Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Looked Dead, Didn't I? Well I Wasn't... But It Wasn't For Lack of Trying, I Can Tell You That"

August 31, 2010

So there I was, sitting cross-legged on Jeremy's bed, staring down speechlessly as I tried to comprehend the fact that I was staring at $20,000 in cash. The first thing I remembered thinking was “Really? That’s what $20,000 looks like?” Then again, I’ve never actually been that close to such a large amount of money so I had no idea what to expect. I guess maybe the movies always make it look so much more massive.

When Jeremy had been into my work earlier that evening and told me that he had a proposal for me, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a ring. However, at this point, I think a marriage proposal after only two days of being together would have surprised me less.

Jeremy is a professional gambler. I mean this in the most literal sense. It’s what he does for a living. The first night we were out, he asked me if it bothered me that he sometimes carries more money on him than I make in four months; stating that he always wanted to be ready should a financial opportunity come his way. It doesn’t bother me in the least, but it is something that I am not used to at all. There are times in my life where I have felt prosperous, but they have been short lived and very quickly I fell back into scarcity.

I don’t come from a wealthy family. I never minded this. In fact, I always felt a lot wealthier than even my rich friends as I had a mom and dad that were still together and gave selflessly to me and my brother throughout our entire childhood. Everything we ever wanted was eventually gotten for us, even if it took longer than we’d like. Only now do I realize the sacrifices my parents had to make in order to keep us happy. However, I know that my parents have spent their entire life together trying to make ends meet and not always being successful at it. My dad has made multiple efforts to bring in additional income and while there have been points in their life where they were definitely more stable financially than other times, eventually they end up back in a position where they don’t have as much as they’d like to live the life they want.

I have been told and led to believe that it is my own personal feelings about money that cause me to manifest so little of it in my life. I’ve had close to twenty jobs in the last fifteen years ranging from minimum wage to healthy salaries with bonuses yet I have never felt any different about my state of wealth. I’ve always had enough, and just enough, to get by. Anyone who has ever lived paycheck to paycheck for any length of time will completely understand how this feels. There have been times in my life where I have spent my money frivolously and without intention and other times when I literally count every dollar I spend, making sure it is going into the right hands for right reasons. However, in both circumstances, how I feel about what I have never seems to change. At the end of the day, or week, or month, my finances balance out – leaving me with close to nothing in the bank, but no hungry mouths either.

One of the best things that ever happened to me, financially speaking, was filing bankruptcy last year on my $30,000 in credit card debt. Obviously, it was nice to have that burden off my shoulders and ended the countless telephone calls from debt collectors that rang at all hours of the day. However, that wasn’t the best part about it. Filing bankruptcy made me feel unworthy of ever having anything ever materialistically substantial in my life. Why do I deserve a big television now when I couldn’t hold myself accountable for all of my other useless purchases over the years? Nothing felt worse than putting on my cheap suit with my cheaper shoes, driving down to the courthouse and sitting in front of a judge with a room full of people behind me and having to declare publicly that I was choosing not to repay the money I had borrowed. I felt like a failure as the judge looked through my intimate information (bank statements, pay stubs, identification, oh my) and then with a sigh of frustration – probably because the entire room behind me was waiting to declare the same shortcoming I was – he told me I was free to go start over.

When I left the courthouse, I cried. Only some of the tears were shed because of the leftover feeling of pity and self-loathing; most were out of relief. I truly felt like I had a clean slate after spending almost ten years feeding this debt monster that started out as just a baby and then grew into this destructive and hostile force that eventually turned on me and started to threaten my daily lifestyle. I made a conscious vow in that moment to never let myself get out of control again and to live within my means which meant cash only for everything and if I couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t have it.

I remember in California, Eric had received a settlement from a worker’s compensation claim he had filed years before we met. He gave me $3,000 of it to pay off my credit card debt. He said he wanted us to have a fresh start as we began our life together. However, based on results, I didn’t exactly learn the kind of lesson that would have been useful later on in life. I just happily paid off my credit card and promptly took out another line of credit in order to pay off my student loans; leaving me with a nice looking payoff as far as my college was concerned and a credit card bill that was more than four times what Eric had just given me to get us “off to the right start”. Sometimes, I don’t learn as fast as I think I do.

All of these memories came rushing back to me as I continued starting dumbly down at the 200 one hundred dollar bills that Jeremy had tossed on to the bed in front of me. Here I was, at a point in my life where I felt like I had finally gotten my finances under control. My job wasn’t high paying by any means, but I was able to have my own apartment with my own things, eat good food and enjoy an active lifestyle. However, life always has a way of throwing a wrench into things right when it seems like they are under control.

Jeremy explained to me that he was prepared to make a bet with this money. He was betting that if I quit my job serving and focused all of my attention on writing that within six months, I would find success as a writer whether it be through a book advance or perhaps contributing to an existing publication or something of that nature. He wasn’t really attached to what it looked like. He told me that he had such a strong faith in my talent that he was willing to put $20,000 on it. He said he had thought about the idea earlier that afternoon and came into my work that night for a couple of reasons; first, he wanted to see me (totally adorable) and second, he wanted to double check my work ethic as he knew that if I were to accept his proposal, the only way he could be sure that he was making a smart bet was to see me working hard and taking my job seriously. He knew that if I was willing to work with such integrity at a simple serving and bartending job, certainly I would do what it takes to make myself a success.

I continued to sit and stare at the money in silence. It’s not often I’m left speechless, but this was not an everyday ordinary occurrence. And of course, just as quickly as he had left the other night, the cynic had happily come running back into my head, laughing joyously and calling me a fool for even considering this ridiculous notion.

“You don’t know how to be a writer! You have absolutely no experience, very few contacts within the industry and you don’t know the first thing about how to market yourself. Look at what a brilliant artist you are and you couldn’t make anything more than a few thousand dollars a year doing that. How in the world do you expect to maintain your lifestyle after the $20,000 runs out? Do you know how long it takes to get a book deal? Or to get anything published for that matter? You’ve finally gotten things under control and your relationship with money is cordial. There is no reason to get out of your comfort zone now and risk losing it all again. Besides… you don’t even know this guy!!”

The cynic is not worried about hurting my feelings.

I kept looking at Jeremy though, expecting to see a waiver of doubt behind his eyes, waiting for him to crack open a back door. Instead, he stared right back, already confident in his choice, regardless of my next move. And he continued reinforcing the fact that he had more faith in me and my writing than anything he has ever believed in before. He also wanted me to realize that his proposal was completely separate from our relationship, although naturally, it’s going to be a little difficult to segregate the two of them. I know that more than anything, he wanted me to realize how absolutely serious he was about this.

“What’s in it for you?” I asked.

He explained to me that he had spent years struggling with the idea of what living big looked like. He always knew he wanted to have the kind of life where he could live every day with purpose and without permission. He knew that there was nothing more freeing than being able to write his own paycheck. Recently, he had finally come to a point in his life where he wasn’t going to have to worry about money for a very long time and the idea of being able to live the kind of life HE wanted to was the biggest gift he had ever given himself. He told me that nothing would make him happier than seeing me reach this same level of freedom, especially given that I had made the biggest strides in my life after putting restrictions and guidelines into place. Now was the time to be rewarded for my efforts in living my life in excellence.

