Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The last few weeks, an abridged version...but long

I did it, I hit New Orleans and am undoubtedly going back. What a layer cake of life! Rolled into the hostel in the afternoon, grabbed some beer and made plans to go out that night for music. They post the nightly shows to help poor out of town-ers wade through the overwhelming options. It was decided to go see the Cottonmouth Kings, a swingin' brass and strings band who even played the classics like "It don't mean a thing" The crowd was eclectic and I was in love with the city. Everyone talked to everyone and the walk home was hilarious, that kiwi just didn't want to go straight back to the street car. Between getting twirled around by a huge rugger and watching the group of local dancers take over the floor, I didn't know whether to feel wildly inadequate or super cool. Hehe, take that as you will.
After a few days in and around the city, I had seen a glass blowing workshop, most of the French quarter, lucky dog stands (yum!), the street cars, the river boats, a Mardi Gras exhibit at the museum on Jackson Square, Bourbon Street (never need to go back), some great music, University of New Orleans (peace corps fellowship!), and lots of rain.
It is HUMID down there! My stays in Voldasta and Pass Christian were amazing, but was really excited to have a/c in the car. Got caught in the rain more than once walking around the city. Don't know what came over me leaving without a rain jacket or umbrella, I just came from Alaska for pete's sake. Mmmm, nothing like steaming in your own skin when the sun comes out with a vengeance after a down pour. Bottom line, lots to fix in the city and lots to preserve. The Katrina fallout is still very prevalent and it's right on the tips of everyone's tongues. It was so interesting to hear personal takes on what we all just heard about on the news.

Leaving N.O. came a bit too soon but what came next was just as good. Met up with a Peace Corps friend for lunch while Nissan changed the oil in the new cruiser. Haven't had the car that long but in classic Miller family tradition, we're working on beating the hell out of anything remotely new we own. Lunch was great and the conversation amazing. It's a priceless friend who understands exactly what you mean when you say you need to "smell Africa" again. Late in the day and full of sushi, I began the drive north to Milwaukee.

A few naps in gas station parking lots got me to my destination about 20 hours later. Not bad for a solo trip AND running into a ripping storm right about St. Louis. We're talking NO ONE on the road but semi's, good thing my gas almost ran out and THANK GOD b.p. takes credit cards when no one is manning the pumps in BFE Illinois. OH, and never NEVER go to Cairo, Illinois...I'm assuming it's Illinois, things are kind of fuzzy at that point. The sign promising gas and coffee whipped me a good 10 miles off the interstate and into a town with no lights on except the "after hours club and prayer group" and one guy wandering down the street in the pouring rain. Cairo Egypt - good. Cairo Illinois - bad, very very bad.

Made it to Milwaukee and fellow boozer with new found borders, Annie, was waiting with food. Love that! It is a good friend who greets the weary road warrior with a meal. Quick shower and out the door for a few hours at her job. Essentially, she is a wrangler of small humans. Wow. Much akin to my feelings for geriatric care nurses is my opinion of people like Annie. So happy they are in the world to do those jobs I know I could not.

After romp-a-room, we headed back to put some groceries away and await the Alaska friends slated to arrive that afternoon. It's only been a month since I left the Kenai peninsula but it feels like so much longer. Lifestyle and well, everything else, is so much different up there. Wasn't quite sure how things would go with my "Alaska friends" out of context. Not to fear, we had a blast. Happened to be a birthday in the crowd so we hit the infamous "Corner Pub" and brought in the big 3-0 for Shaun the best way we knew how, dance party and booze :) Speaking of out of context, it dawned on me that I had never known Annie in the US either. She did it right and was out of commission for all of Saturday. It's like we never ended the trip!

The next week was spent exploring Milwaukee, seeing UWM, what it's grad program had to offer, and spending some down time, well, down. This was a much needed and eventful aside to life here at Miller's happy acres. We continue to live large in Paine Falls but felt good to be on the road again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Livin' large in the big easy!

