I Googled this particular fortune, and 32 other entries came up. I should follow up with those 32 other folks who have had the luck of such a fortune, and see what their wondrous opportunities turned out to be.Part of me hopes that this fortunate situation is not at someone else's expense. But if it is, so be it. The Chinese fortune cookie has spoken.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
With the trip in the books and a few weeks here in Boston until my next work trip (...oddly enough to New Orleans for a convention - never been there in 32 years, now twice in a month), I can resume turning my focus on everyday nuisances.
1. Finishing my deck. The weather this weekend looks unflattering, so I don't think it will be stained in time for my parents' short visit next week. Hopefully it will at least me sanded.
2. My flower bulbs. They finally sprouted. I woke up this morning to find dirt on the deck, topsoil dug up, some sprouts unattached to any bulbs, and a bulb or two no longer buried. This family of birds lives in my neighbor's roof, and I'm pointing the finger at them. Sure, the incessant chirping bugs me, but I turn my head to that. When mama bird begins foraging through the very little foliage on my deck, oh no - game on. Get out the BB Gun.
3. My car. It needs a wash.
4. My DVR. 2 episodes of CSI. 3 episodes of Lost. 10 episodes of 24. Who knows what else. After a long trip, catching up becomes a burden.
5. Yanks-Sox this weekend. Spare me the misery.
Posted by Jason at 7:25 AM
Monday, May 28, 2007
After over 2,500 miles in the middle of the country, I'm back in Boston, sitting on the couch, anticipating a couple weeks of grapefruit, tuna, and workouts to recover from 11 days of dry-rub ribs, crawfish etouffee, bread pudding, cajun popcorn shrimp, beignets, microbrews, hurricanes, and hand grenades. I'm also looking forward to next month's credit card bills by swiftly throwing all catalogs that awaited me into the recycling bin upon my return home. I can use a few weeks of cheap activities to even things out a bit.
I managed to add all 4 of the Starbucks mugs that were issued for cities along our route. None were particularly challenging acquisitions. Twin Cities was in the airport upon arrival, St. Louis was from the Starbucks in our hotel, Memphis was in the Peabody Mall right next to Beale St., and New Orleans was from the Starbucks next door to our hotel. Starbucks city mugs are my crystal meth.
The flights back were uneventful - a full flight from MSY to EWR, and a surprise upgrade for the 35 minute flight from EWR to BOS (I literally just remembered that I actually bought this ticket - Continental won't upgrade reward tickets unless redeemed as a First Class ticket. I did not use miles since it wasn't a round trip and Continental only seems to allow reward travel round trip and from the same city).
At baggage claim in Boston, I half-won the luggage lottery: my suitcase was the very first bag on the carousel, but my red duffel bag was somewhere lost in Airworld until moments ago when Continental's delivery service just dropped it off at my place.
Posted by Jason at 11:03 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Along with yesterday's journey through the destruction of the Lower 9th Ward, we managed to find some more enjoyable tourist attractions throughout the Gulf Coast. Immediately after reaching the anti-climactic end of the Great River Road, we drove back to New Orleans on a road surrounded by marshes that looked like the home of many gators. Sure enough, we spotted the head of a lurking alligator along the way, but also saw a dead baby gator floating belly up. I thought that photo was much more interesting.
Saturday morning, we purchased tickets for a legit steamboat ride on the Natchez (it's a town in Mississippi that rhymes with "matches" not with "today"). The two hour cruise was excellent. The on-board narrator explained the various sights, vessels, and areas along the way, and the sun managed to turn me bright red because of my lack of sunblock. I probably should have purchased a tube after my stupid move of Day 1 when I packed it in my carry-on, and it was confiscated.
Saturday night, we had another authentic New Orleans dinner, complete with the largest raw oysters I have ever eaten - AND they were only 8 bucks for the dozen. Amazing. No salmonella either!
After a few Hand Grenade on Bourbon St., we turned in for the night, and woke up this morning to drive to Alabama (the 41st state I've been to) - pretty much just to say we have been to the state. We got off in Mobile, and came across The U.S.S. Alabama, a World War II battleship docked there. The tour brought us through much of the hull and decks, and was rather extensive and insanely hot and stuffy. We stayed for only an hour, because we had to high-tail it back along I-10 to Biloxi, Mississippi for our shrimp boat excursion.
