after my jaunt to salvation mountain i’ve been craving the dry desert air, but more of the poolside with cocktail variety. and what better place for that than palm springs?
it feels like i’ve been talking about it forever, but i finally made it to salvation mountain, just a few short weeks after the death of it’s creator, leonard knight. as a generally optimistic person, my expectations are usually quite high and are rarely exceeded–but this journey was an exception.
i received a detailed email that read as a travelogue of one of your hippest friends, someone who knows and loves the area with a kind of intimacy that is unmistakable and hard to replicate. these bits of insider information guided us through the first half of our desert venture, until we reached the stone tower of in-koh-pah, where we spent what felt like a great deal of time talking about the state of agriculture, drought and politics with the caretaker of the tower. surrounded by his (five that we counted) dogs from the moment we stepped out of the car, we knew quite quickly that we weren’t in kansas–or at least not the california that we knew–any longer. it was barren, desolate, the colors of the sky and earth faded and melding together seamlessly. after a quick photo shoot, we were ready to get back on the road to our primary destination, not without a warning from the kindly (if rather chatty) caretaker, who advised us that under no circumstances should we spend the night there–he made us promise that we’d be back in san diego, or at least leaving the desert by nightfall. this didn’t bode well for us–we had already been warned by said hip travelogue friend that he and his than-girlfriend had a gun pulled on them during one of their desert ventures. this was concerning for two reasons (and probably many more): one being that i’m not very scrappy and would probably rather die than try to fight violently for my life and two, that this gun was pulled on two people who are probably the least threatening, most peaceable people i know–and certainly not flashy. luckily i felt somewhat safe with my friend in tow–although she’s incredibly girlish in some ways, i also felt fairly convinced that she could be fierce, or at least more so than i, if need be. it was still not horribly reassuring, but we pressed onward.
we stepped out of the car for a quick bathroom/stretch break at a nearby rest stop and were distrubed to notice that all of the vending machines were behind not one, but two sets of bars. we wondered if they were even operable. this seemed like a bad sign. we got a snack, thought briefly of the implications and headed further into the east. i somehow failed to mention that at this point we were no longer following our gps, but an alternate route given to use by the man at the tower, who cited it as “more scenic”–why we decided to heed his advice, i’m still not quite sure. we ended up at the sonny bono center at the south tip of the salton sea. it was ok. we were back in the car after 15 minutes of intense heat coupled with an even more intense stench.
after switching back to gps and consulting a makeshift map from the wildlife center, we were again on the path to the mountain. after flying by the easily missed main street and doing a u-turn in the middle of a deserted highway in what looked to be an abandoned town and passing a hazardous waste facility and a state prison, we finally saw a glimpse of bright candy colors on the horizon.
as we pulled up to the mountain and scrambled out of our air-conditioned comfort, i was struck not only by the flat, bold hues that contrasted so dramatically with the dim landscape, but also with the scale of this so-called mountain–it felt so small, so nearly insignificant again the expansive stretches of desert. while we sojourned to see what we both considered an important contemporary art project, there were many there who could be considered true believers, making a pilgrimage in a different devotional sense. after a few photos and a bit of rambling around the shrines, we were soon approached by a volunteer clad all in desert khaki and a floppy hat, a man that decidedly fell into the true believer camp. while my partner in crime tuned out, i couldn’t help but be drawn into his story, wishing desperately that i could whip out my notebook without alarming him or stifling his stream-of-consciousness speech. he told us the story of leonard, how he slept in his truck through the 110 degree desert heat, how he was saved and felt unworthy, how he made two other attempts to spread the good news–he referred to these as mistakes numbers one and two. the first mistake was constructing his own hot air balloon, which he deemed to be the largest in the world, adorned with god’s message. it didn’t work. the second mistake was creating a giant concrete wall with the word “repent” emblazoned on it in bold. it crumbled at the current site of the mountain. both of the these mistakes were attributed as errors due to leonard telling god what he wanted to do, rather than asking god what he wanted from leonard. as the volunteer told it, when leonard finally asked god what he wanted from him, the response was salvation mountain.
at the end of this story and after fielding a few questions, the volunteer began his pitch, although it was different than i had anticipated. growing up in the south, i had heard stories like this before and felt prepared for almost anything. that was, until he asked us to come volunteer for a work weekend on the mountain. samantha and i exchanged a look. he definitely had pegged us wrong–with marc jacobs flats, immaculately polished nails and a penchant for decent dining and comfortable temperatures–as well as an aversion to hard physical labor, he had found the wrong girls to pitch this too. we couldn’t help but giggle and demur his offer. while we both love art, this was not going to be out outlet for it, despite his solicitous appeal and promise of a mid-day pizza party.
