the march cocktail hour: a pittsburgh getaway, endless hiking, and the march for our lives

Saturday, March 31: Welcome to our March cocktail hour! It’s still a bit too chilly and damp to sit on our screened porch, so we’ll stay dry and warm inside. I can offer you a Jalapeno Margarita, one of my favorite drinks since I discovered it several years ago at Lolita in Philadelphia, or a Pinot Noir or Pilsner Urquell. I know it’s still officially Lent, so for those of you so inclined, I can also offer sodas or seltzer water of various flavors. Tomorrow, April 1, we can celebrate the strange intermingling of two oddly mismatched holidays: April Fool’s Day and Easter.

Spring is here, but not without its whims.  We had snow last week, which accumulated and then vanished within two days; this week we’re under drizzle, although temperatures are inching upwards.

I hope March has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new, taken any classes or just kept up with the news? Have you marched or otherwise participated in political protests?   Have you been planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any early spring getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?

We went to Pittsburgh for a three-day weekend on March 2-4.  Here, we visited the University of Pittsburgh, numerous memorials to the titans of American industry, a magnificent botanical garden and conservatory, the merging of the Monongahela and the Allegheny Rivers – forming the Ohio River at Pittsburgh’s point – and some offbeat museums.  I’ll eventually write more about our trip on my new blog:             ~ wander.essence ~

We went with our friends Karen and Michael to the Ice House Café where I had only two, I emphasize, TWO dirty martinis, and felt pretty darn loopy!

Michael, Karen, Mike and me 🙂

Not feeling so great the following day, I accompanied the American Pilgrims on the Camino for a 10-mile walk starting from Arlington National Cemetery, walking past the Martin Luther King Memorial, shown below, up the National Mall and around the back of the U.S. Capitol, and then back down the Mall again to the Lincoln Memorial.  Someone from the Philadelphia chapter read parts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech aloud to the group in front of the Lincoln Memorial, bringing tears to our eyes. Then we walked back to Virginia.

Martin Luther King Memorial

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to walk 12 miles/day carrying 15 lbs. in a backpack, day after day, on the Camino.  I was wiped out after this walk, and I only carried 5 lb.  Granted, it was all on pavement, which is hard on the joints and feet!

On that same day, March 10, my oldest son turned 27, but we only got to talk to him by phone since he now lives in Colorado.  He just got a new job as an apprentice butcher, something he’s been wanting to do for some time.  This desire took me by surprise, as he was vegan for a long time!

On March 17, I went on a 7.5 mile hike with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group at the Jug Bay Wetlands Natural Area at Patuxent River Park in Maryland. It was enjoyable, despite being a cold and dreary day. Near the American Indian Village, we came to a parking area filled with horse trailers and folks trotting around on their horses.  They told our group they are a group of friends who ride their horses together regularly.

Overall, I walked 103 miles this month, more than the 68 miles I walked in February.  I’ve now put 95 miles on my Keen Targhee boots and 44 miles on my Merrill Trail Runners. I’ve pretty much decided I’ll walk in the Keens on the Camino.  I’ve also started increasing weight I carry in my backpack, alternating between 5-8 pounds twice a week.  The backpack will be the worst part about the Camino, as the walking itself doesn’t bother me, except for some right knee pain.

We saw the movie The Leisure Seeker about an older couple, played by Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, one of whom suffers from dementia.  They take their old RV – dubbed “The Leisure Seeker” – for a road trip to Key West to visit Hemingway’s house.  It was funny and sad at the same time, but I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite movies.

We had a snowstorm on Wednesday, March 21, with a couple of inches of accumulation, but it melted over the next couple of days.

Just after the snow melted, we went on Saturday, March 24 to the March for Our Lives, organized by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were gunned down by an unhinged ex-student.

