Postcard from the Road

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(from our hotel room in Fort Bragg)

Travelling can be stressful at times, so I’m glad Sophia and I decided ahead of time to enjoy ourselves, and to laugh off any bumps in the road. Napa is pretty, but not our glass of wine. How many wineries can a person visit? How many wineries can one visit and still safely drive those windy country roads? And how many restaurants can serve fifteen dollar organic chicken sandwiches?

Our favorite wine country town was Healdsburg. It is quaint, but not sickingly touristy. Santa Rosa is cool also, mostly because Charles Schultz lived there, and there are sculptures of Charlie Brown and Snoopy all over the place.

Safari West in Santa Rosa was as overpriced as our arugula salad in Sonoma. They advertised themselves as an “African safari” experience, but for safety reasons, they don’t have any animals that could actually eat you. So, you travel around on a crowded jeep watching giraffes and antelopes sleeping, eating, shitting, and ignoring you. At least at Universal Studios, the Jaws shark comes out to attack you at least once!

The tour guide at Safari West recently wrote a children’s book about animals, and he seemed more interested in promoting it than giving us a tour, always saying that we could “pick up a copy in the gift shop.” This is embarrassing to admit, but I fell asleep on Sophia’s shoulder while riding a bumpy jeep on a “African” safari. Still, it was an entertaining and different experience, but not worth the sixty bucks a person.

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We liked this zebra the best. These electric zapcars are all over the place.

We had hoped to take a mud bath and massage in Calistoga. I was especially excited about posting a photo of myself with mud up to my neck, but we changed our mind when we actually saw the spa that we chose from some brochure we got at the hotel. Rather than it looking like an “Oasis,” it looked like a trailer behind a motel. When we went inside, Sophia asked the owner if we could see the mud bath before we paid, but the owner said we couldn’t — they were still “getting it ready.” Sophia asked to use the restroom, and like Nancy Drew, sneaked into the mud bath room. She immediately came out and told me that we should leave.

“It looks filthy.” she said. “They’re cleaning it up with dirty rags”

We were a little disappointed. I owe Sophia a mud bath.

Today, we drove from Napa to Mendocino. It was very interesting to see how the landscape changed from lush wineries to massive redwoods. Sophia was fascinated at her first look at these amazing trees. She even started to cry.

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“It’s like a fairy tale forest,” she said.

I didn’t have much time to be emotional, since the darkness of the tree cover and the curvy roads made driving a little scary.

Eventually, we made it to Mendocino. While Napa had an upscale wine lover/foodie vibe, the Northern California coast has maintained much of the hippy vibe of the 1960’s (although wealthier hippies). We stopped to buy some fruits at a food co-op. If Sophia was ever in political enemy territory, it was here. There were anti-war petitions hanging over the dairy aisle, and photos of Bush with X’s marking out his face. We especially enjoyed this sign posted by the front door, telling customers to shut off their cell phones.

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The views of the ocean are beautiful here. The oceanfront is rugged and… manly. In comparison, the beaches of Los Angeles are, as Ann Coulter might say, for faggots.

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We’re staying the night in Fort Bragg, which is one town over from Mendocino, and is known as the place where visitors who can’t afford Mendocino stay for the night. As I’m writing this, we’re in a small coffeehouse that serves organic coffee and we’re listening to a talent hippyish-looking singer doing a Joni Mitchell song. What could be more Northern Californian?

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Travelling is fun, but you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, especially when you’re travelling on a budget. We were concerned about our hotel in Fort Bragg because it looked a little Bates Motel-ish when we pulled in at night.

“I’m not staying here.” said Sophia. “There’s a homeless man standing right outside!”

Luckily, as we got closer, we saw it was just the sea captain.

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Better Late Than Never

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Five months ago, Sophia was in New York working and I was lonely.  To ease my pain, many of you sent me photos of your beds.  Deannie, the writer of “Home is Where the Heart Is” told me that she wanted to send me a photo, but she didn’t have her own bed.  She promised to send me a photo once she got her condo and bought a bed.

Yesterday, I received a photo of Deannie’s bed.  Nothing impresses me more than someone who keeps a promise.

From what I gather, this is actually the wrong bed that was delivered to her home, but she decided to keep in “instead of going through all the hassle of the exchange process.”

I, for one, like the bed.  It is very antique-looking, like something you might see in an old house in Vermont.  I especially like the elaborate headboard. 

Now, as the rabbis of yore used to do, I would like to recite the tradtional blessing for a new bed:

“Deannie, may this bed bring you much joy.  May you have many a restful night as you sleep soundly in this cozy and warm bed.  May you have pleasant dreams and wake up refreshed from your nights sleeping in this wonderful new bed.  And may you have many memorable nights @%#@** against the elaborate headboard.”

Update:  Next time I am alone, I won’t be needing your bed photos, thanks to my new sheet and pillow case combo.   (thanks, Dagny!)

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P.S. — I’m also doing my first “guest-blogging” stint at No Pasa Nada.   So, for one day you can call me Heather!

