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Beautiful Bangkok, a city run by tuk tuk power, street vendors, and centuries old golden buddhas.

Sky high commerce and crumbling poverty jostle for street space while long tail boats cruise up and down the Chao Phraya river.

Little kids are canal swimming and tourists are Instagram posing and food vendors slinging moo ping pork skewers, all under resplendent portraits of King Rama X of Thailand.

Our first day in Bangkok, sparkling fresh with jet lag, we  explored the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew—The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Bangkok was our first leg on a three week tour of the country.

The Grand Palace is tourist central (us included) due to its religious, historical, and political importance to Thailand since its construction in 1782. Also, it’s really beautiful. Glittering mosaics, gilded gold, and opulent murals adorn every building. The Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade) is only 26 inches tall and has seasonal outfits of gold for summer, rain, and cool.

How tourists dress is important to Thai people, especially when visiting revered religious sites. It’s hot in Thailand, but we took care to wear modest clothing at all times: think pants or skirts to knees and no tank tops.

The November was muggy and in the mid-to-high 90s. The action of the city streets is enervating, no matter how much iced tea + condensed milk you drink. My wife is an expert lodging-finder. Usually when we travel for long periods we arrange home exchanges, but this trip we stayed in hotels. Our Bangkok hotel was a dream.

Chann Bangkok Noi, was accessible only by foot or boat. A taxi carried us as far as it could into a dense, riverside neighborhood where hotel staff met us at a foot bridge to guide us in. We walked several blocks down a raised pathway that peered into backyards and jungly terrain. We hooked a sharp left through a break in the corrugated metal fencing and down a sidewalk (marshy swampland and homes on stilts on either side) until suddenly coming upon the Chann Bangkok Noi sign.

Chann Bangkok Noi provided true respite from the chaos of Bangkok’s streets. After our Grand Palace adventure, we slept the merciful sleep of the jet lagged to prepare us for our walking cultural tour the next day led by Bangkok Vanguards.

My wife and I love walking tours to experience the heartbeat of a city and learn more from locals about local life. I’ll tell you all about the cultural tour here…it was really fabulous and I took lots of pretty pictures, so check it out.

Nashville, land of honky tonk dreams.

This small town big city is like Austin, Texas and Butte, Montana had a steel guitar baby. All the wee bricky homes of Butte, with the rolling green, mid-city river, rhythmic soul of Austin.

We’ve been eating, tour-nerding, and exploring neighborhoods. Neon signs, BBQ grills, deep fryers, and Southern greens are all around. Getting acquainted with the Ryman Auditorium had me reeling. Bluegrass was born on its stage and every single sequin-suited country singer worth their boots has rocked there, while the star-making Grand Ole Opry lived there from 1943 – 1974. Then, walking out the Ryman’s door and stepping onto the Broadway strip, hearing the honky tonk angels at iconic joints like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge just sealed the deal. Maybe everybody’s a star in Nashville.

It’s so damn charming here. The cozy boutiques and neighborhoody vibes, country music and street art had my heart singing. On top of that, we came to visit family, so that had a sweetness all its own. Nashville is completely new to me, and we did a lot in five days, most of it revolving around food. But—if for some reason—you’re teleported here and only have one day to explore, I’ll share this snapshot of East Nashville (plus a sprinkle of other fun) for your adventuresome soul.

East Nashville

We geared up for the afternoon at Pinewood Social with food, libations, and locally roasted Crema Coffee. My lady can be a cranky shopper so I like to give her a little booze before we mosey into uncharted waters. I don’t drink, so I loved their creamy latte with the special coconut and almond milk blend. Their low-key, upscale menu (shaved brussel salad with grilled salmon for me) fits the industrial chic vibe of the large warehouse. It’s been converted to house a cozy sitting zone, coffee shop, big central bar, tufted booths, and an indoor bowling alley, swimming pool out back, airstream bar, and bocce ball. Heaven? Yes.

Afterwards, we headed straight to 5 Points—at the intersection of Woodland, Clearview, and North 11th—and began the Country Christmas shopping experience at the badass collective called the Idea Hatchery.

A handful of local businesses incubate in the low rent, minimal overhead, community setting of the hatchery. I loved Walker Creek Confections‘ Sea Salt Carmels and am gifting a bag to my mama if I manage not to eat them on the plane. I also adored Haulin’ Oats and their mason jars full of oatmeal magic. I got so damn figgy with it this morning.

Next, we popped over to Art and Invention. We got a sweet Joan of Arc hot pink savior of wall art chain metal thing. You know the kind. Made by local artist Wynn Smith, the shop is full of Nashville artists’ paintings, jewelry, metalworks, and  more. It’s sweet.

