photo by Rafael Croffi // cc
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Guys, I’ve reached that point in my life where I’m (slightly) less interested in sleeping on the ground.
That being said, I’m not quite ready to start dropping $300 a night on hotels or only staying at Best Westerns out by the airport. I want something one step up from a tent but still outdoorsy enough that I’ll return home pleasantly dirty and smelling slightly of woodsmoke and bugspray.
Where is this hallowed middle ground, friends? Where can I sleep in a bed but still get that self-congratulatory feeling of being all Paul Bunyon-y?
Yurts, guys. Yurts are the answer to this age old question.
And what, pray tell, is a yurt? As defined by Wikipedia it’s a “a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia as their home.” So basically – fancier than a tent, less fancy than a cabin.
In a word: perfect.
Here’s a True/False quiz to help you figure out if you should stay in a yurt:
1. T/F Breakfasts taste best when prepared on a super old fashioned gas stove.
2. T/F The lighting from Coleman lanterns is both flattering and nicely scented.
3. T/F Sleeping in a queen-sized sleeping bag on a futon with my partner is both fun and romantic!
4. T/F A total lack of cell phone signal, gps, and internet is awesome and freeing! No, this doesn’t not need to be Instagrammed!
5. T/F Seeing a mother moose on your half-mile walk back to where you parked the car is a great way to start the day.
6. T/F It’s pretty nice to have a little lake all to yourself.
7. T/F I enjoy boiling water to wash my dishes!
8. T/F Outhouses are grreeeat!
9. T/F Mosquitos and wood ticks are no big deal. Complaining is for wussies.
10. T/F Falling asleep to the sound of rain, 20 miles from the nearest town is lovely.
Did you answer true to most of these statements? Then you should probably rent a yurt in northern Minnesota.
Have you ever stayed in a yurt? How do you feel about camping?
Here is my list of favorite animals:
2. Prairie dogs
(Cats aren’t on this list because they’re not so much a ‘favorite animal’ as an ‘overarching theme in my life/family member’.)
Let us a take a moment to acknowledge that interacting with non-domesticated animals is not totally unproblematic. Swimming with a clever mammal who was raised in the wild and now lives in a swimming pool isn’t very nice, is it? So I spent a bit of time researching Xel-ha was relieved to discover that their manatees were rescues (or born in captivity from their rescued parents) and are part of research program about endangered animals in captivity. Of slightly less importance: THEIR NAMES ARE PUG NOSE AND LITTLE BEAN.
A list of awesome things about this experience:
* Learning that their names are Pug Nose and Little Bean (this bears repeating)
* Learning about their favorite foods and then feeding Little Bean broccoli and apples and feeling his sweet whiskery mouth on my hand
* Just generally looking at his little teddy bear face and imagining him saying calming things to me
* Shaking flippers with him
* Watching his little nose sniff at the surface of the water
* Patting his soft, algae covered back
* Swimming in his general vicinity and feeling zen and joyful.
In April, my dude and I are heading to Tampa for a conference and mermaids and we’re also hoping to kayak the Weeki Wachee river and see even mooooore manatees. Though I imagine those manatees won’t be named Little Bean.
Have you ever swum with manatees or anything interesting animal? I’m bummed I missed swimming with dolphins in open water when I lived in New Zealand!
My friend and I showed up at Crystal Cenote outside of Tulum dorkily early and happily paid $7 to spend as much time as we wanted at two different cenotes. We padded down a short path to a swimming hole that looked like something from Goonies.
* Tall diving platform? Check.
* Rope swing? Check.
* Ropes strung across the hole so you can sit on them (or walk on them and pretend you’re a tightrope walker. You know. Hypothetically.)
* Smart little fox dog who leads you down the path and watches over you
* Water that’s so clear you’re not sure how deep it is and sort of have to give yourself a pep talk to jump in
We spent the next three hours as the only swimmers at the cenote, taking turns on the diving platform, and sitting on the ropes watching our shadows on the rocks beneath us. Amazing. If you’re traveling through the Yucatan make sure you stop at a few!
Have you ever swum in a cenote? And was it insanely magical?
How swanky was this fish house?
* There were electric lights (powered by a hidden car battery)
* There was a two-burner stove (and cups/plates/silverware)
* There were four comfy beds
* Most importantly, there was a super effective, propane-fueled heater. Which was nice, since it got down to -22 the night we slept on Lake Bemidji
So what, exactly, do you do in a fishhouse for 10 hours? Well, if you’re me, you
* Catch a fish and then feel really bad about it
* Put it in the ice bucket and then stress out about it
* Go on a gas station run so you can use their bathroom/buy Snyder’s honey mustard pretzels
* Read portions of your business book aloud
* Drink creepy pre-packaged, crassly named shots
* Dump the live minnows down the hole because you’re now completely consumed with guilt.
* Put on your hat. Take off your boots. You’re hot. Now you’re not hot enough.
* Take phone calls and text message from concerned parties. No, you’re not going to fall through the ice/freeze to death/asphyxiate.
* After all that fun, fall asleep by 10 pm.
We woke up in a comfortably heated ice house to a gorgeous sunrise and shocking temperatures. We ate some cereal for breakfast (we’d put the milk carton on the floor of the fish house and it stayed appropriately cool), bundled up, and started the long drive home.
