Category Archives: Travel

Nashville: Epilogue

I was going to type this last word about Nashville in the airport or on the plane but then opted against it because it was such a douche-bag writer cliche. I got home an hour ago, and I had to throw out some old food and pick up trash the wind blew on my front door. Now that I am settled, I can do a little more writing.

I said my peace about Nashville as a town in my post yesterday. I wanted to talk a little bit about the people today. Nashville is a very friendly town. The second we arrived, police officers stopped to make sure we knew where we were going and to suggest places to see, most of the bartenders and waiters were friendly and helpful, it was very pleasant.

For the single guys, there are a massive amount of pretty girls in this town (Hi Nate). The number of women strolling around the downtown area was staggering. A guy (like Nate) could really clean up. They weren’t just pretty, they were friendly and outgoing (REMEMBER THIS NATE). The guys all sort of looked like normal frat dudes, but friendlier.

I noticed plenty of smokers which made me a sad but I guess that is just a part of rural (and rural-metro) living. I didn’t see many of the cliches that you would expect from the South: no strong accents, nobody fit the “redneck” stereotype, people didn’t seem any dumber there than here (with one exception which we will get to in the next paragraph). One odd thing I did notice, for such a small city, I don’t think people like to walk too much (sounds like Nate’s version of Heaven).

Our hotel staff was very nice, but they didn’t seem all that bright as a group. When we arrived, I asked our clerk for visitation suggestions, and they were okay but that was about all he knew. I asked about restaurants and he had no idea what I was talking about (famous places in the area). Any time we asked if something was in walking distance the answer was no, but we walked it anyway and it was no more than 8 blocks. I mentioned the situation with the taxi service that they recommended which I choose not to blame them for, but if you know your guests are going to rely on taxi service and going to be shelling out 80 bucks round trip to get somewhere, you might want to suggest renting a car. When I saw new people checking in and asking the same questions and the clerk suggesting people go to SUBWAY around to corner for lunch, I finally had to step in. Nice people but they could help the tourism industry out by just knowing theirsurroundings. But we figured out their limitations pretty quickly and forged our own path so no harm, no foul.

Getting to the airport was no problem this morning and dropping off the car was a breeze. Nashville didn’t piss on me on our way out and I appreciated that. Nashville is absolutely a city we would visit again… hopefully we can take some friends and share in the fun.

PS: As always read the blog at it’s origin point: Joey’s Blog

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Nashville Blog: Day 03

Welcome back true be-loggers! Today is my last full day in Nashville (we are leaving tomorrow at 7 AM), my plan is to post the bulk of my thoughts today and perhaps offer a little epilogue tomorrow when we get home. We packed in alot today, so lets get to it. If you are just joining the blog this week and are wondering what I am talking about, here is PART 01 and here is PART 02. Let’s begin:

[The Big Bang]

I left you yesterday with Allison and I preparing to go to The Big Band Dueling Piano Bar in downtown Nashville. We were meeting up with my mom’s friend’s daughter (who moved to Nashville three weeks ago) and her (maybe) boyfriend (didn’t get a clarification and we didn’t ask). I realized late in the day yesterday that Big Bang was a chain which usually makes me less inclined to visit, but Allison used to frequent a dueling piano bar in Baltimore when she was in college and I thought she would like it. I wasn’t sure if the place served food which is why I was doing research online before we left. I didn’t get a clear answer but reviews mentioned dinner so I thought we were good to go. When we got there, the place was empty so we settled out on their deck facing Broadway and took in the mayhem below. Our dinner partners informed us that they didn’t drink alcohol which in turn, made me feel like an alcoholic asshole, but I got over that quickly and ordered some drinks (in fact, I was drinking when they found us at the bar next door… here’s to first impressions!)

As for the dueling pianos… it was fantastic. The players were talented and funny – one dude was BLIND and played awesome. The crowd started to shuffle in and it was clear that this was a bar for drunk girls to go to. I was one of the few men there. NATE IF YOU ARE READING THIS – YOU NEED TO GO TO NASHVILLE. I will make a quick note for anyone going to Big Bang, the food was terrible. Everything was deep fried and in nugget form. After a solid 4 hours we started to look for another place. At first I got the impression we were going to get into a car and go to a coffee house near Vanderbilt which I put the stop to – it was close to midnight, I was looking to wind the night down, not head off in a car and start up again (plus the prospect of being in a place that didn’t serve booze turned me off at the time – I wanted a final nite-cap). “Maybe Boyfriend” took this in stride and lead us down an alley into a respectfully dirty looking dive bar. I was into it until I walked in and smelled the smoke. You don’t realize how much smoke sucks until you are away from it. It didn’t help that “Maybe Boyfriend” enjoyed the cancer sticks and this bar allowed him to partake in his one vice right in front of my face. Add to the situation that we were immediately next to the stage and this crazy loud yet pretty awesome band was blowing my face off. I hung in for three songs and cut out. I felt bad to leave our company, but I had to get the hell out of there.