Dixie Martin: R.I.P.

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The continuing saga of how Neil met Sophia on the internet has been canceled today for a special bulletin:

Dixie Martin, beloved wife of Tad Martin and mother of J.R. Chandler, died today, January 29, 2007, in Pine Valley, after eating a poisoned peanut butter pancake intended for her daughter-in-law, Babe Chandler.

This was a shock to All My Children soap opera fans across the country. Some fans are so upset they are refusing to watch the show anymore. In fact, Sophia and Neil couldn’t stop talking about it all day. Even tonight’s episode of “24” seemed to pale in comparison to the drama of AMC killing off one of the show’s most popular characters.

The producers of AMC made a big splash when they brought actress Cady McClain back to the show after a four year absence. They had spent an enormous amount of time and money to woo her back. The return of Dixie created a slew of new storylines, since her character was repeatedly said to be “the heart” of Pine Valley. Tad and Dixie seemed destined to reunite as a couple — and even find their missing baby girl that unbeknownst to them, was now LIVING in Pine Valley after her parents were killed in a car accident! But one year into her contract, it’s death by peanut butter for Dixie. What happened?

Insiders know the real story. AMC producers, desperate for more viewers, tried to use the internet to drum up interest. They gave Dixie (Cady McClain) a blog to discuss her life as a soap opera star, in much the same way as other bloggers talk about their work and families.

With their ratings low, AMC also let go many of their long-standing characters, such as Brooke English (played by Julia Barr), who was with the show since 1976 and Dr. David Hayward (wonderfully played by Vincent Irizarry for the last ten years.) While the older actors were thrown to the street, the show hired a whole new group of dopey teenage actors. “Dixie” made a statement on her blog, saying it wasn’t a good idea to fire the show’s beloved older actors. The producers apparently didn’t like “Dixie” giving her opinion on her ABC blog, so to punish her — they promptly killed her off, making mincemeat of the storyline.

When someone says they were Dooced, people understand it to mean that someone was fired because of their blog. From now on, when someone is “killed off” because of their blog, I will use the term “Dixied.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Fact-Finding Mission

I Love John Updike (Not Really About John Updike)

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This week was a milestone for me.  I submitted my Fame post as an op-ed at the Los Angeles Times. 

Will they ever actually print it?  Extremely doubtful. 

But it was the first time I ever submitted my writing anywhere (other than scriptwriting).  Deezee pushed me into it.  She literally emailed me three times to make sure I did it.  So, thanks Deezee, for being such a pushy bastard.

I’m sure I looked unprofessional in my query letter.  I wrote “Dear Editor” rather than using a specific editor’s name.  I didn’t know you were supposed to include a page count.  After I submitted the article, I found an informative article in Daily Kos about writing op-ed pieces.  I wish I had seen it before!  It is a must read if you want to write a piece.  Don’t look like an amateur nudnik like me!

I’m always reading blog posts from YOU that would be perfect for a op-ed piece, so I’m going to try to push some of you to submit your work. 

Deezee also advised me to take out certain words from my post, such as “penis” and “balls,” which I did.  Rather than saying “If John Stossel had any balls,” it now reads “If John Stossel had any guts.”  I know that totally destroyed the sentence.  I totally wimped out, but it’s all part of the game.

People who have met me in real life know that I am actually a polite guy who never curses.  I’m always surprised when I learn that a blogger who writes beautiful poetry can “curse like a sailor” in real life.  Maybe it is because I rarely use words like c**k, p***y, f**king, etc. in the real world, that I LOVE to use them on my blog.  But every once in a while now I might clean up a post, especially if I have a job interview that week. 

It would be a shame, though, to refrain myself from using these obscenities on my blog.  I liked to imagine that whenever I say tits or c**k in a post, that thousands of women around the world are getting so turned on that they having orgasms right at their work cubicles.  That is happening, right?

For some of you, this is the only sex you get all week, so I can’t just eliminate this sex talk.  It is a public service!   So, I’ve come up with a way to both talk about sex AND be PG-13 for the Los Angeles Times and prospective employers.  It is called USING CODE.  Talk having your cake and eating it, too!

From now on:

c**k = iPod
p***y = Toyota Prius
tits = John Updike
f**king = “Deal or No Deal”

So, for instance, imagine you’re reading the following post.  Can you decipher it?

A BLOG POST 

Happy New Year, fellow bloggers!  How was your Christmas and Hanukkah?   I had a great vacation.  And guess what — I got a iPod as a Hanukkah gift.   What a great toy.  I don’t think I’ve every had more fun playing with anything in my life.  I’ve been using my iPod constantly, plugging it in, buying all these accessories, and looking for friends to share my playlist with.   I love the way it fits right in your hand.  And I didn’t even get the mini one!  No way! 

Soon, I’m hoping to figure out a way to install my iPod right into the Toyota Prius.  Then I can listen to music as I’m driving to the store.   I love that Toyota Prius.   It’s so comfortable inside, I almost want to sleep in it!  Dude, that would be the ultimate!

