Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ode to Perfection, vol. 1

Shop Around by The Captain and Tennille is an outstanding example of seventies pop music. Toni Tennille's broad word chewing and the funky synthetic rhythm stylings of her chapeau-ed balding husband stand the test of time. When the iPod spits this one out, composure be damned. It's time to boogie and lip sync.

There's even perfectly timed "Whooo!"-ing. Someone should incorporate this song into a chick flick. You know, they can play it over an independent career woman's series of comically bad dates, leading up to the meet-cute when she encounters her true love (who she initially can't stand) and gives up her hardened ways for the man of her dreams. All the 40-something women like me that used to sing this song into hairbrushes as girls would really dig it.

Oh, wait. The song's about relying on yourself and not settling for the mundane.

But it's got good beat, and you can dance to it. Quick. Someone call Nora Ephron.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A few photos

The view of the Koutoubia from our balcony. Each of those "windows" has a blast-horn speaker to shout out the daily calls to prayer. Might-e-fine wakeup call if you want to get up before dawn.

Typical of the souks...these are streets, with donkey cart and motor-scooter and foot traffic and all, with restaurants and storefronts just like any other street. But they;'re covered, and they feel like an open air shopping mall with stall after stall of goods.

Our green carriage driver, Mustaffa, who took us around the ramparts. He spoke no English, but I smiled and nodded like I understood French. He was sweet, bless him, and really wanted to be of help.

A typical tagine, this one with lamb and prunes.

In the hotel bar, they served my drinks with a rose garnish because I am a Lady.

A cautionary tale on what happens to girls who can't say no. The sad thing is, if I weren't in a job search I would have totally grooved on this and paid to have a really nice one done while sitting, instead of this scribble that is even worse for the fact that I wouldn't hold still.

I think this was Brad's favourite part about Marrakech. The brown-haired guy in the tank is GWB. The one in the white turban in Osama bin Laden, who is holding a machine gun. The train moves in circles, with GWB chasing the terrorist threat but never catching up. They were everywhere.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Travelogue - Marrakech

I am back from Marrakech, and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip.

I love it there. Its exotic strangeness is overwhelming, but it feels comfortable and vibrant and exhilarating, as well.

Flew out on Thursday night. I got waylaid by a phone call when I got back from running errands, and since I can never not talk to CP, he told me about the tortilla soup he made, and the beer he'd had for breakfast, and a bunch of other stuff when I actually should have been upstairs packing. Eventually I cut him off, ran upstairs to be sure I had everything important, and flew out the door to the car. The M1 was a parking lot, so instead of the normal 1 hour it takes to get to Heathrow it took 2.5. Pleh. I'd planned ahead, though, so I was still in plenty of time.

Once I arrived in Marrakech, I waited like 100 hours to get through passport control. Or perhaps it just seemed like 100 hours because they were playing an Arabic Muzak version of Lionel Richie's "Hello" in a loop. Teaches me to ridicule the Master...karmic payback sucks. (We also dined in a restaurant playing the entire James Blunt album. Lucky me!) My driver was waiting for me with a sign that read a close approximation of my name, and though he spoke very little English he did get me to my hotel promptly.

You notice little things in Arab states. Things like they ask your marital status on the hotel information form (and at immigration for me, though I've heard that isn't commonplace.)

Our room was a mini-suite with a beautiful view over a private garden with the Koutoubia mosque just over the wall. They'd left a tray of delicious pastries and a fruit basket as a welcoming gift, and so I had a snack on our balcony and thought, "Cool. Mo-D!"

Brad arrived Friday. I hung out at the hotel waiting. I could have arranged for a cab/driver to meet him...ridden to the airport to meet him and welcome him to a foreign country. Instead I texted him and told him to sort it himself, and sat in the sun reading a book. He paid 50 dirham more than he had to and arrived a little shell shocked. We had lunch in the hotel to get acclimated and then ventured out to explore. In the next three days, we learned many things that will make your trip easier if you decide to visit Marrakech yourself.

First rule of visiting Marrakech: Do not, under any circumstances, engage in conversation with someone who approaches you in a tourist area. I don't care how much it goes against your friendly, open Midwestern ways...shut up and keep walking. Be rude. Do not, I repeat, do not, greet them back, or answer their questions, or give any encouragement whatsoever. Sure, one or two now and again are just being friendly. But for every one of them, there are 20 that will decide you've invited them to be your guide and expect payment. Or take you someplace dodgy.

I didn't read this part of the handbook, of course, and me with my sunny disposition and my I'm-on-vacation(!) good cheer said hello to the first guy who grabbed us as we left the hotel. He claimed he was a gardener at the hotel and just on his way home. He would love to show us where to go see good things. I complimented his gardening skills (because the gardens were fantastic) then declined, yet he persisted. I declined again...we had plans. He persisted, and insinuated I was rude. I apologised and told him we were meeting friends at a cafe. He demanded to know which one. I thanked him for his offer and told him to go home and relax. We eventually ditched him in the square.