We paused the shopping bonanza and took in some dancing bears and muraled ladies rising up by artist Leah Tumerman. Street art shines all over in this city.

When the buzz started to run low, we headed over to the converted garage turned coffee mecca that is Barista Parlor. Caffeine dreams really do come true. Shot of espresso, side of dark chocolate, soda water. So grown up.

Coffee not doing it? Nothing like sugar to save the day. We hit up local legend Five Daughters Bakery for a fix. My wife thinks gluten free donuts suck booty, but I feel real fancy free when I get to indulge. To that end, I loved their Paleo Crushers. I had both the orange chocolate and gingerbread. They were both dense and sweet and not reaaaalllly donuts but they tasted good. (P.S. The gingerbread dominated.) The 100 layer donut is their claim to fame. The vibe inside the bakery is hot pink neon and super fun. We also liked the charming 12 South neighborhood spot.

12 South

We clearly led this trip with our stomachs. The 12 South neighborhood was also really cute. I am in LOVE with Frothy Monkey coffee and their seasonal specialty, the Golden Monkey. Steamed milk, espresso, turmeric, ginger, and a lil sweet syrup. So dreamy and right.

12 South has its share of murals, too.

The ‘hood also has a slew of fancy/pricey boutiques and fabulous eateries like Edley’s BBQ. The 1/2 chicken was damn fine and the BBQ sauce just the right combo of heat and sweet. Local studio Liberation Yoga had a Christmas Eve class taught by Raquel Bueno that was so sweet and special and centering before diving into the tornado of wrapping paper and whirling dervish that is a four year old nephew opening gifts.

There’s so much more to do and see here. Next time I’m touring the new site of the Grand Ole Opry and will venture out into the Smokey Mountains. And maybe hang out with Dolly Parton.

 

This time jet lag snuck in the back door, resetting the clocks like a teenage daughter out till dawn. Back in our Oakland bed, home from Denmark, I had a whole week of sleep, cycles, and serenity. Yes. YES. I have finally transcended jet lag. Then the crabbiness , the microscopic analysis of domestic affairs, the subtle bickering with my wife. And there it was, bursting into day eight of our return like a real concern, the un-emptied dishwasher becomes the central focus of my silent sulking. Delayed onset jet lag, you sneaky snake.

We’re home and antsy. Finding problems to fix. The punishment for hurtling through multiple time zones. Is this why I meditate? So I can remember there are no problems? Jet lag is a luxury not a problem. Empty the dishwasher.

Oakland’s shifting summer weather is like Copenhagen, but higher highs punctuate the fashion climate. Back home I am in a short sundress, the room so muggy one night it’s hard to sleep. Two days later, I wear a pea coat. The witchy Bay weather never settled for long.

In bed, I order shoes—both lamenting and justifying such a quick 180 from my new slow fashion resolution. Copenhagen gave me an awakening of conscious: Think about what business practices I support with my spending. Did jet lag cause me to forget? Miz Mooz, are you slow in your fashion? Do you sustainably source your materials, protect the environment, and respect workers’ rights and wages, or do forced hands and smushed lives stitch the darling mauve leather Shay sandals I just had shipped? I swear though, the shift is happening. For years I’ve been opting not to pay attention to who makes my clothes. What do they call that, an inconvenient truth?

Maybe awakenings can be gradual. As a result of slow fashion research, I have foresworn Forever 21. Not that I’m surrendering to the age gap—god no. I forever love the trashy fashion they churn out. I’d wear that shit all day, gold bomber jacket perfectly matching my gold foil leggings. But I’ve started to feel like an asshole if can afford to buy fair labor clothes and I don’t. I would never feel like an asshole in gold foil leggings though.

My wife hasn’t slept all week. Jet lag swooped her up and tumbled her hard. I slept like an angel baby for 7 days straight. All week I reveled, free from intense self-obsession and self-centered fear. Is this the promised land, I thought? Is this how normal, sleep-hydrated brains work? Have I finally arrived? My years of fitful sleep and anxious brain chemistry miraculously rewired by the fresh, Copenhagen air. I finally solved life. 

And then day 8. Delayed onset no sleep. Delayed onset internal clock rebooting to a 9 hour time zone change. Delayed desire to be helpful and empty the dishwasher. Is this domestic bitchiness attributable to jet lag or am I passing the buck?*

By the way mom and dad, so sorry I would come in late and reset your bedroom clock on the weekends. Like you didn’t have a watch at your bedside. Like this actually worked?

by: annie.

 

*I emptied the dishwasher. It took me, like, two minutes.

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Untreated anxiety is like a walk in the park—a park full of toothy gators and you’re a future dead meat chihuahua.

