Alas, we near the end of the tour, but this is the best part!

So, Fallout: New Vegas does take place on the Strip quite a bit, but the enchantment of the game are the other areas, the places where you have to wander through to get to the Strip.  It's pretty amazing, and I've said this before--to fall in love with a digital place, to make it a second home in your imagination, and then go to these places that actually exist and see things that made you feel so special...places you have already forged friendships and made enemies and gotten shot and killed monsters and places full of lore and history that hasn't even been written.  It's even better than really truly coming home, because the home you make in the game is so protected--it's whatever you want it to be, no matter what.

We went backwards from the game though--first to Boulder City, then Hoover Dam, then Searchlight, through Joshua Tree Highway and dipping into Nipton, then up to Primm and Jean and finally our last destination, Goodsprings.  If you're not familiar with the game, your character's story begins in Goodsprings, where you get shot in the head and buried in the town's cemetery.  You're dug up by a friendly robot and begin to navigate the western terrain in the small, sleepy town.  The game finishes with an epic battle on the lip of Hoover Dam.  

Note:  I would have better photos but my camera battery died forever on the trip, so all I had was my phone. Sorry! 

Hoover Dam

We stopped in Boulder City, which is actually one of my favorite places in real life despite being kind of crummy in-game.  The local diner was so campy and Americana, it was perfect in every way for a road trip.  I had a bowl of delicious chili and was pretty impressed with their cornbread.  And can I just say, I LOVE the drive over Lake Mead and toward Arizona.  That desert is something else.  It just looks so unforgiving and jagged, like the earth's prehistoric teeth.  The architectural marvel of the dam is just as inspiring...nothing makes me feel more patriotic than the monument with its big art deco angels and the sprawling tower under your feet.

Hoover Dam, incredible as always.  I love the place, but holy shit don't ever go in July.  It was so hot my face melted off and had to be stitched back into place.  Funny story, my big floppy hat came  off my head from a gust of wind, and went over the dam.  It hovered there, swept upwards, came back to me, then went over the dam again!!  There were some Asian tourists behind me who were screaming, and Derik was going noooooooooooo, while I just held out my hands with that sad kid face.  When the gust finally dropped the hat on the ground near me and I grabbed it up, everyone clapped and cheered.  My hat has seen some things!! I couldn't imagine hovering, suspended in air, over the edge of Hoover Dam, twice.

Driving the 95/Nipton

We cut through Searchlight (there was no nuclear waste, at least none that we could see) and back towards Nipton.  It felt strange to go this way since we were literally doing the opposite of the game, but the Mojave is a treat no matter which road you travel.  Nipton welcomed us with the same enthusiasm as last time and this time we got to play the lottery!  (An inside joke in the game) Derik won five dollars and nobody busted my kneecaps and left me to die, so 10/10 would do again.  I can't explain how strange it feels to walk this little hidden sleepy "town" (village) for a second time, knowing that people from all over the world do the exact same tour, paying homage to a game we all hold pretty sacred.  Again, it just feels like coming home.  And the pin we put on Nipton Trading Post's visitor map from Sweden, during Henri's visit, was still there!

If you've never traveled down the Joshua Tree highway that connects Searchlight to Nipton (I hadn't) I highly recommend it.  Absolutely gorgeous place.  So silent--we exited the car for a "Welcome to California" sign photo and it was the middle of the day, not a sound to be heard.  Perfection.


I hated Primm in the game.  It's just a shithole filled with prisoners and gamblers, so on my first New Vegas tour we gave it the bird as we drove by.  This trip we had plenty of time to kill and I somehow, SOMEHOW convinced Derik to ride the roller coaster with me.  In the game the coaster is inoperable, so I wanted to brag to everyone who annoyingly asked the first time "DID YOU RIDE THE COASTER?!?!"  Well folks, that coaster SUUUUUUUUCKED.  It was jerky, and fast (goes up to 90mph at one point) My false eyelash literally peeled off my face on the damn thing.  I was not having a good time and felt so nauseated I questioned my resolve to jump off the Stratosphere!!  I ended up somehow still liking Primm.  It was the quietness of the Buffalo Bill casino and the tacky, small-town decor and locals gambling more than tourists.  So it wasn't a total waste. Plus, my ruined neck and single eyelash were about to be soothed by the most magical place in the desert.  Yes I'm serious.  Goodsprings, Nevada.


