2013: The Year in Random Pictures

2013 went by in a flash. These aren’t the pictures I would have picked to sum up the year; rather, these are the choices of a soulless Python script I wrote to procrastinate actually writing a blog post.

January

Raoul Wallenberg Tribute (NYC)

Raoul Wallenberg Tribute (NYC)

January’s subject is  more interesting than it looks. This monument in New York honors Raoul Wallenberg and sits across the street from the UN building. We had wandered up that way in hopes of a UN tour, but the building was closed. Instead we investigated these strange, black pillars and learned about a man who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary during World War II. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know about Wallenberg, his heroic actions, and his subsequent arrest and disappearance at the hands of the Soviets.

February

Bear Swamp

Bear Swamp

One of my favorite Western Mass outings is a trip to Ashfield, a small town in Franklin County. They don’t have cell service, but they do have Elmer’s, a great breakfast joint and grocery store (don’t judge Elmer’s by its website). After enjoying pancakes or maybe the Obamalette, you can hike around the area’s many trails – I’m especially fond of Bear Swamp. This excursion occurred shortly after the region was blessed with two feet of snow.

March

Westfield River, Below the Gorge

Westfield River, Below the Gorge

Towards the end of March, when snow from the previous month’s massive storm was finally beginning to recede in the valley, there was still plenty of the white stuff up in the hills. We made this guy on bank of the Westfield River, just below the Chesterfield Gorge.

April

Superwoman's baby shower

Superwoman’s baby shower

April was a month for babies! Type E and I drove to Pennsylvania to meet our new nephew and on the way stopped in New Jersey for Superwoman’s baby shower.

May

National Day of Civic Hacking

National Day of Civic Hacking

May was a blur. Much of the month was spent planning Hack for Western Mass, the first ever civic hackathon in Western Massachusetts. One of 95 nationwide events on the inaugural National Day of Civic Hacking, it was a great success, and I’m extremely proud of the community’s work to make it a reality. Eight of us organized, and about 100 people turned up to spend a weekend helping nine local nonprofits.

June

Jujuy Province, Argentina

Jujuy Province, Argentina

No photo could capture the chaos of June. It kicked off with Hack for Western Mass. Less than a week later, Type E and I went to Argentina to celebrate our fifth anniversary, and less than a week after that, we settled on a house and moved.

Frankly, I”m a little sad that out of hundreds of Argentina photos, the random picture picker came up with this one. It’s Painter’s Palette in Jujuy (hoo-hooey) Province, Argentina. Sadly, it was the worst possible time of day to take a picture, and for some reason I couldn’t be bothered to cross the street. Don’t be fooled—Northwestern Argentina is much more beautiful and vibrantly-colored than what you see here.

July

Mountain View Farm & Hangliders

Mountain View Farm & Hangliders

We switched CSAs this year and joined Mountain View Farm, close to our new home in Easthampton, MA. If you look closely at the sky, you’ll see small dots, which are actually hang gliders. There were at least eight that afternoon, swooping around Mt. Tom while we picked flowers and herbs below.

August

Eric and Chase

Type E and Poopy C

Despite our post-Argentina vow to NEVER TRAVEL AGAIN, we were away almost every weekend in August: New Jersey, Nazareth, Nantucket. The Jersey trip was to visit Type E’s dad after surgery, and my mom, brother, and sister-in-law drove over from Pennsylvania, crossing the mighty Delaware to give everyone some quality time with the newest member of the family. Right before this picture was taken, he pooped in his Phillies outfit, hence the Red Sox duds. A sign of things to come.

September

Franklin County Fair

Franklin County Fair

Fair season around here starts about two weeks before Labor Day and continues through September. Is there anything better than fair season? This year we decided to skip the Big E, and instead we hit the Cummington Fair and the Franklin County Fair, where Type E admired the award-winning garlic.

October

Mike's Maze

Mike’s Maze

It’s no secret that New England shines in the fall. At the advice of friends, we finally made it to Mike’s Maze – a corn maze with brainteasers, a petting zoo, a cafe, a camera obscura, and a potato cannon. You work through the rows of corn (this year cut in the shape of Salvador Dali), answering questions in hopes of winning a decorative gourd. If you’re really smart, you can win a free shot at the potato cannon. Sadly, we left empty-handed.

