Thursday, November 29, 2012

Denver Part 2: Drunk off the Altitude

We left Constance's apartment that morning fully reenergized and armed with her list of things to do. We had the full day to ourselves and wanted to explore Denver as much as we could possibly take in.

What we immediately realized when we started walking to the Light Rail (Denver's name for the Metro system), however, was the altitude. Whooo! I was out of breath walking up a 30 degree incline and I felt as if I had asthma. We were definitely in the Mile High City. 

Jordan playing around at the Light Rail. 

Once we got to the Light Rail, Jordan and I and looked at the map for one minute before asking a guy nearby for help. He told us which line we needed to get on, introduced himself as Jesse, and we in turn explained that it was our first time in Denver, that we were from North Carolina and on a road trip to LA.

"Wow, I wish I had some weed on me so I could give it to you guys as a welcome to Denver gift," Jesse said.

I didn't know what to say; did he just always give weed away to people he had just met? Was everyone like this? Mind you, this was before the Election and weed was not yet legalized in the state of Colorado

I was still trying to process his generosity when he handed us a still chilled and unopened Gatorade. "Here, I noticed that you guys don't have anything to drink and it can get to be real hot."

Hot was an understatement: Jordan and I had been outside for about 20 minutes and were already sweating profusely. We thanked him over and over again for his help and for the drink.

By the time we boarded the train we were all smiles. Denver was already exceeding its expectations. And speaking of smiling, a different guy with dirty blonde hair was smiling directly at me from the back of the train. He was very handsome, and had a bike by his side. Then, to my horror, he started heading in our direction. I turned my head around, wondering if I was mistaken and was saying hi to someone sitting behind me. When I looked back, he was already in the seat beside me.

"Couchsurfers? Lisa?" was all that he asked, with a knowing grin. 

"Yes!" I said, brightening up after the secret CS word.

"I'm Aaron! I just got your request this morning and literally just saved your number in my phone so I could call you after lunch! That's so crazy we saw each other on the Light Rail!"

A coincidence was more like it. I instantly liked Aaron and his energy. I also had the vibe that he was not a hetero...unfortunately. Aaron said that he had to have lunch with a friend and we explained that we were on our way to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

"Oh, that's this stop," Aaron said quickly as the train came to a sudden halt. "You should get off right NOW!"

Jordan and I practically jumped out of the train a split second before the doors closed.

"Thank god I got someone to respond to my requests in Denver," I said to Jordan. "I was beginning to think that I was letting you down as a partner."

"I think he bats for my team," was his only reply. I knew it.

This museum was legions better than the one we went to in Nashville. It even had a rooftop garden and a classroom with sleeping bags in a corner. As we were finishing up the visit on the rooftop garden, Aaron called me to say that he was done with "lunch," but only ate ice cream so he could eat again with us since we were hungry. I told him our location and was going to walk to him, if it weren't for the rain and hail that had just started to fall from the sky out of nowhere. I thought Wilmington weather was random but boy, did Denver have us beat. Poor Aaron was riding his bike through the rain and hail when he rode past us until I yelled at him to finally stop.

Best classroom set-up in a museum. Ever. 

We ate at a place nearby so that we could all dry. We learned that Aaron was introduced to Couchsurfing when we went traveling abroad in Italy. He had had less than perfect hosts, however, including an older man who had asked Aaron  to sleep with him in his bed, and then left the door ajar anyways after he said no. He had just moved back to Denver, where his family lived, to be a farmer– something I would never have guessed looking at him. I had originally sent him a request because he had just left LA and would be able to give me a few pointers about the city. 

When we were all fed, we went to the Great Divide Brewery downtown– also a part of Constance's list. We came just in time for a free tour of the brewery that they did every hour or so. I didn't even make it to half of the tour before I was drunk from half a pint. "It's the altitude," I blamed. I swore to Aaron this wasn't normal and I tried to nudge over my leftover pint on him. 

A beautiful view of Denver from the parking lot roof. 

It was unbelievably effortless to talk and hang out with Aaron, I discovered (and that isn't the beer talking). It was as if we had been best friends in a past life. It was getting late by the time the tour was over, and Jordan and I figured we had better grab my car from Constance's and make moves. We agreed to meet up with Aaron later on that night, at a place where he mentioned "Drag Queen Bingo" was supposed to occur. 

Yes, please.  

All in all it had been a fantastic day...and then came Sam.

Denver: Surviving the Storm

Shortly after Jordan and I had high-tailed it out of Kansas (or should I say Missouri?), he got yet another yes from a host, named Sam. Jordan claimed that it was because of his request, whose first line read "SAM SAM YOU'RE OUR MAN!"

Sam said that although he already had another surfer at his apartment for the next few nights, he was going to make an exception for us because of the enthusiastic request and that we were both feminists. This just kept getting better and better. Now the only problem was that we now had two yes' and one decision to make.

"Says who?" said Jordan. "We are staying in Denver for two nights– why not stay with Constance for tonight and Sam tomorrow night?"

