Category: Travel

Los Angeles to Atlanta – Day One

By , June 18, 2004

I am sitting in the lobby of my motel, as that is the only place in this establishment with internet access. The night manager won’t stop telling me the story of his life, so I will keep this short. I’ve already heard about his online love affairs. Now he is telling me about his sister being abused by another student while in the 7th grade. He was in 9th grade at the time, and beat the 7th grader up for that, he did. Kid sis had already popped out a baby by then. Nice. Years later the abusive kid came back to apologize. I have no idea why the manager is telling me this. He is watching The Hot Chick on TV while relating this tale; I don’t think there is a correlation.

I am now in Phoenix. The 400 mile drive from Los Angeles was fairly easy. I think tomorrow’s drive to El Paso is a bit longer, but I didn’t leave Los Angeles until after 8:00 PM, so that made for a late arrival. I’ll leave Phoenix much earlier than that. Why am I even typing this paragraph? This is not the sort of travel blog my readers demand. Permit me to shift gears.

Get it? Shift gears = car talk. I am enjoying the car so far. I think I’ll stick to my classic cars, but there is something to be said for this BMW thing. It makes for a far smoother, quieter, and quicker ride than would Tiffany. The G.P.S. navigation device can be disconcerting, but it’s handy and fun. It tells mw what time I will arrive, and if I speed up, I can watch my arrival time shift accordingly.

The fact that you I have 7 CDs in the player at once is nice, too. Actually, as neither of my cars even has a radio, anything that allows me to hear music whilst driving makes for a nice change of pace. Seven CDs at once is almost overkill.

The CDs I chose for Day 1 of the drive:

The Beatles Let it Be
Fatboy Slim Live on the Floor at the Boutique
Pulp Different Class
Beastie Boys To the 5 Boroughs
Blur Parklife
Thievery Corporation DJ Kicks
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures

Today’s Question: Who wants a postcard?

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The Smallest Monkeys, Ever

By , March 16, 2004

Pygmy Marmoset

As I recently pointed out in a comment to Glass Tears’ Xanga page, wee things are cute. Now, you all know how wonderful I think monkeys are. If you don’t, I’ll tell you right now that I think they are very, very wonderful. In fact, that when something strikes me as especially wonderful, I refer to it as “monkiful.”

So we’ve established that wee things are cute, and monkeys are wonderful; what, then, could be cuter then a wee monkey?

Not much, right? Look at how adorable that guy is? And in case you can’t quite gather how small he is, scroll down a bit and see another one!

Another Pygmy Marmoset

What we have here are the world’s smallest monkeys, properly known as pygmy marmosets. I saw some when I was in Victoria, Canada. I could totally ramble on and on and on here, describing cuteness and monkiness right and left, but I mean, really, what is even the point? After all, you can see for yourself.

Wee monkeys.

Monkiful!

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I Have Visited 20 U.S. States (And 1 District)

By , February 24, 2004

Here is a handy map depicting the states to which I have been:

create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide

Technically I have set foot in both Utah and Illinois, but as I was but stretching my legs during brief stops on a train-ride, I don’t count myself as having visited either state. I spent two hours in Denver during a longer stop on that same trip, so Colorado makes the cut.

The state I’d most like to visit? Probably South Dakota, as I’d like to see Mt. Rushmore.

Today’s Question: What state would you most like to visit?

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Return from New York

By , October 21, 2003

My oldest brother used to live in New York, and during my high school and college years I’d visit him perhaps once a year. I’d stay with him for anywhere between one to five weeks at a time, and in doing so got a pretty solid feel for what life was like in the so-called Big Apple. He moved; until this month, except for a brief day trip last year, I’d not been back in several years. New York has changed substantially in my absence.

New York City in 2003 has become somewhat homogenized. It’s still New York, and it still has a lot of the mystique and character that has always made it special, but not as much as before. There is now a Starbucks on nearly every corner (some corners have four!), and all the suburban chains dominate the landscape. Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Olive Garden, Staples, and their ilk are omnipresent, just as in any other major city. It’s a shame. New York City always seemed so immune to that. Is it really true that all good things must come to an end?

