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Sir, Please Step Away From the Squirrel

Friday, March 31st, 2006

The process of getting rid of most of my belongings has begun, and I have to say that I’m a bit surprised at how much crap I’ve accumulated in the five years I’ve been home.  I should’ve realized I’d gone off the deep end when my brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, noticed I’d purchased a nice set of martini glasses and squawked, “Oh my god, she’s nesting!”

At any rate, there are quite a few things that I’ve either purchased or that have been left at the house by old roommates and are up for grabs.

First on the auction block we have this beautiful vintage couch!

(Rob and Marsh; both photos are of an old but well-maintained couch in my living room)

                      vintage (!!) couch.JPG                                 Going Once.JPG

No, no people, not old…VINTAGE!        

Do I hear a hundred dollars?  Fifty dollars?  Ten Dollars?  A dollah?  Oh c’mon, how ’bout fiddy cent then?  No?                                 

Well plllttttt, alright, I’ll just give everything away then.  The couch is actually super comfy and in great condition, however old it actually may be.

The coffee table in the picture is up for grabs as well, and has a smaller, matching table to go with it.  The dark green lamp has a twin and they’re also free to a good home.  Also up for grabs is the entertainment center.  I’d give away my television, but erhm, I’ve never owned one.  Cappuccino machine anyone?  Toaster?  Microwave?  Dishes?

I also might give away the first real adult bed I’ve ever owned, and although it’s nothing special, it’s only two years old and in great shape.

(Rob and Marsh; just a boring picture of my double bed)

                                                Spartan Bed.JPG

I refuse, however, to part with the desk my father hand-made.

(Rob and Marsh; photo is of my beloved desk.)

                                                     my beloved desk.JPG

And although I know many of you covet the squirrel, I have to give my sincerest apologies, because like it or not, Lightnin’ stays with me.

(Rob and Marsh; 1st photo is a close-up of Lightnin’, and he’s not exactly pretty with his ratty, nappy-arsed tail!  The 2nd photo was taken from further away, so’s you can see Lightnin’ in the grand scheme of things, and erhm, he doesn’t really fit in! ;))

                           Lightnin.JPG                                Lightnins Place.JPG

Yes, yes, I know he was at first showcased for a laugh, but how could I not grow attatched to a gift given to me by an oddball Indian reservation campground maintenance man/ameture taxidermist? 

I mean really, how callous do you think I am?!  Sheesh!

Fear and Loafing in Ypsilanti

Friday, March 31st, 2006

I was sitting at my desk at 2am yesterday morning when my pre-trip to-do list popped in my head and seized me like a python squeezing its prey.  I could say that everything snuck up and stunned me before I knew it.  Trouble is, I knew exactly what lay coiled on my desk in waiting for months, but I am the Procrastination Queen, and therefore there’s always tommorrow.   

Yesterday morning, however, the squeeze was unbarable, and because it was way past business hours (or way early, if you’re looking at it from a day person’s point of view) the only preparations I could do were here at my house.  So in order to get the snake off my back I worked out ’till 3am, and then practiced Mandarin for an hour. 

My fears were soothed for a while with the knowledge that I can now say, “I want to drink beer” and “You want what??” in Mandarin. 

However, it’s now mid-morning again here in Michigan (4am), and although I was able to scratch a few things off my list today, I’ve made two unnerving discoveries.  The first discovery was that Saturday is April 1st (which will leave just 35 days until I take flight), and the second was the discovery of my new mantra… 




Oddly enough, chanting this brought me nary a sneek peek of nirvana nor peace of mind.  The only enlightenment I obtained was the fact that I’m bogged down in trying to plan three trips (I need to visit my friend and her son in Vancouver, go harrass my grandmother in West Palm, and then go soak up a bit of the pampered life at my brother and sister-in-law’s house on Lake Norman in North Carolina) before I leave. 

And WOW, that Wall is kinda long. 




Gray Hair, Part Deux

Friday, March 24th, 2006

One of the things my parents knew beforehand and worried about was the fact that I’d purchased “that old car” to drive across Australia.  Now, I take offense on behalf of my 1981 Mitsubishi wagon, the legendary Jerome The Wonder Car; “that old car” carried me from Perth to Sydney, up to Coober Pedy and Alice Springs, and then back to Perth.  Sure there were a few mishaps with kangaroos in the outback,

(Rob and Marsh; photo below shows my beloved Jerome all banged up after hitting a roo late one night.  The left front fender has a big dent in it, the hood is a bit crumpled under, the light is smashed and the license plate is hanging by one screw…gack!)

