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From Zero to Paradise in One Easy Step

Driving for Amazon Flex just wasn’t enough. Not enough money, not enough consistency, not enough purpose. So I told god in no uncertain terms, “enough, change this, now!” I had grown satisfied with sleeping on the side of the road in a van. I had enough. It was time for next.

I walked away from a six figure IT career because it wasn’t enough. I have done that a couple times. And I am still going. I tried a number of strategies to create something larger and went bankrupt trying. They all say “fail fast, fail often.” but rarely talk about what it is actually like to lose everything and call it done. They all say you have to be broke to get rich, but don’t really dwell on how much is sucks to be broke. And I won’t either. Just trust me. There is a reason very few try at this game for long, for long enough to succeed.

So I told god in no uncertain terms, “enough.”

And shortly after a simple thought came into my head. Why not get a groovy IT job in St Thomas? Followed by, “where is St Thomas, anyway?”

I discovered virgin.craigslist.org, the virgin islands craigslist because St Thomas in in the US Virgin Islands. I found an ad for IT techs or something, “must be willing to travel.” All caps, several exclamation points. I figured, I’ll send a resume for practice, never expecting to hear from them.

So now I have a groovy IT job in St Thomas. I am the IT Lead for the team that is here to fix houses after the hurricanes.

It’s chaos. It’s an actual disaster area. Nothing works. Hot water is rare. A few of the missing traffic lights have been replaced by temporary installations. Most are just missing or mangled and not working. All the street signs are gone. There are a lot of blue tarps and after six months yesterday, there is still a lot of debris, everywhere. There are wires on the ground. Everywhere. There are poles laying on the ground. Fences down. Roofs missing and bare foundations where there once were houses.

It’s paradise. Whenever I get a little down, I stand up and look around or out a window. The whole place is drop dead gorgeous. The people smile and say “morning morning!” There is a lot of honking. A lot of honking. It took me a while, me a Seattlite, to realize a lot of the honking was happy honking. Someone waits at the broken light and lets someone into traffic. Honk! Wave. Smile. A lot of honking. I’ve started honking. Smile. Wave. Honk! Yay!

Morning morning!

The cruise ships come. Great cities tied up to the pier, three end to end sometimes. The locals standing on the street corners offering bottles of water. “One dollar!” Smile. Wave. It’s paradise.

The only way to make this better is if the schooner to the left was my boat.

We work hard. Twelve, sixteen hours a day, six, seven days a week. We have a lot to do. There are a lot of blue tarps. No one home. They need to go home. We are here to help. The people are getting to know us. A young man stops me while I’m driving by. I have the sign on my jeep. He asks, “will you be hiring soon?” Yes. Many. I explain the sign. Smart kid. He will find work I am sure. We are just here to help. The locals will be doing the majority of the work. They need to go home. We are here to help.

My coworker shot this with a drone.

All I did was listen. I told god in no uncertain terms, “enough.” And then I listened. And answered one ad. And now I am in paradise. In one easy step.

Listen.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Queen Fucking Mary 2

By guest writer Lisa Craze

Two hours before I booked a balcony cabin on the only dedicated ocean liner in the world, I was laid-off from my job.

What the hell?

Might as well get out of town.

Might as well spend a week sailing across the Atlantic from Brooklyn, NY USA to Southampton, Great Britain, wiling away the hours at sea in the high style of a bygone era.

To backtrack a bit, it all started with online chat with my sister that day of the layoff.

She was in the middle of chatting with a mutual friend who enjoys booking trips — especially cruises.

He’d found a deal on the Queen Mary 2, departing in less than 3 weeks – and he wanted us to come along.

This wasn’t some run-of-the-mill booze cruise.  It was THE QUEEN FUCKING MARY 2!

Some stats on this vessel; it’s pretty new – commissioned in 2004. She sails about half-the-year on the Trans-Atlantic route, with these hella-fast diesel engines with gas turbines. They say she is capable of going 30 knots, and can cross the Atlantic in less than 4 days—but they stretch it to 7 just to be civilized.

