Thursday, October 23, 2008

Honeymoon: San Francisco

Howdy true be-loggers! I decided to lump all of San Fran into one blog because we did a lot of touristy things and nothing crazy happened, so this will be "by the books" for those that follow and for Allison and I to remember...

Saturday

We drove into the city, dumped off the rental car, walked around the city, ate lunch at a super-tourist trap seafood place right under the bay bridge. Our hotel room was finally ready (our room had the best view of the bay) and we checked in and rested a little while. I read about a walking tour of the city that was conducted by a lady in a "vampire character" (LINK: SF Vampire Tour). It got a lot of good reviews and I wrote down the number before we left, so I called the lady and booked the tour. We walked to the Nob Hill area - which from our hotel was ALL UP HILL. We ate dinner at the Nob Hill Cafe (LINK: Nobhillcafe.com) which was really good and then we went on our tour. I should note that the temperature got super cold and Allison and I had to find a place to buy a sweatshirt, which we did at the Fairmont gift shop. Next time I got to San Francisco - I am staying at the Fairmont - it is the classiest hotel ever.

NOTE FOR LISA AUSTIN - They filmed the grand stairwell scene in Gone with the Wind here...

The tour was cool and we learned a little bit about San Fran History and about the buildings. We learned alot about some of the wackos that have emerged from San Fran as well. Only in California.

Sunday

Sunday was our first full day in the city and we did the cultural thing. We want to the Museum of Asian Arts and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The Asian Arts was awesome, MOMA was a huge bore. We then upped the tourist ante by going to Coit Tower. Coit has the best view of the city and to go up the tower you of course need to pay, which is kind of a rip-off since it is a 5 minute thing to do, alas the life of a tourist. We got back to the hotel and researched some places to go for dinner and decided to go to the Thirsty Bear (Link: Thirstybear.com). I really liked this place, good food, good beer, good service. They had a modern Spanish thing going on complete with Spanish dancers and guitar players, but it wasn't too flashy and we got a seat in the back so we could talk. A good night

Pictures from San Fran Days 1 and 2


Monday

Monday we bit the bullet and did "The Rock". We went to Alcatraz and I will admit it was pretty cool. There really isn't much to say that the pictures won't show you. Although I will say that I didn't realize that Alcatraz was only used a federal prison for 29 years and JFK was the guy to shut the doors down before he became president. The general rap was the building was falling apart and it was an ecological nightmare, so the doors were closed. The lady from the vampire tour said it was haunted as all hell, so take that for what you will.

Pictures from "The Rock"


Allison and I then went to North Beach (which is the little Italy section). We had a nice lunch at a place called Calzones. We walked around looking for gift to take home but everything look touristy so we bolted. I made reservations to a place called The Cliffhouse for dinner (Link: CliffHouse). It had the best view I have ever had for dinner. The food was good, but it wasn't outstanding and you definitely pay for the view, but it was worth it.

Tuesday

We were at a bit of a loss for what to do on Tuesday. We didn't want to go to the Golden Gate. We had seen it from the Alcatraz tour and I just didn't care to walk over a bridge. Allison and I were hell bent on finding some nice things to bring home as gifts and I will make this short - we failed miserably. Defeated, we went to the best "Mexican Restaurant" in the city. It was called Mexico DF ( Mexico DF). Food was good but very small portions but the drinks were very strong.

We were aimless all day and looking forward to going home. We walked around alot, got nothing accomplished. For dinner, I had read about a place that had an indoor pirate ship (it was at the Fairmont too!) so we went to the Tonga Room (sorry, no website). This place was awesome. We just did happy hour in there and they had a little dinner buffet that we snacked on. I can't say too much - you guys will have to see it for yourself. We then went to a place called the Four Ovens which was across the street that Allison read about. Food was good, but the service was SLOOOOW. We then went back to the hotel and went to bed early.



