You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘adventure’ category.

Seventy percent of adventure is just showing up, or, in this case, having an obsessive friend who lives in the middle of nowhere and can’t quite live out his dreams the way he wants.

Backstory: The new The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie is coming out soon.  This is the one in English, but still takes place in Sweden (which is pretty annoying), and I was a bit indifferent toward until I actually saw the trailer.  Then I realized that I was actually going to, potentially, live a different kind of dream.

Backstory to the different type of dream that I’m living:  I can’t be the only person this has happened to.  Remember when you were younger, and you’d get an album that was like the soundtrack to your life?  You loved it, every song; it fit together seamlessly like a puzzle that’s worth framing and you eagerly anticipated the new album from that same band.  The new album comes out, and the band has started “growing” and “experimenting” and while it may sound ok, it’s just not the same.  That’s when you realize that what you actually wanted was not for this band to evolve, but to write a second album that sounds essentially the same, but one that has different lyrics to sing along to and different hooks to marvel at. But that never happens.

Except when there’s an English version of an already solid movie trilogy that not only stars talented folk, but is directed by someone who has made me happy in the past… this could be my second Silverchair/Bush/insert another band from 1994-1999 that had a shitty second album-album that doesn’t suck.

Where the obsessive friend comes in has to do with a contest that this film has been running that I was unaware of until around 12:20pm November 21st when Joe frantically emailed me a google map and said “There’s a “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” scavenger hunt taking place across the world. Today it’s in your town. GO!”  He told me to go to the location on the map, which is about a block from my house, find the instructions, follow them and I would be rewarded with a kick ass prize.

So I wandered down to this old call box across the street from the video store not really expecting to find anything.  There was a tiny envelope duct taped to the side of the box, and inside was this note:

Something about the use of the word package immediately made me feel like I was in a spy movie.  Everyone out and about in the neighborhood was immediately suspect, and I imagined that all of my running and purchasing sensible shoes would finally come in handy.  In reality, I walked quickly and without incident to The Curatorium and told the proprietor that I was there for the package.

He looked stunned and laughed, “I was really wondering if someone would actually come for this!”  We chatted briefly and a red-headed man came into the store.  “You’re just in time” the proprietor told him, “she just showed up.”

“I know,”the red-headed man said, “I was watching.”  Then he looked at me, “You were a woman on a mission.”

Clearly my paranoia was justified as I was, in fact, being followed.

The package, was actually a piece of art used in the movie:

Made to look like it had been sent to the person it was sent to in the movie–duh.

And this was inside:

I think it’s a juniper?  I have no clue, but it’s cool, came with David Fincher’s autograph, and a certificate saying that this is #20 out of 40 total–the only one in existence. Here’s everything else that has and will be found–mine’s in the upper left.

This whole experience was made all the more surreal by the fact that I wasn’t feeling well, hadn’t eaten, and had a fever.

I am the official owner of movie nerd gold.  Please don’t rob my house.

Advertisements

I was wandering around my neighborhood today after meeting a friend for coffee, and I found the greatest sign in the world.  This masterwork is a mere four blocks from my house!  And it works on two levels!

Thank you, Providence for being full of hipster artists who are sometimes amazingly clever.  This is the greatest discovery I’ve ever made.  I feel like Magellan.

I took piano lessons for about five years, and really liked them.  I only gave it up because I didn’t like my teacher, and I had reached the point where they weren’t so much lessons as her giving me new and increasingly difficult music.  so I figured I could continue on my own just fine.

Then my parents sold the piano with the logic that since I wasn’t taking lessons anymore, why keep that huge thing around.  Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed, but not disappointed enough to pay them their asking price, and so the piano was taken away.

Throughout junior high and high school, I was in band (flute) and I had bought myself a recorder for those times when I wanted to mix it up at home.  I never really wanted for pianos, they were always just around, and so I didn’t mind too much that the parents had sold ours.  I bought a guitar after quitting band, which I never learned to play, but still moved from apartment to apartment as it slowly became warped from improper storage.

