Betty White, aliens, & OMG! Puppies: Tripping through Big Foot Land & beyond

Blue Wonder Woman mug with purple flowers

This sums a lot of it up

Over a ten-day span last month, Arthur and I ate supernaturally fresh produce among the Sequoioideae in California; viewed a surprisingly large number of Krylon-wrought, alien-themed murals on corrugated metal in the deserts of Nevada; and moshed in the pool with the hundreds of other metalheads attending the Psycho Las Vegas festival at the Hard Rock Hotel in so-called Sin City. (Okay, I did not mosh in the pool, and I am not even a proper metalhead—but I did survive among their throngs for several days!)

I’ve had the great good fortune of taking many epic trips in my life: I’ve driven Australia’s Gold Coast, seen the sunrise over Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán, made it through Iceland’s Fimmvörðuháls hike in one long day, gotten lost on a mountain bike in the Judean Desert, soaked in mountain onsen ryokans in Japan, even hobbled around the Great Pyramid of Giza in an air cast. I’ve been so happy and grateful for them all, but I’ve noticed that what makes a trip especially enjoyable and memorable can’t always be predicted. The most potent travel magic, I’ve found, isn’t necessarily made by combining a greater number of days with a longer flight and a more impressive to-do list. Not to say I don’t retain vivid memories of drunken late-night singing with locals in a rural Russian dacha, or speeding in a Jeep through the jungles of Cambodia with a bunch of brawny Aussies—I absolutely do! Just that, sometimes, a relatively unassuming trip will pack a bigger than expected punch of awesomeness.

Such was the case with this recent voyage west. I guess it was a few things: the combination of great food and great company throughout; the right balance of activities and downtime; and a rotating kaleidoscope of natural and social environs that kept my brain keyed up without making me dizzy. Well, some things did bring on at least momentary vertigo:

Toxic waste alien sign Nevada

Toxic waste, Nevada

Bellagio fountains show

Bellagio fountain show, Las Vegas

Goat Rock California

Goat Rock, California

Oh, and I think I touted these guys, too:

Per usual, I came home with too much show-and-tell to fit in one blog post—good thing this WordPress subscription automatically renews!

Until the next brain dump, thanks for the unassuming but epic embarrassment of riches, western U.S. I’ll be back for more.

Two Shameless Feminists

When my friend Angela Altus—of Bushwick Daily and Shameless Photography—spread the word that she was looking for volunteers to man up in front of the camera for a project called “This is What a Feminist Looks Like,” I was all ears.

“The purpose of the project is to showcase the many faces of feminism, and how shared values span gender, age, race and so much more,” she wrote. While my combined characteristics peg me as just about the most predictable feminist in the world, I still wanted to represent! Thankfully, so did my fabulous husband.

Feminists in bike helmets

In our bike helmets, OF COURSE

The shoot took place at Shameless’s awesome space in an old industrial building in Dumbo earlier this month (site of countless body-positive boudoir photo sessions!), and has so far resulted in some gorgeous documentation on the studio’s website and Instagram; I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of these brilliant shots on billboards soon!

Big ups to all the ladies and dudes involved in this uplifting creative project. The organizers said it best themselves: “No matter our differences, if we can come together around equality, we can accomplish great things for the world.”

***

Also: My friend Kaitlin Archambault of Incendiary Designs recently redesigned Angela’s website. Wonderful, isn’t it?

A good sign: The Women’s March on Washington

Of course, there were about a BAJILLION good signs there, which is the focus of this post.

But the pun is not lost on me that this event was also a good sign of broad support for women’s rights (oh man—”broad support for women’s rights”? they just keep coming!) as well as for human rights, environmental stewardship, and general common sense and decency across the board.

Those sentiments came across loud and clear in thousands of amazing handheld signs and banners. (Which is quite fortunate for me: if a sign is worth a thousand words, and I tried to convey the meanings of thousands of signs… I’d have loads and loads of words to write!) If only I’d been able to capture more. But here’s a decently representative sample:

Womens march protest sign

Mega-love to all the amazing people out there! It was a miraculous day suffused with positive vibes, politeness on all fronts, and even the responsible disposal of litter!

See you at the next.

Family at Womens March on Washington

Russia! For those with and without their marbles

Guys on a bench in Moscow

If the heat waves and presidential election tomfoolery have spared you any of your marbles this summer, you probably won’t want to trudge through my 857 photos of Russia, the country I was recently fortunate enough to hang out in for two weeks. Then again, if you find yourself sweating, anxious, and entirely sans marbles, it might be pleasant and calming for you to see some objectively beautiful architecture, funny signage, and delectable Russian meals featuring beets, beets, and more beets. If that’s the case, then by all means have at it!

