Dear New York Times:

30 09 2006

I really enjoy the regular 36 Hours feature in the Travel section. Lately, for instance, I tagged along with your travel writers for long weekends in College Station, Tex., Jackson, Wyo., and Lafayette, La. Each of those destinations—and I’ve been to a couple of them already—worked, too. I could imagine arriving about 4 p.m. on a Friday and hanging out until Sunday evening. And your travel writers gave interesting advice about how to enjoy the weekend. In fact, ever since I read the 36 Hours feature on Lafayette, I’ve had a hankering to try the eggs Begnaud—”two eggs on a grilled biscuit covered with crawfish étouffée, and accompanied by cheese grits flecked with andouille”—at Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, La. Yum.

But, um, I have to say I’m more than a little puzzled by Friday’s 36 Hours destination: Honolulu. Who was the target audience for this piece? Like you, I live on the East Coast. Getting to Honolulu would require, well, a significant adventure. If I arrived there at 6 p.m. on a Friday, I’d be tapped out. Tapped out from the airport security, the cross-country flight, the inevitable layover in Los Angeles, the flight halfway across the Pacific—whew, I’d probably be downright pooped from all of that. And if I somehow recovered enough to make the suggested 8 p.m. dinner at Hoku’s at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, I’d have to make it up by sleeping in the next day. But, no, you’ve got me headed off to a farmers’ market at 8 a.m. Good God! Are you trying to kill me?

And, believe me, I wouldn’t be ready to head back by Sunday evening (or even Monday morning). Gosh.

Actually, you must’ve understood, at least at some level, that Honolulu was a silly 36 Hours destination. Your travel writer, Jocelyn Fujii, started off her recommendation for 6 p.m. on Friday with a few thoughts about jet lag. Hmmm, yeah. Unless you live in Guam or Maui, Honolulu isn’t really a destination that’s feasible for a quick, 36-hour visit, is it? If it’s going to take me a full day to get somewhere, I’m going to want more than a day and a half, more even than a long weekend, to enjoy it. Honolulu would make a great 7 Days destination. Let’s do that instead, ok?

And let’s keep the 36 Hours destinations a little more manageable. I’m thinking Ottawa, Canada, might be a good choice. Have any ideas about that?



Report from the Birthday Extravaganza Weekend

25 09 2006

Hey, I survived turning 40! Recent circumstances, which I’m sure I’ll be blogging about soon, meant that I had to keep things fairly low-key. Still, it was awfully nice. Several friends joined me on Saturday for drinks at the hotel bar at Loews, where I stayed for the weekend. Then, buttressed by the addition of another good friend, we headed over to The Capital Grille for a nice, nice dinner. I had the filet mignon, medium rare, and a side order of yummy brussels sprouts.

On Sunday, a slightly-different-but-overlapping group of friends joined me at the Phillies game. After the third inning, a Phillies Phunster came to my seat to sing “Happy Birthday” and shower me with confetti. Hours later, I was still finding that stuff in my underwear. Really. (Too much information?) A little bit later, my name was on the scoreboard with the names of, um, scores of other birthday celebrators. It rained some at the game, but the final score was a real treat: Phillies 10, Marlins 7. The Phils’ come-from-behind gumption was a real treat, too. Incredibly enough, they’re wild card contenders. Woo hoo!

I spent Sunday night back at the hotel bar, not-so-seriously watching some football and doing a little self-reflection. The Jack Daniel’s and apple juice may have made my life seem a little better than it actually is. But by next time this year, I’d definitely like to be a little less lonely. A nice hotel room should usually be, er, shared, right?

Actually playing on my iPod…

23 09 2006

Since I’m not sure that Thursday’s 10-song random sample gave you any real idea of my taste, and since I’m too tired to provide you with any actual content right now, here’s a list showing the 20 songs most frequently played on my iPod since I got it in September 2004:

1.) “Insensitive,” by Jann Arden (from Living Under June) [you can’t be too surprised by that, I guess];
2.) “Best I Ever Had,” by Gary Allan (from Tough All Over);
3.) “Something About What Happens When We Talk,” by Lucinda Williams (from Sweet Old World);
4.) “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” by Sheryl Crow (from The Very Best of Sheryl Crow) [this one surprises me a little bit];
5.) “Give Me One Reason,” by Tracy Chapman (from New Beginning) [I’ve blogged about this song, too];
6.) “Headed for a Fall,” by Jimmie Dale Gilmore (from Braver Newer World);
7.) “Broken Arrow,” by Rod Stewart (from Encore: The Very Best of Rod Stewart, Vol. 2);
8.) “Letter from an Occupant,” by the New Pornographers (from Mass Romantic);
9.) “Insensitive,” by Jasper Steverlinck (from Songs of Innocence);
10.) “Let’s Stay Together,” by Al Green (from Let’s Stay Together);
11.) “Don’t Marry Her,” by the Beautiful South (from Blue Is the Colour);
12.) “Don’t Explain,” by Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan, and Herbie Hancock (from Hancock’s Possibilities);
13.) “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee,” by Freedy Johnston (from Real: The Tom T. Hall Project);
14.) “All the Right Reasons,” by the Jayhawks (from Rainy Day Music);
15.) “What Kind of Fool,” by Gary Allan (from Tough All Over);
16.) “Last Christmas,” by Wham! (from All-Star Christmas) [how embarrassing!];
17.) “Toledo,” by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach (from Painted from Memory);
18.) “Missing (CL McSpadden Unreleased Powerhouse Mix),” by Everything but the Girl (Adapt or Die: Ten Years of Remixes);
19.) “Viva Las Vegas (American Casino Theme),” by Dread Zeppelin (from Chicken and Ribs);
20.) “The Mountain,” by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer (from Tanglewood Tree).

