Never giggle when a fellow hiker or friend slips. Karma is everywhere in nature. Result: slipping not once, not twice but three different times. Worst part? It wasn’t even rainy or muddy.
Always pack a few extra sweaters because you know your friends won’t. Yes, even in summertime.
When sitting atop a mountain at sunset, cups become irrelevant. The wind has a way of disposing of drinks prematurely.
Ticks are likely to make the party.
When relieving your bladder in nature, just remember ‘downwind’.
When with friends who are in possession of a camera or iPhone, always just assume they are recording.
When an amigo goes in to pick you up either give in or fight back. Going stiff into fetal position may result in bruised ribs.
Even with two men and a lady there’s still going to be a fight for control of the music playlist.
I’m still terrified of heights.
PBR is vegan-friendly.
and finally …
- Only you can prevent forest fires.
I just returned home, showered and now am laying in bed reflecting on the crazy day I had.
1. Today is my first official day as a vegan. Yay me. Everything was going pretty smoothly until we stopped by the store and I made eye contact with some feta cheese. Stupid cheese.
2. It’s official .. once my best friend picks a day for her upcoming nuptials I intend to begin the first phase of planning my hike up the AT. For those of you unfamiliar with the AT, it is also known as the Appalachian Trail. Whether I become a “thru-hiker” or not, I plan to get it done.
Earlier today I headed north to the NC - TN border to hike Max Patch with some buds. As soon as we began our ascent up the mountain it was clear that our conditions were not going to be as we had hoped. The fog was so thick that you were rarely able to see beyond about 100 ft. The temperatures were hanging in the 40’s and it rained the entire time. Add packs, bags and other miscellaneous items and you have an idea. It may sound as though I am complaining, but quite the contrary. I had one of the most amazing times today and it’s all in thanks to the fog, rain, wind and cool temps - as well as my hiking buddies.
The rain and wind were persistent, never ceasing. There comes a point when your extremities are so cold that the numbing sensation sets in and you eventually can no longer feel that your feet are soaking wet and forming frost. The fog was a nuisance, but only because it impaired the 365 degree view from the summit. All in all I am inspired. I would love to be able to tell my kids someday that Mommy trekked the AT.
May 9, 2010. Approximately 7:45 pm. I have just landed in Burbank, California. I am patiently awaiting my luggage to drop down so that I can see my soul mate in the form of a Nicaraguan goddess. Linda has to be one of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. When no one else understands me, she does. She’s incredible. So I am nearly running to her car because mind you, I haven’t been back to L.A. since moving back to Florida - 2 1/2 years ago! Of course there’s hugging and excitement and all sorts of fun girly stuff, but then my first question: Can we PLEASE go to Swingers so I can stuff my face?! And we are off, trying to fit in as much catching up on the ride through the valley into Hollywood. We talk on a regular basis, but you have to understand that with some people, that human to human contact is far better. We have this understood about each other. We arrive at Swingers. The place hasn’t changed a bit, except maybe the placement of the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies up on the counter (yes, I notice things like this - ESP when it involves placement of food). We sit in a back booth and my first question is to request a PBR - that would be Pabst Blue Ribbon - the place where I had my very first one. It’s only appropriate. My second question was if Dan (one of my absolute most favorite bosses ever) was in yet. Not yet, but momentarily. Seconds later he was creeping up behind us. It’s so exciting seeing my friends in California. You just want to take them by the neck and squeeze them, but not to death of course. The three of us sat and chatted for a bit about his married life and his wife’s amazing sense of the world, life in Florida and what / who I plan to see while I’m in town, until our food came. First up, Veggie Chili and Veggie Chili Cheese Fries for L. Perfect pairing with my PBR, I must say. On to the next course, Vegan Wrap and sauteed zucchini. And to top it off? 3 Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Side Note: 1 cookie = about 3 regular sized cookies). During our meal, L noticed she had some friends sitting behind us and after a brief conversation we were invited to a show at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. Why not, right? Let me preface by saying that in all my years