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My Worst Flight Ever?

I’m on the worst flight of my life. I have traveled a lot and am happy to report things have never been this bad. It’s exciting in a way! I shall report on my situation in excerpts from my mental travelogue. My hope is that either posterity will know what was my woeful fate or that we’ll all have a laugh together.

I had an inkling things might be not go so well when the majority of people at 6am were checking into last night’s 10:30 flight that had some delays. And on the board every flight since that one proudly called out that it had been delayed before it departed. Why display flights that are gone already, especially when they make you look bad? I dunno. But they did. Luckily mine checked in and started boarding on time. Well, on Armenian time which is to say nobody was in too big a rush to be punctual.

Some things are not the airline’s fault. I mean this Armenia, which is more European than Europe in its people’s befuddlement of the winged train-like object that makes the ground shrink and move underneath you. Using manners perfectly alright for train travel like getting up to walk around as the mechanized wonder is departing, so they can grab the stinky cheese and meat from the overhead, meanwhile the cart of apples spills down the aisle picking up nearly enough speed on the plane’s ascent to breach the back. Things that work on trains just don’t work on planes though. I’m half wondering if there haven’t been more than one confused European who tries to open the door at 30,000 feet to smoke or to find the restaurant car.

There is the old guy who’s never been on a plane next to me. He is testing everything to see if it does something and how it works. That includes the armrest, pulling it up, finding that it lifts and putting it down again before trying the one on the other side. Sure enough it lifts too. On to the tray table for a while then back to the armrests. I can only imagine his sense of wonder when yet again they lift.

Every drink or food tray that comes down the aisle he anticipates and times to make sure he will be served. Leaping towards the aisle to grab at whatever Precious resides within the steel contraption. He reserves the same zeal for darting toward the window to peer at the sea of clouds below.

Then there are your standard bad mannered airline folk on board as well. Like the prototypical screaming kid right behind me. He starts with “I’m MAFIA” and banging his tray table (my seat back) up and down. After a few minutes of this civilized behavior he gets bored and starts kicking the seat and yelling louder. Then his mother says something at him (not to him) in a loud tone enough times that he starts screaming, alternating between shrill bursts and wailing. Then he quiets himself briefly, talks calmly and starts again. The cycle is about 30 minutes long so it should be easy to time the flight.

And once again my arm is crammed into my shoulder before my elbow slides off. It’s more of a yanking upwards than I described above I guess. The way only old men who have done manual labor all their lives can manage. With strength that comes from sinews tightened from years of wrenching loose rusted bolts, plowing fields or maybe pulling locomotives. I don’t know, but the motion is spastic and strong.

But this strength and dexterity fail him when they hand the hot goupy tray on top of the slick box of food. This soon becomes a hot goupy lap full as you might imagine. Two laps full because he has shared his lunch with me. Now I can’t fully blame the old guy for this maneuver, I mean who puts a nuclear hot metal tray on top of a slick paper box and hands the whole contraption over a row of people in a sardine tray?

Armavia, that’s who. The national airline of Armenia would probably be the envy of the 1957 TWA with their modern jets, bulky stewardesses and ability to skillfully save space. Cram six seats in a space most airlines waste on five seats. So much room is wasted on the aisles on other airlines that the carts luxuriously parade up and down the plane, hardly banging anyone on the knee or elbow. Not so Armavia. And why pamper baggage with a regular size overhead compartment? I’m sure on a full flight all the bags will fit in sideways…oh nope I guess they didn’t. Delay while we put check some luggage, hopefully to reemerge either plane side or at the carousel at the destination. Their one luxurious row of first class is protected by a curtain that sits in the chair of a row of cattle class, making it unusable. And the announcement in French sounds like somebody held their phone up to the speaker during an air France announcement and recorded it.

So in my cramped seat I sit, wishing that the air vent worked. Listening to the sweet serenade of “I’m MAFIA” and commiserate with my seat which is taking punishment from as many sides as I am today. The aforementioned hot meal served was hardly a respite, with a date carved into the foil of a week ago exactly. I wasn’t sure if it was the date it was made, supposed to be served or when it would go bad. In any case it was an indicator that I should adopt my strategy of staying alive at third world restaurants and become a vegetarian. So I was able to eat one slice of cheese and one of cucumber, as well as the mint. The chocolate snack looked like the Baby Ruth bar in Caddyshack – slimy and turdlike so I avoided it and withheld my urge to yell “doody!”

