California

July 22, 2010

I was in California for the last week, mostly in Los Angeles visiting Marshall and then in San Francisco for the weekend visiting Lindsay. LA is always fun–laid back with good food, a lot of time outdoors hiking and running in Griffith Park. I got to see Marshall and Heather’s house for the first time. It was formerly owned by one of the members of the band 311 and they definitely had some whacky decor choices. I wish I had taken more pictures–for example–of the Little Mermaid Bathroom. A few steps down, every surface is covered in blue and turquoise glass tiles. Marshall and Heather have done an amazing job making it theirs, with a screening room, a bright kitchen, and a peaceful pool in the back.

We started off with a hike, and then later than night went to the Barnsdall Art Center for their weekly wine tasting. Marshall is now the co-president of Barnsdall, and he and his friend Avidan started and run the wine tastings. It was packed with families, all of whom brought elaborate picnics. The setting is beautiful and as we launch into wedding planning, I wish that there was someplace like that right in the middle of Manhattan.

If Cookie still existed and I still worked there, I would definitely include Barnsdall. It’s also such a nice community event. So much LA schmoozing. They also attract food carts–a great Vietnamese one and also Lets Be Frank, Alice Waters’ fearless hotdog truck.

Saturday morning I jetted to San Francisco to help Lindsay move. It’s been five years since I was there, and it was nice to be back and jog my memory again. I really feel like I should live there at some point in my life. Saturday night we hung out on the patio of Lindsay’s old apartment and then Sunday we got up and went for a run along the marina, to the farmer’s market for some breakfast, and then drove to Napa. We visited a few vineyards, and aside from being incredibly convenient and easy to get to, it was stunning. Breathtakingly gorgeous.

I already can’t wait to go back, ideally with a bicycle. The wine was great, too. Monday I went back to LA where Marshall picked me up and we went to a heavily Hispanic area where the tacos were UNBEATABLE. The salsas, red and green both, were perfectly fresh and spicy, the tortilla chips were just fried, the cojita cheese was salty. Everything about it was heavenly. It’s one thing we definitely don’t have here in New York.

To continue with the eating (there was running and insanely hard pilates in the middle) we had dinner on Tuesday night at a new restaurant owned by Ilan Hall (of Top Chef fame) called The Gorbals. The menu featured bacon-wrapped matzoh balls (as Marshall said and Scott added on “Bubbe’s Bacon Nightmare: A Hipster’s Revenge”). The food was mostly really good and the restaurant itself was in this whacky hotel/ballroom/apartment building/movie set hybrid space that was a little bit grand and a little bit rundown. On the way to the men’s room, Marshall discovered this television set. Creepy, no?

We rounded out our last day with a drive to Venice, a walk along Abbott Kinney, a stroll along the canals and a final stop at Watts Towers. Our detour almost made me miss my flight, but it was worth it.

Now, after a layover in Vegas and a pretty uneventful, if rather sleepless redeye back to New York, I’m home.

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Running today felt like running in Rio all over again.  I sought out any bit of shade and turned down the leafiest streets.  By the end, my mouth was super dry.  I was trying to figure out how I would I describe that intensely pasty-mouth feeling.  It was something like scotch tape inside my mouth, or like I had swallowed a bottle of soy sauce without a sip of water.  Needless to say, sort of unpleasant.

I also think that it’s cooler in Brooklyn than in Manhattan.  It’s breezier, the heat does vibrate so aggressively between the sidewalk and buildings and the sticky asphalt.  It’s more pleasant and breezy.  When it’s 92, it’s still hot, but a little more manageable, escapable. When I got back from Brazil I was so used to the heat, to being hot all the time, to sweating.  I was cold when it was 68 degrees and wanted a sweater. I hope my blood thins out again easily now that it’s hot in New York, too.

Exploring Brooklyn by running is really fun–until it’s not.  I’ve been mapping routes on gmap-pedometer (today I brought my phone and tried out the Runtracker App for the first time–really cool), and then trying to follow those courses as best I can.  Now while gmap-pedometer is mostly really useful, it has its limitations.  It doesn’t tell you which streets are super crowded and commercial, full of fried-smelling fast food joints and vendors with tables of bootleg CDs, belts, cell phone covers.  It doesn’t tell you which side of Fort Greene Park butts up against projects and which side has spokes of pretty brownstones and leafy sidewalks.  I’m learning, but there were some precarious parts of my run today.  I’ve been back in sneakers, but it’s also clear that one has to be careful wearing vibrams around Brooklyn as well.