Finally I realized a couple years ago, that I no longer know how to read music at all.  Even though I can look at a piano, find C position and still play the song from my very first recital, if someone were to ask me if I could play piano, I’d be forced to say no.  I never thought you could forget how to read music–it seemed as impossible as forgetting how to read words, but I guess if I didn’t read daily, maybe that would fade away too.  Also, as someone who has always secretly yearned to be a musician, you can see why this is problematic.  Sure, plenty of rock stars don’t know how to read music, but they do know how to play an instrument other than the flute (which I’m not sure I could still play and certainly don’t want to find out).  Lacking both of these skills is a huge setback, and I intend to rectify it.

I borrowed a few basic piano books from a friend, certain that once I got in front of a keyboard, all the knowledge would come flooding back.  Turns out, not so much.  I mean I can still play that recital song, but lacking a basic music chart, I’m left guessing which notes are which, and nothing I’ve produced so far sounds good at all.  Also, I take umbrage with the fact that Alfred’s Basic Piano insists on inserting a ton of unfamiliar songs.  If I was  attempting to play songs that I was already familiar with, I could learn the notes that way.  Instead, I’m flying completely blind.  Damn you, Alfred!

So, in my quest for hobbies, I’ve basically unearthed an old one, but I’m not down about it because this is going to leave me with a huge sense of accomplishment, and tangible results– for free.  Plus, it might make me smarter.  Remember all those Save the Music, Music=Brainpower commercials?  I could always use more brainpower.

I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about the Philadelphia airport.  I should re-phrase that, I have only heard people say bad things about the Philadelphia airport, so when I booked my connecting flight through Philly en route to Las Vegas, I was a bit apprehensive.  I was not, however, so apprehensive that I was willing to pay an extra $50 each way to avoid Philadelphia, and none of the horror stories I’d heard were terribly specific as to what the hell was so wrong with this airport.  Usually people just said something to the tune of, “It’s a mess” and left me to draw my own conclusions.

I got a voicemail from Baby-Having Best Friend a few months ago that said “Call me right away, it’s important.” Naturally I panicked and called her, leaving her a message with exactly when I would be able to talk within the next two days.  She finally called me three days later and said, “Ok, it’s not an emergency, but I would like to talk to you.”  We continued to play phone tag until she finally cracked and left the message, “I wanted to talk to you about this and have an actual conversation, but this situation is this: I have just watched the Hangover, and I think you, me, Map Fleece, and Cricker need to have a girls’ weekend in Vegas.  Now we should probably just resort to email cause this phone thing isn’t working.”

So we picked a time, and booked a hotel.  Then I started shopping for flights, settling for leaving Friday from Providence, connecting through Philadelphia, and arriving in Las Vegas around 9pm local time.

Then the curse of the City of Brotherly Love struck me.

I arrived at the Providence airport (which is not in Providence) without incident, cleared security, bought an iced coffee and some trashy magazines, then had a smooth takeoff and landing.  For reasons I can no longer remember, we were a bit delayed getting either into Philly or off of the plane, but I hauled ass to my connecting gate, and made it there just in time for boarding.  Then we sat on the plane for the next two hours.

After 30 minutes of waiting, the captain told us that we were 25th in the queue to takeoff.

After 45 minutes, the captain said that there was lightning and we would have to wait it out before the tower would give us clearance.

After an hour and 15 minutes, the captain said that the direction we were traveling was now clear.  We taxied onto the runway, sped up, then slowed down and drove off to the side.  The captain said that the tower had just said “Just Kidding!” and we could no longer take off.

More time passed with the captain popping on the horn intermittently saying things like “Folks, I’m sure you’re frustrated, we’re frustrated too” and finally culminating with, “We have to go back to the gate since you all have been sitting on this plane for over two hours.”  People were given the option to get off, stay in town, and rebook for the following day, and then about 20 minutes after that, the rest of us who had so foolishly held up hope of getting out of town were told that the flight was canceled.

