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[April, 1996] Near-Death in Alaska

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April 8, 1996

My right hand is sort of jittery, most likely from the Almond Joy latte I’m drinking. I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Alaska. It’s Monday so I’ve been in Eagleton* for a while now. Hm, I can’t even think of where to begin.

The plane got into Anchorage at around 12:20AM and Bradley was there at the gate looking more beautiful than I remembered. It took a while to get my suitcase and find our way out of the airport. Then there were all these presents he hid around the inside of the car for me. He gave me two books (one of which was Poppy Z. Brite’s Wormwood), a cute little black flashlight, a tin of cloves and something else that has to be one of the best presents I ever got.

[Before we get to this magical gift, a note on our face-to-face meeting. I remember the long plane ride from New York, and how about 45 minutes before we landed, I swapped my glasses for contact lenses and put on some make-up to be cute for Bradley. I can even remember what I wore (black jeans and a navy long-sleeved top). My nervousness escalated to the point where everything felt numb. When he greeted me at the gate, we hugged. I think it was a short hug. It definitely wasn’t an epic oh-my-god-let’s-get-married-tomorrow hug. For now, let’s chalk it up to the late hour and travel exaustion. We had a four hour drive ahead of us to Eagleton where he lived.

But back to the presents. He was initially going to hide them along the road, then realized how impossible it would be to find them in the dark (and snow) on the drive back. Here’s the story of that last gift, hidden under the passenger seat.]

He asked me over E-mail what I would put into a cookie, if I could put anything into it. I said cloves, chocolate, powdered sugar (because it makes me smile) and would want the cookie to be star-shaped. So in the glove compartment was a box (a wooden one that he painted himself) filled with cookies. The very ones that I described as my ideal cookie. And they tasted wonderful too (even if they had been crap I would have been touched by the very sentiment).

[To be perfectly frank (and a little lame), my obsession with cloves came from catching whiffs of people smoking them in goth clubs all the time. It was one of my favorite smells in the world, though what would possess me to include it in a cookie is still beyond me.]

The drive to Eagleton was certainly noteworthy. First, we got pulled over for speeding (Brad turns to me saying he was only doing 60 when the cop caught him at 75). After being reassured that this was an extremely rare occurrence (his first speeding ticket, I think) and that he was a very good driver, we kept going.

It was snowing very hard (coming right at us, giving me the illusion of traveling through space at high speed). To briefly sum up the events, we skidded off the road. Probably the most scared I’ve ever been, a shocked denial coursed through me when it happened. Brad turned off the ignition, asked if I was alright and hugged me. It does not end there—it happened again a little while later—even more terrifying this time. He was so apologetic (a bit angry too, because he insisted this was not an accurate example of how he drives). The rest of the ride was fine, good conversation, little music (too distracting in those conditions).

Still from the GnR video. At one point, the model puts her feet in Slash's face, which I think is almost worse than driving them off a cliff.

Still from the GnR video. At one point, the model puts her feet in Slash’s face, which I think is almost worse than driving them off a cliff.

[To this day, this is probably the closest I have come to dying.

We were driving on a mountain road. There was a lot of black ice. If the snowfall outside wasn’t a blizzard, it was pretty damn close to it.

That first skid was bad, but the second could’ve been the end. The car fishtailed and it went down down down an incline. It was such a steep descent, I expected the car to start flipping at any second. I thought of the Guns N’ Roses video where Slash’s hot model girlfriend is fighting with him in a moving car and sharply turns the wheel, sending them over a cliff. I thought, “I’m only 18 years old, I can’t really die now!” And I really didn’t want to die with my last living thoughts being of a Guns N’ Roses video.

But my fear wasn’t far off. When the car came to a stop after that second skid, all I could see ahead of me was snow and darkness. There may have been some trees off to the side. Had it been light out, I would’ve seen we came to a stop less than a foot off the edge of a cliff. (Bradley didn’t share this fun fact with me until much, much later.)]

Ok, I feel like I’m putting in all these irrelevant details, so I’ll talk about the big ones. The cabin, for instance. His brother built it (!) and it’s very small and warm and cozy. There’s just one room with a loft upstairs. A most comfortable loft, too.

I couldn't tell the volcanoes apart form the mountains.

I couldn’t tell the volcanoes apart form the mountains.