Kangraroo Mishap.jpg

a bit of an overheat in the middle of nowhere,

(Rob and Marsh; photo below shows poor Jerome on the side of the road with his hood up.  Two guys are hovering over the engine while the other tries to kill flies with a stick; thank goodness for giving a ride to backpacking boys, as they fixed the problem!!)

A hot Jerome.jpg

and the outer layer of tread flying off the back tire (don’t know whether it was from the intense heat or just that it might’ve been a crappy tire),

(Rob and Marsh; photo below shows Jerome–once again–sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere as the guys try to change the tire)

Jeromes wounded tire.jpg

but we all got lucky with Jerome, as he carried quite a few backpackers all over Australia like a real champ.

My parents knew about Jerome and worried, and so it was a good thing they didn’t learn about what I was up to in Cambodia until they read my account in a travel article.  While trying to cross a massive gorge in the road, the truck I was in came close to flipping over; being that I was in the back of the open truck and sitting on the side rail, I would’ve fallen out (and possibly under the spinning tires) if not for a couple fellow passengers grabbing my flailing arms and legs.  Although I don’t have a photo of the gorge, I do have a pic of another back road.

(Rob and Marsh; photo below shows a small bus trying to make its way down an extremely muddy country road.)

Cambodian Road.jpg

My parents wouldn’t have liked the looks of the cargo boat that a few fellow backpackers and I hopped, and they would’ve worried had they known the “boat broke” and that we had to wait on deck for an entire night before departing.  The two day experience, however, still holds as one of my favorite travel memories.

(Rob and Marsh; photo below shows my fellow backpackers laying in hammocks that we’d strung up on the middle deck of the cargo boat.  There’s a Cambodian woman sitting on a bench next to the rail looking in our direction, and she has a very stern–or perhaps suspicious–look on her face.) 

Foreigners Village2.jpg

Now really, I can’t see it being me that’s caused my parent’s gray hair.  My guess is that it’s my brother; I mean, the poor bugger worked in an office cubicle for two years, so certainly they worried about his sanity!


Gray Hair? Let Me Count The Ways.

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

My parents, although long supportive of my wandering ways, have always worried about me while travelling and joke that I’m the reason for their gray hair.  I take full responsibilty for oh, I don’t know, maybe four or five of those between the two of them.  I mean, c’mon, I do have a brother who’s way bigger than me, and at six-foot-six he shouldn’t have a problem shouldering the blame.

At any rate, my dad made a comment about posting some of my photos to show some of the reasons for his gray hair.    

For you, pops; you earned ’em!

I believe the initial gray hairs sprouted when I moved to Taiwan to teach English right before the island’s first democratic election.  The Big C didn’t share in Taiwan’s enthusiasm for the election and started bombing the coast.  To make matters worse, my brother was in the Navy at the time and his ship was deployed to the Taiwan Straights.  Once things settled down, however, my stepmom, dad and brother popped in for a few weeks to visit (click the photos for a larger pic).

(Rob and Marsh; photo is of the fam in front of the mountains in Hualien, Taiwan)


I fell in love with Nepal my first time there, and my second time was what gave my parents more gray; after hiring a guide to take me off the beaten track in the Annapurnas I fell ill with dysentery.  With no hospitals or help around, we hiked for three days to my guide’s parents place, where his amazing mother took care of me for over a week.  Once I was well enough to travel, I recouped in Kathmandu then headed out to the Everest region.

(Rob and Marsh; photo below is of me surrounded by mountain peaks)

Whats that behind you!.jpg 

Nearing Everest Base Camp…

(Rob and Marsh; far above the tree line, this photo shows that there’s not much up at Base Camp except rocks, mountains, and a row of glaciers…and it’s absolutely stunning.) 

Nearing Everest Base Camp2.jpg

On the glaciers with my guide, Shuvash, at right, and another guide who hiked with us that day.

(Rob and Marsh; looks like I’m at the top of the world here sitting on a glacier with towering mountains in the backround.)

Top o the World.jpg 

The boats in the photo below (taken in Luang Prabang, Laos) were powered by car engines.

Fast Boats.jpg 

My father didn’t like the idea of living without electricity or roads, but after being stuck in Bangkok for a month, I found the tranquility of Don Det (one of the Four Thousand Islands in the southern Mekong Delta) absolutely blissful.

(Rob and Marsh; photo below was taken from a footbridge over the Mekong that connects the palm tree-ladden islands of Don Det and Don Khon)

Don Det to Don Khon.jpg

(Rob and Marsh; photo below displays an intersection of footpaths, a few huts and lots of palm trees.)

