This Week.

This Week was also Birthday Week, which ended up wonderful after a rough start. On Tuesday evening, the snow and ice came back to make things interesting. Our neighborhood saw a few inches of snow, and the roads iced up overnight, so I was back to the bus commute on Wednesday morning.

But the week ended with an extended birthday celebration involving sushi dinner, well-wishes and gifts, two brunches, Star Wars, model trains, and reading books by the fire on a rainy evening. It was just what I wanted.

Occupations

Due to the inclement weather and lots of meetings, I didn’t make much progress on my work projects. I did, however, make lots of progress on fretting over how much progress I wasn’t making on my work projects. I also gave my task list several meaningful glances.

Diversions

On the Page

On the Screen

We are done, so done, with Season 3 of “Outlander” and jumped right into Season 7 of “Homeland”. I find myself wishing that the series had ended with Season 3.

We finally saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and I enjoyed that mess quite a bit, especially how it added nuance to most of the main characters. It tried to add nuance to Kylo Ren, it really did, but there isn’t much to do about that pathetic man-child. At least we got Emo Kylo Ren out of it.

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On the (Figurative) Turntable

Kimbra’s new single, “Version of Me”, dropped this week. I love it!

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In the (Literal) Game Room

Our friend Mike came over and we played “Ex Libris”, a game about being gnomish librarians collecting magical texts, and if that sounds like that game is right up my Diagon Alley, that’s because it absolutely is.

One of my birthday presents from FunkyPlaid was Scrabble Typography, which I am eager to play!

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Related: I no longer attempt to play Scrabble, Words With Friends, or any word-building games online. I’m miserable at keeping up with asynchronous multiplayer games, especially multiple ones at the same time. So if I have ever accepted your invitation to play, made it three rounds, and disappeared … that’s why.

I did start playing a puzzle adventure game on my iPad called “Rusty Lake Paradise” which is unsettling and strange and very good so far.

On the Internet

The best thing I read online this week was “The Problem with the ‘What Else?’ Mindset” by Jocelyn K. Glei because of this quote:

You could witness the most precious moment of someone’s life, or read a news story about a horrifying and terribly sad event, or complete one of the most impressive accomplishments of your creative career… And somehow it’s never enough.

On the Globe

The Portmeirion Village webcams have been taken down. 😢 I will have to find a new magic window to peep through.

Ink o' the Week

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Day 154 of Project 365: PDX pickup. 

Through the magic of mobile phones, I am posting this as I wait to meet my mom at PDX! Sorry for the uninspired photo; it has been a long day.

Writing from: PDX! Listening to: the murmuring of baggage claim. 

Day 60 of Project 365: There and back again.

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Today we made the long drive back to the Bay Area. Well, FunkyPlaid made the drive while I napped, read “The Shadow of the Wind” (OMG so good), and scheduled a job interview for next week! Nothing more on that for now lest I jinx it, but your good thoughts are sincerely appreciated.

N.B. I’m a few days behind with the project, so these descriptions will be brief.

Day 50 of Project 365: Driving up.

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Today FunkyPlaid and I had a long drive northwards. This photo was taken during a particularly scenic bit. When we finally arrived at our friends’ home in Portland, they greeted us with locally-themed gifts and a lovely home-cooked meal. I was too exhausted to take photos of any of that, though, so here is one I took on the road.

N.B. I’m a few days behind with the project, so these descriptions will be brief.

Day 25 of Project 365: Customs and welcomes.

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I’m not going to bury the lede: Zen is stuck in Newark due to Storm Jonas. I’m distraught both by the circumstances out of our control and by the lack of appropriate action taken by our pet transport company. But with any luck she will be with us in less than twelve hours, so I am resolved to stay positive.

The past twenty-four hours has contained nearly all of the standard range of emotions and some of the limited-edition ones I collected by saving cereal box tops. It started with the lack of sleep: FunkyPlaid did not sleep at all on Sunday night, and I slept for about an hour. Then we gathered up our dear wee calico creature and took her to the airport cargo ‘village’, the sheer preciousness of that phrase making me want to slap something in the face right about now.

This is where all the fun started. Initially, the cargo attendant refused to accept Zen because he said our pet transport company did not file the proper customs paperwork. Attempting to reach the company at 04:30 in the morning was ineffective, even on their emergency line, but the cargo attendant finally relented and said he’d accept Zen and go through all the usual pre-flight procedure with her in hopes the customs paperwork would get sorted before she needed to be on the plane.

