Archive for August 2006
Early in the morning I got up and took a walk around the neighborhood. It’s a big neighborhood, with huge houses. It’s also very new, and some of the houses aren’t even completely built yet. The development is on the edge of a corn field. I saw some sunflowers there and decided to go walking through it. It was super muddy though, so I decided against it.
Darren went to work and the kids went to their school, but Tisha wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed home. So the two of us just sat around and chatted. It was the first time in a VERY long time that I didn’t have anything to do or worry about, so I could honestly just sit down and relax. It felt great.
When Darren got home from work and the kids got back, we all drove into Overland Park to meet some family for dinner. It was Uncle Bill, Aunt Sherre, Jillain, and her three kids; Corinne, MacQuistan, Riley. We at dinner at Jason’s Deli. Afterwards we sat outside and chatted for a bit, which was nice.
We said good bye to Bill, Sherre, Jillain & the kids and drove back to Gardner. Then Darren gave me a ride on his Honda Phantom around the neighborhood. I hate motorcycles, but for some reason I always enjoy riding on them with Darren. I think part of is that he’s a very responsible rider, and I’ve always trusted him on them. He’s the only person I do trust on a motorcycle.
That ride was great; it was one of the highlights of the trip.
Currently listening to: The Warning by Hot Chip
Wednesday morning Leah and I awoke at seven to go eat breakfast at a local diner. It was crisp green and white and sparkly clean, like toothpaste. The whole town was clean. In fact, I did see some sort of city employee who was walking around with a stick with a grabber on the end picking up trash. But there was no trash, so he was picking up wayward leaves.
After flapjacks and bacon, I said goodbye to Leah and hopped on the road again. 2.5 hours to St. Louis, and then it would be another 4.5 hrs to Gardner. After about two hours on the road, I saw a sign for Lebanon, and remembered that that was the name of the city where Ariana was staying for the week, so I decided to exit the highway and stop to suprise her.
After about 20 minutes of driving down a country road followed by a futile search for Cedars Camp around Lebanon, I stopped at the town’s little downtown visitor’s center, only to be told that I was in Lebanon Illinois, and the Lebanon I was thinking about was probably in Missouri, or maybe Indiana, because there was a Lebanon there, too.
I sighed, and got back on the road, feeling a little silly that I’d lost 45 minutes. I continued down the road towards St. Louis, and decided that I wouldn’t spend any more time on trying to find the right Lebanon.
I cruised through St. Louis a bit after noon and had a fun time whizzing around that city as I transferred from the city to the interstate that would lead me to Kansas City. The highways on St. Louis are big and round and easy to navigate. Driving on them reminded me 1) of my college days living near St. Louis and 2) of a toy car road track I had as a child.
It had been overcast all day, but the sun broke through somewhere along the Ozarks. That picked up my spirits quite a bit, and I cranked the music and rolled down the windows.
After a few traffic jams, I arrived in Gardner, just outside of Kansas City, around 6:30 pm. My sister-in-law Tisha had left to take their three year old daughter to her first dance lesson, so Darren, little Blake and I left for dinner at a nearby sports bar cafe called Austin’s. Tisha and Taylor met up with us a while later after Taylor’s dance lesson.
Darren, Tisha and family have recently moved into a new big house in the suburbs. It’s been freshly built, with all new amenities and a hi tech carpet that rejects liquids. The whole suburb is the exact same way, new and big. I had lived in suburbs growing up, but hadn’t quite been exposed to this level of seriousness.
The new development had been built on the side of a corn field, and was still so new that many of the houses were still unoccupied. After dinner, I sat on their porch looking out over the cul-de-sac to watch the sunset.
Sunsets in the Midwest are so much more beautiful than sunsets in the East. Or at least the NorthEast. Something about the atmosphere in the midwest makes the air hazy, which diffuses the setting’s sun light across the whole sky, making the entire heavens glow orange and red. I had forgotten about it until that moment. But seeing it made me remember home. I was almost there.
Tuesday morning, after a bagel sandwich breakfast, I hugged Maggie goodbye and traversed two or three of the bridges that are the apple of Pittsburgh’s dreary steel eye. I left at 10:30 am and drove for about eight hours due west.
I couldn’t seem to shake the overcast drizzle of Pittsburgh, however, it held onto me long after I’d left Pennsylvania, gone through the sliver of West Virginia into Ohio. I expereienced some sunshine, however, in that state, for a moment, coupled with some unexplained backups on highway 70, where I sat trapped in traffic. At least the weather was nice.