While walking back we mentioned that we were sort of hungry but sort of not, I suggested a pizza. We ordered from a place called New York Pizza (I know, I know…). It took them 40 minutes to get the pizza over and I almost vomited when I tasted it. They just dumped Italian style seasonings all over it, it had to be a total FU job, because there is no way this was an accident. It was that bad. So if you are in Nashville stay away from:

New York Pizza
2215 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN 37203
WORST PIZZA I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE

I brushed my teeth and went to bed wondering what I did to piss those people off…

[Hatch Show Print]

Website: Hatchshowprint.com

Over the last few days, we have heard about this awesome printing place that did all of the original posters for the Grand Ole Opry and the artists when they were on tour. The big draw is that this place still operates with wood block printing press which looks awesome. Allison and I took a walk this morning to buy some posters and check out the operation. Of course it decided to rain but we were not deterred.

The press was right on Broadway and looked like it was there for a 100 years because it probably was (or damn close). We picked up some posters and got some ideas to use the service in the future 🙂

[WhiteCastle?]

On our way to check out the “True South”, we came across a WhiteCastle. Ever since Harold and Kumor, we have wanted to go to a real WC and New Jersey doesn’t have one (yes the movie said Cherry Hill had a WhiteCastle, they don’t) Even though we knew we were eating lunch, we HAD to eat a real WhiteCastle slider.

I gotta say… The frozen burgers you can get at the store are just as good if not better and the fries suck.

I don’t know what they put in those microwavable frozen burgers to make them taste so good, but having had the “real” thing, my mind is blown.

[Bellemead Plantation]

Even though the rain was coming down, Allison and I wanted to do things outdoors today (because we didn’t have much of a choice). We read about Bellemead Plantation and decided it would be a nice place to spend the day. After a short drive, we were on the Plantation. We heard there was a restaurant on site and we hoped we could get a seat because we really haven’t had anything but bar food or BBQ since we got there. We managed to get a seat with 20 minutes left to spare on lunch seatings. I am so glad we were able to eat there. We had a great southern lunch: Biscuits, Fried Green Tomatoes, home-made cheese and fresh ham sandwich, Buttermilk Fried Chicken (we split all of this and the portions were not out of control thankfully) and we topped it off with a boysenberry tart with fresh ice-cream.

After a heavy lunch we were glad to be able to do a walking tour of the plantation. We signed up for a guided tour and got an educational 45 minute walk-through of the main mansion by an informative older woman named Anna. The Bellemead Plantation was the premiere horse breeding farm in the United States until the 1950’s. Almost every championship horse since 1870 can trace it’s bloodline to the first stud at Bellemead (which was one of five prize horses given to the US by Europe). We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the house, but if you have ever seen antique furniture from the late 1800’s you have see what is going on.

Once the house tour was done, we were free to roam the grounds which were massive and beautiful. Yes this plantation was host to slavery and I think it might have partook in what I call ‘the revisionist history” that I have seen in Nashville in regards to its involvement in slavery, but we will get to that later. In regards to the plantation and slavery they took pride in mentioning that their slaves were educated since the house hosted so many US and foreign dignitaries. The one remaining slave hut looked downright lovely, but the other five I saw in the pictures seemed to be missing…

Regardless, the Bellemead Plantation was educational, beautiful, and a great way to spend a few hours in Nashville.

[Cheekwood Gardens]

Five minutes down the road from Bellemead, Cheeckwood Gardens resides. If Bellemead was a beautiful girl, this place was the hottest woman on the planet. We arrived at 4 PM and were told we only had a half hour before it closed, so we were rushing through the several garden areas until we reached what is now called the Cheekwood Museum of Art. This massive, beautiful mansion was built on what became the Maxwell House Coffee Fortune. The home and the lands were eventually given over to the state to become a fine arts center. You have to see this place to believe it – the fact that anyone called it home is insane. I have see huge houses before, but nothing like this.

