Snow.Snow.Snow!

Snow.Snow.Snow!

img_3030

The tires of the car whirred, spinning in place, and spewing snow out the back. The Honda was stuck halfway in and out of the driveway blocking the 4-Wheel Drive vehicle in front.

“Take the sled, shove it under the wheel to give it some traction,” I suggest.

The neon green sled, the thinnest ten dollar plastic is brought forward.

“Ayla will be so sad if we destroy her sled,” my friend says about her daughter.

But we need something flat. We’ve tried medium logs, the base of a shovel. The green slide is shoved under the tire. We all stare at the car, the neon is garish against the snow. Collectively we change our mind. If we’re stuck in this cabin in Lake Tahoe, at least one person should enjoy her time here.

James removes the sled from the ground and passes it back to Gena who takes it to snow covered backyard, treasuring it like a lost relic found. The snow isn’t stopping. A small, wet falling turns to light flurries. The limbs of the trees are weighted down with it. Large crashes resound around the house as branches break off and send plumes of white wafting from above and below. Brad revs the engine again. James digs around the wheel base.

img_3059

I walk away to grab my camera. I meet Gena and her daughter in the backyard. It is the first time for both of them seeing snow. One is three the other is thirty-four, sharing this moment for the first time. Gena is on her knees, scooping the crunchy white matter into a ball. They are building a snowman. He is tiny. No higher than my knee. Ayla leans down and pushes a baby carrot into his face for a nose. Two coffee beans become his eyes and a macaroni noodle is placed upside down as a frown. This is not a happy snowman, but he exists.

img_3091img_3082

Ayla doesn’t want the snow in her glove. She is cold. She stares at the glove on the ground and laments it. We try to tell her that if she wears the glove the snow won’t get in and it will keep her hand warm. The snow continues to fall. The backyard is turning into a swimming pool of tufts of white snow.

img_3079img_3061

Gena grabs the sled. Ayla climbs in. They circle the backyard. Baby-voiced “weees” circle me as I take photos. A louder shout is heard from the front yard. The boys have unstuck the car. We run to the front to meet them.

img_3097

James has piled enough small sticks and logs to make a flat, snow free area from which the tire was able to break free. Brad pulls the Honda into its original spot. The driveway is free. I look around. The snow is only getting thicker. In the distance all I see is white sky.

The boys crowd into the car. Will I be going to the mountain today? No, thank you. I follow the girls back into the house as the boys head for the ski resort. We watch the snow fall outside the window, warm inside, covered in blankets and drinking hot cocoa.

We remember the turkey. Gena bravely pulls out the innards while I stand behind and watch. As she rips the plastic tubing that holds them inside the carcass a miniscule piece of turkey flesh flies through the air and flings into my eye. We laugh. I wipe my eye incessantly while Gena rubs butter into and under the turkey skin. Soon the house is filled with the heartwarming smell of slowly cooking turkey meat. It feels like Christmas only its February.

img_0007

The boys come home. We join their snowboard aching bodies in the hot tub. The snow continues to fall. Our feet are freezing as we carefully try to jump through the slush on the ground to make it to the tub. Everything is pins and needles. Then we look up. The snow coats are faces. We’re so warm we can’t feel it. It floats around us, falls on our shoulders, catches in the buns in our hair and makes us look like we have mini-snowman on our heads. Our sad snowman in the yard looks on at us disapprovingly. Gena is amazed. We linger even after the boys have gotten out.

img_0099

 

The snow never stops. Loud cracking sounds bang against the windows as snow and limbs break off and fall around the house. We jump each time we hear it. We wake to an even thicker coating on the ground, the trees almost pure white. Our friends go sledding. James and I make it halfway to the ski resort and turn back. We get hot toddies at a bar by the lake that we can’t see through the blizzard. We return home. We read snuggled together in bed with the blue light of the storm swirling outside the window. Suddenly everything is dark. The lights have gone out.

