Friday, April 15, 2011

Hollister on I'm Not Dead, I'm Different

Thank you so much to InfiniteQuest for producing this video where Hollister talks about her new book I'm Not Dead, I'm Different, in bookstores April. It's available for pre-order now at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All Babies are Cute

I’m a sucker for babies as much as the next girl. Therefore, it is not surprising that the E*Trade baby prompts me to reinvest in a foundering stock market or animated characters have round faces and large, liquid eyes by calculated design. In Shrek 2 when Puss in Boots makes his appearance, it isn’t Antonio Banderas’s voice that gets me, it’s the Puss’s pleading pool-sized brown eyes. I would do anything for Puss in Boots. (Just don’t tell him that.)

So, it puzzles me why I would love alligators. Their eyes are tiny, beady even, in relation to their long tooth-filled snouts. And yet, baby alligators are cute. They really are.

Here in Florida, it is hard to avoid ‘gators. They’re on signs, on shirts, in the lakes, the swamps, front lawns and in swimming pools (on occasion). They’re also on menus. The best way to eat ‘gator tail is to fry it (or so I was told by someone in the know). In a pinch you could barbecue it or smoke it. It is extremely important to avoid eating the alligator fat, which apparently is the most foul tasting fat in the world. “Once you taste ‘gator fat, you never go back to eating ‘gator again,” I was informed by a connoisseur. It was at that point that I decided to not risk it . . . ever.

This informative connoisseur is actually a ‘gator lover and an airboat guide. During the course of an hour, he shared lore and well worn jokes as he deftly guided the boat through shallow waters and glided to a stop near one full grown ‘gator after another (one 6’, one 8’ one 9’). Did you know that you can estimate the length of a ‘gator by adding a foot for every inch from its eyes to the end of its snout? Did you know that alligators keep growing their entire lives? Did you know that although they lose their teeth, the teeth grow back bigger and badder every time? Did you know that their babies are cute? Oh yes, they are absolutely adorable.

Floating quietly near a gator submerged, it didn’t take long to notice the little ones scampering about. They are awkward little things as they wobble along on their toddler’s little legs. Mama ‘gator provides nothing other than protection and even that isn’t sufficient when you’ve got 36 little ‘gators running off in all directions.

As babies, they eat minnows and bugs and are eaten in turn by birds and bass. Only 2-3 babies per clutch live long enough to turn the tables again on the very birds and fish that ate their siblings. As little ones, though, they are cute, and vulnerable, just like other babies we know. They seem oblivious to life’s dangers and they explore without limits. They are fearless. I think that’s why I love them . . . despite their non-Puss in Boots eyes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Florida Spirits

Florida is a big, peninsular state. It is flat, surrounded by water, boggy in many places and warm for the most part. People like it here, and so do bugs and alligators. The bugs and alligators were here first and, in my opinion, are best left alone.

Here in Florida, everyone seems interested in where you’re from, since most people here are from elsewhere. At the Disney parks, “crew member” name tags include the employee’s home state. After landing in Orlando and claiming luggage, two employees at Alamo inquired where I was from before I even got close to a car. One man, pointing the way toward a silver Ford Escort, lit up when I told him that I was from California. “Oh, I lived in San Diego, and still have family there,” he said. “I’d like to move back, but the wife won’t. She likes it here because it’s cheaper, and the livin’ is easy.”

When buying tickets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I was asked once again where I was from. By mid-day, however, I had miraculously become a Florida resident. When asked by a greeter at Tusker’s Restaurant, “Where are you from?” the question was answered for me by a hostess. “Oh, she’s a resident,” she volunteered. “I can tell because she isn’t wearing a coat.” Granted, it was a little nippy that day and as I looked around, most people were wearing sweatshirts and jackets. I didn’t have the heart to tell the hostess that I’m from California and rarely wear a coat there either. One of the oddities of being a medium is that I almost always feel overheated.

