Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This and that...and a couple other things too

The light, citrus tones of my Kenya blend coffee aren't changing the fact that the sun has once again been hidden behind a blanket of grey. On the bright side though, it's still pretty warm and nice out and the coffee tastes pretty good.

It's my day off and I want to get moving but my paycheck is in hiding - perhaps it's in the back pocket of the missing sun. Anyway, it's got me tied up waiting since a lot of the errands I need to do are - well - tied to money.

Most important - after doing some laudry - is getting online and ordering a rail pass for my trip to Germany. I'm sort of wavering between a two-country pass and a three-country pass. Either would save me a ton o' money since a round-trip train ticket from Frankfurt (where I'm flying into) and the city up north where Steffi lives costs just about as much as a pass. It would make things easier too. Just ask Josh and Eileen how speedy quick I am when it comes to buying train tickets - they've both seen it live.


I defy anyone to listen to Francoise Hardy's 'Message Personnel' and not be filled with the desire to bust open that dusty box of old letters on the shelf in the closet.

It's got me wanting to. But - in a weird 'this goes against the natural order' kind of way - I'm just don't feel like tripping down memory lane. That's right, the nostalgia train is leaving the station and I'm not on it.

Toot! Toot!


Okay, any of you who know me too well can just skip this part. I folded. How could I not? A box full of dreams, wishes, what ifs, and what weres...you had to know I would dive in.

It was interesting to remember that in 1987, my friend Nancy was in deep in her third year at Princeton and I was - well - not at Princeton. My friend Eric's girlfriend was writing to me - it still weirds me out that she was hitting on me by mail. And I was still talking to Jennifer - my childhood crush - pretty regularly.

I really only teared up a bit thinking about Nancy. She was so very much a girl I would have married. I still wonder what might have been if my family hadn't moved my senior year.

Oh well, I wouldn't have met any of the other people that have touched my life since then. And her life went a way that has made her happy too - so, I wouldn't want to change that. Some things are left in the past I guess.


Still waiting on my money. Grrrrr. This is more annoying than when I used to do freelance writing and waited around for checks to show up in the mail. Come to think of it, I sort of miss those days too. I don't miss the feeling of rushing to the mailbox only to find that an expected check hadn't arrived though.


Anybody have any memorable firsts? I just remembered my first published photo. It was in an equestrian magazine called 'Horseplay'. I was so excited. Not only was my photo in a national magazine, but I was also getting paid for it.

They sent me a couple copies of the magazine and a check for $25.

I tore into the magazines like a four-year old on Christmas morning. And there it was in all it's glory. About two thirds of the way into the magazine, slightly larger than a quarter, was my picture of a broken English saddle. It's likely that a new father would be more proud, but I wouldn't have believed it at the time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Just another day

Woke up today before noon with more than eight hours of sleep to see another nice day. Blue sky, warm air. What the hell? Warm days strung together in a series...I vaguely remember the last time that happened.

So, now I'm drinking African coffee, listening to bad French music, thinking about sailing around the world and watching squirrel bounce by - all the while trying to ignore the fact that Joey, my bird, joining in the singing doesn't improve bad French music in any way.

Talked to Steffi yesterday. It brought my upcoming trip to Germany that much closer. It's going to be nice to see her again. It's been more than several years now.

So much has changed and so much is - ultimately - the same. In anyone else's life, taking a trip to see a German girl met at a yoga ashram in California who still holds a piece of their heart despite being married and having a delightful child and cool-sounding dog might be considered odd. Just another unexplained phenomenon in my life and not at all out of place.

Maybe it's a flaw - living life a bit out of synch and in slightly dreamy way. I don't really know any other way. Yeah, I fall in love 50 times a day, let my mind go off on vividly imagined tangents, and lack the practicality that drives the majority around me to buy new cars, live in a houses they can't afford and give up on actually enjoying life - but I think that might just be okay.

