Category Archives: Babble About Anything Really

A New Year, a New Promise to Be a Better Blogger

Hello and Happy 2017!   Let’s start this year off by actually publishing a new post!  In 2016, I published a whopping sixteen posts for the entire year.  This is going to change in 2017.

A lot of bloggers start out the year with the same promise and it is very common to see bloggers of all sorts set out to publish a new post every day for the entire month.  There is even an online guide for topic suggestions to take you throughout the entire year, which you can find here.  Ironically enough, today’s writing prompt is travel related with “What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?”  I can actually find the answer to that in my drafts folder, where I have an unfinished post that contains my bucket list.  I had this really cool idea that I would publish it and as I visited the places on it, I could insert links to the posts I wrote about each place.  But I never got that far because lazy.

(In case you are interested, the 11th item on my bucket list is the world’s largest Beagle.)

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Back in October, one of my favorite bloggers decided to publish every day for a month.  I thought maybe I would allow her to inspire me to maybe finish any of the drafted posts I have.  I ended up too lazy to complete even one post.  This time though, being a sloth was on my side.  Once the month was over, Lauren posted the results of her experiment, which you can read here.  I found the part about her falling stats very interesting.   Part of having a blog means that  you have to work out a schedule where people welcome hearing from you, without it being overload.  You also have to take into consideration how you alert people to new posts.  If people who registered for  your email list hate seeing your name every day, if Facebook is not going to let the people who like your page see your posts, because Facebook’s algorithm deems your similar posts as spammy, if Twitter moves too fast to catch your followers, then all your effort is not getting you a positive result.

This is kind of frustrating for me as I have to pace out my Las Vegas trip reports.  I personally hate reading other people’s reports in piecemeal.  I want to read it all now now now now now!  But I have to compromise for the sake of having my readers be alerted to new posts.

I also need to stop using social media as a habit.   There were so many times when I was in India where I would type up a new post for Facebook, because I am just so used to being on Facebook so often.  I would stop myself from posting, to save it for my blog.  Why am I posting these multi-paragraph musings on Facebook and not on my actual blog?   I don’t know.  Why have I not yet posted them on my blog?  I don’t know. For crissakes, I was in India during the demonetization, which was a huge deal.  Why is this not on my blog yet?  So many people were Googling for information on this event as it was current, and zero of them landed on my blog.  Because I never wrote about it on my blog.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Going forward, I am setting a schedule.  I will start with my Las Vegas trip report, as I know that is what my readers are most looking forward to.  It also helps me greatly as I can write those out pretty quickly, which allows me the spare time I need to get out posts that need some research to complete.

I will be posting three times a week until the Vegas report is done, and then I will get started on cleaning out my drafts folder.  There are 39 posts in there, most of which are done and just need the photos inserted.  In addition to those, there are eleventy billion posts in my head that I need to get started on.  I also still have a million older Las Vegas trip reports that I would like to get up, even if in abbreviated versions.  The information may be out of date, but there are some comedic gems in there.  I often fantasize about building momentum and keeping it until I take off for my next big trip and then growing even further.  I mean, isn’t that what I am supposed to do?  I need far less fantasizing and way more doing.

So I will be back tomorrow with the start of  my annual Las Vegas Christmas trip.  See you soon!

 

 

Lijiang, China: My Budget for a Three Day Visit

I spent three days and nights in Lijiang, China.  You can read about that here.

Total cost:

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The Old Town Protection Fare is required if you are going to be in the Old Town.  I wasn’t quite sure how to go about paying for this.  I was eventually stopped and asked to show my receipt, which I did not have.  So I paid it then.

Once upon a time, my mother bought me a pig change purse for good luck for an upcoming trip to Las Vegas.  A year after she died, I lost the poor pig at a fest and was quite upset about it.  Imagine my glee at finding the same exact one while lost in Lijiang:
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The food and drink budget was spent largely on fresh squeezed fruit juices and yogurt drinks.  Oh and one lunch at McDonalds.  Sorry foodies!.

Unlike my gross overspending in Dali, the only real way this trip could have been cheaper would have been to book a cheaper hotel. But I was not going to do that when I had a chance to sleep in a round bed.

round bedOh and those stupid ATM fees.  For some reason, I am being charged to check my balance every time I go to an ATM, in addition to the ATM fee.  Yes, I am aware Charles Schwab exists and yet I am still using a bank.  So this is my own fault.

The way this could have been more expensive would be if I hadn’t been sick from the altitude and had gone to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain like I had planned.

To leave Lijiang, I took a bus to Shangrila.  When I got to the bus station, I was getting a lot of stares that I accept, but hate.  Luckily there was a car crash outside the station so everyone turned away from me to look at that.

I was surprised at how nice and clean the bus station was.  I decided to use the bathroom, which is on the second floor.  This is China so that means up three flights of stairs, with luggage. Sigh.  The bathroom was so gross and the opposite of everything the rest of the station was.

And for anyone who has asked me how I get around China without speaking any Chinese language, this is how:
lijiang bus station englishHere are some stray photos from Lijiang:

couple statue lijiang china coy black dragon pool bridge stone bridge lijiang china

 

Happy Second Birthday to My Blog!

My blog turned two last weekend!  I probably should have posted this on it’s birthday, but I was too busy being a delinquent mother and gambling away in Atlantic City.

Last year, I did a post about things I learned in my first year of blogging.  This year, I learned one huge thing and that is I am cursed.

Some things that have happened to me in the past year:

I lost all my non-published content.  I work on four computers.   One is my PC at home, my preferred computer to work on.   One is my work computer.   One is my netbook that goes everywhere with me because it is small, but it also sucks and is frozen all the time.  The fourth is my actual laptop, which works wonderfully but is too big to travel with.

