Getting Tattooed with Food Poisoning and Other Tales from Austin

Greetings from my home sweet home here in New York City, after a week that can only be described as “eventful.” I’m referring to my grand Austin adventure, originally planned as a way to start sowing seeds for a new life and instead becoming a grand ol’ vacation in Texas with my lovely G; and I’m referring to what it’s like to say goodbye to people that irrevocably changed your life just by being in it. I talk a lot about how crazy it is to realize how things change over the course of a year, or two years, or five, but this week I learned it’s crazy how things can change in just an hour – or five. But in the spirit of keeping this under 12 pages, let’s start with Austin Adventures:

We start our weekend last Friday at 4am, as I leave A’s place for a 5:45 flight from LaGuardia, stopping in Houston to switch planes before ATX, baby. The plan was to take the earliest flight out so I’d have the whole afternoon to bask in the Texas sun, go to a yoga studio, and generally enjoy my time in my second-favorite US city. Things felt *slightly* weird after boarding the plane and then not moving or hearing anything from the flight attendants for over an hour, but you know, flights can be weird. By the second hour that passed on the plane, I was getting pretty cranky. I should mention I avoid coffee before long flights and was not super thrilled with anything at that point, especially as I’d already missed my connecting flight. By 8:15 we finally had an update: everyone off the plane and maybe we’ll leave this morning. After a HUGE coffee and some airport yoga, I had a smile on my face – I wasn’t going to let a delay ruin my Austin weekend – but starting the weekend with a 5-hour delay should have been a clue that I may love Texas, but it was not about to love me back.

Friday and Saturday went off without a hitch, a perfect two days singing in the car and hanging out with G, those rare moments where we can pretend we do this all the time instead of barely once a year. I sang her Happy Birthday and we ate some of the best desserts (“manna cotta… panne cotti? Just put more in my mouth.”). G’s roommates joined us for Saturday night and we danced on Dirty Sixth among cowboys and bachelorette parties, and in the midst of getting our hair done earlier that afternoon, we hatched a plan to continue a now-tradition the next day during our Austin adventures: somewhat-spontaneous tattoos.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a little foggy but overall fine – I’d stuck to beer the night before and made a point to drink water so I’d be comfortable while needles pierced my skin that day. I’m an early riser and the girls were still sleeping, so I ventured down to the hotel lobby for a small breakfast of yogurt (<– that’s important) and cereal while watching an old episode of Ink Master on my computer (*how am I so cool). Eventually G and I went out for breakfast tacos, and I noticed my stomach felt…. not right. I should mention I’m not a hungover puker. Like, ever. I mean okay there have been occasions, but for the most part after heavy drinking, I get headaches and migraines, I don’t vomit. So when I started to feel my stomach churning in the middle of a delicious breakfast taco salad, I thought it was odd, but brushed it off – it had to be a hangover, right?

We went back to the hotel to lay down for a quick nap to stave off G’s hangover before heading out for spontaneous tattoo adventures. I didn’t sleep so much as toss and turn, telling myself I wasn’t about to vomit because that’s not what I do. Turns out that was what I ended up doing for the next hour – stupid hangover! Luckily, after a particularly spirited outburst of the final remnants of my breakfast in the streets of Austin while walking around to kill time before the shop opened, I miraculously felt wonderful. We spent the next few hours in the tattoo shop where we’d been two years before, chatting with the artist, reviewing the design, the familiar buzz of the machine and then just a hint of pain as I reminded myself why, in fact, I’d sworn off any more rib tattoos after the first one. As mine is larger, I was the first victim of the machine, and I watch G get two perfect arrows on her forearm with a mix of awe and excitement. And then my stomach did the familiar churn of the morning, and while her arm was saran-wrapped and instructions for healing were offered, I projectile-lost-everything-in-my-body in the shop bathroom and a nightmare night began.

I have to say, having never had food poisoning before (*and not realizing that’s what it was for a while since I was only vomiting), there really is no introduction quite like a night by yourself in a strange AirBNB in a semi-strange city, alternately wincing as you brush a fresh wound on your ribs and throwing up so violently you can’t breathe. Sadly said violent-vomiting meant my very last day in Austin, the only bright and sunny day, the one where I had two yoga studios picked out to attend and the whole city at my beck and call, was instead spent huddled on a strange bed under the air conditioning, sipping Walgreens-brand Pedialyte and watching Netflix.

