Best of ’09: Best Car Ride and The Horny Elk

This blog post is part of the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

December 19, 2009: Best Car Ride
For this story we must go back to May of this year. (ohmygod a story that ISN’T part of the big europe trip?? I KNOW) I was in Wyoming visiting Kira, her husband JR and their baby girl Skye. Kira has been one of my best friends for over 8 years now; we first met the summer after my freshman year of college in my home town through one of my other very good friends. I was there for her wedding in the Hamptons a couple years ago, saw her through her pregnancy and then she moved to Wyoming shortly before Skye was born.

We had talked about me coming out to visit since she had moved out there and especially after the baby was born. One day last January I just decided to do it and booked a plane ticket out to Billings, Montana for the end of May. I was so excited to see her and her family, and to see a part of the country I had never been to before. I remember waking up the first morning, after arriving late at night in Montana and driving back through the pitch black, looking out the window and seeing the snow topped mountains right across the way from where she lived.  It was so beautiful and peaceful. Everything I had wanted (and needed) out of a vacation.

One of the big things we had planned was a trip to Yellowstone. We left early in their pickup truck and spent the day driving from geyser to smelly sulfur pits and through all this gorgeous scenery. We had seen moose, buffalo, elk and even a coyote in the parking lot at Old Faithful (and may have screamed COYOTE over and over again…). It was the most nature I’d seen in a very long time, if ever.

We were pretty exhausted by the time we decided to make the treck back to Cody. We had seen Old Faithful erupt three times and had seen all these animals but we hadn’t seen any bears yet and so we were keeping our eyes pealed for any other animals we could see. I’m not sure how it happened, or why, but suddenly we were making these…mating noises. Or what we called mating noises. It started with JR and was quickly picked up by Kira and I, us being incredible goofballs and weirdos anyway. It kind of sounded like….over exaggerated burps? I couldn’t really tell you. All I know is it had something to do with us attracting animals and it had us in hysterics. Kira would make a noise, we would laugh, I would respond with my own noise and we’d be buckled over. All the while JR, the driver, was like what the fuck did I get myself into?

We came across these female elk on the side of the road and we pulled over so that we could take some pictures. The windows are rolled down and JR just lets one of these mating calls out. One of the female elk’s heads pops up so fast, all “where’s the penis at, yo?” and we lose it. The whole ride home we make these noises, keeping Skye (and ourselves) entertained. I even have audio clips of us making these noises (which I just listened to and started laughing so hard, I cried, again. I wish I could share it with you but I can’t seem to get it off my phone). We started just throwing them into a random conversation, combined with words when we decided we needed to make the noise. By the time we got back to their house, we had lost our voices and were splotchy from all the laugh-crying we were doing.

It’s moments like these that really stick out in memories. It was just a simple car ride back from Yellowstone. It was dark, there was no scenery to be seen past the headlights yet it was one of my favorite moments from this year. A good–no, GREAT–laugh with great friends. One that I can still laugh about.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from that day:

Kira and I (and a bears butt.)

Kira and Skye

Buffalo!

Old Faithful erupting

Sleepy Skye

Kira, Jr and Skye

Kira will hate me for posting this!

The moose after hearing JR’s mating call

At the end of the ride through Yellowstone, we came across this fox which we figured was racing us. We won.

Best of ’09: The One Where Someone Else Gets Naked and I Learn a Lesson

…also known as Best of ’09: Best Lesson Learned, Part 2 (Part 1 here) OR How I Learned Not to be a Prude. You choose the title you like best.

So you’ve heard about my traumatizing experience at the Moroccan Hammam. You’ve heard how I had to be all sorts of naked and scrubbed down by an equally naked woman with the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen. Got that allll covered. So now we can move on to the time I stayed with a nudist stoner.

So I’m in southern Spain, its like two weeks until I have to leave Europe and I decide last minute that I need to have one last beach holiday. My Rick Steves’ book tells me about this one little beach town that’s a hidden gem and it’s decided: I’m going there. (Sorry, name of town is hidden for the protection of the innocent. Or not so innocent. Whatever.)

