Invisible Girl in a Great Big World

There is something appealing about being a tourist in someone else’s city; the anonymity and freedom that comes with the large crowds of strangers jostling one another through busy intersections, giving yourself the freedom to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, take pictures of things that typically would never catch your attention, stare up into the edifices of buildings you are not intimately familiar with. I am a shameless tourist, hitting many of the bigger attractions as I wander through random streets, picking unknown restaurants based on their signs without reading a half dozen reviews online first (something that occasionally drives my fellow travelers nuts).

Naturally, I picked the worst time to take a trip; the first days of Camp Nano were in full swing. And where could I be found? Not at my desk , nor at the kitchen table, not with a pen in my hand or my nose hovering close to the screen of my laptop. Instead, you could spot me wandering through Seattle with my mom and sister for a long-overdue girl’s weekend. This wasn’t my first visit to the home of the Seahawks; no, it’s a jaunt I like to take about once a year. Considering I live only three hours away, I’d say it’s a pretty manageable destination. The thing that I love about it- it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there, I can always find something new to discover, or old haunts to entertain me.

Now, I could spend this entire post talking about the myriad of adventures you could have in this little gem of a city. I could tell you about standing at the top of the Space Needle with a black sky as your backdrop, watching the city lights spring to life below you. I could describe the winding and weaving of the glass-blown art at the museum across the street. Or explain to you the importance of the caffeine-induced pilgrimage back to the original Starbucks (and let’s not forget about the magic of the French bakery down the street). I could tell you a story about the Farris wheel and how, when given the right lighting, it can leave you with the embers of a ghost story burning in your soul. (Okay, so I just really wanted an excuse to post this picture- it’s probably the best one I’ve ever taken.)


Or perhaps I could divulge some fun facts about the infamous Gum Wall (to which I am a contributing member). It’s the second germiest tourist attraction in the world. I could tell you that in the past 20 years, there have only been a few hours where it wasn’t adorned with the sticky stubstances. It took 30 hours to clean last year- but was quickly returned to its artistic glory with a sticky peace sign that had the Eiffel Tower in the center. 

Or perhaps I should tell you all about the history of the city as we trudge down into the hidden underbelly, embarking on one of the coveted Underground Tours (why yes, my friends, there truly is a city under the city). There are buildings, streets, and stories buried below your feet when you walk through the steep roadways, ready and willing to share just a few of their secrets if you will only listen.


Or perhaps I’ll simply let you know that the best Bloody Mary’s can be found at Sam’s Tavern, if you are willing to trek to the newer side of town (their burgers and waffle-cut sweet potato fries are to die for, and the employees were fantastic).

No, I will not tug a travel-writer hat onto my head and pretend to be an expert today, mainly because Seattle is so much more than a destination for me. It carries more weight than a location I’m simply hoping to check off of a list. This beautiful city always brings me back to the passions of story telling, and it’s for a rather simple reason. A city with a touch of history has a thousand stories buried inside, just waiting to be brought into the light. These old streets whisper to you if you know how to listen, they will show you a human truth if you open your eyes to genuinly see. There is a distinct beauty to a place that carries such a wealth of humanity and diversity within its streets. The artwork that adorned the buildings themselves beg you to release your creative energies out into the world. The people you encounter evoke feelings that can only be whittled away when writing them down on the page.

I always drive away with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of urgency. I drive away with story lines dancing through my mind as characters build themselves out of the elements I found on the streets. I always step away with a sense of purpose. The ability to become invisible in such large crowds is a gift for the writer who simply wishes to observe the world as it truly is, unencumbered by the self-conscious gazes of those who recognize your presence for what it is. Life is the ultimate inspiration, telling you tales if you care to hear them, and this time I listened; I truly listened. As a writer, there is nothing more excruciatingly fulfilling as a story evolving inside, begging to be told. We tell the stories of strangers, we whisper the secrets of cities, we dazzle with tales of the past, the present, and perhaps the future. Sometimes you just need to go somewhere you can be invisible to allow you to truly see.

Lush-Us Lessons: The Coldest Village on Earth

Today all of us here at Tipsy Typer are thrilled to announce the return of an old segment that accidentally slipped through the cracks a few months ago. And by ‘all of us’ I mean me and my cat, who is currently snoring on my lap- but don’t let that fool you, Oreo is still very excited. That’s right the segment is coming back with a vengeance and a new name: Lush-Us Lessons. Get it? Lush-Us, since this is Tipsy Typer, it seemed fitting to me. Anyway, the name is different, but the intent is the same. Once a week I will be picking a random topic and start dropping knowledge like The Walking Dead drops cast members (RIP my friends, you will be missed). Perhaps you will find some inspiration in these pages, or, at the very least, you will be entertained for a little while.

I am one of those annoying creatures that loves when it’s cold, but hates actually being cold. Which means when the winter weather hits I am bundled up like the little boy in ‘A Christmas Story’- I’ll  put my arms down when I get to work, thank you very much.

