The Missing Link- A Romance Novelette

Abstract:

A bestial romance novelette about a girl and a rescued chimpanzee who fall in love. Their union results in the birth of “the missing link.”

Dedicated to: my Grandmas, sorry Grandmas

Introduction

The “missing link” may have existed in the past, but, like the mythical “lyger,” this creature is sterile and cannot reproduce, hence the die-out of the species as humans diverged from their chimpanzee brothers and sisters over the years, a separation which began with the discovery of fire.

As time went on, humans became more and more separated from the natural world as their species multiplied and spread across the planet, learning to live in concrete jungles, forgetting the wisdom of the forest.

The love between man and chimp dwindled too as man forgot his roots in the forest. The species interacted less and less, until at some point they stopped relations completely.

That is why humans eventually lost record of the “missing link” and remain bewildered as to how humans diverged from their closest relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzees and Gorillas.

That is, until Girl returned to the forest and met Chimp.

Chimp was a broken soul until he met Girl. He had seen his mother killed by poachers as a young chimplette and was rescued shortly after by a well known rescue group called Ape Action Africa. He was taken to their headquarters in Camaroon and received the tenderest of care by the dedicated staff comprised of local women. Unfortunately, like many chimps in Chimps situation, Chimp suffered terribly from depression, a common and often fatal consequence of what Chimp had been through. …

Girl grew up in a big city across the world. She learned about Chimpanzees at a young age and fell in love whith the idea of these furry creatures, so much like humans and yet so different. She was fascinated by how they lived so simply and so closely with nature. Unlike humans, they did not seem to live out of balance with the natural world, and she wondered if we humans could learn a thing or two from our hairy cousins in the forest. So she vowed to go there and do that, to study Chimpanzees. Her goal was to see if the chimps could give her some lifestyle tips that she could share with her fellow humans and perhaps restore some balance to the planet, which everyone generally agreed was going to shite due to human activities on the Earth.

Well, Girl got a whole lot more than she bargained for when she finally made it to study the Chimpanzees. She ended up falling in love with Chimp, who was clingly and needy due to his traumatized beginnings. For whatever reason, she liked that, and there was something about his his smile. Well, I wont go into too much detail here, but they…ya know…and 9 months later Girl gave birth to the hairiest, strangest looking baby you ever did see. Turns out this child had curious genetics…unlike humans, who share 98% of the genetic material of Chimpanzees, this baby had 99% of the genetic material, thus it was deemed the “Missing Link.” They named the child Marty.

Marty was a curious child, quite wild in many ways but also quite gentle and a bit less hairy than a Chimp. Marty could walk upright and looked a bit more human than other Chimpanzees the child’s age. It was determined early on that Marty was sterile, much like a mule or lyger. Indeed this was, “The Missing Link.”

Marty was raised under the close watch of scientists and was able to teach us humans a lot about how to live closely with nature.

There is one memorable instance of a banana eating contest in which Marty blew all the other human participants away, eating a whopping 35 bananas in one sitting.

Balance has been restored to the planet, now that Marty has given us humans insight into how to live more gently in the world.

Support your local scientist.

The End.

 

 

 

 

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Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 2

The Waiting

As soon as we all unloaded from the bus from Jordan and waited in another line to cross the boarder into The West Bank, I could tell something was up. There was tension in the air as we queued up to have our documents reviewed and to proceed across the boarder. It was taking forever.

A Palestinian man waiting behind me made disgruntled comments about how long it was taking for the officials to review another person’s documents ahead of us. I nodded as if I understood his sentiment, even though at that point I hadn’t witnessed any injustice. Beurocratic processes are notorious for being painfully slow everywhere, I thought, so I wasn’t that disturbed by the hold up. I did notice it was a Palestinian person the man was referring to, but again wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or discrimination and didn’t have enough experience in the land to pass judgement.

Inching along, I finally made it to the counter to present my documents. The officials were Israeli, I came to find, which is strange since we were entering the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.

Technically the West Bank is part of Israel, so I suppose it makes sense to have Israeli government controlling the boarder, but its still a strange situation if you think about it. Usually when you cross into a country, the officials are of that country. Like I said, the land is technically Israel, but we were passing into Palestinian territory so it would have made sense to have Palestinian officials at the boarder. Just sayin’. Especially since the Allenby Bridge is the only border crossing point Palestinians can use to enter the West Bank.

If a Palestinian travels abroad, they are not permitted to fly to Tel Aviv and enter the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea side like Israelis and other human beings. They do not have the same privileges. Palestinians are only permitted to pass through the Alleby Bridge, which is only accessible by way of Jordan, so Palestinians are restricted in how they can travel abroad. Its a pain. They cannot go through any other border crossing point from the Jordan side either, which there are two of, one in the South via Eilat, and another in the North near the Sea of Galilee. No, all Palestinians have to come through the Allenby Bridge, where I was at the moment being described.