An example? Grand Central Station– it’s now a mall. A real, honest-to-god, California-style, shopping mall with a Banana Republic and everything. Am I wrong to say that that is, well, wrong? And Times Square? Not that I necessarily miss the hookers that fondled me and and the crack dealers that solicited to me when I was 14, but maybe I’d be okay with at least a hobo or two. Am I really asking for too much from my Manhattan Experience?

Unsolicited & Biased Advice for Travelers to New York City

Be forewarned– New York City is the capitol city of hype. With more than 8 million people there, not counting visitors, there is a built-in audience for anything. Restaurants especially don’t need to be good, they just need a gimmick or a moment of fame, after which people will flock to their doors, giving them the reputation of “best fill-in-the-blank” in the city. The Magnolia Bakery is the perfect example. They sell a very average cupcake and no one cared about them; they were mentioned on Sex in the City and the line has been out the door ever since.

Even restaurants that aren’t given shout-outs by celebrities can thrive here, regardless of quality. In other cities, there are more restaurants and storefronts than there are customers to fill them, and competition is fierce. In Manhattan it is exactly the opposite: demand exceeds supply by a vast margin. Manhattan may be the only place on the world where the quality of the product is immaterial– an establishment can draw people simply by existing. Having cleared that up, allow me to tell you about some of the places we ate, shopped, and saw while on our trip.

Eating

The Corner Bistro (331 W. 4th @ Jane) Some say it’s the best burger in New York, maybe it is, maybe not. It is a pretty good burger, and if they used a better cut of meat it would be excellent. The menu is limited to hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, and french fries, so vegetarians be forewarned.

Lombardi’s Pizza (32 Spring Street) Pretty darn yummy pizza, on par with Arinell Pizza here in Berkeley. Done in a coal oven, for what that’s worth.

Katz’s Delicatessen (205 East Houston Street) It’s been around since 1888, it’s where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally, and it’s an authentically Jewish New York style deli. I loved the sandwich I ate there, although the meat-to-bread ratio is a bit skewed in the favor of the meat.

Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker Street) Average baked goods, average cupcakes, long line. You can get as good or better fare at any bakery.

Hungarian Pastry Shop (111th and Amsterdam) Apparently famous, pretty good pastries and coffee, somewhat crowded, with a pleasant atmosphere. I went there twice, as it was a convenient spot for breakfast, being literally around the corner from where I stayed. It is reported to be in an upcoming film called “P.S.” so the crowds may grow.

Pastis (Little West 12th @ Ninth Avenue) A little tricky to find. It is in the attractively-named Meat Packing District, and it’s worth hunting down. It’s a great French bar/cafe/restaurant. I had steak tartare and it was perfect. I also had a steak sandwich…also superb. Go there!

Teany (Not Sure) I didn’t go, but I was told it was fun. Moby’s tea shoppe, or some such thing. I doubt he is there waiting on tables, but hey, it’s supposed to be neat anyway. You go and tell me.

Soup Kitchen International (259-A West 55th Street) Another place I didn’t go, but worth mentioning. This is the famous “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame. Which reminds me:

Tom’s Restaurant (112th and Broadway) I ate there because it’s the closest diner to where I stayed, but as I mentioned in a prior post, it is the Seinfeld Diner, as well as the Suzanne Vega diner. The food is decent, and it’s open late, but not worth going out of your way to visit, unless you want to go because of its fame.

Shopping

Catherine Memmi (45 Greene Street) neat modern furniture

J. Lindeberg (126 Spring Street) Clothing from Stockholm that is over-priced but sleek-looking. Were I a person who shopped, I might shop here.

Jonathan Adler (465 Broome Street) Nothing too crazy, but cute stuff.

Colony Music Center (1619 Broadway) One of my regular NY haunts. This is a great music store, with a selection that includes all sorts of new music, as well as possibly the world’s best (not kidding) selection of karaoke CD-G discs. I found my friend and future band-mate Tracy a karaoke version of a song she’d been seeking forever. PLUS…they sell a huge assortment of incredible vintage stuff. Old music and TV trading cards, memorabilia, and more stuff then I can describe. It’s like going to a museum of pop culture where you can buy the exhibits. I strongly suggest visiting this store.