[Yes, why delve into “irrelevant details” like, you know, nearly being killed, when I can share vague descriptions about a cabin. Why bother with other pesky specifics about the place, such as its lack of running water and electricity. Or the outhouse, which was the reason one of my gifts was a flashlight. Or the view of snow-covered volcanoes from the picture window that took up nearly an entire wall of the cabin.]

We got to the cabin at around 6:00AM and didn’t leave the loft until about 7:00PM (we were sleeping, talking, lounging around). Went to the Washboard for showers then drove around a bit so Bradley could show me the town.

Most of the last few days have been spent in the cabin (it’s so easy to just stay there because it’s ¼ mile trudge through the snow to get to the car). We’ve talked endlessly (I’ve never laughed so much in my life). Um. I’ll stop here for now.

I won’t stop here. I left out one major aspect of the trip in this entry. Despite all the laughter and great conversation, there was a strange energy between us. A distinct lack of the romantic connection we had created over the previous months through all those letters, phone calls and “E-mails.” I tried to rationalize it as Bradley not wanting to make me uncomfortable by putting the moves on me, but he should’ve known those moves would’ve been welcome. The fact that he hadn’t touched me aside from chaste hugging bothered me, as much as I tried to enjoy the rest of the trip.

I didn’t want to believe that scary near-death ride from the airport was a bad omen. Or the fact that there’s a special word for the time of year I chose to visit Alaska, when the snow turns to mud: “breakup.”

 

 

*Not actual name of town.
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[March, 1996] Alaska Bound

February 16, 2015 2 comments
Just 3,352 miles separating us...

Just 3,352 miles separating us…

3/9/96

Big news: I’m going to Alaska to visit Bradley (no exclamation marks, only because I find them kind of cheesy). I don’t know how, but I miraculously managed to convince my parents to let me visit him over spring break. This will be the longest 25 days of my life. We spoke on Thursday and he’s psyched. I can’t wait either, these will probably be the best 10 days of my life. He’s moving out of his apartment a couple of days before I come into this three-floor cabin with no running water or electricity (it uses a wood stove). I doubt staying warm will be a problem.

First of all, I don’t blame you if you’re not excited for my 18-year-old self because of my pretentiousness around exclamation marks. Because, come on, if anything merits an exclamation mark, it’s an eminent visit to see the boy with whom I developed an intensely romantic correspondence while being separated by thousands of miles. That’s not big news. It’s big news! Not even, it’s BIG NEWS!!! 

I also don’t blame you if you’re not excited for my 18-year-old self because you think it’s a terrible idea to travel thousands of miles to a small Alaskan town to spend days in a isolated cabin with no running water or electricity with a boy I’ve known for a few short months.

Either way, the longest days of my life were about to be followed by the “probable” best days of my life. Emotional roller coaster much?

To this day, I’m baffled that I managed to convince my historically overprotective parents to let their teenage daughter fly across the country to visit a boy she met in person for maybe ten minutes. There was a lie involved, telling them that Bradley’s older brother would be staying at the house next door to Brad’s. You’d think having an additional male stranger in the picture would be cause for more alarm, but I suppose they chose to think of it as some sort of adult supervision. In reality, the brother wasn’t around at that point (possibly not even living in Alaska any longer) so it would just be the two of us. It was probably easier to convince my mother, because Mom was always a big-time romantic, and she saw how smitten I was, and understood that so much of my eminent happiness hinged on making this trip happen. I don’t know how she persuaded my father, though. She told me later on that Dad he allowed me to go in part because he was relieved to find out that I wasn’t a lesbian (Oh Dad…).

This trip to Alaska was a formative event in my life, but I could’ve sworn I only went for a week, not ten days. So I checked the dates on upcoming journal entries, and it was indeed ten days. There’s something odd knowing I’ve been remembering this trip all these years as being shorter than it was. It makes me wonder how many other things I remember incorrectly.

 

[August, 1995] Bite Me

8/10/95

I sure suck for neglecting this thing so much. It sort of makes sense, though, because if my life is proceeding in a cool way and I’m doing a lot, keeping busy, etc. I should not have a shitload of free time to write down what I do/think/feel. And the more time I do have to write things down, then obviously the less interesting my life is and the more boring what I write is going to be. Sheesh. Still, I do have some stuff to talk about.

If you're looking for a bleak mode of travel, you found it!

If you’re looking for a bleak mode of travel, you found it!