I wish I could describe the feeling of white-hot rage at the situation paired with deep despair over leaving my beloved Zen with disdainful, skeptical strangers. But we had to push through it because in the few short hours between dropping Zen off and catching our own flight we had to turn over our flat and sell our car. You know, standard international relocation stuff. A little over an hour later – and still with no word from our pet transport company – the cargo attendant rang us back and said the airline had approved Zen for travel, so not to worry about the customs paperwork. All was well. Or so we thought.

We knew Jonas was on the way, and would likely interfere with Zen’s flights as she had to fly into the country through Newark. I had prompted our pet transport company for contingency plans. (Again, they failed to come through.) I’ve been tracking flights in and out of Newark just to know what to expect. I had hoped her four-hour mandatory layover – a requirement for pets entering the country – would offer some cushion against the inevitable delays. So I was not surprised when we got word from the airline that her flight would be delayed, and we could pick her up five hours after our own flight arrived.

What I did not see coming is the flight being canceled altogether, stranding Zen in Newark overnight. Even better: we didn’t know it had been canceled until I called the airline to find out the exact time of her arrival tonight. If I hadn’t been so persnickety about it we would have driven all the way back to the airport only to come home empty-handed.

The worst part of all of this is that Zen is alone in an unfamiliar place, thousands of miles away, and I can do nothing about it. I’m trying not to manifest that old adage, “Worrying is praying for something you don’t want to happen,” but all of this drama did put such a damper on what was shaping up to be an excellent welcome home. My in-laws are categorically awesome, and we saw the loveliest glimpse of a massive golden moon shining over the city as we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge. Now all we need is Zen with us, safe and sound, and we can get on with the next big adventure.

Writing from: my in-laws’ home in Marin County. Listening to: FunkyPlaid’s breathing as he gets some well-deserved rest.

Day 10 of Project 365: The Ormiston Yew Tree.

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Choosing today’s photo was more difficult than usual but I settled on one of an ancient yew tree that John Knox purportedly preached under because … well … that. Knox is not pictured, but I did leave in a human and a wee dachshund for scale.

This is the magical Ormiston Yew Tree. It is difficult to find, so I am glad that I had a local guide in the aforementioned human, my friend Juliana. Accompanied by her two darling dachshunds, Juliana and I have gone on a number of East Lothian adventures over the past few years, always followed by delicious home-cooked meals. While tromping through the sopping undergrowth today, my heart ached to think that this outing would be our last one for a while. Saying goodbye to dear friends is part of this whole moving-away process, but I still haven’t gotten used to it.

Con de carn.

¡Estamos en Barcelona! FunkyPlaid and I arrived last night, excited to return but also a bit disappointed. We were due to meet my father and stepmother here, but because of the storms battering the east coast of the States just now, their arrival was significantly delayed. They couldn’t get a connecting flight out of the east coast, so as I write this, they are driving a rental car to Detroit where they’ll be able to catch a flight over the Pond and arrive two days later than scheduled.

Unbelievable. But the good news is that they will land on a sunny 15ºC (60ºF) afternoon and we’ll all have a glass of wine and relax.

Relaxation has been the order of business today. We slept in this morning, and then I sat on the terrace and wrote in my journal while enjoying a piece of gluten-free brioche that we nabbed last night from the 24-hour farmacia in our neighbourhood. After we were ready to face the day, we headed out for delicious salads and patatas bravas.

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After lunch, we spent the day wandering, reorienting ourselves in the city, and unplugging from the stressors of life back home.



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There is something in my brain that quiets and focuses while I am here. I am not quite sure what that is about, but I am content to spend the rest of my life figuring it out.

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And there is, of course, the food. (Meat cones!)

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And the architecture.

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And the unexpected beauties.

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We will have a proper start to the vacation tomorrow when we pick our family up from the airport. For tonight, Happy Valentine’s Day, or happy Friday, or happy day you spend doing something you enjoy with people you love.

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A line, a wrinkle, a sigh, a sign.

FunkyPlaid at Barcelona Cathedral You genuflected outside the gothic cathedral the day after I got officially old. My nose was running and cold and I turned from the great grey edifice to see the only familiar face for miles. On that face, the expression I tried to capture: irreverent yet strangely penitent, maybe just tired from walking or overwhelmed by unfamiliar vowels or musing how new it feels to feel this old.

