Friday, April 5, 2013

Jesus is the answer

I had a bucket of swear words I used today. The swear jar was overflowing with quarters, if such a jar existed. And if one did exist then I'd be a rich woman (or a poor one depending on how you look at it). I just got really upset today by something that happened, a couple things actually, and even though the sun was shining, windows were open, birds I haven't heard in months were singing, and everything else that is blessed...I still felt stuck in a funk that lasted through a violin jam session, dinner and TV. Nothing seemed to help abate the anger that had slowly flooded my mind to the point of near explosion. Then, I started reading about Easter, even though it's passed, and Jesus in the Bible when it says, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

I have to say that I'm profoundly moved by Jesus' silence (further reading, more references have led to other times when he chose not to speak-forgive me for not including them). I am impressed by Christ's silence at a time when he could have been livid, furious, upset and whatever other adjectives that would appropriately describe the injustice that Jesus alone suffered at the hands of his captors. Christ was calm, composed and knowing. Yeah, He knew better than anyone not to go cray-cray in front of His people. I see this quality of silence so rarely today and mostly in myself. I don't mean to lightly compare myself to Christ or to make light of His sacred life and death but to highlight a quality that is largely absent from our social discourse(slightly ironic): silence. An exercise, if we choose to engage in it, that could allow us as people to sort through our experiences and thoughtfully assess our responses instead of blurting out all the anger. There's a time for that purging and it can be quite therapeutic to do but not all the time. I've heard today's teens tell me that you've always gotta fight back and if someone dismisses you then you dismiss them right back. You can't let people get away with disrespecting you. I can see where they get this because who wants to get trash talked and take it? I've yelled at a cop before because he was yelling at me even though I was breaking the rules, I felt justified so of course I was going to fight back. That almost didn't end well.

Well, not to belabor the point further, the fighting wore me out today. I find Jesus' silence so poetic, so powerful and so admirable. His story didn't always follow a happy path but it led to victory. And there is a profundity in silence that I am compelled to examine and hopefully carve out something meaningful and zen-ish so I don't have to make a fool of myself. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here's hoping to Spring

I was in Brooklyn, NY visiting my sister over Easter and for the first time in a long, dreary winter if felt like there was some warmth on the horizon. Many days I just want to tell Winter, "For hell's sake! Get out of here!" Winter has outworn its welcome. I am very glad that we've received a lot of water in the form of Sandy and Nemo (one a hurricane that became a superstorm and the latter being The snowstorm from hell - cabin fever alarm sounded after the third day and counting of being holed up inside.)

I'm ready to be outside in my bare-feet and to see daffodils and tulips eking their way out of the tough dirt. Let it be so!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Long time gone

I have been thinking of how absurd it is of me to get angry at such simple and common occurrences. Lately, I've been thrown for a loop by stuff. There are two specific experiences that have made me feel 'down' and I've wanted to curl up and eat candy or something. First thing was when I lost my house and mail keys. I usually put them in my pocket and all is well. It shouldn't have been that bad but it made me mad and the feeling that the world is unjust was so fresh. The second, I went online to look at my pay stub a couple of days early to find that it's significantly lower and that I'll barely be able to pay my bills let alone indulge in shopping therapy. I had a lot of time to think during a 90-minute massage yesterday and realized lying there naked that all I had was my naked self and that all else was fleeting and borrowed. I thought of clothes and how I'm really borrowing them to cover up and live a socially acceptable lifestyle. Life is really about figuring stuff out as they come and that it's always going to throw us for a loop (or two or three). I still feel like a nerd (please see above image and nod) because I don't get life yet. Do we ever get it? What does it even mean anyway?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

iTunes Single for Today - A Fine Frenzy

A friend introduced me to A Fine Frenzy's "Stood Up" a couple of years ago, and although I love that song, I never really got into their other songs until now. Thank you lazy Saturday mornings for giving me the luxury of wasting time online and finding gems like this one.

Also, Heidi, I think you're going to dig this one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pony of Good Tidings --->> A sister in Brooklyn

I was born already bigger than my older sister who was about to turn two. My dad still asks me to take care of my "little" sister when I visit her in Brooklyn, NY. I think sometimes even he forgets she's older.

Despite being the bigger/younger sister, I've always looked up to Nat who sometimes went by G-nat and Fonzie and on occasion Fancy Stuff. She's one of the sweetest, gentlest people I know and I'm amazed she has made it in New York.

