Monday, October 25, 2010

Dallas


I had to return my car to the DFW airport Friday afternoon, so in the morning I went into Dallas.  I decided to check out the Dallas Museum of Art.  It was pretty nice.  I didn’t see anything that really blew me away, but it was still a nice place.  There was an exhibit of African masks.  That was kind of neat, though that stuff is not really my thing.  At least not in museums.  If someone gave a presentation on the masks and their significance, then I might be more interested, but looking at them and reading about them in a museum tends to bore me.  There was also an exhibit called “The Mourners” I think.  It was just a collection of old figures from tombstones.  Basically they were all bishops or monks.  I think they were on some royal person’s tomb.  It’s one of those things that’s been done by plenty of kings and important figures through time.  The idea being that the person who dies wants someone to go with him to the afterworld, or to pray for him or protect him.  Sculpture’s not my thing.  And while I like reading, I can only do so much of it on museum walls.  There was also an exhibit of Jose Posada’s work.  I liked it, though it’s probably not the most technically difficult work.  Again, I didn’t read all the history about him and his work, but I know he did different commercial works; book covers and ads and other things along those lines; and also got involved in more political work.  He also used skeletons a lot in his work.  If you look him up that’s probably something you’ll see.  Other than those things there was some pretty good modern art, and I always like that stuff.  Unfortunately the section where the impressionists would have been displayed was closed for some reason. 
After that I had to take the car back and get a shuttle to my hotel.  The hotel I stayed at was really cool.  I should have taken some pictures, but of course I didn’t.  It’s called NYLO, and I guess there are a few of them around the country.  Their whole thing is to make their rooms look more like lofts.  It’s definitely a different feel from your standard hotel.  The floor and walls are just concrete, and the bathroom has a big sliding door, and there are some exposed pipes.  But, it’s still really nice.  The bed was great and the furniture was cool looking and the bathroom was nice, too.  It was really just going for a kind of chic, cool look.  It’s probably the coolest place I stayed at during my travels.   I think I already talked about the place I stayed at in L.A. which was also cool.  I don’t think I mentioned, though, the place I stayed at in Albuquerque—if I remember correctly—which was also neat.  It was just a motel 6 that I randomly picked from the Interstate.  But, it was another one of those places that just had a little bit different feel.  There was a cool color scheme, and an interesting little desk, more like a place you’d eat than a work kind of desk, and the bed was more like a futon mattress than a standard mattress.  I realize that’s not the best description, but I’m probably already boring you.  I do think it’s cool, though, to find places that are a bit different.
Back, to NYLO, though.  After I relaxed in my room for a bit, I headed downstairs for dinner.  Sticking with the chic style they had a really cool looking bar/restaurant and the bartender was great.  I started to think, though, that I was not cool enough to really fit in.  Most of the people around were in designer jeans and nice shoes, button down shirts or nicer polo shirts, and some had on jackets.  I was there with my sneakers and linen pants and short sleeved plaid shirt.  But, just as I was thinking I wasn’t cool enough to strike up any conversations, I got to talking to a guy two seats down from me.  I don’t remember how it started, probably something about the Rangers/Yankees game.  Anyway, we got chatting a bit, and it was all pretty intelligent stuff.  Turns out he was born in Zimbabwe, and has been living in the U.S. for about 6 years.  So we talked a little about Zimbabwe—mostly he just told me some things since I don’t know much except their economy is terrible.  I think we were talking a little about my adventures traveling the country when he asked me something like “How crazy you wanna get tonight?”  I should have said, “Not crazy at all.  I want to go up to my room and watch the baseball game away from all Rangers fans.”  But instead I decided to go with him to a bar he thought would be a little more exciting.
The place was called Chaucers, and it was alright.  A fairly standard sports bar kind of place.  There were plenty of people there and plenty of TV screens, too.  We sat at the bar next to a couple girls who we started talking to.  One of them was a big Rangers fan, so we had to do some trash talking.  She was kind of young looking, but I resisted asking how old she was for a long time.    It wasn’t her response that made me feel old—she’s 22—but just the fact that I asked.
But, we were all having fun—even though the Yankees lost—drinking and talking.  After the game I hit the dance floor, and then the fun really started.  I was getting down with everyone.  It was all fun, except for one moment when I apparently asked someone’s girlfriend to dance.  She was just sitting there alone at the table, maybe with some other girls, so I asked her to dance, all in good fun.  I think she said no, but I asked her again, trying to cajole her a bit, though I don’t think I was pushy at all.  Anyway, at that point some guy comes over and puts his arm around her or something and I said “Oh, are you her boyfriend?” and he just sort of shrugged.  And I apologized and explained I wasn’t trying to hit on his girlfriend or anything, I was just having fun.   But, still he insisted on saying some possessive, alpha male junk along the lines that I needed to just move along.  Then, even as I was backing up he waved his hand at me like he was waving me away.  It just didn’t seem necessary to me.   Of course, there is the possibility that in my drunken state I didn’t come off as harmless and silly to the girl I was talking to.  Oh well, there were plenty of other people who thought I was fun.
This was all still pretty early because it was about 12 when I left Chaucers with Danford—that’s the guy from Zimbabwe—to go to some party his friend was at.  On the way there he says, “It’s gonna be all black people at this party.  Are you cool with that?”  I hadn’t even thought about something like that before, but once he said something I did start to wonder if I was gonna get there and everyone would be like “what’s this white boy doing here?” or if I was dance get silly and dance with someone’s girlfriend and then get beat up.  But, in the end there was nothing at all to worry about.  I mostly just talked to Dan and his friends and they were all cool.
The place was pretty interesting.  When Dan said party, I assumed he meant at a house, but really it was at a well, a club I guess.  We pulled up at this kind of small looking block building and went inside.  Right inside the door was a girl with a little guest list.  Dan’s friend put us on the list, so she let us through and we headed down this long hallway that was all lit with red lights and all along the way were wooden doors.  I leave it up to your imagination to decide what was behind those doors and what happened there.  Eventually the hallway ended with a stairway down to the basement.  I don’t remember when I could hear the music, but certainly by the time we got to the stairs I could hear it.  We went down and there was a huge open space with almost nobody in it.  There was one guy working the bar—if I can even call it that.  It was maybe 5 feet long and had kind of a tropical/tiki theme from what I remember.  Dan tried to order a mixed drink and the guy stopped him and said he only had beer.  I saw he had a Heineken in his hand, so I ordered one for each of us.  Then we saw Dan’s friends.  Introductions were shared, and I got a little bit more of a look around.  Like I said, there was almost nobody there, the four of us—Me, Dan, and his two friends—were kind of crowded back in a corner as if there was nowhere else to be.  From what I could see, the room was a kind of L shape.  Against one of the center walls was a big stage.  There was nobody on the stage, but the poles on the stage and a joke Dan made about wishing he could see some strippers gave me the impression that there were strippers at this place from time to time.  After Dan talked to his friends for a bit he pointed out the food table.  I was a bit reluctant at first, since I was basically just a stranger, but he insisted so we went and checked it out.   There was spaghetti and refried beans and fried chicken.   It was all good.  I really should have eaten more of the chicken.  It was excellent.
We decided, though, that this place was not really that great, so we headed back to Chaucer’s.  By this, time, though it was getting late and I was quickly losing steam.  Unfortunately, Dan was my ride, so I was stuck with him.  I tried to dance a little more, and chatted some with some more girls.  Finally, though, last call came, and everyone was kicked out.  We stood around outside for what seemed like forever before once again going to the place where the “party” was.  I was done, and tried to get Dan to take me back to my hotel, but he said he’d be quick and I could just stay in the car.  So, I slept in the car while he did whatever he was doing.  Finally, about 4am I stumbled back to my room and crashed on my wonderful bed.
I didn’t mention before that part of the reason I stayed at NYLO instead of a cheaper place was because I wanted to be sure I was at a place where I could get a good night’s sleep before my marathon train ride.  So much for that, huh?  So, I woke up at 8:30 on Saturday and decided I could sleep another hour and still make my train.  I figured if I was in a taxi by 10:30 I should be at the train station on time with no worries.  At 9:30 and slowly and sickly dragged myself through the chores needed to make myself presentable and ready to go, and by 11 was on the road to the Amtrak station.  Luckily it wasn’t a very long ride and I got there on time.  The only thing was, my 11:50 train didn’t show up 2.  I could have stayed in my hotel until they kicked me out at 12 and probably felt much better.  Instead I had to take a bouncy taxi ride hoping I’d make it all the way without puking.  But, I made it and there was no puking in the taxi or at the train station and as of the writing of this blog at 9:30pm on Saturday I’m feeling better.

