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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow's Eve 2007

For the first time in many years, I'm living in the suburbs during Halloween. Satan's holiday certainly has a different feel here than in a city. In Brooklyn, people used to dress up, but I wouldn't see too many kids around. In Sydney, most Australians refused to dress up for Halloween. "That's silly stuff." Instead, they would go to a "fancy dress" party on any other night of the year and put on a costume as if it were Halloween.

A couple of months ago, I looked out of a window and into the backyard of the folks who live next door. "Dana?" I called. "Why is Steve building an electric chair?" Dana explained that Halloween is Steve's holiday, so when I saw a dummy hanging from a noose a few weeks later, I thought nothing of it. Steve's creations make their way to his front lawn (with Steve's help) throughout the month of October. With the strobe lights and fog machines working, the front of their house is convincingly creepy. The tree of heads is the freakiest.

Steve & Maureen also host a Halloween party for adults. This party was last Friday night. Costumes are mandatory. Dana went as Sexy Thomas the Tank Engine, Alexis as a leopard-cat, Tom as [thisisafamilyshow]-in-a-box, and I as Amazing Man. The inside of their house was as well-decorated as the outside, and food & drink was plentiful. Once a second tequila shot guy came to the party, things got crazy.

Halloweeriffic photos. There's also a shot of the tap handles at the BBQ gem Fette Sau, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They're all made out of butcher's tools, so it's Halloweeish enough. Hope everyone had a nauseatingly scary night.


randyhate [ran-dee-heyt] verb, rand·y·hat·ed, rand·y·hat·ing, noun
–verb (used with object) dislike intensely or passionately beyond reason; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward something that is really just a little annoying to most people: to randyhate PDF menus; to randyhate hipster music. be unwilling; dislike common things: I randyhate to wear shorts.
–verb (used without object) feel intense dislike that others might be dismayed by, or extreme aversion or hostility to all things non-plaid.
4.intense dislike; extreme aversion or hostility.
5.the object of extreme aversion or hostility, with the desire to destroy.

[Origin: bef. 2003; ME randyhat(i)en, OE randyhatian (v.); c. D randyhaten, ON randyhata, Goth randyhatan, G randyhassen]

randyhater, noun

1. [none, I randyhate synonyms. Thesauruses are for stupid, lazy people who can't think of the proper word on their own. All thesauruses should be confiscated and burned in a public display of just how stupid they are, and their owners should be beaten. A boosh-bah-gooshgah. {two thumbs down}]
1. picklelove.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Found: Previously Unblogged Photos from Queensland

In the process of summarizing the Big Trip, I came across of cache of pictures from Tropical North Queensland. There are some shots from Port Douglas, the Daintree River, a night walk through the rain forest and the beach of Cape Tribulation. Spiders, frogs, water dragons, walking fish and even a cassowary. Enjoy the lost photos!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Photo from Sydney Farewell

My friend from Sydney, Sam, known for dancing hip-hop, sent me this photo from our farewell party. From left to right (we're all over the place, but I'm going based on the spot right between the eyes): Anna, Fiona, Glenn, Aaron, Glenn, Denis, Dana, Alexis, Sam, Lana and Ben. There are a lot of 'a's and 'n's in those names, aren't there. 11 a's and 12 n's. The n's win! I'm happy because I didn't bet on n. We didn't have a black and white theme to the party, but for some reason we wound up dressed that way.

There we go. Now it looks like it's from a long time ago. And the black and white makes more sense. Thanks for the photo Sam.

The Big Trip Summary - Getting Around

We made our roundabout way from Sydney to New York on a combinations of planes, trains, boats and cars. Frequent flier miles covered a fair bit of it. Multiple treks between New York & Sydney had its perks!

Queensland, Australia
We flew from Sydney to Cairns on Jetstar. Since it was a domestic flight on a budget airline, the baggage limit was 20kg (44lbs) per person. We had packed our luggage based on international travel, since we were, after all, flying back to New York. We packed those bags to the max, full of clothes to last us for 50 days of traveling in a wide variety of climates, plus the stuff we forgot to ship back to the States. According to Jetstar policy, we were fined for each kilogram extra, which amounted to roughly the cost of two Qantas flights to Singapore. Slight exaggeration, but whatever we saved was canceled out. Oh well. We were still in a daze from our fun-filled farewells, so we hardly noticed the absence of entertainment, food and leg space. When Dana and I were confronted with the huge fine from Jetstar at 6AM the day we were leaving Sydney, still reeling from saying farewell to dozens of great friends, we reminded ourselves that there would likely be many more instances of unexpected charges, and we would have to roll with it. Thankfully, it started and ended with Jetstar.

