Quin's Progress


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It’s A Small World, Bilches, And I’m Off To See It!

In anticipation of my world tour departure, I wanted to get you a little something special to remember me by; something that you could think of once in a while, and maybe laugh a quiet little private laugh to yourself that would be too much trouble to explain to anyone who asked what was so funny.  So, I went to peruse the wide and varied options on Fiverr.

Do you know about Fiverr?  Fiverr is an online marketplace, where folks all over the world offer up all manner of goods or services for the whopping asking price of $5.  Everything on Fiverr is five dollars—no more, no less.  Hence the name.  Most of it is kind of stupid, but some of it is good, and some of it is just plain hilarious.  People offering serious things, like business plans, budgets, ad jingles, logo designs, weight loss menus or training plans, are clearly doing it as a loss leader, hoping that future business worth more than five bucks will follow.  Others are indulging hobbies, such as writing things on a piece of rice, or spelling out messages on a Scrabble board in stop-motion film.  Still others are just wackadoolery.  Those are my favorite.  I had an ad up on Fiverr for a while, offering to go hug the elderly relative of your choice, within 25 miles of San Francisco, for $5.  Nice, right?  Your Aunt Millicent is in a home in Colma, and you can’t get there for her 93rd birthday?  Fiverr to the rescue.  Half a sawbuck through Paypal, and Miz Quin is on her way to deliver the big, warm, squishy hug you can’t.  I even offered a “fragrance free” option, where I would promise not to wear perfume or the fruity, girly lotions I am so fond of, if there were scent-sitivities to be considered.  But, it proved impractical, because even though I was clear about the “elderly” part in the ad, apparently, that’s not as unambiguous as I had thought, and I kept getting requests from young guys trying to send me to hug their “cousins” or “uncles,” and Fernando was categorically unwilling to go along and be my bodyguard on hug patrol, so, yeah….  My Fiverr career died before it ever got off the ground, and everyone’s Bay Area old folks are now going unhugged, all because of some horny teenagers with nothing better to do than cruise Fiverr.  But I digress.  Back to your gift.

So, via Fiverr, I found this lovely gentleman– who calls himself “Crazzy Man”–operating in a small village somewhere in India, who, for the aforementioned five dollars, will put any message you want on a sign, and videotape himself dancing around with it in what looks like a faux grass or banana leaf skirt.  “Ooh, perfect,” I thought.  So, I sent him a request for such a video, and five dollars, and asked that the sign read “Quin says:  Ciao, Bitches!”  Saucy, but fun.  Just what I wanted.  Crazzy Man turned the order around fast; a day later, the following video was in my email inbox:

Seee-yowwww, Beeches!!  Awesome!  He really put his heart into that performance!  But, he left off the “Quin says” part, and I know there are a few of you, who shall remain nameless, who wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t just swiped this off YouTube from someone else and claimed to have commissioned it myself.  And I want the credit, fair and square.  So, I wrote to Crazzy, and said how much I loved the video, and it was so wonderful, and thanks so much, but please, could he do it again, and put “Quin says” on the sign.  Of course, I said I would pay another five dollars, no problem.  I said he could even write it on the other side of the same paper, and just flip it around.  “Okay,” says Crazzy, “no problem.”  Then, the next day, this video comes:

Well…not quite.  I mean, I love that the whole village is getting involved in my project, and the ladies are sure lovely, but now I have one video with the girls and the “Quin Says” sign, and another with Crazzy himself and the “Ciao, Bitches!” sign, and that doesn’t really solve my problem.  So, I wrote him back, thanked him profusely again, extolled the beauty of the women in the new video, praised their dancing and the fantastic sign, and then asked him to, pretty please, do it again—for another five dollars, of course—with BOTH signs.  I figured, since they had both signs made now, the third time would be the charm.  I can just picture them all sitting there in their village, saying “What does she want now, and why does she keep changing it?”  and “who else can we get in on the performance?”  But, to me, he just said okay, sure.  And then this video showed up a short time later:

