Sunday, December 31, 2006

Facts and opinions.

2006 is ending just when I got used to writing it.

Favorite book, written and read in 2006: On Beauty, by Zadie Smith.
Favorite books, written before 2006 but I only got around to reading them now: 1776, by David McCullough; Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
Book that was the biggest surprise: Heavenly Flirtations and Other Dates, by Alexander McCall Smith. I picked this up because I wanted beach reading and it was on sale. I expected fluff; I got poignant and well-crafted stories about post-colonial Africa. This is a really good collection!

Favorite movie, made and seen in 2006: QuinceaƱera.
Favorite movies, made before 2006 but seen now: The Squid and the Whale; Tsotsi.
Biggest movie disappointment: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The first in the series was surprisingly enjoyable. This was just sad.

Favorite TV show, new: Big Love.
Favorite TV show, continuing: The Sopranos; The Office.
Reality show worth watching: Project Runway.
TV show that I miss the most: Arrested Development.
Best continuing show but newly discovered by me early in the year: Battlestar Galactica. This show is better than it has any right to be.

Favorite album: Math and Physics Club, by Math and Physics Club
Favorite source of new music: KEXP
Best live music experience, of which there were fewer than usual in 2006: Belle and Sebastian/The New Pornographers

Miles run in 2006: 1,785
Favorite race: Hood to Coast relay
Running shoes of choice: Saucony Grid Tangents, original model. And now they've done a shoe upgrade and I'm scrambling to find them.

Biggest change: Buying a house. It turns out that it's kind of overwhelming.
Most surprisingly impactful change: Jake and Ella!
Best holiday experience: Thanksgiving.
Best/only vacation: Maui/Big Island.

Hope you all had a great year, and best wishes for the next one.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Near New York.

Whenever anyone tells you he's from "near New York," then you know that he isn't from Connecticut. You know this because people from Connecticut say they're from Connecticut. No, if someone is from "near New York," what this really means is that he, like me, is from New Jersey. I know this because I have been telling people that I'm from near New York for ages now.

It's a weird thing about moving across the country. Where I live now isn't near New York at all. And every time I go east, which I just did to visit family for Christmas, I return to my adopted Seattle home even more vitally certain that I'll never move east again. After living in Philadelphia for almost ten years I really grew to like the place. Flame me if you will, but I wouldn't move back for anything. (Maybe it's something to do with living in a place where the streets don't smell like urine and people are actually pretty nice to each other, but I digress.)

And yet there's something about New Jersey.

It isn't because my family is there. My family doesn't even live in my hometown anymore, except for my grandmother. My husband's family is from the part of New Jersey that people evoke when they describe themselves as being from "near Philadelphia," miles and miles from where I grew up. (When people are from Delaware, they say they're from Delaware, I guess.) I fly back to New Jersey maybe once a year and each visit it takes me less and less time from the moment of stepping off the plane to the point where I'm agitated and annoyed for no very good reason that I can think of.

Maybe it's the Italian food that keeps me feeling nostalgic.

This year I saw more of my hometown than I had in a couple of years, because my grandmother wasn't home the first time we went by her house. My sister and I filled the time by showing my husband the state park that I grew up running and sledding in, and the baseball fields where we played softball games, and the road around the lake where we went swimming. It's all pretty much the same, still no traffic lights for Ringwood, all lakes and trees and convents and botanical gardens. Not so much the New Jersey of Newark Airport or the shore or the Sopranos (not even withstanding the episode where Ringwood got a shout-out).

It gives me this feeling like I can't get enough oxygen. Because on the one hand, it is sort of the travel version of mashed potatoes and down pillows, all kinds of comforting and familiar. There is the high diving board that I finally figured out how to do a flip from the summer I was nine, and the part of the lake club we called the island where all the kids who were cooler than I was hung out. We're passing the Dairy Queen where we went after hundreds of basketball and softball games, every kid and their parents, the whole town pretty much converging on that one place. Neighbohoody, friendly, and also no place else to go. There is the rock where everyone graffitis over everyone else's graffiti, now reading WELCOME BACK FROM IRAG, COLIN! It's the rock where my parents painted HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIERAN when I turned 18, which memory (of my parents being married and doing something like a normal shared domestic activity) is itself comforting and constricting at the same time.

Because with familiarity comes familiarity not just with comfort but with a fuller range of emotions. Wanting to leave. Going to school in other towns and being caught sort of in between friend groups. Listening to my parents argue. Wanting to leave and not being able to. It's still a nice small town, and it's suffocating, taking all the air out of anyone or anything a little different. Where getting a Chili's on the highway five miles away counts as innovation.

Whenever I come back west after a trip east, the air hunger, the feeling of not being able to take a breath deep enough, goes away. Maybe it's the better Seattle air.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How to make money fast!

Today I received a Christmas card from my old prep school. It was addressed to "Dr. and Mr. Kieran M. Snyder."

I am totally giving them a donation this year.

So let's say I had this friend.

So I admit it. I found a new blog to read. Only it's too shameful to post the link here, because although there's nothing shameful about it in and of itself -- it's really a pretty good blog -- there's something very shameful about it in the context of me. Because, dear reader, this isn't just any random blog I've happened upon. It wasn't linked by any friends of mine. No, this blog is connected to a long-ago ex-boyfriend, which boyfriend will remain nameless.

