Everywhereness.

The loudest I ever heard God was on a train.

Alone in the open doorway of an empty railcar with my feet on the platform, waiting for the last train home.

From a distance I must’ve looked sad.

A thin girl with bright orange hair.

Staring.

Shivering.

Smoking.

My longtime ex-boyfriend and even-longertime ex-best-friend were five thousand miles away, but also right in front of me. Their ghosts had followed me to London, and wouldn’t leave me alone. Haunting. Mocking. Sneering. Glad I was gone.

I lit another cigarette.

It had all happened months before. The painful, drawn-out breakups. First with him, then with her.

Losing one was incapacitating.

Losing both was catastrophic.

I was a fucking wreck.

Crying in secret. Or sometimes in public when the wind blew a certain way or the wrong song came on. Their memories sliced through me with blunt scissors. And I was a dutiful masochist.

Rewinding and replaying my part in the tragedy over and over and over and over again. Smoking and drinking until every nasty thing they said about me was true.

(Not looking for sympathy, here. Everyone’s had a trampled heart. I’m just trying to set a scene.)

Bottom line? My well-being was drop-kicked and shattered. Splayed on the concrete at Liverpool Street Station, reflecting my very worst.

So that’s where my mind was that night. Grieving. Loving them. Missing them. Hating them. Cold fingers holding a cigarette, watching the clock, waiting for Christopher who ran off to get us a tea, my brain voice whispering things like:

You deserve being sad.

They were right about you.

And the same thing will happen with Christopher.

Because you–

And that’s when it happened.

.

.

.

So how do I describe this.

.

.

You know when you use a walkie-talkie,

and you push the little button to talk

and your voice blocks out all other noise,

and you can’t hear anything until you let the button go?

—It was like that.

.

.

My inner voice got muted like someone pushed a button.

STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

something screamed.

But not a mean scream.

More like . . . interruption.

And it was LOUD.

So loud I jolted.

Then a

soft

quiet

calm

male

voice

continued gently.

Completely overriding my thoughts.

Dear Jennifer, please stop.

I looked up.

You must stop. You made some bad decisions for a short time, and that really is all.

I looked around.

Where–

Everyone messes up. Everyone. It’s all about lessons. For everyone.  Are you listening?

I nodded. By myself on that train car in the freezing cold I nodded.

You are loved more than you know. You have learned. And it will get better. It already is. Now no more.

I looked around like a maniac.

The voice was IN my head, gentle but firm, and so very obviously not my own.

And here came Christopher, smiling, holding two cups of steaming tea.

“What’s wrong, darling, you been crying?”

I nodded.

“Something just happened,” I managed.

“Tell me.” He swiped my cheek with a finger.

I accepted the tea, stubbed out my cigarette then told him.

Clearly, two counts of Divine Intervention.

(The second miracle is that Christopher stuck around.)

My healing began that night. And I remember it with profound gratitude.

Not for God’s existence. But for his Everywhereness.

I wasn’t in church and certainly wasn’t treating my body like a temple. But He was right there, privy to my pain. Loving me while I was quite incapable of loving myself.

(Note: I use the He pronoun for simplicity; that’s not really how I define things.)

So what’s the deal. Why am I sharing this.

Well.

     1. Because this is what I write about: The Other Side.

 And 2. Because last year my brain got noisy again.

Not in my personal world. But in the world around me.

And I’m about to switch gears, because how do I recap 2016 in a tidy blog?

The deaths were . . .

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— hard.

And not just the famous ones. I lost my beloved grandmother, too. And then election season. Sweet Jesus, election season. The only thing rougher than election season was being an EMPATH during election season.

Fear.

Anger.

Misogyny.

Derision.

Don’t remind you, right?

People’s inner psychos came out.

Somehow, someway, the word pussy wriggled its way into a presidential debate.

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People shouted but didn’t listen.

I discovered some of my ‘friends’ maybe don’t like black people

certainly don’t like Muslim people

and definitely not gay people.

And wait . . .  had they always felt this way? 

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I found myself on the defense for being white.

I scrolled past pictures of dusty, bombed Syrian babies and watched Mein Kampf grow a waiting list at the library.  A waiting list!

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Remind me what planet we’re on?

And just when we were in the home stretch . . .

George Michael up and died.

On Christmas.

S e r i o u s l y.

I said it on Facebook and I’ll say it again.

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What the message is, I dunno. But it made me want to scoot my chair closer to God and listen to Careless Whisper on repeat. And also start writing a blog series about His everywhereness –something I’ve considered a very long time. 

Because I never found him in a building.

(Okay, there was that one time.)

Mostly I found Him hanging out where I was.

In the cracks.

On trains.

In lyrics.

Through coincidence  divine orchestration and intuitive nudges that wouldn’t go away.

But especially through people I met at just the right time.

Like my friend Emily, who writes about this stuff, too. Emily is the only other person I know (my age) who owns a kaftan. She also agreed to join me on my little God Tour.

And just yesterday when I thought maybe I shouldn’t write this — because hey– it’s personal, a complete stranger approached me and said “I just gotta tell someone.”

He was tall. Black. Homeless. A gentle weathered face like John Coffey in The Green Mile. And he smiled at me real big.

“I was so cold yesterday and feeling real low cos I didn’t have anywhere to go.” He closed his fists for emphasis. “I asked God to please help me. He guided me to a motel to get warm and stretch my legs and you know what? The lady there -I told her not to-but she ordered me a pizza.”

He started to tear up.

And so did I.

I recognize a message when it’s standing right in front of me.

