Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fearless Travel

Pipi and I like to think of ourselves as brave, independent travelers but sometimes we break the faith. For instance, when we went to Cuba, not only did we do it completely legally, we also went as part of a tour group. And recently, we booked a cruise. So I’ve been worrying lately that while I may feel like a youthful backpacker at heart, my vacations may be entering middle age.

So imagine my relief when I opened the travel section of the San Francisco Chronicle last Sunday and found an article about traveling safely in Mexico. Part of the article was a graph suggesting Mexican destinations based on the reader’s preferred level of activity and required level of safety. “Totally Spooked” travelers who self-identify as “Sun & Sand Seekers,” for example, were directed toward the heavily guarded havens of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. And “Objective But Cautious” vacationers who might be described as “Culture Vultures” were urged to visit places like Guadalajara and the nicer neighborhoods of Mexico City.

I myself have been to Mexico three times in my life. The first two visits were short stops in Ensenada while on weekend-long cruises out of Southern California. Ensenada is not even mentioned in the travel article, probably because there was no room for a category of traveler called “Chronically Inebriated” whose interests include “Eating Anything with Cheese on It.” Both times, the ship only docked for a few hours in port, and I can only assume that this stop in the itinerary was an archaic throw-back to the days when sailing ships could not make a three-day loop out of San Pedro without running dangerously low on viruses and tequila. I was onshore just long enough to ingest quite a bit of both, apparently, and both times spent the rest of the trip in a miserable gringo heap on my bunk, cursing agave and wondering if the seas were really heaving or just me.

So that barely counts as travel to Mexico, but the third time, I was with Pipi and we saw a lot more of the country. We did some whale-watching at San Ignacio, and then flew to the mainland where we boarded a train that took us through Copper Canyon, in the states of Sinaola and Chihuahua.

I’m perversely intrigued to report that the Chronicle not only used the word “deadly” to describe these two very states, but that they also prescribe a Copper Canyon visit to those who fall under the “Fearless” heading. And it’s not just for “Fearless” travelers; it’s for “Fearless” travelers whose tastes run toward the “Adventure Lover” end of the interest spectrum.

So I guess there’s no need for me to worry. Nearly 41 years wise and still traveling like an American idiot.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sports Tourism

Pipi and I are doing our best to pioneer a form of travel we call sports tourism. This is exactly what it sounds like: Traveling around the world following our favorite sports teams and events.

It started in 2003 when we flew down to Los Angeles for a family visit, and then rented a car and drove from there to San Diego to watch that year’s WUSA professional women’s soccer championship. I’m glad we did because the league folded shortly thereafter, and so that match turned out to be the very last WUSA game ever. We’re learning that with sports, particularly women’s sports, you have to jump at opportunities to see games because in spite of what people say, there isn’t always a next year.

Our biggest trek so far has been to China for the 2007 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. It would be hard to top that, in terms of both distance and adventure. The only idea we have that even comes close is that we’d both love to go to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament someday. (See, it’s not all soccer, although we are a little obsessed.)

The idea that we’re working on more seriously is going to Germany this summer for the 2011 Women’s World Cup. (Hard to believe it has been almost four years since China!) Actually, my hope is that by writing this, I will spur myself into action. Soccer is a big deal in Germany and I can’t count on tickets and hotel rooms being available at the last minute.

Part of what’s making me think of all this is the news, breaking this morning, that Canada has been awarded the Women’s World Cup in 2015. I’m a little relieved, although not surprised, that Canada won out over the other finalist, which was Zimbabwe. Women’s World Cups appear to be getting easier and easier to get to from my perspective. The United States has already hosted twice in the short history of the tournament, so I don’t expect to be able to drive to a game any time soon, but a trip with no time-zone crossings (hello, Vancouver!) will be nice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Everybody Think I Goofed

The bad news: There’s a typo in paragraph three of my article. The good news: There is none in the seventh. It just looks like there is.

When I first read the phrase “everyone come here,” I thought that was a mistake. Turns out it’s not, at least not in Australia, which is where the new Curve editorial regime is from. Australians, like the English, treat collective nouns as plurals. So it’s correct to say, “Everyone come,” because Australians think of “everyone” as a group of individuals, and use the same verb form they would use in the sentence, “One hundred thousand people come every year.”

Americans, on the other hand, think of “everyone” as a monolithic group, so the word gets a singular verb, the same form used in the sentence, “One person comes every day.”

