Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Tropic of Cancer

Here I am standing on the Tropic of Cancer, smart phone in selfie mode trying to capture a moment that I'm not sure means anything other than the gold lettering on the placard behind us.  In 6th grade I remember drawing the lateral lines across our paper globes, marking the tropics, noting their importance.  But as I stand here now, I think of Henry Millers novel of the same title and it's opening line:

I am living at the Villa Borghese.  There is not a crumb of dirt anymore, nor a chair misplaced.  We are all alone here and we are dead.

Miller wrote the novel during his "nomadic" phase living in Paris and was published with great praise, even going as far to call Miller "the greatest living author."  He combined an autobiographical style with that of fiction, depicting his life as a struggling writer.  Although now a very common writing style, the novel plays without a linear story line, but rather like realistic thought process dances between the present, and memories past.  Since it's publication, it's been put on every major "to read before you die" list.

 We are all alone here... Standing here at the northernmost point on the planet where the sun appears directly overhead at local noon. ... and we are dead. 

I looked down at my purple sandals, physically straddling the line, wondering whether or not this moment would ever again matter. A gold placard and sign does not an achievement make, but here we were capturing the memory anyway.  Standing on a line extending infinitely invisible into either directions. We are all alone here...
© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, March 23, 2015

The hidden Gem of "Cabo"

Say the word "Cabo" and immediately you think of margaritas, beautiful beaches and as a side of sunshine with those delicious tacos you've been dreaming about.  One travel magazine actually used the phrase "Cabo is synonymous with luxury."  I don't quite know about luxury, but spring break? Sure!

And while I may be past my spring break prime, Cabo seemed like the perfect weekend getaway to forget all my worries and release all my cares.  My itinerary went something like that country song "Toes" by the Zac Brown Band.

...I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a care in the world, a cold beer in my hand life is good today.
life is good today....

You know how it goes.  I packed multiple swimsuits and their matching sunglasses, the biggest beach towel I could find, and made sure my toe nails were immaculately painted lime green.  My expectations were pretty damn low for as long as their was beer, I'd be a happy camper.

So there I was, looking out the window of what "Volkswagen" calls a "gol" staring into what looked more like Hawaii than Mexico.  Mountains darted the countryside, in between thick rain clouds and double rainbows, which lead the eye to the eastern front of Baja California to Cabo Pulmo.

The white sands meet the sea of Cortez in a chaos of aquamarine that leaves you wondering what type of instagram filter could ever do it justice.  (Note: Loose the filter.)  And as the road disappears into thick clouds of grey dust, the small "Gol" somehow stays on track, despite nearly hitting a cow.  A sign points us in the direction of the beach and we stop somewhere between reality and Steve Zissou's aquatic world.  We're arrived to the Cabo Pulmo Marine Preserve.

Straw huts dot the beach, offering everything from diving excursions to simple snorkel tours and we empty our pockets of every single peso and dollar.  Snorkel tours run around $50-$65 a person and like one of the locals reminded us "You're in the middle of no where senor", credit card machines rarely work and atm machines have yet to reach this part of the world.

Minutes later we were wearing wet suits and ready to take the plunge literally.  The marine park was initiated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008, when the locals decided to dedicate the area to tourism and shy away from it's rich fishing history.  The locals put their boating skills to use and provide daily tours to the reefs, instructing in both Spanish and English.

The two hour tour took us from reef to reef, while our guide explained the recent hurricane had completely wiped out more than one of their usual haunts.  Broken reef littered the ocean floor, while brightly colored fish darted in and out, slowly building a new home.

Courtesy of National Geographic
Photographer: Octavio Aburto
Jack fish swam as one, as a large group passed by without giving us a second glance.  My goggles fogged as I oggled the life around me, reaching out into the school of fish.  A moment later I am the enemy, as they transform into an arrow and dart in the opposite direction.  A few fin kicks later, for a moment we're together again, swimming as one before the current rips me away from my new family.  A puffer fish swims beneath me, glancing upwards into my foggy mask before disappearing into the bright depths below.

We climb back into our small boat and continue on ward.  Suddenly I long to be on dry land, as sea sickness grabs on tightly and my breakfast returns.  But leaning over the side of the boat has it's perks as a family of humpback whales breach the surface just a few meters away.  "lo siento" I say to our captain as he points to a large shape in the water and yells "Mira una tortuga!"  The captain clearly is used to us Gringa's getting seasick and finds the large sea turtle we're now chasing much more exciting.

Soon I've forgotten the lyrics of the Zac Brown Band and am simply humming along to the movement of the fins surrounding our small boat.  The bass of a sea lion's howl keeps the beat as we jump fins first into our final stop.  Solid ground is both a blessing and a curse.  My stomach finally takes a moment to stop cursing each perpetual wave, but somewhere out in those waves I left more than just my breakfast.  I may have discovered a side to "Cabo" that not many come across, far away from the atms and credit card machines, where even the locals realize you're in the middle of no where... but hey at least the beer is cold.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Assigning Sensation

I'm an assignment editor.  It's not a title that's exactly easy to explain to the average Joe.  It usually goes a little something like this; Imagine a newsroom is an airport.  The assignment desk is where all the news comes in and out, much like a control tower.  We make sure our news doesn't crash, we know where our reporters are, what they are covering and what the top stories of the day are.  Our job is the most stressful, most diverse, and holds some of the most responsibility in the entire newsroom.  We confirm stories, pitch stories, control who's covering what and when and of course we answer all those emails, caller tips, press releases and any other interactions with the outside world.  Oh, and did I mention we do all of this while listening to every single scanner within a 100 mile radius?  We're control freaks, but that's what makes us good at our jobs.

Last week I got a phone call from a man named Steve in Arizona.  He explained he wasn't really sure who to call but he needed help.  His son was visiting a friend, Ian, in San Diego, and that morning something terrible had happened.  You see his son's friend had a service dog and when two San Diego Police Officers had knocked on the door at 5:20 a.m., Ian had answered with dog in tow.  The first police officer bent down and pet the pit bull, while the second was not so keen. Steve continued, "The cop raised his voice which obviously concerned the service dog, he raised his pistol and shot the dog in the head."  I took a breath on the phone,  not sure what to say next.  Steve continued, "I just got off the phone with my son and..."

A few minutes later I was on a three-way call with father and son, both of them unsure of whether or not they wanted a series of reporters evading Ian's life.  That's where my job as an assignment editor comes in, we want the story but we know the way most media works.  The world is out for information, money grubbing, misleading, sensationalized information.  Shortly I was on the phone with Ian, himself telling the story over again holding back tears for the loss of his best friend.  I promised him we were here to help, not to sensationalize his story.  And with that he agreed to do an interview and let us tell his story.

