Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

http://www.wideawakeinwonderland.com December 6, 2008

Yep. It’s official. There’s a new blog post, but you can only find it on my all new website:

www.wideawakeinwonderland.com

Effective very soon, this space will be just a skeleton of what it once was. But all the old posts and happy memories will live forever on the new blog site. (let’s note it again, shall we? http://www.wideawakeinwonderland.com)

So please, update your favorites file and your RSS feed (and if you don’t know what that is, it’s the link on the bottom of the new site that will allow you to receive this blog automatically whenever I write it. It’s like I’m spamming you, but you asked me to. Cool, no?)

So don’t delay, and I’ll see you on the other side!

http://www.wideawakeinwonderland.com

 

Construction Zone December 2, 2008

Today has been one of major frustration, mostly around the migration of this blog to its new (hopefully beautiful and perfect, but thus far not so much) web site and due to the fact that I’m packing for a two-week trip to the east coast. I am a super neurotic packer. As a result of far too many business trips where I found myself with too short of pants and too high of heels or too much pink or inadvertent belly shirts or excess cleavage or one of a hundred outfit mishaps, I am now compelled to try every combination on before packing it. And that, my friends, is some time consuming behavior.

Nonetheless, never one to leave you high and dry, allow me to pass on a holiday tip sent to me in my e-mail. For those of you that give gift cards (and PLEASE give me gift cards. At least there’s a bat’s chance in hell that I could use it for something I might actually want or need), you may want to rethink it in a few circumstances.

Apparently, some businesses that will be going into bankruptcy or closing local locations in 2009 are still selling gift cards. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as ‘Bankruptcy Planning’.


Below is a partial list of stores that you need to be cautious about.

  • Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
  • Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide closing
  • Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine’s to close 150 stores nationwide – (I find this amazing because I have a couple plus-size friends and they tell me Catherine’s is pretty much the ONLY place they can buy clothes. Where will these women shop now!?!?)
  • Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January
  • Cache will close all stores - (I’ve never been in a Cache, but through the store window everything always looked so tacky that this does not surprise me)
  • Talbots closing down specialty stores
  • J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)
  • Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)
  • GAP closing 85 stores (GAP was getting a little omnipresent, anyway)
  • Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January
  • Wickes Furniture closing down
  • Levitz closing down remaining stores
  • Bombay closing remaining stores
  • Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January
  • Whitehall closing all stores
  • Piercing Pagoda closing all stores – (Dammit! My master plan to give everyone on my Christmas list Piercing Pagoda gift cards has now been shot to sh*t)
  • Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.
  • Home Depot closing 15 stores
  • Macys to close 9 stores after January
  • Linens and Things closing all stores (This is true. If you need knives or a whisk or a new toaster, get in the car immediately and go to your nearest Linens and Things. It’s a serious “Everything must go!” fire sale price slash extravaganza in there)
  • Movie Galley Closing all stores
  • Pep Boys Closing 33 stores (Can you imagine a crappier Christmas gift than a Pep Boys gift card? “Thanks, Grandma. Manny, Moe, and Jack… How’d you know?”)
  • Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores
  • JC Penney closing a number of stores after January
  • Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.
  • Wilson Leather closing down all stores
  • Sharper Image closing down all stores (Their website implies something really cool will be happening – http:www.sharperimage.com – since when does ‘something big’ = bankruptcy?)
  • K B Toys closing 356 stores
  • Loews to close down some stores
  • Dillard’s to close some stores

Happy shopping!

 

Into the Woods November 27, 2008

Filed under: Adventure,food,humor,Life,Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 11:30 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

(Do you remember this musical? I never actually saw it, but I had the soundtrack so I kind of feel like I saw it. Although I didn’t. And now the song is in my head.)

Canoeing across the lake

Canoeing across the lake

Anywho, some friends have an annual Thanksgiving party up at a lakeside resort. They rent a huge cabin and anywhere from 20 to 30 people come and hang and stand around by the bonfire and eat way too much. I’m headed there in a few hours for tonight’s breaking in period. It’s almost like a fast to prepare for the binging ahead, as tonight’s meal is soup (although no one may be able to keep me out of the appetizers I prepared. I’m ready to feast!) Our Thanksgiving meal is a day late, so at least I’ll still be able to button my pants until some time tomorrow afternoon.