I take one look at the two 40 year old couch surfers the town has to offer and decide a hostel is the better way to go. I find this ridiculously cheap hostel that has great reviews and decide to give it a try. Even though they give no address or directions to the hostel. Just that I have to call when I get there. Sketchy? YES. But all these people had given good reviews so I was going to risk it.

I’m picked up by this American guy who I find out owns the unmarked hostel where I am lead to. I also find out I’m the only one staying there and I’m starting to picture me being the star of my very own horror movie (for the second time this trip!) but the guy seems relatively normal and we start joking around pretty quickly so I figure I’m okay. As soon as I’m upstairs and settled into my own room, he pulls out the pot. And I’m all oh that’s pretty awesome. So he gives me a hit, I go out and see the town and its gorgeous and I’m on cloud nine because I’m in the most fucking beautiful place in the world and there’s free pot.

That night we sit and chat about everything; we smoke up, we drink beers, we smoke up some more and listen to Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band and Bob Marley. He ends up being pretty hilarious with a thing for imitating accents and making fun of EVERYONE. (his impersonation of Bush and Obama had me on the floor) Total stoner but I was high too so I didn’t really care. Free pot! What’s not to love?

Plus he was pretty good looking.

What? Don’t look at me like that.

He started telling me about his underwear parties that he’d throw at the hostel when there was a bunch of girls and guys here. The girls would wear their underwear, and the guys would go completely nude. Sounded pretty awesome to me. I’d be down for that. I mean, this was the new me, I didn’t care about being naked anymore.

So the next morning I come downstairs and there he is, shirtless this time (which I totally didn’t mind) and smoking up. Offered me a hit which I declined due to the early hour and I headed down to the german pastry shop he’d recommended to have some fabulous struedel and to go sit on the beach. I’d go back every once in a while to the hostel and would hang out with my new stoner friend and got high throughout the afternoon. He’d kind of been hinting that he’s a little bit of a nudist and didn’t like wearing clothing. Talked about how if I wanted to sunbathe on the roof naked, I could. New me apparently still cared about being naked. At least in front of guys. I didn’t participate in that.

Blah blah blah day was awesome, fabulous sunset, go back to the hostel, make some dinner and sit down with him in the common area and start smoking up and drinking more beers. All of a sudden HE’S NAKED.

He was not kidding when he said he didn’t like clothing.

I did my best not to stare. Remember how he was good looking? It applied everywhere, lets just say.

He totally knew I was attempting not to stare so he would joke around and I would turn a few shades of red and stop looking at me like that.

I survived the first night of him naked and somehow, SOMEHOW, while both of us were high and drunk and him being very very naked, nothing happened. The next morning I come downstairs and oh HES STILL NAKED! Way too early in the morning for that kind of surprise but I do my best. I go out to the beach, lie out, and come back. We wind up on the roof terrace, me in my bikini and him….you know…naked. After a couple awkward moments that involves him staring at my boobs and then apologizing for it, we start talking about sex. We’d been talking about it before but at that point at least *I* was fully clothed.

I’m feeling more comfortable that there is a very attractive, very tan, very fit naked man in my presence that I’m not sleeping with, when all of a sudden he says “Umm…well I wouldn’t look over here. I’m kind of…happy.” Oh dear Jebus.

So what do I do? I look over. He laughs at me and then he asks me if I’ve ever seen an uncircumcised one. No, I had not. He managed to get my head to turn BACK in his direction and oh THERE IT IS.

And he’s awful proud of himself that he was the first one I’d ever seen. And then we start talking about length and girth and HOLY SHIT I DESERVE A FUCKING OSCAR FOR THE PERFORMANCE I GAVE. The performance that involved NOTHING HAPPENING. Did I mention he had a good body? Ahem.

He had mentioned on a previous night that at one party he had all the girls sign his dick. I had to leave that day for the next city and as I’m leaving (and he’s still naked) he’s all well I’d give you a hug…then he laughed at the expression on my face. Then he says, “I don’t usually ask just anyone but since you’re pretty damn cool, do you want to sign it?”

I politely declined.

So I may still be somewhat of a prude, but I definitely am a lot more loosened up thanks to my experiences abroad. Thank you, Europe, Africa and the nudist stoner.

Now enjoy this no-puns-intended picture of that gorgeous town.

