Tag Archives: tourism

Come Meet My San Francisco. It’s Not Shiny, but It’s Good.

imageI moved to San Francisco just over two years ago and I know it’s normal but I still kind of hate it when I’m catching up with people and they ask me, “Do you love San Francisco?”

I think about how terrible it is when the MUNI doesn’t come, or the awkwardness of the homeless population that I still have no idea how to deal with, all the tech douches with their cookie cutter jeans, and then all the regular douches. I think of the rent I pay every month, the fact I still don’t know many of my neighbors and feel like the community I have is spread out like a spider’s web with me caught in the middle. I think of the inequality I see and the fact that so many people I love are far away from me forever. I think of how sad and dirty the streets look sometimes in the fog, and I think of the forever cold nights and the long lost dream of drinking an evening beer al fresco without shivering.

Then, I think about other stuff. I think of my first improv performance and the first time I was on stage in this city. I think about sitting in Golden Gate park with my friends and talking about men and how we clueless we were. I think of my plant Deb, dinners with friends, endless breakfasts and cups of coffee. I think of hills upon hills, views upon views, impossibly beautiful cityscapes in an impossibly beautiful landscape, non-stop creativity and casual conversations with strangers. I think of the Pacific Ocean and running into people I know on the street. I think of karoake and dancing and looking at Golden Gate Bridge from Land’s End and I think of all the wonderful people I’m lucky to have met here.

That’s the thing. I don’t know what San Francisco you’re talking about when you ask me about it. I know you know about the postcards, the painted ladies, the bridge, the trolleys and the Fisherman’s Wharf. You know about avocados and sourdough bread and gay people, but that’s not my San Francisco.

My San Francisco is doing Zumba on a soccer field near the Balboa park community center/pool. It’s walking home against a wind that’s colder than all hell from an old Episcopalian church in the Haight. It’s doing improv in the police station in the Mission because they have a community room there that anyone can use. It’s eating a mediocre but oh so satisfying $4.50 gigantic slices of meaty pizza for lunch from Portico with an old co-worker. It’s walking five blocks to the UCSF medical school and looking out at the bridge at night on a balcony without any benches. It’s drinking beer at The Little Shamrock, a local bar with more tiffany lamps than people. My San Francisco is not shiny beautiful all the time, but it’s good, and it certainly is one that I can get down with, maybe even love.

But let’s not get too crazy.

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If Acting Doesn’t Work Out, At Least There’s Always Panning for Gold in Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega, GA

All the time in the world + a car + nothing else to do = a trip to a town that has fallen off the face of history. You know the kinds of towns I’m talking about, the ones that have preserved their old town squares and turned them into tourist traps full of ice cream parlors and fudge shoppes and handmade candle stores. Once the living, beating heart of a real city, the downtown is now the equivalent of a decorative chamber pot at grandma’s house.

Dahlonega, GA is one of those towns. You can find it by driving northeast from Atlanta until you strike gold, literally. According to Wikipedia, this was the site of the nation’s first gold rush in 1828. Even the famous saying “There’s gold in them thar hills” came from here, though apparently it was misquoted from some dude who actually said “There’s millions in it…” which makes him sound less like a two-toothed idiot and more like the civil servant he actually was.

At any rate, there’s still gold in them thar hills and considering I’m fresh out of a job, I thought I’d try to win it all back by doing a little panning myself at the Crisson Gold Mine. Crisson is an Appalachian (read: unsexy) version of Las Vegas for grade schoolers and retirees, which were the only other people there. For only $10, you get the chance to strike it rich. What a deal!

After about 10 minutes of gold panning, my back hurt and I wanted to stop but I didn’t. I’d caught mild gold fever and the chance of winning big kept me dunking my pan into the water and sifting away. 10 minutes after that, I was done with that crap and had painstakingly gathered enough gold flakes to do absolutely nothing. The flakes were probably worth no more than ten cents but at least the experience had made me sweat. I hadn’t struck it rich this time, but that’s the risk you take when you roll the dice in Appalachian Las Vegas.

We stopped in downtown to get some bad fried seafood from a charming beach-themed restaurant. Two retiree couples (the only other people there) gave me the stink eye for wearing skinny jeans that showed part of my ankle, but I stunk it right back to them with my able body and sharp eyesight. 20/20, gramps!

