U.S. Aid for the Asian tsunamis: $35 million.
Cost of one F/A-22 jet fighter: $152 million.
~ ~ ~
"Hey, quick question. Who the heck is Rachel Ray?"
"Rachel Ray? She has a show on the Food Network. She's a really good cook. My dad really likes her."
"Hmm. Apparently she posed in some men's magazine."
"No she didn't."
"Hold on." Click. Click click click. "Oh, there we go. Ha ha, that's kind of funny."
"There's a photo of her in her underwear licking chocolate off a spoon."
"And here she is is washing dishes while sitting in the dishwater. She's all wet and soapy."
"You better be kidding."
"Oh, and on this one she's sucking on a strawberry."
"Stop it! I have all of her books. She makes nice meals in 30 minutes..."
"Why did she have to do that? That makes me really angry."
A few minutes later...
"You just know some publicist convinced her it was a good idea."
"Why do women always feel like they have to do that? I mean, she always looked like a normal, healthy person..."
"Well," I said, "she definitely looks healthy here."
"SHUT UP. I knew I opened myself up to that as soon as I said that. I'm not talking to you about this anymore."
Well, Christmas was pretty good this year. I actually managed to connect with everyone I wanted to visit, my mom seems to be doing well, my dad's health is improving and, well, the holiday generally went quite well. (I also seem to be saying "well" a lot.) There are some things I'm not writing about here, of course, but maybe that'll come out some other time.
And as far as presents go, let's just say I really cleaned up this year.
A hand-knit scarf, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (holy crap), CUTCO knives, and a bunch of other cool stuff. (For what it's worth, that phallic-looking thing in the middle of the photograph is a night light.) I think I gave good gifts, too, but probably not as good as others gave me.
I'll need to work on that next year.
Well, I'm off to Northeastern Wisconsin for the holiday. I'm not religious, and don't ever expect myself to be, but, regardless, Merry Christmas.
Due to some comments I've received, some clarification seems to be necessary regarding December 16th's journal entry. Any text found in blockquotes,
i.e., text that looks like this,
was not written by me, but was excerpted from the pages of tripadvisor.com that focus on the quality (or lack thereof) of the Hayden Hotel.
~ ~ ~
"What's everyone looking in your cube for?"
"I changed my whiteboard."
"Huh? 'THE FLAMES OF DEMOCRACY SHALL BURN ALL SINNERS.' What the heck does that mean?"
"I'm trying to leave it open to interpretation."
Now all we need is some snow.
And I guess a couple degrees warmer would be nice.
~ ~ ~
"I don't get why you're spending all this time Christmas shopping. You're not religious."
"No, but I like twinkly lights and crass consumerism. And hey, my mom was raised Catholic."
"You're just lucky I didn't start giving out crap on the 6th."
It's a bit belated, but here are few things visitors to tripadvisor.com said about the Hayden Hotel, the "hotel" Lisa and I stayed at in New York. I really wish I'd read this before we booked the room:
I stayed at the Hated Hall in Oct. 2003, and I just want to report that the cooties I got there are just about gone. You must factor in the cost of antibiotics and scalp lotions into the overall price of staying there per night... I mean they should film a "Survivor" episode there. It is such a legendary bad hotel that it may become a cult classic to stay there like Plan X from Outer Space.
The room we stayed in (418) was absolutely the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. The carpet was moldy, stained and old. The walls were stained with God knows what. The bed didn't have a mattress pad and I could only hope the sheets were clean. The clincher was that there was a rat trap in our bedroom.
Lisa and I didn't find any rat traps in our room, but we did find rat poison.
Think 'House Arrest' in Soviet Russia, circa 1966, and you are half way there. The elevator is smelly and small, but it's not only an elevator- it's time machine. All of a sudden you are transported to Cold War Europe. Renovations are underway so there is buliding crap all around. Hardwood floors in the hallway provide a way for noises to bounce around nicely into the guest rooms. When I say Cold War Europe, I am not kidding. There is no art on the walls, they are dirty and scuffed. There is no molding around the door, so the room is nice and drafty and you can hear the maids trilling early in the morning. They don't even provide you with "do not disturb signs" so I got to know the maids more than I would like to admit.
