Chapter 2: The Lodge

** 3 days before The Diner **

I stared blankly at Ed, sitting across from me in a diner in Reno. The chiming of frenzied slot machines could be heard everywhere. There was a mixed scent of second-hand smoke, coffee, and booze that filled the air and I visualized gold coins being dropped from the sky as if I were in a cartoon. Eddie sat there staring out the window, with a reflection of the Sierra Nevadas in his eyes. I studied his face- dark brown curls, hazel eyes, olive skin. I thought of what our kids might look like, if we had them. I felt so sorry for him. I didn’t feel like eating this morning and resided to a usual black coffee. I fell in love with the waitress as she poured me another cup and snapped me out of my head. A bracelet with red hearts dangled loosely from her nimble wrist and it clinked the side of my cup. Hanging from her ears were a pair of red dice that somehow looked homemade. Chipper as wine, she smacked her gum at me and it’s fair to say we spoke telepathically.

Ed and I had had a weird night out before and it was unbearably obvious he was dying to talk about it. He woke up after I had come out of the bathroom, post spew, and smiled. “Hey eskimo, how about some pancakes to make amends..” he searched my face, his hair in a tangled mop with sleep in his eyes. I sighed after a long pause, and nodded my head. We walked over to the diner that was across the street from the lodge and grabbed a booth in the corner. My head was swimming with booze and I was certain I smelled like a brothel. Our waitress came over with more coffee, bless her, and I finally caught a glimpse of her name tag: Angel.

“Is that your real name?” I asked her.

“More like my alter-ego,” she gave me a wink and walked away. I liked that and got lost in a thought. Ed and I had been in a little tiki bar across town the night before. I had practically begged him for us to go out, as he wouldn’t allow me to go out alone, as per usual. He wanted to stay in, order room service, and get a good night’s rest for us to hop on the road early the next morning. This was my first time ever in Reno and I wanted to go out and live. I needed booze, I needed conversations with strangers, and Ed finally gave in and followed me like a lost puppy, as he always does. The tiki bar was like walking into a time warp. It felt like Bedrock and I thought I had been transported to another time. The 70’s maybe. It was dark, smokey, and filled with vibrant pops of color everywhere. Rockabilly music took over the place and I was already drunk on love, leaving Ed trailing behind me on fumes. I ordered a drink called “The Drunken Monkey” as it seemed appropriate. It was a whopping five bucks and was apart of Happy Hour for the next three hours. I thought I’d struck gold. It came with a pink umbrella on top, wedge of lime, pineapple slice, and tasted like something you’d drink when you’re 16, hoping to make a boy jealous. I smashed through two of them while Ed was still on his first low-carb beer.

“Im going to get another,” I slurred to Ed.

“Come on, let’s go back to the room,” he looked worried. This pissed me off and I just shook my head and swayed to the bar. As I was waiting for my third round, I started writing a poem on my damp napkin.

‘Don’t leave her shut in the cupboard,

hold her hand and lead her out..

Show her the world that she’s been missing,

Let her voice be heard out loud.

Take her up to the mountains,

Tell her to breath in that air.

No words need to be spoken,

Now she knows that you care..’

“I always found that the material flows better after a few cocktails,” I looked up and saw a man in what appeared to be a suit with a bolo tie, white cowboy hat, and brown slim-toed cowboy boots. He had round tortoise shell glasses and brown eyes. What a strange ensemble.

“Excuse me?” I said.

He pointed at the napkin. “You’re little scripture there. I can always spot out the good writers in this city.” He had a permanent smile on his face.

“You call this a city?”

“Of course! Don’t you know Reno is the biggest little city in the world?” he pointed to the framed photo on the wall of the infamous Reno sign stating just those words at the start of town. I nodded and crumpled the napkin in my hand, gazing back at my princess drink.

“Hey now, aren’t you going to save that? Could come of use one day.”

“I’m not a poet,” I snapped.

“Maybe so, but you’re definitely a writer- that’s plain to see. We’re the only suds in this crazy world that scribbles on backs of receipts and napkins and there ain’t nothing anyone can do about it.” he was beaming. I didn’t understand why he was so chuffed with himself. He seemed to be alone, but I wondered what the costume was for.

“So, who are you? And why are you in Reno? Do you live here?” I said.

He laughed and wiped his hands on his pants. “Shoot, I’m sorry. Forgive me for not introducing myself. My names Alan, Alan Drez. I’m a talent agent. I’m actually from Los Angeles but just here scoping out the local talent,” he took a sip of his drink and smiled. “You know, I could probably help you catch that dream of yours you’ve been chasing.”

“Who said i’m chasing a dream?” I asked slowly.

“Sweetheart, it’s written all over your face. It’s my job to help young gals like you. I can take you to the top! I’m a huge believer in vibes and ora’s people emit, and honey you have got it,” he started fishing around in his coat pockets and pulled out a card.

“Here’s my card. I’d love to have a serious chat with you if you’ve got the time. I’m here all weekend.” I took the card and looked it over. ‘Alan Drez: Talent Agent at Silo Talent Group.’ The front had an artsy sketch of the Sierras.

I took the last gulp of my drink, swiveled around in my seat, and got up from the bar. “I’m not anyone’s honey and don’t call me sweetheart.” I turned and walked away and could hear him exploding with a deep bellied laugh. Ed was still sitting patiently at the hightop, his head in his hand, most likely having watched my whole encounter. I felt nauseous. My body began to shrink as the world around me grew bigger and taller until I couldn’t breath. I was having one of my out-of-body experiences, looking down at myself sinking into a crack.

Ed pulled me out of my abyss by lightly stroking my hand. He had those puppy dog eyes on, and a smile turned down low. A look he often gave, thinking it was irresistible. He looked pathetic and I felt embarrassed for him. “Did you get the guy’s number?”

“Fucking hell, It wasn’t like that,” I snapped.

“I know exactly what it was. If I wasn’t here, the guy would’ve drugged you and swept you away.”

“Ya know, he saw something in me. He’s an agent from LA and was asking to meet with me… said he could turn me into something big if I wanted it.” I immediately regretted saying these words out loud. I sounded pathetic and desperate for understanding.

“Jesus Christ, Renee. Why do we always end up on this same topic? You need to snap out of this dream state you’re in and come back down to reality. That guy wanted in your pants and that’s all there is to it. Damnit, don’t you know I care about you and only want what’s best for you?”

I didn’t have any words. A strong sadness came over me that I knew quite well; it was the familiar feeling of being constantly misunderstood, and I sure as hell didn’t want to try and explain it to Ed, as he would poke and prod. Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ came on and I rose from my seat like a worm and made my way to the front by the stage. The stage was empty of course, but I got on it anyway, in my own world. Whoever was in control of the music, must’ve seen me stumble aboard and turned up the tunes, probably in hopes of a sloppy drunk girl show. I wasn’t phased, and started to dance alone. I pretended to have a mic in my hand and started to lip sync the song and twirl my body around theatrically. People would look up occasionally, dismissing themselves from drinks and conversations, just to study me for a split moment, then get back to their lives. This is why I loved this damn country so much.

‘And while i’m combing my hair now, and wondering what dress to wear now’

I was thrashing my body around, dripping in hot wax and dreams, drunk on monkey’s and felt more myself than I had in weeks. A fire was burning in my chest and I had a strong desire to go someplace and get all the poison out on paper, to write until the booze wore off. I couldn’t leave until after this song. I felt a hand on the small of my back and suddenly I was cradled in someone’s arms. It was Ed. He twirled me, swung me, dipped me, kissed me. And just like that, we were dancing on that stage, him singing the words into my ear. Me singing back. Our teeth touching. I was glowing. He couldn’t help himself and always ended up giving in, dipping into my crazy, and drowning in it. This was the Ed I loved. This was why we worked and why we didn’t. We danced and danced, through Aretha, through Bowie, and through Janis. An abrupt applause lit up the room and whistles, hollers, hoots and yeahs snowballed. People were trying to usher us back on until Ed picked me up in his arms and carried me off the stage and through the sea of folks like a firefighter carrying a child through flames. My eyes were rolling to the back of my head, but I caught a glimpse of Alan Drez, from Silo Talent, still at the bar, and still smiling from that Hollywood mouth. He tipped his hat and raised his glass to me as we were going through the door in slow-motion.

