Recently in Travel Category

Two Awe-Inspiring Masterpieces


HW_NY4.jpgI was recently in New York to give a poetry reading, thanks to a big fat writing prize I won. It was a pleasure and an honor, and I met some very wonderful people, but I admit one highlight of the trip was that I got to see The Book of Mormon (musical), and boy oh boy do I have a testimony!

I'm not going to post a review of it here, both because I might have lined up a gig that will pay me to do that (fingers crossed, at least--I'm trying to make that happen more and more, because as Chris Clarke points out, exposure kills writers), and because I think you should read Troy Williams's brilliant review.

For so many reasons, this was my best trip to NY ever. One of the main reasons I travel is to see people, and of course I like meeting up with my friends. But not everyone likes the same sort of touristy activities. I've also done a lot of traveling by myself and I admit to being someone who frankly enjoys it, even if many people don't. I can read a map pretty well, and I know how to amuse myself.

This trip was the perfect blend between doing stuff alone without worrying that it was boring someone else, and hanging out with people. Thanks to the magic that is Facebook, as soon as I posted "Holly is in Manhattan" as my status, I got notes and messages from people wanting to meet up. It was wonderful to hang out with friends I hadn't seen in years.

One thing I did that not everyone would want to do is walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. About a year ago I started researching a project that involves bridges, and now I love them. Growing up in Arizona, I figured I knew how bridges were built: you waited until the water dried up in the summer, and then you built whatever you wanted. But when I went to Europe at age 20 and saw bridges centuries old over rivers that never dried up, it really freaked me out. How did they do that without everyone drowning, I wondered? But I was too busy to bother to find out.

Salt Lake City was supposed to have a blizzard yesterday. The National Weather Service published all these dire warnings, telling us visibility would be non-existent, travel impossible, so businesses should close early and everyone should plan on being completely housebound on Wednesday.

The snow was preceded by a big wind. It was nasty, but not so nasty I couldn't go for a really long walk (if I was going to be stuck inside for three days, I wanted to get some exercise and air while I could) and then walk to the grocery store when I realized I'd forgotten to buy garlic and a roasting pan, two things without which you cannot have Thanksgiving dinner.

The storm was supposed to hit SLC around 6 p.m. And sure enough, around 6 p.m., it started to snow. And sure enough, visibility sucked. (Though it was sort of nice to look out from my balcony and not be able to see that hideous scar on the horizon, the Church Office Building, which is extra-super ugly.) But when the snow started, the wind dropped off.

And then, after four or so hours, the snow stopped. The wind never came back. And the devastating blizzard dropped a whole six or so inches of snow. Provo, an hour to the south, didn't get any snow at all.

It's Dry Here, But Not THAT Kind of Dry


The 25th Sundance Film Festival is going on right now, which doesn't make much difference in my life except that I had an INCREDIBLY long wait yesterday when I met someone for tea at the very cool Beehive Tea Room. But it means a lot to Utah, apparently: it brings in a lot of tourism money, and things like that are one reason Utah claimed for a long time to be "recession-proof."

And I'm guessing that this article in the NY Times on Utah's awarding-winning brew pubs is an attempt to help Sundance-attendees and other visitors figure out where to spend their tourist dollars.

The article is telling the truth: there's good beer to be had here--and it has great names like Polygamy Porter and Provo Girl Pilsner. This is one more reason I like Salt Lake City, and one more reason you should come visit me.

Once More Into the Falls


Yeah, selling a house and moving takes a lot of time, but not so much time that if a friend flies into the area, you can't drop everything and head to a nearby natural wonder, particularly if it's something as awesome as Niagara Falls. Having already written about why I dig the falls, I'll simply post these awesome pictures of me and Saviour Onassis on our recent trip to them, without going through all that again.

I Completely Agree with Gorbachev Right Now


One of the weirdest tourist attractions I've ever seen in my life is Lenin's body, and one of the scariest military rituals I've ever witnessed is the changing of the guard at his tomb. It was totally creepy to see these grim young men carrying rifles goose-stepping towards me--it was probably the first thing that gave me any inkling of what it would be like to live under military occupation.

Anyway, after the guard changed, we all got to file through the tomb and see the body. I got in trouble because my coat wasn't closed--the zipper was broken and I couldn't close it--and that upset one of the guards (actually more of a docent kind of dude; as I remember, the ones with the guns were outside the entrance); apparently you have to keep your coat closed so you are less likely to reach inside it and pull out a weapon. I showed the guard/docent that my zipper wouldn't work--which sucked, because it was February in Moscow, and I would have liked to be able to zip up my coat--and I guess he decided a 20-year-old American tourist wasn't that much of a security risk, because he let me trundle past the body with everyone else.

