iSherriWilson

The story of my life…

All Aboard!

If you ever have a chance to ride on trains in Europe, take it! So comfortable, so fast, so fun!

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Ready to roll

 

We boarded in Zürich. We didn’t realize that the tickets we purchased were separate from the reservations (we didn’t purchase). And by we I mean I, since I was the one who’d purchased them! Anyhow, the first place we sat was had four seats around a table. Right after we hefted Jenni’s giant suitcase into the over head storage, another couple boarded and told us we were sitting in their seats. They had reserved them, but the reservation system was currently down and not displaying “reserved” above the seats. We moved to another car and found another table with seats. When the conductor came through to check our tickets, we asked if we could reserve some seats. He said no. We asked if he could tell us where to sit that wasn’t reserved. He said no. We stayed where we were and decided we’d move if someone else asked us.

Riding the rails

Riding the rails

 

I went to check out the dining car. It was really cute with some booths and a little lunch counter.

Mmmmm dining car.

Mmmmm dining car.

I ordered water with gas and sat at a booth to take a few more pictures.

Alps

Alps

When I returned to our area, Jenni and Delaney had nabbed the window seats at our table, so I took pictures of them taking pictures.

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Selfie

 

Alps?

Alps?

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I hear there were some beautiful sights

 

At lunch, an old lady at the table across from us showed us the danger of ordering soup on a train when we made a sudden stop and all of their dishes slid off the table and on to her lap.

Hold on to your soup, ladies!

Hold on to your soup, ladies!

The conductor came back and helped her file a complaint. Jenni captured a picture, and she wasn’t subtle!

We ordered sandwiches. I got the ham and cheese, Jen and Delaney got salami and pickles. My sandwich was a lot better, which I found out after I offered to trade half with Delaney. I ordered a slice of the cake of the day to make up for it.

Cake of the day!

Cake of the day!

After we left Innsbruck, fog had built up and it was much harder to see. We passed through Salzburg just before dusk, but we were on the wrong side of the train to see much of the city.

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Salzburg used to be my favorite city.

 

From Salzburg to Vienna the fog increased and it got really, really dark. Thankfully, I had mapped our entire transportation plan and we knew exactly how to get to the Hilton.

So long, Railjet, it's been swell!

So long, Railjet, it’s been swell!

Unfortunately, my map was wrong. We emerged from the subway and into the rain on a shadowy street with few street signs. An old woman walking by stopped and asked us if we needed help. We told her we were trying to find the Hilton. She pulled her son over and told him to help us. He looked at our map and said “where did you get this, it’s quite a long walk from here!” He gave us directions that involved getting back on the subway, transferring from the green line to the purple line and emerging steps from the door to the Hilton. His wife passed us a subway map and wished us luck. These Viennese people are simply charming!

A lovely stop, but all wrong!

A lovely stop, but all wrong!

His directions were flawless and we found the Hilton with plenty of time to drop our bags in our upgraded rooms, hit the executive lounge for a couple of glasses of wine, and make it to the Christmas market!

My "Welcome to the Hilton" bottle of wine and candy

My “Welcome to the Hilton” bottle of wine and candy

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Finding Friends in Zurich

My flight from Paris to Zürich was only an hour long. I was seated in the Premium Economy class, which apparently Air France takes VERY seriously. Soon after take off they brought me a lovely lunch with some honey drenched shrimp, a salad, a few delicious cheeses, a pastry and mini macaroon. Of course, I had some champagne to wash it all down.

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I heart you, Air France.

 

Since the flight was only one hour, I had just enough time to enjoy my meal before we landed. I had expected Jenni and Delaney would be waiting for me with some chocolates, or balloons, or flowers, or at least a little welcome sign. What I got was a message from Jenni that they would be in town near the main train station and for me to meet them there.

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Welcome wagon?

 

I caught the shuttle to the hotel, dropped off my bag, caught the shuttle back to the airport, and then found the airport train station.

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All alone in Zurich!

 

Jenni and Delaney were waiting in a Starbucks so Jen could text me using the wifi. She told me to go to the main station and that it was the second stop and when I arrived I would need to walk out the station, across the street and up to the Starbucks.

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That’s no train station, it’s a mall!

 

Unfortunately, I was not on the same train Jenni and Delaney had ridden. It wasn’t the second stop, it was the third. Also, I didn’t arrive at the same platform. In fact, my platform was a few stories underground. I had a hard time finding a door to get out. Once I did, I walked across the street, but I was standing at a National museum and there was no Starbucks in sight. I decided to walk around the train station until I found one. You’d be surprised how big the main train station in Zürich is…

I finally stumbled across Jenni and Delaney!

