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1. You must earn respect again and again. It is not a birthright. It doesn’t come from a title, even if you think it comes from a title, even if it seems to. You have to prove yourself, always, forever, until you die. And then maybe the respect or the disrespect people held for you will live on.

2. Everyone’s already finished the new season of Orange is the New Black. So, now that you’ve got some free time, you should binge watch Grace and Frankie!

3. I love so many people so much and it’s so wonderful.

4. “I can dig it.”

5. Hey guys, maybe we should be more concerned about the planet than like, kim kardashian, whoever that is? Just a thought.

6. Why are you not internet stalking me enough?!

7. Breaking News: White boys white girl dance, too! I’ve seen it! With my very own eyes! Now excuse me, I have to go flail my arms around to this music.

8. Go outside!

9. He has a selfie stick but I still like him. Which is impressive. Although, selfie sticks are becoming more acceptable generally. I think it all started in Asia and then maybe someone flew one over to the States and the rest is, um, selfie history! I could really talk about this forever. Shall I go on?! I won’t. #selfiesticks

10. I am not afraid of many things, but, expressway construction is terrifying. Please stop making me drive in pretend lanes you basically drew with sidewalk chalk and built solid concrete walls around! Thanks!

I see two women walking together on the side of the road as I drive past, and I wonder if the woman waving her hands is talking and talking and talking too much, and if the other woman is regretting inviting her friend to exercise with her on this chilly late summer afternoon, since that’s what she really wanted to do, exercise, not walk slower than she normally would and listen to all of her friend’s  updated life struggles. “My cat just won’t stop staring out the window,” I imagine her saying, waving her arms as she walks, pretending that she wants to exercise, too.

And now the women are in my rearview mirror, I can look back and see them, and see the leaves turning orange or brown on the trees they walk under.

People are already complaining about the cold, about how it’s almost fall and the weather is colder than it was a month ago, and I think about how this always happens, every year, everything. Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, cold in the winter, with snow, and the same fetching of the dusty snow shovel from the basement.

I look in my rearview mirror at the beautiful orange leaves and I think about how I’ve seen this all before, seen those women before, or women like them, had those same experiences, talked about that same cat, seen those same leaves change from green to orange to brown, raked them into piles and jumped in them, or left the piles to rot. Again and again, year after year.

“It’s so cold!” she says, another faceless woman in my mind, pulling on the sweater she hasn’t worn in nine months.

Winter will come. Snow will fall. Salt trucks will melt it away, or try, or make ice patches that are worse than the snow was.

Again, again, of course. And of course the people will go on, dealing with seeing their breath in the air on cold winter mornings, plowing through snow drifts and piles of paperwork and gallons of hot coffee. What else can they do?

Today was a strange day.

I got up early to do some laundry. I ate a grapefruit for breakfast. All very exciting.

It was raining. No, it was lightly drizzling. It was the kind of weather that nobody likes – not even ducks. This went on all day long.

I had a class today that started at 12:30. I got to school at 10:00 (early enough to get a good parking spot). I sat in the library for two hours, waiting for class time to come around.

It was rainy, and I was too warm in that library. Bored, waiting for two hours with nothing to do, I went online to see what I had gotten on a Psychology exam I took last week. An 85%. Not so great.

Then I checked my school email account. In it, an email from the school about my upcoming graduation (in May). With it, a realization that this is almost all over. Something else is coming.

Another email, asking me if I wanted to pre-purchase tickets for an event in early August 2013. With it, a realization that I might not be in the US next summer. I can’t make plans. Something else is coming.

12:00 came around. Suddenly, I didn’t want to go to class. I wanted to leave. I wanted to go home – no, not home. Just elsewhere.

I walked out to my truck. 12:05. Should I go to class? Students walked past as I sat in my vehicle, staring at the clock on the dashboard. What do I do?

I turned the key. A lady walked by carrying an umbrella over her shoulder. I put the truck in reverse and pulled out of my parking spot.

Where to go? To Target. Once there (not very far from my school), I sat in my truck for a moment. I fiddled with my phone. I put my ipod into my glovebox (to prevent theft). I sat longer. I fiddled around on Twitter: “I don’t know where I’m going; I’m just running away.”

Target. I could just go wander around in there. I could see if they have any cute underwear on sale. I don’t really need anything. I don’t really have any money.

I put my seatbelt back on, and took my ipod back out of the glovebox. I didn’t want to go to Target. I pulled back onto the road, onto the expressway, again, heading towards home.

Gas prices are down a lot. $3.33 a gallon today. I could get gas. I’ve only got a half tank.

