Category Archives: experiences

Thanksgiving in California

We all need a break from time to time and mine took place November 17 – 24 this year. Securing a week off from work, the dazzling Angelina and well-worn I woke up early and hopped on a Virgin America flight from New York to Los Angeles. Complete with video games and a Simpsons-only TV channel, the in-flight entertainment system helped ease the long journey. I even managed to reboot mine, and discovered it to be running Linux. Here’s the video:

Virgin America's TV Boots Up

After a night at the comfortable home of Angie’s parents, we all went north to Hearst Castle, where we met my parents, my brother and Megan. A quick bite in a local patisserie was followed by a tour of the castle and its grounds, which were quite impressive. Built primarily to impress W.R. Hearst’s guests, the mountaintop village had a string of splendid guest houses, a Romanesque swimming pool and plenty of nice statuary. There was also an improbably large book in the living room, which we weren’t allowed to touch but must have been 4′ tall, 3′ wide and 8″ thick. One of the nicest aspects of the place were the beautiful vistas featuring an expanse of rugged coastline, the glittering Pacific Ocean and a thick bank of clouds rolling in.

Hearst Castle Views

For dinner, we went to a pleasant evening meal at a Moroccan restaurant in San Luis Obispo before the wiser generation returned to the hotel and Angelina, Megan, Aaron and I went out for a couple of drinks. We had a good night trading embarrassing stories about each other and enjoyed our brief time visiting with Megan before she headed home the following day.

Megan, Aaron and some jackass in the background that I blurred out in Photoshop.

A great breakfast of salsa and eggs the next morning was a suitable beginning to a fantastic day. Angelina and I went wine tasting with our parents, hitting three different vineyards with three very different servers. The first, a bubbly girl with a nervous laugh, was plenty amusing. The next was the exact opposite; cold and fierce, she throughly earned the moniker “Zin Bitch” after the winery’s own vintage. Our final tasting proved to be at the best California winery, Peachy Canyon. At $3 for six wines of our choice, it was the best value and even that was refunded after we bought a few excellent bottles. They also let us heat up our Moroccan leftovers, and we picnicked on them with our hands amid the lovely rolling hills of the vineyard. A few grapes straight from the vine provided the perfect dessert.

Me, Mom and Dad

Angelina and her Dad at the picnic table.

We stopped in Solveng, an overpriced but pretty Danish village on the way home, and watched “Stranger Than Fiction” (which I highly recommend) on Angelina’s new iPod during the drive. To cap off a great day, dinner was at Umi Sushi, a small restaurant that boasts one of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted. Go there and order the Year 3000 and Mountain Rolls. It’s worth the $8 + airfare.

While Angelina remained with her folks about 45 minutes away, I spent most of the week with my parents in LA. We had a great time walking, talking and shopping (mostly for groceries). I also managed to drag my Dad along to Ye Olde King’s Head, a very English pub in Santa Monica, where we took in the pulsating Euro 2008 qualifier between England and Croatia. A roller coaster ride of a game saw the crowd despair, hope, celebrate and despair again. Though my team (England) lost, it was a great game and a great experience, well washed-down with Sierra Nevada beer and chicken tikka masala.

Thanksgiving was spent with Angelina and her family. The visit was very enjoyable, with Virgil displaying his magnificent ping pong skills and Terry once again surpassing herself in the kitchen. Despite Angelina and her brother’s addiction to the their mother’s stuffing, the real centerpiece was the turkey. As you can see, it was about the size of about two human heads.

Me, Dad and the bird.

The last day of vacation was spent accomplishing some final tasks: hiking up to the HOLLYWOOD sign and hitting every letter with a thrown rock, eating at In ‘N Out Burger and having dessert at Pinkberry. It was a fantastic trip full of fun with the family and I’m already looking forward to Christmas and seeing everyone again. You can see all of the pictures from this trip right here.

Travel, Film and Game Links You Should Know

I don’t like to brag, but I’m 1/4 of the most dynamic company with the best prospects in the world. I’m talking, of course, about Borgamo LLC, a board game business that is now expanding into all sorts of areas including travel and video games.

Toucan

These sites will very soon turn into outstanding repositories of information on their respective subjects, run as they are by people will extensive experience in those areas (for example, check out where I’ve been). In short, check back often to monitor the sites’ progress and be part of the revolution that is Borgamo.

Red Sox vs Indians ALCS Game 7

There’s a reason it’s taken me three days to lay down a record of my trip up to Boston last Sunday: it was a day packed so full of fun and memories that I hadn’t even recovered until now. So let’s begin at the beginning.

