Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

OK, November deserved more than one sentence. 13 January 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 8:25 AM
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November was a good month, and should be appropriately represented in the almost defunct blog.

I gathered together a rag-tag team of girlies off Craigslist and we all set off for the West Coast. Two of the girls were actually only going to Houston, which is why I agreed to let them bring their dog. I’m not a huge fan of dogs, and when I spend any amount of time with them in enclosed spaces my allergies react in new and unexciting ways. So when the girls’ plans in Houston fell through and they decided to ride to Pheonix, I had mixed feelings. I mean, yeah, that was a little bit of extra gas money (although not at all an equal share), but on the other hand, I’ve had red blotches on my chest that are just now starting to fade away.

the rideshare team

But the point is I got to Los Angeles! Even though Jason knew I was coming, he was still surprised when he turned around in his kitchen and saw me standing right in front of him. He jumped about three feet in the air and yelled out “HOLY SHIT!” We were still laughing about it a couple weeks later. Our time together in LA was spent mostly in his apartment, where we read, ate a lot, watched season 3 of Californication, and pretended to work. But we went out to see a couple movies, had a picnic on the beach, rode around on bicycles, and went to his niece’s 5th birthday, so see, we aren’t total bums.

November 21 was Jason’s birthday, so a couple days before we had a party. I’d brought 2 packs of Abita Beer from Louisiana, plus Camelia redbeans and some spices. I made a huge pot of beans and 10 or so of Jason’s friends came over, we had a screening of Jason’s short films from the past 15 years. It was a great evening.

I’d been planning on giving Jason his present on his actual birthday, but it worked out better to give it to him the day before. There was a lot of symbolism in this gift and he loved it just as much as I hoped he would. I don’t want to brag, but he’s told me a few times that it’s the best gift he’s received, and I think it’s the best gift I’ve ever made.

The next day, on his actual birthday, we piled into my Volvo and headed east. It was midnight by the time we pulled off I-40 in northern Arizona. Following the signs for a camping site down a dirt road, we found ourselves in the middle of a state park. It was 17 degrees but there were no artificial lights, and we spent a while looking up at the stars. We made a bed of sleeping bags and blankets in the back of the station wagon and fell asleep.

I was freezing, Jason was wearing shorts!

In the morning we were only 2 hours south of the Grand Canyon. After grabbing some breakfast at a Flintstones themed restaurant we entered the park. Neither of us had ever seen the canyon before, and it was amazing! We spent hours walking along the south rim, peering through binoculars, interacting with park wildlife, and taking Polaroids. We watched the chilly sunset and got back on the road.

We slept in the car again that night. Since there were no pitch-black state parks available, we made do with an abandoned adobe building in New Mexico. As we set up our bed in the back of the car we heard loud, angry barking, that got closer and closer. I shone out a flashlight and the wild dogs were close enough that we could see the reflections of their eyes. I jumped in the car and Jason was right behind me. It was scary, but we felt safe… until around 3AM, when we were awakened by a knocking on the window and a flashlight in our faces. I hid under the covers while Jason explained to the cop that we were just passing through, that we were too tired to drive and that this was the only quiet space we could find. The officer was nice enough about it and we drifted back to sleep. The sun had already risen when the next cop woke us up, so we climbed into the front seat and got back on the road.

Our Thanksgiving plans took us to St. Louis to visit the Blakemores, relatives on Jason’s mom’s side. I’d met Uncle Pat at Burning Man and it was great to see him again. The family had rented a cabin outside of the city and we met them there for a vegan Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. The next day we stopped at a thrift store and Jason’s cousins picked out some great finds for me.

relaxing with the Blakemores: me, Uncle Pat, Jamie, Uncle Bug, and Jane

Our next stop was Russellville, Arkansas, where we spent the night at my dad’s house. My younger brother Andy was visiting for the holiday, and the four of us made some delicious pizzas and played a great game of Scrabble. I think that will be the only time I’ll beat Jason at that game! The following morning Jason and I dropped Andy off at the Little Rock Airport for his return flight to Cleveland and set our sights on New Orleans. The interstate took us right through Memphis and we decided to visit Graceland. Four hours later we were Elvis-ed out (although I had reached my threshhold after about 1 hour…) and resumed our roadtrip, finally and absolutely New Orleans bound.

