend to think of myself as a confident and able driver, I couldn't imagine myself navigating those tight curves in the middle of nowhere. I love thunderstorms, but I do not love driving myself into a ditch.

So I chickened out, turned myself around, and found the nearest strip mall to park and regroup. I considered briefly giving up and heading back to Lexington ... but for what? Lauren was busy spawn-sitting, and most everything else I wanted to do was dependent on decent weather. I thought about sitting in the car and reading or knitting and waiting the storm out - in about two hours, per Instead I went into the Rite Aid, made a small purchase and asked the lady behind the counter for the nearest nail salon. It happened to be just five doors down, so I whiled away the stormy hours getting a mani-pedi.

By the time it was done, and all my nails were shiny and red, the clouds had lifted a bit and the rain had stopped. As I drove back out over that narrow road, the sun started to peek through the clouds, and it started to warm up just as I drove into the distillery grounds. I'd just missed one tour's departure, so I took my time looking around the vistor's center/distiller's house, which was decorated in fifties' era furnishings, and had talking portraits hanging on the wall.

As an aside, for anyone thinking of doing the Bourbon Trail in their lives: don't let your GPS take you to Maker's Mark. It'll take you down a crazy one-lane road for four miles, and you'll spend the entire time wondering if you've got the right directions. Check the website for something better. Trust me, you'll keep your sanity this way. Unless you like almost dying in a crash as someone barrels around a blind curve at 50 miles per hour towards you.

I really liked the Maker's tour, by the way: this time we got taken through the ferment-and-distill process, not in as much detail as the Buffalo Trace hardhat tour, but we still got to taste the fermenting mash (which was completely different from Buffalo Trace's - it's got a  higher corn content, and is wheated, not ryed), saw the inside of one of the rickhouses, and then we went through to the packaging and bottling warehouses. I felt just like I was in the middle of an episode of How It's Made, without the soothing narrator's voice there to put me to sleep.  The guide gave us a tasting that comprised four different samples; the "white dog", which is the liquid that comes out of the distill before it goes into the oak casks; the regular Maker's Mark bourbon product; a sample of "over aged" (10 years) bourbon; and a sample of a newer line, the Maker's 46.  The tour ends conveniently in the gift shop (of course), where I bought a bottle and got to dip it myself into a vat of red wax to get that trademark Maker's look.

From there I headed up to Heaven Hill distillery, and crashed the latter half of the final tour of the day (I was a bit late in getting there). It wasn't a great tour: we didn't get to go into any of the actual production houses, it was all contained in displays within the main visitor's (sorry: Bourbon Heritage) center. They have a wide selection of bourbons that they create - they're the second-largest producer of bourbons in the country, after Jim Bean -  but the tasting was only of one. It was kind of disappointing, because this was the one distillery I didn't know really by name, and which I hadn't tried before. I was hoping to discover something exciting to take home with me and didn't really get anything.

Dinner was with Lauren and his family at a Cajun place in downtown Lexington, Bourbon 'n' Toulouse, which I highly recommend -- I had a great etouffe and jambalaya.  I wanted to get a little way down the road before calling it a night, so I drove just into West Virginia before pooping out, and here I am.

Today I head into Virginia. Trying to decide the best route, because there is no direct highway connection with the DC area from here. (I guess it's not Rome.) Do I head south and drive mostly through Virginia, or do I take the West Virginia route and do a little traveling through western Maryland?  We'll see what I decide during breakfast.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tippling Point

Dateline: LEXINGTON, Ky.

Three weeks on the road, and I think it's starting to get to me, even with the weeklong pause in Nashville to work and take a break from driving.

Not to say Nashville wasn't a blast. Angela has stayed at my studio in San Franciso a few times, so it was odd to spend time in her stomping grounds and hang with her in a town that wasn't familiar to me. It was also strange to see ceramic pieces that I'd created scattered around her apartment - things I'd made and sent to her and forgotten about over the years. (Okay, that was more flattering and ego-boosting than strange.)

I spent the week working, so there wasn't too much in any one day to report, hence the long silence. There was a lot of chilling out at home, going out to eat, and general catching up with my hostess. We visited the Parthenon (built for the city's centennial celebration in honor of Nashville's nickname, "The Athens of the South"), saw some (free) live music, did some light shopping. Ate amazing ice cream. Met some of the friends I'd heard so much about over the years.  Drove around downtown and admired the Batman building. Gained about five pounds (well, at least I probably did - see below picture of fried pickles for part of the reason).

