Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some things in life ARE FREE

"You have to do what interests you first......then, hopefully, the money comes."
Richard Branson

Doing what interests you means that a lot of the time, you're doing it for free. Nothing comes from free? BULL. My labor is coming for free....For the first time in my life I am volunteering, doing shows for FREE and writing for free, and coincidentally I'm also the most BROKE I've ever been in my life and have more debt that I've ever had. Actually, I NEVER had debt until I decided to parade myself around Europe, which I have to remind myself was totally worth it every time I have to turn down dates with friends and stay home and eat rice cakes and drink four day old wine/vinegar instead.

But I haven't quit anything. I haven't said "NO" because the dollar sign wasn't attached to the opportunity and even now when I'm struggling to pay a single bill, I'm reminding myself like Richard Branson said, that success comes when you are thriving in your work. When you are doing it because you LOVE IT. Such a simple concept that's easily thrown out when you're swimming in a pool of desperation.

Because of my trip, I knew that I needed to CONNECT more with people. I wanted to offer more of myself and my time. I wanted to do something that wasn't a means to an end, I just didn't know what would be a good "fit." My heart would be too weepy to work with children or people that were really what else? Funny, as I was getting my annual pap-smear, STD testing (keeping it safe) birth-control refill, that I sat spread eagle in front of my Doc and asked if I could start volunteering. I figured, Doctor's office's are scary, Planned Parenthood is "taboo," condemned by many and at the same time imperative to women's health issues. When I was a teenager having sex and afraid get the proper preventative needs in order to not pull a Bristol Palin, the mere thought of PP made my hands sweat. As I sat in the waiting room I saw mini-me's feeling the same way....all they needed was someone that they could talk openly with, ask questions, feel safe and not feel judged. Women's rights and women's health has always been important to me and giving people the proper education, so that they're SMART, not careless, but informed was what made me make my decision. I wanted to be an activist for THAT.

So the other day when I went for my volunteer interview at Planned Parenthood I had to remind myself as protesters ran up to my car and forcibly offered to "SAVE ME" while waving banners of dead fetus' in front of my face that I was there to "do something good." Not to run over a bunch of Bible thumping radicals. Though, when a woman in her late 60's climbed a ladder to peek over the fence and yell over a bullhorn at patients, I crossed my fingers and hopped she'd fall and break and hip- that her baby carriage full of plastic dolls missing appendages, covered in fake blood wouldn't break her fall.

Screaming at people going in to pick up a pack of birth control, or volunteer (like myself) that they're, "GOING TO BURN, YOU AND THE SINNERS OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD ARE GOING TO BE CHARRED IN THE FIRE-Y DEPTHS OF HELL FOR KILLING YOUR BABY. YOU'RE GOING TO BURRRRRRNNNNNNNN...........Come talk to us, we'll "SAVE YOU." is certainly not something that I think "GOD" would deem at non-judgment and tolerance. It simply crosses the line and uses the Bible as a way to instill fear, which from my understanding wasn't the prophet's intentions at all.

It would have been easy to be intimidated by them, but their bigotry made me that much more passionate. People are entitled to their opinions and I certainly wouldn't WANT everyone to think the same way as I do, but to use your Bible and your faith as a means to threaten, bully and frighten people isn't what any higher power would call RIGHTEOUSNESS. To assume that the people walking through the doors aren't just as devoted to their faith as you are is pure ignorance.

So when I picked my hours to work, I signed up for the proper orientation, etc. there wasn't a single ounce of myself that begrudged the fact that I wasn't going to get a paycheck every two weeks, because I knew what I was going to do would just help bring AWARENESS and acceptance to something that shouldn't be thought of any other way.

Sometimes life tests us; "So you LOVE singing so much.... then we'll give a show, where you'll sing for FREE." Do you take it? Me, of course. "You're passionate about women's rights, well how passionate? Are you willing to give up a few hours....for FREE?" Now, more than ever. While certain things have fallen out place for me that gave me some security, enjoying the new things that have stepped in is the only way for me to be thinking on a level that generates more good.

Which, is sometimes a hard thing to remember when you're driving around on empty.

All in due time, all in due time......

What is it that YOU'D do for FREE???

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Little White Lies

Ah, there's been a lot lately. It's like, I'm at that point when I've started having to censor a little bit of what I say so that I don't completely sabotage it before there's anything "real" to actually talk about. My blog is common knowledge, to everyone in my life. What I really want to say may be premature before I say it, so I've chosen to be a bit more discerning with recent topics, and that's fucking frustrating.....caution isn't one of my strong points. Either in action or warning.