Tutu (55 Spring Street) One of many cute boutiques along this street, but one worth peeking into.

Prada (Prince & Broadway) The architecture and design inside is breathtaking. There is no sign outside, so you just kind of have to know it’s the Prada store. If you like stylized architecture, this store is worth hunting down, though you have to tolerate the shoppers who are actually there to buy Prada items.

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Grendel + Wyclef

By , October 18, 2003

Friday night, Fizzy and I went to a party with her college friend Karen. The party, celebrating Karen’s friend Garth’s birthday, was in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights district, and but a scant few blocks from the notoriously dangerous Bedford-Stuyvesant district. Fortunately, out there, a mere block or two can mean the difference between being in Brooklyn or Crooklyn, and we stayed safe. While at the party, I met the notorious Grendel:

Grendel

We had a blast, Grendel and I. We took turns reciting Beowulf to one another in the original Middle English. As you may have noticed, Grendel is in fact a sock puppet. Here is another photograph of him, this time with his creator and puppeteer Seth in the frame:

Seth

That isn’t a terribly flattering shot of Seth, as he has been caught in mid-Grendel-growl. He’s far more dashing in person; Seth that is. Grendel is pretty much what you see. I only just met Seth (he’s Garth’s roommate), but he seems like an interesting fellow. At the very least he gets credit for properly pronouncing my tricky-to-say surname. It turns out he has heard of my older brother, a well-known poet, and that’s how he knew the name. That happens to me from time to time, and it is always a bit strange, but I roll with it.

Tonight (tho ’tis now Sunday morning, at least in New York) we met up with Karen again, as well as another of Sue’s college friends, Richard, and some other people (including a friend of Karen’s, who recognized me as DJ Greg! from the Berkeley party days) and attended a free concert at Columbia University. Columbia is celebrating its 250th anniversary; the school is older then the United States of America!

Speaking of Columbia, the other day, while sauntering up Broadway, near Tom’s Diner, whom do I run into but my friend Raj a.k.a. DJ Entropy. It seems that after finishing his EECS degree at Berkeley, he realized engineering wasn’t for him, and he is now at Columbia earning a Ph.D in Economics. How random to encounter him on a New York sidewalk! Not only that, but it turns out that he lives across the street from Richard (whom he does not know) who lives across the street from Karen, who doesn’t even go to Columbia. Out of all of Manhattan, three people I know randomly chose dwellings within two doors of each other… but I have seriously digressed. The free concert was really great. Wyclef Jean performed. Here he is now:

Wyclef Jean in Concert

He put on a fantastic show. If he is to be believed, he came straight from being treated at a hospital to Columbia to peform. Erykah Badu was scheduled to perform too, but could not make it due to an unspecified illness.” Wyclef called her out while freestyling, asking if he was in the hospital that day and was still able to make it, “what the fuck sickness does Erykah Badu have?” His set lasted more than two hours, and he kept forcing the promoters and security to let him continue, as he was only supposed to play about an hour. His show was as fun and eclectic, running the gamut from the expected rap, reggae, and R & B, to a cappella gospel, and even ’50s era boogie woogie rock & roll.

After the show, five of us went to the Meat Packing District to eat dinner. Isn’t that a great name for a part of town? We had great French food at Pastis, including a bowl of raw steak, and then waited in a far-too-long line at Magnolia’s Bakery for what are reported to be the best cupcakes in the world. Here is a crappy picture of the joint:

Magnolia Bakery

You can’t tell how long, or how slow-moving, the line is from that picture, but trust me it was both. The cupcakes? In all honesty, I found them no better or worse then any other cupcake I’ve ever eaten. To be fair, it is the frosting that is supposed to make them especially wonderful, and I’m not a fan of frosting, so don’t take my word as gospel. There was certainly a large crowd clamoring for them, especially considering it was nearly midnight, so clearly a great many people adore them.

