Category Archives: travel

climb down, yo

~or~how to not be a wanker in your online approach

And so, The Global Hook-Up Party: How to have a sexytime-no-strings-attached-two-day-affair through couchsurfing. Or not. It is true that the last two posts were building up to this. Because even in my worst moods, my heartbroken moments, my deep despair, T’s words will pop into my mind, and I laugh. You will, too. That’s the point of all this. His pickup rewrite is simple, yet hilarious and amazing. My point is not to be schooly, as T has suggested. Though I can see how a guy might find it so.

A few weeks ago, I received this couchsurfing request (I cut a bit for length):

spero_crucible_365Hello V. (or should I address you as Venerated Coconut?)

The cool morning breeze across my face as I ride my bike downhill¦ The howling of jackals in the deserts of Eastern Oregon¦ Writing, the sensuous movement of the pen upon paper, letters forming into words, sentences and ideas¦ Playing as a football goalie, diving across the goal to turn the ball away¦ Joining with others in peace and environmental groups, trying to restore some balance and justice¦ The touch of a loved one’s hand¦ These are some of the things that I love and that provide my life with joy and light.

I will be in NYC [for two nights] and would love to meet you, and be hosted if possible….I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London
www.serpentinegallery.org/2010/09/nancy_spero_serpentine_gallery.html

and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.

I am…a university teacher in the department. Writing and editing essays and books about these subjects is also an important part of my being. [One would think he’d take a moment to edit his correspondence. But evidently not so important.]

If you have the time and inclination, let us meet for coffee, an art show, a hike, a concert, a bike spin, prepare a meal together, or whatever the spirits and our imaginations inspire.

[closing cut]

My CS profile has no recent photo but I would be happy to send one (as an attachment I can only send it to a non CS address.)

Oh dear. No, I’m not interested in a photo of your 49-year-old self. Not at all. In fact, I’m grossed out. T and I have discussed fairly thoroughly the nature of couchsurfing, and this “request” does seem to land on his side of the argument (that of the global hookup party). I shared the request with him:

A (me): I got this from a couchsurfer. It’s so gross. What else is there to say? [see above]

T: Lordy.
It probably works most of the time.
Wankers all.
Say: “climb down, yo.”

A: “I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.”

is that like a mashup or mistaken cut and paste?

GAG.

T: i think it’s just barmy writing yo. few people are able to write articulately.

I recently saw a show by Nancy Spera at the Serpentine in London.  It covered all the bases – pain, love, war, suffering, resistence.  I was honestly moved.  I would love to meet you and talk about our respective interests.  I am sure we would find that we share a love of writing and art.

Something like that.  It comes easy.  People are morons.  I don’t know why I can’t function in this world when it’s the rest of the world that is moronic.

A: [Gales of laughter.] Agreed.

Most of my friends feel this way. It’s almost shocking how T’s quick edit instantly changes the para from swarmy to thoughtful. It’s really just not that hard. But giving the behavior of (many) guys both online and in person, it seems that it is. Why is that?

a global hookup party (or not)

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_004If you didn’t read the last post, this post is a continuation. It can also stand alone. It’s the second in a series about online personality and relationship.

I had a nice surprise today when I saw that Owl, a blog friend, had posted a favorite part of a favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I posted almost the same lines years back. It’s one of the few books I own (everything else from the NYPL, thanks).

I’ve never met Owl, but we’re bloggers, over-thinkers (in recovery, maybe), and ashtangis. She warms my heart just as a personal friend would. I made my first website in 1995, and within that year made friends through the web. It’s not so strange to me. As with anything, I employ discretion.

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_001It was also in 1995, before my first solo international trip, that I joined an organization called Servas. “Servas hosts offer hospitality to approved travellers of every ethnicity, creed and nationality. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life (excerpted from their website).” They weren’t online at the time. There was an application, a fee, and an interview. Once approved, I received a book of hosts for the countries where I was traveling. All this through the US mail. It was great fun. Through it, and a book called People to People, I met friends in Europe I have to this day, including a Lithuanian family I take for my own. (The photos are, top to botttom, of Dad Myrius in their living room, with his son Regimantas behind him, Mom Regina making bulviniai blynai, and Regimantas visiting NYC years later.)