Wednesday

We woke up, ate breakfast, went to the airport, listened to a baby scream for several hours on the plane, and I got home a few hours ago and started writing this blog :-)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Honeymoon: Days 3 and 4

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days, the urge to write wasn't with me and as I read the previous days blogs, I was like... eh. I like to stylize my writing a bit more, but my heart is not in it because everyone in California has been so nice and lets face it, I am usually a mean bastard when I blog. But for the sake of my own memories, let me get this stuff written down as quickly as possible.

On Thursday, Allison's dad had made reservations to the Sterling Vineyard. I wasn't too exited about that as we had a bottle for dinner the night before and I didn't like it. Before we went to the vineyard, Allison suggested we stop at a state park that was on the way, and I was all for it it. We got there and started on a trail... we did about an hour of walking before I realized we were totally unprepared for a hike - no water, not the right shoes or clothes (in case we ran into poison ivy or lots of mosquitoes) and most importantly, we didn't have a map and the trails were not that clear. So we turned back and headed to Sterling a little early. The grounds at Sterling were not as manicured as the other vineyards, but the natural beauty surrounding us made up for it. The cool thing about Sterling is that you get to take a gondola to the main vineyard and that is awesome and you get to see a great view. We did the tour and I will say that the wine was the best of the three vineyards we visited. I don't like white, but the stuff they gave us was OUTSTANDING. We hit the gift shop, got a few bottles and went on our way. We stopped at a few cool houses that looked like castles and then went back to the hotel.

For dinner we ate at a place called Cuvee near our hotel. So far the best dinner since we got there. Allison had braised beef in a red wine sauce and I had pork shoulder in a sauce. (I am just writing that down so I can read this next year and try to remember what it tastes like).

We then went to bed and rested for day 4....

Pictures of Day 3:



Yesterday, Allison and I didn't have any appointments so we decided to go to Muir Woods and Sausalito. We had a great ride over and when we got to Muir Woods I decided we should do a 5 mile loop with a great view of San Francisco. This loop was 3.5 miles uphill and then 1.5 down. For a guy that does an hour of cardio a day and lifts weights, this was HARD. Poor Allison was cursing me the entire time but she kept up. Once we got to the top and we saw the Pacific ocean we were like, lets get the hell out of here. The way down in some ways was worse, very hard to keep your footing, but when it was done... I was glad we did it.

After our little adventure we were hungry, so we headed into Sausalito for lunch. Pretty town, totally a tourist trap. We found a resteraunt right on the bay. Of course it was seafood (I don't eat seafood), but I managed to get a ceasar salad. One funny part was when a european couple sitting behind us stiffed the waitress on a tip and she came out and totally called them out on it. It made us laugh. Nice meal on the water and an overall great day.

The ride home took hours because of traffic which sucked. We ordered in last night from the hotel and watched a terrible movie. Went to sleep early because today we leave for San Francisco.

Talk to you guys soon!

Day 4 Pictures:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Honeymoon: Day 2

I would consider this the first official day of the Honeymoon. I woke up and wrote the first days blog while Allison slept (like she is doing now) and then went down to the little gym to get what was left of the wedding booze out of my system. When I got back she was showered and ready to go. I got ready and went down to the main lobby for a quick breakfast. We ate and ran.

We got to the car and headed for Highway 29 to Oakville which is really where the vineyards are. We arrived at the Mondavi Vineyard early, but the people were very nice and accommodating. Allison's dad got us a reserve wine tasting (the best press from the best section of the vineyard) but we decided to take the tour first so we could work our way up to the best wine.

Our tour guide Melvin was awesome (I have lots of video which I will YouTube when I get home). He told us all the things to look for in the grapes, the pressing process, how they add the yeast, etc. I had lots of flashbacks to pressing wine in Uncle Freddy's backyard and the smells of fermenting wine reminded me of Nate passed out on a dining room table. The wines we tasted were all very good. We had a few whites and some reds. I should have written the names down, but I didn't - I will say that the whites were very good (even though I don't like white wine). The grounds at Mondavi were fantastic so we hung around til 12:30 drinking.