It was a very loud hotel. There was no need for an alarm or wake-up call; the banging of the doors in the hallway were enough to wake the dead.
There was something brown splattered substance on the walls of the room.
There was a random sink in the corner of the room This would have been convienient considering we had a shared bath if it had been actually been hooked up. My girlfirend actually poured the rest of a drink down the drain to find it draining all over the floor.
Well, our sink did work. So we had that, I guess.
We were placed on a floor in which renovations began every morning promptly at 08:00 am.
Staying there felt like I was in the middle of a Urban Renewal project.
And a 1960's one at that.
Our room was adjacent to the next room only separated by a thin plywood door. Next door neighbour tried to get in to our room probably thinking it was a wardrobe door.
When we opened the door there was already someone sleeping in the bed who awoke and started screaming at us! (Sorry Buddy!) When we lugged our stuff back down to the lobby, the clerk didn't seem too surprised or appologetic about it either.
After the toilet backed up and the elevator broke down within the first 30 mins we quickly made arrangements to move the next day.
Dirty, lots of things broken and damaged (like windows that don't close), shower enclosure windows broken, No curtains, filthy carpet, electricity wires open etc etc - the list is endless. This place is a health hazard and should be closed down.
I half imagined that I would see prostitutes and crack dealers roaming the halls!
The front desk clerk was multilingual... in every language except English.
This was very, very true.
Luckily, New York was comnfortable at 60 degrees because the room did not have any heat. I don't mean the heat wasn't working; the room actually lacked a radiator which was removed from the floor leaving the pipes exposed. To warm up the bathroom, we let the blow dryer run for 30 minutes.
The bathrooms on our floor didn't have blow dryers.
There were small black bugs in the bed, duck tape holding the broken slabs of glass that made up the window, a face towel acting as the gap between the window and window sill. The bathroom rarely had toliet paper, and had broken shower sliding doors that jammed- (very scary when you cant get out for a bit!) The heat did not work, and the front desk refused to give us a second blanket in the middle of bloody winter! AHHHH!
To top it all off we had mice come to visit us two nights in a row! We could not sleep because we heard constant noises in the night when we finally turned on the lights to see what it was we saw mice running about the room.
And, of course, roaches. Greeted every morning by several roaches.
This hotel would have to be the worst hotel I have ever stayed in!
Long Live The Revolution!
While WCAL will be missed, it looks like the Twin Cities are about to get one heck of a radio station.
REV 105 didn't die. It just went into hibernation.
"I mean, look at this," I said, hoisting the overflowing soft-shell taco into the air. "Do tacos really need to be this big? Do we really need this much food?"
"That's a great problem, Mark. Too much food? There are countries where people don't even know what tacos are."
"Come on, people are expected to eat this?" I paused, not realizing I was about to make a statement I'd regret. "And we wonder why everyone is so fat around here." With that, eyes widened, jaws dropped, and people looked at me like I'd just advocated the hunting and consumption of small children for sport.
Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to rewind time. I wouldn't need much, really, just 30 seconds here or there.
10:25 a.m., sitting at LGA. I'm still a bit peeved at myself for accidentally giving the taxi driver a huge tip—he didn't charge us for the bridge tolls and the miles immediately following it, and as a result I gave him about $8 more than I intended—but if that's the worst thing that happens today, well, I guess that's OK.
We had a very busy last two days in New York.
Wednesday, December 8th:
The UN was in session, so any chance of touring it went out the window. Instead we spent the morning wandering around Midtown and Bryant Park, stopping along the way to buy shower shoes at some junk store. We did the requisite visit to the WTC site in the late afternoon (it was very different from my first visit, of course, but no less affecting), followed by a quick circle-trip on the Staten Island Ferry. In the evening we visited Meg and Amanda in Brooklyn, during which time we got to raid their kitchen, listen to horror stories from the New York Public Schools (where Meg works), talk about politics and see how things are going in our respective cities. ("So," asked Meg, "how are things in the mini-apple?") All of that was followed by a very slow, late-night subway ride back to our hotel on 79th.