Kentucky isn't the most beautiful state I've been in (Wyoming may very well have won that distinction, with stiff competition from western South Dakota), but there's a soothing pleasing comfort in the rolling hills and estate houses that smack of an older American gentry. I drove into Lexington yesterday evening to visit with my friend Lauren, but was so wiped out and overwhelmed that I needed a night to myself. I kind of need it tonight, too. Today we hit the Bourbon Trail, did a tour of Buffalo Trace distillery, and tastings at Four Roses and Woodford Reserve. The tour was fantastic - they took us through the distillery from corn to final product. We got to taste from the vats as the mash was fermenting in various stages, which was an experience I hadn't expected.  Of course I spent too much money, I'm pretending on things that are unique to Kentucky and that I can't get out in NY. Right now I'm busy digesting a Hot Brown dinner (a very Kentucky dish, I am told) and trying to plan my tomorrow, which is as yet unplanned. I think I want one more day by myself before I head to my next and final stop, Reston, VA. I'm tempted to drive out to a couple of the distilleries we didn't get time for, like Maker's Mark, just to get in another tour and do a little more tasting.  Mammoth Cave also is tempting, or I might look into what's in western Virginia for exploring. We'll see what the dawn brings. I like seeing what the dawn will bring.

Less than a week left of the Epic Road Trip. I still think this was the best idea I ever had (the move plus the month of travelling).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rollin' Down Music Highway

Dateline: BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (just outside of Nashville)

I'm at Angela's tonight, where I'll be based for a whole week - the longest time I'll have a "home" all month.

This means two things in terms of my vacation:

1) I have to start thinking with my work-brain again for a little while.
2) My vacation is officially half-over.

I wonder if it'll feel weird to not be on the road for long stretches at a time, I've almost gotten used to it.

As I was telling Angela and Jacob, this trip felt mostly like a smooth gradient of American culture as I moved from west coast to midwest. Sure, I took into account the utter wackiness of California - and especially San Francisco - living, and adjusted my expectations accordingly. The people I met were more or less the same: basically nice, somewhat selfish when not thinking about it, a little more religious as I moved east and south, a little bigger, a little more fond of fried food and less inclined to dedicate large portions of the menu to vegetables.

When I crossed the Mississippi into Tennessee, however, I suddenly felt just how different the shift was. This wasn't America anymore: this was another country, another planet. This was The South.

People are genuinely nice here. They say please and thank you, and not ironically or sarcastically or even out of rote because their parents always made them say it. They hold doors open for each other. Today I was waiting for a teenager to finish crossing a driveway so I could turn into it, and he actually noticed and sped up his pace for me.  Who are these people, with their rolling accents and open smiles and neighborly attitudes? I'm not saying that people aren't friendly everywhere else -- New Yorkers are friendly, once you've opened them up, but they're closed to strangers, whereas San Franciscans are friendly to your face but aloof once you're out of sight.  I get the impression that in the South you're a friend unless proven a stranger. Maybe that's a tourist's generalization. Maybe that's just my misimpression.

(As an aside: everyone told me that I would get a "big shock" when I hit the Midwest and saw how fat the people would be here. I must say: I don't see that. Sure, there's more plumpness, less anorexia, but I haven't been completely blown over as I'd been led to believe. Either this means that the accounts have been exaggerated, or that I've somehow sheltered myself from all these grossly obese people, or Californians have just also gotten fatter and are in denial of it.)

At any rate:

Graceland was unexpectedly interesting. Worth actually going, but probably not worth the price of admission ($32 a person, just to go into the house - other parts of the estate are available for the $70 VIP pass) unless you're a die-hard Elvis fan. But now I've gone and can say I've participated in yet another piece of Americana, and I learned something about the man's life -- like how much of his money he actually gave away, and put back into the community that he was fun. I mean, the guy actually created tornado relief funds, and paid the medical bills of random patients in the hospital. How many of today's overrich entertainers can say as much? The estate itself is not just a lot of show and flash and bling (well, there is a lot of that, but hey, it was the 70s), but really did reflect Elvis's own tastes and needs and personality, and showed evidence of actual active use on a regular basis. Graceland was an estate he called home, and used as a home, not just as a trophy.

