Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Super Easy Twitter Widgets Anyone Can Create

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Twitter widgets are super easy to create! 

Embed your own tweets, follow a hashtag, or keep a scrolling list of your "favorite" tweets. 

I was looking for an easy way to embed a hashtag for an upcoming event, so I went to Twitter Developers and found Embedded Timelines. The process took less than a minute: I entered my information (10 seconds), a picked a link color (about 20 seconds) and then I generated and saved the code (2 seconds). 

I logged into my blog (what you're reading now) and dropped the Twitter code in. I think this entire post took a total of 3 minutes.  

Voila! An embedded timeline of all @Leyla_a's "Favorite" tweets: 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

If Your Forget Me - Celebrating Pablo Neruda

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40th Anniversary of the death of Pablo Neruda 

Pablo Neruda - If You Forget Me

Browsing around Instagram for photos of Fashion Week and other work related tidbits, I came across a quote from the poem If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda. This poem resonated with me for several reasons. When I was younger, I likened my reaction to the way I was treated by others to a tennis ball hitting a wall - the harder you hit the ball, the harder it's going to come back at you.

Coincidentally, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of death of the Nobel Prize winning poet, sited as "the greatest poet of the 20th century..."In honor of Pablo Neruda's death, and as a personal message, I thought I would share more than the excerpt of the poem that is floating around Instagram. See below for the full poem, If You Forget Me. It is a beautiful message that starts harshly but ends softly.

If You Forget Me
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine

Want to know more about Pablo Neruda read here.
To follow me on Instagram go here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Glacier Park Trip - Part 1

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My Travels to Glacier Park, Montana - Part 1

This will be a two part post because I have SO MANY great things to say about Glacier Park. Even with my frantic note taking, I couldn't take all the information I gained on my Jammer ride (by my driver Marty). I bought a book on the history of Glacier Park and I'm compiling a comprehensive post, but for now, enjoy some photos.


These photos were taken on my "Jammer Ride" through Glacier Park with several stops at key points. The mountains and the scenery was truly breathtaking - very little photo editing in any of these photos. 

This is the red Jammer that escorted around Glacier Park.
These were established in 1932 as a means of traveling around Going-to-the-Sun road when it was completed. I took the Big Circle Tour - which was an eight hour, highly informative tour of the park.  


Fellow Jammer riders - all were very nice!
A personal note I wrote to myself on the day of my tour:
It's 3pm, I've been on this bus since 10 a.m., I have three more hours to go - I may defect and just opt to live in these mountains. One can only take so much driving around with old people - the bickering and the bad humor is starting to get to me. 


I call this one Rowing on Glass 
Lake McDonald was our first stop, so pretty. I took several pictures of this couple rowing on the lake.

Rowing on Glass

What a great place to ride! 
I don't ride, but if I did, this would be where I would do it. We saw motorcyclists with Go-Pro cameras on their heads (may or may not have been these guys). 


Leyla at Glacier Park
Many people have asked if I traveled alone, and YES, I did travel by by myself. This is something I have grown accustomed to, I wish I had someone to share my travels with, but I am not one to sit around and wait. Since I was traveling alone, Marty my driver, was kind enough to snap some photos of me. 


The famous St. Mary Lake along Going-to-the-Sun road. 
The photos is a bit saturated but, it will do. This was the day that started out in the 40s and got up to the 80s - how does one dress for a 40 degree temperature change? 

Leyla at Glacier Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road 
Named after Going-to-the-Sun-Mountain, or after Sour Spirit, who taught the Blackfeet Indians how to hunt. Sour Spirit would return to the sun when his work was done - they named the mountain and the road after him. 


Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park 

Peace Park - Glacier Park Montana

There you have it! 

For more pictures, visit my Flickr Set for Montana

For more blog posts on my Amtrak trip across the United States - check out the "label" LeylaExpress or the hashtag #LeylaExpress on Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Here Comes Your Train

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81 Hours on Amtrak 

Train trip across the U.S., Day 1: helpful Amtrak staff on Empire Builder

I departed from Chicago on August 30 on the Empire Builder for Glacier Park, my first stop on a 12 day trip across the country on Amtrak.


I arrived at Union Station 20 minutes prior to my departure (it took me 5 minutes to find the ticket counter), when I approached the counter, I learned that paper tickets had to be issued for each leg of my trip – a total of 6 tickets. With only 15 minutes to spare, I started to panic.

Background: I purchased a Rail Pass for 8 rides over 15 days on Amtrak. In addition to the Rail Pass, I purchased two supplements for a sleeper car, or Roomettes: 1) Minneapolis to Essex, and 2) Portland to San Francisco. 

