Monday, August 31, 2009

Burn baby burn

For my 22nd birthday, a group of friends went in on a gift for me. At my birthday party, I opened a handmade card (courtesy Bequi) to find a ticket to Burning Man for September of 2001 (Theme: Seven ages of man). Six months later, I had a boyfriend (Dan) and was living in a new place and was so excited to be embarking on what would turn out to be an amazing trip.

Eight years on, I don't think I can write a play-by-play of my experience at the playa. My photos, once online, appear to be lost to the ether. But I have snippets, things that stand out in my mind, memories of smells and tastes and sounds and sights.

*Braiding my hair in the car on the way up, small braids all over my head, to help minimize the likelihood of snarls when I knew I wouldn't be able to wash it for days.
*The powdery ache on my feet from the alkali dust that didn't dissipate even with the liberal application of vinegar.
*Having no hunger signals for days, then when presented with a fresh green salad literally salivating so much I drooled.
*The intense heat of the daytime sun and the relief brought by sundown
*Crawling through the 3-D maze, wishing I had more time to explore it more thoroughly and in-depth
*The profoundly moving experience of the Mausoleum
*Watching people get married, marry themselves, or otherwise participate in some sort of ritual of marriage
*Hanging out with teddy bear pants guy at the Burning of the Man
*Spending hours in a massage camp during one sweltering day for the shade and good energy
*Encountering a friend from preschool at center camp and spending quite a while hula hooping with him.
*Wishing I had the stamina to sleep during the hot day and stay up all night, and failing each day and night. I'm just not nocturnal.
*Getting advice from a guy sitting in Lucy's Advice 5c booth
*watching my friend Ian spin lit poi for the first time
*the incredible gargantuan full moon
*After a late-night adventure, sleeping for a few hours in a stranger-turned-friend's tent, then navigating a dust storm across the playa to get back to my camp.

And, of course, there was nothing like the cognitive dissonance of leaving Black Rock City, still covered in playa dust, and stopping in Reno to eat at a casino buffet. The amount of overstimulation was the same, but the purpose was completely different. When I got home, and undid my braids, and took what remains The Best Shower of my Life, I hoped my memories would remain acute. Like everything, though, they've since faded. I still have a few print photos (how quaint, right?). I went to Burning Man to experience it, to see and interact with the art and the people. I didn't do drugs or drink (I think I had maybe one drink the whole 5 days). I didn't dance all night, or have sex with a stranger, or witness anything that shocked me to the core. I'm sure lots of other people who went that year did, but none of those things were me or how I wanted to experience the event.

Every year, friends of mine still go to Burning Man. Oldest Friend, in fact, got there yesterday. Every year I briefly consider going, and every year other things take precedence, are more important financially or time-off-wise. It takes an enormous amount of resources (time, money, etc.) and a lot of preparation, particularly if you're not in Northern California, to attend Burning Man. As I get older, I think more and more that my one experience at the playa was enough.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


One of my major life goals I set for myself early on was to travel. In high school, I knew I wanted to take a big trip to/around Europe after I graduated college, and so I spent all four years of school living as cheaply as I could and saving every penny for my trip. I spent months planning, doing research, and daydreaming about what my trip would be like.

I had a boyfriend for three of the four years I was in college, and while we were together I always thought we'd take the trip to Europe together. We broke up at the beginning of my senior year, and so I had to face the prospect of traveling solo. While I was excited to embark on such a journey by myself, I was also a little daunted, and thought it might be fun to try to meet up with other solo travelers along the way. During my research I came upon a website with a message board solely devoted to backpacking in Europe, and one of the sections of the board enabled people to post their travel itineraries for anyone who might be interested in meeting up for a drink or to travel together for a day or two.

