Creative Director at The Pigeons Studio & Gallery
Portland Community College
Portland State University
I talk about poop too much. I occasionally smoke cigarettes. I get too attached too quick and then run away. It’s difficult to open up sexually, I am a woman processing my “father issues”. I’m a workaholic. I have been arrested and on the off chance I run into a cop I might again. I’m bitter about tinder. I think I’m really funny. I talk about feminism a lot (but that’s not a flaw). I’m broke and looking for adventures. I’m on here because farmersonly and sugardaddie have a high premium.
It has been eventful, all of it, the last year, the last few months, the day by day, minute by minute.
In the next couple months I will be reinventing this site then returning with new anecdotes of my adventures.
Roaming Home rebuilds. Read about urban Vandwelling. Check out pics from the build of Bleu, my 1988 Econoline and see the finishing touches of Frankie, my vintage travel trailer.
Studio Life has been a learning curve, like: How do you create art while running a business and working a full time job to pay for it?
Travel is happening. In August I will be relocating Frankie from Wisconsin to Austin. I will spend some time with family in both places before jetting off to Mother’s 50th birthday Provincetown. Here I will learn about her choice to move onto a boat in the Cape.
Look forward to the return. Thanks for checking in!
Depression doesn’t stay at home as we jetset to new places, unfortunately it travels with us. It’s also not the baggage you can check or leave in the hotel. It’s like your fanny-pack clashing with your best travel outfit. It’s like a backpack filling up with goods in which the weight makes your whole body ache.
It was day 9 when I started to feel it, and finally by day 12 I am able to start writing about it. Traveling with depression and the search for maintaining a positive frame of mind on the road.
I am getting lost in my head and I am not liking it. I know things are good. It’s my thoughts though. It’s a feeling like when your stomach cramps or your head aches for what seems like no reason. My anguish is a discomforting sensation similar to that.
Everything is especially heightened when I travel, the beauty, the inspiration, the enthusiasm and often a state of euphoria. As any of us with depression knows though, with great highs can come great lows.
This is the first time I have traveled out of the country alone. This presents a different set of obstacles compared to when I spent 60 days with a travel partner in Europe. Traveling with someone you have someone you have to perform for or at least minimize your anguished feelings for. You feel responsible to not bring them down with you in your sinking ship. To counter this, when there is that other present you have the advantage of someone else to throw you a life preserver. Someone to keep you from sinking as all your weighted thoughts pull you below sea level.
As I stated I am alone in this journey. Most of the time I really like that. Other times the idea of drowning sounds more appealing than struggling to swim.
Look for land.
I often compare depression to drowning. If that is the case then my advice is to find land. Find something you can hold onto. I couldn’t imagine getting out of bed on day 9. The guilt started to become me and my thoughts argued “I’m traveling, I can’t waste a day”. However, it isn’t a wasted day to reflect and relax to be able to continue on strong. Rather than diving into the unknown sea of culture that is Oaxaca, I grabbed a pillow and moved my bed to the balcony of my hostel.
This offered me some grasp and familiarity I needed to regroup. I did some internet wandering which lead me to reach out to some friends back home. I asked for something to remind me I was okay.
Ahh, the downside of the solo traveler…loneliness. I feel that all of the things you just mentioned are what’s causing the anxiety you’re feeling. I feel that some of it’s valid- you are alone and courageous and solitary, but I feel that those things (hungover, overwhelmed, depressed, sad, scared) are magnifying your feelings.
Maybe you can hang out in a cafe reading for the day…or find some ex pat volunteers or workers to say hey to, just for the day. A friend who had spent time in Prague just recommended to me today (for my Ireland gig) to find expatriates, as lame and corny as it sounds to find Americans in a new country, just to find them. Maybe you could do something like that. Or WWOOF, where you get to know a family for a week or so while staying with them
I’m thinking of you, doll. This is the inevitable underbelly of traveling alone, and it sucks, but you’ve got this 😊 -Mary Marvels
So that’s what I did.
Find your routine
Back home I wake up, take a shower, and try and relax with some coffee or tea. Sometimes I connect with a friend to go on an adventure or get some work done. So that’s what I forced myself into.
I managed to get up from my bench and catch breakfast offered by the hostel, I took a shower and by the time I was ready the door opened and a woman from Houston I had met a few days earlier walked into my hostel room. I took this as a sign to push my thoughts away and go on an adventure.
