On the Road, Day Two, IL, part two

After we left Indiana, it wasn’t that far of a ride to Chicago, Illinois. Neither of us had ever been so we were excited to see it. We didn’t get to walk around in the city too much because we were kind of consumed with finding a place to stay because we were starving. On the road, we usually ate breakfast and then junk all day and then dinner whenever we got where we were going. We averaged about ten hours on the road per day, leaving between 7 and 9am and stopping between 5 and 7pm, sometimes forging on until 8 if we made a lot of stops.

But when we got to Chicago, we got to drive around in the Lake Michigan area which was nice.

Chicago Tribune

We didn’t get a lot of pictures of Chicago because we thought we’d find a hotel, boomerang right out again and then have plenty of time to walk around.

The train tracks are above the roads.

As it were, the hotel we stayed in was outside of Chicago because anything actually IN Chicago was crazy expensive and we didn’t want to spend the money. We found a great hotel but it was on the outskirts of Chicago, forcing us to drive through a ton of rush-hour traffic. But it was so pretty:

Edith chilling on the King-size bed...smart cat.

When we stopped in PA the night before, we were honest about the pets. The woman was fine with that and authorized my debit card for the price of the room and was about to charge me $15/animal (4 animals!). I couldn’t back out of the room because when your card is authorized, it sometimes can be held for two weeks. But I couldn’t afford to pay for $60 in charges either. I talked her into charging me once and we were extra-careful. Because of this, we kept the animals on the DL for the rest of the trip. Not the most ethical thing I’ve ever done but we were extremely careful about cleaning up after the animals, leaving zero trace and tipping the housekeeper well.

This hotel room was probably the nicest place we stayed.

When we brought the animals in, it was constantly a long, involved process of sneaking in two under cover while the other one stayed with the other two animals. Then we had to get the other two and all of our stuff and bring it in. We had litter boxes, food, clothes, toiletries…tons of stuff. We eventually learned to pare our stuff down and only bring in what we absolutely needed. It still took forever and a day though.

Kristyn starting our hotel ritual.

But once we got into the hotel, we were relieved. Relieved to be off the road, relieved to have the promise of grub, relieved to let the animals out…

Me classin up the joint, as usual.

By the time we got all the animals in (our timing was still being ironed out at this point), sat down and relaxed, changed and got ready, we were STARVING! Our friends Vanessa, Mike, Katie and Mark recommended a Vegan restaurant called “The Chicago Diner” to us. Sounds good to us. It was at this point that we realized that we’d gone back in time (Central Standard Time) and gained an hour. This was ga-reat news since we got a late start getting out of the hotel and were afraid that the restaurant would close soon.

Kristyn outside the Chicago Diner.

But we got there with way more than enough time! It was small and cute in there and there were hipsters aplenty. We ordered Vegan Buffalo Wings on Vanessa’s insistence. Oh ma fn god were they good!

Vegan Buffalo Wings...so good.

Then we ordered Philly Cheeze Steaks on our own insistence. They were not as great as we thought they’d be but still good nonetheless. Shoulda gotten a Dagwood.

Vegan Philly Cheeze Steak with Sweet Potato Fries!

Then again at Vanessa’s insistence and our own, we ordered vegan milkshakes. This was a delicious mistake. My overexcited, overeager belly was not prepared for this turn of events. I know I’m large and in charge but I am NOT used to eating this much in one sitting. Appetizers, Meal AND Milkshakes? I don’t know what we were thinking. Mine was Peanut Butter and Chocolate though and kicked my ever-loving ass. Kristyn’s was chocolate and so damn good.

Vegan milkshakes sent me over the edge. So damn good.

We got back to the room and I was almost dying. Like you know how sometimes on like, Thanksgiving, you eat so much that like your abdomen is swollen and you can’t close your pantalones? This is what happened to me. It was the worst. I was absolutely miserable. Monster and Elvira were happy to see us though.

Monster and Elvira chilling in the room.

We came in, put on our pajamas straight away and got right into bed. Monster joined us and I passed out immediately. This was a really great day.

Monster laying in bed with us.

And so yeah, we didn’t get to see as much of Chicago as we’d wanted but what we saw we liked a LOT. I would definitely love to visit this city again soon. I would even consider living here it was so nice. It was sort of different than I expected. I don’t know what picture I had of it but it was different than that and better than that. Def go to Chicago if you get a chance, you won’t be sorry y’alls.

