Category: Musings

Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica

Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica

We’ve been traveling with family — my family first, now Andrea’s family — down Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, hitting most of the major beaches, and a few minor ones, as we inch toward Panama. Figured I’d write shortish posts on each stop. For our memoirs mostly. But hopefully also for your information (and enjoyment), if case you ever venture down here.

Beach Score: 7 of 10

Ocotal checks most boxes: More croissant- than crescent-shaped, but shapely nonetheless. A smattering of islands in the distance. Boats bobbing in the bay. Jungle sights and smells and sounds. The quintessential beach restaurant (Father Rooster, where the picture above was taken). Checks most…

Black Sand

I take back what I wrote about black sand beaches.

While I can’t verify this with any statistical certainty, given the scant samplings, but (I think) I like black sand more than tan. More than beige. Honey. Even cappuccino. While white — the less hue, the better — remains my favorite, black is nudging into second. If only for its rarity.

The Sands of Ocotal

Playa Ocotal, in spots, primarily toward the south end of the beach, has truly black sand. No hue. Absorbs all light. We’ve visited other black sand beaches — like Playa Negra, a beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean side — but they’re more charcoal. Gray even.

You’d think, or at least I’d think, given its color and source (volcanic rock) that the Ocotal sand would be rough, raw, scrape-inducing. It’s anything but. It’s the softest sand I’ve ever felt. Like walking on black satin.

The satin is, however, limited to the beach. As it nears the water, it swirls with coarser tan sand. It doesn’t blend, like creamer eventually into coffee, but swirls. Coexists with the tan. Two different sands. Side by side. Then, toes into the water, rocks and shells join the sand, like marshmallows on hot chocolate. Only much harder.

Snorkeling & Secret Beach

The snorkeling was good. No coral reef, but a sufficing of tropical fish, sea fans, starfish, sea anemones, and fish fish — even saw a few spotted eagle rays — zigzagging between the rocks abutting the surrounding cliffs. It was just good enough to compel me to snorkel around the cliffs, revealing an uninhabited beach on the other side. Thought briefly about what’d it be like to Tom Hanks on that beach before plummeting back into the sea.

End with a Joke

Here’s a joke written by Everett: “Why do you throw the clock out the window? Because it’s alarming.”

Top 80’s Pop Songs for the Beach

Top 80’s Pop Songs for the Beach

It’s not that I don’t like (tolerate) modern pop music. It just seems the themes are too similar: I Look Good, You Want Me, I’m In The Club, You’re Gonna Regret Breaking Up With Me, and Look At Us. In other words, modern pop, given its superficial nature, makes me self-conscious about my burgeoning dad bod. Hence one reason for retrospection.

80’s Time Warp

Another reason for restropection: the beach is stuck in a perpetual 80’s time warp. Neon swimwear, free-flowing Hawaiian shirts, jellies, miniskirts, brightly-colored wayfarers, and Tommy Bahama everything have never gone out of style here. 80’s music just seems to fit here. Unlike my old swimsuit.

Criteria

Note: it’s the top 80’s pop songs for the beach. Not just top 80’s songs — otherwise, Journey, The Smiths, The Cure, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, U2, Tears For Fears, etc. would occupy more real estate on this list. Also not beach pop songs — the distinction is semantical but important.

My criteria is more like my biases. I want relaxing upbeat. Something that causes me to tap my feet and sway my head but not move enough to spill my beer. There’s also a significant new wave and British slant. Heavy doses of synthesizers in other words. And finally, there’s an undercurrent of nostalgia on the list. Hence multiple songs that are also on the Goonies Soundtrack.

The List

20. “The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis & The News — Every time I hear this song, I think of Marty McFly skateboarding to school.

19. “14K,” Teena Marie — A groovy song that also tells you the exact carat of gold at the end of the rainbow.

18. “Say You Will,” Foreigner — I will, I said.

17. “Eight Arms to Hold You,” Goon Squad — A song about spiders. I think.

16. “Burning Down the House,” Talking Heads — I’d like to figure out how to fight fire with fire. Seems like it would just make more fire.

15. “Bizarre Love Triangle,” New Order — I feel like if a singing algorithm wrote a song, this is what it would sound like.

14. “Down Under,” Men At Work — The “vegemite sandwich” line gets me every time.

13. “Kids In America,” Kim Wilde — But she’s British?

12. “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” Cyndi Lauper — Good song, but nostalgia certainly played a part in the ranking.

11. “Human,” Human League — The popular choice may have been “Don’t You Want Me”, but I’m only human….

10. “Rio,” Duran Duran — It took me awhile to realize that this song, written by Englishman, is sort of a love song about the United States.

9. “Vacation,” The Go-Gos — It’s all I ever wanted too.

8. “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure — For being known as a gothic rock band, these guys sure have some happy songs.

7. “When Doves Cry,” Prince & The Revolution — When doves do cry, I confuse them for owls.

6. “Dancing in the Dark,” Bruce Springsteen — Is this the only Springsteen song with a synthesizer?

5. “I Melt With You,” Modern English — I can’t tell if he’s in love with a person or a candle in this song.

4. “Private Eyes,” Daryl Hall & John Oates — Perhaps creepier than Sting’s
“Every Breath You Take”.

3. “Take On Me,” a-ha — This guy hits the high E with the best of gals.

2. “Come on Eileen,” Dexys Midnight Runners — There’s a banjo in this song. Not sure many folks realize that.

1. “Africa,” Toto — This song both makes me want to drink a beer and save the world, which unfortunately for me, are two fairly opposing forces….

Honorable, or Because-I’m-Indecisive, Mention (in no particular order):

“The Best of Times,” Styx

“A Million Miles Away,” The Plimsouls

“Keep On Loving You,” REO Speedwagon

“Working For The Weekend,” Loverboy

“Need You Tonight,” INXS

“The Metro,” Berlin

“Cruel Summer,” Bananarama

“This Charming Man,” The Smiths

“Love My Way,” The Psychedelic Furs

“Send Me an Angel,” Pet Shop Boys

“She Drives Me Crazy,” Fine Young Cannibals

“Don’t You Want Me,” The Replacements

“Love Is Alive,” Philip Bailey

“Pictures of You,” The Cure

San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala — Part Dos

San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala — Part Dos

We’re outta here in a few days. We’re gunna miss the sites and regular access to showers (though I think we’ve all bathed more in the lago than the shower…). And sleeping in regular beds. However, we’re all excited to leap back into the van. It certainly feels like home at this point.