we eventually managed to excuse ourselves from the evangelical volunteer and made our way up the yellow brick road to the top, and only than realized that it was all a facade, wondering if the irony was realized or lost entirely. before we got back into the car, i took one last look–it was likely to be the one and only time i was ever in this special place–at least in it’s current state–it had just been repainted a few days before we had arrived. the message “love is universal” struck me. it was settled, i liked leonard. it was such a great disappointment that i hadn’t made it there before his passing, but the pilgrimage was still a journey i won’t soon forget. it made me wonder about the lines we draw between people that are mad, people that are true believe, people that are artists, people that are simply, incredibly passionate. it’s a fine line by any standard, one that sometimes blurs into uncharted territory. thinking back on it though, all the lines seem rather arbitrary anyways.
before heading home, we drove through slab city, a bit too concerned by leering groups of hitchhikers to get out of the locked car. it would probably be fine, but we were both hot, tired and not wanting to risk it. we drove about, snapped a few photos and felt incredibly tempted to try the oasis lounge–it was like the upside-down version of palm springs. as we drove back across the desert, i couldn’t help but feel pulled by a deep longing–i really did want a drink at the oasis lounge. it wouldn’t be unlike walking on the moon for me in a world foreign to my understanding.
it’s a week after the fact, but i felt compelled to write this anyway–it’s no longer timely, but it is still true: i’ve always had a strong aversion to valentine’s day, even though i’ve spent most of my life as a part of a couple. to me it simply feels like a great deal of pressure, this idea of being forcefully romantic on a set day along with everyone else in the western world. not to mention that i’m a bit phobic regarding traditional romance–it’s all but guaranteed that i will turn into a complete basket case even thinking about the prospect of a dozen rose, red dresses and fancy dinners out with the masses. add in a white tablecloth, chocolates (ok, i take this back–i lovingly and happily accept chocolates any day of the year) and any sort of jazzy slow jam and it’s the recipe for me having a complete and utter meltdown/freak out/unpleasant and decidedly unromantic reaction.
i usually warn people of this tendency to reject anything that veers towards this traditional version of romance, which is fairly true of me on almost any day of the year, but looms monstrously on days with forced romance–i.e. valentine’s day and anniversaries of any sort. i love love but i despise this set notion of what it should look like. quite simply, i would much prefer to be surprised with tulips on a random tuesday.
this strong predilection seems to catch people off guard. i’m fairly girly in a few ways, love pink, glitter, select flowers–the typical things that make people believe i might want this type of overblown outpouring. i think what i dread most in this holiday is feeling generic, not truly known. it becomes so quickly clear that someone knows nothing of you when they give you the very things you hate but that girls as a whole are supposed to fawn over. it’s not necessarily that the thought isn’t there, but perhaps it really isn’t if one opts for the easiest, most stereotypical ways to show affection. there’s certainly not much effort in it, at least from my perspective, although it will probably not come as a shock that i’ve been accused of being difficult more than a few times.
so dear reader, i’m delighted to report that this valentine’s day was a bit different than my norm, which consisted of ignoring all elements of the day, save for perhaps a few sweet treats for my colleagues and love letters to my closest girlfriends. while i expounded upon my long-held aversion to this hallmark holiday ad naseum, my efforts to avoid this so-called holiday were usurped and replaced with an evening that turned out to be ideal for people watching, one of my favorite activities, especially when there’s a bottle of wine and a cushy seat involved. i laughed a lot, made mental notes of all the surprisingly strange people i saw and managed to avoid almost all the cliches of the day i despise while still participating. the best of both worlds, involvement and observation rolled into one. and there were absolutely no roses.
- nutella (tops the list each time)
- running (thankfully. see numbers 1 & 2).