Also got a call from Jimmy yesterday. Went over to his new place - which is actually Barb's old place - and hung out with a bunch o' people. It was so warm that we just had fun hanging out of the front porch with plenty of beer and cigarettes.

Later on, we all went over to hang out on Phil's roof. He's got an apartment in an old building on the main drag in West Bend - and access to the enormous roof. It was a great night.

Now...off to work. Eeeeegads! Man, I don't want to go do this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SXSW delivers some good tunes

People around here like to brag about Summerfest and tell you it's the biggest music festival around. They're right about it being nifty and there are lot of good bands that come to Milwaukee during the week and a half run of the 'fest. But, I would much rather go to SXSW in Austin.

SXSW is a big ol' bunch of shows spread around the clubs and venues of the city. There are a ton - no really, a ton - of bands and musicians that make appearances. And, while there are plenty of well known names, it's mostly about up and coming or indie talent. This is out of the mainstream stuff - but the music is far from radical, it's just pretty darn good.

SXSW also features movies and interactive stuff too. I reckon you really just need to be there to enjoy those gems though. It looked like there might have been some interesting movies showing too. There's a bit of an interesting movie-making scene in Austin, so i'm guessing they draw a lot of talent.

Anyway, at the SXSW site, there's a listing of all the bands that were playing. Many of the bands have a free track up that can be downloaded. I went through and downloaded a bunchity bunch of them, stuck them in a folder and made a playlist. I can already tell that this is going to get some heavy listening - it's just that good.

My current faves from this batch:

Melissa McClelland
The Hudsons
Jo Mango
Joshua James
The Comas

Go take a listen if you like and you might find that you do indeed like.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sunday hoops fun...

Decided to go to Chicago on Sunday for Round Two of the NCAA tournament. My brother really wanted to go, so we went. It was even more fun than the first day. Not so great for Wisconsin fans, but fun nontheless.

The Badgers played a pretty sucky game again and it cost them a trip to the Sweet 16. They did mount a run in the second half and held the lead for a while, but ultimately they were outplayed by UNLV.

That's the common analysis anyway. I know it all came down to cheerleaders. UNLV simply had cuter cheerleaders. Oh sure, Wisconsin had some cute cheerleaders and they were a lot more athletic than UNLV's, but it clearly wasn't enough.

We could have tipped the scales back with our fans, but there simply weren't enough cute Wisconsin butts to turn the tide.

Some might scoff at such analysis, but they should maybe check out the results of the other game on Sunday before they start making their loud scoffage. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. I'm an expert on cute girls and I used to be a sports editor.

The Kansas - Kentucky game was much more exciting. Kansas ran away with it, but it was exciting.

Met some cool people in the stands. They JayHawk fans were pretty nuts. There were a ton of them too. I would have hated being in Kansas this last weekend though. All the cute Kansas girls were in Chicago. It was almost enough to fool a guy into thinking that Kansas would be an awesome place to live. I - however - am not just any guy. I've been to Kansas before and I remember it all too well.

Michael Jordan was the game. He was in a booth a couple sections over and below us. That's kind of neat. No Ashley Judd though. That would have been even cooler. I would trade a Michael Jordan brush with greatness for an Ashley Judd brush with greatness any day.

Anyway, a fun time was had all around and it was a great little experience to put into the collection of stuff that I've done.

P.S. - Chicago traffic blows. It's bound to be bad news when you put that many crappy drivers on overly packed tollways. Sure enough, Illinois drivers didn't let us down and proudly maintain the world's worst drivers title.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It's madness I tell you

As my friend Gregg put it...this is "the greatest weekend in sports." No arguments here. College basketball explodes like a Fourth of July fireworks display in a sleepy midwest town - bright lights, noise and excitement burst into the dark sky, blasting away boredom. It happens every March and madness does indeed ensue.

I got my first taste of it live Friday. Went to Chicago with my brother and saw a couple of games. Let me tell you - hardwood, pom-pons, and rabid fans are an intoxicating mix. And we're only talking about the first round.