of trying new things, listening to all genres of music and experiencing first hand the absurdity of some musicians, I have never experienced anything quite like The Toledo Show. Honest to God felt like I was in Prohibition Chicago. There were girls burlesque dancing in lingerie, changing costumes between each song, and at one point there was even a girl hanging from the beams above the bar, still managing to dance. It was incredible. I decided right then and there that I would be taking a burlesque class. I couldn’t stop staring. Then there was the music. If I lived in L.A. I would most likely attend at least twice a month. I have an amazing time, and having one of my very best friends by my side made it that much better. After saying our goodbyes, we hit the road back to L’s. We hit the grocery store for a few snacks then finally arrived. After 4 1/2 days in Vegas and going non-stop since arriving in L.A., I was beat. We called it a night after my introduction to GiGi and some girl chat, until the next morning …May 10, 2010. I woke up fairly early. I think my body is programmed to wake up early. I laid around for a bit until Linda woke up. It was hiking time. Hiking is one of the things I miss most about living in California. As far as working out and exercising goes, I got spoiled living there. You are surrounded by these breathtaking views from everywhere you look. Always something new to discover, whether it be a mountain lion, lizards mating or a new trail. We went up to Mulholland Drive. I usually hit Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park so this was a lovely new change. We hiked for about an hour and a half. Had I not had lunch plans, I am more than positive we would have gotten lost on the trails - on purpose of course. But alas, I did have lunch plans that were much too important to cancel. Being the sweaty mess I was, I proceeded to West Hollywood, destination: Detroit Street. Jon Ma is another dear friend that will always have a piece of my heart. Somehow, we both managed to survive the wrath of entertainment law in Beverly Hills. One thing about Jon Ma that will never change: road rage! Driving with him is and always will be an experience in itself. There is not a patient bone in his body, and that goes off the streets too. Case in point, text message example: “umm are you ever going to come out?” Seconds later … “hello?” Oh, but it’s such an endearing quirk. After a quick change and application of some much-needed make up we were off to Beverly Hills. I was extra pleased when I learned that Arik would be joining us for lunch. As soon as I walked out of the parking garage, onto Beverly Drive, it all came back. My tenure at the firm (not so good) the friendships I made along the way (great). My favorite part of the day was lunch when I worked there. Just a hop, skip & a jump away from Rodeo, not to mention all of the food options within a minutes walk. That is one thing I LOVE about the city, walking everywhere and having everything at your feet - literally. After the three of us trying to pawn the decision-making upon each other, the final option was Bossa Nova. Brazilian food. Yum. We started with bread (a big DUH when I’m eating and it is available). Also ordered some Brazilian Cheese Bread. I had the most amazing Sauteed Vegetable plate with Rice, Black Beans and Fried Plantains. Melt. In. Your. Mouth. I seriously need to find a job where I fly around the world (at the expense of some tv network) and eat food for a living. We sat around talking for a while. Arik talked about his family and how he had to bargain for his trip to Las Vegas for UFC 116 and about his daughter who is adorable. We walked Arik back to the building and contemplated whether or not I should go up and cause a stir in the office. (I was basically ‘let go’ as a result of giving a boss - that shall remain nameless - a piece of my mind. Clearly, he is not used to women speaking their mind.) Ultimately I decided against it and Jonathan and I were off to Santa Monica. During my two year residence in California and multiple trips to the beach, I never made it to the Santa Monica Pier or Third Street Promenade. So, there we went. I made several purchases, and leisurely strolled up and down the promenade before we made our way to the Pier. Wise tip: don’t wear heels if you PLAN to go to the Pier. Walking those wooden planks got a little rough towards the end. Took some pictures and for once just became a tourist. I opted out of the ferris wheel ride - I think one ride a year is more than plenty and I had already redeemed mine back in Florida. We walked back to the car and headed back to the ‘wood, Hollywood that is. Next up: Iron Man 2 at The Grove. The Grove, during a tenure and yet another job, was one of my favorite places. I think at one