Friday, November 5, 2010


In the springtime, I walk around Portland infected by the same young lust embodied in the blossoming flowers and twitterpated squirrels.  Every man and woman are attractive to me and I want to let them know it.  It becomes my unofficial profession to perve on these fine humans and all their beauty and ability, their flushed, dewey skin and all that potential.  It's a springtime thing, I think you know what I mean.

In the fall, however, my attention turns to vans: camper vans, ten-passenger church vans, RVs disguised as vans, cargo vans, EuroVans, and, in desperate situations, even minivans!  As the rain starts falling, taking the leaves with it, my own sensual self yearns for sleep.  I begin to covet isolation, to crave solitude, and to consider throwing everything away in exchange for a fresh start somewhere, anywhere, else.  Vans symbolize an opportunity for escape; they are adventure, growth, solitude, and fun with the dog all rolled into one big old beast of a freedom machine.  And that is a beautiful opportunity, indeed.

Two weeks ago, one of my dearest friends moved to New Hampshire.  Don't mistake the gravity of this!  Lucie lived ten blocks from me, worked with me for a year, and was a Jazzercise student of mine as well.  We saw each other nearly every day.  We drank coffee together, worked out together, talked and talked and talked together, made mix tapes for each other, got drunk on bottles of wine together on Monday afternoons, gave each other books, and built a private little culture all our own.  Example!  We had this thing where we would buy two different sandwiches at lunch and swap halves, thinking that we were not only genius for having come up with the arrangement, but also that we were lucky to have someone else who totally understood the predicament of equally wanting both the tuna sandwich and the caprese.  It was like we were lovers.

She moved away from me!

Now, I knew I was going to miss her when she left.  I counted on being sad.  What I didn't count on was that suddenly my whole life looked barren.  My job was suddenly desperately unsatisfying, my single-gal lifestyle was lonely, I missed my brothers and sister, and shouldn't I have achieved more with my life by this age?  Shouldn't I be, like owning a home and married and in a fulfilling career by now?  Suddenly I felt like I had nothing.  It was time to get in The Van again, to escape.  There was nothing to lose.

Know what though?  Even though escape sounds appealing, there's now a side of me that recognizes and really appreciates the value of sticking it out.  Though it would be a fun adventure, running away with Ralgh in a van isn't going to solve anything.  Instead, I need to look at exactly where I am and take stock of what I have, which isn't nothing after all.  I have tons of pals.  I have a cozy apartment.  I have community.  Two good jobs.  I have unending access to some of the best coffee in the world.  I have a crazy old dog (13 in November!) who I love to bits.  All these things are things I can work with, and I'd have to give most of them up to go on another Vantasy.  And then what happens when I come back?

What I've learned is that adventures are great; we need them.  I plan to always find them for myself throughout my life.  But traveling, constantly moving around, can also be dangerous in that it is a way of retarding the growth of your career, home, and relationship investments.  When I get the most desperate to leave everything, I find it's because I want to run away from some problem.  I want to avoid dealing with the ways I've mismanaged certain aspects of my life.

So I'm settling in for now, in spite of all those beautiful vans out there, to discover and learn about how to make this every day life into something neat.  I'm practicing nurturing the quotidian goals: job, friends, soy cappucinos, exercise, owning a home... and looking forward to a more distant, less tangible payoff.  I'm taking a focused, but relaxed look at my life.  I'm making thoughtful decisions on what to do next.  I'm not freaking out and selling all my stuff in order to move into a junky old van. I'm. Chilling. The. Fuck. Out.  For once.

Dang.  I think I'm finally growing up.

Monday, April 13, 2009

oh yeah, remember how i did that amazing thing that one time?

I miss the Vantasy.

I've had enough time to finally miss it. I miss crawling up into my loft with a book and a flashlight, sliding into my sleeping bag while Ralgh circled in place looking for the perfect spot to sleep. I miss waking up when my body was ready and the freedom of ignoring clocks. I miss spending half of my day doing things that made me happy, healthy, and wise. Things like jogging and blogging, sitting and knitting, cooking and looking. What joy to have had time and freedom to choose how to take care of myself!

But there was a time for my Vantasy, and that time has passed. I still enjoy the comforts of being home, lingering in the shower, gently turning the cold almost to the off position and frying my skin for just a few minutes longer. I delight in waking up in the morning with Ralgh's nose inches from my own and gently patting the bed, inviting him to hop up and cuddle. I like walking in my neighborhood and recognizing folks that I know. And I'm planning on going rescue cat shopping in the next few weeks and making my family a little bigger!

