Did Someone Say Funky Pea Soup?

So if you aren’t following me on Facebook, you’ve missed some of the fun that has gone on in my terribly mundane life these last few weeks. Most importantly, you missed the part where I had a little bit of a meltdown because Pookies is on this 12 day trip away from me and we are going on 6 days now incommunicado. That, in combination with my general unhappiness with life as is (I want to move back to Chicago so bad I can taste the pizza) led to my husband worrying so much about my mental health that he decided to send me on a three-day jaunt to Solvang.

I’m fairly certain the decision to do so either came because (a) he knew I was about to get a visit from Aunt Flo and would be particularly bitchy in addition to all this other mental drama; or, (b) considered it to be far cheaper than sending me to a funny farm with straight jackets, rolling meadows, and electroshock therapy for a few months.

Okay, I don’t really think I would need shock therapy, but I do feel pretty in a funk these days.

So today was Day One of the mental health fix.

#1 If the fix for a case of the funks is eating and drinking, Solvang is the place for it.

For those of you that have never been to Solvang, CA, it’s kind of like a faux Danish town. It’s in the middle of wine country and the fresh, local, and Danish food is a big attraction. But it isn’t just the Danish food: it’s any food.

Dinner tonight was at Pea Soup Andersen’s, where I had a turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes. Unlike the rest of the people in the restaurant, I ordered my gravy on the side, which I was thankful for because the serving-size was a full crock.

Did you faithful blog followers get that? A fucking crock of gravy.

#2 If the fix for a case of the funks is doing a bunch of weird, bizarre-o shit while drunk, Solvang is the place for it.

There is a lot of Scandinavian heritage stuff everywhere. Every corner has a fucking windmill on it. And Hans Christian Andersen is their town hero. It’s a little weird. A little local-yocally. But it’s good if you need to get away and slow down so your brain doesn’t fry completely.

After rolling into town, I got everything settled into the hotel, which also has a windmill on the front of it. I drove around a bit, made a little bit of a plan for tomorrow, which will include: visiting the Santa Inez Mission, checking out the 34 inch miniature ponies on the pony farm, wine tasting on the Solvang wine walk, going to the Hans Christian Andersen museum, shopping at the All-Year-Long-Christmas store, and making candles in the candle shop. I’m also going to the casino and thinking about getting a pedicure at the nail salon with a large head bust of Andersen himself in the window.

Could this get anymore random?

#3 If a fix for a case of the funks is shopping … well, we all know that a fix for the case of the funks is shopping, and Solvang is the place for that too.

Tonight at Pea Soup Andersen’s, I picked up: strawberry-rhubarb jam, pumpkin pancake syrup, cinnamon honey, wild blueberry muffin mix, and 9 cans of pea soup, tomato soup, and pea-bacon soup. Tomorrow will no doubt include more shopping. My biggest fear is that I just got my TOMS catalogue and there is a TOMS store in town. That could equal major damage to the pocketbook.

 

I’m heading off to bed soon. Another part of my funk is that I’m sleeping more. I’m considering it a good thing for the moment simply because when my little sweetsies gets back next Monday life will again get crazy in the kid-way.

Vacation Wrap Up: Back to Reality

Of course by “back to reality” I mean that I am a rampant bitch again. Like I said in my blogged vacation reports, I felt super nice again when I went to my sweet, home Chicago for a close-to-three-week vacation. It was wonderful. I saw friends. I visited with family. I ate and ate and ate some more (although I lost three pounds on the trip…). And more than anything, I felt good and happy – two things I do not often feel in my daily, misanthropic California life.

I realize now that I attach a lot of my unhappiness to my physical location, and this is mainly because my unhappiness in California stems from things about the area that I just don’t jive with. I’m not fake, high strung, and narcissistic – qualities that I find to be more than I can take at times in my southwestern coastal community. This isn’t to say there are no nice people here (because there are), it’s just a little overwhelming for this tried and true Midwest Girl to be confronted with such a different life perspective that can seem (at times) to be a little shallow and short-sighted.

