Monday, July 31, 2006

on the road post 4

Helping my ex-roomie move tomorrow (in projected 104 degree weather...wee) and then we're gonna run to the northern part of the state to cool off...his parents have a cabin.

Forgot to mention that when we were at the Global Market place, the Asian food store had Poki Sticks in a flavor labelled "Man."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

on the road post 3

My ex-roomie has a laptop, and he's sponging off his upstair neighbor's WiFi signal...whenever he needs a connection, he has to hold his laptop up towards the ceiling. It looks like he's offering it to the great internet gods in the sky.

Vietnamese food is the best cuisine in the world. Last night, we went to a local Vietnamese restaurant, and that meal will go down in my top dinners ever list.

Later, we went out drinking at the local VFW hall. Apparently, the Minneapolis branch is open to the public. It is full of hipsters. They sing bad Karyoke. I wonder what the few VFW members who brave the young person onslaught think.

While we were drinking, my ex-roomie pointed out one of the vets who works there. "That's Henry," he said. "Henry has a special ritual. He cuts off all his hair when one of his friends dies." I've thought about this a whole lot since, and I wish I could describe exactly how the thought of this makes me feel...I don't know if I'll ever have the necessary adjective for this one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

on the road post two

My ex-roomie (with whom I'm staying) has one of those claw-foot tubss, so, in order to shower, he's had to rig up a wraparound shower curtain. It does close in on you...and when I left my shower, I felt like I had just been chemically decontaminated.

For lunch, we went to this indoor ethnic marketplace called the Midtown Global Market. It was really cool, lots of weird food booths.

We ate some $1.50 goat tostadas from this Mexican place...they were huge and tasty. The Mexican booth had the most awe-inspiring stacks of pork rind sheets...I will eventually post photos.

There was also a Mexican seafood place (Marlin Flautas), a Carribean Soul Food place, a Mexican breakfast place, and tons of others...all staffed by a selection of gorgeous exotic beauties. Very cool for lunch.

on the road post one

The Detroit airport is one of my favorite...when you arrive on a puddle-jumper, you arrive on an outpost terminal. To get to the main terminal, you have to go under one of the runways. There, they have a psychadelic light show, thunder sounds, and Japanime-esque's what I imagine Tokyo must be like, down to the high-speed train in the main terminal.

I ate at the airport. Note to the restaurant...Mexican food should have some taste other than spackle.

After some junk food (Crazy Bread!) to wash the no-taste of the Mexican food out of my mouth, I hit an airport of my favorite classes of places. I ordered a bloody mary (an airport tradition) and met my neighbors. The guy to my left was having a plate of french fries for desert "because I had sushi for dinner and needed some starch." As he was reaching for the ketchup, he told me that, as a liberal, he generally only uses Heinz. We then speculated on how much money an airport strip club would make and why we never see them. He also speculated that passengers should have a drink or two before going they are properly lubricated to deal with terrorists if they encounter any. These are the types of conversations you can only have at airport bars.

Why is CNN so omnipresent in airports? At the Toledo airport bar, there were two televisions, one tuned to CNN and one tuned to something else. When I sat in front of it, I found out that it was on second day coverage of some minor golf tournament...that had been rain-delayed. Scintillating television, I can tell you. The bartender (a 40-something blonde, minorly leatherish, lived and tanned too hard and it showed in her skin...and every airport in the world has one just like her) sighed, let out an "Oh, man," and tuned the television to...CNN. Thank the heavens for alcohol.

The airport had the PA warning and announcements in several languages, but the English ones were the only ones done by a male...all Asian languages were announced by females. Either this means something, or the three hour layover was starting to take effect.

We boarded the plane and sat on the runway for an hour while waiting for thunderstorms to pass. This brings to mind: how can airplane seats be so unsuited for sitting? Their concaveness really hurt my back.

As the flight attendant passed beverages out to the window passengers beside me, I could feel some effervescence rain down on my was very surreal.

From a certain distance and altitude, the nighttime city lights of a metropolis look like crashing waves of molten lava.

I know this post is minorly random, but you'll just have to wait for closure...if I get any, you'll hear it here first.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Am I the only one tremendously disappointed that no one ever calls anyone else a "rapscallion" or "scaliwag?"