She is the chanteuse and fancy finger-plucking guitarist behind the up-and-coming band Pony of Good Tidings. She used to own a cat named Pony Lipstick which has lent itself to part of her band's name. Their first music video is out for your viewing pleasure on Vimeo:

Pony of Good Tidings: Words from We Are Films on Vimeo.

Enjoy the tunes and the sweet smile at the end. This Friday at 9pm at Sycamore in Brooklyn they're having their record release party - the band Welcome Wagon will be playing and showing their support.

Show yours if you're in the neighborhood!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Imposter ---->>The Chameleon

I've been obsessed with this story since I saw the movie, The Imposter a couple of nights ago. What if your 13-year old son or brother went missing and three years later you get a call from someone saying that he has been found but that he is in Spain. Would you believe him?

The Imposter is a documentary on the true story of a 23-year old Frenchman named Frédéric Bourdin who assumed the identity of the missing child Nicholas Barclay from San Antonio, TX. What's stranger still is that the family believed him...

There's also an article called The Chameleon on The New Yorker's website, if you're interested.

And here's the US trailer:

I'd be interested in getting your thoughts on the subject if you have any. Also, if you do get a chance to actually watch the movie it's chilling. It's compelling. It's everything you love about a documentary that leaves you wanting more when the credits start rolling.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Denmark: God's Help, the People's Love

My family pedigree goes back to Danish soil and it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I got to return their blood in me to that land, place and people. It was my next stop after Russia in my European odyssey.

I was looking forward to it while sitting in an airport cafe in Riga eating pizza with my hands while everyone else used a knife and fork.  I heard stories that Denmark was exceptionally cool and that in the capital, Copenhagen; cyclists have their own lanes and that there are perhaps more cyclists than automobile drivers. I was eager to see firsthand if this was true. Also, there were rumors that one didn't even have to lock up a bike - could the story get better?!

Some things, most of them, were true. Yes, there are many lanes for cyclists and so many use these lanes I was more worried about crossing a cycling lane than I was to cross in front of cars. At least car traffic was predictable and well-known for me whereas the cycling traffic daunted and thrilled me.

 It's true, Copenhagen is for cyclists. The more I explored the country (Odense, Middlefart, Arhus, Alborg, Skagen..), the more I realized that cycling is the Dane way of life.

Our first full day was immersed in this superior form of living and transportation. Getting from point A to point B was fast, easy and good for one's health. We rode our rented bikes atop the battlements of the citadel and enjoyed the lovely view of the harbor. I didn't much think of being the lone cyclists there as a problem until a shirtless man racing by yelled at me in English, "No bikes allowed!" with an accent of Danish.

I don't like being yelled at and even less so in English while abroad because it painfully raises awareness that though I feel like I melt in with the locals, I really don't. A local would know where cyclists aren't allowed and though cyclists seem to rule the city, they don't rule it there. An officer sauntered on by and further reminded me. No matter, I cycled everywhere else with no problem. Locking up bikes was super easy, too. The lock is already affixed to the back tire and merely needed to be set in place with the key quickly removed and you're set. I could get used to this!

Nyhavn, the famous canal street was a din of clanking wine glasses, conversation in every tongue and street performers to name the most apparent sounds. The buildings were all painted lovely versions of pastels and even if I was the worst photographer, I would manage to get a postcard perfect shot. It was just lovely.

The food was so expensive we walked ourselves haggard trying to find open-faced sandwiches that weren't over 100 kroner a piece! I love a good slice of European bread with cheese and the fixins. Delicious.

We drove all over Denmark from one island to the next stopping at little random outposts along the way to observe the coast and skinny dip in random lakes. The people didn't mind, or at least they didn't tell us if they did.

There are a lot of jellyfish floating along the coast, in fact, I don't think I noticed a beach without jellyfish. They weren't the stinging kind but I never reached out to find out for myself. The melted gelatinous puddle of a dying jellyfish is a sad sight to see.

I saw many of these in Skagen and Grenen. Grenen is the northernmost tip of  Denmark where the North and Baltic Seas collide. A cobalt blue and dark gray constantly crash towards each other while tourists wade in up to their knees hoping to feel it all happen against their legs.

It's a marvelous sensation that requires a few moments with closed eyes. So serene it's almost spiritual.

I took a two hour nap on the sand dunes after a lunch of bread, cheese, meat and grapes.

