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Bullet Sunday 362

Posted on Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Dave!As winter storm warnings drop across the USA, better bundle up tight... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Return! Dan Harmon is back to running Community after having been canned from it last season. And even though only two new Harmon episodes have aired, it's clear that the show is going to be as good as it ever was. If you're not watching the show... or quit after Harmon left... it's time to jump back onboard.

Community 2014

Just don't remind me that Troy only has three episodes left before his character is written out...

   
• Good Bye. Was really sad to learn that James Avery died this past week. Immortalized as Will Smith's "Uncle Phil" on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Avery was an actor who somehow managed to hold his own in scenes that would seem impossible to do so...

So long, Uncle Phil.

   
• Snack! ZOMG! THESE NEW SARA LEE DEVIL'S FOOD CREME CAKES ARE LIKE CAKE AND CANDY IN ONE! LOVE THEM!

Sara Lee Devil's Food Creme Cakes

And are as bad for you as you'd imagine them to be. Oh well. At least they don't have DISGUSTING LARD like Hostess snack cakes do.

   
• REALLY? Speaking of things that are bad for you... When it comes to stupid fucking idiots, it's pretty tough to top Jenny McCarthy. She advocates not vaccinating your child (based on bad, inaccurate information) under the guise of "saving children from autism"... but then turns around and glamorizes smoking and nicotine addiction with her Blu e-cig commercials...

Jenny Stupid Fucking McCarthy

For the children, I'm sure.

It's bad enough that her anti-vax idiocy is spreading illness and death... now she's promoting an unhealthy habit too? I'm guessing that whoring herself out for huffing gasoline is next. All she has to do is find somebody to pay her to make an ad for it.

   
And... I think I'm done. I'll just let that last bullet sink in a bit...

   

Sandwich

Posted on Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Dave!

I packed a sack lunch for work today.

Mostly because I wanted a cheese-and-potato-chip sandwich, and you can't get that at the mini-mart. So long as you pack the potato chips separately so they don't go all soggy, it makes for a pretty good meal...

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave Eats a Cheese Sandwich

And THAT was the highlight of my day.

If it were any other day except Saturday, that would be enough.

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Scrambled

Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Dave!Three or four mornings each week, I stop at the mini-mart so I can buy two bottles of Grape Powerade (2 for $5) and a bean & cheese burrito. It's the perfect breakfast, and a delicious excuse to eat lots of ketchup (no joke... I can use three packets with one small burrito).

Not exactly healthy though.

So this morning I thought I'd try a breakfast that's better for me... an Amy's Tofu Scramble...

Amy's Tofu Scramble

I like Amy's stuff. Her Mexican and Indian entrees are darn good, and I'm a loyal customer to her brand. Once I Googled a few reviews on how awesome her Tofu Scramble was, I didn't think twice about putting it in my shopping cart. And today was the day!

It tasted like a bowl of barf.

The potatoes were okay... but the scramble was just awful. I didn't like the flavor and really didn't like the texture. While nowhere near as bad as the Special K Breakfast Flatbread Sandwich I tried last month (vomit-inducing gross), I just couldn't bring myself to eat it.

And so I stopped by the mini-mart for two bottles of Grape Powerade and a bean & cheese burrito.

Which was delicious, as usual.

And while not exactly healthy, it was probably no worse than a bag of Doritos and a Coke, which was my go-to breakfast before I found out Hometown Market had bean & cheese burritos and a good price on double-Powerade.

I really need to go back to Eggo Waffles one day.

But right now I'm still dealing with the crushing disappointment from last time.

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Bullet Sunday 370

Posted on Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Dave!No more bitching about how your favorite movie/actor/director didn't win an Oscar, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Oscar! First of all, I just have to say that Ellen DeGeneres did an amazing job as host. Funny, entertaining, yet still nice to everybody. And now my take on the big awards...

  • BEST PICTURE: Should have won: 12 Years a Slave. Won: 12 Years a Slave. This was an incredible movie that was painful to watch. Totally Oscar-worthy, even though I doubt I will ever watch it again.
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Should have won: ? Three-Way Tie ?. Won: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity). This was hard. I honestly felt that David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), all had a claim to the prize. That Russell both wrote and directed American Hustle made me want him to win a bit more over the others, but the technical challenges that Cuarón had to rise above were legion, so I get it. McQueen is a solid choice too, so I just don't know.
  • BEST ACTOR: Should have won: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). Won: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). McConaughey was good, but I just didn't see his role (or the film, in general) to be riveting enough to grab the prize. Ejiofor on the other hand?
  • BEST ACTRESS: Should have won: Sandra Bullock (Gravity). Won: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). I fucking hate Woody Allen and, even though I'm sure Blanchett was her usual incredible self, I'd rather any other picture win. Bullock managed to overcome a lot of technical challenges to pull out a very good performance, so I'd probably give her the nod.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Should have won: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave). Won: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). Leto was the best thing about Dallas Buyers Club, but the sheer volume of emotional wreckage that Fassbender had to claw his way out of to deliver his performance must have been epic.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Should have won: Lupita Nyong'o, (12 Years a Slave). Won: Lupita Nyong'o, (12 Years a Slave). A complete no-brainer. Nyong'o had the performance to beat (even though I love Jennifer Lawrence so much that I probably wouldn't complain if she won it for her awesome turn on American Hustle).
  • BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: Should have won: Frozen. Won: Frozen. Animation god, Hayao Miyazaki, had his final feature film (The Wind Rises) in the running and I would have loved for him to have won... but Frozen was the film to beat.

   
• Marshmallow! And speaking of Frozen... there's a lot of things I could say about this brilliant Disney animated feature. Maybe that will happen later in the week. In the meanwhile, how much does everybody love Marshmallow? Probably my favorite animated character since Sully from Monster's Inc....

Frozen Marshmallow

If you love Marshmallow too, be sure to keep watching past the Frozen credits.

   
• Ark! As I mentioned a year-and-a-half ago when I visited The Creation Museum, the group behind it all (Answers in Genesis) is working on a second museum... ARK ENCOUNTER! Apparently it's going to be a life-size replica of Noah's Ark (or something like that). They were in a bit of financial trouble but, after their leader Ken Ham had a much-publicized debate with Bill Nye The Science Guy, it apparently garnered them enough attention that they got their money after all. Personally, I can't wait to go... even though I believe absolutely none of it...

Ark Encounter Drawing

There's some pretty harsh criticism of Bill Nye for giving Ken Ham a platform to "legitimatize" his beliefs... but that seems kinda lame. I may vehemently disagree with Ken Ham, but I find value in understanding what he (and countless others) believe to be true, so I was happy to have a chance to see him actively debating it. And I'm looking forward to ARK ENCOUNTER as well... if it's as nicely done as The Creation Museum, it'll be worth a stop.

   
• About! Nick Hornby's About a Boy is a remarkable book that I've read at least three times. Much to my shock, the movie adaptation starring Hugh Grant was quite good... though very different in parts (and with a crappy Hollywood ending slapped on). So when I heard NBC was creating a television series for About a Boy, I was intrigued...

About a Boy TV Poster

And so I watched it only to find out it was TOTAL SHIT. As an adaptation of the book. As a television show though? Not terrible. Not good, but not terrible. It seems to be based more on the movie adaptation than the book, but it fails pretty badly there too. The concept is the same, however. Will Freeman's dad wrote a hit Christmas song that set him up for life. Since he doesn't have to worry about money, he's living a self-absorbed life that revolves around fun instead of responsibility. Enter Marcus Brewer. He's an odd kid (mostly due to his mother, Fiona, who has severe emotional problems), and he's ruthlessly bullied at school. Will and Marcus cross paths, and both their lives are forever changed. The movie, while not entirely faithful to the book, does get a number of things right. Most importantly, they very clearly show just how miserable a life that Marcus leads and how terrifying it is to not know from moment to moment whether his mom is going to survive her depression. The TV show? Pretty much none of that. They focus more on Will being an idiot than the boy in About a Boy. And that's the biggest problem. The kid playing Marcus is good, but you never feel for him or his situation. And that leads to the entire premise of the show falling apart. And who knows if we'll ever see Ellie, a critical character from the book who was glossed over in the film and seems to be absent from the TV show entirely (so far). I dunno. I guess I'll give it a shot for a while, but my love of the book and movie is kind of killing me here. Maybe if I play the absolutely amazing movie soundtrack while I watch the TV version it'll be more tolerable?

   
• OREO! So Marshmallow Crispy OREOs and Cookie Dough OREOs happened a while back, but I've only just now gotten around to trying them...

New OREOs! Marshmallow Crispy OREO Cookie Dough OREO

Love the Marshmallow Crispy version. They're very sweet, but the crap actually tastes like a Rice Krispies treat in the middle! The Cookie Dough? Not so much. The flavor is vaguely there, but it actually seems more like coffee(?) (which I hate) than cookie dough. Doen layik it.