FunkyPlaid at La Pedrera.

FunkyPlaid at La Pedrera

Yesterday I accidentally posted a blurb from my “about” page. (Serves me right for fiddling with stuff I don’t understand.) My apology comes in the form of a photo of FunkyPlaid at La Pedrera in Barcelona. And a sincere promise that more photos are on their way!

Gehry’s golden fish.

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We spied Gehry’s golden fish, or El Peix, on our stroll along the beach today.

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Park parrot.

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I wanted to share one of the many delightful things we have seen so far. This is one of the wild parrots (parakeets?) of Park Güell. My dSLR skills are quite rusty, but after post-processing this shot I’m getting excited about taking proper photos again.

Getting older in Barcelona.

The noise of traffic just outside our window was so much louder than usual, a steady, slick pulse over the rasp of the rain. The cheery light of my phone reminded me of the date, which reminded me that I wasn’t in Edinburgh anymore at all. And then I remembered the night before, and the day before that, and the year before that, and it all got to be too much so I turned over and dozed off on the morning of my birthday in Barcelona.

The day before my birthday, I worked myself up over packing. We flew a budget airline that is notorious for its stringent carry-on baggage policies, and I had running gear and a camera to manage. In the end, I decided the camera was more important. We’ll be doing a fair bit of walking, and I’d be sad if I returned to Barcelona without a proper camera. I shoved everything into my laptop backpack (sans laptop) and that was that.

The flight was painless, and even on a mostly-full flight we were lucky enough to get a row to ourselves. Before long we were landing, through customs, on the shuttle, and navigating La Rambla on our way to our rental flat.

There was a bit of a snag with that, but our host accommodated us at his B&B in L’Eixample. With a view of the spires of La Sagrada Familia from the balcony. I’m not complaining.



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This bed ate all of our sleep.



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I am writing this in the breakfast nook, and this is my view.



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And I have cheery budgies keeping me company as I finish my tea before today’s adventures.



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There is also a Yorkie, but he bounds around too fast for me to capture him in a photo.

Last night we had our first tapas together. FunkyPlaid took lots of snaps, but I was too blissed-out to bother. As the clock turned midnight, we toasted with wine (so much wine) and felt deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in such a special place. Now to go explore it!

portland redux

Because sitting in my office with the door closed while eating a wilted salad and trying not to cry is not an acceptable new hobby, here is the briefest of notes on our trip to Portland.

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It feels so good to take a risk – traveling with friends – and have it turn out better than I could have hoped. Although it is always nice to have alone-time with FunkyPlaid, the four of us made a great team.

The highlights were many, and involved eating, geocaching, and visiting with friends. There was only one lowlight, in the form of an overpriced and disappointing meal at Bluehour, which I will be reviewing in detail soon. In fact, I have decided to dedicate a portion of this site to reviews, focusing on but not limited to my culinary adventures. It’s well past time.

Portland is enchanting. I love the Pacific Northwest for so many reasons, but the people I meet there consistently impress me. Seattle and Vancouver are more culturally diverse, and therefore more compelling to me, but Portland is so charming and quaint without being precious that I could easily see myself living there.

FunkyPlaid and I are Active Travelers, which is a kind way of saying that we neglect to schedule downtime and end up rather frazzled on the last days of our vacation. We ran out of time before we ran out of things we wanted to do and people we wanted to see, so we’ll just have to go back.

big orange bird

en route The big orange bird carries the mother to the last bastion of American liberals! Well, kind-of liberals. Anyway: marssie is en route!

burnout

There is no better phrase for it: I am burned out. I don't remember ever being this burned out. As I stopped to ponder why this is hitting me so hard now, I realized I haven't had a vacation for almost two years. This is the longest period of time I have gone without traveling in my entire life.

Work hasn't become more difficult, but my ability to deal with it objectively is faltering. Being a manager and being in public service means I am always on even when I don't feel like it.  There is no hiding or taking it easy.  My coworkers have been very understanding, but they also work under the same restrictions.  Such is the way of the library professional.

Although my health has improved lately, I still have off days, sometimes triggered by hidden gluten, and other times triggered by an unknown allergy or intolerance I have yet to figure out. Because I have limited sick time that I have to use for doctor's appointments, I feel a great amount of pressure not to take time off work, even when I am feeling lousy.

