Categories
Travel

Day 445 and Traditional American Meal

When I was fifteen I lived in France as part of an exchange program. The family I stayed with asked me to prepare a traditional American meal. Because I’m from Colorado I made fajitas. This did not amused my host family very much as it was a real pain in the ass to locate things like jalapeños & avocados in the middle of Normandy. But also because I think they expected me to make hamburger helper or tuna casserole.

As I head into my forth week in Europe I’m starting to miss “American” food. So I ordered Mexican for dinner. In a testament to the strange truth that big cities have more in common with each other than actual countries do, I got some of the best pork tacos I’ve ever had. Just absolutely perfect Cochinita Pibil in Frankfurt.

Maybe it’s my imagination but between delivery apps and Netflix and the expectations of urban living cities have become a kind of default global standard of cosmopolitanism. I suspect this is why the digital nomad has become a thing. It’s not that young urban professionals are actually willing to become immersed in other cultures. It’s that we’ve formed our own culture that is portable to any city of a certain density. Frankfurt and Denver are basically interchangeable when it comes to amenities.

So we bounce from one Airbnb to another with our iPhones and Apple Air computers and we expect a certain standard of cuisine and service and global sameness. It used to be that if you were an American you’d end up at a McDonalds because you were homesick and wanted something that tastes like home. Now I expect to be able to get absolutely authentic Mexican food no matter where I am.

So I guess in that sense I did serve my French host family a traditional American meal. Americans pushed the neoliberal cosmopolitan smoothed edge sameness on the world. And I’m glad I could get good tacos to be honest. But also damn it’s going to be weird when we export cosmopolitan yuppie culture as a traditional Earth meal to the aliens when we finally have first contact. Hopefully they will be less disappointed than my French family was.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 444 and Equinox

There is a brand of luxury gyms called Equinox that was started in Manhattan. I didn’t have enough money for a decent apartment when I first arrived in the city, so I showered at the gym. There was a time when I lived in a shithole on the Bowery that barely had working hot water but I could always rely on the sanctuary of the spa-like bathrooms at the Equinox. Apartments then were two grand a pop but an Equinox membership could be had for $150.

I loved that place so much my friend Rob swears I manifested a job at the corporate headquarters. I only lasted a year in the marketing department before I got headhunted out but I loved working there (until I hated it but that’s another story.)

One of the big events the gym would throw for marketing purposes was their biannual seasonal Equinox parties. They’d make a big to-do about both the fall and spring Equinox and encourage members to bring friends for free classes and workouts, and somewhat inexplicably an open bar. I never got how mixing drinks and spin class worked but whatever.

I always thought there was something beautiful about a fitness brand centering its marketing around the change of seasons. The Equinox logo plays on the balance of day and night aesthetically. But I’ve always preferred to think of the brand as a promise that all things change. It’s a powerful one for marketing aspirational luxury fitness because the origins of its earthly seasonal reality is so visceral.

The solstice may get all the glory what with midsummer madness and orgies and the Swedish horror movies and the whole winter solstice getting adopted by Christianity thing. But it’s the Equinox that has always spoken to me. Maybe it’s because I gravitate towards extremes that I crave the balance of the equinox over the solstice. I aspire to the rhythms promised by a day perfectly split by light and dark. The equinox says to me that it’s possible, even if it’s only twice a year, to get it all perfectly balanced. And then we get back to change. We move back towards extremes as we tilt towards the solstice.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work Travel

Day 443 and Chores

I’ve got a mix of personal and professional and familial reasons I’m spending the month in Europe (mostly in Germany). But one of the reasons was to get some time apart from my husband Alex. Yes I know it sounds kind of shocking. What a bad wife!

We’ve barely been apart during two years of pandemic living. I also had an additional year or two where he was my primary caretaker during medical challenges. My reliance on my husband is something I am very forthright about. I’m deeply grateful for what he has enabled me to do. But we both felt like our marriage would benefit from being on my own for a little as the pandemic becomes more manageable and my health has become stable.

It’s been amazing and invigorating to be on my own again. Anyone who deals with me closely has noticed how much more inspired I am to be in a new place on my own. It’s enabled me to see some of my coping mechanisms more clearly. For instance, my inner child feels safer in the chaos of new things because she got used to moving a lot when I was little. That has given me a gift for startup work, but it also means that I can become resentful and stifled if I feel trapped.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t disclose that a big factor in needing to be on my own was to learn if I could do my own damn chores. Holy shit I still absolutely hate how much I energy it takes to keep me clean, watered, medicated and fed as a moderately disabled person. My husband is a natural caretaker and I will happily enable that.

It’s so much damn energy from my limited reserves to care for myself. Alex has always done it better than I do. But if I’m apart from him I don’t have the backstop of him picking up the maintenance work of my life. I wanted to know if I could survive it. In order to freely accept his love and help I needed to know I could live without it.

And I am. This Saturday was dedicated to grocery shopping, laundry, doing dishes and tidying the Airbnb. I had to lay down and rest because of the effort of my day “off” from work. But I did it. Kinda. I still haven’t put the comforter cover back on the bed. But I’m working my way up to it.

