Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday Night at the Movies

Denise, Dave, and I went up to the restored 1929 movie palace at Journal Square last night, to watch a nutty, surreal, fabulous film from pre-code days. Ginger Rogers even sang in Pig Latin in "Gold Diggers of 1933."

I forgot my camera and had to settle for a cell phone photo of the organist. And from my cheap phone, since I haven't gotten into the habit yet of using my iPhone.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy Wedding Day

I was in Cancun the day my friend Ursula got married (I'd planned that trip more than six months ago) but that didn't stop me from seeking out a calavera symbol for her and her new husband.

I hope she knows about the Day of the Dead or she might be a little confused.

Friday, January 29, 2010


I was thinking about the effect piracy had on music once mp3s became readily available. And I was thinking about books. Will the new methods of ebook distribution make books as easily pirated as music? Is the printed book going to end up facing near-extinction?

"Information wants to be free," said a friend. Which is true to an extent. I can type a few words into Google and locate all kinds of free facts, though some are of questionable accuracy. I can read magazines and newspapers online. I use free software to blog for free, Twitter for free, socialize for free, and I've even paid thousands of dollars to travel for a year so that people could read my stories about the world for free.

Putting aside the point that me getting paid for books is barely different than me not getting paid, am I participating in my own demise? Does information inevitably mean to be free?

Yes. No. Maybe. Nothing is free. "Free" is an illusion. Content creation in terms of expertise, music, art, and writing has lost traditional methods of support. Information, however, isn't free. It exacts horrific prices in other areas, most notably in power, raw materials, and environmental impact. When banks try to tell me how "green" it is to get my statement electronically, they are neglecting to mention that the burden of impact has merely shifted. When we talk about information being free, we overlook the cost to Congo which produces minerals for cell phones, or the cost to Sudan where oil continues to drive corporate and governmental interests to terrible ends, we overlook the damage of coal-burning power plants to our environment, and we gleefully talk about how green it is to get our information at the click of a button because we no longer cut down trees, in spite of damaging our environment in dozens of other ways.

I'm utterly guilty in the new world order. I own three aged cell phones full of coltan, two smart phones, one worthless laptop, one slower laptop, one usable laptop, one awesome netbook, one broken iMac, an old car, multiple quickly obsolete video cameras and still cameras, and I fly on unnecessary leisure trips. I love the convenience of going paperless and the modern world enables me to run off to other countries for years on end, while maintaining my life in the US by remote control. In the past, it was aggravating and difficult. I had tax returns sent to me in a hotel room in Bangkok by FedEx. I had my mother chasing bills for me. My nomadic lifestyle is now brought to you by,, and Facebook, which by the way, means I no longer have to abandon my entire social life to go off and have a grand adventure in the desert or jungle.

Am I complicit in a system which is killing off the outlets I am creative in? I blogged before we knew what blogs were. I create content for free and give it away. I love new platforms and embrace them. But there isn't a choice, not really. Complaining and resisting the inevitable doesn't help and anyway, I *love* gadgets. I take things apart because I want to see if they'll work when I put them back together. I have a platform online in a way I never had one on paper. The only publishers who will take my articles are here, on the big, bad Internet.

No action is required on my part. My complicity is essentially irrelevant. Onwards we go, into the world where expertise isn't paid and content is free. The world is changing with or without me. Either way, I won't be getting rich any time soon. But I'd rather be marginally relevant than nothing, so let's get a move-on.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Obvious iPad Jokes Here

Today seems like an opportune day to point out that Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik is available as a Kindle book. That is, you can buy it electronically and put it on your Kindle.

Or you can put it on another newly announced electronic book reader. I mean, when you get one, after you quit pretending you don't want or need one. Which is what I'm doing given that I own three laptops, one netbook, an iPhone, and an iMac that needs a new logic board. (I had a PC too but recently gave it to my sister.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Manna from Heaven

I first moved to JC in 1988. I think it was February, after I'd spent my first local month up in Riverdale with my then-boyfriend's sister, Glennia. JC was really different then, much more like my old block which was full of character and history.

So it's with great shame that I admit that I'd never been to the local slider dive, White Mana. This burger joint was built for the 1939 World's Fair and opened at its current location alongside the grimy, pockmarked lanes of Route 1 (locally referred to as "1 and 9") in 1946.

(Before you judge me too harshly, half the time since 1988, I was living on a small island across the Hudson or sometimes more exotic places. Like Australia, Cairo, Barcelona, or Kuwait. I even spent a month each in Berlin and Namibia.)

I had Henry the 1990 Ford Taurus repaired last week. His harmonic thingymajig was making a hole in a casing gadget. And Mike—the mechanic that I found years ago on the forum—sternly told me I wasn't driving enough.

"If you drive at least once a week, it'll keep rust from forming on the brakes."

Or something like that. I wasn't listening past "Drive once a week."

Intent on giving my car some exercise this weekend, I'd wondered "Where can I go?"

That's when I thought of White Mana. I wanted to go to photograph the Pulaski Skyway and look at the Jose Marti statue in Weehawken too, but rain kept my ambitions slight.

I don't like driving over the Pulaski Skyway or under it, so I avoided it by driving the back roads to the Heights and cutting over behind the diner. I turned in at a faded sign that advertised "Curb Service."

"I'll have a cheeseburger and some fries," I told a woman who worked in the back. I'd have told the counter guy, but he was BS-ing with a man trying to sell pirated DVDs and a cartoonist who was there with his kid. I don't think the cartoonist recognized me.