At this point I had a nice buzz and Allison and I thought it might be a good idea to get lunch. Melvin the tour-guide suggested a place called Mustards down the road. Off we went. Mustards looked like a typical established east coast deli but with new wave California decorations instead of pictures of dead comedians and jazz musicians. We ordered drinks while waiting for a table, Allison got some pommigranite drink and I got a cucumber and vodka infused drink (Tony - they put cilantro in it and I laughed). Allison got a spinach ravioli with goat cheese for lunch and I got rabbit sausage. It was all very good and we headed out to the Opus One Vineyard to close out our tours.

Opus One's main building was nothing short of spectacular. It had a terrace on the third floor where you can see the entire vineyard/operation, the rooms were stunning, even the basement was awesome. Our tour was a little faster and the guide wasn't as cool as Melvin. The wine itself was dark and roasty-flavored with hints of chocoloate. Mondavi gave us more to taste at their tour which was nice to get a sense of comparison.

We headed back to the hotel, and chilled for a few hours and then went to dinner. We went to a place called Downtown Joe's in downtown Napa. Like any typical downtown area, there was no parking, so I had to circle around until I found something. The food was typical bar food. Wings, burgers, pizza and it wasn't anything to get excited about, we ate a pretty light dinner and then headed back to the hotel.

That was pretty much the long and short of Day 2. Day three we have a tour of the Sterling Vineyard and I am curious to see how that goes. More to come....

- Joey
Here is a picture slide show...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Honeymoon: Day 1

This one is going to be short and sweet boys and girls. Allison and I left for California at 4 AM EST yesterday. No issues with the flights, everything was on time. We had a little layover in Chicago and I was sad I didn't have time to see the Great White City. We arrived in San Francisco at 11:21 AM. We had to stand in a long line to get the rental car (a Chevy Bolt? I will say the little bugger has some zip to it). We got to Napa Valley by 2:30 PM (the airport really killed alot of time). The famed Cali traffic didn't rear its ugly head.

We checked into the hotel, tried to find a snack - seems like Napa Valley shuts down in the afternoon Europe style. We eventually found a little Italian place to grab a sandwich. We got back to the hotel, walked around a little bit, took a little nap, went to dinner at the hotel (very salty), and then went to bed.

Sorry the first day was boring, I didn't take any pictures. Now its 7:30 AM and I got time and energy to annoy some people...

More to come!

- Joey

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Maryland



The wind coming inland had a ominous moan on Saturday afternoon. My driving partner, who claimed to be a direct decedent of Genghis Khan himself was itching to get out of the car. He claimed it was a sugar rush, but I knew better. We were apprehensive about what we were walking into and the three hour drive made us quite thirsty. We didn't plan for the drive and were late as the car parade was starting. The bastards we were meeting had been known to do harsh things to the tardy, I heard one of the beasts had threatened to twist a homosexual man's head the night before. What kind of heathens threatens to twist a man's head without at least offering a happy ending? Strange days indeed.

Checking into the hotel presented many large physical obstacles in the form of people. The all-you-can-eat buffets of Ocean City has caused man, woman, and child alike to become moving, semi-agile boulders that me and my Mongolian companion had to maneuver around. It was already far to much for my delicate mind. We managed to get to the desk, I was already sweating like a beast, the desk attendant had a bovine look on her face and a figure to match. She managed to find keys after bending under the desk far too much and we entered an elevator that was last serviced in 1852. Forty minutes later we had gotten to the second floor and to our room. It had a decor and size that matched the elevator, we quickly left.

We managed to find a few of our friends at their hotel's bar. The room was packed with idiots of some form or another. Many had come to see the baseball game, others came to make friends; they would find no friends in me this day. Our associates had a wild look in their eyes, they spent the previous evening drinking and they were looking to continue. I offered whiskey as penance for being late which they gladly accepted, but later regretted due to reflux.

