Tag Archives: new friends

Estamos en Puerto Rico!

We are in Ponce, one of the largest cities in Puerto Rico. It is on the southern coast about two hours from San Juan. We flew into San Juan last Tuesday night & stayed at the International Hostel.


Casper at the San Juan airport

Wednesday we explored San Juan a bit – the masonic lodge and the beach – and Thursday we walked all around Old San Juan.


The Carribean, taken from atop the wall around Old San Juan


That night, a host from Air Bnb in Ponce named Roberto offered to come get us in San Juan for the price of gas. We hadn’t found another way to get to Ponce so were very grateful. He picked us up late at night and we got into Ponce in the wee hours of Friday.


We spent a day and a half calling apartments (which included me failing at Spanish a few times) and exploring downtown Ponce. We had shared our plans with Roberto and he ended up offering us his uncle’s empty house a block away for the price we were looking for. Saturday morning he showed us the place and we moved in!


Eugene: Shady Pines

We spent about a week living in this house called Shady Pines. It was walking distance from downtown, beautiful and strange on the inside. A lack of rules somehow without total chaos.

The front window seen from inside our bedroom at Shady Pines.

Our first night back in Eugene (June 8th, I think), we went to the birthday party of an old friend of Casper’s and slept on their couch. The guy who invited us to that party then invited us to his house, Shady Pines. There was an empty room right near the front and we moved bike frames and whatnot and made room for our bed roll. One of the dirtier houses I’ve stayed in, but beautiful none the less.

One corner of our bedroom at Shady Pines.

Casper and I are pretty good at making any place feel like home. The house was cold and vast, but not necessarily in a bad or unwelcoming way. Here’s a journal excerpt from June 12:

There’s no light bulb in our bedroom here. We have just enough space to lay out our bed roll among the random large stuff scattered about. A huge pile of clothes. A futon couch frame. A sinking couch. Empty whiskey bottles and cigarette butts. At least two bike frames. But there’s no light so when we first got here we used the cell phone to guide us as we unrolled our bed, fluffed our pillows, curled in for sleep. 

Our set up at Shady Pines. Note Casper’s crossed feet to the left, Seinfeld on the laptop in the middle, and my art/cardboard/drawing to the right. I later got rid of the art pictured here by leaving it downtown with a free sign.

Though we rarely saw anyone at the house, apparently eight people, four dogs, two cats and five chickens all share the space. The front porch had a fallen apart couch where people gathered most often for smoking and beer drinking.

One of the ways Casper makes anywhere feel like home for us is by cooking. We bought dish soap and cleaned up the Shady Pines kitchen as well as we could. There was a notable decrease in flies and an increase in dishes at the end of this endeavor. And Casper was able to make us things like this:

Casper’s delicious golden rice with frozen veggies and a curry sauce we found in a dumpster. The second plate has pita bread (also dumpstered), potatoes and goat cheese.

Vashon Photos: housemates!

I am so excited to have all our photos organized! W00t! We have had a hell of a time keeping a camera working so most of our photos these days are from my cell phone. Luckily, it has a pretty decent camera on it.

We lived on Vashon Island near Seattle for just about seven months. October 25-ish through May 1. Counting that up just now, I’m really surprised we were that for that long. We always had this road mindset about us even there. We knew permanence was temporary.

These are the beautiful folks who we lived with for most of the time we were there:




Those photos were all taken in me and Casper’s bedroom. We all hung out quite a bit in there even though it was tiny.

Kyle, Casper, Cosmo and Ben in our wee bedroom.


I haven’t really written about Madison, I suppose. We were only there for a few days and it was pretty hectic emotionally, but I’ve been wanting to say a word about some of the folks we stayed with down there.

A week or so before we got to Madison, I looked up what Food Not Bombs action was happening in the area and got in touch with one of the folks who is starting it. Madison used to have a group, but it’s just being re-started now. It was so great to sit with a group of organizers! There was an agenda, checklists, people volunteering for different jobs… I miss that! I haven’t organized for years!

After the meeting, we all walked to a church that gave out free bread. Two of the organizers, Kristin and Jackie, offered to share their apartment with us for a night and we were quite gracious. One of our couch surfing hosts had flaked on us and we were not looking forward to more cold nights in the car.