Why not indeed? 

So in the end we decided that that was the best choice and also would allow us to get two different perspectives of Denver. When we had been planning the stops for the road trip, we settled on going the longer route to the mile high city because of all the great things that we had heard. The few extra miles would be worth it, we agreed.

Now if you are ever unfortunate enough to make the drive from Kansas City to Denver, I would just like to warn you that it is the most uneventful thing that that you will ever witness. Seriously, it should be considered a form of torture.

After our 47th Cracker Barrel billboard and yet another endless stretch of prairie lands, Jordan and I were getting manic. It got to the point that Jordan started to take Instagram shots of the little Chinese baby that was on the to-go bag from lunch.

Yep. This happened...several times. 

Then came the storm.

We had switched off by then and Jordan was behind the wheel when we started to realize that the clouds ahead of us were beginning to look suspiciously dark. I checked the Weather Channel radar on my phone and we were heading straight into the red zone.

"Shit," I said, just as it started pouring cats and dogs. There was lightening striking from all four corners, the thunder was deafening and I was clutching onto my dashboard monk for dear life. I tried to say words of encouragement to Jordan, but they came out as more of whimpering sounds. Thankfully, Jordan pulled it together for both of us and remained calm throughout the entire experience– even when we couldn't see two feet in front of the car.
The entire storm lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime. I was convinced that we were going to die and we weren't even halfway across the country. It was almost (key word here is "almost") worth it however, to see the sun setting after the storm. It was the most mesmerizing thing I had ever seen. It was like seeing the wrath of Zeus and the beauty of Aphrodite back to back.

Going into the storm and then the aftermath. 

By the time we reached Denver, it was dark and Jordan had just got in contact with Constance to get her address. We picked up some beer on the way to her house, as a nice welcoming present.

Constance met us in her parking garage and she was the exact image of her picture. She had this great smile and radiated warmth so that you instantly made felt at home, especially from a long drive.

We hauled our stuff to her apartment, which she lived in with her boyfriend Nick. Constance said that we were Nick's first experience to Couchsurfing, and that he was a little shy and quiet. She, however, turned out to be the mother of CS in Denver and proceeded to tell us all about the community they had in the city.

The Couchsurfers in Denver were all very close knit, apparently, and as a group they all participated in regular mixers and outings to meet and interact with new people. Constance herself had just hosted a CS "girl's night" where they made facial scrubs and did their nails.
Jordan and I had not yet explored this part of the CS website and thought that it was fascinating that you could join a group online and have all its members function as a family. 
We were quickly beginning to realize that CS was way more than just a forum– it was a community of people with similar beliefs and philosophies. The reason that I liked the concept of Couchsurfing so much was because it dispelled all taboos of the "stranger danger" idea and flipped it upside down. It taught us to welcome strangers with open arms; it was way more than just opening up your couch to someone– it was teaching people to trust each other again.

Constance, Nick, Jordan and I sat at their dining room table, drank the beer that we brought and smoked hookah while exchanging thoughts on Couchsurfing, Denver and what it had to offer. Constance even got so excited that she started writing down a list of things that we had to do before we left, starring the ones that were the "musts" and color-coding the ones that had good food.

Constance's list of things to do in Denver. 

It was getting late and Constance had to work early the next morning. She made sure we had all the pillows and blankets we needed, and Jordan and I settled onto her two comfortable couches.

"Just knock on my bedroom door if you need anything," she said after she bid us goodnight.
Jordan and I looked at each other and reveled in our luck at having three great hosts in a row.

This is the life. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Best of Craigslist: Issue I

You can say what you want about Craigslist, but I'm convinced that it has a bad rep. I believe that a lot of posts are very legitimate and I've gotten many a spare couch and TV set because of it. Roommates are a different story personally, but I know a few people who have had good experiences too.

Los Angeles Craigslist, however is a completely different league. I've learned to peruse the "gigs" section at the bottom for random events that I might able to work for some extra dough (this is a frequent thing to do in LA). Actors, dancers, writers and artists alike depend on small jobs and gigs for income because they mostly leave room for auditions and are temporary enough that they can drop it whenever a big event comes through.

Through this, however, I've come across a lot of racy, unusual and equally hilarious posts. Let's just say there's a lot of quacks out there. Here's a quick selection from just today and what I would like to say to them:

1. Strip for me - private video - DISCREET! (Los Angeles)
Looking for attractive young ladies to shoot videos of themselves stripping/dancing on their webcams. Video for private use only, so good discreet way to cam. Send me pics/links and if I am interested I will write back. Will pay $100 per 10 minute video. If you're good, could be a multiple time thing. Any questions, let me know. 

Some questions: is there a time limit on this? Can a woman potentially show up in a parka, 10 layers of clothes and stretch the strip tease to a hour? Will she get $600 in return? Why don't you just watch porn for free? What if someone sends you porn and says that it's actually them? Will you be able to tell the difference? If not, then I could use a couple easy hundred in the bank...

