21 December 2009

Now I Really Want a Roomba

For quite some time, I thought it would be fun to torture my poor pooch with a Roomba. I know, I know...as if Luca isn't terrified enough most of the time, but I think it would be funny as hell to watch him simultaneously try to chase it and run away from it, which is what he generally does with the regular vacuum.

After watching this video, and laughing myself silly, I think it would have been more awesome had we had one when Gata Gata was alive, and our family dog Bocci. Gata totally would have tortured Bocci like this dog, and Bocci, rather than swiping her ass right off the Roomba, would have sat their like an idiot, just like this pitty.


20 December 2009

Peter Pan is Alive and Well

I assume it is a rather common sickness in larger cities (NYC, Chicago, Boston, etc.): the Peter Pan Syndrome. This illness is characterized by a refusal to grow up, evidenced by late 20/early 30 years old who are still running around, playing in group sports leagues, hanging out at bars playing drinking games...

This is one epidemic that is pretty prevalent in San Francisco. My friends, mainly around my age, still do all of those things I mentioned, but in SF there is the added twist of constantly being dressed up in one costume or another. We don't give a second thought to it, because we're all doing it...be they single, coupled up, married... And yes, we think about "growing up," but it's hard to find role models because once people are ready for that, they tend to move out of the city, or to the more family-ish neighborhoods.

While I don't think this is completely unique to San Francisco, I do think it is more rampant here. Our weather is pretty nice, so we can enjoy the outdoors (and things like kickball, dodgeball, flag football, etc.) for most of the year. This doesn't fully explain it, though.

My friend A had an interesting theory, and I think it's one to which I can subscribe. Her thought goes something like this: in SF, we have an inherent trust that our friends will get us home, or we will get ourselves home with trustworthy cab drivers, kind Muni drivers... We don't concern ourselves much with getting mugged on the subway or taken advantage of by our taxi driver. In other cities, her theory goes, there is more wariness towards these things, so people don't tend to go AS nuts.

I can see that. There may have been mornings where I've wondered how I got home the night before, I may have questioned having paid the cab driver, and perhaps I didn't tell anyone I left wherever we are. But I think if I lived somewhere that I was really worried about my safety, I may not get as inebriated as I possibly did. (um, don't worry mom, this situation is totally made up)

Having never lived anywhere else as a full-fledged adult (I mean, I guess technically I was an adult in college and Spain, but those don't count), I can't tell for sure. I know I've visited other cities and had a lot of fun, but probably stayed more in control than I sometimes am here. But I know what I know here, and I know I often find myself singing, "I won't grow up, I don't wanna go to work..."

17 December 2009

Time of Her Life?

I was never a huge fan of Meryl Streep. I thought she was a good actress, but something about her really bothered me. After the "House of Spirits" movie, I was pretty much done with her. She didn't play the role as I had imagined it from the book (I loved the book), and her low voice didn't seem natural or in tune with the character.

But somewhere around the time of "The Devil Wears Prada," she started to win me back. She was able to play that role with the right balance of evil and vulnerability, which I was right on the spot. By "Mamma Mia," she had pretty much won me over. She exuded such a joy in that movie, like there was nothing she could be doing that would be more fun. And now, she has a new movie coming out, where all the previews show her with a permagrin.

And that, is awesome!

It's like she realized that she has a pretty awesome job, that she gets awarded accordingly, and that she should enjoy it. It makes it really fun to watch her movies. Again, Mamma Mia was made even better by this inner glow of hers. There is a lightness to that movie, and she really added to it. It made me smile throughout...in the last scene when she's in disco gear, the amount of fun she is having is even most apparent.

I wish we could all have that much fun at a job we've been doing for more than 20 years.

14 December 2009

So Current: Is it Working?

This is a newer holiday commercial, but it cracks me up every time.


Because it is totally something my family would do. In fact, we probably have done something like this...I love that the kids are cracking up, and the mom is trying to discipline while trying not to laugh. If you've ever seen my mom & my aunt try to discipline my bro & cousin, you know why this resonates with me...

08 December 2009

The First Time

Last week I had a first.

Get your mind out of the gutter! I was talking about my very first professional fotball game.

We had a group of about 20, and all of us congregated at Candlestick Park for a little tailgating and football. We were told by the organizer that we needed to be at the park at 9am. We were not to be late.

Well, a few of us arrived on time. The organizer, not so much. But it was ok, it meant more Bailey's and coffee, and then mimosas, for us early birds. It also meant we got to enjoy the sunshine a little longer!

Yes, sunshine, at Candlestick, at the end of November. It had to have

been about 70 degrees F, and none of us were prepared for this heat. I personally had a few layers of clothing on, with several more layers waiting in the car. My friends were similarly dressed, adding Uggs and other boots to the mix to keep their feet warm on what was supposed to be a cold day. Needless to say...we were melting out there.

We ran on a little long at the tailgate; it was hard to tear away from guys like the ones in the picture (they performed several ditties for the crowd, all about the 49ers, to the tune of Mambo #5 and other fantastic songs). And, outside, the beer was a lot cheaper than the beer inside the stadium.

But eventually we did make it in. Our seats were up there, but it was still fun. They were in the sun the whole time, so it required us moving a few times down to the shade near the concession stands. A few guys in the group also decided to go shirtless, which was an interesting choice since 1. we had no sunscreen, and 2. their chests hadn't seen the sun in quite some time. But they all survived!

It was a really fun day. The 49ers won, which was good for those in our group who are fans (growing up, after the Raiders moved, most of my family cheered for the 9ers, which meant I cheered for whatever team was playing them, because someone had to. And the Bears, always the Bears.) I am looking forward to getting to go to another game someday; hopefully it won't take decades like it did this time!

05 December 2009

So Retro: Peeeettteeerrr

The holiday's are upon us, which means...I get to share some of my faves. Last year, I focused on songs and movies, of which there are so many more...but on my mind right now are commercials.

This one is definitely one of my favorites. It ran from when I was little until sometime in the past few years (they've updated it for this year). But I love that the smell of crappy coffee will wake the whole family up and that they all look so good early in the morning. Ahhh...the 80's!

02 December 2009

Boo: IKEA Do-It-Yourself

Generally, I like IKEA. They have pretty good stuff, the quality has gotten better, and usually it's not too hard to put together.


Who'da thunk that this simple drawer set:

Would have resulted in this:

Yes, that is my hand. Yes, that is blood coming from said hand, a result of the hammer making contact with it while trying to build one of those stupid drawers.

The good news is that the drawer is now pretty much done. I hope the 2 months it took to build it and the mauling to my hand is worth it.

18 November 2009

Beautifying Mi Casita

When I was visiting Sweden, I got to stay at the brand new home of my friend, P. I knew she had worked hard and done lots of research on what the latest and greatest (and prettiest) trends were in home decorating.

One thing I noticed, and loved, was her use of wallpaper. I haven't seen wallpaper in homes in quite some time, but it was used sparingly -- as an accent wall rather than the whole room -- and the paper patterns were absolutely lovely.

I was inspired.

The first room I tried was my bathroom. I found the wallpaper, and my mom was gracious enough to test out her wallpapering skills (she used to be the Queen of Wallpapering back in the day), and the result was a lovely accent wall in an otherwise sparsely decorated bathroom.

Next project: bedroom wall. This one is trickier...it's a much bigger wall, and I am pretty particular about colors and patters in there. Wish me luck!

13 November 2009

Happy Birthday, Snuffy & Friends!

This week marks the 40th birthday of Sesame Street. It is hard to imagine something that so enhanced my own childhood is still going strong, introducing kids to letters, numbers, the concept of seeing everyone as equals, and how to tolerate the grouch down the street.

We even had "people" toys (anyone remember those) of the Sesame Street cast. I remember one that was Louis, and perhaps Mr. Hooper. I loved those "people" toys! I learned Spanish from Maria while on Sesame Street, and from Snuffaluffagus I learned that imaginary friends can truly be real.