My visit with Tim, for one thing. Of course now that I’ve told the story so many times—to friends and penpals—I will be reduced to a brief summary. Oh well. It was cool, we got along (his friends Lana, Leslie and Lanie—the latter being the girlfriend—were also really nice). I love his stereo, Disintegration sounds too gorgeous on it. We saw the Cure Picture Show (lovely video). Greyhound busses were the transportation. Was hit on during both rides (by an attractive 30-year-old going there and an unattractive 16-year-old coming home). I’m tired. Will end with a quote.

“You tore the make-up from my face
With every acid word you ever knew
Now every line and crack exposed
Exploited fully with each scar shone through.” –Moist

This was a strange and frustrating trip. I don’t know what I expected from Tim (some background on Tim here and here), knowing he had a girlfriend. In retrospect, it must have been odd for this girl from New York to offer to visit him several hours away, for 24 hours. Maybe he accepted the offer out of politeness, maybe out of boredom, or curiosity, or a combination of all the above. In any case, the visit itself was lackluster. All I remember of the town itself was a diner and a record store. All I remember about his house is the sloping roof of his dark room and his amazing stereo system. The details that stand out about Tim in person are that he was nicer and less angry than in his letters, he had attractive bright blue eyes but an unattractive receding chin.

 The two parts of the trip that stick with me to this day are: 1. The 30-year-old who flirted with me on the ride there. 2. The mosquito bites I got from sleeping in Tim’s room. 

To expand on that… 

1. To this day, I don’t think I had ever been flirted with quite as aggressively as I was on that outgoing bus ride. The guy was nearly twice my age but believed me when I told him I was in my early 20’s. He was cute in an average way: brown eyes and hair, slightly receding hairline, slender. I was nervous about travelling hundreds of miles by myself and was initially suspicious of this guy, but his friendly charm put me at ease a little bit, though I never fully let down my guard. He was on his way to Reno to start a new job and was afraid of flying, so he decided to travel cross-country via Greyhound Bus. I warmed up to him during the 3-4 hour trip, letting him hold my hand and even kiss me goodbye. He gave me his number in Reno and his calling card number so that I didn’t have to spend money calling him long distance. I thought it was remarkable that he trusted me not to make any other calls using his card, but I never used either number.

2. Todd had a screen on his bedroom window, but there must have been a massive hole in it, because I was eaten alive by insects while I slept. When I got home the next day, I counted the mosquito bites in the shower and I swear there were over 60. I was itchy and uncomfortable for a good week.

For all the effort and frustration, was the trip worth it? For anecdotal purposes, I guess so. Kind of.

 

[August, 1992] Talking and Acting a Bit Wild

Wednesday, August 7th, 1992

Dear Journal,

Boston was really cool. The hotel was the best. The baseball game was totally dull but we (Tabitha, Anita, Didi and I) stayed up almost all night seriously talking and acting a bit wild. We found out more about each other and had a blast. Oh, yeah. After the baseball game, at about 11:00pm we went bowling! That was weird but kinda fun.

Who doesn't love a good slumber party?

[By “a bit wild” I mean we jumped on the beds and ate lots of junk food. There was also a bit running around the motel hallways and a late night pillow fight. And lots and lots of giggling. I know, such crazy party girls we were. Amazing we didn’t end up in rehab, right?

Seriously, though, that night was like something out of a Sleepover Friends book. While nowhere near as popular or beloved as The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High/Twins series, I briefly read these books in the late 80’s. They centered around a varied group of female friends who have weekly (…wait for it…) sleepovers. The only thing I remember about these books is that one of the characters’ favorite colors were black, white, and red (to the point where her entire room and outfits were bedecked in the three pigments) and that there were pages and pages of descriptions of the various junk foods consumed. Somehow a plethora of plots unfolded around these slumber parties, whose location alternated between the  girls’ houses. However, I can honestly say I doubt any of the books revolved around late-night spirited hijinks in a Boston hotel. Us Brooklyn girls know how to live it up.]

The next day we went to a museum and shopping at a place similar to (but much bigger than) South Street seaport.

[That trip to Boston was one of the highlights of my year. And while I ended up living there years later, it was a while before I realized the shopping center we visited was Quincy Market. To date, it was the only time I’ve been there, which is so much the better, because I’m sure nothing could have topped the small joy I had shopping for t-shirts, candy, and kiwi-flavored lip balm.]

my real first love

don’t know how I feel about Ricky Klein at the present time. I mean, if you would have asked me this morning how I felt about him I would have said that I love him.

[Insert *cringe* here.]

Maybe I did love Ricky.

[I really didn’t.]