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We walked along the river to check out the town and ended up on the side of the lake.

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Our Zurich pass allowed us to ride on a tour boat as well, so we decided to try to find it. We didn’t but we did find Springle, one of the most famous chocolate makers in Switzerland.

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Raclette

 

The raclette was amazing. The cheese was delicious and perfectly prepared. I also had a bowl of pumpkin soup which was probably the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had and our waiter pointed out it was Thanksgiving day in the states so it was also appropriate for the occasion.

After dinner, I was feeling a little tired, not jet lagged, just tired. Jet lag is for those who are not well traveled. I heard that somewhere. I was tired and it was after nine so we decided to head back to the hotel.

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Since that was going to involve a train ride to the airport, we decided to print out our train tickets to Vienna while we were there. I had the code to print the tickets I’d bought on OBB.com and our instructions were to use the code at the OBB kiosk.

When we got to the airport station, we couldn’t find the OBB kiosk so we went to the SBB desk to ask. She told us we have to go to Austria to find an OBB kiosk. All of the kiosks in Switzerland are for SBB trains. We tried to explain that we had purchased the tickets to get to Austria. She was adamant. We decided to take the train back to the main station and see if there was an OBB kiosk. It wasn’t that we didn’t trust her, we just wanted to verify.

When we got back to the main station we couldn’t find the kiosk and went to the information point. He also told us we had to go to Austria to pick up our tickets to get to Austria. We decided to go to the hotel and try to print the tickets online.

Once we arrived at the Hilton, we found a computer in the executive lounge. We were challenged by the European keyboard, but quickly figured it out and found and printed our tickets.

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Hard to find the @

 

That was enough for me, it was almost 10, and after a day and a half of traveling, I was done!

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Love a room with a robe and slippers!

 

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Viva La France

Bonjour!

Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. Each year my BFF Jenni and I explore a new country. Though our visits are short, we always cram a lot of fun in and this year we are doubling down with a four day trip that involves a train ride through the Alps.

Jenni has always wanted to visit Switzerland so we decided to start our trip there. I was much more interested in the train ride and our ultimate destination, Vienna. So when Jenny suggested flying in a day early and visiting Lucerne, I decided to save a vacation day and meet her a day later. Little did I know a winter storm would come barreling up the East Coast on the day of my departure! So while Jenni and her niece Delaney were zipping around Switzerland I was toiling away at a half day in the office and constantly monitoring the weather conditions.

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Winter is coming.

 

Most of my colleagues had taken the day off to travel to get a head start on the holiday so the few of us left behind spent quite a bit of time staring out the window at the increasingly heavy snow storm. My flight wasn’t until 7 PM so when the office closed at noon I zipped over to my sisters house to visit my family before I left (free meal!)

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Quick visit with the family.

 

We had a lovely lunch consisting of piles of meat and cheese (they are cutting back on the carbs). But in deference to the holidays, we finished it off with a slice of pumpkin cake and a slice of pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is a fruit, so that’s a healthy choice. Besides it’s what the pilgrims intended!

 

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Mmmmmmm pie!

 

After a lovely visit, I said my goodbyes and headed out.

Saying goodbye to the family.

Saying goodbye to the family.

The snow had picked up quite a bit by the time I made it to the beltway, but none of it was sticking to the roads. I parked My Precious and hopped on the bus to the terminal.

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Must remember where I left My Precious…

 

I had hoped my Bonjour sweater would impress the gate agents enough for an upgrade to business class but the only people who seemed to like it were the TSA agents. Flying on Air France means no Pre Check line through security so I spent a LOT of time with the TSA agents.

Once I made it through, I headed straight to the Air France lounge. The good news is flying premium economy gets you into the lounge, the bad news is there aren’t any seats available because it is pretty small and really crowded. The only seat available was between the men’s and women’s bathroom doors but the seemingly endless supply of champagne totally offset the sucky location. It was really, really good champagne.

Cheers!

Cheers!

I don’t think I’ve flown on a two story plane since fifth grade, when my sister and I flew from London to San Diego to visit our Dad for Christmas. My seat on the Air France flight was on the upper deck, which was super exciting!

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Secret passageway to toilettes.

 

Also, the seat next to me was empty, though the hard shell seats include a sort of table divider/arm rest that doesn’t move so I couldn’t really stretch out.

