Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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Is this what a nervous breakdown looks like?

A tree photo

Things money can’t buy

I just kind-of quit my job. Well, I ended a contract assignment at a major company. 

Still…

The people were perfectly nice, the hours were decent and they paid me a sic salary for a writer. They even had a cafe with a healthy take on the McMuffin: spinach, egg whites, whole-wheat english muffin. A McMuffin that is actually good for you. Freakin’ beautiful.

Pretty perfect right? You probably want to punch me in the nose. I almost want to punch myself in the nose. But the truth is, the job fit like a bad shoe. It felt ok when I tried it on. And then blisters started popping up everywhere. One day, it became unbearable. Continue reading


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You Can (And Should) Go Home Again

I am sitting on a plane; it’s my worst flight since the bumpy one to NYC and the one when I tried to get the TSA to strip search a guy in a Hawaiian tee-shirt.

The flight is full of clamouring teenage girls fresh from basketball camp. Loud doesn’t begin to describe it.  Most of them spend the first thirty minutes before take off discussing where they will sit, then bursting into unexplained fits of giggles.

The brunette doesn’t want to sit next to the stranger. The tall blonde is texting, (I suspect) about another girl on the same flight. We soar through the air, a sherbet sunset over Mt. Rainier. The chattering doesn’t subside.

“I can’t believe the lady didn’t let me carry-on my bag,” the girl behind me whines, for the fourth time as she kicks my seat. Another one plunges her seat all the way back, almost destroying a laptop.

“Sorry,” she turns around to the panicked passenger, a teenage boy traveling with his mom. “Sorry,” again. Well at least she apologized.

I am headed home to Chicago to watch my best friend from when we were their age (15? 16)  get married. Were we like this? Continue reading

Vegas-travel-neon-museum-Vegas-secrets-


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An open letter to the gay basher I met in Sin City

Dear Homophobe:

You would likely remember me as the girl at the craps table who kept accidentally bumping into you because you didn’t move over.

I remember you as the rude one who kept swishing her long, straggly black hair into me. You didn’t smile; you glared at me, like you owned the table.

You weren’t having a very good time.

Two women walked by behind you. The dealer pointed and said, “Oh my god, they’re holding hands,” like he saw a two-headed giant lumbering through the casino. We all turned. Two attractive older ladies blurred by, arm in arm, the way girls do when they’re just having fun.

You loudly exclaimed, “That’s nasty. God made Adam and Eve; not Eve and Eve.” No one laughed. The women just kept walking. I silently hoped they didn’t hear you. A few moments later, my friend and I grabbed our chips and left in a sort of stunned huff.

We could have been lesbians, what would you have done then? Would you have given us a speech about how we were ok and it was just the rest of the gays you were referring to? Would you have told us you thought we were perverts?

“I didn’t mean you…”

“Some gays are ok…”

I wanted to tell you that your joke is as stale as casino air.

I wanted to tell you about all the gay people I’ve gotten to know. Some are friends; some are family. They are all different.

Some put themselves out there on a regular basis; some are still in the closet because they face the most awful kind of rejection, rejection just for being different than the majority.

Imagine going to touch your partner on the arm and someone telling you you’re going to hell. That you weren’t created by God. Imagine everyone turning to stare at you from a craps table because you happened to link arms with someone of the same gender.

Imagine being kicked out of your house; imagine being torn away from your nieces or nephews. Imagine ridicule, torment, and abuse.

I am not gay and I cannot comment on what it’s like to be gay.

However, as a human, I easily recognize hurt. I wanted to tell you that ignore and ignorant are almost the same word. And that as you sit on your throne of moral superiority, you’re missing out on some fantastic people.

What, exactly were you doing in Sin City?

I would have said all of this. And C*, my friend to the left would have said it too. But it was well after midnight. I was not at my most articulate and you weren’t at your most receptive.

We wouldn’t have changed your opinion. You wouldn’t have accepted the challenge on your beliefs. And I’m pretty sure if we “threw down” you might win. Might.

We collected our chips and walked away. But while the unsaid still whirls freshly in my mind, I thought I’d write you a letter. To let you know that you’re the one who came across as nasty.

Best,

Vegas-travel-neon-museum-tips

*Whenever I write about friends, I use their initials.


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So You’re an English Major

This is a picture of a painting of a painting.

What life looks like after graduation. (I don’t know who painted this.)

So you’re an English major. Welcome. It has been almost ten years since I graduated college and I prepared some advice, as well as responses to common questions. No other major has been so scrutinized, so deemed USELESS by the gainfully employed. Useless. What an awful word for a fantastic study.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably too late to change it. But you wouldn’t want to.

