26 July 2009

Walden Pond

On Monday last I biked to Walden Pond, ran around it for no apparent reason, and biked home. Biking to Walden Pond is an activity I have performed before and one I hope to make a Summer tradition. Walden Pond is in my top five Massachusetts destinations. It is a serene outdoorsman’s palace- just a few hundred feet from a major highway and still eons away from stifling pressures and inconsequential stresses. The bike route from my house to said destination is very hilly both ways, but after seven miles the road enters a pastoral phase with the hills devolving into an afterthought. Some wicked and conniving men (not really, well, maybe) tried to develop some condominiums around the pond a number of years ago (that number has long since been forgotten) but the community fought back with a voracious aptitude and the plans were quelched. As a result the pond remains a haven and sanctuary for peace-dwellers, sunbathers, swimmers, crocodiles (cocodrillos) and the Hmong people of Laos and Cambodia. I love Walden Pond for all of those reasons. I love the trees that keep the water contained, despite the water's truculent erosion tactics; I love the clean and clear aqua pure that redefines the body of water known as 'Pond' from a scrappy frog-quarium to an open-topped cenote; I love the halcyon history that extends incorruptibly into the present; and I love the path-like aisles that bend through the trees unsteadily. Heading out to Walden Pond by human locomotion is a Summer treat indeed. It makes for a terrific biatholon. Come visit me and we will go 'to live deliberately.'

24 July 2009


If you can believe it, I got a second painting job this week! As with all painting jobs, it came about in an avante-garde fashion. You see, I had applied for a job to perform data mining (At one time I had the entire Periodical Table of the Elements memorized and I never remember an element called 'data,' so I'm not sure how its mined, which may have led to my employment declination); and during the interview I was asked what I had been up to thus far into the Summer. I said I had been working as a Man-slave slash Nanny. I explained that I had travelled Europe, and upon returning home I was pulling weeds, performing household cleaning chores for other people- such as painting, feeding the horses, folding laundry and vaccuuming up cobwebs- and baby/plant/dog sitting. The interviewer was impressed with my work ethic and my high school diploma. She was less impressed with my college diploma in 'Data Mining,' but I expected that since I had just made it an hour earlier- with crayons. They were all I could find lying around the house, and I figured a college degree made with crayons was better than no college degree at all! Apparently I was mistaken. Anyway, my disqualifications were not venial enough, and I got turned down from the job. However, three days after my interview (and before I had been informed I did not get the job) the lady called me and asked if I was interested in painting two rooms in her house!? One of my goals this Summer is to never say no to a job, so I accepted- with my Data Mining job in limbo. What was I supposed to tell her, "I can only paint your room if I am not working at the other job you interviewed me for?" Between when she called me and when I painted her house, she shot me.
An email telling me I didn't get the data mining job. Bummer, but hey, at least I got other employment And plus she paid me way more (per hour) for the painting than I would have received with a pick axe and a shovel... The last peculiar thing about the whole job was when I requested a radio while I painted, and she said to me, "Last Christmas XXX corp. gave all the employees these really nice radios. You know it's great working at XXX!" I didn't know if that was made to infuriate me or rub it in my face that my crayon diploma wasn't colored in nicely, but regardless I thought it was a pretty funny comment. I hold no hard feelings, I don't believe she meant any harm in her comment, and her tip at the end of the day made the whole thing worth it. Oh yea, my painting skills improved this time around. My learning curve was great, and therefore I learned great.

19 July 2009

Washington, District of Columbia

My Madre, sister, and brother-in-law at the Nationals baseball game. Awesome game, but a bad score as the Cubs won 3-1. Go Nationals!
Senator Bennett in his office (he's the tallest one in the picture). Those other people were just extras I hired to make the office scene look busy.
R-U-F-U-S! He is under 90 days old and more enjoyable than a milkshake and a bath at the same time. I would know because I have seen Rufus and I have eaten a milkshake in the bathtub at the same time.

