Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
It suddenly occurs to me...
...every day is hump day at the Giza Plateau!
Posted on Saturday, February 7th, 2015
Boy do I miss blogs.
I have an ongoing promise to myself that I won't go into work on the weekends until noon. Rarely do I keep that promise, because I'd rather intrude on my precious personal time than have to work until midnight on a a weekend.
This morning I actually managed to keep my promise to myself. And it's all Jack Fischl's fault. JACK is the reason that I didn't drag my sorry ass to work until 1:30...
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back when blogging was a thing, I read a lot of blogs. Like seriously many. As in hundreds. At one point I was reading 362 blogs, 256 of which were personal blogs of interesting people with interesting things to say. I know this because I once mentioned it in a video...
A surprising number of these bloggers became friends that I still keep in contact with today... even though they have long-since given up on blogging. A few of them I manage to visit in person as I travel the earth. Most of them, however, I only manage to keep up with because of Twitter or Facebook or whatever.
It's not the same.
Twitter gives you 140 characters in which to express yourself. That's great for simple thoughts ("I went to the grocery store today"), but total shit for actual communication ("I went to the grocery store today and was attacked by a grizzly bear"). Wait, what? With blogging you'd probably get the whole grizzly bear story right down to the last detail. Now you get the bare minimum of details that always leave you hanging. If you're lucky, there might be a photo attached, but that's about it.
Facebook isn't much better. Sure you have more space to write, but most people don't use it. Twitter and text messaging has destroyed real personal storytelling forever. Instead you get meaningless updates about winning a trivia game or automated data dumps of how far somebody ran today or random links to random stuff... anything but the story of somebody's life.
Am I the only one who misses that?
This morning I was trying to come up with travel ideas that were off the beaten path yet affordable. Looking at my travel map, I noticed once again how Central and South America have barely been touched. This annoys me greatly, so I started poking around the internet for unique travel experiences in those regions. Eventually I landed on a site called Keteka, "Your gateway to authentic tours and activities in Latin America." And indeed they do have a variety of interesting "off the beaten path" tours that are reasonably priced.
After exploring the site for a bit, I happened to notice a section called "Stories from the Road" at the bottom of the page. The first link was "Jack's Blog."
And there went three hours of my life.
What a fascinating guy. He started a blog as a way to document his adventures in Panama with the Peace Corps, and his every entry is fantastic stuff. Entertaining stories about everything from daily life in the rainforest to battling bat poop. Suddenly I was sucked back into the world of blogs again, remembering how great it was to be an observer into somebody's life that's different from my own.
And that's the thing that makes blogging so wonderful... everybody has a life that's different from mine. Which means everybody's life is interesting to me, even though they may find it mundane.
Boy do I miss blogs.
Such a pity that telling your story and inviting people into your life is an artform that's dying out in favor of snippets of 140 characters or less.
Such is progress.
So, if you want an awesome read from the glory days of blogging, Jack Fischl is your guy.
I recommend starting at the last page, which is the first page chronologically. Then on each subsequent page, you have to scroll to the bottom and read entries in reverse in order to keep moving forward. Confusing, I know, but it's worth the effort.
And don't hate me for making you miss blogging. I still do this crap every day.
Posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2015
Tomorrow I fly to San Diego for Jester's 40th birthday party.
The odd thing is that the weather in Southern California is going to be overcast, cool, and rainy... whereas here in Central Washington it's clear, warm, and sunny skies.
I am having to dig out my coat, which is something I haven't had to wear here for weeks.
I am also updating my 11-inch MacBook Air, which is the best travel companion ever. Small, fast, light... if only my electric mixer was this easy to travel with.
Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015
Welcome to San Diego.
Posted on Saturday, February 21st, 2015
A Russian Restaurant!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Midnite!
It was all happening in San Diego today...
Posted on Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
The Gaslamp Quarter!
Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration!
It was all happening in San Diego today...
Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015
Don't be sad that my trip to California delayed your favorite post of the week... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• Weekend! Had such an amazing time in San Diego for Jester's birthday weekend...
Thanks to Chuy for the Group Photo!
A nicer bunch of people you will not meet.
• Heart! Speaking of Jester... a song he wrote with Matthew Hayes is being performed by Kenyth Mogan in a clever Wizard of Oz inspired video... with a twist. Jester appears as Scarecrow, by the way...
And here's a behind the scenes making-of video for the video where Jester (Aaron) explains the origins of the song...
I love having talented friends!
• Horror! One of the biggest surprises from this past weekend was attending the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Ken Cinema...
Newspaper and squirt gun ready! Thanks to Jester for the Photo!
I haven't "done" the Rocky Horror in 25 years. I remember a lot of the audience participation lines... but I was surprised by how much everything has evolved. There were plenty of current pop culture references (Justin Bieber?) to be found, and a lot of stuff had been added. Hopefully it won't be 25 years before the next time... it was a lot of fun.
• Carrots! Best episode of Billy on the Street ever!
We have the coolest First Lady ever.
• Sausages! Whilst having Sunday Brunch at the marvelous Cafe 1134 yesterday, I was introduced to the fact that Soy Chorizo exists. It was absolutely wonderful in my breakfast burrito, and made an ordinarily boring egg and cheese entrée into something flavorful and amazing. Now I just gotta find it local.
• Spock! As I was flying home today, I learned the Leonard Nimoy has been hospitalized for chest pains. Wishing him the speediest of recoveries. Nothing would make me happier than having him make a third appearance in the Star Trek reboot.
And that's the end of the bullets, everybody!
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
At least 19 people are dead, many of them tourists, after a terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
Back in 2010, two months before the Arab Spring revolts, I was a tourist at the Bardo Museum, so this tragic event gave me pause. I didn't spend much time in Tunisia, but it remains a highlight from a life of travel.
The most wonderful thing about Tunisia is its people. They are exceedingly generous and kind, and everywhere I went the locals were all too happy to welcome you to their homeland. They live in a beautiful country and are rightfully proud of it. They are also proud of their inclusive and tolerant nature, and I'll never forget how my guide made a point of stopping to show us how Muslims and Christians are able to coexist in peace... and how people of all faiths are welcome to visit his country.
This openness comes with a price, however, as there is a violent minority who rejects the democracy that Tunisians have fought so hard for.
It's profoundly sad for oh so many reasons.
Including one that's entirely selfish... the country is an absolutely destination-worthy travel experience.
The Bardo Museum that's in the news is one of the largest (if not the largest) collection of mosaic in the world. And it's a glorious site to behold. It's room after room of jaw-dropping artistic beauty...
And then there's the Medina and all its treasures...
And the incredible blue and white city of Sidi Bou Said...
And a short distance beyond the cities is the Sahara Desert, which is somewhere I've long wanted to visit. An excuse to return to Tunisia one day.
And one day I will.
My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless violence.
Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2015
As I may have mentioned a few dozen times, I'm not a fan of Cirque du Soleil. The acrobatics are amazing, don't get me wrong... I love that stuff, but it's Cirque's packaging that drives me nuts.
LOOK AT US! WE'RE DRESSED IN WEIRD CLOTHES DOING WEIRD THINGS WITH WEIRD PROPS IN FRONT OF WEIRD SETS THAT MAKE NO SENSE WHATSOEVER! WE'RE WEEEEEIRRRD!!!
Yeah. We get it. Weird. Uh huh.
And tonight was more of the same as I went to Kurios: Cabinet des Curiosities with my sister...
Ultimately, I liked it better than The Beatles: Love (even though the music wasn't as good!) because there was more of a focus on the amazing talents of the performers rather than just doing weird shit for the sake of doing weird shit...
Though, no worries, Kurios had plenty of weird shit... including traveling scientists having a bad hair day, Moebius-inspired robots, fish people, finger puppets, and a guy acting like a cat. So if weird shit is your thing, you won't be disappointed.
As if that wasn't enough, they also had a Duncan Yo-Yo Master for some reason, just because, well... yo-yos, I guess.
This is a traveling show that wraps up here in Seattle this weekend... but they're continuing onward to Calgary, Denver, Chicago, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles... just in case you like watching mind-bogglingly talented performers doing mind-boggling stuff... while drenched in senseless weird shit.
And who wouldn't?
Posted on Saturday, March 21st, 2015
GAH! IT'S 3:00 IN THE MORNING! Boy I wish I could get a good night's sleep.
Tonight I was happy to attend University Sunrise Rotary's Debuts and Discoveries charity function with wines, brews, spirits, and food trucks...
The event was held at an old hangar in Magnusson Park at Sand Point, which used to be a Navy air station...
True to their word, there was an abundance of new alcohols to sample and buy...
Best of Show for me was Skunk Brothers, which had a very nice moonshine whiskey and a sublime Sweet Apple Pie spirit...
Interestingly enough, there was also cigar rollers in attendance...
The hangar itself is a terrific space for events like this...
I already had several shots of Jäegermeister before the event, which meant I was getting pretty trashed as we neared the end of the evening (I "sampled" all but two tables, and they had multiple products at most tables!). Not wanting to pass out on my friends, I decided to stop drinking and start shooting photos. I brought my miraculous Sony A7s camera, and Hangar 30 had plenty of opportunities to get sone nifty shots.
So there I was taking photos of cool stuff when I hear some asshole start mocking me with "LOOK AT THAT GUY TAKING A PICTURE OF A WALL!"
I am beyond sick and tired of people taking a shit on my happiness, but decided to let it go.
Or I would have if I hadn't been soaked in alcohol. Instead I said "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU CARE?" a bit too loudly.
Oh well. I may have been taking a PICTURE OF A WALL but, in my defense, it was a pretty interesting wall...
There were four food trucks and you got four sampling coupons to try each of them. Except the chicken truck didn't have a vegetarian option (boo Chick’n Fix!), so I skipped that one.
The first truck I ate at was Spicy Papaya, which had a delicious Pad Thai to try...
Next up was Wicked Pies, which must be run by some Twin Peaks fans...
But Best in Show for me was the El Cabrito truck, which was serving up an amazing "Beet & Pumpkin Seed Quesadilla" that rocked my world...
It was so good that I used my last ticket to pay a return visit...
El Cabrito can park their truck in my driveway any time! That quesadilla is absolutely worth a stop if you're ever in Seattle's International District.
And thus ends my last day in Seattle. Not too shabby!
Even if I did drop an F-bomb on an airplane hangar.
Posted on Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
Don't step on my blue suede shoes... because Bullet Sunday from Memphis starts... now...
