May 30, 2006

I Heart Upstate New York

Howe's modest entryway

Back Upstate just one month after our trip to Albany for Kidz Bop Live, this time for another visit to Mike's house in Barrytown and for a road trip to Howe Caverns in Howe's Cave, NY. I had been there as a kid - in retrospect, my father did a very good job finding touristy ways of entertaining us back then - but really only remembered something about stalactites and stalagmites and being afraid of whatever was dripping on my head, and had a vague recollection of a boat ride. Visiting there again - in a relatively large group of 8 people - was fun in a predictable kind of way, especially since I'd just visited the caves at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga's Lookout Mountain a year ago. After we got to Howe's we realized that they also do a lantern tour (like the Castle Labyrinth in Buda) - that coupled with the fact that they didn't turn the lights of at all during the boat ride this time around gives us plenty of reason to go back.

The back of Olana at sunset

Even though Howe Caverns was the main destination on our trip, we started following a lot of the brown signs in the area that point out historic sites, and Mike being from that area had his own favorite spots to show us. Historic Hudson Valley is a network of these types of sites, mostly manors and estates owned by socialite families and often - like Olana - designed by famous artists. Olana (designed by Hudson River School painter Frederic Church) was really a standout for us - walking around as the sun just started to go down, this Persian style fantasy was much more ornate than a lot of the other Greek Revival and Beaux Arts houses we saw.

After sunset on the banks of the Hudson River in Clermont's back lawn, the next day we were really hyped for more exploring. We checked out the garden at Bard College and marveled at the amount of painters standing with their canvases under parasols - totally a scene out of a Victorian movie. The neighboring Montgomery Place has a cool hidden waterfall just on the border of the Bard campus so we took a hike through there despite our flip flops and temperature-inappropriate jeans.

I guess I never really knew that area of the state at all - Dutchess County, Sleepy Hollow... I've learned so much and my hometown isn't even all that far from there. Now that I have a plan to go back to Syracuse in a couple of weeks, I'm determined to do more exploring and get to know my roots better.

Plus, I think there's maybe another roadtrip ahead, next time to Cooperstown which appears to be much more than just the Baseball Hall of Fame. And maybe we'll get to stop at Dairy Queen again - if not the one in Oneonta, then back to the one in Hyde Park (thank you Chris)....

May 23, 2006

Chk-a-Cherry Blossoms!

My friend Bill took a date to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden the other day and he reports that the cherry blossoms are all gone - vacuumed from the premises. Fortunately, I managed to make it there during the Cherry Blossom Festival a couple weeks ago, despite prohibitively long lines at the front entrance. I of course tried to go with a date, too, but once again I've overestimated romantic interest so instead I went with my partner-in-crime and had a great time.

It's no wonder all the blossoms are gone - people down the tree-lined walkway shaking every branch they can reach, the petals snowing down on all our heads. Maybe that's why the girls in the band we saw, Gaijin A-Go-Go, carry umbrellas.

It was my first visit to the Botanic Garden, and it's gorgeous. Tons of other kinds of flowers and plants - tulips, roses, etc. - on a perfect sunny Saturday. I hope to head back to Prospect Park soon for some paddle boats or horseback riding or to check out the birds.

May 22, 2006

For those about to trapeze, I salute you

The tent @ Trapeze School New York. No, that's not me flying through the air - and we went at night.

Taking a flying trapeze class kicked my ass. Somehow jumping out of a plane with a guy strapped to my back in September didn't scare me, but grabbing a 10 lb. bar while dangling off a platform 23 ft. above the ground did.

Granted, I couldn't see anything because I didn't dare to wear glasses (and couldn't get my act together in time to come up with another solution). The whole experience is so disorienting - flying through the air, not seeing anything, all the echoes of the tent and the traffic of the West Side Highway blending together...I knew that there was someone yelling instructions to me, but I couldn't hear it. I also knew - intellectually - what my body was supposed to be doing, but I had no idea what my body actually was doing.