After re-booking for the following morning, I went off in search of food and beer.  I don’t really eat much when traveling since all that sitting kind of kills my appetite, so by this point, it was 10pm, and I had had a sandwich at noon.  The only offerings at this late hour were fried foods, but I convinced the bored waitress in the first bar that I found to make me a plate of nachos.  I ate nachos for dinner, drank two beers, paid $31 for all of it, and then went off to find a quiet corner to hole up in until 7:55am when my next flight took off.

I managed to find a gate where the seats didn’t have armrests, and CNN wasn’t blaring at an uncomfortable volume, and also found an abandoned US Airways pillow lying on the ground.  With that, my backpack, and a tanktop laid over my eyes, and my pajama pants pulled on under my skirt for warmth, I settled in, hobostyle, for a long night of restless restlessness.

The following morning I boarded a plane bound for Chicago.  I got off in Chicago, ate a bagel, and got back onto the same plane to continue my journey.  Prior to this trip, I had no idea that you could take a plane that behaves like a train or bus, so I guess I’m glad I learned that (?)  This plane’s final destination was Los Angeles, but I got off in Phoenix where the carpet has tiny airplanes on it.

Once arriving in Las Vegas, I hauled ass to the cabstand, got a lift to the hotel, called my ladies, changed into my swimsuit, and went to the pool to drink buckets of beer in the sun.  After the pool closed, I insisted that we go eat Mexican food, since there is no decent Mexican food in Rhode Island and I needed some food in my stomach if I was going to be able to keep drinking.  We went to a Mexican restaurant, ordered a pitcher of margaritas and food, posed for a picture with a mariachi band, and then I passed out at the table.

I have a very dim recollection of my friends fussing over me, and the waitress saying something like “she’s really drunk, huh?  She didn’t seem drunk” and me wanting to protest that I wasn’t actually drunk just exhausted, but I didn’t have the strength.  Map Fleece took our food to go, and dragged me back to the room while Cricker and BHBF went out drinking.

I now have my Philadelphia airport horror story, though I suppose if anyone asks me, I’ll probably just shrug and say, “It’s a mess” since telling the whole story takes too much time.

My boss asked me last week if I had anything fun planned for my three- day weekend.

I’m running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday,” I told her, “So really, all I’ll be doing is eating a lot of protein, and getting plenty of sleep.”

“This Sunday!??!” She asked, “But it’s supposed to be hot! 80 degrees!  You can’t run in that!  It’s too hot!”

I thought about this momentarily and remembered that the first 1/2 marathon I ran was in 95 degree weather with about 90% humidity, my second one was 38 degrees, and third was torrential rain and gusting wind.  I started to perk up realizing that I technically would have ideal conditions for this race, and therefore, may actually be able to meet the personal goal I set of two hours–cutting of 33 minutes from my best time.

And then there were hills.

I live and run in Providence, and I looked at the course elevation map before:

but I was still ill-prepared for how much those hills suck.  I’m from the prairie; Fargo is possibly the flattest place in the world, and even though I did hill training in preparation for this race, I never ran up and down ten large hills in a single day. That was my undoing.

At first I was enthusiastic, none of the hills were terribly steep, so I practiced my lean forward and shuffle up the hill technique, which was working just fine.  Once I reached the longest hill known to man, started my shuffle, and then glanced up to realize that I couldn’t even see the top of the hill, I lost it, I walked, and I walked on the next one too.

Even though I loved the convenience of walking to and from the start line of the race, and seeing all kinds of new scenery in my own town (and neighboring Pawtucket), this race left me a bit underwhelmed.  Around mile 10, I just wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t get my running euphoria going.  It just wasn’t my day.  I think it might had have something to do with the fact that this was my first big run since my injury-plagued winter, and in the two days that I took off before the race, my leg was really stiff.  That made me more nervous than I’ve ever been, or again, it just wasn’t my day.

Overall, I’m disappointed in my performance since I had planned to do no walking of any kind, but I still cut at least 22 minutes off my previous best time, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much, but I feel like a bit of a pansy.  Am I a running wimp?

