September 24, 2006

A Farewell to Weirdos

Weirdo Adieu
Godspeed Lane and Sutter.

September 19, 2006


Last week, I had a fantastic trip to Chicago where I visited ex-San Franciscans, Mary and Eugene. While growing up in Old Saint Lou, I'd visited our much bigger brother to the north many times. And I'd even popped in to see the Flacks, but I wasn't there long and Mangina had that whole tubestick problem. This trip, however, was a resounding success.

First, off I had no idea how good the food was in Chicago. It's always a treat for me to be in a town that does bagels well (i.e. anywhere not SF) and Chicago has extended their dough science to improve the whole bread field as a whole. The big winner in this category was the loaf of bread pudding we had for dessert at Rose Angelis. Also, I had the best BBQ veggie cheeseburger ever made at the Chicago Diner. Finally, we had an amazing waiter at Venus who guided us to all the tastiest Cypriot specialties.

Sights were also seen, including the view from the Signature Lounge of the Hancock Building (I actually went twice ... it's a good time.) Flack and I kicked back there after picking up some new duds on Michigan Avenue for my upcoming trip to the Old World.

The following day, we hit the road in the Flacks' new sportsmobile and trekked through the affluent sprawl that is the North Shore. A couple miles from the border to Wisconsin, we arrived at Zion, Illinois - home of the Illinois Beach State Park. The beach here has a number of warnings not seen at your average sandy joint. These include alerts about asbestos sightings as well as some sort of river-geyser that occasionally bursts forth and kills all in its path. Also, Flack made a new friend.

Coming home one night, Flack had the great idea that you could totally sell Ferris Bueller Tours of Chicago. You get picked up in the morning in a sporty car, get lunch somewhere fancy under the reservation of Abe Froman, hit up the Board of Trade, Art Institute, Sears Tower and finish the day either signing "Danke Schoen" on Dearborn or wrecking a really pricey roadster. While Eugene and I didn't accomplish much of this (we did stop to pee in the Art Institute) we did hit up Wrigley in style.

I bought tickets the night before on and was completely shocked when our tickets turned out to: 1) actually exist 2) not be conterfeit and 3) be excellent seats. We were eleven rows from the third base line. In a small park like Wrigely that makes you feel so close to the action that you may be called upon to perform some service in the event of an emergency. And it was a great game featuring a dramatic come from behind victory for the maligned (by everyone) Cubbies over the hated (by me) Dodgers.

But most importantly, they ran a deal before the game such that you could text a message to a shortcode and said message would then be displayed on scoreboard during the 8th inning. I didn't have a lot of time to think, so I just spoke from my heart.

In summary, then: Chicago - a town where a man can eat like a pig for days, visit an asbestos beach and confess his love via scoreboard to a crazy old coot. Recommended.

September 12, 2006

Frisco Melt

While walking in downtown Chicago today, I saw a billboard that read "Come out and play!" (It was for the parks department.)

The native midwesterner in me must have finally succumbed to the San Francisco transplant gene because I naturally assumed it was an ad for

September 10, 2006

Departure Lounging

My plane to Chicago is a half hour delayed so I'm cooling my heels in the departure lounge and sucking down the for-pay wireless:

  • Every time I use the wireless at SFO I'm amazed at how poorly T-Mobile implemented it. You need an account to use the WiFi and naturally I don't remember my credentials as I use them once every 6 months (at least give me a clue if it's email address or username, people). Creating an account is stunningly painful and doesn't even log you in after you finish. All of this for $6 and hour.

  • I was up until 4:30a finishing the booking for my trip to England with my brother, David. The trip is going to kick ass. I'm particularly looking forward to Exmoor National Park - (there are wild ponies) and our stay at the Covent Garden Hotel. And I get to drive on the left side of the road again which pleases me in places I like to be pleased (my left-hand side).

  • Ok, I wasn't up until 4:30a just because of the trip. I've also been on a Battlestar Gallactica bender and have rewatched the mini-series, season 1 and the first 12 episodes of season 2 in about 72 hours. This is actually why I have my laptop with me - to finish the rest of the second season on the 4 hour flight. Battlestar has a similar multi-narrative, season-long arc style that makes Lost compelling. But unlike Lost, the show actually goes somewhere and you have the belief that there's a real idea of how things should evolve (I'm pretty sure Lost is making it up as it goes along). Plus, it does deliberately paced montage like nobody's business.

  • I saw "The Protector" - Tony Jaa's new martial arts movie. The story is porno-quality and allegedly about some elephants that get stolen and need protecting ... or something. I was pretty sure that the main villian was actually an transvestite (woulda been if the movie was Japanese and not Thai) but I think she was just the victim of some husky overdubbing. In any case, there's some decent fighting and you get to hear a character earnestly say, "You killed my father. Now where are my elephants!!"

September 06, 2006

Roll and Rock

Things got pretty serious in Vegas last week. When you're playing low limit poker and drinking domestic bottled water, it's important to play the part of the high roller.

At this point, I feel I've gotten Vegas down to a science. Eat well, see a show, sleep late, go to the spa and spend the rest of the time playing poker. I highly recommend the Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM Grand. Kà is the best thing I've ever seen on stage, and I'd be suprised if there's a more impressive live show anywhere.

The centerpiece of the show is the so-called Sand Cliff Deck - a stage that rests on a gimbal that is itself mounted on a rotating, vertically-movable control arm. This article gives a great technical explanation of what's going on with the main Kà stage as well as a diagram showing the magic. The important thing to know is that at one point, the characters are walking across the sand filled stage and to conclude the beach scene, the stage starts tilting upward. In the end, the sand and one of the characters simply slides off into the abyss; the audience gasps and applauds. The stage later reappears as a vertical face on pegs extend and retract and acrobatic amazingness ensues.

And with all of this technical achievement, I think my favorite part may have been the short shadow puppet interlude. It's a stunner, that Kà.

Vegas done, I was camping in Big Sur over Labor Day Weekend with Lane, Sutter, Melzo and a host of fornicators. Big Sur is also a stunner.

Not to over-superlativate but Pfieffer Beach is probably the most beautiful California beach I've been to. It's strange in that I can't say exactly why it's such a knock-out. In terms of layout it's like a lot of beaches out here. But for some reason the light is a little more intense and everything seems more vibrant.

Over the course of the weekend we pretty much ate and lazed around like pigs. Taking a lesson from Ev and Sara, this was also my first camping trip with a Coleman stove. And when it wasn't spurting gas and catching my foot on fire it turned out to be a very convenient piece of gear.

September's turning out to be a busy travel month; it's on to Chicago this Sunday to visit Mary and Eugene. Last time I went, Eugene's manstick got broken (not by me) and there was some discomfort for everyone (but mostly Eugene). I've been assured that various upgrades have been made that should prevent a repeat incident. Here's hoping!