Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

The Catch of Marrakech

Djemma El Fna

Djemma El Fna

“Why do you want to go to Morocco?” was a question I was asked a lot leading up to my recent April 2013 trip there. The short answer is: curiosity. The longer answer is: As a musician who’d played in bands for years, I started getting really into world music field recordings in 2007. I was disillusioned with the hyped & moneyed nature of the American music scene, and found these recordings of street musicians who had made their own instruments and were just playing for the joy of it really inspiring. Plus an Oud played through a crappy amplifier sounds like an extra awesome electric guitar. So much so that I’ve been using effects pedals etc. trying to add this element to my guitar sounds.

Ever since I saw Sublime Frequencies film “Musical Brotherhoods from the Trans-Saharan Highway”

I have wanted to go to Marrakech, Morocco. I wanted desperately to see the street musicians play in the Djemma El Fna,  a public square full of magicians, snake charmers, storytellers and musicians. This square is so historical and unique that it has become a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage site to protect it from development.

Finally, 6 years later I started my own music project called NEON GRLZ  using drum machines, world music samples, and my guitar and vocals. I began recording my own samples of various street musicians and sounds. I decided I wanted to make videos as well, it seemed like it was finally time to go to Morocco.

NEON GRLZ

NEON GRLZ

My husband and I booked tickets to go to Marrakech for a week. He did Middle Eastern Studies for his first Masters Degree, lived in Rabaat for 3 months in college, and speaks a little Arabic so I thought I’d be in good hands traveling with him. The first day in Marrakech we spent an hour trying to hunt down our luggage at the airport. It had been shrink wrapped into unrecognizable shapes by the airline but we finally found it. We were taken by cab to the winding streets of the Medina, within the walls of the old city of Marrakech.

A man from our Riad (Moroccan version of a Bed and Breakfast or as I called it a Bed and Bread- since Bread was our breakfast for 7 days) came and met us at the car and led us through a maze of narrow streets to our Riad. We managed not to get run over by scooters with whole families crammed on them. The Riad was nice but, we were traveling pretty budget and our room was fine but had no real windows only some small ones by the floor of our room for ventilation. I guess staying in a bunker wasn’t so bad as it was a quiet den away from the busy streets of Marrakech.

Once we were settled they served us mint tea in the courtyard. We trekked through the Souks (think crazy big mazelike flea market) with men calling out trying to sell things to you. Haggling is a big thing here. They will tell you a price 6x or more than the worth of an object and it’s up to you to try to haggle them down to a reasonable price. I am a great haggler in America and have haggled my way through Mexico, Russia, and Europe so I thought I’d be fine when I was ready to buy things. Nope; these guys are pros. I walked away from every purchase during the week feeling I’d been ripped off to the point I just stopped trying to buy anything. The extent of the stories they will tell you to get your money is pretty remarkable.

Minaret

Minaret

We made our way to the Djemma El Fna. Finally, I was here but it was day and only the snake charmers and orange juice sellers were out. Upon closer view/proximity of the snake charmers they start asking for money. You give them money and they say they want more which is kind of a turn off. Not to mention most of the snakes look either dead or half dead. I shrugged this, the miserable monkeys on leash, and sad shriveled donkeys off determined not to let my dreams of this place be shattered. See I felt like going to Morocco with all their sacred music and calls to prayer echoing would be a Yatra or a pilgrimage to a holy place. But I had a sneaking suspicion I’d been a bit mislead in my thinking. We ate the first of many tagines walked around some more.

We got lost trying to get back to our Riad and a little kid helped lead us back. We gave him what we thought was a respectable tip and he yelled at us that it was not enough. My husband told him if it was not enough he could give it back and the kid ran off. We both felt frazzled.

