Houston, we have a solution.

Thank you Houston, for showing me such a wonderful welcome! Houston International Hostel and their amazing hosts, were a nice soft place to land after jet propelling myself away from the East Coast and into the warm (ahem, scorching) embrace of the big ‘ol Texas state.

YogaOne on Travis St. promptly kicked my butt into high bliss gear, forever changing my perspective and causing me to float nearly 3 inches off the ground after what felt like a five-hour long 8:15 Hot session. His name was Clemente. He was my instructor. He found my breath. Namaste.

Pho Saigon Noodle House on Milam was right on time with their delicious summer rolls and steaming hot bowls of brothy, herbaceous goodness. Sorry no pictures, too busy scarfing.

Cali Sandwich was the bomb-ski cheap eats spot, with $2 sandwiches of grilled pork, pickled carrots, fresh cilantro all on crusty warm baguette – honestly, there is no going wrong with that. I crashed there twice, just to work for a while but maybe more so to try the light and crispy fried spring rolls. Here’s a hint: Tear up some of the sweet basil leaves and add them to the nuoc mam they bring with the rolls…oh yes darling, that is the spot.

Discovery Green was my alternate office location during my weeklong stint in Houston, the boathouse offers up a great veggie burger for $5 and you can catch wi-fi and a few power outlets when you need to recharge. Bonus, I happened to be there during the week of the International Jazz Festival…WINNING.

Kudos to the Houston Metropolitan Transportation Authority – they’ve done it right. The only other public transportation authority that I can safely say has a good idea of how to run a clean, prompt, easily accessible  public transportation system is my favorite city: Toronto. IMHO. The Houston Downtown Metro (700) links you to nearly every point in the city, where you can connect to a bus – running until 1:30 am most days to many outlying areas of the Greater Houston Metro. You can recharge your QCard at any stop along the 700 route, and most of the drivers and operators I found to be very helpful and friendly.

The Museum District of Houston (where my Houston Hostel was HQ’d) is cool and funky and gives off an inviting vibe, I caught the Museum of Fine Arts Houston – MFAH  and Helmut Newton’s exhibit; it was a Thursday so admission was free, which was a nice surprise; bummer I missed the Menil Collection and will have to make sure I stop by during my next visit.

The Uptown Tasting Room hosted a networking event by InHouston – if you attend the next one, prepare to be overcome by the sheer volume and vibrancy of the attendees. Everyone is armed with fistfuls of business cards and robust handshakes. It’s big. Texas big. The wine was exquisite, reasonably priced and the offerings vast and varied. I chose a Malbec (Argentina) and a Red Blend (Merlot and Cab from New Zealand). Salud!

Cezanne Jazz Club was a hidden treasure I am so glad I took the time to find. Tucked away at the top of the stairs in the attic of the Black Labrador Pub, like some old record player that transports you back to another time and place; Cezanne hits every note in pitch perfect key. If I listen closely enough I can still hear the deep thump of string bass gently dancing the red wine in my glass while I tap my foot to his beat. Seating is tight, so get there early if you can. Stay for a while.

For the best Jamaican food you have ever had and the largest portion size you’ve ever seen, be sure to stop by The Reggae Hut on Alameda. Marley plays overhead, ceiling fans whir and wobble; close your eyes for long enough and you’ll swear there’s sand under your feet in this Jamaican island jerk shack. Everything is made from scratch – including the lemonade and the sorrel tea. Chicken and Beef patties, with a soft, flaky, slightly curried crust. Thick, juicy cuts of chicken with bits of jerk seasoning rubbed lovingly into every nook and cranny. Smoky more than sweet but mouth-watering and flavor-packed down to the bone. Peas and rice, steamed vegetables and spicy sauces accompany. Just be ready for a doggie bag or share with a friend, because you are not going to finish this plate. Promise.

Houston, I found, has many a varied thing to say; whispers if you listen closely enough, smiles brightly and wide to welcome you there – sometimes punches you in the arm and wonders what took you so long in the first place.

The locals don’t have to tell me twice how much I will love it there. Bags are packed, hold me a seat; I’ll be home soon.

Houston, we have a solution.

Thank you Houston, for showing me such a wonderful welcome! Houston International Hostel and their amazing hosts, were a nice soft place to land after jet propelling myself away from the East Coast and into the warm (ahem, scorching) embrace of the big ‘ol Texas state.

YogaOne on Travis St. promptly kicked my butt into high bliss gear, forever changing my perspective and causing me to float nearly 3 inches off the ground after what felt like a five-hour long 8:15 Hot session. His name was Clemente. He was my instructor. He found my breath. Namaste.

Pho Saigon Noodle House on Milam was right on time with their delicious summer rolls and steaming hot bowls of brothy, herbaceous goodness. Sorry no pictures, too busy scarfing.

Cali Sandwich was the bomb-ski cheap eats spot, with $2 sandwiches of grilled pork, pickled carrots, fresh cilantro all on crusty warm baguette – honestly, there is no going wrong with that. I crashed there twice, just to work for a while but maybe more so to try the light and crispy fried spring rolls. Here’s a hint: Tear up some of the sweet basil leaves and add them to the nuoc mam they bring with the rolls…oh yes darling, that is the spot.