So close!  Well, not exactly.  But, look how much work they put into this, with their little choreographed dance routine and everything.  How sweet are they?  Still, I actually wanted Mr. Crazzy rockin’ out in his green manskirt, and I don’t know what “Bilches” are, but they sound painful and possibly contagious.  So, once again, I wrote back to Team Crazzy and gushed about how fabulous the video was, and how graceful the dancing was, and thanked them to the heavens for their helpfulness, etc., and then pointed out that “Bitches” was, unfortunately, spelled wrong, and would he please, with sugar on top, do it again, himself this time, and be careful to spell it right—for another $5, it goes without saying.  “Okay,” he said, still ever-helpful, but with somewhat less alacrity than before.  I could tell he was kinda over my shit by now.  Still, five more bucks is five more bucks, and that goes a lot farther in India than it does here, so a couple days later, Crazzy sends me this video:

Oh, sweet JesusMaryAndJoseph!  “Bictches?  Is he messing with me now?!”  No, I don’t think he was, actually.  I think they were probably just so careful to copy the letters just so this time after the preceding error, and they aren’t used to a Romanized alphabet, and to them, it probably looks exactly like what I wrote.  I laughed so hard when I opened this video that I almost fell off the couch, and my houseguest got out of bed and came out to the living room to see what was the matter.  Doesn’t it look like how you would spell that percussion flourish in the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off theme music?  You know, it goes:  “Ohhhhh yeahhhhhh, donk-donk, Bictchaaaahs.”  Okay, maybe not.  Anyway, this is the best I could do.  I just didn’t have the heart to go back and ask Crazzy Man and the Village People to do yet a fifth video dedicated to my attempt at a sassy sendoff message.

This is Woobie Frog

This is Woobie Frog

So, yeah, ciao, bilches bictches gentle friends!  As I write this, I am in seat 8B of United Airlines flight 893, one-way from San Francisco to Seoul, with my Woobie Frog tucked ever so supportively behind my neck.  I can hardly believe it.  bagsNot only has Day 1 of my grand adventure arrived, at last, but all my worldly belongings now fit into these three bags.  What have I done?  There are only four pairs of shoes in there, and only one of those pairs has high heels, and they aren’t even really all that high.  Breathe…breathe…okay, it’s fine.  Something had to go to make room for a year’s supply of contact lenses and thyroid pills.  I thought I was pretty Spartan in my packing, but one thing I’ve learned, is that all those cute miniature, travel sized gadgets and bottles of goop, when thrown together in one bag, are really frickin’ heavy.

I call this bag The Samurai

I call this bag The Samurai

I’m going to have to weed out some of the stuff I’ve packed here, or I’m going to fracture my Groove Thang schlepping all this crap around.  Also, it just dawned on me that I’m probably not going anywhere that doesn’t have shampoo and toothpaste already, and if I do, we’ll all have greasy hair and halitosis together, so….I don’t know what I was thinking.  I’m sure many adjustments will be made along the way as I figure things out.  Cross your fingers for me.

Those are my toes

Those are my toes

Speaking of sendoff messages, yesterday, I was walking down the street, preoccupied, running some last minute errands, trying to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important, and I literally ran across this bit of street art on the sidewalk.  So apropos, it’s hard not to believe it was put there just for me, personally.  Let’s just say that it was.  Adios to you too, San Francisco.  I am taking my heart with me, but I’ll leave my pancreas or my spleen with you, just for safekeeping. That doesn’t make for nearly as romantic a song, though.  Perhaps an interpretive dance would be more fitting.  Maybe we can get Crazzy Man and his village to work on it for us.  For another five bucks, of course.


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Cocktail Kitsch

I have been back home in San Francisco for a week, getting ready to go to Korea tomorrow, and have been trying to cram into one week all the things I’ve been meaning to go do and see in San Francisco for the last 20 years.  I’m not sure I made it, but I had some fun trying.  A lot of it was cocktail related.

The Lagoon at the Tonga Room.  It actually rains!

The Lagoon at the Tonga Room. It actually rains!

My third Mai Tai

My third Mai Tai

I finally made it to the Tonga Room, at the Fairmont.  It’s a tiki wonderland!  You don’t go for the food, trust me.  You go for the faux rainstorms and lightening over the lagoon in the middle of the dining room, the swashbuckling decor, and the southern fried Don Ho house band that cranks out 80s tunes on a moving barge in the pool festooned with tiki  thatch.  The house cocktail is a Mai Tai, served in a coconut with an umbrella, so I had to have…three. It’s a bit of San Franciscana that has to be experienced at least once, kind of like Beach Blanket Babylon.

