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.

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?

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!!

More trees, fewer cows = Our best shot at climate change survival

One of my beloved clients is throwing a wonderful conference next Thursday and Friday at the beautiful Bronx Zoo called Wood at Work: Elegant Strategies for Architecture, City-Building, and Forest Conservation. The two-day affair will gather together some of the best minds in architecture, forestry, policy, ecology, and urban planning to talk about how sustainable wood use in cities can actually protect global forests and rural economies and cultures.

2015 Wood at Work conference

In addition to many brilliant presentations and panels, there will be beaucoup de time for informal conversation (and networking) over breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks. Plus super fun-sounding workshops like “Japanese Sawing” and “Tree Music”!

I’m not getting paid to say that if you’ll be in New York City and care about a) design or architecture, b) climate change, c) trees and forests, d) native cultures, or e) being in a room packed with brilliant, hard-working, potentially world-saving people, I think you should consider coming. Tickets are pretty cheap, and if you email me, I’ll even send you a magic code for 50% off!

Nice, but what does all of this have to do with cows?, you ask (as you hastily go to the Wood at Work website to purchase a ticket). Perhaps surprisingly, a lot!

As the great Jeremy Radachowsky of the Wildlife Conservation Society explains in a story he just wrote for National Geographic:

Oregon forest by McD22 on Flickr

Flickr’s McD22 captures some Oregonian forest grandeur

There are two existing [climate change-related] technologies that are ready to be acted upon today, whose collective impact could be larger than any future technological breakthrough.

The first technology is a 400-million-year-old solar-powered device that extracts CO2 from the atmosphere and converts it into material useful for construction, essentially “printing” solid materials layer by layer like a 3D printer until a finished product up to 300 feet tall is achieved. Once deployed, the device requires no human input – just water, sunlight, and molecules found in most soils.

This technology is called the “tree.”

A more recent technology extracts tons of carbon already trapped in vegetation and converts it into a small amount of protein-rich food for human consumption. Along the way, large quantities of climate-damaging gasses are emitted. In the moist tropics, the process also requires the clearing of climate-friendly forests and is ten times less efficient than many other methods of food production.

This technology is called the “cow.”

Cows were domesticated by humans more than 10,000 years ago and made sense in the context of a small human population and abundant resources. However, in an era of high population density and climate change, cattle are now an antiquated and obsolete solution to today’s environmental and food security issues. Trees, on the other hand, remain vital to our continued existence.

Makes sense, right? Plus, now that vegan food has gotten so plentiful and delectable, our excuses for massive meat consumption have dwindled to all but nil.

Jeremy’s going to give a talk titled “Trees, Not Cows” on Friday, October 30 at Wood at Work. Come listen with me, then we can share our thoughts over something delicious that’s not beef.