But, for the first time since my reentry into my old life, I feel a little bit of loss. I have begun to mourn the Vantasy, and see it for the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime journey that it was. I know I can choose to go on another adventure at any time, but the Vantasy is dead.

I remember sailing through the desert way back in September, singing, nervously eyeing the temperature gauge as the needle rose (who knew that I had to downshift during the long, high desert climbs; isn't that what an automatic transmission is for?). I remember being enticed by signs advertising nature centers, the world's largest fill-in-the-blank, garage sales, or anything else, and making a turn which would lead me through a new and unexpected town, or down a long winding road. Ralgh was always game for these digressions, enthusiastically looking over my shoulder as I drove.

I remember discovery, spending nights in darling little neighborhoods, or at gorgeous state parks, or at the bend of a mosquito-laden river. I remember making single-serving friends, and having fresh appreciation for people and places. There was no such thing as boredom. I remember humbly respecting the weather, humbly respecting the power and weight of my home on wheels, and humbly respecting that I, an adult, still have lots to learn.

The trick, I think, to coming back home, is learning to have that same appreciation, enthusiasm, openness, and humble respect for the the people and places I see everyday. The trick is making time, even now that my life is more restricted and scheduled, to still make myself happy and healthy and wise. Maybe that means setting an alarm clock, and it definitely means retraining myself everyday to view my same-old same-old world with fresh eyes. It takes commitment to joy, especially during the stressful times. It means making choices even when it feels like there are none to be made. It means waking up in the morning and choosing to go to work, and choosing to be delighted and surprised by whatever happens there.

I haven't figured out why taking care of myself feels like an effort since I've returned. It felt so natural while I was traveling. Maybe figuring that out is part of my journey. Maybe my Vantasy isn't over yet. Maybe it never will be.

Friday, February 13, 2009

the end of the beginning

The Vantasy: When did it begin? As a bright-red-Clairol-box-dyed seventeen year old working as a pool attendant at the local RV resort, my awkward boyfriend brought me McDonald's Chicken McNugget(TM?) meals while I dipped tiny strips of paper into the water to see what color they'd turn and made sure kids didn't drown on my clock. I was a "pool attendant," certified in nothing, pining for the respect given to actual Lifeguards, but knew that I could barely swim and would not have the slightest idea how to give CPR should a situation arise.

Back then I used to pray. I believed in God. I wanted to marry my cat, Hershey. I ate meat. My favorite singer was Alanis Morrisette. I wanted to be famous. I attended a pool for a living, and I thought it was the coolest job ever because I got to talk to boys and get a tan and get paid.

Me with Chicken McNugget Boyfriend before my junior prom

I met a woman there, while working at the pool, who had two matching little girls with white-blonde, waist-length, pin-straight hair. After spending day after day, week after week, marinating in chlorine, their white-blonde hair began to take on a greenish tint. The mom trusted my advice, being the chlorine and hair color expert that I was, and we became friends after I spent an hour's worth of my wages on a bottle of shampoo that I guaranteed would restore the towheads to their natural Swedish-looking state. A gift, from the fake lifeguard to the perfect little flaxen beauties.

Turned out that this family was my first intimate encounter with full-time RVers, and I remember being blown away by the fact that a family could live in an RV resort in Hartland, Michigan for a couple of mosquito-laden summer months, then follow the warm weather south whenever they had the notion. A house on wheels! The ability to see the country on their own time! Until that point, I'd always thought that RVs were for weekend trips. It never occured to me that you could live in one indefinitely.

The Vantasy was born, in a sense, that summer, though it looked very different in my naive imagination. You see, this was back in the mid 1990s, when people could get jobs that paid living wages AND included things like health insurance and retirement funds. In its first incarnations, the Vantasy was to happen in my retirement years, and I would sell my house in order to buy my RV. And then I would visit my grandkids all over the country and stuff.

Ha! I thought I would own a house! And have grandkids! I was so cute back then.

Clairol #459 Medium Auburn Red. Full of promise and hope. Bill Clinton was the President. c. 1995

And it didn't occur to me until twelve years later, when I woke up alone in my bed with bags under my eyes and pillow marks on my face... after months of feeling sorry for myself about the end of my marriage... that this dream didn't have to wait until some ambiguous point in the future. "What are you going to do, Eva?" I asked myself on that day. I shifted my perspective, made a decision, plucked an event out of my future, and demanded that it happen now.

I've since taken a monumental emotional and physical journey. I made a giant circle around the country while living in a van with a dog. People ask me, "Now that the Vantasy is over, will you still write?" And all I can respond is, "Is it over?"

