Tag Archives: Travel

Love: It’s What Makes a Subaru MY Subaru

I will start this post off by saying that yes, this is shameless pandering on some level.  But nothing I’m about to say about my car isn’t completely true (and anyone who has ever heard me wax on and on about my nearly eighteen-year-old car can confirm the validity of the sentiments hereafter).

My parents purchased our 1997 Subaru Impreza Brighton (2-door, green) at the end of the model year, just prior to the unfortunate exploding of our faithful 1987 Volvo 240DL station wagon.  The car was my mother’s, then my father’s after the Volvo’s demise (Mom got a 1999 Honda CRV that she still drives).  When I finally got my learner’s and then my license in 2003, the Subaru became mine.

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Her name is Nigel.  Yes, her.  My roommate M. was there when she was finally named.  I really wish I had noted how many miles she had on her when I got her.  Definitely over 100,000.  Probably closer to 110,000 because that’s when her last timing belt went on until recently.  She currently stands at 214,000 well-earned miles.

There is a bond that comes from your first car, whether you like the car or not.  My brother’s first car, my cousin’s Passat, met an early demise due to rapidly falling snow, and I’m pretty sure my brother is still mourning its loss.  I wasn’t around for my partner’s first car, but the first car I knew him with, a purple (yes, purple) Honda, was one of my great loves (though, I’m pretty sure, he would have purposely wrecked that car to collect the insurance money if it had been worth it).

So many times different people have told me to junk this car.  The vinyl is starting to tear, I’ve had to put about 1500 bucks into her this year alone (all general maintenance stuff i’d have to do on a 5-6 year old car, too, I would add), and I’m sure she’s not as safe as a brand-new car.  But I love her, and like the love of Joni Mitchell, true love lasts a lifetime.

Clearly she needs new paint (and a bath)...

Clearly she needed new paint (and a bath)…

So now that she’s just hit 200,000, and I get ever closer to 30, I find myself getting nostalgic.  In an attempt to channel that nostalgia in some meaningful way, my goal this summer is to drive my love across the country to San Jose, to spend the summer with my partner writing (finishing?) my dissertation:

Roughly 2800 miles.  The first half I have places to stop (J. and Aunt T., you’ve been warned).  After that it gets murky.  If you live along this route, and I don’t know it (and you want to see me), please respond.  Or if you want me to pick you up and you want to come along, I can promise Haribo and music.  All in all, it’ll be about 6000 miles before I return to the East Coast just in time for my 30th birthday.

In an ideal world, some of the people who have taken the many East Coast road trips I’ve been on (Boston to Atlanta, Savannah to Orlando, North Carolina to Ohio to Boston) would be there for stints of the drive.  And in a really ideal world, Nigel won’t blow up from the stress (notice I’m taking the southern route).

In the most amazing world ever, Subaru would make an epic commercial out of the experience.  They’ve done it before, focusing on families and the lived, loved experience of owning a Subaru.  Why not make one about a (nearly) vintage car still on the road?

My father, in what I can only hope is my 30th (and 40th…) birthday present (it’s on the internet now, Dad, so it must be true), has taken care of having most of her current wears and tears replaced or shined up.  She’s even had her headlights realigned, so now she can see properly.  Add to that a new axle, new hubcap covers, and a paint job to cover with new bumper stickers.  Heck, with the amount he’s done, there’s probably a new primary buffer panel and port compression coil (with functioning catalyzer) in there somewhere (seriously, thanks again, Dad).  In addition to all of the repairs Dad did, I have replaced the head gasket and the steering column wiring.  I also splurged for cruise control and new window cranks.  I’m waiting on the last couple stickers to put on the trunk (It’s a Subaru Nothing at the moment), and then I’ll post photos.  According to my mechanics at the wonderful Shelor Motor Mile, what I’m doing is actually “restoring” this car, not “repairing” it.  Who knew?

I’ll be writing a few more posts in the next couple days.  One will most definitely be a request for music suggestions and/or playlists.  Once the last touches are on the car, I’ll post a gallery of photos.  And I will definitely be GoPro-ing and live-tweeting the trip as I go.  Wish me luck!


5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.

This East Coast woman has been living in California the last almost-month, predominately in Irvine, with stints to LA, Hemet, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach. What I did not expect was to experience complete and utter culture shock in my mother’s own home state. So what I plan to do in this post is to give all of you attending an Indian wedding for the first time some tips for getting through the multitude of events you are about to experience.