We meet our friends down stairs. All our iPhones brandished in front of us with the lights on. A glimmer of light emanates from the corner of the room where we only just started a fire. We search each cabinet for candles. This is someone else’s home. An AirBnB. We find one tapered candle and light it for the table. We have the leftover turkey in the fridge. We make a sandwich assembly line in the kitchen by the light of our phones. We eat around the candle light. The light flickers back on. It is time for Ayla to go to bed.

We set up Catan, our fifth round of a different expansion. We grab our wine. We stoke the fire. We throw aluminum foil covered smores into the wood stove. The chocolate melts around the marshmallows as we build our cities and conquer Catan. We laugh. We are warm. We are fed.

img_0020

The next day, the sun comes out. But a little part of us wishes it hadn’t.

img_3054

Snow by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH2KGboA35c

Sanctuary City: Part One

Sanctuary City: Part One

I called this post Sanctuary City for two reasons. One, San Francisco has been a sanctuary city since 1989. We have felt the need for that status more than ever in the political turmoil and unrest that is settling itself around the country right now. The title is a nod to that, for sure, but I also wanted to remind myself that a sanctuary is by definition a safe space, a refuge. San Francisco isn’t just a sanctuary city for the nation, SF is also my actual home, where I come back to after I travel, where I feel safe, where I recharge my battery before I can go back out into the larger world again.

For Part One, I wanted to explore a little of this sanctuary city that I call home, a little corner of my world. For Part Two, I will showcase a little of my actual home and how I bring the world into it. Both posts will be based on my desire to get better at photography this year, so this is less about writing and more about visual storytelling.

I asked everyone for photography lesson books for Christmas and am saving up to get a new lens for my Canon Rebel. With the sun actually out for once, I decided to take a walk down Divisadero St. in San Francisco this week and take pictures of things that I gravitated towards. Here is a little taste of one little street in the great place that I call home.

 

img_2982

I wanted to practice using the Macro feature on my camera to explore odd details you wouldn’t necessarily notice. I live in what is considered Lower Pac Heights which is directly above Western Addition. I loved the cracked paint on these old murals and the way the two interplayed with the late morning light.

img_2984

My walk took me to the Sunday Farmer’s Market at Divisadero and Grove where I purchased some tasty citrus fruit.

img_2986img_2989

On the corner is 4505 Burgers and BBQ which is a great place to stop for some brisket and sit out on the picnic tables with a beer in your hand when Karl the Fog takes a break for the day and lets the sun shine.

img_2993
I was more interested in the kegs against the red wall then the people eating on the other side.

img_2992
Even the dogs are enjoying the nice day
On our way back up the street, we stopped in to two boutiques I’ve always wanted to peruse but stopped myself solely because of my desire to buy things and not being able to afford it. First stop Tanner Goods to find the man a nice leather backpack. The shop was well-manicured and had everything for the SF modern man from bar supplies to hygiene kits. Everything was immaculate and perfect and the price was, not shockingly, well above either of our pay grades so we left empty handed.

img_2995
Funky table in the store that draws using a system with weights
I wanted to look at some girly things too so we hopped across the street to The Perish Trust where I could imagine what having a millinery in my kitchen might feel like…and also wish I had a house to interior decorate.

img_3010img_2996

img_3006
The Mad Hatter’s closet
It may have all been hipster-inspired madness but I loved the mixture of textured ribbons, wide brimmed hats and checkered floors. I’m still learning the features of my camera and had wanted to focus on the hat in the center, but because of its depth in the back of the room, my camera brought everything in the foreground into clear focus. While not my intention I do love that you can really see all the texture and colors at the front while almost feel like the back of the room is sucking you through a rabbit hole.