Going back and forth between all these computers should not be a problem.  But for me, it is.  Why?  Because the internet will not work on my home PC.  That leads to this:

Everyone:  If your wifi works in your apartment, you should be able to connect a cable from the modem into your PC

Me: Yes, I know.  I used to do this.  But one night I defragmented my computer and for some reason, it lost a lot of abilities, including going online.  I also lost the ability to choose 256 colors, or change my theme, and everything now defaults to Times New Roman, which I hate.

Everyone: But if the wifi works, the internet should work

Me: It does, but the COMPUTER IS BROKEN.

Everyone: Maybe you just need a new cable

Me: (smashes head into keyboard)

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So I would do tons of work on my PC and save it onto a flash drive and bring it with me that way.  Then one day, my flash drive vanished out of my bag.  I don’t have any idea where it went.  I tore up my apartment, it is not there.  I had nothing saved on the actual computer (YES I KNOW) so tons of blog posts I never uploaded to the internet are gone.

Everyone: You should save stuff to a cloud

Me: I know, but my PC won’t connect to the internet

Everyone: If you can get wifi, your PC should connect

Me: GAH MAKE IT STOP

I managed to fix my computer about a month ago.  This took me five hours.  My internet provider was of no help.  They kept telling me to call Dell.  Dell told me that my warranty ended seven years ago and that I could pay for service…no.   So now I do have internet functioning on it, I do use the cloud.   I just cannot do other things on my PC like post on Twitter or use Hootsuite because the security patch was erased when I defragmented and the new one will not load.   I tried every single thing Google told me to do.  I can’t do it anymore.  I just can’t.

I lost every single backlink and Facebook like on my blog.  Sigh.  I wanted to make the URLs of my posts, post without the date automatically in them.  So I switched to this.  One day before leaving for Las Vegas.  Then I realized that this changed every URL on my blog (duh) and that any link to my blog, was now dead.  This includes not only every Twitter post, every Facebook post, every shared URL by someone else, every blog I have ever posted on that allows you to do “last post by…”, every link in my own blog, on the “Where I’ve Been” pages, the Las Vegas Trip Reports section (which I had just heavily promoted using my current Vegas trip as the bait) and finally, every single Facebook like on every post I have ever made.   Do you have any idea how depressing it is to click on a post and see the bottom, the little Facebook like button and “0” next to it?   There used to be triple digits there!

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Since I was leaving for Las Vegas, and since I travel with an always frozen netbook, this was not something I could deal with.  So I did not deal with it.  It was killing me to see people retweet old tweets, with links that were now dead.  I have since redone my Twitter account and have scheduled the bulk of my blog up so that people searching for certain hashtags will see the newer tweets, with links that actually work.

The last technological meltdown that I am not yet dealing with, is that I am missing some photos from China.  See this beautiful photo of Tibet?

Tibet ChinaI saved it from my Facebook page.  Which I had to do because I cannot find it on a computer.  Which means that at some point between uploading it to Facebook, and today, it has gone missing off a computer.  Is it possible that it was saved ONLY on a flashdrive?  Of course it is.  Does that mean that there may be tons more photos from this adventure missing?  OF COURSE it does.  I did not have internet during a large part of my trip to Mount Everest.  Thereby, I had no cloud.  It is entirely possible I saved the pictures on a disk.  That is now gone.

The final straw for me was my netbook.   It kept whining “wah, Microsoft update, wah install now, wah pay attention to me” so I finally installed it.  Do you know what happened next?  I can no longer open Word.  This obviously happened during a trip to Las Vegas where I had been saving daily trip reports in Word.  I can (and did) open them in notepad on another computer.  But while this one was a simple solve, it was the final straw and I found myself hating my blog.

All of these things are my fault and I have solved all my problems.   I fixed the internet on my PC, I upload to the cloud regularly, I am purchasing a brand new Mac Air so I no longer use that shitty netbook.  I am not looking for advice.  I am just venting my frustration.

What is up next for year three?   Well I am going to rewrite and post all the China posts I never got up on my blog.  I have already started working on it.

I am going to GET OVER IT and stop sitting on my couch completely defeated by technology.  I am going to get up and kick technology’s ass back.  I have had enough of you screwing with me, now I am here to knock you the fuck out of my way.  BRING ME MY BLOG JEEVES.

I am also going to go back to China so I will have tons of brand new content, full of gorgeous pictures (that will also be saved in my cloud.  I promise.)

Flight Home from Las Vegas: Featuring the World’s Smelliest Man. Seated with Me, Naturally.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009: Last Day

[If you would like to start reading this trip report from the beginning, you can do so by going here.]

My first thought when I wake up at the California Hotel this morning, is that I cannot wait to get home and see one of my favorite bands play.  They are the reason today is my last day. I had to change my flight to come back a day early because they are playing.  This excitement about LEAVING Las Vegas is unprecedented.  It really makes my time in Vegas seem like a waste of money.   I’ve never had any thoughts anywhere remotely along these lines before.

I am woken up by a completely unnecessary text at 5:46 am which causes me to curse myself for getting a phone charger.   I get dressed and go out figuring I can always nap later as my flight isn’t until 11-something tonight and I have the room for the night.

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I play some Ultimate X Double Double Bonus video poker and get four of a kinds with a 4x multiplier.  Too bad I’m on pennies.   I walk over to the Golden Gate to get breakfast with my comps and the booth isn’t open until 9:00.  I thought it was 8:00.  I really hate their system of paper comps when they aren’t open when I want to eat.  I could pay to eat but I don’t wanna.  I could walk to the El Cortez where I still have the $25 food credit from checking in but I don’t wannnnnaaaaaaaa.  So I go and get some iced coffee and a donut to tide me over and then I play a bit.