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Hard shell seats are hard to endure.

 

In fact, the seats are roomy but odd since they don’t actually recline so much as shift your lower back forward and completely out of alignment with the rest of your spine. Also, the ‘”footrest” only comes up about 6 inches so your legs dangle at a very odd angle.

Dinner was a choice between some sort of chicken dish with a mustard sauce or pasta with a tuna sauce. I went with the chicken. And more champagne. My favorite part of the meal was the wedge of brie that accompanied the dessert.

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Champagne with a wine chaser. Nighty night!

 

As soon as I finished I took a Tylenol PM, put on my eye mask, shifted my lower back forward, dangled my legs, and in spite of the two screaming babies and my weirdly angled back, I slept off and on for most of the flight. Viva la France!

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Arriving in Paris, France.

 

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Giving Thanks in the Alps

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and you know what that means! It’s almost time for my best friend and I to take our annual trip. Each year we try to visit a new country. This year we’ve decided to visit two! Also, apparently Jenni’s niece Delaney had so much fun traveling with us last year, she’s saved up and will join us once again.

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Counting the days until Zürich…

Our itinerary begins with a short stay in Zürich. Jenni and Delaney will arrive the day before I do and scout out the best fondue and chocolate locations. After I arrive we will spend the night there and plan to visit Altstadt (old town).  From Zürich we embark on an 8 hour train ride through the Alps.

Our route will pass Innsbruck and Salzburg before we arrive in Vienna. Our stay in Vienna will include a couple of Palaces and the Imperial Burial Vault.  While we are there we will enjoy spatzle, knodel, and strudel.

And what would a winter holiday in Europe be without the Christmas Markets?  Won’t be long now…

Cheers!

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MINI Weekend = Big Fun

The greatest decision I’ve ever made was my recent decision to buy my 2012 ice blue convertible MINI. The second greatest decision I ever made was to join the DC Metro Mini Club. My new club friends told me about another club from Hampton Roads that was planning a weekend drive (the Fall Color Run) in Waynesboro and since I had a rare free weekend, it seemed like a great way to meet a few new people and enjoy the lovely fall weather.

Friday afternoon I headed down to Waynesboro. The weather was fantastic so I took off my top and  found a route that avoided the freeways. Once I arrived, I parked next to a couple of other Minis and checked in. I discovered there was a group headed to the Devil’s Backbone Brewery, which sounded like fun, so I joined up.

 

Although Ali had told me about the group and was planning on joining in, she wasn’t due to arrive until Saturday morning so I had to try to find the club members so I could follow them to the Brewery. Turns out that’s not hard. If there are Minis around, they are generally huddled around them somewhere!

We headed over the mountain and found some fantastic twisties along the way. For those of you who haven’t yet purchased a Mini, and I’m not sure what you are waiting for, those are the most fun roads you will ever drive and the twistier the better!

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The food was good, the beer was great, the conversation was phenomenal! At the end of the night I had a bunch of new friends as well as a club (see you at the next meeting, Hampton Roads Club Mini!)

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The next morning, our drivers meeting was at 8 am. Most of us got down to the parking lot much earlier than that! I prepped my car (took off my top!) and drooled over some really super cute MINIs. After Dale went over the rules and handed out the drivers sheets. Among the rules? Make sure your radio isn’t on VOX, keep your headlights on, and we don’t have Hondas with unpainted body kits we are respectable and will act like it (my personal fav).

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There were 33 MINIs on our first day of driving. Our route took us south through some really beautiful countryside. There were tons of twisties and it was great fun! I discovered that if someone falls too far behind, they might make a wrong turn. I also discovered that MINI drivers don’t mind, turning around is just more driving!

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We took our first break on the Blue Ridge Parkway at an overlook along the James River.

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All of the car lined up so after we climbed out and took a bathroom break many of us stood around and looked at them. While we were there, my DC Metro Mini club president Ali and her husband Mark arrived. They’d been driving all week in honor of their 10th anniversary and the HR Fall Color Run was their final activity.

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We loaded back up and pulled out but stopped to line up our MINIs for a photo shoot. Jay had a drone with a camera and took some amazing aerial shots.

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The rest of us snapped a few more pictures before we loaded back up and took off again. We hit the twisties once again. This time I was further in the back. The pace in the back was a little slower than the front, but maybe it was because every once in a while we would pick up a civilian who was inevitably driving a lot slower than we had been!