At home, all I want to do is relax.  The thought of cooking for an hour or two after coming home from work is daunting.  Also daunting is the prospect of being social after a day of "social work" at the library.  I barely have the wherewithal to read some RSS feeds, let alone be productive.  Just thinking about putting energy into a focus-intensive game like World of Warcraft makes me weary.

What is most disturbing about this level of burnout is that I am not myself.  I react to things differently, with less patience and less gentleness than I ever have; I sleep fitfully and not enough; I confuse timelines and threads, awkwardly mixing past and present.  This loss of continuity and consistency unmoors me.  

All I want to do is run away.

This is not particularly how I wanted to approach this trip, this culmination of years of planning and wishing.  In fact, this is exactly the opposite mindset I need to have.  And yet the pressure of knowing that I have two days to wrest my attitude from two years of burnout is immense.

Once we are there, of course, I am sure it will take me no time at all to unfurl all these crumpled-up parts of my psyche.  Until then, I am making myself and probably everyone else miserable.  But I am tired of being nice, as awful as that is to say.  I feel as if my overwhelming drive to be nice, to smooth over rough edges, to acquiesce has more than a little to do with why I am this burned out.

domino effect

I gave up and ordered a new camera battery charger. The old one must be somewhere, but I have no time before our upcoming trip to Scotland to sort through all of my boxes. Believe me, there will be some serious purging of useless belongings happening when I return.

My handy countdown widget tells me that only 23 days remain until our trip. It is so paltry to say that I am excited to see this beloved country, this heart-home of my beloved, and to meet and re-meet friends far away. I am beyond excited. Every time I read a page in a guidebook I start bouncing in my chair and have to put it down.

I know that no small part of my excitement stems from a frantic need to be Not-Here for a short time. Living in San Francisco has become exhausting, and because this is such an amazing city I know my fuse must be particularly short.  I have not had a proper vacation, even a weekend getaway, in almost a year.  I also admit some weariness around the subject of American politics.

So I avoided the topic as much as possible over the weekend.  FunkyPlaid and I actually had an entire weekend to ourselves, and it was excellent, only marred by the news of David Foster Wallace’s death. Others have been much more eloquent than I could be, than I have tried to be multiple times tonight in eulogy.

This perfectionist phase of writing silence does not suit me. In part, I am paranoid because I know that not everyone reading this thinks well of me, and so instead of inciting critique for whichever turn of phrase I keep silent.  We then encounter the usual “you can’t control what other people think of you” argument, which leads me quickly to the “yes but why NOT” denial, usually appended with “especially when I haven’t done anything to THEM” tantrum.

That doesn’t matter. None of it matters. What you think of me, what I think of you – in the grand and happy quilt of meaning, we’re not even stitches.  I don’t write here to be loved; I write here because I am compelled to connect through words. If our connection involves your loathing or disdain, so be it.  It is what it is, and nothing more.

And to think this all began with a lost piece of technology.

grateful for travel

I can hardly sit still long enough to write this entry – today FunkyPlaid and I bought our tickets for our trip to Scotland this autumn!  We will be there for just over two weeks, and it will be my first time in Scotland.  FunkyPlaid lived there while he earned his graduate degree in Scottish history, and he has been there many times, so I will have an excellent guide.  My visit to Scotland is also laced with emotional symbolism; FunkyPlaid and I spent two rollercoaster months getting to know each other before he moved to Edinburgh, and I was more than a little envious of his big adventure.  Existing in Edinburgh with him will bring that part of our history full-circle.  It will also be a litmus test to see if I can stand to live there in the future when FunkyPlaid moves back for his doctorate, although truthfully I can stick it out anywhere for a few years.

I am so grateful for the ability to and predilection for travel.  Ever since I was born, my parents instilled in me a great love of seeing new places which has only grown.  Today at a gathering of friends at the Palace of Fine Arts, someone was talking about visiting Zanzibar, and I immediately thrilled at the thought of being there someday myself.  I hope to get to see as many places on my long, long list as possible.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

london then

I am so frustrated with my computer right now. iPhoto makes it grind to a halt, and Flickr Uploader times out before I can get a whole batch posted. The photos will have to wait, and I apologize. But now for the textual recap of my last day in London!

