Thursday, July 30, 2009

Music to live and love by

Part two of our CA trip is coming soon but first, I had to let everyone know how my date with Jason Mraz went last night.  

Long story short, I'm in luuurrrrve and I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm swell too.  How else can you explain him singing Butterfly (a veritable anthem of "Girl, get up on over here and gimme somma that.") to me?  Right?  Right???

Ahem.  Right.  Well.  Anyway...

Overall, the concert was awesome.  Highlights included the reggae version of The Remedy, the Gypsy MC/Curbside Prophet mashup with G. Love and K'naan and the cover of Lionel Richie's All Night Long.  Really, my only disappointment was that he didn't do The Dynamo of Volition. 

And I'm going to say this even though it makes me seem like one of "those people".  You know, the kind of people who don't like it when one of their favorite small venue type artists has a major hit and gets really popular?  

But I'm going to say it anyway.  I love the song I'm Yours.  Love it.  But a lot of people probably think this is a new song.  Well, it's not.  Jason has been performing this song for years at his live shows.  It had never appeared on any record and the only people who knew it were the ones who went to his concerts.  So, it felt kind of like something special that only we were in on.

Then came the summer of '08 and this song was the first single on the new album.  Personally, I was so happy to finally be able to listen to this song anytime I wanted instead of only being able to hear it live.  And of course I was happy for Jason's success.  But now, it kind of breaks my heart at the shows to see frat-brats in their backwards hats and popped collars raising their Bud Lites and cheering when this song starts.  Somehow that makes it a little less special.  And somehow that makes me a little sad.

Anyway, no matter.  That doesn't change the fact that his music simply makes my heart smile.  It puts my soul at ease.  It makes me want to be a better person.  And it makes me want to have little Mraz babies.

What?!?  Did I just say that out loud?!?!  Oops.  Sorry, Other Jason.  (Of the husband variety.)  I didn't mean it.  Yes, I did.  No, I didn't.  

(Yes, I did.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If you're going to San Francisco... sure to bring a cardigan or twenty.  Forget what the song says about wearing some flowers in your hair.  This was our third time to San Fran but the last trip was something like 8 years ago and I don't know how, but I had forgotten just how chilly this city can be, even in the dead of summer.

However, the sun was out and the sky was blue so we made our way outside to explore a bit.

At the top of the curvy bit of Lombard Street...

Tudor architecture, San Francisco stylie!

Francisco Street, bishes!  (Cut me some slack.  It was a travel day.)

To Pier 39 to visit the Sea Lions...

And for dinner, an old fave of ours - Tadich Grill. "The Original Cold Day Restaurant" is the oldest eatery in San Francisco (some sources say the oldest in California) and they serve up some mean clam chowder and seafood casseroles.  I'm warning you now though.  You will straight up need to be rolled out of here when you're done.  Going to Tadich is like stepping back in time.  The servers are all career waiters and most have been there for YEARS.  They all wear white lab-type jackets and white aprons and give you a hard time if you order anything but whiskey or a vodka tonic.

Jason saw the Grubstake on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on Food Network so we had to go for breakfast on Sunday morning.  I ordered the Mountain Man (eggs and ham scrambled together, hashbrowns and sourdough toast) just so I could say "I'll have the Mountain Man, please!"

Half of the place - the half on the other side of those little green windows - is an old rail car (part of the train line that served between Berkley, Oakland, and San Fran) that was put out of commission once the Bay Bridge was built.  You can see the rail car bit sticking out the front in the photo above.

And after attempting to see the Golden Gate bridge (no go - despite the blue skies over the whole rest of the city, a line of heavy fog hung smack over the bridge, taunting us), we ended up walking around a bit and lo and behold we saw something here we'd never seen before.  Apparently, this is the Exploratorium - a museum of science and human perception.  To which I said "Hellnothankyouverymuch, no f-ing way am I going in there".  But it's lovely to look at.

After enjoying the outside of the Exploratorium, we made our way to Alamo Square.  People, this is very hallowed ground.  Can you feel the spirit of DJ Tanner?  "Whatever happened to predictability?  The milk man, the paperboy and evening tv?"

