Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Big Secret (Preview)

You may suspect that I harbor a secret. A big secret. And you're right. After decades of concealing my true identity, I'm going to reveal myself on Friday. The truth will shock you.

Let me tease you with this tidbit -- I wasn't born here. I was born on another planet, far far away. Here on Earth with its yellow Sun, my powers are considered superhuman. I can fly, freeze things, and wear a cute costume without being recognized. By day, I'm an ordinary office-worker at CatCo Worldwide Media but, when duty calls, I transform into my true self to fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Tune in Friday!



Saturday, March 26, 2016

April Fool's Day

Psst! Can you keep a secret?

We're one week away from my favorite holiday -- April Fool's Day. It's an occasion to play pranks on our friends and family. Some of you know how eager I am to do that every year. A while back I made Robin jump out of her pants when she saw (what she thought was) a crazed squirrel sneaking into our kitchen through an open window. (It was, in fact, a small stuffed animal.)

This year, I have two surprises for her. First, when she goes to pour soy-milk into her coffee that morning, it will be blood-red (from food-coloring). Second, when she opens our mailbox, instead of mail she'll find a wild animal staring back at her. Actually, it will be a harmless stuffed panda-bear. But the shock will be real.

Are you planning any jokes this year?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Two Wheel Passion


I've ridden 3,000 miles on my new motorcycle this year -- and it's not even Spring. I'm on fire!

I'm also contemplating buying another new motorcycle -- a high-performance sportbike to replace my Yamaha which got stolen last year. (It was recovered but is impounded until the criminal case is over. I visited the bike and it was trashed by the thief. I'll sell it when it's released to me.)

For the last decade I've owned two motorcycles at a time and that's a perfect solution. One is a big touring bike for comfort and long-distance rides; the second is a speedy rocket for hooliganism. My new BMW K1600GTL replaces my K1200LT touring bike and I'm going to get a BMW S1000R to replace the Yamaha FZ-1. Different tools for different jobs. You wouldn't bring a school-bus to the race-track and you shouldn't cross the country on an uncomfortable machine.

Life's short. Ride a motorcycle. Or whatever your passion is. By the way, what IS your passion?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Art from Detroit

While I was in Detroit, Sara took me to a wonderful art-forum where artists had space to display and sell their work. I was impressed by much of the art there -- and brought some home.

The first two pieces appeal to me because they use a material associated with Detroit: i.e., automotive steel. Cut in large pieces, the pieces are thick metal and weigh a lot. The first one is baked with beautiful colored enamel and symbolizes an artifact of old technology. Do you recognize it? Youngsters probably don't. The item was called an "adapter" and used to fill the large hole in 45rpm records so you could play them on a standard turntable. They were made of yellow plastic. The image is so iconic that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland uses it as its emblem. The metal sculpture shown below is about a foot wide and 5 lbs.



The second piece, over three feet wide, plays on the name of the city. Detroit is a metonym like "Wall Street." Written in script as a logo, the word symbolizes the place's commercial past, built with heavy steel. It's a perfect artistic metaphor.



This sticker made me laugh...



Sara gave me a gift -- this beautiful little box:



I also found two striking neckties.


 
 


Do you look for art when you travel?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Panic In Detroit!

That's the title of a terrific David Bowie song (appearing on the Aladdin Sane album, which was just re-issued on heavy vinyl).

In Detroit, Sara introduced me to The Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art exhibition that's been going on for thirty years. THIRTY years! Sara's the kind of cool cat -- a Party Cat! -- who knows about and frequents such an artsy place. The Project even has its own Wikipedia page (link above). I felt right at home there. Now I'm tempted to paint colored polka-dots on my house. Would you?

Plus, Sara just blogged about my visit with some great pictures. Go see! Her post is here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sara In Detroit

This weekend, I rode my motorcycle halfway across the continent to visit Sara. It was a great trip and a smart decision.

Sara and I became friends many years ago when we discovered each other's blogs. Do you know how, with some special people, you just instantly recognize them as a kindred spirit? Someone whom you understand fully and they get you? Sara is like that for me.

Meeting Sara in person for the first time was endlessly delightful. I learned so much about her. Like how tall she is, her hometown (Ferndale, part of Detroit), and her family and friends. The visit opened a window into Sara's life through which I peered with starry eyes. We did several fun things like visit Michigan's biggest bookstore and walk around a whimsical outdoor art-project.

