Topsy Turvy

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they never have to be used.”

–The President of the United States of America, last week, in a letter to Kim Jong Un

I slipped away to Hong Kong Friday night, after a topsy turvy week on the peninsula. North Korea hosted international journalists to show the destruction of its main nuclear test site only for American President Donald Trump, in a fit of pique a few hours later, to cancel the big Singapore summit he had abruptly agreed to in the first place.

In the hours since, the President has signaled the summit is back on and is acting like the letter never happened. He also tweeted that one of his aides who argued June 12th might be too soon to pull off “didn’t even exist.” Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise secret Saturday summit inside the DMZ to try and keep diplomacy on track. I have been on the radio basically every hour in one form or the other and have subsequently lost my voice. 

All I’m saying is thank god I got to get away to beautiful, balmy Hong Kong for delicious dim sum and Canto food and drinking with my fellow foreign correspondent Ivan, who lives on the far Western edge of Hong Kong Island, which means when you wake up at his place all you see outside is water and lush green islands. Also, he plays piano and I realized how much I miss dwelling in a home with the sound of piano music in it. (Note to self: Move my piano back from Uncle Jim’s house after repatriation.)

Anyway. Friday night we went to sleep thinking the summit was off and awoke Saturday to cryptic notes that the summit was maybe back on, something we both reacted to with an instant expression: “Fuck!” Casting those feelings aside, we hiked the virgin mountain behind his place, got rained on at the top, then made it down the mountain back into bustling streets to squish ourselves at a table with strangers at a local dim sum joint where no plastic stool goes unoccupied.  (This is the only real way to do it.) Before I came home, I made sure to stop by a traditional bakery to load up on egg custard tarts and every carb stuffed with char siu inside.

When you’re on the second most relentless beat of the year (just as it intersects with the first most relentless beat), you really have to snatch those small pleasures when you can.

Into The Woods

Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.
Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.

Went into the Santa Cruz mountains, home of the glorious Northern California redwood trees for the Tim Leong-Rachel Swaby nuptials-slash-YMCA-camp. We didn’t have to kill our own food. There were pretty nice little cabins shared among groups of 14 of us, just like Girl Scout camp. We had flushing toilets, but not two-ply toilet paper. These are some things that happened:

First I spent a night in SF hanging with my friend Chris. We came back to the apartment kind of drunk and promptly parked on the street. The next morning the car was gone. Guess what the minimum tow rate in SF is? $476. And on top of that, there are about $160 parking tickets to pay. So…somehow my one bad parking mistake cost more than my roundtrip airfare to San Francisco.

After getting out to the camp, we wandered into the “town” of Boulder Creek, CA and met some anti-government guys trying to get us to sign a petition against more gun restrictions. Had we signed, we could have gotten a “I don’t call 911” t-shirt with a giant AK-47 on it. We passed. But that night, one of our bunkmates was wearing the shirt.

Justin and I tried to go on a hike. The trail was awfully rocky and steep. The sign at its entrance told us it was named the Nit Trail, but upon turning back because of the rough terrain, we pulled away a leaf to realize the sign actually said “Not a Trail.”

Patrick Terpstra, yes, that guy, officiated the ceremony. He did a brilliant, funny, heartfelt job despite my utter disbelief anyone would choose him to officiate a wedding ceremony. After the bridal party exited, he ended his emceeing by saying, “Okay we’re good then.”

During a walk along the Embarcadero, I got some sage life advice from the appropriately-named Om, a lovely and generous human being who is now a venture capitalist but always a journalist at heart.

Capped off the weekend back in SF, where I took a nice long shower all by myself in a boutique hotel. The photos. Click on any image to begin the gallery:

Audrey and Patrick’s Montana Wedding Spectacular

Wound up back out West a week after leaving Colorado. En route to the Bozeman, MT airport I changed planes in Denver and landed at the gate across the walking escalator from the one I left a week ago. This time, I traveled sans husband and baby, which meant such a light load that I kept feeling like I was a bag (or six) short.

The Beam, Andy, The Nurse and I joined forces and shared a cabin in Big Sky for the nuptials of our friend, Audrey, to her sweet man, Patrick. You may remember Audrey from the time we went to Honduras and got attacked by sand flies. Audrey is a spirited adventure seeker from Houston-by-way-of-Austin-and-Berkeley whose mind runs 800 miles a minute and none of us can quite comprehend. But we love her for the candor, authenticity and joy she brings to all situations.

Audrey spent a few years as a scuba divemaster in Australia and the Caribbean before settling down and getting two masters degrees and moving to DC to work for the Defense Department in sustainability issues. Patrick is a phD whose heart is in the mountains and one of the most talented amateur skiiers any of us know. So we knew they’d pick somewhere beautiful and outdoorsy, and as soon as they chose Montana, we committed to being there.

And what a place. They wed at the 320 Ranch, just miles away from Yellowstone National Park, where there were a couple grizzly bear attacks on humans this week, so everyone brought bear spray on their hikes. The weather was dry and beautiful, we walked along babbling brooks to get to and fro, got lifts from Belgian horses to picnics by the Gallatin River, made smores in a shared firepit, took long and interesting hikes, met the couple’s favorite people from all parts of their lives and all over the world, heard their stories in a rehearsal dinner evening of lovely and hilarious speeches, and on Saturday, watched them wed against the stunning mountain vista. They are enchanted with one another, and we were enchanted by the weekend.

Some other trip notes:

On the flight there I got seated next to a couple trying to soothe their crying four-month-old. The father joked about lethal injection. I told them I didn’t mind and that the baby would be a great traveler — turned out, I was right, and I soon learned that he was a fellow journalist: a Reuters correspondent based in New Delhi, India.

While waiting for a third wedding guest to arrive at the Bozeman airport, The Beam and I decided to check out downtown Bozeman and somehow wandered into a college bar full of bros. We were the oldest people there by at least a decade. The whole scene was rather humorous, watching young women twerking on the dance floor and the fratty Montana boys acting like big men on campus and what not. We are old.

Huckleberry everything! Huckleberry vodka, as pictured in my hand in one of those photos, was my favorite huckleberry concoction. But huckleberry bars were also quite delicious.

Wildlife: Saw a ram getting a snack on the side of the road, plus a fox, a few horses and many, many, many flies. Beam, who drove into Yellowstone, saw a lot more.

In Big Sky, which we visited briefly on wedding day, there was a CrossFit Convention or something at the Big Sky Resort. For people who love CrossFit so much that they traveled to a resort to be with other CrossFitters to do their CrossFit workouts together. No comment.

A Fine Fourth in Far West Texas

Andy Brown, planking in Big Bend National Park. Good god.

What else is there to say? We were with some of our favorite people, possibly my most organized friend (Hannah) and in perfect weather all weekend.

By the Numbers

Total Miles Driven in Remote West Texas: 663
Person to Bathroom Ratio in Our Marfa Rental: 6 to 1
Afternoons with Fresh Guacamole: 3
Pairs of Dollar General Shoes Purchased (after leaving real shoes on a ranch): 1
Miles Hiked: 5.1
Highest Elevation: 6700 feet
Bear Sightings: 0
Number of Times Andy Brown Was Photographed Planking Something: 7

The photos.