On the way out we checked out more of the gardens. I made a point to see the Japanese garden which didn’t look very Japanese to me. Regardless, this place was incredible.

[Passing Thoughts on Nashville]

My opinion of Nashville is that it is a city in transition. It is struggling to come to terms with it’s past involvement with slavery (they are softening up the exhibits to slavery, making it seem less harsh, they name streets after Rosa Parks and MLK) while trying to be this clean-cut family friendly country music haven. Even the music scene is shifting as more “mainstream” artists are moving into town and putting their stamp on the future. I think Nashville has the potential and will become much more. But as new sources of interest and income flood the city, it also had an odd influx of poverty.

In the three days I have been here, I have never seen so many homeless people. I am no stranger to the homeless, I do live near and work in Philadelphia, but homeless people are everywhere and there are two very distinct classes. It is clear that the arts community is bringing in a younger, artistic class of homeless that probably pass through for a while doing their music thing (or following a music scene) they reminded me very much of “Phish Heads” or “Dead Heads” (people who follow jam bands around). On every level I viewed these people as harmless and part of the Bohemian vibe the town was generating. But there was another plentiful group of angry older males who were obviously abusing drugs or alcohol. They were on every corner and sleeping in every nook; Did they bother us? No. But the sheer number had me concerned and curious. “Maybe Boyfriend” told me at the Big Band that Nashville is a big train hub and these men ride the rails to whatever their final destination is. My guess is the number of churches in Nashville means there are quite a bit of soup kitchens that will feed them which makes them stay a little longer.

In order for Nashville to become a truly great city, they need to address the homeless situation (and I don’t mean making them disappear NYC style). I hope these people get the help they need to get off the streets for good but they don’t crack down to the point where the artistic hippie vibe gets crushed.

Overall, Nashville has been a great city and I look forward to the next time we can visit (hopefully with Nate who can take advantage of the copious amounts of friendly girls in this town).

[Conclusion]

We are going to finish off our night with a nice dinner (hopefully) and then check out a few bars and finish the night at Big Bang. We have to be up at 4:30 AM to go home, so it will be an early night. Thanks for reading this week – but remember if you aren’t reading at my blog, you are not getting the full experience. Speaking of which… here are some pictures:

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Nashville Blog: Day 02

Welcome back true be-loggers. I am not going to waste space and bullshit, lets get right into part two (If you didn’t read part one, you can do it here:

[Bluebird Cafe]

To finish off the story of day one, Allison and I took a nap and then ventured to the Bluebird Cafe. The cafe is semi-famous in the music scene as a variety of musical veterans, newcomers, song-writers, famous, and non-famous artists come to try out new material and collaborate with friends. My friend Amber deLaurentis had played there last summer when she did a mini-tour of the area last summer and I made a mental note to check it out and I was sure glad I did.

The place was MUCH smaller than I had expected and the musicians basically sit in the center of the room in a circle and play. I guess there was a bit of a comedy theme last night as musicians Kacey Jones, Bill Floweree, Jesse Goldberg and Jon Mark Stone busted out some very funny jams (it was a unique take on the whole bastard/bitch husband/wife combo). The menu at the Bluebird had asurprising amount of greek influenced dishes which I did not expect, but as I roamed around today, I noticed more similarities. While the menu may have had greek influence, I am going to be honest and say that the meal was not mind blowing. It was solid, but nothing crazy, but honestly, we weren’t there for the food.

After the two hour set, I had to call the taxi to come and get us and they were very prompt, so I didn’t get a chance to chat with the performers (who apparently stay after to try to sell CDs and bullshit with the crowd – most of whom they already know). The taxi brings me to a little Nashville Travel Tip: Rent a car if you visit. The taxi cost $35.00 one way. Add the $25.00 to get from the airport to the hotel and you are at $100.00 for one day. To compare, we rented a car for the rest of the trip for $120.00 total (including insurance). After getting raped so badly by the taxi service, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

[Pancake Pantry]

After I got up this morning, worked out, and showered, Allison and I decided we needed to get a rental car. After we walked a couple of blocks to the rental place we decided to do lunch at the Pancake Pantry. I have been reading about this place for weeks, and I will admit I was concerned that it was going to be all hype. I am happy to report that the food was outstanding. I got sweet potato pancakes and Allison got blueberry. We split an order of “The Grill Cook’s Medley” which washash browns, ham, peppers, eggs, and all kinds of goodness.

