New England is known for it’s peak leaf season and while I’d been to Vermont a bunch of times, I’d never been there in the fall. Fortunately that changed this October when I headed up for several interviews. The only problem is it becomes hard to drive when you’re constantly staring out the window and the stunning landscape! I’m not ashamed to admit that I drove with my camera on my lap and more than once checked my rearview, stopped the car, and threw on my flashers to pop out for a quick snap. Another fortunate thing about Vermont is A. lack of traffic and B. a lot of public access pull offs for boating, fishing or viewing. This trip took me to Central Vermont, around Woodstock and Randolph, and all the way up to the Northeast Kingdom to Newport and Lake Willoughby, including the farm I WWOOFed at this summer. I promise to have more posts about the summer farm experiences, but I’m still going through several hundred photos from the month. I hope you’ve been able to peep some leaves this fall and, if not, enjoy these beauts from the Green Mountain State!
Two weeks ago I took my first trip to Dallas, Texas. I’ve been to Texas many times before - Houston, Austin, San Antonio - but not up to the place that perhaps coined the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas.” It was…different. Everything really is bigger - roads, buildings, my anxiety…
The reason for my trip was for the biannual board meeting for the professional fraternity, Alpha Rho Chi, I am a member of and volunteer for. We rotate around the country for our meetings and this time went to Dallas where another one of our members lives. Dallas is far from my first choice of places to visit, but we don’t particularly choose our meeting locations for sightseeing, since it’s about business first and foremost, and most of the time is spent in a hotel room, making plans, reviewing policies and discussing goals. There was a high school music conference going on at the same time in our hotel and mid-day on Saturday we heard something in the atrium that made us pause our business and go investigate. On the third floor balcony, surrounding the interior of the hotel by 360 degrees, the student choir was singing hymns, their conductor on the ground floor, their voices echoing through the 12 stories, a perfect acoustical design, while guests came out of their rooms on all levels, memorized by their harmonies.
We finished out work in the early evening on Saturday, and heading downtown from Richardson, where we were staying, to see a bit of the cultural district in the West End. At Pioneer Plaza, my friend and fellow board member, Hao, graciously agreed to model some of Todd’s bow ties, so we had a mini photo shoot among the native grasses in the garden where great Yucca stabbed me in the legs and bronze Longhorn Cattle statues looked on. From there we wandered to the John F Kennedy Memorial - a monument that from a distance looks like a giant Lego block. Designed by architect Philip Johnson, it is described as “an open tomb, that symbolizes the freedom of John F. Kennedy’s spirit.” The closer I got to it, the more powerful the feeling it invoked. Inside, you are all at once surrounded and unbound, tethered to earth by the monumental concrete and connected to the heavens as you look skyward.
We admired the rest of the historic architecture of the area, including the Dallas County Tax Office and County Records Building and walked to the Grassy Knoll, the spot by Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was assassinated; a white “X” on Elm Street marks the spot.
After a dinner of homemade tacos and playing with a yellow lab named Marley, four of us headed to the Uptown district to go out (not just stay out) AFTER my bedtime to go dancing at the Round-Up Saloon. If you have never been to a country and western bar and dance hall, you need to stop what you are doing and find yourself one. I have never seen men dance so well in my life and I left determined to learn out to at least line dance and maybe two step a bit more. At some point in the last decade I lost a bit of self consciousness and stopped caring what others may or may not think about me and decided to dance because it makes me happy, talent be damned.
I’m not sure when or if I will go to Dallas again in the future, but I’m glad I got to see a few things while I was there. My next Texas trip is in less than 2 months, this time back to Houston. Onward!
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania. Point Breeze, East End. Allegheny Plateau. Not quite East Coast, not quite Mid West. We practically have our own language and to this day my brother and I can have an entire conversation in Pittsburgh-related references to old mayors and WDVE morning show bits and city neighborhoods and places and memories that no one around us can understand if they too weren’t born and raised there. I left the city because while I loved it with all my heart I was afraid that if I didn’t leave right away that I never would and I wanted to see something different, even if that was another working class town just a single state away.
I loved that I could live in a city but at the same time could walk down the street and be in the woods of the 500 acre Frick Park - nature more easily accessed than most of my suburban friends. All of high school was spent running in the parks where my dad would quiz me on the different types of oak trees and the difference between a Red Tailed and Red Shouldered hawk. When I was old enough to drive, I’d spend late nights driving across the bridges just to see where I would end up and watch the lights of the city fade and then come back into view in my mirrors. I’d drive up to Mt Washington where you could see all three rivers come together at the Point, the rest of the city spreading backwards from the axis. Instead of hanging out at bars, I stayed at the 61C coffee shop until it closed at 11pm writing and watching the world go by over cups of regular with cream and sugar and a piece of biscotti.
After I left the city, it became my favorite place to fly into because of all the green opening up under the wings of the plane - the hills and valleys making so much land undevelopable (tho we try anyway and have streets of only steps to prove it). It’s one of the grayest places in the country, but there’s something comforting to me in that grey and it makes the sunny days all the more cherished because of their rarity. When you refer to the Strip in Pittsburgh, it has nothing to do with naked girls and is all about the neighborhood along the Allegheny River where the barges used to empty their food related goods to be sold. The only place I know of where they have a cheesemonger and traditional Greek and Italian and Mexican and Chinese along with Prestogeorge’s coffee and tea and all the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates merchandise you can want.
I love that each neighborhood has a story and I have something new to learn every time I come home. I love that no matter where I’ve been or where I go, it will always feel like home. It has been imprinted on my soul, and I like to think that I’ve left little pieces of mine scattered around the city, like stardust or breadcrumbs, waiting for me to run back into one day, or for someone else to pick up along the way, and when they get that feeling of “just right” they will know that they have connected with that place on a deeper level, that they have met another soul there without ever even knowing who it was.
In December Todd and I went to New York City for the combined 4th time since August to hang out with friends and see the famous Christmas displays. I’ve always wanted to visit New York at Christmas and when a bunch of our friends decided to descend on the city in December, it was the perfect opportunity to combine events. New York at Christmas is intense. I assumed that it would be, but until you’re actually there it doesn’t actually hit you that you are one of thousands of additional tourists all there to see the same things.
Travel round-up time!! Unless this is your very first visit to my blog, or you’ve been living under a rock, it comes as no surprise that I’m reflecting on my travels for this past year. I like to look back and see where I’ve been before I think about where I will be going. The first half of my year was actually spent more at home here in Maryland than out and about, which was a nice, albeit strange (for me) change. So here’s a month-by-month review of some of my adventures of 2018.