Jun 9 2014

Joys, travels, poetry, and other doings

A lot has been going on over the past couple of weeks since I last posted, so I’m going to sum things up in list format (in order of importance, rather than chronology) to make things easier on myself. I still have to do my book and movie round up for May, but that’ll come tomorrow probably.

– The biggest announcement by far is the birth of my nephew. The Monster (my niece) is being adorable around him, very gentle and loving so far. I can’t even express what a joy it is to welcome this tiny little person into the family.

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– I also turned 34 years old in the past two weeks (on May 26 to be exact), and a Happy New Year to me. A gentleman recently told my friend that she should count her birthday as the true new year, since it announces another new year of her life. I love that, and it seems like a perfect time to reassess life, the universe, and everything. With all that’s been happening, I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I’m planning to think about taking a serious look at my goals this week. It so happened that my birthday was marked by…

– getting rather sick. Oh the joys of coughs and runny noses, just as I’m launching into…

– a two week work trip, involving two conferences and an industrial plant visit. Travels took me to Detroit, West Michigan, and Montreal. There was a lot of work and a lot of trying to rest in order to recover from being sick, so I didn’t do much touring, except for two beautiful days in Montreal. I let my feet carry me around the city to here and there, exploring Old Town and other areas of the city center. It was beautiful out and I’d like to have more time to explore Montreal properly in the future.

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Montreal with the Parc du Mont-Royal in the background.

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Inside the Basilica of Notre Dame in Montreal.

– Being in Montreal, I had to go see Cirque du Soleil. It was a bigger expense than I had planned, but Kurios is a steampunk inspired show, so I couldn’t resist. They did a marvelous job with the aesthetic and it fit really well into the acrobat sequences. The first half, in particular, was astounding in beauty and stunts. The second half had a few weird bits that I didn’t get, but it didn’t lessen my overall enjoyment. Kurios is my favorite of all the Soleil shows I’ve seen.

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Inside the Cirque du Soleil: Kurios tent. The show had an awesome steampunk aesthetic.

– I came home to two poetry pretties in my mailbox — the lovely TEN chapbook by Val Dering Rojas (which I received from the author) and Live From The Homesick Jamboree by Adrian Blevins (which I received as part of a poetry giveaway). I’m looking forward to reading both!!

 – Two contributor’s copies of the Strange Frenzies anthology also arrives. The anthology includes my poem, “Comfort At Last.” A wonderful surprise.


Mar 19 2014

Get Gone and Carry Less Crap

gone going

Photo: “gone going” by Jose Manuel Escarcega (Creative Commons)

In my fourth year of university, I journeyed into Mexico for a ten-week language study course. Not only was this my first trip out of the U.S., but it was also my first trip without any family (I can’t say alone, since I was traveling with a troupe of 24 fellow students).

Ten weeks – it seemed like forever to me. So, of course, I thought I would need a giant bag to haul the clothing and supplies needed for that great length of time. So, my parents bought me a suitcase 2.5 feet wide by 3.5 feet tall and about 1 foot thick. It was giant. It was monstrous. I didn’t even manage to fill the fu–, er, sucker; it was that big. Arriving at the airport and seeing my fellow classmates’ baggage, began to hint at the possibility of my mistake.

One classmate brought nothing more than a small, brown, standard-sized knapsack. That was it. For ten weeks. (I am still impressed with that feat.)

When you have to drag your over-sized bag down several blogs of cobble stones or haul that fu–, er, sucker up a flight or two of stairs, you learn real quick just how much it sucks to pack heavy.

Like Scarlet O’Hara, I pulled myself up and made a solemn oath — I would never over pack again.

Less is Less (and that’s a good thing)

I’ve done a lot of traveling since that first big trip to Mexico, for play, for work, and sometimes both at the same time.

These days, I can pack like a lightweight queen and can fit a week’s worth of professional work clothes and office supplies for conferences, along with a week’s worth of play clothes and accessories into a single bag (the play clothes and work clothes are not always compatible).

Here’s a few things I do to make it work: Continue reading


Nov 6 2013

Writing Retreat Announced: Poets on the Coast 2014

The fabulous Susan Rich, whose books of poetry I’ve read and loved, has announced Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women, which she is hosting alongside Kelli Russell Agodon. This weekend retreat will be from September 5-6, 2014 in La Conner, Washington.

“This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga.”

I learned about this retreat last year and loved the idea of going. I spent several weeks trying to plot out the time and money it would take for me to go, but the finances just didn’t work for me.

I’m considering it again for 2014, but I know I have at least two trips planned next year, which will eat up much of my traveling funds. I’m still hoping to make it work, but we’ll see.

I think it’s a fabulous retreat, though, and I hope some of my fellow female poets get the opportunity to go — even if I can’t join them this year.


Oct 24 2013

Florence!

Firenze!!! (This is coming a bit late, as it's been days since I've had Internet access.) #florence #italy #travel

Part One with my travel in Venice is here.

I did not fall in love with Florence. I can’t fully explain why, but it was kind of dirty and crowded (also unexpectedly high levels of tourists for the season), which contributed to the feeling, I suppose. I also feel that Italy in general is a place to travel with someone, someone to linger over leisurely meals and share a bottle of wine. Ultimately, I guess I just didn’t resonate on some fundamental level or I wasn’t in the right headset (I actually think I love Mexico City far more, based on my experience of both cities this year).

