How The Beatles Saved Me.

I once had a boy. 

Or should I say, he once had me.

.    .    .    .    .

Damn, girl. You really put yourself out there.

—-Someone said when I first started this blog.

It wasn’t a compliment. 

The idea was to document the ghost and spirit phenomena known my entire life. And I stared him, hurt. How would I make people understand if I didn’t share exactly what happened? Exactly how I felt?

I can’t just write: So, hey. I heard from God yesterday. It was super cool! He’s real and prayer works. Trust me! 

No.

You need to know I heard Him with my head in the toilet on the bathroom floor. Then later, screaming at the ceiling for help. Because then (maybe) you understand why the angels came. 

Like now, for this entry, I could write:

I was dangerously sad once. But then some magic happened and I got saved.

But that conveys nothing.

Better to explain it was 1999, and I was circling the drain.  

That I craved cigarettes more than food. That I woke up hungover most days and weighed 113 pounds. That I lost the boy I loved AND my longtime best friend at the exact same time. — I did get straight As my last semester. But I also got arrested. And sometimes, despair twisted my stomach SO hard, I vomited. Not bulimia. Stress. 

See? Now you have a picture. 

That’s why I splash my guts on paper. 

So you understand what I mean when I say dangerously sad.

But don’t get me wrong. 

Mine wasn’t an Amy Winehouse situation. I never adopted hard drugs or slept in puke. And I never slept around. But my glass heart was absolutely shattered and I did everything possible to forget.

Including running away.

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Things I had:

  1. a diploma
  2. a pack of cigarettes.
  3. a ticket to London
  4. a dear friend angel coming with me.

Things I didn’t have:

  1. a job.
  2. a place to live.
  3. a plan.
  4. a clue.

But the fates were kind.

We scored jobs AND a tiny flat in Hackney within days. Our flatmate was a nutty Turk who cooked breakfast — I’m talking eggs, bread, hot tea and some kinda meat — every single day. And truth be told, it was pretty freaking great. Waiting tables in Covent Garden was crazy fun and I made friends easily.

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But demons live in England, too. 

They just have nicer accents.

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And here’s the thing about grief.

Beer won’t drown it.  

And it doesn’t evaporate in smoke. 

No, pain delights in avoidance, gaining strength the longer it’s buried. 

Shape-shifting. 

And in the wee hours, mine was a scratching nocturnal rodent.

Digging.

Digging.

Digging

I flipped on my side.

Clawing.

Reminding.

Repeating.

Mine also had this *awesome* soundtrack.

Side A:

  1. You selfish bitch.
  2. They’re probably having sex right now.
  3. Drink some more.
  4. He never really loved you.

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Side B:

  1. You fuck everything up.
  2. Your body is gross.
  3. They’re laughing at you.
  4. Cum laude for WHAT, WAITRESS.

My record flipped and started again.

God, please make it stop.

Just

make

it 

STOP!

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I threw off the covers and lit a cigarette, throwing my lighter on the coffee table, staring at the clock. Texas was 6 hours behind. What were they doing right now? What if I called? Who would pick up? What would I say?

Mystery tracks:

5. Please forgive me.

6. I can’t breathe I miss you so much. 

7. I need help.

I made tea and got ready for work, determined to have a good day. She looked like me, that girl in the mirror. Sort of. But nicotine dulled her bright green eyes and her lips were thin clouds of regret. What did I do to make them hate me?

8. No. Fuck them.

I glossed my lips and stepped into the living room where Ivan could see I’d had another bad night.

“You make yourself crazy,” he laughed, rolling papers across his pink tongue.

Ivan was a political refugee and thought my problems were hilarious

He passed me the joint.

“At least my country likes me.”  I took a long drag.

“Then why you live here?” 

“Because you make good breakfast.” I blew smoke his way, and he swatted me with his paper on my way out.

Whatever misery I suffered, at least I was in London and loved my commute. Train time was quiet time. 

