Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A Girl and a Goat from Gaonli

Friday, January 16th, 2015

When I was four years old, a missionary from India came to my Sunday school class. I don’t remember her name, just her sari. I had never seen one before and I was captivated.

She told us stories of the faraway land of India, of monkeys and camels and elephants, of the crowded slums of Mumbai and a woman named Ramabai Mukti who founded an orphanage and school for unwanted children.

It was a lot for a four year old to digest, but the woman and her stories made a huge impression on me. For years I was obsessed with India. I studied the country, its culture and history. I read alot about Ghandi. I asked my mom to take me to Devon Avenue in Chicago, where I purchased a sari of my own.

From the time I was 4 until I turned 16, I told everyone I met that I was going to be a missionary to India. As a religious kid in the Midwest, that seemed the best option to me for visiting this exotic land. Certainly my family would never have the money it took to travel to a place like that–we went to Indiana on family vacations.

And besides, I wanted to help. Even as a really young kid, I was struck by the idea that somewhere across the world, there was a girl like me.

But while I was born into a family who loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to follow my dreams, whatever they might be, this girl was born into a culture where she had no worth, no value, and no options. It seemed like a very random assignation of destiny to me. Why me? Why her?

 

As I got older, simple answers like, “Because it’s the will of God” didn’t work anymore. And although I renounced my future career as a missionary in my mid-teens, my fascination with India remained.

And finally, 37 years after I first heard of India, I set foot on its soil.

Last November I traveled to Jaipur with Tea Collection. My colleagues were there to shoot an editorial catalog for our Spring 15 collection, which is inspired by the beauty and culture of India. I was there as the storyteller, to record the sights and sounds and smells of our visit. To take notes on what it felt like to be there. To observe, to ask questions, to internalize the experience so that later I could make it real for readers who hadn’t come along on our journey.

But I had a second purpose. Tea Collection partners with the Global Fund for Children, and I and my coworker Jessie were to spend a day visiting a GFC grantee in Jaipur, an Indian-run nonprofit called Gram Bharati Samiti.

The day we spent in rural villages with Bhawani, Kusum and Sarita was the best day of my whole trip to India.

Better, even, than my birthday two days later when I was surprised with a chocolate cake and a gorgeous photo taken by our photographer Hideaki Hamada.

The people I met that day, the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti and the girls and women in the villages we visited–their faces will stay with me for the rest of my life.


I wrote a blog about my experience for Tea–you can read it here, and please do. You’ll find all about a 6-year-old girl named Buja and the amazing gift (baby goat!!) I was given by another girl named Rekha. It’s the best story, really it is.

 
Hardly a day has gone by since I came back without me thinking of those girls, those villages.

Someday I’m going back. I’m going back and I’m taking Bruce and Lucette with me.
We’ll ride elephants and tour palaces and go back to Gaonli village to see if Buja’s still there.

And then we’ll hop on a plane and head south to Mumbai. I want to see where it all began for me, I want to visit Ramabai Mukti.

 

 

 

-Lo, who can’t believe 2014 went by without one. single. word.

 

 

With Flying Colors

Monday, August 1st, 2011

airplane

By all accounts, Baby’s 1st Flight was a success.

Sure, there were a few bouts of excessive wiggling accompanied by the occasional ear-splitting devilish squeal. And there were also a few crankypants cries when Miss Cheeks was trying to nap and not able to get as comfy (e.g. flat on her face) as she would have liked.

goodie-bagBut those goodie bags did the trick with garnering the goodwill of nearly all of our airborne neighbors, excluding the sourpuss elderly couple who clearly were too good to be sitting back with all us riffraff in coach.

They certainly charmed the 3 teenage boys who sat behind us on the flight home. They received their bags o’ sugar with exclamations of: “No way!” “For real?!” “Awesome.” And my personal favorite, “Dude. I’m totally tweeting this!”

When we landed at O’Hare, I had a few bags left and passed them out to the flight attendants and pilot on our way off the plane.

 Turns out that was an excellent decision, because the day after we arrived home, a special FedEx package arrived for Lucette. aa-letter

The letter reads:
“Dear Lucette,
I received a phone call from the crew on your recent flight from San Francisco to Chicago. They were all so impressed with your grace and gentle spirit on your first flight.