Saw UNLV beat Georgia Tech in a close game to start. The Runnin' Rebels were fun to watch. I felt bad for the G Tech kids though. But that's what the tournament is all about. Winning and losing - and, ultimately, the way people deal with both.

After a short break, the Wisconsin Badgers took the court to play Texas A&M Corpus Christi. You'll be forgiven if you just found yourself saying' "Who?"

Well, the Islanders of Corpus Christi turned out to be a lot more memorable than I would have ever guessed. They were sort of the little team that could for a while and had a sort of infectious joie de vivre that they had half the place cheering them on in the first half. That's something in an arena only a couple of hours away for Wisconsin fans.

The first half of the first half was a stunner for Wisconsin fans. It was well and truly - um - abysmal. Wait, that's not right. It was monumentally abysmal.

For Islander fans that had made the trip north and all the new found Islander fans, it was the heady stuff of dreams.

Wisconsin somehow managed to score only 19 points in the entire first half. Yeah...it was that bad.

Second half was all about Wisconsin though. Well, Wisconsin and the ref who called at least 1,000 fouls in the game. My god, talk about slowing down the pace of a game.

No matter how you slice it, it was a ton of fun to finally make it to a couple of NCAA tournament games.

There's still plenty of television watching to do too. I'm doing that right now in fact - and holy crap is Xavier playing well! This could be the upset of all upsets - the grand daddy of all upsets if you will. It's hard to keep typing here with that going on.

And, tomorrow I might just head back down to Chicago to watch round two. Still sort of up in the air on that one. It is tempting - the tickets are in my pocket.

Yeah...the call of leather on hardwood is hard to ignore this time of year.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm about to get March Mad...

I've got tickets to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in Chicago. Gonna see Wisconsin play.

Then, maybe just sit around and watch a buttload of basketball. That's all I've got to say...but it's enough, don't ya think.

And now I can scratch another thing off my life to do list.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thought for the day...

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as courses, and they come back to us as effects."

- Herman Melville

Who knew that the dude who wrote about catching a big ol' white whale was so smart?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A slice of the Apple

Here's a short clip of Saturday morning in the apartment in NYC.

Josh is off screen working on the puzzle that lorded over the middle of the floor, Jonathon is strumming his guitar, Eileen is in the other room, Stephanie is getting ready to go out, and music is playing in three separate rooms.

Despite that, it was all very mellow. Go figure.

That there is life - is it not?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

If the budget were cookies...someone would be getting fat

I love it when complex issues can be boiled down to a very simple explanation. Often it can't be done, but sometimes it can. In the case of the out-of-control federal budgets of this Republican administration, this simple animation makes it very clear where their 'values' lie.*

Anyway, check out this animation featuring one of the Ben and Jerry's founders for a quick eye opener. Watch it and decide if your priorities are the same as the Bush administration and the Republicans. And, more importantly, do something about expressing what your priorities are.

*Editor's note...values and lie being uttered one after the other is completely intentional and appropriate.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bottle of...oh hell, you know this part...(part the third)

Sunday morning in New York. It just sounds good to say. The procession of roommates heading into the shower, emerging clean and ready to face the day counted down to me.

Jon and Stephanie were gearing up to do some Oscar party shopping. Well, Stephanie anyway - Jon was locked into being deviled-egg boy. Let that be a lesson to all of you. If once you make the deviled eggs, forever will you be branded deviled-egg boy.

The SF3 downed coffee, hit the showers, and crawled out to the bustle of Sunday in New York - a much tamer version of the bustle of anyotherday in New York.

We grabbed a slice of pizza on the run and hoofed it the rest of the way to the Natural History Museum. Yeah the one from the movie, 'Night in the Museum.' Kelly is a docent there and she got us all tickets. We saw the gold exhibit (very shiney), the space collisions exhibit (very far out), and the butterfly exhibit (very fluttery).