Perhaps an ill choice of words. Not more than two hours after lunch it smells as if one of my nearest neighbors has shit himself. I’d blame the kid but he hasn’t let up in his game of trying to snap his tray off. Whereas the old man has gone very still all of a sudden.

Well it turns out to be the kid behind me. What I felt as the pulling on the tray was just his mother changing him on it. He didn’t quite fit – you know they don’t make those trays as big as they should to change your 2 year old. I was suddenly worried that my decision to even eat the cheese and cucumber might have been a bad one.

We circle the city for a while. This is always the worst. Like when the person just in front of you in line takes an interminable amount of time owing to some complaint or error on their part. Or worse over a small amount of money thy are trying to talk the cashier out of. We finally come to the ground and applause erupts as if Nadia Comaneci has just won the gold. Really, planes and pilots do this several times every day. Not once every four years. It’s not an amazing feat of heroism.

As soon as the cheers die down we pause briefly on the tarmac awaiting ground instructions. And we are nearly bounced back into the air by the force of the humanity jumping out of their seats. As per standard practice someone comes on the intercom – Armenian only, they know who it is jumping up. That does nothing except to make the standees talk louder to be heard. And a stewardess walks back as far as the first bunch, telling them to sit again. They look at her, dismiss her with a motion and she returns to her post. Their surprise is audible as the plane lurches forward again to continue to the terminal. Their faces seem to say “How rude to move the plane like that after you’ve stopped it. Don’t blame us if you parked so far away the first time.” The former hero captain now reduced to an idiot in their eyes.

And that is the end of my journey. I have lived again. And with story in hand I head to print it for all the world to read. And maybe to clap at my own feat of heroism and restraint.

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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.

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.

Filipino Cuisine

I was in San Francisco – one of my favorite cities – this week and went to a Filipino restaurant out there. I had no idea what to expect from the food – I was guessing pork-based or heavy on the seafood with Spanish influences. But beyond that I wasn’t sure.

If you can read the menu you can see that it is pork and fish based with Spanish influences. But they’ve also got some stuff that I’ve never seen on a menu before. Like paella with squid ink rice and squid flakes. And grilled cuttlefish stuffed with a fresh salsa-like concoction.

Everything was excellent. My favorite was the cuttlefish. It was less chewy than squid typically is with a little more flavor. You could taste the grilledness in it and the salsa fresca was excellent. The squid ink gave the paella a slight sea taste, though not quite fishy.The squid flakes were dried tentacles and were slightly crunchy.

Good Places To Eat Near Rahway New Jersey

Since I posted my Toxic Waste story, I felt like I should mention some of the good places I ate.

I got some ice cream at the Colonia Dairy Maid and it was excellent. The line was out the door and around the building and stays that way.

Dimple’s Bombay Talk restaurant. Pav Bhaji – dipping bread with a sauce of pureèd tomatos, bell peppers, onions and other veggies. With lime you could squeeze into the dish for taste. I ordered a homemade Malai Kulfi for desert. It was like a small slab of hard ice cream cut into bite size pieces and served on a plate. The flavor was good, not overly sweet and with just a bit of savory.

Dada – The Restaurant

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In Riga there is a restaurant called “Dada” that is based on the surrealist art movement in the early part of the 1900s. Rene Magritte is my favorite Dada-esque artist. He’s the one who made famous the painting of a guy with an apple over his face and the painting of a pipe with the caption “This is not a pipe.” It is, in fact, a representation of a pipe. Dada is basically a movement to create chaos out of order and to do not just the opposite of the expected, but the totally unexpected. So anyway, that’s the backstory of the Dada movement in less than a nutshell. If Steven Hawking can put the Universe in there, I can at least fit the Dada movement in.

The restaurant is an odd duck. The waitresses all create their own uniforms, though this usually means a restaurant t-shirt with a sock taped to it – very un-Dada. When you order food, you order the sauce you want and then you go pick what ingredients you want to put in it. That’s a kind of a cool concept. But look out, they arrange the items from least to most expensive, hoping you’ll fill your bowl up before you cost them too much money. But at about $15 per meal, they can afford it.

