Category Archives: life list

28: #5, #6

Well, this is only very slightly overdue, but over my birthday weekend (10/10) John surprised me with an awesome gift that allowed me to check off half of the 5th item on my Life List AND a ¼ of the 6th! What a guy.

You may have noticed a trend of me writing “John surprised me”, and you’re probably getting super bored by it, and maybe you’re wondering if I’m still surprised by all of this surprising.

Well, sort of.

See, my birthday happened to land on the Monday of Columbus Day weekend, and we had been talking about going to Salem, MA around Halloween, so I had a hunch that we’d probably go then, and I was right.

BUT, I never suspected that he’d also want to drive all the way to Acadia in Maine! I was totally floored and so happy.

I was not so happy when he urged me to rush home from work at 5:30 one recent evening, and instead of the flowers or elaborate dessert I thought would be waiting for me, I found a locked, dark apartment.

SURPRISE!

I guess he tries to keep me on my toes.

Anyway, so on that Friday evening, John and I shipped up to Boston and stayed downtown for the night thanks to my mom, Queen of Marriott Rewards. The next morning we picked up our rental car and headed over to Concord, home of Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne so that I could cross off the MA portion of #5 on my Life List.

And really? Someone should study that coordinate. The air just felt smarter and more transcendenty. I was most interested in visiting Orchard House, home to Alcott and the setting for her most famous work and one of my personal favorites, Little Women. My grandma gave a copy to me when I was pretty young, and it was the first “classic” I read on my own. I loved reading about girls who, even though they were living over a hundred years before me, were genuinely relatable, which is why the book was so popular when it was published, and continues to be today.

To see the inside of the house you have to take a tour, and even though our ancient tour guide was a little repetitive and slow, it was still worth it. So many things that belonged to the Alcott family have been preserved and restored, so it looks very much the way it did when the family (on which the book is based) lived there. Really fascinating to hear how intertwined the lives of the famous philosophers and writers of the day were, which is obvious in their work, but in Concord, MA, the evidence is geographical.

Afterwards, we stopped at another literary hot spot, Walden Pond. The weather was unseasonably warm, so families and their cars were out in droves which made things probably slightly less peaceful than, say, when Thoreau was hanging out  . . . but it’s so beautiful that you can understand how one would be inspired there.

From there we headed to Salem to check out their Halloween festivities. We picked a good weekend, because it was the day of the Annual Zombie Walk. Salem takes their spooky Witch Hunt history very seriously and so this is a great time to visit an already really cool city. My cousin and his husband live there and, being the good citizens that they are, fully partake in all of the festivities! It was a total coincidence that we ran into them at the festival! The ghost of Tituba must have been working some magic. We were having so much fun that we really wanted to stick around, but we had a long drive to Maine ahead of us, so we left that evening . . . you know, after I had my tarot cards read. She didn’t mention anything about brain tumors or lottery winnings or George Clooney, so I don’t really remember what she said.

Boring future read, off to Maine we drove, figuring we’d find a place to stay on the way. I mean, it’s Maine, right? Who goes to Maine? Like 40 people live in Maine – why would anyone possibly need to go there? I began calling hotels on the road to find that this is not the case. EVERYTHING was sold out. Did you know that Maine’s slogan is “Vacationland”?? No? Well it is! And apparently EVERYBODY knows that but us. We couldn’t stay at a Motel 6 if we paid them. Even a creepy roadside knock-off, Motel 5, was totally booked. We were beginning to think that we’d have to sleep in the car when finally we got the very last room at the Lakeside Motel in Winthrop which was totally creepy and obviously haunted by angry deer-hunting ghosts. Very surprisingly, we weren’t killed or haunted or eaten alive by bed bugs, so all in all it was a good night. We survived! Onward to Acadia, 1/4 of #5 on the Life List!

sign outside of the fabulous Lakeside Motel

The weather was gorgeous the next day, and after my big outdoor adventure out west, I was really excited to have another National Park experience. I had my tennis shoes and sporty looking pants on, and this adorable Lululemon hoodie, which I wore even though it was too hot because, hello, it’s outdoorsy and cute and so am I, damn you.

The foliage was just beginning to change, the clear blue water was sparkling in the warm October sun, I looked like an outdoorsy Californian who knows what she’s doing and it was a birthday surprise: what could be better?

The park. The park could have been better.

I mean, ok, yes, it was beautiful, but it was east coast beautiful, meaning pretty, but not impressive; awkwardly good looking, like Anne Hathaway, but not staggeringly mountainous, like Courtney Stodden.

Look, I just went to Utah. It would be like going to Paris and then, a few months later, going to whatever city the “Paris of Alabama” is.

