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Monthly Archives: December 2010

My family is extremely traditional.  My parents still live in the house where my brother and I grew up.    (It’s always refreshing and familiar to visit home and my mom always puts a package of Ferrero Rocher’s on my pillow before my arrival.)  Up until last year, holidays have been the same familiar routine.  We all congregate at my Grandparents’ home (built by my Dad and Grandpa in the 80s) on five acres of land with two dogs, ten chickens, one rooster, and eight vintage Farmall tractors (Grandpa’s hobby is restoring them) and stuff ourselves silly, no matter what we’re celebrating.   Last year things in the family started to change.  All of the grandkids are now adults.  The first great-grandchild, Baby Theo, joined the family last October.  My cousin Edward put down roots in China.  This year things are even more different.  Edward is now in India and Andrew, his brother, has joined him for a few months.  Elizabeth, their sister, is in Africa for a year, so the big family gatherings are considerably smaller. 

My brother Nicholas is going to graduate from college in May and is spending a lot of time contemplating what he wants out of life and what is most important to him.  Thanks to his introspective reflection on what he truly values, he suggested that instead of exchanging gifts on Christmas morning, we buy presents for a needy family of four.  My parents and I loved the idea, so on Black Friday we braved the consumer madness and purchased Christmas gifts for our adopted family.  It was a lot of fun to shop as a family, and it was much more fulfilling to give to a good cause instead of giving each other silly presents like kitchen gadgets, coffee table books, or Snuggies.  This new direction in gift-giving was a relief to me, because as a currently homeless person, I have worried about storing Christmas gifts in the trunk of my car where space is limited as well as what to do with the things people give me that I don’t have a place for.

A couple of days before Christmas, my mom and I discussed what we would do in lieu of gifts.  Go for a family jog?  Not with dad’s bad back.  Make a breakfast feast?  Not before a day of feasting at the Grandparent’s house.  Would we be bored without the excitement of a gift exchange?  On Christmas morning, we were slow to get up and about.  It was so relaxing not to be pressured to get up early and open gifts.  There was a small arrangement of packages under the tree and my mom still filled our stockings with goodies (candy, nuts, magazines).  Gifts from “Santa” were simple- a Visa gift cards for us kids, wine, scented candles, hand cream, travel books.  It was our most minimal Christmas yet and we loved every minute of it, just sitting around the Christmas tree enjoying the company. 

The best present was a letter my brother wrote to my mom that brought us to tears.  The sincerity and sweetness of it was absolutely moving.  We all agreed that as a family we are blessed, and have everything we need.  Obligatory Christmas gift-giving is now behind us and it is a relief for everyone.  We can look forward to future Christmases in which we give to another needy family, avoid the hustle and bustle of the shopping season, and just spend time focusing on what’s most important in life: each other. 

Merry Christmas yall!

Anchor Man is one of my favorite movies.  The cast of characters is ridiculous and hilarious.  Ron Burgundy and his unapologetic skirt-chasing, hard-boozing ways.  Veronica Corningstone and her non-regional dialect.  Baxter, Ron’s bi-lingual terrier.  The cult classic has some interesting and shady personalities, similar to downtown San Diego, where I stayed last week during another work trip.

The Sofia Hotel is a darling boutique hotel.  The location is perfect: walking distance to Horton Plaza and the Gas Lamp district, and only a few minutes from the airport.  The hotel’s ground floor is home of The Currant Restaurant, an American Brasserie.  The decor is rich and sultry, with dim lighting, velvet upholstery, and ornately carved wooden furniture.  Overall, the interior has a sexy, French feel, swanky enough for Mr. Burgundy himself.  After a long day of sales calls it was an ideal, quiet place to relax and asses the successes and challenges of the day.  Mussels in white wine, tomato and shallot sauce with frites helped too!