The QFM2 has 15 bars and restaurants, 5 swimming pools, a Broadway-style theater with a turntable built into the stage, a casino and a planetarium!
It’s operated by White Star Cunard—the same company that operated the Titanic —but don’t let that make you nervous. Really. Their safety record is pretty great since 1912.

Wasn’t like I had to ask my boss for time off anymore so I agreed it was the perfect antidote to unemployment-fueled rage.

I have to admit, sailing on this vessel wasn’t even on the perimeter of my bucket list.

There are no ports-of-call in between the coast of the USA and Merry Ol’ England.  You are AT SEA every freaking day. And everybody’s gonna be really old and feeble, right?

Well, not exactly.

Turns out some 2300 people of every age, from toddlers to the extremely elderly, to dozens of dogs owned by the passengers- enjoy the ocean voyage on the Queen Mary 2.

Oh, and  there’s also about 2200 crew members to wait on you hand and foot.

After my sister and I booked the trip, we were sent a list of expectations for passage.  That’s expectations for the two of us.  For the way we were expected to dress after 6pm every night.  We were informed that of the 7 nights aboard, 4 were “smart attire” (i.e. business casual or cocktail dress) and 3 were “gala” evenings in which formal ware was expected. That means evening gowns – or other fancy-dress clothing, and tuxedos or nice suits for men.

Fortunately, I have all kinds of formal separates, shifts, sparkly tops and jackets from my years of singing in concerts and other events.  So, I packed the fancy stuff and my sister took care of a lot of the other things we needed.

(Note to fellow travelers: Sparkly stuff weighs a TON! My bag was overweight, and after the cruise, I traveled in the EU for another week. Had to lug that stuff everywhere. There’s gotta be a better way.)

You’re allowed to bring a limited amount of wine and liquor for personal use – for cocktails in your stateroom, so my sister made sure we had adequate supplies.

When we arrived on board, I was thrilled to see we had a lower level balcony stateroom near the middle of the ship.  That means the least amount of rocking motion if there are rough seas. If your stateroom is higher than the 6th deck, and if it’s closer to the bow of the ship, you’ll feel much more motion.

But it turned out the seas were calm for much of the journey, and I really enjoyed the gentle rocking sensation every night as I was falling asleep.

There’s a standard split of champagne in a silver bucket with two glasses and a special note from Cunard as a welcome gift in every stateroom.  That’s a classy touch.

And, there’s a leather spread on top of the bed as you arrive, so you can unpack your suitcases into the generous closets without dirtying up the fluffy duvet on your bed. Another classy touch.

There’s 24-hour room service if you just want to stay in your stateroom. But, ordering the Tuna-Melt was a BIG mistake. It was Nasty.  Stick to breakfast in bed. They did that pretty well, but one small pot of coffee was definitely not enough for a Seattlite.

Here was my absolute favourite part of staying in my room for breakfast every day: (notice I used the British spelling of “favorite”…) The Morning Programme (again, British spelling) on the shipboard TV station hosted by the very British Entertainment Director Amanda Reid.  It is shot onboard the ship in the lowest production value one-camera style of classic local cable TV.  But Amanda’s presence is so proper and delightful that you don’t mind watching it over and over. (The show runs on a loop from 6am until noon on one of the 40+ channels on your widescreen stateroom TV).  She informs you of that day’s highlights, and how you should dress, and interviews the guest speakers and entertainers featured that day. Most of them brought her some kind of gift the days we watched, and we laughed with glee along with her as she accepted each one with surprise and humility. She also ended each programme with a joke.  Seriously entertaining in an extremely low-tech way.  Now that’s a job that’d be fun to have.

One other thing to note about your stateroom TV: If you’re too tired to go outside, you can always watch the channel that features the “bow cam”, looking at the endless miles of ocean – (and scouting for icebergs…just in case) day or night.

I really enjoyed High Tea in the Queens Room – but only made it once, because it only lasts an hour, from 3:30 – 4:30 every day—but because we were traveling from West to East, the ship’s clock lost an hour every day at noon.  So 12 became 1, meaning tea started at what might otherwise have been 2:30 the day before…or 1:30 the day before that. Just too confusing.  But delicious when I made it in time.

