How I've missed my own bed!!!!
When I got home the other morning at 7AM, the first thing Gloria and I did was stop at House of Bagels for my first fix in a YEAR!!! They were excellent and I was glad I hadn't succumbed to trying any of the bagels shops out in Oregons' crap. Whew. Oh, the doughy goodness. Sublime, I tell you.
I was exhausted but I was so excited to be home that I couldn't take a nap even though my body was utterly drained from the flights. I walked into my room and looked around. I had forgotten about so many things I had that it was like Christmas. Everything seemed new and exciting- I had forgotten about this skirt or that buddha. My room was filthy from a year of neglect, but it was MY filth on MY stuff, so I loved it. It was too overwhelming to take on the task of a serious room cleaning so Vanessa (who is also home and starts her new job at IKEA the same day I get back to Atti) and I had a ritual watching of The Return of the King, complete with mutual drooling over Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn). After a few minutes of lying down though, I was out like a light. I woke up and realized where I was, home.
And thus began my major purge of possessions, clothes, and old random crap. I figured, if I wasn't excited about seeing something after a year of being away, or it didn't look quite right on me, it was going in the garbage. It's amazing how easy it is to throw things out now. I still have so many clothes that I don't know how I'm ever going to wear all of them. All this choice!! And books? I found books of mine that I haven't seen since we moved from Dix Hills to Hauppauge in 2002. I cleaned and dusted. I enjoyed my new bathroom (it had been remodeled in my absence) and it's swanky new tub complete with mood candles, and I tried on my own clothes as if I were shopping for them. I watched my fav movies.
Gloria, Vanessa, and I went to TGI Friday's where Vanessa's best friend Jessica works and some drunken regular saw me and asked Jessica if Vanessa (who had also become a regular with her coffee and her newspaper at Friday's when Jess was on) had changed her hair- referring to me. I suppose I have to get used to this since we are more likely to be hanging around each other now that we live under one roof. Still, it's weird.
I know I'm rambling, but really it is so weird to be home. It's as if nothing has changed, which is both good and bad. I start my job back up a year to the day after I left, doing exactly the same thing. I feel like much of my trip has now become a bit like a dream I just had. THe best part is that I get to wake up in my own comfy bed again.
I forgot to include an amusing little conversation that was overheard in the Seattle hostel. During breakfast Ant and I sat near a motley group of people. There were some younger deep types and then an old hippy sitting nearby. The younger people were discussing what they were up to for the day and the older man asked them what they were up to. They proceeded to have a conversation about how evil "the man" is and basically deep ideas. It all concluded with the hippy asking the younger ones to church. Two people accepted but when the hippy asked the black guy who was sitting there, he said "No man, you know, I can't go that far." The hippy replied, "I will pray for you then." The black guy replied "Yeah, I will pray for you too. I will pray for your big toe."
This past weekend, Anthony and I went drove five hours north to Seattle, Washington. We did some standard touristy things (Pike Place Market, the Waterfront and the IMAX, etc.) and then made a solid IKEA raid for Ant's apartment.
We arrived late on Friday and checked into the Green Tortoise Hostel. It was average for a hostel but the weather was so hot (95-100 degrees) that when we went to sleep, I kept waking up in a pool of sweat, which made their lack of fans even more disappointing. Yuck. As per usual in any hostel, as the sun came up two random drunk German guys showed up in the room making a shitload of noise.
The next day we wandered over to Pike Place Market where the famous Seattle fishmongers reside. If you have ever seen the FISH motivational video that employers love to show, it was filmed here. The fishmongers throw massive fish around and basically put on a small show. They seem to have a decent sense of humor. If anyone got to close to this guy they would pull on the attached rope (which is normally hidden under ice) to freak the person out and everyone around would crack up. Every once in a while, they also pretend to throw a fake fish into "the audience" and the whole crowd ducks until they realize it's styrofoam. The rest of Pike Place Market was pretty kickass as well. They had super cheap flowers, tasty fresh fruit, meat, and veggies. If I lived anywhere near this place, I'd weight 600 pounds.