Best of ’09: The One Where I Get Naked and Learn a Lesson

Skipping ahead a bit and doing the Best of 09: Best Lesson Learned. I have a post coming up of my top ten lessons learned, but this one deserved its own post. It was just too good to keep to one little paragraph.

Best 09: The Best Lesson Learned, or How I Learned Not To Be A Prude

Have I told you the story of how I stayed with a nudist stoner in Spain? I didn’t? Well, I think I’m going to have to.

How does a nudist stoner have anything to do with best lesson learned, you may ask. Well, we will need to go into some background basics. You see, I’m an American Prude. Dictionary.com defines Prude as One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous. While that definitely does not describe me and many of my friends would probably choke on their own laughter, I have somewhat prudish tendencies when it comes to my body.

That’s not to say I wear turtle necks all the time and dresses down past my knees. I can rock a vneck and mini-skirt like the next one. I’m just….not really into getting naked around other people. I’m fine with nudity in my own home, I’ve been known to walk around naked all the time when I think no one is watching (unfortunately that doesn’t mean I remember to always close the blinds. Hi neighbors!) I sleep naked, I have no problem being naked in front of a significant other if that’s the stage we happen to be at, but put me in a locker room full of other people? And I get all self conscious and shy and shit.This was born around the age of 12 when I sprouted boobs. Puberty was not kind to me. Most girls were in trainer bras at that point but me? OH NO. I shot right past that stage and straight into C cups. It was mortifying. But anyway, this post is not about my boobs and how I was a traumatized pre-teen.

Before we get to the nudist (aka the good part of the story), I have to start at the beginning of this learning process. AKA Learning How Not To Be a Prude. I was in Morocco and Anneke, my traveling partner, wanted to go to a Hammam. I was fascinated by this concept of going to a ridiculously cheap spa and bathing. More fascinating was the cheap massage. The only problem would be there would be lots of other people. Who were naked. Who were going to be looking at me being naked.

The night before Anneke gave me a pep talk in our hotel room. She read stories from the Lonely Planet and I got alittle uncomfortable. I didn’t want women discussing my lady bits much less asking me about them. (I didn’t understand why mine would be any different from THEIRS but I guess the blond hair complex they had extended to…other places.) But I was determined to do it. Of course at the very last minute I started dancing around the idea of not doing it because ohmygod I HAD TO BE NAKED. VERY naked. WITHOTHERPEOPLE. *hives*

We went to a small hammam in the center of the town we were staying at and got paired up with our very own naked bath attendants. We had to strip down to nothing but our bikini bottoms and sit in a room full of other very naked women.  Let me tell you. Those bikini bottoms? Didn’t stop this woman. They bathed us, they exfoliated and they put their hands in places I never wanted anyone other than a boyfriend to put there. Even Anneke, an Amsterdammer who was a far cry from even a sixteenth-prude, was feeling uncomfortable as we were manhandled by the woman with the largest breasts I had ever seen.Also the worst case of gravity I had ever seen. Ew.

Sure, the amount of skin that was lost was incredible and I was the cleanest I’d been in two months but the part where the woman put my leg between her massive boobs and and then leaned and called that a massage? COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THAT.

It certainly went well beyond my comfort zone (I don’t think I’ll ever get manhandled in a locker room) and yet, I survived. And while I may have turned several shades of red writing this (believe me, this post has been edited a LOT. TMI may be my middle name sometimes), I’m not as shy about my body anymore. [Side note: The whole Morocco trip was actually a lesson in loosening up: we often had to share bedrooms with doorless bathrooms and have you heard rumors about Moroccan food? THEY ARE TRUE. So um yeah. Lesson in Losing Prudishness LEARNED.]

So where does the nudist stoner come in? I think I’m going to have to take this post into a.. PART TWO.

Yep, I’m going there. Going to the TO BE CONTINUED guns. Until tomorrow…

Best of ’09: Moroccan Whiskey That Looks Like Pot

This post is part of the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

December 16, 2009: Tea of the Year.