2. Need Letter Written to Lost Friend (Anywhere)
I need a letter written, it's not that it needs to be lengthy but it needs to have feeling and I can't get it all down on paper. It's a letter from me (a woman) to a man about a broken friendship. I will explain the situation more in detail once responded to.
Basically I was friends with a guy who was my now-husbands best friend. He kissed me (after I was married) and after that it got extremely awkward.. there's a lot more to the story that will help with this. I'd like to have it written today.

I actually would totally do this. What kind of pay are we talking about because "Let's talk" under "Compensation" does not qualify as currency. What are you trying to say to this friend? Do you want to rekindle your relationship with him? Does your husband know about this? Is he upset? 

Really, I don't understand why this woman can't write this on her own. And even if she can't, doesn't she have other friends that would be better qualified and know her better to write it for her instead of a complete stranger? And who wants a letter written by someone else? Just because you scrawl your signature at the bottom doesn't mean that it's sincere. Write it yourself lady, and it will definitely come from the heart. Also I hope you're not about to ignite an affair because that is socially frowned upon. 

3. Hot Girl Need Cash? (LA)
I need one fine lady to come overt and keep me company today. I can be generous in exchange for some intimate fun.
Please send a pic thanks 

Your glaring spelling error makes me already dislike you. Can you define "generous"? And "intimate"? Your overly vague sentence gives me no idea what you are looking for. "Generous" could mean $2 and an used toaster in exchange for a whole day of company to you, for all I know.

4. Female Bubble Butt Fetish Model Wanted (Los Angeles )

This is an amateur shoot. I have a fetish for round, shapely bubble butts that stick out from the side view. Must be between 18 to 34 years of age, attractive, flat/small waist, medium to tall height and be comfortable posing in short skirts and posing for up skirt shots. I prefer latinas but all colors of the rainbow are welcomed! Send me your age, B/W/H measurements, dress/shoe/panty size and some body shots showing off your buns. This should be a quick and easy 1 hour shoot that includes photos and video clip recordings. No Nudity is ok. 

Why 34? Is there a specific reason why you didn't want a 35-year-old "bubble butt" walk in for a photo shoot? Was it a bad experience? Do you already have clothes and shoes for them to try on– is that why you want the specific measurements and sizes? Or is that for you to put on your Creepster Portfolio? Do you only prefer Latinas (which is capitalized) because you think that they all have junk in the trunk? Because that's racial profiling. 

5. $$$$$ BECKY where are you $$$ (Inglewood)
Looking for BECKY or someone that can give me some BECKY , willing to pay.
If interested please respond.. 

Oooh emmm geee, no he didn't. Excuse me sir, the song "Becky" is SO 2009. And is that last  line necessary? As opposed to what? Because if you're not interested than people will definitely respond. And I find the first sentence a bit confusing. So you're saying that if a girl actually named Becky comes over and does not give you fellatio, then that's okay too?

Happy Hump Day!

I Hate Pictures But I Love Roofs

Everyone seems to be collectively blogging lately at the Alto Nido and consequently helping each other out. This picture was taken by Nicho on our rooftop the same day as the photo from my banner. He's finally gotten his Tumblr set up and is posting regularly on it. I was surprised to see this one on there this morning :)

Oh, and Sprite? You're welcome for that product placement.

Kansas City: Toto we aren't even in Kansas anymore

Jordan and I almost didn't want to leave the Dollhouse in the morning. The last two days in Nashville had been absolutely amazing and we couldn't have asked for more welcoming, fun and awesome hosts. But we had an itinerary (aka a map that I had created from Photoshop in ten minutes) that we had to abide to, and I wasn't going to stray from it so early in the game.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed off to Kansas City, Missouri, our second stop. Now I just want to make it clear that the only reason why we even stopped in Kansas City is because we had to without driving for a ridiculous amount of time to Denver. So we caved.

First of all, it annoys me that it is called Kansas City but is in Missouri. If they were going to name a city Kansas City then why wouldn't they make sure it was in the state that it was named after? Why put it on the border? I just don't understand.

Second of all, upon arriving to Kansas City, I was dumbfounded. The streets were deserted, even though the city actually is pretty big. No one was out in the streets– it was bizarre. It was almost like a big movie set but without the extras. To say the least, and I mean this with the most respect for its citizens, but Kansas City gave me a weird vibe from the very beginning.

Nevertheless, we got in contact with our second host, Amanda, who I got to host us for the one night a week earlier. She lived in what her roommate called "Little Mexico," because of the huge population of Hispanics that lived there. According to her, Kansas City was made full of these pockets of different neighborhoods that were all divided by its inhabitants' ethnicities. There was a Polish neighborhood, a Korean neighborhood, a Jewish neighborhood: everyone was segregated.

Contrary to Little Mexico, however, Amanda was a tall, skinny white woman and her and her roommate were devout Christians. They even worked at their church. As in it was their career. This I did not expect.

