Portland Part Two, Hawaii Part One

This’ll be a quick update; it is getting to be bed time.

Some interesting things happened in Portland. Mags and I were supposed to stay, for nights two and three, with a couchsurfer who had previously stayed with me in San Francisco. We got to the place and it was a complete wreck. Horrible smell from the cat and dog, an old cooked turkey on the kitchen counter, a huge trashcan full of empty beer bottles/cans, a deflated air mattress that meant we got to sleep on the floor. We stuck it out for that one night but then we got the hell out of there as soon as we could. Our first host invited us back for night three. Staying with him was great. Him and his roommates were so awesome. Family-style meals every night there and great conversation.

There were also some highlights, though, from the rest of the Portland trip. The day that I escaped early from the filthy apartment I needed to destress, so I spent most of the day local. Burger/beer and coffee shop until dinner, when we met up with an old friend of Mags’ for sushi and arcade games. On Sunday I mostly made it my mission to make a second trip to Powell’s books. I also got the joy of riding my rental bike in the freezing rain.

We got to Hawaii on Monday morning after an overnight layover in San Francisco. We had lunch in the North Shore area, then came home, napped, and made dinner (mmm, fish with mango salsa). The kids are calling me pop pop because of my beard.

Yesterday we went to the beach and then watched about four episodes of Heroes. Pretty relaxed time here 🙂

We’d also like to go to a luau, go on a hike, and explore Honolulu. Adios!

Portland Part One

Mags and I woke up at the break of…well actually at the break of nothing. We woke up at 4:30am. We BARTed it to the airport and I promptly slept through the entire flight to Portland.

The first pleasant surprise in Portland was that the light rail picks you up right outside of baggage claim. We made it to our wonderful host’s house that he shares with three roommates and then went out to a wonderful pho lunch.

Mags and I then headed to City Bikes Cooperative to rent a couple of bikes. Nice folks there. I think I have been in four co-ops in Portland now. It is a welcome sight.

We took our bikes along the east and west banks of the Willamette River on the Esplanade, which is a walk- and bike-friendly area mostly consisting of separated pathways. Some of the views were really beautiful. A few places that we stopped:
Umpqua Ice Cream: had some delicious spumoni ice cream
The Aerial Tram: Super-futuristic looking gondola thing that takes you quickly up a hill to some university hospital. Beautiful views. If only we had thought to take our bikes up there so we could ride them back down…
Shareit Square: Some residents completely redid an intersection, painting the roadway and setting up little tables and benches on each of the four corners, including a free tea station and a free book exchange station, both unattended.

It is nice biking in Portland. Throughout the whole of yesterday and so far today, I haven’t been honked at ONCE.

Last night, our wonderful host cooked for us. Mags went to bed, and then our host and I went our bar hopping along Alberta Street. Fun times.

Today, Mags is in her Physical Therapy class so I am on my own. I started by getting some hippie-dippie breakfast which was delicious. I then went to an Army Navy surplus store where I got four shirts for $22. Already feeling hungry again, I went to Hot Lips Pizza for some good pizza and some great blackberry soda that they make themselves. Now I am at the Red and Black Cafe, a worker-owned and -managed cafe in the Southeast. Today is my southeast day.

Other stops today were a nice co-op grocery store and a computer place that refurbishes/repurposes used computers and puts them to good use. It is volunteer run.

Tonight Mags and I are heading to our next host’s place. This guy stayed with me in San Francisco for a week so it’ll be good to see him again.

Adios, loyal readers!


Tomorrow morning, I will be leaving for a much-needed vacation. Mags and I are going first to Portland until Sunday, and then we are off to Hawaii on Monday until April 5, to see Tim, Kelly, and their two boys. I can’t wait!

Trip to New York, Day 6

Yesterday was not as much of a success as the previous days. It started off pretty well. I headed out to The Bronx, where I made Tino’s Delicatessen my destination. Of course I walked around the neighborhood some too, and I liked what I saw. There were a lot of people out on the streets. I also liked the unique, tall brick residential buildings. My sandwich at the deli was spot on.

After dodging the rain a bit, I made my way to the Upper East Side in Manhattan. There, I visited a ridiculously overpriced cafe called Via Quadronno. I just had a latte and some gelato, both of which were pretty good, and it kept the cost down. I dodged some more rain drops and got on the subway to head to Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan’s East Village. My purpose for going here was to attend an anarchist meeting. I was sorely disappointed and discouraged that no one showed up for the meeting.