He also told me that this was truly a gamble. While he believes that there is only a 5-10% chance that he’ll lose this bet, he’s ready to lose if it means that I’ll give it all I have and if it’s not the right time for me or if circumstances simply don’t allow that kind of success in the given time frame, at least it’s something that I can say I tried and put all of my effort into. And then we can reevaluate it at that time. The one thing that I know for sure is that while Jeremy says that the money and the proposal is separate from our relationship, the fact that I have a partner in this is what will make it truly interesting. All I have ever wanted was someone that had my back and was willing to do whatever it takes to build a life of substance with me. Time and time again, when going through yet another break up, all I needed was for someone to fight for me and ask me to stay. Instead, I was always allowed to leave. Staring into Jeremy's eyes, I knew that he wasn’t going to let me go without a fight, and in that moment, money or no money, I surrendered to the fact that this man was the man for me.

My favorite movie in the world is Kill Bill. Beatrix Kiddo is Uma Thurman’s character and when asked who my hero is, it’s usually a coin toss between her and my dad. What I love so much about her character is that after deciding that she wanted to leave her life of violence and chaos for one of love and compassion so she could raise her daughter, Bill shot her. However, she survived the wound and after spending four years in a coma, she awoke with only one thought on her mind: Kill Bill. That was her vision and it was stronger than anything she had ever felt before. Everything she did from that point on was to reach her goal and nothing could stop her. Battle after battle after battle brought her closer to realizing this vision and finally, when all of her other wars had been won, she drove to Bill’s house and found that her daughter was still alive, and the most beautiful creature in the entire world.

Spoiler alert: In the end, she killed Bill. And even though her vision had finally come to fruition, she ended up gaining the most important thing of all and that was the gift of having her beautiful daughter back.

My vision for the longest time has been to meet that partner – that special person that was willing to climb to the top of the highest mountain and declare his love for me to the world. I wanted a person who would not only be my comrade and counterpart for everything life had to offer, but who would also help guide and support me in times when I doubted myself and my capabilities. I searched and searched and gave many men an opportunity to fill this role. In the end though, I always felt like I was settling. Many friends have asked me in the past if I thought I would ever find what I was looking for. I always answered that I didn’t know, but I wasn’t willing to take anything less in the meantime.

In less than a week, I have felt for the first time in my life, that I have finally met my match. All I wanted was someone to love me and support me but what I got was so much more than I could ever have expected. And boy does he put the cynic to the test!

So, I am going to take the money and put in my notice at work with September 30th being my last day. I’m scared and excited and have no idea what I’m thinking. All I know is that opportunities like this come along once in a lifetime and if I don’t jump on it now, I may end up living smaller than I know I’m capable of for a long time.

We can’t be afraid to dream big, my darlings. Because small will always be there.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Don't Give Up... Don't Ever Give Up

August 26 and 27, 2010

She glanced up at the clock – 11:22pm… only an hour and a half left. Of course, the last few tables of the night sat in her station but everyone was well-behaved and low maintenance and while she could add up her total expected tips from both tables on one hand, she still smiled, knowing that in just a little while, it will be 1:00am and time for them to meet.

The emails had been unbelievable. The thought, complexity and openness that had already been shared between the two of them make her just a little nervous but mostly excited. At least in the corresponding aspect, she had never encountered this man’s equal. She liked his initial response to her profile, sharing about himself while making it obvious that he had thoroughly read through her requests and desires. His first connection was not one of desperation nor did it have a “pick me” feeling about it. It was well thought out, written with intelligence and already engaging. She had received responses to her profile that were similar, but had more of a salesman approach and unfortunately, the pictures attached to those other responses clearly reflected the owner’s need to have a good sense of humor and sparkling personality.


This one, however… this one was attractive with a smile that seemed to jump forward off the computer screen.


Of course she was skeptical. After all, she had been on more first dates than she cared to count and while the idea of going on yet another awkward adventure of superficial questions and fabricated answers made her stomach turn, there was something delightfully different about her expectations for this particular meeting.


For the last two days, they had been corresponding regularly. It started with the online dating site and then they went to text. From there, she had given him the link to her blog as she had reached a point where she wanted him to know everything about her from the start. That way, if he didn’t like what he read, it could save her another days worth of make-up. So, he read her blog and then asked for her personal email to respond.


She couldn’t believe what she was reading. Not only was he impressed with her writing style in general, he was absorbing every detail that she wrote about. And then, much to her pleasure, he began sharing about himself and his own experiences. His feelings and emotions flowed on to his emails and she felt as if they had already been sharing and speaking for years. Her heart started to beat rapidly as he talked about his own fears, failures and successes. She felt pain as he reflected on the aspects of his family that he struggled with and a huge wave of intrigue washed over her as she reached the end of each email he sent, desperately yearning for more information on this man.


She kept going back to his profile, searching for something that didn’t meet her criteria. She wanted to have something in her back pocket just in case everything that was happening was, in fact, too good to be true. But his age, looks, education, belief system and communication abilities were exactly what she had requested. The cynic that lived in her head kept reminding her that it probably still was too good to be true and to stay aware of any eccentricities that might pop up but the hopeless romantic that also lived there allowed enough submission to carry on with this late night meeting as she didn’t want to go another day without looking into his eyes while he spoke, just to make sure he was real.


She reached down to sweep under her last few tables and looked once again at the blaring clock in the lounge. 12:16am. She wasn’t doing nearly the kind of clean-up job that she usually did, but figured that the work-ethic gods would forgive her this one time. She rapidly wiped down the tops of the booths and went to the office to turn in her money.


It wasn’t until she grabbed her bag of clothes and went into the restroom to change that she really started to feel her nerves creep up. “This is ridiculous” she told herself. After all, if anyone could be considered a Professional Dater, it was her. It was just that typically, when it came to first dates, she always felt like she was in control. She could call the shots, take the conversation in any direction she wanted to and exit as soon as she felt necessary. There really wasn’t much she needed to be worried about.


But there it was again… that voice. That voice that kept whispering into her ear that this was different and not to have the same expectations. This man knew everything there was to know about her. He knew about her sexual past, her feelings about her family, the rules she had made up for herself in an effort to correct and enhance her life path, her history with drugs and alcohol and, most importantly, the fact that she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She knew quite a bit about him as well and the fact that he played poker as a profession and was making a living doing so, she was well aware that she wasn’t going to be able to hide any emotions that she might be feeling. This was the kind of date that was going to go one of two ways only; it would either be the first and last of their interactions or the start of something more important than anything she had been part of to this point. It just didn’t seem like a gray area was going to be possible.


She stood in the bathroom and finished freshening up, glanced at her appearance in the mirror, felt it was a good representation of how she felt about herself, took a deep breath to settle the butterflies and then sent a text message to him that she was on her way. It was 12:46am which gave her time to get to their meeting spot, sit down, gather herself and attempt to relax a bit before he showed up.


He responded back quickly that he was already there, waiting for her and that he was fighting butterflies as well. Her heart jumped into her throat. Early, even… she should’ve known better.


She walked out of the restaurant and got into her car. She started the engine and pulled slowly out of the parking lot. She drove about 100 feet, turned and parked again. Not because she was nervous or scared… but because the restaurant they were meeting in was only two doors down from her own. She laughed to herself, checked her face one more time in the mirror, took another deep breath and got out of the car.