Jordan and I had arrived in the city with good expectations, determined to give Kansas City the benefit of the doubt. Needless to say however, we were definitely not going to the bars that night. She had to get up early in the morning, which meant that we had to wake up at six o'clock too.

However, she was a very nice host and after we had a long, though slightly awkward conversation with Amanda and her roommate (he had just recounted to us the "crazy" time that he threw a sock party at the house), she laid out towels for us, showed us our twin beds that we were sleeping on, and gave us sheets and blankets.

When it came down to it, all we wanted was a bed and/or couch to sleep on, so I was very thankful. Even better, she surprised us by making us breakfast and coffee in the morning, which was already laid out on the table by the time we came downstairs. It was like I was at home with my mother. She then told us how to get to the Plaza, a popular shopping center where we could eat and go to the coffee shop to look for hosts in Denver.

Our adorable host Amanda's good morning to Jordan and I. 

We thanked her for her hospitality and gave her a surprise of our own. In Nashville we had given Jackie a jar of pickled okra that Jordan had gotten from North Carolina and we decided to continue the tradition for the rest of the trip. We had gotten Amanda a box of Goo Goo, a chocolate candy that originated in Nashville and is freakin delicious. I really hope that she actually liked chocolate like she said she did.

Apparently Kansas City is known for its fountains (they have more than any other city in the world besides Rome) and that became more clear to us once we got to the Plaza. There were fountains all over that shopping center; it was literally the most interesting thing that I had seen since I got to Kansas City.

Jordan and I immediately Yelped a coffee shop and made ourselves comfortable at a corner table next to an outlet and buried ourselves in the Couchsurfing website. We were going to be in Denver that night and had yet to send out a single request for a host.

All in all, Jordan and I cranked out ten requests each and our stories became steadily more and more comical. We were cracked out on iced coffee and eventually started to read aloud lines from our requests that were the most hilarious. 

In one of my interactions, I wrote: "If I could attach a venn diagram of our similar interests I would. In any case, we would have a lot of items in the middle."I then proceeded to copy and paste what he listed as "Interests" on his profile, and comment on each of them. Needless to say, I did not hear back from him.

After two hours in the coffee shop, Jordan got a call from a host that he sent a request to less than five minutes before. Her name was Constance and she said she would be happy to host us for the night. I looked over her profile– she had rainbow-colored dreadlocks, looked homey and liked making facial scrubs. Good enough for me.

Jordan and I high-fived each other and then split up. I went in search of a quick gift for our new host Constance while Jordan went to grab the car.

There was no time to lose– we had to get the hell out of Kansas City. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Metro Etiquette 101

It might seem pretty standard that common courtesy should extend to underground as well as above ground, but you'd be surprised. Ever since I moved to the city (almost four months now), I've made it a priority to use to the Metro system as much as possible after I witnessed the atrocity that is LA traffic. Seriously, in North Carolina, I could pretty much get anywhere in about 15 minutes. Here, it's about a hour. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. 

So the Metro became my new best friend. And when I was trying to find a night job after my internship, I made sure the restaurant was right beside a Metro station. Because of that, taking the Metro became a part of my daily routine– I took it twice a day, at least five days a week and most of the time took the last train, which if anyone has been on knows that it includes a completely different scene than during the day (more on that later).

That aside, however, here is a list of basic guidelines to follow for riding the Metro that you may or may not be aware of:

1. Wear headphones. Or have a book or play a game on your phone (Blitz and Unblock Me are Wifi-free games)– anything that will keep you busy or at least appear distracted. I say this because if you miss your train you will be waiting around 15 minutes for the next one to come and it kills time. Also, people in LA have a habit of latching onto you if you are hands/ears-free. You basically might as well wear a sign around your neck that says "Please bother me." Beggers, hyper-talkative nuts, creepers and the homeless will crawl to you like you're Paris Hilton. Your only savior? Jam out to some tunes.

2. Use your Tap card. For real though. I mean yes, you can probably get away with not using your Metro card and be completely Scott-free 95% of the time. However, I have had my Tap scanned and checked at stops several times before and there is no telling when the security guards are going to be there. And sure, I've had it done several times during rush hour in particular, when everyone is leaving from work and at certain popular stops Downtown and in Hollywood, but save yourself the heartache and just pay the $1.50 it takes for a ride. I knew a guy that said a guard chased him down the station because he didn't pay. That's embarrassing– don't be that guy.

3. Let people come out of the train before you get on. I know we are all in a rush but come on people! It's pretty much a unsaid rule that when the train comes, you have to let the people inside out before you clamber in. It is actually more ineffective to try and squeeze yourself inside before everyone else patiently waiting, and hold them up even more because you've now become an extra obstacle for the passengers trying to get out. And it's rude. You'll still get on the train in the end, I swear.