We were asked back to their hotel room. It smelled of ass and axe body wash. The faint smell of smokes of various creeds also permeated the room. My closest friend, Nate, was celebrating his 28th birthday by spitting into the ferocious winds; his spittle took flight and surely ruined some obese car enthusiast freshly waxed obsession. He had an evil glint in his eye and I knew this evening would prove to be perilous to at least one of us, probably him. I had noticed there was someone I didn't know in the room. He had a redneck look about him with a waft of "surfer-dude". He was ironing his jeans as I stared... What an odd activity especially as his companions surely had not seen much less used an iron in years.

Plans were solidified to go to another, less attractive bar a few blocks away. When we arrived it was full of dim-witted sports baseball fans who for some reason were cheering for the Philadelphia football team (The Eagles) instead of the baseball team (The Phillies). The waitress informed us that domestic drafts were two dollars. When I ordered a Sam Adams, she told me that was considered imported. I told her that I wasn't aware of Boston succeeding from the union and she looked at me with dull, dead eyes not understanding and most definitely not caring. Nate had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle between bars and finally arrived. Several rounds of drinks and food were ordered and delivered. During this time another member of the group arrived with a friend. This gentleman was pasty with large, psychotic eyes. I watched him behind my glass waiting for him to make his inevitable attack. The waitress came over to inform us that a change in shifts was occurring and we could pay out or continue to run a tab. I suggested paying out so the dim-witted girl could be tipped and a new tab started. The tab was paid, our waitress left, and we were left without drink or any service for about an hour. Nate demanded two pitchers from a greasy, long-haired bartender who begrudging complied. Looking at his greasy strands of hair, I grew concerned that one of his head pubes would makes it way to my mead so I suggest we depart again and go to our planned final destination... The Brass Balls.

With each passing block the aroma grew larger... sweat, steamed crabs, stale beer, sexual fluids... it filled the air and as we walked into the bar, it coated everything. The wait staff seemed eager to have reliable customers and knew my friends from the night before. The Mongolian was quiet, never a good sign, and I started to look around for him. He was in the back of the bar yelling at an older white couple while playing with an electronic shooting game. Shots continued to flow, everyone loosened up including the crazy pasty man who I started to suspect was a certified serial murderer. I wasn't the only one with that assumption either as several patrons shot him terrified glances. As I began to get lost in the countless possibilities of this man murdering me or my friends I noticed the Mongolian had disappeared. Knowing his affinity for water I ran to the beach and saw him climbing a small grouping of rocks leading to the ocean.

He was crouched over and staring at the waves. I could sense that this calmed him, but Mongolians are an unpredictable lot and he was one of their finest. I suggested we leave which just agitated him more. "I love the water man, it is awesome" he said. I knew this was trouble. As I began to inch closer he slipped on a rock and cut open his leg, pouring the blood onto the rocks. The injury didn't phase him. He continued to make Mr. Miyagi style formations on the rocks until I reminded him that it was our friend's birthday. His manners got the best of him and he lead me back to the bar.

The release of the Mongolian's blood into the air awoke a dark and menstrual goddess on the beach. When we got back to our table, we were greeted by two new female friends. The sharks could smell fresh meat in the water and started circling their prey, half of these animals were married or had girlfriends, I think they just didn't know how to operate without a woman telling them where to stand. The voices in the air must have been talking to the psychopath and I was trying my best to avoid him as he began to talk to me. Seeing my friends enjoying a cigarette on the deck I promptly made my exit. With each exchange between us I grew more concerned that this nut could pose some harm to the smaller members of the group and surely some of the local wildlife, I needed to collect more information. Nate didn't seem to know anything about him, but the women also shared my sense of alarm. I offended the people smoking on the deck by telling them they were paying a corporation to kill time 5 dollars a pack and I was admonished back inside, the murderous bastard was waiting for me.


I had selected "The Weight" by The Band on the jukebox and it was playing in all its glory when I got back to the table. The psychopath told me his name, (for sake of this story I will call him Tom) and began to ask me questions about Rush; his interest in prog-rock confirmed my suspicions that this man ate children. Tom caused all the men to start squawking about the best band, I took my opportunity to become as offensive as possible to cull any more conversation attempts. He suggested that the Beatles were the best and I told him they where hacks and sucked, this did nothing to deter him. I attempted to insult his tastes more, but he just stared deeply at me, I decided that cancer was better than being skinned alive and went back outside. Tom and the rest of the table followed me out much to my horror.