Its a bit confusing but I digress, when it was my turn to step up to the window and present my documents in order to pass through, I was surprised at the way the officials conducted themselves. There were two officials, young military women. The official took a long time to review my passport, passing it to her colleague and the two of them talking between themselves without cluing me in as I stood there, wondering what the issue was, waiting for further instructions. It wasn’t very human, but I suppose any country could have grumpy, jaded border patrol employees. I wont count that as a strike against Israelis, but its worth noting. They were not friendly.

After deliberating and having another soldier come look over my passport, the officials directed me to a waiting area.  I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait or why. Apparently, I was not in the clear to pass through and I had no idea what made me suspicious. As I sat there waiting for the next step, the seats around me filled with Palestinian families. Eventually, Hanan came to meet me, as she was also sent to the waiting area for further review. I was glad to have met her, otherwise I would have been much more anxious and confused waiting there alone.

It was a half hour before my name was called. I went into an office with an Israeli man who questioned me about what I had been doing in Israel and what I would be doing next. In the end I think the questioning was related to my visa, as my re-entry into the the country from Jordan would result in my visa being extended another 3 months.

Since I already had a plane ticket out of Tel Aviv a few weeks later, it was a non-issue and I was allowed to continue through the boarder. Simple fix.

So I went through, first stopping to confer with Hanan. I told her I’d wait for her on the other side, not knowing how long that would be. And guess how long it ended up being, by the way….

7 HOURS.

Seven.

With no clue where I was, no idea where to go, and no gumption to set off on my own, I waited the entire time for Hanan to pass through, even though I barely knew her.

While I waited, I observed the people passing through. I had never been in a Muslim country before, save for Jordan, and was mesmerized by the clothing people wore, especially the women covered head to foot in black, with only slits for their eyes to see. I found it strange, but that’s just the way things are there.

Allenby Bridge Boarder Terminal

During my hours of waiting, two noteworthy things happened. First, I met a man from South Africa on his way to Mecca with a group of 13 others. I had never met anyone from South Africa before, and never met anyone going to Mecca, a pilgrimage I had learned about in religion class back in my Catholic School days. The concept had seemed quite mythical, but turns out lots of people really do that, including my new friend, the South African.

The man was wearing a funny little pillbox hat and a white linen tunic and was very nice to talk to. I sat with him for about two hours as he waited for his party to pass through security and collect their bags, one by one. I asked him about South Africa, the wild animals there (chimpanzees and monkeys, of course). He entertained my chimpanzee fantasies and gave me pointers about good beaches to visit, but I forgot all that information because I didn’t write any of it down. Eventually everyone in his party made it through security and they moseyed along, leaving me with my bags to wait in the figurative dark for Hanan to come through.

It had been several hours already and I was beginning to doubt if she’d make it through. Of course she would, but it was taking so damn long the worries began to creep in. I staved them off as I continued to observe the flow of people coming through.

The second noteworthy thing to happen was among the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in this life. Funny in a peculiar and irreverent sort of way.

It went like this: I had my big backpacking backpack propped up in a corner and was sitting a bit away from it in observer mode. Then all the sudden a pair of devout looking Muslim folks laid down mats in front of my pack and started bowing to my backpack. Well, actually they were doing their prayer ritual in the direction of Mecca, but it looked like they were bowing to my backpack. I found it very funny and wanted to take a photo, but didn’t because #1 my camera was in my backpack and #2 that would have been oh so rude.

I’ll draw a picture and include it here someday.

Finally, after 7 hours of waiting, Hanan came through. She was surprised and glad that I was still there. It was dark out by that time and we took some sort of bus van out of the terminal to where Hanan’s parents were waiting for us. They had arrived hours before, not expecting to have to wait until 9 pm to pick us up. No one expected it to take that long.

In the drive to Hana’s parents house I gazed out the window into the night as Hanan’s father talked about life in Palestine. I got my first glimpse of the wall and learned that inconvenience and waiting are not at all unfamiliar to Palestinians living in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation, which is what the situation is, I was learning for the first time.

Urban Mining Workshop and The Craigslist Catwalk Adventure

Girl Tech
IFixit Fairphone Urban Mining Workshop – Girl Power

Greetings participating eyeballs n’ souls, friends & family:

I am writing you in the pleasant afterglow of a fruitful craigslist adventure which ultimately landed me walking as gracefully as Bigfoot down a hair-show runway with bubblegum pink bangs and has left me today with an envelope full of chopped locks to donate and November rent.

Bing!

Bubblegum Bangs
New doo, unwilling to make a normal face, and nephew Charlie’s painting

After growing my hair for the past 5ish years without dying it, and having the intention to someday donate it, this odd job, made possible by good ol’ Craigslist, allowed all my hair donation dreams to come true. See once long hair in photo below, apologies for the selfie.