Onward to New Orleans!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fort Worth

Tonight I'm in Fort Worth.  I'll stay around here tomorrow and the next day it's time to hop on the train for my venture to New Orleans. 

I'm definitely starting to think about home more.  This seems to be becoming less of a big vacation adventure and now just a long trip home.  I keep thinking about going home and sleeping in my own bed, but then I remember that I'm 28 and going home like that isn't really the same as it used to be.  That also brought about the realization that once this trip is over I have to start looking for a job and a place to live.
I also started thinking about being back in America in weird ways.  I'm certainly glad to be back in America and it will be nice to be back in my home town where things are familiar.  But, at the same time, I feel like my life has been basically frozen for the last 2 years, and soon it's going to come unfrozen.  I'm going to have to get another job, and probably it will require more work, and pay less than my job in Korea.

Yesterday in Albuquerque I had a pretty good time.  I typed up my blog in the morning, then found the zoo and walked around there for awhile.  It's a kind of small zoo, but it's pretty nice.  It seemed like there were several animals there that I'd either never seen, or never seen so well in a zoo.  It was also pretty empty, too.  Not surprising, since it's the middle/end of October and it was a weekday.  At one point I was headed toward and indoor exhibit called "Nightwatch" or something like that.  You go inside and it's really dark, and I guess there are supposed to be nocturnal animals or animals who live in caves or other dark places.  I'm not really sure because I couldn't see any of them in their cages.  But, just outside, before I went in there was a brother and sister who were just kind of standing around and playing together.  Once I got kind of close, the boy said "If you want to know where our parents are, they're eating."
"Oh...ok.  And they left you here?" I asked, a bit puzzled because I hadn't asked about his parents and I thought it was weird for mom and dad to be chowing down while the kids just chilled out.
"Yeah, they went through there, but we're too scared to go." He said, gesturing to the Nightwatch exhibit.
"Is there something scary in there?"
"It's really dark.  Mom and dad are being eaten I think."  Which made me wonder if that's what he'd said the first time.  It also made me wonder why he was so calm if he thinks his parents are being devoured by some zoo beasts. 
"Being eaten?  There must be something really scary in there.  Are there bats, you think?"
"I don't know I was too scared to go.  Will you help us find our parents?"
Of course I went in with the kids.  The little boy grabbed my hand as soon as we got in.  It really was dark, especially right inside the door.  We only got a couple of steps in when the boy let go of my hand, his dad was right there, on his way back to get the kids.
I kept running into the family after that.  They were nice enough.  The kids were super cute.  The little boy loved to talk, and his big sister was a little more shy, though she said a couple things to me.  But, after kind of being on the same path for a bit it got a little awkward.  We weren't going through the zoo together, but then we kept running into each other, so the first couple of times we said "hello" and then some sort of "goodbye" as our paths diverged briefly.  But then it just got into that spot where we didn't really want to hang out, but it was hard to ignore each other since there was almost nobody there. 
Hmmm...maybe that didn't come through so well when I wrote it down.  Perhaps a "you had to be there" thing.  Oh well, you've read it now, so just move on. 

