Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Miseducation of Happy Valley

I don't get it. And that upsets me.

Why Nittany Lion students, riot to protest the ouster of your head coach? What does that do other than psychologically victimize the already physically victimized?

Joe Paterno has been the head coach for you the last 46 years. He's won 409 games in that time, two national championships, and tied for the most games ever coached. On the sidelines, he's greatness encapsulated in black-rimmed glasses and white socks. He's a sympathetic fella. With those giant, 60's-era NASA glasses resting on his sizable schnoz, the 84-year-old looks like the kind, elderly neighbor next door minding his business when Dennis the Menace comes roaring through.

And this menace did roar through.

There is no doubting Paterno's greatness as a coach. There's little to doubt his greatness off the field as well, donating millions back to Penn State and helping countless charities. But JoePa fumbled this one, as did everyone in the Penn State organization that knew about what former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky did. That includes the president (fired), vice president (resigned), athletic director (leave of absence -- should be fired), former graduate assistant and current wide receivers coach Mike McQueary (who emerged unscathed but should lose his job by the time I actually post this), and of course, Paterno (fired).

Here's the short: McQueary allegedly witnessed Sandusky sexually abuse (read: sodomize; read: rape) a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the football building. He reported to Paterno. Paterno reported to the AD and VP, and according to a grand jury report, campus police. State College Police were never notified about the incident. Sandusky never heard anything until this November when he was finally arrested. The alleged incidents happened in 2002, nearly a decade ago. The boy is now 20. Rumors swirled about Sandusky's behavior, and as many as 20 boys may have been sexually abused. Yes, they're allegations. Yes, he's innocent until proven guilty. But 20 is a very large number.

Penn State had to clean shop. The Board of Trustees got it right. The school could not turn a blind eye to the fact that people in position of power could have done something to stop an alleged child rapist. Rapist of children. Let those words sink, and your heart will follow. The children need protection, they got rejection. Then had to live with the consequences of having their innocence picked off like an errant pass.

Paterno said earlier in the day he would retire at the end of the season, hoping his decision would make it easier on the board so that they wouldn't have to "spend a single moment discussing [his] status." You could only wish. JoePa is grandpa to 17 kids. Imagine if anyone of them were a victim of rape or abuse. Authorities would certainly be called. Most of the children that were allegedly abused came from low socioeconomic backgrounds. They were the at-risk kids who were in need. And they emerged worse from it all.

The hundreds of students who rioted in downtown State College could not have gotten it more wrong. They overturned a news station live truck, screamed obscenities at the police, media, and the trustees. In drudging up support for Paterno, they danced on the living graves of the alleged victims. As the students hooted and hollered, I can only imagine the thoughts of the victims and their families. If there are any potential victims that have not come forward, why would they after seeing this? Think of it this way, get sexually abused, then get ostracized for it because a man was great and overseeing young men throw around an inflatable oblong ball.

The students that rioted in Penn State disappointed their generation. I am no saint. In college, and quite frankly to this day, I still do many a dumb thing. But the inability to differentiate sport and humanity is not something you can blame on youth. I understand that culture of big-time college athletics. I experienced it in Tuscaloosa and Auburn, where a man so demented on school support he poisoned nature. But as it's been said countless times, this is not a football issue, a sports issue, a college issue or even a legal issue. It's a human issue. And in a rare case for the all-time winningest coach in Division I college football history, Paterno lost; as did the student body in its callous reaction.

Happy Valley, you've never been sadder.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping Keep Austin Weird

Not a Banksy

I take so much time off in-between blogs that one can start and stop a presidential campaign between posts. Since my last post, which was based on events that occurred in February (can you believe it’s September already?), the movie “Thor” has been aggressively marketed, released theatrically, and now been released on DVD. I lag.

For those who do not know, I’ve been freelancing for and KGTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego. But prior to all that, which in real-world-time, happened in March and July (I tell you I lag). Also in March, I went to Austin at the last minute for my old buddy Bryan Liu’s bachelor party, as well as my old roomie Justin Terry’s birthday. Shout outs! Because I don’t have my meticulous notes next to me, I will describe Austin in reader-friendly, fact or fiction headlnes. (It also helps my Texas readers follow…. SNAPZILLA!!!!)

Orange is like oxygen there. Needed for survival.
Fact: Everyone who has visited Austin raves about how fun and awesome the city is. It’s as if they’re all getting paid by the local chamber of commerce. Seriously, I challenge you to find someone who has visited to Austin… nay – find someone who knows someone who has visited Austin – and see if they have anything bad to say about the city. It’s impossible.

