Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bloggers Who Might Inspire You (They Inspire ME!)

As sort of an add-on to my last post, I wanted to provide these links to other female bloggers who made me laugh and think and strive to be the best writer that I can be this week (so far)!

Always genius, in my opinion, is TheBloggess.  Most of the time when I read her posts, it's like she's speaking from within MY brain!  If only I could perfectly weave all my thoughts and observations into an intricate blend of sarcasm, opinion, humor, and pictures of my cat haha!  But seriously, this particular post that I linked has a hilarious picture of her with her cat.  

And I really found value in this article which I read today on Broadsheet.  The writer also writes her own blog, which always sparks debate and conversation within the comments section.

So, mad love for all my sisters who are out there doin their (blogging) thing!

Crazy Outlaw Feminism!

Why, I ask??!!  Wwwhhhyyyy?  I just want to know why "everyone," i.e. the general public and often a woman's closest friends and loved ones, has to go there.  Where?  Oh, let me back up.  I'm watching TV, just some documentary that isn't especially great, but it's on while I'm doing other things.  And part of the larger story they are telling is the fact that at one point in her life, the woman on the show shaved her head.  And the people who knew her at that time, a co-worker and a family member specifically, both said on film that they "knew" she had "gone crazy" once that happened.  WHY?  Why does that make her crazy????

I've written about this topic before. because I too have shaved my head.  In fact, right now I have a pretty short head of hair; I'm sort of growing a mohawk, so the sides are shaved and the middle is just starting to grow a bit longer.  I dig it, and that's all that matters to me, and I'm not crazy (or any more clinically-descriptive term).

I really feel strongly that this is some part of the fight of some people to put and keep women in their "proper" place in society.  When I reached out to speak with other bloggers and other women around the world who had shaved their heads for all sorts of reasons, it only strengthened my opinion.  All had faced some sort of judgment and opposition from someone at some time, regarding their choice to go without hair.  Most had faced it a lot.  We discussed the fact that somehow it makes it "okay" if you explain that you did this because you have Cancer or Alopecia or some such disease. 

I won't re-tell my story, as it is told in full at the above link.  But the reason that I shaved my head that first time was simply that I wanted to confront my dependency on such a shallow physical trait to give me identity and even worth.  Also, honestly, I was sick and tired of my long, thick hair, with which I had dramatic fights every time I tried to "do" it in some style other than my pony-tail.  As I told in my earlier post, I realized that I wanted to shave it, get rid of it and perhaps start fresh, or not have hair anymore for a long while.  And when I decided that, I realized that my only fear was the old what-will-others-think issue.  

For me, this was unacceptable.  I didn't like to look inside of myself and see that I was afraid of what others would think, afraid - YES - of what men would think.  Now, I'm not making a judgment on what other women should choose or how they should choose to confront the changes or fear of changes that they face in their own lives.  I'm simply sharing what I was feeling and why I chose to shave my hair off.
                                                 Me after a recent shave :)
It worked.  It was admittedly scary at first, but I was younger and shyer and less confident then (this was about 10 years ago now, wow).  And going through the inevitable (as I have found it to be) opposition -- constant questions about why, and the fact that (GASP) some men didn't find this non-traditional look attractive -- I truly did grow and learn, which was the point, for me.  No longer do I want or need hair to make me feel that I am beautiful or important or whatever I was getting out of having that big ol' head of hair.   In fact, I've found that it's pretty difficult to go back and grow it all out again, now that I'm cool with short styles.  I've grown it out long once since I first shaved it, but like I said, it is short again.

But this matter is not really about hair.  If, as is the case with one of my close friends, you love your hair and even think it's your best quality, then by all means, work it, girl!  My whole point is that we need to be courageous enough to do what we want and need to do, what we feel is right for us.  And this extends way beyond matters of appearance of course.  

So what is the deal?  Has anyone else out there been judged harshly, discriminated against or otherwise treated differently because they chose to do something that is not in the scope of traditional female roles?  I have heard from female police officers, women with tattoos, athletes, and many more.  I'm interested in finding out why people want to say that we are "crazy" when we go against the grain, against our expected roles in society or in the family.  I'm interested in challenging that mentality wherever I find it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Million Words

...Okay, the pictures might not be worth THAT much, but here are some more anyway!
I stood on the rocky beach to take this picture ... looking out onto the ocean from the coast in Maui.  There's a tender carrying passengers back toward our ship.  Those boats must have made two trillion trips that day, tee hee!

                                                   I snapped a photo of this Coast Guard vessel before it left us to go on our way. I never had this happen on any other cruise...But on this one a Port Police boat and this Coast Guard boat took turns escorting our ship out of the port in L.A. and far into the sea.  Someone came aboard our ship from the Coast Guard before they turned back.  At least we were safe!
Our last port was Ensenada, Mexico (I learned why we had to have a foreign port on our itinerary by law ... I'll explain in another post).  I guess I really liked capturing the view of each pier.  I'm so unaccustomed to ocean travel!

                                                            Ahh, Kauai again! The same property (but different water) where we went tubing; this is a swimming "hole," as our tour guides called it.  Those tiny waterfalls were really warm!  I'm a city girl and thus endlessly fascinated by things such as swimming in non-chlorinated water.