And, most importantly, I learned this:

Happy Birthday, and Thank You, Sesame Street. Here's to another forty. (perhaps without so much Elmo)

10 November 2009

Where Am I?

The other day, I got a message from a friend of mine asking where the heck I was at the moment.

At that exact moment in time, I was at home, but he had a point. Since 2 October, my life has been an insane whirlwind of travel. It has been so, so fun, but...

To recap.

irst, it was Amsterdam, where I got to see things I've never seen
(a man going into a whorehouse to actually use a prostitute...still grosses me out!), visit a place I had only read about in a very important book (the Anne Frank House), and truly, for the first time in my travels, feel like a local. I got to ride a bike all over! I got caught in the rain on said bike while trying to visit a place that would only take 15 minutes by train! And I was taken for a local over and over again, only being spoken to in English when I corrected someone. That was awesome!

Then, it was off to Copenhagen for a day. But, it was a big one - my
birthday (not telling which one). And, even better, I got to meet
up with two of my amigas muchas, who I have been lucky enough to see a frequently! We hung out in a very cold city, took a cruise tour, and went to the oldest amusement park in Denmark. We didn't eat any Danish, though, which was a little disappointing! (no worries, I got one later) And...I realized HOW EXPENSIVE this city really is. 23$ for a salad?! It was worth the visit, though!

oon enough, it was over the bridge to Sweden, where I got to visit Malmo, which is in the South, and a small town right outside of it. There was a lot of hanging out there, and just being with friends. Then it was off to Stockholm, one of my favorite cities in the world. My love for it has not waned, it is still so beautiful.
And, of course, my dear friend lives there, so it is always fun to visit (even though she owes me a visit for sure now!). Not that I'm complaining, Stockholm is lovely -- the area, the architecture, the people. No arm twisting needed.

Back to the USA and home for a few days. Then, a quick visit to see something amazing.

After communing with nature a bit, I was home for a few more days, then it was off again on an airplane. This time, to New Orleans! There were 20 of us, descending onto the French Quarter like a natural disaster. Aside from the usual NOLA mayhem, it was also Halloween, so add that to the insanity. Somehow we all made it out alive, and with no evident injuries! We also left with a bunch of new friends and a plan to this on an annual basis. My liver is already quivering in fear.

That should have been the last trip, but before I left for Europe, I was told we were having a work offsite in Minneapolis. So, two days after returning from NOLA, I was on a plane again, and off I went! I had never been there, and thankfully didn't have more time, because our hotel was in the heart of a great shopping district, and a HUGE Target. That could have been trouble!

And now I am home, hopefully for a while. It has been a wild, fun, exciting ride, this last month! Not sure I would do it this way again, but I definitely wouldn't change a thing about it.

08 November 2009

And, We Ran with a Bull

I was remiss in not mentioning our most awesome costumes.

We ran with the bulls. Well, one bull specifically. It was terrific. (and, no, I did not take off the mask)

07 November 2009

What Just Happened?!

What a wild ride it was!

As you could see from my last post, we kicked off our trip to New Orleans with an adult beverage. It seemed like the right thing... after all, it was about 10pm and we were about to haul ourselves across the country (on a flight that was surprisingly quick! We barely had time to sleep). This original group of seven was also inaugurated into a new tradition,
which involved more adult beverages and was, really, a bad
idea. It was still fun, though!

We arrived early in the morning to NOLA and went our separate ways to our homes. With a group of 20+, there was no way to contain us all in one house! We dumped our stuff, freshened up, and headed out to Cafe du Monde for some delicious beignets and hickory coffee. This was particularly exciting for me, since, while I had been to NOLA several times, had never had the coffee. It was finally my turn!

It was the first time I had been there, though, since Katrina. I looked around the French Quarter and didn't see much difference from the last time I was there, but we didn't venture much further beyond that. There were a lot of tasteless shirts referencing Katrina, which, while funny, just hints of the anger that is still there. I don't blame them!

Soon, we hit LaFitte's Bar - they claim to be the oldest continuously running bar in the USA - and waited for the rest of our group. Soon, our little group of eight (one had shown up while we were getting beignets) had grown to about 16! It was really a great place to kick off our trip.

From there, the weekend just got better and more insane. There was the food -- first stop: Coops on Decatur. This is a surprisingly divey place, right in the tourist zone, but that's what makes it great. Oh, and the southern cooking!! After a quick nap and change of clothes, it was off to Acme, a famous oyster bar that we HAD to try at least once (no, I didn't eat the oysters, I go for the hush puppies, which I douse in tabasco). Acme was probably the only time we had trouble getting the group together. It was the first night, we didn't all know each other...but we made it work. One table for 12 and another for the balance of 4 of us. So fun!!

Then, the bars...the first night we went to a piano bar, where we were the stars of the show (I
mean, how can you ignore a group of 16 loudmouths), and then to a local place to see a band one of our friends just loved. That didn't last too long, as we were hot and needed a hurricane or two (yes, we fully celebrated our tourist-ness). I am pretty sure we closed down Bourbon Street.

As we did every other night. Our favorite place -- aside from Pat O's, was the Cat's Meow (which I dubbed Cat Club because I like the sound better). It's a karaoke bar, and they could not get us off the stage for about 2 days. No, that is not a typo...I think there was someone from our group at that bar, almost continuously, for the entire weekend. If we lost someone, we'd look there first. Shockingly, we never got kicked out, even after two of the guys completely took out two of the girls, and spilled their very sticky, red drink all over the place.

There was one more meal in there, at the Court of Two Sisters. If you're looking for a HUGE brunch full of Southern goodness, this is your place. It is located right next to Pat O's in the Quarter, but shockingly, it is really, really quiet in there. It was a nice peaceful moment in an otherwise quick-paced weekend.

It's been a week, but none of us have gotten over the fun we've had. And no one can wait until next year!

29 October 2009

Kicking Off NOLA

We're on our way to NOLA!

It's been a whirlwind month of travel which was originally slated to
end with this trip...but the addition of a work trip extended that a
bit. Nevertheless, the trip to yosemite kicked off the later half of
the month in a most excellent way.

There have been a few hiccups on this journey; the overhead bins
filled way before we even got on our first flights, which meant we all
had to check our bags. Then, more tragically, upon arriving in Atlanta
and sidling up to the bar, we were told they don't serve booze until
9am. 9am?! Ridiculous.

We're now getting set for take off into NOLA. I am hoping this large
man in front of me does not lean his seat back any further (he's
already almost in my lap).

Next stop...cafe du monde. Giddy up.

25 October 2009


Some people go through their whole life without seeing true beauty. When I see things like this, I feel so lucky to live in a place where these things are so close, it's almost easy to take them for granted. Almost.

But, when you see something like this, taken in Yosemite, you realize how small we all are in this great world. And it just takes your breath away.

20 October 2009

Cultural Differences

While in Sweden, my friend P, her husband and I got in a conversation about shoes. Yes, I know, talking about shoes isn't that particularly uncommon, or specific to a culture, but that's not really what we were discussing.

In Sweden, when you walk into someone's home, you take off your shoes at the door. If you don't, and you walk around the house with shoes on, you are being rude. In most homes into which I have entered in the US, you generally don't have to take your shoes off, and, in fact, when you do, it is a sign of making yourself comfortable, which may be more familiar than the person merits. (this, of course isn't always the case, I do know people here that ask you to take off your shoes...but, as the episode of SATC showed -- when Carrie had to take off her shoes and then her Manolos got stolen, prompting her to make a single person registry with just one item -- it isn't all that common).

It's interesting how entrenched these customs become, and how hard it can be to break them. P spoke of a fellow Swedish exchange student who really didn't like her experience. She said one of the habits she couldn't break, or adapt to, was the shoe issue. She would always take off her shoes when entering homes (P was an exchange student in Massachusetts). And people felt that was really strange, which I can understand. If someone I didn't really know took off her shoes the first time she was in my home, I may feel a little strange about it! Like, who are you?!