“And this morning something told me to check my account,” he continued. “It was weird, you know? Because I haven’t had money for so long, but I did. I checked my account. And you know what? There was money in there. I couldn’t believe it. My old employer finally deposited some funds we been fighting over and now I can breathe. I can eat and get warm and I’m so grateful. God listens, He really does. Even though I’m homeless. I’m sorry, ma’am. Here I am, a grownup man crying. But I just had to tell somebody.”

So just in case

I had ANY doubt

 I should move forward with this . . .

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.

.

.

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to follow this blog, you can sign up for notifications.

See you in the cracks.

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Love, 

Jennifer

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Q & A: Mexican Ghosts Speak Spanish

Q: Hi Jennifer. My grandma died last year. We miss her a lot! My mom says she sometimes catches flashes of her, which I believe, but why can no one else see her? Sometimes I think I sense her, but I’m really not sure. When you experience a ‘ghost’ how can you tell it’s not your imagination? –Emily; New Braunfels.

Great question.

But let me answer the last part first.

Imagination is when you’re watching a scary movie and too scared to get up and pee. Intuition is when you open the bathroom door and see a man walk through the wall.

If a ghost, angel, or deceased loved one appears, it’s my experience that (most) everyone in the room will experience something. Even if they later try to reason it away.

HOWEVER. Only those with clairvoyant tendencies would (likely) see it.

Imagine this scenario:

A few friends gather at Peter’s house, drinking and chatting  when a sudden presence fills the room. So strong that Peter stops talking and stares at the wall.

Peter: Wait. What was that. Did ya’ll see that?

Susan: See what?

Peter: A man. There by the window.  I swear I saw something?

Edmund: I dunno, but I just got the chills.

Lucy: Right when you said that, I smelled cigarettes. Did someone say ‘Harold?’

Susan:  Ya’ll are crazy. I’m leaving.

Peter: Please don’t. The queso’s almost ready.

Susan: No, I don’t feel right. Something’s up.  Excuse me a sec.

Susan calls home, learns her son sliced his foot and needs stitches ASAP. Peter researches to find the original homeowner, Harold Smith, a heavy smoker, drank himself to death in 1899. No one likes Peter’s house anymore.

The End.

Okay, that’s silly and oversimplified, but you get the point. ‘Clairvoyant’ is one of those loaded words, but it just means ‘clear seeing’ and is by far the easiest extra-sensory perception to glamorize on film. But spirit detection is rarely down to eyes alone.

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Intuition/Psychic ability breaks down to:

  1. Seeing
  2. Feeling
  3. Hearing
  4. Knowing
  5. Smelling/Tasting

Peter saw. Edmund felt. Lucy smelled AND heard. And Susan — our skeptic– demonstrates intuition isn’t a woo-woo phenomenon. I personally think clear knowing is the strongest, most trustworthy of the four. Sometimes you just KNOW. You don’t know how. You just do. And inevitably it’s about something really, really important, right?

Every person alive has at least one of these gifts whether they ignore it or not. Those with a decent command of all four are the world’s ‘psychics’ or ‘intuitives.’ Those who claim they do and tell people lies for money and attention are charlatans.

Know the difference.

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Now I’ll share something that really happened.

Picture it. Estado Morelos 2008.

My mom, our friend Heather, and I traveled to Mexico for a family wedding and shared a room in this hotel overlooking scenic Tepoztlán.

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Pretty, right?

It was also FULL of Spirit. Like, everywhere. In the streets. In the market. In church. The entire city felt charged. Not haunted. Just charged. (Frenchman St. in NOLA’s French Quarter feels similar.)

I felt it. Heather felt it. Mom felt it. But it was in our hotel room we encountered a pushy, dead Mexican.

I woke in the middle of the night because I felt –I dunno– something.

Imagine squeezing a balloon. Not enough to pop it, but enough to think you might. That’s what woke me– something pressing against my subconscience. I opened my eyes and pulled up on my elbows.

The room felt still.

I remember being hot. There was no a/c so they’d given us fans, but really, they just made noise. We’d opened balcony doors to stave off heat, but there was no wind either. Only moonlight, a whirring fan, and the distant chirping of foreign bugs. I kicked off the covers. And that’s when I noticed the bottom of my mattress, sunk down.

Like someone sitting there.

I yanked in my feet. Let me assure you the mattress was hard as a damn rock. It’d take something with mass to make it sink that deep. I stared at the empty (yet occupied) space with a pounding heart.

The air got crackly.

Oh hell no, I thought. LEAVE.

But that guy —I could tell it was a guy— didn’t budge. And he was super happy I acknowledged him. Because then he started talking. FAST.

A quick word about Spirits talking: Rarely do you hear them outside yourself –like you’d hear someone next to you–talking. You hear it inside. But it’s completely different from your brain voice. Does that make sense? It’s almost like a super loud thought, yet you know it’s not coming from you.

The cool brown tiles felt good against my feet. I slipped to the bathroom and shut the door, quickAnd do you know that cabrón followed me to the toilet?!  I wasn’t imagining things either because rapid unfamiliar Spanish zipped through my conscience like ticker tape. I caught a few words.

. . . mil setecientos . . .

“Go away!” I whisper-hissed, too scared to look up in case he manifested in front of me.

. . . José.

“Váyase José!” I waved toilet paper at him.

. . . de cólera, he implored.

“Eres muerto, Jose!” ( Jesus Cristo! How do you say go to the light en Español!?) My mind raced. “Vaya con Dios!” I still wouldn’t look up.

“Who are you talking to?” I heard my mother.

And then he was gone.

I re-entered the room to Mom and Heather, wide awake.

