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Uh Oh

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

Dave!Here I am in sunny Baltimore, killing time before my flight to Iceland. For lunch I decided to pop into the Hard Rock and see what's new. Much to my surprise, the Veggie Sandwich is BACK! Much to my horror, it is not the same! First of all, it's not on their famous icebox bread... it's on a crusty roll. So every time you take a bite, the avacado and other goodies go squishing out of it. Second of all, it's much smaller and doesn't come with fries or a baked potato (which, I'm told, they don't even offer anymore). And to top it all off, my chocolate shake was not thick and frosty, it was runny and sloppy (and only 3/4 the way full... there was nearly more whipped cream than actual shake!). So what in the heck is going on at the Hard Rock? It seems they are more about the souvenirs and gift shop than the food anymore, and that sucks!

   

Hard Rock Reykjavik

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2003

Dave!The Hard Rock Reykjavik is located in the Kringlan Mall complex, east of the city center, but just a 15 minute walk from my hotel. The cafe itself is quite nice in a classical sense... plenty of wood, with memorabilia crammed in every nook and cranny (sometimes in interesting and inventive ways). The chocolate shake here was excellent, but different than I was used to (there were flakes of chocolate inside!). I wasn't hungry enough to eat anything except a side of fries so I have no idea about the food. Service was nothing special, as the staff seemed far more interested in dusting and cleaning than tending to patrons, but at least they were friendly when they did pop 'round.

The merchandise shop is fairly large for an older property, but all that space is wasted because there were NO LARGE T-SHIRTS!! As if that weren't bad enough there were also NO CITY T-SHIRTS in any size!! And when I asked about it, I was told they have been waiting for stock for nearly two months! The money from T-Shirt sales is gravy for a Hard Rock, so it's almost as if the management decided to ceremoniously burn a couple of hundred dollars every day in lost sales. Every time I run into something stupid like this, I'm left wondering if the cafe in question cannot afford to purchase new shirts and will soon be going out of business (this logic comes from actual experience at Planet Hollywood locations that were eventually closed).

Oh well, I'm still quite happy to have visited the city of Reykjavik and the Hard Rock here... after all, how many people can say they've been to Iceland?

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Hard Rock Memories

Posted on Sunday, October 5th, 2003

Dave!I just finished revising my Hard Rock Cafe pages at DaveCafe.com so that I could add my latest visits to Reykjavik and Stockholm and alter the layout a bit so that it looks a little better on larger displays. There's still some work to do in adding the pins, maps, and stuff, but at least things are current! It's always a mixed bag when doing updates like this...

THE GOOD: It's kind of cool sorting through the seventy-eight cafe's I've visited around the world, remember all the great cities, countries, and cafes I've been to over the years thanks to my HRC obsession!

THE BAD: I hate having to spend hours trying to figure out how to make pages render properly in Microsoft internet Explorer! I always start with Apple's Safari, then move on to Opera, OmniWeb, Netscape Navigator, Camino, and every other browser I can think of, testing to make sure things look right. For the most part, I never run into any problems UNTIL I fire up Explorer. There's always some stupid quirk with the browser that makes no sense. This time, I had a graphic set to a width of "100%" in the top-most row of a cell set to "Automatic" width, and Explorer becomes the piece of shit it really is, rendering the page completely wrong. After over two hours, I figure out what's happening, then changed the width of the graphic to a set pixel-width, and now Explorer is just fine. WHAT THE F#@%?? That doesn't make a lick of sense! It's a bug, it's probably been a bug for a very long time, and Microsoft has absolutely no incentive to fix it because they just don't care. They own the market, they have the monopoly, and so you have to play by their rules... wasting your time to figure out all the problems they're too damn lazy and arrogant to fix. When in the hell are people going to wake up and figure out that Microsoft's bug-ridden shit software and complete lack of security in their OS just isn't worth it?

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Hard Rock Seoul

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003

Dave!The front of the Hard Rock Seoul has the Hard Rock Cafe motto "Love All, Serve All" emblazoned in big letters above the door... but it turns out this is a crock of shit. First of all, they do not open weekdays for lunch... you can only eat there from 5pm until 10:30pm... a pitiful 5-1/2 hour window. Second of all, the cafe seems to regularly close down for "special functions," meaning that even if you happen to get there at 5:00, there is absolutely no guarantee you can get in.

Hard Rock Seoul

So I show up at 5:00 and of course, there is a "special function" from 7 to closing... luckily I got their early enough to have dinner, right? Wrong! They don't want to open the kitchen for a measly two hours, so all I could do was snap a few photos and then have dinner at TGI-Fridays down the street.

I suppose this means that the Hard Rock Seoul's actual motto is "Love All, Serve You Only if We Can't Whore Out the Restaurant for a Special Event." Given that Hard Rock Cafes are destinations sought out by tourists, collectors, and the like, I find it incredibly stupid that they should be allowed to close down the entire restaurant like this. When you are granted a license for a HRC franchise, you should be required to maintain consistent operating hours... if you want to host private functions, then build a separate room that can be closed off for that purpose (like most other cafes do).

So, while Seoul appears to have a nice cafe and would seem to have a friendly staff, I still think that it sucks ass because of the lame hours of operation that are not actually guaranteed to be hours of operation. When I come back to Seoul, I wonder if I'll even bother to try again?

   

Fall in Chinzan-so

Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2003

Dave!The Japanese have this astounding ability to orchestrate nature into spaces that are beautiful in their simplicity and elegance. After a fine Japanese dinner with friends at the Four Seasons at Chinzan-so, we walked the gardens to see the leaves turning on the Japanese maples there.

The Fall and a Japanese maple.

The park here is famous for weddings (there are eight scheduled for today!), and the Four Seasons has a number of "wedding consultants" running at full capacity with young brides-to-be planning extravagant ceremonies for cringing grooms-to-be (who wisely say nothing except "yes," "yes," and "yes")... the dollar total escalating with every minute. I certainly hope that the money spent is truly for a "once in a lifetime event!"

   

Hard Rock Uyeno-Eki

Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2003

Dave!The Hard Rock Uyeno-Eki is located in the JR Eki (Japan Rail train station) building of Ueno. It is easily one of the smallest HRC properties I have ever seen, with very limited seating... I just ate at the bar so I could avoid the line for a table. Like all cafes in Japan, the service is impeccable, which cannot be easy given the cramped quarters that the staff has to operate in. The merch shop, while also quite small, seems huge when compared to the size of the actual restaurant. The atmosphere is a bit subdued, which is the norm for Japanese properties, but you can tell the staff is having a good time and working hard to keep the energy level up.

HRC Uyeno-Eki.

While not quite on the same level as the first Tokyo property in Roppongi, Uyeno-Eki is well worth a visit... especially given how easy the rail and subway lines make it to navigate through Tokyo. I suggest having dinner in Roppongi, then heading over to Uyeno-Eki for dessert (since they don't have veggie burgers there).

   

Hard Rocks Osaka

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2003

Dave!After 2-1/2 hours on the speedy Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka, I met up with Kimono-san at the new Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios (quite a mouthful!). It's a rather impressive dual-level property directly opposite the main entrance to the park. Though smaller in size, I do like it better than the HRC Universal in California, as it seems to have a bit more personality.

After a great lunch, we headed to the new cafe in downtown Osaka. It has been a very long time since I had been to the first cafe here, so I can't really say if this new one is any better than the original. I can say that it's a great addition to the chain. Kimono-san tells me that the building used to be a bank. And, sure enough, you can see in the back of the cafe where the bank vault used to be. As an homage to its origins, they've put some bars at the "vault bar" entrance, which is a clever touch.

As usual for Japanese cafes, the service is perfect and the staff works very hard to make sure you have the best possible visit. When I got back to Tokyo, I decided to make it a "Hard Rock Day" by going to the Roppongi cafe for dinner (which was also excellent).

   

Hard Rock Beach Club Choctaw

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

Dave!After a l-o-n-g four hour drive out of New Orleans, I finally reached "Philadelphia, Mississippi" which is listed as the home of the "Hard Rock Beach Club in Choctaw" on the official Hard Rock web site. As it turns out, this is not quite true. The property is not in Philadelphia, but part of the ever-growing Pearl River Casino Resort on the nearby Choctaw Indian Reservation (or are they "Native American Reservations" now, to be PC?). If you don't know where you are going, there are no signs to really help you out, and not much to lead you to it. Since it was dark and there were no signs, I got a bit lost, but eventually found the Beach Club Cafe on Highway 16 (though I took the photo below the next morning)...

HRBC Choctaw.

While not even close to the magical extravagance of the Bali Hotel & Beach Club, this is still a pretty cool property. There's a heated pool for year-round enjoyment, a sandy volleyball court, and a really great tiki-themed cafe with a staff that was psyched to have visitors during the slow off-season. Is it worth a four-hour drive? I'm not so sure... certainly it could be if you wanted to gamble at the reservation casino or play at the water park. On its own, however, it could use a Hard Rock Hotel, Hard Rock Casino, or some other Hard Rock-type venue to make it truly worth the trip.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Hard Rock Beach Club Choctaw was closed in January 2005.

   

Louisiana Bicentennial

Posted on Saturday, December 20th, 2003

Dave!Today I happen to be in New Orleans on the occasion of the two-hundred year anniversary of one of the most lucrative land deals of all time... the Louisiana Purchase. It was from this event that Napoleon got the money he needed to finance his wars, while the United States got enough land to double its size (at a fire-sale price of just 15 million dollars!).

To celebrate to occasion, a historical reenactment of the event was held in Jackson Square in front of the St. Louis Cathedral... just 4 blocks from my hotel room. It was a fairly boring ordeal, so I didn't bother to stick around, but it was a pretty landmark day to be in the Big Easy. The Hard Rock here even came out with a limited edition pin for the event:

Times like this make me think about how changed the world might be from what we know if history had been just a little different. What if Napoleon was able to come up with some other way to raise the money he needed and didn't have to sell Louisiana Territory? Or what if it had been sold to some other country? That's history for you.

   

Rockin’

Posted on Saturday, April 10th, 2004

McHappy!I finally managed to get my lovely case of food poisoning under control. Unfortunately, I still wasn't in any condition to go to work, which means that I'll be working on Easter Sunday tomorrow so I can get caught up. Bummer. Today was mostly a wasted day of washing clothes, watching television, reading my book, and not much else. About the only constructive thing I managed to do was work on my DaveCafe Hard Rock site for a bit. It's still got a long way to go before it's completed, but it's a start.

DaveCafe Cast

Unfortunately, my ambitious plans for a table-free CSS layout have been dashed thanks to the lame non-standards compliant browser that Microsoft built: internet Explorer. No matter what I do, the CSS I constructed for layout refuses to render properly in IE (even though it had no trouble in Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Navigator). Stupid Microsoft. This left me with little choice except to take a giant step backwards and go back to tables for layout.

This will be DaveCafe version 3.0. I was actually quite happy with the previous version 2.1 design, but I had seen it copied from time to time so I thought I would try something completely different. I hadn't seen any other Hard Rock fan sites with cartoon characters, so there you have it.

   

Hard Rock SLC

Posted on Tuesday, May 4th, 2004

Dave!The Hard Rock Cafe in Salt Lake City is a bit different than other cafes in two respects: 1) Due to Utah State liquor laws, there is no bar in the cafe... instead, you must purchase a "membership" to "The Brickhouse" which is a private club upstairs where the bar resides. 2) Since the number of rock bands out of Utah are fairly limited, local flavor is a bit sparse. Despite these two small quirks, HRC-SLC is a very nice property in the historic Trolley Square area of the city.

Hard Rock Salt Lake

The memorabilia is packed to the rafters, which is what a Hard Rock is all about! Sadly, some of the more recent properties seem to have forgotten this. If you look carefully, you can see the entrance to "The Brickhouse" up the stairs...

Hard Rock Salt Lake

Of course, there is one famous rocker to come out of Utah... Donny "I'm a little bit rock-n-roll" Osmond! Naturally, there's a nice section of memorabilia from the entire Osmond family, but the Donnie and Marie dolls are classic...

Donny & Marie

Salt Lake City is a bit out of the way for most people, but the Hard Rock is worth the effort if you find yourself in the Southwestern USA.

   

L.A. Rocks Hard

Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2004

Dave!This was destined to be a very long day, as I had two appointments at entirely opposite ends of the map. Of course, the distance is made even worse by the phenomenally bad traffic here (still better than Seattle though!). But at least the natives know how to drive in traffic... all you have to watch out for are the tourists, which is a nightmare in itself. Indeed, driving in Los Angeles is not for the faint of heart.

My day started with a drive to my first appointment in Santa Ana which is just 30 miles away, but takes around an hour to drive. After I finish up, I've got just a quick 10 minute drive to Newport Beach and my first Hard Rock of the day...

HRC Newport Beach

On the way to my next appointment up near Hollywood, I make a detour to my second Hard Rock of the day. Interesting to note that though the cafe is billed as "Los Angeles," it is actually located in Beverly Hills. They've made a few changes since I was last here, including changing the paint to black and adding these bizarre "flames" which I don't think looks as classy as it used to (and what's with the two dead palm trees up there?)...

HRC Los Angeles

After my last appointment, I head up the 101 to Universal Studios for the "Hollywood" Hard Rock (which is actually located in Universal City). This is the journey I debated whether or not to take, because you must spend $8.00 for parking whether you actually visit the theme park or not! And you had better have the $8.00 in cash, because they don't accept credit cards and will refuse you entry if the money is not in your hand as you drive up (this happened to me once before... who doesn't take credit cards anymore?!?). I finally decide to bite the bullet and pay the insane parking fee, since I'm just a few minutes away...

HRC Hollywood

Naturally, it's 5:15 when I leave Universal Studios, meaning that I'm in the height of rush-hour traffic as I head back to the car rental place. Oh well, I suppose it's worth it to say that I managed to get in all three L.A. area Hard Rocks in a single day.

   

Hard Rock Hollywood Florida

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Dave!The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Florida is an impressive property, and it isn't even done yet! Apparently they are adding another 1000 rooms, a shopping court, and Hard Rock Live venue as well. In comparing it with other HR Hotels I've been to, it kind of falls short... for now. It doesn't have the grandeur of Las Vegas, the class & history of Chicago, the fun attractions of Orlando, or the sheer magic of Bali going for it, but it is still a heck of a fun place to spend your time...

HRHhollywood1

HRHhollywood0

When I arrived my "King-Style" pool-side room wasn't ready, so they upgraded me to a "Ruby Suite" at no extra charge. The room is amazing, but pretty ugly... I like "eclectic" but the hodgepodge of random colors, patterns and textures is a bit overboard...

HRHhollywood4

The sense of humor that makes Hard Rock resorts so entertaining is everywhere. This is my favorite...

HRHhollywood5

Sadly, the cafe is built into the hotel instead of being a separate building. I hate it when they do this, because the cafe does not have a separate identity outside of the hotel...

HRHhollywood3

The interior is kind of boring... just a square room... but the nifty slatted rafters and the HUGE memorabilia wall is great...

HRHhollywood2

I'm not much of a gambler, but it would be a shame not to go play the slots while I am here, so I suppose I am off to lose my hard-earned money. Wish me luck.

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Un-Gambling

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Dave!Well, I spent $40 and somehow ended up with a total of $218.04, so I am guessing that I must have won, though I have no idea how I won. The "slots" here are pretty lame... as in that they are not actually "slots" at all. They are BINGO machines. All the spinning wheel graphics are just for show, because whether you win or lose is based solely as to whether you "daub" your virtual "BINGO card" faster than other players. So, if you get a BINGO, the wheels come up with a winning combination. If you don't BINGO, you sit there and watch the wheels spin, knowing they won't display a win because you've already lost.

It's all pretty stupid, and not very entertaining. I'm guessing Las Vegas has nothing to worry about if this is their competition.

Fortunately, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino of Hollywood, Florida does have a really nice pool area, so you can enjoy the place even if you don't like their crappy imitation slot machines...

HRHhollywood6

HRHhollywood7

Today was a pretty boring day. Originally, I was here to work, but that got cancelled... so now I am just killing time until I'm off to Tampa tomorrow. Tough life, I know.

   

Tampa

Posted on Friday, May 28th, 2004

Dave!So here I am at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa! This is a "vacation day" for me today, as I am trading it for next Monday's holiday (Memorial Day) at work. The reason I am here is to visit with a friend in New Port Richey this evening, which is over an hour away. Sure I could have gotten a hotel much closer, but it wouldn't be a Hard Rock now would it?

HRH Tampa

As with the hotel in Hollywood, they have somehow messed up my reservation. Furthermore, there was some arguing with the reception desk over my Hard Rock Pin Club discount of 10%... his response?

"I am sorry, but we are not affiliated with the Hard Rock."

Now, to fully appreciate this absurd comment, you have to know that he was standing next to a card with a Hard Rock logo, wearing a Hard Rock name badge, while handing me a welcome kit with Hard Rock written on it. How in the hell they could be "not affiliated" with the Hard Rock is a complete mystery to me. It isn't until I hand over an e-mail I received with "SAVE 10% AT THE NEW HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO IN TAMPA" that he confirms I have my discount. Odd.

While smaller than the Hollywood property, I think I like this one better. Like last time, I was supposed to get a pool view, but again did not. I did, however get a nice corner suite upgrade with a lovely view of the Tampa skyline. When I actually visited the pool, it is pretty small (and not nearly as remarkable as all other hotels), so I guess I have nothing to be upset about after all...

HRH Tampa

This Hard Rock Hotel has music lyric quotes everywhere, even in the elevator, which I thought was cool...

HRH Tampa

The rooms are a bit eclectic, but much nicer-looking to me than the mixed-up Hollywood decor...

HRH Tampa

The merch store has this sweet Harley sitting in the window... I think I want to steal it...

HRH Tampa

They don't have motorcycle helmet laws here in Florida, which is kind of bizarre to me. I can't imagine being foolish enough to bomb down the highway with no protection for my brain.

   

Hard Rock Vault

Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Dave!The Hard Rock Vault Orlando is a kind of museum which features some of the organization's most precious and valuable memorabilia. Since every cafe in the chain is home to some pretty amazing stuff, I was always curious to know how it could get any better. The building itself is far-removed from the hotel and cafe in Orlando, and sits off the incredibly congested International Drive, just south of Universal Studios.

The building exterior is funky and dramatic... but mostly decorative, it would seem. As far as I know, there is nothing up in that inverted pyramid...

Hard Rock Vault!

A ticket costs $15 and gains you admission to the "hub" where photography is permitted...

Hard Rock Vault!

I have to hand it to them, they did a pretty amazing job of cramming a heck of a lot of stuff in that room in very inventive ways. It makes me wish that the city of Cleveland would hand over their lame "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" to the Hard Rock and let them make it much, much better. Nobody can take a load of old crap and make it come to life with warmth and interest better than the Hard Rock. It makes the "Hall of Fame" look cold and boring by comparison.

A cool piece that I almost missed is Elvis' Green & White Harley-Davidson motorcycle! The story is that he gave it to his chauffeur as a gift, and it was eventually sold the the Hard Rock. What a beauty...

Hard Rock Vault!

After wandering around the exhibits for a while, I was called for my tour into the actual "vault" where no photography is allowed. Since I was the first (and only?!?) visitor of the day, I was all alone on the tour which was very cool. There are 5 different rooms, each themed differently. The first room is the Punk Room, which I loved. The second was the Dressing Room which had some of the more outlandish costumes from rockers of the ages. The third was the Psychedelic Room (just like it sounds, mushrooms not included!). The fourth was pretty much all the Beatles Room (incredibly cool... my favorite piece being the back of the cereal box that Lenon wrote out the lyrics for Help on!). The last was an Elvis Room (complete with those stupid Vegas lounge singer duds he wore late in life).

If you have any interest in the history of Rock and Roll, the Vault is an absolute can't-miss opportunity, though I think the $15 entrance fee is a bit stupid, as I don't think very many people are going to be willing to pay that. They should have the entry be free, and then clean up on merch sales.

   

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Dave!I have already been to this hotel a couple of times and absolutely love it... staying here is not only really cool, but it has the added benefit of moving you to the front of the line at Universal Studios attractions, which comes in handy. Today I have to get back to Ft. Lauderdale for my flight in the morning, but I thought I'd at least stop by, take a look, and maybe buy a few pins...

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Here you can see what a real resort pool should look like...

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

I found this photo from my previous trip... I like the rooms here better than either Hollywood or Tampa (but not as well as Bali)...

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

If you are even remotely a fan of the Hard Rock and plan an Orlando vacation, this is the place to stay!

   

Mummy

Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Dave!The only thing I really had on my list for Orlando was the Hard Rock Vault, and so I was left with five hours to kill. There are a lot of things to do in Orlando, but most of the things I'd want to do I have already done on previous trips. I then remembered that Universal Studios had just installed the new "Revenge of the Mummy" roller coaster a few weeks ago, so I thought that would be something interesting to do. Unlike Disney, where the rides keep getting lamer and lamer, the Universal stuff always seems to be pretty cutting edge.

Tolls: $4.00
Parking: $8.00
Admittance Ticket: $58.00
Spending $70 to ride one ride in 100-degree heat on Memorial Day Weekend when the crowds are the worst that they can possibly get: Priceless

Mummy Revenge Ride!

Actually, thanks to Universal's "Single Rider" line, I was able to ride the thing twice in under 20 minutes which was pretty sweet!

The ride itself is excellent. Short, but really excellent. I think "Mummy" is meant to compete directly with Disney's "Space Mountain," as it too is a "dark" roller coaster ride. The difference is that Space Mountain hasn't changed in decades, and Revenge of the Mummy is fresh, hi-tech, thrilling, and a great run! Highly recommended. IMHOTEP! IMHOTEP!!

Since I didn't spend all day waiting in line at Revenge of the Mummy, I decided to see what else was new since I was at Universal Studios last. About the only thing left was "Shrek 4-D" which is a film that bridges the gap between Shrek and Shrek 2 rather nicely. Problem is... A) I had to wait in line for TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES!! which was excruciating (Universal is over-selling their "express pass" and "priority club ticket" badly). B) I am not a Shrek fan... the humor is dated very quickly, the animation is crap compared to Pixar, and I've had more than enough of Mike Meyer's ridiculous Scottish accent. And, C) The reality effects consist of spraying water in your face and moving the seats... and neither one of these are done as effectively as their amazing "Back to the Future" ride. On the other hand, the 3-D effects were pretty top-notch...

Shrek!

After blowing nearly 3 hours on Shrek, I decided that anything else I waited for had better be worth it! Unfortunately, nothing at Universal Studios really did it for me. The good news is that I could upgrade my ticket for $20 so I could be admitted to "Islands of Adventure" where I could ride my most favorite roller coaster ever, THE INCREDIBLE HULK...

Hulk Coaster

Again, thanks to the Single Rider Line, I was able to ride twice in under 25 minutes! Man, I love that coaster! I've been on dozens, and this is the one that gets my blood pumping the most. Something about the way they shoot you up that Gamma Chamber provides a sphincter-puckering moment that's hard to beat when you drop off the other side. Nothing at Disney even comes close to touching it.

And, of course, the most excessive Hard Rock Cafe Orlando is just outside the gate...

Hard Rock Orlando

This has been a really expensive day. Only three rides and it cost me nearly $100.

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Buh-Bye

Posted on Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Dave!So long suckers! I'm off to meet up with some friends in the U.K., and then I'm off to Germany (and the Netherlands) with a fellow Hard Rock fanatic for a run through a good chunk of Europe's Hard Rock Cafes. After months of non-stop work and business travel, I am pretty happy to finally be getting a bit of a vacation...

Hard Rock Run 2004

Hard Rock Run 2004 Map

I will be blogging the run daily but, since I am not sure if I will actually have internet access each day, posting to Blogography may be infrequent for the next couple of weeks.

   

Hard Rock Dublin

Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Dave!After the raging tragedy of metal and plastic that is the Hard Rock Belfast (which looks like a slick sports bar masquerading as a Hard Rock), I was a little bit nervous about visiting the new Hard Rock Dublin. Turns out I needn't have worried. The Dublin location is quite nice, returning to the classic design formula that we know and love.

The exterior is a bit boring, but acceptable, and fits in nicely with other classic properties of the chain...

HRC Dublin

Though the dominate materials are the lush dark woods that define a Hard Rock, there's still a few modern touches, like the glass and brushed aluminum area dividers. As you can see, the memorabilia is a bit sparse, and there is no massive "museum wall" anywhere that makes up for it, which is about the only real downside here...

HRC Dublin

The interior looks quite intimate and small until you realize that you're only seeing half the cafe. A small bar and larger seating area is downstairs, extending underneath a nicely appointed merch shop that, unfortunately, suffers a bit from traffic congestion near the counter area...

HRC Dublin

Oddly enough, the architect has chosen to not repeat the glass and metal in the lower dining room. Everything here is classic Hard Rock, though the memorabilia is still lacking...

HRC Dublin

The staff is eclectic, hard working, and very friendly (much like the city itself!), and I very much enjoyed my dinner here. It would be nice if they could cram in a bit more "stuff" but, other than that, I wouldn't change much. I can only hope that one day Belfast will have a cafe more like this one so that the Emerald Isle will have two good cafes, both in Northern Ireland up north and the Republic of Ireland in the south.

   

Day Seven: Cologne

Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Dave!HRC Cologne: A quick hop with the most excellent (and amazingly cheap) GermanWings airlines, and Perry and I were off to the beautiful city of Cologne. Our first stop on Hard Rock Run 2004 was (naturally) the Hard Rock Cafe there, which is a fairly nice dual-level property with an enthusiastic and helpful staff...

Hard Rock Cologne

Hard Rock Cologne

We had planned it so that we could attend the Pin Club Meeting that was going on today and finally meet the famous Hard Rock personality Jens Beckmann (shown here with Perry)...

Jens & Perry

The turnout at the meeting was better than at any other I had seen, and had guest-traders from all over (including Shanghai, China, believe it or not!).

Dom: Just down the street from the cafe is the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral. Its massive size and enclosed location makes it very difficult to take a photo that does it justice (they are repairing it as well, so the scaffolding didn't help either). The structure itself is just amazing...

Cologne Cathedral

Now it's off to Amsterdam.

   

Day Seven: Amsterdam

Posted on Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Dave!Onward to our second Hard Rock of the day in Amsterdam. It's a nice 2-1/2 hour drive from Cologne (plus a little while spent in confusion while navigation through the city streets). This is a great cafe that has a premium location on the canal. It was a beautiful day with boats cruising up and down the waterway and flowers in bloom (which was quite a change from my previous visit in the dead of winter). If only I had remembered my polarizing filter...

Hard Rock Amsterdam

Amsterdam Flowers

As always, the staff was terrific. Here we are with Vellah from the merch shop, who was quite happy with the custom pin and laminate souvenir we gave her. I look either really smug or half asleep here (probably a little of both)...

Vellah

Tomorrow we're off again with a five hour drive south to Munich.

   

Day Eight: Munich

Posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2004

Dave!Black: The five hour drive from Cologne to Munich was made a bit longer by a slight detour towards Baden-Baden so we could see the beginnings of the Black Forest. Like you might imagine, the trees are a very dark shade of green, making them appear black in the shadows. Sadly the trees we saw looks scraggly and dying, an effect of acid rain (which scientists estimate has damaged over half of the trees in the entirety of the forest). We should have taken time to see a bit more into the forest, because it sounds as though it might not be around much longer.

HRC Munich: The Hard Rock here is kind of boring on the outside, but is pretty sweet inside. Memorabilia isn't quite as packed in as I'd like, but there's still a pretty good assortment. Unlike many cafes, this one has a rather large dining room that's entirely open...

Hard Rock Munich

Hard Rock Munich

Concerto: On the way back from the cafe, we ran across a group of astoundingly talented musicians playing classical selections in a building underpass. The acoustics were as good as any concert hall, and a large crowd had gathered to listen. What a great way to end our first evening in Munich.

The drive down made for a short day today. Tomorrow it's more of Munich and off to the wonders of Neuschwanstein!

   

Day Ten: Berlin

Posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Dave!Driven: As we made our way to Berlin, we passed mile after mile of traffic piled up behind a serious accident on the A-9 back to Munich which made us seriously happy we weren't heading in the opposite direction. Of course, karma has a way of balancing life, and so we ran into serious congestion due to poorly planned construction detours. Our five-hour journey quickly became seven hours, which took a huge chunk out of the time we had available in the city.

Rock: The Hard Rock Berlin has the distinction of being my only truly horrible HRC experience. in my previous visits, both the food and the service were abysmally bad. This time they seemed to have managed to get their act together a bit, because both the service and our dinner were fine. The cafe itself is pretty sweet, so I'm glad they're improving.

Charlie: About the only thing we had time for on our sightseeing list was a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum for the Berlin Wall. It's a great museum (but unbearably hot) filled with fascinating memorabilia of a country divided. I particularly like the displays showing the ingenious methods East Germans used to escape to the West. The wall has long since gone, but you can purchase souvenir chunks and see a panel that's been preserved here...

Berlin Wall Remnant

Checkpoint Charlie

Tomorrow it's an early flight back to London and the bulk of our Hard Rock visits throughout England and Wales.

   

Day Eleven: London

Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004

Dave!Our first stop whilst back in England was the Hard Rock Cafe London so we could visit with the "Lovely Rita," on "Rita Day" (which is the first Thursday of every month). Rita is the first waitress from the cafe back when it began, and now serves as an official ambassador for the organization. Unfortunately, this particular "Rita Day" was Rita-less, as she was away on holiday. Both Perry and I had met her previously, but it still would have been a hi-light of our run to have our photo taken with her.

The front of the cafe has been boarded up (again)... not for remodeling this time, but actual repairs. Apparently part of the front facade has fallen off of this grand old building. Given that this is the "original" Hard Rock Cafe, and the oldest in the chain, I guess it shouldn't be entirely unexpected. No big deal though, I had plenty of other photos from previous trips.

From the cafe, we made our way across the street to the Hard Rock Vault London. Unlike the spectacle that is the Orlando version of The Vault, this is an actual vault which was used when the building was formerly a bank. Also unlike the property in Orlando, if you ask Jimmy the tour guide really nicely, he'll also let you take a closer look at the goods (including the original guitar that Eric Clapton hung on the wall, which started the entire Hard Rock Collection in the first place -- it's the red one in front)...

HR Vault London

HR Vault London

That's me with Jimi Hendrix's custom Gibson Flying-V guitar, insured for a cool two million pounds sterling (about $3,700,000 US!). Needless to say, actually being able to touch rock-n-roll history makes this a more personal experience than what you get when visiting Orlando.

Next up was the Hard Rock Casino over in Leicster Square. It's more like a personal gambling club than an actual Vegas casino... small and intimate (pretty much just a few slot machines, and some gaming tables, with the clear favorite being roulette). Even so, it's a pretty nice place...

HR Casino London

Now we're off to the new Hard Rock Bar in Bristol.

   

Day Twelve: Bristol

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004

Dave!Bristol (at the Western-most edge of England) is home to the first Hard Rock Bar. We had actually stopped by last night, but it was jam-packed and a band was playing, so we didn't get much of a chance to look around. As this is a bar, food-stuffs are at a bare minimum, but we were told that they did open up for a limited breakfast menu at 8am, so here we are. They advertise wireless internet access from British Telephone, but it's pricey and isn't worth a crap... the speed is painstakingly slow, and drops out constantly (even though I am getting full signal strength).

All that aside, it is a pretty cool property. I think it's kind of nifty that the Hard Rock is coming up with new ways to promote their brand, even in cities like Bristol that may not be able to support a full cafe...

HR Bar Bristol

HR Bar Bristol

Onward to Cardiff in the neighboring country of Wales...

   

Day Twelve: Cardiff

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004

Dave!Many people don't really understand the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, and it's hard to blame them because it is a bit confusing (even for those living here). With that in mind, I offer this quick guide to the British Isles...

  • Great Britain refers to the entirety of the island west of the North Sea. It is divided into three separate regions known as England, Wales, and Scotland. Many people refer to Great Britain as just "England" which is completely wrong (and no doubt offensive to the Welsh and Scottish peoples).
  • The United Kingdom refers to all of Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) along with Northern Ireland (a big chunk of the Emerald Isle that was given to the British in exchange for the independence of the Republic of Ireland from British rule).

All that being said, the Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff is located in Wales of Great Britain of the United Kingdom (and has the distinction of being the first Welsh cafe). My heart sank as we approached the entrance, because it sure didn't look like it was going to be much of a Hard Rock at all. It looks more like a hole in a wall...

Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff

Looks can be decieving. Once inside, I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice this property turned out. The restaurant branched out into three separate levels, including a fantastic bar and even a terrace with outdoor seating in the back...

Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff

Hard Rock Cafe Cardiff

A wonderful, wonderful Hard Rock, and well worth the trip to lovely Wales.

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Day Twelve: Birmingham & Manchester

Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2004

Dave!Continuing north, we stopped at the nicely appointed Hard Rock Cafe Birmingham and then onward to our last stops for the day at Manchester. While we had both visited these cafes on previous occasions, the new Manchester Hard Rock Casino would be new. As it turns out, it's very much like London's casino (more like a private gaming room than anything Vegas has to offer), but a bit larger with some video games tossed in the mix...

HR Manchester Casino

The entrance doesn't look like much, but it is perfectly located in the trendy Printworks complex which was really hopping this Friday night. Tomorrow our run comes to an end, with final stops in Leeds and Nottingham.

   

Day Thirteen: Leeds

Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2004

Dave!The Hard Rock Cafe in Leeds is a bit hard to figure out. It's not a bad cafe, but it a bit of a departure from the Hard Rock formula with a cold look of glass and steel instead of the warm and inviting brass and dark woods we've come to expect. It's not quite the embarrassment that Belfast turned out to be, but could have been better had they worked on it a bit more...

Hard Rock Cafe Leeds

Next up... the very last stop on our Hard Rock Run in Nottingham.

   

Day Thirteen: Nottingham 100!