That night we went back to the Djemma El Fna to take some sound and video samples. The Gnawan and other musicians were amazing. But again we gave money and were almost always asked for more even though we’d given a good amount. The Djemma El Fna was overwhelming in good and bad ways. I had trouble making sense of my feelings and was beginning to feel serious culture shock. We ate at one of the food sellers and my husband had Pastilla, which was unclear whether it was chicken or pigeon, but I suppose it was safer than the goat and Sheep heads some people were bravely eating.  On our way back to the Riad/Bunker a woman grabbed my hand and began painting on it with henna before I could say no. I finally gave her some money to let me go and stupidly wondered back to our bunker feeling as though I’d been mugged.

Henna Mugged

Henna Mugged

The next day we wandered into the New City (built by the French during their occupation) and went to the Jardin Marjorelle and Berber Museum. The garden and wide streets leading there were a nice change from the crowded, small, winding streets of the Medina. Never had I been so happy to walk by the familiar golden arches of McDonalds. We went to the Djemma again that night for footage and sound and found a few musicians that were cool with what we gave them. But the constant harassment by others in the square sent us back to the Riad early.

Jardin Marjorelle

Jardin Marjorelle

We had scheduled a Moroccan cooking class and tour of the Souks the 3nd day. I asked our guide, a Dutch woman, who had moved to Marrakech several years before about what was appropriate to give to musicians and she told us an amount smaller than we were even giving. I had immense respect for her as an expat who had been able to make her way in this strange place that seemed so into ripping off foreigners. Say what you want about NYC but if you ask someone directions they will just tell you, not try to purposely mislead you to get your money. If you ask a price they will start with a pretty fair one. I get it, I’m American and probably a lot more well off than many of these folks, but I’m not rich by any means so I got pretty offended when I was trying to be kind and respectful adn was told it wasn’t enough.

Souks

Souks

I started having intestinal issues probably from eating in the Djemma and a few days of eating things my body wasn’t used to. This led to nausea and other unpleasant things the rest of the weak. By day 4 were ready to go on our day trip to the coastal town of Essaouira.

As opposed to the Pink City of Marrakech, Essaouira is a blue and white port town. It had a much more chill feeling, though I got ripped off there too when I bought a bracelet I was told was old silver but turned out to be something that left green band on my arm. I did however wander in to Bob’s music (named for Bob Marley) and got a castanet lesson from the kind proprietor there. Essaouira holds a Gnawa Music Festival there every year and its laid back atmosphere brings many hippies and musicians there. I bought some castanets, which are actually harder to play than you would think. I got carsick on the two hour drive back to Marrakech.

Essaouira

Essaouira

This led to my first ever travel meltdown where I felt I’d seen/done enough and wanted to go home early. My husband convinced me it would be more difficult to change our tickets and we should just stick it out. I felt ashamed that I was crazy spoiled American as we went to McDonalds the next day and mostly hung out in the New City which had a more European feel. My husband tried to console me by telling horror stories about his time in Morocco in college. I couldn’t believe he’d lasted 3 months there. It was just so radically different, which at times was beautiful and at times really, really frustrating.

Our final few days we spent mostly in the New City eating a Fast Croke and other French inspired places. We went on another day trip to the High Atlas Mountains and Berber villages but it was pouring rain and again I got carsick on the winding mountain roads.

Berber village in High Atlas

Berber village in High Atlas

I was really relieved when it was finally our day of departure back to America. I appreciate my cushy American life so much more. The odd thing is looking through pictures I’m glad I went although I wish I’d only done a few days in Marrakech and more days in Agadir or Essaouria or Spain.

Perhaps, now in my 30’s I’m less adventurous than I was in my 20’s. I place a higher value on being comfortable. I was so uncomfortable all the time in my teens and twenties that a trip to an uncomfortable place didn’t faze me much. Now I like my routines, my husband, apartment, neighborhood, and my pain in the ass dog. I am humbled by this, as I used to think I was so adventurous. I guess my home in New York City is all the adventure I really need for the time being.

