- I’m on a bit of a self-imposed shopping hiatus right now, but if I weren’t, I’d be plunking down some cash for the burgundy version of these wedge booties featured on Cardigans and Couture this week.
- This post from last year continues to perform really well on thePoeLog. I believe that it’s because it contains the words “Fall sucks.” Yes, I hate fall. But maybe not as much as John Oliver who had this fantastic rant about that most vile and eagerly awaited of seasonal drinks: pumpkin spice latte. Yep, tastes like a candle.
- Here are a few Buzzfeed listicles about why fall sucks. Yes, I am unfortunately unable to master the art of layering without looking frumpy, and I get lipstick all over every scarf that I try to artfully wrap around my short neck/large bosom area.
- We’re going to Singapore next year and this helpful article from CNN might save me from spending the trip hanging over a toilet. I can’t believe there are TEN gross foods I need to worry about. At least.
- We’re actually using miles to fly Singapore Airline’s first class suites, which Paula Froelich of Yahoo Travel jokes “ruined her life.” I’m willing to chance it.
- On the other end of the spectrum, a new airline will be offering unbelievably cheap flights to Iceland and Europe beginning in March. Of course, it will probably be standing room only and no baggage fees because you aren’t allowed to bring any luggage. Also, I would bring my own safety equipment if I were you.
- Presented without comment: Wild hogs on the hunt for candy may force town to cancel Halloween.
Henri is a little something we picked up on the Nusa Dua beach in Bali. He’s basically a kite. But he’s oh so much more than that.
Henri is actually a magic wand that takes you back to childhood. You literally cannot hold a kite and not be filled with wonder and joy and peace. Anything that might be bothering you just miraculously…..disappears. This happens for two reasons: 1) your focusing on getting your kite higher and higher without having the string ripped out of your hands, and 2) you’re just staring up at its majestic beauty with your jaw hanging slack.
We saw kites flying in the skies all over Bali. In fact, Bali has a very large annual kite festival. In Bali, they believe that kites carry messages for a good harvest to the Hindu gods.
As it was, we saw them every day while we were there, tiny dark specks floating high above the ground. Sometimes we’d get close enough to make out the shape of a ship or a turtle or a fish, but we were never able to see the people holding the invisible string attached to these floating time machines.
Yes, time machine. Because, honestly, when’s the last time you flew a kite? I know for me, it had been a very, very long time. Not since I was a kid. I definitely had forgotten how magical they could be.
I guess I’m not alone in this feeling. In fact, a director who made a documentary about Bali’s kite-flying culture said this in the Jakarta Post:
“We believe that those who fly kites are possessed by the wind,” says Yoka Sara. “And in that blissful state anything they do will be forgiven, in the way that children are forgiven. It is a return to childhood.”…
An architect by trade Yoka Sara produced the film because he believes that people in Indonesia and abroad should learn more about the hard work, meticulous artistry and sacred traditions that are involved in sending kites skyward in Bali.
So when we saw a vendor selling them on the beach, we jumped at the chance to get one.
There’s just something about standing on a warm sunny beach, with a beer nestled in the sand nearby, and leaning your head far back, squinting up at a pretty thing in a bright blue sky that brings on a sense of smallness and tranquility.
We loved Henri so much that when it came time to leave Bali, I insisted we bring him home. Even though it was in no way practical. Keep in mind that Henri’s around three feet long and made of silk and fragile thin bamboo-type rods. And, our trip home had multiple legs. I took Henri from the St. Regis in Bali, through the airport security, on the plane to Bangkok, off the plane in Bangkok, to the hotel in Bangkok, on our errands the next day, to the Bangkok airport, through the airport security, on the flight to Munich, off the plane in Munich, to the hotel in Munich, through the airport security, and onto the flight to D.C. And then, finally, home.
Nevertheless, he’s the best thing we’ve ever bought on a trip. Hands down.
We’ve flown him twice since our trip, at a park near the airport here in D.C. And even though it hasn’t been as smooth and carefree as our Bali beach experiences (our fragile little Henri is starting to show some wear and tear, and the wind is a bit inconsistent here this time of year), he still has a way of turning a bad day into a much better one.
Do not stare at the man’s nails. Do not stare at the man’s nails. Do not stare at the man’s nails, I told myself silently over and over again.
“I notice you have a scar on your head. Me, too,” I share, not at all silently.
Yeah, much, much better, Poe.
We are in a small air conditioned van bumping along a congested road near Kuta in Bali. Scooters loaded with people and goods zip around us. A young girl rides right alongside of us with her motorcycle helmet perched perilously on the back of her head, a collection of small offering baskets in a container attached to the front of her scooter.