So I went to the restaurant and sat down. I was brought a menu and had to ask how to order – nobody had yet explained the above paragraph to me. I ordered the tomato basil and a beer I’d never heard of. When the beer arrived I noticed that I’d accidentally asked for an alcohol-free beer. How very Dada of me. The beer was terrible but the concept was good. I was already spending too much money for the meal and the place wasn’t quite Dada enough for me so I decided to turn it into an experience rather than a dinner.

Then I took my ordering tray and went to get some food. But in typical Dada fashion, I went off the terrace and around the building to go inside. It was a good laugh for me, but I think the fancy pants patrons must have thought I was nuts. I decided to start at the end of the food line – the Dada thing to do – and didn’t have enough room for some of the cheaper stuff. Oh well.

I decided it would be a good idea for me to take notes about the experience so I wouldn’t leave anything out. I wrote in black ink on a black napkin. Very Dada. But now I can’t read it.

The bill arrived in a baby’s shoe. I paid with my largest note, but that was only a 20L (the bill was 8L or about $17 US). But they taught me a lesson about being so Dada. They took 20 or so minutes to come back with my change. When leaving I walked off the platform on the side. The regular entrance to the terrace was mostly blocked anyway so it was kind of necessary. But it was also very Dada.

Geno’s Wins Legal Battle, Still Asses

News today that Geno’s in Philly, a landmark place for cheese steaks, has won its court battle over their policy of not serving people who don’t order in English. I didn’t look into it much, but it seems to be a pretty dumb fight to me. I mean it’s a private business, they have (or should) the right to serve or not serve someone if they can’t understand the order. If I go into a Chinese restaurant and order in German, are they compelled to bring me exactly what I want? And how do you order a “Philly Cheese Steak” in another language without using that phrase?

Anyway, the court battle is over and you can now require that people order from your menu. But the people at Geno’s are still a bunch of jack holes. When I ordered a cheese steak with peppers, mushrooms, and swiss cheese, the guy asked me if I really wanted “all that crap” on there. I guess it’s supposed to be part of its “charm” (people were more friendly in Russia), but to me it was just lame. And it’s not like they’re the only game in town. Pat’s is right across the street and has (IMHO) a better product.

So hats off to you, Geno’s, you can now reserve your dumb comments for those who can understand you. Score one for efficiency.

Big Sky Country

Recently I was in Montana. Big Sky Country. Former home of limitless speeds on the roads. I don’t have time to go into all of the details, but I’ll run down some highlights.

Canadian Passport Stamp
I drove about a half hour from where I was staying to the Canadian border. The crossing closed at 5pm so I had to get there in a hurry. Fortunately, two-lane highways have a 70MPH speed limit. Along the way, I passed a US Coast Guard station. Strange. When I got to the border, the guard asked me the standard question of why I was coming to the country. I told him that I was close by on some business and just wanted to get a stamp in my passport. He clearly wasn’t expecting this answer and seemed to think it was kind of a novel thing. He was friendly and polite (no, I’m not just stereotyping, he actually WAS friendly and polite) and after a few more routine questions and answers (and one non-routine one – he asked who I was doing business with and I said that I couldn’t tell him because of a non-disclosure agreement) he went in and stamped my passport.

I turned around and headed back to the American border. The guard acted a bit differently, approaching the car from behind like a police officer approaching a possibly hostile driver. He asked why I was in Canada and I told him that I was just there to get a stamp. He asked if I was the one who had just gone across and turned around and came back (a fact that I would have thought obvious) and said he’d still like to check the trunk. I opened the empty trunk and he closed it after a quick glance. He verified that I wasn’t some kind of wanted criminal and sent me on my way.

An American who has a Canadian stamp on his passport is pretty rare and I’m one of the only of my friends who has it. Score one for me.

Fast Food
If you ever get the chance to eat at Taco John’s, don’t. The food is pretty terrible. It makes Taco Bell look like a five-star gourmet place.

I stopped into a Wendy’s and it took them fifteen minutes from the time I ordered to get my food. I’d nearly finished my baked potato by the time the burger got there. There were four people working in the back, but only one was doing anything. One was filling up coffee cups with tea because he didn’t know the difference. One was walking around doing air drums against the walls.