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Tilt-a-Whirl table!

Tilt-a-Whirl table!

But, I think, the award this week has to go to Straw, on Octavia.  Carnival themed fare!  Not Carnivale, like in Rio, but carnival, as in carnies and side shows.  There’s even a Tilt-a-Whirl car made into a table in the corner, for lovebirds who don’t mind canoodling while consuming their corndogs.

IMG_3882IMG_3884Oh yes, there are corndogs.  Mini corndogs, in fact, served on a Wooly Willy plate, with a trio of dipping sauces.  Nothing poncey, mind you, it’s liquid nacho cheese, ranch, or mayo and sriracha (which I think is the most genius dipping sauce since Ranch dressing made its debut).

Yes, I ordered it.  Don't judge.

Yes, I ordered it. Don’t judge.

They also serve their burger, The Ringmaster, on a house-made donut bun, which is just…cheeky.

IMG_3889Their cocktails were carnival themed, as well, which was all kinds of fun.  Fernando had a Coney Island lager, that had a scary clown face on the label, but my drink took the funnel cake.  It was a cotton candy cocktail — check it out!

How much fun is that?  It’s made with sparkling something and house made cotton candy, so the flavor and color is different depending on the day.  The day I was there, the finished product looked like carbonated Windex, but it was pretty tasty, and went straight to my head, like a good cocktail should.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

My contribution.  That's me in an airplane.  You can tell by the boobs.

My contribution. That’s me in an airplane. You can tell by the boobs.

I really loved their dessert menus.  Not for what the offerings were, oddly enough, although they were fine, and included funnel cakes, of course.  But because they were little slam journals, served with crayons, that guests are encouraged to doodle in.

Out of all of the technicolor unicorns, and crayon sketches of various girlfriend’s faces, for some reason, this entry cracked us up.  IMG_3902Poor boring John.  But, you know me, a challenge is a challenge…. Did I call poor boring John?  After that cotton candy cocktail hit my bloodstream, you bet I did.

Oh yes, I did.

Oh yes, I did.

And it was boring, because he never even answered the phone.  But, you have the number now, you could try….


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Buckle Up For A Whirlwind Road Trip!

Time for a quick update, to bring y’all up to speed.  Since the last post, I’ve been across the country and back, getting ready to leave for Korea tomorrow.  I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so here’s the nutshell account.  Let’s see, where did I leave off….oh yes, the Grand Canyon.  Okay, so, we’re in Arizona….P1030112

P1030116I had been driving for hours along the old Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow, and I desperately had to pee, so when I saw this funny little unofficial looking sign saying there was a meteor crater at the next exit, I figured, what the heck, there’s probably a bathroom, I’ll check it out.  P1030101

That's one screamin' fast shuttle!

That’s one screamin’ fast shuttle!

Six miles down the road off the highway, there’s an asphalt parking lot, with tremendously stimulating signs leading up the hill to the entrance of the aforesaid meteor crater visitor center.  They only tell you after you’ve climbed the hill that it’s $16 to get in, which I thought was kind of mean; they should tell you that before you hike your butt all the way up there, because, you know, there might be some people out there who don’t want to spend $16 to look at a big dimple.  But, I didn’t want to have climbed that hill for nothing, and the potty situation was closing in on dire, so I paid my sixteen bucks and went in.

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

Holy cosmic pock marks, Batman, that is one big hole in the ground!  After the Grand Canyon, the threshold for big holes in the ground being impressive had been raised quite a bit, I must say.  But if you go through the little museum, and watch the short film they have, the significance of the place becomes clear–it’s one of the only confirmed meteor impact sites in the world.  Most other craters are the result of a volcanic caldera.  I never knew that.  P1030099Anyhoo, the really groovy thing about this spot is that, in the 1960s and 70s, NASA trained astronauts here, including the Apollo astronauts, because of its similarity to craters on the moon.  They even had a lunar landing capsule on site that the astronauts used for training purposes.  Very I Dream of Jeannie.  Ooh, and remember that 1984 movie “Starman” with Jeff Bridges?  The spacecraft impact parts of it were filmed here.  Cool, no?

P1030075

Not a Painting

There was a red brick wall around the visitor center plaza, with this open viewing window in it; with the vista beyond, it so reminded me of a Magritte painting.  Don’t you think?

"Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona...."

“Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona….”

A few miles down the road, I had to stop in Winslow, Arizona and, well, you know…stand on a corner.  Because of the Eagles song.  I didn’t see any girls in flatbed Fords, and the only one to slow down and take a look at me was the guy driving the street sweeping truck.  That’s not very poetic, though.  There is, however, a loudspeaker on the appointed corner, that blares Eagles music on a loop, into the otherwise unoccupied atmosphere, and there’s an Eagles-themed shop on the adjacent corner, where one can buy all manner of “Take It Easy” t-shirts, etc., but I refrained.  I’m told I missed out on the classic gag, though, because I didn’t find a pay phone and crank call someone and sing a few bars of “Take It Easy” to them.  Sorry for failing y’all like that!  Moving on….

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Driving through the southwest, you really do get a sense of how vast the United States is.  Miles and miles of open, literally amazing landscapes and endless horizons, with hours between towns.  It’s strange, too, how the landscape shifts subtly but so distinctly as you cross state borders.  Leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico, suddenly the Painted Desert splashes different colors across the land, and the surface of the earth buckles up in spots to replace the flat desert behind you.  It’s quite beautiful.

IMG_3607P1030141Zooming along toward Santa Fe, I had to pull over again to see the Continental Divide.  That’s got to be something, right?  Where the water flows in different directions from a specific cleft in the tectonic plates of the earth?  Well, turns out, all there is to see is a U.S. Geological Survey sign, and a truly weird curio shop, that was closed anyway.  Still, worth pulling over, just to note the occasion.P1030148

Santa Fe and I didn’t get off to a good start.  I was in an evil mood from the minute I got there; I seriously think I would have bitten someone in the leg if I’d had the chance.  Everything was annoying me, and I’m usually pretty easygoing.  Then, I overheard someone in a cafe say something about having trouble getting used to the altitude, and it hit me.  I butted into their conversation and asked what the altitude is, and when she answered it was 7,200 feet, I realized, I wasn’t just in a bad mood, I was oxygen deprived!  No wonder!  This happened to me in Mexico City, too.  I couldn’t walk a block without getting winded, and I felt so bitchy and mean for the first few days; it was ugly.  But, thankfully, the fix is easy enough.  Just slow it down, and drink steadily.  So, that’s what I did.

The Ladies' Room door at the Pink Adobe

The Ladies’ Room door at the Pink Adobe

Pink Dragon

Pink Dragon

Meet the Pink Dragon:  a prickly pear fruit margarita from the Dragon Room at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe.  I plied myself with this elixir until I was restored to my usual state of near equanimity, and then Santa Fe’s charms were more obvious to me.  There’s really no disputing that the surrounding high desert is breathtaking.  Even if you aren’t a desert person, just stand still and stare and breathe for a while, and the palette of colors, and spectrum of textures will dizzy you.  Or maybe it’s just the altitude, I don’t know.

Old HouseI particularly loved how the oldest house and church in the United States has an adjacent beer garden.  Perfect for my altitude coping mechanism.P1030184

I happened to arrive in town on the eve of the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, which commences with a Burning Man type ritual in which they immolate the “Zozobra,” a 50-foot tall effigy of the boogeyman, intended to chase out the bad spirits for the coming year.  P1030228P1030281The remainder of the weekend hosts a festival, with booths of food and art and crafts and such all over downtown, and several stages of music and local dance troop performances.  It was just the thing to sand off my moody rough edges.

Navajo Taco

Navajo Taco

Especially, the Navajo Tacos, made with roast lamb and Indian fry bread.  Mmm-mmm!

I saw Melissa Etheridge wandering around town that weekend, and heard she was in town giving a concert at the Santa Fe Opera House, which is about 20 minutes outside town out in the desert mountains.  I’ve always liked her music, so, I snagged a ticket and went.

Santa Fe Opera House

Santa Fe Opera House

What a glorious place that opera house is!  The architecture of the theater is open on the sides, so you are basically sitting outside in the desert air, but covered, so it can storm and rain and thunder and lightening, and the show can still go on.  A fantastic venue for a Wagner opera, I’m sure.  But Melissa Etheridge was pretty good too.  I think the sound of her voice is like having whiskey poured down your naked back.