Ed carried me the whole way back to the lodge. Across the parking lot, across the busy street, now turned barren. I stared over his shoulder, my head bobbing from side to side with his alternating steps, staring the tiki bar down while it’s neon flamingo’s and bright lights burned into my eyes.

The last thing I remember was getting back to the room at the lodge and Ed trying to put me to bed. I threw a tantrum like a child because I wanted to sleep in the jacuzzi that was in the room. He finally gave in, and filled the tub with all the pillows from the bed and the comforter. I dreamt of Alan and Hollywood that night. I was in a cafe off Hollywood Blvd drinking drip and eating pancakes. I had a thick stack of paper that looked like a manuscript and it had my name on it. Alan sat across from me and was laughing in a terrifying maniac way while coffee was spilling out everywhere, staining the pages and dripping onto my legs. I woke up to a slow drip of water dripping from the faucet onto my left leg that had found its way out of the sea of blankets. What in the fuck was in those drinks last night? My head was throbbing like a throbbin’ knob, and I needed to spew. I got up and walked passed Ed’s quivering body on the bed. He had given me all of the bedding last night and only had a sheet left to himself. I was embarrassed.

So now here we are again, after another one of my ‘episodes’. Ed sitting across from me, reading the paper, pretending like everything was fine. He had this thing that he did, when we would have an argument, or if I did something wrong and it wasn’t properly addressed. He’d give me some space, then come back to me and pretend all was well. He would award me with coffee and pancakes, kisses and hugs, tell me how beautiful I was, when all I ever wanted was for him to speak up. Grow a pair and be hurt for once. Give ME the silent treatment. But no, not Ed. He was a noble tree that withstood the trying times of passing storms. He knew if he ever were to treat me that way, i’d be flying out the gate like a horse ran home, and that was a heartbreaking thought.

“So I thought maybe we could take an easy drive today, seeing as you’re probably not feeling too hot today,” he laughed. “We’ll drive to Bishop and stay the night. It’s just over a four hour drive. It’s quite a cool little town, actually. Figured we could check into a motel, maybe go to a museum, grab a bite, and..”

“Ed..” I cut him off. “I want to stay another night in Reno. Maybe a few actually.” My eyes still lost in my coffee, I could feel his clocks winding in his mind.

“Um, sorry, why? I thought we would try to make up some of the time we’ve lost and stick back to the plan.” he said.

“Look, i’m not feeling too great, and in all honesty, I do want to meet up with that guy from last night and see what he has to offer. If anything, I just want to hear him out.”

Ed was silent and his rage was enough to set the whole table on fire. I was waiting for him to fight back, to convince me otherwise, but he didn’t.

“Fine. I’ll just leave you alone tonight. I’ll do my own thing.” and with that, he got up and left. I immediately felt sick to my stomach but brushed the thought away. I wanted to be selfish and do something for my own sake. Not stick to a plan or go the routed path. I watched him walk out the door and cross the street. I felt horrible, but also felt an immediate relief that put my mind and body at rest.

Pulling out my notebook, I drew a line in the middle of the page from  the top to bottom. On the left side, I wrote ‘Pros’ and on the right side, ‘Cons’. Here I was, hungover in Reno, writing a pros and cons list for staying with Ed. I must have a special place in Hell.

Looking out the misty window, it really hit me; Reno was actually quite a beautiful place. I liked that it had a little city, but didn’t lose sight of itself being the small town nestled beneath the Sierra Nevada’s. I couldn’t tell if winter was dying off here or if it would linger for awhile, but I didn’t mind the frigid temps and sleet that littered the ground. This place seemed like the type of dark oasis that washed up celebrities and old, weathered writers would come to forget about the horrible things they’ve done. Travelers stopping off on their way to bigger and brighter destinations would occupy diners and prowl the lit up streets, drinking fruity cocktails under the desert sun, or holing up in a casino in the dead of winter, rocking themselves into a slumber from the slots and booze. What a dream.

I felt around for the business card in my pocket. It was practically burning a hole through my thigh. I looked up at the Minnie Mouse clock on the wall, 10:22, and decided I’d give Alan a call at 1pm. I needed this time to be alone. Quickly I became infuriated because it was hard to remember the last time I truly was alone. The fact is, people like Ed, and the people sitting next to me right now, they don’t mind living a mundane life. Repeatedly doing the same thing after the other. How is everyone not shouting at the top of their lungs? Standing on top of these tables, throwing shit around, refusing to live any way but extraordinarily? I’ve lived every day, up to this moment, trying to figure out how to get to my dreams. How to climb to the top, through the clouds and mist, and oversee the world. My problem, has always been men. I’ve found myself in relationships, which is pure and true, but it also doesn’t allow me to thrive in creativity. I’ve spent days, months, years even, following others on their paths and doing the things that they feel are right. I’ve resorted to keeping quiet and being alone inside my mind with cyclones of words trapping me there. It’s been a lonely road and one that i’ve been ready to exit for sometime. But saying goodbye can never be easy if it’s unexpected.

I had so much life that needed to be lived, by me and myself only. I wanted to swim naked in lakes, not hiding my body from anyone. I wanted to stay up at all hours of the night, writing, anywhere but home, singing in cafes and bars, staying in motels, hotels, camping, tramping, hitchhiking. I needed more freedom to be me, and this path required me to travel solo. My pen started moving before I even realized, and everything I was thinking was pouring out onto the pages. I’ve journaled daily for the majority of my life, but i’ve never really written something. Told a proper story. I wanted to reach women, men even, anyone out there who felt this same way. Who felt like an oddball, a lone ranger having to adapt to society and feeling as if they were putting a lid on themselves constantly.

“Renee!” that voice. I know that voice. “Hellooooo… anyone home?” sitting across from me now was of course, Mr. Drez. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how he caught my name.

“Oh, hi Mr. Drez. Sorry, I was planning on ringing you in about an hours time,” to be honest I was a bit annoyed this guy was beating me to the punch. Was he following me or something?

“Don’t worry, I’m not following you,” shit, was I speaking out loud? “And please, call me Alan. I’m just too happy to meet with you, and of course you’re here, writing nonetheless. Where’s your man-friend? The one that carried you out last night like a burning corpse?”

Today, Alan was wearing the same thing as last night, but in a different color. He was sporting a deep mustard yellow suit, and had it not been for the snow, I’m sure he would’ve blended in with the background hills. I couldn’t tell if I could picture him as an agent or some seedy car salesman. Now that I was sober, I started to be a little apprehensive about him.

“Anyway, how abouts we head over to the lodge? They’ve got a mighty big fireplace in the lobby that I just can’t seem to get enough of. Also, the coffee is free,” he said.

“You’re staying at the lodge as well?” I asked wearily.

“Yes ma’am. I’ve been staying at the lodge every year now since coming over here for scouting.”

My red flags were going off, but I couldn’t ignore the beautiful timing of all of this. Something happened to me last night in my drunken frenzy. Sure I may have had one too many monkeys, but it awakened me and made me want to be out of my comfort zone as much as possible.

“Alright, sure. Let’s go.” I grabbed my bag, dropped $2.50 on the table for the coffee, and said goodbye to Angel.

“I’m sure i’ll see you again soon, sweetheart.” she blew me a kiss.

“Thought no one was allowed to call you sweetheart?” Alan said behind me.

“Only Angels can call me that.” I said, scrunching my hair up.

He raised his eyebrows and ran after me.

 

Back at the Lodge, I could hear the crackling of the fire before rounding the corner into the belly of the lobby. It was quiet, people must’ve still been lounging in beds with lovers drunk on their hangovers. Old country music was softly playing about, which I thought was mighty fitting for a place like this. A server came quietly over to us once we perched ourselves near the fire.

