Manufactured Loyalty

Caveat: This post is long and a bit of a ramble. It has a lot of ideas in it that aren’t fully formed and should probably be split into several distinct posts. It’s more of a thought exercise about the role of place in one’s life, which is the focus of a new writing course I’m taking. The point is to get writing and generate ideas without a lot of self-censorship at this point. I’d love to hear thoughts from my readers if anything here resonates with you.

When I was young, I thought Buffalo, NY was the absolute best place in the country to live. Some of the reasons I can remember included:

  • bars were open until 4pm
  • we had a waterfront (although it was undeveloped at the time)
  • we could use Canadian coins interchangeably with American ones
  • our shitty beer was Labatt’s, not Budweiser or Miller

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When Things Aren’t Quite Like They Should Be

The second half to the title of this post is:

  • …roll with it!
  • …who cares!
  • …they’re even better!

The impetus for this post is the four days I spent in southwestern Colorado last weekend. Several friends and I went to run another half marathon (something I swore I would do only once), spend time enjoying Durango, and hike another 14er. The trip didn’t go quite according to plan… Continue reading →

When in the Flat Tops Wilderness

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
– At Blackwater Pond, Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s last two lines can perfectly express the entirety of my feelings about the weekend I just spent in the Flat Tops Wilderness, but she can’t describe the place to you if weren’t there. Here is my attempt.  Continue reading →

Eight Days in the Mid-Atlantic (Part 2)

I spent the second half of my trip back east in “DC and Baltimore”. Or is that “DC-Baltimore”? I was there to see a friend who used to live in Boulder. According to her fiancé, who works in urban development, Baltimore is part of the greater DC metro area, and the region should be referred to as a whole, similar to Minneapolis-St Paul or Dallas-Fort Worth. This led to some debate, as neither my friend nor I consider DC and Baltimore part of the same area, though they are extremely geographically close. The question of “Denver and Boulder” or “Denver-Boulder” also came up, although given Boulder’s habit of buying up all the land around the city limits to prevent urban sprawl, this seems a much harder sell than DC-Baltimore. But the bigger question my friend’s fiancé raises is this: should experts refer to areas of their domain by the technically accurate but pedantic definitions of their industry? Or refer to them by the terms preferred by the public at large so as to better connect with their audience? I’ve posted previously about my own internal debates concerning whether to use proper grammar in certain situations, so I couldn’t help thinking about his instance on DC-Baltimore for longer than I should have. Continue reading →

Eight Days in the Mid-Atlantic (Part 1)

This summer, I’m keeping my travel domestic and fulfilling some long overdue visits to friends and family. I forgot how cheap it is to vacation when you don’t have to pay for hotels and you don’t have to go out for every meal. Also, I’ve been to places I’m going this summer many times before, so I’m not running around trying to experience everything all at once. I haven’t taken a vacation that was exclusively focused on spending time with people in, well, ever maybe. But now I am. The purpose of my travel this summer is to immerse myself in the lives of my friends, experience a different America for a bit, and simply relax. As a bonus, I’m saving some serious coin for a big international trip during the end of year holidays and my big mid-life birthday next April. Continue reading →

The Point of Travel

Travel used to have a purpose – to find trading partners, to cure disease, to scout out fertile land to homestead on. According to my favorite modern philosopher, it still should. Travel should be about more than gaining social media followers and checking items off a clichéd bucket list. It should feed your soul and help you grow as a person. Living in India for five months when I was 21 years old certainly changed my entire being in a number of ways and while I have taken some trips since then that were purely for fun, when I travel internationally, I usually seek out places that offer novel experiences I believe I can learn from. Continue reading →

An Unexpected Mountainside Bacchanal

Hot springs are popular in Colorado. From the mass market, easily accessible Glenwood Springs to the backcountry, yet still-too-popular Conundrum, you can’t spend much time in this state without experiencing the magic of being immersed in 102-degree water on a 15-degree winter night. Even in the summer, evenings in the mountains are cool enough to make a soak in naturally heated water desirable.

However, you may want to research what to expect before you go. Earlier this month, some friends and I took our first camping trip of the season to Steamboat Springs, which, as you might imagine from the name, has some hot springs. While we had all heard of the Strawberry Hot Springs, only one of our group had previously visited. We were eager to check it out, and after a long day of hiking, some therapeutic heat sounded perfect. Our experienced friend mentioned there might be some nudity and the website mentions that people under 18 are not allowed after dark, but these mild indicators of adult behavior were inadequate warning for what we found. Continue reading →

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 →