Sunday night was the most random night of my life.  And I mean that.  Very seriously.  We had heard about this place called Supper Club and though we weren't really keen to have a meal there, we did want to at least go by for a drink.  We knew it was a very high concept sort of place, but we weren't exactly prepared for just how high.  We walk in and there are no tables - only beds.  Okay, fine.  I'll play along.  

After we situate ourselves on our assigned bed, we notice a middle-aged gay man in a sparkly blue full-body bunny outfit and 8-inch clear platform heels lounging on people's beds and generally mingling about.  I was so dreading him coming to our bed to chat but shockingly, when he did, he was well...kind of...normal-ish.  Which, if I'm honest, made the whole thing even weirder.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you sort of expect the middle-aged gay man in a sparkly blue full-body bunny outfit and 8-inch clear platform heels to be a little kooky, if not full on bat shit crazy?

Then we tried to go to Cafe du Nord to hear an awesome jazz singer (who, by the by, was actually performing a repertoire of Patsy Cline numbers that evening) but were thwarted because I forgot to shove my ID into my sickly awesome Michael Kors studded clutch and no matter how hard we tried to convince the door guy that "Come on!  We're OLD!  Can't you tell how OLD we are???  Pleeeeeeeease????  We're practically FORTY, man!!!" it was a no-go.  The man was a rock...and indifferent to our pleas.  

So somehow, we ended up at a dive bar in Chinatown called the Li Po Lounge.  Maybe they call it that because you want to Leap-o out the window once you get there.  However, they are apparently known to have the best Mai Tai in the city of San Francisco so that's something...  It's also "something" that they serve it to you in a plastic beer cup.  (In all fairness, the Mai Tai was pretty awesome.  I mean, it was my first Mai Tai ever so I have no frame of comparison but still...yum.)

To cap off the most random evening of my life, we made a late night Jack in the Box run.  I can't even begin to discuss how weird this got but here's what I will say:  An old woman came in begging for money and made a little boy run out crying because she lifted her shirt to show some sort of open wound in an effort to garner sympathy.  And I'm done with that story now.

Monday morning, we got out and picked up our rental car and made our way north towards our base for the week - Sonoma.  How exciting!  We get to go over the Golden Gate bridge!  Another chance to get my shot!  Erm... right...  Not. So. Much.

So, I'm going to cut out here and bring you part two of this adventure a little later...  I do love a good cliffhanger.

Oh hai!

Ummm, I'm back?  Ish?  Sort of?  

After a week in Sonoma Valley, my head is still cloudy and my veins are still coursing with cabernet.

Yet, I have grand plans for posting about the trip this week.  Though my thoughts are quickly turning to my date with Jason Mraz on Wednesday night...  So I'd better act fast.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Adventures in the great outdoors

And by "great outdoors", I of course mean my sister-in-law Jenny's backyard.  (What?  We're not neanderthals.)  And by "adventures", I of course mean Jason, Joe, Katie and Anna camping and me, Jenny and Amy going inside to watch Twilight (Yes, again.  Shut up.) once the 'smores were gone and then sleeping in very comfy beds.  

Some hot marshmallow action.  Ryan demonstrates proper roasting technique for Katie.  It's a very delicate procedure.

Ahh yes.  My my, I am attractive.

Well, it's cute when kids shove 'smores in their faces.

Jason brings out the adult goodies - Chimay.  I do love a beer that you have to pop like a champagne bottle.

The morning after, looking slightly worse for the wear.

Anna was so into pretending that we were hiding from bears and wolves.  Jenny and Ryan's dog Wrigley served as both so we kept a close eye out.

And that was the extent of my participation in the camping experiment.  Hey, if you need 'smores assembly - I'm here for you.  If you need someone to play pretend wilderness the next morning - I'm your girl.  But sleeping outside in North Carolina in July?  Umm, nothankyouverymuch.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Play ball

Well, 'tis a very rainy and miserable day in Raleigh (Of course it is.  We just bought a brand new sprinkler system yesterday and watered the hell out of our yard for 4 hours.  F you, drought.) and the little one in my care is currently engrossed in a vTech game (and also singing Rhianna's Umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh song over and over), thus affording me a few minutes to catch up on some well overdue blogging.

Surprise, surprise.  Another beautiful summer evening, another baseball game.  Does anyone else think beverage sizes have gotten out of control?  This is a MEDIUM Diet Coke.  MEDIUM, I tell you!