It also has to do with a lot of other factors. Like the fact that I am a philosopher and there is little intellectualism going on in our community. Leaving graduate school was in that sense probably the worst thing I could have done, for I lost the only community of thinkers in the program that I left behind. And the fact that I am allergic to a lot of California pollens, so am miserable at least three days a week with a stuffy nose and sinus migraines. Lastly, there is that simple fact that my family is so far away from the west coast. I miss them every day and no matter how many things we try to fill my life with to replace them, it just doesn’t change a thing.

So my vacation home was really a vacation to my roots – my own roots, that is. It has been years since I have been able to look at my life and say what I really feel; years since I have been able to acknowledge what is really going on, rather than distracting myself to make peace with an unhealthy situation. Now that I have a little more clarity, I can move to make some positive changes in my own life. Don’t you worry, though, faithful blog followers – I will still be just as misanthropic and bitchy as always. I just won’t have high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia to go along with it.

So here are a few of my changes that I am immediately implementing as I get back to reality:

I will no longer be Internet buddies with dysfunctional fuckfaces

That’s right – I dropped the f-faces word. What I’m saying is that I will no longer be Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or LinkedIN connections with people that are assholes. To begin, I’ve deleted all of the people that are in my husband’s circle that have been outright dicks to me. That doesn’t mean that if he wants to go to a family reunion (please, God … NO!) I won’t go – it just means I won’t be letting them into my own personal life when all they do is use that to hurt me. Too many of his friends and/or family have told me I’m “ugly” (yes, one of his friends told me that) or that there was an entire cadre of other things about me they did not like for me to feel OK with having extended relationships with them.

Sadly, this means that Facebook fights with Hello Kitty Toaster will be coming to an end. There is still the possibility I will be running into her and my prick of a brother-in-law in public, but I just cannot allow her to impact me in my personal life anymore. On the day we were leaving Chicago to embark on our cross-country return, she sent me a bitchy Facebook comment and then posted some bullshit on her own Facebook a minute later about how much people like me piss her off. Well good, Hello Kitty Toaster – you piss me off too, so how’s about we stop being Friends?

I will be doing things I enjoy from now on…

…rather than doing things that others tell me I should be enjoying. I am who I am. I like to talk. I like to watch movies. I like to go to museums. I enjoy shopping. I feel empty when not in the city. I like going for drives for no reason other than to look around. And like most Chicagoans, I like to bitch about everything under the sun. This is who I am and anyone that doesn’t like it can go jump.

While I was on vacation, I was so happy to have the opportunity to do some of the things I really enjoy. On one of the last nights in the city in particular, we took a drive into the heart of Chicago to flash some photographs and soak in the place that is so important to who I am. The following day, I visited the Hemingway Museum and the home in which he was born (something that would bore most people I know, but fascinated me beyond belief). In these two things – my nighttime drive through the city and my visit to the museum of my favorite writer – I felt more happy and alive than in as long as I could remember.

I will no longer let others put me down when it comes to my personal character.

Obviously this California versus Chicago issue is a bone of major contention between my husband and myself. Without getting into all the uglier details of our marital discord, I can say without regret that my husband is adamantly opposed to living anywhere other than California, and doing anything other than cultivating his own career in film. Oftentimes, it feels as though I am demonized for wanting something other than the unhappiness we both have for the sake of some vague hope that one day his career will take off. Beyond that, and as is the case with most women, usually I am gaslighted for having feelings.

Because I am the way I am, I regularly feel subjected to a rejection of who I am simply because I am not like most people around me (at my home in California, that is). As an example, today I was driving home from the grocery store and there was a momma duck walking across the street with eight little baby ducks. The street was right outside of our apartment complex, and we live nowhere near any lakes so I have no idea where they came from. Sadly, California is so covered in concrete and developments, finding random wildlife struggling to find a home is common. There were three cars in front of me when I noticed the ducks crossing. The first driver honked, the second driver swerved, and the third driver started screaming at the ducks to get out of the road. This is typical behavior for the area.

