humor

How to Get Propositioned & Other Lessons from the Road

Oh you. Look at you. You look different. Did you do something with your hair? Is that a new mask? I’ve missed you. I’ve spent the past few weeks gathering blog-worthy content as I trekked cross-country once again. This time, I drove from Oregon to New Jersey to try to convince my parents that homeownership is all a massive ploy to turn carefree joy into anus-puckering fear.

Driving 2,798 (x 2) miles -not counting the extra seven miles inevitably driven trying to find the DAMN entrance to the DAMN truck stop like seriously you put it THERE?- always comes with certain, ah, learning opportunities, and this particular trip was no exception.

Lesson #1 – You Can’t Build Dreams on a House of Cards Canopies

On the return trip to Oregon, I planned to stop in Iowa to drink beer table a vegan market with my Business Partner Extraordinaire, Robin.

“I think I’m going to buy a canopy,” Robin texted while I was still in New Jersey. “It looks like it’s going to be hot.” Babs caught wind of this text and said,

“I think we have one. We tried to gather all of the pieces after the flood and put them here.” She guided me towards a large Tupperware bin now nestled in my parents’ shed.

I spread out all of the parts on their lawn, hoping nothing was missing. If I can make this work, it’ll save us a ton of money. I was in charge of our business budget and I took my role very seriously.

I soon discovered that a critical corner piece was missing, but, no matter, that’s what duct tape was for. Babs and I spent a solid half hour wrestling the world’s cheapest canopy together, and, once it was precariously perched in all of its DIY glory, I triumphantly snapped a photo for Robin.

“The only issue,” I wrote. “Is that we’re going to be on concrete, so we can’t stake it into the ground.” No way was I buying bags of sand or kitty litter that would cost more than the tent itself. I took the canopy apart and organized all of the pieces, loading them into my trunk for the long haul from New Jersey to Iowa a few days later.

When event time rolled around, it was nearly 90 degrees and sunny. “Thank god we have this tent!” we declared. And then, as though on cue, a huge gust of wind rattled through Des Moines. We sprawled our arms out, octopus-style, grabbing hold of tent corners and merchandise.

“Well,” I said. “I guess we’ll both just have to stay here at all times to make sure it doesn’t blow away!”

Ninety minutes later, I let my guard down for seven seconds to guzzle a gallon of much-needed water. Mother Nature -that fickle mistress- seized the opportunity and let loose her most massive fart yet.

We got lucky. And by that I mean our NJ sourced flying projectile didn’t impale any passersby.

“Wanna hop in, too, Jules?” -Robin

Lesson #2 – When You Assume, You Make an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me” Latte

While in Iowa, I stayed in a tiny one zero-light town. I was surprised to find a modern coffee shop right around the corner called The Daily Grind. Better still, I could order my beloved oat milk latte online! Score!

I begrudgingly paid the extra service fee for the privilege of pulling up to the coffee shop and skipping the line. I forgot where I was, and that there wouldn’t actually be a line. In fact, there was only one other car in the lot when I arrived. I parked next to my fellow java drinker, and as I got out of my car, a woman came out of the coffee shop holding her cup, hopping into the driver’s seat of the neighboring car.

A moment later, a second woman came out of the shop. She was wearing a black hoodie and also holding a large cup. She smiled directly at me as she approached.

“Oh, wow, you bring it out, too!” I exclaimed, beaming at the woman. “That is so awesome!”

She tilted her head and pointed to the other car.

“Um. No. This is me,” she said as she opened the passenger door and climbed in to join her friend.

This had better be good since I had to go ALL THE WAY INSIDE to retrieve it.

Lesson #3 – Never Make Eye Contact

As you’ve probably gathered from Lessons 1-2, I only enjoy spending money on things with calories, which means when it comes to booking roadside lodging, I’m often wrestling between, “Do I spend an extra $50 to reduce the likelihood of finding pubic hair on the plastic cups in the bathroom?” and “Can’t I tolerate anything for just one night?”

Unfortunately, there’s a pocket of hell just east of Chicago -at least for single female travelers with a spoiled, senior Labradoodle- which always has me choosing the same Motel 6 with a sticker price so questionable it’s a wonder I’m still alive.

Safety first.

On my return trip to Oregon, I pulled up to my (un)trusty Motel 6, wondering if it could possibly be any worse than the last time I’d laid my weary eyes upon it. Stepping out of my dusty Subaru, in two day old clothes, sporting unwashed hair and a formidable scowl beneath my wrinkled mask, I tried not to step too close to the patch of grass littered with cans, broken bottles, and cigarette butts. An overweight, middle-aged gentleman in a stained gray t-shirt caught my eye.

F*ck.

He was chain-smoking near the front door and grinned.

“Not much to do in this town is there?”

Double f*ck.

“Yeah, guess not,” I muttered, charging towards the entrance.