- a mini-dachshund named peter page
- iced vietnamese coffee
- anything joan didion
- feeling the sun on my skin
- farmer’s markets
- eating/drinking alfresco
- art museums
- road trips
- smart people
- department stores (for about five minutes). closely followed by…
- online shopping
- people watching
- almond croissants
- making lists
it started out as a harried, scrambling kind of morning–the kind that i don’t have all that often. i’m usually all about getting up uber early, running, drinking coffee, writing, sliding into the day with a sense of ease and enjoyment. this was not one of those mornings.
i threw on a sweater covered in hearts, ran my hands through my hair, dumped everything i might possibly need in a gigantic tote bag that’s roughly the size of my upper body and dashed out the door. i arrived at the office in the nick of time for my morning meeting that i had ambitiously scheduled as a way to squeeze more in to my day. after ordering the largest soy cappuccino on the menu i started reviewing my appointments for the day–luckily there was only one other one–but it stopped me in my tracks. today was the day i was meeting with mr. markowitz, who just so happens to be the mastermind behind portfolio theory, a nobel laureate in economics who, by all standards, is clearly something of a genius.
i did a quick inventory of the contents of my bag–there was no change of clothes or extra shoes. i would be hanging with a nobel laureate while attired in hearts and a hot pink scarf. super cool–definitely gives off that intellectual vibe. moving on.
sean and i arrived at his office a little before lunch–i knew i would like him immediately when i glimpsed three rooms, all lined with books in various disciplines ranging from ancient philosophy texts to modern art and neuroscience. for a man of almost 90, he was entirely charming and captivating from the first moment i met him, offering coffee and tea, ushering me into his office and proudly showing me his various prizes hidden away in little boxes and telling me stories of what it was like to win them. when i inquired as to how he came up with so many breakthrough he responded in a way that was both simple and meaningful to me: “good habits.” he went on to say how he had learned from an early age to train his mind to distinguish between connections, to see interrelated items, but also, and most importantly, to not expect that because something has happened 100 times that it will happen the same way on the 101st time.
one of the most interesting reactions during my time with mr. markowitz was his reaction to me when i asked what he did in his downtime, to relax. he grunted a bit and noted that he did not particularly care for the term “down time” and that all of his time was up time, doing things he loved or things that were essential to his work, which for him were predominantly one and the same, although he did concede a fondness for cooking, poetry and art, as well as a penchant for brugger’s bagels and long walks.
we talked of ulysses, the importance of reading outside of your field, of exposing yourself to a variety of ideas and disciplines, of cultivating the mind of a philosopher. we flipped through escher books together, he explained (and made) a mobius strip for me and ended by reciting a most lovely poem that he knew by heart.
a most memorable way to spend lunch on a tuesday indeed.
“everything about florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” –henry james
i’ve held a deep, abiding love for the city of florence since my first visit when i was just fifteen years old. i remember always feeling horribly out of place in my small southern town and i vividly remember that florence was the first place on earth that ever felt like home, that there was a sense of belonging to something bigger than what my current life experience allowed. as i first walked along the arno, i had the powerful realization that there was something more out there for me, that the world was bigger, broader, more immersive than i had previously anticipated. it was an awakening of sorts, and one that strikes me every time i visit one of the most charming towns italy has to offer.
it’s really no surprise that i ended up studying abroad in florence, studying italian in school to compliment my dante scholarship and love for italian renaissance art. i lived on the oltrarno, still my favorite part of the city by far, one bursting with far more character than the more famed walkways that line the city proper. it’s also the neighborhood with some of my favorite haunts, including the lovely little sandwich shop, gustapanino, operated by perhaps the most spirited proprietors, who still insists on popping open a bottle of prosecco while i wait for my panini. it’s simple, cheap and an all-together delightful experience to sip a glass of bubbles than eat the perfect sandwich whilst sunning yourself on the steps of santo spirito. it’s nice to know some things truly don’t change, even though the circumstances surrounding them do. it was the same with my old neighborhood café that i trekked to almost every morning: i was intensely happy to note that it was the same barista as i had had nearly five years before, the one with the gray ponytail who still teased me about my order in the same way—reminded me that lattes after 10:00 am are strictly for children. he’s the one who first made me realize that a cappuccino was much more me—and it’s still my go-to drink, although i did order a latte for old time’s sake.
the city is always beautiful, but incredibly so at christmastime, with the beautiful fir in the square, the twinkling lights (and even chandeliers!) that drape over the city streets, to the abundance of vin chaud on many a corner. better still, there’s far fewer tourists than over the summer months, making for a more relaxed atmosphere. although i’m not religious, i was determined to partake in midnight mass at the duomo, where i led tours during my time studying there. it’s a special building to me, one at the heart of much of my research and history with the great city, so to sit through a nearly three hour mass didn’t seem quite so daunting as it normally might for me. the experience was incredible—in all the time i had spent over the years in the massive cathedral, i had never heard the organ or choir echo through the halls, which brought the building to life in an entirely different way for me. the pomp and circumstance of the processionals were fascinating, even with a lack of cultural understanding of some of the significance—perhaps made even more interesting due in part to my ignorance.