I was more than grateful to get home early on Tuesday afternoon, except I knew that meant a terrible goodbye was on its way. It wasn’t the vacation I’d had planned at all – not even a little bit. But that’s exactly how my last Austin adventure went too. And really, nothing that I ever plan for Austin turns out the way I think it will. Maybe that’s the beauty of my relationship with that city: the constant reminders that life is full of little surprises, and forever is composed of nows.

advice from the girl in the mirror.

So, confession time. Because I live alone, I find myself talking in the mirror a lot. Like, probably too much. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m bored, and need to hear myself think aloud, or if it’s because it’s easier to talk stuff out when it looks like someone else is telling me about it. Also sometimes when I’m really worked up I get crazy eyes? and actually it’s kind of funny, so all of a sudden whatever worked me up seems funny, and then I feel normal again. Anyway, I digress.

So, last night I was talking to myself in the mirror about the weekend after next, when my E&G will be in NYC for the rescheduled annual girls trip, affectionately referred to as Peace, Love, 403 (it’s a college thing). I’m starting to get a plan in mind for what we’ll do in our precious few days in this city I love, so I was talking pros/cons of various bars we could go to on Saturday night. One that came out as I was brushing my teeth was Village Tavern, and as the words came out I nearly swallowed toothpaste for laughing so hard. “I can’t go back there,” I said into my toothbrush to the girl in the mirror, “I’m too old! Plus, there’s little to no chance I wouldn’t leave there basically blacked out and then feel terrible the next morning slash for the next two days.” Spit, rinse, mouthwash. The girl in the mirror looked back at me still laughing and said “Seriously. You’re enough of a trainwreck, anyway.”

I laughed and continued brushing my teeth, and for a minute the words started to breeze away, until all of a sudden I really heard what had come out of my mouth. I paused briefly and tried to figure out how I felt about those words. Part of me was definitely laughing because they’re true, but the rest of me is confused, slightly. Am I laughing because I’ve just accepted that I’m a mess? Or am I laughing because I’m sick of being a fucking trainwreck, and that’s why I’m so eager for change? It was one of those weird sentences that came out of my mouth before I realized what it meant, and for a few seconds I felt sad. I stared at the girl in the mirror, who had applied a clay mask and sort of looked like a half-formed zombie. “Screw it,” I told her. “ I can handle trainwreck status. Plus it’s not like I didn’t have enough fun to last me a few years in the first six months of 2014 alone.” I went back to the living room to finish up a rerun of The Office while the mask dried, and let all of the odd thoughts that had come to the forefront wash over me in the final stretch to sleep.

The definition of trainwreck in terms of a social life has changed a lot over the years for me, but I think to some extent that’s been my role in my social circle for a long time. It was something I resisted for a long time, and then something I embraced, and now I’m in this weird middle ground where I could be ready to move past it, but one tequila shot at the bar and I’m regressing back to messy LB glory days, slurring and high-pitched yelling-talking and demands that everyone chugs a beer. And when I write it out like that, I know it doesn’t seem like those are glory days, but they felt like it at the time. It’s glory days of spending 10 hours at the same bar with your college girlfriends, drinking wine with your best friend until the restaurant closes and going out until the city shuts down. I suppose I’m a little nostalgic for the days where it seemed like a good idea to get that crazy. Or maybe I’m justifying that I’m still acting like that despite everyone else around me growing up.

Back in my bathroom, I rinsed off the clay mask and took a long, close look at the girl staring back at me, my eyes drifting up to the tiny lines on her forehead that speak to lots of lessons learned in a short period of time. Sighing, I said aloud “I mean, whatever, my skin looks good for 25.” “WAIT what the fuck, 27 you weirdo!” Both sentences shot out of my mouth from me in rapid-fire, and I stared at myself in this moment of amused disbelief before laughing again. It wasn’t a pang of nostalgia for being 25 that brought that thought to the forefront, I think, but the cost of reliving memories from the glory days at Village Tavern and the last official 403 trip in Austin. I thought about that for a final second, or maybe it was an hour, and then shrugged at the girl in the mirror. “Whatever,” she said, before I turned the lights off and finally, finally crawled into my own bed. “You’ll figure it all out. And if you feel sad again, just think: you’re two years older now, but that means our skin looks that much better.”