I think my favorite was the one I least wanted to see - the butterflies. Go figure. It was just really cool to see all those colorful fluttery things. It might have been the perfect winter remedy. Just a thought.

We were going to have oysters at Grand Central Station, but the restaurant was closed on Sundays. Ended up at the Chat and Chew for a glorified slice of Americana New York style.

Went out for drinks at . Good times were had and wallets busted all around. Thanks to Eileen and Josh for carrying me over the finish line - life wouldn't have been the same without that sixth round.

Home to semi-drunken slumber.


Monday morning on the edge of Harlem. The park across the lot and the circle out back already has people walking the fringes. Traffic noise, the hum of life, the city rousing from its slumber.

A light blanket of snow is on the ground as I look out the kitchen window. Inside everyone is quiet in their own sleep - what worlds they're travelling in their dreams I don't know.

Morning rolls on. Josh heads to work. I shower, pack, and climb down the three flights to the street. Stop at Central Park and watch a film crew setting up. Then underground for the 2 downtown and back up into the air for an hour of wandering near Macy's and Penn Station.

One last look around, a sigh, and back under the earth to leave New York City. The train, Newark, two planes, and back to piles of snow and short buildings. The end of a vacation - even a short one - is just plain depressing. It was a good weekend though, so that's a small price to pay.

Thanks guys for the great trip.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bottle of red, bottle of white (part the second)

Saturday was a sleep-in sort of day. We didn't get up and moving until after noon. That's a lot easier to do when there are no clocks to be found other than the kitchen one that's stuck between 3:30 and 3:45.

The coffee caraffe was passed around like a pot pipe and all of us sucked down cups of the brown elixir like junkies.

Josh's roommates and friends John and Stephanie headed out first to take in a movie that neither of them really wanted to see, but what with the Oscars coming up, they felt like they should see it. It's hard to argue with logic like that, so we just wished them well and started plotting the day's assault on the city.

Food - once again - provided the catalyst needed to get us moving. We decided on Chinese and Eileen showed off some of her cruise-directing strengths by picking 69 as the restaurant of choice. It wasn't that impressive of a pick though because I would picked it out of a list too - but probably for the more obvious reason that it has an awesome name.

Harlem to Chinatown takes you underneath pretty much the whole stretch of Manhattan, but it's not a long ride. We climbed back into the light of day and wandered into the vibrancy of Chinese New Year celebrations. Dragons danced along the sidewalks - stopping at the doors of businesses to bring them good fortune. Bells and drums drove away not only evil spirits, but any sense of gloom that might be hiding in the nooks and crannies of the day ahead. From high above, streamers and colored confetti would occasionally shower down like rainbow rain.

The food was good. It's not stellar, but it was quick and tasty. The table one over was filled with brass from the nearby NYC police department building. You gotta figure that if it's good enough for New York's finest, it's gonna be fine for the San Francisco 3.

After eating, we took to the streets again and wandered about Chinatown. A helpful hint for tourists - the easiest way to tell you're in Chinatown is that most everyone is Asian and all the signs are in various forms of Chinese and other Asian languages. The dancing dragons were also an excellent giveaway, but you can't count on them year round.

I also discovered that you can indeed find batteries in Chinatown. In fact, it's sort of easy which is a bit disappointing in a weird way.

At some point, it became imperative that we find the Manhattan Portage store. Funny how nebulous sorts of ideas can crystalize into necessity in a short time when you've eaten some good Chinese food.

The Magnetic Field's song 'Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side' kept running through my head even though we were blocks from the L.E.S. What can I say - I'm from Wisconsin, we don't get close to locations in song lyrics very often. Fortunately, Eileen and Josh were up ahead so they didn't hear my off-key humming - although it's possible that I could have passed it off as indigestion.

Our quest took us to an area just south of Houston St. - Soho to those in the know. I'm not sure if we wandered across part of Tribeca along the way, but since I never saw Robert DeNiro I'm going to guess we didn't.

