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Tag Archives: bucket list

30 Before 30: Go to a Live Taping

24 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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I’ve been wanting to do this for years! But it’s not as easy to score tickets to these shows as one might think. The tickets themselves are free and are often snatched up by tourists. Over the years, I’ve tried to get tickets to the Tonight Show, to the Daily Show, to the Colbert Report, and of course, to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. All to no avail. It seemed such a fruitless endeavor that I kind of gave up.

As far as television goes, other than the occasional Netflix binge (currently obsessed with “Jane the Virgin”), the only shows I watch on a weekly basis are “Walking Dead” and “Last Week Tonight.” But I recently added a third show to my weekly, lazy tv time: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

I was interested by the first late night show hosted by a woman. (Really? It took till 2016 for that to happen?) But I already had my hands full with number-one-love-of-my-life-John-Oliver. I wasn’t looking for any more political satire in my life. Go women and all, but do we really need another one of these shows?

Yes, yes we do. While she tackles major issues like the presidential election and the Syrian refugee crisis, she doesn’t shy away from dedicating major chunks of her show to women’s issues. Abortion laws, fraudulent pregnancy centers, unprocessed rape kits. She makes my feminist heart pitter-patter.

So I added my name to a list of hopefuls for tickets to the show, not expecting to ever get a call. But a couple weeks later, on a Monday morning, I got a phone call from someone who works for the show. They had a bunch of cancellations and had tickets available. I dragged my friend Lauren with me, and we went to the live-taping.

It was quite unglamorous, although I didn’t expect it to be much. We sat in a holding room with about a hundred other people, until we were ushered into the studio. After 30 minutes or so, Samantha Bee came out to greet everyone and answer a couple of questions. She also introduced some personal friends she had in the audience including her father and her gynecologist. Of course she would invite her gynecologist. Of course she would.

Once the show got underway, it was a bit odd, to be cued on when to clap, and to watch most of the pre-recorded show off a screen. But I was starstruck to be in the same room as that tiny, feminist bastion of hope in her signature blazer and high heels. In between taping and setting up for the next segment, a DJ played “Bad Girls” by MIA, as Samantha Bee danced around while assistants fixed her hair. What. A. Boss.

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30 Before 30: Visit One World Observatory

19 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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Manhattan from so far above

On a clear and sunny day, my friend Zach and I trekked downtown to visit the One World Observatory at the top of the Freedom Tower. My obligatory tourist indulgence in a city overflowing with them. At this point, I’ve done Top of the Rock, top of the Empire State Building. So I knew at the very least, I’d get some great views. The whole thing was so orchestrated; though, it ended up feeling surreal.

After going through airport-level security, everyone was shoved into elevators that as they rose to the top floor, displayed on screens a 360-view of Manhattan developing over the centuries. From when it was home to Native Americans, to the first Dutch traders, to the Industrial Revolution, and present day. It was the most interesting part of the visit, but it went by so fast, and everyone in the elevator expressed varying degrees of nausea.

Upon exiting the elevator, we were ushered into a theatre, showing “street scenes” of New York, the kind of imagery constantly fed to people who aren’t from here. Women in high heels catching taxis, smoky hot dog stands, the rumble of a subway train. It’s a little less exciting and hypnotizing when it’s just an expression of your day-to-day. At the end of the movie, the wall lifted to reveal a floor to ceiling window, showing off Manhattan. All the tourists gasped and then clapped before we were ushered into a room where they tried to sell us interactive iPads to carry around. Then we were taken through a gift shop. Then we were forced to take a picture which Zach ended up convincing me to buy, because he’s a sentimentalist, even though I wasn’t ready and look like a goon.

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The green screen photo I CLEARLY wasn’t ready for, but Zach somehow was.

Finally we got to the floor with the views. My phone promptly died after one picture, but it felt better that way. Instead of worrying about the perfect picture, we took our time wandering around, admiring the city from every bird’s eye angle we could find. Once we felt like we had absorbed most of it, we left, caught a cab, giving the driver an address on the West Side highway.

