Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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Detroit: Got a Good Feeling in a “Bad” City Tonight

Got a good feeling in bad city tonight. Got a good feeling it’s going to be alright…(Detroit, Rancid) 

I passed through Detroit a couple times, once during a raucous road trip I took to Niagara as a teenager, two other times when driving to/from Quebec City. Each time, we zipped passed, the skyscrapers tall and strong against a gray winter sky.

This time, I got to experience the city for real, visiting close friends who left Seattle for Detroit. (There’s a giant hole in my heart now and I fill it with reruns of The Office and glasses of cabaret).

I wanted to walk inside blighted buildings, snap trees winding around staircases.  I wanted to capture misfortune, the ruins of a cultural hub. Peeling wallpaper. Graffitti. Empty museums. People in big coats bracing against the bitter cold.

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But that’s one story of Detroit. It’s not the whole story. Detroit denizens remind me a bit of kids I grew up with in Chicago: Tough. Prideful. All survivors of something. Also, friendly.

I snapped photos of empty, dark mansions that line the streets like abandoned doll houses. I tried to capture the sun filtering through punctured glass of factory windows. I took a photo of a calico stalking prey in a vacant lot.

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But there’s fresh paint on Comerica. There’s the jack-hammer buzz of construction. There’s Greek Town and Midtown and they look just like every hip town in America. There’s brunch in the haunted Whitney Mansion—an impossible experience in Seattle. Our brunch places are overcrowded and definitely don’t include bottomless mimosas. In the Detroit Public Library, there’s a whole floor dedicated to illustrated car manuals. Not something I’d ever read, but I loved the vintage car posters on the walls and the ornate details.

I charmed my way inside the Detroit Opera House. I buzzed the door and walked to the box office, fully expecting to get the boot. A guy wearing a hard hat asked what I was doing. I said I just wanted to take a few photos. That’s it. No mention of this blog or my mediocre rise to travel writer stardom or any press of any kind. He let me in and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour.

Detroit Opera House

“Usually they want people to be on the tour. But go ahead. If anyone asks tell them you’re friends with D*, the Head Electrician.”

When I opened the door to the stage, I actually gasped in awe. Hundreds of lush velvet chairs await for the derrieres of fur-clad opera-goers. Intricate suns curve up the dome ceiling. The balcony made me nostalgic for something I never experienced.

The workers were blasting Papa Roach (yes, seriously) and I still felt transported to the 1920s. D* led me to the lobby; chandeliers dazzled from above, candelabras glinting orange and gold. He told me to take a picture of one of the fixtures while lying on the ground with the camera pointed up. “This will be your best shot. It looks just like a doily.”

I don’t know enough to comment on the city’s financial health or whether it will turn around. All I know is that I spent a lovely few days in the city and I saw a glimmer of possibility.

Sometimes to find the beauty of a place, you just have to change your angle.


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Taos Pueblo Out in New Mexico

“One night my weary feet did go so I stopped that night in Taos…

That night there came a snow in the mountains and the valleys below
And I found a love that’s true I know in Taos New Mexico.” – Waylon Jennings

Flowers-New-Mexico

I went traveling, a journey through the Southwest. I left with the feeling that I could settle down in an old adobe under New Mexico’s powder-blue skies. Sante Fe – maybe Albuquerque, land of Breaking Bad and also as I discovered, a difficult city to spell.

We went to the Spirit of the Winds balloon fiesta and took the completely justified 1,000 pictures of hot air balloons (you’ll see those soon). We zipped north into Santa Fe, than Taos, then Colorado, honey-gold aspens winding through thick evergreen forest like a strand of garland.

We stayed at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear a historic B+ B in Santa Fe, formerly owned by the poet Witter Bynner and rented to his artist friends. Georgia O’Keefe. Ansel Adams. Carl Sandberg. I could write a whole post about that place and the food. Oh wow, the food.

I shopped South Congress in Austin, saw an armadillo in Houston.

But the Taos Pueblo stands out because it was one of those unexpected things you find in travel.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo New Mexico Travel

The Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously lived-in residences in the US and one of the most private and secretive of the pueblo communities.

I didn’t even have it on my itinerary at first because we only had one night in Taos and I wasn’t sure about the timing or what I really wanted to see in the town. Touring the Pueblo is $16 per person. There are guided tours if you have the time to take one (which I sadly did not).