My “useless” degree in English taught me to examine the fabric of life. Everything is present in books. Everything. A writer observes and records. A writer makes his characters suffer so we know what it will be like when we get there.

I learned about love, death, desire, war, sex, passion, food, junk, poverty, disease, diplomacy, philosophy, social issues, activism, etc. I still don’t get commas though.

In short, an English degree is the universal degree. You just need to learn how to market it, how to make it work for you.

Let’s start with advice from one of my favorite writers: Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.~ Murakami. Continue reading


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I Would Like to Thank…

This album is dedicated to all the people who told me I’d never amount to nothin’ –Notorious

The 2013 guide to Montreal and Quebec that I helped author for Fodor’s Travel comes out in March and is available for pre-sale right now.

Some write fake Oscar speeches; I fantasize about crafting clever book dedications. I plan to dedicate future novel to my enormous family for well…everything, the Husband for his patience and encouragement and the Dog who keeps my feet warm as I write. And to my Grandma, for her endless advice.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to *actually* dedicate or thank anyone in the travel book because that would be unfair to the other writers, editors, and photographers who worked on it. Besides, I am a writing phantom taking the form of Eugene Fodor, a fascinating Hungarian wayfarer.

Miss Misery

cloud-painting-art-institute-chicago

This is one of the first paintings I ever connected to. I always thought it was icebergs, but it’s clouds. -Art Institute, Chicago

Should I ever write a novel, I would be tempted to throw it into the faces of those who spurned me early on when I was just a kid. I probably wouldn’t do it, because bitter ain’t the right shade for me, but it’s fun to think about.

One of my favorite writer bloggers  recently wrote an eloquent piece about a teacher who helped influence his writing career. I have a few of those too – wonderful people, who pulled me aside and told me that despite my horrific spelling, I had a knack with words.

I’ve also had the opposite. Miss Bruner, my 7th grade art teacher deserves a failing grade. A teacher should encourage, not manage expectations. Let kids’ dreams bounce above their heads like big red balloons. When the time comes, they’ll clutch some and let others fly. Give them that choice.

Miss Bruner hobbled up and down classroom aisles with a cane. She’d pull your drawing out from your hands, exam it from behind little glasses that sat at the end of her nose and snicker. When we had to sketch George Washington (impossible!), I erased entirely through his eye. I am no Manet. Did Miss Bruner encourage me to learn from this mistake and be more careful next time? No.  She put my rendition of George Washington over her own face and peeped through the hole as if it were a mask.

Ok, so maybe I screwed up the portrait. Maybe she was joking, maybe the George Washington incident was part of her teacher schtick.

But later that semester, when I expressed an interest in going to Venice to view art, she barked:

“How are YOU going to go to Venice? It costs a lot of MONEY, Am-an-da.”  Continue reading


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A Valentine’s Day Love Letter to the USA

Seattle travel, Washington travel

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. ~ Mark Twain

I know as a wayfarer it’s not fashionable to like you, my home country, let alone love you. I am supposed to know better; I am supposed to snub domestic travel. I am supposed to like soccer and drink imported beer and refer to those “Americans” as if I am not American myself.

Why this happens: when travelers leave, often the first time, they see all your flaws from through an extra-long lens: the shootings, the rampant obesity, the vacant lots and strip malls and commercialism. The unbelievable pressure: whiten your teeth, go to the right school, chew the right brand of gum. I almost crumpled under your constant demands. I never felt like I was doing anything right. And I hate that you made me drive everywhere.

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I ventured beyond your borders, tested our sacred “love or leave it” bond – a contract I entered into without choice. I didn’t want anything to do with you. Like a petulant child, I refused to turn around. My post Post-America life started like any relationship – French Canada and I would have surely broken your heart. We shared poutine and frieds with mayo, we cross country skied, we strolled along cobblestone streets in the middle of the day.

Canada recycles, Canada doesn’t waste napkins and plastic forks. Canada felt nice, Canada felt different. Canada didn’t press weighty expectations upon me like you. You cluck a lot about liberty – but in Canada, I felt freedom – no one asked me what I did for a living; I felt no great urge to keep up; I never felt doomsday paranoia. Sure, the new country had its problems, but I wouldn’t see that until we lived together awhile.

Mt.Baker, Seattle travel blog

I came home to you after a year and three months defeated — through no fault of my own, Canada and I couldn’t make it work. Finding and holding jobs in the French-speaking province proved difficult and so we moved.