After getting our fill of wandering around, we headed down to the waterfront to have lunch at Ivar's a famous fish and chips place, and see two really disappointing IMAX shows. The first was The Eruption of Mount St. Helens and the second was Ocean Oasis, both which were poorly written. In the Mount St. Helens one, they never showed the eruption, which sucks because that's what the title leads you to believe you are going to see. In the ocean one, they spent more time talking about land animals than ocean life.
On Sunday, Anthony and I decided to cruise by Bruce and Brandon Lee's graves for a photo. It was a good thing we stopped by the nearby museum to ask about where they were located because there were tons of Lees, all with red headstones.
Next stop was a shop I had heard much about, Toys in Babeland, which is basically a sex toy shop. It was closed but we got to see some of their wares in the window. It seems that Pyrex dildos are quite the rage and there are many glass artists willing to contribute creative ideas on how to get someone off. I also saw this little guy. I'm sure the Queen feels safe when they're scattered around Buckingham Palace.
We had the obligatory latte in the caffeine obsessed city at Vivace's and then headed out to IKEA to pick up the final few things Ant needed for his place. It was the quickest and most efficient IKEA experience I've ever had. Normally when I go on Long Island or in NJ, it's an all day ordeal because the lines are so long and slow. Not so in Washington. We were in and out super quick and were able to still have enough time to get to Portland to meet up with Sean and Court of Bootsnall.
It was a busy weekend but I had a good time. Soon enough I will be home in New York around the rude people I miss so much.
Tonight Anthony and I are heading to Seattle for some sightseeing and an IKEA raid. So check back on Monday and I'll fill in the details!!!
I have been frustrated by Eugene and its high number of hippy types so Anthony put together a last minute (as in 6pm Friday night last minute) weekend in Central Oregon. Being that I had no idea what there was to see or do, I left it to him.
Things got off to a solid start with our check in at a sweet ass little bed and breakfast, the Cricketwood, that had a cancellation. When we walked in, Jim, one of the owners, showed us around and how much good stuff was included. Anthony doesn't have a TV so when I heard the words "satellite TV" I was ecstatic. I could rot my brain again- and I did so by watching Ocean's Eleven and Chicken Run.
Jim and Tracy recommended heading over to the Deschutes Brewery for their Saturday tastings. According to Anthony, this is one of the area's best microbrew beers so we HAD to go. I must say, I was impressed. The way the guys run the tastings is really no different than how wineries do, basically from light to dark. We had half pints of four of their different beers, Twilight, Cinder Cone, Mirror Pond, and Black Butte. Normally, I'm not a dark beer kind of girl, but the Black Butte was pretty damn yummy. Next time I'm out, I may just have to order that up.
Later in the evening, we cruised around downtown Bend. I figured it'd be this shitty little hick town, but to my surprise, it has some nifty little shops. Nothing was so compelling as to cause my credit card to twitch, but still good stuff. The most memorable part of the evening was while we were sitting at a Thai restaurant, watching a cycle rickshaw go by. I thought I was hallucinating because rickshaws are an Asian phenomenon and we had just been talking about my hatred of their drivers. To top it off, the passengers were several of the prissy cheeseball girls who were on the brewery tour with us and they waved.
When we got back to Cricketwood, we grabbed a local guidebook to skim through and I found a blurb on this place called the Great Obsidian Flow. The whole area is filled with active and "inactive" volcanos so there's lots of random debris and/or volcanic rock lying about. It sounded like a vaguely hostile place, so we decided to stop by.
The Great Obsidian Flow would make a great Hell or an even better Mordor. The whole place consists of chunks of razor sharp obsidian glass with hunks of pumice mixed in for diversity. You can either cut your feet open, or exfoliate them- a good mix of choices I thought, especially when you're wearing platform flip flops like I was.
It started to rain so we moved on to our next destination, Crater Lake. On the way, there were large patches of snow, so I felt I just HAD to make a snowball, you know being JULY and in hot weather and all. It seemed like a novelty. I was desperate for snow in Jan/Feb, but now here it is in July.
