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how to travel with a smile

the [perfectly calm] adventures of david-andrew

fashion robot games (日本 3)

May 17th, 2013

I didn’t set out to have a specific experience in Tokyo. I just wanted to run into whatever 日本 had to offer. Somehow, this day filled with all the typical Japanese things you see in popular culture in the US.


We paused outside Harajuku Station to get our bearings and decide which way we were going. Our friend guides were looking for a specific restaurant. I was too busy looking at the chaos we just entered to notice we were circling in on our target. Somehow, it seemed like we were always going uphill in this area. We would turn a sharp corner, headed in the opposite direction, and still be walking up a hill. It was worth the climb when we found とんかつ まい泉. Maisen Tonkatsu seemed small upon entering the lobby, but there are more areas than first seen. The lobby has a colorful flower garden and displays of the dishes offered in the restaurant. All over Tokyo we saw detailed artificial food models made for restaurant windows. Inside there are waiting benches against the window and a counter to get a quick lunch. There is an upstairs as well that has a more traditional table setting. We took off our shoes and sat on zabuton cushions. After sitting there for an hour, we decided we need more practice sitting on the floor before returning to 日本.


Once again, I used the point-at-a-picture method of ordering food. It’s easy at tonkatsu because everything is the same. You only have to decide if you want it round, square, heart-shaped, sliced, or on a stick. It came with a mountain of shredded cabbage, rice, miso soup, and a sauce that had similarities to barbecue sauce. I braced my veggie-loving mouth, and took a deep breath. “When in Rome!” I said as I prepared to take the second bite of pork I’ve ever had in my life.

If you are looking for reasons to believe that Tokyo is real and not just a cartoon dream, you won’t find them in the 原宿 (Harajuku) area. There is a cave of mirrors at the Tokyu Plaza. Above the mirror cave is a forest in the sky. Past the mirrors, water flows out of a glass fountain several blocks up the hill. Next time we visit I will know to turn left at the glass water feature to get to Maisen.
harajuku_mirrors_cu harajuku_fountain


I want to live in the forest.

It’s driving me a little nuts actually. I can’t find any evidence beside my own photographs that i didn’t dream most of this. I’ve become obsessed with revisiting Tokyo through Google Street View. Right now I’m looking for all these sights and they aren’t there. Apparently in 2010, the last time Street View updated Tokyo, there was a Gap where the magic mirror cave is now. They traded up, way up. That corner is interesting now. The other possibility is that I totally blocked the Gap from my mind. Let’s hope I really have that power.

One thing we saw all over Tokyo, but more prevalent in Harajuku, was clothing with random words and expressions in English. On one of the trains, we saw a young woman with a T-shirt that said “Gallery Times.” One of my favorites was the honest cap that says “nonsense.”

harajuku_randomenglish_666beerbride harajuku_randomenglish_carve

Harajuku is a colorful area that is easy for pedestrian wandering. There is a good range of shops, both local and international, high-dollar and more accessible. I would like to explore it further on future trip to Tokyo.


“Snoberry” – no hiding the agenda here



resilience = lone urban tree

harajuku_smilecamp harajuku_cpyrt


possibly the world’s worst salad


It was finally time to return to Mitaka with the tickets we purchased on our first day. There is a special bus that goes straight to The Ghibli Museum from the Mitaka stop. Remembering the pleasant, tree-lined street from our first time, we opted to walk again. Hiccup and Sister split form us at this point to visit a family friend in Mitaka.

Positioned between a park and a zoo, The Ghibli Museum is a magic getaway in the quieter Mitaka area. トトロ (Totoro) welcomes you just past the front gate. Below his window, the ススワタリ(soot sprites) crowd into a small opening to get a look too. The stained-glass windows of the building depict the wonderful films of Hayao Miyazaki. It’s like looking into the imagination of the storytelling master. Inside there are bridges, doors, and hallways obviously made for small creatures. You can explore the workspaces of the animators. Pinned on the wall are sketches with notes and inspirational research materials. On the top floor there is an actual Catbus with Mei’s name in hiragana (as a young child would write it in Japanese) set as its destination. If you get past the Catbus, there is a lovely roof walk up through a spiral staircase on the outside of the museum. On the roof, there is a wooded trail to the giant robot from Castle in the Sky. In the museum’s theater, we got to see a short film continuation of the Totoro story called Mei and the Kitten Bus. Alone, it was worth the price of admission.

Ghibli_totorossign Ghibli_front
Ghibli_gate Ghibli_mosaic
Ghibli_gmbus Ghibli_gmbus_cu
Ghibli_roof_robot Ghibli_roof_tunnel Ghibli_roof_box
 Ghibli_waterfountain Ghibli_bench
 Ghibli_roof_spiralstairs  Ghibli_roof_spiraltotop
Ghibli_vane Ghibli_gazebo Ghibli_courtside

I’m watching もののけ姫 (Princess Mononoke) while I write this. It started my Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki obsession years ago. If you haven’t seen it, you need to stop everything and watch it now. Then watch My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo

We met back with Hiccup and Sister and a little tea shop below the Mitaka station. It’s really cute inside and the proprietor was warm to welcome us and patient with our ordering.

Here’s a survival lesson for those needing caffeine in Tokyo. The red banner says “コーヒー” (kōhii) in katakana. It means you can get coffee here!

The sun is starting to set, but our day isn’t over yet. There’s still so much to see and it’s already time to return to the US tomorrow. We said earlier Akihabara is a cool place to see lit up at night.



playing SEGA MaiMai

MaiMai is like DanceDanceRevolution for your hands.
The music video during this level is “Candy Candy” by Kyary PamyuPamyu.
You need to see it. It’s quite distracting for game play.


ThePilot found a game made just for him.

We thought we were doing pretty well at the SEGA MaiMai game. Then we saw this guy.

We reluctantly said goodbyes to Hiccup and Sister in front of the Gundam and AKB48 Cafes (Yes, that is a cafe all about AKB48). We all agreed that we need to come here again.

I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight. This day exhausted me. I still need to make one more stop on the way back to the hotel. I have been drooling over those cakes since we got here and I have to try the coffee jello before leaving.

mmmm sweet dreams!

Next: our last day in Tokyo is relaxed and quiet

arabian rock

May 17th, 2013

I hear Tokyo doesn’t really have bars like the ones in the US that are just bars. They more closely resemble restaurants that serve drinks. These bars are often themed. Hiccup and Sister wanted to take us to an Aladdin themed bar in Shinjuku called Arabian Rock. They had been here once before. I’ve since read online that it is one of the wackiest.

We entered from the street and climbed approximately eight thousand claustrophobic, neon-flashing stairs. I don’t mean the stairs had bright colors. They were internally lit, literally flashing, and I’m guessing, intentionally disorienting. Inside the first door at the top, we were inside an entry about the size of a coat closet. There was a giant, sinister head in a turban on the wall and a small space in the wall with a genie lamp. Having been there before, Sister directed us to rub the lamp. So I gave it a touch with a bit of trepidation.

Rubbing the lamp caused a sudden commotion. Steam shot out of the lamp, there was a whistle, the next door flew open, and a woman in bare belly costume greeted us. We stepped inside and she gave a synchronized presentation with two other women chiming in at various points. She held up a second lamp to rub, which also burst smoke, but this time, with sparks. Good thing, I was planning to thin out my eyebrows anyway. As soon as they grow back, I’m sure they’ll be nice and thin. She pointed us to a bench and we waited for seating.

I mentioned on our first day that we had met very helpful people on the street in Tokyo. We have had the opposite experience in restaurants. Most of our food ordering experience has involved a server waiting patiently, but silently, as we try to choose a picture that seems appealing. Sometimes there are explanations from servers, appropriately, in 日本語. I know some 日本語, but they never covered what was coming next in any of my Japanese classes.

A television above our heads played Disney’s Aladdin. As it was the first thing in English from the US we had heard in a long time, our eyes fixed on the screen. It was the scene where Jasmine attempts to seduce Jafar and get him off guard. As her outer clothes are falling to the floor she says, “Jafar, I never realized how incredibly handsome you are.” Out of context, it seemed so weird and I accidentally voiced my thought, “Jasmine, I never realized what a whore you are.” Hiccup let out a polite “ha!” just as our host reappeared.

The nice woman in the belly costume led us to a semi-private booth and handed us a single menu. At the table there was a map of the restaurant and a table number should we get lost in this Arabian maze. It said we could tell anyone our table number and they would help us with directions. I wondered if this happens often. There was also a gold bell button to call the server when we were ready to order. I guess these are actually common in 日本.

I pushed the bell button. A non-themed server kneeled by our table and asked us for our orders. Sister told us there was a fun specialty drink called “The Lamp.” It seem to fit the surroundings and sounded fun. We never found it on the menu, but she asked the server for it anyway. The server seemed to understand and left.

After a few minutes she returned and put a small wire basket with four golden eggs on the table. She said a few sentences in 日本語 while periodically pointing to the eggs. No one understood, but we all nodded politely. Then she poured a red liquid from a bronze lamp into shot-sized glasses until about a quarter full. Then she talked about the shots. She bowed slightly, gestured toward the eggs and shots once more, and left.

We looked at the table and at each other. We had no idea what was happening or where to begin. We each handled the golden eggs. Tapping, rolling, turning yielded no answers. They seemed solid and there weren’t any moving parts. Nothing was clanging around inside. Theories started to emerge. Maybe they are souvenirs? Maybe we put them on the top of our tiny glasses when we don’t want more? They do fit there nicely and there is an all-you-can-drink deal on the menu. We returned the eggs to their home in the little basket.

We hadn’t figured out the things before us yet, when the servers returned with more. They put out a glass lamp with sake colored liquid in it and three stem glasses with ice and red, green, and yellow liquids. There was more confused discussion about having only three glasses of colors and four of us. We definitely told her four would be drinking. What are these liquids? Is one of them alcohol? Are all of them alcohol? Are they just flavors with no alcohol? Are we supposed to mix them? Will we explode if we mix them?

Hiccup and Sister tell us it was different last time they were here. “It was very apparent what to do last time.” We decided that it might become more apparent if we were drinking and decided to drink the liquid in the shot glasses. It tasted candy sweet and not alcoholic. I put my egg on top to signify I didn’t want more.

We were much luckier with our food choices. When ordering from a menu you don’t understand with pictures of mostly fried foods, you just have to choose and hope for the best. We had chosen a few items by group consensus. When they came we poked the fried item to see what was inside. Taking a small bite, I realized it was potatoes. It was perfect, yummy relief. The only thing that stopped me from gobbling all of them down was courtesy to the other three at the table. The fried potatoes and onion mixture disappeared quickly. As I was looking at the empty plate, wishing there were more, Hiccup says, “This is bar food in Tokyo, by the way.”

Another table sat behind us. It occurred to me to watch them to see what they did with their golden eggs and lamp drinks. I peered through the filigree on the booth wall.

Someone asked, “What are they doing with their drinks?”

“They’re drinking beer.”

“Oh. Smart.”

Their server came and put eggs on their table too. She went through her little talk, gesturing again at the golden eggs. The men chuckled and started handling the eggs almost like we had. One man tapped his egg on the table edge. Lightly at first, then he drew back and really whacked it. There was a cracking sound and he began removing the golden shell. Next he took a bite. The four of us began laughing. Hiccup cracked an egg open and took a bite of his too. “Oh! It’s an egg!”

Laughing, we went through all the silly motions of putting the egg in our glass and looking them over again. Feeling foolish, we joked that we might be on hidden camera show soon.

When the check arrived, we quickly paid the 7100円 and made for the exit. The End.


Except we weren’t quite free yet. We tried to leave the way we came in, but found ourselves stuck in the tiny entrance with the lamp again. There was no handle to let us out to the stairs. We couldn’t go back in without rubbing the lamp again and, thus, restarting the process again. We looked in circles for an escape. Hopefully, we really were on camera at this point and someone would come to help us. Maybe the host with the lamp has a trapped gaijin sense. She stuck her head through the door, said something while politely nodding, and reached up to a button about six feet above the floor. The outer door popped open and released us back into the less confusing Tokyo streets.

peaceful out (last day in 日本)

May 17th, 2013



We got out early on our last day and rode once more to Harajuku Station. This time instead of turning into the chaotic and colorful shops, we went the opposite direction, across the bridge, and into the woods.

The Meiji Shrine in Shibuya is a quiet escape into the green of nature. Just to show you the contrast of this quiet place, here’s a satellite of the area from Google Maps.

meijishrineharajukusatellite meijishrineharajukusatellite_CU

We took a wonderfully quiet walk on the winding road leading to the shrine. It was strangely quieter than it had been in days. We transported out of Tokyo and into an oasis of historical forest. There were a lot of people taking pictures and looking at artifacts. However, everyone seemed respectfully still. Either this place puts people at peace or the type of person who comes here is the reverent type.