If this was the life of a Dane, I'd take it.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

From Russia, with Love

It takes about 6 days to tire of Russian scribbly, I was there for 8. The last two days I dealt well enough but when nothing in the language is very intuitive, it's hard. No, I lied. It's hard not to speak Russian at all which I'm pleading guilty of. I could say the basic words and phrases and point pretty good at a menu or an item of clothing. Body language made up for my and the others lack.

The three things I noticed: 1. Russians really like their mullets. 2. They sport golden teeth like it's the latest trend. 3. Surveillance cameras abound.

 Juice Boxes were the shiz in Saratov - in front of the only store in town
The cities on our trip were St. Petersburg, Moscow and Saratov. If you're not familiar with Saratov, it's a 15-hour overnight train ride away from Moscow and yet I took this route. I thought it was going to test my patience and will but it was one of the most delightful trips I've ever had on a train. My three companions and I had a cabin to ourselves and spent some good time conversing about literature and traveling experiences. Before the train left we were instructed to 1. not use the toilet and 2. resist from throwing toilet paper down the toilet. S.M. was guilty of both. The toilet was merely a hole in the floor so his poop probably hit the tracks and emerged when the train pulled out. Speaking of which, we spent a day in a remote village less than 100 miles from the Kazakhstan border. I also spent a day wondering if I would survive an outhouse guarded by suspicious spiders nesting in thickly matted webs. I was nevertheless astounded by the people, their generosity and the sheer grit to keep on going.

I wasn't aware that so much of the landscape is untouched. During my European travels, I have loved seeing how manicured the land is and how much love and care has been expended to make everything look so neat and orderly. The wild ravines and countryside in Russia seem, at least to me, uncared for and still waiting. Waiting for someone to love it. Perhaps this is my own notion that there still exists an air of melancholy there but perhaps the wild land is loved just as much as if it did look like it was touched my human hands.

Most of the pictures I'm posting are from Saratov since most of the traditional Russian photos are of Saint Basil's and Red Square. To be sure, I went there, too. 

 Saint Pete's was our first stop. Shug and I flew into St. Pete's from London. Shug was cool enough to chat it up with his fellow passengers. Mila, our new friend from Estonia yet living in Florida, offered us a ride to our hostel. She had flown in for a girl's week with some fellow friends. They picked her up and were kind enough to cart us and all our stuff around, too.

The city was a whirl of canals, statures, squares, colorful building facades and mullets. I'm sorry I can't get away from the mullets but I've had a fascination with them for years and am just kind of floored that a country reveres it. It's probably the national haircut. I hope it is.

When visiting St. Pete's be sure to see The Hermitage and Peterhof. The day we went it was raining which doesn't really effect The Hermitage since you could literally get yourself lost in their for days yet still be entertained by its art holdings.

As for Peterhof. It's Peter the Great's Versailles knock-off. I've seen both and Versailles trumps it easily yet it still is a gorgeous place to visit. The fountains are impressive and the gardens have definitely been manipulated my human hands. It rained so much while we were there Russians were yelling at us for being without an umbrella. We were stupid to have thought we could manage without but we did. We looked like drowned river rats by the end of the day. 

Moscow is huge. I love it. I loved the city and I thought that someday I wouldn't mind living there. When I saw three horses gallop down the street around midnight in the middle of the city, I thought: "hey, that looks like fun". Seriously though, who rides a horse in an urban setting? That's how cool Russia is. 

Red Square, Kremlin, Saint Basil's - all fantastic. I wish that we had time to see Lenin. It's free to see Lenin's 90 year old corpse. It's completely free! Since Russia is kind of expensive I was on the look out for free stuff. Maybe next time. And I do hope there is a next time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On the road to Nantucket

Ever since I read Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea, I have been dying to go to Nantucket. That dream became a reality on Saturday. I threw my bike into Pam's hatchback and we were off with some Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar chips and some drinks. I can't stress enough how little I prepared for this trip. I basically made sure my bike tires were filled and called it good.

We drove down to Hyannis and parked the car at the seaport. We were surprised by the price and duration of the ferry. The slow boat took 2 1/2 hours and the fast boat took an hour with the price difference doubling. Slow boat it was! It didn't seem bad at all. That is until the fast boat returning from Nantucket passed us. It neither touched the water nor was it very big - for all I knew it was a party boat with all passengers on the outside deck shouting and waving hands enthusiastically.