I've never been afraid of being open. It's just what I do. I came out of the womb with bleeding- heart-sewn-to-arm and since then, it's grown into it's own appendage I've gotten used to having. When I meet new people, I spill; I say too much, I say enough, I leave little to the imagination. I like to blame it on my desire to exude "warmth." If you will.
When I go on a job interview it isn't uncharacteristic for me to say, "Well, I'm really bad at staying in one place for an extended period of, just thought I'd give you a heads up."

Honesty isn't a choice, it just is. The problem is, sometimes when things marinate for awhile in your mind, what was truthful at the beginning of the thought, changes into a different truth by the end of the thought and people have a hard time keeping track of's the human saga, or my human saga titled Wishy-Washy.

The other problem, most people don't take well to the actual truth.

Does that make any sense? Or does that sound neurotic, or is it neurotic to say, "does that sound neurotic?" I think so.

I digress......

So much of the time we're constantly full of WHITE LIES, little harmless "factions" to make us sound more; interesting, smart, intriguing, worthy, credible, deserving.....etc. We add an extra week to our internship on applications; we turn one day of volunteering into "experience doing charity work." Rather than saying from the beginning that we usually bail before we can fail, or once we start dating I'll be exercising my Wandering Eye, we impersonate what we WANT our truths to be for other peoples satisfaction.

I don't think it's that we want to be liars. And really I don't think it's because we don't believe we're enough as is. We fabricate because we want to be accepted, like my parents said, "you're only lie if you are unable to tell the truth."
Unfortunately, I think we've created a society that enables the inability for people to be truthful, from the start.

When you do on a job interview they don't really want to hear the truth. They don't want to hear that you'd rather be designing shoes or taking care of your babies at home. Instead they want to hear you lie and say, "my intention is to grow with the company." They want to hear buzz words and bumbling overcompensation pleas.

Dishonestly doesn't stop at the work place, but is expected in social situations and human interaction. Politeness has taken precedence over honesty, even if the honesty isn't hurting anyone. Honesty can be annoying, threatening and complex if it's foreign to yours and rocking the boat can be scary if there's a shitload of passengers who can't swim.

I saw an interview with Bon Jovi once ( oh yeah, I totally went there and am quoting Bon Jovi.....) and he said when writing songs he is "as close to the truth as possible." My wise folks took this piece of JohnBON wisdom and instilled the same in me....pretty sure I could have quoted Shakespeare and said, "The truth will set you free" but hey, Jersey boys deserve a little play every now and then too and I believe what he said is what most of us are missing in our day-to-day lives.

The little white lies aren't harmful to anyone but ourselves. They minimize our OWN truths and give the power to those we're falsifying for.... as if someone else's truths were more valuable than our own. The more we're worried about saying the right thing to appease, the more we tell ourselves we aren't justified in our own "rightness" and thus the acceptance of our half-truths continues.....

It's OK to be clueless or confused from time to time, it's OK to have no fucking clue how you're going to "make it" and it's ok to tell people so. It's OK if you've decided to acknowledge you're feelings for someone and it's terrifying and it's OK if you're a little bit timid about diving head first into someone/something new. It's ALWAYS OK to feel exactly how you're feeling and if you're the only person there to validate those feelings then that's fucking OK too.

Whatever you were thinking about "factioning", half-truthing.....lying about's more than OK to just, tell the truth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

......BAG LADY......

"You don't want to be the type of girl who has a lot of baggage."

People always use that term; BAGGAGE. We tell people to stay away from the guy with the crazy ex-girlfriend cause of the "baggage" or a man shudders when he finds out that his object of desire has "Daddy issues" because that means more, "baggage." Any type of spawn, leaching family member, stalking ex, emotional damage or bitterness = baggage. And really, the list can go on, baggage comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Friends warn us, steer clear O' the baggage.

It's like we're all supposed to somehow avoid having bags.

Before my trip I stood in front of my suitcase and stared at it for about 20 minutes, trying to visualize what it would look like to roll my clothing into such tiny balls that it'd actually fit into my pea sized suitcase. First off, I suck at visualization, mental images have no room in my brain full of rantings. When the suitcase was finally full, it was amazing how much I could actually FIT into a carry-on suitcase, that's smaller than my torso. In one tiny bag, I had enough to last me over a month and enough that from one sweater change to the next could completely change "my look." What's in our bags (both literally and figuratively) can be a wide range of things that express different parts of you...and your story thus far.