   
Sorry to end on a down-note, but I do proclaim this Sunday's bullets ended!

   

DAY EIGHT: Lisse and Amsterdam

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014

Dave!"We have arrived!" announced the hotel shuttle driver to myself and another passenger as we pulled into the Nice Airport around 4:30am. And so I climb out and ask the driver to open the back of the van so I can get my bag. He says "This stop is not for you," and so I start to climb back on the van... only to have the driver slam the gas pedal to the floor as I am half-way in. The van lurches forward, causing the sliding door to smash into my side and send me flying 20 feet. My head crashes into the pavement and, as I lay there bleeding and trying to breathe, the driver stands over me and says "I said this stop was not for you!" — which is why I was climbing back on the van, of course, but let's not apply logic to the situation. You would think that A) The driver would make sure everybody is actually ON the van before hitting the gas, and B) He would start out slowly just in case the first passenger was still standing near... or the second passenger was in the process of boarding... or a pedestrian is crossing the street... or whatever. But, alas, no.

Blood pouring down my face and hunched over in pain, I somehow make my way inside the airport (at the next stop, natch) so I can try to clean myself up in a bathroom. Much to my horror, my glasses are destroyed, so I have to fish for contact lenses in my suitcase. But I can only put a lens in one eye because blood is pouring over the other one. A package of antibiotic wipes and 20 minutes of direct pressure later, my second lens is in and it's time to head to the gate for my flight.

The wonderful KLM cabin crew gave me ice for my head on the flight back to Amsterdam. This made the swelling die down a bit, and also caused the pain to subside. As for my chest where I was hit? The pain became searing, so when I got off the plane I started pressing around and... SNAP... I think I had a fractured rib, because now that it's been set back in place I feel totally fine... just a little sore now.

In other news... I have never felt so fucking macho in all my life as to snap my own fractured rib back in place! I'd go to the doctor, but all they would do is wrap me up and give me pain meds, so I'm just going to put on a tight T-shirt and self-medicate. Same difference! A-fucking-right... this is one macho bitch right up in here.*

Anyway...

My plans to visit some work colleagues in Amsterdam had to be abandoned so I could recuperate back at Casa de DutchBitch for five hours until she got off work. At which time we decided to visit "Europe's Garden"... the Keukenhof. I was there back in 2012 and loved it, so I was looking forward to another visit on this beautiful day, even if I was loaded with pain-killers...

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

After a wonderful afternoon looking at flowers, it was time for dinner at one of my favorite places on earth, Restaurant De Kas. It's a beautiful eatery outside of Amsterdam that resides in a greenhouse where they grow their own food. It's pretty special.

Restaurant De Kas

But it's at night that this place becomes really special...

Restaurant De Kas

The menu is a surprise, built around what came from the garden that day, and they accommodated my vegetarian diet beautifully...

Restaurant De Kas

Restaurant De Kas

Restaurant De Kas

An absolutely wonderful evening. After an absolutely wonderful day. After a terrible morning.

And now? Having experienced first hand what it's like to get run into by a car, I'm going to take some heavy drugs and go to bed. So good night to you! And (hopefully) a good night to myself.

   

*Unless, of course, it wasn't a fractured rib at all... in which case I have no idea what snapped inside there. Maybe I'm the moron who just cracked his own rib? I dunno. Playing doctor is a lot harder than it looks on television. Still, I'm feeling 1000% better than I was, so you can't argue with the results.

   

Healthy

Posted on Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Dave!This week I decided that I wanted to start eating healthier. Less fat. Less sugar. Definitely less salt. Not radical changes... just a step or two in a better direction.

So today I when I went to the grocery store, I looked for foods that would put me on track.

One of the more promising options was a vegetarian bean, rice, and cheese burrito that I hadn't seen before. Nowhere on the wrapper did it say "healthy" (something which guarantees shitty taste)... it just said "70% Organic Ingredients" and the Nutrition Facts looked halfway decent. Dinner is served!

Needless to say, it was crap.

Bland. Boring. Tasteless.

Turns out that once you start taking the fat, sugar, and salt out of everything... "everything" loses what makes it oh so delicious to eat. Which is a statement that will insure everybody you know will want to give you That One Recipe which is the exception to the rule. But believing that is only setting yourself up for disappointment.

So I guess my new plan is to eat the same crap I've always been eating. I'll just eat less of it.

And squeeze in an apple or two.

Maybe some baby carrots and an occasional salad.

Because if I have to eat nothing but bland, boring, tasteless shit in order to be healthy, I'd just as soon skip it.

Now to make up for my crap dinner, I'm going to have two OREO Cookies. Which is ten less than I would usually eat, so congratulations to me for healthier eating!

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Palm Springs

Posted on Monday, May 5th, 2014

Dave!The work assignment was not very glamorous, but it did include an opportunity to visit a new Hard Rock property, so I jumped at the chance to travel to Palm Springs.

I haven't been to the so-called "Golf Capital of the World" in years, but it's all seems pretty much the same. The only things to do here are eat, shop, golf, and hang out by the pool. Which would bore the crap out of me if I didn't have work going on... and explains why I get here so rarely. One day I need to come here with a group of friends, because something tells me that is the best way to experience the city.

Anyway...

Yesterday I flew into PSP on a quick 2-hour hop from Seattle. The airport here is one of my favorites because it features a terrific open courtyard in the middle...

Google Maps View
PSP Map Courtesy of... GOOGLE MAPS!

It's also small, which makes it easy to get in and out of. Always a plus.

Yesterday I didn't have any work, so I spent my afternoon eating. I started at Hamburger Mary's which has a decent Veggie Burger. And Godzilla vs. Mothra playing on the television...

It's Hamburger Mary!

The restaurant is billed as "gay-themed and LGBT-friendly"... but, to me, it's just a funky place to eat with good food...

It's a Mary Burger!

For dessert? GREAT SHAKES! The only milkshake joint I know that hangs a mini-cupcake on the super-straw...

Great Shake!

I turned in around 8:00 last night because I had a very early wake-up this morning. And I wanted to catch up on television.

Which brings us to today...

Because of work, I ended up having a very late lunch. So when it came time for dinner, I wasn't very hungry. The plan was to go out and have a margarita and chips to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, then turn in early.

I ended up having four.

Then five...

Cinco de Mayo Margarita!

Then a burrito...

Cinco de Mayo Burrito!

Then fried ice cream...

Cinco de Mayo Fried Ice Cream!

Cinco margaritas on Cinco de Mayo plus Way Too Much Food. What could possibly go wrong?

My hotel uses touch-cards for room entry. Since I my key was in my back pocket, I had the brilliant idea of touching my butt to the door to unlock. Since the lock-pad is higher up than my ass I had to jump up into it. Couldn't get it to work after three tries, so I decided to give up. Only to realize my room key was in my FRONT pocket all along. I seriously debated whether or not I should try grinding into the door to try to open it. Ultimately I figured that the people monitoring the security cameras already had enough fun for the night and decided against it.

Who says that alcohol dulls your thinking! Not me!

   

Burger

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2014

Dave!My entire day was a build-up to returning to the restaurant I had eaten at last night to see if the veggie burger I had eaten was as good as I thought it had been.

Because when you've eaten the best burger you've ever had, you want to be sure, right?

Especially when you look back through your Facebook feed and see this...

Facebook Burger Me

And so, I went back for another late-supper veggie burger...

25 Degrees Burger

And it was indeed the best damn veggie burger I had ever eaten. Again.

I'm told that it's soy-based, but they add in roasted sweet red peppers, a bit of jalapeño peppers, and shredded beets (which makes the patty look blood-red when you bite into it). I still have no idea where the bun comes from... but it's got a texture that's amazing and a bit of sweetness to it.

Anyway... if you're ever in Chicago and have a hankering for a really good burger, 25 Degrees looks like it's the place! Though, fair warning, it gets really loud, as there's a bar in the middle of the room.

They also have locations in Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, and Bangkok.

25 Degrees Chicago

But I have a feeling Chicago will always be my favorite.

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Bullet Sunday 381

Posted on Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Dave!No more waiting for your ship to come in... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Blinded. This is a great story... it's short and awesome and worth your time and it has nice photos and you should read it. Sometimes things that seem irreparably broken just need a little TLC to make it through. That probably goes for people too...

Bored Panda Bird Waits by a Window

   
• Blinded Deux. And I can't post that wonderful story without being reminded of this wonderful story...

Remarkable how animals can fall between the cracks like this. That probably goes for people too. Again.

   
• Movie! Just a happy reminder... The LEGO Movie will be available at the iTunes Store tomorrow...

Emmet Says 'YEAH!'