Later, as I filled my ice bucket -utterly shocked it wasn’t bearing a tattered “OUT OF ORDER” sign- I heard the same voice from behind. Stale cigarette stench hit my nostrils as he drawled,

“If you’re bored later, I’m down the hall.”

I darted back into my room without acknowledging him, wondering if it was smart to let him see which room I went into.

“Pretty sure I just got propositioned by a man who definitely goes by Bubba,” I texted to my girlfriends, detailing his advances. “Are these still the sweet nothings a lady of the night can expect?”

The kind of place where you’re afraid to let your stuff touch any surface. I found the penny on the bathroom floor and assumed it was the deposit from Bubba. (Note my $6 bubbly poured into a water bottle because that comment about the pubes on the bathroom cups was not hyperbole.)

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Any lessons from the road you care to share?

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humor

I WANT MY MOMMY (Dethroned: Part Two)

(For part one, click here.)

“Hi, can you hear me?”

“Yes! Is everything okay?”

Babs’s voice came through my car’s speakers loud and clear, surprising me. I wasn’t expecting such strong cell service in eastern Oregon.

Hello…?

“Yes, but I’m, ah, driving east because OREGON IS ON FIRE,” I replied.

“Oh my god, Pop and I were watching on the news. It looks awful. Is Bend safe?”

“Yeah, so far, but the smoke reached hazardous levels this morning and I was like, ‘Nope.’ I’ve been driving east for 90 minutes and it’s still smoky. It feels apocolyptic.”

View as I bolted out of Bend on September 11, 2020. Looks like fog, right? Nope. That’s wildfire smoke (on an otherwise sunny day).

“Wow…well, you know, you could always come here.”

I hadn’t dared suggest it. Not only was “here” still 3,000 miles away, in New Jersey, but my parents were firmly situated in the vulnerable population group when it came to COVID-19. Even though I hadn’t seen another soul in over a week, was it too risky?

“Go see Grammy?!?!!?!” -Uncle Jesse (the doodle dog)

“I was thinking about it!” I laughed. “I’m gonna stock up on wine at Trader Joe’s in Boise and keep you posted.”

Priorities.

That night I made it past Salt Lake City and my fate was sealed: New Jersey or bust. Was it selfish? Crazy? Would state border police stop me and shove a giant Q-Tip up my nose? Send me packing back to Oregon? Put me in one of those cute little jail cells like on Once Upon a Time?

Aw.

I hadn’t seen my family since early December. Before moving to Bend, Oregon in June 2019, I lived mere minutes from my parents, sister, niece, and nephew. Game nights, family dinners, and weekend outings were standard fare.

After a stressful move to a new apartment last November during a massive snow storm, battling severe winter depression, and then, you know, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, my priorities had fully shifted from “greatest global good” to “DEAR GOD SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME A HUG.”

I put pedal to the metal as I burned through 11 states in four days. It felt amazing to have a plan. To work towards a tangible goal. To learn every country song currently topping the charts. To head towards the promise of human interaction – under the same roof! I basked in the glow of those formless, wordless things that turn “existence” into “life.” Hand sanitizer, masks, and pushing doors open with sweater sleeves were tiny prices to pay for the return of hope.

Over the following month, I filled my family love tank to the brim.

“Wow, you drove all the way back to Bend with your mom? How did that go?” several people asked after hearing that I made the long return trip from New Jersey to Oregon with Babs in tow.

Impromptu photo shoot near Des Moines, Iowa.

“You know, any other time maybe we would have gotten on each other’s nerves, but it was great. I just kept thinking, ‘What if this is the only time I ever get to do this?'” I answered.

A new perspective had settled in. A calm acceptance that this might be as good as it gets. A project manager and lifelong planner, I was finally starting to make decisions based on, “What makes sense today?” The ultimate answer, of course, has always been the same -follow love- but the approach was different.

To many of us, “love” equals “security,” and that means planning and preparing to care for our families, communities, and environment in the future. Heck, that’s why I’m vegan. But what if…we can’t? I’ve spent nearly four decades with my eyes firmly planted on the horizon; sometimes a source of comfort, but more often, anxiety.

To operate under the seemingly morbid idea that tomorrow might be worse -or never come at all- brought a strange sense of peace. It turns out that decisions made by asking, “How do I follow love and joy today?” are pretty damn solid.

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Happy birthday, Babs!!!

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humor, I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now, Kvetching, PSAs

An Udder Fail

Go Jules Go An Udder Fail Title Graphic_9APR19

It’s mud season in rural Maine.

I know this because, despite being a New Jersey native, I’m spending most of April in one of my favorite states.

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I mean come on. This doesn’t even have a filter.

I can do this because I quit my job and now my life is filled with rampant lawlessness.

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Did someone say “lawlessness”?

When I arrived in rural Maine, intending to volunteer on a friend’s farm sanctuary for two weeks, I didn’t immediately realize my cell signal had given out. A half hour earlier.

