Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Category Roadtrip Interviews

So You Wanna Be a Model? A Few Tricks of the Trade…..

My fascination with models started at 14. My hair had just outgrown its tightly wound perm and my mother finally allowed me to get contact lenses to replace the hot pink coke bottle glasses that earned me the name ‘four eyed poodle’ in junior high. “Mom if I cannot get contacts I am going to DIE,” I had stated. And then-through Acuvue tinted lenses, my world changed. “I think you

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Lessons on Humanness; Reflecting 1 Year After the Roadtrip

It has been over a year since I traveled across America’s canvas to take down stories of “unconventional’ women.  I’ve re-read, I’ve reflected, and now it’s time to share some thoughts from my journey from its impetus to its end. 13 months ago, well before I knew how to work a GPS, I went to a cocktail party with beautiful women in form fitting couture.  They expressed their desire for

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The Final Interview: One with Myself

Location: San Francisco Mileage: 8,002 Women Interviewed: ~30 (depending upon how one defines an interview) Cities Visited: ~23 (depending upon how one defines a visit) Items lost: Mac powercord, umbrella, jean jacket, gas cap, keys to NYC apartment I set out two months ago with no real expectations for my writing project except to capture voices of inspiration. I knew that I wanted to break down stereotypes and illustrate various

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A Treasure Chest of Vice, Adventure and Love

Location: Portland, Oregon Mileage: 7,386 Music: “Portland, Oregon” by Loretta Lynn and Jack White. Meal: Holladay Plaza Split Pea soup and Buffet Salad The drive from Kennewick to Portland started out as desolate. One must first pass the Umatilla Army depot in Eastern Oregon where a large plot of land has been used to store chemical weapons such as nerve agents and mustard gas.  I held my breath as I

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Montana: Boom and Bust

Location: Billings, Montana Mileage: 6,500 Music: “Dakota” by Stereophonics Meal: Soup and Sandwiches (on Montana Wheat) The highway between Minneapolis and Billings was a 13 hour stretch of hilly lands, badlands, and no man’s land.  Immersed in miles of flat were sudden mounds of earth, positioning themselves around grassy valleys, and deep cut rivers.  It was these buttes of Medora where Billy the Kid hid out and escaped the law.

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From a Barrel Racer to a Sculptor

Location: Chicago Mileage: 5,160 Meal: Spicy kielbasa and rice (I made a worthwhile exception to meatless fare) Music: “Sweet Home Chicago” by the Blues Brothers Driving across Ohio and Illinois requires patience.  The incessant roadwork prohibits speeding, multiple tollbooths deplete wallets, and there is wind so fierce it threatens to steer you off the road.  However, if you can get past the distractions, and take the time to look out

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An interview with Singer/Songwriter Clare Burson

No travel details to display; An interview from a concert past, memories of melody in NYC When a friend in New York suggested I go to Joe’s Pub to see his friend perform, I agreed.  Clare Burson was releasing a new CD, titled Silver and Ash, as a tribute to her grandmother’s escape from Holocaust Germany.  Anyone that dedicated an entire album to such a monumental event, needed to be

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Interview with a Mexican-American, Re-Inventing

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Rosé Prosecco, courtesy of Carolina Music: “A Kiss to Build a Dream on” by Louis Armstrong Perhaps it was the humidity, or the heat seeping up people’s bodies from the hot sparkly cement, but the hardness of New York City melted away.  People’s eyes softened and their hearts opened.   If you were able to get them to sit still for even a second,

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From a horror flick to a love poem

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 (yes, I am still in Manhattan….) Meal: Vegetable Omelet Music: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles When Melissa first called me telling me that she would love to participate in my project, her voice radiated such a genuine enthusiasm and hospitality that I couldn’t believe that I was still in the overcommitted city of Manhattan. I met Melissa uptown for a healthy

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Interview with a Salsa Dancer

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Ultra Vegan Salad Music: “Everybody Salsa” by Chocolate Before I discovered Salsa dancing at age 19, I was convinced I was a dance pariah, born with two left feet and rhythm comparable to an eplileptic attack.  Dances in high school mortified me; my awkward body felt much more comfortable plastered to a wall of a gymnasium than pretending to feel graceful in some