The March for Our Lives mission statement includes:

Specifically, we are working towards…

  1. Universal, comprehensive background checks
  2. Bringing the ATF into the 21st century with a digitized, searchable database
  3. Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America
  4. High-capacity magazine ban
  5. Assault weapons ban

The March was exciting and the speeches by the students extraordinarily moving and inspiring.  I felt choked up the whole time I was there; I was impressed by the people, young and old and of every ethnicity, who came out in large numbers. Students gave rousing speeches, including Martin Luther King’s granddaughter, 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King, which we were there to hear.  Unfortunately, we missed the speech by Emma Gonzalez.  According to USA Today, “About 200,000 people attended the rally, according to Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc., a Virginia-based company that calculates crowd size.” Marches were held all over the country as well.

Here are some photos of the day:

After the march, Mike and I stopped in at Laredo DC Mexican Restaurant, where we enjoyed some small plates and margaritas, making our day, in effect, a March for the Margarita. 🙂

The last Monday in March, I drove down to Richmond to visit my daughter, and we enjoyed a fun dinner together at Little Nickel, a cute new restaurant with a touch of tiki in Southside Richmond.  You can get a feel for it in an article by Richmond Magazine: “Uncommon Cents at 4702 Forest Hill.”  I found the decor and the atmosphere delightful, along with my daughter’s company.

The next day, we went shopping, as we always do, and then enjoyed a delicious meal at Garnett’s on Park.

I’ve been reading away, and have finished this month:

From this collection of books, I most loved Eventide, about the fictional town of Holt, Colorado (I love Haruf’s writing and his characters), and Katherine Anne Porter’s stories, which took me back to the early 20th century: to Mexico, Texas, Kentucky and Berlin. It was also fun to read about a couple’s Camino in In Movement There is Peace, which gave me a good feel for what to expect when I walk the Camino. I have now finished 23 books out of my 45-book goal for the year.

The way we deal with our nauseating political news these days is by watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In his opening monologue each night, Colbert relentlessly makes fun of our so-called President, and he is so on-target and hilarious that we can feel a bit of peace knowing that laughter might be the only thing to save us from the daily shock of it all. I love Colbert in general, and find him a fantastic comedian.  One night he sang a song, “Sleep Through the Static,” with Jack Johnson, where he revealed another charming side of himself.  I loved this!!

One more month until I leave for my Four Corners Road Trip.  You’ll be able to read about it on my new blog ~ wander.essence ~ as I prepare for and embark on the adventure.

I can’t wait to read about your March.  I hope it was a good one. 🙂

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a new blogging direction: ~wander.essence~

Friday, March 16: Yesterday, I wrote my first post on my new blog.  Here is what it’s all about.

~ wander.essence ~

~ the art of meandering around the world in a leisurely manner, lingering in a place & discovering, layer by layer, its unique character – its essence – while, at the same time, discovering one’s inner self ~

It is traveling intentionally and with awareness, and then distilling the experience into creative expression.

***************

In this blog, I seek to mingle travel and art.  I hope to inspire curious explorers of the world to make an art of wandering, and then turn that wandering into art. My focus is on people in later life, usually 50+ folks who have time and money to travel and want to explore their creative selves in the process.

Pokhara, Nepal January 2013

~ what I hope to do here ~

This blog will cover all my travels going forward, and may consolidate the high points of some of my earlier travels.  I hope to include posts about:

  • travel imaginings – what inspires our destination choices;
  • immersion in a destination BEFORE embarking on a journey;
  • the intentional experience of a destination – by walking, bicycling or driving AND observing; sampling and writing about local food; keeping a journal; taking photographs; sketching or painting; writing poems, travel essays or short stories; creating collages; or expressing creative urges in otherwise meaningful ways;
  • creative expression, through blogging or other means, about a destination upon return.

I plan to offer challenges to my readers: poetry challenges, photography challenges, writing (fiction and non-fiction) challenges, and other artistic challenges. The challenges will vary according to my whim.  I’ll encourage fellow wanderers to set intentions before each trip – intentions to notice something new, to define what’s iconic about a place, to describe a place using the five senses, to try a new activity or local food, to write a poem or a prosaic stream of consciousness –  to create something, anything that ignites your soul.

