Monday, March 5, 2012


I encountered the nightmare scenario this morning when boarding the bus this morning from Tucson to Phoenix: no empty seats. This meant I would have to choose a seat-mate. I suppose this is preferable to being chosen as a seat-mate, which can lead to unpleasantness outside of ones control. However, I’d been hoping for a very spacious bus ride this morning and it quickly became painfully apparent that that wasn’t going to happen. I looked up the aisle…  my eyes rested on a lady who looked to be middle aged, with a short bob, a thin face and a leather Betty Boop varsity jacket. I’d like to say the jacket came into play when deciding to sit next to her, Betty Boop being a favorite character of my most favorite roommate of all time, but I didn’t really notice that until later. I sat down next to the lady, who was having a chat with the two guys behind her about her ill-fated travels thus far. She’d started out in Alabama and had been delayed almost a day because of a missed connection. I could relate. We started up a little small talk after she noticed one of the photos I was editing and complimented it. Pretty soon I was entrenched in every facet of this woman’s life. She told me about her three divorces (two had cheated, the middle one had a drug problem) her 3 children (all girls, one from the first cheater and the next two from the drug addict,) her children’s children (the oldest at 28 had 3 babies, the middle one was gay and the youngest had a child on the way.) and their various misfortunes and triumphs. Usually when a stranger begins unfolding their life story to you, it is an awkward and uncomfortable situation from which you want to extract yourself right away. This woman seemed different. She had a lot to say, and a lot of it didn’t surprise me, like the drug addict thing, or the 3 divorces, or the fact her 18 year old daughter was having a baby. But a lot of the things did surprise me; one of her daughters was at university in California, studying law, the other was studying to be a pediatric oncologist. Two spoke fluent French and had lived in France, one spoke fluent Spanish. She herself had been a Human Resources manager for security at LAX before it was taken over by the federal government after 9/11 and she’d been booted. She’d been born in Hollywood and raised in California. Her youngest daughter had been pronounced clinically dead after an amusement park ride accident at the age of 5 but was resuscitated. She’d started her own life over three times, and was on her way to the fourth, going back to her hometown after years of living in Alabama.
I liked so much about this woman’s philosophy… life was an adventure. She didn’t sweat the small stuff, and as cliché as it sounded to hear it, it just sounded right. She didn’t care about her girl’s sexual orientation or the color of the skin of their partners, she just wanted them to be happy. She didn’t want them to make the mistakes she did. She loved them and wanted them to make good decisions. She wanted them to learn from what she went through.
She knew her worth and the worth of her daughters wasn’t to be measured by another person; that her daughters had to be secure in who they were before anyone could love them properly, and that the person who did end up loving them properly had to be their best friend.  It wouldn’t matter to that person, she said, whether you had thrown up all over yourself, because they loved you, inside and out, through thick and thin. According to her, friendship was the only thing one should look for in a partner, not lust or looks, because beauty is fading.
I’ve heard all of this cheesy nonsense before, in chocolate wrappers or on Dr. Phil or whatever, but that was ok. It was nice hearing it from her, a woman who knew her own mind even if it took her 30 years to get to know it. It made me feel better about where I am in my life; making choices that are unconventional but nonetheless strengthening my character and teaching me the things I really need to know. It made me realize that it is ok that I’m still figuring it out, because really that’s what a whole life is for. You just keep figuring it out along the way.  It’s never going to come to some sort of satisfying conclusion.  And anyway, that would just be boring. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Greyhound Survival

Greyhound survival is survival of the fittest, indeed. I've attempted to gather some of my ideas on making Greyhound travel survivable and perhaps even bearable. Hopefully some of these tips will do someone a bit of good at some point, and if not, at least writing them was a good way to pass the time on the trip from Tucson to Flagstaff. Here goes...

NUMBER ONE RULE! DON’T TALK TO ANY PASSENGER if you can help it.  You might think that meeting new people is part of the adventure, but for the most part they are all really crazy and scary. Steer clear.

Get to the gate as early as you can so you can pick a seat… and that seat should always be the emergency exit seat . There are four emergency exit seats per bus, in the middle towards the front. If you were in the front of the line, you shouldn’t have trouble snagging one of these seats.

