It was a Saturday

… when the snow fell. It was the kind of day most sane New Yorkers would have spent indoors, curled up in bed with hot chocolate, an SO or a four-legged substitute.

But Lola wasn’t daunted. She threw on her rain jacket and marched outside. Snow, after all, is her preferred form of precipitation.

I’d spent the last two weekends in full hibernation. With Phil and the beast in town, there was no choice but to go outside.

Luckily, the Manhattan-bound train actually made all the local stops in my hood (circuitous routes to the city are par for the course on weekends) and, get this, we got to Chinatown without me having to emit my patented grunt of MTA displeasure.

Why were we in Chinatown on a Saturday, aka the day of monster clusterfudges? Two words. Joe’s Shanghai.

There, we were seated at a table of high-schoolers who all knew each other (At least I think they were in high school. One of them had a full beard, and beards always throw me off). The bearded one dominated the conversation, which mainly consisted of them congratulating themselves on their decisions.

“Great call coming here.”
“My inviting you to hang with us is so justified, since you recommended that we come here.”
“We are so amazing at life.”

When they talked about their plans to go to Strand — one of my favorite places in the city — it was official. I wished right then and there that I was a full-bearded, self-congratulatory manboy.

Coincidentally, Phil and I also were going to Union Square because of a show later that night.

We had the choice to go to Strand ourselves (effectively surrendering from the challenge I presented myself in PROBAATD a mere day after I made it) or go to Barnes & Noble, book-filled yes, but at least with the prospect of distracting myself with coffee and a cookie.

The cookie won.

“Can you solve this — First 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e (e is italicized so I’m guessing it has some kind of mathematical definition)?” I texted my brother.

After some back and forth that involved terms like “sliding windows” and the answer being a “clever use of SQL” [1] (obviously things I would never say), he asked me…

Him: Why are you reading that at 8 p.m. on a Saturday?
Me: I’m at Barnes & Noble waiting to go to a show nearby. So there.
Him: For shame. Reading tech books on a Saturday night in the greatest city in the world.
Me: What are you doing tonight in the most presidential city within 49 states in the continental US?
Him: Going to the market to get icing so we can make donuts……………..
Me: You guys are wild.
Him: We’re going to use REAL EGGS for it too. Watch out — badasses coming through.

Outside, we ran into this. I later found out it was this. I kind of wish I saw it, but there was another kind of party to go to.

Fuerza Bruta (Phil would like you to know that he took this magnificent picture.)

I took a few pictures, but my BlackBerry pictures came out much better. I think it had something to do with the ethereal, grainy quality of the good ol’ BB and a much greater sense of wonder I had as a first-timer. It was fun nonetheless.

(Just to give you an idea of how slow-moving making concrete plans can be for two young professionals living in different cities: Phil said he wanted to see the show after seeing my post in June. We are now in an entirely different year.)

Afterward, we headed to the Lower East Side, only to find an incredibly long line at our destination.

I walked up to the bouncer: How long is the wait?
Bouncer: I don’t know. It’s like one in, one out.
Me: Seems excessive to me. (Looks at Bouncer #2 standing in front of a door adjacent to bar #1.) Are these the same bar?
Bouncer #2: No. Different. Where are you trying to go?
Me: I was trying to go there, but never mind. Got any recommendations?
Bouncer #2: Are you just trying to grab drinks somewhere?
Me: Yep.

He then opened the door to reveal a dark space with a second door that opened to a hidden bar. There was no photography allowed, but I’m pretty sure I was in Narnia. Except instead of talking animals, there were bartenders (I mean, mixologists). I’m pretty sure I  even saw Ryan Gosling(‘s cousin’s best friend’s sister).

There was only one way to end the night: a late-late-night stop at Crifs, land of bacon-wrapped hot dogs topped with egg and sauerkraut.

But here’s the thing: the hot dog made it home. My phone didn’t.

After some mild (read: major) panicking that may or may not have involved me dumping the contents of my purse onto my bed while yelling “I can’t figure out the cloud!”, I eventually succeeded in tracking and texting it.

Just how did I approach the subject with my phone-napper?

“Hello. I am your conscience.”

I’ll never find out if such a message would have moved my phone-napper to repent, because this supposed napper turned out to be my friend. I’d left it in his car.

And so ended my Saturday.

How was yours?

FOOTNOTE
[1] Upon reading this, my brother had this to say:

Him: Oh shit. That’s mathematica code not SQL. My stupidity is now shown on the internet forever.
Me: I’ll edit.
Him: No, no. It’s good. Leave it. It shows that I am human. Fallible.
Me: Is that a common error to make? Or is it like a writer mistaking “than” for “then”?
Him: Probably the latter. Two totally different languages. Two totally different meanings. The syntax is totally different.

And there you go, interwebs. He claims the donuts were his undoing, much like the hot dog was mine. Must run in the family.

In case you were wondering, the donuts were “Not bad, but could use more awesome.”

A rock and a white place

By some accounts, on one certain sixth day, living creatures were summoned to fill the earth. But on another sixth day, a band of ne’er-do-wells in Vegas summoned all their strength to rouse themselves from the dead (a figurative kind of dead; this is a lighthearted entry, after all) for some physical activity.

