Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2013-03-27

Blue Bottle Ritual With Spunky: Letting Go of the Old and Womanifesting the New

Nearly fifteen years ago I was working as a camp counselor at a Girl Scout Camp and met this blonde girl who annoyed me. I perceived her to be totally cliquish, shallow and ridiculous. A couple of weeks into camp (and in camp time that’s a lifetime) something shifted and suddenly we bonded over a candy necklace and became close friends. It was years before we realized we were soul mates* but we were certainly BFF right away. Spunky is the closest thing to a sister I have and, these days, through the magic of google video chat, I spend more time with her than 90% of the people I know in New York City.

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This is what Spunky and I look like now.

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This is what we looked like at 19 on “twin day” where either we dressed like twins on purpose or it was a dress your counselor dinner and we let our girls dress us like twins.

Part of being camp counselors is participating in a lot of non-consensual woo. I totally didn’t identify it as woo at the time (and balked at all forms of religion and spirituality), but having been a lifelong Girl Scout, I really knew how to plan rituals and ceremonies chock full of meaning for our girls.

Spunky and I used our current spirituality and past Girl Scout training to design a ritual recently that I thought might help some of my blog readers who are interested in getting energy unstuck.

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This was the first place I ever felt at “home” on a stage. Now being on stage is part of how I pursue my mission in life. Camp really gives kids and young adults life long learnables.

One thing that counselors had done for me in the past that I loved was giving the gift of a blue bottle. There’s a song about it. It’s a little blue bottle that you keep to remind you of summer’s energy, it’s a great gift at a Scout’s Own or a CIT graduation ceremony. I was CIT Director the summer Spunky and I met, and I gave her a blue bottle of her own during one of the ceremonies advancing my girls. I still have the blue bottle I received and it lives on my altar. Whenever Spunky and I do tarot readings over video chat we each grab ours to help us connect.

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One of my friends killed a rattlesnake under that platform tent!

It’s kind of eerie how much energy we mirror back to one another. Often we’ll have the same kind of action going on in our love lives at the same time, though she’s straight and I’m queer and our relationships look different than one another they are still often similar lessons and emotional journeys.

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This is the spot where we shared that candy necklace and became friends!

When I was coming to California for Thanksgiving a few months ago, we decided to create a ritual to womanifest some new direction for us in our thirties. The blue bottles we had were about who we were in our late adolescence and foolish twenties. Now we wanted something to redirect our energy towards what we wanted in our adult post-Saturn Return lives. We also decided to go to the most magical spot we could think of, which happened to be the waterfall on a trail just past the buildings of the camp where we first met.

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Maybe we sweet talked a caretaker in letting us wander the trail through camp.

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My spirituality is pretty grab bag, based on the premise that there is good orderly direction in the universe, a feminine divine that is inclusive of all genders, and deep connection and appreciation for the natural world. Rituals are great and I use them a lot in small ways to help me connect to the Goddess.

Rituals are a way to bind the magic of a particular event. They are a way of ordering your thoughts and pointing you in a particular direction. There are prescribed spells and rituals out in books and on the internet, which can be a helpful framework to start. I much prefer to hear about them first hand from people who have used them before. I find I am pretty good at making meaning out of things and it works more intensely if I just put intention into what I’m doing, regardless if it is a prescribed ritual or I’m just making it up. When designing my ritual with Spunky, I just set about making meaning.

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I totally said a prayer of protection for all the fat and/or awkward kids that will have to participate in this ropes course! Adolescent nightmare!

It was Spunky’s idea to get blue bottles again. We looked all over the Haight (I was staying in the Castro) thinking there would be a head shop or something with tiny bottles but nothing in our price range. We ended up finding them at the exact same Cost Plus in Marin County I used to buy blue bottles for my CITs. We got these great jars intended for spices that actually had blue lids in them.

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We created an altar space with all of the elements of our ritual.

We also bought some things that were symbolic of what we wanted to womanifest to put into the bottle. I got us some purple fluorite, which helps enhance third eye vision, balance and seeing truth behind illusion. We bought these shark teeth for strength. We put in these flowers I found on the ground when we were wandering the Haight at a particularly magical moment “in the flow,” to remind us to keep seeking the natural flow of life. (We both struggle with patience.) When we got onto the camp grounds we each grabbed an acorn (symbolizing kids), a tiny rock from the waterfall and some lichen because I’ve always thought lichen was really rad and it’s a good symbol of light and dark and working together with opposing elements to find balance.