Categories
Travel

Day 442 and Salt

I’ve got low blood pressure. It’s not so bad that I notice it on a daily basis but enough that my doctors encourage me to include a bit more salt in my diet to raise it.

It was initially tricky to diagnose as I tend towards tachycardia because of the chronic pain from my ankylosing spondylitis. Pain, and the stress that it can cause my system, can often raise my blood pressure to “normal” levels so it got missed for a few years. But nevertheless a smart doctor noticed the trend and encouraged me to keep salty snacks on hand.

I say this because Germans appear to dislike salt in their cuisine. My first clue was that my Airbnb didn’t have any salt in the kitchen. There was a tiny shaker of it but it appeared to have about one meal’s worth of it in the shaker. It was so small I suspect it was from a travel set.

Meanwhile there was a full size battery operated pepper grinder next to it. The grocery store nearby has one of the most impressive spice selections I’ve ever seen but offered only one box of salt. There was no kosher salt or sea salt or flakes. Just a box with a little spout of salt that honestly tastes a bit artificial. It might be but I can’t totally tell.

Virtually all of the takeout and delivery I’ve had has been under-salted to my admittedly very America palette. I get it. We eat too much salt. But for me the American standard keeps my blood pressure up so not only am I used to it but it’s crucial to my health.

But everything from the schnitzel to the Thai and Ethiopian takeaway feels like it would benefit from salt. And all I’ve got is some crappy boxes maybe synthetic salt to sprinkle on it.

Tonight I went to the pedestrian mall that seems to be the main gathering spot for nightlife here. I happened upon a pomme frites stand. I thought hell yes it’s Friday night let’s get some French fries and people watch. I forked over a few euros for an order. It was absolutely perfectly fried. But god damn it if it wasn’t kind of mediocre because it didn’t have enough salt.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 441 and Circadian Nightmare

I am all for remote work and distributed teams. My husband has been working with distributed teams long before the pandemic hit as Stack Overflow was an early adopter of the “hire the best talent no matter where” trend.

But it does come with challenges. He contends that it’s helpful to have no more than six hours of time zones between core teams. And I’m really starting to see why. I’m really struggling to keep a decent sleep pattern and collaborate with Californians. So I’ve tried to stay up later so I’d have more working hours on American time zones. Plus I have a regular time with my therapist and for group therapy on Mondays that is 10pm and midnight in GMT+1. So I’ve got to stay up a bit later for that too.

I figured if I could wake up at 10am and go to sleep at 1am that would work great. I got myself a nice eye mask. I close the blinds. But hot damn if my body cannot tell that this is not when I should be sleeping. I can manage to stay up later but I’m still waking up with the sun. I cannot seem to sleep in past 8am.

So I think I’m going to give up this Circadian nightmare as I’m going to rack up a huge deficit. I’m just not a night owl. I’m a day person.

Categories
Chronic Disease Travel

Day 440 and Twitchy

Last night I had a poor night of sleep. My body was just all kinds of weird. A muscle spasm thing kept me awake. I tried magnesium (it’s a natural muscle relaxant), several rounds of Theragun routines, a few stretches, and finally actual muscle relaxers.

Nothing stopped the weird twitching. It was 2am in Germany so I was resigned to a bad night of sleep. I just laid in bed waking myself up every couple of minutes. It was exhausting.

Eventually I got to sleep and seemed to wake up in the morning no worse for wear. I wasn’t especially alarmed, as my body has a tendency to just go off on weird physical tangents for no reason. Whatever the fuck happened it seemed to have passed so I went about my work day.

I broke for dinner around 6pm or so. I ordered Ethiopian and chowed down hard. I was feeling full and sleepy and I figured I’d lay down to digest a bit. I put on some television and was promptly out like a light. I woke up two and an hours half later and realized it was probably time for me to call it a day.

I swear the only thing that woke me up was the knowledge that I had to write my blog post for the day. I’m mostly kidding. The heater turned on and roasted the room so I needed to open the window. But now I’m absolutely going back to sleep now.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 439 and Pop Culture Illiterate

I wasn’t allowed to watch television as a kid. Waldorf schools kinda frown on it. I could watch some stuff, mostly Star Trek, but I really didn’t consume the vast majority of pop culture from the nineties.

I even attended a school called Dawson during the height of the Dawson’s Creek craze and never bothered. So I’m basically a pop culture illiterate for most of the shit they regurgitate in pop culture nostalgia trips.

I am trying to catch up a bit though. I’m finally watching Friends for the best time. I’m kind of enjoying it. I cannot stand Rachel. But at least I finally have some context for the whole Ross and Rachel shit. Finally I understand where a generation of nice guys come from.

I wonder if I should be catching up on another content but I’ve got to admit being outside of the nostalgia circle jerk has become the regurgitation of the nineties pop culture I never consumed.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 438 and That’s Enough

I attended a schooling system developed by an Austrian man called Rudolf Steiner. It’s commonly known as Waldorf schools. One of its hallmarks is a lack of comparative grades.