Ok, just kidding, it’s not that bad. At all. It’s gorgeous and the foliage really was just starting to turn and the colors were radiant and the water really was unbelievably clear and sparkling, and we did have a great time there. I think I was just expecting the kind of overwhelming wow factor I got at other National Parks. I mean, I’m like a super experienced outdoors woman, so I really wanted to be challenged with a strenuous hike that my outfit was clearly meant to handle. This is a different kind of park.

ok, fine, it is beautiful!

Fall or summer is probably the best time to go . . . which I guess is why we had to stay at the Lakeside Motel. Make reservations!

The park is right outside of Bar Harbor, which is a darling, typical New England coast resort town, full of pubs, lobster restaurants, Victorian-style houses, and t-shirt shops. We rewarded ourselves for all of the driving that John did with delicious lobster rolls, blueberry ice cream, and Allagash. Luckily found a hotel in Portland that night, which is a weird, but cool, but not really, city. It sort of reminds me of the hipster sections of Baltimore, but also sort of like Alexandria, VA, with a population of rebellious suburbanites whose suburb was an hour outside of the city and not on a Subway line.

Make sense?

But it was cool, and I’m sure that with more time and more exploration I would have really liked it, however it was an early night because we (meaning John) had to drive all the way back to Boston in the morning . . .

But not without stopping in Kennebunkport!

We really don’t like to relax.

Anyway, it was a totally packed three days, but that’s how we like to do things and that’s how we get things done.

Seeing as I’ve only completed 10% of my still incomplete list, I think we might have to move a little faster.

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#45 – Go Camping, Legitimately, in a Tent, in the Middle of Nowhere

This past trip was very nature-centric and unlike any I’ve done before, and so I was very excited to be able to be out of my element and check some things off the Life List.

When we were planning out logistics, the idea of cutting camping from the trip came up and I probably did one of my “wide eyes, tight lips” glares at John in which he could sense my internal freak out.

That was the end of the camp-cutting convo.

We don’t have room in our apartment for an ironing board much less camping gear, so it’s not something we’ve ever thought of purchasing. Plus, we’ve never seriously considered going camping before this. Plus, how would one suggest I travel cross-country with a tent? And a lantern? And those roasting marshmallow pokey things? Am I allowed to carry those on? And a small stove, right? Because we’re going to be cooking fancy campsite meals, aren’t we? OMG sleeping bags! Duh! But those are kinda big . . . but maybe we should bring our air mattress, too?

This was not helping the case for camping.

So we decided that the easiest solution would be to buy all of our necessities before we headed out on the road at a Wal-Mart outside of Vegas.

Wow, this really was an All-American trip.

When we got to Wal-Mart, there was some more hesitation about whether this really was a good idea or not. Pretty valid points like, “uh, what are we going to do with this stuff when we’re done?” and “is it worth spending all of this money on camping stuff when we can probably find cheap hotel rooms for the same price or less? Isn’t staying at a Motel 6 kind of like camping anyway?”

Even I was being swayed.

Plus, everyone was speaking German and so I was off looking at bullets and bait and DVDs.

Eventually, however, it was decided that we were doing this for the experience, not to necessarily save a ton of money, and so we started piling stuff into the thankfully gigantic carts.

We ended up buying the very bare camping necessities: two small tents, two fleece “sleeping bags” (in quotations because these were more like thin, cheap blankets that had zippers), an LED lantern, and that’s it. No tools for s’mores, no fancy-pants camping stove, no fun stuff. We then bought copious and completely unnecessary amounts of snacks. I chose surprisingly sensible things like granola bars and apples. Omesay othersay oschay ingsthay ikelay an eakingfray FUN PACK of 24 agsbay of ipschay. Oh, and a Halloween bag of oppersWhay.

Ateverwhay.

It wasn’t totally planned out where or what nights we’d camp, but I definitely tried to slyly suggest instances in which it would work out to be a day that I had taken a shower in the morning and wouldn’t need to wash my hair that night, things like that. “Tonight? What? Didn’t you just feel that raindrop?” It pretty much worked out for me. I think the trick is to be high-maintenance one or two nights a week so that you can be low-maintenance the rest. I did that with the following tools:

Flat Iron: straight hair is just easier to take care of and wear for a few days of non-washing

 

 

 

 

Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo – this makes the non-washing thing possible. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of dry shampoo because I don’t like to wash my hair everyday. Sprinkling a good amount of white powder into my hair made me a little apprehensive, but it works!

 

 

Andrea Eye Q’s – the best eye makeup remover I’ve come across. Is gentle, works like a charm, and no water necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Huggies wipes – ditto. There are fancier makeup removing wipes, but I don’t mind using plain old Huggies because they’re cheap. You can clean your whole face in-tent, without having to trek out in the dark to the slightly creepy bathrooms.