When she walked into the bar area, she recognized him immediately. She couldn’t hide her smile as he was exactly how she pictured. He smiled back and stood up as she approached. Without saying anything, he scooped her up into an embrace that is usually reserved for someone that you’ve known for years. She wrapped her arms around him and in a moment that was only brief but seemed like an eternity at the same time, they held each other close and with purpose. Any tension or nerves that she had melted away as she surrendered into his arms, knowing without having to go any further that she had found something amazing and authentic. Her internal cynic quietly tipped his hat and went out the side door and her hopeless romantic raised her arms and started twirling about in a circle, looking just like a girl in a painting that her mother had given her a long time ago. She danced, she smiled and she sang louder than ever before…

And for the first time in my life I knew with no doubt that I had created this, I deserved this and oh, how my story was going to change.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Um, Yes, Can We Get Split Checks, Please? And Throw Another Brick in the Wall While You're at it."

August 22, 2010

4:53am via text

Him: Hey can I ask you a kinda serious question?

Me: Yeah, go for it

Him: Ok well I just want to say that I do like being around you and I totally understand where you are coming from. My only thing is, well, like I told you, I am very dead inside. To the point I’m not sure I’m capable of emotionally connecting with people at all anymore. I mean sometimes I think I can be better but the more I’m around people I feel like I’m just getting worse. So I guess my question is if that bothers you?

Me: Well… to answer you honestly, I didn’t fill out a profile on an online dating site to meet new friends and while I have my doubts about being able to meet someone to fall in love with and share my life with, I’m not ready to give up hope. I do enjoy your company however if you don’t think you could ever give yourself to someone on a deep, emotional level, then perhaps friends is the only thing we can be. The only problem with that is that I have plenty of friends… Of course I am okay with who you are, but it doesn’t seem like you are up to being the kind of partner I am looking for.

Him: I just don’t know anymore to be honest. I’m just flying blind.

Me: Yeah, I can understand that. It’s just that the part of me that isn’t completely cynical and bitter is still a bit of a hopeless romantic.

Him: I know. I mean, I have dreams about my ex-wife that bother me for days. I don’t think there’s anyone I hate or love in this world more than her. It’s pretty fucked up. And you deserve better on that front that what I could possibly offer.

Me: I appreciate you telling me this now. And you wouldn’t know it, but nothing frustrates me more than hearing I deserve better. So… it was nice meeting you and good luck in the future.

Him: Ok


Sigh.

I should’ve known when he asked if we could go dutch last night at dinner.

Between this interaction and the one from another guy who had previously told me to be alone and then proceeded to inform me how difficult it was going to be to get over the girl that he wants to be with the most, you could say that I’m just a few degrees shy of an inferno this week.

I was visiting with a good friend of mine the other day and met his girlfriend for the first time – they had met on the same online dating site that I had used to meet Mr. Text. Apparently, my profile had popped up on his page as a possible suggestion and he told me that I needed to put up better pictures of myself as they weren’t a good physical representation of me. I didn’t tell him that my feelings were hurt (I thought those photos were pretty nice)… but I did tell him that I didn’t want to attract creepy people by putting up photos that were too… sexy or flashy. Then he said something that I found to be pretty interesting… he told me that I am always going to attract strange people because of my personality. Not that I’m strange, necessarily, but – to use his words – that I’m a down chick. I’m super cool with everything and non judgmental about people. He said that at the very least, if I posted more attractive pictures of myself, I could attract a better looking crowd and increase my chances of meeting someone that makes me breathe hard when they walk into the room and has more attractive qualities overall then the men that have approached me so far.

I suppose this is an interesting theory. It’s had me looking into my self-image quite a bit.

When I was 23 years old, I was living in a beautiful 1920’s style apartment on the ocean side of Ocean Boulevard with my boyfriend of four years. I had a job that I enjoyed, a commute that was even better, and a steady diet of beer and Mexican food that was typically enjoyed while sitting in front of the television watching reality shows and dramas for two to three hours each night. I also weighed just shy of 165 pounds. Looking back, this was most definitely the “fat and happy” time of my life.

I hadn’t weighed myself in a long time however during a routine gynecology visit in Aliso Viejo, the nurse went through the normal pre-visit procedures, checking my blood pressure, weight, etc. and when I saw the numbers land on 163, I actually had to swallow the lump that jumped up in my throat. I had no idea I had let myself put on so much weight. When my doctor finished up my exam, she asked me if anything had changed over the last year and I said “Well, I see I’ve put on some weight” and her response as my memory has it saved was “Yeah, what’s up with that??”

Sigh.

So, I decided to go on a diet. Atkins was still insanely popular at that time so I started there. I cut out sugar and carbs, focused heavily on fruit and protein and within just a few months, I had dropped closed to fifteen pounds. However, for anyone who has every actually tried this diet, they’ll know that it is a fairly unrealistic way of eating to maintain for long periods of time. The one thing that I have always been in touch with is my body and what it tells me – I knew that if I wanted to continue dropping weight and stay in shape, I would need to adjust a few things.

So, I joined the gym. Up until then, I had always been a person that was a huge advocate for NOT going to the gym. I always had some excuse like “I really need that extra hour of sleep in the morning” or “I don’t like working on machines that other people have been all sweaty on” or whatever my lame excuse was for that particular day. However, I was determined to get in shape so I started getting my fat ass up every morning at 4:00am, packing all the things I needed for work and getting an hour long work out in before getting the rest of my day rolling. During the first few months, this was made a lot easier by having Nancy as a gym buddy. Even though we didn’t actually work out together, we were at the gym at the same time. Some mornings, when I knew how hard it was going to be to roll over and out of bed, I would think of Nancy walking in, looking around for me and it would be just the encouragement I needed to get up.

Over the next few months, all of my suits for work were starting to get baggy and my friends had begun to make comments about my weight loss. I think I was down to about 135 at that point.

I was really happy at that weight. Before I started eating differently and working out, I was at Old Navy squeezing into a size 10 and knowing that I would be more comfortable if I went up to a 12. Now, I was happy in an 8 and sometimes, could even get into a 6 if I really tried.

My diet wasn’t fantastic, but it was much better and going to the gym had become habitual after just six months of attending on a regular basis. It was during this time that I decided the next step to getting healthy was to quit smoking. So, I did two things to set myself up to win – I signed up and started training for the Long Beach half marathon and I bought about a half ounce of weed. Hey, in my mind, it sure beat wearing the patch.
During all of this, my life was taking a ride on its own rollercoaster. Eric and I had broken up and I was out almost every night drinking and partying. I had moved in and back of out Nancy’s place and was taking my swan dive into debt on a daily basis while in my own studio apartment in Long Beach. However, no matter what was going on, I was getting up at 4:00am and hitting the gym.

Ah… to be 24 years old again…
I ran the half marathon in Long Beach two days before I moved to Las Vegas. I finished in just under two and a half hours. I never needed to walk and had been off of cigarettes for quite a few months at that point. My weight was still right around 130-135 and I had turned a bit of my fat into muscle mass. I was pretty happy with this.
When I moved to Las Vegas, I didn’t know anybody and was living with my parents. The job I came here with didn’t start for another two weeks; therefore, a lot of my time here was spent in the gym. I wasn’t smoking cigarettes or pot and my mom always had some form of healthy food in the house. I remember needing to buy all my new work clothes in a size 6 and was pleased.

The years in Las Vegas passed and my party lifestyle had come back in full force. This time, it was MUCH easier to maintain given the city’s 24 hour permission to pour. I found myself putting on weight again and decided to try a new kind of diet. A friend of mine at the time gave me a book called Skinny Bitch which was really eye-opening to the kind of garbage that I was putting into my body every day without realizing it. The book was very heavy on the “Go Vegan” message as well and after reading the chapter about the normal practices of a U.S. slaughterhouse, I decided that it might be a good lifestyle choice for me. I had been vegetarian off and on since I was eleven years old so it wasn’t a gigantic stretch.

