Welcome to Atlanta

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A continuous curtain of water battered my car for the first thirty minutes I was in the great state of Georgia. Coming from Southern California where it never rains, it seemed like an unnecessary show of force. Okay, I get it, you have water here. A few minutes before I was attacked by extremist clouds, I photographed a bright blue billboard with an anatomically correct peach that offered an official welcome from Nathan Deal, who was not the owner of a car dealership or host of a game show, but the governor. This sign was strategically placed over a highway rest stop that I thankfully had the foresight to patronize, otherwise, I would’ve had a repeat of what will forever be known in my house as the ‘Arizona incident.’ Five days ago, when I left my home in Los Angeles, I got caught in an epic, two-hour traffic jam somewhere near Flagstaff. And, while surrounded by a sea of idling cars on historic Route 66, I was left with no choice but to open my car door and hover my pants-less body over the steaming hot pavement until I heard drops turn to a cascade and then back to drops.

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Portal to Hope

I spent the Christmas holidays strolling through SoHo, hailing cabs on Broadway and taking in the elaborate window displays down 5th Avenue. It was the eve of the New Year and the new decade, and I was feeling hopeful about what 2020 would bring. I was also feeling particularly proud of myself for having cleverly paired my New York trip with a quick jaunt to Bermuda. Culminating my vacation with my feet covered in pink sand was the gift I was most eager to unwrap.

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First Post-Pandemic Flight

After two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, I boarded a flight from D.C. to Miami, breaking my 18-month abstinence from airport travel. While I hoped to find a new utopia of conscientious flyers, the cynic in me anticipated that getting to my gate was going to be like that final scene in World War Z where Brad Pitt’s character attempts to walk by the zombies without getting chewed on. However, neither scenario proved true.

TL;DR Everything’s the same, except the snacks are worse.

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Cherry Blossom Bloom in DC and Beyond

Since moving to the nation’s capital in the summer of 2020, the only constant has been the inconsistency. Adding to the long list of things that were not supposed to happen was the cherry bloom.

Spring came unseasonably early for the infamous cherry blossoms of Washington D.C.

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The Art of the Baltic: Cruising Northern Europe

There is nothing that I long for more than to look toward the horizon and see a legendary castle illuminated by a golden sun. From the Scandinavian architectural treasures of Denmark and Finland, to the awe-inspiring art of Russia and Germany, the glorious countries that encircle the Baltic Sea are the epicenter of beauty, elegance, and splendor…and just the journey we can all use.

Thinking about a voyage to Northern Europe in 2022? Here are a few of my favorite ports:

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Amor al Arte

The world’s great masters are not exclusive to Europe. From Brazil we have Tunga, best known for his fascinating sculptures about the human body. From Chile, Roberto Matta is a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art. From Colombia we have beloved Fernando Botero who created his own exaggerated style of Boterismo, and from Mexico the foremost muralist Diego Rivera. These are only a few of the influential and brilliant artists that hail from across Latin America. This region is also home to artistic movements grounded in heritage, history and tradition—and deserve to be exalted.   

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In Search of Enchantment: Tenerife’s Anaga Mountains

The term Isleña, meaning island girl in Spanish, is what we call my grandmother. A term of endearment exclaimed whenever she walks in the door. ¡Llegó la isleña! (The island girl is here!) I grew up thinking it was a reference to our Cuban heritage, but when I became more inquisitive about our family’s lineage, I discovered that her nickname was a tribute to her Canary Island roots. Her father emigrated to Cuba from Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the nickname, along with a strong emotional connection to Spain, was passed down to her.

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Inauguration Interruptus

Last spring, when I was making my pros and cons list of moving to D.C., high on the positive side was that I would witness historic events, like Presidential inaugurations.

Well.

Now I know how Tokyo residents felt when the Summer Olympic Games were postponed last summer. I suppose we all have to wait four years now.

Even without a coveted spot on the National Mall, I can still witness history, just by walking down the sidewalk (until reaching the security checkpoint). It is an incredible sight to see National Guard troops marching where vendors would have been selling Biden/Harris souvenirs and completely empty streets that, ahead of an inauguration, would have been bustling with tourists.

Officially, Inauguration Day commences at noon on Jan. 20 on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Instead of a traditional inaugural parade, President Biden will catch a Secret Service Uber straight to the White House. A “virtual parade” will begin at approximately 3 p.m., but I’m still not clear what that even means. In the evening, instead of the traditional glitzy inaugural balls, there will be a primetime television program called “Celebrating America” hosted by Tom Hanks. That airs at 8:30 p.m., because 8 p.m. was too early and 9 p.m. was too late.

Visit the website of the Presidential Inauguration Committee for more information.


Useless travel advice

When traveling, I try to remember important information about the places I visit. However, after a friend called me to ask for my advice on a certain vacation spot, I’ve discovered that the information I have amassed over the years is absolutely no good to anyone.

Seriously. Useless.

Here’s a sampling of my most inappropriate recommendations to date:

Hey, I’ll be in Denver a few days. Anything I should do?