And, if I had gone to anyone's homes other than my friends, I think I would have felt uncomfortable with no shoes on. I can't exactly pinpoint why, but perhaps because it would feel rude to me, even though it would have been rude NOT to have my shoes on.

I think it would definitely change the way you dress to visit friends. I wouldn't be able to wear half of my pants, which are too long unless I have high heels on, for instance. And you'd always have to make sure your socks matched and had no holes (which, of course, mine always do and never have!). And, importantly, that your tootsies always look their best!

Thanks again to all my hosts throughout my trip! The Q family, Stina & Pele, and the Alms. Mwuah!

18 October 2009

Getting Home

I've been home for a few days now, and have yet to readjust to the time change.

I mean, this is ridiculous!

The first night I was home, it was easy getting to sleep and staying asleep for close to 10 hours. This is about double the amount of sleep that I usually get, so I was pleasantly surprised! The next night...bed early again, but up at around 4.30 or 5am. Which, that was fine since I was able to roll out of bed and go for a run.

But the last two nights, it's been up at around 3.30a, and completely unable to fall back asleep. Which means by around 2pm, at work, I am totally fading. I wasn't even gone that long! Shouldn't this be over by now?

Methinks yes.

10 October 2009

Sleeping In

Today was the first day I actually slept in at all throughout the
entire vacation. It was nice, and set a super mellow tone to the day.

We ate "breakfast" around 11.30. Then headed out to see Malmo. We
actually ended up at a non-Ikea furniture store that had some awesome
stuff! Then saw this new building called "turning torso," I guess
because it looks like a body turning.

It was cold and we were tired, so after grocery shopping, did a car
tour of downtown rather than walk around. Soon it was back home to eat
and drink.

I swear, I have eaten more these past two days than I have over the
whole last week. I need a lot of exercise to work it off, especially
since it's been a lot of cheese!

There was a big Denmark-Sweden soccer game tonight (actually in
Copenhagen, we saw a lot of attendees coming into town yesterday), so
I watched that. About halfway through my friend realized I was
watching the Danish station instead of Swedish, and wondered how I
couldn't tell the difference? It all sounds the same to me!

Tomorrow it'll be up to Stockholm for the last day of my trip. It's
all gone by so fast!

Arriving in Copenhagen

Thanks so much everyone for the birthday wishes!

I left Amsterdam in Thursday night, and I found two very strange
things about the airport...ok, maybe 3. First, it is somewhat
difficult to find the check in counters. They have numbers instead of
just saying find X airline here. Being half asleep probably didn't
help. Then, the El Al counter was pretty protected, with armed guards
(huge guns) checking your purpose before they let you through (and
chasing people down if you cut through the area). Finally, the
boarding process for my plane...you went into the gate area, then sat
there, then it was a free-for-all when they opened the door and we
could walk to the plane. Strange.

I arrived in Copenhagen at around 11.30 and, when I went to get my
luggage, found it soaking wet. Something I had purchased broke in the
bag, and was leaking out all over the place. Lesson learned: I guess
those vacuum bags do not keep liquid IN (but, they are awesome at
keeping liquid out...none of my clothes were wet)! It was a bit
embarassing to leak all over the airport and metro, but oh well!

Friday morning was bright and sunny, which I also took to mean it was
warm, too. I was wrong. It was chilly!! I set off to meet my friends
at the train station. On my way there, I saw a group of about 22 year
old guys, beers in hand, cruising down the street. It was about
10.30am. I guess this is common in Copenhagen:-).

My friends both arrived and we headed out to sightsee and find drinks.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city...lots of old architecture mixed with
newer businesses. It has a great pedestrian shopping street, and
canals intercut throughout the city. We tried to find some traditional
Danish food...it's not easy when you don't eat fish!!

We ended our day with a canal tour and evening at Tivoli, an old
amusement park smack in the middle of the city. It was all done up for
Halloween and really cool! There are also bars all over the
park...something we don't see much at home.

After dinner it was off to the train to head back to Stina's. It was
so crowded, people pushing like on the 1 California through Chinatown.
Not pleasant. We found out later the crowd had just come from a green
day concert.

Just a few more days til i head home. I'm having a terrific time, but
am definitely starting to miss my own bed!!

08 October 2009

Last Day in the 'Dam

Despite being up until very late last night (and, when I wrote the blog, I was at least 8 beers in...and many of them were very strong beers), I was up around 8 this morning to get my day started and myself over to the Anne Frank House. And...it wasn't raining! In fact, the sun was shining and it was kind of warm, too.

I hadn't originally planned on going there, but an old coworker told me it was one of the highlights of her recent trip here, so I thought I would check it out. It was pretty amazing...I haven't read the book in a long time, but I remember a lot about it. Seeing what I read about in person is pretty amazing. It was actually much bigger than I thought (I thought it had been like a studio), but it was still very small for 8 people. So sad seeing what they, along with many others, had to go through.

After that, I met up with the Qs to hit the beer store. They serve a lot of Belgian beers here, and each one has its own glass. The glasses are very cool, and I wanted to get a couple. So we went there for a little shopping, then rode around to a few other places before settling down for lunch. It has been really awesome of the both of them to spend so much time with me!

We headed home and I was ready for a nap, but could not spend my last day here napping. I had to spend more time with the bike before we parted ways. Seriously, I am going to miss that thing (when we were talking about what time I needed to leave to get to the airport, Stacie said...we need to budget some time for me to wrestle you off the bike...hee!). So I just rode around by the museums and then through their neighborhood. It was such a nice day here, and such a fantastic bike ride.

Back at the homestead I had to wrestle all my stuff back in the suitcase and extra bag I'm borrowing. My room looked like a tornado ran through it (no surprise, I know). I am really not looking forward to lugging that stuff on the tram and train. Ugh.

Amsterdam has been way more awesome than I thought it would be. It is so comfortable here; I felt less like a tourist and more like a local. This is in huge part thanks to the Qs, who have been so hospitable and made my time here even more fun. Thanks!!

Tonight I head off to Copenhagen, and will meet up with my friends in the early afternoon for a fun weekend. I can't wait!

07 October 2009

Get Lost

Today I had the best of intentions to ride the bike to Haarlam. It is about 24km outside of Amsterdam, or about 15 miles, and I thought, wow, what a great experience.

It was a little drizzly when I left, but no big deal. I set out on my way on the bike I have grown to love (I will post a pic later, but it is tricked out with a nice crate basket AND a kid seat in case I want to take anyone with me). I was doing well, following the correct path, then I got to Westerpark. I followed the signs...until they stopped. I think I took a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up riding around for quite some time with no clue as to where I was supposed to be. The skies were turning dark, and I thought it'd be a good idea just to turn around and go to the train station.

I set out merrily on my way...the skies turned a little more but yet they did not open...until I was about 5 minutes out from the station, when they decided not only to open, but to cry big, nasty, non-stop tears. I arrived to the station soaking wet, with no idea where to park the bike, and unable to see because the rain had drained all the hair products into my face.

Eventually I found the place to park (they have a bike parking structure that rivals many of the car structures we have in the states), and got my ticket to Haarlam. The rain let up, and I was on my way...except, when I arrive in Haarlam, it was again pouring, and my umbrella was out the house. Oops.

The little town is pretty cool. I walked for a few minutes to the central market square and was greeted by one of the more massive churches I have ever seen. It was absolutely lovely. I was lucky that the rain subsided the entire time I was there, so I got to walk around, check out the museums and shops in relative dryness.

Upon arriving back in Amsterdam, however, the rain started again. ARGH! I did manage to get to the flowermarket, which was one place I wanted to visit.

I got back home right before Stacie Q arrived home with the kiddoes. I must say...these little ones crack me up. They are super smart and just so chatty. I was with them as they made some cookies, talking about how the raisins made the cookie dough look like boobies (such boys). We got to play for a little while before they went to bed and the babysitter came so Stacie, Tony & I could go to dinner.

