The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

Over the weekend, I may have made a promise to my step-mom on her birthday. I put may in italics not to be cute, but because I’m genuinely not sure there was an actual agreement. It may have just been guilt ferrets™ (Kevin Hearne) scampering about and planting false memories. “Psst, kid. Don’t forget that promise you made. Remember? She never asked ya for nothin’ for her birthday before – not gift, nor flowers, nor card. Today? Today she just asked you for a story, – a simple story, toots. You wanna be her greatest disappointment in 2021? On her birthday?? Then welch on that promise. Yeah, I didn’t think so, kid. Best you start typin’.” See? Guilt ferrets™ – who also happen to sound like Johnny down the block – y’know, the guy who runs that craps game with the perpetual cigarette hanging out of his mouth – the worst! Ferrets. Am I right?

As I’ve said before, my posts are just updates for my friends and family.

So, with that in mind – here we go – for my step-mom on (or nearish) her birthday.

Welcome to: The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

Mid-May, two weeks after my second Covid shot, I had vacation plans: Celebrate my best-friend’s big 0 birthday in Chicago, and celebrate another good friend’s 0 birthday in the Dominican Republic. It was a great summer to have friends with destination 0 birthdays who could also tolerate me well enough to have me along to celebrate.

In Chicago, we pretty much stuck to the tourist’s version of the city. We haunted the Inner Loop with it’s reflective bean, it’s museums, and tours. I could do a blow-by-blow, but most of it could be summed up in a postcard or any “Visit Chicago” travel ad. So, let me hit the highlight reel of favorite things:

  • Bisa Butler’s incredible portraits in quilt at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • The architecture tour on the Chicago River
  • The spunky, super enthusiastic tour guide for the Gangsters and Ghost tour
  • Three Dots and a Dash with Seth
  • Amazing pizza!! (not casseroles!!!)
  • Chicago-style hot dogs (I confess, I thought they were going to be absolutely disgusting and probably introduce a mouthful of wrongness into my face before being unceremoniously chucked into a trash bin. There’s so much going on there. Pickles? Relish? Onions? TOMATO?! Why? I was wrong! They weren’t just good, they were great.)
  • My buddy Johnny Two Shovels and his lovely fiancée
  • Walking everywhere
  • The time I got to spend with my closest friend.

Chicago made me regret never leaving my comfort zone by picking up, and moving away from the safety of my state – from my town. It made me wish I could right that wrong today and take a leap (and of course, move back here almost immediately to avoid November through April because cold. Texas fact: temperatures dropping below say 42 degrees (brr) are rude, obscene and wholly unnecessary.

The trip was fantastic – something I needed.

A few weeks later, I headed to the Dominican Republic to stay at an all-inclusive resort.

About That

A couple of years ago, if you’d asked me what my favorite type of outdoor terrain to just “be” in was, I would have started with forests, then moved on to mountains, everything else, then desert, wading in bottomless tar pits, gator-filled marshes, and finally beaches – beaches rating a bit higher than they should because I lacked the imagination to come up with anything worse than marshes before having to end with “beaches”.

In my defense, I’ve really only been around the Gulf of Mexico, and let’s face it, the Gulf is just not pretty – not where I’m from.

Then I spent a day on a beach in Honduras, which was unexpectedly lovely and actually surprisingly fun. That was followed by an afternoon on the beach in Santa Monica, and finally there I was in the Dominican Republic looking out again at the Caribbean, and all I could think was “this is idyllic – no place I’d rather be.”

There’s really no way to describe the trip that wouldn’t make me sound very privileged or very white, so I’ll leave off most of the highlight reel and say I had a lovely time at a very lovely location. I was fortunate to be invited along with great people who made me laugh so hard I snorted a few times. But were I to list the highlights, they would be a bit odd and go like this (inside jokes intertwined with genuine moments):

