It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve had a spare moment AND the mental energy to say hello. You know you have been too busy when you walk back into your house about 30 minutes after you normally leave (because you forgot something) and your dog starts acting like you are have brought her a lottery ticket for a lifetime supply of free and unlimited refrigerated dog treats (they’re the best). But I guess everything’s free to her. She doesn’t understand the concept of money. Pfft, dog.
The concept of financial stressors or student loans are so foreign to you. I’m going to start asking her if she wants to go for student loan in the morning when I get her leash out of the drawer. If I ask it in my super excited voice, she will still want to do it.
I guarantee it.
So, what have I been up to these last few months? Well, scant recreation, I will tell you. BUT… BUT! I did manage to sneak in a few trips to Athens to see (author) David Sedaris and (musician extraordinaire) Ingrid Michaelson. I asked David Sedaris a question during the Q&A, and he answered me in front several hundred people. For the life of me I cannot remember what it was right now. But let me tell you — at the time, it was MEANINGFUL AND LIFE-CHANGING. Or maybe that was the pizza…
I went to Avalanche pizza for the first time during one of these Athens excursions.
And you might say, “Pizza? Big whoop. My three-year-old can make pizza. It’s dough, sauce, and cheese. Stick it in the oven for 10 minutes and you are in Italy.”
And to that I would say, “Good day!”, turn on my heel and walk away briskly.
But then I would come back and say you have no idea what you are talking about because Avalanche Pizza is the bomb.com. Bombdotcom. Yes, btw, we had a social experiment last week where we bought my dad a smartphone and gave him an email address. He was spelling out the “dot” in .com when we were trying to tell him what his email was. Yes, really. I know. What do you do?
So anyway, Avalanche Pizza. I got Crouching Kimchi, Hidden Chicken. I will never be satisfied with Giovanni’s again (was I ever?). Thanks for breaking my pizza spirit, Avalanche. I love you so much I hate you.
But anyway —- Ingrid Michaelson! She is the best.
My husband and I saw her in Cincinnati about 5 years (before she was cool, hur hur, street cred). But really. We did. It was like some garage somewhere and there were approximately 100 people there. There weren’t seats. It wasn’t an auditorium. It was like a garage, and not even a very nice one. I think our tickets were $12.
So I basically talked about that concert for years anytime anyone would mention her. That she was amazing and her voice is impeccable and I could have sworn that she had recorded it somewhere, except she was weaving jokes in and out all the while. That’s really the best thing about her — she is very clever and funny.
At the encore, she just crouched behind the drums with her band and put a blanket over themselves because she said there wasn’t any backstage for her to hide (like I said, it was someone’s garage).
And I knew when we went to go see her in Athens a few weeks ago that it was going to be different — she’s bigger, she’s on iTunes being heavily promoted, she’s making a name. She’s had commercial success.
But uh…. no, she’s still hilarious and amazing and her voice sounds like an angel of pop music.
And her music also sounds like winter, so if you don’t know her, get to know her. Listen to her while you decorate cookies and wrap things. Just be happy and full of love.
Merry Xmas, Happy Hanukkah! xoxo
Also, Go Herd!
The day was shaping up to be super shitty, so I decided a trip to the bakery was in order. Baked goods = momentary relief from the abject sadness about my life choices that have put me in this position wherein a day can go this badly.
I’m sure Jessica Biel never has a day like this one. I mean, she hits the gym a lot. You can tell. And that means she probably manages her stress well because exercise regulates that type of thing.
Plus, she has money, but not like Warren Buffet money where your money is your job. Just enough money that if she wants to go to New Zealand and see Hobbiton, well by god, she’s going to have a car full of Hobbits showing her around Bag End this weekend.
That sounds kind of weird.
Anyway, so baked goods.
The bakery sells cupcakes and fudge and what have you, but their crowning achievement is the macaron. The French macaron. I don’t ever see anyone ever buying them besides me. And I only buy them like 3 times a year. Maybe I should start buying them more. Maybe I am the only reason they still make them, and I’m not supporting them financially– or emotionally– in their decision to continue with the macaron production.
They probably call me “The Macaron Girl” because that’s all I ever buy, and I mysteriously float in at random intervals, purchase some fluffy macs, and then float back out. I’m usually wearing a scarf or tights. There is always a chill in the air. I definitely need to remember to pull out my red knitted cap soon, the one that looks almost like a beret. They probably think I’m FROM France. If they had to guess. And that I don’t want to speak to them in French because that would be patronizing, as they certainly don’t speak the language of love. They didn’t train in a chateaux in France (even though I’m sure they think I grew up in one).
So now I feel a little bit better than Jessica Biel because I bet she doesn’t eat macarons. No one calls her “The Macaron Girl” in awed whispers. She’s not from France (or even pretend France), and her body is too nice to eat sweets like that.
So I win this round, Jessica Biel.
Ponderings on Sunday morning.
How are there so many spider webs on my house?
Should I leave them there because it’s October and maybe everyone will just think they are Halloween decorations?
Why does coffee taste better on the weekend?
