Thursday, September 10, 2009
So my wife and I headed out to San Francisco for the Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park at the end of August. We have a bunch of great friends who live in SF so it was an easy decision to head out for it. We landed on Friday at about 10:00 AM and got picked up by our friend Maglie. We headed back to her place so we could drop our stuff off, pack up some supplies, meet my buddy Oldie and then head to the show. When I say pack up supplies I mean we had to smuggle in some clear liquor into water bottles and then super glue the tops back on.
We made it through security with no incidents and started down the trail to the Polo grounds where the main stage is. After we got in we met up with my boy Flindle who arrived a few minutes after we did since he had to pass the day teaching SF's finest young academics. Along the way we passed a ton of very good looking food options, a wine tasting tent, a Visa Signature private tent and the beer stand. My only gripe with the refreshments was that there were only three kinds of beer options. Heinekin, Heinekin Light & Newcastle. Upon arriving at the Polo grounds we were immediately faced with a conflict. Should we head over and see Built to Spill on the main stage who I have seen a bunch of times or wander over to the smaller stage for the Los Campesinos show who I've never seen. I went with Built to Spill show with Oldie & Flindle while Maglie and my wife headed over to Los Campesinos show. BTS was very good but they really aren't the best band to play a main stage show at a festival since they spend most of the time shredding their instruments from the standing still position. My wife tells me this fairly often but apparently we look like the kind of guys someone wants to walk up to and offer to sell us some $5 joints, probably laced. This actually happened while we were standing around an empty field by ourselves. Weird. I don't think I look that scruffy I actually just really don't like to spend time or money getting a haircut. I've been like this since I was kid.
After the Main stage we decided to head over to Lindley Meadows for a flurry of acts. We started out with San Francisco's own The Dodo's who put on a good show. Next up was Blind Pilot who also put on a nice set of indie/folk/rock that was quite tasty. The third set was The National right about at dusk. I've listened to all of their albums but never seen them live so I didn't know what to expect. Much to my surprise they came out blasting. Song after song the deep baritone voice of lead singer Matt Berringer thumped out of the perfect acoustics of the Sutro stage. They didn't just bring their A Game they flat out stole the Friday show. Many a body part was rocked off Friday night. If they show up near you GO SEE THEM! We rounded out the night by seeing DC's Thievery Corporation who got the crowd pumping with a furious set of old classics. Oldie waded his way into the mosh that is Pearl Jam but we held strong at Thievery.
Saturday's show was a late start for us because we headed over to Oldie's place in Sausalito via the ferry after we hit the Farmer's Market. We had a quick little barbecue and then headed back to the park after a stop to refill the water bottle/vodka bottles. We walked in Via the Twin Peaks Stage to catch TV on the Radio who were putting on a good show but the sound system seemed a little of from one side. After TV on the radio we loaded up on Heinekin's and Newcastle and strolled over to what would soon become our favorite place, Lindley Meadow and the Sutro stage. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band were playing what ended up being their second to last show. Their last show was later that night in downtown SF which we tried to rally for but missed. Oberst and the band put on an amazing show and since my buddy Happy has a total man crush on him we knew what to expect for this one. They did not disappoint. I don't know if it was the Vodka & Vitamin water which by the way is the new Gin & Juice or the $7 Newcastle's but we were feeling pretty lubricated and this set was blowing us away. After that we headed over to the main stage where Dave Matthews was playing. Not much to report there except I think the Black Eyed Peas came out and danced and Matthews sounded like he had lost his voice. All in all the Main stage shows were a Major disappointment. Exhausted we headed home and while we didn't rally to the Conor Oberst show we did make it down to the bar for one more completely unnecessary drink.