I was finally able to get my camera out quick enough after a home run (by Ruggiano - who else?) to catch the bull in action.  Glowing red eyes, smoke pouring out of the nostrils.  That bull is fierce!

It's becoming a habit for Jason to leave his seat in the 8th inning and come back with a bag of Cracker Jacks to share.  Of course, everybody knows the best part is opening the prize.  I always hope for a cool tat.

Even though the Gwinnett Braves got off to an early good start, the Bulls came back and won  8 to 3.  One of our runs was actually scored off a pretty bad error by a Braves outfielder.  I don't fully understand the rule under which this incident occurred...  It's sort of obscure since stuff like this rarely happens.  

Anyway, the outfielder was actually trying to be a nice guy and tossed the ball to some fans in the stands but the ball was still technically in play so the Bulls automatically advanced a base.  And therefore scored on the next play.  Err, whoops.  It would have been worse if we had only won by one run.  That outfielder would have been kicking himself even more.

Well, more to come this week before we take off for California next Saturday.  The vacay countdown is officially on.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

D'ya want to go to the seaside?

The setup:  Jason and I arrive in Wilmington at about 7pm on Thursday evening to start our Fourth of July holiday.  

This was not a bad introduction to the trip - the historic Taylor House B&B, our home for the weekend.

The very picture of southern charm and restful weekends spent on the front porch, mint julip in hand...

And our lovely room...

Allright, I'm going to be very forthright and rather blunt with you all right about now.  Jason and I went out Thursday evening and without meaning to, got rip-roaring, face-falling-off drunk and stumbled into the B&B at about 3:30 AM, staggering and giggling and "Shhhhh!" -ing my way up the 100-year-old staircase with a McNugget hanging out of my mouth and clutching a fist full of french fries.  

(Yes, we had our taxi take us through the McDonald's drive thru.  It was the only thing open that was on the route back to our B&B.  But that didn't stop me from yelling from the backseat for "IHOPWAFFLEHOUSEHASHBROWNS!" about every 30 seconds.)

It was supremely hilarious.

At the time.

The next morning?

Decidedly less so.

I woke up looking like the very vision of death.  And my mouth felt like I had licked the south end of a north bound mule.  But that didn't last long because everybody (beer, wine and vodka) was getting kicked out of the party in my tummy, posthaste.  

Jason put it best when he said "You know, sometimes you need to do this to remind yourself why you shouldn't do this."  Bingo.  My 32-year-old ass most definitely got the memo.

Somehow, someway, we managed to somewhat recover and by about noon, were on our way to the Fourth of July Festival in Southport.  (With a pitstop at Bojangle's, of course.)

Y'all?  Fourth of July is some serious business in Southport.

Attempting to soak up the alcohol...

But the smell of all that food and the heat of the cookers was making me feel a little like my Bojangle's cajun fries were about to stage a comeback tour so I grabbed Jason by the elbow and made a beeline for the waterfront.  

Only 3,271 miles to Southport, England eh?

Here we are trying to look not-hungover.  Successful?  

Jason wasn't sure whether there really was a sign for an enchanted forest or if he was just still drunk.

Southport is the epitome of quaint coastal living.  Lots of whitewashed buildings...

Back in Wilmington that evening, we had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend of mine from high school who I had not seen in about 14 years!  It was so nice to catch up and reminisce.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet his wife and brand-new baby this time but Jacob has kindly offered to get me over my kayakophobia next time we're in town.  He's got his work cut out for him but I'm willing to try.  

Some shots of the Wilmington riverside at dusk...  To the right - the USS North Carolina battleship, which was used in WWII, has been docked here in the Cape Fear river since 1961.

And to the left - the drawbridge.

The next morning, we awoke in much better shape and were even early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee on the front porch before breakfast.  (And I'm not wearing even a trace of makeup - not even moisturizer - so please try not to focus in on the general area of my face.)

Wilmington is such an eclectic little city and there are lots of totally different styles of architecture crammed next to each other.  It's a little bit Deco...

A little bit Federal...

A little bit Neo-classical Revival...

A little bit of this...

A little bit of that...

