The Perfect Bitch

I’m not a fan of frenemies, cattiness, or plain out women hating other women. I wouldn’t enjoy living that way and I don’t even enjoy books or movies that portray women that way. I’m a woman of the variety who compliments random women on their outfit or hair, who tries to comfort the girl crying in the bathroom at the bar, who genuinely appreciates the talent others have. There’s nothing to be gained from being shitty to someone else, but brightening someone’s day always makes you, and them, feel good.

However…every once in a while someone comes along that, for the sake of your own lady tribe, you have to band together against, even if she has done nothing but exist. This person is most often a perfect bitch. She has expertly applied makeup, gorgeous hair, an incredible body, enviable athleticism, fashionable clothes that sit on her exactly right, a successful and exciting career, the perfect husband, and nothing ever goes wrong for her. Or so we imagine. Most of this narrative is made up in our own heads because that’s the level of confidence and self-love she exudes. Nevertheless, we dislike her. We dislike her because we want to be her. Her mere existence makes the most competent, beautiful, and successful of us feel bumbling, dowdy and a total failure. Continue reading →

13.11 on a Mesa in Southern Utah

Mile 1: It’s 6:59 AM. I just peed 10 minutes ago and I really have to go again because despite the cold, I’m only wearing a tank top and capri yoga pants, and I’ve just chugged a cup of coffee to warm up and a bottle of water to combat the dehydrating effect of the coffee, as well as the desiccating salt of the bacon I ate in the rental car on the several thousand foot ascent up the mesa in the pre-sunrise hours of the day. The train of cars kicked up so much dust that my companions wondered if we were in intense fog, even though there is a total lack of humidity in south-western Utah. We all wondered how far we’d roll if our intrepid driver, who, like all of us, got only four hours of restless sleep, messed up and went off the edge. But there’s no time to pee; the judge fired the gun and we’re off.

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What is Authentic?

I went to Tim Horton’s in Madrid. Being from Buffalo, New York, and having spent a lot of time in Canada before this fast food chain opened in my home town, I have a soft spot for Tim Horton’s. So, seeing one right outside my hotel window a few weeks ago, I had breakfast there one morning. The horror.

Here’s something else you might find horrifying – wherever in the world I am, I like stepping into McDonald’s and 7-11 to see what they sell. I generally don’t buy anything, but I’m curious. Personal feelings about McDonald’s aside, it is undeniably successful and popular. And it has become so, in part, by conducting careful research and tailoring its menu to each country it operates in. Therefore, going into McDonald’s is part of experiencing the culture of another place.  Continue reading →

Return to Spain

Against my own personal rules for how best to take advantage of a life that is far too short to absorb everything the world has to offer, I have traveled to an international destination twice. Two weeks ago, I went to Spain. Fourteen years ago I lived there, working in a summer camp in Andalusia with kids who by now are somewhere around the age I was during those brief moments when we knew each other, young adults out in the real world.

I didn’t feel like much of an adult at that age, but I certainly do now, which is why I didn’t mind retracing my steps a bit. That summer camp job was a lifetime ago and I was another person. I have only a few handwritten notes and photos printed from film to remind me of my previous adventures in the land of valiant conquered and intrepid conquerors. This time, I’m transferring what I jotted down into this blog post, structured according to the chapters in Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. De Botton is a modern day philosopher whom I greatly admire. The Art of Travel was the first book I read with Ironman, who accompanied me on this trip, for our long-distance book club, one of the many ways we have of staying close while we are geographically distant.

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Feats of Endurance

Big Bend is the least visited of our national parks. In 2016, it saw just 388,290 visitors, compared to the 11,312,786 who went to the most visited, Great Smoky Mountains. This is not a surprise, given its location in an almost-forgotten corner of Texas, an 8.5 hour drive from Dallas, if you speed and don’t stop to eat or gas up. The drive down is a wasteland of oil fields and abandoned towns. But don’t be deterred; the park is worth the effort it takes to get there.

What to do when you get there? You can stay in the lodge and hope to see a javelina. You can cross to Mexico, legally via the Boquillas entrance or illegally by wading across the Rio Grande. But mostly, you go to Big Bend to hike. My first day, I did a four-mile hike in the morning up the Lost Mine trail and a five-mile hike in the afternoon to the Window. The second day I did a 15 mile hike up to Emory Peak, down around the South Rim, and back to the Chisos Basin via the Laguna Meadows trail. The last morning was only a quick two-mile (if that) walk to the end of Santa Elena Canyon and back. I would have loved to spend more time lying on the banks of the Rio Grande, soaking up the sunshine before heading back to the 20-degree Boulder weather, but that 8.5 hour drive lie ahead. Continue reading →

Brother Knows Best

Or at least my brother may have a better memory for the geographical history of our family vacations than I do. When I went to Idaho over the July 4th holiday, I believed that I had stepped foot into the one state I had never been to. But that might not have been true. While I was in Kansas last week for Thanksgiving, my brother and I were discussing the places we had been to in the Kansas City area as children…which according to him, were none. I distinctly remember being in Missouri and visiting the Jesse James house, but my brother says that never happened. According to him, we visited a bank in Minnesota that James had robbed.