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Filed under God, Music, NY, Spirituality, Travel

When One Door Closes, Break a F*ing Window! The Future of Music…

Recently, after 6 months of collaborating with another female musician, she informed me that she no longer wanted to collaborate and wanted to do her own project. I was totally bummed–band break ups suck. You spend all this time and energy on a project and put your faith in someone just to have it all disappear. I moped around for a few days then I had this idea to create a new “band” structure:

NEON GRLZ is an experiment in collaboration with other musicians, writers, filmmakers, and video artists. As opposed to a traditional set band, Susie DeFord collaborates with multiple artists of varying backgrounds in order to empower creation regardless of time, life constraints, and responsibilities that seem to always work against the creative process particularly as artists age. The idea is that while some artists and musicians may not be able to commit to one “band” for a variety of reasons, they can still exercise the creative impulse and unite with other artists by contributing to a song. NEON GRLZ celebrates technology that allows artists to swap tracks in a collaborative process regardless of location. Contributing artists will be invited to perform live at NEON GRLZ shows should they desire. For more info contact neongrlz<at>gmail.com

I am currently working on some basic tracks using drum machines, loops, vocals, guitar, etc. and will be soliciting contributions in the New Year. Until then you can check out some of the songs created so far here:

https://soundcloud.com/neongrlz

Ain't no joke

Ain’t no joke

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Filed under Art, Brooklyn, Music, NY, Poetry, Writing

Cidiots take Saugerties/Catskill!

Our new rental cottage in Catskill, near Saugerties!

We finally did it! After years of browsing, dreaming, and scheming on Craigslist and Upstater we finally rented a cottage upstate from a nice couple in Catskill, NY near our favorite upstate town Saugerties! Catskill is about 30 minutes from the great towns of Hudson & Kingston, NY. 20 Minutes from Woodstock, and 40 minutes to Phoenicia. I have been treking 2-3 hours upstate from Brooklyn for the past 5 years on occasional weekends and loving everything about it except the ticks! I’d love to move up there full time but unfortunately the job situation isn’t is good up there as in the city. So for now we are weekenders.

Cottage from road

After sitting out Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn last week on Friday we packed our car full of stuff and drove up to move in. Sleepy’s Kingston (highly recommend they were great!) delivered our bed and a futon for guests/couch and we were set. I was having a ton of financial fear after losing a week of income due to the storm but, I’ve always worked hard and been okay at the end of the day so why lose faith now?

Bedroom

Living Room with new Quilt and Rug from Ronnie at Saugerties Antique Center

Kitchen

We took a break from moving and drove a few miles away to Palenville, NY where we grabbed a sandwich at the great general store/eatery the Circle W Market.

First meal by the propane fire!

I hope to bring Brooklyn dogs up there on weekends in the near future to help pay for the cottage and give them some country time. I also hope to do some writing and making music up there without the distraction of the busy city.

View from Writing Nook/Back Porch of the Yard

Yard

The large property leads down to the Kaaterskill creek.

Kaatersill Creek/ summer swimming

Over this weekend in addition to moving in we went to Saugerties First Friday and said hello to our friend Raye at Lucky Chocolates and Bill at Rock Star Rodeo. This month First Friday had a Day of the Dead theme since it was so close to Halloween. Lucky Chocolates had free hot chocolate and sugar skull decorating! I’d love to open a pet store/ dog training/ boarding place up there someday….

We saw Argo for $8 (Instead of $12-14 in the city) at the cute old Orpheum Theater downtown Saugerties. We purchased a rug and quilt at the Saugerties Antique Center which has great stuff for reasonable prices.

On Sunday we took a long walk near the new cottage and saw this:

Nearby walk

Fields Nearby

We feel so lucky to be able to do this and can’t wait to head back up this Friday! I’m so grateful to have an escape from crazy NYC. We truly are living the dream….

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Filed under Dogs, NY, Travel, Upstate

Neon Grlz go to Woodstock…

Me in Terset circa 2005

There’s that cheesy old saying “If you love something set it free, if it comes back it’s meant to be.” Or something like that. Anyways, I grew up loving and playing music despite the dark places it took me. Music has really saved and almost destroyed me.

