Archive | October, 2012

Road Trip: Nightmare of a Trip

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!  I’ve been recounting some rather nightmarish road trip tales for you — the tour I booked not going all the way to Big Sur, the bus breaking down, not being able to stop and pick up 7 avocados for a dollar in Salinas, my road trip essentially going awry.  Oh, the horror!  I know, I know.  White girl problems.  But really it all just added up to be one semi-disastrous trip.  Here’s what I didn’t tell you:

  • my friend and I spoke on the phone about getting tix together, she sent me an email confirming the arrival time was okay, I booked my flight … and then she told me she wasn’t coming after all
  • my other friends had planned their trip in reverse of mine, arriving the day before the wedding and then staying a few days after I left, so I didn’t get to hang out with them apart from the wedding
  • the person who’s place I was supposed to crash at was sick so I had to book a last-minute hotel, which would’ve been fine except apparently there were several conferences going on that week so every hotel in the city of San Francisco was at least $400
  • my connecting flight was delayed, so then the shuttle I prebooked said it would only take me if I paid more money
  • the shuttle dropped me off at the hotel, sped away, and then I was left with the realization that the hotel had shut down for the night.  What kind of hotel shuts down??
  • I decided to take the BART on my way back to the airport at the end of my trip, drag all my luggage the 20 minutes from the hotel to the train, only to discuss mass transport doesn’t start running til 8am in SF.  I will miss my flight if I wait an hour for the BART to run.  I call the shuttle company; it won’t pick me up because I don’t have a reservation.
  • I get a cab.  The driver tells me it will cost $120 to get to the airport.  It’s that or miss my flight.
  • We get to the airport and can’t find my airline.  For some reason, it’s in the international flight section of the airport, even though I’m flying SFO to LGA.
  • I’m waiting for my flight to leave, when I get a call from my bank that they’re shutting my card down due to strange charges.

Okay, so my trip wasn’t the stuff of B horror movies.  It wasn’t the opening of I Know What You Did Last Summer, when a driver hits someone on the road and dumps their body in the ocean.  It wasn’t The Hitcher, where a young couple gives a ride to a hitchhiker and horror ensues.  It wasn’t The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a group picks up a stranger on their way to gravesite and then are stalked by, well, a guy with a chainsaw and his cannibal family.  And it wasn’t Urban Legends, where a college coed is driving along and suddenly a guy pops up in the back seat!

See, back when Jack Kerouac was taking road trips in the 1940s and ’50s, hitchhiking was pretty commonplace.  It was never really the ideal or safest way to travel, but it wasn’t as scary as it is today.  Today, horror movies are moral tales that warn drivers to always  check the perimeter and interior of their car before getting in and to not pick up strangers.  Parents not only forbid kids to hitchhike but also have to warn them about getting too close to cars in general.  Currently in the area in which I grew up in New Jersey, there’s a man who’s been trying to lure kids into his car.  There have been at least 17 luring attempts in Bergen County recently, and some New Jersey towns are considering a Halloween curfew.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!  What’s your favorite horror movie road trip?

Road Trip: By Night

30 Oct

In honor of Cabbage Night and Halloween, I thought it would be fun to post some photos from my road trip that I took at night.  A midnight road trip is deliciously scary.  The moon taunting you from above.  Tree branches that look like claws.  Eerie silence.  On the bus, we watched the psychological thriller Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which was filmed in part at the 17-Mile Drive, which we traveled through on our road trip, but you could listen to an audio recording of a horror story if you have to keep your eyes on the road … and the rearview window!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepping for Hurricane Sandy

28 Oct

 

Just got word that the MTA is shutting down at 7 tonight for Hurricane Sandy.  Doesn’t make much difference to me.  I’ve been stuck sick in bed for two days.  Yesterday, started out well enough.  I went to Barnes & Noble and got a Pumpkin Spice latte and Dutch Apple cheesecake and then braved the grocery store.  Grocery shopping in New York City is always a nightmare with too many people and tight aisles, but yesterday was nuts as people were preparing for the storm.  It was like trying to shop the day before Thanksgiving.  I bought ingredients to make broccoli soup from a recipe out of one of the cookbooks I edited and fortunately made it before I got to feeling too sick so now I don’t have to cook at all.  I can just sit in bed and watch a million episodes of Color Splash, my favorite interior decorating show, and dream up my perfect home.