It’s also totally random for Texas, it’s 100% the Berkeley of the state. They advertise to “Keep Austin weird.” There are food trucks everywhere selling the unhealthiest creations imaginable – I ate a donut with extra artery cloggage. People seem to be friendly, especially at the bars. Even University of Texas haters, like my boy Mike Rockwood, find the city to be awesome.

Getting a table on Muesday is a bitch
Fact: The BBQ is as good as advertised. My boy’s BP was practically a gastro-tour of Austin’s finest cue. After all the fellas met up at the hotel, the first destination was Black’s BBQ in Lockhart about 40 minutes outside of Austin. On the drive to Randomville, we saw a million freeways to nowhere being built. I’m talking massive spending on infrastructure to nothing!! I gotta give it to Rick Perry for having enough money in the budget to blow on 3-lane freeways to Auntie Jane’s country farm. And if these are federal dollars…. What the f??? 

This be beef
Black’s BBQ is located next to what looks like a cross between Notre Dame and the Clock Tower from Back to the Future. I would like to get technical about the meats they had, but everything – ribs, brisket, sausage, everything was on point. Their sides, as I recall, weren’t amazing, but the meat more than made up for it. If I remember correctly, I think their brisket was the strongest of all, but again – this is nitpicking. Just like the traditional BBQ places, all your meat is served with white bread. 

BBQ in one room. Flashdance in the other.
About a two-minute walk from Black’s is Smitty’s BBQ, where we went after just eating. Despite not having much room for food, we all ordered a cavalcade of meats. Talk about simplicity, I don’t even remember seeing a sign on the outside of the building. We just walked into this seemingly abandoned spot, down a dark hallway, into a room with a smoker the size of a submarine. The meat is wrapped in butcher paper five times over and served. No plates. No utensis. No napkins. They make you use your shirt and if you ask for a paper towel they brand “Don’t mess with Texas” on your forehead. 

The smoker at Black's. It was big.
The following morning, after a late night out, some of the guys headed to Snow’s BBQ, which evidently was even more simplistic than Black’s. This place was literally some dude’s house renown for its BBQ. Apparently it was amazing, but the thought of getting up after a few short hours of wonderful slumber to eat 6 LBs of BBQ in the AM didn’t sound F-U-N to me. I did try some of the leftovers the dudes brought back and it was yummers.

Another famous BBQ spot is a chain called Rudy’s, advertised as the “worst BBQ in Texas.” Good but not quite the royalty of the other joints.

Fiction: Austin is the live music capital of the world. That’s impossible to measure! Albeit, there was some solid live music at the airport.

Fact: The nightlife rules. There are two marquee spots to hang in Austin: the Warehouse District/4th Street and 6th Street. My boys went to Hangar Lounge, a nice 3-story club with nice rooftop bar. Great place, friendly and attractive people… always a good combination. 

Play "Spot the White Guy."His name is Cary too!! Wha??
The Iron Cactus has a great rooftop bar that overlooks 6th Street. Considered the 6th best tequila bar in the country by some snobby magazine, it also happens to have some of the best fresh guacamole I’ve ever had. I would go so far as to say it’s a must-try when visiting. Made right before you, you can tell the server whichever ingredients you want. The food is decent, but I would suggest heading to the Cac (probably can come up with better nickname), to sip on some drank while just eating chips and guac. Among the tequilas we tried, all smooth and tasty, were: 100% blue agave, orange, and a cucumber and jalapeno mix.

Fiction: 6th Street rules. It does if you’re a college kid, Van Wilder, or Tommy Boy, otherwise, it’s a little young. One night we went to some low-key bar with shuffleboard, skeeball, and air hockey. Think it was called Chuck E. Cheese.
Iron Cactus. Sadly. Guacamole not shown.

The other place we went to was the poorly-titled Trophy Room, which should’ve been called the Participatory Trophy Room. We went inside because it had a mechanical bull. Despite having the back and spinal conditions of Quasimodo, we decided to jump on the bull for old times sake. While I emerged from the 4-second ride injury-free, the experience still came with consequences. I emptied out my pockets for the ride, when it was done, my cell phone was gone. Yoink! Mind you, this was an insurance phone for a phone that recently stopped working. Two phones gone in a matter of two weeks – and this wasn’t exactly a nice phone. It’s somewhere between Zack Morris’ cell phone and a Styrofoam cup with string. Why anyone would steal that is beyond me. Dang college kids.