Sunday came a little early and I sprung out of bed because over on the East Coast my fantasy football draft was happening. It's safe to say I like draft day like Seth Rogen likes porn. After knocking out a few rounds of the draft I left it to the capable hands of my not so silent partner. He did a great job for Pittsburgh fan. After the draft we headed back to the park sans vodka bottles. We started out with the John Vanderslice set in Lindley Meadow which was a very good show albeit mellow. After that my wife and I went to the Solar stage for the Matt & Kim gig while the rest of the crew stuck around the meadow to see The Avett Brothers. The Matt & Kim stage and sound sucked but this duo put on a super entertaining show. They talked to the crowd a bit and spoke briefly of a tough decision they had to make this year to either get health insurance or a T-shirt gun. They went with a gun and I think this was the right call. Has there ever been a toy you'd rather blast you friends with more than a t-shirt gun? After this set we headed over to the main stage for Modest Mouse. I've seen the Mouse a few times and they never disappoint. They rocked and they rocked hard. I was afraid they might tone it down a bit to appeal to a wider audience but the brought out the heavy stuff and easily justified having two drummers. Next we headed up to the Ween set at the Twin Peaks stage for an hour. We manged to hear Your Party which was entertaining but I half expected to see David Sanborn himself come out and rock the saxophone but alas he did not. Funny side note there was some huge dude wearing a shirt that said "Fuck You hippies". We left that show early to head back our second home in Lindley Meadow because Band of Horses was up soon. We swung by the porta-potties where some dirty hippie was selling and I quote"$5 fatties" and actually had a line almost as long as the bathrooms. Only in San Francisco does this happen. We carved out a nice little space for Band of Horses and we were pretty psyched we did. They were amazing and completely stole the Sunday show for best band. The cool thing about the digital age is you can immediately tweet and post updates if a band is crushing it and then you see a steady stream of fans leaving one venue and heading the next. Pretty cool phenomenon. The show was so good they were the only non Main Stage bad to get an encore the entire show. Just awesome and don't miss them if they play near you! After that set we strolled back to main stage where Tenacious D was closing out the show. We saw a couple of songs but bailed early. Unfortunately they were the replacement act for the Beastie Boys having to cancel their show. The Beasties would have been an awesome close to an unbelievable weekend of music.
All in all this experience was amazing. I won't be craving Heineken any time soon and I'm pretty sure my boy Oldie won't be craving a cheese steak as he pulled of the trifecta of cheese steaks. In hindsight I don't think he ate anything but cheese steak the entire weekend. I'd like to head back next year as long as I can get my hands on some of those baby headphones for the impending little one. If I see another Heinekin I might throw up a bit in my mouth.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
My wife was headed up to the great white north so my buddy Amtrak & decided to hit the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia for a two night camping and hiking trip. Whenever I hear the word Shenandoah I am reminded of an Upright Citizens Brigade skit called John Denver Fan club that my buddy T-Bone turned me on to.
We headed out of DC early on Friday to beat the traffic which in hindsight is pretty much impossible. We hit the road at 4:00 for what should take a little under three hours took us more like four and half hours. This of course meant we arrived at dusk with no fire wood and no camp site set up. We can plan all we want but when it comes to the execution part we can't time anything correctly. We grabbed some wood from the ranger station and proceeded to attempt to start a fire. The problem was the wood from the rangers was wet. We went through an entire Washington Post weekend edition, no small feet but this fire just didn't want to start. At that point we started to panic a bit and started foraging for anything we could burn. I even sucked up my pride and went to a nearby campsite in search of some lighter fluid. I didn't find any lighter fluid but the nice folks next door poured us a tall cup full of Camp Fuel. I've never even heard of camping fuel but they recommended we wad up some paper towels and step back. Even the paper towels soaked in camping fuel weren't working so we decided to give it one final push. We grabbed everything that would light form the car including maps, receipts, beer cases an empty granola bar box, toilet paper and parer towels. We then doused everything in Camping Fuel as well as soaking some of the wet wood in the fuel. Not surprisingly the fire lit this time.
We managed to get the tent set up in the dark. Amtrak was in charge of food and I was in charge of the tent and the beverages. Comparatively speaking my portion was decidedly easier and yet exceptionally unimpressive. Amtrak on the other hand went hog wild with the food. Since it took us about 2 hours to start the fire we were playing catch up on the cooking so we decided to forgo the sausages and just heated up some kind of crazy taco dip Amtrak dreamed up. This was no ordinary 7 layer dip. The dip starts off with a layer of taco meat, salsa verde, a layer of hot jalapenos and then refried beans. This then goes in the freezer to firm up. After that you repeat layer one through four and top it off with a giant dousing of cheese and freeze the whole thing. Once we got this thing heated up we added sour cream and gaucamole and pulled out some tasty tortilla chips which acted as the taco dip vessel. It was heavenly, delicious and scary all at once. I really wish I took a picture of this.
The next morning we got up and headed out on a six mile hike. We just about walked into a black bear on the hike which almost made me lose my taco dip. The bear however was more interested in eating berries and didn't pay much attention to us. We also ran into a few dear on the hike. All in all we saw about 30 dear in the park.