I sent a reporter and emailed the information to the 70+ people in our newsroom, both working and off for the weekend.  Flash forward to today, Wednesday, just three short days later, his story has been picked up by numerous media outlets including The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail UK.  Each time I see Ian's headline I feel proud to have been the first person to let him know his story was more than just important but a story that we wanted to hear, we needed to hear.

But like many jobs, mine is a thankless one.  Being the first person to have heard the story, to have been the one to pick up Steve's phone call, and been the first one to listen to Ian tell his story, doesn't matter.  You won't find my name associated with any of it.  So I sit and read his story over again, replaying our personal conversation last Sunday, before the cameras, before the international sensation, when Ian was just the friend of Steve's son, a young man who lost his best friend.  I'll never forget that conversation, the emotion between just us in that control tower of an airport while the planes continued to take off and land around us.

If you're like to contribute or support Ian you can show your support on Facebook and join in Ian's petition asking for mandatory animal training for our nation's police force.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Traveling in the year 2015

Like most things in this world, with the change in technology comes the change in the way we travel.  "You know, it's weird to think we didn't even have Instagram or even smart phones when we were traveling all over Europe" a friend told me over the coffee the other day.  He's right.  Living abroad from 2007-2012, I only had a smart phone from 2011 onward and it was nothing like my Moto X today.

But we traveled any way.  Yes, without things like GPS, instagram, or even a camera on our phone!  I'm sure someday when we tell our children we didn't update our Facebook status when we landed in Spain or that we didn't stop to take a "selfie" with the Eiffel tower they'll shoot us the same looks of confusion we gave our own parents and grandparents when they told us that generation X is indeed older than the Internet.

As I pack for an upcoming trip to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, I hold my Nikon wondering whether I even need it.  Just a couple of years ago, my DSLR would have been the only thing I needed.  But now, we've all got our smart phones with instant editing that, lets face it, makes us look fantastic.  So do I pack the Nikon, using up some glorious and much needed space for an extra bikini or beach towel, or do I rely on my smart phone?  Oh and while we're at it, should I opt to bring an actual book to the beach or just use my kindle?

How did we ever do it before?

Well for one thing, traveling was much more D.I.Y.  We not only carried maps with us, but we knew how to use them.  Now a days when the wifi signal isn't strong, one thing is for sure, you're going to get lost and you definitely won't be able to post that #LostSelfie on Instagram.  We packed with intention.  We knew what we needed and what we didn't and none of it needed batteries.  Now a days, I need more room in my suitcase for all my cables and chargers than I have for my actual gadgets.

So we say we're going to "unplug" and "turn off" from society on a vacation.  But our phone remains glued in our hands, snapping away at the views of the beach, while we yelp for the best diner around.   So how do we really unplug?  After all the entire reason we travel or go on vacation is to get away so "unplugging" and unwinding should be essential to any successful vacation right?

Well for one to successfully travel like it's 1999, it takes first and foremost self discipline, planning and of course some tech-tricks.  For my upcoming trip, luckily I'll be out-of-cell-range for most of it anyways, so even if I wanted to, using my phone for anything other than a camera won't really be possible.  So embrace the lack of Wifi, embrace the out-of-range cell service and leave your phone in the hotel room.

Then there's the whole vacation from work thing, why not put a "out-of-office reply" in place?  That way even if you get that "important" work email, at least whom ever sent it knows they might not get a response right away.  And for the love of all that is relaxing turn off those pesky notifications.  Remember how nice it was just 5 years ago when we printed out of trip, or even wrote it down in a notebook?  We had to be places on time because we didn't have 24 hour access to communication.  We went where our maps led us, not where Google recommended.

So here's to packing for a real vacation, one without an online map, one where my pen and notebook are the most valuable items in my duffle bag, aside from my Nikon.  And while I can't promise not to instagram at least one envious beach-shot (still gotta work on that self discipline) I can promise to travel like the good old days of 2007-2012.

If you want to read more, here's a great article from Thrillist about road trips in the 1990's versus today.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, March 16, 2015

L.A. Marathon Lights up the City

It's that time of year again.  Cities across the U.S. are gearing up, or rather putting their gear on, to run annual Marathons.  And this past weekend marked the 30th annual Los Angeles MarathonThe Stadium to the Sea.  And while I'm all for running a marathon, I may opt out of the L.A. destination, as running in 90+ degree heat doesn't really get me all that excited.

Image courtesy of LA Weekly
I found myself in L.A. on Friday night, listening to the radio about the road closures and never ending traffic warnings about Sunday's race.  But this year the city is literally highlighting the route, which not only gives the city fair warning on where racers will be ruining their commute, but celebrates the famous route from Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica Pier.  Thanks to ASICS, there will be a large spot light shooting into the night sky at every mile marker.

It reminds this East Coaster of the Twin Towers installation in New York City, but then again, LA is no stranger to the spotlight.  After all, the city is home to spotlight central with it's long history with a little place called Hollywood.
NBC rendering from Outer Space
Next year's L.A. Marathon is set for Valentines day, which lets face it, should really get your sweetheart pumping.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

St. Patty's in the Dirty Water

Even the Ducklings are "ducked" out in green!
I'm a Bostonian.  I know, it's a loaded sentence.  It's a statement that means a great deal of things.  For example, I put jimmies on my ice cream and drink from the bubbler not the water fountain.  I prefer my Lobster cold with celery and mayo on a toasted buttered bun, instead of steamed with butter.  Also, after a few beers my "r"s become "ah"s, thus those beers become bee-ahs.  But when it comes to Saint Patrick's day, being a Bostonian means you know how it's done.  The corn beef dinner is already in the works, the beer, carnations for the table decorations and your planned outfit are all some bright shade of green, and you're channeling your Irish roots.

When it comes to St. Patrick's day, if you can't make it to Ireland, Boston is your next best bet. Our Irish population comes to the forefront of what it means to love that dirty water and being a "Bostonian" means you're part of the city's long standing tradition of all things Irish.  In fact Boston held America's first Saint Patrick's day celebration in 1737 and still hosts one of the nation's largest parades.

We do it right.  And while we may not color our Charles River green (like our sister city) Bean town still knows how to celebrate.

Southie alone is where it's at, perhaps because of it's history with Irish Immigration, the neighborhood is home to Boston's one and only parade.  And this year, not even the 100+ inches of snow can stop the city from celebrating. Hundreds of thousands of people step out into the bitter cold dressed in their green winter jackets, scarves, hats and mittens to channel some luck that spring will soon be here.

Who is going to tell these girls kilts are traditionally a Scottish thing?
But what happens when you take the Bostonian out of Boston?