Quite a few people responded to my post when I wrote about where I'd be and when and the sort of places I wanted to see, and I exchanged emails and photos with a few. I knew I'd be in Paris first, then Barcelona, then Nice, then Rome, and decided after that I'd play it by ear, so I arranged to meet up with David in Paris, with Chris in Nice, and with Clay in Rome. I saw the Louvre with David and we had dinner together one evening while I was there. I met a girl in Barcelona at my hostel and we did some stuff together, and helped one another weather the second worst train ride ever from Barcelona to Nice. I'd been in touch with Chris to let him know when I'd be in Nice, since he was taking a much longer trip and had already spent several days on the French riviera, and I knew when I got off the overnight train ride from hell that he'd meet me at the hostel where we were both going to spend the next couple of nights.

I got to the hostel, sleep deprived and sunburned from my first few days in Europe when I'd forgotten to bring sunscreen, totally cracked out, and Chris suggested I get a shower and we'd go play on the beach. I thought this an excellent plan, and after we got down to the water we'd already had conversations about everything from vegetarianism to abortion rights to gun control. Somehow this stranger, someone I'd expected to spend a few hours with, turned out to be a kindred spirit, despite our incredible differences in experience, religion, politics, all the big stuff. We just gelled. We spent the next couple of days exploring Nice and Monaco and then I got an email from Clay saying he'd had to cancel his trip so he wouldn't be coming to Rome. So Chris went to Rome with me. And Florence. And Interlaken, Switzerland. I can't really say why we hit it off so well, because we were so incredibly different - him a three-years-older Christian republican cowboy country singer who loved to play guitars and had switched from bullriding to broncriding after a motorcycle accident nearly killed him (somehow, the near-death experience on the bike made him less interested in courting death on the back of a very large bull). He was from Michigan and had a midwest accent, teased me about being from California, my hippie (to him) ways and how I said "like" a lot. Everywhere we went, we discussed things mundane and profound. He made sure I ate. He took care of me, which college boyfriend had basically never done, and I liked it.

In Salzburg, I knew that we had to split up. He was planning to spend time in Germany, and I was interested in seeing Prague and Krakow, and my trip was 6 weeks while his was three months. We said teary goodbyes at the Salzburg train station and I cried for hours on the way to Poland, wondering how it was possible that I had gotten so close to someone from so far away in such a short period of time. My memories of my few days in Poland are colored by the fog of sadness that was caused by having to leave my new friend, who had somehow become so much more despite our differences, that to this day I cannot think of a single positive thing about it, though I'm sure it was far more beautiful than I give it credit for. Let me just say, though, that I advise never going to Auchwitz by yourself if you're already really sad, because that was just about the most miserable experience I ever had.

I sat in an internet cafe and wrote him an email. I missed him. He wrote me back the next day; he missed me. I went to Prague and wandered around for two days and watched a guy vomit on his own feet and then I wrote him and said, "I want to come meet up with you again."

Right now I can't remember where it was I ended up going. Someplace in Germany, where he was, planning a bus trip up the Romantic Road. We saw Neuschwanstein castle in Fussen, stayed overnight in someone's house in Augsberg, walked around the wall and ate the local specialty of fried dough balls in Rotenburg, drank wine in Wurtzberg, went to Heidelburg, then headed back to Munich and had a great time at the Deutches Museum and wandering the streets, calling one another Platz (Plaza, in German, a suffix on signs everywhere, and fun to say). One night we ate at the Hofbrauhaus, learning that drunken Japanese tourists singing "Country Roads" performed by an oompah band wearing lederhosen is one of the experiences not to be missed when one is in Munich, and he bet me that I couldn't drink an entire stein of beer. The loser of the bet had to pay for our lodging for the night. Now, I hate beer. I hated beer then. But I wasn't going to let a little (okay, a lot, those steins were huge!) disgusting soapy beverage stand between me and winning a bet. I drank almost an entire stein and then had to pee. (You would too! I'm not kidding about the size of those things). While I was in the bathroom, the server took my stein. I came back, and Chris said that I hadn't had the whole beer, so I lost. I ordered another and drank half of it before he admitted I had won. We had a misadventure trying to get to the Black Forest, which is a whole post in itself, but involved cherry liquor, Stuttgart, and snails.