We left the hotel at 09:30 on Saturday and took the Tube to the London Eye, the world’s largest observation wheel. At the recommendation of my guidebook, we had purchased our tickets online the day before, and were rewarded with almost no wait in line before boarding at 10:00. The sky was clear, giving us an excellent view of the Thames, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and various other parts of the city. <insert relevant photos trapped on my computer here>

Despite being hungry before we arrived at the Tate Modern, it was difficult for us to focus on anything but the slides. Apparently people show up at 09:00 to book tickets for the level 5 slide! We got our tickets for the level 3 slide and then went to the restaurant for an excellent lunch. The slide did not disappoint! I squealed the whole way down. O yes, and we saw an incredible collection of modern art.

After we finally tore ourselves away from the Tate Modern, we headed to Shakespeare’s Globe – just briefly, because the line for the tour was too long – and then walked across Millennium Bridge toward St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Around this time, the call of the pub was too great to resist, so after a short foray to St. Bartholomew the Great, we found one called The Castle. After a round or two there, we made our way on the Tube to Covent Garden to find pub food for dinner. That ended up a bit of an adventure, since we weren’t entirely diligent with our maps, instead preferring to wander. After a false start in a lame chain that ran out of extremely standard fare (no mashed potatoes? no vegetable pie?) and a lovely place that was just too crowded, we managed to find the White Lion and sat down to a nice meal with some friends.

Things go hazy for me here, because, once fed, the exhaustion of walking around for over 12 hours fully set in for me. I remember walking back to the hotel and having a nightcap with everyone before bidding them goodnight and falling into my bed.

It is impossible to see everything I want to see in London on business travel, regardless of how many times I get to go back, but I’ll sure try. I am amazed at how much we managed to see and how small a percent it was. The city is massive, beyond fathomable proportions. I’d like to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour the next time I go, just to get some sense of where things actually are. Most of our navigating feels like a dream, a hope, a wish: let’s go here, okay, where does this line go? I don’t know! that block changes names, well, okay.

The gist is that I love traveling, and I love London, and I love my job, and to be able to combine all three loves is still a bit surreal. Now that I’m caught up, on to my next big adventure …

london thus far

A quiet Friday night allows me to catch up a bit on all of my usual goings-on. I haven’t missed being online all that much, to be honest, perhaps because I’m in a fantastic city with people I like. And, o yeah, I’m getting some work done, too.

The flight from SFO was nicer than I expected it to be. My boss and I flew British Airways’ World Traveler Plus class, which I think is comparable to Economy Plus on other airlines. The seats are cushier and there is more legroom, plus there are small perks like free drinks and individual video screens. I thought I might catch up with some email replies, but between the napping and the movie-watching (the mostly-mediocre Black Dahlia) and the eating, the 10.5 hours were quite full.

We arrived at Heathrow at half-past ten in the morning GMT on Tuesday. There was a car waiting for us to take us to the hotel, complete with a driver holding up a card with my boss’ name on it. I hardly felt fancy enough for that sort of treatment, but I had no idea what was in store for us.

It took an hour and a half for us to make it into central London. The infamous congestion has not been exaggerated. I didn’t mind the length of the trip, though, because I love looking out the window at all the new sights, including the other cars on the road and their drivers. We caught a woman biting off a split end, and a man enthusiastically picking his nose. Mostly everyone looked bored, but they did it very Britishly.

As we pulled up to the hotel, I thought it must be a joke. I had looked it up online before the trip, and it seemed posh, but I had never seen anything like it. “Stately” doesn’t begin to describe its edifice. The driver took our bags out of the car and they were immediately whisked off to some sort of Luggage Room where it magically figured out where I was staying. I’m not quite sure what happened there, as right around this time the full weight of my exhaustion seeped into my brain.

We checked in to the special “club” area of the hotel, saw our rooms, and took one look at the enormous bathtubs, and decided to head down Regent Street to Lush for bath bombs. What amazes me about Londoners is that they are all doing something while walking (like texting or talking) and yet I didn’t get my feet stomped on or pushed into the road or anything. A city of walkers, that’s for sure.

My boss’ husband, who was on a different, later flight than we were, met up with us back at the hotel and we all went to dinner at Grand Bazaar, where the food was pretty good but the service was not. On the way home, we stopped at a pub for a drink, and then I was suddenly back in my hotel room, filling up the tub with hot water and Lush goodness. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep in it.

