Monday, June 30, 2008

Live from Cleveland: Updates

Just updated the first three entries of the trip with some stories and more pictures. Should have time to work on the other days when there is more down time over here. Just wanted to give it the appropriate bump to direct your attention that way.

We've been in Cleveland about four days already and most of that time has been spent helping to get things ready for the wedding. Cutting and folding programs, tying ribbons, punching holes, making signs, moving boxes, you name it... we've done it. It's been fun, but very stressful as you can imagine.

There was a wedding of a family friend on Sunday, so that night everyone was able to get out of the house and have some fun. Nothing relieves the stress like a few hours on the dance floor and an open bar. It was a good dry run, but the real deal on Thursday will be very different, since it will be so many more familiar people (to me at least, I'm sure the Kramers knew everyone there).

A few more days in Cleveland. Hoping to see the Christmas Story house, but it's only open from Thursday to Sunday, which could pose a problem. All in all it's been a pleasant visit thus far, we're just all crossing our fingers for the rain to stay away on Thursday.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 4: Chicago to Cleveland

We made it to Cleveland. Now there's ten days where I don't have to wake up early and get in the car for a lengthy trip. Of course, there are two weddings and lots of family stuff with the Kramers, but as long as I don't have to drive, I'm totally game.

Here's what we did today:While driving through Indiana we had to stop for a bathroom break and somehow, we ended up in Michigan. Apparently we were straddling the state border for the entire trip, and the slight left turn we made off the highway exit put us over the line. The hotel we stopped at in Sturgis, Michigan is literally right on the line. The woman at the front desk told us that the parking lot was technically in Indiana while the actual hotel was in Michigan. Good to know.

When you travel across the country there are a good number of bugs that meet their demise at 70 miles per hour against the front of your windshield, hood, headlights and license plate. Here's a quick look at some of the highlights of this little discussed aspect of the trip.My once white license plate now has a speckled look.

Nacho get up close and personal with a formerly huge bug.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 3: St. Louis to Chicago

Made it to Chicago. Nice to get a short drive for once, but of course we had a time constraint that caused us to get up wicked early again to get on the road. Here's what we did today:
Here are some more pictures along the way and of the final destination:
Finally a town named after a character from the office.

The famous Chicago skyline.

Doing my best "Chicago Superfan" impression.

Personally I'd pay more attention to a bear running around the stands and be a little too distracted to look out for foul balls.

This guy got beer real fast every time he put his sign up.

We made it just in time for the second inning of the game and were able to catch all ELEVEN runs that the Orioles were able to score. That's right - the Baltimore Orioles came in an wiped the floor with the National League leading Cubs. You know it's a rough game when Kevin Millar picks up an RBI on a bases loaded walk. Result aside, this was a great place to watch a game. The atmosphere was similar to Fenway in that the streets were packed leading towards the field and the noise level was very high during the entire game. You could hear people chattering about everything as the innings progressed. Even with the score so out of hand, people were cheering every Cub player (aside from Jason Marquis, the starting pitcher).

After the game we had some down time in Lindy's apartment where packed up the last of her stuff and threw out other things. We met some friends at the Chicago Diner for some vegetarian chow where I learned just how much fake meat is too much. The fake meat, forgive me if I forget the actual terminology for it, was very spongy in consistency. One of our fellow diners was quick to compare it to a piece of white bread that is traditionally served at the bottom of a Texas barbecue in order to sponge up the remaining flavor and sauce.

Day 2: Denver to St. Louis

Made it to St. Louis. The mountainous surroundings disappeared into an eternity of flat plains. It was so boring in Kansas that I made up a haiku. Then I was informed we were still in eastern Colorado and hadn't even made it to Kansas yet. Highlight of the night was impromtu meeting of Kansas City (KS) Pizza Club with Joe and Megan. Here's what we did today:

Here are some pictures from the first meeting of the KC Pizza Club.