Though I was not happy with the way they wrapped it up at the end, The LEGO Movie has still been one of the best movies this year so far.

   
• Thrice. Today was the annual board meeting for THRICE Fiction Magazine, so I packed up and headed west to the wilds of ChicagoLand Suburbia to meet with our intrepid Editor at Large, RW and his lovely wife. After much exciting talk about future plans for everybody's favorite literature magazine, we were off to Lynfred Winery for some remarkable Sangria Blanc. Which was followed by delicious possibilities for food porn at Restaurant 1913 in Roselle...

Restaurant 1913 Roselle

Insider Tip: The "Pizzettes" are to die for. I had the Spinach + Artichoke with Herbed Ricotta... heaven on a wooden serving board...

Pizzette at Restaurant 1913 Roselle

I dare say it's a dining experience worth the 45 minute train ride out of Chicago proper.

   
• Selfie! Alex Chacon has been living my dream... traveling the world on a motorcycle... for three years now. The video highlights he's released from his journey is the most epic selfie ever created...

You can find out a lot more about Alex's travels at his The Modern Motorcycle Diaries site.

   
And that's a wrap from beautiful Chicago!

   

CANDY!!!

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Dave!Today started out so badly, but ultimately ended up being a really good day.

Mostly because I got to go to a huge candy show with Jenny (of RunJenRun fame) and then drop into a sugar coma.

And because I got to make my own custom box of Tic Tacs...

Tic Tac Making

I called mine GREEN PASSION... and it's a mix of Green Apple and Passion Fruit...

GREEN PASSION Tic Tacs

After work I went out for dinner and saw that Disney is pulling out all the stops to promote Angelie Jolie's Maleficent...

Angelina Jolie Maleficent

Trump Tower Chicago is such a pretty building. But I guess The Donald must have run out of money because only the "T" and the "R" are up on the building... and only the "R" has the lights on...

Trump Tower Chicago

On the way back to my hotel, I spotted these two lonely Safety Men... guarding nothing...

Safety Men

But at least they have each other.

Which is nice, because then it started to rain.

And thunder.

And lightning.

Which made sleeping a bit of a challenge.

As if insomniacs didn't already have it bad enough.

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Pittsburgh, Part Two

Posted on Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Dave!Today was all about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But first it was all about tailgating in the parking lot, which seemed to be a great excuse for people to eat a lot of cheese...

A Pittsburgh Cheeseburger
I promise there's a burger under there somewhere.

If nothing else, it turned out to be a beautiful day to stand in line for the toilet...

Porta Potty Line
It's only a matter of time before tailgaters start bringing their own toilets.

And then? LET'S GO BUCS!

Raise the Jolly Roger!
Today I am tattoo appropriate!

The game was against the #goddamnbrewers. Last night the Pirates slaughtered Milwaukee 15 to 5, so everybody knew that the Brewers would be out for blood. And though my heart will forever belong to the Boston Red Sox, there's nothing quite watching a home-game and rooting for the Bucs, because PNC Park is easily one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country with some of the most devoted fans in baseball. I love it here...

Beautiful PNC Park
Lovely weather for a bloodbath, I think.

Oh... and if you look up, the moon was out again...

Beautiful PNC Park
Why is it that the moon always photographs smaller than it looks in Real Life?

And here's the obligatory panorama shot...

Beautiful PNC Park
Yes, you can totally click on the photo to embiggen the image.

Seats directly behind home plate? Yes please...

Beautiful PNC Park
Hoping for another run from Neil Walker.

The game may have been a bust for the Bucs since they lost 3 to 9 (I overheard the term "shit the bed" more times in the last hour of the game than I've heard in the past year), but I got to spend time with one of my favorite people on earth, so it was all good...

Becky and Dave2
That's right... bask in our adorableness!

After the game was a concert by the Goo Goo Dolls. I pretty much lost track of them after Dizzy Up The Girl, but they played a lot of their older (i.e. more popular) stuff, so it ended up being a pretty great set...

The Goo Goo Dolls at PNC Park
"PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS!"

The Goo Goo Dolls at PNC Park
"SERIOUSLY, DUDE, PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS! PLAY IRIS!"

After a terrific day at the ballpark, Becky took us to the original Primanti Brothers, which is a Pittsburgh dining institution...

Primanti Bros. Diner
How about a sandwich at Primanti Bros.?

Primanti Bros. Diner
Now THAT'S what a greasy spoon diner looks like!

The eatery has been featured on television several times, mostly due to their unique sandwiches. They use this amazing thick-cut French bread, pile it high with a number of different meat choices, and always top everything with a scoop of coleslaw, French fries, and tomatoes. I had a Double-Egg & Cheese, skip the coleslaw, which was delicious. But it looked a little boring compared to everybody else's sandwiches... like Becky's, which is the kind of thing you're supposed to order here...

Primanti Bros. Sandwiches!
Mine Egg & Cheese Sammy on top. Becky's Monster Sammy on the bottom.

And... that's the end to one fantastic Saturday in Pittsburgh.

   

Tater

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2014

Dave!Today I was hungry enough to take a late lunch and decided to walk over to the local barbecue restaurant. Not the best option for a vegetarian, but I really like their tater salad and ribbon fries. As I was crossing the street to get there, I noticed a heavy-duty pickup truck from a local tire company was approaching and not stopping. After having been run down by inattentive drivers on more than one occasion I’m overly-cautious playing pedestrian, and stopped half-way across the street. At the last second, the driver saw me and slammed on the brakes. Hard. This caused all the equipment… and a couple of tires... in the truck bed to go flying forward, smashing into the cab. The sound was horrific. A lot of metal-on-metal action. I'm thinking some stuff had to end up broken... possibly including the rear window of the cab.

Oops.

I spent all of my lunch feeling bad about what happened, even though it wasn't my fault. Heck, had I not stopped, I could have very well been run down in the street (again). I don't know if the guy was talking on his mobile... texting... daydreaming... or what, but he clearly needed to be paying more attention. I was in the middle of the street for heaven's sake. And I am still trying to figure out how he didn't see me until the last second. Perhaps I have an unknown cloaking device like Predator, and that's why drivers don't see me. Scary.

Lunch was good though...

Dave!

And I managed to get back to work without dying, so I'm calling today a win.

   

TACO!

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Dave!ZOMFG! IT'S TACO NIGHT!

And here's my recipe...


The PERFECT TACO

You. Are. Welcome.

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NatChocPudDay!

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Dave!For me, EVERY DAY is National Chocolate Pudding Day.

But today is the actual day DAY, so now everybody else gets to celebrate by eating the earth's most perfect food!


National Chocolate Pudding Day!

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey Eat Pudding

   

I've been a fan for a very long time...

Young Dave Eating Pudding Dessert

Dave eating pudding.

You would think that stores would have chocolate pudding on sale today so I could stock up but, alas, no.

I will not let that diminish my holiday, however.

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Bullet Sunday 387

Posted on Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Dave!Put on your Sunday's finest... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Home. I am fascinated by the trend of "micro-living"... otherwise known as really, really small houses. Over the past couple years I keep seeing more and more stories of people giving up on larger homes, simplifying their lives, and moving into tiny places that are perfectly livable thanks to amazing design choices. It's all very zen, and appeals to my desire for living a less complicated life. Now it looks like apartment living has gone micro too, and an article on "The Karl" shows that micro-apartment complexes have some terrific advantages over micro-houses... like communal rooms on the top floor with space that can be used for socializing... something that's tough to do in a micro-home. I have to say, I sure like the floor plan...

The Karl Design

Small. Yes. But it's got everything you need, really. I mean, you're not going to raise a family in there, but for a single individual or a couple just starting out, it's perfectly livable. If you're in the city, most of your time will be spent at work and out with friends... all you really need is a place to sleep, poop, change clothes, and eat a meal every once in a while. I don't know that I would want to go quite this small... but the idea of it all intrigues me.

   
• Onziem. John Oliver has very quickly become an essential voice on world affairs, and it's shocking to see just how easily he is able to take a serious look at complicated issues while adding a comedic slant that in no way diminishes the gravity of the issue. Tonight Oliver had a fascinating take on the horrific level of hate that has been exported to Uganda by US assholes (USholes?)... PLUS an interview with the amazing Pepe Julian Onziema.

This is essential viewing material...

Be sure you watch Part 2 of the interview.

   
• Fraud. And speaking of John Oliver...

Turns out that "Dr. Oz" actually is the fraudulent piece of shit everybody thought he was all along...

Shocker. I still don't understand why people listen to raging douchebags like this asshole in the first place. Wasn't his motivation for crap like this totally obvious from the start?

