Self Dare, Uncategorized

Travel Alone

 

This past week, I took two days off before the long Labor Day weekend, and I went to New York City.

When I tell people this, the immediate question is a variation of, “Who did you go with?” So like, “Was it you and your husband?” or “Did you go with friends?” or, my favorite, “You went by yourself?” The last one comes with an incredulous, slack-jawed expression that I would imagine one might get when they share that they decided to try hillbilly hand-fishing.

I try not to make too much of a face at this point, because I’ve gotten used to this line of questioning. My husband doesn’t like to travel. I do. So instead of sitting around moping or, worse, haranguing him into it and ultimately dealing with the adult form of ‘are we there yet?’ (‘there’ being ‘back home and not in a strange city I don’t like’), I go by myself.

Traveling alone is wonderful, and I recommend it to everyone. You don’t have to necessarily go eight hours on a tiny bus to one of the busiest metropolitan melting pots in the world, sure, but there is something to be said for the experience of self-reliance and happy spontaneity. Every second is a multiple choice question that you get to answer:

Do I want to:
A) Go to the top of the One World Trade Center Observatory and eat a grilled cheese sandwich while I listen to fifty different languages all being awestruck around me?
B) Ride the Staten Island Ferry and take a billion tourist-tastic pictures of the Statue of Liberty?
C) Sit in the park across the street from a bohemian hotel next to a sleeping puppy and read while the sun goes down over Hoboken?
D) Take my pants off and eat a burrito-sized sushi roll in bed while watching re-runs of Bob’s Burgers?

The correct answer was all the freaking above.

Ask yourself when the last time was that you let your feet take you wherever you want to go, instead of basing their path on the whims of a companion. Imagine all the stores and pockets of magic you wouldn’t have to skip because there’s no one to compromise with.

Sure, it may be a bit intimidating to be with yourself for a while in a place you potentially aren’t too familiar with, but I think it’s a challenge worth taking.

In fact, I dare you.

How to Have a Day Job

How Cat Mihos Has a Day Job

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Good evening! Hope everyone is feeling awesome. I am very, very excited to introduce a new segment to How to Have a Day Job, in which I interview people who have tread the line between living passionately and paying the bills.

My first virtual guest today is Cat Mihos. I had the extremely amazing honor of meeting Cat when she visited Pittsburgh in January for Tatter East/Glitter West, an event held at my favorite local bookstore, Rickert & Beagle. She and the bookstore’s owner, Chris Rickert, sold prints, crochet dolls, jewelry and much, much more.

Even if you don’t know Cat personally (your loss, she rocks), you have probably seen images from a website she runs over on Neverwear.net — a home to many pieces of art bearing the writing of Neil Gaiman. Did I mention that he’s part of her day job?

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What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I am, first and foremost, a writer. In my “day jobs”, I work with author Neil Gaiman, and he has shone a light on much of the writer’s life for me. I am very lucky.

My other “day job” is a touring production coordinator, where I am paid to travel with different bands and get paid to see the world while listening to great live music. Lucky stars on repeat.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

The absolute lowest low of my touring career was working the Woodstock ’99 festival.

It was my first experience at touring on that level, and things went very wrong at a top organization level. The crowd set several trailers on fire. Some of the protesting was brought about because of the high price of basic needs, such as water, among other things. You really shouldn’t put a huge number of people into a space and tell them they can’t bring their own water, but over-charge etc. The lines at the pop-up ATMs were horrendous. The amount of waste in catering struck my heart; they would throw the food away rather than give it out. I saw this giant catering company turn away a group of Tibetan monks, while throwing away food as they watched. Witnessing that level of karmic disservice dropped my spirits to their lowest.

The silver lining was that I feel I can do any job now with a strong spirit and now would challenge that in attempt to make changes. I was just a dumb kitten then.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

Good question! I would be less hesitant in my actions, less fearful of doing the wrong thing. “Fortune favors the bold” is a true statement. As Neil says, “Make beautiful mistakes.” Also I would have counseled my younger self to be less worried about asking for help. People inherently want to help one another. Speak up!

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

There is something about a certain level of self confidence that gets me through anything. Hold your head up when you walk into a new situation and remember that everyone started somewhere, even the masters. Don’t let fear hold you back. Be interesting and engaging. Stay in the present. I used to hide in books (ok, still can do) and now I try to interact with my surroundings as much as possible. “Be where you are” is one of my main mottoes.

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

Hmmmm. A little synopsis of my touring day, we roll into a new city and set up a show, do the show and then pack up and head to the next town. The days can be 20+ hours long, you need the local team of whichever venue you are in to want to help you, so you have to be patient. It is important to be clear and direct with your needs. After a long load out and a shower in the venue dressing rooms, which are usually locker rooms of some sort,  you are on a bus with your co-workers, so you are in close quarters with the people you have just spent those long man hours with.

Live kindly, be thoughtful, let anger be your last resort. My skill is survival in all things, but with kindness.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

5 Things, My Favorite Things, Personal

5 Best Things from 2014

It’s still January. I’m allowed to do this. 2014 was a hell of a year, right? Here are the most awesome things that came out of it.

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1. Izmee the Hippo: after 5 years of waiting for someone to give me a hippo, I took matters into my own hands. Since then, Izmee has become a constant companion in my adventures. She’s there at new restaurants, she gets to check out the digs at hotels, and she reminds me not to be so serious.