Anyway, Crater Lake was created 7700 years ago when a volcano blew up and generously donated shitloads of ash to the local environment. At the top, water has now accumlated so as to form a pristine lake. I didn't think it'd be that big but when we walked over the ridge, here is what I saw (please excuse the poor Photoshopping- it's a challenge without a mouse). Pretty impressive methinks. That little island in the middle is from when the volcano started to get restless again. It's called Wizard's Island. After a few more photos we drove around the crater, and finally out of the park.
We met up with Heather, Ant's friend from college in Roseburg, on the way back from Crater Lake. She works with animals and I learned the interesting fact that female snakes have penises. Who would have thought?
One final thing... as we passed by a church we saw this sign. I knew what they meant, but I think they need to rethink their wording in the future.
I've finally gotten my stuff together to put up a few photos. They are definately a mixed bunch. so bear with me.
A weird Mars-scape in Mongolia.
At the local gas station... check out them cranking it.
A little Mongolian boy who lived at the first ger we stayed at.
Some horses we passed by.
A baby hawk we ran into. There was a nest on the ground in the middle of the desert. Momma Hawk was circling above so we didn't hand around long.
A few bactrian camels.
One of the weirdest places we visited was a canyon in the middle of the Gobi filled with ice.
The next few are of Nepal:
It's amazing how well camo worked here.
Red feet on the ground at some temple.
I've been in a crabby mood the last few days because of my new bike being stolen, but today, a new friend from here in Eugene, Storm, lent me her bike for the rest of the time I am out here. It is nice to be able to ride around again. The bad mood has started to lift...
Another thing that's been putting me in a good mood in a potential weekend trip to Seattle with Anthony, and another friend, Kevin. I've been wanting to get out there for ages, and now it looks like it may happen. While there I plan on scoping out the local IKEA to get ideas for things I want my sister to buy with her new IKEA employees discount back on Long Island. Congrats Vanessa on getting a new job. You did a great job negotiating with them too!!
To top off the day, I finally took my film from last summer to the lab to get processed. I had sent home a bunch of film from the UK and my mom sent it here when she was sending some other things. All my film/photos are now in one place and I am going to begin the editing process of what I am going to work on. I eventually (hopefully in a year) will have a portfolio of some highly good photos from my trip.
I've been getting around Eugene alright the last few days, but I have made two major observations. First off, NEVER read any Frank Herbert books (such as any of the Dune series) while on Eugene buses because people who look like him come up to you and talk to you. He was a Tacoma, Washington native (Dune was inspired by his study of the local Pacific sand dunes) and he's a bit of a cult hero. In the ten minutes I was on the bus yesterday, two hairy bearded dudes chatted with me about their love of Frank Herbert's books. Observation two: always carry a walkman/mindisc/cdplayer. It is key in getting the weird bus folk (other than Frank Herbert clones) to not strike up chats about your bracelet, nosering, toenail polish (why are they looking?), destination (are they going to stalk me?) or whatever, to not bother you.
I got an email from Mel Lasiw today including a horrendous photo of Mel, Misty (a friend of Mel's from IBM), and myself from her friend Paul's July 4th shindig. For a laugh, here it is. I look like someone deformed my face!
Righto, hopefully things will stay positive!
The event NOT to miss when staying in Eugene, Oregon, is the annual Oregon Country Fair. I was a bit unconvinced about going to a fair filled with hippies, and boy, was I right.
What a stupid event.
There were fruitcakes everywhere. I usually like flamboyance and out there people (such as on Halloween in the Village in NYC) but the crowd at the OCF (affectionately called "Fair" by those cool people in the know) were just gross. Superficial? Sure. But there were more floppy titties painted with flowers than you could shake a stick at. If my breasts were hanging around my waist, I sure as hell would not have them out in public view. Was there a need for a man to wear a transparent white tutu with his nuts hanging out? Hell no.