“Mr. Drez, sir. Your usual?” a man who looked far too old to be working as a waiter was patiently waiting at his side.

“Thank you, Jack. That’ll be lovely. Make that two of ’em please.” He gave the waiter a nod and he fluttered away disappearing behind the bar.

“Wow, Mr. Bigshot around here, huh.” I said, cockily.

“I told you, I visit the Lodge yearly and Jack has been here since the walls went up.”

Jack appeared in two minutes time with a pot of coffee, a jug of cream, and two whiskey doubles in small vessels. “Thank you, Jack.” he said, as he slipped him a 20.

For awhile, we sat there in silence staring into the fire. I wondered how hot it was in there. I wondered how I could possibly trap its essence and its crackling wood sounds into a jar to open up at times of need. Alan took off his hat and gently placed it on the leather sofa next to him. He poured us both coffees, and poured a drop of whiskey in his cup, before adding a dash of cream. He looked at me and motioned towards the booze with a shrug, and I gave him a shrug response, and so there we were, there I was, drinking whiskey coffees with a man in a mustard suit next to an open fire.

“I call this here a Red Eye, cos it keeps you drunk and awake at all hours leaving ya with bloodshot eyes,” he let out that deep bellied laugh of his. “Alright, let’s just get straight into it. Why don’t you tell me what your plan is, or if you have one, and if you have any material for me to gaze over..” he leaned back and crossed one leg over the other, taking a rather large sip of his red eye. He let out one of those ‘ahhh’ sounds people sometimes do after taking a drink and I almost threw my drink out and walked off right then and there.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t have a plan. I’ve been on a trip down to San Diego from Portland with my boyfriend to visit his family. We’ve had plans to stop in LA for a couple days, but not near enough time as I would like. I also found a ring in his bag the other night which I presume he’s about to show me and ask me a certain question, and, well, I don’t want that at all right now in this point in my life. Truth is, i’m not ready for such a thing. I haven’t lived for myself at all in my life and damnit, don’t I deserve that? Doesn’t everyone? Truth is, i’ve had a sort of awakening, a eureka moment, if you will, and I just want to take it and run with it, but, well, see now i’ve got myself in a pickle, as I always do. So..” I stopped, noticing I was crying. “Sorry..”

He just sat there in silence, with that same smirk on his face, and I wanted to hit him square in the teeth and run away, but I just sat there waiting for him to say something.

“Have you been writing?” he asked.

“Every day, every chance I get,” I said quietly.

“And what do you plan to do now? What will you do about your man friend?” he asked timidly.

I thought about this for a moment. I forgot about Ed entirely and didn’t know what to say or how to say it. We had been together for five years and i’ve kept these feelings bottled up for too long to count. Guilt started seeping in again so I blinked a few times and washed it down with a red eye gulp. I gazed up at the walls. There were paintings of the Sierra’s, the Cascades, countless National Parks, the Pacific Coast Highway, and scenes from Reno. Taxidermy animals were perched around all areas of the lobby as well. A massive bobcat lurked above the Sierra’s, and a big moose head sat above the fire mantel. I wanted to grab it all, muddle it down to a paste, and mix it up with whiskey. Drink it down until it filled me with purpose.

“I don’t know what i’ll do. I suppose i’ll go along with him and i’ll have to tell him everything. Then, I don’t know what.” the tears started welling again in my eyes. This was the unfortunate part about breaking away for myself. I had to leave one behind and it would hurt him. Poor Ed just needed a normal girl. A girl who was happy working part time, allowing him to care for her, to depend on him. She’d make pot roasts and host dinner parties, and wouldn’t daydream about Hollywood or the desert. She’d be in a book club and it would be enough excitement for her. I couldn’t be furthest from that and he had been trying to fit his square peg in my round hole for years now. But now, the words were flowing out of me, and they needed to be on paper. I needed to get it out there and be something.

“Well, I tell you what, i’ve seen you sing, i’ve seen you dance, and damnit I know you can write. You’re an artist, inside an out. It basically spills out of that little body of yours! It’s in your eyes, it’s in your tone..but you need to recognize that first. You’ve got to dig inside and carve that shit out! Now I know you’ve got it in ya, and you might be thinking, well shit, you’ve just met me, you don’t know shit, in that sassy little tone of yours. But I’ve got an intuition like no other, and throughout all my years doing what I do, I’ve been good at it because of this gift, you see? And this is why i’m so successful doing what I do. If you think that you can get out there on the road, and spark somethin, anything, and you write some words on that little venture of yours, you flick that through to me and i’ll make some magic happen for ya, I swear it.”

I sat there in bewilderment. I looked around at the others in the room, waiting for everyone to pop up at the same time and say, ‘Surprise! You’ve been fooled!’ But they all went about their business, Jack behind the bar, a couple of cowboys talking low in the corner, old timers perched at the slot machines with their cigarette bowls and jar of pennies.

“Um, thank you? Sorry, I don’t really know what to say..” my voice sounding small and like it was from a child.

“Listen, I’ve been in your shoes. Where you are now is at the start of the fork. The road you’re on splits off in two different ways, and you’re the driver who has to make the call: do I go left? Or do I go right? What’s to the left? Home, familiarity, making someone happy.. and what about the right? The unfamiliar, new digs, new beginnings, making yourself happy? I know that it’s scary, I was in this same position about 25 years ago, and I was lucky enough to have someone pushing me to chase after my dreams. Sometimes, all we need is a little shove in the right direction for us to hit the ground running. Now, I can sit here and preach to you all day long, but i’m a busy man and i’ve got people like yourself to meet with. I would love to work with you and i’m sure we will be laughing about this a few years down the road, but the choice is yours. Don’t decide anything right now, sweetheart. You’ve got my card. Just keep in touch and shoot me through some of your jib jab once you’ve got a minute. My tabs open so keep drinkin’ all you like. Alright?”

With that, he picked up his hat and placed it back on his head. He reached out his hand to give mine a shake, and turned on his heel. Before he reached the door, I shouted, “Hey!” he turned around towards me, “Don’t call me sweetheart, damnit!”

He tilted his head back with that big-bellied laugh of his, and did a guilty prance out the door. I laughed and was quick to notice that I was indeed drunk. What a delight that strange encounter was! And what a joy, to be drunk in the day! I felt high as a kite and warm and fuzzy from the fire and booze. I ordered another round for myself and sat in complete bliss next to the fire. I thought about Angel and wondered what time she was off work. I thought about all the people she must meet day in and day out. Bet she’d have some stories to tell. I took out my notepad and began to write. I wrote of Ed, of the tiki lounge, of dancing my way back to life, and of Alan Drez, from Silo Talent with that Sierra backdrop. Hot damn. I really was at the fork in the road.

Dizzily, I got up and asked Jack for a to-go cup. He handed me a styrofoam cup about two hands tall, and gave me a wink. “Shall I top it up, miss?” I gave him a giddy nod. Surely, this was all a dream and I would be waking up soon with a pounding headache. I walked off, biting the edges of the cup.

Knowing too well that eventually I’d have to face Ed, I took a walk down Virginia Street, lost in thoughts and buzzing from booze and caffeine. The city was so alive with promise and hopes of cash. The dazzling lights were intoxicating in amongst themselves and dripped off buildings and signs like melted candy. “7.00 Unlimited Buffet!” “$24 a room” “Happy Hour Til 4am!” It was filled with noise and laughter, glamour, invitation and escape. Music burst like tidal waves out of every venue passed. Live bands, jazz bands, blues bands, honky tonk. I grasped my cup and held it close to my chest, grinned ear to ear, the whiskey warming my throat in the brisk air. And with a few more sluggish steps, there she was, next to Fitzgerald’s, the infamous Reno Sign. So Mr. Drez was right after all, it really was the biggest little city in the world.