4. Leave the disabled seat for people that actually need it. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing a obviously healthy and able-bodied man or woman sit in the designated handicapped seat when there are others who really should be in it. Sure, if there's no one disabled on the train then that seat is all yours; I know how it is: there's no other seats available sometimes, it gets crowded and you're tired. I get it. But as soon as a child, or an elderly person, or someone who is just obviously in need of it more than you, I strongly believe that you should offer your seat to them. You'll most likely find another seat at the next stop.

5. Always have something to hold onto. One time I was sitting on the inside of the two-seater when I stood up to signal to the man next to me that it was my stop. It was very crowded however, so I didn't have time to step out into the aisle before the train came to a halt. Splat. I didn't get a chance to grab onto anything quick enough and fell face-first into an awkward half-bent position on top of the man. My chest was basically in his face. Mortifying. So yes, when the operator alerts that a stop is coming up or you feel that the train is slowing down, please hold onto something. Unless you are unlike me and have perfect balance, in which case I am very jealous.

And if nothing else please remember: Just because it's public transportation doesn't mean common courtesy doesn't exist. 

Please and thank you.

My favorite metro station and the closest one to my apartment, Hollywood and Vine's ceiling is completely covered by blue film reels and has columns in the shape of palm trees.  Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Nashville Part 2: Jumping off Waterfalls

My old roommate Jordan gave me a "Flat Jordan" to take pictures of wherever I went. Most of them were in the car. 

I woke up in the morning to someone coming into my room and for one horrible moment I thought that the roommate had come back from jail.

Instead it was Jordan, still in the same clothes from last night and jumped into bed with me.
"Where did you sleep last night?" I asked him. I didn't even remember the ride home, I was so tired. 

"I don't even know."

When Jackie and Chrissy woke up, they told us that they were planning on going to Rock Island that day, and asked if we wanted to join them. Apparently there was some hiking involved, along with waterfalls and cliff jumping. None of that really appealed to me to be honest, but I said yes anyways, not wanting a bad CS reference.

We drove for what seemed like three hours to Rock Island in our swimsuits. Angie, a friend of Jackie and Chrissy's also came along. She was a riot. She was a little imp of a girl but was hilarious and spat out witty comments like a miniature Chelsea Handler.

We started the hike and I immediately realized that this was a lot rougher terrain than I had expected. Angie even got a bad gash on her leg from falling on some rocks on our way down to the river. 

It seemed like every family who had a lunchbox was at the river swimming. Why, I don't know, because the water was a good 40 degrees colder than what it was in Wilmington. I nearly got pneumonia when I jumped in.

At our first stop at the park, there were these 15 foot cliffs that people were taking turns jumping off of and although I swam to the cliff, I had no intention jumping off of it. Instead, I just waded back to Angie, a fellow non-jumper. After everyone else had jumped twice, we continued on our hike to the waterfalls.

I felt like I was on a crazy adventure, which I guess, is what hiking is all about. I wouldn't know– I don't go on them often. But we kept coming up to places that Jackie and Chrissy had nicknamed like the "Black Lagoon," "The shower," or the "Amphitheater," that made me feel as if they were landmarks on a treasure map or something.

At the Black Lagoon, we met the most interesting man I had ever met. His name was George, and he was a part of what he called the "Waterfall Squadron." Basically, they were a group of people who hiked to waterfalls whenever they could and "ate superfoods like watermelon." They even had their own Facebook group. The group at Rock Island was made up of about 15 or so people, including a tatted hooper, a hippie who did tricks with his walking stick, and a Latino male who carried a pink book bag. George, however, was by far the most entertaining.

He actually said "Enchanted" when I told him my name was Lisa while holding my hands and bowed. Like Prince Charming. If it weren't for the fact that he had wild hair, wore a beaded necklace and did a series of breathing exercises every time there was a pause in conversation, I would have thought he was from the Medieval times. George then proceeded to enthusiastically tell us a story about the Black Lagoon. Here's what I remember him saying: 

"You know, a man used to swing rope in the lagoon all the time (breathing exercise) with a python around his neck. Yeah, it must have been at least ten feet long and it was his pet and would just jump in the water with him (breathing exercise). He had this crazy, wild mullet and must have been at least, 50 years old. He would jump real high, like 30 feet from that ledge (vaguely point at random ledge). But I think someone died from the swing rope, probably some college kid or something. So they cut it off and wouldn't let anyone else jump (extended breathing exercise). And I haven't seen that man with the mullet and python ever since."

Listening to George, I legit thought that he was just making up this story the further it went. There were so many things factually wrong that I just couldn't believe it. First of all, from what I could tell, the lagoon wasn't even deep enough so that someone could survive a 30 foot drop. Second of all, who has ever heard of a snake that would actually jump into water on a person's shoulders? And if they did, then it should be in the circus, not in Rock frickin Island.

Nevertheless, we all nodded, said our goodbyes to curious George and climbed up the rock wall to the waterfalls. We heard them before we saw them. It was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn't even remember when was the last time I saw waterfalls but was that hike worth it.