Eventually we separated. This was a perfect time to have my coffee and relax with those thoughts I just disregarded. If I don’t take the time to handle them incrementally I know they start to pile up.
It may seem silly to say this, but if you are traveling with depression the best thing to do might be to just travel. I walked around and looked at art. I took in the architecture and the people. I distracted from my old depressing thoughts with new life and culture.
Depression has it’s agenda and is pretty good at tricking you into feeling it. Counter this with habits to distract yourself out of it. Reach out to familiar voices back home, find a way to recreate a safe routine or just dive into something that offers distraction from the same shit.
I was supposed to be in Puebla on day 5 but Oaxaca has taken hold and won’t let me leave. Everyday the adventure plans itself guiding me through this quaint yet bustling city. I feel lucky, but I don’t believe in luck. This is intent paying off.
These last few days have been magical. There hasn’t been one single thing planned yet we are seeing everything and more than expected. Whether it is Armando’s uncle surprising us with day trips to ruins or running into acquaintances we keep acquiring, the experience is nothing shy of serendipitous.
I live for serendipity, destiny and the feeling you get when all the energy you put into the world comes back as if to repay you for keeping an open heart. Oaxaca’s air is dense with this positive energy. I can’t go a minute without this energy telling me when and where I need to be.
I basically spent the last few days eating, proudly stuffing my face every hour on the hour. By day 7 we had found Julio, our favorite basket taco guy, he gave us his number in case we can’t find him.
Architecture + Street Walking
The architecture is stunning and the streets were made for walking. My favorite street is pedestrian only, Alcalá, it is cobblestone and it is home to my favorite museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, and my favorite coffee shop, Café Bujula. We ran into our friend Lukas whom we met on day 6 when he was playing a show at my favorite bar, La Nueva Babel. We also ran into the artists that performed “multiplicity” a sound piece on day 7 at MACO. They have invited me to their gallery of experimental media. Despite walking Alcalá (or the andador) every day I am always finding something new to take in every step I take.
Artists + Vendors + Friends
The artists are everywhere. They are also very interested in meeting you. At MOCA I met Tomás Hernandez Ruíz, a textile weaver getting ready for a performance/exhibit opening on Friday. We started chatting about our shared passion for fiber and he invited us to Teotítlan just a few minutes outside of Oxaca on Sunday. There he will show me his artist studio, introduce me to his family and show me his work.
Museums + Galleries + Performances + Street Art
There are an immense number of museums and galleries that continue to inspire me. I have to carry a note book around to keep track of all the ideas I have flowing through me. Most are free, all of them worth checking out. You must keep checking for opening nights, performances and talks. This weekend I have about 3 or 4 to attend.
I would love to be one of those blogs that tells people the best 36 hour schedule in a city or 5 days to see the best top “not-so-tourist” sights. It would be prettier if I took the time to take stunning shots of foreign lands to inspire your next destination but I only have a backpack so a broken iPad and lightweight 35mm camera is what we got going for us. I should be better at remembering the names of all the places I go but when I’m in it I’m not thinking about remembering it, I’m thinking about being present in it. I don’t know if these things will change. When I travel I travel for me in that moment. It’s ideal that every place I visit is a stepping stone to a more understood me relative to the worlds I immerse myself in.
I can’t find you your Oaxaca but maybe my “Never say no, let the trip guide you” mentality can inspire you to travel more free.
I got to Oaxaca on a whim with less then 12 hour warning. I had not researched it. I knew nothing except that it was south of Izúcar, it’s a must visit place for Dia de Muertos and my new compadre had an uncle heading there. I undoubtedly hopped in the car.
My new compadre is also my interpreter, tour guide, free place to sleep connection and my travel companion until we get sick of one another. At this point I have known him for about 43 hours when we met at 3 am at a Mexican wedding in his hometown 3 hours south of Mexico City. The ride was longer than expected. This was needed to adjust gradually to the shift in energy I felt as we crossed the border of Puebla to Oaxaca. I felt a new kind of air fill my lungs and blood stream with awareness of the magic I possess.
We did some slight research on those blogs I had previously mentioned. The first idea was an early morning walk to Monte Alban ruins. However, our plans quickly changed when Armando’s uncle decided to take the day off work to show us around. First off we had to drop off his daughter and then his wife at the ice cream factory they both work at.
