London to Lisbon

Last month myself and Ben Vendetta traveled to London for the book launch of “Sunset Trip” which took place at an iconic music store, Rough Trade. It was great to met some members of bands I have always been a fan of, to see old friends, and to see people who came as far away as Newcastle and Birmingham for the event.

I think I packed as much as a could into my days five in London (boy how many co-working spaces do they have in London now, because it was a lot!) and I managed to do east, west, and everything in-between. This was a trip I allowed myself some touristy things; even a trip to Selfridges which was already playing Christmas music in mid October. I hadn’t been to London since 1992 if you can believe it. To me it was always the center of the world over New York City.

While we were planning the trip, we thought we would be going to Tangier after the book event. That didn’t work out for various reasons, so instead we opted for Lisbon. I’m so glad we did.

ArabellprofferTowerbridge

BayswaterRoadbyProffer

Kensington Palace, baby.

KensingtonbyProffer

The lifestyle and fashion bloggers in Notting Hill were out in full force, lemme tel ‘ya. It’s so bad now that a lot of the front steps of homes are roped off to prevent girls from posing front all the time. I hear this has become a thing in Palm Springs for homeowners to do as well. A group of girls were posing on the hood of someone’s parked Karmann Ghia and Ben was tempted to yell at them to get off his damn car!

NottingHillProfferOct

BlackGreenNottingHill

Ben and Ashley Norris doing a talk and Q&A at Rough Trade East. Get the book here!

Mel Butler came all the way from Middlesbrough to support Ben’s new book!

BenVendettaandMelButler

Can you believe this is a bowling alley!?

bowlingalleyShoreditch

We did not order champagne but I did have a number of cocktails and the best Beef Wellington of my life at Bob Bob Ricard. Desserts were set on fire, and the ladies room were individual tiny full baths each with its own attendant.

Photo Oct 19, 4 52 12 PM

Behind this door was a private event full of indie rockers that Ben was asked to DJ for. It was great because I got to meet Miki of Lush, and if you had told me 15 year-old self that I’d be in a private basement club in Fitzrovia talking to Miki of Lush about the US midterms and my president being Trump, well… yeah, I’d say you were nuts.

HydeParkbyProffer

Then is was off to Lisbon. We stayed in the Santa Catarina area and it did not suck. So many restaurants and we didn’t get to try them all. We were also down the street from one of the film locations from “Night Train to Lisbon” which happens to be next to the Pharmacy Museum. They had a great outdoor restaurant overlooking the bay.

Lisboa2018

LisboaatNightbyProffer

Photo Oct 23, 10 40 49 AM

Photo Oct 23, 6 33 47 AM

Photo Oct 23, 1 36 50 PM

The Pena Palace in Sintra. So crowded with tourists even on a Wednesday (more in the video below) so I recommend avoiding it on weekends because wow wow wow. Thankfully I booked a private car and guide who got us tickets ahead of time and was on-call so to speak. He wore an incredible blue suit and it probably looked like we had our own security detail the way he walked us around in Sintra. He also took us to the most western spot in all of Europe and on a scenic drive along the coast. Since 2016 tourism has exploded in Portugal and I can see it being both good and bad. Lisbon will begin building a new airport in 2019, that’s how crazy it is getting. There were a number of hostels and AirBnbs on the street we stayed at. By the way this was my first and last time doing an AirBnb. I won’t go into it, but let’s just say the Ibis hotel saved the night we arrived.

SintraPena

Lisbon has a number of record shops, but our favorite had to be Groovie Records. Funny enough, the proprietor knew and has done business with some friends of ours. He has a record label as well.

LisbonLaundry

I highly recommend the Military Museum in Lisbon, My God it was gorgeous and there were maybe only 3 other people in it. Did I mention it is free? I mean look at the ceiling!

Photo Oct 25, 8 02 30 AM

BenVendettaLisbon

Vices in tile.

photo-oct-23-6-34-21-am-e1541464227512.jpg

I really wish I’d had more than really what was four days in Lisbon. Ah, hoping for another stop in the future. The cocktails, wine, and coffee were amazing.

Photos, oh-so many photos…

Sunset Trip book party at Rough Trade East.

I’m going to London for the first time since 1992. It was Halloween, the first *legal* rave in London I got to dance at for a bit, on top of visiting various house parties. It was a whirlwind 24 hours and forgot all the purchases I made in Piccadilly in my hotel room. I also left my favorite raincoat on a chair in Heathrow. I still think about that raincoat!