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We stopped for lunch in Glasgow at a little Italian place called Scottos. For some reason there is a giant dinosaur across the street. Lunch was lively and afterwards we headed out for a few more pictures before we left.

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The rest of the afternoon involved some very exciting twists with a few significant elevation changes and somehow I ended up second in line! I was a little nervous about keeping up, but Dale was really good about always keeping a Mini in his mirror and never got too far ahead.

After we returned to the Days Inn, many of us decided to walk to the Plaza Azteca for dinner. I think we would have driven, but we were all interested in some adult beverages and decided to walk instead. Food was fantastic, company was even better!

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Sunday morning our drivers meeting started promptly at 8. Dale handed out our drivers sheets and outlined the route. This was a northern trip with fewer twisties, and more history.

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The temperature was a brisk 48 degrees, but those of us who could run topless did run topless. Hey, they’ve got heated seats! Well, all of them except Roxy. Ginger was really bundled up though and looked super cute with her hats on!

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We’d lost a few cars (missed you Debbie and Ben!) but our first stop was the beautiful Natural Chimneys Park. The rocks were amazing. We all enjoyed learning more about them and then shooting pictures of our Mini Coopers all lined up!

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We drove on and finally arrived at the covered bridge.

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The Historic Meems Bottom bridge had been burned by vandals on Halloween in 1976 but was rebuilt and is thankfully pretty sturdy! Still we went through pretty slow and one at a time. As we came out the other side, we lined up while we waited for everyone else to make it through.

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Next up we headed up the road towards Edinburg. We stopped at the Food Lion for a bathroom break and snacks, since it was still a couple of hours to our lunch. While we were there Ginger showed me how to clip my radio to my seatbelt so I could finally hear the interesting historical facts Dale was sharing as we drove. This was the greatest thing ever because when we finally got back on to some more better twisties I could hear the warnings when big trucks were coming from the opposite direction!

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We drove through some really charming little country towns until we arrived at the final stop: Hanks Smokehouse in McGaheysville. The food was delicious but bittersweet since it was the end of the ride, though my spirits rose when I was accepted into the RVA Mini Club at lunch. Since Ali and Mark were going the same way I pulled out behind them and turned on my radio. We took the freeway home since they were eager to get back and that was fine with me because Mark was really flying down the road and the only thing I like as much as twisting is speed!

Final tally? 640 miles total, hundreds of twisties, 138 pictures, and dozens of good friends. Not to mention some fantastic pictures which I borrowed from many of my new friends Facebook pages (you know who you are, so thanks!) And I learned lots of fun new things about Minis like the types of mods I need and why run flats suck. I also saw some beautiful cars that convinced me I have a desperate need for vinyl.

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Motor on, friends!

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My Chicago Cultural Extravaganza Part Deux

After experiencing the most amazing theater performance of my life, I had some concerns the other theater events scheduled for the rest of my week would not measure up. How could they possibly compete?

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The next show was Ecstasy, which did have full frontal nudity, but even that wasn’t enough to impress me. The first act was weak and I was totally distracted by their constant attempts to fake light up their electric cigarettes. It was the UK in the 70s, they smoked, I get it. But, my God, it seemed like they lit a new cigarette every time they had a line. Also, the fake British accents were terribly distracting. Bob and Angel liked it, I was less impressed.

Sunday we attended a show from the Hypocrites.

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But not just any show! It was all known Greek tragedies (there are 32) combined into one 12 hour play.

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That’s right, 12 hours. The show started at 11:00 am and ended at 11:00 pm. I had no idea what to expect, it was my first Hypocrites experience.

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But it blew me away! Seriously! The cast was amazing, the story pulled me in and even during the many breaks, all we could talk about was the show. I laughed, I cried, I drank, I ate vegan food. What did I learn? Everybody dies.

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THAT show was the greatest theater event of my life. I mean seriously, it was like doing the Iron Man of theater! Afterwards, we walked to a nearby cash only bar. I think it was in the Polish neighborhood because their very old school jukebox had an interesting mix of old rock, oldies, and old polka music. We listened to a few Madonna songs and then headed up the street to an eerily similar bar. That was where most of the Hypocrites cast was hanging out so we chatted with them for a while and congratulated them on an amazing performance.

On Labor Day, we headed to the Chicago Art Institute. They were having an exhibit of Magritte. My favorite piece was This Is Not A Pipe, but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures so you’ll have to google it for yourself. Bob and Angel seemed to think everybody knew that one (I didn’t!)