Posted on Saturday, August 7th, 2004

Dave!When I visited my first Hard Rock Cafe in Maui back in 1986, I had no idea that it would lead to an obsession that would carry-on for over a decade. For the past 18 years, I've included Hard Rock visits on my travels wherever I can, and have seen some wonderful parts of the world that I probably never would have travelled to if not for the Hard Rock Cafe. When Perry and I planned this run through Europe, I knew that my 100th visit would occur at the end, and worked the schedule so that it would be someplace special, namely the beautiful cafe in Nottingham, England (home of Robin Hood!)...

HRC Nottingham

HRC Nottingham

What I thought would be a private celebration of an event nearly two decades in the making, ended up being quite a bit different thanks to some sly planning on Perry's part. It turns out the cafe celebrated with me. They gave me a cake along with a T-Shirt signed by the entire staff! What an incredibly memorable way to mark my 100th Hard Rock visit (I turned the cake sideways so you could see the HRC logo that's behind the "100" candles)...

HRC Nottingham

HRC Nottingham

HRC Nottingham

A huge thank you to my very good new friend (and fellow Hard Rocker) Perry and everybody at the Hard Rock Cafe Nottingham for such an amazing, amazing event. I can't imagine a better (or more surprising!) way to celebrate such a crazy pursuit. The Hard Rock has always been so much more than "just a restaurant" to me, and things like this remind me why I love it so much.

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Cafe

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 2004

Dave!Finally managed to add my visits to the Hard Rocks in Cozumel and St. Thomas to my fan site: DaveCafe. Along the way I checked in with the official site and noticed that there are some new Hard Rocks in the world, adding to the recent openings in Destin (Florida), Foxwoods (Connecticut), and Dublin (Ireland)...

  • Panama: Looks like an amazing property. Unless I take a Panama Canal cruise or something, it seems unlikely I'll ever make it here, unfortunately.
  • Gothenburg: I loved my time in Sweden, and would absolutely return to visit here if given a chance.
  • Athens: I have wanted to visit Greece for as long as I can remember. I never really needed an excuse to go, but now that I have one I suppose I should start making plans! From the few photos on the site, this cafe looks fairly modern, but not obscenely so.
  • Hurghada: A city I have never heard of before. Joins Sharm El Shek and Cairo, giving Egypt a trio of interesting properties to visit one day (along with the pyramids, of course!).

Also on the "coming soon list" is Kuwait and Caracas (Venezuela). Still nothing for Seattle, however. I remain dumbfounded that the city which gave us Heart, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pear Jam, and a multitude of other influential artists remains without a Hard Rock Cafe. Somebody at HRC Corporate needs to be bitch-slapped.

Conspicuous by its absence is Oslo, which was billed as "coming soon" for a long, long, time and was supposed to open early this year but never did. Now that it's missing from the site completely, I wonder if it has been scrapped?

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Day Two: Louisville

Posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2004

Dave!"We're the sixteenth largest city in the US" she proudly proclaimed, leaving me slightly dumbfounded. I understand keeping track of the top 10, that's only natural, but who could possibly care about number sixteen? Unless there are sixteen places on the list, in which case you would be last, which would then mean you probably wouldn't go around bragging about it would you? Oh well. "That's great" I reply, not really meaning it.

Anyway, here I am in Louisville. Which is pronounced "Loo-eee-vhil" with a silent "s"... unless you live here, then it would be "Loo-uh-vhil," for reasons that escape me. Something to do with the regional dialect of a southern accent, I'd imagine. For my international friends (or domestic friends that just don't care), Louisville is in the northern part of the state of Kentucky, and is probably most famous for The Kentucky Derby horse race and Louisville Slugger baseball bats. I'd buy one to take home with me, but I doubt they'd allow it on the plane. That's really too bad, because my extracurricular activities could only benefit from an authentic Louisville Slugger...

DaveClown2

I arrived near midnight at the famous Seelbach Hilton (opened 1905), which is a magnificent old hotel right in the middle of the city. I love old hotels (The Menger in San Antonio, The Shelbourne in Dublin, The Vance in Seattle, etc.) because they have a history. Stuff happened here. F. Scott Fitzgerald loved The Seelbach (and, if the legends are true, was also kicked out of here after a drunken brawl). People and events at this hotel were inspiration for his most famous book, and one of the greatest novels of all time: The Great Gatsby. Al Capone was a frequent guest, and eight U.S. presidents have visited (draw your own conclusions). As I said, stuff happened here...

Seelbach

After waking up very late, I made my way to Hard Rock visit #103 just across the street (Muhammad Ali Boulevard, which was probably named something different back in 1905) in the "Fourth Street Live" complex...

HRC Louisville

HRC Louisville

The exterior is nothing really special, but the inside is kind of cool. The entire cafe is laid out in an arch around the bar, with stone-wall accents and plenty of memorabilia packed in every corner...

HRC Louisville

While dining, I struck up a conversation with another couple of Hard Rock fanatics on their 17th visit and was asked to join them for lunch. Just one of the many reasons I love being a part of the Hard Rock community is the nice people you meet, and this visit was made even more special because of it (and here's another opportunity to plug my Hard Rock fan site... DaveCafe.com).

Directly across the way from the Hard Rock is a really cool bowling alley called "Lucky Strike Lanes," that is stylish to the extreme. So stylish, in fact, that there is a dress code enforced... "Dress to Impress" the sign says. I have no idea what that means, but just by looking through the windows I can see that this would be an awesome night out with a group of friends. Nothing is quite so entertaining as getting drunk and throwing heavy balls with your closest mates...

Lucky Strike Bowling

And now I'm off to wander the streets of Louisville for a few hours before I hop on a plane to enchanting Milwaukee. I'm trying my best to be optimistic, but am told that low clouds at O'Hare (my connecting flight) are causing delays of 60 minutes or more. I can't wait.

   

Day Five: Barcelona, Spain

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Dave!I took a quick two-hour flight on the ever-excellent GermanWings airline out of Cologne, and ended up in Barcelona. Since I had never been here before, it was going to be a new adventure for me. After taking the train into the city, I checked in to my hotel, grabbed my camera, and then headed out.

My first stop was The Cathedral, a compact yet no-less impressive church at the heart of Barcelona. Unfortunately, as with most places I've been visiting lately, the structure is completely covered in scaffolding and undergoing repairs. I was a little disappointed, but that vanished just moments after entering the grounds. It's hard to be upset when you are greeted by geese...

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Leaving my new friends behind, I enter the building...

Barcacathedral2

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcacathedral0

...and proceed to lose my mind. The architecture is just amazing here. Eventually I manage to tear myself away so I can go eat lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe...

Barcelona HRC

Don't let the plain exterior fool you. Inside, it's all Hard Rock and very well done...

Barcelona HRC

It's still fairly early, I think I'll go wander through Old Town and see what I can find.

   

Day Two: Hard Rock Cafe Destin

Posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Dave!MapQuest helpfully projected a nine-hour and three-minute drive from Memphis, Tennessee to Destin, Florida. As it ends up, I did it in just ender eight hours, and managed to pull in to the Hard Rock Cafe Destin at 3:16 for a late lunch. The cafe itself is scarily reminiscent of the cafe that used to be in Ft. Lauderdale... a crappy mall location with no history or interesting architecture. In the end, it does end up faring slightly better because Destin seems to be a relatively new resort development, but it's hardly an ideal location for a Hard Rock from a design perspective. Oh well, I hope Destin can hold out longer than its ill-fated twin in Ft. Lauderdale.

HRC Destin

The interior is rather pedestrian, but does try to cram in a lot of memorabilia into the space available. I was a bit surprised to find the restaurant completely packed at such an odd hour, which I guess is a good thing considering it's the "slow season."

HRC Destin

Like so many of these heavily-populated beach resort cities, Destin has been dramatically over-developed. The roads in and out of the area just can't handle the volume, meaning you have a non-stop traffic jam for an hour in and another hour out. I'd hate to think of how bad it gets during the height of summer vacation... perhaps that's why MapQuest adds an extra hour?

Anyway, not really a bad cafe, just nothing special.

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Day Three: Hard Rock Gatlinburg

Posted on Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Dave!Gatlinburg, as it were, is a charming little town on the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains. The fact that it has turned into a tourist destination worthy of Disney-esque envy is beside the point. The traffic getting in and out of the area is murder. Three lanes of automobile hell guaranteed to drive you mad.

Even when DollyWood is closed for the season.

And that's a shame, because I would absolutely go! But anyway, once you finally reach Gatlinburg, you'll be treated to a cozy little Hard Rock that is one of my all-time favorites...

HRC Gatlinburg

HRC Gatlinburg

As you can see, I somehow angered the rain gods, because it was pouring the entire two hours I was in town. This is kind of a pity, because one of the reasons I wanted to return here was so I could get a better photo of the exterior (my previous trip was at night - which means that, until now, this was the only Hard Rock property I had not seen in daylight).

Oh well. My veggie burger and chocolate shake were excellent, so it was worth the seven hours out of my way to visit. At least, that's what I tell myself as I sit here in my big-ass Buick LeSabre rental car watching the rain fall so heavy on the windshield that I can't see out. It's going to be a fun 3-1/3 hour drive to Nashville!

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Day Three: Hard Rock Nashville

Posted on Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Dave!Well that was lovely. What should have been a 3-1/2 hour drive over from Gatlinburg became a 4-1/2 hour trip because the flood of rain caused not one, but three accidents on the highway connecting me to the city. It's not really a surprise because the thick cloud cover made it dark, the fog made it difficult to see, and the rain obliterated whatever was left to look at on the road.

Fortunately, I drive using "the force" so I made it safe and sound (albeit much later than planned).

The Hard Rock Cafe Nashville is a gem of a restaurant that is my favorite kind of Hard Rock property: an ingenious re-work of a historic building. In this case, Nashville's first brothel. It is a long, thin building that made fitting everything inside a bit tricky, but they managed just fine. There's even a stage for live music. In addition to the cafe proper, there is an additional building which houses a merch shop on the corner of the parking lot. This is yet another historic structure: The Silver Dollar Saloon Building. Perfecting an already perfect cafe, they painted a giant Gibson Guitar on the wall of the building behind it, which complements the guitar-shaped bar on the inside.

HRC Nashville

HRC Nashville

The above photos will completely fail to impress upon you the massive length of the building, which is an entire block long. If you study the interior photo, you will see that it goes waaayyy back... and there's a teeny tiny little table and chair there that give it some scale.

And now understand that I took this photo at the half-way point of the building... THAT'S how long it is!

Anyway, after I had an Apple Cobbler for dessert, I walked around the area to see what was gong on. Despite it being a Sunday, there was quite a lot of activity on the streets and in the bars. I really, really, don't like country music... not even a little bit... so Nashville has always been a bit hard to take (hey, that's what the city is all about!). But despite it all, it's still an incredible place, and I never mind spending time here. Unfortunately, my work takes me back to Memphis in the morning, so that will have to wait until next time.

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Day Three: Birmingham-Gatlinburg-Nashville

Posted on Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Dave!The drive up from Birmingham wasn't that bad until the rain started coming down... in a torrential flood. I know Seattle has a reputation for rain, but this was about as bad as I've ever seen it in either Seattle or Orlando. It made driving a bit difficult in spots (particularly when passing a truck), but I'm kind of used to the rain from my many drives over to Western Washington.

I've already mentioned how Nashville is an amazing city (even if you don't like country music), but here's the best part... they have one of my favorite hotels in the entire world: The Wyndham Union Station. If you've read my other travel notes, you already know that I have a fondness for unique, quirky, historical properties. This one is cream. What used to be Nashville's train station was turned into a stunning hotel in 1986...

Wyndham Union Station

Wyndham Union Station

Wyndham Union Station

"Beautiful" doesn't even begin to describe this majestic building, or even elude to the meticulous care they took in restoring it (the Tiffany stained glass ceiling could not have been easy). My room is right on the upper terrace, and is cavernous. I swear, it seems as though my ceiling is 20 feet tall! Right now, there was a wedding party below, and I am serenaded with really good music until bedtime, which is kind of a cool way to end the day.

You would think that this opulence would come at a high cost, but it doesn't. Because it's a half-mile from the downtown "scene," it is actually very reasonably priced (my internet rate was a measly $89!!). So if you ever end up in Nashville, there's really only one place to stay... the Wyndham Union Station, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

HRC Silver Dollar

P.S. And, per request, here's a photo of the previously-mentioned Hard Rock Merch Shop, formerly known as the "Silver Dollar Salloon." Like the cafe behind it, the building is very narrow. If I remember correctly, the reason it got the name is because it was decorated with silver dollars pounded in the floor (or something like that).

   

Day Four: Hard Rock Memphis

Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2005

Dave!Tennessee is blessed with three fantastic Hard Rock Cafe properties, tastefully distributed from one end of the state to the other. Memphis in particular is vintage Hard Rock. It's a classic dual-level design with massive amounts of memorabilia, perfectly positioned on historic Beale Street next to the arena.

It's well worth a visit if you happen to be in town...

HRC Memphis

HRC Memphis

And that's all she wrote for this trip.

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Tripping Day Five: Connecticut

Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Dave!Connecticut is very small. Tiny, in fact. I dare say that from Hartford, you can reach any other place in the State in under an hour. As an example, a trip to the Foxwoods casino resort area was a mere 42 minutes. This is kind of disturbing to somebody like me who is from a State that would take a full day to drive across. I'd imagine it would be even stranger to somebody from Texas.

Anyway, the reason for my trip was to visit the Hard Rock Cafe Foxwoods (#106 on my list), and that's exactly what I did. Overall, it's a nicely appointed cafe with a beautiful vaulted ceiling and nifty stone accents...

Foxwoods

Foxwoods

Sadly, I worry about the success of this cafe when I arrive at lunch-time to find it mostly empty. And when I look around at the people visiting the casino complex, I know why... the demographic is mostly elderly people. There's walkers, wheelchairs, canes, and the smell of Ben Gay at every turn. Needless to say, these are not the Hard Rock's target audience. The people running the cheap all-you-can-eat buffet, however, have a line a mile long outside of their door. Bummer. If you have your heart set on seeing this one, I wouldn't put it off.

From Foxwoods, I continued onward to the picturesque city of Mystic, Connecticut and the famous Mystic Seaport, where it was hot and muggy...

Mystic

My plan was to visit both the seaport museum complex and the aquarium. But after I had to pay $17... yes, SEVENTEEN f#@%ING DOLLARS, to get into the museum... I had no desire to dump any more of my hard-earned cash in the city. I still can't get over the fact that they charge such an outrageous amount of money to wander around old buildings and look at a couple of ships. There's no rides or shows or anything else to make it worth it. At MOST, I would have paid $7 for what little you get. If only I had known, I would have skipped this rip-off "attraction" entirely.

After the disappointment at Mystic (such a cool name for a city!), I turn north to Boston. But before you can get to Massachusetts, you have to go through Rhode Island first. And the thing about Rhode Island is that it is very small. Minute. Minuscule. Teeny. Wee. Once I hit the Rhode Island border, it was a mere 32 minutes before I had exited through Providence at the other end. Now THAT'S small. I dunno. Maybe it was more impressive back in the days when people rode in horse and buggies instead of cars blazing along at 80 miles per hour.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Mom... do you want my green stuff?"
Day-Before Yesterday's Answer: Field of Dreams (1989) with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.

   

Tripping Day Five: Boston

Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Dave!My trip to Boston started out as one of my worst travel days in recent memory, but ended up being really amazing. It all started when I couldn't get into the city because of an accident on I-93 & the Freemont exit. Suddenly, my ETA of 2:30 became 3:30, then 4:00. Not fun.

Things then go from bad to worse when I finally get to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts so I can take a look at their Monet collection, only to find out that they close down half of the museum each evening. This meant that the hour I spent battling Red Sox traffic in the Fenway Park area, and the $3.50 I spent on parking was completely wasted. Now I have to go back tomorrow at 10am, which means I'll be getting a very late start to my day. Fortunately, my $13 ticket is good for another visit or else I'd really be pissed.

Things go from worse to tragic when I finally make it to The Lenox Hotel. I have been wanting to visit this classic property for ages, but it's always been booked solid when I'm in town. This time I got lucky... or did I? I'm told to use the parking garage up the street to store my rental car for the night. But it's full. So are the three others I find in the area. I end up circling the block several times without success. I finally pull up and ask what I should do since there doesn't seem to be a single parking spot in a 2-mile radius. That's when I hear "oh... you're a GUEST here? If you're a GUEST, then I'll park it for you." Great. Another half-hour WASTED. Why the f#@% would I want to park at a hotel that I wasn't going to stay at? Why wouldn't you assume somebody wanting to park at the hotel WASN'T a guest? After check-in, things are looking up, because my room is pretty classy...

The Lenox

But happiness is fleeting when I find out that the wireless Internet sucks ass, and is only marginally improved when I get a network bridge from the front desk. That's when things go from tragic to near-suicidal when I find out that my toilet is plugged up... and I'm blameless, because I didn't put anything down there. I'm beginning to regret ever having wanted to come to Boston.

Then, as if by magic, things turn around. I meet a very good friend I haven't seen in two years for a fantastic early dinner. Then we walk over to Copley Square for a FREE concert that completely blows my mind. Playing in the park is "The Shore" and "Ari Hest" - both of which I had never heard of before. Amazing, amazing stuff. I go buy CDs from both groups, because the possibility of not finding them on the iTunes Music Store is too much to bear (yup, they're both there... which means I paid $8 more than I had to for CDs I'll end up tossing in the garbage after I've ripped them). I cannot recommend these astounding musicians highly enough. "The Shore" is kind of an inspired blend of Oasis and The Verve. "Ari Hest" has lush vocals that pierce your very soul...

Ari Hest

After the best concert I've seen in quite a while, it's off to the Hard Rock for a frosty chocolate milkshake and some fries, which turns a bad day gone good into sweet perfection...

HRC Boston

Tomorrow it's sleeping in late, a visit to the museum (again), and a lot of driving so I can scratch New England off my "Map of Visited States" page. Sounds like a plan.

   

Day Four: Hong Kong Treat

Posted on Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Dave!I started my morning at 10:30am with a walk to the Star Ferry terminal so that I could make my way over to Hong Kong Island and the city center (known here as "Hong Kong Central"). The five-minute ferry ride has got to be one of the biggest bargains on earth, as it costs a mere 28¢ (2.20 HK) to cross! This would be an indication of things to come, because most all public transportation is fairly cheap.

Unfortunately, the haze that blanketed Seoul has followed me to Hong Kong, and most of the city is obstructed by it...

HK Ferry View

I quickly notice that the building which represented The Noble House in the television mini series adaptation of the greatest fiction novel of all time... James Clavell's Noble House... was waiting for me right off the terminal. I just bought yet another copy of the book (my fifth) so I can read it yet again (at least my twentieth time). It's very cool to see all the places named in my favorite book come to life!

HK Noble House

After a quick bus ride to the base of The Peak, I take a tram to the top that has been operating in the city for over 100 years...

HK Peak Tram

The ride is pleasant, but frightfully steep in parts. The most amazing thing about it is seeing how very tall buildings and numerous roads have all been built into the hill-side. The density of people here has got to be the most concentrated I have ever seen, and it's a wonder that Hong Kong can support itself at all. The view from the top is incredible, even though the haze is so thick I can barely see Kowloon on the other side of the harbor...

HK Peak View

The shopping complex at the top houses a Hard Rock Merchandise Shop but, sadly, no cafe...

HK Peak Hard Rock

I'm getting thirsty at this point, so I drop by McDonalds at the Galleria. They are featuring a special promotion for "Summer Corn Cup" so I decide to have a quick meal, and get some French Fries and a Red Bean Paste Pie (which is deep-fat fried as The Ronald McDonald intended it to be, instead of the baked pie that tastes like crap we have back in the USA). The corn is okay, but doesn't come close to the deliciously famous Quincy Corn from back home. I wish our McDonalds sold McCorn...

HK McCorn

I then take a quick taxi ride down to Queen's Road where I walk to the longest outdoor escalator in the world. It's a quick and painless way to reach the housing and shopping in the Mid-Levels of The Peak. I dump off on Hollywood Road so I can go to Man Mo Temple and get my fortune told. Like so many buildings here, the temple is undergoing repairs...

HK Mo Man Temple

Fortunately, my "Master Fortune Teller" spoke English, so that made things a little easier...

HK Fortune Teller

For $2.50 ($20 HK), you could get a quick 1-minute fortune. For $13 ($100 HK), you could get a full fortune and have a question answered. I decided to spend the big money, and asked "Will I live long enough to visit Hong Kong again in this life?" After shaking some coins, consulting some charts, and writing down a lot of Chinese characters, Master Fortune Teller told me that he sees I have some health problems (no doubt, I seem to be falling apart!), but they are all controllable and so I will live to visit Hong Kong again. In fact, he sees me returning to the city as early as October of next year! He further explains that I will fall in love with Hong Kong, and the memories will call me back. This certainly seems feasible to me, so I hand over the $100 HK and buy some crappy souvenirs.

From there, it's back to the Star Ferry so I can have a late lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, which is Kowloon-side...

HK Hard Rock

It's a good property, with a nicely appointed merch shop on the first floor and a restaurant spread out over the second. Memorabilia is somewhat sparse, which is quite strange, because they certainly have the room for it. They also have a stage for live music, which should be standard at ALL Hard Rocks.

As I leave, I notice two things... 1) There's a Donna Karan next door, which I am afraid to enter, because I love DK clothing and would probably buy out the store. 2) There's a Pret A Manger across the street, so now I know where I'll be going for breakfast tomorrow morning! Is it too much to hope that they have roasted tomato sandwiches on their morning menu?

I was planning on ending the afternoon at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, but they are closed Thursdays so I am out of luck. Instead I decide to head back to my hotel so I can blog my day, and read a few chapters of Noble House before heading out to the Temple Street Night Market this evening.

All in all, a pretty good first day in Hong Kong, and it's not even over!

   

Day Six: Beijing Hard Rock Cafe

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Dave!Unlike the Shanghai Hard Rock, which has been flagged as "opening soon" for a year after "closing to move," the Hard Rock Cafe Beijing was open for business. It was actually worth the insanely-long 2 hour drive it took to get there. Of course, considering the distance from my hotel was only 10 miles, perhaps not.

Anyway, the HRC Beijing is a surprisingly large dual-level property that's permanently affixed to the front of the Landmark Hotel in the Chaoyang District of Eastern Beijing. As far as properties go, it's actually quite impressive.

Hard Rock Beijing

The following two shots were taken opposite, giving you an idea of how big the main floor is. When you add the space afforded by the upstairs level, there's quite a lot of room available for seating...

Hard Rock Beijing

Hard Rock Beijing

The foosball tables were a nice touch, and something I had never seen at a Hard Rock before...

Hard Rock Beijing

I loved me the "Comrade Bear" but didn't have room in my suitcase to get one...

Hard Rock Beijing

It's even prettier at night...

Hard Rock Beijing

Service was impeccable, and my Veggie Burger was great (though spicier than I'm used to). After a very long day, I'm glad to know that I can count of the Hard Rock to make me feel at home once again... even when half-way around the world.

   

Mistress

Posted on Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Dave!Today was mostly work, but big fun was to be had this evening. That's because I was able to have dinner at the new Times Square Hard Rock Cafe with Dave3 and the Mistress of Metal herself... The Empress Eve!

Meeting up with fellow bloggers I read is always cool... but in this case it was particularly special because Dave3 and Eve are comic book geeks just like me. This is a pleasant change from my usual scene, because the small town where I live doesn't have much of a geek subculture to speak of.

Anyway, dinner was a blast, and reminds me once again that having to travel so much is not always a bad thing. I actually look forward to it when I know that cool people like Eve and Dave3 are waiting for me. It also makes me wonder why bloggers don't meet up more often, because every single time I've been able to see people in "real life," it's been totally sweet.

As if that wasn't enough, the Hard Rock is pretty spiffy...

Hard Rock New York Times Square

The cafe itself is actually underground. That's because the Paramount Hotel that sits above it is being transformed into New York's very own Hard Rock Hotel. It's a nice property though, with plenty of open space...

Hard Rock New York Times Square

And, since the Mistress of Metal was in attendance, her beloved Slayer was representing on the memorabilia wall...

HRC NY Slayer

Sadly, I had to get back to the hotel after dinner so I could try and solve my hotel's shitty internet problems and get back to work... but at least I got to meet Dave3 and Eve at last, so the day ended up being a good one after all.

At least until I found out that Superman is whoring himself out for Diet Pepsi...

Super Diet

Yeah, as if Superman needs to count calories. Doesn't everybody know that Superman's super-metabolism (which is fueled by the Earth's yellow sun) means that he doesn't have to diet? Well, unless he was exposed to Red Kryptonite and it made him super overweight. Or perhaps if Mxyzptlk used his 5th-Dimension magic to make him gain weight. Or maybe if he was a Superman from an alternate earth where all the characters have the opposite physique of their Earth-1 Counterparts (which, of course, would have to pre-date Crisis on Infinite Earths, for obvious reasons). Or I suppose it could even be because... oh... uhhhh... sorry, I must still be in Super-Geek mode.

Bleh.

Do you know how hard it is to be in a city like New York and have to work all day long? Oh well, I can always go look through my old pictures while I work and pretend I'm not working.

   

Day One: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Dave!Because I have friends in the city, I've been to Köln (Cologne) here in Germany many times. This has its benefits. I know where everything is, I know how to get around, that kind of thing. But, like with any city I visit that I am already familiar with, I try to find new things to see and do to keep things fresh.

Naturally, I've been to the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) on previous visits. It's a major landmark for the city and pretty impressive. But I've seen it all before. I've studied the architecture, gaped at the stunning artworks, and marveled at the tiled floor with all those cool mosaics...

Dom Mosaic
Herr Knight Sweetcheeks.

But what I haven't done is climb the spire. There are numerous reasons for this, but I'll narrow it down to the top five...

  • I am terrified of heights.
  • I am terrified of being in confined spaces with tourists.
  • I am terrified of Germans in high places*
  • I am terrified of old buildings that might collapse from age.
  • I am terrified of being so out of shape that I'll collapse on the way up.

But every time I pass on the opportunity, I always regret it on the way home. So this time I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it. Finally I'll be able to say "I climbed this bitch!" when I see a picture of the cathedral or accost hapless tourists on the streets of Cologne.

The Dom Cologne
525 feet (160 meters) of sheer terror!

Yeah, well, I climbed this bitch, but I was stupid, stupid, stupid to do it. Not only was the climb completely terrifying, but I think I am dead. The good news is that my legs are so pumped now that I could probably jump over the cathedral in a single bound. The view from the top is pretty spectacular though (once you stop crying for your mommy long enough to take a look around)...

Top of the Dom
Oooh, look! Tiny people in that other tower! I'll have to climb that one next time (not).

After I managed to keep from vomiting on the way down, I decided to torture myself at the Hard Rock Cafe. For some reason, German HRCs have terrible service... but I can never figure out why. The staff is always friendly and running around, so it's not like they sit on their asses. Maybe they're just really over-extended? On the up-side, Cologne is better than Berlin, which has given me the worst service of any Hard Rock world-wide (I was seriously considering lighting myself on fire there once after waiting 45 minutes to get my check... all in the hopes that the flames would finally get somebody's attention).

Hard Rock Cologne
Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?

Sure enough, it took a half hour to get an order of potato skins (no bacon) and 20 minutes to get a Pepsi refill. When I handed over my credit card, I fully expected that I wouldn't see my server for another 20 minutes. I was thrown into shock when she returned after only 10. Total time for an appetizer order and two glasses of Pepsi... 1 hour, 17 minutes. I timed it. Only about 10 minutes of which was spent eating.

I could have ordered dessert at the Hard Rock, but I didn't have another hour to kill because I wanted to hit a few museums. So instead I stopped off to have a SNACK WAFFLE!!

Snack Waffle!
Not as good as the waffles at the Eiffel Tower, but still delicious!

After lunch, it was museum-time. I first went to the brilliant Wallraf-Richartz Museum to see if they had a special event showing but, sadly, the answer was NEIN! That's okay though, because the third floor alone is always worth the price of admission. They have some sweet impressionist and post-impressionist works I love, including a Monet that's terrific. In the paintings I've seen where Monet is capturing fog or snow, he uses pastels for shading instead of gray. The effect is quite beautiful, and looks different depending on how close you are to this foggy scene...

Monet Foggy
A similarly-styled painting that Monet painted of snow in Giverny hangs in New Orleans.

Then I was off to one of the best modern art museums on the planet... The Ludwig Museum... which was amazing, as always. This time was really cool though, because they had a mind-blowing Paul Klee event, filled with bunches of his pencil drawings and pre-painting study sketches. After looking at really cool art crap for two hours, I exited the museum and saw a group of people walk by dressed as pirates. That's when I remembered there was a Lego store over on Hohe Straße, so I thought I might check to see if they had any pirate Lego in stock. No pirates, but they did have viking Lego, which is pretty sweet.

By now it was approaching 6:00 and was starting to rain so I decided to call it a day (8 hours of constant walking and climbing on no sleep is pretty harsh). Oh yeah... I have to be up for work early in the morning too, so I figure I had best take my exhausted ass back to the hotel for an aspirin and sleep.

Ludwig Museum Roof View
Looking back at Kölner Dom from the roof of the Ludwig Museum... I climbed this bitch!

Holy crap do my legs hurt. I hope I can get out of bed in the morning.

* Remind me to tell the story of nearly being pushed into The Grand Canyon because of a group of eager German tourists. These people are totally fearless when it comes to heights so, naturally, they scare the crap out of me.

   

Day Five: Madrid, Spain

Posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Dave!For an art museum whore like myself, Madrid is a dream come true.

There are several major museums within the city, and a dozen more minor ones that are brilliant in their own right. With this in mind, I have long wanted to visit Madrid, and it was on the top of my list of places to escape to after my work was finished in Cologne. Fortunately, the city is served by the ever-cheap and wonderful GermanWings airline, so off I went...

Madrid Statue
"Could somebody wipe this bird crap off my forehead?"

Anybody wanting to tag along for a very busy day of goofing around in Madrid can read about it in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Day Six: Lisbon, Portugal

Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Dave!I had set a wake-up call for 6:00am with the intention of getting up with the sunrise and seeing a bit more of Madrid at dawn. Yesterday I had noticed that the light was really nice in the morning, and intended to take advantage of it.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. I was so totally dead from miles of walking yesterday that I barely made it out the door for my 10:00 shuttle to the airport.

After an uneventful 1-hour plane ride (assuming sitting behind a smelly, smelly man during the flight and then having to wait 50 minutes for my luggage counts as "uneventful"), here I am in Lisbon, another city I've never been to before. Since it was lunchtime when I got to my hotel, I tossed my luggage in the closet and headed out to the Hard Rock Cafe...

Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon

Turns out this is a fantastic dual-level property with really interesting architecture and an incredible amount of memorabilia stacked from floor to ceiling...

Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon

In recognition for their awesomeness in winning "World-Wide Cafe of the Month" back in November, Lisbon has the honor of getting to display an original Jimi Hendrix guitar from his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show in 1969 (previous months were won by Buenos Aires, Lake Tahoe, Dublin, Houston, and Kowloon cafes)...

Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon

With plenty of daylight left, I decided to take a walk down to the Tagus River and see the sights. One thing you tend to notice quite quickly is that the sidewalks here in Lisbon are made from beautiful stone mosaic patterns, some of which are quite ornate. I guess when you live here, it's easy to take the sidewalks for granted, but I found myself looking down just as often as up...

Lisbon Mosaic

The city of Lisbon itself is quite nice. It has a very different "feel" to it from other European cities. Almost Caribbean or something... it's very strange, but in a good way. About the only thing that wasn't pleasant is being pestered every fifteen minutes to buy some sunglasses (Armani! Very beautiful!) or other imitation crap. But that wasn't nearly as exciting as being offered some hash every ten minutes (Hashish! Good hash!). Though all of that pales when compared to some guy who came up to me with a Canon EOS camera in a paper sack...

GUY: Want to buy camera? Very good price!
   
DAVE: Uhhhh... nope, I'm good.
   
GUY: Are you sure?
   
DAVE: Sure I don't want to buy an obviously stolen camera? Yes, I'm quite sure.
   
GUY: But I give you very good price!

Oddly enough, I was just thinking about how I wish I had my own Canon EOS Rebel with me. I left it back home because I had loads of crap to haul over for work and didn't want to bother with it. Still, my little pocket camera takes some pretty good shots...

Lisbon Dom Pedro

Lisbon Praco

PHONE CALL!

Living the jet-set lifestyle like I do (ha!) can make for some strange interactions with people back home. Mostly because nobody is ever really sure of where you are or what you are doing. Like Bad Robert, who just called me as I was writing this entry...

DAVE: (answering phone) Hello?
   
ROBERT: Dude, I need to get my car to the shop. Can you bring me back home so I don't have to sit there all day?
   
DAVE: Dude, I'm in Lisbon.
   
ROBERT: Can you drop by after you're done?
   
DAVE: I'm in PORTUGAL... I won't be back until Sunday.
   
ROBERT: (dramatic pause) Oh. I thought you meant like the restaurant.
   
DAVE: Huh?
   
ROBERT: So how are things in Lisbon.
   
DAVE: Pretty good so far. I've only been here for four hours.
   
ROBERT: Ah. Hey... do you wanna know what Ben did to his car?
   
DAVE: Is it worth the dollar-a-minute this phone call is costing me to find out?
   
ROBERT: Uh... probably not. Oooh! Call me when you get back! I need to tell you about my new air horn!

And so it goes...

I haven't a clue what I'm going to be doing tonight. About the only things I can be sure I WON'T be doing is this...

Lisbon Sound of Music

Because the only way I could sit through The Sound of Music would be if I was doped up on hash.

Hey! Wait a minute... I might just have plans for tonight after all...

   

Bullet Sunday 22

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Dave!It's Bullet Sunday with the lights out! Problems with the electrical power have wrecked havoc with my work plans today, so here I am blogging on my laptop where it's safe.

As a side-note, I should mention that I am aware that Blogography has been having problems recently. My web hosting company, Media Temple, has been having serious issues with their new "Grid Server," and being able to access my site or comment on entries has been hit-or-miss as of late. Media Temple is supposedly working on the problem, but these issues have been going on for months now, so I'm not sure how much faith I can put in that. All I can say is "sorry" and please come back later if you're having problems.