Old hair and Made Line Jewelry

Hair Donation

Hearing some questionable feedback about Locks of Love, a prominent hair donation organization, I decided to go with Wigs 4 Kids per the suggestion of the ALOXXI hair team, the one’s responsible for my new doo and this poor model’s sore cranium.

 

 

 

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Apparently, Locks of Love, though a “non-profit,” charges some kids for their wigs, whereas Wigs 4 Kids provides all wigs at no cost, also offering services like counselling and enrichment activities to kids and their families.

Also good to know, Wigs 4 Kids asks for 10” instead of 12” (what I thought I’d have to cut) and will accept hair as short as 7-9” for short hairstyled wigs. I haven’t done a ton of fact checking about the Locks of Love controversy, but since I have’t heard anything bad about Wigs 4 Kids and they had a lenient hair length, I’m gonna err on the side of caution on this one and send my tresses to this Michigan based non-profit instead of Locks of Love. In case you or anyone you know is thinking of donating hair, I thought I’d mention this subject.

Which leads me to my other subject:

Roots and Shoots Urban Mining Workshop

As mentioned at the start of this blog, I’m working towards somehow combining the topics of tap dance, electronic waste recycling, and ape conservation.

Photo source: Ecosia
Photo Source here

A few months ago, a little progress was made when I teamed up with a lovely lass named Emily Duda to host an Urban Mining workshop at Barnes & Noble to raise awareness of the impacts of electronics on ape habitats.

Urban Mining Workshop
Photo cred: one of Emily’s students, future journalistic photographer

This topic was introduced in a previous post: Going Ape for Fair Trade Electronics, but for your convenience I’ll summarize here:

Electronics are produced the expense of Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and humans living in Africa, which is not fair.

To elaborate a bit:

Metals inside our phones, computers, and tablets come from the parts of Africa where Chimps and Gorillas live. These habitats are being damaged through the mining process, endangering the survival of these 2 great species.

Whats more?

People who mine these materials often work in sub-safe conditions, receiving ridiculously low wages for the work put in. Furthermore, the influx of people moving into these previosly untouched areas for work as the electronics industry grows has also paved the way for poachers to come in and snag Chimps and Gorillas for the Illegal Pet and Bushmeat trade.

Its not good.

But the situation can improve…

What can we do, those of us living far away from the conflict?

Recycle electronics.

Its a bit of a hassle to properly dispose of electronics these days, but its important to do so. We must work to bring balance to the force, young padawans.

Though I’m not sure if electronics manufacturers are actually USING recycled materials in new products, a point brought up by a much appreciated skeptic at the workshop, the act of recycling will inevitably make the supply of recycled materials more available for manufacturers to use. It will at least give manufacturers the option to incorporate recycled materials into new products instead of continuously importing raw materials.

Hopefully as time goes on it will become easier for the consumer, me and you, to properly dispose of electronic waste. It’s a dream of mine, to live in a world like that.

For now, you may need to do a little research to find out where to recycle used electronics locally, and you will likely have to take a trip to a store or recycling center to do so. If you need help figuring it out, reach out either through a comment or message on the contact page of this site and I’d be happy to help you navigate.

Happy Note:

In New York City, a pilot program has been launched to provide curbside pick-up of electronic waste upon request. I think this is very cool and hope more cities are introducing or already have similar programs. If you know anything on the subject, please share the info, thank you!

Now, a little more about the Barnes and Noble workshop, my first foray into eco-prostelytism:

Our event was part of the Barnes & Noble Bookfair program which allowed us to fundraise in addition to reaching an audience. Our goal was to spread the good word about Electronic Waste Recycling and raise money for Emily’s project: Camp Friendship, an afterschool and summer program that connects city kids with nature.

With a generous donation of toolkits from IFixit, a company working to reduce electronic waste by developing repair manuals and tool-kits for the lay-man, and using a workshop guide provided by FairPhone (which I’ve written about before here), we set up shop in the kids book section of Barnes and Noble and tried to engage as many people as possible in the discussion of whats inside our phones.

Apesplaining
Chimpsplaining at Barnes N’ Noble.

In case you’re curious, Emily and I found each-other using a mapping tool available on the Roots and Shoots website which helps ape conservation nerds and Jane Gooddall enthusiasts connect on a local level. Roots and Shoots, by the way, is a program created by the Jane Gooddall Institute to engage kids in conservation, to “raise the next generation of conservation thinkers.”

All in all I don’t think we raised much money for either cause, but we certainly did talk to a handful of people about electronic waste recycling, whats inside phones, and where these materials come from. Hopefully the ideas will sink in to the folks we reached and from there momentum can grow.

Any anyway, the kids who trickled in had a great time taking apart old phones and exploring the insides with the tiny tools donated by IFixit.

ifixit
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The phones used in this workshop were a combination of broken smart phones I was able to collect from my apartment building neighbors and several old school flip phones donated by the Gowanus E-waste warehouse in Brooklyn.

