Archive for August, 2008

Eugene Life

This morning

Pizza Coffee

Leftover pizza and a giant mug of coffee–breakfast of champions.

Things my mother taught me this week: ham & pineapple & artichokes makes a very tasty pizza.

Later

Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen to see how Eugene, Oregon’s southern food stacks up. Not that I’m the expert or anything, but at least I’ve had barbecue in the south. Yes, they have a myspace.

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What To Carry

Cecily suggested that I start reading her friend’s blog, Capitulate Now, so I did. And now I’ve moved away and will never meet her. Right.

Something she wrote this (last?) week inspired me to write about the packing process. I’ve been working around this stupid issue as I plan what I’m going to take with me:

Anyway, there have been many, many sightings of overly practical footwear, I’ll tell you that much. Overly practical outfits in general. Is it just me, or is it kind of rude to visit a city — a city where there are plenty of modern, educated, worldly human beings who get up and go to work and school and just live their lives every day — and dress as though you’re on some kind of slob safari? And is this rudeness not magnified when you’re white and wealthy and when the country you’re visiting doesn’t have quite so robust a GDP and is also filled with brown-skinned people? I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive. Shit sends a message. Here, walking down the street, we have a Oaxacan native, sipping a coffee, dressed for the office, maybe talking on a cell phone. Nice haircut, good sunglasses. And right behind him we have Tad from Australia, lugging all his worldly possessions on his back and wearing the most horrifying clothes imaginable. Unwashed hair. T-shirt from Thailand. Elastic waistband pajama pants. Flip fucking flops. Seemingly living in fear of the slightest sartorial discomfort, or the possibility that he’ll get stuck in the middle of town and suddenly realize he doesn’t have his camp stove, or whatever it is he’s carrying in his stupid backpack. Which is invariably covered in flag patches. And don’t get me started on what the girls wear, oh god oh jesus I just hate everybody! Put on some real shoes! Put together an outfit! Show some respect! You’re not blazing a trail through the rain forest!

Capitulate Now

So the author has some anger to deal with, but the issue is real for sure. My problem is that the most practical (lightest, most breathable, etc.) clothing available all looks really stupid and outdoorsy, which is unacceptable. I’m trying to find clothes that are both practical and look normal, but it’s somewhat challenging. Suggestions? Please let me know.

As I pack, I’m using onebag.com and this picture from very small array for advice and inspiration.

what the artist brought with her as she arrived home

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Coast Starlight

8/18/2008 – 8/19/2008

Amtrak: Coast Starlight

This trip from Sacramento, CA to Eugene, OR was fairly uneventful. The train left an hour late, and after stopping to make sure a forest fire in southern Oregon wasn’t too dangerous to pass, arrived in Eugene two hours late. I didn’t sleep much, but had a good breakfast.

Reading: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – going slower than I would have hoped

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Sacramento, California

8/17/2008 – 8/18/2008

I took a quick two day trip to Sacramento. I stayed with my dad, at his very nice house in Citrus Heights. It was a pretty relaxed Sunday and Monday with lots of eating, running, and playing in the pool. Especially nice was an 8 mile fast run along the American River on Monday with Dad on his rollerblades–beautiful scenery and nice weather.

I also got a chance to have lunch with my old college friend Alec Monday afternoon. I hadn’t seen him in several years and it was great to catch up.

Late Monday night my dad and Kimberley gave me a ride to the Amtrak station and sent me on my way.

Departure: Amtrak Coast Starlight, Sacramento to Eugene, Oregon, $80.00

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Bay Area, California

8/15/2008 – 8/17/2008

All afternoon on the train we had been running a few hours late, but we were slowly catching up to the original schedule. I called Andy at about 7:30 PM and told him that I was almost there. He was apparently not available, expecting me to arrive around 8:30 as I’d been predicting earlier, so he sent his brother Tommy down to the train station to pick me up. Great! After saying goodbye to a few of the people I’d met on the train, and shouldered my packs and headed out.

