Monday, June 30, 2008

Altitude and Attitude

Today we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park after spending a wonderful night with a friend and her various family and visiting friends in Fort Collins, Colorado. We had a great time, but we did not anticipate it taking 5 hours to drive through grueling and altitudinous Rocky Mountain National Park. Now, don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous, and there are lots of cool animals, great views, and spectacular cliffs, but does it really have to be that high? Both the gf and I got sick or faint-y, so we took it slow, drank lots of water, took pee breaks, and finally made it to the 12,183 ft mark in the park. It was cold up there. On the way down, we saw a bighorn sheep, a moose or two, some caribou, and pretty birds. We also saw lots and lots of trees (but we kept our sights on the forest, ha ha).

Originally, our plan was to make it to Fillmore, Utah, but that fell through when we realized how late it was and that we had over 400 miles to drive and it was not going to happen. We did, however, have a great drive through canyons and over the Colorado River many times. After eating, I came out of my hissy fit and woke up a little. That helped all around.

By the way: do we really need signs denoting the same river each bridge you encounter? Can't you figure out that the massive river you passed 10 miles back is the same massive river? Silly local governments wasting our hard-earned tax monies. (Now I sound like a Republican.)

Ok, a few more pictures, and I'll write more tomorrow or whenever I can. Farewell.

I'm All Over the Place!

Here's us driving past Mount Rushmore. That's half of Teddy Roosevelt. Not his best picture, I'd say.

Here's me by Washington's profile.

Here's me in the Badlands.

Here, I'm at Pactola Lake in the Black Hills.

And here is some animal's butt in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Badlands and Black Hills

Today we "hiked" through the Badlands on Castle Trail, which was a glorified walk in truth. I was tired afterwards only because I had previously been sitting for at least 14 hours a day. Then, I slept for the rest of the time. Thus, the toughness. Anyway, it was pretty, and we took pictures, but then we got bored and ignored the rest of the 5-mile trail to go to the Black Hills.

On our way to the Black Hills, we took the driving tour of the rest of the Badlands, called the Badlands Loop. On that, we drove down a super dusty dirt road for 25 miles, covering everything inside and out in a fine, red dirt. The upside though was that we got some great views and we saw bison!! They are HUGE, so that was cool.

After that, the combination of too much sun, too little food, and dirt got the best of us, and my better half and I didn't really have many nice things to say to each other. I was pissier, so it's really my fault - but I really hate being dirty.

Beyond that, we saw some beautiful views of the Black Hills. Sadly, the camera had run out of batteries by early on in the park, so we neglected to get pictures of Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, or Jewel Cave. However, we will be taking a loop back through the forest tomorrow and I will be putting the camera to work overtime.

We braved the mass of mosquitos to get the camera charger tonight, so now it is charging, and we will have cool pictures to show tomorrow.

Currently, blogger is sucking and will not let me upload pictures to this post, so I'll make more pictures available tomorrow if I can. If not, I'll put everything up on Facebook when I get a chance. Hang in there, peeps!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to the Badlands

So quick post before I go to bed, exhausted and having killed about 7,000 mosquitos with the bottom of my flip flop.

Yesterday, we took a tour of Cleveland, which was neat, and we saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Clinic (which is HUGE), and Lake Erie. Of course, before that, we enjoyed watching the open skate at the Cleveland Heights Rec Center. The gf's friend taught a skating lesson there to some girl, which was fun to watch and presumably fun for him to do as well.

After Cleveland, we headed for Chicago, getting there during rush hour. But, we made it, and we had a lovely time with my friend C in Chicago. We had dinner, talked, caught up, and exchanged stories of people from college and what they were doing now.

Since C goes to work at 6:40 in the morning, my better half and I left Chicago then also. We originally were going to head to St. Paul to stay with a friend, but for various reasons, that fell through. It worked out for the better, though, since because of our early start this morning, we made it all the way to the BEAUTIFUL Badlands of South Dakota after a great dinner and wonderful day of driving. We drove through one time zone into the next in 26 hours, so about 900 miles of driving tonight.

The Badlands are amazing. Whomever told me there was nothing to see in South Dakota, mainly my brother, who has never been, was dead wrong. This park is gorgeous, adn after some hiking, we're goingt o check out the Black Hills as well, which I'm sure will be just as beautiful. I also enjoyed the drive through the state tremendously. It's beautiful and vastly different from anything I've ever seen before. Wide open, green, and you can see thunderstorms coming from 50 miles away. Amazing. I'm telling you: go.

