Wednesday, May 28, 2003

NY Journals 1 + K&E Europe Trip


OK, IF I WAIT TO FINISH our first journal before sending it, it's going to be next week or later before it's done. Call this part 1 of 2... Sorry for the length of it... read at your own pace...Before we begin, I'd like to mention... that it's SNOWING furiously!! only as of this morning... and it's finally STICKING TO THE GROUND... and trees (what's left of them) and cars and people. People like me and Elizabeth even! This must be unusual because people in the office are saying "hey, wha'ss the deal with this weath'ah ova' heyah" (ok, slight exaggeration of accent) The sky is white.. the ground is white, my fingers will be white once we leave the building again (the office is evacuating as we speak)...And without further adieu....

PREFACE TO JOURNAL: Needless to say, work had NOT let up last week, affording no time for travel journal nor any mentally therapeutic web surfing time at work. From 10:30am to 6:30pm (rough hours, aren't they? : ) I've been trying to balance a flood of work, a constantly self-corrupting database and a corporate-catch-22 battle for a building badge, a work badge and a permanent cube upon which I will eventually shine full Oakland Raider regalia in a sea of Giants & Jets fans (more on that later). Anyway, since I'm a week 'behind' perse and since I haven't been logging a synopsis of daily activities, this journal will probably be a loose mixture of diary, general observations, amusing frustrations and ruminations. First off, I [had typed most of] this from the computer room of the main NY Public Library on 5th Ave @ 42nd (this room alone, I read, is 2 city blocks long) The building itself is easily 10,000 years old (or so it seems), built in the days when "ornate" meant run of the mill and the fine craftsmanship of artisans probably appeared out of nowhere like skyscrapers rising through clouds of construction in old cartoons. It's more beautiful than a library should probably be, done to the hilt in stone work, dark moneyed wood, brass and leather, ceiling paintings throughout, wrought iron and brass chandeliers in every room. I'm sure there's been dozens of books written about this library alone so I will leave it at that. If you've been here, you know these things, if you haven't... come.
FAREWELL TO SF:I should really preface any talk of NY with a hopefully brief account of the whirlwind of activity that went into getting here. Namely, packing... and more packing, and god I hate packing, and holy mother of god where did all this sh!t COME FROM, and MY GOD, please just make it STOP, I want to cry. To run through quickly, we had a Sacramento-storage unit run for bionics and other storables, we had our 8'x7'x5' crate going to our eventual permanent apartment (2 months from now) Oh, and to make that part all the more exciting, Elizabeth possibly broke something in her hand as the last of the crate was being packed. We had 3 suitcases each to bring on the plane with us, we had friends of friends come by in a U-Haul and take our couch(es), TV(s), food, and dozens of other items that ended up filling up their truck. We THEN had 8 smallish boxes of things we had to USPS ourselves because it hadn't fit in our storage crate. We then filled up our buildings weekly allotment of refuse and recycling. Granted, we were not living the sparse life, but c'mon.. many of you saw our apartment, it's not like we were wall to wall packrats. After clearing out our apartment, we booked ourselves into the Hyatt @ Embarcadero for a last hurrah to SF, the hotel being a cavernous, inverted quarter pyramid design (wrap your mind around THAT shape!) with hanging vines, water features, blah blah blah.. very nice place. A last SF dinner with friends in North Beach was an amusingly ironic prelude to NY, as the Disneyland-ish feel of the neighborhood seemed to be on a similar ratio and scale to 'ItalyLand' in Disney's Epcot.The flight itself was... well... any 5 hour flight that feels like 3 hours or less should be considered amazing. And so, .. our flight was amazing.
THE ARRIVAL:'And ye shall know they who have moved unto thine city by their obscene amount of luggage'. Luckily, and somewhat shockingly, our fairytale carriage into Manhattan took the form of a taxi SUV that perfectly accommodated our baggage. My first city lesson was that when you tell a cab driver 7th Street @ Bedford when you mean 7th Avenue, you create an air of angry frustration that has potentially questioned their knowledge of city intersections, an emasculating act of war here.
THE APARTMENT: We found the apartment through and declined a complicated offer of pictures, opting for surprise. It's small by SF standards, but not unexpectedly small for NY (pictures in part 2). We live in 1 of 2 apartments directly above a catering company, the head caterer being Walter.
WALTER:The first morning we walked out of our apartment, we were greeted by a cheery, slightly portly man of maybe 40-45 years, an Italian accent of medium to heavy thickness. He asked us where we were going. And almost without hearing what we said, told us where we should be going. We talked for a few minutes and then bid him adieu. That night, we ran into him again and started talking about the catering his company does,.. high profile photo shoots and acting sets, mainly. 55 minutes later, we were still talking to him... well.. "being talked to" is more accurate, but that implies a captive audience and that first day, we were most certainly incredibly entertained by his stories. The next day, we ran into him again. ... 50.. minutes.. later.. we had amassed a great wealth of knowledge, from the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker does not eat parsley, to Christina Aguillera only eating gummy bears, to the N'Sync preferring (unbeknownst to them) McDonalds chicken mcnuggets to Walter's breaded chicken cutlets, to Annie Liebowitz demanding that her crew receive brown-paper-bagged lunches with sandwiches in two-colored paper, folded a specific, overlapping way, with an apple included and two cookies, each of which should not be bigger than a half dollar ("if they are, you must re-cut them to size"). And on and on through actors, photographers, directors... likes and dislikes. This last conversation spanned the time it took to rain on us three times, finally ending with us getting up the nerve to interrupt & say we needed to get out of the rain. Our third run-in with Walter lasted a mere 40 minutes and ended with an invitation to dine at the restaurant the catering company also runs, which we did, which was excellent, which Walter picked up the tab for, which, amazingly enough, we have not seen him to thank him for. I do not mean to imply that he is a 'talk-monster' or that he bored us at any time. It is just a game we are learning, that time with some people here must be managed, lest your time not be your own.