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In the flow on the Haight.

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We also went to a fabric store to buy ribbon to do a binding for the handle of the bottle. I had read about doing magic with braiding–just by braiding something together and meditating on it you are able to infuse that thing with energy. So we each bought three strands of ribbon that symbolized things that we wanted in a life partnership. Mine are a purple fuzzy ribbon (spiritual connection and warmth), a green piece of lace (growing together and openness), and a black studded patent leather ribbon (for hot sex and good style). We each bought a piece of black netting to put around the bottle.

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During our ritual, which was using our energy together in a space that had a lot of meaning to us. We opened it by burning some mugwort for dream/manifesting energy and playing music on Spunky’s iphone. If this were a Scout’s Own I would have had everyone singing some song but we had a lot of Indigo Girls on her iPhone so that’s what we used. We cleansed our stones, put them in the bottle, said some meaningful things, wrote out things we wanted to let go of from our twenties that no longer served us, burned those pieces of paper and let the ashes flow down the waterfall, wrote out womanifestation prayers about our lives and our future life partners, put everything in the bottles, braided our ribbons and tied everything up.

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Spunky wrote this prayer a couple of weeks before in a text message to me and transcribed it to her bathroom mirror and we bound it into our bottles.

It was really special to do this with Spunky at the place where we first met in this lifetime.** Katie, from Empowering Astrology, has suggested to use the power of the Uranus/Pluto square to co-create, and the time is especially auspicious now with this full moon to do use our energy to shift things and clear out emotional clutter.

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*I believe that soul mates come in all kinds, both romantic and non, and sometimes they start out romantic and become not romantic. One of my closest soul mates is more than a friend to me but there really isn’t a word in the English language to describe what we mean to each other.
**Spunky’s energy healer says we’ve been connected since Atlantis. A past life reader I had a session with told me Spunky and I exist to mirror unconditional love to one another on our journeys.

2012-11-21

Sandy’s Aftermath

I’ve been working on this post for a couple of weeks and I’m still not totally done with the sentiment. But in the efforts of not being a perfectionist, here it is! More thoughts on the hurricane to come, I’m sure.

I was just telling someone about my experience living through the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was 10 and that I was less scared during that than I was during Hurricane Sandy. I was raised with earthquakes and disaster drills so I knew what to expect from it and what to do. I was home alone and I weathered it pretty well and waited patiently for my mom to get home from class.

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My cats, Bear and ALF.

I didn’t grow up with crazy weather and last year’s preparation for Hurricane Irene was the first time I had ever prepared for a storm. I mean, a lot of it is similar to growing up with earthquakes. Having an emergency earthquake kit on hand is just something we did as California kids. I remember having to bring a separate one for school each year to keep in our homeroom. The addition of filling up the bathtub with water is new and interesting disaster preparedness.

So the hurricane came in and I left my house on Sunday before the MTA shut down and I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere. It was just to a coffee shop to work on my book but I figured it was better to stave off stir crazy if we did get stuck in bad weather. Thought I didn’t really believe we would, I’m glad I took that break.

I hunkered down alone. My wonderful roommate was off visiting her sweetie in Philly and I have three pets and my apartment isn’t in a flood zone so it seemed like a safe thing to do. I have all of this Girl Scout wilderness survival skill and I don’t worry about crises and emergencies. One of my favorite sayings is “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” This philosophy works for me about 90% of the time unless it’s about dating.

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About 24 hours after the subways shut down the storm really settled in. Everything was rattling, windows, the kitchen cabinets. It was sort of terrifying. I also felt like I was starting to get sick so I just crawled into bed and tried to rest a lot and drink tea.

Eventually my internet went out which was awful because that was where I was feeling social support. Constant updates on my friends’ Ariel Speedwagon and Sarah Jenny’s awesome alternate news network plus other folks’ updates about their safety and sentiments in the storm.

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Ariel Speedwagon.

So I was alone and feeling isolated in my apartment, calling my best friend in California periodically to get reassured and watching TV to distract myself.