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And walking alongside Dickensian buildings under grey skies soothed me somehow. My favorite was a shuttered, war-time bakery with Hot Cross Buns 4p! faded in the cracked glass. 

So I worked and slept and smoked and drank and played my nasty record.

And that was my life. 

My friends were pink-cheeked internationals, well-acquainted with the glitter-faced party girl. 

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But only a few knew the one who hid in pub corners, scribbling pain in a worn journal, crying if the wrong song came on.

And one of them was Christopher.

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We met two years prior when I moved to London for a work abroad program. Our initial meeting is a straight-up testament to fate, but I’ll tell that story another time. We kept in touch when I went home to graduate and were mutually happy upon my return. Trust for now our friendship was solid. He was easy, pleasant company, and I made him laugh.

“What are you doing this weekend?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

“Would you like to do something?”

“OK.” I fished around my cavernous purse, ciggie in mouth. We also had an uncanny ability to stretch a coffee date into 8 hours, which made me nervous.

You don’t want me, I warned when his gazes got a little long. Not like that.I’m difficult.

“Pick you up at noon?” He pulled a Zippo from his pocket, and I leaned in.

We were new then. So new we were barely a we. And overly cautious. Coffees, lunches, museums and safe stuff. Momma didn’t raise a ho.

“Fancy going to Liverpool?” he asked, when I opened the door that Saturday.

Wait.

  . . . Liverpool?

“It’s only a few hours by train,” he said in the doorway. “Jenny?”

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I stood there gobsmacked, as they say in Britain.

Liverpool was like Atlantis to a little Texan Beatle fan.

Mythical, magic, and far, far away.

But I was older now. 

Living in England.

Why had I never —

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“Fancy it?”

I nodded dumbly, then there we were hours later,

clacking to the great English North.

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Buildings, then suburbs sped into bright green fields, and I gazed past my reflection to my childhood. To the first time I saw A Hard Day’s NightMy soul like G when Paul McCartney came onscreen. 

No, seriously.The Beatles split my personal atom and you must accept that as fact before reading further.

Music and lyrics.

I pondered.

Books and words.

Oh God. And that short story I wrote for 6th grade English where Paul gets a flat tire and rings my doorbell needing to use the phone. Open the door and let ’em in  I wrote in my big ol’ 12-year-old handwriting, marveling my genius. But— “Isn’t he a bit old for you?” was all my teacher said. Clearly unfit to protect and serve young imaginations.

I smiled against the cold window, my brain quiet for the first time in weeks then looked around the train. 

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Books and Beatles.

Music and Words.

My lifelong medicines shelved and neglected for so very long.

W H Y ?

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Christopher sat opposite, reading the paper. Everything about him gentlemanly and quiet. But clearly a masochtic lunatic. Because I’m gonna hurt you, Christopher. Just like—-

Hush. He pressed warm tea in my hands. We’re here.

The doors slid open to whistles and squealing breaks and I froze on the steps, transported to my middle school bedroom. Wham! posters on the wall. The Babysitters Club dog-eared on my twin bed. And there I was on my belly. Watching Help!  Squirming with the *delightful*new nether-tinglies discovered during The Night Before scene.

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” . . . excuse me, Miss.”

Hmm? What?

“Please step aside to allow people off the train.”

Oh! 

I moved and people rushed past. My old-me memories playing in 4-D, commanding my attention. I’d forgotten that in-tact, happy girl. She was precious and rare. An endangered species.  “Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound here,” I blurted like some automaton, remembering high school and early college. Happy on my bed alone. Candles and incense. Acoustic harmonies separating my guts into quarters, braiding me into minor folds.

Simon & Garfunkel.

Crosby, Stills, & Nash.

Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel, who wrote Vienna for me, I swear.

That chick only needed books, music, pen and paper.

Where did she go?

I looked up and around like an awestruck toddler.

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Disney fans probably feel the same their first time in the Magic Kingdom. But this was better because it felt like walking through an album cover

“Where d’you want to go first?”