• HRC! The reason for my trip to Memphis is to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe here (they moved further down Beale Street to a much better location). It's also to get out of town on my birthday. Since I don't celebrate the date, it's just easier all the way around to skip town. I'm crafty like that.
• Hub! When Delta had a hub here in Memphis, it was relatively easy (and cheap!) to get here. After Delta pulled the hub, it's not so easy and pricey as hell. My Delta flight was $842, which I ended up paying with miles because $842 is insane. I believe Delta only runs flights through Atlanta or Minneapolis now. When I complained about the cost, my driver said that he picked up a guy that flew in from Dallas who paid over $1000. And thus begins my biggest fear for Seattle. Delta is playing serious hardball to push out Alaska Airlines and establish a hub in Seattle. But if they are successful, how long will it last? Five years down the line once they're the only major game left in town, will they pull out and destroy Seattle's air travel options like they did here in Memphis? Will it then cost me $1000 and require two or three stops to get anywhere? People should have serious pause in supporting Delta over Alaska Air considering what the future may bring.
• QDOBAAAAAA! I skipped breakfast this morning so I could use my two-for-one birthday coupon at Qdoba's SeaTac Airport on my way out. One egg & cheese breakfast burrito and one veggie burrito please!
I wish they'd let you come back for your freebie. I'm so full now that I think I may explode in mid-air if the cabin pressure goes sideways.
• Wheeee! They "changed equipment" for my flight, so my nice aisle seat was traded NOT for another aisle seat... but a middle seat. Other than a woman on one side bringing a seven course meal onboard and a woman on the other side not knowing what a damn Kleenex is, things could have been worse for the four hours and twenty minutes I was enroute, I suppose. Then... THEN I board my flight from Atlanta to Memphis only to find out my seat is broken. As in the seat keeps reclining and it's not fully bolted to the floor. A gentleman two rows up is in the same boat. They have somebody from Mechanical come onboard who decides that the two clearly broken seats are not, in fact, broken. The flight is full, but they manage to move me because I'm "not happy"(?!??)... only to then put somebody else in my broken-ass seat. Gotta maximize that revenue! Who cares if your passengers are miserable! JUST TAKE THEIR DAMN MONEY!!!
What time will you be checking out?
Thinking that my hotel status was allowing a late checkout I reply Is 2:00 okay?
Oh, then how about 1:00 then?
Well I give up then... why don't you tell me what time I'm checking out.
You have to check out at noon.
Okay then, noon. Why bother asking if you're just going to dictate the checkout time anyway?
Oh we're required to ask with this verbiage.
The stupid. It burns. If you have to ask, why not have "verbiage" which asks in a way that doesn't make your guest feel stupid? What's wrong with saying "Our checkout time is noon... do you know what time you'll be leaving us?" — or whatever. Because, seriously, who is the idiot who comes up with this crap? Obviously somebody who knows jack-shit about customer service. They also know jack-shit about serving up internet, as it continuously me off. So much for those four stars I paid for.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try and get some sleep in this heartbreak hotel.
Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2015
There have been three times in my travels where I have forgotten my camera.
The second was Austin, Texas, in 2002 where I was visiting the terrific Hard Rock Cafe that used to be on 6th Street. This was an especially painful mishap, because the cafe closed before I could get back and document this amazing property. I did manage to find a disposable camera at a local drug store, but all the photos turned out terrible.
The third was while visiting Osaka, Japan in 2003, where I managed to purchase a cheap plastic toy camera at the Universal Studios Osaka gift shop to get shots of the new Hard Rock Cafe there.
And the first time?
When I visited Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee way back in 1995. And, despite returns to Memphis over the years, I never went back.
So my grand plan today was to run out to Elvis's house... THIS TIME WITH MY CAMERA... and take some photos. Except when I got up this morning I realized that, when it comes to Graceland, once is enough for me... photos or no photos.
And so I was off to Hard Rock No. 163, bitches!
As always, I was prepared for the worst. Yet another ugly hipster Hard Rock with only a smattering of memorabilia. Which would be a real slap in the face for Memphis, because their previous cafe was so awesome. So imagine my surprise when I visited this new property and found that the new location is in a primo vintage building with plenty of history and character... and they had a decent amount of rock-n-roll memorabilia to make it actually worth your time to visit!
The Hard Rock is located at the head of famous Beale Street. The location is hopping at night, but fairly sedate in the daytime...
The one big tourist attraction in Memphis I haven't done yet was to visit Sun Records, which is the birthplace of rock-n-roll. And home to some very famous musicians. Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many, many others...
Well worth a stop if you're ever in the Memphis area. The tour cost me $11.50 and lasted 40 minutes. Our guide was fantastic, and really made the place come alive.
And that's now I spent my only day in the city.
And now? I'm going to dinner at Faiqa's house and you're not!
UPDATE: Uh huh...
Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
After an amazing visit and an even more amazing dinner with the amazing Faiqa and her amazing family last night, I decided to wander around Beale Street after dark... something I've never done before. And I have no idea why I've never done it before, because it's exactly the kind of thing I love to photograph.
Maybe I was waiting for the Sony A7s camera to exist, which does such an amazing job of capturing night scenes? I dunno. But with a press of a button I'm in "Vivid Color Mode" and shooting everything in sight...
And now I suppose I should pack my stuff and clean up before the hotel kicks me out... most possibly literally, knowing this place... so I can grab lunch and head to the airport.
Many thanks for the brief visit, Memphis. We shall meet again.
Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015
And so I'm leaving a place where recreational marijuana is legal to a place where it is illegal on 4/20. I'm guessing this is ironic. Except Alanis Morissette, though Canadian, doesn't actually live in Canada for me to ask (DOUBLE irony? I dunno).
The flight to Vancouver, BC was uneventful. What happened when I landed was anything but.
I'm getting ahead of myself though.
I've been to Canada many, many times. Mostly after driving across the border, which has never been a problem. I've also flown into Toronto a couple times without incident. But flying into Vancouver? I'm now four for four on getting completely screwed by immigration and customs.
After arriving at the border agent's podium, I got the usual round of questions. Why are you here? Have you been here before? Who are you meeting? Where are you going? What do you do for a living? Etc. Etc. Etc.
No matter how I answer, I always get routed to customs. Apparently a graphic designer who is a Hard Rock collector in town to visit a casino and have dinner with a friend is highly suspicious. It doesn't matter than I have a hotel reservation. It doesn't matter that the only thing I'm bringing into the country is a change of underwear, a fresh shirt, my laptop, and an iPhone. It doesn't matter than I have a return ticket for the next day. It doesn't even matter that my double-passport book is packed to the rafters with entry/exit stamps and a wad of visas marking me as a frequent traveler.
My entry card gets marked like this...
I have no idea what "682" means. I think it probably goes like this...
Or something like that.
And so off I go.
Despite a line of 17 people, there are only three desks open. The first is occupied by a guy from China who thought he could just show up in Canada and go to school. The officer in charge of his case makes it known in no uncertain terms that he is mistaken. "There's a right way to do this, and you've done everything wrong!" After some back in forth, the officer grows impatient and starts threatening the guy with a stay in their jail. Over an hour of questions and typing later, the Chinese man is released and allowed to spend the night in the city... but if he doesn't return by 11:00 to arrange his flight back home, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.
The third desk is occupied by a guy who apparently just wants to visit the province for a month. For this he ends up having to unpack his three large suitcases to the last sock and answer question after question after question for over an hour.
The second desk is the only one moving people through. Albeit very, very slowly.
On occasion a random officer will show up and pull somebody out of line that they consider an easy interview. This moves the line forward, but any progress is ruined by people showing up in a second line on the opposite side of the building and jumping in line ahead of people who have been waiting for 40 minutes or longer.
Eventually I was called out by a random officer... but only after an hour and fifteen minutes of waiting. I then had to explain my situation, again, and stand there for fifteen additional minutes while the officer went into another room and did whatever she had to do with my passport. It probably wouldn't have taken that long, but she had to joke around with other officers there about how long the line was. Nice.
All told, I was stuck in customs for just over and hour-and-a-half.
For an hour visit to a casino over a stay that's less than 22 hours.
I don't doubt the need for all of this drama. On the contrary, protecting your borders is a very important job that deserves a serious amount of care. The results could be catastrophic if you don't.
But the way it's handled is abysmal. Indeed, it's the worst of any country I have visited. Ever. Excessive wait times, gross understaffing for the volume of people, and unfair line-jumping is not the impression you should be making on your guests.
A 30-minute ride on the SkyTrain and I'm at my downtown hotel. An hour ride on the Expo Line followed by a bus transfer and I'm at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver that's actually not in Vancouver, it's in Coquitlam...
By joining their Players Club, I get $10 in free slots money. It's blown through in two minutes playing a slot machine I can really plug my hair into...
Time for pins at the Rock Shop (which is very nice, by the way...
The main bar is called "Asylum," which feels kinda forced, but looks pretty...
There's a surprising amount of memorabilia awaiting you. And it's some really good stuff too. The problem is that the casino is kinda big, so the artifacts are ultimately rather sparse. The clustered memorabilia in showcases is really cool though...
There is no Hard Rock Cafe on the property. The people responsible for the place only have a license for hotels and casinos West of the Mississippi. Because of that, your Hard Rock Rewards card/points are useless. They don't even give you an AAA/CAA discount. If you sign up for the player's club (Free!) you do get a 10% discount on everything, however, which is nice.
I ended up eating at their burger joint. The veggie burger I had was a bit bland, but perfectly edible. The fries, unfortunately, were undercooked and oversalted, which meant most of them ended up in the garbage.
On the hour-ride back to town I saw the old Expo 86 dome, which looks pretty much as it did back when the World's Fair was going on...
Here it is in 1986...
After arriving back in Vancouver proper, I stopped at Tim Hortons' for some Timbits and a Coke. Because no visit to Canada is complete without Timbits!
And that was that. I'll spend the rest of my evening working, then head back home in the morning.
Hard Rock No. 164 accomplished! It was probably mostly worth the trouble to visit.
Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
I had such grand ambitions this morning... my flight didn't leave until 1:15pm, after all. Plenty of time to wake up early and wander around downtown Vancouver on this beautiful day.
But instead I worked in my hotel room right up until I had to leave for the airport.
Oh well. I had some leftover Timbits for breakfast in bed, so there's that.
Unlike the horrendous ordeal I had to endure getting into Canada, getting back to the US was a piece of cake. I pre-cleared customs before I even get on the plane in Vancouver. Which meant I could just stroll off the plane to the food court at SeaTac for some Qdoba before my connecting flight home.
Which was a piece of cake.
