Thursday, December 2, 2010

The San Juan Islands, Washington

Shortly after I got to Portland Donny and I decided to take a trip to San Juan Islands in Washington. I knew nothing about the islands except that they were beautiful. Beauty and pictures are an understatement of this place.

Even when going to a serene place I was reminded of this: There is never a dull moment.

Odd highlight of the trip: How many different places can we pitch our tent?

Without a car two people on a budget may have a hard time getting from Seattle to Anacortes. Getting from Portland to Seattle, no problem. $10 a person rideshare on Craigslist will get you there in four hours. Not many people hitchhiking-friendly people drive to Anacortes, however, with karma on our side, we were picked up faster than it took to write a sign.

We were picked up by an intriguing older man with quite a story. He told us his story as a Navy sailor whose ship was sunk in the Pacific due to a conspiring shipmate and captain. He was left in a raft for days without food or water, eventually washing upon Ni'ihau, the Forbidden Island. Long story short, this white man was transported to O'ahu and eventually a book and movie was made about the wreckage. This man was such a brilliant and eloquent storyteller I wish that would be my grandfather. I was most grateful for his hospitality and

Our first stop was Orcas Island. My friend Luis originally invited me to visit and offered to show us around. For the first night we camped in a friend's yard, which w
as a little odd at first, but was right next to the shore and quiet as can be.
The only issue I had with this trip began after this first night. I woke up with vertigo. I have no idea if I dislodged an ear fragment or just slept funny, but every morning I woke up with the spins. This is the most ridiculous thing
for a 26 year old, seriously. Torture me with foul smelling things or shave my head, but don't make me feel like an old woman, Karma. Jesus. I may as well have been sleeping on some train tracks. For fuck's sake. At least the view was pretty.

The next couple of nights we spent at one of the lakes. It was gorgeous. Cicadas singing songs, trout jumping at dusk, the campfire going. What goes well with all of that? Sailor Jerry's Rum of course! The world may end if Donny didn't have a drink in his hand. Drink trumps food. Although we tried our darndest to catch some fish, only babies were biting and the bait just didn't seem that enticing to eat.

The next few days were spent on Friday Harbor. What I learned about this island is that its packed full of tourists. The ones that flock to the island in the summertime. The main attraction for this island are the Orcas. We were fortunate enough to stay with one of Donny's friends that happen to own one of the kayaking outfitters. Which meant getting into a kayak for free! This friend also lived on a beautiful piece of land, so we had our choice to camp wherever we wanted. We chose the most interesting and dry spot...a trampoline.

I will say it was a chore to get situated in that thing with two people, but after it was relatively comfortable. At least more than acorns and tree branches. What annoyed me most was how friggin' cold it was in the mornings/evenings. I was definitely only dressed for summer, and wore the ONE sweater I had as though it were part of my skin. Although given a choice I'd still rather be frozen that wake up with vertigo.

The only unfortunate thing whilst on this trip was my inability to capture any Killer Whales with my camera. It probably didn't help that it wasn't waterproof. I guess I'll know better next time, because when those huge mammals breach it is a sight to see! I recommend the beautiful, tranquil San Juan Islands for a summer getaway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Portland: The Weird and the Beautiful

My first day in Portland began with meeting Curious Thomas for an exchange of goods. Headphones for a Rogue beer. He brought his mom. Awkward. Fortunately his mom was hot and seemed to please the others (Drunk Don and The Lesbians Jessi and Stacy). I was with Cougar Eye Candy. It was Tiki Tuesday at Rogue Brewery. If you wear an Aloha shirt you get a free beer. Funny enough a Hawai'i ID doesn't count. Tell me how that works?

My first week was spent wandering around with Don, Laura and Brandon, all of whom I'd met in Hawai'i at some point. Laura was my old roomate who is from Portland. She decided our first stop should be Mary's, the very first strip club in the city. This place was anything but raunchy. It was as oldschool as it can get. One stage with one jukebox. The "dancer" chooses a song and does her thing. The place is tiny, stuffy, and full of slot machines. I wasn't even sure if people went there to see the strippers or not. We had a drink a left.

Next we went to a cheap ass sushi bar. We received our food by train. A motorized train, that is. Not the best or most classy style of eating, but fun nonetheless. After a couple sake bombs and sushi we went to a barcade. That's right. A bar and classic arcade. I'm not talking Dave and Busters crap. I'm talking about classic games from the 80s and 90s. What's more awesome is that we played for free the entire night. The pinball games rocked my world.