Oh, one other thing.  I've been listening to my iPod a lot as I drive from place to place, and the one thing I listen to most is a podcast called Stop Podcasting Yourself.  It's basically like a morning radio show.  It's two Canadian comedians and usually a guest just talking about stuff they do and see and whatever.  They're pretty damn funny though.  So, you should check them out if you like that stuff.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I should have made that left turn in Albuquerque

Is that how the Bugs Bunny line goes?  Or is it "shouldn't"?  Anyway, today I'm in Albuquerque, and of course I'm still behind on this blog.  So, journey with me as I cast my mind back to the Grand Canyon.

Day two at the Grand Canyon was pretty cool.  I went on my tour in the morning.  The tour guide was this cool guy named Jake who used to be a kind of teacher's assistant in a 2nd grade classroom, but then he went rafting down the Colorado River thorugh Grand Canyon and decided that was the life for him.  So, for now he's guiding little tours and just waiting for a spot to open up as a rafter.  It was a nice tour.  Lots of driving and just listening to him, but he was interesting and we did go to several view points where he could show us things, and at one spot he grabbed me and another guy and took us off the beaten path a bit, led us on a little bit of rock scrambling to get us on this nice outcropping.  I didn't take my camera so that it wouldn't get broken and so that someone could take a picture of me from the safer viewpoint, but somehow the view where I was seemed so much better than the view closer to the parking lot, even though that view is right on the edge of the canyon, too.
Just getting to the top.  On my left the guide is helping the other guy up the last climb.

At the top with a nice view of the canyon behind.
 As I learned at Bryce Canyon, and as some of you may know if you've been there or the Grand Canyon, pictures hardly do it justice.  I took a ton at Bryce Canyon, but actually took very few at the Grand Canyon.  There was a part of me that really wanted to, but I knew it was mostly futile.
Oh, and the guy climbing with me--who's not in the pictures--is named John.  He was there visiting from CT with his wife.  He's really afraid of heights, so going out there on those rocks was a big deal for him.  We were chatting as we climbed and stood on the rock, and I told him I might be coming out to the east coast.  So, he gave me his card and said if I was there I could stay with him and his wife.  It's amazing how many people will make offers like that to strangers.

After the tour I got some pizza and ran into a couple other people who had been on the tour with me.  So, we sat together and got to talk a bit.  It was nice, though they didn't invite me to come stay with them.  There was a museum nearby--more of a just western museum and not specifically the Grand Canyon.  They had a lot about Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickok.  They also had a lot of Grand Canyon art.  There was one painter I really liked.  I can't remember his name now.  He was a German, painting around the 1920's if I remember correctly.  Most of his paintings were a little bit stylized, not going so strictly for realism.  To me that seems the only way to handle the Grand Canyon.  You can't make it look right if you try to make it look realistic, but if you're good I think you can make a painting give a similar feeling.  Our tour guide talked about that a little bit because we were talking about photos not really being effective.  He was explaining that because most people have never seen anything on the scale of the Grand Canyon, you're brain isn't sure how to respond.  Normally you look at something new your brain compares it to other things you've seen and you figure out what it is.  But something like the Grand Canyon is so different from our usual experiences that our brains don't exactly know how to categorize it.

But, moving on.  That night I went to the bar at the basement of my hotel.  There were several people there who worked at the hotel across the street.  There was one girl in the group, and at one point she made a comment about working laundry that day.  So, I said, "You can do my laundry if you want."  Pick up line of the year, huh?  But it worked.  A little bit later she came by me and said something and I apologized a bit and told her I was only joking and she says, "It's fine, but now you owe me."
"What do I owe you?" I asked.
"Just your company."
She was a pretty good looking girl, and I was a few drinks in, so this all seemed good to me.  So, we headed outside so she could smoke and we could talk.  This girl had a million stories.  She has done theater work as a lighting engineer.  I should have guessed.  She was dressed in black from head to toe like every theater tech I've ever known.  Apparently, "the good old boys" around town called her a goth, but that description really didn't hold water.  She said she had also worked a little bit of radio.  This was as a kid of only like 12, going to work with her single mom and filling in for quick station IDs from time to time.  She gave me an example, and she definitely had the voice for it.  Does Woody Harrelson have a band?  Or did he at one time?  I can't remember for sure, but I think she told me she did lighting for his band.  And trying to impress me she said, "I've met Woody Harrelson a couple of times."  But, actually even Woody seems like too big of a star from the way I remember it.  She said she also was on Second Life for awhile.  It's an online thing which is kind of what it sounds like.  You make a second you and live a second life where you can do lots of things you can't do in real life.  She didn't just play on there, it was a job.  Apparently she and a computer programmer had created an ancient Greece based on mythology as well as an old Spanish sailing simulation.  She said people loved to come there and pay their money to sail the ship or walk around with the Greek gods and goddesses.  I still think, though that most people came on so they could have virtual sex with Aphrodite or a mermaid.  This girl also wrote poetry and painted, and was a single mom.  She showed me a painting and a picture of her daughter and quoted some of her poetry to me, but still I think that half the things she said were 50% bullshit.  By the way, she didn't tell me all of this on one little smoke break.  We went in and out of the hotel a few times.  Then we went up to my room because it was more comfortable than the cold hotel lobby and the colder outside.  Don't worry mom, we didn't do anything unsafe.  We didn't do anything but talk and talk and talk.  And by that I mean she talked and talked and talked and I slowly changed from being interested in her and what she had to say to just wanting to go to sleep.  After sitting in my room for a little bit, she said she was going home, but being the gentleman I am, I said I'd walk her back to her place which was just across the street.  Then she invited me in for a Stella Artois, a beer I do not like, but I felt I couldn't turn her down.  Finally, about 4am I got away.