Thursday, December 9th:
The last full day. After forcing ourselves out of bed at a relatively early hour (10:30), we took the train to Brooklyn to take a Manhattan-bound walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Night was falling the last time I walked across it, but it was still cool to take the walk again, especially from a different direction. (I heard more French and German on the bridge than I did English, and briefly found myself wondering how long it takes the locals to get sick of the tourists clogging up their walk home.) After the bridge we grabbed a quick lunch downtown, followed by a search through Greenwich Village for chocolate and coffee for the folks back home. Later in the evening we had dinner at Divane on Eighth—not as good as the excellent dinner I had just down the street a few years before, but that may not be a fair comparison—followed by an unsuccessful attempt at making a nighttime trip up in the Empire State Building. Alas, it was closed due to the weather, so we headed back to our neighborhood and grabbed desert at Cafe Lalo, a cool little cafe a few blocks from our hotel.
Best. Cheesecake. Ever. Well, probably not for New York, but for me, anyway.
And that brings us to today. There's a light rain falling here today, but the planes seem to be running on time. It's raining in Chicago, though, and the forecast in Minneapolis calls for as much as an inch of snow, so it'll be interesting to see if we arrive on schedule or not.
That's all from New York. I'm looking forward to visiting again.
OK, this is going to be a super-short journal entry. It's 12:50 in the morning, I'm beat, and tomorrow (or, later today, really) is going to be a very long day. So, in brief, here's how the trip to New York has gone so far:
Sunday, December 5th:
The flights to O'Hare and LaGuardia were relatively uneventful. (LaGuardia has gotten a lot of work since the last time I flew through it, but it's still somewhat of a pit.) After a quick taxi ride in from the airport, we found our hotel, which was absolutely swanky by dormitory standards. We walked around our neighborhood, found a bite to eat at a place called Francesco on Columbus (very good pizza), came back to our hotel and made plans for the next day.
Monday, December 6th:
Museum Day #1. After a short walk through Central Park in misty weather, we spent a couple of hours at the Guggenheim. The art was good and the building was cool, although Lisa didn't really care for the top floor of the rotunda area. After a walk down Lexington in the rain, and a lunch at Hale & Hearty Soups, we hit the MOMA. In retrospect, it was kind of dumb to set aside a period as short as an afternoon to try to get through such a massive and impressive museum. The building was spectacular, and the collection, well, fuck. (Floor Three—Architecture & Design, Drawings and Photography—was particularly challenging for me to get through.) I could easily spend another day there, and I'm sure Lisa could spend twice that much. After a quick visit to Rockefeller Center to take in the tree and the skaters, we had dinner at Mughlai, a cool little Indian place near our hotel. It was very good.
Monday was also the day we learned the lower floors of our hotel actually are a dormitory, but I don't want to talk about that.
Tuesday, December 7th:
More rain, but that was OK as we planned to spend most of it indoors at the Met. We moved around our plans in order set aside an entire day for the museum, but in retrospect (there's that word again), it was a dramatically deficient period of time. We practically ran through the place, skipping uncountable treasures along the way, and still didn't make it through the entire building. (At bare minimum, the Met is at least a two-day museum.) That said, not all of our misses were our fault: The Temple of Dendur, my main focus for the visit, was closed so they could set up the area around it for some kind of dinner party. Fuckers.
Anyway, after the museum we headed over to Lexington so I could show Lisa the stilts the Citicorp Center stands on, and then stopped at an Internet cafe so I could check my email and show her how the place threatened to blow over in the 70's. After resting up in the hotel for a while, we walked down Eighth looking for a place to eat. We found a number of really good-looking places, but they were all a bit too expensive for what we were aiming for for the night, so we decided to search for something a bit more reasonable, while not settling for crap. That run lasted us over two hours and eventually ended in a hotel restaurant over on Lexington.
And that brings us to now. Or plans for tomorrow include the UN, the World Trade Center site, Grenwich Village, and possibly the Staten Island Ferry. More later.
As the saying goes, crazy is the new normal.
The coming days are going to be quite busy. Friday will bring an evening of alcohol with like-minded web-enabled geeks, Saturday will bring work for lstc.org and a trip with L to the fully-completed Hiawatha light rail line, and Sunday will bring a trip to New York City. The trip will last through Friday, and while I'm sure the following weekend will mostly be spent in recovery, time will also have to be made for the British Advertising Awards.
So, uh, I may not be on these pages all that much.
I'm not complaining, of course. But I do hope I get some sleep tonight.