I was getting close to the end of my trip, so I had to head back to Paris and then over to London before going home. Somehow it wasn't as hard to leave, and yet it was even harder, because of the jokes and the experiences we'd shared in that additional week. During the last several days of my trip, I wandered around Paris by myself and London by myself, thinking over the adventure I'd had and my new friend Chris, wondering what it all meant. When he got back to Michigan from his trip, a month after I'd already been home, I flew to visit for a week. He came to visit me at Thanksgiving. We had already mutually decided that a relationship between us would never work: we were from different parts of the country and had different values and goals. He wanted to get married and have a family, being the last in his circle to do so at the ripe old age of 24. I was 21, fresh out of college, wanting to have more experiences and not at all interested in settling down. While personality-wise, we meshed incredibly well, we couldn't get past all the other things that were different. So we moved on as friends.

Chris and I were very close for years. He called me whenever he had women problems. I told him about Dan when we met and started dating. I saw him through two failed relationships and tried to make suggestions as I could. He was probably the person who I felt closest to, who I knew would tell it to me straight, who I wanted to stand up with me at my wedding were I ever to have one.

And then he met Kelli.

I heard about Kelli, how she was 20 and a widow with a toddler. How he didn't trust her not to cheat on him during a trip to Hawaii. How he didn't know what she was going to do with her life. But she was young, already had a kid, needed his help and protection. They worked through their relationship that first year and then one day, shortly after I moved to Denver, he called me up to tell me they were engaged. "Congratulations!" I said, having expected it for months. "We're getting married in September," he said. "And we're buying a house in August, and we want to come visit you in Colorado in May."

"Sweet!" I said. I bought a futon so they'd have someplace to sleep.

Chris and Kelli came to visit me in May of 2003. Dan came down from Greeley for the first weekend they were here, and we all hung out. Dan's and Chris's personalities were very similar, so they enjoyed joking around together, and Chris and I told stories from our trip that we'd taken. Kelli was jealous. How could she not be? She was much younger, had had no similar experiences, and, in her opinion, I knew her fiance better than she did. I think she was intimidated by me, though it was obvious I had no designs on her man, I had known him far longer than she had and I wasn't married. He was close to me, and trusted me, and I don't think she liked that.

"We're going to go explore Colorado," Chris told me on Monday morning. "We're taking a road trip, but we'll be back by Friday." "Have a great time!" I said.

I never heard from him again. I called his mom that Saturday to let her know he hadn't come back; she said they were in the mountains with no reception but they said they'd be back in Denver the day before. "I'm sure they're fine," she told me.

Nothing. No call. No email. I tried his cell phone, but had no luck. Their plane took off, I'm sure with them on it, that Sunday in May of 2003, but Chris had made his choice. He chose his fiance over me, even though it didn't need to come to that. She didn't want him to be friends with me, so he cut off all contact after being close friends with me for three years, after all the adventures we'd had. I'm sure they got married that September, though we never got an invitation. I'm sure they've since had more children, since Chris had wanted a lot of kids. He found someone who was the same religion, who needed him, who came with a built-in family, and he was from Western Michigan where guys weren't friends with girls they weren't related to by blood or marriage. His solo trip to Europe and his years of being friends with that free-spirited California girl were the only ways he'd let himself be different from everyone else in his small town.

Every once in a while, I'll see something that reminds me of the time I was in Europe, hanging out with the bronc rider. A joke, the smell of a kebab, hearing certain country songs. I miss him and hope he is happy, hope his family is well. Recently Facebook has been suggesting I add him as a friend, and every time his name pops up there I get a little sad. Part of me wants to extend that olive branch, to catch up, to reminice about old times, to call him a platz again. But part of me thinks that the past is better left where it lies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Faff: Not so faffy edition

Last night we had dinner with a work friend and her husband, who are amazingly like us in interests and intellect, down to the same exact tattered copy of The Chronicles of Prydain on the bookshelf. We played some Zauber Cocktail and ate homemade pizza and strawberry shortcake and played Cranium and had a generally wonderful evening.

The interesting part was that they're quite religious and completely opposite us politically.

Luckily, it didn't stop us from having a great time. But I did think it was interesting.