 Well Saint Patrick's day is definitely a different type of celebration here in San Diego.  The shamROCK fest is an overpriced street celebration for 21+, hosting DJ booths lining 5th avenue.  Throngs of young people come out and get drunk in their green, channeling not a sense of pride, but a sense of who can drink the most tequila.  Yes, tequila, not Guinness.  Sure it's a reason to celebrate, but this Boston is simply wondering where all of their clothes are.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Debbie Downer is Working the Weekend

As 20-somethings, there are a bunch of us that work weekends.  Those of us that sling drinks, wait tables, or work in a newsroom.  We're stuck indoors on Saturday and Sundays, the two days God gave mankind to brunch and relax.  Those two days at the end of a hard work week seem to hold so much promise, mystical powers, and some sort of salvation.  Take them away and what do you have left?

Sometimes it's nice to work the weekend.  It not only gives you something to do, but makes you feel like you're accomplishing something other than a Netflix binge.  Other times you watch all your friends attend a music festival without even inviting you, because let's face it, they know you won't be able to get out of work.  (Or at least you hope that's why you never got the invite.)  In fact most invites have stopped coming your way.  Your phone remains silent on a Friday or Saturday night and when you do call, their ringer was on "silent." But really you're pretty sure they just didn't want to deal with you showing up exhausted for one drink, complain about how you have to be at work the next morning at 6 a.m., before leaving early.  You're the Debbie Downer.

And the thing is you can't really help it.  You're sick and tired of everyone talking about how excited they are for the beautiful weather, or the music festival featuring one of your favorite bands along the water front.  Sometimes us "Debbie Downers" just want to scream "STFU!" Before slapping you across the face.  So there is a mutual understanding.  The invites stop so you don't feel like slapping them, and you simply pretend it doesn't bother you as you sit at your desk on a Saturday morning wondering if it is as nice of a temperature outside as it looks.

And when the world asks you on a Monday morning how your weekend was, you quietly respond "It was fine, thank you."

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Yeah, me too.

I don't know about you, but when I'm chit-chatting with my friends, we tend to have conversations that go a little something like this:
"How are you?"
"Ugh... I'm exhausted."
"Yeah, me too."

Best part?  It doesn't matter who calls who, who does the asking, but we're all a bit exhausted.  It got me thinking about being tired, and why as healthy 20-somethings we're opting for bed before 9, and ten thousand cups of coffee to get going in the morning.

Now before I continue to rant on about my own exhaustion, I have to confess I may not be the average 26-year old.  I work two jobs, at all hours, on-call is my middle name, and rarely do I say "no" to picking up another shift, covering here, or staying late or coming in early there.  I work my little butt off.  Mainly because I'm trying to make something of myself.  I'm attempting to build a resume, impress those who might be able to sway the big wigs, and have something to show when the big opportunity comes my way.

As children we were told we could do anything, be anyone, and of course we deserved it.  Unfortunately when we graduated from University, the real world hit and many of us realized we'd need to put our best foot forward and impress someone other than our parents to get a job we may or may not deserve.  A lot of us fell flat on our faces, and proudly hold the highest rate of "moving back in with the rents" of any other generation.  We're split in this strange dilemma of laziness because we have an expectation of instant gratification, combined with those of us who do work too many hours for too little pay.  Does our boss not know about our college loans?  Lets complain some more, shall we?

So we wake up, we eat our breakfasts and buy our overpriced coffee, show up to a cut throat job full of carbon copies of ourselves.  All of us intelligent enough to have earned a college degree, and stupid enough to take out thousands of dollars in loans that $36,000 a year isn't going to pay back.  We're stressed and what makes it worse?  Oh the pressure.

If we don't stay late, come in early, pick up that extra shift, there is a line of "us", probably living at home with mom and dad, waiting in the wings.  Then when we finally do get home, all we want to do is sign into our Netflix account and binge on House of Cards, but aren't we young?  We're supposed to go out to dinner or at least meet our friends (which we haven't seen in weeks because we'll we're exhausted) for a beer.  Quickly put away the sweatpants and make our way to the bar.  7:30 p.m.? Really?  It definitely feels like midnight.  And since I've been at work since 4 a.m. it's definitely way past my "midnight".  By 9 I'm out.  My eyes aren't actually functioning anymore and I feel like a crumpled up plastic bag, (and yes I'm pretty sure that's a Katy Perry lyric) bu
t the good news is I'm only planning on being at work for 8 hours tomorrow, instead of the usual 14.

The next morning you show up at work, you're pretty sure you've got an ear infection and can't remember the last time that happened.  You were 6? Maybe 7 years old?  Unfortunately you've got no medical insurance and neither of your full time jobs actually utilize Obamacare so you take triple the amount of pain killers and press on.  It's Monday, but you're last legitimate day off was 67 days ago. So whether it's a "Monday" or a "Friday" really doesn't matter.  You read the morning news, yet another article about how your generation is the laziest, you roll your eyes and answer some emails.


So you're tired.  We're all tired.  Tired turns into exhaustion and suddenly you're unable to actually do your work.  The words on the screen become fuzzier and fuzzier until they stop making sense all together.  You blame it on that pesky ear infection but in the back of your head you know your brain can't actually function like this for much longer.  But what else can you do?  The thought of quitting your job and finding something new makes you a thousand times more exhausted.  Not to mention you've been steadily applying for a dozen jobs a week for the past year and a half anyways.  But something has to give.  You mutter another sigh under your breath.  You're late for the meeting you're leading.  But on the bright side, you're meeting with that friend you haven't seen in weeks tonight for a martini.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

10 Signs of a Traveler

Courtesy of The Matador Network.
Travel on.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Legend of 'Doc'

Growing up in New England, it was right about now that we really started to hate winter.  It was pretty hard to believe anyone would ever see the grass underneath the piles of the white stuff ever again, let alone was a swimsuit was for.  But then March was at our doorstep, there was hope, and there was the last great race on earth; the Iditarod.

Maybe it was just us, in our small Massachusetts town, but the Iditarod was something else.  Men and women from around the world traveled to Alaska, somewhere legitimately colder than Massachusetts, to race.  They'd put on layer upon layer of warmth, travel with man's best friend across the tundra all whilst yelling Mush! 

There was something magical about the event.  We'd discuss it in school, eagerly arriving to hear daily updates on the Musher's progress across the cold never ending white plains.  But little did my peers know that deep in the woods behind our playground lived a true Musher and his canine champions.

"Doc" Roland Lombard moved to Wayland, Massachusetts sometime in his youth.  Like many aspiring Mushers, New England was the perfect climate for training, and Wayland's sprawling Audubon protected land, made it the perfect place to train in the "wild."  For me, Lombard and his wife, were simply elderly neighbors.  I had heard the stories about his dog sled in the woods, his mush! mush! call through the snow.  It was a real life fairy tale.

