28 September 2010

getting back into the redwood groove (santa cruz)

i love waking up in the mornings and slipping outside
into dappled sunlight.

i go around barefoot all day and wash my feet,
sometimes, before bed.

i i ride my bike everywhere,
dig the water,

and my classes aren't bad, either.

13 September 2010

back to basics

what could be more cliché than a police car & lights flashing red white and blue on a friday night? a prius’ highbeams against the wet, reflective fog, or a deer leaping across the road with no regard for the double yellow? at one hundred and twenty-five feet above sea level, the fog line breaks.  
if the eskimos have so many words for snow and the hindus have so many words for white, why don’t we californians have more words for fog? at nepenthe, six hundred tourists act out one dialogue on a break from coasting their way down the california one. the iconic big sur establishment’s gift shop alone is worth a visit, and, for a champagne vista, you can’t beat the restaurant’s back deck.
my fingertips are sensitive. my jaw is out of whack from having two lower teeth pulled. The holes where the teeth used to be are gaping and hungry and keep filling up with things that aren’t supposed to stay put in your mouth, like peanut butter and hamburger. i was almost a vegetarian for a while. i am blowing my nose. the worst part of having my wisdom teeth taken out was being numbed up without being put under. they gave me eight separate shots so i wouldn’t feel a thing as i watched  the removal process in the mirror of my dentist’s glasses. even though they weren’t fully formed, those molars were big teeth. we are late bloomers in my family.

after having my teeth pulled i was numb for four hours. they wanted to make sure it didn’t hurt and they did a good job. my face didn’t swell at all. i couldn’t tell. i kept bumping into my lower lip with my incisors. dr. latta warned me to be careful of my tongue, that some people, while they are numb, nibble the tip. for once i could feel with the pads of my fingers how soft my lip – and how rough my chin – is, since they weren’t competing with my facial nerves.

the faun with glazed eyes lying paralyzed in the emergency lane just about killed me. it is  to sheer backbone, a crimson blemish attended to by a single dogged vulture: reason enough to slow up to the speed limit. driving in this weather, my thoughts obfuscate my vision. preoccupied by the speedometer, i miss the speed limit signs i know by heart.

i am living straddling two places. my parents' house is great but it is time to transition with the season to my nest in the north. santa cruz is a beautiful town. i mean, "beauty is pleasure objectified," and santa cruz is a town obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure. pleasure point is a lovely wave. i am happy to be going back. i will not drive there and that will be fine. i will be bombing hills on my bicycle.

09 September 2010

city of angels

at the end of the long weekend i got on a train bound south to los angeles. when i arrived at union station in the hazy late-summer dusk my dear friend annamarie got me and gave me a great big hug.

los angeles is a silly city strung together by freeways and full of vaguely retro apartment complexes and all the palm trees you can imagine.

i've never liked it much despite its plethora of cultural offerings. it's a city spread thin and broad where you take a four-lane freeway to get from downtown to hollywood.

yet this time i thoroughly enjoyed myself. we enjoyed delicious vegan treats

from real food daily in west hollywood and the vintage stores

on melrose and cocktails at palihouse

(because we are, after all, ladies)

and an outrageous drag show on santa monica boulevard. it was the perfect respite from my tranquil hilltop and we went all-out.

los angeles seems silly to me not because it is a city based on image - what city isn't? - but because its residents are so overtly focused on image.

it's a make-or-break thing, all the more so when the traffic is thick and you're running late, latte in one hand and lipstick in the other in your leather-upholstered car.


but damn, even though you have to drive everywhere - and i hate that - it's a fun time. neon lights sparkle and speakeasies hide between mattress stores and sleazy establishments screaming GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, next to barber shops and vintage clothing stores and photography galleries. it's an intoxicating chaos.

06 September 2010


i never did see a crocodile in costa rica despite all the warnings about river mouths and muddy water. there was some muddy water, yes (and maybe that was part of the reason why i spent about ten days of the trip sick to my stomach), but there seemed to be little danger in it. no threatening jellies or stingrays. i was surprised. in fact i hardly even saw spiders or anything scary in that vein - instead, i found geckos and iguanas, which were lovely.

 i was fascinated by the flowers.

in jaco i thought i had a transcendental surf. i came out of the water stoked after some long rides and the most joyful bottom turn of my life (on a head-high face with the bright midmorning sun shining strong on my summer skin) with a little fin ding on my back and the fear of a re-broken collarbone after taking some set waves on the head. after a granola bar i was okay though - no fractures. no sharks either. deep breaths. whew.


jaco was touristy but also very much a real town with people going to work and school and such the like. we only stopped there for surfing and breakfast, though, before continuing south to dominical, which turned out not to be much of a town at all. i liked breakfast with cafe con leche and ordering in spanish and the streetside view of monday morning happenings (not a whole lot).

i found a really nice lacy leaf when i was sick and wandering around in domincal.

i relished being able to surf without a wetsuit: i loved being able to feel the saltwater and sun directly on my thirsty skin. the water didn't feel that warm when you first stepped into it, but once you got all wet it was the same temperature as the air and it's all good, so good.

this volcano - arenal - was just puffing away.

all the palm trees certainly paint a picture of paradise.