Although I didn’t do any of those things. I pulled over when I saw that the baby ducks were having a problem getting onto the sidewalk. I got out of my car and I walked over to help lead them up the ramp portion of the sidewalk. Right as I got back in my car – which was legally parked, I might mention – a fourth car pulled up behind me and screamed out the window “you fucking asshole, you should have let those ducks get creamed.” Really, California? Yes, really.

I know that helping those ducks was the right thing to do. I know that a lot of things I do are the right things to do. I’m not trying to say I’m some moral standard by which others should judge their behavior, I’m just saying that I try to be a good person and I know that when I make choices in that vein I am doing the right thing.

Upon my return from vacation, though, it seems as though a concerted effort has been made by others to make me feel like I am bad or wrong for wanting to be who I am and live life in accordance with what I know is right. I’m not going to tolerate this anymore, though. I will no longer let others put me down when it comes to my personal character.

So I feel like something of an hypocrite. Around New Years I talked shit up and down people’s New Years Resolutions, and these three things feel like resolutions to me. Really they are changes, though – changes that I intend to keep that are matters of personal growth (rather than things I should have been doing all along anyway) and there will be more to come. I’m back to reality, and while that does mean that I am back to being a rampant bitch, it also means I am back to the reality of who I am.

Vacation Report 6: Chicago Food versus California Cuisine

So I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before, but prior to our vacation to my sweet, home Chicago, I essentially starved myself for the months preceding so that I could eat whatever I wanted without worrying about returning to California in a hefty bag (for lack of any fitting clothing). While here, though, I realized that I actually eat better and weigh less when eating in the Midwest for a few reasons, though: (1) I don’t eat many sweets; and (2) I don’t indulge in emotional eating to make myself feel better about how unhappy I am in California.

While on this trip, I’ve made it a point to ask more about what makes food in the Midwest so much better. And unlike in California – where asking a question of your waiter or cook is a recipe for looks of annoyance and a pithy response like “it’s in the sauce,” many of the people I’ve asked have indulged me in my inquiry.

Chicago Food: Delis

In Chicagoland area, you have a lot more locally owned restaurants or local franchises that you won’t find in other areas. Sure, there are a lot of your run-of-the-mill Subways and Taco Bells, but right next door you almost always have a local and just-as-cheap alternative.

One thing that is amazing about the Chicagoland area is the deli meat. In California, I often notice that the deli meat is sliced thick and often “smothered” in something to make it a thick, meaty experience. In Chicago, though, it’s usually sliced very thin, which bodes for a lighter and more satisfying experience. Jason’s Deli is by far my favorite local spot for a sandwich or wrap.

Chicago Food: Flavorful

Another thing I have realized about Chicago food, is it is often about the flavor. I would argue that a lot of the food we eat in California is flavorful, but often the emphasis is not placed on the synthesis of flavors or enhancing the natural flavor of the food, itself. In particular, meat is not usually enhanced quite in the way that it is done in the Midwest, and I am sure this is in large part due to the fact that so much of the meat you eat in the Midwest is local.

The pizza is more flavorful as well, which is what makes it so popular. In California we use dry milk and bitter sauce. In the Midwest, though, emphasis is placed on the flavor of the crust and the sauce to eliminate those dry and bitter elements.

Now I rarely eat red meat, but when I am visiting home I do indulge in a little. Particularly noteworthy was the meatball sandwich I had a few days after arriving – it was (by far) one of the greatest sandwiches I have ever eaten.