   
• Amy. As if I didn't already have enough reasons to love Amy Adams... here's another one. I've been able to swap my seat a couple times when I've spotted a soldier flying alone, and it's about the best feeling you can have. The first time I gave up my seat it was to a young kid flying back for deployment after a visiting his wife and young daughter (which I leaned from overhearing a conversation he was having with a man next to him). After getting his name off his uniform, I went to the ticket desk and had the gate agent make the swap. I thought it was an anonymous deal, but he wanted to thank me so he waited in First Class after we landed where a flight attendant pointed me out. It was such a little thing for me... but it meant the world to a soldier who was headed back to a job nobody wants to do but, for whatever reason, risks his life to accomplish.

   
• Falafel. The grocery store here in my little corner of Redneckistan is now selling falafel mix... something I've attempted to purchase locally for years...

Falafel Mix!

Given its Middle East origins, I am sure this will be taken as a sign that sharia law will be enacted any minute now. Oh well... I no longer have to buy falafel via mail order or when I'm in Seattle, so I'll take it.

   
• LEELOO DALLAS MULTIPASS! I love The Fifth Element. Seriously one of my favorite films of all time. And I loved Gary Oldman in the film, where he played the villainous Zorg brilliantly for all his oddities...

Gary Oldman as Zorg

Which is why I was truly hurt when Gary Oldman decided to trash the film in a controversial interview he had in Playboy. Fuck you, Gary Oldman... The Fifth Element was one of the most interesting roles you've ever played!

   
Enjoy what's left of your weekend, everybody.

   

Lemonade

Posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Dave!I'm a big lemonade fan.

Especially on a warm day when it's made from freshly-squeezed lemons.

I sometimes find myself eating at restaurants not because of the food they serve... but because they serve up a great lemonade... Hot Dog on a Stick comes to mind.

In the summer I buy lots of lemonade... mostly the quality brands that are made with real sugar instead of shitty high fructose corn syrup. My favorite brands in my neck of the woods are Simply Lemonade and Newman's Own Lemonade. Though I usually add a little water to them because they're a bit too strong. If you can find it, one of my all-time favorites is Hubert's Lemonade. It's fantastic, but I can only seem to get it when I'm in California...

Wildfires

Sometimes when I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll buy lemons and make my own lemonade...

DAVE2'S DELICIOUS LEMONADE RECIPE

  • 5-7 Lemons
  • 1 cup of Pure Cane White Sugar

Juice the lemons until you have 1-1/4 cups of juice. They will squeeze easier if you roll them roughly on your countertop for a while before cutting them open. Dissolve the 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of hot-hot water (if your tap water doesn't get hot enough, you may have to use your stovetop... I microwave until boiling then dissolve the sugar in it). In a glass pitcher, combine the sugar-water and lemon juice. Add 5 cups of chilled water (if you like stronger lemonade, cut back on the water). Serve over ice or chill and serve cold.

The problem is that homemade lemonade is a pain in the ass to make.

So when I saw a product called Minute Maid DROPS that will make regular old water taste like lemonade, I was all over it...

Wildfires

BAAAARRRRRRRRRFFFFF!

ZOMG YOU GUYS! THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST DISGUSTING THINGS I'VE EVER TASTED! It makes a glass of water taste like lemon-scented toxic waste! I think it has to do with the vomit-inducing sweetener they've got going on... "stevia and sucralose." I have no idea how they're made, but I'm guessing it involves invoking the devil.

Anyway... whatever this stuff is, it's NOT lemonade. Legally it shouldn't even be allowed to be labeled "lemonade."

And now I'm sad, because it will be years before I can erase the memory of this horrific shit and not have it taint future lemonade experiences.

Hopefully I'll find a use for this crap so I'm not out $4.79... maybe it's good for cleaning the toilet or something.

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Bullet Sunday 391

Posted on Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Dave!It's lobstah time... because a Very Special Bullet Sunday from Maine starts... now...

   
• Jet. You might find it interesting to know that Portland, Maine doesn't have an airport... they have a jetport! So I guess if you have an old-style prop plane, you're just going to have to land somewhere else. Only jets get the privilege of landing in Portland!

   
• Waterfront. Unlike so many fishing waterfronts that have been reimagined as tourist attractions or shopping destinations... Portland's waterfront is still in use by the fishing industry. This affords some excellent photographic opportunities which, alas, were lost on my because I didn't pack my camera. iPhone to the rescue!

Waterfront in Portland, Maine

Waterfront in Portland, Maine

Waterfront in Portland, Maine

Waterfront in Portland, Maine

Waterfront in Portland, Maine

It's a cool place to explore... assuming the smell of rotting fish doesn't offend you.

   
• Flatbread. For dinner I decided to stop at Flatbread Company, which was recommended by my hotel. This ended up being a fantastic choice, as I loved absolutely everything about the place. Exceptional service. Amazing food featuring local organic ingredients. And a very good beer selection...

Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

I had a flatbread with zucchini, summer squash, maple glaze, and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember. Dessert was a Maine blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and maple-sweetened cream.

Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine

If you're ever in Portland, Flatbread Company gets my highest recommendation.

   
• Cobble. Old Downtown Portland is a really nice place. Some of the streets are still in cobblestones, and there's a wide variety of shops and eateries to visit...

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

If you're an ice cream lover, Portland has you covered. There are a lot of shops here selling it (I only ate at two of them, swear)....

Downtown Old Town Portland, Maine

Turns out "The Other Portland" (if you're a west-coaster) is worth a trip. Can't believe I haven't been here sooner.

   
• BatMaine? Gotta love any city that's selling a decal like this one...

Batman Symbol with MAINE inside!

   
• Lucy. I am a huge fan of filmmaker Luc Besson. I am a huge fan of Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. So a movie combining all three of those things should be amazing, right? Enter Lucy...

After some ridiculous circumstances involving a new synthetic drug end up giving Scarlett super-human abilities, she decides to make the best of the situation by passing her massive knowledge about life, the universe, and everything on to all mankind. An evil drug lord is having none of it, however, and decides to pursue her so he can have the drug for himself. Along the way there are some terrific action sequences... mostly involving Scarlett being awesome with her newfound abilities. It's all a bit cheesy, sure, but it's fun. And then things start to fall apart in the third act. Badly. Instead of escalating the cool super-human action to a grand finale, the film takes a massive detour into some kind of metaphysical artistic statement that is really unsatisfying and senseless. Lucy was ultimately disappointed to me because the ending sabotaged the whole movie.

So... it turns out that all the best stuff from Lucy is in the trailer. The movie might still be worth a rental, but I don't know I'd recommending paying the money to see it in a theater.

   
And... bullets begone! Seeyou next Sunday.

   

Maine

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014

Dave!I've been to Maine before. But not really. I crossed the border back in 2005 just so I could say that I've been here, but a quick hop to Kittery doesn't really qualify me to say that "I've seen Maine." So when my travel plans went as scheduled and I ended up with a free day, I figured I might as well jot out to the coast to see a few lighthouses and stuff.

Except I awoke to find that all of Maine was pouring rain and fog. I scoured the internet for lighthouse webcams, but all of them pretty much looked like this...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

The radar weather map looked a bit cleaner up north, so I started combing every webcam I could find up the Maine coast to see if there was anywhere with decent weather. After a long time of having no luck, I happened across a camera for "Pemaquid Point Light" (they don't call them "lighthouses" here). It was rainy, but not overly foggy. It was an hour-and-a-half drive through a torrential downpour, but oh well. Off I went.

The entire trip was pouring rain... right up until I got to the road that led down to the lighthouse...

But then... a miracle. As I was turning into the park, the rain just stopped. Still a bit overcast, but kinda clear. No need to wear a garbage bag after all!

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Behind the lighthouse is a cool rock formation that funnels out to the ocean...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

What's cool about this particular lighthouse is that you can climb up in it...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Inside the lightkeeper's house is a small museum...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

By the time I was ready to leave, blue skies were starting to appear...

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine

After asking for some advice as to another lighthouse I might try, I was told that a lot of people seem to head off to Marshall Point Light from here, so off I went. Surprise surprise, it started to rain again...

Rainy Maine Road Drive

It took a lot longer than I thought (Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point look so close on the map!), but it was a nice drive. Lucky me... the rain started to let up just as I pulled into the parking lot. Again...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Wanting to buy a post card, I stepped into the gift shop for a minute. When I went back outside, the blue skies had followed me!

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

The rocks here are really cool to look at...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

Overall, a very nice lighthouse with some beautiful scenery surrounding...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine
Click the panorama to enbiggen.

While in the gift shop, I saw a map that showed another lighthouse that's publicly accessible not too far away. So off I went to Owl's Head Lighthouse... this drive in much nicer weather...

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

Poor Spot!

Owl's Head Lighthouse, Maine

And thus ended my exploration of Maine's coastal roads and lighthouses.