Not sure if you can really tell, but I had to try to get a picture (zoomed as far as possible) of these endangered seals.  They were sunning themselves in a protected area in Mexico.

                                                                This was sad but beautiful; the coast as we left port in Kauai.  I adore that island ... one of those places you find (if you're lucky) in life where you go and just feel at home, no matter whether you know anyone or have ever been there before.

That's our unofficial traveling companion, the Mariner of the Seas, a huge ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's fleet.  I was told that the Mariner is strictly Hawaiian-going, and that their cruises are entirely geared toward the Hawaiian experience, activities, etc.  Don't know for sure, but sounds like fun!  However, I had a dream vacation on our ship as it is!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Thousand Words

...No, for once, it actually isn't that many words from me!  Pictures instead :)
This first one is when I was in my beloved Kauai, tubing the sugar cane irrigation ditch!  I didn't write much about that yet, did I?  Well, it was my favorite day and my favorite adventure by far!  I'm the one with bad posture (I was squished into my tube!) at the right, lingering last in line because I didn't want to get out!

Docked in Honolulu!  The Hawaiian sky, both in photos and in real life, looks almost fake, it's so unbelievably blue and vibrant! 

There were a thousand beautiful photos to be taken in Hilo's amazing Botanical Gardens & Rain Forest!  This waterfall was really gorgeous.

I learned SO much about the ship and how all this stuff operates at sea ... The sailing life, per se.  This boat boarded our "local pilot," which was something I previously didn't know about.  I loved watching the local sailor, who was taken aboard at each port to help navigate the local waters, come on and off the ship.  

Looking out from the shore in Hilo (botanical gardens); these are the "Twin Rocks," which have a legend attached to them about two lovers who sacrificed themselves to protect their community from seafaring intruders.  My mom adds that "they should put a pink bow on the one that's the girl."  :)

Honolulu as the sun began to set.  

Here is the place of infamy, at least for my dad and me.  It's the area where the man in front of us decided to climb over that fence and sign which told us NOT TO do just that.  Then he proceeded to slip, fall, and half-roll down the hill (the picture does not show how much of an incline it really was) ... after grabbing a rock to save himself, his hands slipped off of that mossy rock, and he rolled even further down the hill before finally being helped to his feet and dragged out by his wife and my dad.  "I'm okay," he said, waving my dad away, but then he ran straight to the resting bench across the path.  There's a reason for fences and warning signs, people!

...Lots more where this came from, so I'll share more soon!  And by the way, if anyone using Blogger knows how to make it so that there aren't such huge spaces in between (I only hit "enter" one time between each, like you would do for a normal line!), please share with me!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Random Travel Memories

Travel Stories, Part THREE:

Super sweet!  As I've said, I've been gathering my photos and getting tidbits together for making a scrapbook of my trip (yikes, I'm starting to think this will be the mother of all scrapbooks with all the stuff I have).  Well, after I saw the pictures my dad had printed, I realized that he had everything I didn't!  He had a lot more photos of him and me doing things (because when we asked someone to take our picture, I felt bad giving them MY camera too; knowing I could just make a copy of his), he had pictures of friends we made aboard the ship and staff that were especially nice to us, more people pictures in general.  He also got to see Pearl Harbor while I stayed aboard sick with a killer migraine in Honolulu.  I had walked the deck later that day, taking pictures of the skyline there and of the coast, imagining my scrapbook page reading something like:  "All I Saw of Honolulu."  But now I don't have to do it like that!

So I borrowed Dad's SD card and made a ton of pictures from his camera.  Now I have it all!  I'm going to post a few at the end of this blog, and more will continue to be posted!  (That was an odd, passive voice sentence, huh?)  The only reason I haven't done so yet is that I don't have a lot on this computer.   Still using my old laptop, while the new laptop with all my stuff is being shipped back to me.  THAT is another story altogether, but for now I will say on record that Best Buy and Sony are going to be wishing that they had just fixed it, just went ahead and fixed it, because the trouble I'm going to give them over this matter will be SO not worth it (another time...).

So speaking of the photos and Pearl Harbor, which I very much would have liked to see ... yesterday my dad surprised me with something that really touched my heart.  It was just a little gift, but so sweet.  "Because you didn't get to go," he explained, and presented me with a framed postcard picture.  The postcard was one of those that are separated into four frames, with four different little pictures.  One is an aerial shot of the memorial; one is a black-and-white of the USS Arizona under attack; one is a shot of tourists standing at the wall they have there with names of all the  victims of the attack; and the last is a picture of "Mighty Mo," the USS Missouri, which is where the Japanese surrendered.

But the thing is, he had bought this wooden frame for the postcard, and he goes, "I painted it blue, because I figured that was best, to signify the ocean."  It's awesome!  I don't know exactly why, but it's a special gift.  I love how he painted it for me!  Maybe you have to know us or know my dad or something, I'm not sure.  But I love it.

