Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

To Be and Not To Be

In Life, Travel on March 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I have not been a milkmaid in Denmark. I have not woken before the first rays of sun and skimmed across fields to sleepy, smelly cows, patting their cold noses and leading them to a spot of grass, where in my knee-length cotton dress we commune with a cold metal bucket and dawn.

I have not been an au pair in France, flitting across Parisian streets in rush hour, a Shakespeare and Co. find in one hand and wide-rimmed sunglasses in the other, waving, “A bientôt,” over my shoulder to friends on Vespas.

No, I have not massaged America’s dusty roads by bicycle, a heavy bag and sleeping pack at my back, spandex shorts and a nylon windbreaker my only guard against mountains and valleys and hills and byways, rocky roads by rivers and mom and pop reststops; a three-month time-out to travel the country that continues by birth: my home.

No, home has not been the boy who once carried blankets while I carried pillows, laying them across a broken-into garden teeming with mosquitoes and twilight, holding each other across one night’s hours: thoughts tapped like syrup into words and fitless sleep and nothing more.

I have, however, picked carrots in Cork and watched Irish storms threaten, with hands lashed by nettles in overgrown gooseberry patches, with hot air balloons skimming over an old stone house at dusk.

What’s more, cobbled streets have called me home when I was still young enough to count stone walls as balance beams, kept in the company of moonlight and lonely stars and faded craic, an Atlantic Ocean with but one suggestion for how to spend the rest of my life.

And, I have been a pilgrim on blocked-off Ecuadorian highways, mountains a faint outline at midnight: treetops and overpasses and a moving machine made of thousands of feet.

And, love has looked down at me from the highest branch of an apple tree, love has stroked my hair in a messy room, love caught my eye between a beer-sticky floor and a stage.

And, I have spun air in a six-way marriage, which the rest of the world might call a band, laughing in the face of God or Time or whatever it is we spend our whole lives inside of, but occasionally, at a white walled museum or a dusty bar or a campus auditorium or a cathedral, journey out of and call music.

Over an Old Stone House


What I Did When I Was 25

In Birthday, Life, Travel on February 25, 2013 at 8:21 pm

-Ate Obama-biscuits

Obama Biscuits





-Used the bathroom Mali style

-Helped make a djembe


-Took and enjoyed cold showers

-Shoveled shit

-Wasn’t sick often

-Hugged Ross, Rita, Ryan, Calvin, my family, Kate, Alex, Emily, Olivia, Victoria, Clare, Sil, Denise, Nora, Tom, Eric, Rhys, Liz, Jennifer, Thomas, Rockey, Kendrick, Louisa, Sophie, Cesar, Mary, Chris, Catherine, Garrett, Isaac, Mindy, Pat, Marie, Rebecca, Pauli, Duncan, Rie, Eliza, Michelle, Emily, Sophie, Tyler, Conner, Tara, Darragh, Catriona, Sylvie, Dan, Kari, Yang, Rick

-Visited Mali, Ireland, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Davis, New Orleans, New York, Door County, and Kalamazoo


-Gave up sugar, mostly


-Ate meat


-Listened to my first book on tape


-Climbed a TALL ladder

-Dated a boy I really liked

-Kissed a boy I didn’t really like

-Broke down

-Had my palm read

-Ice skated in Bryant Park at sunset

-Saw David Gray

-Went to two weddings




-Cooked with tomatillos and polenta for the first time

-Baked my first pie


-Was sad in airports

-Had a few amazing days

-Loved my parents

-Kept a daily journal

-Walked down a long pier at sunset with my best friend

-Got drunk

-Hung pictures




-Started a music club


-Played guitar on the porch


-Had abs

-Did laundry

-Was tipped


-Was lovesick

-Listened to records


-Did not really miss Galway

-Faced Anti-Semitism

-Volunteered for a radio station

-Got really hungry for breakfast


-Saudi Arabian boys bought me cake

-Swam in the lake

-Grew mint indoors


-Sang onstage

-Wore makeup

-Felt ugly

-Felt beautiful

-Was unkind

-Was kind

-Sipped my first hot chocolate

-Played with babies


-Lived alone


-Hugged a thug

-Got and gave sandwich kisses


Again with the Galway

In Travel on June 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

Irish Fields

What is it about Galway?  Oh tee hee.