From there, I walked, which was stupid of me because of the rain, to Revival where there was a CouchSurfing event. I met some nice people and I met some bizarre people. But it was fun. I also got a “I Couch NY” shirt, where the couch is a graphic instead of a word – a spoof on the “I Heart NY” shirts. After this I headed back to the place in Brooklyn. I stayed up all night doing laundry, packing my stuff and talking. At about 5:30am I made my way to the bus stop, where I caught a bus to Boston, which is where I am right now. I’m looking forward to my two days here.

Trip to New York, Day 5

I am not in much of a writing mood today so this may be a bit short. But I can always update it later.

I started the day yesterday by bumming around Chinatown for a bit. Nothing too exciting. Then I met up with the Harlem couch surfer for lunch; I feel much better about the situation from the other night even though it still doesn’t make much sense. We had some pretty good Vietnamese food.

He recommended to me that I go to Bluestockings book store, so I trekked over there. I believe I actually fell in love with the book store. My love for it might be equivalent to my love for City Lights. I picked up a few books and a t-shirt for myself and a friend.

After that, I walked back to Chinatown and got a massage. It was the first paid massage I’ve ever had and it was awesome. Only $21 for 31 minutes too. I might go back today.

I then walked over to Greenwich Village in a post-massage daze to meet people for pizza and gelato. Both were tasty and delicious. The normal activity of having a few drinks at a bar followed in unspectacular fashion, but we still had good conversation of course. Back to the Bushwich loft we went to hang out on the rooftop again.

Yesterday was a good day. Today I hope to go somewhere in Brooklyn, maybe a more relaxed day to do some reading. Tonight there is an anarchist meeting I will go to.

Trip to New York, Day Four

Yesterday was a bit more relaxed than day three. As noted previously, I woke up on a couch that was too small for me. Not having a remarkably comfy bed to sink into, I woke up early, at about 9am, considering that I went to sleep at about 6am. The other three people in the apartment slept surprisingly late! Not that I minded. It gave me plenty of time to write on here and Yelp.

Once people were up and about at about 2:30pm, we went across the street to Tasty Thai, which was remarkably lacking in the taste department, at least for my red curry dish. My friend and I then made our way to 5 Pointz, a huge building covered in some excellent graffiti. I took pictures, of course. That was neat but there is only so long you can look at something.

Unfortunately we had our bags with us which was a little bit of a pain, but we forged onward nonetheless. The next stop was Strand Book Store near Union Square. This is a spectacular place with mostly used books but also rare books and discounted new ones. I picked up a book called The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse for 48 cents. The text from the back is as follows:

A boy named Jack sets out to seek his fortune in the big city, but when he finally gets there, it is Toy City, formerly known as Toy Town. There is a serial killer loose upon the streets. One by one, the old, rich nursery rhyme characters are being brutally slaughtered. The Toy City police are getting nowhere. Bill Winkie, Private Eye, has also mysteriously vanished, leaving only his sidekick, Eddie Bear, to take care of business. But Eddie is ready, and when he teams up with Jack, the two set out on an epic adventure, not to mention a lot of heavy drinking, bad behavior, fast car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, bizarre toy fetishism and all-round grossness of a type not normally associated with Toy Town.

It sounds like an enthralling read.

We didn’t browse for as long as I would have liked to, on account of the bags and also the fact that we had to get to our respective sleeping locations. But that didn’t stop us from first dropping by Coffee Bar, which I can’t find a link for, for a couple of drinks and some cheese fries.

Off I went to the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn. I arrived at this spectacular old building that was now being used as housing in the form of lofts. The naked guy was indeed there, but everyone else was clothed. Honestly it didn’t really bother me. He was otherwise a pretty normal guy. After a few hours of rooftop revelry, I went to sleep on a sleeping bag located on the floor. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I would have imagined, but certainly not that comfortable either! Joining me in the loft were four people that actually lived there and six other couch surfers, if I am counting correctly. I like it here. It is a very festive and communal environment. I’ll be here for the next two nights as well.

Today I am going to probably get lunch with the guy that ditched me in Harlem the other night; I really don’t think he meant to so I won’t hold it against him. And then I want to check out Revolution Books. For dinner I am meeting people in Brooklyn for pizza. After that is open.

I am still having a great time.

Trip to New York, Day Three

Well yesterday was an interesting day.

It started off calm enough. I did my laundry and then headed to Cafe Nijasol around the corner to get something to eat. Nothing special, but it was a good way to start my day. After saying goodbye to my CouchSurfing host, with the hopes that we’ll hang out again, I headed back into Manhattan.