I had intended to go walking around the Grand Canyon more the following day, but with little sleep, and a bit of a hangover, hiking just didn't seem like a good idea.  Instead, I drove back to the Hoover Dam.  It's only 3-4 hours away, and I was in the mood for some driving.  I got to the Dam too late for a tour that day, but I got a hotel and went out to dinner and cool little brewery in Boulder City.  I said something to the bartender about traveling and some older guy down the bar jumped right into a conversation with me.  He's done a lot of traveling, and was thinking about going to Cambodia, so I told him what I know about that and even gave him the name of one of my tuk-tuk drivers there.  I was tired and went home fairly early that night, but he called me up and invited me out the next day to the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas with his wife and some of his friends.  By the way, this guy is named David and he's 65.  I wasn't totally sure about hanging out with a bunch of people who are older than my parents, but I figured it wouldn't kill me.  So, this was maybe the evening of the 16th, if I don't have my days too confused.  They gave me a ride out there, and I had a great time.  The food was great, there were pretty waitresses in the German beer girl kind of garb, there was a band that played, and later in the evening some Beatles impersonators came in to play a few songs, and of course there was beer.  So, we ate and drank and had fun.  The highlight of the night, though, may have been the Jagermeister.  There was this girl walking around selling shots of Jager, and whenever you got one you also had to bend over the table and get paddled.  Plenty of guys were stepping up and it brought about cheers every time.  The girl, though was kind of thin and not dressed in the German style.  She looked more like someone you'd see at a normal bar.  Definitely not my type, and kind of a wimp.  BUT, our server, Kirsten was something different.  She's from Ohio, not so thin and frail looking and she knew how to hit.  So, I made sure to get my shot from her.  There was a bit of a sting, but she gave me a little hug afterward and that made it all better.
Not long after my spanking we headed back home.  It was still early and David was not ready to call it a night.  He's a bit of a party animal I think.  And we were having some good discussions.  So, back in Boulder City he and his wife took me to a little wine bar called Milo's.  They had wine and I had beer, and we ended up talking politics.  It got a little heated, but no feelings got hurt.  That's also when David's wife really got into all the discussion, too.  After that, they took me back to my hotel.

The next day I finally got to the Hoover Dam.  They were opening a new bridge there and I was afraid it would be wildly busy, but it actually wasn't.  It's really interesting to see the Hoover Dam, especially after being so recently at places like Bryce Canyon and especially the Grand Canyon.  People at the Grand Canyon don't really like the Hoover Dam.  Our tour guide said it straight out when we asked him, but even the literature in the different visitor's centers in the park gave the connotation that the Dam wasn't too great.  The canyons are of course all about the beauty and grandeur of nature, but the Hoover Dam is an unashamed tribute to the power of man.  There was so much about how men had built this thing and improved the lives of so many others out west.  It's not a sentiment that you find in many other places these days.  Personally, I kind of like it.  I think I'll have to find a book about the building of the Hoover Dam.
One of my favorite things at the dam.

I don't think you'd see this kind of language today unless it's about soldiers.


So, the Hoover Dam was pretty cool, and the drive out of there was gorgeous.  In fact, I had to pull off the Interstate at one point so I could take some pictures.  I was driving along, looking at the desert and the rocks and the clouds when I saw a beautiful rainbow. 
Rainbow in the desert 
If you look closely, coming down from the clouds, just above those rocks at the bottom you can see a rainbow.  It was much more vivid in real life.  It was really a beautiful sight.  A few more miles down the road I could see another as well.

After the Hoover Dam I made my way to Flagstaff, AZ where I didn't do much of anything and then moved on to Albuquerque, NM where I also probably won't do much.  It's only noon now, so I'll wander around and look for some fun, but to be honest I'm getting a little road weary.  Without a travel partner or really specific things to see, such as the Grand Canyon, it's a little hard to keep up the energy of adventure.  My next stop, though, is Dallas and then a looong train trip to New Orleans.  Then I think I'm winding my way back home.  I think there's a zoo around here, so I might check that out.

There you go, you're all up to date.  I hope you're enjoying my stories.  And, for those of you I will see in person at some point, I'll probably have more stories to tell.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Boulder City, NV