I’m looking forward to playing some games, eating some good food, and hopefully catching up on some reading and writing. With any luck, I may even make a few bucks. Last year I was offered $200 to strip nude and jump into the lake. I didn’t do it.

The bonfire (a.k.a. The Man Fire)

The bonfire (a.k.a. The Man Fire)

This year, I’m unemployed, and headed on a two week trip to the east coast next week. I’m thinking if I can get a pool going and get the pot up to $300 or more, they may just have a deal. Presuming I can find a wifi or internet connection of some kind, I’ll keep you posted as to my fund raising efforts.

Otherwise, I hate to cut this short, but with the burden of a todo list as long as my arm to address before I can hit the road, I must bid you adieu. In the meantime, you can enjoy some pictures from last year’s events. Happy Thanksgiving (or Happy Thursday depending upon where you live and what holidays you observe)! Bon appetit!

Cheers!

Cheers!

 

Catastrophe in real time: Canine road trip November 21, 2008

Sleeping in the car

Sleeping in the car

So after three weeks at home, it was time to get back out there and do some traveling. However, poor Dozer (my soft hearted Alaskan Malamute) suffers from residual mental duress caused by losing his sister and then me in a week’s time back in July. Whenever he’s given a bone or a toy since Pixie passed, he roams around with it crying and crying and crying. It distresses the hell out of me. So effectively both of us suffer.
Anyway, when an opportunity to go on a little journey arose, it didn’t seem right to leave Doh behind. So I decided to drive and take him with me. On paper (or screen), this might actually sound like a good idea.


However, truth be told, Dozer has led a pretty sheltered life, and it doesn’t take much to move his cheese. In fact, throw a coat over the back of a chair, and he’s liable to be spooked for half the day.


Moreover, and in light of some previous trips that ended with unexpected and unfortunate violent explosions out of both ends, I decided to see what gems the internet had to offer. I found a couple sites offering up road trip tips, and below you can find the condensed highlights:

A Month Before

Ummmm? What? A MONTH before? Oops.

  • Create the expectation. Even if your animal is accustomed to riding in a car to the vet or groomer, take her on some short trips to other destinations. Walk her around some new places, and let her sniff and explore at her leisure. New smells and new places are highlights in a critter’s life — almost as good as treats! These little warm-up road trips can create the expectation in your pet’s mind that a car trip will be fun — not just a ride with a rabies shot at the end.

  • Ask and ye shall receive (another picture of the beautiful boy)

    Ask and ye shall receive (another picture of the beautiful boy)

Hopefully he’s picked up some of my optimistic attitude and presumed a car trip would be fun, because there was no expectation setting beforehand. Oops #2

  • Get a first aid kit for your dog. It comes in very handy if you need to remove any ticks. The kits are usually available at a pet store, a veterinary office or on the Internet.

Oops #3. Hopefully we don’t need one these cause we don’t have one!

  • If you do not already have a dog harness for riding the car, consider purchasing one for your dog’s safety. They are usually sold at pet stores or on the Internet.

Ditto. Oops #4.

Several Days Before (hopefully morning of’ is good enough)

  • Make sure you have enough dog food for the duration of the trip. CHECK

  • If your dog is on any medication, remember to bring it along. CHECK

Road Trip Day

  • Remember to pack all of your dog’s necessities: food, water, dog dishes, leash, snacks and goodies, several favorite toys, brush, towels for dirty paws, plastic bags for cleaning up after your dog, doggie first aid kit, possibly dog booties if you are venturing to an especially cold or hot region, and bring any medicine your dog might be taking. CHECK

  • Before you head out, put on that doggie seat belt harness. Hard to do when you don’t own one. Oops #5.

  • Bring a current color photograph of your pet. If something happens you can easily show other people what your errant buddy looks like. If need be, you can easily make copies of the photo to assist in the search process. Hmmmm… Under the law of attraction this seems like a bad idea. I could get my hands on a picture if I had to. But I won’t have to.