My first goal of the day was to go back to the library near Times Square, since it was closed on Sunday. What a beautiful building it was. And the reading room was great – huge, painted ceiling and rows and rows of nice wooden tables. Surely a good place to read. But what do people usually read? Books, magazines and newspapers. This library was sorely lacking in all three. I had anticipated that I would be browsing for at least a couple of hours. This was obviously not possible. I kid you not, this gigantic library had a lack of things to read. It is an understatement to say I was disappointed.

From there I walked to the now somewhat famous Apple store near Central Park. The motivation for doing so was because I had left my iPhone charger at home, and this would be a problem now that I wasn’t staying with someone that had an iPhone. But also I figured I would pick that particular Apple store since it was rather unique – it is a glass cube above ground and you walk underground to actually shop. It is also open 24 hours per day. The inside was absolutely ridiculous. Surely it wasn’t very large. But people were packed like sardines in there. I have a couple of pictures which I will post later. Well, I was glad I saw it but it was time to go.

From there I want down to Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, where I was told I might be able to find some interesting characters that would fit in with my mission of exploring New York’s activist side. Well, I didn’t find the bicycle messengers that supposedly hung out here, which seemed appropriate considering that they usually hang out in a financial district during the middle of the day. But after sitting for a little bit I noticed a guy in an anarchist shirt. I didn’t actually talk to him, but when another fellow he was hanging out with came over and asked me what someone else had said to me (he was referring to a young lady trying to give me a sushi menu), I followed up by making some inquiries into the activist community. Actually I specifically asked him if he knew of any troublemakers, in a good way, that I could talk to. We talked for a little bit and he gave me a name and a number to call.

I took the name and number and made my way to Manitoba’s, right around the corner from the park. There I engaged in such activities as drinking beer, reading (currently Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto), conversation, watching TV and charging my iPhone. There were two things worth noting here. The first thing, which doesn’t imply a greater importance over the second thing, was that I had something called, I think, Pennant Ale. It was good. Secondly, I asked the bartender a similar question that I had asked the man in the park. And although he said he wasn’t involved in politics, he gave me the same name that the man in the park gave me. I will be calling this mysterious man, maybe try to buy him lunch and pick his brain.

Now it was time to head to Meskerem, an Ethiopian restaurant in Greenwich Village where I met up with a friend and two of her friends. The food was good but the service really brought down the experience for us. We moved next door to MacDougal Street Ale House, an unspectacular bar where we had a good time. Although they did have Magic Hat #9, which remains my favorite beer. Unfortunately it isn’t sold on the west coast.

Here comes the interesting part. I had invited my CouchSurfing host to dinner with us. He had accepted originally and then canceled, saying he was too tired. So far, no problem. I asked him what time I should be to his apartment by, and he told me by 1am would be fine. At 1am I had arrived at his apartment in Harlem. I called twice. I rang the buzzer twice. No answer. I decided not to hang around for too long, especially since I was carrying my crammed bookbag, which made me look out of place. So I headed to Popeye’s where I could sit for a little while to give this guy a chance to call. I was eating chicken that I wasn’t hungry for at 1:30am in Harlem. Meanwhile, I sent a text message to my friend letting her know what is going on. The guy didn’t call and my friend said that I could stay with her CouchSurfing host. So I headed back to Greenwich Village. The bars here are open until 4am. Darts were played.

At probably around 3:30am we get in a cab to head to the host’s place, which is in New Jersey. Evidently there was a misunderstanding on what the cab fare would be, because we were quoted at $85 before we left. So we declined. The cabbie was very nice about it…The two other people we were with offered for us to stay at their place. Very nice of them. After a long subway ride, we arrived at their apartment in Queens. Amazingly, we stayed up until 6am discussing literature. Or, at least they discussed it. I didn’t chime in very much; literature isn’t exactly my strong point. In any case, I slept on a couch that was too small for me, sleeping in the sitting up position that I fell asleep in for a while, before switching to a legs-on-the-arm-rest position. Not the most comfortable sleep but amazingly I awoke today feeling pretty refreshed.

All in all it ended pretty well considering that I got ditched by my host. I am trying to figure out what to do in terms of a bad reference or whatnot. This morning he text messaged me asking me what happened last night, as if couldn’t tell that he slept through my calls and buzzes. I responded telling him that I called and I buzzed, and he seemed to think it was strange that he missed it, claiming to have been awake until 2:30am. But he did confirm that he saw the missed calls on his phone. Anyway, it is annoying, but I am still alive so it is OK!

Here’s to hoping the rest of my trip will be just as interesting as yesterday was, hopefully without the whole being ditched in Harlem at 1am part.