At the finish line, I had a free beer (the 5K was sponsored by Harpoon), and a couple slices of pizza, then walked home.  As I was trudging up the hill to my house I passed an old man loading stuff into his car.

“You look beautiful!” he yelled.

“I don’t believe you!” I told him, “I don’t feel beautiful, but thank you.”

Then I got home, took off my shoes and socks, and found this.

That is the twinge I felt around mile six.

I’m sorry you had to see it, but popping it was pretty awesome.

1452 ANDRIA  30 F 4312 PROVIDENCE RI 2:12:20.9 10:07 2:13:25.6

Gentleman Scholar and I are worldly, educated patrons of the arts, so when he read an article about the Museum of Bad Art, we decided that we simply must go a view the masterworks.  MOBA has two locations, one in the basement of a theatre in Dedham, MA (right near the bathroom), and one in the basement of a theatre in Somerville, MA(also near the bathroom).  Though I read the same article, and knew a little bit about the museum, I was ill-prepared for how awesome it was.

I’ve seen bad art before; I’ve created bad art on a number of occasions, but I have to say that the stuff they picked was really top-drawer.  Not just any bad art is accepted by the museum–they have very exacting standards.  To quote Wikipedia “The museum has been criticized for being anti-art, but the founders deny this, responding that its collection is a tribute to the sincerity of the artists who persevered with their art despite something going horribly wrong in the process. According to co-founder Marie Jackson, “We are here to celebrate an artist’s right to fail, gloriously.”‘

The placards are pretty glorious as well: A work of undisputed tenderness which places the spiritual above the physical through careful disregard for details of the human form.

This disturbing work “makes an offer you can’t refuse”. The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society’s reflexive use of force, and the artist’s inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.

This disturbing work “makes an offer you can’t refuse”. The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society’s reflexive use of force, and the artist’s inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.

So this was a fantastic way to spend part of a Saturday afternoon, and I cannot recommend enough that everyone go, and also read both the MOBA website and the Wikipedia page.  The only downside is that while the Dedham location is free to visit, in Somerville, they make you buy a ticket to a movie before they let you through the lobby to the basement where the museum is.  Movie tickets are $7 on Saturdays, so we did not actually see that branch of the museum, but we’ll try to catch a matinee sometime.

I always buy the giant tub of baby spinach, and always end up throwing away 1/3 of it, but the smaller tub is just not enough!  Bittersweet irony! Finally, one day I noticed that my spinach was looking a bit peaked, and decided to cook something with it, so I wouldn’t end up tossing it.  That was the first time I make creamed spinach, and it changed my life–sounds dramatic, totally true.

Once I untapped my love of quinoa, I decided to marry the two into a beautiful, tastey dinner treat.

The original recipe was Emeril’s, and it took a while to find one online that used fresh spinach instead of frozen.  His also called for nutmeg, shallots, and heavy cream.  I subbed in half and half, and skipped the shallots and nutmeg.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds spinach (not really measured precisely, I used what I had left) washed.
  • generous splash of extra virgin olive oil–Emeril called for 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (the kind in the jar)
  • 1/2 cup half & half

Directions:

Bring pot of salted water to a boil, add spinach and cook until bright green (about two minutes).  Dump into fine mesh strainer and press to release as much water as possible.  Chop finely and set aside.

–Note: I rinsed the spinach in cold water before dumping in the strainer so I could squeeze it out with my hands–hard to get all the water out.

Pour olive oil and garlic into sauce pan, and turn heat to medium. swish around until garlic is distributed, then add spinach.  Stir to coat spinach in olive oil garlic mixture, then slowly pour in half & half.  Keep stirring until all or most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Then, dump the creamed spinach into another container–a “holding” container, if you will, and use the same pot to prepare the quinoa.  Fewer large dishes!  What’s better than that?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup qunioa to 1 cup water (that’s what it says on my package, anyway)
  • 1 cube vegetable bullion (adds salt and flavor to the quinoa, I’m a genius)

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly using french press or other fine sieve, add to saucepan, add water.  Once it’s heated up a bit, add the vegetable bullion cube.  Stir, stir, stir until it’s broken down, then cook until quinoa are uncrunchy.