Detroit is a city in transition. Since 1950, its population has declined every year, mirroring the fate of the American auto industry. Despite economic deterioration, this situation is creating opportunities for young people and artists to re-make failing areas into unusual new things. That change fascinates me. Sara took us on several tours through the changed areas. If it wasn't for her tendency to get lost, she'd make an excellent tour-guide.

I didn't take many pictures because I was more focused on my experience than a later blog-report. Sometimes I prefer to immerse myself in an experience, especially when it's a rare one, so photography goes on a back-burner. Hanging out with Sara and getting to know her better was my goal for this trip and we accomplished that with joy.

I did snap a few shots; here they are...


 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pittsburgh

My friend Gracey blogs at Fashion For Giants. She grew up in Oregon, a beautiful place she misses. I met Gracey in person a few years ago when she visited New York City and we enjoyed a delicious Cajun meal at one of my favorite places.

Recently Gracey moved to Pittsburgh. She hates it there. Hates it! The ferocity of her dislike of the town is palpable. It's dirty! The people are rude! And they talk funny!

I rode to Pittsburgh yesterday to say hi. We had a delightful dinner and conversation. Gracey follows politics closely so we discussed and laughed at the political circus now going on.

In case you're wondering why Gracey's blog is so-named, here's a picture...




Actually we were standing on a staircase.  :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Punxsutawney

Today I visited a quirky town with a funny name. The whole place is an homage to a groundhog named Phil. I liked it.


 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Motorcycle Trips


I'm almost recovered from my 1,000-mile ride up North, in time for my trip tomorrow to Pittsburgh and Detroit, a 2,000-mile journey. Let me make an observation.

There's no such thing as a bad motorcycle trip. By definition, you're out riding your motorcycle which is inherently joyful. Plus, long trips are an adventure. They can, however, be physically challenging. Extremely so.

My trip last weekend was grueling. It was the worst I've ever experienced. I probably came close to dying.

The problem was the cold. After I got north of Albany, the temperature dropped into the 30's. By itself, that's tolerable but only for short periods. Wind-chill makes temperature on a motorcycle feel 15-20 degrees colder. So riding in the 30's is hard on your body. You can stand it for about a half-hour, after which the temperature of your core lowers making you unbearably cold. There's no amount of gear that will help you then.

What I misunderstood was the terrain I'd be travelling in. On Long Island, you can't go 20 feet without seeing a Dunkin Donuts. DD's serve as warming stations for bikers. Sure, we'll buy coffee but it's the warmth we crave, to return our bodies to normal.

I knew I'd be facing 30-degree temperatures during the second half of my journey up but I was mistaken about having places to recover from the cold. It is remote, rural country up there and there are no stores, DD's, gas stations or even towns for miles and miles. I endured the cold for a half-hour and started looking for relief. Nothing. An hour went by and my condition started to noticeably deteriorate. An hour-and-a-half and I was in real pain. No place at all to stop at and warm up. At two hours, my body started shaking uncontrollably. I mean shaking. My arms and legs were vibrating like a Harley at a red light. My muscles weren't responding to my brain's instructions. You operate a motorcycle using manual skills so that's dangerous.

I finally found a gas station with a coffee bar. I staggered in, looking bad. The cashier was visibly concerned: we small-talked and she didn't say it but I'm sure she was getting ready to call 911. I sat down and tried to warm up. My body was out-of-control. Everything was shaking violently. Ten, fifteen minutes went by and I was still not warm. I tried making a cup of tea but my hands wouldn't stay still; the hot water kept splashing out of the cup. I eventually carried a cup of tea awkwardly with both hands, spilling a third of it on the way.

A half-hour later, I was slightly better but still suffering. I called Aimee (at the destination) and we discussed my options. Of course, she suggested prudent things like staying put overnight but I hadn't ridden eight hours so far to give up then. I knew I was going to complete the journey -- but between my location and Aimee were two more hours, in the cold, with no towns or places in between for relief. I'd have to endure another two hours in that condition. We made plans and I set off in her direction.

Two more hours of unlit, rural roads with no stores or towns. Even worse, the roads were covered with sand and patches of ice. Those road-conditions can cause a motorcycle to lose traction and fall, so my attention was on high-alert. Running along the side of the roads were deep ditches, the kind which, if you fall into one, you know you're gonna break bones and destroy your bike.

As I watched it get darker and colder outside, I realized my only hope was to ride without taking any breaks for the remaining two hours. I summoned my will-power and dug deep into my reserve of inner strength. The struggle became a psychological one as much as physical -- the natural impulse to give up and die was growing every minute.