This time I don’t plan on any of that happening (ok maybe a house party here or there) as I have a whole five days to spend while my husband launches his third novel at one of the best record stores in the world!

Rough Trade East on Thursday, Oct 18th 7pm to 9pm. Join us for the official launch of “Sunset Trip” presented by Obliterati Press. Q&A with Ashley Norris, and a DJ set by ‘Mojo’ Mills of Shindig Magazine.

Ben and Ashley will be discussing the demise of the record industry, L.A. bands circa Y2k, Cleveland punk, and writing about music. If you’re a fan of bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beachwood Sparks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Smallstone, or The Warlocks, you might want to dig it.

 

SunsetTrip-East

The following Saturday Ben will be closing out the Everything Indie Over 40 extravaganza with a DJ set meant to make you dance! This has a lot of special guests — Miki is just one of many — and is something we’ve been excited about.

everythingindielive

You can order copies of “Sunset Trip” via Foyles, Amazon, Waterstones, Rough Trade and all the usual places.

The US printing of previous books you can get signed here.

Fancy in the French Quarter: Turning 40

What seemed most appropriate ahead of my birthday? A trip to my favorite place in the USA: New Orleans! When it was sprung on me, the feeling was that perhaps this trip I’d stay in the French Quarter — which I’ve never done. And, stay on Bourbon Street — which I would normally run away screaming from the idea! Since it is the middle of June and 40 was a big deal for me, I decided I’d find the best hotel with the fanciest pool, and experience the full insanity that is the worst part of Bourbon Street on a Saturday night where you might catch a disease by standing still too long or wearing open toe shoes.

I knew what to expect, so to find a man pissing himself on the front steps of the hotel didn’t really surprise me. Ah, how nice it was to be transported then, to an amazing lobby, with wonderful courtyards and a splurge on room service. I even had a side street balcony room where the 2nd lines go down.

It was so nice to meet up with friends at places new and familiar while not really leaving the Quarter except to go to our usual neighborhood for my tattoo session. Yes, I finally got the James Jean tattoo that Shawn Dubin and I had discussed a few years earlier, and it’s perfect. I didn’t drink nearly as much as I thought I would, and I even pooped out on going to a dance party on the Saturday night (well, I was still sore from the dance party on the Friday put on by DJ Soul Sister). The saddest thing is food is always such a letdown when you leave New Orleans. It just is.

They say that 40 is the new 30, but I find that in my case especially, turning 40 has been like what most men experience when they turn 50. It’s been very hard this past month. I know everyone older than me has been shaking their heads and rolling their eyes about it, but the fact remains I am not handling it well. I didn’t think I’d care at all: then the day actually came.

This might be in part because most of my life I had a strange feeling I wouldn’t live past 31, and that feeling would prove prophetic in a most unexpected way. Due to other medical complications I’ve been forced to age a certain way, very prematurely. I’m still adjusting to that even thought it’s been a few years because I was never given the time and space I needed to fully deal with it (2016 was a horrible year). What then, is one to think when they didn’t die young as expected, but also been forced to age prematurely biologically? This, I am still reconciling.

Sorry to be Captain Bringdown, I suppose I’ll get over it soon enough. It really was a fantastic weekend.

 

The North: A Trip to Scotland and Yorkshire

Photo May 31, 7 26 15 AM (1)

I had never been to Scotland and an opportunity came up to visit as well and stay with friends in Middlesbrough aka Cleveland and take in the sights. I enjoyed Glasgow a lot more than I thought I would, and the same goes for York (despite the crazy number of tourists). If I had taken this trip a few years ago I would have been miserable, due to the amount of hills and stairs that would not have been very compatible with being on a cane — let alone any other physical disabilities. So I am very glad the timing worked out. We spent a few weeks filled with train travel, art museums, medical museums, carb loading, tea, cats, nightclubs and meeting-up with friends. The history of Scottish rock was a common theme throughout the trip, and funny enough this issue of The Skinny had come out. Ah, what timing indeed.

Photo May 30, 8 59 05 AM

Photo May 21, 9 38 12 AM

Edinburgh is so gorgeous I will have to make another trip back to do everything I wanted. My husband Ben, and I, did the full tea service at The Balmoral Palm Court and even skipping lunch and dinner, it was an insane amount of food. It was all very royally done, and I think the Rose tea was my favorite. A side note: I enjoyed haggis and blood pudding in general, they don’t deserve the bad rap they get in the USA.