Another sort of ... touching?... time on our trip was when we went to dinner with 4 other people.  We had the "anytime" dining option.  If you've ever cruised, you probably know how you either choose a dining time or you choose the option to go to the dining room whenever you want during the hours they serve meals.  Well, if you choose a reserved time, you generally are seated at a table with other folks, and there you remain for the duration of your trip.  So it's cool, or it can be cool, to get to know your table-mates and share your experiences throughout the trip.  On the other hand, what if y'all hate each other and think each other hideous?  Well, you are stuck, and this trip was 2 weeks!  I've never had that horrible an experience, but it could happen.  Anyway, Dad chose for us, and so we went to the dining room whenever we were ready each night, and thus, we sat down for dinner with all different people each time.

Now, by the end of the trip, I have to admit, we were both a little weary of the drill.  I mean, on the one hand, it's interesting to meet new people, really fun, to share stories and learn about each other.  But it's also tedious to keep answering where you're from and what your name is and dealing with the difficulty in hearing each other over the din of the room.  And, I don't know how to put this nicely, but ... A lot of this was exacerbated by the fact that there were a TON of really elderly people aboard.  I'm serious, and that's fine, I'm not prejudiced or something against my elders, please understand.  But it was difficult, because if it's hard for me to hear across the table, it seemed about 10 times as hard for them.  I'm not making fun, it really was difficult.  And many people were also from other countries, with language barriers, etc.  

On the last night that we went to the dining room, we both got pissed because we were seated with, well, a bunch of assholes.  But I'll tell you that sordid tale soon enough.  Back to the memorable dinner.

It was Dad, me, a lady dad's age-ish and her elderly aunt, and an Indian-American couple a little bit younger than Dad.  I was kind of wary, because it was one of the days that I hadn't felt well (headache and stuff), and I wasn't sure how this group would get along, but that's the fun of it too.  We started out with small talk, but we ended up staying until the place closed!  They were awesome.  I regret that I do not remember names; we didn't stay in touch even on the ship, but that was sort of the way of things.  Passing moments, passing friendships.  

First I had myself a ball laughing at the scenario that unfolded between Dad and Blondie (let's call her), the lady about his age seated next to him.  It became obvious that she was interested, you know, interested.  She perked up when they discovered they both had retired from police-related occupations.  Her aunt was extremely clever and personable, although she was very hard of hearing.  I tried hard still to talk to her, because that sucks not to be part of the conversation just because what?  people are too lazy to make the effort?  So she was really cool.  But the funny thing was that somewhere between the salads and the main course, Blondie announced that she felt very strongly that "there should be a lot more [Sheriffs] like" the infamous Sheriff Arpayo of Maricopa County in Arizona (?).  He's always in the news and sometimes interviewed, and he's known for doing "innovative" things like having NO amenities in his jails like TV or whatever.  He makes prisoners go out on the road and clean up while wearing hot pink prison suits, stuff like that, to be humiliating.  

I died laughing inside.  This lady had no idea how she just signed her death wish as far as any romantic notions with my dad!  It was like if she WANTED him not to approach her EVER, and asked how she could be certain he wouldn't, well, that is what I would tell her to say.  Oh my gosh, it was awesome.  My dad looked like he'd choke, and indeed, he later told me he was biting his tongue.  Basically, he hates that Arpayo guy.  He doesn't believe in stripping county jail inmates (many of whom are not convicted prisoners, you understand) of basic ... stuff.. to bide their time, to occupy their minds, etc.  He doesn't think it's right to humiliate people for any reason.  And, as he blasted once we got away from Blondie:  "Over half of those in Arpayo's jail are awaiting trial!"  I have to agree with him on these principles for the most part.  

So that was funny, but then we got this Indian couple talking.  The wife was a cancer researcher, the husband a professor of physics.  I thought at first that I shouldn't speak, lest I reveal myself a dumbass, or at least a Liberal Arts major.    And, while I am proud of my education and my craft / sometimes profession, I have found that there are many in the science field who look down on those of us in the artistic fields.  But I shouldn't have judged.  Judging is never good.

The wife was the more social one, and she spoke enthusiastically about their daughter who is an oby/gyn in New York ... she asked us about ourselves and told interesting stories.  The husband was quiet and interjected awkward comments, but it was endearing in a way.  You know, like, you could tell he just wasn't especially socially comfortable, but he was real.  And finally, we got into some topics that interested him, and he just lit up!  We got to talking about storms and earthquakes (this was about a week after the quake in Chile).  My dad was telling about a terrible storm system he once traveled through on another cruise.

The professor was awesome; I could see him teaching a class or whatever!  He was telling us some stuff that I don't think anyone at the table knew previously about how the stabilizers on the ship operate, how storms and earthquakes affect one another and when they don't.  Then he told us about a PBS (maybe?  I have to check) series about the evolution of the human race.  He told how he worked really hard to get the documentary's lead researcher to come and speak at the college where he teaches (and he got him!).  He was absolutely electrified as he talked about this series (available at Netflix apparently... I'll find out its title if anyone is interested) and meeting the speaker and all this stuff.  It's great to meet someone and talk to him or her about what they love, you know?  

We all ended up talking and sharing knowledge and stories and asking questions.  Dinner was well over, coffee had cooled, by the time we got up and left.  It was my favorite dinner by far.  Just meeting people is my favorite thing about traveling.  I mean, there can be ugliness in that, people can be very unkind to one another.  My dad actually complained that he saw a lot of that, but I didn't.  My tours and my experiences were mainly beautiful.  People were kind and they looked out for each other when we went on shore and they were genuinely interested in both learning about me and telling their stories to me when we met.  