Peaceful Don Det.jpg

(Rob and Marsh; photo below is of me laying in my hammock under the roof of my thatched hut.  I had someone snap this photo because at that moment, I knew there couldn’t have been a happier person on the face of the earth.)

Absolut Bliss.jpg

Now to me, my trips as of yet have been pretty tame, but I ‘spose when you’re a parent on the other side of the globe and don’t hear from yer kid for weeks at a time, then yeah, I ‘spose ya might get a few gray hairs.

Stay tuned for Gray Hair Part Two.

Forty-four days and counting…WOOT-WOOT!



Monday, March 20th, 2006

Soooo, I’d said in my previous post that I couldn’t wait to get in the ring for a pre-fight dance.  Unfortunately for me I was given my wish on St. Paddy’s Day, and danced not with the Wall nor even the Stairs of Doom, but with my old arch nemesis at work.  I sustained only one cut that’s still a bit sore, but it’s scabbed over and healing. 

Below is a photo before the round; the staff’s a bit beaten but happy after we finally got the hoards of patrons out for the night.   

(Rob and Marsh: photo is of Lucy, Jen, Lisa and myself behind the bar.  Jen and I just happen to have on the same St. Paddy’s day shirt and are both wearing false sparkly green eyelashes.  Jerry B. said the eyelashes scared him, and I have to admit my eyes look quite maniacal in the photo…perhaps I should start wearing them on Fridays…mwoooohaaahaaa!)


Now lemme just say that this was the third time my nemesis and I had gone to battle, and even though I’ve always lost, I’ve never quite been beaten so bad as I had this time.  Our first go-round ended with just a rip in the knee of my jeans, and the second fight left my ass cut and bleeding…literally.

My arch nemesis is cold and hard as steel…and that’s because it’s a broken metal cooler door handle.  Fortunately for me, our dance happened well after we’d closed.

(Rob and Marsh: photo below shows me standing at the bar modeling the latest in bartender fashions; the cooler door caught me at the kneee, but because I had chords on, they split nearly to the top of my thigh and almost down to the ankle!  I’m looking a bit sheepish in the photo…errrhhmmm…heh-heh…)


Forty-seven days and counting ’till I leave, and one less pair of pants to take up space in storage!

Bring it on!

Friday, March 17th, 2006

The countdown is on, and I can hear the bell waiting to sound just fifty short days away.  I can’t wait to crawl in the ring and do my pre-fight jig (that alone could quite possibly make my oppenent crumble).  I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…oh, who am I kidding?  I’m outta shape, the little Mandarin I do know sucks, and my navigational skills couldn’t even get me to my Aunt and Uncle’s surprise anniversary party on time. 

Good thing I dig a challenge and that I’ll have Ig with me.  Ig?  Ig?  Hello?

At least I’ll be running constantly for a bit of a workout tonight at my bartending job; four accoustic acts, two hot local bands and a holiday to boot!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may I make a lot of green!   


Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I’m just going to go ahead and get this outta the way now; I’m an addict, and have been since the early ’90s.  My addiction is severe and absolute, and with any luck at all, I’ll never be able to overcome it.

It all started back in 1992 with an innocent trip abroad to study at a university in Moscow.  It was here that I discovered what would become my all-consuming addiction; this new experience, it like, opened my mind, man, it like totally heightened my awareness.

I was instantly hooked, and no amount of justification or self-chastising could make me quit.

“Alright,” I’d say to myself, “This one last trip, and that’s it.  One more time and then I’m goin’ legit.”

Then I’d go on another trip and of course it was followed by the guilt and another stern self-talking to.

“C’mon,” I’d growl, “keep yer feet on the ground!  Put that useless college degree to use somehow!  At least make an effort to make the ‘rents proud!”

It was no use, however, and these days I’ve just accepted that I may never shake my travel addiction.

As I’ve said to my parents a million times over to justify my wanderlust, “There are worse things I could be addicted to!”

The idea for this trip was hatched after I’d researched the Appalachian Trail and realized the potential for danger; there seemed to be quite a bit of crime along the trail, and my plan was to stay in-country to save the ‘rents some worry.  I was neither surprised nor disappointed with this information; I’ve long thought my own country was far more dangerous than most places I’ve been (I’ve never seen a civilian swagger by with a gun sticking out the top of his pants anywhere else but in front of my own house), and this way my love affair with the far East could be rekindled with complete justification.

The Appalachian Trail out, my ponderance was, “Now, where in Asia could I go on a long hike?”

The Great Wall of China.  Of course.  Certainly thousands of people had hiked the wall, just like so many people had conquered Everest.  Like I said in a previous post, however, that wasn’t the case…and it made the trek all that more intriguing.

