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.

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’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 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.

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, “” 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.

Holiday Hangover.

A lot of people back home think that I live some lucky and adventurous life living abroad…that it’s like a permanent holiday. Truth is, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and is ALWAYS challenging. It is not easy in the slightest. Truth is, despite how I carry myself in the public eye, I have SEVERE anxiety. Despite how goofy I can be, slightly immature, sassy, confident, I still second guess nearly everything I do. I doubt myself, and can be really insecure. I can be so hard on myself that it’s disgusting and unfair. I have extreme trust issues. Im constantly having to calm myself down and try and gain control of my mind. What could be so hard? Definitely being away from my family. Not having that constant in-my-face love, support, and connection from my people. The people who really get me and ARE me. There is nothing in this world that means more to me than they do. Especially in times of need. I feel so helpless and alone sometimes that I’m overcome with emotions I can’t control. Calculating time differences.. Relying on Facebook messenger calls, Instagram comments, Snapchat stories.. it’s all seemingly so convenient yet so impersonal and vague. Connected but So disconnected. I wish more than anything I could be there for my mom, hug her, make her a coffee, watch Disney movies, make her laugh, see her smile. I wish I wasn’t so far away. I am grateful and love living here, but it doesn’t make it any easier, and it doesn’t stop the fear. I don’t ever want to pretend to be someone I’m not. Truth is, I’m trying to keep it together, and I’m sure plenty of people out there are as well. So please give others a break. Be an ear for a friend or listen to the story of a stranger. You never know what they’re personally going through. Also- be open and honest with yourself and take the time to understand your emotions. It is completely okay to have these feelings. What’s not okay is ignoring them. Write it down, talk to someone, be understood, and be yourself.

“Bye Mom, I’m moving to New Zealand”…. (Flight 77: Honolulu to Auckland)

I feel like this story is a vital tidbit and also a fun glimpse as to how my life tends to unfold. My friends and fam always joke that my life is basically like one of those Bravo TV shows..kind of like The Real Housewives, except i’m not a millionaire, nor a housewife. I also don’t have lip injections, butt implants, or any of that fun maybe that’s actually not me at all. However, I could drink Ramona under the table any day, any time.

ANYWHO. The point is- I get myself into situations that are stupid and hilarious, quite frequently. One incident that seems to stand out happened on my flight out of Honolulu, HI to Auckland, New Zealand. This was a few years ago, nearly four, but god damnit do I remember it. It was my first time heading overseas, and not only that, but going to live. So, you could say I was nervous but also tremendously excited. I was basically Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Passport to Paris- except I wasn’t going to Europe and I wasn’t a twin. Anyway-

I got seated next to some middle-aged man who had a thick black beard and tortoise-shell glasses. I was immediately intimidated. Who cares though, right? Nobody ever talks to the person their seated next to on a plane. Especially when you’re on a flight that lasts 10 hours… WRONGO.

We started chatting, (fuck) and he proceeds to tell me that he’s a photographer heading to Australia to do some sort of super cool Aussie photo stuff, probably throwing shrimp on a barbie and hand-feeding kangaroos. I honestly barely remember what he was saying, because I was already trying to cook up some eccentric shrimp story in my head for who I was and what my mission was. Before I could even think, I started talking in an English accent. Side note: I love doing accents, and i’d say 70% of the time i’m talking in normal day to day chit-chat, it’s probably in some weird voice I made up.

For some reason, I told this man that I was from Surrey, and I had done a house-swap with a random girl online, and her house so happened to be in New Zealand. A couple things to note here:

  1. Why would I be flying from America if I was from England? Maybe I was on holiday in Hawaii? Who knows.
  2. Why did I just provide a synopsis of the movie “The Holiday” starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet but pass it off as if it were my own real life? I do not know.

I figured, ah what the hell, this conversation is maybe going to last all but ten minutes, why not make myself seem super interesting and posh. Oh no. NO no no no. This lasted the DURATION of the flight. Before I know it, I’ve made up a name, where I went to school, an imaginary boyfriend named Elijah whom I left back in England (he’s cheating anyway,) and a fake profession of: Freelance Journalist…at your service. ALL in this English accent. FUCK. I kept it up for far too long, too deep, to the point where there was no return. Bless this man’s soul, he ate up every bit of it. Or maybe not, maybe he knew my game all along and just pitied me. Poor girl, making up accents and fake lives.

By the time the plane landed, which honestly felt like an eternity, I had really gotten to know this man sitting in Row J seat B. Too bad he didn’t know an ounce about me. Before we parted ways, he asked to exchange emails, in a non-creepy way. I agreed, and without thinking, offered my mom’s email. Sorry Ma.

When arriving to customs, I was jet-lagged, exhausted, confused, what the hell just happened on that damn plane, and also extremely nervous. I was so caught up in my accent and lavish life I had made up, that I had completely forgotten this was my first time in new country. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I followed the herd, and made my way up to the very intimidating Immigration officer blocking my way into New Zealand soil. He asks for my passport…FUCK. I have left my passport in my seat on the plane. I must’ve been so distracted when filling out my paperwork onboard, ensuring my new Aussie mate didn’t see my real name I suppose, that I obviously just dumbly left in sitting in my seat. I try to explain myself to the officer, and start talking in that damn English accent again. I accidentally say, “shit!” in my normal American accent, and he gives me a sharp look. He makes a call, and next thing I know, i’m being escorted by an officer into a detaining room. I was there for a total of two hours having to explain the whole situation. The accent, the shrimps on the barbie, the tortoise glasses, and where to find my passport. Apparently, the cleaning crew “couldn’t locate the passport” which raised even more suspicion. Did I look like a terrorist? Miraculously, after a lot of gabbing, they let me go and sternly instructed me that I would need to go to the embassy first thing in the morning to obtain an emergency passport. I was in a panic for the remainder of the night. Didn’t sleep a wink. Luckily, I wake up to a phone call the next morning. My passport has been found! Oh- and it was found exactly where I said it was. Row J Seat A.

Moral of the story? Before putting on your best Mrs. Potts accent, know your audience, and know your flight duration.