04 September 2010

el mercado

perhaps my favorite word in spanish - until my vocabulary expands - is cotidiana, which means everyday. i like the sound of it but also my favorite facets of traveling are the everyday things. when i travel i like to get to know a place through grocery stores, hardware stores, train stations, and the people that fill these spaces.

one of my favorite things in san jose was the mercado central. it blew my mind that this is where people come to do their shopping of all sorts. the place is enclosed and takes up at least a square block. from the inside you can go into the shops on the outside and from there get back out onto the street. on the edges they sell lots of housewares, coffee, and tourist stuff; in the middle is more food. you can buy anything in the central market, from a pet bird to a teapot to a saddle to chicken feet.  to me this demonstrates a very personal type of shopping, where the acquisition of everyday necessities is not just a transaction but an interaction. when you go to the market where there is a different stall for each sort of item - from leather goods to fabrics - with a different vendor at each counter, where you have to ask the price of anything you're interested in, you have a more personal and, thus, i think, meaningful experience than simply picking something up off the shelf and handing it to a cashier barcode-up. (this at least partially explains why i love swapmeets and yard sales so much.)

by adding the dimension of a language barrier - albeit a fluid one - the everyday "market" experience becomes, to the tourist, much more than the sum of its parts. shopping, even just window shopping, takes the form of an organic lesson in cultural understanding.

i had the best fish soup in el mercado central.

the first time i went to the central market i didn't have my camera because i was tired and didn't feel like carrying it. so i just ate my fish soup and drank my guanabana juice and tried to absorb everything that i couldn't with my mouth with my eyes.

it didn't work. i had to go back with my camera the next day. luckily the market seems to be teeming with life no matter the time of day and even at nine on a saturday morning there were plenty of people milling about and running errands - the sodas were just a little less crowded than they had been the previous day at lunchtime. it wasn't too early in the day, though, for the butchers, spice-sellers, and fishmongers to be doing lots of business.

i love the handpainted signage.

the bowels of the market are labyrinthine. i kept going around in circles... or squares... or octagons...

there's a remedy for everything.

it was eye-opening to see so much food in one place. it really made me wonder where it was all going, and where it all comes from. there was produce in abundance, yet i hardly saw produce in restaurants. so where does it all go? to people's homes? to be boiled down with beef so that it becomes unrecognizable? and how does one go about eating a jocote? i may have to return to find out.

03 September 2010

food & drink

one of the things i was most excited about in costa rica was the fruit. i looked forward to trying all sorts of new treats and had, for the first time, good papaya. papaya, it turns out, can be delicious, but like bananas, i get tired of it quickly. it's just so sticky-sweet.

just about every restaurant i went to offered a fruit plate for breakfast. here with cafe con leche, yum.

in costa rica, anywhere you go there are these roadside restaurants serving "typical food" called sodas.

 they are fast food restaurants but serve rice, beans (and the national dish, gallo pinto), and fresh meat and seafood dishes, including my favorite, ceviche.

i love ceviche; i had the best ceviche i've ever had on the road somewhere between quepos and domincal. we ate it with spicy pickled carrots and peppers. unfortunately that was also the day we all got sick.

imperial - a bland pilsner - is the most common beer for the 'pura vida' life. i'm not really into beer though, and i had my first-ever pina colada in santa teresa, which i totally dug.

 also the fruit refrescos - i'm not really sure what all fruits i had, but i know some were blackberry, tamarind (which tastes like apple juice), cas (guava-like), and, my favorite, guanabana, milky sweet and vaguely tangy.

i was rather disappointed by the coffee in costa rica. sure, there was lots of it, but it never seemed to have much flavor, its strong point, rather, being the acidity, which makes your mouth water so you want more. i wasn't really into that - if i drink coffee at all, i like it to be heavy and strong.

01 September 2010

the rain

despite the bounty of flora, fauna, and generally intriguing things to look at in costa rica, i have to admit that, to me, the defining feature of the place was - and, until i visit in the dry season, will continue to be - the rain. never anywhere else in my life have i seen such big raindrops. the biggest raindrops exploded like bombs, rain grenades. one fell in my shoe and squish! soaked the bottom of my right foot, while, as the drops were so scattered you could more or less dodge them, the rest of me remained dry.

driving the panamerican highway (!) before the storm

 other days, like when we were horseback riding "in the jungle", i just got soaked more or less instantly. the rain began to fall and once it began it was the heaviest and most all-encompassing thing there was. everything else, except for the motion and heat of the horse between my legs, became null in the sopping void. from the moment the skies let go, there was no escaping getting soaked, and the only thing to do was to hang on for dear life in my wet jeans.

other times, though, the precipitation was not quite so violent. there were all these late afternoons that faded into evenings of soft drizzle. because it was warm outside you never really did get cold. i don't mind rain like that, especially when you go to sleep and wake up and it is brilliantly clear again.

the lightning that so often accompanied the rain, however, was really feisty. one time - on the road on a flooded peninsula (scariest day of my life?) - it struck so close that i saw the lightning bolt and heard the thunder simultaneously, blinded in the backseat of the rented four by four.