31 December 2009

Living in Disneyland

Hong Kong has a Disneyland. It's the smallest out of all the parks, but it's there. I've heard it's a huge Chinese tourist draw, with tons of mainlanders visiting per year. My mom told me that when the park first opened, so many mainlanders arrived to visit that the park stopped allowing people in. It almost incited a riot as mainlanders began scaling the walls in an attempt to bypass the ticket booth. Who does that? Like I said, only Chinese people would think this shit up.

At any rate, R's mom has been living at the Victorian style resort hotel in Disneyland for the last three years. I'd explain more, but you'd never believe me, so I'll just leave it at that. If you knew R's mom, it'd make perfect sense.

My parents are about a 30 minute drive and an hour train ride from Disney, so I went over there to have lunch with R today. For more pictures of Disneyland and my afternoon with R, visit the album.

R and me:

Disneyland has its own subway station, complete with its own subway car with mouse shaped windows and hangstraps.

How very Disney.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

There's no hope for us common folk

Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, split after 20+ years?

Marg Helgenberger and Alan Rosenberg, divorced after 18 years?

I guess it's the season for... change?

22 December 2009

Who knew the Vatican was a Simpsons fan?

Homer doesn't even believe in Jeebus!


Yesterday the paper, L'Osservatore Romano, congratulated the show on its 20th anniversary and lauded its philosophical leanings as well as its stinging and often irreverent take on religion.

Religion, from the snore-evoking sermons of the Reverend Lovejoy to Homer's face-to-face talks with God, appears so frequently on the show that it could be possible to come up with a ''Simpsonian theology'', it said.

Homer's religious confusion and ignorance are ''a mirror of the indifference and the need that modern man feels toward faith'', the paper said.

It commented on several religion-themed episodes, including one in which Homer calls for divine intervention by crying: ''I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman!''

''Homer finds in God his last refuge, even though he sometimes gets His name sensationally wrong,'' L'Osservatore said. ''But these are just minor mistakes, after all, the two know each other well.''

Stranger things have happened

I was at the Star Ferry today, and this is what I saw.

I look like a poodle.

So I've gone and done it.

I usually rock wavy hair, and while it looks totally natural (so I hear), it's not. It's what I call surfer girl hair, and I don't know how my hair guy Markus does it, but he's just brilliant. I explain that I want to look like I just spent the day at the beach and my hair is all wavy and surfer-girl-like, and he can magically just turn my straight asian hair into a shiny, tousled, tumbled, just the right amount of curly work of art that often has people with wavy hair asking me what I put in my hair to make it look so good. (When I tell them that it's a perm, they're surprised.)

Since I met Markus 6 years ago, no one else touches my hair.

Imagine my apprehension when my mother noted that my hair was getting straight, and I ought to get it re-permed in time for K's wedding this Saturday. She suggested I go to the person who's been doing her hair for close to the last 15 years. I tentatively agreed because I knew my mother was being thoughtful, but I was nervous.

I mean, I've seen my mother's hair, and there's definitely a generation gap in terms of what either of us deem good hair. My mother thinks my beachy waves look messy, and I think my mother's hair looks fried. My mother happens to think the fried frizzy look works for her, and carries around a pick which she uses to separate the strands of her very tight perm so her hair can look even bigger and frizzier. Imagine Arsenio Hall back in the days of fade haircuts. Now replace Arsenio with small asian lady, and that's probably my mom you're thinking of. All she needs to do is leave her pick sticking out of her hair, and she's done. As for me, I prefer a more natural look even if there's nothing natural about it. I haven't brushed or combed my hair in 8 years. I don't think I even own a pick, comb or brush. (Wait, I DO own a comb, but it's for my eyebrows.)

Worried that my mother's hair person wouldn't understand the concept of surfer-girl hair, I arrived at the salon armed with printouts of me with wavy hair, Beyonce with ginormo waves of hair cascading around her face (even though we all know those are hair extensions), Kate Hudson, Giselle with lazy curls galore (also extensions), yada yada. I also brought my own gel normalizer (to strip chemicals out of hair so it'll accept chemical processing better) and deep conditioner (for after the perm so your hair doesn't fry).

Remember what I've been saying about old Chinese people? Well, this person has been doing my mother's hair for almost 15 years, so she's been around for a while. She wasn't particularly receptive to my "new fangled" ideas, such as a gel normalizer and deep conditioning. Nor was she particularly interested in the pictures I had to show her of how I wanted my hair. She waved off all my suggestions, picked some really small rollers that I protested were too small, so I'd end up with kinky curls. I wanted a wave, not a fro. She then picked slightly larger rollers, which I still thought were too small, but she refused to go any bigger, insisting that these were as big as she could go (they really weren't). I should have just left the salon at that point, but I was trying to not offend my mother or her hair person, so I bore it out.