  • The subterranean quarters beneath where Santiago’s family stayed
  • Studio 54 featuring every Quentin Tarantino film. Let’s face it, nothing says Studio 54 in it’s heyday quite like QT and zero disco music – just ask Liza, Halston, and Andy W. who all famously said at one point, “…And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers…” The 70’s – putting the groove in groovy. You’re doing it right, Dominican Republic! Just how I remembered!
  • The gigantic angel at 80’s night. Umm…
  • The Alabamians’ drunken drawled out request, “tell us more funny stuff!!” asked of my New Zealand friend after insisting she sounded English (she doesn’t).
  • Throuples
  • Darlin’ & El Gato “the cat” meoooowwww…
  • …y Mami y Papi
  • The Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor – the oldest Church in the Americas
  • The Covid test to re-enter the US that I’m 99% sure was not a legitimate test, but hey, I got to come back home!
  • Global Entry – worth EVERY penny

Random Thoughts from the Trip

Driving through the Santo Domingo in our modern, clean and cool bus, we learned that the minimum wage is $200-$400/month and the average monthly wage is around $800/mo. Electrical wires dangled above in tangled and twisted nests. Trash littered the sides of the road as we drove on to the comfort of our compound within another compound – a playland.

Another Thought

When I arrived in the country, I honestly didn’t remember that we were in the country formerly known as Hispaniola, nor did I recall that it was here where Columbus first set shore in the Americas. I stood in the places where he stood, where his son later stood. No matter how you feel on the subject of Columbus and the aftermath of that “discovery” (the exploitation, the slavery, the mass genocide), you cannot deny that on that fateful day, the world changed. So for me to walk where he walked made me pause and reflect on the enormity of how one day, one simple action could change the course of the world. Over half a millennium later I stood there because of that one day, and the days that fell like dominoes thereafter.

There was something very appealing about being on this island; I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to explore. I wanted to just be.

As the Summer comes to a close and this Summer Edition wraps up, I find myself thinking about how much I miss being in this world – seeing, exploring, and discovering all the things with my people who make me a richer person.

Happy Birthday, CJ! – A post just for you. I’m glad you’re part of my world.

New Things: The Final Edition

I have another post in mind, but I find I’m a bit stuck as I churn over the “hows” of what I want to post. I’ve poked it, prodded it, written it a dozen different ways in my head, and now I’m going to let it marinate a bit then maybe have another go at it before year’s end (gads, that’s only three days away). In order to get out a post in December, my only real story option is to catch you up on the new things I’ve done in November and December. Of course, because I’ve settled down and started typing, all of them have fled my head – at least the November version. You’ll just have to trust that I did in fact do new things in November, and I’m certain I enjoyed them.

Moving On

Let’s start with a big one: I got a new job that will start in January. I’m excited and anxious all at once. I could tell you all about the why’s and how’s, but well that would be breaking a promise I made to myself about writing about work on this blog. Those kind of stories can be a bit career-limiting. Plus, my former supervisor, and soon-to-be co-worker (who incidentally reads this blog and whom I can sass in a mere 9 days with, “You’re not the boss of me!!!”) doesn’t need his ego stroked more than usual. The fact we’re both leaving is its own statement, so I’ll leave that there.

I quit my swim class; I’ve never done that before! I mean, that probably doesn’t count as a new thing if we’re going to make new things only about happy/positive things. Ultimately, I wrestled with it, and decided my frustration over not progressing athletically was a decent reason. No one’s fault. Well, mine and my stupid brain and body for not cooperating in a manner and at a pace I’d prefer.

Quitting was quickly followed by: I advanced to the intro to lap class, and then announced that I was rejoining swimming. As you can see, I’ve lead quite the mercurial swim life. I’m currently learning how to do the butterfly stroke. Of course, that reminds me of a Trevor Noah bit making fun of swimming and the various strokes, which leads me to…

I saw Trevor Noah live, which I saw in November. (HAH! I knew I could remember at least one thing I’d done.) It was an absolutely fantastic show where he did a hilarious bit about swimming. Have I mentioned that? If you get a chance, I highly recommend reading his book, Born a Crime. I’m typically a fiction-only reader (and yeah, I get it – go ahead and get your “His book is fiction” cracks out of your system – go on), but this was fantastic. He talks about his family and growing-up in South Africa during Apartheid where he was quite literally born a crime. If you can, listen to it as an audio book where he narrates his own story. Also, as a favor to me, read a real review; mine isn’t doing the book any justice and you’re probably not as tempted to pick it up as you should be. I personally recommend the review from the NY Times. I think it might be good based on the preview I could see on Google. However, I couldn’t actually confirm it. Apparently, one of us (me) has read their three free NY Times online articles and now they want money. 😦 I will not surrender to you, NYT! Also, I’m kind of cheap!

