Category Archives: travel

I hate this picture 

Another tourist in Iceland took this picture of us while we were hiking up to Reykjadalur to see the thermal streams. I’ll be frank and admit that I think I look terrible in this photo. My face is bright red,the weight I’ve put on over the last few years is super apparent, my hiking outfit is functional but unflattering, I had no control over the framing of the picture. And etc and etc and etc. I look at this picture and I fall down the hole of everything that I don’t like about myself. 

So I have to grab a handhold and climb the fuck out of that stupid hole because there are so many reasons to love this picture. 

Let’s list those mothercluckers.

  1. This picture was taken in Iceland, and fyi, Iceland is amazing.
  2. My body was allowing me to climb up a bunch of steep paths through beautiful scenery to an amazing endpoint.
  3. I hiked those paths with my family. 
  4. I showed my kid that I can do things. I can do things that are difficult even if my cheeks turn red and breath gets a little lost. I can do it.
  5. In that exact moment I was so happy and proud of myself.
  6. This picture proves that sometimes I get to beat my condition. Or at least control it.
  7. It was such a good, joyful, fun day and I have a million other pictures from it but I’m glad to have this one non selfie of all three of us on the side of mountain having an actual adventure.

So I guess I don’t hate that picture. And that means I can’t hate myself in that picture,or the body I inhabit in it. 

It can be hard to remember sometimes that I’m so much more than what I look like but it’s worth it to remind myself that I am. I just need to do it more often.

This picture i love without reservation. Just wanted to show that those exist too

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Filed under acceptance, health (or lack thereof), self loathing, travel

Venice.

Tomorrow.

Thank Christ.

I don’t even care that it will be just as cold and grey as it is here.  It will be Venice and therefore it will be better.

Fact.

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Venezia! AKA Plans and Memories

Jeremy and I are heading back to Venice the weekend of Oct 28th.

We’ll catch the end of this year’s Biennale and go see the current exhibit at Palazzo Fortuny and stay in a hotel on San Zaccaria.

Then I will com home and write a book, at least a first draft, in November. 

THEN we’ll go the ATP the first weekend of December in Minehead.

And in the middle of all this my grandmother is still unwell and staying in a nursing home as they try to build her health back up after her surgeries and any time I see a funeral on the TV it makes me cry.  The final episode of the first season on Treme nearly killed me last week when we watched it on DVD.

I keep thinking of driving down two lane highways and listening to The Watson Twins and wandering around my old neighbourhood in Detroit and sitting in hospital waiting rooms hoping for even the smallest thing to go right and sand cranes in plowed fields and old school houses and the colours in my parents’ old back yard changing as October marched on.

This started out happy and then turned sort of maudlin, huh?  I didn’t mean for that to happen. 

There are good things on the horizon though, more on those soon.  I need to move through this bout of sadness first I think.

 

 

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Filed under grief, Memory lane, travel

Home again, Hannigan

Back in London.

Vienna was beautiful.

I didn’t eat enough cake. 

My life is full of regrets.

Pictures soon.

I want to go back.

 

 

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Dyn-o-mite!

I like this photo because Florida and James look so happy together. Nevermind that something bad will surely happen again next week, Michael will join a gang, someone will lose a job, times will not stay good! Here they are sharing a happy cuddle, hooray!

Here is something you might not know about me.  I love the show Good Times.  A lot.  Back when I was at school (and by school I mean Wayne State University my esteemed alma mater) I would watch reruns whenever I could. 

I also owned not just one, but two, yes TWO! mugs that said DYN-O-MITE! that were purchased and the Highland Park Goodwill.  I loved how relentlessly depressing the show was while still having these ridiculous sitcomy moments.  I loved JJ’s paintings, I loved Michael’s nerdiness, I wasn’t as huge a fan of Thelma, but she had some pretty sweet outfits, Willona was the coolest ever, and of course I loved James and Florida, the bedrocks of the Evans family. 

And this is why I can never read, think or say the word Florida without thinking of Good Times.  In my mind the state is named after the character rather than the other way around.  Which is all a rather convoluted way of saying that I can’t go to Florida without thinking of Good Times and hearing the word Dyn-o-mite! repeated over and over in my head.

Which leads me to our very enjoyable trip to the Florida just a few weeks ago.  We arrived in Florida (Dyn-o-mite!) on the 19th of May to attend a wedding on the 21st, the happy couple showed a shocking lack of concern for the predicted apocalypse, which was wise given that it didn’t happen at all. 

We stayed with Jeremy’s grandfather in his pretty house on a small lagoon (at least I think it was a lagoon, maybe it’s just a pond though) and I spent a lot of time watching lizards on the back deck because on day 2 of vacation I contracted the cold that will not die.  Jeremy was still sick as well, having picked up the cold on his way back from soviet Russia the week before, but he was in slightly better shape than me. 

