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.

This weekend in Brooklyn: Sound summer camp for badass young ladies!

Teen girls with headphones and microphones

When I took the Bushwick Daily assignment to write about SoundGirls.org’s Live Sound Camps for Girls, I thought it would be cool. Music, Brooklyn, empowering teenage girls—what’s not to like?

Well, I was right! There was nothing not to like about writing this story.

The end!

SoundGirls.org logo

No, no—of course there is more. But it’s the good kind of more!

It turned out that in addition to getting acquainted with an awesome nonprofit that connects female sound engineers the world over, hearing wonderful stories about girls learning to rock intimidating audio gear, and bookmarking the knowledge of this traveling summer camp program for the next time I meet a cool teenage girl, I also got to spend half an hour talking with the woman who’s been Pearl Jam’s sound engineer for the last 25 years: SoundGirls.org’s executive director and co-founder, Karrie Keyes!

I will pause to mention that, while I do enjoy me some classic Pearl Jam, I was even more stoked and awed to learn that Karrie has also worked with Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young, and did a 10-year stint as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ monitor engineer.

Waynes World not worthy

ANYWAY, what Karrie’s doing with SoundGirls.org is just as cool as all that, of course. Check it out, and if you know an NYC-area teenage girl who’d appreciate the chance to get her audio on this weekend, do spread the word!

Poll: Without the talking seal with a Boston accent, is the NEAQ still worthwhile?

My husband hails (more or less) from the Boston area, and told me some time ago about Hoover the Talking Seal, once a fixture at the New England Aquarium. Though we were 30+ years too late to catch him on our recent visit there (d’oh!), I was still tickled to imagine the salty guy toddling and lounging around the same pools we we were now walking past, imploring visitors to “Get outta here!” or simply asking “How are ya?” with his famous Beantown inflection.

Sad though we were, the bodacious anemones, giant leopard-spotted ray (housed in a tank where you could reach in and touch it if it got close enough!), and mesmerizing schools of small, speeding silver fish did help to fill the Hoover-shaped hole in our gawking consciousnesses.

What say you? Are you too crestfallen by Hoover’s absence to enjoy a day at the aquarium without him? Or might you also be able to find sufficient joy in the cauliflower-like jellyfish, leg-diameter pythons, and tiny bopping spiky-haired penguins? No judgment either way.

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.