From Gourdoughs: donut with pork, potato salad, and gas
Speaking of college kids, a group of girls who just turned 21 were crazy sloppy at this place. Hot mess would be a compliment. The birthday girl was so drunk, she managed to look in three different directions at the same moment when talking. How she did that with two eyes is worth a Ripley’s investigation. (BTW – when did I turn into Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau? I’m a grumpy old man right now!!!)

At the same bar, my digital camera randomly stopped working. Considering these technological failures happened towards the end of my trip, it says something about a town when you still leave there with a positive impression, which leads me to…

Fact: Austin is badass.

By the bullets:

Eats: Black’s BBQ, Smitty’s BBQ, Snow’s BBQ, Iron Cactus. Torchy’s Tacos ($2 breakfast tacos).

Drinks: Iron Cactus, Baby Acapulco (a killer purple margarita, aka – purple drank), Hangar Lounge.

Visits: University of Texas campus, including Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium; Red River – nice spot for cycling, crew; LBJ Presidential Library – on UT campus, 36th president passed an impressive amount of bills (can’t help but think national/political climate factored in), also puts myth to rest that all presidents must go to Ivy Leagues (LBJ went to Southwest Texas State College).
Still upset they beat SC in 2006.
This is a Banksy.
The Red River is not red.
Yep, that's the Capitol.

Next episode (due in 2013!): Hawaii!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whister Part Deux: C-Level

Official Mountie uniform in bag
So here’s a sad realization. I’m cheap. For all the ladies out there – it’s just because I’m working freelance. Once I get those benefits again – I’ll be dropping mad Lincolns on y’all! Lincolns!!!

Allow me to proceed.

One of the best places to eat in Whistler is a Mongolian stirfry restaurant by the enigmatic name Mongolie Grill. You fill a bowl of whatever fresh ingredients you want –meats, seafood, vegetables, your choice of noodles. It’s weighed by the kilogram and then thrown onto a giant grill where cooks attend to eight or so different servings with what looks like a snow shovel. 

Notice lack of scallops
Because I’m paying by the kilo, like Vincent Chase with yayo, I’m carefully watching the cooks stir my fry, making sure they don’t spill anything off the grill or mix my awesome ingredients with someone else’s garbage. I’m locked onto my selection, an impeccable blend of udon, teriyaki beef, chicken, tofu, broccoli, green onions, and five scallops. The cooks grill all the food awfully close to the edge and while they work their spatulas like the Bride does a Hattori Hanzo sword, there are still plenty of wounded soldiers. I tensely watched as the cooks skirted my scallops near the grill’s edge, then pushed them back inland. Sometimes the homies would live too dangerously and a scallop would plummet to its doom. Four scallops. Spatula artistry. Three scallops. Don’t they know I’ve already paid for those heavenly scallops?!! They finish cooking my food, slap it on a plate, and call my number.

Oh snapzilla!! Not my number, not my food! I was following the wrong meal! What a relief. That poor sucker in front of me, who apparently has amazing ingredient-picking skills, just lost 60% of his scallops. I wonder if he even paid attention. Was I the only one analyzing these cooks like the guy who watched “Star Trek” so meticulously that he found the R2D2 cameo? ( Whatever, my meal was delicious and topped off with a solid Whistler Honey lager.

That font is not available in Word.
Mitch and I started talking with an awesomely-accented Canadian bartender, who happens to be from Squamish, the town we were staying in that night. Squamish is about 45 minutes south of Whistler. Every single room in Whistler was booked on account of it being President’s Day weekend and Family Day weekend in Canada. At the resort’s visitor center, we made a reservation for the Hotel Chieftain, which is expected to be a genuine half-star lodge. We ask the bartender if she knows of the Chieftain, and she flashes an immediate look of concern.

“Is it really that bad?” we ask.
“Well, it might have changed since I’ve been there last.”
“Oh yeah, when was that?”
“Couple months ago.”