When talking with the spirits, I ask them where they’re from. In response I’m often shown topography (rolling hills, farm land, mountains, islands) or specific states such as Florida, New York or Iowa. Because we’re associated with where we’re from, the spirits often use this information as an identifier. If a spirit is from a non-English speaking country, I will often hear their native tongue spoken in the background even though their thoughts to me are in English.

It might seem a bit strange that I'm in Florida when the weather in California is just as fine. Well, one of the reasons I flew across the country is to explore promotional opportunities for my book I'm Not Dead, I'm Different. Florida is filled with spirits of people from all states and nations, and while I'm here, I intend to meet as many of them as I can.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the Road Again

Did you know that the movie Up in the Air was based on my life? It was odd re-imagining myself as George Clooney. However, when he laid all of his cards on the table, his travel loyalty cards that is, I said to myself, “He’s me!” and checked in the mirror to see if my eyes had changed from blue to brown and the rest of me had changed from . . . well . . . you know.

Those of you who receive my monthly e-newsletter, “Messages ~ Love, Hope and Healing in Spirit,” already know how much time I live on the road. With the advent of my first book this year, I will no doubt be joining the million mile club.

To celebrate this prospect, I will be blogging my way through the year, sharing stories of the road. Inevitably I meet interesting people on earth and in spirit and have adventures primarily due to my innate ability to create incidents wherever I go (without meaning to do so).

I do hope that you’ll join me on my journey and share your thoughts as I move from airport to airport and town to town. I promise to post pictures of my adventures (and no, that does not mean photos of full body scans as I navigate the new security measures).

Tomorrow morning I leave for Florida at 5:00 a.m. My boarding passes are printed and I’m wondering if the metal in my reconstructed ankle will look like a threat. Am I packed? No. So I guess I better get started.

My itinerary includes Cassadaga, the oldest Spiritualist camp in the
U.S. and a few days with the Mouse (you know who I mean). I’ll keep you posted as I keep making posts.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tempting Fate a.k.a Driving in Thailand

Thank you all for your positive feedback - -

As far as your questions are concerned, I'll try to answer some of them here.

There seems to be an interest in traffic on the part of readers. Maybe that's because so many of my clients live in the Los Angeles, CA area.

Los Angeles has become the road rage capital of the world. Well, let me assure you that if Thailand were not primarily a Buddhist nation, blood would run in the streets. There are more opportunities for road rage in a Bangkok city block than all California cities together.

Noise level in Bangkok? Ear splitting loud. People not only use iPods against the onslaught of sound, but wear masks as a desperate attempt to avoid black lung.

People drive on the opposite side of the road from what I'm used to, but then again, that isn't even a sure thing much of the time.

First of all, when dealing with traffic, don't expect any American rules of the road to apply.

Driving in Thailand is nothing short of tempting fate.

A recent traffic study in Bangkok concluded that 12% of the city's area would need to be paved in order to accommodate existing traffic. Currently, less than 5% of the city center is asphalted. This disparity has given rise to some interesting solutions and driving techniques. Here are just a few of the highlights:

1. The whistle blower: A policeman whose sole duty is to add to the overall three ring circus element of rush hour traffic. This policeman blows his whistle whenever traffic can exit or enter a main street at a driveway, alley or parking structure. Judging from the constant blowing, traffic ALWAYS has the right of way. This leaves pedestrians one option - RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

Cal, one of my traveling companions, experienced this in front of our hotel. He tried to walk past the entrance while the whistle was blowing (foolish boy!). Cars wouldn't stop and the whistle blower just blew harder and louder. Fortunately, Cal had made several temple offerings during the trip which (we believe in the Thai way) provided protection.

2. The NASCAR countdown: Traffic lights in Bangkok are unbelievably long. So long, in fact, that drivers were convinced that lights were broken. The resulting intersection chaos (worse than usual) demanded a remedy. The solution? A countdown. It goes like this:

When you pull up to the light, red numbers flash, let's say "80." As you watch, the countdown begins - - 79, 78, 77, 76 (one per second). Whenever our group was in a taxi, we couldn't resist shouting the final countdown of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and with ONE and a hurray! we were off into the intersection. A number of cabbies got a good laugh at our enthusiasm. And we learned the term for crazy American.