Farm animals need love to!

Jackie, originally from Virginia, was living on Kristin’s couch and both work at the Heartland Farm Sanctuary. We never made it out to visit (Casper was busy puking the day we were supposed to go out there), but we wanted to tell people about it anyway.

Their mission is to “provide care for farm animals in need, nurture people through the human-animal bond, and foster respect and kindness toward animals and each other.” Pretty rad, right? They run a farm animal rescue, not just saving cats and dogs like a humane society, but horses, cows, sheep, goats and more! They also tame and find homes for feral cats, lead barn tours and educate folks about human treatment of animals.

Here’s the info Kristin sent me about it:

“We were founded in 2010 by Dana Barre when she came across this staggering fact: Wisconsin is home to more than 35 million farm animals, but does not have a single dedicated farm animal shelter. With nowhere for abused and unwanted farm animals to go, Dana was determined to create a safe haven that they could call their own. At the same time, Dana saw the possibilities for helping special needs and at-risk youth through contact with rescued farm animals, and teaching kids to treat all animals with compassion and respect.”

Check them out at heartlandfarmsanctuary.org and visit if you’re in the area!

St. Paul/Minneapolis: Food at Andy’s

Until I met Casper, I had a hard time eating any food unless it was mostly sugar. Pretty much everything made me sick. It wasn’t just dairy, or gluten, or whatnot. It had no pattern. I have since realized that it was caused by my stomach being tense. My meds have helped that symptom of my anxiety, but Casper’s love of food and eagerness to feed me well has made me want to enjoy food.

With his help, I’ve tried cheeses, breads, meats, and more that I had never consciously eaten. I used to eat sandwiches by taking them apart, eating each ingredient by itself; all the flavors together were too much for me. Growing up, I was famous for eating plain pasta and plain rice (sometimes with a little salt, but no oil or cheese) and plain bagels. Now, we’ve learned that bland, processed carbs cause a serotonin boost and, therefore, many depressed people become attached to pastas, rice, etc just like me.

This is the only food related photo I could find... This is me eating a mango in Madison, pantsless.

Casper lets me eat how I want, but he encourages me to combine flavors. He suggests savory instead of sweet; seasoned instead of bland. Sometimes he makes fatal errors – the spices and oil he feels he must add to any pasta has several times made it inedible to me – but, mostly, he is revolutionizing my idea of food. I used to say that, if I could, I would give up eating all together and just take nutrients pills. Casper is making me love food.

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Wisconsin Memories: Jason’s

My daily diary and Fruity, Jason's adorable beagle.

That first day in Milwaukee, we woke up in the car and drove to a nearby library to get online. We confirmed a place to stay for that night and, I think, just spent most of the day there at the library.

I keep a daily diary to jot down the basics of where and how we are each day. I started it August 13, when I was living in my parents’ basement last year. Originally, it was to monitor my meds/moods and to help me live each day intentionally. On August 17, it says, “told Mamá about Ohio.” Six days after that, I was on the road to Cincinnati with Casper, and I kept up the daily entries until November 3, 2010.

I picked it up again May 1, 2011, the day we left Cincinnati. It’s just the basics: usually half of a half-sized page per day. And sometimes, as was the case for our first full day in Milwaukee, it says much, much less.

Jason was a dashing young man with a sweet dog, a messy apartment (he was moving at the time), a passion for bicycles and a job in advertising. As you can see, I’m not really sure what we did on Thursday the 19th of May, but I do know we spent the night on Jason’s futon.

The comfy futon was in what I presume was the living room. Jason had rad art on the walls and bikes in various states of completion throughout the apartment. It was a really cozy place to be and Fruity, the pup, was a beagle of epically sweet proportions. Jason had a cup in his bathroom that said “I LOVE BEAGLES”.

Chicago Memories: Becky and Lindsey’s

After the kosher house, we moved to Lindsey’s house for our last three nights in Chicago. Lindsey lives with her friend Becky – they met while studying abroad in China – but she was out of town during our whole visit due to a family emergency.

Our second day there was a Sunday. We stayed in all day and wrote online to make some money. Per Casper’s request, I choose articles for him, he writes them and then I review what he’s written. Often, he’ll need me to add a few dozen words to reach the word count. The system works really well. I think we ended up pumping out about $50 – quite satisfactory.