The car we used in Cairns was obtained on miles from Velocity, accumulated by Dana's numerous Virgin Blue flights to Melbourne. There were not many hidden fees for the Europcar we picked up at the airport in Cairns, and it was a piece of cake. That little white car fared better than I did in the Queensland rain forest.

There was a scheduled layover in Sydney during our flight from Cairns to Singapore: 7 hours. But that was OK, because we booked the flight on Qantas with miles. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed 3 hours, and we were not allowed to leave the airport for security reasons. Sydney Airport has shockingly little to do and very few places to eat. Dana and I passed the time watching movies on the iBook and reading. I also squeezed a meal voucher from Qantas, which we used to purchase a salad and a bottle of wine. For about ten hours, we sat in that airport cafe and watched the sun and clouds play above the beautiful city that we were leaving. Blades of Glory was showing on the flight, so that was funny.

Qantas was decent, as usual, but we were really looking forward to the flight from Singapore to Rome: Emirates. I had booked the flight through Expedia, and we actually had to pay for it, so we couldn't wait to experience this airline that everyone said was so good. It Sucked. That wasn't a typo, it sucked with a capital S. The seats were tiny, the food was absurdly small, and the mediocre films being shown were worse than they would have been on a Qantas flight. And the flight attendants were rude. Worse than the in-flight experience was the pre-flight experience. Due to our delay on arriving in Singapore, we did not get to our hotel until 2AM. Our Emirates flight was set to depart the following morning at 3AM. The visit was an enjoyable whirlwind, like riding on Space Mountain for 24 hours, but getting back to the airport was like getting back in line for another ride when you really have to vomit. Security screening led us into a tiny waiting room about half the size of the plane. As we sat, drained from the hectic stopover, we were forced to watch Ellen Degeneres dance in a raincoat to a Justin Timberlake song as a bunch of uncoordinated audience members danced along, wearing much cheaper raincoats. Plastic garbage bags, really. The flight was delayed, but they didn't announce that until 4AM, after I had confronted the service desk. We were freed to urinate before being cattle-prodded back into the holding pen.

The layover in Dubai was a feast for the senses. We landed at about 6AM local time. A shuttle bus picked us up at the plane and drove us past the airport expansion to our arrival gate. It took about 25 minutes. Someday soon, this will be the biggest and busiest airport in the world... or is it already? It seemed to be, with the massive shopping centers built into this timeless alcove. At 6:45AM Dubai time I was being offered samples of liquor. Instead I bought the most expensive face lotion I have ever purchased. I still have plenty left. I'm savoring it.

Our first European train experience was in Italy. I understand why they fired Mussolini, but do they keep the trains running poorly just to spite his ghost? I mean, they hung him upside-down and skinned him, isn't that enough? Do they need to make innocent American tourists suffer? Perhaps. Perhaps. Anyway, we were at Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport (Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino), waiting for the Leonardo Express, for over 20 minutes before it arrived. It arrived empty, so I'm not sure where the delay could have been. Next, only half of the doors opened, and they quickly began closing on the humans boarding. Here's a train that is meant to carry passengers from an airport that only has narrow doorways and steep steps up into the carriage. I lost a thong, or flip-flop, climbing in. Those behind me watched the piece of rubber footwear do a Slinky act down the steps and onto the tracks before continuing their rush on board. That thong meant a lot to me, and I mourn its early separation. It was replaced by a pair of Italian leather sandals in Florence, but I still have the lost shoe's twin. I shall keep it forever.

For us, Italy was all about the train. We had been warned about driving in Italy, and I thought being a pedestrian was enough of a risk. We caught the train from Rome to Cortona, but, of course, we got off at the wrong Cortona stop. Cortona-Camucia, not Cortona-Perugia! Dummy! We hitched rides around Tuscany, noting the frustration in our American family members that each intersection merely tells you which direction to turn for the next intersection. Driving in Italy seemed to be like finding your way through a cornfield maze, at best, like playing QBert at worst.

