This is the last post on Edgyjunetravels.com It’s been both heaven and Hell to keep up blogs over the last five years. Thank you for your support. I was never “viral” and I’m ok with that. SEO was beyond me or something like that or maybe I didn’t want to sell out on the keyword stuffing. Have no fear, I’m still writing. I’m contributing to a couple of great publications and I’m working on a book.
I’m not traveling much. In fact the local places I had planned for this summer either burned, were swept away in a flood, or both. The landscape around me looks like the landscape of my personal life. But it’s ok I’m not traveling because I have a new career which is so fulfilling that I am humbled to deserve such a thing when most people have “jobs”. I am crossing my fingers for Mexico this winter and hopeful for a big adventure later in 2014. (Cuba anyone? I’m looking for a travel companion.) I will be contributing to Watchboom just about every month. It’s a great publication and I’m honored to be a part of it.
I’m not sure what I love more, the perminent collection at the Fort Worth Modern or the museum itself. The building is so unobtrusive that you forget it when you are viewing art. This can’t be said for most museums. Tadao Ando, the archetect must be a humble man to design a building that becomes invisible. A lesson in Zen.
The museum is devoted to international art dated from 1945 until the present and includes all the major movements in all media.
As you know, I like a finely crafted cocktail as much as the next foodie and sometimes the evening gets away from me and I have a rocky morning after too many Lemondrop Martinis. Nine times out of ten I make this poor judgement call when I’m traveling. And frankly, over the last year or so, I can’t tolerate alcohol like I once did. Heck, I get a headache reading a wine list. So I do know my limits but with an aging body sometimes the limits catch up with me in the form of an ugly headache and a sleepless night even after just a couple of drinks.
What is it about vacation? I know I’m not alone in terrible decision making while they are on vacations. It’s easy to get carried away when you are far from home…out of your usual routine and maybe even solo amongst strangers who are now your best friends. Too bad there is usually a morning after. Too bad jet lag and dealing with even a two hour time difference can compound a hang over to the point you could lose an entire day of a precious trip. So what are you gonna do to help get rid of the pounding head and the lethargy?
The obvious answer is: “Don’t drink” or “Don’t drink too much.” (well duh) But this isn’t an article about abstinence or restraint. So never mind that, even though it is the most sensible answer to the question. I have my own ideas (those are actually my two favorites) so I polled the good people who put up with me on Facebook for their favorite hangover cures. Sure some of them got a little high and mighty about it, a couple were surprisingly hardcore with suggestions of “staying drunk” and using emitrol to induce vomiting so you could continue drinking. But most of the ideas were interesting, original, and do work to help ease the symptoms of a liquor infused outing. One of my experienced drinking buddies reminded us that nothing gets rid of a hangover. It just is. Another expert reminded me alcohol withdrawal taking place in a clinical setting is a Valium dosed affair and is never pretty. So outside of abstinence and rehab? Here’s the winning cures.
Of course drugs like Tylenol, Aspirin, and Ibuprofen were given grateful nods. But these over the counter drugs aren’t innocent and can have effects on your liver and kidneys specifically after drinking so be mindful of how much you take; sticking to the dose on the side of the box or the bottle. You might not lose your headache but the edge will be taken off with a smaller dose than a desperate handful. B vitamins were also touted. I take a B complex every morning and if I’m having cocktails, my appetizer before the first sip is an additional B tablet.
What was particularly interesting about the results of my highly subjective poll were most of palliative measures, except for the continuing to drink suggestions, are the best things for jet lag. Especially the sleeping it off suggestions. I hadn’t thought about it until I started gathering my “data” but hangovers feel exactly like jet lag. I hate jet lag, it’s like the worst morning after your body can experience: especially if it’s jet lag at home and you’re a day away from returning to the usual grind.
The overall winner was the Heartache on a Plate. Most people felt big globs of greasy fried goodness will do the trick. But outside of the bloody mary’s my writerly friends suggested; water or fizzy caffeine in the Coca-cola form is the drink of choice with the greasy food. Drinking water while you drink alcohol and just after was also a favorite. I’m sure there is something scientific about how caffeine and sugar help combat the alcohol and the grease absorbing the alcohol but I’m too lazy to look it up. Mexican food, specifically Menudo seems to be a crowd favorite. I just wish I could–cough cough–stomach Menudo. It always smells so good but…
…no just no…
I cringed when I saw the young tourist take a last pull on his water and thrust the plastic bottle on the sidewalk. The only other places I had seen someone discard trash in the street were third world countries. With a spat out string of German words he hurled it at the ground like he was angry at Las Vegas. Perhaps it was the heat but everyone seemed a little angry in Las Vegas. Did the Super Moon put everyone on edge? Were they so excited about a big moon they behaved like irritable four year olds before a big birthday party? The Electric Daisy Carnival was going on, too. I thought X and MDMA made you feel like you loved fuckable. Vegas is supposed to be fun even if the moon is gigantic and the soundtrack electronic. I was a breath away from saying something but I didn’t want to get into an altercation with a jackass, German or American. So I let it go. I watched the bottle tumble into a corner. It was on top of a business card with a buxom blonde and I noticed the sidewalk was dotted with them. Was littering part of their ad campaign? A frat boy from Oklahoma would look down and say: “Hey…lookit here! I can call this number and hook up with this woman. Gee I hope I have enough money, she’s hot!”