Second rule when visiting Marrakech: Drink the mint tea to refresh. It is delicious. Very sweet, but delicious. And mind the napkin on the pot handle. That thing is really damn hot. (A lesson I mastered quickly, but Brad was still struggling with on departure day. Hope the blisters heal soon.)

Third rule when visiting Marrakech: When wandering the souks, you will see all manner of cool things. And people will call out to you and try to get your attention. Some of them will even grab your wrist and try to pull you in to their booths if they catch you admiring something. Especially toothless, squidgy little bastards in blue sweaters on a hot day, who will then follow you and try to jump in to sell you something from someone else's stall because they think you're a rube. The guy who mans the stall will strike a completely different deal with you, all of the surrounding men will be laughing at the spectacle as the new shop owner and the grabber fight over who should get the sale and how they can both make a profit on the item. They will laugh harder when you tell the little grabby guy that he shouldn't have grabbed your hand because you're DEFINITELY not buying anything from him now. And when Grabman follows you offering lower and lower prices for the item as you proceed through the souk, ignore him. He sucks.

NB. Who knew there was more than one Ali Baba? And that all of them have magic carpets?? I swear, we met at least three. "Ali Baba" must be like "Steve" in the Arab world.

Fourth rule of visiting Marrakech: It helps to have a phrase book for either French or Moroccan Arabic. Or both. And remember to use it. Brad is a war-on-terror-loving, gun-toting, GO-USA Republican. I, as you know, am a diversity-loving, culturally-sensitive peacenik Democrat. Ironically, the entire trip Brad was the one that said merci and bon jour and tried to be unobtrusive. I, on the other hand, only used English and wore shorts for an entire afternoon, sending waves of horror through the town with my brazen leg-showing.

Which brings us to the fifth rule of visiting Marrakech: Ladies, no cleavage. No legs showing. Bring the cropped pants and the flowing skirts and be modest, or you'll have hundreds of people staring at you as you walk the mile to the Badii Palace and back. And let me tell you, you have no idea how disapproving a stare can be. Sheesh. Talk about a walk of shame.

Sixth rule of visiting Marrakech: Jeema el F'na is amazing, all the time. Snake charmers. Acrobats. Story tellers (in Arabic, though, so don't expect to follow along.) Musicians. Belly dancers. Delicious orange juice. Many fascinating food stalls in the evening, but they use one bucket of water to wash the dishes all night so your stomach better be made of iron if you plan to eat. BUT! BEWARE THE HENNA LADIES. They will beg you for the chance to tattoo a pretty flower on your hand or your leg or your ankle or your arm. Keep walking, say nothing, and DO NOT let them grab you. Unsuspecting nimrods who do not immediately yank their hands away from these Fatimas will end up with a flower scrawled on their hand that looks like some five year old drew it with their fist. And even if you immediately run to a restaurant and wash the henna off, it will stay with you for awhile. And then you'll have to explain that you can't say no in a job interview.

Seventh rule of visiting Marrakech: The dawn call to prayer is really damn early, the key being DAWN. Which is just before 6AM at this time of year, and it starts BEFORE dawn. And they blast it from loudspeakers. Which means your beautiful view has a dark side, especially if you sleep with the balcony door open for the cool night air.

All in all we had a great time. I came home with a bit of a suntan, and have spent my first day of garden leave getting caught up on the news and organising my plan for the next week of calling around looking for jobs. This was an EXCELLENT way to start my new life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hater, vol. 3

I hate that I have to write this. I really hate it. Because I don't want to have to say it. But it's been building up for weeks now, and as much as I've tried to rationalize and beat it out of me, I can't help myself.

Hillary Clinton, it's time to go away now. Seriously. Vamoose. Be gone, Satan.

Okay. You're not Satan. That was a cheap shot. I'm sorry.

In fact, you're an impressive, accomplished woman. You're brilliant. You genuinely care about America. You are willing to have a bit of fun at your own expense on Letterman and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and you'll even go on the sub-standard Saturday Night Live and laugh at their stupid no-talent jokes. Hillary, there is a lot to like about you, and I can say I used to genuinely be your biggest fan. And not in a creepy Kathy Bates way, but in a respectful, appropriate-distance kinda way.

But now you're a harpy-like caricature of a politician, what with your helmet hair and fashionably square pantsuits - your 3AM ad, and your bitter-elite-nancyboy attacks, and your ludicrous reminiscing about hunting trips with your dad. Why have you sunk so low? What has driven you to this moronically petty nattering?

Sure, Barack Obama is handsome, dead-sexy even, and has a quick wit and natural eloquence that charms everyone in his path. And yes, he hasn't been in the senate that long, and he's only 40-something and he's only been in the national eye since 2004. But that doesn't make tea with the wives of foreign dignitaries foreign policy experience - my friend Callista does that, and while believe-you-me she'd be a force of nature in the Oval Office, it doesn't give her equal qualifications to her husband. You've been a senator four more years than Mr. Obama, and you are Bill Clinton's wife so you saw a lot of things when he was president. You're capable, you're smart, and you can do the job, but you're not Henry Kissinger. So stop with the bill of goods.