On behalf of American Airlines, it is an honor to include you among our loyal customers.

We wish you a lifetime of safe travel and joy discovering the world.”

The package included a “My First Flight” certificate complete with AA wings and a gold pendant for a necklace.

I admit, I got a little verklempt over that one. Such a nice gesture, and completely unexpected.

Lu’s first trip to her Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois was quite eventful.

pizza

First, though, we had to stop at Lou Malnati’s and introduce her to real Chicago pizza.

Safe to say she’s a fan. (And she made her daddy proud with the amount of pie she put away.)

 The week that followed was full of hot July weather, lots of swimming, lap chickens, meeting horses,horse mooing at guernsey cows and winning over a black lab named Charlie, who became Lucette’s devoted servant after noticing the copious amounts of food that were tossed over the side of her high chair.

Even though she’s too little to remember, I showed her the house I grew up in out on Palmyra Road and introduced her to many of the places that were the landmarks of my childhood.

We’ll do it again when she’s older, I’m sure. But this time, her first time, will stick in my mind.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, a business idea for Public Relations Plane Kits for Babies is in the works, thanks to my entrepreneurial sister. I’ll keep you posted.

welcome-to-farm
-Lo, who says that a lap chicken is a chicken who sits in your lap, of course.

The Unbearable Lightness

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Mood: Numb | Drinking: I should be!

verybadday

When I was little, I loved the book about the boy Alexander and his “terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day.” Something about the drama of that statement seemed hilarious to me at the time.

But I have had a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week, and am not yet finding it hilarious.

The lead-in to this supersonically shitastic week began last month when my parents were visiting and we got a call from my aunt, who lives in Hawaii. She has had my grandmother living with her for the past year and a half. Three weeks ago, Nana was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Upon hearing the news, my mother decided to fly over to Hawaii so she could see her mom and see what she could do to help. My sister decided to go with her so she could introduce her 10-month-old son to his great-grandma before it was too late. I decided to go with them to be of whatever support I could.

So on November 1st my mom, my sister, my nephew and I boarded a plane to Oahu. I’ve never been to Hawaii before. It’s a very strange experience, going to a vacation spot on such an anxious family errand. Everyone else was wearing bikinis and flaunting their newly acquired tans while the three Witmer women jostled about on various harried excursions, sweaty, disheveled, toting a tired baby and wearing decidedly un-tropical shoes.

Thus began what has quite possibly been the worst week of my life. The photo above was taken on Sunday, November 2, at sunset on the North Shore near Haliewa. It was possibly the last truly peaceful moment I will have in quite awhile.

On Monday, while I was at my aunt’s house, Nana suddenly complained of chest pain, then head pain, then her knees buckled as my aunt was helping her walk. I lunged across the room to help catch her as she fell, and my aunt and I lowered her to the floor where she lay, gasping for breath like a fish on the shore, eyes rolled up in her head.

My aunt and I were the only ones there at the time, so I called 911, then called my mother as I stood at the end of the driveway waiting for the ambulance. My mom and the paramedics arrived at the same time, and she and I drove behind the ambulance to the hospital in Wahiawa.

Nana was pronounced dead 20 minutes after our arrival.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, amid the shock of grief and initial frantic funeral planning, I anxiously watched election returns come in. I had cast my vote early at city hall once I knew I would be out of state on election day, but I missed the thrill of that early morning democratic ritual, wearing the sticker in to work and walking about the rest of the day feeling oh, so civic-minded.

I didn’t have access to a TV, so I was scanning several websites at once and instant messaging with Boy, trying to keep up as states were called blue or red.

Of course, I am overjoyed that Barack Obama is now our President-Elect, and I am filled with hope at what that means for the future of our battered country. But the thrill of victory was tempered by the passage, here in California, of Proposition 8, which takes away the right of gay couples to get married. Such a crushing blow for equal rights everywhere.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, my sister and I woke early and packed our bags because our return flight for the mainland was scheduled for that afternoon. First, though, we stopped by my aunt’s house to help deal with decisions that needed to be made: When were my aunt and my mom flying back to Illinois? When should we have the wake and the funeral? What relatives still needed to be called? Who were the pallbearers going to be? What photos of Nana did we have for a memorial? What clothes should she wear in the casket?

