Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

Things NOT to say to an English customs agent August 11, 2008

Reykjavik, Iceland street scene

Reykjavik, Iceland street scene

Black sand beach near Vik, Iceland

Black sand beach near Vik, Iceland

“I think maybe I’ll be here four days…No, a week…Wait Is Ireland part of what you’re counting? Two weeks. Yeah, probably two weeks.”

(To which he stared at me a full minute before finally asking, “What do you mean PROBABLY?”)

“No. No, I do not have any friends in Great Britain. None. Nada. Nobody…”

And where are you going after you leave here?


And then from there?


From there?

From there?


From there?

He got sick of me after Poland, stamped my passport and waived me on.

All I could think is, “What the hell am I going to do when I don’t speak the language!? That was in English, and i all but f-ed it up.” Maybe I can get by on my winning smile?

Meanwhile, I had a lovely final 24 hours in Iceland. I went to the Blue Lagoon and with the exception of a world-class toe stubbing (it’s still throbbing), it was a very mellowing few hours. Contrary to my ‘typical’ personality, i just hung out and let my mind wander about my book…and nothing much at all.

When I first got there and started wading around, I noticed a handful of people who had REALLY slathered on the zinc-based sunblock: Everything from haphazard application to super chunky layers. I was half-tempted to alert some of these folks that they needed to rub their SPF 99 in a little better, but I didn’t want to be rude. Finally, I reasoned this must be some kind of cultural thing? Maybe Icelanders are really afraid of skin cancer? Or their particular brand of sunblock is really hard to work in? Anyway, it was a solid ten minutes before I caught onto what was actually going on – white silica mud. To commemorate the moment, I will add some pictures from the Blue Lagoon – as well as a a self-portrait – to yesterday’s blog. For the moment, I’m having some issues getting my computer to read my photo data card, so that’ll have to wait until I can get to a PC somewhere.

Anyway, later that same day, Jon (my extraordinary Icelandic tour guide who should be remembered in my will for generously spending so much time showing me around) and I went down to the south point of the island for some good old fashioned arctic weather. While I was taking some pictures of the black sand beaches and volcanic rock formations, the wind started blowing so hard it actually knocked me down. I have the bruise on my bum to prove it! I guess it was one of those days where I couldn’t seem to avoid a little physical abuse.

Speaking of abuse, don’t even get me started on the nightmare of getting from Heathrow to my nearby (Heathrow in the name) hotel. Let’s just say, if time is money, Heathrow owes me $200. On second thought, make that 200 GBP. Hey America, could you straighten out this crashing dollar value situation pronto? It’s starting to bum me out. Thanks!


Here comes the sun August 9, 2008

What is it about sunshine that always makes me feel optimistic? I remember the first time I went to San Diego. It was Christmastime and warmish, and I was wearing shorts. And as I was walking into El Indio, I remember thinking to myself that if I lived there, I’d probably be a better person.

So, sufficed to say, it’s a sunny day in Iceland. In about half an hour, I and a group of my closest tourist friends will be taking the “Netbus” over to the Blue Lagoon, which from the pictures appears to be a giant hot spring/mud bath/natural pool thing – like Disneyworld’s River Country, but without the slides. I was feeling a little down to learn that it’s sunny and 90’s at home, and the realization that I left a fair amount of creature comforts (including a swimming pool!) behind to freeze my behind off and slum it up in Northern Europe was bumming me out. Actually, I’ve been down on myself altogether – fantasizing about return tickets home – but I’m determined to tough it out a little more than four days!

The odds that I will hunker down and write the great American (or wherever) novel go up the more I subject myself to extreme alone time (and occasional loneliness)! Plus, this little experiment wouldn’t be much of a story for the grandkids if I bailed after four days… And perhaps most importantly, I’ve done this to give myself a shot at making a career as a writer rather than a banking consultant, and although I’m arguably going about it the hard way, I still want to follow the yellow brick road and see what happens.

Meanwhile, and unrelated, somehow yesterday’s post generated an (allegedly randomly) link to a trailer for a documentary called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” which – in my opinion – looks fascinating. I watched it (trailer) twice. I particularly like the little guy grooving to the music at the end! Worth checking out if you have two minutes to spare: http://cnettv.cnet.com/9742-1_53-12299.html?id=12299&tag=sphere_mrss&clientid=sphere&part=sphere

In other news, Iceland is expensive. Goddamned expensive. A thing of yogurt clocks in at around $2.30. A beer – a SINGLE beer – at the pizza place by the guest house was almost $15.00!?!? No wonder Icelandic women have a reputation for being casual about sexual relations – you more or less have to put out after someone spends $600 buying you dinner and drinks!!!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous place and all, but I’m getting antsy to move on. I was in the lobby looking at postcards and there were a few of glaciers floating in the water, and I thought to myself, “Glaciers. You seen one, you seen ’em all.” As a result, I’m starting to worry that something said to me recently is true: Nothing impresses me.This was said sweetly, mind you, even affectionately, but about six weeks ago, I distinctly remember Brad remarking that – through no intention or conceit – I remain unflappably unimpressed. True, I have subjected myself to more insanity than most people, and I have a tremendous capacity to attract extraordinary circumstances and bizarre people, but is it possible to have really been there, done that to the degree that there’s nothing left to do, see, or be!?!?