Fully stuffed, we walked around Vanderbilt University campus shops, bought some books, and then hopped back into the car to go see…

[The Grand Ole’ Opry]

Thanks to the Blackberry’s GPS system we easily figured out how to get to the Opry Building. One thing about Nashville, you have to take exits to stay on the highway you are on, which is annoying and confusing. That being said, we got there without issue. Before going into the Opry, I had heard Gibson Guitars had an outlet store in the plaza. Well, I was sad to discover it wasn’t an outlet so much as it was their “Premire Retail Location”… bottom line – I wasn’t saving any money if I wanted to buy a guitar, but I could get free, tax free shipping (which I can do any time). So after wasting time on some excellent 6-strings and watching a mandolin being built, we headed to the Opry. We decided to do another tour against better judgement, but had to kill about 15 minutes, so we took a free tour of the museum. It was pretty good for what it was, and you got an idea of the history involved with the production.

Fifteen minutes later, we started our tour. Similar to the Ryman we looked at alot of freaking dressing rooms, but in this tour we got to see one of the Opry acts practicing for tonight’s show and also seeing some of the minor stars going into the building. Overall I got a better vibe from this tour and it was easy to see that there is a community element. One thing I don’t like is that the tour guides make it seem like big stars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson come in and hang out with everybody, and you know that isn’t happening, but I guess it makes people think they can run into them at one of the several gift shops.

I don’t mean to sound negative, as I actually liked tour and would recommend it, but it sure seems like there are alot of malls, shops, and “retail outlets” swarming around Nashville’s history.

[Conclusion]

Ok, I have to get ready to go to “The Big Bang” dueling piano bar… more to come on that later. Check out some pictures!

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Nashville Blog: Day 01: Part One

Today starts a series of live blogs in Nashville, TN. We had to get up at 4 AM to get to the airport within “the appropriate amount of time” and I am a little tired, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the ground running. We arrived in Nashville at 8:30 AM (local time) and easily secured a cab to our hotel. Our room wasn’t ready, but the hotel staff was happy to suggest places to kill time, so here is the run down so far:

[The Capital Building]

A few blocks from our hotel, the Tennessee State Capitol Building offered us a chance to kill 35 minutes. The Tennessee Capital building is one of the oldest still in operation today. When we entered, we were greeted by a very friendly state trooper who was quite excited to meet a real “Jersey Italian”. The thing that stands out about the building is that it is all stone. ALL STONE. From what I heard from the educational children’s tours, there was a massive stone quarry that was used to create most of the historic buildings.

The other “big feature” is that a few people are buried at the site: Samuel Morgan (Chairman of the Building Commission) and William Strickland (the architect). Besides that, the building has too many oil paintings of long dead historical figures and very slippery floors. The building itself is awesome, the stuff inside, not so much.

Moving On…

[The Free Library]

Right across the street from the Capital Building is the Free Library. We didn’t go inside, but the exterior courtyard was awesome (check out the pictures below).

[The Ryman]

One of my “must-see” places was the Ryman Auditorium. Home of the famous “Grand Ole Opry” during it’s peak, the Ryman now hosts tons of contemporary artists. I was a little shocked when we walked in and was told the walking tour would cost $14.00 per person: it’s basically a converted church. We opted for the tour anyway and it was conducted by a gentlemen named Bill who might have taken his job a little too seriously. Bill first took us to the “Johnny & June Cash Dress Room”. The room was built in 2003 and Johnny never used it… He proceeded to take a revisionist’s approach to Nashville’s treatment to the Man in Black (saying how Nashville eventually opened their arms to Johnny again, which wasn’t true as stated by the man himself in “Cash” by Johnny Cash) when I corrected him, he got flush and shot me a look, I think I was on his shit list for the rest of the tour.

We saw more dressing rooms that were named after people who never used them and eventually we got to see the stage. I will admit I thought it was awesome to see it from that view, but the tour was a total rip off.

[Jack’s BBQ]

We exited the Ryman and Allison noticed a BBQ place, we walked down the famous Ryman alley and entered a room that smelled of charcoal and pork. We ordered up some BBQ pork and Beef Brisket sandwiches. Very good, not mind blowing, but there is a strip of BBQ joints to go….

Okay, I am taking a nap. That’s all for now!!!!

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Zane Patrick’s Day 2009

NOTE: I consolidated all of the mobile posts from Saturday into this article. Much easier for you and for me.