Brandon, my other tour guide, used to be a music promoter. We met while he was promoting a show in Hawai'i. No, we never hooked up, but I always thought he was a cool guy so I kept contact with him. I have him to thank for showing me that serenity can be found in the hustle of the city. The Chinese Tea Garden had artisans construct an authentic and harmonious area in Chinatown. Unfortunately, Portland's Chinatown is pathetic and nonexistent. I guess the strip clubs make up for the lack of any real culture.

Aside from the city's charms (which I will tell in specific at a later time),
nature does exist here. I went on an excursion with Donny to Washington Park. Full of Redwood trees, old pines, and various plants I'd never seen nor heard of. It was more beautiful than I expected to see within the city. The pathways led into a canopy of trees as the sun burst through the leaves, and we just strolled through the arboreal maze with ease. In a random niche of the wood there is a wooden overlook with benches; a perfect resting spot for lunch. Sandwiches and some wine did us fine.I guess there's more nature to see in the city than I thought.

Greyhound strangers and Portland Crazies

Ah, the fine stench of the Greyhound bus. I guess Portland is a big travel destination. To be honest, nothing is worth the 16 hours I agonized through on this bus. It began with the bus driver apparently just learning how to drive. This was definitely a different experience than last time. Instead of boarding the hippie wagon I entered the minority van smuggling immigrants across the border. My first and worst mistake was choosing a seat in the back. I guess this isn't grade school anymore where the back is where the cool kids go. Nope, this was where the morons (me) and irritable boweled ones sit. The only consolation prize was a cute young guy, who I had previously seen in the Sacramento station, who sat next to me.
On this hourless journey into the depths of pungent hell I soon realized why I hated and stopped riding Greyhound. Nausea is not fun for an extended amount of time. This ride made tequila-jagerbombs-heineken-wine hangover look good. Eating a Boca burger was a bad choice. I was surprised that even though I looked like shit, this kid wanted to talk to me. I basically spent the hours chatting with him through a semi-odor-concealing scarf and dozing on and off. Damn that bathroom stunk. I think someone had some bad nachos bell grande or something. Sick.
So over the next shit-some hours Thomas and I chatted. I learned he was a typical teenager. Played swords with his friends (this is not an innuendo) and drank heavily. Good thing he was cute because JESUS was he a child. Did I mention this Curious Thomas was a closet nudist? Yes, he liked to streak with his friends or get fucked up and strip down. His basic endeavor was to become a lifelong college student. Of course the pathological liar in me feeds him lies of being a professor and who knows whatever bullshit came out of my ridiculous mouth. Why on earth do I do that? Ha!

I was lucky, however, to get him as a seat buddy. I'm not sure how much I could've stood Tri-Colored Hair Mom, Bottomless Chip Bag Lady, or the alcoholic grandma behind me. It only took me until midnight to realize I was delirious with starvation and exhaustion while simultaneously nauseated. Curious Thomas shared his PB&J with me.

4 am. The smell of urine and toilet cleaner has become significantly more revolting. I gag every time the door opens. My consciousness faded in and out of interesting conversations with Curious Thom. Soon he was off of the bus and I was left with his headphones, possibly and quite purposefully left. The next day he called me to "meet up" and exchange them for a drink. Well played, good sir.

My arrival into Portland was interesting, to say the least. In the first hour I came across more weirdos than I had ever seen in Hawai'i and Florida combined. I was unable to tell the difference between the homeless, the vagabonds, and the everyday Portlander. After riding on the bus forever I reached Don's place, a couchsurfing house. Where was I to sleep in a house full of 8 people? In the gypsy room, of course, with four others.

The people living in this house were so different from each other. I was surprised to see them get along so well. First there was Don, my friend from Cleveland who I'd met in Honolulu the year before. He'd just moved there in January and was more like a brother to me than friend. He has a bit of a drinking problem, but I love him. Then there is Serafin, the flamboyant Filipino ice skater. He runs the house, is never around, and is in the closet. Not long after I'm giving him makeup and bra advice. Then there is Mostly, whose denies anyone her real name for whatever reason, but eventually you'll figure it out when she befriends you on Facebook. She's basically the bisexual, eccentric stripper. Then there is Shane, the 20 year old chef who likes to party a bit. This kid has done some drugs, but he's still a cool cat. He is always smoking pot or drinking. The other roomates are: Javier the stylish Blasian chef from SF; Jordan, the malnourished 10 year old cycling chef (who has a big heart); Jereme, the tattooed recovering addict chef (whom I find out is back on heroine later in time); and Danielle, the alien artist from another planet (who always has genuine intentions).