AND SO ENDS PART 1 - ....a preview of sections that will appear in PART 2:
THE CITY (itself):THE PEOPLE:THE SUBWAY:THE SNOW/weather:THE BUILDINGS (upon buildings, etc):THE NYC 'MAGIC':THE WORK ENVIRONMENT:basically... everything I meant to discuss in one, "standard email-length" journal that this email was supposed to be.


My first attempts at writing anything 'journal-like':
K & E - Euro Vacatione' email - Part 1 of 3
Ahhhhhhh vacation emails.

We love 'em and hate 'em at the same time. Both writing and reading, they're a bit of a chore... I fully understand the dilemma, currently being on the more laborious side of it, so I'll strive to make the read as entertaining, but to the point as possible....

I'll ALSO be splitting it up into Part 1: London, Part 2: Amsterdam, Part 3: London to take some of the load off of writer and reader alike.

Thursday - March 21st
SFOooooooooo -toooo- Heathroooooooooooowwwwwwww (10hr flight)

Friday - March 22nd
arrive at Heathrow, an airport that could be a city in itself. sleep depravation makes the express train ride into London look like the Amtrak route through New Jersey. Madonna and Jewel videos made for the train ride into London play interspersed amongst the news. foreboding..? slightly. check into hotel in the Paddington neighborhood. fish & chips at a pub around the corner. Mardi and Matt (our travelling companions) take a nap. Brian (the friend of Elizabeth's who lives in London) shows up and takes us to Oxford Street for some jet-lagged shopping at H&M (an excellent department-store-like store but with cheap cheap prices). (to note: H&M visit # 1) - then, our first London underground (train) experience. thank god we're jetlagged, it's now my opinion that public transit in a new city should always be done when your sleep cycle is seriously out of whack. the hustle & bustle is much more enjoyable when you're not sure if you're asleep or not. emerging up to ground level again, the bus we have to catch happens to be right there, ... Brian jumps on, Elizabeth jumps on, i go to... hey! -j-u-m-p- on... as it barrels away. literally. far too Hollywood for me. the realization hits me that i would have been 100% lost if i hadn't have jumped full force. - since it's our first night, we eat some pizza at brian's, watch a dumpster fire from his backyard (as he tells us "see those buildings that look like the American govt assistance "Projects" over there..? & you've seen them all over the city too.. those are where the bombs fell in WWII".. cheap housing was thrown up in the craters... - pretty crazy visualization) - later, catch a minicab back to our hotel and sleep the sleep of travelers.