Another night watching the moon behind clouds, miles from Neverland.

Watching men sing on Youtube, in vests and brogue, meaning every word.  Hearing the heart of them, like a string stretched.


On Dominick St in the Afternoon

It doesn’t hit so much anymore, and it doesn’t bite so hard, this wanting to fly to Neverland, because a part of me grew up there last summer.  She ran through Duncan’s gate with it, like he said she would; like he said, she was growing up.  It rained and the leaves on the trees were like slices of bread, and she ran through the gate that reached her hip and sang on the street, I’m all grown up, I’m all grown up!  She twirled in midnight air.

On the way to Pauli & Eva’s

So that is how Galway doesn’t bite as hard.  Because a part of me is now only a pit, and the flesh that grows around it is of a different fruit.  But I also miss how I used to miss it.  It was what I knew for years.  Two rotations around the sun I wore a longing which never warmed me.  It was, yet, a beautiful coat.


To the Fete

Clare says she always misses Thailand. Though she is in love and a wife now in a place that it is not, because it is not, I suppose for those of us who end up where we are meant to be, when we are meant to be there, it is an insane task to leave.  After all, ending up in a place is supposed to be an end.  It is ending up there.  But still we board a plane and return to our parents, siblings, and families who love and know us beyond repair; impossibly, we return and in so doing somehow end the ending.


Yellow Tights on Cross St

So my inside doesn’t beat upon the walls of myself, the cage that hugs my heart.  It just dimly tolls the drum, the ever-present reminder of what kind of love it takes to leave love.   To end an end.

It is a patience to know electric hot joy and to live in the negative of its photograph.


The Salthill Shore

A Day in California

In California, Family, Life, Travel on May 31, 2012 at 1:42 pm

If I found a way to complain about today, I’d be a pretty sub-class creature with origins in the Phosphokinkanous region of the planet Gremulon, which as everyone knows, is a Gremulous icky sort of place where people grumble.

No way Jose.  Today was rockin!  I woke up in a hotel in San Francisco, my 60-something aunt close-curtain tiptoing 3 oz liquids into plastic bags.  I rubbed crumbs from my eyes and hugged her goodbye and watched the nothing on the channels and inched into my swimsuit to hold my book above poolhouse water as Peter Mayle lived in Provence.  I lounged on lounge chairs.  And since my aunt’s flight was delayed, I returned to the room where she read and I packed and wheeled my bag to the restaurant for lunch.

The salad was dressing-drenched, so she got soup and I ate more salad!  I got my period after all, so that explains the pain.  Auntie S. still doesn’t go for Couchsurfing, but we hugged again and I could see her down the road when I caught the Bart and window watched my sleepy eyes down tunnels.  I got off the Bart and misread Amtrak’s chart and called my friend who’s laptop smart and he helped me buy that ticket so I could take the slowest elevator in the world to the platform to wait and cellularly talk to Clare! Eating an apple and granola bars and yes, golly gee, agree it sure sounds warm in Michigan, where you be, my lovely Clare, holy moly hitting the library and reading books.

The bearded guy walked by and when I got off the phone he talked and we talked and looked at birds and talked about birds and feed and flying.  And his German accent hung and the train came and we got on the train and talked on the train and I had to pee a lot and we made friends.

Davis, CA, calls the voice on the PA and off-track I stray to Delta of Venus cafe which always has the best bathroom graffitti – “When someone gives a hungry man food, we call him a saint; when someone asks why he is hungry, we call him a communist” – and I chewed chewing gum washing my hands by the mirror because I was nervous because AlexwascomingAlexwascomingAlexwascoming! and I stood on the bench by the tree because she was coming and when I realized she mightn’t be a car and  turned, she was running up the road and our hearts hammered hugs.  And the other side for good measure.  And I could barely talk I was so overcome so again we peed and then I sipped tea, and we walked to her car and drove to the store and looked at dresser knobs we didn’t buy.  And boy oh boy I love this girl so hard that when the fields of California gold rolled I didn’t even look because Alex and I had words in our mouths.