The air was thick and hot that night on the strip and it had a peculiar smell. If I were bottling the scent that night held I would call it “Morose”. Bruce Weber would shoot the moody black and white commercial featuring a chubby woman in dress that looked like my Spanx foundation garment. She would hold a bottle shaped like one of those impossibly giant drink schooners to her nose. Bits of papers would flutter and dance around her wobbly ankles desperately trying to support her ample frame on narrow statuesque heels. The voice over would be cigarette ragged and on the brink of catarrh like hacking: “Morose. The scent of money and hopelessness.” Vegas the glittering desert oasis that promises to entertain you with debauched abandon had lost its shine.
Maybe I was putting my own spin on Vegas. Dogged by free-floating grief and smothered under pent up anger. A son whose only direction seems to be a drunk’s bottom. The other son is a little lost as he waits to go away to school. A part of him already homesick before he has packed a bag and another part of him ready to start college and the rest of his life ten minutes ago. Perhaps a weekend of absurdity and high energy entertainment would help?
I resisted the urge to be completely consumed with disappoint that night and didn’t admit the fun and whimsy was missing on the strip. My second happiest place on Earth was a mirror of my heart: both were breaking under the weight of absurd expectation. As we slowly ambled up one side of the filthy sidewalk which bordering the gigantic palaces I looked up at the almost super moon and asked for relief that wasn’t fleeting, that didn’t last five or ten minutes but five or ten years. I needed to seek out a glittering oasis under the scattered handbills and puke stained sidewalks.
We planned the weekend as we walked along the boulevard: a day by a pool, dinner and a show…the usual entertainments. When the trip into the desert was suggested I said yes before the sentence was fully formed. This was what I needed. I needed a vacuous space of nothing forcing me to concentrate on the minutiae, forcing me in the moment. To Hell with a glittering oasis. I needed that which surrounds the oasis.
But I found my glittering oasis in the Valley of Fire. A geologically miraculous place I can’t even pretend to understand. Nor do I want to know why the same rock morphs from purple to maze to white. The Earth is molded by the wind and the rocks are shapes reminiscent of animals, people, even a work of art. Ancient people lived in this beautiful but inhospitable valley leaving behind pieces of their spirits in the cliffs and mounds. It carried with it a sacrosanctity I had only felt once before in the mesas near Taos New Mexico. The puffs of wind offered relief from the June sun and brushed the hair from my face like a lover. I wandered off looking at bits of rocks like I was gathering clues, the sun burning my shoulders and chest, I could feel the anger clearing from my heart, moving up to a place where later that day they would take the form of words fearlessly shared. The desert gave me courage. The desert started a healthy dialogue: brutal assessments of people I invited into my life. The valley put me closer to forgiving myself for recreating a decades old mistake.
I was a little spent by the heat when we drove back into the city. It was difficult to identify the buildings on the skyline under the shroud of pollution. But I felt my excitement bubble up all over again. Along the strip, I didn’t notice the litter in the street. In the hotel, the people didn’t have that vague despair in their eyes. In fact, they were enjoying playing along with a fantasy that the man on the stage was indeed Michael Jackson inviting them to sing along. I felt a smile bloom from the place my regret had been as I allowed Vegas’ absurdity to seduce me all over again.
Did I mention they were unusual and don’t include the word “buffet”?
#1: Casino Overload Relief: If the sad people in the casino are making you sad and calling up all sorts of weird energy, get the heck out of there and see the desert. Sometimes that happens, Vegas can be too much and the underbelly of it is on display. Pull up stakes for the day and drive to Barstow or Lake Mead and the dam.
#2: Third World Encounter: For the love of all that is holy: Do not take a cab in Vegas. Unless of course you want a juiced up third world experience. Vegas is all about the fantasy. And much of that fantasy is being someplace else like Paris or New York. Maybe the cab companies could cash in on this and make the Third World Cab Ride a new entertainment. But trust me, it’s scarier than the real thing.