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But there is a village out there where no amount of bundling will keep that chill from seeping into your bones, that’s right, even Elsa herself wouldn’t be able to keep up with this place. Let me introduce you to Oymyakon, a little village located in a valley of northeastern Russia, not far from the Arctic Circle along the Indigirka River. It is a remote village, the nearest town is a 3-day drive away. It’s name is a bit misleading- ‘Omyakon’ actually means ‘non-freezing water,’ and was taken due to the close proximity of a hot spring. But the area is also known as the ‘Pole of the Cold,’ it is the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the entire world. In January this little ice haven averages at -50º Celsius (-58º F for those of you who were taught the same system as I was). Although they did set a new record in February of 2013 by dropping all the way down to -71º C ( this translates to an astonishing -95.8º F, according to google, because I don’t really remember how to convert temperatures on my own). To put that number into perspective, jet fuel will free at -40º C. And sadly, if you were planning on warming yourself up with a dash of some 80 proof vodka, it would have turned into a vod-cycle at a lowly -26.95º C. And don’t think about going streaking after visiting what has been called ‘the loneliest bar in the world’ because you wont survive long enough to say ‘maybe this was a bad idea.’ Although you might make a lovely ice statue.

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If you have ever had a desire to go cold-turkey (no pun intended) to get off the grid- this is the place that you need to go. Most modern conveniences that we take for granted wont even work in an environment this cold. Locals have to either keep their cars parked in heated garages (unlikely, given the economic conditions), or keep them running because leaving them off for even a short period of time could result in some serious mechanic bills coming out of your pocket, usually due to frozen grease or fuel tanks, and any unused pipes will freeze within 5 hours.

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Want to take some selfies as you walk through town on your Frozen adventure? Unfortunately, there will be a good possibility that your phone will be dead, as they cannot function in those temperatures. Batteries are not designed to work under such extreme conditions and will lose their charge at an astounding rate. To the people who live there full time- this really isn’t that big of a deal because they are in such a remote area that they aren’t eligible for cell service anyways. Most electronics, especially any that run off of batteries, will have to fight for their life out here. Spoiler: they’ll lose. Even the ink in your pen isn’t safe- that has been known to freeze solid. And, if you happen to require glasses like I do- you will be warned against wearing them because they will actually freeze to your face in this climate. Yes, you heard me right, though it bears repeating: your glasses will freeze to your face. Personally, I am a bit terrified to ask what would happen if you opted for contact lenses.

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Another problem faced by these inhabitants: burying their dead. This already difficult time becomes compounded, as it can take up to three days to dig the grave. Bonfires must be lit for several hours and then the hot coals are pushed to the side so that the people can begin to dig while it is relatively soft. They are usually only able to make it down a few inches before the process has to be started again. This is repeated over and over until the hole is large enough to accommodate a coffin (or your frozen streaker friend).

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Most modern conveniences are rare, and in many homes, you will still see people trekking to an outhouse to relieve themselves. The solitary school itself didn’t even possess an indoor toilet until 2008. Homes and buildings are still heated with coal and wood burning. If power ceases, the town will shut down in about five hours and pipes will begin to freeze and crack. The people survive primarily on reindeer and horse meat because- well, good luck getting anything to grow. The length of the days will vary from a scant 3 hours in December, but will stretch to 21 hours in the summer. While winters are, by all accounts, awful, summers can get a bit warmer, even attracting tourists to the surrounding forest. Their record ‘heat wave’ once brought them all the way up to 65.7º F, although the land itself technically remains permanently frozen year round.

There is a current population of about 500 people, with one solitary store to supply all of their needs and one school to teach their children. Now, as a comfort-seeker myself, I can’t help but wonder what brought these people out there to this land that is believed to belong to ‘Stalin’s Death Ring,’ named such because it was the region where political exiles were sent. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, this little area was a stop-over for reindeer herders who would water their flocks from the thermal springs the village is now named after. At some point, the Soviet government was making an effort to settle their nomadic populations. They believed that the people of this area were difficult to control and were culturally and technologically backwards. So they came up with a quick fix, they allowed the people to stay and made the site a permanent settlement. To this day the residents still make a living with reindeer breeding, hunting and ice fishing.

Tourists make their way to the village with a deep desire to experience this record setting environment for themselves. There are no hotels, but you will find several families who are willing to house guests, in fact, they traditionally love to have visitors. If you wish, you can be invited to partake in many of their daily activities, which include reindeer hunting, ice-fishing, and there is even a possibility of going to the hot spring (please sign me up for that one, I will never leave). The mayor himself will give any guest a certificate to celebrate their visit to the ‘Pole of the Cold.’

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While the prospect sounds intimidating (like I said, I am a complete and total baby in the cold), the experience sounds like a once in a lifetime adventure. And while I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to don piles of fur (which is the only way to stay warm- not strictly a fashion choice) to brave the outdoors and discover this beautifully hidden gem, I can’t help but find myself amazed that we live in a world where this is possible. And I can’t help but be thankful that I live in a place where I can indulge myself in the creature comforts that I so often take for granted.