Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The saddest dog in the world....? And a squirrel!

This ridiculously sad looking dog is Emily. She's roughly three years old, Alison bought her for her son a few years ago. By far the most patient and docile dog I've ever met in my life, I decided to follow her around the apartment and bother her with a camera for an hour or so. She's pretty skittish and so she doesn't like having her picture taken but after a while, she tired out and gave up, allowing me to at least point the lens at her as long as I didn't use a flash. Fair enough. Flashes bother my eyes too.
At any rate, a couple of the pictures were kinda neat, so here they are.
And when I went outside today, I saw a squirrel. Dig it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

To Canada And Back Again

So this weekend we drove from NYC to Niagara Falls, Ontario to see my family for a late Christmas celebration of sorts. My sister was a no-show, but in her defense she's about to have a baby any minute now and her doctor told her to stay put for the weekend. Perfectly understandable then that she didn't want to drive four hours! While it would have been nice to see her and her husband and my one and only niece, I did get to see almost everyone else - Mom, Doug, Dad, my three grandparents and Patrick and Brenden. I even ran into my old friend Dave who was working the pharmacy counter in the lovely Seaway Mall in Welland!
It was great to see everyone again - I'd seen them previously in September but have decided to make a point to see them more often now that I'm within driving distance (it's 6-7 hours but that's not that big a deal).
In addition to family dinners and visits, we also saw some tacky tourist stuff. My favorite local monument is the giant Frankenstein eating a Whopper at the top of Clifton Hill. Nothing expresses Niagara Falls' crass blend of monster museums, fast food and big dumb signage like this guy....

Alison and I took P&B up in the super sized ferris wheel that overlooks both the waterfall itself and the Clifton Hill strip. The cars are sealed from the elements and heated but that didn't diminish the fact that I am mildly claustrophobic and don't always do well with heights. Can't say I ever need to do that again, but we all survived and hey, check it out, you can see Frankenburger from the air to get an idea of just how big the stupid sign is.

We also hit up the Hollywood Movieland Wax Museum. Most of the exhibits were terrible... but the Freddy Kreuger circa Wes Craven's New Nightmare (note the hand claws rather than the glove... a dead giveaway to movie geeks like us!) was pretty cool and this picture turned out well so why not show it off...

...Marlon Brando, on the other hand, didn't fare so well. And what's with his Dollar Store stuffed cat? That's the dumb icing on the dumb cake!

Powerless to resist Frankenstein's charms, we had lunch at Burger King. The rad thing about both Burger King and McDonald's in Canada is that you can get poutine with your burgers instead of regular, boring American French Fries. Everything goes better with cheese and gravy!

All in all, it was a short but sweet visit and it's always a pleasure to see everyone. Age somehow seems to make one appreciate family more and more - either that or we've all just collectively gotten nicer and more fun to hang out with over the years. I think we'll make the drive again in 8-10 weeks.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

13 Pictures from Coney Island in the winter time....

So yesterday afternoon, after watchined Death Wish on AMC, we decided it was time to go to Coney Island again. This had nothing to do with Bronson or vigilante justice and everything to do with my weird obsession with the place. You grow up outside of New York and you see it in movies like The Warriors and you develop a certain expectation for what it should be like in your head. During the summer, Alison (knowing first hand how much I like aquariums) decided while I was visiting we should take the train to Brooklyn and go to the NY Aquarium, which is right beside Coney's strip. We got there just in time for the Aquarium to close but we still decided to wander empty Coney in the dark (apparantly it's not the hottest tourist attraction in the off season). At any rate, despite the cold and that everything was shut down save for Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and the Coney Island Clam Bar (friendly bar tenders and good beer!) we had fun and I said that once I moved here I wanted to go back just to take pictures of it in the off season. It looks kind of spooky, it's pretty barren and while you'll note a few other curious types wandering around, you can see that by New York standards, it's empty. As such, it gives off a really strange vibe. You get the feel for what it'd be like in the summer, you can picture the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone all lit up but with very few people around, it almost feels like a ghost town...

A lot of the signs around look like they were made in about five minutes with a paint brush and the left over paint foudn in someone's garage...

The hot dogs here are seriously really really really good. The hobos who hang out by the front door and ask for change... not so much.

This was my favorite part of the boardwalk. SHOOT THE FREAK! LIVE HUMAN TARGET! For only a few dollars you too can shoot some poor S.O.B. with a paintball gun apparantly. I wonder who came up with the business plan for this one and how they sold it to the bank?

'Yeah, I need a loan so I can rent a back alley on Coney Island. I'm gonna have a buddy run around and hide behind garbage cans and let tourists shoot at him'

A few more misc. shots of the boardwalk and some random strange signs and fixturs surrounding the park...