my favorite spot by far in florence is the magical and mystical forest surrounding san miniato al monte, as well as the graveyard that runs alongside it. it’s inexplicably special to me, which led me to make the trek up the hill nearly every single day, through rain or shine for a solitary stroll—it’s made even more lovey as there is rarely anyone else there. it’s a place that can be both horribly romantic and terrifying simultaneously—to put it simply, it’s special, at least for me. it’s also quite close to piazza michelangelo, and well worth wandering over to if you’re already up there.
of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to a grocery store, one of my favorite places to explore while in foreign lands. my grocer of choice for italy is the esselunga supermarket chain, a place that i both dreaded and loved going to while i lived abroad. this time around, i mainly loved it as i understood it a bit better—from the gloves for picking produce to the rapid fire in which you must pack your groceries away, it felt somewhat easier this time around. it also made me grateful to have a wonderful kitchen in the flat i rented so i could try out some of the ingredients on my own.
that being said, i did my fair share of dining out while in florence, frequenting several of my favorite haunts, with a specific preference for i tarocchi, which was literally the best lunch of my life for 11 euros coupled with the kindest, most attentive service in a warm and inviting atmosphere. the pear pasta is a must-order if it’s in season, along with their incredible tiramisu. i also adore the chicness of la bussola, a lovely wine bar/restaurant that’s stood the test of time in the heart of the city and always offers excellent bottles by the glass. i also indulged in gelato, with a rule of having at least one a day, sometimes, i’m embarrassed to admit, more. my go-to places are grom and festival del gelato—both very good, both very different interpretations.
florence is also rich in some of the world’s best vintage shopping, as you might imagine for a city chockfull of italian designers. i especially love designs by odette and twin-set (not vintage, but very florentine), as well as street doing vintage couture, boutique nadine, ceri vintage, midinette, lady jane b…and the list goes on. melrose vintage is also a must visit. you basically can’t go wrong with vintage in florence—it’s everywhere and mostly very high-quality, carefully-curated finds. as far as shopping goes, i also stumbled upon falsi gioielli, a playful and exuberant jewelry store with everything made on site. wanting to look but not shop? the ferragamo museum is a must for anyone who adores an artfully made pair of shoes—it’s seriously an education.
during my time in italy, i found myself accidentally speaking french, much to my chagrin. thankfully, most italians are very forgiving and friendly people, especially after i corrected myself in italian. it’s strange how your sense of language can shift, even after a few days of immersion.
no visit to florence would be complete without a visit to the uffizi gallery (buying tickets in advance is a must!) to see some of the most classic examples of renaissance art at its best, as well as to take in the beauty of the building itself. extra credit: go to the café patio and enjoy an espresso and the city skyline on a sunny day. it’s also essential to set aside at least an afternoon to explore the boboli gardens and palazzo pitti—the gardens are absolutely magical, like something straight out of alice in wonderland with beautiful sculptures around every corner and more hidden, maze-like walkways than you can count. beyond beautiful and perfect for picnicking in the summer months.
she chose not to speak italian that night–for once she was tired and taking the easy way out. it felt like a foreign concept.
her responsibilities were limited to occupying her time as she best saw fit, amusing herself with museums and gardens, shopping and gelato, aimlessly walking about to see what caught her eye, getting up when she pleased, neglecting any sort of strenuous workout mentally or physically. reading and watching movies, working intermittently on her various “projects.” dancing in a state of undress and singing loudly to every bad song she loved. kodachrome topped the list–she made up her own lyrics, far more colorful than paul simon might have imagined. she frequently wore two layers of sweaters, many adorned with hearts literally on the sleeve, and sat by the stove with both burners turned to full blast to keep her hands warm enough to write.