–Note, I ended up having to add more water than the recipe called for.  That might have something to do with the salt in the bullion (?), either way, be prepared to add more.

Serve delicious spinach on a bed of quinoa, open a beer, and watch LOST season 5.

I pride myself on being an excellent adventurer for a number of reasons:

  1. I am a skilled, light, and efficient packer
  2. I am laid-back, have been called unflappable on more than one occasion, and am willing to try anything once
  3. I can go for long periods of time without or with very little food or drink
  4. When in adventure mode, I don’t require much sleep
  5. I have a lot of stamina
  6. I carry my passport almost everywhere because you never know when the opportunity for adventure might present itself.

On my recent trip to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, I decided to use part of my 48-hour trip to do a little adventuring and seek out Blackbeard’s Castle.  The resort we were staying at was out by the airport, about 1.5 miles from town.  The options to get there were walk (80+ degrees, humid, my leg is still gimpy), taxi (more money than I really want to spend), hotel shuttle (10-minute wait and only goes into town, will not take people back to the hotel, which seems odd), or the local bus.

In the spirit of adventure, I opted for the local bus.  Plus, I had gotten the low-down on how the bus works the night before.

  1. The bus stop was about three blocks from the hotel, past the stoplight, near the bright yellow gas station.
  2. Approach the bus, which looks a bit like a trolley, and ask the driver, “Are you the dollar bus?”
  3. Do not tell the driver where you want to go because they will tell you it costs more than a dollar, which is not true, but if they say that yes, they are the dollar bus, get in.
  4. When you arrive at your destination, push the button, get off and pay the driver $1.

Simple stuff.

I found the bus stop, with a bus next to it, and a man half in the cab, half out having a conversation with another person in Spanish.

“Are you the dollar bus?” I asked.

He had a mouth full of sandwich and mumbled something I couldn’t understand.  I waited a bit, he swallowed, and said, “Yes, but I’m not working right now.” Then he pointed at his sandwich.

Then we stared at each other for a bit before another bus pulled up and I got on that.  The only problem with taking the bus versus taking a cab or shuttle, is that I wasn’t precisely sure where I wanted to get off.  I figured once I saw my destination, I would just know.  Then after a little while, some other white people got onto the bus, so I figured that I’d just get off where they did.  After sitting on the bus for more than thirty minutes, I was pretty sure that I had missed my stop, but I was also pretty sure that I was seeing a lot more of the island than most people there for only the weekend, so I sat back and enjoyed the sights and hills.

After getting off at the Red Hook stop, where the other white people got off, I realized that they were going to the ferry, and I was not.  There was nothing in Red Hook except the ferry, a very well-promoted ATM, two restaurants, and a lot of sailboats.  So I got back on the dollar bus, and asked one of the locals which stop was the downtown that I wanted, specifically, where was Blackbeard’s castle.

“Oh, you’ll be able to see it.  I’m getting off a little before then, but once you see the water and all the pretty boats, get off and you should see it up the hill.  I’d take a cab though because you have to go through a rough neighborhood, and with the economy down, and you being alone, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”

Then she got off the bus and went to church.  Wonderful human being.

Except she didn’t count on how cheap I am and how little I worry about my personal safety.  After wandering the length of the downtown area, and quickly discovering that had I not taken the extended bus ride and actually seen the island, I might have mistaken St. Thomas for nothing but jewelry, cigar, and perfume stores, I tried to find the castle.

I could not see it at all.  Finally, I just started climbing the hill in the hopes that once I got a little higher, it would present itself.

No castle.