12 : We tour a Oaxacan ice cream, Popsicle and ice factory where they produce 23 tons of ice a day. They have 33 stores in Oaxaca and are planning to expand. The owner is good friends with Armando’s family and he was happy to show us around. I swear this isn’t the set of Breaking Bad.
2 : There is a tree that is around 1400 years old, takes 40 people to wrap around it and it is in Oaxaca. It was magical and no picture can capture it’s beauty, smell or magic. But here is a tease if you ever find yourself in these parts.
3 : We walk around the Mercado next to the Ahuehuete of Santa Maria del Tule to try a coconut drink called Tejate made cocoa, maiz, azucar water, mamey and agua and browse the native clothes. We compare some prices and I try on some outfits called “huipil”. We shortly leave and start to drive to a destination unbeknown to me. At this point I hadn’t known where we were headed when we went to the factory or the tree and I didn’t need to start to knowing the plan now.
“STOP, STOP, STOP!!!!!”
They pull over the car and I proclaim “That’s it! I found what I came to Mexico for!” I run down the street to a man throwing a shuttle back and forth through the threads pulled tight on a telardes (loom). He is weaving a large tapestry. In the Mercado I felt a lack of authenticity as half the items were from out of the country and the rest held pesado price tags. Besides a young girl embroidering some imported cloth it all felt common. This tiny shop was the real deal and as my heart skipped I began to cry with joy.
4 : Zona Arqueológica de Mitla are ruins secluded in this southern region of Mexico. I sat on the top of some steps and overlooked the great landscape. Again tears came to my eyes as I recalled six years ago when I could have succeeded on taking my own life. Here I am in Oaxaca. Here I am alive.
5 : I think we are heading back to the car when I start to pick up on some words I know “Fabrica de Mezcal”. We are heading to a place where they make Mezcal. We tour down some roads on the south side of the ruins. We curve around the block. There is a tiny store front with a bar that has no seats. We walk though the back. While we missed the process by a day… it was not shy of an amazing experience. We tried every bottle of Mezcal. The woman of the 4th generation of this tiny business explained the process, the types of plants and the romantic nature of agave. I offered to help cut agave this winter and she seemed enthused.
6 : Armando’s aunts sisters birthday at her house with 3 generations and a bottle of recently purchased Mezcal. They offer me soup and I proudly dive in. Armando knows not to tell me what I am eating until after I have finished. They don’t speak English but I have been practicing learning Espanol by using Spanglish. I somehow have managed to tell jokes and make them laugh despite my 20 word Spanish vocabulary. I make them name the worms in the Mezcal bottle. I almost die on a piece of jalapeño in my beef foot stew. I sing Happy Birthday in English for the birthday Señora. I teach the grandfather to say “I am handsome” and he teaches me soon forgotten native dialect.
At this point tiempo es muy late and going to the downtown is probably not going to happen. I immerse myself with this familia. By the last hour I have received my Mexican name “Torro Rico” to compliment my tour guide “Torero Sauve”. I make a funny reference to Guerrero and we all start laughing “Rico. Sauve.”
A niece comes in and starts dropping Johnny and Jimmy Pocito out of our Mezcal bottle. This brave soul is going to eat the big worm. They insist I at least try the poco worm.
As we leave the baby takes some of her first steps to me and the grandfather proclaims something indiscernible in Spanish sand my interpreter steps in to tell me that “his home is always open to me”.
It’s been an incredible day to say the least. I really have said the least possible I could about today. I gained so much peace with mi spirito and felt like I was with family in a familiar space. I never felt like I didn’t speak the language because language isn’t just dialect. It is the way we listen, feel and gesture. We say so much through our actions and inflections. We build so much when we take away all the non-sense/material things that identify us. When we can’t engage through speaking with our throat and past our tongue there is nothing to hide behind and we are left speaking from our hearts.
Unlike yesterday, today was not as innocent but muy culturally immersive.
My morning started with the sound of church bells and the cracks of what sounded like gunshots. I listened closely for a whistle trail that might distinguish them as fireworks, but I wasn’t hearing any trails and the pops of the loud bangs sounded very similar to the semi-automatic I shot off in the desert some 12 years ago. The rooster barked and the bells and explosions continued for some 30 minutes. By this time my curiosity was getting the best of me.