Is this the fate of the examined life? Total and complete nonchalance?


Thoughts on the meaning of life (no, seriously) August 8, 2008

Nothing like some geothermal activity to get those deep thoughts churning...

Nothing like some geothermal activity to get those deep thoughts churning...

Indulge me.

So I overslept and threw off my whole grand plan. I borrowed a clock from the girl at the front desk of the guest house last night, and set the alarm for 7:30 a.m. I was going to go for a run, and then pig out at the free (or, more accurately, included in the cost of my stay) continental breakfast, which end at 9:30. As any good budget traveler knows, when you can, get the bulk of your calories for a day at a meal included with the price of lodging. Americans have already ruined their reputation overseas, my eating like an NFL linebacker isn’t likely to further damage our cause. In fact, maybe that can be my “gimmick”?

I had an interesting conversation last night with my somewhat impromptu tour guide, Jon, about the need for a gimmick to rocket me to fame and fortune…or at least assuage some of my ‘how do I carve a new career from more or less nothing?’ and money-related concerns. He mentioned someone he’d heard of who went around the world and would dance – badly – at varying locations (like the Great Wall), which would cause children to spontaneously join in. There’s nothing that gets kids going like crappy dancing…

Anyway, I guess this whole thing was filmed, and somehow a chewing gum company saw it and now this guy is sponsored to go and dance badly on behalf of Big Red or Hubba Bubba or whatever. Gimmick = fun, well-paid career.

For a while, we pondered my options. Sadly, “it’s all been done before.” (Where is my damn rubber band!? The lack thinking has snuck back in with a vengeance. Actually, I switched over to a hair band and it was in my hair at the moment). Admitting that it’s a sorry shame the market for bad dancing is gone (because I have no rhythm and zero groove naturally), some of my ideas were:

  1. Erroneous fortune telling
  2. Unwanted recipe giving
  3. Wildly inaccurate directions
  4. Completely fabricated palm reading (which probably isn’t any different from ‘real’ palm reading)

So back to this morning, after sleeping through the alarm (I tested it last night, and it was so quiet as to be subtle – not exactly a top feature in a wake up call), I skipped the run (with plans to go this afternoon) and went straight to the eating. Then I came back up to my room and decided to get some stuff done. Like bills.

Oh bills. Oh cruel, relentless, clearly mating and multiplying like rabbits bills. How you stop my heart and send my brain careening into visions of pain and suffering. The mere sight of your numbers brings a tear to my eye…all in direct conflict to one of the key points of this journey (both in the immediate backpacking Europe sense and in the grander ‘life journey’ perspective): To learn to trust the universe and ‘allow’ abundance to come to me.

Does this make me sound like a New Age crackpot destined for a hard fall? To my own ears, it does. But on the other hand (and not a plug for the truly revolting new X Files movie. If you enjoy the “Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ movies – neither of which I have actually watched, but the trailers make it pretty damn clear what you’re in for – then by all means, run, do not walk to the new X Files movie. If not, then DO NOT GO. Sick, sick stuff), I want to believe. I truly want to believe it’s possible.

And why not? What makes any of us ‘better than’ or more deserving or more talented than the others? I have my charms. I can be damned interesting and entertaining when I put my mind to it. I make an excellent statistic. To quote Ani D., “Someone should study me now. Someone’s got to be interested in what I feel, just because I’m here, and I’m real.”

So in that sense, why the hell do I need a gimmick? Can my gimmick be being me? Does David Sedaris have a gimmick? What was the Eat, Pray, Love lady’s gimmick? Nothing against gimmicks, it just kind of flies in the face of my whole point, which is just kind of being authentic and in the moment and trying not to anticipate doom and gloom around every corner.

Which, at long last, brings me to the point and the title of this blog: I’m paying bills and putting into practice what I learned during my workshop with Judy – pay everything off (to not do so implies lack; that you can’t or need to hoard), be grateful for bills, be grateful for the opportunity to pay, etc. – and experiencing sheer panic at the same time. I become aware of my mind racing and freaking out and scheming all kinds of worst case scenario back up plans like sleeping on trains every night, like I did when I was 19.

So I stopped in my tracks and resumed my positive thinking and affirmations and wondered if I was a total jackass for believing that if I simply had faith that things would work out well, and continued with my writing, and was authentic and real and genuine and simply me, and ‘allowed it’, the universe would dump good stuff into my lap? And then I did a little internet research and read a few thingsand decided yes. Who’s to say it doesn’t work this way?

So in that spirit – the spirit of watching your thoughts and trying to bolster your confidence and faith as much as possible – I thought I’d share the following, “According to The Holographic Universe by the late Michael Talbot; University of London physicist David Bohm, a protégé of Einstein and one of the world’s most respected quantum physicists, has admitted in private conversation to believing the Universe is all “thought” and reality exist only in what we think.”