We met with Kevin of the legendary Avalanche Records at an art gallery; it appears live music venues in Scotland are experiencing the same problems as anywhere else. We went to an indie disco underneath Old Town. It was a very interesting study in anthropology.

I was very happy to finally make it to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums (we left early as my husband got a little too grossed out at things in jars) where I found many early examples and variants of my liposarcoma cancer and ways of infusing the femur with metal.

Photo May 23, 12 30 38 PM

Photo May 23, 10 07 15 AM (1)

Photo May 22, 4 26 59 PM

Photo May 24, 3 29 40 PM

One thing I signed up to do was get over my strange fear of birds. Not too far from the city center is Dalhousie Castle, a hotel and spa, as well as the home of a large amount of birds of prey. Each one of them named for a David Bowie reference. Owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles. Want to get over your fear of birds? Hold a 9 pound eagle and flight a hawk for several runs! I’m addicted to falconry, now. There’s a few videos at the end of this post.

Photo May 23, 9 43 37 AMPhoto May 23, 9 41 57 AM

Our elevator broke in Edinburgh and we were in the attic on the 7th floor. It was like Crossfit that I didn’t sign up for, but with tartan.

Photo May 22, 8 51 31 AM

We stayed directly across from the Sir Walter Scott monument….

Photo May 22, 7 43 07 AM

And then, goth night anniversary in Newcastle with The Butlers! Mel Butler was one of the DJs. Thanks to them, I’ve been turned onto some newer goth bands that I really like. They drove us all around to old viking sites, cemeteries, seaside towns, and more for a great Bank Holiday weekend. It was a fun reunion after our adventures in Dublin a few years back.

IMG_2541

Photo May 28, 11 25 24 AM

Photo May 28, 12 11 45 PM

They met for the first time in this exact spot in York, back in the 80s. Did I ever tell you kids about the 80s?

Photo May 28, 9 29 49 AM (1)

Photo May 28, 10 21 05 AM

IMG_2814

York Minster is perfect for photoshoots — especially if you are pretending you are in a band.

Photo May 28, 11 29 23 AM

This is the seat for the Cleveland clergy in the York Minster Chapter House. Cleveland UK that is, not Cleveland, Ohio.

IMG_2792

IMG_2761

IMG_2721

My first 99!

Photo May 26, 11 44 53 AM

Photo May 26, 9 23 46 AM

Photo May 27, 10 04 57 AM (1)

Photo May 22, 9 05 45 AM

The Glasgow Necropolis!

Photo May 31, 7 20 48 AM (2)

Laz from the excellent Bubblegum Lemonade took a series of photos of Ben and I where we look like we should be in an indie/electronic duo. Laz gave us a walking tour of Glasgow indie music history, and we even ran into Mr. Love of Teenage Fanclub while out seeing Gospel Beach do a gig. The 25th anniversary of Oasis being signed to Creation Records after their gig at King Tut’s happened to fall on my last night; a documentary screening and cover band were a nice way to celebrate, and I’m always up for seeing venues in other cities since they might not always be around. I’m not the biggest Oasis fan, but what were the chances I’d be in the very spot where it happened on the night?

IMG_E6282

Photo May 31, 7 38 23 AM

Photo May 31, 7 37 00 AM

We visited the Glasgow School of Art because I was supposed to attend there for a semester as a sister school to CalArts. This photo was taken of Ben on May 30th and it blows my mind, that now weeks later, the entire place was wiped out in a fire. 

Photo May 30, 11 39 28 AM

Mel Butler took this of us in the Chapter House, and I love it!

IMG_2830 (1)

In any event, here are just some of the hundreds of photos that happened….

The Marrakech Cure

It was a week after the passing of a dear friend that an email alert popped up with a deal to Morocco round trip for $440. My husband and I had always talked about going, and in a spark of ‘why not because we could die tomorrow’ I decided I was going. I then texted my husband, “guess what, I just bought non-refundable tickets to Marrakech!”

Ten months later, and with two friends, we embarked on our first real vacation that wasn’t a ‘working trip’ after a crazy year of both my husband and I having surgeries a few months apart, his near death experience, and the resulting PTSD. I’ve traveled internationally all of my life, but this was great to go somewhere completely unfamiliar and where we knew no one.

