It’s been awhile since I’ve wrote a blog but life got in the way and then a bit of depression got in the way.
I went to New York and hung out with one of my best friends. Found out that I can’t constantly be around someone, shocker. Went to the MOMA, made new friends, got drunk with blue-haired punks while hanging out with one of my childhood friends. It’s good to say that he is a screen and comic book writer.
Hid away for a couple days in a cabin in upstate New York. Needed an oasis away from the noise and constant stimulation of New York.
Went to the opposite. Hiked for days, visited an Amish community, found tiny cities to explore, and ended up getting sicker than what I have been in about a year.
Found a way to stay in Ottawa for free without having to compromise any moral integrity (ha). Stayed the night on a boat in Ithaca on my way to Ottawa and ended up dancing to zydeco till the morning with people from a hostel.
Saw Ottawa, hung out with a gorgeous boxer named Maverick (a dog not a person, unfortunately), got lost hiking and a two-hour hike turned into a five hour one but got some great pictures out of the deal. Cooked hella homemade dinners and accidentally stumbled into a used book store, not accidentally.
Now I’m in Toronto. The trip should’ve taken about four hours and lasted longer than six. But I made a side trip to go to a couple art galleries, but hey it’s freaking Canadian Thanksgiving. Instead I found this city covered in ribbons of what people were grateful for (will insert pictures later).
Toronto is what I hoped New York would be. It is bright and loud but artful without too many people or things. It’s nicer on the senses and I can probably walk around the whole city in a couple hours.
My trip is starting to come to an end and I’m seeing the light of my bedroom back in Texas. I had minor bits of homesickness in New York. I am looking at it like a learning curve. It’s a way for me to figure out this shindig before I take it to countries without English as a major language. Things being I need to stay longer than a few days, enough to unpack, get to know people and have interactions that are meaningful and not just a face-value one day.
But other than that, it’s been amazing. Trying new foods at any opportunity I can. I can’t lie though the fact once I leave Toronto, most of my time will be spent with and at people’s homes that I know is a weird feeling. I won’t be a lone 90% of the time but on the other hand, I won’t be alone 90% of the time.
Today was one of those days where it was in a movie. I decided last minute to visit Canada before I left Maine, so close to the border.
Canada is a different land mine.
Full of the French language and architecture that will make you question America’s monopoly as the North American mecca.
I see now how New Orleans tried to imitate a French landscape and how Canada did it better. The colors, flags, and people are loud and vibrant. Ranging in colors and languages. It’s mandatory for everyone to learn French and English.
Before coming, I knew doing Quebec City in one day would be difficult and so I decided to do a food tour. Combining two of my loves, food and history.
The guide stuck close to me and answered my questions walking in between places. Mostly about politics, the immigration policies, how that affected local Canadians, the election, and as always, I asked about superstitions in the area.
He answered kindly and we kept up a nice conversation about him. He was an archeology major who moved to Quebec for the historical reasons. He accidentally got stuck doing tours since 2013 and works seven days a week.
His views on immigration ranged from condescending about the amount of respect Canada gets for a more “open policy” as he says that it’s easy to get in but hard to stay in Canada. He told stories about how many engineers and doctor’s he knows that can’t find a job because they can not speak English.
The motto is, speaking English you can get a job anywhere. If you speak French and not English, you won’t find a thing.
Says a lot about the political landscape of Canada.
Not to downplay the food though. Because I can live in Canada and remaining what I’ve been told as “slim thick”. Which the term is altogether problematic but I won’t get into it now.
The food experience included: poutine, the Canadian version of shepard’s pie, stew, maple toffee, pea soup, some cream sugar cube, croissant, wines, and mac and cheese with Canadian-smoked bacon.
I am in heaven.
Currently, I am eating a meat and cheese board after my wine tasting at a local famous winery. My view consists of a vineyard (of course) with falls, mountains, and the city of Quebec in the background. My life is definitely different from how it was about a year ago.
Weird how one break-up and a weird job can change you.
The past week in Maine has been like visiting an English, pretty-American country. So like an English-speaking Puerto Rico.
I’m going to start by saying the overall belief that Northerners have no manners and are a crisp, cold kind; is something I have yet to run into.
Everyone I have met from the postal office workers to the people at the laundry mat have been kind to an almost fault.