I threw on my pants, a tank and a sweater. I slipped on my shoes and slowly peaked out my door for signs of war fare. There was a flash followed by a bang and I went back inside. I took a minute to ask myself whether following the sound of Godfather like church bells was worth the chance that these were not in fact just fireworks.
Obviously I left my room to investigate. As I creeped slowly through the center of the complex I was startled by an old Mexican man doing some repairs before the nights festivities. “Buenas aires, señor.”
As I tried to quietly close the gate by pulling the thread it snapped. The wrinkled old man came over to fix it and as I helped he insisted I continue on as if to say “you’ve got more important things to do.”
The streets were still dark. The tents to the street market were closed and there wasn’t a soul out. So much sound of commotion for so little action. I made it to the church I was at yesterday. The remnants of flowers were being swept up by a worker. The bells had stopped. As I made it down the center aisle to the back pew of a fairly empty church the music began. Six men in all black facing the alter of Santo Domingo began to play their string and horn instruments.
I sat there for a song and then moved closer to the other 10 devoted people there this early in the morning. As I came closer to the music I could feel everything clearer and more intense. It occurred to me that I was sitting in a Mexican church as a North American aetheist experiencing an overpowering calm.
I left the church and sat next to a woman weaving baskets and watched her work. Another woman spoke at me while I took it all in and the only thing I could think to say was “yo Rubina” as I pointed to myself. She screams it back at me and points to herself to proclaim “Nori!” She hugs me and kisses me and for some reason I feel like everything she said in Spanish I translated deep in my soul. While I may not know it on the surface, I do deep down.
I woke up from my nap and walked out to the center of the complex. Everyone was preparing for the wedding. The three sons were washing the walls and floors and the women were decorating with flowers. There was a couple working on the food for the evening. Parchment paper wrapped around chicken, olives, pineapple and an avocado leaf submerged in chili.
I am in Mexico because my mothers best friend Raul is getting married. My mother could not attend so she sent me to represent our family. I call Raul “Mi Tio” and I am his “Sabrina”. He says I am family in Izúcar. So like family I just start helping the best way I know how. I grab the parchment paper and point to the chicken. The woman smiles a smile so welcoming I forget we don’t speak the same language. She points the olives and pineapple and motions two for each. We filled two what I think were 10 gallon pots.
As I finish I tell Raul I need to get some lactose pills so I can eat dairy and he sends me off with his nephew Gabriel to translate. We manage to get both what I think is lactose intolerant medication (which isn’t to find out) and anxiety medication. I’ve always wanted to say I got meds in Mexico. While they are actually needed and not as fun as Percocet I feel like I can make a check on my bucket list.
Quickly Gabriel and I bond. By bond I mean he speaks English and I think I can get him to show me some awesome places I wouldn’t normally get to see. Over coffee we talk about the compound being haunted and his grandfather dying there. He says he visits the grave every Sunday and I ask if we can go today.
“Do you ride on motorcycle!”
“Fuck ya I do!”
We wander the grave stones and try to see if there are any bodies on display in the morgue. The smell of death is all around us mixed with sage and souls floating stagnant in the heat. Prayer can be heard. Digging and shoveling is seen down a couple rows.
We hop on the motorcycle and he says there is a place no Americans can go. I ask if I am an exception. I point to a homeless shelter and ask if people live there “yes! I will take you to see it better.” We head up a large hill through walls covered in graffiti. Cars with no tires parked crooked in the streets and dogs running around. The hills are steeper and I’m not sure we are going to make it up.
“Is this the ghetto?!”
“Yes. Mostly gangs and drug dealers. It’s known they bring kidnapped people here to get money.”
“Like Americans or Mexicans?”
“Whoever has money, their family pays like 5 or 10 thousand.”
“Well they won’t want me then.”
We get to the top and look out over the town. I see the church I was in this morning. As we head down he informs me that his breaks aren’t very good but he is wearing pumas. His feet scrape the ground.
“Where else is there to go an American wouldn’t see?!”
He makes a joke about Puebla Nuevo and seeing some “ho’s” but little does this guy know me. I won’t say no to any idea.
