Saturday, May 25, 2019


Want to hear me talking nonsense about travel?

Click here to my talk on Amazing Nomads, a feature on the World Nomads website.

It's less embarrassing than I anticipated. I frequently have to go before audiences at my job, and it's made public speaking much easier for me than it used to be.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Digging Up the Past

I headed over to the Jersey Room at the public library to see what I could find about Breadalbane Terrace.

That's the side of my JC house. I'd learned previously that the original developer of my block had descended from the Breadalbane branch of the Scottish Highlander Clan Campbell.

My block is so distinct with its tin bay windows. Surely there must be some info out there, I thought.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Backyard Social

My backyard in Jersey City gets more interesting to me every time I check the game camera my mom gave me.

I don't have the kind of camera where it sends the photos to my cell phone. I have to physically check the memory card. But this means I look forward to getting off the plane, grabbing a coffee from nearby Grind, and sitting down to look at what's been happening in my yard while I've been in Burbank.

A landscaper recently tried to talk me into fencing off my yard. No way, I said. The animals own it, not me.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Painted Cave, Channel Islands Day Trip

Do you remember when I went down to Catalina with BBF back in 2016? Or when I went whale watching off Ventura? (Oh, wait, I neglected to post photos of the latter, so how would you know anyway?)

Yeah, I know. I barely remember last week.

Anyway, Catalina is actually part of California's Channel Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. The northern five of these (not including Catalina) are part of a national park/national marine sanctuary. Not a lot of people get to the national park, and I'd been thinking about taking my tent and heading over sometime. Or even better, doing some kayaking.

But camping alone can be kind of scary (yeah, I'm not scared of much but camping alone always makes me a little paranoid) and kayaking is exhausting and I suck at it. So when I spotted a boat trip to Painted Cave on Santa Cruz, I jumped at it.

The boat leaves from Ventura, and there's a spot nearby to pick up lunch, but I really would have done better by bringing a lunch from Burbank. But it was a busy week at work (it always is) and I had to run over and rent the car the night before, so I ran out of time.

Here's how it works: You show up, check in, then eventually head over to Prisoners Harbor at Santa Cruz island. There were a lot of seasick people on the boat during this crossing. I'm glad I wasn't one of them, but watching other people be seasick made me start to feel queasy.

We dropped people off at Prisoners Harbor, then headed down the coast to Painted Cave.

The boat went into the sea cave as far as it could. I have no doubt kayaking would be a better experience, but this was still pretty cool.

After taking a look, we headed back Prisoners Harbor where we were dropped off to sit for 2.5 hours, and the last half-hour was lining up and boarding the ship again, then heading back to Ventura.

Three hours is a lot to hang out by yourself when you suddenly realize you forgot to bring a book. I ate my lunch, took a short hike, then finally put my head down on a picnic table and napped. There were long-drop toilets on the island.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Harder Than It Seems

I finished the frames I was making for my Haiti pieces.

Now I just have to figure out where to hang these paintings.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Marie's Project Waste Reduction Update: Part 1

I've been trying to be more aware of my own use of non-renewable waste.

I started carrying my own supermarket bags in 2001 after a month in Berlin during my first MariesWorldTour. This was not a conscious decision at first—it's just how things were done there. But it stuck, and I adopted this habit on a permanent basis within a year.

Other things I've been doing lately:

  • Using reusable produce bags.
  • Using reusable nylon bulk foods bags. New and different. These only work if you have access to bulk foods at a local supermarket. 
  • Regular patronage of local farmers market.
  • Experimenting with carrying my own utensils/straw.
  • Not having a car and using public transit.
  • Cutting way, way back on red meat. 
  • I even bought some silk dental floss, though I haven't tried it yet. 

Of course, my carbon footprint is a stain upon the earth given my number of airplane flights over the year, so while the above sounds good in theory, all it really does is improve my disposition.

To be fair, my disposition could use some improving, so Project Waste Reduction is a win for everyone around me.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The African American Civil War Museum

My final panel ended at 2:45 today. I hurried out of the convention center and up 8th Street, and made it just in time to whirl through the African American Civil War Museum before it closed at 4.

This museum has been there for 20 years but I'd never heard of it before spotting it near the convention center on a map. (I grew up here but left a lot longer then 20 years ago.
"The mission of the African American Civil War Museum is to correct a great wrong in history that largely ignored the enormous contributions of the 209,145 members of the United States Colored Troops. It tells the stories and perserves for posterity the historic roles these brave men of African, European, and Hispanic descent played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. The Museum uses a rich collection of artifacts, documents, primary sources and technology to create a meaningful learning experience for families, students, Civil War enthusiasts and historians about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond."

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Look Back

I'm at Awesome Con this weekend, and I had something I wanted to check out near Dupont Circle, so I went over to Connecticut and M.

I had not been by this intersection in decades—why would I? Just a typical downtown corner with offices and stores.

But I wanted to see what it looked like, because this was where I'd go to my first office job, my first non-Roy Rogers job. Home to DC/101, a radio station where I was a high school intern in 1984.