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That night we attended a dinner party. I wish I’d taken some photos because that house was beautiful and the food was fantastic!

On Tuesday, night Angel and I were going to pick up Justin Honard at the airport and drop him off at the Soho House. Justin is a drag artist and is better known as Alaska Thunderf*ck, runner-up on the 2013 season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (I’m a fan of the show). Bob’s concept was that instead of holding up a sign with Justin’s name, we would hold up an iPad with an image. We decided on an image from Alaska’s ice bucket challenge.

While we were waiting Angel kindly taught me how to make Belizean Potato Salad, which is the finest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.

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After a lovely dinner on the deck, we headed out to the airport.

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I had the best sign there.

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Justin finally arrived and he was absolutely delightful. We all enjoyed the short ride to his hotel and chatting about his experience on the Drag Race and his incredibly powerful video for Your Makeup is Terrible.

After work the next day, Angel and I rode over to the Empty Bottle where the IHC Now What? discussion was going to take place.

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The Now What? event was a part of a series of events. This event focused on drag performance and its impact upon perceptions of gender along with the artistic disciplines of theatre and music. The first part of the evening was a discussion about drag. Angel was moderating the discussion and with Justin and Daniel Alexander Jones. For those of you who haven’t heard of Daniel yet, he does a theatrical piece as Jomama Jones. And you should make her New Year messages a new tradition in your family like me.

I am a huge fan!

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Daniel was pretty impressed that I’d framed the signed 8×10 he gave me when I caught his performance last year! We were early enough that I could watch the Baathhaus sound check.

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Angle and I had arrived early so he could put the full length mirror and organic fruit in the green room (Justin has some amazing riders in his contract!)

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When Bob arrived, he and I walked to Leghorn Chicken to get some dinner. Sorry Chik-Fil-A, even if I weren’t protesting you, you could never compete with Leghorn Chicken. You can’t tell from this picture, but that chicken sandwich was nearly as big as my head!

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So, Angel moderated the panel and did a fantastic job.

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Justin and Daniel were very interesting and offered some incredibly insightful comments about drag and gender. Next up was Salonathon, a drag and drag inspired performance. I particularly enjoyed the Drag King, and when she bit the head off of the plastic bat she pulled from her pants, it was fantastic!

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There was also a great dance piece. And Bob and I were lucky enough to be standing front and center.

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I got some tips on how to construct a very dramatic flower and ice castle crown, which I may incorporate into my look for my pending Bammy Awards Viewing Party…

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The next performer was The Big Dipper, a gay rapper.

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His raps were very amusing, he had great timing, and it turns out he’s a never nude!

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Between acts Bob, Justin and I spent time at the bar.

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The final act was Baathhaus.

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It was the second time I’ve seen them, and they were even better than I’d remembered. And so dramatic!

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It was an amazing week. I was terribly sad to leave. Not even an upgrade and all the cocktails I could enjoy could cheer me up as I made my way back to DC. I’m already planning my next visit!

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My Chicago Cultural Extravaganza Part 1

Chicago is one of my favorite cities for so many reasons (friends, theatre, art, food!) and every time I go it gets better and better…

This trip began with a quick cab ride to Bob and Angel’s house to meet up and set out for the Retro Futura show at Ravinia. Ravinia is  an amphitheater surrounded by beautiful park lands, though it’s really hard to find the actual parking area.

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As a result, we missed China Crisis and Katrina (from Katrina and the Waves). As we entered we could hear Midge Ure, but it wasn’t compelling enough to deter us from heading to the restaurant to pick up some dinner. After we ate (and chugged a few drinks because the people who pay for the fancy seating can’t take drinks in?) we entered the amphitheater which has assigned seats. Ours were good, but how do you watch a show like this with no bar? Or dance floor? What is this the Footloose town?

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Our seats were excellent though and we really enjoyed watching Howard Jones prance around the stage in his bright orange suit belting out our favorite 80s songs.

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His set was minimal but he did have a cute band and a great suit.

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Next up was the Star Attraction, Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins! Bob and I (and our friend Jane) had seen the Thompson Twins 3 times in high school (go Truckers!) so our expectations were very high.

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Though it’s the first time in 27 years Tom has sung the Thompson Twins hits, it was almost as if it was still 1983! I didn’t even miss Alannah or Joe!

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The light and set design was perfect!