How to twist (in case you forgot)

We still pushed through all the festivities which were all very fun despite having no voice and a stuffed up head.  We managed, bravely, to dance like crazy at the reception.  I seem to be resorting to the twist a lot lately.  I’m not sure when this became my go to dance, but it totally is.  Luckily it’s pretty easy regardless of how crap you’re feeling.  So I drank some wine, had some cake, and twisted the night away.

I did choose to refrain from the hora (or as I described it to the manager of the restaurant where we had our reception “You know, the dance with the chairs, like in movies?”) as I was worried that my lack of balance due to a stuffy head might endanger the other guests.
 
Most importantly though, it was a really lovely wedding.  Jeremy’s cousin and her new husband looked tremendously happy and in love.  I’m really glad we were able to get back to the States to be a part of the day.
 
I spent the following day in bed watching Law and Order: SVU reruns because that is what you do when you are sick and can’t talk or stop coughing and everything hurts and you want to die.  Probably if I’d been able to spend more time in bed watching Law and Order reruns I’d have gotten better much more quickly. 
 
And on the following day we were back on an airplane and on our way back to England for approximately 8 hours before we were off to Spain.  The Florida (Dyn-o-mite!) portion of the trip was short but very good.  It was really nice to be back for a 100% happy reason rather than a memorial or funeral, where it’s all mixed emotions and melancholy. 
 
Although to be fair, the melancholy was still around (it just will be for a while, I know) as I had to scratchily let a few people know about my dad and spent a good portion of the reception thinking about dancing with him at my wedding reception and just missing him in general, which will probably be the case at all weddings I attend going forward, just with varying degrees of intensity.
 
But anyhow, it was a great trip despite the cold that refuses to die.  I still got to dance and have grits and hang out with Jeremy’s side of the family (some of whom have promised to share some excellent cognac with us when we’re in Michigan next.  Hooray for Gina and Al!). 
 
More on Barcelona soon, promise.  I need to get my festival notes together so I can try to remember all the awesome I saw.

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Filed under america, travel

Adventures in Barcelona

So, let’s talk vacation.  I’m going to start at the end of my two weeks off and tell you, Dear Reader(s), about our last day in Barcelona.

As you know we went to Barcelona so we could attend Primavera Sound (which was awesome), what you may not know is that while we were there we were staying with 10 other friends in a flat in town.  It was an alright flat.  Kind of grubby, the AC wasn’t totally functional, but the place was spacious and had a nice patio.  It was close to the metro and near a nice market and lots of bars and cafes.  So, you know, good enough.

On our last full day in Spain, we were taking it easy.  No more loud concerts, no sight-seeing, nothing.  We slept till 2 in the afternoon, went out for food and then came home in the evening to take a nap (because naps are an important part of vacation).  So we’d just laid down and were starting to fall asleep when we heard the doorbell to our flat ringing, followed by a loud banging on the door.  Jeremy groggily got up to put on some trousers and see what the hell was going on.  As he was leaving our room we heard the door open.

This is never good.

He left the room to find a large-ish Chinese man standing in the foyer.  A large-ish Chinese man who absolutely did not belong in our foyer.  They established that the intruder spoke no English and that Jeremy spoke no Spanish Jeremy tried to indicate that the intruder should leave.  The intruder, did not leave.  Instead he went further into the flat and began to mime punching himself in the face and pointed up saying, “Por favor, por favor.”  Jeremy finally got him to leave and closed and dead bolted the door.

I was out of the room by this point and was all, “What the hell?” And Jeremy was all, “I don’t fucking know.”  So we called the cops.  We looked up the Spanish version of 911 and he let them know that he didn’t exactly have an emergency situation but he certainly had a not normal or good situation.  Meanwhile we could hear this character on the floors above us pounding on other doors.

My friend H woke up and came out of her room at the other end of the flat (where street noise had muffled all the goings on so far) and we told her what had happened.  Her boyfriend A came out as well and we all sat in the foyer and waited for ten long minutes before the cops showed up.  The cops, understandably, spoke very little English, and Jeremy, as established, speaks almost no Spanish.  They wanted to know where the thief was.  Jeremy kept saying “There is no thief, but something is wrong, someone needs help!” And he described the situation again.  They went upstairs to check things out and we waited with the door to the flat open as lots of noise started to happen upstairs.