The shrimp on the right hand side of teh sign is wearing a fake moustache and a hat. For some reason this appeals to me.

Neither Alison or myself could figure out who Joey is but apparantly this dude, who is not at all an Italian stereotype(!!) wants to show him something... possibly the fact that he can spin a clam on his finger... or possibly a tasty gyro. No one seems to know.

We started to lose the light not too shortly after we got there so I didn't get to take as many shots as I wanted nor did I get too fancy, just did the whole point and shoot thing and didn't even bother to use the tripod or change lenses. We're definitely going to have to go back once it opens up though, I'd love to see it all lit up before it gets torn down and bulldozed. They're building condos there later this year supposedly and only leaving the ferris wheel and the roller coaster.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just.... stuff.

Finally got the insurance inspection done for the Honda. That means I'll get my papers and can then go back to the ever enjoyable NYC DMV. That'll kill a morning at least.

Aside from that, life is good. Applied for a job yesterday, Alison has an interview for a new position tomorrow and we've got a fridge full of food and plenty of stuff to keep us busy over the next few days.

Sunday Eddie and I went to this quirky little bar in The Village called Otto's Shrunken Head which was a way cool but not way over priced little Tiki Bar. Reminded me quite a bit of The Alibi in PDX but not nearly as big and sans the karaoke. Why did we go? Richard Lloyd and Billy Ficca from the band Television were playing a free show to promote the release of Richard's new project, Richard Lloyd and the Sufi Monkey Trio. All in all, it sounds very little like the old Television material, more straight ahead rock and roll, which was just fine with me. We got to meet the infamous (and rather inhebriated) Mr. Lloyd after the show, he was quite friendly and appreciative of everyone who showed up at the performance and he really did play amazingly well.

Just as interesting as the show was the crowd. It was full of the stereotypical NYC art punk crowd types, the kind you see in documentaries about Blondie and the Talking Heads. Dudes with fedoras and striped shirts and scarves were in full effect and there was a definite sense of artsy snobbery in effect. That said, everyone was pretty friendly. I talked cameras with some guy named Dan who had driven in from NJ for the show. There was a strange older couple in attendence who felt it was their right to sit in the middle of the room on chairs and ask anyone who had the nerve to stand in front of them to move. I guess they figured standing at a rock show was passe or something. Most of us just ignored them, though at one point I thought Eddie was going to clock them or at the very least call them something nasty. It would have been funny if he had, but also pretty disrespectful to the band considering that the venue was about the size of my current living room.

After the show we walked up St. Marks to 'Around The Clock' which is a 24 hour bistro that makes a seriously mean hamburger. We ate and talked about a couple of projects we're going to work on and just generally got caught up. It was a really fun night until we had to wait an hour for the subway. Adding insult to injury the train I was on just stopped in between stations for almost an hour, meaning by the time I got home it was almost 3am. The good news is I didn't get lost and never once lost my sense of direction, which I found quite surprising.

The same band is playing another free show at the same bar this coming Sunday and one of the other bands features Steve Conte who stood in for the late Johnny Thunders on last years New York Dolls reunion tour. If I go, I'll bring my camera. I would have last week but wasn't sure if it was permitted at the venue or not. Now that I know it is, I'll bring it along. The people in attendence was almost as interesting as the band.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ikea.... Swedish for all of you people SUCK!

So we needed shelves. We needed a bookcase and some sort of CD storage solution, as between Alison and I we've got well over 700 CDs and those can start to take up space. My solution? Let's go to IKEA!

I should have known better but it seemed like a good idea at the time and besides, it was in Long Island. Alison's mom was heading out that way to visit a friend, I could be a nice guy and give her a lift and see part of the state that I'd never seen before. Seemed like a fine way to kill a Sat. afternoon.

Well, we found the place just fine and did some pre-Ikea shopping (I got NHL 2007 for the xBox... yay me!) and I got to have sushi for lunch. We hit Target and Alison bought pants. Got to talk to my grandmother who called while we were shopping. All of these are good things. Then we entered IKEA. Granted, I'd been to a few before. In Seattle, Portland, Toronto and Hamilton. Alison had never been and was confused when she noticed a furniture store also sold meatballs. And rightl so.

Anyway, long story short it was packed and not packed with the polite, kind customers you don't mind shopping in close quarters with. It was packed with people who didn't want to move and who seemed to take great pleasure in standing in my way when all I wanted to do was buy a friggin' shelf. I'd blame this on the sheer volume of people who live in the NYC area if I hadn't experienced similar behaviour in pretty much every other IKEA I'd ever been to.