We ate said cupcakes at a park across the street. New York is great for having tons of small parks with benches and tables. This one also had literally hundreds of small mice frolicking about. They were awfully cute, like Stuart Littles everywhere.

This final picture is of a really neat chair I saw while walking away from Magnolia’s. Isn’t great how the zebra’s tail and mane were lined up and incorporated in the chair? Boy do I want that. It would look perfect in my living room, which is already full of leopard and tiger print.

Magnolia Bakery

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Manhattan (The Island This Time)

By , October 14, 2003

I’ll try to post a blog that provides greater details concerning our time in New York, but suffice to say that Sue and I are enjoying ourselves here. We’ve been walking all over the island of Manhattan, catching up with friends, and generally having fun. This morning we walked up the block from our hotel in search of a diner for lunch; lo and behold, what did we see? This:

Tom's Diner

Tom’s Restaurant was famously used for the exterior shots of the diner Seinfeld and his gang frequented, but it was previously famous as the diner Suzanne Vega sang about in the early ’90s hit “Tom’s Diner.” It became famous, twice! The food there is unremarkable, which is about par for the course for any diner, really.

Last night we walked about Times Square. This one-time hotbed for sin and debauchery has become pretty doggone wholesome. One can even watch a sporting event on the massive video screen. I daresay those are the Rams engaged in a heated match against, ummm, the Pirates? I don’t really know; one team was for sure called the Rams.

Times Square TV

I love the look of the Times Square Police Department’s sign.

Time's Square Police Station

That’s all I have for you at this time. I’ll return in a few days to share more pictures and stories of our trip to New York. In the meantime, help me fill in the blank above and choose an opponent for the Los Angeles, excuse me, St. Louis Rams. Today’s Question: What is your favorite football team?

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An Utterly Ridiculous Post

By , October 13, 2003

While Peasprout is away on his vacation, we here at the Peasprout Dept. of Blogging will be checking in with him periodically and reporting back to you concerning his activities.

He has currently been sighted sitting at an outdoor table in front of the New York Public Library, sipping coffee with a beautiful woman. It looks as though he is using his laptop, but it’s hard to tell. We have just received confirmation that the woman is in fact Fizzy. We’ll send an agent to speak to them, and have the details of the conversation ready to be posted soon.

It turns out they were discussing where to eat dinner tonight.

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Large Apples

By , September 29, 2003

I just finalized reservations for a trip to New York City. Fizzy and I are going to be there from the 12th through the 20th of October. I don’t think any of my readers are New Yorkers, but if you are (or if you will be there then) please feel free to fire suggestions at us for where to go and what to do. Or find us and hang out with us. Just don’t rob our home while we are away; perhaps it is a bad idea to share such information in a public forum?

For the most part, we’re going there as a vacation, but not entirely as one. We’re considering moving to New York City some time next year. Sure, I have my business here, but I think I could do the same thing there, while still running this one; open a second office, as it were. Meanwhile, Fizzy can find a super-wonderful job and support us both. Right??

Fizzy doesn’t know New York, so this is her chance to see if she wants to become a New Yorker. Me? I am very familiar with New York, though only as a visitor. This will be a chance to see if I want to live there. I have always returned from previous trips with the sense that, while New York is a great city to visit, it would be a terrible place to live. This will be my first time going there with a proper mindset of “could I live here,” however, so maybe I’ll come back with a different attitude.

I’m not getting any younger after all, and I think I may need a new challenge; a change of pace, if you will. I mean to say, life here is certainly good, but perhaps I take it easy too often. I’m more then comfortable, some would say too comfortable, and maybe I need to struggle and claw my way to the top all over again. I may well regret thinking such things when I’m enduring a sweltering New York summer, or slogging through a January blizzard, and I will no doubt miss the 6-day “weekends” I now enjoy, not to mention the year-round perfect weather, great food, culture…hmmm…I’d best shush or I’ll talk myself out of it the move I even get there.

I think Evelyn Waugh summed up my feelings about New York City when he wrote, “in that city there is [a] neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy.” This is the Big Apple’s big chance to change my mind and win me over. I’ll report back upon my return and let you know if this young man is headed East.

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