Meiji_acrosstracks Meiji_path Meiji_frontgate
Meiji_coveredbarrels_cu Meiji_cordtree Meiji_bridge
Meiji_waterway Meiji_light
Meiji_prayercards Meiji_gatetoinnercourt Meiji_outercourt

After the nice morning walk, we said goodbye to our hotel room. It will be nice to be in our home again, but I never want to leave. Maybe someday they will be the same place.


the fancy, bedside controls for everything in the room


the government building across the street had a lovely roof garden

We finally rode the Shinkansen on the way to the airport. I took tons of pictures. Nothing was too mundane for photos. I was desperate to keep the experience going. From the other side of the aisle I could hear the clicking of another camera. I guess nobody wants to leave. We have to go sometime, but please let us take a little of Tokyo with us.

fieldontrain train_9110_full

I will miss Japan everyday until we can return. Tokyo is fascinating and grand. We only barely saw the scratches on the surface. This only means there are many future trips for us. Until we see you again, さようなら (sayonara).

hotel_acoffeewithaview dAsignature_transparent_spray

honored dog & fish feet (日本 2)

May 13th, 2013

**My intention was to publish updates every night in Tokyo. However, I met some challenges. One was the struggle to find consistent internet with my gaijin iPad. The other challenge was exhaustion after running around Tokyo from 8A to 12A everyday. Sleep won that battle. I offer a thousand apologies for any inconvenience or anxiety this may have caused. Also, I can avoid the mess of a rush job like my last post. Further apologies offered.**

On our second day in Tokyo, we met up with our friend Hiccup and his Sister who lives in Japan. It’s amusing being so far from home and see people you know. Something is familiar, but in the wrong setting. It added to the jumble that is Tokyo, throwing me off a little more. Sister showed us around to some crazy fun sights.

We headed out to Yokohama to go to the ramen museum. First we made a stop at the famous Shibuya Station statue of the faithful dog Hachikō. This Akita Inu met his human, a professor, at the station daily as he came home from work. The professor unexpectedly passed away one day and never returned to meet Hachikō. Still, Hachikō waited everyday at Shibuya Station for nine years feed only by kind commuters. This loyal dog still shows up in popular culture almost 80 years later. ShibuyuStation

We got back on the train and continued to the Yokohama Raumen Museum.

raumenmuseum The museum doesn’t look very unusual from the outside. Inside, however, we transported to 1958 Tokyo. There are several ramen dealers around a courtyard. In the middle area there is a shoot-the-duck style game. The proprietor of the shooting game also doubles as a performer who put on a comedic show. I mean, I assume it was comedic because everyone laughed.

foreshadowing the transition to 1958

foreshadowing the transition to 1958

We found our way into the “Ikemen Hollywood” ramen joint. The dishes were puns based on US movie culture. There was “Jurassic Pork,” “Johnny Dip,” and a crazy spicy one called “The Backdraft.”
We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, so not much to show you guys, but ramen lovers would be in heaven here. They have “mini” sizes so you don’t get too full to try them all.

Yokohama also has a “Chinatown” area with some hidden adventures waiting for us.

ct_gate  ct_pandastore
 ct_jumble ct_pandabread

Near the entrance to Chinatown, we headed up a flight of stairs covered in neon exclamations into an arcade. The arcade was full of physically interactive games. We played a four-player game throwing balls at a video screen to knock bugs off as they try to climb the wall.

ct_arcade_kawaiiprizes ct_arcade_drum
We had fun with the drum game. I want one for my home.

Better yet, if the people who stock the arcade would put a few machines in my house and switch them out periodically, that would be rad.

We were wandering around the game floor when we were suddenly pulled into the wildest photo booth I’ve ever seen. Bright noises, loud colors, and 日本語 instructions lit quickly on the screen. There were cute poses demonstrated on the screen before each picture. We did our best to fall into form before each flash. Background options ranged from cutsie pink to pink graffiti to graffiti cutsie. After all the picture shooting, you could draw, stamp, and theme your photos.


the sophisticated & serious results

I now know firsthand why there are jokes about Tokyo being unsafe for the seizure prone.

ct_kissfish_sign One of the weirdest things we’ve come across in Tokyo so far is Dr Kiss Fish. Before I knew what was happening our friend was getting us tickets to have our feet cleaned by fish. It was almost intolerable at first. After getting used to it, it was just very ticklish and probably what putting your feet in a huge pool of Alka-Seltzer would feel like. It’s bizarre to watch living beings eat off your dead skin. They love to get the most sensitive areas of your arches and between your toes. The Dr Kiss Fish clerk encouraged us to put our hands in the swarm too. Hiccup was first, then I tried it for a bit.
ct_kissfish_feet   ct_kissfish_side ct_kissfish_hand

In the same building we went to an exhibit of “trick art.” Signs with each painting demonstrated how to photograph each illusion.

ct_trick_swing ct_trick_shark


don’t I look angelic?


We ended the night with an embarrassing, but hilarious dinner at a bar called Arabian Rock, but I think I’ll save that story for later.

ct_wires More tales from Tokyo coming soon!

Next: complicated drink instructions & golden eggs in Shinjuku – “Arabian Rock”


May 12th, 2013
We are finally on our trip to Japan! I’ve dreamed of this for as long as I can remember. It’s hard to believe we are here, but there are constant reminders that we are “外人” (foreigners). We spent our first day re-learning how to turn on lights and get on trains. 20130514-073800.jpg

We had an early start today, our first day in Tokyo, with breakfast buffet at our hotel. There were random items from the US that seemed out-of-place at breakfast, like French fries and a salad bar with dressing. There were tasty Japanese sweet breads and steamed buns too. I loved the apple juice. It’s not like the syrupy apple juice in the US I hated as a kid. It’s thick like it has actual apples in it and tastes like green apple candy.

IMG_5653 After breakfast we intended to visit the Ghibli Museum and headed out to Mitaka. It was a nice walk from the Mitaka stop to the museum. However, we found out that we needed tickets with specific times for admission that must be purchased at a specific convince store called Lawsons. So we found the store and guessed at the buttons for the ticket vending machine. We also found out through the process that all times were sold-out for today. We bought tickets for Wednesday. More to come then!
IMG_5633 IMG_5638 IMG_5636 IMG_5632

We bought “Suica” cards to ride the trains before we left for Mitaka. They are rechargeable and you enter your name and contact information to get one. As we were entering the train again, we noticed that our names were printed on the front! It was exciting to see we had personalized transportation cards.

We are now on the grid in Japan.
IMG_5669 Next we headed to see the Tokyo Sky Tree, which will have it’s 1st anniversary this month. We walked from across the river and through a quiet park to get to the tower. The complex at the base is fun. We walked through a huge area full of every Japanese food you might ever want. We chose some sushi, soba noodles, and tempura for lunch. From the observation deck, you can feel the sway of the wind and see just how full and vast Tokyo really is.

interactive screen at Sky Tree observation deck

interactive screen at Sky Tree observation deck

ThePilot ventured out on the glass floor. You can see 450 meters to the ground.

ThePilot ventured out on the glass floor. You can see 450 meters to the ground.

Maybe I’m a little too good using the 日本語 phrases I know. I mean, I’m typically perfect at everything I do, but it gets ridiculous at a certain point. As we were leaving the Sky Tree observation deck, I got the guide’s attention with “すみません。”はい” he replied. “どこ成田ですか?” I asked because we were curious if we could see Narita International Airport from the observation deck. What followed was a very fast string of words that I could not follow. I did manage to catch the phrase “遠いです” (It’s far.) and with hand gestures we got the idea. I guess asking in 日本語 means getting an answer in 日本語.

On our way back to our hotel, we walked around Shinjuku to look for some dinner. At one place we saw this sign and decided against eating there.

So far, the people of Tokyo have been kind, helpful, fun, and amazing. We have had several people ask us if we need help while we are staring at a map. “Are you okay?” It’s hard to imagine someone in the US offering help to a stranger, especially a “foreigner.” I think I might love it here.


Next: more Tokyo! games, inu memorials, and being eaten by fish!

2 son drive

November 12th, 2012

Once in a while we head down to Tucson to visit good friends, Rachel and Robin. Rachel and I were in college together in Chicago and since discovered several parallels in our lives. We both live in Arizona now and ThePilot and I enjoy a drive down to Tucson to see them. Rachel is a photographer (Urban Abstrakt Photography) and always takes amazing pictures of us.

Last month we planned a drive down on a weekend that happened to coincide Tucson’s Pride weekend. I have never been to a Pride event in Arizona before this one. Arizona is too hot in June, the typical Pride month, to hold an outdoor event. They are smartly held in cooler months so no one dies of excitement.

One of the best things about any Pride event is the diversity within the LGBTQ population. We’re not all the same. Some of us stand out. Some of us look like you. We all have families and dreams and are deserving of love and dignity. I also love seeing all the colors and smiles!

After the parade, we had lunch at The Hotel Congress. It’s crazy cute and stupid yummy! No time to take pictures, too busy gobbling.

We left Rachel and Robin with hugs and promises to see each other soon. Then ThePilot pointed our car in a generally northern direction. We decided to take the slow and pretty route back to Phoenix. On the way we turned off on a dusty desert detour.

love all the seasonal desert colors

This bush was swarming with butterflies and bees. It must be tasty.

In case you were wondering about the size of this bug, those ridges in the road are Jetta’s tire treads.



Further up AZ Highway 77 we found an unplanned stop at University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2. We actually wanted to visit this place and felt lucky to have stumbled into it in this ambling mood.

You may remember hearing about the team of scientists who locked themselves into Biosphere 2 for 2 years in the early 1990s. They were studying things in the artificial ecosystems. This is that place. Our guide was amazing and full of great stories about that experiment, its challenges, and its successes. We toured the ocean, jungle, and desert from inside. If you are near Tucson, Biosphere 2 is a must see oddity that is still a functioning laboratory today.


As we drove away from the Biosphere, we came across these guys hiding in the cacti. They paused their cactus chewing momentarily as we stopped to say a way-too-excited “HI!”

She didn’t seem to care that there was cactus stuck to her side.

They are so cute. I want to find some land and adopt a happy cow friend.

Happy with our full day, we headed back to Phoenix. I love driving through Arizona. There’s so much beauty and always something unique to find. Bring yourself out west and we’ll take you somewhere you’ll talk about when you leave.

welcome to the new 20s

September 12th, 2012
Uncle$am is my best adventure friend. Although we happen to be blood related, we have a historic bond that goes beyond the inadequate title of “brother.” We have jumped out of planes, been tattooed (permanent ink), and run from madmen armed with poles. The last one landed Uncle$am in the hospital with a broken arm (You thought that was a joke?).
Needless to say, a tea party for Uncle $am’s 30th birthday would fall short of epic aims. So when his wifey, PeaceLovingYippie, told me she wanted to surprise him with a “Zip Line & Dine” event at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, I knew we must. I heard people say that 30s are now the new 20s and I wanted to welcome him to another year with a fun adventure.

The time between reserving and going was difficult. PeaceLovingYippie and I both almost spilled the beans. We managed to keep it a surprise until the day ThePilot and I arrived in Charlotte. That afternoon I answered PeaceLovingYippie’s phone when Uncle$am called her. He was very confused, but figured out that we were there in his house.

The Whitewater Center was a ton of fun! We met the group and started putting on harness gear and helmets. Then we headed into the woods. We climbed steps to the platform we would soon jump off. It’s a little unnerving when you are standing on the platform waiting for your turn because the trees bend and shake every time someone jumps. We eventually got the hang of it and were soon zipping along. The zip lines get progressively higher and longer as you go. On some, the landing platform can’t be seen from the starting platform. That is especially exciting.

After the treetop tour, there was a camp fire dinner. That’s why this event is “& Dine.” We got to chat with some other couples from the Charlotte area and hear stories from the zip line guides.

During my three-day stay in Charlotte, I became adept at dodging food. I got a free humus mask treatment on my calf by the youngest of my two nieces. It was luckily pre-shower and not on my clothes. I looked down to see the most amazing smile beaming up at me. It’s not possible to resist that shot of pure, happy love. I beamed back.

I heard a lot about the Epicentre from the guys at the Whitewater Center and wanted to see it. So we headed Uptown to check it out. They were actually setting up for the Democratic National Convention news coverage while we were there. Charlotte has changed so much since my family moved to North Carolina. I mean, they have a theater in Uptown now (!).
On the way we stopped for lunch. I have no idea how parents with small children stay clean. Keeping the nieces in their seats and the food going in their mouths is a constant test of will. It’s probably just routine for their parents by now, but it was entertainment for me.