Our driver today, who the St. Regis arranged for us, is a devout Hindu, which is apparent by his bindi on his forehead and the offering on the dashboard of the van. His religious leanings, do not, however, explain his long fingernails on his left hand. That is apparently just for style.
Mr. Nails is our second driver in Bali. We have not had the best luck with being tourists in Bali.
Our first driver was a last minute sub – the original guy we’d been emailing with had to cancel for a family ritual of some sort (the Balinese are way into rituals, I learned from a book by Australian author Cameron Forbes called “Under the Volcano.” There are a total of 13 ceremonies concerned with life from conception until, but not including, death, which is a whole other big, amazing cremation ceremony altogether.)
In any case, we had a backup. And Mr. Backup had a very clear agenda on what we were going to see that day.
I suggested a couple of temples that were near our hotel. He suggested we drive over 45 minutes to catch the barong dance performance at a local dance school. The dance was….nice, I suppose. A bit long and confusing. The production values were low. Some of the dancers appeared quite bored, as did many of the members of the completely tourist-filled audience. All of the drivers who had dragged us here hung out by their mini-vans in the mini-van clogged parking lot, smoking clove cigarettes, and waiting for us tourists to get our culture on.
I asked our driver if we could get babi guling – roasted pig – but was told that the place our driver “likes” was out of the way and not possible. Meanwhile, we passed about 50 roadside places advertising their babi guling. My travel buddy XFE leaned over and whispered that our driver must have a special babi guling guy that he gets a kickback from, and we weren’t in that guy’s neighborhood. Instead, we had lunch at a horrible touristy restaurant overlooking Gunung Batur volcano.
Our driver asked us if we liked coffee. When I said yes, he insisted we visit another tourist trap selling $5 cups of kopi luwak – a coffee made from coffee berries that have been ingested and passed, so to speak, by Asian civet-type animals. Knowing some of the PETA complaints against the practice, I tried to defer, but our driver was insistent. I took the path of least resistance and drank the damned coffee. It tasted just like every other coffee I have ever had. Nothing special at all.
And now our second driver – the guy with the long nails — was finally taking us to one of the temples we had asked to visit on our first excursion. But not without trying to get us to stop and visit some of the many local woodcarvers and silversmiths he could get us access to.
Here is my problem with Southeast Asia, in general: everyone appears to be on the make. There is a huge emphasis on showing you only what they want you to see, and a concerted effort to take you to total tourist traps and getting you to buy stuff.
Look, I get it. Tourism is the major industry in lots of Southeast Asia, and certainly Bali. And I really, really loved Bali — the deliciously spicy food; the sweet, kind people; the amazing scents of frangipani wafting in the air. But if you are the tourist in Bali, or Bangkok even, you end up just feeling like a mark. Or, an ATM. And, in my case at least, it totally puts me off from buying anything at all. The harder someone presses me to buy something, the more resistant I become. And that’s saying a lot for someone who considers shopping a sport.
We did end up buying a couple of souvenirs, including a $15 kite we bought on the beach one morning. We also bought a lovely copper lined, wooden bowl for our living room. But it was at a small, unassuming shop that we stumbled upon on our own in Seminyak, with a sales person who was practically invisible during our visit.
I don’t remember if she had long nails on her left hand, but I do know that she didn’t try to upsell us.
When I came across this article about Bali, I had to click on it, even though I knew I didn’t really have the “stomach” to do so. (PUN INTENDED) Also: (Heads up: the article I’m referring to involves an Australian tourist and stomach-burrowing tropical spiders. Soooo….yeah. Nothing fun there.)
You see, we went to Bali a few months ago. Actually, we went to Bali exactly two weeks after this event and stayed in the exact same hotel. (Heads up: the article I’m now referring to involves a daughter and her boyfriend murdering her socialite mother and stuffing her in a suitcase. You’ve been warned.)
Anyway, the coincidence of that event and our trip timing was incredibly creepy and weird. Creepy because, well, there had just recently been a murder in what I would positively call the least murder-y type place ever. I mean, seriously, the St. Regis in Bali is amazing. Wonderful. Tranquil. Everything and everyone is peaceful and cheerful and willing to help you with absolutely anything. If you even mentioned, for example, that you liked a particular fruit, that fruit would then appear every damn day nestled in a beautiful wooden bowl, just especially for you.