Gowanus E-waste warehouse

Ultimately, I was hoping to get the kids to connect their phones with the idea that whats inside their phones comes from where Chimpanzees live. Using the FairPhone workshop manual, I used the following graphics to engage in this discussion. It went over way better with the parents…

page 7

pages 9,10

The whole manual can be found here. I was particularly entertained by one child who was stoked on the silicon number pads inside an old flip phone. I hadn’t thought of if before, but kids these days are missing out on the tactile element of phones because smart phones don’t have buttons, just screens.

Well, thats all I’ve got for now. I’ll leave you with a little something I made out of the workshop remnants.

Urban Mine
The Innards of our Phones, Old and New

 

Thanks for reading!

KB

 

 

 

Palestine’s Fine Excerpt: Peace in the Middle East Tea

Sunrise in Palestine

I learned about this tea recipe while volunteering at a goat farm in Jerusalem. The farm was within a village called Moshav Zafririm, which was probably once occupied by Palestinians but invaded/apprehended by Israel in 1948 when the country was established. Out with the old, in with the new it would seem.

Unlike in Hebron, there was not trace or retelling of foul play in this village.

Propaganda in Hebron

Israeli Propaganda

It was quiet and rather empty, with no banners or propaganda to be found, just an unmanned military check-point at the base of the village to ward off intruders. Unfortunately I have no photos from the village to share.

The tea on the other hand….

Peace in the Middle East Tea Recipe

This tea was made on a daily basis at the farm and we enjoyed it throughout the day, hot and cold. All the ingredients were picked at the farm or gathered in the nearby hills.

Today I drink it as a reminder of the crazy experience I had in “the Holy Land,” encouragement to continue telling the story, and nourishment for the soul.

Ingredients:

Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Citronella’ : Large citrus-scented leaves on a robust plant. Lavender flowers.

Sage “Culinary Sage”

Sage. One of my favorite culinary herbs and one of the herbs people have easy access to no matter where they are. Salvia officinalis – even the Latin name gives us an idea of the respect this Mediterranean beauty has earned. Salvia in Latin derives from the word salvere which means, “to save.” Historically, it has been used in many ways from a facial toner to a plague remedy, as well as drying up breast milk and easing a cough. Sage is a well-loved and well-used herb throughout the ages.

and

Mint (any variety will work)

mint grown in pot

Process:

Steep a few leaves of geranium, a bunch of sage, and a cluster of mint in hot water for any amount of time, add sugar or honey to taste (or not), and serve hot or cold.

Enjoy the pleasant pink color and floral taste of a tea that will sooth the senses, calm the mind, and bring peace to the middle east in your heart, which reflects the world. Enjoy with friends for greatest therapeutic benefits.

Cheers!

KB

 

 

Clotaire on “Environmental Activism”

Hello all, happy weekend! And thank you for taking the time to read this. Today I have some reflections for you on word choice:

A few months ago, a chance encounter with a fancy man named Dr. Clotaire Rapaille had my mind a bit blown.

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Dr. Clotaire Rapaiile -Author and Speaker https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5770294.Clotaire_Rapaille

The situation:

After applying to work for a landscape design company and making friends with the adjoining gallery’s manager, I was invited to attend a luncheon featuring Dr. Rapaille and a few other folks associated with the gardening company. Not quite sure what I was getting into, I jumped right in–just like Goosey here…

DSCN6995
Original Drawing by Former neighbor and Ukranian-American superstar: Bob Civil

With a striking presence and refined air about him, I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. Rapaille began the meeting by asking all of us to introduce ourselves. I was surprised he would even bother to get to know any of us ancillary people personally.

After introdcing myself as an “environmental activist,” he immediately stopped and asked why I would use those words to introduce myself. Didn’t I think that was a rather negative way to characterize myself?

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Holy balls. He was right. Activist does have somewhat of a feather ruffling air about it (think: eco-terrorist)…BUT its what I learned to call myself in school and thought was an appropriate title for what I do…I’d never thought to question the label before.

In any case, he had a point, and for a few moments we brainstormed other lablels. I came up with Environmental Spokesperson, Environmenal Advocate, and “Lorax” after he turned down Conservationist and something related to sustainability. Who wants to merely conserve when we could flourish and grow? This was the Doc’s point.

All in all, I found the whole converstaion quite interesting and mind boggling after so many years of thinking a certain way. If this type of thinking could be applied to Environmental Studies coursework, I think it would make the discipline easier to swallow and produce less anxiety for everyone…oh my nerves:

Beyond the activist label, Dr. Rapaille went on to discuss word choice as a tool in marketing, specifically for the landscaping company. He highlighted words such as growth, and advised us to shy away from words such as sustainability and conservation, since these terms suggest limits. Very interesting.