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An Uncaged Bird

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Music: “Born on a Train” by the Magnetic Fields Meal: Mozzarella salad and prosecco When I met with an agent about my women writing project she told me that although the stories were pleasing vignettes, they were also very separate sketches that stood alone on a wall.  If I wanted to make my project a success I would not only need to tie my

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Life is a Piece of Cake

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 Meal: Yummy Nut Cupcake Music: “Simple Things” by Belle and Sebastian There is no reason to cook in New York City.  In addition to kitchens being the size of a cigarette carton (and often smelling similar), delicious ready made food is abundant. From restaurants to deli’s to street vendors, it is impossible to starve in New York. After a month of eating roadside undistinguishable

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Dating and Renting in NYC: a Tale of Moxy

Location: New York City Mileage: 4,338 (plus multiple miles traversing the city on foot, cab, subway, and carriage) Music: Gramercy Tavern special (calamari and carrot salad, trout with fava) Music: “Good Fortune” by PJ Harvey The urban frenzy and harshness of New York is for the thick skinned and steel clad.  Until I arrived here, I had only been met with soft open arms, motivational quotes, and encouragement to keep

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Gratitude for Life

Location: Bethesda, Maryland Mileage: 4,010 Meal: Fresh brewed coffee Music: “Float on” by Modest Mouse Solo travelers that keep their masks on and walls up won’t get very far.  Especially if the intent is to have complete strangers open up to you.  In order to succeed on my journey, I had to take a complete layer off of myself, rendering me raw and openly reliant on the outside world for

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An End of Ramadan Feast

Location: Arlington, Virginia, across from DC Mileage: 3,980 Meal: Samosa, kebab, and curried corn Music: “Stand Up for What you Believe in” by the Mumford Sons I had successfully kept any skeletons at bay now for over a week, likely due to the shining light of the religious and good-hearted homes I had been visiting.  Past demons have a way of surfacing when you are alone in the dark, with

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Homemade Dinner for Eight

Location: Fort Mills, South Carolina Mileage: 3,501 Meal: Homemade everything Music: “Carolina on my mind” by James Taylor Knowing I was going to be in the Carolinas, my old business school classmate, Jon, invited me over to dinner with his family in South Carolina. Heading south was a slight detour, but a home-cooked meal and friendly conversation was well worth the distance. I left the gleaming financial buildings of Charlotte

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Interview with a ‘Hippy Chick’ Racecar Driver

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina Mileage: 3,478 Meal: Veggie tapas and cheap whisky Music: “Open Road Song” by Eve6 Charlotte is a beautiful historic city that is the birthplace of two American icons: Billy Graham and NASCAR.  Surrounding the green hills and colonial church steeples is the unmistakable adrenaline exhaust of the racetrack. There are over 79 paved and unpaved tracks in North Carolina, infusing the citizens of Charlotte with non

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“Hotlanta” Grace

Location: Atlanta, Georgia Mileage: 3,103 Meal: Salad (finally!)….with deep fried Ahi (sigh…still in the south) Music: “Don’t Use my Broken Heart” by Leona Nass Atlanta is described as the ‘melting pot of the south’, a blend of culture and class that no other southern city can rival.  Atlanta is also called ‘Hotlanta’ by the younger crowd.  I was never sure if this was due to the heat from the midtown

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A Chance Encounter in Birmingham

Location: Birmingham, Alabama Mileage: 2,830 Music: “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles Meal: A plate of (scurvy reducing) vegetables—my first since I hit the south. *interview names and minor details changed* I left New Orleans as it was approaching the peak of its flamboyant frenzy.  In Nola Labor Day weekend was also Gay Pride Decadence Weekend. Men had come from all over the US to don rainbow boas, dance

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Interview with a Katrina Disaster Worker

Location: St. Bernard’s Parish, Louisiana Mileage: 2,600 Meal: Muffaletta sandwich Music: “This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case After switching hotels (my other one was surely haunted), I drove out of the crowded French Quarter into an expanse of pastel painted homes, dog barking yards, and neighborhood po-boy sandwich shops.  St Barnard’s parish wasn’t exactly a rich area, most of it just recently rebuilt after the Katrina devastation, but it

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