Monday, July 10, 2006

Polish blah

For those requesting an update on the Polish sucked. It was mostly a collection of merchants selling stuff that had nothing to do with Poles (a windcatcher table?) or selling food that wasn't Polish (who would eat gyros at a Polish festival?). The pirogi booth was selling frozen merchandise dipped in the fryer. There was a tent where oompah music was going to be played, but that hardly masked my disappointment. The only cool thing was being able to wander around while drinking beer.

I have higher hopes for the upcoming Montpelier Bean Days festival.

Friday, July 07, 2006

post-vacation insights 3--visitors

When one is from Florida, one has to deal with tourists to at least a certain extent. Yes, I know that tourists go many places...hell, when we lived in Charleston, SC, we had to put up with a ton of them...but Florida basically depends on them for its livelihood.

This overreliance on outsiders (whom the natives invariably resent) is a major cause to the unique Florida character, a major reason why Florida (and Floridians) do things a little differently...and are themselves a little different.

Some areas of difference? Some are nice and sweet...the Florida Welcome Center on I-95, for instance, gives out free samples of orange or grapefruit juice...sweet literally. Some are slightly incongruous...every city in Florida (at least among the coastal/tourist areas) plants palm trees everywhere they can...although the trees are native to very few of the places that grow them. Then, as everyone knows, Florida can get seriously weird...

Case in point: My parents accompanied the wonderful wife and I on a trip down to St. Augustine. For those of you not familiar, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US, and it is one of the places made famous because Ponce de Leon supposedly thought it contained an actual fountain of youth. They also have a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum. My wife wanted to see a bit of Florida, so we went for a visit.

The whole way down, however, I kept seeing billboards for a place which billed itself as "The Florida Visitor's Center." They had tons of black billboards with either orange or fluorescent yellow writing advertising alternatively "Indian River Citrus," hundreds of tourist shirts, free orange juice, and the like. The clincher for me is that I saw one advertising a "13 foot alligator." Naturally, I wanted to go see this. Of course, my loving parents refused to believe I was serious and drove straight past the place as I pouted in the back seat.

So we went to St. Augustine, which is actaully pretty nice in spite of being touristy. The secret is that St. Augustine has never been invaded by the major corporations. There are no mouse ears, there are no superhero rides, and none of the restaurants are owned by b-movie stars. It's more kitch than commercial, which is nice. But you can still see historic stuff and get a sense that you are actually in Florida instead of some generic theme park. We wandered around the tourist streets, stared at the river, bought some 2/$5 teeshirts, and trooped around the fort.

On the way back, we stopped at the King's Head British Pub, which is just a nice recreation of an authentic pub run by an authentic Englishwoman. As my Mom's from England, she always feels at home here, and I like it for the good beer selection (I had a Fullers ESB) and good British food...their stilton onion soup is excellent, as is their fish and chips. This place is cool because even though it's just out of a tourist destination, it's not touristy at's just a cool local hangout.

After dinner, we drove back to Jacksonville. I managed, however, to convince the parental units to detour to the Florida Visitor's Center for which I saw so many billboards on the trip down...I think the beer and food helped in that regard. But I'd seen enough serious tourism...I wanted my cheese.

The center was, in a word, fantastic...everything I hoped it would be. In terms of layout, it was essentially a gas station with an extended grocery area filled with all the merchandise you could imagine. They had tons of cheap teeshirts (I got one that had a picture of an alligator and the words "Bite Me...Florida"), tons of silly gator and flamingo knicknacks, gator jerky, key lime candy (in the shape of alligators), and every other bit of cheap crap you could imagine.

They did in fact still have the 13 foot alligator, which was nice. It was stuffed, not live, which was a little bit of a bummer. It was, however, surrounded by hundreds of stuffed gator heads, which made it look like some weird Aztec monument gone seriously awry...which of course made me love it all the more. So we got our cheap, kitch tourist stuff and went home...and I was fully content.

The highlight of the trip was getting a balance of all the tourist styles save the plastic megacorp variety. Let's face it...none of the touristy things that people experience in Florida have any real relationship to the state. It's not really a princess-stuffed land of illusion. Neither, however, is it a historical paradise. And actual Floridians never actually eat gator jerky or drink out of a mug made of shells...unless they're deliberately being stupid, like me.