From 1958 to 1975, Lombard won 6 North American Championships, and came in second in 6 more. In 1963, he made history with the coveted "Dual Champion" title winning both North American and his first Alaskan title.  Aside from winning "Doc" became one of the first "outsiders" to contribute to the sport.  He rallied potential Mushers from not only the rest of New England, but pushed for international support for the sport.  Meanwhile, 'Doc's' wife Louise was also getting in on the action becoming on of the first women involved in the sport.

'Doc' passed in 1990 at the age of 79, having lead a 57-year-career in dog sledding, winning every major title in North America. Unfortunately I never remember meeting 'Doc', he was simply part of the legend deep in the woods near my home.  But even after his death the calls to Mush! didn't stop.  His legacy and land was put to good use, with each snow fall we'd look out for his legendary dog sled sliding through the trees led by his son.

Over the years the Lombard land was sold, their large gate locked behind a rusted padlock.  But every year around this time, I can't help but feel as though his Legend lives on, and half expect to hear the calls to mush followed by the pitter patter of husky paws in the fresh snow.

For more information on this year's Iditarod (Starting today, March 7th 2015) you can follow their live blog.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Richardson Reviews: Chiltern Firehouse

Photo courtesy of The London Evening Standard.
Photo credit: Nigel Howard
It's nice inside, Chiltern Firehouse.
The table was booked for 9 but it isn't "quite ready" so I'm plonked at the bar, which is heavily - pointlessly - overcrowded, whilst they apparently prepare and I start to work on the first of several Amaretto Sours, which taste pretty good.
The bar is lined with a mixture of perma-tanned ladies and gentlemen with skin the same texture as my wallet and younger guys and girls, some of which are wearing converse that they appear to have covered in glue and fake diamanté. 'Club promotors' I think.
The sommelier is some French guy who jabbers on but I can't really hear him as his accent is quite strong and it's noisy. "Mmmmm" I say to whatever it was he was talking about and he scuttles off, returning with a bottle of white of some description.
He tries to talk me through it but I still can't tell what he's saying. Though judging by the sheer enthusiasm and pride with which he presents the bottle, it seems to be some kind of fermented spirit of Christ mixed with unicorn dreams.
Once I've explained that we *still* (I emphasise this word but he doesn't notice), don't have a table yet he disappears again, promising as he goes to put the wine in the cooler, as if I was expecting him to leave it on the floor or something.
The seater, who is wearing what looks like blue pyjamas, comes back and ushers us to the 'table'. The 'table' being two seats at the kitchen bar.
Despite already knowing the answer, the girl in the blue onesie says "is this ok?". I feel quite sad and my expression is probably similar to the one I had when the vet told an 11 year old me that my pet Hamster, Emelyn, had to be put down.
She says she'll get us a table, if we can just wait a little longer.
I close my eyes for a second and visualise a quiet, serene forest. Then I agree to sit (stand), at the bar whilst she goes to "find a table". Find one? Have they lost a few? At the bar some girls from Liverpool out with their Mother ask us where would be good to go out. I tell them to head to Clapham.
I look around and see the restaurant is filled to the brim with Actors. Unfortunately, none of them can get any parts and all have jobs here.
At 9:40 we get a proper table. Finally. It's in a great spot, too, with views over pretty much the entire floor. It might not be the best table in the place (that appears to be in the corner near the door), but it's probably a close second or third. The emotion I experience - joy and relief - as I'm walked over is what I imagine Dogs must feel when they stick their heads out the window of a moving car.
The first of about 4 waiters apologises for the delay and brings a wealth of complimentary bar snacks, including crab doughnuts (doughnuts with crab stuffed inside covered in coral dusting. Coral dusting!), fried chicken, some cauliflower planted in some kind of dip and cornbread fingers with maple chipotle butter, the last of which is what being Brad Pitt probably tastes like. They were also the best thing I ate that evening and, had they not been complimentary, at £2 the cheapest thing on the menu as well. That's not to say the rest of the food wasn't good, it was.
The starter arrives. It's beef tartare and it's very good. If you've had beef tartare then imagine a really, really good one. It's like that. If you don't know what beef tartare is then Google it and prepare to feel nauseous. It's raw beef and raw egg and, depending on the establishment you order it from, like playing Russian roulette with a revolver loaded with viral gastroenteritis.
Between the starter and the main I slope off for a cigarette. Yeah, I know. I've since given up. To get into the smoking area you actually have to go *through* the bathrooms, which seems like an odd decision till you notice it's probably so the frozen-jawed diners can lie to their friends that they're going for a fag when they're taking drugs instead.
While I'm out there, I end up chatting to a few people, most of which keep sniffing a lot. One of them is called 'TR'. Of course he is. We engage in a conversation that is quickly steered towards what he really wants to talk about. Himself.
"So" I say finally, inevitably, after he's told me how many times he's been here before "what do you do?"
"I'm a model" he says, and then there's a pause as he breaths out a big cloud of Marlborough smoke from the side of his mouth and delivers the devastating finisher "AND an actor".
There's a short but very noticeable pained pause where he doesn't ask me what I do.
"You're a model AND an Actor?" I say "Where do you find the time?!"
TR doesn't find this as funny as I do and extinguishes his cigarette before, probably, heading back to the toilets to 'sharpen up'.
As I head back through the bathrooms I see Harvey Weinstein and Cara Delavigne keep watch as all five of One Direction bundle into a toilet cubicle with Mark Ronson, giggling*.
I get back upstairs just as the main is being delivered. I ordered chicken which tastes like really nice chicken, together with some vegetables that taste like really nice vegetables. We finish the bottle of wine and order another.
I pop out for another cigarette, noticing that the toilet cubicles are still both in use.
The dessert arrives. I ordered carrot cake. The most surprising part is that it's covered in long strips of actual carrot. I never really figured there would be much real carrot in carrot cake, that is was merely an ingredient added as an afterthought to somehow make you feel better about the 6 billion calories of sugar and refined fat you're about to eat. I push the bits of carrot to one side and just eat the actual cake. It's pretty good, if a little gloopy.
The second bottle of whatever wine I'd ordered before gets finished quicker than the first and then gets washed down with an espresso martini. It's gone 11pm, the toilets are busier than ever for some reason and the bathroom attendant is politely pretending to be oblivious to whatever it is that people are doing in the cubicles together. And getting paid quite handsomely for it, too.
It's time to leave and we're shuffled out the back, apparently due to some obscure licensing condition about creating noise out front. Either that, or I was swaying a bit too much. Still, they were very friendly about it.
Children Fire House - Quite liked it/10
*This bit may not be true.