There’s also dancing in the Queen’s Room after dinner at night, and they bring in these male dance hosts who cruise for super-cheap fares, if they dance with the ladies at night. Only 1 of the 6 or 7 gents onboard our cruise was worth his salt. His name was Jai, and was from Sussex, England. Fantastic dancer – delightful conversationist and we cut a mean rug several times.  If I were a man, I’d love to travel as a dance host. You’ve got some pretty specific responsibilities, from attending the “singles coffee” in the morning, to helping with line-dancing classes and dancing at night.  No kissy kissy, keep it clean – but talking to Jai the last day of the cruise, he said he loves traveling on the QFM2 and that it’s much cheaper than paying rent.

The only downside on the voyage we took was that the main guest lecturer was a retired US Army General who’s a regular talking head on those FOX-TV hate shows.  And he had several talks planned including one entitled, “Why Radical Muslims Will Try To Kill Us For The Next 500 Years”.  The second lecturer, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer from London (and the father of British Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson) was a climate change denier who did several talks quoting somebody who had “doubts”.  Decided to avoid the lectures altogether, and spend my entertianment time watching a Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” set in post-WWII America. No cheezy Las Vegas style shows on the QFM2!!

The food was pretty great in the restaurants – and the buffet in the King’s Court on Deck 7 was pretty good—especially the day they had sushi as one of the offerings for lunch.  As much as you want and it’s top-grade fish.

And the food in the Brittania Dining Room was alright – I stuck to fish and vegetarian options for the most part. Beef-eaters seemed to be happier with their nightly steak and roast options. Didn’t like the desserts though.  They never tasted as good as they looked.

They want to charge you for all kinds of extras on the QFM2- even soft drinks are charged extra.  So, I was looking for bargains wherever possible. My favorite was the $10 sale day – a big table in a hallway with all kinds of stuff for….guess how much? Yup. Got a sweet tote bag that helped me bring home chocolates from Belgium after the cruise.  What was Not a bargain was the $110 Michael Kors wallet-purse I bought the day we arrived onboard. But it’s SO cute. And hell, I’m on vacation. And it holds my phone and all my cards, and looks good on gala nights. And they make it so easy with one card for everything – door key, drinks, Michael Kors wallet-purse.  Life is short.

The next-to-last night of the trip, they had a 1920’s-themed gala night. My sister bought a flapper dress just for the occasion. I dolled up my beaded fancywear and sang Karaoke in the pub.  Even met a nice man who liked my singing and we had a date in the champagne bar the next day. We’re Facebook friends now.

When the cruise ended, we spent a week in France and Belgium and I went up to Iceland before flying over the pole back to Seattle. That’s another blog post for another time.

But everyone asks me if I’d take the QFM2 again.

You’d better fucking believe it. I’m looking at deals for a 14-day round-trip sailing right now.

Lisa Craze is a broadcaster, writer and singer-songwriter with 2 albums of original songs to her credit and more than 30 years in radio news and information. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Inventory

Posted on May 20, 2019 by lonnatic


I’ve been promising an updated inventory. Here we go.

Upper left to right. The first thing is another awesome bag. Some of you know I have a bit of a bag fetish. I have owned up to seven Filson bags at once. This little beauty is a Skyway Coupeville 20″ Travel Backpack I scored on clearance from The Bon. Oh. Macy’s. Whatever. It came up in a google search for “carry on backpack”; a search I have run often. I spotted this and immediately searched for reviews. I have watched hundreds of reviews for dozens of bags so imagine my surprise when I could not find one single review of this bag. Strange indeed.

Classic Skyway Luggage Set
Classic Skyway Luggage Set

I already knew a little about Skyway from seeing their goods at Goodwill in the past. I have owned a couple of their classic suitcases. They are a Seattle company and have been in the business of making fine luggage for over a hundred years. Longer than Jansport. Or almost anyone for that matter.  Almost as long as Filson and as long as Samsonite.