My sister wed last month, and immediately incurred a beagle puppy named Rufus. She and her hubby moved to D.C. at about the same time that Airtran started some killer $39 fares from Boston to Baltimore (happenstance, or the persuasion of yours truly? Remember I have connections with people in the airline industry, like Mitt Romney). Knowing the puppy was there, and having nothing to do but weed (pulling, not smoking), I set out to visit dear Rufus before he grew into his ears, which are glabrous and elephantine sized.
Lucky for me, my great-uncle is a Senator with a townhouse in Rosslyn, a region of Virginia. In my three day voyage I went to Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. The locals call that area DMV, which I usually associate with the Department of Motor Vehicles, a far more abhorrent acronym that should only be used in times of winter- when ear muffs are readily available.
Thursday night we figured since we were in America's capital, it would make the most sense to go out to an Afghan restaurant, which we did. We give them freedom, they give us strange eggplant and pumpkin dishes with meat sauce. Friday morning I went with The Parental Unit to the Mall, by way of sweat and human locomotion. Witnessed we did, Lincoln's memorial and two of his speeches inscribed by his side like Moses with the tablets. I discussed my favorite Lincoln Memorial moment, which by a landslide was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech." I mostly discussed this with myself because everyone else was too busy reading the inscribed words. While there was some debate over which was better, MLK's speech or the scene at the reflection pool from "Get Smart," my better half came off conquerer and MLK won out. (The turning point in the argument came with the fact that he was a real person.) That afternoon I ate with my dear friend and saw her office, after which it was Rufus time. Rufus deserves his own post, but hopefully the pictures can help you understand what type of beast we are dealing with. After Rufus time we drove through town as the crow flies to the D.C. United stadium, in order to take a shuttle to the Nationals baseball stadium. We attended a game, and I am now a Nationals fan. I have always been a national, but now I am a National.
The last day in D.C. included a personal tour of the US Capitol by Senator Bennett (R-UT). He took us to the front of the line everywhere we went (all except the drinking fountain- for some reason the seven year old I asked to step aside just wouldn't, even after we showed him Uncle Bob's ID. He acted like he didn't even know who we were! The nerve!). We went to the caverns of the Capitol, including the hideaway offices and the private subway connecting the Senate office buildings to Starbucks. Then, we went home.

16 July 2009

Patriotism at Its Very Best

When you don't have a 'real' job, you get some tremendous opportunities to apprentice at eclectic occupations, usually using your hands. This week I performed a melange of activities for various people while learning things and interacting with prominent people. On Tuesday I painted in the morning, pulled weeds vehemently in the afternoon, and babysat in the evening, all before playing in my weekly basketball league.
What I learned through painting was that I am the world's worst painter. I don't mean I'm bad at artwork; I am referring to using a roller to slather liquid color on flat wall, that maybe a three year old elephant could do with reasonable success. I can hardly do it, and after I do it it looks more like a zebra jigsaw puzzle than a colored wall. There were spots of paint on the trim, the door, and on the wood floor caused by droplets on the underside of my drip canvas that smeared when I pulled the cloth, and went unnoticed until the completion of the room. On day two my paintbrush was not dry from the previous afternoon, so with every stroke watery paint dripped down my unsuspecting arm and into my shirt, finally collecting in my navel, like a little paint can. My painting safari was bookended nicely; it began when I opened the wrong paint can and painted a long corner using the trim paint, before I stepped back and thought to myself "Strange color for a room;" and it ended when I fell over against the wet wall, instantly turning my PJs into paint clothes and simultaneously gelling and dying my hair, after going two days without any paint on me (except my bellybutton). If you'd like me to paint your house, I would be happy to do it, but don't expect any more quality work than if an amoeba did it with its flagella stuck to its side.
Weeding went a little less stressful for me. I was hired to weed for none other than Mitt Romney, and he came out to have a little swim while I was enjoying his lushious garden and trying to decide if a particular growth was a weed, or his grandson dressed as a weed. When in doubt, pull it out- right? We chatted about, well, weeds. What else do you discuss with your former governor when you are in his garden with a giant fir tree in your hand that you mistook for a venomous vine? I put in seven hours of deracinating over two days, and made a pretty significant impact on the flowerbox over that lengthy time period. I got to know my mp3 player very well, and performed the calculation $12 * 7 hours in every possible decomposition that can be conceived in an arboretum.
That evening I babysat, although there was no squatting on infants by me. I cooked buttered pasta, cleaned up a buttered pasta and milk mixture off the ground, changed two diapers, and put three kids to bed. I was tempted to paint the kids' room, but all I could find was lead paint and everyone knows that stuff is u-g-l-y. There was no apprentice at this particular job, but I did learn that kids should be mostly potty trained at 6 years, and that two year olds like buttery, milky mixtures. All of my Summer jobs have been remarkable chances at growth, and I have been making the absolute most of them. With life, you just need to enjoy what you got, because you won't got it for long.