It was a little difficult at first as I had to learn how to cook – something that I have never been very good at or interested in getting better at. Luckily, I had always attracted men who liked to cook so it was never something I “needed” to learn either. Here I was though, preparing all kinds of crazy pasta, rice and tofu dishes, learning how to properly steam vegetables and add just the right kind of flavoring so that the bland dishes were at least somewhat edible. I bought myself a Vegan cookbook and learned how to make some pretty kickass chili. I could feel the weight melting off and finally, after years of daily scale stepping, the numbers fell into the mid 120’s.

Unfortunately, my overall lifestyle was getting a little mucky again. I was back working in the restaurant industry and living in a house with three other servers, one of which was my boyfriend, and our downstairs living room was dedicated to the seven foot long beer pong table. I wasn’t eating as often as I should have been; therefore I no longer had the energy to go to the gym and hadn’t been for almost six months. I stopped cooking daily and started living off of chips and the occasional piece of fruit or lettuce. The majority of my caloric intake was coming from the very Vegan-friendly Newcastle or Guinness and my sugar was being delivered via countless shots of Jagermeister.

I remember getting up one morning and having yet another rough go in the bathroom as I hadn’t had any solid bowel movement in weeks, brushing my teeth and spitting out a mouthful of blood from my endlessly bleeding gums and then stepping on the scale to see it jump down to 116 pounds. My once beautifully curvy thighs were now little toothpicks and my plump peach of an ass was now shrunken down to just the shriveled pit. I realized I hadn’t eaten a real, solid meal in close to a month.

I stood naked, looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a physical specimen of the mess that was my life at the time, I started to cry. For the third time in my four years in Las Vegas, I moved back home with Mom and Dad. 
 
I don't have many pictures of this time in my life.

Since then, I am happy to say that I’ve gotten my health back on track. I gave up the Vegan lifestyle (that first hamburger was one of the best meals of my life) since I was clearly not responsible enough to handle it and started going back to the gym.

In the last year, I’ve made the most significant progress. Obviously, I’ve cut out the heavy drinking and partying, finished with cigarettes for good and now, with no pot in my life, I have no excuse to “get the munchies.” In the last few months in particular, with dating at an all time low and no plans for sex in the immediate future, I’ve had a lot of free time to spend at the gym and health food store, buying food that makes me feel good. I’m also very, very lucky to have my friend Travis staying with me in my new apartment who is an advocate for good health and has been an amazing influence on me as far as incorporating vitamins and specific nutrients into my diet.

As of today, I am a healthy 120 pounds, have muscle definition in my arms, back, shoulders and legs, have discovered that my stomach IS capable of being flat and that my waist has some curve that I never thought was possible. In fact, after I’m done writing, I am going shopping for new casual clothes as my favorite size 5 Lucky Jeans are now falling off my hips.

It’s taken me almost seven years to lose the 45 pounds that devastated me that day in the doctor’s office in Aliso Viejo. However, I do believe there is something to be said for the scenic route of my weight loss as I can reflect on all of the things that didn’t work for me and avoid them in the future. The most important thing for me, though, was that I really started seeing results when I stopped worrying so much about how I looked and focused more on how I felt.

Oh, who am I kidding – I want to be a super babe. I want guys and girls to look at me and say “Damn, that’s a sexy bitch!” and know that they are right. In fact, I have found myself to be angry at obese people and have even proclaimed vehemently my prejudice against those fatties who come into my work, can barely squeeze their belly into a booth and then rudely bark out orders for a double stacked burger with fried onion strings, bacon and three sides of ranch for their extra seasoned fries.

 
 
However, my monster never stays dormant for too long…
 
Today, as I was reflecting on sitting in that apartment seven years ago, diving into my cheese covered enchilada with a Beck’s Dark next to me, watching the latest episode of 24 and enjoying a bong hit and cigarette on commercial breaks, I realized that I sure felt happier at that time than when I had to have that conversation via text at 5:00 this morning.

So, while I don’t anticipate slipping back into my unhealthy habits and do know in my heart that daily exercise and eating right is the smart choice, I decided that yes, I’ll be right back with your extra side of liquid butter for your already buttered corn on the cob and this time, I’ll do it with a smile.

Because as it turns out there is something to be said for being fat and happy… skinny and sad just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Hope I Have Enough Change To Get The King-Size

August 17, 2010
 
One of the best things that ever happened to me was meeting my friend, Nancy. She is the kind of friend that makes me believe in something bigger than myself as I often feel someone handpicked her and placed her in my life at just the right time and for all the right reasons. I could write an entire blog on how inspiring she has been for me – and I just might – however for this particular occasion, I’m simply going to pull a piece of her life out to share.

Nancy and I used to work together in Long Beach, California and for a short time, when Eric and I broke up, I stayed with her until I found my own place. Some of the greatest news I’ve ever received was late last year when she told me that she and her husband were moving to Las Vegas. It is rare for me to love my friends’ significant others in the same way that I love my friends… for some reason, I end up just playing nice but never think they are good enough… but Greg is the best and I am delighted about the fact that I can truly call him a friend of mine as well.

Here is a brief synopsis of their story.

Years ago, while working together and after a run of failed relationships, Nancy told me she was going to go ahead and give the online dating route a try. I was surprised by this as online dating was somewhat new and I think it still had the association at that time of being the kind of thing that only those who had trouble meeting people would do – or also for those that had abnormal growths sprouting from different parts of their body. But Nancy was a great catch – beautiful, intelligent, successful, strong, confident and very capable of meeting and associating with people in the “normal” dating world. However, she said that she felt she had exhausted her current resources and figured that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to see what might become of this fairly new way of potentially meeting the man of her dreams. She decided to commit herself to the most basic package of three months and give it her all. If she didn’t see any significant results after that, she would move on to something else.

She spent hours preparing her online profile, being very deliberate about answering the questions that the site provided so that there would be no confusion about who she was or what she was looking for. She was extremely thorough and selected photos that best expressed who she was and how she felt about herself. I believe she left the typical narcissistic “phone-in-the-mirror-wearing-a-bathing-suit-with-a-ridiculous-amount-of-make-up” picture for other users to post. After a few days of completing what ended up being an extremely accurate depiction of her personality and expectations, she posted her profile and went to work.

We had a lot of fun over the next few months looking at her different options and what they had to offer. We started referring to people as statistics instead of just names (i.e. “so have you heard back from Jason, 35, Carpenter from Laguna Beach or are you still communicating with Kevin, 33, Consultant from Tustin?”). As promised, she put forth all the effort she said she was going to and I remember one weekend where she literally had five dates lined up between coffees, lunches and dinners. We would get together after her dates and discuss each guy and all of his qualities, both positive and negative. I would always insist on knowing what kind of car they drove as I could almost always categorize the kind of life the two of them would have based on said automobile. We had a lot of laughs but she was also taking her dates very seriously and I admired her, once again, for her unbending tenacity.

After three months, however, Nancy was exhausted. She had met lots and lots of “nice” men, but no one had blew her mind and she couldn’t see herself being serious with any of the men she had gone out with (thank goodness Mr. Tomato Red Volkswagen Beetle didn’t make the cut). Her time trial was coming to an end and although I think she was probably disappointed that she wasn’t able to make anything happen, she was happy for the experience.