And her home is perfect.  The contents of one drawer are: ice cream scoop, chopstick stand, mosaic  wine stopper, ceramic spoon and such.  One shelf holds a Navajo wedding jug and a sculpted bird that opens bottles and glasses and glasses (for wine).  Which we drank with enchiladas post-bake, with fresh roses vased for the tapestry-topped table outside where the hummingbird went around each backyard bush and her husband Rockey gave me new bird names for when my mom and I again get bored.  And we weren’t bored playing cards and brushing our teeth three in a bathroom; we talked on the topdown toilet and tub lip like always and hugged our way to bed.

And now my sheets are smooth and the art is on the wall and the fan is cool and my suit is drying on the doorknob.

If I found a way to complain about today, I wouldn’t have lived it.

The Idea and the If

In Love, Travel on March 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

How do I know if it’s you or the idea of you?

When I left Galway, an idea’s all I took with me.  After all, a city doesn’t fit into an airport carry-on too well, especially when a gal’s lugging four Irish sweaters home in it after her half-year abroad.

Since I couldn’t pack the city, how, then, could I miss anything but the idea of it?  How, then, could I miss anything but the idea of potluck dinners spinning into sing-song in rooms with red walls?  Or the idea of jugglers and fire-spinners and djembe drummers – my friends  – jumping into the sea on rare days with sun?  Or the idea of winding cobbled streets that no longer lost me, but led me: to Ernie’s Greengrocery, to the crappy burrito shop, to the sea?  How, then, when I arrived back home, landlocked and lake-bound, could I not miss the idea of the sea?

We miss what we are distant from, what we leave or what leaves us.  How, then, do we ever miss anything but ideas?

I miss the idea of you now you ain’t ‘knocking and tapping and Christmas wrapping’ round my door no more.  I miss you when we drop eyes across an accidental cafe run-in or shop stop-by.  I miss rolling sushi and counting your grey hairs and kissing your hands and hanging on to the idea that if “ifs” (what if, if only, if ever, if by chance) could have a tense – could have a “will” “was” “won’t” – instead of that  nearly timeless spot of night they occupy, well, then, they wouldn’t shine so much.

New Orleans is Making Love to Itself and Everyone’s Invited.

In Music, Travel on March 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm

In New Orleans last week.  For Emily, who was found creeping in an orange car round a sweating stretch of airport under palms.

We took off!  My Tulane-master’s friend and I.  We ate hummus.  We waited for streetcars on neutral ground. We trod the street where every shop’s flung wide and bodies crowd amicably round long tables of tacos, bread pudding, and beignets (this is every street).

The grocery-story gave me tequila! When we stopped for squash and cheese.  The lady with the samples gave me the cup of afternoon liquor like no big thing.

I lost litres on sweating dance floors, to 80s tunes and saxophones and old men on guitar.  I drank a few litres, too, but lost those by the river, under the sun, swinging plastic-bag records hand to hand.

I’m trying to think about this…New Orleans.  I’m trying, but how does one fit unbridled breathing into words?  A few:

 fairy-lights, parades, dread-heads, poor, mosquitoes, swamp, Sun, porch fans, antique stores, gelato, and the MUSIC and the COLOR, oh boy, the COLOR, oh boy the MUSIC.

To paraphrase New Orleans, here’s how the shutters close and how the bar-floors sway, as street after street, audiences stumble in and out of draping swamp-stomp jazz, understanding they’ve been made to recycle it into dance.

Almost Full

In Travel on September 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I graduated from university in 2008, in a blustery winter.  I steeled my head against the snow and pushed to the place where they would call me done.  And just begun.  The stadium with black robes and red string, where the man onstage speeched.  He promised we had no idea what lay in store.

We wriggled up stairs like salmon upstream.  Our tassels were turned. We were step after step, a sea.

That night I was in the basement.  My girlfriends were upstairs, laughing on my bed.  We’d cawed and strummed and made great play.  It was time for ice cream.  In front of the freezer I burst into tears.

What are we to do?  I have asked this question many times, with many people: my friends, twenty-something, eighty-something, thirty-something, teen-something, parent-something and utterly confused.  Thrown out of pattern that was decades in the making: sharpened pencils and labeled crayons, achy note-taking hands.  Backpacks with one strap near snapping, gym lockers, alarm clocks, exams.

