Category Archives: USA

My Favorite San Francisco Spots

A few of my friends have headed to San Francisco lately so I’ve been copy/pasting an email lots. I figured I’d just put it on the blog and point folks there. So here goes – some of my favorite places in San Francisco.

  • Toronado. One of my top 5 beer bars in the world.
  • Rosamunde. Awesome sausage stand next to Toronado.
  • Hama Ko. Tiny sushi place that’s celebrated for its food and atmosphere.
  • House of Nanking. Chinese place in Chinatown that will make you feel like a local.
  • Stinking Rose. Garlic themed restaurant, if you’re into that.
  • Bourbon and Branch. It’s a speak easy. The password is “books”.
  • Go see a SF Giants, Oakland A’s or SF 49ers game. I wouldn’t recommend going to see the Raiders, though, unless you’re a big fan.
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Selling Everything To Travel The World

I put the following ad on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago.

As the title says, selling everything I own to go out and travel. Not giving up on materialism, just pawning it. There’s much more of the world out there than in here anyway; I’m not getting rid of anything but attachment to these things. But forget the metaphysics, you’re here about the stuff for sale.

No reasonable offer refused. Unreasonable, impossible or quixotic offers encouraged. Everything for sale except soul (it’s a bit tattered but I still want to keep it). A partial list:

  • Vintage stereo gear
  • Beds
  • CF light bulbs
  • Knife set
  • My grandmother’s iron skillet
  • Pollen
  • Halloween and Christmas decorations
  • Table
  • Guitar
  • Mystery gifts
  • Furniture
  • Blank CDs
  • Egg timer
  • Books
  • XL t-shirts
  • Really big kids’ night shirts
  • Pre-cut-up-rags
  • Dressers
  • Empty boxes
  • Unused toilet paper
  • Halloween and Christmas decorations
  • A sombrero
  • My former work clothes
  • Maps
  • Car
  • A broken clock that came with the house (it may be fixable, I haven’t taken it off the wall to find out)
  • Glassware, barware, silverware, underwear (update: already sold the underwear)
  • Lots and lots of computer stuff, including servers, laptops, cables, routers, hubs, switches, monitors, etc.
  • …and many other things

All items sold as-is, but will be accurately described. Cause I’ve got karma to worry about!

So what’s in my future? Thanks for asking! Heading to Armenia for about 6-months. Then, who knows. Love to go to Argentina for a while so maybe I’ll work on that. India would be cool. And I haven’t been to Africa or Antarctica yet so those are on my list at some point. Oh, speaking of which I’ve got travel books for sale too. You never know when you’ll want to know where the blues bar is in Riga (sorry, they don’t do BBQ there). Or break a tooth in Tibet and need to find a dentist (your choices there are pretty grim, but the military hospital can patch you up).

I’m going to try making a living blogging (http://meanderingwoods.com – tell your friends) and photography. Maybe dabble in a little geopolitical discourse. Maybe set up a food stand and sell fish tacos wherever I am. That’d be a novelty in Russia! You know, whatever.

I got rid of a lot of stuff, made a few dollars and met a lot of cool people. And some weirdos too, like the guy who yelled at me for not being at home at 10pm the night before the yard sale when he came banging on my door. But mostly good folks, many interested in hearing my story as much as shopping.

Some of what I sold I was happy to be rid of. I sold off some furniture that I had no real attachment to, and some old stuff that was cluttering up my place but that I couldn’t bear to just throw out. Selling it off was a bonus – getting money to have people come and clean up.

But some of my stuff was hard to get rid of. I’d spent a lifetime acquiring and admiring it, and now I was giving it up. Like backpacks I took through Europe, books I enjoyed reading and kind of wanted to keep, my bed and sheets that I spent so many mornings of refuge in, while we both cursed the alarm clock for ringing so loudly so early.  It wasn’t just that I ws letting go of these things, it was that the value I placed on them personally was so much more than the yard sale value. And that was hard. If I’d parted with a precious object for $1M I’d feel adequately compensated. But for $1 it hurt.