Oh man, I've been in N.O. an hour and am in love. This may change should I be mugged but for the time being, we LOVE it! The hostel is, in fact, commune-esque. Quite a stretch for the US of A. I haven't felt this sense of community very often in hostels so cheers to the India House! $20 for a bed, free wifi, parking, and a whole fridge for storing beer. Who needs more? Ok, let's back up.
After peeling out of the Valdosta RV park with a soaking wet rain fly but freshly showered, I headed the few miles south to Kaleidoscope gallery, my actual destination. I spent the afternoon there and left feeling like I represented my mom well and dead-headed to Pass Christian where another one of her friends was awaiting my arrival so I didn't have to drive and hour extra to New Orleans that night and back track. Once again, I win!!!! Joanne has a fabulous house full of art that I perused for hours. She was great about me rolling in late...I misread my directions and suddenly 35.5 miles turned into 355 miles...awesome. Also - Florida has some crazy rest areas. Pulled into one looking for a quick pit stop and area to devour a can of sardines and ended up driving a half mile into the woods to some spectacular bathroom complex. Creepy. Some guy in a hawaiian shirt was skulking about with a toy chihuahua...never a good sign.
Made it to Pass Christian and after the intros, promptly passed out. I awoke to fabulous sunshine, brewed chicory coffee and a few hours to myself. Joanne and I talked pottery and headed to grab a bite to eta on the gulf, right off scenic drive. Her stories about Katrina are amazing. The empty plots of land, some with concrete front steps still standing speak volumes to the devastation that hit the area. "You don't really understand the meaning of 'gone' until you see something like Katrina come through." There is no way I could wrap my head around the loss that occurred but seeing its effects years later is a window. We had a great lunch, can't really go wrong with parmesan broiled oysters...
The drive over was full of moss covered oak trees and cow patches. Oh the south. Beautiful in its own right and people say things like "I'm fixin' to do this".
I'm in NO for the next few days checking out a school and just seeing the city. Sounds like there are some good bands playing tonight so I'm sure I'll have something to say about it tomorrow. Funny people here! Among them, floridian girl who just traveled to...wisconsin and proudly sports the shirt; and a kiwi named kairen (a guy) who accompanied me to get beer. Should be an interesting couple of days.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Porn...or was that Corn???

Currently camping in a Valdosta RV park. Sitting outside with wi-fi and the lovely hum of the highway I can see from my front door. Nice. It's only for tonight and this means I don't have to drive to the Florida border now. Had a leisurely departure yesterday around noon, made extra smooth by our new car not starting. Sweet. Finally choked into life and I headed down to Louisville STOCKED with pots to deliver. Mom hooked it up with a friend to stay with and as chance would have it, BOTH her sons were in town so along with one's g/f we went out for some bevys. Not one to dress to the 9s, I had no problem sipping and dancing in my sweats...though I don't think that's how these guys roll, they humored me and I actually had a really great time. Nothing says "cool kid" like a dance party with complete strangers. Hit the road this morning with a starbucks and slight headache. 11 hours later, I am sitting here with a stomach full of canned herring and banana.
The south is funny. Along with the increasing frequency of porn stores, it's difficult to find a radio station that doesn't ask me to praise Jesus every 5 minutes. Two wrongs do NOT make a right...but this did lead to some great in-the-car monologues. The peaches are out and fresh pecans are everywhere though so I can't complain too much.
Should be in New Orleans by tomorrow for a few days. The hostel looks great (www.indiahousehostel.com) so hopefully they can point out some things to eat, see, and do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bags are packed, SO ready to go

It's time! After almost a month of living the dream, and by that I mean living with my parents; I'm road tripping! Sure, the nightly dog walking has been great. My mom is SO good at hiding behind graves from our geriatric lab. It's a new game every day... for both of them I think. Nothing like watching your walking buddy scamper about on a crisp evening, chasing the deer we run into. Though Zeus the wonder dog is far above that, he's content to leave the antics to my mother.
Fall has set in and between savoring the crunch of leaves under foot and cooking up a storm, I have been looking to the future and trying to use these few months I'm home to the best of my ability. Thus far, I have thumbed through the GRE study guide, perused my choice grad school sites, (even signed up for an account on a few), Craigslist-ed the hell out of part time jobs, day dreamed about escaping for the month of November to warmer climates, and fantasized about moving to Alaska as a resident. Starbucks stock must have gone through the roof as I am fairly certain caffeine poisoning is on my agenda. Why do when you can overdo right? 2 pots a day has got to be better than 2 packs a day right?
And so it goes. It has been fabulous to see friends, most of whom are shocked to hear how long I'll be home. Never mind that this time last year I was traveling the world and conquering challenges on a daily basis. Who needs world adventure when a trip to a city council meeting is all one needs to feel the injustice in the world? Local politics have snagged my interest as I feel Painesville is a city big enough to make a difference and small enough to mobilize a movement. Check out the city blog on my links list. Shocking how many people post and how few actually show up to do something about the gripes we're all whining about.
I'm off Saturday on a trip down south delivering pots for the one, the only, Sandy Miller!!!! Ahhhhh! (check out her blog and site on my list) Anyways, I'll be making drops in Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississipi, rounding out with a nice stroll down Bourbon Street. As luck would have it, my once ever-ready friends are suddenly all committed to these things called full-time jobs. Though I respect... and maybe even understand their decisions, it's just not my time. A life in limbo, I will pursue because someone else can not! ...even if it means going solo