Blog round-up: Friend Spotlight

A necklace for many many friends to share.

If you’re anything like me, you have a long list of blogs or sites you’re following so that you always have something to read on your phone on the bus. Many of my favorites are listed in my blogroll in the sidebar here, and I’ve made specific recs a few times. Here are a few more!

Magpie and Whale: For thoughts on journalism, Chicago, and truly quality linkspams, I always turn to my friend Esther.

I promised everyone I’d dance in the streets if Chicago made it to 50 whole degrees, and holy cats, on Monday we hit 56. So, off I went with my camera in just a sweatshirt and tennis shoes, although rain boots probably would have been a better plan, considering that all our snow and ice is now melting into gigantic pools of standing water, much of which is congregating on sidewalks and at street crossings.

Of course, it’s supposed to dump more snow on us again this week, which makes Chicago Magazine‘s musings about whether the City That Works is too cold to compete with the sunny South particularly apropos. But I assume you’re not here for me to endlessly talk about the weather. (In my hometown, you didn’t start conversations with remarks on the weather, you filled dead air with a comment on the height of the Hocking River.) I could ramble abouttreadmill desks or Amtrak’s actually sort of scummy terms and conditions for their writing residency, but let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?

In the Lyme Light Blog-a-Thon: My old friend Kat is using March to run a blog-a-thon about her life with lyme. Her first post is very heavy stuff (with a trigger warning for discussion of suicide), discussing mortality and the realities of living with chronic illness; heavy and honest. She encourages questions and suggestions for essay topics, so if there’s something you’d like to know, by all means leave her a comment and engage with the topic!

See, after my health stopped me from updating for several years, I’m able to write on it again. I’m revamping the layout and writing regularly, and a great deal. I’m also beyond broke and in debt, hence the blogathon helping from all angles! Here’s how it works, and the three ways you can help out:

Way #1: Comment Here with Questions About Lyme, Being Sick, Etc.
Whether you want to sponsor me out not, comment here with anything you want to know about Lyme, connections, the treatment for them, and how having them had affected my life. Every single one will be answered in an essay in its own post.; I really want to answer the questions you actually HAVE–and enough people have said things that I know they do have questions–so please, do ask,.

This Blog Is Better In Vinyl: Ernie, my fellow Alaskan-kid-who-did-magic-tricks-on-the-Tonight-Show, is currently blogging about teaching in Turkey with characteristic hilarity and depth.

It was so damn quiet. There were three (again, corgi) street dogs. They were slow. They wandered into puddles and got their paws muddy. “Maybe,” Jari said, “maybe there is a brood mother somewhere in these hills.”

“A corgi brood mother.”

“Yeah. Spawning corgis. Or there’s like a corgi dominant gene.”

“They are planning for world domination.”

“The children of the broodmother will consume the whole world.”

I’m doing my best to transcribe this sort of conversation you understand because I want to convey to you how mind-alteringly slow time passes in the village. We sat on rocks next to our packs in the village center, a confluence of three dirt roads, watching dogs walk back and forth and listening to three old men talk about something in another language. When the bus came by the first time, it was going the opposite way, and both of us wanted to get on just for something to do. It was quiet, though, and quiet was pretty nice. We waited for the bus to come back around.

Feeling Elephants: Jessica is not only one of the smartest people I know, but one of the most compassionate, well-informed, and busy people I know. She also tops my list of Friends Most Likely To Be President One Day. Actually, she may be the only person on my list of Friends Most Likely To Be President One Day. Dickinson-Goodman 2026!

Like any good social justice worker, I do my civil rights head count every time I walk into a room or presented with a list of names. (how many women, how many men; how many people of color, how many white people; how many young people, how many older; how many low-income people, how many middle-class, how many wealthy; rinse, repeat).

So when I got an RNC presidential straw poll in my email this morning–because I subscribe to campaign and major candidate emails from both parties–I did my count.

The result was embarrassing: 5 female candidates of 31 options. That’s 16%, a full 3 points lower than the also-mortifying 19% currently serving in Congress.

A place at the table

A midafternoon break somewhere on the Camino: a tomato and cheese bocadillo, cerveza, my credencial, and my trusty walking stick. This photo actually has relatively little to do with this post, but I have almost no photos of actual albergues and I really like this one.

One reason I want to go back and do the Camino again is the albergues.

Albergues, or refugios, are an integral part of the Camino’s infrastructure. They’re roughly equivalent to hostels all over Europe — usually they provide a bed in a dorm, or possibly beds in a private room for a little extra, a shared bathroom, and a place to wash your clothes. Along most of the Camino, a stay at an albergue costs under €10 per night per person; about €8 is pretty typical.

There are a few oddities about the albergues, though, compared to the hostels you may have stayed in elsewhere in Europe. First is the fact that most of them lock their doors at 10 p.m. The logic seems to be that peregrinos need their sleep and by God, they are going to get it whether they want to or not. Locking the doors at 10 discourages peregrinos from over-indulging in the local nightlife (if there is any) and encourages an early bed time. You can, of course, leave the albergue any time you want, which is important because a lot of peregrinos want to start off before sunrise in order to get most of their walking down before the heat of the day around 1 p.m. And you will have to leave the albergue by 8 a.m. the next morning; stays of multiple nights are highly discouraged, unless you have a doctor’s note saying that you need to stay longer. The hospitaler@s have a lot of cleaning to do, and they’ll have a fresh pack of pilgrims at their doorstep in the afternoon, so you need to move on.