It's not coincidence "HOL" is lit up
Why strive for B-level?
According to its website, the Chieftain has the city’s hottest bar/nightclub, and also has a liquor store and restaurant. As Mitch and I are driving to the “hotel,” a police car with flashing lights is just leaving. We pull up, and I swear the Chieftain is not a hotel, but a large Circle K with a closed Indian restaurant attached. On the marquee next to “Hotel Chieftain,” it says “C-Level Nightclub.” Mitch and I debated whether their original purpose was “Sea Level Nightclub” but made a mistake and were too lazy to change it; or if they really wanted to evoke a club that was not A or B level, but C level. Not sure if that name would make it in the states. Welcome to New York’s hippest new joint – The D-class… we’re almost average!!! 

Paying respects
To call the Chieftain a motel would be a disservice to all motels. Giant pipes went through our ceiling. It looked like Costco up there. We had to park the car in this shady lot behind the building where a bunch of 60-year-old skateboarders were riding. Seriously, these guys used to watch the Talkies. I was actually concerned these AARP hoodlums were going to break into my car, so I went back outside to check. Nope. Just me being judgmental.

Word on the street is Squamish is a beautiful town. It’s sandwiched between mountains and the ocean, and is actually known as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Seems like a great place to visit, but if you ever find yourself looking for lodging there, forgo the Chieftain. It’s not worth a Lincoln.
Hasta Canada!

Next episode: The live music capital of the world!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canada is Fun, eh (or “ey” if you prefer)?

"Best on earth"? That's a bit pretentious 

If friendly nationalities were an Olympic sport, Canadians would have to earn a silver medal at the very least, with those genteel Luxembourgers around the corner. Think about this – Canadians are frequently the targets of tacky (or awesome) jokes about syrup, linguistics, Mounties – and no one ever takes offense. “How I Met Your Mother” is consistently coming up with hilarious Canada jibes (“jibe” was supplied by Word as a synonym for “joke”… terrible); South Park’s “Blame Canada” was even nominated for an Oscar!! What do our lovely friends up north think? They laugh – then buy prescription drugs with their free health care.

So it’s with this thought in mind that I say the Canadian border patrol north of Washington is full of douches! This is not just my take; I’ll have you know I’ve had numerous friends that have indicated similar unfriendly encounters.
This is the unfriendly lane

It’s about 7am or so early February. My buddy Mitch and I are juiced up on 5-hr Energy shots, driving to Whistler from Seattle to do some snowboarding that will certainly be legendary. We get to the Canadian border, wide-eyed with anticipation, greet the border patrol officer with large smiles, unadulterated joy, and a rousing, “How you doing today?” Dude glares at me like I just punched Wayne Gretzky in the face. Five long, awkward seconds pass. His vision pierces through us. Confused at his disdain, I ask what I need to do – considering I’ve never driven across the Canadian border before.

“You can start by giving me your passports.”

Short. Venomous. Hatred brewing towards America. We tell him we’re excited to go snowboarding in Whistler, and he ignores us. He then asks us a series of rapid-fire questions without listening to the responses: where are we from? What are we bringing? Why are we here? How do we know each other? For how long? What’s my first pet’s name? What elementary school did I attend? It was like I forgot my gmail password and entered a never-ending land of generic identity verification questions.

Mitch and I contemplated supplying fake information to this guy just to see how he would react. How do you know each other? We don’t. Just picked him up ‘cuz I liked the cut of his jib. What’re you bringing into the country? Frogs that are not indigenous to the area and will soon overrun the country. Why are you visiting? We love burritos. Wait – is this Mexico?

It's like a green, bulimic version of the Golden Gate
After this little border experience, we cruised to Vancouver, which seems to be a fine place. However it doesn’t have any major freeways that go through the city. That’s f’n weird, people! Think about it. No major freeway going through the city? Vancouver’s population is said to be around 2.2 million. That’s comparable to Houston. Can you imagine Houston without a major freeway cutting through their TWO downtowns? Insanity like Shaun T! Vancouver’s highway quickly turns into city streets, which turn into residential streets, which turn into Optimus Prime. We had to ask numerous polite Canadian pedestrians and take a series of side streets to get out of the city. It was like our own personal “Quick Change” (arguably Bill Murray’s most underrated movie).

The village
Should've stuck with the greens
We got to Whistler around 11, on the mountain by noon. As we geared up at the base, we contemplated bringing extra layers for the summit. A guy next to us told it was below zero at the top, so we took his advice and dressed a little warmer. As we headed to the summit, the weather was perfect. Sunny. No wind. It dawned on us – homey was talking in Celsius not Fahrenheit. Oh Canada! You tricksters. It was actually around 27 degrees for us, which is ideal.