Or maybe I just enjoyed the thought of loving him.

[Could be. I was subjected to a sundry of sappy movies and books at a tender and impressionable age.]


I do know that at one time I had very deep feelings for him.

[Lust + Infatuation = A 14-year-old’s “Very Deep Feelings”]

After all I don’t write poems about just anybody!

[Fast forward ten years and we’ll all have a good laugh about that one.]

To be honest I was all ready to include a note in the envelope with his tip that uncovered my feelings. I would have given him the poem too.

A moment ago I felt guilty and fickle for feeling this way but now that I think about it I am glad that I began to get over him before I got hurt or embarrassed. I did not tell anybody who I liked (although I think Didi pretty much figured it out) and now I don’t know if I will. I think another reason I began having strong emotions for him is because we were both born on the same day so it was like destiny or something. I guess it wasn’t.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, I was surely straitjacket-bound at that point. Luckily I came to my senses and just gave Ricky the cash. Thank goodness I had clarity and good sense in that moment when I didn’t on numerous similar occasions.

Don’t worry, though, there will be many more lapses in judgment when it comes to boys and many more notes/poems/stories and all around questionable behavior. Guess being sensible this time around was like destiny. Or something.

[February, 1992] Like From a Gorgeous Painting

The M.S. Celebration. She was yar.

Saturday (2:30), February 1, 1992

Dear Journal,

Here I am on the “Celebration.” The ship has not sailed yet and the only things I have done here is walk around, unpack, eat and take a couple of pictures. It’s so beautiful here! The water is green with a touch of blue and the streets and trees further down (as well as the cars, houses and buildings) are all like from a gorgeous painting.

You know, all those paintings you’ve seen of the cars, houses, buildings and trees outside of a dock for ginormous cruise ships. Just picture those and let your imagination take you away.

I am in my cabin because not much is really open. The “festivities” will probably begin a while after we sail off. Our cabin is very nice. It is not that large or small. For two people it offers plenty of room. The covers on the beds are a brick red color and there is a t.v. in the corner. We have a closet with a safe in it and a telephone for many things such as room service. We got a complimentary bottle of champagne that tasted really good.

Do you feel like you are right there in that cabin with my 14-year-old self or what? If I close my eyes I can just picture those brick red bedspreads like it was yesterday. I do remember the gift basket with champagne Mom and I received from our travel agent, which was a surprise and perfectly indulgent way to kick off our vacation. Not since Tavern on the Green had I experienced lavishness. From the moment I set foot on that ship and saw the garishly brightly colored atrium replete with gilded staircases and an elevator, I knew this was a vacation I wouldn’t forget. So I’m glad I jotted down some integral details in my diary, like the fact that the cabin’s safe was in the closet.

One of the nice things here is how nice the people attending to you are. We (Mom & I) had a very nice late lunch. There was a buffet of sandwitches, barbeque chicken, hot dogs and cookies/brownies.

An eagle made of ice! Monkeys made of fruit! Cruises love to warp with your sense of reality.

In fact, Mom and I found the friendliness of the staff and other passengers so disconcerting it took us a few days to get used to it. Having spent the last decade in New York City and being the victims of numerous robberies/muggings, we were highly suspicious of all that congeniality. Oh, and the food? There’s so much of it on the ship you wonder if you aren’t being prepped for some old lady’s oven after a while. There were sit-down meals and ’round-the-clock buffets, including midnight buffets which you had to attend at least once to take pictures of the elaborate displays of edibles and ice sculptures. It wasn’t until I got home that I learned snapshots of bread shaped like swans and ice sculptures of dolphins make for pretty dull vacation photos.

I got my own credit card (well it’s from the ship and buys only things like drinks). A plus to this cruise is that the food is all included in the price so you only have to tip. Funky!

Yes, so very very “funky.” Get the kids started down an early road to debt. Those virgin pina coladas really add up, let me tell you.

Well I think I’ll go outside and maybe read a bit. I’ll be sure to keep you posted about anything and everything that happens. See ya!

This was the only journal entry from the entire cruise. Which might not be such a bad thing considering we’re all spared endless pages describing meals, shows, island excursions, bingo games, and daily cruise minutiae in excruciating detail. On the other hand, I do wish I had written about scuba diving for the first time in my life in St. Thomas, and how Mom and I accidentally ended up on a nude beach in St. Maarten. Oh well. At least I can look back and recall that the television in our cabin was placed in the corner of the room.