I arrived in Champaign, or Champaign-Urbana, as some refer to it as, around 6:30 that evening, after gaining an hour as I crossed into the Central time zone. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Champaign, but I was pleasantly surprised. By that point in my trip, most of the colonial New England architecture had been replaced by more modern 20th century type buildings, and the lush green lawns and quiet charm of the midwestern neighborhoods were lovely and quaint.
I drove to Leah’s house. I hadn’t seen Leah in over a year, maybe as long as a year and a half, so it was wonderful to see her again. She introduced me to her roommate, and then the three of us left to eat at a Mexican restaurant down the street. The restaurant was pink with purple shutters, but I can’t remember the name of it. But the food was great! It tasted more authentic than anything I’d had in Boston,and I cheerd and declared it as a hallmark of me traveling in the right direction.
After dinner, Leah and I walked across the downtown part of Champaign to a bar called the Blind Pig. Champaign is really an adorable little town; it’s small but the restaurants and bars it does have are fun and beautiful. I really enjoyed walking around that little trendy district, which was now in the process of welcoming back it’s students for the new semester. We had a few fancy beers, and chatted with some f the locals.
Leah has a special talent of befriending local people and always has a good system of friends wherever she goes; a talent of which I’m just the teeniest bit envious. But talking to Leah was wonderful; she seems to be really enjoying life.
She’s in her second year of grad school, studing to be an urban planner, and spends time in East Saint Louis helping the people that live in those neighborhoods. She even has a plaque she received from the city in honor of a trash cleanup she helped coordinate earlier this year.
Monday morning, at 5 am I awake to my friend Maggie doing a little dance in front of me, singing a song about getting my bike rack loaded on my car so that we can leave. She flips on the light, and I sigh, remembering that today is the day that we are leaving Boston. Which means there’s no time to hit the snooze button.
I get up out of bed, pull on the jeans and tshirt I have laid out for the day, and Maggie and I go downstairs to mount my bike rack on my car in preparation for leaving.
The weekend before has been hectic. I have been moving out, and Ariana’s future roommate, Jason, has moved in. I tried, with great futility, to keep my mood one of calm and relaxation the three days before I left Boston. Since Friday, after a serene and friendly goodbye lunch with my boss Justin, my mind’s been a little hamster on a treadwheel, spinning around trying to remember every little detail I needed to accomplish before I leave the city. After jumping around from one task to another without really being able to keep myself focused, I have somehow arrived at 5:00 am Monday morning, with my car completely packed and loaded, and now have to prepare for the 11 hour drive to Pittsburgh with Maggie.
We both run around the apartment a couple of more times, making sure we have everything loaded up in the car, before giving a quick hug to sleepy Jason sitting on the couch, and heading down stairs with Ariana, who’s walking us down for the final goodbye.
Still dark outside, we quickly strap on the bike rack and add my bike, and then I turn to give Ariana one last hug.
Maggie and I cruise down Beacon towards Mass Ave, connect up with the Massachusetts Pike, and I look back one more time at the city that I’m leaving forever. Then Maggie and I are on the highway, and there is nothing ahead of me but road, road, road.
Maggie’s just making the trip with me to Pittsburgh, where I’m dropping her off to start her new semester at Carnegie-Mellon. I’m happy to have her with me, tho, on the longest leg of my trip to my midway destination point of Oklahoma. We stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for one last coffee goodbye for me, since there are no Du-do’s out on the west coast. Then, we proceed through the misty, overcast morning, with some My Morning Jacket on the radio, into the unknown. (At least for me!)
The trip goes surprisingly fast, and after a few little traffic clogs, and a few stops for snacks, we arrive in Pittsburgh around 5:30 pm. As we drive into Pittsburgh, it’s overcast and the city looks a little bit worn down.
Pittsburgh is a steel town and it seems a little dreary, and the townspeople all seem to be worried or angry. Don’t think I’d want to live there. But there are a bunch of cool bridges in that town, which redeems it a little. Maggie says there are over 70 bridges.
We went out to dinner at a Thai place with some of her friends for dinner, followed by Gelatti, which Maggie says is a Pittsburgh specialty. It consists of frozen custard layered with Italian ice. Good stuff!
Afterward we went back to her apartment, and I fell asleep almost immediately after walking through the door.
Well, this is the official last post I’m going to make in Boston. I’m leaving this town–for good–in less than two days. Wish me luck!
In closing, I’m going to leave you with a fun photo I took the other night. Pose by 5 year old Grace. Makes me laugh every time.
Currently listening to: Silversun Pickups
Dear Grilled Cheese Sandwich, why are you so tasty? I made you lovinly in my frying pan in the kitchen, and then managed to eat you in entirety in front of the TV during the commercial break of a show I am not even watching.
I ran back into the kitchen to make another, but there is no cheese left.
This time, it’s going to be an egg sandwich. I know I will not love him as much.
