Monday, April 26, 2010

Rocking the East Coast

After a breezy 3.5-hour drive a week ago, I was transported from the cozy confines of MoCo to the real, "The City." I played tourist during the day and surprised my dad for his 65th (!) birthday at night, before visiting Philly for brunch with a friend from college. It was a whirlwind 36 hours, but hot damn it was worth it!

Somehow nobody's making eye contact with anybody else.

The new pedestrian walkway was much appreciated in Times Square. I still had to fend off five-year-olds who didn't know how to get out of the way. I stepped aside instead of getting hit in the groin.

Let's travel all the way to this city of great restaurants just to eat at the Olive Garden. Sadly, the place was packed.

Long live the TKTS booth! A haven for me, el Cheapo Depot, I landed orchestra seats to "Chicago."

Bianca Marroquin was awesome as Roxie. This prohibited video doesn't even do her justice.

Blasphemy! Who dares to advertise Canadian bagels in NYC when there's H&H, etc.??? This is the rarest of all things, a Tim Hortons this far south so of course I went inside.

Thought I must admit that the Tim Horton Timbits were better than Dunkin Donuts' munchkins.

What ever shall we call this park in the center of the city?

"The meeting isn't until three, but I always like to come a little early. This is where I do my haunts. Oh, look! [points to a Sbarro's] My favorite New York pizza place. I'm going to go get me a New York slice!" -- Michael Scott

Time for some legit NYC pizza. Broccoli on pizza was awesome.

Perfect! Go to Flash Dancers, now offering a sushi and sake bar. Nice warning above the entrance that warns about bed bugs. These are the things I notice.

The House of Brews was like every bar in midtown, an Irish bar with an Irish bartender and Irish customers. "That was a bloody yellow card!" was heard often.

A bike lane signal. At least bikers are safe in one Manhattan intersection. Just a few thousand more to go.

Just about as clean as you'll find for a food cart.

A great miracle happened at the Empire State significant lines.

It was really cold up that high, but it was sooooo worth it.

Tall buildings to the northwest.

Taller buildings to the north.

Tallest buildings to the northeast.

Don't drop your camera!

Your typical NYC street: school buses, taxis, livery cabs, tourist bus, luxury sedan from the NJ suburbs, and commuter bus from Connecticut.

Rolled to Philly for a hot minute the next day and enjoyed Rittenhouse Square.

I tossed a penny over my shoulder and wished for peace on earth. Yeah right!

Postcard weather made Philly look good.

I rocked some solid challah french toast with ricotta cheese and blackberry sauce at Marathon on the Square (the freshly squeezed OJ was not so solid). It looked like this except it for the whipped cream and ugly plate. I was stuffed completely for the drive back to Maryland.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rocking the West Coast

Two weeks ago I left the confines of the east coast and visited my sister and her boyfriend who live in another country. Fortunately, my passport isn't required for entry just yet as it expired 10 years ago. What is this great land called? Why, it's California of course. Onward with the pictures!

As a randomly selected person for a full body scan at BWI, I sure hope I put on a good show for the TSA tech.

For the 2nd time in a row, I flew to LA on Southwest, sat in the first row, and had a crazy woman (this time talking about aliens landing in her home state of NM) sit in my row. Fortunately, someone sat between us. The lesson here as always, if you fly Southwest, accept that you're going to be trapped with more crazies than normal. (or more likely his twin) was on the plane. Boom boom pow!

The next day we made the pilgrimage to a shrine for one of California's proudest exports - Ronald Reagan. I learned many things about Reagan this day.

Once an actor always an actor. Reagan seemed to act the part of president, but never was a true president making his own decisions. His library even played a few clips about his lack of political aspirations, be it for governor or president. He voted democratic for many years and then changed to republican practically overnight for no ideological reason in the late 60s.

Reagan was a natural fit as the Gipper after his athletic career.

Reagan was a true example of an outlier. He was what the country wanted for a president; a straightshooter, someone who simply came across as a nice guy, and wouldn't break into a hotel room to steal campaign secrets. He won the White House on charm and simplicity and the public was okay with that, nevermind that all of his policies, speeches, and decisions were made by terribly important handlers. Heaven forbid he had his own thoughts.

This out of focus picture is of two model boat kits he put together. An entire display for this? I suppose with a library dedicated to a single person, everything gets added. The exhibit cards throughout were infinitely positive - these boats showed Reagan's dedication to finishing a project he began and his tremendous amount of patience to complete every task.

His successful acting career was as much about his ability as being in the right place at the right time. He had many moments in which he was literally thrown behind a mic to do sports play-by-play or DJ as a fill-in. From there, he was a star on radio just as TV came into its own. Thanks to the right timing, he made a smooth transition to TV.

When my library's built, I promise that it'll at least hide the speaker wire.

Turns out, the president's plane wasn't named after the shoes, it's the other way around.

How did anything get done on board without a laptop? HDTV? Touch screen phone?

Then, with his acting career on the decline a friend suggested that he run for governor. Reagan explains at the library that he didn't want any part of politics, but just did it on a whim. I suspect politics came easy for him because he could just act the part and fit right in with the hot air and phoniness of the profession.

Finally, a museum that should have an authentic section of the Berlin Wall on display, unlike say, the Newseum. Of course, saying, "Tear down this wall," could have incited the launch of nuclear missiles, I approve of Reagan's piece of the wall.

The miniature White House model was cool.

The view from the library was nice, if lacking vegetation that makes mountainside pictures really great.

The next day we walked the beach in Palos Verdes near the Trump National Golf course. The course offers views of the ocean on every hole and costs half as much as Pebble Beach, making it Pebble Beach's ugly stepsister. Really, if you're going to play a course along the beach, Pebble Beach is the one and only. Spend the extra money.

"This is the finest putting green and clubhouse on the entire west coast of North America."

"These are the finest ketchup, mustard, relish, and mayonnaise packets in the state. The heating tray is the best money can buy."

One unwritten rule: You may drive nothing worse than a BMW or Mercedes to the golf course.

It sure looks nothing like the 2009-10 winter in DC.

It only gets better as you get closer to the water.

I doubt this dog appreciates the life he has out here.

Let's be honest, having four real seasons is soooo overrated on our coast.

Looks like I missed out on visiting Marineland.

Yeah, it's a tough sell on why moving out here makes sense. Too bad we didn't feel the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck just as we were finishing our walk.

I ain't scared of no rattlesnakes. I watch Man vs. Wild.

Just before heading home, I took in la Marina de la Marina del Rey.

On the flight back over Indiana, I caught a faint glimpse of the northern lights. It almost made up for not being at the beach anymore and missing an exciting men's NCAA basketball final game.