I made it. Aimee was standing outside the hotel waiting for me. We had a delightful dinner and conversation as my body slowly recovered from the ordeal.

Today, I have no regrets about my decision to complete the journey. It was a challenge and I overcome it. Perhaps the choice to face increasing pain and serious danger was foolhardy but that's who I am. My friends call me "dogged," which is a nice term for stubborn. I never give up on my goals. It's what makes me who I am.

Here's a picture of my motorcycle's seat when I woke up the next morning...


 
 
So, tomorrow I'm heading West. Do you go on adventures?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ally Pie

The easiest way to "cook" is to pick toppings for pizza. Due to my quirky nature, I use unusual ingredients. Here is one of my favorites -- garlic and caviar. The garlic adds a punch of flavor, the caviar gives it salty sass.

What are your favorite pizza-toppings?


Sunday, March 13, 2016

True Story

Jordan and Steve went to Disney World. Jordan's favorite ride is Splash Mountain. Steve promised to go on the ride with her but, when the time came, he declined, saying he was too tired. So Jordan was forced to go on the ride by herself. She was not happy about that.

Can you spot her in this photo?


The Adirondacks


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Interview with Tiina

Yes, that's Tiina with two i's! And the person bearing this name is as exotic as her label.

I met Tiina last year during the Vancouver blogger-meetup. Tiina was the most interesting woman there -- smart, well-dressed and elegant. She's naturally quiet, like me, and still waters often run deep. The more I learned about Tiina, the more I liked her and when I returned home, I became a regular follower of her blog.

Tiina was born in Finland (which makes her a Finn) but she lives part of the year in London, England. She's multi-lingual and multi-cultural. Tiina takes pride in her Nordic home which offers free education and health care to everyone. Finland is a more egalitarian society with less income inequality than here. Finns care about each other, which is something I miss: years ago, Americans were more community-minded than they are today. We'd be better off if we moved in Finland's direction.

Tiina's English is so adept you wouldn't know it isn't her first language. In fact, Tiina teaches foreign languages so her proficiency is professional. She's married to a German man which gives her even wider cultural understanding. Befriending Tiina is a great way to expand our own horizons since listening to her European perspective is thought-provoking.

One of my goals with these interviews is to probe people's thoughts on topics rarely discussed out loud. I like how honest Tiina is with her answers. That candor matches who I met in person and makes the interview compelling reading.

I hope you enjoy the interview. And go visit her blog!


**   **   **   **   **

How clearly do you believe we see ourselves?
Depends on how honest we are about our neuroses. I’m pretty honest about mine.

Can you trace who you are today back to your childhood?
Of course. But my childhood does not define me. There is a scared little girl desperate to please, as well as the angry teenager in me, still. But that’s not all I am. Unlike the scared little girl and the angry teenager, the middle-aged angry woman that I am today is in charge of her life and doesn’t have to take any crap from anyone.

Parents are usually influential. Were yours?
Absolutely. Yes, my parents had a huge effect on me.

What was your mother like?
Very beautiful and stylish, painfully shy and lacking in self-esteem, not very flexible and totally without a sense of humour, not an easy-going person at all.

Your father?
Your basic chauvinist pig momma’s boy who never amounted to anything.

Do you believe people are naturally nice or mean?
I’m the kind of person who always prepares for the worst, so I guess I expect people to be mean. And if they turn out to be nice, then it’s a pleasant surprise. But I don’t trust people easily, and I expect people to have hidden agendas and their own prejudices, and I think anyone can stab you in the back. Most of the time I just don’t care what other people think about me because it’s beyond my control anyway, and I just can’t please everyone, can I? And if someone doesn’t like me, then that’s their problem, not mine.

What experiences led you to that belief?
Probably my relationships with my parents, as a child of quarrelling divorced parents, then not fitting into my father’s new family, my experiences at school and at work. I learned very early on that people cannot be trusted, especially if you compete for the same resources, i.e. parental affection or at work.

How much daily interaction do you have with men?
I have taught men from all walks of life, from factory workers to big bosses. I have no problem with them, any more than I have with women. At work I’m the boss, and if need be, I can cut a man down to size.

