…and we are back. In Europe. Again.

After a crazy set of circumstances, I’ve found myself in Europe again.  This time I’m in Austria (Salzburg, next Vienna).  After that, we head to the Czech Republic (Prague).  Then home.  I’m with the orchestra.  I was promised many solos.  I think I’ll get to play about half of them now, but whatever, I’m here and I gotta do what I gotta do.

Let me get some whining out, then we’ll do the funny stuff.

Short story:  last trip I boosted my seats on British Airways to their premium economy thing.  I got huge spacious seats, more legroom than I could use, and all kinds of fancy service.  I was impressed.  I had read an article somewhere about how Delta’s Comfort+ was better than BA’s version.  So when I had the tour folk book this trip, I asked for that.

Guess what?  It’s not better. It’s like economy with 5 or 6 extra peanuts in your bag, and maybe an inch or two of extra room.  Oh, and the plane we were flying was older, so I was trying to stare at movies the size of a postcard on an old screen that looked like it was about to fall out of the seat.  On top of that, the headphone jack was jacked up (hurr) so if I or my neighbors touched the screen, I got all kind of weird feedback.  Food was exactly the same as my last trip two years ago.  I am kind of peeved that I paid extra for that.  I’m seriously so disappointed that I’ll insist I never ever fly Delta again for the rest of my life.  Gawd.

Ok, now the fun stuff.  Let’s start off by just stating that I have been WHOLLY unprepared for this trip.  I barely had time to read anything about Austria or the Czech Republic.  Unlike Italy, I didn’t spend a couple of months with Duolingo trying to get at least a baby comprehension of phrases/basic instructions.  This is due to the fact that the decision to go was last minute.  I signed up at the end of February, then had a concert series, then got my post put in (ongoing tooth face destruction).  Recovery, panic practicing, then omg I am leaving in less than a week PUT ALL THE THINGS IN A BAG.  So yeah, I did that and now I’m here.  And completely clueless.

I am also writing this blog with about 8 hours of sleep spread out over 2 days, so there is some degree of delirium.

Once I settled in the hotel, I thought I’d go on an adventure. I walked down to the little grocery store down the street.  I drained my account for some precious Euros, went in to pick up some stuff.  I was mostly collecting water, snacks, and a couple of baby bottles of the local vino to try.

Oranges were easy.  I found and threw a couple in my basket.  Then I tackled the water.  As a reminder, I have spent ZERO time getting familiar enough with German to navigate my way verbally or linguistically out of a paper bag.  As a result, I spent way too long staring at the water bottles trying to figure out which ones were sparkling, and which ones were not. After a lot of staring, some confusion, and at one point considering using my precious international data plan megabytes for google translate, I realized one bottle said “Still”. Using my jet-lagged brain logic, I picked the other bottle.

TL;DR:  Prickelnd = sparkling

I spent some time ruminating over the untranslatable german language wines (see note above about not wanting to burn precious megabytes).  There was a gal next to me staring down the sparkling wines.  I guess when I walked up and started reviewing baby bottles and either evicting or adding them to my basket, she determined I knew what I was doing (the tour guide did tell us to be assertive here).  So she started to ask me in German (I presume) about her selection of sparkling wine.  And I had no idea what to say other than “I’m sorry…”.  She then said (again, I presume) “oh, it’s ok” (I did hear the work “ok” in there), and grabbed a bottle and ran.  I hope she picked a good one.

mystery wine – I will get around to translating it.  Decided to sample first.

So I purchased my selections.  Much like SF, they make you buy bags for your groceries. Luckily I was traveling with a backpack, so I loaded it all in and headed back to the hotel.  In that brief time I was in the grocery store, it started snowing.  AGAIN.  Instead of heading out into the historic areas I decided to camp inside.  I have a good chunk of tomorrow to walk around when I’m less tired to do that.

I thought I left this….

Not much else yet to report.  I’ve been here for about 6 hours at this point.  Spent some time with Mary Anne and Marsha.  Tried hard not to fall asleep during conversations.  I’ll be fine after a full night sleep tonight.  Maybe.  Steel yourself for more updates in a day or so!

The Vacation Debacle

This is a lot of words, but damn. It’s was a crazy couple of days.