I hit on the Elvis penny slot machine at the Golden Gate and turn $10-$40.  I love these machines, I love the bonus.

At Fremont, I play nickel Double Double Bonus Supertimes Pay video poker  I hit tens (no multiplier) and a straight flush (no multiplier) and then 3’s (no multiplier.)

After FINALLY eating, I hit Fitzgeralds and played penny 50-play video poker and hit my one and only Royal of the trip.  Woo hoo eeeeee forty bucks!

Back to the El Cortez.  The progressive Royal still hasn’t been hit.   Damn it now I have to lose more money.   I hit Kings and then I hit progressive 3’s with a kicker for $243.44.   Yay!

I cash out and play a Monopoly slot machine.  I get a bonus for $72.90.   I’m not done yet!  I play that stupid Diamond Spinner slot machine that I can’t not play and I get a bonus for $147.  I go up to my El Cortez Cabana suite that I booked for the accompanying free play and dining credit, but that I am not using as a room, (PS – it isn’t a suite) to situate myself.   I have $600 on me. I woke up with only $100 on me.  This is great.  Now I am free to go degenerate all damn day long if I choose to.  And I do.

Back downstairs and back to the progressives.   I hit 3’s and get $120.83 and cash out and put in a $100 bill and get to ZERO.

I play some quick hit and get a $41.88 bonus.  I cash out but put in $65 before I walked away.

Lost $30 on Monopoly.  Here we go. I went up, now I’m coming back down.

I eat lunch at Fitzgerald’s coffee shop.  For the first time ever I had super quick service.  I tipped him $10 on a $9 check.  Even though I asked for iced tea and he brought me root beer.  I don’t care.  Quick is better than correct here.

I go back to the penny 50-play video poker and get Aces with a Kicker on one hand.  I play Supertimes Pay video poker and lose a $20.

Back to the El Cortez where I am hell-bent on hitting this royal.  It’s up to $3900.  I don’t hit it.  Ever.  But I only lose $20 this try so it’s okay.

I head back to the California to pack.   I hate this part.

I stop and play a 7’s Ladder Bonus slot machine.   I leave down $5.   I try the California’s Double Double Bonus video poker progressive machiens and lose $20.  I win $20 on an Ultimate X video poker machine though.

I’m in my room at 3:30 with an ice cream sundae which was a very stupid idea since I’m eating at The Flame steakhouse tonight to use my El Cortez food credit.   But I’m stupid like that.

I nap for an hour and head back to the El Cortez.   I got my usual, Filet Mignon and baked potato.  I am so sick from all the heat and exhaustion and the fact that I have not at all taken care of myself this past week.   I could not stop drinking water or iced tea.  The drink server probably walked a mile just coming back over to my table to refill both.

I couldn’t eat much because I was still full from the ice cream but what I did eat was awesome.

I tried to go up to my El Cortez room to lay down for a few minutes but my key won’t work in the key card thingy to enter the building (which is out back and across  the street from the main building.)  So I have to walk all the way back to the El Cortez from the suites (it’s not far but I’m exhausted) and I decide to just check out instead.

I lost a final $100 on my progressive.  I got four of a kinds twice but with the Royal that high, I was hell bent on going until it was time to leave.  Finally it was.

Back to the California for a final shower, after which I put on my pajamas and got on the bus to the airport.

On the plane, a man sits in my row and I swear to god he has never worn deodorant in his life and has lived that entire life working in a field in a desert.  The stench was so strong.   I couldn’t take it.  I wanted to vomit.  The flight attendant asks me if I’m okay.  I’m in the window, this fucking filthy disgusting man was in the aisle and I yell over him “this smell is beyond unbearable.”  This repulsive human being doesn’t even react.  There are on other available seats.  The flight attendant gives me a pack of coffee inside a filter to overpower the stench of body odor.  And this actually helps a LOT and lasted through the entire flight.  Still though, why me.

Throughout the entire flight, every person that walked past this man in MY ROW, would look around and start to gag from the smell.

We take off and we are in the air for a few minutes before I realize I didn’t do my traditional saying good bye to Las Vegas.  Normally I gaze out the window with sad heart eyes and wave “bye” and tell Vegas “I love you, I’ll see you soon!”   Like I said earlier, this is completely unprecedented.

Now if I had hit that $3900 royal, I’m sure I’d be thinking differently.

Thanks for reading.

My First (and Only) Full Day in Las Vegas This Trip!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 – My Only Full Day in Las Vegas

[If you would like to start reading from the beginning of this trip report, you can do that here.]

I am up at the California hotel and out at 7:00 am.  I am exhausted and would go right back to bed, except that I never checked out of Harrahs when I moved yesterday.  I realize I don’t HAVE to check out (the hotel will eventually figure out you are gone and check  you out) but I use this as an excuse to get moving and get OUT and experience my only full day in Las Vegas.

I eat breakfast at the California coffee shop.  Cheddar omelet. It’s delicious.

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I play some penny Ultimate X. video poker  This game is addicting and the only place I’ve seen it in pennies is the California casino.  Which is good because you can really lose very quickly, so betting only 30-cents a hand is ideal for me.  I lose ten bucks and go.

I take the Deuce bus to Harrahs.  I revisit Jackpot Party Big Event and leave up $30.

I have some comps here and I want to use them in case I am not back in the next six months. I know this sounds insane because I go to Las Vegas so often.  But moving on.  I had lunch at the Imperial Palace’s Burger Bar and I lived to tell the tale.

I played a penny Lobstermania slot machine.  This was my mother’s favorite machine.  I miss her.   Larry gave me some good lobster picks.  God bless his kind soul.