Then, the other night when I was having wine with a girlfriend she mentioned "baggage." Having it, not wanting it, not having it, whatever....the whole thing became this discussion about;

is having baggage avoidable??

For instance, sure I could have gone to Europe without my carry-on and I could have rocked one outfit the whole time, but bringing my yellow hat and my checkered scarf gave me some character. Whatever was in my bag wasn't a NECESSITY, in fact, most things aren't. The things in my suitcase were just little expressions of ME....and essentially, isn't that part of what baggage is??? A handy way to carry around those "extras."

None of us want to carry around a bag full of bricks, that's simply too exhausting. But to say you have, at one time, carried around a bag full of bricks....doesn't that add to your character as a person now? Can't you see the strength in your arms and feel the occasional pinch in your back because of that "silly bag of bricks." Your back aches and your stories from carrying that piece of luggage around made you, just a bit stronger in mind and in body.

We ALL have baggage. In some form. We've each carried around different shapes, different colors, different varieties of baggage and somewhere along the line we've lost a bag, traded a bag or "emptied the load."

Having baggage isn't the problem, it's simply how you deal with it.

In my bags I have a long, lengthy and tumultuous heartbreak. I have a piece of LA and a piece of New York. I've let friends hop in and take a ride, I've zipped them up and carried them around, then let them go when it was time. Sometimes the bags were empty, just for show- for flair. Sometimes they were heavy, they bruised my legs each time I carried them up the stairs, pressed against my thigh and sometimes, they were light as a feather.

In my bag I have carried feathers and I've carried boulders. I've appreciated when they were light but knew that if I ever had to carry something else I'd be able to, because I'd done it before and there was nothing too heavy that I wasn't able to handle.

Part of living our lives is learning that no matter how "heavy", burdensome....or inconvenient something is; it's only temporary, and part of our lesson is learning how to carry on whatever it is that we're lugging around and do it gracefully. People don't always need to know how heavy things are getting and sometimes you may need to take a rest, unzip and let some things GO.

My bags are my accessories, I'm unashamed and drag them about proudly. I mean, imagine how boring it'd be if we didn't HAVE any bags?......I like knowing I can open one up and look over it's contents, then choose whether or not I want to bring any of them out.

So tell me, what are you carrying around in YOUR "baggage"??

Monday, October 20, 2008

Final notes from the road and other random musings

In Zurich, Switzerland

Throughout my trip I kept a little notebook (actually a big notebook) in my purse that I'd pull out at cafes, street corners-that sounds different than I meant for it to.... hotel rooms and train rides. I recorded a lot of thoughts and notes in "real time." So now that my journey has come to an end, I thought I'd share some final words before Chelsea Talks Smack resumes to it's usual smack-talking, men musing and neurotic self explorations.....

Here it is:

  1. If you're nice to foreigners in foreign countries; they may give you a slice of free cake. NOTE: This was written my first night in London when an Italian girl working at a coffee shop befriended me and gave me a slice of amaretto cheesecake...
  2. Hipsters, are universal.
  3. Even in England, where they speak English when an American opens their mouth, they look at you like you're an alien.
  4. It's illegal to feed the pigeons....?! No toppins a bag the days of Mary Poppins are over.
  5. WHEN IN DOUBT: Look for a sign, an arrow or a landmark and FOLLOW IT.
  6. When you're traveling alone, get used to people "borrowing chairs" from your table. You'll only feel like a tool for about five seconds, then resume eating.
  7. The handles, switches, etc. are different. I spent approx. 4 minutes in a dark bathroom in every country before I found the light.
  8. There's a fair chance people may look at you like a leper while drinking alone, it's a good idea to practice the "stop staring at me face" or a super large smile. Either one will make them look away.
  9. Note from Tate Modern in London: Jackson Pollock said something like, "modern art is the energy inside people's bodies that they cannot express...." Hm. What is my "unexpressable outlet?" What's yours?
  10. MEN ARE MEN, NO MATTER WHAT COUNTRY YOU'RE IN. Cat calling is multicultural.
  11. Humans are interesting, even in some of the most liberated countries, people are still trying to "do the right thing." Which is sometimes good, sometimes bad.
  12. Huge backpacks make you look like a janky tourist. It's true, watching backpackers catch a train made my back hurt for them.
  13. If you're lucky enough to have seen a lot of theater in America, don't expect to be super impressed with the theater/cabarets oversears. Let's just say, stick to historical art.
  14. Act like you know what you're doing.....even if you have no idea.
  15. To European cops: Is keeping your finger on the trigger of your machine gun really necessary? Because it makes me extremely uncomfortable.
  16. Europeans think our diet is bad; uh I'm confused, do we eat loaves of bread everyday? I think not. How the hell are they not obese?
  17. Long train rides suck less when you have an ipod and the "bar car."
  18. French people make smoking look tempting.
  19. Europeans, not nearly as vain an American''s refreshing to feel accepted and beautiful not matter what you look like.
  20. "Clubbing" is universally the same; cheesy men, cheesy music, overpriced drinks.
  21. There isn't a stigma about meeting men in bars like there is in America....maybe because not ALL Euro men are chasing tail when they're chasing their vodka.
  22. Chivalry; sorta dead.
  23. Standing in line is a concept completely lost on Italians.
  24. Fanta is not a good substitute for orange juice.
  25. If you suck at time management, giving yourself enough time, being on time, etc. you'll really suck at traveling. ;)
  26. Pigeons will poop on peoples heads in any country....pigeons are just assholes.
  27. Note from a park in Florence: "I just saw a Keanu Reeves and a John Mayer look alike...every country has their version of John Mayer...."
  28. Little Italian kids like to make out, FULL ON PDA.....while on school field trips.
  29. I had no idea how much I loved sausage until I came to Germany.....sausage is a brilliant invention.
  30. Note, Munich in real time: a little German baby just blew me a kiss.
  31. We could take some tips on the importance of family over here in America. Families are most certainly #1 in their lives.
  32. Note from Bavarian restaurant: Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy just came on the radio, I was enjoying my strudel and now I feel like vomiting.
  33. Many of us envy European lives but it's just a lifestyle choice. We can all live European lifestyles if we want, no matter what country we're in.
  34. They actually think we listen to Tom Jones? Does anyone out there seriously listen to Tom Jones?
  35. Fries are a popular staple. Fries with steak, fries with chicken, fries. fries. fries.
  36. Note from Amsterdam in real time: I like to imagine that if I lived here I would buy fresh flowers everyday and keep my shutters open for the sun to pour in. Would I ride a bike? Probably, but very terribly.
  37. What's the deal with half pints? Ordering a full pint in countries where standard beers come in half pints will make you feel like an alcoholic. You'll appreciate the American drinking way.
  38. I'm excited to have a frozen dinner when I get home. (Disclaimer: I'm hoping I was drunk when I wrote this?)
  39. Smile, it helps.
  40. It can be seriously intoxicating to be "semi-anonymous" I understand the urge to perpetually be on the run.....
  41. Always, always buy yourself dessert. Native desserts are an imperative indulgence.
  42. It's time to stop jammin' out to Celine Dion circa's time.
  43. Note from Brussels in real time: I wonder if I were as confident walking around in America as I am here, if I'd meet as many people as I have in Europe......? People, also meaning men.
  44. Waitress' and bartenders are "over it" no matter what country you're in.
  45. People smoke, drink and guzzle caffeine like a motherfucker....we're downing smoothies, vitamins, 8 gallons of water and staying "smoke free" and we're still unhealthy. I wonder if our health has more to do with our minds than our bodies??
  46. I'm so glad we aren't charged for ketchup in the States. Let's celebrate that shall we.
  47. Bathrooms aren't free most of the time....really? What a messed up way of taking advantage of people. I mean, of course I'll pay you 30cents instead of peeing myself.
  48. Coffee is universally welcoming. I'm really disappointed in people who don't love such a friendly beverage.
and in closing in real time from Germany:
In this moment, I am thinking I am SO lucky and so blessed to be, me. I am SO incredibly grateful, more than I have been in a long time. I love that I am genuinely in love with my life and the life I'm makes me want to pour all of it out and share it with everyone, so they too can feel as genuinely content and happy.

I love that I love being open and exploring and I love that I am truly, in this moment, letting it be.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Go BIG and Go HOME

Less is more, totally not my style.

Initially I wasn't supposed to come back to the state until Oct 28th.....then, after the first few nights in a hostel and then having to make the decision so often from whether or not I'd like to have a hot dog from a street stand, or a traditional local meal.....the money started dwindling quicker than planned.