At one point an apparent off duty employee came in to ask for her check. She also talked to the guy who didn’t know tea from coffee. Apparently the rumors around school was that the he was going to be quitting the job because the girl was sexually harassing him there. The manager came over and said that they shouldn’t be talking about it at the restaurant in front of customers (…wait for it…) because the kid needed to be working.

Great Falls Nightlife
In trying to juggle flights around to find a good time to fly out and back, I ended up making my flight for Saturday instead of Friday like I had intended. Oops. So I had an extra night to kill in Great Falls. It’s a sleepy town of about 50,000, with clean streets and lots of little coffee shops. I stopped into one to grab a quick bite and some java. I talked with the proprietor some and he advised me that there was a cool bar in town that I should check out.

It’s called the Sip-n-Dip Tiki Lounge and this is the picture I took from inside the place. They have a couple of mermaids swimming around all night to entertain the patrons. Pretty classy. In 2003, GQ magazine voted it one of the top 10 bars in the world. That’s going a bit far, but it was cool. Everything inside seemed to be right at home in an ambiguous year in the late sixties or early seventies. The other main draw of the place was the organist who’d been playing every night for the past 40 years. Crazy place.

There’s another bar that seemed pretty fun. They used to call it “Dirty Murph’s” because it was apparently really trashy. It’s located right next to a bowling alley a few miles out of town. I don’t know what the name of it is, but I went and hung out there for a while. That’s where to go if you want to dance to cowboy music.

Colorado Aficionado

I don’t know what the word “aficionado” means, but I always feel like it means “great big fan of”. So when I say that I am a beer aficionado, I mean that I’m a great big fan of beer. Good beer and great beer. Sure, I’ll drink the occasional bad beer, but I’ve never really enjoyed them. Colorado, my friends, is a beer aficionado’s paradise and I’m a big fan of being out here.

I was flying to DEN from ABQ through SLC. But due to inclement weather in Utah, I was given a pass on a different airline to go direct instead. Plus the guy at the Delta counter wanted to go talk with the cute girl over at the Frontier counter. So at about the same time I would have touched down in Salt Lake City I was in Denver.

I had at least two hours of free time because of the reroute so I decided to go to downtown Denver to grab a bit instead of heading straight to Longmont. I got on Colfax and drove around, remembering that it was one of the main thoroughfares of the city, but after a while I found no place that looked decent to eat so I pulled over to search with my iPhone. I found some places that looked like they might be decent, but wasn’t entirely satisfied.

As I was looking around and realizing that I was seeing several bums walking past the cracked windows of the laundromats and pawn shops, I thought it might be time to just head to one of the Google recommended places. Then I noticed I’d parked about 15 feet from a place called The Cheeky Monk. I’d managed to randomly pull over next to a Belgian bar and cafe. So I decided that bad neighborhood or not, I had to go in.

I sat at the bar where the majority of the patrons were gathered and got a Leffe Blonde and a food menu. Talya, the bartender, helped me practice my practice my Russian. She’d moved to Denver a few years ago from Moscow so we talked about travel. It was quite a random place that I stopped, but it worked out being perfect.

The next night, I went to the Pumphouse Brewery & Restaurant. The food was good and cheap. And they have a great cilantro-lime vinaigrette salad dressing. The entree came out about 3 minutes after I ordered, even before my salad. But I simply saved the salad until last and enjoyed the main dish and the excellent vanilla porter.

On Thursday, I headed up to the small burgh of Lyons, Colorado and the Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. As the name hints, the cuisine is of the southern variety, specifically Louisianan. Cajun and creole influence is obvious on the menu, but the beers are all Colorado. Instead of garlic bread, the chipotle chicken pasta has an honest-to-goodness homemade buttermilk biscuit. Southern. And the beers (many distributed nationwide) are pure hops. Colorado. Great music scene there too.

Lefthand Brewery is a great place to sample their beers, including some that they only seem to have there. And you can buy half-gallons of it to go. And when you go, stop by Sugar Beet. The food is great and fairly reasonably priced. Say hi to Justine.

I went to Boulder for a couple of days, walked around the town, and saw the Christmas parade. Boulder was a disappointment. When I was a kid watching Mork & Mindy, I used to want to live there. I don’t know why, something just really appealed to me. I think it still does, even though there’s really no soul there anymore. Just a bunch of spoiled college kids, rich sorta yuppies, and wanna be granolas. So that is that.