If there’s one thing the Moroccans eat its bread. A whole TON of it. If there’s one thing they drink? Mint tea. It’s what they affectionately call their Moroccan Whiskey. The very first night I was in Fes I was hanging out with this hilarious spanish couple, Nani and Rodrigo, whom I had met in line at customs when I got off the plane. We decided to share a taxi, which lead to us getting a pension to stay at together right in the Medina. After wondering the streets of the Medina (Fes has 9,500 of them.), and somehow not getting lost, we ended up at this restaurant where we had to try two very Moroccan things: Mint Tea and Shisha.

I was instantly hooked on both. Especially the tea. I had to get them to cut back on the massive amounts of sugar they used but once I got it to the right sweetness that didn’t put my teeth in jeopardy, I couldn’t get enough of it.

While I was in Marrakesh we wound up in the spice markets, getting the royal treatment at one particular stand. Free tea, smelling all sorts of spices and Anneke even got a facial. She ended up with several bags full of cooking spices and while I couldn’t justify getting half a kilo of cumin or cinnamon, I could justify getting half a kilo of mint tea. I mean, where else could I get something so yummy?

The only problem was that it looked eerily like marijuana. All green and crystallized and shit. I knew I’d have a problem with it going through US Customs but I thought I could use it up before then. I pulled it out in the hostel in Seville and had a tea making party right there in the lobby that caught the attention of the owner who was watching on a video and came in to see what all the fun was about. Once you smell it you know immediately that its NOT pot (i wish it was. That would be one hell of a big bag of pot!) but it still draws a lot of attention.

I had completely forgotten about it by the time the end of my trip came up in Paris and when I was halfway across the ocean, filling out one of those customs sheets, I realized IT WAS STILL IN MY BAG.

At customs I was asked to go over to the side table to have my bag checked. I was sure that I was going to get thrown into lockdown and yelled at by the FBI for smuggling drugs from Amsterdam (the stamp I was positive they must have seen in my passport). Two women were my handlers and I thought I was in for it.

They then asked to see the tulips I was carrying.

Oh. Yeah those. Never had to show the rest of my bag and I managed to come into the country with a bag of Mint Tea That Looked Like Pot without them even realizing it.

PHEW.

Now if a FBI agent shows up at my house in the next day I’ll know why…

Best of ’09: The 3 Scenes That Equaled the Biggest Rush of 2009

This post is part of the Best of ’09 blog challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

December 14: Best Rush.

This one was challenging, I will admit. So challenging, that I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, instead there are three moments, all very unique, that equalled up, all together, as the world’s greatest rush this year.

Scene 1: August 6, 2009. Midtown Manhattan.

I had been nervous about this day for months. I had been both welcoming it and dreading it since I had made the decision just a few months earlier and purchased that one way plane ticket to Germany. I came into work that morning and was praying my boss wasn’t going to be in the office, that I would be able to email him and that would be that. I wouldn’t have to actually face him. Three o’clock rolled around though and he came waltzing into the office and I knew that this was it. I had to do this and do it in person.

It took me probably an hour to gather up my courage (and freak out to EVERYONE on GChat), but I walked into his office, closed the door and said the words I had been longing to say for over a year:

I. QUIT.

Despite expecting to be thrown out of the office and not getting paid for my last week, the resignation went well. He congratulated me on my big life decision and told me that I would have a great time. And I almost called the hospital to send someone immediately because I thought maybe his blood pressure was too low or something even worse.

After walking out of his office I danced my way upstairs and ran around celebrating my freedom with my coworkers, screaming with joy and hugging everyone. That celebration lasted a week and my step was amazingly light and when I took that final sip of champagne my coworkers had gotten me in honor of my very last day, I skipped bittersweetly out of the office into my new life: one free of the negativity that office brought into my life.

Scene 2: August 17, 2009. JFK Airport.

I had almost forgotten to call my banks and credit card companies to let them know I was going to be out of town for a few months so while I stood in line at the gate about to board my Air Berlin flight to Munich, as they were announcing the rows they were seating, I was calling the numbers on the backs of my credit cards and trying to get the message out as fast as I could: I was leaving the USA and I wasn’t coming back any time soon.

I was texting my friends as I sat down, saying my goodbyes. I also was twittering as I waited to go. (click to see larger version)

When the plane (finally) took off, my phone turned off and stored in my purse, and we soared into the clouds above NYC, I knew this was it. This was really happening. I had quit my job and was on my way to to the trip of the lifetime. I definitely did a happy dance in my aisle seat.