Picasso and Summertime

April 8, 2010

Scott and I had a great day yesterday.  After having bagels (coming back to the US during passover was not ideal for catching up on foods I missed), we went to the Philadelphia Art Museum (where Rocky ran up the steps) for the Picasso exhibit.  It’s been a long time since I went to an extensive art museum with a thorough, informative audio guide (Pinacoteca is beautiful, but a little different).  I loved learning about Cubism and the exhibit focused on Paris in the earlier 20th century and the rise of the avant-guarde.  I love thinking of the lost generation hanging out, this ‘crucible’ as they called it, for creativity.  I feel like New York in the 1970s and 1980s was the same way–like there was really a creative community, and I wonder where that’s happening now.  What happened to it?  Where does it go? 

After running a few errands we went for a run, and everything here smells like summer.  It’s sort of dreamy–the warm air, the flowers just blooming.  It’s strange enough to be back anyway, the abrupt switch in weather just makes it more surreal.  I was saying to Scott that our first few days in New York were just madness with looking at apartments and being at my parents house always feels like being in a bubble. Being in Philadelphia just feels surreal, and more like I’m back.

Thunderstorms

December 16, 2009

I accidently went running in a thunderstorm today.  It had been sunny for most of the day and I spent a lot of the afternoon writing (I’m back to fiction– maybe I’ll post some of it if I feel confident enough) outside and it was pretty.  So I came in, changed and set back out to go for a run and in a way that happens in Sao Paulo, super dark clouds crowded the sky.  They get to a shade of grayish blue that they don’t really get to in New York.  I imagine Crayola would call it Great Blue Whale or something if they had to name the hue.

At my turn around, because that’s always the way, right? When you’re farthest away from where you started, the drizzle started.  Fattish drops coming down slow.  Then the lightening.  It was epileptic lightening, without bolts, the sky just shuddered in bright bits and then the thunder rolled in. When it really started raining, I booked it, but also noticed that the rain made Ibirapuera’s eucalyptus smell so much more pungent.  Gotta say, it was pretty refreshing.  I should also mention that I now love my Vibrams.

Ibirapuera and Futebol

December 6, 2009

I went for a run this morning–something that I was sort of intimidated by since the last time that Scott and I tried in October.  It mostly went really well.  It was sunny today, and warmish but with a breeze and without humidity.  I printed out a map and set off toward Ibirapuera.  It’s important to note that many of the streets in Sao Paulo are short, and they change names inexplicably, and things that make sense when you’re looking at a map are tricky when you’re standing at an intersection and don’t recognize any of the street names.  So with my map in hand I ran to the park past beautiful houses behind gates on leafy streets.  I ran around the side and bottom of the park, where tons of people were heading in for their Sunday runs, walks and bike rides.  I almost made it back flawlessly until I missed on turn and wound up on Nove de Julho by accident and had to navigate back.  A good start.

This afternoon is also the last game of the soccer season.  I think we’re going to head to Vila Madelena to watch the games.

In the Neighborhood

November 17, 2009

I went for a run this morning and started listening to an NPR This American Life podcast about Going Big.  The first half hour was all about Jeffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone–an AMAZING organization.  I’m totally charmed by it, and thinking about how I can talk about them in my grad school essays when that segment ends and the next segment is about a guy who went to great lengths to win his girlfriend back.  He hires a musician, David Berkeley, to play for he and his girlfriend.  I’m a terrible sister, because I realize a couple of minutes through that this is a podcast that my brother produced in August.  Listen, it’s great.

I also ran into our Swedish Sommelier friend on my way back, which felt a little Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, since we still don’t really know anyone here.

 

Hillary Clinton is here, or was, she may have moved on to Morocco.  She was apparently staying at the King David hotel last night (not where we’re staying), but we saw her fifteen car motorcade on our way to dinner.

I just went for a run in the bright desert sunshine, and for the first time since maybe trying to run in India, I felt totally exposed.  Wearing shorts and a t shirt, I was the only person anywhere to have my knees or elbows showing.  I thought about just turning around and going to the hotel health club, but it was too tempting to orient myself in this city and take a spin around. I felt disapproving eyes–as if I were totally naked.  I hadn’t been expecting that at all.  The run was great though, and now I’m just very thirsty.

BA Maraton Pics

October 18, 2009

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We Did It!

