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Day One – Rome

Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2000

NOTE: The current incarnation of Blogography began on April 18th, 2003. Before then, I had two blogs... DaveWorld (later DaveSpot), a hand-coded effort that ran from the mid 1990's to 2000... and DaveBlog which ran from 2000 to 2002. Blogography itself started in 2002, but was deleted then "re-booted" to what you see now. This post was taken from my pre-Blogography days and was added on August 24, 2014.

   
Dave!Rome is one of those places I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.

There's only so many times you can look at pictures of The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, The Pantheon, and numerous other world-famous sites before you want to see them in person. A couple of years ago, Rome got a Hard Rock Cafe, and I finally had my excuse. Now, after two years of saving my money, I'm here.

My lodging couldn't be better... The Hotel Intercontinental, right at the top of The Spanish Steps. Usually, I couldn't afford such an amazing property, but I lucked into an invitation to a Hotel Intercontinental "club" that netted me two free nights in an upgraded room... complete with a bottle of champaign and a giant box of chocolates. I arrived before check-in, but the concierge was kind enough to store my luggage so I could bum around the city for a bit.

My first stop? St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City...

...where the line was massive...

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome

Oh well. On my list of things to see in Rome, this was #1 on the list, so I waited in line for nearly two hours...

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome Brass Door

At which point I noticed that some people were bypassing the line and walking right past everybody straight in the front door. Needless to say, I was upset. What makes them so special? Do they work there? Are they paying for an immediate access ticket? What? Turns out there actually isn't a line to get into St. Peter's. The line is to enter the basilica through "The Brass Door." A special entrance that is opened only at rare times. Such as the 2000th year since the birth of Jesus. A part of me wanted to just hop out of line and walk on in. But I had already been waiting so long, I figured "What the heck?" Walking through The Brass Door is supposed to be a lucky blessing, so I stuck it out...

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome Brass Door

The inside is jaw-dropping, as expected...

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City in Rome

After all too brief a visit, it was off to the Colosseum...

The Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum in Rome

And The Forum...

The Roman Forum Ruins

The Roman Forum Ruins

The Roman Forum Ruins

The Roman Forum Ruins

And The Pantheon...

The Pantheon in Rome

Eventually I figured I should go back to the hotel and check-in to my room. So I wound my way to the Spanish Steps and... BLAM!... the streets were blocked off and the sidewalks were overrun. There was no way I could get to my hotel. I couldn't even get close enough to see it...

Rome

At first I thought maybe the Backstreet Boys were in town or something. But it turns out it was His Holiness The Pope. I was tall enough to see over everybody and get a shot... except the crowd surged when he drove by so everything ended up all blurry. Nevertheless, there he was...

Rome

The Pope left The Vatican so he could lay wreath at a statue of Mary at the bottom of The Spanish Steps during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Not that I could get anywhere near the festivities, of course...

Rome

While waiting for the crowd to break up, I grabbed a bite from a local cafe that was, much to my surprise, empty. I had planned on going out again after checking into my hotel, but the 8-hour time change had other plans for me.

Still, not a bad start for my first day in Rome.

   

The Australian Pushback

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2003

Dave!Alrighty then! I wish I could say that I have been on some kind of exotic expedition to the Himalayas, taking time only to blog the Friday Five and see The Matrix Reloaded, but that would be an oversimplification of the truth. I have, in fact, been working day and night to catch up with various projects that have been piling up over the last month. So, for those few friends that have my blog on an XML feed and thought I was dead... you were not far from the truth. About the only interesting thing that's changed in my life is a decision to put off my Australian Hard Rock run for a little while so that I can buy a bike for the summer. Lately I keep running into friends who have purchased new rides, and find myself growing increasingly jealous with each new day (it's nice to get my mid-life crisis over with). The problem is that I have not touched a motorcycle in nearly 13 years! So come July, I'm off to take the MRC so I can get my ME on my DL and then go into all kinds of debt and get a bike. Then I can spend the weeks I was going to be in Australia learning to ride all over again. I can't think of a better way to spend the summer.

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Of Life and Arizona

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2003

Dave!Every year for Mother's Day, I take my mom on a vacation (good boy that I am). This year was supposed to be a trip to Asia, but the last thing I wanted was to pick up a case of SARS, so it was decided to stay closer to home. Since neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, it was off to Arizona for four days of fun in the sun. Now, as impressive as the Grand Canyon is (personally I prefer Waimea Canyon on Kauai) I'd have to say that the absolute highlight of the trip would have to be a stop-over in Sedona.

This amazing, amazing place was supposed to kill 2 hours on the way to the Big Event, but ended up sucking an entire day... and I would have dearly loved to stay longer. Probably one of the most beautiful places I have yet experienced, the best way to see it is with a great company called Pink Jeep Tours, which will take you on a 4-wheel excursion into the Sedona outback. It's a wild wide, a heck of a lot of fun, and an incredible experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. For anybody looking for a quick vacation (or even a long one), you could do a lot worse.

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The Real Problem with Airports

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2003

Dave!It's not the added security, long lines, rude people, freaky security agents, lack of seating, take-off delays, or even the noise that pisses me off about airports today... it's eating at the airport that sucks ass! On top of your choice of dining establishments being limited, your choices within those establishments are even further limited. Even if you manage to find a McDonalds, Burger King, or Taco Bell, you're assured of a gravely reduced menu that is extremely vegetarian hostile. And heaven help you if you have to use a crappy independent eatery... they have even fewer choices and far worse food than the shite they serve on actual airplanes! This morning in Milwaukee I stopped at a place that was selling a limited menu for "breakfast." The problem was not that hot dogs were considered a breakfast item whereas pizza wasn't, the actual problem went more like this:

me: Do you have any apples or bananas?
them: I'm sorry, we don't.
me: Oh. Can I get a toasted bagel please?
them: We don't toast bagels.
me: Hmmm... that's unfortunate, can I get it heated?
them: I could throw it in the microwave.
me: (realizing full well that a microwave will destroy a bagel) Okay then, I'll take a nuked bagel with cream cheese please!
them: We're out of cream cheese.
me: (refusing to pay $2.49 for a microwaved bagel without cream cheese, even if I was going to have to pay 49 cents extra for it) Alrighty... can I get a sandwich with cheese and vegetables only then?
them: You can take the meat off, but the sandwiches are pre-made.
me: Well, I guess I'll take a bag of Sun Chips.
them: Is that all? (oh the irony!)
me: Given that I'm a vegetarian, and my only food choices are a rubberized bagel with no cream cheese, a hot dog, or a meat sandwich, I think that's gonna have to be it, thanks.
them: Okay then, you have a good day! (Wisconsin folk are among the nicest people I have ever met, even when telling you that all you're getting for breakfast is a bag of chips).

How sad that you can't even get a piece of fruit for breakfast anymore. With every passing year, the American diet is heading further into the crapper, with the only thing available to eat on the road being foods littered with dead animal flesh, packed with deadly hydrogenated fats, or void of any nutritional value what-so-ever. Is it any wonder that, as a Nation, we're getting fatter and less healthy?

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Best Pizza in the World

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Dave!Here I am in lovely Spokane Washington! Actually, I am not a big fan of the city, because it's hard to get excited about something when you have to drive 3 hours in 106-degree heat to get to it. The thing I am excited about is the opportunity to eat the best damn pizza on the planet at "David's Pizza." This is no joke. I have eaten pizza in every major American city (and oh-so-many not so major cities) along with a good chunk of other cities around the world... and none of them compare to the fine fare you can get at David's. Chicago thick-crust pizza? Fantastic, but this is better. New York stuffed pizza? Excellent, but this is better. Authentic Italian pizza in Rome? Amazing, but this is better. If you ever find yourself in the backwaters of Eastern Washington near Spokane, you owe it to yourself to have a slice (or three) of the "Da Vinci" pizza (with Feta cheese, basil pesto, fresh tomato & mozzarella) at David's. They've been voted "Spokane's Best Pizza" for 6 years in a row, but I find it to be true no matter where I go.

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L.A. summer

Posted on Monday, August 11th, 2003

Dave!So here I am in sunny L.A. for a few days (sadly, it's all work, so it's not like I'll actually get to enjoy it!). Had the usual delays/gate changes/freakiness that comes with flying now-a-days, the upshot being that I got into the Ontario Airport an hour late (after midnight) which gave me precious little time to get my work set up for the next day, and a measly 3 hours left over for some bad sleep (thank you Alaska Airlines!).

Though everybody in L.A. will tell you that the traffic here is the worst anywhere, I can give a more objective opinion that it is not. Don't get me wrong, it is pretty bad... it's just not as horrible as, let's say, Atlanta or Seattle. At least the people here know how to drive in it. Motorcyclists appear to have it made, because traffic seems very accommodating to lane-splitting. I've seen cars pull to a side to let a motorcycle pass, which is quite different than what I've noticed from Seattle traffic (where they make whiplash lane changes and have no qualms about cutting off anything with two wheels... even if they make no headway doing so).

About the only gripe I continue to have about the "City of Angels" is the smog, which seems to get worse with each passing year. Even on a clear-blue sky day like today, the surrounding mountains are barely visible! The upside is that all that pollution makes for some amazingly beautiful sunsets.

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Road trip!

Posted on Sunday, August 24th, 2003

Dave!Since I'm at 470 miles on my motorcycle, and it's due for a check-up at 600, I decided that a 380 mile trip to Spokane would put me too far past the mark when you add on the fact that the 120 mile trip to Seattle (where my BMW dealer is at) would total 970 miles. Oh well, there's always another trip to Spokane. Or is there? I mean, summer is running out, and warm-weather days are getting fewer. And then I look out my back window and see this...

How in the heck am I expected to sit in a cage for 3-1/2 hours on a day like this? There is no way I am not riding my motorcycle to Spokane! So now I am unpacking from my carry-on bag into my new Joe Rocket Pack, which is about half the size. Since I am a very light packer anyway, it's not much of a change, but it does make me question whether I really want to carry a fresh pair of jeans over now that I'll be carrying them on my back (hey, they are heavier than you think!).

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180 Miles Later

Posted on Sunday, August 24th, 2003

Dave!Well that was fun. My 180 miles into Spokane was uneventful except... after an hour, my ass went numb... and a half hour after that, my legs started cramping up, so I decided to stop for a break. It would seem there really is no comfortable way to spend 3-1/2 hours on my motorcycle, which I suppose is to be expected, because a cruiser it is not! (half my kingdom for highway pegs!) Even so, there was still much fun to be had (Highway 2 has plenty of interesting curves that makes it really sweet for bikers, and you see a lot of them on the road here). I found out that the F650 GS has no problem at 110 mph, which makes passing much more fun than it has a right to be. I also found out that it is folly to wear my Joe Rocket Pack for more than 15 minutes unless it's empty, which is fine because it straps to the handles on my "passenger seat" easily enough. All things considered, it was a much better ride on a motorcycle than trapped in a car! That pleasant thought has me even more worried that snow could be just two months away. How am I supposed to survive the winter if I won't be able to ride?

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Lucky Me

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2003

Dave!Nobody stole or vandalized my motorcycle in the middle of the night (which was my biggest worry for this trip!).

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Home Again

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2003

Dave!Coming back home was a little easier than the trip over, and I only had to stop once in Wilber, Washington to take a break for my aching legs and numb ass. Overall, it was a great ride, and beats the heck out of being stuck in a car.

A few things I learned...

  • Scratching your nose is no longer the simple thing you thought it would be when cruising down the highway in a motorcycle helmet.
  • The high plains of Central Washington generate enough wind to make motorcycle travel very interesting (especially when your ride weighs only 430 lbs!). Why they don't try to harness all that wind energy for electricity is beyond me.
  • Highway 2 is a very popular route for bikers, as I saw more on the road this trip than any other.
  • And, most importantly, proper positioning of your testicles before embarking on your motorcycle journey is pretty damn important, as you will not have an opportunity to make adjustments at 70mph.

And since I am now drastically past the 600 miles for my service inspection, I suppose my next trip will be over the mountains to Seattle. I can't wait.

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Seattle traffic sucks ass!

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

Dave!Okay then. I can deal with the torrential rain and freezing wind... that's just part of riding a motorcycle. But the Seattle traffic I was dreading ended up being just as horrible as I imagined it would be. How bikers in Seattle can stand it, I will never know. The constant stop -- go four feet -- stop again cycle is sheer torture on a motorcycle, and 8 miles of it is complete agony. By the time I made it through, I felt like I had been beaten in the head with an exhaust pipe.

But there is good news to the day... all the little things that have been bugging me about my BMW F650 GS were fixed right up by the capable service crew at RideWest. And even more important, my heated grips finally arrived! Nothing is sweeter than having warm hands when the sun goes down. The apparel shop even had a solution for road grime obstructing my view... cool BMW Motoraad "Atlantis" gloves that have a nifty "windshield wiper" on the left index finger... just run it over your face shield and problem solved!

But the best part of the day was the ride home. Highway 2 out of Seattle has some truly beautiful scenery, and the road has just enough twisties to make for a fun ride without wearing you out. Makes me more than a little depressed that I have to be trapped in my car for the drive to Spokane tomorrow.

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Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2003

Dave!I'm heading off to Iceland and Sweden in a couple of weeks, and decided to use a coupon I received to get a new "GameBoy Advance SP" to kill time on the plane. It's pretty sweet, but the games they have for it are simply amazing! Right now I am addicted to "Final Fantasy Tactics" which is more fun than Dungeon & Dragons ever was... incredible that such a deep and involving game could be fit into the palm of your hand!

If you've got a lot of time to waste, FFT-A is highly recommended! (screenshots were swiped from IGN).

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Etiquette

Posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2003

Dave!What a dilemma! I'm using the restroom at the Detroit airport during a layover. As I finish washing my hands, a guy comes from using the urinal and doesn't wash his hands, nearly running over me on his way out. A few seconds later, I emerge to see the same guy approaching some other guy he apparently knows, reaching out to shake his hand. Now, it occurs to me that I'd probably like to be told if I was about to shake some guy's hand after he's been touching his piece, so it's in my mind to scream out a warning, but what in the heck do you say in a situation like this? I mean, the guy probably has urine and heaven only knows what else splashed on that hand! Even sicker is the fact that it was lunch-time, and this guy probably went on to grab a bite to eat.

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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!

   

Reykjavik

Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2003

Dave!I arrived at Keflavek Airport at 6am via Iceland Air out of Baltimore, almost a half-hour earlier than scheduled (must be nice to come and go as you please, since you don't really have to worry about disrupting schedules of other airlines in Iceland... heck, are there any others?). The airport is pretty nice, actually, with my luggage arriving at baggage claim just minutes after I got off the plane. It was -3 degrees Celcius with a nice frost covering the area, which is a big difference from the 80 degrees I left in Maryland. The capitol city of Reykjavik is about 40 minutes away via "FlyBus," which runs continuously from the airport at tight intervals. Iceland must have an abundance of electrical energy, because the entirety of the highway leading to the city is well-lit... one might even say "overly-lit"... with a glittering path of streetlights strung out over a barren wasteland in-between.

I decided to stay at the Hotel Loftledir because it is the end-line location for the bus (which means I might get an extra hour of sleep, since I won't have to shuttle in tomorrow morning). The hotel is nice enough... neat and clean, with non-smoking rooms available that are smaller than what we would get in the States, yet fairly standard for Europe. The odd thing is the smell that permeates the place, which is kind of like a lingering fart that won't dissipate. Ends up that this is a sulfur odor from the heating, which is geo-thermal steam from nearby geysers. The smell is also in the hot water, which is piped directly from under the country. After half a day, I stopped noticing the smell so much, but it's still a bizarre kind of reminder that you're not at home.

Probably my favorite part of exploring the city was when I ran across this cat who was smarter than most people I meet. After saying hello, he ran up the side of a building into a window to observe life in the city from a new perspective.

And I also ran across the best use for a top-level domain I've ever seen (Iceland is ".is" for the native spelling of "Island").

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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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Stockholm

Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2003

Dave!The early flight from Reykjavik was uneventful except for the second security screening you get upon arrival to Arlanda Airport Stockholm (which seemed no more thorough than what I got at Keflavek Airport, but oh well). I opted to take the Arlanda Express Train into the city, which is a quick 20 minutes and 180 kroner (about $25 US)... it arrives at Central Station, just a block from my hotel, which is sweet because I didn't have to shell out for a taxi.

It's now 2am and I've just come back from a night out with some new Hard Rock friends I met through my web site. I guess this is one of those times that I'm glad I'm still on US Pacific time, because I'm still good to go! The club scene here is not so different from most anywhere else in Europe... American music and American fashion mixed with a little local flavor for an experience that's much like home, but with enough oddities to remind you that you're a long ways from Kansas.

Since Stockholm is outrageously expensive it was decided we would take a break in the evening to eat at McDonalds, which is far less money than ordering a bite to eat at a club. I tried their "Blueberry & Vanilla Pie" and was surprised to see that they are still frying their pies here... unlike in the States where they've switched to those baked crusts that taste like dried paste. From a health standpoint, I'm sure the frying is worse off, but they sure taste a hell of a lot better!

Before meeting my friends, I took a quick walk through the surrounding area and made a dash through the northern section of Gamla Stan ("Old Town"), which is quite remarkable. Assuming I can drag myself out of bed in the morning, I think I'll head back down and see the Royal Palace... check out a few museums (the Museum of Modern Art here is supposed to be a good one)... then head over to "Vasa Museet" which is supposed to be a cool restoration of the sunken ship "Vasa."

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Stockholm Two

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2003

Dave!I felt fine last night, but somehow ended up with a hangover anyway. I don't know if it's some kind of jet lag or what, because I didn't think I had that much to drink. In any event, my plans to get up early and explore the city were dashed, as I didn't haul my carcass out of bed until 10:00.

It rained for much of the morning, which was fine by me since I was planning on spending my time in museums. I started by taking a taxi to "Vasa Museet" which is just as incredible as the guidebooks lead you to believe... they managed to restore this old ship after it sat underwater for quite a long time, and it's pretty humbling to stand beside such a masterpiece of workmanship. From there I headed over to the "Nordiska Museet" which is filled with all kinds of crap from everyday living in Sweden over the years... clothes, toys, dishes, tableware, furniture, and just about everything else you can imagine... and found it to be much cooler than I thought it would be. Then it was off to The National Museum so I could take a look at their lone Monet (not really one of his better paintings) and the rest of their collection (which was interesting, but lacking in the areas I like the most).

It was then that I received quite a shock: The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Architecture are both closed for renovations! That sucks ass! Those were definitely in my top-ten-to-do-list while I was here, and they don't open until 2004! Harsh. I decided to console myself with lunch at Pizza Hut, which may seem like a total cop-out but, since I am vegetarian (and Swedish dishes all seem to be filled with fish), it was better than nothing (though the service was so bad I was wishing I had chose nothing). Lastly, I took a stroll through Gamla Stan (Old Town) and saw the Royal Palace and Treasury.

I've spotted a few motorcycles around, and many times they are BMW, which has me a bit homesick for my own ride back home. I kind of envy local bikers, because the surrounding area must be amazing for countryside riding. And Stockholm knows how to treat motorcyclists right, because I see "motorcycle parking" areas from time to time... that rocks!

Tonight my friends are once again taking me for a night out on the town. One of the girls has to travel in the morning, so we're going to cut the evening short around 11:00. This garnered a few apologies, as I am told that this is when things just start to get going in Stockholm on a Saturday night! Maybe I am just getting old, but I am not too sad about that. Any later, and I am wrecked the next day.

BIZARRE! As I sit here in my hotel room typing this, I hear somebody whistling the tune from "The Andy Griffith Show." I was thinking perhaps that it might be some bored American tourist, but instead see that it is a one of the maintenance staff. How nice that American "historical culture" is thriving with the locals.

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Stockholm Three

Posted on Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Dave!Since it was an early night last night I was up a little earlier than usual, and decided to explore a little more of Old Town. True to form, the minute my feet touched Gamla Stan, it started to rain (just as it has the past two days). Perhaps the Norse gods just don't want me in that part of the city because, within an hour of leaving it, the rain stopped.

It was then that I decided to find a T-Bana (subway) and Bus route that would take me to the Royal Palace at Drottningholm (about ten miles outside of Stockholm). While buying a few postcards, I wanted to extend my conversation with the stunningly beautiful sales clerk, so I asked her about my plan. She suggested that it might be nice to take the steamship, which ended up being across the street from my hotel. So, 45 minutes (and 110 kroner) later, I am at Drottningholm Palace. It's nice and everything but, once you've been to Versaille, there isn't much else that can compete (especially when you paint fake "marble" over wood instead of using the real stuff!).

Back in chilly Stockholm I took a walk through the city until I got a bit hungry, then decided to have dinner at a cafe (pretty much bread rolls with cheese and some tea). That was when the moment I always dread happens... I run into other American tourists. Here is about what happened:

Bloated American Bitch: (screaming to her husband) UGH! THIS HOT CHOCOLATE IS HORRIBLE... BITTER!!

Me: (using a thick, generic, pan-European accent) Excuse me, but zhat ees why ze waiter brought ze bottel of shugar... like your coffee, you may sveeten it as you like [Translation: Hey you loud, obnoxious, stupid bitch, if you would take two seconds to look at your table, you would notice that the waiter has brought you some sugar for your hot chocolate. They do this so that you can sweeten it to your liking, instead of forcing a hot cup of sugar water on your lazy ass like they do in the USA].

Bloated American Bitch: THAT'S CRAZY!!! I THOUGHT THAT THIS CHOCOLATE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!

Me: Perhaps you are theenking of Sweetzerland, no? [Translation: Don't you even know what country you are in you moron? Or is anything outside of the US just "Not America" and that's all you care about? No wonder the rest of the world hates us].

Bloated American Bitch: YES, SWISS CHOCOLATE!!!

Me: But thees ees Sweden, it ees entirely a deeferent country. [Translation: Just how big of an idiot are you... really? Please do America a favorite and take your next vacation to Disneyland so the rest of us who actually give a crap about life outside the United States don't have to pay for your ignorance].

Bloated American Bitch: OH HA HA HAAAA! THAT'S RIGHT!! Your English is very good! Are you from Stockholm?

Me: No. I am from Mazbekistan. Goodbye. [Translation: Since you obviously haven't a clue, I will just make up a name of a country so that you can spend the rest of your vacation wondering if you just spoke with a terrorist].

Oh how I hate ignorant, arrogant, American tourist idiots.

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Back to life

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

Dave!Argh. Just one more day in Sweden would have been sweet but, all good things must come to an end, so now I'm back home. As sad as I am that the vacation is over, I am really, really happy to be able to ride my motorcycle again. It was like a punch in the gut every time I saw a Beamer cruising past the streets of Stockholm and, now that I've been riding, I dread the next trip where I have to spend time apart from my ride. Heaven only knows how freaked out I'm going to be when the snow hits.

The worst part about leaving for vacation when I did was the start of the Fall television season, so now my Tivo is completely stacked to the max. The good news is that most of the crap could be immediately deleted... case in point: Coupling. The original version out of the U.K. is one of my most favorite programs, so I was a little worried about how badly it would translate for American television. Well, all fears were justified, as the program is complete and total crap. They've destroyed it. The acting is abysmally bad... even from Rena Soffer, who was amazing in "Oh Grow Up." No spark. No timing. No ANYTHING. And I don't think I would feel any different if I hadn't seen the BBC original either... this show is just plain bad.

Fortunately, Alias was as excellent as always. Why in the hell doesn't this show get better ratings? It's got everything... hot women beating the crap out of people, mystery, intrigue, action, drama... amazing acting and writing talent. If only they would ditch the stupid "Marshall" character (why in the hell does every show have to put an idiot in it?). Tired of the same old boring television? Watch Alias... it completely changes every 4 episodes!

   

Who Asked You, Bitch?

Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2003

Dave!Why is it that so many people feel the need to stick their nose in other people's business? While waiting in Detroit for my flight back from Stockholm the other day, I purchased a few magazines to have something to + ahem + read... namely, Maxim and Maxim Stuff. I sat down and just started reading an interview with the babealicious lawyer from JAG, Catherine Bell, when some hippie bitch across from me has to interrupt:

Uptight Bitch: That's not a magazine, it's pornography!

Me: Nobody asked you.

Uptight Bitch: I think you should take your smut someplace where children aren't present.

Me: NEWSFLASH: ABSOLUTELY NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK... so shut up and stop bothering me.

She then got up and left in disgust, while some people around me started laughing. I thought for sure she'd end up in the seat next to me on my flight, but sometimes you just get lucky and I never saw her again.

Now look, I am not one to pass my morals (or lack thereof) on other people, and all I ask in return is that you give me the same courtesy. If you feel women in bikinis are pornography, then go protest at a beach somewhere... that's freedom of expression and I'm fine with it. But don't go shoving your "thinking" in my face because, unless you are somebody I know or respect, I just don't give a shit.

Images above were stolen from the Maxim Magazine and Stuff Magazine web sites. Both magazines are packed with high entertainment value, so I recommend picking up several copies.

   

Getting High

Posted on Saturday, October 18th, 2003

Dave!One of the major benefits of loving to travel the world is the cool things you get to see and do along the way. While on a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, I went into town to have lunch at the Hard Rock and also to visit the world's tallest building(s)... Petronas Towers. This amazingly structure is a work of art in glass and steel, and far more beautiful than it has a right to be. They limit the number of people that can visit the observation deck each day, so I had a long wait to get my visitor pass, but the bragging rights to having been up the world's tallest building was worth it.

This morning I was devastated to discover that I no longer have my bragging rights. As of yesterday, the world's tallest building is the Taipei-101 in Taiwan.

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Help… me…

Posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2003

Dave!Holy shit! While we wait for Horizon to fix the airplane, some old guy has pulled out his BANJO and started to SING! As if the delay wasn't torture enough? I mean, sure the guy is probably just trying to do something nice... BUT A FRICKIN' BANJO?!? Ack, just kill me now.

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Northwest Sucks Too

Posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2003

Dave!As it turns out, the stupidity of this morning's Horizon flight delay was just the beginning. I was promised that somebody would re-book my flight, but after 30 minutes of waiting, I decided to use my mobile phone and do it myself. Thanks to the friendly and efficient phone staff at Northwest Airlines, I had completed my re-book in just ten minutes (my first-class upgrade intact). I was told my confirmation code was the same and I was seated in 3-A for both of my connecting flights.

Or so I thought.

Horizon finally boards the flight when I get a rude shock... sometime in the 15 minutes after I hung up with NWA, I had been re-booked again on a different flight with a later connection in Memphis...landing 3-1/2 hours later than my already-delayed arrival. No problem, I board the aircraft and call up Northwest again to find out what happened...

... and this time get the rudest, most horrifyingly incompetent bitch I have ever had the displeasure of speaking to in my 20 years of travel. It went something like this:

Me: Hello, I'm having a problem because of a mechanical delay in my Horizon flight #2155 out of Wenatchee. I had re-book a flight through Minneapolis, landing in Milwaukee at 4:38, but somehow I'm now booked on a connection through Memphis arriving at 7:05.

Rude NWA Bitch: You are going to have to calm down while I pull up your record.

Me: Sorry, I am-- (I was GOING to say "I am in a hurry because I am on board a plane and they are going to close the cabin door in a minute," but the bitch cut me off in mid-sentence!!

Rude NWA Bitch: You need to take a deep breath and be calm before I can help you. Now tell me your confirmation number.

Me: Sorry, but I couldn't get to a pen, be-- (I was GOING to say "because I was in-line at the ticket counter when I re-booked and could reach my bag," but the bitch cut me off AGAIN).

Rude NWA Bitch (REALLY rudely): You really should be more prepared when you travel. You should always have a pen with you to write down important things like this!!

Me: Uhhh... sorry, but I--

AND THIS IS WHERE THE f#@%ING BITCH HANGS UP ON ME!! Yes, you read that correctly, SHE HUNG UP ON ME!!!

Let me state up-front that at NO TIME was I rude, did I raise my voice, or act hostile IN ANY WAY. I was in a bit of a hurry because I had only a few minutes to use my mobile phone, but that's it!! I don't have any idea what her problem was, but it couldn't have been me.

So I get to Seattle, have to go through the entire story yet again with a new (and much nicer) phone agent as the battery in my mobile starts to drain away. She finally tells me that she can't seem to get me re-booked, and that she'll have to transfer me to another agent. So, for the fourth time in two hours, I explain the problem and get re-booked (again). But this time I get actual tickets from the gate agent, and everything works out... well, at least until I get to Minneapolis and find out that I've dropped out of the computer and my boarding pass doesn't work (yet another blow after having lost my First Class upgrade). The gate agent there takes pity on me and gets me on the flight anyway, which is good, because I was abut ready to kill somebody.

I realize that we are in the middle of the busiest travel weekend of the entire year, but WTF mate?!? Even if I were a rude asshole (which I absolutely was not), I did not deserve to be treated this badly. After I fire off a nasty complaint letter to Northwest, I hope (for their sake) they make this up to me somehow.

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Strike!

Posted on Saturday, November 29th, 2003

Dave!As a seasoned traveller, I tend to be much more understanding of such airline-related mishaps as delays, cancelations, or other unpleasantness. But, after 20 years and hundreds of thousands of miles, I think I am finally close to reaching my breaking point.

For the third time in a row, Horizon has screwed up my Wenatchee departure due to "mechanical difficulties." Last time, a bird flew through the engine on the inbound flight the previous evening and nobody noticed it until it was time for us to depart (the flight was cancelled). This morning, an oxygen tank needed a new valve and, yet again, nobody noticed until it was time for us to start boarding (the flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours). WTF?!?

HELPFUL HINT TO HORIZON AIRLINES: WHY NOT TAKE A FEW MINUTES AND CHECK THE AIRCRAFT THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE SO STUPID SHIT LIKE THIS DOESN'T KEEP HAPPENING!!

Seriously, if problems like this are so prevalent that I've had three consecutive Horizon flights cancelled or delayed because of mechanical problems... don't you think they would get a f#@%ing clue and figure out that it is to their benefit (not to mention that of their outraged customers) to check out the aircraft after the final flight of the evening?

Of course this means that all my connecting flights are now screwed up (thanks again Horizon!). I had padded my trip by an extra day just in case of weather problems... but come on! This type of stupidity is avoidable! Even if it's not feasible to check the plane the night before, couldn't somebody come to the airport an hour early and check out the aircraft? Hell, you make ME come to the airport an hour-and-a-half early... if your ground crew or pilot (or whoever checks the plane over) would do the same, the stupid oxygen valve could have been replaced and my flight would have been on time. Dumbasses!

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Lomira Sunset

Posted on Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Dave!Today was a busy day of work here in chilly Wisconsin, and I still have the entire night left to go (the job doesn't end until 7am tomorrow morning). Being too tired to eat after traveling all day, I decided to stop at the Piggly Wiggly for some junk food. On the way to my lodging, this beautiful sunset was out my window:

Lomira Sunset

Which just goes to show that even on rough days there's always something cool going on if you stop and look for it.

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Fifth Time’s a Charm

Posted on Monday, December 1st, 2003

Dave!My work takes me to Milwaukee twice annually, and over the years I've tried to tour the Harley-Davidson Plant here, but end up missing out for some reason or another... either they're closed, there's some special event, all the tours are full-up for the day, or whatever. Today, my luck had finally changed, and I ended up getting a tour (my fifth attempt!).

H-D Milwaukee

H-D Preferred!

Overall, the tour is an hour well spent, and is really interesting if you are into motorcycles (and probably even if you aren't!). But if you are expecting to completed Hogs rolling off the line, you are bound to be disappointed, because the Milwaukee plant just builds/re-manufactures engines (to see final assembly, you need to visit a finishing plant in either Kansas City, MO or York, PA... which also houses the H-D Museum).

If you are wanting to visit, there are a few things you need to keep in mind: 1) There are only three tours each day, with the last being at 1:00, so get there early. 2) They are not open weekends and, during the winter months, are closed Tuesdays & Thursdays. 3) You must have a government-issued ID on you (such as a driver's license or passport). 4)You must be wearing closed footwear that are not open-toed, open-heeled, or open-sided... they will not permit you to tour if you show up in sandals or something like that. 5) If you ride up on a Harley or a Buell, you get preferred parking right up in front of the factory(!).

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You Stink

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

Dave!What is it with f#@%ing idiots that feel the need to drench themselves in after-shave, cologne, perfume, or other such annoying stench? Especially in an enclosed airplane cabin where they stink up the entire plane and make the journey miserable for everybody. Instead of trying to mask the fact that you smell by covering yourself with an even more horrifying aroma, why not take a shower next time?

I think it's a general trend in society where nobody gives a crap about others, and nothing brings out the worst in people than holiday travel. I take one small carry-on knapsack on the plane with me, and yet I'm expected to move it so that somebody who packs their entire f#@%ing wardrobe in huge suitcases has room for their shit. I get to the airport early so that I can be to the gate on time, but have to let idiots who wait until the last minute pass me in the security line. I keep to myself and try hard not to bother or inconvenience others, but that doesn't keep some stupid bitch from cackling and screeching about her miserable life (that nobody but her cares about) in the seat behind me. The list goes on and on.

Sadly, it seems to bet a "me-me-me" society, and people just don't give a crap about annoying others so long as they get their way. Wouldn't it be great if people would bathe, be even a little courteous, and shut the f#@% up already? Travel sucks bad enough

I'm a Seoul Plane...

I am so not looking forward to this 11-hour flight.

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How the Other Half Live

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2003

Dave!So now I finally know how tough life can be outside the USA:

Sorry, no music for you!

The above is what I get when I attempt to load up the iTunes Music Store from Korea. Fortunately, I do have a US billing address, so it's all good for me... but what a bummer this must be for a good chunk of foreign Mac users around the globe!

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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?

   

Seoul of the Machine

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003

Dave!The traffic in Seoul is bad. I mean, really bad. It's so heinously bad that it can take hours to get from one side of the city to the other. Because of this sad fact, you can't just hop in your car to run something across town... it would take the entire day.

Enter motorcycle couriers! The city is packed with motorcycles (most of them a brand called "Daelim" that I've never heard of before), each with a large rack on the back for hauling cargo...

Daelim motorcycle.

That alone would not be shocking, but the fact that they will pile the thing 10-feet and higher is pretty scary...

Packed!

I tried to get a photo of this ridiculous load a guy was hauling through my taxi window (sorry it's a bit blurry). These couriers drive like high-speed maniacs anywhere they can (including sidewalks), but you can see that the guy (and his bike) is dwarfed by stacks and stacks of foam. I hope a gust of wind doesn't catch that and blow the motorcycle over!

The good news is that I found a cool Harley-Davidson shop here in Seoul. It's a pretty class act, and well worth a stop if you find yourself headed toward the North side of the city...

Seoul Hog!

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Seoul food

Posted on Friday, December 5th, 2003

Dave!A friend was kind enough to take me to a traditional Buddhist/Vegetarian restaurant in Insa-Dong today (which is kind of a touristy area, thanks to the huge number of souvenirs and traditional Korean antique shops and restaurants). As a vegetarian, my eating options are fairly limited at home, so I was pleasantly surprised at the 16 courses that were served in no less than 25 bowls! As the goodies started to pile up, I was beginning to wonder if I would have a place for my soup bowl and plate...

Seoul Food!

Garlic, which is a staple of Korean cooking was present (nobody uses garlic like the Koreans!), but my favorite dishes were those with a kind of spicy chile paste, which kind of reminded me of enchilada sauce, but not exactly. I definitely have to see if I can find some of this stuff... perhaps in Seattle... when I get back, as I think it would be an amazing addition to any kind of fried or steamed vegetables (and sticky rice, of course).

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Hold the Bush

Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2003

Dave!On the Korean Airlines Limousine Bus to Incheon International, I was thumbing through their magazine when I ran across an ad featuring George Clooney whoring himself out for whiskey. This is quite common in Japan (as the excellent film "Lost in Translation" fictionalizes), but I was a bit surprised to find that same practice here in Korea. I can only guess that George was offered some serious bank to do the spot, and figured "what the hell, nobody I care about is going to see it."

No Bush.

The funny thing about it is the catch-phrase, conveniently written in English: "Good whiskey needs no bush." I have no clue what this means. I doubt it would be some kind of pun against President Bush, but you never know. Perhaps Clooney is just letting us in on his preference in ladies' grooming habits?

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At Home in Tokyo

Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2003

Dave!Maybe its because I've been here a number of times before, or perhaps I was Japanese in a past life or something... because every time I come back to Tokyo, I feel very much at home. Within minutes of arriving at my regular hotel in Akasaka, I was running off to see what's new in the area.

The first thing I noticed while on the limousine bus ride in from Narita, was that there is a BMW Motorcycle dealership just around the corner from Tameike-Sanno station (exit 9), so that was my first stop. It's a nicely appointed shop with a good selection of models (including a blue version of my beautiful F650-GS!), and about a dozen bikes in stock. Due to the insane Tokyo traffic, motorcycles are everywhere, and it's nice to know that pricey BMW motorcycles can make a home here given the massive number of Japanese bikes on the street.

BMW Tokyo.

Next I'm off to the very, very cool Apple Store Tokyo. Surprisingly, this store is not located in Akihabara, which is the electronics and computer district. It is instead located in Ginza, which is the high-fashion district. This makes it very clear that Apple is positioning Macs and iPods here not as electronic gizmos, but as fashion accessories that compliment your lifestyle. Given the high cost of real estate in the Ginza, I shudder to think how expensive this store must have been.

Apple Store Ginza.

When I arrived, the store was jam-packed... apparently Japan doesn't have the fire codes we have in the States! The first floor is computers, the second is digital lifestyle apps and the Genius Bar, the third is a cool presentation theater, the fourth is software and accessories with an internet Bar, and the fifth is a training center (which you can only see if you pay for one of Apple's hands-on classes). All the floors are connected via two nifty glass elevators at the back of the store, for which there was quite a line-up to access.

The Ginza.

In the above shot, you can see how the huge rotating Apple sign at the top makes the building stand out, even when you're down the street. Compared to some of the key stores in the US (like L.A.'s Galleria and New York's Soho stores), this is not a very big property. But for Japan, it's monster-sized, and easily one of the most impressive shopping experiences in the entire city. The wide-open spaces and minimalist decor is almost unheard of in space-impaired Tokyo, but since every available square foot is packed with people, I suppose it's probably a good thing. I really, really hope that the store's instant popularity translates into brisk sales, because this is a flagship Apple Store that deserves every success.

   

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).

   

Japan Q & A

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2003

Dave!Just a couple Japan-oriented questions I received:

Is it possible to visit Japan if you don't speak Japanese? Absolutely. It's a little more difficult than visiting non-English-speaking European countries (because they don't use the Roman alphabet in "real" Japan writing), but certainly possible. In major cities any important signage is written in both English and Japanese, so all you really need is a good guidebook and you are good to go. Many locals (especially younger people) in larger cities can speak some English... particularly those working in hotels, restaurants and the like. Just prepare yourself to be patient and very observant (subway and train stations can be very confusing!), and you should be fine. Even so, I always recommend learning some basic conversation phrases, which will make your trip a bit easier (and more fun!).

I like your funny stories about annoying American tourists. Anything happen to you this time?I usually find such stories to be more sad than humorous, but yes. On my very first day I was waiting for the subway when two gai-jin (foreign, and most probably American) guys in their mid-40's came up to me to ask directions... for some reason, I am an absolute magnet for lost and confused anglo-tourists. After helping them out, a Japanese man walked by with a surgical mask on. Almost immediately, while the Japanese man was still within earshot, one of the idiots has to say "WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?" to which idiot #2 responds "HEY-HO SILVER AWAY!" Usually, I find it easier to just ignore stupid shit like this but, since I had just helped them out, I felt I could respond. I explained that the gentleman was sick with a flu or a cold, and he is wearing the mask as a courtesy to others so he doesn't infect them with his germs. Unlike in America, where people can barely be bothered to cover their mouths when they cough, the Japanese are much more courteous. As expected, my explanation had no effect, because idiot #1 was compelled to say "ARE YOU SURE? I THINK TONTO MUST BE AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE! HA HA HA!!" Sigh. Why do I even bother. Since Japan is not a very big tourist destination, I'd have to guess that these morons were here on business. With a redneck attitude like that, you aren't going to get very far, assholes.

If you think Americans are so stupid why don't you get the f#@% out! Don't tempt me. It's not that I think all Americans are stupid, I just feel that far too many have extremely narrow world-views that reflect poorly on us in the global community... particularly when I see how badly we can behave when visiting foreign countries. How hard can it be to take a few hours or so to read up on the customs and culture of the place you are visiting so that you don't offend anyone? It's just common courtesy, but you would be absolutely shocked at how few of us actually make the effort when traveling abroad.

And lastly: Is Japan as expensive as everybody says? Uh... yes. Very. The US dollar is pathetically week right now and Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities on earth (probably tied with Stockholm for the most expensive city?). I always end up spending quite a lot more than I planned when visiting Japan.

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Freezing in Minneapolis

Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2003

Dave!Nothing quite like showing up in Minneapolis for some bone-chilling weather. I want to stay in my hotel bed, but it's off to work I go...

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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.

   

New Orleans

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

Dave!One of my favorite cities on earth, New Orleans is one of those places that never leaves your blood once you've experienced it. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere... it's all intoxicating. And if you want something really intoxicating, there's always Bourbon Street. Of course the first place I have to visit is Cafe Du Monde for some hot chocolate and beignets, but then it's off to the market to see all the clever crap that we tourists can't live without...

New Orleans dolls.

New Orleans hot sauce.

New Orleans skulls.

New Orleans toys.

I rarely get the time to take a vacation, but you could do a lot worse than spending it in The Big Easy!

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Gone for a Reason

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Dave!Thanks to "Gone with the Wind" and numerous other glamorizations of plantation living in print and film, most people have this lovely mint-julep tainted vision of the Old South in their heads... filled with stately mansions like this one called "Oak Alley:"

Oak Alley.

Truth be told, it's a lovely home, and they have it fully decked out for the holidays.

Welcome.

But then you run across a shocking document recreation like this posted out back...

Value.

... and you are instantly able to put everything into perspective. Something about seeing a monetary value put on a human life that kind of destroys any beauty you might otherwise find in the surroundings.

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Gardening

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2003

Dave!New Orleans has many amazing things to offer, but the tree-lined streets and beautiful houses in the Garden District are pretty hard to beat. It's here that you'll find a great example of something uniquely New Orleans... the crypts in Lafayette Cemetery. Since the water table is so low (just 12-inches in the older days), there was no way to bury a coffin without it popping right back up the next time a heavy rain hits. So, to accommodate the problem, they have above-ground burials in really cool family crypts:

Lafayette Cemetery.

But the garden district is famous for its classic houses, and you can see a lot of them here... one of the best is owned by novelist Anne Rice (of Interview with a Vampire fame):

Anne Rice's House.

Also in the Garden District is one of my favorite zoos in the world... the Audubon Zoo. It's not only really huge, it's one of the more "animal friendly" in that they painstakingly re-create a natural environment to make the animals feel more at home. This silver fox has a great set-up with a den and space to run around and everything:

Silver Fox.

And, given Audubon's bird infatuation, there's some pretty cool bird exhibits as well. One of the critters that caught my eye this time around was this fuzzy little thing whose name I cannot remember:

Fuzzy Bird.

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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.

   

Map

Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2004

Dave!The weather is suh-weet today, so it looks like a ride on my motorcycle is definitely in order (after I spend an hour or two cleaning it up). In the meanwhile, a friend had asked why I haven't blogged my "visited States and Countries" like everbody else in blog-space. The reason is pretty simple... I didn't think the map was a good color for my site. Seriously. But, in the interest of conformity, I decided to make my own map just in case there are people who can't sleep at night because they are wondering what States I've been to. Well here you go...

Dave USA

I absolutely plan on visiting Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont one day... no question about it. Ditto for Alaska and New Mexico (Taos!). But that run of States down the middle? I just don't know. Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument are in South Dakota, but everything else? Who knows, maybe one day I'll get really bored and just drive through all of them in a single run just to say I've been there (heck, MapQuest shows that if I fly into Bismarck, then rent a car and drive through all the central Sates I'm missing to Oklahoma City, it takes a mere 16 hours and 34 minutes (anybody want to share that drive with me?).

The world map for visited countries is pretty anemic, which is scary considering I've seen more of it than most people. Let's just make a list, shall we? USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong (China?), Indonesia, Malaysia, United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Ireland, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy, Vatican City, France, Belgium, Sweden, and Iceland.

When it comes down to it, there's really no place in the world I don't want to see... I want it all (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, and Mainland China are first in line). I can only hope that I'll have the opportunity to experience a lot more of it before I go.

UPDATE: Finally visited Alaska, so that's off my list now.

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Robert’s America

Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2004

Dave!After I mentioned the idea of renting a car to hop through the States of the Mid-West in my last entry, Robert left a comment telling me that the only way such a trip would be cool is if I were to take it on my motorcycle. Though I question the sanity of attempting such a thing in the week timeframe he suggested, his itinerary does sound like an awesome road trip!

Robert's Mid-West Run

From my comment reply to Roger... Easy? A WEEK? Insanity. That would be 650 miles each day, 10 hours riding. The most I can ride on my motorcycle in a go is 5 hours (with stops!) before my ass falls off. So, unless you are volunteering to give me your cruiser, this is a two week trip minimum. I could never get that kind of time away from work. In a side note, thanks for the tip about RandMcNally.com! Ever since MapQuest dumped their "Road Trip Planner," it's been tough to figure stuff like this out. The RM planner rocks!

If only I could actually take three weeks away from my life to do something like this. Perhaps a plan for retirement? The trip planner he mentions at Rand McNally is really cool, by the way... MapQuest uses GIF, so their maps aren't as fuzzy, but RM has a lot more to offer.

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Wildcats of the Colosseum

Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Dave!Oh yeah, about that sleepy cat photo I was looking for in my last post: Cats fascinate me. They are always doing something that leads me to believe that they are smarter than most people I meet. Cats also have attitude. They hop up on your lap and demand your attention and then, without notice or provocation, they'll bite you and run off as if to say "I tire of your inadequate affections, begone with you" (which, oddly enough, can sum up most of the relationships I've had).

Last night while watching Friends, Phoebe was singing the "Smelly Cat" song, which somehow hit my brain as "Sleepy Cat," which reminded me of this cat I saw at the Roman Colosseum.

Colosseo

While the landmark is overrun with dozens (hundreds?) of wild street cats, it was this one in particular that caught my attention...

Sleepy Cat

The sun was shining, so it was a nice day despite the crisp December air. I was walking along when I saw this cat taking a nap, oblivious to the swarming tourists around him. As I approached, the cat suddenly realized that the sun had moved and left him under a shadow. He then moved one foot to his left so he was sitting in the sun again then promptly fell back asleep. After walking around the Colosseum, I came back to where the cat was and noticed he had to move again.

My digital camera was full-up with Colosseum photos, but I deleted one just so I could get a shot of this cat. I'm glad I did, because it ended up being one of my favorites from that trip.

   

Pope Bali

Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2004

Dave!It looks like Friday Five came back for a week, only to disappear again. I hope everything is okay with Heather. Anyway, I added a few photos to my ever-growing Blogography Gallery. This time there are photos from Asia, Rome, and the stunning Hard Rock Hotel in Bali. If you're looking to get away from it all, this is the place...

My Bed

Pool Overlook

The Pool

Somehow, I think my upcoming visit to the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago will pale in comparison, no matter how great a job they made of it!

   

Comb-Over Hypnosis

Posted on Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

Dave!Here I am sitting on the plane where "we have reached an altitude where electronic devices may now be used." A woman brought in a bouquet of lilacs, so I am guessing that the entire plane is going to stink like floral ass for the next 3 hours and 20 minutes. Lovely.

But that's not why I am writing this.

A gentleman just ahead of me has a comb-over hair-do than puts Donald Trump to shame. I sit here wondering how he manages to construct such an elaborate system of swirls and swoops on top of his head each morning. I'm guessing he's got at least 3 feet of hair in a carefully stacked layers, criss-crossing from one side of his head to the other and finally culminating in a fierce swirl around the perimeter. It's absolutely bizarre, yet I cannot look away. It is taking all the willpower I've got to refrain from whipping out my camera and taking a photo. This is a work of art, baby!

NOTE TO SELF: If baldness should suddenly attack, admit defeat and move on with your life.

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I (heart) Chicago

Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2004

Dave!My work done in the Windy City, it was time for my favorite Chicago moment...

Go to Giordano's and order a stuffed cheese pizza.

Giordano's Pizza

Sit at the bar.

Giordano's Pizza

Watch a Cubs game with the natives.

Giordano's Pizza

Eat good pizza and drink a beer (or three).

Giordano's Pizza

Be thankful that at this moment life is good.

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HRH Chicago

Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2004

Dave!While visiting in Chicago, guests of Blogography.com stay at the stunning Hard Rock Hotel downtown on Michigan Avenue. It's a wonderful restoration of the old "Carbide and Carbon Building" that looks as though the interior was swiped from the "W Hotel" chain... especially the bathroom... with everything in an upscale modern style in various shades of gray. It's a bit on the pricey side (I paid $160 at discount for a "standard" room) but no more than any of the other nicer hotels in the area.

HRH Chicago

HRH Bathroom

That's part of a metal mural of The Who that runs across the wall of my bathroom. I'd give the hotel my highest recommendation if you find yourself looking for a place to stay in downtown Chicago... not quite the Hard Rock Hotel Bali, but a very nice property just the same.

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HRC Detroit

Posted on Saturday, April 24th, 2004

Dave!I just returned from Detroit where I met up with Jeff from Geekable for lunch at the new Hard Rock. It's kind of boring on the outside, but nicely appointed on the inside... especially the bar, which has a really unique look to it.

HRC Detroit

HRC Detroit

During the 5-hour drive back to Milwaukee, I stopped off in Chelsea, Michigan for gas and found out that the city is home to "The World's Largest Teddy Bear" (or so they claim). He's kind of homely, but he is big...

Giant Teddy Bear

Even more surprising than the giant bear is that the factory which makes Jiffy baking mixes is right across the street...

Jiffy

It's odd what you run across when you take a quick detour off the highway.

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Alone in Utah

Posted on Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Dave!Salt Lake City is an interesting place to me as it's one of those rare major cities where I simply don't know anybody. Unlike L.A. or New York or Chicago or London or Tokyo... or whatever... I have no friends in the area. I guess it's simply because I don't get here very often (which is bizarre, because it is the closest Hard Rock Cafe to where I live: 3 hours by plane, 12 hours by car). Oh well, it's nice to just kick back, watch a movie, and be alone for a while.

Northwest Airlines doesn't have a direct Seattle-Salt Lake City route (this is Delta territory!) so I took a quick 2-hour Sky West flight on a very small plane. It's kind of a boring trip but, once when looking out the window, I did see PacMan!

Pac Man

There are actually a lot of PacMen down there, but the one in the middle has an eye on him which was kind of nifty. After a while, I noticed a lot of cool patterns that I thought would make great "modern art" with a little help from Photoshop.

SkyArt1

SkyArt2

SkyArt3

"Lilly Pads," "Circuit Board, " and "Pink Polka Dot Infusion."

   

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.

   

Salt Lake City Memories

Posted on Wednesday, May 5th, 2004

Dave!Of course no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete unless you paid a visit to beautiful Temple Square, home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly known as "The Mormon Church"). Plenty of followers of the church are on hand to answer any questions about the grounds, the buildings, the church, or the Mormon faith (their kindness only reinforcing the fact that Mormons are some of the nicest people you will ever meet!). It's a great way to spend a few hours if you happen to be in the vicinity of The Great Salt Lake.

Mormon Temple

Mormon Temple

Also recommended is a trip out to the Bonneville Salt Flats, which was the highlight of one of my previous trips to the area. This dried-out lake bed pretty much spells out the sad but eventual fate of The Great Salt Lake (especially given the droughts that have hit in recent years). Looks like snow, feels like rock, smells like ass...

Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats

I want to ride my motorcycle across those flats one day... I wonder if that is permitted?

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Delta

Posted on Thursday, May 6th, 2004

Dave!For years I have avoided Delta Airlines like the plague because I've heard so many horror stories about traveling with them. Well, since my regular ride Northwest Airlines doesn't have a direct flight to Salt Lake City, I decided to bite the bullet and give Delta a try. Much to my surprise and happiness, flying Delta has been a first rate experience, and I would absolutely do it again!

Delta Sky

My favorite part of the entire Delta trip was the massive amount of information you get from them... both on the ground and in the air. While waiting at the gate, they are constantly updating information on video screens showing how many people have checked in, what the status is for standby passengers, how many seats are available for First Class upgrade, and current ETD and ETA changes. You are never left wondering what is going on (which happens a lot with every other airline I fly, especially Horizon Air, which is a black-hole for information).

Once you are in the air, EVEN ON A SHORT 2-HOUR FLIGHT, there are video monitors that are forever displaying fun stuff like trivia questions, television shows, ETA and ETD, and nifty nonsense like air speed, outside temperature and the rest.. I like the map of the travel route best (Northwest does the map thing too, but they only bother for long international flights). It sure helps kill time on a flight if you forgot to bring a book or magazine!

Delta Sky

The fact that everything went so well, AND that Delta is a mileage partner with Northwest makes me very happy to know that I have other options in my travel planning.

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Lost Angeles

Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2004

Dave!Los Angeles is one of those cities that I used to love visiting. Cool museums, cool activities, cool places, and even cooler people. It's hard not to love the place that Disneyland calls home. But over the years L.A. has lost a lot of it's charm for me. This is partly due to a Hollywood movie deal I was involved in that started with a bang, but then died a long, slow, and very painful death (story for another time). I used to come here for fun, now I come only when I have to... work, a wedding, a can't-miss party, a funeral... those type of things. I guess you could say that I've pretty much done all I've wanted to do and seen all I wanted to see in this city.

Or maybe not... I just noticed that I am here in my hotel at LAX facing north towards the city and cannot actually see the city through all the smog...

Lost L.A.

Ummm... let's zoom in a bit...

Lost L.A.

Not much of a help. This time I'll use PhotoShop to try and enhance the image...

Lost L.A.

There it is! Wow... that's kind of scary. While I am waiting for a friend to pick me up for dinner, perhaps I should cut a mask out of the bedsheets?

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Big in L.A.

Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2004

Dave!Apple has spent loads of money making sure that L.A. is saturated with advertising for their amazing iPod music player. Everywhere you look, you see posters, billboards, bus stop signage... just about everything you could think of. Then I am driving down Santa Monica Boulevard and happen across the biggest advertisement I've ever seen. Forget about how much this thing cost to print... how much did Apple have to pay these people to cover their entire building?!?

iPod Building

Now that's impressive.

   

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.

   

Errata

Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

Dave!I am in Seattle now, which is not quite home, but it is a lot closer than Los Angeles. After a nerve-wracking 30 minutes on the traffic-soaked highways of Puget Sound, I arrive at my hotel hungry. When my work in L.A. ended early, I decided to skip lunch (having already skipped breakfast) so I could hop an earlier flight back. There are dozens of amazing Seattle restaurants within walking distance but, in the end, all I really want is a burger at Johnny Rockets (Streamliner Vegetarian, no grilled onions and no mustard). Sad, I know.

I walk two blocks to the mall wanting nothing but a bit of peace and a burger. I get the burger (amazing, as always) but no peace. NOTE TO ORGANIZERS OF THE "LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" EVENT AT PACIFIC PLACE: I am sure that the musicians participating are all very talented in a venue with the proper acoustics, but in an open-area mall with nothing but echo from hard surfaces... YOUR "MUSIC" SOUNDS LIKE REALLY LOUD NOISE... REALLY REALLY LOUD NOISE... and is not at all entertaining or enjoyable. IT'S CRAP!! I could not eat my dinner fast enough to get the hell out of that audio torture chamber. My dinner and evening ruined, I resist the urge to pummel a lady wearing a "Little Night Music" T-Shirt on the way out.

So here I sit in my blissfully quiet hotel room drinking a D'Peach Mode and eating a Strawberry Bar I picked up from Barnes and Nobel. I should be catching up on work, but just don't feel like it (meaning that I'm going to have to get up extra early in the morning). Since there is nothing good on television, I blog...