I pulled into the Meijer gas station. A lady was walking out from the gas station store when I pulled in. She walked awfully close to my truck as I zoomed past her on my way to a pump. I didn’t slow down like I normally would have. I got too close.

I pull in, check my mirror to see if the tank is close enough to the gas pump (I never pull up far enough and have to stretch the hose too far over).

“Ma’am?” The lady is walking over. My first thought: Is she angry that I got too close?

“The gas station has no power. The pumps aren’t working.”

“Oh, Thank you.”

I think: Do I really look like a ‘Ma’am’? Why do people say that to me?

The engine is still on, so I put my truck back into drive and pull away – back onto the road. Towards home.

I don’t have to work today. Just school. Only, I didn’t have school, did I? I’ve got to study tonight. Lots to study.

I still need gas. I drive closer towards home, through the city, into the country. I go North. I stop at another gas station. I wonder if I’m feeling cranky today. I wonder if I’m just hormonal. I wonder if it’s because the sun has gone farther away.

This was the first time I’ve skipped class this semester. I was doing so well. I feel guilty. Class starts in 6 minutes, and I know I’m not going back.

I pump gas into my truck. I wasted gas going to school for nothing. I knew I just should have stayed home in the first place. I felt it. But I don’t skip class.

I stop the counter at exactly $30.00. There’s one small accomplishment for the day. I take it. I print out a receipt. I never print out receipts. I shove it into my little brown purse along with my credit card. Other people are buying gas, too. I feel so tired of this. We all do the same things.

I drive towards home. My gas tank is full. This make me happier. The weather is still gray. I listen to my Paolo Nutini CD. I think about how his voice matches the weather.

I pull into my driveway. My parent’s driveway. My dad is home. Of course he is. I go to my room. I feel better. Maybe because my bedroom walls are painted bright yellow – much too bright for the color scheme of the rest of our house. My parents’ house. I put down my backpack. In it, the books I didn’t use today. A reminder. Something else is coming. But today, you were not the person you are supposed to be.

Today was a strange day.

1. When I go to pass you on the expressway because you are annoyingly going 3 under the speed limit, why do you immediately speed up when you see me get into the fast lane to go around you?

2. Sure, those signs say “No Smoking” – but I’m sure they didn’t mean you couldn’t smoke there!

3. If you’re standing in the front row at a concert, do not turn around and stare at all of the people behind you! It’s so awkward – especially if you’re all packed in so tightly that no one can escape your piercing gaze! Don’t you know the unspoken concert rules?!

4. Don’t go to Mcdonalds. Just don’t do it. You know you’re going to regret it as soon as you swallow that last bite of greasy “beef”!

5. Who are these people buying $500 boots? Mine cost $20 from Target, thank you – and they’re fine!

6. You know that awkward moment after someone sneezes and no one says “Bless You”? Yeah.

7. When is the appropriate time during class to pull out a juice box?

8. I don’t care what the law says, if you ride a motorcycle without a helmet, you are an idiot. Fact.

9. I want someone to make me a mix tape. Do people even make mix tapes anymore?

10. Have you ever seen those infomercials that pretend they are very important breaking news? Yeah.

Waking up in Vegas…

Did that Katy Perry song pop into your head just then? It was in mine at the time as I woke up, as they say, in Vegas.

Without the glitter.

Las Vegas is an interesting place. Or, more like, it’s an interesting strip of road. That’s most of it – a least, that’s where most people hang out. (Downtown Vegas is just as cool and interesting, in my opinion, but not as popular.)

So, let’s be honest – Vegas is a strip of road. With really fancy, expensive, glitzy hotels. And lots of people. All sorts.

“Vegas is the perfect location to host your mid-life crisis” – Me, via Twitter

Did I just quote myself? Anyway.

After the whole waking up in Vegas thing, I checked out of my hotel (the Tropicana!) and then stayed at my hotel.

Why? Why, you ask? Because outside of my hotel was 110 degrees (F) and Nicole and I were not about to set back into that at 11 in the morning. Some things you have to slowly ease in to.

Like a pool.

Like the hotel’s pool! Did you like that transition?

When in the middle of the desert, one searches for water. Luckily, the Tropicana has a rather large amount of water that they allow their guests to swim in.

Unfortunately for me, I had just become a non-guest of the hotel minutes before attempting to swim in their guest-only pool.

This caused a problem when I tried to get a couple of towels – from the people working in what can only be called the “towel tent”.

Me: Could I have two towels?

Girl: Sure. *hands me two towels*

Me: Thank you!

Girl: Sure. Do you happen to have your room key on you?

Me: Umm… no….

Girl: Could you go get it?

Me: Umm… I don’t have one…

Girl: Are you staying with someone who has one?