So many decisions, so many emotions, and no time. As my sister and I checked our bags at the airport in Honolulu, I realized I had left my credit card at the Mililani Kinko’s where we had been scanning in old family photos so Boy could use them to make a memorial DVD for the funeral service. I’ve never forgotten my credit card anywhere. What a time to do it!

Seven hours later, give or take, my sister, my nephew and I landed at SFO a bit bedraggled and worse for wear. I crashed into bed at about 2 a.m.

That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I woke up early and headed into work, my head full of all I needed to do to prepare for yet another trip. I needed to tell my boss that I would be taking bereavement time and traveling to the funeral. I needed to catch up on work I missed because of the trip to Hawaii.

Instead, I walked into work only to find out that I, my best friend, and about 1/3 of my company were being laid off. I was completely blindsided. I knew, of course, that the economy was awful, but I naively assumed that my job would be safe. I was wrong.

That was Thursday. Today I woke up and wondered what else was going to go wrong. At 11:30 a.m. I found out: a friend from high school called with news about her family and a crisis they are suddenly going through. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to finish off the week with a bang.

So now I am packing my suitcase so Boy and I can get on a plane in the morning and head back to Illinois. There will be a wake on Sunday, and a funeral on Monday – which also just happens to be my birthday.

It all seems so surreal. I’ve never called 911 for a medical emergency before. I’ve never before waited at the end of a driveway, knowing the sirens I could hear from a distance were coming for me. I’ve never before stood in an emergency room and watched a doctor come out to tell me that he’s sorry, but they did everything they could. I’m still having trouble believing it’s all real.

One of the executives at my company on Thursday, after I had gotten the news about my now non-existent job, asked me what I was feeling. I just started laughing and looked at her and said, “I have no idea what I’m feeling!”

That’s still true, to an extent. It’s been a helluva week, and it’s too much to wrap my head around all at once. I think that underneath it all, I’m ok, and I believe that I will be ok. But from here on out, I’m just taking one day at a time until I come out the other side.

I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for one unexpected good surprise, that I get to spend my birthday with them. I’m grateful for my supportive and compassionate friends. I’m grateful for the way LeeLoo wiggles her butt so hard whenever I walk through the door. I’m especially grateful for Boy and for the way that he loves me.

So now I’m going to go be with my family, and remember Nana, and eat some Chicago pizza. The rest of it I’ll deal with when I come back.

Anyway, that was my week. How was yours?

-Lo, breathing in, breathing out.

Starting Over

Monday, July 7th, 2008

startingover
Mood: Foggy
Drinking: Diet Dr. Pepper

Yes, I have been away. Far, far away. But I’m back now. That’s the theory, anyway.

June came bearing a brutal traveling schedule, and I went from home in California to Chicago, Illinois to Las Vegas, Nevada to Sayulita, Mexico in one trip right after the other, bouncing around North America like some sort of ricocheting bouncy ball.

I’ve finally rolled to a stop, however, and today’s my first real day back in the normal swing of things. It feels like I’m starting over. It’s all slow and painful with a lot of groggy reality checks: “So this is my life, right?”

It’s like riding a bicycle. Or something.

The rest of the summer promises to amble along at a much more bearable pace than last month, although there are some big events coming up:

** The SF Zine Fest is in two weeks. Kathy and I will be there with our table full of book wares.
(And speaking of Kathy, do check out her brilliant new blog, Imp Perfect.)
** Michelle and I are shooting a new cinépoem in August titled Homeland Security. We haven’t shot as many cinépoems this year as I’d like, and I’m very anxious to get this new one in the can. It should be really beautiful, and it will feature not one but two lovely new stars.
** A website overhaul is slowly but surely unfolding, complete with new photos, new features, and a new blog format. When will this all go public? Let’s be optimistic and say January, 2009.
** My training begins in earnest, pretty much starting right now, for the Nike Womens’ Half Marathon in October. Gotta get me some new runnin’ shoes.

Beyond that, I have to shake off the travel cobwebs and get down to business of getting back to reality.

Ugh.

-Lo, who could get used to going swimming every day.