Servas is online now, but it’s been eclipsed by Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is for those interested in “Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” Very few have heard of Servas, but most travelers and youngsters know of Couchsurfing. I first heard about it through Anya, an in-the-flesh friend I met through the internet (about seven years ago via a harvard listserv on central asia, or siberia, or something). An anthropologist and intrepid traveler, I don’t think Anya has couchsurfed, but she talked about a male friend at Columbia U. who liked to host people with great frequency, particularly young girls. Later I heard about it from other people who said that it was used largely to find a free place to stay. My first impressions were not great—certainly not ambassadorial—but I did sign up before my long trip to Australia, and met some people before I left New York. Like Servas, many couchsurfing hosts prefer to meet others for drinks or to show them their home town rather than to host them. This I did, and still do on occasion. I’ve met some great people. But really, for most, inviting anyone to stay in her home is a bit fraught. To invite perfect strangers? Who has the time?

NewYork_2004-05_Regim_3One’s attitude to this, like most social networking sites, can be a litmus test of personality. There are really lovely people on the site looking to meet locals where they travel, like I was sixteen years ago. Now? I don’t know. My travel style has changed, and I tend to go to places I already know people. If lovely people contact me, I do like to meet them, certainly. These people send a message about themselves and what they related to in my profile—i.e. why we might enjoying meeting one another. Oh yes, like a dating site, there are profiles, which does cause confusion (conflation) for some. There are others just looking for a free place to crash. They write carbon-copy form letters about themselves and seem not to have troubled themselves to read their potential host’s profile. These people I ignore. And there are others still who give the site the reputation that Anya’s friend lends it. Why T likes to call couchsurfing “The Global Hookup Party.” This we will talk about more. Next time.

small world of the web

farsiI’m not much for social connectivity on the web. Well, it’s quality, not quantity that I enjoy, in social media as with most everything else. I have made some great connections over the years (in fact, I’m sitting at home, which used to be Anya’s. She moved to Michigan. I met her years ago (six?) through an anthro listserv). Last week, a flickr contact, cityNnature, posted this photo (left) of her Farsi studies. Beautiful! Check out her images. She makes Detroit look gorgeous.

This week, another flickr contact, insideowl, posted her Sanskrit studies (below). They don’t know each other, or their photo posts, though they both live in Michigan (I’ve never been to MI. No, wait, once as a child I think we went to Dearborn. I vaguely remember the old cars). Well, I think Ideowl still lives in MI. She seems to be all ashtanga in Mysore, India for awhile now. (Yes, that’s jealousy you detect.)

sanskritI just did a little search for a pic by cityNnature, and she has a shot of herself doing yoga. Of course. Of course she does yoga. We three do not know each other and most likely never will. But we have enough in common that we bump into each other on the web and connect. This, as well as finding and maintaining old friendships, is what I love most about the social nonsense of the web. The serendipity.

Our web lives seem so beautiful and easy. cityNnature’s home looks to die for and it seems she has time for nothing but making beautiful photos and studying Farsi, the language of poetry. Insideowl is in one amazing locale after the next, waxing poetic and beauty. I ran into someone the other day who thought I was abroad, because of the images I’ve been posting on flickr (from 11 years back). But we present this way because we have to. It’s not meant to be an escape from the quotidien, but an honor of the beauty in it. What’s the wisdom of venting the struggles, the ugliness, and the pain? Well, yes, plenty, but it’s hidden in poetry to protect others, ourselves, and situations. To protect our quotidian—which might not even deserve or need our protection.

Both of the images remind me a bit of this photo I took years ago in one of my favorite places in the world, Lyabi Haus, the fountain in the middle of Bukhara. I’m not practicing scripts but am journaling the tour guide life (which later turned into posts). The boy in the background, at right, is Jafar, who Ulugbek tells me is now, 11 years later, the ladies’ man of Bukhara.

Uz_2000-08-13_Bukhara_016

xmas in oz

Australia_2009-12-13_NullaborWA_009No, I’m not in Oz. Only in the archive. I’ve finally made it to the 2009-2010 Australia trip. Only one year left! And who isn’t burning for an update? Today I’m on December 15, 2009: Cactus Beach, Eastern Nullarbor, SA, image 8,263. Wow. What a country.

These joyful Christmas kangaroos were tied to the campsite kitchen door at Fraser Rage Station, on the far Western end of the Nullarbor.