Wednesday was a long and wonderful day. We took a taxi to the office, got our temporary badges, and found our UK counterparts on the fourth floor. After a full day of meetings and email catching-up and a lovely lunch at Cantina del Ponte, we took the Tube home. For a public transit aficionado like me, riding the Tube is like nothing else. It is marvelously complex and bizarre, and I loved learning about the different lines and stops and transfer points. After knowing Muni pretty well, being an abject newbie on a transit system is a delight. My boss was similarly excited, and we bounced and giggled all the way home.

The hotel has a separate lounge for club guests, which is well-stocked all day long with food and drink. We had cocktails there before taking the Tube to dinner, this time stumbling into Chinatown (all one block of it) and having a terrific meal at Royal Dragon. We took the Tube home and I collapsed, bathless.

Thursday was similarly busy, work-wise, and then we were treated to dinner by the UK team at an excellent African restaurant called Souk Medina. After stuffing ourselves with good food and laughing riotously, no one wanted the evening to end, so we found ourselves wandering Covent Garden in search of a club. The first one we found was packed and sort of blah, ambience-wise, so one of our coworkers led us to the Roadhouse, which is pretty much a collection of every American stereotype ever in club form. I loved it, from the bartenders who tossed glasses and bottles in the air, Cocktail-style, to the rock cover band, who opened with “Sweet Home Alabama”. It was a Night, and we went big. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, not least because of the open, friendly vibe of the place: everyone was there to have fun, and that was it. No drama, no harassment, just dancing and singing along and laughing, always laughing.

Sometime before 01:00, my boss and her husband and I managed to stumble out into the brisk air, and after a few drunken attempts to match our map to our surroundings, we hailed a pedi-cab. The driver was smaller in stature than me but still managed to bike three of us back to the hotel. Amazing.

Today was our last day in the office. For lunch, the UK team took us on an excursion to Borough Market for outstanding pork sandwiches. We strolled through the market as we ate and browsed through the stalls at all the produce, charcuterie, teas, jams and jellies. It was a perfect lunch, with everyone smiling and filling up on good food and chatting away as if we had known each other forever. It feels like we have.

I was thoroughly bereft to leave the office this evening. Everyone had made us feel so welcome, and had helped us immensely at the onset of our big project, that it was difficult to leave. I vowed to myself that I’d make it back, and soon.

I had conference calls and a little more work to do from my hotel room, so I did that and then napped briefly before meeting up with my boss for dinner. We were still exhausted from Thursday night’s outing, so we opted for room service, and had lovely Caesar salads and baked brie and chocolate mousse. And now it is time for another Lush-enhanced bath and bed, since tomorrow is our big sightseeing day before we have to leave on Sunday.

The best part of this trip has been what my company calls “team-building” (I sort of hate that word, hence the quotes), not just with the UK team, but with my boss. I have gotten to know her as a person a lot better – singing along to Red Hot Chili Peppers may have played a hand in that – and as a result I consider her a mentor as well as a friend. I also feel more myself than I have in ages, perhaps because I have felt more accepted and encouraged here than I expected to, even being a stranger, a guest, in unfamiliar surroundings.

And I love London. I love its myriad people speaking hundreds of languages; its history and architecture and streets that make no sense; its food and drink as the culmination of true cultural diversity; its Tube, solidly and tardily rumbling away beneath the hotel’s foundation, rocking me to smiling sleep. Tomorrow I will see her prettiest face, but I’ve already listened to her heart.

unromanticized

I am back from Seattle. I had a wonderful time. Jen was a fantastic hostess. I took some photos. I wrote many pages in my diary. It was the perfect transitional mini-vacation.

Except for the train.

You see, I have this tendency to romanticize things, not everything, mind you, but quite a few things, and I’ve learned not to do it too much with people these days but I still do it with concepts, like, let’s say, a trip up the coast on a train.

In my diary, I decided to illuminate my train travel tips for everyone:

  1. Bring earplugs, because there are a hundred ill-behaved, ugly little children whose parents sugar them up at all hours and then let them loose.
  2. Bring a blanket or extra layer of clothing, because the train is kept at a frigid 60 degrees.
  3. Bring your own food, because all of the prepared food sucks, especially the breakfast egg dishes which are frozen and then reheated, then served in their very own egg pee (descriptive phrase courtesy of the MSG).
  4. Bring noise-cancelling headphones, because of #1, and because your earbuds will hurt your ears after more than an hour or two of iPod-listening.
  5. Don’t take the train.
It wasn’t that I spent longer on the train than I did in Seattle, although that was a bit of a bummer when I thought about it. It was that the train itself was such an unpleasant, smelly, seedy experience that I almost regretted taking it. I say “almost” because it taught me a valuable lesson about romanticizing things like train trips.