Weird because we spent a good part of everyday wondering if any of the staff we were encountering had known or waited on the victim and her murderers. When we saw a sign in the lobby about the area being monitored by cameras, we wondered if those signs were new or if they had been there the whole time. We suspiciously eyed every single heavy decorative object in our bungalow as a potential bludgeoning device. It was all very at odds with a vacation mentality.
Anyway, I’ll talk about the St. Regis in Bali a bit more in another post. Well, probably a lot more, since staying there was one of the best vacation experiences we’ve ever had (We flew a kite! We released a sea turtle! These are not euphemisms! These are legitimate activities we participated in!).
But for today, let’s just explore some of Bali’s best eats in pictures and be glad that no one got invaded by tropical spiders. Also, no giardia, so nothing but unicorns and rainbows as far as I’m concerned.
Sambal – This is the first thing we ate in Bali. It was served in a small dish next to these amazing peanut crackers. Sambal is sauce typically made from a variety of chili peppers and secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.
Nasi Goreng – I had this for brunch one morning at the St. Regis in Nusa Dua. It’s a fried rice dish, with shrimp crackers and sliced up omelet, and a side condiment of spicy red paste.
Bubur ayam – This was another St. Regis brunch special. It was like congee – a non-sweet porridge, with shredded chicken, green onions, sambal and eggs, I think. It was ok, not my favorite.
Satay – The Balinese love their satay. It’s exactly what you think it is: skewers of grilled meat slathered in a peanut sauce. We even ate these on the dive boat lunch (along with a variation of nasi goring).
Babi guling – The Balinese national dish: roasted whole pig. I really wanted to try this, but never got to. We hired a driver to take us around the island one day and he had his own agenda. When I asked about getting babi guling, he said the place he goes to was too far out of the way. Meanwhile, we must have passed about 50 roadside places specializing in babi guling over the course of the next eight hours. I really should have been more insistent. Especially in light of our own Porktober event.
Rujak jeruk bali – Pomelo salad. Actually, I’m not sure this is a Balinese dish per se. I think it’s Thai. But we fell for it hard. We had it at breakfast and it came in these little glass jars at the W Hotel in Seminyak. A pomelo is like a grapefruit on steroids, and it’s cut up and combined with cilantro, peanuts, green beans, carrots. So refreshing and not unlike green papaya salad, only more citrus-y.
Salak – Snakeskin fruit. It is indigenous to Bali and is related to the palm tree, somehow. It had an easy to peel, flaky outerskin. The inside fruit was segmented, and had a firm flesh similar to an apple, and a small dark pit in each segment. In fact, it tasted a lot like a cross between an apple and a pear, but much neater (less juicy). We loved them and ate a ton of them. Our butler at the St. Regis made sure we were well stocked.
Rambutan – This hairy, scary-looking fruit was in our fruit bowl, but we didn’t even attempt to eat it.
Bitang – Balinese beer. Nuff said.
There was one other dish that I ate twice and loudly declared them to be the best I’d ever had: nachos at the St. Regis. Usually at lunch, by our pool, after drinking many Bitangs and/or glasses of wine. At first, we ordered them out of morbid curiosity, certain that there was no way they’d be any good. But they were. They were delicious. Then I had to order them a second time, just to make sure. They had shredded chicken and a cheese sauce made out of béchamel and they were actually really, really good. I guess sometimes a girl just wants a taste of home.
During the last year that this blog has been dormant (almost one year to the day!), I’ve been on some fabulous trips that I have just been dying to talk/write about. I can’t tell you, gentle reader, how many times I’ve been witness to something and thought: Man, this would be great for the blog.
For example, we went to South Africa in March (with a super sketchy layover in Nigeria that I cannot wait to tell y’all about), spent a long weekend in Copenhagen (where I discovered my love for open-faced sandwiches – genius. Pure genius), revisited Costa Rica, and most recently, we went to Bali, where we worked extra hard to avoid all references to “Eat, Pray, Love” (spoiler alert: we failed).
In fact, I was working on an oh-so-clever Bali post when I saw the most amazing thing ever: Euros of Hollywood.
“Euros” (which I’ll call them for short) are on a new reality show on that most amazing of networks, Bravo. I swear, that Andy Cohen is a national treasure and no one can convince me otherwise. He should get a Nobel Prize just for his general programming greatness.
“Euros” is like that other great Bravo delicacy, “Ladies of London” but in reverse. “LoL” followed the lives of a mixed group of women comprised of Americans and Brits, so it had just a touch of that “fish-out-of-water” storyline that folks find amusing but then it also had the added fabulousness of the reserved Brits reacting to the American “fish.”