P1030284After a couple days’ break in Santa Fe, it was time to hit the road again, for two more days driving to Fort Worth to Dad’s house.  I must say, though, the highway through the eastern half of New Mexico is not exactly hard on the eyes.  Although, I did accidentally blast past the exit for Roswell, and didn’t realize it until I was almost to  Amarillo, because I was singing along with great gusto to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits…that’s some good road trip music, right there.  Anyway, I had been hoping to bookend the meteor crater report with some shots of the Alien Autopsy and UFO museum for you, but oh well.  Sorry ’bout that.

cadillacs

Cadillac Ranch
Amarillo, TX

As a consolation, just west of Amarillo, I happened upon the Cadillac Ranch:  a plowed field into which someone has upended a bunch of old Cadillacs, nose down into the ground, in a sort of single-file Stonehenge homage.  It was very random and definitely hilarious.  cadillacs2Graffiti is welcome, and there are squillions of discarded spray paint cans strewn about, for anyone to use to add their mark to the Cadillac canvas.  Who says Texans don’t have a sense of whimsy?

As for the rest of my time in Texas, I discovered that macaroni and cheese is classified as a vegetable at the Cracker Barrel (I can get on board with that), and that this song exists:

Next stop, New York City!  My friend James and I were lazing about Washington Square Park, and this girl was sashaying around the fountain, workin’ it hard enough to throw her back out, throwing smoldering glances over her shoulder at no one in particular.  girl1She was like a living Virginia Slims commercial, and I instantly loved her.  So, I stalked her for a while, taking pictures of her….since that’s obviously what she thought was already happening.  Hate to let all that catwalkin’ go to waste.

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

We happened upon a real photo shoot under the steps in front of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and I felt bad that Ms. Virginia Slims wasn’t there to jump in on the fun.

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain

I finally made it to the Tenement Museum on Delancey and Orchard Streets on the Lower East Side, which I’ve been meaning to do for the last several times I was in New York.

It’s a well-preserved example of the type of tenement homes that housed thousands of immigrant families in New York in the early to mid- 1900’s in cramped, sometimes unsanitary quarters.

I know the museum and tour were supposed to impress upon us the squalid conditions in which these people had to live, because they had no other options, but honestly, all I could think the whole time was “I know several people who would kill for this apartment!”

Then it was back to San Francisco, to see the doctor, the dentist, the bikini waxer, and basically get everything fluffed and buffed and ready to take off for Korea!


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Can You Dig It?

My Road Trip Route

My Road Trip Route

It has been an action-packed couple of weeks, gentle friends, and may I just say, I’m glad it’s behind me.  I sold my house, and got rid of the vast majority of my stuff in anticipation of the big upcoming adventure.  Moving sucks under the best of circumstances, but trust me, the air traffic control on getting rid of large quantities of crap is way trickier than for just moving it from one house to another.  So exhausting.  Anyhoo, now I’m road trippin’ to Texas, to put my car in my dad’s garage for safekeeping while I’m gallivanting about the globe.  It’s almost 2,000 miles!  I’m giving myself a week to get there, so I can go at an easy pace.

After the Hell Week of moving, every cell in my body was whimpering pathetically in pain, so my first stop was Las Vegas, where I planned to have myself a nice, calm, restorative spa day.  Checked-in to a sexy luxe room at The Cosmopolitan (although the Google Maps mobile app seemed certain that I was, in fact, reserved at the delivery entrance behind the Bellagio–it would not direct me anywhere else).  This room was gorgeous.  However, there had apparently been some fairly significant shenanigans going on in there earlier.  When I got up there, there was a maintenance guy re-hanging the closet door, the bathroom mirror was cracked, the articulating lamp next to the bed was dangling from the wall like a disembodied arm with a compound fracture, and the TV had suffered some kind of blunt force trauma, damaging the LED right in the middle, causing an electric green splotch to appear on the forehead of any face in the center of the screen, as though a radioactive pigeon had been plaguing the set of every show I tried to watch.

Keep Refrigerated!

Keep Refrigerated!

