Travel Theme: Horizons

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa asks us to look to the horizon for her travel theme. So, OK. Off into the distance!

George and I recently went to visit his daughter in Baltimore. The first night we were there we went out, you know. Dinner, cocktails, that sort of thing. The next day we walked around the city and then went to a baseball game, which was great fun but made for a long day. That night, we decided the right thing to do was have pizza and wine on the rooftop deck, and admire the skyline as the sun set. Here is Baltimore’s iconic Domino Sugars sign, seen over the rooftops of Locust Point.

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign...

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign. Even from the back you’re sassy.

This picture was taken closer to home for me. It was so close, in fact, I was home. We had some fantastic fog roll in from Buffalo Creek (Crick, if you’re local) one night, and this was how my back yard looked. I love that you have no idea where the tree line ends and the sky begins. Oh yeah. There’s a whole line of trees in that fog.

There's a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

There’s a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

This past December, we were in Myrtle Beach for our niece’s college graduation. When we were on our way out to dinner, a crazy-strong storm blew in–we were completely waterlogged crossing the street from the parking lot to the restaurant’s lobby–and we were a little early for the dinner rush, so I could run around the restaurant at will. The restaurant was right on the beach, and I ran around from room to room (big restaurant) looking out all the windows at the soaked world outside. This is what I got.

That is some angry ocean.

That sure is some angry ocean.

Sometimes…oh, this kills me…sometimes, cliches and stereotypes have some basis in fact. And New Jersey’s snark-riddled reputation as a land of refineries and factories and traffic…well, there’s this section along the Turnpike that George and I joke about, that we know we’re home when we see it. (Jersey peeps,’fess up, you do it too.) But. Sigh.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

However! New Jersey also gives it up for moments like these.

Sunset, Normandy Beach, NJ.

Yes.

Yes.

What’s on your horizon?

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2013 Thus Far

I’m going to be blunt here.

2013 can go fuck itself.

I’m about to head back to the homeland to go to the funeral of an uncle.  Really?  George’s dad, then my dad, and now my uncle?  And there’s been other stuff that’s sucked, though none of it compares to the loss of such important members of my family.  If I develop mysterious sores, I’m going to wonder when I was nominated to be the next Job.  Though lots of friends have suffered tragic losses this year, so…on the behalf of everyone I know who’s had a shitty go of things, 2013…I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about you.  You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.  And really, it’s not me, it’s all you.  I own none of it.

Agggh.  The next few days are gonna suck.

I miss hearing from you all, I’ll be back soon.

Until then, here are a few pictures I’ve taken within the calendar year 2013, in an effort to remind myself and others that maybe 2013 doesn’t deserve to be completely wiped from our memories.  I don’t want to put up gloomy pics, because I’m trying to angle for instant karma points.  Oh, look (says an otherwise cruel and unfeeling universe), she put up a picture of a lacy butterfly!  Let’s not kill any more of her loved ones until, at the very least, the end of the year.

So. With no further ado and in no particular order…

Black swallowtail butterfly, my back yard. (Did you think I was kidding about posting a butterfly pic?)

Black swallowtail butterfly, my back yard. (Did you think I was kidding about posting a butterfly pic?)  My back yard, summer 2013.

A day spent at Knoebel's with my brother, sis-in-law and the kiddos. July 2013.

A day spent at Knoebel’s with my brother, sis-in-law and the kiddos.
July 2013.

Railroad tracks in autumn.  Sigh.

Railroad tracks in autumn. Sigh.
Lewisburg, September 2013.

This guy.

This guy.
Artscape, Baltimore, July 2013.

John & Molly's wedding. Lutsen, MN, July 2013.

John & Molly’s wedding.
Lutsen, MN, July 2013

And for good measure, here’s a video of an otter juggling a rock.  I didn’t take the video, but I love it all the same.

I (sincerely, truly) hope your year is better than mine.  Enjoy!

A Word a Week Challenge: Mistake

Over at A Word in Your Ear, Skinnywench opened her magical dictionary of word indexification and came up with the Word a Day theme this week.

Mistake!  Bzzzzt, thanks for playing, please try again.  Oh!  Wait!  You mean, things that you have in a photograph that are considered a mistake, for one reason or another?

*cough cough cough*  My bad.  Though that would be a rum joke there, ey wot?