10 July 2009

Wrapping Up Greece, Like You'd Wrap Up Feta Cheese... in a Gyro

Grant and I on the rocky beach in Ireland.
The Paris Crew, having a gay old time. Yes, we all have pretty good Ups.

My last night in London. I'm weeping in the picture, and right now. Check out my shadow.

Here are my requested thoughts on Athens: Athens is a dirty, run-down city with spectacular sites and extremely friendly people. About the same could be said of Mykonos, and, by my estimation, all of Greece. Mind also, the food.
My experiences in Ireland, England, France, and Greece were unforgettable. It's hard to wrap them up, but I think over the past twenty or thirty posts I have described a portion of my tales that is sufficient for my faithful audiences. I learned about Europe in a way that can only be done by living there. I interacted with natives and learned from professionals, in a variety of occupations. I gained an appreciation for Theatre and Shakespeare, for nudity (well, maybe not an appreciation, but at least a tolerance? That's still pushing it- a knowledge? No, I already knew what naked people look like. I suppose I gained an appreciation for clothes because of the nudists. Yes, that's what I meant to say), and an appreciation for fascinating history.
I kissed on the top of the Eiffel Tower, scootered on a Grecian Island, visited castles and had great luck in Ireland, and saw aspects of the Monarchy in England. I ate a fresh baguette out of a French patisserie, dined on kebabs and gyros in Greece, ate fish and chips in London, and engulfed shepard's pie at an Irish pub. I saw Shakespeare plays in Stratford-Upon-Avon and at the Globe Theatre, witnessed Strikers in France, became confused with Greek, and admired a rainbow in Ireland.
Despite all these terrific and remarkable actions, they would not have been the same without the people I was with. I grew very close to The Paris Crew, The Greece Crew, and many, many others in London. Indeed, my trip would not even have compared if it weren't for the tremendous people I shared the experiences with. So with that, I am mostly terminating the blog entries on Europe. I'm sure they will creep up like a surprise party, but for the rest of the Summer my posts will primarily be about Boston and who knows what. Keep reading! (That's just good advice in general, by the way.)

More Greece, but Not Much More

Kristin looking stylish as Grant tries to figure out why there is no water in the pond. Oh yea, we were in Greece.
Kristin, Me, Anna. The Park in Athens. Gorgeous. Palm Trees. Yellow Flowers. Random Athenians.
Grant and I at the Olympic Stadium. Very memorable. These are are tourists fingers.

The afternoon of our Akropolips morning was spent enjoing downtown and the markets, getting lost, checking out the Athens Garden, enjoying Olympic sights, and eating more gyros. It is a frightening thing to get lost in a foreign country without a Latin alphabet. We were on the right bus going the wrong direction. That's often how I feel about life. I know how to get where I need to go, but I still get lost along the way and no one seems to speak my language. Usually all is made right through food, and indeed once we got some gyros we were all feeling much better. I have tried many times to decide on my career path over food, but no inspiration yet. I'll keep trying. The rest of Athens was great, especially the Olympic Stadium. Preface: My family loves the Olympics like no other. For example, we don't have a television in our home, but we personally kept "Gray's TV" in Arlington afloat for many years becuase we rented a boob tube for two weeks every other year- to watch the Olympics. I once stayed home from a family vacation and watched eight hours of Olympics straight, with my sister. We were ameciated and fatigued when we unstuck ourselves from the couch, but I will not regret it ever. The only time I really missed watching TV on my mission was when the Olympics were on. In 2002 I went to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. All this is to say that the Olympics infatuation in my house is out of this world. For me and my brother to go to Greece- the heart of the first modern Olympics in 1896, setting of the ancient Olympics, and resting place of the 2004 Olympics- was something to check off my bucket list. I don't actually have a bucket list, but I saw the movie and this just seemed like something Morgan Freeman would do. Grant and I dipped in the moment and cried aloud on one another's shoulders. It was very tender. The Greece Crew Girls didn't really know what to do with us sobbing menfolk (they ended up complimenting us on the hollows of our knees- a little awkward but still appreciated). In addition to the ancient sites, there is nothing better than the modern Olympic sites. It just brings such joy to converse unilaterally about the Games in July, 2009, knowing they are only one year away. The National Park in Athens was very shady, but in a good, sun-covering way. There was no water, but there was a zoo with very thirsty animals. I was certainly impressed. The next morning we didn't do many Athenian things, except take a very long Metro/bus ride to the Airport, checking in 8 minutes before our check in ceased. The trip was significantly longer than we anticipated, and it was by far the closest I have ever come to missing a flight (we were still on the city bus at 12:34 and our flight left at 13:30. We made it, and even had time to pool our 1.60 Euros together to buy an incredible gyro. Actually, we bought a croissant, but I've been talking a lot about Gyros so I thought I'd just stick with it. Let the record show that it was a chocolate croissant, however. Athens will have a fond place in my heart always.

