Category Archives: Writing Vacation

New York City, Play Edition

Whenever I travel somewhere for work, I always sneak in at least one day’s worth of play.  My most successful work/play trip was to Walt Disney World for the 2010 NCTE convention--though the ‘play’ portion of that trip was made possible by skipping the ‘sleep’ portion of the trip!   I’m proud to say that I managed to sneak some fun into my conference trip this past weekend and that said trip may be tied for first with Disney as ‘most fun work/play trip ever’.

We arrived at our hotel around 11:30 in the morning and were able to check in–a

Manhattan Centre Hotel

New York first for me.  While the hotel wasn’t fancy in any way, the room itself was probably the largest I’ve seen in any major city.  And it was very clean.  I give it five thumbs up…er…well….you know  what I mean.

I had a goal, which was ‘make it to the Met before 1:30’, as I wanted to go on the guided highlights tour.  I got hooked on museum tours after a fantastic tour at the National Gallery in London last summer, and my love for docents grew upon visiting The Air and Space Museum in DC in September.

This tour was not as great.

But at least we made it to the tour, thanks to our amazing taxi luck.  In the past, I’ve disliked NYC because of how difficult it is to get around.  The subway is nowhere near as efficient as any other major city I’ve ever visited and getting a cab is often impossible.  But this weekend it was amazingly easy.  If it’s a side effect of the crappy economy…well then I just found one good thing about the crappy economy!

Cab ride through central park

The Met was beautiful, though in the future I will purchase the audio guide and forget about the guided tours.  Notice I said ‘in the future’, as I will be back.

The view from the cafe

Having learned from past trips (thank god!) I knew that I couldn’t do a whole day of museum-going without eating something first.  So before we even began touring the museum, we found food.  I have to strongly recommend the Met’s cafe and wine bar.  With a beautiful view and only moderately overpriced food, it’s a good bet.  We did walk around the general vicinity for a while, and didn’t really find anywhere we were longing to dine–though my husband did stare at the street vendor hot dog cart for quite a bit.

Mushroom flatbread

We somehow managed to get yet another cab upon exiting the Met–and at 5:00

Happy hour

on a Friday!  I was beyond thrilled, as after walking around a museum all afternoon, I was in no shape to walk 30 blocks.  We met my husband’s friend for drinks at a bar on Broadway, and I again had a great time.  It was a normal, human sized bar, which is not what I was expecting at all.  Additionally, I awarded it five toilet paper rolls for restroom cleanliness, which is the maximum number of toilet paper rolls an establishment can earn (in my imaginary world where toilet paper rolls are awarded).

We were having such a good time we almost missed our 8:30 dinner reservations at Brasserie.  Somehow we managed to leave the bar at 8:00, walk to the hotel, fix my husband’s hair (yes,

Appetizer one of three--tuna tartare

you read that correctly) and walk to Brasserie in less than 30 minutes.  I was impressed.

I chose Brasserie as our low budget selection for the weekend…yeah, that didn’t happen.  By this point we were so hungry (and, ok, a little tipsy) so we ordered EVERYTHING on the menu.  This was a good call, however, as everything on the menu was amazing.  It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

It was at this point that I agreed to take city break weekends to New York rather than return to Vegas year after year.  My New Yorker husband is thrilled.

Up next–New York City, Work Edition: My experience at the ASJA Annual Convention.


Another Metro Area Apology

Last summer I was forced to apologize to London after bashing it quite brutally in several blog posts.  Though, to be fair, the London-bashing was nothing compared to the Paris bashing.

I also wrote a fairly scathing review of New York City, a place I’ve been to many, many times and have grown to dislike as an adult.  It seems I must be regressing to my youth, because on this trip, I freaking LOVED New York.

I honestly contemplated buying one of those I ‘heart’ NY t-shirts.  Don’t worry–I didn’t.  Though I did stare longingly at a coffee mug.

Tomorrow I shall share all of my reasons why I now love New York City, and my thoughts on how this impacts my return trip to Paris.  But for now I must sleep, because apparently having fun is VERY tiring.