In fact, I still don't know - looking at the bruises I have on my knees, upper arm and side, clearly something kicked my ass. Could it really have been the net I landed on?

Overall I'm really glad I did it - after all, as Tim said, bemoaning that you're not good at trapeze is like saying you're no good at swimming with sharks. But still, I can't help but say, I totally sucked.

Hopefully in retrospect I can look back on it with fondness, remembering Manny, the hot guy that strapped me in. In the meantime, my muscles are killing me and I can barely get dressed in the morning, and I know I'll probably never see Manny again. Thank God for Deborah, my massage therapist at Crunch. Oh, sweet relief....

May 16, 2006

LA Day 3

There's this big weekly party on Tuesdays at the Standard so there was a huge line outside tonight when I pulled up to the valet. I could get in no problem as a hotel guest but I've chosen to hang out in my room and watch an episode of Nash Bridges next to a pile of day-old pancakes, which I keep nibbling on. I'm no snob.

It was a busy day starting at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast at the Mondrian's restaurant Asia de Cuba, which was more Cuba than Asia but as far as huevos rancheros go, excellent. Though dreary like NYC when we woke up, the sun eventually came out during a nice drive out to Santa Monica, where we wasted some time on the Pier and my face got a little color. It was a reprieve from my day full of meetings, which ended nicely at the Beverly-Wilshire lounge (and a fantastic manchego cheese plate, plus the complimentary spicy nuts and olives and breads).

Instead of joining my colleagues for a margarita-soaked Mexican dinner I went to the LA branch of my weekly cold reading series, but it was a total bust. When I left early I had convinced myself that my car had been stolen because I just didn't remember parking that far down the street. Fortunately I didn't lose my mind and kept walking.

Rounding out the night was a quick stop at Amoeba, a half hour before they closed, where I snagged the Greg Dulli solo album, Mark Geary's latest, and a MTV-branded bhangra compilation from India. Can't wait to listen.

May 15, 2006

LA Day 2

OK, so I didn't ride the mechanical bull. I realize it's a life-long dream, but I just couldn't while full on beef and in front of my coworkers. I needed Maria or Edith or Dan or some other encouragement, not the demands of people who expect me to live up to a certain stereotype that I'm not sure I fit.

Nevertheless, Saddle Ranch had some damn good tri tip and garlic mashed potatoes. It took a second to get them to bring me just a regular margarita (not a huge one, not a smoking one) and now I'm not drunk but just tired.

We went there after throwing a musical showcase at the Silent Movie Theater, which tapped into some weird past life / karmic / genetic destiny instinct that made me feel very comfortable there. Must be nice to see your name in lights.

So now I'm back and looking at leftover pancakes from this morning's breakfast at the Griddle Cafe. Fantastic plate-sized pancakes survive takeout containers pretty well and taste almost as good cold.

I thought I would be kind of bored for the next two days but it looks like I'll be pretty busy so I'd better get to bed soon. My face is slightly sunburned and I have to drive myself around tomorrow (thank you Tim) so I must be well-rested.

May 14, 2006

LA Day 1

Back in LA on business and the usual dread I feel about the West Coast isn't so bad today, but then again all I had to do was fly JetBlue with Tim and hang out today.

For the first time I'm staying at The Standard Hollywood, my normal breakfast spot. My room is great, and the executive chef David Linville fed me a huge chocolate-covered strawberry and generously topped off my glass of champagne. I felt a little out-of-sorts because Extreme Makeover was having their wrap party here tonight, which meant the pool was closed.

Fortunately, they gave us access to the pool at the Chateau Marmont, which is gorgeously nestled amongst much foliage and several bungalows.

After a quick swim, Tim and I went to El Compadre for dinner, where I had two flaming margaritas and we shared a chile relleno before I had the usual, carne asada. It reminded me of New York, namely Mexico Lindo the restaurant I live above. Really dark and cozy, our booth was almost like our own bungalow we dreamed of having whilst swimming at the Chateau Marmont.