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One Month in America

Apologies, loyal readers.  Procrastination due to an inflammation of perfectionism has stifled my blogging voice for several weeks.  Blame my inner critic — he’s a total jerk.

A lot has happened.

Running Away With the Circus

From Barcelona, I flew to Norfolk, Virginia.  Because last year I met a clown.  As one does.  And she invited me to spend a few days with her on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus train.  That’s right.  The circus, elephants and all, still travel by train as they have been doing since the 1890’s.  Just like on the Animal Crackers box!  Never mind my clown-phobia, I wasn’t going to miss this chance.

What I discovered is that circus life is tough and “running away with the circus” has subsequently lost all appeal.  The days are long, the living quarters are incredibly tight, and anyone with a tendency towards loneliness could slip down the rabbit hole rather easily with moments between shows spent in isolated train yards.

I have a new respect for clowns as I saw for myself how positively children (and adults) respond to them.  The clowns carried the show and hid all the messy seams between major acts.  They appeared to be the hardest working performers in the circus.

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The circus commenced with the National Anthem and onto the floor rode a woman in red, white and blue sequins riding an elephant and carrying an American flag.  Instead of easing my way back into the American pool, I dove right into the deep end of American excess and pride.  Having been so recently in Lesvos, it was a little too much for me to handle.  So I stuffed my uncomfortable feelings down with a ginormous, overpriced plate of nachos and a soda.

I did get a glimpse into circus life and feel extremely grateful to my talented clown friend for giving me the opportunity.  I’ll tell you more about the experience, which felt somewhat hallucinatory, over drinks.  Mmm..k?

My clown friend.

Myself and my clown friend.  Here, I have the proud face of someone who has conquered clown phobia.

Traveling in America

I then took a Greyhound bus to Charlottesville, Virginia.  My bus stopped in Richmond, Virginia where just two days before a gunman entered the station and shot a police officer and random bystanders before being killed himself.  Blood stains were still on the concrete.  This, and unsavory passengers, easily made this one of the scariest travel experiences I’ve had in the last three years.  And people worry about me traveling overseas?

Family Time

Eventually, I made it to my sister’s house and enjoyed time catching up with her in a bucolic setting.  Meeting with family and friends is golden, especially since I’ve became nomadic.  Not having to explain who I am in a one-minute soundbite (as if that were possible) is delightful.  The stability of family connections is medicinal.

Bartending School

Next I flew to Portland, Oregon to meet up with my best friend and many other dear friends while attending a two-week bartending “academy”.  Given that I don’t like being around drunk people and my drinking days are largely over, I questioned my decision to get this education but in the end I decided that a skill is a skill and it’s better to have more than less.

I discovered that I enjoyed the practice although I didn’t enjoy memorizing the glasses, measurements, ingredients, and garnishes for 90+ drinks I’d mostly never heard of.  My brain is not what it was twenty years ago, which I did not realize until this class.  Bummer discovery.  It seems I am getting slower and denser while getting wiser.  Go figure.

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In bartending school we were able to make “drinks” with colored water contained in actual liquor bottles. While they looked realistic, there was no tasting. I learned all about qualities of liquor, glasses and garnishes and many rules and exceptions to rules.   Tropical drinks are garnished with an orange and a cherry. “Lemonade” type drinks like “Long Island Iced Tea” are garnished with a lemon. All sour drinks i.e. “Whiskey Sour” and “Collins” drinks are garnished with a cherry and a lime. Clear drinks are garnished with a lemon, unless the drink is made with gin, in which case, it’s a lime. By the end of the class I wanted to throw all the glasses and garnishes against the wall in frustration.  I say we should put cherries and umbrellas in ALL drinks and call it a day.

Portland was exploding with flowers and I experienced allergies for the first time in my life.  And boy, do I have a new sympathy for allergy sufferers.  My God, it’s miserable!  Despite a limited ability to breathe or hear and a throat that felt like I’d been swallowing swords, I pulled off my final bartending exam which involved making twelve random drinks in less than seven minutes.  In case you ever want a Zombie, a Rum and Coke, a Daiquiri, a Greyhound, a Sex on the Beach, a Melon Ball, a Chocolate Cake shot, a Scotch and Soda, a Rusty Nail, a Root Beer Float, a White Russian and a Sombrero made in 6 minutes and 32 seconds, I’m your girl.

Portland was exploding with flowers!

Portland was exploding with flowers!  Beautiful, but my immune system did not like it.

Visiting Portland is always a trip — it’s changing so rapidly and like San Francisco, it’s now a place I couldn’t return to (even if I wanted to) because housing prices have soared since I left three years ago.

Many thanks to my friend and her family for tolerating my troll-like presence in the basement for two weeks and offering so much love.

More Family Time in California

And then I found myself back in my mama’s arms.  And close to my sister too.  And there is just nobody I enjoy sharing stories with more than my mom.  She’s my biggest supporter and fan and doesn’t seem to be bothered when I drone on and on and on about my adventures.  I don’t take that love, or that listening ear, or her wise words for granted.  Again, golden time with family.  Deepest appreciation for their support and love.

Returning to Greece

Tomorrow, I’m going back to Lesvos, Greece.  While thousands of refugees are still being detained there, refugee arrivals have almost stopped and volunteers have largely been shut out from providing assistance.  The detention camp on Lesvos (Moria) is run by the army and the police prevent contact.  While this imprisonment likely continues to violate international law, little can be done outside the realm of legal action.  Unfortunately, this is a slow process.  The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, provides great insight into the deteriorating situation here.

This time, I will be returning as a tourist, revisiting friends and supporting the local economy as this is expected to be an extremely harsh summer with tourism down 70%.  I’m feeling inspired to draw again and hope to do that as well.

I have a feeling that this will be the second of many visits to Lesvos although I’m not clear yet why my destiny has led me so powerfully to this place.  Time will tell.

2 Comments

  1. GREAT stories and thank you for sharing!!

    • Thanks for reading and your kind comment Mickey!

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