I have to say, it’s good to be back home. Family is obviously the number one reason to be happy about being in California, but there’s quite clearly the added bonus of being in California. I’m absolutely a Bay Area girl at heart, though I embrace my New Yorkyness in all it’s splendor. So flying back to SFO after an all too brief stay overnight in Brooklyn, I welcomed the splendid evening temperature, the turn-right-on-a-red-light abilities, the blondes, the tofu, In’N’Out, the number of lanes of the freeways… it’s good to be back where I started.
And here I am. It’s been nearly two weeks since I left the ship in Piraeus, and it’s been quite a transition, to say the least. I was absolutely sad to say my goodbyes, to pack my things, to have my last show, to have my last meal in the officer’s mess (well, not really).
But it was a real tug on my heartstrings to have developed such a home for myself on that little ship and then to leave it behind on a flight back to JFK. For several days, I found myself thinking of where the ship was in port, what the sunset might look like in Mykonos, what show the new cast on board was doing that night, what the new guests might be like… My first morning back in the US, I had a minor anxiety attack while blow-drying my hair in the bathroom, and I suddenly felt the urgent need to see water. Sounds crazy, right? Well, after finishing my make-up, I briskly walked out to the Brooklyn Promenade and exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Yes, large bodies of water do still exist. I stayed for just one night in Brooklyn before flying out to San Francisco, where I spent most of my time recreating recipes in the kitchen. Ahh…. to cook again! I went crazy on the cooking. I was probably most proud of my Italian dinner, which included Spritz cocktails (Aperol, Prosecco, sparkling water and slice of orange), an arugula salad, garlic bread, grilled tri tip with Sicilian spices, mushroom risotto and… (drumroll) …tiramisu!
Of course, the whole meal was rounded off nicely by some Harrell Family 2009 Meritage. Have I mentioned yet how FANTASTIC it is to drink my family’s wine again? Between all the cooking, eating and wine drinking I think I’ve gained an extra five pounds. It certainly does something to your body to no longer have periods of time during the day when you think, “I’m hungry” – and because the mess is not open, you instead go to the gym. No, no. Back to free kitchen usage. This could be bad. I’m already gearing up for a three week cleanse. Yeah, but after my birthday. C’mon.
So yeah, I’m back now. Feels weird, feels good. Makes me feel a little anxious, wondering what happens next. So yesterday I decided to take some matters into my own hands and make a decision. Well, sorta. I’m down in LA right now bumming around with Travis in his West Hollywood apartment. We made a stop in Santa Barbara on our way down, relived some memories, and in LA it’s been hiking, shopping and relaxing. Yesterday, we were driving back from an afternoon of outlet shopping, when we passed Kat Von D’s tattoo parlor on Santa Monica Blvd, and I remarked how cool it would be to get a tattoo from that place. Then Travis said, “No, the place I would get a tattoo is this place up here on the left!” And he pointed out a cool-looking tattoo parlor called The Honorable Society. So then we chatted about how I should get my long-considered foot tattoo, and Travis said, “Let’s turn around! Do it today! THEY HAVE A DEAL ON YELP!” And we did a U-turn, went back, got parking, and I got a freaking tattoo.
Let me explain. Two years ago, I was working as the director of development of a non-profit organization in NYC. Things were going well with that job, but it really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. And then, while in a rehearsal for my improv group ‘Zamboni!’, I broke my foot. What a bummer! I was in a walking cast for three months trying to recover. And after it happened, all I could think about was whether or not I’d be able to dance in a Broadway show. Uh, what? I was working in an office job. There was something wrong with that picture. So as soon as I was a little more mobile, I started seeking out more auditions, submitting my headshot and resume. And that’s when I got a call for a gig that needed “a professionally-trained opera singer with improv experience.” Ashley, meet The Ride. And so, after a four-week transition period out of my job at the non-profit, I was making my living, solely on performing. And I kept looking down at that broken foot, thinking, ‘damn!’ It took more than a year before I was able to run again (before the break, I had been running some half marathons and was planning on trying to train for a full marathon). But that broken foot made things change for me! Then I started thinking about the symbolism and if there was anything that could connect it all, full circle. The star! I started researching stars as tattoos, and found it so interesting how many sailors of the past would tattoo a star on their body, symbolizing their safe return home and using the star as a beacon of guidance. And I considered what a lovely emblem that would be for my broken foot, right over the broken bone – the foot that forced me to make my way to my goals and land a job as a singer and performer. And then… I was cast as an artist on a cruise ship! This was shaping up to be more and more perfect. I was at sea! I was a sailor! And I made a resolute decision that as soon as I had paid off my credit card debt, I’d get that tattoo. But then I didn’t really want to get a tattoo in Morocco (when I paid off my debt), so I knew I had to wait until I made in back to the US. So it’s red to represent the red star found on the state flag of California. And here I am, tat on foot, smile on face, all is good.
I’m happy to be back in California. It’s good to be in the sunshine, to be with friends and family, to have perspective on what I’ve just done for the last six plus months. But I have to say, I’m missing the sea.
More to come. I’m planning to just do individual posts for the individual ports I visited (post Barcelona in March). So it will be a lot. Happy Saturday! (Off to the Getty)