Dinner...wow. One of the best meals I have eaten while traveling. We had the most delicious steak from a place called Loetje in AMS. Lots of beer, salad, and frijtes as well. But the steak...the steak! I think it was doused in lots of butter, which...delish. After that Stacie headed home and Tony & I went to a Belgium beer bar to have a few more. And, I got the pleasure of having one of the best beers ever.

Brewed by monks, this beer is available in very limited quantity. In order to buy, you have to call in your order, and then show up within a half hour of a designated time. The bottles are unmarked except for the cap. And...it is so.good.

We then headed home to watch a little more baseball. The Qs have been such awesome hosts...they make me not want to leave this place (which, doesn't help when I already feel so at home in this city)!

Tomorrow is my last day here...I am hoping to get up early enough for the Anne Frank House (it is getting close to 4am now...yikes) and to do a little shopping. Wish me luck!

06 October 2009

Still Raining...

So it's still raining here in AMS. But that's ok, because today I moved in with the Qs and got the use of my very own bike. So I feel oh so very Dutch!

I had a very local-type day today. Went shopping with the Qs (Tony doesn't have to go into work until later in the day), then went to pick up the kids from school. After that, I meant to go to the Anne Frank House...but instead my bike mysteriously took me to the Heineken Experience! OOps.

That was pretty fun...I learned all about the Heinies and got to taste a few. They taste better here, not sure why, but they do. I am getting pretty spoiled here with beer; Tony has quite a collection and I don't think we can get most of it in the states. Darn!

I'm getting pretty good at navigating the streets on the bike (which has both a kid's seat AND a front basket that is the perfect size for Luca); I think I may have to take it with me.

Rain Rain go Away

I have never heard anyone snore like the guy in the room next to me. I
could hear him through the wall and despite the earplugs I was
wearing. There is someone else in his room...I have no idea how s/he
is getting any sleep.

At any rate, day 3 here was rather quiet, cold, and rainy. I set out
for the Van Gogh museum once I got myself together. It has some really
great pieces, but was way too crowded. I like getting close to Van
Goghs because you can really see the movement and texture of his
paintings...unfortunately, to do that yesterday meant climbing through
a bunch of older folks on am excursion from their cruise. Which
meant...they don't move.

After that I just walked around and got completely lost. I am not
quite sure where I was...I think the Jordaan neighborhood. I
eventually found my way back to the old Center and realized how
flippin cold it was. And if it's this cold here, it'll be colder up
north. It was time to invest in a new jacket.

I of course found a store with a sale, and got a coat that will also
serve me well when I get home. I decided to keep shopping, and netted
a new pair of shoes as well as a new dress. Hooray!

The cold drove me back to my hotel where I could pump up the heat and
take a nap. It was so cozy, I was not looking forward to heading back
out in the cold and what then was a steady downpour. I did, though,
and after quite a walk settled on an English pub for dinner...then
later met up with my new friend at a bar near my hotel for a few
drinks. We watched cricket, I think, which may be the weirdest game

I'm hoping to catch at least some of the upcoming baseball playoffs.
There are a few bars here with ESPN America, which seems to broadcast
other networks' telecasts.

04 October 2009

Things I've Learned So Far

Last night, after narrowly avoiding (in my eyes) being hit by a car,
my friend Tony informed me that if a car hits a bike in Amsterdam, no
matter what, it's the car's fault.

Which means nothing when you're dead after being hit. I was then told,
by Stacie, Tony's wife, and their friends that I probably shouldn't
follow him if I valued my life. Lesson learned!

I've learned a few more things in my first two days here:
- having a cold at the start of your trip is no fun
- when the Qs tell the babysitter they'll be home at 2am, they mean it!
- cars stop for people. Bikes do not
- English stag party attendees are more obnoxious than American
bachelor party attendees
- men do actually use the whorehouses (I know this is a duh point, but
I actually witnessed a group of men waiting outside for their friend
to finish up...after seeing said friend go in with a prostitute)
- the prostitutes, for the most part, are a little worn. The ones in
the windows have ample bellies on display, many with c-section scars,
and average about 40+. Sad, really.
- white people dredlocks are still standard on young travelers.
- white people dredlocks are still gross
- it is really easy to get lost on the little streets here, but
eventually you'll have walked yourself into a circle and back where
you're supposed to be
- I will leave A'dam at least 3 pairs of shoes richer

Last night I was lucky enough to hang out with the Qs and their
friends to celebrate Stacie's bday. We rode bikes all over (so
awesome), drank lots of beer (well, I did!), ate some terrific
Indonesian food, and I eventually hot "home" about 3am. So...no jet
lag, but being out late means a late start to the next day (or, more
accurately, that day).

I finally rolled out about 11.30ish and just wandered around. This
cold is working it's way out of my system...if it doesn't clear soon
I'm gonna see about antibiotics for a sinus infection. I'm hoping
it'll be gone tomorrow, though. I tried to do one of the free walking
tours that came highly recommended...but the group was too large and I
found the guide obnoxious, so I bailed for a siesta.

I'm hanging out now, getting ready to go to this bar near my hotel to
watch some NFL. I feel that it's only right on a lazy Sunday, even
while on vacation!

03 October 2009

Day 1: Sleep & elephants

After arriving, I headed to Amsterdam proper to find my hotel. The
directions made it sound so easy...just leave the train station, make
a right then left. Leave it to me to get lost!

After about 1/2 hour wandering central Amsterdam, I figured out where
the hell I was and where I needed to go. Upon finding the hotel, I was
greeted with the strong smell of Mary Jane, as well as about a
bazillion steps that I needed to climb to make it to my room. I passed
out promptly after I entered (I am in room #9, though...my lucky

I woke up about 6 hours later, still really stuffed up but feeling a
tad better than when I arrived. I cleaned myself up and headed out.

The central area was about 10x more crowded than when I arrived.
People everywhere. I found one street that reminded me of the main
shopping street in Buenos Aires (calle Florida, I think)...similar
stores, just as crowded.

I found a bar with wireless and parked here for a beer before I head
to the Q's to, as Tone put it, start getting my drink on.

02 October 2009

I've arrived!

I've touched down in Amsterdam!

The travel felt a little long...my first leg was from SFO to Chicago.
I was in a window seat next to an elderly couple (there we A LOT of
older people sitting near me...i think it was a tour group); the man
reminded me of my grandfather. When we took off, he made up a song to
carry us into the air, and the singing/comments came up at different
points in the flight, enough so that his wife needed to shush him. I
thought it was funny.

When we arrived, the taxi to the gate took more than 15 minutes.
Ridiculous, really...and when we arrived, we sat on a hot plane for
another 15 while they waited for someone to drive the skyway out to
us. I had a tight connection and was worried...

With reason! My second flight started boarding before I got off my
first, and it was in a completely different terminal. When I finally
got off the plane, it was a sprint to the next flight. Glad I've been
exercising a lot!

I arrived at the gate just as my group was boarding. Whew! I had the
great fortune of sitting next to a couple who decided to have a tickle
war for the first little while of the flight, and behind a woman who
turned, looked right at me, and tilted her seat back as far as she
could...her head was pretty much in my lap! This was really great for
my legroom...I don't know how people taller than me handle steerage;
I'm short and barely have any room!

I'm off now to find my hotel. Later tonight I'll meet my friends that
live here, the Qs, to celebrate Stacie's bday. I've got a few other
friends in town, too, so will try to hook up with them.

Ready to go...

...well, almost.

My bags are packed, my home is all cleaned up...now I just need to get motivated to move off the couch and get myself all cleaned up! My friend organized a Happy Hour last night for my birthday, and that happy hour turned into several hours, and, well, getting motivated has not been easy!

I can't believe it is almost time to go!

