Stomach ache remedies

166 days of travel.

49,485 miles traveled (approximately).  Roughly equivalent to circling the earth 2 times.

Thirty-two countries (only two of which I have been to before), including: Cape Verde, Croatia, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives Republic, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Qatar, Reunion, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

Stay tuned!  Day 1 of 166 is tomorrow.

It’s really starting

To say that I’m “excited” right now would be a bit of an understatement. I’m feeling so many things right now… excitement, nervous energy, fear, anticipation, EVERYTHING! At the time I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my flight between Oakland and Las Vegas. It was surprisingly simple to throw my things together this morning, after the most epic “Christmas” in September last night. It was not so simple to say goodbye to family and to Marcel (the obese cat). But our celebration yesterday made the transition a little smoother. We celebrated with a traditional holiday dinner, complete with a 21 pound organic turkey that we got for FREE from the amazing meat department at Whole Foods in Walnut Creek. Our ordered turkey wasn’t delivered, so they gave us a much larger, organic bird, on the house. Oma and Opa came in from Napa, Travis drove up from LA, Kyle and Amy braved the long journey from Berkeley, and even Gloria was able to make it from San Mateo. We had quite a night, and Santa even came early to me this year, delivering a brand new iPad! (He also said Happy Birthday for 2012.) What a fun night we had.

I definitely feel a great relief leaving Marcel safely in the able hands of Randy, Linda, and of course, Cal (the three month old golden retriever). But there is still an uneasy feeling in my stomach, a nice little character flaw I’ve maintained since childhood. Oh, thanks flight attendant, yes I would love pretzels and a ginger ale. Ah… That helps.

So upon my arrival in Sin City, I will be greeted by the people that hired me to sing aboard the Silver Wind for seven months. After being hired from my video submission, I hope that I make a decent first impression! I’m paired up to share a hotel room for the next month with a gal I’ve never met – it feels like I’m preparing to enter college dorm life again. I couldn’t help but make the comparison, especially with it being that time of year. Shout out to Hannah Strotman, locking it up as a new Gaucho at UCSB! We’re staying at an extended stay hotel off the strip, but somewhat near The Palms and The Rio. Not that I’m planning on doing any gambling (sorry, Dad).

Tomorrow we jump into music rehearsals. I don’t know what to expect, but I love learning and rehearsing new music, so I’m eager to get started. The company also asked me to play guitar on the ship, so I’ve got my guitar in tow and have been working to try and get those fingers calloused and back into shape. This is definitely going to be a musical boot camp for me. There are a few songs I’m interested in accompanying myself with the piano as well, so I’m looking forward to working with our musical director to come up with the best presentation we can achieve.

Peter gets in later tonight and I’m looking forward to having a celebratory glass of bubbly to mark this exciting career milestone for us. My vision of the future has changed drastically in the last two months. I would never have imagined myself in this place, it was a lucky happenstance. The right time, the right opportunity, the right people. This couldn’t be more perfect and I couldn’t be more grateful.

An Art Question

Walking around the SoHo neighborhood daily -whether to or from work, in and out of meetings, or getting some shopping done on the weekend- I see street art everywhere. One of the things that makes SoHo unique are the dramatic facades and large windows, a happy accident when building construction in the industrial age of SoHo moved to using more affordable, durable cast iron construction. After the abandonment of the highway plan through SoHo, artists of the area (who prized their cheap lofts with natural light and convenient seclusion from the rest of Manhattan) fought to allow residential zoning. As a result, the neighborhood has long been associated with a community of artists… now the streets are dotted with Apple, Louis Vuitton, Top Shop, Prada, etc. Though most of these lofts have been converted into multi-million dollar residences for the Jon Bon Jovis of the world (seriously-he works out at my gym!), the spirit of young artists still lives. So on the note of art – I acquired an abandoned painting by happenstance about a year ago. This was actually when I was living in the East Village, but it moved West with me. Right now I have it mounted above my fireplace, but I don’t know quite what to do with it. There’s a website written on the back, and apparently it’s a reproduction that sells for about $300. I’m not particularly a huge fan of the piece, but I’m wondering if I can do something with it. I wish I was as talented as a friend from college, Kevin Best, who takes thrift store paintings and “remixes” them for the better. Check out his stuff! So – question is, what do I do with this?