Which was a HUGE mistake, because I now LOOK LIKE A POODLE.

First, hair lady shampooed my hair and then treated it with the same chemical used to make the hair curl before she even put in rollers, so my hair was destined to be fried no matter what happened. Second, she put a bunch of small rollers (which I protested) in the shorter layers around and on top of my head, and the slightly larger rollers in the longer, back-bottom half of my head. I had gone from surfer girl to Sideshow Bob! Third, everyone with curls knows that you can NEVER EVER comb curly hair once it's dry because it'll frizz. Yet, that's exactly what my mother's hair person did - she blew my hair dry without a diffuser and then began to separate the kinky curls with a pick. Fourth, instead of shiny wavy locks, my hair is crunchy, dry and brittle. It's also gone several shades lighter. Note: none of these things have ever happened with Markus.

Afraid of hurting anyone's feelings, I thanked my mother and her hair person for the lovely hair. My mother's hair person tried to give me a free pick so I could go home and continue to pick at my kinks to better resemble Adam Duritz's 'do. I politedly declined.

I said something later to my mother about how I thought her hair person's process was outdated, and my mother swore she could't tell the difference between my new 'fro and my old do. Well, I definitely can. Since the carnage, I've been wearing my hair in a tight bun and deep conditioning it on a daily basis in an effort to stem the damage. My mother had suggested I wear my hair down for K's wedding, but if she thinks that's going to happen now, she's got another thing coming.

Boby can count!

I was telling my parents about CKY's dog Monty. Monty once found tennis balls at the dog park, and he had a lovely time chasing them. To Monty's disappointment, the next time he was at the dog park a few days later, there were no tennis balls to be found. A few days after that, Monty and CKY were about to head out to the dog park when Monty went to his toy chest and picked up a tennis ball. He carried that tennis ball in his mouth all the way to the dog park. Somehow, Monty was smart enough to remember that the last time he was at the park, there were no tennis balls, so he ought to bring his own.

Dad was completely unimpressed with the story. (I told you Boby's his fave family member!)
"So what?" he asked. "Our dog is way smarter than that. He can count."

It turns out that my parents were being silly when they realized that the dog counts. My dad is usually the one to walk Boby while everyone else walks alongside them. Once, mom fell behind and hid around the corner. Once Boby realized that my Mom wasn't walking alongside them, he refused to keep walking until he was able to find her. Instead, he walked in circles, sniffed all over the place and looked behind bushes, buildings, etc. I was impressed that the dog was able to register that someone was missing. Eventually, my mom walked up from wherever she was hiding, and the dog ran up to her and nipped at her until she caught up with everyone else. The next night, Boby nipped at my mother as my parents passed by the place my mother had gone "missing" the night before. He somehow remembered the previos evening. My parents think Boby's habits are innate, since he's part some sort of herding dog.

20 December 2009

Who eats this shit?

Well, apparently I do. I met L for dinner on Friday, and we were supposed to go to a Japanese restaurant in Mongkok. It was a really long wait, so we dropped into the restaurant next door where there were plenty of seats available. We quickly realized why.

The restaurant had a bathroom theme! We sat on toilets, our table was a sink, and our food came in dishes shaped like urinals, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bowls. It was gross, and that's just the food, not the decor!

I looked up the restaurant once I got back to my parents' place, and it's a whole chain of bathroom and shit themed restaurants all over Taiwan and Hong Kong that got its start selling chocolate soft serve in squat toilet shaped dishes. One of the founders got the idea while reading manga on the can. Go figure.

From Modern Toilet Restaurant
The wall was covered in urinals which were all shiny and sparkly just in time for the holidays.

From Modern Toilet Restaurant
The ceiling fixtures were fashioned like toilet plungers, and the lights are "poo" shaped. Oh, shit!

From Modern Toilet Restaurant
Our Japanese style hotpot dish came in a toilet bowl. It would have tasted fine if the broth wasn't just pure milk, which made all the veggies and meats taste like they were lactating. (Not that I would know.)

19 December 2009

"He's ten times the man you are,

...and you're like forty guys."

I had to laugh at that line. That's what I get for watching the Dollhouse.