Of course, this isn't the first time I've been friends with someone who had very different religious and political views. Joey, for example, was Catholic and pro-life and I think I opened his eyes to the fact that someone doesn't have to be religious to be a good person.

Then there was my Christian Republican cowboy country singer travel friend, with whom I got along like peas and carrots, but with whom an actual relationship would never have worked for any number of reasons.

I find myself wishing that people who have opposing viewpoints would be willing to see the similarities between themselves and people who disagree with their viewpoints. Everything does not always have to be how one side or another is right. How about how both sides can work together to make things better for everyone?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August Adventure, Part 3: The Tallest Mountain in Colorado

Dan poked at me.

"It's time to get up," he said. "UUUNHHHG" I responded. It was 6 AM. I hadn't slept well; the altitude had made the small muscles in my chest hurt and I just couldn't get comfortable. It was freezing cold oustide as well, and I stupidly and groggily changed into my hiking clothes, shivered though the dismantling of the tent and the shoving of our gear into the car, and wished I'd brought gloves. And a hat.

Exiting the campground, we drove a short way up to the main trailhead parking lot, at which point we finished our preparation and began the 2 mile trek up the dirt road to the 4wheel drive parking lot. Moxie could have made it a little way up, we realized, but not very far, so it was just as well we'd left her where we did.

Car after truck passed us as we made our way up the road, but nobody stopped to offer us a lift. We crossed a runoff-swollen stream. We were making good time, we thought, but after a while it felt like maybe we'd gone too far. Then we came upon a sign that told us in no uncertain terms that we HAD gone too far, and we just hadn't noticed the turnoff. The 14er book had steered us wrong again, and we probably ended up going over a mile out of the way, all told. When we figured out the right path, we stopped to eat some energy bars and bitch a little bit about how much unnecessary uphill we'd done. Then, right as we started on the appropriate trail, Dan tripped on a footbridge and banged his knee up.

At least once we got going, the trail was flat and easy, went downhill a bit, and then took a sharp turn to the uphill and stayed that way. And stayed that way. And stayed that way. It was really, really tough going, and we had to stop pretty frequenly to catch our breaths and rest our legs. The book had assured us that the trail leveled out for a while, which eventually it did, but not for long enough, because then came UPHILL. We passed tree line (side note, the trees at treeline are pretty weird!) and each step was harder, each break more necessary. When you get up that high, the altitude can have varying affects on any given person, and when you combine that with the possibilities of any sort of weather, you never know what you might get.

The trail got rockier and steeper. Dan had slowed down to a snail's pace and I wasn't going especially fast my own self. We hit what I estimate to be around 13,900 or so feet and suddenly the summit was just too far to go - at least a half mile further, and nearly straight up. We both felt the beginnings of altitude sickness (in my case, it was lightheadedness and dizziness and a slight bit of nausea) and decided that 14,400, the summit of Mount Elbert, was not going to happen that day. A combination of bad/not enough sleep, going all the distance out of our way, hiking 6 miles to get to the top instead of 3.5 from the 4-wheel drive lot like most of the other people on the trail, the weather (sunny and snowing at the same time!) all conspired to send us back down the mountain before we'd reached the top.

Intellectually, I know it's better that we made that decision and didn't try to push through our feeling poorly in order to reach the top. People die every year because they ignore their bodies' warning signals and are too stubborn to turn around; other people are hospitalized for the same reason. But still, it killed me not to have reached the top of Mount Elbert, especially after we'd come all that way.

Downhill was nearly as difficult as uphill, especially on the steep, gravely parts of the trail. Loose rocks slide out from under you and it's harder to keep your balance going downhill. We stopped to have a snack when we got to the flatter part of the trail down inside treeline and watched flakes of snow fall from the sunny blue sky. Down doesn't take as long as up because you don't have to stop as frequently, but it still takes quite a while, especially on the steep parts.

Finally, finally, finally we made it back to the 4 wheel drive lot, hoping someone would be there from whom we could beg a ride back to our car, but it was not to be. I joked with Dan that as soon as we got to the end of the road, someone would drive past us, and lo and behold, I was right.