Distribute your bags across the empty seat next to you- people will be less likely to ask to sit down if they know it’ll be a hassle. You should sit on the outside seat too, until boarding is finished. CAUSE YOU WANNA SIT BY YOURSELF.

If you’re on a stopover at night, picking up passengers, and you don’t need to get up to pee or stretch, just spread the hell out and pretend you’re sleeping. You’ll be much less likely to be asked to share your seat; who wants to risk waking a stranger up out of sound sleep? If you do have to get up to pee or stretch (or, eww, to smoke) leave your coat, bags and what have you spread across both seats. People are generally reluctant to move another person’s things. Just make sure it’s stuff you’re not super attached to, in case it should disappear. 

Never ever part from your laptop, wallet, camera or phone. Everything else is expendable (clothes, toiletries, etc.) If someone were to steal a bag containing things of that nature belonging to me, my response would most likely be that they needed it more than I did. Get on with it.

Be nice to the driver and the person loading your bag. This is obvious common sense. While we’re at it, just be nice to everyone. The person behind the Greyhound counter is usually surly, but so would I be if I had to deal with as many freaks in a day. I always give them my best smile, ask how they are, maybe even pay them a compliment. Be aware though, when I say “be nice to everyone,” I certainly don’t mean to make conversation or try to initiate small talk. Just don’t get in anyone’s way, and don’t be a jerk.

If you’re taking an overnight bus, I found it’s best to take a sleeping pill. If I don’t do that, I have very fitful, unrestful sleep and it’s not worth much.  If you take a sleeping pill, be prepared to be woken up about every 3 to 4 hours, as the bus lines seem to relish making everyone wake up and take a little walk when they pull into a station at about 3:45 in the morning. This is a huge annoyance, although sometimes they don’t force you off the bus but rather allow you to stay on and in your seat once they’ve busted your eardrums announcing the arrival, and flicked on the glaring overhead lights that will remain on for the duration of the layover, even if it’s 15 minutes.

Be aware that some Greyhound busses will have WiFi and electrical outlets, but DON'T expect them all to. If you’re on a long haul and you’re lucky enough to have a charging station, keep your stuff plugged in because on your next transfer you may not be so lucky. In my experience, I have the well equipped busses on short rides and the really skanky ones when I have a long, long ride ahead. Frustrating, I know.


If you’re changing buses and you need to get your luggage ticketed for your next destination (and you will) get in line at the Greyhound counter ASAP.  That way you can get tagged, find out the gate you need and get in line right away for the next leg of your trip.

Once you’ve got your place in line, don’t be too afraid to leave your bag (the one that only carries clothes and toiletries) to hold your place, and hit the bathroom or the snack bar. Make sure you’ve got a bag holding your place though! Otherwise you’ll be at the end of the line once you’ve peed and grabbed a French fry.


Your toothbrush should be handy- you can brush your teeth in the sink at any station. Personally, I’m humbled enough not to care too much that it’s bus station tap water- if you’re squeamish about these things, Greyhound is not the way you are gonna want to cross the country.

Make sure you bring along a bottle of multivitamins. It’s really hard to eat as healthfully as you might like when you’re on the road. I also recommend a package or two of Emergen-C (or better yet, the generic brand- mine are CVS brand that I bought in Boston.) I try to take 2 a day in addition to the multivit- buses are an enclosed air system and you want your immune system to be aces for the duration of your trip.

 Make sure you do lots and lots of stretching. Stretch at EVERY opportunity. My favorites are mini back bends, toe touches and mini lunges. Also don’t forget to stretch your arms. You can do seated stretches too, which are good to keep up on if you’re sitting by yourself and have the opportunity.


I’ve found the most useful items for bus travel so far to be:

Snuggie ™: I’ve become a big fan of the thing, although I was initially skeptical.  It wa a gift from my stepdad specifically for the trip. Mine is leopard print, which is rad.

Neck pillow: essential for overnights or naps- press it up against the window, curl up across two seats and enjoy a few hours rest.  Personally, I have a doggy pillow-pal. My stepdad got this for me too. He rules.

Emergen-C: as previously stated.

Brita water filter bottle: this allows me to collect water from nearly any tap and have it filtered for each sip. These things are truly bomb. I’m pretty sure there’s another brand that makes them as well. One of these might as well be mandatory. Keep up your water intake, too, even though it makes you have to pee more frequently.