A few months ago I decided I needed a really nice relaxing vacation, preferably seeing something I haven’t before. My Travel Agent Extraordinaire Lisa Chady and I put together a marvelous trip on a cruise ship through Barcelona, France, and southern Italy for my adventure this year. There was a crap ton of planning, including lots of time for me to be chill and not rushed. Everything was perfectly laid out. I had lists and everything ready to roll. Because you know me. Anal-retentive.

You know what they say about Best Laid Plans.

The Fire Debacle

On the day of the journey (Friday morning), I woke up bright and early. I had planned to leisurely drink my coffee, pack the last few bits of things, then drive out to the airport. Those plans were immediately squashed. The first thing I saw when my alarm went off was a message from Brian: “The news said they shut down 580 because of a fire. You might have to go through Tahoe”.

Mind you, 580 is the highway through Washoe Valley, and the best way to Reno from Minden. So I made coffee and hit the internet. Fire in Carson City. Ok. Fire in Tahoe. Ok. I messaged him back and said I didn’t see that. I then turned up the Google-fu and there it was: Fire in Washoe Valley. Few minutes later was the twitter bomb from Nevada Highway Patrol about the closure.

M’fer.

So my leisurely morning was reduced to total and utter panic. Panic shower. Panic brush teeth. Panic throw the rest of the stuff in the suitcase. Panic grab a banana for breakfast (this is important later). Panic find alternate route – which was a royal pain in the ass because it was raining/snowing/windy all over Tahoe. So I chose Virginia City. Saw how long the ride would take, tacked on time to that trip because I figured I’d be one of a bazillion people doing it due to the road closure. Panic hug dog. Panic hurl bags in car.  Pray I’ve got everything, and hit the road an hour earlier than I planned.

Now, at this point I’ve hardly slept for two days. I’m just exhausted. But damn the world, I was catching that plane. And wouldn’t you know, I hit the Reno Airport an hour and a half before flight time.

The Flight Debacle

I park my car, then start scooping stuff out of my car to go in. In the middle of that I check my phone and THERE IT IS: My flight plan was Reno to Los Angeles to SFO, then SFO to London. The Los Angeles to SFO leg was canceled due to weather. GAWD.

Fueled by 1/2 a cup of coffee and zero sleep, I begged the ticket agent with sad tired eyes. And wouldn’t you know it, he found a flight to Oakland with more than enough time to take BART to SFO and catch my London plane. I WAS SAVED!

The Banana Debacle

So I check in my bag, head through security, and clear the TSA hurdle no problem. As I’m sitting there reassembling my torn apart carry on gear and putting on my shoes, it hits me: WHERE IS THE DAMN BANANA I PACKED FOR BREAKFAST?

It’s in my damn car, that’s where it is. In my car, sitting in long-term parking in the sun. Where it will remain for TEN DAYS. DAMMIT. I groan inwardly, march myself back out to long term parking, retrieve the banana, eat it, throw the remnants away, and return to the terminal for TSA round two.

The Flight Debacle Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Get through security a second time. I’m relieved. I have an hour before boarding, so I grab myself a bagel to finish off breakfast, and sit down for some much needed rest (at this point, I’d been running around like a crazy person for 5 hours).

…and I’m halfway through my bagel when I hear “Attention passengers of flight blah blah blah, it has been canceled. Please see your ticket agent“.

M’FER OMFG

At this point I’m completely out of options. NO OTHER FLIGHTS are getting to Oakland or SFO in time for me to catch the London flight. To make it 800x worse, the wind picked up (those of you familiar with Reno, the wind gusts are awesome), and they were canceling flights left and right. It was entirely too late to jump in the car and haul ass to San Francisco to make it in time for my flight.

Luckily for me, I have travel insurance. Between them (with a lot of hollering) and some handy help from Lisa, I managed to get a series of flights that would get me to my cruise ship in the nick of time to board.

So, 7 hours after I arrived at the airport in Reno, I get back in my car and drive home. Thus ended the first day of my vacation. I ordered pizza for dinner. That made it somewhat better.

I Still Made It

The next morning I get up prior to the butt-crack-of-dawn (3:00 AM) and drive myself back to Reno. Road was not on fire (YAY). Flights weren’t canceled (YAY). Three flights and 24 hours later, I magically appear in my cruise ship cabin in Barcelona, Spain. I was completely and utterly wiped out. But I’m here.