Chicago Food: Fluffy

As I mentioned above about the deli meat, Chicago food is often sliced thin and fluffy-like. It goes beyond just the deli meat, though. The pizza almost never has gobs of cheese on it, which I find is a big problem with food in California – too much cheese. And while I would never recommend actually eating the food at White Castle, the shakes are another great example of the fluffiness of the cuisine in the Midwest. Whereas at In N’ Out on the west coast we have very thick, heavy shakes, the milkshakes at White Castle are so fluffy you can taste the bits of whipped air.

Chicago Food: More Interactive

Something else we don’t realize on the west coast is that our food is not terribly interactive. Oftentimes, you have little input in what goes in your food. You can request something to be “minus this” or “add that,” but then you get a lot of attitude and it is usually done wrong anyway.

In Chicago, though, your food is more interactive. You get to know who is cooking it – whether it be a restaurant owner, a waiter, or a friend or family member. You have more input and more options as well. Just the other day, we went to an Asian fusion place in the city and were able to head to their stir fry bar to select every piece of our meal. There are not many places in California that such an option exists, except (of course) your own home.

As a result of this, I have come to one conclusion – something I knew all along, but that was reiterated on this great trip home:

Chicago Food: Amazing

California Cuisine: Crap

Need I say more?

Vacation Report One: Misanthrope Does Not Stop at Los Angeles

I really and truly thought I was just a misanthropic, foul-mouthed bitch because of my surroundings. As much as I knew (and people told me) that the underside of humanity exists everywhere – not just L.A. – I hoped that as soon as I broke free from the western waters I would find myself less annoyed by people around me.

I was terribly terribly wrong. So wrong that I now realize this vacation is going to teach me a lot – mainly about myself and what has happened to my conceptions of the world since living in California.

Thus far, I have experienced the following “characters” during our 44 hour scenic train travel (that’s right, I’ve been on a train for 44 hours … no shower, plenty of sleep in our sleeping car, lot of sights):

(1) Most annoying lady on the planet

That’s right, I have found the most annoying woman on the planet. Maybe she’s just representative of annoying, middle-aged women everywhere; nonetheless, she was on the trip. Her annoyances included: talking so loudly during dinner the first night that we decided to take our meals in our sleeper cars lest we be forced to sit near her again; bitching in the middle of the night about the fact that the train was running about an hour late; and the icing on the cake, banging on the bathroom door while my 8 year old Pookie was (as she calls) “taking a whiz.”

(2) Kid who was lucky he got off when he did, because I was about to punch him

You know, in movies you see people traveling and there is always some annoying kid running around screaming like a maniac and hitting people. You think “haha, funny stuff – glad that doesn’t happen when I travel.” Well, somewhere around Albuquerque, that little asshole got on the train and was placed in the sleeping car next to us. The highlight was when the kid loudly sang a song in the Pee Wee Herman voice about his recent bowel movement.

(3) The Amish belcher

In the sleeper cab behind us, a man and his wife got on the train around Fullerton (California) and have been there the entire time. One thing to note is that they are Amish. Not like the colloquial application of the term and just out of date with their clothes and 1990s cell phones; these people are for real Amish. The husband apparently had some sort of intestinal issues, though, for I have never heard someone blow things out of the various orifices of their body as this guy did.

So we have about four more hours on this train, and while the experience of traveling across the country in it was amazing, I will probably never do it again. It’s just so long, and this bitch needs her shower time. Nonetheless, I have spaced out for the last two days and feel totally relaxed. Next stop, home sweet homecoming.

Planes, Trains, and B(itch)Mobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was such a great movie. Goddamn it was. It might be my secret love of Steve Martin – ever since Saturday Night Live and LA Story, I have always had an affinity for him. More likely, it’s the fact that seeing that movie over and over again has made me realize that no matter how awful my travel experiences have been, they could always be worse.