After our experience with starting the fire on night one we ended up getting about 5 bundles of wood and purchased some good old fashioned lighter fluid. We promised ourselves we wouldn't go through the same thing twice so this time we started a huge fire which we burned for about six hours. Amtrak pulled out some double cut pork chops rubbed with crushed ground fennel seeds, fresh garlic, salt, pepper and some olive oil. This was anything but typical camping food but it's exactly what we needed after a good hike and it was the best pork chop I've ever had.
Shenandoah in August is awesome! Just remember your Camp Fuel.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
We've been staying in Oak Bluffs in the Nashawena Park area for about 7 years now. We have a great little park in front of the house that has hosted many evenings of cocktail fueled bocce tournaments. This year we introduced the latest addition to our bocce craze which is light up night bocce. I'm not sure it's the neighbors favorite addition but it's a ton of fun for us.
Most days start with the guys heading to some remote fishing spot very early in the morning. To be clear you are supposed to catch fish early in the morning and we always have the best intentions but the reality is we have some stops to make. First we usually need to stop at the bait store to figure out what's been fishing well over the past few days. Then we need to grab some caffeine and breakfast. After that and usually a bathroom stop or two we actually start fishing about two hours after we got up. Several hours later of casting and usually catching nothing we start cracking back the beers until we run out and then call it a day.
We also did some charter fishing this year which proved to be extremely lucrative. We hired Captain Tom who is out of Oak Bluffs although we left out of Edgartown because we had originally booked with a gentleman who goes by the name Captain Porky. I'm convinced we went on name alone. It turns out Captain Porky's boat wasn't up to the task so lucky for us in swooped Captain Tom and his ship mate Garth Garett, Gareth or some other name I continued to butcher while he worked his ass off getting us rigged up and many a "Fish On". There was also Mako the Black Lab who was a wonderful boat dog and handled the rough waters better than the rest of us. The trip started with my buddy landing a whopper of a Striped Bass that fought like Razor Ruddock vs. Mike Tyson and 1991. Side Note: That fight was completely underrated. Anyways he landed a 25 pound striped bass on the first fish on of the day. This was certainly a sign of things to come. After that I hooked into a 20 pound Striper followed by my buddies Amtrak & the Doctor pulling in blue fish by the fistful. The fishing continued to be hot the entire time and my wife pulled in the largest blue fish I've ever seen at about 12 pounds. I can't say enough about how awesome Captain Tom was and for the life of me I can't find his business card. If you want to catch fish head down to the wharf in Oak bluffs and ask around. Tell him I sent you , it's worth your trouble.
We only have one car on the island and about 9 to 11 guests at any given time so when we head out fishing everyone else must fend for themselves which usually leads them walking down to Jelly Rock beach. It's actually called Inkwell beach but due to the often treacherous walk over the rocks to get into the ocean and occasional dodging of a jellyfish we have dubbed this Jelly Rock beach. Once happy hour arrives (anytime from 3:00 to 7:00) we get the blenders and cocktails rolling. We also start the charcoal grill that my Amtrak managed to master this year. Then comes the bocce, food, bocce waltz for the rest of the evening.
If you are headed to Martha's Vineyard there's a few things you need to do. Some of which I didn't even get in this year. Head over to State Road and a few hundred yards before you get to Cronig's Market you should see the pie stand where you can get Eileen Blake's Pies. Unfortunately Eileen passed away in August of 2008 but her pie business is till being run by the family. Don't ask for an address or a website you'll have to trust me. Plus you're on an island and they don't spend a lot of money on flashy web pages using the tubes. You'll also want to head on over to Season's Pub on a night they are doing Karaoke (Tuesday & Thursday). There some abominations and some downright inspiring talent. Drink up and join the party. You should also not miss the lobster rolls and unbelievable tropical cocktails being mixed at Nancy's Restaurant & outside bar. Any bartender that tastes each drink before he serves it to make sure it is absolutely perfect is alright in my book. When you take that kind of pride in your work you know you're at the right place! Have fun and be nice to the locals! They're what makes Martha's Vineyard one of the best places in the world to visit.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Over the weekend I went on a camping trip to Errol, NH. For those of you who might not know where that is you can check out the South Eastern side of Canada and head south a bit into NH. Needless to say it's the middle of nowhere. Errol has about four stores and one of them is LL Cote which is where you can get groceries, fishing gear, hardware supplies and just about anything else you could imagine. You might get a kick out of their website. There is also one gas station, one restaurant and a post office. What you lack in creature comforts they certainly more than make up for this in gorgeous wilderness, spectacular wildlife and remarkable people.
