Julianne’s Blog

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

December’s adventure 10 December 2009

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Another month, another trip to California. In November I put about 5,000 miles on the Volvo, or rather I would have if the odometer weren’t broken. But since it is broken, it doesn’t count, right?

Well December’s mileage will be only about 2,000, because this time I’ll be staying in Los Angeles until the beginning of February. I’m bringing some paintings to work on, my sewing machine, and a few projects so that I’ll be able to set up some sort of un-vacationy routine, maybe even find a little job in LA. I can’t help but be a little nervous, but only because this is something new and different. I’m crazy excited about spending so much time with Jason. After our time there, we’re heading back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. March is unclear, but I know that for my birthday at the end of the month I would like to be in New Orleans with my friends and Jason. Also, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! is going to be in NOLA on 11 March, and I am so super psyched about that.

Another notable entry on the iCal is Allia’s grand debut as a ballerina, this weekend in The Nutcracker. She’s going to be a mouse, and I haven’t seen any of her costume or dance steps, so I’m pretty excited. Last week while Jason was in town the three of us saw The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I had a great time hanging out with them both.

So, to summarize: I spend all day hanging around the apartment, painting and sewing, with occasional outings on the bicycle, but now I’m going to do it in LA the city, not the state.


The Rocket 14 September 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 12:24 AM
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Burning Man was so incredible. I was very close to not going, but once I was there I realized how inevitable it was that I attend. Cosmo, one of the most amazing of the people I met there, said that the second is strong in Black Rock City; knowing for someone 5 days in the desert is equivalent to 9 months in the default world. When old Jason came back from Burning Man last year I was frustrated with his inability to explain what it was like (as well as for other reasons) but now I understand that there’s no way to communicate that experience unless you are actually there. And once you are there, you will have a completely different story than I did but you will understand.

But there is one event that sticks out in my memory. I’ve told this story but I know it’s impossible to really tell. It was magical, unbelievable, and inevitable all at once.

The Raygun Gothic Rocket

The Raygun Gothic Rocket

On Tuesday I met a man named Jason (not to be confused with old Jason). Wednesday night we ran into each other again, which is pretty amazing considering we were in the desert with 41,000 people all having a party, so to make a long story short after that we stuck together. Thursday night we rode in his art car to the Raygun Gothic Rocket, which after waiting in line and climbing up a ladder you could explore. Jason went up first while I had some deep soul sharing with his friend Rick. By the time we got up Jason had finished and gone back into the dark desert. I noticed one of the flight crew struggling with his flashlight, so I offered to hold it while he prepared a mini rocket to fire. After explaining the process, he asked me to launch the rocket. After years of temptation, I finally had an opportunity to push that red button labeled “DO NOT TOUCH.” With much gusto, I made the most of it.

After launching my rocket into what I supposed was oblivion, I climbed down the stairs and found Jason with his crew. They were all talking about the fact that Jason had caught the rocket mid-air and that he was the first person to do this. I couldn’t believe it–I thought it was pretty cool that I had launched the rocket, and it was great that he was the only person to catch a rocket, but it was pretty amazing that he had caught MY rocket… and then gave it to his ex-girlfriend so that she could skip the line for the rocket. Jason described it as “a great focus for entropy. I don’t know what it all means, but it’s certainly got me thinking.”


Back in America 13 July 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 3:32 PM
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Well if you haven’t heard already, I’m not in Paris. I got back to the USA a month ago! I’ve been holed up at my mom’s place east of Cleveland getting my life back in order. My Mac and I had a tearful reunion, but quickly made up for lost time together. I happily exchanged the clothes I’d been wearing for months for the ones I had left behind. After a few days of searching I found my new mode of transportation, a teal Volvo 850 wagon. Alright, ready for a new adventure, but first a bit of backtracking.

Leaving my friends in France was hard. Izzy was visiting from Prague, so my last night we all ate a garden feast a Gigi’s apartment. A few hours later it was time for the inevitable goodbye; Jason and Izzy headed back to the dark house in Le Vignaud while I spent the night with Gigi in town. The next day called for a crepe, and then it was time to leave. As my bus pulled out of the Gueret train station I watched Gigi walk down the street and wondered when and where I would see any of them again.