With the crossing of Canal St., Chinatown gives way to Soho. It's just another of those New York wonders - kind of like crossing a Disney street and finding yourself suddenly in Tomorrowland instead of Storybookland.

Soho is the land of many galleries and has the highest concentration of people wearing black in the city where most people wear black. It's also a neat little area despite it's trendiness.

We found Manhattan Portage despite some sort of solar flares that adversely effected Josh's normally unerring sense of direction - something to do with reversing the polarity of the earth's magnetic field (not to be confused with the aforementioned group of with a similar name). Eileen bought a bag. I bought nothing as the limitedness of my budget sunk in. Josh went to find a bathroom somewhere.

The bathroom happened to be in a bar around the corner and it also happened to sound like a great idea to go there and have a drink - or several - before heading up to see Andrew's play. We were going to be seeing Kafka performed - you would want a drink too.

I'm going to skip the great bar story that included a somewhat stylish woman, an occupied women's room, the choice to use the men's room and Josh's psychic abilities predicting that the woman would exit the men's room precipiticely in four, three, two, one...told you so. Suffice it to say that it was a truly excellent moment.

After that truly excellent moment, we headed uptown to meet one of Eileen's high school friends, Nancy, for the play.

The play was great. There, I said it. It was great.

I wasn't expecting much, to be honest. It was off-off-off-Broadway and then a couple blocks further if you get my meaning and that doesn't often bode well for the play goer. This, however, was a wonderful exception.

The play was 'The Trial' and it was directed by Eileen's high school friend Andrew. I wish it were running longer, I would actually recommend it. It was well done from start to finish and performed on a small - very small - space, where the audience is essentially right there on the stage. Pulling that off is no small feat, but the actors did a great job of it and we all enjoyed it a lot. I for one did leave shaking my heading and muttering something like, 'fucking Kafka...' though.

Josh's new fiancee, Ladybear, met us and we all went to a bar a couple blocks up where Andrew and cast showed up shortly after. Drinks were had and my favorite quote of the night was uttered by the lovely Ava (the lone female in the play). Cue the earnest thespian face, leaning in across the table, left hand giving the Italian sign for 'delicious'...

"No...it was like golden fucking caramel...being spoken," said Ava.

From there it was a foursome - the SF3 and Ladybear - and a trip to the Blue Ribbon Bakery. At least, I think that's where we ended up. As it turned out, those crazy solar flares also caused some restaurant confusion to occur.

Ladybear elaborated a bit on her uncanny ability to know how to pick up any woman over our late dinner. The irony that the one superpower I could really use was, in fact, given to a woman was not lost on me.

The subway trip back is impossible to describe, but believe me when I say that it was a classic destined to rank high in the annals of New York subway riding lore. There were bright blue stretch pants, high school boys in matching jeans and striped shirts, and words exchanged by two guys with their zippers open to begin with, followed by some dry humping, the offer of a jacket, and the exchanging of vows between the tart in tights and a penis. All this, and I wasn't even drunk - although half the train was it seemed.

The theatre of the absurd was the perfect nightcap.

Bottle of red, bottle of white (part one)

A sleepless night followed by an early morning drive to the airport should add up to a god-awful flying experience. Lucky for me, my travel karma was pretty good and I had a great flight out of the wilds of Milwaukee and the only bad thing that happened was that I arrived in Newark a tired camper.

It's an easy train ride into the city from Newark and my ride was greatly improved by conversation with an older couple from Virginia. They were up for the weekend and were very nice indeed. Their Southern charm and accents provided a nice easing into the hum and buzz of Gotham.

The Newark train took me to Penn Station where I met a great homeless guy, John. He was taking the No. 2 as well and I bought him his subway ride and settled in for trip uptown. He told me about what it was like on the streets after 9/11 and how for a while people actually took notice of him and the many other homeless people in the city. He talked about the haze and smell that hung over much of the city after the attacks.