Posted on Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
Don't be intimidated by The Biggest Little City in the World... because Bullet Sunday from Reno starts... now...
• Reno! I have been to Reno exactly once, years ago. It looks much the same. Except the Planet Hollywood restaurant is gone. That cool sign is still there though...
Too bad I'm not much of a gambler.
• Avengers! Well...
Not that I didn't have fun. I had a great time. It's a comic book geek's dream come true. Except it wasn't quite the movie I was hoping for. But I'll get to that on Wednesday. Probably.
• Rand. Was very sad to learn that the lovely Grace Lee Whitney has died...
So many Star Trek alums are passing on. And suddenly I feel very old.
• Supremes! Food for thought while The Supreme Court battles it out over marriage equality...
Same sex marriage isn't gay privilege. It's equal rights. Privilege would be something like gay people not paying tax. Like churches don't.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) April 29, 2015
When churches get involved in politics, they should have their tax-exempt status revoked. Never seems to happen though, and they're more active than ever before.
• Chocolate! The flight attendant for my Reno trip was sweet to give me a chocolate bar snack. They often do this when you're an Alaska Air elite flyer and the plane doesn't have a First Class section. I guess it's supposed to make you forget you're in coach? In any event, it's such a nice gesture and is always appreciated. The interesting thing about this bar was the flavor...
Agave Quinoa Sesame Chocolate? Isn't that about the most hipster flavor you can imagine? Turns out it's quite tasty though. Interesting texture and a pleasing taste. And then there's the inside of the wrapper...
Chocolate plus a donation... with a Side of butt-shot? So weird.
• Mime Time! And, lastly, here's something to end your Sunday on a high note. Kinda.
And here... we... go...
Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2015
"What's the bare minimum amount of money and effort we can sink into this thing and get away with calling it a Hard Rock?" —Warner Hospitality
Or so I assume.
The property currently known as the "Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe" began as "Del Webb's Sahara Tahoe" and was a pretty big deal back in the early 70's because Elvis performed here regularly...
Eventually the property was rebranded as the "Horizon Resort" before ultimately becoming a Hard Rock in January of this year. As it's not part of the "authentic" Hard Rock portfolio owned by the Seminoles, I was prepared for it to be underwhelming. Because they usually are.
But this one didn't even reach that far for me.
Not that it's not a nice hotel... it totally is... but the complete lack of excessiveness and rock-n-roll theming that defines a "Hard Rock" is just not here. And it starts from when you first pull up to this rather boring building...
If it weren't for the signs, you'd never guess this was a Hard Rock at all. Things are slightly better on the other side, where at least there's a giant guitar...
Inside isn't much better. The reception desk is boring as hell. No effort whatsoever was put into making your first contact with the property be special. No guitars. No cymbals. No art. No nothing. Just blank walls to stare at...
I mean, seriously, what the hell?
There are some nice showcases on the back wall, but it's just not enough...
At the far end is my favorite piece, a passport belonging to Johnny Cash...
About the only attempt at making the lobby feel in any way special is a display for one of Michael Jackson's gloves. Which is nice, but it does nothing to pull you away from all those blank walls behind it...
And then there's the rooms. Again, nice... but where's the "Hard Rock" here? An orange wall, a teddy bear, and a couple of prints is all we get?
At least the bathroom has something rock-related. Even if it is just a tiny guitar print...
Seriously... this could be any mid-range hotel anywhere in the USA. There is absolutely nothing about it that makes you feel like you're in a Hard Rock except when you look closely at the water bottle tag, the shampoos, and the guest services book. About the only unique thing about it is the fire sprinkler in the closet...
I guess they have a real problem with guest's clothes spontaneously combusting or something.
Oh... and thank God I paid the extra money for a "lake view" room. I would have hated to have missed this beautiful view of... the parking lot?!?
I mean, yeah, there's a lake way back there... but I'd hardly call this a "lake view" room. When I booked it, I was expecting to look out my window and see something like this...
...which is a shot I took when I pulled off the road on the drive here.
Oh well. The casino isn't much better. Absolutely nothing on the casino floor. Just a couple of cabinets scattered at the entrances...
And some guitars scattered without presentation down a random boring hallway you have no reason to visit...
The pool is total shit... though there are signs everywhere about a fantastic new pool area that will be debuting this summer, so maybe it'll improve...
Overall, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe is a massive disappointment for Hard Rock fans. There's just not much here to see. If you don't care about the Hard Rock, it's a nice enough hotel, sure... but for those who do care, it's hardly destination-worthy unless you're a hard-core completist.
Which, unfortunately, is me.
UPDATE 5/5/15: You know, it may not sound like it, but I was trying to stay positive here. But when I went to check out everything kind of came to a boiling point in my head. First of all is the idiotic "resort fee" I had to pay... $22 ($26 with tax) which basically got me internet. It's not like I could go lie by the pool or anything (given there's no furniture). But even worse was the service. When I checked in, you're supposed to get complimentary valet parking, but the ONE guy tending the drive was too busy talking to somebody to bother and, after I had to interrupt to find out what the fuck I do with my car, he positioned valet parking as a "well, if you really want to..." situation, so I ended up self-parking. THEN, when I went to leave in the morning, I asked the guy at the reception desk if they had a postbox. No. Can you put my postcard with your outgoing mail? No. Now that's service! They wouldn't even mail a damn postcard. Seriously, fuck this place. I wish I had never come. A complete stain on the Hard Rock brand if there ever was one.
Contrast and compare to the positively gorgeous "authentic" Hard Rock Cafe next door at Harvey's Casino. It's an absolutely mesmerizing property that's got a "Tahoe Ski Lodge" aesthetic going on. And it's packed to the rafters with fantastic rock-n-roll memorabilia and classic theming. So much love went into this place...
Now THAT'S Hard Rock! That's a destination-worthy property. That's why I am a Hard Rock fan.
Before driving to Lake Tahoe, I got to have lunch with the Blogger Formerly Known as Floating Princess, so the day wasn't a total loss. We had most excellent pizza at Pirate's Pizza in Reno... it is, in fact, the best pizza in the whole world...
Dinner tonight was another excellent meal... across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe at the Lucky Beaver...
I like the place very much... excellent service and a cozy atmosphere. But the food is way pricey... $12 for a burger and tots! Though their black bean veggie option is really good, so I guess it was worth the money.
And that's my day. Time to walk back to the Hard Rock and see if I can get some sleep.
I'm not much of a gambler, but I was compelled to put money in the "Ellen DeGeneres Show Slot Machine" until something happened. Five dollars later and...
If you win something special, cartoon-body Ellen dances across the screen and she talks to you. Cute.
Tomorrow? The journey back home.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
A much nicer day today than yesterday.
Probably because I had to leave this morning!
Since my "lakeview" room at the Hard Rock didn't have a view of the actual lake, I stopped off at a "viewpoint" along the way to see if I could get a photo of Lake Tahoe. Sure enough...
And here's a pano of the whole schebang...
But before I drove back to Reno, I returned to the Lucky Beaver for a fried egg and avocado breakfast sammy... which was amazing. Even though I had to get up at 7:00am to get one...
The drive was fairly uneventful. Though I did run across somebody who loves A) Scotland... and B) Clifford the Big Red Dog... very, very much...
Much to my surprise, I ran across a Back to the Future slot machine at the airport. I refused to waste more than $10 on the thing, so I didn't get to see much... but it was very cool just the same...
What are you lookin' at, butt-head?!
Annnnnd... so much for my trip to Reno and Lake Tahoe.
Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2015
This has been a long, difficult week.
Lucky for me, fellow blogger Christopher (of Not-So-Random-Musings fame) was passing through town... which was an excellent excuse to blow off work and head to the "Bavarian Village" of Leavenworth for a delicious veggie wurst...
Nice day for it!
Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2015
I can see Russia from my hotel room... because Bullet Sunday from the great state of Alaska starts... now...
• Double Daylight! "In Anchorage, visitors from more southerly latitudes are often surprised to see the sun set at 11:41 p.m. on the summer solstice, but the actual 'solar time' is 9:41 p.m. This is because at 150° W, Anchorage is a full solar hour behind the legal time zone and observes daylight saving time as well. Some local residents refer to this phenomenon as "double daylight time." — Wikipedia.
Which explains my panic when I awoke after dozing off thinking it was 9:30am instead of 9:30pm and I had slept through two alarms. As I write this now at 10:45pm, there's still daylight out there...
I can't fathom how insane it must be to visit Nome, which is still in the Alaskan time zone with Anchorage, but technically two hours in actual time zones further back. Their sunset is after midnight!
• Rock! The purpose for my Memorial Day weekend excursion is, of course, to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe that opened up last year here in Anchorage. This is Hard Rock No. 166 for me, and (finally) gets me caught up with all the North American properties again...
There's an upstairs with a second stage and bar...
Overall it's a nice property with a great staff and a terrific location... right in the touristy section of town... but the decor is lacking. Memorabilia is stretched a bit thin throughout, and there's a Rock Shop and massive stairwell that's devoid of any artifacts at all...
This is a massive oversight which is unimaginable to longtime Hard Rock fans who remember when the cafes used to be packed with so much stuff that you could spend hours looking around and keep coming back to see stuff you missed. I mean, holy crap... look at this shot of the old Salt Lake City cafe where you can barely see the walls...
That's what a Hard Rock is supposed to look like, and Anchorage falls way short. Putting in the effort to visit a new property is supposed to be an overwhelming experience... but more and more I find myself saying "I traveled all that way... for this?!? I dunno. Maybe they'll eventually add more cool stuff to give Anchorage the Hard Rock it deserves, but right now it's hardly destination-worthy.
• Burger Me! On the plus side, the food was pretty good...
Even if I had to build my own to avoid all the crazy shit that the Hard Rock usually puts on their veggie burgers.
• Market? I was told by my airport shuttle driver that the Anchorage Summer Weekend Market was going on and I should take a look if I had a chance. It was supposed to be open until 6:00, but most everything was torn down by 5:20...
Bummer, I guess.
• Murder! Much like Starbucks locations in Seattle, fur shops in Anchorage are on every street corner...
I'm vehemently anti-fur, but might change my mind if I could walk in a shop and pick up something that was personally slaughtered by Sarah Palin. Like I'm guessing this poor bear was...
By Grabthar's Hammer I will avenge you, bear!