On her last weekend of her subscription, she received a communication request from someone new. Greg, 35, Architect from Santa Monica (or something close to that) had asked her if she would be interested in getting together. Nancy looked at his profile and while she was intrigued, she had already resigned herself to the fact that the online dating thing was not going to be her path to Mr. Right and politely declined saying that her three months was up and that she wasn’t going to be online anymore after that weekend. However, Greg persisted, saying that he would really like at least one opportunity to meet her before she decides to give it up for good. She teetered back and forth a little bit but in the end she decided what the hell, might as well give it one last attempt.

Just a couple years later, I attended Greg and Nancy’s beautiful wedding.


As you probably recognize, online dating has gotten to be very popular this day and age. It’s very consistent with the way we are all connecting through the Internet on a daily basis anyway. I rarely talk on the phone anymore now that text messaging has become available and with MySpace, Facebook and Twitter continuing to be among the top visited websites on a daily basis, it’s obvious that this is the preferred method of communication in 2010. Given these new developments, I think it’s safe to say that online dating is not just for the mongoloids anymore.

Nancy and Greg are not the only success story I know and almost everyone these days has a friend or co-worker or family member that has found love on a dating site. While I think there are still some people out there who have a negative association when they think of online dating, it’s positive reputation is getting stronger every day with more and more people finding out that their chances of meeting someone online are just as good, if not better, than trying their luck at yet another Happy Hour.

I’ve always found dating to be like using a vending machine. What are you hungry for? Are you feeling like peanuts and caramel or are you convinced that dark chocolate with almonds is the one for you. Perhaps you like the excitement of salt and vinegar or want to give spicy salsa ranch a shot. You put your money in, make your selection and if you don’t like it, you can try again. I guess what I like about the online aspect is that it seems to expedite this process. Online dating is like using the brand new, state of the art vending machines that assures you that the snack you select is not going to get stuck in the coils, causing you to put more money in and pay double for something that you end up not liking or you get two of the same thing back to back when you didn’t really need or like the first one to begin with.

The other thing I like so much about the idea of online dating is that, when done honestly and with good intentions, it is a very positive way of applying the Law of Attraction. You see, I subscribe to the idea that Like Attracts Like, therefore, if one can complete an online profile in the same way Nancy did, with all of their true expectations laid out as well as an honest representation of their own character and personality, it seems very likely that a person will attract exactly what they are putting forth.

This was a really long way of saying that I went on a date last night with a guy I met online. And while I haven’t yet committed myself to online dating quite the way Nancy did, I am interested to see what I might be able to attract with this now very common method of personal interaction. I’m not new to online dating – I tried it a few years ago when I first moved to Las Vegas. However, I didn’t have much luck as I was attracting men just like me (go figure) and I was still very lost and very righteous at the time. Try having a pleasant dinner with a righteous yet confused man… not exactly a fast track to the wedding chapel.

However, I really like the person I’ve started to settle into and even though I’m not yet ready to go on five dates in a weekend to find my other half, I am certainly ready to start attracting different options into my life. And as it turns out, the person I met and went out with last night just quit smoking, rarely drinks, doesn’t gamble, has no interest in drugs and is not a playboy. Coincidence? Those who know me best know that I think not. And while I’m not ready to call it anything else than just talking at this point, the first bite of this particular snack was a pretty good one and different than the candy bars I’ve been eating.

Besides, I figure at the very least, anything I can do to be just a little more like Nancy is perfectly fine by me.
 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When I Die, I'd Like To Come Back As Treadmill #72 at LVAC, Please. Thank You.

August 11, 2010

Oh, hello. Were you still there? Oh!! You want to know what happened with Aaron! Yeah… you know, I tell you – it was interesting to rewrite my experiences of that trip from the perspective of how I was feeling at the time. It was hard at times not to be cynical in parts as, obviously, a LOT has happened in the last year and knowing the outcome the entire time did not always make it easy to be as expressive about how excited I was to come home. Yes, I admit, I had this romantic comedy ending in my head where I would come rushing into Aaron’s arms, thrilled that Cory had given me the go ahead and we could start a relationship with one another. I’m sure I even had a Coldplay or Rob Thomas song running in my head as the scene played out.

So what really happened? I wish it took longer than a few sentences to explain. In short, I sent him a text message when I landed and got a very quick response about maybe getting together the next day. Whether by coincidence or not, Cory texted him also because I guess they had a mutual friend in town and he wanted to know if Aaron wanted to get together. Well, Aaron panicked, thinking it was about me and the next day, all dressed up and at a friend’s birthday, I sat waiting for his text so we could get together. I waited. And waited. And waited. I finally went home and sent him a message about being surprised that I was blown off and he simply responded that he didn’t think pursuing a relationship with me was a good idea.

And that was that. On the scale of craziness, I’m on the low end for the average woman. However, after this happened, I was finally able to understand why the tires of men across the city are “mysteriously” slashed in the middle of the night.

I guess the most frustrating part for me is all the time I spent thinking about him during my trip. Now I understand why Cory laughed when I told him about being interested in Aaron. Cory and I may not be compatible, but he certainly understands how my mind works and probably knew that Aaron would do something similar to what he did.

Cory and I tried dating again over the last year. Twice, actually. By the third time we broke up, I had pretty much had it and chose to distance myself from Cory and his family so that I could get connected to my own identity again. This was actually a big driving force behind my decision to put the rules in place. After almost two years of trying to push my square peg into his round hole, I gave up and realized that this behavior is something I’m all too familiar with.

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks reflecting on my relationships. I find myself in moments of bitterness and resentment for being what I consider to be a pretty good catch as far as women go and yet still being single at thirty without a whole lot to show from my past relationships except life lessons. Which, don’t get me wrong, are important… but I know some women that have a house or a new car from their past mistakes! How did I end up with just a lesson??

All joking aside, my reflections have led me to realize that I’m afraid to go after what I really want. I suppose it’s my fear of being rejected. I notice that in almost every relationship I’ve been in or even every date I’ve gone on, I’ve chosen to date that person simply because they’ve shown an interest in me. Only a couple of times have I actually been excited at the possibility of “getting” to date this person. Instead, I’m just relieved that anyone at all is paying attention to me. Like a drug, I find myself addicted to the attention that I am receiving. Am I actually into this guy or do I just like the 15-20 text messages I’m getting from him each day? Do I allow him to continue flirting because I think there is a possibility that we could be a good couple or is it is simply because if I tell him to stop… he will?

There is this guy at the gym that spends a lot of time on the treadmill. I call him my “gym crush”. One day, I was working out in the stretching area of the gym and realized he was just behind me, working his abs. Once I confirmed there was no wedding ring, I stole quick glances at him, checking out his profile, his hat (pretty much a no-go if he’s wearing a Raiders or Yankees hat… just sayin’), and also his tattoo on his inner right arm. Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to see what it was, but it didn’t look like any Chinese writing or flashy pin up girl so he was in the clear there. After a while, he finished his work out, put his mat back and walked away. A few minutes later, I did the same, anxious for the next time I would get to see him at the gym.

When I got home, I told my roommate that I got close to my gym crush and he asked me if I talked to him. I looked at him like he was insane. Of course not! Why would I do that? If I said something to him, he would no longer be my gym crush. He would be this hot guy that ignores the weird girl in the gym who said something stupid to him. That, of course is when it hit me.

