Quebec

I love Quebec. Well, Montreal that is. Quebec City is lovely and I’m sure the rest of Quebec is too, but Montreal has my heart. It is almost the perfect city. First, it’s bilingual, and as I’ve written about before, I have a passion for languages. I love the idea that you can be walking down the street and no one knows if you are a French or an English speaker until you say something. Then, there’s so much culture, so many festivals, so much delicious food, Lake Ontario, good public transportation, affordable places to live, and a passion for the outdoors. Which brings me to that big almost. Montreal winters, thanks but no thanks. I spent 23ish years in Buffalo, NY. I spent several winters in Russia. I’ve done my time. But in the summer in Montreal, everyone is in the parks, bicycling everywhere, sitting on patios. It’s delightful. If I’m ever lucky enough to own a summer home, it will be in Montreal. In the French-speaking half of town.

I lived in Montreal for what was, in my memory, an entire summer, but in reality was only 3 weeks, give or take a few days. I went to UQAM’s summer French immersion program and got to town right in the middle of the International Jazz Festival, which was amazing! I literally just threw my bags in my dorm room, grabbed my new roommate by the hand and out we went into the streets to hear performers from all over the world. And so began three fantastic weeks. My classmates were a fun bunch, my teacher was professional and patient and kind, the coursework was just the right level and intensity, the excursions were entertaining and educational. Great memories all around. Continue reading →

Papa

Well, I could tell a story about my father but I never called my father Papa, so I don’t think that’s appropriate. But when I was a child I read a lot of fairy tales and stories in which the father was called Papa, so I’ll write about one of those. My favorite storybook was The Nutcracker. Not just any edition, mind you, but the hardcover 1985 edition retold by Ronald Kidd and illustrated by Rick Reinert. No other version will do. I must have read that book hundreds of times as a child. Naturally, every time I did, I imagined I was Clara. The nutcracker that my mother had on her roll top desk every Christmas was my favorite holiday decoration, and I lay in bed every night during winter break waiting for it to come to life. The rats, well, those I could without. I didn’t need the nutcracker to save me from anything, just to come to life and dance with me.

That book was so special to me that I went to see the Nutcracker Ballet at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg my first Christmas in Russia. There was simply no question of taking a trip elsewhere or of not getting tickets. I had to see it and I had to see it there. I also have a lifelong dream of spending a Christmas in Vienna and seeing it there as well. That probably won’t happen this year, but soon. Continue reading →

Oscar

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. So many Oscars but none of them notable enough to write about.

Oscar the Grouch, of course. I watched Sesame Street when I was little and I lived through the 90s when it was fashionable for teenagers to wear t-shirts with Sesame Street and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony characters on them. Pretty sure teenagers, and twenty-somethings, still do that, but maybe with more modern icons. Naturally, Oscar was my choice.

Oscar from The Office. That show was so funny, at least until Pam and Jim got married and had a baby and became boring fuddy-duddys trying to hang on to their carefree days but dealing with serious shit like marital problems. No good. Continue reading →

November

During 2012, my official Year of Insane Parties, I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner that has gone down in history as literally the Best Thanksgiving Ever. At the time, I was living in a house that being foreclosed on. I was paying the rent but the landlord, who had moved 1,000 miles away, was not using my rent checks to pay the mortgage. So, the city wanted to foreclose on the house but by Colorado law, they couldn’t do so while the owner was still in bankruptcy proceedings. All of which is to say, I lived there rent free for 13 months before the city was able to kick me out and, as you can imagine, during that time I let the house fall into a state of serious disrepair, largely thanks to the Insane Parties I hosted all year.

Colorado is a state of migrants, which means a lot of people don’t have family to spend Thanksgiving with, so I got a nice crowd over at my place that year. Preparations, and drinking, began around noon. My friend Catia made a beautiful turkey, which I don’t remember eating at all, while a few other friends stuffed a piñata full of nips. Because nothing says Thanksgiving like a booze-filled piñata. And then at some point after we had busted the piñata and enjoyed the prizes, my partner poured Everclear or some other equally undesirable liquor on the fire to get it raging. Continue reading →

Mike

It’s time for another episode of Where are they now? I previously wrote about Charlie and my former grade school classmates, and now it’s time to move slightly forward in time to my freshman year of college and my one semester at Gettysburg.

The most significant Mike in my life was a guy I met at Gettysburg College in the fall of 1997. Despite my good grades and potential, I was really bad at picking a college. I applied to three, small liberal arts colleges on the east coast, all pretty much indistinguishable from each other. I went to Gettysburg because it was the only one of the three that accepted me. I didn’t like it at all and don’t think I would have liked either of the other two. Continue reading →

Lima

I have a friend from Lima. A mutual acquaintance introduced us because I was looking for a tutor to work with me on my spoken Spanish when I was applying for a special appointment in South America with the State Department. She is personable, well-educated, fun, and we clearly had a lot of common interests, and I knew after our first meeting that I wanted to be her friend. So, I invited her to my first birthday party as a single gal, some six months after I left my ex-husband. This was probably not the smartest move if I wanted her to be interested in me as an intelligent, considerate, and valuable friend because I was a bit of a wild child in my newfound freedom and I may have been obscenely drunk by 5:30PM at a party that went until 2 or 3AM. I won’t go into all the sensational details, but let’s just say that four years later, my friends are still talking about how epic that party was. Continue reading →

Kilo

Can the US please just get with the program and switch to the metric system already? I know people have a mental breakdown at the thought of converting to kilometers and kilograms and Celsius, but for a nation that is notoriously awful at math, you think we’d embrace the simplicity. Or maybe switching to a system based on 10 won’t make a difference after all. Continue reading →

Juliett

Yes, I know Shakespeare’s Juliet only had one T, and it is a little odd that the international spelling alphabet would use extraneous letters when its whole purpose is to make communication easier, but I didn’t save this post for Romeo because I didn’t have anything else for Juliett.

I saw the Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet with my friend Jeremiah (another J name), who I had an enormous crush on at the time. I won a radio contest to go to a special preview showing and somehow got Jeremiah to go with me. You know how you tend to remember the most bizarre, seemingly meaningless things from your youth? I remember that before the showing began, the radio hosts did some Romeo and Juliet trivia questions with the audience. I answered one correctly and won a pillar candle, kind of like those religious ones that Walmart sells. And I remember clearly that we were sitting on the left side of the theater, about halfway down and I pushed my way out of my row and ran down the aisle like an ecstatic and slightly off-kilter Price is Right contestant to claim my prize. Continue reading →

India

This one is easy. I lived in India for five months. I went to the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda for a semester. By went there, I mean I was enrolled. But for the five months I was there, it seemed that we had far more vacation than class time, which was fine with me. I got to travel extensively over the northern part of the country, a little bit into Nepal, and just a very little bit into the south. It would take me five years to write about five months spent traveling around India, so I’ll just list a few of my favorite places. Continue reading →

Hotel

I have stayed in some nasty, grimy, sketchy hotels in my life but the Riverside Inn in Moab was not one of them. It was clean, bright, pleasant – by all accounts a perfectly legit place to stay.

Unfortunately, my then-husband and I were sharing the room with some guests who would hitch a ride back with us back to our Denver apartment and not leave for six months. I woke up after the first night with a bite on my shoulder and after the second night, a few more. These should have been telltale bites, but this was in April of 2009, a year before the nationwide bedbug invasion. I was also new to the Rocky Mountain region, so I just figured it was some spider or insect native to Utah. Continue reading →