Category Archives: Travel

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

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

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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Hurricane Irene Adventure

I’m getting back on the proverbial Blog-horse after a long break, getting married, honeymoonin’ etc (more on that later) with a rather dramatic post—My brush with Hurricane Irene. I was scheduled to go to a dog training intensive up at Sue Sternberg’s Roundout Animal Shelter in Accord, NY the last week of August. The week before everyone starts freaking out in NY about Hurricane Irene coming. They started evacuating parts of the 5 boroughs that were near the water. We were next to an evacuation zone in Brooklyn but not necessarily in it. On Thursday 8/25 (I’m supposed to head to Accord 8/26), I get an email that they’ve cancelled the dog training course. I already prepped to take the week off work and put a deposit down on a cabin on a farm upstate so I email the people to ask them about it and if their property is in a flood zone, safe if there is a storm etc. They reply that the deposit is not refundable and that it should be safe up there—no flooding. So since everyone is freaking out in NYC we think, maybe we’ll be safer upstate so we go to Accord.

When we arrive in Accord we go to the farm. We drive on a little bridge over a creek onto the property. It’s a nice little cabin decked out in cowboy style décor. When we get there the owner is chasing chickens out of our yard, there are horses grazing, dogs, cats, and rabbits running around. Things are great Friday and Saturday. We go to Pizza Barn in Accord which is good Friday Night and hang out on the property with our dog and all the other animals they have on the farm. Phoebe our dog is psyched to chase the chickens and rabbits around. Saturday we go to Sweet Sues in Phoenecia for pancakes and we wind up going to Shandaken Day in a big field in town.

Pre-Hurrican Chaos, Shandaken Day

There were all kinds of booths set up and we wind up getting our pictures taken by this wild Parrot Lady. Then we drive to Woodstock. We head back to Accord for a while to rest. Then go to Saugerties to Fez for dinner and Lucky Chocolates for desert and had a nice chat with Rae the owner. Then the rain starts so we head back to the cabin thinking it’ll just be a bad rainstorm.

WE WERE WRONG! In the middle of the night the power, water, sewage goes out. We have no ability to flush the really full toilet that is backed up from all the water. There are crazy sounds outside and we and the dog are freaking out but can’t see anything because it’s so dark. We wake up early when it starts to get light out. It’s still pouring rain. We go outside. A tree fell crashed through our fence and just missed the cabin.

Tree in front of cabin

Outside Cabin

Another fell up by the main house and took out the main power line.

Power lines

The horses are running around the property. Then we look down towards the road we came in on. The small creek we went over is now a rushing river that has covered the bridge and is inching up the property to the barn and our cabin.

Road into and out of farm

Road into and out of Farm

I’m freaking out that we’re basically trapped and I want to get in a fistfight with the farm owners since obviously the property floods and they lied to me to get my deposit instead of letting us out of it due to the coming storm.

Property Flooding

We start talking to people in our building in Brooklyn on our cell phones, they haven’t even lost power but our basement is flooding. They are taking shifts sweeping the water out. We ask them to go upstairs and check on our apartment and cats and everything is fine there. Only one small leak we already knew about and it’s not too bad.

We hang out in the cabin and try not to freak out more even though we have to go to the bathroom in the yard next to the fallen tree since the toilet is screwed up. Periodically, we go to the car to listen to the radio news. Apparently, the city is fine but upstate NY (where we are) and New Jersey are getting slammed with flooding. I’m keeping my mouth shut and not fighting with the people on the property even though they have a generator running in their house and we’re in the dark.

Finally, in the afternoon the rain stops. The water goes down enough for us to wade through and walk to “town” to see what damage has been done. The main roads are flooded and no one can get anywhere. We make it through another night hoping the water will have gone down enough for us to drive back to Brooklyn Monday morning.

