Monday, July 05, 2021

More Lisbon Touristing

When I do those epic trips, the months-long solo journeys on public transit, I end up having time to really think. About the world, my goals, my own self-analysis, stories to write, even comics to oversee. That’s not something I get to do in my current life, where I flit from online meeting to problem to concern to story point. I get an occasional idea in the shower, but if it’s one I have to execute myself, it’s probably not gonna get done.

I’m not on the road long enough this time to get where I need to be for any rambling insights into my own future or past. But I’m so close. Tantalizingly yet frustratingly close, but we’re not there yet.

Instead, I’ll just account for my last few days, and note that there are still lines outside supermarkets here. People are still masked up inside everywhere. The pandemic is still very real. I don’t know if I’m clever to be out in the world when it’s empty of tourists, or just outrageously embarrassingly privileged. Probably both.

I’ve been double-vaxxed for more than three months now, an indication I’m good with finding my way through online systems, and being in Lisbon is just another example of that. I bought a return ticket to Spain weeks before Portugal opened up, and waited and watched. Within hours of the announcement of Portugal relaxing its rules, I snapped up a discount Ryanair ticket from Seville to Lisbon, then a TAP Portugal cheap ticket from Lisbon to Barcelona on Wednesday. Is all of that privilege? Maybe. Certainly, lots of people are good at ideas and finding loopholes, and this trip was not expensive since I bought the ticket before prices skyrocketed, and there’s hardly any competition for hotels. But the ability to drop everything and zip across the ocean—this is, I think, the privilege of being single and having a job. It’s a privilege that is sometimes a burden, but when it works out, it really works out.

But why Lisbon, anyway? Portugal’s one of the easier places to get residency, and I like to know my options. Would I move here? I have no idea. Lisbon is super-cute, but I’ve only been here 48 hours. It’s certainly a great place to be a tourist.

So what did I do over the last 30 hours? There was the walk down to TimeOut Market, then a streetcar to LXFactory (an industrial area converted to hipster shopping), then the streetcar to the center where I demonstrated no 'I'm cool' fucks left to give and bought a two-day ticket for the double-decker tourist bus, then took the 28 tram all the way up and back, buying some groceries at the end of it, then grabbed the metro back to the hotel. Today was pretty busy too—I walked to a cool elevator that looks like the Eiffel Tower’s cousin, but only if the Eiffel Tower was closed due to pandemic. So I walked down the hill instead, then came back up it on a funicular. Then I had to walk down it again, so I’m not sure what the point of that was. I went to the carnival sardine store, took the second part of the tourist part trip, then caught the tram out to the cemetery to look at feral cats. Oh, and I ate a pastel de nata, and did my laundry.

One full day left in Lisbon! My plan for tomorrow is to go to the castle and work my way through the form to get back into Spain.



Saturday, July 03, 2021

"Restful" Day in Lisbon

My big plan for my first day in Lisbon was to have no big plan. But eventually, I needed food.

The hotel receptionist tipped me off to a good breakfast spot, but neglected to mention it was down a massive hill (which meant coming back up the massive hill). I guess that's because everything here is up or down a massive hill.

While I was walking down the hillside steps, I noticed the famous #28 tram ran alongside, so after breakfast, instead of doing the nothing I'd promised myself, I took the tram to a Saturday flea market, up more hills.

When I took the tram back, I stopped in a Thai massage place for a half-hour foot massage and now my feet are less annoyed with me for being on them for three days straight. Then I had to rush around to pick up a sandwich since Portugal shut down for pandemic reasons at 3:30 pm.

I did go out again to hunt down carry-out at dinnertime, but the streets were mostly deserted.

So far, Lisbon is lovely. I have no idea how different it would be if it were full of tourists, but it's atmospheric when empty.



Friday, July 02, 2021

Alhambra and Beyond

Here’s some photos from my day of going to Alhambra.

I took the 8 a.m. train from Madrid to Granada, stashed my bag at a convenience store, took a bus to the town center, took a minibus up to Alhambra, walked around for 2.5 hours, then took the minibus back to town, the other bus back to the convenience store to pick up my bag, caught the train to Seville, and when I arrive, I’ll get straight on the airport bus to fly Ryanair to Lisbon.

All this on top of a few super-packed days in Madrid while jetlagged.

First thing I’m going to do in Portugal is nothing.




