Category Archives: Wassup USA?

50 Days by Bus, Plane, Train and Automobile: What They Took Out of Me, and What I Took Out of Them

whew that was a trip

whew that was a trip

On June 29th, I left sunny San Francisco for a 7 week, 50 day journey that took me to the Atlantic and back again. I returned on August 18th to a city in a drought and covered in fog, and since then I’ve been doing some arriving and making sure my soul has caught up with my body.

Part of that has been reflecting on the journey. I took an entire day last week to read through all the gobbledegook that I’d written while I was traveling and come to some conclusions about what I’d learned and left along the way. It was exhausting, but I think I finally have some answers. This includes, quite possibly, the answer to the very meaning of life.

I present to you my findings in the easy-to-digest, easy-to-skim listicle form. Please enjoy these radical truths that I discovered about me, my country and the world around me while I was chasing after the wind.

1. You should bring an umbrella while you’re traveling. Or at least, if you don’t bring an umbrella, don’t buy one at Walgreens under the threat of impending thunderstorm. You’ll pay too much.

2. Giving yourself ample time to reflect on past experiences and current life situations can be incredibly useful. It can also be dangerous and make you dissatisfied with the status quo.

3. When hiking in the woods alone, you should know when bear hunting season is and dress appropriately.

4. Doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing, and being busy just to be busy is a waste of time.

5. The world and our society is not fair, but we can make it more fair. We can do something.

6. I am not quite as outgoing as I thought.

7. Relationships make everything worthwhile.

8. College was an incredible experience that will not come again. Instead of lamenting the fact it’s gone forever, I should be thankful for it.

9. The decisions I made in the past that seem stupid now did not seem stupid back then. Most of the time, I made the best decisions I could based on the information that I had about who I was and what the world was like.

10. Never miss the chance to use a public restroom.

11. Bring a pillow for the night bus.

12. Seeing that I do not know the future and have imperfect information on the present, it’s quite possible that the decisions I make now will lead to outcomes I cannot even begin to imagine. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

13. Just because a person is in a position of authority, has written a book, or spoken on a stage does not mean they are to be trusted. In fact, they should be scrutinized even more carefully. The ability to perform is entirely separate from actually having good advice or good things to say.

14. If I had been born looking different than I do, it is very likely my life would be completely different and that is messed up.

15. The virtual world melts away when you stop giving it your attention.

16. Routines serve the incredibly important role of keeping you from making too many decisions in one day. The need to choose a different coffee shop, different attraction, new park, etc. while I was traveling eventually became a burden that I kind of resented.

17. There are some things I can change about myself, and some that I cannot. I should not beat myself up over the ones that I cannot change.

18. Things in New York are expensive, and then even a little bit more expensive than that.

19. The madmen, the tinkerers, the outcasts, the diehards, the weirdos, the misfits – most often these are the ones that make it into the museums.

20. Rules are everywhere. The more people that exist in a city, the more rules there are to govern their interactions. Some you need to listen to, and some absolutely need to be broken.

21. Libraries are incredible havens of A/C and bathrooms.

22. Quiet moments of sudden beauty are the best, like when I stumbled on a garden next to an Episcopalian church or when I watched smoke drift into the evening in North Carolina or when I saw a bear or watched a curtain blow in the breeze next to the harbor in Boston and every time I was like “dang that’s beautiful.”

23. YOLO

24. FOMO (fear of missing out) is for people who have no imagination.

25. Humans are incredibly creative and will surprise you always (like when I saw a dude playing a banjo in a tree in North Carolina.)

26. It’s good to spend time with people who aren’t like you (like when I spent a week scooping ice cream with Baptist retirees in North Carolina – a lot happened in North Carolina apparently.)

27. There is nothing quite as pleasant as sitting outside on a summer evening and drinking a cold beer.

28. Returning to one’s hometown can actually be a good experience. Growing up, it wasn’t cool to think that Edmond or Oklahoma City were interesting or worthwhile. I found that that’s not the case and there is much to see and do there.

29. It’s hard to keep what you saw at the mountaintop with you on the plains. In other words, I’m already forgetting a lot of what I learned and thought while traveling.