Biloxi is a beautiful Gulf Coast town that was completely obliterated during the hurricanes. While New Orleans had extensive weather damage and flooding due to the levees breaking on Lake Pontchartrain, Biloxi got creamed from the storms alone. Literally flattened. 26 miles of beachfront, with an incredible amount of vacant lots. For such a beautiful area on Memorial Day weekend - 80 degrees and sunny - to be as sparsely populated with beachgoers as it was today is a shame. There is already plenty of rebuilding going on. Unlike the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, this area has mucho dinero, and is a tourist destination, hence the fervent rebuilding.
Our shrimping trip was fun - a short 70 minutes just off the coast. The captain showed us how to drop a net, troll the water, and catch everything in its path. He then identified all of the species in the catch for us - various fish, mackerel, shrimp, squid, and jellyfish. The seagulls swarmed the boat when the net was raised, and dined on everything that he didn't keep.
I'm looking forward to simple meals of boneless chicken breasts and broccoli. But for now...one more night of oysters, gumbo, and Bourbon St.
Posted by Jason at 7:36 PM
What fascinates me about New Orleans tourists and convention-goers is that those who travel here and only spend their time in their hotels, the convention center, and in the French Quarter will think that everything is back to normal after the devastation a couple years ago. After all, it's pretty simple to do just that - cab from the airport, a few days in the city, cab back to the airport, fly home.
While the downtown areas of the city had significant damage, one would not be able to detect the past problems without knowing that major hurricanes hit New Orleans in '05, .
Driving out to the Lower 9th Ward like we did today, however, reveals an entirely different story. Once you start leaving the French Quarter, you begin to see the spray-painted X's on the structures - some once again occupied - along with a date the property was searched for bodies, and a couple numbers or messages indicating if any bodies or animals were present.
Then, the X's become more prevalent. The buildings look even more ragged. Trailers begin appearing more and more outside of properties. One part of the Lower 9th ward was about half-inhabited and half-deserted. The people we did see were always black, and most likely poor. Exactly like the news depicted.
Even though it was daytime, I couldn't help but think that these unfortunate residents who remained saw Brian and I as the tourists that we were, driving their neighborhood, looking for a story to tell, glad that we were not them. I would be lying to deny any of that.
We drove to another part of the Lower 9th Ward that was absolutely deserted. Foundations where homes once were, abandoned structurally unsound buildings, edifices with roofs barely attached, overgrown weeds, broken glass, boarded windows. No people. It was eerie.
To imagine that people lived here, and that this entire area was submerged, is remarkable. I wanted to stop and take pictures, but it didn't feel right. They weren't memories I wanted to capture, and photo ops were clearly inappropriate.
Posted by Jason at 12:39 AM
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Friday was an unexpectedly long day of driving. For some reason, I thought that Vicksburg was close to New Orleans, when in actuality, it's relatively close to the southern Louisiana border, but the drives to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, the end of the Great River Road, and then back to New Orleans were the bulk of the day's trip.
We started the day driving through the National Park at Vicksburg, viewing all of the monuments and historic sites of the battlefield. The story of Vicksburg is pretty amazing, as are the amount of monuments erected in the park.
We stopped in Baton Rouge for lunch. I had a soft-shell crab po'boy, and Brian had crawfish etouffee, which looked good enough for me to order later on for dinner. I am sensing much more cajun food for the rest of the weekend.
After passing through Baton Rouge and through New Orleans, we still had another 70 miles to drive (140 roundtrip).
After leaving New Orleans and continuing to the gulf, the scenery becomes increasingly deserted. Evidence of the hurricanes became more evident when we saw many trailers and deserted destroyed buildings. The drive was along a long flat road, surrounded by levees a few hundred miles away from each side of the road. We passed a number of oil refineries on our way to the anti-climactic endpoint. No bells and whistles, no state park, no monument. Pretty much - "stop driving, turn around, nothing more to see, and go have fun in New Orleans."
Which is exactly what we did. This is my first time in New Orleans, so I had never witnessed to debauchery that is Bourbon St. I'm glad I'm in my 30's now, because I have the perfect excuse to my usual ditching early antics (i.e. "...if only I was in my early 20's, I just can't do this anymore" type reasonings). After a couple beers at dinner, I tried a Hurricane - some concoction of rum and extremely sweet red liquid - and my stomach began reminding the rest of me that super sweet alcoholic beverages do not belong inside of my body.