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Tom was backed by three incredibly talented women who totally rocked. Angel missed Joe the most and thought Tom should have at least asked Howard for some fashion tips since his outfit “made him look a bit like a middle manager at Boeing”. I got the sense Angel wasn’t impressed with the fashion choices of middle managers of Boeing.

The next day I rode into the city and worked from Angel’s office. Angel is the ED at the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), which means he’s a bit of a celebrity. After work he took me to the Soho House private club for cocktails. Yeah, that’s right, I know people! That night we attended a discussion on #Ferguson and the role of social media, sponsored by the IHC. It was an incredibly thoughtful conversation.

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Afterwards we went to the gas station for some Krispy Krunchy Chicken. You have not lived until you’ve had Krispy Krunchy Chicken from the gas station. Delicious!

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On Friday, I spent the day working from the IHC office again. Angel was kind enough to set me up in a conference room so I could participate in a series of webinars. Afterwards we headed over to the Soho Club for a few pre-theatre cocktails. Bob met me there because he and I were going to see Since I Suppose, a new production from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Since I Suppose is a journey based theater experience based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. My ticket was for 8:00 and Bob’s was for 8:20. They told us to wait at the corner of Randolph and Wells at the appropriate time with a fully charged cell phone at which point we would be given further instructions.

I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but I will say they give you a video player and a very large set of head phones and turn you lose in the city. As I walked through the dark alleys and bustling sidewalks of downtown Chicago I knew I was in for a good time.

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The play took me inside the deserted city hall…

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through the subway, into an adult book store…

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and up to a high-rise apartment. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed the entire experience. It was the greatest theater experience of my life… so far.

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A Long Way Home. Literally.

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First of all, it would be wrong of me to conclude this series of blog posts related to our trip to Australia without mentioning that Jenni was not only never late, in Australia she was often early! If you know Jenni and her penchant for operating on “Jenni time” you would understand how truly impressive this was. If you knew me and how I am horribly frustrated when I’m not on time, you’d understand how much I appreciated that! That’s just one of the reasons I was really excited for her when her global upgrade certificate got approved and she’d been moved up to business class for the journey home. Having flown over there in coach, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone my best friend! And she totally deserved it for not keeping me waiting. Ever!

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So the day started with a quick breakfast in Jenni’s room before our cab arrived. We got to the airport pretty quickly and Jenni found out she was number two on the list for upgrades. There were two seats available. After passing through security, I went scouting to find the Delta lounge. They apparently operate through the New Zealand airline lounge and I was turned away because only those sitting in business or first class are able to enjoy their comfort and amenities. I wandered aimlessly back to the terminal and picked up a few more packs of Tim Tams, you know, for the family… Jenni also got denied entrance to the lounge, since her upgrade wasn’t yet official, she was technically still in coach with me.

Our flight from Sydney was delayed because the inbound flight couldn’t land due to fog. We went over to the gate to wait. Not long after we got there they kicked everyone out. Apparently they do this so they can check passports as people enter the gate area. Jenni and I went to get a drink and when we got back we went through passport control and then found a place to wait.

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Jenni finally got her upgrade and was even subtle about how excited she was. Once boarding began I lost sight of her but I quickly found her again when I took my seat. There’s a little window in the bulkhead. So the rest of us can see how much fun it is up there, I suppose.

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My seat was on the aisle in economy comfort. On the flight out I was in a regular coach seat but by the window. It’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the economy seat and economy comfort. To be frank, there isn’t anything comfortable about it! But it was definitely better to be on the aisle in a flight that lasts over 10 hours. The girl next to me had an inflatable seat cushion and an inflatable foot rest. I’m totally going to google those, she slept like a baby…

I got up to check on Jenni and she was all settled in.

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My plan to avoid jet lag was to stay awake for the first seven hours and then try to sleep the rest of the way. I started by watching Only Lovers Left Alive. Two thumbs up. It was entertaining. Tilda Swinson was great and her vampire husband was hot.

Jenni had told me that shortly after boarding she’d made her dinner selection. She was having a sushi appetizer

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And the shrimp with soba noodles.

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They brought our dinner out. I asked the flight attendant what my options were. She said beef or spaghetti. I asked what kind of beef. She gave me a blank look, peeled the top off of one and said “it’s just beef”. I took the beef. She was right it was just beef. Cubes of beef swimming in a lumpy gravy with what may have been couscous and green beans and a mushy orange substance that may or may not have been carrots. The green beans were the only things I was sure of so I ate those.

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I also ordered a glass of wine. I asked what the wine selection was. I was told I had two choices, red or white. Red wine in coach is poured from a box.