After good conversation, eating some sandwiches and napping we arrived in Nantucket! Although the clouds were hanging overhead constantly, we never once had to deal with any rain. Pam rented a bike at Young's Bike Shop just down from the port, a lovely bike shop to frequent if you want to cycle the island. We took a south westerly ride down to Madaket as per Young's recommendation. The ride was gorgeous! It's about 12.4 miles round trip. It took a few blocks till we were on an exclusive bike path riding through little valleys of shrubs, tall grass and a lot of bunnies. It's as if the path was lined with bunnies darting this way and that. They are quite skittish when they hear something coming especially if it was me: I let them know I was coming with gleeful cries and the like. The houses were all made of the same material, a grayish wood siding. They were immaculately kept with fancy cars out front.

The beach was perfect. The sand was so soft and light that it looked and felt good enough to roll around in. I couldn't even see when the beach ended and when it began, it stretched far on both ends with a loose smattering of people dotting the coastline. There was a group of kids playing in the waves plenty bigger than they were and often losing their footing in the process. We did the same thing and experienced the same delight! The water was satiny smooth and I would go far enough to say warm. I was laughing like a child, I don't know what it did to me but that beach and the water and the cycling and the fresh air and and and...When Pam and I were eating appetizers at Millie's up the road we laughed about how childlike it all felt. And just like a child, I remember our family beach vacations in California offering that same kind of excitement and sand-in-your-suit feeling. It felt good and it was just what I needed to embrace summer again. 

We took an alternative route back into town through a very rough street. The road was made of round rocks and the sidewalks of casually laid brick. Needless to say, my road bike and I had a jolting journey those few blocks. I gave up after two and we walked the bikes through main street. I loved the shops and people watching esp. the woman lounging on a bench with her two poodles. She said I could take a picture but just not of her, I lied when I said she wasn't in it. Oops. There were some interesting characters, a lot of richy pants people sashaying their affluence in the way they knotted their sweaters around their necks and their leather loafers with the two little tassels flying about. The worst part was the group of teenagers loitering outside this restaurant by the port as we waited for our ferry back to the Cape. They looked the part of the offspring of previous mentioned rich peoples except their conversation was vulgar and they smoked like they were the cat's meow in a 1950s sort of way. Maybe this shows how old/teacher-ish I'm getting but it disgusted me and I wanted to let them know it. I just spent the day acting like a kid and here were kids trying to act like adults. Interesting.

The fog descended quickly and gave a smoky look to everything as we bid our farewell to Nantucket, the beach, the cycle paths, the cool breeze, the kids yelling swears near the pier, the smell of salt water, and everything else. We took the fast ferry (party boat!!! - there was a Yankees Sox game on with the Sox winning) back and it took less than an hour. The rain was pouring in Hyannis as we rushed to the car with bike in tow.

Till next time, Nantucket!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Communing with Nature in Costa Rica

It has been a little over a week now since I came back stinky and sweaty from Costa Rica. It was a much anticipated adventure with two good friends. I had spent a few hours painstakingly planning for the trip, making reservations and scouting out the best-ofs. I had heard amazing things about Costa Rica and everyone I talked to who had been gushed about how gorgeous it is. My sister even admitted that she would move there in a heart beat if she were at gunpoint. High praise for a sister who hates bugs more than anything in this world. In short, I was ecstatic to kick-off summer with a Costa Rican adventure, bugs or bust!

If I knew what was in store for me, I doubt I would've been so enthusiastic so that's why we aren't privy to the future, only our present and a small step ahead of that. We rented a little SUV and headed up the mountain range to Arenal where the volcano and hot springs awaited. The heat was oppressive even near midnight but the views were unbelievable. Costa Rica was the wild, untouched land of my dreams. It was breathtaking and my eyes couldn't get enough of it which was fortunate for me since many hours were spent traversing the country. There's something that the locals call Tico Massage. We had many hours of this so-called Tico Massage: driving on unpaved roads in shoddy vehicles. The pot holes were sometimes 3 to 4 feet wide. I have to hand it to my friend Sara Cajun for braving the driver's seat every day, especially in Monteverde. Well done, friend.