“There’s a damn ghost in there telling me he died of cholera in the 1700s.” I plopped defensively on my now un-sunken mattress.

And then it got interesting.

In full disclosure, I need to let you know Heather is a professional medium and my trusted go-to when I want a reading. She’s also a big ol’ chicken who gets really uncomfy outside the loving presence of angels and deceased loved ones.

Poor girl had been lying there hours. Unable to sleep. Overwhelmed by images of bones, mountains, native people, and snatches of conversation from long ago. And she couldn’t shut it off.

“They obviously don’t sage here,” she sighed, sitting up, fluffing her pillow.

Everyone knows how bad it sucks to lie there exhausted in the wee hours, mind churning like a hamster wheel. Let me tell you it’s 1000 times worse as a psychic. It’s like a movie reel shining bright, constant, moving pictures behind your closed eyes. And you can’t do CRAP about it except wait for it to be over.

Mom later confessed she’d seen a man hovering over Heather in the doorway, but didn’t say anything.

We turned on the lights and waited several hours for breakfast.

( P.S. Local Mexican coffee mops the floor with Folgers.)

That same trip,  Mom and I hiked two, steep, dangerous hours to the top of an ancient pyramid and encountered –I have no choice but to believe– an angel.

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But I’ll save that story for another time.

Next time you say prayers Emily, ask Grandma to let you know she’s there. Maybe you’ll dream about her that night. That’s a form of clairvoyance, too. In the meantime, believe your momma.

Love,
Jennifer

*****

If you have a question regarding paranormal or metaphysical phenomena, please send it to jennifer@jkabay.com. I’ll archive and answer as appropriate, when I can.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undercover Taco Contest Finds Clear Winner

Why a bean & cheese taco contest? Didn’t we just do Best of Hays? And who are you? Why do you get to judge? Why does this even matter?

Me? I’ve eaten all over this planet, but I’m local now. Apart from a few years in London, I’ve lived here since 1994. Quality food is VERY important to me. I also think food critics can be elitist, uptight buttholes. Everyone deserves delicious food and it needn’t be expensive. Plus local businesses doing awesome deserve recognition, right?

Why bean & cheese? Isn’t that kinda lame?

Well. I figure if you master beans, cheese, and tortillas– the foundation of all Tex-Mex– then the rest of your menu is probably okay. In full disclosure, I’d prefer BACON, beans and cheese, but –let’s face it– the wrong piece of bacon can ruin a perfectly good taco, so I decided to keep it simple.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. This is completely objective. No one paid me to do this. Nor do I have a vested interest in the winner.
2. These restaurants are clueless. They might’ve slipped me extra cheese if they knew my intentions (which would totally sway my vote.)
3. I love adore cheese.
4. My palate is trustworthy. I’m only ‘fussy’ when it comes to quality. I don’t eat or cook crap and will taste cheap ingredients immediately.
5. I’ll be 100% honest. Always.

Choosing where to go.

Obviously, I can’t sample a hundred tacos. Neither my stomach nor wallet could handle that. I needed a Taco Master List (insert mariachi music). So I asked the local public:

What are your top 3 favorite taco places?

I asked Facebook.
I asked colleagues.
I asked strangers.
I asked waitstaff.

Then I tallied the vote and visited 15 restaurants over 3 days in random order.

Day One:
The Palm $1.61
La Fonda $1.46
Rodeo $1.35
Wow-Wees $2.44
Lolitas $2.50

Day Two:
Dona Chiquis $1.50
Garcias $1.62
Casa de Don Lorenzo $1.08
Los Vega $1.62
M & M $1.73

Day Three:
El Chepo $1.72
Exxon Station’s Bobcat Quickie $2.26
Rogelios $1.35
El Charro $1.62
Herbert’s $1.89

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Don’t be coming at me with a pitchfork if your fave didn’t make the list. This was a democratic process. I also followed a routine to keep it fair.

1. Visit 5 places each morning.
2. Order 1 bean & cheese taco to go.
3. Take 1-2 bites of each.
4. Write down reaction. Immediately.

Chew. Write. Chew. Pause. Is that lard or pork fat? Chew. Pause. Man, that’s salty! Chew. Too salty. Pass taco to husband.

. . . And so it went for three days. Finding a champ meant every little thing got scrutinized.

Tortilla

Please don’t serve me yesterday’s tortilla. Automatic demerits. The fresh, homemade tortillas were SUPER obvious.

Best Tortillas:
The Palm
El Charro
Herberts

Temperature

Beans and cheese should be hot and melty, people. Dry, dusty, unmelted cheese on tepid beans is a total deal breaker.

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Beans to Cheese to Tortilla Ratio

Contents shouldn’t slop out the bottom when taking a bite. That’s just as bad as all ingredients smushed into a little log and too much tortilla in one bite. The perfect taco should balance proportions and squish together nicely in your mouth.

Atmosphere

Everyone’s walked into a place, looked around, and thought um, no thanks. VIBE is crucial, ya’ll. Dine-ins, drive thrus, and trailers should ALL feel clean and inviting. Especially those with open/visible kitchens (you’d think!). Warm greetings coupled with the hum of happy patrons is powerful stuff you can feel with your eyes closed. And we had standouts.

Best Atmosphere:
The Palm
Rogelio’s
El Charro

Service

To-go places: How long did I wait? Dine-ins: How did staff react when I strolled in on a busy morning and ordered one cheap taco to go? I’m happy to report excellent service all around. I also think San Marcos is hiding a few ninjas. I was in and out of a few places (order, pay, taco-in-hand) in less than one minute. I’m not even kidding.