I had brunch with my first boyfriend. It was a wonderful visit. He’s funny, smart, clever, and has been involved in some really incredible things (testifying before Congress among them) – gone on many a grand adventure/jaunt/wander – and to put it simply, he’s continued to be a neat person. I like to think of him as a true survivor of dramatic, demanding teen-girl me, which is truly medal-worthy. Sorry David, no medals have been minted yet, but I give a great “atta-boy” for surviving. ATTA BOY!

I went to the opening of a campaign office. In this case, I was there for Elizabeth Warren’s office opening here in town. A good friend of mine is a huge Warren supporter so I went as moral support (lots of supporting happening that day) and also, I suppose I went for the opportunity to punch him every time he pointed out that we were standing in Beto’s former offices.

I spent Christmas alone. This one probably isn’t making you think, “Yay!” Basically, I turned off my phone and avoided FB most of the day. You see, it’s also my birthday, and it was a choice I got to make as an adult. As we always say at work (former work): It is what it is. (I suppose other people say it, too but I’m giving my office all the credit since I heard it there first, and often – usually daily. Hrmm… a defeatest phrase the whole team took up at work, possibly another clue?) I’m pretty sure there was one wellness check in the form of my trainer who came by with her daughter that evening. I love her! Before day’s end, I brought everything back up online and returned greetings so my Mother would stop frowning down over my poor manners.

Seriously though, I sometimes don’t feel like being “Edie,” and that’s kind of who I feel I am right now. (Inside family thing. Just nod your head in understanding.) After having a brief chat with my suicide loss survivors gang (a group for those who have lost spouses/partners to suicide), we agreed that next year I should plan to take a trip away from here. I think I’m going to do that.

The day after Christmas, a friend scooped me up and we just finished spending the past few days around Aransas Bay as part of my 2019 Beth-venture. It was absolutely beautiful!

In sum, I’ve spent the year trying a lot of new things – some big, some small – things I wasn’t always sure I’d enjoy. I swam, I spent time in the mountains, I fed more stingrays, I met new/incredible people (the kind you’re immediately drawn to, because you recognize they’re your tribe). I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve written a bit.

I look forward to 2020 and all of its adventures – its ups and downs – all the new things – all the times I get to be with you, laugh with you, cry with you, and be alive with you. I love you!

I leave you with this morning’s sunrise from my balcony where a dolphin was playing down below. May you all wake up to the simple wonder of gorgeous sunrises and playful dolphins.

Rockport, TX

A Donated Dare

I need your help.  Yes, I’m talking directly to you.  Don’t even think about looking over your shoulder.  Well, unless you’ve found yourself at the center of a spy thriller or you’re a conspiracy nut (and by “nut” I mean “thoughtful individual who clearly sees all of those clandestine government plots and truly understands ‘they’re out to get you’”).  Anyway, back to the help I need.

Some Background (everyone loves a story)

Some of you are aware that I follow a blog written by a 24 year old (now, 24 ½!) who is out in Asia in the midst of a two year adventure. It’s called Backpackology.  Unfortunately, that adventure became a little too adventurous and he lost all of the tools he uses to bring his blog to life. After months of not writing, where we were pretty sure his entrails were decorating some mad hermits wall in some remote jungle (because what mad hermit would live anywhere else), he posted an update letting everyone know that he was indeed alive.  A collective sigh or relief was breathed throughout the internet and money was exchanged as the bets were called in. “I had $25 on him being alive! Hand it over, folks!”

In the update he announced he’d started a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s .”..a funding platform for creative projects…”  It’s something I use to back some of my favorite projects, and you can learn more about them here: Kickstarter Basics

The great thing about Kickstarter is that once the project is funded, you can receive  rewards for your donations. In this case I pledged for a “dare”.