“Oh, you go to the bar!” Our Island cabdriver said.
“You clearly know us.”
“I should park my cab and join you,” he said.
“I’d buy you a drink, man!” Zach told him as we all laughed.

At the Frying Pan, a bar on a pier, we drank cold Pale Ales and ate sandwiches. We laughed about the morning and chatted about innumerable things, the kind of conversation only possible between two people who have known each other 12+ years. Once it got too breezy, we wandered through Chelsea and stumbled upon another dive bar we like, and we grabbed one more beer to cap the day.

THAT’s New York to me. THAT’s the thing they will never be able to appropriately sell to the hordes of tourists. It’s a city full of lovely, kind people, chance encounters, wanderings that usually result in something memorable and familiar. It was great to take in the city from above, but it’s so much better to be living right down in it.

30 Before 30: Compete in a Crossword Competition

27 Apr

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 30 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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At the finals of the 2016 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the three best cruciverbalists were readying themselves on the stage in front of their giant crossword boards, their ears covered with sound-canceling headphones. The two announcers (one a puzzle constructor, the other a Connecticut sports radio personality) discussed crosswords.

“So what does it take to become good at crosswords? What makes someone enjoy them enough to come here and compete?” The sports radio personality asked.
“Two things. It takes a desire to acquire and retain a great deal of knowledge. And it takes a passionate love for language and words.”

I sat in the crowd (SPOILER! I wasn’t a finalist) and nodded in agreement. I think those are two of the biggest things that define me. An unending need to learn more and an obsession with the beauty of language and how we communicate with one another. As I told friends, co-workers, and family that I was competing in the competition, they all responded with a resounding “NERD.” So be it. Perhaps I am. But it was a special experience to spend the weekend with others who are as wordy nerdy as me.

I took the Metro North train from Grand Central up to Connecticut, and as I walked to the hotel where the competition was held, I started to see people wearing crossword shoes, scarves, dresses. In the lobby of the hotel were stacks of xeroxed copies of the crosswords that had come out that morning in various publications. Everyone was scattered around, chatting about the puzzles, discussing different themes and puns.

Since I didn’t know anyone, I headed into the ballroom and settled at my seat. As other contestants filtered in, I made friends with two of the ladies sitting near me. A retired science teacher from Long Island and a retired Internist from Michigan. They talked to me about past years’ competitions, their favorite crossword blogs (that’s a thing!), and pointed out to me some of the crossword “celebrities.”

“Oh, I just feel so star struck when I come here,” my friendly neighbor said as she pointed out her favorite blogger.

The competition consisted of 7 different puzzles. 6 on Saturday, and the final, large puzzle on Sunday morning. Top scorers then got to compete on an eighth puzzle, Sunday afternoon. My friends (despite relentlessly teasing me for being a nerd) had also encouraged me and almost convinced me that I could win the whole thing. But as soon as time was up on the first puzzle, I realized it wouldn’t be the case. Points are rewarded based on correct answers, finishing the puzzle early, and a bonus for a completely correct puzzle. I decided to take my time and make sure my answers were right. This led to me only being able to finish one puzzle. And it hurt my pride to see so many of the people around me raising their hands and finishing when I hadn’t even gotten around to all of the clues. I’m also used to doing the puzzles on my computer and had to adjust to doing it on paper. I kept losing my place, looking at downs when I was trying to fill in acrosses. Classic rookie mistake.

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The one puzzle I finished: #6.

I didn’t get to stay for the Saturday night festivities, since I had to cat sit in Manhattan, and it was my friend’s 50th birthday party in Chelsea. And I was sad to run out when the “party” was just getting started.

Sunday morning, I dragged myself back to Connecticut, feeling a bit down that my ranking was 542 out of 576. I didn’t think I’d do THAT bad. Puzzle 7 was Sunday-style, meaning it was much larger, and I learned from the previous day’s mistakes and worked through it a lot faster. At the end of the day, I bumped my rank to 536 out of 576 which made me feel a little bit better about myself. After the puzzles were done, there was a talent show dubbed “Crossworders Got Talent,” and it featured song covers about crosswords, spoken word, comedy. It was incredible and weird.