A few weeks ago Paul mentioned that there was a Three Sheets event in New York City and we could meet Zane Lamprey, so we called Nate and bought some tickets. The event was great, Zane was very cool and made himself available for the fans. The drinks were not all that hard to come by as we had a system and a group of willing people to make drink runs.

Nate and I got to the Knitting Factory around 1:30. The doors opened at 2 PM and the line was already very long. Within minutes it was MUCH longer wrapping around the block. Paul stayed behind at the hotel waiting to meet up with a new friend named Liz. They met us in line around 1:55 PM and jumped in line with us (The NYC crowd was very cool about that and encouraged it).

We got in and it was like a mad house. We quickly decided to go down two flights of stairs to the lowest bar. This was the base for the rest of the event. We immediately made friends (what’s up Tony!!!!) and drank some car bombs. We got to know Liz a little bit and she is a cool person that I certainly hope to see more of her at our social events. Everyone was very friendly and cool.

The day wore on, I kept drinking, I stole a few pizzas for my new friends, drank some more, used the pizza box to hide the effects of drinking too much and then put on a little performance at the front entrance as Nate and I left.

GREAT TIME.

We went back to the hotel, took a shower and rested for a little while. Paul got back with Liz and we made plans for the night. We went to NYC’s South Side and met up at a huge Uno Grill. I thought I saw Flava Flav, but quickly dismissed it because what the hell would Flav being at a Uno…more on that later. Tina and Glenn showed up and we headed to a few bars. At this point the day caught up with me and I had my fill of drink and food. I didn’t want to be a downer for anyone so I just told the crew I was going to cut out. Nate wanted to go too. So we walked a few blocks to get a cab and who do we run into… FLAVA FLAV!

He bummed a few cigarettes off of Nate and then cut out (he had a very small baby girl with him, so I didn’t want to be that asshole tourist asking to take pictures). Nate and I eventually got a limo to take us back to the hotel for 15 bucks and we settled down for the night. Paul showed up an hour later and we were done.

This morning I got up early and worked out at the hotel gym to get the rest of the booze out of my system. My wife was in town visiting friends so she met us at the hotel so we could all go home together. All in all a very good weekend.

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The Worst Vacation of my Life

NOTE: A few people have asked me to put this story in writing, so your wish is my command…

New Years Eve 1999/2000: While ringing in the Millennium at an airport hotel, my whole crew was kicked out due to another party raging next door. Scrambling for a place to ring in 2000, I called my mom and she offered up our house. My parents couldn’t have been any nicer about the situation, but I felt bad bringing 40 people to their house at the last minute and I vowed I would never do that again. A few weeks later Bobby and I both decided to go to Las Vegas for 2001. Over the course of that year both Bobby and I became involved with serious girlfriends and they were absorbed into our ambitious plans. Soon enough the people who organized the 2000 NYE party had also gotten in on our idea. Rooms were booked (Bobby and I were sharing one room with our girlfriends) and tickets were purchased.

My mother volunteered to get us to the airport, Bobby was late and this threw me into a VERY pissy mood. I will be the first to admit that I am very anal retentive when it comes to schedules and time lines and to this analogy Bobby is Lex Luthor to my Superman. We already started arguing. Bobby’s girlfriend Eliza was kind of new to all of this (my uptight nature, Bobby’s chronic inability to be on time or be organized), so it was a very bad way to start the vacation (I should also note that I am 90% sure Bobby was blaming the lateness on Eliza which was also uncomfortable). After getting to the airport and boarding the plane, we were on our way.

Once we landed in Las Vegas the chaos started immediately. I recall securing transport from the airport to the hotel ahead of time, but that fell through and we had to get a taxi mini-van. We crammed in with other travelers and eventually got to the hotel where we waited for two hours to check in. Things got very snippy in the lobby between Bobby, Eliza, Myself, and an ex-girlfriend whom we shall call Chrissy. Once we got into the room, tensions turned into arguments. Basically the only argument that wasn’t happening was between Eliza and I. Chrissy and I went for a walk and allowed things to cool down. I went looking for our other group of friends who had arrived earlier and was already site seeing. We didn’t find them so we walked around the strip.