I stopped at a hotel conveniently (for me) located halfway up the hill, inconveniently (for them) located in the bad neighborhood my bus friend had mentioned, and asked if I was on the right track.  The nice woman at the desk assured me that I was, and once at the top of the hill, I’d just need to cut over to my right. So I climbed, and climbed the steepest hill in the world and once I reached a crossroad, looked around, and still did not see the castle.  I asked two passersby where it was, and they directed me into the parking lot of a hotel.  Finally, I started  walking along the horizontal road, only to find that it gradually sloped downhill and brought me right back to the place I’d started climbing up.

It was then that I glanced up the hill, and actually saw the castle for the first time.

misc3 098

castle

It was also then, that I decided that I did not want to climb the hill again as I was drenched with sweat, extremely thirsty, and my gimpy leg was killing me.  Damn you, Blackbeard.

I went back to the beach.

Niagara Falls_bannerThis past January, I drove from Providence to Toronto to visit friends.  We were having dinner one night with some of my friend’s family, and they mentioned that they had spent the day at Niagara Falls.  I was intrigued since I remember hearing a lot about Niagara Falls when I was a kid, but completely forgot about it as I got older.

“What do you do there?” I asked.

“We spent most of the day in the casino.” They told me.  “You should stop there on your way back, at the falls, not the casino.”

So I figured that since I was driving by it anyway, I might as well stretch my legs and take in the sight of this magnificent natural marvel.  What I didn’t count on was the fact that parking cost $14 (should have figured), and I was simply unwilling to pay that.  Instead, I drove a couple laps along the “Fallsview road” snapping pictures out the car window.  Eventually, I stopped the car, put the flashers on, and ran up to the protective barrier to snap another couple pictures before heading back to the states.

Despite the short amount of time I spent at the falls, I liked it, and got the notion that I should go back sometime and spend more than fifteen minutes there.  Then I got back home, and promptly forgot that notion.

About three weeks ago, the power of facebook advertising reminded me.  Since I put the pictures that I took of Niagara Falls on facebook, facebook decided that I am a Niagara Falls enthusiast, and told me that hotels might just be cheap there right now, seeing as the summer travel season is winding down.

It is after Labor Day, I thought, still temperate, but probably less crowded and cheaper.  So I hopped on Priceline, found a cheap hotel, read some reviews, and popped my head out into the living room to ask Gentleman Scholar, “Do you want to go to Niagara Falls next weekend?”

He thought for a beat, and said, “Sure.”

misc3 027I booked the hotel, and a few days later, started wondering what the hell one does at Niagara Falls for the entire weekend.  Surely you can’t spend the whole time riding the Maid of the Mist and staring at the water.  So I found a few Niagara Falls themed adventures, but not much else.  The best sites were run by the Niagara Parks Board, and were all water all the time.  The Lonely Planet Guide, didn’t have much more in it either except a snarky quote from Oscar Wilde: “The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks; the sight of that waterfall must be one of the earliest and keenest disappointments in American married life.”, and the information that Niagara Falls used to be a major tourist destination.

Thankfully, spending the night in a hotel is often adventure enough in the short term, so we figured that if we maxed out Falls adventures early, we could just hang out and watch cable for a while–our hotel was even rumored to have HBO!  What a coup!

Turns out that the area around the falls looks a tiny and less impressive Las Vegas.  It feels like it should have a lot of options for things to do, but kind of doesn’t, except the casino.  It’s pretty, but looks sterile and modern, and was really not what I expected.  I was hoping for a 1950’s honeymoon destination feel–cheesy romantic stuff, buildings that looked like they had been there for more than five years.  I don’t know if Niagara Falls got a facelift recently, but everything felt strangely new.

Until we went looking for a liquor store and stumbled upon Niagara Falls downtown.  We had seen all of these brochures in the hotel lobby for wax museums, haunted houses, Dave and Busters etc., but had no idea where this stuff was. It was in downtown Niagara Falls, which is a roadside attraction promenade on par with the Wisconsin Dells.  Two Haunted Houses, a headshop, Louis Toussaud’s Wax Museum (with a terrifying Tiger Woods waving a golf ball at you from the front entrance), a Hard Rock Cafe, dinner theatres, and more tacky souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at.  It was amazing.