But it's not his blog, and oh yes, he does have a blog.

It's his sister's.

I am not in contact with either the ex-bf or his sister. And in fact I have nothing really in common with either of them at this point, especially not with his sister. I always thought she was a nice person, but I can't say that I really knew her that well or that I felt any great connection with the woman. And really, her life at this point and my life at this point come as close to having zero overlap as I think might be possible.

Well, except for where we both have blogs. Detail.

But the thing that I've discovered -- and yes, I discovered it by web-stalking my ex-bf, which I would feel embarrassed about except that I know yes KNOW that you've done it too -- is that my new web-friend is a pretty good writer. And so I've been reading her blog for months now. Occasionally I learn something about the ex-bf and his life, but mostly she writes about hers. And I have to say I'm regretting that I didn't know her better when I, well, knew her.

So what's the verdict? Am I stalker? I mean seriously, it's better than your average blog.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Go west, young man.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about blogging. I have. Stuff will happen and I'll think, hey, now that would be a good topic for a blog post. But then I'll realize how long it's been since I've posted and I'll feel like whatever idea I have is simply not spectacular enough to justify the long hiatus. Like the first one back has to be awesome. And so I let all these totally reasonable topics pass by.

Well, no more. I've been reading books, going on vacations, seeing movies, and thinking about my job. Having Thanksgiving. Planning other trips. All totally bloggable things. So I'm going to enter back into the fray with something small.

Hawaii! About a month ago we went to visit Jake and Kara in Maui and then went on our own to the Big Island. Okay, the obligatory smack talk first: I really wanted Hawaii to be French Polynesia, and it wasn't. Now that's not an entirely fair expectation, because 1. I went to French Polynesia on my honeymoon, after years and years of wanting to, and 2. There is nowhere in the world like Bora Bora. But you know, in the interest of full disclosure, etc.

We started off on Maui for five days. Jake and Kara live in Kihei, so we used that as a jumping off point for anything we wanted to see in South and West Maui. It's kind of weird for me to imagine that people live all year that close to those beaches (and some of the beaches really are beautiful). In my head beaches are about vacation. I can see being richer than I am and liking to have a beach house, but I can't see having only a beach house and living there twelve months a year, year in and year out. My dad left California because he worried that he wouldn't get any meaningful work done if he stayed, and he wouldn't care. I guess I am my father's daughter. But all in all, South and West Maui felt like anywhere else in the US, but with a beach. It felt like Southen California, for all the goods and bads that that brings.

We spent the weekend on the east side of Maui, in Hana, which was more remote and also more beautiful. One of the really nice things about Maui are the many places you can hike a bit away from the road and find secluded pools for a swim, some salt and some fresh water. Although my favorite on the island was the Olivine Pools north of Lahaina, Hana also had some really nice spots. The Venus Pool isn't really a pool so much as it is a part of the ocean that is protected by some lava formations that break the surf, and although the water was a bit gunky with branches and leaves from the rain that had recently fallen, it was still a great place to hike and swim.

All in all I liked the Big Island more than I liked Maui. We spent five days on the Kohala coast, where I think the beaches are more spectacular than Maui's, and three days in Volcano National Park seeing lava and hiking and smelling a lot of sulfur. I preferred Kohala, but I'm glad we went to Volcano, because it was unlike anywhere else I've traveled.

The night hike through the lava field to see the molten lava pouring into the ocean was petty miserable for me. Hiking though fields of cooled lava resembles nothing so much as hiking through a parking lot that's been through an earthquake, with very unforgiving footing and sharp edges to cut yourself on if you fall. In the dark. Considering the ease with which I trip and fall walking around a city on lighted sidewalks, I find it surprising and lucky that I didn't fall down and lacerate myself on the lava. But I'm glad we went to the park, because we did go on some spectacular hikes, and it's kind of awe-inspiring to walk around on actually new land and to realize that this island is growing because new land is being created! Right now!

The biggest sour spot on the trip, and really the only one, happened when we tried to take a helicopter ride from Hilo, which we tried to do while we were driving through on the way back to Kohala from Volcano. We had reserved it a long time ahead, as it was the aspect of the trip that Chris was most looking forward to. Well, we took off, but the pilot thought the helicopter might have a mechanical problem, so we landed again right away. Props to the pilot for being vigilant, but everything about the followup experience with Blue Hawaiian (the company with whom we had contracted) has indicated a shady, unprofessional operation. They were unwilling to reschedule us for a tour from the other side of the island (where we due to arrive back that same afternoon), and then when we pointed out that we had booked far ahead of time, they offered to let us book from the other side of the island at a rate higher than even the standard intenet rate for a full-island tour. When we decided to get a refund instead, they became pretty pissy with us, and we're actually still waiting to get our money back almost a month later. All in all it left me cold.

In any case it was a good couple of weeks overall, with some really great beaches, nice hikes, and good food. I should proably do another post on the food, but I'll just say for now that I enjoyed one of my best dinners in recent memory at Merriman's in Waimea, and if I ever go back to the Big Island, I'll be sure to take time to go again.

It's only appropriate to blog about Hawaii when we in Seattle had completely atypical snow and ice storms for most of the last week. I moved west to get away from this crap!