We took a sleeper car from Florenze to Nice, as has been blog-noted. That was a great experience. More details here.

In Nice, we picked up our Peugeot, the car that would take us north to Belgium. A fella on VirtualTourist clued me into their Open Europe plan. It was essentially a leased car, which provided huge savings over car rental. If you are an American citizen and need a car for an extended period of time, check it out. The car didn't give us any problems, but 24 hour roadside assistance was included. The only problem was that they could not grasp the fact that I was not flying to Nice. In countless emails and phone conversations, I stressed that I would be arriving by try and will be traveling for weeks before I get there. For weeks before I got there, their office made frantic attempts to get in touch with me to find out what airline and flight I would be arriving on. Still, everyone I dealt with was helpful and friendly, even if a little deaf.

Now we got to drive! Our first European road trip was to Monaco & Monte Carlo. I still don't get which which one is which, but it was a bit of a let-down. The drive was nice! Speaking of nice, it was tough to find a place to park in Nice. Things got a lot easier once we left the Mediterranean Coast. French people are anal drivers, though. On a three lane highway, with no other vehicles in sight, I was in the middle lane when a car came up behind me in the right lane. He crossed to the middle lane, tailgated for a moment, then flashed me. I moved to the right, he passed me, and moved back into the right lane. I gave a puzzled look that he could not see.

Our biggest road trip was in France, when we drove from Avignon to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Our decision to take small roads caused us to spend a good ten hours in the car, but the views were amazing. Most of the time we were behind a truck, but left and right were gorgeous.

Those sticklers for independence in Switzerland charged 30 Swiss francs to drive in their country, but besides that, driving was free. Gas wasn't cheap, but not a lot of tolls. Somehow we made our way around without a map in countries where we could not speak the language. I developed a special skill that enabled me to magically find every hotel without getting lost. When that failed, I would run into the closest hotel and ask for directions to the hotel we were staying at. Those guys love to use the little maps they keep behind the counter.

Driving gave us some freedom to see some of the smaller towns and less-traveled roads. Avoiding the highways in Switzerland enabled us to see far more of the countryside, but probably doubled the travel time. As we made our way north, it was interesting to see the change in crops, such as large expanses of vineyards giving way to hop fields. Sunflowers stood like waiting armies in every country we visited in Europe, seeming only to grow shorter as we climbed up to the Low Countries.

Once we dropped off the car in Brussels, and Jan made his way out of the one-way dead-end at the airport, we were back on the trains. A much more relaxing and Earth-friendly way to travel, I would try to take more trains when we get back to Europe.

Back to New York
I've already double blogged this leg of the journey, so I don't have much to add. This British Airways flight was booked through Qantas on miles, so we had a very long layover. The flight itself was pleasant, and would have to take first place in comparison to other airlines of the trip. It was a pleasant and comfortable way to spend a few hours thinking about the incredible trip we had just finished.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Shiny Head

I had an Oops Moment yesterday, electric razor in hand. There are two times you don't want to have an Oops Moment: when when cutting your hair and when performing a circumcision. I don't perform circumcisions, so, thankfully, my Oops Moment only trimmed my hair too short. I picked up a razor a couple of months ago and knew that someday I would forget to reset the setting. Instead of different clips, it has a dial. Whenever you take the clip off to shake out the hair, it resets to 1. That's 1 millimeter. Bzzz.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

YAY!!! We Found an Apartment! GRRRR!!!

Dana and I have finally found an apartment! It's a spacious 2 bedroom in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. Don't know where Boerum Hill is? Don't feel bad. Most people don't. It's a term the real estate companies made up to charge higher rent for places in Gowanus. Our new pad is between Park Slope and Fort Greene. A very convenient location in a newly-renovated pre-war building. So why the "GRRR"? Three words: ------- ------ brokers. I had to bleep out the first two words because this is a family show after all.

After finding the place on Craigslist. The ad just said it was a 2BR on Pacific in Boerum Hill, so I called the agent for more details. Here's a brief summary of the conversation...