El Fuego

Thank you to everyone that reached out and for the well-wishes. (If you haven’t heard, a volcano erupted in Guatemala, killing 62.) We’re safe. El Fuego is across the lake from us — I’m looking at it as I type this — but far enough away that we’re not getting dumped with ash. Many are, however. And many died. If you feel like helping, you can donate here.

The Lord In His Wisdom…

Once in elementary school, I was tasked with memorizing and then reciting a poem to my class. I chose the following poem by Ogden Nash, not because of its beauty or sonance, but because of its brevity: “The Lord in His wisdom created the fly. And then forgot to tell us why.” I laughed pretty good after the recital. My teacher did not.

I’ve been reminded of that poem since arriving in San Marcos. Flies greeted us in our rental apartment on the first day. Just a few, lingering on some crumbs. But those few soon turned into dozens. Those dozens, hundreds.

The flies wake around 5am. Then they buzz our ears, waking us. Then, from what I can discern, they spend the rest of the day eating and copulating. The fly sex juices sliming this place have turned me into a compulsive wiper-downer. I must, must I tell you!, wipe the counters a dozens times per day. Then they fall asleep around 5pm. They’re much easier to kill at that point.

I mainly use The Executioner Pro to kill them. They spark and sizzle on the Pro (I added a video below). And I love the smell of burnt flies in the morning (Apocalypse Now reference). Occasionally, though, when I’m feeling either aggressive or sadistic or both, I go old school and whack as many as I can with a fly swatter. Andrea can’t be around for this. She thinks (a fact that’s probably backed up by her scientific brain) that the splattered blood is worse than the sex juice. “But is it worse than their annoying, brain-scrambling buzz?!” I retort. Probably.

The good news, however, according to the lovely ladies that clean our apartment twice per week, is that the flies are about to die. En masse. Rainy season kills them off. And I can sense it. Their flying is becoming more erratic, their buzzing more annoying, their fornication more frequent.

I, sort of, wish we could stay to watch their demise. It’d make a fun drinking game. Take a sip of Brahva, a Brazilian beer that’s popular in these parts and that’s successfully mimicked the flavor of water, each time a fly dies. The latter, of course, despite Brahva having an alcohol content slightly above a jar of salsa left in the refrigerator for too long, would send you plummeting into the lago below. But dang would it be fun.

Expat Experiences

We’ve seen expats in almost every stop on this trip. Expats, it seems, fall into three categories: Opportunists, Escapists, or Crazies. Or some combination of the three. We relate best to the Opportunists, those that have found a better life, experience, and/or opportunity abroad. We’re opportunists, I suppose, taking this trip. Though I also suppose we’re a little Escapists and Crazies too.

We met some interesting expats from Columbia, Argentina, and Mexico on Saturday night. They came here for the good life. And I think, or at least it appears like, they’re getting it. They build their own houses, plant their own crops, raise their own chickens and goats, and sell their own products — our neighbor, whose daughter is in Everett’s class, hence the connection, sells amazing jewelry around the lake to fund life. It was cool hanging out. Inspiring really. Though I spent most the conversation, and the following day, second-guessing my Americanness.

Goats

Our Columbian expat neighbor, as mentioned above, has goats. Six I think. Or ten. They bleat todo el dia. And each one has a different voice. One, in my egotistical mind, keeps calling for me…. “Blaaake. Blaaaaake…” I thought about tossing over one of my recent obsessions for him/her: a Boca 2 Nachos Jalapeño Queso chip. But then I thought about he/she has likely never eaten a preservative. Or artificial cheese flavoring. (Bummer.) And I didn’t want to be the one to ruin it for the goat.

This also reminds me of how my best bud Kyle and I used to in high school, sans beer mind you, bleat back, bleat in harmony really, at some goats that lived near our houses, though we didn’t know it was called bleating at the time. Just for fun. Living in the moment.

The Final View

We love this view. And we’ll miss it. However, we’re learning that we prefer, love really, the ever-changing view. The volcano one day. River the next. Snow eventually. We’ve found ourselves, especially this past week, yearning for the van. The next view.

I hope, even when life becomes more sedentary for us in the future, we keep searching for that view. [Warning: Preachy ending.] Inertia is more powerful than momentum. And it’s easier to react to than experience life. For us at least.

Are we inferring that everyone should sell everything, buy a van, figure out how to make money on the road, and start traveling. Well, yes. We’re narcissistic. And we miss you. But I do think everyone should take more time to look around. Smell the lavender. See the next view.

This trip, in addition to many other things, including that spicy Karate nuts are the ambrosia of the gods, has taught me this: travel can be cheap. Views can be cheap. I just met a French couple today making this same trip on bikes. A family of four from Boise made this trip on bikes a few years ago. We’re on the upper end of the financial travel spectrum. Most folks do this for less than $50 per day.

Anyway. We like views. Mucho mucho views. And we hope, whether on or after this trip that we continue to seek them. We’re hoping our final view is not from some casket, but from some awesome lake or mountain or ocean (so yes, if you’re reading this, we don’t want a funeral; we just want to be cremated and dumped somewhere gorgeous.)

Mexico’s Caribbean

Mexico’s Caribbean

We spent the last week of March on the Caribbean side of Mexico. Mainly hiding. It was Spring Break in the US and Semana Santa (Easter week) in Mexico. Everyone was on vacation. Eh. Vree. One. But I suppose we’re everyone too.

Tulum

We initially stopped in Tulum.

Tulum is famous for having one of the best-preserved and only Mayan cities on the ocean. It also has spectacular beaches, often ranking in Mexico’s — and sometimes the world’s — top ten. Unfortunately, while we were there, those beaches were covered with mounds of seaweed. Like two to three feet tall mounds.

It was also blustery. And touristy. Any sense of calm we hoped to inspire from a tranquil beach was eradicated as soon as we exited our van. After an expensive lunch at an inexpensive-looking hotel, and a quick walk down Tulum’s main drag, we decided to search for another beach.

