Monday, April 30, 2007

Think About It

Think About It For Awhile.

Okay, I will think about it for a while. And then a little while longer, too.


Okay. Now that I have thought about it, I am not sure what I am supposed to be thinking about. My writing? My relationships? My search for god/enlightenment? My job hunt?

I am thinking about myself and the boundaries in my life. Boundaries are a very important thing. And speaking up for yourself. And calling out others when they cross that boundary.

Girls are taught that they should always be nice. And boys are taught to do whatever they want. And only when we become women do we begin to speak up for ourselves, and that is only if we are lucky. And I'm not sure how many boys ever become men, becuase they usually don't ever begin to consider others. And then what are the consequences? Women are usually punished, or at least feel vexed, when they speak out against a man who has crossed a boundary.

I remember when I was taking flying lessons and this old man, really old, who was my instructor put his hand on my thigh (on the skin - I was wearing shorts) while I was flying the plane. I moved his hand without saying anything and he said "Oh gee, I'm sorry, I didn't notice where my hand was." I should have said "You are a dirty old man and I'm never flying with you again." And then I should have told the owner of the flight school to have a chat with him and explain appropriate behavior. But I didn't say anything. I'm glad that I at least moved his dirty old hand. Girls shouldn't be so nice.

Think about it for awhile.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shadow Mate

There are soul mates, and then there are blackholes. "Blackhole" is the term I have come up with a person's shadow mate. A shadow mate is a type of soul mate, but also the oppostie of a soul mate.

I have discussed this topic with my friend Leslie, as she read an opinion piece on suggesting that a person's dark side is just as a ttractive to us as their open face personality. I agree ( and have since Leslie forst told me) that the dark side is part of the equation of attraction, but I have only recently wondered if (or realized that) sometimes that can be the entire basis of attraction.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


"It was a blackhole."

There are things in my life that I just don't understand. Like the time when I fell into a blackhole.

"No one falls into a black hole. And if they do, they don't survive!"

Well, I did fall into a black hole. And that explains things that I can't reason with. The ghosts that appear in my memory, the imaginary scenes I find myself creating, the things that haunt me.

But it's arguable whether I survived. In fact, I would agree with you that I did not. I was, in fact destroyed. And the things that haunt me are not ghosts of others or memories from my life. They are my own ghosts, and memories from the past life.

Who ever said that past lives only occur in the physical realm? My past lives are all in this lifetime. For example, I used to be a hippie. I used to be a Texan. I used to be a smoker. I used to be afraid of death.

Now, I travel through my life with "patience and low expectations." Death will give those things to you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Artist's Book

Yourself a City
by Alegra Marcel Bartzat

Poems by the artist. Cave Paper chemise; Covers of paste paper made by artist. Printed letter press from photopolymer plates by artist on Fabriano Ingres paper.
Edition of 10 (8 left). 2005. $475.

A questioning of the border between nature and culture, and an exploration of the inevitable intersection. The poems are an interpretation of ecology of cities, and the book takes place in three parts. Earth, air, and water birth the rich and subtle interplay between words and form.

My Life - a collage

Friday, April 06, 2007

Adding Atmosphere to Public Transportation

One problem with public transportation is perception. At the EcoCenter, there was a station where we taught the children about Curitiba Brazil. When we asked the students why so few people take the bus in san DIego they would inevitably say "Becuase it's gross" (after they said "Because everyone has a car").

So, what the Metropolitan Transit Authority meeds, perhaps even more than good planning, is good marketing. Now I swear that one time while I was in san Francisco I saw a bus with chairs around a table with a lamp on it. I really don't think I imagined it, though no one else ever seems to have seen such a thing. Either way, it's a really good idea.

Let's make the bus a palce to relax. Like people who commute on teh train, and who can go into the cafe car for a bottle of beer or little single serve of wine on teh way home from work. They kick their feet up, pop a cold one, and enjoy the view fly by. Especially in Southern California, as the major train line goes along the ocean's edge. What better commute could there be? If they could franchise with Starbucks to sell the morning coffees, they'd be in business.

