Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mind: "Hello, Brooklyn"


Recently, I answered a call for stories for about one' first time hostelling, put out by the San Diego Council of Hostelling International. I was excited to see that not only did they post my story on their website, but they also chose mine for their newsletter! You can see the story -- and read some other travel stories -- on their website, or just check mine out below:

Hello, Brooklyn

Two double beds with faded maroon covers. An old radiator that had been painted over so many times its slots were clogged with dull ivory blobs. A corner crumbling into powdery hunks of drywall. And a curtain that promptly fell down as soon as I tried to close it against the night.

It was perfect.

25 years old, and I'd never traveled further east from California than Arizona. I'd never traveled alone, except to visit waiting family just an hour's plane ride away. Now, here I was, more than 2,500 miles from home in the one American city I'd always dreamed of visiting: Brooklyn, New York.

Sure, it's not London or Bangkok, but to this Cali-girl, Brooklyn was a slice of American exotica. New accents, new flavors, and a whole new city skyline. They even drank a different brand of bottled water. It was like being in a new country: the East Coast. Call me simple, but that was were I'd always wanted to start my globetrotting adventures.

My partner-in-crime was a much more travel-savvy friend who had flown down to meet me from Ottawa. She had made our arrangements with ease -- even springing for the plane ticket that had brought me from the City by the Bay to the Big Apple -- including booking us in at the YMCA hostel in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. Staying at a hostel wasn't a matter of saving a little cash…it was a matter of making the trip financially feasible at all. No hostel, no trip.

Never having stayed in a hostel, I was naturally nervous, imagining nightmare scenarios of communal gym-room showers and forced chores ala college co-op housing. Even though I was soothed a bit by the knowledge of our private room reservation (and that no manual labor was required), I was still a bit skeptical.

My doubts began to dissipate as soon as we walked in the door. The front desk staff was friendly, which was especially welcoming at 1 a.m. in a whole new place -- and after a massively delayed flight. What was not so welcoming was that we had to lug our heavy suitcases up six flights of steps. But we made it.

A post-flight shower was definitely in order, even at that hour. Grabbing our thin-but-blindingly-clean towels, we wandered off towards what we thought was the ladies room…only to find ourselves wandering in circles through the oppressively hot hostel hallways.

We smelled him before we saw him round the corner, clouds of old summer sweat heralding the arrival of who we later dubbed "The Stinkiest Man in Brooklyn." He was also one of the nicest men we met in Brooklyn, as he stopped to ask two confused strangers if they were lost. He quickly straightened us out – "ladies' room is on the fifth floor" – before disappearing into his room with a polite, "good night."

Afterwards, clean and refreshed (and relieved that the showers did indeed have stalls), we happily toasted our hostel room with bottles of Poland Springs water, thanking our stars that the AC worked perfectly in the humid 90 degree night. I was so exhausted that I slept like a rock on the surprisingly cushy bed, and awoke with glee to find a whole new cityscape peeking out at me through the broken curtains, just begging to be explored.

Brighton Beach Memories

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hand: Toasty Tote

I feel like its been forever since I've posted something crafty, what with the film screenings and the traveling cross-country these days. I have, however, been crafting up a little storm in my downtime, bouncing between sewing, knitting, embroidery, and felt plushie-making.

The winner in the race to completion was my very first homemade tote bag:

Toasty Tote

I'm super-proud of this bag. I mean, bursting-at-the-seams proud. I designed it myself. I made it without a pattern. I did it with patience and without cutting corners. I made EXACTLY what I wanted: a cute chocolate brown tote with pink striped accents and lining.

It was inspired by the adorable Urban Threads patch I bought from AuntiFranni's Etsy shop. I have a "thing" for cute toast. Don't ask me why. I can't explain.

Interior of Toasty Tote

The straps. Oh those straps. They took me twice as long to complete than the body, what with the two different fabrics and interfacing and having to stitch them to the bag....grrr. Put it this way: I had to rip the stitches out more than one during the process of attaching the straps to the bag. And stabbed myself in the cuticle with the seam ripper. Not. Fun.

Mr. Toast in Toasty Tote

It was all so very worth it. I learned so much in the process of making this (including yes, it is natural to get so frustrated you feel like crying, which my Mama and her quilting friend reassured me of). The tote also held up remarkably well on my recent Midwest adventure, with being stuffed under airplane seats, rolled up and used as a neck pillow, and being crammed to near-brimming with non-knitting goods as I ran from plane to bus.

It's a solid piece of work. Maybe there's hope for me as a seamstress after all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eye: The Good Land

"In fact, it's pronounced 'mill-e-wah-que' which is Algonquin for 'the good land.'" -- Alice Cooper

Now that I've utterly dated myself by quoting Wayne's World, let me share with you my impressions of Milwaukee, WI.

Amazing beer:



Sprecher's Black Bavarian
(Seriously, tears came to my eyes drinking this Black Bavarian, it was so friggin' good).

Amazing cheese:

Say Cheese!

Cheese galore

Truly, it is the good land.

(Okay, really, I saw more of Milwaukee than this. But I didn't get pictures of it. So. Beer. Cheese. Until I can steal some landscape photos from my brother.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eye: My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)

We came...

Chicago River 2

We saw...

Deerborne St.

We screened a film!

Portage Theatre

CHFF Poster

There we are!

In a nutshell, last weekend was a whirlwind of highs and lows, marvels and the mundane, and surprises and disappointments. There was never a dull moment, and I have to say, the Midwest can be one crazy place! All in all, I had a hell of a good time, and can't wait to have more than 48 hours to explore it.