Friday, June 23, 2006

Oh, what an adventure

There's nothing like taking the day off from work to go to an amusement park and see a concert. Yesterday actually marked the second time I'd been to Six Flags Great Adventure in two weeks - this time to see Angels & Airwaves in concert (you may know their conveniently-titled single "The Adventure").


Marc Ribot has a song that says that the hills of New Jersey are so lovely, and although it was meant as a joke, he's right. Once you get past all the industrial crap, driving down the Garden State Parkway actually is pretty green. And hiding among those hills are all sorts of great finds - relics of suburbia like outlet malls and 50's-style drive-in diners like Stewart's.


It's the same Stewart's that makes the root beer (not the Stewart's convenience stores that we Upstaters know), and there are a few left around the country, several of which actually in NJ. We stopped at the one on Rte 9 in Howell but there's one in Kearny and in Vineland with variations in menu and decor. We didn't use the car-hop service (like you see in American Graffiti) but we did eat hot dogs with bacon, steak sandwiches and waffle fries. And root beer in a frosty mug. A&W has got nothin' on these guys.


Unfortunately that meant our stomachs were not in prime form for lots of rides, but we did survive the hour-plus wait to get on .the Superman ride which, in terms of avoiding regret, was worth it. Flying through the air stomach-down is actually quite relaxing. Doesn't really feel like you're going upside-down. It was nothing like El Toro, which kicked our asses the week before. New this year to Six Flags, El Toro is a wooden-style rollercoaster that goes faster than any ride I've ever been on. Vertical drops. G-force like you wouldn't believe. It makes you feel drunk. Ole!


So I've got one more trip to Six Flags in me this summer, next month to see Club Kidz Bop. Maybe I'll finally work up the nerve to ride Kingda Ka then. And maybe when we go back to the Cheesecake Factory in Edison on the way home, I'll actually leave some room for cheesecake.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Long and Strong

I was bummed to have to give up my Saturday to drive one of my label's artists and her manager around Long Island, but I consoled myself when I realized that Long Island is probably the one place where I could actually find a guy who wants to take me to the mall and listen to Journey. After all, the one guy I actually do know who fits the bill lives in Cedarhurst. So I packed up the rental car and I picked up my passengers and zoomed over to the Queens Midtown Tunnel for an early morning drive down the L.I.E.


My previous excursions to Long Island have taken me to some of the usual destinations - Fire Island, Jones Beach, Westbury Music Fair, Roosevelt Field - but the only other time I had to work out there was just out to Farmingdale and fortunately I wasn't doing the driving. This time around I had to navigate my way all the way out to {ahem] a charity soccer tournament in Commack.


On the way out there somewhere around exit 36 we got hungry and were making good time, so we started driving towards Mineola (sort of) in search of food, and found a great little bagelry on Mineola Ave. called Barbara's Bagels. I have no idea who Barbara is but her bagels are fantastic. I was trying to be good so I managed to avoid the french toast bagels (replete w/powdered sugar) and the flagels, which just sort of looked like flattened-out bagels.


After getting to Commack and surviving some drizzle on a soccer field, we had to head back towards the city to Port Washington, a surprisingly cute watefront area (with neighboring Danbury and Manhassett) with lots of upscale shopping, gated communities and a crazy school/retreat tucked away in the woods (whose sign asked that we preserve the serenity of their campus, meanwhile I was peeling out as I made a U-turn in their driveway because I was lost). After petting some doggies and kitties at North Shore Animal League (which was surprisingly depressing) we got a late lunch at the very scary-looking Mexican/South American restaurant Mi Ranchito / Senor Pollo, whose excellent fajitas and vegetarian burrito weren't scary at all! (You know anyplace with pictures on their menu really could go either way...) Appropriately, we then caught a matinee screening of Nacho Libre at the soon-to-be-renovated movie theater on Main Street.


The hilarity of the film didn't get my spirits high enough to mentally survive the noisy, chaotic ride back to JFK - not hearing the GPS, making a few wrong turns, getting stuck in very slow traffic. Whilst trying to avoid a mental breakdown right there, I really wished I had hijacked the trip and dragged everybody to Garden City for some hot mall action and the Cheesecake Factory. At least then my quest for the man of my dreams might've been satisfied... Between that and not making my travel companions happy despite best efforts, the whole mission felt pretty impossible.


And now back to work. And further evidence that I need a pet.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

A quick jaunt to Florida

Just got back tonight from a quick work-related trip to FL - flew into Ft. Lauderdale and drove a very short distance to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood (technically on the Seminole Reservation). Even though we were there on business, we had plenty of time to explore the casino, eat lunch at Hooter's, and take a dip in the very shallow pool (which is more like a lagoon with a water slide).


Thankfully I didn't drop too much money this time around - I was enjoying watching my coworker gamble while I held tightly onto my money. I did blow some cash playing some slots that ended up very boring (including Monopoly and Enchanted Unicorn, shockingly not a magical experience for me). Didn't get to try my luck at Hexbreaker which was the highlight of my Turning Stone casino experience, but that's OK.


The rooms at the Hard Rock are great, and there's music playing everywhere. When I checked into my room they had the stereo already pumping music, just waiting for me to arrive. Plus there's memorabilia everywhere, and a huge blown up photo of Stevie Nicks hanging over the front desk.


We had the latter portion of Friday night to ourselves so we went dancing at Pangaea, which mixed current hip hop and R&B with some throwback hits from the Monsta Jamz era. On our way back to our rooms we popped into Tequila Ranch, but once again I was in no shape to ride the mechanical bull. Yet another missed opportunity...

Somehow managed to get ourselves up this morning and go on a quest for Waffle House, which wasn't too far in neighboring town Dania and where I had the best soft-scrambled eggs with cheese I have ever had (besides in my own kitchen). And of course a waffle and a cup of famous coffee.

With a few hours to spare before our flight back to NYC we went in search of a mall, only to find that the Millenium Mall was definitely not from this millenium, and it was totally abandoned (I now wish I'd taken a picture). After also chasing down the dog races and a couple other malls which turned out to be strip malls, we drove to Miami for the Aventura Mall. Too bad we were too full to eat at the Cheesecake Factory there.


Took the necessary run through the local Target store (just on the other side of the Miami-Dade county border) and then drove through a brief, thunderous downpour on our way to the airport. My driving was stellar for the sake of my coworker, but I still made several illegal u-turns while getting lost. Serves me right for not getting the GPS this time.