Fastest Service:
La Fonda
El Chepo
Los Vega

Cheese

The very first thing I did was open up that taco.
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Please don’t be stingy with the cheese. Just don’t. And if you serve cheap cheese may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

Salsa

I only used a drop so as not to overpower my bite, but let’s face it. Salsa matters big time.

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And how could I not have a salsa contest? Each restaurant’s was so distinctive, I tasted them blind a second time and STILL identified their source. The very best used fresh ingredients and left several flavors dancing around my tongue.

Best Salsas:
Lolitas
Los Vega
Herberts

Now finally, TASTE. I narrowed it to 4:

La Fonda
Garcias
El Charro
Herberts

These four blasted ahead of the competition. They really did. But I sought the BEST. I gave my palate a few days rest for the final challenge. And just so you know how very serious I am about fairness, I did the last tasting BLIND.

My husband handed me anonymous tacos and I took small bites, chewing slow, mindful of the adjectives popping in my head. The winner served a full, melty taco with flavorful beans and buttery cheese in a soft, fresh tortilla. Not once, but twice.

Congratulations, El Charro. You nailed it.

My crystal ball predicts more food contests, but right now my colon is sticking me the finger.

Until Mex time, San Marcos. It’s bean fun! Sorry. That was cheesy.

love,
Jennifer

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Unedited Scratchlings of a Beatlemaniac: Beatle Log Over and Out

This is so depressing.

Where: La Madeline, Houston, Texas.
When: 10:22 a.m.
Drink: Bold French Roast, half & half, 2 packets raw sugar

I’m so in denial.

Packing up to drive home this morning, I couldn’t bare the thought of it being over. IT being our trip to Liverpool.

Six
glorious
sparkling
champagne-colored
Beatle-filled
days.

Must it be over?

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Can’t let go.
Gotta squeeze out all the Beatlejuice.
All of it.

“Wanna do one last breakfast?” I asked Angie, who got yanked back to reality so fast it was almost cruel.

Poor girl was making snacks for a whimpering toddler within 1 minute of dropping her suitcase. I’m not even kidding. Of course she wanted one last breakfast.

Our plane arrived late last night. I was almost stupid enough to drive 3 hours back to San Marcos. Her kids’ excitement at having Mommy home made me long for my own family. But I hit a brick wall—a lethal combo of virus, jet lag, and drain-circling adrenaline. All that plus night-blindness.

Driving home would’ve been a catastrophic mistake.

Instead I lay in bed, drunk on Thera Flu, insides swaying like gently rolling waves though I lay completely still.

Then I lost conscience.

I didn’t even write yesterday. My last day in England. No Beatle Day Six. Technically it wasn’t a Beatle day. I reunited with friends and family and flitted around Kensington buying toiletries and $70 hot dog meals.

That’s right.

I travelled 5,000 miles to buy organic toothpaste, my favorite British body wash, and French baby lotion that’ll double as my new face cream.

“You can get that stuff on Amazon.” Angie munched her bacon.

“It’s not the same.” I sipped coffee, slopping extra Hollendaise on my eggs.

I also got to spend time with my stepdaughter Keri (whom I don’t see enough), and Neil, one of my favorite friends I made whilst waiting tables in London.

We met at this funky, hidden West End bar cleverly (and effectively) disguised as a WWII bunker.

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After finally finding the door, we had to pass a super awkward inspection to actually get in.

The doorman– decked in 40s attire- lifted a gloved palm in WAITnot until I say — then lifted an old school phone receiver (the kind with a cord you can slam down proper if needed) then roll-dialed a number.

Angie, Keri, and I looked at each other like really? Did Neil forget to tell us the secret password?

The doorman eyed us up and down. Not pervy. Inspecting. Nodding into the phone. Answering mystery questions in codes we couldn’t decipher.

I felt stupid.

I mean seriously.

Here I am with no make-up. Croaky ass voice. Feeling like a deep-fried turd. Not dressed in any way suggesting I’d liven their vibe. Ugh I felt like Dork Mom trying to get into the cool party.

Then Neil breezed up gay and fabulous. Precious lovely Neil, whom I haven’t seen in 15 freaking years.

Thank God.

His phone call inspection didn’t take as long.

We’re with him.” We shuffled in behind.

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Minutes later –deep underground– an uninteligible Polish waitress with matte red lips handed us ration cards and served –I’ll give it to ’em– amazing cocktails.

But Neil describes it best:

We shared germs, laughs, theatre gossip, and basically didn’t skip a beat. Years and years and YEARS have passed, but Neil’s and my heart still beat in tandem.

Writing this, I realize the people I love I tend to love forever. (Sorry I got you sick, Poohbear.)

Truth:

The only thing worse than good-bye is packing.

Yesterday we boarded our plane, both of us quiet.
Contemplative.
Parts of us forever lost to the deep grey waters of the river Mersey.

**********

It was almost the perfect trip.

Almost.

An unpleasant exchange with a flight attendant on the way home unfortunately bookended this trip with an incident that –quite frankly– makes me a little sad.

I was going to give it a few sentences in this entry (nothing too deep so as not to taint my Beatle log) but was later tacitly threatened not to write about it at all.

Which now means it’s getting a dedicated blog entry.

Censorship is loser and SO ARE BULLIES.

Do not EVER tell me not to write.

See, I wanted to use a strong F word up there in that last sentence. Either after the ‘EVER’ or before the ‘write.’ But my mom’s had a rough week and I don’t want to compound her distress by thinking she raised a trashy potty mouth.

Anyway.