So much to say, where do I begin?  I guess I need to back track a little bit to catch this up.  I talked about Portland and going to Seattle, and I talked about Bryce Canyon and getting to the Grand Canyon, but I never talked about Seattle.
I had a really good time in Seattle.  Josh, an old friend of mine has lived out there for a few years and just by coincidence, my cousin Nick was also coming out at the same time to visit Josh, so we all got to hang out.  I also got to see my mom, who also just happened to be there for work.  Let me see if I can get into some of the details here.
I got into Seattle on the evening of the 5th?  It's hard to remember, all the days seem to be blending together.  I got there and met up with Josh after a bit of trouble with the bus system.  I actually got off the bus a few blocks too early, so Josh had to come find me.  I have to set this up here, Josh is an old friend, we went to school and church together, but he was never a good friend.  I don't think I ever hung out with him other than at church functions.  The point is, I haven't seen him or really talked to him in years.  The last time I saw him he may have actually been in high school.  Then he was a little goofy seeming, tall, thin guy with curly/wavy hair.  So, I'm waiting on the street corner with my bags, looking out for this guy, when who should approach, but a guy with straight hair swept over one eye, a leather jacket, tight jeans and low leather boots.  I could see him across the street talking to me on his cell phone, but I still couldn't believe it was him.  He's definitely the last guy I would have picked to turn into some kind of hipster.  But, he's still just as nice and cool as he always was.  We went to get some dinner and a beer and waited for Nick to arrive, then we headed to Josh's apartment for some more beer and talking with Josh and his band mates and girlfriend.  It was about 11 o'clock when Nick and I both realized we didn't have a place to stay.  But, Josh was nice enough to vacate his place to stay with his girlfriend upstairs and let Nick and I share his bed.  Josh had to work in the morning, so Nick and I had to get out early and figure out what we were doing.  We knew the place we wanted to stay, and there was a little cafe under it, so that's where we went.  We were in the university district, and had to walk down "the ave," the big strip in the area.  If you're familiar with IU, imagine a couple of guys walking down Kirkwood with all their bags while college students hustle around to their classes.  We kind of stuck out.
We got some coffee, though and got a place to stay for the night, then headed right over to the campus to look around.  Again, time to stick out.  Two guys with no books or bags, but cameras in hand, wandering aimlessly and taking pictures of trees and things.  It's a really nice campus, though.  There's also a really great view of Mt. Ranier that we snapped a few pictures of at sunset.  between the campus tour and sunset we went to gasworks park.  I don't know the exact story behind it.  I don't know if gas refers to natural gas or gasoline, and I'm not going to pretend to know what I'm talking about because I'll just end up looking dumber.  But now, it's just old pipes and pumps and things by the water with a big grassy hill nearby, and it's actually quite cool.  A great place for pictures.

Josh didn't want to come out that night, but that didn't stop Nick and I.  We got an early start at the pub in the basement of our hotel building, drinking beer and shots of Jameson.  It was a good time, though neither of us could really remember leaving nor if we remembered to close our tabs.  But, a quick check in our wallets proved that we had indeed closed our tabs and gotten our credit cards back.  And thanks to online banking it wasn't long before I could see that I hadn't done anything crazy like buy a round for the whole bar.

The next day we went to the Experience Music Project and Sci-fi Museum--a pair that anyone would put together I think.  The EMP was really cool.  Lots of neat guitars and little American music history exhibits.  Basically focused all on rock, and a lot about the Northwest.  And, even though I'm not a huge sci fi fan, and didn't see anything there about the Twilight Zone, the sci-fi museum was pretty cool too.  They had so much stuff to look at and see.  It actually made me want to check out some old sci-fi books and movies. 

We also went to an old bar/restaurant place for lunch.  I can't remember if it's just called 5 point or 5 point bar or something like that, but it seemed pretty cool.  Though, once again I stuck out like a sore thumb.  Josh was wearing his signature black leather jacket and tight jeans and all the regulars and employees were dressed in black, Nick had on a gray shirt and a black jacket or something over it...and I was wearing a white button down shirt with multi-colored stripes that I bought in Korea.  Oh, and I still had the little pink sticker on my chest that they give you in the museum to show you've paid.

That night I went out to the airport to meet my mom and talk to her a bit.  Got to stay in a nice Hilton hotel.  It was a pretty nice place, but one thing I couldn't believe is that they didn't have free wi-fi.  I've seen that advertised at so many dingy looking roadside motels that I can't believe an upscale place like that is charging their guests.  I guess they know they get a lot of business people using company accounts who are gonna pay rather than go without it.  It was good to see my mom and a couple of people she works with.  Plus I got free dinner and breakfast.  That evening, though I had a drink at the bar and got to chat with a guy who I think is in the insurance business.  I can't remember it all now, but a big time business traveler, bouncing from city to city seeing different people and always on the move.  It was fun to trade some stories with him.

After Seattle, I rented a car and headed down to Bryce Canyon--which I've already talked about.  I think I need a break from this now, but I'll try to put up another update soon so that my blogging is all caught up.  There are more good stories to come, and pictures too!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good morning from the Grand Canyon!

It's been far too long.  I swear I'm going to try to do this thing more often.  Anyway today is my first real day at the Grand Canyon.  I got here yesterday evening, but didn’t have the chance to do much.  I went to the National Geographic visitor’s center and looked and souvenirs and watched a pretty interesting IMAX movie about the history of the canyon.  I also signed up for a bus/walking tour of the big spots of the canyon.  I guess it will be ok.  I have some misgivings about being carted around in a bus or van with a bunch of other people and pulling over from time to time to see this or that spot.  I’d rather just get out and walk around more.  But, I think I can do this, get a kind of introduction and then later in the day or the next day I can explore more on
my own.


Monday I left Bryce Canyon, Utah.  I got there on Saturday night and just had a late dinner and stayed in my hotel.  It was a nice room, but kind of odd there.  It was definitely more like a resort than I was expecting.  I picked the place because it's really close to the park, even closer than I realized.  But, the proximity also means it's kind of an isolated little fake tourist town.  I really didn't like that feel.  The people were nice and my room my first night was very nice, but I didn't like the big tourist groups that came in on buses.  I like a little more personal experience.  But, inside the actual park was very different.  There were some tour groups, but I only bumped into them once at one of the big lookout points.  The rest of the time it was mostly couples and small groups of people together.  The views there were amazing.  I think I counted 250 pictures that I took.  I'll try to pick a few of them soon and put them up.  It was really beautiful, but at the same time you get to a point of looking at things and taking pictures where it all starts to look the same.  I think especially with the pictures.  You just can't capture how great it looks.
Looking back I wish I had hiked a little bit more.  I was afraid of getting into a big hike because I wasn't really prepared for it.  But I did hike down to the canyon floor at one point.  It was only 2.5 or 3 miles.  I could have gone around a loop at the floor and stretched it to about 5 miles, but I decided against it.