We landed at sundown and stepping off the plane (old school down a flight of stairs onto the tarmac) in the heat at the edge of the Sahara, I knew this would be different, and just what we needed. We spent an unforgettable week with our dear friends in the heart of the Medina. My husband wrote half of his next novel on our riad balcony. Souks, palaces, gardens, hidden alleys, amazing mint tea, and a lazy coffee on any terrace we could find with the echoes of the call to prayer. Our raid, Dar Jaguar, was amazing I think partly because we were literally the only guests there. Every morning breakfast was served on the rooftop and we had one night where the chef made us dinner. We even had resident turtles in the courtyard, which for some reason I was very excited about.

There’s so many riads in the city and I’m glad I didn’t book anything at a fancy modern hotel. They are surrounded by walls and a bit outside the old city. I would almost compare the surrounding city to Palm Springs. Condo communities and golf courses are being built everywhere, and you need to go by car if not by scooter most places. I would never in a million years drive a car there — just crossing the street is tempting death.

A pilgrimage to Jardin Marjorelle was in order to pay tribute to Yves Saint Laurent; it was overrun by fashion bloggers I almost had to shove out of the way in narrow walkways. We missed the proper museum opening next door by five weeks but maybe one day we’ll go back. Yves’ partner, Pierre Bergé, whom he bought the property with, passed away one day later.

Of course, the cats who roam the city rooftops came to visit us every morning at breakfast, and this might have been the best reason of all to stay in the Medina. One in particular slept on a motorbike seat in our alley and really liked us so he followed our group into the riad next door all the way to the roof when we had wine. I had a habit of buying from shops that had a nice cat sleeping outside, but maybe that was because the owners will strong arm you in a charming way the second you notice the cat.

Our friends were able to buy the carpet they desired, and that was a whole Odyssey lemme tell ‘ya! I did get used to the wheeling and dealing culture and even had fun for a while, but by day 6 it was exhausting. I think at one point I never wanted to shop again, but that didn’t last. Sometimes you had to pick out what was cheap crap from China and what was real, but we mostly stayed around the perimeter of the souks and didn’t go into them. I don’t think I could have handled it. My friend and I had to physically fight off a henna women trying to make us sit, and those gals are strong! I learned to say a few phrases in Arabic and I must have said “no thanks” 80 times in one day. At one point on the way to the mountains I did get trapped by a clasped bracelet when a man came out of nowhere and handcuffed me with it; my husband was nowhere to be found because he narrowly escaped a cobra being put around his neck so he ran back to the car. I ended up getting 3 other silver bracelets for a steal from the cuffer because I carried little cash and was told a few times I “barter like a Berber” because — well, I’m kind of a bitch.

I’m still shocked at how other tourists from Europe dressed (we rarely saw Americans, we met, like 2) mainly the women. I tried to cover my shoulders at all times and my tattoos, but I think I saw more ass, tits, and skin in Marrakech than at any strip club. A lot of women didn’t get the memo when you wear a white caftan, you have to wear more than a thong under it! The men were going crazy, it was hilarious. It could get up to 107 degrees but I still covered up. I know it is really lax in Morocco but I just didn’t want to be the ugly American. But not to worry, the episode of AbFab when they go to Morocco played out in real life in front of us almost every day. People assumed my husband was a British rock star detoxing, but they still tried to get him hash, and one restaurateur tried to arrange a private car for us to get him to the flashy club he owned.

IMG_2394 (2)

Now for the big news. We booked a tour to the Atlas mountains where we took tea with a Berber family, rode camels, and bartered hard for anything and everything. I never want to ride a camel again. Put it this way, horses are way more comfortable! It was the mountain hike that solidified for me that after years of work, I didn’t need my cane anymore. A cane I’d had since surgery seven years ago. I didn’t realize what we had signed up for (and we decided not to do the mule ride) but this was a lot more physical activity in very treacherous terrain! One wrong step and you go splat, or break a bone. I threw my cane out in the trash at the airport in Marrakech upon leaving. Between the hike and dodging scooters in narrow alleys daily, we’ll call it physical therapy Moroccan style! I’ll still need a cane if I wear heels and I still won’t ever be able to run again, but to not have to drag it around with me everywhere has been so freeing!