24 September 2009

Save or Splurge? HAHA

I am leaving for vacation in approximately 1 week and 1 day (and 16 hours, give or take...not that I'm counting). So I am slowly starting to check out of work I need to do here and drift into the la-la-land of what I get to do when not at home.

In doing my research, I thought I hit the jackpot with the NY Times..."Save or Splurge, Amsterdam." Score! Or so I thought...

It bears repeating that I am a budget traveler. While I don't scrimp by any means -- I don't really give a rats to dumpster dive, sleep on a park bench, beg just to stay somewhere an extra day -- I do like to cut costs where possible so I can splurge on other things, like museums, nerdy tours, food, alcohol, etc. Largely this means cutting costs in a place to stay, but since I am not there too much, I am ok with that.

Ok, with that said, I was pretty excited to delve into this article. Yes, please tell me how to enjoy my trip without spending an arm and a leg!

I should have known better. I mean, the NYT's "frugal traveler" is anything but (unless you're a DINK, or independently wealthy), so I should have figured that "save" by their definition wasn't going to be anything close to mine.

Yes, I was naive...and hopeful. Imagine my surprise when the "Save" was 250$, and the "Splurge" was 1000$/day. WTF?! (please introduce me to the person who has 1000$/day to spend on vacation, just so I can convince them to let me live their vacation life for one day)

Most of my trips in the past few years have averaged about 100-120$/day, if that. This is with private rooms (some with shared baths)...our trip to Italy may have been a bit more, but not much.

The article actually comes in at a little less than 200$, but that still seems like a lot to me. It misses the fun experience of trying to figure out foreign grocery stores (what, fruit all wrapped up? no liquor? milk not refrigerated?), and experiencing a bit of the local environment. It misses just wandering around with no real purpose, which to me is always a highlight of my trip.

Everyone has their own way of traveling, and to some, this may be the perfect way. I was just rather disappointed that "Save" could have gone so much further (and got me thinking...250$ is like 3-5 days in many awesome places in Asia).

Back to daydreaming...

18 September 2009

Three More Weeks!!!

In just 3 weeks, I will be seeing my amigas muchas and celebrating with them in Copenhagen/Malmo. I am so excited...It still amazes me that we've been able to keep in touch all these years. The Internet was in an infant stage when we all met; I believe Yahoo! Messenger was introduced not too long before we were together in Spain, and we'd pick a time once a week or so and have a big group chat. That stopped working...then emails got a little more sporadic. We met again at Pernilla's wedding (she's the blondie), and then on Facebook, where we planned the reunion we had last year.

And I am lucky enough to get to see them again this year!! Hooray!

17 September 2009

May the Watermelons be Plenty

Amidst all the news of Kanye dissing Taylor Swift (which, yes, it was rude, it should not start WWIII...Kanye has been an idiot for a while, his music pretty much rocks so let's move on) came news that Patrick Swayze had lost his battle with cancer.

And, this may sound weird, but it kind of gave me hope.

My grandmama died of pancreatic cancer in 1995. It is an ugly cancer, and took her about 6 months after she was diagnosed. They tried a round of treatment, but it was worse than the cancer. Soon after, my Aunt Helen was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She lived a year or so after diagnosis, and had a fairly decent quality of life. We even got to have a celebration of her life while she was still alive, which was a great tribute to her.

Swayze fought the good fight for 2 years. While the pictures show him having lost a lot of weight, he was still acting until not too long ago, which means his quality of life wasn't too bad. To me, this means that the medications have gotten better, that they have been able to tune the treatment in a way that the patients can live longer and feel better.

And this gives me hope, that while we may not cure cancer, treatments will continue to improve, and the quality of life for those fighting the disease. RIP Swayze.

15 September 2009

The Text Generation

Recently, a group of friends, representing the X and Y and possibly Millennium generations, were talking. When we (the X gen-ers) told one of them that she would be Y/Millennium...she got offended. She said she didn't want to be associated with those "texters" and stuff...

And I, as part of the Slacker Gen-X, wondered why.

I think texting, along with many other advancements that have happened in my lifetime (see: proliferation of the interwebs, MP3 players, TiVo), is the bees knees. Perhaps it is because it is so common to her generation that it is passe. And to me, it is still a novelty. I dunno.

But I love it.

I barely talk on the phone. I maybe get 3 calls a week, mostly from my brother or mom or maybe a friend who is driving in a car. I would rather text or talk in person . Since the latter isn't always possible, texting it is! (I will admit, though, sometimes a call is a nice surprise!)

I don't know why, it just seems so much easier to me. I feel like I can get so much more done, and then I can more easily remember what people are telling me.

Perhaps this is "typical" of Gen-X...according to everything we heard growing up, we like things the easy way;-).

11 September 2009

Kindness of Strangers

The anniversary of 9.11 always makes me a little introspective.

Yesterday my friend was talking about a friend of hers who was assaulted, and no one around helped. And this, plus Operation Find Don, got me thinking...I have been pretty lucky throughout my life, and greatly benefited from the kindness of strangers.

While I am sure there are more, the first one I remember is when I got mugged in Sevilla. As the person who grabbed my wrist from behind dragged me for a while ran away, two people, a couple, immediately ran to my aid. I don't think they ran after the guy, but they stayed with me to make sure I was ok, and walked me over to the police station, staying with me until I was settled. These folks took time out of their day to help me...

More recently, I was walking Luca and there was a pit bull tied up outside a shop. I trust that owners don't leave vicious dogs unattended, naive perhaps, but usually I am right. This particular dog didn't look to scary, but he was definitely eyeing Luca from the moment we came around the corner, and while I tried to steer clear, the dog broke free from where he was tied and rushed at me. I struggled with my dog, while this pitty was jumping on top of me. A man who had come out of the coffeeshop saw this occurring ran over to get the dog off of me, while a woman ran in to get the dog's owner. They could have just left me there, but didn't.

From a more broad perspective, there are men and women doing their job every day to keep me safe. And while I may not agree with the reasoning, the fact is they are doing their job as best they can. And for this, I thank them.

01 September 2009

Things I Learned this Weekend...

So, after trying several times, I figured it out...I cannot get through a Jane Austen book. I have started two in the past week, and with both, after about 5 pages, I had to put it down.

I love the movies I've seen of her books -- Emma, Pride & Prejudice -- and those based on her books -- Clueless, Bridget Jones' Diary...but can't get through the books. I've always felt it was something lacking in my book reading history, but now I am over it.

BTW...Jane Austen's Book Club and Becoming Jane should have warned me off...those movies were terrible.

30 August 2009

Thank You John Hughes: Mr. Mom

John Hughes, celebrated writer/director of many important movies of my youth, recently passed away. Here, I pay a little tribute.

So this was one that I didn't know was part of the Hughes oeuvre. It wasn't focused on teens, it wasn't about high school...but it was kind of about a misfit trying to fit in to his new world, which is often central to Hughes' plotlines.

This movie took an unimaginable premise -- that a MAN would actually stay home with his CHILDREN while the wife was the main breadwinner for the fam. I mean, can you imagine this? So progressive for the early 80's.

I remember watching this at home when I was younger (my parents must have watched it)...but I also remember watching it about 10 times during my freshman year of high school. For some reason, the substitute we always had for our Christian Sexuality class (yes, I realize that can sound strange, that they were teaching us this...but it was perhaps the most comprehensive sex education class we could have had, way moreso than any that I have heard my friends speak of. anyway...) felt that Mr. Mom was the perfect movie for us to watch every time he subbed. We didn't really care much...the guys in the class did whatever it was that guys do, while the girls drooled over Mr. Magnini.

So now when I watch Mr. Mom, I think not of the theme of fitting in, or of kids adjusting to changes, or the vacuum eating Kenny's woobie, but of our substitute teacher. Who, in a way, as a full time substitute, also had to try to fit in...right?

26 August 2009

Mixed Feelings: Wicked, the Novel

I have been lucky enough to see Wicked, the play, twice since it debuted here in San Francisco earlier this year. So of course, being me, I needed to read the source material to find out how they matched up.