I’m always sad to leave my best friend and his beautiful family in Charlotte. I always try to talk them into going with me. As PeaceLovingYippie was driving me to the airport with the girls in the back, I felt a little melancholy and promised we’d be back soon. At the last second before stepping out of the car, thinking I was in the clear, three drops of applesauce hit my jeans. I got to take a little of them with me after all.

Next Trip: ThePilot and I take a drive down to Tucson, AZ.

wowi (last day)

July 24th, 2012
I woke on our 3rd day in Ka’anapali to discover I had been tagged for time in the Westin pools. After a quick sip of coffee, we had a quick dip in water. To me, it’s a little unnecessary to have a pool in visual range of the ocean, but the intricate circle of water and falls on the Westin grounds were too intriguing to resist. It has a curly slide and it’s waterfalls hide tunnels that lead to the other sides. If the ocean tide had not also been in audible range, I could have stayed there awhile. Also, we were about to have an exciting day.

The bartender at Star Noodle told us that we should go to The Gazebo for breakfast. It is supposedly joyous. So we headed to north Lāhainā to this breakfast-only restaurant that looks out into Napili Bay. We wandered around a bit when we arrived and eventually saw a sign for it in the front of the Napili Shores Condominiums. The Gazebo is in the back by their pool with a beach view. When we arrived there was a short line. I have heard of 45 minute waits from others, so we were lucky to wait only a short time around eleven. The servers are friendly and the food was, as predicted, delicious. This place isn’t fancy. It let’s the view and the food do all the talking.

view of Moloka’i from The Gazebo

After breakfast, we took a little exploratory drive. From Napili, we headed towards the northern point of West Maui. We stopped at a marked scenic pullout and saw a scuba group enjoying the coral views of Honolua Bay.
We continued around the top curve of the Honoapi’ilani Highway.

Remember that part on the map of Maui we saw on our 1st day that says “Do Not Drive Here?” We soon found out why.

 We got our second warning at another scenic look out.
 That little stick man at the bottom is a barely concealed threat of becoming broken if you continue.

I’m not sure we meant to go into the forbidden drive, we were exploring. So far it had paid off in scenic beauty.

As the road began to narrow, the signs became less subtle.

Despite the warning signs, things seemed alright. Soon, however we met a car ahead and realized this road wasn’t one-way. It also wasn’t wide enough for two. We chuckled and had an “oh dear” moment then backed into a curve in the road to let the other car squeeze into the bend.

“At least there are wide spots to let other cars pass.”

We started to get comfortable with the polite passing process. Confidently we zoomed ahead.

Pretty soon most of our movement was either up or down. We would climb a slope, turn a sharp corner, and suddenly be steeply aimed down again.

By now, the road had narrowed to the width of one Mini Cooper with a rock wall on one side and a drop straight down a cliff on the other. There are no guard rails and no room for error. I started to get a little nervous. As the passenger, I was staring at the rock wall two inches from my window. Yet, I was keenly aware of the drop on the driver’s side as well.

We slowed our decent into one curve that was thick with foliage. Another car caught up with us from behind. As we turned the curve, we heard a couple of mopeds honk and pass the car behind us. Blinded by the thick trees and distracted by the activity in the rear, we didn’t see the two cars coming down the next ascent. Then I almost had some rear activity of my own.

We were suddenly face-to-face with a dark blue Honda and no place to go. We were in the middle of a sheer cliff, between a rock and the quick way down. There was a car, two mopeds, and a truck behind us now. They weren’t moving. The car behind the Honda began backing up the hill. The Pilot turned around and motioned that we would try to back down into the wider space of the curve. One of the mopeds honked in resistance to the backing. No one moved. The Pilot threw his hands up in the universal “WTF?!” gesture.

Ahead of us, there was a space that was about five inches wider next to the wall. The blue Honda hugged the wall and motioned for us to use those five inches to go around them. The Pilot started to pull forward. Instinct took over and I reached for the door. Every thought in my head told me to leap from the car. “That’s stupid,” I told myself, “There’s not enough room to get the door open. Jump out the window.”

I was somehow able to control the abandon urges and The Pilot says “This isn’t going to work. No way.” By now the backing process had started behind us and we joined everyone back through the curve space. Once we were in position to let everyone pass we let everyone go first and stayed put for a bit. Would it be worse to go back through what we just did or continue forward?

I found a video on YouTube of the Kahekili Highway. At 1:20 in the video you can see where we had our little traffic jam. You can see I’m not exaggerating the conditions. My heart hurt a little just watching this. I was not thinking about photos or videos when we were here, so I was excited to find this video.

Thanks to PeaceLovingScoobie for this video!

This was one of the wide parts of Kahekili “Highway.” Somehow we kept meeting those mopeds.

Eventually we decided to go forward rather than try to turn the car around with no space. We were relieved to see the roads get a bit wider the further you go. The wider parts now were wide enough for a car larger than a Mini. Passing spaces became more prevalent too. We went through some little towns. One area we went through had a sign warning of the times that the school bus would be coming through. I relaxed in these parts and started taking pictures of the view again.

moo moo

The Kahekili Highway is one of the most exciting and beautiful drives I have seen. I definitely suggest that you rent some sort of tiny, two-wheeled transport to see it.

We passed this wind farm several times on the southern curve of West Maui.

Returning to our hotel, we came to the sad part of our adventure. It was time to head to the airport. We borrowed the hospitality room in the lobby and changed out of our sunny, sandy clothes. We were quiet as we drove past the beaches, the volcano mountains, and the now familiar wind farm. The sun began to say it’s goodbyes too. We pulled over for one last picture. A nice man offered to take one of us both. I hate goodbyes.

a big mahalo to Maui!

I love HI’s open airports. They don’t feel like the cagey, stagnant airports on the mainland. As we waited for our plane outside the gate a relaxing, heavenly breeze made us want to run from the airport and stay. I’m sure it’s just marketing.

If you want resorts and amenities, Maui is for you. We spent about five times as much going to Maui than we have spent on Kaua’i. Maui has big name resort beaches and restaurants. Kaua’i is very chill in comparison. Both islands have a beauty that must be experienced. Get to Hawai’i anyway you can!

wowi (day 2)

July 21st, 2012

We had big plans for our second day on Maui. That called for a big breakfast and an early wake up. I am not a morning person, but I am easily enticed by food. The Pilot had me up and going at an hour that regular folks have breakfast.

morning on Ka’anapali Beach

Today we decided to brave the climb up Haleakalā, one of the many volcanoes that form the islands of Hawai’i. When you consider the 19.6k ft of Haleakalā which is under water, this mountain is taller than Mount Everest by almost 700 ft! I say climb, but I really mean that our rental car did most of the work.

Halfway up, We drove into the clouds.

It rained on us inside the cloud.

We started to see daylight again as we continued to ascend.

Then we were driving above the clouds! We stopped at the first visitor center and took in the first views. A man passed us on the trail to the lookout and said, “Wait until you see it from the top. This is nothing.” I thought we couldn’t that far from the top, but we still had a thousand feet to go up to the very top. The view was astounding.

Haleakalā crater

Haleakalā Silversword

The clouds mimic the ocean surf as they crash into Haleakalā.

From the top, you can see the two peaks of the “Big Island,” Hawai’i.

I brought a jacket with me to HI. It seems crazy, but I brought it knowing we were going to Haleakalā. Somewhere between leaving the hotel and going back for my bag, I left my jacket in the room. It was very cold at the summit. I don’t mean it was slightly chilly. It was cold. You will be more comfortable when you go if you bring a jacket. If you are super sensitive to cold like me, you may want to consider long pants even. Next time, I will bring a thick winter coat and brave sunrise. I have heard it is amazing.

We also stopped on the way up at a little grocery store in the clouds to pick up some lunch items. After our hike around the top, we decided to go back to the car for our lunch. This is what we found. Our potato chip bag had reacted to the change in pressure and did a fine parody of a puffer fish.

In the afternoon, we had a walk through the shops of the Lāhainā waterfront. We looked at art, ate shave ice, and found Hawaiian coffees to bring home. In the center of this town you can see a banyan tree that is nearly 140 years old and covers an area of over 200 feet.

We were a little surprised to see public pay phones all over Maui. Haven’t seen a working one in a long time.

Returning to the hotel we went down to the beach. The surf wanted to play and it started out with some light punches. Soon we were being pummeled on the beach. A woman near us had been body surfing further down the beach and told us they had to stop because of the wave strength. I had no idea the waves were that big. We were just having fun. Later, we heard several people had been hurt at one of the other resorts. I guess we were braving big waves without knowing how big. After being tossed around and thrown into the sand a few times, there was sand in every part of us and our swimsuits that can ever have sand. I was still getting sand out of my ear a week after traveling back home.

That night, after getting ho-hum recommendations on sushi from the concierge, we took to Yelp and found something amazing. Star Noodle is a small, modern place in Lāhainā with a sake bar and communal tables. They serve their own versions of traditional dishes from Asia with noodles made in-house. Their bartenders are muddling experts to make their creative drinks and sake cocktails. My “Stargarita” was yum! I could have eaten heaps of the garlic noodles and the chilled buckwheat noodles were a cool treat. I say have the malasadas because you can’t really go wrong with fried dough and dipping sauces for dessert. We were definitely glad we found this place and waited in the line to eat. Star Noodle is so good we ate there twice in our 3 day stay.

From the fun bartender at Star Noodle, we got an awesome recommendation for breakfast. I went to bed, once again dreaming of breakfast.

Remember that “Do not drive here” warning on the map from day one? Next: wowi (last day)

wowi (day 1)

July 20th, 2012


A surprise summer solstice celebration brought us to the beautiful and fun Maui. This was my first time on this island. I couldn’t wait to see the ocean and feel humidity in the air. Also, I had heard Maui was a bit busier that Kaua’i, but not as busy as Oahu. I was curious to see how the islands were different. Mostly, I was sure that I would take any Hawaiian destination, anytime.

high view of the sugarcane fields as we flew in to Maui

When we picked up our rental car we were given a map of Maui. On the northwest and southeast corners of the island there were red lines on the map that said “Do not drive between these points. Driving on unauthorized roads violates car rental contract.”
I saw this warning and my brain immediately said, “I want to go to there.”

We drove to Ka’anapali and checked into our room at the Westin Resort. I was immediately impressed by the magical lobby at the Westin. Like many buildings in HI that I’ve seen, the lobby is open to the air. A rocky waterfall greets guess entering the lobby. As I was admiring the waterfall and koi pools, a person appeared from under the water. The walkway to the pool, patio, and restaurant areas takes you on a path under the rock and waterfall. The grounds of the Westin are lush, colorful, and perfect for relaxing.

I’m pretty sure the Lorax lives here.

We stood staring at the views from our room. We were hungry and kept talking about food, yet stayed entranced by the ocean and the setting sun. All around the hotel and beach, travelers stopped to watch the light in the sky bounce off the clouds and water.

view of Moloka’i from our room to the northwest

southwest view – Lana’i is not far

Our hunger strike didn’t keep the sunset in place, so we finally went over to Roy’s. It was my first time eating at this “Hawaiian Fusion” seafood restaurant. Of course, we had to get a Mai Tai. They have their own old-school version (1940s old-school) and I love it! The food here is fancy and delicious. I broke my veggie ways as The Pilot paraded a school of bites in front of me. I’m always interested in the full experience. At Roy’s, you must taste the Blackened Island Ahi appetizer.

After dinner, we took a walk down to the beach. On the way we stopped and talked to an amateur astronomer who had her telescope on the beach. She is told us she is the president of The Maui Astronomers Club. We got to look through her telescope and see Saturn for the second time in a week!

We have only been on Maui for five hours and it’s already been amazing! I’m sure it will go slow and we’ll stay here forever.

The Pilot waits for sunset

Our 2nd day on Maui brought us to a mountain taller than Mount Everest! Next: wowi (day 2)

saturn day

July 11th, 2012
We were watching a NOVA documentary one night called The Pluto Files. It’s about Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson revisiting the findings that led him to declare that Pluto is no longer a planet. He also visits the birthplace of Clyde Tombaugh (discovered Pluto) to meet his detractors.
This documentary mentions the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Pilot and I looked at each other at the end and nearly simultaneously declared we should visit the observatory. So we did.

The grounds of the observatory are pleasant and woodsy. Being there reminded me of so many school breaks spent at summer camp.

We took a tour of the Pluto Discovery Telescope and the Clark Refracting Telescope. The tour hosts at Lowell have some really interesting stories to tell about the telescopes and the drama in the astronomy community (yes, that exists). The hosts are quite interesting themselves. If you are in Flagstaff and go on the Pluto and Mars tours, you will see what I mean. We heard some really great stories that you won’t find in textbooks. Also at Lowell is the television famous Discovery Channel Telescope.