Chapter 1: The Diner

I came to a halt as a vibrant neon sign came into focus up ahead. “Hot coffee and flapperjacks, 24/7.” I could already taste sticky sweet syrup mixed with a coffee ending. Snow was falling and the air was peacefully still, with each flake creating its own small sound once hitting the road. I rubbed my hands together and blew hot air into a slit between both palms. That night was the type of cold where it almost seemed burning hot. I smiled through cracked lips and crunched my way through the snow, towards the diner that I decided was an angel.

Steam fogged the windows from the inside out and only a few patrons vacated the place. I opened the door and was welcomed by a familiar tune: Santo and Johnny’s Sleepwalk. I beamed. How appropriate.

“Is it just yourself tonight?” I snapped out of my dream and found the voice that was talking at me. A woman in her late 60’s with white/blonde frizzy hair, bright pink crayon-like lipstick, and a vibrant blue eyeshadow to match her dress and apron. Her name tag said Dotti and I could’ve kissed her on the mouth.

“That’s right, just me,” I said feeling tears well in my eyes. I quickly grabbed a seat in a booth. The seats were plush pink with a light blue trim, and leather yellow diamonds on the upholstery. I couldn’t help feeling like I was sitting on this woman’s face. I chuckled. Why did I feel high right now?

“What can I get cha, honey?” she asked.

I flipped the menu over, front to back, and placed it back on the table.

“I’ll just have a cup of coffee and the short stack please,” The heart wants, what the heart wants.

She gave me a sad smirk and walked back to the kitchen. I looked around and studied everything that was on the walls. A big clock with Elvis in the middle, sat proudly in the centre of the wall above the milkshake machine. His big arm pointed to the 11, and his little arm pointed to the 15. 11:15pm. Best time of day to have a cup of joe and a stack of hot cakes, I reckon. There were black and white photos of Marilyn Monroe, more Elvis, Dolly Parton, Aubrey Hepburn, John Wayne, James Dean, Grace Kelly, and so on and so on. All the greats. The floor was a checkered black and white tile, and the light was a bit hazy. This must be what the inside of a jukebox feels like. I’ve never felt so comfortable. I’ve always been in love with diners. The more grime, the better.

I skimmed over my fellow inmates. A rancher hunched over at the bar who looked like he’d either just finished a work day from hell, or maybe discovered a cheating wife, was staring into his coffee cup, getting lost in its darkness. He had a wrinkly weathered face, but overall looked not too old. I wondered if he was alright and I thought what it would be like making love to him.

Two old birds sat in a booth near the front door. One was extremely wealthy looking. She had on a fur coat of sorts with bright red lipstick, and a giant pearl necklace. The other couldn’t be more opposite. She had dyed maroon hair, a red lip, and was in a raggedy sweater and pair of old Levi’s. They sat in complete silence, each picking at their hash browns.

A plate stacked high with pancakes and a mug with liquid gold was set in front of me. “Here ya go, sweet. You sure you’re okay? Can I get cha anything else?” The waitress looked down at me warily and almost sympathetically.

“No ma’am, I’m okay thank you,” I said. She shrugged and walked back over to the magazine she was reading. Billie Holiday now took over the muffled speakers. I’d never been happier.

The first sip of coffee made me think of mom. She always put the coffee on first thing in the morning and brewed it strong. The pot was filled to the max of 12 cups, so it could be enjoyed at all hours of day and night. Syrup and coffee always lingered in our kitchen, which eventually took over the whole house. My friends used to call our house “The Candy House” because it always smelled of sweets and coffee.

I let the butter sink a bit deeper into my pancakes before swirling it around. I slowly poured that Canadian maple over the cakes and let the steam reach my face. Pancakes really are a true piece of art. My grandpa used to say that good pancakes and a cup of joe could cure cancer- I believe him.

A burning sensation took over my left knee, where the rip in my jeans was. I reached down under the table and lightly touched the swelling and hot surface. I could feel my body tumbling out of the car once more. The brisk air stinging my face, the smack and roll I did into the snowy ditch. The screech of brakes on ice and the burning gleam of brake lights hitting my face. I found my feet after forgetting I had such things, and before I could even understand the pain was in, I ran. The taste of blood filled my mouth, my lungs stung, my head hurt, but this burst of energy came from somewhere deep within my soul, and I ran with it.

Shaking my head, I took a sip of coffee and got back to the pancakes, which were transporting me to better times. I felt light and airy, like dust settling down after a bomb has exploded minutes prior. Ella Fitzgerald now.

“Sweetie, you want to use the phone and call someone?” piped Dotti from behind the counter. With a shake of my head, I got out of my seat and went to the bathroom. Quietly I closed the door behind me and looked into the mirror. I let out a huge sigh and put my palms on the bathroom sink. The face staring back at me was almost unrecognizable. This woman had a dirty face, messy hair tangled with dirt and weeds, dried blood at the top of her head, and smeared red lipstick. These people must thing that i’ve just been gang-banged in a suburban. I turned on the tap and splashed some water on my face. Now I understood Dotti’s concern. My thoughts drifted to Eddy for the first time in about two hours. What his face must’ve looked like as I threw myself out of the car. I imagined his light blue eyes transforming to that dark hazel. His confusion and hurt projecting in his cries out to me as I ran through the abyss. I’ve never heard a man yell out like that; let alone Ed. Suddenly, I felt spit coming up in my mouth. Shame was what I was afraid of, and here it was hitting me square in the face in this tiny diner bathroom that reeked of lavender. The poor man. All he ever did was love me and try to understand my irrational behaviors. Truth is, I didn’t have an excuse for what I did. I just knew I needed to go and go the way I did. I spewed in the sink and walked back out to my booth.

The two old birds, the rancher, and Dotti, were all staring at me. It was as if the music had stopped and there was a spotlight following my steps. Pausing at my table, I filled up my coffee, and walked over to the rancher. I just needed to talk to someone. Maybe hear about someone else’s pain to forget about mine. It was selfish, but this new person I was turning into didn’t care.

He wore one of those Stetson cowboy hats. Like the ones bull riders wear at rodeos. A black felt one with a buckle on the side. The black almost looked brown as it was covered in what I assumed was dust. I slid into the booth, opposite to him, and he didn’t even look up. His eyes were still fixed on his coffee, swirling it around with a spoon, clinking the sides of the cup. I looked at the buttons on his denim shirt. The right pocket had the name, “Lolito Ranch” embroidered in green thread.

I cleared my throat a little. “Erm, hi there. My name’s Renee..” I said with a timid tone.

He looked up finally with the greenest eyes I ever did see. Dark circles shadowed underneath, and a suggestion of a dip could be seen in his lip. He smelled of nicotine and cinnamon and I wanted to know more.

“Ma’am,” he tipped his hat, just barely, and his eyes went back to his coffee. There was a faint pink lipstick mark on the lip of his cup and I wondered if it was Dotti’s. Something told me he wouldn’t share his name, so I gave him one: Cowboy.

“Coffee’s pretty good here, huh?” I said.

“Best in Bridgeport,” he slurred.

Bridgeport.. so that’s where we were. The last place I remember passing through was Carson City.

“What brings you to Lulu’s Diner?” said the cowboy.

“Mmm, I was on my way to LA, but there’s been a change of plans, so i’m headed to Kelso.”

“Kelso,” he smirked. “Why in god’s name were you on your way to LA? You tryin’ to be a big movie star?”

I took a slow sip of coffee and smiled. “Maybe, what’s wrong with that?” I remembered all the times I would tell Ed that I wanted to stay in LA. If not LA, then at least anywhere California. It was always a dream to be amongst the woozy atmosphere of Hollywood and venture out. Even to walk around for hours. Stay out all night. Eat pancakes across town. Drink gallons of coffee and write. Sleep on a beach. Work in the day for less than minimum wage at a cafe to save my soul for the things I loved. Anything. He never took me seriously when I shared my dreams of writing, or acting. Spending nights somewhere doing standup or attending an Improv class. I wanted to use my voice and release it into the world. To slather it across Hollywood and see who would have me. Ed was a ‘realist’ as he used to say, and time spent dreaming about such things was time wasted. He was an office manager and was asleep by 9 every night, without fail.