Our second night, another couch surfer arrived. Kasha is Polish and working as an au pair on the east coast. She told us that when she started doing that nearly a year ago, it was her first time in the US. She had one week of vacation and she was determined to see as much of Chicago as possible. She’d been sightseeing in Boston right before. She was gregarious and talkative. Her style blew my mind: a quarter of her head shaved while the rest was past her shoulders, brightly colored shoes…very hip hop, but in a European way. Well, that’s my guess, anyway. My modern European education comes entirely from Skins.

Around this time, I was struggling with nightmares galore. I had three straight nights that I woke from feeling shamed, terrified and anything but rested. Because of that, we didn’t really do much around Chicago those last few days. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

Salem was allowed in at Lindsey’s and, after the fright at the kosher house, he did so well! He quickly surveyed the room when we first brought him in: noting dark corners, learning which furniture could be crawled beneath, and locating Lindsey’s comfy bed. Lindsey and Kasha were both great with him and it was really good to see him have such a good, relaxed time.

Chicago Memories: Lakefront Painting

On Mother’s Day, Casper and I walked to the beach, passing by a small farmer’s market and beautiful murals on the way.

Part of a huge mural under an L station. More here.

We played in the waves a little bit – Casper was disappointingly cautious – and I ended up dropping our camera into the water by mistake. It’s a goner.

Beautiful Lake Michigan.

We laid out our tapestry on the grass, off the beach to escape the brutal wind. It was chilly, but I set up my paints and worked on some pere on the back of cereal boxes. Casper wandered off to find us some food and while he was gone a girl showed up and started watching me. I asked her if she wanted to paint. She said she’d have to ask her mom and ran off.

She returned with two siblings. So Margo, Daniel and Olivia painted with me. Margo was the one who originally approached me. She was 8, I think, and definitely extroverted. She added sand to her painting and chatted incessantly. Daniel was 5, I think, and rather quiet. Olivia was 11, I think, and just hitting those awkward preteen years. Margo sat right down and started painting; when I asked Daniel, he didn’t say anything but sat down and waited for paper; Olivia said “I guess” when I asked if she wanted to paint and made a point of regularly correcting her siblings’ stories and claims.

The two girls looked at me with skepticism and wonder when I said that I live on the road. And when I took my hat off to show them my completely bald head, Margo was the only one brave enough to touch it.

Leaving Chicago

We’ve decided it’s time. We almost slept out in a beautiful park Friday night, but since it’s been pouring down rain and freezing and windy we’re really grateful that a couch host came through at the last minute.

It feels so good to be able to decide when we’re done with a city and be gone within days of making that decision. We’re thinking Monday, after we visit a free, mini golf course in the basement of a funeral home in Palatine, Illinois.

While mostly this trip is about escaping our anxiety and proving to ourselves that the world is good, I’m not about to say that we don’t have any of that numb depression that makes running away the most satisfying option in the world. I have that more than Casper, I think, and I’ve been listening to this song all morning. We’re ready to roll outta this town. We’ve built a fire and we’re surviving it; we’ve found a storm and we’re riding it.

We Love Chicago!

Playing cards at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We stayed at the first couch, Abby’s, from May 2 to May 7.

Maia and Sophie, Abby's kitties.

By the second day there, we decided to bring Salem inside for good and let the three cats just have it out. There was lots of hissing and picking of fights. Casper hardly slept the first two nights because of all the 2am hissing fits. Abby’s kitties are Maia, who is very simple and reminds me of Brittany from Glee, and Sophie, who is more like Santana. They’d fight all night and then seem to agree to take a nap around 10am each day and there would be peace. Eventually Salem kind of won out as the king of the house and the last few days there were times when all three cats were quiet.

During our time at Abby’s, she was gone at work pretty much all day, every day. We spent quiet mornings drinking too much green tea (accidental caffeine overload) before heading out for sightseeing. In the evenings, we would chat and laugh with Abby. She works in a long-term care facility for folks with mental illness so she and I had lots to talk about. Her bookshelves were full of books Casper and I both recognized. Her walls displayed beautiful, goddess-y art and even some Frida. Casper cooked an incredible soup the second or third day as well as a nice breakfast on Abby’s day off.