We made it back to the car about 8 hours after we'd began the whole trek. We'd hiked around 11 miles up a mountain and back (including the out-of-the-way bit). We were both stinky and starving and a little bit sun/windburned. We got in the car and drove home (stopping in Leadville for Subway sandwiches, in stop-and-go Sunday afternoon traffic for two hours between the Eisenhower tunnel and Idaho Springs).

It was a good weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August adventure, part 2: poop, mud, aggressive chipmunk

Once the car was deemed good to go, we motored back up to the Maroon Bells wilderness area. Normally, cars are not allowed (you have to take a bus) from 9 AM to 5 PM during the summer, but overnight campers get a car permit (yet another reason, besides how amazingly gorgeous it is, to camp there) and even though we hadn't actually stayed in the campground due to the aforementioned car issues, the people at the kiosk didn't know that and waved us through. We passed through some beautiful scenery that would have been more spectacular had it not been foggy and kind of rainy. We decided to park at one of the more outlying areas and hike in to Maroon Lake and then do an additional hike from there, but it was pouring rain for a while so we sat in the car and read books to wait it out. Luckily, the weather turned nice pretty quickly, so we changed into our hiking gear and headed out on the trail.

The early part of our hike went through a jungly aspen forest, the trees towering above us, our feet sloshing through thick black or red mud and a ridiculous amount of horse crap. There was so much poop that it was basically impossible to avoid, especially since so much of the uphill trail was slick goopy mud. We wondered at several points just what the fresh hell the people who had ridden those horses had fed them to get them to produce so much; it was seriously every 5-10 feet.

After quite a bit of uphill, the trail began to descend and we came upon a clearing with a hitching post. Not exactly the sort of thing you see every day.

Then suddenly we were at Maroon Lake, where the tour bus drops people off. It was absolutely breathtaking, and photos cannot do it justice, but here are a few I snapped.

We opted to hike a trail to Crater Lake that was rated "moderate" (the other trails were all easy and we wanted somewhat of a challenge), a 3.6 mile roundtrip hike that turned out to be exactly what we were hoping for. The scenery was great, the trail wasn't too populated, and we finally made it to the upper lake and got yet another view of one of the prettiest parts of Colorado, the Maroon Bells (both 14K+ foot mountains overlooking the valley).

The only real drawback was that right as we arrived at Crater Lake, some very loud men from Long Guyland decided to share their inane conversation with everyone in a half-mile radius. Starving, we found a log to sit on and ate our PBJs and plums and some trail mix. As is usual in populated hiking areas of our fair state, there were plenty of small animals around begging people for food. To our chagrin, a greedy chipmunk decided we'd be good marks and kept running up to us, behind us, and around us, and though we attempted to discourage him from coming near, he wouldn't take no for an answer. I snapped his photo a few times in retalliation, but he wouldn't stay still so I only got one good shot of him.

Then suddenly Dan screamed loudly, almost making me wet myself, and asked "Is it still on me?"

"WTF?" I said. Or at least, that's what I thought. "Is what still on you?"

"That stupid chipmunk just jumped on my shoulder!" he said, and we looked but didn't see the little bastard anywhere. Maybe Dan's yell scared him off.

Finished with our lunches, we made our way toward the lake and took some photos, glad that the loud New Yawkers had left and it was quiet again. On the way back down to Maroon Lake, we finally saw what had been making the CHEE noise at us on the way up: a pika.

Of course, being me, I had to have some fun with the macro setting on my camera. At least these days I'm only taking photos of flower types I haven't already photographed.