Then I thought about it some more and realized yes, it’s quite possible that I never did make it to the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas quartet. Well, shoot. But if that’s true, at least Kansas and Missouri are now knocked off the list for real.

And I mean, I’ve really done Kansas. All the way from the border with Colorado 424 miles across I-70 to Kansas City and back. I left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and took two days for the eastbound trip. My plan was to stop and see all the kitsch sites along the way, because there are many: a giant Van Gogh painting, truckhenge, world’s largest collection of the smallest versions of the largest things…need I go on? A collection of Americana perfect for the ultimate Heartland road trip. Continue reading →

Boulderites Aren’t Unique…And That’s Good!

I grew up on the east coast where people are aggressive, angry, and closed off. Then I lived in Russia for several years, where people are closed off, angry, and aggressive. And then I moved to Boulder. Boulder is a magic land. Boulderites sincerely welcome newbies into their friend group. They mean what they say and do what they promise. They are genuinely happy for the success of those around them and the fact that others are out enjoying nature and leisure time as much as possible. I’ve never been in another place where people always smile at each other as they pass by on the street or a trail and where strangers so frequently strike up conversations beyond small talk with one another. When I exit our magical borders, I kind of expect the whole rest of the world to be in a Mad Max state of affairs.

OK, that’s all a bit of an exaggeration, but my point is, I believe Boulder is an anomaly, so when I travel somewhere else and find people every bit as lovely as they are at home, I’m surprised…and thrilled! And this was my experience in Dallas. I recently spent 11 days in the city where big things happen and had a wonderful time. Everywhere I went people were friendly and open and pleasant, and I don’t only mean the people I was with. Shopkeepers, servers, bartenders, gas station attendants, and so many people I encountered seemed to be in a great mood, and that made my trip even better. Continue reading →

AirBnB: The Second B is for Bizarre

Last week, I posted about the best experiences I’ve had so far with AirBnB. This post was prompted by dad calling me to discuss an article in the Buffalo News about the home sharing service. One of the points the article made that my dad was curious about was how guest and host expectations sometimes differ, leading to dissatisfaction. For example, the article mentioned a woman who was annoyed when her guests didn’t want to spend time socializing with her.

With the exception of when I am overseas, I always request an entire home/apartment to myself, rather than a room in someone’s house, because I don’t want to socialize. I’m on my own vacation and want to do my own thing, especially if I am travelling with a romantic partner. And even when booking separate accommodation, I read the description carefully to make sure that my expectations align with those of the host. Most descriptions state clearly how much interaction the host is willing to have with the guests. This is important. I believe that many problems in this world, not just on AirBnB, can be cleared up with better communication. Of course, it’s just as much the guest’s responsibility to understand and accept those terms as it is the host’s to express them. A breakdown can be the fault of either party. Continue reading →

AirBnB: The First B is for Beautiful

My dad gets really excited when when modern, gig/sharing-economy type organizations come to Buffalo, which is my hometown and where he still lives. Years ago, when Buffalo got food trucks, he called right away to let me know. Around the same time, the city was redoing the harbor to make it a place for festivals and a place people want to spend time in general. He thought a combination of those two amenities would make me consider moving back there. Then Buffalo got bicycle sharing and then Uber, and he called me each of those times to let me know how cool Buffalo was becoming. I’m happy for Buffalo. I love that city. But the taxes and lack of good jobs and the snow…oh my god the snow. The gray, miserable, long, icy, humid winters. No. I just can’t.

But I digress.

My dad’s latest report was about AirBnB. It’s been active in Buffalo awhile, but the Buffalo News ran a story over the summer about locals’ good and bad experiences with it. He was certain I had used it before, which I have, and wanted to compare my experiences with what the paper was reporting. And so I thought, why stop with the conversation with my dad? Why not share some of my good and bad experiences here? Continue reading →

But They Do it in Europe!

I am not a fan of the “they do it in Europe” argument. I frequently hear people say this regarding free higher education and universal healthcare, among other issues. When pressed for implementation details, these people tend to be clueless about the bureaucratic, and, just as importantly, the cultural factors at play. I could go into detail, but my aim here is not write a political post. Instead I’m going to contradict myself briefly and become one of those people I generally scoff at by describing some charming, impressive, and useful customs that I noticed in Italy that I think we should adopt in the United States.

I’ll start with the simple. Many shops place umbrella stands outside their doors when it rains. This is nice from the perspective of both the store and the consumer. The shop doesn’t have to worry about goods getting wet and ruined. Consumers don’t have to carry around a dripping umbrella. And it seems that no one is worried about their umbrella getting swiped by a passerby who has been caught in the storm empty handed. I’m sure it happens sometimes, but if it were really a problem, I don’t think those bins would be out everywhere. Continue reading →