Anyway.  Before I carry myself away on bad jokes (wouldn’t be the first time), Imma get down to it.  These things, in my photographs, in one way or another, represent in one way or another all sorts of mistakery..

First, I hope this serves as a gentle reminder that while a human editor should indeed give the final approval on all written material…please, people, turn on your spellcheck and let that be your first line of defense against casual mistakes.

*sigh*

*sigh*

I challenge you to spell this sign correctly.

So one time, not all that long ago, I was in a store.  And that store had products; it was just jammed with things.  And some of those things?  Were these shoes, which are an example of how a mistake can multiply.  They were a failure from concept through execution, and the fact that they were given the green light along the way only tells me that once a mistaken OK is given, then the whole world can easily fall in on itself in a blundering series of misguided crystal pleats.  And I had them on my feet.  The things I do for this blog.

It's one large series of purple mistakes.

It’s one large series of purple mistakes.

Seriously, people.  Just say no.

One night, cooking, I cut my finger.  By definition that was a mistake but the bigger one, which I did not make, was that I did not try and continue prepping my food with only one band-aid between me and *yuck oh ewww blech*.  Especially when George had to eat what I was cooking, too.  Because ewww.

Middle finger, you can see the owie.

Middle finger, you can see the owie.

Yes, I keep rubber gloves in my house at all times.  I’m accident prone and dinner guests, you’re welcome.

When we were in Baltimore this past summer for ArtScape, I noticed in their street-camo-helicopter installment, one helicopter…ummm…would have had limited success flying, unless it was manned by the most skilled of pilots.  And remember, display artists: considering that there were several helicopters strung throughout this display, all right side up…several upended helicopters is an artistic statement.  One lone upended helicopter on display?  Is a derp.

Black Hawk Upsy-Daisy just doesn't have the same zazz, you know?

Derp.

Black Hawk Upsy-Daisy just doesn’t have the same zazz, you know?

And finally…

*sigh*

I never should have trusted that Chris wouldn’t have a camera as he joked me into making this face.  My mistake.  I swear, I don’t know how my face ended up looking like this.  Even my nose looks flatter.

Who brings the shmexy?

Who brings the shmexy?

Yes, I blurred out my friends’ faces to protect their identities.  If I were my parents I’d consider disowning me.  But you know, when I make a mistake, I don’t hold back.  Go big or go home, you know?

Enjoy the rest of the “mistake” photos!

Travel Theme: Distance

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? asks us to look at distance, into the distance, from a distance.  For the record, the word “distance” literally means “standing apart”, from the Latin “dis” (apart) and “stare” (stand, of course).

See, kids?  Latin is fun!

Anyway.

Pictures.

This first shot was taken this spring at Milton State Park, which is probably about three miles away from my home.  If you walk down toward the southern tip of the park, which juts out into the Susquehanna River, you’ll soon find yourself…well, still in the park and on the other side of the river, but directly facing the smokestacks of the plant one Ettore “Hector” Boiardi opened in 1938 in support of his canned pasta business.

The Chef's plant, looming in the distance.

The Chef’s plant, looming in the distance.

Yes, Chef Boyardee was a real man and no, he wasn’t just some fabrication of ConAgra, which now owns the plant.  I haven’t eaten canned ravioli in years but nevertheless, I’m delighted his iconic smokestack remains.

Next we go to Little River in beautiful South Carolina.  My brother has a boat docked there, but I’m pretty sure he’s selling it (or possibly has sold it by now), so I don’t know if what once was his boat is still there.  Anyway.  I digress.  This photo was taken while looking out toward the bow of the boat (and beyond, natch!) from the hatch that opens out from the cabin.  That thin line of land is the spit that separates the Little River Inlet from the big ol’ Atlantic Ocean.

Ahoy!  Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Ahoy! Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!  And other piratey things to say, as well!

Next, we go to my beloved Boston and the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel.  Often, when I stay in hotels, I will choose to take back stairways instead of the elevator.  I’ve always had a penchant for wandering the halls of any hotel I stay in (which can sound a little creepy but I swear, I don’t peek where I ought not) because I like to go where most people ignore.  And most people?  Don’t take the stairs and see this, spinning upwards into infinity.

Here's looking up yer old staircase.

Here’s looking up yer old staircase.