The next morning in my neighborhood wasn’t so bad. Tons of branches and leaves everywhere, a couple of fallen trees but not much happened that was catastrophic. But something felt very unsettled.

The news began pouring in about the devastation throughout Brooklyn. Red Hook, the Rockaways, Lower Manhattan, New Jersey. Dis/abled and elderly folks stuck in high rise buildings with no electricity or running water. Disaster after disaster.

I couldn’t shake my anxiety for a couple of weeks afterward. I felt scattered and weird. It was awful. My roommate came back to town and shifted into full-on community organizing gear. She was coordinating donation pick-ups and drop offs, getting volunteers out to the Rockaways. It was incredible to experience. Ariel Speedwagon came over one day and kept creating amazing round-ups of where to donate money and where to volunteer. She’s a pro at information dissemination.

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We went forward with our housewarming/naming ceremony on November 1st, and the moment of woo was actually very healing. The power of community woo is pretty amazing.

I could signal boost information and I could cook for people. So that’s what I did. Somehow pouring love into the universe in whatever way I could was how I could help.

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Not pictured: many casseroles.

I guess I’ve been slow to write this post because I was waiting for the aha moment of why I got so anxious after the storm. I think some of it was how connected human beings are–in Brooklyn we were literally surrounded by devastation. Some of it was the mistake I made of weathering the storm by myself. I can be confident and independent to a fault sometimes. I think having someone to be with during the storm I probably would have felt a lot more secure. It felt similar to the time I had emergency surgery when I was 22 years old and I told my mom not to bother coming out, but when I woke up from the surgery alone I knew it was a huge mistake.

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I think some of it was feeling really trapped. The subways weren’t working yet, we were just able to go as far as we could walk (since I don’t have a bike). And the gas shortages were freaky. We were okay, thankfully, but we couldn’t really leave.

I gave up on Halloween entirely and went to bed at 8PM that night. The next week we had a Nor’Easter snowstorm and it just felt so weird.

Some things were so odd. Like how Park Slope seemed “Business as usual” within a week of the storm but folks were still without power in so many other places. And in spite of the gas shortage people were still driving around.

The gas stations stopped having gas, they just ran out. Then when they would get gas there would be these hours long lines to fill up. The NYPD started doing gas rationing at the stations–it was full-on martial law at the pump for a couple of weeks.

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Martial law at the gas station near my house at 4AM.

When we found out that the gas shortages were going to continue because so many refineries were affected by the storm and you could only buy gas every other day. I told Damien, “What if the Mayan calendar is right and it really is the end of the world?”

Well, then I guess people should be having more sex,” she answered. I think it’s a good response. Go have more sex, folks!

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Things aren’t back to normal yet. I was at a Butch Burlesque hurricane relief fundraiser this past Saturday night and someone who has been doing a ton of relief volunteering got up to talk about what is going on with the relief efforts. That the Red Cross was only just then getting to the Rockaways. That they really need day care services because kids can’t go to school. That they only just got power back. That’s three weeks after the storm, with no power, isolated in the aftermath.

That benefit was the first time I went into Manhattan since the storm. I hadn’t even gone further than Williamsburg prior to Wednesday. It’s been a slow recovery process. I’m still not sure what’s left to come.

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Me and Damien.

Damien wrote an amazing post a week after the storm about a progress report.

You can donate money or time to Occupy Sandy. Grass-roots on the ground volunteers are really effective in the post-Sandy recovery.

2012-09-21

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 7: Layover in Bay Area, CA and Tips to Survive Returning to Your Hometown

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


Castro Valley, CA and Berkeley, CA

[Hey so I stopped blogging my road trip redux after I crossed into the CA border arriving at my mom’s place in the Bay Area and I’ve been wanting to get back to memorializing the amazing epic journey. It doesn’t take a degree in psych to know that I stopped at California because suddenly it got emotionally difficult! My home state had a lot of baggage for me to unpack, but the trip was really healing on so many fronts so anyway, here the journey continues…]

In planning my trip I had budgeted the day after Thanksgiving to hang out with my mom and Grandmother and soak up a little bit of the Bay Area. I was ready to stop driving so intensely and excited to have a “destination” for more than a couple of hours.