After an early dinner, I took advantage of the nearby mall to shop off the cals from the salty frites.  I had every intention of checking off some items from my Christmas shopping list, but blew my cash on myself at Forever 21.  Oops!  With only five more holiday shopping days left, I wish I’d been more productive!  My shopping fail behind me, I headed back to the Sofia to wind down and prepare for the following day.  Dusk in downtown feels relatively safe for a young woman traveling alone, but drifters abound and the earthy scent of Mary Jane lingered in the air.  With the city’s amazing weather, I’d be in San Diego in a heartbeat if I was a REAL drifter.  I maneuvered through a sea of skaters, dread-headed hippies, and friendly schizophrenic s and returned to the comfort of the hotel.

My top-floor, corner room was cozy, clean, and provided everything I needed to experience maximum comfort.  From the seventh floor, I had an entertaining view of the action on Broadway.  The room itself was tastefully decorated with sage green walls, chocolate velvet drapes, and ebony wooden furniture gave the room a modern, updated appeal in the older, brick building.  The only thing missing was a nice glass of scotch!

The Sofia is ideal for a business traveler (free Wi-Fi) or a romantic weekend (complimentary bicycle rentals) so I would absolutely return for a stay.  One surprising con is their lack of breakfast options (none!).  My body still functioning on Central Standard Time, I was starving by 8am Pacific!  The Currant was closed, there is no room service, and no continental breakfast option!  Fortunately, there are a handful of restaurants nearby, including The Coffee Bean right next door.

The following day was spent at SeaWorld hosting one of our corporate partners at an appreciation event.  Most of the day was all business, but we squeezed in one park attraction, A Shamu Story.  It wasn’t as flashy as other Shamu performances I’ve seen, but it focused on the trainers and the whales and how they develop relationships and teach these mighty creatures to perform while staying mentally and physically healthy in captivity.  The learning capacity of these animals is amazing, and the few killer whales that are kept in captivity to be studied provide benefits for their brothers and sisters in the wild.

When I had to leave Cali, I treated myself to a drink on the plane, in honor of Ron.  Stay classy San Diego!  I’ll be back soon!

Two posts ago, you read about how I’m legitimately living out of the trunk of my car.  Now I’ll dive into the details of day-to-day living.

Thanks to my wonderful employer and our lovely work facility, I have access to a weight room, yoga and kick-boxing classes, and a really nice locker room!  I try to take advantage of the weight room as much as possible during my lunch break.  I can pop over and put in about 45 minutes, then hit the showers in the locker room, and be back at my cube in an hour.  I was on a waiting list for about a year before I got my own locker!  This is perfect for my current lifestyle.  I have all my toiletries stored there so I can take a full on shower after work before I go out for the evening.  It’s really nice to have a central place to keep my stuff and shower, so I’m not tying up my friends’ bathrooms.  Plus, it’s cleaned daily, unlike most residential bathrooms.  😉

I purchased two really helpful items for my locker- a mesh hanging shower caddy and a microfiber towel.  I love this towel; I’m planning on replacing all of my fluffy towels with these compact ones.  They absorb water more quickly than regular towels and take up almost no space to store.  Perfect!

The most challenging thing to store is my clothes!  Right now they are on a collapsible rolling rack from The Container Store in my sweet boyfriend’s garage.  One or two times a week I visit my wardrobe, pick out outfits I’ll need for a handful of days, and store them in a laundry basket in the trunk of my car.  Ironically, because I have to take time planning what I’m going to wear instead of rummaging through my closet in the morning, my co-workers tell me I looked more put-together.  I’m dressing better as a homeless person!

Every day it becomes more routine.  Any time I feel annoyed with not having my own little spot in the world to call my own, I think about how lucky I am that I’m able to make this happen thanks to the people and situations in my life.  Thanks, Universe!

As an electively homeless person, work trips are more valuable to me than ever before.  It’s a nice break from staying with friends and I’m guaranteed my own bed instead of a couch!  On Monday, I flew to Tampa for a team meeting.  The majority of my co-workers are territory managers and work virtually out of their homes all over the country, so it’s a treat for the whole group to get together.  My employer has a relationship with Busch Gardens so we were able to utilize their facility to meet.  Tuesday morning started with an onsite breakfast at the Crown Colonial restaurant in the park.  We managed to squeeze in a meeting between breakfast and lunch (lucky for me my colleagues share my passion for eating) and then had free time to enjoy the park!