13 December 2009

Grandma got herself an iPhone

Remember when I said my Grandma was a cool old lady? Well, she went out and got herself an iphone. She saw a commercial on TV, and decided that she absolutely HAD to have a phone with a built in camera, so she got herself an iPhone the very next day. Nevermind that she doesn't even know how to use a microwave yet. I'm sure she'll figure out how to use the touchscreen and her new bluetooth headset in NO TIME. Just let me charge her batteries, put her phone together, sync her headset, and show her how to make phone calls first...

What Grandma really needs is a really simple, easy to use cell phone with REALLY BIG BUTTONS. Windsurfing buddy E once told me that one of his daughters has a cell phone with just three buttons, and each of those buttons were programmed to speed dial something specific so his child could reach someone in the event of an emergency. With the quickly aging baby boomer population, cell phone companies ought to develop something similar for old folks. Remember old-school cell phone technology (e.g. briefcase sized cell phones)? While I love that my phones keep getting smaller, sleeker and faster, there ought to be phones that are targeted towards people with shaky hands, bad eyesight and poor memories. Throw in a built in camera, and I'll be to put that phone on Grandma's wishlist. :-)

11 December 2009

In Hong Kong

I haven't been to Hong Kong to visit my parents in so long, I feel very much the stranger here. Especially now that my parents have moved to the New Territories. I'm here for a few weeks, so I've fallen into a routine. Most days, I get up, walk a few times around the manmade lake that sits at the center of my parents' housing development, walk around the neighborhood a bit, and then head back to my parents' to do 30 minutes of yoga. Still, I'm more inactive than usual, and have a few new inches on my waist to show for it.

The lake
From Hong Kong

My parents live so far from downtown, I can see Shenzhen China from their home.
From Hong Kong

The waterfowl
From Hong Kong

The coi
From Hong Kong

A neighbor's dog. Everyone that lives here has a dog. Some families have several.
From Hong Kong

The neighbors are ready for Christmas
From Hong Kong

10 December 2009

the menagerie at my parents' house

I'm at my parents home in Hong Kong, and I feel very much the tourist these days. When I lived in Hong Kong for three years before heading back to the States for college, my parents lived on Hong Kong Island, within easy access to the financial district, downtown and shopping. These days, they're located in the "countryside" (by HK standards) a good half hour from the hustle and bustle of a town center and at least an hour and a half (by buses and/or trains) from downtown and the financial district. The change in pace of life seems to agree with them and their pets.

Here's Mimi. She used to be the crankiest and vainest cat I knew, but now that she's gotten old, she doesn't spend as much time grooming herself. Instead, she suns herself during the day, and begs for table scraps during mealtimes. As she's aged, she's gotten smaller and smaller. I can now hold her tiny fluffy body in the palm of my hand.
From The Menagerie at My Parents' House

Swai Ge loosely translates to Handsome Guy in English. He's some shorthaired cat (I forget what kind of cat he is, but my mom's told me a million times), and he truly is a beautiful animal. He's lazy though and has gotten bit chunky in the middle since I last saw him. He has an engine-like purr, and is extremely affectionate, often seeking out people who'll pet him or scratch him under the chin. Don't let his friendliness fool you into trying to pick him up though. Swai Ge is scared of heights, and the second any of his paws leave the ground, he freaks. I have the scratch marks on my arms to prove it.
From The Menagerie at My Parents' House

Finally, here's Boby, my dad's favorite family member. My parents' neighbor found him as an abandoned puppy six years ago, and my parents adopted him. He's territorial and will bark at anyone that so much as walks in front of my parents' front gate, but he's a total scaredy cat. He's scared of Swai Ge, dogs that don't bark, and huskies. What he doesn't have in brawn, he makes up with smarts. He seems to understand anything my dad says to him, and when he feels like it, he'll listen. Alas, he's also a pervert. He'll hump the leg of any female (people) that walks through the gate despite lacking the balls to back it up.
From The Menagerie at My Parents' House

hooray for vintage aviators

My mom saw me eyeing aviators the other day, and she stopped me from buying them. When we got home, she pulled out a pair of Raybans that she's had since the early 90s. They're mine now, since she wears glasses these days so uses clip-on sunglasses. Hooray for vintage aviators!

09 December 2009

Cover Me

I recently discovered Cover Me on Hulu, and I've been unable to pull myself away from my computer since. It's well written, not over the top, and loosely based off a true story about a crime-fighting FBI family. Plus, the acting by Peter Dobson and Michael Angarano is just brilliant. Too bad USA cancelled the show after Season 1, but if you've got time, there's a good 25 episodes to watch on Hulu.

cheese mites : adding flavor through "action" on the cheese

MTR reports that he recently bought a wedge of Mimolette. Here is the excerpt from a wikipedia entry describing how mimolette is made:

"The greyish crust of aged Mimolette is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to add flavor by their action on the surface of the cheese."