Do you make any New Year’s Resolutions?  I promised myself to read more this year.  I’m a big fan of John Updike and I hope to read all of his books this year.    There’s nothing better than curling up in bed with a good book by John Updike, especially one of his 500 page novels. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the new season of “24” and “Lost.”  So far, I haven’t been impressed with the new TV season other than “Deal of No Deal.”  Has anyone been watching “Deal or No Deal?”  It seems to be on TV every night lately!  One of my blogger friends recently told me how she Tivo-es it and then watches 4-5 episodes a night with her boyfriend!  That made me feel old.  I haven’t watched that much TV in one night since I was in college!   In fact, sometimes I even zip past the commercials, and fall asleep in the middle of the show. 

I’m glad they renewed “Deal or No Deal.”  Hopefully, I will be watching it a lot more this year.  Usually. I’m watching it in the bedroom before going to sleep, but I think I’m going to change things around in 2007.  I’m going to watch it on the living room TV and even on the little TV in the kitchen!   This is a YEAR of CHANGE!   I’m going to try to watch it every chance I get, with or without Sophia!   Who knows, maybe I’ll even get the chance to watch the show with two friends at the same time!  I could throw a little “Deal of No Deal” party!  I can’t tell you HOW MUCH I love that show!  I wonder if you can download “Deal or No Deal” directly onto you iPod and watch it in your Toytota Prius? 

Anyway, I love you all!  I’m gonna go take a cold shower now.  Or maybe I’ll just relax and read some John Updike.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Girls Gone Geeky

To Sleep, Perchance to Blog

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Nothing bugs me more than blogging “experts” pontificating on what a blog should or shouldn’t be about.  Sure, it might help them write a book on blogging or speak at a conference, but what does anyone know more than YOU about your own personal stuff?

In October, I complained about a blogging book with the title “No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog.”  As a member of the LBADL (Lunch Bloggers Anti-Defamation League), I immediately wrote a post describing what I had for lunch.

Yesterday, I  read a post saying that bloggers should spend more time on their posts, in the hope of creating well-written essays like David Sedaris and selling themselves to magazine editors.   First of all, there already is a David Sedaris, so it seems hopeless to become another one.  Second of all, he is gay, and it is not worth becoming gay just to get published.  And honestly, the chances of your blog doing anything for your writing career are so slim, you might as well just have fun and experiment.

To prove my point, I’m attempted a live blogging experiment.  I went to sleep in the living room and put the alarm on for 3AM.  My goal was to ramble on about my dream, not giving a crap about whether it was interesting or not.

It is now 3AM.  The only problem is that the minute the alarm jarred me out of my gentle slumber, I immediately forgot what I was dreaming about.  This is pretty typical.  I never remember my dreams.  I’ve even tried keeping a pencil and pad by my bed, but by the time I reach for the pencil, the entire dream has disappeared like… well, like a dream.

Even though this blogging dream experiment was a complete failure, I’m glad I did it.  I could have wimped out.  I could have been afraid that some of you would say, “Oh my God, Neil’s post today was a complete mess that he wrote at 3AM.  I’m never reading this blog again!”

If anything, waking up at 3AM has inspired me to write a little bit about SLEEP itself.  

Did you ever notice that we love to write about food and sex, but hardly ever about sleep?   I don’t know about you, but sometimes, there is nothing better than a good night’s sleep.   Between Sophia and the whole car accident scare, and my mother in town, bugging me about getting a haircut, I’ve actually looked forward to just going to sleep the last couple of days.    

I did have a haircut today.  But not because of my mother.

“You look homeless,” my mother has told me over and over again for the last few days.   But I ignored her. 

Today I was in Ralph’s Supermarket, when a woman , around 30, started waving at me.  She was very attractive, but there was something odd about her.  Maybe it was all the chopsticks sticking in her hair.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Fine.”  I said meekly, unsure who she was.  She sensed that I was uncomfortable.

“I know you, right?”

“I don’t think so.  Maybe you mistake me for someone else.”

“Don’t you lecture at the Krishna Center?”

“I’m sorry.  You DO mistake me for someone else.”

I immediately left the supermarket and went for a haircut.

Jeez?  How did I get to talking about my haircut.  Wasn’t I just talking about SLEEP?  I think my mind is starting to play tricks on me, like those college students involved in sleep deprivation tests.

Boy, am I sleepy.  Why am I up at 3AM writing this stupid blog post?  To be honest, if I had the choice RIGHT NOW of being served a five course meal from the finest restaurant in New York, of having Kate Winslet walking in naked, climbing on top of me, and f**king until morning, or just going back to sleep — I would choose SLEEP. 

Now tell me sleep is NOT a worthy subject to write about.

Neil’s Penis:  I strongly disagree with the last statement of Neilochka’s ridiculous post, especially the Kate Winslet part.  I will now punish him by making it hard for him to go back to sleep.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Argument