This leg of the ride wasn't so bad, comparatively to yesterdays mammoth drive to Denver. The differences were immediately noticeable as all of the mountains disappeared in exchange for nothing but ridiculous flat fields. The true MVP's of this leg were Michael Winfield and Kelly Davis, two of my best friends from Los Angeles. They presented us with a gigantic book of Mad Libs for the ride. I'm sure without this book we would have been a lot more bored than we actually let on. The only problem with doing a Mad Lib while driving through Kansas, is that a lot of the nouns turn out to be what you happen to look at. Truck. Corn. Field. Car. Cloud. Trust me, there were a few rounds that were as the surroundings.
This picture illustrates just how Lindy reacted to my usage of "grass" as a noun in a Mad Lib for the 47th time in a row. We had lots of in car activities and snacks to keep us going, which is mostly Lindy's doing. If not for her, I surely would have starved. In a round of dueling i-pods (who ever is driving gets to choose music) we decided to play the top 25 most played song lists from our respective pods. It was funny because Lindy has a lot of the same music and my pod had really eclectic shit from all over the place. Of course, this was just from the pod which I only used sparingly in the last year or so. Most of my music has been played off my work computer, but I guess you can gauge my musical taste from 2006-2007 from this list. Trust me, a lot of these songs shocked me by making my top 25 as much as they will you. Here's the results:

  1. Dog on Wheels - Belle & Sebastian
  2. It could have been a brillant career - Belle & Sebastian
  3. Sleep The Clock Around - Belle & Sebastian
  4. Is it Wicked not to Care? - Belle & Sebastian
  5. Ease Your Feet in the Sea - Belle & Sebastian
  6. A Summer Westling - Belle & Sebastian
  7. Seymour Stein - Belle & Sebastian
  8. Dirty Dream Number Two - Belle & Sebastian
  9. Race to the City - The Cinematics
  10. Chase - The Cinematics
  11. Rise & Fall - The Cinematics
  12. Ocean of Noise - The Arcade Fire
  13. Concerning the UFO Sightings Near Highland, Illinois - Sufjan Stevens
  14. The Black Hawk War - Sufjan Stevens
  15. Come on! Feel the Illinois - Sufjan Stevens
  16. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. - Sufjan Stevens
  17. Jacksonville - Sufjan Stevens
  18. A Short Reprise for Mary Todd - Sufjan Stevens
  19. Decatur - Sufjan Stevens
  20. One Last Woo-hoo - Sufjan Stevens
  21. Chicago - Sufjan Stevens
  22. Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens
  23. To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region
  24. If You Don't Know By Now - Office
  25. Be Good - Tokyo Police Club
  1. Heat of the Moment - Asia
  2. The Pharmacist - Hot Rod Circuit
  3. Mutt - Blink 182
  4. Any Way You Want It - Journey
  5. Scars - Papa Roach
  6. Pain - Jimmy Eat World
  7. Gold Digger - Kanye West
  8. Dreaming of You - The Coral
  9. Danny's Song - Loggin's and Messina
  10. Hold On/Luka - The Dan Band
  11. Question - Old 97's
  12. Dance Dance - Fall Out Boy
  13. Love is Alright Tonite - Rick Springfield
  14. Poison - Bell Biv DeVoe
  15. Boston - Augustana
  16. Waiting for my Real Life to Begin - Colin Hay
  17. Take on Me - Reel Big Fish
  18. Jane - Jefferson Starship
  19. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
  20. Separate Ways - Journey
  21. Tessie - Dropkick Murphys
  22. Here it Goes Again - Ok Go
  23. Kingdom Come - Coldplay
  24. Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional
  25. So I Say - The Shins

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 1: Los Angeles to Denver

Made it to Denver. Don't underestimate this drive. It's a very ambitious drive which turned from scenic to vast emptiness to fun to an uphill struggle (mentally and physically) to the finish line. Here's what we did today:

Here are the first couple of pictures from the road:

Plenty of pictures and other details will be added later on.