Security!! On the joyous event of passing through airport security with my courier bag this afternoon, I forgot to remove the Hard Rock pins I purchased. This is a Very Bad Thing, because a bag filled with metal pins appears as a big unrecognizable blob when viewed through an X-Ray machine. Naturally, in these uncertain times, that meant a security inspector had to tear through my belongings to be sure I didn't have a knife or other sharp object concealed inside. I love it when that happens... you never can quite get everything back the way you originally had it, meaning that my once carefully-packed bag was now a big lumpy mess that's no fun to carry around.

Googled!! When I went to my first meeting yesterday, I was greeted like an old friend and immediately engaged in a conversation about motorcycles and the hazards of riding one. At first I had thought that I was accidentally wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt to the meeting, because... well, I don't exactly look the "biker" type. That's when the conversation takes an odd turn...

ME: How did you know I ride?
HE: Oh, I Googled you last night to prepare for the meeting.
ME: Uhhh... really??
HE: Yeah, doesn't everybody? That's how I found your blog.
ME: Ah. Well, I guess I know what my next entry will be about!

I always figured that something like this would eventually happen (which is why my blog has a rather vague, blurry look at my life), but I was not prepared for that moment it actually did (hello Aaron!).

Win a Harley!! When I went to the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood yesterday at the Universal Studios CityWalk, I saw the Hollywood Harley-Davidson store and wandered in by habit. Out front they were raffling off five amazing motorcycles (honestly, I would love to have any of them!) as a benefit for Bikers Against Drunk Drivers. I bought $20 worth of tickets and, while filling them out, asked the guy manning the table if there was a "Bikers Against Stupid Drivers" organization... he, naturally, knew exactly what I meant. Everybody who rides a motorcycle would. Anyway, if there was ever a time I wanted to be lucky in my life, this is it.

Oooh... speaking of Harley-Davidson... one just roared by. Sigh. I miss my motorcycle. Knowing it will be another week-and-a-half before I can ride it again just makes it worse.

I think I want to go home now.

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Night

Posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

Dave!There are certainly worse views you could have outside a hotel window. At least if I wake up and forget where I am, it will be fairly easy to sort it all out...

Goodnight Seattle

Goodnight Seattle.

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Pioneer

Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2004

Dave!Yesterday when I walked over to photograph my Theme Thursday entry, I took a quick 5-minute walk through Pioneer Square, one of the many great places in the beautiful city of Seattle. I have several fond memories (like go-go dancers at Doc Maynards!) and a few not-so fond memories (like being held-up at knife-point!) from this area of the city. If you are into architecture, this is the oldest area of Seattle, and filled with amazing old buildings.

The heart of Pioneer Square is Occidental Square, a beautiful little park with a leafy canopy of green above it...

Occidental Park

A friend introduced me to the J&M Cafe and Card Room (the oldest bar in Seattle) which is home to my most favorite shooter drink... The McNasty! While it's not the same as ordering up a tray of McNastys with a bunch of friends, you can make this yummy concoction at home... fill a shot glass half-way with hot coffee. Add Sambuca Liquor and then float a little Bailey's Irish Cream on top... fantastic!

J&M Cafe

Not many people realize that UPS (United Parcel Service... those delivery guys in the brown trucks) was started in Seattle. At the very spot that UPS began, they have created this amazing little oasis in the middle of Pioneer Square and called it "Waterfall Garden." When work-related stress takes me to the breaking point, just ten minutes sitting in this amazing little park can work wonders...

Waterfall Garden

Waterfall Garden

One of my favorite places in the Square is the Elliott Bay Book Co. In a day and age when wonderful old book shops are being replaced with online behemoths like Amazon.com, places like this are a true treasure. The eclectic and well-informed staff has littered the shelves with small cards pointing out their favorite books and other items of interest, which makes browsing here a real treat. I try to support this nifty store by buying a new book every time I visit...

Elliott Bay Book Co.

Sure the Space Needle and Pike Place Market are worth visiting in Seattle, but if you ever come to this wonderful city, you owe it to yourself to wander through historic Pioneer Square and discover all of its wonders for yourself.

   

The Joy of Pork

Posted on Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Dave!I'm beginning to hate hotels. I can't go to the restaurant because the season finale of Alias is on in just 15 minutes. So I'm off to find a vending machine for dinner. Unfortunately, the machine on my floor is broken. I decided to go to the lobby because the gift shop is open until 10, but they are closing an hour and 10 minutes early (change the damn sign idiots!). So I go up a floor, but there's no machine... I go up another floor to use that one and it too is out of order.

What the hell? Sure this is just a Holiday Inn, but it's a nice Holiday Inn. Things like this shouldn't happen. I shouldn't have to waste twenty minutes buying a snack. When I finally find a working machine on the 4th floor, I find pork rinds mixed among the over-priced goodies for sale. Who in the hell eats pork rinds any more? Who would want to?

So here I sit eating crap that's not pork rinds and watching Alias. As usual, the show kicks ass. It's only been running for 5 minutes and there is already more action happening than in an entire hour in other so-called "action" shows. Oh goody! Marshall just got shot! I hate Marshall! DIE MARSHALL, DIIIEEEEEEEEE!! Yeesh, the opening credits haven't even come up yet! This rocks!

Oooh... now Vaughn has caught up with his very naughty wife. You've been a very bad girl Lauren... I have a feeling this is not going to be pleasant. Yes! Beat her evil ass with the crowbar! Again! Again! DIE LAUREN, DIIIEEEEEEEEE!!

Bummer, Alias is over now. As usual, a terrific cliffhanger ending for the best show on television.

Sigh. I've read that ABC will not start the fourth season of Alias until JANUARY 2005! That sucks, but the good news is that they plan on airing 20 weekly episodes with no interruption. This will be a pleasant change from the way ABC keeps pre-empting the show this past season. And hey, anything is better than cancellation.

I have to get up at 5am for my first flight. Usually this wouldn't be a big deal because I only sleep from around midnight to around 5am anyway, but all this travel has messed-up my already messed-up sleep schedule. I've been sleeping from around 2am to 7am as of late, and so I can only imagine what an unpleasant day I have awaiting me. I should have just gotten it over with and bought the pork rinds.

   

Pennsylvania Green

Posted on Monday, May 24th, 2004

Dave!The nice thing about central Pennsylvania is how green everything is. It's kind of like Ireland... but not. I look outside my hotel window and think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle off into the cool green countryside...

Pennsylvania Green

Of course, I could be looking out over the Mohave Desert and still think how nice it would be to ride my motorcycle, so I guess that's nothing new.

UPDATE: The cicadas are out! You can hear the buzz of the forest reverberating through the air.

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Thunderstorm Warning

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

Dave!My first opportunity for any real sleep tonight is completely ruined by thunderstorms. The lightning is lighting up the night sky with an eerie pink glow that makes it look as though the heavens are on fire... all while thunder is booming so loudly that you would almost swear it is striking inside your head. This is pretty cool, so I have mixed feelings on not being able to sleep. I guess the only thing I can do is leave the curtains open and try to enjoy the show.

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I (heart) NYC

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Dave!Alrighty then... pop quiz hot shot... You are in New York City, home to some of the greatest restaurants the world has ever known. You are vegetarian, and know that some of the most creative veggie cuisine on earth can be found within a 10-block radius of your hotel. You are hungry for dinner, and are here for one night only... the world is waiting outside your door... where do you go to eat?

NYC McVeggie Deluxe!

Well, if you are me, you go to McDonalds at Times Square! The only place in the world (that I know of anyway) where you can get the amazing McVeggie Deluxe Burger!! Delicious! I had two of them. If I was staying another day, I'd eat two more for dinner tomorrow (after probably having had another for lunch). Why in the hell McDonalds doesn't roll these out to the rest of the chain I will never know. It's not the best veggie burger in the world, but it tastes great and would be a welcome option for fast-food seeking vegetarians.

As I was leaving, I see this on the front of the restaurant...

Veggie Back!

AAAAAAAAHHHHHH! What do you mean "it's back?!?" Where did it go? Why would you ever remove it? All I can say is that it is a darn good thing you brought it back for my visit or I probably would have freaked out... badly.

Of course, no trip to New York is complete for me unless I drop by and see what new pins they've got at the Hard Rock...

NYC HRC

And, naturally, there's always a stop at Pick-A-Bagel, my favorite New York City bagel shop (which I blogged about previously)...

Pick-A-Bagel

Boy don't I wish I had a couple more days here. One night in NYC is definitely not enough!

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Fleet Week

Posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Dave!I always seem to luck out in arriving to places just when something interesting is going on. Happy accidents... like being in Boston right in the middle of the Tall Ships coming to town... or arriving in London just at the Impressionists World Tour exhibit has arrived... or coming to New Orleans on the day of the Louisiana Purchase anniversary. Of course, in any larger city, something interesting is always going on. In New York today, it is the first day of "Fleet Week" (an annual event where the Navy and Marine Corps flock to New York City for the public to meet Sailors and Marines and see the ships).

In honor of the occasion, New York City's Finest are everywhere. Police cars are swarming through the streets in large groups of 5 to 15 cars and gangs of police are a huge presence in popular places like Times Square. Everywhere you look there are police and military personnel... even in front of the main recruiting office of NYC...

NYC Recruits

New York is an interesting city any time of the day, but I love it at night (especially in Times Square). With the exception of Tokyo, there is no more exciting place to be after the sun sets...

NYC Times Square

And then there's always my beloved McDonalds Times Square, home of the McVeggie Deluxe!...

NYC McDonalds

One of my favorite buildings at night is Radio City Music Hall because it casts such a nice glow on the street. This photo may look like I somehow altered it in Photoshop, but this is straight from the camera, which is pretty cool...

NYC Radio City Music Hall

Sigh. Just looking at these photos I really do wish I had another couple of days in the city.

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Acting Your Age

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Dave!An open letter to the inconsiderate dumbasses "partying down" on the 42nd floor of the Hilton Towers New York outside my hotel room at midnight last night: I realize that getting older must be a traumatic experience. I'm going to be there soon enough, and understand your pain... I really do. You are getting older, but don't want to be older, and so you compensate by acting like you are in a college frat house whenever you get away from home even though you are pushing 50.

That being said, there is no reason that I should have to suffer because of it. When you walk through the halls of the hotel screaming "WOOOOO HOOOOO!" and laughing hysterically at anything your drunk ass perceives as funny (which, apparently, is everything)... you don't look "young and cool" your look "old and stupid."

So next time you feel the urge to act like a daft prick and disturb the peace and serenity of those around you at obscene hours of the night... why not try acting your age instead? You are on the executive level of the Hilton on a Wednesday night, not a beach house in Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break weekend.

In other news: My ride to Newark International this morning at 6am was sure interesting. My cab driver decided to cram his way into a toll lane after coming off the New Jersey Turnpike. Unfortunately, he did so right in front of a very impatient person and got broad-sided by a van. To make matters worse, the lane he fought so hard to enter was an EXPRESS-PASS lane and he didn't have one.

This is going to be an interesting day, I can just tell.

UPDATE: It turns out my day is not a total loss... Aint It Cool is reporting that Wonderfalls, one of the best television shows ever (that was stupidly cancelled after only a few episodes!), is being prepped for a DVD release by the end of the year!

   

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.

   

Everglades

Posted on Friday, May 28th, 2004

Dave!The route I took to Tampa this morning was across "Alligator Alley" through the Everglades. About a third of the way through, I thought I would stop at a rest center and take a look around. There were two other people there as I walked up to the muck-covered water...

Woman: Where are the everglades?
Man: You're looking at it.
Woman: I don't get it. It's just a big swamp!
Man: Uhhh... yeah.

I am still trying to figure out what she was expecting to find. I think it's kind of nice... croaking frogs, dragonflies, and all...

Everglades

Everglades

Of course, this being Florida, there is a "Waffle House" at every exit. I remember them for having passable food at cheap prices. This time when I stopped, they had passable food at typical prices... no better than Denny's or something. Still, you just can't beat the cheesy atmosphere! I found a good one this time...

Waffle House

Onward to Tampa!

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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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May

Posted on Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Dave!I just got an e-mail with the observation that I pretty much hit all corners of the USA this month. I hadn't really thought about it but, after plotting it out on a map, see that she is right! No wonder I am so tired. Of course, I also got an e-mail from a guy claiming that I am making this all up... that my travel schedule is "unrealistic" and I am not fooling anybody with my "imaginary travel tales."

Bizarre. Just how do you respond to somebody like that? I'd like to think if I were going to make up lies about myself I could certainly be more inventive than this (remind me to tell you about the week I spent with Elizabeth Hurley in Costa Rica after escaping from an alien abduction and inventing an anti-gravity toaster). Unfortunately, it's all true...

May 2004

A pity that I didn't get to see a heck of a lot along the way. Oh well... I'm going home...

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Steps

Posted on Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Dave!Just one more early-morning flight tomorrow, and I am home.

I hope I get to stay there for a while.


Mt. Rainier

I used to think that Mt. Fuji was the most beautiful mountain I've ever seen in person... but something about seeing Mt. Rainier (and knowing that I am one step closer to home) makes it a pretty beautiful sight just now.

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Wicklow

Posted on Sunday, June 27th, 2004

Dave!I'm off to the Seattle-side of the state. Since I have to take a bunch of crap with me, I'll be driving my car instead of riding my motorcycle. I hope I remember how.

Before I forget (again)... this is for Jill:

The reason the little photos in my sidebar for "Hard Rock Moment" and "Travel Picto-Gram" change every time you visit is because I wrote a little script to randomly display them. If you "reload" the page a few times, the photo you want to look at should appear again. The image you are referring to is from Glendalough, which is an incredibly beautiful area south of Dublin in Ireland. You're right, one day I should add them to my gallery but, until then, here are a few showing the Celtic crosses you wanted to see...

Wicklow Ireland

Wicklow Ireland

Normally, I don't care for organized tours because I prefer to explore places on my own. But my hotel (the historic Shelbourne Hotel in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin) gave the "Wild Wicklow Motor Coach Tours" their highest recommendation and, after taking it, I would have to agree. If you are in Dublin and want to see a bit of Ireland's amazing countryside, this is the way to do it.

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Beaverton

Posted on Friday, July 2nd, 2004

Dave!A last minute trip to Beaverton, Oregon where the weather isn't nearly as nice as back home. I finished my work here way early but, due to the holiday weekend, can't get a flight back for 6 hours. So here I sit on standby. Beaverton is just outside of Portland, and is considered the "technical corridor" of the state. It's also home to Nike, though I don't think they actually make anything here in the USA anymore, so it must just be corporate offices or something?

It's a sad story how companies like Nike can spend millions on advertising and endorsements, yet won't spend a dime to manufacture here so local people can have jobs. It's a pity too, because I love my Nike boots, and have owned the same pair for nearly a decade. It's probably about time I get something new, but this time perhaps I'll look at a company like Chippewa or Schnee.

Sigh. According to MapQuest, I could drive home in just 5 hours if I had a car...

Beaverton to Cashmere

I think I want a donut.

UPDATE: I managed to get on an earlier flight out of Portland after all because I paid full-price for my ticket! Security at PDX is pretty stupid though, and nearly caused me to miss my flight. The line almost crosses the entire airport, which is ludicrous considering only half the inspection lanes were opened. Any time it takes over 30 minutes to get through security, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

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Salty

Posted on Tuesday, July 6th, 2004

Dave!Back again to Salt Lake City. Today I managed to squeeze in an hour in-between jobs so I could visit Temple Square and play around with my new wide-angle lens for a while. Having such a lens certainly makes it easy to fit large structures in the frame. Unfortunately, I forgot my polarizing filter back at the hotel, so stray light on a bright day like today has a tendency to wash things out somewhat. Playing with curves in Photoshop helped to get a bit of the contrast back...

Temple Square

My previous photos of the Assembly Hall barely managed to fit the building in the shot, but now I have the option of adding a little scenery around it to better place the structure in context. The building itself is a beautiful example of gothic architecture, so it's a bit of a shame that it's obstructed by so many trees, but it does make for a peaceful setting...

Temple Square

Unfortunately, the lens does have a few pitfalls... shooting really wide causes some freaky distortion (especially at the corners), and there seems to be a bit of a lens flare problem that creeps in from time to time (even when the included lens hood is attached). I suppose you could look at the bright side and consider that you can use these "features" to your advantage and get some interesting shots out of it...

Temple Square

I can't wait to head south this weekend, because I'd imagine this lens will do astoundingly well with the scenery there!

   

Theme Thursday: Wings

Posted on Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Dave!This is the first Theme Thursday that I have actively planned for, which is kind of cool. Given the theme of wings, I made an effort to be sure that each of my three flights on Monday were seated next to the window, behind the wings of the plane. Since I had my new wide-angle lens with me, it was pretty easy to ensure that the wings were in every shot along my journey.

Leaving the small airport at Wenatchee, Washington...

TT Wing Wenatchee

Passing Mt. Rainier on the way to Seattle (Mt. St. Helens is in the back on the right... and perhaps that is Mt. Adams back on the left?)...

TT Wing Rainier

Leaving Seattle, and passing over Mercer Island after a plane change...

TTwingMercer

Leaving Boise, Idaho after another plane change (and asking for a seat on the opposite side of the plane)...

TT Wing Boise

And approaching my destination of Salt Lake City, Utah (where six years of drought seem to be taking its toll)...

TT Wing SLC

Usually, I would not have to take three flights... I can get a direct flight out of Seattle to Salt Lake City. But, because of the Independence Day holiday, flights were full and it was far cheaper to make a quick stop in Boise (which is along the way anyway).

   

Moab

Posted on Friday, July 9th, 2004

Dave!After my work had finished in Salt Lake City, I rented a car and took a 4 hour drive south to the city of Moab, which is famous for its spectacular location among three parks that contain some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever find: Arches National Park, which preserves numerous naturally occurring archways that have been eroded into their present shape over millions of years. Dead Horse Point State Park, with one of the most incredible scenic vistas I have ever beheld... rivaling even the Grand Canyon. And Canyonlands National Park, which picks up where Dead Horse Point leaves off, a features even more spectacular scenic overlooks.

If you are a photographer, the entire area is a dream come true! Just a few shots from yesterday and today...

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Petroglyphs

Dead Horse Point Overlook

Park Avenue

Boy, having a wide-angle lens and a polarizing filter came in handy this trip!

And, lastly, before I forget... for anybody visiting the area, a company called "Canyonlands by Night & Day" gets my highest possible recommendation if you are looking for excursions into the beautiful countryside. I took both their "Land Before Time" 4-wheel drive tour and their "Where the Wild River Runs" jet boat tour and found them to be exemplary in every respect. When visiting these kinds of places, it's often difficult to know which company to choose, because there are so many and all of them advertise being "the best" (and sometimes end up being complete crap) but I got very, very lucky in finding this one. My only regret since I got here is that I don't have more time so I can sample some of the other adventures they offer (or do the two I've already done all over again).

   

Bryce

Posted on Saturday, July 10th, 2004

Dave!The wonderful thing about having a digital camera is that there's no film to waste, so you can shoot absolutely everything and sort it all out later. Usually, I keep only a quarter of the shots (or less) that I take and trash the rest. But Southern Utah is proving to be an exception. I took 552 shots in Moab and kept 170, which is about a third. I guess having a good subject gives you a better ratio of keepers.

Today, after a long drive to the other side of the state, I stood in awe of the miracle that is Bryce Canyon National Park and shot 232 photos in under 4 hours. Now that I sit here looking through them, I can only find 17 shots to toss out. Sure many of them look the same but, thanks to a lucky break, there was a layer of clouds out today that caused nifty tricks with the light... so it seems everything I shot turned out amazing. I mean, how in the heck can I possibly delete cool stuff like this:

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Obviously I can't. Every blasted one of them looks like a bloody postcard. I have found a photographer's Nirvana.

   

Weary

Posted on Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Dave!I have to travel a lot (as you might guess if you stop by this blog even rarely), and more and more I am growing to despise it. Not because I miss my motorcycle (though that's a part of it), but because of the frightening number of dumbasses that are out there traveling. Stupid, inconsiderate asshats that feel the entire world revolves around them, and everybody else in the world is just window dressing for the drama that is their life.

On my recent boat trip, one woman kept bitching constantly that she "wasn't seeing anything good" because she was on the "wrong side of the boat." After two full hours of her whining, the boat turned around for the journey back, and she was still complaining that "all the interesting sights are on the other side." I was sorely tempted to ask this incredibly stupid bitch if she realized that she was looking at the exact same view she was complaining about not seeing for the ride up.

On a recent flight, I had just settled into my window seat, hoping to catch up on some sleep when an obnoxious woman next to me pretty much demanded I trade seats with her because she "wasn't comfortable in a center seat." When I politely refused, she actually called a flight attendant to complain that I was being difficult!! Fortunately, she was relocated away from me, because she was desperately in need of being punched in the face, and I was quickly getting to the point of "helping her out."

There are dozens of other examples I could cite from my recent travels, and I am at a total loss as to why people are becoming more self-centered, rude, and selfish every day. All I know is that I am getting really weary of having to deal with them because travel is already tough enough.

I am home for four glorious days before taking off again, and plan on fully appreciating every minute.

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Mirror

Posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

Dave!A while back I had participated in The Glovebox Project, and found a 32MB memory card that came with my tiny Canon PowerShot camera. I couldn't fit very many photos on it, so I immediately purchased a much larger card to replace it. Today I finally decided to see what photos (if any) were on the old card, and discovered just two, both shot by me of me in a mirror...

Dave in Reykjavik

This is me in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 27, 2003. I have no idea why I took it. I think I was jet lagged and, in my delusional state, was thinking I would start participating in The Mirror Project, but never did. Oh well.

The photo would have been far more interesting had I taken it three days later after I had busted my chin open while having entirely too much fun in Stockholm.

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UnHoliday

Posted on Sunday, July 18th, 2004

Dave!When you travel as often as I do, things are bound to go wrong from time to time. I've long since learned to accept this, and find it pointless to get angry or upset when disaster strikes. Today, en-route to Milwaukee, my connection in Detroit was missed due to a severe weather problem. It's unfortunate, but hey, there's not much you can do about it -- so while other people were standing in line bitching and screaming, I just quietly waited my turn to be re-booked.

So now I am flying out of Detroit in the morning and am stuck here for the night with no access to my luggage (fortunately, I always have a pair of clean underwear and assorted toiletries in my carry-on bag for just such an occasion). And, since I obviously won't be needing my reservation at the Holiday Inn at the Milwaukee airport this evening, I called to cancel it along with my rental car. It turns out that canceling the car was no problem at all, but the hotel reservation was another story.

They refused to cancel it because I booked the room over the internet.

It didn't matter that it is not my fault I cannot be at the hotel and have to cancel. It didn't matter that I placed the reservation directly on their web site (instead of some third-party site like Orbitz or Expedia). It didn't matter that I was going to re-book at another Holiday Inn property here in Detroit. It didn't matter that I am a Priority Club member. It didn't matter that I have stayed at this hotel dozens of times before... they "can't cancel or refund my deposit because it is 35 minutes past the cancellation deadline."

What a bunch of dumbasses.

I measure a company not based on things going right... that's what's supposed to happen. Instead, I measure a company by how they help you out when things go wrong. And so now I know. When shit happens, don't expect Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport to give a crap. And that's fine. Lesson learned. I will never stay at their f#@%ing piece of shit hotel ever again. Furthermore, with the exception of reservations I've already got booked, I am going to start taking my business to other hotel chains (which is kind of sad, because I like Holiday Inn, and many of them are independently owned... meaning a lot of Holiday Inns are losing my business through no fault of their own).

It's tough having to travel all the time. When things go wrong, it's even worse. When companies you like and trust screw you over because of some idiotic technicality, well, you've pretty much reached rock bottom... and you're down there alone and far from home. The last thing you want is for the Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport to start shitting all over you as you try to climb out of the mess you're in, but they apparently have no problem with it. Thanks so much.

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Holiday

Posted on Monday, July 19th, 2004

Dave!So here I am in Milwaukee, finally. I figured since the Holiday Inn Milwaukee Airport is charging me for the room I never got to use, I might as well stop by, have a shower, catch up with my e-mail, take a nap, and get into some clean clothes before heading off to work. It's a shame I will never be staying at this hotel again, because it's pretty sweet.

All in all, this trip has really sucked so far. And while you might think that being stuck in Detroit without my luggage would be the worst part, you would be wrong. The worst part is being stuck next to a woman on a plane who does not know how to shut up for five hours. They won't let you take a gun on board a plane, so I wonder how else you could get rid of somebody annoying?

Passenger

Passenger

Passenger

Passenger

I dunno... do they let you take "pet" anacondas on a plane? I see people bringing their yappy little dogs with them on the plane all the time, so perhaps an anaconda would be okay?

It's not that I am anti-social or anything... really, I do like people. But some people need to understand that it is not necessary to talk continuously for hours on end to complete strangers (especially when said stranger is not allowed to be part of the conversation). This woman was insane. Even the most simple question requiring a yes or no answer would take five to ten minutes for her to reply. A perfect example:

Flight Attendant: Would you like a glass of water?
Noisy Woman: I brought water with me but it's gotten warm. Is that water cold? It is? Well then I would love to have a glass of water. Oh my gawd, I drink SOOOOO much water! Ha ha! I drink so much water that people must think I am part camel! But I love a glass of cool water! Doesn't everybody love a cool glass of water? Most people would rather have soda or coffee or something, but not me! Oh my gawd, it's water water water water for me! So once you've finished getting everybody else a glass, be sure to stop back by me because I'll be wanting more water! Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!
Flight Attendant: Uh. Okay.

For the flight back, I will be charging my iPod to maximum capacity, because I am fresh out of anacondas. I wonder if the volume on my iPod will be sufficient to drown out this woman if, oh my gawd, I end up having to sit next to her incredibly obnoxious ass on the way back?

   

Stuck in Minneapolis

Posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

Dave!It never fails. The universal laws of airline travel demand that once things go wrong, they will continue to go wrong. First I get to Milwaukee a day-and-a-half late because my flight ran into weather problems. Now I am trying to get home, and the odds are not looking so good.

At Milwaukee this morning, three flights in a row were cancelled or delayed due to mechanical difficulties. That sure makes you feel safe when entrusting your life to Northwest Airlines! THREE FLIGHTS... including my own to Minneapolis.

Stuck in Minneapolis

After my flight was delayed indefinitely (hydraulics problems), they re-booked me on a different flight to Minneapolis. The connecting flight to Seattle is very tight (just 15 minutes) but they tell me I should be able to make it. Well, I probably could have except we had a small problem landing...

Stuck in Minneapolis

Apparently, there was another plane on the runway, and the pilot didn't feel like landing on top of him, so we almost landed, then took off again. I sure hope the dumbass traffic control moron was fired for that. Even with the additional 10 minutes required to circle back around the airport, I still had a shot of getting to my Seattle flight on time...

Stuck in Minneapolis

By the time we finally got to the gate, my chances were very slim, but it was still possible... until they couldn't get the jetway to move to the door, wasting yet another precious five minutes!!

What the hell? Not only does Northwest have problems keeping a schedule, but all their planes are breaking down, nearly running into each other on the runway and, assuming you ever get to where you are going, you can't get off the plane because the jetways are busted (this is the third time that's happened)?!? As if the security, tiny seating areas, and overcrowding weren't sucky enough?

So now I am stuck in Minneapolis. I may get out at 5:17... perhaps 7:18... or maybe not at all today. This is not the first time that Northwest Airlines has completely screwed up a trip, and probably won't be the last. Oh well, it's still better than my luck with United.

Hooters Air

Next time I'm flying Hooters! That way, when things go wrong it won't suck as bad because at least you will have Hooter Girls to entertain you.

   

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.

   

London Calling

Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2004

Dave!Back to London. It may be the fact that I am here on vacation instead of work, but I really love this place. The best part is that since I've been here a half-dozen times before, I've already got all the touristy crap out of the way. Those long lines for the Tower of London I saw as I came into the city proper can be safely ignored. Nope, this time I can just happily wander the city, visit with friends, and take in a museum or two. No Big Ben. No London Eye. No Buckingham Palace. No Tower Bridge. No Westminster Abbey. No Harrods (okay, maybe Harrods). No Changing of the Guard...

London Palace Guards

Sure the weather could be a little nicer, but there's always lunch at Pret.

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Day One: London

Posted on Monday, July 26th, 2004

Dave!Shop. Surprisingly enough, the rather nice London hotel I'm staying at has just about everything (including complimentary copies of "OK!," "Time Out," and "Hello" magazines so that I can keep up with the latest exploits of Posh & Becks)... everything except a bloody clock. Since I do not wear a watch, there's a sense of timelessness happening in my hotel room that's a bit disconcerting. So my first official purchase of my first official day of vacation is a small alarm clock from Dixons. Not that I actually plan to set the alarm on it mind you.

Pricey. Boy London is expensive! To muffle the shock of how much I am paying for everything, I simply imagine myself paying in US dollars instead of British pounds. That way, I am not thrown into fits of terror over having just paid $9.50 for a cheap-ass clock, and instead find serenity in the illusion of having paid a much more reasonable $5.00. No matter where I go now-a-days, the US dollar is in the toilet (heck, you don't have to leave the USA to figure that out!). Who can I blame for this?

Pret. In asking the doorman (wow, it's been a while since I've stayed at a hotel with a doorman!) where the nearest Pret was, he was very much amused. Turns out Neil is right... Prets in London are like Starbucks in Seattle (well, not just Seattle anymore, those things are everywhere). This is good though, because I really want a Pret Egg Sandwich for breakfast.

Bike. The first thing I see when I step outside the hotel is my motorcycle... same make, same model, same color. Except some guy I don't know is riding it and there is a license plate the size of your head attached to the back. England should really get more stylish (and smaller) plates... these big-ass yellow things mess up the streamline look of my the bike!

Eat. Dinner with my friend was nice. Until some woman at the next table decided to take out her mobile phone and chat loudly for the next twenty minutes. This is apparently a universal rudeness problem that crosses international borders without mercy.

Snack. I could spend hours wandering through little shops to see the new varieties of candy bars and crisps (chips to us Yanks) that have come out. Compared to the Brits, we Americans are positively boring with our snack choices. I passed on the "Lamb & Mint" flavored potato crisps, but enjoyed the "Sour Cream & Sweet Pepper" flavor I tried. As far as candy bars go, the "Mars Delight" is my new best favorite... a sugar-cookie wafer roll, drenched in caramel, then covered in milk chocolate. Incredible. I'll be taking a case of these home with me (odds are we will never see them in the States... I am still waiting for the Aero bar).

Git. Apprently, I am not in London as I thought. I am making it all up. Yet another e-mail from the guy who thinks that the travels I document here are complete fiction. I suppose that I could take a photograph of myself with today's paper while standing in the top of a double-decker bus that's parked in front of Big Ben with Her Majesty the Queen standing next to me... but you'd probably think I Photoshopped it wouldn't you? Wow. In today's age of technological wizardry, how do you prove you are anywhere? I continue to find it utterly bizarre as to why I would lie about something like this. Why read anything I write if you honestly think it's all a bunch of fabrications? And the next time you decide to tell me I'm lying, could you just post a comment instead of bothering me via e-mail?

Wasted. My hotel's terrific West End location is completely wasted on me because I don't much enjoy the theater. However, there is something intriguing about a production called Jerry Springer: The Opera, which has been getting rave reviews. Life just keeps getting stranger.

Sleep. I don't really get jet-lag... never have. I'd imagine it's even less of a factor when you consider that I don't sleep much anymore. But spending 14 hours on three flights today has pretty much wiped me out and my hotel is blissfully quiet, so I am hoping to sleep very well this evening. My back could use the time to heal.

Robbed. Hmmm... typical charge for an internet connection at a hotel back home: US $6.95 (or free!). Price here in my London hotel: US $27.50. Holy crap!! Good night from the most expensive public internet access I have ever purchased!

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Day Two: London

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

Dave!News: Today's complimentary copy of The Guardian was found hanging in a plastic bag on my door handle this morning. The top story making front-page? A legal battle for the patent of a breath mint. They look like Life Savers candies (with a hole in the middle) but here they are called Polos, and their manufacturer is trying to patent their unique shape. I figure that if breath mints are front page news, I can skip everything else, assume that all is well in London, and head out into the city.

Breakfast: Was at Pret, of course. They make the food I wish I could make if I had any cooking talents at all.

Hasselhoff: While riding the London Underground (subway) this morning, I saw something even more disturbing than yesterday's mention of Jerry Springer: The Opera. A poster advertising that David Hasselhoff is headlining the production of Chicago here. Frightening.

Lunch: The absolute coolest thing about having a blog is that you sometimes get to meet the people who read it in real life. Today I was treated to a wonderful lunch in South Kensington by a new blog-acquainted friend, and was given the most charming compliment I think I've ever received: "You are like a cartoon character come to life! I want to poke you to make sure you're real." (after which she poked me in the arm with her finger). Of course, everything sounds charming when delivered in an English accent, so it certainly seemed like a compliment. In any event, it's always nice when somebody validates your existence (especially in lieu of the accusation I received telling me I am lying about being here in London). After lunch we wandered through the neighborhood where she pointed out this amazing old tile building that's called "The Michelin Building." Sure enough, there's the Michelin Man on the front! Heaven only knows what he's doing, however:

Michelin Man

Has he constructed a martini out of motor oil? You're guess is as good as mine. Hmmm... after a Google search, I found this page, which explains the Michelin slogan at the time was "These tyres drink up obstacles." Pretty slick.

Nothing: With touristy activities removed from my schedule, I planned to do as much "nothing" this afternoon as possible. Most of my "nothing" was spent wandering aimlessly through the surrounding areas of my hotel. I ended up taking a photo of Big Ben after all because, well, it's Big Ben and is an incredibly beautiful structure...

Big Ben

But my favorite sight of the day was that of a young boy with a bright red ball enjoying the sunshine on the lawn outside of Westminster. His happy playtime fun was an interesting contrast to the war protesters just a block away. Ah the wisdom and innocence of youth. Perhaps if adults made room for playtime every once in a while, this world wouldn't be in quite the mess it is now...

Play Ball

My motorcycle is pretty popular here, as I keep seeing it around the city. Here is one that's actually parked, so you can see what I mean about the enormous license plate that riders are forced to hang off the back of their ride...

My Bike in London

If I knew how to hot-wire a motorcycle, I'd undoubtedly be rotting away in a London prison just now.

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London Night

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

Dave!This evening was my first time without plans since I arrived, so I decided to explore a bit by night and get some dinner. London, like any large city, is abuzz with activity at all hours. Here in the West End, most of that has to do with people heading off to the theater... Hasselhoff is in town, after all.

I took a few photographs to see how my new lens does at night, and ended up with a freaky set of images, where the sky looks completely drained of color, while objects in front of it appear normal. I have no idea if this is an effect of the lens, the camera, the scene, or a factor of all three. To me, the result looks a bit fake, like the sky was desaturated in Photoshop or something, but it wasn't... what you see is exactly what I got:

Big Ben at Night

Parliament at Night

I cannot decide if I like this rather odd-looking effect or not. I think I will take my other lens out tomorrow night and see if things look more "normal."

   

Day Three: London

Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Dave!Telly: One of my favorite things about Britain is their wonderful television programs. I'm completely addicted to shows like Red Dwarf, Coupling, Monarch of the Glen, Nevermind the Buzzcocks, etc. Last night I was watching a documentary about how the police deal with growing alcohol-related problems in club districts. It was absolutely fascinating, made even more intriguing by the fact that it was completely uncensored. Every curse word (and there were a lot of them being screamed by belligerent drunks) was fully audible, with no "bleeping" whatsoever. Afterwards, I was treated to such programs as "World Sex Records" and "When Sex Goes Wrong." Both of which were amusing anecdotes masquerading as soft-core porn. Yet, back in the States, Janet flashes a titty, and the world is ending? What a bunch of uptight asses we Americans are.

Help: On my morning pilgrimage to Pret for an Egg & Fire Roasted Tomato breakfast sandwich, I walked by an armored bank van that was sounding an alarm while a recorded message from a very proper English lady was calmly speaking: "Help. This car is under attack. Please call the police. -- Help. This car is under attack. Please call the police." Nobody paid a bit of attention to it, which makes me wonder if the van really were under attack, would the security couriers inside actually expect any assistance to be forthcoming? Nobody pays attention to a calm voice... they need to hire some frantic woman screaming "AAAAHHH! CALL THE COPPERS YOU BLOODY IDIOTS... WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!! AAAAAAAHHHH!!! HELP US FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!! And instead of an alarm, why not use recorded gunshots? That would get people's attention.

Addiction: On my way back to Pret for a second Egg & Fire Roasted Tomato breakfast sandwich, I accepted the fact that I have a serious problem. But honestly, until you've had one of these things, you simply have absolutely no idea. It's probably best that they stop serving them after breakfast or else I would probably have another two for lunch. Pret bastards... I already had my hands full with my Cheesy Fiesta Potato addiction back home.

Gallery: Spent most of my day today wandering through London's fine art galleries (one of the best reasons to come to the city really). My favorite is always the Turner Collection at the Tate Britain, and I never tire of viewing it. His beautiful works span the gamut from historic to surreal...

Turner Norham Castle

Map: Every single time I come to London, I forget to bring along my pocket city map, and end up purchasing a new one. I've got quite a collection of them brewing back home. It's not like I need the map to find common places around town, but every once in a while I end up wandering too far and like to know that I have some help handy.

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Bellissima

Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Dave!There's a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus (here in London) that I like called Biagio Ristorante Pizzeria (on Rupert). Sure it's got great authentic Italian food and the atmosphere is top-notch, but the real reason I eat there is because it reminds me of the infamous Kirstie Alley "Bellisima" sketch from Saturday Night Live.

Waiter: "You like-a the small salad with-a you pizza no?"
Dave: "Um, no thanks."
Waiter: "It's-a very very good the small salad."
Dave: "I'm fine thanks."
Waiter: "I bring-a you the small salad!"
Dave: "Uh, okay."
Waiter: (Here is where I expect him to say...) "Bellissima seniore!" (and then lick my face).

Naturally, he doesn't, but I brace myself just in case!

Of course, if you haven't seen the SNL sketch, all of the above makes absolutely no sense to you. If you have seen the sketch, you will understand the supreme effort it takes to keep from laughing while placing my order at this restaurant (if you are really wanting to know what I am talking about, rent the The Best of Adam Sandler: Saturday Night Live DVD and you can see it for yourself).

Ciao bella!

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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 Four: Dublin

Posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Dave!Lovely: I'm going to start saying "lovely" a lot so that I might fit in with the English natives a bit better. This general-purpose word is used for just about any occasion, and I've heard it in the oddest of places. Everything is lovely. Get a new job? That's lovely! Spill your tea? That's lovely (in a sarcastic kind of way). Aliens invade Trafalgar Square? Lovely! I would not be at all surprised to overhear a conversations like this:
Woman: Excuse me sir, do you realize that your head is on fire?
Man: Lovely. I'll just nip over to that fountain and douse it out. Cheers.
Woman: Cheers then.

Cheers: The one word that should never be adopted by visiting American tourists is yet another general purpose word: "cheers," which can mean everything from "thanks" to "excuse me" to "good bye." This morning as I was having breakfast, I overheard some (probably) Americans trying their best to fit in by injecting "chee-erz" in their conversation. They sounded like complete asses because there is no "ee" or "r" in the English "cheers." I think you need a British accent to pull this off, because anything else just sounds silly.

Trippin': For my flight over to Dublin this morning, I took a shockingly cheap RyanAir flight out of Luton Airport (which my friend Perry informs me is pronounced "Looton" and not "Lutton" as one would expect). It's amazing how all of Europe is so easily accessible at such reasonable prices... fares are advertised as low as .99 Euros ($1.20) excluding taxes and fees, which bring the total up to around 17 Euros ($20) each way. Can you imagine flying from Seattle to L.A. for $20? Heck, can you imagine flying ANYWHERE within the States for so little?

Whiskey: I started my day walking down the shopping district of Grafton Street, continuing on along the River Liffey until I got to the "Old Jameson Distillery" which provides an in-depth and informative tour. These people take Irish Whiskey very, very seriously.

Whiffey: Speaking of the River Liffey, we're at low tide and it smells like a sewer. I'd imagine it can best be described much like somebody who ate curries and lager all night, then shat on your carpet the next morning before your dog came along and vomited on top of it. Not the most pleasant scent to remember from your Dublin visit...

River Liffey

Guiness: My second alcohol-related activity of the day was a visit to the Guiness factory & storehouse. The self-guided tour was pricey (13.50 Euro with a free pint at the end!) but interesting. Is there a bar in all of Ireland that doesn't serve Guiness?

Guiness Factory

Brogue: I need to start speaking with an Irish accent, because everybody here sounds cool. I'll bet I'd be twice as interesting a person with an Irish brogue.

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Different

Posted on Friday, July 30th, 2004

Dave!In the immortal words of Vincent Vega: "It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just, just there it's a little different."

I have long maintained that the good old USA has no culture of its own and, with the exception of fast food, baseball, Hollywood movies, and handguns, I still believe it to be true. Any cultural identity we might have is a patchwork of other nationalities that American immigrants bring with them and adapt to our rather unique society. Keeping that in mind, nothing fascinates me more than how what little culture America does have seems to be migrating to other countries.

This all hit me at lunch today. A friend had recommended that since I am a huge Johnny Rockets fan, I should try the Irish equivalent which is called Eddie Rockets. So there I sit in a diner that is so American I can almost forget I'm in Ireland when I look up and see a sign advertising "chilli." For a reason I cannot fathom, there is an extra "l" in there. Whether this is unique to the Irish, or something all Euro English-speaking nations have adopted, I'm not certain (dammit, if you're going to steal our native cuisine, at least spell it properly!). Anyway, all illusions I have of being back home have just been shattered, and I start to think about the many other small differences I've noticed over the past few days...

Cold. When you order something "cold" in the US, it arrives cold... ice cold. When you order something "cold" in Europe it arrives un-hot, which is to say that it's not very cold at all. Even the ice here doesn't seem as cold as it does back home.

Walk. Europeans walk everywhere, all the time, at great distances. This is quite a contrast to lazy-ass Americans who will pull the car out of the garage if the distance they need to travel is over four blocks. If it weren't for those who exercise, I wonder if Americans would bother to walk anywhere at all?

Smoke. All Europeans smoke... just not all at the same time (though, often enough, it may seem that way). If you see a European who is not smoking, it's because they have run out of cigarettes, run out of matches, or are under the age of 5. This morning I was nearly run over by what I swear was a 10-year old smoker on a skateboard.

Funny. Americans used to have a terrific sense of humor, but then the Age of Lawyers descended and now everything has to be "politically correct" (aka "boring"). Fortunately, that doesn't seem to have happened over here... yet.

Goth. I pretty much think that anybody dressing up as a goth looks ridiculous. For reasons that escape me, the Irish goths seem to be able to pull it off.

ATM: The cash machines over here are queued a minimum of five deep at any given time. If there's an ATM without a line in front, it must be broken.

Fat: It used to be when you ran across an overweight person walking down the streets of Europe, you could safely assume one of two things: A) It's an American tourist... or... B) It's a Japanese sumo wrestler. This is no longer the case. Thanks to the importation of the American diet of McDonalds, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the person in question may very well be a native. I've never been so proud. GO AMERICA!!

Music: In walking down Grafton Street this afternoon, I noticed that 100% of the street musicians here are more talented than 50% of the "musicians" on America's top 100 Pop Charts.

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Day Six: Dublin

Posted on Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Dave!Pub: Around 11pm last night I decided to run through the local pub scene for a few hours and found it to be even crazier than I had imagined. Nobody, it would seem, parties like the Irish on a Friday night. On Grafton Street there are quite a few rickshaw-type carts that you can hire to haul your drunk ass from one end of the road to the other (it being far too crowded in the daylight hours for them to operate). The highlight of my evening was watching two drunken blokes who had stolen a cart evade both the police and its owner as they escaped to St. Stephens Green. "Get the fook out of the way! We'll fookin' run yeh down!" It was all in good fun, but I'd hate to have their hangovers this morning.

Tomb: I had fully intended to do as little as possible, enjoying my last day before the imminent Hard Rock Run Europe 2004, but one look out the window changed all of that. Unlike the previous two days, the sun was out and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. After yet another escape into the Best Shower in the Universe®, I headed down to the concierge to see what interesting diversion might be available in the seven hours I had left. Since I had already taken a run through Wicklow in a previous trip, he suggested a trip to Newgrange. It is here you can tour an ancient tomb that predates even Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids (dated at around 5000 years old). It was an interesting diversion for a few hours while I waited for my flight...

Newgrange Ireland

(No, the Teletubbies were not at home)

Newgrange Ireland

Busted: While waiting in line at the Dublin airport to head back to London, some irate guy behind me decided to start yelling because there was only one check-in window available. He'd run up to the poor bloke at the counter and start screaming in his face "GET ORGANIZED! YOU'VE GOT FIFTY PEOPLE IN LINE WAITING!" and then walk back to his embarrassed wife and daughter. The second time he ran up and started screaming "OPEN ANOTHER WINDOW YOU BLOODY IRISH!!" and then walked back again.

This time, he was overheard by a pretty customer service agent who came over to see what all the trouble was about. It was at this point the idiot went too far... he started screaming at the poor girl, and then grabbed her. There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and several people (including myself) were heading over to get him off of her when his wife and daughter stepped up and started pleading with the enraged moron to let the girl go.

Which he did, thankfully.

But then he turned and slapped his daughter across the face. Hard. "Oooooooooh!" went the crowd that was now in a state of total shock. By this time, the police arrived and eventually arrested the freak as the crowd started applauding. As he was drug off in hand-cuffs, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of wait he has ahead of him to get on that flight now. If he had just shut up and stood in line, he would have had his boarding pass quite a while before. I do feel sorry for his wife and daughter, not only because they have to put up with his childish and violent behavior, but also because they're now pretty much stranded on the trip alone (or maybe that's a good thing?).

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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.

   

Petrol

Posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2004

Dave!I just spent 52 Euro (US $62.50) to fill up the 54-liter (14 gallon) gas tank of our small rental car. Would everybody in the US who keeps complaining about the high cost of gasoline please shut up.

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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 Nine: Neuschwanstein

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

Dave!I've been to more than a few places in the world and seen a lot of cool stuff in my travels but, at the moment, it all kind of pales before the grandeur that is Neuschwanstein (New Castle of the Swan). This is the "fairy tale" castle which inspired Disney for the various castles in their theme parks. Of course, the Disney versions cannot begin to match the location in which the original sits, where every view takes your breath away...

Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein

The castle was the pet project of King Ludwig II, who never got to enjoy it much, as he was certified insane and unfit to rule, then died a few days later. It's my humble opinion that somebody who could orchestrate something so wondrous was probably just misunderstood, and not insane at all. In any event, once he died, all work on his various projects (including Neuschwanstein) were stopped. The rooms that were completed are magnificent, so one can only imagine one the completed palace would have ended up looking like.

As wonderful as the castle is, I was a bit saddened by the poor horses that are forced to haul heavy carts filled with tourists up and down the steep walkway all day long. We were tight on time, and calculated the horse carts were fastest to avoid missing the tour, but I regretted it after just moments of starting out. I didn't want to take the carts back down, and so we hiked the 15 minutes over to the bus stop (which had much better views anyway). If you ever visit, do yourself (and these poor beasts) a favor and take the bus.

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Day Nine: Austria

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

Dave!After Neuschwanstein, we noticed that we were awfully close to the Austrian border, and decided to dip down into the country just to say we've been there.

Austria Entry

Mission accomplished. No sign of the annoying Von Trapp family singers.

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Day Nine: Munich

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

Dave!Olympic: Our first stop after spending the morning gawking at Neschwanstein was spent at the Olympic Stadium, home of the 1972 Olympic Games. For 1.50 Euros, they let you in to inspect the well-kept grounds. It's pretty darn special, and I like how the seats are painted to match the green of the grass so as not to pose a distraction...

Olympic Stadium

Beamer: Also in the area is the BMW Museum, which is fairly small, but houses a nifty collection of various BMW cars and motorcycles from over the years...

BMW Museum

Tower: They also have a tower you can ride up to see the city from on high. It's also a great location to view the BMW World Headquarters Building, which is one of the coolest modern structures I've seen (would you expect anything less from BMW?)...

Olympic Tower

BMW Building

Tomorrow it's a long five hour drive to Berlin.

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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.

   

Theme Thursday: Shift

Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004

Dave!Cor blimey guv, the shift box is on the wrong side of the bloody car!!

Theme Thursday: Shift

I chickened out... Perry get's to drive whilst we're in the U.K.!

   

Daft Yank 500

Posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2004

Dave!I am fully aware that the good old US of A is not very popular in the global community right now. If you travel outside of North America, you can just "feel" it, and it's not very difficult to understand why. We've got a president invading countries in direct opposition to the United Nations and the advice of our allies, and doesn't seem to think much about how our actions affect the world outside our borders. On top of that, so many Americans I see while visiting other countries are horribly obnoxious, so even the first-hand contact foreigners experience does not leave a very good impression.

So, yeah, I get it.

But you know what? That is a pretty poor excuse for rudeness... especially when you are paying somebody for a bit of verbal bashing about your country of origin.

Today Perry and I were picked up from the airport (after coming back from Berlin) by the guy running the B&B we had stayed at near the airport. As we were flying (and I am talking literally flying, because the bloke drove so fast) back to pick up Perry's car, I was treated to a verbal lashing about how the "daft Yanks have gone mad after 9/11" and how stupidly we are handling airport security etc. etc. I am guessing he had forgotten I was an American, but maybe he didn't care. In any event, I'm such a smart ass, I immediately had three things pop into my head to say:

  • In my thickest British accent: Bloody Yanks, we should hang the lot of them!!
  • In my thickest, most annoying Southern US twang: Y'all got a mighty fine place here! Have a nice day!
  • In my normal speaking voice: When you have terrorists hijack a couple of your British Airways jets and crash them into Parliament and a few other English landmarks, then we'll talk... you inconsiderate limey f#@%!

In the end, I didn't say anything... what's the point? But it's kind of a downer that I was a a guest at his B&B and ended up paying him 80 pounds ($150 US) so he could be a total prick.

Hmmm... maybe I am a daft Yank after all... I just noticed that this is my 500th post to Blogography! Who knew.

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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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Trapped

Posted on Sunday, August 8th, 2004

Dave!Today was supposed to be a great day. Perry had invited me to a Chelsea tribute match which would have been my first opportunity to attend an English football game. Not knowing how long it would take for me to get to the grounds, I decided to leave a full hour early just to be sure I wasn't late. I'm staying at a hotel way out in the docklands, and am completely unfamiliar with the area, so I ask the concierge what's the best way to get to the city.

That was my first mistake

The guy kindly told me that I should go to a station that was out to the main road and to the right, so off I went. After a quick hike to the main road and ten minutes walking "to the right," I don't see a station... underground, rail, or otherwise. So I stop a couple of guys walking along the bridge and am told them the station name I was given. They look at me like I was from outer space and tell me that they've never heard of it. The nearest station is the Royal Victoria back the way I just came.

Thinking I must have misunderstood the concierge, I walk back to the light rail station and spend the last bit of cash I have to purchase a day ticket. Once I've got the ticket, I walk over to the platform for the city and find it barricaded. The line is closed so you have to take a bus...

Trapped

I waited for the bus for 20 minutes at the location specified and it never came. I've wasted almost 40 minutes now, and figure I'll just go back to the hotel and take a taxi. Problem is that I don't have any cash left, so I have to find a "cashpoint" (what they call ATMs here). I find one in the lobby and, despite the fact that it is displaying the "Plus" logo from my card, it refuses to accept it. So now I have no money, a useless rail pass, and am running out of time.

By now I am pretty desperate, and go back to the concierge for help. All I want to do is get to the city in time for the match... can he help me out? Is there a bus, a different train, a shuttle, ANYTHING to get me into the city for the game? Apparently, the answer is "no." If I don't have cash for a taxi, there is nothing he can do.

And so here I am. I could walk a couple of miles to the "Canning Town" station, but there's no way I could get to Chelsea in time. The only thing left I can do is call up Perry and tell him the bad news.

I suppose that I have no real reason to complain. The past two weeks have been amazing, and I should be content to have had such a great vacation. If something had to go wrong, better it should happen at the very end rather than in the middle somewhere. But still, it's kind of depressing that my last day in London has to be spent trapped at a hotel.

UPDATE: Since I pretty much had to have taxi fare in the morning to get to the airport, I made my way to Canning Town and, since there was staff available, asked about the no-bus at Royal Victoria. He assured me that the busses may be slow, but they are running, and so I shouldn't have a problem getting into the city. Sure enough, I did eventually make it so I could find a cashpoint, get some dinner, and see Perry off at King's Cross Station, but it was no picnic. Busses that run late, trains on wrong tracks, lack of staffing, and no re-direct signs to let you know where to go were typical. I've come to the conclusion that London Docklands Light Rail sucks ass.

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Homebody

Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2004

Dave!I'm back home now and don't really know what to do with myself. All I do know is that I don't want to be traveling again for a while if I can help it. I also don't want to be around lots of people (dumbass tourists in particular) for a bit. I certainly don't want to unpack my suitcase and wash my laundry. Oh, and I really, really don't want to look at the mail that came while I was gone. Gee... maybe I should make a list of things I actually do want to do rather than focus on the negative side of things...

  • Take my motorcycle out of storage and ride it. A lot.
  • Pour some water on poor Oscar, who must be parched by now.
  • Buy some bread.
  • Call my friends.
  • Make ice-cream.
  • Eat a home-cooked meal (but since I don't cook, I guess a microwaved meal will have to do).
  • Update my Hard Rock journal to reflect my recent trips and 100th visit.
  • Put a travel pin on my world map for Munich (where I had never been before).
  • Buy new socks.
  • Try not to be afraid of the pile of crap that's bound to be heaped on my desk when I get back to work.
  • Write a thank-you note to the Hard Rock Nottingham.
  • Pop in my Kill Bill: Vol. 2 DVD and watch it twice. Then watch Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Then watch Kill Bill: Vol. 2 all over again.
  • Watch all the crappy TV shows that TiVo recorded while I was gone.
  • Stop saying "lovely."
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Think happy thoughts.
  • Be thankful.
  • Find Mrs. Perfect.
  • Live happily ever after.

Yep, that'll about do it.

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Paper

Posted on Friday, September 10th, 2004

Dave!It's astounding to me that in this modern electronic world, we still rely so heavily on printed pieces of paper. Today I've been trying to purchase tickets to Korea for a work trip next week only to find that nobody will sell them to me. Apparently, for the route I need to take, paper tickets are required and nobody is "willing to risk" sending them out with such short notice (isn't that what Fed-Ex is for?). Perhaps I should just forge a ticket...

Fake Ticket

Of course, in this day and age of homeland security paranoia, there's probably a death penalty for even attempting something like this.

UPDATE: Finally got my ticket (and boy was it expensive!), but now I have to drive into the neighboring city of Wenatchee to pick it up. Bleh.

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SkyTeam

Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2004

Dave!I just found out that Northwest Airlines and its KLM and Continental partners have joined up with the SkyTeam Alliance. This is a pretty big deal for me (or any other Northwest Worldperks member) because now I get mileage credit for flights with AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, Czech Air, Delta, and Korean Air. I'm guessing that this is to better compete with United Airlines and their Star Alliance.

The ironic thing here is that the more airlines Northwest adds to their list of flying partners, the less likely I am going to be choosing Northwest to actually fly with. Over the years, the quality of flying Northwest in coach has declined badly. Seats are tiny with no leg room for anybody over 5'6". They don't show movies or any in-flight entertainment except on trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flights. And, the latest blow... they no longer accept special meal requests. They should just cut the pretense of offering meals altogether and offer a paid menu so people can get something they can actually eat.

I sympathize with the fact that airlines are having to cut costs wherever they can to stay competitive. But things are getting so bad that I am seriously questioning the choices they are making... especially when they drive consumers to choose other airlines or other methods of travel. I'd gladly pay $50 extra to have a little leg room and something decent that I can eat. I wonder how many others travelers feel the same?

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Airline

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

Dave!I just don't know what it is about travel anymore. Everything seems to always go wrong for me! Today I'm headed out for a few days work in Korea. My flight from Wenatchee to Seattle went just fine, but when I got to Seattle all the flights to L.A. were cancelled or delayed (apparently there is a power outage at LAX or something). Anyway, eventually they release my flight with only a half-hour delay, so things are looking good for me making my Korean Air connection to Seoul.