When we got back to Maroon Lake, we opted to walk along the road back to our car rather than brave the horsepoop and mud again. From there, we drove south from Aspen along highway 82, went up and over Independence Pass, and down to the Twin Lakes area where we found a campground and set up camp in preparation for our big hike on Sunday. Normally I'm not a fan of hot dogs, but turkey dogs, corn on the cob, and a burnt-in-the-coals potato were absolutely delicious. And we looked into the sky and there was the Milky Way, something I hadn't seen in a very long time. There's nothing like stargazing to make one feel very small.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend adventure, part 1: Bad luck and good luck

It was time to get out of town again, so this past weekend I took Friday off and we packed up the car and drove west on I-70, tunes a-blazin', possibilities in the air. We stopped in Glenwood Springs for some weekend food supplies and continued along highway 82 toward Aspen, in phone contact with Dan's cousin making some dinner plans, arriving at our destination at what we thought was 5 PM (by Dan's watch) but was actually 6.

Sadly, the Maroon Bells wilderness area only takes cash and checks, so we had to drive back into Aspen to get some of that (Aspen, as one might guess, is full of people driving very expensive cars. It is also kind of twee.), and back to Maroon Bells, set up our tent at Silver Bell #12, then realized we had no cell phone coverage to let Lori know we were set and ready for dinner. So we drove back out to Aspen AGAIN and met up with Lori and her husband, who both got a kick out of the Flying Spaghetti Monster car emblem and learned that it was not in fact 6 PM but actually 7 PM. We feasted at a local watering hole and heard a harrowing tale of the WORST customer service story ever, so much so that my gast was completely flabbered. After dinner, we said our goodnights and our thanks for hanging-outs and got into the car, only to determine that it didn't want to start.

Like, at all. No turning over. No nothing.

Luckily, they hadn't gone far, and when I called they turned around and came back to help us get things figured out. We attempted a jump start, which didn't work for quite some time. Finally, after quite a bit of finessing, Rich got the car started. Both cars sat there idling for a while as we decided what to do. The final verdict: Rich and I would go back to the campground in their sweet-ass Audi TT convertable and break down camp/get our stuff, while Dan and Lori would head to their house in poor Moxie, who up to that point had never given us a moment's trouble; in case something happened during the drive, Moxie wouldn't be at the campground out of cell phone range. Rich and I motored up, broke down our camp, stuffed everything in the wee tiny trunk, and made it back into the car just as the crazy rain and thunder and lightning started.

It wasn't the evening we were expecting: sleeping on the pullout couch, loved on by two doggies, sipping port and watching a guy on stilts on Conan rather than a tent under the stars and me beating Dan at gin. But it was a lovely evening nonetheless. In the morning, we found a place to bring the car, but couldn't get it started again, even with Rich's magic fingers. After some internet research, a few more things were tried, but ultimately we determined that poor Moxie was just not going to start. Luckily (and seriously, this was REALLY lucky), Lori and Rich had everything necessary to tow Moxie down to Basalt to the car repair place - tow cables, a Land Rover, tools, etc. and saved us $200 in towing fees.

I have to say here that riding in a car at highway speed when the car isn't actually on so you have no idea how fast you're going is extremely weird.

So we got to the car place and about 15 guys ran out and started poking around under Moxie's hood. While we waited, Lori and I took a 5-minute trip over to a convenience store to get some supplies and when we got back we were greeted by two sheepishly grinning men. "Guess how much it cost," they asked. "Two dollars!" said Lori. "Off by a factor of ten," said Rich, relating that someone finally figured out that the floor mat had wedged itself far enough under one of the pedals that it couldn't engage when we were trying to turn the car on. Twenty bucks for five minutes of troubleshooting, and two red faces, and a bunch of laughing Mexican guys. Hey, it could have been exponentially worse (and ridiculously expensive). I would have been mortified if we'd paid to have the car towed.

So all was well, and Dan and I headed back into the Maroon Bells area to go hiking, laughing and wondering what we could do as a thank-you to Rich and Lori for putting us up for the night and towing the car into town. Any ideas, internet?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What might have been

Do you ever look back on decisions you've made over the course of your life, big or small, and wonder if you'd made a different choice, what might the outcome have been?