We started with a Cirque du Soliel-esque show called Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy.  It wasn’t quite as elaborate as the Cirque shows I’ve seen in Vegas, but a nice way to spend half an hour inside, since it was unseasonably cold for Tampa!

After the show, our group went straight to the nearest roller coaster for a ride!  I was more focused on seeing the animal exhibits than riding rides, but I joined the group for a spin on the Gwazi.  I’ve never been on a wooden coaster as jarring as this one.  Hours later my neck stiffened like I’d been in a minor car accident.  The ride wasn’t scary or fun, but annoying.  I spent the short ride clenching my jaw shut to save my tongue from an accidental bite.

Done with the rides, I enjoyed the Australian exhibit, Walkabout Way, complete with a kangaroo and wallaby petting zoo!  I adore kangaroos, but have to admit they look like giant rats.  After our visit down under, our group went to check out the Serengeti Plains via the Serengeti Express Railway.  The train ride was slow but scenic.  There were zebras, giraffes, a mom rhino and her baby, and a variety of gazelle, some within arm’s reach of the train!

When the sun began to set after 5pm, the temperature dropped and I was ready to warm up inside!  We ended the day with a cocktail reception and dinner back in the Crown Colonial restaurant.

Early Wednesday morning I left Tampa in desperate need of warmer weather.  After our flight was late getting out the gate due to the time it took to de-ice the plane (really!), I arrived in Austin to meet our company’s advertising agency, GSD&M.

I work in a sales environment, so it was a treat to be on the client side for a change!  Our account managers picked us up at the airport.  It was about seventy degrees in beautiful, sunny, hip Austin, Texas!  After a tour of the agency, the account managers treated us to lunch at a little burger joint across the street called Hut’s Hamburgers.

Hut’s (est. 1939) is in a small, old building downtown.  Inside the walls are covered with sports team memorabilia (especially UT) as well as large animal heads.  I didn’t want to offend the buffalo and steer as they watched me chow down so instead of a burger I opted for the vegetarian chili- delicious!

After a filling lunch, we spent the afternoon at the legendary agency learning the ins-and-outs of the ad business and where my employer fits in.  In college I majored in advertising, but felt out of the loop in the company of these professionals, and a handful of times asked for clarification on the industry jargon they routinely threw out.  The visit to GSD&M gave me a lot of insight on how an ad agency operates.  I really enjoyed the city and company.  In a couple of days I’ll be in San Diego for work, and will spend another night in the luxury of a hotel!

My first “secret-revealing” post, The Purge, told you all about how I narrowed down my possessions to just the essentials.  Now here’s the fun part!  I am an organization geek- I get overly excited about nesting boxes, file folders, and containers of all shapes and sizes.  I got rid of nearly everything I owned, but still have necessities I need to easily access while storing them somewhere.  My personal challenge with my living experiment is to operate as efficiently as possible as I go from one place to the next.   My goals are:

  1. Be organized and look nice (I don’t want it to be obvious I’m living out of my car!)
  2. Don’t leave anything (for more than a couple of nights) in my friends’ homes
  3. Leave a place better than I found it (life lesson from Girl Scout camping trips)

I have three places I store my things:

  1. Trunk of my car
  2. Locker at work
  3. Boyfriend’s garage (original plan was to rent a storage unit but I’m taking my time to shop around for the least sketchy, most convenient location that is safe to visit by myself in the evenings… it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack!)

What I access the most often (once or twice a day) is the junk in my trunk!  This is where I store my toiletries, pillow, blanket, accessories, and some clothes.