Yes, you can certainly make the argument that I am an American writer writing for a primarily American audience, and so Australian words should not be put in my mouth. But what’s done is (are?) done. And I have to admit, the Australian way of thinking does kind of make sense. Isn’t “everybody,” by definition, more than one person?

This is my story, and I’m sticking to it, because I would rather you know that I’m a grammar dork than suspect that I don’t know how to conjugate.

Monday, February 14, 2011


That Australia article I wrote last summer finally saw the light of day. I’m a Curve subscriber and just got the issue that it appears in in the mail, so it should be on newsstands soon.

The article is on page 64, if anyone’s wondering, and no, the two women pictured are not Pipi and me. I don’t know who they are. I think it’s a stock photo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Bother?

I went to this trouble because I recently got a gig writing blog entries for, and they require all freelancers to have a business license. I was very excited to get the job, because, for one thing, it pays pretty well. (Well, more than this blog, anyway.)

Travelocity is also the last company that employed me full-time before I started freelancing. I knew even at the time that this was one of the most fun jobs I would ever have, and it was hard to walk away from the people there, who were mostly my age and who for the most part shared my love of travel and writing.

I’ll be working at home, so I won’t see that crew every day (and of course a lot of my co-workers have moved on as well), but I’m still pleased to be associated again with a company I enjoyed working for in the past and of which I now have nothing but burnished happy memories.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Almost Done

The following Monday, I was able to turn in the zoning permission form, and they instantly gave me a permit number, which was the one missing piece I needed to fill in the last form, which was the actual business license application. With that done, I headed upstairs to the tax division at the recorder’s office and submitted the application, and one last check. (Actually, this office took credit cards. Nice. Who writes checks any more?)

I won’t have the certificate in my hand for another month, but my understanding is that at this point all my ducks are in a row and I am the proud sole proprietor of Clause and Effect writing and editing services. (And I have the sudden urge to see the movie Brazil again.)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Paper Trail Lengthens

The naming paperwork was just the first step in setting up an official business, although it turned out to be the most expensive and complicated part. The second thing I had to do was to get zoning approval, essentially permission to run a business out of my home. This is really easy for a business that doesn’t involve food or people coming to the house to shop, but turning in the form still required one more check and one more trip downtown.

I almost got this task completed on the same day as the business name approval, but the zoning office is several blocks from the fictitious name bureau, and closes at 4pm. So at the end of my first administrative day, I had a name for my endeavor, but no legal place to do business.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Jig is Up

I know you all would have eventually read the legal notice in the Oakland Tribune, because nobody can get enough of administrative arcana printed in six-point type in regional newspapers. So I might as well let the cat out of the bag and tell you now: The new business name I registered is Clause and Effect.

This is a name that I have been using informally for a long time, but I thought it was time to make a going concern of it. It’s a little silly, but it made the woman at the County Recorder’s office chuckle, and she must see a lot of new business names.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Not as Exciting as it Sounds

Applying for a Fictitious Business Name sounds like asking for permission to lie on your tax return, but it’s just an odd formality required if you establish a business and give it anything other than your own name.

Last Friday, I got my made-up name approved, although there is one more hoop to jump through: I have to take out a legal notice in an Alameda County newspaper and run it once a week for four weeks in a row. This is the part I really don’t understand. What’s the point of having a fictitious name if you’re going to take out an ad to reveal your deception to the world? I guess I have a lot to learn about subterfuge.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Guess Who Has a Fictitious Business Name?

Or will, once the paperwork goes through? Yes, me. I am so pleased at this development. I’m now one step closer to my ultimate goal of being a mysterious woman.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Curve Goes Paperless

Even better news about Curve is that they are on a quest to make their office paperless. This means that payments, among other things, will be handled electronically. In other words, they will deposit payment for articles directly into a bank account. This is great news for me. The ritual of waiting around for a paper check to arrive in my mailbox is not one I’m going to miss very much.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good Publishing News

I’ve had an article about Australia in limbo for so long that I was beginning to lose hope. Curve accepted it months ago, but then there was a change of ownership at the magazine. The new editors told me they’d still like to use it, but I never got anything in writing.

Until today. This afternoon I got an email addressed to all the writers whose articles are appearing in the March issue. Even better than being included on this list is the fact that the email was asking us to send information to help us get paid. I was not exactly planning my retirement around the fee, but this is a happy ending to the story nevertheless. Watch for it on newsstands soon!