Playa Xpu-Ha

We wanted, nay, probably needed, a spot between the major tourist destinations (from North to South, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Akumal). We figured we’d visit a few spots, choose the best. We visited one: Playa Xpu-Ha, just north of Akumal and south of Playa Del Carmen. The line of cars from the highway to the parking lot near the beach was a half mile long. We parked at the end and marched to the beach.

As we neared, the thump da thump da thump of house music from various clubs and restaurants could be heard. As could laughter. And the occasional scream from some crazed toddler. The sound of chaos really. But we marched on. Steadfast and determined. Yet increasingly aware of our (presumably) lack of options.

We ventured through a series of disorganized parking lots, sectioned off by ropes in various sizes and states of decrepitude. Then, in the back of the last lot, we saw it: the last open spot. Then we saw the French family that’d we traveled with a couple weeks prior (our kids love their kids). We took that as an omen. We sprinted back to the van.

The Campground

Like many, if not most, of the campgrounds we’ve crashed at in Mexico, this one has seen better days. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it was just designed with exposed wires jutting from outlets, half- to non-functioning water faucets, and the flair of a geriatric hoarder.

The bathroom was the worst I’ve seen outside of India. I’m not even sure I’d call it a bathroom, just a filthy room where water either goes down or comes out of holes and where mosquitos flutter the good wing and do the bad thing.

Seaweed

The beach, like Tulum, was covered in seaweed. A British family told us it’s the worst they’ve witnessed in their twenty-plus years vacationing in the Riviera Maya. Workers from the clubs spent the mornings raking and wheelbarrowing the seaweed off the beach. A feeble effort. More returned, like an army of angry slime attacking the shore, every hour. (The picture above is just after they cleaned.)

The wind also howled five of the seven days we camped. That two day reprieve, which also fortuitously brought less tourists and seaweed, made this stop worth it, despite all the first world problems described above. It’s pretty amazing how simple and beautiful life can be on a pretty beach. We mostly just sat on that beach, gazing into the ocean horizon, occasionally glancing back to ensure our kids hadn’t drowned.

Easter

The Easter Bunny, as we learned, doesn’t hide eggs in Mexico when it’s raining. Instead, He (do you capitalize this one?) hides pesos in vans and writes notes that those pesos can be spent on candy in the minimart near the beach.

Miguel

We’ve met some interesting folks on this trip. Fellow travelers. Fascinating locals. Miguel was the latter.

Miguel is a fisherman. The purest I’ve met. He lives in an abandoned RV in the back of the parking lot. He fishes three times per day, every day. I’m not sure whether for fun or for money or for both — I resisted the temptation to ask; that’s a much too American question — though I doubt the distinction is important to him.

To fish, Miguel perches on a pile of seaweed, decked in Patagonia gear and with his neon blue fly rod on his waist behind him like a sword in a sheath. He watches for a particular kind of fish. I can’t remember the name. He called them surfers. When he spots them, he leaps off his pile, sprints into the shallows, and begins whipping the waves. It’s mesmerizing.

I often wish I had the passion, the conviction, of someone like Miguel. That my vocation and occupation would sow together seamlessly. That no worldly affliction, whether internally or externally imposed, would bother me, prevent my passion. Be a little more like Miguel in other words.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico

We went, because they told us to go. They. The other tourists. Of course, we’re capable of making our own decisions. I think. We’re adults. Occasionally. Yet, the fervor, the conviction bespoken about Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-Ha-Ka) was convincing at the least. Darn necessitating at the best. We had to go. We’d miss the best food scene the in Mexico if we didn’t.

Adulting

Adulting is, occasionally, more difficult in a van on the road. Our kids are never more than a few feet away. Four stinky kid feet. And we don’t have sitters. That young-ish chica that we met at the trailer park the other day? Perhaps. But probably not. Thus, while we did dine at a couple of excellent cafes in Oaxaca — mainly for the view, not for the food — we did not indulge the food scene. Harness our inner foodie. That would’ve required sitters. And a space larger than a van. So I can’t speak to the food quality, the food inventiveness. But I can speak to this: this trip has forced us to get better at adulting. And I’m stoked about that. Though I wish I could’ve tried that agave-infused, fire-roasted tlayudas we’d heard so much about….

The Other Stuff

It’s not that Oaxaca doesn’t have it’s charm. A tree-canopied zocalo. Gratis performances. Fuscia jacarandas and verdigrisy agave. Cobblestone streets. Neon-painted, baroque houses. Extravagant, Spanish churches. Check. It checks most the boxes for cool colonial cities. Yet, it seemed to be missing something. An intimacy. A quirk. Disorganized, small streets. Something. We couldn’t put our feet on it, as we strolled the gorgeous streets near the historical center of town, but Oaxaca did not captivate us like other colonial cities, namely Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. But perhaps that’s just ’cause we’re bitter about missing out on the craft tlayudas.

Monte Alban

A hilltop ruin reminiscent of Machu Picchu. We arrived at the butt-end of dry season. Winter. Grasses were dead. Trees hadn’t even begun to reveal the buds of their blossom. Yet, you can imagine, after a month of rain, how green and lush and hermoso this alter, this holiest of locales, would look (and in case you can’t, the poster near the ticket booth will put that picture in your head). Nearly as scenic, though less well-known, as Machu Picchu (from what we can gather; if you haven’t heard it, we’ll reveal our Machu Picchu story at a later post). As you walk the grounds, climb the steep steps to the temple tops, you’ll find yourself indulging what life was like here as a high priest. Swanky. Heavenly. Lack of oxygen-y. Then you might imagine, if you have a macabre mind like me, the priest just rolling all those sacrificed bodies down the mountains….

Hierve El Agua

On our way out of Oaxaca, we stopped here, mostly to say “we’ve been there”. It’s one of two calcified waterfalls in the world, the other being in Turkey. It also has some, in case this is your thing, some dirty natural pools to bathe in. Like, if you like swimming amongst toilet paper, this is your place! Of course, that didn’t stop our kids from dipping. Or us from permitting a dip — we’re still perfecting adulting…. Nevertheless, you should be warned, in exchange for seeing this rare site, a site that does have a pleasing, panoramic view of the valley below, you may need to update your Hepatitis shots.

In Conclusion

In hindsight, that fun word of retroactive reconsideration, we would’ve skipped this stop. The next stops, which I hope to write about here soon, were much cooler, more unique. However, don’t take our word for it. Plenty of other folks, all those other tourists referenced above, loved Oaxaca. Loved. But perhaps they’re just high on mezcal (a very popular liquor made in region)….