Except Alaska Air had to go and do something stupid.

We're out on the runway but not going anywhere. A half-hour passes, and now I'm beginning to worry about making my connection at LAX. Naturally, they don't bother to tell us what's going on, we just sit there uninformed. And then FINALLY they announce it: we can't take off because the head count doesn't match the number of tickets they pulled.

Uhhh... excuse me?

How in the heck can something so amazingly stupid happen? There's a computer at the gateway, I always assumed that it was there to keep track of who boarded. The flight was totally packed with only three empty seats, so you would think that they could just call the gate and find out which seats were supposed to be vacant and go from there.

But oh no. We have to GO BACK TO THE f#@%ING GATE so they can get a passenger list and take roll call. Yes, that's right, we have to take a paper list and check off names to figure this shit out. Which leaves me with a few comments for Alaska Air:

  • Fix your lame-ass check-in system. Obviously if you don't know who is on your planes or what's going on with the passenger manifest, something is VERY wrong with your procedures. The fact that this could ever happen in the first place is monumentally stupid and very scary.
  • Keep your customers informed. If you are not boarding at the published time, let us know why. If you are making us sit out on the runway for anything more than 15 minutes, LET US KNOW WHY!! Give us updates. Tell us what's happening. Nothing pisses me off more than being kept in the dark, and Alaska/Horizon Air is the absolute worst in the industry at this. I've lost track of the number of times I've been sitting at the airport when the plane was supposed to be boarding 20 minutes ago, and the gate agent doesn't tell you a damn thing.
  • Compensate wronged customers. This wasn't a problem with the weather or mechanical difficulties or some other unforeseeable event, it's just gross incompetence. I find it amazing that you made no offer whatsoever to compensate the people that are having to pay for your screw-up. This is much more than a mistake, and "sorry for the inconvenience" doesn't quite cut it.

UPDATE: I just barely made it to my flight with 2 minutes to spare (I hate that you have to leave and re-enter security when changing terminals at LAX!). I nearly killed myself doing it, but at least I don't have to spend the night in the terminal building. I think the odds of my luggage making it to Korea are pretty much zero, however.

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Luggage

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Dave!As expected, my luggage missed the flight. This is exactly the type of thing you want to hear after having spent twelve hours packed in an airplane cabin. When this happens with USA-based airlines, you are forced to stand at the carousel waiting for a bag that's never going to come... with Korean Airlines, they phone ahead and leave you a note so that you don't waste your time. Just one of a hundred reasons that I'll always choose an Asian-based airline over a crappy domestic airline: the service is vastly superior in every respect. And here's the real kicker: Korean Air was cheaper than anything Northwest or United had available.

Fortunately, I have a clean shirt and some fresh underwear in my carry-on backpack.

Unfortunately, it's raining in Seoul today and I really want my toothbrush.

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SkypeOut

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Dave!As I blogged a while back, Skype was finally released for Mac. It's a pretty cool service that lets me chat with other Skype-using friends around the world for free. And, while that's great and all, today I discovered the real power of Skype: SkypeOut. This incredible feature allows you to make calls to actual telephones in several countries around the world for just .02 a minute!!

So, while it used to be very easy to rack up hundreds of dollars in International calls if you weren't careful, now calling home is cheaper than sending a postcard! The strange part is that the quality of the connection is better than using the telephone... even with the crappy little microphone that's in my laptop. I placed a half-dozen calls, and every time the connection was crystal clear.

Incredible.

I still think Apple's iChat's video conferencing is a better way to keep in touch (being able to see the person you are talking to adds a lot to the conversation) but, if the person you're contacting doesn't have a computer, SkypeOut is an astoundingly good alternative (not to mention really cheap!).

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Seoulful

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Dave!Usually when I have to travel across the world for work, I make sure to add on some personal time so that I can see the sights or visit friends or go take in something new. On this trip, for instance, it would have been great to add on a quick hop to Hong Kong or Thailand or Cambodia... just a little something extra to make the 20 hours it took to get here worthwhile. Unfortunately, given the short notice for this trip, there was no way to arrange any additional time away from work (and, even if I could, last-minute travel is really expensive).

Since I'm only going to be in Korea for 2 days, I decided to leave my big camera at home and just take my little digital compact model. Unfortunately, I forgot to transfer my 512meg memory card, and all I could find in the bottom of my suitcase was a tiny 16meg card that I save for emergencies. On one hand, it's better than nothing... on the other, I can only fit seven photos on it!

So here are seven shots of my afternoon in Seoul, wandering around with a friend from work and meeting her friends in the city. This first shot is from my hotel room window. The sun is finally coming out, so it might actually be a nice day...

Seoul View

Here's a shot from a taxi window on our way to the Hongik University District. I couldn't resist a sign that says "Donggyodong!"...

Donggyodong

The area around the University is crammed with small clubs. I would have really liked to have gotten a look inside this one...

Rock and Seoul

I had a big breakfast and didn't feel like eating lunch, so that meant we didn't have to find a vegetarian place. Most all traditional Korean restaurants have a burner built into the table where they cook your food right in front of you using tongs, chopsticks, and a pair of scissors to dice up those tricky baby squid tentacles...

Tentacles!

Cartoon characters are a popular way to advertise goods and services here. The cartoons that amuse me most are those of fish, chickens, squids, cows, pigs, and other assorted animals inviting you come eat them because they taste so good...

Eat Us!

Older sections of town are based on original market streets from hundreds of years ago that wander off in all directions. Trying to find someplace in these areas can be a real challenge, even for the natives...

Side Street

As I noted in my blog entry for a previous Korea visit, the motorcycle of choice here is a Korean brand called Daelim. Most models are fairly generic, but they do have some nice-looking variations. This is a "Daelim Daystar" I thought was a fairly nice ride (but surely they could have come up with a more badass name than that!?!)...

Daelim

So that's my first "half-day" in Korea. Tomorrow is mostly work, then I'm flying back home. I think I'm exhausted already.

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Zhang!

Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2004

Dave!Last night after a long day of work, we returned to the city and decided to walk around Insadong so I could buy a few souvenirs to take back with me. This famous shopping area of Seoul is kind of a divide between the old and new of the city, and packed with tourists and natives alike. As night began to fall, we wandered towards the "new side," which reminds me a lot of Tokyo when the bright lights and lively signage is ignited...

Seoul Lights

After shopping, we decided to go see a new movie from China called Shi mian mai fu (which translates to House of Flying Daggers). I've been dying to see Hero but that film had come and gone to Asia over a year ago (even though it is just now making it to the States) and House of Flying Daggers looked as though it might be similar in a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon kind of way... especially since they both star the astoundingly talented and beautiful Ziyi Zhang...

House of Flying Daggers

House of Flying Daggers

I didn't have much trouble following the story even though the film was in spoken Chinese with Korean subtitles. Unfortunately, I think I would have enjoyed myself more if I didn't understand the story! While the film is beautifully shot, has some kick-ass fight sequences, and features Ziyi Zhang being as captivating as ever... the tale itself was mostly laughable with boring stretches that send you into a coma.

The plot basically involves a young blind girl (Zhang) who works as a dancer, but is suspected by two policeman-friends to have secret ties to a team of revolutionaries known as the "House of Flying Daggers." Once she is captured, the police guys decide that they should rescue her, and a bizarre love story filled with inept surprises, mind-boggling plot twists, and over-the top drama ensues. At one point I had to resist the urge to stand up and scream "would you people just die already!" because there is only so much drama I can take in one sitting. Even so, I'll probably buy it on DVD so I can relive the scenery and fight sequences.

Oh well. All-in-all it was a pretty good way to spend my last night in Korea. After breakfast, I'm packing up and heading home.

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Seoulong!

Posted on Saturday, September 18th, 2004

Dave!Turns out I had a bit of extra time this morning before catching the airport shuttle, so my friend decided to brave the rain and take me to Bongeunsa, which is a Buddhist temple in the city. Sadly, most of the temple was destroyed during the Korean War (along with many other ancient structures and historic places) but it managed to survive, and is still being restored and expanded to this day. A courtyard featuring a giant stone Buddha is set away from the main temple and is surrounded by trees. This is kind of cool, because Buddha appears to be floating out of a small forest as you make your way there. As with most all statues of the Enlightened One, I am always moved by the look of calm and peacefulness depicted on his face (even with the rain pouring down around him!)...

Buddha Seoul

Across the street from Bongeunsa is the Coex Mall complex, which has an "Apple Experience Center" in the middle...

Apple Experience

Everything about the place (both inside and out) looks exactly like an official Apple Store, so I can only guess that it is sponsored by Apple in some part. Seems kind of silly that they don't just call it "The Apple Store" since that's obviously what it is. Sadly, they did not have a new model iMac to look at, nor the new aluminum wide-screen display (which was funny, because they had a poster advertising it hanging in the window).

   

Emmybulism

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2004

Dave!Security: The big news in travel this week is the impending "update" to airport security, which allows TSA screeners to more thoroughly pat-down people with suspicious bulges in their clothing. To alleviate fears about possible misconduct, the TSA assures passengers that any pat-downs will be performed by screeners of the same sex. That's terrific, because having the "suspicious bulge" in my crotch patted down by another guy while the entire airport watches makes me feel so much safer about flying.

20/20: Lucky us! Barbara Walters has an exclusive interview with child-raping piece of shit Mary Kay LeTourneau this Friday on 20/20! I hope I can overcome my compulsion to watch. Can somebody remind me again why it is that she isn't still in jail?

Incredible: Yet another trailer for The Incredibles is out. I can't possibly express how badly I want to see this film, which looks like it just might be the best thing Pixar's done yet. Having Samuel L. Jackson as a super-hero doesn't hurt, but having Brad Bird (of Iron Giant fame) writing and directing is the movie's biggest asset.

Incredibles

Stonebridge: The number of blog visitors I am getting because of the ass-hats at Stonebridge Life Insurance continues to grow. It would seem these idiots are still harassing people with their never-ending telemarketing calls. Tired of the constant hang-ups, victims are entering the phone number from Caller-ID into Google and getting my blog entries bitching about it here and here. Pathetic. At what point is the FCC going to step in and bitch-slap Stonebridge Life for this abuse?

Miami: The ads for the season opener of CSI: Miami are saying that "one won't survive." Is it too much to hope that David Caruso's character is the one to die? I would actually watch the show if he weren't on it because I like Emily Proctor. Why not put her in charge?

Emmy: For the most part, I think the Emmys completely suck. Rarely does the person or series most deserving of the honor ever win... heck, most of the time they aren't even nominated. Where is Wonderfalls? Dead Like Me? Angel? And sure Scrubs was nominated for best writing (and lost) but it deserved so much more, because it is easily the funniest sitcom running right now. And don't even get me started about Sharon Stone winning over Betty White for best guest appearance. Still, a few nice things happened: Drea de Matteo, The Daily Show, and James Spader all deserved those wins.

   

List

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2004

Dave!Years ago while watching a sunset on a Maui beach, I turned to a friend and said "I'm really glad I saw this before I die" to which she replied "well, scratch it off your list then." That's when I became acquainted with the fact that some people make a list of things they wish to do before they die in order to be assured of experiencing everything they want out of life before death comes a calling.

I decided to make my own list in a little notebook I found, and came to this realization: it would be pretty depressing to lay on my deathbed clutching a list that still has a bunch of items left unchecked.

I don't need that kind of failure looming over me, so I figured out an entirely new approach: Don't add anything to the list until you've already done it. Brilliant! That way, no matter when you check out, the list of things to do is certain to be complete and you can die a success!

So, here it is... a transcription of my list of things I want to do before I die (all of them done, of course) in no particular order. A few of the more personal and, ahem, "questionable" items have been removed to prevent offense and embarrassment (yours, not mine)...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Shaft

Posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

Dave!On the road again, this time to Seattle for a few days work. I've made the 2-hour drive so many times that it's easy to zone out along the way, but every one in a while you see something out of the ordinary. This time it was a bizarre lighting effect coming from behind the mountains... shafts of heavenly radiance reaching upwards. Sadly, it didn't capture very well on my little pocket camera, but it's still an impressive event...

Ray of Light

I'm sure there's some kind of fancy scientific term for this stuff, but I just call it "cool."

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Florida

Posted on Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

Dave!Flying from one corner of the United States (Washington) to the opposite corner (Florida) is an all-day affair that becomes more annoying every time I take the trip. The initial flight out of Wenatchee leaves at 9:00am and, after connections through Seattle and Detroit, deposits you in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport at midnight. Accounting for the 3-hour time difference, that's still a 12-hour day. I could have flown to Tokyo in less time.

More jolting than the time change is the temperature change... but not in the way you think. It's far, far colder here in Florida than back home. But how can this be? I'll tell you: air conditioning. Floridians air condition all public spaces to sub-zero temperatures. So when it was time to head out to Sawgrass Mills (a huge outlet mall here), I was sure to wear a long-sleeve denim shirt and full-leg denim jeans. As it turns out, I should have worn a snow parka and thermal underwear because I still ended up being so cold that my legs are cramping up.

Only in Florida.

So now I sit here doped up on Advil in front of my hotel room television, sick with hope that the Boston Red Sox will kick some ass tonight against the Cardinals. Please. Please. Please.

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Cruise Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale

Posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Dave!I've never had any real desire to go on a cruise before... being trapped on a big metal boat with a couple thousand morons just never seemed like my idea of a good time. But hey, it's something new to do, so here I am cruising the Caribbean. As I have already found out, there are some things about cruising that you don't learn on the Love Boat. But life is never like television is it?

The ship I am on... the Dawn Princess is pretty sweet. Since I had no plans to sit around in my cabin all day, I booked the cheapest stateroom I could find. As long as it had a bed, I'm happy. Well, not only does it have beds, but there is also a bathroom with shower, a refrigerator, a good-sized closet, a desk, an in-room safe, and a television. Not bad at all. I've certainly stayed in much worse on dry-land. On top of all that, there's a pool on board!

Dawn Pool

Nice ship, nice accomodations, nice food, exceedingly nice crew. But all is not perfect in paradise...

1) Embarkation was a disaster. Not at all organized and incredibly stressful to all involved. Being screamed at is not the best way to start a vacation. One guy tells you to go. So you go. Then get yelled at by another guy for going. They should really do something about this, because pissing off customers before they step foot on the ship is pretty stupid.

2) Thanks to the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean a few weeks ago, a few ports of call have been cancelled. This sucks ass because I don't really give a crap about hanging around the ship, it's the land excursions that interest me. One of the stops, Grand Cayman, I was really looking forward to but it was trashed in the storms, so what can you do?

3) When I called ahead, I was told that wireless internet was available for laptops. Unfortunately, what they fail to mention is that it only works with their laptops. This means there's no internet at all unless you rent a $30 an hour laptop or use a $30 an hour PC in the business center... and, even then, the connection is glacialy slow and incredibly flakey. This is a huge problem for somebody like me who needs reliable internet access to function! Don't count on a FridayQ this week. :-(

Tonight there was a welcome show which was definately skewed to the older demographic. Who else could be entertained by butchered Ricky Martin tunes? WE CRUISE! WE CRUISE! (sung to the tune of She Bangs! She Bangs!) was made bearable only by the addition of the Dawn Princess Dancers (finally... babes on board!). It's good, cheesy, American fun (which happens to be registered in Great Britain to avoid those pesky American ship regulations).

There's an unfathomable nine days left in my vacation. NINE DAYS! I hope the weather holds out, because today was about as perfect as it gets. For anybody wanting to cruise along, you can take a look at the Dawn Princess Bridge Cam.

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Cruise Day 2: At Sea

Posted on Monday, October 25th, 2004

Dave!After an excellent dinner at the onboard pizzeria last night, I decided I wanted to go to the buffet for dessert and ended up eating a plate full of miniature cream puffs glued together with whipped cream and covered in chocolate (I don't think that I've ever been so happy eating before, so I suspect that there was crack cocaine in there as well). All of your meals are included in the ticket cost, so you can eat until you pass out if you want. Sadly, some people actually attempt this and it is not a pretty site. I guess this would be called "getting your money's worth," but when it involves gaining 20 pounds in 10 days, I think I'll pass.

I continue you be dumbfounded at how super-terrifically nice the crew is onboard the Dawn Princess. You may be saying to yourself "hey, it's their job to be nice," and you would be right... BUT, you have to understand the conditions under which these people do their jobs: a big chunk of the customers are crotchity old farts who enjoy nothing more than abusing the staff. I am certain that if I was working here, I would go insane and start beating their old asses. But the workers here carry on with a smile, stalking the halls like Stepford Wives, wanting nothing more than making your vacation completely perfect in every way.

Most of my morning and afternoon was spent on-deck, lounging around the pool and reading a book. Later in the day they held an art auction that was pretty impressive. Major name artists at incredibly reasonable prices (a signed Picasso etching for just $8000!). Unfortunately, even "reasonably priced" is a bit out of my reach, but it was still fun to watch.

During the auction, there was a "code red" announcement in which a passenger required emergency medical attention. Given the average age of the people onboard, this must happen a lot.

Tonight is a "formal dining night," so people are wandering around in evening dressed and tuxes. But not me. That's too much work for vacation. I'll instead carouse the buffet and retire so I can be up bright and early for our first port of call in Cozumel.

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Cruise Day 3: Tulum and Cozumel

Posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

Dave!A big part of cruising is accepting the fact that your schedule can and will change. Yes, it sucks ass, but that's the way it is and the sooner you accept it, the better your vacation will be. Such is the case with an excursion to the Tulum ruins in Mexico today. It was supposed to leave the ship at 7:00am, but didn't leave until 7:35am. The tour was supposed to last until 2:00pm, but ended up lasting until 3:20pm. We were supposed to have 3 hours in Cozumel after the tour, but then it was changed to just 1 hour, then it was extended to 2-1/2 hours, and finally ended up being a little over 1 hour total. Bleh.

Anyway, after a 45-minute ferry ride to the mainland from Cozumel, we reached Tulum, which is an ancient Mayan city whose ruins still exist today. There's no funky step-pyramid as I had hoped (crap!) but there is a cool sacrificial altar, a bunch of nifty old buildings, and a few really pretty beaches. The weather leaving Cozumel was sublime but, by the time we reached Tulum, a flood of torrential rain was unleashed (apparently we disturned the rain gods or something). Eventually, the skies started to clear and it was pretty sweet (unbeknownst to the rest of my group, I tossed a particularly annoying woman off the cliff as an offering to the sun gods)...

Cozumel Ruins

Cozumel Ruins

The ferry ride back to the island was balls-nasty (apparently, now we have somehow offended the sea gods). Breaking waves battered our boat something fierce, and a few people ended up blowing chunks (none near me, fortunately!). Surprisingly, the choppy waters had no relation to the weather on dry-land, where the skies were sunny and calm (thank you sun gods!).

Cozumel Water

The poor fellow who required emergency medical attention yesterday was air-lifted back to the States, and is apparently doing okay (according to a message from our Captain). Kind of nice that nobody has died yet.

Tomorrow we were supposed to be stopping in Grand Cayman. But, since the island is apparently closed, it will be yet another day at sea. Perhaps I'll take up ceramic painting or something?

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Cruise Day 4: At Sea

Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

Dave!Gaaah! I just now looked at my blog from this crappy loaner laptop and was "thrilled" to discover that it is rendering all wrong? I hope that this is the fault of the proprietary browser software that they are using here. Anyway, today was by far the most relaxing day of my vacation so far... with no land excursion, I found nothing to do except lay on the Lido Deck all day and read a book. To make up for such inactivity, tonight's dinner was had in the uber-fancy "Florentine Restaurant" onboard. They serve a pretty mean Fettucini Alfredo, which is not surprising considering all the food on the cruise so far has been excellent.

The interesting thing about a cruise is the facts and figures you are left to ponder. For example, I estimate that 75% of the passengers onboard are senior citizens. Going further, I am estimating that 40% of the passengers are obese, 50% of the remaining overweight, and a paltry 10% being somewhere in the vicinity of their target weight. The upshot of it all: most of the people you encounter are old and fat. That, in itself, is not disturbing. It's when said persons are lounging around the pool in Speedos that you begin to see where the problem lays.

That's for the passengers... the staff, on the other hand, are all relatively young, fit, very hard-working, and foreign (I dare say that if the Romanian contingent onboard were to fancy an idea of mutiny, they could easily overtake the ship). I'm sure that most of the customers onboard don't give a second thought to those that service their every need, but I can't help it...

  • Do the staff ever get to do anything but work? I see the same guy who cleared my plate this afternoon at the buffet has changed clothes and is now clearing tables at dinner. Does he ever get to put on a bathing suit and hit the beach when we make port? Do they get any activities below-deck for the off hours?
  • Can they make a good living working here? They must be well compensated to leave their home countries and wait hand-and-foot on fat, old, Americans all hours of the day and night.
  • It would seem that many of the workers here are from poorer countries and I can't help but wonder: What do they make of the absurd abundance of wealth and excess that surounds them constantly?
  • And finally, how in the heck do they keep their smiles intact and morale high when cranky old farts are bitching at them? I have seen more acts of rudeness towards these hard-working people than I would ever want to admit... yet they carry on, day after day. Maybe that's why everybody here is so young? They retire after only a few years of putting up with other people's crap?

All my curious musings aside, I am slowing becoming accustomed to life onboard ship. Things that seemed odd to me just two days ago are suddenly perfectly normal. This leaves me with the biggest question of all: Will I be able to adjust back to "real life" once the vacation has ended?

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Cruise Day 5: Jamaica

Posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2004

Dave!The light from the full moon glistens over the water like a dance as I walk along the abandoned boards of the Lido Deck (after yet another fabulous meal onboard the increasingly wonderful Dawn Princess). I can't help but think to myself what an excellent opportunity this would be to dispose of a dead body... just drop it overboard and who would be the wiser? Despite the moonlight, it's pitch black out, and I have this wide-eyed innocence going on that is only accentuated by my sun-kissed face! Bwahh ha hah! I am diabolical, even on vacation.

As for the rest of the day? Jamaica, mon! The ship pulled in for a very brief call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica this morning at 9:00am. The weather was amazing, and I was looking forward to the "Island Highlights and Dunn's Falls Excursion" I had signed up for. As it turns out, the "Island Highlights" part was pretty lame... first there was an uneventful drive up "Fern Gully," followed by a boring garden walk, followed by a bullshit "shopping expedition" at a duty-free marketplace. Whoopee. I could have done all of this stuff back home.

Fortunately, the excursion was completely redeemed by the Dunn's Falls finale. You form a human chain with your fellow shipmates and climb through the rushing waters, step by step up to the top of the falls. Big fun and a little bit challenging, which was a nice change of pace from riding around in a bus all day.

Dunn's Falls

And that was it. Come 2:30pm, it was back to the ship. I was a bit sad that we didn't get to see very much of Jamaica... no white sand beaches... no Jamaican rum at a local bar... and no reggae music at a local club. Oh well. It's hard to complain when everything else is ever so lovely.

In other news: I have become addicted to cinammon-flavored Mentos. I've spent a small fortune on the buggers ever since embarking (I'm up to two packs a day now, and heaven only knows what will happen when I have to go cold turkey come next Wednesday).

Tomorrow is another day at sea before continuing onward to St. Thomas.

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Cruise Day 6: At Sea

Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2004

Dave!First, an apology to everybody that I am unable to post a FridayQ today. I write the questions weeks in advance so that I am never in danger of missing a Q, but the Internet onboard is highly restrictive, and there's simply no way for me to do it. I am only just barely able to post to my blog because of time-outs and proxy errors (last night I attempted to post my entry for nearly a half-hour before giving up, $15 poorer for the attempt). The only thing more difficult than posting to my blog is reading other blogs. Since the custom browser they're using seems to be loading all graphics first, I can rarely get pages to load completely enough to read anything at all. Hopefully all is well in the world.

Today was another "day at sea" but with a twist... it's incredibly windy out. Trying to read a book on deck is a dangerous endeavor because the book is either being whipped out of your hands or smacking you in the face. There's only so much of that kind of punishment I am willing to endure, so I spent the next couple of hours painting a ceramic bowl. Unfortunately, I decided to go all artistic and paint a beach scene using tiny dots of paint. Unfortunately, tiny dots take a long, long time to paint. So now I have a bowl that is in no danger of being completed anytime soon. I'll be lucky if it's finished by the time the cruise is over.

Tomorrow it's an afternoon in St. Thomas. Since St. Thomas is part of the Virgin Islands which, in turn, is a U.S. territory, there is a mandatory inspection of all passengers whether you are going ashore or not. They do not go into any details as to what this "inspection" will entail. I am hopeful that a look at my passport will be enough but, for all I know, everybody could be getting a rectal cavity search. The things we do for Homeland Security.

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Cruise Day 7: St. Thomas

Posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2004

Dave!Today started off as "disappointing," then escalated to "good," then descended to "utter crap," before turning back to "pretty good" again.

Immediately after disembarking in St. Thomas (of the U.S. Virgin Islands), the rain came down like a flood with drops the size of golf balls pelting anybody brave enough to walk the streets unsheltered. But, by the time I reached the Hard Rock Cafe St. Thomas, the sun came out and burned away the clouds leaving blue skies in its wake. Elated due to my good fortune with the change in weather, I took the "Paradise Point" sky-tram ride up to an overlook of the island's only city: Chalotte Amalie...

Chalotte Amalie

After a leisurely descent down to the waterfront, I ran back to the ship so I could change into my swimsuit and prepare for the highlight of the cruise: HELMET DIVING!! And that's when everything turned to crap. Due to "unsafe conditions," the dive had been canceled. This sucked major ass, because I had been looking forward to it for the past six days.

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I instead ended up going on an "Island Highlights Tour" that wasn't too bad. After that was over, I still had time to kill, and decided to take a taxi over to Megan Bay Beach where I had a kick-ass milkshake at "Udder Delite" (which the Chicago Tribune claims is a must-experience event). I gotta hand it to the Tribune, they know their stuff. The chocolate shake I had was perfect in every way, and would probably be illegal back home...

Udder Delite

After returning to the ship, the day ended on a high-note as everybody onboard the Dawn Princess got to see our sister-ship (the Sun Princess) depart St. Thomas. It was an amazing site, as the white ship looked beautiful against the setting sun...

Sun Princess

And now we're off to the final port-of-call before returning home: St. Maartin.

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Cruise Day 8: Sint Maarten

Posted on Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Dave!Happy Halloween! Our port-of-call today is an interesting island that is claimed by two countries and two governments. The north is "Saint Martin" and part of the French West Indies (France), while the south is "Sint Maarten" and part of the Netherland Antilles (The Netherlands). Both countries happily coexist in peace and proudly proclaim themselves of "one island, two countries, one people." Even so, making a telephone call from the French side to the Dutch side is an international call, despite the fact that the island is only 37 quare miles.

Today was yet another "Island Highlights Tour," but at least there was an "almost-submarine-ride" in the middle (albeit a kind of lame one). The countryside is nice (this is a tropical island after all), but it's not quite in the same league as St. Thomas.

Near the end of the tour we stopped at the border between the two countries laying claim to the island. There was a protest of some kind going on that I didn't quite understand. I took a photo of the sign so I could try to figure it out once I got back to the ship, but no such luck...

Protest?

Also in port today was the Royal Caribbean ship Empress of the Seas. As we were leaving the dock, I was wishing that I had a bullhorn so I could talk a little trash to them... something like "EMPRESS OF THE SLEAZE SUCKS ASS!" or perhaps "DAWN PRINCESS RULES THE EARTH! ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAN KISS OUR AFT!!" And, since this is pirate territory, I'd then pull out a cannon, blow a hole in the side of their ship, light it on fire, and then pillage the smoldering remains for treasure.

Pirates kick ass. I think that I want to be a pirate when I grow up.

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Cruise Day 9: At Sea

Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2004

Dave!ACK! PLAGUE SHIP!! For the past week, it would seem that everybody onboard has been coming down with a cold, including the crew. Everyone around me is sneezing and coughing. Fortunately, I have my trusty bottle of Zicam with me, so the worst I got was the sniffles for a couple days. Hard to believe that there is talk about removing Zicam from the market, because it's the only thing I've ever found that lets you fight off a cold. Without it, I'd probably coughing and sneezing along with the rest.

The next two days are at sea with nothing to do. Well, that's not true... there are lots of activities to keep you occupied onboard... I am just not interested in any of them. I'm also not interested in laying out on deck and getting skin cancer, even though it's a lovely day for it. I've gotten more of a tan than I usually do on trips like this, but it will undoubtedly disappear by the time we've docked in Ft. Lauderdale Wednesday morning.

So I suppose I'll start going through all the photos I've taken, finish reading my book, and then attack the ship and take it over. I bought a pirate flag while I was in St. Thomas, so now all I need to do is get my hands on a cutlass sword and an eye patch and the Dawn Princess will be mine. I suppose that I should also find a yardarm to hang the captain from, and a gangplank to rid myself of anybody who opposes my commandeering of the vessel. Being a pirate would be a lot easier if I knew what a "yardarm" was, however.

I haven't yet decided what to rename the ship once I've taken her. I kind of like Dawn Princess... especially when it is pronounced by the British officers onboard, where "princess" becomes two words "prin - cess." But that's not a very fear-inducing name for a pirate ship at all. One could hardly pillage the high seas on the Dawn Princess, even when "princess" is pronounced as two words. Right now I am kind of leaning toward Deathbringer or perhaps Notorious Princess if I should decide to remain affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines.

Hmmm... before attacking the ship, I think I'll have an ice cream on the Lido Deck.

Wish me luck!

(errr... luck taking over the ship, not luck eating the ice cream which I can manage just fine on my own)

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Cruise Day 10: At Sea

Posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Dave!Of all the luck! As I was making preparations to commandeer the ship and take to the high seas as a pirate last night, I learned that the Dawn Princess is going into dry-dock for several weeks once we reach port. Apparently, she's needing to have some work done. There goes my big plans for a career change.

Today was supposed to be a stop at Princess Cays, an exclusive resort island owned by the cruise line. Unfortunately, the island was destroyed by the hurricanes, so it's going to be another day at sea. It's really too bad, because a last port-of-call before the cruise ends would have been pretty sweet. As it is now, I'm definitely ready to get off the ship.

Anyway, I have no idea if other cruise lines are as spectacular as Princess, but here's my pros and cons of cruising after taking this first trip:

  • PRO: The crew onboard is dedicated to making your vacation a complete success, and work very hard to make sure everything is perfect. Everybody here is exceedingly nice, friendly, and helpful... everybody.
  • CON: The crew at the embarkation dock was disorganized, rude, and very nearly ruined my vacation before it even began. What a shame that my very first impression of cruising had to be these @ss#oles.
  • PRO: The food is amazing and you'll never get bored with the variety of cuisine you have available.
  • CON: The food is so amazing that gaining ten pounds over the ten days is all too easy.
  • PRO: Cruising is surprisingly economical because it's inclusive. After you pay for your ticket, the only mandatory charge is a $10 per day gratuity fee per person (and it is well earned, trust me). Any excursions, souvenirs, or beverages are extra, but it's all optional.
  • CON: Since all optional charges are cashless (i.e., they are billed to your room), you can quickly lose track of how much money you are spending if you're not careful.
  • PRO: This is hands-down the best way I've found to get away from it all, and one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever taken. The "real world" seems a million miles away.
  • CON: The real world actually IS a million miles away because Internet access is very poor and prohibitively expensive. In this day and age, this has really got to change.
  • PRO: Cruising is an easy way to hit a lot of different interesting places without all that mucking about in airports and security lines. Getting on and off the ship at each port is quick and easy.
  • CON: Unfortunately, your itinerary will probably change. I had two ports canceled, which sucks ass... but it's a hurricane, so what can you do? Also, it sure would be nice to get at least 8 hours per port minimum. Anything less is barely worth it. Jamaica is a complete blur, as I don't think we got more than 4 hours ashore.

So, now that it's over, would I cruise again? Absolutely. And I would definitely recommend Princess Cruise Lines which was exceptional in all respects (except getting on the ship). Next time it will probably be a cruise to Alaska for me, because Princess seems to have some amazing excursions there.

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Cruise Day 11: Ft. Lauderdale

Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Dave!So here we are back in Ft. Lauderdale! Getting off the ship was a bit problematic because the idiots at immigration/security/customs held us on the ship for TWO-AND-ONE-HALF FREAKIN' HOURS this morning with absolutely no explanation. That's amazingly stupid considering that most of us have planes to catch (thankfully I was smart enough to book my flight with plenty of time in the event of just such a screw-up). Who I really felt sorry for was the crew of the Dawn Princess who had to deal with an increasingly hostile crowd of passengers wanting to disembark. There was nothing they could do about it, of course, but that didn't stop a lot of crotchety old farts from trying to make their lives miserable.

Surprisingly, here at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, there is a free guest account for wireless internet access! I have no idea if that is intentional or accidental, but it sure is nice of them. All airports should have free internet considering the crap you have to go through when traveling now-a-days.

Anyway, first thing I do is check my email and find out that my web host has suspended the script that allows Blogography visitors to leave comments. Apparently, I received thousands of spam comment hits to my blog, which pegged CPU usage and forced them to put a stop to it.

I don't get it. I really don't.

I use a spam blocking plugin called "MT-Blacklist" that prevents any spam comments from ever appearing. Why hit me with thousands of spam comments when they will never show up in the first place? I knew that comment spammers were lowlife bug-f#@%ers... but who could guess that they are so astoundingly stupid as well?

Until we're allowed to shoot spammers DEAD, this is never going to stop... you realize this don't you?

Anyway, I guess when I get home tomorrow I'll have to see if there is something I can figure out so that I can turn comments back on. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know.

UPDATE: Well, comments are back on... at least for the time being. Sadly, entries that are older than 14 days will automatically have their comments closed. Furthermore, ALL comments will be moderated from now on, meaning that any comment you care to leave will not appear until I have manually approved it. One thing that hasn't changed is that your email address will NOT be shown if you should choose to leave it (so I can contact you privately). Anonymous comments are still welcome as well (assuming you aren't leaving spam or being nasty).

Categories: Blogging 2004, Travel 2004Click To It: Permalink  1 Comment: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Traveler

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2004

Dave!I just finished up my remaining travel reservations for the year.

That I know of.

There's a few days that aren't yet spoken for, so I'm sure something will come along to fill them up. All-in-all it's been a relatively tame year for me (probably because I wanted to spend the summer on my motorcycle). I still managed to reach "gold" status in my frequent flier plan (over 50,000 miles flown), but that's a far cry from the 100,000 I've had to travel in previous years. Usually, I couldn't tell you where I've been and what I've done because it's all just a big blur. But this past year was entirely blogged... so now I know exactly what happened...

  • JANUARY: Seattle.
  • FEBRUARY: none!
  • MARCH: none!
  • APRIL: Seattle, Chicago, Detroit.
  • MAY: Salt Lake City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Seattle, Harrisburg, New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando.
  • JUNE: Seattle.
  • JULY: Portland, Beaverton, Salt Lake City, Moab, Bryce, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, London, Dublin.
  • AUGUST: Cologne, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, London, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Seattle.
  • SEPTEMBER: Los Angeles, Seoul, Seattle.
  • OCTOBER: Seattle, Ft. Lauderdale, Cozumel, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Maarten.
  • NOVEMBER: Detroit, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Louisville, Chicago, Milwaukee.
  • DECEMBER: still coming along.

And now I'm off to Chicago. One down, four to go...

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Chicago

Posted on Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Dave!This is a day in my life.

And, just for fun, I plan on bloggging the entirety of it (with BONUS pictures!). I'm not sure how exciting it will be but, since most of it will be spent traveling, "stuff" is bound to happen.

So, if your voyeuristic tendencies are such that you might enjoy spending the day with me in Chicago, by all means read on in this extended entry (click the link below the photo)...

C2 Hancock

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Wireless-less

Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2004

Dave!Chicago is a great city. I love Chicago, honest I do. Search for "Chicago" on this blog and you'll see that I have nothing but good things to say about "The Windy City" whenever I visit. But O'Hare International Airport sucks ass. It's a big mess, sure, but the biggest problem? NO WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS!!! I mean, come on! Are they the only major airport left in America that doesn't provide wireless? Crazy. I need to talk with the mayor or something.

So now I get to sit here with nothing to do but watch some absurdly rude girl chew with her mouth open while talking with her mouth full on her mobile phone. Loudly. I can here her disgusting smacking all the way across the lobby, and I can't imagine how gross it must sound on the other end of that phone call.

Anyway, now that my job obligations are over, I get to go home for three glorious weeks. Three whole weeks to catch up on my work, unpack my suitcases, ride my motorcycle (please don't snow... please don't snow), and just r-e-l-a-x for a while. After that, I've got only three more trips (that I know of) left until January rolls around and then I'm back in Germany again (this time I need to look into visiting the BMW factory where my motorcycle was "born" - I've always wanted to do that).

... Time Passes ...

Gack! Now that I am home, I've changed my mind. It's COLD here! I want to go back to somplace like Cozumel, where it was warm...

MoveCozumel.jpg

Of course, being able to ride my motorcycle year-round is also a bonus.

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Bummer

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

Dave!It seems like only yesterday that I was waxing poetic about finally having three solid weeks at home with nothing on my travel schedule (actually, it was two days ago). Naturally, such optimism is immediately rewarded with the news that I have to be in Salt Lake City next week.

If I were to say that universal forces are conspiring against me, would I be labeled as paranoid?

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Day One: Chicago

Posted on Friday, November 26th, 2004

Dave!NonSeattle: Well, this day has started off to be the suckiest suck to ever suck a suck! I switched some flights around which (apparently) required that paper tickets be mailed to me. Except I never got them. So the first hour of my day was straightening that mess out. I barely made the plane out of Wenatchee with 5 minutes to spare (after they were nice enough to re-open security for me). Seattle, here I come.

Seattle: Breathtaking views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains on the way over. Nauseating view of a woman blowing chunks at SeaTac International upon arrival (juuuuuust missed the bathroom by that much!). Poor girl. Bad enough to be sick and having to travel... even worse to toss your cookies all over the terminal.

NonEntertainment: Alaska Airlines needs to change out the videos on their DigePlayers. This is the third flight I've take with them this month, and I've already seen everything on it.

Entertainment: Fortunately, I didn't need a DigePlayer for entertainment, the elderly couple behind me were more than enough. The husband was apparently deaf, which meant that the wife had to SCREAM everything. Such classics as "WHAT?" -- "I SAID, DO YOU HAVE TO USE THE RESTROOM!!!!" were haunting me the entire trip. Apparently the old guy is blind as well, because she started reading (screaming) to him from the in-flight magazine at one point. It would seem that once you pass 90 years old, you just don't give a crap if you irritate people around you (probably because you're too busy worrying if you're going to "give a crap" in your pants?). Hey, since I probably won't live that long, more power to ya'.

NonChicago: The amazingly unhelpful gate agent for Alaska Airlines tells me my connecting flight is "probably at Terminal 1 or Terminal 2." Oh well, my 4-1/2 hour layover allows me plenty of time to find out where I'm supposed to be. It also allows me plenty of time to meet with a friend while I'm here at O'Hare. She landed 20 minutes ago, but is hanging around to say hello (she had just returned from Thanksgiving holiday, where she spent the entire day fighting with her sister). After a drink with her at Chili's, I stick around for dinner and have one of their excellent "Black Bean Burgers." Ever since Boca Burger changed their recipe and starting being all nasty-ass wet & slimy, I'm always on the look-out for good vegetarian alternatives to hamburgers. Oooh look... their security personel use little Segway scooters to zip around the airport!

Chicago: Seems like I was just here last week (oh wait... that was Salt Lake... Chicago was two weeks ago). O'Hare is not really Chicago, but I blogged my entire day last time I was in the city proper, so I've always got the memories. If only I had time to run into town and get a slice at Giordano's. Now I'm off to Louisville, where I'll be arriving just before midnight. Wheee.

Categories: Travel 2004Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

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 Two: Chicago

Posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2004

Dave!Look at me, I'm stuck in Chicago!

And boy is it a mess. The bad weather has caused all kinds of insanity, and most of the terminal is filled to the brim with people who have been cancelled or delayed out of their flight. People crying. People yelling. People beating the heck out of their kids. As I sit here typing this, a young girl in a Spongebob Squarepants shirt is being screamed at by her mother because she has to go to the bathroom. And when I say "screamed at," I mean that her mother can probably be heard two terminals away. I sympathize that you are stressed because your flight was cancelled, but didn't you expect this kind of thing when you decided to have kids? Ooh... ooh... now you've made the little girl cry. Way to go you stupid bitch, was that the results you were looking for?

My flight was supposed to board at 5:50. But 5:50 came and went, and no announcement was made.

The flight was to leave at 6:15. Now 6:15 has come and went, and still no announcement.

Why in the heck don't they keep people informed? Even if you don't know anything, get on the loudspeaker and announce "the flight has been delayed, we'll give you more information when we have it." Acknowledge that the f#@%ing flight exists so that we're not standing around wondering if it's been forgotten, cancelled, or whatever. But oh no. Apparently the team of four gate agents has better things to do... like play with their hair, tell jokes, and stare into space. What a bunch of dumbasses. Delays and cancellations don't bother me that much, it's part of the game. Idiotic gate agents who don't do their job bothers me very much!

FINALLY it's 6:30, and they've just announced a delayed departure of 7:00. Now wasn't that easier than having people come up and ask "what's going on with the Milwaukee flight" again and again and again and again? THAT'S WHY THEY GIVE YOU A MICROPHONE, DUMBASS!!

And now 7:00 has come and went...

UPDATE: Finally made it to Milwaukee nearly two hours late. But my luggage is mysteriously absent...

UPDATE: By some miracle, my suitcase actually arrived on the next flight. There's enough stickers plastered on the luggage tag to choke a horse, but it's here.

Categories: Travel 2004Click To It: Permalink  2 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Day Three: Milwaukee

Posted on Sunday, November 28th, 2004

Dave!I've been to Milwaukee many, many times before. Once they start recognizing you on the Miller Beer Brewery tour, and you've been to the Harley Davidson factory a few times... well, there's not much more I really want to do here. I came in a day early so that I could compensate for typical winter airline delays but, since that only amounted to a few hours, I've got nothing (it isn't helping that this is a Sunday). So I've decided to stay in my hotel room and work for a while, then go eat frozen custard.

Go me.

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Day Four: Minneapolis

Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2004

Dave!Summary: November and December are terrible, terrible times to be traveling because everybody else in the world is traveling at the same time. My advice? Don't do it. Tell your family you won't be home for the holidays and just save yourself the aggrivation. Anyway... I worked all through the night, and was able to complete my job in Wisconsin this morning (two full days early). Since I have butt-loads of work and a mounting personal emergency back home, I decided to fly back early so I can get my life straightened out.

Alas it's not to be.

Or maybe it is, I don't know yet.

I flew Alaska/United to Milwaukee but, since all flights for the next four days are booked solid on the Chicago-Seattle leg, I can't fly Alaska back. No problem, I have pretty big clout with Northwest, so I manage to get a ticket (even though their flights are sold out too - being a good customer has its privileges). And here's where it gets interesting: it's cheaper to buy a round-trip than a one-way fare to Seattle. So now I have an unused half of my original ticket from Milwaukee to Wenatchee, and am going to have an unused half of my current flight from Seattle to Milwaukee. Something tells me I can smoosh all that together and get a round-trip ticket out of the deal but, since four different airlines are involved now (Alaska, United, Horizon, and Alaska), it's anybody's guess as to whether or not this will ever work out.

So now I am stuck in Minneapolis because the flight I was on is overbooked by full-fare paying customers or something. It looks like I can get a later flight but, knowing my luck, I'm not holding my breath.

I'm hungry.

UPDATE: Not only do I still not know if I am making this flight, but now they are announcing a delay so they can change the tires on the airplane! (because heaven only knows you don't want the tires going flat when you drop on the runway). For some reason, I always thought they did stuff like this during routine maintenance schedules. I guess I thought wrong. Apparently, they must instead be sticking a penny in the tread after each landing (when you can see Lincoln's entire head, it's time for a new set!). Wacky!

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Extended

Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2004

Dave!At first, my lovely experience with the new TSA screening rituals was ripe for Anonymous Letter #002. Since these "letters" are graphical, the text doesn't register as text, and search engines will gleefully pass it by (thus leaving such rants for you, my dear reader, and not for casual internet searchers).

But I am so f#@%ing pissed off right now I truly don't give a crap what happens.

To preface: my flight out of Minneapolis was delayed for an hour while they changed the tires on the plane (which gives me staggering new levels of confidence in NWA's regularly-scheduled maintenance, but I digress). You would think, since Northwest Airlines pretty much OWNS the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, that they would expedite such a delayed plane with all expediency so that people with connecting flights might have a prayer of actually making them. But no. What's the best thing to do to a plane already delayed for an hour and fifteen minutes? WHY, DELAY IT ON THE RUNWAY FOR ANOTHER HOUR OF COURSE!! Talk about f#@%ing stupid.

But what do I care, I make it to Seattle with a full hour-and-a-half to spare, which is a good thing considering I have to exit security, claim my luggage, run to the opposite end of the airport to check in with Horizon Air, then make my way back through security. I don't flinch when the underground shuttle gets stuck and we wait for ten minutes for the door to close. Likewise, I don't get upset with my bag is 3rd-to-last off the luggage claim carousel. I've still got an hour to grab my ticket and make my way through security and everything will be okay, right??

Well, given the GROSS f#@%ING INCOMPETENCE OF THE TSA STAFF, maybe not.

And before anybody jumps on my ass, please understand that I am in no way directing my anger toward the TSA individuals working tonight... that's just stupid. The fact that they are badly trained, poorly supervised, and have procedures that are ineffective (at best) and ludicrous (at most) could hardly be said to be their fault. So, if you feel like reading a long rant about everything I perceive to be ASTOUNDINGLY STUPID with my TSA extended inquisition examination (sprinkled with liberal amounts of foul language), then all means click the link below...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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New

Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2004

Dave!My annual drive over to the Seattle-side of the state for New Years celebrations was fairly uneventful because the roads were bare. This is quite a change from last year where idiots were sliding all over the pavement and cars were piling up everywhere. Even so, the mountains were cloaked in snow and fog which made for a pretty sweet view on the way up the pass...

Snowy

Snowy

Everybody have a happy (and safe) New Year.

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Hard

Posted on Tuesday, January 4th, 2005

Dave!Forget running the country, making travel reservations is hard work. It's really, really hard work (well, if you don't care how much you'll be spending, it's actually kind of easy work... but to get any type of bargain is so hard). For instance, I've got another trip to Germany coming up. I am entirely flexible as to when I leave and when I return. You would think that such flexibility would mean that I could easily get a decent fare considering that Northwest has about a billion specials running right now.

You would be wrong, of course.

Apparently those wholly incredible wunder-rates only apply if you sacrifice a goat to the internet reservation gods, because I spent close to three hours trying to find them to no avail. I picked the proper dates. I selected the correct day of the week. I even crossed my fingers. Nothing seems to work. I ultimately ended up with a crappy $600 non-upgradeable (the horror!) fare.

Why is it so insanely difficult? I mean, why can't I go to the Northwest airlines site, tell it where I want to go, then have two calendars come up (one for departure, one for return) that will tell me when the sale rates are in effect? It's all computerized, so how difficult could it be?

Web Air Fare Sale

Something like this would do two things... 1) Customers could easily spot which dates the sale is in effect, which dates are available, and how much the ticket will end up costing them. 2) Airlines could no longer post goofy, unachievable fares, and make their customers waste untold hours trying to find that "magic combination" that gets them the advertised promotional rate.

There are sites that attempt to do something like this, such as Orbitz's excellent "Calendar Matrix," but it's only for domestic flights and really doesn't show where you get the sale rates. Oh well. Whichever airline comes up with something to make reservations for sale fares easier to figure out will be the one that ends up getting my business. Right now they all suck.

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Leavenworth

Posted on Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

Dave!Twelve miles down the road from my home in Cashmere is the German-inspired theme town of Leavenworth. It's billed as "The Bavarian Village," but is referred to as "The Barbarian Village" by locals because of the massive influx of tourists that descend like a plague anytime some German-inspired event comes to town. Most of the festivals (like Maifest and Oktoberfest) are predictable. But to ensure a constant stream of tourism dollars, Leavenworth invents things like "Christmas Lighting Festival," "Winterfest," "Icefest," "Artfest," "Winefest," "Accordionfest," "Kinderfest," "Autum Leaf Festival," and "Christkindlmarkt." They'll probably add a dozen new events this year, and I am anxiously anticipating "Wienerschnitzelfest" and "Sauerkrautfest."

But anyway... it's a charming little town that's worth a visit if you happen to be wandering around Central Washington. In many ways, I consider myself lucky to have it nearby, because it's an easy way to kill time with visiting friends and there's a wide assortment of good restaurants and interesting shops available.

Tonight I took a quick fifteen minute drive into Leavenworth for dinner, and see that the town is still all lit up from the Christmas Lighting Festival, but the tourists are eerily absent...

Leavenworth

Hmmm... my little pocket camera doesn't do so well at night. Next time I'll have to take my "real" camera with me (because that's the only way to truly capture a bratwurst in all its glory).

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Day One: Seattle

Posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Dave!Passing through security was, for once, a pain-free experience (no strip-search!). That is not to say that all went perfectly. When I removed my laptop from its travel case, a data CD fell out with it, so I just set it on top. Apparently, this was not a smart thing to do. "LAPTOPS HAVE TO GO THROUGH X-RAY BY THEMSELVES" the disgruntled TSA minion declared. He then grabbed the CD and asked "IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY?" Which baffled me until I saw that the CD was labeled "Death Star Schematics." The actual embarrassment directly followed, because I had to explain that the CD really does contain Death Star schematics.

And, before you get all excited, it's not because I am a Bothan spy working for the Rebel Alliance who is attempting to smuggle the plans to Alderran. A couple of months ago I helped a friend (and fellow Star Wars geek) create a digital birthday card for his brother's 40th birthday celebration. The schematics, unfortunately, were just research (the implication being that if I possessed actual Death Star plans, and had the means to construct it, earth would be doomed).

But my geekified embarrassment quickly turned to tragedy once I made my way to the gate... I couldn't get wireless internet access in the South Concourse of Sea-Tac. There are two choices for me here: Cingular, which I can connect to but is so slow that it took five minutes to load up the login screen (you expect people to PAY for this crap service?) and Wayport, which must be down just now, since I can connect but can't get an IP address to have internet access. Lovely.

Given that I am now internet-free, I've had to go find some other amusements to keep me occupied...

  • Trojan Odyssey (a Dirk Pitt novel) by Clive Cussler. The New York Daily News says it is a book that's "IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST" and so how could I deny myself?
  • Popular Photography. Which is pretty much an all-digital affair now.
  • Vanity Fair. The Star Wars issue with exclusive pics! (but, alas, no outlet is given for purchasing Death Star parts wholesale).
  • FHM. Okay, the fact that it has the delicious Teri Hatcher wearing next-to-nothing on the cover is reason enough to buy it, but the pull-out guide entitled "What Women Want: An insider's guide to getting laid" is icing on the cake.

Hmmm... this post is getting pretty long, and I'm not even half-way through! Time for an extended entry methinks.

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Day One: Memphis

Posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Dave!For some reason I am an absolute magnet for annoying passengers on the flights I take. An example: the woman with a mustache next to me is smacking her gum and blowing bubbles. The man behind me is seriously hygienically-challenged. Even worse is the woman across the aisle, one row back, who is clueless as to the extent of her suicidal effect on those around her. She drones on and on, barely taking the time to catch her breath, all while the poor bastard stuck next to her is secretly praying for a heart attack (oooh... I'm having a flashback!). See if you can guess which of the following completely unrelated topics of discussion she is just dying to talk about...

  • She is originally from a suburb of Memphis, and is flying back to visit family.
  • She is upset that they no longer show movies on airplanes.
  • She is considering botox injections, but is terrified of needles.
  • She is a big fan of Elvis, and has been to Graceland more times than she can count.
  • She is praying to Jesus for guidance in redecorating her kitchen.

The answer, of course, is all five. Fortunately, we have finally "reached an altitude where electronic devices may be used" so iPod Shuffle allowed me to tune her out before she disclosed God's real reason for smiting Asia with tsunamis (I only wish I was joking).

Please let me be seated next to a quasi-normal person for my connecting flight to Amsterdam.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Oh my gawd, it's Mega Maid! She's gone from suck to blow!"
Yesterday's Answer: Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) starring Fred Ward and Joel Grey.
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Day Two: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2005

Dave!Here I am, back in Cologne. It seems like just yesterday that Perry and I started our Hard Rock Run through Europe here, but it looks like it was actually five months ago. Time flies.

Anyway, I've blogged before about how I love unique hotels with something interesting about them... or grand old classic hotels that have a real history to them. Well now I have another favorite to add to my list: The Hotel im Wasserturm. This is an incredibly cool hotel in central Cologne that was built out of an old water tower (once the largest in all of Europe!)...

Wasserturm

My "junior suite" has sweeping views of the downtown area, thanks to being on the 10th floor and having windowed walls that curve 'round the tower... a very sweet suite!

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I've been shot at three times before, twice on purpose and once by accident, and I'm still here. And I'm gonna be here for as long as I want to be."
Yesterday's Answer: Spaceballs (1987) starring Mel Brooks, John Candy, and Bill Pullman.
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Day Three: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2005

Dave!Sleep: One of the benefits (if you can call it that) of only being to sleep 4-5 hours every night is that jet-lag is a physical impossibility. I got around 3 hours of sleep on the flight to Amsterdam. Last night I went to bed at 10:30pm, and was wide awake at 3:00am. That's four-and-a-half hours, so nothing has changed. I can't even tell that I am nine hours displaced. I must be missing my internal clock.

Telly: Fortunately, with so much dead-time available to me, I brought plenty of downloaded television shows to watch. Primary amongst them are the last eight episodes of Battlestar Galactica which have already aired in the U.K. (they just finished episode #13 while we're only at #5). I can only guess it's because Sci-Fi Channel wanted to air them later so they had something new going during "sweeps?"

Powerbook: My aging PowerBook G4 has been drug around the world numerous times, and is in constant use back home as well. Because of that, it's getting pretty beat up and I should start thinking about getting a new one. Apple just speed-bumped their entire PowerBook line, added some nifty new upgrades, and lowered the prices... so now might be time. The 15-inch PowerBook I wanted last week was $2900, whereas now it's $2300 (and is faster with more features). Of course, it might as well be $23,000,000 because I ain't got that kind of cash.

Connect: My internet connection here at Hotel im Wasserturm is $13 for two hours. It baffles me that even the cheapest of hotels in the US offers free internet, whereas hotels in Europe gouge you for a connection. Hopefully some big hotel chain will start the ball rolling with free internet so everybody else will have to follow suit to compete, because this sucks ass.

Daylight: I've ranted about the stupidity of Daylight Saving Time a few times in this blog, but must admit I find it strange that it's 6:30am outside and still dark! Ah well, time to get dressed so I can go to work.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Darling, nothing is final until you're dead. And even then I'm sure God negotiates."
Yesterday's Answer: Get Shorty (1995) starring John Travolta, Danny DeVito, and Gene Hackman.
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Day Three: Cologne, Germany 2

Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Dave!Native English-speaking people are either really lucky or really lazy, and I can never make up my mind which it is. Because every time I attend some kind of international gathering... a meeting, a trade show, an exhibit, or an event of some kind... it never ceases to amaze me how many non-English speaking people are fluent in several languages. And, of course, everybody knows English, which makes it the "lowest common denominator" for the internationally-minded traveler. I guess that puts "American-English" just one level above grunting and making obscene gestures, but at least you can watch the latest Julia Roberts movie once you've mastered it.

Since I am already fluent in English (which is debatable, I grant you) the incentive to learn a foreign language for practical purposes is quite low. Sure I can make basic conversation in Japanese, and know a smattering of helpful phrases in Spanish, French, Italian, and German, but that's a long way from fluency. In fact, unless the conversation is about finding a toilet, saying "thank you", or ordering a cheese sandwich, then I am pretty much useless.

And I hate that about myself.

Seriously... the kid clearing my lunch table here today knows German, French, Italian, English, and some Dutch. And I don't mean that he has memorized a few phrases so that he can ask "may I take your plate" - this guy can actually discuss the finer points of nuclear fission and the perils of using low grade uranium and light metals for the process, all in your choice of tongues.