I had forgotten about all the things I loved about you. New York with its waves of people, rushing in from all angles, from all countries; hip-hop, rock n’ roll, blue grass; your vast prairies and deserts, Vegas – yes, Vegas – an homage to glittering capitalism. I had forgotten how much I love Chicago, the city responsible for the first version of me, before I knew anything else. And Seattle – a misty music town with new liberal policies that make Canada look conservative.

We have our fights, USA. There are times I am not proud of you. There are times you gravely disappoint me. But  wherever I go, I’ll always be part of this big dysfunctional family.

Yours Truly,

Anglo


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If You Were Tiny and Trapped in a Blender…

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?**

This is the kind of conversation I love to speculate about, the kind that occurs after midnight with a gaggle of friends and a few bottles of wine. The kind that veers left then spins around so we can’t remember where it started. The kind that ends with a demonstration. It always like fireworks, one person’s words bursting forth and then another’s, the conversation rapidly intensifying until the subject has been exhausted.

Am I wearing high heels?

Is someone on the other side of the blender?

Does a blender’s blades go all the way to the top?

Is there water on the bottom?

If a single person took out their smartphone and looked it up, the fun would be over. Smartphones and search engines have destroyed our ability not only to reason, but to banter for long periods of time.

I am not a modern-day luddite. I don’t want to destroy technology. I just want screens to be locked in cages at dinner or in art museums or when I am with a group of people and we’re experiencing a moment together.

Why I gave up my phone

smartphones, google interview questions, travel cellphones

The burner is the way of the future. Excuse the hideousness of this photo. Neon green isn’t my color.

When I moved back and forth from Canada, I disposed of a lot of stuff: bags of clothes, old laptops, etc. La vie of the nomad. Continue reading


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Travel More, Write More, Exercise Sometimes

I traveled back to Chicago for the holidays. I’m currently writing a post on why you should visit the southside of the city, complete with what to wear to an over-crowded jazz club and where to find the city’s best hotpot.

Note: I didn’t say hot dog. Just walk to the nearest hot dog stand. Order everything but ketchup.

If you’re a tourist, it will be the best hot dog you’ve ever had.

What I did on my Christmas Vacation

travel writer eats chicken tenders

Pinkie out. The only way to eat chicken tenders.

  • I saved Christmas, Martha Stewart-style with a signature cocktail. You could put dishwater in a fancy glass and add a candy cane stirrer and people will like it. Picture to come.
  • Got treated to a private performance by a burgeoning pianist that nearly brought me to tears.
  • Lost in a Big Buckhunter family tournament. The game’s just too realistic for this animal lover. Also, I have a habit of shooting female bison.

While I enjoy the beginning of a new year, I don’t make typical New Year’s resolutions.

I am damn-near perfect. So what if when I don’t have coffee, I go through Trainspotting-esque withdrawals?

So what if I swear in front of eight-year olds (whoops)? So what if I don’t have a robust retirement account? It’s not like Suze Orman will be coming over for dinner tomorrow. I find resolutions too negative. Don’t do ____. Instantly, the blank becomes so much more intriguing. Something in my brain rebels and I will do whatever I can to eat bread, to watch more TV, to spend money.

Not really resolutions, resolutions

  • My first resolution is to love myself a little more. The more I appreciate my health and know who I am and what I can achieve, the more I am naturally drawn to doing good things for me. I know it sounds so trite, like something Oprah would say. But this is where to start.
  • Respect dry cleaning tags. I have a tenancy to just toss and go and lost a lot of great shirts to my over-enthusiastic dryer.
  • Not to eat more than three Lindor truffles in a sitting.
  • Write everyday, but not for work.
  • Practice French at least once a week with real people, even those awful pretentious types I keep running into.
  • And to find a way to make a living doing exactly this.


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15 Things I Am Not Thankful For

Black-Friday, Not-Giving-Thanks-Travel Blog

I am thankful for nachos. And kids who think up characters like Nacho Hippy.

I am thankful for lots of things. Number one: all of my necessities have been met since I was born. I have always had food, water, shelter, and toothpaste. And not to brag, but I have always been pretty healthy, as in never hospitalized, never had to look past the first set of symptoms on Web MD.  I have been silently expressing my gratitude for these things for years.

I also would like to give thanks to Mick Jagger and the inventor of peppermint mocha creamer*. I have been enjoying cups of minty coffee and the Rolling Stones for years now. Sometimes even together. Time to give thanks.

Let’s get to the things I AM NOT thankful for. I decided since it’s Black Friday and not Thanksgiving, it’s totally appropriate.