Quantum Physicist Dr. Fred Alan Wolf states; “I’m not talking…from the point of view of wishful thinking or imaginary craziness. I’m talking…from a deeper, basic understanding….Quantum physics says…you can’t have a Universe without mind entering into it…mind is actually shaping the very thing that is being perceived.”

Although it should be noted that this is just one interpretation of the evidence and isn’t the conclusion of all physicists, the compelling evidence still exists that the only time electrons and other “quanta” (plural of quantum) manifest as particles is when they are being observed by someone. Otherwise, they behave as waves.

And so there, in addition to some generally trippy and eye-opening ideas, we have the insight into not one, but two mysteries of the universe: a philosophical question and a Buddhist koan. Does thinking it make it so? Seems plausible. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? No.


On second thought, maybe naming it ‘Iceland’ wasn’t all that deceptive? August 7, 2008

Boiling pool of Icelandic mud

Boiling pool of Icelandic mud

I’m here, and I have the freezing cold feet and frizzy hair to prove it. It’s almost 12:30 a.m., and having failed to enlist anyone on either U.S. coast (where it’s 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively) in an e-mail conversation, I realize I’m sleepy. I should probably ride that wave, but in the interest of a quick post, I’ll share my first impressions:

1. Colder and wetter than I anticipated. I bet they make a killing on those handmade wool sweaters…

2. Despite my best efforts on neutral clothing, the second I open my mouth I am branded “American girl” – but not in a mean way or anything. In fact, the man who rang me up at the little grocery seemed positively delighted that I was from “the States.”

3. Somehow it’s so very European here. Every nook and cranny. It’s hard to explain, but if I were kidnapped and drugged and came to in this strange place (and said strange place happened to beReyjavik), I have no doubt I would know it was Europe somewhere (not that that’s a terribly specific insight). It almost has its own smell.

4. Forget Southern California, if you’re looking for blondes, this is your mecca.


It’s vegetarian, just pick out the meat June 14, 2008

Filed under: Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 9:16 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

“If a lump of soot falls into the soup and you cannot conveniently get it out, stir it well in and it will give the soup a French taste.”
Jonathan Swift

Have I mentioned that the first time I backpacked Europe alone – from August 1992 through March 1993 – that I was vegan? Veganism is the form of vegetarianism where, in addition to not eating any animal products (nothing with a face!), you also do not eat any eggs or milk. In other words, I made it just about as hard on myself as I possibly could.

Actually, when I was in Santa Cruz (where I began my veganism), I learned of an even more extreme discipline (and I am not making this up!) – Fruitarianism. That is where you eat only raw fruits and seeds. Actually, what I remember are some people I met in downtown SC explaining that they would only eat fruit that fell from a tree of its own free will. Being vegan in Europe was extreme, but not THAT extreme! I suppose I would’ve had to sneak onto people’s farms and into their orchards and wait for fruit to drop? Maybe shake a few trees here and there to move things along?

As a side note, I think my digestive system would go totally nuts on a diet of all raw fruit. I know when I occasionally overdo it with those delicious Sunsweet prunes in the yellow package (or dried plums, as they’re marketing them now) I pay the piper. This usually occurs to me right around the time I’m swallowing my tenth one…and by then it’s too late. Bartender, a bag of prunes with an Immodium chaser!

Anyway, I digress. Last time I backpacked Europe I was vegan, which meant:

  1. No one had any idea what I was talking about.
  2. You would explain it and they would proceed to very carefully and kindly make some food in the hostel kitchen to share with you. After you’d checked three times that it was vegan and then happily devoured a bowl of the best soup you’d had in your whole life, you’d start the inquiries into “what WAS that culinary marvel, should I want to make it for myself some day?” And your German companion would cheerfully tell you (after some mutual translation issues) that it was ox tail soup. Apparently, since there weren’t any giant chunks of ox floating in it, he figured that made it vegan. This “picking out of the meat” or “meat is inside the dough where you can’t see it” or “entire dish is made of meat, but then I put the whole thing into the blender” form of veganism was a common misinterpretation.
  3. Regular trips to France to load up on cans of garbanzo beans.
  4. Night sweats and horrific stomach issues brought about by the occasional dabble with cheese (I suppose I had developed some element of lactose intolerance?)

Regardless, I persevered in my beliefs and dietary discipline…and eventually gave it up about six years later when my mother’s cousin – a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and vegetarian of 25 years – served up a turkey on Thanksgiving. We can get into that whole story later, if you’d like, but suffice it to say, I eat everything now.

Or just about everything.

The trip kicks off August 3rd in Iceland, and their famous ‘let’s scare the tourists’ dish, hakarl (shark meat which has rotted underground for several months) is cause for alarm. Some of you may recall when chef Anthony Bourdain tried it, he stated the hakarl was “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever eaten. That’s hard core. Already, discussions of how to get a crate of Powerbars into the country have commenced.