Robbing internet from your neighbors is so outrageously fun…

Side note: This was written two nights ago… It has been far too long since my last real update. I’m currently sitting in my brand-new (to me) New York City – Upper East Side apartment, without internet access, typing this to prepare for the moment I get the Time Warner technician to activate my internet tomorrow morning. Believe you me; I have been looking forward to writing this for the last week. I am completely prepped for the next hour or so it takes to finish this: got my candles lit, the lights dimmed, Sara Bareilles’ voluptuous vocals streaming through my speakers, oatmeal raisin cookies hot out of the oven, and a big glass of milk. I suggest you do the same. Where did I last leave off? I think it was in Virginia… I’m so glad to be out of Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful state – I’m just not so sure how well I handle the people there. When we crossed into D.C., it was like a breath of fresh air. What astounded me most was the proximity between two completely different lifestyle attitudes. One moment we saw rednecks waving Confederate flags, sporting mullets, and driving vehicles with stickers advertising the Bush administration, the National Rifle Association, and “Jesus is the only way you filthy sinner…” Okay, overstatement. But travel only 20 miles Northeast and you see non-obese happy, friendly people, gay couples holding hands, young women and men prancing the streets in suits with briefcases, and plenty of anti-war protests. This country is amazing – so many different people in so many places. I don’t think you can really appreciate how huge this place is until you complete the drive across the continent. It was an amazing experience, and a cultural shake-up in many ways. It was so lovely to spend so much time with my mom, and I swear that neither one of us had the inclination to kill one other – even with the limited seating space in our over-packed Hertz-rental Suburban. By the way, thank God for GPS… and Sex and the City. We finally arrived in Manhattan last Sunday afternoon (eight days ago). Upon our arrival, I was greeted by the smiling faces of Brian, Natalie and Jess. The five of us managed to clear out the vehicle of all my belongings, up the five flights of stairs, to my future home. It was so strange to finally be here after so much anticipation. What’s more, the apartment immediately seemed like home. Despite the tiny size and the whole “sixth-floor walkup” aspect, the apartment is quite wonderful. We are in an amazing neighborhood, and it seems like most of the inhabitants are in our post-collegiate age group. Within walking distance are several markets, bagel shops, various ethnic restaurants, drugstores, bars – you name it! Only two blocks East is the East River, and three blocks West is Central Park. I really think we landed in a great location! After we unpacked everything, the next few days of “city-life” were just a whirlwind of activity. My mom and I made numerous trips to Home Depot, which is nothing like any HD I have ever seen! After painting my room and setting up my first big purchase of the week, a new bed, my room finally felt like me. On Wednesday, we attempted to have some fun in the city, and ended up walking all over! We visited my local library branch, tried to find Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, made it to Rockefeller Center and Trinity Cathedral, visited Times Square, ate at Carnegie Deli, and saw a Broadway show! We were able to meet up with Brian, and we won the raffle for front row seats to watch “Drowsy Chaperone.” I had seen ads for the show, but didn’t know much about it – and therefore had no expectations. Well, it was hilarious, short and sweet, entertaining, and included some astounding physical feats. Thursday morning was bittersweet as my Mom and I visited Central Park and walked through the lush greens around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, the Great Lawn, and through the butterfly-inhabited Shakespeare Gardens. (Yes, Ingrid, I can now tolerate butterflies.) Central Park is so perfectly serene and peaceful. It is such a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. After our nature walkabout, we packed up her suitcases and headed for JFK. After she barely made it to the security checkpoint in time for the flight, we had a brief goodbye that didn’t allow time for tears or sad emotions. Probably better that way – I think this move is the most earth-shaking thing I have done in my entire life. Okay, Sara Bareilles just ended, so I’ve moved onto Laura Jansen – thanks Julia for introducing her to my iTunes library. It was really weird to finally be on my own in the city. I am an independent person with strong convictions and an aura of confidence, but it’s still strange to say goodbye and realize you will be 3000 miles away from your family and many of your friends. My first few days alone were still very busy in the apartment and around town. I found a running route I really like, around the reservoir in the park, and have even discovered my favorite bagel place in the