And, here's an excerpt from a wikipedia entry on cheese mites:

"[Cheese mites] gain their name from the fact that in addition to grains, flour, cured meats and insect detritus, they are also known to favor cheese. The mites burrow tiny holes in the surface of the cheese and are sometimes intentionally introduced to flavor cheeses like Milbenkäse and aged Mimolette. Cheese that is infested with the mites can have a sweet, minty odor and will appear to be covered in a fine gray dust of the mites, their dander and excrement."

And, in case there was any doubt about how we ought to view cheese mites, wikipedia also says:

"Cheese mites are considered vermin in the food service industry. They are known to cause a mild form of dermatitis called baker's or grocer's itch and can inflame asthma and dust allergies."

Therefore, Mimolette = dander and excrement.

MTR reports that it was delicious!

08 December 2009

An awesome hair salon in Hong Kong!!!

I am in desperate need of a haircut. After a month of moving, 5 weeks camping out of my car, and then a month settling into northern California, my hair needs HELP!

I've been putting off a haircut for the following reasons:
1. I didn't trust anybody to do my hair but the hair guy I've been seeing in NYC for the last 6 years,
2. My hair guy didn't charge that much, but he gave amazing cuts. I'd have to pay $300 just to get a similar cut anywhere else,
3. My brother's getting married, and if my hair gets screwed up, there won't be time for it to grow back.

Well, I can't hold out any longer. I finally pulled the trigger and went to visit Namir at Hanim Hair Salon in Hong Kong. For HKD150 (divide by 8 to figure out the approximate US dollars), she managed to replicate my NYC hair guy's square layer cut. That was all I wanted in a haircut -- no one to reinvent the wheel, just someone to give me the same haircut I've been getting for the last 5 years. It was perfect, and the price was right.

If you're ever in Hong Kong, give Namir at Hanim Hair a call at 64487171. She's absolutely fantastic.

in hong hong, part 2...

My stepmother's vertigo is gone, and it's nice to have her up and about. She's happy to have me visit, and with her around, my dad lays off a bit. He still tells me several times a day how selfish I am because I won't get married and have children (selfish?), but at least it's only a few times a day.

It's a little backwards to have my own parent treat me like a criminal, especially when it's completely undeserved. Stepmom wanted to give me a piece of her jewelry, and dad told her not to since I'd never appreciate it. I just don't get my family sometimes.

I think Dad says and does the things he does because he thinks it'll help me. I asked why he always seems so dissatisfied and thinks I'm trying to cheat or rob him when I so rarely ask anything of him. He said that every parent wants to make sure his/her child is safe and happy, and this was his way of showing concern. Knowing that makes it easier to deal with it somehow.

06 December 2009

Are those your real teeth?

Mom, Dad and I accompanied Grandma to get fitted for her new dentures today. For someone born in 1928, Grandma's a pretty cool dame. She still works at looking her best, getting her hair dyed, keeping up to speed on accessories, wearing ballet flats instead of sneakers. After looking at me intently, she turned to my mother and said something in Chinese. My mother laughed. Grandma had been admiring my pearly whites and wanted to know if they were all my own, if they were dentures or if they were some combination of the two. I'll leave it to you to figure out the answer to that one.

Back from the land of squat toilets...

Mom, Dad, Grandma and I went to Shenzhen for the first time ever today, and it was an... experience. My twinkie self was completely overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people jammed into tiny spaces, the socially acceptable spitting and littering in public areas, and unenforced traffic signals that drivers consider optional.

The Chinese concept of personal space is amazing in that there isn't one. I rode several elevators that would be considered full by western standards, and in most western societies, the people waiting for the elevator would wait for the next car. Not so in China. Each time the doors opened, the people waiting for the elevator would force their way in, luggage and all. In some instances, they would shove aside the elderly and disabled to make room for themselves. For a society that supposedly reveres the elderly, I noticed several instances where frail old people were shoved aside by younger people: in elevators, on escalators and in the mad scramble for seats once train doors open. It was a fascinating study of modern China.

The people in China may look modern, but their outlook feels provincial. The technology is Shenzhen rivals the most modern and advanced cities, there are tons of luxury cars on the streets, and everyone is dressed in the most recent and trendiest fashions. Yet, in more than one instance, I watched in disbelief as someone tossed his garbage to the ground when a public garbage can stood only several feet away. This blatant disregard for the public good and environmental conservation shows a shortsightedness that feels very provincial and ignorant. It was surprising.