It was a little lonely out there, though.  There were tons of people, but they were all in groups and absorbed with their own people.  My Chungdahm friends are going to be surprised by this, but I'm dying to find a bar.  Whether it turns out good or bad, the bars have been good places for me to meet people.  There weren't any around Bryce Canyon.  I haven't talked to just another normal, non-service person in days.  It's a little strange.

Well, I've got lots more to say, but I have to go so I don't miss my tour.  I hope you all are doing well, and I promise I will post another update very soon.

Oh!  One more thing.  Check out this guy www.jessesteiner.com who is biking to Argentina.  He's probably way cooler and more interesting than me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Whoa! Big update!


Ok, the upcoming is stuff I just typed up on my computer when I did not have Internet access.  Some of it's a couple days old and I didn't double check it for big errors or anything, so hopefully it's all good.  To give a brief update, I'm currently in Seattle.  I met my friends last night and spent the day walking around the campus and seeing some sights.  I'll give you details about it later, though.  Anyway, let's step back in time....

Well, it’s now 7:30am, Monday, Oct. 4in Oregon.  We just pulled up to a bus stop in Corvallis.  I boarded the bus in San Francisco at 5:30pm yesterday.  I have about 2 more hours left before I reach my final destination of Portland.  Once I’m there I guess I’ll get some breakfast somewhere and thecatch a cab or somehow get to my hotel.  I think I requested an early check-in, but I’m guessing 9:30 is a little too early.  I did sleep some, at some point.  Maybe I got in a couple of hours total when I add up all the little naps.  The ride hasn’t been that terrible, though.  On rides this long it almost seems unreal somehow.  I guess it’s because of the strange sleeping and the brief stops in the middle of the night.  It’s also cold on this bus.  I told the driver that it was really cold in the back and so did another guy I made friends with.  I think the driver adjusted the temperature some, but the back is way colder than the front from what I can tell.
                I’m really surprised at the number of people who are riding this bus from San Francisco.  It makes several stops along the way so I figured there would be a lot of changing of the passengers.  There are at least 6 other people on the bus that I recognize from San Francisco.  One guy is form Norway, and his name is Kami.  He hasn’t been in the US for too long, but he’s here learning to be a pilot.  I think he told me his home base is in Oregon, but maybe he said Montana.  I can’t remember now, it’s been a long 14 hours since he told me that.  He was asking me earlier about US geography.  Of course he had to ask where Wyoming is.  Does anyone who doesn’t live in or adjacent to Wyoming actually know where it is?  Still, I helped him some with his geography.  He was saying things like “I know there is California and if you go up there is Oregon and Washington.  What is to the right from Washington?”
“Idaho is next.”
“And then Milwaukee?”
So, I had to explain about Minnesota and the Dakotas and Montana and he got confused about Iowa.  It was a real stress on my poor understanding of geography.

There’s another guy sitting near me who’s been on the bus since SF.  He’s got a bum arm and goes by Jones.  I haven’t really talked to him much, but I helped him open a couple of his snacks.  He bought some of those things that have the beef stick and the cheese stick packaged together in plastic.  After I helped him open two or three, he gave me one for myself.  I’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse.  I was kind of hungry and didn’t have anything with me, but man it was awful.  The beef part didn’t taste too terrible, but I can’t imagine what’s in it or what it’s going to do to my stomach.  And the cheese was disgusting.  I tried to eat it just out of politeness and gratitude, but I just couldn’t do it.

Yesterday, I was in San Francisco, though.  I had an alright time there.  It didn’t all come out the way I expected, but it was fine.  I stayed with a family friend named Debbie who lives in Hercules, CA.  Originally I planned to get to her on the evening of Oct. 1.  But, I got a little bit of a late start out of LA and though I’ve driven longer distances before, I just couldn’t do it that night.  I was getting too tired, so I had to find a hotel and stop about 2 hours from Debbie’s place.  I think I explained that in my last blog, though.  So, I got to her place around noon on Saturday.  We went to lunch at Sizzler and she drove me around the suburban kind of areas.  She showed me some of Berkeley and we went to this great place called Fenton’s for some ice cream, and she drove me past my Aunt Sue’s old place in El Cerito.  We talked a lot.  Her brother has lived in Korea for 15 years and is married to a Korean woman, so Debbie was really interested to hear what I had to say about Korean life and culture.   Then, yesterday morning we drove into San Francisco.  I had a little trouble returning my rental car.  They told me to return it to a certain place, but that place was closed on Sunday’s and had no after hours drop-off.  So, I had to call customer service and mess with them for awhile before I could find another nearby place to drop it.  It worked out alright, though, because the new drop off was really close to the water and Pier 39.  Debbie showed me around the pier.  I got to see Alcatraz and the sea lions that hang out at Pier 39.  We went across the Golden Gate Bridge and got some pictures there, then drove to Sausalito, which is a really nice place.  From there I could see Angel Island which is kind of the Ellis Island of the Pacific.  Unfortunately, the treatment of people there was not nearly the same as it was on Ellis Island.  Immigrants there were detained and mistreated.  They could be separated from their families or made to wait for months on the island only to be denied access to the country and sent back home—usually to China.  There’s a museum there and I did kind of want to go, but there just wasn’t time.
I didn’t get to see Fisherman’s Warf or ride a trolley and there are probably other things I kind of missed, but still, I think I had a pretty good time.  Next I’m in Portland.  I’ll probably spend a decent amount of today sleeping since I didn’t get much here on the bus.  But, I’ll try to get out in the afternoon and hopefully find a good place to have dinner and a beer tonight.  I’m not sure what beer is local in Oregon, but there must be something.  Then tomorrow I can wander around all day before I catch my train to Seattle in the evening.