  • Me: Where exactly on Pacific is it?
  • Him: It's right there were you want to be.
  • Me: Can you give me a cross street?
  • Him: It's right in the middle, the train is close.
  • Me: Which train?
  • Him: It's right in the center of things.
  • Me: Is it on 4th Ave, near Atlantic Center?
  • Him: Yeah, that's it.
  • Me: Is it a true 2 bedroom or a 1 and a half?
  • Him: Yeah it has two bedrooms.
  • Me: Can you give me the size in square feet?
  • Him: The apartment is a good size. I think 7... something.
  • Me: So probably one bedroom plus den.
  • Him: No, their both the same size... like 11 by 11.
  • Me: Oh. And what floor is it on?
  • Him: It's on a higher floor.
  • Me: What direction does it face?
  • Him: It faces two directions.
  • Me: OK, can you get me more details so I can decide if I should come see it?
  • Him: Yeah, what time is good for you? I've been here over 5 years so I can pretty much answer any question you have.
  • Me: Right.
I'm a glutton for punishment, so we did go to see the place. As mentioned, it's really nice. It'll be much nicer once we fumigate for real estate brokers. This clownhead called us nonstop when he needed up to bring in certified checks for his payment, but when we need information from him, he's elusive.

Need some more examples? OK!

The move-in date advertised was November 1st. After we submitted our application (plus a fee of $100 per applicant), he said the management company wanted to do more work. This was kind of good because the floor was very stained, and we had asked if they could put it in writing that they would fix it. (The answer? "They don't usually , like, do stuff like that.") However, they said they wanted to push the move-in date to December 1st.
  • Me: What sort of work?
  • Him: All sorts of stuff.
  • Me: What specifically?
  • Him: Like, a lot.
  • Me: Are they doing the floors?
  • Him: Probably.
  • Me: Can you talk to them about moving in on the 15th?
  • Him: We'll just put December 1st, no big deal.
  • Me: But I would like to move in earlier if possible.
  • Him: Well, if it's ready earlier, you can probably move in earlier. It's not a big deal.
  • Me: Maybe it's not a big deal for you, but I need to know when we're moving!
After all that fun, we received a forwarded email from his boss that said, "The management company wants to leave December 1st for legal reasons." Our broker added the line, "so here's the deal." Great deal! Hey knucklehead, why didn't you just add the line, "So here's what's happening: we're not going to consider your needs." I would have appreciated that sort of honesty.

We brought the certified checks, for his commission and a security deposit, along with two signed copied of the lease, for the management company to sign. As expected, the broker showed up ten minutes late to the meeting he had rescheduled. Today, Dana sent an email to him asking if everything was OK and when we should expect to get our copy back. The broker forwarded that to his manager with the intro, "i dont know the answer to this q" His manager wrote back, "It will be mailed to them after they move in," and the broker simply forwarded that email chain to Dana. Can you get any lazier? As Randy said to me, "You think they are working for you, but you are working for them." Very true. And it makes me so happy to see a manager setting a good example of making the client feel important. Oh wait, I forgot that we're not the client. Sorry, it's just a rough gig to pay thousands of dollars to be treated like dirt. Wouldn't this money be better-spent at an S&M club?

This has not been one of the most entertaining blog posts, I know. I rarely blog a rant, but I wanted this one out there so I can send a link to the broker once he's out of the picture. Ordinarily, I would speak to the broker's manager, but it's clear that he went to the same school of business. An excellent school, I'm sure. I'll leave them both nameless here. I will mention that the company is Ardor Real Estate, also called Ardor Realty. When I last spoke to the broker and finally mentioned that he's making this much harder for us than he has to, his reply?
"This is New York, what do you expect?"

There we go! Thanks for finally spewing out a bit of honesty. Once I get a friggin copy of the lease, we'll book a rental truck and have a long road of happier apartment blog posts to drive upon!

I would love to read some comments on this experience or similar fun with brokers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Trip Down South - Atlanta

We departed Tega Cay and made our last stop on the Southern Tour: Atlanta. I had driven past Atlanta before, but I had never stopped there. Dana went to school there for four years. So this was a new experience for me a sort of homecoming for Dana. We stayed with Ali & Mike in their apartment in Midtown, a very trendy part of town. Like the previous stop, the camera did not come out too much... we were too busy talking and eating. The visit was an enjoyable one, and we can't wait for Ali & Mike to move up to New York this winter.