Although I prefer to travel on my own (I’m not anti-social, but the freedom of going where you want when you want makes things far easier), an 1,800 mile trek wasn’t anything I wanted to do alone.

A few people seriously considered, committed, and then dropped out.  It wasn’t until I went to Vegas last summer for an old college friend’s wedding that I found a real sucker…I mean, taker.

My old pal Ig (aka Robert England) waxed nostalgic about his own travels and coveted my next adventure.  As we stood looking down at the lights of Vegas from The VooDoo lounge 51 floors above the city and sipping on a $25 drink bubbling with dry ice, Ig’s fate was sealed.

The Great Wall?  Phhhffftttt, why not?!

I could sit here and swear to you that this will be my last trip, but alas (!!), the truth is that I’m nothing but an utterly hopeless travel junkie.



Hey There, Spicy…You Come Here Often?

Monday, March 6th, 2006

It’s a Saturday night and once again I have a hot date. 

More often than not my hot dates usually take place in my bed with the Flavor of the Month and a big bag of Doritos.  As of late I’ve been in bed so much with Christopher Moore that I had to put myself on restriction; after a friend introduced us via “Lamb” I found I just couldn’t get enough of his humor and immediately tore through three more of his books. 

But this past Saturday night was completely different, and I knew I was in for hot stuff when I learned that my date’s name was Spicy.  Now granted, Spicy had no means of transportation and I had to drive to Northville for our rendevous, but once we got back to Ypsi, we really hit it off.  We even made sure to color-coordinate for our date (okay, alright, that was totally me).

In the photo below, you’ll see me working hard to break-in Spicy.  Also notice that I was able to convince REI and Chaco that I don’t actually have two left feet, and therefore have a “Spicy” sandal (that’s the given name from Chaco) for each foot.

(Rob and Marsh: I have my butt plopped on the back bar at TC’s with my legs stretched out and propped on the customer bar.  In my hands I have an Onion-esque newspaper geared towards the service industry called “Don’t Tip The Waiter”.)

Dont tip the waiter.JPG

I close my eyes as Spicy and I get busy.

(Rob and Marsh: below I’m not sitting on my rear but actually doing a bit of work, but my eyes were closed when the pic was snapped.)

Chacos saw a little action.JPG

For the last portion of our date, Spicy and I clean up.

(Rob and Marsh: I have my sandal-clad foot propped up on the sink trough next to some beer bottles and dirty glassware.)

Almost done.JPG

Well deserved, I take Spicy home to kick back.

(Rob and Marsh: photo is of my sandal-clad feet propped up in front of a bunch of books at home.)

chacos at home.JPG

On a serious note, I’ll say that I actually am in love with these new sandals; it was my first time wearing them, and although you can’t tell from the pics at the bar, we got busy once the band started and ran for the rest of the night…and my feet never hurt, not even the next day. 

Even better is that if I get a craving for brew on the trail and can’t find any, then all I’ll have to do is suck the beer-ladden straps.  Those versatile Chacos…who knew?! 

This Ain’t No 90210; It’s 48197, Baby!

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

Ypsilanti, Michigan has been my on and off stomping ground for many years.  I first moved here in 1987 to attend college at Eastern Michigan University, and I’ve moved away and back several times since graduating.  Ypsi’s my home base and training ground, although with the almost entirely flat terrain, the biggest challenge I face is walking home from my bartending job at 4am; unbeknownst to the trollers, I currently have all my teeth, and therefore couldn’t possibly be a Lady of the Night. 

Without further ado, here’s a few pics from my favorite walking route.

The road sign below is across the street from my house, and for some odd reason I’ve always gotten a kick outta the shady lookin’ guy with the tilted hat.

(For Rob and Marsh: the sign in the photo says “Neighborhood Watch, Operation Identification, and has a “No Parking” sign under it.  The shady lookin’ fella on the sign looks more like a P.I. than a thug and has a circle around him with a slash meaning…what?  No Private Detectives?)

No Detectives!.JPG

The photo below is of Ypsi’s water tower (a myriad of jokes and urban myths exist refering to it’s resemblence to a certain male body part) across from campus.

Water Tower.JPG 

I’ve just stepped onto university grounds in the photo below.


With the kids away on Spring Break, the grounds are like a ghost town.

Ghost Town.JPG

After looping around campus I stroll through Frog Island park (entrance in the photo below) and then Riverside park.

Riverside to Frog Island.JPG

It’s no staircase on the Great Wall, but running up and down these Stairs of Doom is the nearest I can find.

(Rob and Marsh: photo is of the stairs at Riverside park that lead to the Arts Center)  

 The Stairs of Doom.JPG