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

Cities stress me out. Especially big ones. The traffic, the crime, the pollution, the congestion, the people — the people! I’m more of a town person. A nature person. However, with that being said, it’s difficult to experience some architectural and cultural attractions outside of major metropolitan areas. And I like to think of myself as quasi-cultured, despite my affinity for meat sticks, t-top Pontiac Trans Ams, and Solo cups. Hence the dilemma with Mexico City. A biggie. One of the top ten largest metropolitan areas in the world.

Multiple folks, including our childrens’ pediatrician, had told us that we’d love — you’ll love! — Mexico City. It’s gorgeous. And it has museums. Mucho mucho museums. We asked about the campground we were staying in near Teotihuacán. The reviews were mixed. Locals seemed to think of it as just a city. Other travelers either hadn’t been, and thus were asking the same questions, or told us we should go. It’s only a cheap, one-hour Uber away (it would’ve been near impossible to drive our van into the city) the enthusiasts would say. But it’s a city, I’d retort (in my head)! And they have amazing food. But it’s a city, I’d retort (in my head). And the museums, don’t get us started…. But it’s a city, I’d retort (in my head)! We went. Stress be darned.

Initial Impression

We arrived at noon on a Saturday. We greeted, mas or menos, twenty of the twenty-two million people that lived in the metropolitan area within the first few hours. They were all friendly. Very friendly in fact. You’d have the same impression. But it was hot, and with the masses frenziedly attempting to squeeze through the city’s vessels, the streets, it felt like a stroke or heart attack was imminent. We weren’t prepared. We had to retreat back to the inexpensive yet trendy, art-deco AirBnB we rented. We needed water. And solitude. And spicy karate nuts. Yet we weren’t deterred. We’d seen enough within those hours — gorgeous colonial architecture, churches, and plazas — to know that Mexico City was special. Muy especial. We’d return the next day. Better. Wiser. And hydrated.

The Love Hate of Colonialism

Andrea and I spent a good chunk of that first night discussing colonialism. Spain ravished Mexico (I initially had a much naughtier verb in this sentence). It’s people, it’s resources, it’s civilizations, everything. Now, as United Staters, we shouldn’t toss the first rock. Our intentions in the Mexican-American War were dubious. At best. Just ask Abraham Lincoln. And, of course, we’ve been the conquistadors of the last few decades. Nonetheless, as someone used to getting the finger pointed at them, it was nice to point the finger at someone else for once. Shame on you Spain. Shame. On. You.

However…. Spain did not mess around when it came to rebuilding the cities they destroyed. Mexico City is a testament to that (as are others we’ve visited, like Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende). The baroque architecture, with its symmetrical and classically-inspired lines accented by Moorish-influenced domes and arches, is captivating. And invigorating. You find yourself wanting to walk the next block, turn the next corner, just to see what’s there. You also find yourself questioning what the city, or any colonial city, would’ve looked like had they left the mesoamerican structures in place — Cortes demolished most of the ancient architecture; most of the churches are built with stones from the former pyramids and temples. Regardless, and perhaps it’s just my innate Eurocentrism, but you’d struggle not to appreciate what Spain built in its three century occupation of Mexico.

Lake Taxcoco

The most surprising revelation from our first day slugging through Mexico City’s arteries, was that a fair amount of Mexico City is built on a lake. Or a former lake. Lake Taxcoco. The Aztecs built Tenochtitlan — one of the major ruins in the center of the city, which Cortes destroyed to build the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The Aztecs built upon and demarcated sections of the lake for agriculture. Then the Spanish drained what was left to expand Mexico City. As the barber that chopped my hair said: “The entire city is built on sand; if you spend a few hours digging, you’ll hit it.” There’s probably a parable in there. But seriously, it is one reason Mexico City is at high risk for earthquake damage.

Twin Organs

In the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos) — quite possibly the longest name for a church ever — there exists twin organs. Gigantic twin organs. Organs that, if you’re not already inspired by the rest of the beauty in the church, which is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve entered, will instantly convert you to Christendom. I would’ve loved to hear Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint Saens or something from Phantom of the Opera or “Linus & Lucy” from Charlie Brown on there.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

We woke the second day with the mentality of soldiers preparing for battle. Sunscreen and water: check. Chacos: check. A willingness to extend my elbows beyond necessary to pave a path amongst the masses for my family: check. We caught an Uber to the Bosque de Chapultepec moments after we completed our hundred pushups as a family.

The city was quiet. It was a Sunday morning. Everyone seemed to be at church. Until we pulled into the Bosque. There, tens of thousands of locals were racing (a 20k was in progress), biking, rollerblading, or relaxing. It was nine in the morning. And everything was packed. A line a few blocks long already extended from the Museo Nacional de Antropología, our first stop.

Whoa. What a stop. Whoa, whoa, whoa. So much to see. So huge. Only the Louvre in Paris felt bigger, more extravagant (to me at least). The building itself is a Mexican architectural marvel that rivals anything the Spanish built. The exhibits are fashioned around a fetching courtyard shaded by a ginormous, suspended ceiling that both appears to defy laws of physics and spew water from the heavens (photo courtesy of the museum). The exceptionally nice and organized exhibits themselves feature the greatest collection of mesoamerican artifacts and art in the world. It’s impossible not to be impressed. I was only able to type the stuff above because I visited this museum. You can, and should, spend an entire day here.

Castillo de Chapultepec

After the museum, we marched up a hill to see a castle. The hill was once a sacred place for the Aztecs. The Spanish murdered that too (damn you Spain, I may never eat paella again…until the next time it’s served…). The castle is an extravagant affair with panoramic views of the city. The only sovereigns in North America lived here. Emperor Maximilian the First — which is a real name and not something invented by Disney — and his wife Empress Carlota lived here during the Second Mexican Empire. For only about three years. They were killed by firing squad during the formation of the Mexican Republic. But that’s okay. They weren’t really Mexican. They were Austrian. Nevertheless, the castle is now brimming with royal art and artifacts. It’s worth the hike, if only for the view (this is only about a quarter of the view from the castle).