Now let me describe the foyer.  It has a weird interior stained glass window in it that opens onto a utility closet.  We didn’t realise there was no roof to said utility closet, that it, in fact, only had half roofs all the way up to the sky.  We discovered this fact when H and I heard a crash from behind the window.  I think we shouted and can’t remember who opened the window, but when we did open it there was a Chinese woman on the water heater holding her finger to her lips in a shhh motion.  Above her were the legs of another woman.  We didn’t have a chance to shhh or not because the main cop was already back in the flat jumping over the coffee table and chasing the women back up.

It was like being in an action movie, except not at all.

We stayed where we were and then the cop came down and explained in broken English that on the floor above us there was an illegal brothel full of undocumented Chinese prostitutes.  Seriously.  One of them had been beaten up and the guy who broke into our place was apparently trying to get help.  The police officer also helpfully pointed out the camera used by the Chinese mafia to monitor the comings and goings of clients and suggested we be careful.  Yeah, thanks Spanish cop we totally appreciate your safety advice NOW.  Jeremy called the owner of the flat and let him know what was up.  The owner ranted about property laws in Spain and how they’ve known something was up but it’s impossible to get anyone evicted, oh, and don’t talk to the cops, they’re all assholes.  Jeremy let him know it was a little late in the day for that but really he just wanted to let the owner know what was up, also that any damage caused was not our fault but rather the fault of hookers falling through the ceiling.  And honestly, how often is that a plausible excuse?  It’s really a once in a lifetime kind of thing.

Ultimately we decided that being careful entailed collecting all our needed items (passports, cash, phones, plane tickets, etc) and going out for dinner and drinking Spanish beer until 3 am.  We let our fellow travelers know what was up via text and when we got home that night ended up retelling the story a few times and singing a rousing version of It’s Raining Whores at some point.  Recently jokes about ho-downs have also been made, humour being the easiest way to deal with finding yourself in the middle of an illegal prostitution bust.

All said, it was possibly the weirdest and most absurd situation I’ve ever found myself involved in.  At times very frightening and at other times strangely hilarious.  And as the landlord told Jeremy at the end of their phone call, “At least you have stories.”

But it’s more than stories.  Despite the absurdity and stupid jokes, it’s all really serious actually.  The women those police took away are unlikely to be going anywhere better or good.  Chances are they didn’t choose to end up in a brothel in Barcelona and they aren’t likely to be given a whole lot of choices in the future either.  One of them was hurt just a floor up from us.  It was all pretty messed up and sad.

Human Trafficking is an interesting  and informative website if you want to learn more.  I’ve also recently bought the book by the Half the Sky Foundation to try to learn some more.  I’d like this to be more than just a bonkers story from my holiday in Spain, more than just a series of off colour jokes and status updates on Facebook (although it is all of those things as well).

In the meantime I’ve learned an important lesson about booking holiday flats for the future.  Google the address.  If websites like whichwhorehouse.com and sexomercadobcn come up, maybe you should try another place.  Also I’m more than a little frightened of the search terms that will bring people here.  So if you came here looking for hooker reccomendations, shame on you!

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Filed under cackle of rads, the travails of living abroad, travel

In Russia you only get one spoon . . .*

What a sweater!

Jeremy is in St Petersburg, Russia right now which means there were lots of Yakov Smirnoff** style jokes around the villa the last couple weeks.  A disproportionate number of sentences have started with the words, ‘In Soviet Russia . . . ‘  I hope he’s not doing that now.  Yakov Smirnoff aside, I don’t think the people of Russia probably care for those jokes very much.

 
Last night he saw a fireworks display to celebrate the defeat of the Nazis in WWII and he texted me the following: It kind of feels like I am in the middle of a communist rally, crossed with a protest march but with families and drunk people.
Jeremy’s always full of sensitive cultural observations.  Tomorrow he goes to another town, Veliky Novgorod, apparently the drive can take anywhere from 2 – 8 hours depending on the state of the roads.  Fingers are crossed that his travel time ends up being closer to 2 hours.  I keep hoping he’ll get a driver like the one in Everything is Illuminated, but I know that sort of thing only really happens in books and movies.  Plus that guy is busy with his band.
 
While he’s away, I’m eating nonvegetarian dinners and watching all the crap tv I want.  Plus, you know, missing his stupid face a bunch.  We had a friend visiting from the US last weekend so the house has gone from feeling slightly overfull to way too empty very quickly.  Oliver and I are doing our best to keep things lively despite this, but he’s a cat and they aren’t much for talking so things will probably be pretty quiet until Saturday.
 
*This is not a Yakov Smirnoff joke, it’s a Kids in the Hall joke, specifically it is a  line from a Gavin sketch that also features discussion of a bike race, chair painting and onions.  And upon review I have discovered that it is actually England where you only get one spoon!  I need to be more careful with my hoarded American spoons.
**Yes, I know he is technically Ukrainian, but his jokes refer to Russia so it’s okay

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Filed under dorking it up, travel