The Percival Lowell Mausoleum

After the tours, it was still daylight. We decided to jaunt over to Sedona for a bit and return for the night sky viewing. We had a great time in Sedona. It is always lovely there. We ran into a warm woman also interested in the stars and talked to her for a while. She seemed quite insightful and told us that our love is “childlike”. I also found some neat rocks to bring home.

That night we returned to Mars Hill to get an awesome view of Saturn through the Clark telescope. There is an excited feeling in the line of star-gazers waiting to get their turn at the telescope. After viewing Saturn, we immediately started talking about how to get a telescope of our own. It was worth the return. It’s difficult to comprehend what you are seeing from so far away. I commented that it looked like someone had put one of those glow-in-the-dark ceiling planets on the lens.
“Yes,” said the completely serious telescope scientist guide, “but it’s real.”

Maybe you can’t get to Flagstaff as easily as we can, but I would encourage you to go to an observatory near you and look at the stars. It will make the stars real for you.

Next trip: We didn’t know it yet, but we would get a 2nd look at Saturn a few days later. This time from Maui!

dammed vegas

July 7th, 2012

Last year, also in June, I drove to a big 3 day music and dance party called Electric Daisy Carnival. I had a rad experience being with friends, hearing exciting music, and getting an awesome recharge from the universe. This June, I returned to Las Vegas for more EDC. This time The Pilot took the drive to Vegas with me and we got to see some cool history on the way.

As we headed out of Phoenix, we were sent on our drive with a bit more fanfare than expected. Just on the outside of North Phoenix, we saw a group of hot air balloons over the highway.

The moon also came out for our trip.

I love to drive Arizona highways. On a random pit stop on this trip, hidden between some old buildings and a convenience store, we found this forgotten and defaced remembrance.

As we got closer to Nevada, we started to see more signs of party people on their way to the same party.

The first time I drove to Las Vegas, I drove over The Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge without realizing I had. From the top of it, you can’t see anything. Maybe if you’re in a super tall vehicle, you could. I think they may have built the walls of it pretty high so that traffic wouldn’t slow as people say their oh-wows to the dam below.

This time we took the original route down to the river and took a walk across the Hoover Dam. It does take longer to drive the old way, but it’s definitely worth seeing once in your life. The Hoover Dam combines the beauty of natural landscape and human engineering.

I enjoyed seeing the 1930s in the designs of the dam.
When you look out at the banks of the Colorado River, you can see how recent droughts have affected the water levels.

I took this picture after we witnessed a woman put her toddler on the wall. The other side of it is a 726.4 ft (221.4 m) drop to the bottom of the dam.

If you have never seen the dam, I recommend taking the long way down and across. From the older, lower crossing you can see some interesting design and a better view of the new bridge.

Electric Daisy Carnival was wicked fun again. I posted some pictures about it last year. This year, Insomniac managed to double the fun. So I was too busy dancing to take any good pictures this time. You’ll just have to come along with me and see it 1st hand next year!

nose job at the boneyard

April 16th, 2012

The sprawling wasteland of decommissioned million-dollar military planes at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, AZ known as “The Boneyard” became home to the art show The Boneyard Project: Return Trip. This group show originally seen at the Eric Firestone Gallery in Easthamptons, New York featured the nose cones of planes painted by various artists. The original exhibit was called Nose Job. Added in Tucson were several complete planes painted by the artists. This project may not have been realized without the open space and dry heat of the Tucson desert. These massive planes would have been much too claustrophobic in a gallery. Also, very few New York galleries would have been able to contain even one.

apocalyptic looking “Warning Shot” by RETNA


Inside the museum’s hanger, the original nose cones from the New York exhibit were presented.

 Tristan Eaton Tara McPherson CRASH
Shepard Fairey
 Lisa Lebofsky Colin Chilag

Sometimes Arizona can be shockingly conservative in really silly ways. I don’t understand the point of having an art show if you are going to censor works or portions of works. Its not what I would understand to be the function of exhibiting an invited collection. It was amusing and saddening that some of the pieces were defaced. Would it make sense to ask George Carlin for afternoon tea and then put black tape over his mouth? Why bother?

Cover your eyes!
“Cathy Cowgirl Nose Cone” by Ron English dares to show exposed utters. Arizona families need to be protected from the horrors of cow anatomy. Guess what? The milk you had on your cereal this morning came from those! It’s true. If the museum directors ever drive through the Dairylands of America, they are in for a shocker! Also, I was confused how Tara McPherson’s cone escaped censorship. Maybe Ron English’s message was too strong?







One of my favorites from this exhibit was a brilliant wing job by Trusto Corp. At first glance it seems to be the usual marketing you would see on a race car or at any sporting event. However, this one has a message if you’re paying attention. Unfortunately, this was one of the works defaced by the museum. Black tape now covers an “F.” Now, nobody knows what it originally said. The funny (moronic) thing is the two naughty words that remain uncovered in this piece.
“10 good years of W A R” by Trusto Corp.

After that, I needed a breath of air. The Pilot and I have been to The Boneyard before. This time we went before that time of the year that the desert is exactly like standing under a hairdryer on full power. Today it was sunny and warm and perfect. The painted planes outside were great too. Set amongst the other deceased planes, it seemed as if vandals had broken in and had their way with unguarded skeletons.

If you are near Tucson, you should stop to see this unique show. It was great to see some culture in Arizona. I hope that the weird censorship won’t discourage future exhibits from coming to Arizona. This cultural desert needs exposure stat! Amazing weather and perfect culture at once would probably make my head explode though. For now, I’ll continue to stay dry and warm here and travel to the cultures of the world.
Happy trails!


February 20th, 2012
I am excited about this year. Good things are coming. I can feel it.
I was born in the Year of the Dragon and it has come back around again. To celebrate ThePilot and I went to San Francisco last week for the Year of the Dragon New Years Parade. It was magical and more than I expected.

I put on my dragon tee for the occasion.

4 luck =D

We stayed in the Westin’s St. Francis hotel on Union Square. We only had to step out onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel to watch the parade.
I was a little surprised to see the crowd outside when we went out. Union Square was full and the sidewalks were standing room only. There were even people lining the windows of the Union Square Macy’s.

Every body loves a dragon parade!

we called this entry "CA Budget Deficit"

can't hate though on account of the cute passenger

Chinese New Year celebrations often involve the dancing dragon every year.

Because this is the dragon’s year there was plenty dragon dancing to go around.


I love little surprises like this. Spontaneity has never let me down. 2012 is going to rock! Year of the Dragon will be guaranteed wild times. The last Dragon came in 2000. Everyone freaked about the world ending then too. What is the deal with those dragons?
So tell me what’s next. I’m ready for a year of adventure. Life is exciting and mysterious like the dragon. Come with me on the next trip or I can meet you there too.

Good luck and good fortune to all!

room with a view

terminal art

February 7th, 2012

Denver Art Museum overhangs 13th Ave from The Hill

I had an unexpected moment of fan-awe last month when I decided to go see Sam Flores, David Choe, and Highraff paint live in Denver, CO. My friend Astrid sent me mail about this event. I skimmed it not realizing what it entailed. I originally told her I was going to a Huck Gee signing in Phoenix that weekend. I should support anything that comes to Phoenix as there are rarely any art or toy events here.
Then, as I was going through some items in my saved reading list, I came across it again. The Terminal Kings in Denver were putting on a unique opportunity to see some renowned artists put on a live painting show at City Hall nightclub. The resulting artwork would be displayed in the airport terminal. Huck Gee would have to wait.

I’ve been to City Hall once before for a wild Halloween party. This was my 1st time there in broad daylight. It took me awhile to realize it was the same place. Then I started pointing out the familiarity to ThePilot. “Out there is where we sat huddled together by a six foot mound of snow!” “There’s the heat lamp where I asked a sexy Bo-Peep if she was cold and she said ‘Uuum, yeaaaah.” “That’s the stage where Hiccup took that picture of me and BabyAnne!”

Today the semi-outdoor amphitheater was closed up and lit with construction lighting. The three level venue was completely taken over by some seriously grandiose works of spray paint art.

I have been following the work of David Choe for several years. He has innovated methods of street art highlighted in a documentary that took director Harry Kim 10 years to make. The result was Dirty Hands and could be described as mind blowing.

I will admit that before this show I did not know the name Highraff. I was immediately a fan. His work has a psycadelic quality to it and contrasts precise geometry with organic shapes. I had to keep telling myself that this was done with spray paint. It’s easy to forget.

The popularization of urban art toys has introduced me to so many talented artists. Sam Flores is another artist that I became aware of through my toy obsession. While the toy scene may be cooling down for awhile, the artists continue to amaze. Sam Flores is a unique voice in urban art. His work will always stand out and be easily identified. This show elevated my fandom through the roof.

The first day, ThePilot and I saw Flores working on this peacock girl.

Throughout the days we were at this event we saw this mysterious woman evolve.

A reoccurring theme in Flores’ work are figures disguised as animals. There are so many things I love in this mural of masks. The colors are perfect. The details are sharp and intriguing. I love all the stars he puts in his work. Being a star myself, my eyes are drawn to them.

I have seen a few of my favorite artists paint, either live or in video. I always learn something that I can incorporate into my own work. I was fascinated by the techniques that these street artists employ. They seem so resourceful. It’s kinda lo-tech genius.

On our second day return, Astrid met us at City, O’ City in downtown Denver. It’s a vegan restaurant. So a some-timey vegetarian like me can eat without worry. We love the seitan wings! I also had some yummy locally-made hibiscus kombucha.

mural outside City, O’ City

After watching Sam Flores paint again, Astrid was somehow able to pull me away to watch the mini B-Boy battle that was starting inside. I don’t mean that it was a small battle, the boys definitely brang it. I mean that the boys were young shorties. The first battle was for the under 18 set.

Because this was a show of live painting, most of these works are in progress in my photos. See the finished works at Denver International Airport for the next five years. You can also find more information at

winter celebration

January 13th, 2012
This year-end holiday season we made a trek up to the winter country (Wisconsin) to the bite-sized City of Cedarburg. It is just outside Milwaukee and the closest to a perfectly quiet Christmas that I have seen outside the movies. This is where The Pilot spent a large part of his formative years and we try to get here to visit his family as often as we can.

Arriving in Wisconsin immediately reminded me of the grayness of winter the Midwest can exhibit. It could be startling coming from the land of the unrelenting sun. However, Cedarburg had a picturesque experience of its own for us.

Washington Avenue is one of the main streets that goes through Cedarburg. This street has a cute collection of local shops. Every window was decked for holiday. Because it was Christmas Day as we took our walk, the shops weren’t actually open. So, we will have to return to Washington Avenue for some shopping past the windows.
The Cedarburg Cultural Center resides in the historical building that use to house Alston’s department store. I also fell in love with this reminder of Milwaukee history, the Blatz Beer sign.
The park we walked through after leaving Washington Avenue still has a slide made of actual metal! It’s pretty tall too. It is just like the one I remember playing on at my elementary school. They don’t allow slides like this anymore. Apparently the one in Cedarburg was something of a controversy as well. Ultimately, to my delight, it was saved.
 Also to my delight, The Pilot was kind enough to demonstrate how it works. (I was forbidden from posting those pictures.)
Our hosts for this amazing Christmas celebration really put the magic out. The house was festive and cozy. The family history can be seen in ornaments and traditions kept for every year. I feel very privileged to be a part of it all.
I really thought that holidays with families sitting around fires and playing games only existed in movies. Somehow, I’ve found it in real life. Nobody pinch me.

Hope your year end celebrations were great! Cheers to a year of amazing destinations!

permanent ink

November 11th, 2011
love this typography art by Deph (ToDieFor Clothing)
Last month I mentioned an art event to my brother, Uncle$am. I’ve been toying with attending this art show ever since I heard about it. Nicole East (The Baroness) and Hope Gallery Tattoo in New Haven, Connecticut, organized a rare event to get artwork by your favorite artists permanently inked on your body by super talented and influential artists. The event is aptly named Quick and Painful. Giclée prints in tattoo flash style showed the choices available. At the Chicago leg of this tour, Joe Capobianco from Hope Gallery Tattoo and Sean Adams, Patrick Cornolo, Jennifer Trok, and Heath Rave from Speakeasy Custom Tattoo were bringing their mad inking skills for a one night only experience.
There are tons of badly drawn tattoos imitating these artist’s work all over the internet. This event provides and opportunity to get the official artwork done by extremely talented tattoo artists the right way.
I poured over the tattoo choices for over a month before we went. All of them were made by artists I love. Some of them had complicated meanings that I appreciate and understand, but wasn’t sure I wanted that story on my body for life. Also, I didn’t want to diminish my respect and love for an artist by getting tired of their work on my body. Still I wanted something meaningful to me. I began to narrow it down as the day approached.
I also called friends that have tattoos and asked them about their experiences, regrets, and opinions. Each time I talked to someone else, I became more convinced that I was definitely getting a tattoo. It didn’t matter what they said. I knew what I wanted to do. It was helpful to talk about it aloud though.