Steiner believed that grades forced teachers and students into a curriculum that taught to the middle of the class. The tyranny of the median student meant slower students felt stupid and frustrated and smarter students felt bored and disengaged. Only the average child did well in a graded system. And no one is ever truly average. A graded system fails us all.

Waldorf schools teach a pedagogy that is holistic and geared to meeting each individual child at their unique level. It uses a variety of techniques like having children make their own textbooks (called main lesson books) so they are never conforming to some idealized medium standard. At it’s highest ideal it means being compared only to your past performance. You don’t compare yourself to other students. There is no ideal grade at which a student will think “I am the best” as that is fruitless. How will the best student ever bother to improve if they always get a perfect score? Grades hamper the cultivation of genius.

This sounds idyllic right? Always improving yourself without external markers that say you are good or bad or even average. That’s the dream. A perfect schooling system. And if I am being honest it absolutely was what provided me with the curiosity and desire to always be learning. It sustains my career now.

But every shining light casts a shadow. A system without grades. A system without comparisons or averages also means you never ever get to win. I never got a gold star as child. I never got an A. I never got a trophy. I missed out on millennial laziness cultural tropes. I would have killed for a participation trophy as a kid.

Because nothing was ever good enough. Because I always knew I could do more. I could always improve. There was no resting on your laurels. I never got a chance to say I was the best in my class. I never got to win. Because I internalized there was no winning. There was only ever improving. I was always improving. I felt like Sisyphus. Except the bolder never rolled down the hill. The hill just kept on going. The mountain had no summit. It was only improving. I never felt like I could rest. I never felt like something was good enough. Because tautologically it couldn’t be.

The consequence of this system for me as an adult is that I never feel like I’ve done well such that I can ever rest. Even if I’m objectively the best compared to others, I remember the ethos of school. The school that said next time you can do better. Next time you can push harder. Next time you can improve even more. If you’ve ever seen the movie Gattaca it’s the scene where the hero wins because he never ever saves anything for the swim back.

I’ve yet to balance the shadow cast by the light of Waldorf school. I desperately want to feel like I’ve won. Not because I need to feel better than anyone else. But because I struggle to stop. I yearn for rest. To have a finish line. To have some mile marker or trophy or award that says I’ve done enough. One day I’d like to give myself that. Maybe I should find a trophy or ribbon store and buy myself something that says “That’s Enough.”

Categories
Chronic Disease Medical Travel

Day 437 and A Mood

I’ve been struggling with allergies ever since I arrived in Frankfurt last week. The stress of travel and the constant itching affect my mood more than I’d like.

It’s a weird situation if I’m honest as I’m so happy to be traveling and on my own after two years or being in the same place and with the same person. I love my husband and I love my home but I’m sure everyone can relate at the end of the pandemic for the need to be alone.

My mood has largely been buoyant except for the constant low level misery that is these damn allergies. My eyes water. The skin around them is red and raw. My skin keeps finding new intermittent patterns to express hives and eczema. And I’ve built up quite a tolerance to Benadryl.

The allergies stress me out and then my spinal pain worsens and then suddenly I’ll find myself in just a miserable sad mood. I’m grateful I can write it all down so I can get the mood out. I just want to be comfortable in my own skin and smiling again.

Categories
Travel

Day 436 and Got A Guy

“I have a guy” was the most reassuring phrase my godfather could say to me as a child. I’d be trying to get something done or get access to something and he’d tell me a story about “his guy” and how we’d fix the problem. I decided when I grew up I wanted to be someone that “had a guy” for everything just like my godfather.

Before I give the impression that my godfather is a mafioso I should probably clarify he’s a nice Irish boy from Long Island and is a music agent. But agents do have to solve all kinds of weird problems. Heck, I went to him when I was thinking of getting married but wasn’t sure if I was emotionally prepared and he said “I’ve got a therapist” and well I’ve been seeing Dagmar for seven years now.

Needless to say I’ve prioritized networking as a life skill. Not the grimy kind you associate with parties or LinkedIn, but the sort where I take time to meet new people and shoot the shit. If you spend any time on Twitter you’ve probably noticed my greatest joy is just talking with folks. I follow all kinds. And I’m pretty hooked up because of it. I’m usually only one or two people removed from the person I’m trying to reach. Maybe that’s why venture capital has worked out so well as a career for me. I’m a master of the warm introduction.

But after the last 48 hours or so I’ve finally found an institution that I cannot seem to crack. I’m running headfirst into the limits of what my “I’ve got a guy” skills can do. And that system is the United States Immigration System. Apparently I am just not good enough to get an appointments for a tourist visa. I cannot even imagine how hard an actually immigration or work visa would be.

And I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried my Congressman. I tried my Governor. I tried people that have worked for the state department. I’ve tried folks that work in foreign affairs. I’ve tried rich folks that are immigrants. And holy shit I’m getting absolutely no where. I feel pretty fucking defeated. I’m not giving up but I’m starting to realize that Americans have no idea just how broken our immigration system actually is in the wake of 9/11 and the Trump years. We can’t even get tourist visas done. And frankly I’m angry about it. But mark my words I’m going to find a guy.