Ah, so… is that really what I think of myself? If that’s true, then it’s no wonder I’ve gotten to where I am without a significant other who meets or exceeds every expectation I’ve had in a partner. This has nothing to do with the fact that the right man hasn’t come along. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that I don’t think enough of myself to go after what could possibly be the best relationship in the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I could approach Mr. Gym and in our conversation, find out that he thinks bowling is for sissies, his favorite movie is XXX or, even worse, he could be a Laker fan! In that case, I could politely bow out… but I can’t even get to that point if I’m not willing to make a move of some sort.

On a bigger scale, I realize that I have this approach to many things in life. It’s probably the same reason why I’ve had 20 jobs and have chosen contentment as a bartender in a casual dining restaurant. I do like my job, but I know I’m capable of so much more. I’m just afraid to go after something and not have it work out. I like to act like I have a lot of balls, but the truth is, all of the things I would really like to do seem completely out of my reach. Plus, I seem to change my mind so often that it seems a waste of time to put forth a bunch of effort into something and then wake up one day and not want to do it anymore. I think perhaps the answer to this as I re-read it is to finally do something (or someone) that I am truly passionate about and perhaps I won’t have the feeling of needing to have one foot holding the door open all the time.

I’m definitely ready for a change.

I’ve hated Eminem as long as I can remember. I thought his music was just angry and useless. Then, out of nowhere, I heard that song Not Afraid and found that I related to it so much. I couldn’t get enough of it. I have listened to it again and again every day for weeks now. I’ve gone back and listened to so much of his music, all the way back to his first album. While some of it is still just a little too hard core for me, most of it really captures a lot of my frustrations. As a result, I’ve started to listen to all kinds of rap, R & B and hip hop which is very, very different for this Alternative and Classic Rock loving hippie. I guess it’s just like Rocky Balboa said… if I can change… and you can change… we can all change.

And so… I keep writing. It’s something that I’m passionate about. I figure it’s a good place to start. Then, when I am having moments of loneliness or feeling sorry for myself, I look at that candle with Jim Morrison’s face on it that I keep right next to my computer. I don’t even like The Doors. But it’s a good reminder not to let myself get too carried away about a guy unless I know for sure that he is carried away with me. I will also remember that I could occupy my time with someone I could take or leave that pays me superficial attention, or I could continue spending this time by myself and maybe get up the balls to ask the hot guy where he bought his running shoes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Final Overseas Chapter...

August 19 & 20, 2009
I think probably the absolute worst thing to do in London is go and see the changing of the guards. Everyone asks if you’ve seen it but after treading along amongst, literally, THOUSANDS of people to see it, I was more than bored, terrible hot (very inconveniently warm morning to be standing around in a state of frustration) and remarkably uncomfortable with all of the varying people and energy around me. At the risk of sounding negative, I really thought the entire process was silly and would never, ever do it again. In fact, about halfway through, I turned to Cory and just asked if we could leave. He’s seen it before but I’m sure he was a little disappointed in my lack of excitement about the whole thing. The truth is, though, my time in London feels a lot more obligatory than anything else. As I’ve mentioned a few times, this trip was about coming to visit my friends, not to fight millions of poor smelling, rude tourists scrambling wildly about the city to take a thousand pictures of things they probably won’t even remember. Whew! Okay, I feel better…


Before we headed out to the changing, we did stop and enjoy our last official English Breakfast and, of course, Cory insisted on yet another food-filled photo.

The second part of the day is already going much better. We have met up with Sam and all of my worries about meeting her have gone right out the window. She is absolutely lovely and a complete pleasure to be around. Her positive outlook and glowing aura are so refreshing after being surrounded by a ton of people that really want nothing to do with anyone around them. Plus, she must’ve read my energy correctly because she got us out of the part of town we were hanging out in and took us to my new favorite part of London called Camden where it’s market after market of the coolest and funkiest items I’ve seen yet. Even the building facades are artistically unique. I finally picked up some very groovy souvenirs for my family and friends at work and even found an awesome blue and green candle holder that held a tea light candle with a miniature picture of Jim Morrison painted on the top. Aaron and I had a conversation about how much he liked The Doors and I thought he would really appreciate it. Cory asked me who that particular candle was for and I lied. Badly. I immediately felt stupid and will tell him the truth later on. I’m really a horrible liar when it comes down to something that I don’t feel the need to lie about. Besides, if there is anything to come of this, it wouldn’t hurt to start establishing a foundation. Later, though…

We stopped for lunch at a noodle place called Wagamama that Danni actually introduced us to while in Bristol. While Sam was using the restroom, I asked Cory if she knew that he and I had broken up and he dumbly replied “I think so.” To use a modern British term – what a complete donut. I decided not to worry about it. If it isn’t obvious enough, I do have a habit of thinking too much about things. Besides, I’m really enjoying the day now and Sam is going to take us to some local pubs for some more yummy ales. I think I have forgotten to mention it, but my poor stomach had to lay off all the cider as it’s acidity was starting to take a toll on me. Luckily, they serve their ales here at room temperature and I’ve gotten to experience some really delicious beer that I would never have gotten the opportunity to try in the states. And I think a couple of ales in me should slow my thought process just enough to enjoy my remaining twelve or so hours in this city. Before that, we are heading out to take some more photos. Now, I am happy for the beautiful day as I have been able to capture some amazing shots of the city.

I loved the Tower Bridge. It is so, absolutely massive! And it’s really crazy to see such differences in these older English structures with new, modern buildings put up right next to them. It is an incredible contrast and I couldn’t stop snapping away.
 
After I finally exhausted my clicking finger, the three of us pub hopped through the city until we ended up back at the hostel around midnight. Sam had missed the last subway train back to her part of town and since we had arranged for a 4:30am taxi (plus, we had new roommates in our room and I had no interest in trying to get another night’s sleep with these even more bizarre strangers), we decided just to pull an all-nighter. Cory had to do a bit of convincing with the staff to let Sam come in with us as they are pretty protective about having outsiders come into the hostel. Luckily, Sam had stayed there before and they were able to work it out. Cory can be quite the enroller when he wants to be.

I was feeling a little drunk and out of sorts and kind of frustrated that Sam and Cory were having such a laughable time. Yes, I liked her a lot, but I still had some underlying issues with Cory and was more than anxious to get home already. I left them down in the bar while I went up to shower and get all of my things packed and ready for when the taxi showed up. I am definitely convinced that this is my first and last time experiencing hostel life.

When I returned to the bar, it was clear that my negative and stressed out energy was not meshing well with Cory and Sam’s good time so I watched some television for a while and chatted with some strange guy from Argentina named Pablo until I couldn’t take the basic English anymore and then excused myself to go outside and have a smoke. Outside, I met a very peculiar man that I’m not sure to this day actually existed or if he was just an imaginary friend I made up in my head in my sleepy and post drunken haze. His name was Martin and he wore pointy shoes… he said he was a teacher but seemed very energetically connected to everything and was easily the most untrustworthy person I have encountered in a long time. So, clearly, it made for some fascinating and wacky conversation. Being in a “safe zone” with many people around, I sat and talked to this cartoon character for such a long time that before I knew it, it was time to find Cory again and catch our taxi.

I started up a conversation about the trip to Cory on the way to the airport and being quite exhausted, still a little drunk and perhaps as a result, slightly on the delirious side, we spoke candidly about the ups and downs of the last ten days as well as finally openly discussed our incompatibility as a couple. I like it when Cory’s guard is down and he is able to open up to me. I find myself surprised at how cool he can be at times. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity and while standing at the gate waiting to check in for our flight, I told him about my feelings for Aaron.