Updated (6/30/08)

The morning of the trip started out on an unusual note. The night before Lindy and I were both super tired having gone for a ridiculously quick trip to Disneyland, another long post office visit, the first attempt of loading the car and a trip to the bar to see some friends. By the time we got home there was little chivalry left and we were both pretty agitated. Agitated to the point where we could not figure out a way to leave the house in the morning. In order to leave, I had to get in the car, pull it out of the garage, shut the garage, run around the front and leave the keys and the garage opener on the table, then run back out to start the journey. In theory this would have worked just fine, but I completely forgot about the gate that was blocking us from the street. Now, we were gated in with no clicker and couldn't go back into the apartment because I had already put the keys inside. Of course this left two options: sit and wait for the next early riser to swing around and open the gate for the two of us, or call my roommate Alicia... at 5:10 in the morning.
Fortunately for us, my lovely and brilliant former roommate of four years was great enough to click the door open and send us on our way. The above picture was NOT taken at 5:00 am.

We hit the road on the 101, which we ditched soon for the 134. I'll always remember that merger because off to the south you can see Universal Studios Hollywood perched on it's hill side, overlooking the valley like an out of place castle. The 134 gave way to the 210 around the Pasadena area with an early morning clear view of the Rose Bowl. We made our first stop around Barstow for a bathroom break and happened to see the worlds largest thermometer.

As you can see (or might not be able to see...) it was already 90 degrees at about 8:15 am. We continued on to Interstate 15 through Las Vegas where we hit our very first batch of traffic. All the traffic that we hit on the entire trip was due to road construction. Once we were out of L.A. a lot of cities relied on 2 lane highways. These roads were often turned into a one lane slow poke ride when construction was brought into the picture.

As you can see, our trip mascot, Lil' Nacho Libre was enjoying the slow moving ride on the dashboard. If he had been left out there much longer, he would have probably melted. Another good thing about Nevada is that there are casino's everywhere, even in a Denny's:

The trip got more beautiful along the way. Utah took freakin' forever. The previously mentioned last leg was really horrible. We were at an altitude of 10,000 feet, still going uphill on a forest road that had no lights. There were a few reflectors but all in all it was very dark. I saw two large deer hanging out in the median and a third one taking a long, quiet nap on the side of the road. This was enough reason for me to go slower than normal. We pulled into Melissa's place after 11:00 pm and did not last long before crashing on the futon. Another super long day ahead of us. In hindsight in was brilliant to get the longest drive out of the way the first day, but at the time it seemed like way too much.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leaving Los Angeles

Growing up on the east coast, Los Angeles is seen as this gigantic fantasy land where people ship off to pursue their dreams. Movies are made, stars are larger than life and nobody walks anywhere. It's warm all year round and people spend all their blonde, tan free time at the beach. Then when you actually get here, you find out that it’s not so far off.

I drove out here with no expectations of what L.A. would be like in January 2004. Me and my buddy Justin got in my Toyota and drove from ocean to ocean. It’s a strange feeling moving to any new place without having any bearing of what’s what. It’s even stranger when your first place of residence is the Oakwood Apartments, an unusual borderline Hollywood complex overrun with wannabe child stars, touring bands and college interns.

The thing is, once you manage to get past all the big bright lights and find your grove, L.A. is just like any other place. You’ll find your circle of friends, a couple of places you like to hang out and realize that it’s not such a scary place after all. Now that I’m packing up and heading back to the east coast, I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of my time in the city of angels.

Lingo - February 2006

It’s a pretty good day when you call in sick from work to compete on a game show with one of your good friends and leave $5,000 richer. My friend Matt Green agreed to come in and be my partner when I saw the ad on Craigslist one afternoon. We were the last team to try out and we got up there and got all the answers right. They called us in for the last show of the season, which in fact was a science fiction themed episode. We made shirts with space shapes on them and they painted our faces like aliens, which looked stupid, but it didn’t matter. After sitting in the waiting room for several hours, we were taken on the stage and proceeded to wipe the floor with our two trekkie opponents. For some reason it was science fiction week on the show. The make up ladies drew atoms on our foreheads matching the ones on our shirts, despite our asking them not to. It was still better than wearing full Star Trek uniforms (that they brought from home) and getting your butt kicked. We were one ball away from walking away with $17,000 but it was not to be. I'd feel bad if I didn't thank Chuck Woolery for the cash, his eerie orange tan and his incredibly awkward banter with co-host Shandi.