Back at the hotel, we found Eliza sitting outside our hotel room, Chrissy stayed outside and I went in to talk to Bobby. I don’t remember the conversation, but things quickly got back to normal (or so I thought). We met up with the other couple, did dinner and the rest of the night was uneventful. The next morning we found out that during the holiday season, many shows are closed because the performers go home to see their families. Extremely long story short: The only shows in town were Wayne Newton and the Blue Man Group. Chris Issak was playing the House of Blues that night but nobody else wanted to go and I was too lame to go myself (I never got over not going to that show). We ended up getting tickets for Blue Man two days out and my college buddy Brock’s girlfriend pushed us into doing a Grand Canyon bus trip the next day. We spent the day doing all the normal tourist bullshit and went to bed early because the bus tour started at 4:30 AM. Bobby and Eliza went for a walk before bed and while they were gone Chrissy decided to tell me that Eliza was talking all sorts of shit about me. I found out later that it didn’t go down that way at all, but Chrissy was using Eliza to bring up all these issues she had with me and herself. Of course, I was now totally pissed at Eliza and it took YEARS to recover from that when I actually think about it. I went to bed very quietly and angry and didn’t say anything (which is a bad sign when you know me). The next morning turned into a train wreck.

I woke up still very pissed off. Bobby of course was running late, so he just took the brunt of my moodiness. I avoided Eliza and she had no idea why, and the small but rational part of my brain was starting to get annoyed at Chrissy for even bringing this shit to my attention when we were all confined into a room together. This would be a classic move that she pulled when we were on trips, but this was the first time in what would become a pattern and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Now we were on a bus first heading to the Hoover Dam where we all received a short tour. Two hours in a bus and two hours at the dam, we were down 4 hours already. Another three hours in the bus to get to the Grand Canyon; I will take this time to mention the week between Xmas and New Years is a big travel period for Asian tourist and our bus was full of them (Las Vegas looked like stock footage of a crowded Hong Kong business district during rush hour). During the three hour bus ride people naturally get hungry, and our foreign guests busted out smelly jars of pickled fish and other terrifying items. THREE HOURS. By the time we got to the Grand Canyon I went off by myself. This was a mistake.

I found a moment of peace, sitting at the very edge of the canyon, taking pictures, watching birds soar. I felt a tapping on my back and I naturally assumed it was Chrissy. It was not. An Asian tourist with a very large camera decided he liked the spot where I was sitting to take pictures. Since he didn’t speak English, he used the universal language of “push a very large Italian man who literally has one foot off the ledge”. Needless to say I did not take the invasion of personal space nor the pushing well, and the tiny Asian man found himself hanging off the cliff for a few seconds. I know he didn’t understand what I saying, but damn well knew what I meant. Of course people were looking because the man was screaming like a woman (I don’t blame him), so I hurried off before any park rangers got to me. I was now extremely embarrassed that I lost my cool, but very relieved that nobody in my group saw the whole thing go down because that would mean more questions.

In total we got 60 minutes to walk around (20 minutes at three different locations) and then it was 5 hours back in the bus – full of smelly hardcore Asian food. Once we got back to the hotel, I did some walking by myself and forced myself to focus and hold my shit together to make the most of the vacation, I would deal with everything else when we got back. That resolve didn’t last long.

Vegas is known for a few things: Gambling, Whores, Lounge acts, and eating. I don’t like to gamble, not into whores, and while lounge acts have a certain campy charm, that’s not what I was interested in. I wanted to experience all the crazy delicious restaurants and buffets. This was during the time Vegas was trying to come off as family friendly (while said whores walked the strip handing out flyers with naked pictures) so Vegas had a boom of top chefs coming in and setting up shop at the casinos. We didn’t get to go to any of them. We went to buffets, but then Bobby and Eliza stopped going to the buffets because Eliza didn’t each much and they couldn’t justify spending 20-40 bucks just for her to eat toast for breakfast. Rational Joey understood perfectly, but angry Joey was still pissed off at Eliza thanks to Chrissy. The lack of their company while breaking bread added to the problem and we really didn’t see them for the rest of the trip (even though we shared a room).

With Bobby and Eliza out of the picture we started spending all of our time with Brock and his very organized girlfriend. She had every minute planned and had Brock, Chrissy and myself running ragged. We ended up getting tickets for Wayne Newton which was such a terrible show that it was actually awesome. Newton was shaking his ass to the old ladies and must have liked the idea of having some younger girls in the audience. I do not think Mr. Newton was happy I was laughing at most of the show, but that was the only acceptable response besides demanding my money back. The next show she lined up was the Blue Man Group. Terrible. I think they hypnotized the audience. Everyone fell asleep at the same time. I checked my private areas later that night for blue stains, thankfully, all clean.