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

airlines_suck
Mood: Disgruntled
Drinking: Caffeine

An Open Letter to American Airlines

I used to love to fly. I’d arrive at the airport nearly giddy with anticipation. But it wasn’t just arrival at my final destination that was making me tingle — it was the whole process of traveling, from the minute I pulled my suitcase from the closet to the moment I returned it.

I loved arriving at the airport, checking my luggage, watching the planes roll in to the gates and out to the sky. I loved the little bags of peanuts, the repetitive “Thank you, have a good day Thank you, have a good day” mantra of the flight attendants as passengers disembarked. I loved the vertigo of takeoff and the gravitas of landing. I loved it all.

But you, American Airlines, you have ruined it for me.

After years of being a happy traveler, a docile passenger, you have turned me into a disgruntled, truculent, reluctant one.

And this isn’t just a rant about your baggage fees, although those piss me off, too. Why not just raise your fares? Why make already tired and stressed-out people whip open their wallets once again at the airport? Just let us pay your damn fees ahead of time when we buy our tickets.

But my real complaint should worry you a whole lot more, because it’s indicative of everything that is making airlines go bankrupt.

Because it has become painfully obvious that you just don’t give a shit anymore. You don’t care about your employees. You don’t care about your passengers. You don’t care about your planes or your schedules or your flight plans. And you have no problem communicating that arrogant ambivalence to your customers, thanks to your equally disgruntled employees.

I flew on two American Airlines flights within the last week. One from San Francisco to Chicago O’Hare, and one return flight along the same route. Both flights sucked beyond measure, and it was only complicated by the fact that I was flying with my sister and her 6-month-old baby. We were traveling back to where we grew up so her new son could meet his Great-Grandma, who is too old and ill to make the trek to California.

We arrived at the airport without incident and made it through security before any trouble really began. First our flight was delayed a half hour, then an hour, because of “wind” in Chicago.

Yes. Chicago, the windy city, has wind. How inconvenient!

When we finally got on the plane and pushed away from the gate, we thought our troubles were over. But no. It wasn’t until we were safely tucked in and locked up that we were told that we’d be sitting on the runway. For another hour.

So we finally arrived at our destination nearly 6 hours later, and we were happy to be there, so we put it out of our minds. It’s ok, we figured, our flight out was the unlucky one with all the delays, so surely our flight home will be a good one.

Silly, silly hope.

When we made it to our gate at O’Hare on June 11 for our return flight, we were happy to see that the flight was on time. But that was the last time we were happy for the next 8 hours.

I don’t know if you’ve ever traveled with a baby, but no one in this country makes it easy to do so. You’re met with dirty looks, loud sighs, and mumbled complaints of “Oh God, it will just be our luck that they sit next to us” everywhere you go. Doesn’t matter if your baby is incredibly well-behaved. Doesn’t matter how quiet he is. Doesn’t matter how much a young mother has prepared herself for the trip with all the necessary supplies and distractions needed to keep an infant happy. Americans, as a whole, are a loud and selfish people who don’t want their space invaded by small and needy children. And they have no qualms about making that as passive-aggressively clear as possible.

So having to deal with all that discrimination from fellow travelers, it doesn’t help when you get the same treatment from airline employees.

While we were waiting for our flight to board, I asked one of the gate attendants if my sister and her 6-month-old could board early. Not only was I told they could not, but I was given an eye roll to go with it.

When I protested that she had been allowed to board with group 1 in San Francisco, the woman wearing the AA uniform told me, “Well, we don’t do that in Chicago. There’s too many children. If we did that, the plane would be just full of children.”

Blink. Blink-blink.

What kind of sense does that make? The children are going to get on the plane anyway, why not make it easier for them and their parents? I for one would prefer to board the plane without a small toddler dragging a pink princess backpack slowly down the aisle. I’d be happy to have her already in her seat. But apparently there are too many children in Chicago, so they will have to wait until the grown-ups drag their backpacks down the aisle.

I swallowed that one, but then I was told that if my sister had a stroller she was gate-checking (which she did), that she needed to gate-check it immediately. Even though we weren’t boarding for another half-hour. Even though she had just gotten her baby to go to sleep. Even though HE WAS SLEEPING IN THE STROLLER. No. She had to lift him out of the stroller and hold him in her arms for the next 30 minutes while we waited for all the businessmen and first class passengers to file slowly in.