• Drop! Holy shitballs do I wish Apple would get off their fucking asses and get crap fixed that's been broken for ages. Like AirDrop, their miraculous file-sharing technology that's been a steaming pile since day one. When I sent the first photo looking out my hotel window from my iPhone to my Mac, it was no problem. AirDrop found my MacBook immediately. But when I tried to send the next shot (below) 45 minutes later? I just spent 10 minutes trying to get my iPhone to see my Mac, but it absolutely won't do it. And yet... my Mac can see my iPhone just fine? WHAT THE FUCK, APPLE?!?
Why don't you use some of the BILLIONS OF FUCKING DOLLARS that people have paid you because of the promise of things like AirDrop TO FIX ALL THE CRAP THAT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK?! Every time I turn around now-a-days I'm having to deal with Apple's busted shit and I'm just sick of it.
Annnnd... I suppose I should get some sleep seeing as how it's now 11:30pm and the sun is finally going down and all...
Posted on Monday, May 25th, 2015
My Memorial Day was spent taking the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Whittier so I could take a glacier cruise. Something I've already done before in Glacier Bay, but that was on a cruise ship. This time I'd be on a smaller boat which can get closer to the action.
The train ride was fairly uneventful... except there were loads of noisy, obnoxious people on it, so it wasn't quite the experience I was hoping for...
My cruise included a vegetarian option lunch, but I've gone down this road too many times to think it's going to be something I actually want to eat. Fortunately, the train had a really good cheese pizza onboard, so I went for it as a precaution...
In order to not lose my sanity from having to endure screaming kids and people in general, I mostly hung out in the gap between cars where I could take photos without any glass to obscure the scenery.
And it's some pretty nice scenery. Mud flats, forests, mountain views... it's all going on...
Just before you arrive in Whittier, you go through a couple of tunnels, the second of which is the longest railroad tunnel in North America. It has a set schedule for train and car traffic that switched direction every half-hour. The second tunnel is so long that takes about 5 minutes to get through... but when you look out the side of the train it seems much shorter because you can always see the light at the end of the tunnel. That's because it's dug so straight that there's never any obstruction...
Arriving in the city of Whittier, there was no time to waste. The boat was already mostly loaded by people who drove a car instead of taking the train (which is slower)...
We were definitely not the biggest boat on the water. Princess Cruises has spent millions creating a port in Whittier from which their ships can explore Alaska...
As expected, the lunch was not my cup of tea. For one thing, it had mushrooms on it, of which I am allergic. And since I'm not a coleslaw person, that was also off the menu. The pudding wasn't chocolate, as one would hope, but instead some kind of runny rice pudding...
Fairly quickly we ran across some porpoises (or dolphins, I'm not sure which) swimming at the bow...
Not quite as exciting as my dolphin experience in Fiji, but pretty cool just the same.
Next up was a whale playing around on the shore line...
And just when you think you've seen the last of cool wildlife for the day, some bumps in the water appear...
But what we're really here for is the glaciers, so Captain Carl wasted no time rolling right up to one...
Being Memorial Day, the boat was at capacity, but it was never a problem. People were pretty good about taking turns getting their photos, and Captain Carl made slow sweeping turns at all the stops so everybody on both sides of the boat could take a look...
I never once had trouble getting to the rail to get some terrific glacier photos, which was nice...
All in all, the cruise I took advertised "26 glaciers in one day"... but most of them must have been off in the distance, because I only recall seeing about a dozen of them.
I could bore you with the hundreds of glacier shots I got, but they all start to look the same after a while so I'll spare you. Suffice to say I had a great time getting lots of beautiful photos.
You end the glacial tour with a stop at a trio of glaciers in one shot...
The trip back was pretty good too, because the scenery is so great. Waterfalls are everywhere...
And, if you look at the bottom of that photo, you'll see I got more than just a waterfall in the shot...
Just chillin' for a bit. Thank heavens I bought my massively expensive zoom lens!
The weird thing about Prince William Sound is how the weather changes -literally- minute to minute. You can go from overcast and dreary to sunshine and vivd in the blink of an eye...
Captain Carl had one last surprise before pulling back into Whittier...
Is that spotty rocks, or...
Thousands of them.
And that was that. The boat docked at Whittier and my cruise was over. I had a few minutes before I had to board the return-train, so I walked through the town for a bit. Not a lot to see, but it's a beautiful place...
For the train ride home, the less expensive "B Car" was almost completely empty, so I gladly gave up my pricey dome car seat for some peace and quiet in the cheap seats. Usually, I would expect beautiful sunset views this time of day. But since the sun doesn't start setting here until 11:30, I had the same trip back that I had coming...
And that's a wrap.
Not a bad way to spend Memorial Day, I must say.
Hats off to Captain Carl and the crew of Klondike Express for a great five-hour tour! If you'd like to take your own "26 Glacier Tour" from Phillips Cruises, you can get more information here.
Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2015
My plan for today was to do nothing. It's rare that I actually have the opportunity to do nothing, so it seemed like the right thing to do.
Or not to do, as it were.
But then I felt bad about squandering an opportunity that I might not get again, so I decided to do one thing. And since the #1 attraction on TripAdvisor's list is the Anchorage Museum, I decided that would be the thing I do...
The building is very cool-looking from the outside. It's got these mirrored strips running up and down, so it kind of blends into its surroundings.
The price of admission is FIFTEEN DOLLARS, which seems a bit excessive. But I had walked all this way, and so...
The first display I saw was on graphic arts in Anchorage. THey included T-shirts and beer cans, so I was already pretty impressed...
From there I wandered into a cool cartography display that showed how the city has changed over the years...
The grand atrium in the middle of the museum is massively huge. Which is impressive, I suppose, but it seems like such a waste of space...
And then it was time to visit the Anchorage gallery which had all kinds of exhibits about the region. My favorite was a look at local homes through the ages that had full reproductions on-site...
What was so cool is that if you walk around to the other side, they had cut into the structures to show you how they looked on the inside...
And in case you didn't know what dead animals look like, they've got that covered...
As I walked over to the other wing of the museum, I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated. Sure the exhibits were nice and all, but it just didn't seem worth the $15 I had paid. Things looked up a little bit when I got to a photo gallery featuring beautiful images of the arctic...
...but I still wasn't feeling as though I got my money's worth.
Until I walked into the next room and bathed in the majesty that is the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.
This mind-bogglingly beautiful space is filled with artfully-constructed showcases featuring artifacts from the indigenous peoples of the arctic...
It's such an amazing display. I loved it so much that I spent a full hour absorbing every last piece of information they were sharing.
In all seriousness, no photos could ever do the exhibit justice. This one section of the museum is worth the cost of admission all by itself and well worth your valuable time to visit. If you're ever in Anchorage, just hand over the $15 and see it.
The third floor of the museum has temporary exhibits that change from time to time. When I visited today, it was Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage. And it was utterly fascinating...
Most of what I know about Captain Cook comes from my visits to Hawaii, as he's kind of a big deal there. Turns out that what I know about the man is just a tiny fraction of his fascinating story. Captain Cook's legendary explorations completely revolutionized how we look at the world, and this fascinating exhibit focuses on his search for a "Northwest Passage," a sea route through the Arctic Ocean. I was so impressed with the displays and artifacts that I'm a little saddened they're only temporary. And I'm a lot saddened that no photography was permitted on this level, because now when it's gone come September it's gone for good.
Next up on the exhibit calendar? Van Gogh Alive... where the museum will display his epic masterworks at larger-than-life sizes! If it's even half as brilliant as the Captain Cook exhibit, it's going to be amazing...
It's only running October 9th through January 10th. Such a short window but, given that Van Gogh is one of my most favorite painters, perhaps it will be worth a return visit this Fall? I can dream, can't I?
The top floor of the museum has an observation window...
And a surprise exhibit focusing on baseball Alaska that was pretty sweet...
All in all? A great day at the museum. Despite my initial reservations, it exceeded my every expectation and should be on a short list of must-see places when visiting Anchorage.
On the walk back to my hotel, I passed one of Wyland's Whaling Walls (a series of 100 massive paintings created by the marine artist Wyland in order to raise awareness about our oceans and the creatures who live there)...
Not one of my favorites, but still pretty impressive.
And that's a wrap! Tomorrow my Memorial Day holiday is over and I'm flying back home. Many thanks to the city of Anchorage for the fine hospitality.
Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
When you are an "MVP Gold" member, Alaska Airlines allows you to change to an earlier/later flight with a confirmed seat at 10:00pm the day before your flight at no charge (subject to availability, of course). If you're not and MVP Gold member, you can still confirm an earlier/later flight but only six hours before and with a $25 fee...
Which means that even though I purchased a flight that got me home at midnight so I could save a chunk of money, I ended up switching to a flight that got me home at a much more decent 5:00pm instead... At no charge.
And my flights home were terrific too.
So happy Alaska Air is my local airline.
Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Unlike in many other countries, train service in the USA is mostly crap. Partly because people here just loooooove their cars, but mostly because this country is just so big and connecting everything isn't really practical. Sure there are pockets of decent train service... the Northeast Corridor is pretty well-connected and has decent schedules. And, yeah, there are places that have pretty good local/regional train service (like the Chicagoland area). But, for the most part, trains can't be taken seriously.
Take for instance here in my neck of Redneckistan.
To get from Wenatchee to Spokane, there's exactly one train each day. At 8:42pm, arriving 12:45am. Coming back? Again, one train which leaves Spokane at 2:15am, getting back to Wenatchee at 5:25am.
So... pretty useless. Which is why I always end up driving it, high gas prices be damned.
But every once in a while... when the stars align and the conditions are right... that wacky schedule actually works for me.
I have been swamped with work. I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in a week. I can't afford to waste six hour on the road to Spokane and back. If I take the train, I can get a sleeper compartment, work until I fall asleep, then wake up in Spokane with time for a few hours more sleep. Perfect. And it's safer than being on the road in my sleep-deprived condition.
Which, of course means that my train is delayed by FIVE HOURS. Thanks, Amtrak!
Which means I'm driving over anyway.
So bring on the Five-Hour-Energy drinks and Coca-Cola, which was the only way I was able to survive the 3-hour drive over.
Which brings us to my hotel, which I originally booked thusly...
DAVE: I need to book a room for the 14th even though I won't be arriving until early on the 15th. So please don't think I'm a no-show and give away my room!
RESERVATIONS: We wouldn't do that!
DAVE: That's nice. You'd be surprised how often that happens to me. It's no fun looking for a hotel in the early morning. So... assuming I don't get raped and stabbed on the walk from the train station, I'll see you tomorrow at 1:00am.
RESERVATIONS: Oh goodness! You won't get raped or stabbed walking from the train station! You should be fine! You might get robbed or something, but you won't be raped and stabbed!