So waht about the bus? Instead of banning eating and drinking ,encourage it. Especially on express buses with few stops. Include a vending machine in the back of the bus. Lose the flourescent bulbs and go for that soft glow. Choose everyone's favorite decorating colors: burgundy, chartreuse, and a soft golden brown. Get those lamps on the lamps on the tbales, and design routes along major commuter ways so people don't have to chagne lines very often, but can sit back and relax on the bus ride instead of worrying about missing their line change.

And the same goes for the bus stops. There are so many bus stops that lack even the modest comfort of a bench. Who wants to stand in the burning sun or pouring rain while they wait for a bus that is probably oing to be late? Put in a few benches, and always make sure they're covered. Because even though San Diego has great weather year round, on a city street in teh middle of summer I guarantee you it is uncomfortably hot, and even though it only rains a few months out of the year, that it is still too many to make people stand in the rain.

And regarding the benches, lose the plastic ad benches. No good thing ever came of those. They are hidesouly ugly, scarring the streets of a city. If you need advertising revenue approach it with calss. Advertisiers can buy unbrellas or awnings for the stops, with ads limited to text. I don't want to see any more real estate angents on their phones at the bus stops!

Add cafes at major stations with many ilnes, but don't make ti a hot dog cart and vending machine, make it a real cafe. Even starbucks would suffucem though it is nothing like ar eal cafe since they only serve drinks and sweets, no real food. Go for the European flair, with simple items that can still make a profit wihile satisfying both hunger and pallete: a bageutee sandwich, fresh juice and salads, fruits that are fresh and flavorful. Add a flower stand and it's a done deal.

Springtime Trip to Europe

My springtime trip to Europe: 3 days in Paris, 4 days in Barcelona, 8 days in Mallorca, and 1 night in Gatwick Airport

I spent a scant three days in Paris with one of my dear friends. But, though 90% unemployed and after six months without a penny's worth of work, she got called in at a school she is courting to try to get a permanent position. With that on the line, she couldn't say no. So, I met her for lunch (leek quiche and pear tart), went to her place to rest, we ate a vege-licious dinner of salad and sweet falafel.

I even went running the next day, for about 3 miles along the Seine. I met her again in the city for an evening out. We cruised around town, checking out a "creator" festival, and had the best vegetarian food in Paris (which is only pretty good) at Le Potager du Marais (the garden kitchen of the marsh). We went back to Mel and Stephane's to polish off a bottle of champagne and prank call old friends.

And then Saturday rolls around and I already have to leave. After being woken up by Stephane crinkling cellophane around the apartment, we get up (nixing the yoga we had planned) and have a lazy breakfast, including the gift of Tazo Chai with milk and honey, of course! We spend the morning shopping for cheese (I did find the fromagerie where I bought a decadent goat cheese log that was rolled in walnuts and had the essence of honey... I bought it again, one for me to take to Spain and one for Melissa as a thanks for having me), tea, and chocolate, and then I hop on the plane to Spain. Au-revoir!

A very long day later, I take a plane, a bus, multiple subway lines and a confusing walk to finally arrive at the hotel where Marshall is for his work event. But he is nowhere to be found. His phone doesn't work, there is neither key nor message for me at the hotel. I am waiting in the lobby, but I am surrounded by Germans and there is nowhere to go, so I hide out in the corner near the computers. I peek into the bar and see a group of men, but no Marshall. Finally I sneak upstairs after trying a call to him and watching them dial his room number. There is a note: I'm at the bar. I go back, and he is there (but certainly wasn't before). I go upstairs and he says he is about to go out with guys from Detroit. After a few minutes, I change and get ready to go. We have delicious tapas, go to an Irish bar (against my wishes, but better to be loud and obnoxious with foreigners and ex-pats than with Catalonians). We finally head back at about 5am. Marshall gets up a few hours later, but I sleep all day.

The rest of the time in Barcelona was basically like that. Dance all night, sleep all day. Actually, that's not true. We only went out dancing one night, but with the jet lag and everything, the other nights I couldn't fall asleep even when I tried, so I really did sleep all day everyday I was there.