So, after all this, I wonder, what can I say about myself now? WHAT AM I?

…musical interlude…

 

I suppose now I’ll consider myself an environmental advocate.

I’m still searching for a replacement work for sustainability….any ideas??

Think about it as the word pops up in your life.

I hope this article in some way leads you to re-think the words you use to label yourself and encourages you to swap out any stale or limiting words. Just a fun exercize.

Happy Weekend!

xo

KB

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 1

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The Allenby Bridge

It was March and I had just finished a short trip to Petra, Jordan, where I had visited a woman named Sandra I had met on a bus earlier in my journey. She had instructed me how to get back to Israel, and I was arriving via taxi at the border, heading to what I thought was the North of Israel.

I thanked the taxi driver, saddled my bags, and walked towards the Allenby Bridge border terminal. Everything was unfamiliar because I was in Jordan and spoke no Arabic. I did not realize I was lost at this point. I was just the normal amount of confused, being in a foreign country and not speaking the language.

Once inside, I looked around and was surprised to see in the carpeted waiting room a woman in a hijab, breastfeeding–a sight that was quite unexpected and pleasantly surprising, not in a perverted way, but in an “oh, cool, they can do that here too” sort of way. I was under the impression Muslim women were majorly repressed, but this sight made me think otherwise.

After a bit of waiting, I was ushered over to buy a ticket for a shuttlebus that would bring me across the border. Thats about the time I realized something was amiss.

While I thought I had been at the border between Jordan and Israel in the north, it turns out I was at a different border crossing.

Instead of being in the North, on my way to a farm in Galilee, I was in the middle at the Allenby Bridge, entering the West Bank…which is Palestine…which some people assert no longer exists.

I was a bit off course, to say the least.

Although turning around was an option at that point, I needed to get to Israel eventually for a flight and didn’t really have anyone to turn to in Jordan, so I figured I might as well charge through on the current course. At this point I was in a state of panic, yet remained calm and composed.

Boarding the bus, I looked around at the other 8-10 people and struck up a conversation with Hanan, a woman I had seen at the terminal holding an American passport. Our discussion confirmed we were going to Palestine and that I was lost.

As we crossed a dry, sparsely vegetated no-mans-land, about 20 minutes to the next border, the discussion continued and I met a few more characters including a disgruntled Brazilian man who was going to meet his brother, and a lovely Dutch girl who had been in Jordan painting murals at a refugee camp.

Mette, a hard worker
Mette on a later date, so you can put a face to one of the characters

By some random stroke of luck, it turned out that Hanan was on her way to plant olive trees as an act of resistance against Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Hearing my story and finding that I had just completed a some-what brainwashy Birthright program, she invited me to come along and offered to let me stay with her and her parents for a few days, help me see the other side of the story. I was saved!

But what was the next border? Was it Israel, or was it Palestine? I still ask myself this.

If it was Palestine, how come the border patrol officials were Israeli?

Chapter 2: The Waiting

 

 

 

 

 

Palestine’s Fine: Introduction

This is a story about when I accidentally went to Palestine in the Winter of 2014.

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“Wait what? This bus is going to Palestine?”

Surprised, yet not utterly shocked by my circumstance, I was both intrigued and alarmed by the situation at hand. How did I get myself HERE? I wondered.

No stranger to pickles, this was definitely my most unnerving to date. What had begun with a free trip to Israel two months earlier now had me alone, astray, and headed straight into the West Bank via minivan.

Remaining calm, I began to speak with some of the other passengers on the bus. Amongst them was Hanan, a beautiful woman I had noticed earlier carrying a US passport. Turns out she was on her way to Palestine to visit her parents and plant olive trees in an act of defiance against Israeli settlers.

“Hm,” I thought, “a twist.”

Everything I had learned up to that point was from the pro-Israel perspective. I had, after all, come to Israel via a program called Birthright, which sends young Jews from all over the world to Israel for an all-inclusive, highly insulated, 10-day bus trip to learn about Judaism.

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 1

Diary of a Sailing Lunchlady

See that toilet bowl scum?

That, my friends, is the first thing I noticed when I walked into my assigned room aboard the SS Minnow in 2017. It was my fourth year working as Lunchlady, and I would be on the ship for 120 days, from April to June, travelling from San Francisco to El Salvador, Hawaii, Seattle, and back

Thankfully, I would only be working 2 months, as opposed to 4 which I had done the previos year. And thank goodness all the green slime came off after I struck a deal with the girl I shared my bathroom with. The deal was, she brings the cleaning supplies, I clean the toilet first.

And so it went.