10/5/10
Well, I had a pretty good time in Portland.  I got in at 9:30am just liked planned.  I didn’t exactly know what to do or where to go.  I wandered around a bit when Kami found me again.  I thought he was catching another bus right away, and he thought the same thing about me.  But, we were actually both staying in Portland for the time.  He helped me catch the MAX—the Portland transit system.  Unfortunately he got me going the wrong direction.  He rode with me all the way out to the end of the line we were on, then he had to change.  Turns out I needed to be on the opposite end of the line.  Oh well, he tried to help at least.  And, it also let me see a bit of the city, which did come in handy later when I was riding around and getting to different places.  I wasn’t sure how to get to my hotel, and only knew it was close to the airport.  So, I rode out to the airport so I could get the hotel shuttle back to the hotel.  Of course, it was too early to check in at the hotel, so I did a couple of things at the airport.  My bank is very afraid of fraud on my account and keeps blocking me from using my debit card.  I called them up and hopefully got everything straight with them.  I don’t want to have to call every week because I’ve been blocked again.  After that and a little sitting, I got my shuttle to the hotel.
                The hotel wasn’t as nice as the one in L.A.  I think it was formerly an apartment complex.  It smelled kind of funny, too.  But I only paid about $35 for it, so I can’t complain too much.  I don’t think my next place is going to be so great either.  However, I know I have a decent place waiting for me one night in Seattle, and then later when I get to Bryce Canyon.   One nice thing about the hotel was that they were very willing to drive me to the nearest MAX stop so I could get downtown.  That’s a very useful thing when you’re trying to stay cheap and also don’t have a car.
After my long bus ride, I was feeling tired and I tried to take a nap.  It didn’t work too well.  I usually don’t nap well.   So, after a little time dozing and just stretching out on my bed, I decided it was time to head downtown.  I got a lift to the MAX station and rolled on downtown.  One thing I noticed about Portland and L.A. is that they operate their transit systems on a kind of honor system.   I’m used to the systems in Chicago and Busan and Seoul where you purchase a card or ticket and have to feed it into the turnstile to get through.  There’s no such thing in Portland or L.A.  They both have signs that say you have to have a ticket, but I never once saw anyone checking in Portland and only one time in L.A.  Still, I usually paid my dues.  When I first got into Portland, I had no cash and my bank account was still blocked so I rode for free.  But, back to the story.  I took the train downtown and headed to the Pearl district and found Deschutes (I hope I spelled that right) Brewery which someone had suggested for me.  Getting there did require a bit of getting lost, I should add.  A guy at the airport visitor center had given me a map and showed me some places to go.  This place was on the map, and I had the map with me, but I didn’t want to look at it in public.  I don’t like looking like a tourist.  I found the place without too much trouble, though and got a beer and a sandwich.  Both were quite good, but I was feeling sleepy still and I just wasn’t feeling the vibe at the place.  It was nice, but it was too big.  It wasn’t really a good place to meet people.  So, after a relatively quick dinner I headed back to my hotel.  This time I had to walk from the MAX to the hotel.  It wasn’t too far to walk, about 10 blocks or so.  It was interesting, though.  As you might guess, the area near the airport isn’t the most upscale.  But, the road was mostly well-lit, and it’s not like it really felt like such a bad place.  Really it wasn’t much different from east Columbus.  One thing did nearly make me stop, though.  As I’m walking there was a low, square building by the road with a little parking lot beside, and some neon lights up.  Pretty standard look for all kinds of commercial buildings in an area like this.  It was actually an “adult” store, advertising adult books and magazines, an arcade and “live dancers.”  What really got, my attention, though, is that the place was painted all white.  The whole building on the outside was bright white and though the windows were covered with newspapers, there seemed to be a lot of light coming from the inside.  That confused me, because from my limited knowledge, such places are usually pretty dark both inside and out.  I guess they weren’t ashamed.  I also had an urge to check out the “live dancers.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of going into my local adult venue to find the dancers are either dead or prerecorded.  Then again, if the amazing movie Zombie Strippers holds any truth, undead dancers may be the best around.  In the end, though, I decided to keep on moving and get to bed early.
This morning I headed down town again and had a bit more success.  I stopped into Powell’s bookstore, the largest independently owned bookstore in the nation.  I got a couple of books, since I didn’t bring any with me on my trip.  The place is huge, by the way.  I didn’t wander around too much since I wanted to do some other things, but still, it’s a cool place.  I got directions to a good place for breakfast and had some bacon and eggs with potatoes.  It was delicious, though a bit greasy.   

The girl gave me a bowl with assorted jams, one of which was Marionberry.  I had to ask the girl if there really was such thing as a Marionberry or if it was just an old joke.  She explained to me that she thought it was a type of black berry—which made me chuckle—that grew in Washington and Oregon.  I told her the only Marion Barry I knew was from Washington, D.C., but she didn’t seem to get the joke.  Maybe she was too young.

I wandered around somewhat lost for a little bit after that, but soon got out near where I hoped to see the Japanese Gardens I heard were quite nice.  The gardens weren’t right next to the MAX and I’m not sure I got off at the stop nearest them.  So, I wandered some trails through the arboretum for about an hour.  I didn’t find the Japanese Gardens, but I can’t complain.  I did enjoy just getting out in nature for a bit.  Eventually I got back into town, grabbed a slice of pizza and hit Union Station to catch my train.  The station in Portland is great.  It looks just like a train station should.  Straight out of an old movie.  Everything is big and stone and big wooden doors, and there are no electronic signs or anything.  The people are very nice and helpful. And, the train is much nicer than the bus, for about the same price.  I’m just riding coach, but there’s more leg room than a bus or plane, the seat is more comfortable, and it’s quieter than a bus, as well.  And, over a relatively short distance like this, I’d even pick it over flying.  It’s cheaper, there’s less security, so you don’t have to show up so early.  They don’t come around bringing drinks to you, but there’s a car right there that you can walk to and buy things.  Also, you get a nice view.  Well, not all of it is nice, but between Portland and Tacoma there were definitely some very pretty views.  Hooray Amtrak!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Greetings from Glorious Gilroy!

