02 April 2011


my passport expires on sunday. i'm a little sad about giving it up, both for the dozens of stories it indexes and for the one that it's missing. (australia, you elusive beast, i vow to make you the first stamp in the new book.) within the well-worn pages are stamps from egypt, libya, and japan. three places very much in the news these days and, though the visa dates might indicate otherwise, still very vivid in my memory.

on the flip side, i was elated to learn that nowadays you can submit your own passport photo; you're not at the mercy of the drugstore photographer, nor out ten bucks. but oh, the pressure! smile, no smile? hair up, down? too light? too dark? does my head fit within the prescribed 1" to 1 3/8" frame?

freedom can be paralyzing.

2001 (i still have that sweater)


22 January 2011


gearing up to revive this here corner of the world wide web, to catch up and move forward on all things i love about travel, when i came across this:

travel writing: why it sucks.

i hereby vow never to use the words/phrases "oasis", "beaten path", or "land of contrasts".*
and not to suck.

* n.b. purposely following british style of interior quotes because, well, it just looks better.

10 February 2009

Next Stop


barcelona, to be precise.

last spring break ever.

ole! ole!

14 September 2008

DC Wrap Up

Before it completely escapes my memory!

My last Sunday in DC was low key... until I went to see Eddie Vedder at the Warner Theatre. (If you don’t know me, you don’t know my love for the Pearl Jam, and how pumped I was for this.) First off, what a lovely venue. Felt so regal. Eddie’s on a solo tour, just him and his guitar(s) playing his own tunes. Lots from Into the Wild, which I have yet to see, though the Netflix envelope is sitting on my dining room table. He also snuck in one PJ song — Porch — and, to my supreme delight, three Dylan songs. Girl From North Country, Forever Young, and All Along The Watchtower, his second to last song where he was joined by the drummer from Fugazi! Bad. Ass. In typical Vedder fashion, his between-song banter was thoughtful, hilarious, stammered, and potent. His story about ‘surfing’ in the Potomac had it all. Guess you had to be there…

Monday, Monday... Lazy bones. Packed. Walked to and around Dupont Circle, ate the worst Thai food of my life, and got harassed by a homeless man. Two of my classmates from last year had just moved to DC (with many more on the way), so I met up with them for some drinks. My bike broke on the ride home. Some how the chain became lodged between the chainring and the outer casing of the chainring (don't know the term), there by bending the whole thing. Can't believe I didn't take a photo. RIP, Schwinny.

Tuesday, last full-day in town... Met up with my ol' pal Jim from high school for lunch, thereby bringing my DC excursion full circle as he was the very first soul I saw when I arrived. From there, it was a whirlwind museum tour. I had a very disciplined agenda, though.

jim henson's fantastic world

First stop: Jim Henson's Fantastic World. What an amazing man. I believe the show is down now, but trust me it was fabulous. Not 'dumbed down' in any way, as a Crayola-hued exhibit space featuring fuzzy puppets might lead you to believe. The curators did an admirable job of presenting JH's vision, mission, and worldview in a most accessible, engaging, and fun way without being over pedantic or elementary. I most appreciated the inclusion of his early, pre-Muppet work, from comically un-PC commercials starring a primordial Kermit to Time Piece, one of his many more 'experimental' films.

Next: Permanent collection at Hirshhorn. I'd seen The Cinema Effect twice, but the museum closed before I ever made it to the top floor. Eh.

hirshhorn reflection

Next: Afghanistan at the National Gallery. Also been here twice without making it through the special exhibits. Nice exhibit, great story, gorgeous artifacts.

That evening, my housemates (minus one) and I went out to West End Bistro, Eric Ripert's DC restaurant. Of the mind that I would eat pretty much anything prepared under the hand of that man, I had the halibut. Yes, Maria the vegetarian of 13 years ate a fish. And it was delicious. Apres ça, we met up with our fourth housemate for dessert at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. I had the apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. Also amazing.

And that, as they say, was that.

21 August 2008

Back in Chicago

Arrived home yesterday, with 146 pounds of luggage in tow. (The Southwest folks were kind enough to fake the weight so i was charged $50 instead of $100 for the overage.) Now I'm re-adjusting to the size of my apartment, which seems so contained compared to the whole house I just inhabited. Also, my cat forgot me.

My last days in DC were some of the best, solidifying even more that I will be back, if only to visit. Several of my grad school classmates just moved there, with more on the way, and we hung out a few days before I left. Nice to see familiar faces. (The ride home from the bar is when my bicycle met its unfortunate fate.)