My parents took us on a lot of vacations as I grew up.  That’s one thing I’m really glad of, and we usually did them on the cheap.  This meant a lot of driving vacations like the one to the Wisconsin Dells, or Mount Rushmore, etc. We went to the roadside attractions that included streets of tacky crap, disappointing wax museums– though I’ve still never been in a wax museum–olde tymey picture shops, topiary gardens etc.  So if I couldn’t have my 1950’s chic Niagara Falls experience, this was the next best thing.marilyn_monroe_niagara_lancastria

Overall, I feel like Niagara Falls just doesn’t know quite what to do with itself.  The falls are rad, and even though we scoffed initially and said “It’s not like we’re just going to spend a whole bunch of time staring at the water.” we kind of just wanted to stare at the water, rushing back at different times of day to see how blue it was, or watch the fireworks –which they send up from the bottom of the gorge, so when they explode, they’re pretty much right in your face.  Obviously, if you want to lure people in these days, and keep them there, you need more than just a waterfall–even if it’s a good one.

It feels like Niagara Falls wants to re-evolve from being just a roadside attraction, into the destination it used to be, but maybe I’m just being a jaded asshole.  There were tons of people there for whom English was not a first language.  We stood in line next to a dozen Japanese businessmen, rode the Maid of the Mist with a lovely German couple, and had our photo taken by a group of French students (who may have been French-Canadian, but the point stands).  These people have either made Niagara Falls their destination, or at least a stop–I’m really curious which it is.

Strangely, I want to go back.

kayak_bannerI decided a while ago that I would like to describe myself as an enthusiast of some kind.  I like the sound of “I’m a _________ enthusiast,” even though that phrase kind of reminds me of this very tense woman I used to work with at corporate bookstore who described herself as a “birder”, and assured all of us that she could take any customer looking for the best bird guide for their specific needs.  I ignored this offer for help, and sent those customers straight to the shelf with the advice “Sibley’s is the best.”

I’m enthusiastic about many things, to be sure, but it seems like to label yourself as an enthusiast of something, that something must be somewhat unique, perhaps unexpected–you can’t just match it up with every hobby or it loses its zing.

I’ve now found the thing that I am an enthusiast of.  It is rather unique, totally unexpected by me, and I think has a nice ring to it–kayaking.  I am a kayaking enthusiast.  The fact that kayak is a palindrome is just a delightful bonus.

This past weekend, Joe Roch hosted a lovely shindig at the lake where we drank entirely too much, played parlor games, made s’mores, grilled, drank, swam, and I unearthed my affinity for water sports.  What a time of discovery.

I’ve always been somewhat intimidated/put off by water sports, for a number of reasons:

  1. My family has never had a lake cabin, or been particularly close with anyone who does (except my Aunt and Uncle in Wisconsin, but we only saw them once a year at best).  Therefore, there was no opportunity to practice anything I might be good at.
  2. Since we never had our own lake domicile, we also didn’t have any kind of watersports equipment. Again, we were at the mercy of my Aunt and Uncle who had a torpedo, speed boat, and water skis–no kayak.
  3. When I was at summer camp, a few of us took out a canoe for part of the afternoon.  I had ridden in a canoe before, never paddled, but since I had technically BEEN IN A CANOE, I was considered an expert by my bossy friend.  I had to be the steerer, which only works if the other paddler is competent as well.  The other paddler (bossy friend) assumed that I was solely in charge of where the canoe went, didn’t really think about how she should be paddling and working with me, and kept yelling at me for misrepresenting my skills (which I had not done), as we gracefully and majestically went plowing through the roped-off swimming area sending dozens of campers diving for cover.
  4. The above experience was not fun, and not something I want to repeat, so for years I insisted that long narrow boats are simply not for me.

I have overcome that trauma, and had several pleasant canoe excursions since that time, but never have a felt so enthusiastic canoeing as I did in that lovely kayak.

Enthusiast!