Secretaría de Educación Pública

We visited the headquarters for this agency on our final dia in Mexico City. For an education of a different sort. Diego Rivera, one of the two most famous artists in Mexico, the other being Frida Kahlo, his once wife, painted murals on nearly all the outer walls facing the courtyard in this building. While I can’t say this for certain, it has to be the largest collection of Rivera art in one location it the world. And it’s just sitting there, relatively unbeknownst to the general public (we only knew about it because our AirBnB host told us), behind a literal and figurative wall of bureaucracy. Andrea, the lovely and masterful road-school maestra, has taught our beautiful, snot-nosed monsters (and me by earshot) a lot about Diego and Frida — the elephant and the dove, as they’re affectionally called — so it was quite the treat to see these murals in person. A must stop in Mexico City. And you’ll nearly miss it. It’s behind a nondescript, baroque facade on a street just around the corner from the major tourist attractions.

Final Thoughts

Phew. I imagine that’s how you feel if you read this sucker (longest post to date). That’s how my body and brain felt like in route back to Teotihuacán. I’d had my fill of city. For awhile. I needed a break and some fresh air. But I needed to return. I only wrote about a smidgen of what we experienced, and we only experienced a smidgen of what there is to write about.

Whale Sharks & Peso Pinching

Whale Sharks & Peso Pinching

While planning this trip, Andrea and I often discussed this question: How broke can we go? How broke can we go? (Cue that one limbo song in your mind.) Now, as most of you know, we’re fortunate that we receive income from the business we established in Boise. However, I’ve never taken much money out of the business (I gotta fully retire one day, yo!). Thus, before we embarked on this trip, we knew we’d have a limited budget. We’ve hoped, and we continue to hope, that we can live within that budget, ensure our pesky ongoing life expenses (remind me why we need life insurance again?) and current travel expenses are near our income. Hence the dilemma we’ve already encountered a dozen or so times on this trip: Do we blow up our budget to experience, what we believe to be, a once-in-a-lifetime trip? In other words, how broke are we willing to go? The answer, though never quick or easy, is almost always, yes. It’s just money, right? As they say, whomever they are, you can always make more money, but you can never make more time….

Nevertheless, when confronted with the price tag of swimming with whale sharks, Andrea and I wavered. Squabbled even. Do we really need to swim with the largest shark in the world? I mean, we’d already seen, at arm-lengths proximity, gray whales. Plus, we’d visited the Mueseo de Ballena (Whale Museum) in La Paz — which also cost a pretty peso! — where we’d read, well had translated by our very knowledgeable guide, enough infographics to convince me that this shark is actually a whale. And whales are nice, right? I mean, I know Jonah had a bad go, and Capitan Ahab, but it seems like humans are more likely to inflict harm on whales, versus the other way around.

But I suppose, according to science and all that, whale sharks are still sharks. They filter feed and they’re large, like whales, but the comparisons end there. They don’t have bones — they’re the largest living non-mammalian vertebrates — and they certainly look like sharks. Large sharks.

We shared a boat with our friends from Canada (Francois and his two kids; Crystal, mom and wife, was unfortunately sick) and two other couples from Mexico. The other couples and Francois went first. Everett had actually spotted the whale shark in the distance, and when our guide confirmed what Everett had seen, she yelled, very much yelled, at everyone to jump in. They obeyed and spent twenty minutes swimming toward and around the whale shark. Then our boat picked them up. Then it was our turn.

It took another five minutes or so before we saw another whale shark. And this one, unlike the first one, surfaced within spitting distance of the boat. Our guide yelled to jump in. Everett decided not to. I quickly asked Francois if he could watch him. Then the guide, Andrea, and I dove overboard. Andrea, immediately, regretted that decision. She began flailing and hyperventilating and wailing for the boat to pick her back up. I briefly thought: I should probably go back and comfort her, right? That would be the gentlemanly, fatherly thing to do. But then I thought: Animals sense and respond to fear. Andrea had already demonstrated her fear. If the, supposedly benign, whale shark was going to eat one of us, it would certainly be her at this point. I knew I had to remain calm. I had to snorkel alongside the shark. I had kids to think about for God’s sake!

I snorkeled alongside the shark’s starboard side for a few minutes. Then the shark, which seemed either oblivious to or unconcerned with our presence (or both), suddenly shifted, nearly smacking me with its tail. A full bladder of my urine entered the ocean at that point. Then I swan alongside its port side for another couple minutes when, with what appeared to be no effort, it swam out of sight. The guide and I returned to the boat.

We hunted (bad verb?) a couple more sharks, mostly for sight-seeing purposes, before returning to shore. It was certainly worth the money. One of the early of what I hope to be many experiences in our effort to go broke.

Mexican Delight

Mexican Delight

The Chronicles of Narnia is the greatest book series ever written! I will not argue this fact! It spurned my love for reading — prior to that, reading ranged from intolerable, when Nerf guns and GI Joes were available, to tolerable, when it was raining outside and I couldn’t play “Follow The Judge To The Court”, a game I believe my brother Drew and I invented. The second book in the series, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, remains my favorite (favourite?). I’m even attempting to read it in Spanish at the moment. In this book, Edmund, the brat of the pack, sells out his siblings for a box of Turkish Delights. I would’ve likely done the same — I dig me some chewy sweet candies — and thus, as a kid, I became fairly obsessed with finding and devouring Turkish Delights. I can’t quite remember when or where I found them, but I can remember being disgusted. I’d expected cinnamon gummy bears covered in powered sugar. Instead, I got rubbery squares that tasted like rose and soap with a hint of old lady perfume.

I expected similar disappointment when Bruce and Laurie Heimbigner told me about Sponch. We met them in Bahia de Magdalena (get this! they’re from Pullman, Washington and know my relatives, the Shaheen family). We swapped travel stories and recommendations. I can’t remember most of their recommendations — I was suffering from extreme vehicle envy and couldn’t pay attention — but I did remember Sponch, mostly for what I figured I wouldn’t like about them. I don’t like biscuit-style cookies (like the Biscoff cookies you always get on airplanes) nor coconut candy (like Mars) nor jelly-filled anything (like donuts) nor marshmallow-y candy (like Sno Balls). According to the Heimbigners, Sponch is basically a cookie topped by four miniature marshmallows covered in coconut flakes with a squirt of strawberry goo in the center. Yummy.