Interesting to note that the geography here makes everything much farther away than you'd think. Pemaquid Point and Marshall Point are not very far away from each other as the crow flies (about 13 miles). But to navigate there in a car is just over 50 miles and a 1 hour, 15 minute drive...

Google Map
Map courtesy of... who else... Google Maps!

Dinner was back in Portland at Flatbread Company, because I just couldn't help myself. The blueberry desserts are just too incredible. This time? Blueberry-Topped Poundcake...

Blueberry Poundcake

Hopefully tomorrow I'll get the chance to explore a bit more... but it's a work day, so fingers crossed.

   

Bullet Sunday 397: Retro Futura Tour 2014

Posted on Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Dave!Put on that skinny tie and flip up that collar... because a Very Special Retro Futura Tour 2014 Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Tom Bailey! I'm just going to cut to the chase here... as a diehard Thompson Twins fan, Tom Bailey's run through some of the band's greatest hits surpassed my every expectation. After 27 years you'd naturally assume that something would be lost. But it wasn't. Everything he sang was note-perfect and the arrangement of the songs, while freshened up a bit, was still respectful to the originals that everybody came to hear. I loved every minute that Tom was on stage, and nearly three decades of begging for a Thompson Twins tour was rewarded in every way I could have dreamed of (short of having Alannah and Joe show up, of course)...

Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

The set-list was pretty much what you expect...

  • We Are Detective (instrumental). A short, playful, nickelodeon-style version of this classic song played while waiting for Tom and his Sisters of Mercy band to arrive. The crowd was already going a little nuts.
  • In The Name of Love. Tom takes the stage with a spotlight shining on the crowd while singing "Hey you! I've seen your face before!" and, just like that, an abbreviated version of the Thompson Twins were back as if they had never left. This was the song that broke the band wide open, was the first song of their's I had ever heard, and remains a favorite to this day. It's just as infectious now as it's always been.
  • Lies. Another early hit that was on MTV every ten minutes during those early days. If you had asked me before Retro Futura if it's held up over the years, I'd probably have said no, despite still loving the song. After seeing Tom breathe new life into it last night, I'm inclined to feel differently.
  • Sister of Mercy. Kind of the odd-man out in tonight's show, as I don't believe it charted here in the US and was only a minor hit in the UK. Still, it's a decidedly darker and more serious tone for the band, and I'm sure it was selected primarily to mix things up a bit. In that case, it succeeded. And it's a great song to boot.
  • You Take Me Up. I don't know that this is my favorite Thompson Twins song, but it's up there. It's subtle, but Tom's delivery of the title line in the song was quite different than in the original recording, making the song feel even more upbeat and uplifting than usual. In interviews, Tom has said that he re-recorded all the songs before heading out on tour... hearing this makes me really, really hopeful we get to hear those recordings one day. The lyrics-tracking video in the background during You Take Me Up was my favorite visual of the night
  • If You Were Here. This song wasn't a single or even a hit... until it appeared at the end of the classic John Hughes film Sixteen Candles. Haunting in a way that most songs can only aspire to, Tom's original breathless arrangement had to be beefed up vocally to translate to a live performance, but it's no less beautiful and timeless. In an interesting twist, a new verse was added to the song... but felt as if it should have been there all along.
  • Love on Your Side. This is one of those songs that translates perfectly to a live show because it feels as if it were designed as a performance piece from the get-go. And while Tom took as best advantage of this as he could by his lonesome (GIANT BLUE BALLOON TIME!), Joe and Alannah's on-stage theatrics were missed here more than anywhere else in the set.
  • Doctor! Doctor! An obvious pop-hit grab if there ever was one, this song more than made up for the cheesy lyrics with a beautiful musical arrangement. And that's exactly what we got... along with a surprising amount of audience participation.
  • King for a Day (Encore). I like this song quite a lot, but it's repetitive refrain wears thin after a while ("Love is all... Love is all... Love is all you need. Love is all you need! Love is all... Love is all... Love is all you need. Love is all you need! Love is all... Love is all... Love is all you need. I say love is all you need!). Of course, this opinion was formed before Howard Jones took the stage, but we'll get there soon enough.
  • Hold Me Now (Encore). The Thompson Twin's greatest and most memorable hit plays very well live, and this evening's performance was everything you could hope for. Letting the audience sing out the ending was a brilliant way of making people feel they were a part of the show, and there's no question everybody was left wanting more... much more... as Tom's set came to an end.

If time were permitting, I would have really liked to have seen Lay Your Hands on Me and Get That Love included. Maybe one day. And please. Please. Please one day let Tom Bailey take the trip back to Brit-Pop Land and give us a new album of Twins material. Please. If there's one thing his participation in Retro Futura has shown us, people are ready.

   
• Howard Jones! I'm a big HoJo fan. I love his incredible synth play and feel-good lyrics. His music is on regular rotation on my iTunes playlists. I've seen him perform live twice. Seeing him in concert should be one of life's highlights for me and, for the most part, it is. But good lord, man... does every tune you play in concert have to be the super-extended-disco-remix version of the song? Yes... I love it when a live performance brings a little something to the table that you can't get from the album... but you did that with the heavier pumping synth intros. There's no need to give us fifty refrains of WHAT IS LOOOOOOOOOVE, ANYWAY? DOES ANYBODY LOVE ANYBODY ANYWAY? All it does is serve to drive your beautiful song into the ground and make it run way, way too long.

Still... it was Howard Jones. And though the senseless, endless repetition was annoying, I still loved his performance...

Howard Jones Retro Futura Tour 2014

Howard Jones Retro Futura Tour 2014

And so did the rest of the crowd...

Howard Jones Retro Futura Tour 2014

By the way... Howard Jones has continued to release albums well after the 80's were dead and gone. His last release was in 2009. If you're a fan, it's well-worth checking out. Even so, for the sake of Retro Futura, Howard didn't stray from those early hits that made him famous... The Human Touch, Like to Get to Know You Well, Everlasting Love, No One Is to Blame, The Prisoner, What Is Love?, Things Can Only Get Better, and New Song.

   
• Katrina... sans The Waves! I should come clean here... I am most definitely not a fan of Walking on Sunshine, which is Katrina and The Waves' greatest hit (here in the US, anyway). I am, however, absolutely a fan of Katrina Leskanich's performance at Retro Futura last night. She worked her guts out to put on a good show and succeeded completely. And not just from her music, which was terrific, but from her conversations between songs... telling the story of how they came to be and how they impacted her career...

Katrina Retro Futura Tour 2014

My favorite track she performed was Going Down to Liverpool, a Katrina and the Waves track made famous by a cover by The Bangles. As Katrina explains it, the success of that song by another group led to her band getting signed. The rest is history.

It's worth noting that by opening the show, Katrina had to perform in full-on sun... which was blisteringly hot and relentless throughout her entire set. That she managed to get through her song list without fainting is pretty impressive. Even more impressive? The album she wrote and recorded in just five weeks before joining the tour. Take a listen here.

   
• China Crisis! This is a band that pretty much flew under my radar back in the day. The only song I remember latching onto was the beautiful Wishful Thinking which, thankfully, was performed in their set...

China Crisis Retro Futura Tour 2014

I don't know that Retro Futura turned me into a diehard fan of the group, but it did make me much more interested in taking a listen to their stuff.

   
• Midge Ure sans Ultravox! And here's where we get to the biggest surprise of the evening. I've played his album If I Was - The Very Best of Midge Ure and Ultravox so many times that the lyrics are burned into my memory. Every song on that album is absolute magic, and I was pretty excited to see Midge perform live, as I'd never had the opportunity before. Little did I know that he would blow the doors off the joint with a voice so powerful and pure that you could feel it to your very soul...

China Crisis Retro Futura Tour 2014

Absolutely amazing show. I think he took the breath away from every person in attendance.

When it comes to his track selection, any fan of Ultravox was bound to be disappointed because he only had time to perform five songs...

  • Hymn. A pretty track off of Quartet that played really well live. It was the perfect introduction to his set.
  • Fade to Grey. And speaking of surprises. Turns out Fade to Grey was not a song by Ultravox or Midge Ure's solo career... it's a song Midge wrote and produced for another band, Visage. A band I never knew existed, as I've always heard the song off of The Very Best Of... by Midge.
  • Vienna. To say that Midge did an amazing job on this song is under-selling it by a wide margin. He redefined the phrase "killing it" by blasting through the track with a vocal fury that exceeded even the astounding range he showed on the original recording... THIRTY-FOUR YEARS AGO! If there was anybody in the audience who wasn't already a fan when the show began... they are now.
  • If I Was. I love this song, obviously, but oh lord how I wish it could have been Reap The Wild Wind or Dear God or even Call of the Wild... all songs I love even more. What I wouldn't give to here those live (though, admittedly, Reap the Wild Wind would not be the easiest song to perform without a full band and backup).
  • Dancing With Tears in My Eyes. A great song I really like but, again, where was Dear God? After hearing how Ure belted out Vienna I was left dying to hear him tackle it. Still... this was a great track to close out his performance, and I'm happy I got to hear it live. I really shouldn't complain.