Sorry for the shadows in this photo!  Here’s a breakdown of my trunk storage.  I have three laundry baskets:

  1. The farthest basket towards the back of the trunk is for work-out clothes and pajamas (t-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, etc.)
  2. The white laundry basket (on the left) is for socks, slips, bathing suits, and other unmentionables.
  3. The gray laundry basket (on the right) contains the clothes I’m going to wear for the week.  Once a week (usually on Sunday) I go to my rolling rack of clothes in the boyfriend’s garage and pick out what I’ll need for work and any other extracurricular activities.

I have one basket of toiletries that I grab from when I stay at friends’ places.

I have two roll-up jewelry organizers- I downsized my accessory collection so it all fits!  They’re so convenient- when I’m dressed and on my way to work or to meet with friends, I just grab one of these and select what earrings, bangles, necklaces, or rings I want to wear, and I’m off!

Some other items hidden in the shadows of my trunk photo:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • A couple of books and magazines I’m currently reading
  • Travel pillow
  • Regular pillow and blanket
  • Basic purses (I got rid of the “fun” ones and opted to keep the classics/most versatile styles)
  • Nail polish and other “special occasion” lipsticks, eyeliners, and shadows
  • Lap top bag (although I don’t leave my PC in my car- too important!)

The whole process of adopting this lifestyle has had its learning curve.  Now, in my fifth week, it’s becoming much more routine.  I’ve had to get used to hauling around bags and laundry baskets, but it’s nice to have the important stuff within reach no matter where I stay.  In my next post, I’ll go into the details of my other storage spaces.

Yesterday I celebrated one month of living a nomadic lifestyle.  When I think back to how I was living a couple of months ago, it’s dramatically different!  My house, roommate, her dog, and all possessions are gone!  So far I love the freedom- staying at different places, no chores, no bills!  The month of November brought some travel opportunities with it which has made the transition a bit easier.  Luckily, my first official night of homelessness was spent in the beautiful Hotel Rex in San Francisco!

San Fran is one of my favorite cities in the US!  The weather, wine, and food are ultra fab!  I went for work but our meetings incorporated a lot of fun around town.  I met my co-workers at our hotel where we had just enough time to drop off our bags.  We caught a cable car on the street and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf.  The weather was perfect and we relished the sun and fresh sea air as we clung to the side of the car.

At the Wharf, we caught a glimpse of some seals (so cute!) and ran (literally) down to Pier One to catch the Golden Gate Feery to Sausilito for dinner.  Once we boarded the ferry, the sun was about to set.  We had beautiful views of the Bay Bridge, downtown skyline, Alcatraz, and Golden Gate Bridge.  When it started getting chilly, we warmed up with some hot coco and Bailey’s during the ride.

When we docked in Sausalito, we walked about a block through the charming town to The Spinnaker for dinner.  The waterfront seafood restaurant had an amazing view of the Bay through the full windows.  It’s hard to say what was best- the view, the company, or the food!

I had the grilled scallops with bacon and orzo with sun-dried tomatoes with a lovely glass of Viognier.  Perfection!  Dessert was sinful- tiramisu, crème Brule, and rustic apple tart.  We had to indulge because the majority of our table (myself included) is currently Texan and we died when our Rangers lost!  While the whole city celebrated their team’s win, I went back to my hotel room and tried to sleep despite the incessant honking and cheering from the streets below.

The next morning we met for breakfast at Sears Fine Food.  The décor was country art-deco with an appropriate dash of camp.  Loved it!  The brecky menu was your typical heavy comfort food.  I had the omelet with chicken sausage, cheddar, and green onions with hash browns, sourdough toast , and cantaloupe (which I did not eat- if you know me, you know I can’t stand melons).  Besides the c-loupe, it was rich and filling!

Hotel Rex is adjacent to Union Square, and it was difficult to walk by the giant Forever 21 and other boutique shops as I headed to Oakland for my meeting, which preceded my departure from this world-class city.  My only consolation was knowing I’ll be back, and the next time for vaca!  Not a bad way to kick off transitory living!  🙂