Travel

verona3.jpgI did it for you, dear reader. I did it all for you. I did something I vowed I would never do. Not in a million years. But there I was in Verona. City of Romeo and Juliet. City of beauty. And after seeing so many beautiful things, one does get a bit peckish. And all the guidebooks recommended the same thing: horse. It’s a specialty of the area. So when Jim and I found ourselves at the local restaurant perusing the menu, there it was, staring us in the face: smoked horse with arugala salad. There was also pasta with a donkey ragú on the menu like it was the most normal thing in the world to eat these equines. “ I guess we had better try it,” said Jim. “Really?” “Yeah. How bad can it be?” He said nonchalantly. I could sense a challenge. “OK, go ahead order it.” “Ok, I will,” he countered, adding, “and we’ll share it.” I took a large gulp of my prosecco and waited anxiously for the dish to arrive.

It’s not as though I am vegetarian or even a vegan. It’s not as though I grew up riding horses through the British countryside or fox hunting, thank God. But I suppose the prospect of eating horse is like eating dog. i.e. eating a pet. Although to be honest I’m not much of a dog person either. I prefer cats. And thankfully no one ever talks about eating cats. OK, maybe in Asia But nonetheless horses and dogs are our friends: we feed them, we take care of them and there is something about turning around, killing them and eating them that seems rather upsetting. A ‘Charlotte’s Web’ syndrome, if you will.

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burmatempleI'm just back from Myanmar and it is a jeweled kaleidoscope. Aung San Suu Kyi has finally been released from house arrest to accept her Nobel peace prize. The repressive Myanmar government has begun to open the doors and this corner of the wiggly third world is trying to hoist itself into the twenty first century.

I had timed my arrival for a full moon Buddha night and as soon as I had settled into the hotel I headed straight to the mother of all temples, the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. I'm sure someone said it first, but its true that some metaphors just can't be improved upon. Time really IS like a river, and life is like a dream.

On this particular night the moon was a golden orange in the sky. I had a gentle rain to set the mood as I climbed the staircase to the temple with the monks in saffron robes. I got that familiar little rush of anticipation as I entered the magical world of spirits and wishes and prayers. There were candles and chanting and bells to ring and the aroma of incense perfumed the air.

It’s funny that a kid from the suburbs should feel most at home in the temples of Asia, but it’s true for me. The rain washed my sins away and left me feeling immaculate. I lingered a long time in the temple and all its little golden niches, savoring the heady atmosphere. I descended the stairway behind a group of monks in the amber light and stopped at the bottom for a coconut on my way home.

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morongo-2.jpgLast weekend I did one of those things that’s really not fair to do to your boyfriend. I told him I wanted to do something extra fun and that I wanted him to plan it. I do this to him a lot and we often end up happily watching a movie and eating take-out instead, so I didn’t think anything of it when I canceled on him last-minute. He waited until I got home from dinner to tell me that he had actually come up with a plan, “What is it??” “It’s no big deal.” “What is it??” “We can do it another night.” “What is it?!” So he told me that he was going to ask me if I didn’t mind not sleeping at either of our houses.  Where would we have slept?…A fancy hotel in Santa Barbara? …His parents’ beach house in Ventura? …Paris??,

“Morongo Casino.” Morongo Casino???? Was he serious? That wasn’t romantic! But he told me that he was going to take me to the fancy restaurant on the top floor and that he’d show me the rooms online and even I’d think they were pretty nice. And when he brought it up again at breakfast the next day, I could see that he really wanted to go and maybe I should just suck it up and go. And anyway, we could stop at Hadley’s for date shakes on the way back.  And he thought maybe I could wear that green dress I wore the night we met because it was lucky. And where else would he fit in with that ridiculous moustache he’d recently grown?

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sushi_sm.jpg

Hey, it’s raw. But that doesn’t make it simple.

It’s a commonplace that sushi is a culinary style that comes very close to offering food in it’s natural state. So we expect it to be ridiculously fresh, clean and manipulated only for presentation.

There’s a new-ish sushi place here in Portland, its tiny space appropriately described by many as a jewel. Portland Maine you say? Japanese cuisine in Maine? Then you don’t know just how much of what starts out here in Maine ends up Tokyo’s Tsukiji market – the greatest fish market in the world and a mecca for sushi chefs and other seafood nuts. Ah, but I digress… 

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mexican-bus.jpg The woman at the desk has never heard of that bus station before. It's on East 7th and Shady Lane, in the shady part of town.

I arrive at ten o'clock. The woman at the counter tells me the 10:15 ticket I bought online doesn't take me where I'm trying to get.

So she puts me on the 9:30. Which doesn't show up until 10:45.

This was the second leg of a mythic bus ride. I'd scheduled this route in January 2007. I was going to fly from New York to Austin. Bus from Austin to Monterrey. Monterrey to Central Mexico. My flight was canceled because Austin was frozen.

I gave myself a high-five for following through, three years later. I took a sip of water.

Earlier, hotel security accused me of shoplifting. I had elaborately stolen a bottle of water, M&M cookies, and a package of Fig Newtons. Then the mook realized the hotel didn't sell those products.

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