I grew up in NH and I camped, hiked and fished all of my life. That is until I moved to Washington, DC 10 years ago. I can't believe how quickly I forgot how to operate in the wilderness. The rest of the group all played the part of Jack Palance while I was billy Crystal (minus his love of the Yankees). Unfortunately for us it rained most of the weekend but that didn't stop us from getting into some serious remote fishing holes. We fished Akers Pond, Round Pond and hiked about a mile and a half into the wilderness with waders, tubes and fishing gear to get to Sweat Pond. The hike was well worth it because the pond was beautiful and luckily filled with trout. Unfortunately for us the weather did not want to hold up for us and after a few peaceful hours of wading in my tube and flailing around with my fly rod the heavens opened up on us and we were forced back to the cabin.
There's really two things that stood out about the cabin. The first is my introduction to game called Baggo. Some of you might know this game as Cornhole. Who knew there was an American Cornhole Association? Not this guy. Anyways it's a fantastic game where you toss bean bags into opposing cut out holes. I can't do the description any justice so check out one of the two links to see what I'm talking about and get yourself a set ordered today. These things even have beer holders built into the targets. One of the best drinking activities ever created. The other thing that really stood out was the introduction of the potato cannon. This thing is made with some PVC piping, a gas grill starter button and some hair spray or in our case some starter spray although I have seen it done with aqua net as well. Basically anything that's really flamable that you can spray into the pvc tube. Here's a video that shows how to create a potato cannon.
By no means do I recommend anyone try this at home but it was a ton of fun and I can't wait until next years fishing trip, but mostly for the potato gun.
I also wanted to give a special Shout Out to Patricia Moynahan at the National Car Rental in Boston. I left my suit coat in my rental and she found it, notified me and shipped it via fedex. Not only do I get to pick any car in the lot using the Emerald Aisle but they also generally care about their customers. Thanks Patricia and thank you National Car Rental!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Last Sunday night I went to the famed 9:30 club yet again. This is one place in the city where faith and inspiration hit me the most. I guess this would be my church. I suppose every church needs to have a reverend/bishop/priest and right now that person would have to be Craig Finn, lead singer of The Hold Steady. When it comes to on stage antics not too many people put on a better show than front man Finn. I think the closest show man on stage might have to be the microphone twirling, scissor kicking, Budweiser pounding Bob Pollard.
The show had to be the best I have seen in DC and I think I've been to just about every show in the District and a few road trips for others. The set list was brilliant. It was a perfect mix of rockers, classics, shoe gazers and a cover. From starting out with Positive Jam, the inclusion of Hostile, Mass, the acoustic Citrus and the sweet Minutemen cover of History lesson - Part 2 this show was about as perfect as you could get.
Craig Finn is a lover of lyrics and he often weaves a story of sex, drugs, religion and rock and roll with recurring characters appearing across a multitude of songs and albums. He is admittedly heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and loves rap. He seems to have an obsession with certain topics and cities and none more than the Tampa, FL neighborhood of Ybor City. I've never even been to Ybor city and if it wasn't for Finn I'd probably never want to.
At $6 for a domestic and $7 for an Import/micro brew the shows need to be good. Luckily for all of us suckers willing to pay that price the sound system at the 9:30 club is top notch and the quality of musicians that roll into town is worth the price of admission. I'll leave you with the lyrics to my favorite song of the night.
Citrus - The Hold Steady
hey citrus hey liquor I love it when when you touch each other hey whiskey hey ginger I come to you with rigid fingers.
i see judas in the hard eyes of the boys working the corners. i feel jesus in the clumsiness of young and awkward lovers.
hey barroom hey tavern I find hope in all the souls you gather. hey citrus hey liquor I love it when we come together.