I'm back in Portland, I've returned to work and have showers whenever I want them. I've spent the last month dealing with reverse culture shock and the difficulty of reentry. I don't live in a van anymore, but the Vantasy hasn't really ended. And I don't think it ever will. Leaving Portland last August placed my life on a new path, a path on which I'm still traveling. I grew and changed in my Vanta C cocoon, and this journey of growth will continue into my future indefinitely.

I plan to continue writing, processing, and perhaps publishing small pieces based on my trip, but today I officially retire There Will Be Breakdowns. I will be starting another blog, but it will be written anonymously, probably based on my career in the nightclub industry. Maybe you'll stumble upon me out there in blogland one day and not even know it!

And I'll keep this blog open for a little while for updates.

Speaking of: My head is feeling better after two weeks. I was still slurring and stumbly a couple of days ago, but am feeling almost back to normal, mentally, since yesterday. My memory isn't great yet, and I rely heavily on my iPhone alerts to keep my life in order from day to day. But I notice improvement every day, and think I'm almost out of the woods. I have quite a bit of neck and shoulder pain still, and headaches, but I'm working on those with yoga and massage. My doc told me that I'm not allowed to ride a bike again until she gives the okay, which I expect will happen during my next visit, this Wednesday.

I've also decided that enough is enough with the reentry breakdowns. While I deserved to whine for a little while, I think that allowance has expired and I've adopted a new old policy of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I'm in pain, have a big ol' medical bill, am in conflict with my former employer, and am stressed about paying rent. But when people ask how I am, no matter how worried or sad I am, I force a smile and say, "I love being back. I have been loving taking a million showers! I stand in there until I'm a prune, then I do it again a few hours later." And then we have a laugh, and my problems all seem to shrink down just a little bit.

Just like waking up last year and plucking my Vantasy out of the future, I choose today to pluck happiness from my future and experience it NOW. I've shifted my perspective, once again, and it's working. We are going to be fine, Ralgh and I. And as long as there's sunshine and grass, family and friends, and 31st birthdays to celebrate (tomorrow!), there's something to be happy about.

Thank you, friends, for joining me on this journey.

With love, sunshine, rainbows, and kittens,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Emotional Casserollercoaster

Tater Tot Casserole, Corn Casserole, Chocolate Casserole, Black Bean Enchilada Casserole,
carrots (not a casserole), pan full of ice and PBR

"A casserole, from the French for "saucepan," is a large, deep pot or dish used both in the oven and as a serving dish. The word casserole is also used for the food cooked and served in such a dish."


1. food cooked and served in a casserole"

My comfort foods are anything baked. Pizza, cookies, cakes, fake chicken patties, tater tots, and casseroles. Given the above definitions of casseroles from respected sources (isn't everything on the internet TRUE?), I would say that this all-encompassing dish was created by Jesus just for me. You don't need to know what you're doing to make a casserole. According to the, all you really need is the right dish, which I have TWO of.

Growing up in the midwest, I ate my fair share of casseroles. Tuna casseroles, hamburger casseroles, green bean casseroles, scalloped potato casseroles... Up until this point I was operating under the false assumption that a casserole MUST contain one of the following ingredients: 1. cream of mushroom soup, 2. copious amounts of eggs, 3. absurd amounts of butter or Crisco, 4. peas, 5. Durkee french fried onions, 6. ungodly amounts of cheese. Turns out none of these things are required! All a woman really needs is the trusty Pyrex dish with lid and an oven.

Which has led me to a new and disturbing level of comfort food consumption. Rachel Ray would turn over in her grave (if she was dead, which many people I know wish was true) if she saw the kind of things I was doing with my Pyrex. I make casserole brownies, casserole lasagna, chocolate casserole, apple crisp casserole, pizza casserole... My head could potentially explode with the sheer infinity of casserole possibilities.

Your choice: Either stick your head in, or a Pyrex

And life has been hard these days. All I want are baked goods. As the pieces of my life fall back into place, or don't, I retreat to my kitchen and bake a casserole. And then I eat it, while watching the last four seasons of LOST in their entirety. A fabulous gal can pack on the pounds this way if she's not careful, so I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and focused on getting out of the house.

So I've been seeing friends, working out, riding my bike, eating salads. It was all coming together.

Until I crashed.

On Thursday, I lost control of my sexy new bike and crashed at an intersection, landing on my head and neck, smashing my helmet and painting the left side of my body in burnt sienna road rash. When I woke up laying in the street, my first thought was, "my neck should not be bent this way." I must have looked really cute when I crashed, though, because suddenly everyone wanted to be my friend. One kind woman asked, "What are you going to do now?" and I said, "Walk home." The only problem was that I didn't know where I lived, where I was, where I had been coming from, and I couldn't read. Then I saw my helmet, all crunched up, and started to cry. I was scared. My brain was hurt. That nice lady drove me right to the emergency room.