It never ceases to amaze me how life seems at once to be a series of happy (or not-so-happy) coincidences and also a series of meaningful events. If I had not done this, if I had not gone here, if I had not gone to that party or written on that message board or applied for that job, life might have been so different. When I was a little kid, I loved to hear the story of how my parents met: at a party on Valentine's Day, at the home of mutual friends, when each was dating someone else. My dad dated 3 women with the same first name; the 3rd was my mom. If one or the other of them hadn't gone to the party, I never would have come into existence! How mind-blowing is that when you're five, or even when you're 30? If Dan's brother had never told him about the message board, if I hadn't IM'd him, if I'd been seriously dating someone else, if if if. So many choices, so many possibilities, so many futures that could have happened but didn't.

As I mentioned before, we saw 500 Days of Summer this past weekend, and while I don't feel talented enough to do a movie review that could actually do the film justice, there are a few bits that keep sticking with me. The theme of choices and how certain choices lead to certain outcomes, whether they be coincidence or whether they hold actual meaning, whether things happen at random or whether something is meant to be, whether you have a soul mate or whether any number of people could work out to be a good long-term partner, is explored in ways both subtle and profound throughout the film. Some people I know met their partners in unusual ways, while others knew each other for years in some fashion before ending up together. Either way, one might argue both sides of the meant-to-be vs. happy coincidence debate. Regardless of how you meet your SO, what really matters is what you do with the relationship once you're in it, whether you turn out to be compatible long-term or whether it will be a finite sort of thing.

It's not just relationships that this applies to, though, since the jobs that you apply for and the places you go and the daily decisions you make (salad or cheeseburger? gym or veg out on the couch?) all have influences on your life, long-term, even if taken individually they might not seem that way. You meet people and make friends and have adventures. People come in and out of your life. People you happened to become penpals with when you're a teenager turn out to be good friends despite living on the other side of the country 15 years later. People you think are going to be single-serving friends turn out to be far more important than you would have ever imagined - my aunt's best friend, for example, she met while in the hospital giving birth to my cousin. The best friend was in the next bed over, and they've been friends for nearly 31 years now, and though she was then the lady giving birth the same day, she and her son are family members now. Sometimes I wonder what people who were once in my life but no longer are might be up to; someday I'll write the story of my cowboy friend from Michigan. But that's a tale for another time.

Speaking of blasts from the past, I'm facebook friends with my College Boyfriend's brother. He just joined and last night put up photos of his two daughters (whom I've never met). The older daugher looks like her mom (CB's bro's wife). I had to do a double-take when I saw the photo of the younger daughter, as she had inherited her uncle's (CB's) eyes. I looked into the face of that baby and saw what my baby might have looked like had I had one with College Boyfriend. I never had more than a slight pregnancy scare during the 3 years College Boyfriend and I were together, and had I gotten pregnant during that time I would have been in no way ready to have a baby, let alone be tied for life to College Boyfriend. Things didn't work out with him for very good reason. Maybe it's because babies are on my mind these days, wondering how Dan's and my potential progeny will look. But seeing College Boyfriend's eyes in his niece's face gave me a little glimpse of what might have been, had accidents happened, had different choices been made. It was a little bit freaky.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Legacy, but not the good kind

Neck and back problems run in my family, so much so that my uncle became a chiropractor because of the pain he saw his mother (my grandmother) go through. My mom has had neck/back issues her entire adult life, and my sister had back problems starting in childhood. My first back/neck injury occurred when I was in high school, at a swim meet, somehow managing to mess things up during a flip turn. I saw a local chiro for months after that and was forced to wear my backpack on both shoulders (so uncool!) It acted up again during my first job in college, shelving library books, so much so that I was unable to get out of bed some days. Over the years, I've had twinges here and there, but then three years ago, I was in a car accident. A stupid kid rear-ended me at a stoplight. I got whiplash, work paid for me to see a doctor and a chiropractor for a while. I dutifully did all of the things the chiro told me to do to rehabilitate my neck and shoulder. Despite this, my neck has yet to heal fully and every so often it'll suddenly get all stupid whiplashy again, which sucks because a) it hurts a lot, b) sometimes it resolves itself on its own but other times I have to go back to the chiro and pay for it my own self, and c) it keeps me from doing things I want to do. Like hike 14ers, which we have still yet to do this summer.