Are you prepared for Hurricane Sandy?

If you’re like me and totally unprepared for any sort of emergency and don’t own a flashlight, shame on you!  By now, all the flashlights are gone.  Even finding candles in the drugstores is getting hard.  Get creative.  Barnes & Noble* sells a wide variety of battery-operated reading lights.  Just because it’s for reading, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to find your can opener if the lights go out.

While you’re there, pick up the Barnes & Noble* ereader the nook if you don’t already have one.  Charge it up pronto and download some books.  If the power is out for a long time, you’ll have plenty of reading material.  My book recommendation is Jack Kerouac’s Dr. Sax perfect for Halloween.

It’s still a good idea to have some candles on hand.  If you can’t find any at the drugstore or grocery store, that’s okay.  Class it up with some scented candles from Bath & Body Works.  I picked up the Cranberry Woods and Lemon ones during their 2-for-1 sale.

Speaking of scents, if we don’t have access to water that means you won’t be able to shower.  I suggest some perfume or body splash to keep you smelling fresh.  I’ve got Bath & Body Works‘ Plumeria body splash (which always makes me think of my Hawaiian friend from undergrad).

Now you may not be able to wash your hair but you can use an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.  I’ve used the TRESemme dry shampoo with mixed results.  That said, I do favor their regular shampoo and condition.  And, they don’t test on animals.

Another great animal- and eco-friendly company is The Body Shop, where I’ve been shopping since middle school.  I love the Tea Tree Oil line, and today stocked up on their cleansing wipes in case I won’t have access to water to wash my face.

While at The Body Shop, I also picked up anti-bacterial hand sanitzers in my most favorite scents satsuma and pink grapefruit.  I normally advise against these sorts of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers because I fear using it will lead to the creation of a resistant super-bug, but hey, you’ve got to have clean hands somehow if there isn’t good old-fashioned soap and water.  Plus these ones smell amazing, unlike some brands that smell like rubbing alcohol.

If you wear contacts, keep your stylish glasses in an easy to locate place.  In fact, make a to-go bag of all your critical necessities (medication, keys, cash, etc.).

Now in terms of food, non-perishables does not have to mean SPAM!  There are lots of great foods that are either non-perishable or that don’t require cooking.  Go Greek with canned domathes, Kalamata olive spread, raw almonds, honey on bread, and sesame candies.

How are you staying storm stylin’?

 

*I work for a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.

Road Trip: Lone Cyprus Tree

25 Oct

We stopped real quick to see the Lone Cyprus Tree as we took a road trip along the famous 17-Mile Drive on the California Coast.  It’s such a beautiful symbol, a tree enjoying the salty ocean air.

Here’s a little bit about the Lone Cyprus Tree from Wikipedia:

Chief among the scenic attractions is the Lone Cypress Tree (36.568738°N 121.965321°W), a salt-pruned Monterey cypress (macrocarpa) tree which is the official symbol of Pebble Beach and a frequent fixture of television broadcasts from this area. In 1990 the Monterey Journal reported that Pebble Beach’s lawyer, Kerry C. Smith, said “The image of the tree has been trademarked by us,” and that it intended to control any display of the cypress for commercial purposes. The company had warned photographers that “they cannot even use existing pictures of the tree for commercial purposes.”[3] Other legal commentators have questioned the Pebble Beach Company’s ability to invoke intellectual property laws to restrict others’ use of such images.[4]

 

 

We also passed the Ghost Tree, which is a cyprus that’s turned completely white, but I missed it as we drove by too quickly.

Road Trip: Pebble Beach Is Not a Beach

23 Oct

Part of my road trip down the California coast included a stop to Pebble Beach.  As it turned out, Pebble Beach is not actually a beach.  It’s a prestigious place to golf.  I kept seeing everyone take photographs with this clock so I took one too.  I have no idea why.  I know nothing about golf and this clock means nothing to me.

 

Road Trip: 17 Mile Drive

22 Oct

On my road trip down the California Coast, we took the 17 Mile Drive.  I’d never heard of it before, but everyone talked about it as if it were the highlight of the trip even though we spend a lot less time there.  What I discovered was that California’s 17 Mile Drive is a stretch of road associated with luxury.  Millionaires build mansions that overlook the Pacific Ocean.  Golf is the sport of choice.  The art scene is thriving among the cultured citizens.