[As an aside, please, the next person who says “I didn’t recognized you without your cane” I’ll never speak to you again and I might trip you when you aren’t looking. Oh let’s be honest, women never say this to me, only men do. WTF is that about? It’s not funny. Don’t be a dickhead.]

I caught a cold on our last day and fought it off with mint tea, and Moroccan aspirin was pretty hardcore! I’ve kept some and now wish I had bought more to stock up on. It makes me wonder what other goodies the pharmacy had that are better than what I get in the US. We almost stocked up on spices but were afraid they would get dumped at customs with our day in Amsterdam or coming back to the US. Oh, did I mention I only packed half of a carry-on suitcase for this trip so I had room for all the stuff I bought? I literally left one side empty! I was away for about 10 days and survived. I was going to do a packing video again of ‘ how to pack for Africa with practically nothing’ but you can see I did something similar with my husband here.

IMG_2646

Anyway, here’s just some of the stupid amount of photos I took and bits of video, because I took a lot. We are planning on a trip to Tangier next year!

 

Dublin to Münster Art & Gig Whirlwind

This has to be the only time I’ve ever scheduled an art show around a concert, but it all worked out very well. I had a great time in Dublin, Ireland seeing The Jesus and Mary Chain with Mel Butler and John Butler. I was deaf in one ear for a good week after standing in front of William’s amp! There was an afterparty thrown at Garage Bar which was highly appropriate; they hosted my husband’s book party on our last trip. We also took a tour of the Caravaggio show at the National Gallery, had a private tour at Radio8 (Thanks Dan!), saw a number of bands at my favorite haunt Whelan’s, waved hello to the Prime Minister as his motorcade was off to the Hot Press party (we were invited but it conflicted with JAMC) and made the rounds at all the pubs on my list as per usual.

Then it was a flight over to Münster, Germany for my show of drawings. I’m totally in love with Münster, by the way. I like that it’s walkable, has architecture exactly how I pictured it in my mind, and the fact that there was a whole lot of candy. Everyone has a dog (or so it seems) that are welcome in all establishments. I even recognized a lot of paintings in their art museum! Easter Sunday service at the very impressive cathedral was surreal as well. I’m just glad I didn’t burst into flames upon entering. We stayed with my fabulous gallerist and his partner, where they live in a former zoo keeper’s residence, where the ape habitat once was. It was appropriately named Monkey Hill. I guess the zoo keeper had a favorite monkey that he would let drink beer. Why not?

Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos and a little bit of video. I’m sure there’s more, but this will do.

 

 

 

How-To Share One Carry-On Bag

one carry-on bag

No one ever believes me when I say that my husband and I can fit everything we need for a week in one carry-on bag. So, after many requests we made a video of us packing for a trip lasting 7 days. In an age where airlines are up-charging for bags or how many bags you have (like on a budget airline) this will save you a lot of money, and time. Time saved is the best part of this whole endeavor. This is especially true if you have a connecting flight! Lost luggage sucks.

I’m sorry the video is so long, but hey, enough friends requested this so this is how we made it happen. And at least there are cats!

A few things that happened after the video was made; I snuck in another pair of shoes (flats), and on the way back I was given a pair of heels and another dress to take back home with me. We also fit in our flat iron because we have too much hair. Guess what, it all still fit! I can also tell you that I didn’t even wear two shirts and the lone skirt I brought. I had choices and still could manage to cram it all in. Oh, and that heavy compact of face powder? Totally dropped it on day 5 and it shattered — so I saved some room on the flight back.

I don’t know what crazy things people bring when I see them trying to push and pull over-packed suitcases in bins above or at the baggage claim, but I don’t want any part of it. I have not checked a bag since 1989!  So here are some pointers and a list of things we brought.

Get A Proper Piece of Luggage

Make sure it is the smallest one that fits guidelines for carry-on. Already right here, this is the subject where people get defensive and fight with me on what they NEED for a trip. I call bullshit. You don’t need half of what you think — especially if you are a lone traveler or it’s just two of you. Are you trotting around the globe doing hair and make-up? Are you a celebrity with a glam squad? Do you have 3 red carpet events and a dinner to attend? Are you traveling with a brood of toddlers who need all their stuffed animals? Are you doing a triathlon and then heading to a black tie wedding? My husband is a Masters division runner who travels for competitions — we still manage to fit his running gear in. Limit your space and you won’t over do it. Obviously if you are going to travel around South America for 3 months or something, this isn’t the how-to lesson for you. Although I bet Colin Wright might have something to say about that!