Imagine being in a house full of these people daily. I didn't even have to leave the house to see Portland. All of the weirdness of the city was right in front of me.

Sorry I don't happen to have a picture of this crew, you can just imagine for yourselves.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodbye San Fran. Next, Portland

After a good month of being in SF, I composed a plan of my final days in the city. First I wanted to eat one last burrito from Papalote. These super burritos are honkin' good and they even make vegetarian and vegan ones. Fortunately I eat meat, so I tore it up chile verde style with jalapenos. The best part of this place
is their spicy, roasted salsa which is pretty easy to drink (no, I held back). Definitely recommend anything with their salsa. It's sooooo yum.

One of the other things I wanted to do was sit in
Dolores Park one last time and enjoy the sun and
ambience. It was perfect weather with the sun blazin'
and the air a bit cool, I sat watching the people
watch their dogs and the dogs rule their humans.
Then I hear the ringing of the Mexican ice cream cart and all is right. The Sundays serenade me this time and I get up to take a stroll through the Castro. Good old Castro...I enjoy a chuckle at the endless store innuendo and charm of gorgeous gay men prancing about. I pass Harvey Milk's camera store and the Sausage Factory, which kind of makes me hungry, but who knows how vagina friendly they are there. Make my way up and down the block and feel I've satisfied my gay pride for awhile.

There wasn't much more on my to-do list other than bottomless mimosas, which I completed over brunch with D the morning before I left. Food was decent, couldn't complain about the goblet-sized glasses of mimosa. The "Castro" roll was so beautiful I almost didn't want to eat it.

The last thing I was able to do before I left was watch the World Cup with D, Asher, and some of his friends. Spain's victory was a great send off. Unfortunately the 16 hour bus ride wasn't as spectacular...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Coastal Drive, California

I took a trip to Monterey Bay in Asher's Mini Cooper. He had been teasing me with the thought before I even landed in San Fran, but never had time to take me while I was here. Being the Asher that he is, he offered his car. How could I say no? Driving the mini in general was awesome, but taking the coast doing 90 mph was sweeter. In two hours it was worth the drive (and the 30 bucks) to see my archnemesis the Cnidaria subphylum Medusozoa (fucking jelly fish pieces of shit,but oh so beautimous and awesome). I could've spent hours just staring at them behind the glass, unable to leave me breathless with their thousands of nematocysts. Ahh, I could breathe (although they kind of do take my breath away with their alien beauty). If anyone has ever lived with me or known me they know I love the water. And they also know that if these little jelly bitches are in the water, I will find them (or they will find me). Not such a pretty site to see me with ballooned appendages and asthma. Jill can definitely vouch for the vinegar, meat tenderizer, and the Safe Sea (jelly sunblock) in my car at all times. Although none of these things really worked for me, I felt some reassurance, even if it were false.

Anywho, obviously I have an obsession with jellyfish, so seeing oodles of them kinda made my day, or year. The other animals in the aquarium were pretty snazzy as well. To be honest, it was easy to get lost in that mammoth of a place. Some of the creatures seemed unhappy. Well, the ones that actually had brains and could, quite possibly, show some emotion. The shark tank was a little overrated, as there were only two hammerheads and a reef shark. Boring! I could find more sharks if I hopped in the Bay. I do recommend it other than that. They even have touch tanks with dozens of snotty children's hands to join. Definitely a must if you're looking to catch the flu.

After my aquarium fix I floated on to
Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Kinda nifty little carnival on the beach, which happened to have all of the wonderful and greasy food we love to eat at the fair. I indulged myself with a overpriced corndog and walked the plank, played some games, took
some pictures. Since the meter parking was a quarter every ten minutes, I got the hell out of
there quickly. That and I'm way too frugal to spend money on a $5 ride or $20 tank top. Damn the man!

Made my way back up to city, but not after stopping for a few photo ops along the way. The coast was way too nice to pass up.

Museums and artsy things

I was finally able to get myself to a couple of the museums in San Francisco. I also managed to go on a day that they are free. The museums I went to were SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and de Young (Museum of Fine Arts). I took a lot of pictures, but only posted a few that really caught my eye. I do, however, suggest if you go on these "free days" to make sure you have plenty of coffee, possibly a valium (or some other gateway drug) and a thirst for school children. Because that's what you're going to run into. Shit tons of children and freeloaders like me (although I do like going on the "regular days" to look at the zoo of pretentious asses more than the art itself). I definitely had to regulate my patience, something fierce, and only stink-eyed a handful of foreigners and elbowed (softly nudged) a few children. I mean, come on, you can't touch the art! Why do you think it's in those lovely frames or behind those rope detectors with cameras and security guards. For funsies? I think not.