Chronicle Q&A

Thank you to everyone that texted, emailed and otherwise asked questions after my adorably written plea for material. Since I said all of the sappy stuff yesterday on the real anniversary, let’s just get straight to the inquisition! From my heart and my keyboard to your screen, I hope you enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at my Chronicle of a 20-whatever,

Q: What made you decide to start a blog?
A: This is a difficult question to answer, because honestly I’ve always had some form of a blog. I had a Livejournal in high school (it was 2004, everyone did it), a blogger site in the early city years, even another public blog for about 6 months in 2013. I also have a personal journal I’ve been writing in since 2008. I’ve always felt compelled to write; writing calms me down and makes me feel like I understand what’s going on around me, even though that’s almost definitely never true.

What made me decide to start this blog was realizing that I was getting myself into all of these hilarious and absurd situations, and going through all of these growing pains and all of this emotional turmoil, simply trying to navigate the city as a mid-20s single person. For a really long time it felt like a terrible and shameful thing that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but then I noticed I was having a freaking BLAST at life and I didn’t care that I was bad at it. Apparently sucking at life is a part of your 20s, so why not share my struggles with people going through the same thing?

My goals have always been to overshare as much as possible while still knowing that family and coworkers read this; and to put out posts that are relatable to anyone, whether you’re single in your 20s, married in your 30s, or my grandmother, who’s almost 90 but still tells me all the time how much she loves the blog. Even though tbh she can’t work a computer and has probably never seen this before (If I’m wrong, hi Meems!).

Q: How do your friends feel about being included in your stories?
A: Great question. They hate it.

Just kidding! I think. I hope? In all seriousness, no one has complained, to me at least. Do they love being included in my Friendly Conversations round-ups or my expert recapping of our Epic Sunday Funday PLDs? Probably not. But they all read and love the stories, with a high-five and a shout-out to R, H and C, who are unquestionably my biggest fans and the instigators and/or bystanders for most of my best material.

That said, my goal in writing all this is to make sure things stay focused on me, because at the end of the day, it’s not a blog about anyone else. I’m not speculating on my friend’s relationships or how they feel when I show up late somewhere (again) or forget plans (again) or embarrass them in public (again). With that distinction, I think if you look at the blog from a big picture perspective, all of my stories that involve friends are meant to celebrate the role the Nickname Posse plays in my life. They’re the tough love-givers, the ones who pop a dream bubble that they can see turning into a nightmare, the ones that hold my hair back when I’m throwing up in the street (I mean what? that never happened) and the ones who hold me back when I’m about to do something I’ll regret. They’re the most important people in my life, and my Chronicle doesn’t exist without them.

So do they love it all the time? Probably not, but at least on their side, the good far outweighs the embarrassing.

Q: What are the best and worst parts about having a blog?
A: Honestly, the worst part about having a blog is, in fact, having a blog. I very naively did not think ahead and realize how much writing and moderating would penetrate my daily life. When I first started putting the site together, I was at a job which didn’t keep me too busy, plus I hadn’t settled into single life, plus I thought I had a lot to say. So the first few weeks, I wrote a lot of content in between tasks at work, and assumed it would always be that easy. Pro tip: THAT IS FALSE. Keeping up with the blog, in terms of inspiration for posts, writing said posts in a coherent way, and then editing them to be blog-ready, is really freaking hard. I’m more than a little surprised I’ve been able to keep it up for this long, given my track record.

Having said that, the best part about having a blog is having a blog. I love having a place to share all my opinions and musings and tales from weekend PLDs. I love writing and having people respond. I love hearing from people who really connect with something I’ve put out there, especially when I’ve wrestled with whether to share that information. I love friends referencing the blog in daily conversations and I love that they support this crazy space no matter what. I hope I can keep it up in the years to come.

Q: You seem to have some really pointed references in some of the posts. Are those meant for particular people? 
A: I can’t pull out any examples here without outing people, so I have to dance around this a little bit. I won’t admit to posting content specifically for a person, but I will say this much: every word on this blog is deliberate. If you read something and think, “Hm, that’s oddly specific. I wonder if it’s meant for someone…” the answer is probably yes.