2. Rats: in December, we welcomed into our home three fuzzy brothers who have grown into delightful additions to our family. Chip, Moby and Oreo are like tiny puppies: they lick our faces, they want to interact with us, and they are constantly playful. I’m 100% converted to the way of the rat.

3. The Jane Hotel (NYC): this one is very specific. When I booked my room at the Jane, I was mostly intrigued because it came off as an affordable, private hostel. Now, though, as I reflect on it, the Jane was one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. It captures the Manhattan feel of old movies, with its boat cabin rooms and distant view of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t imagine going back to New York and not staying there.

4. Food: 2014’s food was amazing. No kidding. My husband and I did a lot in 2014 to expand our culinary horizons. I baked bread from scratch for the first time. Instead of going out for Valentine’s Day, we had a 5-course dinner at home, including duck confit (pictured here). Looking at cooking as a creative endeavor has changed the way I look at food everyday.

5. Travel: I can’t express how pleased I am with how much traveling I managed to do in 2014. I chose pictures from only a few of my outings, including DC for the annual cherry blossoms, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Virginia Beach (local to where I grew up but my first time at a beachfront hotel). I also visited New York City twice – once by train! – Columbus, Cleveland, Baltimore, and several cities around Pittsburgh during my summer staycation. And I am ready for more!

What were your favorite parts of 2014? I’d love to hear about them!

5 Things, Personal

30 by 30: Part 1

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be turning 30 this Sunday, October 19. I am finding this milestone seems like a big deal to the person to whom it is happening (me) but to everyone else…meh. I also know, however, that I have a following of younger folks (who I love), so I’m making this list I will be sharing a little of each day between now and Sunday.

30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30

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1. How to get a job.

Resume, interview, dress well, do your homework. Rinse, repeat.

2. How to have a car.

There are a few things to this one: I have bought 2 cars, had to take care of it and gotten accustomed to driving it. In all occasions. In all sorts of environments. Including Manhattan.

3. How to travel.

I can officially say I’ve gone places by plane, train and automobile. I’ve been to a non-English-speaking country. I’ve crossed America by roadtrip. I’ve been from New York City to Seattle. I’ve been everywhere, man.

4. How to get along by myself.

I love being alone. It’s fantastic. I can keep myself occupied, take myself on dates, the whole shebang.

5. How to do my own makeup.

Here’s a lady one. When I was a teenager, I hated makeup, and my mother and sisters could not get their heads around it. I could not understand why I had to put on globs of garbage to make myself look…not like myself. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized that cosmetics are about you first. You feeling sexy or empowered or just interesting. Screw everyone else.

Essay, Uncategorized, Writing

Japan, or How to be Away From Home

Write about the first time you went away from home alone — The Autobiography Box by Brian Bouldrey

japanThe first time I truly left home was in 2002. I had been picked to represent my school on a trip to Neyagawa, Japan. That was a trip of so many firsts: first time away from home, first time my parents wouldn’t be a phone call away, first trip out of the country, first trip on an airplane.

It was a crash course in air travel, that. Norfolk, VA, to Newark, NJ. Then, Norita/Tokyo. Then, Osaka. 24 hours, with layovers, and yet the same day? The same afternoon? Or was it the next one? I sat in the Tokyo airport and watched blankly at the windows, wondering over the blue sky, bright sunshine. It was supposed to be night time, right? If I got on the plane at 5am, it should be the middle of the night. Yes. No.

The next morning after that trip, my homestay mother laid out a spread fit for a king. A king not suffering from jetlag. There was sticky white rice, eggs, sausage, a seaweed salad. Then, a bowl of cereal. And yogurt.

One of the first things we were taught getting ready for the trip was that we should never turn anything down that our families made us to eat. We should at least try everything. I picked at each piece of food gingerly. It was more than I ever ate for breakfast, and I could only imagine the dishonor that awaited me if I ended up yacking it into their robo-toilet (I wish I was making this up, but it had controls and temperature settings and a padded seat). And God, the dehydration. My throat was a dried sponge, and I was in a country that didn’t have water bottle at every table.

Once the jet lag eased off, though, there was so much to see. We toured the major spots of Osaka, including the Panasonic Technical Center, the Osaka Historical Museum, the Mint and Osaka Castle (which was surprisingly very modern inside, despite the beautiful ancient architecture outside). We attended classes at the local school. We practiced zazen (a form of meditation) in Uji and visited Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Then, there was Nara and its bazillion wild yet tame deer, that would eat right from your hand.

Then, our last journey was to Hiroshima. That could be an entire post unto itself. I’ve never been in a place that made me so very, very aware of myself. The atomic bomb landing on this city in Japan had always been like the Civil War or the French Revolution, in my schools — something that had happened that I knew the scope of in numbers and dates but little more. But to see it so clearly documented, told in photographs and dioramas and in the few things left behind…it all became very real. New and raw.

I want to go back to Japan someday, at a time where I can move at my own pace, where I’m not hauling the baggage of teenage despondency. I want to see that world that can be equal parts joy and peace and the other metropolitan buzz — want to see it without that nagging homesickness, that awareness of being in an alien place and longing for familiar.

I want to take my time. I want it to take its time with me.

One day, I’ll see Tokyo once more.