And now we head to Baltimore.  This picture was taken this summer at Artscape, a mega-art-music-comedy-groovy jewelry outdoor feast for the eyes, ears and wallet.  It stretches for blocks and blocks.  I could have spent a ton of money there (especially in some of the jewelry stands; I’ll take one of everything, please) but kept it under control.  I did, however, take a trillion pictures.  This was near a railroad crossing.  It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day and all of Baltimore (including the iconic Howard Street bridge) stretched out before us.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Please note that there’s a mirror in the photo–almost dead center–so you can see what’s in the distance behind.  Kind of a yin-yang of Baltimore industrial architectural photography.  Dig it.

And finally, we end today’s blog in Italy, because Italy, that’s why.  This picture was taken while visiting a church on one of the hills overlooking Florence, just across the Arno River.  The Ponte Vecchio–which literally means “old bridge”–is that crazy, awesome structure in the middle of the shot.  This bridge, and the shops that are built hanging off the sides, has survived floods, Nazis, and nearly 700 years worth of weather (it would be nearly 800 years worth of weather, but it did have to be rebuilt in 1345).

Damn.

Distance: physical, temporal, historical.  Achieved.

Distance: physical, temporal, historical. Achieved.

I mean…I’m happy if I get a DVD player that lasts more than a few years, you know?  I hate that we’ve come to accept planned obsolescence.

Anyway.

Again, I digress.

Enjoy Ailsa’s theme!  Maybe you could find a little somethin’ somethin’ to post and play along yourself.  😉  Please enjoy some Dixie Chicks for your listening pleasure.

Travel Theme: Peaceful

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is: peaceful!  While there are many out there who think I wouldn’t have an idea of what that meant…that I am a rageitarian and my anger sustains me…the fact is, I like a good, Zen, groovy moment as much as anybody.  I’m just spiky on the outside.  Inside, I am constantly trying to groom my cosmic bonsai.

Oh, come on, admit it.  “Cosmic Bonsai” is a great name for an art rock jam band.

Anyway, “peaceful”.  Here we go!

This first picture was taken this past December in Baltimore, while walking around looking at the zazz-dazzling Christmas lights in Hampden.  Up on the main drag the street was teeming with people and lights and street vendors and…lights…and people and noise and cars and more people.  Which was great and festive and fun but also an incredibly high-performing way to spend an evening.  Just a few blocks over?  Silence.

IMG_0172-002

Crowds, schmowds. Just breathe.

The next picture is taken from my back yard.  We have a farmlet just behind us and right past that?  A creek.  Flat land + water are conducive to good fog, and I was incredibly grateful to walk out on my back porch at exactly the right moment.  I literally ran into my house, terrifying the cat in the process, lunged for my camera and ran back outside.  Because this.

No, that's not mountains in the background. It's just trees and fog.

No, that’s not mountains in the background. It’s just trees and clouds and fog.

The next photo was taken in Waltham, Massachusetts, in February 2013.  I’m not sure why, but I’m always incredibly put at ease by the image of aqua-friendly birds just hanging out on the ice.  The ice isn’t going anywhere, and if it does they can swim.  The birds don’t look frantic.  Nobody’s boating or swimming and the ice is too thin for skating, so they have this spot all to themselves.  Good for them!  Enjoy your day, geese!

Geese, doing they thing.

Geese, doing they thing.

We spent a week at Keuka Lake a few years ago.  I’ve written about it before; it was most wet and foggy, and we stayed indoors for much of the trip.  Which was fine, because what I really needed for that vacation was total downtime.  So here is a picture of George, sitting in the bedroom, looking out onto the lake, as the sun set through the fog and the light turned deep blue.  Just looking at this photo makes me breathe a little easier.

George playing the day's closing theme music.

George playing the day’s closing theme music.

And finally!  I snapped this picture of a massive soybean field a few miles away from me, this past fall.  I thought it was pristine and vast and beautiful; it made me want to run through the field and collapse in the middle like the lady in that Andrew Wyeth painting, only without the polio-blasted paralyzed limbs (seriously, it’s kind of a magnificent piece of dark artistic commentary, just take two minutes and read about the painting).

Welcome to central Pennsylvania.

Welcome to central Pennsylvania.