And there you have one of the cultural differences that set us apart. In the USA, any native who is fluent in a foreign language is considered a genius and should be working as a translator at the United Nations to bring about world peace. In other countries, if you know five foreign languages, you are considered average and are qualified to handle dirty dishes in a restaurant.

I guess that makes native English-speaking people both lucky that we don't have to learn another language and lazy in that we so rarely bother. I feel really stupid today.

Oh, and before I forget, I received five emails about Hotel im Wasserturm, so I'll try and address the questions y'all have about it here in an extended entry (though, you should really try leaving comments so everybody can get involved... it's painless, and you don't have to even provide any personal information if you don't want to!).

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Day Four: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Dave!Confidentiality agreements preclude me from ever discussing my work here on this blog, but I can say that I took a nice detour to the largest candy and biscuit show in the world today ("biscuit" meaning "cookie" for the benefit of any Americans out there). This fascinating trade show which showcases sweets from around the world is the ultimate exercise in restraint, because every booth is passing out free samples of the delectable treats they make. And, since this was the last day of the show, most companies are desperately trying to get rid of everything so that they don't have to take it home with them. As I understand it, at 18:00 hours, the doors are open to the public, and scores of German sweet-tooths descend like locusts on to the showroom, devouring anything in their path. I would have really liked to have seen that.

Anyway, walking the show takes an entire day, because that's just how big it is. Even then, I was practically running from booth to booth so I would get to sample see everything. Here are my top-three favorites...

Candy Peeps

Yes, BLUE PEEPS were representin' in the house! There's something to be said for going on a pure-sugar high, and Blue Peeps are the best way to do so if you don't want to mess with any wacky flavors or other distracting ingredients that are not sugar. I also scored some Necco Wafers, Tootsie Rolls, Lemonheads, Hot Tamales, and a handful of other sugar-fied favorites that are guaranteed to keep me entertained for hours. I'm hoping my coma doesn't hit until I finish this entry.

Candy Monkey

I'm a sucker for any product that dares to put a screaming monkey on their package, and this banana candy that comes out of Brazil is a class act. All that's missing is a word balloon which says "BUY THIS CANDY OR DIE!" coming from the naughty monkey, and our slow descent into Planet of the Apes style madness can begin (so I've gone ahead and taken care of that for them). Sadly, they didn't have any bags I could take with me, but I did get a taste and it definitely kicks ass monkey-style. I'm hoping that some American importer picked it up so I can buy it at my local grocery store. This has "cult-favorite" written all over it, and I need me my monkey candy fix bad.

Candy J.D. Fudge

There were a number of products that had me saying "WTF mate?" (Swiss Army Chocolate?)... and Jack Daniel's Fudge was definitely on that list. But it's not the fact that it's an alcohol-based candy which has me confused (it's about time!)... it's because the stuff is made in Australia. Yes, for a weekend of fun, nothing beats tossing a shrimp on the barbie and then getting wasted on whiskey fudge while shooting kangaroos, koala bears, and other adorable creatures in the land down-under. I am so proud that in addition to Starbucks coffee and McDonald's hamburgers, America is now starting to export our entire redneck lifestyle to other countries. Go America!

Well, I'm off to pack my bags for a few days of vacation. Hopefully I will have internet access where I'm going so I can post the FridayQ this week.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "My mommy always said there were no monsters... no real ones... but there are."
Yesterday's Answer: Ever After (1998) starring Angelica Houston and Drew Barrymore.
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Day Five: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Dave!

There's nothing quite like having to plan your next trip while in the middle of your current one. Especially in a foreign country at 4:00 in the morning. It's even worse when you consider the wild acrobatics you have to endure to find the best price. And that brings me to a rant that has been building for a long time...

Frequent travelers face a mystery that seems to defy logic every time they plan a trip: exactly how do airlines calculate their fare schedules? For example, my next trip is to Memphis, Tennessee. Coincidentally, Northwest Airlines has a hub there, so there is a direct flight out of Seattle (I should know, I was just there four days ago to transfer to my Amsterdam connection). Lucky break right? A direct flight with no connections is bound to be cheaper than a flight with a layover somewhere isn't it?

The answer, if you hadn't guessed, is "no."

Once my outbound flight from Wenatchee is removed, a direct flight from Seattle to Memphis is nearly a $600 round-trip. A staggering sum considering I flew all the way to Germany for $30 less (with two connections, one of them in Memphis!). But guess what? A flight from Seattle to Nashville (which requires a connection in Detroit) is just $320. WTF?!? That's that's almost half the cost! I wonder if there's something strange that happens when you calculate actual miles flown:

  • Seattle to Memphis @ $600: 1866 miles (32 cents per mile).
  • Seattle to Detroit to Nashville @ $320: 2379 miles (13.5 cents per mile).

Nope, that's even worse! They charge 58% less per mile to fly 22% further, and that doesn't even begin to address all the extra costs that's involved in adding a second flight. What kind of bullshit economics is that? No wonder airlines are losing money! They charge less to use more fuel, more facilities, and more labor. The stupidity of such pricing is baffling to even the most mathematically challenged.

So guess what? I get to rent a car in Nashville then drive three hours to Memphis. Fine with me, they've got a swell Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, so I'll be stopping there for lunch before I go. And then I guess I'll be having dinner at the Hard Rock in Memphis later that evening. I was going to have to rent a car anyway and, with unlimited mileage, I will still save hundreds (even after the gas to get there is factored in). That's lame.

It would be easy to put all of this on Northwest Airlines, but it seems all major airlines are guilty of the same crazy shit. So the next time the airlines start crying about what bad shape they're in and go begging the government for a bail-out, I hope Uncle Sam tells them to go f#@% themselves and instead demand that they hire a financial manager to explain basic economic principles to the people who set the pricing, thus encouraging passengers to fly a route that costs airlines less, not more...

  • More miles, more hub stops, more planes, more fuel, more depreciation, more resources, more frequent flier miles awarded, more labor = higher fare.
  • Less miles, less hub stops, less planes, less fuel, less depreciation, less resources, less frequent flier miles awarded, less labor = lower fare.

Sheesh! Hmmm... I'd better get packed. A few days vacation in a warmer climate awaits!

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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 Five: Barcelona, Spain 2

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Dave!The most famous street in all of Spain is "Las Ramblas" in Barcelona. Here you can find shops of every kind, from famous designer brands to street vendors selling pets, flowers, food, toys, and everything else you can imagine. As the sun began to set, I spied a glow off to the side and realized it was an open-air produce market. The "St. Josep Mercat" to be exact. From the outside, it looks like it might be a single street which has been covered to protect the vendors from the elements (artfully framed with stained glass tiles)...

Barcelona Market

Inside, it is entirely another matter, as it ends up being a huge, sprawling market with row after row of the most beautiful produce you've ever seen. Massive strawberries so red they seem to glow. Beautiful peppers so fresh their smell fills the air. Everywhere you look there's mountains of perfect food, all painted with a bright rosy light for maximum appetite appeal. A photo can't really capture how overwhelming an experience this is for the senses, but I decided to try anyway...

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

A few vendors were selling bowls of freshly cut fruits, so dessert was at hand! As I headed back to the hotel with my prize, I decided to take some side streets so I could get lost in the hundreds of back alleys and tiny walkways that create a vast maze in Old Town Barcelona...

Barcelona Alley

As I sit here eating strawberries and typing away on my PowerBook, I am saddened that I've only got a day-and-a-half left in this amazing city. I can't wait until sunrise so I can begin exploring once again.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Look, I'm through arguing with you! I don't take checks... now slip me some cash and I'll slip you the wiener."
Yesterday's Answer: Aliens (1986) starring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn.

   

Day Six: Barcelona, Spain

Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2005

Dave!Given that this is my only full day in the city, I had made detailed plans as to how I wanted to spend it. I wrote down everything I wanted to see, then mapped from point to point, ensuring that I had the most efficient route planned. This is not the way I enjoy sightseeing, I loathe time-structured travel but, given my time constraints, it was the only thing I could do.

Museu Picasso: Most people only associate Pablo Picasso with his later, more surreal and abstract art. What seems to be overlooked is his earlier and equally brilliant works, forming a foundation from which his methods and stylistic choices were built. While a very nice museum, I actually think that Picasso is better represented in other venues I've seen. I was, however, blown away by a temporary exhibit of Alberto Magnelli works. This artist has a huge influence over my own painting efforts, and I was beside myself with excitement when I realized he was showing here. I've never seen so many of his works in one place, and cannot believe my good fortune in having seen this exhibit (it ends on Sunday!!). Sometimes I am the luckiest person on the planet.

Davecaso

The Arc del Triomf: A beautiful structure, and part of my effort to see city arches whenever I find them.

Arc

The Sagrada Familia: This was the most important thing on my list to see. To me, Gaudi is Barcelona, and this Modernista architectural marvel is his undisputed masterpiece even though it remains unfinished to this day, and he died before much was done on it. Wherever you look you see beauty in every form and, once it has been completed, I will be returning to Barcelona to see it (hopefully it will be finished in my lifetime!). Despite my extreme fear of heights, I took the lift to the top, and did my best to subdue my terror so I could look out over the city and better inspect the cathedral.

Sagrada Familia

Casa Mila: Another Modernista wonder by Gaudi, Casa Mila is a bizarre structure, yet undeniably beautiful. There's something almost sinister about a building with no straight lines, but it somehow comes together as a compelling work of art.

Casa Mila

Fundacio Joan Miro: I will admit I am not a Miro fan. On the contrary, I pretty much dislike every piece of "art" I've ever seen of his. Unlike Picasso, I never get the feeling that there's any talent behind his artistic endeavors, and they don't evoke any sort of emotional response either. All I see is a bunch of paint slopped on a canvas for no discernible reason. I did enjoy his "Barcelona Series" of lithographs, which are amusing doodles... almost cartoon-like in nature, but that was about it.

Museu Frederic Mares: This has to be one of the strangest museums I've ever seen. Mares collected very specific subjects, and being able to contrast and compare dozens of different versions inspired by the same source is enlightening. For example, where most museums would be content with one or two carvings of Jesus on the cross, Mares decided to show hundreds of them. All somewhat the same, but very different at the same time.

Salvador Dali: There wasn't time to visit Teatro-Museo Dali in Girona, but I was sure to stop by the exhibition here in Barcelona. Dali did so much more than the "melting clocks" that made him famous, and a nice chunk of that was on display, along with Dali photographs and sculpture.

Dali

All in all, a very full day that had me bouncing from one corner of the city to the other. Fortunately, Barcelona has an excellent public transportation, anchored by a terrific subway system. This allowed me to see everything on my list, and a few extra sights along the way. Only problem is that my legs are hurting from all the walking, and I am completely exhausted. I'd go to bed early and try to recover, but I'm meeting a friend for dinner and don't want to miss that!

   

Day Six: Barcelona, Spain 2

Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2005

Dave!It's kind of odd when an American and an Italian meet in an entirely different country, but that's what happens when you are both living the jet-set lifestyle! Anyway, my fellow Hard Rock fanatic was in the neighborhood (well, relatively speaking... she was only an hour's train ride away) and agreed to meet up with me at the Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Upon arrival, we both decided we'd much rather eat at an authentic Spanish tapas bar, then return to the HRC for dessert.

Unfortunately, after nearly exploding from eating too many different tapas (my favorite being "Patatas Bravas" - or spicy fried potatoes), we had no room for dessert! Still, it was great fun, and I was happy things worked out so that we could get together.

On the way to meet my friend, I ran across these two dogs who were very much bored at being tethered to a post, and were trying to entertain themselves by making friends with passing pedestrians. Some people were annoyed, but I thought the dogs were very polite about it...

BarcaPups

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I married a liar. Why? Because I married a man."
Yesterday's Answer: Adventures in Babysitting (1987) starring Elisabeth Shue, Vinvent D'Onofrio, and Penelope Ann Miller.
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Day Seven: Barcelona, Spain

Posted on Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Dave!I had exactly one goal on my final day in Barcelona before returning to Cologne this afternoon... touch the waters of the Mediterranean. I needed it to add to my "collection" of major bodies of waters that I've put my hands on.

Hand in the Med

It was a lot colder than I thought it would be, even for a dreary day in February.

After getting sand in my boots and frozen fingers, I took a walk up to the lobby of the world-famous Hotel Arts. I would have really liked to have stayed there, but it costs something like a billion dollars a night, so perhaps next time.

And now I bid Spain adieu...

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Day Eight: Cologne, Germany

Posted on Sunday, February 6th, 2005

Dave!Oh you just know the day is going to be crap when you get off to a really bad start. But first, a short tale as to how I came to be where I am now...

Because I knew I was going to be in Cologne for only six hours, I decided to book a hotel near the airport that had shuttle service. I didn't really mind how much of a dump it was, the only thing I cared about was that it had a shuttle bus. So, when I saw this "Quality Inn: Cologne Airport Hotel" among my choices at Expedia.com...

Amenities

... that's all I needed to know, and I booked a room.

Except that the hotel is nowhere near the airport and does not provide complimentary shuttle service ("we don't have bus... call taxi"). The fact that I had to pay 20 Euro for a taxi to get there nearly caused me to explode with rage. Infuriated that Expedia could provide such blatantly false information, I fired off an email to customer service and got this as a reply:

"Expedia.com acts as an intermediary for hotel reservations. All information found on our site is maintained by the individual property. We solely rely on the information they provide us."

Well how lovely is that? So If I list my apartment as a five-star resort complete with swimming pool, spa, beach club, and gourmet restaurant, does that mean I can rent out the hide-a-bed in my sofa as a hotel room on Expedia (even though the closest thing I have to a swimming pool is my bathtub?). I find it reprehensible that Expedia disavows all responsibility in their listings, and will start dealing with hotels directly from now on.

The really shitty part of the deal is this: for that kind of taxi fare I could have been staying in the actual city instead of in the middle of nowhere. It's really too bad, because I would have much rather eaten dinner at the Hard Rock instead of the mini mart at the Shell gas station across the street.

Anyway, In order to get to the airport on time, I have to wake up at 4:00am so I can get a taxi and be there by 5:00am (another 20 Euro down the toilet). I woke up shortly before then, chugged a Red Bull to get me moving, then started packing my things. It was then that I looked at my wristwatch and saw that it was not 4:00am... it was 2:00am. The clock in the television was wrong.

Good thing I drank that Red Bull.

After watching German television for two hours on a Red Bull buzz (or rather, American television dubbed with German translation), I'm off to the airport.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "The world isn't run by weapons anymore... or energy... or money. It's run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data."
Yesterday's Answer: Field of Dreams (1989) starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.
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Dave Approved: Bryson

Posted on Monday, February 7th, 2005

Dave!And now I am back home. Unfortunately, it was not without incident. The latch on my PowerBook somehow broke when it was run through the security checkpoint in Minneapolis. I have no idea how much it's going to cost to fix but, since I've been wanting a new laptop, perhaps this is yet another sign.

And it only goes downhill from there. When I left a week ago, the mountain passes were bare. Last night a winter storm had hit as I was driving back, making a huge snowy mess that caused the usual 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive to take just under 4 hours. Since it had rained earlier in the day, the snow was falling on ice, meaning that the roads were extraordinarily slick... cars were flung off the road left and right, and cops were everywhere trying to help out. At least twice some dumbass would blow past me at reckless speeds, only to end up in an accident down the road. Idiots. I didn't even bother to stop, because 1) nothing looked serious... just morons stuck in a ditch, 2) it's their own stupid fault that they think 4-wheel drive makes them immune to icy roads, 3) I don't have a winch, so all I could do is laugh at them for being so stupidly careless, and 4) there were so many snowplows and cops out that they can deal with it, because that's what they are paid for.

I just don't get it. The roads are truly perilous. The snow is falling so hard that you can barely see two car-lengths ahead. You can't use high-beam lights to see where you're going because the falling snow just reflects them back in your face. And cars are being tossed all over the road, meaning you may have to stop at a moment's notice. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DRIVE AT RECKLESS SPEEDS?!? Seriously, I never drove over 35 miles per hour and barely made it home in one piece, especially considering my nerves were shot having to stare at this for four hours...

Snow Drive

That's a car coming the opposite direction that's run off the road and appears to be hung up on a guard rail there on the left.

The night was finally made complete when I got home and noticed that the TSA had also busted the zipper pull on my suitcase. That's sucks ass because it's less than a year old! Sure I had a lock on it, but it was a TSA-approved lock!! Oh well, I guess if I can't repair it, I'll be buying a new suitcase in addition to a new PowerBook.

The one bright spot in the entire 19-hour ordeal of taxis, flights, layovers, and driving was a book I found at Amsterdam Schipol International Airport, called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson...

Bryson

I've never heard of the author before, but apparently he is well-known in the U.K. (where he lives now, though he was born in the US). He has a witty and engaging way of writing about him that I haven't seen in a long time... almost Douglas Adams-esque in a way.

Anyway, this wholly remarkable book tells the history of the universe and the scientific discoveries that have led us to understanding everything from the Big Bang and the formation of the earth, all the way up to atoms, molecules, cells, and the evolution of life itself. All presented in a relatively approachable manner that makes it tangible and understandable. I think even Creationists can appreciate the book from a historical perspective, as the stories of how things were discovered (whether you believe in them or not) are almost as compelling as the discoveries themselves. Very sweet. Now I'm going to order up some of his other books at the library.

   

Tennessee

Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Dave!And now I'm off to Tennessee... I'll be sure to say hello to Elvis for you.

And with that, Dave has left the building.


   

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I'm a little black woman... in a big silver box!"
Yesterday's Answer: Zoolander (2001) with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell.
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Class

Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2005

Dave!Back when I was a casual traveler, I often thought that flying First Class would be a utopia of flowing champagne, in-flight manicures, world-class dining, and non-stop entertainment. But, as is so often the case, such a fantasy was not to be.

This is not to say it's not better at the front of the plane... the additional leg-room and extra space alone is worth flying First Class. And sure, there are other benefits, including better food, never-ending drinks, all-you-can-eat snacks, and more attentive service. But when it comes right down to it, First Class is not all it's cracked up to be. How can that be?

Because there is so little "class" in First Class.

And to explain this, I will have to dispel a common myth... the misconception that people in the First Class cabin pay for their First Class tickets. This is rarely the case. Most people sitting in those big, comfy seats did not pay the ridiculous "F" fare, but were instead upgraded to First Class. There are many, many ways to get upgraded, but the most common is because you are a good customer. You fly lots and lots of miles with an airline, and so they reward you with First Class upgrades and other perks to keep your business and keep you flying.

And because I fly quite a lot I am pretty much assured of getting upgraded on any domestic flight, and have learned some tricks as to which days and what times to fly that will almost guarantee it. For international flights, I can sometimes pick a fare that will allow me to use my "mileage" to upgrade, but usually upgradable fares are far outside of my budget. In any event, I've got a narrow ass that fits just fine in those tiny coach seats and can easily ignore the world around me, so getting upgraded is not something I obsess about. It's nice if it happens, but I'm not devastated when it doesn't.

But my "no-care attitude" is exceedingly rare among the frequent business traveller. I have seen passengers screaming at the gate agent because they can't get an upgrade. I have seen passengers actually re-book their flight if an upgrade didn't come through. In fifteen years of constant travel, I have seen it all: drunks, drugs, sex, fights, fire, yelling, screaming, singing, praying, crying, barfing, bleeding, evacuations, medical crises, emergency landings, prisoner transfers, and even a food fight. But all of that pales in comparison to a frequent flier not getting an upgrade. And the horror doesn't stop once they've gotten it.

Which brings me (finally) to my point. The most disappointing things that occur in-flight, always seem to happen to me while flying First Class, because there are just entirely too many assholes up there. Not everybody, of course, but there always seems to be one or two of them that just make me wish I could run to the back of the plane and hide out amongst the huddled masses in coach.

Today was such a day. This arrogant, obnoxious, disgusting pig of a passenger sat two rows ahead of me and was about as bad as it gets. No rules applied to him. HE got to bring extra luggage onboard (including a huge roller bag, a stuffed garment bag, and an enormous brief case). HE got to take up an ENTIRE OVERHEAD BIN with his shit. HE needed his Jack Daniels and Soda immediately. HE demanded they take his jacket ahead of everybody else. HE wanted to trade meals because the chicken was "unacceptable." HE can talk on his mobile phone during take-off and landing. HE could use his computer when electronic devices were no longer allowed... It was an entire flight of ludicrous demands and abusive demeanor that made me want to get up and stab him in the neck with my fork. If I had to sit next to the insufferable bastard, I'm sure I would have.

And all I can do is think back to those long-ago days where I would sit in my tiny coach seat, dreaming of a life of class and elegance behind that magical curtain at the front of the plane. Too bad reality had to come along and f#@% it all up.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "My friend says if you were any more handsome it would be a crime. It's a shame you're such an asshole."
Yesterday's Answer: Jumping Jack Flash (1986) with Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Collins.
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Day One: Memphis

Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2005

Dave!I end up in Memphis quite a lot, but usually just to change planes. I haven't been to the city proper in almost five years. I can't think of a really good reason for that except to say that I'm don't have work in the area very often. But come Monday, I do indeed have some work to attend to, so here I am.

And since Monday is a work holiday for me ("President's Day"), I decided to trade it out for today so I could come in early and take a drive down to the Florida Panhandle. Or, more specifically, the city of Destin, where a new Hard Rock Cafe opened up a while back.

I am planning on leaving at 7:00 in the morning for the nine-hour drive down. But right now I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking about how my crappy airport hotel doesn't have a restaurant nearby, or even a vending machine available. I always like to go to bed a little bit hungry, but not starving. Something tells me this is going to be a long night.

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Day Two: Memphis-Destin-Birmingham.

Posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Dave!When I woke up, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire day driving. Some vacation. But I was already committed to the trip, so it was off to the Hertz Rent-A-Car desk to pick up my ride. As usual, they decided to reward my "Gold Club" membership with a "car upgrade" from a nice compact Mazda to a massive Buick LeSabre. I know they think that they are being nice, but I HATE it when they do this! If I wanted a big-ass Buick, I would have ordered one! Not only am I uncomfortable in larger cars, I will be driving over a thousand miles, and would rather have a more fuel efficient model automobile. But I don't have time to argue with Hertz, so I pack up this gigantic beast of a car and take off. And check out that license plate, I'm a Texan now...

Buick LeSabre

The drive to the Florida Panhandle was largely uneventful. Central Mississippi is pretty sparse along highway 55, with the exception of Jackson, so there's just not a lot to do along the way. There used to be the Hard Rock Beach Club out in Choctaw, but it has recently closed, leaving me with nothing but mile after mile of asphalt. About the hardest part of the entire drive through the state was at the very end when I had to make the decision to turn left and head to Mobile then onward to Destin... or turn right and head to New Orleans. Since New Orleans is one of my most favorite cities in the USA, you can understand my dilemma. But I had been to The Big Easy not so long ago, so Alabama it was.

But first I needed to stop for gas. I saw a billboard that said "EASY ACCESS" and "CLEAN RESTROOMS" with the "CLEAN" part underlined, so I figured that must be the place for me. Holy crap! If these were CLEAN restrooms, I shudder to think what a dirty restroom must look like...

Clean Sink

Scary. I think I ran back to the car.

Now, unlike most times when you move from state to state without even realizing something has changed... entering Alabama is another matter entirely. The minute you cross the border, the majestic four-lane highway with a wide median in Mississippi instantly becomes a two-lane country road with no median at all. Suddenly there are Baptist churches popping up every five minutes. You start to see homemade billboards that say "JESUS IS LORD" and businesses with signs proclaiming "IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE, DON'T BOTHER STOPPING." Welcome to the deep, deep South.

Anyway, pretty soon I was in Mobile, then crossing into Florida, so I was making good time and all was well. After eating a late lunch at the Hard Rock and walking along a beach so white that it looked like snow instead of sand, I turned back toward Tennessee and made it as far as Birmingham (802 miles total)...

Alabama

And tomorrow I am back to Tennessee for a trip into Gatlinburg to visit the only Hard Rock Cafe in the world with a wedding chapel attached, then onward to Nashville... a mere 518 miles, hah!

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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: Nashville-Memphis

Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2005

Dave!Apparently, the rain gods were not done with me yet. In the morning I took a walk to get some photos and it was overcast but nothing serious. An hour later when I checked out of the Wyndham, it was pouring buckets once again. Fortunately, by the time I was an hour out, the skies cleared up.

Now that I've come full-circle, my odometer is telling me I put a total of 1558 miles in...

Tennessee

My work wasn't starting until 1:00, which gave me plenty of time to stop by Germantown on my way into the city. This suburb of Memphis is infamous for the Apple Store sign fiasco a while back. If you've ever visited an Apple Store, you know that the only signage is a giant glowing Apple logo. Well, that's a double strike-out, because 1)You can't use food items in Germantown signage, including an apple and 2)You cannot have any self-illuminating signs either. It was eventually all worked out, but the store opening was delayed an entire month while the debate raged on...

Apple Memphis

The reason I stopped was to see if I could get some kind of deal on a new PowerBook, but there was no deal to be had. That's kind of a shame, because I would have purchased one on the spot if they had only offered to pop in some extra RAM or something. I guess Apple being Apple doesn't feel the need to deal. Oh well, when I can managed to scrape some money together, I'll just order one online. I sure hope they've improved the durability of the latch in the newer models.

Work finished early, which means I was able to change my flight to go home tomorrow instead of Wednesday, which is kind of nice. One more extra day at home before I have to ship out again. With my reservations changed, it's off to the Hard Rock for an early dinner, then onward to the lobby of the Peabody to have a drink and visit the ducks...

Peabody Ducks

The Peabody is yet another landmark historic hotel that I enjoy quite a lot. On top of that, there's ducks, of course. Legend has it that manager of the hotel had a drunken inspiration to release his live decoy ducks into the lobby fountain. That was in 1931, and there are still ducks there today. In fact, now it's a daily ritual where red carpet is rolled out and the ducks descend in their private elevator from their penthouse retreat every morning at 11:00am, then return via the red carpet treatment at 5:00pm after playing in the fountain all afternoon. It's an amazing site, with band music, a Duck Master leader, and an entire lobby full of people cheering on a bunch of waterfowl. Good times.

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Driving

Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Dave!The thrill of getting to come home a day early was slightly overshadowed by my hotel stay last night... whoever was in the room next to mine decided to smoke some harsh drugs of some kind, which filtered into my room throughout the evening. It was a non-smoking room, but I guess when you decide to do drugs, you've pretty much already thrown caution to the wind and laughed in the face of authority. I debated whether I wanted switch rooms, but as it got later and later, I finally just decided to stick it out and not go through the extra trouble.

As it ends up, that was stupid. Because when I woke up I found that I had a sore throat from the fumes.

When I got to the airport this morning, the check-in attendant apologized up and down that there wasn't an upgrade available to me, but when I got my boarding pass it was a First Class seat. Luckily, this time there wasn't an incident with any First Class assholes, so it was a pleasant trip home. I had some episodes of the TV show House on my laptop, so the time just flew by (so to speak). While I enjoy the show, every episode seems the same. Somebody gets sick with a mystery illness that nobody understands. They try something, it doesn't work. They try something else and make things even worse. Then, just before the patient is going to die, they miraculously figure out a cure. It's formulaic and gets tiring.

Anyway, now I'm back home for a few days. In going through my photos from my short trip just now, I found one I thought was kind of funny:

Safe Driver

It's not that I wanted to call and report him for being a bad driver, his driving was fine, it's just funny that the driver is so paranoid about people reporting him that he felt the need to put duct tape over the number.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Well, like they say in your century, I don't even have your telephone number!"
Yesterday's Answer: Nurse Betty (2000) with Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, and Chris Rock.
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Pack

Posted on Sunday, February 27th, 2005

Dave!It's a perfectly lovely afternoon for breaking out my motorcycle. Which, of course, means that I must be flying out today. Granted I'm only gone until Wednesday but, given my luck, there will be snowstorms breaking the minute I'm back home (with a foot of snow on the ground). It's not that I'm pessimistic, it's just that I've been set up for disappointment far too often when it comes to the weather.

I suppose I should pack my suitcase. And make my rental car reservations. And load a new playlist onto my iPod Shuffle. And eat some lunch. Or maybe I should just forget it all and go back to bed.

Bah. I hope I have enough clean underwear for the trip.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "We have pictures of you so-called mooners... and just because the pictures aren't of your faces doesn't mean we can't identify you."
Yesterday's Answer: South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut (1999) with Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny.
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Off

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2005

Dave!Things that are pissing me off right this minute...

Delayed: Naturally, my layover in Seattle for the flight to San Francisco was delayed. On-time departures are becoming exceeding rare now-a-days, and it has me seriously reconsidering air travel. To drive to San Francisco takes 12 hours. To fly here today (including all the time for transfers, security, and all the rest) took 10 hours. And it's not as if I am any less exhausted from flying than I would have been driving... they suck equally considering out of all that time, the flight from Wenatchee to Seattle is 40 minutes, and the flight from Seattle to San Francisco is 1-1/2 hours. And it doesn't help that Alaska Airline's connection schedule out of Wenatchee is pretty terrible in the first place.

Labels: The first blog entry I read this morning is from Patrick, which refers to a CNN article about how music labels are wanting to increase the cost of digital downloads so that they can make more money. What a bunch of monkey-spanking asshats! AT 99¢, DIGITAL DOWNLOADS ARE ALREADY TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE!! For example... to buy a CD of John Mayer's Heavier Things from Amazon costs $9.99 which is fine if you want a disposable piece of plastic that will clutter up our landfills once you've ripped it. To buy Heavier Things from iTunes Music Store costs $9.90... which seems pricey given that there was NO CD PRODUCED!! Digital music should be CHEAPER than CDs, and now dumbass music companies want to charge MORE?!? I can tell you right now that the minute it costs more to purchase digitally than it does to purchase a CD, I am STEALING EVERY f#@%ING SONG I WANT... WITH NO GUILT WHAT-SO-EVER!! If music labels think that punishing people who want to buy music legally is the way to increase profits, let's see how they feel when everybody is finally tired of their bullshit corporate greed and NOBODY buys music legally. Perhaps then musical artists will figure out a way to release their music WITHOUT dumbass record labels and we'll be rid of the label-system once and for all.

Verizon: Just found out that Verizon accidentally cancelled my DSL installation and has rescheduled it AGAIN... this time for MARCH 9th!! Good thing I signed up for one-month of dial-up service, because they've got their heads so far up their asses in coordinating between what is happening between the sales/service/disconnect/connect departments that I may NEVER get a hook-up.

Access: It used to be that I got pissed off when a hotel didn't have high-speed internet access available. Now that everybody seems to be getting it, I only seem to get pissed when they want to charge for using it. I am currently staying in the beautiful Westin Millbrae at San Francisco International Airport. It's home of the magnificent "Heavenly Bed" which makes me love Westin hotels so much, and gives the chain an edge when I have to decide where I am staying. Except they charge $11.95 a day for internet access, which sucks ass. I am of the feeling that internet is like running water and electricity... it is a necessary part of a hotel stay, and should be included with the room. From now on, I don't give a shit if my "Heavenly Bed" comes complete with a happy-ending full-body massage, so long as Westin charges for internet access, I'll be staying someplace else.

Hah: Just kidding. If Westin really did offer happy-ending full-body massages for free, not only would I not care that you had to pay for internet, I'd probably move in and never leave.

The one bit of good news is that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) has finally made it all the way to the airport! So now it's just a $5 ticket to get into the city, which is a pleasant change from the $15 it costs for an airporter bus, $35 for a taxi ride, or $40 for a car rental. Too bad it's forecast to be raining all day today.

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Golden

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2005

Dave!When you are a vegetarian in San Francisco, there is really only one thing you need in order to decide where to eat, and that would be Dave's SF Veggie Restaurant Page. This amazing resource gives you the low-down for many of the Bay Area's finest vegetarian establishments, and is updated frequently. Among the most highly recommended on Dave's list is a Chinese restaurant called "Golden Era Vegetarian Cuisine," which has amazing food that's so delicious you will never miss the meat...

Golden Era

About the only thing that could possibly be a better resource than Dave's SF Veggie Restaurant Page for hunting down veggie cuisine in the city is Dave himself...

Dave

After a truly amazing meal of Pot Stickers, Spicy "Chicken" (imitation), and Plum Lemonade, we headed off to see The Aviator, which is a terrific film. And while I haven't seen the Clint Eastwood boxing-snuff flick Million Dollar Baby, I find it difficult to believe that it could be superior to the Scorsese epic about Howard Hughes. It had just the right balance of biography and action to be constantly entertaining though, as usual, Scorsese needs a stronger editor to pare down this 3-hour film by at least a half-hour (particularly the decline of Hughes' mental state, which went on for far too long). I suppose the most surprising thing about the film was the cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio turning in a shockingly good performance that redeems his lame Titanic work. Even more amazing was Cate Blanchett's eerie rendition of Katherin Hepburn... she OWNED that role, and earned the Oscar she got (and then some). I still maintain that Sideways, while somewhat entertaining, is in nowhere near the league of The Aviator, which is truly an Oscar-worthy nomination.

Oh, and before I forget, I just want to mention something that happened while I was at Fisherman's Wharf, on my way to meet Dave for lunch. Here, take a look at this...

Fiver

See that five-dollar bill? Well that's all you need in lieu of an apology now-a-days.

While standing at the street by Pier 39 trying to figure out what bus I wanted to take, some ass-clown in an expensive suit comes out of nowhere, running for a taxi... AND KNOCKS ME COMPLETELY ON MY ASS IN THE PROCESS! He has his wallet out so, as he opens the taxi door, HE THROWS FIVE DOLLARS AT MY HEAD!! He doesn't say he's sorry. He doesn't ask if I am okay. He doesn't bother to help me up. He just throws a fiver at my head and gets in the damn taxi.

What the f#@%?!?

I don't know what makes me more disappointed... 1) That this inconsiderate, monkey-spanking ass-wipe thinks that throwing money at things is an acceptable way of dealing with a problem, or 2) That he thought I was only worth a measly $5. So now I've got a jacked-up leg that feels as though my hip has been ripped out of the socket... with which I have to make a 45-minute drive to the East Bay tomorrow morning. What is WRONG with people now-a-days? When did "sorry" turn into a $5 bill?

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SF

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2005

Dave!Between family, friends, and work... I have been to San Francisco many, many times. And because of that, I'm about all "touristed out" on all the sights and attractions here. This is actually a good thing, because it allows me to concentrate on what's really important: 1) Visiting the San Francisco Museum of Art so that I can see Diego Rivera's The Flower Carrier, which is one of my most favorite paintings of all time.... and 2) Going to Chinatown so I can get some freshly-made fortune cookies that are so good, they come very close to proving there is a higher power at work in the universe...

Fortune Cookies

Fortune Cookies

The "Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Factory" is tiny. Barely a closet off of Ross Alley, actually. There's room for only two automated cookie machines, which are run all day long, churning out hundreds (thousands?) of cookies. In the ten years I've been going there, I see the same two ladies every time. As if the fresh cookies are not enough, if you purchase a couple of bags worth (at $3 each), they'll toss some of the ruined (unfolded) cookies in your bag... STILL WARM! There is very little that can compare to a deliciously crispy fortune cookie when it's hot off the griddle.

The forecast said it was going to rain all day today, but the weather was absolutely brilliant. Beautiful blue skies and crisp air all around. I took advantage of the day to visit the new Apple Store, then head down to the wharf so I could see if there were any interesting new pins at the Hard Rock Cafe there...

Apple

TransAmerica

Wharf Crab

Yeah, that crab-thing at Pier 39 really freaks me out too. Anyway, it was about as perfect a day as you can get in the City By The Bay, which is very sweet indeed!

   

Dollar

Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Dave!Last night I decided to sit down and figure out exactly where I want to go on vacation this year. The first step is checking into airfare and prices of the various places I'm interested in visiting for some reason or another. Right now that would be Greece, Australia, Scotland, Sweden, Japan, and Thailand. Airfare is not really a big deal, because I've accumulated enough frequent flier miles to handle that. The big issue is food, lodging, and transportation once I get there.

Houston, we have a problem.

Everywhere I check, the costs are outrageously expensive. Prohibitively expensive. As in "there's no way I can afford to leave the country" expensive. And it's not because things in other countries are costing more, it turns out that it's because the US Dollar is practically worthless. Take a look...

Worthless Dollar

The above graphs show the value of the US Dollar against the Euro, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollar, and British Pound. I didn't know where to start the graph, so I went ahead and picked a random date of January 20, 2001. As an odd coincidence, it's also the day that George W. Bush took office.

The graph doesn't mean much to me except A) it looks like I can't afford to vacation outside the US this year, and B) the US Dollar is going to crash any day now. Because the world revolves around me, I decided to make a new graph that shoes how Bushenomics affects Dave...

Blogography Dollar

The above graph measures Dave's Vacation Prospects, The US Dollar Value, and Toilet Paper Value. As you can see, it turns out that a roll of toilet paper is worth more than the US Dollar, and the chances of me getting to go to Australia fall somewhere in-between. It's only a matter of time before Americans figure this out, and rampant toilet paper theft starts plaguing the country. Better wipe 'em now while you still can!

Four more years of Bushenomics means that we might as well start wiping our asses with dollar bills and save the toilet paper for more important things... like making clothing and shelter.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Anyone who isn't dead or from another plane of existence would do well to cover their ears right about now!"
Yesterday's Answer: Hellboy (2004) with Ron Perlman and Selma Blair.
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Utah Day 1: Flight

Posted on Sunday, May 15th, 2005

Dave!The Dave struts confidently down the newly remodeled concourse of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He is the picture of sweet styling and high fashion because he is wearing a classy Blogography Logo T-shirt. As a seasoned world-traveler, The Dave has seen it all. He's done it all. He knows it all. There will be no surprises on this trip. How could there be? It's a ridiculously short 2-hour flight to Salt Lake City! The world is but a playground for The Dave's jet-set lifestyle. Knowing this, The Dave turns boldly into the restroom...

And is immediately greeted by a guy shaving his chest over the sink with an electric razor.

Knowing The Dave as you do, what happens next?

  • A) The Dave runs screaming from the bathroom, horrified that THIS is how he is starting his morning.
  • B) The Dave whips out his "Lady Soft-Touch" razor and starts to shave his own chest next to this prissy bitch.
  • C) The Dave checks the bathroom stalls to see if the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy "Fab Five" are somehow behind this.
  • D) The Dave offers some helpful advice and says "you missed a spot on your back."
  • E) The Dave strikes up a conversation regarding the pros and cons of waxing vs. shaving.
  • F) The Dave enters his own reality, removes the guy from his world, and proceeds as if nothing is amiss."

But, before the answer, a brief interlude: As I sit here typing this, a man is behind me screaming at the top of his lungs... "HURRY UP!" and "MOVE IT!" and" WOULD YOU RUN DAMMIT!" A minute later, a harried housewife and a teenaged girl, both in dress shoes, go running past... their high-heels making a pleasing "click click click click" on the floor tiles as they pass. Smartass that I am, I say (loudly) "somebody needs to be slapped!" Which gets a few laughs in the waiting area and "the stare of death" from this freaky moron. It's not the first time.

It's going to be one of those days. When I first arrived at the gate, the previous flight to Atlanta was just pulling out as a man came running up. Apparently, he expected that they would call the plane back to the gate, and was quite put-out when they did not... throwing his duffle bag at the electronic ticket-taker. It never fails. Everybody seems to think that they are so important that an entire flight of people should have to wait on their tardy asses. His excuse? THE SECURITY LINES WERE LONG AND IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET THROUGH!!! Yes sir, that's why they recommend you arrive 90-minutes before your flight. Dumbass.

Anyway, the correct answer is "F" - yes, "F" is the answer. A guy shaving his chest in a public restroom is entirely too scary for me to acknowledge... especially this early in the day. Besides, I couldn't get my "Lady Soft-Touch" razor through security.

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Utah Day 2: Windblown Chaos

Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2005

Dave!High winds and torrential rains are causing chaos in the streets of Salt Lake City tonight. A good chunk of the city is without power. Entire stretches of traffic lights are out downtown, seemingly at random. My hotel is very lucky to have power, but the television is out. Sirens can be heard screaming through the night at regular intervals. The end is near.

I just came back from a 15-minute trip to the business center so I could use the printer, and there was a continuous stream of people calling and stopping by to see if rooms were available. Since the hotel next-door is without power and this hotel got the overflow, no rooms are to be had. I feel just a little bit guilty.

And here's a helpful hint to people who may not know what to do in this situation: When a traffic signal has gone out, the intersection becomes an all-way stop. Each car comes up to the intersection, stops, and then everybody takes turns proceeding through the intersection on a first-come, first-serve basis. YOU DO NOT JUST RIP THROUGH AN UNCONTROLLED INTERSECTION AT FULL SPEED, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE STUPID. S-T-U-P-I-D!! The car ahead of me was nearly totaled by some ass-clown in a charcoal-gray S.U.V. who was apparently oblivious to this handy tidbit of knowledge. RTFM, idiot, because it's the LAW.

Where is Judge Dredd when you really need him?

Ah well. I am out of here tomorrow morning anyway... electricity or not.

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Utah Day 3: Goblin Valley

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

Dave!Woo hoo! Vacation-time baby! There are indeed benefits to working through the night... especially when it means that it gives me an extra day to goof off in Utah. And let me tell you, there is a lot of places to be goofing around in this state. I drug my lazy ass out of bed at 7:00am (after a blissful five hours of sleep) so I could hit the road early. All because I wanted to see "Goblin Valley" which is supposed to be a really cool place.

And it is.

The entire valley is filled with interesting lumps of rock just begging to be explored. It's kind of like a giant field of mushrooms, except the mushrooms in question are fifty feet tall, made of stone, and probably don't taste that great in a spaghetti sauce...

Goblinvalley1

When I hiked down inside the valley, some bitchy woman was bitching to her equally bitchy husband saying "THIS IS STUPID! I DON'T SEE ANY GOBLINS!! WHY DO THEY CALL IT GOBLIN VALLEY??" I'd imagine that is because the skanky ho only sees this...

Goblinvalley2

Whereas I was seeing something entirely different when I looked at the same scenery. Goblins everywhere I looked. Hundreds of them...

Goblinvalley3

When people tell me that I act like a child, I am never offended. It just means I get to look at the world in a much cooler way than everybody else my age. Sometimes it really is good to be me.

   

Utah Day 4: Lake Powell

Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Dave!GAAAH! I am completely without the world today. NO internet. NO mobile phone reception. NO newspaper. And only a tiny 13-inch television with four channels to let me know that there is life outside of my small corner of Utah. I guess I should have posted yesterday's blog entry when I had the chance?

I am currently in lovely Bullfrog Bay on the shores of Lake Powell. Except it really isn't a lake... it's just a big canyon full of water that flooded in when they built a huge dam down-river. Some friends asked me to meet them here so we could go boating around the inlets and see some cool stuff. Apparently, the water level is the lowest it has been in a very, very long time, so you can see things that are normally buried under water.

Like this tree, for instance...

Lake Powell

If you look at the cliffs, you can see where the water-line usually is, because the rocks have been bleached. Only the red rocks are supposed to be showing above the water, or so I am told. That would mean that this tree is usually under about 80 feet of water, and hasn't seen daylight in 40 years. I wonder how come it hasn't completely rotted through? You can't help but feel sorry for the poor guy. He was just minding his own business, when some asshole comes along and builds a dam, then suddenly he's underwater thinking WTF?

And here is a boat that sunk years ago...

Lake Powell

Yeah, I know that it seems to have ran aground and crashed into the shore, but it didn't. That's because the shore usually isn't anywhere near here. It just so happens that the water level is so low that it looks that way. If you examine the rocks carefully, you will see that the water-line is usually way, way back there. No sign of Gilligan or The Skipper.

But the best part is cruising into these little grottos that usually don't even exist because they're buried underwater. Some really funky shadow-and-light stuff can be found that takes your breath away...

Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Except now I'm sunburned and tired and have a five-hour drive ahead of me later today. Bleh.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I'm a killer. A murdering bastard... you know that. And there are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1999) with Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah.

   

Utah Day 5: Dumbasses of Zion

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Dave!Apparently, ever-escalating gas prices are not deterring people from traveling to our National Parks. It's not even Memorial Day yet, and Zion is filled with people. I cannot fathom what it will be like in another week. I suppose I should just count my blessings and be happy I am here in the first place. After all, many people will never get to see stuff like this.

But where there are people, there are dumbasses. And where there are a LOT of people, you are guaranteed a LOT of dumbasses.

And I'm not just talking about the obvious morons... the ones who stop right in the middle of the trail rather than stepping to the side so as not to block traffic... the ones who continuously state the obvious (like "wow, that's a big rock!" and "look, it's a tree!")... and all the rest... no, I am talking about the "truly gifted dumbasses" who make you long for the day it becomes legal to shoot people for being stupid.

For example, I am walking along, actually bothering to look around me (unlike most people who practically run to the intended destination), when I spot a deer just a few feet away from me. I take a minute to compose my shot and look for the best angle...

Zion

And then took a couple of quick shots just for fun...

Zion

Then I notice an elderly couple with their cameras ready, so I quietly step out and whisper "let me get out of your way" as the old guy says "that's okay, I don't think he's going anywhere" with a chuckle. And then, rounding the corner comes the queen of dumbasses...

Loud-mouthed bitch: WHAT'S THIS? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? OH IT'S A DEE-AH!

She sounds like a cross between Gladys Cravits on Bewitched and Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld and every bit as annoying...

Loud-mouthed bitch: EVERYBODY HURRY UP OR YOU'RE GOING TO MISS THE DEE-AH!! HURRY EVERYBODY... IT'S A DEE-AH RIGHT HERE!!! GET YOUR CAMERA!

Well, needless to say, the deer immediately bolted and the guy who was patiently waiting never got his shot. When the stupid bitch's friends caught up, she had to tell them that the deer ran away, to which I added "yeah, because you started screaming and scared it away." She then had to tell me I was a "rude boy" which was so funny in its irony that I just laughed in her face.

Not ten minutes later, I saw a squirrel and was going to attempt to sneak a shot of the little speed demon. But then a pair of dumbasses came along with their walking sticks that apparently double as noise-makers echoing through the canyon... TAP TAP TAP! TAPPITY TAP TAP TAP! TAPITTY TAPITTY TAP!! What a couple of f#@%ers! "THANKS A LOT" I say. "Duuuuhhh... whut!" they respond. Of course, they don't even realize they are total dumbasses. They never do. This is the best I could get as the squirrel ran away...

Zion

And, speaking of squirrels, these signs are posted all over the park, and I couldn't help but wonder about it from the squirrel's perspective...

Zion

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I signed that release waiver... so you can just feel free to stick things in my slot!"
Yesterday's Answer: Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) with Uma Thurman and David Carradine.
Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  7 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Utah Day 5: Afraid in Zion

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Dave!Zion National Park is pretty nifty... if you are not afraid of heights. But, for those of us who DO have problems with heights, it's not the best place to be (Bryce is even more spectacular, has easier access to the sights, and doesn't involve clinging to the side of a mountain to see them). With that in mind, I had a nice day at the park, but really didn't get to see it the way it was meant to be seen.

The conversations pretty much go like this...

Guy: Oh dude! Zion rocks! You've GOT to do the "Angel's Landing" hike... it will blow your mind!

Me: Cool! Thanks, I'll definitely look into that.

Guy: Just be sure you've got a good pair of boots. Oh... you're not afraid of heights are you?

Me: Yes. Terrified of heights.

Guy: Ah. Well there's a walk along the river that's kind of nice...

And so it goes. Everything that looks really cool on the Zion trail map has a little icon next to it of a man slipping on the edge of a cliff and the words "WARNING: STEEP CLIFFS" emblazoned on it. Uhhh... no thank you. If I were to even attempt something like that, I would start sobbing like a baby and need to be sedated and physically removed from the mountain.

Oh well. There are still some pretty sights to be seen. Ansel Adams I am not, but I gave it my best shot...

Zion

Wait a second... actually, that's not too bad! Ansel Adams must just fool people into thinking he's an artistic genius because he used black & white photography. Well I can do that...

Zion2

Yeah, right. Okay, Ansel Adams actually was a genius. Probably best not to attempt a comparison like that again.

Still no sign of Neo and Morpheus.

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Utah Day 6: Kolob of the Sith

Posted on Friday, May 20th, 2005

Dave!Ah, my last day in beautiful Utah started out in Zion to watch the sun rise over the park. After that, it was all about heading North so I could get back to Salt Lake City. But, along the way, I decided to get the most out of my $20 Zion Entrance Fee and take a look at the Northwestern corner called "Kolob Canyons." It's pretty sweet, but going in the morning was a big mistake, because you have to look directly into the sun to see all the coolest scenery. That means photos are pretty much out of the question, though I did snag one that wasn't all glare...

Kolob

Once back in SLC, I decided to go watch Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith in a decent theater. After reading all the rave reviews, I was really, really looking forward to it. Well, now that I've seen it, I have one thing to say...

George Lucas should never be allowed to write or direct ever again.

Ever.

George Lucas sucks so much ass as a filmmaker NOW that I find it impossible to believe that he was responsible for films like American Graffiti and the original Star Wars THEN. He is an embarrassment to himself and his profession. His once brilliant talent has been pissed away to depths impossible to fathom twenty years ago.

Revenge of the Sith was indeed better than the first two prequels... but that wasn't hard to do. Both Episodes I and II were tragically bad. Horrendously, praying-for-death bad. Lucas had nowhere to go BUT up. That he managed to do so just shows he at least has the smarts to hire some very talented people to save his hack ass. In the grand scheme of the Star Wars universe, I'd probably rate them like this...

Star Wars Ranking

And before you decide to attack me because you think that Revenge of the Sith is the coolest movie you've ever seen... think about it for a second. What was so cool about it? The awesome space battles? The mind-blowing special effects? The stunning settings? The kick-ass light-saber fights? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But Lucas didn't do any of that shit. Industrial Light and Magic created all of that. Let's take a look at what Lucas WAS responsible for... horrible, cheesy dialog that is so bad that I was visibly wincing as phrases like "it is your love that makes me beautiful" stank up the screen. He's also responsible for getting crap performances out of otherwise incredible actors. Does he even bother to actually DIRECT his characters? You can tell they're trying, but there's simply too many scenes where they wander through like zombies spouting all that f#@%ed-up dialogue.

But what I loathe most of all is that Lucas excels at drawing you into these fantastic worlds, only to sabotage himself with stupid, unforgivable shit. A fantastic scenes of Wookies on the rampage has me totally engrossed... until it's f#@%ed up by a Wookie doing the "Tarzan yell" as he swings through the jungle. WTF?!? Congratulations you dumbass, you've just shattered the illusion you worked so hard to create. But it's nothing new... Lucas is ALWAYS destroying scenes with childish bullshit like burps and farts. He defends himself by saying that these movies are written for kids... but kids from WHEN? The 1960's when this kind of idiotic, juvenile behavior was actually funny? Now it's not just lame, it's stupid.

Despite all of that, I must admit to having a good time at the movie. If you can ignore the dialogue and acting, it's a Sci-Fi lover's dream come true to finally see the birth of Darth Vader... those epic space battles... all those geeky touches (was that the Millenium Falcon?)... it's the first movie since Empire Strikes Back that actually feels like Star Wars again. I just can't help but wonder how amazing this film could have been had Lucas done the right thing and passed the dialogue writing and directing to more capable hands.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "No... I am your father."
Yesterday's Answer: Charlie's Angels (2000) with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore.
Categories: Movies 2005, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  18 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Utah Day 7: Stuck in Seattle

Posted on Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Dave!Thanks to heinous flight connections between Delta and Horizon Airlines, I am stuck in Seattle with a three-hour layover. The good news is that they've got Wayport WiFi on the "C Concourse" in addition to the crappy Cingular service (which I have never been able to access even once). This is good news, as it allows me to sync all the work I've been doing for the past week to the office so it can be awaiting me Sunday morning. Yay.

While I sit here watching the FTP transfer, I might as well clean house from the past week...

Mobile: Some bitch is screeching into her mobile phone across the lounge from me. I am concentrating really, really hard to make her head explode, all to no avail. She is a perfectly deplorable specimen of womanhood... sitting there with her legs all spread out like a dog in heat. I can only guess that it's to accommodate the huge set of balls it takes to be so astoundingly rude and uncaring as to the comfort of others. If there is a lawyer reading this... exactly how much trouble could I get into if I were to just get up, walk across the room, grab her phone, throw it on the floor and stomp on it, then bitch-slap her gum-smacking face so hard her teeth rattle?

Sith: The topic du-jour everywhere I go is Revenge of the Sith which is interesting. The general consensus seems to be "I liked it a lot, but..." (then fill in the blank). Even more interesting? Everybody has something different as to what is bothering them about it. Some petty, but others profound. Some problems I had never even thought of until it was mentioned. The most intriguing aspect is that these are not sci-fi geeks... just "regular" people. I guess that Star Wars is so ingrained in our culture that its something everybody has feelings for.

Q-Less: Next week's "FridayQ" will mark the meme's one-year anniversary. I have not yet decided as to whether I should carry on with it. I originally intended it as an easy way to fill up a Friday blog entry when the "Friday Five" died. But now the Friday Five is back, so I wonder if it's even necessary? I guess I've got a week to decide. Maybe somebody else would like to take it over? A warning: it's not as easy as it might sound. Oh well, suggestions are always welcome.

Shirt: If I had brought some "Bad Monkey" T-shirts with me this trip, I probably could have sold dozens of them. Quite a lot of people stopped to comment on it or ask where I got it (my favorite was the woman who said "hi there you bad monkey!" as she passed me in Goblin Valley, then started laughing hysterically). I passed out the URL thinking nothing would come of it, but new orders keep showing up every day. I am going to have to order more shirts when I get back, though I was hoping to wait until the new designs were voted on.

Pod: In looking around me, everybody seems to have an iPod with them. And yet, the Apple Death Watch doomsayers are still saying Apple will go under any minute now? What does Apple have to do in order to get these people to shut the f#@% up? Obviously a wildly successful line of products and overwhelming market share in the digital music player market is not enough.

Firearm: Oh terrific, yet another screeching bitch is on her mobile phone in the next row. I need a gun. And a beer. Many beers.

Booked: My files have all been uploaded, and now I am signing off so I can get back to reading a book I picked up in Salt Lake called Just One Look by Harlan Coben. Apparently, he is quite the famous author, but I have never heard of him before. I like the book quite a lot (so far) and will definitely be checking out his 11 others once I've finished it.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I don't feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom... just my enemies."
Yesterday's Answer: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.
Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  8 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Deluge

Posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

Dave!Seattle is famous for its rain, which is only partially correct. The city does get its fair share, but there are many days of clear blue skies and sunshine too.

But today is not one of those days.

Today the heavens decided to split open and dump a deluge of water on the downtown city streets. It is not a pretty site, and people have vacated the sidewalks to escape the flood. I tried to photograph the chaos as thunder was booming above, but the rain was so dense all you could see was a blur. After waiting a bit for the rain to lessen, I finally managed to take a photo down 1st Street in Pioneer Square...

Rain

If you look carefully, you can see the rain still streaking through the shot. Kind of strange that just last week Seattle was suffering through record high temperatures.

I am tired to the point of collapse, so it's off to bed for me... if you are looking for a bit of entertainment, you might want to check out Maddox's review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which is pretty harsh (but very funny).

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Jackie Brown (1999) with Pam Grier and Robert Forster.
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Access

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Dave!I am one of those people who believes that complimentary internet access should be included with every hotel room... kind of like a toilet, bed, and those little bottles of shampoo. Nothing pisses me off faster than having to pay an additional charge for internet after already having paid through the ass for a room.

But there is something worse... paying for SHITTY internet access.

Such is the case for the newly remodeled Vance Hotel in Seattle. They use "Eleven Wireless" as their paid provider. Eleven Wireless sucks ass. Primarily because you have to pay $10.95 a day to use it. But on top of that you have to create an account that expires at the end of the day AND CANNOT BE EXTENDED!! Oh no... you have to create ANOTHER account on the second day. Then another on the next, and so on. What's the f#@%ing point in creating a f#@%ing account if you can't f#@%ing buy more time to f#@%ing add to it? Dumbasses. As if that weren't enough, half the time pages don't come through, so you have to push the "reload" button two and three times to see anything.