After finishing Wicked, the Novel, the first thing that is apparent is that the book influenced the play, and I could see where certain plot points came from, but beyond that...they weren't much alike.

I think had I not seen the play, I may like the book more. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I really wanted to find out what happened next. It was very dark, very twisted, but also really hard to follow at times. I feel like certain plot points -- specifically, the impending extinction of the Animals -- were very, very underdeveloped (and this, surprisingly, was something a little more developed in the play). The connection between the Witch and the Wizard was also a little ambiguous.

And, really...I did not like the Wizard, and had a hard time reconciling him with my image from the Wizard of Oz movie. And, also from what I remember from the original book, which I did read a long time ago (along with Return to Oz, which was super creepy). I feel like in this book, Maguire wanted to satisfy his own agenda, rather than truly develop further what we know of the existing characters.

Overall, I am really conflicted about this book. Considering Wicked, the play, has become one of my favorites, it is hard for me to stomach some the plot points in this book. It was also really tough for me not to bust out in song every time the Wizard was mentioned ("when I meeettt the Wiiizzaardd..."). And I feel like Maguire could have made more sense of some of the issues he was trying to exploit.

That said...I think had I read it before seeing the play, I may have enjoyed it more. I could have enjoyed the dark twistyness a little more.

20 August 2009

Thank You John Hughes: Some Kind of Wonderful

John Hughes, celebrated writer/director of many important movies of my youth, recently passed away. Here, I pay a little tribute.

Some Kind of Wonderful
is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. I am not sure who I went with -- maybe my aunt? -- but I do remember that I saw it.

Lea Thompson, it felt, was the "it" girl at the time, having been in Back to the Future, Space Camp, and, of course, Howard the Duck. Eric Stoltz was clearly trying to move past his "Mask" image and into the hearthrob role, and Mary Stuart Masterson was a somewhat newbie on her way to becoming, incomprehensibly, a female lead in many films over the following few years.

This movie followed a typical Hughes format -- non-popular person is in love with popular person, and, somehow, that popular person finally noticed the non-popular. And, in the wings, the non-popular person had a friend who was in love with him/her (also seen in Pretty in Pink).

What I remember the most about seeing this movie was really identifying with Watts. I mean, really, truly feeling like I knew what she was going through, feeling pushed aside by your best guy friend chasing some chick, but knowing deep down that he should be with you. Common, I am sure...but this movie came out in 1987...I was 11 years old. What the hell did I know about being pushed aside? Who was my best friend that I felt shunned me? And I wonder if he also drew pictures of his dream girl and listened to music about her name...

Over the years, this has stuck with me. I get giddy when this movie comes on. As I got older, I identified more with Watts -- a girl on the outside looking in -- but I think many of us did (after all, can we really identify with Amanda Jones? Not the majority of us.). And I think this is what Hughes did best. Stereotypes are born from something common, and while this movie was totally stereotypical, so is the high school experience. High school is formulaic, it is about having outsiders and fringe, and it is about making decisions that seem so important in the moment, that will hindsight you see aren't.

It is about wasting your whole life savings on diamond earrings for your Amanda Jones, and realizing that, if you are going to spend that much, it would be better spent on your Watts.

18 August 2009

From the Vault: Catalano vs. Krakow

My So-Called Life was a most excellent show that aired in the early/mid-90s, about a girl, Angela Chase, and the burden that is being a teenager. While I was already in college when this first aired, a freshman, I believe, I totally related to Angela. I think it was because, in the very first show I watched, Angela & her mom got into a fight EXACTLY like the ones my mom & I frequently got in -- Patty, the mom, was getting ready for a party, stressed out, and yelling at Angela, who wanted to do what her mom was asking on her own terms and in her own time (is there any other kind of fight between mother/daughter?). This show definitely had its own sense of perfection...and I hadn't thought about it in a while, until I saw this NPR post.

So, because these are the type of things I spend my time pondering upon, I started thinking about Angela's two "love" interests -- Brian Krakow, the guy who was really interested in loving Angela, and Jordan Catalano, the guy who Angela was really interested in loving. While these two characters were total stereotypes, the nerd and the hottie bad boy, they were written so well and deeply that they felt like more than that.

Jordan Catalano, played by a young Jared Leto pre-makeup/anorexia/weirdness, was the guy every high school girl dreams of, even when they say they don't. He was a bad boy who would break you by looking at you, turn you into a puddle by acknowledging your presence, twist your tongue the minute he said hi to you. To you, he was complex, tortured, and in need of someone who would listen. You could change him, you could show in the way.

Brian Krakow, played by a wild-haired Devon Gummersall, was the geek. He was the boy who pined after you, but who you only used for help with your homework (or, in desperation, to DO your homework for you). He was only as complex, you thought, as the plaid shirt he wore, and he would do anything for you. Because of this, you wanted nothing to do with him, because, what high school girl wants someone who is good for them?

This made total sense to my teenage mind. Who WOULDN'T want Jordan Catalano (and, yes, you always have to say his FULL name. a.l.w.a.y.s.)? And Krakow, he wasn't even cute, though I felt bad when Angela totally dissed him on his bike to go off in the car (swoon) with Jordan Catalano.

Looking back through slightly more "adult" eyes, I can do more than imagine what these two boys are like. Jordan Catalano, while still hot, has turned into the quasi-loser who never went far, selling high-end electronics...impressing you long enough for a session of smooching at the class reunion with the thought that, HA, even though he notices you now, you are so much better than him. While Krakow, he has turned into the one you want. The slightly awkward teen who's turned into a slightly less-awkward adult, still a little shy, but way more successful than even he thought he'd be, and way funnier and more endearing you remember.

Does the bad boy love ever truly fade? Not entirely. There is always that desire to save someone, to take care. But I do think you realize everyone maybe has that bad boy side, even Krakow, and that sometimes the good needs to outweigh the bad.

14 August 2009

This Should Make You Angry

There is a lot of talk these days about the President's health care plan. One of his biggest goals, and, I think, his biggest challenge, is to reform the health care system in the United States.

Necessary? Absolutely. Possible? I hope so. Is this the right plan? I don't know yet.

When Clinton was a candidate, she said that every American should get health care, and that everyone should be able to afford it. I remember thinking to myself, the problem isn't always that we can't afford healthcare, it is that it is denied to us. Take me, for example. I left my job in early 2008, and took a contract position at another company. This meant either no healthcare -- COBRA is way too expensive at over 300$/month-- or getting my own plan. I was relatively healthy, hadn't gone to a doctor but once in a year or so because of an illness (only physicals and the like), and kept most things under control with acupuncture.

I was denied. I was denied because I had marked "yes" to history of headaches, because I had stress in my life, and had once had a prescription of Ambien because I was having trouble sleeping. Therefore, they would not insure me.

I was so angry. Both at myself -- why was I so stupid to TELL THE TRUTH on my history profile -- and at the company...who doesn't have stress?! They couldn't even give me an alternative, or a slightly higher premium? They were just going to leave me flailing.

To me, this is the inherent problem with health care -- that insurance is unregulated and out of control. And this makes me angry. I keep reading stories of people being dropped from their plans, of families not being able to get coverage because of BS reasons.

Then I listened to this episode of This American Life, Fine Print. I recommend you do, too. Fast forward to Act III, where congress discusses health care with some insurance giants. The lack of ethics by these companies will make you angry. It SHOULD make you angry. It should make you want to go out read the health care plan that is circulating through the House and Senate, and then write your representative in agreement, or with another alternative.

I listened to this over a week ago, and I am still angry. Angry on behalf of the woman in the story who was told, a day before her breast cancer surgery that she couldn't have it because she had a skin problem years before that MAY be a pre-existing condition. Angry on behalf of the people you know with insurance who are struggling to pay for care for their own cancer treatments, or their child's rehabilitative care. And angry on behalf of yourself, because it could be you in any of these situations, and you have been lured into safety thinking you have insurance.

