Amtrak train
Travel

Tips, Tricks and Hacks to Riding the Train

Over the holidays, I took my sixth domestic train trip. Since my fear of flying creeped on strong about two years ago, my modes of transportation are now the car, the bus and for long distance, the train. (I don’t recommend taking the bus; it can be a sad and disorienting place.)

I’ve learned a great deal about American’s great passenger train, the Amtrak, over these past two years. A lot of friends have said that my journeys have inspired them to take the train themselves, which makes this blossoming rail nerd very happy. In case you’re interested in traveling via the train yourself, here are some tips, tricks and hacks for getting the best out of your Amtrak adventure.

1.) Spread yo’self out
During the slow season, you can easily claim yourself two coach seats and sprawl your fine ass out during sleepy hours. This is not frowned upon. However, if the train car does fill up, you gotta give up that extra seat. Don’t be the dick that pretends to be asleep when someone is looking Continue Reading

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Fashion/Design

IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Still Wear a Toe Ring

I bare a secret that is often too embarrassing to share.

It is something that I’m not proud of, but it’s a part of who I am, dammit. It is one of my physical imperfections that, over the years, I mostly forget about until that awkward moment arises during intimacy with a boyfriend or yoga with a friend.

“Excuse me, do you have a toe ring?”

I nervously snort, “Oh, that ol’ thing! Heck, I forgot it was even there!” I throw a dismissive gesture with my hand, but deep down I’m sweating like a pig on an elliptical.

They saw it. The saw my secret.

The truth of the matter is, yes, I do often forget that it’s been on my right toe since 1997, when I was fourteen years old and toe rings, in addition to nose rings and eyebrow rings, seemed like a wise fashion choice for the pubescent teenager. Since I had nightmares of infections and permanent scarring from nose and eyebrow jewelry, a toe ring was the edgiest I would go. And much like an ass tattoo, my toe ring was not for everyone’s Continue Reading

Hipstercrite Life

What to Say and Not Say to Someone with Cancer

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As many of you know, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer over the holidays. Maneuvering through the early part of Grandma’s cancer journey was a whirlwind- countless doctors’ appointments and medical procedures- but one constant that got us through it was the incredible support from others. The care and concern of our friends and family helped give us the feelings of hope and love during a difficult time.

A handful of well-intentioned people also said some pretty lame-o things to us. Knowing what to say to a person just diagnosed with cancer, and their family, can be difficult. I know they didn’t mean what they said or maybe they just have mouth diarrhea, but their words stung. I’m writing this article not under the pretense that I’m now an expert in the field of cancer, but as a person who experienced a wide array of responses to her grandmother’s cancer. This also isn’t an attempt to shame anyone; I’m hoping it will give a little bit of insight to those wanting to say the right thing. I myself often didn’t know what to say to someone affected by cancer, but my recent crash course helped.

1.) Don’t blame them for their cancer.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but yes, we actually heard this. My grandma has lung cancer and she was a smoker over twenty years ago. When we told people about her lung cancer, a few people said, “Well, she smoked, didn’t she?” Even when we asked her oncologist if her lung cancer was smoking-related and he said no, one friend told us the oncologist was wrong.

When something bad happens to a person, we want to find a reason why. If a person smoked, or didn’t treat their bodies well, we have to assume that is the reason why they developed cancer (or any other ailment). Even if that person makes a healthy change in their lives, we still want to assume it was their prior behavior that caused their issue. Whether or not it did, it’s not up to us to judge or point fingers. People diagnosed with cancer aren’t stupid. In the back of their minds, they may already be thinking, “Shit! Did that ten years of smoking cigarettes in my twenties cause this?!”

2.) Don’t tell them that they have “bad cancer.”

Some types of cancers and their stages have better prognoses than others, but it’s not up to us to tell cancer patients whether or not their cancer is bad or good. Leave it up to their doctor to tell them. Telling them that they have “bad cancer” can lead to unnecessary stress and fear; telling them that they have “good cancer,” as my friend pointed out, is just silly. No cancer is good! Try to stay away from saying comments like this, and just focus more on offering words of hope and support.

3.) Don’t tell them their treatment is going to be crappy.

“Oh, I heard treatment for lung cancer is awful!” We heard this from a couple of friends and acquaintances. Cancer patients are already scared; they don’t need unsolicited negative opinions from people who aren’t medical professionals. Just know that when you say something like that, it can have a huge impact.

4.) Don’t tell them what they should do.