It's been a while.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fun Marie Fact

My mom found this in an old box or scrapbook, and wrote the following:

The time Marie got a scholarship to travel abroad from the Arlington Civitan club, 1983. They got her name wrong but she got to go to Finland!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Out Back

My mom gave me a battery-powered motion-activated game camera. I stuck it out in my Jersey City backyard a few nights ago and learned my yard has an active social life.

Monday, April 22, 2019

My Birthday Gift to Myself

Unusual, I know.

I spent my birthday hiring a guy to refinish my porcelain enameled cast-iron pedestal sink in my 1895 castellated-brick rowhouse in Jersey City.

The sink is from around 1930, so it did not come with the house. This bathroom was "modern" in the old real estate listing photos I've seen from the early 2000s, so the previous owners restored it to include the pedestal sink and cast-iron tub. Thank you, previous owners, because the seventies-style bathroom looked like crap.

I spent the rest of the day coming down with food poisoning, which sidelined me for most of the week. So that was fun.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Loew's Valencia Movie Palace

I love checking out of movie palaces, and today I had the opportunity to see one which is seldom open to non-churchgoers.

The Valencia is one of the five wonder theaters Loew's built around NYC in 1929-30. The one I've been to the most is, of course, in Jersey City at Journal Square. I've been to that one more times than I can count since it's home to ongoing movie screen series and the occasional band. And I went to the Manhattan one once when Bob Dylan played there. I haven't been to the newly renovated Brooklyn one yet, and god knows when I'll get a chance to see the Bronx one, but today I saw the Queens one. 

I caught the E line from end-to-end, starting at World Trade and going all the way to Jamaica, then walking a few blocks. I passed the bank I'd gone to for the closing on refinancing my Avenue B condo back in the nineties. The closing clerk had contacted me after for a date. He seemed perfectly nice but I was so startled I scrambled to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

"I've never had that much fun at a closing before," he'd said. I was just like "what the actual fuck is this ethical" and went into "flee flee" mode. That was not charitable of me, though I supposed it's no different than the time the guide at the Amazon lodge looked up my contact details in the guest book and then called me when he got back to New York. That was really icky and I fled that time too. But then this was before everyone had email. I did then, but I guess it was uncommon to hand out email addresses the way we handed out phone numbers. How things change.

Ethical or unethical to swipe someone's contact details and call them? I think the latter, but this could also be the basis of a hit rom-com, so who knows?

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Luggage of Living on Two Coasts

The TSA agent who had to inspect my bag last night must have been really confused.

I had a small trashcan in my luggage.

What actually happened is the trashcan in my JC kitchen had a handle that kept coming off, and I had the same model in Hollywood and didn't need it anymore once I moved to Burbank.

I was checking a bag yesterday, so I stuffed the Hollywood trashcan into my bag and brought it along.

But I like whatever story the TSA agent came up with better.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Look Back at Luxor

Digging around my old photos this morning.

Ballooning over Luxor, 2007.

Original blog entry from that day:
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Marie? Who is Marie?"

The balloon pilot was passing out certificates of achievement. After all, it isn't every day that one stands passively in a basket while floating through the air above Luxor's West Bank. Surely the early hour alone merits some kind of trophy. Not everyone gets out of bed at 5 while on holiday.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Artistic Choices

Remember that painting student in Jacmel, Haiti who sold me this piece for twenty bucks when I said "Here's twenty dollars, you choose the painting for me"?

I am finally getting around to framing it and my rule is I can't pay more to frame it than I paid for the painting.

So here I am with my miter box, wood glue, some craft wood, and a band clamp on a Sunday afternoon, making a frame. I'll stain it black when it's dry.

It's not a professional job, but it's in keeping with the aesthetics of the art student's aspirations.

Monday, April 08, 2019

A Plate For No Seasons

Here is a plate thing I made in pottery class. The Swiffer pack is for scale.

What does one do with a rectangular plate the size of a Swiffer head? I probably should have thought of that before I made it.

Sunday, April 07, 2019


In June, I'll have been in Los Angeles for four years.

Each spring since I moved out here, I've intended to go see the wildflower explosion in Antelope Valley. But the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is famous for spring weekend crowds, plus I don't have a car.

Today I finally made it out there in a rented Ford Fiesta. And the crowds were spectacular, but not as spectacular as the poppies.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Artist's Studios

I stopped by the Brewery Art Walk at the end of my day today.

I've been mildly interested in seeing this for a while, and it was kind of pleasant. Once was probably enough.

In Search Of...

I went to the giant Thai supermarket near Chinatown is search of crispy fried garlic. I found that pretty easily on arrival, but then I wandered into the back of the big aisles of the warehouse and saw these.


Friday, April 05, 2019

Bhutan Phallus Paintings

I'm at the 12-minute mark of this Australian podcast talking about phallic paintings in Bhutan.