This is one reason I have always loved to write and do interviews and reporting.  I just love to meet someone and learn about their life, their work, whatever their passions are.  One time I wrote about a historically intact farm, which I knew nothing about.  And I recall that the manager of the farm was so, so consumed with his work and believed so much in protecting the species of animal and plant life there (all in their original forms from the 1800's) ... I just loved it.  I knew nothing about it, and personally wouldn't be able to get extremely passionate about the work probably, but to meet someone who IS ... and write his story down ... beautiful.  Traveling allowed me to do that, just for fun, with a gorgeous environment on top of it!  GLORY!

(this is too long, as usual, so I'll put just the pictures in my next one)

Pharmacy Savings, Book Review, and Other Randoms

I digress today from my travel memoirs, but I have more of those!  

Some strange thing is going on with me where I can't sleep at night.  I stay up most of, or sometimes even ALL of, the night, and then once the sun comes up ...and I mean, sometimes it's like the recorded minute of sunrise for the day (as I'll later find out) ...I fall into the sleep of the dead.  I mean, the phone rings, people in my building slam doors and yell and do their usual shit ... but I do not wake, or I wake a little bit, enough to be aware of it.  It's more that I know these things go on all day when I am awake, so I assume they are taking place when I'm in this deep sleep.  Thankfully, the alarm clock does still rouse me, probably because nowadays I use it so infrequently.  

Speaking of whatever goes on here while I sleep, just yesterday I left my building and saw that Sheriff's Office had placed a sort of "sorry we missed you" note on the main door.  It referenced a court case number and the officer's badge number; then at the bottom was handwritten "c/o [someone's name]".  Now, I know that this was not regarding me, but I was still curious.  The name at the bottom, the "c/o" which in usual terms means "in care of" ... does that mean the person to be contacted at the Sheriff's Office?  Because, um, I can assure them that no one in this building will be taking it upon themselves to call up the police and go "um, were you looking for me?  Hi!  I'm home now."  And if that name referenced the person they were looking for, um, is that really okay?  Like, isn't that invading my privacy to post a big notice with my case number (so anyone interested could look it up and see what I have been arrested for or whatever) and my name?  Shady, you Sheriffs Officers, shady.

Okay, so what else?  Today I learned that Walmart is NOT playin' when they talk about their discounts on generic drugs.  I don't mind sharing with you that one of my billions of prescriptions (it sure seems like I'm at some pharmacy every single day practically) is Ultram, the generic of which is called Tramadol.  It's for pain, you know, like killer migraine pain.  Anyway, I've been getting it at my local Walgreens, because they have a savings club and all my meds are there and blah blah.  But I went to Walmart today basically on a whim, because I had pictures to pick up and it was on my way to the dentist.  I thought, hey, they have a pharmacy, why not?  So the lady who took my info said it's a 30 min wait, blah blah, and I went to the dentist and came back... 

Okay, when I get it at Walgreens ... and I'm not singling them out, because they have pretty comparable prices in my area to other pharmacies, and they're cheaper with the savings club ... but when I get it there, it is well over $50 for say 90 pills or a 30-day supply or something.  That's the generic, and that's a pretty typical script.  At Walmart today, to pick up those 90 pills ... drum roll ... SIX DOLLARS!!  SIX!  6 U.S. dollars.  Shit man!  It makes me want to go return all those other months-worth of pills and get refunds.  You know?  The same medicine, the same amounts, the same manufacturer and everything, and they charge you $44 more?  Outrageous.  Wow.  Well, I know where I'll be getting my generic medicine from now on.  

Now, if you have medical issues like I do (and God bless ya if you do... sheesh), I have to add that the pharmacist at Walmart told me they have considerable trouble even getting certain other drugs, brand-name ones.  Like, say Adderall and the newer Vyvanse are some examples I know of.  She says they don't keep them in stock and when she orders them, they "may or may not come."  And if they did, it would take over a week.  That's super odd, if you ask me.  At the ol' W-Greens, they just order stuff they are out of (which is rare), and it comes the next day.  So I would say Walmart specializes in drugs that are generic.  

And what else did I have on my mind as I sat down to write today?  Oh well, I've been reading an outstanding book that I would recommend to anyone who is even remotely interested in one or more of a variety of topics including:  Law, Society, Current Events, Politics, Philosophy, Morals & Values, and more!  It's called Justice:  What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel.  I actually received the book as a Christmas present from my dad, who told me that the parts he read were so fascinating that he couldn't bring himself to wrap it up for me until Christmas Eve.  He said he kept reading it and worrying that if he didn't hurry up and wrap it and put it away, he'd end up with it all dog-eared or spilled-on.  

The subject matter is heavy, but Sandel sort of spoon feeds it to us, as I can imagine him doing as a teacher.  A really fun, inspiring professor.  I've heard there are long waiting lists for his classes, and when I read this book, I can almost hear him talking (minus the timbre of his voice, which I've never heard).  But seriously, you know how some people can write in that way where it really is just like listening to them talk to you?  I would be surprised if I learned this book was not just like his lectures and lessons.  And they are good ones!  They're like your favorite teacher, who really gets you to love a subject that maybe you sort of liked going into it or maybe you couldn't have given two shits about when you were forced into the class.  But he makes it exciting.