We head into a small remote neighborhood of bars and hotels. The road is dirt and it feels sparse like the Wild West. There are a group of women all sitting at the first building with a man looming over them. I gently smile as we roll by. I make a joke about grabbing a beer and he firmly says that would not be a good idea. I want to take photos but I can’t stand the idea of making these women uncomfortable.
We start to leave when he sees his cousins wife. We stop to chat outside a bar but we don’t get off the motorcycle. One woman is in a sheer pink dress with black panties peaking through and three men surround her. My tour guide is laughing and joking with his prostitute friend. He says she knows English and we ask one another where we are from. He makes a joke at her and she ask if me if I will too as she shakes her breast. Not looking back he says “she wants to know if you’ll show boob if she do?”
I get back to the compound and shower. The wedding should start at 6. While I haven’t checked the time in 2 days I can tell it’s getting close.
Raul became naturalized this last year and is finally marrying the woman he has been with for 25 years. This wedding is simple in the most natural way. I’m not sure the wedding has started until the mariachi band enters the complex singing. They serenade the bride and groom, they sign papers and we begin to eat.
I meet one person that knows English and talk for hours. They invite me out to visit him and his wife outside of town. I have no idea as to what my plans are at this point. There is a loose idea that I meet a couple American friends in Cholula and I have a friend of a friend to stay with in Mexico City. Other than that I am free.
Hours into the wedding the rain pours through the makeshift tarp ceiling and the dance floor is flooding. I look around and grab 5 gallon buckets and get the attention of one of Raul’s sons. He takes the bucket and I grab another. When they fill he helps me switch them out. At this point some people are still dancing but most have lined the walls under the two foot overhangs. I make my way behind the bar.
“Dos cervesas, por favor”
The old Mexican man from this morning hands me one. I grab the machete from under the counter and crack it open. The top flies across the dance floor but nobody really notices. I pop the second. I hand them over to my patron and he says “gracias”. The old man nudges me with his elbow and I say “De Nada”.
A few hours go by and my thumb has blistered but I’m having too much fun playing the funny American bartender with a machete. Pretty Woman comes on and I quickly run out to Alexa my 9 year old tour guide from yesterday and pull her out on the dance floor. We run in place, we do the monkey with contorted faces, we do the grandma and we swim. I don’t bother paying attention to being the only ones on the dance floor while the entire party watches us play in puddles with our goofy dance moves. I’m getting exhausted and sweat is pouring down my face but we don’t stop until the music changes. I swing her around, kiss her and head back behind the bar.
A couple more hours pass until I get invited by one of Raul’s sons to come see something. He doesn’t speak English but he tries to say “a present”. I walk around the corner and they present me to a person. I look very confused until he says “I speak English!”
We talk for an hour or so about him teaching English in China. I laugh and ask if he finds it as funny as I do that a native Spanish speaker from Mexico is teaching English in an Asian country, he laughs and agrees. He asks me my plans and I tell him I am debating between Gaunajuato and Oaxaca. I can see an idea come to him and he says his uncle is driving home to Oaxaca the next afternoon. I look at my watch and see it is 5 am, “you mean in less than 12 hours? Well I better get some sleep so I can be ready by 3 pm!”
I say my good nights to the remaining few standing and connect on FB with my new tour guide Armando. We make plans to message when we wake up. Before I head off to my room I have to ask him “is this for real?”
“Yes,” he says “I like the idea a lot.”
The day really started when I got back to Izucar de Matamoros after attending a graduation in Puebla. Despite busing into Puebla, cabbing around the city, having margaritas with our Brazilian style lunch and walking around until we caught a bus home… it simply did not compare to the evening with my 9 year old tour guide, ALEXA!
We have been using Google Translate to communicate for the last two nights. We both love the color green, we have fun dancing and we appreciate one another’s patience while an iPad regurgitates our foreign words into digestible phrases.
Alexa asked me what I wanted to do and as I spoke in, the iPad lady spoke out “Quiero caminar”, I want to walk. Her face grew big with dimples keeping it from popping. She quickly hit the Spanish button and spoke quickly into our translator “Can I come with you?!” I was hesitant just because I imagined this time alone. But I quickly adjusted and answered without our device “Si!”