Berkeley is nice! The neighborhood where Andy and Tommy live has a very nice feel, and I guess they both ride their bikes to get around a fair amount.

Nerd moment: I haven’t played video games very much in years, but somehow Andy and I managed to play through the whole game of Halo 3 during my visit. Fun times. We also had some Brazilian food, played disc golf, and went out in San Francisco.

Andy throwing

All in all, it was a great experience, but it was much too short. On the upside, Andy decided to join us for the cruise in November, so I’ll be spending some quality time with him later on in the year.

Departure: My dad picked me up Sunday morning at Andy’s house.

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a side note

I’m a little late on this (like a month, but whatever), but I’ve got to agree with Caps in his assessment: Are you fucking kidding me? from The Stencil.

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California Zephyr

8/11/2008 – 8/12/2008 & 8/14/2008 – 8/15/2008

Amtrak: California Zephyr

I’ll admit, I was somewhat intimidated by the idea of two nights in a row sleeping in my seat on board the train. It was this, combined with the fact that my college friend Sarah lives in Denver, that led me to break the journey into two pieces. Overall, traveling by train has been a good experience. It takes quite a while, but can be cheaper than flying (and driving) and is actually a relaxing and interesting way to travel if you have the time. I made some notes on the people I met during the two legs of my journey.

Chicago to Denver
  • A retired old man who now mows fairways at a golf course by his house, on his way to visit his daughters in California.
  • Another old guy who talked a lot about World War II (“the war”) and Korea.
  • My seatmate on the first leg, a man from Denver who has retired from computer programming and now spends his time freaking out about peak oil. He seemed well-intentioned but pretty flaky. I learned some things talking to him.
  • Sandy, a young woman who grew up in NYC but now lives in Davis, California, who was on her way back home from DC. She flew out and took the train back for fun, which made me like her even more.
Denver to Emeryville
  • The train lost a car in Denver, so I sat at a table in the cafe-car with Frank, a mid 70s man headed to a $100 per plate union dinner in San Francisco.
  • Frank and I ended up playing cards with Ashley, a great girl I ended up hanging out with a decent part of the journey. She was on her way home to Sacramento from Denver.
  • A mom and her two cute young kids headed from Denver to Salt Lake City. The boy was wearing an awesome shirt that labeled the different parts of his “engineer kit”. I was obsessed with trains when I was a kid too, so I could relate.
  • A weird dude from Arkansas who was going to his brother’s property in northern California to pan for gold or something. Interesting story but this guy was seriously strange.
  • A nice lady who couldn’t finish her lunch and gave me lots of it, then I once I was given a seat I ended up next to her.
  • Rebecca, a woman moving across the country to the bay area, looking for big life changes. I ended up chatting with her quite a lot during the last few hours of the trip.
  • I had to change seats at Salt Lake, at two in the morning, and ended up sitting next to Mary from New York, an older lady whom I really enjoyed talking to. She mixed koolaid and grapefruit seed extract for her morning drink, which was strange, but overall she was great. Also, she writes limericks for fun, and I wrote one while I was sitting with her.
  • I ate breakfast in the dining car and met some folks there, including a Basque guy (“I’m European. Basque, actually. From Spain.”) He was well-traveled all over the world and ended up telling us about taking the trans-siberian railroad west from China to Moscow. I’d considered that trip eastbound, but never thought of doing it westbound. He also talked about getting a horse in Mongolia and going to live in the camp-villages for a few days.
  • We also sat with a tattooed and pierced guy who turned out to be a juggler. He talked a lot but was very nice, genuine, and loved life.
  • Our fourth was a picky woman who ate almost nothing. She tried to order off the menu several times, which doesn’t really work on Amtrak. They have what is on the menu and nothing else.