It’s worth noting that I was miserable growing up and thus unable to appreciate or notice much of the beauty around me. I really love visiting the Bay now. Part of the impetus for this trip was to get to spend some time in California.

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View from Dolores Park in San Francisco. Why I only went to DP once in my entire time living in California I’ll never know.

Thanksgiving dinner was great, even if consumed late, and Mom was visibly overjoyed to wake up to find me, Grandmother and Macy in the guest bed (which comes down as a Murphy Bed on the wall of her quilting room which is also known as the “cat library”*). Mom adopted Bella, a rescue who literally walked into her classroom one day, inspired by Macy’s cuteness and charm. Macy truly is an ambassador for her breed and muppet dogs everywhere. Bella and Macy sort of got along, though it was clear that Bella was used to being the Queen of the Mountain and Macy was a charming interloper.

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A family portrait with Bella and Macy featured. Macy LOVES Grandmother.

Spunky came by and the four of us went to a local breakfast place. She and I have been friends for almost 14 years and she knows my family better than any of my friends. It’s nice to have that. Spunky’s straight and suburban-dwelling. Grandmother asked later “How are you and Spunky such good friends?” Spunky’s the sister I never had and we make up in emotional similarities what we lack in basic life commonalities. We’ve known each other through so much.

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Me and Spunky.

We went to Doug’s Place, a well-known omelet destination in Castro Valley. Their pancakes are great. I randomly saw someone I recognized from high school at the restaurant but I didn’t say hi. He and I were very close when we were sixteen/seventeen and had the weirdest falling out. We lost touch while we were still in high school. So how weird is it to awkwardly catch-up this much later? This is totally the kind of thing that happens when you are the prodigal daughter returning to your smallish suburban hometown.

I’m not one of those people who has a lot of lingering friends from that time in my life. I’m in touch with about 5 people out of my graduating class of 400 and I feel really great about it. I sincerely love Facebook for the opportunity to peep in on and chat with folks about their awesome kids or whatever.

I really struggled with whether or not to say hello to this high school dude. If I had been alone or circumstances were different I might have gone up to him–nobody ever died of awkward. But I was also trying to focus on my precious few hours with my mom and Spunky (I was slated to visit Grandmother again a couple days later when she returned to Palm Springs).

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Spunky with Bella.

Even though high school dude and I didn’t acknowledge each other, it was kind of cool to see this person, that they had a family (a really cute kid) and were in town for Thanksgiving, too. It was enough to see one another from across a restaurant. Why chat and make vague promises of facebook reconnect? Anyway, my hair and features are pretty different than they were in high school but probably he still recognized me.

Oh, home town discomfort you are so real. Being in Castro Valley was itchy like a scab! Where you grow up is loaded, especially if you didn’t have a great or happy adolescence. After Spunky left to go home, I was riding in the backseat of the car with my mom and Grandmother and seeing the Castro Valley suburban streets from the backseat was super triggering. Like I was a grumpy middle/high schooler again and I just needed a dose of my own present reality to snap out of it.

But see, I love my family and I want to see them! And I also love myself and I want to take exceptionally wonderful care of myself! So how do I go home and not get into a crazy spiral triggered by a really rotten adolescence?

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Self-care tips from the wall of Jonah.

I’ve learned through trial and error in my twelve years living on the East Coast a lot of coping mechanisms about how to have a good time going back to the Bay Area. I start with myself, I bring the version of myself that is most authentic and don’t get bogged down in acting like I’m still 16 like I used to do when I came home. I have a lot of things that help me stay connected with who I am now, like staying in touch with friends through my phone, journaling and reading. I also rarely sleep in Castro Valley, opting instead to stay with friends in Oakland or San Francisco. That helps the most, really.

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San Francisco view from my Prius.

A year and a half ago I was going through some serious emotional work and I actually made an important boundary to not go to Castro Valley at all and instead met my mom for yoga and dinner in the city a couple of times. It was great to see her on neutral ground and avoid the hometown land mine altogether.

Another thing I do is I don’t engage in diet talk. I’m far more practiced now, but my family (like many others) loves to talk about their bodies from a not Health at Every Size/All Bodies are Good Bodies perspective and it can be really hard for me to hear. It used to be so hard for me to work around that. I have a lot of compassion for it now and I am pretty good at detaching from it and not engaging. When people talk about their bodies it isn’t about me and I don’t let it be about me. I also don’t let people talk about my body on anything other than my terms. And I will say my family is really understanding about my politics and my mom is definitely much more embracing of the HAES approach than she ever was, which makes the diet talk stuff much less of an issue for me than it ever used to be.

