Personal


These pages are purely nostalgic, designed to amuse friends and family.

Seattle, Taos,
New York, Connecticut
London, South Africa,
Zimbabwe, Botswana,
Alaska, British Columbia
Summer 2006


I went packing with Hobbes the Abused 4H Llama in Taos, New Mexico, as well as hiking and horse-riding. After a quick stop on the East Coast and in London, I slogged down to South Africa. There, I saw penguins among the palm trees, petted a cheetah and ran into a media luvvie friend-of-a-friend on Rovos Rail.

Next, I gawked at animals – including an a lioness and three cubs – on safari in Chobe, Botswana. In neighboring Zimbabwe, I squinted in the mist of Victoria Falls and rode an African elephant at a freerange sanctuary.

Home for just ten days, I catapulted to Alaska. Well, I ferried slowly up the coast on the Marine Highway, which is sublime and anchors an essay for Single State of the Union (Seal Press, 2007, editor Diane Mapes). Edward and I flew in float planes, visited a brown bear sanctuary, ogle glaciers and interviewed tribal elders. This article contains highlights.

He's moving south, so we drove the Suburban from Skagway to Seattle. Some embarrassing adventures ensued.


Seattle, England,
Italy, Slovenia
Croatia and Bosnia
Spring 2006


My Inappropriate Beau – on his global walkabout – ran off with a German hairdresser with a diamond in her tooth, as one does. What woman could compete with such bling? So I scrapped our travel plans and set out solo, after cajoling colleague and buddy Edward Readicker-Henderson to rendezvous in the Balkans.

I reported and caroused with friends in London, Oxford and Bath. After three weeks in Rome, I met Louisa Petais and her fiancé Alberto Martinazzi in Ischia for Easter – and fell into a volcano.

I took a scary overnight train from Naples to eastern Slovenia, where I underwent Tibetan gong therapy for a spa review. Then I failed to meet ERH at the Ljubljana station. Because I suck. However, we did play mini golf at Lake Bled, lunch in Bosnia and roadtrip Croatia for two weeks. More details here.


Quebec City,
Shreveport, LA,
Spokane & Seattle, WA
Winter 2006


Three years ago, I met archaeologist Andy Goldman in Ankara, Turkey. He just married one of my best friends, Amy Tillery, in Spokane. I nabbed her terrific flat, but had to bridesmaid in a matching frock as penance. To recover, I learned the fine art of jello shots at Mardi Gras in Louisiana and how to snow bathe at Quebec Carnaval.

My cousin Ryan McCleskey died in February: the 6'5" former Navy diver who took me swing dancing and shooting in bayou. I miss him already.

Finally, I began the blog Road Remedies, outed by Jen Leo at Written Road and later proclaimed as "lovely" and "inspiring" by Blogher.


Seattle, Ireland,
England, New York,
Florida & Arizona
Autumn 2005


Don't mess with Molly


Autumn bustled, as I traveled for a month in Europe and on the East Coast. In Ireland, I learned to cycle 40 miles a day through rolling hills and pull a pint of Guinness (no foam shamrock-showiness here: just a sort-of Apple-key splat symbol, which tragically overflowed the glass). I also attended a Dublin houseparty, where a man in a derby DJ-ed on a Victrola, while a poetry slam raged over the kitchen soup tureen. Now that was a mighty craic.

I visited much-missed friends in London and Oxford, among them photographer Lisa Payne, mezzo-soprano Louisa Petais and writer Anna Melville-James. Then I wandered north to a North Sea pit-town, where Lord Byron's manor has become an elite Indonesian-fusion spa (strange, but somehow fitting).

Back in the States, I caught up with folks on the East Coast and brainstormed with my agent, Diane Bartoli. Next I'm off to my cousin's wedding in Florida (or not – thanks to Hurricane Wilma), then the Travel Classics West conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Seattle and
Scenic Kentucky
Summer 2005


"The crick's so low, we're gonna have to drag water to it," declares an Appalachian maxim. And it's all true. Our canoes scraped and ground over the cobbled river bed in Kentucky. But some mountain music made the trip worthwhile ... not to mention dancing the Virginia Reel on Hoedown Island to the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.

Moonshine was not forthcoming, however. You need connections for corn squeezins. And my kin fled the holla long ago...