From there I drove down to Denver through Golden. Along the way, I stopped and climbed up on a mesa to hang out and see if I could get a good look of Denver from above. It was a nice hike and I saw tons of deer. I’d change course to avoid a dozen and run up on another dozen or so and change course again. I had some great views of Denver and overlooked an old-timey railroad train that was making tourist runs. Somewhere on my way down I lost my hat, so if you’re out that way and find a “One Track Mind” wool cap that smells like sweat and hotel shampoo, drop me a line.

I spent a few days in Fort Morgan, about 80mi north-east of Denver. There’s nothing redeeming about that town. There are a few industrial plants there and they smell nearly indescribable. There’s the beet processing plant where apparently part of the process is to rot them. Then there’s the cow blood processing plant (huh? read about this one on the Internet). And it smells like there’s a pig feces processing plant somewhere around there. Something I noticed was that there are no young people between about the age of 18 and 30. Either one of the industrial plants there makes Soilent Green or the kids get the hell out as soon as they can.

Minneapolis and Parts North

Minnesota is a nice place, for the most part. I had a good time while I was there. People are mostly nice, especially outside of the airport. But man are they dumb on the roads! I several times had to dodge cars stopped at a green light in the center lane in downtown Minneapolis.

There are a lot of bums in Minneapolis. “Hey man, can you help me out?” They all asked me to help them out, which is a bit different than how they ask in most other places. None told me a sob story and some didn’t even ask me to help them out; they just said “What’s up man?” each time I passed them during the night. Strange.

The Cities,” as the metropolitan Minneapolis-St. Paul area are called, are a sprawling pretzel of interstate highways. I-35, I-35 E, I-35 W, I-94, I-394, I-494, I 694. And there are a number of roads which, though not interstates, are large divided highways with limited access. Most of these become interstate highways off and on, but some just circle the city. All for a population of less than 3 million. Lots of pork barrel projects, it sounds like.

And their airport has two terminals separated by a few miles going by the signs on the road coming from town. But geographically they are much closer to each other. In fact, the road to each terminal lets you get to the other. So there is no point to having two separate exits. Especially when there is no indication of which airlines are served at each, which one has the rental car return, or any difference whatsoever between them. It’s madness!

For most of my stay, I was in a small town a couple of hours outside of the Cities. There, I found the food to be passable, but not great. And everything was covered in gravy. I only had two meals in Minneapolis, and they were a little better, but not a lot. Mainly they were different, which was good.

For dinner I went to a place called Club Havana. It’s a place on Washington Street in the strip club and sex toy district. But it’s a nice area. Strange. Anyway, I had one of their Cuban Martinis, which was really just a mojito with champagne and vodka instead of rum. It was mediocre and didn’t have the flavor coherence that the mojito has. It stimulated all of my taste areas, but didn’t blend them well. I’m not sure how to say it better than that. I had a salmon dish stuffed with avocado and crusted with crushed pistachios. The pistachios were too much and detracted from the flavor after several bites. The place won’t make you feel like you’re in old Havana town, but at least there was no Che memorabilia.

I should have eaten at a pizza place and bar called Pizza Lucé. The pizza smelled great, the beer was good, the ambiance and music were great (I heard The Black Keys and Manu Chao back to back!) and the service was overwhelmingly friendly. The patrons were similarly friendly and I met quite a few interesting and fun people. At around midnight or one AM, people came streaming in for pizza. They put up a rope barricade to keep the line from obstructing the rest of their business. In fact, people who were bar hopping came back at the end of the night to get a slice.

For breakfast I went to a little coffee shop that did some upscale breakfast thing. I had a glorified quiche with fruit on the side. The chile sauce they put over top was very nice and made the dish good.

All in all I like Minnesota. The people that I met there were all very nice and friendly. They felt very comfortable and no one that I met seemed the least bit pretentious. It’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t think I could live there.

From what I saw of housing prices, there’s no way I’d do that. A studio condo was going for $300k! I could get a house in Atlanta for less than that. Hell, I did! The condo didn’t even look that great, it was just another insta-building made to look like an old factory or warehouse. I can’t imagine what someplace cool would run.