I went to the Orleans to get my birthday points and a free 6-pack of diet Pepsi with putting 100 points on my card.  The birthday points didn’t show up and I didn’t go to the booth to ask, which means I also didn’t get my Diet Pepsi.   I have no excuses for any of this other than “dumbass.”  I did hit Aces though!

Las Vegas: Eights into Sixes into Eights into Sixes.

Saturday, December 25, 2010 – Day Twelve of Nineteen: Merry Christmas!

[This is part twelve of a nineteen part trip report.  If you would like to start at the beginning, go here.]

I wake up at The Orleans with my huge $35 win from last night in tact.  I go downstairs with $170.  This is a sure sign of degeneracy because The Orleans is off strip so there is nowhere for me to go.  Thereby, I do not need that much money in ONE casino.

I managed to get it up to $220 and played back down to $170.  See?  I told you I was degenerate.

Quarter Double Double bonus video poker.  I hit four of a kind eights into sixes and back into eights.

quarter eights1quarter sixes2quarter eights

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I head back to my room at 8:30 with a cheese Danish for breakfast.

Today is Christmas and my present to myself is a spa treatment.  My appointment is at 11:00.   It was so incredible.  I typically go the Palms spa every time I am in Las Vegas to use the Las Vegas Advisor 50% off coupon.   Since I am now Sapphire at Boyd, the spa discount + the off strip prices make this treatment cheaper.   It was also so much better.  Who knew?

I play some more quarter Double Double Bonus video poker afterwards and hit four of a kind sixes again.

quarter sixes

I cash out when I am down to  $65.

My next $20 gets me a $120 cash out, thanks to four of a kind twos.

quarter twos
$20-$0

It is now 1:00 and I stop for food.

I stop back at the room to apply lucky glitter on my new cash and to see just how much that new cash is.   Woo!  It is $250.

I put $50 away and decide I will do two $100 sessions.  Someone is on the machine that blessed me with my morning wins.   I kill time by getting an iced coffee at Seattle’s Best and the rat bastard is still on my machine when I get back.  Fine, slots it is!  I play a Carnival of Mystery slot and turn $15-$30.  But I want to play Double Double Bonus video poker.  But that guy is still on my machine.  So I do what any degenerate gambler would not do and I go to my room for a nap.

At 9:00 I am dressed and debating staying in because I am tired.  But I am also degenerate and a degenerate does what a degenerate needs.   I go back out with $95.

I play nickel Keno and turn $5-$20

I play Carnival of Mystery again.  Two people surrounding me each won four digits on Twice Your Honey slot machines so i had to try it.  $5-$25.  Never cashed out.

Back to Carnival of Mystery.  Hit $180 line pay and then the bonus came immediately after.

carnival of mystery 180I cashed out with $200 and get this, actually kept it and went to my room.  Who am I and what have I done with Jennifer?

The hotel elevators are not working, and there are more people waiting than there are dollars I have lost so far during this trip.   Eventually we were escorted up in the service elevator.

Once I am in my room of course, I decide I am hungry because I never ate dinner.  I only bring $35 down with me, $30 is to play and $5 will be the tip on a comped meal.

A Cleopatra slot machine steals my first $5.

Nickel Double Double Bonus video poker takes another.

Carnival of Mystery gives me $20 for two fives and then takes $15.

Dinner is at the Orleans coffee shop.  I really hate: waiting to order, waiting for my food, waiting for the check.   What if I am missing my intended eleventy billion dollar jackpot waiting for these things?

After eating, I put my last $20 in a Carnival of Mystery slot machine and watch  as my credits go down to zero.

Bed time.

I Have Been Nominated for a Liebster Award Not Once, Not Twice, but THREE Times!

liebster

So what is a Liebster Award?  The basic rules are simple.

1.  Thank the blogger who has nominated you.  Easy peasy!  Thank you so much to: Ashley and Alex at http://inpursuitofadventure.org/, Simone and Jay at http://jslivingthedream.com/ and Emily at http://thecosytraveller.co.uk/  It means a lot to me that you thought of me.

2.  Answer the questions.

3.  Nominate five other bloggers (I have seen this number range anywhere from five to eleven)

4.  Ask them ten questions.

I am going to keep this simple and nominate five people.  In no particular order…

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Jen at The Trusted Traveler  Not only does she have a cool blog, she also has a cool name!

Megan over at meganstarr.com   Megan is currently living in Norway, which would make me love her blog enough just based on that.  But she has also traveled to Siberia and Central Asia, HUGE wish list items of mine.

Lucy from http://ontheluce.com/  Lucy describes her travel style as “grown up backpacking with a touch of luxury” which is something that I identify with strongly.

Will from Going Awesome Places  This is a blog with very useful information such as reviews, car rental codes and so much more.

Irene and Stefano from http://freelancersontheroad.com/  These two recreated their lives and grew a business that allows them to travel freely.  Very inspiring.

First I am going to do the part about me me me me meeeeeeeee where I answer questions.  Since I was nominated three times, I am going to narrow them down because I don’t think anyone wants to read thirty questions about me.

Afterwards, I will post questions for my nominees.

ME:

What is your best hidden secret? (For travel, accommodations, whatever….) Not exactly hidden, but if anyone is planning to go to Las Vegas ever in their life, they should start playing the MyVegas game on Facebook. You earn points (for free) and get rewards like free rooms and shows in Las Vegas. It sounds like spam or a scam, but it really isn’t.

