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Politics Travel

Day 491 and Uncanny Valley

If you’ve been following along this week you might have noticed I’m in Bozeman Montana with some friends. I’m hoping to find a homestead. My father loves to call Montana the last best place. He moved up to Whitefish a few years ago for retirement from Boulder Colorado. Our boomers know the score. He knows the last best places are dwindling as the frontier turns into subdivisions.

Growing up in Colorado was about as close to paradise as it gets. We had clean air, plenty of open space and a laid back uncrowded atmosphere. My brother was born there but my parents made a brief detour to Silicon Valley where I was born in the eighties. But Chief Niwot’s curse must have called to my family as we moved back to Colorado when I was still young. My dad thought Boulder was a better place to live than San Francisco or Palo Alto. No one who has been to Boulder escapes the curse.

People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.”

What is Chief Niwot’s curse?

I call myself a Boulder native even if it’s not technically true. If you count the sojourn in the Bay Area, I’m one of those Californians that ruined Colorado even if my family had arrived long before I did. But we certainly didn’t arrive before the Arapaho. Perhaps I wasn’t in the wave of Californians that turned Colorado, and Boulder Valley in particular, into a boom town in the aughts and teens, but I’m still part of the undoing of the beauty of this valley. Anyone who is descended from immigrants has contributed to the curse.

The reason I chuckle at my father calling Montana the last best place is because the state is following the path that Colorado took. Bozeman feels exactly like Boulder did during my childhood. It’s no surprise to me Colorado folks are moving here to recapture what we’ve lost. If you came of age in the mountain west before urban sprawl and yuppie gentrification you yearn for a return. Boulder Valley has been undone by those that loved it’s beauty. And so we seek new frontiers.

In twenty or thirty years will the Gallatin valley and Bozeman face a similar fate? Almost assuredly. If anything, it makes me confident in putting down roots here. Maybe then my kids can call themselves Bozeman natives the way I do with Boulder. Maybe they can complain about the high housing prices and the arrival of tech workers and tell tales about how their family got here in the roaring twenties before all the Coloradans ruined the place.

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Internet Culture Preparedness Travel

Day 464 and Miami

Miami is a real American city. You know those criticisms lobbed by conservatives against New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles? It’s not a real American city. It’s bullshit in plenty of ways as our urban populations define America as much as rural, but it’s also true. Places like Miami maintain an essence, a kind of “here-ness” that reveals a thriving ecosystem of all classes, backgrounds and beliefs living in the same place.

It’s a thriving cosmopolitan city with an extremely wealth ruling class. It has welcomed it’s new leadership in the form of startup expats from “fake cities” moving in. The irony is that those are fake places and no one lives there. It’s transient wealth moving in and out for opportunities. Which is exactly what they are doing to Miami. The churn comes for us all. Before it was tech it was drug money and mortgages. It’s a free enterprise kind of place.

But it’s a relief to see mix of people. To see the shitty neighborhoods and the anxiety about crime, reminds you we have to do better for each other. To see the luxury houses and the amenity industry pop up to service everyone rich from yuppie to billionaire. It’s a vibrancy of hustle that isn’t everywhere. It’s a positive thing. For me it smells like America. A belief in the future where things could be better. A sense that capitalism is working.

As I write this my Uber driver is complaining about the local cops. How unfair their targeting is of everyone going too fast. A real class solidarity moment against the fuzz. Lambo owners and ride share drivers. I feel like that doesn’t happen in striated societies where the top use the police to torture their plebeian neighbors.

I didn’t really enjoy my time here. It’s way too hot. It’s facing intense pressures from climate change so I’d like to come more often before it’s too late. It it’s already too late maybe.

There really are issues related to inequality and the challenges it manifests via societal issues. It’s got crime and infrastructure issues and intense political culture war currents.

If I’m honest I’d rather be in a colder less populated state where some of the existential risks of the future are better mitigated. But I admire the optimism of people who do. They are the optimistic people we need for a better future.

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Preparedness Travel

Day 460 and The Tropics

When I was a New Yorker, the flight to Miami was the preferred winter escape for everyone from Upper West Side Jews to Lower East Side hipsters. New Yorkers love Miami. We’d all decamp from the grey for long weekend’s beginning in December with Art Basel and ending in February as the various winter equestrian circuits wrapped.

Every restaurant that was popular in New York had its own branch tucked away in some form of boutique luxury hotel. The clothing stores had branches down here too. Even our preferred gyms like Equinox had their Miami outposts. Miami was in my mind the “Winter Borough” of New York City.

So I’ve been a little tickled by it’s adoption in the pandemic years as the New “New York” because it’s still the old New York for me. But it’s never been a particularly viable replacement as an all year respite as it’s the fucking tropics.

Even though it’s only April the muggy sticky soul sapping humidity is out in full force. I was awake at 7am and went outside to forage for coffee and breakfast. I could barely make it a block before I was perspiring. It was 79 degrees and 86% humidity.

Maybe I’m just a wuss. I fully admit that I’ve never liked the heat. I can barely tolerate Colorado’s dry heat. So I feel like I’m wilting in the Miami heat. I’m just not built for the tropics. And I’m not sure society is either if you have to run air conditioning year round.