November

Resurrection

Resurrection

This here is a beer. A very good beer. One that I used to drink a lot of on Friday nights at Bridgid’s, a lifetime ago. Nice to swing through Philly and reunite with an old friend in a shiny new can.

December

Scott and Eric

Scott and Eric

December brought even more time in Philly to catch up with old friends from Wharton and MiNDTV, see the Wanamaker light show with Clair, go to the 1812 Productions holiday Vaudeville show, and visit the controversial and stunning Barnes Foundation. Oh, and eat some Ethiopian food because they don’t have that here.

Scott joined us for the pizza and art portion of the festivities. Otherwise known as Blankbaby, he’s the first blogging friend I met in real life, back in 2004 or so. Back then, Philly bloggers were a fairly small community. Scott met Marisa, now a famous food blogger, writer, and canner, and they eventually got married. I met Type E when he found me via the magic of Google. And so on.

May 2014 bring old friends, new friends, and more Western Mass discoveries. And maybe a little more Ethiopian food. Yeah, that would be good.

Salta to Cachi: June 12, 2013

Eventually we got out of Buenos Aires, spent just enough time in Salta to eat a few empanadas and pick up a car, and happily left the city behind. All respect to Type E for navigating not only the mean streets of Salta (no lights, no stop signs—just hold your breath and go) but the rambling road to Cachi.

The first of many road animals.

Pigs

Pigs

The road didn’t stay paved for long, and the car held up pretty well, all things considered. Luckily it was dry season.

Ruta 33: Salta to Cachi

Ruta 33: Salta to Cachi

In case it’s not obvious, this is a bad place to pass.

Do Not Pass!

Do Not Pass!

According to Google maps, it takes 3 1/2 hours to drive from Salta to Cachi. Do not believe that lie.

Ruta 33, Argentina

Ruta 33, Argentina

Closer to Cachi, the road is paved again, which doesn’t mean there aren’t any impediments. Cute impediments.

Sheep outside Cachi

Sheep outside Cachi

After a beautiful and somewhat terrifying afternoon on the road, we got to Cachi in time to begin our initiation into that most lovely of Salta products — Torrentés.

Cachi Plaza

Cachi Plaza

P.S. Should you ever find yourself traveling through Cachi, do yourself a favor and stay at El Cortijo. Have dinner there too.

A Day at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, June 11, 2013

LAN

Sometimes your itinerary says you’re flying from Buenos Aires to Salta, but instead you spend the day at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport with a swarm of frantic, caffeinated Argentinians waving their arms and yelling.

Unbeknownst to all of us, the airport had, in fact, closed. Closing the airport involves putting up new times for all the flights about every 30 minutes, just to keep the dream alive. There’s no public address system, so sometimes a flight status changes from “delayed” to “see agent,” at which point a sacrificial agent is deployed from behind the safety of the ticket counter to answer the questions of whoever shouts the loudest.

By this point in the trip, we could say things in Spanish, like “please bring the check” and “where is the bathroom?” We could not say things like “what are the chances we’ll get out of here today?” and “please print documentation for our travel insurance.”

Sometimes, you meet a kind stranger — an American expat who lives in Salta and speaks wonderful Spanish. She braved the crowd surrounding the sacrificial agent and reported the following conversation:

“What time is the flight to Salta?”

“1:30″

“What time is the flight to Cordoba?”

“1:30″

“How about Mendoza?”

“1:30″

This conversation, she explained, translates to “there is no information.”

So, instead of flying to Salta, you end up back in downtown Buenos Aires, drinking beer, watching football, and swapping stories with one of those kindred spirits you meet on the road from time to time.

Buenos Aires, June 10, 2013

By day three, we were smarter about coffee. Order the Café Double to avoid a tiny cup.

Cafe Double at Plaza Dorrega

Cafe Double at Plaza Dorrega

Argentinians are proud of their pope:

Pope

Pope

Back in the day, the wealthy gathered at  the Teatro Colón’ and conducted business in the gold room. This sofa is where fathers negotiated dowries. They sat in the middle, and the potential couple-to-be sat on the ends, awaiting their fate.

