Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Turbulence and happiness checks

I fly a lot. Maybe not as often as my fellow Diamond Medallion travellers, but still a lot. Upon leaving the Azores, my dad teased me about being "an experienced flyer" because I had my laptop and liquids ready for X-Ray before he took his jacket off. Yup, my weird thing to boast about is clearing security in under two minutes (NEXUS helps a lot here too). I feel really comfortable in airports, they are like these bastions of life neutrality for me, especially during layovers - nobody knows me here, nobody knows where I am going or where I came from, nobody, frankly, cares, and neither do I, because I am in the no man's land - not quite home, but not quite at my destination either. It temporarily clears me of all responsibility, problems, morals even. I work on the go, sure, but I almost do not exist when I'm in transit. I love this feeling. This, I think, prepares me to arrive: to let go of the place I left and arrive into my new or not-so-new destination, focus on the life I am about to start leading, be it for three days or for two months. But when it is time for my plane to finally take off, when the chassis stop touching the tarmac, I always battle the emotion that used to be fear and that now is just exhilarating tinge of worry.

Funny, right? At this age and stage of my travel life, when I jump aboard a plane, what seems like, every week, it is silly to get anxious about flying, about the plane going into steep turns, about turbulence. Yet, I confess, I still do. It is not fear of flying per se; I love flying, but I still get these jolts of adrenaline when the plane I am on jumps and shakes. Sometimes I get scared, sometimes it's a pure adrenaline shot, and sometimes antics in the air simply soothe me to sleep with no worry at all. It's still mysterious to me why I'm not always troubled, but when I am, I, without fail, think of my "happiness check".

Sounds pretty dumb, I know. These thoughts hadn't had a name at all before my most recent flight (which was really calm, by the way), but now that I've come up with a "Happiness check", it stuck. I always think how I have everything going for me in my life, how lucky I am to be doing exactly what I want and see people I love, all over the world. I know that if I were to die in a plane crash, however slim the chances might be, I would certainly die very very scared, but at least with all these happy memories in my head and things that I did rather than didn't do.

The happiness check doesn't calm me, by the way, it usually results in me thinking "oh god I don't want to die, my life is so great", which is exactly what I need in order to remember that planes don't just drop down from the sky, and a touch of turbulence never hurt anyone (except for you stubborn newbies who do not fasten your seat belts while seated).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Philly In Photos

Enough jokes about it being sunny in Philadelphia! Here are some pictures of wonder and gloom.

This, in particular, is gloom. The Eastern State Penitentiary is the oldest solitary confinement prison in the U.S. (now not functioning).

This is 4th St. It was pouring rain on a Monday night, and the only thing lacking here is a carriage.

Corner of South and 4th.

A highly recommended place to visit.

Even more recommended! Philadelphia Museum of Art

 View of Center City

 And the City Hall!

For the interested souls, I made a map of Philly's most essential spots, including museums, sights and good places to eat and drink. Check it out, I think it's neat, not to mention über-beautiful.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NYC art museums? What NYC art museums?

It's not always sunny in Philadelphia, but it is pretty swimming there, 24/7. While running through the Barnes Foundation, trying to at least look at the artwork I no longer had time to admire, I was thinking how I could not believe I was in North America, because never before was I so impressed with the art collection at a given American (much less Canadian) museum. Spending an hour and a half in the Rodin Museum before that was a great start: the museum is only one room, basically, but has a superb audio-guide with informative bits on almost every sculpture on display, including the striking Gates of Hell and the Thinker (the original!), so I couldn't leave without listening to them all.

And it only got better the next day, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened. Much, much better. Van Gogh was really just the cherry on top of the magnificent Impressionist cake, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir especially. Speaking of Renoir, he was also heavily featured in the Barnes Foundation along with Cézanne, quite literally, since they hang side by side there, in every room. Where the Barnes Foundation impressed me with Modigliani, the PMA had Schiele, Klimt and even Ayvazovsky, Degas, Miró... Indescribable aesthetic pleasure all day, every day. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Three Days in Philadelphia

On Sunday morning I am boarding my first flight from Billy Bishop International airport in Toronto, also known as the City Island airport, found about five minutes on foot from my brother's place and separated from land by 120 meters of water. It is going to be the shortest ferry ride ever, and it's going to be freeeeee! The airport code for Billy Bishop is YTZ, in case this bit of info is somehow interesting. I will be flying Porter to New York City... well, to Newark, to be exact, but I'm not staying there even for a minute and heading to Manhattan the second I step off my plane.

From Manhattan, which undoubtedly is going to be all green and Irish (it's March 17, Saint Patrick's Day, after all), I will be taking a bus to Philadelphia, where, I heard, it is not always sunny, but many other wonderful things are found. Their art museum is supposedly exceptionally good. A quick Wikipedia read tells me that it houses Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Monet's Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies, which is good enough for me, even for $20. Another pleasant news is that the price of admission to Philadelphia Museum of Art covers two consecutive days, which means that I can visit Rodin Museum on Monday (while all the other buildings are closed) and continue with the main building and the Perelman building on Tuesday. Here is hoping that my hopefully light post-St. Paddies hangover will not interfere (or make an appearance at all).

Other random plans for Philly include cheesesteak, Liberty Bell, live music, and striking random conversations with people. After that, it's back to NYC for a few hours and then off I fly on Porter back to Billy Bishop!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This waiting for Barcelona. This pregnant pause.

Peter Murphy "Subway"
It's like there's a straight way you know, you know
I've told you before it's as thin as ice
As thin as the razor snow
Don't freeze in the snow
Don't bake in the heat
I'll be your breath
There's a place where we can meet
Use me
Don't sleep in the subway
Don't sleep in the pouring rain
By my voice in my midnight meditation
When I wake, be my heart's floatation
Come and fill, come and fill from the overflow
Come and play, come and play be like a bird
Don't sleep in the subway
I'm needing you well - I
I feel you, you're closing down yeah
Get close, talk right through me
Get close, keep tight with me
If you fall now it could be forever
I'm telling you the line is thin now
I've told you before this hate is a sin
Empty out for the overflow
Let love begin

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The blue Azores

I'm in the middle of the Atlantic on an island that I had been calling the European New Zealand even before landing here. I think I am right and also very, very wrong, because this is as European as it gets, yet despite all the greenery and picturesque mountains shrouded in clouds, one cannot make a mistake as of to where she is. Definitely not the Pacific!

The Azores are lovely - this is my sweeping generalization of the day. There are nine islands in the archipelago, and we are stationed on the largest one, Sao Miguel, and, naturally, the most administratively relevant, as it houses the biggest airport and the capital of the autonomous region, the town called Ponta Delgada. We are staying on one of the main streets of Ponta Delgada, two minutes away from the "Gates to the City" and the marina, and yet this central street is as narrow as Travessera de Gràcia, which I find hilarious, awesome and not relevant to our stay at all. It's great, really: everything is so close, and yet the island is big enough (or should I say long enough?) for us to explore. This is precisely what we are doing tomorrow! The weekend was all about the relaxing strolls about, but volcanoes, crater lakes and hot springs are waiting.

Locals speak superb English: anyone I uttered a word of English to responds in kind without skipping a beat. Breakfast, dinner, yielding a cycling path, asking for Internet - doesn't matter, they understand, and it's very refreshing. Now Spanish is a different story, of course :)

They grow pineapples here. And tea. Azore Islands have the only tea plantation in Europe. I'm done justifying, I'm in love.