3. The U-turn - This maneuver isn't entirely unfamiliar to LA drivers. When you've missed a turn, just go to the next light and turn around. The Thai concept is similar with a few interesting twists.

If you miss a turn off in Thailand (whether on the freeway or in street traffic), it is perfectly acceptable to stop - - and back up. Yes, you read me right . . . BACK UP into traffic. The first time we experienced this in a taxi on a freeway, I couldn't believe it was actually happening. I had one of those "slo-mo" moments - - a slight out-of-body experience. If traffic is too heavy to permit a back up to the missed exit, do a u-turn instead.

The u-turn is useful not only in cases of a missed exit, but often because "you can't get there from here." Numerous times we found ourselves going north in order to go south, or south to go north. After a u-turn or two, though, you miraculously find yourself going in the right direction.

For instance, in front of our hotel in Bangkok, the road was divided with no ability to turn across traffic to get into the hotel. So just drive past the hotel, make a u-turn, drive back the other way and let the whistle blower toot you in.

This practice makes maps useless - - or it maybe it is because maps are useless that u-turns work.

4. The Thai shortcut - - "I know a short cut" is a phrase that chills the heart of any tourist in a taxi. A "short cut" is just an excuse to keep driving. When stuck in Bangkok traffic, a taxi driver isn't making any money. (In New York, the meter keeps running when stopped; not in Thailand.)

So rather than kicking back and playing the game of countdown at a light, a driver will say, "short cut" and dash down a side street, alley or up along the sidewalk if necessary. This practice showed us more of Bangkok life than we ever expected.

And a short cut isn't always a short cut (obviously). Trying to get back from the weekend market, we ended up down a miniscule side street, idling behind a Land Rover at a t-intersection. The Rover couldn't turn because a Toyota truck was draining oil out of barrels in the middle of the road. Some short cut.

5. The Optional Lane a.k.a. Playing Chicken a.k.a Free for All - - Now this is an innovation that we can't even imagine working in LA on a regular basis. The optional lane is one which is supposedly dedicated to traffic flowing opposite ways at different times of day. In theory it's great. A bit like the police placing cones in front of The Hollywood Bowl to expedite the flow of traffic after an event. However . . .

In Bangkok, there are no cones, no police and the lane belongs to anyone who grabs it first no matter which way he is going. Consequently, traffic in this lane seems determined to end in head on collisions. The winner of this chicken game is usually the largest vehicle (no surprise there). So, if you choose to use the optional lane, be sure to drive behind a bus going in your direction.

6. The all time favorite - - "Monkey See, Monkey Do" In other words, if you see someone driving in a manner which is faster but out of the ordinary, it means that you can do it, too.

Case in point: The freeway from Bangkok to Pattaya was jammed with trucks and going at a crawl. Running along the road was an incomplete and unopened toll road. No problem.

One car made a dash across the dirt onto the newly laid roadway, sped past the police, dashed between concrete barriers and took off past the slowed traffic. Well, hey, if he can do it, so can we!

Over the river and through the woods doesn't even come close to the rollicking ride we had. Smokey and the Bandit without a CB radio. All was great 'til we came to a solid cement wall, stopped suddenly and got smacked from behind by another monkey doer. Got out of the car, exchanged words, back in the car and off again.

Note: In the case of an accident, insurance companies are called, and adjustors come directly to the scene. All is settled on the spot - - no lawyers required. Even in cases of severe injury, there aren't large settlements.

Modes of street transportation include cars, trucks, brightly colored taxis (easier to see in the dark), tuk-tuks (opened backed passenger trailers) and thousands of motorbikes. By the way, taxis use propane and the tanks sit in the trunk. So - - if you arrive at the airport with lots of luggage, order a van. That is unless you prefer the thrill of your possessions hanging off the back of a taxi with only a bungy cord preventing your underwear from being scattered like breadcrumbs so you can find your way back.

Another stunning sight is seeing babies and toddlers perched on a motorbikes - - no belts, no helmets. Actually, just about everyone and anything travels by motorbike - - including livestock. In Cambodia, we saw a pig catching a ride to market.