DAVE: Ah. Good to know. See you tomorrow.
But then I ended up driving, so no walking from the train station after all.
Except the parking lot was full at my hotel, so I had to risk getting robbed walking two blocks from the overflow parking.
And then risk getting harassed and shoved around as I made my way through Hipster Central on my way to the legendary Spokane institution... the Satellite Lounge. Which serves up deliciously greasy fare at a good price in a strip club atmosphere. But, alas, without the strippers.
Which is a pity, because I really could have done with something nice to look at after staring at the nothingness that is the Columbia Basin at night for three hours.
Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
I have been a lot of places on this planet.
I have eaten a lot of pizza everywhere I go.
My favorite pizza on earth (so far) is the Da Vinci from David's Pizza in Spokane, Washington. It's red sauce, mozzarella, and feta with a swirl of pesto sauce that's topped with fresh tomatoes after baking. It is sublime. The sauce at David's has a rich and robust taste that doesn't rely on toppings to give their pizza it's flavor. The mix of feta and pesto is insanely good. It just doesn't get any better.
Which is why you can understand my utter devastation when I rolled up to David's Pizza to get a slice and was greeted by this...
The greatest pizza I have ever known was gone.
Sure David's Pizza kinda lived on inside of a bar called "Famous Ed's"... but it was never the same.
Fast forward four long years... and David's is back at a new location, and it's very nice...
The pizza profile seems closer to the original for me... but the crust is more "Famous Ed's" than "Original David's Pizza" in that it's missing a bit of the "snap" it used to have. It's slightly more chewy instead. Not necessarily a bad thing... just not as I remember it...
Still probably the best pizza on earth.
Believe it or not, the second best pizza I've ever had is 20 minutes away from me in Wenatchee at a place called "Third Generation Pizza N More." The sauce is so flavorful that just a plain cheese pizza packs plenty of delicious flavor, and their amazing crust is my favorite.
After that my pizza favorites get a bit murky. Maybe Pizano's Pizza in Chicago... could be Roberta's or Totonno’s or Grimaldi's in Brooklyn... could even be Tony's in San Francisco... the list goes on and on. And it's not limited to the US either... I may not care for Italian pizza, but I've had some pretty great pizza in several places in Europe... and even a couple spots in Japan!
Great pizza's all, but David's is on the top of my list. And I am oh so happy they're back in Spokane again.
The trip home was pretty awful, despite having a nice day for a drive...
The problem was that I was so tired by the time I got home that my brain was numb. Thanks again to Amtrak for their five hour delay that resulted in my having to make the drive in the first place.
And now... my last two slices of leftover Da Vinci are calling...
Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Another difficult day.
Most of which was thinking about how I would give anything... anything... to be back in Africa just now. It's the travel experience that just won't leave me. And my new go-to place any time I dream of escaping life.
Not hard to see why when my memories are filled with this...
Here's hoping for a better tomorrow.
Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2015
It's been reported that North Korea's dictator and fearless leader Kim Jong Un didn't like the design of his new Pyongyang International Airport so he had the architect executed.
It seems a bit extreme, to be certain, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand the sentiment.
Case in point...
When it comes to portable storage, the only brand I trust is Transcend's StorJet line of "Military Grade Shock Resistant" 2.5-inch hard drives. They're tough enough to travel the world with me, fairly speedy, and last forever. I am still using the very first drive I bought ages ago while other brands have long-since died.
So... great product. Well done, Transcend!
Since I'm hitting the road soon, I decided to pick up a new 1TB StorJet since all my current projects won't fit on the 750GB drive I'm using. I keep hoping that Transcend will add the option for a Thunderbolt or Lightning connector since you don't have to worry about which way you plug the cord into them, but all that's available is USB 3. I hate USB with a passion because I always seem to have the plugged turned the wrong way... but at least on the drive-side I know which way the plug goes in, which is half the battle.
At least it was half the battle...
On the left is my new drive. On the right is my old drive. Note that the USB plug is now upside-down from what it was.
Who is the sadistic fuck at Transcend that made THIS happen?
The years of conditioning I have as to which way the plug goes in the drive has just been sabotaged. And since it's so automatic that I don't even think about it, I have the plug backwards Every. Damn. Time. And it always takes a second before I realize what's wrong because my brain hasn't reached the point that I know to flip the plug.
I absolutely hate stupid crap like this.
They may make great portable drives, but they obviously don't give two shits about the small details that keep customers happy. It's like the assholes at LaCie who keep changing the power adapter plug on their Porsche drives every six months. After two years I ended up with seven drives and THREE different adapters to keep track of. It finally got so frustrating that I trashed all my LaCie drives and switched to Western Digital.
And now I'm seriously considering taking a look at other portable storage manufacturers so I can avoid the flip-flopping sadists at Transcend.
Now, I'm not saying that I want the engineer executed who made this dick move, but I will say that it's probably a good thing I'm not North America's dictator and fearless leader...
Posted on Monday, July 27th, 2015
Okay. I haven't traveled in a couple months, so I know I've been out of the loop for a while, but...
Wasn't it just $20 a few minutes ago?
And here's the thing... it's shitty forty dollar internet. I barely had a connection the entire time. Pages would rarely load completely... it's worse than dial-up used to be!
Guess this is what happens when you let a corrupt pile of shit company have a monopoly in the in-air internet game! Highway robbery! Errr... well... in the air. SKYWAY ROBBERY!!! I could get blown for this kind of bank!
I'll just try and appreciate that I can have internet while flying at all.
Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
I am so tired that I can barely function.
Work has been brutal, and it looks like I may break some kind of record for number of hours worked straight.
Luckily I have the memory of my delicious Maine Wild Blueberry Poundcake from yesterday to keep my hallucinations delicious...
Also... something I found out while chasing down an expense receipt for the HEINOUSLY EXPENSIVE INFLIGHT INTERNET I bought on Monday? You can pre-purchase internet directly from GoGo at LESS THAN HALF the cost! Just $16.00! So... if you're traveling and am going to be on a flight that has internet you'll want to be using, be sure to buy before you fly.
Hopefully that wasn't a hallucination, because... FORTY FRICKIN' DOLLARS?!??
Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Tonight I came the closest to death I've ever been.
Work was delayed ten hours and didn't start until around 11:30pm on Tuesday. I then worked all through Wednesday right up until Thursday until 10:30pm. So, basically, a 47-hour workday with only a three-hour nap in there somewhere.
And a six-pack of 5-Hour Energy.
To say I was tired and not looking forward to the 2-1/2 hour drive back to Boston this evening was an understatement. I considered grabbing a local hotel for a few hours, but have learned the hard way that I need to power through. So I picked up two bottles of Mountain Dew and away I went.
I was beyond exhausted, but the caffeinated fizzy water and constant stops at toll booths kept me going.
And then it happened.
At three minutes until midnight just before crossing the border from New Hampshire to Massachusetts... a car facing the wrong way, stopped dead in the middle of the highway. No lights. No blinkers. Just a dark automobile angled across the road, centered in the middle lane.
In my lane.
And here I am going 70 miles per hour under the cover of darkness.
In a Prius.
A Prius which would have been utterly destroyed if it had hit the car at that speed... probably taking me with it.
Fortunately, the full moon illuminated just enough of the car before my lights reached it that I saw... something. It was just enough warning to give me time to brake and swerve out of my lane... hard.
It felt like the Prius went up on two wheels.
I thought I was going to tip over.
I struggled to keep control of the car as I started skidding off the road. After what seemed like an eternity, I gained control and managed to stay on the highway.
My wits, however, went out the window back in New Hampshire.
Needless to say, I had no problem staying awake for the remained of my drive into Boston. The adrenaline rush was a bigger wake-up call than all the Mountain Dew on planet earth.
What if there hadn't been a full moon?
What if I was glancing at Google Maps on my phone instead of focusing on the road?
What if there was a car next to me and I couldn't get out of my lane?
The list goes on and on.
My guess is that somebody from the opposite direction fell asleep at the wheel, then tore through the median until they came to a stop on the opposite bank of oncoming lanes. So crazy.
And now I sit here in my hotel room where I had hoped to get four hours sleep before flying back home. Except, obviously, sleep is impossible now. Despite being so tired that my brain feels mooshy and I want to pass out, I won't be getting any sleep tonight.
So I ordered a sandwich from a local restaurant that delivers until 2:00am.
I went with the highly risky choice of egg salad, which I would usually avoid like the plague because nothing good can come from a delivery egg-salad sandwich at this hour. At least health-wise.
But clearly I am indestructible, so why not?
Boy I hope nobody behind me crashed into that car. I saw police cars headed to the scene, so hopefully everything will be alright.
NOTE: I have blog entries I've been writing all week... but I couldn't get them to send from the work site so I'll post them when I get back. None will be even remotely as exciting as this one, however.
UPDATE: Well, that was disgusting. If I don't end up with a scorching case of diarrhea, I will be very surprised. And now my hotel room smells like the entire city of Boston farted in here. Not one of my smarter moves, that egg salad monstrosity.
Posted on Friday, July 31st, 2015
I'm mostly-dead right now. Fortunately my flight home was less eventful than my drive back to Boston last night.
And I didn't even get to the best part of the evening.
After coming closer to death than I'd ever planned on, I pulled into Boston in an attempt to find my airport hotel. But first... I wanted to fill up the rental car with gas so I wouldn't have to worry about it early this morning. Lucky for me, there was a gas station just one block from the Wyndham, and I pulled in to fuel up...
...only to find every pump occupied by police cars.
Seriously, an entire fleet waiting for me.
And since the last thing I wanted to do was to walk amongst the cops while wired on 5-Hour Energy and an adrenaline rush from almost dying, I immediately turned around and left.
Fully expecting that they would chase me down for my odd behavior and beat the shit out of me.
But, alas, I escaped with my life, made my flight, got home safely, and all is well.
I live to fly another day.
Posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2015
You would think after working 47 hours straight. Not being able to sleep for five hours. Then spending an entire day traveling to get home... I'd crash hard last night and finally be able to sleep.
And I did.
For four whole hours.
Which meant my Saturday was spent in a foggy haze of exhaustion that made getting caught up with work almost impossible.
Lucky for me I have time left to drink a 2-liter of Coke so I can stay up all night tonight and try to make some headway.
I can't even remember what my brain is supposed to feel like.
Posted on Thursday, August 13th, 2015
Tomorrow I'm off to L.A. for a quick trip and I'm somehow grossly ill-prepared.