Reeses Racing

• Disappointment! There's a dilemma I like to call "The Reese's Gambit." It hinges on the mysterious Russian-Roulette game you play every time you buy a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup candy bar. Will the peanut butter in the center be deliciously moist and tasty... or will it be all dried-up, powdery, and disgusting? There's no way of knowing, so you just have to buy one and find out what you get. When the center is good, there's very few candy bars I like better than a Reese's. When it's BAD, however, it usually pisses me off so much that I will go months without eating one again. Today, after a suitable three-month mourning period following a crappy Reese's experience, I tried again and got a good one. Yay me. Thinking I'd hit the jackpot, I went running back to the mini-mart to buy more... and was horrified to find that all of them had gross dried-out centers. So now I'm thinking it will be a while before I'm willing to play the Reese's Gambit again. I guess I'll just have to live off the memory of that yummy first Reese's for a while, and that sucks ass.

Remo Williams

• Destroyer! I watched Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins on DVD for the hundredth time last night, and wondered for the thousandth time why somebody hasn't made any more movies based on the series of excellent Destroyer books. Sure the original film (starring Fred Ward and Joel Grey) wasn't much of a financial success, and Destroyer fans disliked it because the story didn't follow the books closely enough... but I loved the movie. I still love it. And now that Tor Books is reviving the book line again with a series of "New Destroyer" novels in May, isn't it about time somebody step up and revive the movie franchise as well? The series really has it all... action, drama, intrigue, humor, and some of the most brilliant characters ever written. With the right director and cast, a Destroyer film would kick ass.

Cathy Dennis Move to This

• Deception! Back in 1994 there was a radio hit called Touch Me (All Night Long) by Cathy Dennis. The vocals were quite good, Cathy was suitably hot, and it had a sweet Europop electro-beat I liked. After a couple of listens I decided to run down to Hastings so I could buy the CD, which was titled Move to This (I was going on a road trip, and wanted something new to listen to). Imagine my surprise when I found out that the Touch Me song they were playing on the radio was not the same song on the CD. Instead of that kicky Europop beat driving the song, the CD track was all boring and shitty. I have a running joke with my friends about kicking the crap out of Cathy Dennis if I ever see her for betraying me this way. It may have been a dozen years past, but I just can't let it go. And then this morning I check my email to find that my friend Meagan had gifted the crappy song to me on iTunes... presumably as a joke. Well ha ha, the joke's on her because, as I was claiming the song, I noticed that iTunes had the REAL version of the song for sale off of a compilation called 100% Pure Dance. It's a mix that runs a little long, but it has the proper beat and I've been rocking out to it all morning. I think that I am finally... finally able to release my rabid hatred of Cathy Dennis now.

Hard Rock Dallas
Photo swiped from Virgil LaFerney's EXCELLENT Hard Rock Dallas Page.

• Dallas! I've been meaning to write about the sad closing of the Hard Rock Cafe Dallas since it happened two weeks ago, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. The pet project of Hard Rock co-founder Isaac Tigrett, the Dallas cafe was a special property indeed. Originally a Baptist Church, 13 million dollars was spent renovating the building and creating the cafe, which finally opened on November, 1986 (the fourth Hard Rock in the US and ninth world-wide). There were many features that made this cafe unique in the chain, and the property quickly became one of my favorites when I first visited in July, 2001. Hearing about the closing was painful, and I feel terrible that I didn't manage to get back once I heard they were shutting their doors for good. It's things like this that really have me questioning why I care about the Hard Rock anymore. If the owners can't appreciate the chain's history, why should I? Oh well, at least I got to visit this one before they dumped it... nothing is more frustrating than having a cafe close before I have a chance to visit.

Robert Downey Jr. Zodiac

• Downey! How is it that Robert Downey Jr. can steal every movie he's in... even if it is a relatively minor role? Sure Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo were excellent as the driving force behind David Fincher's latest film, Zodiac, but it's Downey who makes the film truly interesting to me. Playing seriously flawed reporter Paul Avery, he just blows everybody else off the screen. Suddenly a film that seems more like a crime reenactment than a cohesive story comes alive because Robert Downey Jr. just sucks you into his character. My only real criticism of this beautifully-shot movie is that it didn't have enough Downey in it. Well, that and the really bad toupee that Anthony Edwards was forced to wear throughout the film. Holy crap did it ever look like a ferret died on his head. Why why why couldn't they have just left his character bald so as not to distract the audience and embarrass the actor?

Oooh... the power is back on again! Guess I'll save my remaining bullets for next Sunday, because it's back to work for me...

   

Movied

Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Dave!Yeesh. Another night of writing my entry just as midnight approaches. I guess that's what happens when you are slaving away morning noon and night to get caught up with work.

I suppose there are lots of things I could write about, but it's late, so I think I'll just grab that movie meme that's been floating around. Kevin has done is now, so I guess I pretty much have to...

  • Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times. Wow. Many, many of my favorite films have been seen at least 10 times. Here's a few from memory... Aliens, Back to the Future 1 & 2, Bedazzled, Beverly Hills Cop, The Birdcage, Buckaroo Banzai, Chasing Amy, Clerks, Coming to America, Commando, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Field of Dreams, The Fifth Element, Groundhog Day, The Matrix, Office Space, Real Genius, Remo Williams, Sneakers, South Park: Bigger-Longer-Uncut, Star Trek II & IV, Star Wars, Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, The Terminator, Terminator 2, This is Spinal Tap, True Lies, and Undercover Blues.
  • Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater. Recently that would be Clerks 2 and Casino Royale. My personal record would probably be The Matrix, which I believe I've seen in a theater 6 times.
  • Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie. Elizabeth Hurley.
  • Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie. David Caruso.
  • Name a movie that you can and do quote from. So many. I'm pretty good with Buckaroo Banzai quotes.
  • Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs. I don't do musicals. Though I liked the soundtrack from Xanadu back in the day, so maybe that one. Or Grease maybe?
  • Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with. Uh. None that I know of.
  • Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see. Undercover Blues, which is one of my favorite movies that people are always overlooking.
  • Name a movie that you own. I own many, many films.
  • Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops. Elizabeth Hurley is an obvious choice.
  • Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what? When I was a kid, this was a popular summer pass-time, so I'm sure there are many. I do remember seeing the original Star Wars for the third time at the drive-in.
  • Ever made out in a movie? Sure.
  • Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it. Talladega Nights.
  • Ever walked out of a movie? Born American, which made me embarrassed to be American. It's the worst movie I've ever seen in a theater (though I very nearly walked out on Spanglish, which was almost as bad).
  • Name a movie that made you cry in the theater. Dirty Dancing, but only because I was drunk and had gotten some really bad news earlier in the evening.
  • What's the last movie you saw in the theater? The most excellent Blades of Glory.
  • What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie? Action/Adventure is probably at the top.
  • What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater? Herbie the Love Bug.
  • What movie do you wish you had never seen? Recently? The horrendously bad National Lampoon's Gold Diggers. Wretched, awful stuff.
  • What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed? Being John Malkovich is probably an easy pick for this one.
  • What is the scariest movie you've seen? Movies don't scare me much like they used to... back in the day, I was terrified from watching the original Alien.
  • What is the funniest movie you've seen? Gee, have no idea... Basketball, Stripes, or The Birdcage maybe? Eurotrip always makes me laugh.
  • Oog. Time for bed. But before I go, I was pleased to see that the plans for the first "Hard Rock Park" in Myrtle Beach have finally been released. It's looking pretty sweet, and bigger than I had thought it would be...

    Hard Rock Park

    Hard Rock Park

    The juicy details can be found at Myrtle Beach Online (which is where I snagged these photos). I guess that will be one more property to add to my list when it opens in 2008.

       

    Day One: Athens, Greece

    Posted on Saturday, May 5th, 2007

    Dave!Oh look, I'm in Greece!

    My vacation kind of snuck up on me, because I've been working like a maniac for the past four weeks trying to get all my work caught up before I go. I had a vague notion that the trip was somewhere on the horizon but, until I packed my suitcase for the drive over to Seattle, it wasn't really "real" to me. But after an hour at SeaTac International, a 3-1/2 hour flight to Chicago, a 1-1/2 hour layover, a 9-hour flight to Munich, a 1-hour layover, and a 2-hour flight to Athens, it started getting pretty real, and here I am 18 hours later...

    Dave in Athens
    Hello from Athens, Greece, y'all!

    I've never been to Greece before, so this is kind of a nifty trip for me. I was heavy into Greek mythology as a kid, so finally being able to walk the grounds where it all started is pretty special.

    This first day I was pretty wiped out, so I didn't have any ambitious plans. Just wanted to wander down to Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and take a look at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which must have been a massive, massive structure back in the day...

    Athens Temple of Zeus
    The Temple of Zeus could use some spackle and a coat of paint.

    After meandering through some shops on Ermou Street, I decided to call it a day and walk back to my hotel. Along the way, I ran across a billboard ad that I'm guessing is for the local news or something. I don't know about your TV news team, but I dare say that Athens pretty much has them beat on the total hotness scale...

    Atrhens News Team

    Athens News Team
    We'll be back with more hotness at eleven...

    All in all, a pretty good day! About the only downer was the local Hard Rock Cafe where I went for lunch...

    Hard Rock Athens
    Uhhhh... yeah, not the most exciting Hard Rock I've been to...

    It saddens me very much to say that this was about the worst Hard Rock experience I've ever had. And it WASN'T for the following reasons:

    • The property is kind of boring.
    • The service is kind of slow.
    • They got my very simple food order wrong, twice.
    • They have a cover charge of €1.50 per person.
    • The atmosphere was pretty dead.

    No, the thing that made this the worst HRC experience of the 113 Hard Rock properties I've visited is that THEY DIDN'T HAVE ANY PINS!! NO FUCKING COLLECTOR PINS!! What the bloody fuck? How can you call yourself a Hard Rock Cafe if you aren't selling any pins? This is about the most stupid thing I've ever seen at an HRC. Their famous collector pins are massively high-profit items that sell like mad. Most cafes have too many pins, because selling them is almost like being able to print your own money. I can only guess that the Athens location must not be interested in making money? Maybe they're just too profitable? Nothing quite like traveling 8,410 miles to have lunch at a Hard Rock and walking away empty-handed from the souvenir shop.

    Ooog. I haven't slept in two days, so I had probably better at least take a nap or something before playing tourist all day tomorrow.

       

    Day Seven: Cairo, Egypt

    Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2007

    Dave!I don't know whether to feel lucky or unlucky... but the weather here in Cairo is cool and overcast. This could be considered lucky when the alternative would be scorching 100-degree temperatures... but kind of strange that this rare weather event should happen while I'm in town. Oh well, here I am in Egypt. A visit to the pyramids is set for tomorrow, and the weather could do anything before then.

    The ship actually makes port in the city of Alexandria, so there's a 3-hour bus drive across the West Desert before reaching Cairo. Our first stop in the city was to the Alabaster Mosque, otherwise known as the Mosque of Muhammad Ali (who is regarded as the founder of modern Egypt). The building itself is quite beautiful with its alabaster forecourt, even when overrun with tourists...

    Alabaster Mosque

    The Ottoman architecture is pretty sweet, and meticulously maintained...

    Alabaster Mosque

    Islamic mosques are built solely for prayer, are devoid of any clutter, and have no statues or imagery (both of which are forbidden). This way the worshiper may concentrate on their prayers without distraction. This is not to say that the interior is boring... far from it... the walls are adorned with cool geometric designs, and the ceiling is as beautiful and ornate as any church...

    Alabaster Mosque Ceiling

    After we left the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, it was onward to the Egypt Museum...

    Egypt Museum

    I have seen Tutankhamen exhibits many times over the years (the latest was just five months ago in Chicago), but the one time I saw the famous death mask in the 1970's, I was too young to remember it. And, since the Egyptian government has forbidden the mask to leave the country since the early 80's, the only way I was ever going to see it was to visit it here in Cairo. Unfortunately, you can't take pictures in the museum, but finally seeing the mask in person after having seen it a million times in photos pretty much made the entire trip worthwhile.

    The tour group was then given free time to freshen up and relax but, knowing there was a Hard Rock Cafe in the city, there was no way I was going to waste time relaxing! The cafe itself is in the lower level arcade of the Grand Hyatt hotel, located on the banks of the Nile. From the outside, it's nothing really special...

    Hard Rock Cairo

    But the inside is fantastic, with high energy, lots of memorabilia, and an enthusiastic staff (who were all on stage dancing when I visited the dining room). The highlight of the property for me was this incredible mosaic artwork behind the bar featuring landmarks from around the globe...

    Hard Rock Cairo

    Alas, there wasn't time to eat a veggie burger and have a chocolate shake, but I DID manage to get a really nice Hard Rock pin set (at last!) and a T-shirt.

    And now as I sit here on my hotel balcony overlooking the city, with the Great Pyramids off in the distance, I must sign off because it's time for a dinner cruise on the Nile with 340 of my closest friends...

       

    Biloxi

    Posted on Saturday, January 12th, 2008

    Dave!I was originally planning on visiting the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi in November of 2005, shortly after its grand opening on September 1st of that year. But then Hurricane Katrina came and completely destroyed it just days before it was due to open. According to that fucking piece of shit televangelist asshole Pat Robertson, this was God's wrath wrecking vengeance on the sinners of New Orleans and the surrounding area. I prefer to think that Pat Robertson is a lunatic opportunist who takes current events and perverts them to make God sound like a jerk so he can con people out of their money. I cannot wait until that fucking douchebag dies and gets to meet God in person so he can find out what His vengeance is really like. Something tells me that hating people in the name of Jesus and speaking for God is not cool with The Almighty.

    Well, unless God takes pity on the old bastard because, after all, Pat Robertson is certifiably insane...

    Are you insane?

    Anyway...

    Since my work ended Thursday night, I didn't have a Saturday-night stay to get a cheap airline ticket. To save money on airfare, I decided to add on a weekend adventure in Biloxi so I could finally visit the Hard Rock (it opened for reals on June 30th of last year)...

    Hard Rock Biloxi

    Hard Rock Biloxi

    After checking-in and dumping my crap off in my hotel room, I decided to go to the casino where my visit started off with a real bang. I was mere steps away from entering the casino when a woman came running in front of me frantically screaming "SECURITY! SECURITY! SECURITY!" Not wanting to miss out on anything good, I stopped and waited as two employees came running up to her. "THAT MAN RIGHT THERE JUST PUNCHED A POOR WOMAN IN THE FACE!!" she said, pointing to somebody who was quickly approaching the casino exit. The two guys just looked dazed and confused so she said "HE DID! HE PUNCHED HER AND PUSHED HER TO THE GROUND! By this time real security guys showed up, at which point the alleged attacker screamed to them "IT'S OKAY... SHE'S MY WIFE!!" and hurried past them, heading towards the hotel exit (as if beating your wife is somehow okay?). The security guys went after him, but I decided not to follow.

    Once I got to the ATM, I withdrew $200 cash... $100 for each day. Within 35 minutes, I had spent $40 and already won $380 playing quarter slots. Deciding there was nowhere to go but down, I cashed out my winnings and called it quits for the night (and because I am completely inflexible on my $100 per day limit, I also added the left-over $60 to my winnings). Then it was time for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Biloxi located in the hotel itself...

    Hrc Biloxi1

    Hrc Biloxi2

    It's a nice, albeit basic, property with no real surprises, But they did a good job maximizing the memorabilia (which is always a good thing) so I'm happy with it. Service was good, though the restaurant itself seemed pretty slow for a Friday night at 7:30pm. Maybe this is the off-season for gambling? I don't know.

    Today I am taking it easy. I slept in until 9:30am (a real treat), gambled away $30, ate a nice breakfast at the Hard Rock's "24/7 Grill", wandered around to see a few other casinos in the area, then just now came back to work on my blog entry for tonight and relax for a bit before heading back to the casino and seeing if I can win anything with my remaining $70.

    UPDATE: Meh. I gambled it all away while watching the Seahawks get spanked by Green Bay in the snow, but did win $65 on my last $2 (WHEEL. OF. FORTUNE!!), so I'm really only down $35 for the day. When deducted from my $340 in winnings yesterday, I'm ahead $305 total. That almost pays for my hotel room for the two days, which is pretty sweet! I must be lucky at Hard Rock's, because I came out ahead at their Hollywood and Tampa casinos in Florida too.

    And now, since I know Hard Rock talk is boring to most people, I'm putting my in-depth review of the Hotel & Casino in an extended entry. I'll probably end tonight early considering that I have to get up at some insane early hour to catch my flights back home (boy I hope I can get some sleep on the plane).

    → Click here to continue reading this entry...

       

    Day Six: Warszawa, Part One

    Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008

    Dave!Since this is my only full day in Warsaw, I knew early on that I wanted to make the most of it. Fortunately, a good place to start was right across the street from my hotel.

    A gift from the former Soviet Union to the people of Poland, the "Palace of Culture and Science" is a massive building and controversial landmark of the city...

    Palace of Culture and Science Warsaw

    It's also probably the gayest building in Europe, because the exterior features statues of studly guys with their shirts off holding massive power tools and other manly artifacts...

    Palace of Culture and Science Warsaw

    At first I thought it was just me, but when I was researching the building on the internet, the first page I found about the building at IgoUgo featured an ad for "fantabulous gay vacations" with those same three guys...

    Fantabulous Gay Vacations!

    During Soviet control, the building was known as the "Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science," but all reference to Stalin was eradicated after decentralization when Poland was free again. You can see evidence of that on one of the less titillating (but still very gay) statues outside. He's holding a book that has a blank spot where Stalin's name used to be...

    Palace of Culture and Science Warsaw

    The building also houses the "Museum of Technology" at its base, which was very cool (and a total bargain at only 8 złoty!). Inside there's all kinds of old samples of technology... from computers and automobiles to washing machines and space exploration. My hands-down favorite was the Polish Fiat showroom, which had a number of beautiful antique cars on display...

    Polski Fiat

    Polski Fiat

    The "Space" room was nicely done, featuring a good number of models of technology from the US space program...

    Museum of Technology Warsaw

    Before we could get on with touring the city, Perry and I had to go back to the Hard Rock Cafe to get a couple of quick photos (last night was far too crowded). This is a really nice split-level property (complete with a stage and radio station built-in!) with a terrific assortment of memorabilia and a very friendly staff...

    Hard Rock Cafe Warsaw

    Despite being so new on the outside, it has a great "classic feel" to it on the inside. About the only place it misses is above the lower bar. They should have featured some nice guitars or other rock artifacts there, but instead have some kind of artsy deco lighting that doesn't really fit with the rest of the cafe's theming...

    Hard Rock Cafe Warsaw

    On an unrelated note, I saw a Polish poster for the new JJ Abrams produced horror flick "Cloverfield" and noted that it has a much more awesome title here - "PROJEKT: MONSTER!" How frickin' sweet is that? I'm sorry, but that should have totally been the US title as well...

    Projekt: Monster

    And that is part one of my day in Warsaw. For the conclusion, see my next entry.

       

    Day One: Oslo

    Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008

    Dave!"Huh? You're going to Oslo for vacation?? What in the hell for?" —Just About Everybody I Know

    Trying to explain how sometimes I like to travel to places "just because I haven't been there before" is a challenging ordeal. But here I am in the capitol city of Norway for exactly that reason. I've never been here, there's a Hard Rock Cafe in the city, and one of my first blogging buddies (whom I've never met) lives in the area. That's more than enough reason for me, even if people I know have trouble understanding why I'm here instead of Hawaii.

    The tough thing about Olso is not the cold, snowy weather this time of year... I'm used to that back home. No, the problem is affording to spend time here. As The World's Most Expensive City, Oslo is a real challenge for the tourist traveler. And when you compound that with the INCREDIBLY F#@%ING WEAK U.S. DOLLAR, an expensive city becomes almost prohibitively expensive. Because, let's face it, on the international market, the American dollar ain't worth shit.

    In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if you forced somebody here to choose between our dollar and a pile of shit, they'd actually take the shit because it could be used as a fertilizer, whereas a U.S. Dollar has practically no value at all. And the fun starts the minute you get here... a train from the airport into the city, which would be around $5-$10 anywhere else, is $32 in Oslo. And, since I measure everything compared to the price of a roll of toilet paper, I found out that the Blogography Toilet Paper Index Score for Oslo is $4.50.

    If my hotel didn't provide toilet paper, I'd be wiping my ass with the U.S. currency I had left in my pocket... it just makes economic sense.

    But enough about the INCREDIBLY F#@%ING WEAK U.S. DOLLAR, here's a few things I saw today...

    One of my very first blogging buddies is Karla from "Tales of a Texpatriate." She is funny as hell, loves to travel, and has a similar outlook on things as I do. I'd say this makes her a hotter female version of me, but my ego won't allow it. Instead I'll just say I love her to death, and couldn't wait to meet her at long last. So imagine my excitement when I get a text message on my iPhone telling me she'll meet me by the giant tiger at the train station...

    Oslo Tiger!

    That doesn't look very "giant" so here it is again, but with people so you can see how tall it is...

    Oslo Tiger!

    Well, not how tall "IT" is, but how tall "HE" is, ahem...

    Oslo Tiger!

    After a walk down the main street "Karl Johans Gate" we arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe Oslo, where Karla bought me birthday dinner! I guess she wanted to delay that inevitable moment where I run out of money and have to sell myself on the street for food...

    Dave and Karla HRC

    After a lovely chat over potato skins and nachos, we were off to Akershus Castle down the street. Along the way, I was surprised to see a statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He's honored here because of the assistance the U.S. offered Norway during the war. It's kind of nice remembering when we had a president that was liked and respected around the world. It's been so long...

    Franklin D. Roosevelt Statue Oslo

    Once at the castle, we could look down into the harbor. It was snowing pretty hard by now, which made taking photos difficult, but I did get a nice foggy panorama out of the deal...

    Oslo Harbor Pano

    Oslo has a lot of public art, some of it very strange. Like this "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" kind of thing here...

    Finger Statue Oslo

    After a a little more wandering around, my lack of sleep from the past 32 hours finally caught up with me and it was time to say goodbye to Karla and head back to my hotel (conveniently located near the train station). Karla warned me that this is a popular area for hookers to hang out, but I haven't seen any yet. At first I was disappointed, but then I figured if hookers are as expensive as everything else here, I probably couldn't afford one. Besides, my bed is barely big enough for me...

    My Oslo Bed...

    And before I go, a big thanks to everybody who was kind enough to send my birthday wishes via Twitter, blog entries (I'm a holy day now!), comments, text messages, emails, and e-cards! Getting older sucks a little bit less when you know people are thinking kindly of you.

       

    Day Three: Göteborg

    Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

    Dave!I am entirely too tired to function, but committed to getting today's entry finished before going to bed. I suppose I should be concerned about the rambling nonsense that's to follow, but I'm just too exhausted to care.

    Göteborg, which is mostly known as "Gothenburg" outside of Scandinavia (and, as I learned from studying Swedish, is pronounced more like "Yeuo-te-boree" by the locals) is a quick 4-hour train ride from Oslo. The city has a Hard Rock Cafe, so of course I had to make the trip... even if it did mean having to get up at 5:30am so I could pack and make the 7:00am train. I was confident that the scenery would be breathtaking, so I was sure to book a window seat. Since I paid an upgrade for "Komfort Klasse" I ended up getting a sweet giant bay window all to myself...

    Goteborg Train

    Unfortunately, the window was filthy, which made it impossible to take any photos of the beautiful world outside. My little camera kept trying to focus on the grime, adding even more blur to an already blurry shot. Even while the train was stopped, my photos turned out pretty bad, so I eventually gave up...

    Goteborg Train

    But the scenery was indeed beautiful, filled with snowy wonder and lots to look at...

    Oslo Goteborg Map

    The hotel I'm staying at in Göteborg is located directly above the main train station. It's very nice, surprisingly quiet, and has some freaky-ass graphics on the wall...

    Massive Baby
    Don't mind me and my MASSIVELY HUGE BABY!!

    An hour later, it was time to meet with another long-time blogging buddy, Göran from Six Feet Five! He was kind enough to make the three-hour journey from Stockholm so we could have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. In the meanwhile, we wandered around the city a bit. The only thing I really wanted to see was the museum, because I had read it was quite good...

    Goteborg Museum

    Unfortunately they were in the middle of redecorating the interior, so there wasn't much open to see except two small exhibits. This was a bummer, but at least we didn't have to pay (admission is free during the renovation). After a ten-minute tour we headed back through the city...

    Goteborg Town

    At the other end of town is the city's authorized Apple reseller, which I was surprised to see stocking AppleTV. Since the main purpose of this unit is to purchase or rent movies and shows from the iTunes Music Store, it's practically useless here because they don't have any video content to purchase or rent! I guess you can use it to watch your photos on television or play music, but it seems kind of pointless to shell out the money for just that.

    Time for dinner.

    The Hard Rock Cafe Gothenburg is a fairly basic property, but it does have the benefit of containing a nice assortment of memorabilia hanging on the walls. Like Oslo, it has a "virtual bowling alley" but, unlike Oslo, it also has a single gaming table for Vegas-style cards(!). Despite it being a Wednesday night, the place was quite busy for the dinner hour, and served up a good meal (even though they don't have milkshakes on the menu)...

    Goteborg Hard Rock

    And now, since I am falling asleep while typing this in bed, I'm getting some much-needed rest. The hotel doesn't have wireless, so I guess I'll plug-in to post it in the morning.

    I'm lazy like that. But hey, I'm on vacation.

    Oh... one last thing before I go... can somebody at Apple PLEASE do something to get better exposure from the iPhone's built-in camera? It was so bright I had to wear sunglasses, yet every photo I took was dark and murky as usual. Having photos that turn out at least somewhat like reality would be nice...

    Goteborg iPhone

       

    Tijuana

    Posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2008

    Dave!I'm down to just two more trips 'til the end of the year.

    Hopefully none of them will involve the horrible troubles I had on my last trip, or I might just have to go stick my head in the microwave and punch "Max Defrost."

    Given how completely worn out I am by traveling, I'm trying very hard to clear the month of January so I can just stay home. I was secretly hoping to clear at least half of February as well, but I've already got two trips scheduled in there, so that was just a pipe dream. Then March is my birthday. A time when I prefer to be out of the country so that my friends and family will forget about it. I have no problem acknowledging my birthday, but I don't believe in celebrating it. Last year I went to Oslo and Göteborg so I could hang out with Karla and Göran... this year I have no idea where I will feel like going.

    Maybe it's finally time to head to Australia & New Zealand?

    Which is not quite as appealing as it used to be now that the Hard Rock Cafes in Sydney, Melbourne, and Queenstown have been closed. Only one lone cafe remains at Surfer's Paradise. Probably should visit that one before it's gone too.

    But Australia is such a long flight away.

    Maybe it will just be a quick flight to Tijuana.

    Except the Tijuana Hard Rock Cafe is closed as well, so I'd have to find something else to do there.

    Or I could just ask everybody for suggestions and pull the location for my birthday escape out of a hat...

       

    Dave York 2

    Posted on Saturday, April 4th, 2009

    Dave!Once again feeling like the luckiest person on earth that I can show up in a city far from home and manage to find such an amazing group of people who would spend their valuable time hanging out with me. I don't know that I could ever adequately express just how much it means, but every time in every city... from the bottom of my heart... I am so very grateful. Who could have ever imagined that this stupid blog would add so much to my life? The people I meet, online and offline, have made my world so much bigger... so much richer... than I could have ever imagined.

    Anyway...

    The day was pretty simple, actually. Newark to New York. Hotel room not ready. Upper East Side. Downtown. Johnny Rockets (veggie burgers in stock, w00t!). Hotel room still not ready. Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium. Hotel room ready! Times Square. Dave York. Union Square. Times Square. Good times had by all.

    Thanks so much to those who could come along!

    As usual, I was too busy talking with everybody to remember to take pictures... but a lot of photos were taken, so I'll be sure to link to them once they're up!

    Just some random notes...

    • If you're going to visit the brand new Hard Rock Cafe at New Yankee Stadium, it's probably best to NOT do so on a game day unless you have tickets to the game. It took me 20 minutes of going from one place to another to another to another before somebody would actually let me in the cafe. I guess everybody thought I was trying to sneak into the game or something, so I kept getting passed around. The cafe itself is smaller than I thought it would be, but quite nice...

    Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium

    Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium

    • I usually don't like to have blogger meets at Hard Rock Cafes because the loud music makes it hard to talk, and they are usually more interested in turning tables than letting people sit round and chat... but the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square was absolutely fantastic. Again! We had an amazing server taking good care of us, and it was a great experience all the way around. Thanks to everybody there for making Dave York... and now Dave York 2... such a great success!

    Hard Rock Cafe Times Square

    • When it comes to embarrassing you on your birthday... even when it's not really your birthday anymore... people you consider to be friends will happily report you to the "Birthday Humiliation Squad" so you have to stand on top of a chair in the middle of a crowded restaurant with a flaming hot-fudge sundae in one hand (your dignity in the other) while people scream "happy birthday" at you... all because they think it makes for great photo fodder on their blogs. The bastards!

    • When they say "DO NOT TAKE THIS MEDICATION WITH ALCOHOL" on your prescription labels, it's probably a good idea to follow those directions. A couple shots of Jäger on top of my pills had my brain struggling to keep up with happenings around me. Which can be fun... or dangerous... depending on the situation.

    • I really am one of the luckiest people on earth. Thanks again to everybody for such a great night!

    UPDATE: Photos are slowly coming through. Like this one of my and ETinNY he sent me...

    Dave and ETinNY
    Peace out, baby!

    And this shot of me accepting my un-birthday humiliation from Dawg's Flickr Set...

    I'm The King of The World!
    I'm the King of The World, bitches!

    And some terrific shots from the ever-adorable Poppy's Flickr Stream (she has marked a set for Dave York 2, but only put one photo in there!)...

    Dawg, Poppy, Earl.
    Dawg and Poppy with B.E. Earl.

    Dave York 2!
    Robin, Libragirl, B.E. Earl, Me, and Cissa!

    Dave's Subway Terror!
    How non-New Yorkers envision a ride on the subway.

    UPDATE: And now Bellaventa and Libragirl have put up a set on Flickr...

    UPDATE: And now Cissa has put up her set on Flickr...

    I'll add more as I find 'em!

       

    Baby

    Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

    Dave!I had such a great time watching The Hangover at the movies last night, that I was planning on seeing a different film tonight. All day long I've been looking forward to it. But as the day became night... the exhaustion set in and suddenly none of the movies seemed good enough for me to make the effort. Terminator: Salvation was almost there, but I've read too many shitty reviews to risk it sucking. I guess I could have seen Star Trek for the third time but, given how tired I am, twice was good enough. Instead I walked to Johnny Rockets for yet another amazing vegetarian burger, then headed back to the hotel so I can blog and get ready for work tomorrow. My life is so exciting right now.

    Meanwhile...

    Work doesn't seem to be moving very quickly on the new Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle. It looks the same as it was months ago. Maybe they're just working on the inside where you can't see it right now...

    Hard Rock Seattle under construction

    Given what a colossal Hard Rock whore I am, I'm understandably excited about the new cafe. My biggest worry was that Seattle would get a shitty property, but the artist sketch from the Official Hard Rock Cafe website looks fantastic...

    Hard Rock Seattle sketch

    They're taking a classic old building and turning it into something special, which is what the best Hard Rocks do. They've also got a great spot... just one block from the Pike Place Market entrance. Hopefully it will do well so the location can stay open for a while... I'd be heartbroken if the cafe I've been waiting over two decades for shuts down after only a year or two. That would suck worse than never having one at all.

    I just hope the guitar is right-side up on the finished building. It looks really funny up-side down in that sketch.

       

    But what I REALLY hope that the baby in the room across the hall will settle down eventually. It's been screaming almost non-stop for THREE HOURS now. I need sleep tonight!

       

    Dallas

    Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009

    Dave!Just back from L.A., and now I am off to Atlanta. Via Dallas. Where I met up with a friend and got to see the brand new Hard Rock Cafe that opened up downtown (just across from Hooters!). The opening of a new cafe in Dallas is bittersweet. On one hand, they have a cafe again after two-and-a-half years. On the other hand, it could never live up to the sheer awesomeness of the original Hard Rock Cafe Dallas which was closed and eventually demolished.

    This is a darn shame, because the original property was mind-blowing amazing. Seriously, you have no idea. To get an idea, click here to take a tour.

    Anyway, the cafe itself is nice, but fairly unimpressive so far as Hard Rocks go. The exterior is just plain sad...

    Hard Rock Cafe Dallas

    Hard Rock Cafe Dallas

    One can only hope that they hang a giant guitar sign outside one day soon to make it look at least a little bit like a Hard Rock Cafe. Because right now it's just so boring. It looks like a parking garage... which is what I think it is.

    The interior design follows the new "L.A. Club Chic" look that they put into the Yankee Stadium property. It's not bad, but it doesn't feel very "Hard Rock" to me. It seems way too polished and trendy instead of classic and inviting. Still, it's not like I can blame HRC Corporate for trying a new look in the hopes that it will interest locals. They need new blood and new traffic in order to keep their doors open, and catering only to tourists in the current economy is disastrous...

    Hard Rock Cafe Dallas

    After dinner, I rushed South so I could ride up Reunion Tower and see the city at dusk...

    Dallas Reunion Tower at night

    Except it's closed for renovations.

    Which is a genius thing to do in the middle of summer when all the tourists are here. Not.

    Oh well. Now I'm off to bed so I can try and get a little bit of sleep before leaving again early tomorrow.

       

    Denver

    Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2009

    Dave!There are plenty of things I could blog about, but the only thing that's in my head right now is how I get to sleep in tomorrow. For the first time in months I have nothing going in the morning. No calls scheduled. No meetings to attend. No places to be. No flights to catch. Nothing. I could sleep in until noon. Heck, I could sleep in until 5:00pm if I wanted to. The whole concept is so bizarre that I can't quite wrap my head around it.

    Of course, the odds of me actually sleeping in are small. I'm sure my insomniac nature will take over and I'll be waking up at 4:00am as usual... and I'll be bored as usual... so I'll start getting some work done as usual. Oh well. I suppose just the thought of being able to sleep in if I wanted to is enough.

    Anyway...