Whew.

Melting Brain

My big goal this last few months has been “making space for myself”, per my therapist.  Finding who I am.  Doing what I need to do to feel comfortable.  And I have been doing that.  Until orchestra hit with a vengeance.  I was doing just fine balancing work, the new Man Friend™, and daily practicing.  A few weeks ago my peaceful balance was disrupted by orchestra-related performances.  I’ve pretty much found myself on almost a month straight of rehearsals, concerts, and panic reed making to replace the reeds I ran into the ground this last series.

But hey, I got my face on a poster so there’s that!  Said poster:

oboe

Anyway, I’ve kind of felt a bit of a crunch, and find myself back at my “old” stressed out self.  Lashing out.  Feeling tired.  Feeling super overwhelmed.  I do have much better mental tools to handle it now, so when I hit those walls I’m able to push back and pick up without crumbling.

There are so many things that are better.  I can now go and face people in person.  I feel this driving need to get out of my house at least once a day – even if it’s just for a run.  I can be social.  I don’t feel so crushed or broken.

I’ve run face-first into some memories from my previous relationship lately.  It wasn’t the whammy I was expecting.  I’m not hurt anymore.  It doesn’t cause me distress.  I’m more analytical.  And today I threw out something that’s been nagging me.  And you, you unfortunate reader of this blog, will get to relive some of what I had put up with.

So when you move someone into a very small house, you find you need places to put shit.  In this case: the bathroom.  It’s super small, and not a lot of storage.  So I got this rack to put in the bathroom.  Stuff went on it.  It was good.  Until the other person comes home blackout drunk at 1AM.  He went out and got trashed, came home, decided he had to pee.  Because he could hardly stand up straight, he grabbed the rack, and then he fell over.  And took the rack and everything on it with him.  Oh, and somehow on the way down he pulled the lid off of the toilet.  So after the racket woke me up, I went into the bathroom to find the rack knocked over, all of the stuff on the floor (or broken), and the lid from the toilet shattered.  And a very blasted man who should have thanked his lucky stars he didn’t break his neck.  I was lucky that day to not be treated to another angry drunk tirade.  He went to bed and passed out, while I got to clean everything up.  Since then, I’ve looked at that rack and hated it. I hated the memory.  I hated that it was there when I didn’t need it anymore.

Today it went in the trash.  That felt so good.

So on to some updates:

  • Yep, shit ton of orchestra
  • Duet with Josue went amazingly well.  He’s the best duet partner, tons of fun!  We have one more performance, then we put Bach to bed
  • Man Friend™ is definitely a thing.  I’ve introduced him to a few of my friends.  He’s fun.  I enjoy the time we have together, even if it’s brief some days.
  • My yard is a disaster.  Oh god, a huge disaster.  I need help!
  • Running is still spectacular.  Improvements are very tiny, but overall I’ve cut off tons of time per mile, and tons of weight.  Definitely a correlation between how much weight I carry and how fast I can run.
  • Weight in general is under control.  I’m still on the chunky side, but a lot thinner (two sizes), and I’ve got stamina for days.  I feel good.
  • Salem has not run off again. She’s less grounded now, but I keep an eye on her.  She also managed to “lose” two of her collars.  Pretty much the worst cat.

That’s all I have to say today.  I know the post meandered, but my reminder to write went off this morning so this is what you get.  Enjoy!

 

Holy Shit Snacks

Now that I’m digging out of my personal well of misery, I’m actually able to focus on some of the insanity that can be called our Presidential Election.  Summary:  OMGWTFBBQ.  Logically, I know there are limits to presidential power.  Our country is supposed to be equally balanced between executive, legislative, and judicial.  One cannot do things without the other.  You want change? Uproot congress.  Hate on him/her all you want, but remember: the President has a great deal of power and is our spokesperson, but the President does not decide how everything works.  It’s like a coach in a basketball game.  The President can strategize and push initiatives, but cannot control every movement of our government.  That said, it’s somewhat scary to know the likely nominees aren’t people of good character, and if one of them gets his way I could be lumped in with the rest of the the immigrants and booted out.  So for now I’m going to hold to the idea that while we may elect an idiot to office (okay, I’ll concede:  when don’t we do that), overall s/he’ll have a congress to contend with and probably won’t get to do much other than embarrass us.  A lot.