How is it that I came to live where I do? Did my grandparents’ grandparents’ decide that crossing the Ohio River was too much trouble, so they just stopped? I wonder if I will still live here in 10 years. I wonder what a woman who lived back then had to deal with on a Sunday. I bet she made a lot of biscuits.
What does it feel like to get old? Does everything hurt, or does everything sort of break down, bit by bit?
I wonder what will break down on me first — if I have the good fortune to get old.
Since low-fat was the dieting craze when I was growing up, and now full-fat and low sugar is the craze, I wonder what will happen next? The catch on all of that is that no one generation ever has enough time to listen to the “experts'” recommendations and live that way consistently, so they can always blame their inevitable decline on whatever you were doing before that was wrong before you knew it was wrong.
I wonder if my cats are happy. I wonder if my dog is happy.
I wonder why I bought wedding china. It just sits in my cabinet.
I wonder if I will ever write that book.
How did I luck into the life I have? Even though I think it sucks sometimes — everyone’s life sucks sometimes. If you try to pretend that it doesn’t, you are a liar-liar-pants-on-fire.
I wonder what I will do next. That’s one of the things that scares me the most.
I really need to catch up on Doctor Who.
If I had to choose one thing about Hawaii that I love love loved the most, it would have to be Mauna Kea. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 9,000 ft+ above sea level. Maybe it was the utter quiet. Maybe it was the twilight and watching the mist descend and form clouds around us.
Maybe it was all of those things.
But it was magical.
I wrote about the high-powered observatories in my last post. This is where they live. People come from all over the world to observe the sky from atop Mauna Kea.
This mountain is technically the tallest one in the states, bottom to top (Mount Everest has a higher top elevation, but its base is above 10,000 ft). Mauna Kea’s base is actually far under the ocean. So what I’m saying is it’s steep. I have altitude sensitivity, so I started feeling funny around 6,000 or 7,000 ft. My husband never seems to notice any external stressors like that — he’s the person who can drive home from the optometrist with his eyes dilated, when I’m still fumbling for my water bottle 8 hours later. So when it comes to driving up the side of a mountain, climbing 9-10K feet in an hour or so, let the one who can breathe do it.
On the way up, there are no filling stations, no McDonald’s, and only scattered houses. Mostly there are cows. And sheep. Donkeys. And signs to let you know that the donkeys will be crossing the road at daybreak and twilight. We found those particularly amusing. Probably the lack of oxygen.
But Mauna Kea is such an attraction because of the high elevation, the great views, and then, as the sun sets, the stargazing. It is so dark out there with the lack of ambient light and the sharp jutting of the mountain into and above the clouds that you can see stars unlike anywhere on earth.
These snaps were taken atop an embankment above the visitors’ center. Hiking up it made me a little nervous. Imma really scared of heights and there are no safety rails on this thing. But getting up there was worth it.
So worth it.
It is undoubtedly the number one thing I would recommend doing if you visit the Big Island. I’m not the type of person who likes to go to the same vacation spots over and over again, but I can’t wait to go back and visit the mountain. I loved it so very much.
I added a new state to my list! I don’t want to oversell it or anything, but Hawaii was basically the best week of my life.
We just returned from a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is not where Honolulu is. (I didn’t know this when we started researching the trip because I thought the Big City = Big Island.) Everyone we talked to seemed to have went to the Big Island, and they told me how much they loved Waikiki. But actually if they were in Waikiki or Honolulu, they went to Oahu. All of this not really well laid out in the Hawaii tourism brochure (they still make those, right? paper brochures? sure, they do).
See? We were on the Big one. The one that’s actually called Hawaii, strangely enough. It’s very rural. You need a car to get around. We stayed in a cottage in Captain Cook, which is on the Western side of the island. And while it’s a Big Island, you can still drive around the whole thing in a day. And we did this. We went from swimming on a beach that faced a mountain to driving through a rainforest to an amazing waterfall. And then through the lava desert.
One of my favorite parts of the trip? Learning there are NO SNAKES in Hawaii. Ahhh! I was hiking everywhere after I heard that. Fearless! (Except for falling into treacherously deep holes, which is a serious possibility).
But what made it so spectacular?
Well, it’s more than one blog post’s worth, that’s for sure.
But let’s start small: live volcanoes, mountaintops where you are standing above the clouds looking down on them, swimming with sea turtles… THE FOOD! It was all so relaxing. I found being 6 hours behind the East Coast actually kind of therapeutic. You aren’t trying to stay up on what’s happening because you aren’t awake at the same time that those crazy East Coasters are.
Everything seemed to melt away there.
Not least of all because everything closes at 9 p.m. I wasn’t prepared for that.
And the darkness.
They have some of the world’s most powerful observatories on the Big Island. You’ve never seen a dark as dark as it gets on the Big Island. Never. You haven’t. Simply. Say you’ve been in the backwoods of the continental US of A where it’s pitch black? No, that’s just cloud cover. You have some ambient light somewhere within a few hundred miles.
But on the Big Island? Nothing.