30. No baggage. No regrets. No BS. Amen.

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Why I Need to Be More Like My Plant Deb

imageI’ve been back in San Francisco for just shy of a week now – 6 days to be exact – and things are different. It’s not just because of the drought and the fact the trees look darker and slightly depressed, and it’s not just because Burning Man is this week so everyone with enough money for a ticket, pyschedelics in their pocket and carpentry skills is out of town. I also don’t think it had anything to do with the earthquake this morning, though I might be wrong about that. Speaking of which – not only am I completely fine, but I didn’t even wake up for it AND this gigantic stack of magazines in my room didn’t fall down. How is that even possible?

Yes, San Francisco feels different. It’s not as beautiful or perfect as I remembered it to be. It’s foggier than I remember, and smaller, more neighborhood-like. I have two new roommates who are pretty much strangers. They replaced two of my best friends and now they’re in my house, so that’s a big change. There’s a new bookstore in my neighborhood, and I’ve already cooked three different meals to eat. That’s unrelated to the bookstore but just thought I should mention it.

Yes, this is a different San Francisco. I don’t wake up at 6 in the morning to commute to a job where people are overpaid to do things that don’t matter that much. I don’t have to pretend to care about jargon or posturing. I see daytime people, the people who have flexible schedules and are not extensions of a brand. I go running, which is really insane. I mean honestly, me, running? Can you imagine it? Shouldn’t I be doing improv? But yes, there’s improv too and it’s delicious and challenging.

Perhaps you’re familiar with botany or gardening, and you’ve at some time or another pruned a plant. That is, you cut off the branches of the plant so that its energy could be devoted to writing, or maybe ceramics.

imageI’m see this time in my life as the post-prune-period, or Phase 3. I’ve cut away some things from my life. Some things in my life have been cut away from me. And now it’s time to grow towards the sun. What could be simpler or more terrifying?

If I were as noble as a plant, as steadfast and forthright as my plant Deb for instance, there would be no question as to what to do next. There would be no baggage, none of this stupid and useless fear of failure that dogs human lives- that dogs my life.

No, if I were a plant like Deb, with my dead leaves gone, I would throw everything I was into growing new leaves to replace them and getting into a sketch troupe that created really compelling material.

At this time when old routines are broken and new ones are being formed, I hope that I can be like Deb and throw myself into the work that I need to be doing, into the work that no one else can do. That’s her lesson for me, and for us all.

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….But You Gotta Have Friends (and Family)

imageSo I’m kind of an “independent woman,” whatever that means. Like I’ll go eat a meal by myself at a restaurant if I want to so I’m told that makes me independent. Whoop dee doo. And I like being like that. I like being able to say – hey, I’m going to hike to the top of that hill tomorrow morning, and then doing it. If someone wants to come with me, that’s awesome. If they don’t, that’s okay too.

Then I took this really long trip, and I was traveling mostly by myself for an extended period of time. Though I visited friends in all the cities that I traveled to, I spent a lot of time alone while my friends were working or while I was in between places.

Sometimes it was awesome, like when I discovered this secret park next to an Episcopalian church in downtown Charlotte on a Sunday afternoon. It was sunny outside and I just sat under a tree, ate an apple, and watched water coming from a fountain with a statue of St. Someone. Or when I was traveling on the night bus to Boston from D.C. and I was looking out the window at the signs all lit up as we were going through some random town, and I thought that I could do this forever, just never get off the bus and go through towns at night when they’re all deserted and that would be my life.

I did a ton of reflecting on the trip, which was great. How often do you get to flip back through the pages of your life and try to get some perspective on your own story and what it sounds like when you play it back? I’ve also had time to do some reflecting post-trip on the trip itself, which has also been good. In fact, I’m about done reflected out. So I realized something, and I think I’ve known it before, but I think I know it more viscerally now than I have.

Without my friends and family, my trip would have been pretty lame. Those relationships made everything worthwhile. Sure travel is awesome, but after a while it’s just you in a different city sitting at a different coffee shop and you’re wondering why you wanted to do this in the first place.

Before this trip I was seriously considering moving to New York or Chicago in a year, kind of to pursue acting and improv, but mostly because I felt like I was “done” with San Francisco and getting  bored here. Or I thought of moving to Portland or Austin or Asheville, anywhere to see something different, to be someone different. Then on my trip I saw a lot of places and recognized those kinds of thoughts for what they were: a chasing after the wind, an external solution to an internal problem, which was my fear of missing out on something “better” and my fear of commitment.