point I was eating Cheesecake Factory at least twice a week, Maggiano’s twice and just shopping around the other day. The Grove is actually where I met Jennifer Spaulding - my friend I had just visited in Las Vegas - who also happens to be from Lakeland, Florida, my hometown. Funny story actually. My sister said that a co-worker of hers back in Florida was moving to L.A. to attend FIDM. Jenn and I became MySpace friends and emailed back and forth a few times, but never got around to meeting. One day, while leaving none other than The Cheesecake Factory, a girl coming up the escalator (as I was going down) caught my eye. We made eye contact and had recognized each other from pictures online. Of course I stopped and chatted because out of the millions of people in L.A., and all the Cheesecake Factory’s in L.A. County - we just happen to be in the same place at the same time? Yeah. So that was the beginning. We worked Fashion Week together the very next week and there it is. Ok, back to a more recent past … Iron Man 2, at The Grove. This, my friends, is where I came upon Gabriel Aubry, Halle Berry’s baby daddy. B-E-A-utiful! Mouth-watering, body of goodness. Back to reality, yes, I saw him. The movie turned out to be okay. Definitely a bigger fan of the first one. After the movie we sped along to Jones. It was time to meet up with one of the best, most genuine people I know, M’her. Seriously have some mad love for this guy. So me, Jon, Linda, M’her and one of L’s friends gathered around a corner booth at Jones. I LOVE the ambiance of this place. First order of business: the drink. If I’m not mistaken it was called a Joan Jett? Anyway, it was beyond sweet and sugary and in this moment just what I needed. I probably ate enough bread to feed 7 families for a week until my Arugula Salad arrived. Hello goodness. Not to mention M’her allowed me to pick off the white beans on his plate. Delish. For dessert we all split their infamous Apple Pie A La Mode. Oh. My. Gosh. If I could ship in one of their pies on a weekly basis I would be one super happy girl. We sat and chatted about this and that for about 2 hours until we had to part our ways. L and I got home and had some down time to just chat and reflect. Another great day for the books, but it was time for bed … I had two more days to go. May 11, 2010. I woke up to the vibration of my phone. I was getting a long distance call I couldn’t ignore. This was not the way I had hoped to start my day, but in a way I felt better. Wondering what I am talking about? Well, you are going to continue wondering. L made breakfast. Cheddar & Jalapeno Soyrizo and Soy BBQ tortillas. So good. I’m actually craving some now actually. This was our full day together, although there was one focus group standing in our way. We ventured out to Century City, where L had to attend a focus group. In the meantime, I crossed Avenue of The Stars into the Century City Westfield Mall. I roamed around, grabbing a cheese pizza pretzel from Wetzel’s Pretzels (which btw have the best pretzels around). I sat for a while, just people watching then decided to stop in LV because there were a pair of sunglasses in the window that nearly had me drooling. I abstained from making any big purchases, though it was tough. By this time L was done with her group and we set out on our way to Home. Home is like home away from home for L & I. We frequented this Los Feliz staple during my residence in L.A. The menu is extensive and the food is amazing. FYI, they have incredible Bloody Mary’s, too. We sat in one of the back rooms by ourselves - until a group of young businessmen decided to barge in. We still managed to enjoy our meal and I overindulged on their incredibly delicious fries. Best ever. Next up: a little Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. We visited The Ennis House and The Freeman House. Both have this unique Mayan architecture that make them unique to each ‘neighborhood’. Beautiful. After touring we were on our way to Melrose. I had vintage shopping on the brain. I think I tried on about 37 items in Wasteland. Biggest upset? The Marc Jacobs I fell in love with was too big. I may have shed a tear or two. But I found some amazing things. After Melrose we wound up at Lola’s on Fairfax. Holy martinis. Lola’s is an amazing place without the happy hour, but add the happy hour and a very friendly bar tended plus me and L you’re gonna get a good time indeed. We got there right as happy hour began (5:30 pm PST). I went with the Grapefruit Fizz Martini, L with the Peach Martini. We were both happy as clams. Our second drink? Easy. I asked the bartender to get creative and I wound up with a Strawberry-Kiwi Martini, but the ingredients would surprise you. L had a second Peach, which was a good choice because the first one was delish. We