 

 

And no, not wearing eye makeup is not an option. My ipchay-ovinglay endfray was earingway ivefay oundspay of akeupmay every day, and I didn’t want to look completely slovenly. Plus we were taking like 5,000,000 pictures . . . I don’t want ugly memories.

Anywhoo, where was I? Oh yes, right, camping.

This trip was the first time I’ve heard the term “backcountry camping”, which basically means camping in a place, typically after hiking to the bottom of some canyon with your crap strapped to your back, that has no facilities . . . like toilets or showers or power hook ups. Like real manly man camping. This is what I wanted to do, but . . . see the photo of “dry shampoo” above.

We camped on campgrounds with campsites and toilets that flushed – the fancy kind. I was sort of disappointed but mostly relieved. I don’t know about the backcountry campers, but the campsite campers? Soooo hoity-toity. They’ve got all of this sexy camping gear and gadgetry that, I mean, I’m my pathetic little “sleeping bag”, I really looked down my nose at. Why not just stay home if you’re going to completely replicate the comforts of your own living room to a campsite? Wusses.

Not us, though. We didn’t even have pillows!

Correction: I didn’t even have a pillow! I brought one inflatable pillow because over the years my mom has given us some really random crap that at the time seemed totally useless. “Um, thanks mom, a solar powered radio, wow, cool, this is going to be, like, totally useful to me seeing as I don’t even listen to electric-powered radios.” Or, “yeah, this mini-flashlight with your company logo on it is super-rad, thanks.” “An inflatable pillow, how did you know?” I let John have it because I’m the perfect girlfriend like that. Plus he was doing all of the driving and, you know, he sort of deserved it.

It turned out that all of her weird, random cast-offs were completely and utterly useful on this trip. It’s like she’s a Jedi or something.

All in all, my introduction to camping was a good one, despite one night of absolutely inhumane temperatures (upper 40s! Come on! I slept in JEANS!), and I’d like to do it again. As with other experiences on this trip, this was a great introduction. Now that I know a bit more about this world and know what to be prepare for, I think I’d actually like to try out the backcountry stuff.

If not, I think I could do something like this . . .

Don’t Let the Sound of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy


Stereotypes, you know, in general, are kind of annoying . . . I mean, not to stereotype them or anything.

One that’s particularly loathsome (and yet one often ensuing of much slapstick hilarity) is that of the prissy girl who isn’t “outdoorsy”. “Ugh, (hair flip) I don’t do camping” is a phrase that has come out of many an uptight, high-maintenance city girl’s mouth according to modern pop culture.

As such, we’ve been led to believe that there are only two types of women on the planet: the Mary Anns and the Gingers:

. . . or better yet, the Vickys and the Maggies:

What we can assess from these characters is that nice, smart, cool girls are just as comfortable in the wilderness as they are in pig tails or flannel shirts. It’s the manipulative, sequin-wearing, gold-digging whores that would ship sweet little Hayley Mills(es) off to boarding school who can’t hack it out there in the wilderness.

There’s just one problem, though . . .

I, like, don’t do camping.

And yet, here I am, finding myself in a position where, yup, I’m probably going to be doing some camping-like activities in the next few weeks. I need to un-Vickify myself posthaste.

My next trip is something that every American should probably do, and so naturally it’s something that, as a bad American, I haven’t really done much of: visit National Parks.

It appears that, like the stereotype or not, I am kind of a city girl. I am usually drawn to places because of cultural attributes, not necessarily by nature. I like food, art, architecture . . . “things”; scenery is nice, but it’s most beautiful when one is looking at it from the terrace of a really lovely restaurant, holding a glass of wine. Is the ocean not more magnificent while looking at it through rosé colored glasses?

It never even occurred to me to question this mindset until I met John, and his ability to inspire me to see all sorts of things from a new perspective is one reason why I fell in love with him. We’re like a reverse Pocahontas & John Smith.

Ok, I really need to lay off the Disney movies.

While John has never sung to me about painting with all of the “colors of the wind” or anything (that I’m allowed to talk about in public, anyway), he has been on three cross-USA road trips. He’s got photo albums full of impressive canyons and arches and mountains and wide open space: things that I’ve sort of seen while playing Oregon Trail, but never really felt the need to see in person. He’s done these types of trips several times, so obviously he really enjoys them, and when you love someone, you get a particular kick out of seeing them in their “element”, even if it’s not necessarily something that you get. The last USA road trip John took was with his very good friend from Germany, and so for historical accuracy, he will be joining us along with his girlfriend, which is really cool.