The thing is, while I'm reading this book, I am simultaneously watching the Tea Baggers (if that's the low-brow name they originally desired, then by all means, I'll be happy to oblige them) carry on with their blatantly ignorant signs and carrying monkeys with them to their protests and the whole bit ... and I'm watching President Obama, what he's doing, what he's saying, because that's what I do, I watch the man I helped elect and whom -- I proudly tell you-- I greatly admire, but do not blindly support, do not always think he's right and all that garbage that "they" accuse "us" of doing ... and I'm thinking to myself as I read this beautiful book ...

Everybody should read this. No, REALLY.  Because at the heart of this book is the history and evolution of OUR current society and its laws and it's morals and values, conflicting and complicated as they are.  There are things that I feel ashamed for not knowing as I expound on my own political beliefs.  Sandel really tells you where to find the root of our ideas of what is "right" and why we think that.  I love the challenge that the book is giving me as I read:  I have to ask myself Why do I believe that x, y, and z is the "right" way to run a government, a country, a church, my SELF?  Yes, we say, it's RIGHT that every citizen of an industrialized country have access to basic shelter, food, and health services (maybe you say something else, but this is my example, so just roll with it, kay?  Sandel offers all sides of that theory)... But then we have to ask ourselves...What makes it "right"?  And if that is the end we seek, how do we achieve it without crossing our own morals and doing something that is "wrong" in our view?  Or do we not care about the means if the end is met?  And so forth.  It is fascinating to me.

So when I see people spouting off on TV or on their little crayon-drawn signs (as they do around here), I wonder whether they have asked themselves these questions.  It's not enough to just say what your neighbors or church or parents have told you.  This is the fabric of our changing world, our changing nation within it.  And so if people are going to get passionate and go protest and rally and speak out against the war or the government or the President, then for God's sake, I pray you, I beseech you, read this book or at least ask yourself this type of question and know your answers.  I don't feel like we have any business blowing smoke out in the public square until we understand where we stand.  

So, okay.  Off my soap box.  I'm not usually one to preach or tell others what to do, but I just really was moved by what I learned in the book; and I'm not finished with it yet.  Probably some people have already asked themselves these moral questions, through their education or their church or wherever.  But I'm pretty educated and come from brilliant parents with a wide range of experiences, and I know that I have not really dug down to see what my beliefs are all about.  Okay, so that's that.  I said I'd stop!

And my sweet Dorian is patiently (sort of) nudging me to go out on the porch and play now, so I must attend to that.  I hate when I sleep half the day as I've been doing, ESPECIALLY because someone else (even if that someone is not human) depends on me to get my ass up and feed him and play with him and generally tend to his well-being on a schedule.  This guy who, as I've written many times, has been patient and uncannily sensitive while I've suffered through illness and pain and whatever ... I just think he deserves the most respect and fun and exercise and good life that I can give him when I AM well.  So I'm trying.  Even with the "new" routine (which I do NOT wish to make a trend) of waking up at noon (if we're lucky) and thus, not filling the food dish til then, etc., he complained for about a day, then he just settled in; now I find my guy sleeping in his favorite box, also til noon.  He's just a cat, but he's enough to make me want to do better.  Yes, for myself, of course, I'm not an idiot.  But for him too.  I'm all he has.  Food, play, sleep, treats, toys, and me, his human.  And that's good, I realize his cat-ness means he doesn't need what humans need, but still.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that he has given me so much, whether he knows it or not or whether it's a sacrifice or anything, for him.  That's the least I can do in return.  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Exercise (The Running of the Maniacs)

Part Two, Travel Stories ...

I picked up my photographs from our trip today, and they are breath-taking.  Not in the Seinfeld way, ha ha, but truly breath-taking.  My digital camera, while amazing and capable of many fascinating technological feats, did not do justice to the colors and images that I captured.  Seeing the prints today really took me back.  I couldn't help but remember, however, that there was one photo I didn't get, one that you really needed to see to believe, to understand.  It would have been named The Running of the Maniacs.

Every cruise ship I've been on, and virtually every cruise ship operating in the USA today, has some version of a Sports Deck and / or a track or Promenade for walking.  The Golden Princess had all of these, plus a basketball half-court and a golf course and a lot of other stuff.  I did a lot of walking as I planned, and I even brought along my new Sketchers, the ones that have a special sole to give your legs and booty and posture an extra workout.  The thing is, I learned very quickly that there was a good time to walk and a not-so-good time.  The latter was morning, like between 8 and 9:30 a.m.  Because that was when the Maniacs were out in full force.   

The Promenade was not actually the best cruise ship walking / running deck I've seen in my life.  It didn't even go all the way around; rather, one had to go upstairs and complete part of each lap on the next deck up, then come down again.  This wasn't a problem for me personally, as it gave the opportunity to do a little stepping up work on top of the walking.  But the deck was also narrow, especially as it rounded the corners.  The ship was equipped with those rear-view type of mirrors, so that you could always see who might be coming around the corners as you were; it was that narrow.  