neighborhood – H & H Bagels. I spent some time trotting the aisles of the Food Emporium, and found a cheap art supply store in Noho. After all my stuff was finally put away, I celebrated by meeting up with Jess and Jenson in Brooklyn – we went to this bar called “Fulton” and enjoyed Brooklyn Lager and Bocce Ball, a great evening. On Friday, I met up with Jess again, and we headed to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for their free-admission Fridays. The place is so amazing, but simply exhausting. It is made up of six overwhelming floors, filled with twists, turns, and extraordinary art. By the time we got to the fourth floor, we were completely spent. We parted ways and agreed to meet up later for the free Camera Obscura concert at South Seaport, but later agreed that we were too tired for any more excitement that night. My evening concluded with an Absolut Citron martini at Ray’s Piano Bar with Brian. I forced him to go out since it was our first Friday night in our apartment. After one strong drink, several singing flamboyant gentlemen, and flirtatious glances at my roommate from one particularly gorgeous crooning bartender, we agreed to head back home to rest up for our impending doom: a trip to Ikea… New Jersey. Blue & Yellow. Madness. Anxiety. Hot Dogs. Lines. Credit Cards. Indecision. Sore arms. Public Transportation. Evil Glares. Yeah, that basically sums up Saturday. Our Ikea day was like nothing I could ever imagine. Take whatever experience you may have had at Ikea – multiply the number of people by five, turn up the heat a few degrees, pretend you’re buying more then you ever have before, and… you have no car. Though the day was almost mentally scarring, we ended up with some great purchases. (Our couch is being delivered on Wednesday!) We decided to give our living room a black, red, and beige color scheme – and it looks fabulous so far. Yesterday we hit up Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond, and finished the weekend with acquiring a free bookshelf from the street. To celebrate our progress, I was finally able to actually cook in our kitchen: seared cod with coconut sweet pea basmati rice, and a mint-cilantro-ginger-cumin chutney. Yum! Today I was able to explore a few things I was looking forward to – I got my public library card and checked out some reading material and some reference material (on auditioning for theater), then I headed to the performing arts library across town and checked out some sheet music – for free! Love libraries. I really think that people forget how spectacular they are: free internet, a world of literature, peaceful environment, and like-minded patrons cruising the aisles. Forget Blockbuster or Borders – everything you could rent or buy, from books to CDs to DVDs, is available at the library at no charge! After returning home, I went with Brian to pick up our new Craigslist coffee table (A GREAT DEAL!), and we (I mean he) hauled it 21 blocks back to our place. After two episodes of Heroes and my nightcap of cookies, I’m finally ready to hit the hay and prepare for my first day back working. Tomorrow I will start up again with The Nilson Report and finally start earning a paycheck again! Watch out, execs of Visa and Amex, because Ms. Harrell is back at it! My bed is calling my name – thanks for tuning in. Oh, and one slightly sad personal note: after much deliberation, I decided today to take out my “Monroe” piercing… I loved loved LOVED having it, but decided that it’s not the sort of thing that will work out for my career in music. But now I have a cute little scar healing – like Marilyn’s mole? Still don’t have my internet working – thanks to “levi” for the free connection tonight! In other news, our new couch was delivered today and I painted the coffee table… Isn’t that exciting?

A Confederacy of Dunces?

Call me a lefty, a yankee, an donkey or an ass… but what is with the hicks in the south with their Confederate flags? How can a person proclaim the “God Bless America”s while they wave the other red, white, and blue from the back of their Ford pickup? Isn’t that flag the symbol of division and conflict in this nation? I do not understand… these self-proclaimed “red-necks” flaunt the image everywhere, and actually call the Civil War the “War of Northern Agression.” Seriously. It is fabulously sickening. Needless to say, we are still in the red states – Virginia to be precise. We powered on through Tennessee and made it 17 miles past the border of Virginia – putting us only about 600 miles away from my new home! Of course, the thing that got us through the long drive today was another HUGE dose of Sex and the City – we only have one episode left of the series! Well, I am quite excited to just be there already, especially as Brian called me this afternoon to update the newly installed countertops and polished floors in our place! For all you all in NYC, get ready for a fantastic house-warming party in a month or so! Also for all you all in NYC, if you are available on Sunday afternoon, please check in on East 93rd and 2nd Avenue to help unload my car up six flights of stairs… 🙂