Couldn't find this run. Had to settle for pic from lift
The resort is enormous. Two twin mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, draped in snow, more than 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, 200-plus trails. Waisting little time, Mitch and I hit up the Peak to Creek run, which is more than 5,000 feet – practically a mile long run. Now I should mention Mitch is a ridiculous boarder who grew up near a resort (Big Bear counts right?), and does big air and a bunch of really cool stuff that I can’t. This mile-long run left both of us exhausted. Mitch was nursing a completely flogged (another Word synonym replacement – who comes up with this stuff?) ankle, and I was just brutally out of shape. The run didn’t just leave my legs cramped, but also my toes and hands. Who gets cramped thumbs? Snowboarding?!

Mitch was proud of this photo. He needs glasses.
The next day riding wasn’t much better for either of us. Mitch developed a softball-sized knot on his calf, while I remained Sir Cramps-a-Lot. And there’s the rub. The resort is so large that taming it in two days cannot be done – even if we were in better shape. We explored as much as we could, cutting up a few backside bowls, including one that was thick, untouched powder. But ultimately there wasn’t enough time to take it all in. And that’s just one mountain. Thanks to a Peak-to-Peak gondola, we were able to finish day two on the Blackcomb side, otherwise we might have missed that mountain entirely.

Powder be deep
Whistler is every bit as impressive as the hype. Legions of powder. Open range. Friendly Canucks. Yet as incredible as the resort was, I felt like we weren’t able to capitalize on as much as we should have since our health was so friggin’ flogged. If I were to ever go back, I would have to do some hard core P90X legs action to prepare. Can’t blame Canada for my poor fitness level.

But that border patrol dude on the other hand...

Next episode: Tense cooking and the saddest hotel in Canada

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seattle: Land of the Fi

It's Never Sunny in Seattle
A few days after Phoenix, I hopped on a mileage rewards flight to Seattle to see some friends, visit TV stations, and snowboard. Basically the same template I’d been following. This being a mileage flight booked at the last minute (I think it cost me $40?), the itinerary wasn’t exactly world-class. I flew from Orange County to Dallas to Seattle. Even the attendant at the counter mentioned I was taking the scenic route to Seattle. Honestly, I have to go thru Texas to hit Washington? Dumber than Harry and Lloyd.
I got nothing. Insert own witticism.
After watching “Waiting for Superman” on the flight (a thought-provoking documentary that will ignite debates on education amongst friends), I got into Seahawks territory a little after midnight. I rented a mid-size SUV (think RAV-4) a few days prior at a great Priceline rate way below the norm. When I reached the counter, the woman asked if I wanted to upgrade to a brand new luxury SUV for just $40 more per day. I was going to have this car for more than a week, so that didn’t really make fiscal sense. Not that I would’ve done it if I had the car for just a day. After I declined, the woman asked if I wanted a different SUV for just $25 more. After I declined that as well, she told me that my reserved SUV was not available, so she upgraded me to the larger SUV anyway – a sweet 2011 Chevy Traverse with minimal miles. This G-ride was badass! It barely had any miles, smelled fresh off the Detroit line, came equipped with rear video camera for reversing and 80 or so cup holders, even had XM.

Being responsible in front of the kid

Dude likes slides
I headed to my brody Nick’s house where we talked ‘til about 2:30 in the morn. Nick and I have been good friends since 1st grade. I even sang about masturbation at his wedding. (It was funny I swear.) He lives in a nice home with a small yard that overlooks Lake Washington. It’s a perfect setting for his Norman Rockwell family, which consists of his wife Kiersten and ridiculously cute 3-year-old Fiona, aka Fi, aka Fifers.
Here’s a rough guide to what I did in Seattle:
-          Met up with long-time friends.
-          Visited a couple TV stations.
-          Checked out the Space Needle.
-          Drove by Safeco and Qwest Fields – both of which look incredibly fan-friendly.
-          Took the ferry to Bainbridge Island – reminded me of “Three Fugitives.” Anyone remember that Nick Nolte-Martin Short classic? So good!!
-          Bar hopped at Capital Hill, evidently the gay and lesbian hub of town. Who knew? The Library is cool hipster spot with nice cocktails.
-          Perused Pike’s Place Market – had some terribly underwhelming clam chowder.
-          Explored the Science Fiction Hall of Fame Museum - which was super lame. There was a “Blade Runner” cop car floating near the ceiling so I thought it might have potential. But inside there was only a single “Battlestar Gallactica” exhibit. Who watches that? And what network is that on? CW the Ocho?