Our town was visited recently by a couple of Republican nominees who both held rallies a couple of blocks from my house.  One filled up the streets.  The other didn’t.   I didn’t mind the rallies at all.  It’s expression, support, and a way to hear what someone has to say.  The thing I did mind the most was the absolute hatred surrounding them.   I was out walking one of those afternoons and passed by a small group of supporters talking about the rally.  They weren’t talking action, phone calls, or door-to-door campaigning.  They were talking about how they felt the election should end with certain democrat candidate in a wheelchair, in jail, or dead.  How can you wish another human being dead or injured just because you don’t agree with their politics?  How can you encourage beating up the opponent’s supporters?  Oh, right.  Let me go look at all the wars going on in the world.

It’s just gross.  And sad.  On to slightly less gross and sad things.

Running is still going great.  In fact, it’s getting much easier.  My last post was about my fight with my brain when I go and do this.  I can now say the fight has diminished, and I’m finding some peace with it. I still undergo the first stage:  Convincing brain I should go run when the alarm goes off.  Beyond that, once I’m out the door it’s just time to pound pavement and think.  I can toss off 3+ miles without stress or misery, which for me seems like a miracle.  I thought about going 4 miles today, but I had a meeting to get back to and needed the time to wind down.  Trust me, I’m a total spaz post-run, and if I don’t decompress a bit I sound crazy.  My next goal will be five miles.  When I hit that, I’m going to start in on half marathon training.  I don’t have a particular one in mind yet, but I’ll find one and get it done.  Because why not?  And because I can.

We got through the storm.  It dumped a ton of snow on the mountains, but we mostly dealt with super gusty wind and rain.  I did have the pleasure (pfft) of driving up through said snow to Incline on Sunday for a rehearsal.  Very wet snow, so the roads weren’t too terrible.  I have a violinist friend, Trudy, that is nice enough to accompany me on those drives so I’m not going it alone in a white-knuckled panic attack.  Honestly, I like driving.  I don’t mind inclement weather.  The part that kills me is anxiety.  I pretty much run through every worst case scenario in my head.  Oh no, I never think things are fine.  I pack for every contingency.  I am one of those people with the emergency water, flares, chains, food, blankets, and cell phone chargers in their car.  It makes me feel better.  Now apply this type of thinking to the rest of my life and you can see why I’m a mess most of the time.

We’re doing St. Matthew Passion in orchestra right now.  It’s an amazing and beautiful piece of music.  It is also a huge pain in the ass to play.  I have to swap through all three instruments (oboe, oboe d’amore, and English Horn).  The parts I play are long and never let you breathe.  When I finish the bass aria near the end, I’m positive I want to lay down and pass out.  Can’t do that, I have to pick up my oboe and do the finale.  I am allowed to pass out when it’s over.  I think.  Still, it’s my third year playing it, and it really is a good experience that lets me build some super chops and exercise all of my oboe kids.

Until next time!

Trying is Better Than Regret

For my birthday, I decided to try something different.  I scheduled a vacation to Seattle the day after my birthday.  Flying?  Hell no, I wanted to try something new!  After my wonderful experience on a cruise, I decided to try the thing I always wanted to try: A TRAIN.

Spurred on by pictures on teh intertubes and stories of people’s experiences on trains, I booked a 21 hour trip on Amtrak from Sacramento to Seattle.  I thought of taking the train out of Reno, but would have had to switch trains and then sit around for 9 hours for the Seattle bound train to depart.  I voted instead to just drive the 2.5 hours to Sacramento since it would be shorter.

Arrived early enough to go get a nice dinner before the trip.  At 9:30 PM.  And everything nearby was closed.  After several attempts to find an open restaurant, I eventually gave up and drove to the nearest McDonalds.  In a sketchy neighborhood.  With scary people.  After stuffing my face and then being informed by the manager they were closing, I headed to the Amtrak station, parked, and dragged my luggage in.  Upon arrival, I got the first alert: the train was running an hour late. YAY.

Luckily for me I had a booking in a sleeping car, so they had a special area set up with padded seats.  And by special area I mean a roped off area with some thinly padded chairs and fake trees surrounding it.  Exhibit A:

2014-10-02 22.52.32

They were very nice fake trees.