Saturday - March 23rd
meet Brian for a trip to Portobello Market.. ( pics at the bottom) a bustling food/clothing/antiques/etc/etc type public market held on a 3/4 mile long stretch of a small two lane road. searching for food, we run into Courtney Love coming out of a record store. ya, whatever. - more shopping & desperation-hunger food buys ("kebab in a bun" - whaaa???) - still jetlagged, we head back to the hotel for a nap, meet brian later for dinner at a pub called the Duke of Cambridge. ( - amaaazing. fully organic everything - food, beer, cider, furniture, toiletries... you name it, it didn't come from a huge exploiting factory or contain known harmful chemicals.

Sunday - March 24th
underground train to Buckingham palace in the AM - end up losing our friends Mardi & Matt. they were there one second, gone the next. we wait around for 20 minutes (to which they later said they did the same thing) - head off towards Westminster Abby & Big Ben, run across a statue of Abraham Lincoln. yes... Abraham Lincoln. a shiny new British pound to anyone who can tell me WHY he was there..! - hop on a train to Liverpool Street station ( , meet Brian for some shopping at Spitalfield's Market ( also - then past the something_&_Silver_Bells Bar where Jack The Ripper first struck, then to Brick Lane (a great Indian part of town.. long, long street full of Indian restaurants, shops, etc) - we then HAPPEN across an exhibit we had passingly talked about visiting: there are almost not words to describe how amazing it was. take a look at the site. - we then head back to Spitalfields to pick up Mardi & Matt for some Indian food. exhausted from walking all day, we head back to the hotel.

Monday - March 25th
Eliz & I decided to see if we could get a room of our own at the next London hotel (near Victoria Station - (a 3d pic you can move around)) we'd be at. after we see the hotel, Eliz had a peanut butter/banana/cheese sandwich. yes, WITH cheese. I had a salted beef sandwich, that came highly recommend but was not so highly enjoyed. (-slightly- salted roast beef??? yeah, ok) - stop at EasyEverything to check email. In Europe these are everywhere... a coffee shop with -no exaggeration- at least 200-500 computer terminals where you pay by the half hour. everyone uses them. - then hopped on an Original London Tour Bus for some touristy sight-seeing. got off on the South Bank at the Old Globe theater... sorry, theatRE... only to realize that that thing i had felt flapping away from my arm while on the bus.... was... well... our receipt/ticket to be ON the bus. ok, so much for all day hop-on/hop-off access. then walked across the Millennium Bridge which was SO EXCITING I COULD BARELY STAND IT..!! ok, that's a complete lie. it's a freakin' bridge, it's slightly narrow... it's got a great view. it did not transport me into the next millennium as i had secretly hoped it might. thoroughly disappointed, we walked off & would have paid the 7 pounds to get into St Paul's Cathedral (where prince Charles & Diana got married) but.. well... it was 7 POUNDS! i wanted to play "Jesus" and throw the money lenders out of the temple but finally had to admit that i was far from being Jesus, and they weren't really money lenders and i would have surely been arrested. then took the tube back to Victoria Station where I called my parents who, as i found out, weren't aware i was in London. (what, I've gotta tell people these things? : ) - back to Victoria Station ( - off to Herrod's... which felt like a JC Penny's or Marshall's, thinly veiled in an air of money, signified by dark wood grain and tacky Egyptian themes interspersed throughout the store. very bizarre. - then another double-decker busride to Regent's street where, in a store i was 30 seconds away from walking out of, and COMPLETELY against my will, i splurged on a jacket, two shirts and a pair of pants. ok. maybe Not against my will, but damn, i felt like a Splurgee Bastard. from there, back up to Oxford Circus where Eliz fell crossing the street and, as i see in our quick-summary-notes, Elizabeth's "knee gets ouched". - skinned knees be damn when shopping's involved!!! so we headed off to Muji - - a superstore of little things, tiny containers, cute things.. pencils, stationery, furniture, etc, etc. (to note: Muji visit #1) - walked down through Carnaby, met Brian, Mardi, Matt & went to a semi-swanky-hip vegetarian restaurant, Midred's - stopped by a bar for a drink - and, being as it was 11pm: drinking curfew time in England (I'm still amazed that a people in a country so progressive, and geared towards nightlife, just roll over & accept 11pm as an acceptable time to stop drinking) - we headed 'home'.