Here’s a bit about the 17 Mile Drive from Wikipedia:

At the north end, a portion of the early route through Pacific Grove begins at the intersection of Del Monte Blvd and Esplanade Street. The famous portion of 17-Mile Drive then begins a few miles south of this point. The crossing of Highway 68 (Holman Highway/Sunset Drive) and 17-Mile Drive marks the entrance to Pebble Beach.

From the Sunset Drive/Pacific Grove gate, the drive runs inland past Spanish Bay, then adjacent to beaches and up into the coastal hills, providing scenic viewpoints. Travel along the road takes as long as the traveler likes, a minimum of 20 minutes south to Carmel without stops. Numerous turnouts along the road allow stopping to take pictures, or getting out to stroll along the ocean or among the trees. Visitors receive a map that points out some of the more scenic spots. In addition, a red-dashed line is marked in the center of the main road to guide visitors, and help prevent them from venturing into the adjacent neighborhood streets.[2]

The road provides vistas of golf courses including Spyglass HillCypress Point and Pebble Beach. After reaching Carmel Way, and the exit to Carmel, the 17-Mile Drive then heads northeast to the Highway 68/Highway 1 interchange, where one can exit, or continue to loop along the higher vistas of 17-Mile Drive, some of which offer views from more than 600 feet above sea-level. The full loop will take you back to the Pacific Grove Gate at Sunset Drive — a distance of 17 miles.

 

The driver slowed down and pointed out various homes.  I was not impressed.  I grew up with parents who trapped us kids in the back seat while they drove around looking at the mansions in Alpine, New Jersey.  I’ve seen beautiful, large homes before, and it just doesn’t impress me.  Interior decorating and architecture are passions of mine, so it’s not that I don’t appreciate nice homes.  And I’m by no means against luxury.  I rather enjoy a certain lifestyle.  I’m just not impressed by it.

Do you enjoy driving around looking at mansions?

 

In case you missed last week’s road trip posts:

everything on my trip went wrong

cocktail recipe for what Jack Kerouac drank in Big Sur

writing tips from Big Sur writers

save the sea otters and sea lions

Road Trip: Sea Lions and Sea Otters on the Northern California Coast

19 Oct


 

 

 

I’m a total sucker for cute animal videos, and a while ago I came across this video of a sea lion that falls in love with a woman on the beach.  I’m not sure where it was filmed, but I thought of it when I spotted sea lions while road tripping down Highway 1.

Even cuter than sea lions, though, are sea otters, which are also native to that magnificent stretch of Northern California coastline.  Unfortunately, the lives of sea otters have been in danger due to disgusting toxins flushed into the ocean.  The Sea Otter Alliance is a good resource for finding out more about these adorable animals.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers helpful information on California coastal protection, sustainable seafood, and saving sea otters.  According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website’s sea otter page:

Southern sea otters once ranged from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest. But by the 1920s they were considered extinct due to intensive hunting. They were listed as “threatened with extinction” under the Endangered Species Act in 1977. But despite decades of federal and state protection, the population of southern sea ottersAnimal Guide(Enhydra lutris nereis) which resides along the California coast, struggles to survive at a fraction of its historic numbers, estimated at 16,000-20,000 animals. No one knows why the population isn’t recovering. Pathogens and parasites, possibly linked to coastal pollution, can weaken otter immune systems. And the risk of a major oil spill remains a serious threat.

 

Jack Kerouac obsessed over the death of a sea otter in his novel Big Sur.  After On the Road became such a huge success that fans were literally arriving on Kerouac’s doorstep, the author retreated to nature, staying at his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur.  Kerouac was a man who loved animals, going to the extent of putting out food for wildlife.  He was drinking heavily at the time and the novel documents a dark period in his life.  Death becomes a constant threat, and foreshadows his own premature death, as he sees animals all around him die.  One in particular is a sea otter that washes ashore, which he mentions time and time again in the novel.

 

 

Overarching Writing Tip from Big Sur Writers: Don’t Censor Your First Draft

17 Oct

If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you’re probably a fan of the Beat Generation, which means you’ve probably read Jack Kerouac’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose.  In a recent fit of procrastination, I stumbled upon Henry Miller’s Commandments while browsing the blog a lovely being.  Then through a rabbit hole that began on Poets & Writers, I discovered John Steinbeck’s writing rules on brain pickings.

