Greetings From: The Ruins at Tulum, Mexico

There was one place at the ruins of Tulum where I couldn’t see other tourists. I could stand on the rocky bluff, overlooking a small, white-sand beach, and beyond that stretched bright and varied blues of the Carribean sea and sky.
An ancient Mayan watch tower stood out silvery-grey on the opposing overlook. Light ocean breezes helped cut the warm, wet air. A fat-ass iguana inched across a hot volcanic-looking boulder. With the hordes of tourists pushed out of my mind, I could imagine the history.
Tulum was a prime trade center, due to its location at the convergence of maritime and land routes. Ocean boats could make trips along the coasts, apparently from as far south as present-day Honduras and Nicaragua.
Cargo and shipping and trade and boats and ocean. 1200 A.D., 2012, 2200. We will continue to trade with one another, and that root in history and travel gives me the satisfaction I crave in my day job. Without this short moment of unobstructed view, however, I might have passed by in a swarm of tourists, nodding and admiring the beauty, but oblivious to my clear and specific connection to these remarkable ruins.

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Greetings from: Cancún, México

{No. I’m not in Cancún right now. But I am at my computer for tens of hours a day. My screensaver is a randomized slideshow of all my photos from the beginning of digital time, and I love it. Seeing the end goal (mostly the photos are of friends, travel and time off) helps keep me inspired through the mental fatigue of the 80-100 hour work weeks of salmon season.

The slideshow also gave me an idea I really like – pick one of the first three images that pop up on random and share the story with you guys. I promise it won’t be your grandpappy’s slideshow…except I know of a lot of pretty badass grandpappy’s, so perhaps it will be (assuming your grandpappy is or was a gypsy adventurer). Regardless – I’m excited to share some little travel fables, and I really hope you enjoy them.}

(Gran Meliá hotel room balcony)

Once upon a winter fishing off-season, I traveled to the Florida Keys to visit some dear chums. I had not been to the Keys before, but I didn’t think it unreasonable to pack my swimsuit and flip-flops.

Unfortunately, I timed my trip during the coldest ever weather in the history of all Florida. Iguanasicles were falling out of trees, marine creatures were seizing up in the really-not-that-cold water and beaching all over the place. (Seriously. No floating the Joe in Idaho for those weenie tortoises.)

We huddled up in blankets in the uninsulated beach house and watched movies for a couple days, but with an extended forecast for cold and my vacation minutes ticking away, I turned to Internet research.

Prices were decent, and very soon all three of us had booked a two-hour flight from Miami to Cancún, México (mine was $250 round trip through Expedia) and an ocean-view room at the Gran Meliá hotel (also from a discount website, I’m sure. Ashley and I know how to bargain shop.).

I don’t know how you cats travel, but my methods usually involve shared bathrooms, backpacks and bus rides. The less I spend per day, the longer I can stretch the trip. So perhaps this is not too surprising, but this hotel had the most splendid lobby I have ever seen. In addition to the obvious full jungle habitat, they have koi ponds in there!

(Gran Meliá hotel lobby. NBD.)

(View from the balcony of the room)

It was almost enough to make a man want to change his travel style. Perhaps if I could find myself a rich benefactor…

But for now, I must fund my own trips and to do so, I’d best stop living vicariously through myself and return to the late-night logistic-ing. Only one and half months left of this salmon marathon.

Serenity Now!

I really appreciate deep forest in the middle of a city.
One block you’re dodging SUVs and strollers and (other) people blindly texting, and then you take a quick right turn off the sidewalk, walk four feet in, and you’ve entered an alternate reality where things are cool and quiet and ferny as all hell.

{Puget Park, Tacoma}

I did this today, and it instantly soothed my salmon-jangled nerves. Then I ran to the bottom of the gully where you can barely hear the noise of the cars, took a few deep breaths and sweated my way back to the top.

Now that my video game health meter is in the green zone again, I will return to my desk and continue my attack on the relentless logistical monsters. Thanks be to god we’re in the home stretch of the season.

(P.S. Oh hi, friends! I’m still alive.)

Meanwhile outside of Bogotá

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Spanish talk radio is playing in the kitchen where Julian’s mom and abuelita are doing laundry. The little open-air courtyard that connects to the kitchen and the dining room is filled with flowering plants, drying shirts and the smell of soap.
The laundry soap in Colombia has the same scent I remember from México. Every once in a while, I smell it somewhere in the U.S., and it affects my brain like all sentimental smells – with an immediate rush of memories and feelings.
Julian’s dad is upstairs practicing on his little guitar, the back of which is the shell of an armadillo.
There is a soup bubbling on the stove and filling the house with smells of chicken and spices. The moment the boys made it known they weren’t feeling well, production of the remedy soup began.
Having asked if I could help and subsequently being shooed out of the kitchen and encouraged to relax, I retired to the sitting room with my book. It’s a small Spanish novel that I’m hoping I will be able to understand.

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Paint is hard

Well I warned you guys, so here comes the foretold home improvement whining.

Paint choices are hard.

Remember this handsome mint suite?


As seen in the real estate listing.

Well I thought I had an idea…and then this happened.


This cell phone picture I just took is poorly-lit and in no way reflects any accurate colors.

You see the big beige wall was an experiment (Benjamin Moore – Shaker Beige – heralded for its versatility and neutrality), and it proved that green everywhere makes neutral brownish look pinky. And that I don’t think I like beige. Who knew?