October 11, 2009

The marathon was super fun and a great way to see the city.  Scott was a rockstar.  Pictures to follow as soon as we get a cable to get them off the camera.

Bring it home for Jerome!!

BA Maraton

October 10, 2009

Scott and I are ready to go.  We took it easy today, ate our pasta dinner (it was pouring rain and we ducked into the first Italian place we saw–it was called Mafia something and had Goodfellas, The Godfather and Scarface posters on the walls) and ordered our wake up call for the morning.

We’re hoping the rain stops enough for it not to be too bad.

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Buenos Aires

October 9, 2009

Scott and I arrived in Buenos Aires today.  Its beauty and elegance is mesmerizing–and shockingly different from Brazil.  It’s calm, quiet, leafy, with stretches of green space and marble sculptures, cobble stoned streets and perfect boutiques.  We spent the day walking around noticing a tawny wood balcony spilling over with geraniums here, a sleek restaurant there, the intricacies of the old French-style architecture.  It all felt clean and grand and proud, but still with that laid back Latin-ness.

In fairness, it was a weird day for us.  We woke up early, didn’t eat anything until 4pm because the GOL terminal at Galeao let us down, and I think we’re both a little consumed by our thoughts. It was impossible not to reflect on the last four months in Brazil, thinking about going home (we’re headed to Philadelphia and then New York from here), and being in another city that is at once more familiar (more European, more orderly and manageable) and totally new and exciting.

I spent the day trying to flip from Portuguese to Spanish.  When we arrived in Brazil we spoke far more Spanish than Portuguese, and used it to fill in words we didn’t know.  Now it’s reversed and my first instinct is to say obrigada rather than gracias, to talk to everyone in Portuguese.  The switch is harder than expected, they both now sound right to me.

Our long, meandering walk ended at the BA Marathon Expo, where we got our packets for Sunday’s race.  We’re running the half–which should be an amazing way to see more of the city.  After a little bit of confusion (we signed up online, but weren’t able to pay, so we weren’t in the system, but it worked out after a little while) we’re ready to go, with bright teal Adidas Tank Tops emblazoned with our names on the back.  Don’t even try to stop us.

All Tied Up in Knots

September 27, 2009

After a few days of running in my new Vibrams, the fifteen hour plane ride in which I didn’t drink much water, and another run in the Vibrams, my calf muscle has called it quits on me.  It feels like a giant fist beneath the soft, corded space in the back of my knee, and I am reduced cursing it, massaging the area, and working on graduate school applications.  It’s beautiful out today, the second day of sunshine after two weeks of rain and clouds, and Scott is out on his second to last training run for the Buenos Aires Half Marathon that we’re running (if I can) in two weeks.  I’m jealous I can’t run the nine miles with him, and sad that I can’t do much of anything at all.  If anyone has any suggestions of how to fix this chronic cramp in my calf, I will be forever indebted.  Equally, if anyone has any graduate school advice, send it my way!

Running in the Rain

September 14, 2009

Scott and I just went for an eight mile run in the rain and it was glorious.  It was the longest he had ever run, and he did an amazing job.  We got soaked and sang and chatted all the way to the Copacabana Palace and home.  He says now that he feels so good.  It was definitely preferable than running in the blazing sunshine that we’ve been having (not that I’m complaining about that even a little), but it was also pretty comical:  Just two American going for a long run in the rain along a grey beach, watching the waves crash.

Sete de Setembro

September 7, 2009

Today was Brazil’s independence day.  Everything was closed and the beach was more packed than I had ever seen it.  It was hot out, and the road that runs along Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana was closed.  In addition to the usual beach riff raff, there were a few striking visuals.  There was a man about my father’s age, looking very respectable walking out of Citibank.  He had just withdrawn money and was checking the bills in his wallet.  Totally normal, except that he was only wearing a black speedo and a bulging fanny pack.  No shoes, no shirt, no pants, just him, his gut, his speedo and his cash.  Also, at the Parque Garota de Ipanema by Posto 7 there was a brass band.  I was at the turnaround of my run, having dodged a million people and dripping with sweat I stopped to stretch for a minute and see what the crowd was gathered for.  At that moment the band started playing Material Girl.  How does a brass band play Material Girl?  I’m not sure, but it happened–it took me a second to realize what song it was as lots of people hummed along.  For some reason it felt like a very Brazil moment.