This was all problematic when it came to the Maniacs.  You see, the people who came out to walk and run in the morning were what you might call, um, Hard Core.  I mean, at least, you could see that they thought they were.  A reflection of the ship's passengers in general, most of the Maniacs were senior citizens.  They wore their sportiest wind-breakers, capri pants and Reeboks or Nikes.  Many carried hand weights (did they PACK those?) and wore IPods trendily plugged-into their ears.  But the look in their eyes was best. It was a single, signature empty gaze of the hamster in its wheel:  of those who walk, as on a treadmill, but go nowhere; of those who climb the "stairs" but do not ascend; of those who lift the weight, but move nothing, produce nothing.  It's a non-productive frenzy.  I mean, sure, it's productive for the body to exercise, but I think when a person becomes to hysterical about their need to lose weight or maintain thin-ness, and especially when they have spent far too many hours trying to achieve this goal in a gym setting, the distant maniacal look in the eyes is always present.

So there was that, the look in the eyes.  But the way they behaved!  My word, I felt myself almost saying, like some prude, someone quite uninitiated to the ways of this club.   There was absolutely no etiquette.  It was every man or woman for his- or herself.  Before I knew better, I walked with them a few times; rather, I should say I walked at the same time they did.  I noticed with increasing alarm that these people would flat-tire me (in case you're not familiar, the "flat tire" is when someone steps on the heel of your shoe because they are purposely or non-purposely following you too closely) without glancing back at all, no problem.  They would come right up behind you like a mugger in the darkness of those narrow corners and shove past without the courtesy of a word or warning.  In a word, these old people were RUTHLESS.  Ruthless maniacs.  

The last time I walked with them, I ducked inside before finishing my laps.  On this particular day, there was work being done on the Promenade deck, and so the route was even more circuitous than usual.  In order to get around and create a full lap, the only thing to do was to cut through the ship in front of the casino, by the elevators.  As I stood waiting for my elevator, AFTER, I watched them, all maniacs, all emptiness in their gazes, just stampeding through.   Their arms were flailing, swinging to keep that heart rate up, as they absolutely plunged through the double doors, galloped past the casino entrance, and body-checked anyone who got in their way by making the mistake of waiting on an elevator.

Before I witnessed the ugly scene in front of the elevator, of stern-faced, hysterical seniors rushing the casual crowd milling about unawares by the lifts ... BEFORE I saw that frightful scene, I was walking behind an especially old lady.  I mean, she was very elderly, even compared to this bunch.   She was tiny, and as I walked behind her, I could look right down upon the top of her sparse, white-haired head of curls.  I was forced to slow my pace, because as I've mentioned, the walk-way was too narrow to pass in most places; and the maniacs going in the opposite direction were coming AT us full tilt.  Sure, I would have liked to keep a steady walking pace, but I knew I could pick it up again soon.  And after all, I was on vacation.  Was there really any reason to get very upset about ... well, anything?  Here we all were on a freaking CRUISE SHIP!  Doing our morning exercise under the sun, breathing the sea air, with a day of activities and delicious food and laughter and music before us.  Who could complain?  Why the long faces, my fellow passengers?

But there was no silently, telepathically communicating this with them.  There was no kumb-iy-ah spirit during The Running...  So I walked on, following behind the elderly woman, as she held on, seemingly for dear life to the ship's railing as we went.  We were nearing the next set of double doors, where the deck would once again widen when I heard panting.  I thought maybe Mogan, the Assistant Dog to a blind man aboard our ship, was out for a walk ... If Mogan could walk on his hind legs and pant directly into my left ear

It was one of the Maniacs naturally.  She just couldn't take it, she just couldn't.  The elderly, white-haired woman, holding on for dear life ... Then me, a healthy 34-year-old woman walking at an inexplicably, exaggerated-ly slow pace ... accepting the rebellion of the woman in front, just going along with her blatant disregard for this community's established norms ... Well, the woman BEHIND me couldn't deal.  The panting increased, a swinging fist (accidentally?) whaled on my kidneys, and of course she managed to flat-tire BOTH of my new Sketchers as she maneuvered around both me and the elderly woman, to freedom!

I almost beat her ass.  I mean, really, can you imagine?  I could easily have maneuvered in the same way, caught up to the old bat, and just clocked her, even sucker-punched her.  She probably wouldn't even realize; that's how dedicated and focused she was on her power-walk.  I bolted for those double doors where Maniacs were streaming steadily through, toward the casino, breaking on through to the other side.  Only here I stopped and punched the button for Floor 14.  This was clearly not my scene.

I ask you, is this what goes on in the retirement communities of Florida and Arizona and Cali?  Are the sidewalks filled with barging, forceful tyrants of the sidewalk, just walking and flailing for all they are worth?  These are ridiculous people.  I wonder what they are listening to on their IPods...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flying There (And Home Again)

This is Part One of my stories from traveling.  There are, I have found while journaling and blogging, too many experiences and categories to talk about in one or two posts.  Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with every detail of my journey.  Rather, I'm just sharing the most beautiful, humorous, and memorable of what I experienced.