I don’t think I’ve got the stamina to survive a power outage in Miami. The preppers and doomers that can make it through hurricane season impress me. Imagine going without power for several weeks after a hurricane. Days of a 72 degree dew point and 86% humidity are survivable but just barely. Hot weather doomers are nuts in my book.

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Travel

Day 459 and Humiliated

I am inviting a friend with a “bad visa” to spend a vacation with my family over the summer. We’ve got a road trip to national parks as well as a family reunion with full on Boston lobster boating as options for a great trip. It’s a big to do and a pretty quintessential American summer vacation. After the pandemic those kind of tourist dollars are clearly much needed.

However the American government doesn’t seem as keen as I am to show off the majesty of our nation. It’s really hard to get a tourist visa granted if you are not from a desirable nation like Sweden or the United Kingdom. Basically as the American if you invite someone who requires a tourist visa it involves something called a Form I-134. And it is extremely noisy. The goal of the form is to show the Feds your guest won’t become a ward of the state.

They want to know the balance of all my savings and checking accounts, the value of my personal property, my annual income, a list of stocks and bonds, my life insurance policy and it’s cash surrender policy, and any mortgage or real estate. The immigration lawyer said they look for about 10K in assets as a safety net in case something happens so maybe this is easier for people with normal jobs and salaries. I haven’t taken a salary in quite sometime.

But no joke they make you swear on perjury you have these assets and put in a number of scary paragraphs about how the Feds will garnish your wages if your guest applies for any kind of benefit program like food stamps or Medicare. I find it a little comical as it’s practically impossible to qualify for anything but sure guys let’s scare people into reconsidering inviting tourists to spend money here.

It all has the effect of being a bit humiliating. I’m ashamed I can’t figure out the paperwork without hep. The federal bureaucracy has easily felled better minds than mine but also shit I’m pretty smart. How does an average person manage? I feel ashamed that American is so unwelcoming. I’m ashamed my friend is being treated like some kind of potential mooching criminal.

If America is to even pretend it’s making an effort at being a shining city on a hill, we should start by being more welcoming. Treating guests as welcome seems like a good first step.

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Travel

Day 458 and Jet-Set

I forgot what a pain in the ass it is to be on the road. I had three days back in Colorado after my trip to Frankfurt before I found myself repacking my suitcases to head to Miami. I probably shouldn’t have bothered unpacking in the first place.

I had a whirlwind of doctor appointments, injections, pharmacy runs and visits to various health care practitioners in the three days. Any kind of chronic health condition is a bit of a bad bed fellow with travel. Especially if you have medications that are controlled or require refrigeration. I’ve got both. So I timed my sojourn in Colorado to align with those pick ups and injections.

But that left me precious little time for other daily life type activities. I managed to sneak in a pedicure yesterday and it felt practically revelatory. But I’ve got so many other things to catch up that I’ve got no choice but to find a way to maintain normal life while on the road.

I have a round of blood work I need to get done before my next round of doctor appointments next week. Maybe I can get them down in Miami? They probably have quest labs. Doing a fasting lipid panel in the land of retirees seems kind of appropriate.

And while this may sound kind of stupid I really need a haircut. I just a point where it just can’t be put off any longer. It just started to look rough. So why not get it done in South Beach? It isn’t as if I’ve got a stylist in Boulder I love.

The muscles that come with life on the road are surely coming back if I’m considering things like blood work and haircuts. It isn’t the most glamorous part of being “jet set” but it sure as fuck is the most realistic. Travel has its own glamour and romance but you are never as far from the reality of your own life as you think. And maybe that’s a good thing.

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Biohacking Travel

Day 455 and Jet Lag

I rolled into Denver around 420pm yesterday and I felt excellent about my timing. My ten hour flight from Frankfurt was quite pleasurable. There is something about long haul flights that are existentially quite satisfying, especially if the onboard wifi isn’t working, as one feels free from the outside world for the duration.

It was midnight in Germany when I landed so I made sure to have a coffee an hour or so before touchdown to keep me up for my time zone adjustment. My goal was to make it to 9pm Mountain Time so I could immediately adjust to my new time zone.

A slightly silly goal as I’ll be moving back two time zones in just a couple days as I’m headed to Miami. But I’m a day bird not a lark or an owl so I need my days to be productive. So staying up “all night” was on the agenda.

I managed to stay awake till about 845pm by keeping busy with unpacking and dinner and catching up on all the “couples shows” that I can only watch with Alex. Ironically about half of what I unpacked is going to get repacked shortly but I needed to do some sorting and replenishment. So I did my best to keep the adrenaline pushing me to activity. And it seems to have worked.

I was up this morning at 5:30am feeling rested and basically functional. The only issue I noticed was hunger. I was starving. I immediately got in the car and went to the good bagel place. I got a second bagel with plans to eat it tomorrow and then ended up having a second breakfast around 10am. And yes I still ate lunch at 1pm. And I’m starving now. Just absolutely ravenous all day.