When I planned my entire trip I knew if I were going to do it, I wanted to do it right. I didn't want to just say, "I've been there, but I couldn't afford to do that...." Living beyond my means? Sure, maybe. Nothing outlandish however. I didn't go shopping, I didn't splurge on expensive Italian designers (though, at this point it wouldn't have really mattered had I decided to buy a couple pairs of shoes) and I didn't stay in lavish hotels or dine anywhere with a dress code.

I just did it RIGHT. I went to Europe and I tasted the Belgian chocolates (tasting obviously means, I ate, like, a box..... I tasted many flavors), I didn't cook in the hostels, or eat day-old bread. I'm sorry, I didn't come to Europe to eat DAY OLD BREAD. If I'm going to Europe, I'm going to eat fresh, piping hot bread straight from the oven in a local bakery. Fuck, if I'm EATING bread my bread is NOT going to past due, the bread in itself is a celebration away from my usual American lifestyle where I munch on diet bars, frozen dinners and canned peas. What's the point in flying across the ocean to diet and grocery shop for every meal?

I did exactly the things that I wanted to do; I walked where Shakespeare and Dickens walked, I toasted drinks with new friends from Bosnia, Poland, South Africa, Ireland, and ever local country I was in. I charmed the pants off people without speaking a word of their first language, I stayed up late and wasn't controlled by the restraints of TIME, half the time I didn't know what day it even was.

I listened to my body and my instincts, that under most circumstances are lying completely dormant under the weight of daily American stresses and day-to-day monotony that allow little space for "following instinct."

Often, your instincts, though they may be right, are inconvenient, which make them easier to ignore and make excuses for. Inconvenience in everyday life is scary, it forces you out of your ways and means something is going to change and CHANGE means accepting what is and where you are. Change quickly brings you into the present.

Instinct was my watch in Europe. Instinct brought me into different cafes and restaurants where at the the end of the meal I was kissing the cheeks of people that started as strangers. Instinct changed trains and routes, seats and booths, instinct made me wander down small streets and stumble upon cemeteries older than our country. Instinct brought me to Germany where, initially, I hadn't planned on visiting and because of instinct, I spent hours drinking Bavarian beer with new friends and watching the sun come up in a Greek restaurant where, though the owners didn't speak English, stood up and taught me Greek dancing until my face was sweating and patrons were clapping. Instinct made me feel welcomed genuinely.

Instinct, brought me to Europe in the first place, where though it would have been nice to be with someone, I ended up relishing in the fact that I was alone. These stories were mine. This life that I'm creating was based on a series of choices, based on my instinct.

So sure, maybe I had one Leffe Blonde too many in Brugge, maybe I stayed a little bit too nice of a hotel in Paris, and yes I could've observed the art without the audio guides, but I really wanted to hear the stories of the artist sure, maybe I spent a BIT more than necessary.

I went BIG. I did it right and I don't regret, a single choice.

Though the trip was cut a couple weeks short, this was really just a peek into everything that I'm planning to experience for the rest of my life. In one month alone I met more people, created more stories, laughed and danced and pondered and APPRECIATED more than I have in a long, long time. Too long.

Traveling softens you, it opens your heart, and your eyes. My trip was just a glimpse into what happens when you DO follow that internal gift of instinct that we're born with. It reminded me that life is about LIVING it, and why let another year go by that's just a blur of time and dates, meetings and deadlines? That certainly isn't for me.

GO BIG, even if it means you have to go home, you have to "pay for it", etc. LIVE, drink in what's right in front of you, you don't even have to go to Europe....we're constantly surrounded by magical things.

When you do choose to truly LIVE in "it"the universe will show it's appreciation in return, I know it did to me.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

I AM.....stoned?

There really isn't a whole lot to say about Amsterdam other than it is a twisted, lust filled, intoxicating little world that easily sucks in even the more prudish tourists. One minute you're walking down the streets scoping out wooden shoes and frites smothered in mayonnaise (wtf?) the next you have a perfectly nice stranger on the street offering you 'shrooms (wtf?)

I AM STERDAM, their famous sign makes even more sense after you've been there....through my visit I was able to say at various times; I AM insane, I AM in love with this place, I AM an artist, I AM brave, I AM making out with a Dutch boy? I AM aware, I AM so lost, I AM a bad ass I AM anonymous and naturally.....I AM....stoned.

