Category Archives: Travelling

13 Things You Can Count on While Roadtripping from Chicago to Nashville

imageLife is confusing. Sometimes you don’t know where to go or what decisions to make. Very frequently, it’s impossible to foresee the outcome of certain paths or situations, and you live in the fog of the unknown. Thank goodness there are some things in life that we can count on, like these things that are guaranteed to happen on the drive from Chicago to Nashville.

1. There will always be a Cracker Barrel every 10 miles. If you’re ever uncertain of where you should exit to get to the nearest one, go ahead and exit. There’s probably one close to you.

2. In these Cracker Barrels, there will absolutely be women named Jean and Barb wearing jeans that go above their belly button with hair dos that the coasts haven’t seen for at least a century, if ever.

3. You will stop and eat at a Cracker Barrel, be really excited about going to an old favorite place, and then realize that it’s actually a little overpriced and not that good. Also, you’ll eat too much.

4. You will enter gas station shopping centers that are complete with clothing options, 24 hour dining, a casino, an arcade and convenience food options. The only thing missing is an apartment complex to attach to it.

5. You will see billboards that say things like “Hell is Real,” or “One Day You Will Meet Thy God,” which will make you wonder who is paying for this and shouldn’t they change their marketing strategy just a little bit. I mean, if I walked up to someone who didn’t believe in Santa Claus and told her that Santa was going to give her 1 million dollars if she filled out an online form, do you think she’d do it? Or would she call the police because there was a stranger hiding in her closet. Exactly.

6. Cars will also start to get preachy, with decals and entire paintings displaying ardor for the Christ.

7. Roadside attractions, like the World’s Most Awesome Flea Market and Dinosaur land, will tempt you from the side of the road. You’ll always wonder what would have happened if you’d taken the leap and exited.

8. You will eat too many snacks in the car and feel a little guilty about it but not really. I mean, what else are you going to do.

9. You will take tons of photos and maybe even videos on the trip that are ultimately unusable.

10. At some point, you will either get lost or notice you have a huge zit on your face.

11. You will keep on waiting for the countryside to change but nothing really happens except Tennessee is a little bit hillier than Indiana.

12. You will realize that you actually didn’t have a very good idea of where Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Illinois were in relation to one another.

13. You will decide you need to pack up and move to the countryside where life moves a little bit slower

14. You will almost instantly decide that that’s a terrible idea and you’d rather eat your own cardigan than move to the countryside.

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What you don’t know about this Chicago suburb will in no way surprise you.

You might be familiar with the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A lesser known version of that phrase is, “When life throws you a Chicago hurricane that strands you in Evanston, IL for an evening, you might as well stay there the next day and judge / be jealous of everyone.” This is the version that happened to me.

Evanston is a Chicago suburb exclusively populated by people without any problems, beautiful churches made from white stone, homes that look like English cottages, and a creepy amount of trees. With a population of 74,000 (as of 2010), and a leaf count of just over 3 billion, Evanston is the home of Northwestern University (also the city’s largest employer), and the Grosse Point Lighthouse (on the National Register of Historic Places.)

I had the whole day to prowl around and figure out this wild suburb. You will not be surprised by what I found.

Here’s the low down on Evanston and its people:

dog-walking

People walk their dogs.

People leave their stuff outside when they go inside Brothers K Coffee to get something to drink.

They leave their stuff unattended.

They trust strangers. Even me.

They trust strangers.

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It's hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad.)

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It’s hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad while you’re trying to not look like a creep.)

They still use the word ethnic. I didn't know that was allowed.

They still use the word ethnic.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque. (Those are rabbits.)

They have housing to spare.

They have housing to spare.

Which is shocking considering the world-famous board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

Which is shocking considering the free board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

All in all, Evanston seems like a pretty swell place to be. Especially if you like ethnic festivals, trusting strangers, and rabbit meat.

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I quit my job to take my hobbies full time. Here’s what happens now.

Future daytime improv star

Future daytime improv star

On June 27th, 2014 I quit a (relatively) cushy corporate job to pursue my hobbies as a career, these hobbies being writing, improv, comedy, acting and amateur clowning. Many people congratulated me on this decision and told me I was brave (read: foolish). Maybe they’re right because the truth is I don’t really know how make this happen. I just needed to do something.

Two days later, I left the Bay Area bubble for a 7 week journey that will take me across the Eastern third of the United States, starting in Chicago and continuing through Nashville, Atlanta, North Carolina (Asheville area), Washington DC, Boston, NY and then Oklahoma City (Edmond area) on a miniature “Wassup USA” tour. I fully expect to get scurvy and lose a couple of teeth on this journey which can only be described as low-budget.

I’m doing this, the quitting and the traveling and the clowning, to test the hypothesis that there are no rules in life and no limit to what I can dream up and do, that nothing is in my way except for my own fear, and it is a formidable opponent that has some great arguments for why my dreams are a bunch of hogwash.

“Why should you be so lucky that you get the chance to quit a pretty good job and pursue comedy for a career? Not everyone has the chance to go after jobs they find meaningful – why should you? You shouldn’t look for meaning in your work, so why don’t you just do something that will get you a good income so you can be secure and figure out a way to work in your passions at nights and on weekends? Improv, really? Can’t you be passionate about something else? What if you fail?”

There’s some truth in these doubts, but at the end of the day they are just fear disguised as practicality, and I can’t convince myself to listen to them anymore. Not yet. But they are interesting questions.

In the next phase of my life and as I’m doing my hobbies full-time-ish, I want to explore these questions of meaning and career, who gets to follow their dreams and why, and who cares about this and does it even matter.