So next time I'm stuck in traffic on my way to an event, I'll remember the optional lane, wistfully with a slight tinge of terror and just hope that there's a countdown light up ahead instead.
Upcoming posts will include my interview with medium Peter Close done at his home in Thailand and my own experience with a Thai medium and a fortune teller.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Whoever started the rumor that size doesn't matter, obviously hasn't been to Thailand.

Here, BIGGER is BETTER . . .

There aren't computer stores; there are computer malls.

There isn't just a GAP; there are 100 stores making jeans to order.

There aren't just amulets; there are shivalingas which are phalluses representing the creative force of the Hindu god Shiva. The greater the size, the greater the blessing and resulting luck. At a local market, I saw a shivalinga which could have doubled as a Louisville Slugger. (Size matters.)

There isn't just a temple; there is Angkor Wat which is a forty square mile complex with pools large enough for 600 concubines and individual homes for 12 wives. Okay, so Angkor Wat is in Cambodia now, but the Thais still claim it culturally. The Cambodians have ungraciously named the city Siem Reap (translation: where the Siamese were conquered). It doesn't matter that this happened more than 500 years ago - - it is still a sore point.

There aren't just domesticated cows, oxen, dogs, cats and monkeys; there are elephants which have been used historically for war, for royal transportation and for clearing jungle, and building everything from a fence to stone palaces. BIG elephants.

There aren't just restaurants; there are BUFFETS. Huge spreads of cuisines from Thailand, China, India and the West. For breakfast at the Holiday Inn, you can have a Japanese omelet (which has the consistency of pate), beans on toast, French pastries, fried rice and miso soup. Oh, and don't forget the salad bar - - "a healthy way to start the day." (I didn't make that up; that's what the sign says.)

In most cases, bigger is better.

EXCEPT - - when it comes to dress size.

A friend told me not to bring much in the way of clothes because clothing is cheap in Thailand. Wisely, I ignored that suggestion. However, within 7 days I had sweated through every piece of packed clothing. And since there are no laundromats (got the hint when I noticed that every balcony in Bangkok has clothes hanging), I thought, "Why not buy a few things?"

Why not? Well, for instance, there are no plus size stores. My bra cups are so large in comparison that a few young Thai girls could go swimming in them on a hot day.

Finally, I found a place in the market which sold XXL t-shirts which are airbrushed with suspicious characters. I think that they're actually meant to be tents, but at $2 for 4, they'll do.

Now please understand, that in America, I'm not considered really big. Maybe just XL - - but here, I am HUGE.

This could not have been more apparent than when we visited the hill tribes in northern Thailand, outside of Chiang Mai. These groups, the Akha, Hmong, Lisu, Karen, Lahu, Mien and Paduang are largely refugees from Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Tibet and China. Their traditions are very much alive and they live in thatched villages, grow crops the old way and make money by selling handmade crafts and tribal clothing.

These people are petite. Small in a way that we really can't fathom. Tiny in stature (some women not more than 4'5" and small boned.

The Paduang are known as the "giraffe people." They earned this nickname because their women don an ever increasing pile of heavy metal rings around their necks. This practice depresses the rib cage so dramatically that their necks appear longer. The faces of these women are extremely fine featured and beautiful.

Enter big American lady.

I didn't expect to cause such a stir. At first I thought that I was just being solicited to buy intricately woven purses, hats and clothing. And then, after a few photos with colorfully outfitted tribesmen that looked absolutely terrified when I squeezed in between them, I thought, "Hmmm . . . must not see many Americans."

And then . . .

Children can be so perfectly uninhibited.

A young boy (about 4) ran up to me at the prompting of his brothers. When I bent down to say hello, he reached up and tried slipping a garlic clove down my shirt. When that didn't work, he tried to place it on my chest. He was delighted with himself (as were his cohorts in crime) , but his mother started to admonish him. I just laughed and reassured her that I understood.

Of course he looked and my chest and could assume only one thing - - - BUFFET!

Size DEFINITELY matters.