Maybe it's because I haven't been traveling much this year compared to the usual grind, but I just can't seem to get in the grove. Luckily my bags are still unpacked from my Maine trip two weeks ago or I'd be completely screwed. Swap out some clean underwear, fresh shirts, and a couple pairs of jeans... and... done!
Hopefully I still have toothpaste left in there somewhere.
Now I just need to work all through the night so I can get caught up enough to actually leave in the morning.
I wish I drank coffee.
Or maybe did cocaine.
Because I think 5-Hour Energy is losing its effectiveness on me. I really do.
Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015
Next year I turn fifty and, let me tell you, there's nothing like travel to make me feel like the crotchety old fart I'm becoming.
The morning started off with my being told that Seattle is experiencing weather delays and the flight in could be delayed by an hour or more. Which would be fine if this were one of my typical four hour layovers at SeaTac but, just my luck, I have a 46-minute layover this time. But, eh... what can you do? If it happens, it happens and I'll figure something else out, right?
See... I'm also mellowing in my old age,
But then I started getting irritated because people are just so damn irritating.
The actual flight to L.A. was fine. I was completely absorbed by watching Mad Max: Fury Road again because... well... ZOMG WHAT AN AMAZING FILM... and didn't pay much attention to anything going on around me.
After landing it was another story.
There I was getting my suitcase down from the overhead when I get bumped into by a small boy. He's irritated and squirmy because he has to go to the bathroom. I let the mother know that they will probably let him use the bathrooms if she wants, because we're at the back of the plane and it may take a while for people ahead of us to clear out. She thanks me, but says he's already gone to the bathroom several times and he's just using it as an excuse. I then goof around with the kid for a bit to try and take his mind of things, but it doesn't last long and he's back to squirming in no time. His mother tries her best to keep him in line and everything, but the guy is a handful.
Then it happens.
Some crusty older bitch in her hipster black turtleneck sees that the mother has tattoos and crazy colored hair and piercings and instantly comes to the conclusion that this surely must be a bad mother, and SHE knows better how to raise children than the mother does. And she tells the mother this.
Which infuriates me. It's not like the mother is letting the kid go apeshit all over the place like most parents do now-a-days... she's trying her level best to keep him in line. So I cut the bitch a glance and say "Give me a break... he's a kid!" Which should have been the end of it.
But of course it wasn't.
The self-entitled parenting expert of the year keeps at it. Telling the young mother everything she's doing wrong.
I was about to say something again when all of a sudden... the mother lets her have it.
"ARE YOU HIS MOTHER? DID I ASK FOR YOUR ADVICE? WHY DON'T YOU JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!"
Surely that would be the end of it, right?
The hipster Anne-Rice-Wannabe bitch proceeds to tell the mother that she had to sit in front of her and her kid the entire flight and it was horrible and maybe the mother should drive next time.
The mother loses it.
SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH! NOBODY ASKED YOU, SO JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!
And good for her. Probably wouldn't have cursed in front of the kid like that but, seriously, good for her.
As we're leaving, I feel the need to tell the mother that it's not her who should be driving... it's people who can't deal with being in public and are serious assholes about it. I hope it makes her feel better about the situation.
Sure I may like to talk about how people should be raising their kids... but never in a million years would I presume to actually tell a mother she's raising her kid wrong. Especially a mother who was trying to discipline her child and making them behave. What the fuck is that about?
And then I got to the car rental counter.
I can only guess the man causing a scene there was related to the asshole on the plane, because he sure acted like it. Apparently the car he wanted wasn't available, so he was just going off on the poor guys at the counter who were doing everything they could to placate the piece of shit. Like they have control over somebody not returning a vehicle on time or whatever. The asshole kept hammering away with "I'M A VERY GOOD CUSTOMER!" and "I'M GOING TO TAKE MY BUSINESS ELSEWHERE!" and "I'M NOT SPENDING MONEY WITH THIS COMPANY AGAIN!" and "AUF WIEDERSEHEN! GOOD BYE! GOOD RIDDANCE!" and "YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THAT!" and "I'M NOT WALKING ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE PARKING GARAGE! YOU NEED TO BRING THE CAR TO ME!"
As I stood over at the next counter filling out my paperwork I just couldn't take it any more and started screaming "WAH! WAH! WAAAAAAAH! THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT ME?! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! MEEEEEE!!!" Then I looked over at the dickhead, inviting him to take on somebody who didn't have to put up with his bullshit.
But of course it never came. Assholes like this are almost always complete cowards when they have to fight against somebody who can fight back.
The prick finally signed off with "This is supposed to be customer service? I've never been so disgusted!" Which is when I had to point out to the guy helping me that I save my disgust for things like extreme poverty and world hunger.
Look, I get it. I have blogged many times about how shitty it is to not get the car you reserved. It sucks. It's wrong. It shouldn't happen. It's upsetting. But to take it out on some poor guy who is trying their best to help you? I'm just not that big a dick.
Well, I am... but I save my big dickish behavior for those who deserve it.
Even though I would probably be better off not getting involved at all.
Except I just can't help myself, can I? I am well on my way to becoming a crotchety old fart and seriously don't give a shit anymore.
If I ever did.
And then there was traffic hell on the 405 to deal with...
Welcome to the City of Angels.
Posted on Saturday, August 15th, 2015
Los Angeles is a city of extremes to me. I both love and hate it, all the while acknowledging that there's nowhere on earth even remotely like it... even though I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Which means it's probably a little of both.
Every time I come back, I try to focus on the many, many positive experiences I've had here... but the soul-crushing negatives are always in the back of my head. For that reason, I can never just come to L.A. for relaxation and having fun. There's too many things haunting me to make that possible. But I do always manage to enjoy myself... assuming I don't think about the insane amount of time I spend in traffic too much.
Which would be easy if it weren't for all the time I spend in traffic.
Posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Time for a very special Los Angeles bullets edition... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Getty. If forced to pick my favorite place in Los Angeles, it would probably be Disneyland. Outside of Disneyland the contenders get murky and I'm not entirely sure what my next pick would be. But The Getty Center would be near the top of the list. It's a gorgeous location above L.A. that's populated with beautiful galleries that are filled with amazing art. And it's all free for the viewing (though parking is $15, if you're driving up)...
• Frog. If you look closely in the first photo above, a work called "Boy with Frog" (by Charles Ray) is near the top of the steps...
This surprised me, because a much taller version is at the tip of the Punta della Dogana in Venice, Italy...
Not sure what that's all about, but it was kinda cool.
• Art! As a huge Monet fan, I usually thrill to see new works... but those at The Getty are versions of a theme that I've already seen many times. Still great though...
The most popular painting at the museum is a nice irises pieces by Van Gogh...
Probably my favorite piece is one that has Baby Jesus loving GOLD, but... SUSPICIOUSLY...
And, of course, RICK JAMES, BITCH...
• Rude! Los Angeles is a weird city where lots of weird stuff happens. Like the public hanging of a Teddy Bear...
In all seriousness, WTF is wrong with people?!?
• Traffic? Something I had not seen on the most excellent navigation app, Waze, before is a traffic jam gauge. It tells you how long the current jam will last...
Interestingly enough, it was pretty darn accurate! Sweet! Modern technology at work.
• Traffic! You see the oddest things in L.A. traffic (my favorite being DOMO-KUN!), and today did not disappoint. The first thing I noticed was an abundance of handyman vans that seem to be in competition for most interesting paint job. Two I managed to photograph...
Rock n' Roll indeed... he had the heads of dozens of rock legends painted on the sides!
Truly... Stitt does happen!
Though L.A. traffic was best represented by somebody proclaiming their love of traffic...
So long leisure bullets... tomorrow it's time to get to work.
Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2015
Originally I had two business meet-ups and a dinner meeting peppered throughout my trip to Los Angeles... plus a birthday party (happy 95th, grandpa!). After landing I ended up with another meeting, which meant I'd be working every day I'm in the city. This was a major bummer, so I arranged to push all my work to Monday (today!) so I could enjoy time with family and friends over the weekend.
Which was a fantastic idea.
Until I woke up this morning and realized I would be dragging my ass from one end of L.A. to the other. Which pretty much means an entire day stuck in traffic between meetings.
But there were bright spots along the way.
I had time to stop at Pink's for a Patt Morrison Baja Vegan Dog, one of my favorite things...
After an unexpected side-quest back to my hotel, I was off to Anaheim for one last meeting and a business dinner.
It was at my final meeting that something amazing happened.
We were discussing our impending dinner when somebody said "I'm surprised we're not going to eat at Earl of Sandwich since Dave's in town." I laughed and then broke the news that I don't eat at Earl of Sandwich anymore because they discontinued their veggie sandwich. A colleague then piped up with "Really? I just had one at Disneyland a couple weeks ago."
Uhhhh... come again?
So I look at their online menu and, sure enough, their veggie sandwich is listed. Thinking it surely has to be an outdated menu, I am nevertheless intrigued. This is my favorite sandwich on earth. For years I obsessed over Earl or Sandwich and moved heaven and earth to eat at their restaurants.
With no choice in the matter, I hop in my car and rush to Downtown Disney so I can check it out. As I walk up to the restaurant, I'm starting to hyperventilate...
Sure enough, their veggie sandwich IS back...
And it is just a glorious as it ever was.
So, even though it spoiled my dinner, a tremendous THANK YOU to Earl of Sandwich for bringing back one of my most favorite things to eat. Amazing. Delicious.
Since I was at Downtown Disney, I decided to use a Disney Dream Dollars gift card that's about to expire. I ended up getting a Disney 60th Anniversary pin and lithograph, which is pretty cool. Also cool? Now that Disney owns Star Wars, they are doing a super-sweet job of integrating their new property into the Disney parks...
BWAH HA HA HA!
The dinner meeting was short & sweet, and I was on my way back to my hotel at 7:00... arriving by 7:30... in bed at 8:00. Not a bad end to a pretty great day... especially food-wise.
Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
And, just like that, my L.A. adventure is over. The flights back were relatively uneventful, so I guess I don't have any complaints.
Well... I do, of course... just not about this trip. So I guess I'll just be sitting here minding my own business...
This is my cat, Red. He does this often & I'm glad I was able to video him in action.Posted by Amy Audia Risi on Sunday, August 9, 2015
Posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
This was an awful day in so many ways.
I don't even want to talk about it. Instead, here's a picture of a happy lizard I took while in Australia...
I need a vacation.
Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
My decision to skip sleeping last night was probably the best decision I could have made. A meager three hours would only have only served to put me in a coma for my three-hour-fifteen-minute commute to work. A coma from which even 5-Hour Energy would not let me escape.