I know for my family, hearing the stories of other survivors and their unique treatment plans was helpful and encouraging. Every person and cancer is made differently and selecting a treatment plan that is best for you is a very daunting task. Unless you’re a doctor, don’t try to talk your friend or family member in or out of one type of treatment. Cancer is confusing enough as it is. I would argue that it’s ok to share your opinions, but don’t beat the person over the head with them.

5.) Stay positive and hopeful.

This comes down more to personal preference, but I know for us, we wanted to hear words of hope, encouragement, love and support. I’m all for speaking your mind, but cancer is not the time to do that. You know what cancer survivors and their families want to hear? They want to hear things like, “You’re doing awesome!” or “You’re going to be ok!” or “I know you’ll beat this!” Even if you’re full of shit, positive words are what you need to share. Keep that Negative Nelly locked away in the basement.

6.) Offer your support.

Even if you don’t know how to react, just say that you’re there for them, whether it’s in person, through the phone or online. This can go a long way. And you know what? They may take you up on that offer, because cancer is hard, but it has a way of bringing people together. For us, knowing that so many people were ready and willing to help wrapped us in a blanket of fuzzy feelings.

7.) Don’t look at them like they’re dying.

Cancer survivors are people just like you. If you run into them in the store or on the street, don’t stare at them like Death is doing the jitterbug over their shoulder. Many people keep a very positive and upbeat attitude during treatment. Tell your friend that they’re awesome, give them a big hug and slap ‘em a high five. They may have a fight ahead of them, but they’re strong- especially when you have their back.

train travel
Travel

Stories of Strangers on the Train: The Christian and his Gay Daughter

I can’t remember how our conversation started, but we talked from 8AM to 10:15AM. He was 60 years old, a truck driver. His daughter bought him his first smartphone, and he asked me if I could download a few apps for him. I was surprised how relaxed he was giving me his phone and personal information, but the train has a way of making you feel comfortable. I find myself sharing stories of my own life to strangers.

While I was downloading the apps, he began talking about his daughter who gifted him the phone. His face lit up when he spoke of her. “She’s an artist, a poet, a rapper. She’s cool,” he said. Many years went by where they didn’t see one another, and when he saw her again, he noticed that she had a very beautiful “female friend” with her. “You know, my daughter likes members of her own sex,” he told me. He mentioned God once or twice in our conversation, so I wasn’t sure where the conversation was headed. “She was afraid to tell me that she liked women,” he said. “Everyone Continue Reading

Hipstercrite Life

Hearing the words “you have cancer”

Grandma

Grandma getting her hair did three days after her diagnosis

We heard those terrible, dreadful words- “you have cancer”- on Tuesday.

My grandmother, my stoic, indestructible grandmother, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

They found it by accident. She had fallen and wanted to see if she fractured her rib. A small shadow on her lung made itself known on an X-ray, and then a CAT scan. The doctor in the ER wasn’t sure what the small shadow was, so he recommended that she see an oncologist.

An oncologist?!

Half of me thought it was impossible- ridiculous- that Grandma could have cancer. The other half knew for certain that she had cancer, but it was still small. She was asymptomatic, minus the general fatigue she felt as an 88-year-old woman with arthritis.

I arrived home for the holidays just in time for Grandma to see the oncologist, who ordered a biopsy. At the hospital, my grandma, mom and I made each other laugh. We were nervous, and the laughter felt good. Grandma was Continue Reading

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Austin

What Was the Best Thing That Happened in Austin in 2014?

As I reflect back on Austin’s 2014, a mix of happy and sad emotions bubble to the surface. Though it was a fun and exciting year in this  snazzy city, Austin had its fair share of heartbreak as well. Austin is feeling the growing pains of being the #1 fastest growing city in America, and sometimes the aftereffect can be challenging for its citizens.

For me, two of the best things that happened in Austin in 2014 were 1.) The move from a citywide to districtwide City Council (though the election is this year, the switch won’t happen until next year) 2.) the Lady Bird Lake boardwalk expansion. Though I sometimes worry that Austin is growing too big, too quickly, these two events have really enhanced the city.

I asked some of my Austin buddies what was the best thing that happened in Austin in 2014, and their answers were pretty universal. Many were excited about the addition of Uber and Lyft, while others were excited by the boardwalk and Google Fiber.

Check out their thoughts below!

 Kelly Krause

Kelly Continue Reading

starving artist
Blogging, Hipstercrite Life

How Not to be a Starving Artist

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist. Whether it was filmmaking, writing, acting or dressing up as deceased Borscht Belt entertainers, I had the bug and I knew I needed to pursue a career in the arts.