Fine. Whatever. We just wanted to go home. So we stood and waited and finally filed in to our seats at the very back of the plane. We stowed our bags, buckled in, and heaved a sigh of relief when the plane pushed back from the gate.

And then we saw ahead of us on the runway a long, long line of at least 30 planes of all sizes and carriers, just sitting there, waiting. My sister looked at me in disbelief. And then the pilot got on the intercom and said “Well, folks…”

Apparently because of “weather” in Kansas, we had to sit on the runway in that line for over an hour while planes were re-routed. And so our nightmare flight home began.

The entire flight, including the time we spent sitting on the runway, there were 2 flight attendants right behind us in the galley, gossiping. They talked and talked and talked, loudly, about neighbors and boyfriends and fellow employees while all around them babies tried to sleep, or woke up crying because they were so loud, while passengers futilely pressed flight attendant call buttons again and again.

At one point I looked down the plane and saw at least 5 call lights on, but no one answered them. And it wasn’t because the flight attendants were strapped in for take off… One of them walked right past all those lit lights at least twice and never once looked at the passengers who were requesting help.

After about half an hour, one of the flight attendants who was so busy with her tales of soap opera intrigue in the galley finally waddled out to see what all the fuss was about.

Since when do airline passengers rate such poor treatment? Since when do flight attendants get to ignore the people who provide them the reason for their entire job? Since when do airlines not give a shit about the people who keep them in business?

Do you realize that many of the people who fly on your planes are going to visit loved ones or going on a much-needed vacation? These people are usually limited in their vacation time, and when you are so swift to cancel or redirect or delay a flight, you are in effect stealing time from these people. Time they could have spent with family, with friends, with lovers. The very least you could do, then, is act like you actually CARE that you have just ruined people’s day, that you have just shortened their vacation, that you have just stressed them out, that you have just complicated their life. I realize, of course, that weather cannot be prevented and that sometimes things go wrong with planes and with schedules. But when these unavoidable things happen, could you at least work up a sincere apology? Why add insult to injury by being so arrogant, so callous, so annoyed? What’s so hard about acting like actual human beings?

I could go on and on about our awful flight home, about the flight attendant who slept, snoring, directly behind us in the last row that they wouldn’t let anyone sit in because “the oxygen masks are broken”, or the flight attendant whose wide posterior region bumped shoulders of passengers on both sides of the aisle every time she walked past, or the kid who was awakened by the unnecessarily chatty intercom and then screamed for an hour, or the way the pilot gave my sister’s baby a dirty look as we left the plane. But I’m tired of ranting. I’m tired of remembering it. And I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it. After all, this isn’t the worst travel horror story you’ve heard, is it? So let’s end with an appeal to your business sense:

Do these slogans sound familiar to you?
“We know why you fly.”
“Doing what we do best.”
“Something special in the air.”
They should. Those are a few of American Airlines’ advertising slogans. And after hearing my story, don’t they all sound like complete bullshit?

No wonder you’re going bankrupt.

-Lo, who thinks if this is what airlines do best, we should all start taking the train.

Big Apple Sauce

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

23rdstreet
Mood: Industrious
Drinking: Lukewarm Diet Coke

I love New York.

Yeah, yeah, that’s what the t-shirt is for. But really. Who doesn’t love New York, even in January…

I’m in Manhattan for a writing conference, and let’s be honest — at least half of the reason, maybe even three-fourths of the reason I wanted to come to this conference was just to be in New York again.

It’s been a few years since I was last here. Somehow, I always seem to show up in the city during the winter, necessitating a suitcase of sweaters. I even have a big fuzzy winter coat that usually hangs mothballed in the garage because it was purchased specifically for trips to colder climes like New York and Chicago. It’s rarely cold enough in California to warrant so much fuzz.

Boy is joining me for the weekend, but for the moment I’m on my own in the big city, and enjoying the heady freedom of riding the subway to Soho and back for no apparent reason.

Of course, I’m here for the writing, too, and I’m taking pages of studious notes and ferreting away nuggets of inspiration for later, (although the blogging for writers seminar I was just in was capital B Boring).

Anyway, I’m all juiced up in the Big Apple and my MetroCard is burning a hole in my pocket. Being here just makes me feel like anything could happen, even though “anything” usually turns out to be fairly unremarkable.