I read the list of rules thoroughly.

Taos Rules

Taos-Pueblo-New-Mexico

  • Don’t feed the dogs. (They should add “don’t step on the dogs,” because several dogs were lying in the sun so still and quiet, they appeared dead.)
  • Don’t take pictures of tribal members without their permission.
  • Don’t swim in the river.

After touring the pueblo and observing some questionable tourist behavior, I would add:

  • Don’t ask stupid questions.
  • Don’t let your kids run amuck.
  • Don’t take smiley selfies near sacred grave sites.

I felt icky. Like I should not be there, but that I should see it. Like I should whisper, even though the day buzzed with construction activity. Camera-strapped tourists darted in and out of the shops and residences of the tribal members. Their language (Tiwa) is unwritten and there’s an expansive wilderness area behind the pueblo off-limits to non-tribal members. Running water and electricity are prohibited in the pueblo.

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There’s a bell-tower from the original San Geronimo church, built in the 1600s when the tribe was forced into Catholicism by Spanish missionaries. That church was destroyed by US troops in the late 1800s (after the murder of Governor Bent) and many people died in the battle, so they turned it into a cemetery. But they built another church – its walls are smooth, a sandy color and topped by white crosses. The architecture of the church is extraordinary, but you still get the sense that the church doesn’t really belong.

I would rather my tourist dollars go to corn necklaces and fry bread made here, than those high-end shops that peddle overpriced turquoise rings. And I think interactions and access help dilute preconceived notions. But I cannot imagine what I would feel like if a bunch of tourists traipsed through my apartment to gawk at me.

Case-in-point: There was a twenty-something girl who had her boyfriend take a way-too-happy picture of her next to the sacred burial plot. The grin on her face might as well have been a thumbs-up. Continue reading


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Fun + Games in Portland

What can I say about Portland that hasn’t been said before? It’s hip. Like, grow-your-own-rhubarb hip. Make-your-own-moleskin-journal hip. Pig’s-head-in-a-trucker hat hip.

I normally don’t go in for hip. I hate hip. But in Portland, people are friendly, t-shirts are in, and the donut scene is certainly superior. I liked it more than I thought I would.

I drank Spanish cocktails in a floor-to-ceiling booth at Huber’s. I went to Powell’s and almost cried, not because the immensity of the bookstore, but because people were milling about happily inside. People still love books.

I did Portland things and have Portland pictures.

 

 


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Now Filming in Seattle: Speed, the Prequel

Movie-Seattle

We have to keep this bus above 30 miles an hour! 

Yesterday was a bad bus day. You know, the kind that involves standing next to someone with B.O. or a full rotisserie chicken that’s rolling around, smearing grease everywhere (both have happened to me).

I hopped the wrong transfer on the way home because I drown out vital information with my headphones. Like where I was/the century we’re in/my name. In my post-work stupor, I got on the wrong route. When the driver called last stop I just sat there, failing to realize I was the only passenger. “This is the ‘E’ line, not the ‘C’ line,” he said, irritated. I got off the bus and called a cab.

Sigh.

While waiting for the cab, I stumbled onto a movie filming at Seattle’s Union Station. Not just any old movie, an OLD movie. With vintage buses, Vespas and motorcycles, men in fedoras caring boxy suitcases, women in pillbox hats, lips painted ruby red. I heard the director say, “That’s a wrap.”  Stumbling into a filming that involves an old bus after getting on the wrong bus was surreal. Is the universe trying to tell me not to complain about my commute by sending me a vision of the past?

Look at that bus. You could have to travel like that. They probably wish they had rotisserie chickens. 

Seattle Travel Movie Filming

Or maybe the universe is telling me to dress better.

I would have asked what the heck was going on, but I was agitated from my commute and didn’t want a high-powered Hollywood type to scream at me.

I think it’s safe to assume they’re filming  Speed, The Prequel.


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Just Another Manic Memoir

Just Pretty

There is beauty in the everyday.

Everyone’s doing it. Entire sections of the bookstore are dedicated to it. Blonde-woman-leaves-routine-life-for-abroad-or-the-wood memoirs. Think: Cheryl Strayed. Elizabeth Gilbert.* To stand out from other travel memoirs, you need to set sail all by yourself to Antarctica, Ernest Shackleton-style and survive something horrific like eating your own dogs or do some peyote in the desert and be able to clearly WRITE about that experience. Pen name: Huntess S. Thompson.