All in all... wow. Just wow. I would watch another show in a heartbeat.

   
• SHARK BITE EXTREME! Before heading to the Sandy Amphitheater, Marty (of Banal Leakage fame) and I headed to Joe's Crab Shack. They have a beverage called a "Shark Bite" that I really wanted to try (because it looks so cool), and the restaurant was fairly close to the venue. When the drink arrives, it's all vodka, rum, sweet and sour, plus Blue Curaçao... with a shark full of grenadine hanging off the side...

Joe's Crab Shack Shark Bite Drink

The idea is that you dump the grenadine into the blue "water" to make a bloody mess...

Joe's Crab Shack Shark Bite Drink

And it is cool... for a minute.

But what you ultimately end up with is a disgusting glass of purple stuff that's so sweet your teeth will ache afterwards.

You do get to keep your plastic shark though... and that's all I really cared about.

   

And there you have it. This afternoon I flew home from Salt Lake City without incident... walking on sunshine the entire way because I got to meet Erin Gray, hang out with one of my long-time blog friends, get a plastic shark... oh... and see one of my favorite bands of all time perform live after 27 years of waiting. A pretty great way to spend a weekend, I think.

   

Day Eleven: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Dave!I woke up confused this morning because everything was silent... no hippos grunting or baboons screeching. That should have made me happy, but I felt quite sad about it. My vacation is pretty much over now, and this is my last day. Guess I should probably try to make the most of it.

I was not going to go all the way to Zimbabwe without visiting Mosi-oa-Tunya, better known as "Victoria Falls." As the largest waterfall in the world, you pretty much have to, right?

From Wikipedia...

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world's largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America's Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivaled only by Argentina and Brazil's Iguazu Falls.

Of course, all those facts and figures only apply to Victoria Falls in the wet season when the falls are at their peak volume, whereas I'm visiting during the dry season when the falls are at their weakest. At first I was worried that it wouldn't be worth the trip because the water would be dried up to a trickle, but I was assured this is actually the best time to see the falls... if you're here in the wet season, you can barely see them because everything is shrouded in mist.

So off I went on my guided tour.

Which starts off with a statue of David Livingstone (I presume!)... who discovered the falls. And by "discovered" I mean "was the first European to see them"...

Victoria Falls Livingstone Statue

Just like America being "discovered" by Columbus and Angkor being "discovered" by Mouhot, it doesn't count as a discovery unless you're the one writing the history books, I suppose.

Turns out the falls are so huge that you can't actually see the whole thing on the ground. Instead you have to view it in sections.

First up... the Devil's Cataract...

Victoria Falls

This section of the falls is active all year and is the most impressive spot during the dry season. If you walk around the end of the chasm, there's a lookout where you can see the Main Falls starting off in the distance...

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Looking back at the Devil's Cataract, I spotted my first rainbow of the day...

Victoria Falls

Next up... the Main Falls, which are also active all year. If it were the wet season, you wouldn't be able to see any rock at all, just gushing water and mist...

Victoria Falls

Continuing on along Main Falls...

Victoria Falls

And here's where things get interesting. If you look at the top of the falls in the middle of the photo above, you'll see people standing on a rock outlook. They are there to take a dip in The Devil's Pool, which is a spot at the top of the falls where the rock formation creates a naturally-occurring dead spot in the current. When I tried to photograph these insane people, all I could see was mist... but after a few minutes in Photoshop...

Victoria Falls

Though it's actually more impressive if you pull back a bit...

Victoria Falls

WTF?!? There have been people who have gone over the falls and died attempting this, so... yikes.

Anyway...

Here is my attempt to capture as big a chunk of the Main Falls as possible...

Victoria Falls

And that's about it for the falls, as everything else is pretty much dried up this time of year. Here's Horseshoe Falls...

Victoria Falls

Just a "trickle" (comparatively speaking) at the end...

Victoria Falls

Rainbow Falls is also mostly dried up, but still pretty...

Victoria Falls

Once you get to the end of the falls, you can walk around a corner and get a terrific view of the Victoria Falls Bridge which links Zimbabwe and Zambia. It looks like it's in the middle of being painted just now...

Victoria Falls

Despite my best efforts, I wasn't very happy with my photos of the falls. Even with Photoshop magic, the mist was always messing with the images by making them look faded and blurry. And this is the dry season! I can only guess how impossible they must be to photograph in the wet season!

That's when my guide said that the only way to truly photograph the falls was from the air. And, lucky me, she just happened to know where I could book a helicopter ride and reservations were made.

While I waited for my arial view of the falls, I walked downtown and had some lunch...

Pizza Inn at Victoria Falls

After that? Helicopter time!

Helicopter Tour at Victoria Falls

SHOTGUN!

Helicopter Tour at Victoria Falls

At $140 it was definitely more than I wanted to pay, but I have to say it was totally worth it...

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

So... bucket list item accomplished? Not quite.

After visiting the falls, you have to go for high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel...

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Hotel High Tea

Victoria Falls Hotel High Tea

The price is $30 for up to four people, and the scones are among the best I have ever had... subtlely sweet and with just the right amount of crumble...

Victoria Falls Hotel High Tea

Except... ultimately I was disappointed with my experience. The service, which was so amazing yesterday at lunch, was severely lacking. The tea was dumped off at the table with absolutely no explanation or even so much as a hint as to what you're being served. At most places I've gone for high tea, they will happily tell you what you're drinking (usually it's a custom, exclusive tea blend from some exotic location or something).. and they'll also let you know how much longer you should wait for the tea to steep so you can enjoy it at its best. Today? Nothing. And then I had to wait for my sandwiches and sweets, which took FOREVER to arrive (maybe they bake them to order?) and my table was never checked on even once while I waited for my waiter to bring them. This was inexplicable because there were maybe four other tables occupied in the entire restaurant, and I think my waiter was only responsible for two of them. And speaking of my waiter, after he dumped off the food service, that's the last I ever saw of him... at least voluntarily. After waiting way, way too long for somebody to refill my water glass, I finally got up and went to the bar to see if they could help me. The hostess chased me down to find out why I was at the bar and, once I told her, asked me to please take a seat and she would have my waiter bring me more water. Which he did... five minutes later. Same thing for trying to pay the check. I finally begged the hostess to chase down my waiter again so I could pay and leave. I swear... no exaggeration... it took yet another ten minutes for him to show up. I have no frickin' clue what in the hell my waiter was doing today, but it sure wasn't waiting on my table. Sorry... but for THIRTY FRICKIN' DOLLARS FOR TEA at a FIVE STAR PROPERTY with the reputation of the VICTORIA FALLS HOTEL I expected better.

If the service was worth a shit, I'd say high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel is a must-experience event when you're in town. As it is? Well, despite the terrific tea and a delicious snack tray I liked very much... you've been warned. Bring your patience.

After tea I was considering heading back to the falls for a dusk viewing. But the entrance fee I paid this morning is one-time only, and going back would mean another $30 admission fee so I skipped it. Instead I wandered through the hotel looking at the vast amount of history displayed on the walls, then went back to my room to pack.

And now I'm trying to deal with the trauma in knowing that my vacation is over...

Victoria Falls Hotel High Tea

So far as vacations go, however, this was a great one.

   

Day Thirteen: AMS->SEA

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014

Dave!The KLM flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg had internet onboard. The flight back? Not so much. And I have no idea why. Different plane, I suppose. Since the flight left at 11:15pm, I should have just used this as an opportunity to sleep, but that's an impossibility for me. So I watched a bunch of movies I've already seen as the time dragged on. For eleven frickin' hours.

And now here I am at Schiphol, awaiting my flight back to Seattle.

Unfortunately for me, major sections of the airport are undergoing remodeling... including the upper food court and many of the gift shops... but that didn't stop me from tracking down my favorite food on earth, PATATJES MET!!!

PATATJES MET!!!

Not the best I've ever had... but, hey, when in the Netherlands...

And now please excuse me while I mentally prepare for another TEN AND A HALF HOURS trapped in a metal tube without internet... followed by a long drive back over the mountains to home once I arrive.

Next time I'm vacationing in Spokane.

   

NOLA 3

Posted on Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Dave!S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y- NIGHT!

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y- NIGHT!

But let's start off with my morning, shall we? Because that was spent at Cafe Du Monde, and it doesn't get much better than that...

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

But the morning actually began at my hotel, where I am residing in Room No. 1...

My Hotel Room Door.