Uncle$am, ThePilot, and I all arrived at O’Hare airport at nearly the same time. It had been way too long since I returned to Chicago. I immediately felt the rush of familiarity in the terminal. I miss the city. We rode the van to the Aloft hotel. I’ve never stayed in one before. It was interesting and definitely not your average hotel. As the name implies, it has the feeling of a loft apartment. They make an effort to seem modern and artful. You can even get a 5oz bag of chips for the artful price of $4.75.

The next day we sleep in to an hour my brother felt was late. In reality, it was 8am on the west coast. That’s where my internal wake up clock was set.

After lunch it was time to head over to Rotofugi. I was surprised by their new shop. I used to go down to their shop and gallery on West Chicago Avenue all the time when we lived here. It was my 1st toy addiction. I had not seen the new place since they moved to Lincoln Park. It is a huge store and they have everything! It also has a really nice gallery space.
roto-a-matic & kaiju wall
4ft KAWS figure

When we arrived, the gallery was roped-off and a line was already forming. 1st in line was a guy that came all the way from Ohio. We had him beat by a few miles. I wide-eyed all the toys in the shop, salivating.

guess which one I chose
Uncle$am and I found the book of tattoo choices on the counter and began looking through them again. That’s when one of the three choices I had looked at from home jumped out at me.

“I’m the one!”

I looked at my brother and said. “I think this is the one.” He said he thought so too and I was convinced. That hoped-for feeling if clarity came over me.

I grinned.

Uncle$am chose artwork by Greg “Craola” Simkins

Now I just had to decide where it was going.

We talked to the owner, Kirby Kerr, for a bit. Then I noticed a nervous look on Uncle$am’s face. I ask if he wants to get out of here for a bit. We found ThePilot and got some air down the block.

“Is your heart not pounding out of your chest?” Uncle$am says.

Not yet.

After an Intelligentsia pit stop and a bite, we returned to see the line had grown a little. We counted the spaces. Damn. Looks like we were going to be 13 & 14 out of 25 available spots. Guess we’re getting tattooed. In my head there was a chance that we may not be able to get ours done as space was very limited.

  We sat down in line for the 2 hour wait until the start of the event.
The Baroness came by and handed us our waiver forms.
That’s when I knew things were about to get real.
It was cool to see Nicole “The Baroness” East in person. Her name was always present when something amazing was happening at Kidrobot. I learned early that The Baroness knows everyone and everything that is going down. We also got to meet one half of The Beast Brothers, Carlos East.
She also has some great tattoos. One of her tattoos by Joe Capobianco was even made into a vinyl figure by Kidrobot.
The Bride

The flash folder was passed down the line and I realized again that I was struggling with the placement on mine. It seems like it might be the hardest tattoo decision. The Baroness announced that none of the tattoos for the show could be in bikini areas because of the lack of privacy at the gallery. So, that narrowed my placement options.

As the show started, we were told who would be doing our tattoos and what number we were in line for each artist. I was 3rd for Sean Adams and Uncle$am was 3rd for Joe Capobianco. Sean was finishing up his 2nd tattoo and I realized that I was next. That’s when the nervous action started. “I have to pee. brb.”

Jennifer Trok on her 1st tattoo Sean Adams starts the tattoo marathon eye-patched Cat by Devilrobots


Uncle$am was called next to sit for Mr. Capobianco.

Uncle$am was finished before mine was started. He looked at me with an apologetic grimace and said “I’m so sorry. SO sorry.”
“I forgot how much it hurts.”
“Awesome.” I thought as Sean turns to me with needle in hand. “Ready?”


Oh. There’s that heart pounding-out-of-chest action.

The following experience was one of the most surreal of my life. The needle causes the strangest sensation. It is a pain sensation for sure, but not as sharp as you would think. My brother has always described it as mostly annoying. I had to agree. The worst part of it was that Sean would stop every 30 seconds or so to get more ink. Those moment were full of relief that I wasn’t being poked with needles anymore. Then another second later it would return. If those things weren’t weird enough, there was also fair amount of folks watching and some pictures being taken. During all this I was trying to casually smile answer all the questions from those around. Ever try smiling for a picture while some one is poking you with needles? I recommend it highly.

Sean started with pressed-on temporary ink to confirm the placement and serve as a guide for the process.

I say this is my 1st tattoo because I’m sure there will be more. I can completely understand the addiction. I don’t think it’s too far reaching to say that the experience left me feeling a bit high.

I chose this tough little diamond by Simone Legno (Tokidoki) as a symbol of beauty and resilience. Diamond is my birthstone and since I don’t wear jewelry often and can’t get married, it may be the last diamond I own. Every time I see it, I will remember to value strength of will while also remembering to enjoy the beauty and adventure of life.

Sometimes you have to go through a little pain to experience life fully. The result is unforgettable memories.

post-tattoo w/ the Easts
  *see more pix from the Chicago stop on the Quick&Painful blog


the pits

October 22nd, 2011


Earlier this year, I said I wanted to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before it closes. Then the year flew by without a rose-smelling pause and it was nearly October. So we forced a schedule opening and went to LA for a day. It was overcast and gray when we got there. Expecting warm and sunny, I brought no jacket and shorts. Cold and dark is not the usual report in LA, but it was just that.

I had never seen the La Brea Tar Pits before this trip. I sort of thought they were a fictional thing, like something from The Flintstones. I certainly didn’t think they still existed as pits of tar. Neighborhoods get named funny things. I don’t go to Wicker Park in Chicago expecting to see basket makers weaving out on the grass. Who would arrive in Queens and announce, “I came to see the queens. Be a doll and point in their direction”?

But guess what? There are actual tar pits in the stroll between the museums.  

The Page Museum has a lush garden that looks as if it is from another time.



The grounds surrounding the LACMA are just as interesting as the insides. There are quite a few sculptures on the walk around the building. Some of them are permanent fixtures. Some will only be there a short time, so hurry over to get a look at Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.
 ⿓ I was born in the year of the dragon. So I had to be photographed with my totem.

By the front fountain there is a colorful sculpture by Nancy Graves called Trace. I was proud of myself for correctly identifying Alexander Calder’s mobile (Hello, Girls).

 Urban Light – Chris Burden  
We really enjoyed walking the sculpture gardens outside. It’s quiet and fascinating.

At this point we’ve seen so much, but we haven’t even been inside yet. There were very few places we were allowed to take pictures inside. This included the Tim Burton exhibit we came to see. However, I can report that it was crazy amazing cool! I’ve loved many of Burton’s films. It was neat to see his inspiration, development, and drawings that turned into the scenes and characters of his films. Tim Burton will be in the Resnick Pavillion until 31 October 2011. If you’re in LA by then, it is must see.

A couple rooms inside we were allowed to take pictures.
Smoke – Tony Smith
The Mondern Art Department includes Giant Pool Balls by Claes Oldenburg

Yes, that painting on the back wall is of ‘SPAM.’

Attached to the LACMA is a building that is as much a work of art as its inhabitants. It is the Pavilion for Japanese Art. It was designed by Bruce Goff. Inside, you take an elevator to the top floor. Then one gliding walkway takes you past every ancient work of art until you reach the ground again.


The night before we spent our fabulous day on Wilshire Blvd, I got two hours of sleep. So if you think I’m looking a little tired in these photos, it’s definitely true. That look is not entirely skepticism of some of the art. The lack of sleep was worth it for a fun day of art exploration…or maybe I dreamed the whole weird day?

Back from la la land, it’s on to the next adventure!

cotton candy in brooklyn

September 26th, 2011


Brooklyn Bridge stop

 August proved to be a tough month for travel. I abandoned more trips than I have completed. It has also forced us to be a bit more creative in our route choices as standby passengers. If you can’t go directly to CLT, you have to try to go through MCI or PHL or some place you really really don’t want to get stuck. So to get to LGA for this overnight with The Pilot, I went through MCI and Shanghai.
 On the way to New York City, The Pilot was actually the pilot. Mid-flight he left the flight deck to use the restroom and threw me some sugar. Well, it was pseudo-sugar. An Equal packet landed in my lap. I looked up to see where it came from expecting the super-excited-to-see-you flight attendant. I was surprised to look up and see The Pilot standing there with a grin.
I love looking at NYC from the air. I have always loved the energy of cities. I very much enjoy the respite of nature, but there’s an anticipation and a build of energy I feel when flying into Chicago or New York. Seeing Manhattan from the air, then Brooklyn and Queens, makes me want to jump in and join the party.

I have been wanting to see Tara McPherson and Sean Leonard’s Cotton Candy Machine shop and gallery in the Williamsburg neighborhood. It is a neat place. I could’ve spent a great deal of time looking and touching everything. We met Jessi who manages the place. She also makes cool jewelry. Sean came in later and we got to chat with him for a few minutes. Tara was in China touring for her collaboration with Swatch X Kidrobot.

Cotton Candy Machine was currently exhibiting two very interesting artists, Jeremyville and Buff Monster. They still had copies of Jeremyville RAW from the opening, so we got a copy of that rad newspaper. I fell in love with Jeremyville’s Community Service Announcements and took home a pack of the stickers made from that series.

The other rewards of our pilgrimage were a signed copy of  Lost Constellations: The Art of Tara McPherson Vol II, and a lithograph print of her painting Isolated Metronomes. I need a better system for bringing unframed prints home on a flight. I’ve shipped prints home before, but it makes me so nervous until it arrives. This time the Guest Services binder from the hotel made itself useful.

While in Brooklyn we took a walk around Williamsburg. I think that once they get tired of calling this area “hipster-ville,” it will just be a nice place to be chill, see pretty things, and eat yummy food.


We came upon a little Italian place that had all three. It was a cute, rustic ristorante called Fiore. The tables were adorned with live rosemary in weathered tin cans and a tea candle in a pastel dish. Old-school dish towels became napkins. The wall opposite our table had a decorative dish collection that Grandmother would have envied.
 Even our bill was charming. It came paper clipped between a folded paper with the restaurant’s logo.

We seem to be fond of watching nerdy documentaries, and we had just watched one on the building of The Brooklyn Bridge. So we wanted to see it up close.

We weren’t there very long, but as maybe you noticed in the pictures, the skies were getting darker every minute we were walking the bridge.  
  By the time we turned back towards Manhattan, it looked like late evening rather than afternoon.

We began to see lightning flashes around the area and grew concerned about the sanity of being on the bridge. To err on the side of safety, we decided to book it towards cover. We hadn’t gone far down the bridge when a young, blonde women asked us in a European accent if we would take her picture. “No! Get out of the storm!” We didn’t want to add to the idea that Americans are rude, but there’s a time for such things as photography. This wasn’t that time.

The sky opened up. Large drops popped down on us. Some groups began to run, some just strolled as if they had no worries. Close to the end of the walkway I saw an opening with stairs. Thinking it was a subway entrance, I led us down into it.

It was not.

stares from the stairs

our view from below Brooklyn Bridge

The next moments were spent with several wet strangers under the bridge before deciding to run to the nearest taxi. Ever try to get a cab in Manhattan in the rain? It’s like a skill game, and it’s not going to happen by saying “please.”

 In reality, we ducked into Grand Central Station to wait out the mad dash for cabs.

On the long ride back to our hotel near LGA, I thought about life in Chicago. It was completely different than Phoenix. Life in Phoenix is easy. I never have to wait for a ride or stand in the rain. To live in an amazing city like New York or Chicago you sometimes have to sacrifice comfort. You might get wet, but the trade-off is the people you meet and the culture that surrounds you. Under the Brooklyn Bridge we meet people from the world and heard a their languages. I feel like a rich man now when I am surrounded by different and weird. It’s something I never see in Phoenix and never thought about in Chicago. I am so lucky to travel now and will never take those times outside of comfort for granted.

 Here’s hoping you get lost in the rain, find a new point of view, and take the long way home.

red rocks and pretty lights

September 10th, 2011

Disclaimer: I have no pictures of myself to post for this event because I wasn’t ever standing still long enough for them to be clear.

We’ve had these tickets for months. It seemed like so far away and such a long wait. Finally it was here. Tonight we are going to Red Rocks Amphitheater to see Pretty Lights again!

