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Observations from the Road

6 Nov

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Editor’s Note: I recently “quit” Facebook, so I expect I’ll be writing here more frequently since those thoughts need to go somewhere. As a result, you can expect my posts here to be shorter, less structured, and even more narcissistic than they may have been in the past. You’re welcome?!

Since leaving full-time employment three years ago, I’ve tried to really dial-back my travel and reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve gone from flying monthly – or more – to only 1-2 times per year for work. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I consider it a badge of honor that I’ve lost my “elite” status with airlines’ rewards programs.

That said, this week is one of those times: I’m in LA to facilitate a client’s annual offsite meeting for a team of 25 people. I’m staying at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, which literally backs up to the terribly tourist block that has Mann’s Chinese Theatre (home of the Oscars), the star-lined sidewalk, and dozens of guys in superhero costumes, trying to persuade you to take a photo with them for cash.

Last night, eager to get my steps in after spending six hours on a plane, I set out for a walk in the neighborhood behind the Magic Castle. The homes there are nice, and many of them have large privacy hedges lining the front walk. I sometimes bring shame to my naturalist father because I get a bit skittish about critters in nature. Had he been with me, last night would’ve been one of those times.

I kept hearing crazy rustling noises in the bushes as I walked. In DC, I would’ve dismissed them as rats. But because I’m in California? The obvious conclusion: a bobcat. Never mind that I’m in the heart of LA. And because I don’t have it in me to be like that guy who killed an attacking bobcat with his bare hands, my solution was to walk in the middle of the street where I could see it coming.

Of course, it didn’t come to that, and it probably WAS a rat. Or a lizard or something. But it definitely got my heartrate up – which is, you might note, the purpose of exercise anyway. Mission accomplished.

 

 

Not quite how I imagined it.

3 Aug
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What I thought I’d look like. (Clearly NOT me.)

I tried aerial yoga for the first time this week. I’ve been practicing regular yoga for almost 15 years, so I didn’t spare a thought for how challenging aerial yoga might be. It’s especially easy to under-estimate because the prop basically looks like a hammock. I envisioned myself doing a few Cirque du Soleil tricks, then basically taking a 45 minute nap, swaddled in the folds of silk.

Alas. I couldn’t have had it more wrong.

For starters, it’s PAINFUL. With the exception of when you’re in corpse pose (when you actually ARE all cocooned in it), your silk is almost always gathered up so it functions more like a rope than a hammock. And since you’re hanging from it, climbing up it, or twisted in it, that rope feels like a boa constrictor, hungry for its next meal. In fact, the day after my first class, I woke to find a series of purple bruises across my hips and around my shoulders.

Also? If you’re not precise in following instructions, there is a good chance you will end up toppling to the floor, breaking your nose or knocking out your teeth – or at least that’s what I kept imagining. The instructor would take us through these complex maneuvers to ensure we had the silk wrapped around our arms and legs in a way that would lock us in, then tell us to basically let go and topple face-first toward the floor. It felt like bungee jumping with a rig that had been prepped by a carnival worker.

I never quite trusted that I’d gotten the wraps correct, so I’d cautiously lower myself into position, despite the instructor’s admonishments to, “Let go and fly like Peter Pan” or “hang like a bumblebee!” But then, even if I did it correctly, the scarves would be cutting into my legs/arms/hips to such an extent that I’d try to walk myself back up to a place where I wasn’t in pain – but exiting the pose was often more complicated than entering, so you could probably characterize that portion of my effort as “general flailing.”

In fact, that’s probably the best way to summarize my foray into aerial yoga: general flailing. Had it been a Cirque du Soleil performance, they might not have had to issue refunds to the audience, but they may have had to offer counseling after.

So of course I’m going again.

Just stretching my voice…

3 Jul

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The other week, Alan and I were driving home from somewhere when I started to yawn, then – because it felt good – made some sort of gurgling noise with my throat. When I finished, Alan was looking wildly around the car.

“What the hell was that?” He looked panicked.

“My yawn?” I asked.

He turned to look at me. “That was YOU?”

I nodded. “I was stretching my voice.”

“You were doing what?” he asked.

“I don’t know – stretching my voice. It felt good.”

“It sounded like a mechanical noise,” he still looked dubious. “I thought something was wrong with my car.”

“Nope, just me.” I smiled. “Did I sound like Chewbacca? Because I kind of felt like there were a few different pitches coming out.”

He just shook his head and continued driving.

I tried to recreate the noise.

“Please stop,” he said, his eyes on the road.

I obliged, but continued to silently contort my mouth, thinking about how I might be able to make that sound on command.

Alan raised his eyebrows and cast a sideways glance at me. “Seriously?”

“You need to be more supportive of my hobbies.”

Long silence.

“Are you trying to tell me that ‘stretching your voice’ is a hobby?”

“Yes.”

“Since when?”

“Since I just discovered it.”

I don’t know how Alan can drive straight when shaking his head that hard.

Say, what’s your number?

25 Apr

I have blood drawn regularly so my doctor can confirm that my medicine is working and not frying my liver. I usually go at 7am when the lab opens so I can knock it out before my work day, but my schedule was a bit twisted after traveling, so last week I went after work instead. I’m going to blame my day-end fatigue and recent jet-lag for what ensued.

The lab has a kiosk where you check-in electronically using your birthdate and last name. Once you’ve entered those, it flashes a number on the screen and tells you to wait until your number is called. Every time this happens, I think, “Why doesn’t it spit out a ticket like at the DMV so you don’t have to memorize your number?”