I didn’t complain, though, because I was already kind of on the hotel manager’s watch list after having to tell him that his bell man had, somewhere between my car and my room, lost a small styrofoam cooler containing several capsules of live Typhoid virus, and that he had to find it a.s.a.p., as the virus is vulnerable to the heat (it was 95 degrees out).  I waited until the cooler had been located to tell him that, although the viruses were, indeed, alive, they were deactivated–eunuch viruses, so to speak–not an outbreak waiting to happen.  (These capsules were among a battery of travel vaccines I just got.  The others were all shots, though.  The FDA apparently recalled all the Typhoid vaccine injections; hence, the capsules, which I had to take over the course of a week, and keep refrigerated the whole time, or they would die and be useless.)  He was not amused.

The next day went smoother.  After brunch with bottomless bloody marys, I did this:

SPF 1,000

SPF 1,000 Required!

And then this:

sahra

China Poblano

China Poblano

Followed by dinner at China Poblano, a Chinese-Mexican fusion dream that finally makes it possible for Fernando and me to both have our favorite foods at the same time!  Ooh, it was good, too.  I had a Singapore Sling, chicken flautas with mole sauce, and these really imaginative, scrumptious lamb potstickers under a crispy, demure veil of cumin “lace,” with edible flower blossom garnish.  I’ve never put anything like it in my mouth before, and that’s saying something.  Just look at them!

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin "lace" and chicken flautas

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin “lace” and chicken flautas

After that day of indulgences, I woke up in a much improved, yet saucy mood.  So, I did what anyone would do, and I went……and dug a big hole with an excavator.  Yes, you heard me.  An excavator.

My Steed

My Steed

A Cat 315C excavator, to be exact. There’s this place across the freeway from the Strip, called “Dig This,” that is a sort of heavy equipment playground.  You can actually go and drive a big excavator.  They have bulldozers, too, but I didn’t want to just push things back and forth.  I wanted to dig a trench and pick up tractor tires and stuff.

Safety Sandbox

Roger and the Safety Sandbox

They make you take a breathalizer test first, so they don’t have a bunch of drunks out there ramming into each other.  Then, there’s a little safety class with a cute little demonstration with models in a sandbox.

I'm so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

I’m so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

Then they take you out and put you in the cab of the machine, go over everything again, and hook you up with a headset so Roger, the instructor, can communicate with you the whole time.  (He also has a remote shut-down switch for your machine around his neck, so if you go rogue, he can stop you from crossing the freeway and crashing into the Strip like Godzilla.)

Inside the Cab

Inside the Cab

There's even a hook for your purse in there!

There’s even a hook for your purse!

Never having been inside the cab of an excavator before, it took some getting used to.  It taxes the coordination a bit at first.  This lever moves the boom up and down, that lever extends the arm back and forth, this other one rotates the cab, that one opens and closes the bucket, and those two in the front operate the tracks that move the machine around.  Oh, and there’s a purse hook in there, too, for the ladies.  Very important.

Scoopin'

Scoopin’

Dumpin'

Dumpin’

After a while, I got the hang of it, and I was an excavatin’ fool!  Zooming all over the yard, spinning the cab around, digging trenches…I even won the tire stacking contest.  We even played Excavator Basketball.  It was a hoot and a half, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Carrying a giant tire

Carrying a giant tire

Tire Stacking Champion!

Tire Stacking Champion!

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

Swish!

Swish!

I got so carried away, I kept digging at that trench, and digging digging digging, until look what I did!

Excavator gone wild!

Excavator gone wild!

Just teasing, Roger pulled the plug on me long before I excavated across Interstate 15.  But, I did drive on to the Grand Canyon the following day.  I hadn’t been since I was a kid.  I’m sure it hasn’t changed much since then, but I don’t recall the sight of it, coming into view as you crest the trail up at the rim, having such an effect on me back then.  You’re walking up the trail, la-de-da, looking at the wildflowers and the squirrels busking for food, and then…the earth’s mouth opens up in front of you.  It’s a sight that is very hard to turn away from.  It feels disrespectful, almost, to turn and go, not knowing if or when you are going to see it again.  So, I just stood there, taking it in, until the sun was long gone.

South Rim Grand Canyon

South Rim
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Go at sunset, if you get the chance

Go at sunset, if you get the chance


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Lords of Corndogtown

P1020876

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

I was hanging out in Los Angeles last week with my friend Wendy.  The weather was perfect, cinematic Southern California summertime glory, so we wandered over to Santa Monica to go to the Pier.  One couldn’t ask for a more perfect afternoon.  Seventy-four degrees, cornflower blue skies, beautiful, tan, mostly naked people everywhere, gentle zephyrs softly distracting me from the fact that I was getting a sunburn on my pasty San Francisco skin.  It was dreamy.