Dowry Couch at Teatro Colon

Dowry Couch at Teatro Colon

Outdoor gym – great idea!

Peurto Madero Outdoor Gym

Peurto Madero Outdoor Gym

So glad to stumble upon this place. They serve tofu, and they serve it at 7:30 PM. This is not the normal state of affairs in Argentina.

Tofu!

Tofu!

Sunday in San Telmo

San Telmo, June 9, 2013

This is what the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires looks like on a Sunday:

Feria de San Telmo

Feria de San Telmo by Ricardo Luengo

To face this scene, we needed more than those tiny cups of coffee served up at the cafés, so we did a terrible tourist thing and wandered into Starbucks. And then we really advertised our tackiness by being the only people walking around with big, disposable coffee cups.  But that was the trips’s only weak moment, coffee-wise. It’s much better to take your caffeine sitting down, like a civilized person.

After fighting our way through the Feria de San Telmo, we ended up on Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Perón spoke to the masses and mothers of the 30,000 “disappeared” in Argentina’s dirty war marched for justice.

Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

Here’s what it looked like on a fall afternoon in 2013. The balcony on the pink house – Casa de Rosada – is the “Perón balcony”. You know, the one from Evita.

Plaza de Mayo, 2013

Plaza de Mayo, 2013

After touring Casa de Rosada and a nearby cathedral, we headed back to San Telmo, where the market vendors were packing up and the dancers were just getting started. Need a dance floor? Tape some cardboard to the concrete, you’re all set.

Tango at Plaza Dorrego

Tango at Plaza Dorrego

Dancing at Plaza Dorrego

Dancing at Plaza Dorrego

Argentina – Arriving in Buenos Aires

In hindsight, it was a terrible, terrible idea to commit to writing a blog post every day for a month. I already missed a day after falling asleep too early on a Saturday night. This is the fault of the recent time change, I’m sure.

Not feeling sufficiently motivated to come up with new material, I dug up 50 pages of writing from a trip to Argentina that Type E and I took to celebrate our five year anniversary. Take some excerpts from there, throw in a few pictures, and voilá — material for the rest of the month.

Argentina, June 8, 2013

After a delay, a panic, and another delay, arrived at Ezeiza International Airport after a long, uncomfortable flight.

First sign after exiting customs? It’s Miller Time. Hmmm.

Grabbed a cab into Buenos Aires, and the driver gave us our first Spanish lesson by pointing at other drivers and muttering, loco! Closer to downtown, we approached a tollbooth and heard an amazing cacophony of noises come from mostly 80s model American cars: beep beep BEEP beep beep beep beep BEEP BEEP BEEP beeeeeeep BEEEEEEEEP.

Loco!

Finally, we arrived at our apartment in the San Telmo neighborhood.

San Telmo apartment

San Telmo apartment

San Telmo apartment

It’s actually pretty nice on the inside

San Telmo courtyard kitty

The courtyard came with a kitty

Our first outing was a walk up Defensa to wander in and out of the stores, which ranged from fancy kitchen gadget purveyors to underground mall-like spaces that sell everything from fruit to the Rocky soundtrack.

San Telmo, Buenos Aires

San Telmo, Buenos Aires

This kind of pre-dinner wandering became a theme on the trip — there’s always time to kill before Argentinians fire up the grills for the evening meal. Stop for a café con leche (frankly, I needed those to stay awake until dinner), window shop, people watch, have a glass of wine. Sometimes, you get delirious from having to wait so long for dinner:

Bar Plaza Dorrego

Bar Plaza Dorrego

Eventually we ended up at El Desnivel, a parrilla recommended by our host as an inexpensive and local experience. As promised, a carnivore’s paradise. Let’s just say that mushroom omelettes are not their strength, but Type E liked his pork BBQ dish well enough (though he claims not to remember anything about that night except for servers walking around with huge plates of empanadas).

El Desnivel

El Desnivel

When traveling, it’s important to visit the local grocery stores:

boogie pasta

Boogie Pasta

Sufficiently tired and full of food, we decided to recover from traveling by calling it an early night (at least by Buenos Aires standards).