15 Things I am not thankful for

  1. TSA body scanners. I now have to take that shot when someone asks if a naked picture of me exists somewhere. Because I am pretty sure it does.
  2. People at the airport who scream “this is fascism” when asked to take off their belt. Sure it sucks, but please don’t hold up the line.
  3. Instagram. Stop it! I can’t tell what a normal picture looks like anymore. Fading your photo of your curtains doesn’t make it artsy. Also, I can’t take a photo with an actual glass filter without someone assuming it’s Instagram.
  4. Pencils that look suspiciously like pens.
  5. Olives. Thanks for ruining that lemon-chicken-orzo salad for me, you bitter son-of-bitch.
  6. Hipsters. 
  7. Hipsters eating olives. 
  8. Hipsters eating olives and then complaining that they’re not local.
  9. Cellulite. Thanks for preventing me from ever wearing a bathing suit in public.
  10. The illogical French numbering system. Seventy-five is like sixty-five, except instead of soixante-cinq (65), it would be soixante-quinze (75). What a backwards way to do things. Don’t get me started on 99, quatre-vingt-dix-neuf. I can never hear the “dix.”
  11. Seattle’s public transportation. Or lack thereof. I have to cross two bodies of water to get to work, three if you count the curbside stream that occurs after a big storm. There are two trains – one only goes North-South and the other is a tourist trap. I hate to complain, but I have an hour commute to a place 20-minutes away.
  12. Pretentious noise pollution. That pretentious guy at the zoo or the art museum or the aquarium. He knows you’re listening as he goes on and on about baboon mating rituals or what Monet really meant when he painted the water lilies. They need to have special opening hours for these jerk faces. Move along please.
  13. Information overload. I enjoy technology. Lightbulbs, air-conditioning, Snuggies. But the Information Age has its drawbacks. I can’t have a conversation with someone without it being interrupted by a “like” or a “tweet.” I actually exchanged my cellphone for an emergency burner & landline. I thought it would suck, but my mind feels focused and energized. As far as books, I prefer print. Print wastes paper, but consider the effect of dumping millions of electronic devices into the earth.
  14. Black Friday.  It’s a great people-watching opportunity and I used to go out every year only to enjoy an Orange Julius while watching rabid consumers scramble for the latest toy. But now it makes me sad. We’re told to be thankful one day and the next day, deals are shoved into our faces. Fun fact: I got married on Black Friday. I was a Black Friday bride!
  15. Raisins that look suspiciously like chocolate chips

* To my family, friends, husband, dog, the thirty or so people who read this, and everyone else in my life: THANK You. My life is glorious and I relish every single second spent with you.


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Humorous Pot Legalization Predictions

marijuana tourism washington, travel blog, humor blog

Are we the Amsterdam of America? We do have the tulips.

My current home state, the Evergreen State just became the EverGREEN state with the passing of the legalization of marijuana, coming December 6.

Don’t book your flight just yet. Although the pot fog wafting into my window has thickened, there’s nowhere legal to buy the stuff. And there’s a big parler coming up with the Feds on how this will all work.

As a travel writer, I find this most interesting in terms of tourism. Rick Steves, that khaki-clad, accountant-like celebrity traveler, is a huge marijuana supporter. This surprised me. I had him pegged as the kind of guy for whom a glass of white wine is a wild night. Then again, I am one to talk.

I’ll leave my own political affiliations out of this because I am suffering from political fatigue. Here are some just-for-fun predictions.

Pot legalization predictions:

Please read the following in your best Year 2000 voice. If you don’t know that reference, you really need to catch up on your Conan O’Brien.

  1. Capitol Hill, our trendiest, (i.e. most obnoxious) neighborhood will fill to capacity with potheads and slackers and people who wear vanity monocles and play polo on bicycles. Oh wait – it already is. Next.
  2. Coffee shops will be replaced with “coffee shops.”
  3. Washington State residents will be visited by their long-lost slacker friend, the guy who nicknamed himself The Guy on the Couch, who hasn’t called you in years, who now wants to sleep on your couch. Forever.
  4. People will refer to Seattle as mini-Amsterdam and tourism from here to the legal weed-topia across the pond plummet. Why bother going there? We have tulips and legal Mary Jane. Ok, so we don’t have many windmills or canals or really old buildings or legal prostitutes.
  5. Cheech replaces George Washington on our state flag.
  6. The show Portlandia becomes obsolete as hordes of hipsters migrate back to Seattle to work on their distopic vampire novels and post-post-post modern paintings of clowns. Oh brother.