How do you feel about femininity?
I haven’t really thought about it. Ever. I guess I’ve always been what you’d call a girly girl, but I’ve certainly never been helpless, or felt that being a woman somehow restricts me. I also speak my mind and swear a lot, so maybe I have a lot of so-called ‘masculine’ traits. I come from a long line of strong women who never saw femininity neither as an advantage nor a disadvantage. For example, my paternal grandmother, a huge influence and a role model in my life, used to run a car dismantler. That was a rather unusual business for a woman in the 60’s, but she had never any problems asserting authority over the half a dozen men who worked for her. In my family it was always the women who made decisions and ran their lives as they saw fit.

Were you encouraged by your parents to become feminine?
Oh yes, my mother used to dress me in frilly dresses and encourage me to look nice. I was bought very girly toys, and my father thought I should have become a nurse…

Is femininity a good or bad thing for women?
There are probably some cultural differences at play here. In American culture culturally conceived ideas femininity and masculinity as well as  how they are presented in your looks play a much bigger role than in Finland. For instance, American women in public office look so incredibly polished and feminine in a very traditional way. And female celebrities seem to see themselves also as sex objects. Now, I’m not saying there’s none of this in Finland, but we are way more relaxed about how our politicians and celebrities look like. Finnish women are probably also more comfortable speaking their minds and take it for granted that  they are treated as equals.

When did you start paying attention to the clothes you wear?
I have always paid attention to clothes. My grandmother told me that when I could barely walk and talk I had selected my summer outfit all by myself: it had to be a two-piece, bikini, and red.

Do you enjoy thinking about fashion?
Sometimes. And sometimes I find it very frustrating. These days mostly frustrating because I think most fashion designers are a bit clueless about what a woman actually looks like. I wonder why…

What styles appeal to you?
I like sophisticated, lady-like clothes, with a bit of a punk / rock attitude. And I hate fast fashion and I won’t even touch anything made of polyester.

Do you enjoy caring for your hair?
I hate my hair. My hair has a mind of its own, and every morning I have a bit of a power struggle with the hair. I usually lose.

What are your favorite TV shows?
I love Downton Abbey, I loved Mad Men, and look forward to seeing the second season of Black Widows (a Finnish thriller about 3 women who get rid of their abusive husbands by blowing up their boat).


 

**   **   **   **

Thank you, Tiina!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Potsdam? Pots-DAMN!

Travel teaches us geography. For example, my friend Aimee moved to a place called Potsdam. Until now, the name was merely a word to me. I had no real idea where the place was.

I just learned that Potsdam is as far north as you can go before entering Canada. It's right on the border. Rural, cold and foresty, Potsdam is like an old-West frontier-town. Its residents, including Aimee, are hardy, strong and fierce. Aimee, despite her small size, is one of the physically-strongest people I know -- she walks dozens of miles a day, splits lumber with ease, and can lift me over her head if she wants to. I try not to make her want to... it's too embarrassing.

Aimee has a blog where she displays her mad talents as a seamstress. Two years ago, she made me a pretty apron that I cherish dearly.

On Friday I'm heading up to Potsdam to visit Aimee. Potsdam is a full-day's ride: I'll put over 1,000 miles on my new motorcycle with the two-day trip. It'll serve as a coincidental warm-up to my bigger motorcycle trip next week. On Thursday I'm riding to Detroit (to visit Sara), will stop in Pittsburgh (to visit Gracey) and may venture into Punxsutawney (to visit Phil). That longer trip is 2,000 miles and will take five days (with one day off the bike for sightseeing).

I used to go on a lot of long motorcycle rides and I miss them. Full days in the saddle free your mind. Your brain flows into a meditative, peaceful state... unless, of course, you encounter an angry groundhog and have to defend yourself...


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

U.S. Mail

Big postal news!

 The price of stamps will go DOWN next month. Really, down. I didn't know that ever happened. Letters will cost less (47 cents instead of 49); postcards will cost less (34 cents instead of 35).

Plus, new stamps being issued for Star Trek and Shirley Temple. Isn't Shirley adorable?!


 
 
 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Longwood Gardens

Yesterday I went to my happy place with Robin and our friend Lisa -- Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Their orchid exhibition is amazing. Nature can be so beautiful. Here are some pictures...


 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Red Carpet

Watching ladies arrive at awards shows always inspires me. Their fancy gowns, glittering jewelry and hordes of admirers... what's not to like?!

Of course, their reality is otherwise -- tight shapewear, tape everywhere, and physical discomfort. But for those few moments of attention and fame, most deem it worthwhile.

To play along, I bought a red gown at a thrift-store ($14), paired it with a choker from Target ($14) and wore Payless strappy sandals ($12). I'm a movie-star on a budget.  :-)