And I remember that I thought it looked waxy and green, and thought the innumerable statues and paintings and so forth EVERYWHERE YOU WENT were enough to let you know what the guy looked like--I certainly can identify him now. I didn't see why you needed to see his actual dead body, which, at the point I saw it, had been dead for sixty years.

One More Way Global Warming Screws Everything Up

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Yesterday I tried to go somewhere--Chicago, to be exact. I have this really great trip planned that includes visiting an old friend I haven't seen in years, going to dinner with a few new friends I haven't seen in months, hanging with Saviour Onassis and his new man, hitting some museums, etc.

But I was denied, and the weather was the problem. Oh, it was lovely where I was and it was lovely in Chicago. The problem was Detroit. And Detroit was not, as you might suspect if you don't live in this part of the globe, hit by a blizzard. No, it was hit by warm weather, and that led to fog.

Greetings from Iowa, Again

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I'm currently in the library of my second favorite alma mater (I only have two), the University of Iowa. I'm here for a conference called NonfictioNow, which I attended two years ago. I can't believe how hip Iowa City has become! The university and the city are clearly awash in money, in ways they just weren't in the 90s. There is lots of new construction and the whole place reeks of affluence (which of course smells much better than poverty). In addition to the Java House, there are other coffee houses everywhere.

I'm not as excited about the conference this year--it hasn't been quite as magical as it was last year, perhaps because the amazing Pico Iyer isn't here there year. Not that it has been bad, by any means.... The first conference just had so much energy, was such a pleasure to attend. I'm enjoying myself and have heard some great panels, but it's not, well, magical like I said. And I am a little freaked out by how much Iowa City has changed. I lived in the most wonderful house when I was here, a marvelous arts and crafts home on the edge of downtown, and while it's still there, three houses on the block have been torn down to make way for a parking lot, and the garden I so lovingly planted is a hideous mess of weeds.

I'm writing this after ditching out on a panel that turned out to be a disappointing and boring account of stuff I already knew. But lunch is coming up, so I will head off for that.

Naked Guys at the Johnson Museum

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A couple weeks ago I took my last trip of the summer: I went to Ithaca, NY, to visit dear friends.

Ithaca, in case you didn't know, is in a singularly beautiful part of the world. It's part of the finger lakes region of New York and has both rolling hills and steep valleys. At the Wegman's in Ithaca you can buy t-shirts proclaiming that it's "gorges." It's worth going just to survey the scenery, but there's also stuff to do. There are state parks, for hiking and swimming and boating. It's the home of the Moosewood Restaurant. The downtown is decent for hanging out. There's also the art gallery at Cornell university: the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Admission is free, and the top floor of the museum (which houses a decent collection of Asian art) is a great place to get a panoramic view of the entire city, including Ithaca's own personal lake (the name of which I forget). But what will really stick with me are the statues of two naked guys that are the first piece of art you encounter when you walk in the door.

They're these life-sized bronze figures arranged to illustrate the name of the sculpture, which is "Conflict." To be frank, it's not an especially remarkable piece of art, but for some (OK, well, a fairly obvious) reason it has become the mascot of the museum, and the coffee cart and pastry case in the lobby of the museum have been dignified by the name of "2 Naked Guys Cafe," because they're only feet away from the naked guys.

The museum sells t-shirts for the cafe, and of course I bought one--I owed a birthday present to a gay man, and what gay man wouldn't want to walk around West Hollywood in a t-shirt like this?


Lots and Lots and Lots of Water


I live near a great lake, and it doesn't do much for me. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a lot of cold, placid water, sitting in one place. I don't find it particularly dramatic or calming to watch; it doesn't soothe or inspire me to be near it. I mean, I don't pitch a fit if someone wants to go stroll along the beach; it's a perfectly nice way to pass the time. But I like strolling in other locations, too. Flat, calm water doesn't speak to my soul like a view of the Catalinas, the craggy, ragged mountains sheltering Tucson to the north, on a crystalline blue day as the shadows shift over the peaks and rocks.

But there's one part of the great lakes system I totally dig, and that's the part where Lake Erie drains into Lake Ontario, or in other words, Niagara Falls.

Itty Bitty Shoes


Long, long ago, when I went to Toronto and saw We Will Rock You with Dale and stayed in the room with the giant blue bathtub, I also visited the Bata Shoe Museum where, I bought these spiffy souvenirs:


The one in the middle is, as you can tell, a key chain pendant. The one on the top is, as you probably can't tell, a hammer: the heel is weighted so you can use it to pound nails, though the friend who visited the museum with me bought one too and said it broke almost as soon as he got it home, when his toddler dropped in on the carpet, so it probably won't work well for hammering nails. The one on the bottom has no function at all; it's just a pretty thing I admired, which, after all, is what Oscar Wilde said is what art really is.


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Travel category.

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