All in all, an awesome adventure. I’d totally sleep in the fish house again – but I’ll leave the fishing to someone else.
Have you ever gone ice fishing? Or slept in a fish house?
Growing up, I didn’t particularly care about movies. I spent most of my time swimming, constructing weird tree forts, and writing stories about pioneer mice families.
As you probably know, it’s a really good movie. The story is interesting, it’s well-acted, and you probably wouldn’t see the end coming – if it wasn’t completely embedded in pop culture at this point.
Here are some observations we made while viewing Casablanca:
* The Rick/Ilsa age gap is, um, uncomfortable making. If we did the math right, his character is 16 years older than her. And she was, like, 19 when they met? Dude. Leave it alone.
* Fedoras are painfully stylish.
* Mustaches makes you look dicey. File also under: DUR.
* You seem deep when you mumble/don’t open your mouth too much.
* White jackets are extremely underrated. Dapper! Interesting!
* Sometimes you need to love someone enough to leave them alone. I’M LOOKING AT YOU, ILSA.
Have you seen Casablanca? What’d you think? What are some other classic movies that live up to the hype, in your opinion?
But Lolita? That business is challenging.
And shockingly – quite funny.
If you didn’t know, Lolita is the story of Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze. Humbert is a French literary scholar who is handsome, a bit emotionally fragile, and a pedophile. Dolores (nicknamed Lolita) is the flirty, precocious 12-year-old daughter of Humbert’s single-mother landlord.
Humbert falls in love with Lolita and marries her mother who is hit by a car and killed while Lolita is at summer camp. Humbert picks Lolita up from camp and after she discovers her mother is dead, Lolita initiates a sexual interaction with Humbert. The two have a sort of father/daughter/lover relationship that lasts for a few years before Lolita runs away with another middle-aged man.
I won’t ruin the ending for you because you really, really should read it.
Why is Lolita challenging?
I found myself empathizing with a pedofile. Humbert really, truly loves Lolita and when she rebuffs him he’s crushed. And who among us hasn’t experienced that?
It brings up so, so many questions. Where’s the line between love and obsession? What does it mean to be a family? Is it possible for a 12-year-old girl to sexually consent? What is the real root of pedophilia?
Also? Nabokov’s writing is dense and interesting and clever. His turns of phrase are laugh-out-loud funny and Humbert’s self-awareness is hugely disarming.
Some of my favorite passages:
Have you read Lolita? What did you think? What other classics live up to their reputation?
Have you guys ever had an unshakeable sense that you’re going to be good at something?
And this belief is based on, well, nothing?
Despite a total lack of evidence, I’m fairly sure I’d be really good (re: not terrible) at:
1. batting cages*
2. riding a mechanical bull
3. dancing in a tiny, sparkly outfit in a Carnivale parade
So, armed with nothing more than my hubris, a friend and I showed up at the batting cages on a cold Thursday night. Said friend regularly plays baseball, has kids in little league, and is one of those people who played varsity sports.
So after I dramatically posed next to a giant poster of Minnesota Twins legend Dave Winfield and found the one helmet that fit my giant head, I sidled into the cage and prepared to hit slow pitch softballs.
And you guys! I was good! Or rather “totally good enough to play on a co-ed softball team” as my friend said. Over the course of three rounds of batting, I missed 6 or so balls, which I felt was pretty good since I hadn’t picked up a bat since fifth grade.
Next up? 9 holes of golf. Which, oddly, I’m convinced I’ll be bad at.
Are you athletic? What are the things that (regardless of experience) you’re convinced you’d be good at if you tried it just once?
* Note: this is not the same as being a productive member of a softball team. I’m a terrible throw and I’m not really a team player. There. I said it.
You should also know that I’m one of those people who eats things like chia seed pudding and ezekiel bread. I very, very rarely eat meat and I consider medjool dates a special sweet treat. So I’m basically totally insufferable.
With all of this in mind, I met two friends for dinner at the White Castle on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. I emotionally prepared myself for a dirty lobby and grease-soaked to-go bags (which is my experience in pretty much every fast food place I’ve ever eaten) and was pleasantly surprised to find an incredibly clean restaurant and super helpful staff.
Here’s what I ordered and what I thought:
Not totally awful! Granted, I only took one hesitant bite but I didn’t want to throw up in my mouth! It was super soft and, um, moist and onion-y. It sort of reminded me of a not-too-sloppy sloppy joe. Apparently, sliders are steamed rather than fried which actually makes them significantly healthier than most fast food red meat options.
Barbeque chicken rings
rating: three stars
So, these consist of bits of processed chicken, fused into ring shapes, fried, covered in barbecue-flavored powder. They taste fake and processed and also pretty good.
rating: five stars
Oh what’s that? An ‘awesome blossom’ for a fraction of the price that’s easier to eat? INTO IT.
Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
FRIED CHEESE IS NEVER NOT GOOD. It should be available everywhere.
In summary, I really don’t understand what the fuss is about. Why are people so eager to hate on what seems to be a perfectly average fast food restaurant? Will I be eating there regularly? No. Is it worse than McDonalds or Burger King or Taco Bell? Also no. It’s just a fast food place that makes fried cheese more readily available to the masses.
How you do feel about White Castle? Why do people have such strong feelings about it?