#3: Forward Seating: The seating chart on planes to Vegas are like mullets: Business in the front and a party in the back. I’ll never sit past row 10 again. It was so peaceful near the front. Sure there’s chatting and laughter in those first rows, it’s congenial. But the back of the plane? I’m surprised they didn’t whip out smuggled show girls and kegs from their carry-ons. Forgive me for being such a stick but the continued party interfered with my hangover and power nap prep for my quick return to work.
#4: Smart Packing: Take business casual with you. Sounds a little silly when you are talking about Vegas, doesn’t it? Especially if you’re off for a short weekend and armed with a small carry on. My warm weather Vegas packing list goes like this: a cocktail dress, a pair of high heels, bathing suit, undies, shorts, and a tee shirt. Boom, done. My travel clothes equal a casual sundress suitable for a relaxed dinner on arrival. Whenever I check bags, I have a change of clothing with me in case the luggage goes on a solo round the world trip. Once upon a time I didn’t put too much thought into this change of clothing. The other night, I was almost grounded for the night in Vegas. A part of me was–yay! long weekend on my trip insurance’s dime! But the bigger part of me was “Holy Cow I’m showing up to work tomorrow in club wear or shorts and flip flops.” I don’t know about you but my office dress code is not “Holly Golightly Party Girl Casual”. This alone made me the most grateful we made it home that night. As I unpacked, I realized I could squeeze in a jersey wrap dress that would save me from looking I had just flown in from Vegas. The circles under my eyes, the shit-eating grin do that for me without the window dressing of a tired cocktail dress in dire need of an iron.
“. . .because nothing is really permanent, right? Those big beautiful murals on the sides of buildings get painted over all the time. Why not art getting swept up at the end of the day?” –chalk artist at the Chalk art Festival in Denver
What a brilliant way to look at your own creation. It takes a lot of ego strength to let go of your art and allow for editing or brutal critique. It takes even greater ego strength to realize your creation is going to be swept into the gutter at the end of a weekend. A work of art you’ve spent hours creating on a blazing hot street.
This article first appeared on watchboom.com this April. I’m reheating it in honor of the first day of summer.
3:30 pm You’ve recaptured your luggage and found your ride on level 5 at DIA, And just as promised a sleek town car from All Less Limo (1-303-275-0075) is waiting for you. Take advantage of that water bottle posed in the cup holder next to your elbow, you’re going to need it at altitude. Traffic is a bit of a bear on the highway but that gives you time to clear your mind before your Denver layover.
4:30 pm All checked into the Hotel Monaco in your chic room in the middle of downtown. Freshen up because you don’t want to miss the evening wine hour between 5-6. If you’re feeling hungry and a little tired. (My guess is you worked up to the minute you left for the airport Friday morning) Walk through the hotel to Panzano for one of the best Happy Hour deals in town but save room for dinner.
7:00 pm Chances are it’s a gorgeous evening in Denver and the temperature is perfect for a walk towards LoDo to watch the sun go down. A great walk is West towards the sunset and distant mountains along 16th Street Mall where you can window shop, people watch and catch your breath while you watch the buskers entertaining along the way. If you get tired you can always hop on the Mall bus and ride to the end of the line, and make your way across a couple of streets to Little Raven for a wide view of the saga we call a sunset over the Front Range. Worth the price of admission right there.
8:30pm It’s almost dark but your perfectly safe, walking back to the hotel or hailing a cab to your dinner spot. It was a hard choice, Denver is becoming a mecca for great gourmet food. But all your research and your taste buds pointed you to The Golden Triangle’s new darling–Charcoal. Jim has a straightforward menu of four dollar sign food at three dollar sign prices in a six dollar sign room. If you’re a wine drinker, his list has something for everyone from the connoisseur to people like me who just like a taste of wine with their food.
10:30pm on a Friday night in Denver? So many choices? Highlands? Colfax? Baker? Yes. Baker is the perfect place on a travel day to kick back and watch the city. Hail a cab and tell him: “Punchbowl or bust!” One of Dever’s newest night spots is a little bit speakeasy, a little bit foodie haven, a little bit neighborhood bar. You can play darts, shuffleboard, marbles (yes, I said marbles), ping pong, billiards, or knock over some pins. You can even just hang out at the bar and make new friends. It’s like Chucky Cheese without the singing furries and the bad pizza. The Punch Bowl Social Club is my reward for putting up with places like Chucky Cheese for fourteen years. It’s a fun place to go because you never know if you’re going to be surrounded by a rowdy young adults or rowdier boomers.