Yet yummy, for reals, they are. I’m already on my second box since arriving in La Paz — I saved a few pesos on the second box by purchasing the leftover Christmas stash. I struggle to eat less than three per day. There’s probably nicotine in there. But there’s also, according to the box and my likely incorrect translation, added vitamins and minerals. You take the good with the bad, I suppose.

So…. Thanks Heimbigners! I’ve found my Mexican Delight. And probably diabetes.

P.S. Some of you, and you know whom you are, need to get your mind out of the gutter after reading the headline.

Top 200 Albums

Top 200 Albums

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Since we’re consistently in and out of cell reception on this trip, and since all my music is in the cloud, I needed to download my top two hundred albums. Several folks asked to see the list, so here it is, alphabetically by artist and by major genre (in other words, not post-emo fusion dog hybrid pre-rock jazz). A handful of disclaimers first:

  • The first cut was three hundred. Then I was able to cut another fifty or so fairly painlessly. I struggled after two hundred and fifty. As such, in a obvious display of indecisiveness, I’ve also included thirty or so albums that almost made the list.
  • The list is proportional to my favorite genres. While I have the occasional metal and country album in my repertoire, I mostly listen to rock, jazz, R&B, ambient, Christmas, and classical music.
  • I’m an album man from way back (I typed that with my buddy Gabe’s inflection). I tend to listen to albums straight through versus shuffling through playlists. Hence this list is comprised of albums not songs.
  • I shied way from best-ofs and compilations. Just felt like cheating.
  • I erred on the side of diversity — the top five albums from my top ten favorite artists would’ve occupied a quarter of this list — therefore I went with more versus fewer artists.
  • I favor first (or early) works. The sense of discovery, for me at least, is difficult to replicate, regardless of how trailblazing future albums are.
  • I’m biased against recent albums. Few albums post 2012 made this list. That’s, of course, not because recent music sucks (though a compelling argument can be made here), but because I must listen to an album dozens of times before it roots my good music psyche. Time doesn’t favor new.
  • Despite ruminating on this list for several weeks, I know a dozen albums I neglected to list will pop into my mind the moment I push “publish”. Thus, I suppose this is Top 200 Vol. 1. This list will evolve many times over this trip.

 

Top 200

 

Rock (116)

