I officially drove coast to coast! Or gulf to coast, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities.

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So what did I learn driving across America?

1.) The States are beautiful. I’ve read many accounts of road trips where people say that their main realization is that America is BIG. Even Rachael said it to me. But I honestly didn’t feel that way. If anything, driving took this huge, mysterious mass of land that I’d fly over made it into a real, comprehensible distance. I drove across the map, and it didn’t take that long. It certainly was no Oregon Trail. The main thing that conveyed a sense of distance to me was the change in geography. I went from tropical beaches in Florida, through swamps and bayou in Louisiana, to fields in Texas, plains in New Mexico, desert and mountains and red rock canyons in Arizona, finally to rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean in California. That was beautiful.

IMG_3450 2.) I like driving. When I was little, I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever go on a road trip for pleasure. I hated when my family would drive to Tahoe, and that was only 4 hours. But I loved driving across the country. It was exciting! I was always anticipating where we would go next, and tired from where we had just been, so I didn’t mind hours in the car. I didn’t get bored- when I was driving I was happy to watch the landscape change, and there aren’t many opportunities better than driving through the desert to see just how fast your car can go. (To avoid indictment I don’t think I’ll answer that question ha.) When I was in the passengers seat, I had a great time just being with the other person- talking with Rachael about everything from boys, ballet, and school, to syphilis in african-american males, religion, and our opinions on abortion; eating Twizzlers with my dad and listening to Bob Dylan. The only part I didn’t like was when I thought we were gonna run out of gas and die in the desert. Which brings me to

3.)Always have a half tank of gas. You think there will always be gas stations, but sometimes there won’t. For 80 miles of anxious, nail-biting hell. http://alilake.com/near-death-in-the-desert-and-bats-in-carlsbad-caverns/

4.)NEVER STAY IN A SUPER 8. This is of the utmost importance. Unless you like bed bugs or strange men knocking on your door at night, do not go here. Never, ever.

5.)In fact, don’t even bother with hotels. In New Orleans and San Antonio we used Airbnb, and it was the best. In New Orleans we stayed with these funky hipsters who let us use their rickety bikes to jostle and jolt down Esplanade at night into the French Quarter. It’s one of my favorite memories. In San Antonio we stayed in the dream house I never knew I even dreamed of. It was this huge, two-story spacious Craftsman that we got to ourselves because our hosts were on vacation. We just hung out with their dog, cat, and chickens and played house. Rich people house. Staying in homes instead of hotels made visiting these cities more personal. We were with locals who took the time to make lists of their favorite restaurants, bars, places to see, and things to do. Plus they checked in on us and were so friendly. Our San Antonio hosts even emailed us a list of their favorite things to do in New Orleans because I had mentioned we were going there first. It was great, and we felt totally safe in their homes. After your stay, your hosts rate you and you rate them in return through the Airbnb website, so that other users and hosts have references for future bookings. I’ll definitely be using Airbnb again. https://www.airbnb.com/

Check out where we stayed-

Hipsters with cool art and  a strange bathroom in New Orleans:

https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/988767

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Rachael hated these, but I thought they were awesome.

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Strange poo art hanging over their toilet. I guess it’s like a Rorschach inkblot test, because we were talking about it over beignets (appropriate timing for sure) and Rachael thought it was a uterus, but I thought it was a heart.

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Jesus is watching you.

IMG_3005Dream home in San Antonio

https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/698312

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I really want a blue desk now.

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6.) This is a delicious snack. Taught to me by my sister: rice cake, hummus, avocado, salt and pepper, sriracha.IMG_3873

7.) This is the best song for driving across the South:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gX1EP6mG-E]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvKyBcCDOB4]

Whenever I hear this I’ll always think of driving with Rachael through the New Mexico night, windows down, hands in the wind, blasting this song and belting it out into the desert air.

8.) Sometimes it’s a small world, sometimes it’s a big world. Appreciate the old and the new. <3

 

Some of the places I went in LA seemed more like something out of an  SNL skit than real life…

If you’re looking for a place to stock up on supplies for your lates witch’s brew, I have just the place for you. Guarded by three large dogs, Necromance is your one-stop shop for anything fucking creepy. Located in East-West Hollywood, this store has everything: freeze-dried bats, squirrel-feet necklaces, scorpion lollipops, human vertebrae, tortoise shells, armadillo/badger limbs, and complete snake skeletons. Need some light to read by? Don’t forget to check out their lamps made out of deer forelegs. l

Necromance, 7220 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA  http://www.necromance.com/

 

Need a date with a bearded dude? Or, alternatively, like music? Brave a hallway of judgemental hipster eyes to enter Amoeba Records, the world’s largest independent record store. Come in dressed in your beatnik costume with prepared “cool” affect to browse thousands of records and pretend you know what you’re looking at. Then think to yourself, “I don’t need this shit, I have Spotify.”