I wish there weren’t so many love songs, especially the been-done-wrong variety, on my Top 20. I’m so predictable.

Question of the Day: My Musical Horoscope

21 09 2006

What’s your musical horoscope? (Put your music player on shuffle and write down the first 10 songs that come up.) Inspired by Stephanie.

I’m so tired right now that this is exactly the kind of blogging I can handle….

I currently have over 7,500 songs on my iPod, so any 10 songs won’t be all that representative of my collection. Still, this isn’t un-representative of my taste; there’s some modern rock, some hardcore country, an alt-country song, and a little bit of world music. Just add some folk music, and you’ve got a pretty good idea what I like….

Still, how bizarre is it that two songs from the same Waylon Jennings album came up in a 10-song sample?

Question of the Day: Let’s Go There

20 09 2006

Terracing, YNP
What’s your favorite vacation destination?

When I first read this question, I decided it was asking me where I go time and time again to relax. At various times over the past 10 years, the answer to that question might’ve been New Orleans, a condo on the Gulf of Mexico, or New York. Those have been my go-to places. Um, literally.

But I’ve stopped visiting those places—regularly, anyway. New Orleans got complicated, first, by the Soulmate-Who-Got-Away. Then, of course, there was Hurricane Katrina. Now I’m not sure I want to go back because the city won’t seem the same, because I’ll remember things that are hard to face, because I might see someone I don’t want to see, because it’ll just be too difficult. I’m sure I need to get over (most of) this psychological stuff sooner rather than later (ahem, now), and I’m sure I eventually will. But doing so hardly sounds like vacation, huh?

I also got in a little mini-routine for awhile of visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Puzzled? Well, there are beautiful beaches there, and it’s usually warm enough to visit well into September and October—just when I’m trying to prolong summer and forget that winter’s on its way. That’s also a good time to vacation because, well, there aren’t kids everywhere. Ewwww, kids. But as I’ve become more and more entrenched in Philadelphia, the Gulf Coast has started to feel too far away to be an easy getaway. (Actually, given how cheap it is to fly into Pensacola or Mobile, maybe I shouldn’t feel that way.) So I’ve pretty much stopped going. And the recent hurricanes didn’t help that as a destination, either, of course.

I’ve also visited New York several times in the past couple of years. I love visiting MoMA, seeing cool shows, getting a good seat at Carnegie Hall, eating black-and-white cookies, feeling like I’m in the most frenetic place on the planet. But it’s so expensive to visit, and I don’t really have any good New York friends who’ll put me up (hint, hint?). So New York remains a fun place to visit once in awhile, but it’s not really my go-to vacation spot.

Does all this mean that I don’t have a favorite vacation destination anymore? Gosh, I hope not. That would truly be depressing. I think it just means that I should reinterpret the question. Instead of understanding the question to be asking what my regular go-to vacation destination spot is, I’ll understand it to ask where I’ve had the best vacations of my life. And the answer to that is…drumroll, please…Yellowstone National Park.

I’ve only been to Yellowstone twice—first when I was 15 and again in 2002, with the ex. I loved it. I loved the wild weather (ice pellets on my first trip, hail on the second), the stinky mudpots, the geysers, the animals, the altitude. It’s all so bizarre, yet beautiful, that it sort of feels like Nature’s Disneyworld. Natural and bizarre—that pretty much sums up Yellowstone, I think.

Plus, I just enjoy being in the West. Westerners are tolerant and independent, and they expect those values in others. There’s also a sort of beautiful emptiness in the West. As crowded as some spots in Yellowstone might be, it’s very easy to find yourself alone in nature.

I’ve been to Yellowstone in late spring and in mid-summer. I’d like to visit in autumn and winter, too. Who’s going with me? Who knows how to use snowshoes? Let’s go.

Three Short Items

19 09 2006

Links: The Non-Partridge Family ‘Come On, Get Happy’ Edition

18 09 2006

I’m having a bad day week month, so I went looking for something that might cheer me up. Here’s what I found:

1.) The Kronos Quartet (the coolest string quartet ever) covers “Flugufrelsarinn” by Sigur Rós (the coolest rock band ever). Listen to that, and some other cool stuff, at Kronos’s MySpace page. By the way, I saw Kronos do “Flugufrelsarinn” earlier in the year at Carnegie Hall. That was so cool.

2.) It always makes me smile when the NYT features a gay couple on its Weddings & Celebrations page. This week, it’s Adam Berger and Stephen Frank. They were college suite-mates, who—somehow or other—didn’t “know”. Didn’t know about themselves. Didn’t know about each other. “I haven’t been totally straight with you,” one said a few years later. And before you know it, they’re getting hitched at a Pocantico Hills, N.Y., restaurant.

P.S. I don’t know what to say about the article’s reference to Princess Di’s funeral. Yikes.

3.) “Noodle Shop,” a Sushicam photograph by Jeff Laitila, made me forget my troubles for a few minutes. It also made me hungry.

4.) Tomorrow, September 19, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arrr!