must have stared at the list of happy hour martinis for a total of 30 minutes because they all sounded wonderful. We went back and forth between our second and thirds. About half way through our second, Mr. Bartender decided that since we’d been oogling the Cantaloupe Martini he made us each one on the house. So that became our third. By this time we were hungry. We split their Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Oh my heavens, was that the BEST grilled cheese & tomato soup I had ever had! Delicioso. And on to number 4, The Dirtiest Martini Ever Made. That’s honestly how I ordered it. It was delightful. It was coming upon 7:30 pm, meaning it was the end of Happy Hour and it was nearly time to depart from my lovely Linda to make my way to El Carmen. I walked outside to use the phone and somehow between using the phone and walking back inside I had traded my scarf for a young man’s fedora. Fair trade. I rocked the fedora until it was time to depart Lola’s. When Tania AKA Banilla arrived to pick me up, I was most certainly headed towards a next-day hangover so I figured I would take it easy. A few cocktails plus lack of sleep isn’t necessarily the best combination - especially considering I rarely drink alcohol. After introductions, pleasantries and a quick goodbye to L, Tania and I were off. We got to El Carmen and found Cordelia waiting for us inside. I was so happy to be back with my Blowfish girls. We grabbed a table and sat down to eat. I ordered the most amazing potato tacos with black beans and tomatoes, as well as a glass of Sangria. I feel as though my documentation thus far has consisted of mostly food. That is my life. Anyway, it was great catching up with the girls. Cordelia is back in L.A. making a difference in people’s lives and Tania is still the fantastically bubbly Banilla that I know and love. It was hard saying goodbye to Cord that night. The dinner went so fast, but I am just happy that I got to see her at all considering how busy she was, studying for MCATs. Tania chauffeured me back to Linda’s and after some conversation I suppose I struck something in her to start ‘cleaning out her closet’, because that’s exactly what she started to do at 12 am. God I love that woman. One minute we were talking life, the next minute I was waking up and it was 4 am. My exhaustion had finally caught up to me. I woke up from a terrible dream. Someone very important in my life was hurt. Not just physically, but emotionally and I was just out of reach. I was reaching, screaming to help but it was as though I had no voice. One of my biggest fears in life in physical constraint. I do not like being held back, even constrained in a way that I cannot speak. It terrifies me. My voice and my longing to help people is what makes me who I am. After about 45 minutes of pondering my ‘nightmare’, I finally got back to sleep.May 12, 2010. My last day in the West. I had been dreading this day since before I even left Florida. I had not seen my friends in 2 1/2 years and all I wanted was more time. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than grateful to have seen and done all I did, but with people in your life that matter it’s as though you can never get enough. I woke up at 8 am. I had been asking to see more of Linda’s work. (She makes beautiful jewelry and head pieces). She finally obliged. My creative nerve had been struck. While she was busy working, I got the urge to create something. I picked out two fabulous peacock feathers and got to work. The end result was a beautiful pair of earrings. I did myself well. I guess seeing me start the process hit L’s nerve too. She made me yet another beautiful pair of earrings that I have probably worn 5 times since I got back home. We left the house and headed into West Hollywood to meet up with some more friends of mine. I met Marina working at Blowfish, and her boyfriend, Justin, was my co-worker and Swingers. Small world these days. Any btw, I absolutely adore them as a couple. We met up at Niko Niko, next door to Barney’s Beanery, an old haunt of mine. We sat in the front room overlooking Santa Monica Blvd. If there’s one thing I can do for hours, it is people watch, and West Hollywood has to be one of the best places for doing so. M & J finally arrived and we all sat down have some sushi. I may not eat meat, or fish, but for some reason I still love eating at sushi restaurants. I like to get different variations of the “Veggie Roll”. Plus, I LOVE wasabi. I’m a sucker for any kind of heat. After lunch it was time to say my final goodbye to my soul mate in the form of a curly-locked beauty named Linda. Thanks to the safe cover of sunglasses, my tears were able to go un-noticed. I left with M & J to spend some time with them before I hitched my ride to LAX. I got to see their new