After receiving  my number – 286 – I took a seat.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called, “280? 280?” and no one came forward. Everyone in the waiting area (all women for some reason), started looking around at each other suspiciously. Had someone forgotten their number? Had 280 gotten impatient and left?

All of a sudden the receptionist shifted tactics and called MY name, sounding exasperated.

“Oh my gosh!” I said, running over as the other women looked at me like I was a moron. “I’m so sorry. I thought I was 286.” The receptionist laughed, then tried to discreetly ask me  if I was supposed to get a take-home specimen kit for fecal analysis. “Um, no. Just bloodwork, thanks.”

Mystery temporarily solved, I sat back down. A few minutes later, the receptionist called “280?” again as one of the phlebotemists stood by with paperwork to collect his next patient. This time, freshly rebuked, I was on my game. I jumped up and started walking toward the back with him.

“Last name?” he asked as we walked. I told him. “Nope. This isn’t you.” I started to protest, confident that I was 280, but he shook his head and called the last name that was on his form and another patient popped up to join him. Confused, I returned to the front desk. “Sorry,” I said. “I thought you were calling me for him. Did you need me again?”

The receptionist looked at me like I was crazy. “You called 280?” I prompted.

She laughed. “Your number isn’t 280. Remind me – what was your last name?” I told her and she looked at my paperwork. “You’re 276.”

“Wait. I originally thought I was 286. But then you called me over to check my paperwork using 280?” I was royally confused.

She just started laughing. “Honey, you’re 276. Go have a seat.”

I sat down and started laughing at myself. Why the hell wouldn’t they just use NAMES? As I sat there, I felt a bit less crazy as I listened to other patients’ interactions after checking in.

One woman got called over to the receptionist because she somehow managed to have TWO numbers. “Sorry,” she explained. “The number flashed so quickly I missed it, so I checked in twice.”

Another woman cruised straight to the reception desk after checking in. “Can you tell me what my number is? It flashed by so fast I didn’t see it.”

Finally a man arrived and – after a few minutes fumbling with the kiosk – walked over to the receptionist. I didn’t hear his half of the conversation, but I heard the receptionist say, “You don’t speak English?” before accompanying him back to the kiosk to help.

While I’ve never been the receptionist in a medical lab, I think I have a pretty clear idea of what drives that woman nuts about her job.

At last, 276 was called. We confirmed my name and Terrence did his business, sliding the needle in like a professional. “Smooth,” I told him. “You’re pretty good at this.”

“I should be – we’ve done almost 300 today alone.”

“276,” I told him.

“What?” he asked, looking confused.

“You’ve done 276. But you WILL do at least 280 before you leave.”

He looked at me like I was nuts. And perhaps I am, but two can play at that game.

Hair past a freckle

24 Apr

IMG_3836When we arrived in London, Kelly asked if I wanted any specific souvenirs from the trip. “I don’t have room in my suitcase,” I told her, nodding to the small carry-on I was hoping would get me through two weeks. “But I DO need a watch, so maybe if I find one I like, that could be a good keepsake.”

A few days later, I’m sure she agreed that it would not only be a good keepsake, but an essential item for the rest of the trip, as I asked her to check her watch for what felt like the fiftieth time.

I didn’t buy a watch, however, and instead used my iPhone as my timepiece when I wasn’t bugging Kelly for the time.

That was fine until we arrived in Paris, where we entered a bit of a time-warp. We arrived Friday night and made plans to meet the next morning at 9am for breakfast. I woke early the next day (as I tend to do every day) and spent the wee hours reading and planning the agenda for the day.

At about 8:30, I received a text from Kelly. “Have you eaten already?”

“No!” I wrote back. (I’m not sure why I was excited enough to use an exclamation point.)

“Want to meet downstairs in 30 minutes?” She wrote.

“Perfect.” I responded, thinking, “Isn’t that what we decided last night??”

Half an hour later, I was seated a table enjoying a croissant. “I’m here,” I wrote to her. “Got a table for two near the back. No rush.”

She wrote back, “I ate already. Want to let me know when you’re done?”

Confused, I thought maybe she decided she was tired of me and needed a bit more down-time. I plowed through my meal and met her in the lobby 30 minutes later.

“Sorry for the confusion this morning,” I said.

“Yeah, I think I must’ve been tired when we made plans last night,” she offered.

“No biggie!” I dismissed it, excited to get our day started. “I found a walking tour for us over in Montmartre – if we head out now, we should have perfect timing!”

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.31.28 AMWe popped up at the Metro station near the Moulin Rouge about five minutes before the tour was slated to leave. “I don’t remember what they said they would be wearing,” I told her. “Let’s check both sides of the street to see if there is a group forming.”

We spent the next ten minutes looking everywhere that seemed plausible for a tour to meet, without any luck. Then Kelly said, “Wait. What time was the tour supposed to leave?”

“Eleven,” I told her, pointing to my phone. “Basically, right now. Maybe they’re being very French about it and it doesn’t start on time?”

“Alison,” she said, pointing to her watch, “It’s noon.”

I looked at my phone again. “No, it’s 11.”

She shook her head and showed me her watch. “Noon.”

Suddenly, our confused dining plans earlier in the morning made perfect sense. The clock on my phone hadn’t automatically gained an hour when we arrived in Paris, so I was still operating on London time with an hour delay. No wonder we had missed each other in the dining room. As I paged back through our texts, the mistake was obvious.

Realizing a tour guide was never going to meet us, we started up the hill toward Sacré Coeur on our own. And I never DID find a watch I liked. Next time…

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Sacré Coeur, which inexplicably smelled like cheese and manure.