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“Some Days are Better Than Others” is one of the better films I’ve seen in a good long while. First there was the “hmm!” discovery that the film stars James Mercer of The Shins (he and everyone else in the film is fantastic). Then there was the fact that it snuck down from Portland, Oregon in all its unassuming splendor. We caught it at MoMA’s New Directors/New Films series.

It’s the beautiful girl with no makeup on: refreshing and authentic – especially in contrast to the well-lacquered lounge floozies of Hollywood. (Harsh? But you get the idea…) Matt McCormick lets nothing escape his lens. With stark inserts of wrecking balls crumpling Portland houses, and bottle green expanses of Pacific shoreline – even a character opening a refrigerator door – everything has that calm clarity of a morning spent alone. And the movie doesn’t just shrug in a mumblecore kind of way. It confronts you with issues of educated poverty, foreclosures, forgotten objects, lost souls, and the yearning to matter to someone…or in the case of one character, matter to everyone. It spoke to me. What did it say? I’m not going to tell you.  Give your ten, eleven dollars to Matt McCormick who made an ultra low budget movie look like oro verde. I sincerely hope you get the chance.

Mama told me not to come. To be fair, so did the US State Department, two New York City cab drivers, and several coworkers, who employed various tactics to reiterate their warnings. At once, and again almost every day before my husband and I left for Colombia, I was made to feel that I was volunteering to board a cheap speedboat to my doom. Had I said I was visiting another South American country (just about…any other country), I don’t believe I would’ve met the same response. Yet somehow I maintained a reasonable skepticism about it all. As a freelance writer from New England, my only natural fears were a.) sharks and b.) April 15th. But with so many different people bending my ear about this Colombia thing, I began to wonder if maybe I was the one missing something.

This was the winter of 2010, fast-approaching 2011. Was it a mild, xenophobic hangover from the Escobar Days that plagued so many of us, even still when we thought of Colombia, the travel destination? The purpose of my visit was a honeymoon, but also to meet several in-laws for the first time. Colombia was going to be a part of my life from now on. There was never really a question; I was going. No, the question others drilled with a carpenter’s precision into my skull was: just how foolish was I? So I decided to crunch the numbers.

Visiting multiple “stat sites” on kidnappings, murders, and muggings of foreign visitors, I found that I was more likely to be kidnapped in Mexico, Venezuela, or Ecuador (where I would also later go) than in Colombia. The chances of my being killed or mugged were no greater than in several U.S. cities. Yet the US State Department still listed Colombia as the ONLY South American country on its shortlist of international Travel Warnings, which included – in contrast – nations who were currently at war, exercised state-sponsored terrorism, and possibly hosted Osama Bin Laden. So where was the evidence to support this categorization?

Thankfully, I ignored my critics’ urgings and went to both Bogotá and Medellin as planned. I enjoyed the fresh energy, beauty, and hospitality of Medellin. (Not to mention a fantastic transit system and incredible food.) And I enjoyed the Colonial quiet of the Candelaria, the swanky Zona Rosa, and the straightforward urban middle of Bogotá – especially the library and a certain German bakery that had the finest baked goods I’ve ever tasted anywhere.  Instead of getting mugged – as I often feel after so many overpriced-yet-mediocre dinners in New York City, where my husband and I now live – I came home with a wallet that hadn’t suffered our adventure much at all. Memorable meals, cab rides, sights and diversions had all been had very cheaply. At one point I even got a terrific haircut from a guy with braces in Bogotá that cost me $5. It felt so wrong I ended up tipping him more than the cost of the cut itself. So I’d say to you, if you were looking to take an affordable vacation – somewhere you could experience a vibrant culture, diverse climate, and natural beauty in the extreme, find yourself a ticket to Colombia. (And tell the US State Department webmaster they seem to have a stowaway from last decade.)

Sorry for the white screen that has bean, and sorry for the white screen below…but if you perk up your ears, you’ll catch harmonies you never could before in one of the greatest Beatles songs of all time:

…more to follow, shy travelers

Dear Gary Puckett,

I couldn’t sleep until I had it resolved. It was one of those questions that you ask yourself, but barely, like the small child version of you asking the preoccupied adult. The adult forgets to answer the child and so the question goes unanswered for years until suddenly you can’t get to sleep one night until you know…

DID THE SAME SLOB SING MY TWO LEAST FAVORITE SONGS OF ALL-TIME,

“Young Girl Get Out of My Mind” and “Woman, Woman Have You Got Cheating on Your Mind?”

The Google Gods confirmed this suspicion in less than six seconds. A Mr. Gary Puckett did the deed on both counts, poisoning my young ears in the cars of my childhood and every now and then buzzing in my adult skull against my will. Mr. Puckett, the way I see it you owe me something for inflicting this trauma; something more than a pack of gum and less than a jet. Whatever it is, I’ll think of it and then I’ll let you know…

Puckett

I’m excited. You’re excited. Time for a slow dance…

ted.

Spring-jammed

Anybody seen Spring lately? Kind of like the liveliest guy at the party, Spring breezed in a little while back, smiling, flanked by models, and then – what – went back out for a smoke?  In any event, the guy keeps disappearing. Maybe the back door got jammed. He better show his face again before Summer gets here.  Summer shows up late, leaves early, and drinks all the Corona, without fail.

While we’re waiting, have some hummus, and a laugh:

Metaphor for Love

I once went running hungover (still drunk, really) through a Medieval Festival in Fort Tryon Park. For me, this is the perfect metaphor for love, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Everything is new and beautiful; you’re completely disoriented; adrenaline propels you through your own exhaustion, and yet every few yards you find yourself dodging horse droppings or tripping over children in tiny tunics. By the time you’ve made it through the crowd it’s hard to tell how far you’ve come and where you are now, and most importantly, whether you want to stop or keep on going.

love or just a fucking festival?

love or just a friggin' festival?