And this is the courtyard where the housekeeping staff yells their head off each morning while you're trying to sleep...

My Hotel Room Door.

Lunch was at my favorite place for falafel in New Orleans... Attiki (which I've written about here)...

Attiki for Halloween.

Mail call...

Cast Iron Mail Box.

Shopping in the French Quarter, when... CREEPY BABY!!!

CREEPY BABY!

A walk through Jackson Square...

Jackson Square

Dinner at my favorite restaurant in the city, Carmo...

Carmo Banquette

Carmo Rico Sandwich

As a vegetarian, eating at Deanie's Seafood wasn't in the cards for me. But the huge portions were entirely too alluring for the meat-eaters...

Deanie's Dinner New Orleans

And then? Bourbon Street madness!

Bourbon Street!

I was quite proud of myself for getting to bed before 1:00am... but was dragged back to Alcohol Central by a friend who was in town at 1:30am. A couple of Hand Grenades and two-and-a-half hours later, my Saturday night was over.

As was my liver.

   

NOLA 4

Posted on Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Dave!A Sunday in New Orleans.

=sigh=

I knew I probably wouldn't make it out to Surrey's this trip... home of my favorite Bananas Foster French Toast in New Orleans... so I went to my second favorite version at Stanley. No banana cream cheese filling, but you do get toasted walnuts and a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Bananas Foster French Toast.

After a delicious breakfast, I happened upon the best pair of tennis shoes ever...

Shiny Teddy Bear Shoes.

Yes. Yes that really is a shiny silver Teddy Bear head sewn on the tongue of a shiny silver pair of shoes. Awesome.

Then it was time to head to The Garden District with Certifiable Princess and her husband. I'm pleased to report that Anne Rice's old house is still standing... as is that gnarly set of old trees out front...

Anne Rice House.

Accidentally ran into a street parade...

Street Parade New Orleans.

Saw a new angel decoration I hadn't seen before...

Garden District Angel.

And... LUNCH!!! I seem to be experiencing a Mac & Cheese renaissance this visit, so there you have it...

Garden District Angel.

Across the street from lunch at The Rum House are some nifty shops...

Shopping at Funky Monkey.

Shopping at Funky Monkey.

Then it was time for a classic St. Charles streetcar ride...

St. Charles St. Streetcar.

After resting up for a bit, we headed back to Bourbon Street for fun times... AND PIZZA...

Bourbon Street Pizza.

... AND SHADOW PUPPET JESUS...

Church Jesus Shadow.

...AND BEIGNETS... from Cafe Du Monde, of course...

St. Charles St. Streetcar.

Delicious.

And tomorrow's my last day...

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Bullet Sunday 402

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Dave!Travel has made me seemingly incapable of releasing Bullet Sundays on Sunday, so hold onto you calendars... because a Very Special ALL NEW ORLEANS EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Why? New Orleans is one of my favorite cities on earth and tied with Chicago for my favorite American city. And the reason for that has nothing to do with the debauchery that everybody seems to equate with the place. Yes, New Orleans is a city built for fun, but there's so much more to it than a drunken romp down Bourbon Street. There's the amazing architecture... the mind-boggling array of incredible restaurants... the friendly and welcoming locals... and a list of activities and attractions that makes it a vacation-worthy destination unlike any other. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

   
• When? Heat and humidity make summers a tough sell for visiting and, to be honest, September and October are more of the same (on my trip last week, afternoons were pretty miserable). Oh yeah... as if that weren't enough, this is also the hurricane season! However... for obvious reasons, this is when prices are at their lowest... so you can stay in the French Quarter for a reasonable price. If you'd like to be more comfortable without breaking the bank, your best bet is late November through January when temperatures drop 20 degrees and the humidity isn't so stifling. Prices skyrocket from Mardi Gras (usually in February) through Spring, and for good reason... it's the absolute best time of year to visit. My favorite visits to New Orleans have been late March through mid-April.

   
• Where? When people think of New Orleans, they're probably thinking of "The French Quarter" with all the French-style buildings overlooking famous places like Bourbon Street or restaurants like Pat O'Briens. But there's also The beautiful Garden District, colorful Faubourg Marigny, or even the Warehouse District and downtown area to consider when picking a hotel. How to choose? Most of your decision will come down to cost. My favorite place to stay in the city is the French Quarter, led by Soniat House (made famous by one of my favorite movies, Undercover Blues) which is a beautiful and unique property in a quieter area of the Quarter. It's pricey (bordering stratospheric in the Mardi Gras/Spring season), but is a New Orleans experience unlike any other. If you must have that prime Bourbon Street location, check out The Royal Sonesta Hotel or Bon Maison Guest House, both of which I enjoyed. If you want hotel points, I've also had great stays at The Four Points by Sheraton on Bourbon. A more fantastic chain hotel choice is the wonderful W French Quarter on Chartres Street. My recent trip I stayed at the inexpensive Inn on St. Peter, which is actually a fairly nice property at a decent price (despite the shitty internet and noisy staff). My final French Quarter pick is Hotel Mazarin, which was wonderful in every way. Outside of the French Quarter is where you'll find good hotels at a bit nicer price. I'm a big fan of Hotel Modern, which is half-way between the French Quarter and the Garden District, and just a quick streetcar ride away from either! Speaking of the Garden District, two of my picks from staying there are Hotel Indigo and (believe it or not) The Hampton Inn, both a great experience... and right on the St. Charles streetcar line! An overlooked neighborhood of the city is Faubourg Marigny, which is a shame. This colorful and funky neighborhood is outside the craziness of the Quarter and has a unique charm all its own. If you are into B&B's, this is the place to go... starting with the amazing Auld Sweet Olive B&B. This is not a "hotel" by any stretch of the imagination... it's like staying a a friend's home where their only mission is to make you feel at home. Probably one of the best lodging stays of my entire life.

   
• What? When it comes to what to do in The Big Easy, there's dozens of options no matter where your interest lays. Obviously, it's an architecture fan's dream come true, with amazing French and Creole architecture lining the city streets from one corner of town to another. In fact, my favorite activity in New Orleans costs absolutely nothing... wandering. I could roam the streets of this city for days and never be bored. If you're into museums, you simply cannot top the World War II Museum, which seems to get bigger and better every time I visit, and a must-see if there ever was one. Nearby is the very nice Louisiana's Civil War Museum. Other great historical/educational selections include The Cabildo, The Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans, The Amistad Research Center (at Tulane), The Pharmacy Museum, and even The Southern Food Museum! If you're into art, NOLA has a small but fantastic smattering of museums for you, including The New Orleans Museum of Art, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Contemporary Arts Center. Interested in all things Mardi Gras and want to see how they build all those amazing floats? Then Mardi Gras World is for you! And that's just scratching the surface... Streetcar and Riverboat rides will let you see the city from a new perspective. New Orleans cemeteries are world-famous, and taking a cemetery tour is a must. Like a good zoo? New Orleans is home to the terrific Audubon Zoo plus the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, plus The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Want to get a feel for the "Old South?" Beautiful restored plantations mask the horrors of slavery just outside the city... including the famous Oak Alley Plantation (made famous for appearances in Interview with a Vampire and Primary Colors). It goes without saying that if you appreciate live Jazz music, New Orleans is your city... there's loads of venues where you can catch the best Jazz acts going (including Preservation Hall). And that's just for starters! Churches, theaters, and parks are plentiful and worth a visit. If you're looking to buy some art, the galleries on Royal Street is where to go. Want to learn how to cook Southern-style? There's a school for that. The choices just go on and on and on. There's something (and everything!) in New Orleans for everyone.

   
• Who Dat? When it comes to food, New Orleans has so many amazing options that you could build an entire vacation around nothing but eating. Especially if you are into seafood and cajun cooking. Vegetarians have it a little rougher, but all is not lost! One of my favorite restaurants on earth, Carmo, has excellent vegetarian options. Attiki has some decent falafel and Mediterranean selections for the non-meat-eater. And, of course, there's Cafe Du Monde for beignets and hot chocolate (or chickory coffee, if that's your jam). This recent trip I had the chance to eat at Coop's Place, which has some amazing food (along with a great veggie burger)... all served with a snarky attitude that will make you appreciate new levels of sarcasm and abuse! I also ate at St. Lawrence (home of divine food!) which was a bit pricey, but the food and service were fantastic. If you're into famous chefs, Emeril Lagasse has a place here... as does Paul Prudhomme. The most famous restaurant in the city (and home to Bananas Foster) is Commander's Palace... which is all kinds of amazing, if you can afford the price tag. My previous trip to New Orleans included a visit to St. James Cheese Company (thank you TripAdvisor!) which was an amazing Garden District surprise that blew me away (the Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions is heaven on a plate). Boucherie doesn't have a very vegetarian-friendly menu, but the chef invented a very nice meal when I inquired. The desserts are to die for. And, lastly, no visit to NOLA is complete without Bananas Foster French Toast. My favorite is at Surrey's... which has banana cream cheese stuffed inside the toast... but a close second is Restaurant Stanley, which ups the game by adding toasted walnuts and a scoop of ice cream in lieu of a cream cheese filling. My suggestion? Try both places and find your own favorite! And if all these vegetarian options are this amazing... can you imagine what's in store for meat-eaters? Seriously one of the best places on earth to dine.