On the way back to Marietta, GA, we saw a hawk and a gigantic inflatable eagle advertising a car dealership with the slogan “Red, white and you!” Georgia FTW.

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Guess Who Has 2 Thumbs, a High Platelet Count, and Doesn’t Get Carsick from Reading Anymore

Bachelorette Party was held in surprise location. Sister was thrown under a blanket.

Well, I’m home (points for those who recognized this as a LOTR reference. Negative points for those who don’t know what LOTR stands for–please get a life) and there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that I can now read in the car without vomiting and the bad news is that no one noticed my haircut. I literally had to point it out to everyone before they would even compliment me. On the bright side, because of my reading-in-the-car-abilities, I laughed my way through Bossypants (by Tina Fey) and didn’t think about ralphing even once.

I just arrived back in OKC from five days with people who elongate their o’s just slightly, are too polite to comment on the fact I wore the same dress two days in a row, and say things like, “I just love her!” to my sisters seconds after meeting me. Some of them said slightly culturally inappropriate things like, “Oh! Your cowgirl boots and dress are so cute! It’s so different from the way we dress up here!” or “It was just so nice to meet you people!” And then I wondered if maybe in Chicagoland the phrases “you people” and “different” have positive connotations, because in Boston I learned that those terms tend to define what we call “the other.”

At any rate, the attendees at both the bachelorette party and bridal shower were sweet, down-to-earth Midwesterners who bequeathed my sister with a mountain of gifts that any thief would be lucky to steal. Though many of the women at her bridal shower were complete strangers to my sister, they were all extremely kind and watched with great attention and wonderful oooo’s as the bride-to-be tore an entire forest of wrapping paper off of her presents, revealing all kinds of variations on kitchenware, home decorations, and headlamps.

The bachelorette party was particularly fun, if tame by societal standards. One of the raunchiest highlights was when we played “pin the kiss on the hunk” and someone (gasp!) didn’t aim for the mouth. Can you even do that? The bridal shower was equally tame, though well catered, and held in a home that prioritized the use of the words “faith, love, and hope” in its decoration. There was, however, a question about how many kids the husband wanted to have that caused some minor blushing. Apparently he wants a baker’s dozen, but it’s okay because babies are brought to the chimney by a monster that lives in neighborhood ponds.

Through this experience, I learned that there some things associated with my co-maid of honor position that I am not good at. One of them is wearing above-the-knee-dresses. Another is decorating anything. However, with a crockpot and a recipe in my hands, I become Martha Stewart herself, minus the prison sentence. The same goes with a telephone and a list of strangers to call. These are my fortes, in addition to having a high platelet count, and I look forward to implementing them in the coming 3.5 weeks of wedding preparation.

Coming up this week: a review of my year in Cairo, my one-year blog anniversary, and a job-finding celebration (hopefully.)

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Four-Cheeked Baboons and Dinosaur Birds: the Animals of the Simien Mountains

Look but not too closely at the four cheeked butt.

As promised I’m now going to talk about the animals that we witnessed in the heights of the Simien Mountains. This will conclude the whole me-talking-about-my-journey-to-Ethiopia thing for now because to be quite frank, the details are starting to get a little hazy and when that happens I just start making stuff up.

I’m typing this blog post on my grandma’s computer, who asked not to be mentioned in the blog, so I’m going to respect that and not talk about her or our discussion at the dinner table about the European meaning of shag.

Anyways, the animals of the Simien Mountains.

Eye contact makes everyone nervous.

High in the mystical mountains of Ethiopia lives the Gelada baboon, which spends its day sitting on its four butt cheeks and using its bizarrely dainty little hands to pull up grass and chomp on it before using those same dainty hands to scratch itself and groom its friends, lovers, and cousins.

According to Wikipedia and me, these baboons are awesome because a. they are only found in the “high grassland of the deep gorges of the central Ethiopian plateau”  b. they are the only primates that are primarily graminivores and grazers, and c. they sleep on the edges of cliffs.