I turned to the two guards sitting on cushions a few feet away and started to panic. Really, really panic.
“Oh my God, oh my God, they’re going to kill me, this is going to be it. I don’t know when but they’re going to do it,” I thought.
I crawled over to Abu Hassan, the one who seemed more grown-up and sympathetic. His 9mm pistol was by his side, as usual.
“You’re my brother, you’re truly my brother,” I said in Arabic. “Promise me you will use this gun to kill me by your own hand. I don’t want that knife, I don’t want the knife, use the gun.”
I started to cry hysterically.
Man, I can’t believe I’ve had my iPod for almost two years now, and am just now figuring out what Smart Playlists are. I was just complaining to someone the other day that I wanted a shuffle setting that just played from certain music genres, like if I was in the mood for a random jazz mix or a slurry of weird experimental rock for painting. I was all like, ‘damn, when is Apple going to wise up and allow us to shuffle songs based upon certain criteria’? Apparently, they were wise some time ago.
I finally got around to checking out the Smart Playlist option in iTunes, and it’s awesome. You can shuffle through very specific music sets; for instance: by artist, beats per minute, genre, rating, etc. There are a ton of things you can change and control, it’s pretty advanced. And, Smart Playlists have an option for live updating, which means everytime you reconnect the iPod to your computer, it will access iTunes and choose a different shuffled set out of your criteria and plug it into you playlist, so you can freshen the mix all the time. It’s great.
One of my favorite options is a Smart Playlist by play count. iTunes and your iPod keep track of how many times you listen to each song, and then you can make play lists based upon popularity. So, for instance, the image above, for the Smart Playlist “i heart music” is a list of the songs that I’ve listened to at least 40 times on my iPod.
Currently listening to, my top 25 most-played songs. See in picture above.
Bukowski Tavern, home of the Dead Author’s Club. Located on Boylston Street in Boston.
As I enter my last two weeks in Boston, I’m visiting all the places that have endeared me to this city one last time, before I leave for the west. First among these places is a tiny little bar in Back Bay called Bukowski Tavern.
I first went to Bukowski’s in the winter of 2000 when I came to Boston for a job interview. I have visited it several times since, but I can’t go often enough. This place has always been a favorite of mine, for many reasons, some of which include: I like Charles Bukowski, they have good food, a fun little something called the Wheel O Beer, the cozy smallness of the place, and the atmosphere that makes it feel like a genuine locals bar.
Bukowski’s doesn’t have a full liquor license; Boston has so many bars that the state has really restricted who can have full licenses. I heard the city stopped issuing them altogether, and in order to get a permit to sell anything other than beer or wine, you have to pretty much inherit one from another bar that’s going out of business. Bukowski’s is a pretty established locale in Boston, so although they’ve probably had an opportunity to get a liquor license, they’ve stuck to beer and wine and that’s just alright with me.
To make up for the fact that you can’t get a cosmo there (although, anyone coming to Bukowski’s probably wouldn’t be ordering one of those anyway) there is a really good selection of beer and wine. And for those moments when you just can’t decide on what kind of beer you want, there is the Wheel O Beer, sometimes called Beer of Fortune. Funny, everytime I ask them to spin it, it always lands on Schlitz.
For being kind of a dive bar, they certainly do have a pretty good menu. Good burritos and soups, but my personal favorite is the peanut butter burger. It’s a regular burger, with tomato, lettuce, onion and pickle, but instead of cheese or mayonnaise, they pile a big o’ scoop of chuncky peanut butter on top. I’ll admit, it took me a couple of years chickening out on this before I actually worked up the courage to order it, I now have to say I’m sad I waited so long. Peanut butter on your burger is surprisingly delicious.
I always get nostalgic when I go to Bukowski’s, it’s been a place for a lot of fun and a lot of weird burgers. I’ll miss it when I’m gone, and it’s definitely at the top of the list of places I have to revisit if I ever make it back to Boston.
Tips for going to Bukowski’s:
If you’re planning on visiting Boston, and want to spend some time at Bukowski’s, know that there are two locations, one in Back Bay, on Boylston Street, and the other in Inman Square in Cambridge. Just skip the Cambridge one, it’s not worth going to. It’s a fine bar, but it just doesn’t have the same grubby, loveable atmosphere.
If you’re going for lunch, these things are not on the menu, but I think they serve $2 burgers and $1 hotdogs if you ask.
If you’re going for dinner, get there before 6:30 on the weekends if you want a table, or expect to wait…a long long time. People come in and they tend to sit around for a while, it’s that kind of bar…
PS: I have no idea what the Dead Author’s Club is, or if it even exists (anymore).
Currently listening to The Green Album by Weezer