   
And that's a wrap.

And only the tip of the iceberg.

My passion for New Orleans really knows no bounds. I've been to the city a dozen times. I hope to visit dozens more. It's that one place I feel completely at home whenever I go, and wandering her streets is one of my most favorite travel experiences of all time. If you haven't been, then you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fuss is about. If you've been before, then you know exactly what I'm talking about, and should be planning a trip back!

Laissez le Bon Temps Roleur! And be sure to watch Undercover Blues, if you haven't already...

   
Click here for Previous New Orleans talk on Blogography.

   

Accessory

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Dave!Is it just me, or is Ms. Brown M&M a total bitch?

And an accessory to murder?

Because every time this commercial pops up, I am greatly disturbed...

Seriously, holy shit...

Ms. Brown M&M's

Ms. Brown M&M's

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Ms. Brown M&M's MURDERER!

Somebody at M&M's is in desperate need of therapy.

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Categories: Food 2014Click To It: Permalink  0 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Buffer

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Dave!During the winter months I always try to arrive at a job site a day early because you just never know. This week the New England weather is supposed to be okay, but last week Maine had a winter storm attack that left a lot of people without electricity. So... just in case weather delays or power outages happen to me, I plan a buffer day so I have time to get everything straightened out.

Today was that day. Except it turns out I didn't need it.

And so I worked in my hotel room until they kicked me out at noon then went to the Maine Mall so I could have lunch at Johnny Rockets. While eating my Streamliner Veggie Burger (no mustard, no grilled onions), I saw this...

Breast Feeding Welcome! Family Friendly Business

That's pretty awesome. Babies need to eat too, yo.

After a drive up to the fine city of Auburn and an uneventful afternoon working I was going to go explore the area for a while... but decided I'd be better off seeing if I could find out where I could get some falafel. Turns out it could be found just down the street from my hotel. That almost never happens! Dinner was served...

FALAFEL WRAP!!!

Dessert from from the hotel gift shop and looked something like this...

Bugles Chips, Dibd Ice Cream, Orange Vitamin Water

Party in my room!

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Categories: Food 2014, Travel 2014Click To It: Permalink  1 Comment: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Portlander

Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Dave!I left Auburn at noon and was back in Portland by 1:00... just in time for lunch.

But first I had to spend a half hour scraping snow and ice off my rental car. This included the tires, which had frozen to the ground...

Tires frozen in the snow.

The Ford Focus I rented is a pile of crap for many reasons. Primary of which is the horrendous gas mileage. Driving the 80 miles to Auburn and back killed... I shit you not... A HALF-TANK OF GAS! As if this wasn't bad enough, the car is just awful design-wise. Massive, glaring blind spots. A driver console that has no place to put your mobile phone. Uncomfortable seats. Utterly shitty "Sync by Microsoft" computer system that's as intuitive as a nuclear reactor to control. And then you get to the outside where you have this fucking huge gap between the hood and the windshield that is so cavernous and deep that it's extremely difficult to dig all the snow out of it. Even if you have a brush, there are ridges in there that makes it much more trouble than it's worth...

Shitty fucking Ford design.

No wonder everybody wants a foreign car... their designers actually think about shit like this.

But anyway...

For reasons completely unknown, Portland, Maine has some really excellent pizza restaurants. This is nice because it takes the edge off the misery you experience when visiting in the cold, snowy, wet, days of Winter. A place I had wanted to visit but never got around to last time I was here was OTTO Pizza...

OTTO Pizza Building.

OTTO Pizza Door.

They are kinda famous for their Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Cranberry pie...

OTTO Pizza Pizza.

Sounds weird, I know. But it is pretty wonderful. Creamy with subtle flavors that taste amazing together...

OTTO Pizza Slice.

It's important to eat it while it's hot though. As soon as it gets cold the texture gets kind of rubbery and weird.

OTTO's itself is a nice enough place. Kind of eclectic in a rustic way. Service is pretty good too. The only thing I hated is that somewhere in the restaurant there's a piano that kids are, apparently, welcome to bang all over. This makes an ungodly racket that completely ruins the experience of eating here. And I cannot fathom why in the hell they allow it. They must know that it's irritating as fuck to listen to that shit... so why put your customers through the agony? Stupid.

After some various errands, it was my plan to get some sleep.

Or not.

I made the foolish mistake of checking my email only to find a problem that required me to head back out into the cold, snowy, raining, wet misery I had just escaped from. At least I was smart enough to bring my camera along with me. I didn't have it on my previous trip, and really wanted to take a shot of the Harbor Fish Market (which proved impossible with my iPhone). It's a beautiful building with amazing lighting that has a steady flow of customers pulling up all day...

Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

From there I wandered around for a while to see if I could find anything else interesting to shoot...

Portland Lobster Co.

Portland Lock Fence

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

Portland Maine

I finished up my evening at my favorite restaurant in the city... Flatbread Company. I was still stuffed with OTTO pizza, so dinner was out of the question. But Flatbread Company makes some of the best desserts I've ever had, so I decided to try their Apple Crisp...

Portland Flatbread Company Apple Crisp

Not as jaw-dropping amazing as their wild blueberry desserts (which are out of season, darnit!), but still fantastic. Fortunately their chef is smart enough to know that RAISINS HAVE NO PLACE IN APPLE CRISP EVER!!! I frickin' hate it when somebody ruins a good apple crisp by dumping raisins in it. BLECH!

And now, at long last, that sleep I've been trying to chase down all day...

   

Cold

Posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Dave!The Plan was to fly out today since my work ended yesterday so I could have more time on my upcoming Hard Rock adventure. But to follow The Plan would cost four times the money than a hotel stay, so I'm instead flying out tomorrow morning. Early.

The rest of this entry should be prefaced with the understanding that cold Maine is cold. Very cold. Biting cold. Cold with a side of cold and a scoop of cold on top.

It's really f'in cold.

And it's Sunday in the off-season, so there's not much to do in Portland, Maine. Thus my incentive to go outside is not very high. So I didn't until the hotel kicked me out at noon. At which time I checked into my airport hotel, returned my rental car, then took a taxi back into the city because pizza and apple crumble was calling at Flatbread Company...

Apple Crumble at Flatbread Co. Portland, Maine

To say I love this restaurant is a gross understatement. The location is great. The atmosphere is great. The service is great. The beer selection is great. The food? Beyond great. Especially the desserts, which are worth a trip to Portland all by themselves.

Did I mention it's cold?

Yet I went wandering downtown anyway like the fool I am. Despite wearing a T-shirt, thermal henley, hoodie sweatshirt, and a coat, I was still freezing. But I wanted to get a shot of the fence with locks on it in daylight, so off I went...

Love Locks Project

Love Locks Project

To profess their undying, never-ending love, a couple will write their names on a lock, attach it to the fence, then throw away the key. I have no idea if you come back with a bolt-cutter if things don't work out, but it's a nice idea.

I decided to explore somewhere new this time around, and left the Old Port area for downtown. That's when I saw... MAINE LOBSTERMAN!

Love Locks Project

Sculpted for the New York 1939 World's Fair, this piece has an interesting history (which you can read about here). At first I thought that the guy was giving first aid to a lobster with a hurt claw, but that's apparently not the case at all...

Love Locks Project

He's actually "pegging" the poor thing... which is to say he's shoving a wooden peg in the claw joint so it can't be opened (so he can't pinch anybody). This practice has mostly been abandoned, and now they just wrap a plastic band around the claw. Still a bit cruel, but I'm guessing it's not as painful to the lobster. At least until he gets boiled alive.

As I was walking, I saw a really cool painting on the side of a building that was meant to mimic a giant blueprint being laid over the structure...

Blueprint Building

Blueprint Building

Just across the street is a giant postcard painting that's also pretty cool...

Greetings from Portland!

Greetings from Portland!
Click the above photo to embiggen it...

If you look closely, the "lighthouse" is actually a spray-can...

Greetings from Portland!

At this point I was so cold that I could barely move, so I called a taxi while taking a few last photos as the sun set...

Love Locks Project

Portland Holiday Tree Lights

Portland Holiday Tree Lights

Portland Holiday Tree Lights

And that was that.

Back to my airport hotel room where I can (hopefully) get a few hours sleep before my early morning flight.

   

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