The Help I Need (see, cleverly titled so you’ll know this is the “ask” part of the blog)

This is where I need your ideas.  The “Dare” level gives me the “opportunity to dare [him] to do something (ANYTHING) that [he] will film and publish on [his] blog.  The stipulations are: it must be legal, it can’t take longer that one day to perform, cost more than $50, it can’t harm other or live animals and it cannot cause seriously harm to [him] or [his] belongings (though psychological harm is completely permissible so long as it’s funny).” (I’m loosely quoting since Kickstarter won’t let me cut and paste and I don’t feel like typing everything at the moment due to a profound sense of laziness.)

Now, I mostly contributed at this level to help him continue to do what he loves doing and that he is quite talented at sharing and well… because I want to continue to live vicariously through his adventures since my big trip at 24 was to mosey around New Orleans and get a hurricane glass from Pat O’Brien’s. WOO! Cheap, tall glass y’all!  (I know, I was a wild one.)  That being said though, I’d like to make an attempt at a dare, but I’m drawing a big blank.  See, I’m at an age where my dares are more along the lines of: “I dare you to go straight home and stop risking your life and worrying your family.”  I realize this technically falls under the category of “lame”, but in my defense, and why I’m now turning to you adventurous sorts (again, no need to look over your shoulder, I do mean you), everyone I asked had the exact same reaction (granted, they’re all about my age – we wave canes at one another and curse change – you know the sort). Even people I approached from around the area of the world where he’s traveling gave it some thought and stated coming home was the best adventure. (You know, I kind of thought they’d be good for some off the beaten path kind of ideas.) For the record, he’s traveling around China, Korea, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan to give you some idea.  The only “near” adventure I could think of was to have him participate in the celebration of Holi, in India (or Pakistan) but that occurs at the end of this month which is before the project is officially funded (which is also right before April 1st – come to think of it that may be the most appropriate time to propose a dare).

Wikipedia Commons – Sandeep Pranavam

So, you worldly travelers, can you think of any offbeat festival to attend, any odd regional food you’d like to see tried (he did try a 1,000 year old egg… there was video proof… umm blech), any fun, ridiculous, inspiring, crazy (yet safe) thing I (and of course by “I” I mean “we”) could suggest? (I’ll definitely post the results here once he’s completed it).  Think big! Think fun! Think challenging! Think of what you’d want to do if you were 24 ½! Think of something that doesn’t sounds like, “board a plane back to the United States and become a sensible, contributing member of society so you can die in obscurity like the rest of us – tally ho and such, call your mother” because that would be stealing my idea.

Backpackology with Steve McDonald

I rarely talk about the blogs I read.  It’s not a remark on the blogs themselves, it’s more of a selfish thing.  I discover them (or they discover me) and then I start hoarding them – like that lady you once saw on that reality show – you know – that lady – the one who had all the stuff and a crazed look in her eyes.  I’m sure she had cats.   (Ok, confession: I’ve never actually seen Hoarders, so I’m kind of hoping you have and that we’re starting to bond.  I’m also hoping that you recall some lady from the show (maybe more than one – maybe she had some crazed lady relatives – who doesn’t?), with an insane look in her eyes (or eye, I won’t discriminate) and some cats so you can relate to the hoarding analogy thing.  We are relating now, right?) So you see, I’m like her or maybe them, depending on the episode, except instead of cats or sporks or Betty Boop doo-dads  I hoard blogs.  Oh dear, it seems I’ve found myself in the middle of an analogy that’s quickly going south. Eject! EJECT!

These special online finds make me feel like I’ve joined an  elite “in the know” group who are privileged enough to get to share in (live vicariously through) the author’s many adventures. Well today I’ve decided I’m making an exception, because I’m enjoying a particular blog so much that it’s not fair not to share it.  It’s called Backpackology.  It’s the travel-blog of a 24 year old out on a 2 year adventure to backpack solo across Asia.  It’s well-written, entertaining and occasionally suspenseful as his laptop needs repairs or he’s simply unable to file any updates and the next post appears with a title like “Kidnapped in Alipur“.

I highly recommend it if you’re up for a real life adventure and suggest you start your adventures with him here: Stepping Off the Edge

It’s well worth a read.