When in Rome, when in Amsterdam? When in...wherever, do as they do, otherwise what's the point in traveling all the way around the world to stick to your stale ways. The whole concept of being able to walk up to a counter and discuss joint size and strength was so amusing to me I looked like Pollyanna at a weed convention. I'm no stranger to this natural little gift from nature by any means, but when I sat down, legal joint in hand, clearly looking like a newbie, a group of hippies befriended me, lent me their lighter and bought me a cappucino. Ah, I feel the stoner love. Let's chill and chill we did listening to soul and blues music on comfy couches and sipping large leafy tea's and extra strong coffee.

The few days I was in Amsterdam I drowned myself in it's culture. The quaint canal alleys and the crowded streets of every ethnic cuisine you could possibly think of, I wanted to sample something strange and foreign at every place. If I didn't know how to pronounce it, that's what I wanted to order. I cruised down the river and got lost on purpose, I marveled at the height of Dutch people and managed to only get hit by a bicycle once.

After visiting the Anne Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum (who is now one of my very favorite artists, I have an even deeper respect for him after visiting the museum) I decided....alright, it's TIME to buy some souvenirs. If you're going to go to any country and buy souvenirs, what better place that Amsterdam? Everyone wants wooden shoes, obviously.

After picking out a few wooden shoe keychains, the man at the counter struck up conversation when he noticed I was amused that he was reading Bill Bryson essays and laughing out loud while reading them to his coworker (who I found out later was his Mother) we chatted for a bit and then, since this is the way it works in Europe, we decided to meet up for drinks when he was off work.

Sitting in front of The Bulldog Coffee shop, waiting, I hear a ZOOOOOM and there he is, on his little Vespa in all his Dutch glory, coming to meet me for a drink. Ah, I have such a newfound love for meeting foreign men and flirting my face off....::sigh:: so wonderful, vampiness if a fun quality to have in the bag and whip out when necessary; foreignly, anonymously or exclusively. He was even more handsome than I'd noticed while consumed with the overstimuli of tiny things and shot glasses.

We shared a couple Heiniken's and proceeded to get closer and closer to each other until , OOPS! we're making out!

NOTE: This sort of behavior is VERY, VERY, VERY unlike me. I would like to point out that, which you know if you've been reading, I do NOT date, I do not make out with strangers, it's like pulling teeth for a man to get my phone number and I NEVER ever....have one night stands...........usually. Funny, that when I DID stop looking, men were flocking like herds of wild boars. If there is such a thing.

I hopped on the back of his Vespa and clutched to his chest while we zipped through tiny streets and quickly approached large groups of people, but managed to part right through them, Moses style. He showed me what the canals looked like at night with the lights lit around them, he explained Dutch culture and held my hands and asked about all of my rings. The night was followed up with an "unofficial" tour of the Redlight District which made me feel like a whore for being so amused with such licentiousness, I wanted to shake off the American way of shunning sexual things and embrace is. Sex, sex. sex.
That's the thing; Amsterdam, is crazy but completely sane and full of all types of people; turn on's and turn off's, dealers and tourists.... yet, nothing about the city feels dirty or "wrong."

There isn't a sense of judgment or is what it is. Could have something to do with the fact that there are over 300 nationalities living in Amsterdam alone. Literally, every next person you meet is from somewhere new and the only way to live in harmony with people from such different cultures is to; accept them. What a concept, one that we as American's have a bit of a hard time grasping.

Though sex and drugs may be abounding in Amsterdam, it is a lovely city and I believe it's because everyone is living harmoniously, the way they desire. Even if their desires aren't akin to that of their neighbors, they still live their "right" way and that's just fine with those around them.

Almost everywhere I went I talked with the people next to me; people from Ireland, Bosnia, Holland, South Africa, Poland, and the list goes on. We shared drinks and cheers' in different languages, PROST! We talked about politics and travel, sex and food (two of my favorite things.)

Then, at a very brave moment I struck up conversation with the keyboard player at a packed jazz/blues bar. Then when he asked me to get up and sing with them, without hesitation I got on stage and took the mic.

I soaked in the energy of the people and pinched myself when my inner voice said, "Yeah Chels, you're singing with a JAM BAND IN AMSTERDAM, people are loving it and You. Are. Radical."

Amsterdam kicked my inhibitions straight out the window. My usually waning confidence was at a steady HIGH for four days straight. Amsterdam made me feel like I was pulsating with lust, passion, fervent energy and unabashed self assuredness. The way I felt in Amsterdam is the way I hope to feel most of the time in the states.