Bah!

While eating dinner at the ever-excellent Il Fornio restaurant tonight, I had the grave misfortune of spattering tomato sauce from my fabulous Cappellacci Di Zucca on my Bad Monkey T-shirt. Ordinarily, this would not be a big deal, as I have twenty more back home. But this one is my favorite because it's been washed a dozen times and has reached that comfy-soft stage that's so prized by T-shirt connoisseurs. As you might guess, tomato sauce is next to impossible to get out, so I just resigned myself to the fact that the shirt was probably a goner. But when I got back to my hotel room, I remembered I had these little "Oxi-Clean" stain sheet packs in my bag.

Miracle of miracles... the stuff actually works! With a little patience, the stain eventually disappeared, and my shirt is as good as new. NOTE TO SELF: buy more Oxi-Clean travel packs when I get back home, and stick them in my backpack, my desk drawer, and my glove box. No telling how many pieces of clothing I could have saved over the years if I had these little suckers available (or if I weren't such a sloppy eater).

Now, if you will excuse me, NBC has The Eagles "Farewell 1 Tour" running. It's not like that's something you can pass up watching.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I've fought many wars in my time... some I've fought for land, some for power, some for glory. I suppose fighting for love makes more sense than all the rest."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Gladiator (1999) with Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix.
Categories: Food 2005, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  5 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Noise

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Dave!It's pushing midnight in the Emerald City and I just had to change hotel rooms.

What kind of total ass-bag, sack-licking tool decides to throw a party ON A WEEKNIGHT in a hotel room, downtown, when most of the people staying there are undoubtedly business travelers who have to... oh, I don't know... SLEEP... so they can get up and f#@%ing go to work in the morning?

I swear, one of these days somebody is going to pull this shit in the room next to mine and I am going to totally lose it. I think it will go something like this...

ME: Knock! Knock!

INCONSIDERATE NOISE-MAKING DUMBASS: Who is it?

ME: Room service.

INCONSIDERATE NOISE-MAKING DUMBASS: (while opening door) Funny. I didn't order any...

ME: (with a shotgun) BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

ME: DIE f#@%ERS! DIIIIIIIIIEEE!

And then I would do a little dance in the middle of the room after setting the bodies on fire. I am so not kidding. This is the type of crap that turns normal, every-day people into homicidal maniacs. More and more it seems that common courtesy and manners slide just a little bit further into non-existence. People only seem to care about themselves now-a-days, and don't even bother to think about how their stupidity affects others. I honestly don't know what to think about that... do I laugh, cry, or go buy that shotgun?

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Reservations

Posted on Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Dave!After spending ten hours at work on a Saturday, nothing could be more fun than spending another four hours trying to book travel reservations.

I am being sarcastic, of course.

Despite the strides made by companies like Orbitz and Expedia, making reservations still suck ass. I am attempting to book back to back to back trips for July, and nothing seems to be working out right. For example, I go to Orbitz and manage to get the flight I need at $470. Great. But when I go to actually book the f#@%ing ticket, Orbitz tells me that the fare I selected is no longer available, and it will now cost me $588. Thinking that I could do better by buying direct, I go to Northwest Airlines. But NWA tells me they don't have any flights serving my route, which is surprising considering that Orbitz was perfectly willing to sell me a fare on their airline. And it's no dice with Expedia, which comes up with some truly freaky routes that end up taking me TWO DAYS to get to the East coast!

Having no choice now, I eat the extra $118 and buy from Orbitz.

And then I try to rent a car. Orbitz finds me good rates with Alamo, but every time I click on one, it tells me the rate is unavailable and to try again (which I do... again and again and again...). Since Orbitz is hosed, I try to go direct with Alamo, but their web site is down. So then I go back to Expedia, only to find that something is messed up on their site as well (clicking a rate calls a Javascript that doesn't do anything). I tried Hertz and Dollar, but they don't have a rental counter at the airport I am flying to. Thinking it's a problem with my browser, I try again with FireFox, only to find things still don't work. Attempts at Travelocity and other sites return only ridiculously expensive fares.

So now I'm giving up and going to bed.

(and dreaming of bitch-slapping the people responsible for making simple online booking so freakin' difficult)

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I refuse to play your Chinese food mind games!"
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Monsters, Inc. (1996) with John Goodman and Billy Crystal.
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Jared

Posted on Saturday, July 9th, 2005

Dave!I've spent the last several hours attempting to organize my travel arrangements for the next two weeks. It's a good thing I did, because I forgot a rental car for Boston and a hotel in Hartford, Connecticut. Usually I don't make mistakes like this, but my overwhelming work schedule for the past several weeks made it easy to overlook things.

I just hope that I can get some sleep tonight so I can get up at 4am tomorrow morning. Argh. The good news is that if things go as planned, I'll accomplish a few nifty things next week:

  • Visit the Hard Rock Cafe at Foxwoods, which will once again allow me to claim that I've been to every Hard Rock property in the USA & Canada.
  • Finally see the beautiful Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which houses the largest collection of Monets outside of Paris.
  • Stay at The Lenox, a historic Boston hotel that has been booked solid for all my previous trips.
  • Visit a very good friend who I haven't seen in almost two years since she moved from Seattle.
  • Finally color-in the states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire on my Map of Visited States (just seven left to go after that).

Still trying to find time to work on Dave's Bad-Ass Blogography Show. I don't know why I thought this was going to be easy... because every step has been horrendously difficult. The animation alone takes hours for even the simplest things. I guess the good news is that once I get a sequence figured out, I can reuse the movements in other shows. I'm hoping this means that future episodes will come together much faster than this one.

Another major challenge is getting the cartoon likenesses for my guests to look even remotely like the actual people they're supposed to represent. I killed an hour story-boarding the sequence where that freak Jared (from those idiotic Subways commercials) appears. The segment requires building two additional sets and some challenging props, but I think it will be worth it...

Jared

I can't decide if Jared's appearance on the show is funny or cruel, but I don't really care. It's not my fault he makes those stupid-ass commercials which are so grossly misleading people. What an annoying, sack-licking Subway whore.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Debbie? Yeah, Debbie's here. Who's this? Ralph? Well Ralph, Debbie can't talk right now... my dick's in her mouth. How about I have her call you back later when I'm done?"
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: The Dish (2000) with Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton.
Categories: Tooncasting, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  6 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Tripping Day One: Seattle

Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2005

Dave!My fantasy of getting more than four hours of sleep for a long day of travel did not come to pass. This is probably a good thing, because a zombie-like state helps dramatically when trying to ignore the plethora of morons that I'm bound to encounter.

Like now. As I sit here at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, some rude bitch is screaming into her mobile phone about how horrible her vacation was. Needless to say, the rest of us here are just riveted as to the juicy details... broken shower, no hot water, not enough towels... and on and on. I try to imagine how anybody could possibly want to hear this shit, and my sympathies go out to the person on the other end of the line.

It's not all tragedy though. Whilst looking for a magazine to kill my two-hour layover, I see Elizabeth Hurley staring back at me from the cover of VEGAS...

Lizvegas

Sure it's only a one page interview, but there are four amazing shots of the most beautiful woman on the planet inside, so I don't much care. I mean, damn! Faint with hope that she is promoting a new movie or something, I race over to her entry on IMDB and see that she still doesn't have anything past Method waaayyy back in 2004. Shucky darn.

Oooh ooh! First my flight to Seattle was oversold, now my flight to Minneapolis is oversold... and somebody at the check-in counter is very, very unhappy that he doesn't have a seat yet. On one hand, I can't blame him but, on the other, he will probably get on when they release seats at the half-hour mark (and we're 45 minutes away yet). When that happens, all his crazy antics will have been for nothing, but oh well. I suppose there's no point in telling him that he wouldn't be in this predicament if he had shown up the recommended 90 minutes early instead of 45.

I keep having Japan flash backs due to my delirious state of semi-consiousness. The first time was while riding the airport subway... the automated voice-box was cycling through a few different languages as I was nodding off. Suddenly I hear Japanese, snap awake, and then see the LED signs are in Japanese as well. For a period of two seconds I am in a full-on panic wondering how I got to Japan. And in the middle of typing the previous paragraph, a Japanese tour passed through the waiting area and I was back again.

I don't know if this means I've been to Japan too many times... or not enough.

I still can't find any current news as to the state of the original London Hard Rock Cafe catching fire yesterday. BBC News hasn't updated since last night. There's a few photos on Flickr, but it's difficult to tell anything. Perhaps they'll tell us what happened on Monday?

Argh! Some idiot just sat next to me drenched in cologne... he reeks of the stuff. It burns. IT BURNS!!! I just know I'll be sitting next to his stinky ass on the plane. I'm lucky that way. Is it wrong for me to sit here and hope he has a heart attack before boarding? Probably. I am such a horrible, horrible person.

   

Tripping Day One: Minneapolis

Posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2005

Dave!I think everybody must like to people-watch. There's something fascinating about being a voyeur into a life that is not your own. Probably because curiosity is intrinsic to the human condition, so it's only natural to wonder who people are, what they do, where they are going, and why that rather large woman in a purple track suit is digging in the garbage can.

To me, even more fascinating than people-watching is watching the people-watchers.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is abuzz with activity, and a group of 5 or 6 girls across from me are soaking it all in like gravy. The beauty of it is that they are hardly discreet in their observations, so I am privy to everything they say. Most of the conversation concerns some random guy they see that they are totally ready to have sex with.

At this point, I have to interject that I am completely oblivious to what makes a guy handsome in the conventional sense. As an artist, I can admire the graceful beauty of the human body, and can extend this appreciation to the male form... but anything past that is lost on me. For example: I just don't "get" Brad Pitt. Yeah, he was buff in Troy, but I don't understand what makes him "hot" at all.

Anyway, back at the airport, I tire of these teen girl fantasies and decide to look for something else to divert my boredom.

And. There. He. Is.

A guy so perfect that I feel less a man for being in his presence. In the blink of an eye, a vagina has appeared where my penis once was. He's a Greek god in perfect mathematical proportion... he's not overly-muscled, but still looks like he could beat the shit out of anybody in the room. I guess "chiseled" would sum up his manly perfection. Dark hair, tanned skin, jutting chin, a T-shirt one-size too small that shows off abs so toned that I wonder if you truly could use it as a washboard. Here is one beautiful man.

To make myself feel better, I tell myself he is "most certainly gay" - but then have to stop thinking that for fear I was secretly hoping he was gay. Then I don't know what to think, because with a guy like this in the dating pool, no woman would ever look at mere mortals such as myself ever again.

And then his girlfriend/wife/whatever shows up. She's hot, of course. But it's hard to tell if she's actually hot... or if her hotness is just reflected glow from his radiant perfection. And just like that, I know what "handsome" is. Brad Pitt is hideous by comparison. As they leave the sitting area, I realize that he is not Greek, but Italian, as that was the language they were speaking.

Whatever.

He's probably got a 2-inch penis. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "You're not here to kill me... I figured out that for myself. So what's the deal?"
Yesterday's Answer: Ruthless People (1986) with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler.
Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  10 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Tripping Day Two: Hartford (Wisconsin)

Posted on Monday, July 11th, 2005

Dave!I have come to the conclusion that my hotel here in the heart of Wisconsin is frequented by hookers. This is partially because of the outrageous sounds that were coming (heh heh) from the room next to mine last night until 2am... but mostly because the shampoo and soap they give you smells like lavender or lilacs or some other whore-house boutique cologne.

Unfortunately, I didn't have anything else to use, so now I smell like I was with a hooker last night. Or perhaps I smell like I became a hooker last night... I can't decide. In any event, I have the definite air of a hooker about me thanks to a very poor choice made by hotel management in bathroom amenities.

Wisconsin, for lack of a better word, is "charming." Especially once you get out into the countryside. The people are exceedingly nice and friendly. So when I inquired at the front desk this morning as to whether the people from last night would be giving a repeat performance (two guys and a gal... let your mind wander with THAT for a while), it was very uncomfortable. Without giving details (seriously, you don't want to know) I asked if the "noisy room" next to mine had checked out today, or if I could get a different room. The woman was so apologetic that I thought she might cry. The good news is that they are gone... the bad news is that something very much worse could potentially move in for tonight.

If a donkey is involved, I'll be checking out.

There are down-sides to Wisconsin if you are a vegetarian, because they really like meat here. It is not uncommon to find restaurant specialties involving one meat, wrapped by a different meat, that is then stuffed in yet another meat. It's all very disturbing. If you like cheese, however, you are in luck. Wisconsin is famous for cheese, and they put it on everything (even the meat-wrapped-meat-stuffed-meat thing).

"Home cooking" is prized here, and there are many home cookin' restaurants scattered about. I rather like this idea, and eat at them whenever I can. The conversations go something like this:

DAVE: Yeah, I'm a vegetarian. Do you have anything I can eat?

WAITRESS: Why sure... we have a lovely beef stew that's filled with vegetables!

DAVE: Ah. I'll just have a grilled cheese sandwich please.

I end up eating a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches here.

The worst day of the week for me in Wisconsin is Friday. On Fridays, every restaurant has a massive fish-fry. Entire towns smell like deep-fat-fried fish, and it is not so pleasant. On Fridays, the conversations go like this:

DAVE: Yeah, I'm a vegetarian. Do you have anything I can eat?

WAITRESS: So you'll be having a baked potato with your fish then?

DAVE: Ah. I'll just have a grilled cheese sandwich please.

WAITRESS: And what kind of fish would you like on your sandwich?

It's almost as if they can't possibly conceive of anybody showing up at a restaurant on a Friday and not ordering fish. It just doesn't register.

Nope. On Fridays, it's much safer to leave home cookin' behind and eat at a place like Culvers, where I can hunker down with a huge plate of crinkle-cut fries and a caramel-cashew frozen custard. Oh so bad for you... but oh so tasty. Culvers is mostly famous for their frozen custard (which is sublime), but also for their "Butter Burgers" which I can only guess are named as such because they fry each burger in a stick of butter. If only they made Veggie Butter Burgers, I could die a happy man (mainlining cholesterol like that almost guarantees it). Oh well, I leave on Wednesday night, so I won't have to worry about it anyway.

And UNTIL Wednesday, my work has me on call 24-hours a day. I've maybe gotten a couple of hours in naps over the past 36 hours, so I am understandably buggin' right now (especially since I only got three hours the night before that). I think I'm starting to hallucinate. If this entry is totally incoherent, now you know why. Of course, this doesn't excuse every other entry I've made being incoherent, but it's nice to have an explanation once in a while.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "To kill, you must know your enemy. And in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit... ever. They're like the Viet Cong... Varmint Cong."
Yesterday's Answer: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1986) with Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Robert Patrick.
Categories: Food 2005, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  4 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Tripping Day Three: Field of Dreams

Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Dave!Today something rather odd happened... my work was pushed back a full twelve hours. Stuck out in the Wisconsin countryside with nothing to do, I decided to meet up with a friend from Illinois for a chat and then bum around Milwaukee for the day. After a late breakfast with my friend, he went back to Joliet... but I did not go to Milwaukee after all.

I went to Iowa.

Partly because I've been to Milwaukee dozens of times and have already done the stuff there I am interested in, but mostly because I wanted to visit "Field of Dreams."

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

If you've read my blog for a while, you probably already know that Field of Dreams is my favorite movie of all time. It's one of the few films I honestly believe to be flawless. There is not a single moment I would change. And since it has James Earl Jones in it, I guess that kind of pushes it "beyond perfect" in my book.

"If you build it, he will come."

The corn field where the movie was shot mostly belongs to the Lansing family of Dyersville, Iowa, though a portion of it (left field from the 3rd base-line over) belongs to a neighbor. After filming was completed, the neighbor plowed under his part of the field and re-planted. But the Lansings decided to leave their part untouched because, much to their surprise, people actually did come to see it. Lots of people... from all over the world.

To help pay for upkeep, the Lansings added a souvenir stand to the attraction so that they could sell T-Shirts, hats, postcards, and such. Unlike the movie, however, no ticket is required, and guests can look around for free.

The popularity of the attraction did not go unnoticed.

Eventually, a group of crap-weasle investment bankers struck a deal to lease the land that the neighbor had plowed under. They then restored the missing part of the baseball field, open up a competing gift shop, and cashed in on what the Lansing family had so generously begun for the film's fans. I guess the good news is that you can see the complete field now... but it sure was a lousy thing to do. Fortunately, there are signs posted so that guests know where their money is going.

While I was visiting, dozens of people came and went, which really surprised me. Even more shocking: according to the souvenir book, busy summer weekends can pull in over 3000 people. This is kind of bizarre for a movie that's approaching 20 years old.

After running the bases, buying a T-Shirt, and sending some postcards, I decided to make the most of my 7-hour round-trip and drop by the nearby city of Dubuque, Iowa to have a look. It's an interesting place, filled with an eclectic mix of building styles that range from beautiful to bizarre. One of the most unusual is the courthouse, which is a scary blend of styles that doesn't really seem to come together...

Dubuque Courthouse

Bleh. I'm tired from driving all day. A pity I have to be to work in an hour.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "The only thing we had in common was that she was from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa."
Yesterday's Answer: Caddyshack (1980) with Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.
Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  10 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Tripping Day Four: Hartford (Connecticut)

Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

Dave!I think that I might be dead. I'm too tired to know for certain. As with so many things in life, It's all Mr. Jerz's fault.

He has another podcast up, and proves that his earlier efforts were not a fluke. It doesn't matter that it's 1:30am and I haven't slept in days, I am compelled to listen. The guy has talent, and I'm not just saying that because he gives me a shout-out... and certainly not because he tears into my favorite movie ever. It's because this is one of those rare podcasters that's actually worth your valuable time. Go take a listen, and then send Jerz some encouragement so we won't have to wait two friggin' months for the next one.

Anyway, I've left Hartford (Wisconsin) for Hartford (Connecticut) and two glorious days of vacation (well, kind of... I'll still be working evenings). The journey was mostly uneventful, except 3 hours at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport without internet access...

IP Error!

Great. Some network monkey screwed the configuration, and now I have no idea what's going on in the world. For all I know, Cavan's finished a new book and Kazza's married with four kids. It's time to admit that I have a serious internet addiction.

Oh well, it was probably grossly over-priced anyway. At least my Mac PowerBook tells me WHY it's not working. The Windows-sufferers around me get no explanation, so they're all like "WTF? I got full signal!! WHY ISN'T IT WORKING?!?" I ignore their constant pestering ("IS YOUR'S WORKING? DO YOU HAVE INTERNET?") which is easy when you've got an iPod drowning them out. It's so much easier than pretending you don't understand English.

Oh crap. I forgot I'm on East Coast time, so my clock is wrong... it's not 11:30pm, it's 2:30am! How can I be so tired, and yet not be sleepy? My brain feels numb. Somebody poke it with a stick if I forget to keep breathing.

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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.

   

Tripping Day Six: New England

Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2005

Dave!The wait to see Boston's Museum of Fine Arts was actually worth it. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of their collection, particularly in Egyptian artifacts, which is magnificent. It was all I could do to tear myself away from the place after three rushed hours, and I could have easily spent the entire day there.

But alas, the rest of New England was calling, so I said a quick goodbye to my friend as she left for a meeting, and then headed northward to Kittery, Maine... then westward to Manchester, New Hampshire... continued on to Brattleboro, Vermont... and then back to where I started in Hartford, Connecticut. That's 484 miles of big fun, according to my rental car receipt. It sounds kind of impressive, until I realized that the entirety of the trip is the equivalent of driving from my home town of Cashmere, to the Tri-Cities, then to Spokane, and then back... which is not so impressive after all. Washington State is bigger than I give it credit for...

Dave Trippin

The good news is that I can now fill in a bit more of my "Visited States" map (including my trip to Iowa earlier this week)...

Dave States!

Just six more to go!. I think I will see about flying into North Dakota in September 2006, and then driving straight down through SD, NE, KS, and OK... then swerve into New Mexico on the 27th, just in time for a wedding. I could easily drive it in a couple of days, but there are some things I'd like to see along the way, so I might just plan on making a week of it. Then I can add "Visit All 50 States" to my List of Things to do Before I Die.

Tomorrow is a nothing day. My flight doesn't leave until late afternoon, and I don't have anything to do until then except stay in my hotel room and catch up on some work. Sigh. I should have kept my rental car for one more day and taken a quick trip down to New Haven. Live and learn.

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Tripping Day Seven: Hartford

Posted on Saturday, July 16th, 2005

Dave!And here I am. Stuck in Hartford, Connecticut without a car. Just sitting here watching really bad television in my hotel room. Woe is me. Life sucks.

Actually, I lie. It's pretty great.

Until they kick me out of the hotel in two hours... then I have to bum around the airport for another two-and-a-half before my flight. I hope they have wi-fi access at BDL. In the meanwhile, I have a scenario for you...

Postage

Postage

Postage

I mean seriously. Why the f#@% would you sell postcards without the means to actually send them somewhere? That IS the point is it not? Sometimes you get lucky and there's a place for stamps nearby, but that's a rare event. I try to remember to have stamps with me when I travel, but then some places selling postcards refuse to mail them for you, and so you end up having to hunt down a post box.

There should be a law that anybody selling postcards should be required to sell postage too. Furthermore, if there isn't a post box within a reasonable distance, they should be required to mail them for you as well. Is that really so unreasonable?

I should pack my suitcase. I'm finally in a situation where I don't have to wait until the last minute and can take my time. That's kind of cool. I hope nothing comes along to distract me.

Oh wait... Dora the Explorer is on TV!

   

Tripping Day Eight: Seattle

Posted on Sunday, July 17th, 2005

Dave!My flight out of Hartford BDL was delayed because the inbound flight from Detroit was late. Apparently, there was some serious weather going on there. That worked out just fine because my flight from Detroit to Seattle was delayed as well.

And this was made exponentially worse because of the drama queen at the Northwest gate counter. Actually, there were two drama queens, but one woman was so horrendous that I think she might actually qualify as a "drama whore." You'd have thought this bitch was curing cancer the way she was going on and on and on about every little thing. This is astoundingly stupid, because this type of activity only upsets the customers more than they already are. Gate agents need to stay calm, cool, and collected so that everybody feels the situation is under control. By freaking out and carrying on about things as if the world were ending, you may feel more important... but you just look like a complete tool. What an embarrassment to the truly professional gate agents that know how to handle their job.

Northwest needs to hire "Drama Monitors" that can go around the airport bitch-slapping those idiots who feel the need to add drama to their jobs when none is required.

But all that paled in comparison to the dumbass douche-bag pig-f#@%er that I had to fly home with on my last leg. He was one of those "corporate buzzword idiots" that uses words like "people networking" and "synergy" and "empowerment" when blathering on in his mobile phone about absolutely nothing. And then it wasn't enough that he had to take up the entire arm-rest... he had to stick his elbow into my seating area as well. And then, since he is obviously the most important person in the universe, he felt it was okay for him to turn on his Blackberry to try and retrieve messages during the flight (Federal regulations mean nothing to somebody whose job is Synergy Empowerment... or whatever). Whilst navigating the parking lot, I had the opportunity to run down this dumbass douche-bag pig-f#@%er, but felt I would probably have a better chance at a good night's sleep in my own bed instead of a jail cell.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "You are such a pig f#@%er, Phillip!"
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Bedazzled (2000) with Elizabeth Hurley, Elizabeth Hurley, and Elizabeth Hurley.
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Tripping Day Ten: Lancaster

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Dave!Storms on the East Coast were causing delays for most every flight into Baltimore International Airport except mine. My flight actually landed five minutes early. But this minor victory was short-lived considering that it took FORTY FRICKIN' MINUTES for BWI to get me my suitcase. I'm not positive, but I am fairly certain that this has to be a personal record. We were walking off the plane at 6:55, and luggage hit the baggage claim carousel at 7:35.

FORTY FRICKIN' MINUTES!!!

I can only guess that all of the baggage handlers were reading the new Harry Potter book, and didn't want to be interrupted until they finished the chapter they were reading.

Speaking of Harry Potter... do book stores carry any other books now? Everywhere you go, they've got Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince stacked to the rafters. Sometimes it looks as if they've got nothing else for sale, which gave me a great idea for being a smart-ass while waiting for my plane connection in Minneapolis...

PotterMania

PotterMania

PotterMania

WARNING: Workers at the book shop do NOT find this funny for some reason. It's a pity, because I thought it was darn clever!

Anyway, I am finally in Lancaster, Pennsylvania now. This city is famous for being at the heart of Amish country. The Amish lead a very admirable life, free from all our modern conveniences like electricity and the internet. I must admit that I don't know much about the Pennsylvania Dutch except what I've seen in movies and on that television reality show called "Amish in the City." On one hand, it must be nice to live a simpler life, free from the stress and hassles that modern civilization has thrust upon us. On the other hand, I'd probably kill myself out of sheer boredom. I mean, I've never churned butter before, but something tells me it's not as much fun as playing Lego Star Wars on my Xbox.

Ooog. I need some sleep. My day started at 3:30am, and it's just now midnight. Even subtracting three hours for the time zone change, that's a long day.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I just don't like my son spending all his time with a man who carries a gun and goes around whacking people!"
Two-Days-Before-Yesterday's Answer: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) with Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

   

Tripping Day Ten: Hershey

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Dave!After working in Lancaster and Harrisburg all day, I decided to do something naughty. Something I haven't done before.

With great nervousness I approached the Hershey Highway. I have never been this route before, and didn't quite know what to do. As I first entered, there was very little resistance. The route was smooth... a pleasure to drive. But then things started tensing up, and I ran into some heavy blockage. It was a real mess, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to get out of it. But I was determined, so I thrust onward down that brown-stained road*. Suddenly, all obstructions were gone and it was smooth sailing to the climax of my journey...

At HersheyPark USA!

HersheyPark!

HersheyPark is a pretty straight-forward coaster park that's very clean and well-maintained, but under-staffed and difficult to navigate. They desperately need better signage to help you make your way around the park (the maps they provide are practically useless). Half the time I could SEE the ride I wanted to go on, but then wasted precious minutes trying to figure out where I am supposed to go to ride it. The worst part BY FAR is that they do not have enough fans/mist-sprayers/canopies/shade to help keep you cool. Many lines are out in the full sun, where you will melt in the summer heat. Even worse, rides that did have fans were near-useless because some units were turned off or broken.

Admission is normally $39.95, but since I arrived after 5:00, I got in for just $21.95. The park is open until 10:00pm, but after entering at 5:30, I had ridden all the coasters (except the "Roller Soaker" which looked lame) by 8:45... giving me excellent value for my money. The park was full, but lines were short because everybody was eating dinner I guess?

As a "theme park" it isn't as inspired or clever as Disney-World. As a "coaster park" it is not as thrilling as Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure. But, overall, I was very happy to have visited, and recommend it if you are in the area. If they would hire more staff to manage the queues in a more orderly manner, provide better shade and/or fans for the lines, and make better signs, HersheyPark would be a slam-dunk.

For my fellow coaster aficionados (or anybody else who cares), here's a quick recap of the rides...

  • The Great Bear. A nice inverted hanging coaster that has good speed and twists... but is so short! Could have been a killer ride if it were longer.
  • The Comet. An older wooden coaster that's a fairly tame, but entertaining ride.
  • Superdooperlooper. A nice steel coaster ride of average complexity, but my long legs were jammed against the seat in front, making for a painful run.
  • Lightning Racers. An awesome dueling wooden coasters run that comes close to Universal's "Dueling Dragons" for entertainment value, and is even better for the thrill of the race... often times, you are twisting in and out of each other, and racing throughout the run neck-and-neck! My favorite ride of the entire park.
  • The Wildcat. Very sweet wooden coaster that belies it's small footprint.
  • Wild Mouse. A fun, mouse-track 4-seater coaster that features the hair-pin turns you'd expect from a Wild Mouse coaster... along with a few drops and surprises you wouldn't expect.
  • Storm Runner. This is an "accelerator" coaster that launches you forward at 75 miles per hour, then runs you through a short gauntlet of inverted thrills. No match for my favorite coaster ever (another accelerator: "The Incredible Hulk" at Universal's Islands of Adenture), but still a good thrill ride.
  • Trailblazer. LAME!! So lame. I think this must be meant for kids?
  • Sidewinder. This is one of those boomerang coasters that packs a lot of turns in a small area. Like the Superdooperlooper, the seating is very cramped (painful even). Not really my cup of tea (boomerangs make me nauseous) but well done for what it is.

After you've finished at the park, you can stop at "World of Hershey" for an informative (yet oh so lame) "ride" that explains the chocolate-making process. It's not very well done, but you do get a free piece of candy at the end. After that, there's a nice food court where you can eat dinner, but I just had a carton of Hershey's Chocolate Milk and some Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookies and called it a day.

Tomorrow is a little better for me, because I can get a full night's sleep and don't have to be to work until 9:00am. Then it's time to head back home (again) around 2:00.

* Yes, the Hershey Highway actually is colored chocolate brown in most places! It's kind of cool, and reminds me of the red roads in Zion National Park.

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Tripping Day Eleven: Screwed in Seattle

Posted on Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Dave!As I've said many times... you don't judge a company when things go right, because that's what's SUPPOSED to happen. You judge a company by how they handle it when things go WRONG.

Unfortunately, the company in question this evening (well, morning, actually) is Northwest Airlines. And when it comes to royally screwing you over when the shit happens, nobody does it quite like Northwest Airlines... even when it's their fault that something's gone wrong.

Due to a scheduling problem, Northwest decided they needed to transfer somebody from Detroit to Seattle. So they loaded us on the plane, then had us all sit there for an hour while we waited for this ONE guy to show up. But he ended up running late, and they finally decided that they would send us on our way without him. So, basically, we wasted an hour FOR NOTHING!! Congratulations NWA dumbasses... you just f#@%ed a full flight of 112 people FOR NOTHING!!

Naturally, this meant that I missed my connection in Seattle.

So first I have to go to the ticketing counter and get re-ticketed. Then I have to wait while they fart around for 30 minutes to get me booked in the shittiest, cheapest, economy hotel they can find. Then they tell me to go get my luggage from Horizon Air, where they've transferred it, and to "have a good evening" (when it's actually morning).

But Horizon tells me that the wait to get my luggage pulled is two hours MINIMUM. And I can't go to my crappy hotel and wait for it, because they will not deliver pulled bags. If I want my bag, I have to wait there at the counter. FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS! Screw that. So now I am stuck in Seattle with no flight and no luggage. But Horizon does give me a lovely consolation gift... this lovely "Distressed Passenger Tote Bag!"

Tragedybag

Well that just makes up for everything!

Note how there is a spot to get the case monogrammed. Too good to be true, I say.

Anyway, so here I am in my tiny shit-bag hotel room that smells like ass. Moldy ass. Moldy ass with OLD FEET and RAW SEWAGE! They assured me that the hotel would have "WiFi Internet." But what they didn't tell me is that it was not available in the rooms (only the lobby) and that it's broken. Lovely.

Now, don't get me wrong. If my missed connection was due to weather or something outside of Northwest Airline's control... I would be grateful for my tiny, stinky room. But since this is 100% their f#@%-up, why are they making me suffer for it? I'm an Elite customer that travels 70,000 miles a year with their airline. I deserve better than this at their hands.

I'd give them credit for buying me dinner, but the crap-bag hotel they stuck me in is out in the middle of nowhere, so the dinner voucher they gave me is useless.

So there you have it. As a company, Northwest Airlines sucks ass. They have no problem screwing you and 111 of your closest friends to solve their problems, and then treats you like shit afterwards. In fact, I feel that I've been treated so badly, that they've got me thinking it must be all my fault. Somehow I am the one who didn't cover the Seattle schedule properly, and so now I'm being punished. Abandoned. Sent to hell.

Oh well. At least there's cable television here in hell, even if it does smell like moldy ass.

UPDATE: This morning, after two hours of sleep, I didn't feel like taking a shower because the bathroom smelled like urine. But I did want to at least brush my teeth. Bleary eyed, I squeezed out some toothpaste and started brushing away... only to find out I had used shaving cream instead of toothpaste. Now, why would they put shaving cream in a toothpaste tube?? Sadistic bastards... don't tell me they don't do this on purpose. I'm having a flashback now.

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Pizzalogy

Posted on Thursday, August 11th, 2005

Dave!As I came off the bridge and rounded the corner, I saw a girl pulled over by an undercover policeman. She was crying her head off as the officer wrote her up, which I found funny for some reason. What a bastard I am. Thirty minutes later, as I drove back home to pick up my luggage, the policeman was long gone, but the girl was still sitting in her car there, red-faced and crying. I'm assuming that it was just a speeding ticket, which begs the question: if getting a ticket is going to cause you to sob uncontrollably for a half-hour, then why exceed the speed limit? Why risk it? Seems pretty stupid to me.

The three hour drive to Spokane (pronounced Spoh-can) was uneventful. It's always uneventful because there's nothing very interesting between Cashmere and Spokane. Just scrub brush, fields of wheat, and wide-open spaces. The speed limit is 70mph, but should be 100mph, because there's nothing to hit along the way.

When I finally get to Spokane, I do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not check into my hotel, do not even stop for the bathroom... I drive directly to David's Pizza, which makes the 3-hour drive actually worth the trouble...

David's Pizza

Unfortunately, they only had one slice of Da Vinci pizza left, so I had to get a slice of cheese to go with it. And, of course, a bottle of Stewart's Orange n' Cream soda...

David's Pizza

For those who are curious, the Da Vinci has Mozzerella and Feta cheeses, with basil pesto sauce and fresh tomatoes. I haven't confirmed it yet, but I'm pretty sure they sprinkle crack cocaine on there as well. It would explain my addiction to the stuff.

But telling you what's ON it doesn't fully explain how it TASTES. Which is amazing. I've been around the world a dozen times, eaten a lot of pizza over the years, and a slice of Da Vinci is the best it can get. Each bite is like that feeling you get when a nice tequila buzz just starts to set in... that kind of deliriously happy high you get when your mind starts to float away, but you're not quite drunk yet.

Followed by three orgasms and a full-body massage.

Yeah, it's pretty good stuff. If you're ever in Spokane, you'd be pretty darn stupid not to drop by the corner of Hamilton and Boone to have a slice. I'll be eating there again for lunch and dinner tomorrow, and would probably go back for breakfast if they were open that early.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "He's not a President... he's an ordinary person. I can kill an ordinary person."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Weekend at Bernie's (1989) with Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman.
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Pizzarazzi

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2005

Dave!In-between jobs in Spokane today, I decided to drop by "The Comic Book Shop" to see if I could track down a book I've been trying to find for quite a while now. I drive down Division St., arrive at Sharp Avenue, and realize I must have missed it. So I turn around and drive down Division again... still not finding it. Thinking that I must have somehow forgotten where it is, I turn around and pull over. I have a photo of The Comic Book Shop on my PowerBook, so I figure there might be a clue as to the location. Using the photo, I'm able to find the building, which is now a National Guard Recruitment Center, complete with Army jeep out front...

The Comic Book Shop

A pity they painted over the Batman emblem... they might have better luck getting people to join up. Who wouldn't want to fight crime with Batman?

Anyway, I go back to my hotel and grabbed a phone book to see where it had moved to. But the phone book still lists it on Division, so I thought it was probably an old book. On the verge of losing my mind, I call The Comic Book Shop to find out what in the heck was going on... only to learn that they moved from 1402 Division to 1401 Division... DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET!! And sure enough, there they were. Sitting there with a big "ZAP!" and "POW!" painted on the side of the building in bright colors.

I was so focused on where I thought it was that I didn't see where it actually was, even though it was staring me right in the face. I even got out of my car to take a picture, stood right in front of it, and didn't see it. I feel more than a little stupid about that.

To top it all off, they didn't have the book I was looking for.

But all was not lost. A quick trip to David's Pizza for lunch revealed that they actually had two slices of Da Vinci Pizza waiting for me. Now THIS is what the perfect meal is supposed to look like...

Davincipizza

Fabulous.

Oh yeah, and for those who were curious, I think the restaurant was built in an old gas station, then they bought the building next door and expanded into it. When I examine the concrete in front, I see an outline of where the gas pump "island" used to be. That's their "Pizza Emergency Response Team" fire truck out front...

David's Pizza!

Pizza Response Team

Don't worry, I'll be returning for dinner tonight. It's not like I really have a choice in the matter.

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Sand

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2005

Dave!Wow. I'm back at the hotel watching the news and have just learned that there's a dust storm so severe across central Washington that they've actually closed I-90 between Ritzville and Moses Lake. They're reporting that there's been several accidents due to high winds and zero visibility. The photos they're showing are quite shocking. It started as a brown cloud on the horizon then, within minutes, everything was enveloped and was plunged into darkness... the sun was blotted out of the sky.

This is really bizarre, because the storm is exactly half-way between Spokane and my home in Cashmere, Had I left at 6:00 as I originally planned, I would have been caught right in the middle of it. I guess that I should be thankful I had to stick around and get some work taken care of?

Sand Storm!

Today must be a day for strange weather (perhaps caused by the raging wildfires to the south)... after being scorching-hot yesterday and this morning, Spokane had a short spell of torrential rains that had storm warnings in effect for a few hours. Maybe the world is about to end and I didn't get the memo? Hopefully the sand storm will have blown over (heh heh) and the highway will be re-opened in the morning.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Sir, I'm the president of the electronics club, the mathematics club, and the chess club... if there is a bigger nerd in here, please point him out."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Dave (1993) with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver.
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Noise

Posted on Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Dave!At what point did people start to lose all respect for their fellow human beings? For the past fifteen years of travel, I have never been so badly bothered by by my neighbors in a hotel that I've had to switch rooms. This year I've had to do it twice, and we're only half-way through.

On Thursday night, the room below me was having a party which kept me up until 2:00am. Then last night, the room next to mine woke me up at 1:00am because the occupants were out on the balcony screaming at the top of their lungs. One night of sleep I can miss. But two in a row when I have a three-hour drive ahead of me just cannot happen. I had to pack up my stuff and go beg to change rooms which, thankfully, they agreed to do.

I just don't get it.

I've gone out drinking and and partying with my friends too many times to count. But you know what? We always save our wild behavior for when we're in an appropriate place... like in a club, or (duh!) at a party. We've never gone back to a hotel room and started screaming our lungs out at 1:00am! It never even occurred to us to do something so horribly bad-mannered.

My how times have changed.

If I am paying $130 a night for a place to sleep, I shouldn't have to put up with this kind of shit. I should be legally allowed to pull out a gun, break down the door, and shoot the idiots in their f#@%ing heads... then have nothing more than a cleaning bill to answer for. Assholes like this who have absolutely no concern for anybody else deserve nothing more. There's just no reason to have them around when all they do is make other people miserable.

And why don't hotels do something about it? Why not have guests sign a "no-noise agreement?" Why not install noise sensors that can automatically detect prolonged excessive audio and then kick their stupid asses out if it goes off? Why not install doors that have hydraulic pulls so that they can't be slammed? I'd gladly pay extra money for hotels that guaranteed a noise-free environment so I could actually do what I go there to do... SLEEP!

As it is now, the moronic public at large is ruining what used to be fun things. You can't go to a hotel without people being noisy and ruining your slumber. You can't go to a movie theater without people being noisy and ruining the show. You can't go to a restaurant without people being noisy and ruining your dinner. Sometimes it's by obnoxious drunken behavior. Sometimes it's because of a mobile phone. Most times it's because people are just stupid.

All I know is that the problem is getting worse with each passing day. Every single day society doesn't care a little bit more. Every single day respect and common decency break down a little bit further. Every single day I come closer to going insane over it all.

We've already got people shooting up cars because the alarm keeps going off in the middle of the night. How long before it's PEOPLE who get shot up for going off in the middle of the night?

Oh... one last thing... am I the only one who wants to put their foot through the television when a commercial comes on where some idiot is crunching on their stupid-ass breakfast cereal? I don't want to listen to that shit in my real life... why in the f#@% do these dumbass advertising people think I want to listen to it while being entertained? I love Grape-Nuts cereal, but every time that annoying commercial comes on with that guy loudly chewing the shit, it makes me never want to buy a box of the crap ever again. Isn't that the exact OPPOSITE of what a television commercial is supposed to do?

Categories: DaveLife 2005, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  4 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Lingual

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

Dave!I love languages, even though I pretty much suck at learning them. I'm incredibly envious of anybody who is able to speak beyond their native tongue. But, as I mentioned once before, it seems as though native English speakers just don't care. They already speak the most popular language on the planet, so why bother to learn something else? Everywhere you go, people speak English anyway, so who cares?

Well I do. And it's not for lack of trying that I'm not multi-lingual...

  • German (1979): The first language I studied, because my great-grandmother was German. Unfortunately, though I studied for two years on my own and worked up a nice vocabulary, lack of somebody to practice with eventually caused me to forget just about everything except how to say "I love you" and "I'd like a cheese sandwich please." German is not a very pretty language, but sounds really, really cool if you can speak it with the proper accent. Jennifer Garner in Alias is much hotter when she goes on a mission as a German spy!
  • Spanish (1982): I took a year of Spanish in High School, but quickly lost interest when I found out that none of the Spanish-speaking people I knew could understand me. Turns out that there is a big difference between Spanish-Spanish and Mexican-Spanish. Because the language is so prominent where I live, I know several phrases, but nothing extensive enough to actually converse. Spanish, being a "romance language" is quite a lovely tongue... though I prefer the Catalan dialect to other variants.
  • Japanese (1990): I became hugely interested in Japanese cartoons (anime) and comic books (manga) in the early 90's, and worked really hard (off and on) to learn a very difficult language. By the time I first started visiting Japan in 1996, I was relatively fluent. I could carry on a basic conversation on most any subject, and had a massive vocabulary (so even though sentence structure was always problematic, the fact that I knew such a huge number of words meant I could always make myself understood). The problem is that Japanese is different. Really different. It's not a language that's easy to keep in your head if you don't use it regularly. Now, I have retained only a fraction of what I once knew. A few hundred common words and very basic conversation is all I can manage. Sad really. Japanese is an utterly fascinating tongue, filled with a nuance and subtlety that no gai-jin (foreigner) will ever master. When spoken by a woman, the language is sexy as hell.
  • Portuguese (1996): There was an opportunity for me to spend three weeks in Brazil, so I wanted very much to learn Portuguese for the trip. Unfortunately, I barely got started and learned only the very basics before finding out I had conflicting travel plans that killed my Brazilian holiday.
  • Italian (2000): I bought the insanely expensive "full" Pimsleur Course (the Cadillac of language study courses, that is recommended over any other) to prepare for my trip to Rome in December 2000. I worked hard to learn as much as I could over a three month period and went to the Eternal City with quite a bit of confidence that I could carry on a decent conversation. I was only half-right. While Romans could easily understand me... I had a horrible time understanding them in return. Mostly because they speak really fast and smoosh all the words together. Of all the languages I've studied, I think Italian is the one that has "stuck" in my head the most. I guess we'll find out.
  • French (2000): The Pimsleur course worked fairly well for me, so I ended up buying the French course for a side-trip to Paris I had coming up. French is not the easiest language for me but, like Italian, it does tend to "stick" a little better than other languages for whatever reason (could be the Pimsleur method?).
  • Swedish (2003): Knowing that I would be visiting Stockholm later in the year, my 2003 New Year's resolution was to become fluent enough in Swedish to chat up hot Swedish babes (hey, I can dream, can't I?). Using the "reduced" (i.e., "cheaper") Pimsleur Compact Course, I actually got a hang of the language, and could carry on basic conversation without much problem. Or so I thought. Unfortunately(?) everybody in Stockholm I met spoke flawless English and had no patience to let me clumsily talk Swedish with them. I've all but lost what little I managed to learn now, though there are strange phrases that just won't go away. I'd type a few out but, if you've ever seen Swedish, you know that there are loads of accents, diaereses, rings, and other freaky characters that I'd never get right. Don't believe me? Take a look at Patrick's blog in Swedish. When spoken by a native, Swedish is beautiful to listen to... much like a song melody.

I think to truly become fluent and really have the opportunity to remember a new tongue... I'm going to have to move to a foreign country for a year and just immerse myself in nothing but the language I choose for the entire time. Sadly, the odds of this happening are quite small. So while I can always hope to one day become comfortable with something other than English, I may just have to be content in my love of languages rather than my ability to speak them.

   

Where?

Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Dave!You ever have one of those moments where you are absolutely certain that you must be losing it?

Yeah, me too.

Unfortunately, these moments seem to be coming more and more often. Like when I look at a random photo that I've got orphaned on my laptop, and can't for the life of me figure out where it was taken. I'd like to think that this is because I've been to so many places that they're all blending together (which could be true), but reality tells me it's probably just my brain shutting down. It's all downhill from here.

Usually, I can look at the date on the photo file and then look at my calendar to see where I was when it was taken. But this morning I ran across a photo which doesn't have an accurate date, and doesn't look familiar to me in any way... I can't even place what country it was taken in. I went through my entire iPhoto album to see if there was a similar shot, but couldn't find any. I am completely clueless...

Where is this?

Does anybody out there know what city this is? Better yet, can anybody tell me what I was doing there?

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Tampa

Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Dave!I've just spent an obscene amount of time trying to figure out where the photo I posted in my previous entry was taken. I started by searching for the filename on all three of my computers, but all the hits were wrong. After that I searched for filenames around the image name, but no dice.

Then I went through every image I have digitized on my PowerBook. This is fairly easy because they're indexed in iPhoto... all 5432 of them. But nothing matches and nothing looks close. Since the date on the file is January of 2005, that doesn't help, because I know it's not a photo of Barcelona or Cologne. In February I was in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and the Florida panhandle... which is much more likely, but it doesn't fit anywhere.

Next I went through my digital photo archives, which is an additional 3100 photos. Nothing.

Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I work backwards through all my travels and try to match the skyline with a Google image search through all the likely cities it could be. Nothing. Not-so-likely cities? Nothing. Unlikely cities? Nothing. It's at this point I am ready to give up. I have no clue where the photo was taken.

But then I get a little bit smarter. This time I don't try to match the skyline, but buildings IN the skyline. I get lucky on my fifth try...

It's Tampa!

The reason I had such difficulty in recognizing the skyline is that the photo was taken at a bizarre angle... not the "typical" shot that is customarily shown. But the buildings do match when the photos are flipped and you look carefully enough.

It's Tampa, Florida...

...as seen from my hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino just outside the city. I was there in May of 2004, and even blogged about it. I believe that I took the photo to accompany a comment in my blog entry about the "Tampa skyline" but the photo didn't turn out very well, so I ditched the idea.

Little did I realize how insane it would make me a year and two months later, or I would have never pressed that shutter button.

Now I think I can go to sleep.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Those who do evil to others... the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists... you will come to know me well."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Rock Star (2001) with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.
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Half

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

Dave!It seems that every day is turning out to be "one of those days." I was planning on a trip to Korea in two weeks, but found out this morning that I have to leave this weekend. Bummer.

So there I was trying to find last-minute airfare to Asia at a price that doesn't cost more than the buying my own plane. Eventually I find a rather decent fare from Northwest, but then decided that I don't want to "get a full-body skin rash that itches like hell and doesn't respond to any medical treatment." So instead I booked a cheaper fare with United, where I have no frequent flier status and cannot get upgraded from coach. Thanks a lot Peggy!

I have mixed feelings about the whole Northwest Airlines mechanics strike. On one hand, yeah, I think it sucks to put in 20 years and then have to lose money and benefits that you've worked so hard to get. But, on the other hand, I think it's really, really lame that the mechanics union thinks that they should be immune to financial hard times. Workers EVERYWHERE are having to take pay cuts and face layoffs so that companies can survive. What makes $70,000 mechanics so special that they shouldn't have to take a hit like the rest of us?

And then I read where the union spokesman is saying "the mechanics would rather see the airline go into bankruptcy than agree to Northwest's terms," and have to wonder exactly who this moron is representing. If Northwest goes bankrupt, and the airline goes under, then nobody has jobs. Isn't it better to save what jobs you can, even with a pay cut, than losing everything? I mean, it's not like Northwest is thrilled with the prospect of cutting jobs and salaries... they're just doing what they have to do to stay afloat in this horrendous financial climate where they're losing millions. It's sad, but that's reality in today's business world.

Of course, when it comes to saying outrageously stupid things, the union spokesman has a long, long way to go before he can top the senile ramblings of dumbass televangelist Pat Robertson, who wants us to assassinate the duly elected president of Venezuela. This kind of crazy pseudo-religious rambling sounded really familiar, and that's when everything suddenly became clear to me...

Half

Strange. We've got kind of a "separated at birth" thing going on here.

Anyway, I could be wrong, but assassinating foreign leaders seems like it must be against the United Nations charter... doesn't it? We are still a member of the United Nations aren't we?

I just don't get it. People actually give money to this idiot. Has the "religious right" truly become so powerful that they don't feel the need to follow rational thought? Is this kind of outrageous, uninformed, and flat-out stupid commentary actually being taken seriously?

This is just what we need... whack-job televangelists influencing our foreign policy. As if the USA didn't have enough problems already.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage... but on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you'll miss."
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: 101 Dalmatians (1961) with Rod Taylor and Betty Lou Gerson.

   

Kong!

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

Dave!Bah! I get home to find out I have no internet. I guess this will get posted tomorrow.

Anyway, you'd think that I would get used to short-notice travel, but it never seems to happen. Yesterday I found out I have to be in Korea this weekend, and now it's a mad dash to try and get my work caught up. And get my clothes washed. And make my reservations. And call my friends. And pay my bills. And all the other things one has to do before leaving their life behind for a week. I think I'm going insane.

The good news is that I managed to contact a friend in Hong Kong whom I have never met in person. He's going to be around, so after my work is over in Seoul, I'll be jetting down for a couple days of much-needed vacation. He's a fellow Hard Rocker, so I'm sure a visit to the Hard Rock Hong Kong will be in order. Sweet!

Something tells me I won't have time for much sleep tonight.

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Underpants

Posted on Saturday, August 27th, 2005

Dave!I am sitting here in the tiny airport at Wenatchee, Washington bored out of my mind because I forgot to bring a book. With nothing else to do, I figure I'll fire up a game of Kitty Spangles Solitaire for an hour while I wait for my plane to arrive. But when I open my PowerBook, something very strange happens. A little dialogue box pops up saying "your wireless network is no longer available. Would you like to join the network "LINKSYS?"

If there was a button that said "f#@% yeah!" - I would have clicked it.

And so here I am with full internet access in a little nothing of an airport you've probably never heard of before. I have excellent signal, and the speed is fantastic. I contrast this with the shitty slow access I am usually paying big money for in larger airports, and have to ask... what the f#@%??

If a tiny airport can so graciously offer up free internet as a convenience for their passengers, why don't the big guys do the same? It costs practically nothing, but rather than treat you as a guest, they instead rape you for a few more bucks just because they can. So way to go Wenatchee for bucking the trend of outrageous internet access, and serving your customers better than facilities fifty times your size.

Just one more reason I'm happy to fly out local instead of driving over to Seattle.

One of the little tricks I use when traveling is to wear tired old underpants and socks, so I can just toss them in the garbage when I get to where I am going and have one less thing to worry about carrying around. It also keeps my clothes from smelling like feet. Today I found a pair of really nasty tighty-whitey underwear that are pretty messed up. They practically fell apart when I put them on, so I'm quite proud of that. My socks are in fairly good shape, but mis-matched and not really white anymore.

Anyway, across the aisle from me is a bitch and her three hyperactive, annoying kids. She has no interest whatsoever in keeping them quite, and is happy to have them running around screaming at people. If security (which is much tighter and far more thorough here than at larger airports) hadn't confiscated my shotgun, I can guarantee her mis-behaving kids would be quiet. DEAD QUIET!! (that's funny if you say it as Arnold Schwarzenegger). But oh no. She is obliviously chatting away to some poor woman next to her about how she's "scared to death of these small planes because they crash all the time!"

And that's when it hits me...

What if we crash?

   

And I'm wearing nasty fall-apart underwear.

   

My mother will be so embarrassed if she shows up to claim my body and I'm in holy undies. In fact, she may even disown me right there, and say that she doesn't know the guy on the slab. "No son of mine would wear such disgraceful underwear," she'll say.

So now I am really nervous about the flight.

Not because I might die... I have no problem with that... but because my horrified mother will have to identify my body while I'm wearing underwear with holes in them and mis-matched socks. She will then spend the rest of her life wondering where she went wrong with me, and calling my brother every day to be sure he's wearing underwear that's suitable for dying in.

I should have worn my lucky boxer shorts.

I can honestly say I never envisioned a time that I would be obsessing about my underwear in a blog entry. Maybe I should just shut down Blogography right now, because there's nowhere to go but down now.

But, seriously now, if the coroner who finds my mangled body in the wreckage reads this... I would greatly appreciate it if you were to change my underwear for me. Of course, if the crash was particularly scary, you may want to do that anyway because of their contents... but thanks just the same.

UPDATE: Tragedy averted! Me and my embarrassing underwear arrived safely in Seattle. I am now typing away in disgust because the stupid-ass Hilton here charges $9.95 for internet access. WIRED internet access... not wireless, BUT WITH A CABLE... CHAINED TO THE DESK!!! Hotels that charge for internet suck ass.

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Katrina

Posted on Sunday, August 28th, 2005

Dave!As I leave for Asia, the news from hurricane Katrina is increasingly grim. The projected path is directly over New Orleans (one of my favorite cities), which could be disastrous. The "Big Easy" is very much below sea level, and a large enough storm could send water surging into the city at a cataclysmic depth. Pat O'Briens... Cafe du Monde... The Garden District... St. Patrick's & Jackson Square... Soniat House... The French Market... Bourbon Street... The Hard Rock Cafe... and so much more that New Orleans has to offer is all at risk of being destroyed. I particularly worry about the animals at the beautiful zoo they have there.

Katrina

CNN has shocking footage of people fleeing the city, and all major routes have been converted to one-way highways leading out of town. It's bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way, and authorities are worried that an accident on any of these routes could trap people in the hurricane's path.

I suppose there's always a chance that the weather will change and the city can be passed by... but wherever the projected "Category 4" hurricane makes landfall, there's going to be a lot of damage. 150mph winds do not strike quietly.

It's going to be difficult to think of much else during a 13 hour flight where I am cut-off from the world and unable to find out what's happening. All my thoughts are with those facing the hurricane, and the city of New Orleans where I have been a half-dozen times (and love more and more each time I visit). Nothing would make me happier than to visit another half-dozen times in the future.

Entries from my last New Orleans trip are here, here, and here.

UPDATE: I've arrive in San Francisco only to find out that the storm has been elevated to "Category 5," which is the most severe rating you can give a storm. I board the plane not knowing if I will ever see New Orleans again. I am severely depressed right now. If the city is destroyed, I suppose all I will have is great memories. I first went to New Orleans in 1983 during my Junior year of High School for a National DECA competition. It was my first trip unaccompanied by an adult. It was my first time drinking alcohol in a bar (even though I was a year underage, nobody cared). It was my first time... for a lot of things.

I feel like my heart is being crushed in my chest and I want to scream. If I had a choice, I would cancel my trip and go home to hide under the bedcovers until the fate of New Orleans was known. As it is, I will spend the next 13 hours on a plane trying not to think about it.

But I don't think there's enough of those little bottles of alcohol onboard to do that.

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Day One: Seoul

Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2005

Dave!And here I am back in Seoul, Korea. I am most fortunate that I don't really have a problem with jet-lag... my body just mysteriously seems to adjust to whatever time zone I am in. Though I cannot deny being totally exhausted, because 22 hours of travel will do that to you. Now the challenge is to stay awake for another three hours so that I don't wake up at 2am tomorrow morning. It's a weird, wild life I lead.

The weather here has entered into some kind of funky perpetual haze as sunset falls...

Seoul Haze

All big cities are starting to look the same to me. If I didn't know where I was, it might take me a minute to figure it out from just a quick glance out my window. The cathedral there just confuses things.

And now I'm off to Dunkin' Donuts for a quick bite before retiring for the evening.

Yet, for New Orleans, the day is just beginning. Assuming I can get to sleep knowing what is going to happen there, the storm is projected to hit the city as I wake up. All my hopes now hinge on seeing the city again some day...

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Day Two: Seoul Pleasure

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Dave!Bleh. The first thing I did this morning was somehow pull a muscle in my back, which has been agonizing me all day. Add to that the hours spent in Seoul traffic... and what should have been an easy day of work, is suddenly not so much. And now I have to catch up on the work that I missed back home, so it's shaping up to be a very full day.