Gulp.

His initial reaction caught me off guard. He laughed. He told me that he definitely did NOT think that Aaron and I would make a very good match. He said that he had known Aaron for a very long time and that he really thought it wasn’t going to be a good idea. He told me about Aaron’s very Christian background and that he is awfully agreeable. Knowing me pretty well, Cory is aware that this quality is one that is not high on my “needs” list in a man. He told me that while Aaron is certainly a nice guy, he is a bit of a homebody and that in addition to our own incompatibility, he definitely didn’t see me and Aaron as being any more compatible as a couple. He told me that he was happy I had said something rather than kept anything a secret but my feelings were still hurt that he so quickly shot things down. I supposed that’s to be expected though. I decided to just shut up about it and let things go for the time being.

The rest of the day has been a bit on the stressful side, travel-wise. We missed our connecting flight in Chicago due to delays in security (everyone living in a Chicago who resides in a wheelchair decided to fly that day) so we had to catch a flight into Denver and then are going to pick up another one into Las Vegas. Ugh… why can’t we all just have our own wings?

So here we are in Denver, sitting in the same bar that we were on the way out, having a drink and a smoke before we catch our last plane back home. Cory and I had not spoken since getting on the plane in London although most of that was because I was able to actually get some sleep. Now, sitting together, he told me that he had been thinking about what I said while on the plane and decided that as long as it made me happy, he had my back as far as wanting to pursue things with Aaron. This meant so much to me as I know he wouldn’t say something like that unless he really meant it. I was relieved and excited and just wanted to get my butt home.

Here I am, on our final descent of this trip, watching the ground come up from below, looking at the familiarity of this crazy oasis in the middle of the desert that they call Las Vegas and thinking about a possible new life I have waiting for me once we land. I’m not sure where everything will lead but it seems that the hard part is over. What a strange and wonderful vacation this has been.

Here’s to hoping the good times, however, are just beginning.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Didn't I Wait Until After London to Watch the Hostel Movies?

August 18, 2009

We are up fairly early today, given last night’s shenanigans. However we are looking to get a good jump on our mini road trip to London as I have requested that we make a lunch stop in Newbury Berkshire which is on the way. My grandmother was born and raised there and while she and I haven’t been close in years, I thought it would be really interesting to see the place where she grew up. It seems especially appropriate given I’m here already!

While I was getting ready and packing up my things, I found the most amazing note among my toiletries from Karen who had to leave early for work and, therefore, wasn’t able to send us off. Reading it brought tears to my eyes as she told us how wonderfully easy we were as house guests and how she wished she could be there to say goodbye. I thought of how lucky Chris was to have such open, loving and caring parents that were so sweet and selfless to people that they had basically just met. Obviously, I was so pleased that they willingly opened up their home to us but that together with the amazing supper last night and the note this morning, I truly feel lucky and blessed to have met his wonderful family.

Dan also came out to say goodbye to us this morning which was a little hard on me too, however knowing that I am going to see him again in just a few short weeks really helped with the goodbyes. One more big hug from Paul, a quick stop to fill up on “petrol” and the four of us were on our way.

Newbury is a sleepy little town full of charm. It may sound strange, but I actually felt the energy of my grandma while we were there walking the streets. Not all of my memories of my grandma are positive; however all I could think of when walking around were the good things I remember about her. I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel once I got here but now that I am, I’m really happy that Chris accommodated my pit stop request.

To top it off, we had a really terrific lunch at a place called Caffe Uno where I enjoyed some delicious Risotto Verde and now we are at a perfect little pub called Lock Stock and Barrel where we are enjoying the quiet sounds of a lazy afternoon and all of the goings on that a small town has to offer.

We rolled into London just a few hours later and the hardest part of my trip took place – saying goodbye to Chris and Danni. We got out of the car and hugged and I couldn’t help holding on just a bit longer than I normally would have. I’m confident that we will see each other again, but I wasn’t sure they realized how it was largely their contributions to this trip that has made it my most memorable “holiday” so far. I am so appreciative for everything they did for us and I know that Cory feels the same way. We started out having a polite trip where we were all still sort of getting to know each other – then our real selves started coming out and we rode a few waves. After the brief storm, we found ourselves still sitting together on the boat, but a bit closer than we were before. It was really nice to see Cory finally relax and have a good time and it was very clear that he and Chris had bonded more than even I had expected in the short time we were there. I was so sad to be leaving Danni and her sweet, caring energy and as we walked away from the car and towards the subway station, the tears flowed freely under my sunglasses as I already missed my friends terribly.

Cory’s avid traveling past made our London experience so much better than if I would’ve tried to do it alone or with one of those ridiculous travel books that I never actually read. He took us right where we needed to go on the subway, helped me buy the exact tickets and we made our way onto the tiny little train that they call a subway here. It feels a little more like getting on a ride at Lego Land, but with everything I brought for the trip piled onto my back, it offered a place for me to rest briefly so I’ll take it!

We made it to our hostel which Cory had stayed at before so I felt pretty comfortable with everything. It’s a crazy looking place called the Generator but the front desk staff was polite and the room is… good enough? Again, without knowing what to expect and having never stayed in a hostel before, I was pretty much okay with any accommodations that didn’t involve sharp weapons or strange looking men with matching dog tattoos.

We dropped our things off in the room, freshened up and our now down in the Generator’s bar enjoying a beer and a chill before we head out into the city. We only have tonight and all day tomorrow to take in the sites and since Cory has been to London before, I told him that he can just take me to some places that were highlights for him but that we should try to do a few things that he didn’t do when he traveled here last. Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do the tourist thing quite like Cory and I’m more about checking out the people and cultural aspect than I am reading about old buildings or going on museum tours.

I am very excited about our next stop, however, which will be to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, Maze. Cory and I are both big fans of Gordon Ramsey and are thrilled to have the opportunity (and the money) to visit one of his most acclaimed restaurants.

Before we head out though, we are just relaxing here in the bar. I am watching all the different people coming in and out of the bar and wondering what it would be like to be a nomad, like many of these people are – taking years out of their life to simply be on the road, experiencing new things and seeing new places every day. It’s a fascinating lifestyle.

I’m also thinking about Cory and watching him as he is looking through my camera at all the silly pictures from last night. He hasn’t said anything about me kissing Nick and I am starting to wonder if he even knows that I did. However, there are a few pictures of me and Nick on the dance floor, mouth to mouth, so if he doesn’t know, he will shortly…

I’m wondering how the last few days of this trip will go. It’s a lot easier to be around Cory when I have Chris and Danni there to act as buffers. Now, it’s just he and I. After that first night of drama, we really hadn’t talked too much about “us” again. We do have a few other friends we are trying to meet up with while we are here – one is a guy named Bradley that we both know from a bar called the Crown and Anchor back in Las Vegas – and the other is Cory’s ex-girlfriend, Sam, who I guess he was seeing right before he and I got together. I’m a bit nervous about meeting her but figured that I have put Cory in enough awkward situations throughout the week that it’s only fair for the tables to be turned at least once during this trip.