The EMP. Architects on a Crayola binge

-          Visited neighboring EMP, an interactive museum devoted to music and pop culture with an acronym that no one knows. The EMP had a decent Jimi Hendrix exhibit – he’s a Seattle native – that included the guitar he used to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. The best part of the EMP is the 2nd floor’s sound lab, where you can play the hooks of famous songs on an array of instruments (I went with “Werewolves of London”, “Get Ur Freak on”, and “Beat It” on the keyboard). It’s an entertaining and easy way to learn music for those who are musically challenged. Guitar, drums, singer, even DJ mixer were other options. Like Pixar movies, sound lab was fun for all ages.
-          Sampled a zillion breweries. In chronological order: Elysian Brewery – very well reviewed, but not my cup o’ tea. Tried several beers – names elude me – all were too strong, dark, or hoppy for me. Screw those emasculating beer commercials – light is good!  Pyramid Brewery – more diverse options, sampled a bunch, much tastier. Red Hook Brewery – tricky to find, but worth it. Nice sampler. Plus, they give free glasses. My friends’ Becky and Matt’s home glassware collection looks like it’s sponsored by Red Hook. Ram Brewery – another sampler, some good stuff, tried a “Buttface” and “Butthead” – don’t remember if they were good or not. Avoided any "Butthole."

Did someone dookie on my burger?
It may sound like there was a lot of drinking, but that really wasn’t the case. I mostly just split samplers with the peeps, so it’s not like I wandered the streets of Seattle in a Snooki-like stupor. My point of listing these activities instead of writing about them is because really, what I remember most about my Seattle experience, is the adorable Fifers, who’s well-behaved, outgoing, and addicted to spinning in circles. She’s like “Boo” in “Monsters Inc” – a tour de force of cute. She loves her one-eyed cat Maceo and is constantly hugging/strangling him. Thanks to her mom, she’s got this goofily witty sense of humor. For example, when Kiersten asked her how she was doing in the bathroom, she replied, “It’s not going good in here.” While I was planning on exploring more of Seattle, I found myself building Lincoln log homes, train sets, and shooting 2-foot baskets with the little charmer.

Running from daddy...
 Maybe that’s why I’m still looking for a job…

Notable eats: Umi Sake House (delicious sushi, imaginative rolls, wide variety of sake), Pyramid Brewery (solid aromatic nachos), Ram Brewery (peanut butter bacon burger – yep!), Pagliacci (pizza). Also went to some pho joint and Italian spot but don’t remember their names. Honestly – anywhere you go in Seattle is good eats.

To get to Unckie Cary.
Next episode: Whistler and adventures in Canada, eh?!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phoenix, Son!!

Searching for Arnold's dignity
Okay, so I’m back. I say that in a way that I hope doesn’t come off sounding like the ex-Governator. How bad have his last few months been? Brutal. And why is it that all the 80s movie stars are a-holes like that old Denis Leary song. Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen – these dudes all have serious issues. Fortunately, Stallone’s holding it down. His biggest blunder is that ill-fated foray into magazine publishing (“Sly Magazine” anyone?). I’m purposely omitting 2007 when he was caught with ‘roids in Australia because it doesn’t help my argument.

That's me!!!
As it were, the unemployed life has been busier than Scottie Pippen’s Twitter account. As anyone who’s been unemployed knows, looking for a job is a full-time job. That being said, my travels have gone on and then-some. Here’s what’s been cracking.
A few days after returning from Brazil, I headed out to Phoenix to meet with some friends and a TV station. I only spent a couple days in town, and as it were, most of that time was spent at said local TV station. However, I did find enough time to discover how outdoor-friendly a city Phoenix is. Known mainly for cacti, border issues, and a Charles Barkley team that lost to MJ in ’93, the 5th most populated city in the country has a multitude of hiking trails and canyons ripe for exploration.
There are nearly 200 trails in the greater Phoenix metro area. After my friends questioned my fitness level, I informed them I wanted to hike one of the more challenging. They suggested Echo Canyon Park at Camelback Mountain. It's actually a spot where the late Pat Tillman used to frequent.

I didn't realize there was an escalator on the other side. D'oh!