We’re retracing some of their steps, meeting in Vegas, and then heading off into the sunset to the Grand Canyon, followed by Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and all sorts of other anti-Vegasy things that will allow me to expand my horizons. Jury is still out on whether the other girl is a Vicky or a Maggie, but the point is, I’m really going to try to not be an uptight whore: I want to be outdoorsy. I want to prove that I can sleep outside and do things like raft or bike or eat beef jerky. I want to be able to survive without my flat iron. I want to wear a flannel shirt, and if I didn’t just have my hair chopped off at Frederic Fekkai, I would try out ponytails too.

These things, combined with living in Manhattan and craving the novelty of unused space, are why I’m particularly looking forward to this trip.

Right now I’m in my typical travel-only-type-A mode, mapping out a route and doing all sorts of research on must-sees and creating The Perfect Playlist on iTunes, you know, the most important stuff. Next, we’ll talk packing for a trip unlike any I’ve ever been on.

Anyone been to these places and have any suggestions? More importantly, what are you favorite road trip songs?

Number 13: Go to Paris with John & Picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg

 

I love Paris. I’ve always loved Paris. You know that song I Love Paris? I could have written it and maybe even have done a better job than Cole Porter. In fact, I love Paris so much that I loved it before I ever even went there – it was love before first sight. That’s how much I love Paris.

But then, who doesn’t love Paris?

Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. There’s really no contest. And I’m saying that without having been to all of the cities in the world, so you know it must be true. Its dense beauty is just overwhelming, like humidity or a huge, dripping willow tree. It hangs heavily on your being, drenching you in butter, Chanel No. 5, and all of the other things that make life special.

So much imagery sparked my appreciation for and deep-seated desire to visit this city from an early age . . .


 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . but unlike so many things that are built up beyond reality, Paris did not disappoint when I visited for the first time. I fell in love with the style, the innate romance, and the Parisian appreciation for beauty and history. Oh, and the food and wine aren’t half bad either.

 

If you love Paris or have the feeling that you will love Paris, I get the impression that it’s the sort of place that you want to visit with someone special or like-minded. It’s too wonderful to waste on someone who won’t get it. John had never been to Paris before, so I’ve really wanted to experience the city with him. I knew he’d get it. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem like it would be in our travel plans for the near future since I had been there relatively recently, but he surprised me.

 

I’m not big on my birthday. I don’t want a party, I don’t want a lot of attention, and I really don’t want you to get me a gift. It’s not really the age thing, it just hasn’t been in my personality since age 11. My last birthday, however, happened to be 10-10-10, and since that was something unique I wanted to do something special. Obviously this trip counted a million times over and I couldn’t believe we’d be making our way through Europe on the big day.

 

So on 10-8-10 we had made our way into France from Spain, to Avignon, to attend our friends’ wedding on 10-9-10. It was in a gorgeous cathedral built in the late 1300s within the really cool, picturesque, artsy walled city. Their reception lasted well into the wee hours, and it was a fantastic way to ease into 10-10-10. Not only do we love celebrating with these friends, but they also served a traditional Provençale meal that was one of the best I’ve ever had: lamb, endless cheese, brûléed foie gras, some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted, just to name a few highlights, and all until well past 3 AM when we left the party early and headed back to our secret garden of a B&B, La Violette.

I won’t go into all of the details because it makes me look really horrible and we really don’t need to discuss anything that makes me sound less than awesome . . . but I said some things to John on our way to the hotel that could have been taken in a slightly, ahem, bitchy context were you someone as obviously sensitive and insecure as he. I mean, surely it couldn’t have been me and we don’t need to go into any of it, but the point is, it was 3:30 AM on 10-10-10 and I had single-handedly already ruined my birthday. Shocker.

We were both mad, and I said in what I’m certain was a snippy, clipped “Jesse Eisenberg does Mark Zuckerberg” tone, “so, where are we going tomorrow? Nice? St. Tropez? It’s going to rain all day so it doesn’t really matter”, and I probably threw in an eye-roll for good measure. John sighed, exasperated, and asked me why I have to ruin everything all the time or something like that, and let me in on his secret: we were taking the high-speed train to Paris at 7AM where, unlike Provence, the weather would be sunny and warm, so I’d better shut up and go to sleep.

And then I cried. And apologized for being the worst person in the world. And went to sleep.

 

I am the worst person in the world.

 

It’s very rare that I’ve been somewhere that John hasn’t, so I relished in playing tour guide as best as I could. When we got into the city I knew exactly where we should go, and so we headed straight for the Louvre, walked around the courtyard and then down to the Seine where we had a little breakfast underneath the Pont Royal. From there we walked to Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, down Boulevard Saint-Germain to the St-Germain-des-Prés, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars, the Trocadéro, the Champs-Elysées, Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, Les Halles, and all the way back to the Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre. We had no real destination, no place to go, just took our time and wandered the whole day in perfect 70 degree, sunny weather.