We got about a block away from the house and Astrid says to Hiccup “You have our tickets, right?” “No i thought you grabbed them.” So ThePilot turns the car back around and we go back to the house. Soon we are flying down the freeway on way to Morrison, CO. It was an amazingly beautiful night in the Denver area. We do not get perfect temperature nights like this in Phoenix. The Pilot rolls down the windows so we can enjoy. Suddenly Astrid and Hiccup’s tickets are floating through the air making their way to an open window. There’s a scramble to bring the papers back down to earth, or car at least. “omg. Give me the tickets.” I put them in the glove compartment for safety.

We arrived at the Red Rocks Amphitheater and I jumped out of our rental so excited. I could feel a bolt of energy move my body to action. I could hear the music and cheering people from the bottom of the stairs. There are 46 flights of stairs from the road to the top. That’s 388 stairs to climb. So, thank the gods for this energy surge I was feeling. I got about 5 steps up when Astrid asked, “David-san, you have our tickets right?”

“Um…I’ll be right back.”

Red Rocks is a magical venue. As expected, it is surrounded by red sandstone jutting out of the ground forming a nature-made amphitheater. The result is a natural acoustic like nowhere else on earth.
When here to see a show, you need to climb all the way to the top at some point to see the big picture of stage surrounded by the rocks.
This cool night we had a soft ceiling of thin clouds. Occasionally the moon would peek out to add its light to the show.
  It was the best combination of man and nature to give the perfect feeling of being surrounded by light. That’s a place I always want to be.
Speaking of light, here are a few of the reasons this show is called Pretty Lights:
I sent a request through twitter to hear one of my favorites, Samso. During the show Derek announced that he was going to play a super old-school track he had never played live before.You guessed right. He played Samso. I’m going to pretend it was just for me.
Every year we go to this show at Red Rocks, there is a person that climbs up to the top of the big cliff on the side of the stage. There seems to be a special little seating area for those who don’t mind the 300ft climb straight up. You can make him out a little in this super zoomed-in photo.

We also got to catch Michal Menert‘s opening set. He makes some brilliant cool music also. You can download his album on the PrettyLightsMusic label site.
All of Pretty Light’s music is available for FREE download at .

So much THNX to ThePilot for taking a bunch of amazing pictures while I danced without care! xoxo
Seeing Pretty Lights at Red Rocks is becoming a yearly habit.
Every year Derek steps it up more than the last.
Already looking forward to next year!

grand camp

August 17th, 2011
I got asked several times if I camp when telling friends where we were going for The Pilot’s birthday. So let me tell you a little story.
When I was shorter, my parents used to take us camping in Whitewater, WI. My memories of those summers include mildew illness from our tent, being afraid to change clothes, and standing paralyzed in the semi-outdoor shower because it was infested with spiders. Things always happened to me in Whitewater. One winter I got lost in the dark night on the way back from the restroom and ended up in a bed not belonging to our family. Luckily, my parents knew this man and I was returned. That same winter I was innocently standing on a snow covered hill only to be mown down by a passing toboggan. The resulting brain trauma left me with a life-long aversion to winter sports.
On a summer trip there, I was stung by a bee. The resulting brain trauma from that left me with a life-long fondness for hallucinogenics

It may be unnecessary to say that I’m not a camper, happy or otherwise. Most of my friends and family tend to see me as a city and shower lover. I am those things. However, I am also a person who likes adventure and trying of new things. In 2010, I went camping for the first time in my adult life in Moab, UT. It was largely a good experience. I figured that I was ready to test the strength of my relationship by camping with The Pilot.

I had not been to The Grand Canyon since a high school trip. I have been trying to get visitors to AZ interested in a trip there, but it never seemed to happen. I only have vague memories of that trip in high school, so I was excited to see the canyon again. The morning we left, I got comfortable in the car and braced myself for the long trip. However, the trip was a great deal shorter than the 5 hours I was told it would take to drive from Phoenix. It was more like 3 hours. This knowledge would have helped a great deal when trying to sell this excursion to my guests.

When we arrived we found our leased plot and set up the tent. We decided to have a bite to eat before hiking down to the canyon. There was a moratorium on fire building because of the season, but we were excited to try our new camping gas stove. I thought it was interesting how they put the ashes from the fire pits around the trees as nutrients. That’s smart.


All over the area there were these giant black birds that are very loud and never shut up. They seem crazy smart though. They were rummaging through anything left unattended. I’m pretty sure I saw one try the doors on our Jetta. Thank Allah we locked it or we would find ourselves shiny object free.

After eating our first camp meal together, we headed down to the canyon for our day one hike. We started at the South Rim information center to check out different trails and sights that were in the area. Then we headed out for the view I had wanted to return to since I was 15.

On the South Rim there is a disgusting tree where it seems to be the popular thing to stick your gum. The gum tree makes my mysophobia kick into high gear. So naturally I had to share it with you guys.
Most of the trails and stops along the canyon road had these super convenient water stations. They pumped water from the springs in the canyon. You can wash your hands and fill your bottle or Camelbak®.

That night, after the sun went down, we gathered back near the South Rim center to listen to a park ranger talk about the stars. She used a long distance laser-pointer to point out galaxies, stars, constellations, and satellites. We got lucky when we decided to go on the first night. It was only offered two nights, and the second night was completely overcast. I highly recommend this star talk. It was very interesting and fun. The ranger had some funny methods to remember each constellation and star position.

The next day we went west to the Bright Angel trail and Hermit’s Rest.

We hiked down the Bright Angel Trail through a little opening in the rock.
At Hermit’s Rest, we ate our lunch we packed for the day. There was also a place to buy a cold drink and an ice cream. Those felt good in the heat of the day.
The squirrels at Grand Canyon were born without the appropriate fear of humans. They are not shy in asking for food. At Hermit’s rest we got to chat with a couple of them. I offered one a pebble which was inspected and rejected. Then i got scolded. First, I was scolded by the squirrel for the bogus offer, then by The Pilot for tempting the gods of rabies.
The beauty of Arizona always delivers. Seeing The Grand Canyon again was amazing and I got a new hiking patch for my bag!
Happy Camping

carnival of lights

July 23rd, 2011
On a whim I mentioned a traveling electronica music event I had run across online to my friends Astrid & Hiccup. It was a massive carnival of rides, art, performers, and some of the biggest DJs in the world. It couldn’t have been more tailor-made for us. One of the stops on the tour was near them in Colorado. Then Astrid was going away the day of the CO leg, so I let it go. Half jokingly I said, “Let’s do Vegas then?”  
Two days later I received a text from those two crazy kids.
“We’re going to Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas! Get your 3 day pass.”

Hiccup and My Pilot actually ended up bailing on us. So Astrid & I were going to have this adventure all to ourselves.  
The next few weeks I obsessed over the EDC website. I watched a bunch of videos of the rides at previous EDC events. I poured over the list of rumored DJs getting very excited. Social sites were full of anxious and impatient revelers waiting for the official lineup of musicians. Turns out, this was EDC’s 15th year and it’s 1st year in Las Vegas. I watched this trailer made from the earlier years in LA about 42,000 times (not exaggeration): Electric Daisy Carnival 2011 Las Vegas

Even after all of this research and obsessing, I was totally unprepared.

I’ve said before on this blog, flying on seat-available benefits can be difficult. This time I thought I was golden with a 5A Friday morning flight that was showing 75 open seats. no problem. Then around 11P on Thursday night I got a call from My Pilot to tell me it had filled to 3 seats left. There are 37 people listed ahead of me for those 3 seats. I panicked for a bit. Then I realized it could be better.  
I sent a text to Astrid,  
“Looks like I’m driving to Vegas. See you in a few hours.” 
I didn’t see much on my way to Vegas. Save a few passing truck lights, it was one of the darkest drives I have ever driven. I stopped in Kingman, AZ to stretch my legs, bought a caffeinated beverage and a “Route 66″ ashtray for my friend. Everyone asked me about the new bridge that crosses the Hoover Dam. I did not see it on the way. Just as I crossed into Henderson, NV the sun started to peek out over the hills.
We decided to stay up as long as we could then take the ultimate disco nap (enough for 3 days?) into evening. So we got up around 5P, ate a quick stir-fried bite, and headed out for our adventure.  
This massive party was at the Las Vegas Speedway. About a mile and a half from the exit, traffic on Route 15 came to a stop. The crazy people partying came to a start. Beaded and glow-lighted arms waved and fist-pumped out of windows. Kids were hanging out of their windows. The local and trucker traffic didn’t know what was happening. We were crawling out of our skin at this point and wanted to crawl out of the car and get inside the raceway. We turned up Bad Boy Bill in the car and got in line.

The line to get in was really bizarre. There were separate boy/girl lines because they were frisking everyone entering. Yet on the last night I was frisk by a woman. Does that make sense? Some lines were moving faster than others because of the varied qualities of pat-down.  
Astrid told me to meet her by the white tent just inside the gate and went into the girl line with 3 bodies ahead of her. I got into the guy line with 200+ bodies in front of me. It immediately stopped moving at all. no lie. 30 mins later some kids behind me started pushing forward and shouting. “Let’s get this line moving!” There was a minor argument when they tried to push past the guys in front of me. Right there they stopped. Now we were all packed like sardines. My brain starts telling me that a panic attack is in order. I resisted.  
All this time we could see the other lines passing us up at twice the speed. So after being in a still line for an hour and a half, I finally decided to jump the barrier and get in the faster moving line. I was finally up to the check point. I removed everything from my pockets, placed my items on the table, and put my hands in the air to have my body frisked. I spent a total of 5mins in this line.

Inside the gate I looked for the little white tent where we agreed to meet. No one was there. Security was keeping a line of girls about 15ft from the security gate. How was I going to find Astrid in this sea of females? I was suddenly grabbed by the hand and pulled through the sea. Astrid was pulling me as fast as she could toward the entrance gate.

“You have to see this!!!”

Did I say “unprepared” yet? so.

Inside the raceway grounds, there was an entire amusement park. From the top of the bleachers you could hear the boom of six competing stages. There were artist performers on stilts (walking trees, schools of rainbow fish, magic bugs) and on bicycles made to look like creatures. A ship of pirate women sailed through the sea of light. Everything was lit in all the colors. Skydivers fell from the sky like shooting stars. The best fireworks show I’ve ever seen completed each night.

I don’t have a lot of really great pictures because we were not allowed entry with the good camera. Pictures can’t do justice for the experience anyway. I guess you’ll just have to come to see it for yourself next time. =D


Video: Carnival Rides – Cliff Hanger – More Cliff HangerBike Snake – HeinekenDOMEClown Band – Donald Glaude – Shooting Stars – LightPOOL – Fireworks


Early Saturday morning we were at the bassPOD stage listening to the very intense Dieselboy. Astrid turned to me and asked if I wanted to go. I could have stayed forever, but we had 3 more nights to go. I agreed, and reached for the my car key. Then panic hit my brain again. I checked every pocket. again.


This time I did little to resist the building panic. I checked again and then turned to Astrid. “I have no keys.” Instantly the past few hours raced through my head. Images played of us on spinning, flinging, upside-down rides. I remembered us laying in the grass in the chill out area. I thought of the 42,000 times someone suspiciously bumped me. We started to retrace our steps. Then I thought of the possibility that I was going to have to call My Pilot. That made it worse.

After scouring every stop we made that night, I started asking for lost+found locations. No one seemed to know anything about it. Every staff and security person sent us on trips to the complete opposite side of this enormous raceway. We did more laps than NASCAR, I’m sure. Every person asked, “What did you lose?” and every time I answered, we got the same “OMG” reaction. After visiting 3 first aid stations, 2 security booths, and a closed lost+found, we finally found an open and staffed lost+found.

They didn’t have my key. I put my number in their notebook and described my Munny key chain.  
We decided the sit down awhile before talking to security about the possibility of being towed. We had some juice from the smoothie stand in preparation for sitting by the car in the soon-rising Nevada sun.  
The whole time we were at the carnival we had full mobile signal, but nothing was able to send or receive. I just imagine one little tower in the desert trying to handle the traffic of 100,000 party people. While we were having a sit, my phone suddenly started to blow up with every text reply from the night.  
One of them said  
“Come to the info booth. We have your car key”
Easily in the top 5 of best messages I’ve ever received. If I wasn’t so dry and exhausted, I could have cried.  
I went through the motions anyway. 
Thinking about it later, I realized that, in my rush to meet Astrid, I must have left them on the little table after being frisked. That’s why they were able to find them at all. If I had dropped them somewhere, I’m sure they’d be gone forever.
After retrieving the keys, we decided to watch the already-peeking sun rise. I’m sure I could have slept right there in the LightPOOL. That was the end of day one.

that's me on the far right with the death-grip on my key. smh.

sleep. eat. party. repeat.