Me: Umm… no…

Girl: Are you staying at the hotel?

Me: Umm.. well, we stayed last night, and we wanted to check out the pool…

Girl: Oh, so you’re already checked out?

Me: *assuming police were going to jump out of the nearby bushes and arrest me* Mmhmm…

Girl: Oh, ok. That’s fine.

Me: ok. ….. bye.

Ok, maybe it’s hard to show the tenseness that was happening in that conversation. Awkward silences are hard to capture in text form. Just picture a situation you’ve been in where you got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and were confronted and you attempted to tell the truth without telling truth…. simple, really!

After swimming and using the towels (illegally), I lounged on a pool-side lounge chair and read some dirk gently’s holistic detective agency by my dear friend Douglas Adams. As good as that book is and was, I discovered that I am very bad at lounging.

I just wanted to do something! It was so frustrating just sitting there, because I knew that I had to sit there (because we had something like 5 hours until we could head to the airport), and because I wanted to go do something (even though it really was impossible to go do something else, because – uh, it was hot! – so walking around outside was a no-no. And what else is there to do in Vegas? Gamble?! Nah.)

I’m an explorer. I don’t sit! It was outrageous! But, I sat. And, I read. And, I kept checking the time.

Finally, finally, finally, enough time passed so that we could go do our next planned activity – froyo!

froooooyooooo.

I love me some frozen yogurt. I really do. And self-serve is where it’s at! None of that girl-behind-the-counter-makes-it-for-you crap!

Strawberries, kiwis, mochi, little bit of oreo crumbles, and some gummy bears on top! Mmmm…

Anyway, enough of that. (Even though after I had finished my cup I wanted more! It was good, ok? Don’t judge!)

We managed to spend about an hour nom-ing on our deserts… and then we still had hours and hours to wait.

(Note to self and others: late-night flights kind of suck! And if you’re in Las Vegas in July with nothing to do…  you may as well book another night at a cheap hotel and stay inside and watch TV in air-conditioned comfort until it’s time to go to the airport! Ah, the lessons you learn.)

So, I will ask the question once more: “What does one do with hours to go until their flight home?”

You, with a knowing look in your eye, “Go to the movies!”

Me: “That’s right!!”

Yes, I went to the movies. Again. For the second day in a row. Whatever.

We saw Brave, which was actually really good (I love her hair!), although I wrote a better ending to the movie in my head. Tell me if you think it’s better than the actual. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip to the next paragraph! I’ll meet back up with you there.) Ok – so, you know that giant bear that everyone and their father wanted to kill? Ok. And you know how the girl’s mother wanted her to get married to one of the sons from the different Kingdoms? Ok. And you know how that witchy lady said that that bear was actually a guy that had wanted to escape from his life or something? Ok. Umm, hello, Pixar! Do I need to spell it out for you? My ending wouldn’t even have violence! What kind of Pixar movie kills off someone/something?! Here’s how you do it properly: Have Brave (is that the girl’s name? I forget.) get the witchy lady to turn the biggo bear back into that super-attractive guy that we all know he must have been! And then: ta-da! Brave has got her a husband, and the bear is gone (with no squishing), and they all live happily ever after! You’re welcome, Pixar. Feel free to contact me for any plot assistance in the future. Love, Jenni.

After the movie ended, we once again found ourselves in the oven-like heat that was Las Vegas. No, not again! We then ran back to our hotel that wasn’t actually our hotel anymore. Home sweet home! Nicole tried her luck at a blackjack table, which was pretty cool to watch. We even had the dealer teach us how to play – because neither of us had any idea how to play blackjack. Then Nicole lost $5. Then we left our hotel (so long!) for the very, very last time.

It was time, finally, to go home.

Home.

Before that, we had to take back our car. (No, we did not put that scratch there! Thank you very much, mr. rental car guy!) I snapped a picture of our silver Ford Taurus baby as we walked away from it and towards the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport. Fun Fact: Our trip mileage counter read 1,500. 1,500 miles! In a week and one day. What a week it was.

At the airport, I almost got through security without them stopping/patting/arresting me. But when they called “Who’s bag is this?” while pointing to my little red luggage, I claimed it quickly and without surprise. Now what? Apparently their machine only took a picture of half of it, so they had to run the bag through again. Or something. I just nodded and clutched my shoes while many of the people who had been in line behind me streamed past. Then I grabbed my luggage and (trying to be very non-suspicious)  strolled along to my gate.

Home.