What was your worst accommodations while traveling?  Oh hey…full review here: Most Disgusting Hotel Room I Have Slept In

blood bed  travelodge, Downtown Orlando, Floridablood bed travelodge, Downtown Orlando, Floridablood bed travelodge, Downtown Orlando, Florida

What is your biggest “Oh F***k” moment while traveling?  I have had a lot. From waking up on travel day and discovering I didn’t book the flight I was taking that day, to showing up to a hotel and being told “your reservation is for tomorrow” to the time I forgot my credit card at home, when I needed it to leave security holds at the seven hotels I was staying at on a trip in Las Vegas…or the time I reached into my bag to pull out my passport to show at the 348936734th security check in Tibet, only to find out it was sitting in a puddle of what was once a full bottle of hand sanitizer.  I am so upset that I lost stamps because the sanitizer removed them from the pages.

What has travel taught you?  It sounds so cheesy, but there is not anything that I cannot do. I was talking to someone this past weekend about how I want to go back to Tibet.  But this time I want to go to Kham, and how it is harder to do because it’s not set up for tourism.  So information isn’t readily available, etc.  It hit me as I was talking that this does not even intimidate me.  Like I want to go there and this is how you go about that so you just do it.

Are you a planner?  Very much so. I am still employed full time so in order to see as much as possible on vacation time, planning is key.  There are people who are very lax with plans and say things like “I don’t want to be chained to an itinerary”  Well…you aren’t.  You don’t have to go THERE if you want to stay HERE just because you typed it out on a piece of paper titled “My Itinerary”  I would just rather not waste my time making plans while on the road because my time on the road will end sooner because I have to go back to work.

Where will you visit next?  Unfortunately, this question comes timed as I am leaving for Atlantic City. OOOH LOOK AT ME! I AM GOING TO NEW JERSEY!   Then from there I go to Philadelphia.  A trip less than two hours away from my apartment!  But I am going away again in two weeks.  Once again, to New Jersey…sigh.  I am so sorry.

Do you collect anything on your travels?  Nope. I used to be a maniac who would come home with tons of souvenirs. But after time, I would just find them when I was cleaning out my closet. I am at a point where I prefer putting that money towards activities or future trips.

What’s your favorite picture from your last destination?  Mount Everest!

mount everest reflection

Where’s the best place you’ve ever visited?  TIBET.  I started writing about the thoughts and feelings this place gave me when I was there.  But trying to edit it makes me so sad that I am no longer there.  I felt so at peace there, and I feel that nowhere.

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What’s your best blogging tip?  Do not try too hard.  It shows.

Is there anything that you absolutely have  to take with you on your travels?  My cute little stuffed Westie.  One time, a Las Vegas hotel did this to him:

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What do you miss when you’re away from home?   Absolutely nothing.  This makes coming home so depressing because there is not one thing here that I am happy to get back to.

What’s one thing you would tell your 16-year-old self?  Oh god.  No.  Sixteen year old me was a train wreck.  Picture Long Island back in 1987, HUGE spiked metal hair and animal print spandex, spending after school hours sitting in my next door neighbor’s painted-black bedroom, lighting black candles, drinking stolen bottles of whiskey, listening to David Bowie (her choice) and Rainbow (my choice) while carving band names into our arms with thumb tacks.  I have absolutely no interest in telling that person anything.  Honestly, she scares me too much to even approach her.

Now for the questions for my nominees:

1.  From start to finish, how long does it take you to create a new post?

2.  Do you ever start crafting a story in your head about a place before you have even been there?

3.  Do you have any set idea in your head of where you would like to live permanently “someday” or are you still searching?

4.  Have you ever bought a plane ticket based on spinning a globe and pointing blindly?

5.  Do you actually enjoy long bus rides / train rides?  Or are they just a necessity to get from one place to another?

6.  When you return home, how long does it take you to unpack?

7.  Name one huge sacrifice you have made to travel?

8.  Bloggers know that blogging is a LOT of work.  Do you ever feel overwhelmed and want to quit?

9. (Stealing inspiration from my favorite question above) What is the most disgusting hotel you have slept in?

10.  Post a picture of the greatest place you have ever been.

Why the City of Seattle Makes Me Feel More Emotions Than Every Dysfunctional Relationship Combined.

Seattle, Washington.  Sigh.  When people think of this city, they tend to think of rain or grunge.  For me, I think of my life’s biggest sliding door moment.

With all the advanced technology available to us now, I am hopeful that I live long enough to be around for the actual sliding door app that will take you back in time to allow you to see what your life would be like if you had made just one different decision.   With the way my life works though, the announcement of this new marvel will appear on the headlines of every news outlet the day after my death.

Back in 1992 I had an opportunity to move to Seattle.  Someone I knew was going and was willing to pay my expenses, to have companionship during his life changing move.  At the time, I was 20 years old and collecting unemployment during an off season from my job, while spending my time drunk and going to hardcore/punk shows in NYC.  There were a grand total of zero things in my life that tied me to where I was.

The only things I knew about Seattle were grunge, and that it was very far away.  I would not have been able to find it on a map. I am not even sure I would have known where to find a map.  I had never had any use for one.

So here is my big chance.  Seattle.  Someone funding my trip.  While collecting unemployment.  I could go and always come back when the off season ended and I had to go back to work.  I had a few months of freedom.  Why not go?

I did not go.

Have you ever had a fantasy that starts out small and grows and grows over the years to the point you never stop adding to it no matter how many years have passed?  It grows so big that years later you find yourself still adding to it?  That is what Seattle is to me.

It did not even start right away.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to dwell on it.   I don’t even remember how it was we were supposed to get to Seattle when he first brought it up.  Were we going to fly?  Take a bus?  I have no recollection at all.  But it doesn’t matter.  Because all that I know about that trip I did not take, is what I have turned it into in my mind after the fact.