I'm not opposed to nudity- in fact I've been known to streak on past occasions. But why is it only nasty people ever want to get naked at these events? Right now I can hear Anthony saying "but they don't care what they look like." Is everyone so desperate for a communal hug or attention that they need to run around with floppy breasts and low slung balls?
Anyway, we went to "FAIR" and I thought it was pretty dull. Lots of bad art of the fantasy/fairy/celtic variety, though there were some super cool leather Cirque du Soleil type masks and some nice wooden bowls made out of tree knots. On returning, we walked over to where we had locked up our bikes, in front of the main library.
My brand new bike was gone. I had owned it for 16 days.
I was pissed. I had locked it up in broad daylight, on a busy street, on a Sunday, in front of the main library. My three hour trip to FAIR had cost me a $300 bike. I went to the police station, but there was almost no one there because it was Sunday (so if you want to steal something in Eugene, do it on a Sunday). I was referred to a non-emergency section but they still haven't called me back.
The good news is I'm still covered under my travel insurance until the end of this month, including theft, so I may be able to get the money back through that.
I was not fond of Eugene to begin with, but now I just hate it.
For some spontaneous fun, I decided to take the Amtrak bus up to Portland for a party that good ol' Mel Lasiw invited me to. I found it interesting that Amtrak has a bus service (their trains were hours behind schedule and were much more expensive) but it was clean, quick, and efficient.
I arrived in Portland in a little more than two hours, to be picked up by Mel in her uncharacteristic Volvo. We met up with Trevor (her man, a fellow Strong Islander) and Misty, a friend she met at IBM. We headed over to some guy Paul's house, and proceeded to stuff our gullets with more food than I thought possible. Trevor and Misty got drunk while Mel and I commented on the peculiarities of people from this area.
The biggest difference we noticed was a major passive aggressive attitude. Nobody ever wants to say something that might offend someone, so they dance around topics, which often leads to high drama under the right conditions.
The second biggest difference (though slightly more important) we noticed is the west coast attitude towards pizza. Here on the west coast it is not uncommon to find chicken curry, pepperoni, olives, and pineapple all on the same pie. We being from the east coast are used to quality pizza, normally eaten folded. We don't need eight thousand experimental toppings to disguise the crust, cheese, and sauce because they're actually good.
I fell asleep on Mel's couch, only to dream of Benny Tudino's or almost ANY Long Island pizza joint's pizza. It was a rough night.
Everytime I list books I've been reading, I get more people responding to my posts so I thought I'd do an updating reading list post. The first one can be found here:
Since then, here's what I've consumed:
Butter chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in small town India by Pankaj Mishra- good travel read about travel in India, by and Indian. The author fixates on the bad taste of people (and their love of concrete) who have just come into a bit of money.
Are You Experienced? by William Sutcliffe- A sometimes funny novel about how stupid people should not be allowed out of their own countries (in this case England) with plane tickets for another (India). I had heard this book was hysterical, especially while travelling through India. It was funny because the characters are clueless and you could change the names to those of all the people lying half naked on a beach in Goa.
The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar- A novel following three generations of a family in a village in southern India. Lubna/Dustyshoes gave Ant this book and I have to say, it kicked ass. I remember being in Alleppey, in south India (almost near the tip) and reading this book. The descriptions of the environment and the village could have been those of where we were staying.
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by P.J. O'Rourke- Quite possibly one of the funniest books I've ever read. Who would figure? The author (who also writes for Rolling Stone) wanted to discover why certain countries are wealthy while others are not so he visited ten different places (Hong Kong, Tanzania, Albania, Sweden, etc.) to determine if it was education, natural resources, culture, type of government, whatever. What he discovers is that giraffes are gay and Albania has imported the highest number of slot machines per capita, in the world, but hasn't bought a sewing machine in years.
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie- This one took me almost a month, which is a LONG time for me. It's heavy stuff. The book follows the story of a man who was born at midnight, August 15, 1947, when India became an independent nation. His fate is changed forever when a nurse, trying to impress her hoodlum boyfriend, switches him from a Hindu to a Muslim family, as an act of rebellion. The book follows Saleem as he literally crumbles apart as a physical manifestation of the soul of his country. Top notch book.