A Mini Travel Re-Do

For those of you amused by my return-to-Paris plans, here’s another good one–I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow.  I’ll only be there for the weekend, and I’m going to attend a conference, but still.  You may remember my I Hate New York post from last July, which turned out to be merely the amuse bouche of the eight course tasting menu of suck that was my Europe experience.  If you do remember that post, you are likely laughing and, again, rubbing your hands together in anticipatory glee.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned from my mistakes.  We’re staying at a hotel that is walking distance from the bus station and from my main destination–a conference I’m attending.  We have dinner reservations for both nights–at Le Colonial tomorrow night and at The Modern on Saturday night.  I’m super excited about the second one–I’ve wanted to go there for some time.

Another exciting part of this trip is that I may finally get to visit the Met.  It is open late on Fridays, so depending upon what time we arrive tomorrow, it may be possible.  This is me crossing my fingers.

If you can’t wait to see how badly…er, well…the weekend goes and  want to follow along, check out my real-time travel blog, Virtual Passenger.  You can subscribe, and my updates will appear in your inbox in all of their awful…er…awesome glory.

Best Places: Holiday

I’ve been agonizing over this post–it has made me shake my fist in the air at the travel channel since I challenged myself to follow the ‘Best Place I’ve Ever Been’ lineup with ‘Best Of…’ lists of my own.  This one is the most difficult.  Why?  Because holiday travel is typically two things I strongly dislike–expensive and crowded.  So I’ve never traveled over a holiday.

Or have I?

It seems I’m forgetting one very note-worthy holiday, during which I am typically out of town for one reason or another (the ‘one reason’ being ‘because it is summer, and that’s when I can travel’).  The Fourth of July.  And the best place I’ve ever been for the Fourth of July is not a beach side resort town.  It is not a local campground or a national park or even my own back yard.  The very best place to celebrate the Fourth of July is at Wildacres Writers’ Workshop in the amazingly beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

This is in case you didn't believe me about the 'amazingly beautiful' part.

Surprisingly, when I looked back in my posts to link the Wildacres post to this one, I discovered something shocking–there IS no Wildacres post!  Why?  I didn’t start this blog until after I returned.  Woah.  I simply cannot imagine a my life without this blog, but there it is–a memory from before Blog on the Run.  I attended Wildacres two summers ago, in July of 2009–two short weeks before this blog was born.

That year, the workshop happened to fall over the Fourth of July.  Of course we had a party, complete with box wine (if I ever doubted that I was born to be a writer, those doubts have been erased by how well ‘wine’ and ‘writing’ go together!)  Judi, the amazing woman who runs the workshop, had a little patriotic assembly where several attendees read portions of the Declaration of Independence.  It was quite…cute.  We had hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and then when the sun went down we all drank aforementioned wine on the flagstone patio whilst musically talented writers played acoustic guitars and sang Tupelo Honey.

Man I love that song.

Best.  Holiday.  Ever.

I did not return to Wildacres last year, mainly because we were in Europe (or was it Vegas?) during that week.  And this year it is not over the Fourth of July holiday.  But I’ll still be there.  And there will still be wine and Van Morrison covers and foggy mountain mornings.

Is it July yet?



I’ve officially been home for one whole day and two wonderfully restful nights.  I woke up in the middle of the night last night and had no idea where I was, which is a good thing because it means that I was sleeping very deeply.  I really, really, REALLY needed that.  I feel human again.  And my TMJ has calmed way down, thank the gods.

But now that I’m home I have that familiar overwhelmed feeling.  There are so many things that I want to do, and soon there will be so many things that I have to do.  I will have to deal with the kitchen remodel, get ready for the start of the school year at work-school, and get ready for the start of the school year at school-school.  I have to admit I’m kind of scared of the prospect of two grad classes combined with the beginning of the work-school year.  And they are not even fun grad classes, though I’m sure I’ll get all into one dispute or another, over a school of thought in my psych class, or over a critical theory in my education class, which will cause me to be all consumed in whatever I’m doing.  Being opinionated is sometimes very motivational.

But there are things that I want to do–not thing that I have to do, thank goodness, because that means I might actually do them.  After spending my summer in writer-land, here are my new goals that I hope to start working on very soon:

1.  Finish my damn teacher memoir.  I’ve been working on it for far too long, and it is about time I get through it, if only to be able to put it to the side and continue on with my writing in other areas.

2.  Try to find a way to get said memoir published.  I have the names of several people who can help with this quest, courtesy of Bread Loaf, but as of now I’m not ready to contact those people, which puts further emphasis on the importance of #1, above.