“So what do you do?”  I asked Cowboy.

He let out a sigh and raised a finger in the air to the waitress for a top-up. “I’m a rancher,” He squinted and tipped his hat to Dotti after she filled him up. “I’m just on my way to Borrego Springs to see my old man.”

Borrego Springs. The only thing I knew about that place was that it was in the middle of the desert. I always fantasized about traveling to the desert. Getting swallowed whole in its vastness. Staring up at a big sky and hallucinating on mirage and dehydration. How romantic. I felt aroused and terrified. Not in the way that I wanted to fuck this man. I was impressed with myself. Without even thinking it through, I quietly asked, “Can I come with you?”

He didn’t even look up. I watched the corner of his mouth slightly lift into a crooked smile. “Ain’t you got anything better to do, Miss Hollywood?”

“I’m figuring it out. Plus I’ve always wanted to get lost in a ghost town. Maybe this’ll spark some creativity. Maybe i’ll pick up a pen and write something.”

There was a long and uncomfortable pause. That same smirk stayed on his mouth but there was no doubt an ocean of sadness in his eyes.

“Well, alright then,” he mumbled. “You gonna tell me what happened to your face?”

I got up from the table to go and grab my bag. “Nope.”

And that was that. Dotti filled me up a 16 oz styrofoam cup of sweet joe with a stack of napkins. Immediately I began biting the cup all the way around, making dents with my teeth. Bad habit. I looked back at Cowboy as he was throwing on a brown suede jacket. His boots making a deep click clack sound on the tile, he opened the door for me to pass through first. I took a last glimpse at the inside of my jukebox diner, said goodbye with my eyes to the two old birds who still sat in silence, and waved to Dotti.

You know that feeling when you leave a bar, all boozy and ears ringing from music.. You stumble outside and it sounds as if your ears are plugged or you’re underwater; as if the fun has stopped, the drugs are wearing off, and now you’re tossed back into reality. I felt that a little bit just then. It only just hit me as we were walking towards Cowboy’s blue and white 1963 ford fairlane. I clutched my bag to my chest with a fishbowl brain swimming of insecurities and small regrets. Cowboy opened the passenger side door for me and I nearly bounced off the seats from how bouncy those springs were. His car smelled of cigarettes and horse tack. Fuck I loved that smell. I thought of mom for a split second. Us on grandma’s ranch riding bareback on two paints toward the base of the mountains in Montana. I was just shy of seven.

“Buckle up, Hollywood.” said Cowboy fastening his seat belt. He adjusted the rearview mirror and started it up. It only hit me this man couldn’t have been driving a more inappropriate car in the snow. I wondered if I had any sort of weapon in my bag. A pair of nail clippers? Could you stab someone with that? A glimpse of marijuana wafted in the air as I shuffled and I remembered I had some weed in my bag. I wonder if he was into that sort of thing. He rolled down his window half way and spit out his dip. We made a left out of the lot and made our way South. He fiddled with the dial on the radio until it settled on fuzzy station that played a familiar song: Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia. Ed used to sing it in the shower sometimes. I looked out the window to pure darkness and wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. I was levitating, but outside of myself. I didn’t have the slightest idea what would happen in the next day, night, five minutes even, and this made my heart dance. Wait, how could I just hop into a car with a man who wears suede in snow? Cowboy started to sing along to Bruce and I chuckled quietly; I still didn’t catch his name.

 

-The Golden Hour-

vennice

Have you ever wanted to be in a certain place so badly that it completely takes over your mental state and body? There must be a word for this. It’s almost sexual. Hazy. It’s intimate, daring, dangerous, and vulnerable. It persuades your mind to always return to that vast space of longing. Once the thought starts to sneak out the window, obsession grabs your brain by the ankles and tugs it back into the bin and quietly closes the lid. This form of thinking can be dangerous. It can urge us to make irrational decisions, neglect reality, and ultimately, stay lost in a dream. But how do we know this isn’t such a bad thing? Maybe this is life’s way of flaunting desires in front of our face which pushes us past the point of no return? Maybe this is what allows us to act on our dreams? After all, whoever said that this process would be pretty?

For me, it doesn’t really matter how happy I am or how well I’m getting on- my mind is always somewhere else and I feel like i’m missing a vital piece. This has been a reoccurring issue in a few areas of my life- relationships with others, jobs, the relationship with myself.. I constantly have the same questions flashing before my eyes: “Is this really what you want?” “What if you die tomorrow?” (Let’s not sway too far down that alley). Nobody wants to deal with that much doubt and wishy-washy shenanigans.

The point is, I cant help but feel like a fucking fish swimming against the current. Drowning in debt, flopping around at my day job, floating idly by waiting to repeat the same routine the next day.  Is everyone REALLY content with just munching on grass all day, pissing, shitting, going to work, sleep, then repeat? There’s this unspoken pressure that I should shut my mouth..hunker down in an office downtown filled with dumb wits who spend their whole paycheck on one article of clothing to convince others that they’re really somebody. On lunch breaks we’ll gossip about our closest friends, belittle our co-workers, and chat about how hard day 5 of our juice cleanse is. Nah, no thanks.

I may not have the specifics all laid out on what exactly I want to do to make paper, but I know damn well I don’t want to turn into one of those she-devils. This tends to push me into what I like to refer to as my ‘flee moment.’ My flee moment is when I think about the special place. The place of escape or planning how to get out.

Even when I was a little girl, I would have these same obsessive thoughts about Los Angeles. Of course, it was mainly because it held two of my favourite places on this earth: Universal Studios and Disneyland. But even aside from that, and even as a child, I felt this mystical magicness about the place. It seemed to forever be in the golden hour; like all the edges were soft and shadowed. I made a trip back to California about a year ago and from the moment I stepped outside, I was overcome with the same sensation and excitement as I had in earlier years. The giddyness, the sparkle, the overwhelming lingering scent of old Hollywood glitz and glamour. Best part, the al a mode of it all: being with the one you love, both with sun bedazzled eyes, strolling up Winward Ave, hand in hand, stumbling on affection and boozy steps.

Now I find myself pulling the covers over my face and embracing those moments. Closing my eyes and clenching onto even the tiniest of details and how I felt while I was there. Like the way my coffee looked in a styrofoam cup from the lobby of a shitty hotel room. I’d bite the edges of the cup all the way around to make tiny indents with my teeth and then grab the carafe to fill up again just to hear the pouring sound and feel the steam on my face . Or how my egg yolks wobbled on a plate at a diner at 10pm.  Admiring those tiny dishes placed on each sticky table that held coffee creamers. (That coffee was always the best tasting to me). How about the tacos from a questionable taco stand well after midnight on a sketchy side of LA? The best part about eating those tacos, was that there were only three tables set outside. And everyone shared a table, and ate in silence. Pure, beautiful, quiet. We all were so overcome with joy and orgasmic deliciousness, that we reverted back to our caveman days, and didn’t give a damn who was watching the sauce drip down our arms or how fast we were eating.  Salivating at the thought. I miss the bright sun and the way the blue sky always seemed white. There’s no shame, in LA. Everyone is who they are and put it out there for the world to see. Trends don’t exist. You won’t see the same two outfits. Want to have the best (and cheapest) margarita you’ve ever had in your life and possibly see some genitals? Head to Venice Beach. It can be a dark and deceiving, depressing and scummy, but it’s fucking beautiful. It’s a warm womb that brings encouragement of being oneself without any filters, holding back, or intimidation of opinions,  and frankly it’s quite blissful. Imagine what we could discover about our selves if we all just simply WERE who we are without giving two shits what that looked like to anyone else. Not to mention how relaxing that would be. I imagine it to have the same sensation as not wearing a bra or going pee with the door open in an empty house.