And while I'm at it, Bill, what are you doing????? Come ON, mate. I used to think you were king. So smart. So kind. So charismatic. So full of promise. You were my first, my love. After trying to get rid of Reagan and Bush Sr. to no avail, you were the sweet sweet taste of victory. A voice of reason in a world of supply-side, Falwell-loving claptrap. And now you're out there ranting like a lunatic, completely disconnected from the tidal wave of change about to wash politics-as-usual out to sea. Oh, Bill. Dear, sweet Bill. We are so OVER.

Hillary, I beseech you...stop being so stubborn and face the facts. It's time to bow out gracefully. It's always best to leave before you're asked to. It's not that I don't think Pennsylvanians have a right to vote. But you're not going to win the nomination, and the more you grandstand in desperate attempts to save your campaign, the more you just seem churlish and bitchy.

But good luck to you. And God Bless.

Oh. And word to the time you're offered a shot, tequila and bourbon have more blue-collar impact than Crown Royal. It comes in a blue felt-velvet bag, for Pete's sake. Crown Royal is for people who are putting on airs.

Momentous occassion

Tomorrow is my last day at work. My friend Michelle is taking me out for a celebratory dinner somewhere, then Thursday I fly to Marrakesh (we're staying here - how cool is that?!) to meet my friend Brad for a few days R&R, and next Tuesday the job search begins en force. I'm terrified, but I'm also very excited. VERY excited.

It's so odd to be leaving a job with nothing firm to move to. I've done it before. Heck, I've done it several times. And though it's a little easier each time, it's still somewhere between exhilarating and exhausting and bowel-spasmingly frightening. I don't know why - each time I do this I end up better off.

The first time I ditched a go-nowhere slacker life in MSP and followed the scent of El Ben to Seattle, which led me to my playgroup and an exciting job at a start-up working for a good-natured lunatic and I got to go to Hawaii several times a year and visit CP for the weekend on the commuter flight to LA. (I had a few bitchin' apartments there too, FYI, not to mention a fabulous unemployed summer sitting in the garden drinking coffee until 10 AM every day.)

The second time I followed CP to DC, and though I hated the city I had a few spectacular months where I could see him all the time, not just when I could afford the airfare. Every day if I wanted. Sometimes twice. (In case you didn't realise, CP+Mindy=MEGAFUN, a sure recipe for happiness.)

The third time I stopped in MSP again for a few years, which gave me time to reconnect with my old friends and a few new ones, and led me to my current employer, which has sent me travelling around the globe and moved me to the UK and paid for my MBA.

With a track record like this, how can I worry?

So even though I'm a bit panicky, I'm ready for a change and I'm confident that I'll be dancing a jig of success soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm back

Me. And the Copa. Copacabana. Which, by the way, is hot but not actually north of Havana.

The view from my hotel room.

My hotel room. (FYI, I could lay crosswise on that bed and neither head nor foot would hang off the edge.)

Jesus Christ! That statue is HUGE!

Where I spent Friday.

Gratuitous nephew shot that I found when I downloaded my pictures. Teaches me to leave a camera unattended.

Tom and George at my hometown McDonald's (with Norwegian welcome sign).

My brother and his children enjoying a bit of culture at Christmas time.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm off!

The last trip of my events career starts tonight. I'm off to Rio de Janeiro with a client. TOTALLY geared. This makes Australia and Antarctica the two continents I'm missing in my efforts to be on all of them, and both of those are do-able as a private traveler. I know these things seem silly, but it's kind of a thing we do in my many states, how many Canadian provinces, how many countries have you been in? (More = better, FYI.)

When you work in my industry, traveling gets a bit ho-hum after awhile. Not that you don't enjoy yourself or the places you go, but you go enough places that you don't get the same thrill you do at the beginning, and most of the time you're working so your time isn't yours to spend like you would on a vacation. The hotels are nicer, of course, but you're still working. But Rio is high on my list of places I REALLY am excited about, and so it's a nice way to bid farewell to this part of my life.

Back on Sunday, hopefully with pictures.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Speaking of Paul Weller

Which, I guess, technically I was more alluding to things I associate with Paul Weller than speaking of him. Anyway. Wearing pencil trousers and doc martens reminds me of PW, which reminds me to mention that I am currently obsessed with English Rose.

Beat Surrender

I've been in a bit of post MBA slump. Kind of depressed. Kind of shiftless. Missing my friends. Feeling a bit lost. A bit melancholic. Fighting off a sore throat.

The job search is going in fits and starts. In the meantime I've given notice at my current job and am forcing myself to figure something out. I don't know whether to stay here or move back to the states. I have questions. I want more love in my day-to-day life, not just through emails and phone calls. I'm edgy. I feel that deep-seeded sort of restlessness I haven't felt since my 20's. Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?

But it gets worse. Today I wore black pencil trousers, a white oxford shirt, a black leather jacket, leopard print doc marten boots and black and red chunky-framed glasses. It was like I was Enid in Ghost World when she tries to be a retro punk to avoid responsibility. Or like it was 1982. Either way, I'm a little old for that look.

Oh well. I'm bohemian, right?