  1. Andrew Bird, Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs — odd, cool album
  2. Archers Of Loaf, Icky Mettle — messy and crazy punk rock
  3. Arctic Monkeys, AM — one of the later albums to make this list
  4. At The Drive-In, Relationship of Command — the album that broke up the band; but then we got Mars Volta!
  5. Band Of Horses, Everything All The Time — any of their first three albums could’ve made this list
  6. Battles, Gloss Drop — infectious music that does make you think of battles
  7. Beach House, Bloom — dream pop at its finest
  8. Belle & Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister — a great rainy day album
  9. Ben Folds, Rockin’ The Suburbs — I attempted to learn “The Luckiest” on the piano; it did not go well
  10. Billy Joel, The Stranger — I’d love to see Billy Joel live, just love it
  11. Blues Traveler, Four — the only harmonica forward band on this list
  12. Blur, Modern Life Is Rubbish — such an English-sounding album
  13. Bon Iver, Bon Iver — the lead singer once recorded an album in the forest!
  14. Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning — listening to this album is like reading someone’s diary
  15. Broken Bells, Broken Bells — a rad Danger Mouse and The Shins collaboration
  16. Built to Spill, Keep It Like A Secret — awesome album from my hometown favs
  17. Built to Spill, Untethered Moon — I was a little shocked this made the list over some of their other albums
  18. Cake, Fashion Nugget — “The Distance” is adrenaline in song form
  19. Cat Stevens, Teaser And The Firecat — would’ve preferred a Best Of album here, but this one will do
  20. Coheed & Cambria, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 — favorite album from one of my favorite live acts
  21. Counting Crows, August & Everything After — Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers should thank Counting Crows
  22. Crooked Fingers, Dignity & Shame — former lead singer of Archers of Loaf continuing excellence
  23. Dave Matthews Band, Under The Table And Dreaming — the soundtrack to my college years
  24. David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars — otherworldly album from an omnisexual alien rock start
  25. Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism — the soundtrack to my early twenties
  26. Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me — messy, beautiful rock
  27. Doves, Lost Souls — a melancholy yet invigorating album
  28. Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty South — essential car album for driving in the South
  29. Elliott Smith, Either/Or — Smith is one of the better modern-day songwriters
  30. Foo Fighters, The Colour And The Shape — this album just straight-up rocks
  31. Fugazi, 13 Songs — perhaps my favorite punk-ish album…perhaps
  32. G. Love & Special Sauce, G. Love And Special Sauce — unique sound and style that I crave when the weather is hot
  33. Grandaddy, Sumday — the best lo-fi album from one of the best lo-fi bands
  34. Grizzly Bear, Yellow House — sweet, melodic lo-fi
  35. Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand — the best song titles of any band
  36. Idaho, The Lone Gunman — I admittedly got into this band because of their name
  37. Jars Of Clay, Jars Of Clay — best Christian album ever, but still stands on its own
  38. Jeff Buckley, Grace — his version of “Hallelujah” is hypnotic
  39. Jimmy Eat World, Clarity — I can, and have, listened to this album on repeat for days
  40. Jimmy Eat World, Futures — the tempo of this album is perfect for exercising
  41. Keane, Hopes And Fears — this album has held up better than any Coldplay album
  42. LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem — dance techno rock at its best
  43. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin III — “Tangerine” sets this album apart in my opinion
  44. Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams — such awesome folk rock here
  45. M. Ward, Transfiguration Of Vincent — pop, blues, folk, ragtime, techno? not sure, but awesome
  46. Maroon 5, Songs About Jane — too bad these guys never produced anything else this good
  47. Massive Attack, Mezzanine — my first foray into trip hop
  48. Mazzy Star, Among My Swan — it’s crazy this album was made in the 90s; it sounds like today
  49. Mercury Rev, Deserter’s Songs — dream, orchestral rock that oddly reminds me of a screensaver
  50. Mice Parade, Bem-Vinda Vontade — excellent and intriguing guitar and drum work on this album
  51. Minor Alps, Get There — engrossing harmonies and vocals, kinda like The Postal Service
  52. Minus The Bear, Highly Refined Pirates — another album with funny song titles
  53. Mogwai, Mr. Beast — dynamic post-rock album
  54. Mute Math, Mute Math — these guys use a keytar!
  55. My Morning Jacket, Z — the album is the lovechild of Radiohead and Drive-By Truckers
  56. Nada Surf, Let Go — the soundtrack to Andrea’s and my life before kids
  57. Nada Surf, The Weight Is a Gift — if I ranked bands, this band would certainly fall in the top ten
  58. Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea — if I ranked this list, this album would certainly fall in the top ten
  59. Pavement, Slanted & Enchanted — raw, cool, indie rock
  60. Pearl Jam, Ten— my favorite grunge album (yes, even over Nirvana)
  61. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — these guys are French but sound like quintessential American pop
  62. Portishead, Dummy — top trip hop; makes me feel like James Bond
  63. Radiohead, Kid A — I didn’t like this album at first; a hundred listens later…
  64. Radiohead, OK Computer — prophetic album about the future of technology
  65. Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine — this album makes me want to break something
  66. Red House Painters, Songs For A Blue Guitar — hypnotizing blues guitar
  67. Refused, The Shape Of Punk To Come — it’s unfortunate that punk didn’t listen
  68. Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures — one of my favorite albums to listen to while driving
  69. Say Hi To Your Mom, Numbers & Mumbles — funny lo-fi that’s strangely addicting
  70. Scale the Summit, The Migration — vocal-less rock opera
  71. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream — the first album I ever purchased! until my parents made me return it (see track eleven)
  72. Snow Patrol, Final Straw — over a decade old, but still as good today as when I first heard it
  73. Spin Doctors, Pocket Full of Kryptonite — this albums reminds me of Young Life
  74. St. Vincent, Marry Me — intriguing album with intriguing lyrics
  75. Stars, Set Yourself On Fire — this albums makes me want to ride on a cloud
  76. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup — best album title ever?
  77. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Texas Flood — he almost joined David Bowie’s band…just think of the possibilities…
  78. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State — beautifully worded concept album
  79. Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary — I guess this is emo? best emo ever then
  80. Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair — distinctly 80s, but certainly radical
  81. Temples, Sun Structures — a cool throwback to 60s and 70s rock
  82. The Album Leaf, A Chorus of Storytellers — very chill album
  83. The Arcade Fire, Funeral — I think “Wake Up” is on the soundtrack to every movie
  84. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds — brilliant, vivid, orchestrated American pop rock
  85. The Beatles, Rubber Soul — formed a band in high school just to play this album
  86. The Beta Band, The Three EP’s — this album makes me want to walk around and check stuff out
  87. The Blue Nile, Hats — this album makes me want to walk around in the rain
  88. The Decemberists, Her Majesty The Decemberists — when I’m pillaging villages, I listen to this album
  89. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin — a symphonic pop masterpiece
  90. The Frames, For The Birds — “Santa Maria” is such a frickin’ awesome song
  91. The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday — not sure if you’d call this singing or yelling, but regardless, it’s cool
  92. The Killers, Hot Fuss — hey, I’m in Las Vegas writing this note!
  93. The Mars Volta, De-Loused In The Comatorium — freaky, hard, and addictive album
  94. The National, Alligator — this album is so depressing it makes me happy
  95. The National, Boxer — a dark, inspired masterpiece
  96. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema — infectious power pop
  97. The Postal Service, Give Up — another album that has been on every movie soundtrack
  98. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow — tough call between this and Oh! Inverted World
  99. The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead — another great rainy day album
  100. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses — the sophomore slump killed this band, which is very sad
  101. The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico — I think this album is just one long euphemism
  102. The Who, Who’s Next — that album cover!
  103. Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy — what I listen to to feel cool
  104. Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind — my high school anthem
  105. Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse — this album makes me want to play video games and eat candy
  106. Tom Waits, Closing Time — this album makes me want to smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey
  107. Townes Van Zandt , For the Sake of the Song — perhaps the greatest songwriter ever
  108. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History — ebullient awesomeness
  109. U2, The Joshua Tree — the first three songs on this album are, perhaps, the band’s best
  110. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend — the album you play when driving down the California coast
  111. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks — Van Morrison has produced a million albums! but this is his best
  112. Weezer, Pinkerton — I think I have listened to this album more than any other
  113. Weezer, Weezer — these guys made being a nerd cool
  114. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — a catchy, complicated, cool album
  115. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass — a contender for best album title
  116. Youth Lagoon, The Year Of Hibernation — the ultimate bedroom project — and he’s from Boise!

 

Jazz (25)

  1. Arthur Lyman, Yellow Bird — this album transports you to a tiki room
  2. Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans — “Peace Piece” would put this album on this list by itself
  3. Buddy Rich, No Jive — perhaps the best drummer ever
  4. Charles Mingus, The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady — this album is like an avant-garde glance into Mingus’s soul
  5. Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings — it’s like Chet whispers when he sings and plays the trumpet
  6. Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out — every song is written in 5/4 time, which is incredible
  7. Diana Krall, The Look of Love — this album is an aphrodisiac
  8. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Ella & Louis — like a long conversation between old friends
  9. Frank Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim — Frank’s bossa nova masterpiece
  10. Harry Connick, Jr., Blue Light Red Light — cool, mixed-genre jazz album
  11. Henry Mancini, The Days Of Wine And Roses — I don’t drink cocktails, but if I did, I’d pair them with this album
  12. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme — tough call between this and Blue Train
  13. Julie London, Around Midnight — Julie’s voice is perhaps the sexiest voice known to mans’ ears
  14. June Christy, Ballads For Night People/The Intimate Miss Christy — I imagine I’m walking the streets of Paris at night when listening
  15. Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love — her cover of “Between the Bars” is almost as good as the original
  16. Martin Denny, Quiet Village — exotica at its finest
  17. Medeski, Martin & Wood, Combustication — chaotic yet captivating jazz
  18. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew — oh man, the drugs he must’ve been on when recording this one…
  19. Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue — I will fight anyone that says this is not the best jazz album ever
  20. Ornette Coleman, The Shape Of Jazz To Come — never has the saxophone been so cool
  21. Oscar Peterson, Encore At The Blue Note — Oscar can tickle the ivory keys
  22. Sarah Vaughan, Crazy and Mixed Up — one of, if not the, best jazz voices
  23. Sergio Mendes Trio, Brasil ’65 Featuring Wanda de Sah — airy, cool, latin jazz
  24. Stan Getz & João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto — the album that started the bossa nova craze in the US
  25. Vince Guaraldi Trio, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus — pure jazz in trio form