I was met at Austerlitz station in Paris by a fellow I’d met a month ago in Switzerland. Since I had switched my two bags out for one large, heavy, and broken suitcase, I was very happy to have someone strong to carry my crap for me. We passed a pleasant evening with pizzas and more crepes, and at 6 AM the next morning I was alone again. The only thing left was to leave, but before I took my train to Charles de Gaulle Airport I took one last walk around that city, down to the Rive Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral. I couldn’t help but feel choked up and a little panicky as the plane took off and left Paris below. When I transferred in London I was shocked to hear so many people speaking English, and was embarrassed at hearing and understanding so many conversations going on around me. At 3 AM Paris time I landed at JFK, where my mom was waiting for me. The next day we got in her truck and drove west to Perry, OH, and suddenly I was back in America, so far away from the life I’d been living for the past six months but still in familiar surroundings.

In the Aeroplane over the Sea


I am a walking cliché. 19 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:44 AM

Alright, damnit, but I’m not going to write a book about it. A blog is bad enough.



Put your backpack on your shoulder 3 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 12:34 PM
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One of my favorite souvenirs from traveling is my toiletries bag. The bag itself is stupid, but the contents remind me of so much. There’s the toothpaste I bought in Madrid, my Polish shampoo, the Slovenian mouthwash, the Hungarian dental floss, Austrian lotion, the French sunscreen. My wardrobe has also been collected from around Europe, but all those bottles in foreign languages really make me realize how far I’ve gone.


I was in Interlaken, Switzerland about a week ago, talking to some girls in the hostel. One of them said they’d been to Slovenia, and when I asked where she said the capitol city but she couldn’t pronounce the name. I was somewhat disgusted that she had spent 3 days in Ljulbljana and couldn’t even say the name. Way to make an effort to experience the culture. Well, the other girl told her it’s “lube-lee-on-yah.” I rolled my eyes but kept silent, until she elaborated that “J” is pronounced as a “Y” in German. German?! It was hard for me not to shout when I informed her that the 2 million inhabitants of that country speak Slovenian. It doesn’t much surprise me that these two modern day Margaret Meads were both American. If anyone ever wonders why Americans sometimes have bad reputations as ethnocentric ignorant travelers and citizens of the world, I feel like I have found a clue.


Americans really are invading Europe… MY Europe! I earned Europe. There were large portions of my time here that were not fun at all. They were cold, dark, and lonely. They were tight budgets and bad food. They were showing up in a new city at night and not knowing where I was going to sleep. But it was never a problem, because the hostels were almost never full. But now, I have to make reservations for weeks in advance! I don’t like knowing where I’m going to be in three weeks. I am not a tourist, I am a traveler, and there is an important distinction.


Blessed by the God of Travel 22 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:26 PM
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What a great time I had in Slovenia! Since I assume most Americans have never even heard of the country, it goes without saying that this place is terribly underrated as a vacation destination.

I spent another great afternoon with the Hare Krishnas. Not only did I enjoy talking about their beliefs and karma, but it was a relaxed way to meet the locals. I sat at a picnic table with a few other women and we all watched their kids play. I got to help one lady, Sabrina, with her beautiful 10 month old girl. My nephew Kaden was that age the last time I saw him, so it meant a lot for me for an almost stranger to trust me with her child. The entire place was filled with such trust and generosity. We meditated together, heard a lecture, and then came the feast. Such wonderful food, completely different from anything else I´ve eaten before, and all vegetarian. This is followed by singing and dancing. It was great to see the little kids running back and forth between the adults, some of who were surprisingly energetic even after an hour of sweating under the fans.

The next day I had been planning on going to Berlin after a few hours in a northern lake town, but I decided instead to spend the night at Lake Bled. I´ve been hearing about this place for months from Rick Steves, so how could I pass it up? And Rick Steves never lies. In fact, my mantra of late has been WWRSD– What would Rick Steves do?