THEN, the finals. If you think that watching other people finish crossword puzzles isn’t fun, you’re wrong. You’re dead wrong. There were three final rounds, with the top three finalists in three different division. What I thought was interesting is that all three divisions had the same answers, just different levels of clues. For instance, a division C clue was “Dots on i’s and j’s,” the answer is Tittle. Difficult, and a term I’ve never heard before. The clue for division A? “A trio in Beijing.” Get it? Because there are three tittles in Beijing?! That’s one I would never have gotten…in either division, honestly.

So the finals were Division C, then Division B, then Division A (the big guns). Everyone in the crowd had the clues in front of them, and by the time Division A got up, we all knew the answers. In the center of the Division A was a man who has gotten first place in the tournament for the last 6 years. If he won this year, he would have the longest winning streak in ACPT history! And he had a 8 second head-start, since he had scored higher on the puzzles. Everyone was sure he was going to win. Then, the second place contestant started to pull ahead. A gasp stirred through the crowd as everyone realized, he was almost done, that he might just dethrone the champ. Then he filled in the final answer, turned around yelling, “Done!” The crowd exploded! He had won!

Okay, maybe it was a “you had to be there” moment, but I had a blast. Not just watching the finals, but the whole competition. I met smart, kind, interesting people. And despite my poor showing, I learned so much about crosswords and improved a lot. I now find myself actually finishing Fridays and Saturdays, which I had never been able to do before. I learned some lessons in solving, and I’ll be back. I have to go back. I have to somehow make my way to that Division A stage.

I took the train home, exhausted from my hectic weekend. I changed into my pajamas and crawled into bed. I took a long deep breath and sat there for a moment before I reached into the backpack sitting at the side of my bed, pulled out some of the xeroxed puzzles I had collected and started working on them until my eyelids were so heavy, I feel asleep pen in hand, puzzles spread out on my comforter.

30 Before 30: Watch “The African Queen”

30 Dec

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 30 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

This is the first Christmas I have ever spent in New York City. I don’t have family here, so I instead spent the day with a couple of friends. In the afternoon we went to the IFC center to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It felt like a very New York City Christmas-y thing to do, and I had only seen the movie once before, so watching it again felt new to me.

Overall, it was great. But I had one major hang-up that bothered me. The whole montage of what the world was like without George Bailey in it. Sad, horrible things. His brother is dead. His uncle is in an insane asylum. Some of his friends are homeless. But the climax of this scene is what happened to his wife, Mary, if he had never been born. She NEVER MARRIED. Tragically, she ended up a librarian instead. This is the worst fate. Worse than the dead, the insane, the destitute. God forbid a woman not marry.

I tried to enjoy the rest of the movie, but I sat stewing over Mary’s fate. Maybe she was happier not being married! She could have married Sam if she wanted to! Maybe she LOVES her library job! She’s only in her early 30’s, that does not an old maid make! These thoughts sat with me for the rest of the weekend. I understand the movie was made in a different time for women, but it wasn’t that long ago.

So Sunday night, I watched “The African Queen.” The story of a missionary (Katherine Hepburn) in Africa in the early 1900’s. The German army burns down the village where she is living whilst her preacher brother dies. She has no choice but to join up with a riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) to head down the river to another life. Obviously they fall in love, and what a romantic little boat ride they have. Leeches, mosquitoes, rainstorms. Somehow it is romantic though. And Hepburn’s character discovers the strength and the bravado inside herself. She comes up with a plan to navigate the boat through white water rapids, build homemade torpedoes, and ram them into a German ship in an effort to exact some revenge. She’s a fucking badass.

I loved the romance that evolves. I loved the odd couple that Hepburn and Bogart make. I loved that old-movie, quick-talking dialogue. But I kept thinking about poor old maid Mary from the “It’s a Wonderful Life” alternate universe. That Mary would have been in her mid-30s. The Hepburn character was in her mid-40s. It gave me comfort to know that old maid Mary wasn’t done for. She could still end up in Africa. She could still find love in Humphrey Bogart. And let’s face it. As much as we all love Jimmy Stewart, Bogart would be so much more fun to date and obviously be better in bed. I love Katherine Hepburn. I love how stubborn and strong and confident she played her characters. I love that during a dark time for women, she existed and she fought to play these kind of women. She was a fucking badass.