River God by Wilbur Smith- Basic airport trash reading but set in ancient Egypt so I gobbled it up in no time. It was recommended to me by Helga the Viking and did a good job of entertaining me on the rainy days in the Cameron Highlands. I was able to get a copy off some girl staying in our hostel room in Penang. The story's main character is Taita, a brilliant eunach in the service of Lostris, an imaginery ancient queen. There is nothing Taita can't do and we follow characters' adventures from Egypt into exile in the mysterious land of Kush.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller- Crap. I hated this book. It was soooo dull. It's about Yossarian, a whiny bombadier in Vietnam, trying to escape going on another sortie. I understand it's a commentary on why war is bad, but the character was annoying to distraction. I wanted him to get shot down and die so I wouldn't have to read his whining anymore.
Gai-Jin by James Clavell- Mediocre. A long, LONG novel about westerners (English, French, Russian, American) in Japan in the nineteenth century. It took me forever to get through and by the end, I had forgotten what had happened in the beginning. I'll have to give the first of Clavell's stuff (Shogun) a read before I write him off completely.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling- The first two HP books were amusing, but definately kiddie books. I enjoyed this one much more and was glad I had read it when I went to see the movie last week in Bangkok.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling- Same as above. Probably my favorite so far.
Off the Rails in Phnom Penh: Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja by Amit Gilboa- A very disturbing book about a journalist's interaction with expatriots in Cambodia. The people he meets on his visa runs to Phnom Penh blow up cows with grenades, sleep with $2 hookers, and get high as kites, all while teaching English to locals for money. I thought his ideas on what type of people are attracted to this kind of environment, and how they could or couldn't readjust back to living in the West, were very insightful and scary.
A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani- God, I hated this book. An Italian journalist in Asia is told by a Chinese fortune teller that in a certain year he should travel only by land. The author fixates on how the West is sucking the soul out of the East by introducing modern ideas and amenities. I found him to be obsessed with the appearances of buildings rather than the lives of the people who live in them. During the whole book he is offended that Asia has a love affair with anything new and indirectly all progress should be halted because it's making Asia ugly. Blah.
The Cider House Rules by John Irving- Awesome book. It's the story of a young man, Homer Wells, who grows up in an orphanage run by an abortionist, Dr. Larsh. I didn't know anything about the book except that a movie (which I haven't seen) had been made out of it.
Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui- Possibly the WORST book I have ever read. It's filled with references to supposedly cool things (Trainspotting, jazz musicians, etc) to show just how hip the character/author are. The main character is an idiot and her boyfriend, a useless creature, kills himself. Wow, what a "rivetting and exciting" novel. I wanted to kill myself too after realizing I traded The Cider House Rules for this load of trash.
Culture Shock!! China by Kevin Sinclair- The only book I could get for the last one. It had some interesting angles on the Chinese government and shed some light on 1989 Tianenamen Square Massacre.
Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl- A true story about a young girl. I had a hard time with this book. Although I knew the character, Aman, was a real person who had verbally told her story, I had a hard time empathizing with her because of the really ridiculous and impulsive decisions she made.
Clan of the Cavebear by Jean Auel- I read this book over the course of 1.5 days in a cafe in Jinghong, China. It's about a young prehistoric girl, Ayla, who gets separated from her family and people (The Others), only to be taken in by The Clan. Her way of thinking, inparticular her decision to hunt, causes her and her adopted family endless trouble.
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella- Don't bother. Blah...
The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker- Ant didn't like this book, but I did. It's about the experiences of different races in America- both present and in the past. I'll definately have to read The Color Purple now.
Down Under by Bill Bryson- I nearly pissed myself from laughing. I read this after having just been in Australia. Bryson has their number! He writes about the quirks of the savage island nation/continent, from cricketers wearing mattresses as uniforms to the "losing" of a prime minister (he drowned and no one ever knew!). I learned a lot about Australia as well as laughed my ass off about things he notes that I also observed. A must read.