I feel jesus in the clumsiness of young and awkward lovers. I feel judas in the long odds of the rackets on the corners. I feel jesus in the tenderness of honest nervous lovers. I feel judas in the pistols and the pagers that come with all the powders.
lost in fog and love and faithless fear. I've had kisses that make Judas seem sincere.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
This week I headed to the outer banks for a memorial day vacation. Any time I head down to the Outer Banks it's a complete crap shoot for how long it's going to take. Traffic around DC is brutal. There's no other way to put it. Since I didn't feel like sitting in stop and go the whole way I took the back way which is taking route 301 to route 17 to I64. We sat in traffic getting out of DC and throughout
We stopped for lunch/Dinner in
This particular trip took us about 6 1/2 hours. The trip is anywhere from 4 ½ to 7 depending on traffic. Once we arrived we were greeted by the rest of the Memorial Day posse with ice cold Miller Chills, I giant tub of cheese balls, a private heated pool and two hot tubs. The house was about 2/10ths of a mile form the ocean. Fifteen minutes after arriving we headed down to the beach to scout out the scene. The water felt freezing that night but gradually got warmer as the week went on. May is a great time to be on the Outer Banks but my favorite time is still September when the ocean water sits around 70-75 degrees. One thing you forget about when you live in the city is how beautiful the sky is when you can actually see stars. The sky was amazing but try as I might I could only point out the little dipper. I have vowed to improve upon this and purchased an astronomy book to rid myself of the celestial ignorance.
We found a great new BBQ place called Fat Crabs that had awesome traditional Carolina BBQ and great steamed shellfish. We also went out and played some putt-putt on a 20 hole (weird I know) all grass course. The course was really challenging and while I enjoyed myself I'd still rather putt one into the clown's nose any day of the week. Can anyone explain the difference between mini golf and putt-putt? I always thought this was a regional thing like coke, pop, soda, tonic...Who knows?
My better half and I stopped in
The Outer Banks is a place we go to a lot and they have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The Sand in Corolla is soft and fluffy and when the tide is out the beach is gigantic. I often wonder if people on the other coasts would have a reason to come to the outer banks or if it's just an east coast thing. If you’ve never been it's well worth the visit and easily one of my top 5 beaches in the
Top 5 U.S. Beaches
1. Whale head Beach; Corolla, NC
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Most people know you need a little thing called a VALID passport to leave the country. I forgot to renew mine ahead of time so it expired. This meant when planning a quick four day weekend getaway Bandway style (check out 4 Day Weekend but throw on your headphones or wait until you get home because it’s definitely NSFW) I had to keep it close. Since I had to stay on
If you’re flying on American Air from DCA it’s much easier to check in curbside if you need to check luggage. I find the folks at the curbside check-in are entertaining and knowledgeable plus the lines to check-in at DCA on the weekend can be really long. Tip the baggage handlers a couple of bucks and rest easily knowing your bags will show up at your destination.
After my wife and I landed at MIA we hopped in a cab ($37 flat rate) and headed to a great new hotel on
Most days we would have a brunch in the late morning then hit a snack in the afternoon and a nice dinner at night. I went to the News Café for brunch one morning and the atmosphere was fantastic. It’s right on
There was one thing in particular that drove me nuts about walking down Ocean Drive and that is the amount of restaurants that have people outside soliciting everyone walking by to dine at their establishment. Chances are if they are trying that hard it’s because it’s not very good. Seriously, I got hassled less walking down
Our best meal of the trip happened when we stumbled upon a quaint little Italian restaurant called Spiga. We generally wander around looking at about a dozen different menus before we make a decision. Nine times out of ten we botch this decision using this method. Amazingly we nailed this one. Great outdoor space on
My worst meal of trip was inside of The Betsy at the BLT restaurant. Chef Laurent Tourondel of BLT Steak ousted out Peter Luger’s in this year as the best steak house in NYC. Having been to Peter Luger’s before I was hell bent on trying BLT. Luger’s is awesome and any place that has a bacon appetizer is all right in my book. Now in all fairness the BLT inside of The Betsy has only been open for about 5 weeks but with that kind of praise my expectations were high. The wait staff tried hard but the food came up short. The sides were average and my rib eye was chewy and fatty to the point where no human molars could grind it into edible bites. The dessert of blueberry lemon meringue pie was the only highlight. Overall based on our dining experience BLT was pretty average and I would take Luger’s any day of the week. We now have a BLT in DC and I’m not rushing out to try it again.
The beach in
MIA Tip: When we were flying back to DC the MIA American curbside check-in guy gave me some good advice for the MIA terminal. If you are flying out of C or D terminals go all the way to the right until you can’t go any further and then follow the path to the security line. Once I weaved through a quick hallway I came upon a welcome site. No long security line. In fact there was no line at all.
There are some unbelievable travel deals right now. I came across this video containing the Conde Nast Hot List which had a bunch of hotels for under $200 per night. I highly recommend the