Next is a packing cube with a long sleeved wool base top, a pair of shorts, a dress shirt, a pair of ExOfficio mesh unders, a wool base bottom, and a nice Pashimi scarf. On top of the Jansport is my laundry bag with a pair of socks ready to wash. Then my venerable Jansport Right Pack. There’s an article about this bag around here somewhere. Both bags have those nice Rick Steves luggage tags. Those prayer flags fit in the packing cube. The colorful Trader Joes shopping bag is nice for carrying a hat when on the move and holding my groceries in the community or airbnb fridge. That’s my Levine Hat Company Homburg style Panama. I can’t say enough good about this hat and this hat company. I will buy another. And another. Right below the hat is an original Pack Towel. There is a reason everyone copies them. These are awesome. Just plain awesome. Always know where your towel is. There’s some standard tech there in the corner. An iPad Pro, a Macbook Air, some charging cables, and an audio cable. I sent one of my guys to the Office Max on St. Thomas for some shit and asked him to grab me an audio cable while he was there. He came back with a pink one. Said it was all that was left. Sure.

Ready to pack.
Ready to pack.

Coming back to the middle left. That’s a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad. I use this when the airbnb bed isn’t a bed. Or if I’m crashing on a couch. Fuck the couch. They always slope and are always too short. I roll out my pad and sleep like at “home”. Dromedary bottle. Worth the space. No weight. Stainless water bottle. Really the only way to go. I’ve tried them all. As much as I like to reuse a Perrier bottle, it’s just not a good idea. Next is another Rick Steves item. He carries these nice little “wallets”. They hold a metric stack of cards and there’s a little front pocket for little stuff. The ideal place for keys to friend’s houses, usb sticks, sim card key, fobs, what have you. Then a bunch of cook kit stuff. There’s an article about most of this stuff around here somewhere, too. GSI cup. Stanley cook kit with the stupid plastic cups thrown away. BRS3000 Titanium Stove. Wow! MSR fuel. Standard size bic. That is a really nice super fine strainer I got at Sur le Table in Pike Place Market. For making coffee. That’s a Zassenhaus manual coffee grinder next. Some Dr. Boners, and a fork and spoon from Goodwill. I know everyone loves their Titanium Sporks. Good on ya! I like a real fork and a real spoon, thank you. This all fits in a small Eagle Creek packing cube. That’s a Jack Spade bonded trench coat. It weighs about a quarter what my last nice trench coat weighed and takes up about as much less space. I’m very happy with it. On top of it is a pair of 10 x 35 field glasses and a Black Diamond headlamp. These go in the outside, easy to reach pocket. And of course, dance shoes. Tango.

Some Ninja packing skills
Some Ninja packing skills
First draft
First draft

Bottom left. A down “puffy”. I got this one at the Nordstrom Rack for $50. Smartest $50 I ever spent. Shoe care. Hairbrush. I don’t think this is essential but it’s nice and doesn’t weigh hardly anything. Above the hairbrush is a basic emergency kit. Bandaids, sewing kit, patch kit for the therm-a-rest, earplugs, and a supply of toothpicks. All fits in a nice little two pocket mesh zippered pouch thing I found at Savvy Traveler. Under that is my Eagle Creek silk travel wallet, passport, sd card, and social security card. I always load this up with local currency and put whatever US dollars I brought in there. There’s a splash of miscellanious small crap there. A soap dish with a bar of ayurvedic soap, more toothpicks, toothpaste, toothbrush and perioaide, a lock and cable, shoe horn, bulldog clip, raquet ball, and dental floss. Each one of these can have it’s own article. The lock and cable is super handy in a coffee shop. Just throw it around a chair leg and through the handles of a bag when it’s time to use the bathroom. It’s just nice to know it’s there. I take my laptop with me. Next we have a really nice little Tumi bag. The laptop charger is in one, too. I am guessing Tumi made these for Delta Airlines since there is a Delta logo inside. I get them at Value Village from time to time for about a dollar. I think I have four. They are great. This one holds my toilet kit. Four three ounce bottles. Scissors. That cool stainless nail clipper I like. My Joris gold plated open comb safety razor, some razor blades, and my razor case. Also a lock for the gym locker.