He also told me how he saw the picture of a police officer that had harassed him before the attacks on a wall at a memorial service for those who gave their lives trying to save others - it had made him cry to realize that this man who seemed so mean had heroically gone into the towers when others had been coming out.

I left John with a few dollars and the sincere hope that life would treat him kindly and stepped off the train to emerge in the glory of the big city.

My friend Josh lives up at the edge of Harlem - just a block or so from the subway stop - so I was soon at his place. Eileen had arrived there earlier and had gotten a nap in already. It was the first time in several years that the San Francisco Three had been in one place and it was a nice reunion (clever pun for those of us in the know intended, of course). If you're scratching your head about the San Francisco Three, I'm afraid you're going to be stuck in the dark because that's a whole other story that's best told over cold beers at the local pub.

We didn't linger long at the apartment - heading right out to start the adventures - so my lack of sleep was shoved to the back to be dealt with later. The SF3 had a city to conquer.

First stop?


Good thing too, because I was so hungry I was ready to take on one of the legendary giant alligators in the sewers just for the chance to gnaw on some table scraps.

We scarfed some tasty burgers at a little joint in some hotel. Hell if I remember the name of either, all I know is that those were some damn good burgers. My travel karma continued to hold up and we not only just beat the rush, but seats opened up for us right after we ordered. Greasy burgers and fries in our bellies and Sam Adams beer on our breathes, we were ready for some culture, so off we headed to the MOMA.

As if their cool commercials and low prices weren't enough reason to love Target, they also sponsor a free night at the MOMA on Friday evenings. We timed it perfectly to catch the line just as it was being quickly funneled inside. Within a couple minutes of arriving, we were in the building staring down seven-foot red canvas with stripes, Lichtenstein comic paintings, Warhol soup cans, Pollack spatters, and a whole host of other modern art wonders.

Some of it was great, some not so great and some was downright awful, but it was Target's dime, so who were we to complain. Mainly, the trip to the MOMA was a time filler before we headed to a Cartier-Bresson photo exhibit at the International Center for Photography anyway and it fulfilled it's role perfectly.

Imagine that - a museum filled with some of the best modern art in the world, in a city filled with some of the best museums in the world, and it was still just filler to pass a bit of time!

The Cartier-Bresson exhibit was excellent. There were some other wonderful photographers displayed as well, but the main exhibit was essentially about Cartier-Bresson's scrapbook. It was amazing to see the people he was friendly with and the circles he ran in before the WWII. It's a who's who of the art world for sure.

It was also fascinating to learn that he had been arrested by the Nazi's and that it was assumed he had been killed. He wasn't and his resurfacing was an interesting tale.

There were a lot of photos to look at though and many were printed pretty small so it was a bit overwhelming. It can be hard to look at that many photos without sort of glazing over. Luckily for us, the SF3 are all highly qualified photo lookeratters and we easilly handled the challenge.

After the exhibit, it was off to meet Josh's new fiance (congratulations Josh!) for sushi in her neighborhood. The sushi was good and the sake flowed freely - an excellent combination. For my part, I was just happy that they had uni and that it was tasty. It doesn't take much to make me happy when it comes to sushi. I'm pretty sure I made myself a bit too happy by stuffing my face with fish, but everyone was polite enough to not say anything about it.

We went for cupcakes afterwards. I'm convinced that only in New York is such a thing possible.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New York's all right...if you like saxophones

New York was incredible! Great fun was had. We did many things and packed quite a lot into not very many days.

I didn't get a hold of fellow blogger Phoenix while out there and hope he'll forgive the snafu. But Josh, Eileen and I did manage to hit restaurants, bars, museums and even a play. We had evil spirits chased away by dragons in Chinatown, checked out Manhattan Portage bags in Soho, and threw snowballs in Harlem.

There's much to tell, but I've been tired and not really into the idea of writing much. So, I'll leave you with the sounds of a wee group o' guys singing on the steps of a building in Soho.

Maybe some coffee will get me going later and I'll relate all the fun that was had.