Friday, May 29, 2009

Hoofin' it in LA with Cubans

(Cubama? Never in Miami)

My time in Los Angeles was unbeatable. This was my second time visiting my fabulous hosts and close friends, Stephanie and Flo. They claim it is their goal to get their friends to move westward. They did a great job, because I was ready to stay. The first night I arrived, we stayed low key in their Echo Park apartment and then headed down to a small, cute bar El Prado.

The next day I got a tour of the nearby neighborhoods and we walked down to Echo Park where, oddly enough, we discovered the Cuban Music Festival going down. There were people dancing and a ton of food. Look at that lady and her meat. That is a pile of meat. No lie. 
Oddly enough, a high school friend of Steph and mine happened to be there too, and though we didn't see him there, we met up with him the next day. On to the next blog...
What are these sandwiches? They don't look Cuban.
This dude is cool. 
The people
The shirt

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hoofin' it in Vegas 2

We did end up walking up and down the strip, and we saw a few interesting things I wanted to post here. Also, the heat there was unbearable. It was so dry that I could barely breathe. 

There's an old dude blowing bubbles out of his butt. There's the MGM lions. And we ran into Elvis and a young Asian couple about to be married at the Vegas sign. Pretty neat.

Hoofin' it in Vegas

Begas Bellagio
Crazy Joe Davola?
rockin' the house
Chihuly at the Bellagio

Everyone always says that they love Vegas. People who don't drink, people who don't gamble, they all love it there. This stop wasn't on my original agenda, but my lovely friend Stephanie happened to be working there for a few months, so we swung by and took a peek at the place. 

Our night out began at the Double Down, a divey, dark place, open 24-7, where they serve bacon martinis and something called ass juice. I made Stephanie drink the bacon martini, she said it tasted like, well, like bacon. I didn't drink my cap'n and coke because after I ordered and shot the shit with the old perv next to me, the bartender informed me that it was cash only. So, I stared at the drinks, which he left on the bar, anxiously from afar and the perv knew I was watching him. It was an odd stare-down. There was a punk show going on, three dudes from San Jose. The crowd was tatted and tough. Even the unenthused chicks were resembled men. It was the kind of place I'd go to if I lived there.

Next we went to Ellis Island to try our luck out at the blackjack tables. The guy loved Stephanie and I and we both ended up loosing $30 a piece, no biggie. He was trying to keep us at the tables, "hey beautiful ladies, cut the deck." The drinks were $1.50 for beer and something like $3 for booze. We enjoyed the prices and I sang some Janis in the karaoke room. This place was, to use a technical term, the bomb. I mean, it was dirty, people were basically "making love" on nearby chairs, and had to be asked to stop. It looked aged, the people, the bar, but it was so much fun. I even met a guy who looked just like Seinfeld's Crazy Joe Davola. We made friends. I smelt like smoke for days after. 

The next morning, we ate a delicious brunch at the Bellagio. It was excessive and I overdid it. The food was really yummy, but since I hadn't eaten enough greens lately, I ate too many veggies. It was not pretty. Pictured below was my third plate. Yes. Third. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Wa Wa"

Water is good. 
We're all hearing about all the nastiness that leaks into your yummy H2O from the soft plastics used to make bottled water bottles (here's something). Who the hell wants to get cancer or give birth to sick babies thanks to the convenience of having water sit in your car for years? 
Besides that, those bottles take an eternity to break down and disintegrate. That's why it's better to buy hard plastic or lined aluminum bottles. 
Plastic sucks either way, but this is my water bottle I got on the Appalachian trail in Harper's Ferry. At all the state or national parks I've visited, they have places to fill up your reusable bottles. One highlight of visiting Zion was the delicious spring water stations around the park. The water was local and seriously tasted like water. And water tastes good! I had filled up in Atlanta and Nashville, and the agua was pool flavored. So, basically I just wanted to give it up for Zion. When you get there, you may feel a bit like Helen Keller felt at the well with Annie Sullivan. Go wa wa!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hoofin' it in Zion with a rattler

I know why the Mormons named Zion National Park after the promised land. This is one of the most heavenly places I've ever been, with its lush and rugged landscape, I fell it love with Zion (almost broke into Lauryn Hill's song). 