I would also add that they have beady bronze eyes that lurk out from under a permanently furrowed brow so they always look pissed. One morning we were about to leave the campsite and a band of baboons came strolling along, like it was no big deal. We were freaking out and taking tons of pictures while our scout was probably thinking, “They’re just baboons….” It’s like when people take pictures of the squirrels in the states. Quick question: what if humans had four butt cheeks. On second thought, forget it.

Gander at those butt scratching horns.

Another awesome animal: the Ibex. First you’re probably thinking, these aren’t that cool. I have deer in my backyard too. Think again and take a look at the horns on that mother narker.

We stumbled upon an entire herd of these beauties near our campsite and were captivated by their grazing. This dude with the horns was clearly the king of the pack. As we came over a hill we saw him there, a magnificent creature, and as we looked upon him, he majestically tilted his head back and scratched his butthole every so gently with the tip of one his wondrous horns. It was breathtaking. We were sure that every Ibex in the bunch was jealous of his butt-scratching skills.

A raven, an oracle, or a god. Who can tell?

Finally, the thick-billed raven. Personally, I didn’t find this animal terribly interesting except for the fact that it could fly (what!) and that it had one of the most dinosaur-like calls that I’d ever heard.  I first heard it when one was taking off from a rock, and it sounded like a very heavy, very throaty door groaning open. It was probably the call that my grandpa would make if he were a bird, complaining about wanting to watch a different sports game.

On our last day, we woke up surrounded by an entire group of these ravens and boyfriend was really happy to finally be able to use the phrase “an unkindness of ravens.” We rejoiced in the fulfillment of linguistic possibilities and then left the mountains, maybe forever.

Coming up this week: bachelorette party, bridal shower, and food tour madness in Chicagoland.

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The Story of One Scout, His Rifle, and Four American Lungs

The man himself

En route to the national park on Friday, we picked up our scout whose name I unfortunately could never remember and who spoke perfect Amharic but not a single word of English. About three minutes after he hopped in the captain’s seat, we stopped on the side of the dirt road and he suddenly dashed across the street and around the corner. As he reappeared and ran back to the car, I noticed he had picked up a new friend: his trusty rifle. It was go time.

Based on personal observation, I think he was a mild mannered man accustomed to spending large amounts of time in complete silence and solitude especially in the presence of other people. On our last day, he was sitting on a park bench as we waved goodbye to him and went off to explore the area around the campground.

One such mountain sprinting youngster. It gets cold up there.

When we came back hours later, the sun had gone down and he in the exact same position, scouting away. It’s possible he may have moved but I prefer to imagine that he was sitting sentinel-like over the grounds for the entire time.

Our scout and his rifle were our constant companions. He was our living trail marker and a continual reminder that we

were not built for those mountains. He never tired, never lost his breath, never rushed, and never stumbled. Regardless of how fast I felt I was going, he was always at least a few paces ahead and never noticeably changed his speed.

In contrast to his easy movements up and down the slopes, I always felt like I was trying to keep up with him, panting ridiculously on every uphill, and collecting bruises on my right knee from falling down. Children who lived in the mountains would sprint to greet us as we trudged uphill and I wondered if they would resist if I tried to switch our lungs.

You’ll be seeing this picture in the next North Face catalog

Part of the stumbling business might have something to do with the fact that I decided use Chacos as my trekking shoe, because I had gone on a 3 hour hike in them once. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that their incredible arch support does not make up for the complete lack of ankle support. They are sandals and should not be used for trekking. To make matters even better, after about two hours of hiking on the first day, I began to get blisters on my feet and donned thick wool socks for the rest of the journey, because functionality beats fashion every time.

My main concern before leaving on the trek had been to purchase Snickers.  Sun protection, for some reason, was not on my radar. In fact, I remember making the conscious decision not to pack sunscreen, bringing my SPF 15 face lotion instead. It was like fighting a wildfire with glow-in-the-dark water balloons and at the end of the first day we were crispy. Though we were more cautious over the next few days, the sun’s roasting was still impressive.

Note my position…note how you can barely see the scout.

My mother’s worst fear of bridesmaids with unsightly tan lines is coming true. I would implore her, however, to consider the fact that my farmer’s tan just might work within the context of my sister’s “rustic” themed wedding.

No time to talk about the animals today but I promise they’re coming up soon and very soon. Don’t get your chacos in a tizzy.

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