My current S.O. is Indian, and as part of this trip, I attended the wedding of the fantastic N. & N. (names redacted to protect the spiderphobic subjects of this post). I’ve been to all sorts of weddings, and for crying out loud, I study and teach both religions (Jainism/Islam) covered by this wedding. I’ve heard stories of other weddings and seen my fair share of Bollywood movies. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for these series of days.

Yes, days. We actually missed one of the first events, being held on a Wednesday, or otherwise, it would have been a Wednesday thru Saturday celebration. Traditional American weddings: take notes.

I won’t bore y’all with the details of every single ceremony (by my count, we attended at least 6 separate things spread out from Orange County to the LAX Hilton), but I thought I would share some things I’ve learned about myself and my new partner’s traditions while attending the various portions of this wedding week.

(Thanks to N&N if they’re reading this for inviting me to be a part of their special week. But seriously, y’all, stop getting married. What are you up to, 15 separate sets of vows?)

5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.
1) Let’s start with “bring aspirin.” Unless you’re a dancer used to dancing barefoot, parts of your body you didn’t even know could hurt will hurt for 2-3 days afterward. And yes, part of this may be a “Holly needs to be in better shape” issue, but part of it definitely was a lack of arch support. And with regards to arch support, in the immortal words of Danny Glover’s Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

2) Aunties are your friend. No seriously, collect them like Pokémon or POGs. Aunties will help you redo your sari when the pleats get screwed up (they will), will reattach your bindi, and will explain to you what the hell is going on with all the ceremonies you’ve never seen before (assuming you’re white or non-Indian like me). They are basically G-d’s gift to first-time wedding-goers. Ask questions. Many people from the community my own age didn’t even know what was going on (Indian traditions are so varied, after all), so chances are you’re not the only one with questions.

3) Prepare to be emotionally and physically wiped. Seriously. You’re going to be active for 15 hours a day. And most of what you experience is going to be brand new and wonderful, from the music, to the food, to the conversations. There will be so much sensory input your brain is honestly just going to get tired. And after your third night of only 5 hours of sleep, you’re going to get cranky. Plan ahead, stay hydrated, and remember, you will have fond memories of your experience (G-d willing) after you get some much-needed sleep. (And you will need sleep. Prepare to take an entire day off after the last event).

4. Don’t be surprised when you start picking up on Hindi/Indian vernacular words in future conversations. You absorbed a lot more than you realized the last few days. This literally just happened to me. Some woman on my plane literally just hollered “Chalo!” (Let’s go!) at her kid. (If you’ve ever travelled to the Middle East, this is gonna be your “yalla.”) My head whipped up like I was being yelled at. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start acclimating to the new culture and traditions you find yourself surrounded by.

5. Finally, embrace the sari. Or whatever clothing you wear, even if it’s Western. I was terrified of the sari for the first hour I wore it. It wasn’t mine (Thanks, S., for letting me borrow yours!), it is different to wear than any other formal clothing I have ever worn, and I was terrified I was going to trip and munch it horribly. (I did, once. And I didn’t faceplant, so go me.) And know that there are probably at least 5 other people there just as uncomfortable for that first hour as you. At least two Indian women approached me to tell me I was wearing the sari well and asked me how often I’d worn them. They were shocked to find out it was my first time and responded that even they avoided them at all costs. What I’m trying to say is you’re going to be far more comfortable and confident than you thought you would be. Be prepared to kick off your shoes and dance for hours. Feel free to move and have fun in whatever you’re wearing, whether it be a sari, kurta, or suit.

So, hopefully the spirit intended by this list comes across. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, but this is what has been mulling around in my mind since the wedding was over on Saturday (at 2 a.m.). On my way back to Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) now. Y’all have a pleasant sleep.

“Grandma’s House”

When you’re a military brat (and I’m sure in many other kinds of childhoods, too), home is an ephemeral concept.  I could say to you “I’m so excited to be going home this weekend!” and unless there have been other context clues in the conversation, that could mean any number of cities (or states!).   But for me, my true home is Grandma’s house.

I’ve written other posts from the house in Brooklyn (MD) but never a post about the house in Brooklyn.  For me, this house will always be Grandma’s house, even though my aunt has lived here now for at least seven years.

Thanks, Google Maps! Oh hey, there's my brother's car!