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are ridiculous amounts of stunning art and architecture throughout the city, so much in fact that its’ actually really overwhelming. I remember walking around a street corner and all of a sudden seeing El Duomo (the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) and just being momentarily stunned, because it stands out so clearly from any other building in the entire city with green, white, and pink marble. It really is gorgeous, and an amazing feat of architecture. Construction was started in the 1200s, the dome with first of its kind engineering techniques was completed during the Renaissance in the 1400s, and work was ongoing until the facade was finally completed in the 1800s. El Duomo is definitely worth braving the crowds to see, and you can climb to the top of both the bell tower (which I did) and the dome.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flore, aka El Duomo. (I climbed that tower. There were lots of stairs.) #florence #italy #travel

El Duomo from the bell tower. #florence #italy #travel

View from the Duomo bell tower. #florence #italy #travel

There were some really fantastic moments — I loved seeing Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and “Spring” paintings, as well as other masters, at the Uffizzi Gallery (also ridiculously crowded), seeing Michelangelo’s David, and exploring the archeological museum and both of the Medici family palaces.

Plus, I bought myself a gorgeous black Italian leather jacket. I wasn’t going to, at first. I knew I wanted one, but was put off by the cost as I’ve been trying to save money. But I was walking through a market in Florence with stall after stall of gorgeous leather jackets and bags, I made eye contact with the little old Italian lady, who ushered me around the corner to their small family shop.

The man in side had me try on the jacket, adjusting the sleeves and collar so that I can see how it fits perfectly — and oh, how it fit perfectly. “Fire proof and water proof,” he said, taking a lighter to the cuff to prove it, while my arm was in the sleeve (according to my brother-in-law, this proves it’s genuine leather since fake leather is made with polyester and will go up in flames).

“And the man who made it is right here,” the shop owner said, pointing to a man on a small couch in the corner, who gave me a little smile and a wave.

After the shop owner said he would give me a good deal, dropping the price from 440 Euros to 250 Euros, well, I couldn’t refuse. It was just too perfect. I handed over the money and haven’t once regretted it.

As I was leaving and walking back through the market, the little old Italian lady again. She saw me in the jacket and her face lit up in delight. She came running over, shouting “Bella!” and kissed me on the cheek. Just a perfect little story to go with my perfect jacket. (^_^)

So, yeah, the trip to Venice and Florence was really great (and the work conference wen well too). But I’m so glad to be home and be able to relax and try to put my life back in order after my trip. :)


Oct 21 2013

Venice!

I've arrived! #Venice #Italy #travel

I loved Venice. It’s a small city, which is actually made up of something like 120 islands connected by over 400 bridges. The only way to make your way through the city is by foot or by boat (the bridges make even bikes impractical).  I’ve never seen anything else like it in any of my travels.

There were an unusual number of tourists while I was there (according to the locals), and this was mainly due to some new cruise ships that had come it. (The cruise ship, huge monstrosities, are so jarring to see sailing through the main canal, their bulk erasing the cityscape behind them.) But the tourists all stick to the main tourist areas, and it’s not hard to get away from them, as only a street or two will lead away from the swarms to quiet cobblestone avenues.

#venice #italy #travel

#venice #italy #travel

In fact, one of my favorite things about the city was getting blissfully lost. The city is like a giant maze with no streets crossing the city in a straight line. To cross from one side of the city to the other I would just pick streets at random and see where it lead me, letting them twist me this way and that, until I began to circle back or they dead ended at a teal-green canal. I might sit at the steps leading down to the water and watch a nearby boat, tied up to a 12 inch wide “dock” bob gently. And then I’d move on to another corner, tunnel, nook to discover.

It was in this way that I discovered the Ca’ Pesaro modern art museum, which had a lot of fantastic pieces (some by Gustav Klimt, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol) and a great Asian art collection.

I also waded through the crowds to check out the main sights, including St. Mark’s Square (including the Basilica and a tour of the government building, the Bridge of Sighs (not romantic, as it was really named for the sighs of prisoners being secretly transported to the prison), Rialto Bridge and other well known areas.

View from my hotel window in #Venice. #italy #travel

Venice at sunset. #venice #italy #travel

I’ve heard that men in Italy will sometimes follow women down the street and get too close in their attempt to flirt, talking and not taking no for an answer. My friend has experienced this, but I  but on my last day in Venice, I met a man who started following me down the street. He asked me polite enough questions about where I was from and why I was in Venice, which all led up to his asking if I wanted to have company as I walked or if I wanted to sit and have drinks with him. When I said, no, that I would prefer to be alone, he smiled and waived goodbye and went on his way. It was all very tame and not the intense thing I had been lead to believe happened.

#venice #italy #travel

#venice #italy #travel

(I have a ton more photos, but haven’t uploaded them to flickr yet. I’ll provide a link when I do.)

I would LOVE to return to Venice. It evokes a kind of romance and mystery, the kind that leaves me spinning stories. It would be awesome to just stay a month or more there and sketch and write poetry and wander here and there.

Advice for Traveling in Venice:
• Since getting back and forth to the airport requires traveling by boat, keep this in mind while booking plane tickets, because it can be a pain to try to make early morning flights out of the city (as I discovered).
• Mestre is the town on the mainland directly across from Venice. The hotels are less expensive there and its a cheap, easy bus ride into Venice to see the sights.
• Wandering aware from the central tourist points is awesome and a great way to find less expensive places to eat.
• Speaking of good food, little pizzerias and cafes are everywhere in Italy. You can buy an drink (coke or water) and entire pizza or a panini for around 3-8 Euros (about $5-10), which is one of the cheapest ways to get fed, if you’re on a budget.

I also traveled to Firenze (Florence) while in Italy, and I’ll do write up on that tomorrow.