<Side note, once an ex-boyfriend and I were off-roading in his rigged up 1984 Bronco, back in my boozing days. In the Sierra Hills not that far from civilization, this wished-he-was-a-militia man appeared out of nowhere on the dirt road, one knee down, his rifle sighted on us while his tan duster flapped in the breeze, encouraging us to halt our forward progress. We were trying to take the situation seriously but it was funny, this turkey playing G.I. Joe in the wilds of California. When we slowed, he walked the 30 yards to the Bronco, rifle pointing at us through the windshield, and asked, “What the hell are you doing out here, boy.” We reported we were joy-riding and he shared “You best get off this property right now…or you’re Dead Meat!” And he was dead serious. But everyone knows you can’t take someone seriously if they use the term “dead meat” and they are no longer in kindergarten. Even then it’s borderline. So I stayed silent, eyes straight ahead, because I didn’t want to test his short range shot by laughing. My ex, with as straight a face as possible, said, “You got it, buddy,” and off we went, crying with laughter. Double side note, now that people shoot other people all the time, if this event happened now it would be wildly terrifying.>

Tangent aside, untreated anxiety is the pits. I didn’t know until I knew that it is really nice not to have a crazed metal cage around my brain where I over-examine each option, meticulously weigh each possible outcome of each possible situation and try my best to be prepared for what might possibly come so my overstimulated brain can feel safe. Fortunately, four years ago I surrendered to SSRIs and it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done. That said, until then, packing for travel was goddamn hard.

Untreated anxiety presented as the afflicted (me) methodically (obsessively?) placing prepared outfits in layered stacks around (an overly large) suitcase (suitable for a family of gymnasts to call home) for weeks prior to a four day trip. When that became too overwhelming, the solution—I handily surmised with my wild brain—was to create a complex excel spreadsheet with columns titled Bottom, Top, Accessories, and Shoes for each day of the week and then break down each day and clothing category into sub-columns based on that day’s activities.

Reasonably, I needed to be prepared with three outfits for each day. There was cross color-coding and symbols and pivot tables. It was like giving an insanely hyper cat a quad shot of espresso. There’s a case to be made for being organized (let’s hear it for the hot tips in ladies’ mags!) but giving a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic isn’t helpful and giving myself an excel spreadsheet to obsess about outfits was tops on bad ideas. I’d share the fact of my packing strategy with *normal* people, making a self-deprecating joke, secretly sussing out the weirdness level of my behavior. We’d have a laugh but I knew that something was Not Right.

It takes time for the nervous system to settle down after being in a hyper-adrenaline* state for too many years. My anxiety had grown neck and neck with my drinking, but when the drinking had to go in my early 30s, it was just me and my brain and my sky high anxiety and no buffer. For three long years after I put down booze I resisted the idea that I, me! with my special sparkle and unique glow! would take a pill each day that would ostensibly change my brain. Never mind all that whiskey I swilled for years. That was different.

When I finally buckled to getting medical assistance, it was like that metal cage gripping my brain got unlocked. Small tasks became small tasks again.

But it’s not like—suddenly—I could pack, with carefree ease. That slow settling of my nervous system was a slow, slow burn. Soft openings of non-chaos that came with time, meditation, and practice.

Right now I’m packing for 3 weeks in Copenhagen. I still have shit laid out in sections on the floor surrounding my (more reasonably sized) suitcase, but no spreadsheet, it’s only 1.5 days until we fly, AND best of all, I’m not obsessively trying to pack for every possible scenario, in a panic I might not have the right jacket, as a way to bring order to my racing brain. In fact, I’m kind of not worried about it at all. Things are looking up.

*Totally not a doctor, but I adore Stating Facts that make sense to my life.

by _Annie_Crawford

Alaska feels like the end of the other world. People who live in 24 hour sun or 24 hour night must, by nature, be extreme. I’m fascinated. Who intentionally inhabits the 49th state? I foolishly think I know ALL about the Alaskan psyche from reading Drop City by T.C. Boyle in 2003. Obviously my research has been exhaustive.

I loved the 18.39 hours of sunlight early June provided. My internal clock burned like a midnight star. I cannot fathom living through the dark winters.

In Seward we floated the fjords of Resurrection Bay, saw humpback whales, and pet the arms of a 70 lb Giant Pacific Octopus named Gilly. Wild beasts in their habitat.

Bear Glacier is visible in the lower left of the shot. We’re floating on Resurrection Bay outside of Seward, AK

Back in Anchorage we hiked, biked, ate delicious food, walking amongst the 49ers (not the right use, you say?) pretending as though their lives were normal and they didn’t live on the precipice of time.

Now I’m back in the lower 48, eating bowl 3 of honey nut cheerios for dinner, and watching the reunion of season 6 of RHOBH. Wild kingdom indeed.

by _Annie_Crawford

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