On Monday morning, we get up and pack the car. The water has gone down enough for us to at least get off the property. I go up to the main house to try to get some of our money back since clearly we aren’t going to be staying here with no power, water, toilet for a whole week. I have to fight with the people to get our money back, but I’m from Brooklyn and I don’t take no for an answer! What assholes! We get out of there and drive back but instead of 2.5 hours to get home it takes 6 because there are all these roads closed and the news isn’t reporting it so we don’t know it till we hit traffic. When we finally get back to Brooklyn I want to kiss the sidewalk. I’ve had occasional thoughts about living upstate but I think after this I’m happy to stay in the city with my working toilet and electricity for the rest of my days.

The Catskills area got really messed up by the storm. More info can be found on how to help here.

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C-C-C-Changes!

Wow so much has happened since I wrote in April! Phoebe the dog is an agility star- super smart, motivated to please, and doing great in our household. In less that a week Dennis and I will be married and headed to Paris for our honeymoon.

Getting married is totally weird. First of all, I thought it was all about the couple getting married, but I see now that was pretty naive. It turns out its like planning a big event for your family and friends who often have their own ideas of what a wedding is or should be. I have been really surprised by some of the people I thought would come that aren’t going to make it, luckily a lot of people have come out of the woodwork to show up. This whole experience has made me re-examine some of the relationships in my life because a lot of them are not what I want them to be. I’ve had a lot of close friends move in the past few years and sadly we aren’t as close, I realize I need to put more effort into finding local supportive friendships with some new folks, and its hard to make new friends at 33 years old. I think running my own business I have often let my relationships take a backseat to work. I’ve gotten a lot of perspective and I know I need to make some changes.

So the wedding is happening this Saturday in Prospect Park at 930am, hopefully it won’t rain! The dogs are a part of the ceremony though we’re pretty sad that we lost our best man Rusty a few weeks ago. He had struggled with his health over the past few years and we finally had to let him go. He was an amazing dog and we miss him terribly. I wrote this poem for him a while back (of course wordpress is messing up the formatting)

Rusty photo by Dennis Riley

Tug of War

For Rusty

What happened to you? Gregarious guy knocking

me aside, running up slippery stairs ebullient, bone

in mouth, hopping on the hairy bed fit for a king,

you allow me in, but not to sleep. Stir morning

wake and all eighty pounds of you bounds down

upon me, sniffing and licking, painful paws digging,

giant head nosing and nudging me to my feet. Big

body barking like a girl, not even a bellow, a shriek.

Pulling me to the park, off leash beseech the squeakiest

ball, so you can feel like you’re a crazy killing machine.

Drop for catch, wait until I bend down to scream-plead

your demands into my panged ears. Once you’ve caught

your kill between big teeth you fake fetch tricking

any empty hand in your lair into and unwitting game

of Tug of War. You won’t let go, after only six years

no more Prospect Park’s green and trees. Your solid

stride scarred and clicking from surgery. A clock

making us all more aware of time and how little

of it there is. We are all going grayer, clinging

to anything solid in this turbulent sea.

——-

Rusty and all the dogs teach me to stay in the day/moment because that’s all we really have and we are lucky to have it. I’m very grateful to have met my match and to be going into this new phase of life with him. More soon about the wedding and our parisian honeymoon!

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Brooklyn Girl goes to Utah

 

Kanab, Utah local scenery

 

Last Saturday afternoon I left my crazy noisy home city of Brooklyn, New York and flew to Las Vegas en route to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. After weaving through slot machines in the airport, I found my bag and took the hotel shuttle to a Comfort Inn near the airport. The next morning bright and early, I headed to the rental car place and picked up my reasonably priced rental car (only $369 for two weeks- clearly not New York prices!) and drove the 3.5 hours to Kanab, Utah. A few minutes outside of Vegas it was all red hills and fields. I prayed I wouldn’t get a flat tire and kept driving. Eventually, I landed in downtown Kanab which is a cute little western town of about 4,000. It sort of reminds me of a more western version of upstate NY towns like Saugerties or Woodstock. They have most of what you need here a few hotels, restaurants, movie theater, grocery stores, etc but you definitely see a lot of UPS and Fed Ex trucks going up the main roads with people ordering online what they can’t get here. There are larger towns like Page, Arizona and St. George, Utah and hour to and hour and a half away where you can get more amenities. I found the house of a Best Friends employee I’d be renting a room from and met her animal brood.