Anticipation

The glorious promise of the morning journey (“I’m on a train in Spain!”) invariably turns into disappointment on a crowded passenger coach.

Hot tip: Spend another moment on the platform, enjoying the anticipation.


Thursday, July 01, 2021

Luggage Hangover

My bag looks like it went on a bender. Plus I packed the wrong charger.

Ha ha oh well, I kinda wanted a second one anyway, so I can have one in Burbank and one in JC.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

To Madrid During Pandemic

I can’t even begin to describe the chaos that was international check-in at Newark Airport last night.

Imagine every destination having different and constantly changing rules for admission, and every person having to scramble with various documents and QR codes. 

“Do you have your COVID test? Are you sure they don’t require it in Spain?” 

I mean I literally can’t begin to describe the chaos, because my bag was lost between Brussels and Madrid, so I need to conserve my laptop charge until my bag shows up with my charger, and phone typing just takes too long.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Sunday Night Productivity

 Photos from last night's pottery class.



Sunday, June 27, 2021

Friend or Foe?

 What could possibly go wrong? 



Urban Development

There's a decrepit old church a block away which has been sitting empty for years. There's finally something going on—I'm sure it'll be condos. I'm still looking forward to it! 



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Mr. Jay G. Flash the Orange Cat was sitting directly outside my window this morning, intently wishing me awake to fill his bowl with tasty dry food. The day is spectacular—72 degrees and bright, birds chirping and squirrels eyeballing my tiny red stone patio.

I sleep with the windows open here in Jersey City, something I can't do back in Burbank, a few blocks from the 134. I don't know if it's the aftereffects of learning to appreciate small things during the pandemic or the fact that we are surrounded by nature in the middle of the city but every moment is a kind of urban miracle. Even the rain. Especially the rain. Though I'd had to pull in the umbrella and furniture yesterday so it didn't get soaked, and I'd had to Citi-cycle home in the drizzle last night after dinner with Denise.

This morning I filled the catfood bowl, then sat inside and watched the ferals tackle their breakfast. And as I sat there, a nun in pajamas, bathrobe, and a hair-cap wandered out to pick up the hose and water the convent vegetable garden.

One day I'll go back to Burbank because either office hours or winter will kick in. But for now, just the little details of the Lafayette Game Preserve are about as perfect as it gets.



Saturday, June 19, 2021

Secret Life of My Backyard

A lot goes on at the Lafayette Wildlife Preserve when I'm asleep.




Federal Holiday

I walked over to the African Festival at the park near my house. But it feels like the Ugandan forest out there--hot and steamy--so I didn't last long. I picked up a food truck lunch (brisket, plantain mash, slaw, white bread I'm going to feed to the birds) and headed back down Communipaw to my cool ground floor studio.

The weather gave the African Festival a sense of authenticity, for what it's worth.

But when I went to cross Communipaw, a police car with lights flashing gave me pause. It was leading a parade of cars, cars with balloons, signs, horns a'blaring. A Black men's Harley club brought up the tail end of the parade, with another police car bookending the procession.

The signs were all handmade signs about freedom and Juneteenth, with a few professionally printed Black Lives Matter placards sprinkled in. As everyone honked their horns, they also gave the Black power salute out of their cars. Passing drivers did the same.

What a glorious homegrown holiday celebration. And inspiring. Maybe I'll go back and see some African drumming in a bit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Ready to Go

 All right, I'm booked and ready for a few weeks from now!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Wrong House

I'm glad someone is getting used to the cat trap.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Mud

Here are a couple of pieces from pottery class last night at La Mano in Manhattan.

There's a pottery studio about 5 blocks from my house in Jersey City, but the same class there was over $800, and I'd have to buy my own clay. No thank you.

La Mano includes endless clay and I can sign up for practice time in theory. In reality, I work noon-9 pm Mon-Fri, so that probably isn't going to happen, but I used to go in all the time when I lived here.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Cat-mergency

Jay the feral cat is ill...I think his leg is either broken, sprained, or he stepped on something. He is hopping and not using his front right leg.

He won't let me near him under the best of circumstances.

I need to catch him in a trap and take him to the vet, right?

Then what? Does a feral with a cast have a chance? Does he live inside at night (whether he likes it or not)? Would I put him in a crate?


Wednesday, June 09, 2021

A Most Amazing Birthday Gift

Look what Denise made me as a late birthday gift! (I was in Burbank in April.)