But assuming you are retaining at least a couple of those precious mental stones and would rather spend your time elsewhere, I’ll do you the sanity-solid of offering a brief summary of this epic excursion in words and pictures below:

Left: Our friend Oleg’s favorite cathedral in Moscow. (What was its name??)
Right: Arthur reads in a barn in the “historic rural locality” of Kholmogory.

Left: A cow parade in Kholmogory. (Not pictured: The sample Dixie cups of fresh milk).
Right: Arkhangelsk’s last living angel?

Left: Warning: This club uses Face Control. It doesn’t sound like we should go there.
Right: Man, this is a long story. Let’s just say we were “strongly encouraged” to write and perform a skit about the birth of our country for a group of Russian villagers on the 4th of July… while wearing Putin party t-shirts. God bless the USA.

Putin dog statue at the Hermitage

Putin dog

And finally, rub this one for good luck: A little sculpture of a dog at the Hermitage that bore some immediately-apparent resemblance to you-know-who.

Readers! As you can see, my Russia was chock full of bright colors, international whimsy, and universal good times. Have you spent time in Mother Russia? Tell me about your trip.

Notable signs of Atlantic City—not including Don Rickles and Regis Philbin

I thought the story here would be: “Group of friends goes on anthropological voyage to Atlantic City. Boardwalk Motel 8 and show featuring Don Rickles and Regis Philbin live at the Borgata feature prominently. Antics and possibly regret ensue.”

But, while all of those things did happen, I found that the textual signage enveloping us at every turn was the real star of this June outing. With all due respect to Messrs. Rickles and Philbin (however much that is), here are some of my favorites:

Readers! Hit me up with your best Notable Signs of summer.

Colorado photo tour -slash time warp

America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs

Arthur and I just spent four days and change in the big square state of Colorado (from which I originally hail), and boy was it a hatful—for reasons beside our inaugural start-to-finish screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! (Tim Curry: respect.)

Yes, multiple factors led to the head-spinning:

  • Going back to where you’re from, when you don’t go regularly, is all but guaranteed to be a trip. “Is that what XYZ really looks like? Where did XYZ go? I can’t believe I used to do XYZ here!!”
  • Colorado is different from New York in many ways: more sky, more dry, more guns; you hear fewer different languages spoken on the street—and fewer people are walking down the street to begin with, and the streets are steeply crowned to deal with the occasional flash flooding. That’s just a few, of many more, off the dome.
  • Taking a break from your usual routine and surroundings is a shake-up—even if you’re just spending the night on a friend’s couch. There’s nothing quite like shoehorning yourself into a different place temporarily to shift your perspective and put it in… perspective.

I could easily go on, and I don’t want to image myself out of blog-writing business!, but pictures are probably the most apt expression tool in this case. Ladies and germs, prepare to feast your eyes on… Colorado, Spring 2016!

Readers! Care to show and/or tell me about a trip ‘home’ you’ve taken?

The Montauk Century: 108 miles, two wheels, no chamois cream

We did it!

Montauk Century 2016

Sunrise in Babylon

We got up at 2:30 am, smeared peanut butter on bagels outside the Barclay’s Center, boarded a minivan to Babylon, Long Island, and proceeded to ride our bikes 108 miles to the end of the line. It was Saturday, May 21: the Montauk Century 2016.

Known to some nipple balm endorsers who shall remain nameless as “an old man’s ride,” this hundred-ish mile pedal-fest to the tip of Long Island has been happening in some form since 1964 (and I’ll have everyone know we only overheard one conversation that referenced “taking fiber”). Seeing as how I got just about all the physical exertion I can imagine wanting in one day from this experience, I say you can take your longer, hillier, spicier, juvenile delinquent-age rides and go ride them yourself, hot shot.

As for Jonathan, Andy, Arthur, and I, we soaked in the sights as we made our way eastward, sights that included:

  • Mansions
  • Potato fields
  • Mother goose and fuzzy baby geese!
  • Signs offering free mulch and mulch at a price
  • Guys in full spandex with beer guts passing us
  • Mansion-dwellers getting their new Lamborghini (or something) delivered off a semi truck whose hubcaps were decked out with six-inch chrome spikes
  • One or more of us belting out Twisted Sister lyrics to keep the energy up

To be honest, much of it is already a blur. The hypnotic effect of spinning mile after mile, enveloped by the twelve-foot-high, super-coiffed hedges of Amagansett, Water Mill, and Southampton turned much of the day into one great green undulation. Even at the 50-mile rest stop, we were getting pretty dopey!

Montauk Century 50 mile rest stop

We’re not even halfway there yet?! Should I laugh or cry…

But when we pedaled through to the finish line—which on this posh ride meant beer, massages, ice cream, and a mobile shower unit—the stiff knees and sore bum readily gave way to excellent new feelings of accomplishment, relief, and the various chemical buzzings that result when you put things like beer and ice cream into your body. Ahh!