*Oh ALSO, in case you’re wondering why the quality of the pictures vary so much. I am posting pictures I took with my DSLR and with my iPhone. Sometimes I didn’t capture what I needed to on my Nikon and only got a shot with my iPhone and to accurately show the chronology of what happened, I’m using both.

Lately and etc

I am writing this blog because I have something rilly RILLY important I’m SUPPOSED to be writing and can’t get into it. Some of you might notice that the beginning of my blogs always starts out all “Ahh..Um…Well…” and ends “…and THAT is why me and the President had to swap shirts at the party.” That is because my brain is hinky in the sense that it gets too confused when it is starting a new project. Too TOO many ideas start flowing and it’s hard to pick one and move in that direction. I find though that if I start a project suddenly and even aimlessly (even if I’m not ready), my brain gets into gear and goes, “Oh duh this is obviously what we should be doing.” So right now I am writing this blog to get my stubby fingers warmed up to the keyboard and have my brain fire off some thoughts and witty repartee in order to get into what I REALLY need to be doing.

That being said…Things are going really well here in LaLa land so far. I am SO. DAMN. HAPPY. LATELY. I don’t mean to rub that shiz in but I am happy and I don’t care who knows it! I know I’m all nouveau riche LA right now…but I just love this place. It’s like the perfect mix of everything I need in one place. It’s like as if the universe said, “Let us take the contents of Coleen Barr’s head and crap it out onto the planet and we shall call it the City of Angels when we want to seem clever but really we will call it Los Angeles!” It’s a city! By the sea! Near the mountains! Where vegetarian restaurants are aplenty! And pets are not frowned upon! And where for some reason my skin tans without burning or peeling! Where I am somehow able to live for two months without the benefit of income! And Roseanne is on the TV in marathon format every day! IDK, it’s just amazing to me. The one thing that sucks is that our family and friends are not here. The one good thing is that although they are not here, we live in a vacation destination which will likely draw said family and friends TO us and already has…YOU! The OLD ONE! Come closer…closer…clooooser…

And it’s not expensive here, not really. Well that’s not all true I spose. It’s only approximately as expensive to live here as it is in Kearny. Gas, food, electric, hot water, all pretty much the same. The cable and internet are waaay cheaper. There aren’t tolls on the roads all over the place…IDK. Like getting us here was way more expensive than living here. Oh! Speaking of which…I’m going to post exactly how much it cost us to get here, pretty much broken down to the penny as soon as I think of it. Then you can all move here. YOU! THE OLD ONE! Come closer…

Oh yeah and so far here are the celebrities we have seen:

Daisy de la Hoya AKA Daisy of Love

I feel like there is another one but I can’t think of it. And we saw a red carpet yesterday but it turned out to be nada. BUT we finally saw Paparazzi which is something I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen tons of celebs and even red carpets in New York but never once a Paparazzi before. In the last two days we’ve seen two clusterfudges of them. Yippee! For some reason I expected more like…seasoned professionals? Instead it was a bunch of like dudes my age just standing around with DSLRs around their necks. I wonder if I showed up in cargo pants with my DSLR if I am qualified as a Pap?

Whatever. Oh I have another non-what-I-am-sposed-to-be-doing-thing to write that I am going to put in a separate post. Booyah.

Michella Obama’s roots to Slavery

Guys, I just read the most interesting article:

Michelle Obama’s Slavery Roots

It’s such a weird thing to think about in a way because although we are aware of slavery and its continuing effects on our country, it’s weird to think that Michelle Obama’s Great-Great Grandfather was enslaved (as the article above states). I mean that’s really not that long ago. I grew up with two Great Grandmothers and even lived with one of them almost as a second mother. I don’t know much about my Great-Great Grandparents but I do know a little about my Great Grandmother (that I grew up with’s parents). They lived in Kearny, on a farm. They had about 13 children (I might be overestimating on that but I think that’s right). In 1906, my Great-Great Grandmother either died in childbirth with my Great-Grandmother OR shortly thereafter. My Great Grandmother (I’m going to call her Gram from now on because that’s what I called her) was the youngest of 13 and ended up being raised by her oldest sister Josie and her father. I doubt they had a glamorous upbringing. I do know that their farm was small, they had a couple of chickens and various other animals and that’s all I really know about that. Because like that woman says in the article, I never thought to ask too many questions while I still had her. I DID have the presence of mind to ask some questions though and the above is what I remember. (She died in 1993 or 1994 when I was in eighth grade.)

But all of that seems very real and vivid to me. It’s easy to imagine my Great Grandmother’s parents because I lived with her and was very close to her. And also nothing that special happened to them (that I know of). They lived and they died as private citizens on their own farm with no one pounding down their doors and no one trying to force them to do things they did not want to.