The Cavern, my mouth formed and the movie reel melted, the dark thing in me stirring. The monster I housed, threatening.

“Jenny, you alright?”

No. I wasn’t alright at all.

For so long I harbored lies. Jagged-edged insecurites too awful to say out loud. So I swallowed them whole, choking on self-destruction when things threatened to improve. Like now.

We turned the corner onto Mathew Street, the birthplace of the Beatles, and I teetered on some precipice. My feelings unfolding. Packed too tight for too long.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

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I dropped Christopher’s hand.

My purse.

My overnight bag.

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And gravitated

down 

stairs

stairs

and

more stairs

into the womb

of the

r i t i h   v s i on.

Oh god.

Were they actually playing —

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The deeper I descended the louder it got.

Something in me rising, too.

My mouth opened.

I’d been sad for so long.

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Invisible fingers reached down my throat, 

grabbing the hairy, 

foul-tasting, 

tangled 

black mass

that told me

bad things

and

extracted

it

s  l  o  w.

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.

I’d forgotten.

I’d forgotten!

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Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you, the band played as my feet hit the Cavern Floor. 

And in that moment

I remembered.

I remembered!

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My

happy

creative

kind

musical

free-spirited

passionate

self.

The soul God created.

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And I wept.

Stood there like a damn fool and cried.

And cried.

And cuh-ried.

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Lord, I cried.

I couldn’t help it.

It was either that or puke.

An angel rushed over with light-blue eye shadow and frosty pink lips. Giant hoops and a silver bob framed her weathered face and I imagine she’d spent every weekend down there since 1964.

“You alright, love?”

It sounded like yooawdight, loov?

No I wasn’t bloody alright. I just sampled every human emotion in 2 minutes plus I think I heard from God so maybe I was gonna die.

She ushered me to a chair and motioned the barman to pour me a drink.

Snot bubbled from my nostrils while she grabbed for napkins. “We understand,” she soothed, patting my arm. And I believed her. Liverpudlians saw my type everyday. Fans making pilgrimages, squealing when they reached The Cavern.

But the other thing — the part I couldn’t articulate —was the old, sparkly me running headlong into the broken me. Combusting upon impact in the most sacred place a Beatle fan can tread.

Tears gushed down my cheeks faster than she could mop them up.

“Who you here with, loov?”

Oh God Christopher! I left him on the street!  

I looked around wildly but there he was. Ordering a pint. Shaking his head and smiling at me the way one does at a dumb puppy, barking at himself in the mirror.

Hold your head up you silly girl.

I hugged that angel lady hard, apologized to the band for scaring them, and emerged from The Cavern spit-shined. My despair scooped clean. 

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From the sanctity of adulthood I know health, happiness, and self-worth are my responsibility. 

But back then, it was a revelation.

Grace isn’t reserved for the holy. And God doesn’t always send miracles. Sometimes He sends people with an opportunity to get it right.

And if magic exists, it was in me that day. Next to my future husband. Surrounded by charismatic locals with the very best accents in the entire world.

God laid it out from the start, my bliss. What plugged me into Him.  

And if you’re reading this like:

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We get it. You like the Beatles.

  . . . then I’ve failed here, and please go on about your business.

But there’s a reason art transcends. Why people sniff books and cry at the opera. Why we run our fingers over statues and pay so much for concert tickets. Because art reaches in our guts and makes us FEEL. That power is real.

And I heard the loving, male voice I hadn’t heard in so long. 

Follow your bliss and drop the self-torture, girl. 

No one’s listening to that record but you.

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People say the Ganges has healing powers, but I dunno. I vote Mersey.  Because I was restored that day.  Just like that. My old-self uncurling in a fetal sort of way.

So what good is to write: I was dangerously sad once. But then some magic happened and I got saved.

No.

Better to tell a full story.

And how I got by with a little help from my friends. 

John, Paul, George, Ringo.

And Christopher.

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This bird had flown.

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love,

Jennifer

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Green Dot Mystery: What REALLY happened at the Myrtles.