So let me say it again: I really love New York!

-Lo, who feels right at home on the boisterous sidewalks.

Back Where I Belong

Friday, March 9th, 2007

ggbridgeMood: Tired
Drinking: Tea

Driving along Illinois freeways lined with crumbling grey piles of unwanted snow, I remembered all over again why I don’t live there anymore.

When my plane touched town on California concrete Wednesday night, I felt profound relief. It’s not that Illinois (or Ill-annoys, as my friend Jesse calls it) is a bad place. It’s not. Some of my best memories were made there, and I had a great time on this trip re-visiting my old haunts in Chicago with my friend C. (I was happy to see that Alien and Predator still live at The Alley, and that Medusa’s Circle still has the best collection of lightning bolt necklaces.)

Illinois used to be home. But I don’t belong there anymore.

Being back for my grandfather’s memorial service brought up more memories than usual. Maybe it was seeing all those estranged relatives — cousins I haven’t seen for nearly a decade, who now have children I’ve never met before, and great-aunts with blue hair and unwelcome advice.

Maybe it was because my mom, dad, and I spent countless hours digging through boxes and boxes of old photographs — some of my immediate family and lots of my grandpa. Photos I’ve never seen before, like the blurry black and white of my grandpa holding my dad when he was just a baby.

Maybe it was hanging out with my friend A from high school and her two children, the eldest of whom is nearly a woman herself now.

Maybe it was just driving down all those familiar roads, past places that used to define the boundaries of my world, and seeing now how small they are, and how colorless.

Maybe it was everything combined.

All I know is that there is a girl I used to be, and she exists now only in pictures and memories and whispers in the back of my mind. And although it’s always hard to leave my family and friends behind, to know that it might be a very long time before I see them again, the girl I am now belongs in San Francisco.

You can’t deny your heart its home.

-Lo, who was also reminded there is nothing to miss about the snow, the cold, and the flat grey sky.

Home on the Farm

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

thefarmMood: Rainy day delinquent
Drinking: Mint & honey tea

As long as there’s no great March snowstorm to keep me earthbound, I’ll be picking up my bags at O’Hare in a couple of days and pointing my rental car west, toward my parents’ farm.

My grandfather passed away several weeks ago, and the relatives-in-charge opted to postpone the memorial service until “spring”. I don’t know exactly why they consider Illinois’ version of March to be spring, since anyone who’s spent a winter or two there knows better. But the date has been set. So I, along with several other long-lost relatives from various states betwixt here and there will be traveling through the snow this week to pay our respects.

I’m always happy to return to the small town where I grew up. (As long as it’s for a visit and not for good.) I like to drive the roads that I used to know so well, the roads that used to make me feel like such a big fish, and see what’s changed since I last passed that way. Palmyra Road always has a few surprises. For one thing, it’s not even called Palmyra Road anymore. I think they changed the name to Prairieville Road a couple of visits back.

When I was a tiny thing, it used to be called Rural Route 1. Then, for the duration of my childhood and teen years, it was Palymra Road. Home of “Son Shine Acres”, which is where I lived from age 2 to 21, give or take a few months here and there when I was at college or pretending to live in more exotic locales like Indiana.

My parents owned a big grey farmhouse and 1.5 acres of land which housed a huge garden, a dog kennel, a chicken coop, a horse barn, and my dad’s oversized garage. For most of my childhood, we also rented the 10 or so acres of land across the driveway, which included a silo, barn, and several large outbuildings, as well as a pond, a giant cottonwood tree, and a couple of acres of rolling green hills.

I learned to ride a horse there (and broke my arm getting bucked off a donkey there). I spent countless hours carrying 5-gallon buckets of water from the well up by our house all the way down to the big red barn, which didn’t have any running water for a long time. In the winter, when the pails of water would slosh down my legs and freeze inside my boots, that path from house to barn seemed 5 miles long.

The picture above is the view from our kitchen window out over the yard, down the lane, ending at the big red barn. My dad took this photo on a winter day when I was only 4 or 5. For most of my formative years, this view comprised the largest part of my world.

My parents don’t live at 497 Palmyra Road anymore. They sold the place and moved on when my sister was in college. My bedroom with the dusky blue horseshoe wallpaper belongs to someone else now.