One bag
One bag

I’m wearing some nice Crocket and Jones shoes, Smartwool argyle socks, some manner of nice trousers, a horsehide belt with a real brass belt buckle, ExOfficio mesh unders, and a very nice knife on the belt. A J.Crew classic safari shirt in nylon, a bandana, a sport coat with a pocket square. There is a clean handkerchief folded into the pocket square for her. Pockets hold cash in a money clip, phone and headphones, whatever key I need right now, a change purse with my 19 year coin in it, and earplugs. My wallet with three bank cards, my drivers license, my insurance card, my Yacht club card, my scuba dive certification card, and my Washington State Boaters Education card. There is a nice, heavy rollerball pen in here somewhere. And a mala. And a hat.

That’s it. That is all I want to own.

Ready to catch a plane.
Ready to catch a plane.

“I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It’s like Tiffany’s.”

― Audrey Hepburn

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Art Again?

I think I’m committed to this path. The art path. It’s where I started oh so long ago.

I’ve wandered all over the field since. House painting, photography, computers, enterprise grade networking, IT. I studied business and went bankrupt trying.

I had given art one last shot maybe twelve years ago. And gave up on it as dead and futile. But in the meantime I have learned marketing, e-commerce, WordPress and woocommerce. And the landscape has changed. Dropshipping and print on demand. Facebook and Mailchimp. This is a different world than where I gave up art.

And the iPad. Oh My God! It is so fun to make art on one of these!  And no waiting for paint to dry. Nothing kills a fresh idea like waiting four days for the first coat to dry. “What was I up to?”

I’m back. And I love it. Working on a new idea. Playing with a composition. Developing a vocabulary. Art is fun again. And there is an actual chance I could support my adventures this way.

So here we go.

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simplicity

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand . . . keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. . . . Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one.”

Henry David Thoreau (Where I Lived and What I Lived For)

We have been admonished all along by the likes of Ghandi and Jesus, Thereau and Ram Dass. Get rid of your stuff; physical mental and emotional, and keep it simple. Here, now. At some point in my life this started looking like good advice I did not fully understand. How could I think I truly understood these ideas, embraced these ideas and still have all this stuff? A kitchen with many, many drawers full of stuff. I knew pretty much where everything in that room was. A “to do” list that scrolled onto the next page! Literally tons of stuff in a shop that required more tons of stuff outside in materials racks and sheds. Bedroom closets, bathroom closets, night stands, good god how far can this go on? A pile of plans I routinely admitted just were not going to get done. Glove boxes in three cars. How can someone with all this stuff claim to have even a glimmer of a clue what Thereau is talking about? Honesty eventually took over and I admitted this all looked like good advice, I sincerely believed these people were telling me the truth, but I just wasn’t getting it.

I developed the idea that this, as I once described burningman was “something impossible to describe from the inside and impossible to understand from the outside.” I had just returned from burningman 1999 and was standing in a small circle which included a couple people that had not been. One asked the inevitable question, “so, what is burningman like?”

I had heard things like “one cannot think their way to a better way of living, one can only live their way to a better way of thinking” and, one of my favorites, a quote from Ray Bradbury: “You’ve got to walk up to the edge of the cliff, jump off, and build your wings on the way down.” I had to live it before I could think it. How?

I have dreamed of living on the road, free, “mobile” as The Who put it, since early life. It seems to be a normal, common dream among people. We were nomadic originally. Perhaps it is genetic, primal, whatever. A friend had said, “if you want to get rid of a bunch of stuff, move onto a boat.” It was a jest but the truth was unmistakable. The challenge for me with a boat is it is difficult to step out of a boat into a grocery store. Perhaps a motor home?

So I moved into a motor home. And now I think I get it.

I did move on to a boat about five years later. More on that soon!

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Interesting Spaghetti

Posted on July 8, 2008

Interesting Spaghetti
Henry made vegetarian spaghetti with smoked paprika without consulting anybody or a cook book.

Quite a lot of smoked paprika.

Interesting.

I’ve mixed stuff together that I was pretty sure would explode. I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong. Imagine being wrong thinking you are making a cake and instead having an explosive and subsequently, an explosion. There just isn’t any other way to discover something than to take a risk. Or investing in a retirement fund and subsequently living on your own private island or in a rat trap trailer. Not all gamblers win, not all adventurers found interesting things, not all explorers returned. But to never try? To see a possibility and not experiment, suspect something and not test, to imagine and not seek?

I can’t.

I want interesting spaghetti now and then.