I made it into town 2 of the 4 days I was there. One day I went to la routa de modernistas, and the second day I went to a bookstore and surrounding parks and interesting buildings. I even went running one day, for about 3 miles. This is actually pretty sad since I'm supposed to be up to some 6 or 7 miles by now, I'm sure. Then there is the gala dinner, a delicious feast of delights at a typical Catalan restaurant: pa amb oli (toasted bread with tomatoe and oil), a variety of fish, snails, paella, grilled vegeatables, creme catalon, and cafe. The next night Marshall and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Alegria, and show about happiness with an undercurrent of terror. There was an amazing hula hooper with a rythm of 12 hoops on her body at once, and of course many many others.

And then Marshykins and I headed off to Mallorca. Our Mediterranean island vacation awaits... And we arrived in the rain, and got lost, and took a full day to complete a 45-minute flight and 1-hour drive. Of course add to that the 45 minutes we waited to sign the papers for our rental car because their printer wasn't working so they had to call the headquarter office and ask them to fax a copy over, and the hours of driving in circles in Palma not being able to find the freeway and in Alcudia not being able to find out hotel. And of course at the hotel they had lost our reservation so had to call the Internet office and see what went wrong. But we were here at last.

When I travel, I lose grasp of my little rituals, even though traveling is time all about yourself, I can't seem to keep in line the things that I do for myself. So I stop doing yoga, can't seem to keep up on my training schedule, and forget about meditating. Yet, still there is a thrill of travel that somehow replaces those to a large extent. The thrill is the escape from yourself, from your daily rules and rituals. That escape is both a solace and difficulty, ranging far to both ends of that spectrum at different moments and easily swinging wildly from one minute to the next. I eat up the culture with my inquisitions and also with my palate.

Anyway, after days of jetlag and uncommon sleeping habits, which as fun as they are in the short term I really dislike in the long term, and not making time to do yoga or meditate, I was just getting crabby.

Mallorca is a strange place, also. There are great amounts of charm to be found in the hills and coves, but the maps are unbelievable. I have never had guidebooks with such poor maps, and I had two guidebooks, plus a plethora of free maps from the car rental and hotels, and they were all terrible. The first two days were really harsh. Also, we thought the island was Spanish, but it's actually German. There are hundreds of German bikers, and all the signs and menus are in German.

We took one day to drive around the peninsula Cap de Formentor, which was beautiful, but the resort there (which is praised in the guide books as something to be visited) is closed to the public (and the guard a jerk), and the light house is under construction, like half the hotels in Alcudia. We also head up to the monastery where we see La Moreneta, and we thought we could hear the boys' choir, but it is Friday and a holiday, so they are gone for the weekend. That was disappointing (I never heard it at Can Serrat, either), but the drive was beautiful.

Finally, while looking for a decent map (not to be found on the island), I found a guidebook called "Walk and Eat." It was meant for me. There are half-day walks and excursions around the island, with restaurants en route. The walks are well marked and the starting points are all places that have signs pointing to them (like the train station in town X or the church in town Y). So for two days we take the hikes: off the beaten track paths, through varied terrains, and mostly loops.
And as we settle and adjust to the roadbumps, I start to make time for myself again. I do at least a little bit of yoga every morning, and my peace returns. We hike in Soller, Biniaraix, and Fornalutx, along ancient stone steps, and trails between citrus, almond, and olive groves. The next day we hike around Bunyola, passing limestone kilns, charcoal burning stone rings, ancient Moorish water wells, and through beautiful pine forests. Not to mention, caves and ancient houses and a few more orchards. All this hiking is going towards my marathon schedule as cross training.

On the drive back to our aparthotel, in Inca, we see a shop with Mallorcan specialties and buy up a bunch of produce, including spinach, tomatoes, oranges, olive oil, and artichokes. A delightful find! We ask at the shop and discover a vegetarian restaurant in Inca, which is quite good, and uses all local produce. I have stuffed zuchinni, marshall has sweet and sour seitan with a mediteranean sweet and sour sauce of apricots and figs.

And the day we return to the other guidebooks, disaster ensues. Not the whole day, much of the day was good. We drive to the coast, tour some caves. The caves are okay - they are beautiful structures that have been highly commercialized and completely destroyed from the massive amounts of tours that go through. It was overall disappointing, though they did have a classical music concert on gondolas in an underground lake, which was beautiful. I just couldn't get over the destruction.