The French Quarter is charming and inviting. I can see why people love this city. I'm looking forward to exploring the French Quarter today and tomorrow. Bourbon St. is a world unto itself. I was having difficulty taking some clear nighttime photos last night, so the best I have are what appears to be the legs of a blow-up doll propped up on a Bourbon St. balcony. Tame for these parts, it seems.
Posted by Jason at 9:14 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2007
We wandered around downtown Memphis for a bit today before heading to see The King. The city seems to know its bread and butter these days is tourism. They keep the major pedestrian mall very clean, and staff a number of intersections with local city guides who can answer questions from out-of-towners.
After a couple hours at the Mud Island River Park, we had lunch on Beale St. and then headed for Graceland.
Graceland is entirely over the top. Every bit of it. But then again, so was Elvis. His estate maintains the property very well, and we enjoyed our time there, but photos of and references to the latter day Fat Elvis were conspicuously absent from most displays.
We did not see the ghost of Elvis, but did see his grave in the backyard of Graceland, filled with flowers from fans. I just don't get the obsession with Elvis that consumes many people.
The drive from Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi was extremely long, unbearably flat, and filled with bugs. Since the final hour of the drive was in the dark through corn fields, the bugs were in full force. We turned the radio down, and the sound of the bugs crunching and pounding against the car windshield was noticeably loud.
Once we arrived in Vicksburg, we went to a gas station to clean the windshield, and I snapped a couple photos of the carnage. Disgusting!
We drove into Helena, Arkansas momentarily, just to say we went to that state. Helena's commercial street was another boarded up ghost town, with many residents hanging outside their dilapidated homes, sitting amidst random furniture and tires on couches that were permanently outside of their homes. Seriously a world away from life as I know it. It makes me fortunate to have the life I have.
I also noticed that people in Mississippi seem to enjoy driving on these desolate country roads in the dusk without their lights on.
Posted by Jason at 11:20 PM
We finally hit Memphis yesterday afternoon - just in time to see the Peabody Ducks march from their place in the legendary hotel's atrium fountains down a red carpet, past a gallery of adoring tourists, and into an elevator to the roof, where they sleep.
During the ride there, we passed Chester, IL - home of Popeye. They erected a statue in his honor.
We also hit a little traffic at a railroad crossing. Strangely enough, this is just about the most traffic we have hit thus far.
We traversed over some dirt roads as well. Kentucky had basically nothing to see, so we forged through it's part of the Great River Roads rather swiftly. At one point, we asked Jill to bring us to a McDonald's for a quick bit and bathroom place, and she brought us somewhere that pretty much looks like this photo. Her coordinates were off just a bit.
In Memphis, we had some excellent dry-rub ribs at Rendezvous. The place was packed, and we're told Bill Cosby loves this place. Luminaries and politicians go here. The Presidents from the Japanese Prime Minister here last year. There were photos on the wall inside.
Beale Street was a sight to see. Bikers parked everywhere, people wandering in and out of loud bars, drinks in hand. Tourists everywhere, mostly people obviously in town on business (the kind of Blue Shirts that wouldn't normally be caught at a place like Beale St. when back home with the wife and kiddies).
Posted by Jason at 8:52 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Right now, we're somewhere in Kentucky driving on an unpaved dirt road. Jill says it's the right way to go, and Brian concurs as he recalls some dirt roads during his extensive planning.
Today has been the lead visually appealing backroads trip. Minneapolis and Iowa were much prettier and obviously more prosperous. While Iowa has field after field of growing crops, Western Kentucky seems to have more fields of grass and weeds versus actual fertile ground contributing corn to our nation's Frosted Flakes supply.
At the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers was a town called Cairo, a description of which I found characterizing the town as follows: "Unless you have a fondness for wrack and ruin, the Great River Road's passage through town is best enjoyed with your eyes firmly stuck to the road." The main drag was all abandoned. It was amazing to see that, and the first town we encountered with literally nothing. It's one thing to have nothing in the middle of nowhere.
I'm shocked to have an Internet connection, albeit a weak one. Photos coming later.
Posted by Jason at 2:01 PM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The absolute coolest part of the tour was getting to walk onto the field and into the dugout. This was the first time I have ever stood on a MLB field. The perspective was amazing. It's funny how a stupid little 15 minutes on a MLB field can shave 25 years off your life and make you feel like a kid again.
Our seats for the actual game were way up in the top deck of right field. Cards won 9-4.