So, ok, we didn’t technically picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg, but we drank champagne on the waterfront of the Seine and split a crepe on the Champs-Elysées, so I think it counts. Once again, there is wiggle room.

As usual, I didn’t deserve it at all, but it truly was the best birthday present of all time and a thousand times life-list worthy.


I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles.
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.
I love Paris every moment,
Every moment of the year.
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is here.

 

Number 2: Go on a Mediterranean Road Trip

A few years ago, John and I decided to make a top ten list of the trips we want to take. Naturally, being that this is me and John we’re talking about, the fashioning of this one singular sensational list required the making of four (4).

We each (secretly, of course) made a list of the places we’d want to go were we told we’d die by the end of the year, then made another list of trips we want to take in an order that makes the most sense (financially, timing-wise, etc.). We shared these lists with each other, which were similar, but not identical by any means (come on people, we’re not like soulmates or anything), and then made our collective top ten.

The only thing that did match exactly was our number one “if I were going to die next month, I’d want to go here now” trip: the Mediterranean.

I don’t really need to tell you why I wanted to go, as it’s one of the most explicit pieces of travel pornography on Earth:

 

These were all images that played a part in inspiring my idea of this trip. It’s one of the few areas of the world that oozes with glamour, beauty, and sultriness, but is also full of rich history and culture. In fact, maybe it’s the only place on Earth with this killer combination. Because of the images that one can conjure dreaming of southern Spain, France, and Monaco, and because I’m an American and I want my life to be impossibly cinematic, I pictured myself as nothing less than the Grace Kelly of my own life’s movie (I don’t have the boobs to be Brigitte Bardot). I would curve through sun-drenched cliff-sides in a sporty little convertible, my scarf blowing effortlessly in the wind, each strand of hair staying perfectly in place, my golden-self would lie on the beach surrounded by the cast of The Talented Mr. Ripley by day and eating countless rounds of tapas by night.

But then I remembered that I’m not blonde.

And I wear a lot of sunscreen.

And that renting a convertible in Europe is really, really expensive.

And crap, I forgot to pack my silk scarves.

So maybe we didn’t vacation exactly under the eye of Alfred Hitchcock or Anthony Minghella as I had originally intended, but it was still incredible, despite the lack of requisite accessories. It still counts. Hey, even Princess Grace in real life drove a not-so-sexy Rover P-6.

Road tripping in Europe was fun: the speed limits are seemingly non-existent, the roads are newly paved, our car was roomy, and the landscape is varied and gorgeous. The company/driver couldn’t have been better, the choice in music was flawless, and the directions were, too. Well, sort of.

Europeans don’t have the same road trip mentality that Americans do. By nature, we’re pioneers. We like to roam. We like to be on the go. We like to get to the next thing. In short, we have ADD, and road trips are perfect for this because you’ve always got something new to look at. The United States is totally pimped out for road-tripping. We have road signs for fast food! We have lids for our cups! We have TVs hanging from the roofs so that our annoying children will not bother us! I didn’t think I was the kind of person who is into that stuff, but oh my god, I so am.

I love the idea of not rushing in the morning, of sitting down to have a lovely cappuccino in peace the way it’s done in Europe. It’s the right way. Drinking coffee out of anything but a proper cup and anywhere but at a proper table is just wrong. I get it.You’re right. But HELLO! I HAVE PLACES TO GO! Put that shit in a paper cup, slap a lid on it, and let’s roll! There are scattered “rest stops” along the way, but they usually don’t have those magic 7-11 style coffee machines. I’m not even a big coffee drinker, but that was rough. How can you go on a road trip without a giant cup of delicious, life-giving coffee?

Much to my delight, one place in France actually did have a pretty fancy looking coffee machine. I was so excited that even though we were almost to our destination and it was 11 PM, I had to try it out.

Oh, France, you’re cute.

I stood there, inserting too many golden coins into the flashy machine, drumming my fingers together in greedy, jonesing excitement, awaiting my black gold.

You guys, the cup was one of these . . .

. . . which can only be described as a pathetic, flimsy, plastic, dentist office cup that is intended for rinsing and spitting only.

I cursed the machine, kicked it, and grabbed it on both sides, shaking it violently. “What am I supposed to do with this?! What is this, a shot?! How am I supposed to drink this in a moving vehicle?! I will spill this before I walk out the door! GAHHHHH!”

John, standing in the doorway, looked at me as if to say “you are embarrassing me on my own continent, get in the car now!” So I grabbed the stupid little cup, walked out the door, and spilled the entire thing all over myself. No, it wasn’t very glamorous of me, and Mr. Hitchcock would not have approved, but whatever.Coffee or not, the point was this scenery. And even though I totally failed at being Grace Kelly, it did not.

