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).