A few still photographs from Atlanta.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Big Trip Photos Mapped

Google offers a free photo-sharing application called Picasa. I don't use it for much, but I created an account and had all the photos I had added to blog posts automatically added to an album. The result was an eclectic mix of images ranging from coneheads and John Howard to rubber duckies and Sam Coates. Pretty neat. But next I dragged some of the photos to a map, dropping them on the city where the photos was taken. Very cool. Now you can roughly follow the path we took from Rome to Brussels. I fear this may expose my secret identity... but it's worth it. Check out the photo map here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Big Trip Ends

After Antwerpen, we went back to Brussels for one last night with Jan & Maxine. They took us to one of their favorite restaurants and I ate horse for the first time. I had to: it was my last night of travel-food experimentation, but I did really enjoy the meat. It was perfectly cooked and very tender. Not quite kangaroo, but better than wild boar.

Maxine gave us a lift to the airport and we flew to London Heathrow for our eight hour layover. We were expecting the worst, and it wasn't that bad. After converting our remaining 50 euro into pounds, we had 25 bucks to spend on a meal and some hand-pumped real ale. Eventually we boarded our plane and the relatively short flight delivered us safely to our mother country.

Hold on one second... ah yes, I thought this summary sounded familiar. That post was three months ago today. Well now the photo-sorting and summary-writing part of The Big Trip has ended. Sort of. Please stay tuned...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Trip Down South - Tega Cay

From Philadelphia we took the scenic route to Tega Cay, home of Sand Gnats. It's also where my brother lives with his wife and three kids. We went to see the Sand Gnats, but it was also nice to see family.

Tega Cay, in South Carolina but just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, dates back to 1972, when a young man named Tega Cay sought the freedom to settle a new town and name it after himself.

OK, now that all the nonsense is out of the way, the rest of this post will be dedicated to truth, though you might not believe all of it. First the stuff that's easy to believe...

We had an excellent time catching up with Chris, Jan, Mike, CJ, Katie and Luke. We only had three nights, but we made the most of it, except when Dana went to get her hair done at the Steel Magnolia place. Aside from going to watch Michael & CJ's Little League team, the Sand Gnats, we just hung around, catching up. Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the baseball game - it was semi-dark and raining - but I did get a few shots of Mike & CJ with their parakeet, Luke.

Perhaps it's a result of all the traveling I've done lately, but the camera stayed hidden in my pocket most of the visit... until we came across fearsome goats and an abandoned Christian amusement park. We didn't find the goats to be particularly scary, but a warning sign kept us at a distance. This was a nice lunch spot where we also took a look at the Reverend Billy Graham's grandfather's cabin. It was closed, so we ate our Subway sandwiches on the porch.

Afterwards, Chris took us on a drive to the ruins of Heritage USA. This Christian-themed amusement park was, in the mid-80s, the 3rd largest amusement park in the country after Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker built it, along with a massive hotel, on the grounds of their church/business. This was not a very successful long-term venture for Jim Bakker. He accepted $1000 donations in exchange for a 4 day stay at the hotel. He didn't do the math and there were not enough rooms for all the people who had donated. After a lawsuit, those who donated $1000 received a refund of $6.54. This and the affair with his secretary Jessica Hahn, among other things, led to the demise of Heritage USA. He sold it to Jerry Falwell. You may remember Jerry Falwell as the class act who said the gays, lesbians, pagans, and others helped bring the September 11th upon us. Here's a silly photo of him on the water slide Typhoon, fully dressed. Let's laugh at him.

Somehow I managed to fit my brother, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, killer goats and a water slide all in the same post. Thanks to a trip to South Carolina.

More photos here. And if you want to see more photos of Heritage USA, this site has lots of great shots of the place in its heyday and after it fell into disrepair but before they dismantled most of it. The photographer even made it up to the higher floors of the hotel before being chased by security guards.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I was with great difficulty that Dana and I arrived in the last city of our Big Trip. The train ride from Brugge should have been an easy one, but somewhere a train was out of service and we had to connect through Brussels. The 70 minute trip took 200 minutes. Still, the trains were clean, if ill-directed, and arriving at Antwerpen Central Station was an excellent introduction to the city. The massive glass structure makes me think of what Penn Station in New York looked like before it was destroyed to make room for Madison Square Garden. Antwerpen-Centraal, designed by Louis Delacenserie, was completed in 1905, and nearly destroyed 10 years ago. Thankfully, the citizens argues for its restoration instead.