Number 25: Wander Through New York While Listening to “Rhapsody in Blue”

If you’ve read my silly Life List, maybe you’ve wondered why it would possibly take me so long to complete some of the easier sounding items. For example, I’ve had many volunteers offering to help me out with the pie in the face, some complete strangers even, but I’ve decided that it’s not just about crossing these things off. After all, I have, what, a hundred, hundred twenty years to finish it, right?

This, I suppose, is one of those easy ones since I live in New York and “Rhapsody in Blue” is only 12:37 long, so surely I’ve been able to find twelve minutes and thirty-seven seconds of solitude in which to bask in this life-fulfilling task.

Look, I’m a really important person and it just so happens that I haven’t.

Hey, I bet one of you believed me.

Like most of these easier-to-cross-off items, it’s been more about waiting for the right moment. I didn’t know what exactly I was waiting for or how I wanted to feel, but it came a few weeks ago, and it turns out that I was looking for a completely depressing, suicidal-but-I’m-only-saying-that-because-I’m-mostly-just-a-drama-queen-and-I’m-not-that-brave-so-I’d-never-actually-do-that kind of moment. Huh. Imagine that.

So when I’m feeling particularly Ophelia-esque, the best thing for me to do is to wander around somewhere by myself. My favorite place for this used to be in the National Gallery of Art, but now I live half a block away from another fantastic place seemingly designed to remind you that life doesn’t suck: Central Park. And as I self-pityingly wallowed through the Women’s Gate into the Park, it just seemed like the right moment to take on Number 25. In the end, the combination of the eerily quiet park with the late Fall light and the perfect Gershwin score left me feeling nothing but gratitude, and shockingly that always seems to wipe out the depressiveness.

So why did I want to make it a point to do this in the first place? The truth is that, thanks to iTunes shuffle, I’ve probably already done this passively; I wanted, however, to take the time to really think about it.

I was probably 5 or 6 the first time I saw the movie Manhattan. By “saw the movie Manhattan” I of course mean that it was recorded on the same VHS that Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation was on, and sometimes I would be wrapped up in fashioning a complicated Barbie hairstyle before realizing that things were suddenly black and white and definitely not in the Kingdom of Care-a-Lot.

I must have been about 12 the first time I actually watched the movie.

I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to grow up to be the kind of person who spends the weekends walking around art museums with friends who would pepper our conversations with culturally significant witticisms and occasionally ponder the meaning of our existence . . . in black and white, naturally. And nothing made that more clear than those first three and half minutes. Those images! That song!

Putting this item on my list was to force me to stop and soak in this dream of mine come true. I’m pretty sure that my life, for better or for worse, does not currently resemble any of Woody Allen’s films, nor does it necessarily resemble anything I could have imagined at age twelve. But, I there I sat at the Bethesda Terrace, listening to that song surrounded by those images, in my home, thinking about what’s become of my own story.

Rhapsody in Blue also happens to be one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. Because of its connotation with New York City, yes, but it’s one of the most emotionally rich orchestrations ever composed. To put it simply (because I’m an idiot), it’s sad, and then it’s fun, but then it’s sad again. Suddenly, it becomes unexpectedly hopeful – a beautiful hopefulness that is halted by startling, overwhelming suspense, and then it’s all over with an ending that leaves you breathless. It’s exactly like life in New York City, just like the movie suggests. But as I become more and more of an adult, I realize that maybe it’s just like life everywhere and that there will probably never be a moment in life where I’m not feeling all of these things at the same time.

Of course, New York is more fun than anywhere else.

Moments like the one I had wandering through Central Park listening to George Gershwin remind me of how grateful I am to be living here. Dreaming into reality is possible, but it never happens easily or the way you think it will, right?  For a control freak with an overactive imagination, sometimes that fact is too hard to accept. Whenever I feel that way, all I need to do is go for a walk in the city that I love, and I remember that things are incredible.

And now, you must watch this. It’s my favorite interpretation of the song (complete with artwork inspired by Al Hirschfeld), and perfectly visualizes all that I’m attempting to say.

Number 25 and the pressure, and promise, of finally living in New York.

“I Simply State That I’m a Product of a Versatile Mind in a Restless Generation”

 

If you know me IRL (that means “in real life”, mom) then you are probably aware that I have no idea what the hell I am doing with my life 95%* of the time. Thankfully, the New York Times recently came out with a story that makes me feel like slightly less of a total screw up and more of . . . well . . . a total screw up who is not alone. Woo hoo!

Although the article was really fascinating and a must-read for anyone who is or deals with us loafers on a regular basis, it had perhaps an odd affect on me. For a day or so I continued to putz around, proudly accepting my fate as a member of the nouveau Lost Generation. But then it reared its head again, that Socratic bane of my existence: what am I DOING with my life?

So, ladies and gentlemen, I have decided to actually DO something with my life: I am going to Med school.