As any good San Franciscan will do on a free Sunday, we skipped the line out the door at the Mill (though I love their cinnamon toast) and headed over to Mojo for some equally good Ritual coffee without the wait (Fun Fact: Four Barrel was started by the guy who started Ritual, so same same.) and took that coffee on the road to stop in open houses that we will never be able to afford. Yay SF and being one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. Makes a teacher feel good. After looking at the small three bedroom apartment, we rode the squeaky elevator to the roof and checked out the views of the Victorians across the street.

img_3012
I liked the juxtaposition of the two chimneys with the beautiful houses behind them. The chimney stacks look like prison towers. 
Remember this is only a hop, skip and a jump from Alamo Square and the famous Painted Ladies but who says you can’t see equally pretty house fronts from your roof deck.

If you want to get better at photography too, here are the two books I’m working through:

Sidenote: I’m not being paid by DK or Canon, I just really like these products. *I wouldn’t mind being paid by someone to promote their product if I like it so hit me up (wink wink nudge nudge).

Travel in Trump Era

Travel in Trump Era

For the day after Predator-in-Chief (thank you Jane Fonda) was sworn in for office, I thought it would be pertinent to repost this old article. Enjoy and see you at the Women’s March today.

I’m going to apologize right now. Things are about to get political, real political. And if you don’t like it or you don’t want to hear it, then I advise you stop reading right now…It’s your choice. I’m sorry that it’s come to this.

Things in America have been a little rocky these past few weeks, to say the least. I have been slowly moving through all stages of grief in the decision (that in my mind) is still pending for President (Electoral College doesn’t actually vote until Dec. 19th — he won’t be my president until after that is finally tallied and counted). While I am extremely worried for my home front, I also worry about what this means on an international scale. England tried to warn us with the last dying chirps of the canary during their Brexit vote, but we didn’t hear those furtive peeps, instead we kept marching, right into the heart of the coal mine just before all the air went out. More backlash populist movements could be rising up in countries all over the world. The refugee crisis is not abating, more acts of terrorism are happening around the globe, violent protests are targeting tourists. The world doesn’t feel safe right now. So what does this mean for world travelers?

One of the travel magazines that I subscribe to had a message to travelers telling them not to worry, to not fear travel or let that fear stop you from going to that destination you’ve always wanted to see. Having been in Thailand during the bombings this past August, I would say letting that fear go is easier said than done.  But I will admit, I didn’t go home even when my family was pleading for me to do so. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t actually ever at a bombing sight. Would I still have had that strength and resolve to finish my trip if I had been standing near one of the flower boxes that exploded in a number of tourist locations across the country? Probably not. How do you come back from being targeted just for being an outsider?

And that brings me back to my own country. How do we come back from making our own citizens feel like outsiders? How do we make them feel comfortable walking through their own neighborhoods? They don’t have a home to go back to, they’re already there. The pain and fear they’re receiving is right in their backyards. Women, people of color, Muslims. To pretend that there isn’t a backlash of hate and racism clenching it’s dirty fist around our country right now is akin to staying in our bubbles with our hands pressed over our ears and our eyes closed tight, pretending that if we can’t see the bad man than the bad man can’t see us. How do we remove ourselves from our privilege to help those who are feeling disenfranchised, wondering if they’re going to be safe in their own home or rounded up and put in internment camps like the Japanese were during World War II? And if you don’t know anything about that, then you need to ask yourself what history you’ve been learning (or more appropriately not learning) in school.

During the Bush era, it was hard being an American in a foreign country. Your plans were to say you were from Canada if push came to shove or to pretend San Francisco was a country unto itself. “Don’t worry, I’m from San Francisco, I’m not like the rest of the country, I promise.”  But what does that say about you as a person, as an ambassador representing your home, that you’re so willing to rebuke it, rebuff it, throw away all that you are and all that you could stand for as a proud American because you’re afraid of what someone, whom you’ve just met, might think of you. I proudly tell people that I’m fifth generation West Coast, fourth generation Californian. I think of being from California as a demarcation of my heritage. I’m not of native descent, but I’m more closely tied to the culture and ideals of a liberal, free-wheeling California than I am the smattering of European countries that run through my blood. I have no connection to those places in body or spirit. I don’t know any Hungarian, I can’t make a homemade Italian pasta, the closest I come to being Portuguese is the time I visited, but put me on a snowboard and send me down a mountain in Tahoe, give me some flip flops and a pair of jeans and I’ll happily stick my feet up on any open chair to lay back and relax on, California is in the heart of me. And do I want to renounce that? Pick up my Italian passport (yes, I will have one soon) and leave? Do I want to travel around the world with Trump as our leader, proudly shouting that I come from America and gosh darn it aren’t we the Greatest (Again?).