For some reason, I always felt like hiking isn’t real exercise. It’s not strenuous like boot camp or basketball. It’s just walking. Sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill, but either way – it’s just walking outdoors. That disrespectful notion would serve me like the Bachelorette. (No, I don’t watch, but this Bentley dude’s exploits are even on sports talk radio). After waiting for what seemed like hours for a parking space (190+ trails in Phoenix and everyone’s gotta go to the same place?), I grabbed my iPod and filled my backpack with a bottled water and jacket – just in case I got marooned. (Outside Adam Levine, “maroon” is a completely underused word.) 
The trail gets quite steep at time and requires the assistance of a hand rail. Instead of clear dirt paths, most of these trails consisted of large rocks. I don’t know how long the uphill climb was but it seemed to take forever. I even debated the merits of turning around several times but ultimately decided if I’d gone this far – I might as well go to the summit. Plus, Eminem kept rapping "won't back down" in my ear and I didn't want to disappoint Marshall.

Did you know cacti are like blueberry scratch-n-sniff stickers?

It was certainly worth it. The summit provides a fantastic 360-degree view of the city accompanied with a nice feeling of satisfaction. By no means is hiking Camelback the same as scaling Devil’s Tower, but it’s a solid workout that should leave you fatigued. My legs were toast.
8 minutes after this photo - the sun melted the city
That night I contemplated going skydiving the next day in Sedona, a gorgeous red rock canyon area about an hour-and-half out of Phoenix. It would’ve been right along my live-for-now mentality, but the TV station I was meeting with wanted me back for a formal interview the same time. It was the responsible thing to do during this period of irresponsibility. As it were, I didn’t end up working at the station and wonder knowing what I know now – whether or not I would make the same call. I would. But it sure would be nice to say I’ve been skydiving…
I swear it looks easier than it is
Notable Phoenix eats: Pane Bianco (hipster lunch spot, delicious fresh sandwiches), True Food (all organic – it’s a chain), Brick (pizza/pasta brewery – excellent hand-made pasta).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 23 – Tchau Brazil!

Chunk o'cow in corner
Last day in Brazil. We take advantage of every minute by sleeping in ‘til about 11:30. For breakfast/lunch, we go to Mabs, a restaurant and bar at the end of our street on the beach. While not quite a buffet, the staff continued to bring us extra food. Pete ordered the filet medallion; and after 20 minutes of trying to finish the gargantuan chunk o’cow, the waiter brought out a second filet medallion of equal or greater value.
Where we went.
With no real goal, we walk, bus, and subway around the entire city. I wanted to check out the Museum of Modern Art because the building looked badass. Like the Jetsons’ home, plastered with priceless pieces of art inside instead of a wisecracking blue nanny robot with a red bow tie. When we arrived at the museum, it looked drastically different than what I pictured. The featured exhibit was uber-weak, a depressing and confusing gallery of pieces by Luis Felipe Noe. I don’t know who he is either. At the gift shop, I saw a coffee table book of Rio sites, and saw the museum I thought we were going to. Pointing at the picture, I asked a saleswoman what that is, and where are we? Turns out, I was thinking of the Contemporary Art Museum, not the Modern Art. Samsonite?? I was way off.
Niteroi - where I thought we were going
The next stop on our walking tour was the Cathedral Metropolitan. It’s a gigantic iron cone-shaped church. It actually looked like an iron temple in the middle of downtown. Other stops included the National Library, where I checked out “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist”, and the Municipal Theatre, where we saw “The Kardashians on Ice”.
As our fine arts tour wound down, we headed back to Copa to grab some food and head towards the airport. We left for the airport around 8:30. As we waited in the terminal, I ordered an Itaipava, my 5th local Brazilian beer - it wasn’t a Keystone Premium I can tell you that much.
Place got books
Place got drama
As we sat in our cushy coach seats with 9 millimeters of leg room, I looked back at all our amazing pics. Brazil was unforgettable (thanks to detailed notes I wrote down, otherwise I would’ve already forgotten half of it), but ultimately we were ready to head back home, which means searching for jobs in-between jaunts to Phoenix, Seattle, and Whistler.

Place got God

I’m pretty pleased we covered seemingly every crevice of Rio, some areas certainly by accident, and other than being here for Carnaval – there was little else we could’ve explored in Rio. However, there’re some spectacular beaches and geography a daytrip away from the Marvelous City I would’ve like to see, especially Ilha Grande, an island with rainforests, waterfalls, and private beaches, and is so small it doesn’t allow for cars. That could be for another trip. Perhaps bachelor parties in 2015? We gotta at least go back for the supertutes.