Speaking of awkward, Cory has finished looking at the pictures and he didn’t say anything about me and Nick. So, either he doesn’t mind or, like usual, he is just keeping his thoughts to himself. Either way, at least things seem cool. The longer this trip goes on, with all of its ups and downs, the more I am starting to feel confident that he might not be so upset with the idea of me and Aaron. I’m still not quite ready to discuss it with him, but at the same time, I want to get past the initial reaction so that I can focus on trying to make something happen with Aaron once we get home. All throughout this trip, I find myself dazing out the window while we are in the car, thinking about those last two nights before the trip, and while I am officially bothered by the fact that I haven’t gotten an email, I think that perhaps Aaron just really doesn’t want to interfere with the trip and that he truly wants to wait until I’m back to start dealing with everything. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Our beer is finished and we are heading to Maze. I am wearing a dress that I bought specifically for this occasion and am confident that the dining experience will meet, or even exceed my expectations.

I was right! What a wonderful dinner! We sat at the bar and were given the best service by a knowledgeable and genuinely polite bartender. I wish I could remember everything we ate and in retrospect, should not have been so self-conscious about taking pictures and notes of every dish. But, I really wanted to be in the experience so I left the camera and the journal in my purse for the duration of the meal.

Maze is a tasting restaurant so instead of getting two or three gigantic courses of something, we got a total of seven small tastes of menu items. We tried everything from beets to quail to duck and finished with a delightful bread pudding. If I were more of a “foodie” I could give descriptions that would give our dinner more substance and credit, but for now, all I can say is WOW! To top it off, the bartender took us into the kitchen after our meal and gave us a tour of the operation – we even saw the chef’s table that they set up for VIPs and special events. Even though I knew it was impossible, my eyes kept darting around, hoping Mr. Ramsey himself would show up out of nowhere to yell at a staff member for not paying attention to detail or working too slowly. Unfortunately, this was the only expectation that wasn’t met. Otherwise this was, by far, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Again, I must laugh at all those people back home who told me I wouldn’t be eating well in this country.

After dinner, we walked around London and I got to see a lot of amazing sights at night such as the Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square. There were some places that were really cool to see at night and some places that weren’t. Parts of this city have really bad energy, not unlike any other city, but there are just so many people here! I mean, I had to stop a few times and remind myself that I was in London! I lived in Los Angeles for eight years and that took some getting used to as well. But this… well, this is London! There just seems to be so much going on everywhere I look and it seems like conflicting energy is being shot at me from every angle. It’s quite a lot to take in.
Luckily, even though it’s not what I’d call “cozy”, our wacky little hostel here does NOT have bad energy and we are back, having one last drink in the bar before we call it a night. Tomorrow will be a full day of sightseeing, starting with the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, something I’ve been told is a must-see. First, however, will be our very last proper English breakfast.

I’m sorry… first and foremost – sleep!! 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ah, Mr. Wolfe - How Pissed You Made Us All

August 17, 2009 

I have mixed emotions about this being our last day in this part of the country. While I am excited to see London and what she has to offer, my main objective for this trip is to be with my friends and I am already sad that our time with them has come and gone so quickly. I am definitely going to make everything I can out of this last day as I have no idea when I will be back out this way, or if I ever will be. Life is very strange that way and it is so hard to predict what the future will bring.

We are starting off the day having breakfast together – the four of us – in a great little cafĂ© in Clevedon. Still excited about his English breakfasts, Cory anxiously grabbed the camera for a before and after shot. Boys can be so silly…
It’s a beautifully overcast day – an oxymoron to some – but it seems quite appropriate given my solemn mood. Danni is going to take me for a stroll around High Street and then back into Portishead where I am anxious to take more photos of this quaint and lovely little town that I could really see myself living in if I so desired. I suppose Cory and Chris will go find some boy stuff to do while we are out and about. We are going to meet up with them later, enjoy our roast with Chris’s family and then I think we are going to try a night in Bristol one more time before we leave tomorrow. Third time’s a charm??


Spending the afternoon with Danni was every bit as lovely as I thought. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s so nice to talk with her. I forget again and again that she is only 21 years old and find myself often wondering if I could’ve pulled off that level of maturity and awareness when I was that age. I’m afraid I was too busy being angry and righteous to give anyone else’s thoughts or opinions the time of day. But I find Danni actually listens to me and is interested in the things I have to say, as I am her. For me, this has been a difficult quality to find in my female to female relationships. It always seems like more of a power struggle. I have one really amazing female friend back home that fits this category but I am always on the hunt for others. Based on my belief system, I know that if I attract more people like my friend Nancy or Danni into my life, it has to mean that I am starting to lose those qualities in myself that have historically pushed away these types of connections. Either that, or people are just getting better with putting up with my shit. Ha!


Either way, we had such a nice afternoon of conversation and really getting to know things about each other that go beyond the polite chatter of two girls having a cup of tea. I really hope that we can keep this connection and will surely make an effort to stay connected with her once I get back home.

We strolled through the streets and I took tons of photos and we even ran into our friend Joe from the other night. We stopped off for cup of tea after cup of tea and later in the afternoon, even went on a walk with Chris’s dog, William, where we got just a little lost in the greenbelt (William is no good as a compass) but found ourselves out fairly quickly and then, much to my delight, came across a beautiful old church and graveyard just off the side of the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera during this walk, but was able to walk around and absorb a lot of energy from the graves. I found myself truly at peace. What a wonderful afternoon.

The boys started ringing which meant they were bored without us girls around so we humored them by calling an end to our little excursion and heading over to the Black Horse to meet them for more darts. This also gave Paul some time to get everything ready for our already deliciously smelling dinner that was to await us upon our return! The girls represented a little better in darts this time around and I made sure to have some photographic evidence of our new favorite hobby!

After we had a few pints and our bellies started growling noticeably, we got back on the road and headed home where we walked into the most unbelievable scene in the dining room of Chris’s house. Paul and Karen had truly outdone themselves in preparing the best meal I have had so far on vacation and probably in the top ten best meals I’ve had of all time. I was so humbled that all of this was done for us and realized that on top of my already good friends that I had made here, Paul and Karen couldn’t be dismissed for their generosity and overall giving nature as the most perfect hosts I could possibly imagine.

After dinner and with graciously full hearts and stomachs, the four of us gathered ourselves and headed back into Bristol for one last romp around the city.
 I was beyond delighted that Nick was coming out for our last night as we met him and Dan at a place called the Pitcher and Piano on the waterfront. I really wasn’t sure how late we were going to be out given our long day and massive caloric intake just an hour ago. Plus, I had finally gotten used to the fact that we weren’t on Vegas time and that we probably only had a few hours to get some drinks in anyway. Therefore, I ditched the cider and beer for the moment and let the Jager flow merrily.
 
After the P&P, we headed over to the Old Duke where we had had a pint the other day. However, I hadn’t realized the charm of the place when we were here as we had sat outside to enjoy our drink. Inside, I was delighted at all of the musical and theatrical history they had pinned up wall-to-wall and even on the ceiling.
Renne had joined us as well and we listened to some great live jazz and I was able to spend some good quality chatting time with Dan. I am very excited as he and Ren are going to be out in Las Vegas just a few weeks after we return. It will be very nice to have Ren in our part of town so we can show her a proper Vegas time!
As things started to wind down at the Old Duke, Nick suggested we check out a possible after hours location at a place called Mr. Wolfe’s. This could not have been a better suggestion! The place was dark, seedy, full of characters, played loud music and was a perfect fit for a crazy time! Danni and I got super silly and danced our little asses off – more jager was poured and I simply had the best night of the trip! I was even able to get away with stealing myself a kiss or two.

I think more pictures were taken that night than the whole trip alone! It was the perfect energy, the perfect group and the perfect end to our time with our friends. Tomorrow, it’s off to London where I’m sure a new kind of adventure awaits us.