As for the squat toilets? Well, I expected those in China.

05 December 2009

Er, have you seen my teeth?

Grandma lost her dentures, so tomorrow, we're going to get her a new set.

03 December 2009

In one ear and out the other

Dad's stressed me out so much that I wasn't sure if I could stay the full five weeks. Fortunately, my brother K helped me put things in perspective:

"We all know dad is dad. We know that dad wants what he believe is best for us, all parents are like that. Parents believe that their children are a product of their life, teachings, etc, so we just need to recognize that. I think all dad ever wanted for us is that we have a good education, get a good job, get married, have children, live happily ever after. I don't think he would ask for anymore... and well based on that criteria we both know that you aren't batting very well at this very moment. So from his perspective it's personal to him and he probably feels like he is failing as a parent.

Dad is getting old ,so i think you just have to let him talk sometimes. ...Afterall they are just words. How much harm could they possibly do right?"

K's right. Just in one ear, and out the other.

02 December 2009

in hong kong...

I haven't been here since 2004, and it's different now. It could be because my parents now live all the way out in Tuen Mun now, but I also think that the government has developed the heck out of the islands since I last lived here in 2000. Plus, the SARS scare has made Hong Kong so germaphobic that all public areas are disinfected several times a day. The impeccably clean public bathrooms, elevators and wet markets are a far cry from the Hong Kong I knew growing up.

I flew EVA from SFO to Taipei to HK. I haven't flown a non-American airline in so long that I was completely blown away by the amazing service on EVA. There's more legroom in the economy seats, and each passenger gets a blanket, pillow, slipper and headphones. I didn't even KNOW airlines still give out slippers, blankets and pillows! Wow, remind me to fly EVA more often.

It was a LOOOONG flight, but I made it. I've been here for 1.5 days, and the drama has already begun.

We had to take my step mother to the emergency room today. She woke up with a terrible case of vertigo and couldn't move without the dry heaves. The hospital couldn't find anything wrong with her and just gave her some medication that I assume you take whenever you get seasick. She's sleeping it off now. I feel so bad for her. My dad says this happens to her about once a year, but they don't quite know why.

While it's good to see my family, my dad stresses me out. My relationship with him is always really good from a distance when all we do is chat briefly over the phone or exchange emails. I forget what it's like to be around him all the time. When it comes to me, he's always been hypercritical, and since I've been home (it's only been 1.5 days, but it feels like years), it has felt like I can't do anything right. I've received numerous lectures about how my life is destined to be unlucky, which is why things have turned out the way they have so far, and there's nothing I can do about it. On the flip side, I've also been harangued non-stop about my ability to control my destiny on fun topics such as: I'm a failure at everything I do, I'm too materialistic (not sure where that one comes from, since I don't want to own or buy anything), I lack ambition (because I don't want to own or be responsible for anything), I don't work hard enough, I've made terrible life choices (this should cancel out the unlucky destiny lecture, right?), I'm way past my prime and need to marry asap.

Thanks to my brother's fiance who told my parents that the last two times my good friend P went to NYC it was to see he if had a shot at dating me despite the fact that I barely saw him both times (wtf?!?), I also received a long lecture from both dad and step mom about how I should have married P when I had a chance. In typical Chinese fashion, it's more important for my family to see me married than to see me happily married, as both parents disregard the fact that I'm not attracted to P, I don't want to marry P, and more importantly, P and I as a couple would be a complete disaster.

As much as I love my family (and I really do), I'm suddenly reminded of why I prefer to keep an ocean between them and me and haven't visited since 2004. My step mother is usually around to act as a buffer when my dad gets too insufferable, but without her, being around my dad makes me want to run for the hills. If it weren't for the fact that I've had 15 years to become comfortable in my own skin, my dad's Debbie Downer influence could make even a saint an insecure emotional wreck.

Ah well, old Chinese people are what they are, so this is the way things will always be with my dad. While waiting in the ER, I asked my dad why he always seems so dissatisfied with me. After all, I've never killed anyone or committed a crime. I pay my taxes. Heck, I even pay my parking tickets. His response was that I wouldn't have made it as far in life if he hadn't been so critical. I think he believes that he's responsible for who I've become.

Strangely, he might be right, because so much of me is a reaction to seeing my family as they are and thinking to myself that I don't want to be like that. Which is why I am who I am from the tip of my stubborn, drama-abhorring, twinkie head through my "I-don't-want-to-own-things-just-to-own-things" core on down to my "commitment-shunning-I'll-marry-and/or-have-children-if-and-when-I'm-good-and-ready-even-if-that-means-I-never-marry" toes. The irony is that my father thinks his hypercriticism will make me more of the obedient deferential daughter he wishes he has, but instead, it has made me the daughter he believes is inadequate.