Then everyone started stripping down to their bikinis and swim shorts again and I froze. The drop from the ledge was at least 35 feet up. Are these people kidding me?

Apparently they weren't. I watched as Chrissy, Jackie, and Jordan all jumped down. Even Angie abandoned me to stand at the ledge to contemplate jumping. No way, no how. I sat my butt down alone, well away from the ledge and looked on as everyone went through the ritual of walking up to the ledge, looking down, ponder for a good 15 minutes on whether they would jump or not, talk to their friends for encouragement, and then eventually jump. Except for Angie. She was still at the very tip of the edge muttering to herself repeatedly.

And then I had an epiphany, as well as a moment of sudden stupidity. "What was I doing?" I asked myself. I was on day two of the road trip, which I said would be life changing and eye-opening, and I was holding back already. Didn't I say once that I would try anything once? Well that was a lie, because I would definitely not try some things once. Like eating worms for example, or moving to North Dakota.

But this jump didn't seem that bad. It was plenty deep enough, there were no rocks at the bottom and so the excuse that I would get hurt doesn't even work. I could do this. I could make this one jump. So I promptly sat up, stripped down to my bikini, and walked up to the ledge where Angie still was. By then everyone had come up for their second jump and Jordan was pleasantly surprised that I was doing it. I was going to wait for Angie to jump, but Jordan wisely said that that was going to be forever, that she would psyche me out and I should just go for it.

So I did.

I didn't even look down before jumping, I just stepped back, positioned my footing, and jumped. It was a longer fall than I had anticipated. Then all of a sudden I was in the water. It was North Pole cold. For one terrifying moment as I was scrambling up to find the surface, I thought I was drowning. But I finally reached the top and immediately made way to the rocks near where the water was breaking, and tried to wriggle up.

I was gasping for air still and shivering from the water and not making much progress up the slippery rocks. Also I still had my Converses on and they were weighing me down like an anchor. Some random girls came to my rescue and pulled me up. I got up as quickly as I could (which wasn't very fast), pulled my bottoms up so my butt crack was no longer showing, and tried to regain as much dignity as I could muster while still gasping.

After I had collected myself, I inwardly rejoiced. I had done it. I did it and I was not the last person of the group to jump because Angie was still talking to herself at the top. Meanwhile Jordan swam over to stand with me behind the waterfalls and we clapped and cheered every time a person landed in the water, only to stop abruptly when we realized they weren't Angie.

After what seemed like an hour, Angie finally jumped in. She said a Hispanic guy who hardly spoke a lick of English had persuaded her to jump in the end. She decided that if that guy was trying that hard to break the language barrier and encourage her to go for it, then she should. After we all congratulated her on her two-hour prolonged descent, we wrapped it up and headed back since the sun was already coming down.

By the time we got back to Nashville, my Converses were muddy, my legs had some battle wounds from climbing the rocks, but I was proud to say that I had jumped from a waterfall that day. 

Take that old man with a python. 

Nashville: Honky Tonk at the Lipstick Lounge

Ten hours later, we had arrived in Nashville, Tennessee and were both delirious from lack of sleep. The only highlights from the trip was that Jordan and I had to pee back to back of a random restaurant called The Old House at three in the morning because we couldn't find an open restroom. 

This pit stop saved my bladder. 
A week earlier Jordan and I had set up Couchsurfing profiles online so that we could do a cross-country trip without the cost of hotels or motels. I had heard from others who swore by the site, and thought that this would be the perfect chance to give it a try. The way that Couchsurfing (CS) worked, was that it was basically a social media network– much like Facebook, where users would create their own profiles. CS obviously focused more on each individual person's travels, their experience with the website, and what they hope to learn/share with other couch surfers.

Now on CS you were either a surfer, or a host. Jordan and I were surfers, and we had sent out a ridiculous number of requests for people to host us. Unfortunately, we had also received a ridiculous number of rejections. We got so many that Jordan and I started sending each other screen shots from our phones of the rejections.

"I don't understand– is it me?! I've never been denied so much in my entire life!" I told Jordan exasperatedly a few days earlier.

As it turns out, there is a part of CS where people can get or give references, which is posted on their profile and says what a good surfer/host they were, how they took them to this awesome bar or made them this delicious dinner. The reference can be positive or negative, though you hardly saw any that were the latter. Basically it was like points proving that said person wasn't a complete weirdo or wasn't going to rob you blind. Since Jordan and I were newbies to the website, we of course, had no references besides the ones that we gave ourselves.

Just when we were getting desperate, we had a host bite. Her name was Jackie, and she wasn't going to be out of work until four. It was 11:00. So we decided to go to Downtown Nashville and explore the city in the meantime. 

The famous and historic Printers Alley, known for its nightclubs and bars. 

On one hand it was nice finally stretching our limbs after a long drive. On the other hand it didn't even matter because we were both basically functioning like zombies. We literally ate our lunch in almost complete silence. I had been awake for a full 24 hours now and it was horrible. What was more horrible was the ridiculous heat (keep in mind that this was the end of July). 