So it begins again. I’ll throw nickles, dimes, tens and twenties into an opaque jar to save for my next trip. (Never use something see-thru to save money because you’ll obsess about the contents every time you see it.)

“I’d go back to Liverpool right now,” chewed Angie. “This very second.”

“Totally,” I agreed. “We could do laundry when we got there.”

I also think I need a travel writing job with heavy emphasis on food, ghosts, and Paul McCartney. Universe, please can you hook that up?

*pretty please?*

Check it out:

Angie’s 7-year-old gave her homework this trip. Can you believe that?! A writing assignment! But she complied. And I love what she wrote:

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What’s It About?

This trip was about getting to realize a lifetime dream (to) visit a very special place to me. And I was lucky enough to share it with a very special person. With this trip I got to meet new people and make new friends and fall in love with a lovely place all the way across the pond called Liverpool. The people of Liverpool were all warm and friendly and it reminds me of the message that Beatles music is all about.

All You Need Is Love!

Love IS what it’s all about at the end of the day. Love yourself, love your family, and love your neighbor. We are all here on earth for a short time but our love for each other is eternal.

Don’t be afraid to fight for it. Or ashamed to defend it. You are never wrong to show how much you love something that is a part of who you are. Be love and be loved. Love is all you need.

Nice, Ang. ❤

*sigh*

Guess I’ll pour a to-go cup and drive home to our busted boiler and that stupid letter from the IRS stating I owe $127 even though my CPA swears I don’t.

I just hugged my bestie goodbye, so the Beatle log ends here.

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I can’t avoid it anymore.

It’s sunny out there.

I got a bellyful of caffeine and a playlist full of–

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Well.
You know.

****************
Thank ya’ll for rolling up for our Magical Mystery Tour.

We’ll now return to our regularly scheduled program of ghosts, books, and psychic phenomena. If you’d like email notifications when I publish new entries, you can sign up there on the right.

Peace and love to you, always.

Love, Jennifer

Unedited Scratchlings of a Beatlemaniac: Beatle Log Day FIVE.

Where: Docklands Fish & Chips
When: 2:31 p.m.
Drink: Diet Coke

O.M.G.

I just got a pregnancy level craving for fish & chips.

I love gastronomy and the fancy stuff but you cannot beat thick, flaky, fresh-caught cod served with salt and vinegar.

Poor gluten-free Angie.

She’s a good enough pal to say “No, you go enjoy. I’ll go shop around a bit.”

So here I am with glazed eyes, greasy lips, and so many carbs floating in my system I feel HIGH. This is the English experience I remember from living here before: tucking into a corner alone. Eating and writing.

Connecting pen to paper was the only way my head ever made sense to me. Still is. Except now, sentences wake me up in the middle of the night.

But seriously (*squirrel!) would you look at this fish?!? This thing’s as long as my arm! And I’ve been away from England too long. I thought the mushy peas was guacamole.

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I’m still suffering with some chest infection thingy. You can hear it my video up there. Christopher says it’s because I walked around with wet feet and bell bottoms upon arrival. (Converse Chuck Taylor’s aren’t waterproof, by the way.)

But I’m feeling marginally better today.

Angie channeled some divine healing powers and seriously saved my sick ass.

I could barely stand when we got home from the pub last night. My voice was completely gone and I had chills, sneezes, and shivers.

“Lay down, girl,” she sighed –tired but loyal– whipping out her little travel apothecary.

Girlfriend swirled a coconut and essential oil concoction in her palm then basically gave me a lymphatic massage. I moaned in relief while our hosts undoubtedly exchanged quizzical looks in the next room.

Whatever she did worked.

“Girl, you have some crazy trapped energy,” she told this morning. “I literally had to take deep breaths and widen my stance to stabilize while working on your palms! Then I was all lightheaded and buzzy and couldn’t sleep even though you’d passed out.”

It’s true.

All my stress and energy stores in my hands and feet. (Not sure what’s up with that.)

Anyway. Yeah. I passed the hell out. Slept like a corpse on tranquilizers. I know part of that is jet lag, but my body really needed rest. Still. I can’t be sleeping in on precious Beatle time!

So here I am, tempting pneumonia to ensure I’ve captured every morsel of this trip. Just in case you wanna know what Liverpool feels like in February:

Day Five, continued.

Where: Ziferblat, Albert Dock
When: 3:27 p.m.
Drink: Hot, milky tea

This place is rad, ya’ll.

Everything in here is FREE.

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Comfy chairs, sofas, coffee tables, piano, games, blankets, wifi . . .

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Coffee, tea, cereal, cake, cookies, muffins . . .

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Free.

You just pay 8 pence (13 cents) a minute to be here. It’s clean, spacious, comfortable, and they’re playing Diana Ross. I got a bellyful of fish and am so happy I might burst — except it’s our last day.

I think we’ll hit the Tate Modern then go stock up on Beatle stuff. I’m gonna have one more cuppa tea and maybe another chocolate biscuit. I wanna ask everyone in here their favorite Beatle song, but Angie shot me a look that suggested maybe that wasn’t a good idea.

They have this awesome little thingy on the wall:

LOL!I need it all! 🙂

But eventually just settled on one.

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Day Five, continued.

Where:The North Western Pub, Lime Street Station, Liverpool
When: 7:20 p.m.
Drink: Pint Bitburger

*SIGH*

I’m sitting at the railway station, got a ticket for my destination.

The rock’n’roll rumor is that Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound here at Lime Street Station and I’m just gonna say it one more time:

I FUCKING LOVE THIS CITY.

(Sorry, Mom.)