Is Myrtles Plantation really haunted?

I found THIS in a library book a few days before we left.

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By we I mean me and Emily. Friend, fellow writer, and the only other chick I know with a selection of kaftans.

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I find stuff in books all the time. And though June 23rd was already behind us, I felt it was some kind of message. I showed it to Emily who lived in New Orleans and knows about this stuff.

“June 23rd is St. John’s Eve,” she explained.  “It’s the Voodoo High Holy Day.”

I also learned (according to voodoo practitioners) the spirit world comes closest to the living on St. John’s Eve.

So Emily and I drove to Louisiana with high hopes and fun outfits. Real-life hauntings are fairly rare, but the Myrtles is generally agreed (among paranormal professionals) to be legitimately haunted.

Are we the kind of dorks that prance around plantations in kaftans?

YES.  Yes, we are.

IMG_2562We chose the Fannie Williams ( A.K.A Doll) Room because it looked the creepiest online. I mean, who doesn’t want to sleep next to a frozen porcelain child?

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I expected to be blasted with feelings upon entering the property, but that wasn’t the case. I will say the grounds and surrounding wooded area felt charged in that static-y way prevalent in ‘haunted’ places. But if I feel that in open air, it probably has more to do with the land than the house.

NOW–

If a house is built ON that land, then certain rooms will be susceptible to that same crackly energy, spatially consistent with whatever’s happening outside. Does that make sense?

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We wanted to explore the property before it got too dark. I don’t know what Emily felt on that initial walk (we separated for objectivity) but I couldn’t block out the past.  It must be the same at Auschwitz or Ground Zero or any other place where history hides its face in shame. And it has nothing to do with ‘ghosts.’

I can’t walk on an old plantation and not think of slaves. Especially the children. And it made me feel gross and consumer-y seeing their old quarters spit-shined into little cabins. Porches lined with rocking chairs overlooking a pond full of screaming frogs.

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But was it HAUNTED?

I did some research before we left.

Whereas the Myrtles sustains its reputation on a VERY compelling photo of “Chloe” and her illicit relationship with owner Clarke Woodruff, there’s no actual record of Chloe having existed. —At least no written proof.

The story goes that Clarke Woodruff forced young slave Chloe to be his concubine; and that one day he caught her eavesdropping, so he cut off her ear. Chloe took revenge by mixing deadly oleander into a birthday cake, killing Mrs. Woodruff and her children and BOOM! the place is haunted.

But here’s the deal.

Sara Woodruff (fact) and her adult children (fact) died of yellow fever in 1823 and 1824. So the “Chloe” story, whereas super fun to tell around a campfire and on tours at 15 bucks a pop —-is false.

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So who is this ghost in the famous photo?

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Is it really a ghost?

I believe it is.

And what about this pic?

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If these photos are legit —and I think they are— then something’s wandering this property.

But what? Who? 

Emily and I walked beneath mossy oaks, quiet and thoughtful because old trees have seen a lot and deserve respect. But also because that feeling I described earlier. Like the house and grounds are living, breathing entities and you wanna tread lightly so as not to disturb.

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So we took photos. Slapped mosquitos.

Emily collected moss.

I found a penny and put it in my pocket.

And then it got dark.

So now about the room.

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Pretty, right?

Apart from a mutual feeling we needed to keep it tidy, there were no overt signs of spirit. Still, we took showers, prayed, and meditated to get our minds right, then headed to the patio for our own private happy hour.

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And let me tell you.

Sitting under a bright moon with a dear friend drinking bubbly on sacred ground is a special feeling indeed.

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Isn’t it lovely?

I felt super-privileged holding a room key while drive-by ghost hunters milled around whispering, their camera flashes perforating the night. Particularly busy was the corridor where ‘Chloe’ was captured.

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Between the crowds and prosecco, I couldn’t tap into the house.

So we talked.