Scene 3: November 15, 2009. Paris, France.

Three Months after I had started my adventure I found myself in Paris at my last stop of the trip. The entire trip had been one big high, one big massive rush but it all culminated in this last stop. I had never been to Paris and its one of those places that I had always dreamt of going but had yet to make it to. It hadn’t even made it into the final cut until a month prior, when I had found a ridiculously cheap flight from Barcelona (which I proceeded to abandon and go early). I arrived after taking an overnight bus from BCN and I was exhausted but super excited to be there. After I had checked in and showered, I headed to the Eiffel Tower to meet the Messenger.

I got off the Metro at Trocadero and couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower so I thought  maybe I had the directions wrong. I called the Messenger and he said I was in the right place, I just had to walk in the direction the statue was facing. I rounded the corner and there it was. The Eiffel Tower.

I squealed with joy and bounced up and down. I WAS IN PARIS. This, this RIGHT HERE, was the whole reason I was on this trip. That feeling? THAT’S what I was traveling for. I can’t even describe the high, the rush I felt upon seeing the Eiffel Tower. It practically brought tears to my eyes. In fact, every time I saw that building, I was overwhelmed and amazed and wanted to go hug that damn building. I was in PARIS. I was in Europe. I was in love with my life.

I think its safe to say, that this whole trip was my BEST OF 2009.

Best ’09: The Best Place

This blog is part of the Best of 2009 blog challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

Best Place: A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

Place: Coffee shop in Barcelona where I sat for hours on a daily basis, drinking cappuccinos which turned into glasses of wine, reading a book, having therapy sessions with The Messenger. I wasn’t bothered by the waitstaff to have more and I could just relax. Out of all the places I could choose from–the living room of the hostel on the Isle of Skye that felt so much like home with its fireplace and friendly people, the rooftop terrace of the hostel I stayed at in Sevilla where I could lie in hammocks with a glass of wine during my siestas–this one, this place, really stood out. Its my goal to find a place just like this to hang out in, wherever I end up.

Best of 2009: Life is Such a Wonderful Challenge

This post is part of the Best of 2009 series, hosted by Gwen Bell.

Best Challenge: Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?


I sat in the train station in Copenhagen and had a moment of realization. A BIG moment of realization. I was all by myself for the next couple months and it was up to me, and only me, to make sure I got to the end of it in one piece. I had to make the travel plans, I had to figure out where I was staying each night, I had to figure out breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had to do this all on my own.

Its not like I hadn’t lived on my own for nearly 10 years, six of those in New York City. I was used to taking care of myself. So what was the big deal?

Yet my heart was racing and I was almost regretting my decision not to go to Iceland with my dad and brother. I stood in the middle of the train station, where no one spoke a word of english around me, announcements going off here and there and I was all by myself, whether I liked it or not. I was doing this.

I’ve had a few challenges this year; trying not to commit homicide on a horrific coworker and an unappreciative boss, moving in with my parents, quitting my job. By far the best, and most rewarding though was setting off on my travels by myself, without set plans.

For the most part, I didn’t know where I would be the next week, or sometimes even the next day. While this kind of freedom scared me, I also loved it. I loved being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted and I didn’t have to consult with a travel companion. If I wanted to stay in another city for a week instead of the two days initially scheduled, I could do it. .

When I found myself in sticky situations, like when I was in Scotland and a guy showed up at my hostel saying he had a message for me and proceeded to freak me the fuck out, I was the one who had to make the decision to leave early for the sake of my own safety. I had to look out for me.

I was happy when I did have someone to travel with, even if it was the same guy who freaked me out in Scotland, and happy to hike through the mountains by myself, taking in the gorgeous surroundings with just my camera to experience it with me. All that alone time allowed for a lot of soul searching and taking deep breaths and just being. It was the best learning experience not only for who I am and what I can handle, but of who I wanted to be when I came back to reality.

Now I’m faced with a new challenge: living with my parents and figuring out my next steps in life. Is it to return to Europe to continue traveling? Is it getting a real job now and staying in Michigan for longer? Or do I move to a new city and get a job there? The world is my oyster and I can do whatever I want.

Isn’t life such a wonderful challenge?