Trip to Boston

In my line of work, I am rarely but occasionally given the opportunity to purchase tickets for events at expensive-but-not-outrageous prices. Typically, I care nothing for the events featured, but the stars aligned this week and gave me the chance to get Red Sox bleacher seats for their theoretical Game 7 ALCS clash against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway. I managed to secure six seats in a row at $100 each, bringing the full price of my order to $5 more than I paid for my car. It would be me, Angelina, Marta, Dan, Paul and Steve basking in the glow of playoff baseball in Beantown. All that was left was for Boston to win Game 6. This they did with style, 12-2. The stage was set.

My aforementioned car happens to be a 1990 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurowagon, purchased from Craigslist. With comfortable seating for up to 7 people, it was just the vehicle to make the trip north and east. After filling it with some badly-needed power steering fluid, inflating some soft tires and gassing up, we picked up the rest of the crew and piled in, setting out around 1:30 PM on Sunday, October 24. The trip gave everyone a chance to enjoy the rustic appeal of my automobile. The upholstery on the ceiling sags. The front and back bumper both look like they’re riddled with bullet holes and about to fall off. I have to open the door at toll booths since my window won’t open. The front-side passenger needs to bench 120lbs in order to have the requisite strength to open their door. In short, it’s a perfect car for a road trip.

Marta admires the spaciousness of the back seat.

We powered down I-84 and the Mass Pike to the tune of Dan’s iPod, blasting an eclectic mixture of baseball songs and 1990 hillbilly Radiohead esoterica. To everyone’s relief, the car survived the first leg of the journey and we pulled into Riverside station on the outskirts of Boston to ride the “T” into the city.

Ange and I await our metal chariot.

We arrived at Fenway Station around 3 PM, five hours before the game was due to start. There was already a palpable buzz around the place, people looking to score tickets, others just hoping to soak up the atmosphere and some booze. The fact that we already had tickets placed us firmly in the latter camp, and we strolled over to the Boston Beer Works to wet our whistles. It was still early, so the crowds weren’t bad and we sidled into the largest booth I’ve ever seen.

The first side of the booth.

The second, more good-looking side of the booth.

For the next few hours, we ate all manner of nachos, burgers and fries, washing it all down with several pitchers of Boston Beer Works’ finest. Though we fell short of our stated desire to get a pitcher of everything on the beer menu, we made a valiant effort. The food, the drink, the conversation and the shoulders comprised the perfect pre-game program and we walked out well-satisfied around 6:30 PM. The gates to Fenway Park weren’t open yet, so we opted to pass some time playing foosball at the mafia-owned Jillians just down the road. I was able to drop some jaws and raise my social status with a series of powerful goals and miraculous saves en route to a thorough spanking of all opponents.

Marta and Paul fall to the irresistable force of Brian and Dan.

After that exercise, it was time to enter Fenway Park, the night’s theater of dreams. Arriving over an hour before the game gave us ample time to stock up on $8 Sam Adams Oktoberfest and find our seats in the bleachers. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would want to sit anywhere else. There’s no place in the stadium where the passion and rowdiness is so evident and so enjoyable. New England aloofness is discarded like so much junk mail, and people become friendly.

That early before the game, though, there were only a few people and they were lined up at the top of the wall waiting to catch balls from batting practice. We had to make do with watching the Indians warm up, which turned out fine when Grady Sizemore turned and tossed a ball up in our direction. I plucked it out of the air with my bare claw and gave it to Angelina, like any boyfriend who wants to stay out of the doghouse. She spent the rest of BP showing everyone how she grips her curveball and arguing with me about who Sizemore was trying to throw the ball to (we both grinned in his direction). Just to be safe, I told Grady that he was a bastard and that this girl was taken.

Sizemore prepares to throw like a jerk.

The game itself was a tense affair with the Red Sox scoring some runs, then being pegged back by the plucky Indians. After a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th-inning stretch, they opened up a 5-2 lead. But it was “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th that really did the trick, with Dustin Pedroia doubling and Kevin Youkilis homering to send Fenway into a happy sort of chaos. We hung around after Papelbon closed the game out, watching the on-field celebrations, viewing the post-game interviews on the Jumbotron and taking pictures.

A deliriously happy Fenway celebrates.

We took a detour after the game to hit up the convenience store and avoid the crowds at a T station besides Fenway. Unfortunately, it began to look like the trains were no longer servicing other stations, and we hoofed it back, managing to catch the last train out to Riverside. Once again, we piled into the car and started pulling out of the lot when the “Tailgate Ajar” light came on. Despite my half-assed efforts, I couldn’t get the latch to catch, so we headed home with the gate rattling. It didn’t seem to stop anyone from sleeping and no one fell out the back (as far as I know). We even had time to stop on I-84 so that Angelina could enjoy the crisp fall air, the brilliant night sky and the scent of the grass. As I helmed my car Manchesterward, I saw two shooting stars, which effectively summed up the entire trip. Imagine a great thing, and then imagine it doubled.