For the reasons above, I’m starting a new genre: the stay-put memoir. Lists of dull things we do everyday, written with a certain flair.

Consider the untold story in the soggy French fries curled on the bottom of my CRV, in the struggle of trying to get to my dry cleaner before it closes, in bagel dust between my keyboard letters. That’s real stuff. Bonus: I don’t have to do anything difficult to write it. I just keep on keepin on. It would be relatable, that’s for sure. Low-risk. Yes. Dull? No way.

Future memoir titles: 

  • Is It Weird To Smell Your Own Hair On The Bus? And Other Concerns
  • Skeptical Of Your Gluten Allergy, So Totally Sure Of Mine
  • Copywriter’s Dilemma: Having A Nervous Breakdown One Exclamation Point At A Time!!
  • Checking The Door Twice: Confessions Of A Public-Bathroom Phobic
  • Fear And Loathing On A Train. Mother + Daughter Ride The Rails Cross Country. (Read the sneak preview here).
  • Tears On My Mcdonald’s Cheeseburger. What Happens When You Get The Wrong Gender-Specific Toy.
  • Facebook Lies: That Time I Said I Had A Great Time Kayaking When It Was Actually Just Ok

Which one should I start on first?

*I like Elizabeth Gilbert.

**I’m actually headed to the desert next month (New Mexico + Texas). Where should I go? What should I do? Comment below.


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Kangaroo Kisses & Ethical Dilemmas

Seattle-travel-petting-zoo

Arthur. He reminds me of Splinter from TMNT.

I did something wrong. But cute. But wrong. No matter how I try to justify it.

I went to a kangaroo petting zoo. I’m a huge animal lover (meaning, I love animals, not that I love huge animals). I didn’t know it before I got there, but this kangaroo farm breeds and sells kangaroos. A mere $1,200-$3,000 gets you one of these babies (do.not.buy one). They sell about 6 a year to zoos and “other places” and were intentionally vague when I asked them what other places.

Only $9 gets you a whole day of kangaroo handling. I didn’t link to them because I don’t want to give them publicity, bad or good. I went. I didn’t see any signs of outward animal cruelty. But as the saying goes, “If you don’t love something enough to leave it alone, you don’t love it at all.”

Maybe I’m not an animal lover.

A kangaroo in a little baby sack was placed in my arms and the kangaroo keeper, a burly man with a bloody bandage on his forearm said, “his name is Forselly.” I didn’t get it then because I was holding a baby kangaroo and wondering to myself why I like holding animal babies more than human babies.

Then we walked around the property in groups, with sticky-handed children and their parents. One lady had the audacity of asking whether she could take a baby kangaroo out of a SEALED pouch, basically like asking to hold a baby while it’s in a woman’s stomach.

The first kangaroo I fed was Arthur, he had a muzzle of gray whiskers and squinty eyes. They all had squinty eyes.

He moved slowly and methodically, crouched like he had a walker. I fed him a piece of bread then touched his head, almost tempted to scratch behind his ears.

What the hell am I doing? It dawned on me that maybe this is wrong. Animals don’t belong to us, they belong to the world and this place didn’t seem to be doing much for conservation or education. I guess meeting Arthur and “Forselly” makes me feel closer to kangaroos, but really, it makes me more certain that animals aren’t amusement parks.

Lemur sun themselves

So cute. But are they “happy?”

Do kangaroos like being handled? Can they really eat bread?

Other than kangaroos, the farm has lemurs (not for petting, not for kissing), wallabies, peacocks, mini donkeys, pheasants, ostriches, emus and Alpacas. Fun fact: lemurs sit like old men. The animals seemed well taken care of and the lemurs even had their own red rocking chair. And they were purportedly acquired second-hand before owning a primate became illegal.

In light of the recent TBEX controversy, I’ve been reading a lot about mistreatment of wildlife as a tourist attraction. Sometimes the animals are treated cruelly, sedated so we can get that I’m-holding-a-tiger-selfie or F*ck yeah, I’m on an elephant.

I don’t think that’s the case with this place. I think it was a simple case of people who love exotics.

The whole point of this post is know before you go. I don’t remember the one time I went to SeaWorld (before Blackfish) and I barely remember those dolphin shows at the aquarium as a kid. But I’ll always remember the two times I saw orcas whales from the beach near my house. Or the time a bottlenose dolphin swam next to my raft tour off the Napali coast, so close I could have reached down and touched its back. Or the baby bison, on the prairie in South Dakota just kind of hanging out.