...... more tomorrow..? or... the next day...? the next...?
.........soon anyway. I'll finish Pt 2 & Pt 3 within the week, for sure.

K & E - Euro Vacatione' email - Part -2- of 3
Finally getting to part 2... sorry'bout the delay. and sorry for the length of it... pace yourself.. take frequent breaks... stay hydrated.
Tuesday - March 26th(still in London) .... after another breakfast of grease with a side of food, we finalized reservations for the hotel we'd stay at upon our return to London & then set about packing.. and packing... and... where did all these clothes COME from?!?!? - Lunch for two at Paddington station (paid entirely from the change in my pocket at the time. those 1 & 2 pound coins go a long way) followed by the express train to Heathrow and on tooooooo........ AMsterDAM!!!!! from the Amsterdam airport, you have to take an express train in to town, which goes smoothly if you can read dutch and can operate the ticket machines. Since you cant read dutch, you head to one of their polite, kind, compassionate and always helpful ticket agents... where you watch her give the lady in front of you a really durable looking, high quality plastic ticket holder to keep your tickets safe (and can later use at home for BART/MUNI tickets, etc)... after you get your tickets, you ask the lady for one, to which you receive a blank stare. unsure if she heard you, you repeat the question, to which she simply says "no". NOW completely convinced that she thinks you just asked her for sex or money, you ask again since... well... you're asking for a PIECE OF PLASTIC that she just gave someone for FREE..... as if waking from a bad dream she says "no, i can not give you one" - ...Ok... now it's a matter of principle... "but you gave the lady before me one" - "yes, but she bought many tickets" (she had bought maybe 10 tickets, i had bought 4) - "but i really need one... please?" - "i... uhh... i am sorry, no" - "really... please???" - ..... and then she said the words that will forever be burned in my mind... "i really do not see the point of giving you one.... i do not see the point of it" - "how about because i am ASKING YOU NICELY?!?!?" (which, given the rising tone of my voice, slaps me with my own irony) - "NO.. i will not give you one" - "ok... You fugblmnPhhmn STUpi... rrgpHrrd... god DAhhrrrghhh stupi... fugrnmhatethiscountryalreadyGodDah......" etc, etc, etc. - soooo... a quick train shot into town... then thoroughly stupified by the beauty and... well.. Europe-ness of the Central Station area. this is not America. this is not England. this is Europe. about twice as many bicycles as cars, no exageration. the density of the housing (all 5 stories), the water... water everywhere. they weren't lying.. i haven't been tricked, this city IS really a former marshland, the water organized, resituated to serve as much for beauty as for functional transportation arteries. Not to mention real estate. Houseboats line both sides of almost every canal you pass over... passing over, of course... the 2,581 bridges within the city. Gathering our bearings.. slightly.. we hop aboard the # 17 train that'll take us to where we're staying. As we start moving, i begin to wonder if our train is behind schedule.... why..? because the train is HAULING ASS. 30-45mph, on WINDING streets, over bridges, irregardless of pedestrians, cars and gravity. We're going so fast, none of us can accurately call out the TEN TO FOURTEEN SYLLABLE names of the streets we're passing. all of them. every one. impossibly long to pronounce, full of A's and J's and S's and M's and... well... you get the point. Hoping off the train at our stop, we start walking down... Parimaribostraat (see what i mean? i had to turn it into a jingle just to remember it) walking and walking, we dont see the place, only residential housing... one of us knocks on the door of the address that we have & sure enough, it's a residential flat turned into a B&B. interesting. typical "flat" style apartment, nice rooms, nice people. starving, we head into town, have Thai food and walk around the town a bit... Mardi & Matt head back to the B&B & Eliz & I wander about, our jaws dropped at the beauty of the city, thoroughly impressed by the density of people yet remarkable laid back state of being, totally amazed by the efficiency and relative safety of the bloodflow of bicycles, most carrying two people, one of which probably on a cell phone or drinking a beer. Getting late, we head back to the B&B ourselves. Wednesday - March 27thAfter a complete and very UNoily breakfast (do my veins have cholesterol withdrawl?) - we head into the city, and we see (what i had to be told was)... what looked like a drinking fountain, surrounded on 4 sides by a chest high fence.... why? because it wasn't a drinking fountain.. it was. well.. sort of the opposite. yes, right there in public, swing open the gate, walk in & relieve yourself while you chat with a friend locking up their bike or watching the water.... since we didn't do NEARLY enough shopping in London, we head out in search of an Amsterdam H&M (Note: H&M visit # 3? 