We left the compound and set out into the bustling town. It only too ten steps from the door for us to try and speak to one another. Our faces saddened when we realized that without wifi, there is no google translate. We fumbled with our words. Me trying to remember how to say “slow down” and her repeating phrases over and over again but her foot stomping harder each time and us both blankly staring. I just started laughing which she promptly mimicked, her laughter made me know we were speaking the same language at that point. “VAMOS!”
We went through the open market quickly. I would stop to take a photo and then she would yell for is to be on our way again. She would say something to me and I would stare blankly. I would laugh, she would laugh and we would start running again. We hit the street with traffic coming and her arm flung out in front of my body. I knew what she was saying, “wait, now this way” despite saying nothing at all. The whistle blew and before you knew it we were inside the Mercado across the street. She would point to things and say their name is Spanish, “fruto, chilies, pollo, pan!”
Occasionally I would pull on her arm non-verbally asking her to “wait!” She would turn and I would point “que?” She would look at me and look at the vendor and say something to prompt a sample, then I would yell “gracias!” as we ran through the crowded corridors of food and goods and people.
We got to the cheese lady and a little girl pops out from behind the counter. Alexa starts saying things I can’t understand and I continue to smile naively. They both grab my hands and we head back out to the street screaming “ZOCALO, ZOCALO!” as the crowd parts for us.
Alexa points out “farmacia, zappatos, foto?!” I remember there were things I needed and I start to pretend brush my hair. They both scream and jump and laugh “CABELLA!!!” On the way there though I remember I need a needle and thread so we pop into the fabric store. They immediately inform the clerks while pointing at me “no habla espanol!” Again I start gesturing, this time as if I were sewing saying “needle? thread?” “AGULA! HILO! en casa!” I insist on buying it there. The process became daunting and I was grateful these two little ladies whose combined age is barely over half my life span were guiding me through basic societal norms.
If these were any other tour guides I can’t imagine them having the patience with me. I rolled my hands down my body to mimic a dress and pointed to a fashion store. Their faces were overwhelmed with joy. “Vestido!” We walked through the store holding up silly outfits as they took the opportunity to continue lessons of their native tongue “vestido, pantalones, falda, blusa.” “Foto?!”
Again they helped me through another fumbled purchase.
We ran out of the store laughing and yelling behind us “gracias! Buenes tardes!” With incredible instinct Alexa flung her arm out in front of me except this time Estrella, her assistant, did the same. We stood at the street where no cars were coming and I realized their protective instinct was just habit for them.
At that moment I look up to see English graffiti in this tiny Mexican town. I give Alexa the camera and run across the street with Estrella. I say “MODELO!” We strike a pose.
We finally make it to the zocalo, the fountain is not on so we grab a snack, snap some photos and continue to evade the looming presence of male eyes. I decide I need to get flowers for my uncle and his wife since their wedding is tomorrow. I point to the ground and mimic a flower opening with my hands. I say “bonito?!” They look at one another and discuss it over. Both young ladies look at me proudly “FLORES!” A new mission.
Before we head out for flowers we very sneakily enter a church during service. Before we go in I ask Alexa by rubbing my hands over my shoulders if I should cover my tattoos. She asks me if I need a sweater I think and we both remember some things aren’t worth trying to understand. We try not to giggle or chew too loud while the sermon goes on. We admire the beauty and snap a selfie before giggling our way out.
We stop by the ladies I bought yarn from the evening before and ask them where flowers may be. We ask the cheese lady as we back track through the Mercado. We don’t see a store but we start to see people with flowers just walking through the crowded streets. All three of us asking “Flores?!” People point and we continue in that direction, we are running until we start to see more and more people with flowers, “Flores?!” We yell with jubilant smiles. They keep pointing but now it’s becoming clear, they are pointing to the church!
As if our whole day was leading up to this one moment. Like children on a scavenger hunt running through the city with only simple clues and riddles. I start to cry. These two girls won’t let go of me jumping up and down screaming “FLORES! FLORES! FLORES!” Gasping and laughing. We aren’t at a store. We are at a long precession of people heading up to the alter of a church to lay flowers they have purchased from people lining the walls of the church.
A woman makes change for my 20 pesos and we continue to stop at every stand dropping a peso into a bucket and taking a flower. Occasionally we would give a peso for a religious photo or some pan, but mostly we just gathered our bouquet.
On the way home we found five florists, but that just wasn’t meant to be.