But “Euros” is all in on the fish-out-of-water storyline. And unlike the Americans on “Ladies of London,” these Euros haven’t even the slightest interest in fitting into their new pond. In fact, they seem quite determined to make America conform to their Euro-standards.
We start the show by meeting Bleona, an Albanian pop superstar with a name that sounds like an over-the-counter diuretic. Looks wise, she resembles Angelina Jolie. But then she opens her mouth and it’s more like Nene Leakes. She’s brash, loud, diva-esque, rude, opinionated, and sees slights where none exist. I, of course, love her, and want to sit and chat over a plate of sheqerpare cookies, and be her very best friend in the whole wide world. She’s gorgeous and she’s crazy and I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing her in Playboy very, very soon.
Unfortunately, there is trouble brewing in Euroland because Bleona isn’t the only chantreuse in the cast. A little later on, we meet Fawni, a boobilicious blonde Austrian who has had a number one single in Japan, which, as we all well know, is practically a gateway to American pop chart greatness. Fawni, however, has informed us that she’s in America to be a great painter, and Bravo kindly shows us a few of her paintings. They’re…..ok, I guess. OK fine, they’re not horrible….but since I’m firmly on Team Bleona, maybe I’m a bit biased. I will say that they’re definitely much darker than you might expect from an Austrian Barbie doll. Although, there is the ubiquitous Marilyn Monroe tribute piece.
Aaaandd, I love that Fawni’s Bravo page says “Sorry, nothing here yet.” Indeed.
We also meet Sascha, a German entrepreneur/DJ/music producer who owns what appears to be a very successful clothing store in LA (where I presume all the Euros get their too-tight, deep v-neck t-shirts, button up shirts that start around the navel, elaborately embroidered skin-tight jeans, and unisex scarves). And yet, Sascha’s wife and two children are still in Germany and he only sees them every couple of months. Now, listen, I know that the United States has a somewhat difficult immigration system. Believe me, I KNOW. Eight years of writing for the nation’s largest lobbying organization in Washington D.C. gave me a lot of familiarity with the difficult politics of this issue. But I find it hard to believe that with all his money and having himself established as a business man in LA, Sascha can’t find a way to bring his family over. Maybe he could hire a lawyer or something to help get the wheels in motion? I hope we hear more about this issue during the season. If for no other reason than the fact that I always like to cram pop cultural references into the otherwise-dull policy debates when I can.
Speaking of unisex scarves, I absolutely cannot finish this post without introducing you to Massimo, a holder of several “slashes” – model/actor/choreographer from Italy. Massimo’s biggest credit so far appears to be in a movie titled “We Have a Pope,” which is a horrible title but an interesting premise: “A story centered on the relationship between the newly elected pope and his therapist.” Wonder if that’s On Demand somewhere. Somehow, I doubt it.
If, by some miracle you are able to resist watching all these other over-the-top wannabes trying to get a foothold in one of the most difficult industry towns in the world, you have to at the very least watch Massimo attempt an American accent. It’s pretty bad. But I have a feeling I’m going to be cheering for his success before the end of the season.
Not in the field of choreography, however. He’s really, really awful. He’s like a cross between a Muppet and someone who is dizzy from thrashing about in the final stages of a debilitating illness.
At work a few weeks back, we did this exercise to kick off a brainstorming session <insert eyeroll>.
We were supposed to visualize a lemon, and then write on a piece of paper all the things that you could do with a lemon.
My new boss, Tina, filled her whole page with very practical, Hints from Heloise type stuff: “use the juice to clean windows,” “use the rind on a stinky garbage disposal,” “use it to lighten your hair in the sun.”
My old boss, Kevin, also filled his whole page, but he took a more philosophical approach, suggesting that you use the seeds to grow more trees, and more lemons.
I wrote down four things:
- Throw it at coworkers who make you sit through brainstorming sessions.
- Use it as a sidekick for a nice, frosty glass of sweet ice tea.
- Make a tiny, bitter jack-o-lantern.
- Squeeze the juice in someone’s eye and rob them.
I guess the invisible ink was already on the lemon juice-splashed wall.
My employer and I have consciously uncoupled. We’ve agreed to disagree, go our separate ways, and see other people.
I’m starting a new chapter. I’m available for freelance gigs. My resume and writing samples are available on this blog. And if anyone is looking for an experienced, hard-working, smart, funny, and yes, slightly warped writer/editor/digital storyteller who may or may not have a weird violent streak, drop me a line at thepoelog (at) gmail (dot) com.
Just don’t try to pay me in lemons.