And of course, quite a lot of this...a typical old Antebellum residence.  But this one is the granddaddy of them all here in ILM - the Bellamy Mansion.

Those columns make me want to make a dress out of drapes and recite a rousing soliloquy about nevah going hungray ahgaihn.  I don't know why.

My attempt at fancy picture-taking on the iron gate surrounding the mansion:

Another thing I love about the city is its artsy feel.  There are public sculptures and works of art all around.

Back down to the riverside for an afternoon stroll...

The city put in this gorgeous riverwalk many years ago and along the way are lots of boutiques and restaurants.  In fact, one of our favorite restaurants in Wilmington is here - Elijah's.  Over the years we've had more servings of their crab dip than I could even begin to count.  And if you can get one of the river front tables, all the better.

The battleship and drawbridge in daylight...

After all that walking, a treat was definitely in order.  For Jason, this meant a fresh-made mini cannoli from the Italian Market.

Sunday morning, we checked out of the Taylor House bright and early and headed down to the riverfront to catch a walking tour of the city that we'd heard was really good.  (Later to be referred to as The Walking Tour That Would Never End.)  It's done by a 70-something year old man who has lived in Wilmington his whole life and knows A LOT about the city.  Actually, that doesn't even begin to cover it.  He knows EVERY DAMN THING about the city.  And EVERY DAMN BODY in the city.  You think I'm exaggerating.  I'm not.  Not even a little bit.

This man gave us a history lesson on the city for AN HOUR AND A HALF before the walking part of the tour ever even started.  He was surely entertaining and I found out a lot of stuff I never knew, but AN HOUR AND A HALF, people.  Then, we started walking.  On every corner, he stopped and introduced us to someone he knew.  Half a dozen or more cars stopped dead in the street to say hi.  He took us into people's YARDS and I'll be damned if one couple didn't invite us all inside to see their historic home.

What made this whole experience even funnier was that this gentleman was most certainly "a confirmed bachelor" ifyaknowwhatimean...  Do ya?  Hmmm?  He told us that he used to be a decorator.  He is on most familiar terms with the young gay couples in town.  Or as he affectionately called them, "the queers".  Hilarious!  He was as flamboyant as the day is long.  At first, I thought it was just an exaggerated coastal southern accent (very different from the inland southern accents in the Carolinas) but as the tour went on, it dawned on me.  Holy crap.  This old man is gay gay gay!  Or queer queer queer as he would probably say.

Anyway, THREE AND A HALF HOURS later, The Walking Tour That Would Never End finally did.  Don't get me wrong here.  The tour was fantastic.  I've never seen someone so passionate about preserving the integrity of their hometown.  His mantra is "Don't change the structure.  Don't tear it down.  Work with it.  Create something new with something old."  And he constantly and tirelessly fights the city developers for his cause.  The man is a crusader for historic preservation and every historic city needs someone like him.  I highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Wilmington.  Just know that it will go on for ages and plan accordingly.  Bring a snack.  
Sunday afternoon, we decided to go out to Bald Head Island, even though the weather was less than cooperative.  It had started to downpour towards the end of The Walking Tour That Would Never End But Finally Did and the sky just never recovered, remaining an icky shade of grey that is decidedly not optimal for photography.  Or, in my case - less "photography", but moreso "Oooh pretty!  Snappy snappy picture times yay!"

Anyway.  Bald Head Island.  Some of the most beautiful and architecturally interesting beach houses I've ever seen are on BHI.  We golf carted around and gawped over them for a while.  Luckily for us, we found one we can afford!  What do you think?

Jason and I determined that there are basically a total of four things to do on BHI:

A visit to Old Baldy, NC's oldest lighthouse...

Exploring the natural beauty of the island on a golf cart - the only mode of transportation allowed on the island except bikes...


And the number one most popular activity on Bald Head Island:

Perhaps you can understand why I was loathe to leave.

Alas, real life awaited and we figured we should probably go back to Raleigh at some point.  But there was one more treat to be had.

One of my favorite things about leaving the coast via Wilmington is this awesome sign at the start of Interstate 40.  In case you don't know, I-40 runs pretty much smack across the middle of the USA - almost coast to coast - ending in Barstow, California.  I've always wondered if there's a sign in Barstow that says how many miles it is to Wilmington...