On the last night, we were walking down the stairs in a giant single-file line of anxious-to-party people. As we approached the bottom everyone started to bounce to some infectious sound coming from the cosmicMEADOWS stage at the bottom of the bleachers.  
I wasn’t sure who it was, but I couldn’t wait to get down there and dance!  
Then we rounded the corner.  
“Rabbit in the Moon!!!” 
There was Bunny covered in glow lights. He was throwing them out to the crowd on the big beats.  
Then he was gone from the stage. When he returned he was in a giant bubble and crowd surfing. Everyone was screaming, us included.


We were able to catch The Crystal Method, Wolfgang Gartner, Royksopp, Dirty South, Tiësto, Dieselboy, Above & Beyond, Rabbit in the Moon, Paul Oakenfold, DJ Siren, Simon Patterson and Sean Tyas, Avicil, Ferry Corsten, Donald Glaude, Swedish House Mafia, Bingo Players, ATB, and R3hab. There were so many more. If I could have been 6 places at once, I would have seen them all. It was very hard to choose. 

 Kudos to Insomniac Events for these amazing things:
1. FREE water (!) The water refilling tents were so great, like gas pumps for people.
2. so many porta-potties = We never saw a line once.
3. The crowd control was amazing. There were police and venue security, but joy-kill wasn’t their objective. The vibe was kept safely fun. We saw several police who brought their cameras after the 1st night. I’m sure they had stuff to show the wives at home.
4. a lost & found! I got my car key back!!!


There is no way I’m missing this next year. See you there!




london eats

February 22nd, 2011

As follow up to my London post, I wanted to tell you guys about some food we enjoyed in London. We spent our mealtimes in London chasing recommendations and stumbling into a few lucky plates on our own. While visiting the land of Anglo, we ate Thai, Italian twice, Indian, and drank loads of coffee to combat the chill. Beyond the amazing breakfast at our hotel, we really didn’t eat anything native to the UK. From what we heard, that was the best way to avoid the likes of black pudding and spotted dick.

Costa Coffee: They are the everywhere coffee chain in London. We stopped at them daily at least. Nearly every cappuccino we ordered in London came with cinnamon on the top. At Costa, they always asked in a flat “seriously?” kind of tone if we wanted chocolate shavings on our cappuccino. It’s nice that they were willing to adjust it to our liking. They have the usual offerings of a coffee chain as well, such as pastry, breath mints, and cold drinks. It’s a safe place to get a standard cup of coffee.
Café Fred: I honestly do not remember the food here at all. Take from that what you will. We ate here because I was about to either flip out or pass out. We had just arrived in London, were jet-lagged, and I looked up to see “Café Fred” floating above Freddy’s head. I pointed it out to make sure I wasn’t the only on seeing it and said “Let’s eat here!” What I do remember is the claustrophobic, winding stairs we had to climb while ducking to get to our table. It proved to be a fun view. We people-watched from our seat overlooking the corner of Argyll & Oxford. I can easily romanticize such things. If you are prone to fancy, you may like the vantage point.
Amalfi: This Italian restaurant on Old Compton Street in Soho
is autentico right down to the curt waitstaff. This restaurant has been serving Soho for 4 decades and it is still very popular. We were packed into the joint like sardina. I remember literally rubbing elbows with the table next to us. If crowds and loud restaurants are not your thing you may want to try find a not-so-busy time to eat here. As far as I could tell, that may be a rare moment. It was yummy, but the biggest reason I wanted to mention it is for the caffé. We had the best cappuccino in the world here. We are on a search to prove that to be a false statement. So far, it still holds true.
Masala Zone (Soho): When we told the concierge at our hotel that we would be going out in Soho and would like to find yummy Indian food there, they seemed very confused. However, they did an internet search and found Masala Zone. We got lucky, I guess, because it turned out to be a lovely place. They serve traditional Indian favorites, but the ambiance of the restaurant is modern. The service was super friendly and engaging. It was quiet that evening we were there. We actually might have had the place to ourselves. It was a very chill dinner. We just enjoyed our diner without shouting to hear each other. We left saying that we would tell others about it as a appealing and tasty experience.

I included links to these places when I could find them. We have a wandering style of travel and rarely have a plan. However, if you know a place in London we shouldn’t miss the next time, give me a shout.
Happy travels!

island adventure

February 21st, 2011
If you had the priviledge in your childhood to leave US soil, you must be very grateful. My parents preferred to take us places like Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen near Nashville, Tennessee and week-long stays at the New Tower Inn in Omaha, Nebraska (sadly no longer in existance – will miss the all-night swimming). Those places are very fascinating for their own reasons. However, there is a whole world of adventures out there as well. Between family vacations and school trips, I have had the wonderful opportunities to see nearly every corner of these united states. Now it was time to see the rest.

I know I’m reaching way back for this one, but it was a big trip for me. In February of 2009, The Pilot and I took a trip to London. It was the first time I have been outside the US. I haven’t even been to Mexico or Canada. It was not the eye-opening experience I expected, but it was definitely interesting and fun. In London, there was definitely a higher concentration of a certain accent, but really it was all familiar also. The mix of people really reminded me of all the different folks from all over the world I used to know and work beside in Chicago. I miss that. I now live in a “city” (really just a sprawling development) where, if you are darker than slightly tanned and have a funny accent, you are to be feared. I know I have to get out and into a more interesting life. That’s a big part of the purpose of all this traveling and writing. I want to pursue life, to really chase it down and participate. For now, I am based here in this cultural desert, but I go looking for water as often as possible.

Having only seen the much younger United States, I was immediately captivated by the wonderful mix of both the very old and new buildings in London. We rode the quite modern London Eye to see an aerial view of the old-world Parliament and Big Ben. We walked around Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abby. All of these historical buildings are surrounded by the latest in world architecture. We happened to be in London right when their schools were on a break. Most of the tourist type places were packed, but if you can manage to get to the London Eye when the lines are not crazy, it provides a fantastic view of the city. It’s a quick ride on a piece of engineering magic.

An important surprise stop was at the Selfridge & Co. on Oxford Street which was a short walk from our hotel, the Hilton Metropole. To get to the bustling Oxford Street, we walked through an area populated by Lebanese restaurants. Most of the signage in this area is in Arabic including the foreign currency exchange on the corner we used everyday. As with most major cities in the US, in London you cannot smoke indoors. I was amused by the gentlemen smoking their hookahs on the sidewalks under the cafe awnings. I never thought about smoking bans affecting hookahs. That seems wrong somehow. Hookahs should be smoked while lounging on cushions like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle, right?

Anyway, we reached the packed Oxford Street and we were starving. I told The Pilot I had to eat right now or there would be passing-out or blind fits ahead. There on the sidewalk he stopped and asked where I’d like to eat. I saw a sign above his head that I knew was destiny. “There!” I said pointing to a sign that said “Café Fred – Hot Food.” It was an odd little place. We climbed winding stairs to the top floor. We seemed to be doing a lot of winding in London. Nearly every restroom we visited was down some dodgy stairs through a dimly lit dungeon hallway.

Sitting by the window, we watched pedestrians on the street below.

What was I saying though? Oh yeah. After eating we decided to walk on Oxford for awhile. That’s when the important surprise happened. We ran into a Kidrobot pop-up shop inside Selfridge & Co.! I promise this is not the reason I went to London, but it was fun to run into their pop-up shop and Dunny exhibition.

I am very glad to have the experience of being a foreigner. I don’t think that you can fully understand what being an American means until you are identified solely that way. One

interesting experience we had was a dinner on our last night. We had several suggestions of foods we should try in London. None of the recomendations included English food, by the way. We headed to Soho for some Indian food at Masala Zone. It was nice and I think the food was tasty. I honestly don’t remember, which, to me, is likely a good thing. I certainly don’t remember any complaints about it. As we finished dinner, the server came to speak to us one last time. He asked where we live. We told him. “Yes! I win!’ he said. We looked at each other with quizzical grins. He then explained that the staff had taken bets on our nation of origin. So I finally got to feel like a foreigner, but not in the way that my Midwest accent is out of place when visiting New York City. It was felt in a new way. We were part of a collective. In that moment, we were not from the north or south, urban or rural, artists or salespersons. We were Americans.

Since we were already in Soho, we went out to an actual gay pub nearby. I defy you to find that experience in The States. I know in the Boystown neighborhood in Chicago there is a pub-style bar, but it surprisingly caters to a straighter clientele. Compton’s was just how I imagine a pub would be. Upstairs there were leather, high-back chairs with brassy buttons around the window tables that look out over Old Compton St. The walls were decorated with the heads of various animals. After querying through a list of drinks the bartender did not understand, we settled on a Guinness and a gin & tonic. So we finally had that uniquely British experience. Now we could return home.

London was an amazing 1st world-travel experience. I cannot wait to see the rest! I can’t wait to get back London as well. If anyone wants to move there with me, I’m sure I could be talked into that easily.



to see more pictures of our trip to London check out the London sets on flickr.

nye in abq

January 6th, 2011
A couple years ago, The Pilot and I made a pact that we would always try to be together for New Years Eve. The beginning of every year, we agreed, was a good time to be with the one you love. That is to say, if you have only one time to choose. It was also the only holiday we could match the others enthusiasm with the same amount of earnestness. I found out quickly that I would be the one paying for this foolishly romantic and hasty contract. This is how loyal I am to the contract and how much I love my pilot. I flew on a Mesa Airlines “operated” flight to Albuquerque, NM to bring in the new year.
ABQ from the upstairs waiting area

For the first time in years, I was given a front row seat. The last time I was flying to Albuquerque was in 1st class as well. The state of New Mexico, however, does not allow strong drink to be served on flights arriving to their state. That has been my only stand-by placement into 1st class. On my recent flight to Albuquerque, I was in the very front row, but not in 1st class. I had a clear view of the restroom with no row mate to thwart my progress should I have to pee. I settled down for the arduous (45 min.) flight and prayed no one would be in that other seat next to me. They announced boarding to be complete and I said a quick thanks to the airline gods for my row-for-one. I have been reading Naked by David Sedaris (yes, I’m a very slow reader, if you have seen my reading updates for months with this book). I was quickly engrossed into my book. I was reading the chapter where he is picked up by the truck driver and given a ride. We began to speed up for take-off. Just as his ride benefactor surprises him by pulling out a gun, there is a very loud BANG! from my right. Startled, I jumped in my seat a bit. I immediately realized the source of the shot-like noise. The bathroom door had come open under the stress of take-off and slammed into it’s pocket. I was relieved there was no gun, but suddenly concerned this plane was falling apart. The war-tattered seats did nothing to reassure me.

Mid-flight I realized I hadn’t eaten much this day. I was going to have to have a snack of some sort before the midnight events. After landing in Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ), I checked on The Pilot’s flight status on my Flight Aware application to see that his flight was delayed an hour and a half. How could he do this to me on NYE? Seems he could fly a bit faster for me. For revenge, I send him a text telling him that I have somehow accidentally flown to Tucson.

The 22 other passengers and 4 Mesa crew members exited the airport and I suddenly realized I was alone. I couldn’t even see any ABQ staff anywhere. I began my hunt for some sort of food. I did not find it. Every restaurant was closed. I did find a vending machine that had some very delicious looking Cheetos. I took the one dollar bill from my pocket and pushed it into the bill receptor. It was not received. It didn’t even try. So in actuality it was a bill i-don’t-feel-like-working rejector. Thwarted, I decided to explore the terminal. I found the upstairs lounge area which was pretty comfortable considering I was the only one occupying it. From there, I could see the runways and the mountains beyond it. I got to see the brilliant landing job by my pilot.

When he landed, The Pilot called and accused me of lying that I was in Tucson. He asked me to put my friends on the phone for proof. How dare he know me that well. We hopped the ABQ shuttle to the car rental lot after telling the hotel van driver that we wouldn’t be needing him tonight. We were greeted with a closed sign at Thrifty and my heart fell out. While I scanned for any kind of food, Pilot called Thrifty for an explanation of how they were going to honor our reservation. He was told we could just wait there until 5a. I began the hunger-panic process.

The car rental place had a vending machine and I still had the dollar that was rejected by the last one. One of the four security guards standing in a group nearby told me the ice cream machine was not working. Anyway, I couldn’t imagine eating ice cream in the 20° weather. “It’s been like that all day,” he said incredulously, “Everything has melted by now I’m sure.” By this point I’m already putting my dollar in the machine with the Nutter Butters. Nothing happens. Curses!” I try again with skepticism. There’s not even the whir of attempt. This the 2nd time in years I’ve tried to get something from a machine, and this is the second time I was rejected. That’s when I see the bill changer next to it. I put the dollar in the receptor and it is actually received. Out falls a single coin with a hollow clink. “It only gave me one quarter for my dollar,” I exclaim toward The Pilot. “Oh. Nevermind. It’s a dollar coin.” I had no idea they were still making and using these. This one had some guy named Fillmore on it. The Nutter Butters thunked down the glass of the machine.