I was really losing it; the lack of private time from activities and sharing a room was getting to me (because of this trip I started a new rule, if you can’t afford to get your own room, you can’t afford to go on the trip). Brock’s girlfriend suggested we go to a buffet at the Rio, it was supposed to have everything. Of course it sucked but I heard her mention a bar at the very top of the hotel where you can see the whole strip. When nobody was looking I slipped off to the 51st floor of the hotel and entered the Voodoo Lounge. It was awesome and a fantastic jazz band was playing, the lighting was perfect and the women and drinks looked very appealing. I heard they did a drink in a normal sized fish bowl and used a whole bottle of rum. Talking to the bartender, I confirmed the rumor and quickly ordered one. He made the drink with stunning efficiency and placed the drink on the bar, adorning it with several straws. Luckily for me, I had no company. I took my drink outside and looked off the deck and onto the city. It had a certain beauty, but superficial like a pair of fake tits. I sat down, listing to the band, enjoying the cool air and drank. My peace did not last long. I felt a tap on my back after a few minutes. It was Chrissy and Brock and they were ready to go. I told them to fuck off, but they kept at it, Chrissy now taking a sip from my drink and making a face – too much rum. There could never be enough, not on this night. Their whines broke me down and instead of making a scene and being a buzz kill for the other customers, I left. I hated them all at that moment. Getting into the cab and setting off for the hotel, I remained silent.

Brock proved to be an interesting paradox on the trip. He was the perfect opposite to his very organized girlfriend. While she micromanaged every minute to optimize her vacation experience, Brock was very much a go with the flow type and seeing where the moment takes you. I enjoyed this about Brock because I was more like his girlfriend and that fact stressed me out. Brock’s girl didn’t appreciate his unfocused ways and tried to reign him in…this in turn made him rebel. I would get knocks on the door at 3 AM to go out when his wife had a day’s worth of activities planned starting at 6. It was too much. The few times I snuck out with Brock proved to be a waste of time because I wasn’t into clubbing. I thought I wanted to see the real Vegas… I realized now that this notion was bullshit because as I said, the real Vegas is whores, slot machines, and broken people.

The trip culminated on New Years Eve. Brock and his girlfriend convinced us to get tickets to see Dennis Miller and David Spade live. Bobby and Eliza did not want to go, so once again we were separated. Even though we were bickering all week, I wanted to spend New Years Eve with my best friend… so once again I was in a funk. I am going to make the next part very short: the stand up show was fucking terrible. David Spade had no material and just bitched about his flight for 35 minutes. I fell asleep during Dennis Miller. We were given champagne at midnight and then basically told to get the fuck out. We went outside and the strip was insane. People were drinking and dancing, and I realized I should have been out there having fun instead of paying $150 bucks to catch a nap.

Back at the hotel I saw Bobby and we broke out a tiny bottle of booze and made a toast. We had finally made peace. The next morning we were catching a red eye home. On the plane I didn’t say much: I was tired and processing everything. When I got home, I avoided everyone for 5 days, including Chrissy. Eventually things went back to normal for a time. Eliza and I still weren’t on good terms, I think took almost two years for us to completely reconnect. Today I can say that I talk to her 10 times more than Bobby and she gets along great with my wife. Speaking of my love interests, the behaviors Chrissy showed on that trip continued to get worse over the years and eventually we broke up. I make no exaggeration when I say I became a new man, a much better man, when that relationship ended.

I learned alot of things on this vacation: Bobby and Eliza had it right, do what you want to do and fuck everyone else (but just be nice when you tell them to fuck off), NEVER SHARE A HOTEL ROOM, and always have free time to relax – it is a vacation. Never visit a place based on an image, do the hard research and see if there is enough to sustain your interests for the time you are there. Have fun on your next trip!

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Random Blog, Random Thoughts

Final Thoughts on the Wedding

Hi there true be-loggers! I haven’t posted a blog in a while because I have been waiting for the elusive mistress known as inspiration. My original plan write a bookend piece to the wedding blogs, but then I edited hours upon hours of video footage that the good looks crew took and I think I kind of exhausted any interested I had of the wedding for the time being and honestly who really cares about my damn wedding.

I will say this: In short – It was a lovely day that was drama free for the most part. I had a great time with the Lombardi and Delmonte sides and I honestly think everyone had a good time (or at least that is the feedback I got). So if you came, thanks for being there, you made it something special for us. If you were not in attendance, head on over to youtube, you can see the whole thing there.