Pack the Night Before

And if you don’t have time to do that (but please make time) do it gradually in the days leading up to your trip. Make a list. Do laundry. Go to the travel section at the drug store and get things or get cosmetic samples from places like Sephora (I get shampoo/conditioner combos). Start pulling out what you know you will take. Leave the toiletry bag on your bathroom counter and start loading it up. Packing the day of is almost always guarantee of forgetting something — or throwing in everything you own.  And please, look at the weather of where you are going. I’ve seen gallery girls in black wool from New York at Art Basel Miami, in 100% humidity. They looked ridiculous and miserable.

Corners, Rolling, and Flat Lay

Shoes should go in first, should go in corners, and you should stuff crap into those shoes. Roll things into corners, stuff loose items into gaps between clothing or any other space you find. Some people roll all their clothes and then stack them in the luggage in a pyramid pattern so they don’t wrinkle but I prefer the flat method unless it is a certain kind of fabric. Underwear, bras, stockings and even t-shirts I do the old fashioned sink wash and hang dry if there’s no laundry available. If where you are going does not have an iron, turn on a hot shower in the bathroom and steam your clothes by hanging them on a rod that way.

Make the Most of Your Travel Clothing

Hey, I’ve actually been able to roll up a pair of leather knee-high boots and fit it into my bag, but that was when I was traveling with my own suitcase. If you are sharing, wear your bulky stuff on the plane, and this means the bulky shoes! “But I like to be comfortable” you say? Well I’m totally comfortable in cowboy boots or tall boots on a plane, and mister thinks his Chelsea boots do just fine. Wear your coat, your scarf, your suit — anything like that do it on the flight. Layer, dammit! My husband finally got a proper fitting suit and he says it is so comfortable he never minds wearing it on a plane. Don’t be a slob or dress like it’s nap time at a daycare.

I took one side of the suitcase. I wore leggings, a long shirt, a cardigan, cowboy boots, and a scarf with a raincoat (which later folded into the luggage). I packed:

  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 2 pairs of shoes + 1 pair of heels on the flight back
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 6 undies
  • 1 tank top (never wore it)
  • 1 skirt (never wore it)
  • 2 t-shirts (only wore one)
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 slip
  • bathing suit
  • accessories bag
  • portable charger
  • 2 huge cuff bracelets that weigh a ton
  • make-up bag nonsense

Mister wore jeans, boots, a t-shirt, a suit jacket, and packed:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • swim trunks
  • 2 dress shirts
  • 6 pairs of socks and undies
  • toiletry bag included mini deodorant, shave cream, 1 razor, brush cleaner wipes, make-up wipes, cleanser, hair cream, a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, nail scissors, a nail file, two combs, and a pillbox.
  • polaroid camera a film pack
  • flatiron

My purse which is large enough to fit a lot of stuff yet not too heavy had:

  • 1 charger we shared (yes this is possible)
  • iPod
  • large headphones
  • Kindle
  • My wallet with usual crap in it
  • lip gloss
  • iPhone

And here is errrythang after we packed up getting ready to head back home. This was more items than we brought! Plenty of room for whatever gifts or purchases you make on your trip.

img_9509

For years I’ve had people ask me to teach a class or so whatever to show them how to not over-pack, but let’s face it, you probably aren’t going to do any of this stuff. I don’t think many people want to try. It’s like that show Hoarders where there’s always a family member or someone that says, “we’ve tried everything and we’re all out of ideas”, yeah you tried everything except cleaning the house! People panic or overthink it. You don’t need half that stuff you throw in there, and remember, you can buy things later if you do.

Really, I hope some of you do try it and see how easy it makes things. Not only for bag fees, but just avoiding the hellish bullcrap people deal with at airports in general thanks to Homeland Security, jerks who hold up the line with giant bags, waiting at baggage claim like a poor sap, and lost luggage.

Ben Vendetta + Jack Rabid: A Party in NYC

NYCVendetta

For the first time in over 15 years I’ll be taking a Greyhound bus, overnight, to New York for my husband’s book party in Alphabet City. I rode that bus cross-country twice as a teenager and in college and there was no wifi back then; I think I can handle this trip. You wouldn’t believe the stupid pricing for flights out of Cleveland, unreal. And I really didn’t want to drive to then have to keep my car in Manhattan. Sometimes the practical side of me weighs these things, so I offset it with a decent hotel in midtown with a room that isn’t the size of a closet.