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I noticed the bar trolley in business had actual glass bottles. And more than one kind. It’s too bad Jenni doesn’t drink…

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The next movie I watched was Veronica Mars. Very cute. I wasn’t feeling terribly sleepy yet so I took some of my nighttime cold medicine and turned on a movie about Wolverine of the X men. I must have gotten all caught up in it and missed my sleep window because when it was over I was wide awake and ready for another movie. I decided to watch the original X Men movie. it looked like it was going to be a long day, so why not make it an X Men Marathon?

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When it was over I turned the TV off and really tried to sleep. A few minutes later they turned all the lights on and the flight attendants came down the aisle with their boxes of wine. They also provided a snack which was a bag with a sandwich and an apple. I actually got stuck with the vegan bag because the dad and his daughter next to me were vegans and somehow I got associated with them. I slammed down another glass of red wine and then tried again to get some sleep. It didn’t work so I watched another X Men movie.

We finally arrived in LA and I hadn’t had any sleep at all. I realized as we landed that I only had 30 minutes to make it through customs, find my bag, drop my bag off, and go through security to catch my flight. Jenni was one of the first off, so I texted her goodbye and made my way down to Customs. There was a flight from Japan that had arrived at the same time we did, so they held us up at the top of the escalator since they didn’t have enough room for everyone from both flights to go through at once. Thankfully, they let those of us with the Global Pass go through and I zipped through customs in less than 5 minutes. That’s when things broke down. I had to wait for my bag to arrive so I could pick it up and drop it back off. Jenni’s bag was the first one off the plane. I texted her to let her know, but she’d been placed in a holding pen. My bag was one of the last to arrive. I grabbed it and ran to the exit but then got held up in line waiting for everyone else to declare whatever it was they were declaring.

I finally made it through and dropped my bag right outside the customs area but then I was outside of security and had to go upstairs and wait in anther line. For some reason my TSA pre check had not been included on the printed ticket they’d given me, so I had to wait in line, and then remove my Uggs and laptop. By the time I’d made it through my flight had left. The worst part was that I’d been upgraded to first class for the flight to Atlanta and the flight to DC and was counting on that for some quality napping.

I decided I’d have better luck getting rebooked in the Delta Lounge. But that’s because I forgot how busy the LAX Delta Lounge is. I’m sure that’s why the agent working there didn’t care that I was hot and tired! She said I’d already been rebooked on Alaska Airlines. I asked if I was going to be upgraded and she said I was on the list but that it would never happen. I asked her to check if there were any other routes to DC that I could take where I would be upgraded. She said first class was full on every route. She told me I would need to walk through the tunnel to get to Alaska and that I should leave by 11:30. It was already 11 so I decided to head over because I had a seat request card and needed to check in at the gate to get my seat assignment . Jenni was still in the holding pen.

When I got to Alaska and asked about the upgrade, she laughed at me. Then I asked if I could have a window seat. She said they were out. I sat down to wait for boarding to begin. Jenni finally made it out of the holding pen and went to the Delta lounge to pass the time.

My flight finally boarded. The entire row next to me was empty. I asked the flight attendant if I could move. She said she’d already promised the seat to  little girl two rows up because she was in a window seat with no window. She offered me that seat. Good enough!

As soon as I settled in my new seat, the plane fired up and we pulled away from the gate. The middle seat in my row was empty so I stretched out and put on my sleep mask. Next thing I knew we were landing. Can’t wait to do it all again…

 

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Back to Sydney

Brisbane is an amazing place with incredible weather! Jenni and I hated to leave, but had to make our way back to Sydney before heading back to the states. Before we could go, Jenni had to do another radio interview and I needed to stock up on cold medicine. Many picked us up at the villa to drive us back into the city.

We dropped off Jen at ABC radio and Mandy and I went to Cole’s to pick up my supplies.

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The cold medicine was critical since the day before I’d stopped at the IGA and was tricked into buying some sort of herbal remedy that included licorice and horseradish and had absolutely no effect on my terrible plague. Afterwards we went to the Smith Family office to meet up with Julie who would drop us off at the airport.

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She kept our bags at the office while we walked over to the West End for a quick lunch. I had the Thai Chicken Ball which was basically a big ball of minced chicken cooked with a lot of delicious spices. If you ever see one, I highly recommend it!