Continue reading

Of coffee cups and caprese, of hazelnuts and things

IMAG0377My ugly American moment coming back from Rome (an odyssey that involved a two-hour delay leaving Rome, rebookings in Heathrow, and frantic sprinting through the Vancouver airport to make my connection to Seattle, not to mention middle seats on every flight including being stuck next to a friendly but elbow-happy and beer-swigging (Northern?) Englishman on the transatlantic one–)

Uh, let me start over.

My ugly American moment coming back from Rome came as I tried to navigate Vancouver’s beautiful but confusing airport, and I spotted a Starbucks shop, and inwardly sighed contentedly at the sight. There’s not a single Starbucks in all of Italy — the nearest one is in Cannes, France — and I kind of missed it.

(Somewhere, my sister just shuddered in horror and isn’t sure why.)

I actually really, really enjoyed the cafes in Italy. In Rome, at least, they take their food slowly and their coffee quickly; the etymology of espresso, according to Wikipedia, is linked to the English word “express,” in both the senses of “specific” and “fast.” When you walk into a bar, you order café for a single shot of espresso served in a tiny cup, usually with sugar on the side. You drink your espresso standing up at the bar. Sitting at a table costs an extra €0,40 or so, usually, and the coffeeshop culture doesn’t encourage the sit-down-for-hours-with-your-laptop behavior American coffeeshops do. Sitting and kibbitzing for a while is certainly welcome, though.

Continue reading

Pater noster, mater nostra

ImageI’m practically the definition of a lapsed Catholic. I don’t go to mass, but I feel vaguely guilty about it, especially at Easter; I can’t help doing a Sign of the Cross when I walk into a church, but I haven’t been to confession in years; I have Opinions on the new wording of the mass that are decidedly mixed because come on, “and with your spirit,” but maybe “consubstantial” is a little closer to the original Latin, I don’t know. I’ve thought about writing at greater length about why the Church and I have been “It’s Complicated” on Facebook for some years now — the Church’s attitudes towards women and the LGBTQ community, my skepticism towards any long-entrenched organization, the Church’s scandals — and maybe one day I will, but for now, it’s not necessary to do so. Though the Church and I may not always get along, I still consider myself a spiritual person and more Christian than anything.

So today we went to the Vatican.

Continue reading

All roads lead to Rome . . . eventually. Probably. Hopefully.

The joke in our family is that when things go wrong while you’re traveling, you’re burning off karma. Well, maybe it’s less a joke and more a coping mechanism. It is vaguely comforting to think, when your flight is delayed for half an hour for the third time, or when your train breaks down halfway to its destination, or your luggage is missing, that at least you’re going to get off the reincarnation merry-go-round a little faster for the suffering you’re going through now.

Going through Heathrow yesterday has to have been one of the most miserable (although not the most stressful, thankfully) travel experiences I’ve ever had. If we were burning off karma, we’d better half burned off at least a couple turns on the wheel of reincarnation

Continue reading


Camino memories, and a brief hiatus

Carvings on (I think) the cathedral in Burgos.

Carvings on (I think) the cathedral in Burgos.

Going through my pictures — and through my mom’s very helpful daily accountings of the Camino — reminds me of how many stories I still need to tell. The pensión we stayed at in Cirueña, with the puppet show outside and the Italians sharing our dinner and the completely charming host and hostess who made us dinner, that deserves a post all of its own. (I had a brief but intense flirtation with the idea of giving it all up and moving to Spain to be a hospitalera while we were in Cirueña.) And the saint story of Santo Domingo, and observations on walking, and so forth . . .

For now, though, I have to finish packing for a very different trip to a very different pilgrimage site; I’m off to Rome with la famiglia this afternoon, staying there for about a week. (I remember where my passport was! Go me!) I commented to my dad and sister last night that it’s hard to get out of the Camino packing mindset, but I have made a valiant effort by packing multiple impractical sundresses. I’m also bringing my little slow netbook, so I may be posting some, but don’t count on it.

I’ll be back in the States on September 16, and will resume my reglarly scheduled whimsically irregular blogging then. Ciao!

Buen viaje y buen camino

A fountain in Barcelona by night.

A fountain in Barcelona by night.

One year ago, I left Alaska for points east (Barcelona) and then began trekking back west (Seattle, via New York, via Santiago, via Pamplona).

August 23, 2012


Here being Barcelona! With all the time zone changes, we got here . . . Approx. 36 hours after leaving the house. So since the Camino pilgrimage – and indeed, all pilgrimages – traditionally begins with the first step out your door, I have been on pilgrimage since yesterday.

It is, as Bilbo said, a dangerous business, stepping out your front door, but thus far the worst we’ve had to deal with was non-functioning wifi in Heathrow and the hostel mixing up our reservation such that we have a room with a shared bath rather than a private.

There are a lot of “One year ago I…” moments coming up, and I have hundreds of photos from the Camino that I never posted anywhere, so expect a lot of those, and a lot of nostalgia, in the next month and a half.