    This morning started out early because I wanted to visit Denver's very own independent book store... The Tattered Cover. There are a couple locations, but I went to the beautiful LoDo store on the 16th Street Mall (years ago I visited the "original" store in Cherry Creek, but it has since moved). Much like Powell's City of Books in Portland, The Tattered Cover is a wonderful experience for people who love books...

    Tattered Cover Book Store

    I then walked around the corner to visit The Old Map Gallery. As a die-hard map-lover, I had been really looking forward to seeing the shop... but it was closed. And there were no hours posted, so I didn't stick around. For all I know they could be closed Mondays, and I'd be waiting for nothing (the website isn't much help either). This is probably a good thing, because a look in the window shows that I would have been dangerously close to spending entirely too much money there...

    Old Map Gallery Window

    From there it was time for lunch at the beautiful Hard Rock Cafe Denver...

    Hard Rock Denver Outside

    Hard Rock Denver Inside

    And then back to the hotel so I could catch my ride to the airport. The sky, which had been blue with scattered clouds when I left in the morning, had become dreary and overcast by afternoon...

    Capitol Building Grey Sky Afternoon

    And by the time I got to the airport we were on weather delay. Fortunately, it was only 30 minutes, which put us into Salt Lake City just 14 minutes late (it's the old "we'll make up time in the air" trick!). Or would have if we didn't end up in a holding pattern for ten minutes once we got there.

    Marty and Reba (of Banal Leakage fame) were then nice enough to pick me up at the SLC airport so we could head to the Rio Grande Cafe for Dave Lake City 3! The last time we were there I was doped up on massive pain killers for kidney stones and couldn't really enjoy it, so I was really looking forward to eating there again. It was (as expected) delicious, and it's always great to hang out with Marty and his better half...

    Dave Lake City 3 Badge

    And tomorrow, Depeche Mode, baby!

       

    UPDATE: Annnnnd... I was up at 5:15am. That's a whole 45 minutes I got to sleep in!

       

    Vegas Weekend Day 1

    Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2009

    Dave!And so here I am in Sin City. I've been a lot of bizarre and strange places, but all of it pretty much pales in comparison to the bizarre and strange stuff you see in Las Vegas. Limos with hot tubs in the back... people puking on the street... half-naked partiers on the sidewalk... gamblers sobbing inconsolably... drunks EVERYWHERE... it goes on and on. Some might say this parade of non-stop debauchery is the ultimate expression of humanity's downfall. I just think it adds to Las Vegas's already considerable charm.

    My day began very, very early as I drove to the airport at 4:00am for my 6:00am plane ride. From there I had three quick back-to-back flights which deposited me in Vegas around 11:00am. I packed light to avoid Horizon Airline's STUPID FUCKING $15 LUGGAGE FEE, which allowed me to skip baggage claim and head directly to my hotel.

    After checking in, I played the slots for 15 minutes before winnings $200. Yay me! This money got pocketed, leaving me $62 of my original $100 daily gambling budget (which I would eventually lose, netting me out at +$100 for the day).

    I'm guessing that was all the luck I'm gonna get this trip. But you never know.

    I cashed out my winnings and headed out to have some drinks with a good friend and his wife whom I haven't seen in nearly seven years. That's when the magic began, as we headed out into the wilds of The Vegas Strip. We started out at The Excalibur where I decided to go out and people-watch while my friends played the tables...

    Excalibur Hotel Vegas at Night

    In wandering around the South end for a while, I came to the inescapable conclusion that a lot of people... a lot of people... come to Vegas to fight. Every 50-feet I ran into people yelling about something. One drunk woman was causing a major scene as she screamed for her boyfriend/husband to "GIVE ME SOME MONEY!!" over and over and over again. Next I'd see two people yelling over who's turn it was to buy cigarettes. More than a couple of times I overheard people fighting over where they wanted to go next. A particularly nasty brawl erupted in front of the MGM Grand Casino because, from what I could gather, one guy slept with his friend's girlfriend and was freaking out because the guy who got cheated on was threatening to tell the guy's mother on him. This might have been funny, except I'm guessing the guys were in their late 30's or early 40's.

    In an attempt to get caught up on the USA Hard Rock properties I haven't visited yet, I dropped by the new cafe on The Strip (leaving only the new Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma remaining)...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    After joining back up with my friends and losing $50 at blackjack, the three of us decided to eat a late dinner at the original Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas, located in front of the Hard Rock Hotel...

    Hard Rock Cafe Vegas Guitar

    The hotel's casino is where I decided to blow my last $12 in nickel slots before we started doing Jäger shots at the bar. Oddly enough, it took well over an hour to lose my remaining money... even at MAX BET. They really know how to drag things out in Vegas... but it doesn't really matter, because the house always seems to win in the end. At least they're patient about it.

    My friends were staying at Paris Las Vegas, so we decided to take the shuttle back to the MGM Grand and walk back to their hotel. I didn't have any gambling money left, but my $100 in winnings was quickly consumed in alcohol-related expenses along the way...

    Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower

    After saying goodnight to my friends around midnight, I walked north along The Strip to catch The Deuce Bus back to my hotel, when I saw something interesting at the Flamingo...

    Donny and Marie Play with Pole Dancers

    Yes, that's right... it's Mr. Morality Himself, Donny Osmond. I find it oddly satisfying that this self-righteous ass is more than happy to tell people how to live their lives according to his beliefs with his lobbying against gay marriage... and yet here he is, right next to his twice-divorced sister advertising at a venue where pole dancers are shaking their ass to beckon people inside the casino to smoke, drink, and gamble (all three of which I'd imagine are also against his beliefs). I guess Donny's moral superiority can be yours... IF the price is right.

    But I'd imagine that would hold true for a lot of people in Las Vegas.

    Me included!*

       

    *My morals can be rented for very favorable hourly rates. Long-term leases also welcome!

       

    If you're not afraid of bugs, there's more to today's post in an extended entry...

    → Click here to continue reading this entry...

       

    Vegas Weekend Day 2

    Posted on Saturday, September 5th, 2009

    Dave!Today was filled with surprises, and all in a good way... for once.

    I started out kind of early, because I wanted to head back down the strip and see my friends off before they left to the airport. As we were wrapping things up, they asked me if I was going to the Grand Opening of the Hard Rock Cafe, Las Vegas Strip Edition. I had read that the opening was being postponed, again, so this kind of caught me off guard. So after everybody was bundled up in a taxi, I walked down The Strip and confirmed that the new property was indeed opening up this morning at 11:00.

    Score!

    After waiting around for 35 minutes, I was the first one "officially" up the escalator to the new venue where I found...

    Disappointment.

    This is an absolutely beautiful restaurant. Unfortunately, it's a pretty shitty Hard Rock Cafe. And let me tell you why... it's the memorabilia. Or lack of memorabilia, to be more accurate.

    From the very moment that Eric Clapton hung his guitar on the wall of the original Hard Rock in London, rock memorabilia has been an integral part of the Hard Rock "experience" for its visitors. When you walk through those doors and see the expanse of one-of-a-kind items, it's like a rock-n-roll museum you'd find in your dreams. For music-lovers, its perfect.

    But not here. Not this time.

    The memorabilia is so anemic that the place barely feels like a "Hard Rock" at all. It's sad, actually. As an example, here's the bar area. How much memorabilia do you see?

    Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    Uhhh... yeah... there's a few mannequins in the background. And what about here in the main dining room...

    Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    What is that... like SEVEN whole pieces and two televisions? Compare that to but one small corner of the Hard Rock Cafe in Biloxi's hotel and casino property...

    Hrc Biloxi2

    Or Lisbon, Portugal...

    Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon

    Or Foxwoods, Connecticut...

    Foxwoods

    Or Memphis, Tennessee...

    HRC Memphis

    Or even the cafe they just closed in Salt Lake City...

    Hard Rock Salt Lake

    ... Just to name a few. Now those... those are Hard Rock Cafes!! The memorabilia is so thick you're swimming in it. You have to visit again and again just to see it all. THAT'S WHAT A HARD ROCK CAFE IS ALL ABOUT!!

    But this new cafe on The Vegas Strip? Almost nothing. In fact, there are entire sections of the restaurant which are practically devoted to nothing. Here's the upstairs bar...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    And the mini "Hard Rock Live" stage...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    And some kind of small VIP room also upstairs...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip

    Occasional random pieces hidden away, but really nothing. NOTHING!! This is supposed to be a Hard Rock?!? The only thing that keeps the place from being a total failure is the staff, which is terrific. And also the sweet "Microsoft Surface" touch tables they've got scattered around the joint (like the one behind the curtain above). You sit down, and it's like a giant iPhone on steroids with its awesome multi-touch interface. Here I am looking at pins from various cafes...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip: Microsoft Surface

    You can toss them around, rotate them, move them in and out, stack them... or even pinch and pull them to zoom in for a much, much closer look...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip: Microsoft Surface

    Other toys include a memorabilia viewer for cafes around the globe which you pick out from an actual spinning globe. This is cool, because it's not like this cafe has much memorabilia to look at here...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip: Microsoft Surface

    They even have distractions like puzzles, videos, and even a piano...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip: Microsoft Surface

    Alas, it's by Microsoft, so you have to brace yourself for all the crashes and failures...

    Hard Rock Cafe on The Vegas Strip: Microsoft Surface

    Knowing what this cafe COULD HAVE BEEN almost makes me cry. All that wonderful space that COULD have been crammed with awesome memorabilia from the Hard Rock's extensive collection... wasted. I have no idea who is designing this shit, but somebody needs to stop them. Take the Hard Rock back to what it is at its core. Take it back to what makes it special. Take it back to what people want to see. Take it back to what makes me want to travel the globe and see them all. Take. It. Back.

    Sigh.

    After goofing around at the Hard Rock for a bit, I headed back to the hotel to meet up with the Official TequilaCon 2010 Planning Committee... Jenny, Vahid, and Brandon. The day kind of went like this...

    Drinks. Accusations. Threats. Apologies. Sunglasses. Cigarette holders. News. Drinks. Slots. Slots. Drinks. Craps. Slots. Video Poker. Drinks. Drinks. Drinks. Drinks. Drinks. Slots. Dinner. OFFICIAL TEQUILACON BUSINESS...

    TequilaCon Map

    Then Walking. Goodnight Brandon. Slots. Drinks. Video Poker. Slots. Walgreens. And lastly, the Fremont Street Experience...

    Fremont Street Experience!

    Fremont Street Experience!

    And there you have it. Just another boring day in Las Vegas, Nevada.

       
    UPDATE: I had a long email conversation with somebody who basically asked "who are you to define what is or isn't a Hard Rock?" Which I thought was odd, because they're pretty much self-defining (as the photos I posted above will attest). But even setting that aside, just look at a description of the HRC Hurghada from the Hard Rock Cafe's own web site...

    The cafe, while reflecting the charm and flavor of the local architecture, is still a Hard Rock through and through offering an extensive collection of incredible rock memorabilia...

    So, even at the Hard Rock Cafe corporate offices, the abundance of memorabilia is looked upon as a defining trait of a good cafe. If I'm seen as "defining" a cafe, I'm only doing so from the definition provided by the organization themselves.

       

    Diary

    Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

    Dave!Ooh! It's a day in the life of Dave2!

    Last night I arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport around 11:30pm. I was exhausted from traveling for over 12 hours, and was in no mood to mess with a car rental, but since I had to drive out at 6:00am I didn't have much choice. After getting my stall number from the Hertz #1 Club Gold board, I made my way to the car, tossed my crap in the back, sat down, grabbed the keys, went to start the ignition... and noticed my "keys" were not keys at all. They were some kind of magical transmitter that communicated with the car. Turns out I had been given a Nissan Altima Hybrid, and all I needed to do was have the "keys" inside the car and press the "start" button...

    Nissan Altima Hybrid Key
    Photo taken from a nice review at About.com.

    From there it was only a short drive to the Aloft Hotel at Arundel Mills.

    SIDE NOTE: I love, love, love Aloft Hotels. I'm usually a Hilton Whore, but any time I find an Aloft where I'm staying, it is my absolute first choice. Very nice rooms at very nice prices, and service that is second to none. This is the fifth Aloft city I've stayed at, and I have nothing but raves for the chain. If I were to build my dream hotel, it would be an Aloft. Highest possible recommendation.

    This morning after waking up, getting showered & dressed, and heading to my car... I noticed it was pitch black and raining... hard. Not the best conditions for a two hour drive into Pennsylvania, but I've had worse. Until it started raining even harder and I could barely see the road. Accidents were everywhere, and the extra hour and fifteen minutes I had added "just in case" was gone before I knew it. I barely arrived to my meeting on time.

    Fortunately, the return drive to BWI was much easier. I got back around 1:30, worked for two hours at the hotel, then drove back to the airport so I could drop off the Nissan Altima Hybrid (which I ended up liking a lot!). From there... I decided to hop a train down to Washington, D.C. for dinner in the rain. All my photos are from the crummy camera in my iPhone, so you've been warned...

    White House
    The White House. I thought for sure President Obama would have come out to say hello, but he didn't. Maybe he wasn't home?

    Washington Monument with Construction Vehicles in Front
    The Washington Monument. I love this photo, and titled it "Monumental Construction" when I uploaded it to Flickr.

    It's the FBI...
    The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building. Conveniently located across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe.

    The Hard Rock WA DC
    The Hard Rock Cafe Washington, D.C. Kind of boring on the outside, but vintage Hard Rock on the inside!

    Hard Rock Cafe Washington, D.C.
    The Embassy of Rock. A very nice dual-level Hard Rock property with plenty of nifty memorabilia.

       
    After dinner, I hopped a train back to the airport. But along the way I somehow decided that I should continue on into Baltimore since it was only 8:00. Fortunately, the conductor was able to upgrade my ticket onboard, and away I went...
       

    Carnival Cruiselines
    Tired of Pants? This is the first thing I see when I arrive at Baltimore's Penn Station. My kind of city!

    Male/Female Statue at Penn Station
    Klaatu Barada Nikto? The first thing you see when exiting Penn Station is a freaky giant aluminum statue called "Male/Female."

    Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore
    Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore. My iPhone obviously does not do well in the dark.

    Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore Interiror
    Inside the HRC Baltimore. Yet another classic, beautiful, memorabilia-packed Hard Rock property.

    Waterfront in Baltimore
    Guardrails?!? Every time I'm in Baltimore, I'm shocked as hell that there are NO GUARDRAILS at the waterfront! What keeps drunks from falling in? Or kids from goofing off and being pushed in? It's just mind-boggling that nobody has been sued over this yet.

       
    I had thought I was in Baltimore just a couple years ago, but I can't find any record of it on my blog. Maybe I wasn't able to blog about the trip? I dunno. The last time I can verify that I was here was six years ago on a layover to Reykjavik, Iceland. I know I wasn't here in May of this year, because the Baltimore Sun News Building is still standing.

    Anyway... I was too tired to track down a light-rail train back to BWI and arrange for a shuttle, so I just bit the bullet and paid the $35 to take a taxi back to my hotel. I still had a couple hours work to get done, so any time saved would be worth the cost.

    And that was pretty much my day today. Now it's time to get some sleep.

       

    Closure

    Posted on Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

    Dave!As I am likely to do most evenings, I have the television turned on as background noise so I can focus on my work. Tonight my ears pricked up when I heard "Gran Canaria" mentioned, because it's a location very high on my list of places to visit. Partly because it's a part of Spain and I've loved all my previous visits to the country. Partly because it is supposed to be a very beautiful island. But mostly because it's a Hard Rock Cafe location that I haven't been to yet.

    At least it was.

    Out of habit when I hear the name of a Hard Rock location I'm lacking, I check to see if the property there is still open. It turns out that Gran Canaria isn't. It was closed back in October.

    Well, shit.

    I guess I should have gone to Gran Canaria instead of Mallorca back in January. Of course, had I done that, then it would have been Mallorca that closed (because I am just that lucky). To add insult to injury, I found out that the beautiful Hard Rock Cafe in Montreal (along with the nifty Skydome location in Toronto) had closed back in September. Oh well, at least I had visited those locations.

    Sure I can still visit Gran Canaria one of these days, but it's not the same without having a cafe to check off my list. People can laugh at me all they want, but it's thanks to my Hard Rock Cafe addiction that I've visited several places around the world which I never would have seen otherwise. Fantastic cities like Warsaw, Poland... Fukuoka, Japan... Reykjavik, Iceland... Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia... or even Gatlinburg, Tennessee... and many, many more. It was checking cafes off a list that made me want to go there. The fact that I always find loads of amazing stuff to see and do in addition to a cafe visit is just icing on the cake.

    Bah.

    Will somebody please give me a million dollars and unlimited airline miles so I can visit all the Hard Rocks before any more of them close down? That would be great, thanks!

       

    Bullet Sunday 169

    Posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    Dave!It' Bullet SUPER BOWL Sunday! Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints... the football team of one of my favorite cities on earth!

       
    • Rock! While I was goofing around in Seattle with The Bombshell, The Ninja, and The Bombja, we wandered by The Hard Rock Cafe Seattle where the Rock Shop is now open (the cafe Grand Opening is on Wednesday). The property is expectedly, but disappointingly, decorated in the new "hipster lounge" style that all the new Hard Rocks get. From what I can see, the memorabilia is somewhat sparse and lacking focus... I didn't even see anything above the bar. So while everything is "official" it sure doesn't feel like a "real" Hard Rock Cafe. Though it does have a Guitar out front, so I guess that's something...

    Hard Rock Cafe Seattle Guitar

    I'm going to try and visit in a couple weeks. After waiting for decades, it's strange to finally have a "local" Hard Rock Cafe (if you can call a 2-1/2 hour drive "local"). This will be my 125th Hard Rock property visit. Every time I add a new one to my list, I can't help but wonder how many more I have in me.

       
    • Gum! Seattle's Famous Gum Wall is a scary work of disease-ridden art that shouldn't be missed. My favorite part this time around was a cool Hawaiian flag...

    Hawaiian Flag on Seattle's Gum Wall

    If I could somehow convince myself that sticking my fingers into chewed gum is a good idea, I'd be tempted to add something of my own.

       
    • Snicker! The Mars Company had a flash of sheer genius when they decided to use the amazing Betty White in their new Snickers commercial...

    Betty White plays Football

    Now I want a Snickers bar. I hope Betty doesn't start doing ads for National Cattlemen's Beef Association... I'm really happy being a vegetarian.

       
    And now I suppose I should probably cut this short and try to get some sleep.

       

    125

    Posted on Saturday, February 20th, 2010

    Dave!This afternoon I hit Hard Rock property number 125 when I visited the new cafe in Seattle.

    The best Hard Rocks take a classic older building and transform it into something new. In this respect, Seattle's cafe is beautiful, with warm woods, original brick, and exposed pipes. Unfortunately, it followed in the footsteps of the new cafes in Yankee Stadium, Dallas, and the Las Vegas Strip, in that the memorabilia is pretty scarce. Unlike the older properties where the walls are packed with artifacts from all aspects of music history, the new-style restaurants have much fewer scattered pieces sprinkled amongst a bunch of photos and video screens. The good news is that they do relate to Seattle's unique music history pretty well, featuring items from Hendrix, Heart, Mother Love Bone, Nirvana, and more.

    Hard Rock Cafe Seattle

    Hard Rock Cafe Seattle

    Something new that I haven't seen before at any Hard Rock is their "call-in" number, where you can dial a local phone number, punch in code that's been tagged on a piece of memorabilia, and get more information about it. It's pretty sweet, and something I hope gets rolled out to other properties in the chain.

    Despite my misgivings about the new design direction for the Hard Rock chain, the Seattle cafe is actually pretty nice. The location is perfect (just a block from the Pike Place Market), the staff is fantastic (a lot of experienced transfers from other properties), and the building is spacious (two levels with a stage at the upper bar).

    Overall I'd say it's worth the two-decade-wait to finally have a "local" cafe in the Emerald City.

    Here's hoping it will stick around for a good long while.

       

    Day Four: Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest

    Posted on Monday, March 22nd, 2010

    Dave!This morning The DutchBitch dropped me off at Schiphol so I could continue onward with the my vacation. That I ended up flying off to Bucharest so I could work is honestly not her fault, but that's basically what I did. This being a Monday, it was pretty much unavoidable. But I made up for it by having an early dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest, so all was not lost.

    The local Hard Rock is located north of downtown proper in Herastrau Park. As Spring has arrived, the park is just starting to green up, and a fair number of people were taking advantage of the sunshine to wander around the lakeside. After making my way past a small amusement park, I arrived in front of one of the most boring Hard Rock Cafes I've ever seen. I can't say for certain, but it looks as though it might have once been a US embassy. Strip away the wooden arches at the entrance, and it's pretty much just a giant cement brick. It really needs a giant guitar on top or something...

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Exterior
    The car in the entryway is a nice touch.

    The perimeter of the deck has a concrete wall around it like a penitentiary. All that's missing is electrified razor-wire at the top...

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Exterior
    YOU CANNOT ESCAPE FROM HARD ROCK CAFE!

    To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

    Until I went inside...

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Interior
    Those are clear drum kits with lights in them in the ceiling above the bar, and are really cool-looking in person.

    Turns out it's a beautiful property done up in classic "Hard Rock Style" with plenty of memorabilia plastered over every available surface... just as God intended a Hard Rock to be. The interior of the property is positively massive, and is able to hold 300 people (the deck outside can hold an additional 150)...

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Interior
    The hidden lighting in the ceiling is just beautiful.

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Interior
    Memorabilia everywhere... now THIS is a Hard Rock!

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Interior
    Facing the deck-side of the building.

    So while it may be boring on the outside, it's 100% Hard Rock on the inside... which is where it counts, I guess. They even have a stage for live music...

    Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Interior Stage
    Disco ball included.

    My dinner, as expected, was very good. Getting a waiter was a little slow, but I arrived before the actual dinner shift when they were getting everything set up, so that was perfectly understandable. Service was fine after that, and the staff was really nice and friendly, which made my visit all the better.

    So... if you happen to be in Bucharest, it's worth taking a quick trip north to Herastrau and a very impressive Hard Rock Cafe.

       
    And, in non-Hard Rock news, Betty White continues her domination of all media by making a brilliant appearance on Ellen today...

    Just when I think it's impossible for me to love Betty White even more that I do, she goes and proves me wrong. I can't wait for SNL in May!

       
    And now I suppose I should get some work done so I can see a bit of the city tomorrow.

       

    Day Six: Bucharest to Prague

    Posted on Thursday, March 25th, 2010

    Dave!My flight out of Bucharest wasn't until 3:00, so I decided to hire a driver into town and visit the National Museum of Art of Romania. They are famous for their medieval art, which is great, but I've seen so much medieval art that it's all kind of blending together for me. What I was really interested in was their modern art wing, because I'm not very familiar with many Romanian painters in the genre. I wasn't expecting much, but it would give me something to do until my flight.

    The traffic in central Bucharest was brutal, largely because of a teacher's strike going on. At first I was worried that I had made a mistake...

    Teacher's Strike in Bucharest

    Until I made it to the museum and was completely blown away by the amazing works housed within.

    I have been to a lot of art museums all over the world, and I can honestly say that the National Museum of Art of Romania instantly became one of my favorites. Not just because it's a nice museum (which it is) but because I absolutely love the collection of artists they've assembled. It's just one breathtaking work of art after another...

    National Museum of Art of Romania

    I am not joking when I say that this museum is worth a trip to Bucharest all by itself. It's just that impressive. Highest possible recommendation...

    National Museum of Art of Romania

    My flight into Prague was delayed a bit, which meant I landed at the height of rush hour. The route my driver had to take into town to try and avoid the worst of the traffic was a mind-boggling array of twists and turns that looked like a pretzel on my iPhone GPS map. By the time I arrived and caught a tram into Old Town, the sun had just set.

    Not that I'm complaining, because you get some great photos at that time of day...

    Prague at Night

    Prague at Night

    Prague at Night

    I have been trying to arrange a stop in Prague for the better part of two decades, because people are constantly telling me what an beautiful city it is. Having seen photos, I knew they weren't lying, but it's taken to an entirely new level when you're here in person. The city is simply beyond beautiful. It's so beautiful that if I were a local, I'd wear a T-shirt that said "YES, WE KNOW OUR CITY IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL... WE LIVE HERE!" because I'm sure they get tourists telling them how beautiful the place is all day long.

    I can't wait to go to sleep so I can wake up and explore Prague in the daylight.

    But of course I had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe Prague first...

    Hard Rock Cafe Prague at Night

    Like just about everything else in this city, it was beautiful.

       

    09/20: ROCK

    Posted on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

    Dave!Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "rock."

    And it's kind of strange exactly how many ways that this word can be interpreted for a photo meme like this. It's music. It's a stone. It's a motion. It's an assault of the senses. It's a lot of things.

    But the first thing that came to mind was when @CopaseticBeth and @HoustonsProblem were nice enough to take me to Stone Mountain, which happens to be the biggest rock on earth. It's indescribably massively huge... and yet most of it is buried, so you're not even seeing all of it. As you look down from the cable car, people are like ants on the thing...

    Stone Mountain View

    Stone Mountain People Ants

       
    What probably should be first in my mind is the Hard Rock Cafe, seeing as how I've been to 128 of them around the world...

    Dave Hard Rock Cafe Visits

       
    In other news... something which doesn't rock today would be Wonder Woman's new costume. Writer Michael J. Straczynski apparently desired a tougher more modern look, and wanted to address fan outrage over Princess Diana not having pockets. So what do we get? Wonder Woman as a biker chick, complete with retro 80's mini jacket, throat choker, and latex pants. It's apparently a more feminist approach to the character's look, but I'd argue that with her tits hanging out of that jacket and all those prominent ass shots, it's a giant step backwards for woman-super-hero-kind...

    New Wonder Woman Costume

    New Wonder Woman Costume

    New Wonder Woman Costume

    New Wonder Woman Costume

    Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Comics Universe. She's a frickin' AMAZON WARRIOR! She's the equivalent of Marvel Comics' Thor, for heaven sakes. She is not a biker chick! Want to make her tougher? Just add armor and big-ass weapons to the iconic costume she already wears, like George Pérez did...

    Wonder Woman Armor

    And then there's that giant battle-axe she carries. Would you fuck with somebody who was packing THIS...?

    Wonder Woman Axe

    It doesn't get much tougher than that!

    I admit that I am interested in what Straczynski has planned for the character, but don't feel the costume is that great. It's neither memorable nor iconic... and is a complete disservice to Wonder Woman's roots as an American hero. George Pérez did a masterful job of reinventing Princess Diana of Themyscira back in the 80's, but this time it smells of desperation, looking kind of cheap and sad... like she's wearing Black Canary's 80's era hand-me-downs or something.

    Oh well. Something tells me it will not last...

       

    DAY TWO: Hollywood

    Posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

    Dave!I got to the airport two hours early this morning because I wanted to have breakfast. Thanks to two screw-ups at the check-in counter* and outrageous waits at airport security**, I made it to the gate just as they started boarding. I didn't get to even so much as sniff breakfast, and ended up raiding the snack basket on the plane. If you can call Sun-Chips, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and a Twix bar breakfast, then I guess I had breakfast after all.

    The flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City was fine. Pleasant even. But the flight from SLC to San Diego had such a dense concentration of self-important assholes in First Class that it never seemed to end. I will never, ever, get over the self-entitlement so many First Class passengers have... especially since 90% of them are getting their First Class seat as a FREE UPGRADE. They are not the least bit grateful for the nicer food, personal service, and extra legroom they got AT NO EXTRA CHARGE, all they do is make demands, be rude to the flight attendants, and bitch about everything. It is horrible and embarrassing, and I don't know how people working the flight can stand it... except it's their job and they have to.

    Anyway...

    A couple days ago I heard that the new Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood*** had finally opened up. This was important news, because it meant a quick drive up from San Diego would allow me to check another property off my list, putting my Hard Rock Total at 129. Never mind that I only had two hours of sleep and was near exhaustion... nothing brightens up your day and fills you with energy more than battling L.A. traffic for hours on end!

    Other than a truck accident that halted traffic entirely on I-5 near Norwalk, and the usual gridlock on the 101 into Hollywood, the drive up wasn't bad at all. 2-1/2 hours, as expected. The Hard Rock Hollywood is one of the "new-style" (i.e. "boring") cafes with entirely too little rock memorabilia and waaayyy too much blank wall space, which sucks. But the staff was great... AND I got to have dinner with Amanda, which was awesome!

    Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood

    The drive BACK, however, was horrendous. I waited to leave until 6:30, hoping most of the southbound traffic would be over by then. For reasons I can't fathom, it still took me 3-1/2 hours to get back to San Diego. That's better than the 3 hours 52 minutes Google Maps was predicting, but still. Argh. Driving in SoCal is an exercise in patience and futility. When I was working here over a decade ago, I adapted to the rhythm and flow of SoCal traffic fairly easily. Mostly because you have to. If you don't, you go insane. Today I just can't adapt anymore. Even when you see funny-crazy-cool stuff on the road that only seems to happen in L.A. — IT'S DOMO-KUN!!!

    It's Domo!

    One thing that never seems to change in SoCal driving is the speed. I love how I'll be cruising down the highway in a pack of cars, then run across some people driving too slow, forcing everybody to deaccellerate. That's when I start screaming "OH, COME ON!!!" and get all pissed off because traffic is slow, only to look down at the speedometer and see that the "slow" I'm now going is 80 miles per hour. It's bizarre how I seem to lose all sense of speed in SoCal... except when I'm forced to slow down.

    Now I suppose I really should get some sleep. But first it's time to update my travel map (for people who asked, the greyed-out States are States I haven't been to yet)...

    DaveTour USA 2010

    Tomorrow... Comic Con...

       
       
    * NOTE TO AIRLINES... The whole point of a digital boarding pass is that there's no paper involved. Making your customers print out a paper boarding pass defeats the entire purpose, and is beyond stupid. If you're not going to deal with digital boarding passes... STOP OFFERING THEM!! Especially if you are going to make your customers stand in line twice to get something they shouldn't need in the first place.

    ** I am super serial here... any wait longer than 30 minutes to clear airport security is complete and total FAIL! Any wait over an hour is categorically absurd, and somebody needs to get fired.

    *** The Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood is actually the new Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard... not to be confused with the long-since-closed Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles in Beverly Hills or the still-open Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood in Universal City or the hotel and cafe in Hollywood, Florida. Yes. being a Hard Rock fan is not always easy.

       

    DAY SEVEN: Tulsa

    Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

    Dave!Whee! I'm in Oklahoma!

    In my effort to keep up with any new US & Canada Hard Rock properties as they open, I'm here to visit the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on my way back to Seattle. It's pretty much a raging disappointment, but that's probably my own fault for hanging on to Hard Rock memories of yesteryear instead of the reality of Hard Rock today.

    All in all, a pretty crappy day to be me...

    • A direct flight to Tulsa from Atlanta was outrageously expensive. So I connected through Salt Lake City and ended up flying three times the distance in four times the duration at one-fifth the cost. I give up on the math that makes all that work.
    • Ended up sitting on the Atlanta tarmac for 40 minutes while they decided if our plane was safe to fly in the face of "mechanical difficulties." Apparently it was, so we did, and ended up landing only 10 minutes late. That would have been a good thing, except it caused a backlog with the luggage and it took forever to get my suitcase.
    • I was the first to leave the plane and arrive to a closed door. Nobody was outside, no sign on the door said not to open it, so I walked through... and had an alarm go off. The gate agent was infuriated and yelled "AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!" at me, then slammed the door while calling it in as a false alarm. Like it's my fault that he didn't do his job and open the door for an arriving flight. Well fuck you. Fuck you sideways. Helpful customer service tip... when you fuck up, APOLOGIZE to your customer and be mad at yourself, not them, for YOUR screw-up.
    • I went to pick up my rental car and was told that I had been "upgraded" to a full-size vehicle. Well, here's the scoop... if I had wanted a full-size vehicle, I would have reserved one. So when you give me anything other than what I requested, it IS NOT A FUCKING UPGRADE! Of course, they didn't "upgrade" me because they like me, they did it because they ran out of compact cars. Fortunately, begging at the returns counter got me the car size I had wanted all along.
    • Karma being what it is, the cigarette lighter doesn't work, so I can't charge my iPhone while I drive. Shit.
    • The highways here are being upgraded and/or repaired. I missed the exit I needed because the temporary sign naming it could be seen ONLY after you passed the exit. It's a flavor of stupid that I can't quite wrap my head around.
    • Now that I've finally made it to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, all I want to do is leave.

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa

       
    Time to update my travel map for this trip...

    DaveTour USA 2010

    Ooh! Look at that! I've filled in a State I've never been to before! Just four more to go!

    For anybody interested in my thoughts on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa and the state of the Hard Rock chain in general, I've put that in an extended entry. For everybody else, good night!

    → Click here to continue reading this entry...
    Tags:
    Categories: Hard Rock 2010, Travel 2010Click To It: Permalink  28 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

       

    Bullet Sunday 194

    Posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2010

    Dave!It's Bullet Sunday from sunny Sacramento!

       
    • Lake Tahoe. Since Sacramento doesn't have a Hard Rock Cafe anymore, Foodiddy and Phister were kind enough to take Hilly-Sue and I to Lake Tahoe for a quick lunch. And while it may seem insane to drive 1-1/2 hours for lunch (and a mind-numbing 3 hours back to Sac through traffic)... it was a great way to spend an afternoon. Especially since the Hard Rock is one of my favorites. A part of Harvey's Casino, it's designed to look like a mountain cabin (complete with outside "deck") and is really well-done with beautiful rustic wood interiors and plenty of rock memorabilia...

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Sadly, the companion "wood cabin" cafe at Whistler was closed, so I'm hoping that the Tahoe property stays open for a good long time.

    On the way back, actual hail was falling, which was surprising to say the least (is this not summer?). But we survived and made it back for Pinkberry for dessert, so I guess it's all good.

       
    • Summertime Treat. Speaking of Pinkberry, they have a special frozen yogurt flavor running for summer... watermelon! It's worth grabbing a taste, even if you can't be wooed away from your regular favorite (like me!)...