I diligently followed my friend’s instructions to “look for the next driveway after the sanctuary’s entrance,” where my cabin was located. Instead I saw train tracks and a sign that read, “Pavement ends.”

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Say whaaa…?

Being from what you might call a New York City suburb, I interpreted that to mean, “TURN YOUR CAKE ASS AROUND, JERSEY.” I did so happily, heading back towards the sanctuary’s driveway instead.

Big mistake.

Farm Sanctuary driveway Go Jules Go
What I should have done, and soon learned to do: Park at the foot of the driveway and make the mile-long, uphill walk by foot.

“Mud season” wasn’t just a cute saying. My non-all wheel drive sedan squealed for mercy as I attempted to haul her up the hill.

“Oh my GAWD are you f*@#&$ kidding me?” I imagined her saying. “I am sooooo going to need a pedicure after this.”

I had gotten AAA before the trip, though, and felt cavalier¬†mildly confident. (Until later, when I realized I wouldn’t have even been able to call AAA if I HAD gotten stuck.)

Once I made it to the sanctuary, the owner looked confused. I explained that I couldn’t find the cabin. Apparently I was supposed to charge past the “Pavement ends” warning and go another mile or so to “the next driveway.” I felt silly explaining that in Jersey terms, “the next driveway” is usually measured in feet. Sometimes inches. I kept quiet and accepted her gracious offer to lead me there – something I knew she didn’t have time for.

Running a farm sanctuary is No. Joke.

“Thank you so much. Just a warning that I’m going to keep a safe distance from you going downhill.”

She smiled knowingly, casting a glance at my mud-spattered pansy car.

We soon reached the small cabin, which was clean and well lit, warm from gas heat and equipped with the basics. Except internet. Which, I quickly began to realize, was going to throw a wrench into this whoooole plan. I checked my phone; still no service whatsoever.

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Hello…? Is anyone out there…?

“This mayyyy be a problem,” I said, feeling the panic start to rise in my throat, the extent of my remote location settling in.

Let me just text… No.

Let me just look up the nearest… No.

Let me just check the weather for tomorrow and… No.

I waited until she left to execute what would come to be the first of many, many strategies to try to make the next couple of weeks work out.

I’m just going to drive towards a town, and see when my service picks up. I didn’t even bother unpacking, just loaded Uncle Jesse (the dog) back in the car. As I made the first turn, my stomach flip-flopped, trying to memorize my surroundings. Holy god I miss Google maps. The sun would set in less than an hour, so after just a few minutes, I decided to give up and turn around in a church parking lot. The last thing I wanted to do was make the situation worse by getting lost.

As I did a U-turn, I noticed the church’s sign.

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Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

I decided to go back to the sanctuary -walking from the bottom of the driveway this time- and borrow someone’s phone to let my family know I had arrived safely. A volunteer was sorting vegetables and happy to offer her phone, so after I successfully texted Babs (mom), I helped sort produce for the next couple of hours, chatting and feeding Uncle Jesse stray bits of cauliflower.

Go Jules Go farm sanctuary sorting vegetables
One for the bin, one for Uncle Jesse, one for the bi-Uncle Jesse…

Thankfully, my phone still worked as a flashlight, and we made it back to the car and our cabin. It was pitch black. As I unpacked the car, I caught a glimpse of the stars twinkling brightly – the way they only could when not overpowered by street lamps and cramped houses. I stood still, and for the first time in hours, took a deep breath.

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Maybe this will all work out…

I finished unpacking, popped some potatoes in the little oven for Uncle Jesse, and cracked open a bottle of wine, deciding to make the most of my off-grid night. I’d sort out my phone issues in the morning.

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Microsoft Word and random downloaded iTunes songs from 2016: entertaining spoiled New Jerseyians since…I don’t know when, because my phone doesn’t work and I can’t look anything up.

Fast forward two days, and my phone -even with a new, more expensive carrier- still wasn’t working. Nor were my pseudo, DSW-purchased “muck boots,” which I managed to puncture by repeatedly tripping on a sharp rock while cleaning the rabbit houses.

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Thankfully, my $900 paperweight phone’s camera still pulled through.

Every two minutes, I thought of some reason I needed to use my phone, or get online. Upcoming bills I had to pay, friends with momentous events I had planned to check in on, ASMR¬†videos on YouTube I needed to watch, travel plans I’d yet to make…

Shame washed over me in endless, sickening waves. I am so fu@*#^% soft. Here I thought, with my tiny living and frugal spending, I’d become so flexible! So strong! So adaptable! But 48 hours without a phone broke me, and after Sunday’s full work day, I fled back to my comfort zone, checking into a pet-friendly motel 90 minutes south, in one of my favorite parts of Maine.

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And near one of my favorite people, Darla from She’s A Maineiac.

“Does the dial go all the way up to ‘donkey’?” I asked Darla when I stopped by the next day to do laundry.

Laundry donkey setting Go Jules Go

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How would you fare if you were unexpectedly off-grid?

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