06 July 2009

Athenian Acropo-Lips

For all my theatre cronies, I had to throw this one in there. Holla to Ya! The Theatre of Dionysius.
The Akropalis from afar.

The Greece Crew- Anna, Grant, Me, Kristin. This was taken at the Athens Airport; it's very old and a little crumbly & outdated.

Acropolis. So easy to write yet so difficult to say. It always comes out Acropolips when I say it. Whatever, it's all Greek to me. Given the choice of paying 13 Euros to have a guided tour through Athens, or pay nilch to have a private tour of Athens, we went for the latter. And I think we saw it all in that solo and sunshiney day. After eating an entire loaf of bread for breakfast, by myself, we walked past the mangy dogs and street peddlars selling bic pens (the peddlars were selling the pens, not the mangy dogs) to the Acropalis. I was tempted to buy a pen, but then I remembered my fingernails were long enough to scratch into paper. (Where did that come from?) In Syntagmata square I was offered marijuana, but again the Temptation Reduction Chairwoman suggested I pass on grass, and having never failed me for advice before, I heeded (to my friend, not the drug dealer). It makes you wonder though, what about me screams, "Drug User." Perhaps I should cut my fingernails a little.
Athens has many ruins, some of them of a modern nature, and the more impressive ones of a prehistoric make-up. We passed both notions but only stopped at the Acrapolis complex (maybe Acroppolis isn't so easy to write...) As students studying in London, we got free admission to all the sights, meaning we had money to buy three Skype minutes and call one of our parents to say "Hello! We've been on a gay, nude beach for three days. But don't worry, we left for Athens- where we got offered free shots at our hostel bar, and marijuana! Hope all is well at home!"
The Accroplis is aridly awesome and dryly distracting. Most of the Temples are on the top of a fortified precipice, anciently guarded by Cherubims and altitude, and currently protected by hot and homeless dogs and historic site personnel. We perservered though the gates only by boastfully flashing our International Student Cards, which we treated like police badges wrapped in silken gold, for that is what they were in Europe. They gave us access to everything, including a meet and greet with James Bond. The most spectacular thing about the Ocrapolis was its history. Many of the buildings were from 100 B.C., and still standing. That very fact brought much more significance to the structures and made them incredible in my eyes. I saw the Temple of Nike (yea, we just did it), the Temple of Zeus (which ironically got partially knocked down by a storm; perhaps there was lightening?), the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysius and many, many other sights that were very ruinous but not as noteworthy. There were water fountains everywhere, and vending machines juxtaposed to the fountains, selling only water. The water was cold and apparently quite memorable. The sites of Athens were hot, dry, and very spectacular.


Grant, Me, Kris on our bunkbeds at the Aphrodite Hostel.
Kristin, Me, Grant, Anna downing our ORANGE JUICE shots. See below.

Kristin and I on the balcony of our flat in Athens. It's so hot in Athens and no one has air conditioning, so they just go out on their balconies to cool off in the evening.