3.  Revisit my desire to write a YA novel.  I know it is not literary in the ‘la-de-da I’m so very literary’ sense, but it is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and I really think I can incorporate some ‘la-de-da’ literary aspects into something for young adults, which will either result in something beautiful and profound, or awful and unreadable.  We shall see.

4.  Take up short story writing again, for two reasons.  Reason one–I’d like to be able to try to submit short pieces for publication in obscure journals, as well as attempt to enter some contests just to see what happens.  Reason two–I would like to be actively writing short stories myself before I start on my short story writing unit with my students.  I’m pretty sure that in the process of doing it myself for the first time in…years…I will come up with some new ideas for my classroom.  

5.  Research MFA programs and start applying.  Perhaps.  Maybe I should reword that–decide for absolute certain that I want to pursue an MFA, and then, if I really, truly do, research and start applying.  Unfortunately, even though I’ve been home for less than 48 hours, I’ve already started the research part.  My husband thinks I am insane, and rightfully so.

6.  Start and finish reading all of the books I bought in the last three months that are either straight-up instructional books on writing, or novels that I feel–or have been told–are literary-rich and therefore good examples of what I’m trying to do.  The piles are all over my house, which is very daunting.  

7.  Continue to blog.  Which reminds me…

This blog was meant to be a travel blog, but I’m no longer travelling.  So it needs a new purpose.  As it was experimental, I shall continue to experiment with it in a different way.  After this post–which is kind of a cheating post, as I’m typing this on my desktop–I will again be blogging solely from my iPhone.  I will be using it for the purpose of writing down things that strike me as odd, interesting, annoying–things that I encounter out in the world that are in any way note worthy, to be used as a jumping off point for writing longer nonfiction, or even fiction, pieces, which I will post on my other blog, This is Not Fiction.

This sounds complicated, and it is, but it is how my overly organized, OCD brain works.  Wish me luck with that.

On Going Home

I feel like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz. This is a poor example, literarily shallow, over-used and therefore cliched.  But even so–or perhaps because of this–it is how I feel.  For a while now, I’ve missed home, even though I’ve only been here for a little over a week.  But today, more than missing home, I feel I am done being here.  I have gained so much, learned more than I’d anticipated about more than I’d anticipated–I am glad I came.  And I am glad I am going home.

There are two more days full of mainly readings and social events, but my brain is full.  Try taking a picture with a full memory card; it simply won’t let you.  That is how my head is functioning right now.  I realized at last night’s evening reading that I wasn’t even paying attention.  And that’s when I decided, despite the Gala Reception and Barn Dance I’ll miss–events of the sort that, though I see their place, are not why I came here–I have gleaned all that shall be gleaned from this experience, and I’m ready to go home.  And start planning my next one.  Whatever that will be.  I’m open for suggestions.

At yesterday’s lecture, ‘The Romance of Elsewhere and the Bonds of Home’, Lynn Freed spoke about travelling.  In travel, she said, some search for themselves, some for anonymity–but most people find both.  Because it is only in the contrast between the two that the other can exist.  I don’t know if I found neither or both, but I am quite sure that when I wake up and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are there, I will be just as changed as cliched Dorothy, and her little dog, too.

What Not to Do

In the last eight days, I have been to six lectures, four craft classes, three workshops, and thirteen readings.  I have walked to my house and back–which is .32 miles or about 600 steps each way–twelve times.  I have eaten 19 meals, sent 37 emails, posted ten blogs–this will be number eleven–and cried once.  Not a bad, I think.

There is a woman here who looks exactly like my chiropractor, if my chiropractor were to dye her hair black and start dressing like a hipster.  I think by now she knows I’ve been staring at her, and I should probably tell her why sometime soon.

There is a a slowness to time here that I cannot describe in words, no matter how many writing classes I attend.  Anyone able to capture it, in poetry or prose, should be rewarded a permanent fellowship.  The pace of the day speeds and slows, speeds and slows, like the voices of the writers in the little theatre as they read their stories and verse.  This is a bad example, really, because it contains a simile, and similes are the figurative language of the masses.  Rewording famous quotes is also frowned upon. So, I believe, is listing.  Particularly numerical lists.

Using sentence fragments, however, is acceptable.  Encouraged, even.