  • Some hotels are so pet-friendly that they have treats waiting when you check in. We recommend that you not give these treats to your critters, having found from experience that it is much better for them to eat as consistent a diet as possible when they are on the road.

And in conclusion, oops #6. I’ve let him eat everything offered by friendly humans. Hopefully this does result in an explosive outcome that I have to clean!

Although I managed to mess up most of the tips, we made it here in one piece, and without much ado. By and large, I listened to motivational Tony Robbins CDs loaned to me by a friend, and Dozer slept with his face smashed up against the back window.

Meanwhile, we’re learning some new things about each other. Like that I can’t sleep through the sound of a dog whining. And that there is pretty much nothing more gross than walking around carrying a steaming bag of poop. And that he has some separation anxiety if left alone in strange places, that manifests as loud crying and howling and a concerted effort to beat down the door until I return. In hindsight, I wish I had some doggie downers or a tranquilizer gun, but I’ll make a note of that tip for next time.

Caspar the Friendly Ghost

Casper the Friendly Ghost

On the other hand, the more things change the more they stay the same: Doh remains consistent in his easily spooked and high strung ways. Walking down the street we passed a Washington Mutual branch with a large stuffed toy horse visible through the window (presumably some kind of a Christmas decoration and nice to see the government bailout funds are going to such good  use) and he went into complete and total shock and alarm. “It’s stuffed,” I told him. “It’s not real,” I continued, not at all concerned that talking aloud to a dog might be perceived as sad or even crazy by those passing by. Alas, it was for naught and he remained riveted on the vision of this giant white faux fur creature attempting to determine whether it was friend or foe and sizing up how to get inside the branch to fight it.

***sigh*** Reasoning with Dozer is like talking to a dog.

 

If you call and Charo answers…it’s just me November 14, 2008

The one and only Maria del Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza Rasten (a.k.a. Charo)

The one and only María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza Rasten (a.k.a. Charo)

First watch this (and, yes, you must endure a 30-second ad for Tide first).

Call in a second party to verify that there’s no way this is for real…and yet why is Diane Sawyer involved?

Then let’s talk.

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=10658663&ch=4226723&src=news

.

(and if somehow this doesn’t come through, Google “Yahoo foreign accent syndrome video”)

.

WHAT THE HELL!?!?

She doesn’t just have an accent, she’s not even speaking English correctly any more: “It’s the voice I have for 49 year.”

Is this something new I need to worry about!? I’m going to wake up some day speaking like a remedial ESL student? Maybe with an Asian accent (the single most far-fetched accent for a blond white woman. Except maybe for Jamaican.) I love flied lice!

What I really don’t like is the alleged fluency in languages she doesn’t know (she claimed), and never studied (ditto). So is she like possessed by a host of dead foreign people!? Channeling? How the heck is this possible!?!? It’s obviously not some form of savant-ism or super intellect, because she never studied those languages. I don’t know about you, but that spooks me out.

Another question: I can do a pretty good fake Scottish, British, and Irish accents. Couldn’t these women just do a fake American accent? Just asking…

On the other hand, put through this filter, perhaps Madonna isn’t faking a British accent. Perhaps she’s just having a series of minor strokes?

p.s.

After Liviu’s comment (on ‘Leaving on a Midnight Train to Sighisoara’ and worth a read – the comment that is!), I am feeling REALLY grateful to still have an intact brain at all.  And kidneys. And my own liver. Seriously. All throughout Romania people kept looking horrified that I was alone and saying things like, “You must have very big courage,” but I just thought they were being friendly or referring to my oversized backpack. Jinkies! I almost lived the movie ‘Hostel’!

I enjoy the crazy travel stories as much as (or more than?) the next guy, but not ones that start with, “Let me tell you about why I’m attached to this here dialysis machine…”

 

A happy ending was had by all November 6, 2008

The only large animal I feel safe communing with.

The only large animal I feel safe communing with.