Our third day on Mykonos morphed into our first day in Athens as we collapsed into somnolency on the ferry. Our skin was pillaged, our eyes demoralized, and our hearts so inflated with adventure they beat through our shirts like the pistons in a Porshe. We left Mykonos as one might casually place Huckleberry Finn- a classic in so many ways- back on the bookshelf until time has passed and breath has been caught. Our dreams turned to Athens and the two days that lay ahead for ancient discoveries and more gyros (we were very hungry on the ferry).
We arrived in Piraeus, the Athenian port, and after a 45 minutes subway excusrion we popped above ground like gophers and headed for Mikhael Voda Street. When we arrived at the Aphrodite Hostel it was a paradise more to our liking. The Hostel was perfect in every way: an English speaking receptionist, a hand-crank elevator, computers with internet, a bar offering free shots for all newcomers, a private room with bunkbeds, inspirational notes written under the bunkbeds, not so inspirational notes written under the bunkbeds, showers with lights in them, air conditioning, and a balcony! For the first time in four nights I looked forward to going to bed. The bunkbeads were incredible sturdy; we know because we practiced our syncronized flips off of them. We have two great doubles routines going. Not only were the Hostel and rooms great, but we found a gyro stand and a bakery within incredible propinquity to Hostel Aphrodite; we promptly declared the gyro stand homebase.
Arriving at the bar later that night, we were greeted by a cheerful bartender who asked us if we were ready for our shots. We wished she was referring to malaria vaccinations, which we would have welcomed with open arms (pun intended), but alas, she was offering us alcohol, and a very small bit of alcohol at that. We had a committee meeting and the Temptation Reduction Chairwoman, who had done such a magnificent job on Mykonos, prouldy told the bartender that none of us were interested in picking up booze in Athens. Instead, she offered us orange juice. I think my OJ had pulp in it, but it's hard to tell when there's only room for one piece of peel in your shot glass. Was it there by accident? Was it pulp?
The accommodations at the Hostel Aphrodite were wonderful, and for the first time in all my experiences in Greece, I got a full and healthy night of sawing logs.

03 July 2009

Party on Greece!

A very random pigeon house at the Paradise? I think the pigeons were used for relaying messages to the mainland, such as "Send more bugs now!"
A nice Church on the waterfront. I couldn't find any pictures of us in the club, so bear with me during these monotonous photos.
Anna, Grant, Me. That's just a funny picture if you ask me. It lookes like Anna and I are a diablo and an angel on his shoulders- but who's who?

Our second night on Mykonos was just as buggy, but twice as exciting as the inauguaral evening. We, The Greece Crew, knew we could not last another night in our barracks if we wanted to return home to America as anything but mosquito fodder. Seeing as it was a pleasant evening, and chaisse lounges were far more enticing than the slabs of wood in our living quarters, we all opined unanimously to sleep on the beach under natural illumination with the breaking waves lulling us to sleep. We did not anticipate the extent of the unnatural illuminations, or the pulsating club beats reverberating in our ears all night, however. Not only was the Paradise Resort known for having a gay, nude beach, but also for being the party hotspot on Mykonos. Our solitary evening of choice for beach snoozing also included an all night dance party-on the beach- featuring none other than the world famous (?) Caal Kennedy! All through the night we longingly looked up at the brilliant stars and wished for Caal to go to bed, although he never did. At five in the morning we were all regrettably awake and still swatting mosquitoes that are apparently now equipped with GPS to better facilitate sucking, so we had a committe meeting to address what to do. Seeing as none of us were willing to go back to our shacks to finish off the night (the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was still affecting us, and we feared a relapse), we decided to just make the most of the rave and join in! So we danced from five until about six thirty in the AM. We were all too loopy to really know what was going on, but we were able to invent an original dance move we called the "Mosquito Swat," wherein you move your hands around your face in a chic like fashion while secretly batting bugs away and protecting your body from being violated in the club (by bugs or course). Yes, Mykonos, you never ceased to amaze or to provide endless and unexpected adventure. If you can't sleep in your bed, I guess you are just expected to dance the night away!

02 July 2009

Greece III

Me, on a rose covered staircase in the streets of Hora. I described the picture so that my interpretation of the picture might jumpstart your own thoughts and meditation.

Grant and Kris on the Hora shora-line. I only wrote it that way so that Hora and shora would rhyme, but really it was just a shoreline.