That’s just about it for me.  Head on over to Ailsa’s page and see how other people have contributed to this week’s travel theme.  And let Otis Redding sing you a song on your way out.

~XOT

Travel Theme: Festive

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is “festive”…and I am sadly late in coming to this party, but it’s been a crazy week full o’ stuff and things…  Which is awesome, but attention-diverting.  Anyway.

The week’s festivities included a trip to Baltimore to hang out with my boyfriend’s daughter, and she–knowing we adore the kitschtastic–suggested a trip to Hampden to see “Miracle of 34th St.”  This was not, mind you, the 1947 movie starring a teensy little Natalie Wood (or the less excellent but surprisingly not awful 1994 version with Dylan McDermott, whose inherent dreaminess makes everything a little bit better).  Rather, this was a city block (of 34th St., natch) of the working-class neighborhood of Hampden, located in the northwest pocket of the city.  Hampden is fun and a little quirky-arty, with a huge foodie movement, uber-propelled to national notice by the always excellent Woodberry Kitchen.  We ate recently at Dogwood Restaurant and kill if you must, but get the vegetarian risotto.  The merry people of Hampden seem dedicated to providing hospitality unto the world, including a Christmasplosion that is a blingy feast for the eyes and the other senses as well.

Because it’s cold out, see?  And you can feel how cold it is, so that’s a sense.  Some of the houses play music, so you’ve got that whole “hearing” thing covered.  You’re breathing, so of course you smell things, too.  As for providing a feast for one’s sense of taste…

Well.  There you have it.

Well. There you have it.

Once you get past the street meat, which is surprisingly difficult to want to move away from, Hampden is a visual extravaganza of festive Christmas fun.  Ready for a tour down the block?

So much to see!

So much to see!

This is the first house on the block.

This is the first house on the block.

IMG_0066-001

The first house on the block had a little cutout basement window, which they loaded up with a Disney theme and added Big Bird in there for good measure.  They also provided a footstool, so kids could peer into the window.  The kids, however, took it upon themselves to provide the wonder.

Check out the fingers gripping the windowsill. *killing me*

Check out the little fingers gripping the windowsill. *killing me*

And moving down the block…

There’s something inherently weird about the Holy Family surrounded in cartoonish candy canes.

Though it's kind of a cartoonish holy family, now that you look at it.

Though it’s kind of a cartoonish Holy Family, now that you look at it.  And I never knew light-up Teddy Ruxpin attended the birth.

It's the Peace House!

It’s the Peace House!

It's the LP-Christmas tree!

It’s the LP-Christmas tree!

I was completely in love with the bicycle tire sculptures.

I am completely in love with the bicycle tire sculptures.

Bike sculpture in front of the hubcap tree.  Dream. Come. True.

Bike sculpture in front of the hubcap tree. Dream. Come. True.

Abandoned house in the middle of all the lights.  Weird!

Abandoned and dark house in the middle of all the lights. Weird!

Up one side of the street and then down the other.

Up one side of the street and then down the other.

Welcome to the Natty Boh House!

Quenching Baltimore's thirst since 1885.

Quenching Baltimore’s thirst since 1885.

National Bohemian beer, or Natty Boh–a Baltimore original–is the thing of Balto-legend.  The Natty Boh man image is known all over Baltimore, and was recently used in an incredibly popular advertising campaign by Smyth Jewelers.  Mr. Natty Boh proposed to Salie Utz of Utz potato chip fame, and…

...the rest, as they say, is history.

…true love.

The rest, as they say, is history.

No Baltimore Christmas display would be complete without a big ol’ light-up crab.

I got'cher Old Bay riiiiiight heeeeere...

I got’cher Old Bay riiiiiight heeeeere…

Here’s some perspective of the work that goes into just one home.  These people are hard-core.

Whoa.

Whoa.

Remember, nothing says “festive” like an inflatable Mickey Mouse snowglobe yard ornament, next to a Sakrete sign.

Merry Concrete!

Merry Concrete!

DO NOT miss this if you’re in Baltimore during the holidays!  It’s too much kitschy, charming fun to pass up, and it’s full of good will and glad tidings.  It’s sure to knock the Scrooge out of the Scroogiest of you all.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  Season’s greetings!  Felices fiestas!  Feliz Navidad!  С Рождеством!  Joyeux Noël!.

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