It’s never a popular thing when tigers are running around loose. Remember that whole mess at the SF Zoo last year? Not good.

Although it’s never occurred to me to taunt the zoo animals, I also thought I could be fairly confident in my assumption that they couldn’t get out and make actual physical contact. I once had something going on at the Vancouver Aquarium where a large male sea lion got really heated up every time I came near the glass. He was ramming it like something out of “Jaws 3-D,” and I was glad there was no way he could get to me…right? I have through the years made the same false assumptions with land animals, and in my folly I sometimes give them dirty looks or maybe just a stern glare just to remind them who’s boss.

However, it seems like the odds of confronting a tiger in unexpected locales – like in  a quiet neighborhood or even in your house – is increasing.

3 tigers escape circus truck in western Mexico

The local newspaper Cambio de Michoacan says the escaped felines holed up in house in the western city of Zitacuaro. When the tigers started breaking down the home’s fence, police lobbed them chickens to eat until a dogcatcher and the animals’ trainer arrived.

The big cats were recaptured Wednesday and taken to a local police station where they were held until their owner agreed to pay for the chickens and damage to the fence.

Now, if you’ve ever been in Mexico and seen the circus truck roll through town this is not entirely shocking. If there’s ever been a situation screaming “OSHA violation” or “Bad Idea on Wheels” the Mexican circus truck parade is it. Wild animals come rolling down small cobblestone streets in cages barely fit to restrain a hamster.  Sometimes they even let the ‘tame’ ones (like camels) walk alongside. I would have to imagine the mix of smells and chaos and temptation is overwhelming for your average white Bengal tiger. Like throwing chum to great white sharks.

This reminds me of a vacation I took in Belize about four years ago. We were on the island of Ambergris, where there are no cars, only bicycles and golf carts. However, as I recall, we didn’t have either when we came upon a large crowd gathered around a sand bar. After a few inquiries, what we learned was that an (alleged) 13-foot crocodile lived out in the surrounding waters. Three Einsteins had tied ropes around raw chickens and were casting them out into the water to tempt the croc onto the land.

“Are you guys from Jackass?” I asked one of them, and he gave me a dirty look. I actually could see the beast out in the water, and that’s when I started to do the math: Crocodiles can run. On a good day, I could outrun one, but what about a day when I’d had a questionable number of Belikin beers and was simultaneously terrified? Everyone else had a bicycle or a golf cart. If I were a crocodile, I’d go for the stupid (albeit skinny) lady on foot. Beats raw chickens any day.

 

However, just like the Mexican home invasion, my story has a happy ending…which is to say nothing really happened. Down in Belize, the crocodile stayed in the water and we wandered on. And it seems, in Mexico, the fence and chickens having been reimbursed, the tigers returned to their illustrious circus careers, planning their escape for another day.

 

Final nail in the banking coffin November 2, 2008

Back in the civilized world of straightening irons and martinis!

Back in the civilized world of straightening irons, nail polish, warm turtlenecks, and martinis!

I was, as you probably recall, in Santorini on my birthday. That night I was in my room when my Skype ‘rang,’ and a good friend of mine was on the other end. I had to hang out of the window of the room to get a consistent wifi signal, but we still managed to have a fairly lengthy conversation.

Anyway, at some point I remember her saying to me that my talents were elsewhere, and if I tried to go back to banking and my old ways/old career, I would have to answer to her. I love that idea, largely because deep inside I know I am destined to do something else, but I worry that the lure of money and security and even to some degree predictability could serve as a siren song.

That is why I decided to make a little physical change.
In 1992, I went off to college at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) intent on pursuing a marine biology career. Marine Biology, it turns out, does NOT consist of riding around in exotic waters with Jacques Cousteau, so I was quickly disenchanted. UCSC has a wonderful Marine Bio program, but otherwise it’s a big hippie commune filled with all sorts of young people with varying levels of emotional disturbance (present company included).

Thus, and perhaps not surprisingly, all my roommates were getting tattoos – usually very large ones across their back or stomach (which I, in all my practicality yet failure to self-edit, mused aloud as to how bad that would look if the recently tattooed young woman ever got pregnant or just fat.) This was the very early days of what is now the omnipresent ‘young people with tattoos’ trend, although Santa Cruz was probably a little ahead of its time in that regard.