Here is a link to make it easier
Wedding Video Playlist

I am now officially done with wedding talk barring a little shout out in my year end coming in December (unless I find out some crazy shit happened that nobody told me about).

New President

I am going to admit to a disservice I committing against my little blog, I am holding out on a few topics because I am saving them for the year end post. I am trying to be a little more coherent with a theme and since I know I have a whopping two loyal readers, I really don’t want to repeat my content for their benefit. For now, my thoughts on the election are: regardless of your political leanings, this country needed a change of leadership and that is what we got. So lets hope President Obama can be the leader everyone needs him to be. For first time voters (either due to age or getting off your lazy ass), congratulations. People should take part of their government, the government works for you, not the other way around – make your voice heard.

On a related topic, I would like to share this with you:
News Article: SC Priest on Obama

In summary, a catholic priest in South Carolina told parishioners they should refrain from taking the communion sacrament if they voted for Obama until they go to confession and repent their sin. To Rev. Jay Scott Newman I say this: Thanks for serving the cause of driving people away from organized religion; your well crafted letter did more than any rational argument ever could. Amen.

Entertainment

In my endless conflict between the materialistic and the natural, the material side had a landslide victory the last 10 days. I have been itching to get a blue ray player for a while, and I didn’t want to spend the money on one, but Dell has been teasing a good deal the last week were I could get 15% off the PS3. I finally got an active coupon and bam – game over. Of course, now I needed a better sound system to compliment the PS3 in my living room. Not wanting to repeat the nightmare of wiring the basement (and I don’t think I can with cathedral ceilings), I got a sound bar solution. I now have a garage full of boxes I need to cut down and a defeated feeling for not holding out. But then I pop in a blue ray dvd and see how damn good my TV looks and I say money well spent. I am such a whore.

I also snagged a few albums recently and here are some quick recommendations:

The Cardinals – Cardinology: You won’t hear a “standout single” on this album, every song is strong. This is a solid album from Ryan Adams and his full-time backing band. Absolutely worth listening from front to back (or the whole damn thing for those who don’t buy CDs anymore).

Little Joy – Little Joy: A sunny 60’s cali-pop album from Strokes drummer Fab Moretti. Its good mindless pop.

Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It: A throwback to the great Motown sounds with a modern twist. If you miss Marvin Gaye, give this kid a try.

Lucinda Williams – Little Honey: A departure from her last few efforts, Lucinda Williams actually sounds happy. No talk of parents dying or broken relationships, just a bright (for her) album about life and love.

The Pretenders – Break Up The Concrete: Chrissie Hynde sounds great on this new CD. I don’t care if she is old enough to be a grandmom, she kicks ass.

Link for those reading on Facebook Note: Boots of Chinese Plastic

Books

On the plane to San Francisco I read “Twilight”. I didn’t know anything except it was a vampire story and it was being made into a movie. I don’t get it. Terrible writing and weak character. Within 30 pages I realized that the target was girls (not women, girls) – so if you aren’t 14 and don’t have a vagina, don’t read it and I am guessing the movie will be the same. But I read it all the way through because I was stuck on a plane with nothing to do and I am no better off for the experience.

I got a few books in San Francisco and thankfully (and as always) Hunter Thompson redeemed my hopes for humanity. I picked up a book of collected short articles. I read “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” on the ride home and was laughing the entire time. Here is a nice chunk: The Kentucky Derby…

For those comic book readers out there, I found out that Blue Beetle is canceled as of issue 33. This is a great comic from younger and older readers that introduced minority characters into a very white comic landscape and didn’t sugarcoat issues, didn’t come off as preachy, and was accessible and well written. If you want a great way to introduce your kids to reading, science, different cultures look up the Blue Beetle trade paperbacks, you won’t regret it.

Conclusion

I think I have shared enough for today. Here is hoping somebody annoys me on the train or I have a melt down at the gym so I have something interesting to write about. Thanks for reading.

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Honeymoon: San Francisco

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

Saturday

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

NOTE FOR LISA AUSTIN – They filmed the grand stairwell scene in Gone with the Wind here…

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

Sunday

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

Pictures from San Fran Days 1 and 2

Monday

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

Pictures from “The Rock”

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

Tuesday

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

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

Wednesday

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

Thanks for reading!

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Honeymoon: Days 3 and 4

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

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

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

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

Pictures of Day 3:

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

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

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

Talk to you guys soon!

Day 4 Pictures:

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Honeymoon: Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Joey
Here is a picture slide show…

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