1:00am Whoa! Slow down, you have a big day ahead of you. It’s probably a good idea to find a cab and roll back downtown for a few hours sleep before your full Saturday.
9:00am Why yes you did eat and drink the whole thing but hey it was worth the mild pounding in your head because it’s the perfect excuse for a giant hangover breakfast at Tom’s just around the corner from the hotel. With everything from Pho to Eggs Benedict the flightiest appetite and most delicate stomach won’t go away empty. Tom’s is also just down the street from Coors Field. Even if you aren’t going to a game you can see Denver’s beautiful ballpark that fits seamlessly into the turn of the century buildings preserved in Lower Denver (LoDo). tours can be had on non game days at 10, 12, and 2. And what a great way to walk off all those eggs and last night’s booze.
1:00 pm Isn’t it great you caught that second wind because all over downtown Denver you keep seeing cute red retro bicycles with generous baskets as handy as a shirt pocket. Sharing is a wonderful thing and bike sharing is even better. What a great way to see my beautiful city via Denver B Cycles! With 850 miles of paved paths in and around Denver you’re going to be able to cycle your legs off. Good thing you have that basket so you can take extra water with you as you amble along the Platte River and through the parks. I think walking or riding a bike is the best way to get the vibe of a city. Here’s a helpful hint: East is more or less uphill. If you want to conserve your energy but feel like a rock star, head East on the path along the Platte and ride to Cherry Creek Mall. Take a break by the fountains and then coast your way back downtown. If you’re really gonzo, keep going east through inner tier suburban neighborhoods to the Highline, it’s a pretty ride but vigorous if you aren’t accustomed to our altitude or relatively high impact physical activity.
6:00pm As you’ve ridden around Denver you couldn’t help but notice so many places have patios just begging you to sit down and rest your weary legs. But it’s time to dive into a hot shower and knock the dust and sweat off before you have a quick dinner on my favorite patio Bistro Vendome home of the best deal on steamed mussels and crusty French bread. It’s like going to Brouge without the jet lag. Why so early with dinner tonight? Because you have theater tickets!
8:00pm The curtain is going up at one of The Denver Center’s stages. Tittering comedies, boffo musicals, or thought provoking dramas can be seen in the lush complex of stages which include an intimate theater in the round and a chic world-class opera house.
11:00pm My goodness don’t you look chic in your evening duds, it would be a shame to slip back to the hotel unnoticed. But your senses are a little overloaded and your legs are a little tired, what you need is a cool, dark place for a smooth handcrafted cocktail. What about that place you noticed just across from Bistro Vendome? Green Russell the speakeasy on Larimer Square. Have them make you a cocktail which reflects Denver, a little sweet, a little savory, and bone dry. Maybe they will name it for you. If you’re hungry, try one of the small plates. Chef Bonanno is a Denver treasure. Even Tony Bourdaine thinks so and he hates Denver.
1:00am Filled to the brim with sites, sounds, and aching legs it’s time to tuck in for a rest before your last morning in Denver. I know you miss us already.
10:00am It’s always a little bit of heaven to loll around in your hotel room on the last day of a trip, Maybe room service for breakfast? Nah, what’s the point of a layover if you hunker down in your hotel room? And how about tasting what a Denver classic has to offer for brunch like The Avenue a place I’ve been enjoying for over twenty-five years. The brunch is classic breakfast dishes with a few nice twists thrown in. The beef Carpaccio Flatbread is my first choice for an unusual and light meal. Make sure you sit on Kris’s end of the bar. She’s the prettiest bartender in Denver and loves hearing your stories. Plus she knows everyone in town and you’ll leave for the airport with new Facebook friends and fistful of business cards.
A lot of people think Denver is just a cowtown set on the brink of the west and the edge of the midwest. But really it’s a “Little Big Town” with a range of things to do from taking gonzo adventure activities to find dining and theater. My guess is if you find yourself on a layover, you’ll be booking a week before you get off the terminal train at DIA on your way home.
One of my earliest memories is of the water. The Gulf of Mexico is lapping around my mother’s feet as I am posed on her hip, my own feet dangle up and out of the water. I remember how the tiny rocks, shells, and kernels of Galveston beach pull back and push forth over her toes. The top of the water wears a white frill and is foamy in places like my daddy’s beer.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time, film, and now bandwidth taking pictures of my feet in water. I think it’s this memory but I think it’s more because the place I feel most at home is at water’s edge and with my feet cozy in moist sand.
Is it any wonder my emotional response is a joy bordering tears whenever I have my first glance of an ocean? This shot of my sunburned feet serves as my phone’s wallpaper. When I see my less than gorgeous feet I remember the next vision was looking down the beach and watching an elephant lumber slowly towards me. I can feel the warm water swirling around my toes and bringing me to my essential being; that truest part of myself in the tiny lapping waves.