 

Marcel and Maverick

 

There’s the two dogs Marcel and Maverick who are both rescue sweethearts. She also had three cats the most remarkable of which is Pepito a cat who was born without eyes but gets around like a champ.

 

Viva Pepito!

 

After dropping my stuff off, I explored downtown and got lunch at Nedra’s Too, a delicious Mexican American restaurant. Then I checked out the Frontier Movie Town a free museum of Western movie sets. More than 100 movies have been shot in the area from The Outlaw Josie Wales to the original Lone Ranger. Because of all the filming here, Kanab is also called Little Hollywood.

Best Friends Welcome Center

Monday morning I headed to the Sanctuary and took a tour, then spent a bunch of time at Human Resources. I was struck by how huge the sanctuary is and how many animals and employees they have.

 

Cat Land

A small part of Cat Land

 

Finally I got to go to Dog Town and work with trainers and dogs. I learned how they do their behavior assessments.

 

Dogtown

 

Sir Uno

Tuesday in addition to staff meetings I got to work with the shy dog Sir Uno who has a history of physical abuse (his owners were hitting him with a cane on his way into the sanctuary when they dropped him off.) He pretty much stays away from people or just sits in the corner of his run and watches you. He shrinks from touch but eventually I got him to take some treats from me. He hadn’t been out on a walk and needed to get used to a leash so I clipped one on him. I tried to urge him to walk with me into the back of his run but he just laid there. So I opened the front door and he started to move so we walked into the hall and out the front door. He walked a few steps would get scared and lie down and then would muster up the courage to walk again. We kept the walk short and came back inside in about 10 minutes. The staff was amazed I was able to get him out. We’ve done a few more short walks like this this week. Now he gets up whenever we come near the door or open it wanting to follow us out, which is a good sign.

 

Firefly

 

Another dog I worked with is Firefly who is an 11 year old pointer from a breeding kennel. She had a lot of health problems that have been treated for months. Heartworm, hookworm, bad teeth, and infections all over her front legs from living in her own filth. She’s a high energy girl who hasn’t been able to get much exercise due to her health problems. When she overexerts she begins coughing and we have to let her rest. Since she’s a high energy girl with no outlet she’s redirected her energy with a fixation on her front legs licking them bloody and bald. She has to wear a cone all the time so she won’t do this. In addition to getting her physically healthy we’re working on trying to get her mentally stimulated with short walks, obedience training, and feeding her with food toys so she has to work to get her food and thus drain her energy. She’s a fighter and a great spirit who I enjoy working with. Firefly is part of Best Friends Guardian Angel Program and you can follow her progress here.

With 400 or so dogs at the sanctuary, I worked with a few more who I’ll write about later but Marcel and Maverick want to go out for a walk and I’m petsitting while their owner is at the No More Homeless Pets conference in Vegas this weekend. More soon!

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Summer summary 2010

This has been a crazy travel summer since I got engaged. In August alone we went to Chicago and Peoria, Long Beach Island, New Jersey, and Saugerties. I took some time off from writing and blogging, but now it’s September–the dogs are raining down upon me and its back to work. Here’s a summary of the summer.

Chicago

At the end of July beginning of August we went to Chicago to visit, well, Chicago. From there we rented a car and drove through the flat cornfields to Peoria to visit my Grandma for a day. In Chicago we stayed at the Wicker Park Inn which was in a good location but not the greatest bed and breakfast. All the rooms opened out onto the breakfast area so at 7 am every morning we were woke up to the sounds of coffee being made etc. Not to mention the breakfast was pretty much cereal and crappy pastries. And they didn’t wash our towels the majority of the time we were there and we even ran out of toilet paper even though a cleaning person was coming by everyday. I digress, but really cereal does not a bed and breakfast make. However the neighborhood was great full of vintage shops and record stores and we happened to be there the  Wicker Park Music Fest. The best part was Cap’n Jazz had recently reunited and was playing the fest. We were lucky enough to escape the crowd by going upstairs in Myopic Books and watching from the window (we bought books!).