house which I fell in love with. We sat out back and talked for the few hours I had before it was time to go. Tania was in the neighborhood and stopped in to visit between shifts. I hate being rushed. I miss those times when we’d sit down, having coffee and taking our time. Jon got to the house to take me to the airport. His infamous impatience shone through once again “Hellooo, are you coming out? I’m here!” God I love that guy. I said my goodbyes and we were off. The sun was setting. My flight didn’t leave until 10:45 and I was hungry - again. Last stop in L.A.? Cheese fries from Carl’s Jr. I mean, what else?! So there we were sitting in Carl’s Jr. bs-ing until I had to check in, making fun of the other patrons for their ridiculousness. It’s what we are best at as a team. UB40 was playing overhead on the radio and of course I start singing along. I think I was pro-longing the inevitable. I didn’t want to go back to Florida. My life in California was all coming back, and though much of it was not pleasant, I missed my life there. I missed my friends. I missed the ability to wake up and walk to a museum. Have a pick at various shows to see. Walk downstairs for my morning coffee. Go hiking. The food. All of it was suddenly weighing very heavy on me. It was what I had been waiting to feel since touching down. I suppose that with all the hectic schedules and trying to meet up with as many people as possible, those feelings had been pushed back. I loved living in California, both San Diego and Los Angeles, but it is in my past. As much as I miss it, I don’t know that I’d go back. I’ve learned not to say “never”, but I think in my next adventure I’d like to try something new, someplace new. A new challenge. And so I say my final farewell to Jon. We get in our hugs and byes and all that jazz and I am off to tackle the jungle that is LAX. I waited in line - just to check in - for 45 minutes. It seemed as though everyone was headed somewhere on Delta. My bag turned out to be 57 lbs, 13 lbs heavier than it had been from FL to LV and LV to CA. Ut oh. Luckily I have the best pouty face in the world, as she tagged it as ‘heavy’ without charging me more money. She was my angel. Thank you, Shantal. You’re my girl. I snuck past the Luggage Nazi that would have told me my carry on didn’t fit in the designated space, but again … snuck on by. I always manage to forget that I’m carrying a bottle of water in my over-sized purse because they always flag me down at security and give me the ‘shame, shame’ speech, search me, search my bag manually then run it again. It just prolongs my having to be barefoot on that nasty carpet. It’s a good thing I carry antibacterial wipes with me everywhere I go. Yes, I hate germs. And yes, I may be a little neurotic, but if you’re judging me right now, you’re probably the person that is always glad I’m around because I have pretty much anything anyone will ever need in my bag. I finally make it through security only to find out that my flight has been delayed. It was bad enough it was a red-eye flight, that put me back into Tampa at 6:19 am. LAX is always full of interesting characters. Yet another great place to people watch - as was the Vegas airport. It was finally time to board. There was quite a stir because we had a few ‘celebrities’ on our flight to Florida. Hulk Hogan made his way into his first class seat. Yeah whatever. But I managed to wind up sitting next to Tony Dungy, who traveled in coach with all us ‘regular’ people. I had met him on several previous occasions, but it’s always nice to sit next to someone as nice as him. We exchanged a few words, I of course told him I am a fan - because I am - and that I think his son is an amazing athlete and will wind up at a great college. Then he read for a bit and tried to nap. I never sleep on planes. For me it is impossible. There is no comfortable way for me to adjust myself to close my eyes. So I read for the entire 4 hour, 30 minute plane ride.May 13, 2010. My dad was waiting for me at the terminal. He’s so good like that. Always a happy face and ready for a hug. I remember when I came back from California. My sister and him had made a “Welcome Home” poster that, of course, made me cry. He patiently waited with me for my luggage. Then, back to Lakeland we went. Two hours later I was sitting at my desk at work. I was a complete zombie. I spent most of the day in complete delirium. I already missed EVERYTHING … but I was happy to see my family. I am so very blessed to be able to do the things I do. Things I do are rarely planned and if any plans are involved it is done last minute. I like leaving myself open to whatever may come. You never know when I will just up and leave for some random destination. My trip has really put my thoughts to work, and that is all I will say …