I’m a chicken, and I didn’t feel strongly enough about any animal, vegetable, mineral, or word to get it permanently inked onto my person. However, there was also branding and piercing to choose from, so I took the most reversible course of action and had my nose pierced. I wore a small ring in my nose until my mid-20s when a mix of things (mostly work making me take it out, partly the widespread appearance of similar rings all of the sudden, etc.) caused me to take it out for good.

A few months ago, I realized I finally had a word that meant enough to me to tattoo it (discretely – in white ink and where I can cover it with a watch) onto myself. I suppose this is why I tuned into the number of tattoo/piercing parlors lining Istiklal Street in Istanbul the first day I arrived.

However, to my surprise, I found I still didn’t feel it was time to do the tattoo but rather I felt compelled to have my nose pierced again. This is partially because I always liked it and thought it suited me, partly because it can always be ‘undone’ if you change your mind for some reason, and mostly because bankers and banking consultants don’t have shiny things in their right nostril. It was – and now it is – a line in the sand between that world and me. The final nail in the banking consultant coffin.

Granted, I could have gone really extreme and had puzzle pieces tattooed onto my face, but scaring children isn’t really my bag, and I don’t want to drive nails into EVERY career out there. I mean, what’s left when you turn yourself into the guy from Hell Raiser? Circus Freak? Total digression: Do you remember that ad for some kind of phone service where people think that now that they have the service, phone conversations will go differently? And some guy tattooed with big stripes head to toe is calling an Asian man who says, “Sorry Roger. You tiger now.” Every time I saw that, it cracked me up.

Anyway, a Turkish man who spent time in Australia (so his English was very good, but the accent nearly unfathomable) did the piercing for me on Tuesday night. It’s subtle, but if you enlarge today’s picture, you can see it. It has been healing well, despite the questionable mix of products used to clean it.

Yesterday I learned that the clear fluid I am to use several times a day to wipe it down is sold in the U.S. as nasal spray. The pharmacist told me I could boil water and put a little salt in it, and it’s the same thing. Nice.

In their defense, I also have Betadine – the orange stuff they put on skin before doing surgery. If you’ve ever had a pet spayed (or any other major surgery), their whole belly comes home covered in the stuff. That at least actually qualifies as medicine of some sort.

Anyway, as I mentioned, from day one it’s healed remarkably, and that’s probably why I didn’t think it through when I got a facial yesterday. The weirdest part about that, is that I woke up ‘practicing’ explaining that the pierce was new to someone who didn’t speak very good English. When I realized what I was doing, I caught myself thinking, “That’s crazy. You’re back in America. You don’t have to go through all that any more.”

But I spoke too soon. Irina, the lovely woman who did my facial, is Russian and so-so on the English. Although she seemed to understand me, she managed to pull the thing out of my poor nose THREE times during the initial face wash. Holy crap!

It got worse from there. This is really gross, and not a feature of facials that I enjoy (and may come as a horrifying shock to the men out there), but part of a facial is that they clear your blackheads. Manually. Like in a manner that they tell you NOT to do when you’re a teenager. And it hurts. And it REALLY hurts when someone spies one 2mm from your brand new piercing and goes to town contorting your nose in 300 excruciatingly painful directions.

Tears rolling down my face, I finally had to tell her rather ferociously that we were DONE over there. No more touching the right side of my nose for ANY REASON. If it bursts into flames – don’t touch it. If a small alien pops out of the nostril – don’t touch it. If the voice of God booms into the room and commands you to touch it – DO NOT TOUCH IT.

The facial proceeded without further incident. I went home, and was a little freaked out, but I cleaned up with the nasal spray and Betadine and all is once again well. And although there may be banks – or at least a liberal credit union or two – that would still have me despite the pierce, in my own mind it serves as a further commitment to changing my life and finding a way to make a living at something creative. Plus – I think – it’s cute.

 

 
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