Noise cancelling ear-buds: sometimes I keep them in even when I’m not playing music. Of course, you could always just get ear-plugs, which I also have but never feel like fishing out. I think the buds are probably more effective anyway.

Granola bars: grab a box anytime you can hit up a grocery store, but try to avoid buying them at gas stations and such, as they’re far to expensive that way.

Hopefully you've gained some insight into cross-country bus travel! Be safe, and DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS.


After Austin I backtracked through Texas and visited my aunt and cousins in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. It was awesome to see my cousins for the first time in 8 years or so, they're so grown up and just fantastic kids.

My aunt and I have a great mutual love for thrifting, so we spent a whole bunch of time hitting Salvay's and random thrift stores in Spring. I ended up with some pretty great swag, including a Texas tee shirt, some southwesty-type jewelry and a dope leather purse.

Cupcakes were definitely in order, so my cousins Alex and Adam and I went to the cupcake place and ordered some, and when I tried to take some photos (as is my standard M.O. when it comes to cupcake places) the guy behind the counter admonished me not to photograph them... leading to the joke of the visit "please don't photograph the cupcakes."

My cousins also have a ton of awesome animals, including 3 awesome Chihuahua pups, a rat and loads of fishies. My aunt is super proud (and rightly so!) of her garden, pond and hydroponic green house, and it was great to see how crafty and creative she is.

I used Aunt Sue's fisheye to take these slow-shutter shots of the backyard, the greenhouse, and a sleepy Alex and 2 of 3 puppies.

On my last night in Spring my aunt busted out a box full of family photos and we had a pow-wow about the Mahoney family history. It was a nice way to end the stay with my family.

The next morning I had to part (sadly) with my family and my snuggle bug Banjo when my aunt drove me to Houston, where I got the chance to explore some art gallery's in the area around St. Thomas University, including Mark Rothko's chapel. The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational space for meditation, silence and prayer, a pentagonal building with massive Rothko paintings on each wall and benches to sit in front of the works. Rothko's paintings are a celebration of the vibrancy of color, and these immense seemingly black canvases beg the viewer to get close and really soak in the subtle shifts in deep, deep indigo and violets that actually comprise the pigments.

Outside of the awe-inspiring Rothko Chapel is a beautiful reflecting pool with a hard edged geometric bronze sculpture that dominates the tree-lined space.

After the Rothko I stumbled upon the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, where I learned of the existence of the Cy Twombly gallery, the Dan Flavin Gallery and the Menil Collection. Heaven. It was in the Cy Twombly gallery that I met Jill, a super cool freelance photographer who asked me to stand in front of some of the artworks to give them scale for a flight-magazine shoot she was doing. We ended up chatting for a bit and visiting the Dan Flavin gallery together, where she shot a couple more photos with me in the Flavin's signature florescent lights.

I decided to put the kaibosh on plans to check out the Zoo with the family I used to nanny for, who had since moved to Houston and whom I wanted to visit with. Instead, the family came to me and we explored the area around the museums, climbed trees, visited the Menil Collection, and "baby" Paul even admonished a group of 20-somethings about smoking... which was hilarious if slightly awkward. It was a great treat to meet the newest member of the family, as well, who is a perfect combination of her older brother and sister.

It was hard parting with the family again, especially with Paul telling me I should stay and be his nanny again. I miss him like crazy! I can't believe how big he is, and so smart! Just like his big sister (and mom and dad!) But alas, it was time to move on to Tucson.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random Austin shots

Mango mimosa's
Food truck, cute graf

Trailer park food court

Bits and Druthers Fish and Chips

The Vegan Yacht

Kind of captions itself.

Rust on turquoise 


Le Cheval Blanc

Just wooden Wayfarers, NBD.

strawberry cheesecake

the Top Notch

A Val in a tree

Mt. Bonnell

Where we smoked a joint on the 50 yard line (JUST KIDDING! It's a line from Dazed and Confused that was said at this spot.)

Sunday afternoon

Thanks guys. 


After serious blog neglect, I am finally able to post an update from the Austin visit!

I am so truly, truly blessed to have such amazing friends... Val picked me up from the bus station and brought me to her lux apartment complex and made me feel right at home, and Jim joined us right away that night for amazing Tex-Mex dinner at Chuy's. On my birthday, Cupcake King Jim treated me to an awesome treat from Sugar Mama's, where the two of them took me again later in the week.