In middle school in the early nineties, when I first got into Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr and all the other great bands of that era, there was a sense of finally hearing what I was feeling inside. It made me feel less alone and connected to something bigger than myself. Then high school came and in the underground music scene in Florida I got really into drugs and alcohol. This lead to me running away, getting locked up, finding and losing love, hurting people and myself, friends dying, and then me almost dying. I had various attempts at getting sober throughout my teen years and a brief stint in the Hardcore Straight Edge scene. I also got into writing zines and feminism mid nineties with the whole riot girl movement listening to Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and later Spitboy. Through my struggles music was there for me in various forms putting words and sounds to the complicated feelings I was having growing up until I finally got clean for good in 1996. I’m currently working on a Young Adult novel about all of this (more on that later)

I played in a few bands, Miss July in college in Florida (1999), and then Terset (2005-6) and Wu Wei (2007-8) in New York. While it felt amazing to work creatively on music with other people, it was also rife with difficulty. I’ve always been a super independent person so working with others can be really challenging for me. As anyone knows playing in a band is like being in a romantic relationship with 3 or 4 other people, schedule conflicts and different ideas and ambitions are just the tip of the iceberg. One of my favorite music documentaries is Some Kind of Monster about Metallica’s relationship problems. It’s kinda funny to see a bunch of tough metal guys talking to a therapist about their feelings, but I’m sure that movie is something any band can relate to.

Wu Wei circa 2007

So I quit playing in 2008 after Wu Wei broke up. It was just too depressing to invest so much time and energy in something and then have it fall apart. The truth was I really had a lot to do with things going awry. See, I needed music to fix things, to make my life better, to be my everything. It wasn’t just fun to me, I needed it to go somewhere or it felt like I wasn’t going to be okay. I alienated my bandmates and it was like watching a car crash that I couldn’t stop ’cause I new I was out of line. I’ve never been so close to losing my sobriety  Walking away sent me back to therapy. I was so confused about what my life was without music at the forefront. So much of my identity was invested in it, it was like losing a limb. I stopped going to shows because they just made me sad. It was heartbreaking, but the hiatus turned out to be a good thing. It made room for other things in my life.

I focused back on my writing, interviewed and bunch of poets, and wrote Dogs of Brooklyn. I built a dog walking business and got certified as a dog trainer. I traveled to Prague, Berlin, Mexico, upstate NY, and France. I fell in love and got married to a wonderful non-musician. None of this would have happened had I still been so hyper-focused on playing music. There just wasn’t room for anything else. But I still listened to and missed it a lot.

About a year ago, I started fooling around with world music loops and my guitar and started recording things in Garage Band on my computer. It felt good to play again but it was hard to motivate without anyone else involved. Then a few months ago I reconnected with a girl I knew from another band in New York, Kelly Irene Corson from The Art of Shooting and Sleepwalker. She was in a similar place with music as I was so we started talking and playing together using loops, drum machines, guitars, and vocals. It feels so good to be playing again. I don’t know where it will go but I’m finally at a place in my life where I can just enjoy playing and not need it to save me. I have a great life with or without music.

Neon Grlz circa 2012

We’re in various stages with several songs and have started calling ourselves Neon Grlz. Hopefully, we’ll have some recordings up soon and maybe even start performing again. But its so good to be in the creative cave just writing again. We just got back from a few days upstate in Woodstock playing music all day in a house up there. Don’t worry it’s not any wimpy folk stuff, we haven’t lost our angst! I am so grateful there’s more to come…..

Store hours Woodstock style

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Puerto Rican Odessey- Cats, Dogs, Horses, and Beaches- Oh My!

A few weeks later I’m finally sharing my Puerto Rican travel journal! Enjoy our adventures attracting animals wherever we go!

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

5/26/12

We flew to San Juan Puerto Rico and took a cab to The Gallery Inn, which may just be the strangest and best hotel I’ve ever been to. It is run by this artist woman and her sculptures, paintings, and parrots decorate the maze like halls and stairwells.

Guard Parrots, courtyard of Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

Sculptures, Nooks, and Crannies, Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

When we found our room up a spiral staircase, we opened the door to the patio and a cat ran inside to greet us. Apparently, we were staying in her room. We nicknamed her Rosalita and started buying her cans of Friskies.