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Amoeba Music, 6400 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA http://www.amoeba.com/

 

Are you Lady Gaga, her impersonator, or a dancer in her music video? LA’s hottest shop to get your outfit is… the store that doesn’t exist on Google Maps. Seriously, I had to do some CSI shit on my computer to see the name of a store across from it in the reflection of a picture I took. So I know it’s located across the street from Explosion (7555 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA). It gets weirder: this store also does not have a door into it. To get in you have to go next door and ask the nice middle eastern man if there’s an entrance. After telling you it’s all custom made, and none of it’s for sale, he’ll let you in through the secret back door (which he then shuts behind you so no one else can see it exists/enter). This mystery shop has everything you need to be a pop star/futuristic super hero: horse-face armor, mohawk made of quartz crystals, horned face-mask, rib-bone collar, spiky cod piece, shoulder pads for days, nefertiti chain veils, and much, much more. Trust me, in these outfits people will respect your personal-space bubble.

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If you looking for a fart machine, the perfect post card for your Mormon lover, Henri Rousseau Art stick-on tattoos, or justification for your chocolate addiction, LA’s best store for anything and everything is Wacko Soap Plant. Located on the outskirts of Little Armenia, Wacko is crammed floor to ceiling with knick-knacks, decoration, and toys, with an art exhibit nestled in the back. Go here if you enjoy browsing cute curiousities. Wacko, 4633 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA

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http://soapplant.com/

Finally, LA’s hottest club is Jumbo’s Clown Room. Located on Hollywood Boulevard,this little joint is packed to the brim with enthusiastic dancers and even more enthusiastic patrons. Opened in 1970 and converted to an exotic dance bar in ’82, this bar embodies burlesque without crossing into the vulgarly agressive territory. All different shapes and sizes, tattooed and pierced chicks dance/strip to 80’s hits and rock picked off the club’s jukebox. No actual nudity- the skimpiest they get down to is underwear, which I at least appreciated. Different levels of skill and style range from a duo jazz dancing to footloose, to a serious acrobat pole dancer doing the splits on the ceiling then dropping straight down to catch herself, head inches from the floor, just by the strength of her inner thighs. Goddamn. The crowd goes wild and bills fly onto the stage. No cover charge, so drink well and tip the dancers on stage. (Ps. Courtney Love danced here in the early 90’s. Cool.)l

No pictures allowed, so I found this one online. Jumbo’s Clown Room, 5153 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA http://jumbos.com/

 

 

After leaving the Gumbo Shop, we walked past Jackson Square on our way to Frenchman Street, where we had heard the real Jazz was at.

But first, remember how I was making fun of all the white hick dudes playing fortune-teller? So I snapped a pic of this guy for proof, and he quipped at me, “Oh, I guess this one’s never seen a fortune-teller?” to which I flatly replied, “No.” Then I got home and had to have a good laugh, because of course in this picture the fat, white, bald, fortune-teller is perfectly surrounded by some sort of glowy aura. I guess this proves he must have been the real thing. Only explanation I can think of… 😉

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On the way to Frenchman we passed an arts fair where you could watch the artists working. New Orleans is just so alive with art, all the time.

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But, we finally made it to the promised land: a great jazz club. And goddamn it was awesome.

In The Spotted Cat (http://www.spottedcatmusicclub.com/) we sipped on a Sazeracs (this time I watched the bartender to ascertain that it was done right), and listed to some badass live Jazz

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[youtube=http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEXJms6LoCo]

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It was just so fun. The band was lively, the bar was packed, and couples swing danced in front of us. The Smoking Time was on point; that trombone player was letting it loose, he was definitely my favorite. Then the fiddler got out a saw and started playing it with his bow. What?! Never seen that before, and it was damn cool. I could have happily sat there all night listening to them. The atmosphere of the bar was so different because everyone was just enthused about the jazz, not that seedy hook-up tension that pervades cheaper places. It felt alive and exciting and just happy.  We talked to some nice older dude and this European girl that was couch surfing with him, all the way from Lithuania. At the end of the second set we decided it was late enough we should go home, but I as soon as we were out the door I was already wanting more, and I have a feeling I will be for a long time to come.

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