Jordan's zombie face whilst walking around Downtown Nashville.

Finally 4:00 rolled around and we drove to her address. I started getting worried that we were about to show up in the hood after we passed by our third Church's Chicken, but it turned out to be a cute little cottage with hearts on the door.

Jackie came out of the door to greet us. She was a cute and bubbly brunette who had a big smile and hugged us right away. The house was adorable– decorated with vintage cameras, DIY furnishings and abstract paintings that Jackie's roommate, Chrissy, did. I wanted it to be my home. And I guess it was, I reminded myself, for the next three days.

Jackie showed us around the house, then lead us to the backyard to a picnic blanket under a tree with DIY lights hanging from it. She told me that she loved that I was a feminist, that she was too and we started chatting about general beliefs and philosophies. 

I was ecstatic. Not only was Jackie a feminist but so was her roommate Chrissy. Jackie also called herself a secret dirty hippy because she didn't shave her legs and was a vegan, but Chrissy was a spitfire redhead who planned on changing her name to reestablish herself as an artist and painter. 

After we all chatted some more, Jackie proceeded to make us an all vegan dinner which was AMAZING, and invited some of her friends over to go out with us that night. By that point, Jordan and I had rallied and was at the point of complete exhaustion that we actually believed we were wide-awake and could stay awake forever. Hell, we had made it to 30 hours after all.

We all squeezed into two cars and headed to a gay karaoke bar. It also happened to be lesbian night. Naturally.

I had never seen so many hot, sweaty and drunk lesbians all in one place as much as I did at this place. It was called The Lipstick Lounge, which painted a different picture in my mind before I walked in, but after my Gay and Lesbian Literature class, I should have known better. I think when we walked in the woman onstage was singing Alanis Morrisette, "Ironic."

To sum up the night, Jordan drank a lot of Redbull vodkas and I bonded with Stephanie, a friend of Jackie's, who said she was planning to move to LA too, oddly enough. Chrissy took the house down with "Pump up the Jam," and Jackie questioned if I was ever a lesbian before. 

A little bit blurry, but Chrissy (left) and Todd (right),  singing karaoke at the Lipstick Lounge. 

By the time we got back to the cottage, which Jackie and Chrissy deemed the "Dollhouse," I had been awake for almost 40 hours straight. I took over their other roommate's bed (who coincidentally was currently in jail for a DUI) and passed out quicker than I probably have my entire life. 

Nashville: 1. Me: 0. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

5 Must-Have LA Items

There are many things that I realized that I needed and didn't need once I got to the big city. An umbrella, for example, is something of a joke to own here. One of my first days I overheard this man at a coffee shop telling his friend that he bought an umbrella the other day "just in case" it rains. His friend laughed at him.

Coming from Wilmington where it rains without warning all the time, I brought two umbrellas and have yet had a chance to use them. Seriously, it NEVER rains here. I have been here for four months now and it has sprinkled (not rained mind you, but sprinkled) a total of two times so far. I was screaming for joy just because I got the opportunity to use my windshield wipers for the first time. I almost forgot where the control for them were even located in my car.

Along with umbrellas, you can also erase rain boots, rain jackets (basically anything that includes the rain), winter jackets, anything that takes up a lot of room (you probably won't have space for it in that studio apartment) from the list. You WILL need these following items, however:

1. Leather jacket: In case you didn't know already, no signature LA look is complete without a leather jacket. Sport it with literally anything and you will look completely LA posh and fit right in with the locals. It's also handy to have at night when it gets a wee bit chilly. I, unfortunately, have not purchased one yet and stick out like a sore thumb.

2. Large recyclable bag: This bag will become your best friend. Not just because it is environmentally friendly, but because it is just way more convenient than lugging around five bags for the six blocks from the grocery store. Plus every time I ask for a plastic bag at the Farmer's Market I feel the judgment around me setting in.

3. Tap card: Otherwise known as the Metro card, this little piece of plastic is LA's new way of not killing trees. You buy the card for $1.00 at any Metro stop for one time only and add on as much money as you'd like. One train ride is $1.50, so depending on how often you need to use the train, you can put as much as you want on it. There is no transaction fee if you pay by card, which is nice. Then you just tap the card each time you enter the metro (hence the clever name) and it's applicable for the Metro bus as well.

4. Black boots: To match your black leather jacket. Another LA garment that almost everyone wears, these are essential because you can wear them year round (yes, even in summer) and are very durable in a city that is walking-intensive. I've thrown away literally four pairs of shoes since I've been here. Again, black boots are something that I need to work on getting. Fail so hard.

5. A Car: Or at very least a bike. Seriously, I don't know how anyone gets around LA without a car. Even with the Metro system, the train goes to few stops (the City of Beverly Hills actually petitioned for the train to even run below it, let alone have a stop there), and the bus is confusing as hell. It would take you hours to get anywhere on the bus and it is constantly late. Yes, parking does suck and yes, traffic is freaking horrendous, but its one of the things that everyone has to go through, and it at least beats public transportation. The smaller the car the better too– it's way easier to parallel park a Honda Civic than a big SUV.