"How many?"

"Uh... one," I stammered. Okay. It was like White Castle or Little Tavern where I grew up. "Buy 'em by the bag."

She brought me a cheeseburger and fries, then disappeared into the back. I nibbled it, judging it a closer relative to White Castle than to In N Out or Shake Shack. I watched the counter man shooting the breeze with the cartoonist and DVD-salesman for a while. Then they left, promising to return next Sunday.

Right after the other customers left, the counter man suddenly yelled: "I'm going for my beer!"

He tore out the door and raced across the traffic of 1/9 towards Ringside, the bar across the street.

Was he joking? Did he really go get a beer? It didn't matter. He'd showed me that JC's still got it, little pockets of character and quirkiness, which is exactly why I came back here after years in the big city next door.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Fine Uke

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail the other day. "My brother made me a ukelele!"

I demanded a photo of course. I think the strings are inverted but I don't know much about ukeleles. I certainly don't know how you go about making one. But isn't it a lovely piece of work?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Short Walk Home

I was at Port Authority, which is a central location for me to meet my pal Marc for a cup of coffee. And since I was there, I took the opportunity to catch a #126 bus to Hoboken so that I could renew my membership at the yoga place I pretend to go to.

(Meaning I go, but not very often and not with much effectiveness.)

After updating my membership, I headed over to the train. Which train? PATH or Light Rail? I don't have a monthly PATH pass until Monday so either one meant paying for a single-journey ticket.

Then I remembered... isn't there a new pedestrian bridge somewhere around here? It connects Hoboken and JC, which are already connected, but in the past the walk was over a kind of desolate post-industrial no-man's land, which eventually turned into Home Depot, Target, and the mouth of the Holland Tunnel. The walk is short but scary even during the height of the afternoon.

I found the bridge and in minutes was across the dead zone and home in JC. And as a bonus, I got to see the small ice rink actually operating. I'd only seen it in summer before.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Absence

I've been quiet, I know. Why?

I'm not sure. I'm back from my trip south and just into the daily grind. Working, teaching, and I'm almost unpacked nine days after returning home.

One of my bruised toes is somehow more bruised. And I'm eating too many cookies. I feel like I have a bad case of jetlag, but I was in my own time zone almost the whole time I was gone.

Here's a photo of me being a good deal more chipper, just a few weeks ago.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friendly Face

On my New Year's trip, I stumbled over a familiar face in a park in Latin America.

I thought back to when I went out of my way to see the Frank Zappa bust in Lithuania. That was easy... I just walked out of my way a little. Viewing Mr. Lennon was much tougher as I was somewhere with expensive taxis and unclear bus service. I knew there was a bus, but had no idea how to find out which bus went where. The guidebook was no help.

But then I studied the map for the double-decker tourist bus. It went about 10 blocks from the statue, so I just hopped-off the hop-on/hop-off bus at the right spot, and trekked on over.

Mr. Lennon kept losing his glasses to souvenir collectors. Now a guard puts them on for visitors, then slips them back into his pocket when no one is nearby. The guard sits on the bench with the statue, which must feel a bit strange.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Valle de la Prehistoria

I encountered this unusual ecosystem last week during my travels. (Audio by Kiwis, Aussies, and small mammals.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Thought It Was New

Uh-oh. I just found this photo on Mom's blog. She took it in the year 2000.

Maybe it's time I got rid of that sweater.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Article Is Up!

Does anyone remember last year's New Year's trip to Bolivia? Or the blog stories I posted then?

One of them is now an article on Perceptive Travel. I love Steve B's excellent illustration that goes with it. The guidebook I'm holding is intended to be the Lonely Planet Guide to Over the Hill.

Check it out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Street Tacos

All of yesterday was a total wash-out in Cancun in the street taco department. It rained until dark, and then when I went out in search of the taco stands like the ones Turbo and I frequented in Chihuahua in 2002, nothing was open but shops with walls and stuff.

Today was overcast but look! Street taco heaven.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

At Least It's Not Freezing Here

The day looked promising as I flew into Cancun. "Maybe I'll catch the bus to Chichen Itza," I thought.

But the airplane doors opened up to rain. And it's still raining. Here's a view from my hotel balcony (I'm in the city, not the beach.)

I'm not going to Chichen Itza. Or anywhere, I guess.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Mystery Food

Whaddaya think this means?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Buen Viaje

The day after Christmas, I dragged myself out of bed at three in the morning. I only missed one turn on the short journey from the Holiday Inn to National Airport. No gas stations were open, so I hoped that the needle being on “Full” would be enough. I’d probably driven 40 miles since I’d filled up the car.

I left my lousy, stinky rental Hyundai at the night drop, listening closely as the keys hit the bottom of the metal box and hoping I’d gotten the process right. I shouldered my backpack and headed to the terminal.

I arrived at around 4:20 a.m. Damn—the check-in area was a mess. Some jackass had tried to something stupid on a plane the day before so we all faced extra security. Long lines faced me at the e-check-in section but the actual human line was short so I went through that.

I got through security, bought breakfast, and pulled out my netbooki. I was going to try to sign up for Boingo, where for $9.95 a month you can use airport hotspots. That would be a good deal since I’d be traveling a lot over the next few months.

But what popped up on my screen was even better. Google had made some kind of free airport wifi deal for the duration of the holidays.

Er, free? Yeah, I‘ll take that.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy Not-New-Year

Happy birthday to Denise today!

I think it must suck to have a birthday on New Year’s Day. She should make a fake birthday, like the Queen.