Next, onto the Anheuser-Busch tour. The tour itself was free. I was trying to calculate how many people tour this particular facility every year. Our tour guide gives 4 tours per day, but she's not the only guide. Our group had about 40 people. Figure 8 tours per day of 40 people each, 6 days per week. Almost 2,000 people per week, over 100,000 per year. All free. They must make it up tenfold with the branding extended to all tour participants.
We ventured over to the Gateway Arch, and took the ride up to the observation deck. The arch is quite an impressive structure. Simple, yet imposing. The view OF the arch were much better than the views FROM the arch. The arch itself is 630 feet tall, but it seems much taller.
Posted by Jason at 7:27 PM
We made it out of Mormonland alive, and ventured onward down the Great River Road to Hannibal, MO - site of Mark Twain's boyhood home and...nothing else. Hannibal is a one-trick pony. They have jumped onto the Mark Twain Train, embraced it, loved it, milked it, and then milked it some more. The historic district of Hannibal is small, and an $8 ticket gets you into a few buildings, all of which have some connection with Mark Twain.
While I realize that the spirit of a Mississippi River adventure evokes images of Tom and Huck on a raft, I must admit that I have read nothing by Mark Twain. I believe I was supposed to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at one point - probably 11th grade English - but I skipped it. Literature and me don't get along well. I enjoy magazines. And non-fiction.
When we made it to St. Louis, we checked in to the Hilton at the Ballpark, and the view from our window was pretty spectacular if you love looking at baseball stadiums. We're planning to go to the game tomorrow, but don't have tickets. Even though the Cardinals are the reigning World Champs, I think we'll find a way. I checked online, and tickets are still available.
We ventured toward the river for dinner, and found the area called Laclede's Landing. It's a bit of an entertainment area by the river - a few streets of bars, a casino (this one was across the river in Illinois), and a walking area. It was pretty dead. In fact the whole city was. I think we're in a good part of town for Cardinals stuff, but not for where locals adventure. Tomorrow is pretty packed with touristy things, so I do not believe we'll have time to venture into the "local" areas of downtown St. Louis. I sure hope they do exist though, because I look around where we are, and see a ghost town - empty parking garages, nobody walking on the streets, few cars driving, just plain odd. It's like Government Center in Boston around 7pm, but 5 times worse. Before passing judgment on St. Louis as being a big commuter city that people just don't live in or stay in after 5pm, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Posted by Jason at 12:09 AM
Monday, May 21, 2007
Posted by Jason at 2:31 PM
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Day 3 began in Minnesota and ended in Iowa, traveling through Wisconsin and crossing the border into Illinois, briefly. After leaving Bloomington, the first major city we hit was La Crosse, Wisconsin. La Crosse seems to be a self-sufficient community on the banks of the Mississippi, randomly situated about 2 hours from anything else noteworthy. The weather was grey and chilly, so when we drove up 600 feet to Grandad Bluff, the view was good, but the photos weren't spectacular. This photo is part of the historic part of La Crosse.
La Crosse features City Brewery, which produces and distributes beer throughout the Midwest. The brewery tanks are painted to look like beer cans, thereby making the tanks the "World's Largest Six-Pack." Since we arrived on a Sunday, the brewery tours were not being offered. Instead, we managed to locate a lunch spot that served beer from City Brewery. Pretty good beer!
I don't know if this is the Wal-Mart that Ryan used to work at, but it's the only one we saw while driving in La Crosse. It looks like pretty much every other Wal-Mart out there.
Driving to and through Iowa, we saw many patriotic Americans. Flags everywhere, including from the flatbeds of pickup trucks. Surprisingly, this vehicle did not have a gun rack.
Iowa is a pretty state. But much of inland Iowa is a one-trick pony. It's hills, fields, and farms. That's it.
Posted by Jason at 11:07 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2007
According to Jill (the GPS), Today we drove 561 miles today, and we ended up in Bloomington...exactly where we began. Today was the one and only day with any backtracking, simply because we spent half the day driving north to the Mississippi River headwaters, and the other half driving back. The rest of the trip will always be continued forward progress toward the end of the river outside New Orleans.
On the way to Lake Itasca, we saw evidence of Central and Northern Minnesota's liberal mindsets. Quintessential conservative rural vs. liberal cities. We also drove past some Amish people in a horse-drawn buggy. I didn't realize they existed outside of Pennsylvania or on reality TV.
We also passed many cows, fields, flat plains, and water towers. Each town seemed to take great pride in painting its name on its water tower.