Despite my dad's dysfunctional and crazy behavior (what those of us who have parents like this might also describe as typical Chinese parenting), I realize that it comes from a place of concern and care, so I try to just roll with it. I'm a little tired from all the emotional browbeating, and I wonder if this is the way it'll be for the entire five weeks I'm going to be here. I better settle in for a long ride...

05 November 2009

5 weeks and 5,934 miles later...

I've arrived.

I'm not sure what to do with myself. I haven't slept in the same bed for more than two nights in a row (excluding my four nights at C's in Salt Lake City and three nights at E's in Toledo, of course). There's a part of me that's glad the constant travel is over, but there's part of me that wants to get back in the car and keep on driving.

In the safe cocoon of my car, my world is small, known and safe. I have everything I need within reach -- my backpacking stove, a duffel bag full of books, crossword puzzles and notebooks, my sleeping bag, a tent, four changes of clothing, two pairs of shoes, a couple of fleeces and a shell. I get in every day with a purpose: to get to the next town. To leave the embrace of my trusty car would be to re-enter the "real world," the one where I have to acknowledge that as of today, I will have existed for 365 days sans income. That after 12 months, I am STILL unemployed. That I currently have no home, no future and no job, and I don't quite know where to start obtaining any of the above. That I am now in a place where I have very few friends, no professional contacts, and no idea of how to get around. It would be to admit that I am starting from zero, that there's an ocean in my way, so I can't run any further. I guess this is it.

Welcome to California.

28 October 2009

Yet another winter storm...

A storm was blowing in yesterday afternoon, so I hightailed it out of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and am hiding out at the Rustic Inn in Moab. I had optimistically hoped that the rain/snow/ice would magically disappear by the time I woke up, but it's currently 40 degrees (23 with wind chill) in Moab. I was going to go up to Island in the Sky today to do some hiking, but I think I'm just going to drive around and take pictures. Hopefully I'll have some visibility.

26 October 2009

Erosion Happens

It was another gorgeous day -- 55, sunny and windy.  I went to Natural Bridges National Monument and got to clamber up and down canyons today, and there was no wind when I was down in the canyon.  I was happy to be active.

Natural Bridges National Monument

24 October 2009

Plants that want to eat people

People sized viney or big-leafed plants scare me. I'm convinced that they secretly want to eat people.

I've always been nervous around big leafy plants. I've thought about it, and it's probably the result of A Little Shop of Horrors, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and an overactive imagination as a child. The first was because absent parents translated into no television censorship whatsoever, which really wasn't a big deal because we didn't have cable. The second was because in every episode of TMNT, radioactive waste would inevitably drip into the sewer system causing hostile killer vines to sprout through the sidewalk and wrap around a turtle. The vine would wave the turtle madly in the air, trying to strangle the life out of him, while his brothers desperately tried to hack him free. And, the last was because I was a social reject and had no friends.

Needless to say, I was especially careful to watch for sly plants trying to snatch me up while I was on the Petroglyph Trail. Fortunately, I made it out safe and sound so I can go back to stick it to the plants yet another day.

From Plants that might eat me

Cliff Palace and the Petroglyph Trail

Today was yet another good day.  I had told C that I'd be in Salt Lake City by this weekend, but once M left, I realized how much harder driving is when one can't share the load.  I decided to take it slow instead of trying to stick to a schedule, and I feel much better for it.

I slept in this morning, and then made my way back to Mesa Verde National Park.  It was sunny and 60 degrees when the wind wasn't blowing.  I paid $3 for a ranger guided tour of the Cliff Palace.  Contrary to what I had learned about the Anasazi growing up, they didn't mysteriously disappear as a culture, but spread out throughout Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico to become today's Puebloans.  Nor were cliff dwellings the norm.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

Around 1-100AD, the Anasazi showed signs of converting from hunter gatherers to a sedentary agrarian society, farming corn in the loamy soil of mesa tops.  Most Anasazi communities were built on mesa tops, and there are signs that the communities kept in touch with each other.  Getting from one mesa to another had to be tough - the mesa tops are 500-600 ft above the valley floor, and the Anasazi got around  by ladder or hand and toeholds cut into the rock.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