Reading: On The Road – finished on the train; Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – started

Incidentally, I highly recommend reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road while you are traveling through Denver and San Francisco. These two places, along with New York City, are the primary locations in which the story takes place. I guess I could have left from NYC rather than DC and that would have made it more perfect, but oh well. As it was, it was pretty neat to see the places in the story just as I was reading about them.

I suppose it would be possible to follow the exact paths taken by Dean and Sal, but that would take years, and many thousands of miles of travel. Good luck if you decide to try this.

On to the Bay, Sacramento, and eventually to a bit of a break in Oregon.

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Denver, Colorado

8/12/2008 – 8/14/2008

I’ll keep this pretty short: my train arrived late Tuesday morning, but Sarah was happy to pick me up anyways. We went to breakfast. It was good. Then she took me back to her apartment where I was re-introduced to the cat, Squash, and she (Sarah, not Squash) gave me a key, her bike, and some advice.

Colorado Capitol

I went for a run, then hopped on the bike and rode around downtown Denver. As part of my explorations I stood on the step of the Colorado Capitol that is exactly one mile above sea level. After a time I stopped and got some coffee and read for a bit, but eventually meandered my way back to Sarah’s apt. I walked across the street and bought some Oregon beers (yay!) and then hung out at the place until Sarah got home, at which point we walked downtown and wandered around Larimer Street for a bit, had a couple beers, and I got drunk on a very small amount of alcohol (altitude!).

British Columbian Art

Our first stop Wednesday morning was the U.S. Mint. We arrived at 8:40 and conned our way into the 9 o’clock tour to look at coins and coining machines for a while. After a tasty omelet for breakfast I made my way to the public library–where I used the free internet to order my new camera–and then on to the Denver Art Museum. The museum was actually very cool, and I ended up staying there for quite a while. After returning to Sarah’s apartment I went for another run before we began the night’s activities. The plan: dinner and a Langhorne Slim concert. The concert was great! Check out the music. After the show we had a drink and then headed back to Sarah’s house. At this point we had a pretty surreal experience. *lowpro moment* Fun times.

Thursday morning, I caught my train. It left three hours late, but I knew that was going to happen so I didn’t show up at Union Station until 10 o’clock.

Reading: On The Road

Departure: Amtrak California Zephyr, Denver’s Union Station to Emeryville’s station, $120.00

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New Camera!

I ordered a new camera this morning. It’s the Canon Powershot SD890 So my picture-taking should be both more frequent and of higher quality in the near future.

I think I need to start taking pictures of my meals. That’s always fun. Anyways, I’m in Denver, Colorado, and enjoying the free wifi at the public library before I head out for some art gallery and museum action.

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Chicago, Illinois

8/8/2008 – 8/11/2008

After finding out that my place to stay had fallen through on Tuesday, I had three days to find accomidations. I quickly managed to make a reservation at the Hosteling International hostel in downtown Chicago, but at $34 per night I hoped to find something cheaper. A couple of phone calls later, I had several friends trying to find me a place to stay. On Thursday, Ben came through by setting me up with the totally awesome husband-and-wife Mig and Lety.

Sculptures of the Puerto Rico Flag mark the borders of the neighborhood

Mig and Lety live in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood just a short distance outside of the city center. Even though they had a few plans throughout the weekend, these two were great hosts, letting me tag along to a friend’s birthday party (free drinks!), hanging out with me a bunch on Saturday, and giving me lots of good advice.

Many thanks to Andy, Tara, Kate, and Ben for out-of-town suggestions on what I should do during my visit. I didn’t manage to do everything, but I feel like I had a great Chicago experience.