Written by John Richardson, guest writer, avid reviewer and master of sarcasm, humor and wit.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

What it's like to be a "Non-Vaccinated Cult Member"

You plan a family vacation to the happiest place on earth and come home with measles.  It's one of the most talked about controversies today; to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?  Now before you go any further, let me explain.  I was born and raised as a Christian Scientist.  And yes, I know what you're thinking, and no, it doesn't have anything to do with Scientology, Tom Cruise, or Aliens.  Christian Science has been around for longer than Elon Hubbard's penmanship.  It's a Christian based religion that uses a 'mind over matter' lifestyle.  With that said, many Christian Scientists do not vaccinate or use medication.  It goes back to the basic idea that God made all, and since God is only good, there can be no bad, nothing negative, no pain, sickness, disease or even death.  So why vaccinate against something that is merely an illusion?

Whether you agree or not, believe or not, or even kind of understand, it is how many Christian Scientists live their lives.  Even after leaving our religious upbringings, many of us do not then run over to the doctor and announce "Hey guess what! I'm a 26 year old who has never been vaccinated!  Here's my shoulder, enjoy yourself!"

Some of you are probably wondering how I got away with it.  How did I attend public school and University without the required vaccinations.  Well, let me give you a little history lesson about our lovely country.  The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock with the notion of freedom, as of course they were trying to escape the persecution of The church of England.  Freedom of Religion was the entire reason for the first settlers hop, skip, and jump across the pond in the first place.  Therefore separation of Church and State became the foundation for their new Country; America!  That notion of separation is alive and well today, giving people the option to use "Religious beliefs" as a way to get around certain laws, including vaccination requirements.

So here I am, a 26 year old living in a major U.S. city without a single vaccination to date.  I have traveled the world, even living for a short time in Cambodia, all without a single vaccination.  I had all of the normal childhood diseases, chicken pox, the flu, I broke my leg one summer and had it set in a bright green cast.  I was normal and 99% of those who interacted with me on a daily basis had no idea that I hadn't been vaccinated.

Suddenly, the media is in an uproar over these "religious reasons", even going as far to denounce the beliefs of religious groups like Christian Scientists. Again, here's some background; Christian Science is pretty liberal.  Meaning, the basics of the religion are seen are guidelines for your own personal practice.  If for some reason you are unable to follow certain beliefs, or for example you decide to get vaccinated, you're not going to go to hell.  You won't be shunned or looked down upon.  In fact the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy says (about Vaccinations): "Rather than quarrel over vaccination, I recommend, if the law demand, that an individual submit to this process, that he obey the law, and then appeal to the gospel to save him from bad physical results. Whatever changes come to this century or to any epoch, we may safely submit to the providence of God, to common justice, to the maintenance of individual rights, and to governmental usages. This statement should be so interpreted as to apply, on the basis of Christian Science, to the reporting of a contagious case to the proper authorities when the law so requires. When Jesus was questioned concerning obedience to human law, he replied: ‘Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,’ even while you render ‘to God the things that are God’s.’ ”

Basically Mary Baker Eddy was no fool, she understood that things change over time.  Laws change, society changes, and the way one practices religion will also change.  Of course that being said, supporters of requiring vaccinations argue Eddy has in effect given the green light for legislation requiring vaccination.  But let us remember what this country was founded upon.  That freedom to choose.

When I meet someone new and they inevitably discover I have never had a vaccination, they are full of questions and concerns. I've actually had co-workers refuse to go within a 5 foot radius of me, after nearly 2 years of working together because suddenly they think I am riddled with disease.  I have watched a new-mother, someone who I thought was a good friend, refuse to introduce me to their new child because I could "kill" their daughter.  But most people toss the "c" word around at a moments notice and brush it off; "Oh so you're just in a cult."

Truth be told, sometimes it's easier to simple reply "yes, something like that." Than to try and explain that no, like you my parents raised me in a belief system, yes even you, the proud atheist in the corner.  I grew up just like you, in a small American town, as a normal child.  When I was sick, I stayed home from school, my mom made me soup and tea and made sure I got enough rest.  Perhaps she didn't give me pepto-bismol when my tummy hurt, but she gave me what was required of her, a mother's love.

As an adult, I do not really identify with the beliefs of Christian Science.  I understand them sure, but I'm not sure if it's the right belief for me and, again truth time, I think that's the beauty of belief, the beauty of religion and faith.  It's a personal thing, it can ruin or save your life, give you hope, or kill you, but it's your choice.

You plan a family vacation to the happiest place on earth and return home with measles.  Suddenly there is an outbreak and you're sorry that as a parent you didn't vaccinate your child against the rare disease. You're sorry that now your co-workers are publicly shaming you, announcing that everyone with children should stay at least 5 feet away because your lack of vaccinations will actually kill them and their families.  You're sorry that as a baby, your parents had faith and believed in the good of God, in the love of God, that in sickness or in health everything would be ok.  You apologize for your lack of vaccinations, explain that no you do not have measles, rubella, polio, hepatitis or tetnis.

But why are we apologizing?  Why is everyone so angry at us?   Many people think that because you have chosen not to vaccinate you are immediately in the "anti-vaccine" group, that you are uneducated and putting the rest of society at risk.  But it's not so black and white.  Studies show that many parents (Christian Scientists or not) are well educated and rather vaccine-anxious than anti-vaccine.  They've done their research and have made a decision not to vaccinate.  They want what's best for their child, just like my former friend who has decided introducing me to their infant would surely kill her.

For those of us who were not given a choice as a child to be vaccinated or not, I can only sit here and type away my apologies.  And admit that given a choice, I'm not sure I would have wanted to be vaccinated.   Sure there are studies that say vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) have shown links to autism, while other health advocates say our pro-vaccine culture is causing higher levels of autoimmune diseases and stronger super bugs.  But it's not as simple as siting studies, religious beliefs or cultural opinion. As human beings we like to see things in black and white, right and wrong, but in reality most things are overwhelmingly gray.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Blogger? Journalist? Or Writer?

There is a well known stereotype amongst the media industry that places the blog on the lowest of the low.  To be a blogger isn't anything like being a 'real' journalist.  Blogs are glorified online journals for people who pretend to be writers to rant and type about their 'feelings.'

It's more than just a conversation.  The Blogger vs. Journalism debate is now legendary.  You're one or the other, never both... until you are.  I receive pay checks from a major international news network to write and report the news, and then I return home at the end of the day and turn to this; my blog.  The topics, voice, and tone are different, sure, but is my title?  Because I am suddenly no longer being paid by a legitimate internationally known company, am I no longer a journalist? Am I no longer a legitimate writer?

What the argument really comes down to is the style and type of information.  A journalist would try and remain without bias, report the facts, and just the facts.  While a Blogger has reign to say whatever he or she feels like saying, with opinion, sway, and whatever else they'd like to add.  It's like when you were assigned a report on history in school.  You went to official historical documents, history books on the subject, published and written by authorized historians.  You didn't turn to Wikipedia for the most reliable information.  We Bloggers are nothing more than Wikipedia as a reliable resource.  While others argue it's all about the platform.  Bloggers control their own platforms, you write, edit and publish pieces.  You're also in charge of advertising or promoting those pieces. A journalist may write, edit and submit their piece, but at the end of the day they are not the sole authority in charge of it's publication and distribution.  But what if all those lines are blurred?  What if you are a small privately owned one-man-operated newspaper being distributed to a small middle American town?  Could you then be considered a blogger?  But providing "news" to the entire community would make you a journalist would it not?  These grey areas are what makes defining the argument even harder.