We talked about books, ghosts, angels, poetry, history, travel, intuition, Louisiana heat, and wondered how our night would go. Finally it was just us, the moon, and a thousand frogs challenging the cicadas to we got spirit, yes we do!

Emily stared at the house.

“I want to go on the porch,” she said, emptying her wine.

The porch was an extremely long wooden wrap-around, and dark as hell.

“Let’s go.” I drained mine, too.

We grabbed our cameras and ducked under the chains separating the porch from the public.

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We walked up and down.

Back and forth.

Quietly.

Separately.

Trying to feel.

Then Emily called me over.

“I feel nothing until I walk by this window,” she said. “This one feels different.”

I met her at the tall window.

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It was one of those concentrated energy spots. Nothing major. But she was right. We put our hands on thick glass, smeared with condensation — and both felt a low-level vibration. Maybe like a refrigerator humming but way less than that. And as we stood there acknowledging, I’ll admit the feeling deepened.

We peered inside.

Dark furniture outlined a pretty room. If it were a movie, it’d been the perfect time for a face to appear and scare the crap out of us.

“Let’s take pictures,” I said, backing away.

I own no fancy ghost-detector equipment. Just intuition, pen and paper.

(and iPhone).

Please find the two greendots in the following photos.

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These anomalies are definitely worth a closer look.

What’s interesting is:

  1. They move in tandem along the porch. Sometimes close, then further apart. But together.
  2. Look at their shape. In the last photo (if you zoom) they almost look like shoes.
  3. There are tiny tracers behind them in each photo.
  4. They’re green.

Is it reflection from a porch light?

Don’t think so.

There are dim lights all along the porch. Plus, reflections don’t move.

Is it green light reflecting from the hanging fern?

(Probably not.)

Is it light catching the bugs?

Mmm . . . maybe?

But I don’t think so.

Please see the ‘orb’ in the left side of this photo.

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That’s a bug.

So is this evidence of a ‘ghost’?

I’m sticking with MAYBE and I want to go back.

Anyway, it was time for bed.

I’m happy to report no dolls moved while we were sleeping. The only disturbance was our drunk-ass foyer neighbors coming in late.

The next morning we took the house tour, where a VERY impressive guide took us room to room, relaying house history and a whole lotta lore.

Here, she emulated Chloe eavesdropping on her master.

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And I gotta tell you. I started to feel a little bad for the late Clarke Woodruff. Like, obviously I didn’t know the guy. And maybe he did have his way with a slave.

But maybe he didn’t.

Yet this is his legacy. A child-raping, ear-lobbing philanderer.

I found myself wondering what really happened in those bedrooms. Staring at flaking wallpaper and imported chandeliers, I could almost imagine.

And imagine I did.

Knowing Chloe’s story was mostly made-up, I started adding my own details.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the main house. But finally we got to the hot spot, the room we peered into last night. And our guide confirmed something:

“Every psychic, every medium who’s ever come to Myrtles says this is the spiritual center of the house.” She opened doors to Mrs. Woodruff’s pretty antique parlor.

We oohed and ahhed at the paintings.  The sewing box. The little writing desk. The petit-point settees.

“ . . . a vortex, if you will.”

(I won’t.)

I hate the word vortex.

But it affirmed our feeling that something was UP with that room.

In summary, I think it’s kind of shitty that Mr. Clarke Woodruff goes down in history as a slave-rapist. I mean, what if he was a super nice guy? What if his wife was the asshole?

Coupled with that note I found at the library, a little voodoo history, and our own Myrtles experience, my story was born.

I finished my first draft of Rosie & June a few weeks later, and insecurity crept in while editing, like maybe I took it a little far and shouldn’t publish. But minutes later (literally), a friend texted me from Half-Price books, where she found a signed copy of MINDER.

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With that little sign, I published.

I hope you enjoyed Rosie & June Get a Room.

If anyone has theories about the green dots, I’d love to hear them.

As for the Myrtles, I wanna go back and stay in a different room. (You in, Emily?)

Thank you as always for reading.

love,

Jennifer

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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.

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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

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?