Then there was an impulse dark color from Home Depot (Behr – ?something? Creek) which is too dark for the squashy space and cheapy streaky.

Then I decided grey was going to be my ally in neutralizing the green carpet (which stays for now), so Benjamin Moore – Harbor Gray (left) and Stonington Gray (right) are now drying on the walls, looking very similar and waiting for me to choose one and go wild on all that green mess.

Then there is the matter of the following decisions:

Trim will be white, but what do I do with the built-in bookshelves by the window, built-in drawers and closet door? The brass hardware is coming off, but do they go grey like the wall? White like the trim? A little of both? Zebra stripes? Hire a decorator and go out drinking (!)?

In conclusion, I have food, water and shelter. This is a definite whiny baby situation. But I do have only two weeks or so until I ship off for Alasky again (yiiiiipes) , and I would like to get this malarkey sorted out before that. All signs are pointing toward me being underqualified for these refined decisions.

Anyone still awake after all that?

Taxes and mortgage – I’m a grown ass bastard now.

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Funny Thinking Of You Ecard: I think we're ready to default on a mortgage together.

Ye gawds, friends. Things have been  insaner than usual as of late. Christmas, home closing, new keys, friend visits, moving, housewarming party, impending Alaska work, oh my. And now I fear I may become an insane-o home improvement web logger. Mostly this may happen because I have no effing clue what I’m doing.

All I know is this mint green:

(decor of previous owner)

and this stinky pink:

(please note pearlescent toilet seat)

…shall NOT stand.

Here are my newly-researched thoughts.

Bedroom:

Walls – The greenish carpet stays for now, so I’m thinking neutral boring beigy on the walls.

Ceiling – Bright-ish off-white-ish

Built-in drawer fronts on the sides of the room – ? color

Built-in bedside bookshelves – ? color

Bedding and curtainry – shiiiiit. I don’t know.

Bathroom:

Walls – All bright-ish off-white-ish to minimize the long hallway, except the far window wall. I’m thinking a dark greyish (with blue tones?).

Good gourd, this home design sorcery is complicated.

Any ideas, gang?

Benjamin Moore tabbies

The new frontier

A Peculiar Christmas Tree Compendium

You might not expect this, but I love me some Christmas. Not the awful consumery, commercial part that makes baby Jesus cry – but the family, friends, traditions and sparkly bits of December.
Growing up in the snowy mountains, the tree hunting expedition was one of my very favorite traditions. Despite my highly-mobile, apartment-renting, vagabond lifestyle, I can’t shake the urge to decorate a tree which leads to the following list of unconventional greenery:
(See explanation here of why I don’t just go cut down a tree in the woods or buy one from a lot).

***2007***


Minimalist but heartfelt. Very easy clean up.

***2008***
‘Twas the year of my Fantastic Zip Tie Christmas Bush.


Beautiful and festive.


And really a 2-Dimensional bouquet of sticks in a bucket.

***2009***
I traveled all December, so no tree for me.
:*(


Traveling cheer at El Paseo bar in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Celebrating a very Navajo Christmas with cousin in front of the fireplace at the Navajo Room in Boise, Idaho.

***2010***
Kristaf and I set out on an urban tree hunt in Sitka. It was very barely illegal as we harvested our wee spruce from beside a not-our-property chain-link fence where it eventually would have been  cut down anyway.


Nestled snugly in a flowerpot.


Looking deceptively handsome despite its razor-sharp spruce spines which left us scratched and bleeding after our decorating party.

***2011***
I broke down and went to the tree lot as I was passing by one recent afternoon. I asked for a tiny pine, but they didn’t have any less than five feet tall. They did have a pile of branches with a free sign. Hmmmm.


I am the MacGyver of holiday foliage.


Ta-daaaaa!

Happy Christmas, everyone.

On Tulips and Sympathy {Amsterdam, Netherlands}

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Descending from the clouds, my first glimpse of the Technicolor fields of Holland’s famous tulips reminded me of Dorothy arriving in Oz. Unexpected but enjoyable, which would aptly describe most of my surreal overnight layover in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It began like that – before the plane ever touched down.

Before I wandered the streets, following winding canals to elaborate boat homes in the harbor. Before I admired the vast repertoire of strange and wonderful street art. Before I explored some narrower alleys and fine local shops. And long before my lack of advanced planning would combine with my ignorance of British vacation holidays, leaving me with zero hostel or hotel room vacancies in my price range, despite appealing to several impatient desk clerks.

It was an uncomfortable night, huddled on the sidewalk outside the train station (having been rousted out of an open-air metal bench in the train station proper). A privileged life I lead that this was the one night of all mine when I could find no option but to sleep on the street. Unlike a real homeless night – I knew I was relatively safe, I only had 10 hours to pass before my warm, comfortable bus departed, I wouldn’t freeze to death this late in spring, I would have a hot meal and coffee to look forward to as soon as shops opened up in the morning.

It did give me the very tiniest taste of panic, desperation, sleeplessness and deep cold that thousands of people fight against every day. For someone whose personality tends toward cynicism, sympathy is a strong teacher.

So my advice: If you fly to Amsterdam, try for a window seat on the plane.
You should probably book a room in advance of your arrival.
And if you can, donate some goods, money or time to a place that helps people sleep through the night.