As I scoured their tips for jewels of wisdom, I considered whether there were any repeating schemes amongst the three authors, who each lived at various points in their career in the Monterey area of Northern California.  The theme that emerges is one of writing with the force of one of the ferocious waves in Big Sur—quickly, spontaneously, wildly, freely, bravely, deeply, purely.

John Steinbeck: Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Henry Miller: Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

Jack Kerouac: Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

In other words, while you’re composing, just get it all out there on the page.  Don’t concern yourself with censoring your thoughts, diction, or punctuation.  You can always go back and fix things later, but for the first draft, at least, it’s better to let the story take shape naturally.

I’m generally not the type of person who subscribes to a set of writing rules, mainly because I believe everyone has their own technique and process, but I am a huge fan of lists.

Through Poets & Writers, I also discovered Kyle Minor’s “Advice to My Younger Self” and Margaret Atwood’s advice to writers, through which I consequently found similar lists by Zadie SmithElmore LeonardKurt Vonnegut, and David Ogilvy.

What are your tips for writing?

A Manhattan in Big Sur: Cocktail Recipe for Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

16 Oct

Big Sur tells the story of Jack Kerouac’s alter ego escaping the pressures of fame brought on after the publishing success of On the Road by hiding out at the desolate cabin owned by his friend, City Lights Bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti (called Lorenzo Monsanto in the novel).  Kerouac had a notorious sweet tooth, perhaps most noticeably evident by all that delicious apple pie a la mode he writes of eating in On the Road.  In Big Sur, his friends point out his taste for a sweet of a different sort—sweet drinks!

Kerouac’s drink of choice in Big Sur is the classic cocktail the Manhattan, which gets its sweetness from vermouth, orange bitters, and a maraschino cherry.  The Manhattan has been called “the drinking man’s drink,” though, probably because of all the whiskey in it.

Here’s the history of the Manhattan, as told by That’s the Spirit!:

Samuel J. Tilden was elected Governor of New York in 1874, and to celebrate, socialite Jenny Jerome threw a party at the Manhattan Club in New York City.  Jerome asked the bartender to create a drink for the occasion. The bartender mixed 1 1/2 ounces bourbon, 1 1/4 ounces each of sweet and dry vermouth, and a dash of bitters. It met with Jerome’s approval and she named the drink the “Manhattan,” after the club.  Jenny Jerome later earned her place in history as she later became Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Sir Winston Churchill, one of England’s most famous Prime Ministers.  The Manhattan became a classic cocktail that has survived a number of changes over the years and is presently enjoying a comeback alongside its cousin, the Martini.

That’s the most popular version of the story, but of course, like most cocktail history, there are other versions of the story as well.

That said, there are also variations of Manhattans.  It can be made with rye whiskey or bourbon.  Although Big Sur doesn’t specify, Kerouac would probably have preferred the bourbon variety, since rye whiskey is more on the bitter side.  Likewise, there are different types of vermouth: sweet and dry.  The bitters can either be traditional Angostura bitters or Angostura Orange.  Some people add a lemon peel for garnish.

On almost any given page of Big Sur there is a reference to alcohol, as the book documents Kerouac gripped by the disease of alcoholism.  While many culture critics have accused Kerouac of promoting a nefarious lifestyle, Kerouac makes the dangers of alcohol quite plain in Big Sur as he portrays himself in deplorable states of breakdown.  In addition to the maraschino cherry, some bartenders will even add a bit of the cherry juice to the drink.  Yum!

Big Sur also describes Kerouac drinking a lot of port wine.  A Manhattan made with port instead of vermouth is called a Ruby Manhattan.  Since he frequented the famous Nepenthe in Big Sur, though, I’m going to go with their recipe.  It’s quite possible the restaurant has changed its cocktail recipe since Kerouac’s autobiographical novel was published in 1962, but their current Manhattan ingredients includes Makers Mark, sweet vermouth, and blood orange bitters.

Nepenthe doesn’t include the ingredient breakout, but based on other general Manhattan recipes, this is my take on Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan:

  • 3 oz. Makers Mark
  • 2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • dash of blood orange bitters
  • a Maraschino cherry as garnish, but while you’re at it add a splash of cherry juice to sweeten

Stir the ingredients over ice, then strain into a cocktail glass (the Martini glass) to serve straight up. Garnish with the cherry.