Tourism is always a game, a ruse. Tourist areas want people to come there, gain some overly romantic or excitement-filled notion of the surroundings which will ensure return visits, spend a whole lot of cash, and then go the hell away. So reality doesn't enter into it at all...but this is obvious to anyone who's either lived in a tourist area or been a tourist themselves.

The reason that tourism holds a certain amount of charm is the varieties of games played, the different narratives of place sold, the subtle line between "we need you" and "get the hell out" on which every tourist-scavanger dances.

I've always preferred the kitchy variety because in many ways, it's the most subtle. "Yes, you may think these shell lamps are junky and're right, they are...and you may think that I'm a hick for making and selling them...but you're gonna buy them, and I'm taking money off your idiotic ass in the who's the hick here?" You know every purveyor of junky stuff is thinking this.

Tourism as's definitely a topic worthy of further thought...

reasons you should visit my Flickr page

I have many witty photos up on my Flickr page, such as this one, which I entitle "wrestling with alcohol"...enjoy!

cinema and fandom

Last night, me and three great friends went to see the midnight sneak peek of the second Pirates of the Carribean film...which I can definitively say was...very long.

There were a number of previews, but the one that got the best reaction was...for the upcoming Transformers film. just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


One of the things that fascinated me most about living in the north was the overwhelming number of summer festivals...I guess it has something to do with revelling in the sun while you can...that, and a desire to drink cheap beer in a plastic, fenced-off area after eating crappy food and listening to either oompah music or bluegrass.

The last two years, Lori and I have wanted to do more festivals, and the one that I have been pushing for is the McClure Radish festival. McClure is this microscopic township just west of Bowling Green which is apparently "the radish capital of the world." I personally hate radishes, but the idea of having a whole festival dedicated to them is both perverse and kitchy enough to be very appealing. However, we keep missing it, damnit.

I read about the Michigan Elvisfest in this weekend's paper, and it also sounded perfect...but alas, it's $15 a pop...and I love kitch, but not that much.

So instead, this weekend, we're going to the Lagrange Street Polish Festival in Toledo. I suspect the food will be awesome. Stay tuned for updates.

they can dazzle or delight....

When my sister married, she (much like me) was lucky to get very cool in-laws. About six years before I moved up to Ohio, me and my brother flew into Ann Arbor MI to visit my sister, and we spent an afternoon or two drinking with the in-laws. When I came to Ohio to find an apartment, my sister's in-laws treated me like lost family, which made me feel really good.

There is the added benefit that they are of Polish descent...and as little as I like so subscribe to ethnic type-casting, I will admit that they share a very large zest for life. Me and my sister's father-in-law have somewhat become drinking buddies. So, since the fourth of July is his birthday, it becomes a nice multi-layered celebration, and the beer does tend to flow.

Unfortunately, since in the last few years the fourth has fallen on a weekday and either my wife or I have to work the next day, we usually don't get to stay very late...and thus miss out on all the major firework displays in the area. There are some fireworks, but they're limited to sparklers, dog-frightening poppers, and the occasional bottle rocket which my sister's husband sets off starting around 4ish...when it's completely and utterly pointless, as the sunlight renders the explosion totally invisible. You have to, however, admire the determination, and I have to admit to holding onto a lit roman candle or two in the midday sun myself.

So the wonderful wive and I usually end up driving home just as it finally turns dark...but that's okay, because we get to see most every firework display between Dexter and Ann Arbor. The sober wife drives, while I, the drunken husband, hold her hand...and we "oooh" and "ahhh" at the distant explosions that occasionally peak over the treetops, even though, to us, they're only the size of a penny.

This year, our timing was perfect...we got to see the entire Bowling Green firework display. We picked it up when the explosions were more or less specks, and we kept it in sight as we breezed down I-75. As we got closer to town and got closer to the fireworks, the pace of the show quickened. When we drove past the BGSU football stadium, where they were shooting them off, the performance started to peak. We pulled into the BG main road right as the fireworks climaxed, and we could see the explosions the clearest right as the finale ran its course...and we were driving close enough to feel the "booms."

Of course, through the clouds of gunpowder smoke rolling in on Wooster, we could see people in lawn chair in the front of the Big Boy, the various gas stations, and the fast food places. They all had great seats too, but while they had to fight traffic, we were already almost home.

I found it all much more romantic than probably would've a normal person.