Pictures tomorrow, I promise. I can't open my door right now because we'd be invaded by mosquitos. For reals. Ta ta.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cleveland... Rocks?

Hey all, and welcome to blog post number one from my trip across the country! I will include pictures when I have more than... three.

We woke up this morning at 7AM, though I was anxious and excited all night and the night before last as well. We finished packing, and then I took a look in the garage and was appalled to find more stuff I had forgotten. After deciding I could say no to approximately eight books from college, I took the West Side Story and Lord of the Rings DVDs out of the heretofore forgotten box and left my parents in tears. Fortunately, I got a chance to see them again because, in normal Danielle fashion, I left my bike in the garage at home. We went back and got it, which was after my parents finished crying, and set off again with the bike securely fashioned to the back of the crap-filled vehicle.

I took a few minutes for a cryfest and headed to my sister's house before departing for Ohio. She had made us pancakes, so we ate breakfast there and chatted about Lance Armstrong and Kate Hudson (who "has more mileage than the New Jersey Turnpike" - I hope she doesn't read my blog), among other things. When it was time to leave, my nephew Christopher decided he was going to throw a hissy, so it broke up the sadness of the moment and it was a not tearful goodbye. That was a break, I must confess.

Anyway, after that, we hit the road - hard, just like I hit all roads - and we set off through Pennsylvania and the land of many state forests to the greater Cleveland area, the land of fortified CVS drugstores. My better half's friend, with whom we are staying tonight, lives near Shaker Village, where the Shakers lived before, you know, they died from not reproducing. Silly religious cult. Anyway, when I got out of the car, I did the obligatory shake, which the Shakers did not do enough of, I can assure you, and then we settled in for a delicious dinner of pasta with pancetta and an egg-cheese mixture in addition to zucchini, red peppers, onions, cheddar cheese, and breadcrumbs. Delicious.

Anyway, I'm wiped after 8 hours of driving, but I have good news before I go: gas IS cheaper when you head away from the New York metropolitan area! Take that, New Yorkers!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Belated Blog Post

My apologies, dear reader, for I have been lax with the posting of the blog. (Somehow that just reminded me of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, when the Jewish producers say they like Dewey because of the “shaking of the tookus”… however one spells that in Yiddish.) In any case, I’m sorry.

I’m listening to This American Life, and they’re doing a thing on the Ten Commandments. My favorite quote: “The first thing [Evangelist sex books] always tell you is that sex is a beautiful gift from God, even though it’s a gift they don’t want you to touch or even think about because you’re just going to ruin it with your filthy paws. Any physical pleasure, even pleasure you give yourself, while alone, is completely forbidden.”

Now, if that isn’t a reason to abandon evangelical Christianity, then I don’t know what is. I mean, come on. “Guarding your heart against lust.” I think the idea that there exists love without lust is crazy – unless it means familial love. Lust while one is in love is the best kind there is; depriving yourself of that is dumb.

In other news, I just sat at the Port Authority for over 45 minutes waiting to get on a bus to come back to Jackson. Basically, fewer and fewer people are driving into the city because of gas prices, so more and more people are taking public transportation. Great, unless you’re a commuter, such as I am myself. If you are unfortunate enough to make those frequent trips, it means longer lines and, thus, a longer commute. It sucks. I wish these people didn’t own massive SUVs – then maybe they could afford the gas to go back to their normal lives of spending too much money on parking and too much time sitting in super frustrating traffic.

Ok, happy thoughts. My girlfriend and I have finally figured out our official route to Los Angeles. Since originally her mom’s criticism of the trip was that we were not taking enough time, we’ve been thinking about how we can lengthen it. It doesn’t seem like I’ll get to leave work early – what ever will we do? Well, as it always seems to go, stuff started working in my favor to solve this problem. The wedding invitation said Danielle and Guest, which means the gf was invited. Thus, instead of driving to LA and then having me drive up to Santa Cruz for this wedding by myself, we are going to stop in Santa Cruz on our way out to California, do the wedding, and then go to Los Angeles afterwards. A brilliant plan – I’m dating such a smarty. This way, we’ll be driving through Yosemite, the Badlands… all the lovely natural wonders between here and California.