But every time I’m back in town, I drive the old blacktop, turning right off Route 2 by the Shell gas station, up Lord’s Hill (which seems so small now compared with San Francisco inclines), past Vitale’s Holstein farm, and then slowing down for a look as I drive past the scene of my first bike ride, first snowman, first puppy, first costume party, first horse, first skinned knee, first kiss, first driving lesson, first mulberry, first falling star, first everything that makes a childhood a good one.

It doesn’t look like much anymore. Some of the trees in our huge front yard are missing now. The Son Shine Acres sign is gone. There are no more beagles in the backyard. And who knows what ever happened to my favorite bike, the one with the banana seat and the handlebar streamers.

But it’s still a magical place to me.

So I’ll be seeing you soon, old homestead. And you, too, Sterling Girl(s)! Leave a light on for me. I’m coming home.

-Lo, who still knows where Erwin the bird is buried out in the apple orchard.

Does someone need a hug?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

shinyandnewMood:
Un-Valentiney
Drinking: Water

Yes, we’re back. We’ve been back for 3 days, but I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve been hibernating like a very crabby bear.

Here’s something I learned this weekend: If you’re not a hugger by nature (and I am so not!), being hugged by hundreds of people will wear your ass right out.

Not to seem ungrateful…because I’m gonna store those hugs up like solar power. I don’t think I’ll need another hug for oh, a good five years or so.

Hugging issues aside, the weekend went well. For those who haven’t been paying attention, I spoke this past weekend at a conference and a church (yes, I said church) about being a “Sunday Morning Misfit”. Basically, I was asked to speak about why I don’t go to church. Which is a fun thing to talk about, really.

So I packed my bags and dragged Boy along and we spent our weekend in northern Alabama. We were given a rousing Southern welcome (complete with lots of tasty food), and the whole experience was both exhilarating and overwhelming. I’ve never received a welcome quite like that, and I’m still a bit mystified as to how it all happened. (Especially since my celebrity status back home is decidedly less starry.)

Some people at work today who found out about it asked, “Why Alabama?” And I said, “Cuz I’m big in Alabama!” Some people are superstars only in Japan. Some people have cult fan followings in Germany. Me? I’m big in Alabama.

Nothin’ wrong with that.

I have to give big props to Boy, not only for being brave enough to go with me, but also for running the show, literally. He sat in the soundbooth and ran all the shiny bits — the videos and multimedia stuff I brought along with me (because when a girl like me gets an hour on stage, she’s gotta bring the bells and whistles). He also ran various video and still cameras to make sure all the appropriate moments were recorded for posterity.

But most of all, I knew where to look across a crowded room when I needed a moment of sanity. When I needed someone to see me who knew where I came from, who wasn’t fooled by all the hooplah and spotlights. When I needed a co-conspirator so I could raise my eyebrows and say, “This is crazy, is it not?”

I met so many people that I began calling them all the wrong names (sorry, Thomas!) and so for all of you out there reading this who met me over the weekend, please hear this: It really was lovely to meet you. And I really did appreciate your kindness and your words and yes, all those hugs.

And now, it’s back to reality. Back to the grindstone. Back to work and dog-walking and sister-visiting and cinepoem-editing (there’s a new one called Elasticine that will be here soon, very very soon) and book-finishing. Back to my life. God, how I love it!

-Lo, who thinks there’s no place like San Francisco. And San Francisco is HOME.

Airborne

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

airborneMood:
Awesomely Exhausted
Drinking:Diet Coke

“I done heard tell ya’ll was in Alabama!”

That’s my best southern accent for you. Greetings from Alabama, by the way. The people here have been super sweet and are taking me out for southern BBQ tomorrow. My stomach’s already excited.

But that’s a story for another day. Right now, I’m crazy with the tiredness, so I’m just going to give you the good news and go to sleep. Ready?

I’m co-Poet of the Week over at Poetry Super Highway this week. Sweet! All three of my featured poems have something to do with airplanes, hence the photo that I took somewhere in the sky over Texas on Friday.

So go check them out. The first poem (Kiss & Fly) is brand new. I actually posted it here a week or so ago. The other two (Crash Protocol and Samba) are going to be printed in my new book (which is coming out in April!)

-Lo, who is fixin’ to put on her pajamas now.