This may be one of the most important issues we face during the course of our lifetimes. We'll all get sick. We all deserve the best care. And we all deserve not to go broke to get that care.

11 August 2009

This Time, It was Better

The last time I was in Santa Cruz, or, at least, the last time I remember, things did not go so well. I was there for the Western States Lacrosse tournament, a huge two-day affair. At this tournament, there was also a president's meeting, and, since I was a co-pres at the time, I attended. When I left, I realized I did not have my keys. It was night, everyone was gone, and I had no way to enter the car that was sitting there, all alone, in the parking lot. With all the dirty uniforms in it, no less, because I had committed to doing the laundry at my parent's house.

Keep in mind, this was pre-cell phone days. First I called AAA, thinking I perhaps left the keys in my car. They came, and there were no keys. Then I called my parents, crying, I'm sure, asking if they could please please come pick me up. I wasn't quite sure where I was on campus, so trying to describe this location to my father was tough. Then I told campus police, who monitored the parking lot every once in a while, as I sat in my car, exhausted and crying. My dad finally showed up, I am sure he either yelled at me or didn't speak to me (which was worse), and we headed home.

The next day, I found out that I had left the keys on the table at the tshirt stand. Go figure.

So that was my last experience in Santa Cruz, at least as far as I remember. This time, some friends and I rented a place there for the weekend, with the main point of the weekend being to run the Wharf to Wharf 10K race. Our home for the weekend was just a few blocks from the beach, and we descended upon it with 8 humans and 4 pooches, ranging from 4 to 80+ pounds. We were quite a motley crew!

On Saturday I got up early (shocking, I know) and took Luca for a nice, long walk. I had never been to this part of Santa Cruz -- as children we mainly went to the Boardwalk and surrounding areas -- and it was cool to see all the homes and summer cabins dotting the streets. It was foggy, but I could see the sun breaking on the ocean, which is always a cool thing to see, and one of the things I love about fog. Soon I arrived back, and a little while later, the house began waking up. They cooked breakfast, I made mimosas.

The day was lazy...a trip to the beach, a nap here and there, and then a bike ride to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This was particularly eye-opening...was it always so dirty? And so scary? As we approached, there was a guy being questioned by the police, and then he decided to just take off. How stupid! And, not what you want to see when you are approaching a family hangout. Post-Boardwalk, we headed downtown, and eventually home in the darkness. (Mom, skip this part)...we had two bike lights between four of us, so we rode with one in the front and one in the back, and, let's say we were all grateful we made it back in one piece.

The highlight: seeing a man walking a cat. Yes, walking a cat, with a harness, and on a leash.

Sunday we woke up to a fog covered coastline, and headed down to the start of the race. Shortly after we arrived, the gun sounded, and the 6 of us, along with 14,994 other people took off towards Capitola. It was crowded, but, wow, it was awesome. The fog was tickling the curves of the race, and in front of it stood bands of all kinds. First, there was a drum band of some sort, getting us going with a very peppy beat. Then, right around the bend, a bagpipe troop. Of course, the sounds of bagpipes made me all teary.

At that point, we were going at about an 11 minute/mile pace. Then it was up the hill and around a few bends towards the water. As I was rounding a corner, I saw a familiar face, once I hadn't seen in over 10 years -- my old pal and coworker Pollywog from day camp. A quick stop, hello, and hug to him, and then I sprinted to catch back up with my friends. A sprint, in the middle of a 10K, smart, eh? Again up another hill, and then the first water stop...where I promptly lost my friends.

No clue whether they were in front of or behind me, so I just kept running. Feeling good, and going at a good clip, I listened to even more bands...this time a windpipe trio of middle-aged women, a rock band of middle-aged men, and a punk/emo group of pre-teens. It was so cool. There were new bands every few hundred feet, so there was never a dull moment, or need to put on my headphones. Soon I was at mile 5, nearing the end of my race, and still feeling good! Then, suddenly, I caught a glimpse of my friend's ponytail. Hooray!

Again I sprinted to catch up to them, and finally caught them. At that point, I couldn't slow down. I said hi, chatted a moment, and kept going. I couldn't catch my breath, but there was no way I could stop. Mile 6 rolled around, and I knew I had this one. I wasn't quite sure where the finish was, but soon we were on a downhill, getting our pictures taken for posterity. I was flailing down the hill, trying not to run into people but not succeeding. I couldn't speak to say I'm sorry, couldn't breath, but was determined not to stop. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line with a 1.02 finish.

1 hour, 2 minutes. This means I averaged a 10 minute mile. It also meant I had shaved about 6 minutes off my last best time. I was shocked, and so, so happy.

It's been a few weeks, but I am still thrilled. And, am even more happy that this time, my visit to Santa Cruz was better.

03 August 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Bug!

Today, Luca turns 4!

Now, I know...he's a rescue and thus we're not exactly sure when he was born...but when I got him, they told me he was 1.5 years old. I picked a date 6 months after that and called it his birthday.

It is also a very special day in our family for another reason...the day my parents got married! Happy 35th Anniversary Mom & Dad!!

28 July 2009

Keeping in Touch

The other day, I swear I saw someone I knew back in college. We had played soccer together, and he was one of my early friends from the dorms, though I am not quite sure how I knew him. At any rate, I was walking across the street, looked up, and there he was. At least I think it was him; I of course didn't say anything.

It got me thinking about losing touch with people, and how the world has changed over the past few years, making it so easy to stay in touch forever.

Unless you got names and phone numbers before you left school, it was hard to keep in touch. I don't even think I knew last names of most people I know, much less how to track them down. Some people had these things called car phones, but not many. The Internet was in its nascent stages...so early that I was told, in no uncertain terms, that we should not use this "Internet" thing for our senior projects because it was full of misinformation. We had email, but Hotmail didn't come around until my senior year, and we all only had our school email.

It is incredible to me how things have changed.

Nowadays, you would add someone immediately to your Facebook or MySpace or Friendster or what have you, and have them there until you defriend them (which I don't think happens unless they're your ex, or someone you dislike...). You have their cell phone number, which most people keep for a long time due to free roaming and all that. Maybe some people do, but I rarely delete phone numbers; then I know who's caling. You know the first/last name, so it is easy to google. Really, it is harder to fall out of touch than to keep in it.

I kind of feel mixed about the whole thing...part of the novelty of the social networking stuff for me is that I suddenly hear from some rando from my past...sometimes they are not people I ever needed to hear from, but more often than not it is someone I am happy to "see." It also seems that suddenly we're all friends, even if we were nothing more than acquaintances in the olden days. But at the same time, I wish we had something like it back in my day so I could have kept in touch with my college buddies (they are harder to find than high school friends).

I do wonder, though, what high school yearbooks say now? Instead of, "stay sweet and cool... K.I.T. and we'll rage this summer," do they now say, "see you on Facebook?"

25 July 2009

Got Movin' on my Mind

Well, not that kind of moving...just getting the hell out of dodge!

My big vacation (relatively speaking of course...my non-USA readers won't think 1.5 weeks is that great, but for someone who hasn't taken more than a day off in a row in over a year, it sounds delish) is coming up in just over 2 months. 2 months!! So all I am thinking about is traveling.

Between the thinking...don't worry, I'm not hurting me head too much...and the reading of travel boards, it got me thinking about what type of traveler I am. This one site I frequent, www.bootsnall.com, has options like flashpacker, backpacker, tour taker, etc. People advocate getting out of cities, staying in cities, doing this, doing that...

So here's me, I think. I am a budget, independent traveler. I like hostels. I don't like resorts. I wouldn't take an organized tour from city to city (I will, however, take day tours, or city tours, etc.). I love being a silly tourist and ogling the sites like the Roman Forum, Eiffel Tower, and the Prado. I also like just blending in and watching people.