That’s the way to see animals. It’s unexpected, it’s magical, and when they leave, you feel like you’ve been kissed.

In October, I’m off to photograph wild horses in New Mexico. I’m excited to be an observer, to watch them thunder across the desert and to know without a doubt, it’s where they belong.

Ever see wildlife in the wild? Where, when, what? Comment below!


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Is That a Sunset Or An Oil Painting Made By Angels?

Another round-up of Tuesday Three Things That Happened Last Week.

I. THE NEW JOB

I don't know how to describe this

This is my sister’s chihuahau with a stuffed toy in it’s mouth & it makes me laugh so hard.

After a few months of freelancing, I have a new job. A dream job if you will. Freelance writing drove me a little too deep into my own head and working in pjs was fun until I woke up and realized I hadn’t worn actual clothes in a week.

Also, sporadic paychecks from writing gigs don’t really *work* anymore in Seattle, with our sky-high rents.

I’m a writer/editor for a cool company that helps bands and shows with ticketing and promotions.  The coolest thing about it that it embodies a Come As You Are mentality, so I could probably get a forehead tattoo and they wouldn’t blink an eye.

I’m working for the man in a creative capacity without actually working for The Man. Perfect. And this is a company that REALLY gives back to the community, so that makes me feel good, especially after my whole age-33-meaning-of-life crisis. I’m not bragging, I want other dream-followers to stick it out and find the job they really want.

I get a week off to volunteer and am already fantasizing about volunteer opportunities.

Should I: 

-Rescue/name/bottle feed orphaned baby monkeys in Costa Rica? (I’ll call this one Danger and this one Milly…)
-Volunteer to find out what happened to Lindsey Lohan?
-Work the cafeteria of some fancy writer’s conference? (Hey, Toni Morrison, I slipped you a copy of my latest. Hope you like these mashed potatoes).

I’m already enjoying perks like conversations with actual humans in the middle of the day, office dogs, and air conditioning.

II. It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Bon Voyage 

Street in Quebec

Bon voyage! (These are strangers, not my actual friends).

This is a bummer: I had to say goodbye to some really good friends of mine because they left our glorious state for another.

I am super happy for them because I know that moving long distances (thrice!) has made me a better, happier person because it’s incredibly frustrating and also fun.

As much as I would like to, I can’t be like:  “no stay and we can stay like this forever and nothing will change and then you’ll wake up at 80 and regret that you missed an opportunity because your friend got all emo about you leaving.”

It takes a lot for me to make friends (I’m a giant weirdo), especially here where the social scene is a maze of passive-aggressive invitations to happy hours followed by passive-aggressive refusals.

Sigh. Here we go again.

III. I WAS HERE FIRST

THIS does not do justice to the amazing sunset last night.

THIS low-res iphone photo does not do justice to the amazing sunset on Sunday.

Everyone and their brother is moving to Seattle and judging by Saturday’s packed summer fest, my neighborhood is the quartier du jour. It both pisses me off (I WAS HERE FIRST!! SECOND) and amuses me.

When I moved to Seattle eight years ago, this was the reaction from most of my friends:

I’d never leave Chicago. You know it rains there, every day right? And they don’t even have a basketball team. And the suicide risk is high. You might as well move straight into a mental hospital because those clouds are gonna drive you nuts. 

[Drops bags off, looks out window] OMG this place is amazing! Is that a sunset or is that God’s hand coming down to personally bless this place because it is the most.beautiful. in the whole world?

The view from my roof

Proof it’s not a fluke: last year’s winning sunset starring a rainbow ribbon cloud. 

Even with my awesome new job, I cannot afford rent that’s much higher than its current $1,600 a month for 700 sq.ft and I’m terrified I’m living in the next San Francisco.

And with all the new condos/traffic/pedestrians darting into the street, my neighborhood feels a little less like MY neighborhood.

I’ve lived here on and off since I first moved to the city, when it was uncool amongst my hip writerly coworkers who (then) lived on The Hill and thought White Center was too dangerous and West Seattle too suburban.  I live on a peninsula and get to hang out at the beach pretty much every day so, I’ve been pretty happy.

Does wanting to join an anti-development coalition make me old?

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