People, community and relationships are what give places depth. And community takes a while to build, and it can be difficult, and there’s a lot of fear. There’s always fear.

That said, I believe that community, relationships, and love are the best and highest pursuits in life. Without this, everything I do or want is empty, a chasing after the wind.

I am extremely grateful for my community and I feel undeserving of their support and love. My friends and family housed, clothed and fed me while I was traveling and I am lucky to have such incredible people in my life. I’m also extremely cognizant that I didn’t get here by myself, and by here I mean in San Francisco setting off to pursue dreams of improv and comedy and God knows what else.

At every piece of my journey, step for step, someone supported me. When I wanted to go out of state for college, my parents said “Right on.” When I went to Egypt, they were like, “You gotta do you.” When I got lonely or sad, my friends were like, “You’re going to make it.” When I moved to San Francisco, I stayed with my friends for almost two months without paying rent because I had no money. When I felt like I was failing because I wasn’t following my dreams, my then boyfriend had more faith in my abilities than I did. When I thought I couldn’t do it, my friends and family said that I could. I owe them more than I’ll ever be able to repay, and the thing is, they don’t expect me to.

This is the kind of love that no one deserves. I don’t know what the rest of my life holds for me, but I do know this: that I have been blessed beyond anything I could imagine, that love has fueled any kind of success I’ve had and that my claim on it is so small as to almost be negligible.

And I am also extremely conscious of the fact that so many other people have different stories than this. In place of love and support, they’ve had abuse and negligence. They’ve been told they couldn’t do it. They’ve been told they were unlovable and unworthy. They’ve been cut off from the kind of resources I’ve always had access to because of situations outside of their control.

So I look at my life and what I’ve been able to do, and I see now that I’ve been set up for success where others have been pushed towards failure. Like I said, I don’t know what my future holds but I want to live to see a different world, one where so much doesn’t depend on whose womb you come out of.

That’s what I want.

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WTF Was I Thinking: Real Quotes from the Ravings of a Traveling Madwoman

imageI wrote a lot during my 50-day travel adventure, sometimes at night debriefing the day I just had, sometimes during the day when I saw something bizarre or thought of an idea that seemed worth writing down. Naturally, all of these notes made perfect sense at the time. That being said, I read through everything yesterday and I wrote some pretty strange crap that sounds more like the ravings of a madwoman than anything else.

At any rate, I’d like to share some of my funnier, more bizarre, and enigmatic clips with you. So here’s some of the mental froth I felt compelled to write down. May it make more sense to you than it does to me.

6.29.2014 – Left San Francisco and flew to Chicago

Go after your dreams. Do the shit you love. Follow your passions. Poop yourself and clean it up. It’s going to be something.

I’m going to bitch slap you and your homeschool hands, long skirt and top with sleeves of the same pattern, looks home made but probably came from Macy’s. [In reference to someone in front of me at Caribou Coffee who was taking a long time to order]

6.30.2014 – Chicago

I was kind of hoping that my ear excezma medicine would cause a scene at security. I practically ran through there – my toothpaste was over 3 oz. SUCK IT TSA. It’s an act of mild subversion.

7.1.2014 – Evanston, IL

I want to know have you ever raced bird going across Davis street.

My banana is getting browner and browner, but I don’t want to eat it. Not yet. Huge dump in the toilet.

Always the dilemma – should I just go knock on people’s doors?

7.3.2014 – Nashville, TN

We are hitting up the hard core bougie part of Nashville, and it’s just like – get me some of that trashy stuff. (In reference to eating at a place called Jeni’s ice cream in Nashville)

7.4.2014 – Nashville, TN

Happy Freaking Birthday, You Sassy Daughter of an Empire, oh US of America (trying to come up with blog titles for the day)

7.5.2014 – Nashville, TN

Day after 4th of July and I’m like – whoah there is still hot dog in my stomach […] There is no way I’m going to be able to eat biscuits and gravy when it comes time to eat biscuits and gravy but then again, I’ll definitely be able to eat biscuits and gravy when it comes time to eat them, you know?

Did you know that when you write USA over and over again it just ends up looking like you wanted to say sausage but couldn’t quite get it out over the excitement.