I was mostly disappointed that Amtrak is so crappy now, compared to the Amtrak of my younger days, when I used to take it several times a year between the Midwest and the East Coast. It was rarely late, and if it was, it was a matter of minutes, not hours. On the way to Seattle, we were delayed 9 hours in total; on the way back, 5.

There were bright spots. There were the three guys from Taiwan I had lunch with on the way to Seattle who, when we exchanged email addresses, would write their names on a piece of paper they then headed with “Guys From Taiwan”. There were the three older women from Indianapolis I had dinner with on the way back who called each other horrible, wonderful names and cackled with laughter so that the rest of the dining-car passengers turned around to stare at us. There was the scenery, miles and hours of it, and the low chunk-chunk of the train on its borrowed tracks.

However the train was, Seattle did not disappoint. I’m glad I had enough time to catch up with Jen yet still strike out on my own. I got to see the Japanese gardens and a few branches of the public library and Pike Place Market and I had dinner with Stephanie and Jodawi. And I was only a little bad; a Visconti Van Gogh Midi fountain pen just happened to come home with me. hee!

So though I’ll go back to Seattle in a heartbeat, I won’t be taking the train. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go freak out about my first day of my new job, which is tomorrow!

unexpectedly ready

Well, this is strange. I seem to be ready to go on a trip to Seattle.

I thought for sure my new Moleskine journal wouldn’t arrive in time for me to bring it with me, but it did. Ditto for the pocket tripod. And just when I forgot I ordered new scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, they arrived, too.

Zen is in Inkbot’s capable hands, my car is in the MSG’s, I’ve packed and paid my bills and charged my camera and charged my phone and charged my iPod and even managed to get my printer working again so I could print out trip information.

So, yeah: Jen, Stephanie, Brian, and Bryan, I’ll see you soon! Everyone else, I’ll see you Saturday!

roiling and sweating

One week from tomorrow: Seattle! Well, really, boarding the train to Seattle. It’s a 23-hour ride. But hooray, I have train tickets and crash space and preliminary sightseeing plans! I also have maps and exclamation points!

Two weeks from tomorrow, my new job begins. I remember when I was a kid that about this time of the year my mom would take me shopping for school supplies. I remember cracking open that first notebook, uncapping that first pen, writing that first metadata on the blank page, ahh! I wonder if I’ll get that excited about my new coworkers, my new cube, my new business cards, my new bus pass … yeah, it’s me we’re talking about. I’ll get that excited.

The MSG mentioned something I hadn’t thought about while we were talking about my trip. He said, “How often do you get to go away on vacation and not worry about what’s piling up for you at work?” Great point! I fully intend to embrace the limbo that is the full-stop between Librarying and Webbifying.

In anticipation of this change, I have been having some funky dreams lately. Of course I’ve had the dreams that feature the library in some danger. Those were to be expected. But in another dream, I went to Hawaii to hand-deliver an “I’m sorry” quiche to a friend of mine, but I’m not sure what I was sorry about or how a quiche makes it better. Also, I dreamed about an ex and his current partner having a baby, which was bizarre enough, but some of my cousins were excited enough about it to throw them a baby shower. Um. Okay.

So my subconscious is roiling; that’s good. That means I’m attempting to process stuff. I just wish I had a big Fast-Forward button for the dream part.

And because no current post would be complete without mentioning the weather: I do not understand why I won’t just sweat, why my skin is stuck in this shivery pre-sweat phase. It’s like having goosebumps, only for heat. Sweating would be an improvement right now, and I can’t believe I just typed that.

choo choo

If wanting to take a 24-hour train ride up the coast during my time between jobs is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

The week I’m thinking of is 31 July through 4 August. I don’t know if I can make it all the way to Vancouver, but Seattle seems probable. Do any Seattle residents have recommendations for modest accommodations in the city? I want to do this all on public transportation, so it’s got to be central, and preferably close to the new public library.

Update: dear Seattle residents, can you tell me about the neighborhood the Amtrak station, located at 303 South Jackson Street, is in?  Pointing me to a map with neighborhood information on it would be good.  Telling me which neighborhoods to definitely avoid would be even better.

An IndieWeb Webring 🕸💍

I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.