And then we went to a glassworks factory, which was interesting wit ha great collection of worldwide glassworks, some very old. And then we head into Palma, where the disaster awaits. The signage is terrible and the maps are worse, so it takes us an hour to find the part of town we are looking for (although we did stop at the excellent department store grocery store El Cortes Ingles and stock up on food and gifts), and another hour to make circle back to the street we want since we missed it the first time, and still realize we can't turn onto because it's one way. I was so stressed out, and my bladder was so full it had bladder cramps - a first experience of that kind of discomfort, and an ensuing headache from dipping blood sugar. All because we wanted to try to the vegetarian restaurant, after the two hours, the place is closed. They are open 4 hours a day, from 1pm until 5pm.

We do find a delightful little wine and cheese bar just up the street. I can at least pee, we get our blood sugar stabilized and then are able to enjoy the charming, tiny little space, with hand crafted hanging lamps, subdued primary color painted walls, and the handsome and friendly Argentine waiter. The cheese platter had two semi-soft cheeses, plus a harder one with the outer edge crusted with rosemary (which grows wild here).

And speaking of cheese, here are all the Spanish cheeses I ate that I bought from a cheese shop or grocer (too many at the restaurants to keep track of).

  • A goat cheese that was the typical crumbly goat cheese texture in the middle, but gooey with a white powder-appearance on the outside, just like Brie.
  • A cured sheep's milk cheese that was hard and aged, something like Manchego.
  • A semi-cured sheep's milk cheese that was like that parmesan with those crunchy bits in it, except no crunchy bits in the texture. This was probably my favorite, and was from Mallorca.
  • A goat's milk blue cheese - seriously the "Stinkiest" I've ever had!

I am inspired to find a San Diego cheese maker. Are there any? Seems like they'd be at the hillcrest farmer's market, and they're not. I'll have to do some research.

Anyway, the next day we choose another walk from our prized book. Another great day, we abandoned hermitage up in the mountains, an old wine press inside of a cave, and some amazing trails through old fields and over cliffs, boulders, and old walls. We have fun taking pictures, and discussing whether or not I should write a head out to the plains (Se Pla), and park in a tiny little town, Santa Eugenia. We hike a loop, with a up and back off it, discovering lots of old and new homes with amazing views, an "Walk and Eat" book for San Diego, and if so what should be included.

Then we drive to a mountain town, where the clouds are hanging around and the wind is blowing, and we are so cold! But the town is adorable, as all the guidebooks have gushed. We walk around their monastery, find their church, visit the home where their patron saint was born, and just wander the darling streets. We eat a typical Mallorcan bun, cocas de patatas, which is a very plain sweet bun with powdered sugar on top (didn't taste like potatoes, I think it may be potato flour). Then we drive back to our hotel in the anomaly of the island we've sought out, Port d'Alcudia, the epitome of bad tourism. Still, our hotel was cheap and we have a kitchenette and we cooked up local artichokes and made salad and consumed another half bottle of olive oil.

Our second to last full day, we go driving, exploring the south east coast that we haven't yet been to. We go to both the mega resort town that is known as ugly and the mega resort town that is slightly reined in. They are both massive, but the reined in one is certainly more attractive. We drive to Botanicactus, a heralded cactus garden in the south. The variety is impressive, and the size of the park, too, but the maintenance is lacking. Cacti are diseased, ignored, in need of grooming. The walkways need grass and leaves cleared out and new gravel, and some cactuses even have age-old stakes tied onto them that are at this point cutting into the cactus. it is a bit reminiscent of the caves... so much potential for amazement, but a lack attention leaves us to disappointment. On the way back to our port, we pass a dairy and stop to buy some Queso Fresco. It is divine! I've never tasted anything so fresh! It doesn't have much flavor, it just tastes of freshness. It makes me think that I might actually like milk if I ever had it fresh.

The last day we got up early to find the roman ruins we had searched for on out first day and never found. It was a lucky combination of us getting half way decent directions from a shopkeeper (for once) and remembering the other halfway decent directions from day one that someone else had given us, and marshall remembering the directions in the guidebook (which we had forgotten to bring with us). With all three combined we could piece together that we go halfway down one road by the church, then by the next church we cut over the wall at the dirt lot and find the trail at the back and go in the opposite direction of the posted sign to find the ruins. And then we found them, a small amphitheatre from the Romans.