Before that, we had to fly to Phoenix. Again, the flight seemed to take only a few minutes. Well, apart from the very nice (talkative) lady who wanted to tell us all about her 7-month stay in Hawaii, and how she had already been on a plane for 5 hours that day, and how it was going to take her another 4 hours to get home, and how a gallon of milk costs way too much in Hawaii, and etc.

Here I’d like to mention how much I love flying. Every part of it. Even, and especially, the people.

Then, home. After an hour layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, MI. Home. It was 11:15PM as we found our seats and settled in on the plane. It was 6:20AM as we got off the plane and found ourselves, finally, unfortunately, thankfully, wonderfully, terribly: home.

After one week and one day, we had returned. To the land of trees, it seemed to me. Trees and lots of green. Michigan. After a week and one day of exploration. After the first trip west.

Californiacation.

I don’t know how to sum up my trip; If I should, or if it’s even possible. When people ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain.

I went. I saw.

You should too.

This is it. This is the day I leave California. Leave LA, leave this beautiful ocean-bordered state and go back into the scorching desert.

Also known as Las Vegas.

Yes, all this is in the write-up for today, but we didn’t head back to Vegas first thing in the morning. Why? Well, one look at the weather forecast for Vegas gave us pause; it was 108 degrees there – at 10 in the morning – and it was only expected to get hotter.

Sure, that’s a dry heat, but, still, we decided it would be best to stay in LA’s cooler weather for a bit longer.

That was totally ok with me, because I really didn’t want to go back to Vegas at all. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to California. Not yet.

So, what does one do in the middle of somewhere in LA with a few hours to kill?

Go to the movies!

Which is what we did – after breakfast, of course.

Breakfast. We were used to having breakfast at breakfast time at this point in our trip, so I whipped out my handy-dandy phone and used Urban Spoon to locate us some foodstuffs.

We ended up at this place called Dinah’s family restaurant, and my pancakes had strawberries on top of them and I had fresh-squeezed California orange juice and I was a very happy camper.

LA seems to be hectically busy at all times. Dinah’s was packed from the moment we got there until the moment with left, with the wait-staff eager for us to finish as soon as they set us down with fresh silverware. (I realized later that it was a Sunday morning… in LA… so, understandable.) Very busy.

I wonder if there are ever empty roads in LA, like there are at home in Michigan. At 3AM, is there still traffic on the 405?

Again, though, I will ask the question – What does one do when they’ve got a few hours to kill? (You, enthusiastically: “Go to the movies!!” Me: “That’s right!”)

We had to drive a whole 2 miles to the nearest movie theatre. Good grief, LA! We happened upon this cool little mall-sort-of-complex – with $2 parking! Hello! Will take!

Then, The Amazing Spiderman happened. During the movie, I found myself thinking: “Didn’t I see this movie already? Didn’t they just make this movie? Really, I’m supposed to believe that Emma Stone is 17 years old? Ooh, hello there, Andrew Garfield! Wait, he doesn’t shoot webs out of his hands?! WTF?” Etc.

It was a good flick, though.

Overall.

You know?

Yeah.

Ok – I’m just stalling! The next part of my journey is coming up and I don’t want to think about it let alone write it all out in excruciating detail!

Then we left California.

Nicole drove, so I got to sit in the passenger seat and stare glumly out the window as LA disappeared, and the entire state of Cali flew by. It was honestly kind of a beautiful life moment, though. While I was in California, I realized how much more there is in the world that a lot of people miss out on. I don’t know why they do. Voluntarily. I found myself thinking that, in a year, after I graduate from college, I could move out there – to California. Or, I could go anywhere. It was kind of a wonderful realization.

Yes, I had to leave behind California and all of the wonderful places I had been – but, I could come back. Or, I could keep going – to new places; see the world.

The world is as big as you let it be.

We drove East to Vegas, (while I booked a hotel on my, yes you guessed it, phone) and spent the night at the Tropicana hotel.

The end.

Wait, no. There’s more! A lot more. We were in Vegas, baby! And we weren’t ready to stop exploring just yet.

Nicole had never been to Vegas, though as this was my third time there, and I felt like a Vegas pro. So, we wandered out to walk the strip – and find dinner, of course! Who do you think we are?

Uh, Vegas is hot. Like, really hot. Yes, sure, it’s a dry heat – but that’s like saying the inside of your oven is a dry heat. That’s pretty much where I felt I was – inside of an oven – as we journeyed down the strip and snapped some photographs. After a half hour of baking, we decided to duck into Outback Steakhouse, and out of the heat.

I then proceeded to guzzle down three glasses of water.

Nicole got her steak, and I my burger and fries, and we sat there munching happily as the cute waiter guy came back every 5 minutes to refill our water glasses.

Oh – did I tell you the story about the waiter guy? No? Let me fill you in!