Anyway, if you are in the area please do come say hello and join the discussion that will be moderated by Jack Rabid of “The Big Takeover” magazine. He and Ben Vendetta will be discussing the novels, the legacy of ’80s indie rock, and the demise of ’90s Britpop. Did I mention this all takes place at a tiki/punk bar and we’re doing Elephant Stone giveaways? Yep!

Jack will also be providing the music selection. Notice I didn’t say curate.

Thursday, April 14th from 7 to 9pm

Otto’s Shrunken Head, 543 E. 14th Street NY, NY.

A Book Party in Dublin + A Lesson in Healthcare

We really didn’t want to come back, nine days in Dublin wasn’t enough. The book party and other press events my husband did went over really great. Even our new favorite Dublin chef and one of our cab drivers bought books on the spot! And for those that had missed the party, my husband even arranged to meet people for coffee to sign/sell them books. He’s all about customer service. We had some stressful issues going on during the trip like a medical emergency and having our money cut-off, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. I think it’s a good sign when you do things that aren’t at all in the vein of a vacation and still really like a city. The post office, the bank, the hospital. Adult stuff.

IMG_6269

Our last trip to Ireland was in 2011 and a lot of things have gotten better it seems. We stayed this time at Albany House which gave us an amazing suite, was in the middle of everything, and didn’t up-charge during the web conference going on like so many other hotels who now got in trouble for doing so. It was right across the street from a few nightclub which made people watching quite amazing! I’ve never seen girls in short skirts and no underwear crying so much and falling down. So much black mascara. We were told that was normal for a Tuesday night. But, speaking of the web conference, I saw lots of poor souls off to team building exercises and panels with matching shirts that say, “178% faster loading” or “Ask me how to auto-enhance your Adwords” Also, do people still use/buy banner ads?! Because that seems super 1999 to me.

While standing in St. Michan’s graveyard where Bram Stoker’s mother is buried, I had a conversation with a retired priest about burial practices in New Orleans, a conversation with an American priest who lived in Bejing and would see punk shows there, and listened to the amazing tour guide and crypt keeper go on a tear about how the Rock Hall in Cleveland sucks because Todd Rundgren isn’t in it. My husband touched the finger of an 800 year-old crusader mummy for good luck, and we got to see the burial and death mask of Wolfe Tone.

IMG_6400

I learned you should always look put together when leaving to go out in public, even to the record store, because you might run into “Lord Baelish” — he is a lot taller and handsome in person than I imagined. He looks so short on The Wire!

An American told me that Dublin sort of sucks because there is, “No culture. All people do is go to the pub, eat, and see gigs” and I’m like… this is a problem? This is all I’ve done for 20 years + art shows, across multiple US cities! Yes Dublin was sort of lacking in real art galleries, but there was plenty else to do it seemed. A couple of gigs at Whelan’s, I got a tattoo, Ben had a mini birthday party with cake at Dice Bar, and I probably would have done a lot more had it not been for some of my health issues that came up. There were other things I noticed this time around that I hadn’t on my last trip. The parents who discipline their children in public no matter how young; in the US they let them run wild while muttering “quit it”. The lack of sports jerseys worn by grown men — even at a pub during a huge match. The overall fashion is less casual and men’s suits actually fit them properly! No pajama bottoms or yoga pants in public, except in front of the needle exchange.

IMG_6403

A lot of a restaurants we steered toward were doing a bit of a New Orleans theme, though some may not have totally realized it. My new favorite place is Porndog, Catch 22 had blue cheese grits with their fish (omg), the cocktail speakeasy VCC was great, and I even found a coffee shop that is the Dublin equivalent of Hivolt in New Orleans! Honestly, I didn’t get to a lot of places on my list because our credit card got hacked on day 3 and we then just started eating takeaway and late night pizza or burgers. For the record Rick’s is like eating at In-N-Out in Los Angeles and that’s right up my alley.

The big experience for me was when I ended up needing to see a doctor and then had to go to the public hospital. Something had gone horribly wrong with my leg where fluid was starting collect in new places. Not only was there a clinic two blocks from me where I paid $60 to see someone within an hour, but he gave me a letter to take to St. James’s Hospital — where all my care was free. Now, you have to understand, I had gotten used to the bureaucratic and almost glossed over Soviet-like manner in which Cleveland Clinic conducts itself — especially in the ER. Not only did St. James’s not even ask for identification or a passport (they didn’t care), but I had intake, an assigned nurse, x-rays, and blood tests done and was out of there in less than 6 hours! They even give you soup and sandwiches while you wait. I actually would have been out of there in 4 hours had it not been for the blood testing taking a while. The front desk even called me a cab when I was done.