But that was a cathartic process. Getting rid of the old things that kept me tied down. That freed me up to truly feel like I could travel without leaving so much behind. And that was good.

Meandering in NOLA

I found myself in New Orleans over the weekend. I’ve been here twice before, but neither time was to see the city; each time was to be a part of a more generic tourist horde.

Once was in college when Mardi Gras coincided with Spring Break. A bunch of friends got together and all pitched in some sum of money that was almost a night’s stay. Then we packed ourselves – 6 if memory serves – into the biggest car we had drive the 10 hours from Atlanta. Space was limited so wardrobe was too. That wasn’t a bad thing since, given the general level of mess everywhere on Bourbon Street (the main Mardi Gras tourist party area), whatever you wore was sure to get ruined. If you’ve been you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t end up seeing much of anything outside of that debaucherous corridor.

The second time I was here was for a bachelor party and the results were similar. Lots of booze, little sleep and not much scenery. Ended up missing my flight, camping out at the airport all day waiting on a standby seat, then staying the night to take the first flight out Monday morning. Strike two for me here.

This time though the reason for the trip was not revelry, so I stood a good chance at getting to take in the culture.

Walked down Magazine Street, a quiet shopping street. Magazine has mostly smaller shops, unlike so many other similar streets in other cities like Boulder or New York. But then those places don’t have a Bourbon Street.

Grabbed a beer at The Bulldog which boasts over 80 beers on tap. They also have a beer tap fountain on the patio.

Even though I was stuffed I am a sucker for a good burrito. That’s how I found myself in Juan’s Flying Burrito. Great place, fantastic burrito.

Found a place called the Circle Bar. Lots of people standing outside a house, amongst buildings where no house should be. Accidentally happened into front row seats for the concert about to start.

That’s how I met Lips. She’s a singer in a band (Lips and the Trips) and invited me to come see her perform the next night at a coffee shop. So I said why not. They were good and got me into yet a different part of the town – equally as nice and quiet.

Then I headed down Frenchmen Street. That’s an area of town where live music is squeezed out of every corner and cubby and mixes together like a cajun dish or creole language. Went to a place called dba on a recommendation and it was fantastic. Good jazzy blues band played and some great beers on tap and in bottle, including the fantastic Racer 5 from Bear Republic.

All in all it was a great trip. I did make the requisite migration to Bourbon Street, but unlike a decade ago I found it didn’t interest me at all. It seemed just a smelly alley compared to the rest of the city. I know many people for whom New Orleans is their favorite city. And it’s growing on me too. It may not be San Francisco or Lasa, but it feels comfortable to me now. Just one good trip was all it took to wash away the iniquity of past lives there. So I’m looking forward to the next time I get the chance to head there.

NYC Sunset

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Flag and Rainbow

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Baltimore for Halloween

Flew into Baltimore for the weekend. I’d never been there before, but figured it’d be a good place to go for Halloween. The forecast earlier in the week was for sunny and mild temperatures. But by the time I arrived it’d been downgraded to cold and rainy, with a chance of flurries. Damn. Oh well, try to make the best of it. I took some notes and some photos and here they are.

Max’s Empanadas in Little Italy is a small lively Argentine joint. Funky music, funky paintings, photos from around the world, and of course Argentine wine. The empanada is a dish I traditionally associate with Mexico, but it makes sense that there would be a broader use of the term. Certainly the dish isn’t local to Latin America – its fried dumplings or gnocchi or pirogi in other parts of the world. Here at Max’s it’s delicious. It seems like a great neighborhood spot and a hidden gem down a side street.

Fell’s Point is an eclectic area. The main street is called Broadway and it is a broad way. Lined with bars and storefronts, it’s a nice place for a stroll. This is THE place to be on Halloween in Baltimore. All the revelers come out in costume to see and be seen. The uniqueness of each costume made identifying the people much easier. So their behavior was made more apparent as they’d hop in one door, out another (many bars seem to have two doors), in again, out again. Like ants into and out of a mound, or like an episode of Benny Hill.