    Pinkberry Watermelon FroYo

       
    • No Parking. Yesterday as Hilly and I arrived at the mall so I could be terrorized by Sephora, we were cruising the parking lot looking for a spot when something so mind-bogglingly stupid happened that I still don't think it was real. Some stupid bitch had COMPLETELY PASSED a parking spot that was being vacated, and decided she wanted it... even though SHE HAD COMPLETELY PASSED IT! So she sits there. Blocking the person trying to leave, and us, and the person behind us. Then she inches backwards as if to tell us that she wants us to back up, except there's somebody behind us. We CAN'T back up, even if we wanted to. So she sits there. And sits there. And sits there. Eventually the person behind us backs up so we can move. I was fucking fuming. Hilly moved because she was running low on gas. And she's apparently a lot more diplomatic than I am. Because I would NOT have moved. I don't give a shit if I ran out of gas. I don't care if a meteor was going to strike. I don't care if I was having a heart attack and needed immediate medical attention. There is no fucking way... NO WAY AT ALL I would have moved out of the way for that rude dumbass piece of shit. If you PASS a parking spot, GAME OVER! Go find another on. Don't block people and force them to move for your stupid ass.

    It's times like this that I remember why I used to have extreme anger management issues. People are stupid, rude, selfish, and wholly intolerable. And all I wanted to do was beat the ever-loving shit out of this moron with a crowbar for being such a huge asshole. She totally deserved it and, after having to deal with her bullshit, I deserved to give it to her.

       
    • Wave Goodbye. This past week Google announced that they were shutting down Google Wave... assumably due to the huge level of non-interest by just about everybody. Google's concept of real-time communication was pretty nifty, but any SUCCESSFUL new technologies tend to be dead-simple to use (ala Twitter), and Wave was too far-reaching and complex to get there. So now we all sit and wait for the Next Big Thing... and hoping it won't be limited to 140 characters or less.

       
    And now... I really should get some sleep. For once my flight isn't at 7:00am, so here's hoping...

       

    Bullet Sunday 203

    Posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2010

    Dave!HOW YOU DOIN' ALBUQUERQUE?!

    It's a special HARD ROCK Edition of Bullet Sunday, LIVE from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque! For those of you who don't care about my Hard Rock obsession, you might want to skip this entry.

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque
    About the only Hard Rock logo you'll see outside of their gift shop.

       
    • HARD? Kinda. Like the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, the Albuquerque property wasn't built as a Hard Rock. It's a tribal casino which has been retrofitted with Hard Rock theming in the public areas. They sprinkled cabinets of rock memorabilia around the place, added a trademark Hard Rock center bar to the casino floor, painted some classic rock lyrics on the walls, hung up some guitars, and changed the door-handles. As with Tulsa, the result is kinda half-baked. It looks like a Hard Rock property in places, but doesn't give you that overall "feel" you get from an "authentic" Hard Rock.
    HARD ROCK GRADE: C

    Shitty Hard Rock Casino Sign
    Apparently, this was the best they could do for a sign. How embarrassing.

    Shitty Hard Rock Hotel Sign
    You could slap this crap signage on a Motel 6, it doesn't make it a Hard Rock.

    Sammy Hagar Suit Display
    Sammy Hagar suit display case. THIS is Hard Rock.

    Jonas Brothers Guitar Display
    Jonas Brothers guitar display. I have no idea what the fuck this is.

    Guitar Door Handles!
    Nice. Guitar-shaped door handles. We need MORE of this kind of stuff here.

       
    • ROCK? Not so much. The property is what it is, but... if you are a Hard Rock fanatic like me, that's not the problem. Once again, my Pin Collector's Card is worthless. No discount. No visitation credit. When I showed my card to the cashier, she literally said "We don't take that. We're not affiliated with the Hard Rock Cafe"... I shit you not. I responded "No... you just brand your hotel with their logo, sell tons of their logo merchandise, and create pins and shot glasses specifically for Hard Rock collectors. You're not affiliated at all!" Then I laughed it off as a joke, but I wasn't joking. Again, if you are licensing the Hard Rock brand and passing yourself off as a Hard Rock property, then BE A FUCKING HARD ROCK PROPERTY! When HRC Corporate licenses out their brand, one of the conditions should be that licensees are required to honor their club cards. Otherwise, you're just going to piss off your most diehard fans and customers. At least they had a good selection of merchandise and people who understood it (unlike the dismal merch shop in Tulsa).
    HARD ROCK COLLECTOR GRADE: D+

    Hard Rock Store
    Never mind the tons of Hard Rock logo merch... they're not affiliated with the Hard Rock!

       
    • CASINO? Nice. While not seeming very "Hard Rock" to me, I must admit that my friends and I had a blast at the casino. Biggest plus is the gorgeous lady dealers at the table games dressed in corsets and stockings! Brutally hot (if only they allowed photos in casinos). You could lose every penny you had and just not care! They also have lots of modern slots (including a small non-smoking area), free coffee & Coke refreshment centers, and a snack bar (with the worst $4.95 nachos I've ever eaten... the "cheese" tasted like motor oil). All in all, it's a classy casino with a great staff which has a nice layout and offers a "full" casino experience (including a Bingo room, table games, and poker parlor). There's a "Rockstar" rewards club for the frequent gambler.
    HARD ROCK CASINO GRADE: CCASINO GRADE: A-

       
    • HOTEL? Boring. The hotel rooms are pretty basic as there is no Hard Rock theming of any kind. With the exception of the hotel services book and the soaps which say "Hard Rock Hotel," you'd never know that this is a Hard Rock at all. The Native American prints on the walls are nice, but not Hard Rock. Even putting all that aside, there are still problems. The clock was not set to the correct time. The room smells funky (like burnt hair?). The wall television didn't work and had a giant annoying glowing light on the bottom that I had to cover so I could sleep. And I had to keep the bathroom door closed because the toilet would start running at random. Ultimately, my $170 "DELUXE" room doesn't seem very "deluxe" and my promised "view" isn't that great. About the only positive I can offer is that it was clean.
    HARD ROCK HOTEL GRADE: FHOTEL GRADE: C

    Hard Rock Hotel Beds
    Not bad... but not very Hard Rock either.

    Hard Rock Hotel Room Desk
    See that tiny leather binder and notepad on the desk? The only thing Hard Rock in this entire photo.

       
    • NOISE? FAIL! This hotel is noisy as hell. Rude people are screaming down the hallways at all hours of the day and night. Doors are slamming constantly. Hotel staff are walking around 24-7 screaming into their radios which are blaring at full volume. And you hear everything. Absolutely no effort was made to soundproof anything. Thus I can sum up the relaxation level of my room as "miserable." If you have any aspirations of getting even a little sleep... best bring earplugs. You'll need them.
    ROOM NOISE GRADE: D

       
    • FOOD? Okay to Great. In addition to the truly awful "food" being sold at the casino snack bar, there's other dining options available... EAGLE'S NEST BUFFET: While modest by Vegas standards, the buffet still looked decent. I took a pass, because vegetarians will never get their $13.95 worth. LUCHA: A nice Mexican restaurant by day which transforms into a Tequila bar at night. I had dinner here and really enjoyed it. Everything was fresh and flavorful, and the guacamole was fantastic. 505 FUSION: A very nice, upscale nightclub, we had drinks here last night. Pizza and appetizers were okay, but nothing special. The menu looked decent, but none of us were hungry enough to order late supper. CHILL: Great-tasting quality ice cream parlor. TIWA: An upscale cafe, but the menu was definitely meat-oriented, so I took a pass. THE DELI: I had a cheap, bland grilled-cheese sandwich with undercooked, waggy fries that had me chained to the toilet an hour after eating here (thank heavens for Imodium!).
    DINING GRADE: C- (LUCHA DINING GRADE: B+) (505 FUSION DINING GRADE: B-)

    Delicious Meal at Lucha

       
    • SERVICES & SHOPS? Good! Much to my total shock and surprise, there's a free round-the-clock shuttle to the airport for registered hotel guests! They will also take you to the Isleta Pueblo station so you can catch the $2 RailRunner train into town (which is nice, because a taxi would be $35+).

    There's a nice pool and an interesting spa...

    Indoor-Outdoor Pool Photo
    The pool continues under the glass to the inside, which is cool.

    The Spa's Hot Tub Pavilion at Night
    Inside the spa's hot tub pavilion at night. Nifty.

    As I mentioned above, there's a Hard Rock Shop filled to the rafters with Hard Rock merchandise (though your Hard Rock All-Access Pass and Pin Club Card are useless here). There's also a very cool tattoo and body modification shop called "The Vault"...

    The Vault Tattoo and Body Modification Shop
    Green tattooed woman mannequin sold separately.

    There's also golfing nearby at the Isleta Eagle Golf Club, and camping nearby at the Isleta Lakes Recreation Area. Lastly, there's the "Fun Connection" spot with bowling, laser tag, and an arcade (or so I'm told... I never saw it).
    SERVICES GRADE: B

       
    • PROBLEMS? Yes. In order to use the hotel elevator, you have to swipe your room key before the buttons will work. Unfortunately, the card reader in the elevator is shitty. More than once I was riding the damn thing up and down while trying to get my card to work so it would stop on my floor. Several times I'd enter the elevator only to find somebody else has been riding up and down trying to get their card to work as well. This is an obvious and highly frustrating problem, and it's just plain stupid that the hotel doesn't do something about it.

       
    • CONCLUSION: Ultimately, I'd have to give the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque a pass. The hotel doesn't impress me much, and there's nothing "Hard Rock" enough about the resort to make it destination-worthy for fans. If you're in the area, it might be fun to gamble in their nice casino, but I wouldn't stay or eat here again (except perhaps dinner at Lucha).

       
    Anyway... it was nice to meet up with my friends, I had a lot of fun, and I can't complain about the cheap-ass ticket price I paid to get here ($168 round-trip!), so overall this weekender goes in the WIN column. I just wish that these new additions to the Hard Rock family would be worth the effort on their own. They have to be, because otherwise they're just diluting the Hard Rock brand and giving people a mediocre impression of what a Hard Rock property can be when some effort goes into creating them.

       

    Nightfall

    Posted on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

    Dave!Work was supposed to end at 10:30 last night. I finally finished at 4:40am this morning. It's not a big deal... just the way the job goes sometimes... but it left me in a seriously debilitated state when my alarm went off at 7:00am. That's two nights in a row with no sleep.

    This did not bode well for my drive back to work to turn in my badge and car. Especially since a nasty fog had descended on the Georgia countryside...

    Foggy Georgia Morning

    But I survived the trip so no harm, no foul.

    When I arrived back at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I checked into my hotel, did not pass GO, did not collect $200, and collapsed onto the bed. Nothing would have made me happier than to sleep the next ten hours, but the last thing I wanted was for my sleep schedule to get screwed up, so I forced myself to stop at just two.

    Then it was time to head downtown and see what kind of trouble I could get into.

    And eat dinner.

    And get really, really wet.

    When I exited the MARTA train stop at Peachtree Center, I was immediately assaulted by pouring rain. This caught me by surprise, because there was no hint of it when I left my hotel. After just five minutes I was soaked to the bone. This made for a miserable dinner, but I didn't want to waste the 35-minute trip so I wandered through Centennial Olympic Park. World of Coke Without Lime looked kind of cool in the dreary Atlanta rain...

    World of Coke Without Lime

    John Pemberton, Inventor of Coca-Cola!
    It's John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola!

    Since I was already wet, I walked around town for a while and ended up back at The Westin. With nothing better to do I decided to take another trip to the top and see the city at night, which I had never done before. Unfortunately, the windows were covered in rain, but the photos I took looked kind of cool anyway...

    Atlanta at Night

    Atlanta at Night

    Atlanta at Night from the Westin Hotel's Sun Dial revolving restaurant.

    Then across the street to see if the Hard Rock Cafe had any cool pins I couldn't live without...

    Hard Rock Atlanta at Night

    Atlanta Rainy Streets Reflections

    And that was all I could manage. Mostly because my feet were getting all wrinkly.

    Back to the MARTA train...

    MARTA train stop escalator

    ...and my warm, dry, comfy hotel bed.

       
    Tomorrow I'll be flying on the busiest travel day of the year. I wonder if I'll end up with anything to blog about?

       

    Dave10

    Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010

    Dave!2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVE

    And now, at long last, comes that one entry for people who are curious as to what I've been up to, but only like to read one blog post a year. All-in-all, it was not a terrible end to the decade. Picking and choosing all the good stuff that happened in 2010 (out of a blog that is already picking and choosing all the good stuff) kind of makes me think it was a great year. Alas, I know better, as there were boatloads of crap I had to deal with that never end up at Blogography. Oh well. It's okay to pretend, isn't it?


    JANUARY

    • Realized the right tool for the job won't actually get me a free date with Elizabeth Hurley.

    • Opened my big mouth and got the entire wine-connoisseur world pissed at me.

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey drink entirely too much wine.

    • AND NOW, FROM THE BLOGGER WHO BROUGHT YOU PENIS SALAD...

    • Found out that somebody stole my monkey.

    Copycat Monkey!

    Found a vagina on the sidewalk.


    FEBRUARY

    • Discovered that Canadians are responsible for the pussification of America, and showed them how REAL AMERICANS GET SHIT DONE!!

    • Seattle FINALLY got a Hard Rock Cafe, and I got my 125th visit.

    • Released my medical findings on a cure for the common cold to Twitter (and so much more).

    Tweet01.gif


    MARCH

    • That Crasher Squirrel has been showing up everywhere...

    Crasher Squirrel in Inglourious Basterds

    • Just like Lindsay Lohan's cootchie...

    Lohan Coochie

    • Took my annual Birthday Vacation and ended up in Dutchyland, and Brussels, and Bucharest, and Transylvania, and Prague.

    Prague at Night


    APRIL

    • Explained why Roger Ebert is WRONG about video games not being art.

    Talked shit... LITERALLY.

    • Attended THE blogging event of the year... TEQUILACON 2010 VANCOUVER!

    Planning Posse


    MAY

    • Went to New York for a-ha's farewell tour and to hang out with awesome people while Betty White made her Emmy-winning SNL appearance.

    Remembered a friend.

    Got the tackiest phone call ever.

    Took a dump on Lost and then went out for pizza with RW, which ended up having far-reaching consequences you'll find out about later this year.

    • Summed up my position on the BP oil spill.

    DAVETOON: Bad Monkey covers Lil' Dave in Oil


    JUNE

    • Saw the Worst. Movie. Ever.

    • WAY TO GO BLACKHAWKS!!

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave in a Blackhawks Jersey

    • Had more fun than should legally be allowed at Bitchsterdam 2!

    Bitchsterdam Euro Celebration

    Rush Limbaugh is a vile piece of shit.


    JULY

    Saw one of the best episodes of television ever (thank you Steven Moffat, The BBC, and Dr. Who!). I can honestly say that I think this is the only time I cried in all of 2010.

    Van Gogh Meets Dr. Who!

    Sarah Palin is a fucking idiot.

    • Went on a tour of the USA with stops in Hollywood, San Diego for Comic Con, and Atlanta for Watermelon Beer, and Tulsa, and Kansas, and Chicago.


    AUGUST

    • Explained to haters who don't like being referred to as a hater that they kind are.

    Paid a visit to mah Hilly-Sue and FooDiddy in Sacramento.

    Got a visit from Muskrat and Whit in Seattle.

    • Was inspired beyond my ability to express by the final words of a legend.

    Satoshi Kon


    SEPTEMBER

    • Took a Mediterranean vacation and saw such remarkable places as Barcelona, and Malta, and Tunisia, and The Amalfi Coast, and Rome, and Portofino, and Corsica, and Monaco. As if all that wasn't enough, I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse!

    Dave2 and Mickey!

    • Remembered The Golden Rule and became the biggest evil dumbass inhuman monster of them all.


    OCTOBER

    Nearly crapped myself watching a television show.

    DAVETOON: Oh Shit! Oh Shit! Oh Shit!

    Partied down in rural Wisconsin... a good place to be!

    Put Your Hands Up!

    Got all poitical for a minute.

    Wore purple for a very important cause...

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey in Purple

    • Went to Albuquerque to gamble away my money at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino there.

    • Found out my iPhone can take some pretty decent photos if I bother to stop and look around because there's an app for that...

    Wenatchee River Fall Colors


    NOVEMBER

    • Went back to Atlanta, this time for Pumpkin Beer and good friends... then a tour of THE WALKING DEAD!

    • Took a look at porn and handjobs in the interest of airport security.

    DAVETOON: TSA says okay! You're good to go!


    DECEMBER

    Got into the CALM Act...

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave getting blasted with a hemorrhoid commercial

    • Want to know where to go on vacation? Here are some of my suggestions!.

    "Take your stupid war and go fuck yourself with it."

    Took some pictures in the snow.

    Snowy Cemetery at Night

    • Took on stupid bitches and the law, and went ape-shit over net-neutrality, and was shocked as hell by a moment of lucidity from Pat Robertson.


       
    And that was pretty much what happened with me in 2010. How about you?

    Hope your 2011 is a good one, and thanks for reading!

       

    11:11-1-1-11

    Posted on Saturday, January 1st, 2011

    Dave!I am posting this at 11:11 on 1-1-11 because it seemed like a good thing to do.

    When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I'm pretty boring because I have the exact same New Year's resolutions every year. The same five goals going on for heaven only knows how long. This year is no different, except I am working on some projects which will definitely add some excitement to my 2011. More on that later.

    Here's my score card for fulfilling my resolutions in 2010...

    • Try a Pop-Tart flavor I've never had before. DONE! Vanilla Milkshake. I agree with Poppy... truly horrible.
    • Travel somewhere I've never been before. DONE! Traveled to Alkmaar, Bucharest, Prague, Malta, Tunisia, Corsica, Portofino, Monaco, and the Amalfi Coast.
    • Visit a Hard Rock Cafe I haven't seen before. DONE! Visited Malta Cafe, Valletta Bar, Albuquerque Hotel, Tulsa Hotel, Hollywood Blvd. Cafe, Berlin 2 Cafe, Prague Cafe, and Bucharest Cafe.
    • Drink a beer I've never drank before. DONE! I drank several new beers, but the most memorable was the Watermelon Wheat Beer by 5 Seasons West in Atlanta.
    • Get another Apple product. DONE! iPhone 4, Apple TV, iPad (which I gave to my mom).

    Here's hoping that the Pop-Tart people keep making new flavors so I can fulfill my resolutions again this year!

       

    And now for what's new this decade...

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey celebrate 2011

       
    I work. A lot. And while it's work I love, the fact that it's non-stop and never-ending has sucked most of the joy out of what I do. This year I am trying to rediscover the joys to be found in creativity by coming up with projects just for me. Five new projects to go with the same five resolutions I do every year. Five projects centering around stuff I like to do, but don't get to do so much any more...

    1. Collecting Hard Rock stuff.
    2. Creating DaveToon products for Artificial Duck Co.
    3. Writing fiction.
    4. Drawing pictures and comics.
    5. Keeping secrets.

    And here we go...

    DAVE'S FIVE PROJECTS FOR 2011

    • The Hard Rock Project. I owe the Hard Rock Cafe a huge debt for continuing to inspire me to travel to new places. When I think of all the awesome cities I've discovered that I would have never visited if not for a Hard Rock being there, my gratitude knows no bounds. Coming up with a project to celebrate my love of Hard Rock collectibles wasn't easy, but then I saw my closet packed full of their T-shirts and the HARD ROCK 100 PROJECT was born. For 100 days I'll be wearing a favorite Hard Rock T-shirt from my collection and sharing the photo both on my DaveCafe fan site and my DaveCafe Flickr feed. Here is Day One (which you can read about by clicking on it)...

    Dave in his Hard Rock Vault Orlando Shirt!

       
    • The Artificial Duck Project. After losing my T-shirt printer, twice, I kind of let the Artificial Duck Co. store languish for a year. That's going to change. I've been working on some new T-Shirts and will be getting that set up at yet another printer soon. But that's not all... more totally sweet crap you can't live without is being planned and should be appearing this Summer.

       
    • The Writing Project. After being invited to RW's house for pizza and plenty of good conversation, I realized that I wanted to start writing again. I used to write stories all the time, and loved the escape I got from it. But then my blog kind of took over all my writing time and I stopped. This Spring that's going to change in a big way. You'll be finding out all about it sometime in March.

       
    • The Drawing Project. Before computers took over all my design work, I used to draw, paint, and even sculpt. Don't get me wrong, I love designing on the computer, but it's not the same as "getting your hands dirty" with a pencil and a drawing pad. Proving that one thing leads to another, The Writing Project led to me finding The Drawing project. It's been a lot of fun, and should also be debuting in March.

       
    • The Secret Project. Yeah, this one is going to take a while... most of the year, in fact. I'm waaaayyyy over my head this time. And loving every minute of it. So far.

       
    And that's it. Plans are already in motion.

    Here's to an interesting 2011.

       

    Day Two: Köln-Essen

    Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011

    Dave!As I type this, it is 12:30am Saturday, January 29th in Cologne, Germany.

    Since I woke up at 3:30am Thursday, January 27th in the US Pacific time zone, this means I have been awake for 37 hours straight. And yet I am still not tired. I tried to sleep on the plane, but ended up watching The Social Network again (a little more boring that the first time, but still awesome), Salt again (liked it even more the second time around), and Scott Pilgrim Saves the World again (which sucked even more the second time around, because whiny, dorky Michael Cera is NOT lady-killer slacker hero Scott Pilgrim... AT ALL. This movie could have been sheer perfection if the lead role weren't so hideously miscast).

    Anyway...

    The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam via Delta Airlines was bliss. I wasn't upgraded, but the plane was so empty that I had almost an entire row to myself, which was super-sweet. Except for the not-being-able to sleep thing, it truly was a flawless experience. As was my connection at Schiphol, as usual. Looking out the plane-window at sunrise, it was looking like a glorious day in DutchyLand...

    Schiphol Airport

    Except... it was freezing cold. Even after the sun was out. Much like it would be when I finally ended up in Cologne. As I landed, I noticed that Gowalla had rolled out their new flight-tracker status updates, which is wickedly cool...

    Gowalla Flights Update
    Not shown is my flight from Wenatchee to Seattle... probably because Wenatchee hasn't been considered an airport yet?

    Anyway... after checking in at my hotel and then getting some work done, it was time to head up to Essen for some dinner with friends. While waiting at the train station, I ran across an awesome poster... I just love good advertising! That's the hugely tall Cologne Cathedral buried in snow there...

    Cologne Snow Day!
    "Ihr Beitrag zum klima? Mehr Bus & Bahn fahren!"

    Dinner was with my fellow Hard Rock Cafe fans, Marc & Mechthild... with vegetarian pizza hand-made by Mechthild herself, which was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious...

    Pizzzzzzzza!!
    Easily the best pizza you'll find in all of Germany. You may commence being jealous now.

    But the truly unexpected surprise of the evening was the beautiful salad that was served. I still have no idea what kind of greens these were... or even if there's a US equivalent... as I had never seen them before. Marc & Mechthild called them "winter salad," as there doesn't seem to be an equivalent name for it in English (they looked!). The greens appear to be some kind of thick four-leaf clover type-thing, tasting buttery and sweet. There's absolutely no bitter notes in the flavor at all, which made the whole thing taste like frickin' candy when tossed up with a lovely vinaigrette. I shit you not, CANDY...

    Mechthild's Winter Salad
    If all salads tasted like this, I'd be eating a lot more fucking salads!

    After-dinner conversation was all Hard Rock Cafes and world travel (two of my favorite subjects!). The time went flying by and suddenly it was 11:00 and time to take the train back to Cologne. The evening was loads of fun, despite the fact that I really should have been dead from lack of sleep. Praise be to the power of the internet for continuing to find me wonderful friends around the globe!

    And now it's 12:56am here in Cologne, which means I've been awake for 37-and-a-half hours straight.

    Still not tired.

    I have no idea what my deal is, but I sure don't want to be around when this lack of sleep catches up to me!

    Alas, I have no choice...

       

    Day Six: Köln

    Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

    Dave!So very tired...

    The weather in Cologne today was odd. It was dreary and cold, but not the kind of cold that lands on you... it was more a general cold around your immediate vicinity. Sure I could see my breath and needed a jacket, but wearing gloves was too much, and my hands were perfectly fine without them. I'm a real weenie when it comes to having cold hands, so this was kind of freaky. In a good way.

    What was decidedly not freaky was that they finally replaced the chocolate chicken! Isn't she awesome?

    Chocolate Chicken Lives!

       
    As today was my last day in Cologne I had intended to try and wander around a bit, but I was just too exhausted and had entirely too much work to do. So instead of eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, I just bought some pins and a T-shirt while breezing through after work...

    Hard Rock Cologne Bar

    Hard Rock Cologne Wall

    It's a fairly small property, but has all the classic Hard Rock fixin's so I really like it here.

    Alas, I didn't have time to hang around, so dinner consisted of glorious Patatjes Met "Pommes Frites mit Mayo" with a delicious Spritzringe and a Coke back at my hotel room for dessert...

    Pommes Frites mit Mayo

    Spritzringe and a Coke

       
    While I was walking to the tram stop so I could get "home" I noticed some interesting things:

       
    ONE: HINDENBURG! After the movie Titanic made a gazillion dollars, I remember asking when somebody would get around to making a modern movie drama about the Hindenburg tragedy...

    Apparently they now have, as I've seen the posters around Cologne...

    Hindenburg: The Movie
    "Ein Traum von Ruhm" - "A Dream of Glory"

       
    TWO: MADONNA! I've lost count of the number of times I've walked through Neumarkt, but this is the first time I can ever recall seeing this Madonna & Child statue glued to one of the buildings on the Eastern loop. While I'm sure it must have been beautiful at one time, it's kind of creepy now that pieces have fallen off and it's been partially eroded by pollution and the elements...

    Madonna and Child Statue

    Madonna and Child Statue ZOOM

       
    THREE: BANNED! I never take food or drinks onto the tram anyway, but I found it funny that fries and mayo are specifically banned on the signage (along with coffee and Kölsch/beer)...

    NO PATATJES MET!
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

       
    And now I suppose I should probably pack my suitcase. I've got a long, strange journey ahead of me tomorrow, and the last thing I want to have to do when I wake up is pack before rushing off to the airport.

       

    Venice: One-Thirty-Six

    Posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2011

    Dave!British Airways gave me the best that I could possibly hope for on any trip: an uneventful flight.

    And so here I am in Venice, Italy for a few days. Partly because there's a new Hard Rock Cafe here. But mostly because I watched a television program on New Orleans where some scientist guy reminded everybody that Venice is sinking into the sea and could be wiped out if a big enough flood were to strike despite our best efforts. This freaked me out a little bit, because last time I was here the city was just recovering from a small flood. With all the recent natural disasters plaguing the world, I thought it a good idea to see Venice again... just in case.

    It breaks my one rule for my annual birthday trip (to see a place I've never see before), but I love Venice, and heaven only knows when I'd find time to visit again. Besides, I've already been someplace I've never been to this year, so I guess it's all good.

    And I managed to get that 136th Hard Rock visit too...

    Hard Rock Cafe Venice

    Inside the Hard Rock Cafe Venice

    Inside the Hard Rock Cafe Venice

    Hard Rock Cafe Venice Chandalier

    The cafe itself is small. Very small. Tiny even. But it is beautifully appointed, and I was thrilled that the new "hipster-lounge" decorating style that's been plaguing new Hard Rocks around the world has been mercifully downplayed here. It's decorate more like a "classic" Hard Rock, which is nice. The location is superb, just off the Piazza San Marco, so hopefully the tourist trade will keep this property alive for a while.

    And I'm off to watch the sun set from the Rialto Bridge. That's an experience that never gets old.

       

    Honolulu

    Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011

    Dave!Aloha!

    Today was mostly a work day, but I did get some time to goof off in Honolulu and do some of the things that made me not mind dragging my ass across the Pacific to be here. This pretty much boils down to three things...

       
    #1 PUKA DOG!! Originating on Kauai, Puka Dog eventually opened up a shop in Waikiki (UPDATE: Puka Dog is now Hula Dog in Oahu, still Puka Dog in Kauai. UPDATE 2: Hula Dog in Waikiki was CLOSED when they tore down the International Marketplace! SUCKS!! Check Hula Dog's website for their locations). I can say without reservation that this is my favorite meal in all of Oahu. Just like Chicago, which has a hot dog to call their own, Puka Dog is a hot dog done Hawaiian-style, and they are amazing...

    Puka Dog!
    Don't let the line scare you... Puka Dog is worth the wait!

    They are also very different and uniquely Hawaiian in oh so many ways...

    • THE DOG! You can either get Polish Sausage or a Veggie Dog. I must say, the vegetarian option is among the best veggie dog I have ever tasted. Not even a little bit rubbery!
    • THE BUN! Well... it's not really a bun. It's a tiny loaf of bread that has a hole drilled in the end. They place them on heated spikes, so you get a toasted interior and a soft exterior that tastes like magic. Your choice of white or wheat.
    • THE CONDIMENTS! And here is where an already unique hot dog goes completely off he rails. Condiments are injected into the hole in the "bun" and the dog is poked down into it...
      • Secret Lemon-Garlic Sauce! Choose from Mild, Spicy, Hot, or Hot-Hot. Do NOT be scared off because you think it will taste too lemony! It is an AMAZING mayo-based sauce, and the lemon is just a hint. I always go with "hot" which is not too hot for me at all.
      • Specialty Relish! There's Mango, Pineapple, Coconut, Banana, Papaya, and Star Fruit. The Mango is my favorite (and their most popular) but sometimes they have a "special" flavor. This time it was MAUI SWEET ONION AND I LOVED IT!
      • Mustard! They have "regular" mustard... or even ketchup if you're insane... but what you really want is the Hawaiian Mustard in your choice of Lilikoi (tangy) or Guava (sweet). Both are good, but the Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Mustard IS TO FUCKING DIE FOR!

    The way you order is kind of "Soup-Naziesque" but they don't treat you too badly if you goof it up. But it's pretty hard to goof up if you follow the steps on their menu board. For example, I order like this: "I'll take a Veggie, Hot, Mango, Lilikoi on White, please!" But, no matter how you order, you're getting an amazing meal that's unlike anything else on earth... in a very good way...

    Puka Dog!
    Left is a dog in the hole. Right is down a few bites so you can see all the condiment goodness within!

       
    #2 KISSES!! Everybody loves Hershey's Kisses. Those little foil-wrapped pieces of deliciousness are truly a treat to behold. And then Hershey's took it to The Next Level and introduced Kisses with almonds, caramel, and peanut butter in the middle (among other things). BUT... only here in Hawaii can you get Hershey Kisses with Macadamias in the middle! They are everything you'd dream they'd be. And at $5 a bag, they'd better be...

    Hershey Macadamia Kisses

       
    #3 NEW HARD ROCK!! As anybody who follows this blog already knows, I am incredibly disappointed with the "new-style" Hard Rock Cafe properties. Instead of the old-school method of cramming every available surface with awesome Rock-n-Roll memorabilia, they instead put a few meager pieces in glass cases and scatter them on a few walls. So when they moved Honolulu's Hard Rock from the old location to the new one in Waikiki, I was horrified at the idea of it being a shitty "new-style" cafe. And it is. Kind of. Because while there isn't a tremendous amount of memorabilia, it is more than usual. And they DO have this awesome ribbon of guitars running up the wall and across the ceiling of this beautiful, beautiful restaurant...

    Hard Rock Cafe Outside!
    Approaching the all-new dual-level Hard Rock Cafe at Waikiki!

    Hard Rock Cafe Outside!

    Hard Rock Cafe Outside!

       
    Pretty sweet, eh? And, on that note, I am about ready to pass out, so I'm off to a night of (hopefully) sweet slumber.

    BUT, BEFORE I FORGET...

    I ran across proof positive that President Obama was BORN AMERICAN, BABY! Because if it's in a children's book, it must be true, right?

    Obama American Proof!

    Good night!

       

    Bullet Sunday 236

    Posted on Sunday, June 12th, 2011

    Dave!Home at last for another edition of Bullet Sunday!

       
    • Debatable. I won't know for certain until I tune into the debate tomorrow night, but I'm pretty sure I'll be longing for the good ol' days when it was George W. Bush running on the Republican presidential ticket. ...

    CNN Presidential Debate

    The candidates that the Republicans are trotting out for 2012 quite literally scare the shit out of me. It's so bad that I have no need for laxatives. If I'm constipated, I just envision a future where Michele Bachmann is President of the United States of America and run for the toilet. Which means I should probably be picking up some adult diapers after work, since I don't have a television in my bathroom.

       
    • Roadshow. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe. To celebrate, they've been traveling around the USA with a collection of memorabilia honoring rock history. This past Thursday, I was lucky enough to be in Seattle when they stopped by...

    Madonna's Boy Toy Wedding Dress

    Michael Jackson's Jacket

    Brandon Flower's Jacket

    It was a lot of fun... and FREE! If you're on one of the city-stops, I highly recommend checking it out (a list of dates is here).

       
    • Crap. When I got home today, one of the first things I did was watch the South Park mid-season finale that was waiting on my DVR. It was shockingly meta. Instead of being a brilliant commentary on some current event, it ended up being brilliant commentary on South Park itself. And it scares me because it looks very much like they're setting up the show to end. And now that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the toast of Broadway with the nine Tony Award wins for their play, The Book of Mormon, I guess it's understandable. They've been doing South Park for 15 years, and maybe they feel it's time for something new...

    South Park Stan's 10th Birthday

    Even so, I will miss South Park when its gone. It's a consistent voice in satire that never fails to entertain. As a fan, I don't think its run its course yet, but maybe that's a good thing.

       
    • Reboot. I reserved comment on DC Comics massive "reboot" of their entire universe until all 52 titles had been announced. Now that they have, and everything DC is being reset to issue #1, all I can say is huh?

    I mean, there are some things I'm excited about... Jim Lee penciling a monthly title again (Justice League) for one. There are some things I'm curious about... like the two new Legion of Super-Hero books. Other things have me intrigued... like a drastically different take on Supergirl. Still other things have me puzzled... like Barbara Gordon's return to being Batgirl. And a few things have me ambivalent... like Superman's drastically altered uniform (both of them)...

    DC Relaunch Titles

    I'll give it a look... but all I can really do is wonder how long the reboot will last before there's another reboot.

       
    And now it's time for me to reboot. It's going to be a long week.