With no time to spare to go out to a restaurant, I instead walk across to the 7-11 to buy a junk-food dinner. One of my favorite things about international travel is discovering new and exotic snacks, and Korea does not disappoint. I've got two new favorites...

Seoul Snacks

The first is Sun Chips Spicy Hot!, which are just like the Sun Chips back home... except they have delicious sweet-hot pepper flavoring sprinkled on them. I've eaten four bags since I've gotten here, and am seriously considering the purchase of a new suitcase for the sole purpose (Seoul purpose?) of taking fifty bags back home with me. They are wicked-good, and I have no idea why they are not made available in the USA. The second are Potato Fries Crips which are very popular, as they are available in numerous brands and varieties. I've been eating the brand with the "happy potato" on the front, simply because he looks like the cheerful kind of potato I'd like to hang with (though I am more of an "angry potato" myself). These are quite good because they are not oily and not loaded with salt (as they would be back home)... just yummy potato flavor in fun "french fry" shapes.

Work was completed today so, as of tomorrow, I am on "semi-vacation" in that I will still be working in my hotel room each night, but my days are free for fun and excitement. My flight to Hong Kong is fairly late, so I am thinking of making time for the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art, the Insa-Dong market, and lunch at the Hard Rock (assuming they're open this time).

One thing I've always wanted to do in Seoul, but haven't yet, is visit the DisneyLand rip-off called "Lotte World" (even their "Sleeping Beauty Castle" logo is a total copy!). Last year when I was here, they were advertising a new "Atlantis Adventure" ride for 2005 that appears to be a combination roller coaster and flume ride. But my favorite thing about Lotte World is their advertising slogan, which appears on billboards, print ads, and such...

Lottepleasure

If you can't read it, here's the joyous English text that's so compelling...

LOTTE WORLD OR NOTHING!
The traveler's choice, Lotte World.
There are so many places you might want to go to have fun in Korea.
But there is only one place with the real pleasure that you are looking for.
You got to come to Lotte World to know what the pleasure really means!

How could you not want to visit Lotte World after reading that? I mean, I thought I knew what "The Pleasure" was... but apparently I've got it all wrong. It would seem that the REAL pleasure I've been looking for all my life is awaiting me at Lotte World. Even more surprising... it doesn't seem to involve my penis. Ordinarily, this would cast some doubt on Lotte World's claim, but one never knows. The cost to get in is $30, which certainly makes it cheaper than many of the finer penis-related activities available, so all I can do is hope.

Unfortunately, the "Atlantis Adventure" ride isn't open until October, so I won't be experiencing "The Pleasure" this trip... maybe next time.

Of course, the real pleasure of my day was finding out that New Orleans is battered, but not totally destroyed like predictions were calling for. Hopefully the remaining levies and pumps will hold so that more people are not underwater as those in the Eastern part of the city are right now. With 80% of the city flooded, there's a lot of work to be done, but at least "The Big Easy" wasn't completely taken out... this time. I wonder if the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino being built in Biloxi was as lucky?

Ah, New Orleans! Now I am craving beignets and a cup of hot chocolate from Cafe du Monde!

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Day Three: Seoul Fun

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Dave!The earliest flight I could get to Hong Kong is at 7:40pm. That leaves a big chunk of a day where I have nothing to do. Rather than sit in my hotel until they kick me out, I decide to hit a few places I wanted to see in Seoul. Thanks to the convenient and efficient subway system here, it's pretty easy to get to wherever you want for $1 cheap.

Here is my day in Seoul...

Wake up way too early, then work for four hours. I look up the subway stop for the local cafe at HardRock.com, but they don't list it. I then look up the hours, only to remember they don't open until 5:00pm on weekdays. I've already been twice, so it's not a big deal... but how crazy is that?

Wait for the morning commuter rush to subside, and head out around 10:00am, begging the front desk for an extended check-out time of 2:00pm.

Hike to Seolleung Station and take a series of wacky connections that eventually deposit me across the river at City Hall Station, 30 minutes later.

Stop at Dunkin' Donuts (again) for a couple of "Chocolate Cookie Donuts" and then proceed to fall in love with the seriously cute girl who takes my money.

Walk to Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art to take in an exhibit of Korean and Chinese brush painting, which I really like. Then find out that it must be "children's day" at the museum, because the courtyard is overrun with adorable kids in their equally adorable school uniforms...

Seoulkids

Become totally captivated with amazing pieces of brush art, and buy one of the cheapest exhibit guides for a showing I have ever seen... just $5!!

Walk to Seodaemun Station for yet another bizarre series of transfers until I arrive at Anguk Station, which is at the head of the very cool "arts & crafts district" of Seoul called "Insa-Dong"...

Seoulinsadong

I Kill an hour wandering through the galleries and craft shops, resisting the urge to purchase everything in sight. Run across a woman (British accent) who is impatiently trying to get a shop keeper to understand her. She eventually raises her voice to the poor woman and says "I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU SPOKE ENGLISH! ENGLISH!!" she then throws down some handmade papers in disgust and starts to stomp out. I cannot resist saying "she probably does understand English... it's your being a bitch she doesn't understand." She ignores me (big surprise) and I head down the street to a souvenir shop I like...

Seoulsouvenirs

I have no idea what these little string ornaments are called, but they make perfect $1 souvenirs that people back home totally love, so I buy a dozen for those few people I haven't already given one from a previous trip. I think they are based on the ornamental button-ties that Koreans wear on traditional formal dress. But these are much smaller and come in funky designs like fish, purses, fans, flags, and such.

Am shocked to discover that it's now 1:00pm, and I have only an hour to make it back to the hotel.

On the way back to Anguk Station, my leg all of a sudden develops a stabbing pain. I limp all the way to the subway, and find a seat for the next half hour's ride back across the river. Eventually I transfer back to the #2 Green Line and get back to Seolleung Station for the 7 minute hike back to the hotel with my leg feeling like somebody put a bullet in it.

Get back to my room at 1:56pm. Even though I have to be out in just 4 minutes, I decide to take another shower to sooth my aching, hot, sweaty body. This delays my departure by 10 minutes, but the front desk says nothing (bless them).

Since I have 5 hours and 30 minutes until my flight, I sit in the lounge writing postcards for the next thirty minutes, then buy an airport transfer ticket for the "Limousine Bus." It's a fantastic bargain at $13... a taxi ride would cost at least $70 because of Seoul's horrendous traffic.

The airport run is a whopping 1 hour, 35 minutes through agonizing traffic. I notice for the hundredth time how every tenth building is a Samsung building... yet each is selling something different... computers, cars, appliances, apartments, telephone service... whatever. I have to wonder if there is anything Samsung doesn't make in Korea.

Arrive at the ticketing desk for Asiana Airlines nearly four hours early. The first thing they do when I get up to the counter is hand me a bottle of mouthwash. I wonder if I should be offended, but then notice everybody is getting mouthwash. Since Koreans eat their weight in garlic every week, I suppose this is a practical gift.

I try to get through outbound immigration to leave the country and find out that the inbound agent mis-stamped my passport with an entry date of September 28th, 2005. This causes the guy to freak out, and I frantically search for my itinerary to show him I am not a wacky time traveller. Unfortunately, the photocopies my travel agent made have cut off the date! This causes even more of a freak-out, because now it looks like I have intentionally obstructed my date of entry! Ten minutes of computer key-punching later, he eventually locates my entry record with the correct date and releases me. The people in line behind me are not very happy at all.

Eat a Subway Sandwich at the same food court I always do because they have Welches Grape Soda. Make my way to the passenger lounge at Gate 33, and find out I can't get internet. Decide to write about my day in Seoul anyway... I'll just post it when I get to Hong Kong.

Read back through this entry and realize that it is not very exciting at all, and anybody reading the entirety of it has probably fallen asleep by now. Unless there's an explosion or an alien invasion in the next hour, I'm afraid that's all you're going to get!

These seats are horribly under-padded, and my boney ass is aching tired. Decide to stop blogging now before I start getting into embarrassing territory...

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Day Three: Hong Kong Arrival

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Dave!Last night's flight on Asiana Air was very nice, especially since the cute counter agent put me in an exit row with tons of leg room. We arrived on time, immigration check was a breeze, and suddenly I was in Hong Kong... and 35 minutes later, my suitcase joined me. There's a train that runs into Kowloon, but the bus connection had closed for the night, so I bit the bullet and took a $30 taxi because I was tired and didn't want to have to find a way to my hotel from the station.

Half-way into Kowloon, I noticed a lightning strike out of the corner of my eye. IMMEDIATELY afterwards, the heavens opened up and a deluge of rain dropped from the sky. It was so sudden that I was startled awake, and then was treated to a lightning show through torrential rains. The driver must be used to it, because he didn't slow down at all... even though you could barely see through the windshield.

Then, almost as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped and I arrived at my hotel. After a good night's sleep, Hong Kong awaits.

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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 Four: Hong Kong Harbor

Posted on Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Dave!Hong Kong Harbor at night is pretty.

HK Harbor Night

HK Harbor Night

HK Harbor Night

   

Day Five: Hong Kong Museums

Posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dave!Since yesterday involved a lot of running around, today I thought I'd relax a little bit and just wander around Tsim Sha Tsui and take in a couple of museums. It's a real pity that I don't enjoy shopping, because it seems that's what everybody comes to Hong Kong to do. The lobby of my hotel is packed with people trying to load up all their purchases into boxes and newly-purchased suitcases so they can get it all back home.

But not me... I can't stand shopping, and have no desire to drag a bunch of crap back to the States. With the exception of a few Hard Rock Cafe pins and shirts I've packed away in my small suitcase, I'll be able to tell US Customs to kiss my ass. I am so tired of Customs Agents treating people like crap with their condescending attitude and abusive demeanor. I will never forget my very first trip outside the US when I was returning from Japan and was SCREAMED at by a bitch at Customs because I didn't have a receipt for a few cheap souvenirs I had bought. Never mind that my meager purchases couldn't possibly exceed the allowance, she was a bitch and wanted everybody to know it. In the dozens of times I've been subjected to US Customs, I'm guessing there have been only two times I didn't want to beat the shit out of somebody.

Anyway, the first museum I went to was the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which friends had told me was amazing. I was very much looking forward to my visit, and arrived just as they opened so I would be sure to have time to see everything. At first I was blown away by a very cool exhibit of Chinese brush painting... there were precious scrolls filled with stunning artworks that boggle the mind, and every new work somehow managed to top the previous one. It was art-lover's heaven.

But then I found out that huge chunks of the museum were closed due to changing exhibits and became enraged.

Changing out exhibits is a common event at museums, but usually it's done in stages. This way, only one major exhibit is closed at any given time. But the dumbasses at the Hong Kong Museum of Art had decided to close down most of the second floor, and the entirety of the fourth floor all at the same time... effectively halving the exhibits available. Needless to say, they didn't halve the ticket price.

So this was the highly regarded Hong Kong Museum of Art? To me it was more of a joke. A lame and amateurish production with little consideration for their patrons. Disgusted with the entire ordeal, I bailed after less than an hour so I could see if the Hong Kong Museum of History would fare any better.

Fortunately, it wasn't just "better", it was spectacular. All I knew of Hong Kong history I learned from reading the brilliant James Clavell novels Tai-Pan and Noble House (which were semi-fictionalized). But here was the whole story... from geological formation and Neolithic times... to the Opium Wars, British Colonization, and eventually return to China in 1997. And all of it beautifully explained with captivating displays, dioramas and audio-visual presentation. It is hands-down one of the best museums I've visited, and that's saying a lot. If you enjoy history even a little bit, there's a lot to love about the Hong Kong History Museum.

The period of Japanese occupation during the war is a delicate matter to be sure, but I think they did an admirable job of presenting it well. These were tragic times for Hong Kong, and the horrors of day-to-day life for it's inhabitants not a pleasant subject to dwell on. But it was the most memorable portion of the museum to me because of this image...

HK Museum of History

These are British (I think) residents of the colony being led off to a prison camp from which some were likely not to survive. It's a sobering image but, when you look closely, you see something remarkable and haunting at the same time...

HK Museum of History

Two of the guys are smiling. I find myself wondering what was happening at this one moment frozen in time. Perhaps the guy in the vest had said something like "smile for the camera, boys" and the guy in front with the black shirt thought it was funny. There's just something so undeniably "human" about it all that puts life into perspective. Even at your darkest hour, your world and everything you know is just a tiny slice of history. And then you realize it's not your life that matters, but how you live it. How you face adversity. How you find your humanity in inhumane conditions.

The joy and the hurt of it all.

Then I look at the television and see the horrifying images coming out of New Orleans and try very hard to keep all this in mind as I watch people struggle to survive in a city that means so much to me. It's heartbreaking and so very human all at the same time. A moment in history where people are having to face their darkest hour.

And doing the very best they can.

And that's why I get so pissed off when I hear people saying things like "well, they got what they deserved in New Orleans, because everybody knew it was bound to happen eventually." It just seems so petty... so unworthy of historical record that people would choose to address somebody else's tragedy with this kind of attitude. A wasted moment of time.

I mean, should San Francisco be abandoned because of the earthquakes? And what about L.A.? People have been talking about the impending "Big One" for decades. Or what about the tornados in Kansas? Should we evacuate the entire State? Typhoons have decimated Hong Kong more than once, should the area be vacated? Hurricanes also ravage Florida, should the Southern Coast to the Keys just leave? Wildfires plague the area I live in... should I be moving out? What about other dangers that plague our societies... flood, drought, landslides, and all the rest? What could go wrong in YOUR town?

We humans lead a fragile existence. There's always going to be something horrifying we have to face, and it's how we deal with it that defines us. Sure New Orleans has always been in danger of destruction from storm and flood. But you know how they face it? They throw a giant party every year and call it Mardi Gras. They developed a rich and unique culture and welcomed people to their wonderful city so they could share it. It's part of what makes me love the city so much, and the reason I am rooting for New Orleans to rise again.

Tomorrow is my last day in Hong Kong. I think I'll head back across the harbor and see what adventures I can find.

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Day Six: Hong Kong Rain

Posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Dave!How many people are happy when it rains on their vacation?

Usually, I am not bothered by the weather when I travel. If it rains, it rains, and I try to enjoy myself just the same. But the weather here in Hong Kong has been so hot and muggy that I am grateful for a break. I am tired of being drenched in sweat within five minutes of walking out the door. At least now when I'm wet, it will be for a good reason. Hopefully it will cool things down a bit as well.

I can only guess that the sudden rains are due to this big purple swirly thing that's sitting off the coast of China when I look at the weather map...

Hongkongweather

Here's hoping this doesn't turn into another swirly thing alert... Katrina's aftermath is enough just now.

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Day Six: Hong Kong Market

Posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Dave!I hung around my hotel room until 8:30 this morning, because that's when the Pret A Manger down the street opens up at Harbour City. They don't have my beloved Egg & Roasted Tomato Baguette, but I still love the food there, and decided it was what I wanted for breakfast.

Except when I got there at 8:40, the sign on the door said they don't open until 10:00... despite their web site stating quite clearly that 8:30 was the time. Pret bastards. Why the f#@% bother to post hours on your web site if they aren't going to be correct? Far better to post nothing at all if you are not going to update them when things change. I registered a complaint on their site, and know that they will make the change straight away because they are an amazing company, but it doesn't make me any happier about having to eat at McDonalds this morning.

After another impossibly cheap ferry-ride across the harbor, I walked up to Queens Road so I could wander the market stalls in the side streets. As you might know from previous entries, this is something I enjoy quite a lot. Hong Kong is rather surprising in that many stalls are packed into narrow streets on steep hills. This made it difficult to take photos where you could see anything, but I eventually found a flat section where I could get a shot...

Hong Kong Market

The produce was beautiful, and I could tell from the boxes that some of it was fresh from Mainland China. The Beijing tomatoes in particular looked quite tasty...

Hong Kong Market

Then my eye caught something that made me laugh. Some stalls were selling Red Delicious apples from my home in Washington State! They looked to be in great shape so, of course, I had to buy one. Red Delicious is not my favorite variety of apple, but it was kind of strange to travel half-way around the world to buy something from my own back yard. Eating it made me feel right at home, and at a price of 5 for $11 HK (28¢ US each) they were quite a bargain...

Hong Kong Market

Despite the rain, it is still a bit miserable outside. The only difference is that instead of being hot, sweaty and miserable, now I'm hot, sweaty, miserable and soaked. But that's okay, since I'm not meeting my friend for dinner for three hours yet. Still plenty of time to blog, check email, and get cleaned up.

And speaking of email, the week would not be complete unless I get some wacky hate-mail. This time it's from a guy who has written to me a few times before, usually telling me that something I've done is getting me sent straight to hell. Apparently my visit to a fortune teller (which I'm told is an "instrument of the devil") from the other day has me queued up for a trip to hell... again.

Whatever. Fortune telling is a huge part of Chinese culture, and I'll be damned (heh heh) if I was going to miss out on the experience. It's part of exploring other walks of like, and is the entire reason I like to travel. Religious whack-jobs may feel that it's better to stick their heads in the sand and insulate themselves against all possible contact with other people's beliefs, but I think that's just stupid. That kind of lame superior attitude is what makes Americans so roundly hated the world over.

Besides, it was just for FUN! I put as much weight on fortune tellers as I do this really cool Bocca della Verita palm reading machine I saw at The Peak on Thursday...

HK Bocca!

It's just like the real "Mouth of Truth" I saw in Rome! (well, except the original doesn't have a slot for money like this one). Wouldn't it be great to have one of these in your living room for parties?

Wah. Now I have to go get ready for my last night in Hong Kong.

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Day Six: Hong Kong Sweets

Posted on Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Dave!I dropped by the Hard Rock for drinks with a fellow Hard Rocker living in the city, but he kindly suggested I might like some Chinese for my last dinner in Hong Kong. Turns out he knows of a vegetarian-friendly place, which is a pleasant surprise. I had pretty much resolved myself that I would never be able to eat any local foods here, because absolutely everything contains some form of meat, seafood, or fowl... or is cooked using the juices thereof.

But, before heading out, he thought there was something I might like to see across the street. "Oh, I've been to the Harbour Mall, I say." Undeterred he replied "Yes, I'm sure you have... but you've not seen what I am going to show you or else I am certain you would have written about it in your blog." Intrigued, I agree to brave the crowds at the same mall where I had wanted to eat at Prat Pret earlier this morning.

And, as we walk through the largest shopping center in all of Asia, suddenly I see what it was he had wanted me to see.

It's candy!

Loads and loads of candy. Here's a shop filled with nothing but chips and cookies and biscuits and sweets... most of it imported from Japan. This is a huge deal for me, because I live for this crap...

Hkcandy

Fortunately, my friend is a patient guy, and indulges me to spend the next twenty minutes buying out the shop. I buy loads, even though I have no idea how I am going to get it all home. Most of it is familiar to me, but there are some unique treats I'm tempted into trying. $40 US later, I'm leaving with two bags of treats that will most likely be entirely consumed on my way home. Here's just one bag of it...

Hkcandies

The biggest find is my much-craved "Lucky Mini Almond" which is the incredibly tasty Meiji version of the Japanese cookie treat known as "pocky" (pronounced "p'oh-kee"). I buy four boxes. They also had Meiji "Qun" (gushing gummy candy) in sour grape flavor, which is another favorite. It would seem I'll be flying home on a sugar-high.

As we leave the mall, I spy Frank Lampard staring at me...

Hkchelsea

It's a Chelsea Football fan shop. Sure enough, the lads are in Chelsea blue, but I'm a bit puzzled as to why all their shirts say "Samsung Mobile" instead of "Emirates" (who I thought was the Chelsea sponsor). Perry?

Anyway, after dropping my booty of candy treasures off at the hotel, we're off to a spectacular dinner where I ate far more than I should have... I end up full to bursting. With no room for dessert, we head back to the Hard Rock so I can pick up a couple HRC souvenirs, and then walk around the neighborhood a bit to try and burn off all that food. Eventually, we're all caught up talking, and it's time for me to go back to the hotel and pack up for my early-morning flight.

And just like that, my Hong Kong trip has come to an end.

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Day Seven: Hong Kong Memories

Posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Dave!I woke up entirely too early this morning and, since I packed everything up last night, this leaves me with nothing to do for a good two hours yet.

I thought I would write a quick summary of all the things I'll remember from this trip, but I'm pretty sure that anything I take away will easily be overshadowed by the tragedy unfolding for the victims of Hurrican Katrina. As anybody who has read Blogography for any amount of time already knows, I have a deep... almost sacred... love for the city of New Orleans. It hurts quite badly to know what's happening there, and I go to bed each night with my heart aching, then wake up each morning overwhelmed with despair. I am not an emotional person, but entirely too many important memories are tied to this city, and I find myself grief-stricken in a way I don't understand. Especially considering I don't know anybody personally who has been devastated by the flooding.

The only thing saving me is the feeling that it's not actually happening. It's easy to do when you are in a foreign country half a world away where everything is different from what you're accustomed to. In a strange way, it's acting like a buffer between me and what I know to be a very real catastrophe back home. Right now all I can do is make donations to the relief effort and hope against hope that our government gets their shit together and finally provides some help to people who desperately need it.

But then I am reacquainted with the grim facts given by the Mayor of New Orleans, and the despair starts to set in again.

Fortunately, there are also the words of our Fearless Leader to make me feel so much better...

"We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)" - President George W. Bush

You know, I really sympathize with the fact that President Bush is trying to be encouraging here, but must he whip out these idiotic statements every f#@%ing time? I can forgive a lot, but it was Dubbyah's joking about starting a war that broke the camel's back for me, and it's been a long and painful down-hill slide ever since.

You would think at some point Bush would realize "hey, I always seem to make these embarrassing and inflammatory statements, so why don't I just shut-the-f#@%-up already?" But oh no, right when his slow response to the crisis is being criticized as racially motivated... he's got to try and comfort a Nation by telling us that some wealthy white dude's house is going to be re-built better than ever? Given the thousands of deaths that continue to mount even now, exactly how stupid do you have to be in order to see how this is an incredibly moronic thing to say? I mean, THIS is "good news?" Does he ever think before opening his f#@%ing mouth? Or does he just not care... he knows that people think he's a dumbass, and so he just does his part to live up to low expectations?

I remain utterly dumbfounded. And more than a little bit angry. I could go on about how fascinating it is that the so-called "leader of the free world" doesn't have a decent enough grasp of the English language to understand that "rubble" is already a plural, and "rubbles" is not even a word... but that would just be kicking a goober when he's down.

All we need now is to hire Halliburton for the clean-up, and the circle will be complete.

Ah, and there you have it.

It's going to be a long, sad, plane-ride home (assuming the thunderstorms allow me to leave Hong Kong at all).

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Day One: SEA to SFO

Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Dave!It's 3:45am and I've just woken up. In just over 20 hours, I'll be in China... that's after 15-1/2 hours of flight time with 5 hours worth of layovers in Seattle and San Francisco. It sucks to be me.

It's now 5:22am and I am enjoying the free wireless here at our little local airport, Wenatchee Pangborn Field. I'm hungry, but the only restaurant here has long-since gone out of business.

It's now 7:05am and I am in Seattle eating a delicious Qdoba Egg & Potato Breakfast Burrito after having been told that there isn't a seat for me on the flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. Such is the peril of flying United where I have -zero- status with the airline. But it sure beats getting a "full-body skin rash that itches like hell and doesn't respond to any medical treatment."

It's now 7:47am and I have just spent 20 minutes attempting to find out if I am actually going to get on the flight to Shanghai. The first gate agent tells me he has no idea, and I will have to check and see when I am in San Francisco because the flight "must be sold out." But then the Customer Service Desk opens up so I try again. When I explain the situation, the lady there is completely mystified as to why I wasn't given a seat, because there are plenty available. She even manages to find me a window-seat so I can sleep (even though it is all the way in the ass-end of the plane). Part of me is a little bummed out, because it would have been great to spend the night in San Francisco so I could go eat fortune cookies.

It's now 7:56am and I am paying the outrageously stupid price of $6.95 for an internet connection. I don't have much choice, because I didn't make it through my inbox at work yesterday, and need to get caught up before leaving the country. Wayport bastards. Why not offer connection by the hour at a reasonable rate?

It's now 8:52am and my plane has just arrived. It is very small.

It's now 9:02am and I have done about all I can do with work just now. Everything else will have to wait until I get to China. For the past half-hour a loud-mouthed idiot seated across the lobby has been blathering into his mobile phone LOUDLY about random political crap nobody wants to hear. From what I can tell, the call was initiated by a rather tasteless Bush-bashing television commercial that runs through the administration's failures (up to and including the Katrina fiasco), and then puts up a picture of Dubyah with the word "LEADER" underneath. But then "MIS" drops onto the screen spelling out "MISLEADER." Get it? HA HA HA HA! Whatever. Apparently, these people would rather waste money on television commercials that tell people what they already know, as opposed to say... donating the money to Katrina victims where it could do some actual good. Dumbasses. How much does a commercial on CNN cost? Enough to buy some food and clothing for a lot of people I'll bet.

It's now 9:20am and they will be boarding my flight to SFO soon. This is a good thing, because an obnoxious bitch screeching into her mobile phone sat down next to me and I'm about ready to kick it up her ass. I'm totally doped up on Ibuprofen right now, which means my back isn't bothering me much at all so I could totally do it.

It's now 1:32pm and this will be the last entry for today. In a few minutes, I'll be climbing on a 12-1/2 hour flight, trying not to go insane from the horrors of being trapped in a tiny space for a half-day. Once again I find myself in the unenviable position of leaving the country just as a hurricane is going to hit... knowing that I won't know what's happening until I land and get to my hotel. The good news, if you can look at it that way, is that Rita has been downgraded to a "Category 3" which means potentially a lot less damage. That's something.

See you in China.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "I'm doomed! And all 'cause Miss Man decides to take her little drag show on the road!"
Day-Before-Yesterday's Answer: Heavenly Creatures (1994) with Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.
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Day Two: Shanghai

Posted on Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Dave!I just got here and it's already been an adventure.

Most Chinese natives do not speak English, and I was well aware of this fact before I left the country. It seems only fair, considering I didn't even attempt to learn Mandarin for the trip. To this end, I thoughtfully asked my hotel to email me directions to the property in Chinese characters so that my taxi driver would know where to take me. I'm a swell guy that way.

So as we are heading into the Shanghai from Pudon International Airport, I start to get concerned. Not because I've nick-named my driver "Speed Racer" because of the way he zips in and out of traffic at high speed while flashing his headlights and laying on the horn... but because something doesn't feel right. In preparation for my trips, I always make it a point to memorize a "map" of the city so I can get my bearings and spend less time being lost. But as we approach Shanghai, I notice that we are heading nowhere near the location of my hotel. Upon closer examination of the Chinese address, I notice what appears to be a postal code, but it doesn't match the code of the address I have in English.

They sent me the directions to the wrong hotel.

How lovely.

After a feeble attempt to explain the problem, I finally give up and get across to him to take me to the "wrong" hotel. From there I find somebody who speaks English to give my driver directions to the right hotel. He was a very good sport about the entire ordeal, so I left him a much-too-generous tip and wave goodbye as he tears off into the night.

There's a half-hour of my life I won't be getting back.

On the bright side, I did get a nice tour of the city lights by night. I also get to fill in another country on my map (well, since Hong Kong is once again part of the Middle Kingdom, I suppose I could have filled in China already... but it didn't feel right until I step foot on the mainland).

China Flag

It's 8:30pm (vs. 5:30am), so I am going to force myself to stay awake another couple of hours so I am synced to the time zone here. This may be a bit difficult considering that I've been awake for 26 hours now.

Hmmm... the maid just came for turn-down service and left me a nifty snack. It's like a small Rice Crispies treat, but with a hint of orange. Delicious!

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Day Three: Shanghai Towers

Posted on Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Dave!Today was a very full day with lots to share, so I will probably be breaking the time into multiple entries.

This morning I decided to stop Pudong-side and go up the tallest building in China, Jin Mao Tower. It is a beautiful building with breathtaking views of the city from the 88th floor observation deck. This is looking towards Central Shanghai, with Pearl Tower foremost in the shot...

Jin Mao Tower

They have a window inside the tower so you can look all the way down to the reception lobby below. Everything is bathed with a golden light, so it is quite beautiful...

Jin Mao Tower

From Jin Mao Tower, it is only a short walk to Pearl Tower. This is a mighty cool structure, and you can go all the way up to the tiny third "ball," which they call the "Space Module"...

Pearl Tower

This is looking back toward Jin Mao Tower...

Pearl Tower

And then the opposite side, toward Central Shanghai...

Pearl Tower

The Chinese people are very hard working and kind, and their friendly demeanor is what makes Shanghai such a great place to visit.

Until it's time to queue.

Once it's time to form a line, the exceedingly warm and gentle Chinese will turn into a dragon. They will push, shove, weasel, cut, squirm, mangle, cheat, and no doubt kill to get ahead of you in the queue. Men, women, young, old... it makes no difference. I have had old women with canes, use their stick like a wedge to push me out of the way so they can get in front of me. There was one man who couldn't squirm past me so he SQUATTED DOWN AND CRAWLED PAST ME!! It is truly shocking to see this kind of behavior, because it is so unexpected. You really have to see it to believe it, and even then you may not trust your eyes.

There was a group of British tourists ahead of me in line for the Pearl Tower elevator. If you've ever been to Great Britain, you know that they have a natural talent for queueing... almost as if it were in their DNA or something. Every line in the country is orderly and very proper. Because of this, even more amusing than watching the Chinese do everything in their power to get ahead in line, was the horrified reaction of the British tourists watching it happen. They were mortified, and could not stop talking about what they were witnessing. Listening to their conversation was worth the price of admission!

This is not true of ALL Chinese, of course, but it is a high enough percentage that you grow tired of it very quickly. It's almost so bad that you don't want to visit any attraction with a queue. Oh well. After a while I developed some meager abilities to combat the line-cutters (usually making myself as wide as I can, holding on to rails, and using my backpack as a shield), so I imagine it gets better with practice.

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Day Three: Shanghai Walk

Posted on Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Dave!After my experiences at the towers, I still had time to kill so I went to the Shanghai Aquarium. This is a truly spectacular place with dozens of beautiful dioramas that entertains you both above and below the waters. There are also several underwater walkways where the fish swim all around you. I've seen this kind of thing before, but never has it been used so ambitiously.

This is a really cool aquarium... certainly one of the best I've been to that I can recall...

Shanghai Aquarium

Shanghai Aquarium

This little guy was continuously reaching into the water to "pet" the reef sharks, sting rays, and other fish (despite a sign warning in English and Chinese not to do it). I was wondering if there might be piranha in the tank as well, and was worried that he would end up missing a finger or something...

Shanghai Aquarium

After the aquarium, I needed to go to the other side of the river to meet with some friends for tea. I decided to take the "Bund Tourist Tunnel Tram" which actually goes through a tunnel UNDER the river. It's a psychedelic light show that's pretty bizarre. I think it's actually meant to be an audio-visual art project, because you've got a man speaking english who boldly introduces the various shows with odd phrases like "Acid Lava" and "Star Swirl." Afterwards, a lady will repeat the words in Chinese, but very softly. It's a unique experience, I'll give it that much.

While waiting for my friends, I wandered around the area for a bit. Eventually I spied a tiny kitten, barely bigger than the palm of my hand, who had to come and say hello. I wanted quite badly to take him home, which happens a lot when I travel (like here and here, for example). I guess cats must like me...

China Kitten

I then ran across this sign, which I thought was funny (also something I've done before)...

FuYou!

After tea, my friends and I walked through the cool shopping district in the area. Right in the middle of it all, there's what I think is a "wishing tree" where you can toss a ribbon with a coin attached into a tree. If the ribbon stays up there, your wish comes true. I don't know about all that, but it was a very beautiful site...

Wishing Tree

Wishing Tree

Apparently Starbucks is taking over the world, even in The Middle Kingdom. This has to be one of the more interesting I've seen...

Starbucks

In the shopping district, you can buy just about anything. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G! I saw gloves, scouring pads, toys, kitchen utensils, clothing, shoes, antiques, and everything else you can imagine. Since I am not much of a shopper, this is all lost on me. About the only thing I really wanted was a Chinese lantern, because they look so cool hanging in the shops...

Lanterns

Once our meandering and chatting was over, my friends went off to meet with their family so that they can discuss their plans for heading up to Beijing on October 1st to celebrate "National Day" (named for the founding of the People's Republic of China) which is the most important of Chinese holidays, and is celebrated for an entire week.

I said my goodbyes, promised I'd look them up in Beijing when I get there, and then headed off to The People's Square and the Shanghai Museum.

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Day Three: Shanghai Tea

Posted on Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Dave!I love museums and, lucky for me, Shanghai has an amazing property right on People's Square. The collection contained within The Shanghai Museum is a mind-bogglingly beautiful treasure trove that took me 2-1/2 hours to go through, and even that was at a rushed pace. I could have easily spent half a day there.

They have displays of jade carving, pottery, seals, coins, furniture, brush painting, calligraphy, statues, and much more... all beautifully arranged in a really nifty building...

Shanghai Museum

There were many pieces I loved, but this statue was a favorite. His disapproving stare just cuts right through you...

Museum Pouty

Once outside, I sat at the fountain and watched the kids at play. Chinese Children are adorable, friendly, and very curious. More than a couple times they would come up to say an enthusiastic "hello!" and then wait for you to say "hello!" back so they could say it again. And again. And again. This little guy was particularly friendly, and was happy to have his photo taken...

Fountain Boy

I later learned that this area of People's Square is a popular place on Sunday because it becomes an "English Corner" where Chinese students of English go to practice their skills. As I was taking photos, I met a guy (Lane) and his girlfriend (Lucille) who were kind enough to strike up a conversation with me. We got on well enough that they asked if I wanted to go with them to a tea house so they could purchase some souvenir teas for their families and talk along the way. Lane's English is better than mine, so it made for fun conversation.

Once at the tea parlor, they asked if I wanted to go to a "Traditional Tea Tasting" which was a fantastic highlight to end my day with. It was made even better, because Lane was translating everything, giving me an understanding about what was going on that I never would have had otherwise...

Lane and Lucille

There were six teas we sampled, each with a fascinating history and purpose. Everything was perfectly orchestrated, and then entire ceremony... from how you hold a tea cup... to the proper water temperature... to what was in it... to where it came from... was given. We also got introduced to the "tea god" who brings you good luck when you pour tea on his back...

Tea!

The teas we sampled: Ginseng Tea, Jasmine Tea, Fruit Tea, Mountain Green Tea, Li Zhiong Black Tea, and the totally fascinating "Five Golden Flower Art Tea". That last one was the kicker. It starts out as a tea ball with green tea leaves wrapped around five chained flowers. As the water is poured on the ball and it steeps, it unfolds to become a work of art that tastes amazing...

Tea!

Lucille wanted very much for me to take some back with me, but I can totally envision the Customs Agents searching my bag to find THIS inside...

Tea!

Can you say "felony drug possession?" I picture myself being dragged away in handcuffs while screaming "IT'S JUST TEA! BOIL ME SOME WATER AND I'LL SHOW YOU... IT'S JUST TEA! IT'S JUUUSSSTTT TEEEEEEEAAA!! It broke my heart to have to decline, but that kind of trouble I just don't need in my life.

After tea, we exchanged email addresses and parted ways. They are also traveling to Beijing for "National Day," so we might yet meet again before I leave China.

I was going to go to the top of the Peace Hotel to see the city lights from their NightBar, but it had been a very full day, so I decided to save that for my next trip into the city. All in all... not a bad day for Dave.

UPDATE: This is a common type of scam in China, so be sure that if "somebody invites you for tea" that you ask for pricing first, and explain that you are ONLY paying for YOUR tea. Usually, it's two or three girls who approach you, and then you find out that "girls don't pay in China" and have to pay for everything. In this case, I told Lane pay for his girlfriend so, if it was a scam, I was only out the $50 for myself (which was worth it to me, because the whole thing was actually kind of cool).

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Day Four: Zhou Zhuang

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2005

Dave!Today was pretty much work all day, but on the way back into the city my host rushed me to the ancient village of Zhou Zhuang (aka "Zhouzhuang," about 90 minutes west of Shanghai) so I could try and visit before it got dark. This is a quaint little fishing village that has been kept much the same as it was in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911)... except now the structures are filled with tourist traps, where shopkeepers yell at you to view their wares as you pass by. It's kind of sad, in a way, because there's simply too many people competing over too little profit. I can't help but wonder how some of them manage to get by.

Anyway, Zhou Zhuang is cut by a series of canals, and is linked by beautiful stone bridges. You can walk along the narrow streets, or hire a boat to take you along the canals. The boats are kind of Venice-like, in that the oarsman or oarswoman will serenade you with a song as they push through the water.

Kind of a cool way to end the day by seeing China as it once was...

Zhou Zhuang

Zhou Zhuang

Zhou Zhuang

Zhou Zhuang

Zhou Zhuang

I'm whipped. Knackered. Exhausted. Beat. Destroyed. Something tells me I might be able to get a little sleep tonight. That would be a pleasant change from the 3 hours I managed to get last night.

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Day Five: Shanghai Jade Buddah

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Dave!Knowing that I needed to get caught up with work in the afternoon, I started the day early so I could visit the Temple of the Jade Buddha. It turned out to be more of an adventure than I had thought it was going to be.

I have been skydiving, bungee jumping, diving with sharks, race car driving, held up at knife-point twice, and had a multitude of other dangerous encounters throughout my life. But all of those pale in comparison to taking a taxi through the streets of Shanghai. Especially when you get a driver with a death-wish. Taxi drivers aren't supposed to smoke, play the radio, use their mobile phone, or spit... mine did everything but smoke and, given the ride I had, I kind of wish that I was the one with a cigarette. It was especially disturbing considering that he didn't know where the temple was (despite being a famous landmark) and had a map in his face a good portion of the time.

So there I was, bouncing around in the back seat with LOVE RADIO blasting so loud that my eardrums were bleeding, all while we were tearing through the city at a reckless pace... laying on the horn the entire way and watching the map instead of the road. There were moments where I was thinking to myself "so this is how I'm going to die is it?" And then watch helplessly as the taxi skidded around a corner, narrowly missing a mass of bicycles and pedestrians.

By the time we got to the temple, I was ready to shave my head and become a monk so that I wouldn't have to go through that again.

But the temple itself is pretty sweet, and well worth the dangerous journey to get there. You are not allowed to take pictures of the actual Jade Buddha (which is exquisitely beautiful), but there are plenty of other sites to photograph...

Temple

Temple

I particularly like the little lion guardians that are everywhere around the temple. Many of them had red "wish ribbons" tied around them, which made for a cool photo subject...

Temple

Temple

On the way out, I pass through the gift shop so I can get me a wooden "Happy Buddha" statue to take back with me. Given my luck with taxis, I can use all the luck I can get.

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Day Five: Shanghai Psycho Breasts

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Dave!After my near-death experience getting to the Temple of the Jade Buddha, the ride back into the city center was positively tame. Since I ran out of time on Sunday, I decided to drop by the Shanghai Museum of Art to see the current installation. The museum itself is relatively small... just two rooms with a connecting hallway. There were maybe fifty paintings in one room and 35 in the other.

Turns out that what the museum lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality.

The current showing was for a brush artist named Wu Guanzhong, and it was remarkable. Stunning really. I couldn't afford it, but I ended up buying the show book because there was no way I could leave without it.

As I was leaving, I noticed an interesting sign out front...

Psycho!

I had seen a similar sign forbidding psychos in taxis (apparently this excludes the driver), but dismissed it. When I started paying attention, I noticed that signs forbidding psychopaths are actually quite common. This lead me to wonder if psychos are wandering the streets of Shanghai or something (just like New York!).

Once I had finished up at the museum, I was starting to get hungry. Noting a McDonalds down the street, I decided to see if they had the miraculously yummy fried pies that are prevalent at all McDonalds except those in the USA, where we get the shitty baked crap instead. Sure enough, fried pies!! As I sat down with my pies, fries, and a Coke, I noticed this creepy painting directly opposite me...

Ronald

"Blessed is he who eats unto Him."

My fear of clowns is well documented, but this goes beyond fear... in kind of a Norman-Bates-Psycho-Not-Allowed-In-The-Museum kind of way. I'm going to be having nightmares for months. To calm my nerves, I decided to go snack shopping at the mini-mart across the street. Who knows what cool and exotic chips (crisps) and cookies (biscuits) I might find? Turns out there wasn't much, but the chip selection was rather interesting...

Lays

Among the choices... Cool Cucumber Flavor, Cool Lemon Flavor, Cool Green Tea Flavor, American-Style Original, Swiss Cheese Flavor, Italian Red Meat Flavor, and Texas Grilled BBQ Flavor. I tried the Lemon (yargh!) and Swiss Cheese (yum!) varieties, and a box of Pocky for good measure. I then hailed another taxi so I could make my way back Pudong-side. The driver was terrific, but the advertising is what caught my attention...

BreastFit

I think it's basically telling you that if your breasts don't fit in your dress, then visit La Zephire Beauty Management, and they'll fix you right up. I don't need the breast-job (or do I?), but was compelled to take a look at the web site they provided.

This was quite revealing.

Turns out that Heather Graham is a client and spokesmodel for their "Abundant Chest" program! I knew they were fake!!

Abundant Chest

What I was NOT prepared for was finding out that Jennifer Aniston was also a client and spokesmodel...

Abundant Chest

GAAAAH! Say it's not so! If Jennifer Aniston can have fake breasts, how can we truly know if ANYTHING is real? Who am I? What am I doing here? Am I real? Or is this all in my head? Leave it to Jennifer Aniston's breasts to make me finally lose my fragile grip on reality...

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Day Five: Shanghai Urban Speed

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Dave!Putting aside the question of my reality, I backtracked to People's Square so I could visit the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. It came highly recommended by a friend who had been to the city, so I decided to give it a try.

Turns out I was mighty glad I did, because the contents within are fascinating in a way that Judicial Confirmation Hearings are supposed to be, but aren't.

If nothing else, it certainly is a cool building to look at...

Shanghai Urban

The highlight of the entire complex is a massively huge 1/500th scale model of Shanghai that boggles the mind. Even with my wide-angle lens, there was just no fitting it into the frame, because it goes on forever...

Shanghai Urban

With something this size, you'd think that they would skimp on the details. You would be wrong. Everything is faithfully reproduced, right down to the smallest detail. In addition, there are lighting cues to explain the layout of the city, all while a cute guide (with the most pleasant speaking voice I have ever heard) runs you through the model...

Shanghai Urban

Interestingly enough, the model not only reflects the current state of the city, but includes future plans as well. The building I went up on Sunday, Jin Mao Tower, is the tallest building in China. But the model reveals that two taller buildings will eventually flank it on either side...

Shanghai Urban

As noon approached, I needed to get back to the hotel so I could get some work done, but I decided to take a little detour first.

When I landed in Shanghai on Saturday night, I was looking forward to taking the MagLev Train into the city. Unfortunately, we arrived so late that the train had long-since shut down for the day. Not one to pass up a ride on the fastest train in the known universe, I figured today was the day. What's cool about the train, other than the fact that you'll be traveling at 430km per hour (267mph), is that you seem to defy gravity while doing it. Magnetic repulsion means that the train never touches the tracks, providing a frictionless run. It's pretty sweet-looking too...

MagLev

I expected the ride to be smooth to the point of being unnoticeable but, unlike the elevator in Jin Mao Tower (where you cannot sense motion), you do get buffeted around a bit. Still, it's kind of a cool thing to have done. I bought a same-day-return fare in the comfy "VIP" section, which was completely empty...

MagLev

The entire 30km journey takes just under 8 minutes. Apparently the same journey takes about 40 minutes by taxi...

MagLev

The Shinkansen "Bullet Train" in Japan was my previous fasten train ride... at 210km per hour, making this one twice as fast. Kind of makes me wonder what the theoretical limit for mass-transit actually is.

And on that note... this ends my last day in Shanghai.

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Day Six: Shanghai to Beijing

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Dave!Last night I ended up watching Chinese television and eating in my room instead of going out. I was just too tired to head into the city again.

The show I ended up watching was an English education program with various segments that used movies and music to teach the language in context. Unfortunately, the movie in question was a Pauley Shore flick, which had me cringing at the thought of the Chinese thinking that this movie is in any way indicative of life in America. I mean, Pauley Shore?!? Is there anything that could possibly be more embarrassing? And the phrases for the evening that they were teaching? "I'll make it up to you" and "That's really cool of you."

After a whopping 5 hours sleep, I checked out of my hotel and caught a taxi to Hongqiao airport for my flight to Beijing. My taxi driver, quite surprisingly, was a woman (the first female taxi driver I had seen since I got here). For some reason, I thought that this would make for a less-eventful journey, but I couldn't have been more wrong. She was just as aggressive a driver as any of her male counterparts, if not more so. She could wedge her way into traffic, horn blaring, with the best of them. I was thrilled.

The 2-hour flight to Beijing via Air China, was pleasant enough... except for the fact that we sat on the tarmac for an hour before taking off. And thus began a day of waiting...

  • Waiting at the airport: 2-1/2 hours.
  • Waiting for the plane to take off: 1 hour.
  • Waiting to land: 2 hours.
  • Waiting in an endless line for a taxi: 1-1/2 hours.
  • Waiting to get to my hotel: 1-1/2 hours.
  • Waiting at check-in: 20 minutes.
  • Waiting in traffic to get to the Hard Rock: 2 hours*.
  • Waiting in traffic for the ride bacK 1/2 hour.

*The two hours to the Hard Rock was mainly due to the incompetence of the driver I got, who kept falling asleep at traffic stops and took the busiest route possible to get there... bypassing the Ring Road entirely in favor of driving through Tiananmen Square during rush hour. Easily the worst driver I have EVER had in my life. And, given the number of taxis I've taken over the years, that's saying a lot. It took every ounce of restraint I could muster not to choke the bastard for the entire length of the journey. I had to settle for kicking his seat each time the dumbass fell asleep.

Anyway, pretty much a wasted day. I am hoping to make up for it tomorrow.

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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.

   

Day Seven: Beijing Ming Tombs

Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Dave!Last night I arranged to hire a car and driver for today. For 900 Renminbi (about $110 USD) you can be picked up at 7am and then spend the next 9 hours doing whatever you want. A taxi hire would have been cheaper, but I wanted an English-speaking guide to take care of me, and that costs extra. Turns out it was a good move anyway, because my driver was able to explain many interesting facts about the countryside and how the people live there. It also meant that I could add or change my itinerary without any translation hassles.

I started by visiting the Ming Tombs, which house 13 of the 15 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The entrance to the grounds, called "The Spirit Way" is a nifty path that's guarded by these amazing animal and mythical beast carvings...

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs

My favorite was this guy because he's got some freaky hair going on...

Ming Tombs

There wasn't a monkey, so I decided to add one (nicely distorted by my wide-angle lens)...

Ming Tombs

The tombs themselves are not very extravagant but they are interesting. Only one tomb is excavated so you can go down and explore it, but there wasn't much to it at all. Probably because they filled it with a bunch of the Emperor's concubines and buried them alive or something.

Ming Tombs

It's the little details that just blow you away...

Ming Tombs

Now that I've seen all this, it has given me definite ideas as to how I want to be buried.

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Day Seven: Beijing The Great Wall

Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Dave!I don't really believe in luck. Though, I suppose if you were to press me, I'd have to say that I'm a fairly lucky individual. I do, however, believe in karma a little bit. And because I am so fortunate to be able to travel to so many interesting places around the world, it's all got to balance out somehow.

Unfortunately, it was my karma to be saddled with very, very bad weather for my trip to The Great Wall of China this afternoon. I tried to look on the bright side and say "hey, it may be raining buckets and I can't see much because of the fog... but I am here at The Great Wall of China, and that's not too bad."

But it wasn't easy to be very convincing.

It was a pretty big disappointment that I could only see small pieces of The Wall at a time, instead of being able to look out and see it stretching to the horizon. I mean, when I dreamed of visiting here all these years, this spooky visage wasn't exactly what I had in mind...

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Oh well, I would rather have seen it wet and foggy than never at all. The big picture here is that I've finally stood upon The Great Wall of China, and that IS something...

The Great Wall

I guess this means I am one step closer to death now.

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Day Eight: Beijing Wall Redux

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2005

Dave!Yesterday I told my driver not to bother picking me up until 7:30, since nothing really opens until 8:00am. So I awake at 7:00 and look out the window only to see yet another dreary, gray-sky morning with mist limiting the visibility in all directions. Just another depressing day of poor weather in Beijing! Oh well, at least it won't be raining for my trips to the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven.

With the conditions so dreadful, I'm in no hurry to head out into the crowded streets of Beijing, and drop down to the lobby at 7:25am to find my driver waiting for me...

Driver: "I have something to tell you."

Dave: "Uhhh... okay."

Driver: "The Great Wall is very important to you?"

Dave: "Yes."

Driver: "Most important to you maybe?"

Dave: "Errr... yes?"

Driver: "I think so. This morning I call Mutianyu and they say no rain. No clouds. Is clear."

Dave (trying desperately to not let my disbelief show): Really?

Driver: Yes. In city weather is bad. But in mountains it is good. No rain. No clouds. Not foggy... is clear. I call for you.

Dave (my interest piqued): So it is sunny and clear skies in Mutianyu?

Driver: Yes. I can take you back again.

Dave (with nothing to lose): Okay. Let's go.

And the entire way to Mutianyu I look out my window to see nothing but fog and mist... the likelihood of there being clear blue skies seems laughable, and I begin to wonder what the scam is. But then we round a corner, and all of a sudden the weather is drastically improved. We approach The Great Wall, and this time I can actually see it.

Now THIS is what I am talking about...

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Yes. Needless to say, my driver is getting a big-ass tip.

UPDATE: I went to the "Mutianyu" section of the wall, because I was told it was less crowded with better views. The more common tourist spot is the "Badaling" section, because it is closer with easier access and closer to the Ming Tombs. There was a photo of the Badaling Wall in the China Daily that made me glad for my choice...

Badaling Crowd

Yikes. Compared to this, Mutianyu was positively deserted.

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Day Eight: Beijing Forbidden City

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2005

Dave!After getting my second chance at The Great Wall... I was so happy that I didn't care if I saw anything else today. But I had a driver on the clock, so we headed back into Beijing proper so I could resume my tour of famous places at The Forbidden City...

Forbidden City Entrance

A stunningly beautiful portrait of Chairman Mao welcomes you into the city. I'm afraid that a photograph can't do it justice... the colors are quite remarkable, almost luminescent, and the rendering itself is just amazing. I have no idea who the artist is, but they did an incredible job...

Mao

You can ascend the gate for a small fee and look back out at Tiananmen Square. Since tomorrow is "National Day," the most important of Chinese holidays, the square is already abuzz with activity. Tomorrow it will be overflowing in celebration...

Tiananmen Square

After you walk through the city for a while, there are two things that strike you. The first is the overwhelming attention to detail in every facet of The Forbidden City. Even a simple roof column support is beautiful to the extreme...

Roof Column

The second thing about The Forbidden City that moves you is how OPEN it is. There is huge amounts of open space between structures. The entire city begs to be shot in widescreen...

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

But it's the quiet spaces I like best...

Forbidden City

And, of course, The Forbidden City would not be complete without a f#@%ing Starbucks from those barbarians in the West contaminating Chinese culture...

Forbidden Starbucks

I shot nearly 70 photos within the walls of The Forbidden City... everything seemed so awe-inspiring and amazing at the time. But now that I am looking through them, I'm surprised at how much that the various sections look the same. Still, it's an amazing experience to walk through the city walls and envision what it must have been like back when The Emperor was truly The Son of Heaven, and ruled all of China from this very place.

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Day Eight: Beijing Temple of Heaven

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2005

Dave!From The Forbidden City, my driver headed southward to one of the most recognized buildings in Beijing... The Temple of Heaven. Proving that karma does indeed balance out... I found that the "Temple of Prayers for Good Harvest" is closed for repairs until April of next month year. Oh well, if I had to choose between a clear day at The Great Wall and this, I'll take The Wall any day.

And it doesn't hurt that I've seen the reproduction at Epcot's World Showcase in Walt Disney World either.

Temple of Heaven

Since I couldn't actually go into the main building, I had to settle for a trip to the "Imperial Vault of Heaven"...

Temple of Heaven

Next to the Vault is the famous "whispering wall" where you can stand at opposite ends of the curved surface and hear a whisper across it. Unfortunately, there were dozens of people screaming at it (totally missing the point), which meant that you couldn't hear a thing, so that was that.

My favorite part of the Temple of Heaven Park was the Circular Mound which is supposed to have bizarre acoustical properties if you speak whilst standing at its center. With the hordes of noisy tourists buzzing about, it was impossible to know what this might involve. Still, it is a beautiful structure...

Circular Mound

Circular Mound

Circular Mound

And thus ends yet another long day in Beijing. Tomorrow, I'm just going to relax a bit... perhaps journeying to Lama Temple and see what the festivities are like in Tiananmen Square. Or maybe I'll just stay in my hotel room and sleep all day. That sounds equally appealing.

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Day Nine: Beijing QA

Posted on Saturday, October 1st, 2005

Dave!Apparently Blogography has been linked to on a China travel forum, and my email address has been posted as well, because I awoke to find two dozen emails with questions awaiting me.

Since I am completely backlogged with my email just now (sorry) I thought I'd write a quick entry to address some of the questions I received, mostly about my driver for the past two days...

Your driver sounds wonderful. How do I get ahold of him? Does he have a web site?
I honestly don't know. I have his mobile number (in case I got lost), but won't be posting it here. The driver was arranged through my hotel's concierge desk, and I'd imagine that all hotels will have a list of reputable drivers in Beijing. When you check in, just ask them to hook you up.

You were totally ripped off at 1000 RMB a day... you can get a driver for 600 RMB!!
As I mentioned, I KNOW I could have gotten a driver for less (or a taxi for even less than that). But I wanted an experienced driver with English skills, and I went through my hotel to get him... all of this adds cost. But look at what I got in return! He looked out for me and got me a second chance to actually see The Great Wall because he knew it was important to me from our talks. How can you put a price on that? He was easily worth 2000 RMB a day for what I got in return. IMPORTANT: if you hire a driver, it is very important to know that the negotiated fee covers ONLY the car and his services... you are responsible for all tolls, parking, and fees.

How much did you tip your driver?
My hotel had told me that the 1000 RMB included tip, as tipping is not customary here. So, on the first day, I just paid him that much. But, after the effort he went through to make my trip (literally) a dream come true... I added another 200 RMB the second day. He was most grateful for the extra, and I probably should have given him more.

Is a driver safer than a taxi?
I am guessing that a professional driver is, though I can't say for sure. Unlike taxis, drivers have a reputation to maintain, so it would be pretty stupid for them to start ripping off their customers. My driver was very sensitive to my comfort level. On the morning of the first day, he was very easy-going through traffic... but as he noticed I wasn't bothered by more aggressive driving, he became more and more daring as to how he worked his way through traffic. By the end of the second day, I felt like I had hired The Transporter because he was whipping through traffic and speeding along at a breakneck pace. Had I acted nervous about what he was doing, I'm certain he would have sensed this and backed off. I am telling you right now, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for a professional driver. None.

You make it sound like you can drive right up to The Great Wall, but I don't think this is true, is it?
I can only speak from having visited at Mutianyu, but no... you can't drive right up to The Wall. Where I was, we drove to a parking area, and then I hiked to a cable car that takes you to the top. You can also walk the 1000 (or thereabouts) steps to the top, but you get a terrific view from the cable car, so I highly recommend it...

Cable Car Great Wall

When you visit the temples and such, does your driver go with you?
No. He's a driver, not a tour guide. If you want a private guide, they can be hired separately. The driver simply drops you off, explains what to do, and then leaves you to explore. Sometimes, like when I visited "The Spirit Way" or "The Forbidden City" I arranged to have the driver drop me off at one end, then pick me up at the other end after I've walked through. If there was no place for him to park on the other side, I'd simply ring his number on my mobile phone (but hang up immediately so I don't get billed for the call) and he'd drive right up to get me. IMPORTANT: As I understand it, most of China's mobile service is CDMA (like Verizon Wireless has in the US)... and GSM coverage is limited. Be sure to check with your mobile company before you go to see if your phone will work, if you need to have one handy.