We walked along the main shopping street, Meir, to our lunch destination: Grand Cafe Horta. This restaurant was built in the style of the famous Belgian, art nouveau architect Victor Horta. The structure is from a building built by Horta and rescued from demolition in Brussels. It's worth a stop for both the food and atmosphere.

Our hotel was easy to find, directly across the street from the Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) in the Grote Markt. The room was noteworthy for two other features: no door to the bathroom and a tiny photo of a baby taped to the wall. These bizarre details are consistent with many of the bizarre details of the city itself. A few examples:

  • Small buildings have been built onto the side of the cathedral. Look at the McDonald's here.
  • The city's name comes from the Dutch for "hand thrown" because the town's hero, Silvius Brabo, cut the hand off the giant Antigoon and threw it into the Scheldt River.
  • Brabo is memorialized in several parts of the city, most notably Brabo Statue in front of City Hall. The statue is a fountain and water spews from the severed hand as well as the arm of the vanquished giant. (The water was turned off when we were there.)
Antwerp is also home to several interesting watering holes:
  • De Vagant is a cafe that serves hundreds of varieties of jenever, a juniper-flavored liquor that is the predecessor to gin. Dana and I both enjoyed what we tried, and the staff was very helpful. A very interesting spot and a perfect refuge from the pouring rain.
  • 't Miniatuurke is the smallest and most friendly bar I have even been in. It's two stories, and each level could hold about eight people. We chatted with the regulars for a long time before one them directed us to an ATM and a good spot to get mussels. One wall was lined with caricatures of younger versions of the locals we were speaking with.
  • As I sat in Oud Arsenaal, and the locals went in or out, it felt like I was watching a play. The bar was a perfect set, with it's tiled floors and antique beer signs and jar of boiled eggs. On top of the interesting character, the place has an exceptional beer list.

During our last full day in Belgium, we visited the home of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. Raised in Antwerpen from when he was 12, he traveled to Italy to study and returned with first-hand knowledge of what the Italian masters were doing. His home, now the Rubenshuis museum, contains much of his artwork (or replicas), and an audio guide explains his life, his artwork and the building itself. As impressive as the paintings and sculptures are, the architecture of his home and the garden in the back are equally so. After he purchased the house, he built a new building, connected to the old by a gate and hallway, in the modern fashion - baroque. Standing in the courtyard, visitors can look to one side to see the original 16th century residence, then to the other to see Rubens's addition, which he used as a studio. The result is fantastic. The garden is spotted with sculptures and interesting plants. A must visit if you are in Anterpen.

The last gallery of photos from the Big Trip.

Monday, October 15, 2007


While visiting Singapore, I came across a bright yellow canned soft drink called "Whatever" and curiosity got the best of me. There was nothing on the can indicating what might be inside of it. Nowhere could be found the words "cola", "tea" or even "blue blast". I don't remember exactly what the beverage tasted like, and I suppose I never will. The non-carbonated drinks, as well as the carbonated sister drink "Anything", are intentionally sold as questionable products. It's a game of chance. A sort of Russian roulette with soda. Anything could be Cola, Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon or Root Beer. Whatever could be Ice Lemon Tea, Peach Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape Tea, Apple Tea or Chrysanthemum Tea.

I respect the fact that the company is admitting to the consumer that s/he will have no idea what s/he will be consuming. It's hardly ground-breaking. This is already the case with hamburger patty meat and sausages. How about we expand it to movie-going experiences? I can see a half-price crap-shoot cinema in the near future. A production company creates 6 films and releases them to select "I Have No Idea" theaters without any promotions. Only after the lights dim and movie has begun will the audience know if they are about to see a comedy, horror or period drama. Potential. This has got potential.

Anything/Whatever site.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Trip Down South - Philadelphia

From my parents' house we set off for Philadelphia. Dana's aunts have an apartment there, and they were kind enough to let us stay there. I had not been to Philly since I was a young boy. We spent the day brushing up on our American history and seeing old bells and the night enjoying excellent food and beverages. It felt a bit like a school trip with the bonus of beer at the end of the day. And the beer was excellent. My pick would be Monk's: a cozy restaurant with phenomenal Belgian beers to go with the Belgian fare. I had rabbit cooked in Gueuze.