4?) - getting near lunchtime, we duck into a cheeseshop for some snacks. Feeling brave, adventurous or just stupid, i ask for a few of the different kinds of breaded things behind the window. "Kipberry Brood-JEH" i pronounce to the guy (only later to find out that J's are pronounced as "EEE" sounds... kipberry brooDIE, is what i should have said..... SILLY AMERICANS!!!) - Oh My LORD. OH MY LORD> so good it hurts... and hurts so good. basically, a lightly breaded, baked potato-flour-like skin around some light gouda-like cheese... YUMMY.... or.... YUMJE, if you speak dutch. sooo.... some more shopping about.. a huuuuuge street turned flower market, along a canal (it wasn't high flower season unfortunately, which i hear is bludgeoningly beautiful).... more shopping... a slight pause in a park.... a beverage at Neumark Square... and then we attempt to make reservations at a restaraunt where..... you get in pajamas, get in bed, & they bring you a 5 course meal... sounds cool, ya...? ya, that's what we thought until the guy finished our phone call reservation with.... "you know about our dress code, right...? No...? well it's dress CRAZY SEXY COOL...! DRESS TO IMPRESS!!!" SOOOOO, we called back 10 minutes later & cancelled. ........ after an amazing Italian meal, we headed 'home' for the evening. Thursday - March 28thgonna pick up the pace here a bit. breakfast, Van Gogh Museum.... amazing. Van Gogh & Monet were buddies back in the day (yes, i just said that.. maybe i can make 'em spin in their graves by calling them "canvas pals"...? "paint partners?"...? "oil amigos..?" umm.. ok, i'll stop.) and the museum had 100's of works by them, "bringing to life their tempestuous relationship, set afire with the artistic zest for life that....." ya ya ya... they were testy, emotional, take-everything-personally egomaniacs hell bent on copying the other's work or ridiculing it publically. i wanted to gag on the Hollywood-ness of it all. SILLY ARTISTS!!!!!! having worked up my apetite from such exhausting art absorbtion, and.. being that we had resumed shopping.... M&M located some french fries in a cone... while Eliz & I located... hmm... how best to describe it.... y'know those 50's diners that had a small wall of little cubes & you put money in, open a little door & take your food out...? well this one was a WHOLE WALL with the oposite wall being bar stools and a series of machines to get exact change. Again, being brave or stupid, i tried 4 different things, all of them were... AMAZING! one of which, i had to stand there looking like a dork while i scribbled the name of it in a little book.... KASSOUFFLE' is the name. look up a recipe if ya like... or just try one if ya ever run across it.... soo.. having had Good food... we did a bit more shopping & then decided it was time for F'N horrible food... well, not intentionally of course... Rosie's Cantina... sounds good, right..? if you like your ceviche served in a ketchup/chili-with-beans sauce, it is, i guess. personally, i wanted to slap the name right off the restaraunt. All in all, it wasn't That bad really... we had margaritas, which felt like the most American thing we'd had since leaving the States. alas... since our flight was at 7am the next morning, we headed back to the B&B to pack Friday - March 29thUp at 5:30am [kill me] we ate breakfast [kill me, TOO early!] and watched the sun rise [kill me! the Sun! AAAAAH!!] - waiting for the taxi that never came, we hailed one... a mercedes cab (about 75% of the cabs in Amsterdam were merecedes') & shot off to the airport [kill me!] Whizzing behind us..... the rising sun, a waking city, mirror still canals, a thousand bazillion windmills that we never even saw.... and all the more reason to come back... next installment, London pt 2.... which WILL come to you much sooner than this installment did from the last one..... and really, for REAL this time, i will try to make it shorter, i swear...