Thanks, Google Maps! Oh hey, there’s my brother’s car!

It’s honestly nothing that special to the trained eye.  A rancher in Brooklyn Park, MD.  Full basement.  Sizable yard, good porch, driveway but no garage.  But for me, it’s home more than any other place.

It hasn’t always been “Grandma’s house.”  My (great-great-great?)-uncle Charlie (pronounced Chah-lie if you’re from Balmer – R’s usually belong only at the end of words) built it in (according to Zillow) 1964.  When his wife died, he asked my great-grandparents to move in with him (he was really old.  Like 90s) and help him keep up the house.  When he died, the house became theirs.

So I guess, for my aunt, uncle, and father, this house, too, for a time, was “Grandma’s house.”

When my great-grandmother died, my great-grandfather asked my grandparents to move in with him.  When he died, the house became theirs.  Noticing a theme?

I enter this house’s life a few years before my great-grandfather (Pop-Pop) died.  Some of my earliest memories involve eating strawberries at the kitchen table (the table that is now in my own apartment) and sneaking him 5th Avenue bars out of the fridge (if I could nab two without getting caught, I got to eat the second one.  What a good Pop-Pop).

After my great-grandfather died, my grandparents remained in the house.  The house became known in my head as “Gramma and Grampa’s house.”  It was the house where everyone came for holidays and birthdays.  I have vivid memories of spreading out newspaper on the kitchen table and 15 people cramming around a table that normally sat 6 to eat blue crabs.  Christmases were in the living room with every chair in the house dragged in so we could open presents.

It’s the house where my name is pronounced “Hally” (O’s don’t exist in Balmerese.  If you want a good laugh, get me to pronounce “Orange”).  Where “Oh my gaaaaaaad” can mean anything from surprise to empathy.  Where if something amazing happened, someone would yell out “Hot dog!”

I slept in the bed in “Grandma’s room” the night before my flight out to California last thursday  It hasn’t been Grandma’s room in nearly eight years, and the bed in there now certainly isn’t the one I jumped up and down on as a kid when the adults weren’t looking.  The bed promptly broke… and I had to frantically help my cousins put it back together (and by help, I mean play lookout).

My aunt moved back in sometime after my grandfather died (again… common theme) in 2001, and around 2007, my grandmother had to move into a home.  It’s really my aunt’s house now, but it’s almost impossible for me to think of it that way.  And I think that’s the case for my cousins too.  Cousin E. asked my aunt if I was staying with her that night or in “Grandma’s room.”  That’s what got me thinking about writing this post.

Another early memory is sleeping in my pop-up playpen in my grandmother’s room.  It was a special treat instead of sleeping in the “middle bedroom” with my parents.  And then later, sneaking episodes of Sliders and Boy Meets World with my older cousins when my parents had deemed me “too young” to watch such things.  I better not mention all the Ren and Stimpy…  My dad reads these posts.

I’m heading back to Baltimore today from Orange County.  Landing at 1:05 a.m. EDT, so I’m sure I’ll want to do nothing but sleep once I get back.  And as with many other trips and stays, my aunt is picking me up at BWI and taking me home.  Home to Grandma’s house.

What is Life?

Sitting on our bed in our hotel room in Manchester, UK.  This probably won’t be the picture-heavy travelogue many of you were hoping for.  Don’t worry, that will come later.

After three days of traveling…

(BWI-->Heathrow-->Greater London-->Bishops Stortford-->Greater London-->Manchester)

(BWI–>Heathrow–>Greater London–>Bishops Stortford–>Greater London–>Manchester)

… much of which was on foot or cramped in a seat that even I don’t fit into, tonight has been a well-deserved respite.  Tonight, Ryan and I wandered around our tiny corner of Manchester, hitting up used book shops and ordering curry take-away.  We even hit up a Tesco’s for some beer before coming back to our room and eating our picnic of goodness on our bed (in PJs!).  Even having to put the finishing touches on my PowerPoint for tomorrow can’t mess up this good mood.

Just listened to George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass, Volume One” while taking a long soak in an Olympic-sized tub.  Listening to George Harrison in the north of England.  How much better can it get?

OK fine, you want a picture.  Here’s a picture (completely unedited) of the fish (of the fish and chips I hear are so popular here…) we had for dinner last night:

Ryan and O. for scale. According to our host, F., we basically at “half a whale.” My stomach agreed in the best possible way.