The Seattle P-I signed me as a sports stringer and Michelin asked me update its Green Guide to Italy, just as teaching exploded. I celebrated all this with another cat. Despite weighing less than a dust bunny, alpha-feline Molly steadied Jake remarkably.


Seattle, Vancouver
and Hong Kong
Spring 2005
.
Jake by Marcus Donner


Spring saw me hike in the North Cascades and learn the blood-sport of extreme croquet, while reporting for the Seattle P-I. In Vancouver, John Ryan and I savored Emily Carr's art and the Museum of Anthropology, along with some exceptional falafel.

In the glamorous, greedy city of Hong Kong, I rode in a helicopter, experienced Chinese acupressure and palm-reading, sipped gin-and-tonics at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, won HK$110 at the Sha Tin racetrack (about twelve bucks) and danced until dawn, despite my capitalist guilt.

Back home, I took the domestic plunge, becoming a balcony-farmer and adopting a nine-month-old kitten. His shelter-name (Jade) soon gave way to the tougher "Jake" (a nicely comical mean-junkyard-dog moniker for a dainty tabby).


Seattle, Colorado
and Jordan
Winter 2005


The new year brought a bad flu and good times, including a comical snowboarding and dogsledding excursion in the Rocky Mountains. Another assignment brought me back to the Middle East. In Jordan, I learned to "mooooove with the camel" and wear a Brazilian bikini in a Muslim country (nothing I'd recommend).

I also mud-bathed beside the Dead Sea, danced in a grave, plunged down a 400-ft scarlet sand dune and refused a Bedouin sheik's proposal – to become wife number two – while veiled in a desert camp.


Seattle
Autumn 2004


I've been reconnecting with Seattle's delights: mountains' majesty, climbing wall, posh yoga studio, proper Thai food and old friends (not to mention bowling and burlesque). The Rome manuscript and book proposals – one in cooperation with my newly acquired literary agent, Diane Bartoli in New York – have pigged most of my professional energy.

Sadly, my sweet, Southern grandmother died in November. My buddy Mark Halgren offered the best tribute: "Here's to Granny Cass," he said, lofting a beer, "the lucky lady who went to a better place two days before the dawn of the second Bush administration."


New York & Seattle
August 2004

The Greek visa application proved too fraught and slow, so I decided to freelance in my native Northwest instead. First I swanked it up in New York City, where my friend, Rafael Antonio Nazario, was featured chef at the Beard House. Now I'm settling into a sunny, spacious flat in Ballard, the old Scandinavian fishing district, which has become alarmingly hip.

Mexico & Italy
June & July 2004

Another story landed me in Puerto Vallarta for my 29th birthday. Next, I went on assignment to a dude ranch, where I white water rafted, jumped off a 30-foot cliff into the Colorado River, rode a roan mare, caught an 11-inch rainbow trout and made a cameo appearance at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre (Pump Boys). July brought me back to the "boot," updating for The Rough Guide to Italy and researching The Rome and Central Italy Adventure Guide.

America
Spring 2004

The visa process crawled along in slo-mo. In the meantime, I visited friends in New England and New York City, plus travelled to Chicago (conference), Florida (family) and Mexico (work). Much to my delight, I was introduced to the champion sport of ostrich racing at an Arizona festival. I now dream of training as a featherback jockey.

America
Winter 2003


Home for a spell, I wrote and ran in the balmy Arizona desert. In January, I descended upon my dear friend Amy Tillery in Seattle and finalised the divorce. The Athens News tried to wrangle a work visa, so I could return as a staffer before the 2004 Olympics.


Oxford
Autumn 2003


The City of Dreaming Spires provided much-needed comfort. I swam, biked, climbed and drank innumerable pints of tepid lager with consoling friends – all good balms for a broken heart. A huge onslaught of work kept me busy: editing and typesetting for a Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guide to France, contributing to Time Out's Athens Guide and teaching a travel writing class on-line, alongside other freelance gigs.

My ex John Franklin came through town twice, repairing the narrowboat and installing new tenants. He bought my share of Harmonia, much to my delight (seeing her in the hands of strangers would have been unpleasant). He also fell and broke a rib on the steel hull: a fittingly symbolic end to the marriage.


1996–2003

Expatriate games in Oxford, Rome, Athens and other points European. Read more here.

Updated April 2006


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