It's those people who have ventured into the grey matter that are trying to help define the roles of Blogger and Journalist, those people who perhaps wear both hats depending on who is signing their pay checks.  The battle we face while wearing our "black hat" as a Blogger only to then be praised when we change into our clean and laundered "white hat" as a Journalist.

When I sit down to my laptop and open The Traveling Barnacle, I know I can write and publish the things I really want to say.  I can write about controversial topics and throw opinions around, I can even add my own opinion, my own version of the "truth", all while writing a thorough well written piece.  I can share my own story and make you, as a reader, question your own thoughts and opinions on the topic.  As a paid journalist, I can't do that.  I can't share my own story, I can only share an equal amount of both sides, usually leaving out any type of controversial argument without putting someone else's name next to it.  I'm not in control of my words as a Journalist.  But as a Blogger I may have too much control.  I can write anything, receive praise or death threats.  This idea of freedom is the real difference for those of us straddling the line.  It's the difference between an academic book about the History of Paris and the Wikipedia page that says the Eiffel Tower is made of sugar cubes.

So we straddle.  We write on and continue to add our thoughts where our readers need to be poked, but aim to stay true to the rules of journalism; without bias, just the facts.  We write when we feel we should and hold back when we feel our Blog slipping into the dangerous world of an "online journal".  We throw away the stereotypical white and black hats and manage to don on something a little more grey, something more realistic.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

March Must-Dos in San Diego

As a child in New England, my teachers always taught "March comes in a lion! And out like a lamb." But here in America's Finest city, where the sun is always shining and the surf is always calling, March is just another month.  Sure, one could argue it's looking a lot more like spring here.  The flowers are beginning to bloom in the desert and the nights now only drop to 58°, instead of 53° (I saw you roll your eyes New England!)  But March also means a lot for the city of San Diego.  Here are some of the Must-Do events happening around the city this month.

Check out the Flowers in Bloom. Opens March 1.
The Flower Fields in Carlsbad is officially open starting March first.  And although it doesn't really feel like winter here, what better way to welcome spring than with some fresh flowers!  And if you're bringing the young ones, stop by on March 29th for Kids day!

Try a Taco that gives back. March 2 - 6.
Our lovely friends at Puesto are teaming up with Food Network Star Melissa d'Arabian to create a taco that will hopefully feed more than just event attendees.  The "Share our Strength/No Kid Hungry Benefit" will highlight the newest taco creation from the duo, filled with summer squash, portobello mushrooms and broccoli, all wrapped in Puesto's signature crispy-melted cheese and corn tortillas.  Swing by on the 5th of March and catch Melissa d'Arabian's signature in her new cookbook, Supermarket Healthy.

Shave-it-all for Cancer Research. March 7.
Need a haircut?  Thinking about shaving it all off anyways?  Why not do it for a great cause!  Join the 7th Annual St. Baldrick's Shave-a-thon and go bald this March.  Or if you're like me and don't want to part with my luscious locks, then just grab a beer and watch!  (Yes I did just rhyme and yes I know, you loved it.)  Head down to the Commons Bar and grab a brew.  You'll see a bunch of people all getting a shave to raise awareness for childhood cancer research.  And of course all your boozy purchases will help go towards the charity.

Run in your Underwear! March 7.
Yes you read that right.  San Diego is coming out in their undies to show their support to Colon Cancer Research.  The Undy Run is a family-fun run or walk aiming to raise awareness for the disease.  Of course "underwear" can mean a lot of different things, but this event is kosher, so keep it clean!

Sing your Heart Out! March 7 - 8.
It's the 9th consecutive year our lovely city has played host to some of the finest street performers around for the San Diego Busker Festival!  The fest brings performers from all over the country out to celebrate the art of street-art!  Looking forward to seeing some of the same artists from last year, including fire breathers, contortionists and the woman who played her guitar with her toe nails.  Head down to Seaport Village both days to soak in the sun and the unique festival.  And if you're around Saturday night, from 7-10 p.m. "Buskers After Dark" will host a DJ booth, food trucks and drink specials.

San Diego Half Marathon. March 8.
This is definitely one of my 30-before-30 goals.  But sadly, I'm no where near the shape I need to be in, nor do I ever have a Sunday off.  But Half Marathons will run without me and what better city to run 13 miles in than America's Finest!  Oh and if you've got somewhere to be, make sure you take a detour around the run route.

Try something exotic at the Museum of Man. March 12.
The San Diego Museum of Man is offering an exotic evening of beer tasting in it's unique exhibition about the history of beer, hops, and all things drunk.  Beer in one of San Diego's most iconic buildings? Yes please!

St. Patricks ShamROCK party in the Gaslamp. March 14.
While, as a Bostonian, I find it hard to believe San Diego is full of Irish, the city definitely knows how to party.  The 20th Annual ShamROCK celebration shuts down a good chunk of the Gaslamp for one heck of a block party.  This year over 80,000 square feet of AstroTurf will be rolled out for the green-themed shin-dig, and don't worry they'll be enough Jameson and Green colored beer to go around.

CRSSD Festival. March 14-15.
It's about time San Diego played host to a music festival and this year, the CRSSD Festival is kicking off the tradition right.  Live bands and DJ performances will take the stage along the bay front over the two days with highlights including Chromeo and Empire of the Sun.  And don't worry, if you're stuck working all weekend (like me), many of the bands are sticking around and , including Chromeo who will be headlining Fluxx Nightclub Sunday Night.
playing other venues

Learn how to cook a new Healthy dish. March 19.
Jimbo's Naturally, the newest healthy grocer to take over Horton Plaza, is offering a "healthy and delicious winter" cooking class.  Taught by certified nutritionists, the free class will give San Diegans some healthy insight to seasonal cooking.  Tickets are going fast, so sign up today!

Stretch it out! March 26.
Join this family-friendly and more importantly, free Yoga class at Horton Plaza.  The series of classes are brought to San Diego by the Downtown San Diego Partnership and "Healthy living in the city" initiative.  All levels are welcome, just bring your own mat!

These are just a few of the awesome events coming soon in March, for more information and a ton more events, check out SanDiego.org.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Girl Who Lied & The Hope We Have.

It was a Tuesday when I realized she wasn't sitting at her desk.  So I asked "Where is she?"  I thought for a fleeting moment that she was in the restroom or maybe stepped out to get coffee.

"Her mom died."  I looked back at my co-worker in shock.  What? Wait. What?