After a pleasant drive through the Rockies, stopping in Glenwood Springs, which houses Doc Holiday's grave and some very tempting hot springs, we entered a horrifying stretch of nothingness in eastern Utah. Though Utah has some of the most beautiful landscapes, it also can be one of the most frightening places. Driving through the Nothing was more than a little stressful. There was not a street light, nor a gas station, nor a sign of life anywhere for probably over 150 miles. We did make it to Cedar City to stay in civilization for the night and then drove to the park.

I visited Bryce Canyon a few years back over Christmas vacation, and it was very powerful looking down into the snowy canyon at the huge red rock spires. In Zion, you're at the bottom of a lush canyon looking up. A different perspective, equally as dwarfing. The drive to Bryce from Park City was desolate, but unlike central Utah, southern Utah is fairly well populated and easy for tourists to do things like refill prescriptions, find neosporin. 

Zion was green and alive with untamed beasts. We saw many mule deer with their big rabbit ears, but most importantly, I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was walking a bit goofily, stumbling into the side of the trail when I heard a rattle, looked down and yelled, "rattlesnake!!!" then pushed Chris toward the beast and ran away. Immediately after we saw a volunteer ranger who said it was very unusual to see one. I was just glad not to be pumped with poison. 

We did a few hikes and saw some waterfalls, people scaling big rocks and just took in the scenery. Riverside Walk offered a paved trail along the Virgin River. It's filled with kids, oldies and squirrels. There were tons of hanging gardens along the rocks, which is where the columbine was abundant and little trickling waterfalls feed the greenery. We went on a short walk up to Weeping Rock to see the rocks weeping. The best was the Emerald Pool trail which led us up the red rocks to a cool, shaded area with a natural wading pool. It was the best, most beautiful hiding place the earth had to offer. More than promised, it delivered. 

Emerald Rock sanctuary
Weeping Rock 
I am a junior ranger - feel free to ask me questions. 
Getting my feet wet in the near-freezing Virgin River - it restores your virginity, it does, really, I mean it! Riparian Virginity Restoration.
Moss under flowing water on a vertical rock. 
These are columbine flowers that grow along and on the rocks. Unfortunate that the name has to remind us of the shootings. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hoofin' it in the Rockies!

Talk about having no idea what to expect from such high altitudes, I didn't even think there was a possibility that the Rocky Mountain peaks would be 45 degrees colder than the "lowlands." When Chris and I set out to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, he casually mentioned, "it'll be cold up there." I thought, probably. So I took a sweater. We ended up surrounded by snow at 12,000 feet. Duh, I guess, but a girl from Miami obviously doesn't know how to dress for a hill, let alone a mountain. 

The park was glorious even though the sky was overcast most of the day. We saw animals galore, including many, many bull elk, deer and even a coyote. I went in saying I never can pick out animals in the wild and left thrilled by my previously unrevealed talent. I thought I saw a dog-like creature about a city block off. Once we went to explore what I thought I had seen, a coyote trotted across the road, casually. Our jaws dropped. Before we entered the park, I said I just wanted to see a coyote, and what luck! 

I think this time in the mountains solidified why I wanted to come on this trip. I dreamt of exploring new terrain, seeing what else occupies the land within our borders. This is where America opened up for me a little deeper. She and I had an emotional breakthrough. She showed me some of her goodies, ones I had only hoped I could see firsthand. one day. This was me seeing new things. It was really thrilling. 

I went on a half mile stroll and saw crocuses just coming up, birds flying overhead and then, a rustling in the bushes behind me, at which point I sprinted back to the car. Poor Chris' allergies were inflamed and neither of us could walk very far in the cold, thin air, but it felt really nice quietly watching the fields below from above. America the beautiful, for real, bro. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Call a bro!

I'll be on the radio tonight - call in at midnight (if you're east coast). 
Here's more info:
Call in with your ideas...inventions...things that could change the world but you cannot execute 
them for whatever reason. We will host psychic readings and interviews. 
DO THIS: 1. Go to tonight at 9/midnight.  2. Click on the listen link and or call the number at the top of the page. We will post both at 8:59PM tonight. 3. The rest will be obvious.  ALTERNATELY: 1. Email any question or idea to We will read it on-air. 2. Skype live with us; our Skype name is callwithquestions.