And just for good measure, check out my piece on Matador.

Rio Mornings

August 8, 2009

Everything gets cleaned early Saturday morning in Rio.  All along the sidewalks you can hear brooms pushing soapy water along the stones.  Men lean out  windows and shine the surfaces, bodiless hands holding rags sticking out between the bars separating the apartments from the street.

The sunshine scrubs cariocas of whatever they did last night, starting clean on the white beach, running, walking, chatting, drinking agua de coco.

Scott and I bounced around last night. We had dinner outside at the plastic tables at the Cobal da Humaita.  We walked over to the Cinematique and saw a Brazilian rock indie band.  It was awesome–a  little too cheesy and happy, but the band members were wearing the right hipster jeans and t-shirts, Vans and Converse.  The lead singer kicked when he should, and aside from the words being in Portuguese, we could have been on the Lower East Side.  From there we went to Lapa, which was even more packed than usual, drums thrumping under the arches and waves of cariocas danced, drank, and filled the streets.

Lagoa

August 5, 2009

For variety, I ran around the Lagoa today.  It looks like this:

It’s about 7.5 km all the way around and we live about a mile away, somewhere near the top right corner of this picture.  It’s sort of cool, but not nearly as refreshing as it looks above.  There are things around it that are interesting, like the jockey club (all those dirt tracks on the right side) and some helicopter pads.  All of the futebol clubs are also rowing clubs, so there are Botafogo and Flamengo boat houses.  Yes, that’s the Atlantic all along the top of the picture, Ipanema is all the stretch to the left of the green strip between the lagoa and the ocean (the Jardim d’Alah) and Leblon (where we live) is to the right.

Born to Run

July 14, 2009

The ball of my foot hit the sand and propelled me forward.  The waves licked up on the mostly empty beach, taking ownership before it became crowded with leggy girls in tiny bikinis, men selling everything from Globo biscoitos,  to sunblock, and rings of teenage boys juggling soccer balls.  I took in the solitude, too, watching as my running form got more efficient.  I skipped through shallow tidal puddles, and let my breath fall in rhythm with the inhale and exhalations of the sea.

I hadn’t really run barefoot before last week, not since I was a little kid playing in our backyard, chasing whiffle balls through the grass, and I never had for any distance.  I just finished reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, where he tracks his own transformation from often-injured rec runner to ultramarathoner, explaining about Copper Canyon’s Tarahumara Indians.  I was totally captivated by the idea of running barefoot, what it could do to my form, my speed, my endurance.

On Friday morning (and again Saturday and yesterday) I strolled the three blocks to the beach in my Havianas, kicked them off when I got to the sand.  I began running and I hate to sound cliche, or lame, or like I’m bragging, because I am 1000% aware of how amazingly, incredibly lucky I am, but I went for one of the best runs of my life, along the water’s edge, the length of Ipanema, with the sun on my face and the wind to my back, barefoot and fancy free.

Scott and I were talking about desk jobs last night, and how for the first time in five years, I don’t have one.

I should mention here that I’m working for a think tank called the Rio Leadership Institute. I’m working on their long term media strategy plan, website redesign, case study research, grant writing, etc., but it’s all on my own time, with weekly check in phone calls. The executive council splits their time between Rio, New York, and Sao Paulo, so it’s all fairly decentralized and there’s no office to go to (although they have a partnership with the Fulbright office here in Rio, so they sometimes use that). Once I surpass 200 words in Portuguese, I’m hoping there will be more opportunities to do different things (like maybe volunteer at a health clinic in the favela).

So for the first time in five years, I find myself with time to roam, to walk everywhere even if it’s absurdly far, to wander down different streets and avenues just because they look like they might have cute stores, or extra leafy trees, or the view of the ocean might be different around the next corner. It’s delicious to be outside as much as I want, to not be glued to a chair, a phone, a computer, a schedule. I can run whenever I please, I don’t have to cram it in by 8am as I did in New York for so long. It’s a freedom I’m just getting used to.

This is a minor aside, but as a girl who used to have a big cup of coffee every morning, Brazil seems to have broken me of my habit. I still love coffee, but you can’t get it to go here, people either stand and drink it at counters or sit in cafes, which takes time, and it’s just not the same as a big steaming cup of coffee (or iced coffee, which is what one would really want here). So I’ve gone more mornings that I’ve realized without coffee, and I don’t miss it at much as I thought I would. Although now writing about it makes me want some…