Q: Can you reveal any of the cryptic hints/secrets from posts in the past?
A: Fair follow-up. I try not to be cryptic when it comes to things that affect me directly, and only me, but if I’m referencing someone else who (a): hasn’t consented to the story being public, or (b): may not read the blog and know what’s up there, I try not to divulge too much. I can’t go into big secrets, like identities or anything, but I’ll divulge a few fun tidbits:

  • Here’s what really happened on the Weirdest Day Ever: My ex-boyfriend (the big one) requested to follow me on Instagram, a high school boyfriend sent me something on Facebook, my college boyfriend was apparently creeping on my LinkedIn profile, the guy that I’d recently met and really liked (despite his inconveniently living across the pond) sent me a text after a few days of silence, and then I heard from The Child for the first time since everything between us went down. That shit was seriously cray.
  • The infamous Dating Confessions and booty-call posts are in reference to the same person BUT he wasn’t involved in the weird day above.
  • The Crush and Rebound posts are also inspired by the same person, but he isn’t ANY of the guys above. (Though Confessions has a cameo in Rebound).
  • In the PLD Montage: Austin edition, I will admit that the “beard burn” quote was mine.
  • And just for fun: the commenter labeled “Dave” on the Sister Wives post is actually N. Which I knew, clearly. We also went out later that night for his birthday and he spilled the beans twice that it was him. Oh, hubs.

Q: Are the initials for the Nickname Posse their actual initials? Also, are yours really LB?
A: This is a surprisingly hard question to answer. Everyone’s initials are connected to their name, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s initials are their first name, or even last name. You’d be surprised how many friends I have with names that start with “M.”

But yes, my real initials are LB. LEB, in full.

To Fly.

Back in the planning stages for the great Austin adventure of July 2014, my anchor G went into our group text and asked for a reaction to us getting tattooed while there. For a long time, I thought that something I have planned for New York would be the last tattoo for me, but her words reignited the impulsive spark in my head that generally rules any important decision-making I have to do. I said to give me 24 hours, and if I thought of anything, I’d be down. For a few years I’d been playing around with the notion of an owl tattooed somewhere, so I started looking into some old ideas I’d saved, but I didn’t get that “YES” feeling that made me want to get inked again. I left the office that evening, and walked along thinking it how it would be such a great experience to get tattooed with G, our soul sister E there for support, as she’s been for tattoos for us in the past; if only I could come up with an idea, something with meaning and heart that represented the lightspeed journey I’ve been on for almost a year. As I stopped on the sidewalk to wait for the light, I saw a feather floating behind the tail wind of a speeding cab, and the gears in my head started turning.

If you’ve met me in person, you’re probably giving me some serious side-eye at the predictability of the above inspiration, the almost-flower child who wanders around in a hippie daze, jewelry on her face and feathers in her hair. Maybe it’s not the most inspired idea for a tattoo, or the most original, but that wasn’t where I was going with this idea necessarily. Meaning, as cliched as it might seem, or as predictable as it might be, I thought and planned enough about what this tattoo would mean to me, and how feathers go so far beyond a silly fashion trend or an impulse decision; I found inspiration in that little feather, floating on the street corner, maybe from a flea-ridden pigeon or maybe something beautiful, lost over the city grid. In the minute between staring at the floating feather and crossing the street, I finally made a decision, and texted G and E back right away. In the end, everything, from the size of the final product to the location on my body, brings me the inspiration I need sometimes, a small reminder of a very important lesson: To fly.

Now obviously I don’t mean that literally. Much as I love a good airplane or would probably trade part of my soul for the mutant ability to fly for real, I don’t have the money for a trip and haven’t had the opportunity for such a trade (yet…). When I say To Fly, I mean to take a deep breath and take a leap. Flying for me means letting go of inhibitions and insecurities; flying is calming my over-analytical brain for a minute and believing in myself first. Flying is independence, a solid foundation of just me, knowing myself and my instincts above everyone and everything else. To Fly means I’m not waiting for someone to give me a boost, a lift, or anything else to help me achieve something I should be able to do on my own. To Fly is to trust willingly, love freely, and sometimes let your mind run wild with possibilities, as small as the chance of a maybe-FaceTime chat or as big as the next tattoo.