So it’s weird to me that Michelle Obama’s Great-Great Grandfather was actually a slave. Maybe it’s because I am white, but slavery feels very distant to me, as though it is something that happened a long, long time ago. I read “Beloved” and cried my eyes out. I just could not imagine that someone could have that much hate and selfishness in their heart to commit the atrocities against those people that they did. And I can’t believe they just got away with it like that.

And you know what always strikes me as amazing; the “newness” of African-American culture. Bear with me because I am not a member of this culture but from an outsider’s perspective, it seems like African-Americans get a lot of shit and go through a lot of shit because they have little to anchor them and what they do is based on pain. Everyone else on this Continent is basically here because of someone else’s tenacity to bring them here. They were raised in a place where they knew people, identified with the culture and could weave that culture’s traditions into their own to stay grounded to their own people while subtly blending newer local traditions into their own. In short, they had time to adjust and the freedom to do it.

During slavery, people were just picked up off the street in Africa, put on boats like animals, forced to come here in brutal conditions against their will and when they got here, were forced to behave like animals, wearing a bit and pulling wagons, working endlessly and being beaten if they could not continue on. The conditions these people had to live in probably did one of two things:

1) Forced them to try to hold onto their customs and roots while at the same time…
2) Forced some of them to give up their customs and roots to assimilate to white culture in order to protect themselves and their families.

That’s fucking brutal.

And so you have an entire contingent of people on this continent today who are without roots to Africa because their families were literally FORCED to give their children Anglo names, practice Anglo religions and wear Anglo clothing.

Of COURSE, African-Americans are going to have a little confusion amongst the ranks. And by that, I mean, when it comes to celebrating holidays, knowing what living conditions are like in Africa and/or knowing your own roots back to your country…things have GOT to be murky. I almost feel like African-Americans have been forced to create their own culture in this country. And that’s funny because it’s the reverse of any other culture on the planet. The culture of a people stems from changing slowly with the tide. It comes from good times and bad, leaves bad things behind and carrying on positive traditions to make life happy and keep ancestries alive. African-Americans are deciding their own culture NOW, in real time and we’re here to witness it. That’s really cool and weird right?

Anyway, I could go on and on but this is just something I have been thinking about and wanted to write about. The whole thought of a culture creating itself in FRONT of our eyes is amazing.

Oh one last thing that I thought was incredible was that last night President Obama spoke last night at the CENTENNIAL celebration of the NAACP. 100 years of fighting against oppression and on the 100th year, the First Black President of the United States is the speaker?! You can’t plan that shit! God I wish I could have been in that room, those people must have been over the moon. I know that yesterday at the rally, there were a TON more African-American people than any other race of people and it was nice to see. You could palpably feel how excited and proud everyone was. (And how pissed of that they’d been had but that’s another story altogether, we were all only pissed BECAUSE of how badly we wanted to see our President and when the hell is the last time that’s happened?!)

Oh one last LAST thing that I want to tell you (interesting because I was just talking about this with my boss in an unrelated conversation) is about the Great Grandmother I was talking about earlier, Gram. One of her sisters had a kid, and then they had a kid and that kid is/was Governer Jim McGreevy (the disgraced Gay American Governer of NJ). So yes, me and my boss worked it out and I am Governer McGreevy’s third cousin once removed. This basically translates into: We’re both Irish. But still, interesting factoid, haha.

Election Day, Tons of Pictures and Miscellaneous Blather

Guys!  I’m so excited today!  I went and voted first thing this morning for Barack Obama!  Say what you will but I am so excited to have been able to cast my ballot to elect the first black man in US history to be President!!!  I took pictures to commemorate it but Kristyn basically dragged me out of the voting booth by my ear telling me I was going to get arrested or invalidate my ballot.  So that just means I’ll post the pictures of my little chubby finger pressing the “Barack Obama” button tomorrow when he’s Prezzy.

So anyway, I uploaded a thousand pictures onto my flickr last night and here’s a link to them (I don’t know how to publish multiple pictures on here yet):


Anyway, so I am soooo excited! I can’t wait to go home and watch the election coverage in my Obama t-shirt! Hahaha…Also, I got some of my fisheye pictures developed and am waiting on a Holga roll. I really need to learn how to use this blog better bc I had wanted to post a bunch of pictures fo ryou in this bloggy, ugh. Anyway…

Oh, also, guys feel free to comment here. You can comment on my myspace too but eventually I’m just going to have the entire blog here…