Victoria Jelinek

September 27, 2010, 8:59 am
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A gorgeous autumn day – 20c, 70f – a drive in a southeasterly direction through green fields, grand mountains, classical French farmhouses with red roofs, concrete walks, flat-fronts and long shutter windows. As we get nearer to Grenoble, the “Capital of the Alps,” there are the intermittent Roman ruins one can see in the hills and scattered across the countryside.

The city, itself, is lovely – reminiscent of Paris, Madrid, or any continental city with its winding cobblestone streets that seem like a labyrinth. Friendlier though, and artistic in ‘vibe.’ Less dirty. Large, pedestrians-only areas full of small shops selling everything from stationary to hardware to accessories. Too many shoe stores and tobacco sellers to count. Many little coffee shops and restaurants with lots of outdoor seating.  Peppered steak and frites at a bistro that promptly closes at 2pm. Bars with people standing out front smoking and having small beers. Hidden little squares and parks with fountains. A river runs down one side of the city. Flat-fronted buildings with small turrets and gardens atop them, small terraces and long, shuttered windows on the river. Above are gondolas going into the Alps that border the city and that look like little balls (and are, in fact, called balls in French). A Roman castle sits overlooking the center of town, evidence of  the passing of time.

New York City, NY
September 11, 2010, 11:51 am
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Being able on a Monday night to hear a Japanese band do Hawaiian surf music on Houston at 2am, just after watching an amazing Blue Grass band in Alphabet City while drinking Dixie beer. Anonymity giving you freedom. Every color and kind of person. Noise. Sirens. Yellow cabs, buses. Long cross-town blocks. Every street looking like it could be a set for a film. The smell of urine in the subway in the summer. Insects you never see biting ones ankles in the heat. Amazing pizza – even when the pizza is mediocre, it’s still pretty good. Bagels and coffee from corner carts in midtown that hit the spot. High glass buildings and so much concrete. Chinese delivery in the wee hours of the night. Huge, low moons that lie close to the tops of the buildings. Bridges and rivers. Busy sounds and dirty sidewalks in Chinatown with perpetual traffic down Canal Street. Emptiness and quiet in Lower Manhattan on the weekends. Hipster bars and restaurants in Little Italy and the Lower East Side. Basketball in any of the city parks that are everywhere. Huge museums with the best collections. Shopping, commerce and convenience of any kind imaginable. The smell of rotting fruit and damp in the city grocery stores. Parades seemingly every other month with cops and paddy wagons on every corner for 50 blocks. Neighborhood garden plots. Pirate radio. High fashion. Superstars decked out in casual NYC attire and tennis shoes. Strip joints where the girls wipe down the pole with a paper towel and the servers bring you watered down all-you-can-drink well drinks. Corner stores open all night with flowers of every kind on sale. Hardware stores open 24 hours a day. Pure energy that makes you want to wander the city for days simply looking and feeling.

Tulum, Yucatan, MX
September 10, 2010, 10:30 am
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When I stepped off of the plane in Cancun, the air felt heavy and hot. I remember that that as the little plane opened up directly onto the tarmac, that my husband and I stopped at the top of the stairs of the plane, took a quick look around, and smiled widely at eachother. The pervasive colors were the pale blue of the sky, taupe for the earth, green and pink of the succulents and flowers.

After taking a bus just outside the little airport to a rental car company, we were given a newly manufactured VW bug in the old style of the 1960’s VW bugs – it was light grey with a white interior. We buzzed noisily down the highway towards the place deeper on the Yucatan peninsula, Tulum, where my friends from New York had bought land and were building a house.

Our little wooden shack nearby was on stilts about 20 meters from the ocean, which was a luminescent turquoise color – so clear and so blue that it looked unreal. The shack had a lovely wooden bathroom with a strong shower, and a bed with a mosquito net over it, a bureau, a few hooks, and nothing else. There was a little deck outside this main room, with two rocking chairs to sit in the shade and while the days away, looking at the dense foliage of palms, the aqua-colored ocean, and the white, white sand of the beach, which we did many a morning and evening. The mosquito net proved rather useless, my husband having counted 43 bites on my body after we’d been in Tulum two days. I tried not to get too freaked out about whether it had, in fact, been mosquitoes that had bitten me, when we marveled at all the strange and multi-colored instincts everywhere each day.

We snorkeled along the coral reef just slightly out from where the waves broke, and took walks along the sandy beach, careful not to step on the hundreds of little ‘Tortugas,’ hatching in the sand and making their way, against the slapping of the waves that would fling their little bodies back to shore. We considered that Cuba was a mere 35 km away and how great it’d be to visit there together, too.

We’d read old newspapers, and eat fruit from the little store across from our shack. In the evening, we’d swim with the setting sun, making love in the shallow water, careful not to leave the beach when the sun went down because it would get so dark you couldn’t even see where the break in the trees were.

Every night was spent in the cheerful little café near our shack that had open walls, rather than windows. The Argentinean man who owned the ‘resort’ with his wife, who had been a school ‘principal’ and therefore was feared by all the local police, was a dashing older gentleman who wore a fedora most of the time and drove an old British Land Rover. He’d sing in the evening, and encourage us to drink a lot. On our host’s birthday, they’d cooked a pig in the traditional Mayan way – deep in the earth for days – and we ate, drank, sang and danced, my husband and I wandering away at some point in the evening to dance under the stars on the dirt road, still within ear shot of our party’s gathering.

Because of my husband’s inability to be still, we did wander into the local village, buying toothpaste and other luxury items at a little bodega, looking at the garish multi-colored clothes, and happened upon a local soccer game one day in the central square, where we drank beer and sat on the grass to watch it, walking down the quiet dirt road home that evening, happy and exhausted. Another day we travelled in our little VW bug to Chichen Itza – a local Mayan ruin –arriving early in the morning to have the place to ourselves – it was so quiet and beautiful. When we were leaving, tourists with sun visors, white tennis shoes and cameras were arriving and noisily talking. We hiked down the rocks to the shores nearby and swam in the water, falling asleep directly on the sand afterwards.

New Year in Death Valley, CA
January 3, 2010, 10:28 am
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The Solaris soundtrack, miles of sand, ice like formations of salt, flower beds, craters of different color/strata that looked like the moon, Cubist Joshua trees and cactus, huge camper vans with folks travelling from Nebraska and Wisconsin to Death Valley, the salt sea with just dead bones, rusted, abandoned cars, wooden frames left from houses and hotels of ‘the boom era.’

A little bar, dinner of steak and potato, and then countdown, staying at the one-story motel attached. Rather lacklustre, half-hearted feeling, folks drinking beer quickly. Went out to the road, a dark night with starry skies, headlights on the horizon from miles away, and danced…could still hear the local band’s music.