30 Before 30: Read “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

23 Dec

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In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

I read this book in the span of a day. It’s not a long book, and the prose is quick and simple. It’s also a story that pulls the reader in. It documents the year of her life after her husband John died. He had a heart attack in front of her, and, as she puts it, in an ordinary moment her life changed.

I’m still processing how I feel about the book. It’s different from most anything I’ve ever read. Death and loss are not new topics. I think the difference with Didion is that she doesn’t try to pull at your heartstrings. She doesn’t conjure up lost memories of her husband and her at their happiest. Their first kiss. Sweet things he did for her. None of that is there. It is simply the story of her mind coping with the grief.

Reading her analyze her mind and notice her thought patterns in the year after she lost her husband pulls the reader closer to understanding how it feels to lose a life partner. At one point, I took a break from reading it and looked at the simple layout of the cover. Only four letters in a different color than the rest. My eyes scanned from the J to the O to the H to the N. John. Her ex-husband. I give that cover designer enormous credit for putting together such an understated cover that describes the essence of the book. The shadow Didion’s husband cast over her life, especially in the year after he died, was unavoidable and seeped into her mind in curious ways.

Her writing is so straight-forward and without embellishment that I was surprised by how much her love for him resonated. In interviews, she has said that she thought the book turned into a love story instead of a story about grief. And I agree. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Your heart will break alongside hers. But it is beautiful, and it is important, and I learned so much from it.

“We are not idealized wild things.

We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. And as we will one day not be at all.”

 

30 Before 30: Ride a Mechanical Bull

8 Dec

IMG_3103In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Every year my alumni group along with the other alumni groups in the Pac-12 athletic conference rent out a bar in Rockefeller Center across the street from the Christmas tree lighting. We get special tickets that get us past the police barricades and our own special stretch of sidewalk to see the lights of the tree go from off to on. This is my fourth year going and for the last two I’ve stayed in the bar when the tree lights up. It is kind of anticlimactic.

You know what’s also anticlimactic? Mechanical bulls. The bar we rent out is called Johnny Utah’s and, as far as I know, is the only bar in the city that has a mechanical bull. After I had enough Bud Lights in me, and I saw my friend Josh do it, I finally decided to give it a go.

The first time I attempted to ride a mechanical bull was actually eight years ago when I lived in Seattle. I went to a Seahawks preseason game and afterwards went to a dive bar with my friends. They wanted me to ride the mechanical bull they had there, but I kept saying I wasn’t drunk enough. So they bought be shots and beers until I decided I had enough liquid courage to go. As I stood in line with my friend Jess, the room started to spin, and I felt ill. I left the line to ride and told my friends I was TOO drunk to ride it. Needless to say, they were disappointed.

Back to my successful ride last Wednesday, I think my face says it all. I was nervous about getting whiplash or hurting myself (injury-prone lady that I am), so I told them to go easy on me. Alas, I under-estimated myself. I’ve ridden horses through the desert of New Mexico, up steep cliff sides in the south of Spain, along the glaciers of Iceland. This was nothing.  I felt a bit bored and uncomfortable that everyone was watching me. Bull riding also has this weird connotation of being a sexual display which made me feel icky. So after a minute or two, I let myself slip along the side and fall to the mat. Maybe I’d do it again, but I definitely wouldn’t tell them to go easy on me. My inner cowgirl is too strong for that.

30 Before 30

29 Sep
Don't entirely remember this picture from our bday celebration.

Don’t entirely remember this picture from our bday celebration.

It’s a bit unnerving to see the number 30 as the title of this post and looming ahead of me. But I remember being 26 and talking to my amazing co-worker, Kristina, when she was turning 30. She told me how excited and happy she was about life, her career, and dating. She told me that at that age, she knew what she wanted out of life and had a confidence to go after it that made things so much easier. But me, at that timid, mid-twenties age, I doubted what she told me and looked at my future with anxiety and fear.