“you belong to me and all paris belongs to me and i belong to this notebook and this pencil.” –ernest hemingway, a moveable feast
as a writer and a literature fanatic, i can’t help but think of hemingway whenever i think of paris. i set off on my solo holiday journey to the city of light with him in mind, with the intention of writing intently, without interruption or distraction, a romantic notion to say the least, as paris is a city full of the most delightful of distractions. from coffee and champagne to the simplest pleasure of people watching, paris absolutely does not disappoint.
when i arrived in paris, i immediately knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that i should have packed my charcoal cocoon coat—my kelly green wool peacoat and my american tendency to smile at everyone made me instantly standout in the sea of black, gray and navy outerwear. even the children had on chicer coats than i. it was a bit mortifying, but easily remedied by a trip to le bon marche, where i also enjoyed the spectacular christmas displays, including all white and gilt floor of trees. whilst shopping, i loved watching the little french dogs parade about with their owners, so much like my own little dog, although perhaps just a wee bit more sedated and aloof. they are french dogs after all.
i ate immense amounts of oysters, chevre chaud and crepes of all sorts, as well as an ungodly number of pain au chocolat. i spent a great deal of time lounging and sipping cappuccinos at louistic and telescope, both establishments run by the most charming people you’re likely to ever meet. louistic features a 70s lounge vibe that was beyond inviting, making for a wonderful place to while away a few hours.
although i’ve been to paris several times before, i had never managed to make it to sacre coeur, which was a priority for this trip. i journeyed there with a few friends that i happened to meet up with and made it to the top just in time to see the sun set over the eiffel tower. my french lessons were incredibly useful on the trip and i came to realize i could speak more conversationally than i had initially anticipated—a nice surprise to say the least. while i have an intense love of the english language, it was fun to be able to use the language skills that took such immense amounts of time to gain.
i spent many hours simply wandering and walking about as i pleased, which is one of the chief pleasures in my life. i of course strolled through le marais and did a bit of window (and um, real) shopping, walked the pont des arts (bridge with the locks—so touristy, but for good reason!) and spent an obscene amount of time in the tuilieries and jardin de luxembourg taking photos and people watching. while searching the 10 and 11ème for one of the few gluten free pastry shops in paris for a friend, we stumbled upon the most delightful shop i’ve ever seen: objet celeste. incredibly beautiful, impeccably curated and filled to the brim with little treasures ranging from jewelry to small home décor items. practically perfect in every way.
on recommendation, i also made a point to visit deyrolle, which a friend billed as “taxidermy, but classy.” i was skeptical to say the least, but it turned out to be one of the more inspiring parts of my parisian adventure. i was especially moved by the beautiful butterfly collections, which looked like something straight from a damian hirst piece. utterly lovely and amazing and definitively a must visit.
my deep and abiding love of art museums lead me to a six hour sojourn in the pompidou, a museum i had strangely never visited on prior trips. the collection (if perhaps not the curation) was magnificent, with everything you could possibly hope for in a modern art museum. between the incredible views, the architecture of the museum itself, a delectable restaurant (georges) and a special exhibition on surrealism, the pompidou certainly captured my heart.
see original post written for fanartism at http://fanartism.tumblr.com/post/73703633301/cest-super-explore-paris-with-kristine-page.
magic is something you make.
what you seek is seeking you.
try new things habitually.
every day counts.
there is nothing but love.
make space for creative adventures.
experience the abundance of the universe.
be here now.
forget limits & free your mind.
being open allows good things to flow your way.
work your love.
let go of expectations.
peace is in the present.
open heart, clear head, can’t lose.
choose the bigger life.
never stop exploring.
focus, wander, repeat.
everything else is secondary.
bologna was by far the smallest town i visited during my european adventure. it turned out that it was also the city that i was completely and hopelessly lost in during the entirety of my 24-hour stay. how i can navigate paris and florence, and most of london without a map but find myself disoriented in a city that you can walk across in less than an hour is beyond me. i blame it on the medieval, circular layout or on my lack of sleep. either way, i found it impossible.
not all was lost though. even though i couldn’t find the restaurants or shops i intended to visit, i ended up stumbling upon places that were just as delightful, if not more so, than my originally established plans. sadly, i failed to capture the names of any place–literally–that i went to whilst in bologna. the entire visit felt a bit hazy to say the least and the dreary weather, complete with a cold drizzle, certainly made me less inclined to carefully note the establishments i ventured into for a respite. it’s also a town in which i took absolutely no photos–again, the cold weather combined with being utterly lost at all times.
while i wasn’t horribly enamored with the town itself, the people more than made up for it with their kindness and hospitality. although i was fortunate enough to meet absolutely lovely people and new friends in every city i visited, i was overwhelmed by the incredible kindness of the bolognese (bolognesians??). from helping me more than a few times, to agreeably speaking french to me when i forgot that i was now in italy, where the language is coincidentally italian, to helping me navigate (to the point of walking me to several destinations), i was touched by their warmth. somehow it always comes down to the kindness of strangers–an excellent reminder for daily life both here and abroad.