The cliff dwellings didn't come into existence until 1200AD, and it's speculated that they happened as defensive gestures.  Tree ring dating shows a long-term drought in the area around 1200AD, and archeology shows that the area had become increasingly populated.  The Anasazi kept no written records, so researchers can only speculate that resources had become scarce, so communities built hard to reach cliff dwellings to store their food.  Things must have gotten bad, because by approx 1270AD, the Anasazi had left the area.
From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

After the tour, I visited the Spruce Tree House, which are another set of ruins.  Perhaps I'm culturally insensitive (I am), but I'm starting to feel like all the ruins look the same.  I've now seen several Anasazi kivas, and I'm kind of... bored.   As cool as it is that the Anasazi were building multi-story towers in 1200AD, it was kind of late by European and Asian standards.  By then, basilicas and cathedrals had been built throughout Europe, Shaolin temples existed in China, nobles would soon demand that their king provide them rights and Confucious had already developed his philosophy.  I know I'm not supposed to stay stuff like that, but I haven't made anything up.

The best part of the day was when I walked Petroglyph Trail, a 2.4mi loop that passes a small section of Anasazi art.  The album shows some of that in detail.  I think I can make out two birds, a mountain range with people and a Anasazi village below it, a mountain lion, a big horn sheep, and a man with either a stick/sword/sickle in front of another man (possibly fighting?).  It's kind of cool.  Too bad we'll never know if it was just a bunch of Anasazi kids fooling around, or if this was the local artist went to put down his thoughts. :-)

From Cliff Palace and Petroglyph Hike

23 October 2009

The Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop at Mesa Verde

After lunch, I headed over to Mesa Verde National Park.  Since it was closing in on 3, I decided to drive the scenic drive and take a self-guided tour of the Far View Sites and Mesa Top Loop.  My initial plan was to camp in the park, but its only campsite closed last weekend.  I'm staying in Cortez for the night, and I'll return to Mesa Verde (a 15 minute drive) tomorrow to take a ranger guided tour of one of the residences and to walk the park a bit.

There's something about the sun.  Even though it was 49-51 degrees on the Mesa Top Loop (7000 ft), it made me so happy to be outside.  I didn't even mind driving, which I try not to do these days when I don't have to.  It was still chilly and windy, so it was a good day to drive too.  The sky was bright blue, and on a clear day, one can see Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona from Park Point (8572 ft).  The Wilson, San Juan and Sangre de Cristo are all visible then.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

The Mesa Top Loop had a lot of stops with ruins.  I had always learned that the Anasazi up and left their settlements with no trace.  It turns out, the Puebloans are the descendants of the Anasazi.  It shows how little I know.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop
From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

While on the Mesa Top Loop, I kept running into two retired couples.  Eventually, they joked that I should just get in the car with them.  It turns out one of the men is from Greer, SC and knew the neighborhood where I grew up.  He and his wife live in Albuquerque, NM now.  The other couple is visiting them from Georgia.  They wanted to know what was on top of my car, and why I was so far from New York.  Retired folks seemed to really like me today.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

I left the park as the sun was setting over its peaks.

From Chapin Mesa and Mesa Top Loop

Today was a good day.  It's the first time since M left that I've started to feel my grove.

Fall in Durango

I spent the morning having coffee and walking around Durango, CO.  Now that I'm in southern Colorado, the weather is milder.  It was sunny, dry and in the high 50s, and the fall colors were in full effect.

From Durango

I stopped in at the Old Tymer's Cafe for lunch.  While there, I met a handful of  retired or close to retired California transplants.  Meeting retired folk is what happens when one has lunch on a Thursday afternoon at the local pub... :-)

Lunch was an O'Dell's porter (it's considered a local beer in Colorado) and a tortilla burger (nothing more than a cheeseburger with tortillas instead of a bun).  There's a bunch of microbreweries around here.  Interestingly, one of the more popular ones is Ska brewery.  Hmmm.

21 October 2009

In Florence, it's called whitener

I checked into a Super 8 in Florence, CO last night to wait out the storm.  It's a decent, clean, and quiet place, and the manager is very nice.

My room has a small fridge, microwave and coffeemaker.  I made coffee this morning, and as I reached for the motel-provided non-sugar sweetener and creamer, I noticed that the creamer was called whitener.  I decided to have my coffee with just sweetener alone.  Somehow, the thought of whitener in my coffee just doesn't have the same feel as creamer in my coffee.

16 October 2009

Perhaps I should have called it chasing the sun

because that's what this trip has been all about.

It started to pour on my way to Saratoga Springs from New York City, and I've been racing precipitation as I've moved west.

It poured my entire drive from Saratoga to Niagara Falls (Canada).