Missing this train was not an option, panic manifested into erratic behavior - I jumped up and down squealing at the counter in an effort to hurry the ticket agent along. This had an adverse effect on the ticket agent, she froze and was unable to perform her duties. Realizing I had to remedy the situation quickly, I became calm and kindly pleaded with her take any necessary actions so that I could catch the Empire Builder.

I boarded the Empire Builder with minutes to spare! 
After I was settled in, I looked at my paper tickets and noticed that I had one Rail Pass and one large “Credit” voucher in my possession. The train moved along, and some place in Northern Wisconsin I found a conductor and asked him about my Roomette (sleeper car) from Minneapolis to Essex. He scanned my ticket with his iPhone scanner thingy (like they do in Apple Stores - so high tech!) and could not find my booking. The conductor told me to return to my coach seat, he said that he would investigate and report back to me.


The cynic in me did not believe the conductor would return, I thought it might be best to phone the Amtrak 800 number and resolve my ticketing issue with a phone agent. There was little cell reception in Northern Wisconsin but I was able to reach a sales operator. I was able to convey a few details before I was put on hold - next came silence - and then my call dropped. I called back. Nothing, I was in a dead zone.

As the plains rolled past my window, mile after mile, I worried I would be forced to endure a 30-hour train ride in coach. Finally, I was re-approached by the conductor. He said, “I went back to my office and did some research, the ticket agent in Chicago canceled the remainder of your trip, but we were able to recover it." I rejoiced!


The conductor informed me that my tickets would be printed in Winona, Minnesota (where there was a shift change). The conductor explained that in St. Paul - Minneapolis there would be a brief stop and that I should move to the front train car, to Roomette Number 20, where a different conductor would deliver my new tickets to me. Unlike air travel experiences, where I've learned to expect the worst, the level of service from this gentleman astonished me, the Amtrak conductor was more than willing to assist me, he was courteous, gracious and extremely helpful.

St. Paul - Minneapolis Midway Station 
We arrived in Minneapolis, and everyone de-trained. I heard my name announced over the loud speaker and headed into the station. Inside, a young Amtrak agent manned a kiosk where a line of passengers were waiting. At the front of the line stood a large man dressed in camouflage, as I walked by I heard the Amtrak agent playfully ask the large man, “Are you Leyla Arsan?” He was not Leyla Arsan, because I was Leyla Arsan, so I stepped to the front of the long line and identified myself to the agent.

The young agent looked at my tickets, he took one ticket, handed me another, and attempted to send me on my way. I asked if he was aware of my situation, he assured me that he was informed. I remained skeptical because the sequence of events deviated from the plan the conductor had described to me earlier in Northern Wisconsin.

I started to make my way to the train but went back into the station to double check, this time I went to the main ticket counter. I was greeted with a smile, handed over my identification, and the agent said, “Hi Leyla, I have your tickets.” I was confused, how did my tickets get here? He politely went on to tell me that after I was disconnected from the Amtrak phone operator, the one I briefly spoke with earlier that day, she called the station in Minneapolis and had my canceled tickets re-issued and printed for me. My response to man at the ticket counter, “Who does that!?!” He smiled again and said, “Enjoy your trip Leyla.”


I had a positive experience from not one, but multiple Amtrak employees who went out of their way to make my trip a success. And this was not isolated to my ticketing issues (which was clearly my fault since I arrived at the train station late), throughout my entire trip, all 81+ hours of train rides, I received stellar service from nearly everyone I encountered. I most certainly did enjoy the rest of my trip.

Read about my hike in Glacier Park here. And, stay tuned... More to come! But in the meantime, you can check out my photos on Flickr and Instagram

Friday, September 6, 2013

Riding the Train with NO Wifi

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My Train Trip Across the Country

No wifi train riding = limited music listening

I only had 97 songs saved on my phone (but 4000 pics / videos), I'm unclear how or why these songs made the cut. See what I listened to on my cross country train trip with no wifi and super limited data.

P!nk - So What 
This is a great break up song, "So what, I'm still a rock star..." She talks about no longer paying her husband's rent, she says she doesn't want him tonight, etc. Is that truly the case? I think not. 

Let us go into the inner workings of a P!nk song, you're here, you're reading my stupid blog, so you may as well play along. I think SHE does want him, P!nk was the one who proposed to HIM and he's the one who cheated on HER. They got back together, now they have a child, so I think P!nk was blowing smoke. She may have said "so what", but he showed her "what's what." 