A yak-thing :)

We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday because that is their free day. Jim Nutt’s work blew my mind and inspired me, too.

The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is free everyday! After it closed at 6pm, Casper and I went to a head shop and then a grocery store. We sat under one of the super noisy L overpasses and ate tasty challah and salami and cheese and juice. Then we passed by the Oz Park – which we’re definitely planning on visiting again when my feet aren’t killing me – and wandered our way home.

As we were getting some stuff out of the Pearl before heading up to Abby’s, Casper called out that there were ducklings in the road! They turned out to be geese: two parents and 11 goslings. There was a long line of cars behind them, driving at goose-speed with their headlights on. The family was headed for a big, nasty street so I immediately started guiding them to the sidewalk and to the right, towards what a bystander said was the nearest park with water.

Mama, Papa and 11 goslings on Wieland Street in Chicago.

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On the Road to Chicago: Part I

After leaving Cincinnati at around 2am on May 1, we headed north on the 127 because Casper wanted to skip as much of Indiana as possible. I fell asleep in the front seat, surrounded by our excess of belongings. Salem hid in the trunk and Casper drank an energy drink.

We stopped at the Wall first, a brick wall outside of Stop-n-Go where we had the most important conversations of our early relationship. Last fall, it was the only place we both felt capable of opening up and talking. Per usual, at 2am the place was packed. We sat on the Wall, watching drunken college students make fools of themselves. The clerk always buzzes folks in at this our as the place is notorious for being robbed (some call it the Stab-n-Go). The security guard kept an eye on everyone, the college students lined up outside the door. And all this in the flashing police lights reflected from some crime happening around the corner. I’ll miss Cincinnati, but it was time to leave.

Our perfect sleeping spot near Lake Wawasee in Indiana.

I slept until around 4am. Casper pulled over at a rest stop and we slept in the uncomfortable front seat for a few hours before continuing north. Somewhere around Bryan, Ohio, we headed west on the 6. We’re avoiding freeways because we’re not hurrying anyway, we want to see the world we pass through and slower speed limits conserve gas (a theory we weren’t sure would be proven to but it has!).

The 6 took us across the entirety of northern Indiana. We missed Michigan by a few dozen miles so I still can’t check that state of my list.Around 11am, we stopped near Syracuse, Indiana, and followed our atlas to Lake Wawasee. We couldn’t find a way to get down to the water, but we found a most glorious square field full of lush grass, chirping birds and dandelions. We laid out our big red blanket and slept, thanking the sun when it appeared and cursing it when it slipped back into the clouds. We ate stale bread and delicious hummus for lunch. No one bothered us, though a cop car slowed down near us at one point and that freaked Casper out. Luckily, we were just strapping the car top carrier back on and he or she hadn’t seen us sleeping.

Me, waking up from my nap, and the glorious abandonment across from our field.

About a mile from our Wawasee location, we heard a weird thumping noise which turned out to be a flat tire. What are the odds?! Less than 24 hours into our road trip! Luckily, we broke down right near a farmhouse and northern Indiana feels like home to me because it looks like Wisconsin. I went up to the house, the young boy mowing the lawn eyeing me curiously, and asked the woman who answered if they had metric tire wrenches. For some reason, the tire wrench we currently have does not fit our car’s tires. It’s pretty silly.

The woman said no, but within a few minutes a man about the same age came out with some tools. We were unloading the trunk to get the spare tire and Casper was jacking up the car. The man, whose name I think was Dan, was accompanied by his second grader Lily. When he went back to his garage to get some tools, she returned with a hula hoop but was too shy to show us her skill. She made it clear, though, that she was a better hula-hooper than her dad. He agreed.

Dan was incredibly nice. He told us he’d never really left the Syracuse area in his life, but he didn’t treat us like weirdos even though I was barefoot, wearing sweatpants, a torn up pink vintage church dress, and a long red coat. Casper in his sleeveless black hoodie covered in obscure band patches, a blue bandana and patched up tan jeans probably didn’t look too rural either. Lily couldn’t keep her eyes off us, me in particular. She said she does, in fact, like school and she was very interested in the fact that we had a cat in the car. Her eyes looked like they were taking in all she saw and adding it to her growing list of things and lifestyles that are possible.