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I was 20 years old.  I had never been on a plane.  I had never been on vacation. I had never traveled further than New Jersey.  I had never been in a different time zone. I lived in a basement apartment on Long Island with my mother.  I had never been independent.  I lived more life at that point than most people had, but I will still dependent on my mother.  Although I contributed to the rent on our apartment, my contribution was small.  I didn’t have a driver’s license.  I was always at my mother’s mercy for rides.  Sure, I could go very far from home and see bands play. Once I was very far, I could fend for myself.  But the simple act of getting to the train station ten minutes from my apartment in order to kick off that trip?  I relied on my mother to drive me to the train station.

If I had taken this trip, I would have gotten so much out of the way not only all at once, but so much sooner than I eventually did.  There are just so many things that would have been different in my entire history.

I would have traveled. I would have seen places I had never heard of.  Even if Seattle itself had not been all I wanted it to be, what if someplace along the way was?  What if we had stopped in some random city in some state and had any sort of life experience that drew my heart back to that place and inspired me to return?  Or what if this trip encouraged me to continue on seeing more and more of the world?  What if my first time on a plane had not been for my 29th birthday?  What if I had gotten my first passport before my 39th?

What if travelling while being dependent on someone at such an early age had taught me the lesson of never living a life where you are dependent on anyone, years earlier than I eventually learned it?  Or what if traveling while dependent on someone had gone the complete opposite direction of my life and it turned out I would find myself actually being able to depend on someone?

I pride myself on my independence.  But deep down, I will always wonder what shade of green the grass is on the side of the fence where being independent is what you choose and not what you are forced by necessity to be.

These wonders have spiraled out of control over the years.

What if I had not been living here any longer, when my seasonal job offered me a full time position in Brooklyn, allowing me to move to “the city”?  What would have become of me?  What would I be doing for a living right now?  Would I be working in an office?  Or would I be struggling to make ends meet working at a coffee shop in the day and as a bartender at night?  Or would Seattle have been a temporary stop that lit my wanderlust and encouraged me to try living in other places?  What if my life’s stories started with sentences like “When I was living in San Francisco back in 1995…”

Or what if instead of being in my late 30’s and trying to convince someone that we should totally chip in and buy that at-death’s-doorstep car that someone is selling for $500, so that we can drive until it dies, and where ever it dies, that is our fate.  We now live there.  Or what if instead of doing that, I had moved to Seattle and caused a huge chain of events where I had already lived in enough places that I would be settled in my twenties or thirties and not seriously considering making a huge life change so close to my forties, based on where a car dies?

What if that car died in SEATTLE?  A city who has forever loomed in my head, a place I have always wanted to go.  As if going there would somehow cork up the bottle that all my “what if’s” were pouring out of.

In 2008 I got my chance.

My favorite band is a band named Blacklisted.  My blog name is actually taken from a song of theirs named “Tourist.”  I love them and have traveled insane lengths to see them. One day I was looking at tour dates, picking out the shows I wanted to go to. And there it is.

Seattle.  (Okay it was Tacoma but let me have it, okay?)  With Sinking Ships.  A band I am so in love with.  A band with lyrics that are so powerful, they make my skin start to tingle with the imaginary razor blades that pop out to protect me from all the things that hurt me.  All the things brought to the surface by their lyrics. The ability to identify myself with a song title rather than a psychiatrist’s diagnosis.

I was sold.  Plane ticket = BOUGHT.

I spent the entire flight writing in my diary.  I was so desperate to find out how I felt walking around a city that had been the star of all my “what if” fantasies for 16 years.  I don’t even think I realized at the time the irony that was me traveling there solo when I may never have grown up to be such an independent woman had I gone there when I was still dependent.

We land, I am in Seattle.  I spent the day walking around in “deep thought” mode.  I felt so warm and calm and had a rare day of zero anxiety.  I walked all around the city by myself and saw the tourist spots I had seen so many pictures of in my life.  It felt so familiar to me.  I ate lunch at the top of the Space Needle and saw the entire city outside the windows as the restaurant revolved 360 degrees.  I had such a great day and fell in love with Seattle and knew I had to go back and spend more time there.

Once my day was done, it was time to get on a bus to Tacoma.  I felt happy. I had just crossed off one of my biggest bucket list items.  All the years I spent dreaming about this place, I had finally seen it.  I loved Seattle.  Loved it.  Loved it for what I saw. Not for all the things I had built it up to inside my head.  It hit me on the way home, the whole “independent woman” thing.  I loved flying to Seattle by myself.  I loved walking around without anyone being able to pinpoint my exact location.  It was so freeing.  For the first time since 1992 I began to look at Seattle in such a different light.  It no longer represented a life’s regret and instead was now added to a very long list of why I am pleased with the way my life turned out.  My life may not have turned out like this had I made different decisions.

When I returned back to New York, I went straight from the airport to a house show in Bushwick. I had my winter coat with me from Seattle and it was 90 degrees out in New York.  It is normal in my life to see friends from the East Coast play on the West Coast one night and then see a friend from the West Coast play the East Coast the next night.  I have this complete freedom to fly across the country for a hardcore show and to come back home and go straight to a house show.  I have a life that I love because I did not move to Seattle.

My return to Seattle took a lot longer than I initially planned.   I always have all these travel plans in my head that get bumped due to the fact that I am operating on “only” 40 paid days off a year.

But see, that show I went to back in  2008.  Sinking Ships cancelled the day of.   Three months later, they played their last show ever in California.  I was there.