I listened as she explained about an accident on Thursday afternoon, something about a car and some one's fault landing the poor elderly woman in a coma.  Working in a newsroom I immediately ran through all the local stories I had seen over the weekend.  I couldn't remember seeing any type of major injury crash on Thursday but then again who I am to argue.  The story continued.  Apparently her mother had yet to wake up by Monday morning, and was gone by Monday afternoon.

I texted my co-worker sending her my well wishes and offering help or support if she needed anything.  The work place fell somber, as we reflected on our own families, what it must be like to loose someone so suddenly. The multitude of support came flowing in, 'where can I send flowers?' and 'can I do anything?' came from every direction.  I texted her back asking where we could send flowers and she quickly replied people could bring them into work as she was coming back in tomorrow, she "needs the distraction."

That's when I began to look at the numbers, the equation of death, the fact I hadn't seen any major injury accident on the California Highway Patrol log, the fact that she would be returning to work just a day after her mother had passed.  Something didn't add up.  But how could I be the person to question whether she was lying about her mother's death.  What had she gained but a day and a half off and flowers from fellow co-workers.

But still I held onto hope.

That's when I got the call.  A colleague had discovered she had left her Face book logged in at work.  Neither of us could resist, we scanned her page.  Photos from a V.I.P. motocross event, followed by beach portraits exclaiming how lovely a day it was, then a bloodshot eyed selfie with a caption about being "high above the city in a lazy sundaze".  That's when I began making excuses for her.  Perhaps she just doesn't have a great relationship with her mother, she hadn't posted a single thing about an accident.  I then took a visit to her boyfriends page, his status would change everything.

He wrote: "Breaking news!  Scientists have just announced that living can be deadly.  Authorities all over the world are responding by taking peoples lives before they can do harm to themselves or others.  Please stay tuned for updates".  She commented below "Haha, I <3 you, silly goose!"

No "boyfriend" in their right mind would post anything like this if their girlfriends mother had just passed away after a 4-day coma caused by major trauma.  My co-worker, calling him a "silly goose" the evening her mother "died."

But still I had hope.

The next day things got worse.  She showed up to work and went about her daily duties.  A fellow colleague approached her with his apologies and told her a teary eyed story about the loss of both of his own parents.  She made a face and told him "that must have sucked" and continued to use the copier.  There was a pause, silence that lasted a little too long.  She spoke.
"Well the you know the other driver is offering to pay for some stuff."

 He looked at her in confusion.  "Aren't the police involved?"

A panicked look spray across her face, "yeah well sort of, I mean yeah cuz you know the 'manslaughter charges' now and everything."

By this time, I wasn't the only one confused by her actions.  She had a meeting with our boss who told her they would need some sort of written and authorized proof of death for things like bereavement pay.  That's when shit hit the fan.

But still I had hope.

She left early but left her google-ID logged into Chrome at work.  Google works in mysterious ways for some, but really it's quite easy.  The program synchronizes all your searches, your emails, all your activity online.  So while she was sitting at her laptop at home, logged into her Google, and still logged in at work, both computers were busy synchronizing all her activity.  All of her searches including "How to make fake death certificate", "Printable death certificate" and "Printable fake death certificate."

Why was I so shocked?  Nothing added up, while everything pointed at the fact she had been lying all along, yet I still had hoped I was wrong.  I had been holding onto the hope that people are innately good, they have the best intentions, that people will ultimately do the right thing.

But they're not.  Good things don't come to those who wait, Karma isn't a bitch, and well some people are horrible, plain and simple.    But we still hope.  We hold onto the idea that people aren't horrible, and when they let us down it hurts each time.  Experts say we need hope, it's healthy to have and can really make the way we approach things have more of a positive outcome.  Now doesn't that sound hopeful?  But the truth is we hope, it's natural, we call it "expectation" but at the end of the day that's just a fancy way of saying we're hopeful.

Some of us (like myself) have a little too much expectation, I have faith in people when I shouldn't.  I have low hope, high hope, and absurd hope, like the hope I instilled in my colleague even after I discovered her google search for "how to fake a death certificate."  Hope motivates us, inspires us, and breaks our hearts.  When it's good, it's good, but when our hopes are placed upon someone who doesn't deserve them, oh man is it bad. 

But when we're put in the same situation again, we continue to hope.  A never ending cycle of good intentions, of thinking that things will work out, that she couldn't possibly lie about her mother dying, we hope that they'll see it our way, that they'll love us, that all our hard work will get us the job, that the interview went well, that the test results will be in our favor, we hope.

A full week passed before we said anything to the employee.  When she was asked about the validity of her story, she was adamant that her mother had passed and told us she would return home to get a police report.  An hour later she updated her Facebook status.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Clothes Make the Woman #AskHerMore

Fashion is funny.  It is a constant in our lives.  "The clothes make the man." You know how it is.  I'm typing this wearing a floral sweatshirt, skinny jeans and uggs, which says a lot about my day.  I'm comfortable, relaxed, and while I am actually at work, it's a laid back day, one where I spend most of it alone or on the phone and not one where I am physically contacting with my co-workers.  Monday morning of course will be a different story, I will probably trade in the uggs for a pair of heels and my hair may even get to feel the heat of a curling iron.    We dress to impress, our fashion statements tend to reflect the way we feel, sexy, confident, relaxed, or sad.  Mourners wear black for a reason and Brides white for another.  So it's no surprise when it comes to the biggest night for the stars of the silver screen that fashion is the epicenter of the conversation.  "Who are you wearing" is thrown around like "hellos."

So the clothes really do make the wo-man?  Infographics of winners dresses (like this one) are popping up around the internet on the afternoon before the 2015 Oscars.  Looking over the dresses, one can't help but think "ahh so this is what the winners wore."  But that mentality is what some argue is fueling sexism on the red carpet.  The #AskHerMore project asks reporters to ask her who she is, not just who she is wearing.

So why do we focus on what the stars are wearing, how they got into shape for the event, who did their hair, or their nails?  Do we really believe clothes make the woman?  They're there to be honored for their achievements so why not ask about those?  The campaign is alive on twitter, hundreds of people tweeting what they really want to know from these sexy silver screen sirens.

And it seems the stars are slowly but surely getting behind the cause.  This year at the Screen Actors Guild Awards a number of starlets including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore refused to put their hands in E!'s famous "mani-cam".  Just picture a red carpet for one's manicure.  And who can forget at last year's Golden Globes when Elizabeth Moss showed the mani-cam just what she thought of it.  This year, you'll notice the mani-cam has been removed.
But mani-cam or not, the stars are catching on.  Why are these influential women only allowed to talk about their fashion choices?  Nicole Kidman flat out refused to answer Ryan Seacrest when he asked her who she was wearing at the Grammys.  Perhaps the designer cried themselves to sleep, but young women everywhere blew a sigh of relief, are we finally getting somewhere?