Discovery Green was my alternate office location during my weeklong stint in Houston, the boathouse offers up a great veggie burger for $5 and you can catch wi-fi and a few power outlets when you need to recharge. Bonus, I happened to be there during the week of the International Jazz Festival…WINNING.

Kudos to the Houston Metropolitan Transportation Authority – they’ve done it right. The only other public transportation authority that I can safely say has a good idea of how to run a clean, prompt, easily accessible  public transportation system is my favorite city: Toronto. IMHO. The Houston Downtown Metro (700) links you to nearly every point in the city, where you can connect to a bus – running until 1:30 am most days to many outlying areas of the Greater Houston Metro. You can recharge your QCard at any stop along the 700 route, and most of the drivers and operators I found to be very helpful and friendly.

The Museum District of Houston (where my Houston Hostel was HQ’d) is cool and funky and gives off an inviting vibe, I caught the Museum of Fine Arts Houston – MFAH  and Helmut Newton’s exhibit; it was a Thursday so admission was free, which was a nice surprise; bummer I missed the Menil Collection and will have to make sure I stop by during my next visit.

The Uptown Tasting Room hosted a networking event by InHouston – if you attend the next one, prepare to be overcome by the sheer volume and vibrancy of the attendees. Everyone is armed with fistfuls of business cards and robust handshakes. It’s big. Texas big. The wine was exquisite, reasonably priced and the offerings vast and varied. I chose a Malbec (Argentina) and a Red Blend (Merlot and Cab from New Zealand). Salud!

Cezanne Jazz Club was a hidden treasure I am so glad I took the time to find. Tucked away at the top of the stairs in the attic of the Black Labrador Pub, like some old record player that transports you back to another time and place; Cezanne hits every note in pitch perfect key. If I listen closely enough I can still hear the deep thump of string bass gently dancing the red wine in my glass while I tap my foot to his beat. Seating is tight, so get there early if you can. Stay for a while.

For the best Jamaican food you have ever had and the largest portion size you’ve ever seen, be sure to stop by The Reggae Hut on Alameda. Marley plays overhead, ceiling fans whir and wobble; close your eyes for long enough and you’ll swear there’s sand under your feet in this Jamaican island jerk shack. Everything is made from scratch – including the lemonade and the sorrel tea. Chicken and Beef patties, with a soft, flaky, slightly curried crust. Thick, juicy cuts of chicken with bits of jerk seasoning rubbed lovingly into every nook and cranny. Smoky more than sweet but mouth-watering and flavor-packed down to the bone. Peas and rice, steamed vegetables and spicy sauces accompany. Just be ready for a doggie bag or share with a friend, because you are not going to finish this plate. Promise.

Houston, I found, has many a varied thing to say; whispers if you listen closely enough, smiles brightly and wide to welcome you there – sometimes punches you in the arm and wonders what took you so long in the first place.

The locals don’t have to tell me twice how much I will love it there. Bags are packed, hold me a seat; I’ll be home soon.

Morocco: A Rite of Passage (Liberator Magazine Exclusive Feature)

As originally published in Liberator Magazine:

Argana Restaurant/Djemma El Fna, Marrakech, Morocco

http://weblog.liberatormagazine.com/2011/04/lifes-pure-energy-was-always-in-me-as.html

Excerpts:

Free.

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll

Free.

Had I come to believe it impossible, to truly be free?

One morning, I woke up with the strangest feeling that I was no longer free. I wasn’t sure how it happened, if I had ever been free or for how long I had felt imprisoned. Not that it mattered. One moment was too long, time enough. If I had ever been free I had known it only briefly enough to realize that now, I was not.

Since the day I tore open the envelope that delivered my passport, I carried it with me always. “Just in case”, I would say. Just in case I was called to travel across the seas at a second’s notice. Just in case I needed to film the location of my travel series’ latest exotic episode. I’m just a dreamer.

On December 20th, 2010 I left cozy cul de sac townhouse, tv, radio, blackberry, bills, work, Christmas and my kids. I scheduled my re-entry, December 29, 2010.

At the time of this writing, I’ve been back for 6 days. Something I can’t see lingers with me. Sweeter than jetlag’s nauseating sickness, I can’t shake the feeling that the collected snapshot picture show I called ‘life’ as seen from the HOV lane or Jack Horner’s cubicle corner is a surrogate, a pixilated facsimile, a cheap exchange for the gluttonous feast that always waits, just outside the limits of comfort and plumb numb.

This is me, raising the stakes. 9 days, 3 countries. Destination: Marrakech, Morocco.

In this edition, Funny Money Travels tells you the story of how a girl from upstate New York finds Pleasure Experienced by Accepting all Creation as it Exists…PEACE, camel surfing through the Sahara desert, under a spilled glass of milky way galaxy.

………………………………

This is where I mark the transition between states, the trance-like meditation that crosses dimensions and meshes the tiny machine world with the more subtle place between your foot and the ground. I sat there for a while, watching the fire dance. Being present. Looking around as the fire lit everyone’s face in bursts of magic. In that moment, I was forever. Even thinking about it now, far removed from the desert floor now sitting in an office chair poised in front of my laptop – I can still hear the quiet murmuring of my trekmates conversations around the fire, I can feel the ice cold sand beneath me and I can distinctly remember trying with great effort to hold on to that night, with as much success as a person would hold on to a star or a comet.

………………………..

Enjoy!