What is it about IKEA that turns people into cretins? I was nice. I was polite. So was Alison. Why was everyone else acting like I'd just kicked their dog in the groin?

All I wanted was CD storage. I got it. And it's nice. I like it. It's all assembled and it does the job. Didn't set me back too much and it matches the rest of the furniture in the apartment.

But I don't ever want to have to go back there. I think I had more fun at the DMV.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Nashville.... better late than never.

OK, so it's not quite 'live' but here are some random pictures from our journey through Nashville last week. Better late than never, right?
Between Memphis and Nashville just off of I-40 is a whole bunch of odd Loretta Lynn stuff! Being a serious fan of the woman, I told Alison that we had to stop. Well, further down the road, if you want to pay for it, you can check out her house, a museum dedicated to her life, and enjoy some time at her official dude ranch but for cheapskates like us, the only freebie attraction is the 'Loretta Lynn Country Cookin' Restaurant and Gift Shop.'
We ventured in and looked at the tacky souvenirs (if you want fridge magnets with pictures of your favorite Republicans on them, Loretta's got you covered - she also sells ninja swords in her gift shop!) and opted to not eat the country cookin' but low and behold, towards the back of the store is this:

Sometimes a man has got to pose with a Loretta Lynn mannequin for reasons known only to himself. This was one of those moments.
Once we were done schmoozing with a phoney Loretta, we found ourselves in Nashville. After driving around, getting lost, then getting found again we were able to take in some sights, not necessarily in the order presented here.
Few people love The Dukes of Hazzard as much as Alison, so she was pretty excited to find out that not only does Nashville play home to 'Cooter's Place - The Dukes of Hazzard Museum' but that it's also free! And that there's a Sunkist machine on site! Everything in this place is orange and it's kinda hard on the eyes but if you are or were a Dukes fan, check it out. It's free and it's probably one of the few places on the planet you can see all six different kinds of Dukes of Hazzard Underoos in one place at the same time.

Right next to Cooter's Place is the 'Willie Nelson And Friends Museum and Smoke Shop.' For a measly $5 you can take yourself a self guided tour of the stuff that Willie probably had laying around his garage. This is less a museum than it is a collection of weird, semi-Willie related craziness. For instance.... ever wanted to know what Willie looked like in Muppet form? Now you know. Muppet Willie sits there to greet you with creepy soulless eyes upon entering. Who is he playing dominoes with? Is anyone going to challenge him to pool? What's in the beverage can to his left? Where are his shoes?
Oh so many questions and so few answers.

The Willie Museum is also home to a freakishly impressive collection of Willie themed and inspired 'fan art.' Some of these are fancy wood carvings, others are paintings. My personal favorite is this water color which depicts Willie in his natural state - cloud spirit train gaurdian.

On the way out of the museum you can purchase all manner of smoking paraphanalia (for tobacco use only!) as well as Willie's own special brand of BBQ sauce or his collection of homemade jams and jellies as seen in this fancy display.

The Willie Nelson And Friends Museum was, hands down, the strangest part of the trip. I took a bunch of pictures of the weirdness that lay within, and will possibly some day treat you all to more (I've even got a close up of Willie's own personal robotic chess machine and a few nice shots of various Willie Nelson clay busts).

Nashville is also home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Don't look for any Jerry Read in here or you'll be as disappointed as Alison was. Sadly, the museum isn't as big or intense as you'd think and it's a little expensive (though the cafe inside is surprisingly good). That said, there are some one of a kind artifacts in here, such as....

Hank Williams' unusually long and skinny suit accompanied by his guitar (very little tribute is paid to Hank Sr. beyond this display piece which is, if you ask me, a load of crap).

....a pair of Buck Owens' trademark red, white and blue guitars placed next to one of the fanciest suits Merle Haggard has probably ever worn in his life.

As it is with Hank Sr., so it is with Johnny Cash. One of his suits is on display as is this guitar, the very one he used to use on his TV show in the 70s. Aside from that, however, there isn't much Johnny stuff to see (though his Hall of Fame plate is interesting in that it makes him look like his face is melting!).

George Jones and Ian agree - the Country Music Hall of Fame is simply 'okay' when it should be amazing.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mission Accomplished.

So we made it into NYC yesterday afternoon, safe and sound. More details when I have the time but I wanted to let everyone know we're here and alive. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic trip but right now we're surrounded by boxes and we need to do some housework. Weeeeeee.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Graceland And Sun Studios!