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    Fortieth

    Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

    Dave!Today is the fortieth anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe.

    On June 14th, 1971 in London, England, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton opened up a cafe serving American food with a rock-n-roll sensibility. One day Hard Rock fan Eric Clapton gave Tigrett a guitar. When Tigrett told him that he didn't play guitar, Clapton said he should hang it on the wall. When Pete Townsend found out about it, he wanted his guitar hanging on the wall too. Thus began the tradition of adorning Hard Rocks with rock-n-roll memorabilia, turning them into mini museums with some of the most astounding rock artifacts on the planet.

    With the sole exception of Apple (and possibly Sony), I can't think of a company which has had more of an effect on my life than the Hard Rock Cafe. Since 1990 I've been to 137 properties around the world. Many of those places I would have never visited if not for the Hard Rock Cafe. In addition to encouraging me to see the world, it was the Hard Rock which first got me to share my life online. It was also the Hard Rock which is responsible for Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey coming into being...

    Bad Monkey!

    As if that weren't enough, I've met dozens of fellow Hard Rock fans from around the globe who have become my friends.

    To say I owe a lot to the Hard Rock Cafe is a bit of an understatement. I quite honestly don't know what my life would be like today without the place.

    Undoubtedly it would be a lot less interesting.

    So happiest of anniversaries and many thanks to the Hard Rock Cafe!

       

    Day 02 – Sydney

    Posted on Saturday, September 24th, 2011

    Dave!Well, the crappy weather I was expecting yesterday finally decided to make an appearance today. Not that I am in any way complaining... I am so very grateful for yesterday's unexpectedly beautiful weather that I'll gladly suffer through a little rain.

    After meeting up with Kazza we headed east to visit St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the beautiful interior, but the exterior is quite nice as well...

    St. Mary's Cathedral
    Impressive. Most impressive.

    St. Mary of the Cross Statue
    The nun looks pretty bitchy, but...

    St. Mary's iPad
    ...she gives all the kids an iPad, so she can't be all bad.

    From there we were off to Mrs. Macquarie's Point. There's an interesting story behind the name, and it's a great place for spectacular Sydney Harbour views, even in the rain...

    Mrs. Macquarie's Chair
    Yes. Mrs. Macquarie's Chair is just as comfortable as it looks.

    Rainbow Lorikeet
    A Rainbow Lorikeet... they're everywhere.

    Sydney Harbour View from Macquarie's Point
    Still a pretty sight, even in the rain.

    Heading back towards the city you run right through the Royal Botanic Gardens...

    Royal Botanic Gardens
    Leaving the Asian Gardens section of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

    Royal Botanic Gardens
    Inside the Royal Botanic Gardens Greenhouse at the Tropical Center.

    Royal Botanic Gardens Fern House
    The Fern House atrium at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

    Royal Botanic Gardens Flowers
    It's Springtime in Sydney, so all the flowers are blooming.

    Royal Botanic Gardens BATS!
    Bats are hanging around everywhere... mostly sleeping, fighting, or drying their wings.

    Bastard Cockatoo
    This is called a "Cockatoo," but I call it "Fucking Bastard Bird"... vicious, nasty, and total destruction with wings.

    From there it was time to take a ferry across the harbor to Manly...

    Manly Ferry Sign
    It's the world-famous Manly Ferry!

    Opera House from Manly Ferry
    Cruising by that Sydney Opera House. Again.

    The Corso at Manly
    Walking down The Corso towards Manly Beach.

    Manly Beach
    Manly beach. Where only manly men dare swim in the rain.

    Manly Signs
    Everything in Manly is pretty manly...

    Manly Kangaroo Fajitas!
    ...especially the Manly menus, where they make cute little kangaroos into fajitas.

    After returning to Sydney, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building, which is a real jaw dropper. Certainly the best-looking mall I've ever seen...

    Queen Victoria Building
    Not wanting to get drenched, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building!

    Queen Victoria Building Stained Glass Entrance
    Seriously beautiful everywhere you look. This is an entryway.

    Queen Victoria Building Atrium
    Center atrium at the Queen Victoria Building.

    Queen Victoria Building Clock
    Awesome diorama clock at the QVB.

    Queen Victoria Building Main Hall
    The sexiest damn mall you'll ever see.

    It was as we headed toward Darling Harbour that the rain decided to get serious...

    Darling Harbour Bridge
    Rain pours down on the bridge across Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Mall.

    But that's okay, because I was more interested in visiting my 138th Hard Rock than the weather. Unfortunately, Sydney's new Hard Rock is yet another "Hipster Lounge" travesty, but it's massive size means you get to see a lot of memorabilia even though it's pretty spread out...

    Hard Rock Cafe Sydney
    Hard Rock Cafe entrance.

    Hard Rock Cafe Sydney Hipster Lounge
    Welcome to the cheesiest hipster lounge you ever will see!

    Hard Rock Cafe Sydney INXS Shrine
    The Hard Rock Cafe Sydney's so-called "shrine" to INXS.

    Hard Rock Cafe Sydney Spaces
    Not the most intimate and cozy Hard Rock property I've been to. The place is massively huge.

    Darling Harbour at Night
    Leaving Darling Harbour at night.

    Something I didn't know: Sydney has a monorail. It was a convenient way to escape the rain and head back into the city...

    Sydney Monorail
    Hey, it may cost $5, but that's still cheaper than a ticket to Disneyland.

    Another perfect day Down Under... albeit with police horses waiting in my hotel lobby...

    Horses in the Hotel Lobby!
    No. They weren't there to arrest me. I think.

    And.... I guess it's time to log-off and go charge every piece of electronics I own. It's shocking how much gadget crap it takes to be civilized now-a-days.

       

    Day 10 – Gold Coast

    Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

    Dave!After finally making it to my flight out of Cairns, I landed in Brisbane two hours later. From there it was a 35 minute ride to my hotel, followed by another hour and 10 minutes on a train, followed by yet another 30 minutes on a bus... before I finally made it to the Gold Coast and the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise.

    The Gold Coast has a feel very much like Miami Beach, with loads of high-priced properties and plenty of beachfront. When I arrived, the weather was flawless, with blue skies and warm sunshine tempered by a slight breeze...

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Guitar

    The cafe itself is a beautiful older property with loads of cool memorabilia to look at...

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Interior

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Interior

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Grateful Dead Shrine

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Beatles Shrine

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Exterior

    After having lunch and looking around the cafe for a while, I headed to the beach only to find that the clouds had started moving in...

    Gold Coast - Surfers Paradise Beach

    Surfers Paradise Sign

    By the time I had wandered around for a while and made it back to the Hard Rock, the weather had taken a drastic turn...

    Hard Rock Surfers Paradise under Dark Clouds

    That's quite a difference considering it happened in under four hours!

    Luckily, the skies were clear once again when I made it back to Brisbane.

    And now that Hard Rock #139 is out of the way for me, I suppose I'd better see about unpacking my suitcase.

       

    Day 12 – Fiji

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

    Dave!Despite every single day being jam-packed, I can honestly say that this is one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever had. Then today I ended up in Fiji, which somehow ends up being even more relaxed and laid back than Australia.

    And why Fiji? Well, there's a Hard Rock Cafe here I haven't been to... but I've actually wanted to visit ever since I first heard Lister wax poetic about his dreams of Fiji on Red Dwarf.

    So when it came time to plan my vacation, some hard choices had to be made. And because I didn't have six weeks available to see everything on my wish list, I eventually drew a line through Sydney and split my vacation options into two choices, North or South...

    Dave Aussie Travel Map
    Not that I don't want to see Perth and The West, but that's another ballgame entirely.

    Ultimately, I went with the North itinerary because it fit better into the two weeks I had available and was quite a bit cheaper. Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, and New Zealand will have to wait until next time.

    And so Fiji it was. It's a short three-hour flight out of Brisbane, so why not?

    Especially since Hard Rock #140 was within my grasp...

    Hard Rock Cafe Fiji

    Hard Rock Cafe Fiji

    Hard Rock Cafe Fiji Staircase

    Hard Rock Cafe Fiji Bar

    Port Denarau, Fiji

    It's a really nice old-school two-level property that's pretty impressive. I look forward to visiting again when I have a little more time to explore their memorabilia collection.

    In the meanwhile, it's time to put a little vacation into my vacation...

       

    Tampa

    Posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2011

    Dave!And so it's time for my annual late-October trip to Orlando.

    Except I begged to have my meeting relocated to Tampa, because it's home to the only Hard Rock Cafe in the USA that I haven't visited yet. Fortunately, my begging skills are unparalleled, so I got my wish and here I am.

    The last time I was here was to visit the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in May 2004 (and to see some friends in the area). The following year I virtually visited the city when I tried to figure out where a mystery photo had been taken, but that doesn't really count. So... it's been a while.

    Anyway, for some odd reason the hotel/casino complex launched without a Hard Rock Cafe. That was remedied in December of last year when, after nearly seven years of waiting, a cafe was added and opened its doors. Or maybe it wasn't added and just ended up replacing some other restaurant, I don't know. What I do know is that it's big. 17,500-square-foot big. I also know that it's one of the "new-style" cafes with very little actual rock-n-roll memorabilia, which is a shame. All that aside, it's still pretty cool...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Guitar Sign
    At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!

    Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Entrance Through the Casino
    The new cafe has its entrance off the casino's main floor.

    Hard Rock Tampa Entry Bar
    You actually walk through the bar to get to the dining room.

    Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Inside the Bar
    The bar itself is very cool... despite having no rock memorabilia.

    Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Dining Room
    The dining room is massive, and even has a stage.

    Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Kitchen
    A big restaurant has a big kitchen! The horseshoe above says "Who Do You Love?"

       
    But even cooler than checking another Hard Rock of my list? I got to meet up with the amazing Blondefabulous for lunch!

    It's Blondefabulous!

       
    After my adventures in Hard Rock Land, I returned to the airport to finish up work stuff, then went back to my hotel so I could take a nap before dinner.

    At which point I then risked my life to eat at Earl of Sandwich.

    Earl of Sandwich

    In a day and age when places are sued because they don't have handicap accessibility, I am regularly shocked at how many places have no pedestrian accessibility at all unless you drive there by car. Like so many places now-a-days, The International Plaza (home of Earl of Sandwich) can't be reached by foot... even though it's pretty much across the street from my hotel...

    Tampa Hostile To Pedestrians

    A) I walk to the end of the road... NO CROSSWALK.

    B) I see there's a crosswalk on the other side of my street, but there's NO CROSSWALK to get over to it.

    C) Once I survive running to the other side of my busy street, I can finally cross over to The International Plaza... except the sidewalk stops, and there's no place to walk to get there.

    D) Miraculously, there's a crosswalk to the Northeast, so I cross back across my street so I can climb through bushes to some grass and not have to walk on the road. But eventually I have no choice, because there's nowhere else to go. I then nearly get hit by traffic... twice.

    E) After dinner, it's dark. I don't want to risk walking on the road, so I exit on the other side of the mall where there's a sidewalk.

    F) The sidewalk doesn't go out to the road, so I'm screwed again. I once again climb through the bushes to grass so I don't have to walk on the road.

    G) Once again, NO SIDEWALK and NO CROSSWALK. I end up having to walk along the shoulder of a dark, busy road so I can get back to the only crosswalk I know.

    H) Still no crosswalk on my street, so I walk down the road to cross in the hopes I might be more easily seen if a car comes bombing down the road. Nearly get nailed by a motorcycle.

    Sheesh.

    I mean, seriously, this is insane. Why in the hell can't we WALK anywhere anymore? Do they really expect me to get a taxi so I can just cross the street? That's just stupid. Public places should be legally required to be publicly accessible by pedestrians. How hard is it to add a frickin' sidewalk when you put in a road?

    But whatever. As I have blogged many, many, many times, Earl of Sandwich makes the best frickin' sandwich on earth (which only makes sense considering their family invented the thing back in 1762). Their Veggie Sandwich (hold the Roasted Red Peppers) is pretty much worth risking your life over...

    Earl of Sandwich Sandwich!

    And now that work is over, the Hard Rock & Blondefabulous have been visited, and I've eaten Earl of Sandwich, I guess my work here in Tampa is done. Tomorrow I fly back to Seattle...

    Seattle To Tampa Map

    Don't you just love crossing the entire country for a single day's adventure?

       

    Day Four: Aruba

    Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012

    Dave!If it's going to rain in The Caribbean, it's usually just for a bit in the morning until the sun comes out and burns the clouds away. Which is why I'm at a complete loss as to why the ship's itinerary has it docking in Oranjestad, Aruba (an independent part of the Netherlands) at FRICKIN' SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING when it was pissing down rain... then leaving at 12:30, just as blue skies were arriving. If I were a sun worshiper coming to enjoy one of Aruba's magnificent beaches, I'd be pissed.

    But I'm not, so I don't get all bent out of shape. Heck, cloudy days with a little rain make for some beautiful photos, so I'm perfectly fine with that kind of weather.

    Which didn't come until 9:30am, meaning I spent a couple hours getting drenched. Because the rain rolled in just moments after docking...

    Arriving in Oranjestad, Aruba

    Visiting the "California Lighthouse" (named for a ship that sunk off the coast here) was a wet experience indeed...

    California Lighthouse, Aruba

    But after a while the sun started breaking through and even the dogs were coming out...

    Aruba Doggies

    By the time I arrived at "Baby Natural Bridge," the rain had completely stopped and the skies were clearing...

    Aruba Shore

    Aruba Shore

    "Baby Natural Bridge" is a land formation where the water has eaten away at the base of a big rock, creating a bridge...

    Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

    Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

    The original "Natural Bridge" was bigger than "Baby Natural Bridge," but it collapsed into the ocean back in 2005. It's the black busted rocks you see on the right there...

    Busted Natural Bridge

    And here's a better view...

    Busted Natural Bridge

    In the above picture, the waterline used to extend all the way up onto the sand there. But when Natural Bridge collapsed, it blocked off the ocean. Apparently, tourists used to walk across the bridge all the time so, luckily, it fell apart in the early morning when nobody was around to get hurt.

    There's a few places on the island where giant boulders randomly appear for no reason that geologists understand. This makes them a tourist attraction, and you can even climb on top of one like a mini Stone Mountain!

    On Top of a Giant Boulder

    And, of course, my last stop had to be the Hard Rock Cafe Aruba, so I could pick up a shirt and a few pins...

    Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

    Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

    AT LEAST I WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A T-SHIRT IF THE SHOP HAD ANY OF THEM... ABSOLUTELY ANY OF THEM... IN A SIZE LARGE!! How incredibly stupid do you have to be to run out of the one souvenir that everybody wants in the most popular size on earth? It's as if the management at this Hard Rock just said "Fuck it! We don't want the cash!"... and then set a huge pile of money on fire in the middle of the fucking restaurant. I mean, seriously, selling souvenir shirts and pins at a Hard Rock is like printing money. You get guaranteed sales at a massive profit margin, and so it makes zero sense why any Hard Rock would ever... ever... run out.

    Unless they were purposely trying to run themselves out of business.

    Oh well.

    With an hour left to kill, I wandered down the colorful streets of Oranjestad...

    Colorful building in Oranjestad

    And, as you can see, blue skies struck with a vengeance... just as the ship was leaving port.

    And that was the first port excursion on my cruise. A welcome event after two days trapped on a giant boat at sea.

       

    30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw the Turning Point in Your Life...

    Buddha Lil' Dave

    While there are many turning points in my life, the biggest would be a visit to Thailand back in 1998. My entire outlook on life was completely changed. Suddenly all the things that once seemed so critical to my happiness became trivial and petty. Some of this came from studying Buddhist teachings... but mostly it came from the beautiful example set by the Thai people themselves. It was as if I had been sleepwalking for decades and suddenly started to wake up as to what was important in life.

    It doesn't get to be more of a turning point than that.

       

    Day Nine: Grand Cayman

    Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012

    Dave!Hello from the land of rum and pirates.

    As a Hard Rock fan, Grand Cayman has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I almost visited years ago, but a hurricane in the area changed my travel plans.

    But here I am at last.

    I wasn't going to do the whole "excursion thing" so I could just bum around George Town and hit the beach, but my face is still burnt to a cinder, so I thought "What the hell?"

    Which is ironic, because the first stop was... literally... Hell. Hell, Grand Cayman...

    Welcome to Hell!

    Hell Landscape

    I wouldn't have expected it, but there are chickens in hell. Chickens who like eating coconuts...

    Hell Chickens!

    And here's a shot of Seven Mile Beach taken from the bus window. Sigh. If not for faulty sun-screen and a massive burn on my face...

    Gorgeous Seven Mile Beach

    Then it was time for a turtle farm. The idea is to preserve and protect the species, but the poor turtles looked incredibly bored swimming around in circles within their small, crowded tanks. I felt pretty sorry for them, as it didn't look like much of a life...

    Turtles!

    Baby Turtle

    There were also other critters wandering around the place...

    Iguana!

    After the tour dumped everybody off in George Town, there was only one place I really wanted to go...

    Hard Rock Grand Cayman

    Hard Rock Grand Cayman

    The cafe is a small, old-school property that's located at the end of the main shopping district downtown. It would probably do a lot better business if it were more centrally located near the cruise ship dock, but there you have it.

    I would have eaten lunch at the Hard Rock, but I don't really care for their veggie burgers and fries. Since that's what I was craving, I decided to wander down to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

    What a huge fucking mistake that turned out to be.

    First of all, they didn't have Boca Burgers like every other Margaritaville I had ever been to. Oh well, I decided to have nachos and a Coke instead. Not a big deal.

    EXCEPT THEY WERE THE WORST NACHOS I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE! And I am including the time I had Australian nachos where the crazy bastards mix the salsa into the chips for a soggy mess. Because, hey, at least their nachos use actual cheese and are... you know... WARM! Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville nachos are inedible shit. And COLD! They take roasted chips... pour in some FUCKING DISGUSTING COLD IMITATION CHEEZ-WHIZ-LIKE CONGEALED SUBSTANCE... put a small puddle of melted real cheese on top... then add some shriveled olives, jalapeños, and crap. What you end up with is a bunch of soggy tortilla chips coated in this grotesque oily mess. And did I mention that they were COLD? They weren't "not hot" or "merely warm"... but FUCKING COLD!

    Yes. COLD! I couldn't even bring myself to eat them they were so bad...

    Shitty Nachos from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Grand Cayman Georgetown

    If that wasn't bad enough, the Coke was watered down and flat. I only drank it because it was something cool. I would have complained to my waiter... but I rarely saw him. The poor guy was given way too many tables that were too far apart. I did tell him when I hunted him down to pay, but his response was to give me a "souvenir glass" I apparently paid for but never wanted, and tell me he would tell his manager.

    I'd chalk this up to a bad experience, but the table next to me didn't get hot food either, and the buns on one of their burgers was stale. So... lesson learned... when you're hungry in George Town, Grand Cayman... avoid Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville like the fucking plague. Which is such a shame, because all the other Margaritavilles I've eaten at have had excellent food and service.

    Jimmy should be ashamed to have his name on this place.

    And, thanks to my pricey souvenir glass I never wanted, I have something to remember one of the worst meals I've ever had for the rest of my life! Or until I throw the shit in the garbage.

    Anyway...

    Couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Lovely sunshine and a nice breeze to keep things pleasant. And then there's that amazing Caribbean Blue water here that looks like some kind of Photoshop hack, but really isn't...

    Caribbean Sea Blue

    Caribbean Sea Pirate Ship

    Sweet! As I was writing this, I heard somebody telling bad jokes over a loudspeaker ("WHY DIDN'T THE SKELETON CROSS THE ROAD? HE DIDN'T HAVE THE GUTS!"). I thought it was coming from the ship, but it was instead a small touristy pirate ship thing floating by my balcony...

    Fake Pirates!

    Yo! Ho! A pirates life for me!

    And, just like that, my last excursion was over. We set sail for Florida in a couple hours.

       

    30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw Your Inspiration...

    Lil' Steve Jobs!

    This should come as no shock to anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time. Steve Jobs takes inspiration to an entirely new level. But he did that with most things. I know it probably rings hollow for somebody to gush over a person they've never met... but I miss Steve Jobs terribly and think of him often. What I wouldn't give for just one more keynote speech... just one more thing.

       

    Day Eleven: Key West

    Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

    Dave!When I booked my cruise, I found that flying home today would have cost an arm and a leg. And since I would rather spend an arm and a leg seeing cool stuff than trapped in a metal tube, I decided to extend my vacation a few days so the airfare would be cheaper.

    The problem is that Ft. Lauderdale is the #1 destination for Spring Break that's going on now, and I really didn't want to be caught up in that craziness as I attempt to take a vacation from my vacation. So I decided to get as far from Ft. Lauderdale as possible... Key West. I haven't been here in ages, so why not? sure it's a long drive, but it's a nice drive too...

    Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

    And boy was it a stunningly beautiful day to be in Key West...

    Downtown Key West

    Strand Theater Key West

    Until I found out that Key West is the #2 destination for Spring Break that's going on now...

    Slopy Joe's Bar in Key West

    Oh well. Key West is absolute magic no matter what's going on, so I really don't have much choice but to enjoy it. And speaking of magic...

    Disney Magic Docked in Key West

    In a wild coincidence, the Disney Magic was in port... the same ship I cruised with in The Mediterranean back in 2010!

    From there it was time to visit one of my most favorite Hard Rock Cafes on the planet. It's an amazing property that's built into a grand old house and crammed full of great memorabilia the way a Hard Rock should be...

    Hard Rock Cafe Key West

    Hard Rock Cafe Key West

    Hard Rock Cafe Key West

    Hard Rock Cafe Key West

    And don't forget a slice of delicious Key Lime Pie...

    Key Lime Pie in Key West

    Then back down South to watch the sunset...

    Southernmost Point Marker

    Key West Sunset

    Ships Sailing in a Key West Sunset

    Key West Sunset

    Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, that's for sure!

       

    30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Just a Doodle...

    Drawing Challenge 18

    After spending a week in the Caribbean, I guess I have pirates on the brain! Kind of tough to draw it on my MacBook's trackpad though.

       

    Planned

    Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012

    Dave!My "big plan" for the year 2012 was to visit my 150th Hard Rock property.

    I'm at 144 now, with concrete plans for two more through December. Thus leaving me four short. I was planning on dropping in on a few cafes in Asia this Fall, but that's looking less and less likely. So now my plan is probably scuttled. When the realization of this sunk in while I was in the shower this morning, I tried to be upset about it. But I just couldn't for some reason.

    Oh well.

    It's not like I haven't got bigger things to worry about.

    It's not like I haven't had more important plans fall through.

    It's not like the world is going to end.

    But...

    I sure want to feel at least a little upset about it anyway.

    Lil' Dave Unhappy Hard Rocker

    And so my new plan is to drink a six-pack of beer and get depressed.

    If I can't manage to get that done, I might as well give up.

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    Day Six: Hamburg

    Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012

    Dave!And so I am in Hamburg now.

    Though I have been to Germany many times, this is my first trip to the northern part of the country. I was actually supposed to go to Bremen, but there's not a shiny new Hard Rock Cafe in Bremen, so I decided on a detour. This ended up being quite a nice excursion, because Hamburg is a lovely city... if a bit hostile to the non-German-speaking traveler. Unlike Cologne, Berlin, Munich, there's not a lot of signage or help available in English. I'm guessing that this is due to Hamburg not being a big foreign tourist destination, but it's puzzling that the touristy advertisements and touristy spots don't have at least something in English.

    As an example, here's a poster ad in one of the most touristed train station in the city (Landungsbrüken) for a very popular attraction: "The Hamburg Dungeon." ...

    Hamburg Dungeon Poster... NO ENGLISH!

    All that space, and they couldn't bother to put even a line of English to help a brother out? NEIN!

    But I wasn't here to play tourist so, after my work was through at 11:00, I headed directly to the Hard Rock Cafe. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200...

    Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg

    For being one of the "new style" cafes, I was surprised to find that they actually did a decent job of packing in the memorabilia. Far from being the sparse rock museum wasteland we've been getting, there was a nice and varied assortment. This is not to say that there are not oddities, however. Marc warned me about the mirror-finish of the bathroom urinals, but it's not something you can truly appreciate until you have actually pissed in it...

    Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg Urinal

    Having an entire audience watching you pee from a photograph is borderline-traumatic. But, sure enough, my junk was clearly reflected for all of Hamburg to see. On a busy Saturday night, I can only guess that somebody walking into the urinal would be greeted by a giant wall of dicks. I'm not exactly shy, but THAT'S traumatic!

    On my list of things to see was St. Michael's St. Nicholas' Cathedral... which has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, only to finally be destroyed for good during WWI and WWII. You can buy an elevator ticket to the top of the one remaining tower, but my fear of heights coupled with my FEAR OF BEING ON TOP OF A BOMBED OUT TOWER WHEN IT COLLAPSES meant that wasn't going to happen...

    St. Nicholas' Bombed-Out Church

    From there I walked to City Hall, which is a really beautiful building...

    City Hall Building

    I then went to a man-made lake area called "Aster." It has a really beautiful view but, as if that weren't enough, it also has an Apple Store...

    Apple Store Hamburg

    From there it was time to visit the ONE "must-see" attraction on my list... MINIATUR WUNDERLAND! It appeared on a Travel Chanel show a while back and really appealed to the model-train lover in me. Of course, the trains are only a small part of the experience. There a multiple dioramas created from famous places in the world that are painstakingly detailed...

    Miniatur Wunderland Park

    And the closer you get, the more details you see...

    Miniatur Wunderland Camp Site

    And the details are not just in the models. It seems that every scene is telling a story. You might see emergency vehicles lit up in one area... only to turn a corner and see that they're headed to a house fire or something...

    Miniatur Wunderland Fire Trucks

    Miniatur Wunderland House Fire!

    They sneak in little jokes and pop culture references sometimes as well. As I was examining model cars involved in some kind of countryside race, I found Herbie the Love Bug in the lead, having to stop for some sheep...

    Miniatur Wunderland's Herbie the Love Bug!

    Another interesting bit is that all the dioramas cycle from daylight to dusk to night to dawn and back to daylight... with computer-controlled lights providing the appropriate sunlight simulation and the lighting in the buildings, cars, trucks, and such. Here's the airport, going from evening to dawn as I walked around it...

    Miniatur Wunderland Night at the airport

    Miniatur Wunderland Dawn at the Airport

    As the airport is one of the newest additions to Miniatur Wunderland, it's fairly complex. The planes move around and everything. Even better, they give you an underground view to the U-Bahn (subway) station...

    Miniatur Wunderland Subway Station

    One of my favorite sections was the rock concert diorama, complete with performers, working video screens, and a massive audience...

    Miniatur Wunderland Concert!

    No detail is spared... right down to the portable toilets...

    Miniatur Wunderland Porta-Potties!

    The USA is represented, but it's been boiled down to Las Vegas and some kind of red rocks diorama that looks more like Disneyland than the American Southwest, but it's still pretty cool...

    Miniatur Wunderland Las Vegas

    Miniatur Wunderland American Southwest

    Miniatur Wunderland is also kind of educational. In the diorama for Hamburg, the building where the new Hard Rock is now located was apparently home to a skating rink on the roof at one time...

    Miniatur Wunderland Hard Rock Building Hamburg

    From there I headed to the central part of the city so I could visit the famous Hamburger Kunsthalle Art Museum but, alas it was closed on Mondays. I can only guess that tourists in Hamburg don't go out on Mondays? Oh... no... when I was there I saw other tourists leaving in disappointment too. Not the smartest move on the museum's part, but it's their money to lose, I suppose.

    And speaking of the Hard Rock...

    When I mentioned a while back that I was sad I wouldn't be reaching my goal of 150 Hard Rock property visits this year, I got a comment from Katharina telling me I should come to her city of Hamburg where they have a new cafe.

    Little did she know...

    "I WILL BE THERE IN TWELVE DAYS!" I replied.

    And she was kind enough to meet me for dinner tonight! Which is why I will have a hard time ever giving up Blogography no matter how passé blogging becomes. Because of blogging, I really have made friends all over the world. No matter where I end up, there's always somebody I can hang out with.

    And now I'm back at my hotel packing my backpack for the journey back to the Netherlands tomorrow morning.

    Good bye, Hamburg.

       

    Bahamas – Day One

    Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012

    Dave!I'm not a sun-worshipper. I'm not one to lay around on a beach all day. I'm not a fan of high heat and humidity. So I'm the one who experiences a secret glee when I hear that there will be overcast skies and scattered thundershowers when I'm headed to a tropical destination. It'll still be hot, of course, but at least I'll be shielded from the sun and the rain will make it so there's a reason for the humidity.

    Except the forecast was a lie, and so here I am in the Bahamas with blue skies and unrelenting sun in full 95° heat. If I was into this kind of weather, I'd describe it as "perfect."

    Restort Room Window View
    The view from my room pretty much sucks, doesn't it?

    Oh well. At least the flight down was surreal... but nice...

    Bahamas Flight

    Bahamas Flight

    The reason I am here is twofold...

    • There's a Hard Rock Cafe in Nassau I haven't been to yet.
    • I desperately needed a break, and it was unbelievably inexpensive to add this little diversion to my work itinerary. Gotta love those cheap-o internet specials!

    I'm staying at a resort on Cable Beach, which is a pretty stretch of sand west of Nassau...

    Cable Beach

    I was able to contain myself all of an hour before I hopped a taxi to Nassau, and Hard Rock #146 for me...

    Hard Rock Nassau Exterior

    It's a nice, old-school cafe with plenty of memorabilia covering the walls. In other words, it's exactly what a Hard Rock should be...

    Hard Rock Nassau Interior

    Hard Rock Nassau Interior

    The town of Nassau is kind of nice, if a bit touristy with all the cruise ships stopping by. I didn't feel like doing any of that kind of thing, but couldn't resist when I saw there was a PIRATE MUSEUM!!

    Pirate Museum!

    They recreate a pirate village you can walk through along with a pirate ship and various dioramas to show what pirate life was like. They also have a bunch of trivia you can play along the way, which was pretty cool...

    Pirate Museum Village

    Pirate Museum Marooned Diorama

    I have no idea what's going on here. I hope it's some freaky-ass attempt at surgery to alleviate back pain...

    Pirate Museum Scary Surgery?

    From there I wandered down to Junkanoo Beach...

    Junkanoo Beach

    One thing I've noticed so far is that the kids who live here are really well behaved. This adorable tyke was content to play quietly by himself while his family was swimming, which was a big contrast to the tourist kids who were screaming and yelling and going bat-shit insane as they terrorized the beach...

    Bahama Native

    Bahama Native

    If I knew that the weather was going to be this beautiful, I would have brought my "real" camera instead of relying on my iPhone and my pocket shooter. Oh well, something is better than nothing...

    Nassau Wall Drawing

    My plans for tomorrow? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Though I'll probably venture away from the resort for a little while... especially if those overcast skies ever show up.

       

    Four Winds

    Posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2012

    Dave!I make it a point to keep up with every Hard Rock Cafe that opens in the USA so I don't risk having a property close before I can get there (like Aspen). The latest cafe to open is located inside the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Lucky for me, it's just a short hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago, which made it ridiculously easy to rent a car and drive on over.

    The Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds is directly off the main casino floor on the west side of the building...

    Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Entrance

    I was shocked at how big the place is. Larger properties always worry me because the capacity can be hard to fill, which means it's more likely to close down...

    Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds Main Hall

    The style of the cafe is kind of hard to pin down. It has elements from the shitty "new-style" cafes that look like some kind of hipster lounge... but it's been mercifully toned down to a more classic look. Even better, there's quite a bit of rock memorabilia, which has been badly lacking in the "new-style" properties...

    Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

    Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

    Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds

    Overall, a pleasant surprise. Not as great as the older properties which helped to define the "Hard Rock look," but a drastic improvement over the later properties that have been popping up.

    As for the Four Winds Casino itself... it's absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous wood construction and accents make for a warm, earthy feel. They then artfully blended in some very nice stone work and tribal decorations. I was very much impressed...

    Four Winds Casino

    Four Winds Casino

    Four Winds Casino

    The rest of my day was spent doing something I absolutely hate... shopping.

    But I don't have much choice, because my tennis shoes are falling apart and I need some clothes for my upcoming trips. My favorite place to shop for shoes is a Nike Factory Outlet, and my iPhone told me there just happened to be one in nearby Michigan City. A mere 20 minutes from the casino (but not actually in Michigan as the name would imply, instead it's in Indiana).

    Pulling into town, I was greeted by a big surprise...

    Looks like a nuclear reactor!

    Holy crap! That's really close to civilization for a nuclear power plant! But then I recalled a trivia question asking which states don't have nuclear power, and remembered that Indiana was one of them. Turns out it's a cooling tower for a gas & coal plant.

    Anyway...

    The selection at the Nike store was pretty bad. Almost every style I'd be willing to wear was in crazy colors I wouldn't be caught dead in. This was really disappointing because I love the way that Nikes feel on my feet. Instead I ended up going to the Adidas Outlet Store, which was a blessing in disguise because they were having a store-wide 30% off sale. This was in addition to the already discounted close-out prices, which meant I got two really nice pairs of shoes for $60 instead of the $170 they originally retailed for. Heaven only knows I love a bargain, so this was a great start.

    Unfortunately, my plan to buy a bunch of shirts and pants was doomed to failure, as most everything I found that I might wear was either not in my size or more money than I was willing to pay. After four hours of looking at two different malls, I finally gave up after finding only two shirts. This sucks ass, because it means I'm going to have to go shopping again when I get home.

    I eventually got back to O'Hare around 6:00, which would have been a perfect opportunity to head into town for some awesome Chicago food. But I was so exhausted that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd blame my tiredness on all the driving, but I know darn well it was the stupid shopping that wore me out. I just cannot fathom how there are people who actually go shopping for fun when, to me at least, it's the ultimate torture.

    Much like the KIA Soul I was stuck with from the rental car company. This is the third time I've ended up with one, and they make me insane. Not because they're bad to drive... on the contrary, they handle just fine. It's the BLIND SPOTS in the rear corners that are fucking insane...

    Good luck looking for traffic behind you!