I ended up seeing my new favorite doctor again after my back went out — due to now needing the cane and it screwed me up — and was amazed I could just walk into a pharmacy and get codeine pain meds over the counter. Again, I am used to being carded for buying Sudafed (because you know, I might go make meth) and being carded for nail polish remover. This was like, “oh? your back went out and you are going on a long flight? Here! Would you like a glass of water to take one right now?” I mean, I couldn’t believe it. I had to scream at a nurse to prescribe me Xanax after kidney failure WHILE I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL and she had to get it approved in case I became an addict, so it’s amazing the difference in how all that is viewed. Then again, the U.S. is the only place where we see direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical commercials. It’s also a place where I DON’T get carded for buying bullets for 3 different types of guns. It’s funny because everyone in Ireland complains about their system and how much it sucks, but I have to tell you, it was more efficient than the supposed bestest place for medical care ever in the universe, and more to the point, it was free to a non-citizen like myself.

By the way, I’ve been back in the U.S. for a week and I am still waiting to see my surgeon! I had a nice argument with 3 different people there and his office; they wanted me to fax my documents from Dublin over to prove I wasn’t lying. And still, no one in this massive organization in this massive department is calling me back. I’ve been a patient there for over 5 years and I can’t get anyone to see me or schedule an x-ray until Christmas Eve. They actually told me to go to the ER if I was in such a hurry. I’m not kidding.

I feel like I’ve been trapped from moving on and leaving to go to another city because of my health issues and the fact that I was supposedly in the city with the best care. My husband has talked about leaving the U.S. for a long time, and now, it was proved to us that I would actually be ok going anywhere. In the meantime, I have decided at the end of the year I am leaving Cleveland Clinic. My surgeon retires soon, his son will probably not be part of the organization, and frankly I’ve been told many times over to defect and become a patient at the other major hospital system here in town. I don’t care how great your art collection is, or how many new glass buildings or meditation gardens you build on the campus, all while laying off and re-hiring your administrative staff. I can’t get anyone on the phone quickly when things go wrong, because they are to busy vetting my health insurance information. When I spend 40 minutes (yes, I timed it) and get to the point of tears when trying to schedule after care for cancer-related issues that have been a major problem for 5+ years? It’s time to leave.

 

House Hunters International: The Drinking Game

I finally put together my list for the HHI drinking game! My friends and I play it, and things can get dangerous, depending on the couple or the city they go to. So be careful, you might die of alcohol poisoning if you watch any more than three episodes.

house-hunters-international

  • Granite
  • The master bedroom is kind of small
  • Wow, a lot of stairs (yes you are in a medieval city in Europe!)
  • How far is it to the city center?
  • It’s right in the city center but it’s kind of noisey
  • We plan on entertaining a lot
  • Where would our guests stay? (I don’t think your family will make it to Guam very often, do you?)
  • I need a space to work/write/study (It’s called a goddam couch!)
  • I’m nervous about the kids and those stairs/that railing/that indoor balcony (Are your kids morons?)
  • I don’t think I could fit my clothes in here
  • This is enough space for my closet but I don’t know where his stuff would go
  • No oven?
  • The fridge is really small, I’m used to an American-sized one
  • Open floorplan
  • It’s got a lot of light
  • It’s kind of dark
  • This certainly isn’t the style of furniture I would pick. (Proceeds to replace furniture with the most pedestrian style ever)
  • All the neighbors might be able to see me
  • But that means I’d have to take public transit!?
  • But I want old world charm
  • I want something traditional that’s modern
  • That tile has to go
  • The kitchen is really small
  • The laundry is right by the kitchen? That’s WEIRD
  • No bathtub?
  • I like these exposed beams
  • Double sinks
  • I can see us sitting out here
  • Can I walk to the beach from here?
  • I need space to do yoga
  • Well, I’m the practical one
  • I left everything, my friends and family and the only town I knew all my life all for [insert partner] so IT’S DEFINITELY GOING TO BE AN ADJUSTMENT.