"Get your kicks, on Route...."

“Get your kicks, on Route….”

I didn't even have to ask him to do that

I didn’t even have to ask him to do that

Several interesting bits of historical Californiana and pop culture intersect at the Santa Monica Pier and beach.  It’s the end point of the notorious Route 66, for one.  The original Muscle Beach was located at the Pier’s base, before Venice Beach, just a couple miles south, later assumed the title.  And more importantly, multiple episodes of Charlie’s Angels, The Incredible Hulk and Three’s Company were filmed there.  Oh yeah…and Baywatch.

Moondoggie and pals, looking for Gidget

Moondoggie and pals, looking for Gidget

He just might be cuter than Paul Newman in "The Sting"

He just might be cuter than Paul Newman in “The Sting”

That scene in Rocky III, where Rocky and Apollo are frolicking training on the Beach, was shot on Santa Monica beach.  The carousel scene in The Sting?  Santa Monica Pier.  In fact, the carousel is still there, and still in operation (sans bordello).  And don’t forget about Lords of Dogtown!

The Pier at sunset, from Santa Monica Beach

The Pier at sunset, from Santa Monica Beach

Oh, if you haven’t seen it, Lords of Dogtown is awesome!  The acting is passable at best, and Heath Ledger’s bucktooth prosthesis was distracting, but the story is great, and it is set in 1970’s Southern California, which is when/where I grew up, so it really transports me.  The astonishing soundtrack alone gets it on my list of perennial faves (along with Pretty In Pink) to tune in to whenever it’s on TBS or WGN as I’m cooking and doing laundry on Sunday afternoon.  Plus, you can see Sofia Vergara, before she was well known, make a cameo as an honest-to-goodness Dogtown Chola, as well as Alexis Arquette in drag, of course, twist her ankle and fall off her stilettos trying to get into a limo with Johnny Knoxville, which was clearly not in the script.  PS: They were both fabulous.

Surfers practicing their balance skeelz on tightropes

Surfers practicing their balance skeelz on tightropes

“Dogtown,” of course, is Santa Monica’s nickname–more specifically, the nickname of the grittier south side of Santa Monica, all the way down to Venice Beach, around where the old P.O.P. (Pacific Ocean Park) Pier was, before it burned down, and where 70’s surf and skateboard culture spawned Zephyr Surfboards’ pro skateboard team, the “Z-Boys”: Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta, among others, i.e., the Lords of Dogtown.  So, strictly speaking, Dogtown proper is a smidge south of the Santa Monica Pier, down the skate/bike path a bit toward Venice Beach.

But, there at the base of the Santa Monica Pier, at the site of the original Muscle Beach, is something far more marvelous than the P.O.P.  A holy site, of sorts.  A place to which every fiber of my being was drawn, as if by gravitational force, in an unplanned mystical pilgrimage.

They seem to have dispensed with the preposition and article...or maybe the "on a" stick came later

They seem to have dispensed with the preposition and article…or maybe the “on a” stick came later

I didn’t know why I was being pulled in that direction, down the steps behind the carousel to the sand, as if in a trance.  But when I saw it, my arteries vibrated with excitement, and I just…knew.  It was the original…Hot Dog On A Stick.  The very first one, opened in 1946!  Oh yes, gentle friends.  It was the place where it all began.  To be perfectly honest, I previously had no idea that Hot Dog On a Stick originated at the Santa Monica Pier, but as I stood there, awash in the angelic choir that emanated from the

Did I have one?  Why, yes I did.

Did I have one? Why, yes I did.

ancient temple/shipping container-like structure, under the watchful eye of the corndog archangel disguised as a giant pigeon perched on the light fixture over the order window, I had an epiphany (that I immediately confirmed by looking it up on Wikipedia on my iPhone).  It was the real deal; the corndog Mecca.  So, I did what the devout do, and I got in line to receive my corndog communion.

And it was good.