So yesterday (Wed. for those of you keeping track at home), Alison and I were in Memphis where we went to Graceland and to the legendary Sun Studios. We geeked out on tourist nonsense, and did the whole deal - a tour of the mansion, a tour of Elvis' cars, a peek at the Elvis car collection museum and more. We even booked ourselves a room at the Heartbreak Hotel (it wasn't very good, but it was literally at the end of Lonely Street). Here's a few random pictures and a few random thoughts to go with them (I took over 250 pictures yesterday, these are only a few obviously - time permitting, I'll post more once we're in NYC this weekend).

The tour bus takes you right up to the front door of the mansion. It's smaller than you'd probably expect, but very pretty. It's an old school colonial home on 18 acres of land that Elvis bought for $100,000.00 when he was 22 years old! It was likely quite serene then, now it's surrounded by liquor stores and used car dealerships.

The main door takes you into the sitting room. You can't get too close to anything in the home, for obvious reasons they don't want you to touch anything, but it was neat to see that the whole place was done up for the Holidays with Christmas stuff everywhere. I kinda liked how this shot turned out. I like the colors in it and the way you can note the peacocks in the stained glass. This was a pretty classy room.

Alison peeks at one of the hundreds of gold and platinum certified albums on display in one of the rooms outside the mansion. There's an insanely impressive collection at the museum and it really drives home just how many records Elvis sold and continues to sell long after his death.

Elvis was a man of many suits. Many strange, wonderfully garish suits. Many of which are really amazingly ornate once you get a chance to see them up close.

Visiting the gravesite where Elvis lies buried with his mother, father, brother and grandmother, is a pretty sombre experience. Fans from all over the world visit the site and leave mementos and even hand written notes expressing their appreciation for Elvis and his music. It might sound corny, and in a way it probably is, but it's really hard not to get a little choked up.

From Graceland we went down to Beale Street and then to Union Street where we took a tour of Sun Studios. It was pretty amazing to stand where people like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their first albums and basically made music history. The studio is small and simple but you can feel a neat vibe when you go into the room.

Another shot that turned out to my liking. This is 'the mic.' You can see it in all sorts of photographs taken in the studio during its boom days and it is the very microphone that Elvis, Johnny and the rest recorded their vocals with. Amazingly enough, the tour guides will let you tinker around with it. None of the studio, save for the control room, is off limits. You can touch the guitars, amps, mics and what not and tinker around with them. You can even rent the studio and all the gear inside for $85 an hour and cut your own record if you want.

So yeah, Memphis was neat. We got kinda lost at one point and ended up on a scary side of town but we made it back alive and got some ribs and some beers so all is well that ends well. We hit the Goner Records store (got a Thor album and the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack LP!) and toured around a little.

We spent today in Nashville, meaning we'll get back to NYC on Sat. instead of Friday but that's fine with both of us. We hit the Country Music Hall of Fame, a weird Willy Nelson Museum, an equally weird Dukes of Hazzard Museum and bought stuff at Ernest Tubb's Record Store but it's late and I haven't downloaded today's pictures yet. Tomorrow. For now... TV.... bed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Almost to Elvis.....

So we're here in Little Rock, Arkansas, wondering why it's not pronounced Our-Kansas instead of the Are-Can-Saw it's become, and fighting off the oncoming sleep coma to soon be brought on by a fine dinner we had at the Lone Star Steakhouse. We'll be in Memphis by 11am tomorrow, we're going to spend the afternoon and evening there and head east Thursday morning. We'll probably be in NYC by Friday, but if it's Saturday, that's ok to.

Not much happened today. We drove through OK to get here, and it's, well, dull. Not much to see but trees and tourist traps along the highway. It was an easy drive, just not as exciting as what had come before it. Regardless, I'm late with a few pictures. Going back to the weekend....

In front of Treasure Island Casino on Las Vegas Blvd. in the day time....

...and Las Vegas Blvd. once the sun goes down and the neon can shine.

Coming across the Hoover Dam into Arizona...

This is the current sign for some tourist trap trading post thing we stopped at!

We stopped here for lunch just before crossing into Texas. Notice that the 'Taco Kid' on the front of the building is smoking! Don't smoke, kids. It's bad for you. Tacos, on the other hand, are good.

We drove briefly on Route 66. Kicks were everywhere. You couldn't get away from them.

A weird bombed out church and surrounding community on I-40 East. Not sure if this was in Texas or AZ. I think it was AZ.

The Big Texan! Home of the free 72oz steak!

Everything is bigger in Texas, including rocking chairs!

After we left Texas we drove into OK and saw this rad little place....

...where inside you could try on cowboy hats and buy belts made out of dead rattle snakes.

That's all for now. We'll be having lunch around Graceland tomorrow and we couldn't be happier. Getting out of Arkansas won't be such a bad thing either....