It's been a few days since I've posted, but  I'll try to update without getting too long winded.
I'll start where I left off last time--breakfast.  On Wednesday I woke up too early, but once the sun was up I headed out to Denny's for breakfast.  I looked and looked at the menu, and nearly got the Lumberjack slam which basically comes with everything: Ham, bacon, sausage, 2 eggs, grits or hashbrowns, and pancakes.  But, I know I can't eat that much, so I stuck with the French toast slam.  Ohhh,...so good.  It was just what I wanted.  After breakfast I walked down the street to Walgreens.  Before I was even in the store I could smell it.  It wasn't a bad smell and it wasn't specific to that store.  I realized that every Walgreens has the same smell.  What is it?  Where does it come from?  I don't know, but I kind of like it.

Later I had a seat near the entrance to the Metro to sip on some tea and enjoy the good weather.  Within a minute, a guy sits on the bench with me and says something about how beautiful Korean women are.  That's definitely a subject I can get into.  We ended up sitting there for an hour or so talking about everything.  He grew up in foster homes, he has a 10 year old daughter who goes to a nice private school in Florida, he's a student and comedian, and thinks he wants to be a teacher.

I fell victim to jet lag and just general tiredness and slept through most of the evening, so when I woke up at 10:30 pm, I went to the one place I knew would be open and serve me food--H.M.S. Bounty.  I got into another discussion about Koreans and what they're like.  Seems most people around here think they're pretty rude.  I can understand it.  Some are rude and there are some things Koreans don't consider rude that we do.  I was talking to a gay couple who live in the apartment building above the bar.  One was from Germany and has only been here a few months.  The other was born in Mexico City.  I'm still getting used to so many diverse people.  Everyone is from somewhere else.  We talked for awhile...then things started to get weird.  After last call, the two guys say, "Come up to our room and meet our cat."  Now, I have this idea that most straight guys would have responded with something witty like, "no."  I'll admit, I thought of saying that, but then I thought, "Oh, they're nice guys.  Nothing weird will happen."  So, up we went.  We get out of the elevator and the Mexican guy--I've blocked his name from my memory it seems--says, "Oh, come here Tim, I want to show you the thunderstorm."  A few things popped into my mind: 1) It's not storming. 2) I'm from Indiana, I've seen plenty of thunderstorms. 3) Is this really a good idea?  I thought these things, but, as Leif continued toward his room, I followed the Mexican down the deserted hallway wondering if I was in for a mugging or a kiss, or an actual thunderstorm that could be seen miles off.  Turns out none of those happened.  I could see some rain in the distance, and the Hollywood hills.  It actually was a nice view.
We continued talking about LA.  Their apartments are right across from the old Ambassador Hotel where RFK was assassinated, and right near the original Brown Derby.  So, things went well until the Mexican kid who was getting more and more drunk kicked over a small table and broke a glass.  As he was trying to clean up and Leif was in the kitchen getting more towels, he looks up at me and says, "You are so sexy."  I tried to laugh it off, but he kept giving me those looks.  So, it didn't take me long to get out of there.  Leif had offered to show me around LA, but suddenly I wasn't so interested.  The women reading this may have very little sympathy for that situation.  Probably they're thinking, "That's what happens every time I go to the bar."

So, the next day I was on my own.  I headed out to the Museum of Contemporary Art.  It's small, but it was nice.  I should have taken pictures, but I didn't.  I did get to see some good stuff, though.  They have several Mark Rothko paintings, which I really like, and a couple by Roy Lichtenstein.  There was also Jasper Johns and Andy Worhol.  Those are the only names I remember.  Not a bad way to spend a little time.  I also just wandered around that area of the city, looking at the buildings and watching people.  At dinner I met another teacher who's just started in administration.  He works at a charter school in Louisiana and coaches football, too.  He was in L.A. for some kind of conference.  He also called everyone bossman.  He wanted another beer: "Hey bossman! Can I get another beer?" The guy running the bar quiz game: "Hey bossman!  Can I still get in this game?"  I'm not sure anyone really appreciated, or understood, being called "bossman."
After dinner I went out to Hollywood.  I got to see some of the stars on the walk of fame and just see all the different looking people walking around.  It was definitely a different atmosphere.  Then it was on to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert.  It wasn't bad, but not the best I had seen.  It was worth going to, though.  The crowd in Hollywood after the concert was definitely different from the crowd beforehand.  Lots more people going out to the clubs.  As I approached Hollywood and Highland I could see two women in little black dresses and high heels talking to a couple guys.  I couldn't figure out if they were prostitutes or the guys' girlfriends.

And finally, today.  Today was just riding and driving.  Had to ride out LAX to get a car so I could drive up toward San Francisco.  I didn't make it all the way, but I'm not too far off.  I took the Pacific Coast Highway for a little bit.  It was really nice out there.  There was a cool breeze coming off the ocean, and I could just smell it.  And on my other side were the hills and mountains.  Just beautiful stuff.  A little later I was out in the farms and hills.  Sadly I missed a really good spot to take pictures of the valley.  Ok, that's all.  I'll finish things up with a few pictures.

The Marshmallow Bed
The MOCA

Pavement at the Hollywood Bowl

By the Beach