THIS is my problem. I’ve been spritzed with a love potion with a little skull and crossbones on the warning label. I obsess and trap myself in moments like these and I never want to leave them. I don’t want to come out and play unless I’m placed back in California, and in the meantime, I turn into a grumpy old troll. Gritting teeth, clenching fists, a restless mind, and an intoxicating desire to leave. The Golden Hour is the best time of day, but also the darkest and most dangerous. And sometimes it’s impossible to snap out of its hazy aftermath. The question is, how do we know when to ignore these desires or when to act on them…

Tick My Box

It’s nearly 1am, on a Saturday. (Sunday, I guess technically). The moment I walked through the door today, I ate about three brownies, and fell into an accidental four hour nap. Tomorrow is my only day off, so naturally, i’ll be up for the next five hours bouncing back and forth between my book and podcasts. Tis the season!

It’s funny- these last couple weeks have been extremely challenging for me. I’ve started up at a new job that i’m very up in the air about. I love the people and the industry, but I keep having the sense that it’s not my place. Not that it’s not an amazing company to work for! It’s not you..it’s me.  I left my last job because I had this same wrenching feeling, and hoped to get fulfillment upon entering a new role. I get that a lot though, and it can be extremely aggravating feeling like I don’t have a place yet. Sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyone else seemingly having their “shit together” for lack of a better term, and here I am, floating around, hoping that someday something is just going to click. One can’t help but think, maybe its me? Maybe there is something wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy?

I just quickly want to add here- I’m not one of those people that solely believes in fate, destiny, paths, yada yada yada, BUT, i’m more of a shy believer. Kind of reminds me of the time I bought my first Cosmopolitan magazine at a Walden’s bookstore. They were held behind the counter at the time and you had to ask the person at the til to grab one for you. I was maybe 13, and after mustering up the courage to ask, and letting out a squeak whisper, only to get said person on the loudspeaker asking for more Cosmo’s from the back. I probably wrote about it later in my Harry Potter diary. I had the one where it looked like The Monster Book of Monsters and would actually let out a horribly overly-electronic sounding growl of a monster when you opened it. Also had a key to get into it. Classic. This actually has nothing to do with fate or destiny. I just needed to talk about it.

I think some folks like to play the fate card when they have no idea what the fuck to do or are unsure on how to handle a situation that life throws, but it’s okay! It’s our destiny! It’s our fate.. it will all work out in the end. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen. I get it. Everyone has to believe in something, right? Somethin’s gotta help pull us through. However, that can be a tricky path to go down. For me personally, relying on fate, destiny, paths, etc, this can cause us to be bleak and desolate. We just exist and stop working at bettering ourselves because we are under the impression that it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to- lazy, might be a better word. That being said, I can’t help but get a little caught up in some of this mumbo jumbo.  This whole, everything happens for a reason thing.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time tonight that really enlightened me.  We chatted about a topic that was so out of the blue, so random, yet has also been so loudly present and reoccurring for me these last two weeks. A topic that i’ve been silently tossing around in my head and trying to navigate by myself. The topic was simply, following your dreams. I know how disney princess, la-la land that sounds, but it’s fuckin’ true and not taken as seriously as it should. We chatted about how life has this gross way of trying to rip our dreams and real ambitions out of our tightly grasped hands and filling our open, empty palms with distractions that don’t actually matter but are disguised as things that should matter. These ‘things’ are the gremlins that take up all of our time and energy, leaving us with exhaustion and not enough time to devote ourselves to our passions. We’re left confused, ushered on, and following the rest of the heard. Like cows being corralled up for feeding time. Mmm..slop for dinner! By the way, that friend of mine has left his corporatey bullshitty job and has gone freelance now. His lasting words to me tonight were: It’s always fear that keeps you in the same position. But once you break out, life is 1000x better because the universe actually wants you to succeed. Ha! Killer.

But what happens when you have so many dreams and so many different things that interest you? How can you possibly narrow it down to one thing for the rest of your life to fulfill your emotional, spiritual, and physical needs? How could anyone confidently answer that question?!

Here I was, in my post-brownie coma, 1:15am, reading an email from the director at Creative Hub sent two days ago, informing me that I had missed the deadline to enroll for my creative writing course that was starting up next week. I felt a huge rush of devastation fall over me. I had been so occupied and caught up in work, doing 6 day work weeks, life admin, etc, that I had completely missed the deadline for the enrollment fee for the one thing that I wanted to do. The one thing that was for me. For itching my creative scratch. Tuning in and logging off. Luckily, he has enrolled me for the next semester, which I WILL be at, and will be 100% ready for. Anyway, after reading that email, I received a random follow from an author on instagram. Her name is Marianne Cantwell and I stared at her name for a good minute because it seemed very familiar. I quickly stalked her profile, as ya do, and discovered, oh! She’s the author of “Be A Free Range Human” that’s been on my “To Read” list for quite some time. I also saw that she had done a TED Talk called “Hidden Power Of Not (Always) Fitting In.”

‘Hmm’.. I thought. First my thoughts in my head of not fitting in, then my random chat with a friend, now an even more random trail that has brought me to this TED talk that was SO relatable. I highly encourage you to check it out, btw.

Marianne talks about “Liminality.” This word is actually a little bit hard to find a definition on the web, or even in dictionaries. Liminal Space is like this massive in-between state. The word “liminal” is actually derived from the latin word limen, which means “a threshold.” During a liminal stage, people hover at a threshold between their previous ways, but not yet onto future ways. This can be anything from, forming your identity, a relationship, a new job, etc. At least that’s my understanding of the word. The way Marianne talks about Liminality, is in a positive one. She expresses that it’s totally OK to be a liminal. If you’re different than all the rest, bravo! This is good! Don’t suppress your differences or the things that make you unique. Don’t shush those attributes. Shed light on them. Pull them up and assemble them. People don’t have to feel like they need to have one main purpose in life or know exactly what they should be doing. Not all of us are like that. What about the others? Those are the badass creative people that inspire us! Those are the people moving mountains and setting themselves apart. The people that seem to have their hands in different baskets, grasping for straws, trying to figure out where they fit in. The only reason, I think, that this causes disorientation, is because we are living in a society that makes us believe that we should all be on a path and stick to that path. Find one thing and stay with it. A little chaos and uncertainty is a good thing. A mess can create beautiful new opportunities that never would have arisen had it been white picket fences and begonias. I fucking HATE begonias.

Well, I haven’t found that “one thing” and I don’t think I ever will, thank you very much. I have such a wide range of interests and things that fascinate me..it would be impossible to try and narrow that down! I love writing, singing, acting, making coffee, traveling, performing, eating, growing plants, being a homebody and alone, but also out and amongst it all, extroverted but also highly introverted, happy but depressed, stable but very emotional.. I have it all. And i’m done trying to narrow that down to one thing.

I think i’m doing the right thing by exploring my creative flares and even if it doesn’t fit into my schedule whatsoever, i’m making it fit, because this is what I want to do. I don’t know where it will lead or what will come of it, but I have to do something! I can’t just waste this and let it rot at the bottom of the fridge. I don’t want any of the other stuff that takes up my day. How is that fair? How does life get to dictate what takes up our time? I’m doing my best to demand the time for myself and I feel everyone should. Fight back on what life tries to claim as “normality” and get back whats yours. This is your life. Not anyone else’s. Not everyone has one box to tick. Or one genre to stick to. Tick all of the boxes! As mom always says and as Anne Rice has famously said, “Don’t be a pawn in somebody’s game. Find the attitude which gives you the maximum strength and the maximum dignity, no matter what else is going on.”

Don’t follow the herd. Don’t follow the line to the same barrier of a  water trough. Don’t let barriers turn into barricades. Venture off and find your own fresh water stream that leads to much better things.

Photo credit: The amazing, Sally Nixon @sallustration

New Stress, Who Dis?

IMG_5815When I am suuuuuper stressed out, I seem to take on more jobs and tasks to basically turn my stress ball into a stress planet. I’m not sure why this has always been my “coping mechanism” or why I thought it would ever work.. but I keep doing it and i’m still alive, so, I guess something good is coming from it.