Rosalita going through my suitcase at The Gallery Inn, Old San Juan

We walked around sweating in the afternoon sun and went and got dinner at La Fonda El Jabarito. Very unassuming but the locals eat there and its probably the best Mufungo I ever had.  The next day we visited the forts and got more sun burnt walking around. I bought a National Parks Passport in the gift shop and am now determined to get a stamp from as many National Parks as possible.

5/28/12

We took a puddle jumper plane to Vieques from San Juan, Puerto Rico. There were only 6 people on it including the pilot. It was scary but beautiful flying over Puerto Rico’s lush green hills and turquoise beaches.

Flying to Vieques!

When we got to Vieques’ tiny airport we got a ride from a chatty cabbie named Ruben who was a cook for 15 years but got sick of it, “Too much work.” He talked about how much his Chihuahua liked to eat grilled onions but not a certain kind of Alpo. He said his dog actually peed in his food when he tried to change it, “Little monster.” I seem to bring the animal talk out in everyone so we listened politely as we looked out the window at the wild horses roaming around on the sides of the roads.

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

We arrived at our hotel, Malecon House, in the small town of Esperanza. Malecon House is very sparse, white, and clean.

Esperanza Malecon, Vieques, PR

We took a swim in their small warm pool then had dinner at Duffy’s. Dogs roamed in and out of the outdoor bars and restaurants sniffing for scraps. Afterwards, we headed to the Green Store (which is one of the two convenience stores in the town) to meet up with our guides for a Bioluminescent Bay tour. We were early so we sat outside and ate ice cream and petted and talked to some of the dogs hanging out nearby. Most have collars, but not tags, I guess people just let their dogs roam around town all day. Finally, Vieques Adventures picked us up in a van for the Biobay tour at 7pm. We crammed into a van with a bunch of people and drove through the bumpy back roads to Mosquito Bay. There we waded through the dark and got into clear canoes. We paddled out to the middle of the bay. As it got darker and we were further from the shore, the stars shone brightly and the water started to glow around our moving paddles and canoe. Every once in a while we saw a streak of light through the water as a fish swam by. Bioluminescence is such a strange and surreal phenomena. We roped up our boats together and talked about the biobay and the constellations above. I felt the peace I can’t seem to find in the city out there on the water. I could’ve drifted out there forever but soon we headed back to shore. Thumping over the bumps along the dirt road back to town I tried to imprint the bay in my memory so I could go back in times of stress.

5/29/12

We tried to walk along the trails of Cayo de Terra a small (but bigger than it seems) strip of land off Esperanza’s Malecon. Lonely Planet’s guidebook described the trails as rambling. Next thing we know we’re off the barely marked trails in the woods and can’t find our way out until we hit a cliff. We sort of find another trail and follow it thinking it’s headed to Sun Bay beach but we hit a lagoon we didn’t even know was there. After an hour and some scrapes and swearing my Floridian girl scout roots kick in and I find the trail back. We head to Sun Bay finally and dive in to the warm blue water. I’m not really relaxing and doing nothing on my “do-nothing vacation.”

5/30/12

After having a family from New Jersey take over breakfast loudly at Malecon House we got a rental Jeep and drove to the Green beach. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and calm. Then some family with a kid came over which kind of bummed us out. We really just wanted some peace alone on a secluded beach but whatever.

Green Beach, Vieques, PR

We went to Isabella Segunda and were floored by how different it seemed from Esperanza.  We got lunch at a good place but it took forever to get the food. Afterwards, we did a two-hour horseback ride on the hills and beaches of town. The hills were so steep it turned out to be super-stressful. Dennis wasn’t sure his old horse was going to make it. Mine kept eating plants and drinking salt water.  After two hours my ass was killing me. Finally, we went back to the stable.

We hauled ass back to Esperanza vowing not to go back to Isabella Segunda while on Vieques.

5/31/12

Our last full day on Vieques we were happy, but sunburned and sore from hiking, riding, and canoeing. We drove forever in the Old US Millitary/now nature reserve until we found Playa La Plata (I think?). It was deserted and beautiful.