Growing up, I was blessed with many flights, many trips to exciting and fun places (road trips as well sometimes) such as Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, to Long Boat Key in Florida, to Paris, to Mexico, on cruises ... to Wisconsin too, and Michigan.  I miss traveling.  Many of my flights and journeys were given to me by a very generous family, that of my best friend growing up.  Her dad had custody of her only on Sundays and some of our school breaks, so when he took her on vacation, he let her bring a friend (ME!) so she would have the most possible fun.

When I showed interest, which was very early on, like 9 years old or something, my parents began to take us to air shows in the summertime.  There is a large, televised, famous one held on Lake Michigan in Chicago every year.  But there are also local ones that were really fun and had great planes and shows.  I remember watching, just fascinated, just passionate in my heart, as the parade went overhead:  Navy aircraft, helicopters, experimental / home-made things, and (my favorite) the aerobatic and wing-walking parts of the show!  When I met the great aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, at one show and he signed my program, well, I swooned.  It was better than when Debbie Gibson gave me a high-five once at a concert!

So I have always loved to fly.  I love aircraft.  I thought I would become a pilot, and took flying lessons, even got to fly on my own (!) a little bit doing touch-n-go's ... but I didn't pursue it.  There were a few reasons, not really complicated, no drama.  But that's for another post.  Although I was pretty terrified to travel and take this two-week trip, I was not afraid of the flights.  I absolutely adore the flying.

It's been 7 years, and a world of personal hell, since I last flew.  Needless to say I missed it.  And I had not been in the airports since 2003, which was before a lot of the current "security measures" were in effect.  It was, of course, the post-nine-eleven world, as they say.  But still, it wasn't like this, now.  The airlines have changed dramatically, everything about them.  The airports have changed.  How you do everything before and after boarding is different.  I guess it would suffice to say that basically everything is just different.  And this saddened me.  

I wasn't impatient.  I wasn't mad or irritated, didn't feel wronged in some way, by all the security stuff (often arbitrary and disorganized so far as I could tell) or the time it all took.  I felt a bit stupid and older than my age and well, tourist-y, because I did not know how to check in with the self-service machines and things like that.  But whatever.  Dad and I figured it all out.  And we got to fly First-Class, because of an awesome thing Dad worked out for us.  I've never done that before!  Nope, I can't claim to be rich or even rich enough to have flown First-Class ever before, not even on someone else's dime.  And it was good.  But it wasn't what made the flight.  It's all about the flying for me.  Always and forever.

The ride TO our destination was okay.  The crew for the Black-Eyed Peas was in First Class with us, so that was interesting, a bit of a brush with fame or whatever.  And yes, it was a wonderful thing to be served free meals and drinks, in a spacious seat, with a less-used bathroom nearby.  It's the little things!  That first trip was bumpy, and the view was often clouded by, well, clouds.  But I was happy to be flying again, and excited to get to where we were going.  Although scared about traveling, I had sort of just surrendered at that point.  I was packed, I was on my way, and that was that.

It was the flight home that took my breath away.  I wished I had a map of our route to look at as we flew, because everything I could see "down there" was so gorgeous.  And there was never a cloud in my way if you can imagine!  I sat by the window, forehead absolutely pressed to the thick pane.  Maybe I looked ridiculous, maybe like a little child, staring out at the world that way, as though I'd never seen it from an aircraft.  But that matters not a bit to me.  

Between Los Angeles and here (Chicago), I felt like I saw everything God ever created, a sampling of every landscape.  And they were all polished and shined for this display.  As we skimmed over the western states, I saw reds and browns, layered on the mountains with their wide, flat tops.  And down their sides, shimmering sparkles of golden minerals and rocks, like flecks of the brightest stars.  I saw snow-capped mountains, clusters of towns, cities, rolling green hills, and the endless-ly amazing clusters of baseball diamonds and swimming pools, looking like tiny play worlds from up there in the sky.  Like toys.  And dolls.  Like a little train set of the entire country.

I guess all of this ceases to amaze many travelers after awhile, if it ever was amazing to them.  For me, it is beautiful, a miracle of its own sort.  On the ground, the airplanes are lumbering, heavy, metallic beasts of a vehicle.  If you look at them, you can see every ding and dent, every nut and bolt, all that greasy, cracked stuff, like the garish paint.  And they are FILTHY.  I mean, really, I always want to get out the good old bucket and hose and just WASH them like a car...

But in the sky, they are different.  They shine.  They glide.  They fit right in, you might say.  Not too big, not ugly, just right.  That is how they appear to me, whether I am inside of them or outside, whether I am the pilot or the passenger.  And they carry me, in their great bellies, along with cargo and food and drinks and pets.  And it's amazing.

Our pilot brought our aircraft gently around each leg of our landing pattern as we arrived over O'Hare International Airport.  And as darkness fell, he guided that gigantic metallic hulk to the ground just so, so that each tire just barely kissed the runway.  Now, this is a thing of beauty in itself, in my eyes:  a perfect landing takes great skill and a bit of luck, experience too.  And we rolled on our way back to the airport, back to the gate, back home.  And it was good.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Well, it isn't Monday, but I'm finally writing again...  