Example: I needed a box. There is not a place to buy a box in Rangeley Maine. A random lady heard my cries and told me to follow her in her 4 by 4. Next thing I know, I’m on a dirt road about 15 miles from Rangeley on an overlook talking to a weird lady about her son’s upcoming wedding with a box in my hand.
This keeps happening. Little acts of kindness and I pass it on as much as I can. Which lead me to meeting an infamous online poker player from Florida. He is doing the Appalachian Trail to escape the digital realm but he spends time between Florida and Las Vegas. Not sure if I believe him but he gave a good story regardless.
Being a bartender has allowed me to meet people. And it’s my y’all and yes mam’s that have people having a constant flow of conversation.
A week in and I’m a little tired of telling my story. There have been majorly 3 outcomes of people learning that I’m traveling and doing a work exchange program: oh you’re trying to find yourself, tell me everything because I need to tell my son/daughter, and wonder how your parents are feeling.
A couple days into being in small-town Maine, I decided to go to a BBQ joint. The moment the waitress found out where I was from, she immediately went into a spiel about how different the BBQ was. That I shouldn’t expect what I know. It’s sweeter, lighter (somehow, I mean it’s the same meat).
Probably one of the biggest cultural breakdowns I have seen (semi-joking).
Between working and working, I haven’t had much time for much else. I’ve hiked a couple trails and seen some waterfalls. I can’t get over the views I have seen. You can never decide what is better; day or night.
During the day, you can go to overlooks and hike to the tops of mountains and you are literally in the clouds.
During the night, Rangeley is an unpolluted sky and you can spot the Milky Way.
Life in Rangeley is a small town. Everyone knows everyone else. I see people stopping in the middle of the street to have a full conversation with each other. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a Stephen King movie. Low-key segue, Stephen King owns a house over here. I’m floored and on a daily mission to not fangirl and try to find it.
My first taste of Alabama was by far a better experience than Florida. Plus, all the literary goals.
Had one of the best times in Montgomery. Met some wild people and saw some great sites. Alabama, I definitely appreciate ya’.
My first day in Maine was me sleeping. The drive was brutal and if it weren’t for Binge Mode: Harry Potter, I probably would have crashed at hour 17. Instead, I made the trip in 26 hours and slept away on Friday.
A cool thing that happened to me on my trip was stopping at a Bojangles in Tennessee. Nothing special about that restaurant. I wanted to see a Tennessee classic in action. It was the manager who changed the restaurant chain.
We went through the normal polite banter while he was helping me and I told him a little about what I was doing. Next thing I know, I was about to start eating and he joins me.
He begins to tell me about his life. 72 years old, in and around Air Force bases throughout America. He then told me to visit with an artist in Knoxville. Tell Rochelle that you know Paul, she will know what to do.
Five minutes later into the conversation, he tells me that she is his wife. He waits and explains. Her art is currently in the Vatican, she was the first solo female artist for the Olympics in the 80’s, and has done multiple sets of Olympics both winter and summer.
My jaw slowly dropped as he continued giving me her past art history.
“Well, heck, when you go see her, give her a call. I will let her know to set something aside for you. You just remind me of her and she would go bonkers just meeting you. A young lady traveling like you, it’s something she would do.”
The drive after that, was pretty standard. Drove through mountains then cities then mountains again.
On Friday, getting closer to the Rangeley Inn, the streets turned to 35 mph and winded in around each other. It took a couple hours in the foothills and mountains of Northern Maine before I arrived. But not before seeing a “Moose Crossing” sign. An icon to me now.
Welcome to Rangeley, a town of 2 stop lights and known for the the landscape. Later I would find out that Stephen King has a house somewhere near here (*insert hyperventilation*).
The second I arrived, my head hit the pillow and took a nap. Woke up to talk to Travis, the owner of Rangeley Inn.
I have never met an owner of an inn but I did not expect someone who looks like he just stepped off a trail somewhere in California. Complete with the easy going nature, my temporary boss gave me my schedule. A quick tour and I ran back to bed.
First day and my starter went out, got lost in Shreveport and had a weird experience with an older gentleman “trying to help”. Cool beginnings to my trip
My first nights were on a campground. Surprisingly, mosquitos were not a menace. It was the Louisianan men who wanted to talk politics. Also, view my obsession with Bonnie and Clyde.
My day of traveling and hitting 5 different Louisiana cities. I mean, you can do most of Louisiana in a day.
The city of Lafayette was dead on a Sunday but I was determined to make it a normal Sunday; so church and brunch, right?