I won't try to sum up all of the American history I re-learned from the knowledgeable National Historic Park rangers, but I will say that it's a lot more complicated than "they declared independence, rang a bell, fought, and wrote the Constitution." It was interesting to hear the rangers give their spin on history, emphasizing one thing or another based on if they preferred Jefferson or Adams. They felt so strongly about it that you would have thought they were talking about Bush and Gore!

Here are some photos from Philly. Unfortunately I did not get a snap of the man drinking a Starbucks coffee while going for a ride in a horse-and-buggy. I did get a shot of Rubber Band Man.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In Bruges/In Brugge

Brugge (Bruges in French) is the capitol of West Flanders, so it seems appropriate to me to use the Dutch spelling here. And although you can't hear my mind as I type this, my head is also pronouncing it in Dutch. I'm sure it's as bad as my spoken pronunciation of the word.

Brugge is a gorgeous place to visit. The canals cover so much land that it's quicker to get around by boat than by car. Theoretically, that is. I didn't see too many boats that were not tour boats, and they don't stop just anywhere, no matter how much you try to pay them, or how badly you have to pee.

This got me thinking about opening up a water taxi service in Brugge. Dana and I had some good, even revolutionary ideas, and we got to talking about them enthusiastically in a backstreet pub. But then this Flemish tough guy came over to our table. It was clear that he didn't approve, or so we thought, until we realized that he was telling us the dinner specials for the evening.

Brugge has a lovely town square, or Grote Markt, much like Leuven and Brussels, and it has enough bizarre statues to keep it from being ejected from Western Europe, but it also has a bit of Southern Europe and Mediterranean vibe to it. Perhaps this is just because of the canals, but I think it also has to do with the sleepy tourist atmosphere. After over a month without setting foot on a boat, we gave into a boat tour, and it was worth it... but yeah, it felt a bit cheesy at the time. The next day we redeemed ourselves by doing a 9 mile walking tour of obscure architectural wonders, most of which were nowhere near a canal.

The city is absolutely beautiful, and I had a hard time deleting any of the photos from the 24 hours we were there. Even the shots on the boat with the skipper and fellow passengers in the frame... they already feel like bits of nostalgia from a trip to Disneyland... like a Space Mountain (or It's a Small World) through a Flemish town rather than space (or a small world). The difference is that these buildings date back hundred of years, and most people have not been exposed to the unique architecture of this region. Please enjoy the photos of: picturisqué Brugge, you love it, Bruges, to see what I mean.

* As a side note, the city is the site for an upcoming film by Martin McDonagh starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson & Ralph Fiennes. I'm looking forward to seeing how many places I recognize!

** If you ever visit Brugge, go to Hotel Erasmus for dinner at least once. This was probably the best-served meal we had in Europe. The owner cares a great deal about the experience of his customers, and he will also make excellent beer (or wine) recommendations if you ask him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Trip Down South - Part 1

After a fairly steady flow of Big Trip entries, I got side-tracked by another trip. This one was not nearly as big, but equally well-earned... at least for one of us. With Dana starting work very soon, we decided to take some time to see some family and friends who live a little farther away than most of our family, but not nearly as far as our Australian friends. And then we threw in two more stops.

Falling squarely in the "not very far away" category would be my parents. However, they live in the direction we were heading, and they were also celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, so a visit was in order. Pat, Jen, Danny & Ciara were also in town, and the little ones are the stars of the photos. It's hard to believe that my parents have been married 40 years. Well, not for me, because my oldest brother is 39. (There is a rumor that my brother was carbon-dated to be 41, but we won't talk about that.) What I mean is that it must be hard for other people to believe it. They don't look old enough! But that's because they were 15 when they were married. Again, I'm kidding. What's true is that both of my parents are very lucky people. We watched clips from their wedding. We flipped through old photo albums. We had a good laugh at some of the clothing, but it's clear that they were very much in love on the day they got married, and things have not changed that much... except for the horn-rimmed glasses.


No not me. Dana.