There’s an old Sex and the City episode where one of the men makes a point that once you see something you’ve never noticed before, like an old playing card on the sidewalk, you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere. I have absolutely noticed that with feathers in the city: they line the subway steps into my morning station, float outside the coffee shop on Bedford, blow into the streets while I’m walking home from yoga. Big feathers, small ones, gray ones, white ones, brown ones. I couldn’t recall a single instance of seeing a feather in the city prior to July and now they’re everywhere. I’ve said before that I find tattoos have more meaning once you’re removed from the original idea, but I think this one has evolved into my hastily-formed thought on the street that warm June night. This tiny tattoo hiding behind my ear is a rarely-seen reminder of Austin, absolutely the time of my life; the tiny feathers littering the streets of the city are reminders every single day why I got a feather in the first place. Little and little-seen reminders to always, always fly.

PLD Montage: Vol. 4 (Austin edition)

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to chronicle this past weekend, the annual college reunion, because it could go in so many directions. I could talk about how much it means to have that time with my People, the ones who know all of my flaws and love me anyway, after we’ve all had a tough few weeks. I could put up something cute and cryptic about unique bonding experiences, or how much things can change in a year and yet how things can feel exactly the same, as though no time has passed. But the more I cycled through photos and memories on the long trip home, there is really only one way to give the past few days, officially dubbed “Best Weekend Ever (Seriously)” the justice they deserve.

Readers, I give you the latest Montage: Austin Edition.

  • While packing for the trip, I left out a few things that I would need to bring, but couldn’t lock in a suitcase until right before we left for the airport. Namely: glasses case, deodorant and phone charger. Despite a hot date with jalapeno margaritas the night before, E and I had no well, only minor problems waking up at 4 a.m., and I laid out the things I needed to pack as we scrambled around my apartment waiting for the car (Uber count: 1) to arrive. Everything travel-wise went incredibly smoothly – until I went to put away my glasses, apply deodorant and charge my phone.
    Lesson learned: Just because you’re not at a bar doesn’t mean 4 a.m. LB can be trusted.
  • In the week leading up to Austin, I was having a bit of a disagreement with my landlords about who was responsible for paying for my missing doorknob (ref.). It eventually worked out in my favor but it did leave me a bit shorter in budget for the weekend. I figured I’d just use my credit card for trip expenses, so I carefully planned the rest of my weekly spend to leave that card untouched, using cash in lieu of credit so I’d had as many funds to play with in Austin as possible. Following a very joyous reunion, set to the dulcet tones of Iggy (natch), we explored part of Austin for the afternoon, went back to the hotel for some pre-dinner drinks and a fashion show, and rolled out (Uber count: 2) to the supremely classy East Sixth Street for dinner, drinks and dancing. With Texas prices, my budget plan was beyond perfect, and I was so excited to be with my college loves again, so excited for all the crazy things we had planned for the rest of the trip. And then I lost my credit card somewhere between dancing on the bar at Coyote Ugly and getting the patio bartender at Toulouse to follow us on Instagram.
    Lesson learned: STOP. DRINKING. VODKA.
  • After getting back on Saturday night (Uber count: 3, 4. E went home first), I had a bit of a white girl meltdown about the card and how I was going to have fun throughout the weekend. I continued to cry and complain about where my card was like a spoiled brat with zero regard for the other two people forced to share a room with me. After keeping them up for a little while, I finally calmed down and passed out in the surprisingly comfortable hotel bed. Then woke up early, felt great and went by the pool to tan and do yoga for a couple hours, and kicked the other two out of bed when I got bored so we could brunch and find a bar for the World Cup Final.
    Lesson learned: Do not wake sleeping friends to humblebrag about your productive morning when you kept them up the night before.
  • Once the Argentina game ended (Aside: UGHHHHH. End aside), we decided to skip our afternoon plans of actually exploring Austin and stay at the bar with our new best friends, the daytime bartenders, who we’ll call Birthday Boy and Ham. The rooftop bar was perfect for a Sunday Funday, complete with water misting over everyone (#TexasIsHot), an adult-sized see-saw, two rocking horses, random dogs, free barbeque tacos and cornhole. BB and Ham joined us once their shifts were over, and we lost track of the time, laughing hysterically at everything, making friends with everyone and G, E and I just being together, like old times. When the sun went down at about 9, G and E decided to head to down the street for dinner (Uber count: 5), but I was having probably too much fun for a 20-something on the see-saw while BB and Ham bought drinks in honor of my sideboob. I decided to stay at the bar for a little while and meet them back at the hotel instead, and planned to stop for a quick dinner on the way back. Three hours and perhaps a shot (or two) later, I made it back (Uber count: 6) and even got up early enough the next morning for round two of yoga and tanning. It wasn’t until we sat down to breakfast at the hotel that I realized I hadn’t eaten more than a bite of free barbecue pork taco in 24 hours. G’s reaction: “At least you’re not hangry!”
    Lesson learned: If that’s all you’re going to eat in 24 hours, at least have the entire taco.
  • At the end of the trip, after a long day of travel with 2 dead phones, I finally made it back home (Uber count: 7), only mostly hungover and very glad to see little miss. Once my phones were revived, I started scrolling through photos from Best Weekend Ever, and found that I had been somewhat snap-happy at the bar the day before. I sent some of the choice images to G and E, and despite pure exhaustion, we stayed up for another hour on the group text, laughing and reminiscing and trying to pretend we were texting from different rooms, instead of different states. I can’t believe the trip is over. I can’t wait for next year.
    Lesson learned: Despite distance, time and a lot of changes, your best friends will always love you.