I had done this lunchlady gig for the previous 3 summers. This one may have been my last, but we shall see, I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it again. I’d say this was my most successful cruise, all things considered. No co-worker drama (last year, I thought my headmate wanted to kill me, so I’ enter the bathroom with my knife drawn and quickly dash to lock her door from the indside so she couldn’t sneak attack me– dramatic yes, but it felt safer that way, and comical in a ninja warrior way); no Napoleon-complex officers calling the galley staff  (kitchen crew) “lazy and negligent,” blaming us for what was probably 10 years of built up kitchen scum, and no getting called to the captains office for allegedly fraternizing with boys. Yes, this year was a very good year.

More to come, stay tuned…

 

 

Fidlar

For Tina

full nino girls

It was supposed to be the storm of the century when we set off on our bike trip down the California coast. New Years Day, 2016.

Me, Katrina, and Jansyn.

I met Katrina back in college when we worked together for the UCSB recycling program, riding bikes around campus, collecting cans, and redeeming them for cash at the local recycling center along with all the other humble community can-collectors and even the occasional hobo. This was our crew.

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Katrina and I stayed in touch after college. I always liked her adventurous spirit. One time I visited her in Brooklyn and she fell asleep before I got to her apartment, so I spent several hours at the corner 7-11 store, talking to the flirtatious cashier and observing the interesting characters filtering in and out throughout the night.

In the early morning, as I waited outside Katrina’s apartment, I learned she lived next door to a methadone clinic, which helped make sense of some of the personalities I had observed throughout the night, like that crazy lady with the walker that came in yelling and left with a cup of noodles. In the end, Katrina woke up around daybreak and let me in. No harm no foul. It had made for an interesting experience, just like the one I’m about to recount to you: the FIDLAR bike trip.

Katrina started encouraging me to join in on this adventure a few months before we left on New Years Day 2016. I was hesitant because I had never gone on a long bike trip before and was concerned about chafing. Yes, chafing. Its what happens to people on long bike rides and also can happen to the male nipple after wearing the wrong shirt on a long run, which I learned in high school from Mack Reland (name changed to protect real-life characters’ identity), but that is a different story.

Besides chafing, I was a little concernd about gear. I had limited bike and camping accessories and was riding an old bike, a red Cannondale touring road bike from the 80s that I had appropriated from my Grandma and which the bike shop told me was ready to be retired. No way. I loved that bike and to me it rode well, so I decided to see if it could make the 400 mile journey, my valiant steed.

We would be leaving during a forecasted El Niño event, which another concern. Knowing weather reports usually over exaggerate, I still received a lot of concern from friends and family when I told them about the intended trip. Nevertheless, by early December I decided I would come along, at least as far as Monterey, about 30 miles away, our first day’s journey. If I didn’t want to continue, I could easily turn back from there.

As it turns out, I went the whole way. Jansyn too. Another girl Katie also joined us for a few days, but respectably bowed out when the storm hit, and Katrina….well, Katrina made it as far as she could before her bike tragically vanished on our last night before the home stretch, 80 miles from our final destination, Los Angeles.

Day 1

December 31, 2017

Jansyn and Katrina arrive in Santa Cruz. I pick them up downtown and bring them with their bikes up to Fern Flat, my mom’s hippie compound in the woods. We eat dinner, a thai coconut soup my mom had made, complete with red pepper corns that left our mouths a little numb when we unwittingly bit into them. It was delicious nonetheless, thanks Momma. The girls slept in my mom’s cabin, and I slept in Lance, my soon-to-be moldy cab-over camper.

Me n' Lance
Me n’ Lance, day one. Aptos, California // Photo cred: Shannon Cecil, Seafoam Films

We went to bed before the clock struck 12. The girls exhausted from a long day of biking, all of us knowing the long road ahead.

The trip started a few days before for Jansyn and Katrina, who flew in from New York with their bikes and rode down the coast from San Francisco, staying in Pidgeon Point the night before at a hostel with a very annoying family as neighbors, according to Jansyn.

Day 2

The day begins bright and early. Its cold out but not raining as we head down Trout Gulch road towards town. It was all downhill, which was a breeze, but the sun hadn’t risen enough to shine down on us, so it was cold. Our hands were aching by the time we reached the bottom, 5 miles below. I was nervous about the trip, mostly about being uncomfortable, but after warming up a bit in a patch of sun, we continued on our way along the frontage road towards Watsonville.

We biked about 40 miles that day, passing a stretch of road with a view of the ocean on one side, and a sea of plastic on the other, agricultural land covered to suppress weeds and pests I later learned. I sang silly tunes and listened to music to entertain myself and gradually we all warmed up and de-layered as the day unfolded, stopping in Moss Landing for lunch.

We biked on Highway 1 for a stretch, which was intimidating because of all the fast cars, but interesting since I’d driven that route by car many times before and so appreciated the new perspective. Biking slowly past the wetlands and dunes, the giant smokestacks, taking in the sights and smells, feeling the cool ocean air, it was beautiful.