But she was so right. And I leave 28 for 29 feeling the happiest and most secure of my life. This last year brought a lot of things that have done wonders for me. I got serious about kickboxing; I buckled down about school and finished my tech degree; I started listening to podcasts by Tara Brach about Buddhism. I went on adventures big and small. From riding horses through the New Mexican desert to stand-up paddle boarding in Maine to learning the Lindy Hop in Lincoln Center. I had an awesome year, and I see no reason why the next one won’t likewise be fantastic. I managed 10 last year, so here’s hoping I can expand that a bit.

THE STANDARDS

  1. Visit a new state 15 down, 35 to go.
  2. Visit a new country 12 down, 183 to go.
  3. Visit a new baseball stadium 7 down, 23 to go.
  4. Read “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion I have writerly friends who worship at the feet of Didion, yet I haven’t read a single book by her.
  5. Watch “The African Queen” I’ve added watching a classic movie to the standards.
  6. Make an Indian meal I order in Indian food quite a bit, and one of the new receptionists at work (who is Indian) likes to tease me that it’s a waste of money, and I could make it just as good at home. Challenge accepted.
  7. Eat a Ramen Burger There’s a place in NYC that serves a burger between two grilled ramen noodle loaves. I’m in.
  8. Visit One World Observatory 

THE LEFTOVERS

  1. Take a Sailing Lesson
  2. Go Scuba Diving I WILL NOT GIVE UP ON THIS.
  3. Go to a Gun Range
  4. Do a Juice Cleanse
  5. Visit a Whiskey Distillery
  6. Go to a Live Taping
  7. Ride a Mechanical Bull
  8. Take a trapeze class
  9. Go to a Monster Truck Show
  10. Sing at Live Band Karaoke I went on a first date a couple of months ago to a live band, rock and roll karaoke. It was amazing, and I regret not getting up and doing it. No chemistry with the guy. But SO MUCH chemistry with Arlene’s Grocery. Proof that dating can be rewarding.
  11. Go Sky Diving
  12. Learn to Play the Ukulele 
  13. Do a Knitting Donation Project

THE NEW CLASS

  1. Go Cross Country Skiing It sounds so New England to me.
  2. Compete in a Crossword Competition I am a nerd. I do the New York Times crossword every day and time myself. I think I’m ready to take my skills on the road.
  3. Take a Flamenco Dance lesson The fan! The little finger things! The stomping!
  4. Go Windsurfing When I was in Canada, I saw a couple of windsurfers on Georgian Bay. It looks terrifying and kind of cool.
  5. Get my aura photographed Sounds like bullshit, but I’m a sucker for these things.
  6. Go on a Ghost Tour I recently signed up for the New York Obscura Society, and they often have graveyard events.
  7. Go parasailing I can’t believe I’ve made it this far into my life without doing this!
  8. Run a 5K My boyfriend is deferring his NYC marathon eligibility to next year and wants me to train with him. But I don’t run. I hate running. I only run when I’m being chased. But he has convinced me that there are some fun 5Ks out there, and he seems to believe I am capable.
  9. Do an Escape the Room There are so many different kinds of these in New York. Ones with zombies. Ones for groups. Ones for couples. Basically they lock you in a room for an hour or two with a variety of puzzles that leads to the key to get out. I love puzzles! See #23 for proof.

29 Before 29: Go Whale Watching

11 Jul

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List HereAll Bucket List Adventures Here.

The SeaWolf II

The SeaWolf II

After the festivities of my friend’s wedding in Monterey, I was lucky enough to stay in California an extra couple of days to have a mini-vacation. My mother was able to drive down from Reno to join me for  West coast Mexican food, the world famous aquarium, and the dramatic events that occurred after I left my wallet on the roof of my car at a gas station and drove away. But let’s not dwell on my poor wallet, which I found in the middle of the road an hour later covered in tread marks with my IDs and cards bent inside. No, let’s focus on our whale watching adventure!

We booked a three-hour tour (going to refrain from making the reference) with a whale watching company on the Monterey Fisherman’s wharf. It was an early morning trip, and we did our best to bundle up although we had brought limited warm weather gear since we were visiting California in June.  As we left the harbor, the captain pointed out the birds, sea lions, and otters that populate a jetty. Little did I know, it was to be my favorite part of the trip.