At some point in early 2013, I stayed up late one night waiting for the lineup announcement for an annual fest in Seattle. I just had the creepiest feeling that Sinking Ships would be doing a reunion.  When the lineup came up and they were not on it, I was actually deflated.  Then I went back and looked again and after the main announcement was the pre-show line up and god damned if they were not on it.  I set my alarm clock to go to the library the next morning to use their internet to buy a ticket.  In my mind, I was going to relive my first trip there, only this time with the freedom to do an extended version as I had four full days in between fest nights to fit it all in.

And when May came, off to Seattle I went.

This time was not at all like I thought it would be.  It was nothing like the first time.  I was coming off 3+ weeks of Europe, a thirteen hour flight home followed by three hours of sleep before returning to work.  Coming home from day one back at work and leaving for day two with a bag packed to fly to Seattle after work.  I came home depressed because my trip was over.  I went to work depressed that my trip was over.  I brought this depression with me to Seattle.  Once again, that whole “what if” surfaced.  I am in Seattle.  I don’t want to go back home.  What if I had moved here in 1992 and this was my home?  What if I lived HERE and did not have to fly back to a place I hate?

I spent day one in my hotel room, convinced I was just exhausted from the whole Europe into work into West Coast thing.  That night I went to see Sinking Ships.  I knew zero people there, no care ever.  I stood there singing along to lyrics that I identify with so closely that I had flown here just to be able to sing along to them.  And my mental state just spirals out of control.  This song of pain reminds me of this, that song of pain reminds me of that thing.  Oh hey what if I had moved to Seattle and my life had been different and I never would have lived through any of these painful situations that are causing me to not only be at, but to break down at, a hardcore show at age 41?

By the time the last song came around and I sang along to “This place can become a part of you, whether or not you want it to”, I was done.  I did not want to go home.  I wanted to stay here.  Forever.  This place has become a part of me.

When I got home, I still had some more summer travels to get me through the day to day life that I am so desperate to escape from.  Then comes 2014 and I am spending a month in China.  I can deal with my day to day because it is a fair trade off to afford the luxury that is spending a full month in China, while simultaneously collecting a full time paycheck.

On my last day in China, my typical “last day before going home” depression kicks in harder than ever before.  Then it’s time for the flight. A two hour flight with a layover, into a thirteen hour flight.  There were no movies I wanted to watch so I settled on watching “Pearl Jam 20” on repeat for those combined fifteen hours.  I had never watched this before and seeing any scene taking place in Seattle in 1992, was all the motivation I needed to sit back and fall into sliding door mode.

When I got home, I booked two flights. I do this all the time.  Come home depressed, book a flight.  But for some reason, these booked flights are not working as the band aids I booked them to double as.

I have been in such a funk since I have gotten home.  It was showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

I dug out an old diary this weekend for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with anything written above.  It just so happened that this was the Seattle diary. Odd timing, but of course, I think it’s a sign.

This morning on my way to work, I stopped for coffee at a coffee cart.  I stop here often.  They know me, I do not have to speak.  There are two regular guys who work inside.  One was absent and replaced with a stranger, who was wearing a Nirvana shirt.  Oh SEATTLE.

When I got to my desk, the first thing I did was price flights to Seattle.  The second thing I did was book a flight to Seattle.  I felt the most warming calm rush over me, a calm that I have not felt since I was in China.  A warming calm that I may not have been able to experience had I moved to Seattle back in 1992, and had not wound up where I am today.  In a life or at a job where I am able to do things like fly across the country just because I want to sing along to a band, or randomly book flights to places just because the new coffee cart guy was wearing a Nirvana shirt.  At a job where I can decide that I do not want to spend the first day I feel good in close to a month, at my desk, and can leave work hours early without any explanation.

What if I had moved to Seattle and was living a life that did not come with this freedom?

Maybe I did end up on the right side of those doors after all.

How (the Opposite of) a Classy Broad Handles Shanghai’s Pudong Airport Scammers

I flew to Shanghai from Chengdu.  When checking in, which was not the easiest thing to do since I somehow had no clue what airline I was flying on (I is smart), next to me was a group of Western kids that appeared to be on a class trip.  They had 49 pieces of luggage combined.  My thought was “that poor woman who has to help them”

Well wouldn’t ya know it, they are on my flight.  All eleventy billion of them.

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We board, two of them fill my row.  I close my eyes and soon after, smell something.  I open my eyes and the bimbo next to me is barefoot.   Sure she is like either pre-teen or early teen and maybe calling her a bimbo is harsh, but being barefoot on a plane is grounds for being tried as an adult, so bimbo it is.

She kept putting her bare feet everywhere.  At one point, the poor unsuspecting dude in front of her, had her gross toes maybe 1/10 of an inch from touching his elbow on HIS arm rest.  I don’t know why I didn’t say anything.  Someone needs to teach her manners.  I just sat there and glared at her every chance I got.  I am sure this did nothing because anyone who thinks it is okay to put their bare feet all over things would never have any idea that is why she is being glared at.

We land and get off the plane.  I have never landed further from the baggage claim than I did on this flight.  All I want to do is exit this airport and take a breath of fresh air.  Yes, in China I want to do this.  A country where the skies are grey during the day and glow pink at night due to the air pollution.

I get my bag and my next plan is to go to an ATM.  Whoa!  I am instantly bombarded by people bumrushing me, showing me their airport employee badges, trying to force me into an “airport taxi” while we are still inside the terminal.  I am trying to get OUT of the middle of these people but they are relentless.  I tell one to “leave me the fuck alone” and she will not stop.  Where am I going, do I need a taxi.  Get OFF me.

I tell her I am going to the ATM.  I don’t know why I tell her this, I certainly do not need to report to her.  She tells me I can pay for the taxi with a credit card.  I am not going to the ATM for taxi fare, I am going to withdraw the cost of my hotel.  I do not tell her this either.  But it just sucks to realize how someone arriving right off the plane could easily fall for this and follow her blindly and arrive at their hotel with zero cash on them.