Would I do another one? Sure. Would I use the free sample of chamois cream next time? Maybe.

Finally, Victoria’s Secret gets it

Arthur and I dropped our passports off at a Russian visa expediting service in Herald Square last week, in anticipation of our June trip there (godspeed, little passports!).

When we walked out of the building, I saw these ads beaming out from the nearby Victoria’s Secret:

Happy women in unpadded bras

Woman in unpadded bra staring

Woman twisting in unpadded bra

VC: This is what I BEEN sayin’!

For how many years have I wondered where all the honest-to-god, regular bras are? Ones that aren’t lined with three-quarters of an inch of memory foam?? For as long as I’ve been in the market, American Apparel has been my only reliable source for such sensible garmentry. While that’s a decent scenario if you’re only given one option, it’s just blown my mind that there haven’t been more.

Maybe now, VC will help set the tone for more Natural Woman hippie breakthroughs in unmentionable-wear? And we can repurpose all those foam getups into nerdy, useful bike shorts??

Yeah!

Ooh mens padded bike shorts!

See? USEFUL.

Arizona vs Florida: Cold weather getaway showdown

Yellow tulips

Unrelated: The springtime yellow tulips recently gifted to us by an uber-kind houseguest!

Winter’s basically over, so the time is ripe to look back at this past season’s getaway trips and, because this is America, crown a WINNER.

Let’s start with Arizona, where I went in January to visit my friend Elena who was interning at the blissed-out Tree of Life Center in the teensy town of Patagonia.

IMG_1987

Elena chillin’ on the plateau

She showed me around the farm’s sprout house (where tubs of little seedlings are each identified by a name like “Surrender” or “Forgiveness” written in marker on one side), brought me to dinner at a pizza restaurant called Velvet Elvis, and helmed many a scenic drive—from Phoenix to Tucson to the border town of Nogales and many stops in between. My favorite part might have been the evening when we set up lawn chairs on a hillside to watch the sun set, then turned them around to watch the moon rise.

I took so many awesome pictures (if I do say so myself) in this spellbinding locale that it’s hard to pick, but here’s a wee selection:

Turning our attention next to Florida… Arthur and I flew to Ft. Meyers last week to visit his mom and stepdad, who have wisely started leaving Boston each March to weather the bitter ends of the Northeast winter in these more hospitable climes.

While the area’s sprawling tic-tac developments and endless six-lane highways were not a draw for any of us, there are innumerable awesome animals and plants all around, and we spent much of our time hunting them down (with our eyes!). Plus of course many hours were spent in fine company simply relaxing and chatting, and sometimes enjoying a little media accompaniment, such as Rivers and Tides, the enchanting movie about artist Andy Goldsworthy.

So what do you think, dear audience? Which winter getaway vacation wins?

Cast your votes—the chosen city will win a prize!!

I laughed, I cried: The Holidays 2015

Lots of laughs and a few tears—of happiness!—this holiday season.

We started off in the Pocono Mountains, on a tour of its famed, fading Honeymoon Hotels.

Initially, we’d picked this particular excursion for its renowned tackiness and kitsch—and there was plenty of that!—but we did also find ourselves drinking a bit of the kool-aid. These are “couples-only” resorts, so there are no kids around; it’s also not a desperation-dusted singles scene. We’d never participated in this exact type of scenario before, but by day two, we were feeling its effects, mostly characterized by an intoxicating influx of relaxation.

Evidently, the air was so thick with romance that we lost our senses and (ready?) got engaged! Mr. Sock Monkey is holding the place of honor until further notice.

Sock Monkey

Dramatic reenactment

Before departing, we were able to see some of Pennsylvania’s many other points of interest:

Then it was off to Charleston, where we met Arthur’s family and our friends Danielle and Ryan for a festive few days of swamp-traipsing, firework-exploding, and remembering to mash the garage door button.

Oh, to make this writing-related (and because it’s so cool), I’ll add here that the aforementioned Danielle is a fabulous writer and writing teacher; we met as fellow students in Emerson College’s creative writing program. Last year, Danielle was anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2015, edited by huge-wigs David Lehman and Sherman Alexie. Holla!! She was also just today published in the wonderful On Being blog. Love you, Dani!

I’m quite sure I’ll be writing about more of Danielle’s superhuman accomplishments in the year ahead, as well as about regional travel, cool families, notable signage, and mycelium. Looking forward to all.

Here’s looking at you, 2015! You will live long on my Flickr page and in my spiral-bound journal. And a big hello to 2016 and all the opportunities for obsessive documentation you are sure to bring.