As an insomniac, I never get much sleep anyways. But no sleep makes me very stabby indeed...
Driving sleep-free was the least of my worries though.
The reason I always drive to Spokane at night is because driving it in the morning results in about two-and-a-half hours of staring into this...
I-90 runs due-East directly into the rising sun. And on a day like today, it obliterates everything on the road. I really need to get me a sun-shield one day, but until then all I had was some notecards and clothespins hanging from my visor to cut down the glare as much as I could. I also had sunglasses, but they don't really help when it's this bright.
Work was a brisk 50 minutes, at which time I should have turned around and headed back home.
But there was no way I was going to come all this way without having some of the Best Pizza on Earth courtesy of David's Pizza Spokane...
Waiting 25 minutes for them to open was torture, as I was totally falling asleep after finding a spot to park. I ended up setting the alarm on my iPhone to wake me up, which was probably the smartest thing I did all day.
David's Da Vinci pizza was amazeballs as always.
Then it was time for the three-hour-fifteen-minute drive back.
Which was awful, but at least I didn't have to spend the majority of it staring at a giant ball of flames on the horizon.
I stopped to pick up some crap at Costco on the way because I'm stupid that way. Then I drove to work because I'm incredibly stupid that way. Eventually I managed to get home... at which point I passed out for two hours.
Since waking up I've been wandering around in a haze, my mind still in a state of exhaustion from serious lack of sleep.
Which is why I decided it's the perfect time to post an entry to Blogography... this time I have an actually excuse as to why my incoherent ramblings are incoherent and rambling.
Posted on Sunday, September 13th, 2015
Get ready to bask in the City of Roses... because a Bullet Sunday from Portland, Oregon starts... now...
• PDX! How many airports do you know that have carpeting so famous that they have a Wikipedia page devoted to it? I have no idea. But if there's a list, Portland International (PDX) would be on it (seriously, here's the Wikipedia page). For years now, you can always count on seeing people photographing themselves standing on it. Like me today...
The pattern apparently represents the intersection of PDX runway lights as seen at night or something. In any event, it's a beautiful design and everybody seems to love it. Which is why the Port of Portland decided to replace it with a new design rather than a reprint of the old design?...
It's a nice enough pattern, I guess, but I don't understand why they didn't replace the worn out carpet with the same design, which didn't really need updating. Especially given how popular it is. A very sad day for PDX fans...
Including me. The next time I fly into Portland, all remnants of the classic PDX carpeting will be gone.
• Hooking! Is it just me, or does this advertisement from Alaska Airlines' inflight magazine look like some guy just hired a very expensive hooker?
Turns out it's an ad for a casino, but wow...
Enjoy your hooker victory, sir.
• Congrats! The reason I flew to Portland today was so I could see two of my long-time blogging friends, Oh Sarah Joy and Iron Fist get married...
Congrats to Sarah and Vahid!
• To Go! And speaking of weddings... this is not a real ad for Tide To-Go Pens, but it should be because it's really clever...
The ad may be fake, but that's the real Miss Yvonne from Pee-Wee's Playhouse!
And... my flight will be taking me back home any minute now, so no more bullets for you...
Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2015
And so today I flew to San Francisco for one night only to attend a concert with long-time blogging buddy, Jester.
Needing to kill ten hours before the big event, Jester drove us up to Marin County. Believe it or not, the only part of the region I'd ever visited was Sausalito at the bottom-most tip. Everything north of that was a mystery. A MYSTERY IN THE FOG...
Our first stop was a pumpkin patch because Jester wanted to make pie...
Pumpkin measured $12... including tax!
Further up the coast...
The hundreds of stairs down weren't a big deal... the thousands of stairs back up was agony for an out-of-shape bastard like me...
On the way back, Jester and I saw something odd. A kind of weird machine or something...
A stop at Olema Farm House Restaurant for mac & cheese lunch...
And then... a quick stop at Stinson Beach before heading back to the city...
Where we saw a seagull hauling off a whole crab...
A great day, and the main event hadn't even started.
Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Last night was my first time seeing Walk The Moon live.
It was also my first time seeing a show at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.
Hopefully it won't be my last for either one. Thanks to Jester for inviting me to such a fantastic show...
The venue is right across from Grace Cathedral...
The evening began with an opening set by Holy Child, which I had previously seen live when I was in San Francisco for Betty Who. They were followed by a band I had never heard of before called Saint Motel...
I really, really enjoyed their set. Saint Motel is an amazing live band. Wasn't as impressed with their studio albums, but maybe they'll grow on me.
The main act was Walk The Moon and they were fantastic...
You can get a taste of what they're like live in this video for Different Colors...
They are best known for their hit single Shut Up And Dance...
I was worried that my favorite song off their latest album was skipped, but We Are the Kids came along in the encore...
If you ever have the chance to see Walk The Moon live, it's an opportunity you absolutely should not pass up.
Back to real life.
Posted on Friday, November 13th, 2015
On the morning of August 30th, 1997, I was getting ready for a trip to Orlando. I needed some background noise to distract me from a neighbor with a leaf blower, so I turned on the television while I packed my suitcase. The news was breaking that Princess Diana of Wales had been in a car accident in Paris and her status was unknown.
This was both shocking and sad, as I had long been an admirer of Diana. She could have easily just hopped into the role of princess and coasted through a life of luxury... but she did not do that. Instead she used her status and celebrity to do some good in the world. She championed many causes, but I will most remember her as a voice of reason and compassion during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While most people in the world were shunning AIDS victims and turning a blind eye to the entire crisis... Diana was speaking out, educating people, and advocating for those affected. She visited AIDS patients and made the world see them as people.
I flew into Seattle where every television was covering the accident. Nobody knew how Diana was doing, and the story kept changing. I boarded my flight to Orlando not knowing if she was dead or alive. As this was a time before in-flight internet, I spent the next six hours wondering if she was okay.
Once I had landed in Orlando and checked into my hotel, I immediately turned on the television only to learn that Diana had died.
The next day I was at work when somebody suggested going to Walt Disney World's EPCOT for lunch. It was surprising how much we were all affected by Diana's passing, and it seemed like spending a couple of hours away from it all might be the ticket.
EPCOT, for those not in the know, is a theme park which has something called "World Showcase" where Disney has created microcosm of various places in the world, with pavilions for Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada. The idea is that visiting the EPCOT version of a country gives you a taste of what it's like to visit the real country. It's touristy crap, of course... but surprisingly well done and a lot of fun.
After having lunch in Paris, we wandered into the United Kingdom pavilion and saw something surprising.
Loads and loads of flowers, all in tribute to Princess Diana.
It was a recreation of the tons of flowers left at Buckingham Palace in the UK... inside a recreation of the UK.
And that's when it hit me.
To create an air of authenticity, Disney hires people from the actual countries to work at EPCOT's fake countries. Which means all the people working in the UK pavilion were British nationals having to put on smiles and act happy for their guests when their nation was in mourning half a world away.
Far from home, the only countrymen they had to lean on were each other.
Which is why today as I watched the horrific events in Paris unfold, my thoughts were not just with the people of Paris and France... but with the French natives at EPCOT'S France Pavilion. And, by extension, French natives around the world who are abroad as tragedy strikes.
You are far from home, but you are not alone, as the world mourns with you and your beautiful city of Paris...
First Beirut, now Paris. A part of me wonders if the violence which permeates this world will ever end.
I have to believe that it will. It has to.
This world we've built is not sustainable.
Posted on Sunday, November 29th, 2015
Get your travel on, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• United? My chosen airline, Alaska Air, can't get me to Portland, Maine. Usually, this is not a problem... I just fly into Boston and spend an hour-and-a-half driving up. But winters in New England can be unpredictably harsh, and I wanted to get as close as I could to my destination. Delta's total flying time was absurdly long and the cost insanely high. United was much more reasonable on both counts, so I decided to go that route... despite having no status with the airline. It was a huge mistake. I haven't been this miserable flying in a long time. And they lost my luggage.
• Seated. The only GOOD thing to happen this flight? There was an empty spot next door, so my OREOs had a seat all their own...
Better than getting crushed in a seat-back pocket, that's for sure.
• Rent. Still don't understand how rental car companies think that giving you any car other than the one you reserved is "an upgrade." It's not. If the car you receive is a completely different size, that's a DOWNgrade. And I don't care if you're not charging me for it... this is still not the car I was expecting.
• Hotel. My favorite lodging chain, hands-down, is W hotels. Amazing properties that are usually out of reach for my budget... but an amazing surprise when I can swing it. If I can't get into the W, I look for another Starwood property I like... Aloft hotels. They're sorta like a budget version of W, and always nice. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of them around. Which means I'm usually compromising. My favorite compromises of the moment? Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn. I've been pleasantly surprised by both chains, and started patronizing them faithfully after "regular" Hiltons took a massive price hike. Right now I'm in the Hilton Garden Inn Portland Jetport, and will be moving to another Garden Inn tomorrow when I reach Auburn. After that, I'm not sure where I'll be... but I am pretty sure of what hotel I'll be staying in. When you travel a lot, that kind of consistency is gold.
• Water. Okay... it's gold most of the time. Perhaps not tonight. The first thing I do after I've tossed my luggage in the shower is to remove my shoes (helpful hint: tossing your luggage on a bed is a potential bedbug hazard that's best avoided). Unfortunately, I didn't notice that the refrigerator was leaking a huge pool of water on the floor, and walked into it with my one pair of socks. Since I have no idea when I'll see my luggage, I'm now stuck with wet socks that have been streaked with brown goo. Good times. Good times.
• Lost. And since I don't have any idea when I'll be getting my bag, tomorrow morning I'll have to rearrange my schedule and head to... THE MALL... =shudder=. Fortunately The Maine Mall has an Eddie Bauer... the only place I seem to be able to consistently find Tall Sizes off the rack. Their clothes are constructed okay, but the styles they have seem to have taken a nose-dive in the past couple years. Hopefully I can find something I'm happy with, because I really don't need any more unhappiness coming my way this trip.
And... back to Maine... and sleep.
Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2015
Today my work took me to Auburn, Maine. A pleasant city that's about an hour north of Portland and one half of the "twin cities" of Auburn & Lewiston.
As I mentioned yesterday, my hotel of choice in the area is the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. And the river in question being watched? The Androscoggin River, which divides Auburn and Lewiston.
Or so I would guess.
In the many times I've stayed at the Riverwatch, I've never had a room with a view of the river so I can actually watch it.
But this time I asked at the desk if they could hook me up. Since tourist season is dead, dead, dead this time of year, it wasn't a problem...