Like most people out there, I’ve currently got a lot of shit on my plate. I’m not talking, tiny chihuahua in an orange sweater shit- I’m talking giant mammoth/T-Rex hybrid shit.  I’m applying for residency here in NZ, which, contrary to belief, is really FUCKING hard and extremely time consuming; think of.. applying for admission to Harvard.. a bit like that.

Aside from requesting FBI reports, birth certificates, writing up essays, finding receipts, ALL in the name of seeking residency, I’ve also started up at a new job. Yay!  Timing is an actual bitch. As most know, i’ve been working behind a coffee machine for most of my working life. This has always worked in my favor, er most of the time at least, because of my anxiety and sometimes anti-social tendencies. A big coffee machine is a great shield to hide behind. Fantastically enough, after trying for a few years now, i’ve been accepted on with my favourite coffee company in NZ, Coffee Supreme! I’ve laid the tools to rest, and am now apart of the salary world, working in the head office. The only glitch? There’s no big coffee machine to hide behind. I’m thrown out onto center stage and i’m a flaming ball of fire.

(Ima just take a deep breath right here real quick..)

On top of all that shit, my mom has been going through a big rough patch in her life and i’m not able to physically be there to help. This has been weighing me down quite a lot and it’s hard to be 100% focused on anything else right now/for the last month, other than that. I keep buying lotto tickets, but for some fucking reason, i’m not winning a damn thing!

I’ve put my health/fitness on the back burner, my relationship at arms length, my mom and the rest of my family is clear across the globe, my fate is literally resting in the hands of NZ Immigration, oh- and I have a visa that is about to run out in about six months time, which doesn’t line up with the one i’m applying for now. To break that down for anyone confused, if I don’t get a yay or a nay by immigration before my current visa runs out, I am considered an “illegal immigrant” and will be chucked back over the wall into Trumpland.

Starting at this new job, I can slowly feel myself starting to recluse a little bit when thrown into social settings which is a huge no-no. Everyone I work with is awesome, super outgoing, friendly, and positive. Although I would love to be all of these things, I have to constantly bicker with my brain, back and forth back and forth, to put on this face and try my best. Before work each day this week, I arrive to work about a half hour early. I sit in my car, without any music on, and try to mentally calm myself down. My heart is pounding through the roof, and often feel as if I could throw up. I so desperately want to burst through the doors and be the confident, careless, passionate woman that I know I feel and want to be, but it’s held down by the demanding vines of insecurity and anxiety. This whole anxious thing isn’t really new to me, but it definitely has slipped through the cracks and grown back up like a reoccurring weed.

I want to reach out to anyone that experiences thoughts like this or thoughts of dark sadness that seems to cloud over when the time is never right. I’ve contemplated anti-depressants, but I seem to shy away because of horror stories from friends in the past. What are some ways that you deal with stress? How do I calm the shy and sad girl down and help the passionate and happy girl rise?

 

I want to be better on here, and I apologize for how all over the show this blurb is. When i’m insanely stressed, feel like I have no time, not sleeping well, feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day..THIS is when I want to write. This is when I want to make time for the good stuff. The juicy bits. Life can be so greedy and it will try to dictate what is priority and what consumes your time. It will try to takeover your ambitions and hobbies, things that keep you grounded, things that make you who you really are. It will try to throw you in the deep end and drown you with work, life admin, and things that don’t fulfill you. Acknowledge these times and fight back. Say, “fuck you, world! I do what I want!”  I’m not completely myself right now, but I feel it’s vital to speak about it for others and.. for me.

And for FOX (Scottish accent) sake-  write about it.

Cake is awesome. Diets are for pussies.

I always thought that as I got older, my sugar addiction would surely diminish. Yet here I am, aged 28, and still waking up out of a dead sleep to plow through a whole tray of chips ahoy at the strike of midnight. This is not an exaggeration by the way, and I need to remember to ask my doctor about this…

I like to think that I live a relatively healthy lifestyle. I work out, (usually) and i’ve recently converted to vegetarianism about three months ago. To my shock and surprise, I did not drop ten pounds on the second day of my new vegetarian lifestyle. Where’s the abs? (Calm down, i’m not that dumb and know that this is not how you get abdominals.)

They obviously come from detox tea and booty bands.

In all seriousness, I did finally decide to cut out meats for good because I just overall felt a hundred times better not eating it, I love animals and would like to not eat them, and I do have a small health issue: a faulty kidney. Plus I love a good challenge, and this was something I had never tried before.  The doc has said red meats are not helping my kid whatsoever, (I like to abbreviate my kidney to ‘kid’ just to fuck with people) and I could really benefit from changing my diet. I think what he also said, that i’ve chosen to zone out, is that surviving off of tofu, coffee, and sour patch kids will NOT help my condition though. Side note: If you’ve never frozen your sour patch kids, you’re doing it wrong..

I like to surround myself around like-minded people who enjoy sweets and caffeine just as much as I do…which is why one of my first jobs in New Zealand was working at this amazing Cakery for a woman named Danielle, who like me, was obsessed with cookies, cakes, lollies, you name it. She is a fucking badass babe who, I swear to god, makes the best fucking cupcakes I have ever placed inside my mouth. If you’re ever in Mount Maunganui, GO TO SPONGEDROP CAKERY. When working there, I literally got paid to occasionally make coffees, but mostly sit on the floor behind the counter eating cake scraps out of a massive bowl with copious amounts of icing on it with Dan. (As seen pictured below.)CAKE

God bless that woman. To this day, she still remains one of my closest friends. Cake really did bring us together.

I come from a family that would choose sweet over savory any day. (Kiwi friends, calm down. I realize y’all spell ‘savory, as ‘savoury’ and ‘realize’ as ‘realise’…christ.) There is never a time, where a Rogers doesn’t have some sort of shweet little snack conveniently always located on the kitchen counter as a welcoming gesture. For example, recently I visited back home and stayed with my uncle. Like a true Rogers should, he had not just a normal size bag, not even a party size bag, but one of those COSTCO sized bags of peanut butter m&m’s in one of those holders that your paper towels are supposed to go in. Not only was I proud of the m&m flavor choice, but also very impressed with the innovativeness.  You do you, Ron.

I was raised by my mom..and basically my aunty, grandma, uncle, grandpa, etc… but for the most part, it was always just Mom and I. This woman is a queen and has taught me everything I know. She is also the sweetest (pun intended) human being I know. One time, because she knew how much I loved Cookie Dough, she made a whole batch of cookie dough, froze it, and let me eat it just as is periodically. Salmonella? Psshh. Who cares. Throughout childhood, we feasted on Disney movies, ABC Family Christmas marathons, and delicious AF foods. A few core lessons learned from Mom: First and most foremost, NEVER use a bowl when eating ice cream. Plop yourself up on the kitchen counter, and dig into that shit with a spoon. Not only are you saving on clean-up, but you’re not having to portion control. Nobody has the time nor energy for all that. Secondly, brownie batter is actually even more delicious than the actual brownies! Studies HAVE shown. So grab a spoon. Another fact, Rosarita Traditional refried beans and corn chips are a staple meal and are best consumed when either watching Days of Our Lives, The Price is Right, or anything on Cartoon Network. Lastly, it is 100% okay to order a whole ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen for yourself on a Tuesday night. Tell people at the DQ you’re going to a party, or just own it and say, “Yes..this is for myself.”

I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent here. There really isn’t any point to this blurb. I just wanted to confess my love for carbs, sweets, sugar, and I guess just calories in general. I also adore all other humans who share the same guilty pleasures that shouldn’t even be guilty at all. I’ll never pretend to be one of those people that live off of green smoothies, kale chips, and lemon water, which if you do, you go girl!  Sure your skin might be amazing and people will mistake you for a 10 year old child, but there is no harm in treating yourself every once in awhile. The key is moderation. Do I practice an ounce of moderation? Probably not. That’s where exercise, lemon water, and buddha bowls come into play.