My first night in New Orleans, wouldn’t be complete without Bourbon Street. I decided to go big or go home, with the safety net of a friend.
I may not have remembered I can’t take shots like I used to but it’s time to explore the coffee shops and do non-alcoholic things (if any) in New Orleans.
This weekend was Southern Decadence and I still wanted to be a part of the New Orleans life, even if I couldn’t look at a drink. Found out Bourbon Street isn’t a place sober people should be after 10 p.m.
Wednesday, it’s the day. I woke up at 6 and worked till 9 so I wouldn’t be guilty. I had been planning this specific trip for years. This museum.
I headed for Montgomery and turned onto to Zelda Lane.
The Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum was on the corner of a real neighborhood. Stuck in the middle of Montgomery with the only sign being near the road on top of the mailbox.
Inside, it was one of those Southern homes were you can still picture tea time on the porch or hot nights in August.
This museum had recently promoted staying overnight as an AirBnB. Personally, I am too superstitious to ever mess with that but it’s a great idea. It spanned about 5 rooms, going into detail over Zelda.
The director of the museum came out to great me. She was this badass with a monotone voice. I had hoped the museum would go over more the relational details of Zelda and Scott ( I mean they were mad crazy).
I spent the rest of the day basically picturing myself in the 50’s and trying to get work done.
*I’m doing 2 days in one because they flow together.
Now tomorrow (Thursday), I was supposed to head out to Detroit. I had a work exchange offer to help out with the website at this new hostel. The day before I was supposed to go, she called truly upset saying they over booked their volunteers and could not host me.
Well, that kind of put a hinderance on what I needed to do.
Frantically, I begin messaging hostels or anywhere trying to find a work/exchange program. I was having no luck and I had 12 hours to go.
After mass messaging, I decided to take a coffee break and went into Montgomery. This was probably one of the best ideas I had and resulted in probably the best night so far of my trip.
I ended meeting this guy. This wonderfully amazing guy. He is a journalist for the Montgomery paper and was probably the most interesting person I had met. We talked over nerdy stuff, politics, the rising issue with media. He even began to through out bigwig media names he had worked with. And I was impressed the moment he dropped BBC. We ended up talking for hours until he had to go.
Instead of parting:
“Hey so some of my friends and I are having a family potluck. We are cooking all this crazy stuff.”
He could have been an axe murderer or a creep but I decided to just go with it.
The meal consisted of me meeting his four other friends. One was in a popular reggae band and gave it up to with his kids. His wife was the freaking director of the museum, and she had this monotone voice that delivered sarcasm perfectly (kind of like April from Parks and Rec). Another was in the socialist party and the last was a folk singer.
That night is what I want in a friend group. They were these crazy intellectual people flouting between political jokes and movie quotes. We debated modern-day imperialism and if the deaths in Serenity were worth it.
Me and Gonzo Journalist ended back at his place and hung out for awhile.
*Cough fast forward cough*
He actually invited me to stay with him while trying to find a place. I actually said yes. That night was amazing between the conversation and meeting his amazing group of friends.
But as fate would have it, I got a call in the morning from a hostel in Maine that I reached out too. They said they needed help and to be there on Friday.
My goal is to say yes to experiences. That’s how I ended up at a random person’s house in Montgomery going over Tolstoy. So, I packed my bags and began a 25 hour drive to Maine.
I did text Gonzo and definitely going to keep in touch, because who knows.
The past couple of days here have been what I’ve looking for. I found peace, mediation, began full fiction writing again, basically the creative juices are in full swing.
Monday, I began my trek from Altmore to Montgomery with a stop in-between. I did not know the literary background of Alabama. It’s amazing. I noticed a sign that said thirty minutes to Harper Lee‘s hometown and basis for “To Kill A Mockingbird“. I stopped my car and turned real quick.
Lee’s book is iconic and while I’m not the greatest fan of her 70 year follow up book, she is still a magnificent queen in my book. I get to the town of Monroeville and look around. No one was there. No on driving, no one in the shops. It did seem a little eery especially with my being a minority and all. But I chalked it up to Labor Day and did the walking tour. Nobody bothered me.
But wait there’s more
Turns out it’s Truman Capote‘s hometown too. Alabama now rivals Texas as my favorite state at this point.