I also find it a lot easier when I can bring a pal home with me but that’s not always possible. Going into this trip I set myself up for success by scheduling a 2 hour catch-up over tea with my dear friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, both because I wanted to hang out with her and also because I knew the break would be good.

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LLPS is such a hardcore babe!!!

No sooner was I having uncomfortable flash-backs to my youth in the back of my mom’s car then I was able to slip into my own Prius and go visit Leah. She met me on the street of her Berkeley neighborhood wearing a slutty apron. I met a bunch of her neighbors and housemates and we went over to her friend Jonah’s room to watch them make candles. Yes, Jonah is a chandler.

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It was incredibly soothing! Jonah makes anti-zionist candles for Jewish rituals. At the time (just after Thanksgiving) they were making candles to fulfill orders, many were tiny collections of menorah candles for Hanukkah. I got to ask Jonah a lot of questions about the process and being in their environment with the warm smell of wax and all of the nettles drying along the wall was like being in a fairytale.

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Nettles drying above us! Reason #203 why the Bay is awesome is being able to harvest Nettles and make your own tea. I love Nettles tea.

LLPS and I got to have one of our power catch-ups on the bed while watching the candles happen. She took me to her house and showed me her tiny magical garden shack in the backyard, which was so much more incredible than I ever imagined from her descriptions over the phone.

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We hugged goodbye and I got back into the Prius and headed back to my mom’s house.

Mom’s BFF was over and we got to watch photos from her summer and some photos of her husband’s memorial service. I couldn’t afford to fly out to attend and was so grateful to get to see pictures from it and spend some time with Linda having grief community.

One of the things that sucks about living across the country from my family is that I rarely can take my family’s hand-me-down furniture. I wanted my mom’s clear glass dining table so bad! But mom saw an opportunity to give me the Kitchen Aid mixer that she rarely used and I gleefully accepted it!

Growing-up my ex-step-dad was notoriously selfish. Like, remarkably, irrationally selfish. Picture a 50-something year old man acting like a 4 year old. Mom and I weren’t allowed to use the Kitchen Aid and I’ve always wanted one. Mom got one not long after they divorced and she knew I would appreciate it like no one else could. So the Kitchen Aid (which, by the way, I totally use at least once a week) got nestled safely into my trunk. I always thought I’d have to wait until I got married or something to get a Kitchen Aid.

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Grandmother had to wear mom’s sweatshirts because it was “so cold” in the Bay Area. Which, compared to Palm Springs, it totally was.

I also raided my mom’s Lesbian Tea Basket** for a sampler of teas for the road, including a lovely hibiscus and some mint.

In the morning I said my goodbyes to Grandmother, Mom and her wife. I was leaving Macy in their care while I headed into San Francisco to go to a meeting I had scheduled into my trip right between visiting my mom and my dad. (I’m in a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics, which I joined as a result of an alcoholic boo but has helped me heal a lot of family stuff I didn’t expect.) I loved the idea of going into the city even for a couple of hours and was bummed I wouldn’t see my friends but didn’t have time on the road trip.

I went to my meeting, walked briefly through the Castro and took a quick detour in the Mission to grab a burrito before I left town. I also stopped at Multi-Kulti for a pair of sunglasses and some cheap fake eyelashes. My pal Alix Izen saw my twitter check-in and texted me to meet me for my quick burrito, which was a fortuitous and awesome catch-up.

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I got back on the road, crossed the Bay Bridge and headed to my dad’s house in Merced.

Next up! I visit Merced, CA for the first time in a decade and drive through some crazy fog!

*Let us not forget that my mom is also a Lesbian.
**I’m sure I mentioned this on my webseries before, but my mom putting all of her teas in a basket on top of the fridge was the original Lesbian Tea Basket and the namesake for my own LTB and starting the LTB web series.

2012-04-11

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 6: Salt Lake City to Bay Area, CA

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Castro Valley, CA from Salt Lake City, UT via Interstate 80–through Utah, Nevada and Northern California.