What hotel are you staying at?
It's called the "Holiday Inn Central Plaza." Unlike the US, where Holiday Inn is sometimes viewed as a cheaper, low-end hotel, in Asia it's exactly the opposite. I've stayed in amazing Holiday Inn hotels from Thailand to Japan, and they'll all top-notch. This particular hotel is very nice and not outrageously expensive, but the location is not the best, being tucked away in the South-Western area of the city (where there are few attractions). Fortunately, taxis are plentiful and inexpensive... but if you want to be closer to the action (and don't mind paying for it), there are better choices.

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Day Nine: Beijing Finale

Posted on Saturday, October 1st, 2005

Dave!My intent today was to do as little as possible so I could relax on my last day in Beijing, and I think I succeeded.

After rolling out of bed at 9:00am, I had breakfast at the hotel next to a couple of annoying bitches who were shameless about being critical of their time here in China. This just baffles me. I mean, why travel outside the US if you are going to complain about things not being like the US when you leave the country? You are a GUEST here... if you are going to be dumbasses, at least have the courtesy not to do it in a public venue.

Missing my driver already, I ended up taking a taxi to Lama Temple. This is a terrific oasis of calm in the northeastern corner of the city...

Lama Temple

Lama Temple

Lama Temple

I then walked the short distance to Confucius Temple, but it was under heavy construction, so I gave up on that idea pretty quickly. Since a subway station was nearby, I decided to just take the metro to the southeastern corner of the city so I could visit the "Beijing Friendship Store" and have lunch. I ended up eating at the Pizza Hut here, thinking it would be a nice change of pace from all the tofu I've been consuming over the past week. Turns out I should have just eaten a traditional Chinese vegetarian meal at the Buddhist temple, because I ended up feeling pretty sick after eating my cheese pizza.

Not feeling well at all, I decided to just walk to Tienanmen Square to see what festivities might be going on for National Day. This was a mistake, because walking 2-1/2 miles with a sick stomach does nothing to make you feel any better. By the time I got there, I was ready to puke or die or both. Turns out it was a wasted trip anyway, because I was either too early or too late to see whatever display was going on. It was just an endless mass of people waiting for something to happen...

Tiananmen at National Day

And that was it. I flagged down a taxi to take me back to the hotel so I could chew on a few Pepto Bismol tablets and watch television. Since I had already been to The Great Wall (twice), there wasn't much else I wanted to do. All that's left is to pack my suitcase, get some sleep, and head off to the airport in the morning.

Goodbye to the Middle Kingdom. Thanks for having me. 谢谢

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Day Ten: PEK to EAT

Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

Dave!The flight home always seem to pass more quickly than the flight away. Part of this is because, thanks to the rotation of the earth and prevailing tail-winds, it is quicker... by about 1-1/2 hours this time... but it doesn't explain everything. I mean, what's an hour in the course of a 13 hour flight? Not much. Perhaps it's a mental thing?

Overall, I can say that I loved my brief time in China. Absolutely loved it. I have been dreaming of standing upon The Great Wall since I was very young, and now that I have actually done it, it feels as though a part of my life that was missing is now complete. All my other experiences on the trip, wonderful as they were, pale in comparison. If you ever have the opportunity to visit The Middle Kingdom, I highly recommend it.

If you do go, however, there are some things to prepare yourself for...

  • Traffic. In China's two major cities of Shanghai and Beijing, traffic is horrendous on a scale that dwarfs all my other traffic complaints. More and more people are getting cars, and the road infrastructure is simply not able to handle the volume. Beijing's subway system helps, but can't take you everywhere.
  • Queue. As I mentioned, standing in line in China is the ultimate torture. From the minute you step off the plane and queue for a taxi, to the minute you stand in line at Border Patrol to leave, you will be forced to endure shoving, pushing, crowding, and lots and lots of line-cutting. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in a line and getting nowhere because people are constantly cutting in front of you. Nothing will make you more angry than being next in line at a ticket window, only to have somebody shove you out of the way so they can go first. It is constant and never-ending, and will plague you in every single queue you have to wait in. You have to learn to ignore it, otherwise you will be very, very angry for most of your trip.
  • Construction. China is forever expanding and changing. And now that the Olympics are coming to Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo is coming to Shanghai in 2010, their efforts are doubled. Many important landmarks are closed or covered in scaffolding, which means you probably won't get to see all the things you were hoping to (for me it was Temple of Heaven and Confucius Temple).

If you can get past these sticking points, then you will see and experience things that will blow your mind. Chinese culture is thousands of years old, and will capture your imagination in a way that few others can.

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Buhbye

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

Dave!Well, I'm off for a short vacation. At last.

I will be writing an entry every day, as usual, but may not have internet access each day to post them. If you ordered a Blogography Logo Shirt or a Bad Monkey Shirt as of 2pm yesterday, Seattle time, you've been shipped. Anything arriving after that will, sadly, have to ship out the week of the 24th when I return (alas, I have nobody to cover shipments for me this trip). Custom orders and back-orders will be printed up in early November.

Everybody play nice...

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Day One: SEA->AMS

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Dave!A boring and uneventful drive over to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was salvaged by a fantastic flight on one of Northwest Airlines newer A330 aircraft, where everybody has their own personal entertainment center. Since this was a free flight, I was in coach, but there seemed to be slightly more room than usual on this plane, so I didn't mind much.

Thanks to dozens of movie choices and games, the flight to Amsterdam flew by (heh heh) in no time.

I got to see Batman Begins (great, seen it before), Fantastic Four (not nearly as bad as I had thought), War of the Worlds (interesting flick with a crap ending), March of the Penguins (cute, but I fast-forwarded through much of it), Bewitched (truly awful, and I fast-forwarded through practically all of it), plus play a few games of trivia and Bejeweled. I was still playing as the landing gear came down, and still can't figure out where the 9 hours went. THAT'S the way to fly international.

I was very nervous when I surfed by Apple's web site, curious to know what their "big announcement" was going to be and how much it was going to cost me. Turns out it won't cost me a thing. The new media features in the iMac G5 are nice, but I've already got both a Mac and a TV. The new video iPod isn't impressive enough to warrant purchase, and the new video offerings at the increasingly mis-named iTunes Music Store are shows I don't care about and are only being offered at a crappy 320x240 resolution. Sure that's fine for an iPod, but there are plenty of other media portables out there with bigger screens, bigger storage, and better resolution for me to pay $1.99 a pop for crummy low-res copies of Lost and Desperate Housewives. What in the heck is Apple thinking?!?

Oh well. I don't really have the money to buy a cool new toy from Apple just now. With that in mind, I suppose I should be glad that they didn't release a cool new toy I couldn't live without.

On a sadder note, a small bird seems to be trapped here inside Schiphol International Airport. He flies up to the skylight, realizes he can't get out, and then flies down to the railing and starts chirping... I am guessing in the hopes that some other bird will answer and he can go home (or at least get outside)...

Trapped Bird

The poor little guy just flies from rail to rail calling out for help... it really is heartbreaking (I seem to be having March of the Penguins flashbacks here). Hopefully he gets it all figured out. I doubt a diet of leftover french fries and being trapped in an airport is a very good life for one who is meant to fly free.

   

Day One: Roma

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Dave!My favorite place on earth is Edinburgh, Scotland. Tying for a close second would be a dozen different places in Italy, the city of Rome included.

And so here I am in the Eternal City, almost five years after my first visit during the Catholic Church's Holy Year of 2000. My love for Roma has not diminished, and I am just as excited over being here now as I was then. There are sights here to overwhelm the senses of even the most jaded traveler...

Colosseo!

Now I want a gelato.

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Day Two: Roma Vatican City

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Dave!According to the weatherman, it was supposed to be raining today. But looking out my window, all I saw was scattered clouds. By the afternoon, even the clouds were gone, leaving a flawless blue sky. The sun was so bright, in fact, that it made getting some photos difficult... even with a polarizing filter on my lens. I never thought that I would find myself complaining over a perfect day.

Wanting to avoid the 2-3 hour lines at the Vatican Museum, I got there 30 minutes early. The queue was already forming, and in another half-hour the line was around the corner and out of sight. It would seem that the longer you wait to show up, the longer you wait to get in.

However long you wait, it's all worth it once you get inside. They don't let you take photos of the Sistine Chapel, but there are plenty of other remarkable ceilings to photograph...

Museum Ceiling

There are hundreds (thousands) of renditions of Jesus in the Vatican Museum, some of them surprisingly clever. I particularly liked this one, where he is looking around at things with a notable curiosity...

Curious Jesus

Last time I was here, I didn't get to visit their collection of Roman statue art. It's pretty impressive and, from the lack of crowds, severely under-appreciated...

Vatican Statue

After three hours wandering the museum, it was time to walk over to Saint Peter's. Unlike my visit in 2000, they now have metal detectors and baggage inspection. This adds a significant amount of time to entering the basilica, though I suppose it's a smart thing to do. Oddly enough, they looked to be setting up for a rock concert in front. I guess the new pope knows how to party...

Saint Peter's

The queue to go to the top of Michelangelo's Dome was not too bad, though it's hard to imagine anybody complaining about standing in line to see something so magnificent...

Saint Peter's Dome

The view from the bottom back up is equally stunning... with ant-sized people scattered below...

Saint Peter's

Around noon, the clouds were mostly gone, leaving a terrific view of the city...

Saint Peter's

All that, and the day isn't even half over.

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Day Two: Roma Walk

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Dave!I had another full day in Rome, but didn't want to risk the weather turning, so I decided to walk through some of the major sites while the sun was shining. After a pilgrimage to the Spanish Steps and the Hard Rock Cafe Rome, it was time to get started.

First a walk to the Trevi Fountain, which was crowded as always...

Trevi Fountain

Next up was The Pantheon, which is a remarkable architectural achievement considering it was built over 2000 years ago. Apparently, it's the oldest pagan temple left in the city (though it was unsurprisingly converted into a church at some point)...

Pantheon

Pantheon

After walking around the Piazza Navona, the day was wrapping up, so it was back towards the hotel and a walk through the Forum...

Forum

Forum

And back to the Colosseum...

Colosseo

Colosseo

The perfect end to a perfect day in the Eternal City!

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Day Two: Roma Alfredo’s

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Dave!There was really only one choice for dinner... Alfredo alla Scrofa. This is one of two restaurants in Rome claiming to be the inventor of Fettucini Alfredo, which is my favorite pasta dish. But this is the real Fettucini Alfredo, which is quite a bit different than the grotesque imitation you'll find at a typical "Italian" restaurant in the US.

REAL Fettucuni Alfredo has very thin noodles... almost noodle shavings instead of the thick, gummy crap typical of Americanized pasta. REAL Fettucini Alfredo is thick with a deliciously aged, sharp parmesan cheese instead of the flavorless, watery cream that plagues Americanized Alfredo sauce. REAL Fettucini Alfredo is so good that it's practically worth a trip to Rome just to taste it...

Alfredo

REAL Fettucini Alfredo is impossible to describe with mere words... but "orgasmic" comes to mind...

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Day Three: Roma Walk Due

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Dave!My fear about the weather changing was unfounded, as today was even more perfect than yesterday. I don't think I saw a single cloud in the sky all day. Bellisima!

Since I rushed to get to all the major sights taken care of the day before, I was left with a lot of time to explore some lesser known, yet no-less interesting attractions today... starting with those right out the front door of my hotel, the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Portunus, which I can see from my window each morning...

Hotelview

Then it's just a quick hop across the street to see the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth), which is supposed to snap shut on the hands of those telling lies...

Bocca della Verita

And then it's a short walk back past the hotel to the brilliant Capitoline Museums, atop Capitoline Hill which was the center of ancient Rome. These are probably my favorite museums of the city, and today was the last day of an amazing exhibit which focused on the architectural wonders of the city. There were beautiful pen and ink renderings from around the world of various Roman landmarks, each more fascinating than the last. The "regular" collection is pretty special as well...

Captoline

The statue of the woman with -ahem- extra parts is a bit disturbing... particularly when a rather important piece of the extra parts has fallen off. This is also where the pieces of a massive statue (since fallen apart) reside, including this giant hand...

Giant Hand

From the roof I got an excellent view of the city. Just another crappy day...

Roma

I hope the weather is even half this good as I head north tomorrow.

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Day Three: Roma Walk Tre

Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Dave!After lunch, I was half-way tempted to just go back to the hotel and relax, but that would be a total waste of such a beautiful day, so I decided to head north to Esquiline (this is the tallest of Rome's hills, and one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city). Unfortunately, unlike the major attractions, all the smaller churches close down for 3 or 4 hours at lunchtime, meaning that most places I went were closed. About the only thing open was Santa Maria Maggiore, a basilica so stunning that it pretty much made the entire trip worthwhile on its own...

Santa Maria Maggiore

I dare say that the interior rivals St. Peter's at The Vatican for sheer beauty and opulence...

Santa Maria Maggiore

The stained glass window here is one of the prettiest I've seen outside the Rose Window from Notre Dame in Paris. The basilica was so dark, it was difficult to get a clear shot, but I was able to capture the bright colors that make it so beautiful...

Maggiore Window

Since San Pietro in Vincoli, home of Michelangelo's Moses statue was still closed, I headed to the Barberini Museum. Unfortunately, photography isn't permitted, because there were several famous works of art stashed here... including that shot of a portly Henry the VIII that's so well known.

On the way back to the hotel, I kept seeing more and more Cabiniere (Military Police), complete with riot gear, hanging out. It started at the Column of Marcus Aurelius...

Column of Marcus Aurelius

... but really became noticeable once you reached the end of the Via del Corso to the Piazza Venezia...

Carabiniere

Once I reached the front of Il Vittoriano, a massive demonstration (protest?) march was happening, so I guess that's what all the fuss is about...

Marching2

Marching1

It was difficult to tell what the march was for, because all the signage seemed to be different... as if everybody was protesting about whatever was on their mind. It was very much a non-violent demonstration, so I have no idea why the Cabiniere were present in such depth (there were even helicopters hovering above). Probably just preventative measures, because who knows how riots get started?

Tomorrow is an early travel day, so that's enough adventuring for today...

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Day Four: Firenze

Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2005

Dave!I don't much care for schedules. The idea of spending my vacation glued to a clock and having every minute of every day planned out to every detail is not my idea of a vacation at all. I would much rather have a general idea of where I am going and what I want to see, then just fill in the specifics as I go.

I had exactly three goals while in Tuscany... 1) Visit the Academy Museum in Florence, so I could see the greatest sculpture in the known universe: Michelangelo's David. 2) Visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one of the most highly regarded on the planet, to see such astounding works as Botticelli's Birth of Venus. 3) Wander out to the Tuscan countryside to take in the scenery and visit a few cities like Sienna or Lucca or San Gimignano or something.

Unfortunately, ALL these things require either timed reservations or some kind of tour. Otherwise you'll spend most of your time waiting in a queue or lost. So I decided to visit the galleries today, and save the countryside for tomorrow. Two days of being glued to the clock.

David is just as jaw-dropping stunning as you'd expect. How Michelangelo managed to inject such life into a block of stone, I cannot fathom. No words I use could adequately describe just how beautiful it is. No photograph can adequately capture the overwhelming presence such a work has. And since photography is forbidden, I suppose it's for the best. There is a copy of the original in front of the Uffizi Gallery, however...

David

The elegance and grace of the human body perfectly captured. Unfortunately, you'll never really get just how perfect from looking at a picture. Sorry, you'll just have to book a trip to Florence for that.

The Uffizi itself is nice enough, and contains a terrific assortment of art treasures... but, if you didn't purchase tickets in advance, it's not really worth the 3 to 4 hours of waiting it takes to enter. Since I already had reservations, it wasn't a problem. There's Botticelli's Birth of Venus, as expected, but also a more provacative The Venus of Urbino, which is worth a look (you naughty monkey!).

The city of Florence is more "interesting" than it is "beautiful," which is why I'm only here for the day, but there are a number of wonderful sights to be had... like the Duomo...

Duomo

And the banks of the Arno...

Arno

And all the cool buildings, which look so great against that cloudless blue sky...

Frienzehomes

Anyway, after walking through the Central Market area and wandering through a few more museums (and eating entirely too much delicious pasta for dinner) my short stay in Firenze had come to an end.

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Day Five: Tuscany

Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2005

Dave!After four flawless days of blue skies and plenty of sunshine, my luck with the weather suddenly changed. Cloudless skies from yesterday had been replaced with thick gray clouds and a dreary mist in the valleys. It never rained, but the morning was far from ideal.

Still, Tuscany is Tuscany and, even without the sunshine, is pretty special. The sunflower fields of summer have gone (with only a few stray flowers still hanging around), but the grape harvest has just ended and the leaves are starting to turn. This provided a nice splash of color against the green and gray of my day...

Tuscany

Tuscany

The tour I had selected included a visit to the tiny medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano. Surprisingly, the sun was just starting to clear out the clouds by the time we arrived...

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

After an hour wandering through the charming streets of a village that seems removed from time, we journeyed to a small winery for lunch. This is exactly the type of place you'd expect to see in Tuscany, and nobody was disappointed...

Tuscany

Tuscany

The last stop on the tour was a visit to the beautiful city of Sienna at the heart of Tuscany. It's large size makes it seem much like dozens of other Italian cities, but the sun had cleared away much of the gloom, leaving a beautiful afternoon at the Piazza Del Campo...

Sienna

Sienna

Not exactly what I was hoping for on a "Best of Tuscany Tour," but a nice outing nevertheless. I can see now the only way to really see the Tuscan countryside is to rent a car and wander the back-roads yourself. Maybe next time. Me? I was just happy to finally have some blue skies.

And on that happy note, feel free to leave Blogography and enjoy the rest of your day. HOWEVER, if you feel like listening to me bitch about why organized tours suck ass... then feel free to keep reading in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Day Six: Venezia

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Dave!Wouldn't you know it. Now that I am leaving Tuscany, the sun is out once again, providing cloudless blue skies as the train pulls into Venice. Not that I am complaining, mind you, but I would have traded just about any day on my vacation for this kind of weather while I was wandering about the Tuscan countryside.

Oh well. Venice is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and having sunshine and blue skies can only accentuate the amazing sites the city has to offer...

Venice

Venice

Venice

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Day Seven: Venezia Details

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Dave!One of the things I love most about Venice are the details. Everywhere you look, there are little artistic touches that grace doors, walls, fountains, and everyday objects that make you really appreciate what a very special place this is.

Just a couple of cool things I noticed this morning...

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

How cool would it be to take a hundred of these photos and create a scavenger hunt through the streets of Venice? Given the maze-like nature of the city, it could be a very difficult game indeed.

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Day Seven: Venezia Murano

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Dave!After the perfectly clear skies yesterday, awaking to a dreary, cold, and overcast day was quite a shock. The weather took a complete 360 overnight, which kind of sucks ass.

The day started at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) while the queue was short. In the early days of Venice, this was the "Palace of Justice" and home to the city government. It was made to show off the wealth and splendor of the Venetian Republic, and does so exceedingly well. You can't take photos inside but, even if you could, it would be difficult to capture the immense size and lush visuals each room presents. All I could manage was a picture of the courtyard...

Doges Palace

I should have gone to the top of St. Mark's Campanile yesterday when the sky was blue, but oh well. Even cloudy, it's still a heck of a view over the city...

Campanile

Campanile

The weather wasn't improving, so I took a "vaparetto" (water bus) to the small island of Murano off the northern coast of Venice. Murano is famous for glassworks, and there are a number of working factories and showrooms you can tour. As a huge fan of glass maestro Dale Chihuly, I could not resist.

Sadly, much of the stuff I would actually buy is way, way out of my price range. Even if I could afford it, getting it back home in one piece would be tricky. Still, it's fun to watch (I especially like this guy's "inspiration" he's got hanging on the wall there)...

Murano Glassblower

Murano itself is kind of like a miniature version of Venice, with its own system of canals and bridges. Had the sun been out, it might even be considered "charming"...

Murano

With the weather holding firm, I decided to look for some indoor activities in the Dorsoduro area. There are two notable galleries here, the first of which is the Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art. It's quite a nice collection, and includes many famous artists like Picasso, Pollock (whom she discovered), Miro, Kandinsky, and some terrific Mondrians. Just across the next canal is the Accademia Museum, which houses the largest collection of Venetian art in the world. It's pretty sweet, but most of these religious-themed paintings are starting to all look alike to me. After seeing your hundredth version of St. Sebastian being martyred and your millionth version of Mary holding baby Jesus... well, even the different artistic interpretations aren't enough to keep things interesting.

As the day was ending, the weather was actually starting to clear up a bit. I can only hope that this means Venice is in for a better day tomorrow.

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Day Eight: Venezia Rain

Posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2005

Dave!When I woke up I could hear the rain before I even looked out the window. I guess this only goes to prove that things can always get worse. So now instead of being merely overcast and cool, it's cloudy, cold, and wet. I didn't think it was possible to be depressed in Venice, but here it is.

My first instinct was to just lay around in bed all day, but that seems a terrible waste, so I decided to walk over to the beautiful Santa Maria della Salute, which is one of Venice's most historic churches...

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

With the rain letting up a little bit, I decided to schlep towards the northern part of the city so I could visit the Ca' d'Oro museum. Along the way, I happened upon the "Bridge of Sighs" which is an ornate covered bridge where prisoners were marched across to face torture and possibly death after their sentencing at the Palazzo Ducale...

Bridge of Sighs

The Ca' d'Oro ("House of Gold") got its name because the facade was once gilded in gold. Now it's a museum and the gold has long since weathered away. The works are pretty much more of the same, but there's a few gems that made the trip worthwhile. Out on the loggia, you can look out over the Grand Canal along with the tiny guardian lions there...

Ca' d'Oro Lion

Not exactly the way I pictured my last day in Venice, but it's what I got. Tomorrow it's five hours on a train and back to Rome. Until then, it's one last walk along the Grand Canal at night...

Venice at Night

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Day Nine: Venezia->Roma

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2005

Dave!Left a cold and wet Venice only to arrive in a warmer, yet far wetter Rome.

This is making me really, really thankful that I had spots of fantastic weather when I did. If the entire vacation had been under this weather, I would be really depressed. As it is, I'm more sad about it coming to an end than I am over the weather. After five hours on a train, all I had the energy for was to walk to the Hard Rock for dinner, then drag my soggy ass back to the hotel. After a few hours out in the rain, I'm really ready for bed.

But I can't go to bed, because I've got five days of blog entries to upload.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do tomorrow. I'm sure it will involve being wet.

Two big releases happened whilst I was in the northern environs of Italia... first, Depeche Mode's latest album, Playing the Angel hit on Tuesday. Next, Apple released some new computers and an utterly brilliant piece of software called Aperture on Wednesday.

Sadly, Depeche Mode's latest was a bit of a disappointment after the initial beauty of the single release Precious (not to mention the long, long wait since the last album). I like half the tracks well enough... but it seems more of an experiment than a refined work. Dave Gahan's voice is amazing as always, it's the musical accompaniment that's lacking. I don't know if Martin Gore is in a phase where everything has to be disjointed, raw, gritty, and stuck in a feedback loop... but it does not "feel" like a Depeche Mode album, and that's a bitter pill to swallow after the long months of anticipation. Some pretty major DM fans are referring to it as "noise" instead of music. While I wouldn't go that far, I can definitely see where they're coming from.

Apple Computer's Aperture, on the other hand, is an absolutely astounding software release that is going to entirely change how I work with digital photos. I cannot wait to get my hands on it, and will probably never shoot in JPEG mode again. If you're a professional photographer, here's a link you really need to follow.

Time for bed.

   

Day Ten: Pisa

Posted on Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

Dave!The weather wasn't bad in Rome this morning, but forecasts showed it to be getting worse as the day goes one, culminating in rain showers. I was going to spend the day wandering through churches and museums I hadn't visited yet... but, at the last minute, decided to head back up north to Pisa where it was only partly cloudy. I figured I might as well see the "Leaning Tower" before it falls over.

Unfortunately, the wait to be able to climb to the top was 4 hours... which I didn't have time for... but the thing looks scary enough that perhaps it was for the best? It's not just leaning, it's really leaning (and even this photo doesn't do it justice because of the curvature of my wide-angle lens!)...

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Tower is interesting and all, but the Duomo that sits next to it is amazing...

Pisa Duomo

Pisa Duomo

Heading back to Rome, the rain was only a sprinkle. After a last walk around the Colosseum and along The Forum, the rain had stopped completely.

Around the dinner hour, I found myself at The Pantheon and ended up having a perfect plate of spaghetti with a view from my table to die for...

Pantheon at Night

As if that wasn't enough, dinner music was provided by (I shit you not) the Hare Krishnas, who totally rocked the house...

Hare Krishna Music

And so ends my last night in Italy.

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Day Eleven: FCO->AMS->SEA

Posted on Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

Dave!Oh goody... I am back in Seattle now. Barely. And sans luggage. This was not a pleasant trip home, and I'll give all the gory details about the non-stop stupidity that deposited me here tomorrow. Right now, I have to take a three hour nap so I can go back to the airport and get my bag off the next flight (at least I hope so). This is exactly what you want to do after traveling for 22 hours.

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Scheduled

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Dave!I have to wonder exactly what a person's breaking point is when it comes to being screwed over.

Today they're called "flight attendants," but if you take a ride on the Wayback Machine, they were called "stewardesses." A while ago, I read an interesting interview with one of the first stewardesses who was asked about flying now vs. flying back then. She lamented that flying back when she was working was so much more special. People dressed up in their finest clothes and were on their best behavior instead of showing up in sweatpants and being rude and demanding. People considered the flight an adventure instead of an annoyance. People thought of the flight as part of their vacation, not just a means to get to their vacation. She thought that flying had become so commonplace that people were apathetic towards it and that it has ruined the experience.

She is, of course, completely full of shit.

What's ruined the experience of flying is how the airlines started treating their customers like cattle and abusing them at every turn. What she is bitching about is, in reality, how people have reacted to how they're treated.

As for me, I'm ready to start showing up at the airport drunk and in my underwear.

My flight out of Rome yesterday was delayed 35 minutes because the inbound flight was late. They ended up "making up the time in the air"* and landed as scheduled at 1:00. So far so good.

But here's the problem... MY CONNECTING FLIGHT OUT OF AMSTERDAM HAD ALREADY BEEN BOARDING FOR 25 F#@%ING MINUTES! On my way over I had a FIVE HOUR layover, on the way back I had NEGATIVE 25 MINUTES layover. Who is the idiot who schedules this crap?

And that's just the beginning. My Northwest Airlines flight over the Atlantic went like this...

  • Since I was 25 minutes late getting in line to board the plane, all overhead space was taken up by morons who ignore the piece/size limits (which Northwest in no way enforces in the first place). This meant my small backpack had to go under the seat in front of me, leaving me NO legroom for a 9 hour flight.
  • We were late taking off, of course. Do flights ever take off on time anymore? Of course, we were assured that we would be "making up the time in the air"*.
  • The audio system on the plane was busted. This meant the two movies we had on the flight had no sound. I guess I shouldn't bitch too much... since Northwest can't afford to pay their mechanics, I should just be grateful that it's not the engines that were busted. Still, it made for a pretty boring 9 hour flight.
  • My tray table was busted. This meant I couldn't set anything on it unless I wanted it to slide off onto the floor. I guess I shouldn't bitch too much... since Northwest can't afford to pay their mechanics, I should just be grateful that it's not the engines that were busted. Still, it made eating quite a challenge for my 9 hour flight.
  • It should come as no surprise at all that my luggage did not make my flight from Minneapolis to Seattle with a NEGATIVE 25 MINUTE CONNECTION. The even worse part is that Northwest didn't bother to let anybody know when the last bag had been unloaded... nor did they bother to forward a list of the bags which didn't make the flight to the airport. This left a group of us standing in the Customs area at Minneapolis St. Paul not knowing if we had bags or not. This is just plain STUPID. Many airlines I fly (like Korean Air) are kind enough to let you know your bag didn't make it so you don't waste time waiting for something that never comes. This "wait for nothing" made me late for my next connection as well.
  • We were told that a Northwest agent would be waiting outside of customs to provide us with "compensation coupons" because of the busted audio system. Well, this agent either ran out of coupons or left before those of us waiting for luggage could clear customs, because I sure didn't get one. I don't even have a clue as to what kind of "compensation" they were offering, but I am betting it wasn't worth a heck of a lot.
  • Having been traveling for 22 hours, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the airport 3 hours later at midnight to pick up my missing bag, but there wasn't much else I could do if I wanted to take it home with me. I was given a number to call to make sure that my luggage actually made the second flight, but the phone was never answered ALL NIGHT LONG!! So once again I went the baggage claim not knowing if I was going to see my bag or not. Thankfully, it was there, but why ask people to call you if you never pick up the phone?

And we won't even get into the stupid crap on the connection flight to Seattle once I connected in Minneapolis. I am beginning to wonder if I would have been smarter to PAY for my flight on a competing airline rather than use frequent flier milage to get a FREE flight on Northwest. Seriously, just how much worse can it get?

Since they're in bankruptcy now, I'm guessing the answer would be "a lot worse."

I think I am past my breaking point right now, and this was on a flight I didn't even pay for.

   

* When airlines say that they are going to "make time up in the air" I think we all know that this is a load of horse shit. Airlines heavily... HEAVILY pad their schedules so that they can still claim a high "on-time arrival rate" despite their constant late departures. For example, the flight I took (#45 out of Amsterdam to Minneapolis) which leaves at 2:05pm and arrives at 4:05pm is being discontinued at the end up the month. It is being replaced with a NEW flight #45 which takes off at 2:05pm but is now arriving at 4:25pm. Twenty minutes of additional slop time to make up for even later departures, I guess. I'm sure they'll claim it's some kind of annual change in weather patterns, but it's all crap no matter how you try to sell it. The simple fact is that planes DO NOT take off on time with any regularity, yet somehow end up LANDING on time?? I wish the FAA would get off their asses and start requiring honesty in airline schedules. But that would mean that they actually have to do some work, and what government agency is interested in actually working for the people they are paid to be serving? Dumbasses.

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Hotel

Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

Dave!And so I'm over in Seattle for a couple of days.

As far as bigger cities go, Seattle is a wholly wonderful place. Sure the traffic is bad, and the weather isn't always the best... but it's a beautiful city with a wonderful and unique culture all its own. I don't get over here nearly often enough.

The problem is that it was snowing on the mountain passes for the drive over.

Snowing.

This seemed entirely impossible until I realized that it was November already, and somehow the months of September and October have totally passed me by. At first I thought I had been abducted by aliens and am experiencing lost time... but the thing about having a blog is that you can go back and verify that every day is accounted for. It turns out that it's not aliens after all. Instead it would appear that there's some kind of rip in the space-time continuum or something like that. If this keeps up, January will be arriving next Tuesday.

But even more disturbing than the laws of physics unraveling along with the fabric of reality, is the bizarre transformation my beloved "Vance Hotel" here in Seattle has taken. It's no longer a quirky historic hotel... now it's some kind of art boutique hotel. Instead of classically comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, it's become "HOTEL MAX SEATTLE" and has transformed into an odd "W Hotel" wannabe with overpriced tiny rooms, a drab military-gray color scheme, and paper-thin walls that do nothing to dampen the loud flat-screen TVs they've installed.

And the changes don't end there. In a vapid attempt to be "fresh" they've upgraded the philosophy of the hotel as well with "experiences" like the "Hubba Hubba Hanky Panky Romance Package" and the "Rock This Way" or "Gaycation Seattle" packages. This, along with original art pieces on all the walls is supposed to make the rooms worth $60 more a night.

I just don't get it.

If I want to pay this kind of money, I'm going to just bite the bullet and go to the "real" W Hotel down the street where they have larger, soundproof rooms with far better decor. The Vance Hotel was perfect just how it was and filled its niche nicely. Hotel Max Seattle is just a confusing mess, and I have no idea exactly what it's supposed to be or who it's supposed to be appealing to. They've spent tons of money and have only succeeded in ruining a once-nice hotel.

What a bummer, because the beds here are killer comfortable.

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Max

Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Dave!More adventures at Hotel Max Seattle.

Last night I finally had to grab my earplugs around midnight because the inconsiderate bitch in the next room continued to play her television at full-volume when I was needing sleep. Oddly enough, the street traffic was obliterated, but I could still hear her television set (which is just behind my headboard around a paper-thin wall). Sometime in the middle of the night, I must have taken out the earplugs, because I was awakened at 5:30am by the shrill tones of the same inconsiderate bitch using push-to-talk on her radio/mobile phone.

Yeah, I wanted her dead pretty bad.

But the REAL adventure started when I decided to take a shower this morning. The bathroom is tiny, but the shower is so small that you could fit three of them in a phone booth. And the curtain is so dark that you can barely see what you are washing because light can't get in. I barely had room to move. My elbows were pinned to my sides. If I were to fart, I'd probably be shot out of the shower by the pressure. This made even simple acts... like pouring shampoo... really difficult.

And of course I dropped the mini shampoo bottle.

And then proceeded to bang my head HARD on the soap tray when I tried to pick it up. I hit so hard that I saw stars and got light-headed. I literally had to climb out of the show all wet and soapy so I could lay down on the bed and wait for the room to stop spinning.

And now I have a big welt on my head...

Hotel Max Seattle

This sucks ass! How am I supposed to get anything done with a raging headache? And I must have rattled my teeth, because my jaw aches too. Hotel Max Seattle sucks balls! And don't get me started over the new "Japanese-Fusion" restaurant on the property called "Red Fin". To give you an idea... they had natto on the breakfast menu. I wrote about natto here, but suffice to say that it is the most foul, horrifying substance on the planet which is meant to be edible. I can't fathom any Westerner wanting to put it in their mouth. I played it safe and just had the eggs and some strangely spicy potatoes.

And they don't even let you put your restaurant charges on your hotel bill, you have to pay separately.

I'm beginning to think that prisons must have better accommodations. Though bending over to pick up the mini shampoo bottle would have entirely different consequences I'm sure.

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Turtle

Posted on Saturday, November 12th, 2005

Dave!After driving home, the first thing I did was go to the bathroom. But the second thing I did was pull out my brand-new PowerBook and wipe the drive clean so I could maximize disk space and install only the things I need. After that, Apple makes transferring the files and settings off my old laptop so easy that I dare say a US President could manage it. My new PowerBook is now good to go.

Okay, wait a minute. That was actually the third thing I did. The second thing I did was wash my hands after having gone to the bathroom. Just want to be clear that I am not typing this with pee-hands.

Not that I am a messy pee-er. I'm just saying that sometimes things spatter, and I take precautions to make sure you don't have to worry about shaking my hand if we should ever meet.

And this is not to say that I am a germaphobe or crazy-obsessive about urine. I'm just saying that I do my best to keep my hands pee-free.

And when I say "germaphobe," you do realize that I am talking about germs and not Germans, right? Because I am not afraid of Germans at all. Part of me is German from my mother's side of the family, and being afraid of yourself is just silly.

Hasselhoff!

Though the fact that David Hasselhoff is a big singing star in Germany makes me think that perhaps I should be at least a little afraid of Germans. But, in the interest of full-disclosure, I did think the talking car he had in that Knightrider television show was pretty cool.

Not that I believe that cars can really talk, I mean... it was a TV show and all... but if there was such a thing as a talking car, I would find that cool.

Now what was I talking about again??

Oh yes. Two-headed turtles...

Turtle Two Heads

On the way back from the Seattle-side of the mountains, I saw the above sign while stopped at a light outside of the city of Monroe, Washington. So many questions come to mind: Is this a zoo where a two-headed turtle is the star attraction... or is it a zoo devoted exclusively to two-headed turtles? If it's a zoo that only has two-headed turtles, how many of them do you suppose they have there? How do you think a zoo like this gets started anyway? Somebody finds a mutant turtle with two heads and decided to build a zoo or something? And, most of all... how many people see this sign and are compelled to visit such a freaky attraction?

You can bet I'll be losing sleep of those queries tonight...

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Who?

Posted on Friday, November 25th, 2005

Dave!Winter travel is always interesting, because you have no idea if you will actually reach your destination. Flying out of the small airport at Wenatchee this morning presented even more of a problem, because a snowstorm had just hit. Fortunately, gallons of de-icer dumped over the plane allowed us a departure only a half-hour late, which was better than I could have hoped for. Once in Seattle, it was a relatively quick three-hour hop to Chicago, which was having a snowstorm all its own. As we pulled into the gate, all the planes were getting deluged in de-icer. I can only hope the stuff is biodegradable.

Once I had arrived in the Windy City and waited a half-hour in the bitter cold for the hotel shuttle, I was shocked to see that I was not the only one waiting for a ride... a full dozen people were crowding on the small bus. This seemed unreal given that other shuttles were leaving with only one or two passengers, and I couldn't figure out why the Wyndham Hotel should be so popular.

Until I arrived to find that there is a huge Dr. Who convention here.

Chicago Tardis

Apparently this one is particularly meaningful to fans because the "Fifth Doctor" himself... Peter Davison... is in attendance. This stroke of luck has me wishing that I was a bigger fan (sorry James!), though work would prohibit me from attending anyway.

Why couldn't it have been a Veronica Mars convention? I would have skipped work for that! I'd probably get fired, but at least I would have Kristen Bell's autograph to console me during unemployment!

I'm not so much into memes anymore, but Kachina has come across a musical meme I haven't seen before, so here we are...

  1. Of all the bands/artists in your cd/record collection, which one do you own the most albums by? I am not at home to count, but I am guessing it would be The Thompson Twins. I have an exhaustive collection of singles, maxi-singles, albums, imports, specials, collector editions, bootlegs, picture discs, and the like. Along with Depeche Mode and a-ha, they were an 80's favorite.
  2. What was the last song you listened to? A Pain That I'm Used To by Depeche Mode. I was almost finished with it when the stewardess asked me to turn off my iPod.
  3. What’s in your record/cd player right now? Well, I don't have a record or cd player anymore, but my PowerBook here has an exhaustive collection of 6784 tracks that would be far too long to list here. If it help, the last cd I bought (because it was unavailable from the iTunes Music Store) was How Can I Sleep With Your Voice In My Head, a live album by a-ha.
  4. What song would you say sums you up? Oh man... how can I pick just one? Katrina got three, so I'm taking three as well! First would be I Wish I Cared by a-ha, second would be Nothing by Depeche Mode, and third would be Hard Road by The Shore (an amazing band that I have absolutely no idea why they aren't massively popular).
  5. What’s your favorite local band? Well, it was Nirvana. At the height of the grunge scene in Seattle, I was lucky enough to see them in concert a few times. But Nirvana is no more, so I guess I'd have to say "The Retros" which is a funky 80's cover band that's always a lot of fun to see live.
  6. What was the last show you attended? It was a club in Seattle, but I forget the name of the band. Heck, I forget most of what happened that night!
  7. What was the greatest show you’ve ever been to? Depeche Mode's "Music for the Masses" tour in 1988.
  8. What’s the worst band you’ve ever seen in concert? Well... that would probably be Chris Isaacs... but it wasn't his fault! His set was actually pretty good, but he was being booed off-stage, which kind of killed the mood.
  9. What band do you love musically but hate the members of? Oasis.
  10. What show are you looking forward to? Depeche Mode's "Playing the Angel" tour next week!
  11. What is your favorite band shirt? It's an old, ancient Thompson Twins 84 Tour shirt that has their terrific Satori logo on grey. Love it. Still own it. Need to photograph it.
  12. What musician would you like to hang out with for a day? Any of The Corrs sisters would do nicely.
  13. What musician would you like to be in love with for a day? Any of The Corrs sisters would do nicely.
  14. Metal question-Jeans and Leather vs. Cracker Jack clothes? Neither... though you would probably see me in jeans and leather first.
  15. Sabbath or solo Ozzy? Sabbath.
  16. Commodores or solo Lionel Ritchie? Uhhhh... do I have to choose?
  17. Punk rock, hip hop or heavy metal? Rock. Though there was a day punk was the world.
  18. Doesn’t Primus suck? Except for their South Park song, I guess.
  19. Name 4 flawless albums: a-ha, Minor Earth, Major Sky. Depeche Mode, 101. Nirvana, Nevermind. The Cure, Disintegration
  20. Did you know that filling out this survey makes you a music geek? Uhhh... okay.
  21. What was the greatest decade for music? For me, it would probably be the synth-pop days of the 80's, but the "Seattle Sound" in the 90's was absolutely revolutionary, so I'll go with that.
  22. How many music-related videos/dvds do you own? About 15.
  23. Do you like Journey? Not really. I don't think I ever did, and have never owned any of their music.
  24. Don’t try to pretend you don’t! Really, I don't.
  25. What is your favorite movie soundtrack? Depeche Mode 101. Which counts, because it was the soundtrack to the Pennebaker concert film of the same name.
  26. What was your last musical “phase” before you wisened up? I never seem to get any wiser.
  27. What’s the crappiest CD/record/etc. you’ve ever bought? It was some crappy CD by Jermaine Stewart, because I needed that equally crappy song "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" for some project I was working on.
  28. Do you prefer vinyl or CDs? Neither. I'm all digital now and have converted everything over to iTunes.

And on that happy note, I'm off to bed. Is it too much to hope that Chicago weather will be kind to me tomorrow morning when I pick up my rental car?

BLOGOGRAPHY FLASHBACK ENTRY: Love
BLOGDATE: March 22, 2005
   
In which Dave professes an unnatural attraction towards his PowerBook and contemplates the merits of loving a Mac vs. loving a girlfriend.
Click here to go back in time...

Categories: Memes 2006, Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  13 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Crowded

Posted on Saturday, November 26th, 2005

Dave!After nearly killing a "K-9 robot dog" pull-toy with my suitcase while trying to escape from the Dr. Who fanatics (which got me a nasty look from a "Doctor" dressed up with a nasty hand-knit scarf)... I managed to make my way to the car rental place so that I could pick up my Dodge Neon for the trip north. The Neon itself is not such a bad automobile, but the visibility is horrendously bad, and made all the worse by the funky spoiler that's blocking my back window. I'm relieved to report that I didn't back over any Daleks in the parking lot.

Checking in at work revealed that I had nothing to do today, which meant there was plenty of time to goof off. My idea of goofing off was to get a long-overdue haircut at the Mayfair Mall (which is considered to be Milwaukee's largest, which is odd considering it is located in the city of Wauwatosa... not Milwaukee... just down the highway from the Harley Davidson factory).

This was a big mistake. The mall was so crowded that I had to park in the next county and, once inside, found myself wising that I had brought my Papal Power Staff...

Crowds

Crowded

Yes, there are benefits to being The Pope.

The Apple Store was so packed with people trying and buyng iPods and iMacs that I couldn't even get near the iPod accessories to buy a case for my new nano. Eventually I just gave up at the mall and headed to Culvers for a plate of delicious crinkle-cut fries and a caramel-cashew sundae. Sweet!

It's cold out, so I'm going to sleep in tomorrow.

BLOGOGRAPHY FLASHBACK ENTRY: I Want a Gun
BLOGDATE: April 26, 2004
   
In which Dave denounces violence in all forms, but then wishes he had a big-ass gun so that he can have a more pleasant driving experience.
Click here to go back in time...

   

McWeather

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2005

Dave!My work necessitates that I drive between my hotel and the job site every 2 or 3 hours, which doesn't leave me much time for things like eating and sleeping. But that's the job, and I'm used to it, so I try not to worry about what my freaky schedule required of me. Of course, doing that for eighteen hours straight on only 3 hours of sleep is not the best way to spend an evening, but I do my best not to let the hallucinations and voices in my head get the best of me.

This time, the situation was made all the stranger by the weather here. Wisconsin is flat and on a big lake, so the environment can be really freaky and changes quickly...

Wisconsinweather

After relatively calm weather all day, I was surprised when I left my hotel at 2am and couldn't see anything. The fog was so thick that I could barely see the front of my car, and the headlights were reflected back as if they were hitting a wall. Two hours later, it was mostly clear, but pouring rain. The two-minute walk from my car was enough to soak me to the bone. Two hours after that, it had stopped raining... but there was a nasty haze and winds so strong that I was very nearly blown off the road.

Two hours after that, blue skies were starting to peek through the clouds, and it was time for breakfast at McDonalds.

So there I am eating my Egg & Cheese Biscuit when I hear this "CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!" - the dreaded and unmistakable sound of some COMPLETE F#@%ING IDIOT CLIPPING THEIR F#@%ING FINGERNAILS IN A F#@%ING RESTAURANT!!! AAAARRRRRGGGHHH!! How gross to be trying to eat your breakfast only to have some UNBELIEVABLY RUDE AND TOTALLY DISGUSTING WHITE TRASH BITCH performing her personal grooming two tables back with fingernails flying all over the place. I mean, holy shit! How big of a f#@%ing moron do you have to be to realize that this is not appropriate behavior in a restaurant?

But that's not the worst of it.

SHE WAS A F#@%ING McDONALDS EMPLOYEE ON HER BREAK!!!

Yet no manager told her she was a DISGUSTING BITCH or instructed her to STOP DOING THAT GROSS SHIT WHILE PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO EAT AND SHOVE THOSE F#@%ING FINGERNAIL CLIPPERS UP HER ASS. Oh no. They just merrily let this REVOLTING, REPELLANT, ABHORRENT, SICKENING, NAUSEATING, FOUL, NASTY, DETESTABLE PIECE OF SHIT keep clipping away!!

I left before this REPUGNANT VOMITOUS DUMBASS CRAP-BAG BITCH had a chance to start on her toenails.

And yet, if I had pulled out a gun and shot her, I WOULD BE THE CRIMINAL HERE!! That's just wrong. How will these IGNORANT HALFWITTED RUDE IDIOTIC SHIT-HEAD WHITE-TRASH ASS-LICKERS ever learn proper manners if nobody pops a cap in their ass from time to time?

I wonder if she shaves her legs and gives herself enemas in public too? I wouldn't doubt it.

My nightmares are going to be particularly nasty tonight.

   

Chicaaaago

Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Dave!With nothing to do today, I decided to take the Blue Line into Chicago proper to have a delicious Giordano's pizza for lunch and see what's new at the Apple Store. I've been to Chicago many times, which makes it easy for me, since I already know where everything is and how to get there.

The pizza was bitchin' (as usual), though I ate too much (also as usual). There are several Giordano's locations in the city, but I like the one on Rush St. best, and was not disappointed. Around the corner on Michigan Ave. was the beautiful Chicago Apple Store, where I proceeded to immediately fall in love with the new iPod that can play video. When it was first released, I decided the screen was too small... but, after holding one in person, I see that it is perfectly watchable and totally sweet. Damn you Apple! I want one bad. So bad I nearly dropped the FOUR HUNDRED FREAKIN' DOLLARS to take one with me. Ultimately, I decided it might be nice to eat for the month of December and... very reluctantly... decided against it.

I did buy a copy of Bejeweled 2, which is the sequel to one of my favorite time-wasters. The new version is really beautiful, and they've added some cool new toys that make it even more fun than the original...

Bejeweled2

After drooling over everything in the Apple Store, I decided to head to the Art Institute Museum since I missed it the last time I was in the city. The guardian lions at the entrance have been dressed for the holidays, which is kind of cool...

Art Institute Chicago

This truly sweet museum holds numerous well-known works, including American Gothic which, oddly enough, is out on loan to a museum in Rapid City Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Most children of the 80's (such as myself) will best know the museum for Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off...

Seurat

And Mary Cassatt's beautifully rendered painting The Bath...

Cassatt

And Edward Hopper's much-imitated work Nighthawks...

Hopper

But my favorite is the nifty collection of Monet's, which includes an entire series of Stacks of Wheat, painted in different seasons and different times of day, along with this haunting Waterloo Bridge painting...

Monet

Two hours is much-too-brief a time to spend at a museum this fine but, since I had been here a few times before, I decided it would be best to be getting back to my hotel before rush hour came.

And just like that, my Chicago adventure comes to a close... but not really...

Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink  15 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Concert

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Dave!Turns out my "Chicago Adventure" was NOT over last night... I had a Depeche Mode concert to go to with fellow-blogger Kevin Apgar and his charming wife Katie!

As expected, it so totally kicked ass. Depeche Mode is easily the best live band I've ever seen, and one of the very few who sound better live than in a studio. Their latest album, Playing the Angel, is not their best work... but every song was -stunning- when performed live (oh how I want a DVD release of the concert). Dave Gahan is an amazing singer who puts everything he has into a performance yet STILL manages to deliver crisp vocals that strike you at your very soul. Personally, I don't understand where he gets the energy... I think he must be 45 years old now, but is kicking more ass on stage than guys half his age.

And what a funky cool stage it was...

Depeche Mode Angel Tour

The artistic genius behind the band, Martin Gore, was in fine form... delivering emotionally wrenching lead vocals for a few songs, including Home which is a favorite of mine. But I think people will most remember him for running around the stage in a little black chicken suit. Needless to say, I simply must get one of my own, because I think I would look fabulous in feathers...

Davemode

As I mentioned, the set list was a pleasing blend of new and old that ensured there was something for everyone. All songs were well-received, but I dare say that the older material had a bigger impact on the crowd than the new stuff. When songs like Enjoy the Silence and Just Can't Get Enough started blasting through the arena, the crowd just went nuts. This in turn energized the band, so it looked like they were having more fun with the old stuff as well. And as if that weren't enough, they've managed to update the classics yet again to make them sound all shiny and new (one of my favorite DM songs, Everything Counts was given a blistering rock beat that totally killed).

My only complaint was the band's selection for the final song of the evening... Goodnight Lovers from their somewhat boring Exciter album. After all the high-energy drive they put into the rest of the concert, it seemed like a week weak ending. Had they went out with a pumping crowd-pleaser like People Are People or something... they would have totally freaked out the entire arena and allowed them to sign-off on a high note. And isn't that how you WANT to leave a room when you're a rock band?

Anyway, even though I had to catch a plane to L.A. just five hours after the concert, and only managed to get 3 hours of sleep... it was all so totally worth it. My only regret was not getting to spend more time with Kevin and Katie, because they are alarmingly nice people. Not only that, but Kevin thinks I'm cool. You can read about just how totally cool I am in his entry over at Kapgar.com (oh... and I think that he wrote something about the concert as well).

Seriously though, meeting your readers and fellow-bloggers is really the best part of having a blog.

Well, except the guy who keeps emailing me to tell me that I am going to hell.

That's just mean.

   

Goddess

Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Dave!Somehow the stars aligned over Los Angeles and I managed to find time to have lunch with Liz of "Everyday Goddess" fame today. It turns out that she is just as smart and funny as you'd think from reading her blog. I guess I shouldn't be surprised... but you never really know. I mean, I spend my time complaining about bitches clipping their fingernails in McDonalds, so heaven only knows what people expect when they meet ME in person.

I have mixed feelings whenever I'm in L.A. — so many miserable memories for me here. But then somebody pounds on the window of my taxi so they can sell me a pair socks and suddenly I want to move here. Perhaps I could get work as a movie "extra" for a career...

Movie Extras

Hey, I'm as real as the next guy. Maybe even REALer (uhhh... you know what I mean). And $250 a day? That's some serious bank!

But there's still no vegetarian hotdogs at Pinks, so I guess that I won't be packing my bags just yet...

Pinks!

Oh... and the traffic still sucks ass.

After my taxi showed up, I told the driver to take La Brea all the way down to Century Blvd. because I didn't want to spend my time parked on the 405. But the driver doesn't like that idea and says "it's only 2:30... no traffic until later!!!" I know better, but I didn't feel like arguing the point and told him to do whatever he wanted.

I think we all know how this story ends.

   

... and so there I am parked on the 405 with a taxi driver saying "oh... there is traffic!" and me wanting to say "NO SHIT THERE IS TRAFFIC YOU DUMBASS!!" But I hold my peace as a $40 cab ride quickly turns into a $47 cab ride that's 15 minutes too long.

I think we all know what kind of tip my driver got.

And thus ends my sojourn into the wilds of La La Land. I hope I can sleep on the plane ride home.

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Advent

Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2005

Dave!Sometimes things just don't go as you planned.

I am typing this at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where I have arrived to find that my flight into Weantchee had been canceled. Dreading the idea of spending the night in the urine-stained hotel that Horizon Air put me in last time... I head to the Customer Service Center to find out what my options are.

"There's a bus leaving at 9:30pm that's arriving in Wenatchee at 1:00am we can put you on" the lady tells me. "Great" I say... I'll take it!"

Yet here I sit at 10:00pm and no bus has arrived. Some people here were told a bus was arriving at 2:00, then 4:00, then 6:00, and then 9:00. But no bus ever comes. I ask at the counter "is this bus REAL, or is it just a story you make up to keep anarchy from breaking out at the airport?" Not at all amused, the lady answers "WE CAN'T CONTROL THE WEATHER!!" which, naturally, doesn't answer my question OR give me any encouragement.

With nothing better to do, I decide to open up the Lego Advent Calendar I bought while I was in Chicago. It's December 1st, after all...

Legoadvent1

Every day until Christmas, you get a new Lego toy to play with, and that was just too cool to pass up! Tonight, for instance, I get a little Lego fire fighter to put together...

Legoadvent2

That's not much to play with, so I become torn over the idea of opening up the other 23 windows and seeing what else I'm going to get. Eventually I decide against it, and figure I can be happy with just the fire fighter. It's going to be a long night.

UPDATE: The bus didn't arrive until 10:30, and then we had to all claim our luggage and wait for clearance before leaving. It is currently 11:30 and snowing pretty hard, but at least we are finally leaving Seattle. I'm told we'll get to Wenatchee at around 4:00am, at which time I have to clean off my car and drive back to Cashmere. This sucks ass. Mainly because this bus SMELLS like ass, and they've got a video for the very stupid movie Kangaroo Jack playing at full-volume over crappy speakers. (thank heavens for iPod!). Sigh. Yet another night with no sleep.

UPDATE: I'm bored, so I've decided to write a story about the toys in my Lego Advent Calendar. Every day I'll open up a door, see what I get, then continue on until Christmas when I'll post the grand finale. That's good, wholesome, creative fun! But it's also slightly insane. Hopefully I can live with that.

CHAPTER 1: Psycho Roasting on an Open Fire
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Firefighter
   
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Lego Dave who grew up wanting nothing more than to become a fireman. Hour after hour he would look at fireman books, watch fireman videos, sing fireman songs, and play fireman games. And every night Lego Dave would dream of riding in fire trucks, charging into burning buildings to save puppies, and all the things that firemen do which made Lego Dave love them so much.
   
Then one day, after many years had passed, Lego Dave graduated from High School and pursued his only dream by applying at the Fireman Academy. The classroom tests were challenging, but he welcomed them. The physical tests were hard work, but he pushed onward. With each new dawn, Lego Dave was happy because he was one day closer to fulfilling a life-long wish.
   
And then the day finally came when the Fire Chief called Lego Dave aside from his training. "This is it" Lego Dave decided... "the Chief has seen my potential and wants to make me a fireman this very day!"
   
"Hey" said the Fire Chief.
"Yo!" said Lego Dave.
"I have some news..." the Chief began. "I'm afraid we have to let you go..."
"Awesome!" exclaimed Lego Dave. "Where do I go to get my coat, hat, and red suspenders?"
"No, you misunderstood" the Chief declared. "You can't be a fire fighter, and so we have to ask you to leave."
"WHAT?!?" cried Lego Dave. "BUT I AM A FIREMAN!!"
"Errr... well... we ah... we got back your psychological examination and... errr... well, you're not exactly fire fighter material" the Chief said gravely.
"How can this be?" Lego Dave sobbed. "My dreams!"
"Sorry buddy" the Chief mumbled sympathetically.
   
Lego Dave was beside himself with grief as he walked home. "I am a fireman! I am a fireman! I AM A FIREMAN!!" he screamed to nobody in particular. And then something occurred to him: "Just because the Fire Chief says I can't be a fireman doesn't mean it has to be true!" A plan started to form. "I can make my own fire department and put out fires all by myself!" Lego Dave decided triumphantly.
   
And so it was decided. Late one night Lego Dave broke into the fire house and took the equipment he needed. He took a coat, hat, red suspenders, and a pair of sweet fire fighting axes that were attached to the side of the fire truck. "Now all I need is a fire so I can be a real fireman!" he declared. "I'll show that stupid Fire Chief" Lego Dave swore... "I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!"
Lego Holiday One
But where would he possibly find a fire to put out?
   
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" CONTINUES!