No. I don’t want any of those things. I don’t want to leave. I want to see us moving progressive social ideals forward like women’s rights and gay marriage. I want to see this country bring our education standards back up. I want to see us explore a single-payer health care system and get people to understand that taxes are important but that reforming what they go to (education rather than the military for instance) would work better for us than cutting them. If that’s what people mean by making our country great, I’m all for it. If that can happen in my lifetime, I will be proud to travel the world waving my American flag and waxing on about how great the California Bay Area is (minus the rental costs).

But I fear these things won’t happen under a Trump presidency. I fear that I will have to explain to everyone I meet that I’m not one of those Americans…I’m the one who voted for the lady. I was with her. I will have to try to explain why we thought this was a good choice for our nation. I will have to be an ambassador for all the poor decisions we’ve made leading up to this one, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, choice of a “leader,” and I will do this because I won’t renounce my country. I won’t pretend to be Canadian…but I will, probably, continue to point out at that I’m from California, as if we were our own country, because that’s who I am.

And I do worry. I worry that Americans will be targeted in foreign countries. I worry that kidnappings will increase (to pretend that these things don’t happen is another way that we lie to ourselves but I will admit that the numbers have gone down from 12 to 0 in the last 3 years). I worry that I could get into confrontations that could be violent. I worry that I will leave, that I’ll have to leave because all my worst fears of who Trump could be as a president will come true and this will lead to a mass exodus and more refugees for the world to deal with.

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that this is all hyperbole. I hope for the best in us. I hope that the electoral vote will be the biggest surprise in American history. I hope that I will move from denial into action. I hope that my brothers and sisters in world travel will support America and Americans when we most need it. I hope for us all to become a safer and more loving world to all its citizens in the future. I hope for hope. And with that…I will sign off, hoping that this article made you think, made you curious, made you mindful or made you care about what is going on in the world as well as what is going on in your own backyards.

Travel in Trump Era

Travel in Trump Era

I’m going to apologize right now. Things are about to get political, real political. And if you don’t like it or you don’t want to hear it, then I advise you stop reading right now…It’s your choice. I’m sorry that it’s come to this.

Things in America have been a little rocky these past few weeks, to say the least. I have been slowly moving through all stages of grief in the decision (that in my mind) is still pending for President (Electoral College doesn’t actually vote until Dec. 19th — he won’t be my president until after that is finally tallied and counted). While I am extremely worried for my home front, I also worry about what this means on an international scale. England tried to warn us with the last dying chirps of the canary during their Brexit vote, but we didn’t hear those furtive peeps, instead we kept marching, right into the heart of the coal mine just before all the air went out. More backlash populist movements could be rising up in countries all over the world. The refugee crisis is not abating, more acts of terrorism are happening around the globe, violent protests are targeting tourists. The world doesn’t feel safe right now. So what does this mean for world travelers?

One of the travel magazines that I subscribe to had a message to travelers telling them not to worry, to not fear travel or let that fear stop you from going to that destination you’ve always wanted to see. Having been in Thailand during the bombings this past August, I would say letting that fear go is easier said than done.  But I will admit, I didn’t go home even when my family was pleading for me to do so. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t actually ever at a bombing sight. Would I still have had that strength and resolve to finish my trip if I had been standing near one of the flower boxes that exploded in a number of tourist locations across the country? Probably not. How do you come back from being targeted just for being an outsider?