I left Salt Lake City at 9AM on Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize until the night before that my Thanksgiving day journey was going to be a twelve hour drive. There’s a big difference between ten and twelve hours in the car.

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Stunning view from the parking lot of the Salt Lake City La Quinta.

When initially planning my trip I was planning to stop just Northwest of Sacramento for the holiday as one of my BFFs lives up there and we love spending Thanksgiving together.*

In a twist of fate Spunky was going to be in the Bay Area but my mom was hosting Thanksgiving at her house. And my beloved grandmother was going to be there, up from Palm Springs! My mom rarely hosts big holidays—she was a single mom and I’m an only child—and while she’s married now it’s not like there’s a big kerfuffle of family around. She often spends holidays with her best friend Linda or with my Aunt and cousins in Southern California. Linda’s husband, Peter, who has been in my life since I was 14, almost twenty years, passed away in a sudden boat accident at the end of August. After their loss, Mom offered to host Linda’s family (daughters, husbands, grandkids) at her house.

I was really sad that I couldn’t afford to fly out for the memorial service earlier in November. So the twist of fate that helped me be able to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving was a wonderful opportunity to hug family friends in this tender time.

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In planning the details of the trip I never updated my estimated travel time from Salt Lake City to Spunky’s house to SLC to my mom’s house (another two hours). OOPS. So twelve hours in the car it was, and leaving at 9AM was way later than I wanted to start but I was so wiped the night before I needed to just let myself decompress and sleep. Lest we forget that my goal of driving solo across the country in five days was ambitious.

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I only lamented the lack of a human passenger on this trip a few times, and SLC was one of them. I drove past the Great Salt Lake and with a mind on hustling through my twelve hour drive without dawdling, I wished someone had been shotgun to read to me from my AAA guide books.

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My view of the lake.

As an aside, I am a huge fan of Sister Wives and have always wanted to do more than sleep in SLC, so it is a goal of mine to go back for a couple of days and poke around a little more. All the snowy mountains in the distance were beautiful!

After the Great Salt Lake I hit the Salt Flats. I had no idea what I was driving through until Macy and I stopped at a rest area and read a sign that told us about it. We took a little walk to the edge of the Salt Flats and poked my little boot into it.

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The next part of our journey brought us across the Utah/Nevada border. I stopped for gas, knowing from previous experience driving across the country that Nevada is extremely desolate with not a ton of consistent cell phone service or frequent gas stations. This oasis was exciting, there were casinos on one side of the block and the other side of the block were Utah pawn shops.

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It occurred to me in a moment of panic that the fact that it was Thanksgiving might mean I had no access to food on the road. What if all the fast food places in Nevada were closed for the holiday? I bought a lunchable at a gas station and threw it in my road cooler.

The high desert in Nevada is gorgeous. I saw a lot of mountains in the distance. Tried to get photos of them. Lamented that I hadn’t downloaded the audio book of Kerouac’s On the Road before I left. Started Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer instead. Started taking photos of Macy on the roof of my car because the scenery around her was so stunning. I felt like I could see forever, which is something I miss a lot living in the city.

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The day wore on, stopping occasionally in desolate towns for gas or a stretch. I ended up finding a McDonalds and immediately regretted eating it. I listened to Liz Phair’s “Go West” a lot, a song I heard with new ears on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when I was in the midst of the grief/emotional crash times of last September and fantasized about hitting the road and disappearing for a few weeks. (The little nuggets of inspiration to go on this trip were all very tiny but persistent.)

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Nevada is a huge state and I was near the border of California as the sun started to slip slowly toward the horizon. I followed some signs on the outskirts of Reno for a Starbucks and was super delighted to find one open in a strip mall. Inside was a flamboyant boy who was excited to learn I was from Brooklyn. When I see that glimmer in folks’ eyes when I’m far away from home I encourage them. “It’s a lot cheaper than you think to live in Brooklyn. I pay $875** a month for half of a 2 bedroom. The Starbucks are always hiring. I throw a queer dance party called Rebel Cupcake. If you feel like you want to come to New York you totally should. Look me up.”

Anyway, seeing this young queer was the highlight of my trip that day. I just love seeing queer folks on the road.