We dropped off the rest of the crew in Vernon and walked in our door at 4AM on Monday morning. Mocking reason, I woke up three hours later and put in a good day’s work before finally catching up on some sleep. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mock my brother for opting to stay in California instead of flying East for one night. Shame on you, Aaron. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Angelina, Dan, Marta, Paul and Steve for a great day out. You can find more pictures of the day here. Go Red Sox!

A great day out with friends.

Three Signs You Are In Singapore

Singapore was my home for 3 years during high school and I have very fond memories of the country. One of the most fascinating cultural differences is in the national sense of humor, which is either unexpected or nonexistent depending on the occasion. The signage found throughout Singapore provide some perfect examples. Here are a few of the better ones:

Who knew that urinating in lifts (elevators) is a problem so rampant that it requires its own sign? Especially in Singapore, where most non-essential actions are forbidden? Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Better not trespass...

For those few Singaporeans who can’t read either Malay, Chinese or English (three of the four official languages), this sign makes it pretty clear what might happen if you stick around. Apparently, not even putting your hands up in surrender will spare you.

Just don't do anything.

There’s a nice symmetry about this sign. Smoking and flammable goods could combine with catastrophic results. The same can be said of eating and durians. If you aren’t familiar with them, durian is an onion-like fruit with a wickedly pungent smell. Just the same who bans fruit? Honestly.

A Brief List of My Travels

Traveling is so great for so many reasons. The fresh experiences, bonding time with companions and poorly-made souvenirs really do enrich one’s life. Most frequently, my memories of places I’ve been are triggered by smells. There’s the smoky scent of Nepal, the honeysuckle musk of Singapore and the mossy odor of Bali. Fortunately, I got to do a lot of traveling in my high school and college years. While I don’t get to take off quite so frequently these days, plans are in the works for a mega-tour of France, Italy and other European destinations in the summer of 2008. Until then, I’m happy to remember this list of places I’ve seen with my own eyes, smelled with my own nostrils, trampled with my own feet and been sick on with my own mouth (I’m looking at you, Nepal).

A vague map of some places I've been.

  1. Antigua
  2. Australia
  3. Bahamas
  4. Bermuda
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Dominica
  8. England
  9. Fiji
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Grenada
  13. Guadeloupe
  14. Hong Kong
  15. Indonesia
  16. Italy
  17. Japan
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malaysia
  20. Martinique
  21. Nepal
  22. New Zealand
  23. Philippines
  24. Singapore
  25. South Korea
  26. Spain
  27. St. Lucia
  28. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  29. Switzerland
  30. Taiwan
  31. Tonga
  32. Trinidad & Tobago
  33. Turkey
  34. U.S. Virgin Islands
  35. United States

Places I want to go? All of them! But mostly Greece, Morocco, Argentina, Egypt, Russia, Peru, France again and Cuba a nice Caribbean island with four letters and good cigars. How about you?

Reminiscences of the Intracoastal Waterway

In the spring of 2004, my brother and I bought a sailboat, which we christened Audentes. We spent several weeks patching fiberglass on the hull, laying on gallons of hyper-expensive paint, and doing our grocery shopping at Walmart while we lived in a squalid, dusty boatyard. After launching, we took a short shakeout sail to the Bahamas with our parents, then we sailed north through the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Intracoastal Waterway

Though we were forced to motor slowly for much of the time, the ICW proved to be thoroughly enjoyable. We crept up the coast through protected channels, passing through towns like Belhaven, Norfolk and Elizabeth City while listening to the music of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan on the ship’s speakers. Locals waved lazily from the shore as they enjoyed the warm evenings, and we’d drop anchor right in the river, grilling up burgers or cooking baked beans before settling in for the night. There were deer and rabbits on the shore, dolphins and fish in the river, birds and mosquitoes in the sky.

There were obvious drawbacks like the vicious insects buzzing around our heads, the floating logs in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and running out of gas in the Chesapeake Bay, but it was a wonderful leg of the trip. I’d like to go back sometime, and I’d recommend the same to anyone else.

Aaron’s Article in Ocean Voyager

My brother, Aaron, with whom I went sailing for a year before I started working, has an interview published in the prestigious Ocean Navigator. You can pick up a copy at West Marine for $6, or you can view the article for free here. And no, I didn’t airbrush his beard on.

Ahab

Aaron’s Article – Page 1
Aaron’s Article – Page 2
Aaron’s Article – Page 3
Aaron’s Article – Page 4
Aaron’s Article – Page 5
Aaron’s Article – Page 6

It’s a very good interview with some excellent pictures, especially the one where Aaron is tying a pillow to the spreader. You don’t learn that reading Nigel Calder.