I decided on Saturday and, yes, in September I will be taking my very first classes towards a Med degree. Impetuous and yet very noble of me, right? I know! Take THAT New York Times! I DO know what I’m doing with my life, thankyouverymuch!

Of course by “Med” I mean “Mediterranean” and by school I mean . . . um . . . traveling.

What? You thought I meant medical school? Are you insane? ME? A DOCTOR? The hypochondriac who eats off of the floor? You want THAT kind of neurosis to be responsible for living beings? 

Oh, I see, you’re relieved! Ok then, good, we’re on the same page.

So yes, that’s my big news. After quite the travel hiatus, John and I are headed to Europe next month for a super fabulous, very check-off-the-life-list-worthy trip throughout the Mediterranean. We’ve been talking about this particular trip for some time (years) but finalized things over the weekend – well, at least that’s when I was told. On Saturday I was having a perfectly rational discussion** with John about how stressed and disappointed and frustrated I’ve been with certain situations in my life at the moment, and how I can’t go on a trip because I can’t afford it and that he needs to be tough and just tell me that we’re not going so I can close the book on it for the moment and focus on other things wah wah wah. Instead, he took the sweater off of my head, looked me lovingly in the eyes*** and said “well, you’d better figure out how you’re going to afford it because I already booked the tickets. We obviously really, really need to get away.”

All together now: awww.****

I know. He is such a sweet, wonderful enabler.

So on September 25th I head to Berlin to meet John (he’ll go to Germany a week earlier to visit family and friends), and we’ll spend a couple days there before heading to Spain and commencing Med School 101, wherein the only anatomy I will be studying will be in cured meat form . . . and I plan on being an excellent, excellent student.

For now, we plan and countdown: one of the best parts of traveling and one of the most infuriating. This trip is truly my dream trip and so I don’t mind the anticipation: a month is nothing at all and I know that the trip will be OVER before I blink, so I’m fine with time slowing down and relishing in what is to come. I’m not sure how I can even express my excitement, but it’s probably something along the lines of being proposed to by your dream man on Christmas morning when you’re 6 years old and he has, like, tickets to Disneyland and a private jet in your backyard that’s full of Moet & Chandon, Shake Shack cheeseburgers, and boxes and boxes of Sees candy and all of your favorite people in the world (you know, like George Clooney and Audrey Hepburn) are waiting in the super-plush fully-reclining seats, waiting for you to board so that you can all watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers together in your jammies.

Yeah. Something like that.

It’s not the best time to travel at the moment as I’m not exactly rolling in any form of dough – phyllo, Pilsbury, or otherwise – but we’re attempting to do these very lux destinations as economically as possible. This takes a lot of research and planning, so over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my tips on how I organize for trips this involved.

 So, no, I still don’t know what I’m DOING with my life. I’m still a member of this century’s Lost Generation. And even though it’s stressful and difficult and at times depressing and unstable, I think I’d rather be a part of the “Lost” Generation than the “Greatest” Generation. The Losties had The Great Gatsby and A Moveable Feast, they had Paris and Picasso; the “Greatest” had, I don’t know, The Joy of Cooking and white picket fences. While that idea is enticing to me sometimes, I don’t think I’m a Jello mold type of girl.

So we’re lost and we wander and it appears aimless. But I haven’t given up hope that all of this wandering leads to what I’m looking for . . . even if all I’m looking for at the moment is Chèvre chaud, wine, and paella.

*ok, fine, Jesus, 100%. Jerks.

**total, hysterical mental breakdown of epic proportions that involved tears and snot and crying into/covering my head with a sweater

***shuddered in disgust at the snot running down my face

****feel free to barf/roll your eyes/etc.

#23 – See Rufus Wainwright in Concert

I’ve already written about my love for Rufus Wainwright here, but since seeing him perform live was number 23 on my Life List, I’ve got to bring him up again.

For my slower audience (let’s admit it, 80% of you): I saw Rufus Wainwright perform live!

So why was this item on my Life List? Well, in short, Rufus is my favorite musician. I am not a very complicated person. Plus, it’s an item relatively easily to achieve, and I need a few of those. I’m not really sure why I’ve never seen him in concert. In fact, I had tickets a few years ago but had to sell them as they ended up interfering with travel plans, and they meant so much to me that I actually remember the name of the complete stranger from craigslist that that I sold them to. He doesn’t tour as often as some other artists, but maybe my ability to put seeing him live on the back burner, despite him being my favorite, came from a fear that he wouldn’t be as good live. In hindsight, perhaps I just wasn’t sure that he’d be a great performer. He comes across as a bit serious . . . and then there was that pre-show email that asked the audience to refrain from applauding until a certain part of the concert, as it would interfere with the performance art aspect of the show. Hmm. I mean, geez, I’m pretentious but . . . wow. Luckily, this was not the case, we were allowed to clap, and I am now so much more impressed by him as a musician and certainly as a performer. He’s engaging, funny, sweet, appreciative, and truly an incredibly gifted musician. Luckily he acknowledged the “no clapping” message self-depricatingly (is that a word?) and told everyone to ignore it, that it was a mistake. Whew.