On Friday I took the train from O’Hare all the way to Union Station. I currently have a small backpack and a big hiking pack with me — I’m carrying too much stuff. I plan to drop a lot of it off at my mom’s house in Eugene, but for the moment I’m stuck with it. Anyways, I went to Union Station because I knew they had lockers and I didn’t want to carry the big bag around all day. I didn’t really think the plan through, though, because my big bag had lots of stuff I would need during the weekend in it. Like clothes. So I ended up keeping the both bags with me, hanging out at a coffee shop and doing some computery stuff for a few hours, and then walking a few blocks through downtown to meet Mig outside his work. Along the way I visited the post office to send a few pounds of stuff to Eugene. Kind of expensive, but worth every penny. After meeting Mig and taking the train back to his place, I relaxed for a while before we all went out to a friend’s birthday party. Nothing too eventful happened. Good food.

The Bean, Millenium Park

Saturday morning I woke up at a decent time (Mig had to get up early to take an exam) and went out for a run. Humboldt Park, after which the neighborhood takes its name, is actually pretty nice. An interesting mix of people out walking their dogs or playing soccer and suspicious characters sitting in their cars. As far as the run goes, I’m again amazed at how fast I am when it’s not humid. When I arrived home Lety was in the midst of preparing breakfast, so after a quick shower I joined her for coffee and a delicious scramble. We then headed downtown and visited the Chicago Cultural Center. It was pretty small, but the library dome is pretty cool. I then split off and explored Millennium Park, paying particular attention to “the bean” seen in the picture. I think it has a real name but apparently that’s what everyone calls it. I also read in the park–The Alchemist is a very good book–before wandering around downtown on my own some more.

It was about this time that I discovered my phone’s google maps transit directions feature. Andy had suggested that I try a Maxwell Avenue Polish hot dog, and had suggested a chain that served good ones. I cell-phone-google-mapped (how’s that for a verb) it and google gave me great directions including which bus to take, where to catch it, and when. Super convenient, and I used this feature quite a bit while I was in Chicago. I think I was able to see a lot more stuff because I took buses and trains more than I would have without my phone’s access to google maps.

After the hotdog and another bus ride for no particular reason, Lety called and I headed over to where they were hanging out. We trekked north, eventually catching a bus, to go to a huge gay street festival called Market Days. Fun times, lots of shirtless and/or drunk guys, and sloooow service at a street-side restaurant. We walked by Wrigley Field just after the Cubs finished getting spanked and took in the craziness that is Chicago post-baseball fandom. Lakeview is a wild neighborhood. Took the bus back to Humboldt Park and spent the evening in a local bar drinking beer, finishing the the evening off with a damn good late-night burrito. Lety and Mig shared Super Nachos. I think that’s a funny name for a dish.

First thing Sunday we walked over to the laundromat so I could start my small load of laundry. Next stop, awesome breakfast place three doors down. After breakfast, we stopped back by the laundry and moved the clothes to a dryer, then walked around the park for a while. Noticing the time, we had to rush back to the house so Mig and Lety could get ready for their soccer game. Mid-Run, Chicago and Me While they were playing, I was planning to run along the lakeshore. They dropped me off at the lake on this beautiful morning and it was a truly excellent run. I got to see a lot more of Chicago and Chicagoans. And the beaches are crazy popular! Who knew? After returning home I got cleaned up, watched some Olympics, and then headed out on the bus to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Dinner was weirdly good Potato and Rosemary square pizza and great Goose Island beer, then more Olympics watching until bed.

I got up at work time with Mig Monday morning and took the train downtown with him. After saying goodbye, I went to Union Station and dropped my bag off at a locker, for real this time. I toured around the Chicago Art Institute’s gallery for an hour or so before heading back towards Union Station as train time approached. I rode the L, just for kicks, attempting to use my farecard one minute after it expired (the nice guard let me in anyways) and stopped for a kate-recommended Billy Goat Tavern burger and beer. Good stuff, and a great way to leave the city. The train left on time, and I settled in for a long trip.

Arrival: United Airlines flight into O’Hare, $127.99 + $15 checked bag fee

Reading: Mirrorshades – finished on the plane; The Alchemist; On The Road – started on the train

    Departure: Amtrak California Zephyr, Chicago’s Union Station to Denver’s Union Station, $186.00

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