I visited a couple of restaurants in this area and both were good. Lebanese Taverna had a good Halloween party, with proceeds to benefit the Edgar Allan Poe House – a charity dedicated to preserving the legacy of the famous Baltimoron…Baltimorean…Baltemorite…whatever. The food was good, as was the specialty Raven beer, from a local brewery also participating in the event. Obrycki’s Seafood is a great place to get crabs. It’s been popularized by many TV shows and articles on the Internet.

On Sundays, there’s a Farmer’s Market & Bazaar that looks to have some of everything. I particularly enjoyed the Mexican crepes.

Some Notes on Savannah

Went to Savannah for a quick stopover and took some notes on some places I stopped into.

The Jinx (formerly the Velvet Elvis Lounge) is a quaint little metal joint with perpetual Halloween decor. Metal music, perpetual Halloween decor. What else do you need? Apparently it’s back open after being shut for a while. Just a good old hole in the wall place.

Went to the Moon River Brewing Company on a recommendation. Seems like there were a lot of large parties of ladies. But that’s about all that’d be going back for – not the food or the beer. If you’re up for mediocre you can give it a try, but if you want something memorable try someplace else.

The Social Club is apparently a new kid on the block in Savannah. There was quite an eclectic crowd, so great for people watching. Lots of guys that looked like they took the short bus from the frat house – always good to laugh at. Those were offset by the hipster crowd, some folks with salt-and-pepper hair (now that I’m mid-30s I won’t call them old) and others. Pretty good band was playing. I was skeptical of the white-haired, tie-dye shirt flautist and harmonicist.

When heading to the Social Club I passed by a place called Rogue Water that I felt call to me. As I passed back by it it called to me again and so I stepped in. Another great hole in the wall place. They’ve got an upstairs bar that I went to. The bartender was as cheezy as they come – but good cheezy. He looked like he’d just stepped out of a classic 70s film. The upstairs was rocking late 70s early 80s music. They’ve also got a back area with some lounge space and another bar upstairs in the back. Noticed a sign that said they do beer pong and punk on Wednesdays. Wonder if they rent bar stools by the month…

Tracking Your Trip With Your Phone

For a while I’ve been trying to find a device that will let me track myself wherever I go to map out my routes. Then when I got an iPhone I figured there’d be an app for that. Google Latitude came close, but no cigar. But I’ve found a great one!

Turns out, my iPhone tracks what cell towers I’m connected to and stores that data on the phone for a year. Well that’s not going to give you GPS-quality coordinates, but it’s certainly enough for me to show a trip I took and map things out roughly. There’s even an app for that (Mac only for now). Here’s where I’ve been in the last year.

There’s apparently a similar cell tower log file on Android-based phones too. This information has apparently been known for a while, but was just brought up and publicized recently as a security or privacy risk. But that risk is pretty low, considering that someone would have to already have your phone or computer to get the information. And if the data helps you do something positive, then it’s a pretty cool feature. I’d love to see Apple build out a service or piece of software that would accentuate this!

…And Back Again

Many readers of this blog will be familiar with my first trip around the world. It was the impetus for starting meanderingwoods to begin with. Well now I’m headed back around the world. I’m leaving in less than a week.

As great as the first trip was, it had one fatal flaw. The direction we took – east to west – sent us traveling with the time zones. When we passed the International Date Line we effectively jumped ahead one day. We continued around and never got that day back. Our bodies ticked off one day less than the calendar. That means we lost a day of our lives in transit. Well I intend to get that day back.

Phileas Fogg had the opposite problem in Around the World in 80 Days – he didn’t realize he’d gained a day. He left from London, heading east. He kept very detailed logs of his journey and it totaled 81 days. But when he arrived home he discovered, to his surprise, that the folks back there thought he’d only been gone 80 days! It’s a bit like time travel, if only on paper.