Big Sur and the Best Laid Plans….

15 Oct

I just got back from a trip where everything seemed to go awry.

On my recent trip to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding, I had big plans to visit John Steinbeck’s Monterey, where Cannery Row is set, and Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, where he spent time in his friend poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin and the title of one of his books.  This idea, mind you, came after plans had already gone awry when I discovered none of my other friends were able to make it to the wedding or were flying in just in time for the wedding, leaving me with a few days to myself.  I’d been to San Francisco a few times and already done the big touristy things and the Beat literary things in the city (minus the Beat Museum, which wasn’t around the last time I was there–and which will have its own post coming up soon!), so I figured I’d take my literary wanderings a bit further south.

Steinbeck’s Cannery Row came out in 1945, two years before Kerouac made that first big trip out West.  Post-World War II, both Steinbeck and Kerouac spent time in the same area of California—Monterey, Big Sur, Salinas—and wrote about migrant workers, the working class, the down and out, absurd heroes.  Steinbeck writes of Cannery Row:

Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.

Steinbeck’s message is very much Kerouac’s as well.  Kerouac writes about “the holy con-man with the shining mind” and other Beat characters whom society might consider derelicts but whom he considers saint-like.

I planned to do a close study of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and to reread Kerouac’s Big Sur to compare and contrast the places, characters, themes, and language.  Visiting a place can sometimes be the best form of research.  You see and hear things that aren’t in books, get a sense of proportion and distance, and see how the landscape has changed.  I wanted to see the land, to feel the sand between my toes, to have the salty ocean breeze whip through my hair, to smell the sardines.  I wanted to experience the rough terrain that so embodied Kerouac’s mind frame in Big Sur.

Unfortunately, a trip to Big Sur would not happen for me.  My plans went awry when I discovered that after Labor Day public transportation to Big Sur stopped running during the week and that the only tour that stops at Big Sur was sold out before I got to book it.  Discovering this two days before I was supposed to leave—okay, so they weren’t exactly “the best-laid plans…”—put a wrench in my itinerary.

Well, here’s my Pinterest inspiration board for Big Sur.

Here’s an article called “Steinbeck vs. Kerouac: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!” from Big Think.

And here’s an article from Monterey County Weekly on the film adaptation of Kerouac’s Big Sur.

I was, however, able to book a different tour that at least went to Monterey.  I had to get up super early–did I mention there were several conferences going on in San Francisco so the only hotel I could find within my budget was an hour away?–to get to the 9am bus.  I got there right on time, getting one of the few remaining seats in the very back of the bus, on the side that wouldn’t have a good view.  …Two hours later, we were still in San Francisco.  The bus was blowing hot air through the vents and overheating–not great for all the senior citizens on the trip (oh, did I not mention the demographic was ever-so-slightly older?).  They brought in mechanics, and when they failed to fix it, we eventually got a new bus.  About half the people on the tour were so mad that their precious vacation time was wasted that they refused to get on and left the tour completely.  The good news: I got a better seat.

Here are a few pictures from Salinas and Monterey.

John Steinbeck references the aphorism “the best-laid plans of mice and men often goes awry” in the title of one of his other books, Of Mice and Men.  The phrase can be traced back to Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

Don’t you love that eighteenth-century Scottish English?  (One day I will have to describe my misadventures in Scotland too….)

One of the things I love best about On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s candor that trips often do go awry.  When Sal Paradise, the narrator based on Kerouac, starts his first big road trip from the East Coast to the West, he has grand plans of traveling one great highway all the way there.  That doesn’t work out—nor does he even get out of state before having to turn back and come home again.  He’d been trying to hitchhike his way out of New York City and ended up stranded in a torrential downpour in Bear Mountain, one of the places my own family frequented when I was growing up.  Not one to let problems rain on his parade, Paradise/Kerouac heads back to New York City and buys fare for public transportation that will take him to the first leg of his destination.

Sometimes you just gotta keep on truckin’!  It’s a good lesson for traveling and for life.

What’s the worst that has ever happened to you on your vacation?

* * *

I’m reading tonight at 7pm at  The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy) here in New York City! This is a Storytellers event, hosted by C3.  I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Roadcoauthored with Paul Maher Jr.