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Julie dropped us at the airport. Our bags were underweight (whew) and we dropped them off and headed to our gate. Jenni VERY kindly took the middle seat so I could take the short way. I leaned my head against the side of the plane and closes my eyes. When I opened them again we were in Sydney! And just in time for a beautiful sunset!

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We decided to take the train into the city instead of a taxi. After all, we are masters of public transportation. We only had to go three stops to the Central Station.

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We left on the Pitt Street side, which was easy to remember since my PTA office is on Pitt Street as well!

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Our hotel was a lovely two bedroom apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Sadly I was too sick to enjoy it so Jenni and I picked up some food at Coles and called it a night.

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Beware of Random Man on the Street Interviews

Day 3 in Brisbane was a short workday, which was a good thing since I apparently caught the plague or some sort of really bad head cold. We hiked across the 10 lushly landscaped acres from our villa to enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but the breakfast buffet in Australia is very hearty. In addition to eggs (scrambled and poached) there is spaghetti, veal shanks, sausages in dark gravy, bacon, and roasted tomatoes. I settled for bacon and eggs. Jenni had her usual.

We walked over to the roundtable discussion. The room was packed with key education stakeholders from the Queensland area as well as a couple of researchers and representatives from the national government. Because of my sudden and unexpected illness I was without any makeup, devoid of contacts, and sneezing and hacking into my growing mound of tissues. In spite of my disease, we all had a very rich discussion!

Afterwards, our friend Carmel agreed to give us a lift to the city. We had a lovely ride in and she dropped us off in the west end.

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We visited a few quirky shops and then grabbed one of the best meals of the trip at a little bistro called Chop Chop Chang. I enjoyed it very much in spite of the giant planet of the apes art (that movie totally freaks me out!)

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I was determined not to let the horrible head cold ruin our trip. so we walked to the Cultural Center and bought tickets to Le Noir, the dark side of cirque.

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With a few hours to kill, we strolled through the South Shore to buy some souvenirs. On our way we were stopped by two guys with a camera and microphone. They asked if they could interview us for a show they were doing on computer repairs. We said sure!

The first question they asked us was how long we had been using computers. We said about 25 or 30 years. Then they asked us if we ever had any problems using computers. We said no, we were very good at it. They asked if we’d ever had a virus because of our computer use. We both said no, we’ve got Macs. Then they asked if we’d had any viruses before we started using Macs. We said maybe, it was a long time ago but that was one of the reason we switched, to avoid the Macs. Then they asked if we ever let our partners know we’d had a virus. I suddenly realized they weren’t talking about “computers” at all! Jenni asked what they meant by computer partners. They said, you know when someone puts their USB in our drive. Jenni was involved in some lengthy discussion about why she didn’t really think it was necessary to tell her partner but I leaned in and said absolutely, I would absolutely tell my partner about my “virus”.

They thanked us for our time and we walked off. I told Jen I didn’t think they were talking about computers. She insisted I have a dirty mind. Whatever! I just hope my Australian friends who view the edited version on the Aussie style Trigger Happy TV show realize we had no idea what they were actually talking about!

We found a little candy shop and Jen stopped in to top off her supply.

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She wouldn’t try the Witchitie Grubs so I bought a couple. For the record, they are quite tasty and unlike anything I imagine a real grub would taste like. Then we found the public beach on the river.

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And walked through the rain forest…

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to the Nepalese Temple.

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The sangria of the day was grapefruit and lychee at Ole, a local tapas bar.

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We went back to the cultural center so we could be on time for the show. I had an onion and cheese pastie for dinner while we waited. Jenni adjusted the heat, which caused the entire thing to glow bright red. It’s a Christmas miracle we didn’t get kicked out or burn the place down!

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The seats we had for the show were in the center and only about 8 rows back. The only seats better were on the actual stage and the last time I scored seats on the stage it was for the Woolley Mammoth production of Allow Us To Present and they lynched a man in front of us. This was much more enjoyable. I loved the DJ in the booth above the back of the stage. Very Zoolander. Plus he played excellent music.

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The show was amazing. My favorite part was the roller skating couple. I never should have stopped taking lessons! Jenni liked the couple suspended by ribbons. The show was fantastic! I’d have taken pictures for you, but I didn’t want to distract any of the performers who could have plunged to their deaths at any moment.

Lucky for us, our bus arrived shortly after the show ended. We had a very chatty bus driver. Thankfully Jenni sat up front and kept him company, because I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Turns out neither did she, but they both enjoyed their conversation nonetheless and we made it back to the villa safe and sound!

 

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