It wasn't long before we started to attracted the attention of other bar patrons. Mostly older couples looking for a good time, we were greeted with cheers and smiles. A somewhat drunk couple staggered to the deck from the neighboring boardwalk and almost instantly started a conversation with Tom. My friend Roland noticed this conversation as well and suggested that their skin would make quite a prize for this sick fuck, we both shivered. Once again I noticed the Mongolian had disappeared and saw him out of the corner of my eye falling backwards on the barrier between the boardwalk and the beach. Roland walked over to keep and eye on him and I sat down next to Nate attempting to spend some time with my friend in between cigarettes. Tom soon came over and asked to bum a cigarette which I promptly told him I didn't smoke and it was a habit for the mentally and emotionally handicapped, he asked for one of Nate's anyway. He proceeded to tell me how much of a buzz he got from the nicotine and I informed him that second hand smoke was quite lethal and he should take a few steps back. He complied temporarily. The couple that I was sure would become his trophies informed me that Tom was a nice man, I suggested to the now shit-faced woman that she shouldn't take any offers to get into a car or dark alley with him, she nodded but I could tell she did not comprehend my warning. Victims, aren't we all?

I focused my attention back on Nate; wanting to see if he had any interest in the girl he was speaking with and if he did, if he had made progress. The answer was no. I wanted to understand the situation better so I struck up a conversation with the girl while Nate took a reprieve (most likely to talk game plan with his cousin). She seemed nice enough but I was getting the impression that my friend would not be partaking in the ultimate birthday gift for one reason or another. There was another gentlemen brought along that wasn't part of our normal scene. He seemed nice enough but he was most definitely flying too close to Nate's honey pot. I tried to fend him off while still being polite as he was held in high regards with the other men in the group, but I eventually told him he was talking too loud and interrupting a very important conversation between me and the young lady. He took appropriate offense and went off to sulk at the bar.

The night continued like this for a few more hours and finally last call was announced. By this point I had retired to the beach so I could keep an eye on both the murderous Tom and the Mongolian, who was locked in a deadly dance with the ocean. By now he was bleeding from several spots on his body and looking as if the beer and whiskey had taken complete control. I could see Nate on the deck quickly dismissing the other men around him so he could make a final play with no competition if he wanted to. Tom stood on the deck staring at me for several minutes, I went to find the Mongolian. Most of the men went down for the night while Nate and a small entourage headed towards the hotel parking lot. The Mongolian and I made our way up the boardwalk and to our hotel with me checking back every few minutes to make sure we were not followed. The stairs were not kind to him, but the kin of Khan found his way to his bed soon enough. I spent the next few hours serenaded by the sounds of the Mongolian intermittently vomiting in the bathroom next to my bed.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of someone yelling in the street. It was 6 AM. I couldn't sleep so I decided to shower and get myself ready to leave. Once clean I took a stroll on the boardwalk to kill time. By 9 AM I decided to check in on Nate and his crew, I walked to his hotel and knocked on his door. Roland opened to door a bit and I saw body parts mingled with blankets all over the floor like a game of twister gone terribly wrong. I promptly left. When I returned to the hotel the Mongolian was wrapped in a sleeping bag. Against my better judgment, I awoke him so we could get the hell out of this bad twilight zone episode. He rose slowly muttering nonsense. He eventually stumbled into the bathroom and emerged a few minutes later somewhat coherent. We quickly got to my car to avoid any run ins with Tom the murderer and set off on the 150 mile journey home. Halfway home the Mogolian's previous nights binge reappeared all over I-95. He rolled up into a ball and didn't say much. Eighty miles later we pulled into my driveway and the Mongolian slithered into his car. As I stood there watching him drive away, wondering if he would make it home without vomiting, I gave thanks that Tom the psychopath let us both leave with our skin.

Happy Birthday Nate


PS - The Birthday boy passed on his gift...