My mom gets mad when I cuss. But I do. I love it so much it commands the explicative. But they’d pronounce it ‘fooking’ here — with a hard K. Kinda like the steaming milk noise on a cappuchino machine.

Try it: fooKing.

Questions:

*So, girls. What was the Beatle highlight of the trip?

Angie: “Riding around Woolton, Liverpool. Then John’s house at Mendips.”

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Jennifer: “Learning Beatle history to a masterfully planned soundtrack. Like driving past the Penny Lane roundabout during *that* point in the song.” (Thanks again, Ian.)

Non-Beatle Highlight?

Angie: “Definitely that night at Baltic Fleet. That’ll never be replicated.”

Jennifer: “I agree. That was magical. Thank God I got video. Oh and those delicious accents!”

Just listen how they pronounce ‘Liverpool’ *swoon*

Best Liverpudlian Dining Experience?

Angie: “The Lebanese one: Bakchich. Mowgli for atmosphere, though.”

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Jennifer: “That’s tough. I’m gonna say Mowgli. But that fish today was off the hook, too.”

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And which Beatle tune sums up your time in Liverpool? You know, encapsulates the experience?

Angie: “And I Love Her. No, wait. I changed my mind. Something.”

Jennifer: “Probably In My Life.”

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I feel like writing a letter to the City. Not to the municipal body but Liverpool Herself. Like writing a letter to a lover professing everything you adore and how you wouldn’t be the same without them.

But mostly saying thank you.

Just writing that made my eyeballs burn.

A world without Beatle music would find me a deflated bag of skin, gasping for air on the floor.

So yes.

Thank you, Liverpool.

On behalf of Beatle people everywhere, thank you.

Day Five, continued.

Where: Virgin Train, Coach B
When: 8:53 p.m
Drink: Pinot Grigio and Bottled Water

We’re quiet now.

Not much to say.

But the air’s full around us.

With memories.
Love.
Gratitude.
A world minus George and John
and the things you feel in silence.

We came to celebrate 40th birthdays, but leave like teenagers. Teary. Giddy. Tired from late nights celebrating cute boys in our favorite band.

We’ll be in London in an hour.

“Let’s make lists of our top ten Beatle songs,” I sniffed.

“Okay,” she sniffed back.

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We only had one song in common: Two of Us.

A lifelong friend who understands your intricate weirdness and embraces it without question may be the most valuable thing in the whole world.

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***********
Thanks for reading.
Slap me with some stars.
And say– which tag would YOU have taken from the wall at Ziferblat?

Unedited Scratchlings of a Beatlemaniac: Beatle Log Day FOUR.

Where: Baltic Creative, Unit 51
When: 9:18 a.m.
Drink: Cafe Mocha

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What a weird morning.

This cafe came recommended but we had to walk through a long, desolate, industrial artspace to find it. The walk felt like something out of A Wrinkle in Time, void of humans in eerie morning light.

Just us, rows and rows of warehouses, crying seagulls, and the thump thump of a distant rave, somewhere in the periphery.

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Weird, right?

We couldn’t find the address, and literally wandered hungry and confused for an HOUR when a motorized awning finally started rolling up across the street.

Thank.
You.
Jesus.

My belly sounded like rocks in a tumble dryer.

Shiny glass revealed an uber-trendy (I’ll go ahead and say) gentrified space and we ran for the doors.

This mocha tastes like heaven’s inner circle and the man who served it looks like Peter Tork. See him back there? 🙂

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And would you just look at Angie’s breakfast?

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Thumbs up, Unit 51!

Day Four, continued.

Where: Rococo
When: 1:48 p.m.
Drink: Iced Latte

Well. Today started off rocky.

The ONLY thing on our agenda this morning was church.

St. Peter’s Sunday service started at 10:30 a.m. You’d think calling a cab at 9:45 a.m. would give us plenty time to (get me to the church on time.) And you’d think “we’re on our way” means just that.

–Yet I stood on the curb (in the cold) like a damn fool waiting for Davy Liver Cabs who think “we’re on our way” means a 45 minute wait.

If you know me, you know I hate waiting and I HATE being late. Thank you Davy Liver Taxi ‘Service,’ whomever you are. You STINK.

The cafe staff —poor people; I stressed them out with my stressing out— finally called Delta Cabs and their “we’re on our way” meant 3 minutes.

I climbed in that cab with boiling blood, while the cabbie logged St. Peter’s in his GPS.

It was 10 freaking miles away, putting us in church at 11:27, a WHOLE HOUR LATE to the service. A pox on you, Davy Liver!

“I can take you one a bit closer,” he suggested.

My flaring eyeballs must’ve answered his question because he turned around and put pedal to the metal.

“I hope the music doesn’t screech to a halt when we walk in all late,” I growled as we slid around the back seat.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Even though it’s fairly gothic outside,

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St. Peter’s offers a modernized service with screens up for song lyrics, etc.

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And their sound system failed the second (I mean the second) we sat down.

(Seriously?)

The vicar told everyone it was an opportune time to “make peace” with our neighbors; so we immediately started “peace be with you-ing” with the cute, mostly elderly folk around us.

Our accents garnered lots of questions, and I was obligated to admit we were there for John and Paul, as well as Jesus. –which does sound biblical if you say it right. But we weren’t fooling anybody.

When I say why we’re here out loud, I realize what nerds we are,” Angie whispered.

They’re Liverpudlians,” I whispered back. “They’re used to it.”

“Everyone’ll tell you they went to school with John Lennon,” guide Ian warned us yesterday.

“My mum and Paul’s mum were friends,” smiled the lady in front of us.