I ticked through my checklist of sites to see before I leave with a shocking degree of efficiency. Last Saturday (16th), I hit a matinee at the E St CinemaMan On Wire, which was fabulous, and not just because it was French (though, that always helps...). From there, it was off to explore Penn Quarter and Chinatown. My housemate (err... former housemate. sniff.) raved about the National Building Museum, so I had to check it out. Plus, there's an Eero Saarinen exhibit up. The museum is nice, the shop is fantastic, but the building is really the thing to see. Definitely one of the more photogenic structures in DC.




They used to hold all the State dinners here

Post-NBM, I walked around Chinatown. All two blocks of it. Every Chinatown must be marked with a gate, and DC is no different, except for the Gallery Place shopping plaza encroaching directly upon it. Very commercial, very touristy, very blah.

Nestled in the madness is the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, two museums housed in one space. Not knowing much about the collections of either, I was expecting room after room of presidential paintings and second-rate American art that didn't make it into the National Gallery. I was very pleasantly proved wrong. The Portrait Gallery had some fun exhibits -- Recognize! (hip hop and portraiture) and Bally Hoo (poster as portrait) -- in addition to the presidents.


bertoia sculpture for zenith
Harry Bertoia's daughter contacted me about using this photo!

Next: Sunday.

18 August 2008

bad news

my bicycle is no more.

riding home from foggy bottom tonight, somehow the chain became lodged between the two front chainrings, so tightly that it bent the metal cover over the chainring. it's now shaped like an egg, and locked to a pole at 14th & K. (fitting that i should 'break down' near my old office.)

i suppose no better time than now, 36 hours before i'm scheduled to leave town. makes a sad scene that much sadder.

note to self

remind me to tell you about:

1. fallingwater / the castle / my birthday
2. last day(s) at internship
3. museuming
4. eddie vedder

31 July 2008

August Eve

Here we are on August eve, and I've less than three weeks until I return home to Chicago. This is madness to me. Where, oh where has the time gone? I've barely scratched the surface on museum visits; woefully under-explored the culinary scene (also due to budget constraints...); not lost those ten pounds I packed on over the winter (although biking almost everyday makes me feel OK about that); and, shamefully, not finished my thesis.

Tonight my housemates interviewed some people to take my place, and it brought home the reality that my pretend world is coming to an end, rapidly. My stay has always had an expiration date, but I never expected it to be bittersweet. Attachments have been made; habits formed.

Still, the thing about DC that gets me, that makes me hesitant about any long-term prospects here, is its transience. Very few people are from DC; most come to town, put in a few years time and then pack up that experience and take it where they really want to be. Based on several conversations, this is not a unique observation by any means. But I suppose when you're one of the folks who stays, it's interesting to see all the new faces coming to town, all the new possibilities for new pals to fill in the gaps left the ones who've moved on. I've always been that person, standing by while good friends — best friends — came and went through Chicago, frustrated at my own static existence. Now, I can't say that I know if it's any better on the flip side.

24 July 2008

Today I Met My Senator

No, not that one. The other one.

This morning I rose bright and early to experience the DC commute I feared most: the 8AM Metro ride to Capitol Hill. A parade of Blackberrys and brown-nosed interns. Shudder.

For me, no Congressional hearings today; instead, I went to the Illinois Coffee, coffee and donuts with my members of Congress. Senator Dick Durbin holds this little town hall meeting for visiting constituents every week while Congress is in session. Rep. Jerry Costello joined him.

Sen. Dick Durbin @ Illinois Coffee

They talked about all of the expected issues: gas prices, energy costs, employment, infrastructure, youth and violence. I was decently impressed with both of their responses to crowd questions. Dick Durbin has this warm, trusted grandpa demeanor; you just want to believe everything he says, that the world really can be a better place, and the government can help.

After the meeting -- completely packed with at least 100 people -- we had the chance to meet our civil servants and have our picture taken with them. Of course, everyone else was there with their family or school group, and then there's li'l ole me, hanging with the politicos all by myself. They email the photos; should have mine in 6 to 8 weeks.

Also: Wednesdays are for flat tires, I'm learning. Second flat in a week -- although far less spectacular than the first, simply a slow deflate overnight. This time I had the good folks at City Bikes supply the labor as well as the materials, and wouldn't you know, there's a ton wrong with it. I was cajoled into replacing the rear tire, which was more or less stripped bald and the likely source of my leak. $38.05 later, back on the road.

20 July 2008

Week in Review

Mon: Congressional research, failed webinar
Tue: Bill Ivey, sunburn
Wed: flat tire, Kennedy Center
Thu: NEA, cake @ work, mediocre pizza
Fri: deadlines, homesick, not seeing Dark Knight
Sat: Pilates, new tire, thesis research
Sun: thesis research, microwave Thai, 1h43m phone call with long-lost friend