Bled is at the foothills of the Julian Alps, called the Sunny Alps by the Slovenes. Blue skies reflect back in the clear water. The 6km path around the lake gives plenty of time to see the snow capped Alps, a castle perched overlooking the town, and swams swimming out to Bled Island. A €12 gondola ride takes you out the island, where 99 stone steps rise out of the water. At the top of the stairs is an old church, and inside there is a bell that gives good luck if you ring it 3 times. I´d met a nice Australian couple on the boat who said that when I rang the bell they heard a distinctive American twang. As I stepped off the boat and headed back towards my incredibly crappy hostel, I was glad I´d followed Rick Steves´advice.

I was thinking this thought and smiling at the puffy clouds, the snowy mountains, and the families of swans when I noticed a few men standing on the side of the lake. One of them had a large video camera, and at first I rolled my eyes at the silliness of Asian tour groups. But then I noticed one of the men, standing with his back to me, was very tall, and blond…

I pulled off my sunglasses and the stupidest grin spread across my face. The man with the camera noticed me and nudged his Nordic friend. My hands were shaking and I didn´t know what to say. Could this be? The travel dream that I thought was too stupid to even mention to anyone–is it actually coming true, and in such a fairy tale setting? Here I was, standing on the shore of Lake Bled, face to face with Rick Steves himself!

Me and Rick Steves by juliannedodds.

A handshake turned into a hug, he asked my name and exchanged some pleasantries. I told him the only reason I was there was because of him. That I watched his show and loved his radio podcasts. That my parents were going to shit themselves when they found out.  I couldn´t thank him enough, to tell him what an amazing, wonderful experience this was for me. Was it a coincidence, or was it destiny?

I just about skipped the 2 km uphill to my hostel, and after dropping my bag ran out to the nearest photo shop. If something were to happen to my camera, I needed a hard copy of this event. I needed 10 copies in fact. Every couple hours I pull out that photo and I still can´t believe my good luck.I hope that you all watch his show and see the episode on Lake Bled that he was filming as I was there, and maybe, boys and girls, if you believe, and you follow every bit of Rick Steves´advise, you too will meet the God of Travel.

Then there was some bullshit with the train system, blah blah blah, but eventually I wound up in Innsbruck. At breakfast I heard a deep voice that reminded me fondly of my Uncle Jerry, and following the sound I met a nice couple from Knoxville, TN, named John & Sue. We spent about an hour talking over pastries, discussing our mutual travel plans. I love Southern folk of a certain age. When I got up to leave John said to me, in that wonderful deep voice that reminded me of Gregory Peck and my Granddad (as well as the afor mentioned uncle), that I have gumption. Music that played in my head all day long.

So a few hours later found me riding a cable car up the Nordpark mountain. From the top of the ride I climbed up to the peak, and as far as I could see were those blue mountains. The ice caps blended in with the clouds. I don´t know how long I stood up there alone, but it was wonderful. I really don´t think I could live in the mountains on account of the winter, but every time I get into a range like that I feel so excited. Driving into the Smokies this past December I felt the same thing, and I remember how once Jason and I had reached those little Alpine towns in February that I was skipping through the snow. And the Alps, with the warm summer air blending with the chill of the snow on the ground, is truly an amazing place to be.

On the way down I stopped at a cafe where I ran into an Arizona couple I´d met on the ascent, Matt & Alex (Alex would want me to say that she is a lady, and it´s true). I ordered the same ham strudel they were eating and we shared our stories. Alex got the bill and we headed further downhill to the zoo. We saw some baby animals, quite cute, talked some more. When we headed off in our separate directions back in the Inn valley I realized just how potent the blessing of the Travel God had been.


The western part of eastern Europe… with another German. 16 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:59 PM
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After checking out a children’s concert at a Polish cultural festival, I hopped on a bus for Budapest. The road took us through Slovakia and was really a beautiful drive. I got to Budapest around midnight and eventually found a hostel with space.