Eventually we arrived in Monterey, where we would camp for the night at Veterans Memorial Park Campground. There we made friends with another group of bikers from Santa Cruz who were heading to Big Sur. The group was led by a guy who worked at a bike shop and had a bunch of fancy gear including a high tech trailer to hold gear and food, and the tinyest camp stove I’ve ever seen. He was accompanied by a young UCSC student with gorgeous long hair and a hippie looking Cabrillo student named Armand. He may have been riding barefoot and when I first saw him he was doing yoga. Like I said: hippie.

That night we had an alarming exchange with a very drunk girl who was fighting with her boyfriend in the car. They were making such a fus, car alarm going off a few times, the two of them yelling, both of them crying at different points of the night. They were sleeping in the next tent over, that’s how I knew about the crying. They really caused quite a scene at the campground and I was surprised security didn’t come to kick them out. Anyway, it also made for an interesting story, so I have no complaints.

Day 3

Monterey to Pfeiffer, Big Sur.

The ride started off excruciatingly uphill. We rode up and over Skyline Drive, a mountain highway where Katrina and I spotted a hobo with a busted face while passing over a bridge. I was so shocked by the sight all I could do was say “hello” as I pedaled by.

Eventually we emerged from the mountains and coasted down into beautiful Carmel-By-The-Sea, but we didn’t see the sea from there because we were in the valley.

It started raining at some point but we didn’t let that stop us. I think this was the first day I wore bags over my socks in my shoes to keep the rain out. It worked surprisingly well. In retrospect I would have selected a different shoe for this trip. The canvas Converse high tops were hell on my toes in the mornings when the air was cold.

Eventually we made it to Pfeiffer and were joined by Katrina’s friend Katie and her entourage, girlfriend Sarah, a bike mechanic, and eccentric friend Emilia who sang us a song about sharing food while we ate our fondue dinner. As the night continued we drank bourbon by the fire until one by one we all went to sleep.

There was an interesting woman at our campsite that night and the next morning. It was a hike-bike campsite like in Monterey, so we had company. This woman was strange, but of course I talked to her. I don’t know about any of the other girls did. But I think so. We were also joined by the trio from the night before. Luckily there were no drunken couples to be found at this site. Too remote.

Day 4

The next day we spent the day in Pfeiffer, went on a hike and enjoyed a day of rest. Katie spotted a deer foot dangling from a fence and was terrorized by a strange homeless man who was pretending to lather up and wash himself over his clothes while peering through the visitor center window. I had seen this man earlier that day seated with his bundle of possessions, looking out from a sunny perch over the big sur coastline. I thought to myself that he was really livin’ the life.

Katie’s girlfriend had a car so we all went out to lunch, meeting up with Emilia’s friend who had a disgruntled cat in a box.

We returned to the site and hunkered down in our tents as the storm rolled in.

Day 5

Pfeiffer to Limekiln, not our intended spot but a smart stop since the storm was really rolling in by then. The day started off dumping and we all got ready near the covered bathroom area like good little hobos.

We stopped for lunch and were advised by the waitress to stop short of our goal and hunker down at the nearest campsite. It was about 4pm and with the storm coming and it getting dark, we had to listen. We spent about an hour trying to hitchhike. Katrina started doing the stand up worm to draw attention, but it was to no avail. Its tough trying to hitchhike with 4 people and 4 bikes. Somehow or other we made it to the next campsite and were able to eat and enjoy a quick fire before hunkering down in our tents while the storm rolled in.

That night Katie started to complain of an upset stomach. It was the beginning of the end for her and this trip.

Day 6

Limekiln to San Simeon

Woke up and promptly got on the road, only to be rained out rather quickly, about 10 miles down the road. My plastic bag booties were filled with water and the rain was coming down so hard it hurt my face and hands. As soon as we could, we pulled over. Turned out we were able to find refuge at a cute little convenience store and bar stop in Gorda, about 20 miles from the next town where we figured we could get a hotel room.

It took some finegaling and courage, but we ended up finding two cars to give us a ride to San Simeon. Jansyn and Katie befriended a couple brothers in a Subaru, and me and Katrina, we got a ride from a wild haired, wide eyed, surfer looking guy with a pick up truck. And of course that was a story in itself. I will tell you a little.

I forget his name, but he was a Big Sur native. A writer, painfully in love with a woman who double crossed him, or left him, or something. He’d never been published, but had folders of his writings scattered throughout the car. I was sitting in the back seat and could hardly hear anything of the conversation that was going on in the front, where Katrina was sitting. He had the defroster on high the whole time and frequently had to use a sock to wipe off the inside of the windsheild to clear a view. Mind you, we were driving the Big Sur coast on Highway 1, which is a rather windy road. I got pretty nervous a couple times because the windsheild got so foggy and the road was so curvy, but the craziness that was coming out of his mouth was interesting and hilarious enough to keep my mind occupied.

In the end, he dropped us off at a hotel parking lot and gave all us girls a souvenier, a piece of jade he had collected at the beach. He showed us how you shine it, with nose oil. Yummy.