What can I say – We were an ambitious sort. It wasn’t enough that we’d barely slept all week, had danced the night away more than once, with one of those instances occurring on the eve of the new year, some (ahem, one) of us in multiple-inch heels with no spare flats to save our feet from certain doom.

Exhausted, dehydrated and drawn to anything neon so long as it promised us the chance to spin a fortuitous wheel, we looked those five days in the eye and proclaimed, “Hogwash!”

We were going hiking.

***

Red Rock Canyon. The name, taken literally, conjures images of a canyon of red rocks. Figuratively, it conjures images of a canyon of red rocks. So, how we ended up on a canyon of white rocks was entirely, well, my fault.

While the boys were busy studying a map of the canyon at the visitor center, I may or may not have been busy studying a live tarantula in a tank. It was just so hairy and motionless – Did you know its bite is only as poisonous as a bee sting? I sure didn’t.

“Trail 3,” our resident driver, Marco, said once we got back in the car. “Calico Tanks.”

“Trail 3, eh?” I mused, unfolding the map.

This trail starts at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. It winds through a wash and there may be seasonal water present in a natural tank at the end.

My eyes glazed over and wandered to…

Trail 5. Keystone Thrust. This trail is accessed from the upper White Rock Spring parking lot. It takes you to the most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon – the Keystone Thrust.

Perhaps the “white rock” part of the description should have been a clue, but there were thrusts! And keystones! And significant geologic features! This Keystone Thrust in particular sounded magical, as if at any moment we would stumble into swords in stones and baby Ewoks.

I had to go to there.

“Hey!” I said. “This sounds way more interesting.”

“I guess we could do that,” Marco replied.

Working through my phone’s spotty reception, I attempted to Google some images of the thrust while Marco called the others.

“Hey guys…”

My phone laboriously loaded photos.

“… we’re going to Trail 5 instead…”

Loading.

“… Karen said it sounds more interesting…”

Still loading.

“… It’s just past Calico Tanks.”

As I waited for the thrust, we happened upon the glorious red rocks. Surely our parking lot couldn’t be too far off, I thought.

“Got it!” I said, triumphantly holding up my phone to reveal images of the rocks.

Really white ones.

Outside my window, the red rocks zoomed past. So did the parked cars. And so did the many people who figured out that in order to hike among the red rocks, they had to go to them.

“So uhh,” I began, “apparently the thrust is a geological anomaly!”

I gulped.

“Geologists from around the world come to study it!”

It was time to panic.

The air grew thin; I felt my throat tighten.

“You’ll be fine!” Marco said, thinking my fear of heights was getting to me. “You just have to conquer your fears.”

I imagined everyone taking pictures with the white mountain, later regaling friends with the time they, fighting exhaustion, drove a ways away from the city center to look at some pretty regular rocks. They’d think of me, and their cheeks, in a cruel reminder of what they didn’t see, would turn red.

At Trail 5, the parking lot was noticeably emptier. We tentatively set foot on the gravel lot.


Phil, ever the supportive boyfriend, quipped: “So, what did you guys do at Red Rock Canyon? Oh, we went to see the white rocks.”

“Red rocks are so mainstream.”

I plotted his demise.

What made it worse was that Marco tried to take the blame. There was only one thing to do; I would sacrifice myself to the next available wolf.

But for several minutes, there was nothing. Hikes, believe it or not, can be pretty monotonous when you’re dreading the nothingness you’re walking toward. When Marco decided to climb a nearby crest, we all followed.

Monotony over.


Normally I have an incredible fear of heights, especially in the presence of rickety ladders, rail-less roofs and laws of physics-defying elevators. But when allowed to ascend on my own terms, on my own two feet on fairly stable ground, I do just fine.

Which is why I was able to do this.

And this.
Scaling it or feigning imbalance on the edge, however, would have been an entirely different thing. Which is what some of the guys did in completely undocumented fashion, as I was curled up elsewhere in the fetal position.

In the end, no one seemed to mind that we ended up on the white part of things.


And the best part was from far away, the red rocks were still pretty spectacular.

Notes from the road


Traveling for work is just like any kind of travel. You’re in a strange land, in a different time zone perhaps, and sleep in a bed that’s perfectly adequate in all other respects except it’s not yours.

But instead of spending nights painting the town red, you’re painting your spreadsheets with highlighters.

Meals are usually spent alone and cramming your head with facts about the interviewee and the subject matter at hand.

Days and nights are spent churning out material with (hopefully) lightning efficiency.

Dinner might look something like this.

And your last vestiges of consciousness are spent with your favorite Wonderer.

That pretty much sums up my week.

There was barely time to catch up with friends, though I did catch up with the characters of my book of the moment.

After Washington, I made a pit stop in Baltimore to see Lola and Phil.

We took Lola to the dog park, where she observed the other pups from the bench without getting too close (she takes after me, I guess).

Pretty soon, it was time for me to head back to the city.

Insert silly joke here cursing the Amtrak police for barring non-passengers past the door, forcing me to carry my own bags to the train.

The train, a convenient and spacious alternative to other modes of transportation, gave me a few hours of solitude.

The weekend was much too short.