And for the next 50 days, I want to see what’s up with the USA. I want to do an Alexis de Toqueville “Democracy in America” except more along the lines of “Drevets in America.” It’ll just be me, in America, with my vision and dreams along with everyone else’s. Nothing much has changed except my morning commute and my inbox count.

So….what’s up USA?

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20 Pieces of Advice for My Sister’s Trip to San Francisco

We're going to paint the town.

We’re going to paint the town.

Dear Sister,

I’m so excited that you’re coming to visit me in San Francisco for Christmas, that you’re leaving parents and home far behind in Oklahoma and venturing out to the West Coast, a journey our ancestors and great-uncle made and one that it is now your turn to make. Welcome to this state. There are some things you should know to make the most out of your time here.

1. You will always feel like you’re doing something wrong as you ride public transportation. It’s as unavoidable as congealed gravy after a holiday meal.

2. Bring every kind of clothing you have. Because of witchcraft or something similar, the temperature varies wildly from day to night and from shade to sun. I use the handy phrase “sun-hot; shade-cool” to remember which one is which.

3. Bring cash; some places will not accept your plastic. These places will often have tasty pastries.

4. Most born and raised Californians know nothing about Oklahoma aside from either the bombing or the musical. Because of their ignorance, they will lash out and make fun of your native state. Don’t let it get to you.

5. Half shirts are a thing, as are sheer wispy shirts, all manner of hats and anything with a mustache on it.

6. Strangers might talk to you, and it’s not always a bad thing. Feel it out, and respond if it seems appropriate. If someone says “Good morning” to you, they’re probably being friendly. If they say, “Damn girl, you healthy. Them organic goods?” while you’re carrying groceries, you’re probably in Oakland.*

7. Green bins are for compost, black are for trash, and blue are for recycling. Don’t let anyone see you throw away something that can be recycled.

8. Leave your Styrofoam at home and bring a bag to the grocery store.

9. That weird smell is either dog urine or marijuana. It could also be people urine, if we’re downtown.

10. That delicious meaty smell is either coming from Hahn’s Hibachi or Yellow Sub. I’m never sure which one.

11. This city is full of stores selling things no one should ever purchase, like $40 bowls and many whimsical variations on the salt and pepper shaker. That being said, it’s all beautiful and you will want to purchase something. Don’t spend all your money at the first place.

12. No one knows what to do about the homeless people, so mostly we just ignore them. I’d like to find a better way to handle this but I’m not sure what it is.

13. This place is mind-numbingly beautiful and everyone who gets to live here is lucky. Don’t forget that where you come from is also lovely.

14. Avoid the Tenderloin and Upper Market area – no reason for you to dabble in those neighborhoods yet. You can tell you’re in the T-Loin from the missing teeth to broken glass to face tattoo ratio.

15. Don’t waste your time on bad food.

16. Climb every hill you see. You won’t regret it.

17. Buy me a present while I’m working. I’ve earned it.

18. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist. It’s what you are and you don’t have to hide from any one.

19. Everyone does and doesn’t look the same. You’ll see what I mean. Most people are attractive in a “I’m going places” or “I’m unique” or “I took time to dress myself this morning” or “my clothes are expensive” kind of way.

20. Have fun! (and buy me a present)

*This was said to me once in Oakland.

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Feels like San Francisco to Me

Photo credit: torbakhopper, flickr

Photo credit: torbakhopper, flickr

I want to talk about Tuesday, when I was walking to a party. It was a nice night, a clear one with a couple of stars poking through. The deep blue black of the night here always reminds me of frosting for some reason, like I could dip my finger into it and taste it.

So it was a frosting color sky and I was walking somewhere in the Upper or Lower Haight, where the houses are so beautiful they make you want to barf and I was walking with my layers on – at least two or three for posterity, and I was strapped into my backpack – as one needs to be because otherwise there’s no guarantee your backpack couldn’t just fall right off – and I was wearing my tennies because those are my street shoes and play shoes and everything was normal.

Maybe I took a deep breath, or maybe I looked across the street and saw a cool tree or maybe the ghost of ET possessed my body for a second and imparted the secrets of the universe to me. I don’t know what happened exactly but all of the sudden, it hit me. I felt like I was in San Francisco.

So many times throughout the day/week/year/millisecond, I’m reminded of different times and places. That breeze makes me feel like Boston. These houses seem like they’re from LA. This hamburger reminds me of that one hamburger I had that one time that was really good in Chicago at that one place.

But this moment was the first time I’d related a certain temperature, sky, and house set-up back to San Francisco itself as opposed to somewhere else. It was cool.

It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside like somehow I know this place and its frosting sky and they know me too and I could wrap myself up in that sky like a big blanket and go to sleep on Ocean Beach and then watch the city get lit up from the other side in the morning since we’re on the West Coast in case you forgot. And I can mix metaphors like I don’t even care. Frosting, blanket, fishnet stockings – who cares what you call the sky? Not San Francisco.

And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that maybe what I really wanted to talk about is how I want to be an astronaut and go into space and taste the sky. Is it frosting? If so, what kind – is it like a cream cheese, or a royal, or a ganache? And what’s under the frosting? Are black holes really some kind of molten chocolate pit, because that sounds pretty awesome especially with the possibility of time travel thrown in there.

But no matter where I end up, be it in an infinite spiral of swirling buttercream or wandering somewhere in Upper or Lower Haight, I know I’ll have that feeling of San Francisco sitting on the shelf of my mind in its mason jar, ready to be whipped out when it’s time to reminisce in the next city.

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