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All of February in under 986 words (not counting the title) 2 March 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 5:17 PM
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So much has happened in the last few weeks. I’ve been too busy and having too much fun to be spending all day online! But mostly, I haven’t had internet access for more than a few minutes. So now where to begin?

Izzy and I convinced Jason to drive to visit us in Prague. One morning I went out to pick something up, and when I turned around the corner onto Izzy’s street there he was. We all spent a week together in Prague, doing a little bit of sightseeing, but mostly hanging out. One night we went to a bar that was actually an old train car, called the Vagon. It was strange, but the cheapest whiskey I found in Prague, and they served fried cheese (a staple of vegetarian dining in the Czech Republic).

Then Jason and I piled into his Renault truck and headed south on the small roads we found on the map. Southern Czech Republic was covered in snow, and at one point the truck skidded off the road and got stuck in a snow bank/ditch. Luckily two cars of Czechs stopped, and with the help of a big van we were able to pull and push the truck back onto the road.

Eventually we got to Vienna. We found a place to park and crawled into the back of the truck, where there was a futon mattress and two down blankets waiting for us. In the morning we went to a gas station to brush our teeth, and then hopped on the tram into the city center. It wasn’t really any colder than Amsterdam, but at least in Amsterdam I was staying in heated places where I could take a hot shower and had lights. Also, our first day in Vienna it was raining, which eventually turned into snow. The weather made the city kind of miserable. Although it was south of Prague, Austria is Alp country, so the elevation is higher. I hadn’t thought of that.

So why did we go to Vienna? Well, Vienna was the center of the Secessionist movement, whose most famous member was Gustav Klimt. I just finished my thesis 3 months ago, so I had to go and stand in front of the paintings I had been researching for months. This was the pinnacle of the 5 years I spent studying art history. I went to the Secessionist building, which was an independent gallery space for the members. Klimt has a long frieze in the basement (it was originally in the main hall, but was meant to be only temporary) and got the see the entire thing at once, not broken up into images. And then… I went into the bathroom and washed my hair. I’m pretty sure I am one of the only people in the world who has washed their hair in the Secessionist building. Of course I froze when I stepped outside, with my wet head, but I feel like I made my mark.

After two very difficult days in Vienna, we started heading west to France. We drove on the small roads and passed through so many little villages. We saw an amazing Baroque monastery in Melk, and were afterwards completely enveloped in a crazy sudden snow storm. We drove through Linz, which was Hitler’s favorite town. We detoured south to St. Gilgen and Halstaat, which was amazingly beautiful, even under 2 feet of snow! In St. Gilgen, where we spent the night, I ate a giant Austrian cinnamon roll that had me singing and skipping for the rest of the morning. We stopped in Salzburg for pizza, home of The Sound of Music, but we couldn’t really stay. Austria was too cold. We took the Autobahn through Germany, and by the next night we rolled into Bonnat, France.

Jason’s house is actually in Le Vignaud, but while he’s working on it he is staying a friend’s second home in the nearby village of Bonnat. This house doesn’t have heating, but it does have plumbing and electricity, which is nice at night. We spend all day in Le Vignaud working, about 7 hours a day. The most work we’ve done is in the yard. There were massive piles of vines, branches, and thorns that needed to be burned. The house had been uninhabited for 50 years before Jason moved in, and the front yard has been used as a dump. We’ve pulled out tons of broken glass, plastic bottles, a wide collection of whole bottles (some match), endless rusted metal, several shoes, and at one point there was a door with wood veneer (which does not decompose) and old metal fixtures. There was a bit of detective work on that one. We also dug up a hibernating toad the other day, with bright red eyes, and watched it wake up to the spring. Despite all the trash in the yard, there are also some beautiful white wildflowers that keep the honey bees busy all day.

A week of hard work and the yard is almost finished. I’ve been using a pick axe to break up the dirt, which also pulls up the rocks and exposes more garbage to be collected. We’ve leveled out the yard, removed some old trees and nasty vines, and have done some extensive building of stone walls. The transformation is really amazing, and in March it will be time to plant the clover and wildflower seeds we got instead of grass.

But for the next week I’m going up to Paris, about 4 hours by train, to meet a friend I met in Amsterdam. I’m excited to get another change, to let my muscles relax for a week, go out at night, to sleep in a heated room, and to be clean. I might even wear mascara! I think somewhere under this dirt and the layers of the same 4 shirts I’ve been wearing for 3 months I’m a girl, but I can’t be sure anymore.