I get rid of her and another one latches onto me.  He keeps showing me his official “airline employee” badge, which means shit to me.  He will not get off me.

If you ever find yourself in the Shanghai airport – or any airport – and this happens, take one second to consider what is going on.   It was so overwhelming to me and I live in NYC.  You may think you do not want to be rude just in case he is legitimate.  But think about it: if he is truly an employee and his job really is to get you in the best form of transport, then he will not refuse you if it turns out you were wrong and you do need him.  Not if he is this intensely stalking you to get you to go with him.

He follows me to the ATM, never letting up about where am I going.  Truth is, I am not sure where I am going.  I want to take the Maglev train to the Metro but I am not sure what time it stops running and it is now past midnight.  I try and ask him and he keeps shoving “AIRPORT TAXI” in my face. I could not have seen one inch of the airport without his face in my vision.

Once I am done with the ATM and I need to take ONE FREAKING SECOND to get my bearings, he is still aggressively in my face.  I do not know how much a taxi is to my hostel.  I never looked into it because I never planned to take one.  I don’t know what time the Maglev train stops running.  I need a freaking second to consider my own options without this man in my face.  He will not allow me this luxury.

For a split second, I cave and ask him how much the airport taxi is.  He takes my hotel confirmation tells me to follow him.  I snap back to my senses.  The entire time I have been in China, every time I get off a train or bus or plane, I am instantly bombarded with people yelling “TAXI” at me.  They are all rip offs.  All of them.  Every time I have taken one, on the way back, the fare was half of what I paid.  Sure it is only $5 or $10 but it is now the principle here.  Stop scamming me.   I start yelling at the air in front of me “I AM SO SICK OF CHINA TRYING TO SCAM ME WITH TAXIS, I HATE CHINA”

He brings me to a counter and the cost of a taxi is 450 yuan. Oh no way in hell.  I say “Get the fuck out of here” and he tells me that it is the only way to get to my hostel.  I keep saying “NO” and he keeps pushing.  This is China.  You find yourself yelling “NO” over and over and over to people to whom “no” translates to “please keep pushing your crap in my face until I pull out my wallet.”  He will not give up, “no” isn’t working.  I am trying to maneuver around him to find the signs for the Maglev train and he keeps jumping back into my face, going on and on about “this is the only way to get to your hotel”  No. But this is the only way to go. NO.  But this is the only way to go.  NO. I turn right, he jumps back into my face.  I veer left, he jumps right back into my face.  I cannot get around this guy.  “But Miss, this is the only way to get to your hotel.”  Finally I scream at him “No YOU suck my dick” and those are the magic combination of words to get him to leave me alone.

I go outside to the taxi stand he was trying to cock block me from.  I get in a metered cab.  Even with the driver getting lost (and having to pull over to pull out a magnifying glass to read the address) it cost me 200 Yuan.

Then I get to my hostel and check into my room.   It is a cute little duplex with a loft bed up top and my own private balcony.  Now I am happy.

I Am Leaving for China Tomorrow!

I had this great “Last Post Before China!” post mapped out in my head.  But I have only typed one sentence so far and I have gotten interrupted 23984734278974 times with really complicated work stuff.  I am not that sure why, but it seems the entire company I work for knows I am leaving and where I am going.  They all want to get stuff in before I go (YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THIS IS NECESSARY.  HELLO PEOPLE, MY JOB IS BEING FILLED BY SOMEONE WHEN I AM NOT HERE.  GET OFF ME) and they all want to stop and ask me about my trip.  DO YOU WANT ME TO DO THIS WORK YOU JUST GAVE ME OR DO YOU WANT ME TO STOP AND CHIT CHAT WITH YOU?

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Anyway.

I am really excited.   Not just to go to China (I AM GOING TO CHINA!!!!) but to also get away from my job.  It has been a rough few months.  And of course, on my last day at work for 33 days, I put in for more vacation time in November.  Had to do it.

My final itinerary is:

Hong Kong for three nights

Macau for two nights (MACAU I AM GOING TO MACAU!)

One day in Shenzhen before a late night flight

Four nights in Guillin

Three nights in Xi’an (with side trips to Luoyang and Huashan)

Overnight train to Xining

One night in Xining

TIBET! I AM GOING TO SEE MOUNT EVEREST!!!

One night in Chengdu, just as a stop over

Leshan, spending the night at Emeishan and then spending the next day at Emeishan

Back to Chengdu for two nights

And then ending with three nights in Shanghai

I am typing this from my desk at work and today is CRAZED here so if I made any math errors on the above, that is why. SAME GOES FOR TYPOS!

I have scheduled a bunch of Las Vegas trip reports to automatically pop up for the first two weeks I am gone. This will save me from feeling pressured to get stuff up while traveling.

Also how annoying is it that I thought I could use the train ride to Tibet to get a lot of work done and it turns out I cannot because the high altitude will likely fry my netbook if I turn it on?

Tonight when I get out of work (LAST DAY FOR 33 DAYS I AM SO EXCITED) I have to go and buy nicotine patches.  I experienced a recent cigarette slip up after months of not smoking.  The last thing I need is a nicotine fit on a 19 hour flight.  I also have to return some library books.  Then maybe I will unpack and repack again, just because WHY NOT.

I also have to set up a VPN (last minute much?) and download that stupid Microsoft Pyramid game onto my netbook because I am addicted to it and need to play it for 19 hours on my flight.

Also, crossed fingers that Delta has television (they did not when I flew home from Istanbul last year) and that it has CBS so I can watch the Survivor finale on the plane.

Sigh.  China, take me away!