I really can't express what this place means--either for me, or for any of the countless pilgrims who've made the trek.  Like I said, it just feels like coming home.  I was in awe.  Henri was in awe.  Derik, not one easily in awe, was....terribly in awe.  We parked in front of the dear saloon and I walked around, showing him the inside and outside and General Store.  I have only been to this place once in real life, but it felt like, seemed like, and from the smiles I got from locals, really looked like I had been wandering Goodsprings for years.  The thing about Goodsprings is that in the game, who you were and what you did beforehand were inconsequential.  Goodsprings was where the path began.  I guess that's what home feels like, isn't it? 

We sat down and got the delicious burgers, ate, marveled some more, and I took him through a (very short) drive around town.  I had timed the trip purposely to arrive in Goodsprings at sunset, because of the magic that time of day holds as well as the perfection of being in the cemetery at nightfall (the character is shot, and later dug up, at night.)  In the general store we were given a Nuka-Cola (staple from the game) and the young clerk told me that Chet, the storekeeper from the game, was at home.  We discussed how he ended up in Goodsprings...he came from Salt Lake City and said it was the most peaceful and beautiful place he'd ever been.  When he emotionally confessed how lucky he felt to look out the window every day and see a Goodsprings sunset, both Derik and I completely understood the sentiment.

On our way out we entered the cemetery and wandered around, again feeling that intensely familiar feeling.  If I can try to sum it up....this is a place where we, as fans of the game, metaphorically die and are brought back and given another chance, to make things right, to carve something out of the wasteland.  It's like a new beginning.  It's probably the closest I'll ever come to actually standing on the spot where I die, and that's a very confusing feeling.

Confusing, and amazing.  I got to feel that feeling with another human--my best friend in the entire world.  Whatever hotel headache or long drive or lack of sleep or heat stress we felt was worth it to stand on our death spot and hug each other, thanking each other for ten long years of friendship and loyalty, reminiscing on that other life where a man in a checkered jacket told us the game was rigged from the start.      


8 Minute Memoir - Mary Lennox

I remember when I read the Secret Garden for the first time.  I was in elementary school and it was part of the Accelerated Reader program.  I in particular remember how rotten Mary seemed to everyone in the book.  The kids made fun of her and poor Martha, the serving girl at Misselthwaite Manor, had to deal with her bitchy little temper.  But even while reading that book and wishing more than anything in the world that I was Mary Lennox and would be shipped off to England to live in a big cold dark castle before Harry Potter was even a thing, I didn't see Mary as a mean kid, or a bad one.

The Mary Lennox vibe was consistently given off by those of us in foster care as well.  We were always labeled as troublemakers or sour or what have you.  I was actually accused of scaring my foster parents so badly that they wrote the judge a letter saying they feared for their life.  Luckily the judge rolled his eyes and ignored their pleas for salvation, but the heavy cloud that followed me around still gave off the impression that I was bad or to be watched.  For what, I have no idea.  Killing foster parents in their sleep apparently.  I was always assumed to be far worse tempered than I actually was.  Just like Mary.

I had "bad" students when I was a teacher.  I wasn't even nervous when I took over the trouble-making rowdy classroom, despite one of the students being so "bad" that he was almost kicked out of the school and was basically on his final warning.  Everybody was breathing down his neck when I took over...his parents and the entire facility were just watching and waiting for his final mess-up.  I came into the class and while yes, he was a loud and uncensored and spirited and emotional kid, he was the farthest thing from bad in the universe.  Within a few months I was being praised for the "good job I did" on turning things around with the bad gang and their bad gang leader.  I didn't do anything, I didn't wave a personality wand over his brain and fix it.  He was a good kid.  He wasn't mean.  It wasn't like he was pulling birds' wings out or sneaking ex-lax into the principal's cup.  (For real that'd be funny though) There were no serial killer cues from him, just like there were none from me when I was in foster care.

These days, as an adult, I don't know if I can be considered a Mary Lennox.  Like I talked about a few entries ago, I have accepted that I'm different and have to wear a Clark Kent human costume in order to fit into society--for better or worse.  I'm no expert at it but I think I have being human down pretty well, I can pass so seamlessly now that others often say "I can't imagine you not being social!" or "You're so social!" No, I'm a faker, I hate all of you, and you're annoying, go away and leave me to the garden.  But instead of expressing that, I smile and nod and say thanks, and by that token I'm no longer a sour grape eating orphan.  Outwardly.