Ok, that ends the post I wrote last week. Now for this week:

I’m reading a book I should have read in college called Welfare’s End by Gwendolyn Mink, daughter of Patsy Takemoto Mink. She’s a professor at UC Santa Cruz, and she’s making me want to go to history grad school and do contemporary feminism. Anyway, it basically advances the idea that welfare “reform,” which really means the dismantling of welfare, is an attack on poor women of color. Hmm… any ties to reproductive rights? Think they’re going after Jenna Bush’s freedom of choice? Nope. It’s really the poor women of color who will suffer if Roe v. Wade is overturned – not rich white people. Anyway, it’s poor women of color who really need their morals guarded by others – they just can’t take care of themselves! Thank goodness those right-wingers are looking after those who need it the most. Take away their welfare, their access to reproductive health, and make them slaves again.

Now, I’m thinking about ballot initiatives because we talked about it at work, and it occurs to me that the one reason this Colorado fetal personhood amendment will never pass is because it is a direct assault not just on poor women, but rich people. As a staff member pointed out today, granting personhood with constitutional rights to a fetus would basically eliminate in vitro fertilization methods and fertility treatments. It also endangers birth control, which affects all women, not just poor ones. It will fail because it pisses off all women, not just the ones who a) aren’t heard by the media or b) are too busy working their butts off to vote.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Making a Statement, But Not One of Fashion

Yesterday evening, as I began my daily sprint for the Port Authority Bus Terminal at the end of a long day at work, I noticed something that had not previously dawned on me.

In New York City, 5PM means the end of daylight, especially in Midtown. The buildings that surround you completely obscure the dwindling sunlight, and even though the sun does not officially set until 8PM or so, it begins to grow gray. Thus, it would be somewhat inappropriate to wear sunglasses outside.

Almost every man on the street will have his sunglasses either in his shirt, tucked away in a case, or on his head just in case a sudden flash of light should render them useful once more before nightfall. Strangely enough, however, nearly 80% of the women defiantly wore their sunglasses.

Perhaps these women are optimists and love summer so much that they feel the need to wear sunglasses even at dusk. Or, maybe they are channeling Sex and the City and are showing their style with their sweet shades. I think, though, that there is yet another reason to risk falling in a pothole due to decreased visibility: security.

The summer months have to be the most trying for a member of the female, or as Simone de Beauvoir once elegantly put it, second, sex. Our clothes are by convention lighter, more transparent, tighter, and overall less covering. Sadly, this seems to mean it is open season for those of the opposite sex to gawk, whistle, or cat call any woman they deem attractive. In the winter, when this occurs, one may cast a disapproving glance in a man's direction or look down to show embarrassment at this complete violation of decency, but generally, one is caught in the awkward position of having to face someone who does it.

That is, until it gets to be springtime and warm enough to justify sporting the glasses. Sunglasses let us off the hook. Now, since it is almost inevitable for some jerk to stare at you or whistle rudely as you walk past, sunglasses create a barrier there that protects object of the gawk from the gawker. One may roll one's eyes without retaliation, or pretend not to hear it, and look sweet in the process. Women are so much more confident with their sunglasses on, especially those that cover nearly the entire face of the wearer. Amazing.

This is the sad state of the world, though. Women must put these barriers between them and the rest of the world in order to feel secure in their own bodies. Even on the subway, if one has the opportunity to justify wearing sunglasses for the entirety of the underground ride (because part of the route is above ground), it is taken with relish. It's the iPod for the eyes, another chance to avoid human interaction, and therefore, objectification.

When it comes to sunglasses, I must admit that I have come a long way from my earlier days of constant wear. When I was in high school, I wore the largest, bug-like sports sunglasses one could imagine. For my tiny head, they were always too massive, and not only did they obscure my eyes from everyone, they even reflected back the image before me. Thus, if someone were to stare into my sporty shades, they would only catch a glimpse of themselves, perfectly distorted like a fat mirror. Since them, I have grown a little more confident and can go with the simple brown matte glasses, unmirrored. Still, sometimes I miss the anonymity of my Oakleys, so I bought all of the various lenses so that I can use them to bike in almost any imaginable light.

Anyway, I guess the statement women make by wearing glasses at night is this: keep off and keep your thoughts to yourself. Not only do we not care, but we are too cool to give you the benefit of seeing that you made us look at you. Defiance is, after all, always in style.