Santorini, Greece September 2012

*****************

I’ve only posted one piece (plus several pages) on it so far, but more will come shortly.  I hope you’ll follow me there.  As for my set of 16 blogs (yes, it’s been a little crazy and just a bit cumbersome!), all of them will remain online but are now closed books.

Here is more about ~ wander.essence ~

The only other blog I’ll continue to post on is this one: nomad, interrupted.  Here, I’ll continue to post monthly cocktail hours and maybe some local outings.  I may include bits of Americana.  But everything about travel will now be consolidated on my new blog.

I hope you’ll wander and create with me. 🙂

 

the february cocktail hour: a month of walking & reading

Wednesday, February 28: Welcome to our February cocktail hour! Please, come in out of the cold and keep me company.  This month I can offer you a special Mardi Gras Blackberry Basil Margarita, as our ice maker is now operational. I know it’s already Lent, so for those of you who honorably practice your faith, I can also offer sodas or seltzer water of various flavors.

I hope February has been good to you so far. February has never been my favorite month, except for Valentine’s day, which never quite lives up to the hype, and my husband’s birthday on the 26th.  I’m happy it’s a short month.  I always think of it as a grey and brown month, and my pictures below will confirm that view. It also is a month of preparation for the year.  Since the outdoors is so uninviting, I tend to stay in a lot, reading and embellishing my dreams.

Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new, taken any classes or just kept up with the news? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you been planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any winter getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?

Preparing for upcoming travels

I’m enjoying immersing myself in my upcoming journeys.  This coming weekend, Mike and I will visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Only a four-hour drive from here, it’s pathetic that I’ve never been. For many years, I’ve overlooked American cities as worthy travel destinations. Now, I keep adding them to my travel plans. Why not take advantage of places closer to home? When I was 23, I took a three-month cross-country trip around the USA and I figured I’d been there, done that. I guess I’ve taken my country for granted.

After all my travels abroad, and after coming to appreciate all the nuances of different cultures and countries, I can more fully appreciate the variations in American sub-cultures and American places.  Even within our small towns and our national and state parks, treasures are waiting to be unveiled.

To prepare, I’ve read two novels and one memoir featuring the city, as well as Moon Handbooks Pennsylvania – the part about Pittsburgh.  Here are the three books I’ve read that feature Pittsburgh:

These books have fueled my imagination and will surely add depth to my visit.  We also watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which takes place in the city.  The movie inspires me to stand up through the sunroof of our car as we drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. 🙂

I created a playlist on Spotify for the trip as well.  Of course, one must have a playlist when taking an American Road Trip!  Here are my Pittsburgh Tunes.

I’ve now postponed my Four Corners Road Trip to May, as parts of Mesa Verde National Park don’t open until May 20. Because of this, I’m working backwards from there, and have plotted out much of my trip, beginning my drive from Virginia on May 1 with a planned arrival in Denver on the evening of May 3 after three 8-hour days of driving.  Mike will join me in Denver and will fly back home from Phoenix after 10 days; we’ll part ways in Flagstaff, and unless my sister decides to join me, I’ll be doing the rest alone. I have a long reading list around this area.

Finally, I’ve started preparing for walking the Camino de Santiago in September.  I found out that the The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela only swings the large incense burners on certain days. I had mistakenly thought they did it every day.  As I really want to be there for the pilgrim’s service where they swing the incense, I will aim to arrive there for the November 1 service on All Saints Day.  This month, I’ve continued reading the three books I mentioned last month. I’ve also increased my walking distances and started going to the gym.

To immerse myself in the Camino experience, I shared Spanish tapas with pilgrims and wanna-be pilgrims at a potluck for American Pilgrims on the Camino in early February. This month, I walked 40 miles in my Keen Targhee hiking boots, 23 miles in Brooks Ghost running shoes, and 4 miles in Merrill trail runners, in an attempt to break in boots/shoes and decide which ones to wear on the Camino.

I hiked 4 miles on the Vienna bike trail.