The town of Hora on Mykonos was filled, though not to capacity, with friendly people, as a cookie box with cookies. They were very nice, but sparse like colors on a zebra. In fact, all the Greeks we met were incredibly friendly, like a dog with a peanut butter chewtoy. On more than one occasion we stopped someone to ask for directions, and found that they spoke as much English as an American teenager in South Dakota. But, they were very willing to go in search of someone who did speak our language to help us out, like an Eagle Scout at 23.00 trying to fit his good turn in before day's end. Okay, the similies have really got to stop... Downtown Hora has streets so anorexic that no motor cars can fit between the shoppes and flats. We parked our little lawnmower motors by some incredibly ineffective windmills (which showed astounding potential, if they only put the sails up) and headed into town to walk, whisper, and windowshop. I really liked the town, but not because of its anti-congestion or rising sealine slash sinking port.

I liked it because of its charismatic and fulfilling personality. I loved its meterstick streets and contiguouos buildings, welded together as affectionately as books on a shelf might be. I enjoyed the voluptuous coastline composing the Eastern border and the garrulous Greeks drying their aprons over the city walks. I ate happily on the smogless veranda and relished in the smooth air streaming in from the sea. I certainly gained a penchant both for Mykonos and its communities. The sunset that night, as seen from an ocean-battered stone housing windmills and lovers, was beautiful- as all sunsets and people should be.

01 July 2009

Greece II

Grant deciding if the cactus would make a nice lunch (we were running out of money) in front of the ruins at Mykonos.

After a night that could only be described by the onomatopoeia 'BZZZZZ' we got out of bed, which consequently resulted in us being out of our barrack. Breakfast at the Paradise included, and was limited to:
  • 1 Cup Orange Drink (Not fresh squeezed) (They explicitly stated this)
  • 2 Pieces of Bread
  • 1 Croissant
  • 2 Butter Packets
  • 1 Jam Packet
  • 1 Hard Boiled Egg

The food rations were meager, but at least we had sensational thoughts of lunch at our patio cafe across the way. Day II in Mykonos included renting scooters to travel the island. The oversized and underdressed rental spokesman had just won the World's Strongest Man contest, and was celebrating by watching cartoons in his hut.* The hut barely fit him and yet was still more spacious than our sleeping quarters. He asked me to take the scooter out for a ride to test my two-wheel competency (and because I didn't want to be turned into orange juice, this time fresh squeezed). Having never ridden one before I didn't know the seat from the kickstand or the windshield from the brake. I only passed because he was distracted by Tom and Jerry. We rented two scooters and set about immediatley up the raw countryside with Paradise to our backs and felicitous shores on the horizon. Driving in any foreign commonwealth can be unsettling, but doing so with half the amount of wheels is just downright pant-wettingly unnerving. Navigating a rotary or a three way stop when you don't know how to turn off your blinkers, drive your vehicle, or see through your helmet sun visor really puts some hair on your chest. Unless you're a girl, in which case it...umm...puts length to your toenails?

The sights of the island outweighed the mental damage, however. We beach hopped the breadth of Mykonos in the morning searching for a beach more suited to our toggery tastes. Because of its piddling size Mykonos has several coves that reform Mediterranean gusts into freshening breezes. They harbour sunshine and provide tender sand that melts between your painted toes. (My toes are not painted, but I do associate painted toes with Summer.) While practically still on the beach, we dined on mellow sandwiches and savory crepes; my preference being a tomato, feta, and olive submarine drizzled with olive oil and topped with Greek spices. We felt like Greek gods/goddesses, as should be evident in the reclining photograph below.

Not only did we visit the beaches of Mykonos, but we also saw the major cities, Hora and Ano Vera, the latter being inland despite its coastal views on three sides. They were both thriving metropolises consisting of a rental scooter hut, a gyro stand, and a smoke shop. We saw an ancient ruin and looked death in the eye at every left turn. We admired the coasts, goats, airplane runway, white buildings with blue accents, and each other's company. Our conversations were pleasant and the sun regally effulgent. The old port in Hora was friendly and seemed to gaze at us methodically, just as we mirrored its views. Scooting around a graceful Grecian archipelago was indeed blissful.

*I actually don't know if he had entered any WSM contest, but he was strong enough to bend the Parthenon in half and he was in fact watching cartoons.