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I started down the Sierra Nevada after I got through Reno and this was my second great OOPS of the day, timing-wise. Had I realized how treacherous that drive was going to be I would have gotten a motel room and called it a night. In fact I almost stopped a couple of times to do just that but couldn’t find an easy spot to do that while traveling down this huge mountain range.

Recall this was the end of November. The Sierras are mountains about three hours from where I grew up that I got to go camping and hiking in with my girl scout troops and sometimes we would be adventurous and go cold camping. Sometimes in college my sorority or women’s honor society would take a weekend trip and we would go rent a cabin in Tahoe or Reno and experience the joys of Nevada gambling and snowpack. None of these occasions required me to drive or put chains on a car.

I have lived on the East Coast for 11 Winters now (does this past year count as a Winter?). We don’t really have chain requirements here. Sometimes you get special snow tires for the winter but not me. I just review tips for snow driving before the season starts. (Another benefit to AAA membership—this road trip/car magazine that is really practical and interesting.) I have driven through a lot of scary snow storms on all of the local highways between Philadelphia and New York City. I don’t prefer to drive in the snow but that’s my life now.

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Macy, DJ and snack distributor.

However, I’ve never driven through steep, dark and twisty mountains like the Sierra Nevada while a rain/ice storm starts. Chains were not required but had the temperature been just a bit colder they would have. Of course, it was dusk so the risk of deer was real and a doe darted out in front of a car a bit in front of me. I was white knuckled and terrified.

This did not stop me from enjoying the last bits of daylight. Man, the mountains were beautiful. I stopped at a lookout area to pee in the woods (not even a single restroom along the highway during this stretch) and really appreciated the grace and glory of the trees, the waning light, the crisp air. It was the wilderness of my youth and I loved it.

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Earlier in the day.

I went about 30-40 MPH the whole time, sometimes slower. This is on Route 80, where cars were just speeding right by me, all self-assured about their driving in the slippery downslope of the Sierras. You do you, cars. I’ll do me.

I pulled off to go to the bathroom again (the whole stretch of mountains was probably close to two hours of drive time) but couldn’t find somewhere, so I just took a break and walked Macy in a closed for Thanksgiving grocery store parking lot. It helped me regroup, and it helped to smell the pine trees.

We hit the road again and I was so thankful to find we were finally in the foothills (near where Spunky lives) and Sacramento was imminent.

There is something about the smell in the air in Sacramento that just smells like home to me. I lived in Davis, CA, just 20 minutes from Sac, for four years during undergrad and I had so much fun (and depression, but that’s a larger story). College was a meaningful time for me and it was exciting to be there.

I always love driving through Davis, even if it’s just to get a quick cup of coffee or something. I stopped for gas on Mace Road. I wished it was still light and I wasn’t running late for Thanksgiving dinner (Mom was making me a plate) so I could have gotten a photo of Macy on a statue of a cow or on the UC Davis sign or in front of Thoreau or Regan Hall or something. One of these days I’ll bring Macy out for Picnic Day (the largest student-run event in the country—I was Vice Chair my senior year) or something.

I got back on the road and it was a quick 90 minutes to my mom’s house. I thought about going the back way zigging and zagging through tiny North/East Bay highways but the extra 10 minutes it was going to take me to go on 80 all the way to the end was sort of too awesome to give up. I drove past my birthplace in the North Bay and along Berkeley and across the Bay from San Francisco.

And then I was at my mom’s place in Castro Valley. It was 9:30PM (even with the hour change of time from SLC it took me 13 and 1/2 hours to finish my drive). Some folks were leaving and I got to say goodbye to them on their way out.

And on the inside of the house was my mom, her wife, Linda (who is like an aunt to me), Grandmother and more of Linda’s family. It was wonderful. And I dove right into that green bean casserole like nobody’s business.

Next up! My first day of rest and a quick trip into San Francisco!

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*I learned early on that the best way to plan this epic road trip was to let the plans shake out as they were going to and not force anything. In fact, other than the first three people I was stopping to see, I didn’t make any firm plans regarding arrival dates and gave everyone I was visiting a two or three night range, to be confirmed later. This flexibility proved to be crucial when accounting for road conditions, my whim and where the Goddess was taking me.

**My rent is also a little cheaper now, BTW, and I know folks who pay $500 who live in tinier places or in Queens.

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