Web-footed friends.

Web-footed friends.

The first hour was nice enough. We grabbed seats on the side of the boat and stared out at the Pacific Ocean as we headed to areas where the whales are. The smell of the sea and the crisp air somehow lulled me into a brief nap. When I awoke, I had the beginnings of seasickness, an insidious nausea creeping its way through me. At this point, though, we had reached an area where a number of dolphins were swimming by. My mother who loves the sea wanted to talk about the majestic animals, about the spray of sea water. I replied as still as a statue that if I moved or spoke, I might vomit.

From the corners of my eye, I saw my fellow tourists fall one by one, leaning over the side of the boat and releasing their breakfasts into the ocean depths. But I had cemented in my mind that I would not be one of them, so I remained frozen. The sea was angry that day, my friends. The wind picked up causing two things. One, the boat rocked back and forth by what felt like 10 feet. I stared out over the side of the boat to see water, horizon, water, horizon. Two, the sea air cut through the three layers I had managed to scrape together causing a numbing chill. We spent an hour chasing down whales as I looked, blank-eyed, straight ahead. I saw a couple of humpbacks as their bumpy backs surfaced one by one. And at long last I saw a tail fin of a whale come up out of the water. I felt satisfied and retreated to the inner cabin of the boat.

There I found a ragged group of tourists, huddling together, shivering and trying not to spew. I wasn’t in a condition to laugh, but thinking of the way that inner circle looked is comical. Tourists who wanted a sightseeing extravaganza who instead got the 18th century immigrant experience. My mother soon followed me into the cabin since she was also feeling cold. Once we got back to the harbor, we found the nearest cafe that had clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls to warm our chilled bones.

Despite this account, I loved it. I could have done without the choppy water and could have used a sunnier day, but being out on the ocean was nice. I’ve been on boats before and never had a problem, although I suppose most of the boats I’ve been on were small motor boats on mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevadas or large ferry boats floating from harbor to harbor. But isn’t there something about sea legs? About acclimating? My mother was absolutely fine and maybe that’s just because she has more boat experience? I’d definitely go again.

29 Before 29: Eat Ox Tail

21 May

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

The tech manager at work, Jose, is notorious for being something of an epicurean. He’s a valuable friend to have as he’s always scouting the best Bahn Mi or the best Caipirinha in the city. Give him any neighborhood in the five boroughs and he can give back to you the must-eat at restaurants. He’ll often take hour-plus train rides to search out his next meal. Like I said, valuable person to have around.

One of his favorite foods is Ox Tail. When he talks about it, he looks into the distance, his eyes glimmering like he’s dreaming about his first love, which ox tail might very well be. The fact that I’d never had it was unacceptable to him. Over the last couple of months he gave me restaurant suggestion after restaurant suggestion where I could find great ox tail. However, I never sampled the delicacy until I was in Spain.

Ox Tail hamburger at El Pimpi in Malaga.

Ox Tail hamburger at El Pimpi in Malaga.

Ox Tail bachelor number one was found at an outdoor Bodega Bar called El Pimpi in Malaga. After playing tourist for the day, my family and I sat at a table sipping on cocktails and beers while ordering small plates. I hesitate to call it a Tapas bar, but it was something like that. After noshing on olives and fried fish and goat cheese salad, I saw ox tail on the menu and decided to dive in. When it arrived, I was already full and regretting my spontaneity. I felt as thought I was letting my bucket list and my manager, Jose, down. Sure, the meat was ox tail, but it was just a greasy meat burger with mayonnaise. I only ate about half of it, despite it being delicious. Ox tail is rich and fatty, and I think combining it with something as heavy as mayonnaise was a bit overwhelming.