Actually, on Monday I wanted to write, right on schedule (my own), but my A.D.D. was hitting me hard.  I was unexpectedly put on a new medicine that morning by my doctor, who is new for me.  I don't think I want to re-live that day or that appointment right now or in this post.  But let's just say it was only our second meeting (you might recall that my beloved headache doctor from before suddenly left).  On the first meeting, I got the impression that this new doc and I would get along just fine and understand each other and whatever, that he could help me, most importantly.  But this time, I got the direct opposite impression.  It was a horrible appointment, then a horrible day, and until today, the week was horrible.  

But it's today, and when I woke to Today, I found it felt shiny and new, if not completely filled with hope and lightness.  I also woke on my couch, having lain down there last night to watch TV, thinking angrily of how not-sleepy I was.  That's the last I remember!  Yesterday's awfulness consisted mainly of a horrible fight with someone close to me and drama and stress and the feeling, after it all, that I have no power and no say and no ability to create my own life anymore.  Very low, a deeply low place to be.  So I felt awake and angry, and I was crying, and that's when I guess I fell asleep with the light on and the TV on and my clothes still on.  

The thing is, I woke up to find my kitty cat curled at my feet.  I don't know when he came, but he was there, guarding me, as I call it.  Let me tell you about Dorian:  the guy does NOT sleep without a blanket and/or a pillow and/or a comfy cardboard box to call his bed.  He doesn't usually enjoy sleeping on or beside humans either, finding us too warm and fidgety for his liking.  I love the rare occasion that he lies on top of my comforter, on top of me, so much, that I try to lie completely still when he does it.  But inevitably, I curl my toes or sneeze, and he's outta there!

So on the occasions when he comes to guard me, I know it's not an accident or a whim.  You see, the fight and drama and crying of yesterday all took place at our home, in my apartment.  I was very upset, it all led to a terrible migraine, there was someone that my cat trusts slamming a door at one point ... BAD.  In whatever mysterious way that animals have of KNOWING, and even stranger to my mind, CARING to do something about what they KNOW ... my sweet little boy-cat knew I needed comfort.  

So it came to pass that I cried myself to sleep and sometime in the night, Dorian decided to fore-go his creature comforts and sleeping preferences in order to come and stay with me.  Isn't it funny how sometimes our pets know and are able to do what we truly need, the simplest but most necessary things?  My heart just about burst when I opened my eyes and saw him there, blinking calmly at me.  He didn't run away like, whew, she's up and my work is done.  Rather, he crawled up closer, gave my eyebrows and bangs a good "bath," and sort of just snuggled next to me until I announced that it was time for Coffee-N-Kibbles, which is pretty much always the first order of the day.  

I have much to learn in life, about life, and most of the time the learning excites me.  But one thing I have begun to learn is that I value and find the most joy in what our world calls the "simple" and even "mundane" things in daily life.  One of the great joys in my life currently is this amazing cat.  I don't know how or why, but he sure seems to have an "old soul."  He knows things, he teaches me things, and he's sensitive and loyal, traits that are not especially cat-like.  I wrote a little essay today in my journal about sharing life with a pet, and about this particular pet.  I am going to think about where to send or publish it.  

I tell people these stories sometimes and I know (sometimes they even say it) that they are thinking that either I'm exaggerating and giving personal traits to Dori ... and / or that I am becoming a "crazy cat lady" soon to be an old maid (such a modern and flattering term), shunning human beings and hygiene and, well, real life, for my 92 cats.  But I am not ashamed of adoring my cat as much as a human family member; I certainly recognize that he is not, in fact, my baby or whatever.  I want him to be, and I appreciate that he is, a cat, a pet.  But I love him as such.  And we have a bond, a relationship.  

So today, after such an awful week of fighting and crying and illness and drama, I woke up to beauty and grace and a reminder of the amazing gifts in my life, one of whom is Mr. Dorian.  I remembered to turn my face and my heart toward the light, toward gratitude and peace.  I am thankful that my ADD has settled again (not sure whether I like this new medicine, but I'm sure that will be another post), because when it's settled I can write and read, two of the most beautiful, favored gifts in my life!  I am thankful for my guitar and the fingers to play it, the mind to learn it, the music, as corny as it might sound, I am thankful for the music.  Speaking of which ...

Dorian seems to be the only creature on Earth that adores --make that, doesn't hate-- hearing me sing.  For whatever reason, he loves my singing and will crawl onto my lap when I sing, purring so loud it sounds like he's growling and gargling!  So this morning, to greet the day, and to greet my guy, and to thank him in some small way, I pet him and sang him some Jim Croce songs and a couple James Taylor favorites.  Isn't that funny?  He digs it.  He doesn't like it if I start rapping or, like, adding dance steps.  He just wants me to sing, all mellow.  What a pair, we two.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


THANKS to everyone for their warm welcomes back ('specially you, barb, who really MISSED me :)

I have some things to take care of the next coupla days that I fear will take me away from the blog(s) -- Dorian's too (he was thankful for the warm comments too!)  But I plan to be back to my normal and more frequent writing next week (at the latest), like Monday!  So please don't delete us from your blog rolls, 'kay?  Promise to share my funny and hopefully-somewhat-interesting stories of travel and the usual stuff!