Brian and I took a bunch of photos at the Mississippi River's headwaters at Lake Itasca. The stones behind us are an official river crossing point. We opted for a less slippery plank about 50 feet downstream. The weather was about 45 degrees up there, much less than the 80 degrees in the Twin Cities when we returned.
The Kennedys own Massachusetts. Buddy Cianci owns Providence. Paul Bunyan owns Bemidji, Minnesota. His blue ox Babe was being sandblasted today, but it didn't seem to mind. Bemidji seems to have some steep competition from some other cities also vying for Paul's mythical attention.
Posted by Jason at 10:56 PM
Friday, May 18, 2007
The amusement park behind us is in the middle of the mall. We hit both of the roller coasters, each of which were short but decent.
Also in the amusement park area are rare Legosauruses. I startled the blue one on the right, but we escaped unharmed.
Posted by Jason at 8:24 PM
I often have sinking feelings that I have forgotten to pack something (a charger, a computer, my wallet, etc) when embarking on a journey. I think I'm covered for now.
This is my first Continental flight in a few months. BOS-EWR-MSP. It's nice to be back with them. This trip should push me over 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles with them in 2007, so I'll probably hit Silver again by the end of the year. At this point last year, I was probably already almost Gold. Amazing what happens when you switch jobs and fly JetBlue a lot.
I am leaving minus a tube of sunblock lotion, because in my odd lapse of travel judgement, I elected to pack it on my carry-on, and TSA swiftly removed it from my person. I think this is my first trip bringing sunblock since all of the cream / liquid / gel rules, and for some reason the neurons just didn't connect this morning regarding that. I figured TSA would want to check my backpack due to the insane amount of device chargers I'm carrying, but simply forgot about the lotion.
The beauty of US travel is that I can always purchase items along the way....I realize that part of my trip brings us through places such as Arkansas and Mississippi, but I'm guessing that those states do have stores. Probably just Wal-Mart.
Things seem on-time here at Logan, even with the terrible rain in Boston. We're boarding First Class now. Unfortunately today, tha's not me.
Posted by Jason at 8:56 AM
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Posted by Jason at 7:22 AM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
1. Any chocolate / peanut butter combination
2. Tortellini with either pesto or a cream sauce / peas / prosciutto combo
3. All seafood
My strong affinity to seafood, if developed by my parents, was most certainly from my father. My mother never prepared seafood for me. She never bought it. If we scooped mayo from a jar using the same fork that was just in a tuna can, she refused to eat mayo out of that jar.
In my meals with friends, co-workers, and business associates, I am learning that my proclivity toward seafood is as common as others' rabid aversions such as my mother's.
Since lunch on Wednesday, I have had sole, scallops, haddock twice, and calamari three times. The calamari trifecta wasn't planned, it just happened. Calamari is a great sharing dish, and some restaurants enjoy jazzing it up with fancy sauces and accoutrements.
First, I was at lunch with folks from Kiss 108 at Skipjack's in Newton. Then the following day, I met my friend Steven at Stadium in Southie for a drink after work. Finally, that same night, my high school friend Dana was in town for a convention, and he and I had a nightcap and calamari at LTK (Legal Bar and Kitchen). I just checked out their website - they're open until 2am nightly! I was wondering why people kept trickling in for dinner as it approached midnight!
Posted by Jason at 7:34 AM
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Posted by Jason at 7:29 AM
Sunday, May 13, 2007
So this past Friday, I had a simple but great idea. I was talking to Ryan and said that we should meet for dinner at Seapoint - the restaurant right down the street from me in Southie. Literally a 3 minute walk from my door.
In my almost four years in Southie, I have driven by Seapoint countless times, but regrettably never stopped in. The atmosphere is welcoming and unpretentious. The food is simple, tasty, bountiful, and inexpensive.
While I can't seem to find a website for Seapoint, Ryan read a review online that praised their fish selections. When we read the menu after sitting down, it said that we should inquire about the fish entrees, as none were listed (but they claimed that the only fresher fish was swimming right off of Castle Island). I assumed that the online review was dated, but after asking and hearing a long list of fish selections - literally 8 or 9 more options - I chose a baked haddock dish, which turned out to be an enormous portion served with TWO baked potatoes (a first for me).
We each left with half of what we ordered. 4 drinks, appetizer, two entrees, tax and tip, less than $60. I can see myself becoming a regular. I'm sure other locals have known about this neighborhood joint for decades. Better late to the party than never to have shown up!
Posted by Jason at 11:20 PM