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Day 7

San Simeon to San Louis Obispo

Slightly rejuvinated from a night spent indoors and our things a bit dryer, we made our way by shuttle bus to San Louis Obispo. We had pussed out at this point, it was raining anyway. We made it to San Louis Obispo and stayed the night with a Couchsurfing host, a tech guy who also did product photography in his garage as a side gig. He had a gathering at his house the night we stayed over, cant remember what it was celebrating, and we had a chance to meet his friends. The one that stood out was a lady that worked as a vet tech.

Day 8

San Luis to Santa Barbara

We took the train! Katie took the train back North.

Day 9

Santa Barbara to Ventura

We biked and camped. I got 3 flat tires and biked through the taco bell drive through. Katrina’s bike got stolen.

Day 10

Ventura to Los Angeles

Katrina took the bus. Jansyn and I biked. It was beautiful. We saw a car wreck. I listened to Nate Denver. Made it 80 miles to Katrina’s friends house. Got picked up by Peter and of course the adventure continued. Ending in a very cheap rental car drive home, alone.

After this trip, the Fern Flat days continued, leading up to the Lesbian Cat Fight and my last cruise.

The Devil Wears Plaid Kilts

“Just another manic Monday” is playing on the radio as I drive the studio’s rented white minivan to pick up the kilt and circle glasses wearing ginger costume designer and drive him to the studio. I am a production assistant, all of the sudden.

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Don’t ask how I ended up with this job in my short stay in New York City in the Winter of 2017. It just sort of fell in my lap. I was intrigued by the alluring idea of working for the wardrobe department of a TV show. How glamourous sounding. It was a month long gig with Steiner Studios, which is part of Warner Brothers, and I would be working during the filming of the “Deception” pilot.

The premise of the show was pretty goofy if you ask me: magician with a failed magic career turns to helping the FBI fight crime through illusions.

My first day on the job I had to drive the costume designer, who had worked on the costumes in Zoolander (think Mugatu), to a craft store filled with sequins and feather boas, to look for fancy belt buckles for a straight jacket he was designing, see pilot trailer. I found this very funny and enjoyed walking around the store, holding the bags of fancy buckles, zippers, and fabrics for my leige as he perused the store.

I quite liked the designer, it was his assistant that reminded me of Meryl Streep’s witchy assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. She wore the most heinous clothes, in a style someone described as “power clashing.” It was hard to take her seriously with her pseudo-couture puffy sleeved dresses from H&M, rainbow zebra print sweaters, silver beatles shoes, and “hurry, hurry, hurry,” stressed out attitude.

It was surreal, working for her. Coming from my laid back California upbringing, it was difficult to for me to play the butt licking (thanks for that image, Brother), hustled, sniveling servant role I felt was being expected from me as the lowly production assistant.

“Hurry!” Puffy sleeves would text me while I sat in bumper to bumber traffic on my way back to the studio from Manhattan.  My response was usually something along the lines of “I’ll get there when I get there,” which in retrospect was definitely not a good thing to say, but I just wanted to mess with her because she was so high strung. Oops. Had I aspirations to climb the ladder in costume design, I would have been more willing to play along, but I wasn’t; this was a novelty for me, an experiment, an experience I quickly learned I would not want to repeat. Thus, for me the interactions were just annoying and horrible, since many days I would have to miss tap dance classes because I was working. That is the last time I will let a cool sounding job and money distract me from my purpose, which during that 3 month trip to New York was to learn tap dancing.

Not surprisingly, driving to and from Manhatten to return or pick-up items from fancy stores multiple times a day, spending a small fortune (of company’s money) in parking on the daily, getting home late after spending 45 minutes looking for street parking by my apartment at night, got old really fast and I wanted to quit.

Eventually, I got fired. Thank goodness. I actually hugged the designer when he let me go. I had been searching for a way to quit, but was trying to stick it out since it was only a month-long gig. I lasted 3 weeks. Puffy sleeves quit about 3 weeks in also, before I was fired, I’ll have you know, because she wasn’t getting along with the show’s producers and writers, who had strong opinions about the clothes she was picking out and basically weren’t letting her do her thing. It was the replacement assistant costume designer who let me go.

I was happy, but it kindof sucked the way they fired me. I worked a long day, til about 8pm, and as I dropped off the designer where he needed to be, he told me they were going to find someone else, someone with more experience as a production assistant, and that I needed to turn in my keys right there, take my stuff out of the car, and leave without the car. I was happy to do all that, it was just lame because they left me off at night, in the snow, to get home from a place that was pretty far away and not on my subway line. Jerks.

All in all it was an interesting experience. I got a great introduction into the world of television, gained experience driving a minivan in New York City, took some cool photos, met people, made a little money, and now have this story to tell.

It was real and it was fun, but it wasn’t real fun.

The End.