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Friday Night in Cowtown

cow town towerI had to get out of San Francisco for a couple weeks while my house was on the market, so it was off to visit Dad in Fort Worth, Texas, a.k.a. Cowtown USA.  If I can give you one bit of advice, gentle friends, it’s to plan your trip to Fort Worth for sometime other than the middle of July.  Egads, it was hot, and the humidity had my hair looking like a tumbleweed.  Dad repeatedly thwarted my attempted coups d’état on the thermostat control, but thankfully, there was a community pool exactly 263 steps from his front door.  (I know this, because I counted them, and once I knew there was a prime number of steps, I couldn’t stop counting them every time I made that trek to or from the pool.  It’s one of the more entertaining OCD manifestations I enjoy on a daily basis.)  Mostly, though, I made pitchers of Mai Tais and tried to pretend we were in Hawaii.

I thought the heat had me hallucinating when I saw this, but the camera doesn't lie

I thought the heat had me hallucinating when I saw this, but the camera doesn’t lie!

The heat-induced torpor had us feeling fairly unambitious in terms of getting out to see the sights.  I’m ashamed to say, I couldn’t even get it up to go check out what is supposed to be the largest Korean sauna in the United States, just down the road apiece in Dallas.  I don’t know, there’s something about the Satan’s Breath that is the summertime weather of North Texas that just doesn’t make a visit to a sauna sound that appealing.  It reminded me of last year when I was in Panama, and oh my gosh, it was hotter than the face of the sun.  I had to stay a little bit drunk the whole time just to keep from crying.  Anyway, the hotel had posted signs all over the place touting their brand new, state of the art sauna.  I seriously thought it had to be just a fancy door to the outside, because there’s no way their newfangled spa sauna could have been more sauna-y than what was happening outdoors.  But, I digress….

IMG_3088After about a week in Fort Worth, I had adjusted enough to insist that we get out of the house, so we wandered over to the Historic Stockyards District.  It’s a renovated shopping and dining area now, but once upon a time, in the 1800s, it was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail for cattle drives to stock up on supplies before heading into “Indian Territory.”  Later, after the railroads came through, and Armour and Swift opened packing plants there, Fort Worth became the biggest livestock market around, called the “Wall Street of the West.”  When my dad was a kid, the Stockyards were still active, and he brought his farm’s calves to market here.  Today, there are still a few active grain and livestock-related businesses operating in the Livestock Exchange Building that houses the Stockyards Museum, but mostly, the area is now a social gathering place, full of restaurants and shops and groovy old timey saloons.

Cows.  Goin' thataway--->

Cows. Goin’ thataway—>

A gaggle of Longhorns

A gaggle of Longhorns

Just to maintain the atmosphere, they actually have cowboys drive a herd of Longhorns down the middle of the cobbled streets every day, from the old railroad station to the stock pens behind the Livestock Exchange Building.  Well, “herd” may be taking a little creative license, but it was at least a….gaggle.  They don’t exactly stampede, either; it’s more of a shamble or a traipse.  But still, those are some big cows, with some even bigger horns, and it was cool to see.

bullriderThe Cowtown Coliseum is located right in the Stockyards District, and they have Championship Rodeo there every Friday and Saturday night.  So, of course, we had to go.  It’s attended by lots of tourists, because, I mean, come on, if you were from Denmark and you were taking a Wild West tour of Texas as your summer vacation, a real live Texas rodeo would just about make your head explode, wouldn’t it?  And it is a real live Texas rodeo; the competition is no joke.  The cowboys and cowgirls come from all over Texas and Oklahoma, and compete for jackpots and rankings.  We got box seats, so we could be close to the action, and ended up sharing our box with a family from India, an even bigger family from New Jersey who could totally have been extras from an episode of The Sopranos, and what appears to have been a field trip from a school for kids with Down Syndrome.  A colorful group, for sure.  It was a hoot.  At the beginning, you have to sing not only the real national anthem, but that sappy “God Bless The USA” song by Lee Greenwood, and then, of course, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”  They’re a patriotic group, those Texans, and they have some fierce Texan pride.  I swear, if I had tried to reenact this scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it would have worked just like this:

Next time, I’ll try it out, as well as the giant Korean sauna in Dallas, and will report back.  But, I ain’t goin’ back until the temperature comes down a skosh.  Or Dad agrees to an a/c setting at least starting with a 7.