Walking Boulder, CO

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Boulder, CO recently. I have a friend there who showed me around. I took the shuttle from Denver airport all the way up to Boulder for $13 – a similar trip in AZ costs $50. I was more than a little jealous of their transportation infrastructure, their bike lanes, and how walkable the area was.

First order of business: breakfast. We went to The Buff, one of the restaurants that President Obama ate at on a recent visit. My friend and I shared this delicious “Pecan Caramel Quesadilla” which was the only food item I managed to take a picture of – I was too busy stuffing my face to stop for the rest.

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Next, we made our way to Pearl Street. Pearl Street is this fantastic part pedestrian-only shopping area full of amateur musicians, magicians, and contortionists who perform all day. The shops are mostly locally-owned businesses (in contrast to many “downtown” streets which are filled with chain restaurants and stores) and it’s a great place to hang out and people watch.

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We took a left turn and went shopping at the Saturday farmer’s market – bigger than any I’ve been to in Arizona – where there were shoppers, and a big lawn of green grass where people played frisbee or just sat around chatting. We decided to get ingredients for dinner and bought some bright red tomatoes, bread, and local Boulder wine (a fantastic deal at $11 for a white blend and it was excellent. Crisp, smooth – delicious with the pasta we made.)

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We explored CU, where my friend is attending, and enjoyed the strange buildings and beautiful campus.

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And then had lunch at The Sink, another place President Obama visited. We saw his signature on the wall and shared a custom pizza that was really tasty and well-earned after several hours of walking.

Then we went home and had a nap and headed off to make our farmer’s market dinner.

Day 2, we had breakfast at Foolish Craigs on Pearl Street, where I had a damn good egg’s benedict and a much needed cup of coffee. We walked up to Eben G. park and walked around the creek.

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The creek was something I really adored about Boulder – it was a free space for people to go out and enjoy. The weather was beautiful. 

We stayed there for several hours before heading back to town and grabbing a bite at Rueben’s Burger Bistro, where I had an okay burger, and then I headed back down to Denver for my flight home to Phoenix.

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If you need a weekend getaway where you can enjoy green scenery and sunshine, Boulder, CO is a great choice.

Book Review: The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

So, I want to preface everything I’m about to say with: I liked this memoir. I don’t know that I loved it, I’m curious to what extent reading Wild immediately before affected my interpretation of it, and most of what I’m about to say is more like the teasing out of a discussion that I’m trying to have with myself about the book. They’re conclusions I haven’t come to, ideas I’m jumbling around in my head.

The language and power of the emotion, particularly in the beginning, is amazing. I was drawn in, compelled to continue. I finished the book in under a day. Just sat down and read it. It opens with giving birth to a stillborn child and it just tugs you from there. It follows her through her childhood, her relationship to swimming, her escaping her oppressive and abusive home to go on to college to fuck up college to trying college again, trying and failing in marriages, through her life as a writer and on and on. It goes from beautifully abstract to almost exploitative-specific to stream of consciousness — but in the way that it should, I think.

So here are the things I’m teasing with:

Why, with so much detail to other potentially “private” matters, with so much focus on basically carnal sex, drug experimentation, the physicality of losing a child… why does she mention only in essentially two words the sexual abuse from her father? It felt like I was teased the entire way through. Yes or no? It’s not as if her father’s abuse was illegitimate without being sexual. He was a brute, controlling, his anger filled their entire house. It’s not as if I even needed to see it, but I wanted to really see it acknowledged, a contemplation of what part of it affected her. When someone asks if her dad was abusive, how, she says “sexually” and  yet that seems only a part of the abuse, because we see it in its other forms. And then I also wonder if it was necessary, to explain the sexual abuse, or if the narrative is complete without it. I think the greatest frustration I had was that the book in many ways seems to say, look, how open I am, I am so honest so real so raw and then this one place she chooses to be less than, and to make it obvious that she is not being fully open.

Sometimes I felt like the parts of her writing life were name-dropping. The parts about her writing life were honestly my least favorite. They seemed the most forced and unpoetic, the most tailored to a specific representation of herself. But it’s hard to write about being a writer and I might be particularly sensitive to it.

There were some parts of the narrative that were literally true that felt more magical-realism. A boyfriend turned husband who would literally fall asleep, as a defense mechanism, when she would fight with him. Her father losing his memory after a specific incidence. It’s not that these things are impossible, but the way she dealt with them felt more like metaphor than reality and the metaphor on top of being unlikely felt overdone.

But this is not me saying I didn’t like it. I read the thing in a day. After reading Wild, I think part of me was searching for someone I recognized again — since I could relate in ways to Cheryl Strayed, who seemed to have pain in her past but there was a specific incidence that pushed her to her breaking point, where as most of Yuknavitch’s life seemed to be that breaking point, an acting out of pain. Maybe it’s that in many ways I have too little patience for people who are dealing with so much. At many places (in both Strayed and Yuknavitch’s memoirs) I wondered: who is it that is loving these people? I’m certainly not saying they don’t deserve to be loved. What I’m saying is, loving them seems to be a hell of a challenge (speaking of mostly Yuknavitch) because of the chaos they invite to their lives. I am a chaos-avoider. I can’t see people bringing pain to themselves for long before I bail. So I was curious what they are giving to these friends, what value they’re providing, to make the friendship a worthwhile thing? And then, with Yuknavitch, any kind of friendship-worthiness she seemed to edit out. Like she would show us her down dirty raw disgusting so terrible I am persona, but not the nice things, the giving she must have done to have such dedicated friends.

What I’m saying is, there was very little I recognized in Yuknavitch. It was still worth reading. And if you’re someone who has dealt with a lot of chaos in your life, it might be a soothing read, somewhere that you can recognize yourself. But it’s also a good read, period, because it’s well crafted and interesting and compelling. It’ll stick with me, but in my head instead of in my bones.

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’m a big fan of the Sugar columns at TheRumpus.net, spending free time going through the archives and falling into the lull of Strayed’s words and her heartwrenching advice. When I heard about this memoir I knew I needed to have it — but I’d also promised myself that, since I had more time, I wouldn’t give in to spending money. I’d get it through the library.

The first night I got it (after weeks of waiting) I devoured about 20% (I read it on my Kindle). And then it got to the trail, really got to it, and her hours of solitude felt heavy on me and I set it down. I picked it up, got through it little pieces at a time, and thought about how difficult it is to effectively write something with only one person in the scene and keep it engaging. And then, just in time, new people joined her and the scene lightened and I found myself interested again.

That being said, as I read it, I wondered if when I got to the end I would feel disappointed. I’d expected something that would knock me out, over and over, like the Sugar columns, and instead what I got was solid, steady, a woman who was smart and interesting and stubborn but not necessarily a book that I would never let leave my fingertips. I started appreciating her craft — the Strayed/Starved necklace, the black feather, how her feet disintegrated while the rest of her body coped — and when I put down the book I knew that I had enjoyed it but wasn’t quite sure what I would say. I wasn’t sure if it was a new favorite, something I would throw at other people and say here, read this, please, you must.

But when I woke up this morning it was still rattling around inside me, and I realized that while on the surface it didn’t make me weep or make me force Mark to listen to page-long excerpts, it had buried itself deeper and made itself a home. I’m lucky enough to have never been knocked as hard as Strayed, but I could feel something, like I’d been taught a lesson I didn’t know I was learning, something about forgiveness and redemption and the way we are capable of much more than we believe. Read it when you need a book that feels like a deep breath, like a sore body after a long day, something like gratitude and triumph.