I wondered as I walked down the street, if I walked this confident, felt this "awake" everyday....what would change in my day-to-day life? I'm guessing quit a bit.

So in all of my "debauchery", Amsterdam was surely a highlight; the one night, the spliffs and the microphone. Dutch men, wooden shoes and other "wooden things"......Amsterdam made me think;


Your turn: I AM ______________________

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The night before I've left for almost EVERY city, I picked the destination and figured out accommodations only 24 hours in advance. Risky, but that's livin'.

Initially the plan was to go from Florence to Munich but finding a place to stay was incredibly difficult since it was the end of Oktoberfest and people were getting as smashed as possible before they had to wait an entire year to do it again, in full Lederhosen and Bavarian garb. So, I changed the plan and decided I'd go to Innsbruck for a couple nights, then Berlin.

I get to the train station for the earliest train which ended up being two hours late, which by this point, had me a bit cranky....I couldn't look at another panini or I was going to kill someone. Finally, get on the train and I'm sitting across from a handsome Italian man in purple pants, hey yo, awesome.

Immediately I was thinking, well this eight hour train ride won't be that bad....I can stare at Sleeping Beauty while I listen to super sexual Toni Braxton songs and I can imagine what it'd be like to make out with him, how long it'd take me to learn Italian? What our children would look like? etc.

An hour into the train ride, I woke up to some Italian man standing in the doorway asking if he can "switch seats" with hot purple pants, so him and his friend can sit together...........
let's just say it was a fair trade, I was sure the train had crashed and a model in the form of a 6'4-Italian-Jude Law-esque type was awakening me in heaven. THIS was my new train partner. Charmed life? I think so.

Italian-tall-Jude Law and his equally handsome friend take their seats....:: ah this will be good. They must be models:: Aftermaking eye contact on and off, hello, hard NOT to stare when beautiful men are sitting directly in front of you....speaking in foreign tongue?! Yeah, I'll gawk if I want to. We finally spoke to each other; they had a running bet, "is she Italian or is she American?" They were split, until I opened my mouth.

For the next four hours we talked about life, where they came from, etc. etc. Were they models?? Oh no my friends, it gets better.......Italian-Jude Law....was a PERSONAL CHEF who split his time between Italy and Santa Barbara....holy, damn, I AM IN HEAVEN. Did someone say let's make another sequel to Before Sunrise/ After Sunset? If you haven't seen the movies, you must.

When I told them I was skipping Munich cause I didn't have anyone to go to Oktoberfest with or anywhere to stay, they said...."No, you have to go to Munich. Miss your stop and you can hang out with us."

Innsbruck? Munich? Berlin? They all have sausage and they all have Italian Jude Law? I think not.

Munich it is.

No idea where I was staying, where I was going, or how much of my mind I'd actually lost I said, CARPE DIEM I'm going to drink with the Italians and conveniently fall in love with the chef so I never have to attempt cooking again in my life.

As we pulled up to the train station in Innsbruck, I just didn't get off the train. Auf wiedersehen!

Ah, being impulsive always suits me well.

Luckily, one of my very best friends has family, a boyfriend and friends in Munich who were kind enough to pick me up at the train station, open beer in hand as a welcome and then tell me where to get the best currywurst after getting me very drunk on huge liters of amber ale. Talk about hospitality.

The next day I waited for my future husband to give me a ring.....I waited, and waited.....he finally called and I missed it. By the time he called again I had already meandered around Oktoberfest by myself, looking for drunken, tall, beautiful Italians...but if you've ever been to Oktoberfest you know it's really just a huge CARNIVAL and it's IMPOSSIBLE to move through crowds, let alone find your husband. No, really, there's rides and cotton candy.

It was like a scene in slow motion from a chick flick, that will hopefully have a happy ending. When we finally got a hold of each other I had already left and he had been calling, I hadn't been getting the calls.....OF COURSE, since in a movie it wouldn't happen any other way.

He was already off, back to Italy and I to Berlin......the whole reason I was in Munich was because of him and we were now going our separate ways. After a week of Italy there was no way I was headed back there to continue the pasta inhaling gluttony, so him and I reluctantly said our goodbye's over the phone, "until next time."