When you’re a wee one, you have no idea that a career in the arts means years, or sometimes a lifetime, of struggle, heartbreak, comparing yourself to your friends who took more conventional paths, stealing and drinking tiny bottles of alcohol from airplanes or being curled up in a ball on the couch immobile from the demoralizing fact that Bret Easton Ellis wrote Less Than Zero at 21, Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane at 25 and Tina Fey began writing for Saturday Night Live at 27. You have no freaking clue that these times of uncertainty will be punctuated with last ditch efforts to become a “real human being” by working as a paralegal at a law firm or an accountant at a law firm or an office manager at a law firm, and you’re not even sure how you got a job at a law firm because Continue Reading

aerial silks austin vamps dance
Austin

Why You Should Make Aerial Silks a New Year’s Resolution

So, I didn’t win the Snap Kitchen #21DaysforGood Challenge, but I did learn a lot over the past 21 days. Because of this challenge, I completed volunteer opportunities and physical challenges that I had been too lazy/fearful/forgetful to do. I’m becoming a regular volunteer at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, I’m attempting to walk to work at least one day a week and I’ll being signing up for more aerial silk classes at Vamps Dance in the new year. I also learned that low dairy and low gluten makes my belly less poofy.

In the end, everyone won because Snap Kitchen donated $6,000 to charity!

One of the highlights of the challenge was doing an aerial silks class taught by Tolly (from Austin Eavesdropper). Kelly from SXSW was my partner in crime.

tolly austineavesdropper aerial silks (Here is a picture of Tolly from her website, looking all gorgeous!)

Not only was this wildly fun, but it was also liberating! First, you use muscles you forgot you even had (my hands are so weak!!!). Second, it feels kind of sexy. And not necessarily in a “Mmmm I feel so sexy…LOOK AT ME!” kind of way, but more of a “Wow! I feel really comfortable in my body right now” kind of way. Balancing in the air on thick fabric allows your body to pose in ways that doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable on the ground.

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting or knowing Tolly, you know that she is a kind and gentle soul to be around. Her patience and encouragement made a somewhat challenging exercise extremely enjoyable. By the end, I felt a huge sense of pride in myself, which is something I haven’t felt in a long time in relation to exercise.

I HIGHLY recommend taking a class at Vamps Dance. Kelly and I are planning on taking more aerial silk classes in the new year! Vamps Dance has two locations: 1601 E. 5th St and 2400 E. Cesar Chavez. This is a GREAT New Year’s resolution.

Also, if you are a fan of aerial silks and Tolly, check out the crowdsourcing campaign for her aerial silks troupe, Rapt Aerial Dance. The groups says, “In founding Rapt, we wanted to create a successful business based on innovative aerial performance, an environment for artistic training, and collaboration with other artists. So we’re fundraising to cover our start-up costs…”

So, please give them a boost and try a class soon!

aerial silks vamps dance(Me, Tolly and Kelly; pic from Kelly)

Austin skyline
Austin

Yesterday a Homeless Man Gave Me Money

Last night, as I parallel parked my car on West 6th Street, between Hut’s Hamburgers and Whole Foods, a tall, older man dressed in black waved his arms at me, implying that I should back my car up.

“A $40 ticket they’ll give you for not being in the lines,” I could hear muffled through my window.

I made sure my car was in the lines and watched as the tall, older man dressed in black cheerfully spoke to the stream of people who walked by.

“Ain’t that a nice sweater you have!” he said to one man who eyed him suspiciously.

I exited my car and walked to the parking meter that stood between the man and I.

I too was suspicious of his jovial nature, and as we made small talk while I tried to purchase a parking sticker for my car with a credit card, I wondered when we’d get to the point he’d ask me for change.

Admitting this makes me cringe, but like most major cities, parking in downtown settings often comes with its share of panhandlers. When I was little, I couldn’t Continue Reading

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Film, Pop Culture

The World is F’ed Up Right Now, So I Wrote Some X-files Fan Fiction

Guys, shit is fucked up in the world right now, so I wrote some X-files fan fiction.

I hope you enjoy it.

As I’ve shared before, I spent a lot of my teenage years dreaming about the lives of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (mostly about them getting it on.)

Even now, when I have trouble sleeping, my imagination picks up where the show and second movie left off.

I think about this shit a lot, so I thought I’d write it down.

So, if you’re a weirdo like me, I hope you enjoy.

And please don’t judge my writing; it’s fan fiction.

(P.S. Writing about sexy times is hard for me, so it might take a couple of bottles of wine before I write sexy-fun-time-stuff.)

—-

When we last saw Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, they were clinging to one another in a New Mexico hotel bed, desperately staving off fear and hopelessness. They had just discovered that the end of the world was near, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Side note: In the world of X-files, the end of the Continue Reading