    Just like the KIA Soul I got when I was in Hawaii, I was constantly freaking out over not being able to see in one of the most important places that a driver needs to be looking when changing lanes. An entire car... hell, an entire semi-truck... could be hiding there and you'd never know. So instead you have to be overly-reliant on your rear-view mirrors and tiny back window, which is hardly the safest way to drive. It's as if KIA fucking wants you to crash into another car... it's the only thing that explains such idiotic design.

    I can't believe that these things are legal. I have an even harder time believing that car rental agencies actually buy these things knowing how difficult and dangerous they are to drive.

    And now I suppose I should try and get some sleep since I have to fly out early tomorrow morning. Oh how I wish I could have taken a later flight. But the price was quite a bit higher, so it is what it is.

    Here's hoping the pilots are more awake than I'll be.

       

    48 Hours Part 2

    Posted on Saturday, October 27th, 2012

    Dave!Today The DutchBitch's DutchBoyfriend was kind enough to drive us to the new Hard Rock Cafe in Brussels, where we met up with Beautiful Disaster's Pinky. I hadn't been to Brussels since The DutchBitch and I last visited in 2010, and I hadn't seen Pinky since Bitchsterdam 2, so it was a triple threat event for me.

    The Hard Rock Cafe Bruxelles is a wonderful return to everything I love about visiting these properties around the world... a beautiful restoration property lovingly brought to life in classic Hard Rock style that has been packed to the rafters with terrific memorabilia...

    Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

    Hard Rock Brussels Exterior

    Hard Rock Brussels Interior

    Hard Rock Brussels Instrument Collage

    Hard Rock Brussels Interior

    Hard Rock Brussels Interior

    Truly a fantastic property, the Brussels cafe is a well-crafted, eclectic, multi-level Hard Rock that doesn't disappoint. Located right off the Grand Place "Great Market" square, it is worth a visit... even if Brussels wasn't already destination worthy in its own right...

    Brussels Grand Place

    Brussels Grand Place

    Brussels Grand Place

    Brussels Grand Place

    Belgian Waffles!

    Belgian Chocolate!

    Sorciere Halloween in Belgian Chocolate!

    Leffe Beer!

    It was a very quick trip, but we squeezed in a lot. Just like it said in the elevator of the parking garage... we're hardcore like that...

    Hardcore Graffiti in a Hardcore Elevator!

    From there it was back to the Netherlands and the end of my 48-hour trip to DutchyLand.

    Tomorrow it's back in the metal tube to hurl myself back home.

       

    NOLA One

    Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

    Dave!One of these days I am going to visit New Orleans and never leave.

    It was here in The Crescent City that my life of travel began. Back in 1983 at 17 years old I took my first "real" trip on my own with no parents and no rules. Many important things were found... and lost... in New Orleans 30 years ago, and the city has had a hold on me ever since.

    This is my first visit to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. My previous trip coincided with the 200th anniversary of The Louisiana Purchase in 2003, and I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it has been an entire decade since I was here last. It doesn't feel like it's been that long.

    But a visit to the National World War II Museum makes me feel the time passing. When I last visited there in 2000 after it opened, it was called "The D-Day Museum" and half the size it is now...

    WW2 Museum

    The new "Victory Theater" expansion houses a special "4-D" movie titled Beyond All Boundaries which features narration by Tom Hanks and other stars. It was pretty good. What was not good was the boring-as-hell Final Mission submarine "simulation" which felt pointless and stupid. Not at all worth the extra money to see. But even if you skip Final Mission, walking to the massive Freedom Pavilion is still worthwhile because of the planes they've got on display...

    Freedom Pavilion

    There are walkways which literally allow you to walk around the full-size aircraft suspended there...

    Freedom Pavilion Walkways

    NOT for the faint of heart, however. Those upper walkways really took a toll on my sanity given my crippling fear of heights. Not that they don't warn you...

    Freedom Pavilion WARNING!

    The exhibits in the main museum are still nice, and has some terrific artifacts to look at...

    WW2 Museum

    After an early dinner, it was time for a trip to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, which always looks so tame during daylight hours...

    Bourbon Street Daytime

    Dessert was (obviously) freshly-cooked beignets at Cafe Du Monde...

    NOLA Cafe Du Monde

    NOLA Beignets

    Dusk falls over Jackson Square as I walk the riverfront...

    Jackson Square Neew Orleans at Dusk

    Apparently Bad Monkey now has his own Mardi Gras beads...

    NOLA Monkey Beads

    Things start to heat up on Bourbon Street as the sun goes down. Never mind that it's a TUESDAY, it's time to get your party on...

    Bourbon Street at Dusk

    Bourbon Street Famous Love Acts

    And, lest I forget the reason I came here... Hard Rock visit No. 150!

    New Orleans New Hard Rock Cafe

    New Orleans New Hard Rock Cafe

    It's a nice enough cafe... but it's decorated in the shitty "new-style" hipster lounge motif that I hate. The original New Orleans Hard Rock may have had a less-desirable location on Jackson Square, but at least it had a beautiful selection of memorabilia and the classic Hard Rock stylings that define the chain.

    And so ends my first packed day in The Big Easy.

       

    Pirates!

    Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2013

    Dave!Annnnnd... I've just returned from a Pittsburgh Pirates game with Becky. It was a fantastic night out, even though the Pirates lost.

    Fortunately, they weren't playing my beloved Boston Red Sox (who slaughtered the Yankees 11-1), so I was able to put on a Pirates jersey and cheer on the team against the dreaded Cincinnati Reds...

    Dave Becky PNC Park Pirates!
    Say "Grilled Stickies!"

    But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there was tailgating in the parking lot before the game...

    Tailgating Pirates Fans!
    There's a Pirates party up in here! Click photo to embiggen.

    Becky's friend hand-made veggie burgers (that were some of the best I've ever tasted) for us civilized folk... but there was mmmmmeeeeeat for the savages too...

    MMmmmeeeeat!
    Fortunately, I was just sober enough to keep myself from licking the grill.

    A good time was had by all...

    Becky & Dave are Pirates!
    When I've been drinking, I look the exact same in every photo... like I'm happily pooping my pants.

    Then it was off to PNC Park...

    PNC Park in Pittsburgh
    Take me out to the ballgame... where no crackerjack was to be found.

    Becky met up with her pimp along the way...

    Becky Hard Pimpin'
    Pimpin' ain't easy... but with Becky as your ho it is!

    My iPhone has said that Pittsburgh's weather was going to be thunderstorms since the minute I arrived. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single time I look, we're supposed to be in the middle of a raging storm...

    Thunderstorms!

    And yet... it's been nothing but sun and blue skies. Which is nice, because PNC Park has to be one of the most beautiful ballparks ever...

    PNC Pirates Ballpark
    You really need to see it in person to appreciate how beautiful it is. Click photo to embiggen.

    Between innings you can watch the boats go by, which is pretty sweet...

    River Boat from PNC Park
    Can't believe how nice the kit lens is for my new Sony NEX-6 camera.

    After the game, they wheeled a stage and some giant speakers onto the field for a concert by =gasp!= Kool & The Gang! This helped make the Pirates' loss a little easier to take...

    Kool And The Gang!!!
    Celebrate good times! The sound system was surprisingly good for a ballpark!

    And... the end. After waiting 35 minutes for my 20 minute train, I was back at the South End and ready for bed.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there was a Hard Rock Cafe pin-trading event before the tailgating and the game...

    I've been collecting Hard Rock Cafe pins since I visited my first property 23 years ago. And even though I've amassed thousands of pins over those years, I've never once gone to a pin-trading event. Mostly because Seattle didn't have a cafe for most of those years and I could never manage to fit a pine event road trip into my schedule.

    I was also a bit intimidated, because I'm more of a "casual collector" who just buys stuff I like and doesn't really know anything about the hobby. As I've found out from comic book collecting, most of the "pros" simply don't want to waste time with newbies, and past attempts to fit into that crowd were met with failure.

    Enter the "Northeast Region Art of Rock Event 2013" which was being attended by seven Hard Rock cities (Baltimore, Boston, Foxwoods, Niagara Falls NY, Toronto, Washington D.C., and the host... Pittsburgh), so I put it on my calendar and was determined to attend.

    And today was the day...

    Northeast Region Art of Rock Event 2013
    The event was well-attended... this was only a part of it.

    I ended up having a great time!

    The vast majority of the collectors who attended were kindhearted, encouraging, helpful people. I was shocked... shocked... to find that most all of them would trade for something you really wanted, even if they didn't find anything they were looking for in your pin bags. They seemed perfectly happy to just add a trade back into their trading pile if it meant helping you fill a hole in your collection.

    That was wonderful and entirely unexpected. I picked up dozens of pins I needed to fill in my glassware collection of hurricanes, martinis, and shooters.

    Needless to say, I'd very much like to get my pin collection better organized and attend more events.

    So thank you to the terrific staff at Hard Rock Pittsburgh for inviting everybody to your cafe for a great meet-up!

    Hard Rock Cafe Pittsburgh
    Five minutes before they let the animals lined up outside come in for lunch.

    It's now 2:00am. I have to be up in five hours. I should probably at least attempt to get some sleep.

       

    Helsinki: Day Five

    Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013

    Dave!I woke up early and felt like I should be running around buying last-minute souvenirs on my last day, but then remembered that I stopped collecting souvenirs years ago. I don't have room for that crap, so photographs have become my souvenirs. Thanks to the digital age, they don't take up much room at all.

    And so now I've visited Helsinki (and Tallinn, at last), which is nice... but, just like when I visited Oslo and Stockholm, I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to head north into the wilds of Fennoscandia, or spend any time exploring the coastline. This is a fascinating geological part of the world, and visiting a few cities is not like I've really seen any of it.

    More to add to my bucket list, I suppose.

    One thing I did do was head back to the Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki so I could take some pictures. When I was there for lunch a few days ago it was crowded and crazy, so this time I went just before they opened. As I had mentioned before, the cafe is a bit on the small side, so it only took two shots to capture the entire dining floor...

    Hard Rock Helsinki

    Hard Rock Helsinki

    After the Hard Rock, it was time to check out of my hotel so I could catch the FinAir bus to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Which, oddly enough, had NO line at security despite being fairly busy. Security itself is kind of spacey and futuristic with glass gates that light up so you know when to enter... then hold you there until you've been cleared.

    Other than some noisy assholes in the business lounge and some rode assholes crowding in line at the gate, my trip back to DutchyLand was uneventful.

    And then...

    Time for PATATJES MET with DutchBitch. Again...

    Patatjes Met Duo!

    I'm so going to miss this...

       

    DAY THREE: Glasgow – Bullet Sunday 373

    Posted on Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

    Dave!Unleash the haggis... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

       
    • Prayers. Truly horrible news from back home... a massive mudslide has devastated a residential area east of Arlington in my home state of Washington. All my hopes go out to friends who have family amongst the 18 people still missing... along with everybody else affected by this tragic event.

       
    • Air Yet another excellent flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines... this time from Amsterdam to Glasgow. My only disappointment was that they didn't hand out landing cards for non-EU citizens during the quick 1-1/2 hour trip, which meant I had to fill one out at the airport. But that's hardly worth complaining about. Oh, a bit of advice... when offered a choice between "sweet snack and savory snack," go for the savory snack, it's a packet of incredible Gouda cheese biscuits.

       
    • Immigration. When you arrive at passport control there's a big sign telling you that tougher border control laws in the UK will cause a longer wait. Since I was at the front of the plane I didn't have many people ahead of me... but the sign wasn't lying. I've been to the UK many times, but on this trip I really got the third degree. They wanted to know absolutely everything about me, my job, my past travels, and the purpose of my visit. Usually I just say "tourist" but, given the level of detail they were drilling for, I literally said "I am a Hard Rock Cafe collector and I am here to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow." Then I had to explain what I collected and what else I would be doing while in the UK. And then... then... because I am such a shifty-looking character, I had to go through it all over again with a police inspector. Despite the hassle, everybody was friendly and welcoming, so I guess there's that.

       
    • Cash. I never bother getting local currency for my destination ahead of time, because I usually get a better exchange rate by using a cash machine when I land. The only problem being that Glasgow's airport only has a pitiful four ATMs, all of which have insanely long lines. Since I had to have cash for bus fare into town, I was forced to wait. So lesson learned. I'll be going home with a few quid in my pocket for my next trip to the UK, as it would seem cash machines are a rare and elusive creature in these lands.

       
    • No. 153. And, now, the reason for my visit... The Hard Rock Glasgow. Like many of the UK properties (both current and past), the cafe is located in a beautiful old building. This particular cafe is in a great location, directly across from the Queen's Street train station on Buchanan Street, a popular shopping district in the city. It's not at all flashy, and would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it...

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow on Buchanan Street

    The interior is truly bizarre... in the best possible way. It's equal parts classical architecture and starship Enterprise...

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

    The bathrooms are located off a spiral staircase that's filled with silver guitar sculptures...

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

    The surprisingly-spacious Rock Shop is at the front of the building, and you pass right by it coming and going...

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

    All in all, a terrific property. Alas, sadly, the rock memorabilia adheres to the new "hipster lounge" aesthetic so it's badly displayed and there's not much of it, but at least the building is interesting. Oh... and if you're not a vegetarian like myself, you'll be happy to know that the specialty burger for this Hard Rock is a hamburger smothered in haggis with cheese on top!

       
    • In A World... I was saddened to learn that one of the most famous voices on the planet, Hal Douglas, passed away. If you've ever seen a US movie trailer, odds are you know who he is... even if you didn't know his name...

    One of kind. You will be missed, sir.

       
    And now I must say cheerio, as I am falling asleep as I type this.

       

    DAY FIVE: Rome

    Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

    Dave!I've already been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome several times. The only Italian property I haven't been to is the new cafe in Florence. But if I flew directly to Florence, I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant on earth.

    So I got up at 3:30am. So I could get to Glasgow Airport by 4:30am. So I could fly to Rome at 6:40am.

    This meant skipping breakfast, but that's okay. By the time I got to The Eternal City I was starving, which meant I had room for the city's signature dish for lunch: Cacio e Pepe ("Cheese and Pepper" on spaghetti pasta)...

    Cacio e Pepe in Rome

    It's a classic dish that's deceptively simple. The trick is getting the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente texture, which is tough in the USA because everybody overcooks their noodles. So you either have to go to RW's house or fly to Italy to get it done right.

    Now, the prudent thing to do when you are in Rome is to run around and see all the sights. But I've already done that. And I've been up since 3:30am, so I took a nap instead.

    But no worries, I was sure to wake up in time for a late dinner at my most favorite restaurant in all the world: Alfredo alla Scrofa, where Le Fettuccine Alfredo was invented...

    Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

    Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

    A heart attack on a plate, gloriously mixed to order right at your table...

    Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

    Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

    After dinner I decided to wander over to the Spanish Steps so I could climb to the top and visit the cafe where I first tasted Stracciatella Gelato, my all-time favorite...

    Spanish Steps Rome

    Gelato in Rome

    Gelato in Rome

    And, because this is Rome, the walk back to your hotel is filled with incredible sights...

    Barberini Fountain

    Roman Building

    Buona Notte!

       

    DAY SIX: Milan and Florence

    Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

    Dave!With the exception of one horrendous problem, today was a pretty great day.

    My plan was to head up to Florence to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there, but I had a long-time friend (and fellow Hard Rock fan) who had wanted to trade a few pins, so I decided to visit him in Milan, a city I have never been. For some reason I had thought the city was quite close to Florence, but it's actually two hours by train farther... which meant I started my day with a three-hour train ride out of Rome.

    It was all worth the trip though, as Milan is a beautiful city. I started with a visit to Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)...

    Duomo di Milano

    Duomo di Milano

    Duomo di Milano

    Duomo di Milano

    After the cathedral, I was going to visit a small church called Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, but I walked right past it and ended up finding Tempio civico di San Sebastiano (The Temple of San Sebastiano), which is a rather unique and beautiful round church...

    Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

    Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

    I did a quick back-track to Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro (no photos allowed) but couldn't spend a lot of time because I would be late for visiting Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Library of Ambrose), which is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, a massive set of books containing anything and everything from the mind of one of my all-time inspirational heroes, Leonardo da Vinci. You enter through an art gallery that's connected to the library. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to browse the collection of art here, but it's a very nice collection...

    Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

    The Codex itself consists of over 1,100 pages, but only a fraction of those are viewable at any one time. Usually the rotating collection on display centers around a theme which, in my case, ended up being music. Included in the display I saw were pages with Leonardo's sketches for an automated drum machine, various instrument ideas, acoustic architecture studies, and much, much more. It was absolutely fascinating, and I could have spent hours pouring over those few pages available. No photos were allowed (of course) but I found a sample page on the internet to give an idea of what they look like...

    Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

    Fantastic stuff.

    After a visit with my friend to exchange some pins, it was time to head to the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for what is arguably Milan's most famous attraction.

    But first... a cookie break while I waited for my ticket reservation time...

    Milan Cookie

    The Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a rather unassuming building that's almost boring, when compared to the many other religious buildings in the city...

    Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie

    It's what's inside of it that makes it worth the effort of visiting, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper...

    Last Supper of Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie
    One of you bitches is going to betray me!

    No photos were allowed, of course, this is just an image of an image I found on the internet. But it's not like any photo could do the work justice anyway. I had always thought that it was an interesting, but not terribly inspiring work, and didn't have much of a desire to see it. But that opinion was formed by looking at photos of it in a book.

    And then I got to visit the painting in person, and now I know what all the fuss is about.

    It is an awe-inspiring work of art. Both artistically and technically, it's mind-bogglingly beautiful. Definitely worth a visit. But, as with most exhibits of this importance in Italy (or most any other country), MAKE TICKET RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE! Tickets are guaranteed to sell out, and if you just wander in hoping to see it, you're going to leave disappointed.

    And here is where disaster occurred. I left myself one hour to get back to the train station to catch my ride to Florence. As always, I consulted Google Maps to get me there. The instructions were quite simple... take the Malpensa Airport Express Train two stops to Bovisa, then take the S2 train to Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station.

    Easy, right?

    So I ran to the train and hopped on just before the doors closed. I grab a seat just as the train leaves. And then I notice that the train didn't stop at its first stop. Much to my horror, the train didn't stop at the Bovisa stop either. We just kept on going...

    Google Maps FAIL Milan

    Turns out Google has the train information wrong. This particular run of the Malpensa Airport Express IS FUCKING NON-STOP! And so I ended up having to ride all the way out to the airport (35 minutes), wait for the next train back to Milan (15 minutes), then ride all the way back (35 minutes). Needless to say, I missed my train. Which means I would also miss my train to Rome. Which meant I had just wasted one hour and 25 minutes plus $120 in non-refundable train fare.

    THANKS, GOOGLE!

    Oh well, I made it to the Hard Rock a bit late, but I did make it. And Florence has a great property that was made from an old movie theater building...

    Hard Rock Cafe Florence

    Hard Rock Cafe Florence

    Hard Rock Cafe Florence

    Hard Rock Cafe Florence

    On my way back to the train station, I passed The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) or, as it is better known... Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence)...

    The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

    Even more beautiful at night, I think.

    Back in Rome, I went for a late dinner at Alfredo's, of course, because I just couldn't help myself. And... my short visit to Italy is done.

       

    DAY SEVEN: Nice

    Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014

    Dave!I've been around Nice when visiting Monaco and Eze, but have never actually been to Nice proper. Now that there's a Hard Rock in town, that had to change.

    Well, that and the movies shot in the city always make it look so amazing. Like that car chase in Ronin... or that car chase in The Transporter... or the car chase in Never Say Never Again (well, not a car chase per se, but that would have been an excellent addition to the film, wouldn't it?).

    And so... on to Hard Rock No. 155...

    Hard Rock Cafe Nice

    Hard Rock Cafe Nice

    Hard Rock Cafe Nice

    Hard Rock Cafe Nice

    Beautiful views. Lovely restaurant. Kind of boring for a Hard Rock.

    After lunch I headed to the beach. The weather was not great beach weather, but it was still a beautiful day on the Côte d'Azur...

    The Beach at Nice

    Lovely turquoise water, but something seems... off...

    The Beach at Nice

    Wait... that's not sand... it's... ROCKS?!?

    The Beach at Nice

    Yes. The famous beach at Nice is covered not with sand, but with rocks? All this time I had no idea. And yet there were people laying around with beach towels and the whole bit. Which can't be comfortable, can it? As I stumbled across the "beach," attempting to keep my footing while walking on cascading stones, I admit to being a bit disappointed.

    Until I stopped for a second and listened to the rocks rolling in the surf. It was totally hypnotic...

    Nice itself is quite a lovely city. Especially back at their main square, Place Masséna, which features the "Fontaine du Soleil" (Fountain of the Sun) in the southern half. From a distance, it looks quite impressive with a giant statue of Apollo standing in the middle...

    Fontaine du Soleil

    It's when you get closer to the fountain that things start to get disturbing. Apollo has freaky bulging eyes staring at you. And the crown of horses on his head look more like those baby chest-bursters in Alien. Not to mention his dick... swinging...

    Fontaine du Soleil

    And the statues in the fountain basin? Utterly bizarre...

    Fontaine du Soleil

    Clockwise from the upper-left...

    1. Nude Woman Flying with Buffalo While Holding a Baby?
    2. Nude Pipi Longstocking Riding a Giant Ugly Carp?
    3. Nude Man Shielding His Eyes from the Sun While Walking a Bull?
    4. Nude Man Directing Traffic with a Horse?

    The northern half of Place Masséna is wide open... except for these poles that have nude men (covered in bird shit) kneeling on top of them...

    Place Masséna

    Place Masséna

    No idea what that's all about.

    Walking back to the train station, I passed Nice's version of the Notre Dame Cathedral...

    Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

    Which looks better with a little HDR magic...

    Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

    My original plan was to take a train to Cannes or Monaco for dinner, but I was just done traveling for the day. I was actually done with traveling for the week. Tomorrow's flight back to Amsterdam at 6:30am will be hard enough.

    So an early night to bed it is.

       

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

    Dave!I did not set my expectations very high for The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. Even though it was a HR Corporate project, the website gave it the feel of a crappy quick-and-dirty "conversion property" like Tulsa and Albuquerque. Those lazy hotels where they just slap a few pieces of rock memorabilia on the walls, change a few door-handles to be guitar-shaped, hang a logo above the door, and call it a Hard Rock...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Nope, despite outside appearances, the Palm Springs hotel was actually really well done. Much more than just a coat of paint and some superficial decorations. The lobby was beautifully themed with rock instrument sculptures, a lot of music-themed details, and a surprising amount of memorabilia. The design is beautifully eclectic and authentic Hard Rock, featuring a full lobby bar, a restaurant, and a merch shop... all really well done.

    The reception desk...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    The very nice bar in the lobby area...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Lobby staircase and FUN...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Speaker sculpture...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Sessions restaurant...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Memorabilia case at the entrance...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    But the biggest surprise? They actually put some effort into theming the rooms! Many times they don't even bother with a hotel conversion, but it looks as thought they gutted everything and made it be Hard Rock style...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    The only disappointment in the conversion was the pool area. Not only is the pool tiny, there was no effort to make it look very Hard Rock. They half-heartedly spray-painted a few Banksy-inspired murals on a couple walls and that's about it...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

       
    Overall a pleasant surprise. This is a great hotel... and a great addition to the Hard Rock family. The staff was terrific. Everything is clean and impeccably-maintained. The location is fantastic, just one block off Palm Canyon Drive downtown. Even the pricing seems comparable with similarly-equipped hotels in the area (i.e. a bit expensive). I enjoyed my stay very much.

    Except...

    In keeping with the growing trend of screwing your guests, of course there's a fucking "resort fee" you have to pay at checkout. The Hard Rock Palm Springs charges $30 per day, which is definitely on the high-side. It includes the usual... local calls nobody will ever make because they have fucking mobile phones and don't know anybody local... access to the gym which nobody will bother with because they're on vacation... access to the pool, which you've been getting free at every hotel since the dawn of time... internet access, which should be included in the room cost anyway... basically, bullshit amenities that are valued a hell of a lot less the $30 a day. I'd give you a complete breakdown of what it includes but, of course, a complete breakdown cannot be found on the hotel website because they want to camouflage this fucking bullshit charge as much as possible. I dunno. Maybe it also includes parking, which helps justify the cost IF you have a car... but $30 a day still seems fucking insane.

    I only stayed for one day and didn't have a car, but I did get a ride to the airport and use the internet, so I'm trying not to be sore about paying $30 for nothing (seriously, if you still charge for internet, you're a fucking nickel-and-diming douchebag of a hotel). I could not stay here longer than two days without feeling as though I were being seriously ripped off. I would not.

    But this is how it works now. Hotels want to grab people with cheap-ass room rates on the discount sites, but don't actually want to give their customers a discount. Hence the "resort fee" bullshit.

    Oh well.

    If you're looking for a nice place to stay and don't mind being violated with a mandatory fee for shit you won't use, by all means give the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs a look.

       

    Bullet Sunday 384

    Posted on Sunday, June 8th, 2014

    Dave!Take time to be kind... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

       
    • Window. My first time visiting Pittsburgh... back in 2002... I flew into the airport, rented a car, then headed into the city. Unlike most cities where you can see the buildings in the distance and know what you're getting into, Pittsburgh is hidden. Mt. Washington obscures the skyline so you have no idea what to expect until you drive through a tunnel that leads to the city. And for somebody like me who was expecting a run-down, dirty, old steel town, it's a spectacular surprise. Which I've finally managed to film on my fourth try...

    Pittsburgh is a beautiful city filled with terrific architecture and lots of green spaces. That it has one of the most amazing reveals of any city on earth is just the icing on the cake.

       
    • Hard Rock. The bulk of my Sunday was spent kidnapping Becky and driving to Ohio so we could visit the new Hard Rock Casino and Hard Rock Cafe in Northfield Park, Ohio. Sadly, it's a franchise property, so it's not in the same league as other Hard Rock properties, but they still did a very nice job...

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

    I ended up winning $40 on my first pull in a slot machine, so that pretty much paid for the cost of getting here... how cool is that?

       
    • Bridge. On the way back to Pittsburgh, Becky navigated us to Banks Covered Bridge, which is near Wilmington Township, Western Pennsylvania...

    Banks Covered Bridge

    Banks Covered Bridge

    It's a nice old bridge that's in really good shape... having been "rehabilitated in 1999, 110 years after it was built in 1889.

       
    • Bridge Deux. Not far from Banks Covered Bridge is McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge, which has a state park built around it...

    McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

    McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

    McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

    McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

    McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

    The bridge is unique in that it uses something called a "Howe's Truss" in its construction... something that's apparently rare for Pennsylvania bridges.

       
    • Meal. After an afternoon of excitement, it was back to Pittsburgh for dinner. This time to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where even the hipster mannequins are battling receding hairlines...

    HIPSTER MANNEQUIN!!!

    Killer goatee though. Apparently that's the default facial hair configuration in the greater Pittsburgh arean.

       
    And now? Time to lapse into a coma of relaxation...

       

    Pigeon Forge

    Posted on Saturday, July 26th, 2014

    Dave! And so here I am in Knoxville, which is pretty much just a landing point for my real destination: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The city is kind of a resort area that built up around Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, and there's all kinds of interesting things to see and do.

    But I'm not here for the attractions. The Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg (one of my favorites) closed up shop and moved up the road to Pigeon Forge, so I decided to check it out with some friends who came from Chattanooga. From the outside, it's nothing special. They painted it purple, but it's still incredibly boring. No giant guitar. No unique Tennessee-inspired architecture. Nothing very special at all...

    Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

    As expected, the interior is inspired by the newer-style Hard Rock "hipster lounge" design aesthetic I loathe. The good news is that they toned it down a bit so it's not quite so douchey. No giant flowing curtains and other crap obscuring the joint. Inexplicably, there's a lot of ropes hanging above the bar. If this were a port city, that might make sense... but Pigeon Forge is about as land-locked as you can get, so I guess it's some kind of S&M-inspired tribute to Fifty Shades of Grey or something...

    Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

    Holy crap do I miss the "old-style" cafes that were packed to the rafters with rock memorabilia! These newer cafes are style over substance, and all you get are a few scattered pieces of clothing... a few guitars... maybe some hand-penned lyrics or something. It's as if the people designing for the chain now have no fucking clue what the Hard Rock is supposed to be about...

    Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

    Case in point... they had one of Dolly Parton's dresses hanging on the wall. And while they do have a plaque below the piece explaining its history, there's no photo of Dolly wearing it... or note from Dolly about it... which is what you'd likely find in an old-style cafe where they were more interested in the memorabilia telling a story instead of a merely using it as a design accessory...

    Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

    Sad, really.

    But anyway...

    After parting ways with my friends, I decided to wander down the street to The Titanic Museum. I was curious to see how it stacked up to the "Titanic Experience" I visited in Orlando.

    It certainly looks really impressive...

    Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

    Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

    But then, tragedy struck.

    I noticed a sign saying "no photos or video"...

    Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

    Disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. Yet. Before buying a ticket, I head to the gift shop to see if they have a souvenir guide to the museum. If I can't take pictures, a book will have to do.

    Except they don't have a guide book.

    Fuck. That. There's the deal-breaker.

    I am sick and tired of museums who don't allow you any way to re-visit your visit. Don't want me taking photos? Fine. But sell a fucking guide book so fifteen years from now when I want to remember my visit I have something to actually remind me. I visit a ton of museums, and it's not like I can remember every damn thing I've ever seen in them.

    So screw the Titanic Museum. I am done supporting this kind of crap.

    My friends recommended that I visit the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine before I left, which sounded interesting...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    What you do is buy a bucket of dirt that has a random assortment of gemstones and other goodies hidden in it. There are al kins of choices, depending on what you're interested in, and the prices range from $15 to $200...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    I bought a more modest bucket that was like $20 or something...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    Once you've paid for your dirt, you take a seat at a water trough where you can start mining for your treasure...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    After dumping a couple scoopfuls into your screen box, you shift it in the trough so that the dirt washes away...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    That leaves you with gemstones, agates, fossils, and other interesting stuff...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    Once you've finished your bucket, you can go inside to have them evaluate your haul. This can take a while. There was only one "assayer" on duty, and she spent twenty minutes with one person who must have been mining for days because she had bags and bags of rocks...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    Luckily, I was in no hurry, so I visited the... uhhh... "Gem Museum" they had...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    Eventually my name was called and I got to learn what all I had. Which was nothing too spectacular, really. I rather like the nice piece of amethyst I found though (the purple-ish thing at the top)...

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    I also got some nifty minerals, a couple fossils, and a really cool agate (on the far left).

    Mine Your Own Gemstones

    If you want, the shop will clean up your pieces, polish them into something pretty, and make it into some jewelry for you in 24 hours. I wasn't interested in spending any more money, so I took my bag of rocks and left.

    Overall, the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine was a pretty cool experience, and a good waste of time (I was there for just over an hour). Some people were spending hundreds of dollars on bucket after bucket, so you could probably make a day out of it if you wanted to.

    But don't be there too long, or you'll miss out on the many dinner theaters going on. There's musical theater. There's church theater. There's Hatfields vs. McCoys theater. There's all kinds of dinner theaters. There's even Lumberjack Feud theater, which looks like it would be a total bloodbath...

    ZOMFG! LUMBERJACK FEUD!!!

    I wasn't sticking around for dinner theater, but I did want to stop at the souvenir shop where Jesus saves...

    Jesus Saves Incredible Bargains!

    It's a junk-lovers dream come true, as they've got every kind of crap you can think of...

    Jesus Saves Incredible Bargains!

    But I didn't have time for shopping (or paying $3.50 to see the live bears they keep out back), so I headed back to Knoxville... where I finally decided to venture into the city, which is quite nice...

    It's Knoxville!

    The highlight of my visit was the Mast General Store, which was a lot of fun...

    It's Knoxville!

    It's Knoxville!

    I ended up finding some really nice shirts on sale, so I bought a bunch to take home...

    It's Knoxville!

    I could have bought a lot of things, but I only have one small suitcase, so I had to pass. I did grab a bag of bulk candies, however...

    It's Knoxville!

    And there you have it. My one day in Tennessee. In a few minutes I'll be off to the movies and then calling it a night so I can pack up for my flight out tomorrow.

    After I've eaten all my candy, obviously.

       

    Day Three: Johannesburg

    Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014

    Dave!And so here I am in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    I added a full day layover in the city to recover from the long-ass 30-1/2 hours of travel I put in yesterday. Originally I was going to fly into Cape Town, but they don't have a Hard Rock Cafe there anymore, so Johannesburg it was.

    The property is of the new-style "hipster cafe" variety. Usually I hate the cold and impersonal approach of these Hard Rocks, but this one is not so bad. It has a nice assortment of memorabilia, at least (even if it's not as big as it could be)...

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

    The Hard Rock is located in the district of Sandton on Nelson Mandella Square, where they have a very nice statue of him...

    Nelson Mandella Square in Johannesburg

    And so... after posting this I'm off to bed with hopes of getting some sleep before a rather busy day tomorrow. Though I doubt I'll get to update my blog because the hotel internet is utter shit...

    Crappy internet connection error

    Good preparation for when I have no internet at all real soon now.

    That'll be interesting.

       

    Bullet Sunday 410

    Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014

    Dave!Don't say it's over... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

       
    • 161! This evening I net up with two local bloggity internet friends, Chris & Kyle, for a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America... which has been built into the middle of the USA's largest shopping complex. For a "new school" property, it's not bad. Certainly not as great as the former Minneapolis Hard Rock since it's a douchey hipster-lounge "new school" property... but at least there's some decent memorabilia to be found...

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    Oh... and the location is pretty good. Right next to the LEGO Store...

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

    And that's Hard Rock property no. 161.

       
    • SPACESHIP!

    SPACESHIP!!!

    Thanks, Benny!

       
    • Pub Night! After drinks at the Hard Rock, we headed to Ward 6 in St. Paul for dinner. I had the fried egg sammy (sans the bacon) and loved it. They actually put TWO fried eggs on there, which makes for an especially gooey delicious mess. Fantastic fries to boot. As if that wasn't enough, it was PUB QUIZ NIGHT! Our table was #1 for three of the four rounds, so we probably would have devastated the rest of the players... but we left before round 4 because it was taking really long to get through the questions. Still, great place for food if you're in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

       
    • Thomas! This guy is genius...