Hospital. Forms that I couldn't read. CAT scans. Valium. Vicodin. A weekend erased from my memory.

And then I broke up with my boyfriend. Nope, it didn't work out.

Bags, tears

And now I'm home alone with a head injury, splitting my time evenly between sleeping, crying, and forgetting what I said five minutes ago. I have been independent, traveling the country for months, but this woman needs someone to take care of her now. I need help. Someone to bake me casseroles, walk Ralgh, do my laundry, and just plain old BE HERE while I cry and sleep.

I've said it before (I think, but I'm not sure because I can't remember anything these days), but reentry is the hardest part of my Vantasy. Worth it? I'll let you know after I bake and eat an entire casserole of brownie casserole.


Monday, January 19, 2009

kittens, rainbows, sunshine, and bush

I owe you an apology!

For those of you stopping by yesterday to get the normal dose of sunshine, kittens, and rainbows that you've come to expect from There Will Be Breakdowns, please forgive me. I have a good excuse for yesterday's crank-tastic entry: caffeine.

I finally admitted I was an addict last year, after an attempt to quit drinking coffee left me so snippy with my customers at the Lotus that one drunken fellow threatened to punch me in the face. Me! This incident inspired me to take a good, hard look at myself. I came to the conclusion that caffeine isn't that bad of a drug as far as addictions go, and with the enthusiastic encouragement of my friends, who missed the happier days, I decided to never quit drinking coffee again. From that day forward, I have owned my addiction; I have borne it with the pride of an American!

When I took off on my Vantasy, I left my coffee maker in the care of a friend. Because of this, that, and the other, and the fact that he lives across town, I had not yet the chance to reacquire it, with its sleek, stainless steel carafe, at the time of yesterday's posting. And my dire financial situation has induced a spending freeze, which means no more trips to the neighborhood cafe (editor's note: this also means I had to cancel my inauguration day Brazilian wax appointment, during which I was going to celebrate Bush's last day by making it my bush's last day. Living in Vanta C meant that certain hygienic maintenance routines were ignored, and... well, you get the picture. But this is slightly off the topic of today's blog, and probably wildly inappropriate, so I'll end this digression and get back on track).

So, yesterday, instead of drinking my daily cup o' joe, I drank GREEN TEA. Green tea! By the time I wrote my entry, the withdrawal headache was in full force, I was super cranky, and desperate to give somebody hell. The bartender and the men who have been touring my van seemed like the best candidates, so I let 'er rip.

Y'all are such sweet, suppportive readers, though, and probably didn't deserve all that gloom and doom. So here are some sunshine, kittens, and rainbows for you:

Reasons Why Life is Beautiful and Wonderful Now That I'm Back in Portland
1. I finally got to build my fixed-gear bike, and I rode it yesterday.
2. I get to Jazzercise any time I want, and working out with Trina makes me happy.
3. When I walk Ralgh, I run into people I know.
4. I can bake pans of brownies, filling my apartment with the aroma of chocolate.
5. Most of the people I care about live within a few miles, and I can see them whenever I want.
6. Not having a job means endless potential. The future is wide open!

I'm bringing sexy bike (yeah)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

the van sandwich

Way back in August, on my very first blog post, I wrote:
"Spending my days running around, trying to get my van ready often leaves me in a heap on the floor, trying not to cry, terrified that if I can't even prepare for my trip, I'll never have what it takes to actually go."
Awwwww. I was so cute back then! Little did I know that the Vantasy is like a sandwich that has incredibly tasty barbequed tofu filling with a delicious secret sauce, but it's served between two slices of moldy, stale, rock-hard bread that's been dropped on the floor and has little hairs and fuzzies all over it. And you can't just open the bread up and take out the filling and eat it separately, oh no. You have to eat the whole damn thing, nasty bread and all.

What I'm saying, folks, is that, suprisingly, the before and after of this trip (AKA the 'bread') have been way tougher to swallow than the actual trip (AKA the 'delicious tofu filling'). I'm having the breakdown of my life right now. I have cried every day for the last week; you could set your watch to my daily sobfest. I am one hundred percent sure that Dillon is terrified of me, and invisions a future of hauling garbage bags full of wadded up, soggy tissues to the curb.

I have been looking for a job for three weeks with nary a bite. And I have been really pounding the pavement. No one is hiring. No one. There are about two or three help-wanted ads per day for bartenders on Craigslist, which I dutifully apply for, even if they suck. And I have exhausted my contacts. Between calling old friends to see if they know anyone who needs anyone, I walk from door to door handing out resumes and fake-smiling at all the assholes out there who have jobs and also have the gall to do them poorly.