I guess a part of me will always be that though, internally at least.  There's a lot of pain and hurt and mistrust and anger and displacement, all those things that Mary felt when she was carted off to cold musty England, brewing inside my overcrowded brain.  I can sense it in other children too, which is why the "problem" kids did so well in my class.  I let them have their pain, express it openly, and I set very clear expectations concerning respect of classmates to protect them from any raised eyebrows or stares or judgement.  Kids are far better at respecting these rules, and somehow my own acceptance of students' pain allowed them to be relaxed and content in the class and make friends, instead of disrupting everyone or pushing back harder.  Actually, the boy I'm writing about quickly became a de-facto 'class leader' not only for his own age group, but an advocate and caretaker of the younger students.  He intervened when others were bullied and he encouraged everyone regardless of age to play together.

This reinforces that ideal which is so important to me...everyone has bad in them.  Bad thoughts, bad feelings, the will to punch over a produce wall at the supermarket just to watch cucumbers roll across the floor.  I will never understand why this is frowned on in favor of our Clark Kent masks.  I know my class was a closed unit and I'm biased, but our little community full of acceptable negative emotion and "bad" people from students to the teacher, functioned quite well.  Mary ended up finding her family and happiness, and we'll assume she grew up to be a productive member of society.  I assume she had to don a human mask too. And that's just fine.

This post was part of the 8 Minute Memoir project.  Thanks Bonnie


Post-Birthday Thoughts and Goals

Well, I celebrated my last-ever birthday this past week.  No, you don't need to call the white coats (on second thought, do anyway) but I turned 29 and my beloved aunt told me when I was small that she had been 29 for a few decades.  Doris was right about most things so I will trust her on this.  Plus, my boss, Toby, vehemently denied having any happiness after turning 30 and said it was "depressing as hell" and he's pretty smart too.  So this was it.  The Grand Finale.  It's been fun, life.

The so called grand finale was spent at work over the weekend.  It was quiet.  I was visited at work by my favorite coworker and it just made my day.  Everyone at work wished me a happy birthday (and told me congratulations on the saving of my cat.)  I opened some presents from Derik and Niki and Henri, and slept afterward.  I got a cake and everything.  I loved on Flemeth, the world's best birthday present, and was happy.  Everyone kept asking if I had plans and I just shrugged.  Truthfully sometimes it's nice to just sit back and revel in how nice things are.  Especially when you're an introvert and the past week was filled with me desperately trying to save my animal.  And since I had such a busy June and July--this was the perfect sendoff for my 28th year.

I can't believe I'm 29.  I still remember saying "I'm 22" like it was just a few months ago.  I remember turning 25 in Sweden and riding roller coasters with the Schlyters--definitely one of my favorite birthdays to date.  I have no complaints about working on the day (though I whined to Toby for a week beforehand just to make him feel bad.  It didn't work, I'm pretty sure he's part Vulcan.) and I hope that inner peace stays with me for a bit before the holidays show up and ruin my mental state and give me my natural sour disposition.


I usually take birthday time to reflect on my goals for the year and set new ones--it's actually how I count years, instead of going by the new year.  So most resolution-making comes August 21.  This year I had already made quite a few positive......epiphanies? I don't know what to call them, fundamental life truths? Anyway, they were there and I was happy about it, but I always need something to be working on, no matter how good things feel. I found my answer in therapy (haha, no seriously, go to therapy, it's great.)

It's hard to sum up but I have the need to share and express my past.  With others.  I thought I had done that already, but everything keeps brimming up and I need to talk about it more or work on it more.  I've already mentioned here that I'm going to be posting more foster care stuff, but I decided after therapy to make a tangible effort to share however I can, whether that's here, another book, artwork, or whatever it is I need to do to calm that part of me.

I always struggle with creating because I feel that I'm not good enough and that no one cares.  This is especially true with painting because I paint what's "comfortable."  I hardly make art that is outside my comfort zone and I don't paint often.  I'm afraid of seeing something I'm ashamed of, which is silly, because it was all shameful when I was young, haha.  But it is what it is.  I recommitted to making art, and specifically, complex art that showcases events or emotions from my past, (in other words, relevant art and not flowers and pictures of Till Lindemann but let's be honest those will happen also) and lo and behold, just when I found my will to create, Derik turned around and bought me a graphics tablet.

I literally choked up when I saw it.  I remember when I got into deviantart quite a few years ago and wanted one SO BADLY.  I gave up on it when again, I saw others' digital art, and my traditional art and thought, I'll never make anything like that.  I think in those times, when the self-doubt isn't just a tape recorder playing sounds that we mindlessly listen to, when it's more than that and it's an inner crippling fear and shame, what helps more than anything is to have someone else believe in us and show or tell us, "You are capable."  It helps if the person actually knows you, and Derik knows me better than anyone.  I cried, because opening that tablet was him saying that he believes in my art and creativity.