My blood pressure eventually restored to normal and I wept through the whole rest of the service. I’m a weenie like that.

St. Peter’s Highlights:

* I received communion and got prayed over. That’s always nice.

* Children came forward and sang a song about how God loves all people. One of the lyrics went something like ‘He loves those that read books; those that feed ducks’

–and here (inappropriately) I burst into giggles. In Liverpool, see, “books” and “ducks” rhyme. (They pronounce it ‘dooks’)

Anyway, I couldn’t stop giggling. (Sorry, kids. Blame my fever.)

* And just LOOK what’s in their church programme today. Oh. No biggie. (I mean, SERIOUSLY!?)

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* Lastly, a sweet lady with a personality like the teapot from Beauty and the Beast served tea & biscuits in the rectory. I got sugar, caffeine, AND Jesus, so now I just wanna hug everybody.

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Day Four, continued.

Where: Lennon’s Bar
When: 7:00 p.m.
Drink: Half-pint San Miguel

Angie’s reading and I’m writing.

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Confessions:

1. I’ve not been too well here. I thought I lost my voice screaming at The Cavern. But other symptoms: fatigue, slight fever, cough, and weak eyes suggest something a bit more sinister: a Liverbug.

Coupled with jet lag, it’s a cruel irony. But I’m NOT complaining, and will muscle on. Maybe it’s the universe saying shut up and write cos no one wants to hear you sing Beatle Karaoke. *sigh*

2. There’s an alarming trend of girls drawing in their eyebrows here:

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Not like Cholas did with Sharpies back in the day:

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No. This is equally unsubtle.
But somehow, unlike the Cholas, I think they think this is a beauty statement.

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One day they’ll look back at their painted brows –the same way we 80s kids look back at our giant bangs– and think oh dear.

My English step-daughter later informed me it’s called ‘Scouse Brow’; and yes, it’s a ‘thing.’

Scouse Brow, according to the internet, is “a dark, angular, pencilled-in brow shape said to be popular with Liverpool girls.”

So I’ll just leave that right there.

3. We’re the only people in this bar right now.

I always feel so sorry for DJs playing to empty rooms. Really he’s more of an iTunes song shuffler, but still. Feels like I’m sitting in my living room, really. Tucked in the corner with my journal and a Beatle-Monkee-Badfinger-Nilsson-ELO playlist.

I think we’d leave, except, again, I’m super comfy. Plus I know it’s raining out there and I really do feel like ass. We may head back to the Baltic Fleet tonight. Ohhhh but not yet! Mr. Blue Sky just came on!

Thoughts:

Liverpool is ELECTRIC. A unifying energy runs through these people who really do claim and protect each other. Hard to explain, but easy to feel and observe. Angie brought up the excellent point that this energy was crucial to the Beatle phenomenon. I totally agree. Fans and critics ever refer to their cheeky, charming CHEMISTRY.

See for yourself:

This feeling is EVERYWHERE.

Only two more days in England. I don’t know what’s worse: That or being ill.

I’ll Cry Instead.

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******
Thank you for reading! If you liked it, please take a sec to click the stars below! 🙂

Unedited Scratchlings of a Beatlemaniac: Beatle Log Day THREE.

Hey. This is Day 3. Don’t start here. Go to day 1. 🙂

******
Where: Kings Mill Dock Flats, Liverpool
When: 8:38 a.m.
Drink: Organic green tea (with honey).

Really, I should be asleep. I sound like a toad with a trach. Not sure why. I mean we did shut down The Cavern 6 hours ago. I didn’t scream for the band too too much. But like I just told my Airbnb host (cutie gay Spanish boy over there washing dishes), we experienced a LOT of temperatures yesterday.

Cold
rainy
windy
hot
sweaty
then cold again.

The Cavern is a steamy, subterranean, rock & roll jungle about 40 feet below street level. The band jammed Beatles, Queen, The Who, etc; and we danced, smiled, cheered, and sang until the wee hours.

Some smiley Irish girl approached me as the band played Twist and Shout.

“You’re American, aren’t ye?”

“How’d you know?” This chick literally pulled me to the dance floor.

“Your hat!” she twisted, yelling in my ear. “Only Americans wear hats like that!”

“Texas, actually!” I shouted. Texans rarely say “I’m American.” We clarify, see.

And for the record, my mother-in-law bought this very special yellow sparkly hat on clearance for my ten year old in England. –I just stole it.

Soon we had a circle o’ Brits dancing around us to Surfin’ USA. And hours later, trembled up those steps with jet-lagged joints and hair plastered to our sweaty foreheads, resurfacing hot, giggly, and euphoric to rainy, see-your-breath temperatures.

Et tu, Jennifer’s immune system, whispered the wind.

Liverpool is coastal. So this air should technically be good for us. But here I am, sipping tea on 5 (4?) hours of sleep, with no voice at all. Today is super special, though, so I’m muscling through. But first, some notes on Airbnb.

Either you’re the type of person who can handle strangers in your home or you’re not. Our hosts are couple Ruben and Adrian. One Spanish, one Polish. Adrian greeted us upon arrival, welcomed us in their cozy flat, gave us a key, and told us to enjoy ourselves.

“Isn’t it weird how intimate yet normal it feels?” I asked Angie. Like, Hi, stranger. I don’t know you. But gimme a few bucks, come sleep in my house, and let’s share a toilet.

See. I think it’s great. But I’m innately gregarious and can make friends with just about anyone. Like Ruben’s over there, pottering around washing dishes, making coffee, just doing his thang in his pjs. While me, someone he literally met 30 minutes ago, is sitting on his couch in my pjs, writing these words.