Hoofin' it in Denver

I spent a few days in Denver and I had a really lovely time hanging out with those 2 down there. Ryann, on the left, was our hostess, and a wonderful one at that. I thought Denver was a beautiful, happening city with great trees and, unfortunately, tons of tasty pollen. It seems a city of sports fans, outdoorsy types and just cool dudes. Every musical act ever goes through there, there's a gay bar called Hamburger Marys and most of the stores, bars and cafes aren't chains. Thumbs up.

I ate Mexican food three times in two days. They have this delicious green chili sauce that makes everything taste like heaven in a tortilla. For Mexican, I ate at Benny's and Las Delicias - both fantastic. Benny's was tastier, but less authentic than the other. 

On the first night in, we went for food and beer at the Cherry Cricket, which was featured on Man vs. Food. Drank some local beer - Odells - and ate half a sandwich (the other half was devoured the next night at like 3 a.m. in a hasty food binge). We spent both mornings at St. Mark's Coffeehouse, which had good coffee and scones. The best thing about it was that since the weather was out of this world, the front wall of the cafe rolls up, the picture down there at the bottom does it no justice. 

Chris and I decided to explore Denver a bit, so we headed downtown. It's clear that Denver is not a poor town. Everyone seemed well dressed, the streets were clean and the energy is laid back. I ate a bison burger at the Wyncoop Brewery, bought Blue Highways at the Tattered Cover, a huge and well-stocked indy bookstore and a kid's sale shirt at Rockmount Ranch Wear. After walking around, and before Chris went to a Rockies game, we grabbed a drink at the Cruise Room bar in the Oxford Hotel. The small, long bar is lit in red, features a juke box, chilled out oldies (music and people) and an art nouveau decor. Seriously, what a find! 

Drinks in Denver are CHEAP. I mean really, really inexpensive. We hit up the Horseshoe Lounge the first night, which had glitter walls, the vibe of a living room and a bar composed of probably over a thousand dice- forgot to take a picture of the bar due to the cheap drinks. I made a new friend, Matt who rock climbs and ended up sprawled out in that lounge chair up there - it was in the bathroom. I think it's the chair that God made because it has a saddle embroidered into it and it's green and has wagon wheels - only a clear-minded genius could create that. 

The next night we went to a Beauty Bar type place called Sputnik, a bar on South Broadway that was playing musica me likey, like some psychedelica. South Broadway is the street of "hip" bars and it actually appeared to be a freaking cool strip of places that I would love to visit one day. One day. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hoofin' it in Tulsa and Kansas

I'm a few days behind here, so I better catch up! After the lush drive through Bubba's home state, we entered Oklahoma. While the roads in Arkansas were smooth and a funny mud color, the Oklahoma roads were pretty bumpy with potholes. At one stretch before reaching Tulsa, I ended up driving through dense fog and rain. I was convinced we were going to get caught up in a tornado and torn to shreds, but luckily we made it into town safely. One of my wonderful friends Vinny lives in Tulsa currently. He was raised in the Keys, so you can imagine that's a shift. He showed us around town, and we were able to see the University of Tulsa campus which was lovely to look at and had many attractive, newly constructed buildings. We ate at Brook which was a cool bar/restaurant on the main going out strip. 

The highlight of Tulsa, beside hanging out with Vinny, (insightful and an amazing host - girls, his pic's down there. It's small because I look goofy), was going to Catoosa where we saw this whale. The Catoosa whale is on a strip of Historic Route 66 and was built in the early 70s around this former watering hole. As you can see, there are diving areas and two slides down either side. It is truly one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my LIFE. I am also a fan of the whale having New England blood in my veins. As we were gawking at this beast, the son of the man who built the whale sauntered over and chatted with us. He's an old guy now who told us that he winters in Texas and how the pecan trees are the last to leaf. It was a treat. 

After that, I threw a temper tantrum because I was exhausted and couldn't find an open coffee shop. We eventually ate and I slept through the rest of Oklahoma and most of Kansas. Though there was little in Kansas, there was something beautiful and soft about the moving grass on the plains. I can imagine it might be pleasant living out there, though very lonely and scary at night. 