Sugar Mama's magic, courtesy of Jim- 3 of 4 were vegan! All were delicious.

Reppin' hard at Sugar Mama's.

Mr. Cupcake himself, in his natural habitat. 

Austin was indeed a food paradise- among the fares sampled; Tex Mex, vegan, Brazilian and Korean... and of course, cupcakes. Trailer park food courts are huge in Austin, and the food found in them is varied and DELICIOUS. 

Moustache Rides!

On my second night in town, Val brought me to a truly slammin' art party in east Austin at a studio called Industry. Apparently there is a BYOB party there once a month where a featured artist's original one-of-a-kind designs can be screen printed onto a piece of your own personal clothing for a measly $10.

January's featured artist was Michael Sieben, who you might have known was involved in a controversy with Target when the mega-retailer appropriated his designs and used them for the Sean White line without giving credit where credit was due.
I snagged this sick print for my tired old heather grey v-neck...

in addition to snagging Sieben's artist book, entitled "There's Nothing Wrong with You... Hopefully." which is a collection of Sieben's drawings, doodles, finished works, prints and sculptural installation work.

This neon sign was blazing in the open woodworking studio next door to Industry. The company is, unsurprisingly, called Rad. Val and I danced down their loading dock and that display too, was rad. 

The real and actual Soul Pole and Fah Q paddle, proudly displayed inside Top Notch

Jim and I outside Top Notch! Just waiting for Cindy and Wooderson to drive up and order a burger.

Jim engineered a Dazed and Confused sight seeing trip for us, too, which was a definite trip highlight for me. Dazed and Confused is certainly in my Top 5 Favorite Movies of All Time, so actually setting foot on these filming sites was epic for me. I certainly could not wipe the cheesy grin off my face.

The baseball field from Dazed and Confused.

We had to do this shot 3 ways. Me and Val,

Jim and I,

then Val and Jim. Here, Jim is probably checking in on FourSquare, which I have become obsessed with since Austin.

This is the view of the city from Jim's rooftop, where I learned that stars indeed do twinkle. (How did I not know that? Undoubtedly a failing of the public education system.)

Val took me dancing on Saturday night at Barbarella, to what was undoubtedly one of the best dance nights I've been to, ever. Hands down. It definitely rivaled Friday on My Mind in Leipzig or Kill All Hipsters in Berlin. The crowd was totally down, drinks were dirt cheap, and the music was undeniably awesome. Of course Val and I made our way to the little stage in the front, and by the end of the night (after about a 4 minute power outage that struck the entire downtown, during which the crowd called out soccer chants and sang happy birthday) I found myself on top of the speaker box, dancing and singing Arcade Fire's "Ready To Start" at the top of my lungs.

All in all, I was totally impressed with Austin. I absolutely loved it. The nightlife was awesome, the food was awesome, and some incredible friends call it home. I think this was the point in the trip where it really hit me that at this juncture I am untethered and free to go ANYWHERE to (re?)start my life... even though Brooklyn continues to look like my official choice, I got the sense while I was in Austin that I was truly able to choose a whole new life  in a far away place if I so desired. If Austin's public transit system was a little more accessible, I know it would be a real consideration. It still could be... I'm totally in love with the idea of living in a place with such a legendary music scene, and without the hassle of snow and cold.

In terms of hitting my TRIP GOALS in Austin, I did a pretty decent job, thanks to my super accommodating and helpful hosts... 


1. √ We found a photo booth on my last night in town at a little spot called Bar 96.

2. √ Local beer- Fireman's something?

3. √ Coffee shop- well, I'm kind of fudging this one, but we did get brunch at a wicked spot called Bouldin Creek where I drank a lot of coffee, a mimosa garnished with blueberries, and scarfed eggs benedict with vegan Hollandaise sauce.

4. _Didn't do any thrifting. =(

5. √ Kept in touch with mom.

6. √ Made 2 new friends, Mellie and Greg!

7. √ Took loads of photos.

Val and I and our identical haircuts.

Austin definitely stole my heart. I hope to be back next year for South by Southwest Music Festival! Not sure if it will be in the capacity of resident or visitor, though. Time will tell. Please do stay tuned to the blog for Houston Stories, Greyhound Survival Tips, Tucson AZ, the Grand Canyon and California!