It’s weird being the guest rather than host for a change. I should probably  — oh, hot damn he just made me a cappuccino!

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Day Three, continued.

Where: Baltic Fleet Pub
When: 9:28 p.m.
Drink: Freedom Authentic Lager

Lord, take me now.

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I’m so freaking happy. I may float up and bump my head on the ceiling. Someone pull my feet! Can you FEEL the FABULOUS energy in here?! The barman just told me this is the second oldest pub in Liverpool, and the only one with its own microbrewery. I asked for a pilsner and this giant frosty thing they poured me is delicious.

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This atmosphere is magnetic, crackling with warmth and a thousand years of maritime pride. The solidarity among these people is palatable and I really do feel they’re privy to something special. It’s hard to explain. Like I could walk up to any hard-nosed leather jacket scruffy and know he’d be a gentleman. Not saying they’re all leather-clad scruffys here. They’re not.

Yes, Liverpudlians are definitely warmer than Londoners –not that I’m hating. You know I love me some London. But smiles are given way more freely here, even though the wind blows harder.

Anyway.

The Baltic Fleet is a 45 second walk from our flat. We decided to stay close to home after a 5 1/2 hour private Beatle tour today. After careful online comparisons, I chose the Fab Four Taxi Tour.

Did it exceed expectation? YES.

Our chauffeur, Ian, is a taxi-driver-guitarist-Beatle-enthusiast-expert, and I mean EXPERT. He took us Here, There, and Everywhere around this wonderful city. We laughed, cried, and squealed for hours! I consider myself a well-educated fan, and I still learned SO much today!

Some highlights:

*Ringo’s entire street is slated for demolition. Cosmic forces and stubborn residents are delaying this travesty. And WHAT THE HELL, I say. That’s a Beatle house. You do not destroy history. You just don’t.

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*Apparently, all the Penny Lane barbershops claim they’re the one Paul sings about. Really, it’s this one (even though it looks different now):

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*Paul probably yanked more lyrics than Eleanor Rigby from these gravestones in St. Peter’s churchyard. Next to Rigby’s grave lie people named McKenzie AND Martha. Haaaaay White Album.

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*Whomever’s living in George’s childhood home doesn’t keep the yard very tidy. That’s messed up, right?

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*Ian supplemented his stories with well-timed Beatles music, making the tour a 4-D experience.

*His knowledge also forced us to hear lyrics in a new light. Like: Do You Want To Know a Secret. That song was actually for Cynthia Lennon, hidden away (pregnant with Julian) in Brian Epstein’s flat whilst John toured. Who knew!?

*I’m also deeply haunted by this picture Ian showed us at Strawberry Fields.

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The top photo is Strawberry Fields, the orphanage that once stood behind these gates. As a kid, John Lennon scrambled over to play with the orphans. The bottom pic is the Dakota building in New York City. The buildings are eerily similar.

The city that birthed him.
The city that took him away.

Angie burst into tears and I joined. By the end of the tour, we were emotionally exhausted. But really, in the best possible way. Does that make sense?

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Oooh, they’re singing (pirate songs?!) in the next room right now. It’s distracting and awesome. (I’ll investigate shortly.)

A side note: I feel so at home here, like something ancient tugging at my DNA. Christopher, what the hell is wrong with you. How could you prefer Texas to this magical mysticalness?

Things that do not suck:

*writing with cold beer by candlelight.

*Pete Best’s little brother giving us a private tour of The Casbah.

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Thoughts:

*The Casbah (energetically) felt . . . weird.

I didn’t get a ghosty, spirit feeling. But I definitely 100% felt wispy leftovers of what happened there before. Sweaty, hormonal teens packed under a low-ceilinged basement. Smoking, dancing, drinking, sweating, gyrating, French kissing in the corners, watching young John, Paul, George, and Pete Best jam raw music that would eventually change the world.

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All THAT seeped into battered walls, trapped behind chipped paint and Lennon’s vandalism.

Licks of paint don’t take that away.

Being there gave me the dull, melancholy feeling of a magical, fleeting echo in time that will never ever happen again.

Those teens approach 80 now.

And sometimes walls do talk.

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Thank you, Ian, for a glorious day. You just remember us as the most grateful fans ever, okay? Okay?

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Tomorrow we’re attending an Anglican service at St. Peter’s. John was a choir boy there, and it’s also where he met Paul in 1957. Because if you’re in Liverpool and feel the need to praise the Almighty for the Divine union that was Lennon/McCartney, that’s where you go.

P.S. I just learned it’s ‘Sea Shanty’ night here at the Baltic Fleet. Lemme go check out who’s singing.

OMG. Can you FEEL it in here!?! Patrons stomped so hard, empty pint glasses shimmied across tables and crashed to the floor!

“It’s like the lower decks of the Titanic up in here!” Angie laughed.

She’s right! It’s AMAZING!

4:50 a.m.

Things that do not suck:

*The Baltic Fleet

That was maybe the best pub experience In My Life.

6:42 a.m.

Things that suck:

*Jet lag

Well. When you’re awake in the middle of the night and don’t want to get out of bed or make noise what do you do? —Watch Beatle videos on YouTube, of course!

Our host just got up for work. If he can hear through this door, he probably thinks we’re utter nut jobs watching A Hard Day’s Night clips in the middle of the night.

Oohh I just saw a big ole sparkly white light above the bed. Not once, but twice!

Liverpool ghosts, if you’re out there, I’m ready for you. Maybe I’ll see you at church.

Tomorrow Never Knows.