 

Christmas (20)

  1. Amy Grant, Home For Christmas — “Breath of Heaven” gives this the nod over A Christmas Album
  2. Andy Williams, The Andy Williams Christmas Album — lounge-y Christmas music
  3. George Winston, December — beautiful piano compositions
  4. Brenda Lee, The Christmas Collection — the voice of Christmas songs
  5. Bing Crosby, Merry Christmas — the other voice of Christmas songs
  6. Charles Brown, Cool Christmas Blues — if you must be blue at Christmas, there’s this album
  7. Dave Brubeck, A Dave Brubeck Christmas — classics by the piano master
  8. Diana Krall, Christmas Songs — my favorite Christmas album
  9. Herb Alpert, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Christmas Album — quirky, jazzy Christmas tunes
  10. Ira Ironstring, Plays Santa Claus — the weirdest and best Christmas album you’ve never heard
  11. Low, Christmas — lo-fi, indie Christmas awesomeness
  12. Mel Tormé, Christmas Songs — “The Velvet Fog” — greatest singer name ever
  13. Phil Spector & Artists, A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector — Phil killed a guy! — but this is an excellent compilation
  14. Ray Charles, The Spirit of Christmas — classics from the master
  15. Rosemary Clooney, Rosemary Clooney: White Christmas — my other favorite Christmas album
  16. Sugar & The Hi Lows, Snow Angel – EP — funky, unique album with some original Christmas compositions
  17. The Carpenters, Christmas Portrait — classic duo singing classics
  18. Timbre, Silent Night — indie rock Christmas at its best
  19. Tom Hemby, An Acoustic Christmas — this dude can play!
  20. Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas — my other other favorite Christmas album

 

R&B (13) 

  1. A Tribe Called QuestThe Low End Theory — where hip hop meets jazz
  2. Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You — man, does she have some pipes
  3. Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill — who woulda thunk white guys can rap? 
  4. D’Angelo, Voodoo — I have to take a shower after listening to this album 
  5. Etta James, At Last! — the most soulful voice 
  6. Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE — chill, soulful, eclectic album 
  7. Jurassic 5, Jurassic 5 EP — awesome old-school rap
  8. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On — as good as it is important 
  9. Oddisee, Rock Creek Parkimaginative modern R&B
  10. Otis Redding, Otis Blue — died too young (26), but at least he left us this masterpiece 
  11. Roberta Flack, First Take — bits of rock, jazz, soul, and country in this one
  12. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, I Learned The Hard Way — a modern throwback to old-school soul
  13. Solomon Burke, Don’t Give Up On Me — everything you need to know about life is in this album

 

Ambient (13)

  1. Bing & Ruth, Tomorrow Was the Golden Age — a gorgeous and psychedelic album
  2. Boards of Canada, The Campfire Headphase — the first, and still one of the best, ambient albums I’ve purchased
  3. Bibio, Silver Wilkinson — this album makes me want to gallop through a meadow
  4. Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music For Airports — the master album from the master of this genre
  5. Explosions In The Sky, All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone — this album could be the soundtrack to your life
  6. Hilary Hahn, Hauschka, Silfra — this album was recorded in Iceland; it sounds like Iceland
  7. Luke Howard, Two & One — beautiful, introspective piano play
  8. Max Richter, 24 Postcards In Full Colour — you can almost imagine each postcard
  9. Mono & World’s End Girlfriend, Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain — haunting
  10. Rob Simonsen, The Way Way Back Score — airy, happy music that makes me smile
  11. Tim Hecker, Harmony In Ultraviolet —  this album makes me feel like I’m walking across the ocean
  12. Tortoise, It’s All Around You — one of the only albums that sounds like the cover looks
  13. Tycho, Dive — perfect for strolling around town and looking at the trees

 

Classical (13)

  1. Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique — kinda psychedelic classical music
  2. Britten, War Requiem  — it does evoke war imagery
  3. Copland, Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Billy The Kid, Fanfare — what being a cowboy sounds like
  4. Debussy, Clair de lune — “Suite Bergamasque” is the most beautiful piano suite ever
  5. Dvorak, Symphony No. 9 “New World” — Neil Armstrong took this piece with him on Apollo 11!
  6. Eglar, Cello Concerto, Enigma Variations — I can, and have, listed to “Nimrod” on repeat for hours
  7. Holst, The Planets — bold, extraterrestrial stuff here
  8. Mendelssohn , A Midsummer Night’s Dream — awesome accompaniment to one of my favorite plays
  9. Ravel, Bolero — technically only one movement, but it’s a darn good one
  10. Sanit-Saens, The Carnival of the Animals — fun, playful classical music
  11. Schumann, Carnaval — all piano, all awesome
  12. Tchaikovsky , The Seasons — puts sound to each month of the year
  13. Williams. Star Wars — sure I dig Star Wars, but this music stands on its own

 

Just Missed The Cut

AgesandAges, Alright You Restless; Air France, No Way Down; Andrew Judah, Albino Black Bear; Animal Collective, Sung Tongs; Au Revoir Simone, The Bird of Music; Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast; Blossom Dearie, Blossom Dearie; Boz Scaggs, Boz Scaggs; Cass McCombs, Dropping The Writ; Chet Baker, Silent Nights; Chromatics, Drumless; Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe; Coldplay, Parachutes; Daft Punk, Discovery; Deerhunter, Cryptograms; Echo & The Bunnymen, Songs To Learn & Sing; Hall & Oates, Home For Christmas; Frightened Rabbit, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks; Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, The Swell Season; James Blake, James Blake; John Coltrane, Blue Train; John Mayer, Room for Squares; Junip, Fields; Metric, Fantasies; Michael W. Smith, Christmas; Nick Drake, Way To Blue; Norah Jones, Come Away With Me; Patrick Watson, Love Songs For Robots; The Zombies, Begin Here; Third Day, Time; Toad The Wet Sprocket, Fear; A Sea of Glass, The Leaving; Sugar & The Hi Lows, High Roller; Switchfoot, Learning To Breathe; White Rabbits, Fort Nightly; Wilson Pickett, In The Midnight Hour