I like cities. I don't feel the need to go visit the country-side. I don't think "real culture" lies outside of city limits. I don't feel that way in my own country, why would I feel that way elsewhere. This is actually the point I find most grating. We often make fun of small USA towns, while at the same time toting the greatness of small towns outside of the USA. Whatever. Saying you don't experience the "real" wherever because you only visit the main cities is total bull.

I get bored easily, but am easily entertained. I need lots of things to look at. Like a child, bright, shiny objects fascinate me. Bring 'em on. I like the hustle and bustle, but at the same time I want to find the serenity of a place. I like to wander, so need places where this is possible. See: Santa Cruz in Sevilla, Barri Gotic in Barcelona, the pedestrian area in Buenos Aires.

I don't like to shop. I like to look at things, but I don't like to buy them, because I am cheap and don't like having a lot of stuff. Plus, I feel like I can buy most things at home. That said, I often find treasures and kick myself for not getting extra for presents. Things like the awesome leather purses in Buenos Aires, the rose petal rosaries at the Vatican, Kosta Boda on-sale items in Sweden.

I love travel because it just lets me be. I tend to like to move a lot. I can walk for hours on end, watching people, soaking it in, seeing things. This is my favorite part. I like to see a few places on my trips, but don't like feeling like I need to see everything or get somewhere else. It is the one time in my life where I don't like to plan everything out. While time limits have also limited how much "fly by the seat of my pants-ness" I can get away with...I still try.

I am so antsy to get traveling! I don't want time to pass too quickly, I just wish I was going in two weeks, instead of two months!

22 July 2009

I Hate Myself for Loving You

It's hard to believe, but I have spent 9 seasons watching what is quite possibly the crappiest show on TV, and have moved on to my 10th...Big Brother.

There is nothing redeeming about this show. There is very little that is even vaguely interesting about these people. Back in the early days, they would at least have a little fun at first. Season 2, I believe, brought us the now common knowledge word "showmance." There were two on that season, and it also brought us the Evil Doctor Will, possibly the best (and hottest) villian ever on a competitive reality show. 9/11 also happened during that season, and I remember this because, 1. I am a nerd, and 2. one of the contestants had a relative who was missing as a result, and they had to debate whether or not to tell her. (in other reality news, 9/11 was the one time The Real World Chicago housemates got to watch TV. See, I told you, nerd).

But the past, well, at least 4 seasons have been SO BORING. They start playing the game from the moment they enter the house. It is non-stop. They all act like pre-teen girls in Catholic school...changing alliances every 2 minutes, leading people into talking crap about other people then running off and tattling, and the popular kids ruling the roost, until they are dethroned. (perhaps all grade school girls are like that...my only experience is with Catholic school)

And, it seems, they are casting more and more deplorable people. Racists, misogynists, homophobes...you name it, they seem to be casting for it. They don't, however, show this on the broadcast show...instead,they create characters like Dick, who played the game with his estranged daughter Danielle, who seem really affable on screen, but in the live feeds are threatening to rape, kill, and otherwise hurt women in the house. The hell?

Yet, I continue to watch this crap. And it seriously is crap. And I hate myself for it, but in the dearth that is summer TV, each season, I get sucked back in.

18 July 2009

The King has Left the Building

So it has been a few weeks now since Michael Jackson's passing. While the controversy is raging on (was he killed? was it a conspiracy? is he really alive? was he just a junkie whose body couldn't take it anymore?), luckily, a lot of the media coverage has died down. Thinking he is no longer of this world is a little surreal to me, but it also brings up a slew of mixed feelings I didn't think I would have.

Michael Jackson's music truly provided a soundtrack to my youth. There had been nothing like it before, and I don't think we'll truly see something like it again, something that transcended all ages, races, and countries. I can't think of anyone I know who doesn't know an MJ song, and who doesn't like at least one or two (his earlier stuff). I can't remember where I was when I first heard it, but I know I had a little purse that had the Thriller album cover on it (I assume we got it at some sort of flea market), and my brother, cousins and I all had a sparkly glove. My bro dressed up as him for Halloween -- costume made by my mom -- and I vaguely remember being jealous that I couldn't do the same.

Soon came the ultimate, and genre-changing video, Thriller. It was scary to our young eyes, but, wow, how we loved it. We would sneak into my parent's room to watch MTV (which was supposed to be forbidden to us) and then practice all the dance moves. There's a family video in which all the kiddies are dancing the Thriller dance, until we are pushed out of the way by my aunt, who needed to command full attention of the camera. We were upset, but it shows how we ALL loved MJ. (and, to show his staying power...I have a family friend, who was probably born around the time Thriller came out, who loved MJ so much it was part of how he introduced himself as a little boy, "My name is Matthew Ryan X and I love Michael Jackson)

Weird Al parodied him. We parodied Weird Al. Then Bad came out, and we all went around saying, "You're bad..." when we really meant good. Confusing? Yes. Culture-changing? Yes.

Years went by, and MJ changed. His face changed, his color changed, he became almost unrecognizable to those of us who had grown up loving him. But his voice...that voice was unmistakable.

Then he got really strange, and the accusations started dogging him. And this is where my internal conflict comes into play, and has been nagging me since his death. To me, Michael Jackson is the one of my youth, the one who introduced the moonwalk and had his hair set on fire, and gathered possibly the greatest pool of talent ever to record "We Are the World." That is who I think of when I think of him. But can that really be separated from the man who was inappropriate with children? Who himself was so stuck in a childlike state?

I know he was never found guilty of molestation charges. I have no doubt that he did inappropriate things with the young boys that stayed at his house (and why parents continued to let their sons go over there, I'll never understand); but something in me thinks that what he did had nothing really to do with sex. That he was so stuck in a place that most well-adjusted adults grow out of rather rapidly. That he was so full of self-loathing, he wanted to be the furthest thing from what he was.

And therein lies the saddness. He had all the means to get out, to help himself, but no one around him forced him to, and he was so low that he couldn't help himself, either. I can't feel too bad about that, though...so many of us have issues and have to learn to fight our way out of it, but, still...to me that is truly the tragedy of his life. I can't imagine hating myself that much.

So I think I will be content in remembering pre-1990s MJ. The man who changed pop culture forever.

15 July 2009

Wednesday Answers

From My Digital Ghost...

[Listen] Any song stuck in your head right now? Or do you remember the last song to be stuck in your head–what was it?

I have Flo Rida's "Spin me Round" stuck in my head right now...it must have just been on a commercial or something.

[Watch] Will you/did you see the new Harry Potter movie this week? In general, have you ever attended a midnight showing of a major film the night it was released?

I will not see the Harry Potter movie. I haven't seen any of them thus far, so wouldn't start towards the end; I really don't have much of an interest in them! I feel like I have seen a midnight release, but am not sure if that is true...if it was anything, it was one of the Star Wars movies (either the re-release of the originals or the first new one). Can't guarantee that is true, though.

[Read] What is your favorite category of non-fiction? (History, culture, humor, etc.)

I have been reading a lot of history lately. I also really love travel books and learning about the places I will go...soon I'll have to start reading about Amsterdam!

11 July 2009

We're So Hip it Hurts

Last weekend was 4th of July, and it was probably the first time I had spent the holiday weekend at home in at least 7 or 8 years. Though I really missed the River, it was nice just to chill at home, get some things done, and hang out with friends.

It was also the weekend of the Fillmore Street Festival. Because of its proximity to me, we ended up at my place at the end, drinking and dancing, and...checking our iPhones.

We took this picture as a joke, but it really wasn't. Typical of iPhone users, we can't get enough of our own. One guy had commandeered my speakers and had his plugged in there. Others were texting incessantly to friends they were meeting later (or perhaps someone across the room). Some of us were showing each other texts from other people to figure things out. But none of us put ours down for more than say 2 minutes at a time.

Sad commentary on "kids these days" (even though none of us are kids), or on us "grown ups" (shudder) who didn't grow up with these new fangled things and are trying to make up for lost time?

You decide.