This is incredible. There is a door under the stoop--that's to my little studio. There's a cat upstairs in the window. There is detail carved over the door and a pipe alongside the bay window.

She even did the print on the bag it came in.

Amazing work, Denise.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Stop, Thief

We had a big ol' thunderstorm here in Jersey City this afternoon, which was good because I got to test out the gutter cleaning I had earlier in the day. The clean gutters work!

Anyway, the feral cats (Jay and Lil) had their breakfast around 7:30, but the rain made it impossible to feed them dinner in the evening. They were hiding somewhere plus I don't want to put food in their bowl only to have it soaked a few minutes later.

Finally, the rain stopped at dusk, so I went out back to see if they were around. I saw Lil, and I called Jay. He came running across the convent lawn.

Fumetti

 Here is a little story. 



Monday, June 07, 2021

Old Photos

 Here are couple ancient photos my mom scanned in recently. One is me on the patio of my old apartment in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the other is me walking in Fort Ward, Alexandria (according to my mom--is it Fort Ward or Fort Hunt? I'm not sure). 




Sunday, June 06, 2021

Called It?

There's an old, thin, semi-toothless guy who sits on the steps of the pizza parlor every morning.

He talks to his handheld radio sometimes, and other times he talks to himself, and sometimes he talks to me or whoever is walking by.

Today he was silent as I approached on my morning walk to the coffee shop. Then, he suddenly looked right at me and spoke. "Your Pandora's Box, baby."

Or maybe it was "You're Pandora's box, baby." 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯



Saturday, June 05, 2021

Best-laid Plans

I got a cat toy for Jay the feral cat!

And it scared him. He ran away.



Sunday, May 30, 2021

House Nostalgia

Tracy's FB memories sent her this six-year-old post from when she first checked out my new house...the day before I flew to Burbank to work for the next several years. 

It took a couple of us 8-10 months to get the house ready for its new family. My house is generally a pretty cheerful house, and conveniently the area it's in suddenly turned into the hippest part of town.

Who knew? Not I. All I knew was I wanted a house this time, not a condo, and this one was cheap on Craigslist.



Battery Level

I found the limit to my backyard game cam batteries. My camera took photos from January 9th to April 5th and then it was like "we're done here."

I bet all kinds of exciting things happened from April 6th to May 29th.



Saturday, May 29, 2021

Ex BUR

I flew out of Burbank today for the first time in more than a year. The last time I'd flown into Burbank, I'd been horrified by how crowded the planes were at a time when there just wasn't much science established about COVID transmission. Now I'm vaccinated, and know plane air is filtered anyway, so I didn't mind my flight being sold out. I loved how easy it was to get a Lyft from my place to the post office to the airport—all in less than 20 minutes. 

Alas, there are no direct flights from Burbank to Newark, so I had to choose between changing planes in San Francisco or Denver. Which—always choose Denver if you can since it doesn't get fogged in all the time. 

My connecting flight out of Denver was running late so I used a lounge pass and hung out charging my electronics while remembering that time I came to Denver for a con and weirdly, my editor pal Joey Cavalieri happened to be there at that same time on a vacation, plus I ran into Larry Hama in the airport—he'd been at a GI Joe convention while I'd been at a comic convention.

No surprises this time. Just me, a power outlet to charge my phone, and all the individually packaged icky snacks I could possibly imagine.

I was looking forward to getting home after midnight--there was a book waiting for me to check through and sign off on for the printer!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Over the Hill - the Pandemic Edition

I'm vaccinated, all Pfizered up. I spent a week in Baja and earlier in the year, five weeks in Hawaii, and I haven't been shy about flying across the country...so today it was time to get back on the horse. 

Er, Los Angeles metro.

I hadn't been on the metro here since March of 2020. I haven't walked along Hollywood Boulevard or caught the 222 bus at Hollywood and Vine in that time as well. You all know I'm dedicated to public transportation. Why else would I not own a car in Los Angeles County? Time to walk the walk. Ride the ride.

I took the #155 bus to Universal for the metro Red Line, also called the B line now. I'll probably still call it the Red Line forever, the way old-timers in New York call the subway lines IRT or BMT. (You didn't think that was just a sandwich, did you?) 

The train was filthy. Almost all the passengers were men, with a couple of raggedy sleeping men on each car. I wondered briefly if this might not be my best idea ever, but the doors closed and we were off to Hollywood.