After a childhood of moving and finding myself orphaned in middle age, Denver has, without a doubt become the place I call my “hometown”. This is the place I’ve raised sons, built a career, and nurtured a long-term relationship and life long friendships. But my relationship with Denver is tricky. I don’t always like living here and frankly there are things I wish I could change. We have an international airport but it feels like you can’t get anywhere without going someplace else. And it’s almost the Goodland Kansas International Airport. Sometimes I can’t catch my breath after two plus decades of living 5,280 feet above sea level. I huff and puff my way through bike rides and walks. But winter is the worst. I’m one of those people prone to weeping every time it snows. I dislike cold weather and by the time the end of April rolls around I’m ready to burn my woolens, put the house on the market and move to Florida.
But then May happens: lilacs blossom, days lengthen, people emerge from a winter’s hibernation and my hope is restored. May turns into June and the season of the “Every Weekend Fest” begins. It feels so good to be outside and on the bike paths or in the garden. July and August are hot, sunny and sometimes a little dry but the days are long. And then there is October and our glorious Indian summer. But October can be a moody old thing: she’s warm enough for a bike ride one day but the next day she is scoldy and demands we don coats and mittens as a warning winter is inevitable. Those are the days I ask myself that niggling question: “Why do I live here?”
Trust me, it’s a question I have asked myself countless times over the last quarter century . It usually comes up when I’m faced with another snowy commute, cleaning off a snow covered car, pulling on another layer, or huddling under a down comforter. I grumble and curse at Denver those dark months. But heaven help the outsider who grumbles, criticizes or curses my hometown. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I realized how dear Denver is to me.
I was trolling Twitter and found a link to an article about Denver. I like to read travel pieces about the city I’m from and it’s sometimes maddening but always interesting to read a travelers perspective of this city. This perspective maddened me. No, make that mad. I was angry at a fellow travel blogger who dissed my city and had the audacity to call Denver “weirdly bland”! I composed six different versions of the same comment, each saying something to the effect of “How dare you, you don’t know what you’re talking about!!!! I’ll show you bland, have you been to [insert random city here], NOW that’s bland!!!!” Not wanting to stoop to his mean-spirited level, I resisted posting anything. Instead, I decided it would become a mission of sorts to prove Denver isn’t “weirdly bland” but a place that can hold her own against other splashier cities for history, the arts, and quality of life.
So what’s a girl to do in Denver? The better question is what can’t a girl do in Denver. Swimming and surfing in an ocean. That’s it. You can do everything else or within an hour of downtown. The people make this place special. Years ago, I was talking to someone about Denver and the enthusiastic people who make this place special. “All it takes is a committee, a weekend, some food stalls, and a few bands. Plan it and they will come.” Not only are the people here active but also we have an uncanny knack for not seeing color or sexual orientation. There is also an ethnic diversity to the city with a number of distinctive neighborhoods home to people from other countries and other cultures. I’m actually amazed we have one of the lowest obesity rates in the country; we are a restaurant town with a plethora of fabulous restaurants at all the price points. Our fitness level is probably due to our miles of bike and walking paths from one end of our metro area to the other. Plus we have the benefit of world class resorts and beautiful wilderness areas to explore about an hour from the city center.
Yes, Southeast Asia, bits of Europe, and India beckon to me but they will have to wait a few years and I have miles to walk here at home.
It was a perfect day, the sky was crystal clear, the wind feathered around us just enough to keep us from getting too warm. The tiles made a pleasant and distinct clatter as they were plopped on the worn tables or shuffled about after a game. It was the park’s soundtrack, the tappity rhythm of the dominos against the bass note hum of male voices. This is Maximo Gomez Park on any given day. Tables are set and four players huddled around each counting, clattering, and mumbling as onlookers mentally play along, hopeful for a seat at the table. The conversation ebbed and flowed between the players, their Spanish round but punctuated intermittently by low chuckles. I had a feeling long-standing feuds may have started at this tiny park in the middle of Little Havana; a feeling of grudge matches eddied from a couple of the tables. The park has only been open since 1976 but it feels older than this, probably because the custom of playing dominos is an old Cuban tradition. It was a bastion of male energy and aside from one aggressive and keen woman playing for the win, we were the only women in the park. I didn’t realize dominos was a man’s game.
I joked with The Girl: “This is where the wives send their retired husbands to get them from underfoot. ‘Ey, Carlos go play that game with your amigos, I have things to do!’”
Perhaps Dominos is actually woman’s game?