Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January Junkets

(photo by John Gorman)

Happy New You!

Is there anything better than the fresh start of a new year? The tabula rasa quality to it. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn that I’m so fond of January, and snowflakes (in small doses). Maybe it’s something else. I’ve had the good fortune of traveling over many Januarys, and in that time, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to bask in many new experiences. Today I’d like to share a few memories from my favorite January Junkets.

1 – Machu Picchu

The coup de grâce. I still proudly sport my Hiram Bingham t-shirt (the archaeologist who stumbled upon M.P. back in 1911). There is nothing like scaling the sacred citadel. The fog looms as you climb up. It’s otherworldly. Majestic. It’s a heck of a trip just to get there from Cuzco. The clunky van that scoops you up and takes you on a bumpy ride. The train that snakes along Urubamba, then the second, clunkier van, and then the hike in your own weathered boots. Then the real trek begins, one of body, one of spirit. Your sinewy calves and burning hamstrings open into a new realm. When you reach the top, and peer out, you are on top of the world without a boundless view.

2 – Florence

What an amazing city for a loper! Florence is that city you can practically walk through in a day, and then you can go back and spend a lifetime trying to relish it. Relive and re-envision it. Enjoy a respite in the Boboli Gardens, chuckle at the tourists paying kingly sums for king-sized gelato cones across from the Duomo. Sit on the steps of San Lorenzo and read from a weathered paperback about the inexorable strife between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Plot out your next panini break. Become an artist. Fall in love.

3 – Mar Del Plata, Argentina

Spent a good chunk of my mornings whacking tennis balls on the red clay courts of various clubs, afternoons swimming at the beaches, dancing at night. I really did tango. Not well, but I gave it whirl. My carnivorous self gorged on bife de lomo and alwsy seemed to be hankering for more. My newfangled morning pick-me-up, mate sipped from a straw.

4 – Seaside, Oregon

The mellifluous sound of the Pacific splashing onto the shore and the burbling bubbles in the cold morning sand. I remember a seatless swing set on the beach during my morning strolls. Just the metal bars in the distance, my landmark, and a jetty way off. Gulls cackling to each other, enumerating their grievances, telling jokes. I was there, mainly to study. To earn my MFA in Creative Writing. It was a great time.

5 – Disneyland (As an adult)

I know your first thought might be “What a flouncy place for an adult?” but really there’s so magic there. Magic rediscovered. I’m not talking about visiting as a kid or even with your kid. I’m talking about a crisp and carefree time when I visited as a 19-year-old with my girlfriend and her family. Maybe I’ve always just been a big kid myself. I still have my stuffed Goofy.

6 – Toronto

I’ve often said that I could totally see myself here. I think I have an innate Canadian sensibility. I love Tim Horton donuts much more than Dunkin Donuts. I always keep an Alice Munro tucked under a pillow and by my coffee table. I think I spent 3 Januaries there so my memory, or more precisely, my memories are a pleasant conflation. Of course I was a good little tourist and skated at the rink by Nathan Phillips Square by City Hall (on my first trip). Something akin to skating at Bryant Park. Coffee in Yorkville then a yummy falafel. Spent time admiring old Victorian homes in Cabbagetown, walking around like I belonged.