The sun broke free in the morning in time for me to see the falls but retreated as I drove through Ontario wine country.  While I loved the rolling hills of Ontario's green corridor and its vineyards, I did not like the showers that followed me.  By the time I arrived in Toronto that evening, the weather that accompanied me was a veritable downpour.  It rained on and off the entire time I was in Toronto.

It was unseasonably cold when I left Toronto, and by the time I approached the border, it was snowing.  It was pouring by the time I bunked down in Dearborn, MI.

It rained from Michigan to Ohio, and it was raining and gusting heavily when I arrived in Toledo, OH.

In Toledo, I thought I had broken free of my precipitatious hitchhiker -- the sun always made an appearance in the morning -- but my overcast nemesis always showed itself by late afternoon.  By then, I had come to expect it.

I was not surprised when it rained from Ohio to Indiana.  Nor was I surprised when it rained the entire day and night I spent in Indiana.  Or, that it rained my entire way through Illinois.

By the time I reached Wisconsin, I was going to rename the Gray Beast to Gloomy Gus to more accurately represent her rain cloud attracting qualities.  So, it stopped raining, and it snowed.  The temperature began to drop rapidly, and it sleeted.  My particular area of Wisconsin had been affected by an unseasonably early cold front, so instead of typical 39-59 temperatures, it never got warmer than 45 my entire time there.

I was not particularly shocked when it rained, sleeted and froze from Wisconsin through Minnesota to South Dakota.  It froze and rained in Mitchell, SD.  It froze and rained in Wall, SD.  It rained in Deadwood, SD.

I've been in Hill City, SD going on two nights now, and while it's rained on and off (with small rain clouds that seem to only hover over my immediate vicinity because I can see the sun wherever I'm not), the temperatures have started to return to their October averages, which should range somewhere between 39-60, not the 30-42 its been this week.

I head for Colorado tomorrow, and I feel optimistic.  Perhaps the Gray Beast should keep her name after all.

09 October 2009

Rain and snow? Er, it's not you, it's me.

I'm starting to wonder if it's me.

The weather was wonderful in the weeks preceding my cross-country adventure.  I was excited to experience fall.  Then, on the day I left New York City, the skies opened up.

But, it wasn't like the skies opened up in New York City, and I left the weather behind.  It's actually more like the skies opened up and then stayed open wherever I've managed to stop along my cross-country trip.  I haven't seen a lick of sun this entire trip, and I'm starting to wonder if there's a tiny rain cloud that follows my little gray Subaru wherever it goes.

K told me that when he and his wife drove from California to Boston, it snowed in Dallas.  I have to wonder, as I drive from New York to California, if it'll rain everywhere I go.  In which case, I'm very sorry New York, Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.  Wisconsin had better watch out, because it's next.

Congrats, Barack!

It's great that Barack just won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I'm happy for him, for this country, and for his cause, but I have to wonder...what'd he win the prize for?

President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a stunning decision that comes just eight months into his presidency.

Less than nine months into his presidency, Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Less than nine months into his presidency, Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Click to view next image

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it honored Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

28 September 2009

Congrats to J and K!

I celebrated their wedding this weekend!

For more K and J related pictures, click here.

24 September 2009

I heart NPH

NY Mag's profile of NPH is totally right on and awesome:

Neil Patrick Harris used to be an underage doctor on TV. Now he’s another Hollywood first: an out gay actor who can host award shows, play a womanizer, walk the red carpet with his boyfriend, and then get cast in movies as a straight dad. Neat trick.


Styling by Sharon Williams/Celestine Talent; Grooming by Cheri Keating/The Wall Group; Production design by Nick Tortorici. Shirt and bow tie by Brooks Brothers.
(Photo: Art Streiber)

07 September 2009


I fell in love with Mongolia when I visited in 2005. When I read this in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, I felt it put into words how I felt about the place and what I imagined Gengiz Khan to have felt too:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled.
The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. I wonder if I am making myself clear.
The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self.
That is what I experienced in the midst of the Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon.
This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge cosmic love.
Dawn in Mongolia was an amazing thing. In one instant, the horizon became a faint line suspended in the darkness, and then the line was drawn upward, higher and higher. It was as if a giant hand had stretched down from the sky and slowly lifted the curtain of night from the face of the earth.
It was a magnificent sight, far greater in scale, as I said earlier, than anything that I, with my limited human faculties, could fully comprehend.
As I sat and watched, the feeling overtook me that my very life was slowly dwindling into nothingness. There was no trace here of anything as insignificant as human undertakings. This same event had been occurring hundreds of millions--hundreds of billions--of times, from an age long before there had been anything resembling life on earth.