Not quite the awesome view I was expecting.
I'm guessing that it's a lot more interesting in the Summer.
Anyway... work is a long, drawn out affair that will last well into tomorrow. Lucky for me, I was able to escape for a short dinner break. That isn't always possible, so it's kind of nice when it happens. Must be time for She Doesn't Like Guthries!
Guthries is probably my favorite place to eat in the region, and I have no idea how that's even possible. There is no kitchen. Just a couple panini presses and a small stove behind the bar... and yet they turn out these amazing meals. Their Sweet Potato Burrito is my favorite, but everything I've ever eaten here has been fresh and delicious. Magic?
As if that wasn't enough magic, United called and told me that they found my luggage. Unfortunately, since I have no idea where I'll be tomorrow, I can't tell them where to deliver it. Hopefully I'll be able to swing by the airport and pick it up myself... but I have an extra pair of underwear and socks if it turns out I can't.
My bag being found is a huge load off my mind because one of my favorite shirts in existence is inside. And it's not like I can just order another Jarrod Saltalamacchia Boston Red Sox T-shirt seeing as how he's no longer with the team.
And now... back to work.
Posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Got out of work around 4am, which was nice. And pretty much on-time. A pleasant change from last time when things ran nearly a day late. I celebrated by sleeping in early, then catching up on work back home.
I decided to spend the night closer to the airport, and headed back to Portland. Partly because I'm familiar with the city and comfortable hanging out there... but mostly because amazing dessert was calling me from the Flatbread Company. In the Summer they have a Maine blueberry cobbler that's to die for. in the Winter it's usually apple cobbler, which is almost as good...
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Noon. Check out of the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. Which was a lot weirder than usual. Even though I was specifically told it wasn't. There I was loading the trunk of my rental car in the hotel parking lot when a big black pickup truck comes squealing up beside me. A guy leans out the passenger-side window and is waving a yellow piece of paper. "HEY! HEY! YOU WOULDN'T HAPPEN TO WANT A HOME THEATER AUDIO SYSTEM INSTALLED, WOULD YOU?!?" — "Uhhhh... not unless you want to drive 3000 miles to my house..." — "THIS ISN'T WEIRD... WE'RE HOME AUDIO INSTALLERS!" — "And you're looking for business in a hotel parking lot where people you find probably don't even live in the area?" — "No... we're looking in ALL the parking lots!" — "Um... okay?" — "THIS ISN'T WEIRD! WE'RE INSTALLERS!!!"
12:30pm. Drop by the Home Depot in Topsham to see if they have the towel loop I was shorted when my local Home Depot ran out. And they did! If my luggage goes missing again, at least I'll have something to pack home with me.
1:30pm. Check into my hotel and have housekeeping barge in on me while I'm answering emails. At least I had my pants on this time.
2:30pm. I still have tons of work to catch up on, so I can't really go out... but I'm too hungry to avoid eating. So off I go next door to Micucci's Italian Grocery where they have this amazing slabs of Sicilian pizza I love...
4:30pm. Still full from pizza, but hot apple crisp from Flatbread Company cannot be denied.
Midnight. My new lip balm is Maine blueberry flavored. As a result, the entire room smells like a blueberry muffin exploded. This made me hungry again, so I went to the hotel gift shop to see if they had a snack. I am now eating an entire tub of DIBS ice cream snacks at midnight because it's the only thing they had that sounded good. This is not going to bode well for a good night's sleep... but oh well. What else is new?
1:30am. I write this post then plan on surrendering to sweet slumber. Hopefully.
And... that was pretty much it. This probably sounds like I spent most of my day eating, but almost all of it was spent working.
Sadly, no time for pretty pictures like last time.
Posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Much like Janice in Accounting*, United Airlines don't give a fuck.
It all started when I missed a conference call on Monday morning because I had to buy clothes for work. The only time I could reschedule the call was for Thursday, but I would need to be back home because the later date would require access to some design sheets I didn't have with me. No problem, right? I just call United and explain the situation.
Except it ended up being a huge problem, because United wouldn't agree to put me on an earlier flight home. THEY lose my luggage, necessitating all these changes, but it's going to cost ME a $200 change fee plus $450 for the ticket cost difference. I politely explain that it's not my fault the luggage was lost and I shouldn't have to pay anything... but they disagree. Talking to a supervisor gets me a "one time offer" to waive the $200 change fee, but not the $450.
Needless to say, I'm livid.
It costs United nothing to make the situation right and get me home over a situation they cause... there's empty seats... but they don't give a fuck about my situation.
So I regretfully start yelling at the supervisor over United's shitty policy and eventually she finds a flight to get me home in time in an effort to get me to shut the hell up. Which is so damn stupid. Why the fuck can't they do the right thing to begin with? Why does it take somebody screaming at them before they'll reluctantly solve a problem THEY created?
But that was yesterday, surely things will go better today. Right?
Nope. It just gets worse.
As I mentioned, my luggage was lost. I made it to Portland, but my bag did not. So I reported the problem, only to be told that they have no idea if/when my bag would show up. Discouraging, but that's the way it goes. Ironically, I stopped flying United a couple decades ago because they lost my luggage (permanently) twice in six months. Now, the first time flying the airline in years, and they lose my luggage again. Except this time I actually ended up getting it back...
You will never leave my side again, Saltalamacchia!
When I check in for my flight, I naturally tell them I'd like the baggage fee waived since I never got to see my bag the entire time I was here.
Essentially, they blame this on me because I didn't know where I'd be in order for them to have delivered my suitcase yesterday. I explain that this is hardly my fault... that's the way my job works, and not knowing where I'll be is not something I can control... but United don't give a fuck.
Instead they offer me a $25 certificate good for my next flight.
Which I refuse, because I'll never be flying with this piece of shit airline ever again. I mean, first I had to pay $240 for last-minute clothes, now they expect me to pay $25 MORE for clothes I never got to use? Fuck that.
And so I vow to make this the most expensive $25 baggage fee they've ever collected. I will pass up no opportunity to badmouth United Airlines from this day forward. Everybody I run across will come to understand what fucking assholes are running the show at United, and how much I fucking hate the entire United Airlines organization.
Those feelings were doubled when I realized that my bag was not checked all the way home, but terminated in Seattle (despite the guy helping me having said it would be transferred to Alaska Airlines). Which means I paid $25 to get my bag home, and it's not even going to get home. I tied to get that resolved, but the United representative at the gate don't give a fuck either. Essentially, United booked me on a connecting flight home that doesn't exist (the 11:10 doesn't fly on Wednesdays). So I had to politely beg Alaska Airlines to put me on a flight that does exist. But in United's computer, THAT'S the flight that doesn't exist. Never mind that I show them my boarding pass for a flight that obviously exists since I've checked in for it... there's nothing they can do. So I ask if there's somebody I can speak to who CAN do something... only to get an epic eye-roll. She then calls a supervisor and says "I have a customer here demanding that I check his bags onto a flight that doesn't exist..."
"Demanding?" Fuck you. All I did was ask a damn question and show you proof that the flight does exist! I tell her to forget it, that I'll just collect my bag in Seattle and re-check it.
I'd like to say that things get better from there, but they didn't.**
All in all, United provided me one of the worst experiences I have ever had in 25 years of near constant travel. I hate... HATE... the company and everything they stand for. If no other airline can get me where I need to go, I would rather drive through a fucking blizzard than to ever fly United again.
And everybody is going to know it.
*Janice is from This Week Tonight with John Oliver... a show that you should be watching if you haven't been.
**A crappy hotel, another canceled flight, weather delays, winter storm advisory, and a complete douche nearly ramming into my car in the airport parking lot awaited me.
Posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
And so... I'm home.
And my bag is here with me.
No thanks to United Airlines... the fucking assholes.
Never, ever, fly with United.
Posted on Friday, December 4th, 2015
I got home in the nick of time.
The weather here is getting a bit crazy.
Kinda pretty though... if you can ignore the crummy road conditions. Looks better from the air though, which I found out as I was flying home yesterday morning...
Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2015
I've been to Pearl Harbor four times... five times?
I've been to Pearl Harbor some times.
Which is why every time December 7th rolls around, I find myself back in Oahu standing in front of the Memorial Wall at the back of the USS Arizona memorial...
Which is kinda nice. It remains one of the most beautiful memorials I've ever seen...
And it beats the hell out of flashbacks to Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor...
Something best forgotten... any day.
Posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2015
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As usual, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
This year was difficult for many reasons, but I tried to make the best of it whenever I could. ...
• Restored some very cool old family photos...
• Finally made the switch from Apple's discontinued Aperture to Adobe Lightroom.
• Got angry at the lobbyist pig-fuckers ruining this country.
• Mourned the loss of the blogs in my life.
• Went to a birthday party in San Diego and took some photos...
• I love baby bats!
• Had another encounter with Cirque du Soleil, this time with KURIOS!
• Flew to Memphis to visit their new Hard Rock Cafe, see the sights, and visit some friends...
• Spent the evening photographing beautiful Beale Street...
• Got my hands on the majesty that is the Retina 5K iMac.
• Sang the praises of Netflix and Marvel's Daredevil.
• Took a trip to Vancouver so I could get detained, visit the new Hard Rock Casino, and eat TimBits...
• Had a less than stellar experience when visiting the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Lake Tahoe...
• Visited Anchorage to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there and take the Alaska Railroad so I could go glacier watching...
• Marvel at Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande as they Don't Dream it's Over...
• Dropped some text on vitiligo.
• Spent too long obsessing over a video where a cat taking a nap got an unexpected ride...
• Equality nation-wide...
• Wrote a love letter to Back to the Future on the event of the film's 30th anniversary.
• America. A retrospective of greatness.
• Took a look back at some of my favorite television commercials from past years.
• Took a trip to Los Angeles and visited The Getty Museum...
• Was disgusted by being disgusted.
• Said goodbye to PDX carpet after flying to Portland for a wedding...
• Finally, finally got to see a concert at Red Rocks... DURAN DURAN!
• Became obsessed with LEGO Dimensions...
• Sorry, I'm not Josh...
• iTunes is the shittiest software ever.
• Spent a beautiful day in Marin County...
• Went to see Walk the Moon with Jestertunes...
• Finally said goodbye to my piece of shit car.
• On a trip to Portland, Maine, I discovered that United Airlines Don't Give a Fuck.
• Delved into the world of home automation.
• Closed out my travel year by flying back to San Francisco so I could see The 1975 with Jestertunes.
And that was my adventures in 2015.
Here's wishing everybody a terrific 2016!