My tracking apps seem to think my body is experiencing jet lag. Gyroscope said it was contributing to a lower health score and “shortening my lifespan” so that was anxiety inducing. I went for an hour long walk and my Whoop buzzed twenty minutes in. Apparently to indicate I’d hit my target strain. A leisurely stroll netted new a 8.8 score when I typically barely break a 4. Their system maxes out at 20 I think but I rarely get higher than a 10-12. And then Welltory gave me reds across stress, health and energy.

I suspect some of this is due to being back at altitude as a month is long enough to lose your acclimation. But in general I seem to be perfectly fine on my time zone and I felt mostly functional all day. I kept it light. Tomorrow when I plan to work longer hours will be the rest test.

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Travel

Day 454 and Up In The Air

When I first started this experiment in daily writing my schedule was quite predictable. We were in the middle of the pandemic and each day could be relied upon to deliver some consistency. But now that era of at home living is slipping away for abled people, even marginally at risk folks like myself have to contend with new challenges.

In this case, the challenge is writing before being offline. It’s noon in Frankfurt. I’ll be catching a flight back to a Colorado early this afternoon. I’ll land in the late afternoon Mountain Time but for me it will be Thursday already. So I have to consider if writing on the proper day in both Germany and Colorado counts, or if I could leave it till when I land. I decided to do it ahead of time as it is both in the spirit of the daily consistent writing pattern but also I’ll be far too tired to do it after a ten hour flight.

What’s a fascinating to me is that this one big travel block felt like a one off. But once I broke the seal on being up in the air I felt like I could do it again. So I’ve booked a trip to Miami next week. And then Montana in May to spend time with friends working remotely and scouring for homesteads. And from there I’ll be headed to Austin in June. And so the schedule of travel renews.

It’s not exactly the new normal. Travel is still a nightmare. I just had a wheezing fit of tachycardia because of a security line issue and had to beg to have my mask off so I could take medicine and slow my heart. Flying is still a bit of a nightmare. But it feels good to take flight again. I am spiritually ready to be up in the air again.

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Travel

Day 453 and 80% Rule

My husband Alex has this rule for travel he calls the “85% rule” for when to expect homesickness. It’s a pretty simple concept. You will feel the maximum amount of negative emotions as you begin the final days or weeks of your trip. But it clears up once the trip nears completion. You will feel worse when your completion bar is at 80% than you will at 99%. In your final day or even hours you will wish you were staying but two or three days before you will wonder why the fuck you aren’t already home

This rule holds true for business travel and personal. It’s remarkably consistent on short trips and as I discovered even month long excursions. I’m flying home to Colorado tomorrow which is a Wednesday. But last Thursday and Friday I was so done with being in Frankfurt. I just wanted to be done with it. I debated looking for earlier flights.

Thankfully Alex reminded me of the 80% rule. He encouraged me to feel the homesickness and sadness. Enjoy the discomfort even. And that by the time Tuesday rolled around I’d be sad that I was leaving Germany behind.

And just as he predicted today I was hit with the wave of happiness and nostalgia that comes at the end of a long enjoyable stay. I had to walk into the city center to get my Covid test for my flight back. As I finished up the errand I found myself slow walking back to the apartment to put off packing. I went by the big indoor farmers market to get a snack for the airplane. I veered over into old town to take one last look at the architecture. I even popped into a souvenir store to eye expensive cuckoo clocks and beer steins. I normally hate knickknacks.

I’m enjoying an immense wave of satisfaction and nostalgia. This trip has gone even better than my wildest fantasies could have imagined. I’ve reminded myself of my priorities and independence. It’s given me a new appreciation for my marriage and it’s importance to me. I’ve pondered been insights into my motivations and coping mechanisms. I wish I could stay longer to pursue the history of a city that perfectly aligns with my historical, economic and aesthetic history. I guess the 80% rule works. I’ll head home in the morning.

Categories
Travel

Day 447 and For Others

Yesterday I reminded myself that I write for me. The choice to write is one I’ve prioritized day in and day out. Today I organized my entire day for someone else. I regret it.

My Airbnb was supposed to be cleaned today. The owner texted me as reminder to be out of the apartment from 12-4pm for the cleaning crew. I moved my calls and meetings to tomorrow. I decided I’d go to the Zoo for the day.

I rushed to be out of the house before the cleaners arrived. There are still Covid protocols. I felt stressed by the obligation. I have a tendency to clean for the cleaners. Eventually I left and decided I’d go to the Frankfurt Zoo.

I made a bit of a day if it. I took pictures. I browsed. I watched penguins and spider monkeys play games. I saw the tigers. I had a beer and pretzel. As the zoo closed down I headed home sure I’d done my duty for my Airbnb host and the cleaning crew.

The apartment was untouched. Nothing has been cleaned. No one was ever there. Seems my rescheduling my entire work day for someone else’s workday has been in vain. Some excuses were given about sick family members and no one was able to tell anyone what was happening.

I expressed that I wouldn’t be able to rework my schedule again for someone else. That I needed to have my work day. That I just couldn’t live my schedule on someone else’s tomorrow or the next day. I have to mice for myself.

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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.