While I admit I’m never thrilled about the cold, NYC is especially pretty and festive this time of year, and I’m glad it’s still my home. Editing the Australia photos confirms that—though it was an amazing trip in a truly stunning country (with the weirdest, coolest animals in the world).

Going through the photos makes me want to tell the stories, of course. The scenery is so stunning and gorgeous. Once again, I’m looking back to tell stories about trips in the past, because I didn’t want to spend too much time on the computer while traveling, and because I didn’t have time when I got back. Time does give interesting perspective, though. On a 5,881 mile road trip, you can be sure there are fantastic tales.

Few Australians make that trip across the Nullarbor, and many think it’s crazy (particularly in a 1997 Holden Commodore station wagon, affectionately known as Green Dragon). For all the traveling Aussies seem to do in the world, many don’t see much of their own country. Strange, but I certainly didn’t mind the pristine, empty beaches. So beautiful.

Update: I made it to December 17, 2009! The birthday of not one, but two great-nephews (HB Porter & Isaac!). I’m stopping for now on image 8360, one year ago today, with the realization that I did not shoot at all on the stretch in South Australia from Port Augusta, down the B82, with its cute towns, to Adelaide, over to the Great Ocean Road, where I picked up on December 20th.

ain’t i a woman, lebron, & akron concrete


Chrissie Hynde’s Akron
from Blue Green on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago while I waited for my mani/pedi to dry, I grabbed O Magazine (Oprah’s) off the top of the pile and flipped the pages. I stopped on an interview with Akronite Chrissie Hynde, who, at 59, is still rocking. She’s amazing. There was a photo of her in this excellent t-shirt, which I decided at first sight I had to have. So, nails dry and at home, a lengthy internet search ensued. Somehow I found her in this brilliant video she made of Akron, to “Break Up the Concrete.” That’s the t-shirt.

This is gorgeous. Chrissie hits the best of Akron, much of which has been there for decades. Among my faves are Luigi’s, which was (is?) the only place in Akron to get a bite in til 4am (a delicious bite, I might add), and the Sojourner Truth historical marker, which marks where she gave her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at a Universalist Church in 1851. And, my God, Chrissie’s car. My maternal grandmother had similar wheels when I was little. A Grand Torino, in red (at right). Notice the made-in-Akron B.F. Goodrich tires. My paternal grandmother worked there (Goodrich) on an assembly line and they paid her retirement and prescriptions (she had a $1 co-pay. I deny all stories that I took advantage of our identical names and had birth control pills filled for $1. Flatly deny. They knew us both at the pharmacy anyway, because, before I left, we often went together to get her groceries and scripts) until she died at age 95 in 1999. Imagine that from a corporation of today?

Grand TorinoYes, though it’s been a long time, I’m originally from Akron. And why yes, I still love Lebron (Heat rah!). Most Akronites do. It’s the Clevelanders he has driven to pyromania. At least, the few I’ve surveyed. One of the many things I appreciate about LeBron is that when I answer, “Akron,” the first thing mentioned is no longer Alcoholics Anonymous or rubber. Regarding the Miami Heat, I would be the last person to blame a man for getting the hell out of dodge, especially to a town with better weather. It’s amazing he didn’t do it sooner.

It’s not just Chrissie and Lebron. Jim Jarmusch, a Columbia grad, is from Akron. His dad worked for Goodrich, too. Not on the line, though. And DEVO, of “Whip It” fame. They first played out at a Kent State Arts Festival when I was a few months old. Yes, Akronites are a bit quirky.

Ooooh, the gridskipper blog has a new post on “An Architectural Guide to Ohio.” The Akron Art Museum comes in at #1.

If I get any comments or emails about my mani/pedi and “Ain’t I a Woman” in the same post, I will crack you upside the head. Even if we don’t, I pretend we live in a society that allows us to define ourselves as women precisely as we like. You will not burst that bubble, so don’t try.

pontoon bridge, karakalpakstan

Uz_2000-05-06_Karakalpakstan_003

I’ve now archived (and keyworded) 1670 photos. My bum hurts from sitting. I’ve barely begun. I remembered and located an excel file full of info about my shoots in 1999-2000, so I have detailed dates. I love that, though it’s more info to key in. I took this photo ten years ago Thursday (May 6). This pontoon bridge leads up to (what remains of the) Aral Sea, from Urgench, in Uzbekistan. That’s where we were headed. The light there is always this harsh and flat. Oh, what a land.