I disembarked at Hollywood and Western, walking alone through the station. A colorful sign at the top of the escalator advertised a bi-weekly farmers market. I crossed Hollywood Boulevard, expertly dodging a ranting man at a bus stop.

I trekked up the block to Thai Town, had some pad thai at a tiny outdoors table. I was relieved the little carry-out I like had made it through the pandemic. Unfortunately, my favorite Thai massage place was closed. There's no way to know for now if it's closed forever. I only found one open, and there were no appointments for the next two hours. No Thai massage for Marie today!

I walked all the way to Vermont and Sunset, sidestepping tents and another furious ranter, this time a woman. I thought I'd head up to the Observatory, which is closed but it was a nice day for a view. The Observatory bus isn't running though—not like there are tourists to cart up and down the hill—so instead, I jumped on a bus to Echo Park to go to Matrushka, the women's clothing store where I buy silly animal shirts.

I picked up a few shirts, then caught a bus to DTLA. One of the passengers, clearly imbalanced, kept yelling at the driver—"When are we getting to Broadway?" At one point the driver pulled over, told the man to put on his mask, and refused to drive until the man stopped yelling. He did stop. For a few minutes, anyway. Then he kicked up a fuss again. "When are we getting to Broadway?"

Downtown was pretty bleak. Grand Central Market was partially open, as was the Spring Street Arcade, but many stores were boarded up or out of business. Plenty of people were walking along Hill, Broadway, and Spring, but not the gentrifiers. Where had all the wealthy hipsters gone, I wondered. Maybe they'd gotten out of town the way many New Yorkers had decamped to the Hudson Valley. Or maybe they were just going from their homes to their cars, or ordering in due to the pandemic.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Vamanos

My trip home yesterday started out kind of typical, but ended on an unexpected high note. I dragged my luggage down to the rental car I'd picked up the night before, secured it in the trunk, took out the trash from the San Jose del Cabo AirBnB, took one last look around, then departed. I put the key back in the key locker and scrambled the code, messaged the owner that I was out, and then I…drove my car two blocks to a different parking space. Because I was worried someone might have seen me put my luggage in the trunk. 

Ha. Absurd, I know.

I was driving a VW Jetta from Alamo, but I had desperately wanted a Nissan March. They don’t exist in the US, so I had my eye on them since I’d spotted on my first day in Mexico. Alas, Alamo had no Nissan March for me. The March looks kind of like a Nissan Juke. 

I stopped for brunch at my second-favorite bakery, then headed out to the hotel zone, an area I hadn’t explored. It’s what it sounds like—a bunch of hotels along the coast. I stopped in some stores, but my favorite part was when I parked in a parking structure, then tried to pay for my parking on the way out. The parking machine got really angry with me and beeped loudly. A nice Mexican lady came to help me, and she couldn’t make it work either. Finally she looked at my parking receipt and noticed I hadn’t been there more than an hour. “Gratis,” she said, shoving the receipt back at me.

Oh.

I drove to a park at the end of the road, stopped at the ATM for some pesos (I like to have some spares in my Burbank stash so I don’t have to worry about getting money right when I cross into Mexico), and finally, headed north to the airport to drop off my Jetta and check in.

The airport did all kinds of annoying airport things, fairly typical of an airport. I emptied my water bottle, went through security, looked for a snack but the options were Sbarro, Subway, and Carl’s Jr, so that was icky.

The flight back was two hours, and I used my Global Entry for the first time, and now I’m never going back to the queue. I waltzed right through.

I picked up my luggage and walked outside to an overcast day. I’ve been catching Lyfts to and from the airport during the pandemic instead of my usual Flyaway bus, and while it was a stretch to imagine the Flyaway is dangerous given I’d just assumed my vaccination status would protect me on two planes, four buses, and on the streets of Mexico for a week, I reasoned that my bag was kinda heavy and I didn’t really want to navigate public transit. So I wheeled my bag over to the ride-share lot next to Terminal 1.

I signed up for a Lyft via my mobile, and then I noticed I had a text alert.

“I think I just saw you walk past Terminal 1,” texted Fletcher, a friend of mine who used to work at DC. “I’m waiting on Eddy to pick me up.” Eddy is another friend of ours who used to work at DC.

I checked my Lyft status. No driver had accepted yet. I canceled the ride, walked back to Terminal 1, and that is how I ended up eating noodles on Sawtelle last night with Fletch and Eddy.

A good time was had by all.

My plates made it home