What are we to do when we train for what we do not know is a brick wall looming?  A death that we blossom into and with shutters drawn must outgrow?  How do we become the next us?  How do we say goodbye?

I decided to fit my footsteps in these questions with travel.  Shortly before graduation I’d sat in my advisor’s office.  A picture of her daughter decorated the table.  My advisor reminisced about how her daughter had gone straight to med school from undergrad.  Both wished she’d taken time to see the world.

As a writer or a person who writes (it is a funny cross into moniker) I believed it would be of essence to spend time doing what I would do at home, abroad.  I might as well work, volunteer, love, and live over there, I thought.  One never knows what to expect, how many different strains of existence one might catch when the weight of one’s world is simply a bag on a back. So I went to Ireland and Ecuador and Austin and New Orleans and Columbia and Poland and Paris and Seattle and London and California and New York.

In between many of these places I stopped home and worked and planned the next move. Now I am in Mali, in Africa.  The last leg.  It was an unexpected one, born from Birthright.  A free trip for American Jews under 26.  It got me halfway around the world and now I’m making my way home, slowly.

My cup is almost full.  It won’t hold much more.  Whatever else will come – and it may be the most beautiful of sunsets or waving deserts or delicious, if parasitic food – well it will spill off.  I can’t hold anymore right now.  I want to go and create a home and gather love to my side.  I want to hold it there, cradle it at night, feed it, and dance with it.  I want to take what I’ve learned, lonely walking blue nights, Italian dinners wishing I was with the boy I loved, human spit, woven tapestry, photo cards, and opened beds, I want to take this and create the worth.  It has it.  It’s there.  I want to share.


In Travel on July 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I spent my twenty-fifth birthday in Africa.  On a flat roof under a hazy moon while the band played.  They called me on stage.  I sang the weirdest version of “Sugar in my Bowl” that’s ever met the world.  Assi sang about cheeseburgers.  The man in the blue shirt danced with me.  We hopped knees in the air.  The man on the mic danced with me; he ground me to the ground and I looked around, then ground to town.

We ate chocolate cake.  Djibi helped me blow the candles.  Upstairs, the meat sandwiches oozing oil.  Black luminescent bodies in headscarves, ornate fabric.  On wire chairs, metal chairs, wood chairs.  Holding babies who stared blankly.  White matte bodies in sweats and post-water sick stance.  And still we danced.

I am that I am

In Religion, Travel on April 13, 2011 at 5:07 am

“I am that I am.”


“I shall be what I shall be.”

I started a book called Biblical Literacy, restarted, I should say. It was presented to me by one of my Papa’s friends upon my Bat-Mitzvah. I didn’t think much of it then. Flipped a page, deposited it on a shelf. But in a month I go to Israel. Time to refresh.

Curled around the cover as the sky turned deep blue, this afternoon I read these words. God spoke them to Moses, the reluctant hero who sought not to lead the exodus from Egypt. This was Moses’ second objection:

“What am I to tell when they ask who sent me? What is the name?”

And God replied, “Ehyeh-asher-Ehyeh”. I shall be what I shall be. I am that I am.

Tonight, a quiet night.  God’s name, God’s voice.  The sentence, “it is beautiful,” quickly fades. Like the way our voices, breaths, and instruments go from sound to silence.  How is it beautiful? How am I refreshed, angered, confused, or made glad by that which shall be what shall be? I cannot add those thoughts, nor this line.

I am that I am


I shall be what I shall be

I wish you all a sweet night.

How Sweet It Is!

In Life, Travel on September 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

One of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in my life was Mary Marohn picking up a clump of basil on the Rockey-Burger front step and putting it in a new pot.  It was tired and dry and she saw what it needed and she just picked it up and moved it to a bigger pot.  Wiped the dirt off her hands, and resumed chatting about the day.


With Mary in mind, I am moving to New York City on September 28, 2010.  I don’t know what I’ll find there.  Or if I’ll take a bite out of the Big Apple or be bitten.  But the songs are coming with me.  Brooklyn Brooklyn’s gonna take me in slow New York under that pale moon.

I’m gonna get off that gooddamn plane, grab a slice, go outside, look up, and join the tribe.