    While funny, am I the only one who thinks that this will one day lead to his death?

       
    • UPS! This is too adorable...

    Now I can't help but wonder if this kid will grow up to become an actual UPS driver.

       
    • THANKS, OBAMA! Love him or hate him, this was pretty dang funny...

    Cue the asshole brigade with cries of "Shouldn't he be running the country? And by 'running' I mean 'ruining"?!?"

       
    And... tomorrow I'm in the air yet again, so I bid you goodnight!

       

    Siouxland

    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

    Dave!And so today I flew into Sioux Falls so I could rent a car and drive down to Sioux City... home to the latest US Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It's nothing overly-fancy, but it does have some nice pieces of memorabilia and pretty good theming throughout.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

    As you can tell in that last photo, the hotel part and the casino part are two separate buildings. The hotel was the former Simmons Hardware Company Warehouse (which you can read about here)... then they plastered the casino building right up next to it. You can see that they used the original exterior wall as the new interior dividing wall when you use the rear entrance...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

    The lobby is beautiful and decorated nicely for the holidays...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Lobby

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Lobby

    Interestingly enough, the reception desk has a full bar behind it. I don't know that I've ever seen that before!

    The rooms are great, but not terribly "Hard Rock." With the exception of a guitar painting and a strip of photos next to the toilet, there's just not much to distinguish this from a "regular" hotel room... albeit a very nice one...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

    Hallways are pretty mundane and memorabilia-free, except for the carpet and door art...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Hallway

    Memorabilia is fairly good once you get to the casino portion. Not so much on the casino floor, but all the way around it...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia
    A shirt worn by Elvis Presley!

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rock Shop

    Not wanting to spend all my time in a casino (I'm not much of a gambler), I decided to head out into the city and see what museums could be found in walking distance from the Hard Rock. The first I ran across was the Sioux City Art Center... which is not an actual museum, but they do have a small collection. The building itself is one of their best works of art, however...

    Sioux City Art Center

    Much to their credit, they had a beautiful Dale Chihuly seaform vase in their collection...

    Sioux City Art Center Chihuly

    And a series of paintings focusing on cornfields. I couldn't really tell if they were painted to be faded and tough to make out... or if they were badly faded from sun damage or something. Still interesting. Though I found it impossible to photograph them well...

    Sioux City Art Center

    Much to my surprise, they also have a Jackson Pollock on loan...

    Sioux City Art Center Jackson Pollock

    Not one of my favorites by him, but Polock's works are alway great to see in person... the way the paint layers up is an interesting effect that gets lost in photos.

    From there I walked to the Sioux City Museum, which focuses on the history of (you guessed it) Sioux City...

    Sioux City Museum

    There's a lot of history in a relatively small space... almost too much at times, because it gets so cluttered you don't know where to look...

    Sioux City Museum

    Sioux City Museum

    Sioux City Museum

    A nice museum, really... and totally free (though you can make a donation).

    After a while I decided to head back to the hotel... disappointed that both cities I visited bearing the name of the Great Sioux Nation didn't actually have a museum dedicated to the Native Americans which inhabited (and continue to inhabit) the region. A teepee and a few crafts in the City Museum were about it. Perhaps one of the Indian reservations would have a museum, but they're so scattered I wouldn't know where to begin looking. I've done some cursory Google searches and came up empty. Guess I need to find a book.

    Oh... and I found this cool shot along the way...

    Sioux City Alley

    Dinner was an interesting side journey.

    Three days ago, Blogography reader "Omaha Carl" left this comment...

    As always, just LOVE it when you share your travels.
    If you ever get to fly-over country. i.e. the Omaha region, consider me for a guide, or at least for suggestions.
    Carl Mann
    (NOT the country singer from the 50s and 60s)

    Smartass that I am, I replied with this...

    I’ll be in flyover country day after tomorrow… see you then! :-)

    It was a joke... but then I got to thinking about how Omaha couldn't be more than an hour-and-a-half south of Sioux City. So I Googled it and, sure enough, an hour and thirty-four minutes...

    Google Maps

    So... a couple emails later and I was off to Omaha for a terrific dinner with Carl...

    Anthony's in Omaha Nebraska

    If you're ever in Omaha, Anthony's makes a mean bowl of pasta (and it's way more than I could eat!). I'm just sad that I didn't have room to eat a salad with some Dorothy Lynch dressing (which is apparently a very Omaha thing to do given that it was invented in the city of St. Paul, due East of the city).

    Thanks so much to Omaha Carl for the great evening!

       

    Dave14

    Posted on Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

    Dave!For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As usual, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.

    This year presented me with some harsh struggles, unwelcome challenges, and a lot of bad news. But there were some good moments in there that kept 2014 from being a complete disappointment, so here we go...

       


    JANUARY

    • Explained why I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana even though I don't use marijuana...

    Yes on Washington 502

       

    • Jester and I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum at long last, then saw the amazing Betty Who in concert...

    Betty Who in San Francisco!

       

    • Made time to add another section to my forearm tattoo.

       


    FEBRUARY

    Got angry.

       

    Everything is awesome.

    The LEGO Movie Poster

       

    • With much sadness, I had to say goodbye to a friend.

       

    Penis! Vegina!

       


    MARCH

    How I read.

       

    • Flew to the Netherlands for PATATJES MET!

    Patatjes Met!

       

    Visited Glasgow, Scotland for Hard Rock No. 153...

    Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

       

    • Revisited Florence, Italy for Hard Rock visit No. 154...

    Hard Rock Cafe Florence

       

    • Then went onward to Nice, France for Hard Rock visit No. 155 and nearly got killed in the process...

    Hard Rock Cafe Nice

       

    Visited Friesland, the land of my forefathers, with The Dutch Bitch... then continued to the resort island of Schiermonnikoog.

       


    APRIL

    • Back to San Francisco for work and the same old routine, which means... MINI DONUTS!

    BAG-O-DONUTS!

       

    • Can't go to San Francisco without another tattoo...

    Om Mani Padme Hum

       


    MAY

    • Visited the new Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel, which is No. 156 for me...

    Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

       

    • Discovered the best damn veggie burger ever while in Chicago...

    GAH! IT'S SO DELICIOUS!!!

       

    • And so... Apple is definitely broken.

       

    TILTED WITH HOT COFFEE GIRL... ZOMG!

    TILT! at Hancock Center

       

    Finally saw Morrissey in concert on a trip to Tampa... AND HE DIDN'T CANCEL! WOO-HOO!

    Morrissey Concert Interlude

       

    • Ate the world's best potato salad with Certifiable Princess then explored Ybor City where we found... THE BAD MONKEY BAR!!!

    Bad Monkey Bar

       


    JUNE

    • Once again flew to the amazing city of Pittsburgh and got to spend time with HelloHaHaNarf Becky, one of my most favorite people on earth... LET'S GO BUCS!

    Becky and Dave2
    That's right... bask in our adorableness!

       

    Becky and I drove to Ohio so I could visit the Northfield Park Hard Rock Casino (No. 157) and Hard Rock Cafe (No. 158)...

    Hard Rock Northfield Park

       

    • Thanks to my sister, I got to watch a Mariners game with field-level seats!

    Dave!

       

    It's over.

       


    JULY

    Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

       

    • Managed to live through another fire seasons in Central Washington...

    Wildfires

       

    • Visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee so I could check off Hard Rock No. 159...

    Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

       

    Visited some lighthouses in Maine and ate the best blueberry crumble I have ever had in my life...

    Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

       


    AUGUST

    • Saw my favorite movie of 2014... Guardians of the Galaxy.

       

    If you've never suffered from severe depression... if you've never stood by helplessly as somebody you care about battles depression... if you've never made an effort to understand what depression is or what it does to you... then please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up about it.

       

    • Bought a new camera lens... my first telephoto glass in many years.

       


    SEPTEMBER

    • Flew to Salt Lake City and got to meet one of my childhood fantasies... ERIN GRAY!

    Me and Erin Gray

       

    • Went to the Retro Futura Tour with Marty from Banal Leakage to see TOM BAILEY OF THE THOMPSON TWINS LIVE IN CONCERT!

    Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

       

    • Added Hard Rock visit No. 160 to my list in Johannesburg, South Africa...

    Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

       

    • Fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Africa and go on safari with a trip to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe...

    Lions in the Shade

    Elephants in the Zambezi

       

    • Photographed lions while visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe...

    Hwange Lioness

    Hwange Lion Cubs

       

    • Accidentally discovered a love for astral photography...

    Zimbabwe Night Sky Milky Way

       

    • Flew to Victoria Falls to see the largest falls by volume on the face of the earth...

    Victoria Falls

       

    THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT A SAFARI VACATION IN AFRICA!

       


    OCTOBER

    What's in my camera bag?

       

    • Took a short vacation from my vacation with a trip to New Orleans... and tattoo No. 6...

    No matter where you go... there you are.

       


    NOVEMBER

       

    • Had the extreme pleasure of attending a reading by my favorite living author, David Sedaris...

    Sedaris Autograph

       

    A look at blog stats.

       

    God bless America? If this is what we've come to, I sincerely doubt it.

       


    DECEMBER

    Try showing a little class...

       

    • Took some time to do some night photography while I was in Portland, Maine...

    Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

       

    • Stopped by Minneapolis to meet up with some blogger friends and visit the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America, which would be No. 161 for me...

    Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

       

    • Flew to Sioux Falls so I could drive down to Sioux City and see my last Hard Rock of the year... a hotel and casino No. 162...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

       

    • Closed out my travel year with a stop at the World Famous Corn Palace.

       


    And that was my adventures in 2014.

    Here's wishing everybody a terrific 2015!

       

    Memphis

    Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2015

    Dave!There have been three times in my travels where I have forgotten my camera.

    The second was Austin, Texas, in 2002 where I was visiting the terrific Hard Rock Cafe that used to be on 6th Street. This was an especially painful mishap, because the cafe closed before I could get back and document this amazing property. I did manage to find a disposable camera at a local drug store, but all the photos turned out terrible.

    The third was while visiting Osaka, Japan in 2003, where I managed to purchase a cheap plastic toy camera at the Universal Studios Osaka gift shop to get shots of the new Hard Rock Cafe there.

    And the first time?

    When I visited Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee way back in 1995. And, despite returns to Memphis over the years, I never went back.

    So my grand plan today was to run out to Elvis's house... THIS TIME WITH MY CAMERA... and take some photos. Except when I got up this morning I realized that, when it comes to Graceland, once is enough for me... photos or no photos.

    And so I was off to Hard Rock No. 163, bitches!

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

    As always, I was prepared for the worst. Yet another ugly hipster Hard Rock with only a smattering of memorabilia. Which would be a real slap in the face for Memphis, because their previous cafe was so awesome. So imagine my surprise when I visited this new property and found that the new location is in a primo vintage building with plenty of history and character... and they had a decent amount of rock-n-roll memorabilia to make it actually worth your time to visit!

    Nice.

    The Hard Rock is located at the head of famous Beale Street. The location is hopping at night, but fairly sedate in the daytime...

    Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

    Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

    Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

    Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

    The one big tourist attraction in Memphis I haven't done yet was to visit Sun Records, which is the birthplace of rock-n-roll. And home to some very famous musicians. Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many, many others...

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Sun Records Memphis Tennessee

    Well worth a stop if you're ever in the Memphis area. The tour cost me $11.50 and lasted 40 minutes. Our guide was fantastic, and really made the place come alive.

    And that's now I spent my only day in the city.

    And now? I'm going to dinner at Faiqa's house and you're not!

    UPDATE: Uh huh...

    Dinner with Faiqa

       

    Vancooovah

    Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015

    Dave!And so I'm leaving a place where recreational marijuana is legal to a place where it is illegal on 4/20. I'm guessing this is ironic. Except Alanis Morissette, though Canadian, doesn't actually live in Canada for me to ask (DOUBLE irony? I dunno).

    The flight to Vancouver, BC was uneventful. What happened when I landed was anything but.

    I'm getting ahead of myself though.

    I've been to Canada many, many times. Mostly after driving across the border, which has never been a problem. I've also flown into Toronto a couple times without incident. But flying into Vancouver? I'm now four for four on getting completely screwed by immigration and customs.

    After arriving at the border agent's podium, I got the usual round of questions. Why are you here? Have you been here before? Who are you meeting? Where are you going? What do you do for a living? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    No matter how I answer, I always get routed to customs. Apparently a graphic designer who is a Hard Rock collector in town to visit a casino and have dinner with a friend is highly suspicious. It doesn't matter than I have a hotel reservation. It doesn't matter that the only thing I'm bringing into the country is a change of underwear, a fresh shirt, my laptop, and an iPhone. It doesn't matter than I have a return ticket for the next day. It doesn't even matter that my double-passport book is packed to the rafters with entry/exit stamps and a wad of visas marking me as a frequent traveler.

    My entry card gets marked like this...

    Fucked by Vancouver

    I have no idea what "682" means. I think it probably goes like this...

    FUCK YOU FOR COMING, ASSHOLE! GO SPEND THE NEXT 90 MINUTES STANDING IN LINE AT CUSTOMS AND SEE IF YOU EVER FEEL LIKE VISITING CANADA AGAIN, BITCH! NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF MY SIGHT!

    Or something like that.

    And so off I go.

    Despite a line of 17 people, there are only three desks open. The first is occupied by a guy from China who thought he could just show up in Canada and go to school. The officer in charge of his case makes it known in no uncertain terms that he is mistaken. "There's a right way to do this, and you've done everything wrong!" After some back in forth, the officer grows impatient and starts threatening the guy with a stay in their jail. Over an hour of questions and typing later, the Chinese man is released and allowed to spend the night in the city... but if he doesn't return by 11:00 to arrange his flight back home, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.

    The third desk is occupied by a guy who apparently just wants to visit the province for a month. For this he ends up having to unpack his three large suitcases to the last sock and answer question after question after question for over an hour.

    The second desk is the only one moving people through. Albeit very, very slowly.

    On occasion a random officer will show up and pull somebody out of line that they consider an easy interview. This moves the line forward, but any progress is ruined by people showing up in a second line on the opposite side of the building and jumping in line ahead of people who have been waiting for 40 minutes or longer.

    Eventually I was called out by a random officer... but only after an hour and fifteen minutes of waiting. I then had to explain my situation, again, and stand there for fifteen additional minutes while the officer went into another room and did whatever she had to do with my passport. It probably wouldn't have taken that long, but she had to joke around with other officers there about how long the line was. Nice.

    All told, I was stuck in customs for just over and hour-and-a-half.

    For an hour visit to a casino over a stay that's less than 22 hours.

    I don't doubt the need for all of this drama. On the contrary, protecting your borders is a very important job that deserves a serious amount of care. The results could be catastrophic if you don't.

    But the way it's handled is abysmal. Indeed, it's the worst of any country I have visited. Ever. Excessive wait times, gross understaffing for the volume of people, and unfair line-jumping is not the impression you should be making on your guests.

    Anyway...

    A 30-minute ride on the SkyTrain and I'm at my downtown hotel. An hour ride on the Expo Line followed by a bus transfer and I'm at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver that's actually not in Vancouver, it's in Coquitlam...

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    By joining their Players Club, I get $10 in free slots money. It's blown through in two minutes playing a slot machine I can really plug my hair into...

    AVATAR: THE SLOT MACHINE!

    AVATAR: THE SLOT MACHINE!

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Time for pins at the Rock Shop (which is very nice, by the way...

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    The main bar is called "Asylum," which feels kinda forced, but looks pretty...

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    There's a surprising amount of memorabilia awaiting you. And it's some really good stuff too. The problem is that the casino is kinda big, so the artifacts are ultimately rather sparse. The clustered memorabilia in showcases is really cool though...

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

    There is no Hard Rock Cafe on the property. The people responsible for the place only have a license for hotels and casinos West of the Mississippi. Because of that, your Hard Rock Rewards card/points are useless. They don't even give you an AAA/CAA discount. If you sign up for the player's club (Free!) you do get a 10% discount on everything, however, which is nice.

    I ended up eating at their burger joint. The veggie burger I had was a bit bland, but perfectly edible. The fries, unfortunately, were undercooked and oversalted, which meant most of them ended up in the garbage.

    On the hour-ride back to town I saw the old Expo 86 dome, which looks pretty much as it did back when the World's Fair was going on...

    World's Fair Expo 86

    Here it is in 1986...

    World's Fair Expo 86

    After arriving back in Vancouver proper, I stopped at Tim Hortons' for some Timbits and a Coke. Because no visit to Canada is complete without Timbits!

    Tim Hortons, bitches!

    Tim Hortons, bitches!

    Tim Hortons' Timbits, bitches!

    And that was that. I'll spend the rest of my evening working, then head back home in the morning.

    Hard Rock No. 164 accomplished! It was probably mostly worth the trouble to visit.

       

    Lake Tahoe

    Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2015

    Dave!"What's the bare minimum amount of money and effort we can sink into this thing and get away with calling it a Hard Rock?" —Warner Hospitality

    Or so I assume.

    The property currently known as the "Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe" began as "Del Webb's Sahara Tahoe" and was a pretty big deal back in the early 70's because Elvis performed here regularly...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Eventually the property was rebranded as the "Horizon Resort" before ultimately becoming a Hard Rock in January of this year. As it's not part of the "authentic" Hard Rock portfolio owned by the Seminoles, I was prepared for it to be underwhelming. Because they usually are.

    But this one didn't even reach that far for me.

    Not that it's not a nice hotel... it totally is... but the complete lack of excessiveness and rock-n-roll theming that defines a "Hard Rock" is just not here. And it starts from when you first pull up to this rather boring building...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    If it weren't for the signs, you'd never guess this was a Hard Rock at all. Things are slightly better on the other side, where at least there's a giant guitar...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Inside isn't much better. The reception desk is boring as hell. No effort whatsoever was put into making your first contact with the property be special. No guitars. No cymbals. No art. No nothing. Just blank walls to stare at...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    I mean, seriously, what the hell?

    There are some nice showcases on the back wall, but it's just not enough...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    At the far end is my favorite piece, a passport belonging to Johnny Cash...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    About the only attempt at making the lobby feel in any way special is a display for one of Michael Jackson's gloves. Which is nice, but it does nothing to pull you away from all those blank walls behind it...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    And then there's the rooms. Again, nice... but where's the "Hard Rock" here? An orange wall, a teddy bear, and a couple of prints is all we get?

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    At least the bathroom has something rock-related. Even if it is just a tiny guitar print...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Seriously... this could be any mid-range hotel anywhere in the USA. There is absolutely nothing about it that makes you feel like you're in a Hard Rock except when you look closely at the water bottle tag, the shampoos, and the guest services book. About the only unique thing about it is the fire sprinkler in the closet...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    I guess they have a real problem with guest's clothes spontaneously combusting or something.

    Oh... and thank God I paid the extra money for a "lake view" room. I would have hated to have missed this beautiful view of... the parking lot?!?

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    I mean, yeah, there's a lake way back there... but I'd hardly call this a "lake view" room. When I booked it, I was expecting to look out my window and see something like this...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    ...which is a shot I took when I pulled off the road on the drive here.

    Oh well. The casino isn't much better. Absolutely nothing on the casino floor. Just a couple of cabinets scattered at the entrances...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    And some guitars scattered without presentation down a random boring hallway you have no reason to visit...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    The pool is total shit... though there are signs everywhere about a fantastic new pool area that will be debuting this summer, so maybe it'll improve...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

    Overall, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe is a massive disappointment for Hard Rock fans. There's just not much here to see. If you don't care about the Hard Rock, it's a nice enough hotel, sure... but for those who do care, it's hardly destination-worthy unless you're a hard-core completist.

    Which, unfortunately, is me.

    UPDATE 5/5/15: You know, it may not sound like it, but I was trying to stay positive here. But when I went to check out everything kind of came to a boiling point in my head. First of all is the idiotic "resort fee" I had to pay... $22 ($26 with tax) which basically got me internet. It's not like I could go lie by the pool or anything (given there's no furniture). But even worse was the service. When I checked in, you're supposed to get complimentary valet parking, but the ONE guy tending the drive was too busy talking to somebody to bother and, after I had to interrupt to find out what the fuck I do with my car, he positioned valet parking as a "well, if you really want to..." situation, so I ended up self-parking. THEN, when I went to leave in the morning, I asked the guy at the reception desk if they had a postbox. No. Can you put my postcard with your outgoing mail? No. Now that's service! They wouldn't even mail a damn postcard. Seriously, fuck this place. I wish I had never come. A complete stain on the Hard Rock brand if there ever was one.

    Contrast and compare to the positively gorgeous "authentic" Hard Rock Cafe next door at Harvey's Casino. It's an absolutely mesmerizing property that's got a "Tahoe Ski Lodge" aesthetic going on. And it's packed to the rafters with fantastic rock-n-roll memorabilia and classic theming. So much love went into this place...

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe

    Now THAT'S Hard Rock! That's a destination-worthy property. That's why I am a Hard Rock fan.

    sigh.

    Anyway...

    Before driving to Lake Tahoe, I got to have lunch with the Blogger Formerly Known as Floating Princess, so the day wasn't a total loss. We had most excellent pizza at Pirate's Pizza in Reno... it is, in fact, the best pizza in the whole world...

    Pirate's Pizza Reno

    Pirate's Pizza Reno

    Pirate's Pizza Reno

    Dinner tonight was another excellent meal... across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe at the Lucky Beaver...

    Lucky Beaver Sign

    I like the place very much... excellent service and a cozy atmosphere. But the food is way pricey... $12 for a burger and tots! Though their black bean veggie option is really good, so I guess it was worth the money.

    And that's my day. Time to walk back to the Hard Rock and see if I can get some sleep.

    I'm not much of a gambler, but I was compelled to put money in the "Ellen DeGeneres Show Slot Machine" until something happened. Five dollars later and...

    Ellen DeGeneres Show Slot Machine

    If you win something special, cartoon-body Ellen dances across the screen and she talks to you. Cute.

    Tomorrow? The journey back home.

       

    Bullet Sunday 434

    Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2015

    Dave!I can see Russia from my hotel room... because Bullet Sunday from the great state of Alaska starts... now...

       
    • Double Daylight! "In Anchorage, visitors from more southerly latitudes are often surprised to see the sun set at 11:41 p.m. on the summer solstice, but the actual 'solar time' is 9:41 p.m. This is because at 150° W, Anchorage is a full solar hour behind the legal time zone and observes daylight saving time as well. Some local residents refer to this phenomenon as "double daylight time."Wikipedia.

    Which explains my panic when I awoke after dozing off thinking it was 9:30am instead of 9:30pm and I had slept through two alarms. As I write this now at 10:45pm, there's still daylight out there...

    Anchorage Double Daylight!

    I can't fathom how insane it must be to visit Nome, which is still in the Alaskan time zone with Anchorage, but technically two hours in actual time zones further back. Their sunset is after midnight!

       
    • Rock! The purpose for my Memorial Day weekend excursion is, of course, to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe that opened up last year here in Anchorage. This is Hard Rock No. 166 for me, and (finally) gets me caught up with all the North American properties again...

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    There's an upstairs with a second stage and bar...

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Overall it's a nice property with a great staff and a terrific location... right in the touristy section of town... but the decor is lacking. Memorabilia is stretched a bit thin throughout, and there's a Rock Shop and massive stairwell that's devoid of any artifacts at all...

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage, Alaska

    This is a massive oversight which is unimaginable to longtime Hard Rock fans who remember when the cafes used to be packed with so much stuff that you could spend hours looking around and keep coming back to see stuff you missed. I mean, holy crap... look at this shot of the old Salt Lake City cafe where you can barely see the walls...

    Hard Rock Salt Lake

    That's what a Hard Rock is supposed to look like, and Anchorage falls way short. Putting in the effort to visit a new property is supposed to be an overwhelming experience... but more and more I find myself saying "I traveled all that way... for this?!? I dunno. Maybe they'll eventually add more cool stuff to give Anchorage the Hard Rock it deserves, but right now it's hardly destination-worthy.

       
    • Burger Me! On the plus side, the food was pretty good...

    Hard Rock Cafe Veggie Burger

    Even if I had to build my own to avoid all the crazy shit that the Hard Rock usually puts on their veggie burgers.

       
    • Market? I was told by my airport shuttle driver that the Anchorage Summer Weekend Market was going on and I should take a look if I had a chance. It was supposed to be open until 6:00, but most everything was torn down by 5:20...

    Anchorage Market Sign!

    Anchorage Market Gone Empty!

    Bummer, I guess.

       
    • Murder! Much like Starbucks locations in Seattle, fur shops in Anchorage are on every street corner...

    ANCHORAGE FURS!

    I'm vehemently anti-fur, but might change my mind if I could walk in a shop and pick up something that was personally slaughtered by Sarah Palin. Like I'm guessing this poor bear was...

    Stuffed Bear in Gift Shop

    By Grabthar's Hammer I will avenge you, bear!

       
    • Drop! Holy shitballs do I wish Apple would get off their fucking asses and get crap fixed that's been broken for ages. Like AirDrop, their miraculous file-sharing technology that's been a steaming pile since day one. When I sent the first photo looking out my hotel window from my iPhone to my Mac, it was no problem. AirDrop found my MacBook immediately. But when I tried to send the next shot (below) 45 minutes later? I just spent 10 minutes trying to get my iPhone to see my Mac, but it absolutely won't do it. And yet... my Mac can see my iPhone just fine? WHAT THE FUCK, APPLE?!?

    AIRDROP AND APPLE'S BUSTED FUCKING SHIT!

    Why don't you use some of the BILLIONS OF FUCKING DOLLARS that people have paid you because of the promise of things like AirDrop TO FIX ALL THE CRAP THAT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK?! Every time I turn around now-a-days I'm having to deal with Apple's busted shit and I'm just sick of it.

       
    Annnnd... I suppose I should get some sleep seeing as how it's now 11:30pm and the sun is finally going down and all...

    Sunset in Anchorage. At last.

       

    Dave15

    Posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2015

    Dave!For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As usual, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.

    This year was difficult for many reasons, but I tried to make the best of it whenever I could. ...

       


    JANUARY

    • Restored some very cool old family photos...

    Photo Restoration

       

    • Finally made the switch from Apple's discontinued Aperture to Adobe Lightroom.

       


    FEBRUARY

    • Got angry at the lobbyist pig-fuckers ruining this country.

       

    • Mourned the loss of the blogs in my life.

       

    • Went to a birthday party in San Diego and took some photos...

    San Diego Adam & Eve

       

    • I love baby bats!

       


    MARCH

    • Had another encounter with Cirque du Soleil, this time with KURIOS!

    Kurios: Cabinet des Curiositie

       

    • Flew to Memphis to visit their new Hard Rock Cafe, see the sights, and visit some friends...

    Hard Rock Cafe Memphis Tennessee

       

    • Spent the evening photographing beautiful Beale Street...

    Beale Street Memphis Tennessee

       

    • Got my hands on the majesty that is the Retina 5K iMac.

       


    APRIL

    Essential viewing for every American.

       

    • Sang the praises of Netflix and Marvel's Daredevil.

       

    Took a trip to Vancouver so I could get detained, visit the new Hard Rock Casino, and eat TimBits...

    Hard Rock Casino Vancouver

       


    MAY

    • Had a less than stellar experience when visiting the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Lake Tahoe...

    Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe

       

    • Visited Anchorage to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there and take the Alaska Railroad so I could go glacier watching...

    Otters

    Glacier Cruise Alaska Prince William Sound

       

    • Marvel at Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande as they Don't Dream it's Over...

       


    JUNE

    THE BLACKHAWKS WIN THE STANLEY CUP!

    Spy Movie Poster

       

    • Dropped some text on vitiligo.

       

    • Spent too long obsessing over a video where a cat taking a nap got an unexpected ride...

       

    Equality nation-wide...

    Marriage Equality for All

       


    JULY

    Wrote a love letter to Back to the Future on the event of the film's 30th anniversary.

    Back To The Future!

       

    • America. A retrospective of greatness.

    DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey waving US flags.

       

    The only president we need.

       

    • Took a look back at some of my favorite television commercials from past years.

       

    Came the closest to death that I ever have.

       


    AUGUST

    Said goodbye to The Daily Show.

       

    • Took a trip to Los Angeles and visited The Getty Museum...

    The Getty Los Angeles

       

    • Was disgusted by being disgusted.

       


    SEPTEMBER

    Became enamored with a pencil.

       

    Said goodbye to PDX carpet after flying to Portland for a wedding...

    PDX Carpet Feet

       

    • Finally, finally got to see a concert at Red Rocks... DURAN DURAN!

    Red Rocks Amphitheater!

       

    • Became obsessed with LEGO Dimensions...

    LEGO Dimensions Game

       


    OCTOBER

    • Sorry, I'm not Josh...

    Sorry! Not Josh!

       

    • iTunes is the shittiest software ever.

       

    • Spent a beautiful day in Marin County...

    Marin

       

    Went to see Walk the Moon with Jestertunes...

    Walk the Moon

       


    NOVEMBER

       

    • Finally said goodbye to my piece of shit car.

       

    Took a step towards fulfilling a dream...

    My new Milwaukee red drill!

       


    DECEMBER

    • On a trip to Portland, Maine, I discovered that United Airlines Don't Give a Fuck.

       

    • Delved into the world of home automation.

       

    • Closed out my travel year by flying back to San Francisco so I could see The 1975 with Jestertunes.

       


    And that was my adventures in 2015.

    Here's wishing everybody a terrific 2016!

       

    Bullet Sunday 489

    Posted on Sunday, January 8th, 2017

    Dave!There's hope for 2017, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

       
    • WALL! And so now The American People are going to have to pay for President Pussy-Grabber's idiotic Mexico border wall. As if there were ever any doubt. Can I just have the $25 instead? Giving everybody in the US $25 would be just as effective as this HYSTERICAL LEVEL OF DUMBFUCKERY would be in protecting the country. Look, it's not going to work. It's not going to stop drugs. It's not going to stop illegal immigration. And it's FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE TO BUILD THIS BULLSHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE... JUST ASK ANY ARCHITECT! — And Trump's 8 Billion price tag is a joke. It's going to run billions over that in costs AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. And the price doesn't even include the outrageous cost of maintaining such a wall... which is BILLIONS more. This is absolutely one of the most stupid fucking things I have ever heard of. It's a security blanket for total morons, and we're all going to have to pay the price. And if you honestly believe that Mexico is going to reimburse us for the final cost of something that doesn't even work? You need a serious reality check.

       
    • Home! I'm a big fan of unique houses, and just when I think I've seen it all, something cool like this comes along...

    Yeah... I'd have figured out a way to have a bathroom up there, but other than that? What an awesome place to call home!

       
    • LARSENNNNNNN! I head to Antarctica for a photography expedition in 324 days. After wanting to visit for decades, I finally decided to throw finances to the wind and go this year because every time I see Antarctica in the news, it's because another chunk of the ice shelves is breaking off. And scientists are saying another massive chunk is about to go...

    A map of Larsen C's iceberg by MIDAS/Swansea University/Aberystwyth UniversityA map of Larsen C's iceberg by MIDAS/Swansea University/Aberystwyth University

    Now I'm just hoping that enough of Antarctica holds together for me to see it come December...

       
    • This is It! If you're into cheesy Norman Lear comedies from the 1970's, then have I got a treat for you. Netflix has used that same framework to delve into contemporary issues by remaking One Day At A Time with a Cuban twist. It's a glorious trip back in time that's about as well-done as comedy gets...

    As if that weren't enough, they had Gloria Estefan remake the theme song with a latin twist...

    I really, really hope that this critically acclaimed show gets a second season. There's a lot more to be said.

       
    • Maui! I was saddened to learn that the Hard Rock Cafe in Maui closed this past week. This was my very first Hard Rock, and is what got me into traveling the world to visit 165 more of them (and counting!). It had the perfect location at the end of Front Street in Lahaina, and was about the most laid-back cafe you could hope for when vacationing in Hawaii. From my DaveCafe blog...

    While vacationing with friends in Maui (circa August 1990), we were wandering around Lahaina looking for a place to eat. As we came to the end of the Front Street tourist shopping district, one of us spied a place called “Hard Rock Cafe” in an unassuming building across the street. It sounded like fun, so away we went.
       
    Little did I realize how my life would change after that moment.
       
    At the time I remember thinking “The Hard Rock Cafe is such a great idea… it’s like eating in the middle of a Rock-n-Roll museum!” I hadn’t seen anything like it, and was so impressed I bought a couple pins at the gift shop. When we went back to Lahaina a few days later, I ended up buying a denim jacket that I still have today.
       
    When I got back home, I discovered that there were 22 other Hard Rock Cafes around the world. But none of them were in Seattle, which is why I hadn’t heard of them before. Some were in places I might visit one day (San Francisco, New York, Chicago)… but others seemed like impossible destinations I’d never see (Reykjavik, Stockholm, Singapore).
       
    How wrong I was.
       
    As time went on, I started traveling more and more, and managed to see some Hard Rock Cafes along the way. Pretty soon I found myself traveling to places specifically to see the cafes there. By that point I was becoming obsessed, and set a goal to visit 50 properties before the end of the year 2000, 10 years after my first visit in Maui. That I did in December of 2000 when I vacationed in Rome, Italy. I always thought that once I reached my goal, that would be the end of it all, but I was wrong again. I kept going, visited properties around the globe and adding to my growing collection of pins, T-shirts, and glassware.
       
    I owe a great debt to the Hard Rock Cafe for exposing me to places I probably never would have seen if not for their restaurants, hotels, and such. Amazing places like Warsaw, Poland… Bali, Indonesia… and Lisbon, Portugal (to name a few). Even nifty places here in the USA that I never would have gone to if not for checking another cafe off my list. I may go for the Hard Rock, but I always stay for all the other wonders these places offer.
       
    And there are still so many places yet to see.

    You will be missed...

    Hard Rock Cafe Maui

    And, while we're on the subject...

    The original Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas (in front of the Hard Rock Hotel) has also closed. Probably because they opened a second cafe on The Strip, and there wasn't enough room for two of them. This is a shame, because the original had a much better "Hard Rock feel" to it... as opposed to the "Hipster Lounge" style that they've got going now.

    Ah well. Progress and all that.

       
    I'm outta bullets, so have a good week, everybody!

       

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