Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oh, My Nola.

New Orleans is crazy. I can't explain it - it just is. Reflect upon your college days, and take frat row - well, all the frat guys and football fans and underage party kids and raging alcoholics from your entire university (but a proper sports school a la the Big Ten) - and put them on one street and you have a taste of New Orleans. The rowdy part, anyway.

My hotel is exactly one block away from Bourbon Street. Just a couple hours ago, a couple Googlers and I ventured out in search of dinner. As Bourbon Street has the flashy lights and heavy foot traffic, we figured we might have some luck there. It took half a block for us to realize we went looking down the wrong street. There was no food to be found, only bar after bar, daiquiri after daiquiri.

People are drunk in the French Quarter at all hours of the day. On a Sunday, no less.

Four hours later, I accompanied two guys from our volunteer group down Bourbon to check out the music scene. We found ourselves in Fat Catz, a place where the locals and tourists and homeless come together for a rollicking good time. Where the waitresses are, well, let's just say 'forward' is an understatement. And FYI, Mustang Sally is the most requested song in NOLA. Just thought you'd like to know.

Being completely sober amidst total debauchery is actually kind of entertaining.

As for why I'm finding myself in the French Quarter (aside from the quest for Southern hospitality), I want to help. I read an article recently that noted how musicians are struggling due to fewer tourists and poorer locals to rely on, and I found that to be particularly troubling, as culture is what keeps the city alive. Rebuild the birthplace of jazz? If this is really a place of such improvisation and creativity, I think this melting pot culture needs to be rebuilt.

Georgia On My Mind.

The first thing I notice when I land in Atlanta is that it's cold. The air conditioner is on full blast, and skirt and thin sweater clad me is actually cold. And I rarely experience this sensation that others call "cold." Granted, I am making these observations from the confines of the airport, but still, this is not what I expected of Hotlanta.

Regardless, I decide to make the most of it and focus on the positive. This is my first time in the South, and I'm determined to experience Southern hospitality. It's been something of a dream of mine. As this will be a short stay - two hours, to be precise - I'll leave the hospitality for Louisiana and move on to more pressing concerns.

My ATL friend once told me that there is a Chick-fil-a in the airport here and immediately my mood brightens upon the thought of this. I am sleep deprived and in need of a shower but all my worries melt away. In anticipation, I make a beeline for the sweet tea and delicious chicken sandwiches but to my dismay, it is closed. I am thisclose to heaven and the gates are shut. Because it's a Sunday. Tragic.

Oooh.. flight is boarding. Will have to finish my thoughts from NOLA.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Foodie's Paradise.

I have taken a bite of the Big Apple, and boy, was it delicious. To tidily sum up what I did over this trip to New York, I simply ate. I ate and ate and ate. I ate meals that I didn’t know were meals. Out the window went the typical breakfast-lunch-dinner mold – I ate at all hours of the day. Famous names, foreign names, street names, I ate it all. In the past four days, I have sampled four different cupcakes from four different cupcakeries and ate what may very well have been the best meal of my life.

Highlights include:

* Best pizza: Lombardi’s
* Best cupcake: Red Velvet at Buttercup Bakeshop (possibly better than Sprinkles.. and that's saying a lot)
* Best precursor for Europe: Pastis
* Most darling dessert place / favorite movie setting: Café Lalo
* Most pleasantly surprising: Rice to Riches (rice pudding, who knew?)
* Fun, but overrated: Serendipity
* Biggest disappointment: Bonchon.. running out of chicken ("does McDonald's ever sell out of hamburgers?")
* Best meal at Google NY: Lobster ravioli
* Best (& probably most expensive) meal of my life: Nobu Next Door

All in all, it’s been a great week in food. Onward to NOLA and it's po' boys, beignets, and jambalaya!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Take the E Train.

The first thing you notice about New York is the weather. You step off the plane, and although technically in the Garden State, you just know that the heat will extend to the Man - Manhattan, that is. And then there are the skyscrapers - the hustle and bustle of people with places to go and things to do. With confident strides, they're determined in reaching their respective destinations, without time to stop and smell the roses (but oftentimes the coffee).

I feel the humidity in my shoes. As I'm walking down 2nd Ave. toward the subway at 51st and Lex, I'm aware of my feet. And I don't normally think about my feet. I feel this surge of mugginess, but I'm too enamored with the city to dwell on it for too long. One of my favorite things about SF are the Victorians - so rich in character and quirkiness. But New York, oh New York has the dignified, sleepy brownstones. I discovered this last night as I was wandering down one of the myriad numbered streets in the Upper East Side on my way to dinner. Holly Golightly lived in a brownstone. I think I may love brownstones more.

I'm waiting at the corner of 50th and 3rd Ave., momentarily halted by a red light, and a homeless man is yelling at me. I don't know what he is yelling, but I know they're a string of either expletives or obscenities. But based on the menacing look on his face, I'll have to go with expletives. I wonder what I've done to offend him. They say that headphones are transforming our society into isolated individuals and are cutting off non-virtual communication as we know it. But for what it's worth, today I'll have to argue with John Donne and say that every man is an island, at least to some degree, and be grateful for my headphones, as I'd really rather not know what this man is yelling at me about.

Now I'm standing, waiting to catch the E line towards World Trade Center. I'm running later to work than I had intended, in part due to jetlag and prematurely closing doors. I missed the first train, as the doors were sliding to a shut at the point of my arrival. But I don't mind. I suppose I could have made it had I continued to walk down the escalator, but I stopped a couple steps shy of the platform, as a couple was standing stationary in front of me. And so I stood as well. This is New York, and I was enjoying a New York moment. It's the mundane things that I relish, that make me feel like a New Yorker, even if just for a day.

The next train that arrives is the V. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the escalator couple board the train. The humidity is starting to creep in. I begin to notice the murky puddles and trash littering the subway bottom. I'm trying not to focus too much, for fear of a rat or cockroach sighting. Moving right along.

Another five minutes have passed and beads of sweat have formed on my forehead. Now I'm upset at the stationary couple, thinking: "This is New York! Who stands on an escalator during rush hour in NYC??" But the E train rolls in soon thereafter, and with the air conditioner on full blast, I find myself once again in a New York moment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Things I Did While Attempting to Pack.

* Powernap.
* Stare at suitcase.
* Check recent The Sartorialist photos to gauge NYC weather.
* Lose 4 games of expert-level Minesweeper.
* Roll suitcase down hallway.
* IMDB Rainn Wilson.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Push zee Button.

So there's this scene in the first season of Felicity, when her parents come to visit New York for the first time to see how she's faring, and to convince her to move back home and attend Stanford. Defeated, she's all ready to move back to California.. when they hand her a set of car keys as an added incentive. And then she realizes that that's not what she wants. She doesn't want the easy way out. She wants to stay in New York and figure things out on her own. Yes, it will be hard, and yes, she feels overwhelmed. But it's what she has to do - grow up and live her own life. And as she fingers the keys in her palm and turns them around, the camera zooms in on her thumb inching toward the panic button.

So I got out my keys and pressed my panic button. Nothing happened.