Anyway! Dinner is cooking, my book is calling, and i’m eating a cookie. Why the fuck not. Give a mouse a cookie, and she’ll probably write a blog about it.

*(For the Record, myself, and my fam, surprisingly are not in the slightest obese, nor diabetics). Praise be.

I used to work on a Cruise Ship and it sucked balls.

Before I came to New Zealand, I was in that cliche phase that every young woman seems to go through. “I’m packing my bags and leaving this hellhole! I’m getting an Om sign tattoo and then I’m moving to Hawaii!” By bags I mean one bag because that’s all I was allowed, and by moving to Hawaii, I mean moving into a room the size of a closet shared with three others, that’s somehow below water level on a rocking cruise ship. Oh, and you bet your ass I got an Om tattoo. On my wrist of all places. I got an unlimited three month membership one summer at a yoga studio and naturally, decided I was some sort of yogi. First week into classes and I paid $80 for a scribble of a tattoo on the underside of my wrist,  that would quite commonly get mistaken for a bar stamp. “Ooooo…big night out last night, aye?” No. (I’ve recently ditched the yoga pants and covered that up with another tattoo). Classy, right?

ANYWAY. So I got this job as a “restaurant stewardess” working for, I don’t want to name any names.. Norwegian Cruiselines. The way the job was described seemed like a dream. “Are you someone that enjoys traveling and wants to get paid to work and sail around the Hawaiian Islands?” Um, yes?! The interview process for getting a job through this cruise line was insane. I think I went to about three different interviews, and they continued to get more and more intense. I had to get drug tests, medical exams, and a bloody maritime license! I saw this as my one-way ticket to finally have that Instagram perfect lifestyle. Javier would be taking photos of me constantly at some remote beach with a big floppy hat, and a boozy slushy hidden in a coconut. I was fucking ecstatic when I got the call congratulating me as I was hired. I was also half drunk as I was in Las Vegas lounging at the Treasure Island pool for my 21st, so I really lived it up after that phone call. I truly was a salty sea-dog now.

A few fun facts before we really dive in: There are four types of employees working on cruise ships- Officers, Staff Members, Entertainers, and Crew Members. Officers are very specialized positions and are the high-ranked guys. They range anywhere from First Officer, to Medical Officer, to Hotel Manager. To sum it up, they’re the head honchos and get paid the big bucks. They also get free reign to go wherever they please on the ship. Fee-fi-fo-fum. Not to mention they also get their own private cabin (which is very appealing to other employees if you know what I mean, but strictly forbidden). Next up we have Staff Members. SM’s are the people that work in the gift shops, massage parlors, salons, etc. They seem to have a pretty cruisey life and generally are paid through an outside contractor, which means they typically are paid relatively well. These people also get free reign of the ship and normal-ish hours. Now we have the entertainers. These people are the performers who put on all of those beautiful nightly shows for guests. They range from doing performances every night, to performing only a couple times a week. Some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever seen in my life came from the Entertainment department aboard Norwegian. Again, another pretty breezy position. THEN..we have the Crew Members. Crew Members are all of the cooks, cleaners, waiters, bartenders, servers, bussers, etc..the foundation of the ship. (Literally, crew sleep on the bottom floor, therefore, we are the foundation. Bow down). We, as crew members, have the worst of it all by far. We work the longest shifts, anywhere from 9-12 hours, only get access to the bottom three floors of the ship, UNLESS you’re working in guest areas, and we don’t get any days off. Literally. It is borderline slavery. It’s awful. Think of the crew member staff as the bottom of the barrel; the bottom of the barrel that is 1/4 full of lukewarm water and fish guts. The crew members, really are at the bottom of the barrel- barrel, meaning ship in this instance. Our corridors were literally the last three floors of the ship. We weren’t allowed to go above and mingle with guests, or even see sunlight, unless we were working in restaurant and silently mouthing, “help..me” to a family of 5 from Australia. (That is a slight exaggeration). In Crew Mess, (i’ll define this in a moment) we did have small air-hole looking windows that we could gaze out through longingly while scoffing down a PB&J for the 17th day in a row.  I shrugged it off thinking I would just be waiting tables, mingling with guests, telling a joke here and there, and earning some tips to go towards my jeep rides through Jurassic Park. Hehe, silly me.

So in my role, I was assigned to “Crew Mess.” Beautiful name, I know. Crew Mess is basically how it sounds. It’s the cafeteria/lounge area for all crew members and is conveniently located on the third floor of the cruise ship. It’s where crew go to die at the end of their shift, or go to talk shit while stuffing peanut butter and jelly sandwich #3 in their face. It’s weird. Keep in mind, all other employees don’t have to come to Crew Mess. They get the luxury of eating in the dining rooms up top, or some of the restaurants. Life isn’t fair.

My job, was to be the person behind the extraaaaaavagant buffet, (hint of sarcasm) wearing one of those paper boat hats, gloves, and a grease-stained red polo, serving up slop for my fellow co-workers. Here I was, 21 years old, doing a job lower than what I was doing at age 15 working as a busser for a small-town diner. JOY. My manager, was a very large woman who had a very large attitude. Her favorite pastime was telling me off, watching my every move, or standing over me like a gargoyle telling me to stop laughing. She was an actual demon and hated smiling, happiness, and probably puppies too. My friends would come through the line, sliding their trays along the steel long table, receiving their slop by yours truly, and we would quietly whisper to one another, telling jokes, trying not to laugh. Confessing our love to one another.. “Come to my cabin later for hot cheetos and a Harry Potter marathon.”  I swear to god, Large Marge (I actually forget her name) would always be watching, and sure enough, I would hear a, “Cassandra! Stop your chatting and get back to work..I tell you what.” Lovely.

Even though as a Crew Member, I did work seven days a week and had VERY limited time off, I still got spare hours here and there where I would be able to hop off the ship and go explore whatever island we were on. Sometimes this would include renting a car, hitting up a beach, shopping, hiking, but lets be real..these short breaks mainly consisted of finding the nearest bar in the sun, getting the drunkest possible, and then trying to sober up for our next shift: dinner service.

Aside from the hardcore labour, working on a cruise ship is pretty disgusting. Everyone is hooking up with everyone, and no, this is not an exaggeration. One minute you’ll be in your cabin watching Family Guy on Netflix, reaching for that bag of skittles, next minute you’ll hear the top bunk springs above you about to give way, followed by a disgustingly much too close for comfort sound of fluid swapping. Ahh, a true Hawaiian vacation..

Being sick was out of the question as a crew member. You had to be projectile vomiting in order to get the day off of work. And if that were the case, you were quarantined. Literally locked in your room until given the green light. Healthy!

I could go on for hours and hours about what really goes on as an employee aboard a cruise ship, but my fingers are tired and frankly, i’m hungry. Many people ask what made me finally quit or “jump ship” as we like to call it. My mom was on holiday over in Honolulu while I was working on the ship. I had asked three managers AND an officer if I could please just have one day off to go and hang out with my mom. They told me no, that it wasn’t possible. I had been working on this ship for over 4 months now without a single day off, and now my mom was on the very island I was on, but wasn’t allowed to go see her? FUCK this. Byyyyeeee. I literally quit that day. I packed my bags, left the ship, got threatened that I would never be able to try for employment again if I chose to do so, and spent a lovely week on Oahu with my beautiful mother and grandmother. I didn’t have an ounce of regret then, and still don’t know.

In conclusion, whew, I think that my time as a cruise ship employee was an amazing experience. Yes it was hard work, and borderline illegal at times, but I learned a lot about myself, and met some amazing people that are still very close to me to this day. I think my timing to try this experiment was perfect. I was freshly 21, hangovers didn’t exist to me yet, I could survive off of 2 hours of sleep for up to a week, and my body was bangin. Now? I need at least eight hours of sleep a night or I will die, and I suffer a hangover if I even encounter a scent of vodka. So for any of you out there that are thinking, “hmm..I want to join the cruise circus..” Give it a go! Live Laugh Love Lol.