I have a million more stories, featuring fantastic quotes that include “Wait is that a metaphor or do you actually have a warrant out for your arrest?,” “WATCH ME DO MY CHEETAH DANCE!,” “I think it’s true love if he massages your stomach when you’re constipated,” and “He gets serious bonus points for not giving me beard burn.” But there are a few stories that stay between friends – especially when you only get together once a year.

Here’s to Peace, Love, 403 in 2015: Perhaps we’ll learn how to behave by then. But honestly? For another weekend like this one, I hope we never do.

Jessie Spano-levels

Something odd that’s plagued my group of college girlfriends is that we’ve never been single at the same time. Back in college, it’d be one out of three single, maybe the occasional month of two out of three, but inevitably at least one of us was in a relationship at any given point in time, both in college and beyond. In particular, my anchor G and I had absolutely never been single at the same time and never expected it to happen, as we both found ourselves in serious relationships starting at 22. When those crashed and burned within a few months of each other, we planned a night in the city, just before New Year’s, where we could finally experience something we’d been looking forward to for years: single G and LB, dressed the hell up and ready for strong drinks and cute boys.

We reminisced the next morning when we both got back to my apartment woke up in my bed because where else would we be, about our hilarious antics the night before. Between vodka shots (never again) and a little adventure to Village Tavern, we’d somehow managed to act like we were 19 again in all the right ways, consequences be damned in lieu of a good time. And then just as quickly as she left, it looked like that was the one and only time we’d ever be single together. One perfect weekend memory(ish) of finally getting a drink as single G&LB.

Every year, my college girlfriends and I plan a trip in the summer. Since we’re all scattered around the country, it’s a simple tradition we’ve enacted that ensures no matter where we are or what’s happening, we take a few days to be together, as though no time has passed from that beautiful May day in 2010 when we had to say goodbye to college and each other. After forcing G to come north since the first trip in 2011, my soul sister E and I are finally gettin’ ourselves down to Texas, meeting G in Austin for a weekend where we only have a few definite plans. E found her Person years ago, and for a while, the rest of the trip dynamic was uncertain, as G and I both fluctuated from un-single to very-single at different times. And in the end, it’s perfect: single G and LB, ready to take on the Texas sun and those Southern boys, the second time ever in 8 years of friendship.

There aren’t words to describe how I’m feeling about this weekend, a chance to get away, a chance to see my college lovies, a chance to make some permanent changes and a guarantee of some college-level PLDs. So, as E and I look forward to a 6 a.m. flight out of JFK this weekend, here’s a gif to do justice to the feeling I can’t describe:

SESC

 

See you next week kids!