Arenal was our first stop. Two nights and two days in the blazing heat and a phenomenal view of the volcano. The famous Baldi Hot Springs were less than a mile away from a lodge and we spent the last night trying all the pools. Now, when they say hot springs the rotten smell of eggs and natural come to mind; however, these springs were definitely man-made. They touted 25+ pools but after a serious mission to step into every pool, we counted only 18. The temperatures of each pool are clearly marked at the entrance, unfortunately most pools had more than one entrance. Sara almost (or perhaps did) scald herself pretty bad jumping into one of the hottest pools after lazily splashing about in one of the coldest. It was hilarious. There were also some slides that looked pretty cool. Hayley entered the darkness of one before me and I heard her gleeful screams turn silent and then only the sound of dead weight hitting the sides of the slide multiple times. Ominous as it seemed, the guy assured me that it was the funnest slide so I hurled myself down and almost lost my arm in the process. Landing in the pool was very painful and I couldn't use my arm for a full five minutes. It was still deliciously fun and preceded by an excellent buffet.

Next stop: Monteverede. We only had one night planned for this stop over and the ride there was gorgeous. We curved around the volcano and lake with plenty of photo ops and iguana sightings. The only problem at this point was bowel pain. And thus it began. Though for the sake of my audience and self-respect, I'll keep details brief. We stayed in this B&B up a very steep mountain. It could compete with San Francisco's steep streets. In the rain we weren't as keen to brave it but eventually did anyway. The best part about Monteverde was the Canopy Tour through Selvatura Adventure Park. We rode along zip lines hundreds (or just) of feet above the rainforest floor. There were about 14 to 18 zip lines in all with the longest measuring 1 kilometer. Because I was so tired and sick, I buddied up with the canopy guides. They were Costa Rican hotties! There were about 4 guides and I got a chance to buddy up with most of them at least once or twice. They would twirl me around while we sped through the trees and ask me questions like "Are you married?" "Where are you from?" and "What are you doing after this?" They were such a tease. As I found out about Costa Rica, they breed some attractive men who are incredibly nice and funny. Too bad I had lost some self respect earlier in the trip when diarrhea shot out of my pants multiple times during the night unbeknownst to me.

Manuel Antonio: 3rd destination of our adventure. Speaking of awesome Costa Ricans, the river rafting tour down the Naranjo River in M.A. was led by yet another group of awesome men. I would go back just to hang out with them. They knew I wasn't feeling too well so Lettuce (Romaine) asked me if I was alright a lot which made me feel good. We went with a big family group, four rafts in total. Sara, Hayley and I with Eric (hot Costa Rican who may or may not have been inebriated). Eric assigned me to the front left of the raft, the 'important' position and only position on the left side. "Strong and deep" he reminded me while showing me what it looked like. I nodded back but still felt like I could shit myself right then and there. After our usual Tico Massage drive, we had a nature walk for about 1/2 mile before we made it to the river. On the walk down there was an outhouse we all stopped at for one last dump. I accidentally walked in on a guy dumping and then a guy walked in on me while I was pulling up my shorts facing the door. He seemed really embarrassed but oddly enough I didn't care and just shrugged, "It's ok, I'm done". He saw more than he bargained for the poor sucker. Despite feeling weak in the bowels, the trip was so exciting and the adrenaline was pumping the whole time. We stopped halfway through for a fruit/cracker break. It was only then that I realized how exhausted I felt. I couldn't stand up and my legs were shaking. We had gone through some rough patches (Level II and III) and it was a little scary but Eric had us all on a tight ship. We followed his directions to an absolute T. If he said "lean in", "get in" or "high-five" we would. It was a blast and lasted a long time. None of us fell out of the raft unlike the other family's rafts - they were having communication issues and yelling at each other. I would go back today just to do the rafting trip again AND to see the guys again - here I am repeating myself as usual.

So basically Costa Rica was awesome. I was glad I had enough energy to do all the fun stuff because there was one day I stayed inside all day. I think I got so dehydrated from the trots that I started going delirious. What am I saying, I deffo was delirious the first bad night. I was talking about the craziest crap out loud as if it was the most important stuff I'd ever come up with. I don't want that to happen again, ever. The delirious, liquid diet, utter fatigue thing again. I'd do Costa Rica again for sure but I'm bringing some meds with me next time. And, maybe a hair dryer so that when I encounter the hotties I actually look presentable. I sported the Kramer (from Seinfeld) hair-do thanks to some humidity and the absence of a brush or comb. But that's what one does when one leaves the country for an outdoor adventure - one roughs it and indeed communes with nature; some communing more intimately than others.

Pura Vida! And some more pics of the trip. More to come...

xoxo TinTin