The Vienna bike trail

It was a gloomy day when I joined the Mid-Atlantic Hiking group on the Gold Mine Area Trails and Great Falls, but at least it didn’t rain. I somehow twisted my knee on this 7.2 mile hike, which got me a little worried. To help build strength in that knee and in my shoulders, I’ve been to the gym twice a week for weight-lifting and doing calisthenics recommended by my son, Alex, who does calisthenics coaching part-time.

Great Falls, Maryland side
Great Falls, Maryland side
Great Falls, Maryland side
Great Falls, Maryland side
Great Falls, Maryland side

I also hiked 4.7 miles at Bull Run Mountains State Natural Area Preserve with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group and sipped wines at the Winery at La Grange afterward. We found an old cemetery on that hike.

Bull Run Mountains State Natural Area Preserve
Winery at La Grange
Winery at La Grange

On another miserable Saturday, I slogged 6.4 miles through mud and rain at Fraser Preserve and had coffee after with Susan, a Camino pilgrim I met on an earlier hike.  We were covered in mud and our hair was plastered to our heads!

delectable treats, movies and celebrations

I’ve been whipping up experimental dishes, including a simple pasta with broccoli rabe.  Mike and I ate Thai food at Kobkun Fine Thai Cuisine.  We celebrated Valentine’s Day with sushi, sake and Sapporo at Yoko Sushi.  I saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for the second time, since Mike didn’t see it with me the first time I saw it. After, we enjoyed Malai Kofta at Curry Mantra.  I learned more about the complicated Palestinian situation from the movie The Insult, where a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian get into a vicious court case over an insult. After the movie, we tried a new restaurant, Havabite Eatery, where I scarfed down a white pizza.  We shared blackened swordfish tacos and avocado super toast at Earls Tyson’s Corner for a mid-week treat.

pasta with broccoli rabe
dinner at Earls Tysons Corner

Challenges… and life goes on

We stood by helplessly as my youngest son, feeling frustrated by his close friend’s emotional breakdown and the toxic environment at his job, walked out of work without telling his boss he was leaving. A week later, he announced he was taking off to live the life of freedom, or the “hero’s journey,” he envisions – a life where he will “sign no leases, fill out no resumes, work cash jobs, and treat each day as a holy-day.”  I gently suggested that if it’s his philosophy to live that way, he should be a man and stop expecting his parents to bail him out, and he should not expect to come back home except to visit on holidays.  That’s when he said, “Every day is a holy-day!”  Oh dear. There are some things I will never understand, but I know he’s going to live his life how he sees fit, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.  All I can do is choose how I will respond to what he does.  As it was, we parted on good terms, and I wished him the best and told him I love him. I’m working on letting it all go.

Though feeling gobsmacked by our son’s surprise departure, we celebrated Mike’s 64th birthday by having dinner of Zucchini Babycorn Jalfrezi and Gobi Tak a Tin at Masala Art and then seeing Hold These Truths at Arena Stage, about Japanese-American Gordon Hirabayashi’s fight against the US government’s orders to forcibly remove and mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast during WWII.  What an appropriate theme for today’s political environment, where immigrants are being excised daily from our society.

Dinner at Masala Art
Hold These Truths

Reading

I finished reading seven more books (14 total for the year), especially loving: The English Major by Jim Harrison and the audiobook of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. I also finished reading The Girl in the Moon Circle by Sia Figiel for an A-Z book group that is reading, in alphabetical order, books from all the countries of the world.  Our group mistakenly thought the book was about American Samoa, but it’s actually about Samoa, to the west of American Samoa. 🙂

The Girl in the Moon Circle

Blogging

I’ve also been slowly working on posts about my travels, finally finishing up my time in Japan (catbird in japan); I’m getting close to finishing with Prague (in search of a thousand cafes). I’m planning to start a new blog in March, unconnected to any of my other blogs, which will encompass all things travel: inspiration, making an art of travel, and creating art from travel.  I hope you’ll join me there when I start it.  Once the blog is live, I’ll stop posting on all my other blogs except this one, where I’ll continue to share things not related to travel.

I hope all is well for you and I look forward to hearing what’s going on with you!  I wish you a happy March!:-)