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Archive for 'Travel'


Posted 13 March 2014 | By | Categories: Travel | No Comments

Last August I moved to Chicago. After living in rural Iceland (where it was a big event when the produce truck came to the local shop), walking down Michigan Avenue in tourist season was mind boggling.

I spent a month in suburban Detroit, where I read Sonnet 116 at my youngest brother’s wedding. I went on a nature walk, found an office I liked, met old and new friends, and got to know my parents again. My two brothers and I got the band back together in Charlottesville VA. Between us we play guitar, mandolin, keyboard, banjo, trumpet, bass, and we sing. We have so much fun.

I love Chicago. This winter may be one of the worst on record, but the city has welcomed me. I have made friends with many artists, entrepreneurs, writers, and other creative, ambitious, amazing people. I talk to new people every day. I found an office where I like to spend my days. I eat bacon. I ride the train. I play my guitar. I write. I edit books. I am an American in America.

AB haircut 2014

Archive for 'Travel'

The Whole World

Posted 02 August 2013 | By | Categories: Music, Travel, Video | No Comments

I visited the Hallgrímskirkja Church in the heart of Reykjavik, where I heard a jazz version of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” being rehearsed.

My friend Neil said it best: He may have the whole world in His hands, but it sounds a bit like He might be losing His grip. 


Archive for 'Travel'

The running of the horses

Posted 29 July 2013 | By | Categories: Travel | 1 Comment

At work in the studio, we hear a child screaming outside. My friend runs to her son, and I hear her ask why he is screaming.

The horses are running. We hurry down the driveway to look at them, me in my slippers.

“Góðan daginn,” the man leading them calls to us. I call back, “Góðan daginn!” He says something in Icelandic, probably, “Don’t try to touch them.”

“They are beautiful,” I call out.

img_9716 img_9721 img_9722img_9734running horses

This is a regular sight here, the movement of horses from one pasture to another. They move like a gym class, with the athletes up front and the reluctant joggers at the back. In front of me one horse decides he’s had enough and slows to a walk. I think they are doing the tölt, a fast and smooth trot unique to Icelandic horses.

I must ride.

Archive for 'Travel'

Some common misconceptions about Iceland

Posted 10 July 2013 | By | Categories: Travel | 1 Comment

I’ll admit it, I came to Iceland on a whim. I found an artists residency that looked cool, and applied.

I thought Iceland would be, well, the name kinda says it. But it’s quite green where I am, and the weather’s been between 8-18 C, or, um, 46-65 F. The 46 was in between two glaciers, the 65 was hiking up a mountain in the sun. As I grow more comfortable with Celsius I am starting to lose my grip on Fahrenheit. I already think in Celsius for cooking. The ovens here have incomprehensible symbols (“what does the Mercedes Benz one do?”).

Food packaging here is labeled in at least three languages, sometimes many more. Today I had ramen made in China, cinnamon rolls from Sweden, tea I got in Ireland, cornflakes from the UK, Icelandic milk and produce. I can either be horrified by this or accept that I am a truly global being.

Landing at Reykjavik you think you are landing on the moon. Lunar rocks everywhere. The airline I flew is named after an active volcano. I had been under the impression that there were no trees in Iceland and I was relieved to be wrong, although they all seem quite young. The locals say, “If you are lost in the forest in Iceland, stand up.”

There are two spas in the town where I am living, one for the tourists and one for the locals, a supermarket/gas station, a few restaurants, and very little else. There are sheep in my yard. They stay up all night eating grass and then lie around during the day as if stoned. Both genders have horns.

The sun does not set this time of year. It just goes behind the mountain for a while. This is profoundly disconcerting, and you get used to it. I don’t know how well I would cope in near-perpetual darkness, I’ve been told Icelanders do a lot of arts and crafts during the winter. People here are pretty comfortable speaking English, but they speak Icelandic among themselves. The money has pictures of people with books.

Most of Iceland is run on geothermal energy. A new friend of mine here, aged seven, wrinkled his nose at the smell of the hot water, comparing it to cooked eggs, until I said that the water was heated by volcanoes. “Nobody told me that!” he said, his eyes growing huge.

The worst part about Iceland is the flies. I have accidentally swallowed two now, while hiking. Flicking a scarf around one’s face tends to help. Wind is the only real solution.

Everything is expensive here, except wool. Wool is astonishingly cheap.

Archive for 'Travel'

Unintended luggage

Posted 28 June 2013 | By | Categories: Travel | No Comments

British Airways lets you take 23 kilos in your hand luggage. Scandinavian Airlines allow only eight. While I can’t fit anywhere near 23 kilos in my rolly suitcase, this is making me rethink my entire way of life.

Let me back up. I’ve been living abroad for most of two years. I’ve lived with friends, done a bit of housesitting, booked a few rooms with airbnb, hired a cottage, and stayed overnight in a few airport hotels. Because I’m mostly staying put for months at a time, and because I have nice friends, my expenses end up being similar to renting an apartment in Oakland, California.

But in that time and all of those flights, my philosophy of packing has always been to jam as much as I possibly can into the alloted number of bags. My friends in Japan probably thought I was mad for showing up with two huge suitcases, plus my carryon luggage, and I look back and wonder what the hell I was lugging around. Some of it was gifts. But I had a baggage allowance of two checked suitcases, which meant that was how much stuff I needed.

My 8 kilo carryon limit is making me reconsider this philosophy. Packing is a tricky thing when you’re basically moving house. It’s more than deciding how many pairs of socks and underwear and which T-shirts you bring (and I regularly seem to end a trip with a pile of unworn and yet still somehow mismatched socks). Because I don’t know exactly what I’ll need, I bring a range of clothes, casual and dressy, warm and cold. A towel. Boots, dress shoes, and several pairs of sneakers. A light jacket and a heavy jacket. A sun hat and a winter hat. Makeup. Business cards, external backup hard drive, several aging laptops, power cords and international power converters.

Then there are the indulgences that feel like necessities: my blanket from Natureweave Wales, which was made by my friend Anna Morgan and has magic in it. My collection of small bills and change in five or six different currencies, all from places I’ve at least changed planes in, if not lived in for weeks or months. My guitar and homemade songbook. Things you can’t get in the next country, like Australian chocolate, Japanese cakes, and Welsh tea.

Twenty three kilos, about 50 pounds, is the average allowance for checked luggage, and my hand luggage is a respectfully trim rolling suitcase, plus a backpack. Some international flights give you two checked pieces, some one.

And as I’m getting ready for Iceland I think it’s the books that aren’t going to make it. I have half a dozen books with me thanks to BA’s hefty cabin allowance. I bought a few more while here in Ireland. I’m keeping my hand-corrected reading copy of The Loving Dead (which is now available for a mere penny on Amazon!), books one and two of the Way of the Wizards series, silly and fun books by my friend J.E. Honey, and the advance reader copy of Hard Times Blues by Elwin Cotman. I am thinking about how quickly I can read the books I will otherwise have to ship or give away. I may have to get used to reading e-books just to save the agony of letting physical books go.

See, I have romantic ideas about culling down to the point where I only have carryon luggage. How smooth and cool I would be then. Possibly the worst part of travel are those times when you’re sweaty from wearing several layers, your back and forearms ache from lugging oodles of stuff through airports, and and you’re thinking about how to get all of your bags off of the train before it starts moving again. I like my stuff, but I want to carry less of it.

So thank you, Scandinavian Airlines. And sorry, little books.