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.

09 July 2009

It's Baaacckk

A week or so ago, I was at work, and I got a call from my dad. This doesn't happen very often, so I was a little worried when I answered it...what if it was bad news?

Well, it wasn't. My dad was laughing, and said, "I just got the craziest call." Well, ok, do tell more. Then he asked me to think about what I had lost recently.

I will say, I didn't like where this was going. I lose a lot of things...keys, credit cards, my mind. And my dad likes to rub it in. Recently HE lost his credit card, so I was armed with that as a retort.

He continues to laugh, and hints around that maybe it was something I lost while I was out of the country. Well, in that case, there's only one thing. My passport.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That was it!

Someone (Dad wasn't sure who, and didn't think about asking) called him from Argentina (he thought) saying they had my passport. Was I missing it? He told the nice lady yes, and she apparently put it in the mail and sent it on its merry way!

I was pretty excited to get it back. Where had it been these past 4 years? Had it gone on any adventures? Any new stamps that weren't there when I lost it? Would I need to be jealous of my old passport?

Well, unfortunately, the passport is not revealing any secrets. If it did do any traveling, it collected no new stamps. It was kind of amazing opening up this document to see my 21 year old pudgy face staring back at me...wearing OVERALLS (yes, overalls...in my defense, they were in style, and they actually could have been the overall SHORTS I had. Gah. What were we thinking?!). I never think I look that different, then I see pics like this one, which...yikes. Perusing through, I find my return stamp from my first trip (but no entry stamp to DeGaulle, or any of the other countries I lived in/visited when they checked your passport every time you went anywhere), all my stamps from my England/Ireland trip, first trip to Sweden, Canada, Bahamas...and the last stamp was my entry to Argentina, on 4 July 2005.

So almost exactly 4 years later, this important piece of my history has been returned. Incredible.

07 July 2009

Me in Words

I just realized this is my 500 post. I don't think they are all published anymore -- some of them were from posts I did to earn a little extra scratch -- but still...500! Yowsers.

I found this cool thing from Wordle. Head in Knots, in black and white.

04 July 2009

Celebrating Independence.

Booze, barbeque, baseball, bohunks. It must be the Fourth of July!

On a more serious note, a huge thank you to all of those who continue to protect what America stands for...Freedom of ideas, religion, and love. The fighting must continue, but hopefully, one day, everyone will legally get to pursue their own happiness...

02 July 2009

What Makes you Interesting?

I was reading a friend's dating-horror-story blog the other day, and one thing she said struck me. She said, "Travel makes you boring." What she meant by it was that the constant talk about travel doesn't set you apart or make you that interesting.

It got me thinking...and I am stuck in a conundrum of both agreeing and disagreeing. While I see her point -- I hate when people go on and on about their trips, apropos of nothing -- I find it harder to relate to someone with no sense of adventure, and no real desire to travel outside of their comfort zone.

I have talked about this before, but for me, travel was the first thing to really, truly push me out of my comfort zone. I am rather shy, and when I moved to Spain, it was tough. I was alone, away from my family (none of whom had really traveled before, and all of whom lived within about a 3 hour or so drive from where I grew up). I knew no one, I understood the language but couldn't speak it that well, and was a little lost. This was really hard at first, but I realized that the only way to make the best of the situation was to actually talk to someone. Someone I didn't know.

And I did. And it was awesome.

This experience really shaped me, and shaped my love of travel. I am generally solo, so never HAVE to talk to someone if I don't want to, but have met some of the most awesome people that way.

So I love travel. Books about journeys. Reading the New York Times travel page, getting travel fare emails, helping other travelers find their way. This doesn't mean I want to travel every day, I am a walking dichotomy of wanderlust and homebody. This also doesn't mean I talk much about my trips...maybe an anecdote or two, and my pics if someone wants to look, but I don't think most people want to hear much about other peoples' trips.

But it is a must for me. To be able to share this love with people who understand that fire that is within you -- this is why I love the friends I have met traveling, and the people with whom I've connected because of this common interest. And I have loved seeing my friends discover this within themselves. This passion, it is beyond just, "I enjoy travel."