So that’s what I intend to do. Go from west to east around the world to get back my lost day. Starting in Atlanta I’m flying to Bangalore, India (by way of Amsterdam and Mumbai). Then to Seoul, South Korea with a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then back around to Atlanta through Detroit, and arrive shortly after I left Seoul. Here are a couple of graphical representations of that trip.

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Download the original Power Point presentation.

Stay tuned for details….

Austin Texas – The Culinary Experience

There is quite a lot of good food in Austin. There’s also some not so good. I ate at some of both while visiting.

Heard about a great breakfast spot called Kerbey Lane Cafe. So I headed over and squeezed into a parking spot – it was crowded – and went on in. Got a spot at the bar right away (one of the benefits of traveling and eating alone is you usually get a seat quickly). The bartender was a frenzy of activity. Sunday morning here, as most places, means hair of the dog in the form of mimosas and bloody maries. The guy must have made a hundred of these while I was seated. The bartender never had to pause as he juggled OJ, vodka, coffee, food, and all the other myriad tasks he had to do. Watching him work was worth the price of admission alone. Great food, world class service, inexpensive and very highly recommended.

If you’re out at night on 6th street, it’s worth it to sample some of the street food. That’s one of my favorite styles anywhere and it’s gratifying to see it here where it lacks in so many other American cities. Three patterns stand out among the street food of Austin: pizza, sausage and food trucks. The first two are self-explanatory. And so is the third, really. It’s a pretty simple formula – get an old truck, van, camper, bus or whatever you can find, put a kitchen in it and hang out a sign. They’re all over. Unfortunately the one run-in I had wasn’t good. But then again I went against my better judgement and got some fake buffalo wings. Some kind of fake soy-based chicken-like substance deep fried and tossed in hot sauce. The sauce was good and they were cooked well, but the imposter meat substitute was like juicy sawdust. Steer clear of that abomination and you should be good.

I have to say, I’ve never understood the Texican fascination with barbecued beef brisket. I’ve yet to have any that compared favorably to a better than average pork BBQ. I just don’t get the fascination with it. You take perfectly good steak and don’t cook it like a steak? How is that supposed to be awesome? Maybe it’s an acquired taste to ruin something great, like when the X-Files kept filling their shows with the conspiracy theory stuff. It was just misleading and dull. Kind of like brisket.

But putting my personal feelings aside I tried two of the finer establishments. In beef barbecue that means one was in the middle of a cattle field and the other was at a gas station. No really, that’s not a snarky comment these were the two most highly recommended places in town. The first place I won’t mention, but when you ask around town it’ll be the first place mentioned. I stopped by the one up in Round Rock, just north of the city. My appetizers were the waft of manure that would occasionally waft in and the feast of flesh my eyes got looking at the waitresses and clientele. Both reminded me that just outside Austin, Texas lurks. The ribs were alright but weren’t anything to write about (despite the current activity I’m engaged in). The pinto beans were bland. The cole slaw was essentially shredded cabbage in vinegar. The potatoes au gratin were cold and that’s the best thing I could say about them.

The second place I visited is called Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. Here too I visited the Round Rock location – where they also serve as a Shell station and convenience store. The highlight was when they asked if I’d eaten there before. I said no and so was pronounced a Rudy’s virgin, entitled to a tasting of their various meats and a walkthrough of the menu and ordering process. It proceeded well and I got to sample some food. I chose my meat – the moist, rather than the lean, cut of brisket, a couple of sides and a Mexican Coke with real sugar. The food was fairly good – the sides were better than the first place and the brisket was tasty. But still after a few bites I found myself wishing they’d made a burger out of it instead.

A couple of places on 6th street I had good luck with I’ve already mentioned when discussing Austin’s nightlife: Jackalope and Casino El Camino.  Jackalope has great quesadillas. Casino El Camino has pretty good burgers. Each has great atmosphere.

There’s a place south of 6th where I had a great breakfast, called Crepe Cafe. Run by an authentic Frenchman (in Texas!) who takes pride in his work. Good coffee there too. And lots of French kitch inside. His wife runs an antique store in town, so I’m told.