Rufus is, I’ve gathered, a love him or hate him kind of artist. A lot of people are put off because they hear his voice as nasaly, maybe even whiny. The people who love him, however, hear that voice and it’s a feeling as if you’ve piano strings in your heart and that “nasaly”, ever so slight vibrato, maybe even whiny voice plucks at them, making your entire chest reverberate.* For a fan, that effect is indescribable live. Overwhelming. I think maybe I am affected by the power of live music a bit more than the average person (what, I have a lot of emotions!), but when I see my favorites, it’s like a happy panic attack. Shortness of breath, heart racing, anxiousness. It’s great!

I lucked out because Loudon Wainwright (Rufus’ dad and folk music legend, again, for you slower people) opened for him, making the experience even more Life List worthy. I have to admit that I didn’t listen to much Loudon Wainwright before the movie Knocked Up, of which he performs the entire soundtrack. I love the songs “Grey in L.A.” and “Daughter” from that album, and though he didn’t perform either, I really enjoyed him. They’ve had a pretty tumultuous relationship, and it was so fascinating to see how different he and Rufus are as people and as musicians, but how clearly they inspire and influence one another. When Rufus, in his dandy button down shirt and silk scarf called his dad out to join him on stage in his khaki shorts and t-shirt, he remarked “you look like my son!” Loudon’s musical style, like his wardrobe, is very straightforward, honest. Rufus’s style, like his wardrobe, is much more dramatic and complex, but at the core, they’re both telling the same story. They are both so influenced by family, by love, by history. I’m pretty sure that’s no coincidence. As a daughter who has had some daddy issues of my own, it was really interesting to see them perform separately, so differently, and then together, so perfectly, seamlessly. In fact, I had no idea that one of my favorite songs sung by Rufus, “One Man Guy”, was actually written by his father! They sang that together and it was so wonderful.

The show was a great compilation – a mix of old favorites, things from his newest CD, and lots of fabulous Judy Garland numbers. Life List worthy and wonderful and I’m so thankful that I got to see him finally. If you’re a fan, you must get to a show. You’ll love him even more.

* That piano string thing is good, huh? Yeah, I kind of stole it from James Joyce. Whatever, it’s the only way I can describe it. He doesn’t care, I asked him.

#72 – Ice Skate in Central Park at Christmas Time

Woo hoo! The first item crossed off my Life List! It’s very pathetic indeed that this is only the first since I posted this list months ago (and there are perfectly attainable things to accomplish without traveling the world), but I’ve never really been one for pressure. Actually, in my defense, I did #72 over a month ago and just haven’t gotten around to posting it, so who knows what I’ve been up to. Maybe a covert trip to Positano? A bar fight after the rodeo?

I wish.

Anyway, my goal for these to-dos is to shoot a little video blog (or “vlog” for all you word-combining folks out there) as I’m doing the particular, uh, “thing”, explaining why it was on the list and to generally hold myself accountable. So, here I am, ice skating in Central Park’s Wollman Rink, which is now owned by Donald Trump, naturally, and a fact we’ll choose to ignore from here out. I promise the videos will get better and I will eventually look more relaxed and less like an evil clown midget holding a kitten at gunpoint is taping me . . . and not just John.

The rink at Rockefeller Center gets a lot of attention since it’s got the gigantic tree and the Today show right next to it, but it’s not very claustrophobic-friendly, being very small and super crowded. I suppose the one in Central Park is where the locals go based on the fact that Whoopi Goldberg learned to skate there, and if it’s good enough for Whoopi, well . . . let’s just say I’ve been considering dreadlocks for some time now and I used to have a huge crush on Ted Danson.

Wollman Rink is nice and big and far less crowded, and is surrounded by the Pierre, the Plaza, the Time Warner building,  and all the gorgeous landmarks of Central Park South. I love Central Park at night; in certain parts you can see the lights flashing from Times Square, but when countered by the eerie quiet and stillness, the effect is alarmingly peaceful. When you match this with Christmas songs, the ambiance is well taken care of, so all you have to do is focus on not breaking your ass.

Here I am doing my signature triple salchow double Lutz single axel sit spin . . .

. . . but John can only skate forward, so unfortunately you can’t see it. Typical.

So, first one down, 71 to go. So far. I still need to make my way to 100. Hopefully this will get the wheels in motion.  

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