She, and her relationship with her dad, made me think so much of myself as a little country bumpkin 15 years ago in rural Wisconsin.

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Sunny Days and Photo Shoots in Nashville

Adrienne, exquisite as usual.

Sitting alone in Adrienne’s apartment, listening to Coco Rosie and drinking tea. Casper is out buying herbal incense from a local guy and Adrienne’s at work.

Yesterday, we went to a gorgeous park and took several hundred photos of Adrienne. She did ballet poses in sundresses and Casper snapped photos and I carried the shoes and water. It was a perfect day. In some parts of the park, the flowers were so intensely vibrant we felt the color was coming directly into our pores and filling us up. I ended up with a slight sunburn on my shoulders, but my even paler companions had opted for sun block.

We went to the grocery store first, buying picnic yummies and then sat on our green sleeping bag (which has seen this country over and has yet to be ever washed…) under a huge tree. A creek ran through the park and I got my feet wet; sweet, sweet wild water.

In the evening, Casper stretched in the sunshine, Adrienne organized her file box on the living room floor. I went back and forth between the two, discussing futures, human potential, our generation, parents, the apocalyptical state of the world, and what it is we all want from life anyhow.

Casper made us a delicious dinner, as usual: pasta cooked in veggie broth with mushrooms and artichokes mixed in. He has a little green bag that he always carries into the kitchen here. It is his “spice bag,” in which he carried all the spices he brought from home. We were all tired and hungry so we watched Indiana Jones: the Last Crusade because I’d never seen it before and Adrienne aspires to be Indiana Jones. In the course of the late evening, we ate pudding, brownies, and ice pops and giggled often. I have never seen Adrienne laugh as hard as she did last night…and I don’t even remember what was so funny!

The photographer scouting locations.

It’s hot here. At least, for my sense of April weather it’s hot. It’s been in the 70s and muggy. Today me and Casper woke up at 7:30am, whined about being up so early, cleaned out the car a bit, and headed off to Hermitage. We picked up a lady there who needed a ride to a car dealership. We found her on Craigslist and it all went splendidly. She was friendly and chipper and interesting and we only got lost once. She ended up buying the car she went to see, so we didn’t have to give her a ride home. If her car is still in the shop tomorrow, we’ll also be taking her down south a bit for a teacher/parent thing. She was very generous with her reimbursement and the possibility of buying me a small guitar for the road is looking more and more possible.

Casper and I bought a cat harness for Salem (it’s actually a small dog harness, which tells you something about Salem’s size…), rechargeable batteries for our camera, sidewalk chalk, spray paint, the second big strap we need to attach our car top carrier, and two notebooks for a present my sister requested from me.

Adrienne and I talking on the back porch.

As we came home, Adrienne’s new-to-her piano was being delivered. Me and Casper just snuggled on the couch for a bit listening to her play. Her brother in law Ted, who lives across the street, had come over to borrow his car from Adrienne, who uses it to get to work each day, with promises that he’d be back in time for Adrienne to get to work on time. He was headed for a comic book store so, instead, Casper invited himself along with Ted and they took the Pearl.

Adrienne dyed her hair, I listened to Pomplamoose, and Adrienne left for work just a moments before Casper and Ted returned. Casper and ate leftovers and fell asleep watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Gallery, which I adore and Casper just can’t seem to enjoy. I kept napping after the movie was over because I felt the intense grumpiness I always feel when I have napped but not been fully restored. It is dangerous to interrupt me during a recharging session. I woke up around 7 to Casper busily planning his herbal incense heist.

I am alone. I haven’t been in quite a few days. Hours of time alone. It frightens me, but I’m learning to be alone without being lonely (citation: Paul Baribeau’s song Christmas Lights).

Me in Adrienne's lovely house.

The sun and the pulsating spring here are exactly what we need. Winters bring us down. Aprils is for new beginnings and everything is lovely at the moment. The government is in frozen crisis; Japan was hit by an earthquake yet again; and I am still overwhelmed by emptiness, despair and panic on a regular basis. But things are good. Things are warm, things are blooming, things are changing.

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