He was cute. And funny. And, it turned out, from Michigan! Just like we were! Was it a sign?! Also, he was pretty great at bringing us water. That’s how you know he’s a good catch.

Anyway, that happened, and we left Outback with very full stomachs – and my number on the receipt! Oh my god! That happened! Yes, it did!

It was kind of a big deal to me – I don’t give random guys my number! But, hey, I do now. Or, maybe I only do that in Vegas. (What happens there…)

He wouldn’t text me anyway, right? It was just a funny, exciting thing to do.

We pretty much ran out of that restaurant so we wouldn’t see him on the way out. So much for us being daring souls, right?

Then, back to the Tropicana. We were so tired! Stretched out on our (very comfortable) beds, we watched T.V. for a little while. It was getting late. Wait, no, it was late! It was midnight! When had that happened? Time for bed?

Then, I realized, we hadn’t had a drink yet.

When we first set off on this adventure, we talked about how one night we should go to a bar and have a drink. Newly 21, this sounded like an exciting idea to both of us. However, we found ourselves there, in Vegas, on the last night of our trip, with no drinks on our record. What? Unacceptable!

So, we went out. Again. Into the Las Vegas night.

And it was still fucking hot. 110 degrees at midnight? Really?

Nicole was on a mission to find an icy sort of fruity drink. What we ended up with was large cups of pink, icy, pretend-strawberry margaritas. Honestly, I have no idea what they were. We found an outside bar (with these cool fans that blew water on you!) that had some sort of pink business sloshing around inside a machine, and ordered two.

It was really, horribly strong. But I drank the whole thing. With lots of grimaces.

Then, we went back to the Tropicana and went to sleep.

Oh, wait! No we didn’t! I mean, yeah, that was the plan – but then waiter guy texted me!

I may have been a little too excited about the whole thing, but I’ll just blame that drink I had. Anyway, I then busted into the bathroom while my friend was in the shower and proceeded to cackle hysterically while attempting to explain that the waiter guy had just texted me.

It was a good night.

It was a good last day of our vacation.

And as I continued to cackle for the next hour or so, I realized that we still had almost an entire day left of our adventures before our plane ride home. The fun wasn’t over yet!

More free hotel waffles for breakfast in San Francsico!

Then, we were out of that town…

And on our way back to LA.

I was pretty excited about that fact – more LA!

I guess I’ve sort of fallen in love with that city. It just seems like something is always happening there.

So knowing that I was going to be able to spend another night there before I headed home, well, let’s just say the 6-hour drive back from San Fran to LA went a little bit faster.

It was a sad drive, though, going back.

Going back.

I don’t like going back! And going back to LA was exciting, but it also marked the first leg of our return journey home.

I wasn’t ready to leave! I didn’t want to go! Say it isn’t so!

Sometimes you have to pull yourself together a little bit, and make sure you’re focusing on the present. Which is what I did, and then I realized that I still had three whole days left of my adventures.

I’m going to skip telling you about the 6-hour drive, which was uneventful, but I do want to describe me attempting to drive up what must have been the steepest road in San Francisco, and possibly in all of California.

My car wouldn’t go! I had to floor the gas in order to get up that hill. And, to make the situation even better – there was a stop sign at the top! So, I had to stop my car once I got there, and then attempt to turn off of the road without rolling backwards and smashing into the car behind me.

Sure, I pulled it off smoothly (with minimum honking from the car behind me), but it was quite a stressful and interesting experience!

And then the whole 6-hour drive thing happened.

And then, we were partying at the Holiday Inn!

Not really. But the room was really nice! I love a good, cheap, quality hotel room! That will make or break your night as a traveler. (Wow, look at me pretending I’m a seasoned traveler now! After a week! Ha!)

Then, we were off! Guess where? To get food. Typical.

As everyone and their mother had told me about In N Out burger, that was our fancy restaurant of choice for our last night in LA.

When we pulled in to In N Out, there must have been 30 cars in the take out line, waiting to order – and that many people inside the building itself, both ordering and waiting for their food. So, I thought, this place must be good!

I ordered a number one – cheeseburger, fries, medium drink.

And, honestly, I didn’t get it.

I still don’t! Why is In N out so popular? Jack in the box is way better! Yet, there was not a mile-long line at Jack in the box. Am I missing something here? I really feel like I am! Sheesh, just when I thought I was beginning to understand LA.

I mean, In N out was good, but not great. It just tasted… well… like a hamburger! Ah! Help, somebody! I’m so confused!

Anyway, then we headed back to the Holiday Inn for the night. I really like saying “Holiday Inn” because it just reminds me of that one song. You know the one.