Which makes the mornings a little sweeter:
Lanai is Hawaiian for porch. It doesn’t make me sound pretentious to call it that. That’s just what it’s called!
And these are the type of standard breakfasts in Hawaii:
The papaya special is half a papaya, lilikoi yogurt, and coconut. And eggs (my favorite!) and coconut BREAD. Plus, Kona coffee.
KONA coffee — yes, I said it. If you’ve never had it, you don’t even know. I had it at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World years ago, and it stuck with me that long. That’s how good it was. And then my best friend from professional school was actually from Hawaii, so she brought me some Kona one year for Christmas. So good. It’s everything you want in a coffee. It’s deep without being dry, and it’s strong enough to wake you the hell up. They grow the coffee beans under that lanai in that picture up there. That’s pretty local, my friends.
And from breakfast, we went to the end of the world:
But that’s for another post! Still suffering from jetlag and have to answer the Sandman when he calls, which is right now.
Goodnight, and mahalo for reading!
This week has been a whirlwind from start to finish. Unexpected things cropped up, some fun trips that had been planned for months were had, and I celebrated my anniversary with my husband. (A piece of I-can’t-believe-this-is-real-life news to share: we are going on our 5-year wedding anniversary trip next week to HAWAII! Elated doesn’t begin to cover it. We are staying on the Big Island and doing the Airbnb thing for the first time. I will be sure to let you guys know how it goes.)
Needless to say, this week had some bright spots. One of the best parts of this week was trekking up to Cleveland on Thursday for a Tori Amos concert. I don’t talk about music much on the blog, but I have lots — LOTS — of thoughts on music and strong views about it. I’m not nearly as oppressive with my views as I used to be (I wasn’t above making “mix tapes” for anyone who would listen), but I still can get lost in a great album for hours, days, or months on end while I try to tear it apart and devour every layer of it.
So the SO and I piled into the car around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and hauled ass to Cleveland. And I do mean with the quickness. The tickets said 7:30 and it was a 4-5 hour drive, according to the GPS from where we were at the time.
We arrived just as the opening act was finishing up. I don’t know how they were. I actually have no idea.
But Tori Amos, if you haven’t had the pleasure of knowing her music yet, is a woman who become popular in the 90’s as a Girl with a Piano. (She plays two of them at once with ease — pretty entertaining to watch.)
She’s written about everything from rape to fantastical creatures to sex from the female perspective. She frequently phrases her songs as speaking to the “girls,” the young people in the audience who need someone to tell them to stand up for themselves and know when to walk away when things aren’t working out.
Did I mention she can play two pianos at once? And doesn’t usually play with a band? (I think I’ve seen her once live with a band — that’s it.) You don’t miss it. The experience is otherworldly, and Thursday at Cain Park, she was on fire. [The quality of these pictures is lacking, I know. Blame the iPhone, as I usually take my pics on a Nokia.]
I’ve never been to this venue previously. It was an amphitheater in the middle of a very well-kept park. There were lots of families playing tennis, kids in a skate park, and other kids out walking. The amphitheater just kind of blended into the scenery. Although I didn’t get a shot of it, what I loved about the venue most was while you sat in the audience, you could still see all the greenery around you and glimpses of cars through the trees.
And the security was pretty relaxed and friendly as well. They didn’t mind us taking pictures (just don’t flash brightly), and they didn’t care if we stayed in our seats or hung out in the aisles.
Near the end of the concert before the encore, Tori played Cornflake Girl, which is the song everyone knows her for, even if you don’t know any of her songs. Lots of people left their seats and went in for a closer look at the stage, including us. No one seemed to mind that we were hogging in on their space and we had a much closer view. It was a very communal atmosphere. We all love Tori. And Tori loves us:
She professed her love for Ohio, as she has through her music, saying that if you can get the boys and girls in Ohio to care about what you are doing, then you are doing something right. There’s something very true about that.
One of the other highlights of the show was her cover of Nine Inch Nails:
When she started to play “Something I Can Never Have,” a Nine Inch Nails song from the Pretty Hate Machine album, I believe the girl next to me went into near-hysterics. Tori famously is/was friends with Trent Reznor at one point, just as she is famously friends with Neil Gaiman. (Her story with Neil is a bit more entwined, as she is often cited [incorrectly, but accurately in spirit] as the inspiration for the Delerium character in the graphic novel Sandman series, and they still appear in each other’s works from time to time.)
All in all, this concert was an excellent reason for being severely sleep deprived the next day.
And if you’ve never listened to Tori, but want to know what she’s all about, pull up your Spotify and add these songs to a new playlist:
Tear in Your Hand
Caught a Lite Sneeze
That should give you some idea about her if you don’t want to just start in chronological order and work your way through the entire catalog. (I know that’s a lot to digest, but if you dig it, you would really thank me in a few years.)
So these next few weeks will be more flashes before my eyes, as we have just a few short days before we leave for Hawaii. And then, I’m sure I will blink and be home, and then football will be starting . . .
Until next time, these are this week’s questions:
What is the best concert you’ve ever seen? Or what is one album you can listen to over and over and it never gets old?