Punkrocker - Teddybears featuring Iggy Pop
I don't know why, but my dumb phone always skips over this good song and navigates straight to some stupid song that I'd never normally listen to. This song popped up but one time in my 80+ hours of train riding. I like the sexy girl body / bear head combo on the cover art - do people still call it "cover art"? 

Patti Smith - Redondo Beach
Do you know why I listen to Patti Smith? Because she rules, that's why. Have you ever seen Patti Smith live? If not, you should. Do you know what I said the first time I saw Patti Smith live 10+ years ago? I said, "I would travel to Kabul to see Patti Smith play live." I sometimes site "traveling Kabul" as the ultimate sacrifice, for example, "I'd rather go straight to Kabul" (in place of hell). 

If I had an ounce of Patti Smith's cool factor, I'd be satisfied. (I'd probably also have messed up teeth from too much heroin in the 80s & really weird stories about my times with Robert Mapplethorp). 

Primal Scream - Damaged 
I believe you get what you give... I do, I truly do (I'm not entirely sure I'm quoting the lyrics correctly). I love Primal Scream and back in the 90s I argued with some dude who called them a Rolling Stones rip off band. He must've been mental.

I listen to Primal Scream when I'm feeling nostalgic, thinking about my misspent youth, or when pining over unrequited love. Oh how deliciously self indulgent I can be in my own (would-be) sorrow. In fact, I may listen to this song now.

Smashing Pumpkins - Mayonaise
Any Chicago woman who grew up hanging out at The Metro as a teen has at least one Smashing Pumpkins song in her rotation. I never pretend to have good taste in music, that's why I'm OK with saying Mayonaise is one of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins songs - and not something off Gish.  

I saw the Pumpkins the first time the summer of my junior year (in High School) & Siamese Dream came out years later when I was in college. This was an important album at that time, and quite honestly, I'm not sure how one of the most significant bands of that era simply fell off the face of the planet. Well, that's not entirely true, I do know, the tall bald one in the band tends to be an arrogant ass.

So you ask, what's is my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song? Hard to say, but possibly Rhinoceros (Gish) or if I feel like raising the dead, Behold! The Nightmare (Adore). 

See more posts from my Amtrak trip across the country by searching the label / tag LeylaExpress

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hiking Ole Creek Trail - That's Right, I HIKED!

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Hiking Ole Creek Trail in Montana 

No horse, no guide, just me. I didn't get far, but I did it! 

Leyla Goes Hiking in Montana

Despite the numerous warnings about hiking alone, today I set out for a local hike. I hit the trail by myself - a completely inexperienced hiker (let's be honest, I know how to walk, therefore I can hike), and someone with zero knowledge of the great outdoors. But I do everything alone, I have done everything alone since I was 18. Waiting for others ain't my bag.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather go out and do something, risk being eaten by a bear, than sit around and wait for something to happen.  

I went to the front desk at Izaak Walton Inn, I spoke with the extremely helpful staff and they pointed out a couple of trails. They armed me with bear spray (it's a for-real thing) and gave me some tips. I asked if the bear threat was a real and present danger, to which they replied, "We haven't lost anyone yet."

I grabbed my camera, lunch and some books, I thought I'd find a nice spot and relax. Did not relax because I was like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas when the helicopters were overhead - except I was looking for bears. I did manage to capture some nice photos, see below for highlights and Flickr for more.

Highlights from my Montana hike:

1) Distressed structure at end of Izaak Walton Road towards the highway (to catch the trail).

Distressed Structure

2) Entrance to the trail - DON'T HIKE ALONE you're in bear country.

Hiking in Montana

3) Getting started on the trail, it doesn’t seem too bad

Boundary Trail - Essex, Montana

4) After a while, I found myself completely paranoid - I was looking for bears, talking to myself loudly (because you’re supposed to make noise so the bears know you’re coming and you don’t startle them). I felt like I was in the Lord of the Rings, the Enchanted Forest, Blair Witch, or on drugs. 

Enchanted Forrest

5) The “swing bridge” was a spot I was pleased to find. I've never been on such a bridge, and upon my arrival, I knew I was on track. It was very wobbly. 

Swing Bridge Swing Bridge

There you have it! Stay tuned for more blog posts on my trip across the country via Amtrak. Also check my social sites for up to the minute... blah blah blah.

Don't forget to check out #LeylaExpress on all your social networks (so lame that i just said that) 

@Leylaruinseverything on Instagram
@Leyla_A on Twitter

Also check out my travel blog for a professional run down.