Budapest was really gorgeous. The Duna River (what the Danube goes by in that neck of the woods) divides the Buda and Pest sections of the city, and there are benches lined up all along both banks. The light was always golden and it was wonderfully warm–perfect conditions for kicking back with an old paperback and some pálinka.

Ah, pálinka… A Hungarian specialty. Most people think this fruit brandy is just too sweet, but boy I couldn’t get enough. My favorite flavor was the apricot, which incidentally is called Barack. I picked up a bottle of this, as well as the plum variety, to share with my dad in Paris in 2 weeks. In my hostel was a 51 year old Iranian woman named Banash. She kept me and the Spanish couple in our room fascinated with her travel adventures from around the world. One night she and I went out for pálinka, beers, and some live local music. And then there were the souvenirs… the only time in Europe I bought that much stuff, but all those handmade crafts! I was like a sitting duck, and I can’t say I’m sorry about it. All in all, it was a very laid back time in Budapest.

I got up one morning and decided to split town, so I took a train south to Pécs. This is going to be the European Cultural Capital of 2010, so I figured I had to check it out before it became jaded from fame. I met a German girl on the bus to the hostel, and there we picked up an English guy, and the three of us headed out for some grub. I finally had some gulas, and the restaurant gave us all free shots of pálinka with our beers. Can you see where this is going? Afterwards Anna, Alan, and I went to a bar recommended by our hostel receptionist. When we walked in he was sitting at the bar, happy that we took his advice. Time for more pálinkas, the bartender’s favorite. Then Anna suggested that Alan and I try Unicom. It’s another Hungarian thing, and I can’t really describe it as anything but horrible. Beers immediately followed to wash out the taste. A few hours later the three of us stumbled back to the hostel while the receptionist stayed behind to hold down the bar.


The next day we did some exploring. Pécs is a small town, so there wasn’t much to do besides relax. After Anna headed off in her own direction, Alan and I grabbed 2 bottles of Hungarian wine and a frozen pizza and camped out on the balcony of our room. There was one other guest in another room, and the receptionist had disappeared again, so we blasted the Hungarian jazz and drank the night away. The resulting hang-over of 2 nights’ drinking was whiled away on an ancient Communist train through Hungary, across Croatia, and finally into Ljubljana around 3 AM.

So after a few hours’ sleep I headed out this morning into the bright Slovenian morning. I wandered around the center of this little city (about 240,000 people) and was about to grab a sandwich when I heard some music coming off the street. A group of 7 Hare Krishnas were strolling down the pedestrian streets, singing, playing an accordian, beating on drums, tinkling tinklers, and handing out literature. Now, there are two lessons I’ve learned well in my life. Number 1 comes from traveling, and that is to never pass up an opportunity, because even if the opportunity is still there tomorrow you may not be. Number 2 comes from growing up in New Orleans: When you see a parade of happy musicians coming your way, you join in. So we all made our way dancing and singing through the streets, drawing stares, smiles, and lots of people looking away embarassed. I was the only one not dressed up as a Hare Krishna, but I enjoyed my special walking tour of the city. Eventually we ended up at the temple, where the music continued and the dancing got good.

You can’t be a good dancer on an empty stomach, so next came my favorite part of the Hare Krishna, that delicious vegetarian meal. Today’s lunch was speghetti made by one of the devotees (and I mean he did more than boil the water) and it was all organic. I whiled away a couple hours at a picnic table with my host Petra and some of the other Kirshna ladies. Tomorrow they’ve asked me to return for another program and meal, and afterwards I will go north to Lake Bled, hopefully getting a ride from one of the devotees. Ooh yeah.

So Ljubljana is a nice little city. It’s very green–the huge park with open fields, the trees everywhere, and even the river is emerald. I had a great afternoon walking around enjoying the weather, passing street musicians and a couple weddings. I bought some new pants since my last pair split a few days ago, completely worn out. There was a plate of crispy calamari in there somewhere. And coming up next is a bar with a rock band. And I guess a drink or two.