::Sigh:: I had a real life "meet cute" straight from a movie that was left without a complete ending....looks like I may have to show up at his doorstep and sing for my dinner when he's in Santa Barbara????

Oh, and yes. He knows about this blog.

Cheers to honesty.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

There's NO place like HOME

Tuscany is intoxicating. Literally, I drank two bottles of wine for lunch.

No, but as I lay on a lawn chair at the top of a mountain and all I could hear was the buzzing of foreign bugs I did my best to settle into what "peace" is supposed to feel like. I was one of five people staying in a 50something room villa in the quietest, smallest part of Tuscany (Loro to be exact) and I still couldn't lay in bed and comfortably fall asleep. My brain wouldn't let me. It's as if I've become to accustomed to the American way of "busying" ourselves, that relaxing even on this trip, (which is certainly not something most responsible working people would do) I couldn't let myself enjoy just BEING.

So, I tried meditating. Nope, didn't work. I tried doing some jumping jacks so I'd waken by body just enough for it to get tired, nope....that didn't work either. I tried falling in love with Tuscany so much that I pulled a Diane Lane (aka Frances Mayes) and bought my own damn villa. Instead, I couldn't stop thinking about...everything else.
So I turned on CNN and ended up throwing ridiculously fat purple grapes at the TV screen when Sarah Palin came on until I lost the signal and was forced to go outside and just SIT. Oh, twist my arm....fine. I kicked the wall with my leather boot when I found out there was only limited internet and I threw my fists in the air like, "Dear Jesus, why does Tuscany not come fully equipped with wireless???"

Fine, fine fine fine. I'll effin' SIT.

I sat....and listened, listened to the nothingness and watched the tiny lizards crawl in and out of the cobblestone and chase well fed flies and bumblebee's. The Tuscan sun tanned the left side of my face and the tomatoes that tasted like HEAVEN mixed with sugar, grown in only the finest soil of HEAVEN, filled up my belly. I told the universe right then that I'd be happy living on tomatoes for the rest of my life if they tasted like that and to please let me nap, then after tasting the fresh olive oil grown in the soil I was trying to let my feet sink into, I started to understand the sitting....the quiet pleasure of sitting.
Sitting, whether I was in Tuscany or New York, Los Angeles or Denver, was something that I needed to LEARN to enjoy.
Maybe I did need to fly across the country to figure that out??

Later in the evening after wine tasting, Maura our wonderful host revealed the strangest piece of information.....the workers that pick the olives aren't paid in Euro's.....they're paid in, wait for it, OLIVE OIL. People here WORK for OLIVE OIL?!?! No wonder they aren't worried about wireless....they're currency comes in the form of a different type of green.

Tuscany is where everything closes from 1-4 and businesses shut down sometimes from Sept. until April. Tuscany is where the base to any meal is a pound and a half of olive oil, which I learned in my TUSCAN COOKING CLASS!!! (AH!) and where their idea of a great meal is a five hour ten course meal that requires a barrel to roll you back to your room.

On the fourth day I learned that this is the way these people live...simply and comfortably. They don't worry about tomorrow, wireless connection?, or being "connected" at all, they're proud and happy to be "Typico Toscane" I heard this phrase a lot.
Napping is expected and wine is meant to be consumed by the gallon. Sunflowers and poppies grow wildly and horses roam without fences. When everything is closed you snack on proscuitto and gather in the street to watch strange tourists (like myself) look around for "something."

I checked out of my villa, headed to Munich and of course as I approached Florence....I felt my body getting queasy.....the olive oil, the 29 pounds of bread, risotto, crostini, linguine and honey covered croissants started to form a super power against me and procedeed to MUNCH on my insides until I was now KARMICALLY FORCED, to sit. Or actually, become practically much so that I had to rent a hotel room in Florence for the evening or I would have had a heinous eight hour ride to Munich that could have possibly included a little bit of vomit.

Tuscany taught me now, as I SIT thinking; that though it may not be a lifestyle I'm used to, people all around the world are enjoying JUST WHERE THEY'RE AT. They don't yearn to leave, they love their towns and their ways....they're insane olive oil and the fact that their idea of eating vegetables is having Funghi pasta or tomatoes and mozzarella.

People all over are SITTING, contently while so many of us run a muck, through muck or with MUCK in our stomachs trying to find the perfect spot to BE content.

The more I travel and the more I'm learning is that maybe it is "ok" for all of us to not NEED to yearn for more, more, MORE all the time.....maybe there really is "no place like home."