Trip to New York, Day Two

I had a great time yesterday. I started off by seeking out some lunch. On Yelp I found Ganni’s Pizza. It had good ratings but it was a bit of a letdown. The sauce sucked. But it’s OK, I only got one slice.

From there I went to Brownstoner’s Brooklyn Flea Market. Lots of neat stuff there, but I didn’t buy anything. Well, I did stand in a giant line a buy a taco. And a tamarind drink. Delicious.

On the walk from the apartment to the pizza place and the pizza place to the flea market, I walked through some neighborhoods that had a large Hasidic Jewish population. Something you’re not going to run into in San Francisco, as far as I know.

From the flea market, I hopped on the subway and headed over to the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side. I walked across the bridge, which was nice. I am currently uploading the pictures; I’ll put some up later. (Update: photo added below)

When I got into Manhattan I decided to check out the main library, which was conveniently very close to Grand Central Station, which I also wanted to see. Unfortunately, the library is closed on Sundays during the summer. This was a real shame as there were actually about a dozen people sitting outside of the front door of the library, reading. I am sure they would have rather been inside. I am planning on going back to the library today.

The library may have been closed, but I still wanted to read. So I hopped on Yelp and found Universal News and Cafe. The newspaper and magazine selection was better than anything I have seen in San Francisco. I picked up a few things and then got back on the subway. I met up with Greg in the DUMBO neighborhood. We headed over to an all-organic restaurant, the name of which escapes me at the moment. From there we went to the Lower East Side in Manhattan, near NYU, where we had a surprisingly difficult time finding a bar. But find one we did. Of course I don’t remember the name of that place either. But I do remember that we drank Brooklyn Lager, which was delicious. I have had some really good beer so far on this trip.

From there I headed back to Brooklyn to my host’s apartment. This morning I am just doing a bit of laundry and, obviously, writing. Unfortunately it is raining right now. Tonight I will be staying in Harlem. Onward!

Trip to New York, Day One

So far, so good.

After a late night Friday night, I got approximately two hours of sleep in my clothes and with the light on (I find it easier to wake up if it feels like I was just napping). Hopped on the airport shuttle, which sucked because it is more expensive than BART, which wasn’t running that early. The flight was unremarkable but comfortable, considering I was in the back row where my seat wouldn’t go back all the way. I flew Virgin America, which I had been wanting to do, but really they are pretty much like all the other airlines despite the hype. They did have purple mood lighting, which both didn’t put me in a purple mood and also was a little bit annoying. Some of the features on the seat-back display weren’t implemented yet, such as the Internet. And their much-vaunted chat feature was a letdown, by no fault of their own. I joined the airplane-wide chat room and stayed there for over an hour while I read, and was a bit surprised when no one else joined.

Anyway, that is enough about my plane ride. I got to JFK airport with my one backpack – I am really happy about my light packing abilities – and sought out the subway. I was amazed at the size of the airport – it was just massive. Once I arrived at the subway station it was pretty intuitive on how to get where I wanted, which included a transfer. I really loved the subway stations. They were old, run down in a very-lovingly-used sort of way and most of them had their own style and character. A marked difference with BART in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I arrived at my gracious host’s apartment (from CouchSurfing) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She was very nice and conversational from the moment I arrived. After a little while of shooting the shit and a much needed shower, we headed around the corner to DuckDuck for a beer. It is always nice being on the East Coast where I can get a Yuenling. By the way, I won’t say too much about each of the bars and restaurants I go to because I will be reviewing them all on Yelp; my New York Yelp map is at the bottom of this post.

After that we met up with a couple of my host’s friends and headed to a beer garden. What, did they do a personality check on me beforehand and figure out exactly what I would want to do? They nailed it. This place was great. I got some delicious German beer, a whole liter of it in one mug, and a brat with fries.

After that we went to another high-end beer bar where I had some more of the best beer I’ve ever had. I had some great conversation with all three people I was out with.

We finished the night off at a pizza place at 1:30am, and while it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a New York pizza joint, it came pretty close. The pizza was delicious – you might say it “hit the spot.”

Off to bed I went on a comfortable air mattress. One note – it stays HOT at night in New York. Not that I didn’t expect that. But I slept pretty well. Today I am off to a flea market and then I will probably meet up with Greg later. I’ll try to actually get some pictures today.

What’s this?

Old(er) Stu Teaches Young(er) Stu

Ah, young(er) Stu, how much you don’t know. Going on a trip? Don’t get a hotel, Couch Surf. Bring a suitcase? I don’t think so. Pack few clothes and just use the laundromat.

You’ll learn eventually, young buck.