All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The City of Angels and a Little Advice

Flying over the ol' US of A

This past weekend, I flew out west to tear up LA with MJ 2.0. Schedules being what they are, these four days were the longest uninterrupted stretch of time we've spent together since we met o so long ago. We didn't let it go to waste. MJ gave me a regular tour d' force of the local attractions, including such famous and phenomenal sites as the Griffith Observatory (by night and by day), the Getty Villa, and Sid Grauman's Chinese Theater. We indulged ourselves in an incredible, magical, mystical array of food and drinks -- Thai, vegan, and sushi; french dip sandwiches at Phillipe, hot dogs at Pink's, and tacos from a street vendor; mojitos at Ciudad and cocktails in MJ's tenth-floor downtown studio. We cruised everywhere from Skid Row to Rodeo Drive, and one night we caught The Taking of Pelham 123 in the Arclight dome.

Of course, the highlights of any trip are the adventures you don't plan. This worked well since both of us hate planning. Other men have accused me of fearing commitment, but MJ brings out my roll-with-the-punches spontaneity to the nth degree. In fact, we were wandering around Union Station and nearly jumped on a random train -- definitely would have if we didn't have dinner reservations with a friend. (MJ: "I hate having reservations. It's too much commitment." A man after my own heart.) The unplanned adventures we had sometimes rose from the ashes of plans that fell through, like the afternoon it was too cold to go body-boarding so we instead strolled on the beach and hunted for starfish and crabs in the rocks. Sometimes we just stumbled on things, like a fancy cocktail party in the ballroom of the Roosevelt where we were sneaking around looking for Marilyn Monroe's ghost. (Didn't find her, by the way, but did suddenly feel tragically under-dressed.)

Chauffeur Extraodinaire

We also got quite a thrill just cruising around one day. My esteemed tour guide's commentary went something like this: "On the right up here there's this awesome Brazili... THAT'S A BUGATTI VEYRON!!" The most expensive and (arguably) the fastest car in the world. Definitely not something you'll spot buzzing around my little Nowhereville, Michigan. Pretty amazing to see it "in the wild" like that, just chillin' like a villain outside a restaurant.

This trip, like all the best trips I've taken, started with the urge to go catch up with an old friend, and it only reinforced what I already knew -- the absolute, hands-down, best way to travel is by visiting friends. The last time I was in LA, I was with a couple deadbeats who took me to Universal Studios and Six Flags, and beyond that we saw almost nothing of the city itself. This go around couldn't have been in sharper contrast. I'm thoroughly flattered by the way MJ cleared his schedule and devoted himself to my entertainment 24 hours a day, making even the drabbest and darkest corners of LA enjoyable and adventurous. His energy, his humor, and his passion for the City of Angels made the trip for me.

Griffith Observatory

I caution you, dear reader, to choose your travel companions wisely. A good rule of thumb is this: If someone bores you at home, he will have you clawing your eyes out on the road. If someone annoys you at home, you will murder him on the road. At the very least, you'll bicker like an old married couple, using that tone you swore you'd never take with each other. It may be tempting to travel with your flavor of the week/month/year -- whoever's currently making you all starry-eyed and stupid -- but you're likely to regret it. Even a relationship that works well at home can develop an ugly side under the many stresses of being out of your element.

Instead, travel with people who are tested and true, and people whose idea of a good time aligns with yours. I, for example, have to travel without an itinerary. I like a generous block of time, a diverse list of possibilities, and the freedom to move in whatever direction the moment lends itself to. For that reason, I travel with my friends who are energetic, spontaneous, and not wound too tightly. Furthermore, I travel with friends with whom I have such a firm and weighty history that any adventures or misadventures that occur couldn't possibly jeopardize our friendship (and we certainly have had some misadventures). Traveling with boyfriends, on the other hand, goes quickly sour according to how hectic the traffic was, the state and cost of the hotel, the delay of a flight, illness or sheer exhaustion, and a million other variables.

In short, your trip will be smoother, more peaceful, and more pleasant if you keep in mind what Byatt wrote: "Friendship is rarer, more idiosyncratic, more individual and in every way more durable than this [poetic] Love."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Well, Hello There

Isn't it amazing how quickly we fall in and out of our little habits? This blog fluctuates for me, from ritual to chore to dusty shadow of a pastime and back again. I haven't been especially busy, but blogging has simply slipped steadily down the priority list.

Instead, over the past few months I've been occupying myself with winding down the school year, which included teaching Life of Pi to my advanced seniors -- officially my most rewarding teaching experience thus far. School ended last week, and now I'm free to do my usual summer routine of bouncing around irresponsibly, visiting all my friends, and spending all my money.

Steven & Aggie

In family news, we've had a pretty interesting year. I got a new little brother. Steven, a sixteen-year-old German exchange student, has been living with my family to finish out his last year of high school. He'll be returning to Mannheim indefinitely in July, but we're hoping he'll be back here eventually for at least a year of university. I completely adore him. I have two older brothers and a younger sister, but having a baby brother is an entirely new experience for me -- one which has involved a lot of teasing and a lot of side-splitting laughter.

Steven & Shelley

As we're winding down to the end of his stay, we've naturally been spoiling Steven a bit, which included taking spring break in Florida at our uncle's and enjoying quite a bit of time on that beauty of a boat. We've also taken him to Holland (Michigan, that is) to see the lake and the tulips, and last week, I took him down to Cedar Point.

The Current Affair

I <3 Dutch boys

Got Kitsch?
I so love Holland.

Veldheer Tulip Farm


I will pit CP against your finest theme park any day. The impressive-looking ride shown below is the Top Thrill Dragster -- 420 feet tall; 0 to 120 mph in 4 seconds. Yeah, that is a schweet ride. Definitely a thriller. Maverick -- which they wisely put in the place of that stupid canoe ride -- is awesome as well. Fast, unpredictable, and very smooth. Loved it.



My other big adventure this spring has been moving. A huge arigato to craigslist for helping me unload my apartment! Once free there, I moved in with a couple of my coworkers in what has quickly become known as the "teacher frat house." We don't have a sofa on the deck, but we're planning on throwing keggers every weekend and putting up some big Greek letters. Jury's still out on how the neighbors will respond, but our male roommate explained our Three's Company set-up to the mailwoman by telling her he was running a brothel. That went over well, as I'm sure you can imagine, and is only the tip of the iceberg.

Living room, balcony
Sayonara, apartment living!

Headed to LA in the morning to catch up with MJ 2.0, then just have a brief return home to wash laundry and repack before heading to Japan with a group of six students. Wild rides ahead, folks. Hold on to your hats!