I'm talking about you, bartender at an unnamed location. I tried three times to engage you in conversation, and you, every time, gave me one-word responses. I know it's not because you're busy; I'm the only one sitting at your bar. I think it's because you are one of the millions of people who hate working food service, but are flooding into my industry because your own industry is failing and you see it as a way to make ends meet. Well, I actually LOVE bartending, and I would work circles around you if only someone would give me a damn chance. Please?

Meanwhile, I've been trying to sell my van with the hopes that I'll be able to pay my rent until a job comes through. I had the ad up for a week and got between twenty and thirty calls, but only three people came to look at it. Mostly, people just wanted to ask me questions about my trip, flirt with me, or were interested in the van but not in any serious way. I even had one prank caller offer me $1000 and some goats as a trade. Come on, people! I can't pay my rent with goats!

All three of the people who have come to look at Vanta C have been men, and they have all man-handled her. Vanta C is delicate elderly flower, she needs to be van-handled! These men arrive at Vanta C all puffy-chested, trying to prove how much they know about cars, and they forget that this is still my baby. Hey guys, I still own Vanta C! Would you walk into someone else's house and start jerking things around like you're trying to start an offboard motor? Then why is it okay for you to do that in my van? The last guy that looked at her actually broke the loft bed, because he didn't feel like he had to listen to me when I told him not to slide it out any further. Then, instead of leaving it alone, like I told him to, he insisted on trying to 'fix' it by forcing it to slide back into place. I could see the whole time what was going wrong, and I know how to repair the thing, but he just wouldn't listen to me, the van's OWNER.

I'm trying to keep my chin up, and trying to have a sense of humor about all this, but I think I might be losing it. I have enough money left to pay my February rent and still have twenty five dollars left over. I think I can make it a couple more weeks on what I have, but I desperately need something to fall into place here, and soon.

I'm not sure I can swallow this bread without choking.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Home, for real

This is my time, this is my tear.
I can see clearly now that this is not a place
For playing solitaire.
Tell me where you want me.
This is my time, this is my tear.

Coming on strong, Baudelaire.
Seems to me like all the world gets high
When you take a dare.
Let it rise before you.
This is my crime!

Tear, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Yesterday I moved in to my apartment. There are boxes everywhere, piles of things here and there, and I don't have a couch...

But I can poop in my toilet, whenever I want. I can turn up the heat. I can walk more than three steps in any direction I want to. I slept in my own bed and took a shower in my own shower. Ralgh enthusiastically peed his way around our own neighborhood, and I said, over and over to Dillon, "I'm home. I can't believe I'm home." I never want to leave.

People can live with much less than they think. It was never really a huge deal for me to give things up here and there. Sometimes I had to wear an extra sweater, or find a late night emergency bathroom. Sometimes I ran out of propane and couldn't cook for a day. Sometimes I couldn't find safe parking spots so I had to drive further than I wanted to. Always I had dirty hair. All these things were minor inconveniences, but they had a way of adding up. I didn't climb Mount Everest, or go to Siberia, but I do think I roughed it a bit. Now that I'm home, it feels so good that I can hardly understand why I left.

Of course, I know why I left. I needed to rough it for a few months. I needed to sort my shit out. I wanted to see the country in an offbeat way. I wanted to push myself. I wanted discomfort. I wanted to prove that I could. I wanted to show Ralgh a good time. I wanted change (Barack Obama?).

As my friend from Madison, Brian, says, life is all about moderation. It's about doing something wild, then taking a break and doing something comfortable. Swinging back and forth like that keeps us in good shape, I think, and allows us to admit that we're complex beings and like a lot of different things. Now is a time of comfort and peace for me, while Brian is looking to trade in his comfort as he gears up (see what I did there, Brian?) to build a heavy-duty fixed-gear bike and ride from Madison to Key West next summer.

And the republican real estate agent from Southern Georgia I befriended, George, traded in the keys to the rental property for the keys to an SUV and took off on his own adventure to Tahoe and beyond. He'd been talking about it for awhile and I think meeting me was the nudge he needed to make it happen for himself. I saw myself in him when he confided at our meeting, "I'm meant to do something big, something profound."

Now I'm free to sit back and enjoy watching my new friends go on their own journeys, which will be nothing like mine and everything like mine. And I'll find work and start saving my money again, and give my brain a little rest before it starts cooking up plans for the next adventure. But first, I'm going to unpack all my cute clothes and earrings! And I'm going to wear them around and be really clean and primped for awhile!

And, of course, I'm selling Vanta C.