So while I was in college I became fond of modern art
after some in-depth study, realizing it wasn't just crap and shit some art student threw together with various
household objects (although one could pass something off as a Pollock). Everyone always seems to enjoy works by Warhol, however I'm partial to Chuck Close.
I think he has more talent with super-realism paintings that resemble photographs. Andy Warhol just came up with a good idea of using everyday images repeatedly.

It's fair to say I enjoyed the modern art museum better, however I do appreciate the fine art (I've just seen it before in classier, European museums).

For anyone looking for free museums in SF:

Friday, July 9, 2010

San Francisco, 37 days later

I've been here for over a month. The time went by pretty fast as did some of my money. I guess I'll have to plan better for Portland and starve myself. That or I could work on my magic tricks and ask for handouts. Not really my style....BUT in desperate times I have sang in parks (badly, might I add) for alcohol money. And no, I'm not an alcoholic. That right was taken away from me and given to the rest of my family. I, on the other hand, practice safe drinking. In social situations and in front of televisions. The latter being completely normal. Most of America does it, anyhow.

Onwards and upwards...Today I went to Livermore with D for some wine tasting and vineyard roaming. Since I am now a Gatekeeper at Concannon Vineyards I felt I should take advantage of their free and bottomless tasting. If you're wondering what the hell a Gatekeeper actually is, well, it's the demon dog from Ghostbusters, and apparently the secret word for members. They give some shpeel about it being more like a wine "society," however, my ears come up with "cult" and thus, I joined. Who wouldn't want to be asked, "Are you a Gatekeeper?" every time you walk in? Needless to say after countless tastings, D joined the cult. From there we made our way to two more tasting rooms, leaving Livermore drunk. Mission accomplished.

Ah, and where did I go next? To Naan 'N Curry of course! The cheap Indian eatery with bottomless chai! I don't even need a dish, just give me six cups of chai...make that seven. This place is a must for any person on a budget, and they're everywhere. Now I sit here drunk off of chai and exhausted from the day. 10 o'clock and ready for bed. Exploring and drinking makes me tired! Tomorrow is a new day.

Clouds, Clouds, and ooo something shiny

Its another typical San Francisco day. Turned on Ben Lee (no relation) and started writing. it's cloudy and about 60 degrees. Yesterday I did absolutely nothing except my online course for Korea and walk to a very expensive Bi Rite for Chicken Marsala goods. I haven't made it in a couple of years, but I still gots the skizzles. I made a fair amount of Chicken Marsala for Asher and I (with leftovers for his cousin), alongside my Gatekeeper's edition of reserve Chardonnay, of course. A very edible and drinkable pair (the food, that is).

It's been great staying with Asher and Micah. I've enjoyed my couchplanting and conversing with the techies, who aren't as antisocial as society may dub them. At least not these guys. They lead relatively interesting lives underneath all of those nerdy games and wireless devices. And so much deeper and fucked up. Their personal could be turned into a sitcom. What a good idea...

The parties they've thrown here have brought quite the rainbow of flavors. Hipsters, small-towners, hackers, bread makers, four-kidneyed Russians...There's no discrimination here. And I'm glad to have been there, sometimes even looking out and joining the emo karaoke. Although I choose to pass on the coke lines off the toilet and passing out on the corner while it's still daylight. I'm just sayin' that's not my thing.

It's been pretty awesome staying in the Mission. La Missione with your filthy, savory, flashy streets. Such distinct smells waft from your shops. And, Oh! how I love your shit-stained sidewalks and continuous cat calls. This Latin district really is the most vibrant area to live in. There are endless options to eat, drink, and meander. The best part is how everything is within walking distance, including Castro and Noe Valley. What I find the most interesting is how Valencia Street, one block away from the chaotic Mission Street, is very mellow and sophisticated (kind of). Definitely very hipster and self-contained.

In a couple of days I embark on another journey via Greyhound bus. It's been a couple of years since I've hopped on one of these malodorous bucket of bolts. As I recall, the last time I rode one I swore it'd be years since I would get on one, and Ha! here I am, fulfilling my transportation destiny. Look at me now mom! A stranger is giving me a foot massage with his tongue!

Ahh, good times. Next stop, Portland. And more past adventures to come!