A Short Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

My banner would not look so freaking awesome if it weren't for these wonderful and creative people:

1. Mel– my beautiful cousin for allowing me to jump on board with her photo shoot and letting me steal Nicho for my own purposes. She also just recently started her own brilliant fashion blog Mel From the Nido which everyone should check out (shameless family advertising I know).

2. Nicho– my awesome neighbor and photographer responsible for my banner and profile photo.

3. Max Sebold– my talented best friend from NYC who even after three years of not seeing each other, picked up my phone call and edited my banner photo without hesitation.

And of course, I want to thank everyone that have been a part of my adventures cross country, all the Couch Surfers that have made me felt welcome in their home and in L.A., and the city itself for finally inspiring me enough to get my ass in a coffee shop and spit this blog out.

Bye-Bye Wilmington

BOTTOM LEFT: The card that Eliza gave to me in her care package; 
BOTTOM RIGHT: My last sunset on Wrightsville Beach. 

It was one in the morning and there was no way everything was going to fit in my car.

I was already supposed to be on the road with my buddy, Jordan, signaling the start of our two-week, cross country trek from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Los Angeles. Jordan, however, had not returned my last few texts, we were already six hours later than we had originally planned to leave, and I had only just now packed the last bit of my things, which conveniently would not fit into my car. I was getting desperate.

A week ago, when I shipped five boxes to L.A. to my cousin and packed all of my furniture in a storage unit, I had thought that my Honda Accord would be more than sufficient for the rest of my stuff. What I had not planned, however, was said Accord breaking down during the mere two-hour drive to Raleigh to say goodbye to my mom. In an act of desperation and fear that I would be stranded in the middle of the desert on my way to Cali, my mother gave me her Honda Civic instead. Good news was that it had considerably less miles on it; bad news was that it was also considerably smaller.

This became clear to me only now, when I was debating whether or not I really needed my Betsy Johnson bag full of hair products. As I was playing car origami, my best friend Eliza pulled up with her boxer and my goddaughter, Gracie.

"We have a problem," I told Eliza as Gracie immediately bounded forward to lick every inch of me that she could get her tongue on. "My ish won't fit."

"Hmm...I've moved three times in one year, I got this," Eliza promptly replied.

"Thank goodness. I was getting anxiety looking at it."

"Here," Eliza said, handing me a bag full of goodies, "This is your and Jordan's care package for the road trip."

Said package was fully equipped with granola bars, gummy bears, fortune cookies, kids sunglasses (I'm not sure why they were kid sized?), mixed CD's, and eight envelopes labeled with the cities that we were planning on stopping at.

"Awww! This is awesome!" I really was going to miss her. We had been best friends ever since we bonded over a granola bar and a high heel in Interpersonal Communications three years ago.

 Just then, Jordan pulled up beside Eliza's car. There were a few reasons why I chose to do my road trip with Jordan. One, I knew that we could spend two-weeks together without one of us pushing the other out of the car on the freeway. Two, he had an infectious personality and could make friends easily. Three, he had nothing else to do. Also he was recently out-of-the-closet and I thought that the trip would be a good way for him to freely revel in his sexuality without the pressures of Bible-belt Wilmington. Because I'm just that kind of a friend.

"Hellur!" Jordan yelled out to Eliza and I as he hauled his small duffel bag out of his car. I had told him in advance that him and his luggage would be constricted to only the passenger's seat, as I had to fit my entire life in the rest of the car.

"We don't have room for that," I told him, pointing to his duffel. "And what took you so long?"

Smiling widely, Jordan pulled out what turned out to save our lives and sanity for the next two weeks from his jeans pocket. 

"Praise jah!" I screamed, and clapped my hands like a little girl. It was like Christmas come early. "Alright, I guess we can fit your duffel bag."

"No, you have so much more room now!" Eliza announced, finally popping her head out of my car.

She had completely rearranged my things that I had before haphazardly thrown into random nooks of my new car. She had also made the decision that I did not need four pillows, or my bathrobe, or an ironing board, or a second laundry hamper that was filled with hangers. "You can buy all these things in California– you're going to L.A., not  a deserted island!" she reminded me.

This was true. Plus I could now see through my rear view mirror, which is a definite plus.

I made a quick scan of the house to see if I missed anything, said goodbye to the roommates, hugged Eliza and petted the hell out of Gracie.

"Well, I guess this is it." I said awkwardly.

"This isn't goodbye, this is just see ya later bitch," Eliza reminded me before she drove off in her car.

"You ready?" I asked Jordan as I turned on the Civic.

"Let's get this party started!" Jordan replied, after putting his "spirit" rocks on the dashboard of the car. 

Here goes nothin', I thought, as I put the gear into drive.

L.A.– here we come.