My Path Leads to Tibet by Sabriye Tenberken- I can't describe this book as well as this:
From Publishers Weekly:
When Tenberken, whose battle with retinal disease left her blind at age 13, was in her 20s, she studied Tibetan culture at the University of Bonn. Frustrated by the awkward character-recognition machinery she had to use to read Tibetan materials, she devised a Tibetan braille alphabet, so that once translated, works could be directly readable by the blind. What followed seemed natural to her: she'd go to Tibet and start a school to teach this braille to blind Tibetan children. Traveling on horseback over treacherous mountain passes, sleeping in rat-infested huts and dealing with self-interested charitable bureaucracies, Tenberken managed to keep her humor and courage. She succeeded in establishing a school, and her organization, "Braille Without Borders," continues the literacy mission in other countries.
But I can say I went to Sabriye's school for blind kids and it was unbelievable. The kids were so normal and well adjusted, considering the living conditions most of them come from. In the book, Sabriye mentions one little girl whose family didn't know what to do with her, so they tied her to a mattress everyday while they did work around the farm. As we were shown around the facilities, our guide, Kila, proved to be just short of telepathic. When a student in the English class we visited threw a single sheet of paper at her, she caught it midair because she could feel how it affected the air around her and was able to tell where it was. When I walked around a corner, another student whizzed around it and shopped just a few inches shy of where I was standing. I hadn't said a word or moved, but he just smiled and said "sorry, excuse me." How the HELL did he know I was there??? Nuts.
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown- I read this in one sitting. It's a totally rivetting murder mystery that involves art, history, symbology, ancient secret societies, modern cults, and the Catholic Church. AWESOME book.
The Seventh Scroll and Warlock by Wilbur Smith- Both continuations of River God. They would have been average had I not just come off The Davinci Code.
Notes from A Small Island by Bill Bryson- Another good travel book. I got a kick out of his frustration with public transportation in the UK because I had just been there and cursed under my breath many times on how random service was. He also notices many of the quirks I thought were funny, and had a million others to add.
The Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel- The second in the Earth's Children series. This is my mom's fav of the series. Ayla finds The Others and a hottie named Jondalar, as well as creating new innovations in hunting. I'll definately read the next few...
The Autobiography and Other Writings by Benjamin Franklin- I never would have read this but it was one of the few Penguin Classics I could find that wasn't Dickens. It was surprisingly interesting.
18 Best Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe with a forward by Vincent Price- CREEPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Tell Tale Heart gave me chills.
Papillon by Henri Charriere- This is the sort of true story about a Frenchman's experience in the French penal colonies. Someone who had this copy had taped in Charriere's obituary in which Charriere is quoted in saying that 75% of his story is true, 25% is fiction. Papillon makes eight or nine attempted prison breaks (the last being successful), lives with Indians, and loses some of his best friends to illness acquired in solitary silent confinement.
Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier- I thought this book was alright. It had a good potential idea, but I felt that the characters were wooden and somewhat dull. The movie was crap.
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho- A feelgood fable about following your dreams. I liked it.
A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- I'm still reeling from this one. I can't seem to shake the creepy ideas Atwood writes about- a post religious revolution state where women's "functions" are broken down and filled by different castes.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown- Another murder mystery involving symbology, the Catholic Church, science, and the illusive Illuminati. Not as good as The DaVinci Code, but still damn good.
Blood Canticle by Anne Rice- Oh Anne, what have you done to Lestat!!?? I hated this book. There are too many characters and all seem shallow and robotic in their actions. Lestat, the hot, sexy, intelligent vampire has become a bore.
Wow, I didn't think my list was that long, but it seems I've read more than I thought. I'm currently working on a history of Europe (some light reading) and a book on how historians have created our image of Leonardo da Vinci, the painter, the mathmetician, the military strategist, the courtier, and the thinker, depending on the times in which historian lived, rather than when da Vinci lived.