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Homecoming

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Dave!The only good thing about driving home at 4:15am in the morning is that the streets are relatively idiot-free. This is particularly sweet given that the roads were covered with snow and ice. On the way home I stopped off at work to upload my job files (and post last night's blog entry) so that I wouldn't have to worry about it later.

And now that I'm finally home, I find that my DSL is apparently broken. That's probably a good thing because I really should be sleeping instead of goofing around on the internet.

But I've got to finish listening to Songs of Faith and Devotion first, so I might as well see what my Lego Advent Calendar has for me today...

Ummm... I'm not sure what it's supposed to be. Is that a flame thrower? What's a fire fighter need with a flame thrower? Oh well. That will certainly make for an interesting chapter...

CHAPTER 2: Have Yourself a Merry Little Bonfire
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Oxygen Tank, Fire Hydrant, Flame Thrower(?)
   
Impatient to prove his worth as a fireman, Lego Dave decides he can't wait for a fire to break out and determines that the only logical course of action is to start a fire of his own...
   
"Let's light this bitch up!" he yelled as he grabbed a flame-thrower and torched the meth lab. As the flames began to spread, Lego Dave suddenly realized that he didn't have a fire hose to hook up to the hydrant. Even worse, he didn't have a wrench to open the hydrant in the first place.
   
Deciding to solve one problem at a time, Lego Dave grabbed his axe and started chopping away at the hydrant so he could get to the watery goodness within. After several bold strokes, water began gushing from the hydrant, spilling out onto the street. "Now what can I use as a hose?" he wondered. But before he could come up with a solution, he heard screaming from within the meth lab.
   
"Wow, there must be a crack whore trapped inside!" Lego Dave said excitedly as he put on his oxygen tank. "Finally, somebody I can rescue!"
Lego Holiday Two
But will he get to the crack whore in time?
   
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" CONTINUES!

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Salty

Posted on Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Dave!Winter travel sucks ass.

First my flight out of Wenatchee was delayed (bad weather). Then my flight out of Seattle was delayed (first fog, then the infamous "mechanical difficulties" excuse). As if the delays weren't bad enough, hanging around airports when people are freaking out is about as bad as it gets. Passengers screaming at gate agents. Passengers screaming at other passengers. Kids screaming at nobody in particular... if it weren't for my iPod drowning out the chaos, I'd be pretty insane right about now.

Panic on the runways of SeaTac...

SeaTac Fog

Proving that you simply cannot travel without the inevitable freak-factor (the last time I flew to Salt Lake City, I had to witness a guy shaving his chest in the bathroom), today I got to see an older hippie couple (the sixties were NOT kind to these people) picking out porn mags together at Hudson News. "Oooooh she's pretty" says the woman. "You know she's not my type" says the man. Gack! Now I have heinous images running through my mind, and almost need to buy a porn mag myself so that I can put my head back to "normal."

Of course, "normal" is a relAAAAAAAAAAHHH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

Somebody is clipping their fingernails. SOMEBODY IS CLIPPING THEIR FINGERNAILS!!!

Gross Nail Clipper

And the worst part is that his fingernail clippings are probably flinging off into that lady's hair and stuff! Oh gag! Public nail-clipping should be punishable by bitch-slapping. Still, this is not quite so bad as the lady in McDonalds from a couple of weeks ago.

Oog. Because of the flight delays, it looks like today's Lego Holiday Tale chapter is going to have to be done under less than ideal conditions...

CHAPTER 11: Crash the Walls.
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Road Barrier.
   
Lego Dave and his faithful companion Barky the Dog are rushing the brave construction worker to the hospital all while being chased by the evil Lego Buzz...
   
"HEY! LOOK OUT!" the construction worker yells. "THERE'S ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD!"
"Bark! Bark" warns Barky the Dog as he hops in the wheelbarrow.
   
Lego Dave nearly runs into a steamroller, but managed to skid around a street corner instead.
   
"That was close!" sighs the construction worker.
"Bark! Bark!" agrees Barky the Dog.
"We're not out of the woods yet!" says Lego Dave... "there's a barrier ahead!"
"That's not all!" the construction worker hollers. "That lunatic with a saw took a short-cut and is coming this way!" Lego Holiday Eleven
"Oh no!" exclaims Lego Dave. "Doesn't his rotary saw ever run out of gas?"
"DIE! DIE! DIE!" shouts Lego Buzz.
   
Things are looking mighty grim for our heroes... how can they possibly escape from Lego Buzz this time?
   
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" CONTINUES!

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Dave Approved: Big City Soup

Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Dave!After last night's culinary disaster for dinner, I took absolutely no chances today. For breakfast I went straight to McDonalds for an Egg & Cheese Biscuit, then for Lunch I went to one of my most favorite places to eat in all the land... Big City Soup! Seriously, the soup here is so good that it should probably be a controlled substance. As if that wasn't enough, they've usually got two or three vegetarian selections on the menu, so there's always something good for me to eat.

Today I decided on a Cheese Panini with their delectable Tomato-Basil soup that was ever so yummy. Almost worth a trip to Salt Lake City all by itself...

Big City Soup

Big City Soup

If you're ever in town, I'd highly recommend dropping by Big City Soup.

It came as no surprise that SLC has a new Apple Store here at The Gateway, and I felt compelled to run in and caress a video iPod for a few minutes. This is always a dangerous gambit, because one day the temptation will be too great. Fortunately I was semi-rational today, and was able to leave without a $400 dent in my credit card.

But I want one ever so bad.

CHAPTER 13: Jingle Hell.
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Crossing Arm.
   
Lego Buzz has just chopped a crossing guard in half, and is moving in on Lego Dave and his friends...
   
"YEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAW!" screams Lego Buzz as he starts inching towards Lego Dave, his rotary saw slicing through the air in wide arcs. "I'm gonna cut you... CUT YOU UP!"
   
But before Lego Buzz can take another step, a crossing arm comes crashing down on him! Barky the Dog has snuck into the dead crossing guard's control booth and managed to press the "DOWN" button!
   
"Bark! Bark!" says Barky the Dog triumphantly!
"Argh!" says the evil Lego Buzz!
"Cool!" says the construction worker with his hand chopped off!
"Way to go Barky!" says Lego Dave! "Now hop in the wheelbarrow, because we need to get Mr. Construction Worker to the hospital before gangrene sets in!
Lego Holiday Thirteen
Is this finally the end for Lego Buzz?
   
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" CONTINUES!

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Stuck

Posted on Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Dave!For the third time in a row, I was stuck in Seattle last night. All flights back to Wenatchee were cancelled yesterday, and it was so foggy that they couldn't even get a bus on the tarmac to take us over the pass. Worse, there was no guarantee that any flights would be leaving today (and, as far as I know, none ever did).

The good news is that I managed to find a ride back this morning. The bad news is that I had to make the trip on only three hours sleep.

The fancy hotel I stayed at had advertised wireless internet. But when I tried to log on, the billing page refused to fully load. The hotel blamed me, saying my computer "probably wasn't configured properly" and passed me to the provider's support desk at 10:15pm. Unfortunately, they didn't know anything, and said that they would have a "tech manager" call me back.

So I waited, and waited, and waited. But they never called. So I called back at 11:00pm and was told they would send another request. After waiting until midnight, I decided to give up and go to bed. I was looking forward to getting a full 6-hours sleep, because I haven't been getting nearly enough rest the past several weeks.

Naturally the internet support guy decided to call me back at 3:00am.

Since I couldn't get back to sleep, I spent the next three hours catching up on work and random blog surfing now that the billing page was working again.

The hotel refunded me the $9.95 access fee after I complained, but none of this would have happened in the first place if they offered free internet to their customers like they should. I can't help but think that hotels who charge for internet actually end up losing more than they ever gain by the meager fees they receive from charging for it.

I can honestly say that free internet access has now become more important to me than how many stars a hotels has, how fancy the lobby is, how big the rooms are, how many pillows you get on your bed, and whether or not you get a mint on your pillow. Give me a Hampton Inn or a Holiday Inn Express over the competition any day. Why? Complimentary internet.

CHAPTER 14: Crashing Through the Snow.
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Traffic Light.
   
After escaping from the evil Lego Buzz, Lego Dave and Barky the Dog rush to get Mr. Mechanic and his severed hand to the hospital...
   
"Don't worry Mr. Construction Worker" exclaims Lego Dave. "We'll get you to a doctor in time! The hospital is just two blocks away after we turn this corner."
"Thanks guy!" the construction worker replies.
"Bark! Bark!" adds Barky the Dog encouragingly.
   
As Lego Dave rushes to push the wheelbarrow around the corner, a soccer mom talking on her mobile phone while driving an SUV suddenly runs up onto the sidewalk, heading straight for our heroic trio! With not a moment to lose, Lego Dave veers off the sidewalk, straining to maintain control. He manages to avoid being killed by the idiotic driver, but the wheelbarrow can't hold the sudden turn and runs into a traffic light pole.
Lego Holiday Fourteen
Barky the Dog and Mr. Construction Worker are thrown from the wheelbarrow, but are relatively unscathed.
   
"The wheelbarrow has busted an axle, so we're going to have to walk the rest of the way" declares Lego Dave. "Come on Barky, help me carry Mr. Construction worker to the hospital. We're running out of time!"
"Yeah, my severed hand is starting to smell funny" says the construction worker.
"I hope nothing else comes up to delay us" Lego Dave says cautiously.
   
Can they make it to the hospital in time to save Mr. Construction Worker's hand?
   
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" CONTINUES!

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O’Hare

Posted on Monday, March 6th, 2006

Dave!Sometimes it so sucks to be me.

At 8:30 this morning, I found out that some sort of crisis had happened, necessitating me having to pull together a project, drive 3 hours to Seattle, fly to Chicago O'Hare, spend the night, meet somebody at the airport at 6:30am, then fly back home directly after.

36 hours of my life gone so that I can play delivery boy.

And this was shaping up to be such good week.

As I sit here in my hotel room, I marvel how things like this tend to happen to me so often (note to self: wireless service at the Hilton O'Hare SUCKS ASS, so don't stay here again). I guess all I can do is order up some crappy room service food, watch TV, and hope I don't oversleep because the wake-up call system is all screwed up.

About the only cool thing that happened this entire day was sitting next to Seattle musician Jim Basnight on the plane and talking music for the trip over. He's on his way to New York to play a few gigs this weekend, so if you're in the city, be sure to check it out.

Dang.

Since I didn't have time to pack anything except a change of underwear and a toothbrush, I just realized I don't have any Carmex lip balm with me. How in the heck am I expected to survive Chicago in March without my Carmex lip balm? I feel my lips chapping up as I type this...

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Delivery

Posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Dave!I've decided that I don't like being a delivery boy. Too much hassle for too little reward. There are perks, however. Unlike my "real" job which never ends, this job is done, done, done. I hand over the package, and it's over. I can go home and not think about it anymore.

The only thing I have to think about is whether my flight is going to leave on time. Last night they were having problems with their radar here at O'Hare, and we arrived a half-hour late. And since I didn't get much sleep last night, I really don't want any delays for my flight out. I'll have a hard enough time staying awake for the 3-hour drive home once I land in Seattle.

As a side-note... why in the heck do they put cameras in mobile phones?

The quality is always tragic, making the camera totally worthless, so why bother?

Camera Phone

On the left is a picture out my window from yesterday's flight out of Seattle. Since I bought my ticket earlier that same day, I got a crappy seat in the back of the plane. I wanted to preserve the moment forever, but this picture isn't going to bring back any memories except how much my phone's camera sucks ass.

On the right is a photo of a dumbass who is clipping his nails here in United Airlines "Red Carpet Club". This elite refuge for frequent travelers is supposed to be a classy and comfortable retreat from the chaos of waiting at the gate. As it turns out, you get the same redneck morons who think that flinging their nail clippings everywhere is acceptable behavior.

But, on the other hand, here at the Red Carpet Club you get FREE MINI BAGELS WITH CREAM CHEESE!! WOO HOO!!

Mini Bagel

Actually, these bagels totally blow, which just goes to prove that you cannot find a decent bagel outside of New York. Don't ask me why.

OH GREAT! SOME BITCH JUST BROUGHT A SCREAMING BABY... INTO THE RED CARPET CLUB!! I guess that's my cue to go claim my seat upgrade and go home. I project my odds of being able to sleep on the plane at 6%. Hopefully somebody will drop a suitcase on my head as they try to over-stuff the overhead bin so I can finally get some rest.

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Ode

Posted on Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Dave! When I got back from my trip yesterday, I was understandably exhausted. It took seven hours to get to Chicago O'Hare where I spent 9 hours waiting to do something that took 5 minutes, only to have to turn around and spend another seven hours getting back home. After working for a couple of hours, I think I must have passed out, because I woke up at 8:00pm and didn't know where I was.

And so now my sleep schedule is going to be all messed up, and that sucks ass because I'm already battling insomnia. With nothing better to do while wide-awake at 1:00am, I thought I'd write up a summary of my trip. But that was boring, so I decided to to try telling my tales in verse. A pity I'm not much of a poet...

Ode to the dumbass who kept yelling "ARE YOU THERE?" "HELLO?" "ARE YOU THERE?" "HELLO?" "ARE YOU THERE?" at the airport check-in counter...

Mobile phones sure are swell,
    Cellular technology is sly.
But if the connection makes you yell,
    It's time to hang up or die.

Ode to the impossibly cute woman I saw sitting across from me in the food court at Chicago O'Hare International...

Your hair sets my heart aflame,
    Your smile is devilish and fleeting.
Your brown eyes are calling my name,
    A pity you pick your nose while eating.

Ode to the Reggio's Chicago-style pizza I ate for breakfast at the airport yesterday morning...

Cheese! So gooey and right!
Sauce! So flavorful and tight!
Crust! So buttery and light!
    Your calories widen my butt.

Ode to the rude bitch in the seat ahead of me on the plane who crushed my kneecaps and nearly destroyed my laptop...

To recline slowly is courtesy,
    To look behind first is kind.
To flop back indiscriminately,
    Makes me want to beat your behind.

Ode to the "Right Bite" boxed meals that United Airlines sells in lieu of the in-flight meals you used to get...

Meals are no longer free,
    $5 for a snack box insane.
Contents really do puzzle me,
    Because tuna stinks up the plane.

Ode to the woman at the gas station who was wearing so much makeup that I had to wonder if there was a face under all of it...

Pants worn tightly.
Tits covered slightly.
Hair teased nightly.
    You look like a whore.

Ode to the piece of crap motorist ahead of me on Blewett Pass who is obviously too old to still be driving...

Hey old man you're taking all day,
    Oh why won't you let me pass?
Time to get the f#@% out of my way,
    Or I'll crash into you then kick ass.

Hmmm... well that was a bad idea. Sorry. It won't happen again.

Gah! It's now 1:30am and I'm still not tired!! I am so going to be dragging my ass today.

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Chair

Posted on Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Dave!Yesterday I made the mistake of visiting Brookstone and trying out one of those magical computerized "massage chairs". You sit down and press buttons that makes the chair come alive and give you a massage. There are a variety of modes to choose from... you can get a Swedish massage, a Shiatsu massage, or anything in-between. You can get a hard massage or a soft massage. You can have a heated massage or a vibrating massage. You can even have the chair massage your ass.

I turned on everything.

It was actually painful. But in a good way.

It was SO good, that I had to resist the urge to touch myself inappropriately...

Magic Massage Chair

By the time it was over, I was ready to buy. But there were three problems...

  1. The price tag was $4500. And for $4500, it had better do a lot more to me than massage my ass.
  2. It was made by Panasonic, and everything I have EVER bought by Panasonic has busted to shit.
  3. Did you read the FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS part?!?

After goofing around the East-side this afternoon, I said goodbye to my friends there and headed Seattle-side.

Since our Cabo San Lucas plans were scuttled, my friend and I decided to stay downtown so she could take me out for birthday dinner and we could wander around the Market in the morning. We would have taken a look tonight, but everything was closing just as we arrived. The sunset was nice though...

Pike Place Market Sunset

Our room overlooks the new Seattle Public Library. This freaky building seems interesting, and sure photographs nicely from a distance...

Seattle Public Library

Unfortunately, it looks like total crap from street level. Kind of like they took six really cool buildings, then smashed them all together at unpleasant angles or something. Not a pretty picture to me, but it does have its fans.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's ice cream time.

ICE CREEEEAM!! ICE CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM!!

Oh yeah... thanks to everybody who was kind enough to send their birthday wishes... I feel much loved. :-)

   

SayWA?

Posted on Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Dave!Washington State is a pretty amazing place. We've got a rain-forest, a beautiful coastline, the San Juan islands, the Columbia River, plenty of mountains & lakes, yummy apples, famous wines, the world's biggest extinct waterfall, a huge dam, the Space Needle, and lots of other cool stuff. It's a happenin' place, and I kind of like living here. You should drop by and see it if you get a chance.

And with all the nifty stuff we got, you'd think it would be easy to sell the place as a tourist destination.

But apparently it's more difficult than you'd think. A team of 32 "experts" spent 18 months (and heaven only knows how much money) working on a new slogan for us, and what did they come up with?

SayWA

Which has a lot of Washingtonians saying "say WHAT?!?"

Most people do not like it at all, and just about every publication in the state has called it stupid (or worse). This makes the prospect of a half-million dollar ad campaign a little hard for people to understand when they see stuff like this...

SayWA

When all I can picture is this...

Lucy SayWA

Personally, I don't get it. What is this trying to say to potential visitors? It's like hipster slang gone wrong instead of a compelling campaign to get people thinking of Washington as vacation destination. Oh well. The real shame is that this could have been a decent concept... for Oklahoma. "SayOK" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Anyway, here's a list of things I DON'T want to do today...

  1. Get out of bed.
  2. Take a shower.
  3. Go to work.
  4. Pack an overnight bag.
  5. Waste 3 hours driving to Spokane.
  6. Spend the night in a hotel.

But, lucky me, I get to do all six!! The good news is that once I get to Spokane, there's a fresh episode of Veronica Mars waiting for me tonight...

Veronicamarsrules

And, of course, the best pizza in the known universe at David's Pizza. That's almost worth the trip all by itself, so maybe this won't be such a bad day after all?

Looks like I am off to SeeWA.

So SeeYA.

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Dry

Posted on Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Dave!Bleh.

My big plan to recover from a three-hour drive yesterday was to have a slice of David's Da Vinci pizza and then check into the hotel and watch the latest Veronica Mars.

But everything went wrong. David's was out of Da Vinci so I had to get cheese pizza (still good). But then the shit really did hit the fan... at 9:00 I turned to the UPN channel for Veronica and instead saw that The A-Team was playing...

Dave Screams

WTF?!?

Turns out that the local Spokane UPN affiliate switched to "The Retro Television Network" back in January. So no Veronica Mars for me. Comcast bastards.

Fast forward to this afternoon. Work is over, and it's time for the boring drive home. If anybody is curious, here's pretty much what the Central Washington's Columbia Basin looks like this time of year...

Central Washington

Central Washington

Later in the season the wheat will be grown up and turn a nice golden color which looks great at sunset. Today, it's just getting started, so things are a little green yet.

Usually I drive I-90 because it's the fastest way back home. But, because I love my readers, I decided to drive Highway 2 instead. This way, I could make a stop at "Dry Falls" so I could show everybody what the largest waterfall in the world looks like. Well, it was the biggest, but not anymore...

Dry Falls

Unfortunately, the massive scale of the formation is lost in this photo. Those cliffs are 400 feet tall. If there was water still flowing over them, it would dwarf Niagara Falls by a large margin (it's 350% wider and 250% taller). Turning back the clock 13,000 years, here is what it would look like...

Dry Falls

If you're curious about the whole Dry Falls story, I've copied the info in an extended entry.

For everybody else, see you tomorrow (and don't worry about me, David's had a fresh Da Vinci pizza ready for my lunch today, and Veronica Mars was waiting for me on the TiVo when I got home).

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Zombies

Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Dave!I am of the opinion that people who suffer from road rage are probably blameless for their condition. There are so many total dumbasses on the road that it's no wonder people are enraged. By the time I finally got across the mountains I was so overwhelmed with anger that I was very close to having a mental breakdown. You know it's bad when your throat is sore from screaming at idiots for three solid hours (knowing full well that they will never hear you).

Here is a puzzle for you...

Driver Quiz

Given the above situation do you...
   
A: Realize that you are delaying traffic and pissing people off, so you pull over at the next turnout.
   
OR...
   
B: Think that you are the center of the universe, don't give a shit about anybody else, and don't bother pulling off at the turnout because it would be an inconvenience.

If you answered A, then congratulations! You not only know how to read, but you also know how to drive legally! This gives you a DaveQ of 1000, so please go get a badge and display it proudly!

If you answered B, then please f#@% off and die. Seriously. It's bad enough that you are going 18 miles an hour under the speed limit, but the fact that you are breaking the law and causing people to have a brain hemorrhage BECAUSE YOU WON'T PULL THE F#@% OFF THE ROAD TO LET US PASS... well, I just want your stupid ass beat to shit until you die.

DIE! DIE! DIE!!!

   

Ahem. But it was all worth it because once I got to Redmond it was Zombie time...

Zombies!

Zombies!

Everything turned out super-sweet (though the photos look a little freaky because I had to use a flash).

These shirts are pretty nifty because they are so astoundingly useful...

CONDITION: Hung-over on a Monday morning at work due to a weekend of heavy partying? EXCUSE YOU CAN USE: Zombies ate my brain.

CONDITION: Stayed up too late watching a marathon of old Arnold Schwartzenegger movies? EXCUSE YOU CAN USE: Zombies ate my brain.

CONDITION: Sick with the flu but can't afford to miss a day of work? EXCUSE YOU CAN USE: Zombies ate my brain.

CONDITION: Fall asleep while making love to your significant other? EXCUSE YOU CAN USE: Zombies ate my brain.

The beauty of it all is that you don't even have to say a word... just point to the shirt!

And now I'm off to Chicago...

   

Help

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Dave!My Horizon flight was cancelled this morning due to the ever-vague "mechanical difficulties". Color me shocked.

Since I started this blog three years ago, I have had four mechanical-related cancelations (argh)... and that doesn't even begin to cover the dozens of Horizon departure delays that happened in-between. Now we're up to FIVE "mechanical difficulty" cancelations. In THREE YEARS!!

I mean, HOLY SHIT! Given all these problems, I can't help but wonder why their aircraft are not falling out of the sky on a regular basis!

But it's my fault. You would think that I would learn. I should just bit the bullet and fly out of Seattle. But it's so NICE not having to drive 3-1/2 hours back home after I return. I love being twenty minutes away from my house when I get back from an exhausting trip instead of having to spend another two-hundred-and-ten minutes driving.

So, instead of landing in Chicago right about now, I haven't even left yet...

Dave Fuck

And as if that's weren't bad enough, I have this peanut-eating bitch sitting behind me that keeps kicking her seat and making little "hmph hmph" noises in her throat. She's creeping me out. And now I smell like peanuts...

Dave Fuck

Kill me. Kill me now.

And if my plane falls apart in mid-air due to "mechanical difficulties"... please know that I love you all. Each and every one of you.

Well, everybody except Avitable.

Something tells me that anybody who would eat ice cream cones with Hitler is somebody you should probably distance yourself from in the interest of good karma in the afterlife.

UPDATE: By some miracle, Horizon managed to keep their airplane in one piece all the way to Seattle. Apparently I have a flight to Chicago sometime tonight, but can't find a gate agent to confirm it. One thing is for sure... it's going to be a long, long day.

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  13 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Meeted

Posted on Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Dave!How is it that you can spend an entire evening with complete strangers, yet be chatting away as if you were old friends immediately after sitting to the table? A meet-up with your fellow bloggers, that's how!

Truth to tell, there's really no way of knowing how something like this is going to go down. Blogs can only tell you so much about a person, and there's no way of knowing what they are like in "real-life" until you meet face-to-face. And then you run the risk that the bloggers you meet will be totally psychotic, and everybody will end up fighting and screaming. Fortunately, I was the only psychotic person there, and nobody seemed to notice.

As it ends up, everybody had a really good time. At least I know I did. A nicer bunch of people you'll never meet, and now I have some new blogging friends to read (not to mention an awesome new pizza to look for: MASHED POTATO PIZZA!). All in all, it was a great night, and has me wishing I could meet up with my readers and fellow-bloggers more often.

Super-Best-Friend Bloggers Roll Call...

  1. Ariana from Ariana's Space.
  2. Gary from Gary Said.
  3. Jen from Run Jen Run.
  4. Kelly from Mocha Momma.
  5. Kevin from Kapgar.
  6. RW from Chasing Vincenzo.
  7. Steve from Contemplaydoh.
  8. Susan from Soccer Orb.

The evening started out with really good pizza at Piece...

Blogger Meet Chicago

And ended with mango mojitos at a tequila bar called Salud...

Blogger Meet Chicago

Though I think Bob is contemplating the "world's worst wine" there, and I have no idea what lethal red concoction Jen is drinking. Out of all of us, Gary is the only one who actually had one of Salud's famous margaritas. Probably because "Mango Mojito" just sounds too tempting (and is fun to say).

Thanks to everybody who attended for a terrific night out!

   

Davecago

Posted on Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Dave!Jenny and I had made plans to check out the Chris Ware showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art today. I am a huge admirer of his work, and was happy to find a fellow fan to share the exhibit with. Luckily, Gary was still in town as well, so the three of us set out to explore Chicago after I had spent way too much money in the museum gift shop.

First it was the the Printer's Row Book Fair, where we ran across the very cool Harold Washington Library Center...

Davecago

It was such a beautiful day that it seemed a shame not to walk up to Millennium Park so we could see the newly polished "Cloud Gate" sculpture. All the seams have finally been buffed out, and we were anxious to see the new and improved "seamless bean". Along the way, we caught up with some protesters being addressed by the cops in a "Segway to Justice!"

Davecago

As expected, the bean was stunning under the flawless blue skies...

Davecago

Davecago

Davecago

And then, before we knew it, it was time for a quick lunch and goodbye...

Davecago

What a terrific way to spend a Sunday!

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  18 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Twisted

Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2006

Dave!I just got back from dinner at Fogo de Chão.

For anybody who has never eaten there, it's kind of a vegetarian's nightmare where fanciful chefs in goucho pants wander around the restaurant with butcher knives and skewers of meat... continuously feeding you a variety of dead animals until you explode. Ordinarily I would have skipped an invitation to such a place, but they have a very good salad bar and so I was happy to go. I admit that the never-ending parade of meat to the table is a bit distracting, but eventually I am able to just ignore it...

Davefogo

Well, they don't really go wandering around with a pig's head... but you get the idea.

Anyway...

It was an interesting end to an otherwise sucky day. Lets go back in time eight hours...

Today should have been fairly uneventful because I spent most of it in my hotel room working. But the weather outside was so beautiful that I couldn't resist rewarding myself with a walk up to Johnny Rockets for lunch.

That was a mistake.

After I had eaten, I spotted a guy giving out free Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I snagged a delicious Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough cone and happily started walking back to my hotel. I was half-way home when a car coming from the opposite direction turned in front of me as I was making my way through the crosswalk. Apparently they ended up turning wider than they intended, because they nearly ran me down in the street... I actually had to jump out of the way to avoid getting creamed. I never saw a turn signal, and they turned so late that there was really no way for me to anticipate what was going to happen (never mind the fact that I had a "walk" signal).

And while I did avoid death or serious injury... I made a terrible landing. Probably because I was trying not to drop my ice cream. Much to my horror, I twisted my leg and came crashing down on the pavement.

I was too shocked to be angry, but the woman crossing behind me was furious. "DID YOU GET THE LICENSE OF THAT BITCH?!?" she screamed as she leaned over me. "Uh, no... the car was going too fast" I replied, and then stupidly added "it was a silver car".

As I was getting up with my ice cream cone (miraculously spared), a small crowd wandered up as the woman had to tell everybody what had happened... "A BITCH IN A SILVER CAR JUST RAN HIM DOWN!! JUST RAN HIM DOWN IN THE STREET!!" she announced (as if it would have been less tragic had it taken place in a parking lot?).

So now my leg and back are all jacked-up. Fortunately, I have my meds with me.

And just when I think things can't get any worse, I arrive back at my hotel just in time to learn our beloved president is announcing his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

It's so nice that the office of the president is continuing to represent ALL the people of this country*.

   

*Assuming that you are a healthy, white, wealthy, Christian, heterosexual from Texas.

   

I've already said my peace on the subject, but continue to be amazed at how many people have to suffer in the name of a political agenda. There's no way such an amendment could ever pass, so why sully the office of the president with a statement of such horrific bigotry? Why stir up even more hatred in a country so divided? Why be so intentionally hurtful to his fellow American citizens? Why do this when it's so mind-bogglingly un-presidential? Why?

Probably because his popularity is at an all-time low and he needs to rally support from his conservative fan base for the upcoming mid-term elections.

Which is a pretty crappy thing to do, and begs the question...

When President Bush took his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America... did he ever bother to f#@%ing read it? I've never cared for Bush, but was always respectful of his office. Now I've been worn down to the point where I just have no respect left to give. It's very sad.

So now I am hurting both in body and in spirit. I just want to take a few more pills, go to sleep, and make the world go away. Maybe everything will be better when I wake up in the morning.

I can dream, can't I?

Categories: Food 2006, Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  38 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Slayed

Posted on Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Dave!I feel so violated! I just rode twenty-seven floors with a couple who were going at it in the elevator. Without sounding like a total prude... ew! Surely they realize that nobody wants to see that? I mean, if I were trapped in the elevator with two lesbian porn stars, maybe... but this dopey guy and his skank-ho girlfriend? No thanks. Some people should be banned from displays of public affection (and, unless you actually ARE a lesbian porn star, this means you).

Tonight's dinner was at one of the best Thai restaurants outside of Thailand... Vong's Thai Kitchen. They have a "Yellow Vegetable Pad Thai" to die for. Succulent, flaky noodles that aren't the least bit gummy! Here is what I got out of my Thai fortune cookie at the end...

Dave is the best!

If you cannot read my drunken photo, it says: "Everyone agrees you are the best". I never really doubted this, but it's nice to have proof in writing.

I woke up with mild pain in my back and only a little tenderness in my leg... so apparently I am going to survive getting run down in the street yesterday. This is a good thing, because it means I don't have to take pills (which I hate, because it makes me sleepy all day). It also meant that I got to bum around the candy expo here in Chicago. It's always a cool event, mainly because I love me the free samples of sugary treats! There were many wonders to behold, but two things stood out for me...

The first is CHOCOLATE PEEPS!! Yes, Peeps are now available cocoa flavored! I like Peeps, even though I can't eat them (marshmallow has gelatin, which is made from gross animal parts I refuse to stick in my mouth)...

Cocoa Peeps

Maybe it's just that I like saying "Peeps" a lot?

Next up was the PEZ booth. PEZ is a candy I love and actually DO eat. The big surprise was that they had the American Chopper guys from Orange County Choppers make them a cool bike...

Pez Chopper

And that's all she wrote. It has been a very long day.

BUT BEFORE I GO... in deference to Mistress Eve on this most auspicious date of 06-06-06, I am hereby recognizing "Day of Slayer" by rocking out to the ever-excellent death-metal classic album South of Heaven on my iPod (yes, I know you are supposed to blast without headphones, but they would most certainly kick me out of the hotel for that!). Slay on my Mistress of Metal!

Dave Slayer

♫ The root of all evil is the heart of a black soul... a force that has lived all eternity! ♫ A never ending search for a truth never told... the loss of all hope and your dignity! ♫

   

Moses!

Posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Dave!My last day in Chicago was spent working, which is such a bummer given the beautiful weather and all the nifty things to do in the city. As I type this, fireworks are being shot off of Navy Pier just down the road from my hotel. I don't think that it's a holiday, so I'm not sure what's going on. Perhaps the fact that it's another glorious day in The Windy City is reason enough to celebrate?

I'm too tired to write comprehensive sentences, so it's time for bullet points!

  • BAD: The internet at my hotel is terrible. Many sites (including several blogs I read) are unreachable, and I have no idea why. At first I thought it was some kind of censorship deal, but a quick Google search for porn shows that this isn't the case. WORSE: They don't have wireless so I can't surf in bed, but instead am chained to a desk whenever I want internet access. TRAGIC: I am paying $11.95 +tax PER DAY for this crap. How is it that a prestigious hotel at $279 a night gets you this shabby treatment, and yet a cheap-o $79 a night hotel usually comes with free wireless?
  • I saw a woman crying outside of Walgreen's this afternoon. She had just finished talking on her mobile phone and seemed very upset. After thinking about it for a second, I realized that I seem to see a lot of people crying on their mobile phones lately. Remember the good old days when bad news couldn't find you everywhere you went?
  • I just tried a jug of Hershey's Milkshake for the first time (the "Cookies 'n' Cream" version). I don't know how they do it, but the stuff really does taste like an ice cream milkshake... well, probably more like "thick milk", but it sure is tasty (it had better be for 22% of my daily allotment of saturated fat).
  • Chicago has a city-wide 10:30pm curfew for anybody under 18 years old. This isn't anything earth-shattering but they seem very serious about enforcing it, which is kind of surprising. Even more shocking? Parents are being held responsible, and can be fined up to $500 if their kids are caught out. I don't know whether to be happy that parents are being forced to keep track of their kids... or sad that it takes a threat of a $500 fine to make them do it.

Oh yeah... on the way back from lunch I finally remembered to take a photo of this cool mural that's a 3-D image of Michelangelo's sculpture masterpiece "Moses"...

Moses Chicago

A brilliant likeness of the original, which is located in "San Pietro in Vincoli" basilica in Rome.

Argh. Time to pack my suitcase so I don't have to worry about it in the morning.

Goodbye Chicago.

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  24 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Songs

Posted on Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Dave!You would think that the internet age would make travel planning easier.

You would be wrong.

I just spent the past four hours arranging flights, hotels, rental cars, and all the other crap that makes travel so much fun. Nothing ever matches up. Flights always have ridiculously long layovers. Hotel check-in times are always too late and check-out too early. And meetings are never in the most convenient place. The good news is that in-between it all, I get to be in New York for a few days...

New York

Then it's off to Wisconsin...

Wisconsin

And finally back to Chicago...

Chicago

And that's only for the first two weeks. I haven't got the energy to plan the rest of the summer.

   

And now, because it's Saturday and nobody seems to read my blog on Saturdays... AND because I'm a total meme whore... AND because I'm a total music whore... AND because I'm a total whore for Karla's Tales of a Texpatriate... I am stealing this rather cool "Three Songs Meme" from her in an extended entry (because it is MASSIVE)...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Categories: Memes 2006, Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  16 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Internetless

Posted on Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Dave!Well this day sucks ass.

It started out well enough... I'm on my way to New York City, baby!

But then my flight out of Seattle was delayed two hours and it was all downhill from there. I thought that the hour wait to get my luggage would be the end of it. Until I got to the hotel... WHERE THE FREAKIN' INTERNET DOESN'T WORK!! You'd think I was staying at the Motel 6 or something... but this is a freakin' FOUR-STAR HOTEL IN MID-TOWN MANHATTAN!! Apparently $340 a night doesn't assure you of internet. WTF?!?

After three trips to the front desk to get busted internet routers, I gave up. I suppose I'll just have to figure it all out tomorrow. Oh well. Life may suck, but I AM in New York!

I Dave New York!

Time for a McVeggie Deluxe in Times Square!

Categories: Food 2006, Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  14 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

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.

   

Alcoholic

Posted on Friday, July 7th, 2006

Dave!So your train back to New York is delayed. Does this mean Amtrak puts you on the next train into the city so you don't have to hang out at the station for two hours? Sure... if you are willing to pay the $34.00 price difference between your regional train ticket and the express train ticket. That's some terrific customer service right there! I wonder if they would be willing to pay me for the time I wasted because of their delay?

BAD: Things go so terribly wrong at work that everything is cancelled.
GOOD: You now have a free afternoon in New York City.
BAD: Your project is now delayed, which means you're screwed.
GOOD: There is a substance called alcohol that will make you not mind being screwed so much.
BAD: You're still screwed once the alcohol has worn off.
GOOD: There's always more alcohol...

"Hello. My name is Dave, and I'm an alcoholic" is only slightly less cool than "Hello. My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I think I'll go for it.

As an alcoholic I'll have a valid excuse for urinating in the street and bitch-slapping people who bother me. "I'm sorry officer, I was drunk" I will say when the police arrive at the scene. I can only hope that I am not urinating on him as I say it, because that surely wouldn't go over very big with New York's finest...

NYPD

Wandering back to Times Square for dinner, I was walking past the Hard Rock and saw something I never noticed before... there's a fork flashin' horns above the HRC guitar! So very cool...

HRC Horns!

And look! IT'S MR. PEANUT!!!

Mr. Peanut!

Everybody loves Mr. Peanut!

And I love New York.

Tomorrow I am going to spend the day goofing off in the city.

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  19 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Night

Posted on Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Dave!New York City is pretty sweet any time of day, but I think I like it at nighttime the best.

Last night I decided to venture out into the city once again so I could see the Apple Store lit up in all its glory. And, yes, it's pretty sweet. The way the Apple logo reflects into the glass is almost holographic-looking, and you can see everything a lot better because the reflections from neighboring buildings is not so bad. It is truly a beautiful structure, so kudos to Steve Jobs and his cube obsession for giving New York City another landmark piece of architecture...

NYC Apple Store at Night

NYC Apple Store at Night

Not to say that there aren't a lot of other buildings that look great at night...

NYC at Night

NYC at Night

Most of today was spent at the American Museum of Natural History. Not only did they have a freakin' cool exhibit on lizards (which I love), but there's a new Space Show narrated by Robert Redford called Cosmic Collisions, and an IMAX film I haven't seen called Amazing Caves. It's a pretty sweet place to spend an afternoon. How many places can you see giant dinosaur bones in one hall...

Dinosaur Bones

And then see a statue of a chubby doggy in the next?

Chubby Doggy

Today was my last day in NYC, and I'm kind of sad about that.

   

Steamer

Posted on Monday, July 10th, 2006

Dave!It's time once again for DAVE'S STEAMING PILE OF CRAP TRAVEL AWARD!

This is kind of unprecedented, because I usually wait until a trip is completely over before I go passing out an award. But I have two such amazing candidates that I can't help myself. If things get worse than this, I may just have to start beating people with a hammer.

DAVE'S STEAMING PILE OF CRAP TRAVEL AWARD... GRAND PRIZE: DOLLAR RENT-A-CAR!

Steaming Pile Dollar

So you have to wake up at 3:00am to make your 6:00am flight. The hotel is working on the water system, so there's no hot water. How much worse could it get? Well, you could get to Chicago and find out that Dollar doesn't have a rental car for you...

DOLLAR AGENT: I'm sorry, all we have is an SUV or a van available.
   
DAVE: But I have a reservation for a compact car. I don't want to drive an SUV or a van into the city!
   
DOLLAR AGENT: We do not guarantee that any car type will be available... all we guarantee is that a car will be available. The rate will be the same.
   
DAVE: But a van is not a car... it's a van! An SUV is not a car... it's an SUV! I have a reservation FOR A CAR!! When will A CAR be available.
   
DOLLAR AGENT: We are on a car-in, car-out basis here. I have no idea when a compact or mid-size will be available.
   
DAVE: Then what's the point of a reservation? Dollar Rent-A-Car is stupid.

I mean, seriously. WTF?!? Bad enough that they don't have a car... but they can't even tell me when I can expect to get one?? Well F#@% that! And F#@% Dollar Rent-A-Car. I will never, EVER rent from your ridiculous company again. Burn in hell you incompetent dumbasses. You just caused me to waste an hour trying to find a new car, AND I had to pay extra money because of the last-minute rental. DIE! DIE! DIE!!!!

DAVE'S STEAMING PILE OF CRAP TRAVEL AWARD... RUNNER-UP: HILTON HIGH-SPEED INTERNET!

Steaming Pile Hilton

Hilton says "take me to a place where high-speed internet is reliable and easy to use." This is kind of stupid, because if I were to take their advice, I would go anywhere... ANYWHERE except the Hilton Towers in New York. This is the worst internet I have ever used. First of all, you have to use some piece-of-crap "wireless bridge" in order to get signal. Unfortunately, they're all busted to shit. My first one had a frayed cable. My second one wouldn't turn on. My third one couldn't get a signal. My fourth one had a busted antennae... but I held on to it out of fear of what I might get had I tried for number five.

And even when you get a connection... it sucks ass. I had to reboot both the wireless bridge AND my laptop a half-dozen times a day because the internet would simply stop working for no good reason. It's bad enough to have to pay for internet... but to have to pay $9.95 a day for TOTALLY SHITTY INTERNET? WTF?? The Hilton New York is actually a pretty good hotel. I've been staying here for 15 years because the location is primo. But without high-speed internet in good working order, the Hilton New York is crap. F#@% hotels who charge for shitty internet access.

Case in point: I am right now in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. I am staying at a tiny no-frills budget hotel that costs 1/5 the money that my room in New York did. I have FREE wireless internet that is fast and doesn't require a bridge of any kind. How is it that this little nothing of a hotel is superior for internet IN EVERY WAY... and is absolutely FREE?

Anybody have a better recommendation for hotels in Mid-Town Manhattan that have decent internet service?

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  15 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Bob

Posted on Friday, July 14th, 2006

Dave!"I'll kill you! KILL YOU DEAD!" he screams, his eyes filled with rage...

It all started innocently enough when Bob (of Chasing Vincenzo fame) read that I would be back in Chicago and was kind enough to write and ask if I wanted to meet for dinner while I was in town. Since he's a great guy with a lot of interesting things to talk about, I agreed immediately. Bob ended up choosing a very nice tapas restaurant with authentic authentic Spanish tapas (quite a different story from the "fake" authentic tapas houses I've run into).

The restaurant, Emilio's, was celebrating an anniversary, so there was live music and flamenco dancers for entertainment. We started out with a bit of light pre-dinner conversation... war, politics, religion, who would win in a fight between Batman and Spider-Man... you know, the usual kind of stuff. But then we somehow got on the topic of nuclear fusion and all hell broke loose.

"You can't contain the super-plasma using inert gasses as a barrier between the magnetic fields. You need a total vacuum or it's not going to work!" Bob says.

"Oh I think it will work just fine if the molecular state of the gas is excited by injecting weak protons into the barrier matrix" I reply. "Perhaps xenon or argon would be a good gas to use."

"What did you just say?!?" Bob asks over the escalating sounds of the guitar and rat-a-tat-tat of the flamenco dancers stomping away.

"Errr... maybe xenon or argon..." I offer meekly.

"Argon?!? ARGON?!?? How can you say 'argon'— I hate argon gas!" Bob says loudly as he tries to compete with the music filling the restaurant. "No self-respecting scientist uses argon gas for containment!"

"Uhhh... calm down, Bob" I say diplomatically. "I'm sure quite a few nuclear scientists have had good success using argon to—"

"NO! NO THEY HAVEN'T!!" Bob bellows as he jumps up from the table, his temper soaring. "Stop saying that! Stop saying 'argon!'"

"Bob, you're overreacting" I say, trying to keep my voice calm. "Argon is just a gas, it's not—"

"THERE! YOU SAID IT AGAIN!!" Bob screams, his voice filled with fury. "I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY THAT!"

Bob then grabs a handful of papas bravas (a yummy potato dish) and throws it at my head. The restaurant, once noisy with flamenco dancers, music, laughter, and conversation, suddenly becomes silent. A kindly waitress appears at our table and tries to fix things...

"Is there a problem here gentlemen?" she asks nervously.

"YES, THERE IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM HERE!! THIS BASTARD THINKS THAT ARGON GAS WOULD MAKE A GOOD BARRIER BETWEEN MAGNETIC FIELDS OF A FUSION REACTOR!" Bob roars, all eyes on him.

"Argon?" the waitress says in a small voice. "Well, maybe not argon per-se... but certainly if the gas molecules were in an excited state... perhaps by injecting weak protons?"

Bob just stands there for a minute fuming, his hands bunched into fists. Nobody moves. It's as if the restaurant has been suspended in time.

Suddenly, Bob springs across the table and lunges at the waitress. "I'll kill you! KILL YOU DEAD!" he screams, his eyes filled with rage. The waitress is paralyzed with fear as Bob knocks her to the ground and wraps his hands around her neck. "ARGON THIS, YOU BITCH!!" Bob wails as his hands tighten on her throat.

Panic fills the air as people start running around screaming. One of the busboys and a team of flamenco dancers manage to pull Bob off the poor waitress and hold him at the bar. He starts yelling something about "argon gas being a tool of the devil," but I am in a state of total shock and don't hear it.

I just sat there sobbing quietly with papas bravas in my hair until the police showed up and took Bob away. Something tells me he won't be welcome back at Emilio's any time soon.

...    

Well, okay, that's not really what happened.

We had a wonderful dinner with fantastic food, and it was a lot of fun. But I'm getting tired of writing about how great it is to meet up with my fellow bloggers, and so I thought it would be more entertaining to write about what would happen if Bob went crazy and tried to strangle a waitress.

Because that would be kind of cool.

Not for the waitress, obviously, but it would make for a far more exciting blog entry.

Anyway, thanks Bob for a great dinner!

Categories: Food 2006, Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  24 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Glitter

Posted on Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Dave!Yesterday afternoon as I was standing in line to check-in to my Chicago hotel, I overhear something curious in a conversation between two sarcastic twenty-something bitches in the lobby...

"Well, the world is going to hell and the gays have invaded the city."

And in my mind I'm thinking "Seriously? The gays have invaded Chicago?? I didn't see that one coming."

Suddenly my head is filled with images of the gay militia pouring into the streets of the city, looking fierce and fabulous! They're wearing lovely pink camouflage latex tank-tops with matching pink boots and a perky beret. They're armed with rhinestone-studded assault rifles (assuming you can bedazzle an AK-47) and the world is awash in sequins and glitter. They're setting up their HQ in Hancock Tower (tee hee), and it's the prettiest invasion ever (I hope there's good television coverage when I get to my room). I then wonder if my 20% status is enough to join-up because I, for one, welcome our new militant gay overlords...

Gay Invasion

And then I find out that it's a different kind of invasion entirely. Chicago is hosting the Gay Games this coming week, and the opening ceremonies are today.

Well, darn.

I was really hoping for an actual gay invasion because that would certainly make this trip a memorable one.

And speaking of "fierce and fabulous" - am I the only one NOT going to BlogHer at the end of this month? It seems like a lot of the blogs I read have everybody gearing up for the event. I thought it was a conference just for the ladies, but now I'm seeing that guys are going too.

I always miss the good parties.

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  25 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Taxi

Posted on Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Dave!The taxi driver smelled so bad that my eyes were watering. And it wasn't like he was oblivious to the fact, because he'd occasionally whip out some deodorant spray in a futile attempt to mask the stench. Of course this did nothing but make things worse. The guy smelled like he crapped his pants, took a bath in a urinal, and then slept in a sweaty, stanky locker-room for a week. The 100-degree heat wasn't helping much either.

By the time I got to Lincoln Square, I was inundated with a melange of horrible smells and about ready to pass out...

Chicago Taxi

But I did my best to stay conscious, because I was meeting Jenny for dinner and a movie and thought she might appreciate not finding me passed out on the sidewalk.

Or maybe she would. I'm probably a much better conversationalist that way.

Anyway, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was a convoluted story filled with never-ending coincidences and lots of mind-blowing special effects. While not as good as the first film, it was still an entertaining ride (mostly due to Johnny Depp, who once again delivers out a masterful performance). The surprise was that they brought back Jack Davenport (of Coupling fame) to play Commodore Norrington. He completely eclipses Orlando Bloom at every turn, and is by far the more sympathetic character. That's actually kind of bad for the plot, but a happy accident for the movie, because it ends up adding some depth to the story.

The evening ended at a German bar full of elderly people partying down to a live band. Some of those seniors had brilliant moves ON the dance floor, which was surprising considering they could barely walk OFF the dance floor. Jenny and I were regretting that we didn't have a video camera, because this is the kind of stuff that thrives on YouTube.

Unable to find a taxi back into the city, I decided to hop on the train. Right behind me was a man trying to manage his sloppy-drunk girlfriend from falling over as she started gyrating wildly to music that wasn't there. It was amusing at first, but quickly became embarrassing. She was cursing profusely and jabbering on endlessly about stuff nobody really wanted to hear. Even worse was that she was scowling (for emphasis, I'd imagine) as she spoke, which reminded me of somebody...

Emperor Palpatine Evil

I also suspect that she had head-lice, because she was forever shaking her hair like a woman possessed. I kept waiting for her head to snap off or maybe spin all the way around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Scary.

I wish I could say that this was the end of my travel entertainment, but my taxi ride to O'Hare this morning wouldn't allow it. The driver, who was talking to himself the entire way, decided to LIGHT UP A CIGARETTE as we pulled on to the airport expressway. Why he couldn't have waited ten minutes to drop me off first was a complete mystery. So instead I got to sit in cigarette smoke which pissed me off pretty bad. I hope he spends the $2 I tipped him wisely, because the idiot shouldn't have gotten anything at all. Dumbass.

Chicago Taxi

What happened in the month that I was away? Did Chicago pass some kind of city ordinance whereas taxi drivers are required to make their cabs smell as bad as possible?

Oh well. I'm home safely in my sweet-smelling apartment, so I guess that's all that really counts... isn't it?

   

7-Up

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Dave!Before I sat down to write this entry, I went back through my travel category and was irritated to discover that every single trip I've taken over the past three years has had some kind of problem along the way. There's no doubt about it... commercial travel has been sucking more and more lately.

To get the best price, you have to make your reservations online. But most travel websites suck ass and don't work half the time, which means you have to call and pay the higher price anyway. Flights consistently run late and are overbooked (if they aren't canceled first). Reservations mean nothing, as rental car agencies and hotels are happy to promise something they can't deliver. Nobody smiles or is friendly anymore. Internet access is rarely free, and the more expensive it is, the more it's going to suck. Everything that can possibly go wrong, will go wrong.

Above all, fellow travelers are dumbasses. Here's an example from my flight over to Seattle this evening...

STEWARDESS: Due to the short 35-minute duration of this flight, we will be featuring a limited beverage service only. We offer Apple Juice, Orange Juice, Cranberry Juice, Beer, Water, and Wine. Again, your choices are Apple, Orange, or Cranberry Juice and Beer, Water, or Wine. Thank you!
   
STEWARDESS: (wheeling her little cart to the first passenger) And what would you like to drink sir?
   
TOTAL F#@%ING DUMBASS: I'll have a 7-Up.

I know people think I invent this crap, but I shit you not. You just can't make up stuff like this.

And now I am sitting in my hotel room which was advertised on the internet as having "HIGH SPEED INTERNET IN EVERY ROOM" and a banner saying "WIRELESS INTERNET!!" Little did I know that this does NOT mean wireless in every room... it means that there's wireless in the lobby only, and rooms have to use a cable (which they do not provide, and I didn't bring with me because I thought I'd have wireless). This kind of deceptive crap is just unforgivable. My blinding rage has me very close to burning this f#@%er to the ground.

But I'm too tired to find another hotel. So I guess I'll go post this from the lobby, then head back to my room and despair because I'm going to spend the night without internet access. Stupid hotel.

Now, for a random bit of hilariousness, go read Kevin Smith lambaste the totally irrelevant douche-bag movie critic Joel Siegel on his blog. I cannot WAIT for Clerks 2 to hit this weekend. The fact that an unprofessional prick like Siegel feels the need to walk out of a screening only makes me want to see it more.

Categories: Travel 2006Click To It: Permalink  20 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Glass

Posted on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Dave!Work was in Tacoma today, which is about an hour south of Seattle and the "TAC" in SeaTac International Airport. It's a noteworthy city to me because of one man: Dale Chihuly. I am a huge, huge fan of his stunning glass artwork, and Tacoma is a showcase for some of the best of it (probably because it's his home town).

Surprisingly, even though Chihuly is a huge backer of The Museum of Glass, his work in not a major part of the museum's relatively small gallery floor (you need to go to the Tacoma Museum of Art to see a permanent Chichuly exhibit). But you do get to see live glassblowing here and a few beautiful pieces of Chihuly art in the "Hot Spot" balcony...

Glassblowing

Chihuly Glass

From the museum, you can walk across the "Bridge of Glass" and see even more Chihuly, including a glass ceiling that is breathtaking when the sun is shining through it...

Chihuly Glass

Once across the bridge, you can enter Union Station and see five amazing Chihuly installations in glorious open spaces...

Chihuly Glass

Chihuly Glass

Who could have ever guessed that Tacoma, Washington would end up being the "Venice of the West"?? I just consider myself lucky that such an amazing display is only three hours away from my home.

Anyway, then it was back to the airport so I could catch a quick 50-minute flight to Spokane (which is about 4-1/2 to 5 hours by car). My flight was delayed (what else is new) but I managed to catch an earlier plane. Once I arrived and picked up my rental car, I discovered something surprising with my Subaru Legacy... can somebody tell me when they started making semi-automatic cars?

Semi-Automatic Car

I call it "semi-automatic" because, while there's no clutch, you'll note that there is a "+" and "-" on the gear-box which allows you to change gears, just like a manual transmission. It's a very odd driving experience, but not bad once you get used to it.

First stop in Spokane was, of course, to eat THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD at David's Pizza. I debated going out for a movie, but I've seen Pirates and Superman already, so there's not much else I want to see until Clerks II hits this weekend. Oh well. You won't hear me complaining about calling it a night and getting a few extra hours sleep.

   

Lesbionic

Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2006

Dave!After yet another orgasm-inducing meal at David's Pizza, I decided to drop by The Comic Book Shop to see if lesbian Batwoman was out (heh, heh) yet. Not only was she out, but she was REALLY out, because they had three stacks of the issue piled on the shelf. Apparently lesbian super-heroes translate into big comic book sales. This has me wondering if we're going to start seeing lesbians in all the comics now. Or perhaps more lesbians on this blog! In any event, the story was kind of boring and barely hinted at any hot lesbionic action. Fanboys are going to be upset.

But not by the size of her chest...

Batwoman

I have no idea how she can be expected to fight crime around a rack like that, but I guess every hero has their problems. Batwoman just happens to have two of them.

This is my last day on the road for awhile. Tomorrow I'll be home and finally be able to catch up on everything that's been piling up for the past two months. I live in fear of my post box. There's bound to be quite a stack of mail heaped in there by now. Much like my email InBox...

Inbox

I mean, dang, that's a LOT of email to read. My spam filter works pretty well, so most of those are going to be legit. I guess I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend.

WATCHING CLERKS II, THAT'S WHAT! Hah!

And adding more lesbians to Blogography.

Uhhh... and answering email (if I can find the time).

   

Observation

Posted on Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Dave!When I am traveling in a strange place, I notice everything. Few details, no matter how small, escape me when I bother to really take notice of my surroundings. But, when it comes to my own back yard, you might as well forget it. This fact came into vivid relief just this afternoon.

I was leaving the mini-mart after having purchased a Coke with Lime to get me through the day when I hear some people shouting at me. Looking over at them, my keen intellect pegs them as tourists due to the huge motor-home they're standing in front of.

DAVE: Uhhh... yeah?
   
OLD TOURIST DUDE: What happened up there?
   
DAVE: Er, where?
   
OLD TOURIST LADY (pointing): Up there. Up on the hill.
   
DAVE (seeing a huge blackened swash cut across the hillside): Ah. I dunno. Probably a fire.
   
OLD TOURIST DUDE: You live here, son?
   
DAVE: Yes.
   
OLD TOURIST DUDE: HEH HEH! Then how can you not know if your hills were on fire? HEH! HEH! HEH!
   
DAVE: I was probably out of town that day.
   
OLD TOURIST DUDE: HA! HA HAAAAHHH HA HAAAHHH!
   
OLD TOURIST LADY: HAAAAH HA HA HAAAAHHH!
   
OLD TOURIST DUDE: HAH! OUT OF TOWN THAT DAY!! HA HAAAHH! DID YOU HEAR THAT PEG?!? HAAA HA HA HA HAAAAAAHH HA HA HA HAAAAHHH!

For the life of me I can't figure out what I said that was so hysterically funny but, one thing was for certain, something had gone on up there...

Burninghills

After walking back to get my camera I asked a local what had happened and, sure enough, a fire had broke out while I was bouncing back and forth between Seattle and Spokane a few weeks ago.