Our van driver was kind enough to pick us up at the rental depot and take us through a drive-thru. It was incredibly special for him to do that on New Years Eve just as he was about to go home. So if you are in Albuquerque looking for a hotel, the Raddison has a really amazing van driver. Also, La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in ABQ is amazing airport food. I was skeptical when we were on our way out and almost didn’t eat there. It looks very ordinary, but I promise you it is yummy.

With no rental car we couldn’t go to the Vivian Vance Museum as we planned. It is rumored to be in Albuquerque (where she started acting), but I cannot seem to find evidence of it online. If you happen to have been there or know of it’s existance, please leave me a comment or send me a message. We were told it was closed on Jan 1st anyway. I want to return to Albuquerque also to see the hot-air balloon festival they have yearly.

my flight on the runway leaving ABQ

I’m super excited for another year of travel adventure. Hope everyone has the best year ever!

Happy Trails!


tara mcpherson X hello kitty X kidrobot

November 26th, 2010

When I was still an art student nerd in Chicago, I stumbled on a website that was promoting artists’ works as “art for your phone.” They had a bunch of little bite-sized wallpapers that you could download to your phone. I don’t remember what brought me to this site, but I was hooked to it for several hours. There were tons of names that I am very familiar with now, but was hearing them then for the first time. Looking back, it seems like a bizarre place to be introduced to the worlds of Luke Cheuh, Thomas Han, Gary Baseman, Takashi Murakami, Tim Biskup, Shepard Fairey, and all the names that usually appear near them. This silly place to download mobile art opened up a world of designer toys, urban vinyl, and accessible art that still has it’s hooks deep in me. It will be the addiction that undoes me.

From this same website, I became an instant follower of Tara McPherson. Since that day I have been an admirer of her work. I linked to her site and immersed myself in McPherson 101. Her rock posters are incomparable to any you’ve ever seen anywhere. I promise. Her characters touch on so many that seem to say just the right thing to me.

From Tara’s site, I found out she had done something called a “Dunny.” It was part of an designer toy series, this series focusing on artists from LA. It looked kinda cool and it was currently available at hip stores around Chicago. So I went out to the MCA gift shop and bought my very 1st Kidrobot toy. If you have seen my house, then you know the end of that story. I will soon need a bigger house for my collection. Soon I will just start replacing the furniture with items large enough to accommodate mealtime and lounging.

Through all of my collecting, I’ve had short obsessions, but Tara is one of two or three artist that I have loved from day one. So when I read that she was going to be in LA signing her Magic Love Hello Kitty on the same day we were going to be there for the Sanrio 50th Anniversay events, I knew it was destined.

The Pilot waiting very patiently with me. We had wait time to discuss the lovely furniture store next door.

I’ve got to say, I’ve never been one to ask for autographs. In fact, just hours before Tara’s signing we had run into Stephen Baldwin at a wine cafe a couple blocks away. We didn’t ask for his scribble. I would much rather chat with a person I admire than be all “would you sign this.” I’m also not in it to make a buck on eBay. So I don’t usually ask for signatures, but I felt that since this event was set up for that purpose it would be ok.

We arrived at the KidrobotLA storefront about an hour before the signing event. We were about halfway down the line. While we waited, we chatted with the other toy geeks. The girl behind me had a Tara McPherson Dunny (LA series) tattoo. It was a fun wait.

At just around 6p, a couple came up the sidewalk together. Just as they were about to pass, my Pilot took a step backwards suddenly. I pulled his arm to try to prevent a collision. The couple had to step off the curb to avoid and as they headed down the walk I suddenly recognized the woman. Then I really got excited! She’s here!

I am a total spaz when it comes to meeting people I admire. I once blinded Tori Amos with a camera flash (true story). I had already been rehearsing what to say for a few days so Tara McPherson would know how big of a fan I am. I considered asking about her time with N** Y*** T**** (as they were calling the band after resistance from THE New York Times – a super lame move on their part) and that I was friends with them back when I had a myspace account. I also considered the chill approach – asking if she’d like to hang when she was done here, but thought it could be construed as too stalker-ish? I even thought it might be clever to tell her that she is two days older than me.

my first autograph

In the end I went with, “We came from Phoenix.”
To which she replied graciously, “Oh did you drive?”
“No, we flew.”
Even though about 42 million things rushed in my head, it was over that quickly.
“Well, enjoy your weekend here,” she said as I shyly thanked her and ducked out the door.

See? I’m so awkward.
Still, I smiled all the way back to the hotel.

The Pilot and I and our new kitty.

The Cat planning his attack

Check out all of Tara McPherson’s work at
We made it into the Kidrobot KRonikle! >]Click[< to check out the event pictures.

“small gift, big smile!”

November 22nd, 2010

My Melody Stamp Set 1976

One of my clearest memories of the early 80s is the “My Melody” stamp set my older sister had. I wanted it so badly. I used to sit and stare at the characters on the clear treasure box they were kept in forever. I doubt my sister appreciated it as much as I did. I loved all of My Melody’s friends too. The fox and the little mouse were so cute! I recently found a picture of that stamp set online. It’s was apparently made in 1976 and it’s exactly as it was burnt on my brain.

big smile

I have been in love with Sanrio since those days in the 80s when I first bacame aware. So when I found out that the “Small Gift” Sanrio 50th Anniversary event was going to be in Santa Monica, I knew we had to go! I asked ThePilot tentatively if it was possible to go. “Of course, we HAVE to go,” he said. Well ok! So I started looking at calendars and making plans and getting so excited.

Friday morning we got out of bed very early to catch a flight to LA. By 10a we were on our way down the road to the Santa Monica Airport. The event was held in the Barker Hangar there. We were greeted at the outside door by a giant balloon rainbow with Hello Kitty on it letting us know we were in the right place and that things were about to get a whole lot cuter.

Inside was an explosion of kawaii! Everything was embellished with Hello Kitty, Bad Badtz-Maru, Chococat, Keromi, and all the gang.
To kick things off with a big start was a Smart Car with a Hello Kitty paint job just inside the entrance.

Smart Kitty: no keys = can't drive off with it.

The rest of the hanger was a Sanrio play-heaven! There was a Ferris Wheel, a mini-golf course, face painting, DIY sand art tables, and skill games.

Dokidoki Yummychums and the Sanrio Ferris Wheel

mini-golf has never been more adorable!

I think I would be tempted to keep the bean bags as my prize.

From the ceiling hung giant cute mascot balloons.

Hello Kitty & Hangyodon

On one side there was even a stage with Hello Kitty and friends ready to dj.

Hello Kitty with Deery-Lou + Batdz Maru


DJ Hello Kitty

This was the line to get into the store (not the event – this was just for the Sanrio Pop-Up shop).

no wait is too long to get a "small gift, big smile"

Seems like everyone wanted to be involved in the Sanrio craze. Sanrio has a long history of collaboration with popular retailers and brands. Their 50th birthday is no exception.
The amazing folks at re-ment in Japan have made a series of Sanrio miniatures. They are extremely detailed and so tiny. The mini bakery goods look good enough to eat!

Hello Kitty X Sephora

Sanrio X re-ment

Sanrio X Bape

This line is a punky collaboration with Yoshiki one of the founders of the metal band X Japan.
Hello Kitty + Yoshiki = Yoshikitty. ^.^


All of my pictures of the event can be found in my Sanrio 50th Anniversary “small gift” Event set at flickr.

One of the biggest reason I really wanted to see the 50th Anniversary event was all the involvement of artists that I have been following for years. For me, it was the perfect combination of so many things I really enjoy. It is really interesting to see artists with a recognizable style try their hand at an interpretation of another’s work, especially one as well-know as Hello Kitty. Here are some of my favorites!
[photosmash id=14]
To see all of the pictures I took of the artwork at the event, check out my Sanrio 50th Anniversary Art album on flickr.

boarding ritual

March 3rd, 2010

There’s a thing I have to do for luck when boarding a plane. This ritual is not wholly my own. I admit borrowing parts of it from Allison Janney as she described it on the Ellen Degeneres Show during the episode they held on an airliner.

It starts once I’ve left the gate agent. When they hand me the stub from the boarding pass, I put it in my right rear pocket. That’s where it stays until I’ve reached my destination (where it is recycled, of course). At the end of the jetway, I get my right hand clear of any carry-ons so it is usable. Just before entering the plane, I casually touch the outside of the plane.

Of course, I always smile at the waiting flight attendant and say a sincere hello as well.

Someone asked me once if my lucky ritual works.

“So far…”


how to travel with a smile

March 1st, 2010

I have the wonderful opportunity to travel cheaply because of the airline benefits extended to me. This has been a huge advantage and the only way I would have been able to take most of these trips. In the airline business they call this “non-reving” (as in without revenue). I want to be very clear that I am so grateful for the ability to fly non-rev.


sometimes it is a very difficult thing to actually accomplish.

First, there has to be a seat available. This pretty much eliminates travel to any desirable destination. Also, travel on or around any type of holiday is out. Seriously, forget about it.  The good news about that is I am able to check the loads before heading out to the airport.

That only works as long as there isn’t a sudden need for everyone in the airport to go on that specific flight you are trying to ride. Stuff happens. Earlier flights get cancelled. That entire flight load of paying customers gets to be ahead of you in line. It’s only fair and the way it should be.

Next, the staff of the airline has to want to put you on the flight. The gate agents hold a lot of power. I suggest never messing with them if you want to get where you are going. Don’t even talk to them unless you absolutely have to do so. I think I have definitely gotten on a flight before because another passenger irritated the gate agent. Also, candy gifts help your cause for sure.

One major thing that annoys me is the number of times peeps have said to me, “You can fly for free.” I am always expected to do all the traveling if I want to see any friend in another state. I definitely have the advantage. However, any kind of relationship is a two way street. And travel is not free for me. I still have to find a roof over my head, potentially rent a car, park my car at my departure airport, and eat while away. All this I gladly do when it is possible. iLOVE to travel! At the same time, it is very taxing on the body and spirit at times.

I had a friend who loved to say this inaccurate phrase to me. Meanwhile, she traveled around the globe constantly to see her favorite band. She always still claimed she couldn’t afford to come to see me. “You can travel for free.” A couple times she even had a layover in my city on the way to see this band in a foreign country. That was the end of the end for me. Still had to deal with her trying to pick Facebook fights with me like a high school drama major. It went downhill from there.

Despite all the difficulties of traveling this way, seeing New York City from the air never gets old. Touching down in San Francisco never feels routine. Going home to Chicago never loses its surge of energy. So I do what I have to do to get where I need to be. It is worth it.

every good story begins with “once upon a time”

February 8th, 2010

As I write this it is my Aunt’s birthday. It’s very fitting to start this story of my travels on her day. See, she is the original inspiration in so many ways.

One of my earliest memories is of my parents taking us to pick her up at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. She had been in another country for a student exchange program. In my hazy recollection, we drove to a place with a grassy slope to hang out. It may have been our house or a park. I’m not 100% on that. The sun beamed down on her from behind as if to herald her as a worldly beacon. I talked to her about the knitted shoes she had on her feet. or maybe they were socks? Anyway, they were very loosely knit, and I remember asking her if she could use them in a pinch to catch fish. That’s how I remember it. Seems like a dream now.

The thing I do remember clearly is that our Aunt brought us Gummi Bears from Germany. It really turned my world upside-down then to think that Gummy Bears in Germany were Gummi Bears. One letter difference made it a foreign word. I was fascinated instantly by language and travel and culture.

This Aunt was easily the most intriguing person I knew. Not exactly like Auntie Mame, but just as adventurous. She had been to places I was only hearing of for the first time. I imagined her traveling in other countries and made stories for every experience I overheard from my parents. There was talk of her being a feminist and a Democrat! She really scandalized our house when she campaigned for a female politician.

I couldn’t wait to run away from home and become a liberal. I knew that when I grew up, I was going to travel and have all the experiences my parents warned me would damn my soul forever! The preachers and the teachers and the parents always talked of worldliness in a negative way, but I couldn’t wait to wear that label.

Now as an adult, I travel at every opportunity that is presented. Even an overnight in Kansas City, MO where my partner is based is a little thrill of its own. I guess I romanticize the plane ride and the stay in a hotel a bit. Also, being away from your home does a lot of good for your brain no matter where you are going. It’s like a refresher to see a new perspective and hear new voices.

So I say do it people! Travel the world! See things and have a BLAST!!! and be grateful for the freedom and opportunities to do so. That’s what I’ll be doing and, of course, telling the stories here…