7.9.2014 – Marietta, GA

[On this day, Baby Geniuses was playing on television and I felt the need to take a lot of notes about it. Because I took so many, I won’t include them here. I just wanted to make sure you knew that had happened. Also, that Baby Geniuses is an incredible movie.]

Drawing a turd on the paper. [In reference to a doodle I’d drawn that really did just look like a piece of poo.]

7.10.2014 – Marietta, GA

A dystopian future where semen never dies. [Maybe I was thinking about concepts for books?]

7.11.2014 – Marietta, GA

Okay, let’s be real. It’s just you, me, and this $20 bill for McCracken’s tonight.

7.12.2014 – On the way to Asheville, NC

I can’t do this. Yes you can. No I can’t. Yes you can. [In reference to writing a blog post. I was very tired.]

Spartanburg was terrifying. Imagine a beautiful city without any people in it nestled in the blue ridge mountains. That’s what it was. I think I’m officially a city person. I think that’s what it is. It’s just hard to live somewhere where you can’t see everything all set out before you. Lumpy places indeed.

7.15.2014 – Black Mountain, NC

For starters, I went on an 11 mile hike today – partially on purpose and partially on accident, part of which I was scared I was either going to be eaten by a bear or shot by a bear hunter. I looked down and I was wearing a green shirt, black pants and a grey backpack. I looked like the forest. I might as well have been wearing a bear suit.

7.18.2014 – Black Mountain, NC

Forced myself to wake up for dinner so I could go load up on coffee bcause that’s what I live for. I can easily live without alcohol but I think I’d die for a long time without living if I didn’t have any coffee.

OK I’M BACK FROM DINNER. I had four cups of coffee and some broccoli and some banana cream pie pudding stuff that I know is that not that good but I think it’s so good. Why God?

7.20.2014 – Greenville, SC

Everything is drive thru in South Carolina. Even I’m just driving thru.

7.20.2014 – Charlotte, NC

I know I said I wanted to become an actor and all, but I think what I’ve really become is a wi-fi sponge. Thanks, iPad.

7.23.2014 – Washington, D.C.

love that spacefoil

7.26.2014 – On the Megabus to Boston from D.C.

Realized there are outlets up above me
Germans are eating their sandwiches
Internet is cutting out, causing some tension between the father and daughter.
The Germans’ sandwiches smell really good.
Running into traffic
It’s so slow – so do something else – read a book – I don’t want to – then sleep
It really smells like BBQ in this bus
Neck is hurting
Big yawn behind me
Cardigan’s on
Butt is hurting
buttdate: update

8.1.2014 – NYC, NY

Before food and coffee: NOTHING IS POSSIBLE
After food and coffee: I AM INVINCIBLE

New York City is terrifying. People here are out for blood. Everything is anonymous and people live lonely, isolated lives. Here it’s fight to the death, and while some can’t spend money fast enough, others struggle to even survive. Going outside is dangerous because you might get crushed under the weight of all the human souls in the city. In fact, your own soul might get lost. You need to be careful about that sort of thing.

8.4.2014 – NYC, NY

Did that dude just take a dump and then throw the toilet paper out in the trashcan in the living room? Probably not. [Was people watching at a coffee shop.]

8.20.2014 – San Francisco, CA

Within a day of arriving back in San Francisco, I saw what I think were two public sexual acts in Golden Gate Park.

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23 Things That Are Easy to Forget About When You’re Just Living Life in San Francisco

This is not normal.

This is not normal.

1. Weather.

2. Styrofoam.

3. Bugs, specifically mosquitoes and lightening bugs.

4. Free parking.

5. Warm summer nights when you can sit outside in a short-sleeved shirt and enjoy an ice cold beer.

6. Industries besides the tech industry.

7. Conservatives.

8. Free plastic bags at Target.

9. Unkempt facial hair.

10. The midwest.

11. Bad food.

12. Rainfall.

13. Bricks.

14. Restaurants without a vegetarian option.

15. Shirt collars.

16. Humidity.

17. The freedom and responsibility to judge others for all personal choices without any guilt.

18. Sandals. It’s always too cold for my poor little toesies.

19. Seasons.

20. Common sense.

21. The morals you grew up with.

22. Rent under $1,000 a month for a room in a crappy apartment in a less-than-ideal area of town.

23. Adulthood.

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