Our weekend had no plans, and turned out to be spectacularly uneventful because I couldn't even comfortably go throw a frisbee around in the park. Sitting, standing, walking, and (especially lying down) hurt. Our biggest weekend accomplishments turned out to be going grocery shopping and walking to the Mayan theater to see 500 Days of Summer (which I really liked, at least enough to be thinking/talking about it the whole walk home). I spent Saturday in a small-to-medium amount of pain and Sunday in a pretty serious amount of pain, which was alleviated to some extent by walking in the sun to and from the movie.

But while it was a nice long walk, it wasn't nearly enough. We started out the summer taking hikes every weekend, but recently it seems as though there is always something else to do or something (like my stupid neck) getting in the way of our adventures. I spent all last week traveling around the state and was only reminded further how many awesome things there are to do here, especially this time of year. I feel sluggish and some amount of despair, because not only does my neck hurt but that means I can't do my normal routine, let alone tackle a crazy weekend hike. It's been far too long since I played with my camera or posted any photos.

I get to see the chiropractor tomorrow. I hope one visit takes care of the current problem and that next weekend's adventure is a go.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Where I was

Last week, we had some friends over for dinner on Wednesday night who are moving from Colorado to California, and they brought their 2.5 year-old son who spent most of the evening chasing the kitties around, declaring "Kitty!" as the kitties ran away, confused about this small monster who smelled like and resembled a human but was surely way too small to be one. He liked the magnetic letters on our fridge and insisted on having a drink that looked just like the mojitos the adults were drinking, which I served him in the only plastic cup we have, which is covered in horse holograms from Churchill Downs in Louisville.

We enjoyed dinner, especially spending time with our friends, and bemused at their reactions to and apologies for their son's behavior; he was actually very well-behaved and acted like I would expect a two-year-old to act, but I think since they knew we aren't around little kids very much that it might be kind of weird for us. Luckily we like them and we like him and all went very well.

The next day, Scarlett came back to town in order to look for an apartment and get some last-minute things settled for her upcoming move to Denver for grad school. Her boyfriend joined her this time, and we spent the weekend showing them around and cheering when Scarlett found just the right place and signed the lease (only half a block from our place!) and eating pub food and ice cream. In the middle of their visit, I had to fly to Durango for work (flew down Sunday night, flew back Monday after a day-long training). The trip to Durango was short and relatively uneventful: I had breakfast at(and bought coffee beans for Dan from) Carver's; I had dinner at a fantastic Himalayan (Indian/Nepali/Tibetan) restaurant. I stayed in the Strater Hotel though my room didn't resemble a brothel but rather perhaps the vomit of a wedding cake. Our training was over in plenty of time for our afternoon flight, but something kept our plane overly long in Denver and it was really hot, so despite the plane being not even close to full there were some sort of weight restriction issues that I didn't fully understand and we were told that five adults had to volunteer to take a bump to the next flight or the plane couldn't take off. Since I live in Denver, I volunteered. I got a $200 flight voucher and got to sit in the airport for an extra few hours, which was OK once I got the free wireless to work. I got home a lot later than expected and didn't get to spend as much time with Scar and Jason as I would have liked, but that evening we played a game Dan got for graduation called Zauber Cocktail which was super fun, and we all went to bed late, and I called in late for work on Tuesday.

Tuesday evening Dan drove up to Glenwood Springs with me for my Wednesday training, and we had more pub food and stayed at the Hotel Colorado, which (as I've mentioned before) is supposed to be haunted, but the only unusual thing we noticed was the lack of cool air in our room. Man, was it hot. We got up early so we could have breakfast at the place we like and on the way back up to our fourth floor room my neck suddenly took a giant crap, right before I had to start my training. After that was over, we drove back and got home at a reasonable hour, but my neck was still killing me and remains so.

I have one more training to do, which is tomorrow in Denver. The upside is that no travel is required. The downside is that there will be more than 60 people there. I'm used to training groups of 15-30, so 60+ is going to be a challenge. Wish me luck, internet.