If you listen to the whole thing, the funny part is when they can't help but suspect I'm exaggerating, and fact-check me before they move on to the next interview. To be fair, it all kind of sounded suspicious to me too. I'm glad they checked.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Camping in National Parks

I'm not the procrastinator! I'm the planning ahead person mentioned in the article. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pottery Class Oddities

My workplace recently reorganized the teams, and I got a new team.

To commemorate the last team's efforts, I made every member a Starro. Except for the Justice League writer. I made him a Jarro.

My new team doesn't have a name yet.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

If It's Not One Thing...

You know when you get those texts or emails you really don't want?

I got one this morning. It was about stucco. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Women's History Month, Part Two

Just before 9 this morning, I caught the #222 bus over the hill from Burbank to the Red Line in Hollywood. I arrived in DTLA by 9:30, much too early for my 10:30 a.m. tour honoring Women's History Month.

I walked rather than bussed it across downtown, stopping to look at things along the way, seeing what has closed and opened recently. It's funny how many places have changed hands more than once since I stayed on 4th and Main my first year out here.

My phone map directed me straight through Skid Row, past tents, men hanging out in parks, and two huge missions. The first few times I came through here, I was completely shocked, but I've since sat through talks by homeless people who explained their lives on the streets, so the vast number of homeless seems less unsettling to me than it was, though I always feel guilty and ashamed for wandering through on a frivolous field trip.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Green Thumb

Look what I managed to grow on my Burbank balcony!

Not that I have any great love for radishes, but this seemed like an easy place to start with container gardening.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Women's History Month

I went on a Women's History Month tour of The Ebell of Los Angeles today.

The Ebell of LA is a women's club founded in 1894, with the current headquarters built in 1927. It's still active, but its primary purpose is somewhat obsolete now. Women would gather to read and learn and make art, all things that were somewhat inaccessible to women in the past. Well, maybe it's still inaccessible, because we work all the time.

The club stays open by hosting events (such as weddings) and renting its space out to Hollywood productions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Weekend of Whales

In January, 2017, I went whale-watching near the Channel Islands, off the coast of Ventura. I'd read this part of the Pacific is on the migration route for gray whales, who head south for the winter.

Sure enough, I saw several whales that day, along with dolphins and sea lions. But I'd also read about where those whales were headed—to lagoons off Baja California, where they birth and nurse their calves, as well as mate for the next go-round.

I didn't give much thought to whale migration again until I realized whale season was upon us here in 2019, and I hadn't acted to get myself south to Mexico to see the whales. Was it too late?

I researched every term I could think of. Solo travel to Baja. Independent travel to see Baja whales. Gray whales, Baja. Budget travel, whales. I searched guidebooks and websites, but didn't find anything truly satisfying until I really dug in. Central and southern Baja wasn't far away as the crow flies, but it was too damn long from LA by bus. Fifteen hours by car, longer by bus. Nope. Not gonna do that and be at the office by 9 on Monday.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Baja Weekend

Look what I did over the weekend.

Well, okay, I didn't DO this. But I went and saw this.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Cash, Parton, Cheech, Chong

Now is a good time to stop by the Grammy Museum.

En Route to DTLA

I was en route to the travel show* at the LA Convention Center, entering the Hollywood/Vine metro station, which is actually at Hollywood and Argyle.

There was a guy inside the platform’s glass-sided elevator.

The elevator was not going up. It was not going down. It was merely existing without bias—the guy did not seem alarmed, nor was he trying to exit the elevator. The doors were snugly shut, as if the elevator was at rest. Which I guess it was. The guy and the elevator were just hanging out.

I averted my eyes and walked to the other end of the platform. I kinda wanted to see where this story went, but self-preservation won out.

*At the travel show, I interrogated some Baja reps about the bridge from San Diego to Tijuana Airport, the CBX. From Burbank, it is possible to take the 4:50 a.m. Flixbus to Old Town, San Diego, hope on a trolley to the San Ysidro border, get on a $6 shuttle to CBX, then walk into the airport through passport control, and take a Calafia or Volaris flight south into Baja. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

But My Haircutter Moved to San Francisco

Going to SF for the day seems decadent, but you know what’s more decadent? Paying for a hotel.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rainy Season in SoCal

There are occasional days I regret my choice to not own a car.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Responsible Citizenry

I went to my first Burbank homeowner's association meeting.

I pitched purchasing a panda to maintain the bamboo in the courtyard, and while I didn't get a panda, now I'm on the board. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sunday, February 10, 2019


Today I went to the first of four workshops intended to teach techniques for relieving or mitigating stress.

It was raining when I left the house, and I was worried about when the bus would come and then I didn't know what to expect and it was still raining when I left and I had to rush to catch the bus I doing this right?

Monday, February 04, 2019

Pottery by Hand

Here's how my first hand-building projects came together. A pinchpot and a coil pot.

Admittedly, they're not gonna set the world on fire anytime soon, but I'm learning.

I might take the same beginning class over again in the spring.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Interior Design

I'm trying to figure out how and where to hang all my souvenirs here in Burbank. I'm all out of room in JC.

It's harder than it looks!