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Noise Control

San Diego is sprawling.  Technically you could argue you can drive over an hour and still be in "San Diego" so of course it only makes sense when you meet someone new they tend to start with "where in America's finest city do you live?"

What a loaded question.

Locals will tell you their neighborhood has the best bars, best views, best weather, best taco shops, and best activities.  There is no use in arguing, the local will always win.  And of course once you tell them where you live you'll never hear the end of it.  If they like the neighborhood they want to talk about all the awesome things on your corners, on the other hand, if you live in say an area like "Banker's Hill" they'll find everything wrong with it and ask you how you could ever live in the dreaded flight path.

I live in Bankers Hill.

Unfortunately for many San Diegans they know the area very well for one thing; it is right smack underneath the flight path to San Diego's international airport, Lindbergh field. 
"Is it loud?!"  They always ask with disgust.

Yes, my dear San Diego local it can be loud with airplanes flying overhead but it's probably quieter than living next to that dive bar in North Park,  And yes during the summer when my windows are all open and that Boeing 777 is coming in for a landing at 6:30 a.m. it can get pretty annoying, but like most things, you get used to it over time. 
Little do they know I grew up next to a gun club. Yes you read that right, a club dedicated to people who were not hunting, but taking their rifles into the woods and practicing their aim.  As children, we would sneak onto the firing range after hours and collect bullet shells.  Guns weren't scary, they were the background noise to our lives.  People didn't shoot other people in our minds, people shot paper bulls eyes and practiced their aim to get the bad guys.  And while gunshots startle most people, I find them comforting, a rush of nostalgia consumes me whether it's a pistol or a shotgun.  

Like the sound of gunshots, I can now distinguish whether it's a 777 flying overhead or an A380 shaking the window panes.  But Bankers Hill, like your neighborhood is more than the noise. I could tell you about it's best bars, nightlife, restaurants, and close location to San Diego's most famous park but I won't.  Instead I will smile when you ask me how I live in the flight path, how it must be so noisy, so obnoxious.  I'll smile knowing one day whenever I hear a plane overhead I'll think of Bankers Hill and remember everything else.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

#Winning #Failing

I'm 26, which is (gasp) closer to 30 than 20, ugh.  And while I spend a lot of my time contemplating what the heck I'm doing with my life, where things are going and why I feel like I've accomplished absolutely nothing, I tend to forget that I'm actually quite normal in my thoughts, and lets face it I'm okay.

Don't know what I mean?  Well I'm alright, I'm not broke, I'm not failing at absolutely (even though it feels like that most of the time), so I've come up with a list to remind me that I'm not the complete failure I feel like each and everyday and neither are you.

I've been through some real crap & actually lived. We compare as human beings, we compare our current state of everything to what it once was and what we think it could be.  That act of comparison is what makes us feel inadequate or successful.  So when I compare my life in San Diego to my life in London, there are going to be pretty big differences.  Where I used to have access to Continental Europe at low-priced airlines I now have access to maybe a road trip if someone with a car is willing to take me.  It sucks.  But it only sucks cuz I've lived!  I've done some pretty amazing things with my life so far, which lets face it, doesn't suck, not one bit.  You've also been through some crap, but this I mean you can look at challenges you currently face and compare them to the ones you went through 5 years ago, the one you thought you'd never get over.  You're still standing, life doesn't ever get easier, but you do get smarter (promise.)

I have a space of my own.  And I'm not necessarily talking about my apartment (which yes is all mine!) As long as you have something to call your own, a chair, a desk, a corner, a space where you can create something or control who talks to you, tells you what to do; a place where you and you alone are the boss!  Take control.

I have a job.  Actually I have two, but that's not the point.  I have a job and it's not necessarily the most satisfying thing, but I am earning money, I am feeding myself.  A job gives me a reason to put on clothing everyday.  Sometimes my job is the entire root of the feeling of failure but at the end of the day despite feeling, it could be worse.

And having a job means I was able to pay the bills this month.  Viola!  Winning at adulthood.

Bills aside, I could afford a bus ride and a cup of coffee this morning.  Sometimes we take the little things in life for granted.  You have gas in your car and made yourself breakfast, you did that.  Be proud!

Speaking of breakfast, I'm able to eat a meal to enjoy the meal. I'm eating to enjoy, not to survive, which makes chowing down on whatever I've prepared a lot more fun.

I question myself all the time.  I doubt a lot of things in my life, where things are going in my relationships, career and life in general.  I'm open to change, in fact I'm trying to embrace it and make it happen.  Realizing there is an issue is the fist step towards something better and that's gotta be a win if I've ever seen one.

It also means I'm not the same person I was a year ago.  I'm growing up into a young woman (oh my god closer to 30!) And what's even better is I realize I'm not the same person and can identify the things I've changed regardless of whether they are better or worse.

Which means I also know what isn't working in my life.  This is probably the thing that is making you sad or feeling like a failure.  It's the most important step towards changing your life into something better is acknowledging the feeling that it's just not working. I may not know what it is that will make it better, but at least I'm aware of what isn't.

I have interests.  There are things in my life that I really am interested in and I'm attempting to make time for them.  I'm passionate about something, whether it's a political movement or a new trend, something intrigues me and I'm so about exploring that.

I have time to do nothing.  This actually isn't always true in my life.  I'm trying to find a balance in my life where I can work my little butt off and come home from work and sit and do nothing, glorious hours of nothing which means glorious hours of Netflix.

I have at least one person I can call 24 hours a day just to say "hi". Having friends was always hard for me, and now as an adult it's even harder.  As an east coaster living in San Diego, most people's superficial joy doesn't mix with my Masshole sarcasm.  But I digress, I know I have someone who will pick up my call, even if it's at 3 a.m. and I've had too much wine and don't like the way my chin looks.  I know they'll answer and that is definitely a win.

I'm working towards a goal.  I'm exhausted and probably pointed in the wrong direction but at least I'm trying to make a U-turn in the right direction.

But I'm not making promises of actually reaching that goal.  I may not actually be able to get there and that's something that I've got to be open to.  Just like I'm not the same person I was a year ago, things and people change, goals change, and ultimately what makes us happy can all change.

Ultimately I know how to take care of myself. I do laundry, I cook, I clean, heck I even have a cat, which means that little bugger's life depends on mine.  I know how many hours of sleep I need not to feel cranky in the morning and I know how many glasses of wine it'll take before my lips turn purple.  I know who to turn to when I need help and who is great at hugs and who won't answer my calls.  I know I will always order pancakes given the choice and will always hope for the good in people despite the red flags.  I know what to do when my stomach hurts or when I'm not having a good time.  I'm getting to know myself each and everyday, feeling like a failure or not.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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