If that picture down there opens up big, the one with the shed, you can see some Kansas prairie dogs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Call a bro with questions

While I'm in LA with my lovely friends from Big Skills, Stephanie and Flo, I'll be on a radio show as their special guest! It's called Call With Questions, so call in and ask some questions. Here's the website. It'll be on Sunday the 17th at 9 P.M. pacific standard time. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hoofin' it at out of Memphis and through the Ozarks

If you have good taste, and I know you do since you're reading this... you must love Otis Redding, soul genius and you probably weep for Wilson Pickett. These two favorites first got their start at Stax Records, which you can read more about here, along with many other musical masters, including the Bar-Kays and Isaac Hayes. While Motown pumped out classic hits that safely satisfied the masses, Stax recording artists sang from their guts, with sweat and tears all over the microphone. The studios flourished pre MLK assassination, sort of went down in the dumps after that and was later revitalized by Hayes' career. There is now a museum where the greats once recorded with tons of memorabilia. It's deceptively large, but worth the wandering. 

The Peabody Hotel is a Memphis institution, well, the ducks in the lobby are. I ran in to see them, I thought they were just statues of ducks, but no, they're actual ducks. I think they march them around once a day or something. I have to say, when I saw they were alive, I was tickled. I felt like one of the kids, gawking and pointing.  

I swung by Goner Records, which was in our neighborhood, and I chatted with the guy that worked there, a big dude with tight pants. I bought the new Oh Sees album - it's awesome. They had a pretty great selection of records, old and new. Later at Hi-Tone Cafe, we saw Memphis artist Jack Oblivion perform with the Tennessee Tearjerkers. They went on 2 hours late, but they really packed the room and turned it out. It's not entirely my cup of tea, sort of late 90s rock scene, southern style, but the performance was worth waiting for. The funny thing is that I ran into the dude that worked at Goner there and I saw the guy who let us into Stax for free (because they were setting up for a show) and who gave me a compliment on my Flying Burrito Bros shirt. I made friends with an absolutely hilarious guy from Denver who made me laugh and laugh. He mocked me endlessly and we talked about his garden and the cross-country motorcycle road trip he took in '87. 

We stayed at Pilgrim House which is a hostel in the First Congregational Church. It's located in the Cooper Young area, surrounded by great cafes. It was dirt cheap at $15 per night and all you had to do was a chore a day. The place was set up dormitory style, but it was pretty empty, so we had room to spread out. The people there were lovely, though young. They're mostly college students who work for lodging. The church was hosting an event when we were there, Bands not Bombs, because, like in Miami, the Congregational Church is the center of their Peace and Justice Network. This was the center of all the bike riders and the borderline hippies. I was thrilled to have found it. 

Arkansas is out of this world beautiful. I kept wondering why there were trees growing out of water, but it was flooding from all the recent rains. I even saw a few shacks submerged. It was sort of overwhelmingly green and wet. I would love to get up there again for a few days of outdoor fun. The state was also very well kept with no littering signs all along the highway. Little Rock was tiny and clean and I took a much needed pee in the massive and attractive Clinton Presidential Center. Go Bill. 

The ducks are REAL!
Hi Tone used to be where Elvis took karate lessons. That's him there with Master Kang Rhee.

Hoofin' it in Graceland

There's not much I wanted to write about Graceland, instead I'm posting some pictures. I was expecting gigantic middle Americans with Elvis hair weeping over his grave, flashy neon lights and the King lives tees, but it was actually a pretty classy place. The house, though large, was modest to look at from outside. Once inside it was a 70s extravaganza. Many of the rooms had fabric walls and ceilings in great patterns and colors. The neatest thing about the place was that it was actually mostly a museum with all of Elvis' costumes, gold records and memorabilia. It was $22 to get in with my student and AAA IDs, which was reasonable. 

We ate onsite and they had Corky's bbq, an area chain. The pulled pork was delicious, I tell you. That Elvis brush was absolutely the coolest thing in the store, but at $16 it was overpriced for my tiny budget. I was duped into getting a Graceland sippy cup with lunch, and it slipped out of my hand in the store and left a coke and ice lake in the kids section. I the told the cashier, and she waved her hand, "I'll clean it later." And then she chatted with me about other things. Super cool. If that had happened in Miami, I'd have received a filthy look and a curse or two. Everyone in Memphis was very nice and friendly. They seemed a happy people. I love Memphis.