Today we had a major pre-vacation debacle, so I’m settling in for the night to watch the film yet another time in hopes it will make me feel better. For those that didn’t read my post a few days ago about our trip to FedEx, we had to ship the majority of our clothing because the train portion of our trip has no checked bag service. Since we’ll be gone for three weeks, this obviously made shipping our clothing a necessity. Well today, we received a call from FedEx informing us that the one box with all of my clothes was damaged and won’t be returned until well after our trip is over. Add in the fact that I just gave a huge portion of my clothing away to the rescue mission and it’s looking like I’ll be wearing potato sacks and hotel bathrobes for the majority of the trip.

So what else am I doing to make myself feel a little better this evening you ask? I’m scheduling our transportation to downtown Los Angeles where we will embark on this epic adventure of complexity,  cross-country sightseeing, and our own series of planes, trains, and automobiles. This brings up another set of my idiosyncratic biases, though, for I find something wrong with shuttle-type transportation in almost every way possible.

Heather’s Bias #1: Roadrunner-style shuttles are driven by people with issues

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was in college I worked at a pharmacy as a Pharmacy Technician to pay the tuition bills and keep me on some form of health insurance. While there, I can remember helping a great number of people that drove Roadrunner and Roadrunner-type airport transportation shuttles. They all had issues. I don’t mean that they were all getting psych meds or anything (well, some were), but they all just were weird. One woman told me all about her boyfriend problems every single time she came in. On one occasion she asked if we could get coffee after my shift and talk more. Another time there was a couple that both drove those shuttles and there was some problem with their insurance that I handled, so they brought me a “Thank You” card. But after they signed it, they asked if I could ring it up for them on the cash register because they had found it in the store and hadn’t bought it yet. Then, after buying it, they asked if they could have it back with some White Out because they wanted to reuse it.

And I won’t even get into the last airport shuttle I actually rode in, where the driver had a sign displayed by his dashboard that read “accident-free for 8 days.” Just what happened 9 days ago? There will be no vanpool-style airport shuttles in this lady’s future.

Heather’s Bias #2: Taxis are loaded with STDs

Have any of you faithful blog followers ever watched Taxicab Confessions? Holy mother of God that show is awful. I remember one episode, actually many episodes, where people did it right in the back seat. That’s right, they had sexy times right there – with the camera on them and everything! And then at the end, the cab driver always asked if it’d be cool that they sign a form to be on the show and the people could never wait to sign the shit! Who knows what people with such low levels of inhibition have got going on down there!

This is why I don’t drink too much (when I’m out of the house, that is). Having to call a cab makes me feel like spraying Lysol all over my ass and praying to God I don’t catch a venereal disease just from sitting on the seats.

Heather’s Bias #3: People that ask for rides to the airport annoy me

Why would I want to be annoying in return? I used to not mind when people asked me for a ride to or from the airport. We used to live about three miles away from LAX and it was very convenient – until someone asked me to drive 45 miles to pick him up to drive him to that airport that was just three miles away from my apartment. Yeah sure, I have a never-ending gas budget to waste on driving you around. Shall I wear my chauffeur hat as well?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing favors for my friends. But as with all things, there is a line where things go too far. I know that if I asked someone for a ride I would have to ask someone to go out of their way for me in such a way that some (often me) might consider annoying. I don’t want to be that person.

So what’s left? Airport-type parking for three weeks would be absurd in cost. After hemming and hawing for some time, now, I have come to the one conclusion that seems both affordable and the logical consequence to my terribly narrow-minded biases: a B(itch)mobile. That’s right, we’re taking a limousine. The most high maintenance, pretentious thing a person could ride in on their way to a lavish three week vacation. But a three week vacation can be considered by some to be a pretty pretentious thing too.

And let’s be realistic here: I’m the most high maintenance thing next to that expensive Jaguar parked down the street. I’m a diva too. A misanthropic diva with a foul mouth. It almost seems wrong not to ride in a limo. So it’ll be all champagne and rims in the back of a stretch b(itch)mobile for the automobile portion of our trip. Just a few days to go and I can already taste the champagne bubbling in the back of my high maintenance throat.