Playa la Plata, Vieques, PR

There was even a little wood hut someone had made for shade. We hung around there for a while then drove around looking at the creepy old abandoned military bunkers. It was like a scene from some horror movie, a couple on vacation goes to explore abandoned bunkers and finds some crazy predator like a giant rabid mongoose who hunts them. We had an amazing dinner of shrimp and lobster stuffed mofungo and roasted chicken and grapes at El Quenepo. All the restaurants in Esperanza were pretty good, Duffy’s and Banana’s had reasonably priced burgers and sandwiches and Tradewinds had great food and a great view out over the water.

Me and a 300+ year old tree, Vieques

6/1/12

We headed back to the little airport and ate at the little café outside. You can check in and then go back outside and eat there! Security is pretty lax. We flew back to San Juan and took a cab to Ocean Park to the Numero Uno Guest House.

Ocean Park, San Juan, PR

Ocean Park is the beach most of the locals go to in San Juan and it isn’t as touristy as Condado. We went to the beach for a while then got dinner at La B de Burro which had great burritos and awesome Luchadora artwork everywhere.

6/2/12

We got picked up by this guy Manny from Eco Action Tours to go to El Yunque which is a national park/ rainforest. Manny was a stresswad about all the traffic and kept saying, “Oh no, this is a crisis!” We could tell he spent some years in NYC from his accent so we tried to joke around with him a bit. After picking up some other tourists and driving about an hour we finally got there.

Me and Dennis in El Yunque

We stopped at various points of interest. One was a lookout tower, another an older gentleman’s house and farm within the park. Apparently, he had a Salvia plant that Manny was trying to get all of us to eat and get high.

Manny and Salvia plant, El Yunque, PR

Next we parked and hiked up and down hills to a series of waterfalls and pools you could swim in. It was pretty crowded but if you hiked up above the main pools beyond a barrier you could find pools with no one in them. Dennis and I found one and jumped in then realized it was freezing which felt pretty good on a hot day.

Waterfalls and pools of El Yunque, PR

When we got back to Ocean Park later that afternoon we went back to the beach for a while then had dinner at the local, awesome diner/ bakery Kasalta’s. I drooled over the pastry case as I ate my Cuban sandwich then ordered the best Tres Leches I’ve ever eaten.

6/3/12

After our last beach morning, we headed to the airport and back to NYC relaxed and ready to face it. That lasted about a week for me and now I’m ready to get out of here again! So I finally after 12 years without a car, I looked at and bought one! Perhaps, getting out of the city more even for day trips might make it more bearable. Hopefully, I can afford it….

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Filed under Dogs, Travel, Writing

Dogs on the Wonder Wheel? Coney Island- June 16th!

Dogs on the Wonder Wheel- what?

This Saturday June 16th is Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park!

The World Famous *BOB* will host the 2nd Annual Pet Day and Pet Costume Contest at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, on the Boardway in Coney Island, from Noon to 7 PM on Saturday June 16 (Rain Date June 17.)

Give your pet (accompanied by you, of course) a free ride on the landmark Wonder Wheel.

The Pet Costume Contest begins at 2 PM. The judges are proud pet owners Bambi, the Coney Island Mermaid, and Angie Pontani, Miss Cyclone. Entries are limited to 25 and registration is first come first-serve. Pre-register at the Wonder Wheel website by downloading an application or register in person from 12:30-1:30 PM on June 16 across from Wonder Wheel Park. The registration fee is two cans of cat or dog food — a donation to Sean Casey Animal Rescue, which will have its mobile adoption van parked on 12th Street during the event.

1st prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel season pass and a $150 PETCO gift certificate

2nd prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel day passes and a $75 PETCO gift certificate

3rd prize: Deno’s Wonder Wheel day passes and a $25 PETCO gift certificate

The Contest will be followed by a pet procession through Wonder Wheel Park.

I might have to break out Phoebe’s Mailman Costume!

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