Ox Tail in Ronda

Ox Tail in Ronda

Ox Tail bachelor number two is so handsome and just what I was looking for. Ox Tail on the bone, cooked in light gravy of its own juices with potatoes. Again, it was rich and heavy with so much fat encrusting the meat. I’ve always had an issue with fat on beef. It was one of the things that pushed me to be a vegetarian, actually. I can’t handle the chewiness of it. I actually got a fatty piece of beef at a pho restaurant near my apartment not too long ago and spit it out onto the table, almost as a reflex. I tried to salvage my ladyness by scooping it in a napkin as quick as possible and shoving it in my purse, hoping no one noticed. Back to my ox tail, though, I did my best to eat around the fat and enjoy the rich meat. It was good to have it balanced with something as starchy as the potatoes. The hamburger may have suited me better, but this was the ox tail experience that I knew I could bring back to Jose with pride.

A Day in Tangier, Morocco

17 May

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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I almost feel as thought I am cheating by using my quick trip to Morocco as a way to cross off the “Visit a New Country” item on my list. By visiting a new country, I expect to spend some quality time there, get a feel for the place. This was not that. However, the rest of my Spring and Summer vacation time has been spoken for. So I don’t think I’ll get another adventurous trip until the Fall. So my maiden jaunt to Africa will have to do.

I was traveling with my family, and my parents had arranged for us to go with a tour group. I have never done anything quite like this tour group/bus in my travels before, and I don’t know if I would again. It was a good way to get an overview of the city, and it was nice to have an escort through such a foreign place. But being lumped in with 20 or so tottering foreigners, all of us flashing our cameras, some in our group acting rather rude, I felt like a bit of a spectacle. When I imagined visiting Tangier, I saw myself playing the role of a Beat poet for the day. Walking the kasbah, listening to the Arabic of the shop keepers, sipping mint tea in a cafe where the walls are covered in colorful mosaic tiles, riding a camel over sand dunes. The reality was not this. But, I still got a taste of Tangier.

We are making the same face.

We are making the same face.

I did get to ride a camel which had been a life goal of mine. I paid a Euro and a Morrocan man led me around for a minute or two whilst my family snapped pictures. It’s such an awkward, yet graceful animal. A couple of baby camels were wandering around as well. Again a Euro to hold the ropes and take a picture. We encountered a lot of this in Morocco, a constant barrage of street vendors. Children and men following us around with bracelets or bongos or camel statuettes, trying to negotiate, demanding we buy something. We were escorted to the hill with the camel rides, to an open square with snake charmers waiting for us, waiting for their Euros. It was a strange experience. At the end of the day, as we loaded back into the bus to take us to the ferry, a small child pestered my sister to buy a camel from him. He reached into the bus, placing the camel on her knee, refusing to accept her claim that she didn’t have Euros on her.

My sister's street vendor friend.

My sister’s street vendor friend.

The majority of the day was spent wandering the kasbah which was the one time I was glad to be in a guide-led group. The streets were unlabeled and winding, spilling into a variety of alleyways with open shops and stray cats running to and fro, the vendors coming out of nowhere and lurking just one step behind with bongos, “Only two Euros!” While it was confusing and overwhelming, it was also the most exhilarating part of the day. It’s difficult to describe all the sights and sounds, and we were ushered through so quickly, it was impossible to soak it all up. We were taken to a large rug store and shown the handwoven rugs. We went to a pharmacy where a very excited pharmacist showed us all of his favorite products. Argan Oil! Saffron! Mint tea! Magic Lipstick! I got suckered into buying the Argan Oil and the Magic Lipstick.

In one of the stores of the kasbah.

In one of the stores of the kasbah.

For lunch we were taken to a cafe that served us couscous and vegetables along with some chicken on skewers. It was a modest lunch topped off with Mint Tea which was sweet and refreshing. While we ate, a small Moroccan band played and a belly dancer weaved her way among the tables as we tried to ignore the American tourist in our group who bellowed with indignity when the waiter asked him to pay for the bottled water he had asked for.

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I don’t want to paint a bad picture of what my day in Morocco was like, because overall I’m ecstatic that I got the chance to see it. It was so much to process in only one short day, and it’s hard to absorb such a foreign culture in a limited time. It was like window shopping and never actually going in the store. Maybe I will pull a Paul Bowles one of these days, move to Tangier, and lead the ex-pat life I’ve always dreamed of.