There’s a mall on 16th Street called…the 16th Street Mall. And the airport has the highest quality public bathroom toilet paper that has ever touched my vagina. You’ll be very high the entire time you’re there, so everything will be interesting. If you did Denver right, you’ll come out of your fog while sitting at a roulette table in Black Hawk.

Is Seattle a cool place?

You must be thinking of Portland. Just kidding! Seattle is for cool kids. Make sure you pack plenty of graphic t-shirts and colorful sneakers to match beanies of every color. The true mystery of Seattle isn’t where the mystery soda machine went (Google this later), but it’s that somehow, every store you walk into has an amazing soundtrack. From the Jimmy John’s to the CB2 to any of the 133 Starbucks, everywhere you go, your favorite songs mysteriously blare throughout the establishment. Except in Pike Place.

You lived in Atlanta for a while, do you think I’ll enjoy my visit?

Everything, and I mean everything, is legal in Atlanta. Las Vegas, NV has more restrictions than the capital of the Dirty South. Gun powder in your drank? Coming right up. Walking on the highway? Casual. Outright stealing? As long as you’re white and polite. Dance party in an abandoned, underground rail station? Who needs ventilation?!

Should I plan a family vacation to D.C.?

If by family you mean you, your husband and the twink you share, then yes. Otherwise, there’s nothing for straight people to do in this town.

Where should I stay in Boston?

It doesn’t matter. Everywhere you go, you end up at the same place. It’s like being inside an M.C. Escher drawing, while on some amazing ‘shrooms. Their “T” is the Cadillac of public transportation, but you haven’t lived until you’ve been a passenger in a cab that drives on the sidewalk. Cabbies will do this for five bucks extra. Oh, and don’t stand next to or touch the statue of John Harvard. If you inhale deep enough you can smell why.

San Francisco is so nice this time of year…

San Francisco is nice any time of year. But what is really suspicious to me are the locals. Everyone there is too nice. Like they are up to something. So, if you haven’t been, you should go, seriously, it’s beautiful. Just don’t talk to people. They are aliens. Also, of note, the homeless and vagrant population tend to not be so nice and may, on occasion, toss cups of their urine in your direction.

This year, I’m staying close to home. I’m thinking Houston for a weekend. I have a few friends there and they’re always talking it up.

Houston smells in a way that can cause you to contract cancer through your nose. It’s like getting shot-gunned by 30 chain smokers inside an elevator at the Excalibur in Vegas. Yet, the Margarita’s are amazing. Ah-ma-zing. You’ll need to drink them continuously to soothe the burning sensation in your throat.

I dream of traveling to Hawaii.

Go to Maui, for sure. It’s like walking around in a postcard. From the trees to the weather to the birds, everything is perfect. And it gets really old after a while. “Is that another rainbow? Geez. These gays and their agenda have gone too far.” It is worth it to endure this torture only to have the world’s best hummus at Athens Greek Restaurant in Lahaina. Yes, you heard right. Eat Greek food in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I know I live 15 minutes away from Miami Beach, but I want the experience of driving a few hours to bathe in the same beach, but a little more north.

Then head to Jupiter, FL. It’s a beach town very, very far from South Beach (a whole 90 minutes up I-95). It is also very, very far from New Jersey (a whole 17 hours down I-95). Making it the perfect place to hide former witnesses from the Gambino crime family trials. There is one fine dining Italian restaurant where dinner for two costs about $200. A price I gladly paid to be seated by Bartolomeo “Bobby Glasses” Vernace’s widow.

I’ve never been to New York City.

Fear not. People that actually live in NYC have seen less of the city than you. My first piece of advice is that unless you have drank water in Cancun, you do not have the proper intestinal bacteria balance to eat a hot dog from a vendor, a cheese pizza from a bodega or a slice of cheesecake from a diner. Continuing on the food theme, stay away from the Pig & Whistle. And, most importantly, you will never get tickets from Tickets for the show you want to see.

Garden For All Seasons: Atlanta Botanical Garden

The trees are not tall enough to obscure the Atlanta skyline, but that’s part of the Botanical Garden’s charm. It’s not an oasis from the city, it is very much the city. One minute you’re in the heart of midtown with music blaring from cars and the next you’re under a lush trellis looking at a dragon-shaped topiary.

The Garden’s cornerstone event is Garden Lights, Holiday Lights, now in its tenth year. It’s the perfect pick-me-up if you’re looking for Christmas cheer. Countless bulbs light up the garden, bringing a smile to even the grinchiest among us.

If you go: 1345 Piedmont Ave NE. Click here for directions and parking instructions.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights: The 2020 version of this annual event features new safety protocols, so tickets are extremely limited. Get complete pricing, safety information and more.

Is the Membership worth it? : If you’re spending considerable time in Atlanta, I say splurge on the membership. The perks are nice and the family membership pays for itself in two visits.

Shakespeare in Paris

I think every writer has a Parisian fantasy that revolves around Shakespeare and Company. Opposite of Notre-Dame in the heart of Paris, there is no greater setting. Adding to the romance, this is the bookstore where James Baldwin hung out, where William Burroughs researched medical books for Naked Lunch, where Anaïs Nin drank Bordeaux straight out of the bottle, where Ernest Hemingway often showed up drunk, and where Allen Ginsberg howled naked.

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