After hanging in the theatre, we headed on down to Palma. We forgot the umbrella, got halfway through our walk, took a cab to the car to retrieve the umbrella since it started pouring, had to stop for cash, then stop for change because the bill was too large (which took several stops...), get the umbrella, take a taxi back since we were on a tight schedule trying to get to the vegetarian restaurant before they closed at 5pm. The sun came out then, of course. But it did go back behind clouds and it poured. We finished the walk, a very interesting climb to an old castle and through various neighborhoods and down to the maritime road along the port, eventually running to get to the restaurant before 5pm. We get there at 4:30pm to find out... we remembered wrong: they actually closed at 4pm. yes, that's right, this restaurant is open THREE hours per day, and closed on Sundays. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

We tried to find an alternative and basically spent $17 on stale bread: stale bread and oil, stale bread and tomato, olives, and deep fried spinach. But it was mostly stale bread. We decide to try the vegetarian restaurant in our guidebook in the town neighboring out hotel-town. When we make it there, we are informed that the guidebook is several years out of date and that the restaurant is not only no longer vegetarian, it has changed names. We really weren't meant to eat veg that night...

We find a decent alternative, where Marshall has shellfish and cod (good and mediocre), and I have various incarnations of zucchini, tomato, potato, and eggplant, all delicious, but not worth the price tag of a $100 meal. However, I did make a friend with the hostess, and we made lots of jokes together in Castillian and she gave us free shots of hierbas (traditional digestif) at the end of the meal.

The last day of our vacation was the first day of travelling home. We pack up (luckily I woke up on time, because we never got the wake up call we requested), and on heading out the doors we decide to try to book a quick hotel for ourselves, in Gatwick and Barcelona respectively. I find a decent priced hotel, but can't find the phone number. The lobby smells of chlorine and this particular morning the sun is heating the glass walled space up too much and there is a large group of kids screaming and crying.

It is very stressful, and we suffer through the online bookings and searching for the number and finally rush out the door, 20 minutes later than planned. Of course we are about to run out of gas, so we have to stop. We get to the airport, turn in the car, and on our way to the check-in, when Marshall realizes he's forgotten his camera in the car. He runs back and I check us in. The women at the check in counter tell us that we better hurry, because it is only 30 minutes before the flights leaves and everyone is already on the plane; the flight is actually closed, but they are going to let us on.

We run all the way there, luckily security is very quick, and arrive sweating and waving our tickets. They stare at us like we're crazy because they haven't even started boarding yet. We board, the flight is quick. But in Barcelona Marshall is not feeling well. His fried cod has upset his stomach, and he couldn't sleep well. I get lucky that I can change my ticket to Gatwick, to leave at 6pm instead of 9pm (arrive at 9pm instead of midnight). This is great news. Marshall finds a hotel room (he didn't find one on line), and things seem to be set. We grab a quick bite to eat; we forgot a very delicious salad that we made from the leftovers of our Mallorcan shopping: spinach, arugala, white asparagus, green olives, blue cheese, and vinegarette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of brine. I was really looking forward to it, but had to make due with a baguette with mozarella and tomato.

The hotel I found as a last minute deal in Gatwick had a free bus, and they even have free wifi at the hotel (in the lobby). What a deal! I have to get up pretty early, but another set of good news is that it's an hour earlier here, so I wake up at 6:45, but it's really like 7:45, not quite so bad! They have no shampoo or lotion here (the two things I need), only soap. Also, the bed is pretty saggy and can feel the springs, but oh well. Can't have everything, huh?

I had for dinner, from this wholefoods-like store that was AT THE AIRPORT: orzo with slow roasted tomatoes (and spinach and parsley and onion), a yummy orange raspberry juice, and a vanilla yogurt (mediocre). Still, over all, pretty good for airport dining.

Things have been pretty smooth so far, and I hope this luck holds out for me catching the flight in the morning. If all goes well, I'll make it all the way back to the west coast tomorrow.

That's all from Europe. I'll be posting again from my international base of operations tomorrow, or soon after.