I do have another goal for the year; go to school, but we'll talk about that some other time.  For now, shitty tablet drawings of Till Lindemann and my cats!


Pre-Birthday Thoughts

This will probably be the last thing I write before I turn 29 and I'm not really sure what to say.  The past week has been a crazy meltdown whirlwind because my kitten was diagnosed with a congenital hernia and I've been preoccupied with saving his life.  There have been two main trains of thought circulating around the days leading to my birthday, and I wanted to share both.

The first one actually has nothing to do with my birthday and everything to do with my cat and the help I received to take care of him.  Every time I feel alone people will step in and remind me that I'm not, until some next crisis happens and I again get warped into that foster care state of mind where no one cares and I'm facing something impossible without support, without a family.  And that's the thing: never in my adult life have I felt more alone than when faced with losing my cat, and a 3,000 vet bill.  It all came together.  People helped.  Some were people who have been in my life for years and known me since before foster care, and others are new friends made from my job.  Now I have to face the wonderful reality that I have my cat safe and healthy at home, and people cared about me enough to help.  It definitely changes things for me.  I feel like I can actually say "I have people who care" and believe it.  This may seem pretty mundane but to the Mowgli raised-by-wolves that I am, it puts me in an entirely different place.  I'm happy for it.

The second train of thought is actually relevant to my birthday.  Maybe like a lot of people, I start really self-examining around that time of year and wondering what I've done right and wrong.  I feel satisfied with who I was at 28, even though like usual I believe myself to be completely clueless and stumbling through life blindfolded with a heavy dose of narcotics in my system.  I have diligently been on the search for "normal" and had a bunch of very normal people scoff at me for this and say things like "what's normal?" or "good luck, I've never found it" or the even worse, "don't be normal, normal is boring."  And I loved most of these people but those idiotic comments, said in their normal homes with normal wives and normal children and normal parents and normal drama, made me so mad I wanted to clap their stupid normal head between my abnormal hands and yell at them "I AM NOT LIKE YOU!" This isn't really me wanting to be a special snowflake, it's the opposite.  And ultimately more frustrating.

But now, during my heavy self-reflection time and attempting to come to terms with not ever achieving normal, I was reminded of the scene in Kill Bill where Bill compares Beatrix to Superman.

"Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent?

He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race. Sorta like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plimpton. You would've worn the costume of Arlene Plimpton. But you were born Beatrix Kiddo. And every morning when you woke up, you'd still be Beatrix Kiddo. Moving to El Paso, working in a used record store, goin' to the movies with Tommy, clipping coupons. That's you, trying to disguise yourself as a worker bee. That's you tryin' to blend in with the hive. But you're not a worker bee. You're a renegade killer bee. And no matter how much beer you drank or barbecue you ate or how fat your ass got, nothing in the world would ever change that."

I am not (and Bill wasn't) comparing myself to a superhero of course...actually, he was calling Beatrix a killer.  I am not a killer or a superhero, but I am something else.  My own version of an alien wrapped in clothes dropped off at the Kents and trying to fit into society and trying as hard as possible to look inconspicuous.  But like Bill said, nothing in the world would ever change that.  I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned I need to look at myself as special.

Anyway, that's enough introspection.  Here's what I've done at 28 years of age.

-barely survived til my birthday
-then had a mental breakdown and ran to a motel for a week and hid from humanity
-got a lot of flowers
-moved apartments into a space where I can breathe, got my very own bed
-met Flemith who is my love
-celebrated nine years of being in Utah
-went to my first car show and entered my first pinup contest
-got to be vastly disappointed with Fallout 4
-worked for Santa for the third year
-performed CPR on a victim for the first time
-got a promotion to sergeant
-got in a pretty bad car accident in which the Stratus saved my life
-bought Luis Sera, my very first car
-gained Swedish residency and visited Sweden for a short trip
-was gifted my first DSLR and took it everywhere in the world
-grew my own very first garden
-qualified with a weapon for work
-got rid of some toxic people
-met some amazing people
-went on my first bike ride to Wendover
-started my AWESOME job which I love dearly and which has helped my mental health so much
-went to Las Vegas
-had a mega breakdown with Flemeth's diagnosis and subsequent new zest for life when he came through surgery

And here we arrive at 29.  Like I said in an earlier Instagram post, yeah, thanks for all the lessons 28 but I'd be just as content to have a fun year with no lessons this time.  How's that?

ps. here is my first official present--aren't they gorgeous?