Cap'n Jazz!

In addition to the art museum and aquarium, the other awesome thing about Chicago was the food! Holy crap we ate well! We ate a Rick Bayless’ restaurant Frontera Grill. Mexican Food so good it will melt your face off. Despite a questionable name, Crust, was a great organic pizza place. Another highlight was the incredible though expensive deserts at Hot Chocolate. But the funny thing we got into was getting Coke Slurpee’s at the 7-11. Classy!

Long Beach Island, New Jersey

My fiance’s family has rented a house on Long Beach Island pretty much every summer since he was a kid so we headed out to visit them for the weekend. It was really nice being out at the beach, however, beaches up north are considerably different from the beaches I grew up near in Florida. For one thing the water is cold in August! Also the tides were so crazy while we were there the lifeguards said we could only go in up to our knees. So we mainly walked around and ate ice cream at the many ice cream places on the island. Long Beach Island is very family oriented, many family’s had 3 or 4 kids. I don’t know how people do it. I can barely deal with myself and my cat much less tons of kids, but unlike Brooklyn where the kids run wild, the parents on Long Beach Island weren’t having it. They kept them in line which restored my faith in the parenting business. The last day when we were driving back we stopped in Seaside Heights to check it out since a lot of people had told me it was like Coney Island. Perhaps Coney Island back in the 70’s during the time the shot the Warriors. While the pizza and custard we ingested was pretty good never have I felt more like I needed to bathe in disinfectant.

Saugerties

My fiance, Dennis, had to work so he couldn’t come up with me for the whole week in Saugerties. So I borrowed one of my clients dogs Phoebe and went up on my own. It was fine except its pretty dark in the country at night ya’ll. Hardly any streetlights or neighbors had me playing through every horror movie I ever saw. Thank God for Phoebe!

Phoebe wants to bite the "big dogs" next door

Saugerties how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

1-Miss Lucy’s Kitchen where the Jerk Chicken and Banana Chutney sandwich blew my mind as did the Peach Blueberry Crumble I had for desert.

2-Is for Lucky Chocolates across the street where you can get any of their awesome chocolates mixed with ice cream.

3- Is for the amazing Pistachio Chicken, Vegetable Crepes, and Grape Leaves at Fez Restaurant.

4- Is for all the antique and second hand shops downtown.

5- Is for the Lighthouse.

My pal Phoebe in front of the Lighthouse

6- Is for its proximity to the Hudson River and the Catskills, Woodstock, and Phoenicia. Not to mention Kingston, Rosendale, and New Paltz.

I love it up there and would love to have a country cottage there I could go to to escape the city now and again. Dennis wound up being able to come up for a few days (thank god- the dark nights were getting to me!) We had a great time at all of the above and we went tubing in Phoenecia on the Esopus which was ridiculous. We were either getting stuck on rocks cause the water was low in some places or getting dumped over and bruising ourselves on rocks from the occasional rapids. Delirious we wandered to the country store on the main street. Here’s us post tubing:

Post tubing crazies!

I came back to the city and had a meltdown about living here instead of some place that had more nature. Sometimes I feel too old for the constant assault on the senses in the city. This article in the Onion pretty much sums it up.  I love a lot of people and animals here but I’m tired. Coincidentally Best Friends Animal Sanctuary contacted me about a phone interview for a dog trainer position out in Utah. This would be my dream job however my fiance is going back to school this year and couldn’t come with me if they offered it to me. Not sure what’s coming down the pike for us. But it’ll definitely be interesting! Gotta go study for my CPDT exam I’m taking in a few weeks and walk many dogs. Trying to take it one day at a time, more will be revealed.

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