I came to Montgomery and settled in with. It was easy driving through with no one on the roads again. My goal of the day was to eat at an icon’s place and find my hostel. Well, I ate at Ms. B‘s in Montgomery and had drive to Prattsville, Alabama to find my hostel. I did not realize when getting this place, that it would be a permaculture.
(Background: permaculture is a food forest done by local individuals who are either tired of the price of food going up, wanting to make a more sustainable living, provide food for farmer’s markets, or both.)
This couple opened their farm and their animals to strangers around the world. The farm is far enough away from the city, that when you enter it’s on a gravel road. The greenery completely surrounds you for the last ten miles. I think I may like Northern U.S. more than I thought.
*Let me start off by giving this disclosure: I went to Florida 2 days before a tropical storm came through. I had also just finished a week in a house with one of my friends. My expectations were high, I guess. *
I truly hate Florida. It was a swamp. Literally.
I heard people say expect that from Louisiana or Mississippi but not Florida. It literally was a wet, humid, insect-driven place.
The place I first went to was this tiny towns. I love tiny towns. I live for tiny towns on this trip. This scenery on the way out was pretty. Full of lush greenery and white people.
Pulling in, it wasn’t bad and the dude let me use one of his fancy tents. (Oh yeah, went back to camping, probably another personal reason of me hating Florida).
When the night came, apparently so did a thousand insects. I was huddled in the corner of my tent like in a scary movie with my shoe in my hand. I was a killer on a rampage and my target mosquitoes, weird bugs, and spiders.
I finally passed out from exhaustion for 2 hours and opened my tent. Again, I was not prepared for the amount of spider webs in this place.
I grabbed all my stuff and left for Destin.
Destin, is another word for beach in Floridanese. Honestly, I was picturing those white beaches and blue sea. I got Galveston.
Pensacola was next on the list for the day. I figure why not check mark all of them off before heading out of this humid hell.
The one good thing I can say about this place is the food. I tried Donut Hole and Shark Bite Tacos, both hella recommend. Donut Hole is something of a classic in Florida, I had no idea and was just looking for something that was opened early so I wouldn’t have to be in my tent.
I cancelled my night at the camping spot and went to this cute little camper on the border of Alabama and Florida.
Leaps and bounds my friends, leaps and bounds. It was even called Biscuit, and just like it’s name, it was overly cutsy but homey. The owner and I ended up talking about politics. (Political talk with people over 50= 2). She was a Bernie fan, so it went well.
Overall, Florida is a useless state and the beaches in photos are lies.
Today, we woke up late and went to The Pharmacy Museum in downtown New Orleans. High key, this is the best bang for your buck when talking about New Orleans museum.
After finishing up my work and getting ready to leave on Saturday, I decided to go to the French Quarter to photograph Southern Decadence.
I was out taking photos and this dude started talking to me (check out photos here).
He was not visibly drunk or hitting on me. He told me he was a tour guide with a Cajun accent and his beard did not wrap around his chin. In other words, he looked completely harmless.
This complete stranger asked if he could show me around, with him being a tour guide, I figured I would learn something. He settled in for following me while I took my pictures and pointing at things. Once again, my red flag of supposed womanly intuition did not raise. We were in extreme public and he had yet to even try to touch me.
An hour into our exploration of drunken bodies and alcohol, he had to leave. I thought that was it, but instead he asked for a hug.
It seemed like an acceptable motion between two strangers.
He pulled me in and when I tried to back away, his hand gripped my back. Next thing I know, his head is angling and his eyes close. Again, I try to back away but his grip tightens and he kisses me. My face froze and I just took it.
I’m not sure if it was the shock factor that I did not automatically knee him in his groin but all I did was push him away with force. I turned and walked away as fast as I could while trying to keep what little dignity I felt I didn’t have.
The kiss happened without warning, without me giving any inclination that I wanted him to feel me up. It just happened.
So I had my most uncomfortable and unnecessary kiss of my life in New Orleans.
I ran to Cafe Du Monde after that. I hate men.
At Cafe Du Monde, I ended up hanging out with a local man. He was singing on the side of the street and told me about his life.
He was a choir singer at a local New Orleans church but lost his house (I think from Katrina but he was talking so fast, I may not have got it right).
But he sang me church songs, while I sat there getting fat with my beignets.
The beginning of the French Quarter was awkward and filled with stupid horniness and ended with me meeting an interesting man who could sing with all his heart.
I am of firm belief that New Orleans is one crazy, weird city.