A while later, I got the second email:  Train was running behind.  Instead of the 11:59 AM departure, it was now scheduled for 1:49 AM.  I wasn’t able to rest – mostly sat around and watched the poor hapless parents trying to convince their kids to go to bed and stop eating candy.

Finally they called us to the train.  After an epic trek through a concrete lighted path that seemed to never end, we were in line to get on the train.

2014-10-03 01.15.33

We were shepherded into our “bedroom”.  I’ll tell you now, the pictures they show of those rooms use such a wide angle lens it defies the laws of physics.  With the beds extended out, there was just enough room to slide along the side of the bed..barely.  They are also small.  The rooms look like they hadn’t been upgraded since sometime in the 80s (the faux wood paneling around the light and temperature controls was a dead giveaway).  The bathroom was just a shell of plastic.  You heard everything.  Our neighbors had issues with gas.  FYI.  thnx.

So teensy tiny room aside, I was prepared to deal.  The attendant they had on the car was really nice.  They had coffee, juice, and water.  The room was worn but relatively clean.  The door didn’t shut unless you put the power of hercules behind it.  Still, I was on a train.  Since I was having my usual travel stress, and I slept approximately 4 hours before I was up.

Now, the best part of being on a train is being able to just sit and chill and watch the scenery roll by.  Then there were the bad parts.

They apparently serve breakfast between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM (this may be hyperbole), and WOE UNTO YOU if you arrive at 8:30 am.  In light of the fact I got on the train really late, and as such I wasn’t ready to eat until 8:30.  Went to the dining car, and was greeted by surly waiters and waitresses that made it seem like I completely put them out by asking for breakfast at 8:30 AM.  Luckily meals were included in the trip – the menu had the prices and they were beyond insane.  It cost at least $20 a person for breakfast – for sad eggs, a sad little biscuit, and bacon that looked like it was dehydrated, reconstituted, dehydrated, and then fried to a marginally warm status.  At least the coffee wasn’t terrible.  After consuming our meager rations and disdain from the waitress, we headed back to our room.

Like I said, at least there was nice scenery.

2014-10-03 12.28.14

The attendant came by to schedule lunch, but we weren’t hungry.  This leads into the other relevant fact about train travel:  you’re traveling on lines used for freight trains.  The majority of the ride was pretty smooth.  As somebody prone to motion sickness, I was fine.  Somewhere around the middle of Oregon, we hit a patch of rails that felt like they hadn’t been maintained since they were put in.  The train started rocking back and forth.  And suddenly, I was motion sick.  After chugging some dramamine and getting a couple of hours of extra sleep (after the previous four hour “nap” the night before it was welcome), I finally settled in.

We scheduled our dinner at 5 (they do reservations so everybody doesn’t mob the dining car).  Again, prices were fairly impressive.  And again, our meals were included so we didn’t have to pay.  I had the herb chicken.  It was a little better than breakfast, but not by much.  Imagine airline food on a train.  That’s what we got.  Of course, it was served by the same surly waitress we had for breakfast. After that, pretty much sat in our cabin miserable until the end of the train trip, which mercifully ended at 8:30 PM.

On the positive side, I’m glad I did it.  It’s something I always wanted to try, and had I never done it I’d think I missed out on something.

I suppose I did have high expectations of this trip.  Considering the price I paid, I expected far more from this little jaunt than encountered.  I think Amtrak is missing out on a huge opportunity.  I always visualized an overnight train trip as a land cruise.  In reality, it’s far from.  I think they have the general right idea, but the implementation is extremely poor.  The staff is a mixture of nice and bitter.  The train itself is pretty beat up and probably due for a huge overhaul.  They could also use some tracks of their own to ensure a smoother ride.  I won’t be taking Amtrak again for anything – I’d rather fly. I’ll miss out on the beautiful scenery, but I won’t be trapped on a miserable ride.

Fortunately, it didn’t ruin the whole trip.  The rest of the little Seattle visit was spectacular.  Got to spend time with great friends, and got to see all the sights.  But that’s a story for another blog post.

Things I learned recently:

Trains are cooler in theory, sucky in application.

Surly waitresses are surly.

Amtrak management needs to be replaced.