For dinner Jacob took me out to Texas de Brazil, a Texas-style churrascaria right off Beale Street. I think I realized there, just as another one of the servers sliced a piece for me off a slab of roasted lamb and I was dipping it into mint jelly, that this is probably the best vacation I have ever taken. I think in that moment I was as happy, relaxed, and anxiety-free as I've ever been in my life.

I like Memphis, and wish I'd gotten a chance to see more of it. Another place I'll just have to get myself back to.

I have tomorrow off, and then I work a four-day week out of my company's Nashville office. I expect to have a million, billion emails to comb through, and hope that I haven't forgotten my seven years' worth of experience. Maybe I should pull out my work pants and make sure they still fit -- after the last week or so of eatin' and drivin', I think I've gained about 10 pounds. Ugh.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Poor Boys and Pilgrims With Families, We Are Going

Dateline: LAKELAND, Tenn.

I'm just outside of Memphis, on the third leg of the couch-hopping portion of my trip. The last few days have been mostly hanging out with friends, in Omaha, then Jefferson City, then St. Louis, and now here.  Nothing terribly exciting, and it's been hard to be social and update the blog at the same time, which is the reason for the recent silence.

Omaha was nicer than I expected. They have a cute downtown, a bunch of rehabilitated railroad warehouses that have been turned into boutique-y commercial spaces and restaurants. My friend David and I did a little shopping downtown, went out to dinner for the requisite steak meal, and pretty much just vegged out the rest of the time watching Arrested Development, which he had started but not yet finished.

I was only able to spend just about 24 hours in Omaha before I had to head down to Jefferson City, Mo., where Andy lived. Since Missouri's capital isn't actually on the route of the interstate (apparently one of only three or four U.S. capitals that aren't, something like that -- putting Jeff City in the same category as capitals such as Juneau, Alaska), I was more or less forced to do a bunch more two-lane road driving to get there. There's not terribly much to do in that city, and since Andy and I both had to work our ways East that weekend, we spent Thursday driving through Missouri's Wine Country (did you know they had one? And that it's the oldest wine country in the United States? Craziness) and stopping at a few wineries along the way.  The wine here is a lot different than that back in California. I ended up buying a case, mostly of wines much sweeter than I'm used to picking up -- it seems like everything here is dry or sweet, nothing along the full-bodied spicy route like a Tempranillo or Malbec. Icewine was something I'd not encountered anymore, and ended up grabbing a couple bottles of that.

We tipsily continued on our way to St. Peters, a suburb of St. Louis, where we crashed with Andy's friends Evan and Mike, went for a long walk through the loal giant park system, had surprisingly good Vietnamese food (the pho' didn't have tripe or any of the other "weird" bits we have in California, but was delicious nonetheless), and ate a bunch of cookies.

Friday I had only really half a day for St. Louis, since I had to be in the Memphis area at a reasonable hour that evening. Andy'd gotten us noon tickets for the top of the Arch, which gave us just enough time to grab a sandwich at Amighetti's, and then a frozen custard Concrete at Tom Drewes (eat this, do it now) before heading to the riverfront.  The arch itself: if you have a fear of heights, or claustrophobia, don't go up. The little 'elevator' pods have five seats, all sized for people from the 60s, not the current fat-American butts, is low-ceilinged, and it has a window as it climbs to the top that allows you to see into the guts of the arch itself, and all the way up and down the shaft and emergency stairwell.  Once you get to the top there are a series of tiny windows that you have to lean against the slanted wall to see into, giving you a great view of the city on one side and the Mississippi River and southern Illinois on the other.  You can look straight down to the people walking under the arch below, and the sense of vertigo could be overwhelming if I were more sensitive (or, I can imagine, if it were a windy day and the Arch was swaying). Below is a blurry esoteric picture of my boobs in one of those pods on the way back down (they wouldn't give us enough time to take a proper picture to give you all a sense of size and Jetsonian style.

Unfortunately, I didn't get time for the City Museum, which was talked about. This of course just means I'll have to get myself back to St. Louis again while I'm still young and healthy and OK with wearing knee pads.

Stayed up late last night once I got to Lakeland (after a much longer drive than expected) hanging out with Jacob and catching up since we hadn't seen each other. We just ate breakfast, and are getting ready to head into Memphis proper and do a trip to Graceland. More on that later.