And that brings me back to my own country. How do we come back from making our own citizens feel like outsiders? How do we make them feel comfortable walking through their own neighborhoods? They don’t have a home to go back to, they’re already there. The pain and fear they’re receiving is right in their backyards. Women, people of color, Muslims. To pretend that there isn’t a backlash of hate and racism clenching it’s dirty fist around our country right now is akin to staying in our bubbles with our hands pressed over our ears and our eyes closed tight, pretending that if we can’t see the bad man than the bad man can’t see us. How do we remove ourselves from our privilege to help those who are feeling disenfranchised, wondering if they’re going to be safe in their own home or rounded up and put in internment camps like the Japanese were during World War II? And if you don’t know anything about that, then you need to ask yourself what history you’ve been learning (or more appropriately not learning) in school.

During the Bush era, it was hard being an American in a foreign country. Your plans were to say you were from Canada if push came to shove or to pretend San Francisco was a country unto itself. “Don’t worry, I’m from San Francisco, I’m not like the rest of the country, I promise.”  But what does that say about you as a person, as an ambassador representing your home, that you’re so willing to rebuke it, rebuff it, throw away all that you are and all that you could stand for as a proud American because you’re afraid of what someone, whom you’ve just met, might think of you. I proudly tell people that I’m fifth generation West Coast, fourth generation Californian. I think of being from California as a demarcation of my heritage. I’m not of native descent, but I’m more closely tied to the culture and ideals of a liberal, free-wheeling California than I am the smattering of European countries that run through my blood. I have no connection to those places in body or spirit. I don’t know any Hungarian, I can’t make a homemade Italian pasta, the closest I come to being Portuguese is the time I visited, but put me on a snowboard and send me down a mountain in Tahoe, give me some flip flops and a pair of jeans and I’ll happily stick my feet up on any open chair to lay back and relax on, California is in the heart of me. And do I want to renounce that? Pick up my Italian passport (yes, I will have one soon) and leave? Do I want to travel around the world with Trump as our leader, proudly shouting that I come from America and gosh darn it aren’t we the Greatest (Again?).

No. I don’t want any of those things. I don’t want to leave. I want to see us moving progressive social ideals forward like women’s rights and gay marriage. I want to see this country bring our education standards back up. I want to see us explore a single-payer health care system and get people to understand that taxes are important but that reforming what they go to (education rather than the military for instance) would work better for us than cutting them. If that’s what people mean by making our country great, I’m all for it. If that can happen in my lifetime, I will be proud to travel the world waving my American flag and waxing on about how great the California Bay Area is (minus the rental costs).

But I fear these things won’t happen under a Trump presidency. I fear that I will have to explain to everyone I meet that I’m not one of those Americans…I’m the one who voted for the lady. I was with her. I will have to try to explain why we thought this was a good choice for our nation. I will have to be an ambassador for all the poor decisions we’ve made leading up to this one, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, choice of a “leader,” and I will do this because I won’t renounce my country. I won’t pretend to be Canadian…but I will, probably, continue to point out at that I’m from California, as if we were our own country, because that’s who I am.

And I do worry. I worry that Americans will be targeted in foreign countries. I worry that kidnappings will increase (to pretend that these things don’t happen is another way that we lie to ourselves but I will admit that the numbers have gone down from 12 to 0 in the last 3 years). I worry that I could get into confrontations that could be violent. I worry that I will leave, that I’ll have to leave because all my worst fears of who Trump could be as a president will come true and this will lead to a mass exodus and more refugees for the world to deal with.

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that this is all hyperbole. I hope for the best in us. I hope that the electoral vote will be the biggest surprise in American history. I hope that I will move from denial into action. I hope that my brothers and sisters in world travel will support America and Americans when we most need it. I hope for us all to become a safer and more loving world to all its citizens in the future. I hope for hope. And with that…I will sign off, hoping that this article made you think, made you curious, made you mindful or made you care about what is going on in the world as well as what is going on in your own backyards.