Minnie’s Moonlit Madness - May 2006 & 2007

This event was catered to me. For those who don’t know, it’s a late night scavenger hunt through Disneyland where entrants had to rely on their puzzle solving abilities and knowledge of Disney trivia. The best (or worst) part is that the four members of the team are tethered together with a rope and clips. Alicia, Becca, and myself teamed along with Disney employee Heather for two of the most fun and well organized eventsthat I've ever taken part in. It was great to see what people would do to prepare for the event. A lot of people came in costume, and as you can see, we had our matching red t-shirt. It was never totally about the competition; the prep nights were always fun. I enjoyed making the shirts with the girls. Even the prep night for year #2 was alright, despite having to watching High School Musical (the nights theme) to know trivia answers. Through a lot of team work and some dragging people by a rope, we finished in the top 10% of over 300 teams both years, setting a high mark for Heathers work department.

Kickball - January 2007 to Present

There really are no words to describe the impact on my life that this silly kid’s game has made. I walked into the North Hollywood division last February as a nervous loner. At the end of the championship game only a few days ago, I walked off the field surrounded by my closest friends, fighting back the sadness of knowing that was my last game. I can’t recall any group of people that was so warm and welcoming of a newcomer, a group of people that shared so many similar interests and ideas, a group of people that quickly became like family. Sure, they have plenty of kickball divisions in Massachusetts, but I doubt any of them will compare to the fun, silliness and good times I’ve had during my tenure in my beloved Studio Division (and my lesser loved but equally fun Junction Division).

The Office at Paleyfest - March 2007

The MTR Paleyfest was one of the biggest debacles of my time out here. The way it was handled before the show was the most outrageous situation I’ve ever been a part of. Tickets were issues and then taken back, there was a never ending chain of e-mails that finally resulted in two tickets in my name. All of the agony of attempting to get into the show was instantly erased once it began. My friend Orli, one of the biggest Office fans I know flew in from Florida and we were so excited to be there. Just getting in the door felt like such a triumph, but winning a trivia contest was the icing on the cake. For those interested, the question was "What did Dwight give Michael for his birthday?" And the answer was "a hockey jersey that said "From Dwight" on the back where the player name usually goes. I ended up with a pretty awesome swag bag, including Season 1 and 2 on DVD, a hat and a computer mouse that had a built in snow globe. After the show ended, the rabid-fans bum rushed the stage (us included) in hopes to get a picture or autograph with the cast. When we told B.J. Novak that Orli had come all the way from Florida, he said in a confused voice "for this?" Every cast member was there except for John Krasinski, who was filming Leatherheads (unforgivable, especially after seeing the movie).

Foo Fighters at the Forum - March 2008

The best concert I’ve ever been to in my life, thanks to my friend Becca who had an extra ticket the day before the show. I saw lots of great shows in a lot of famous venues while out here in Los Angeles, but it will take a truly amazing show to unseat this performance from the top of my list. I don't know that I've been to any other hugh arena rock shows like that, aside from the Aerosmith show at Hollywood Bowl. Here the building was literally shaking because it was so loud. Grohl worked the crowd all night up and down the runway and from the smaller stage at the end. I even liked Serj Tankien as the opener, and I've had mixed feelings about his music for a while. Seeing him in person, he was quite the showman. The Foo Fighters are a great band that knows exactly what to do during a live show to make it supremely memorable.

Muddy Buddy Race - November 2007

The Muddy Buddy was a 7 mile race in five alternating legs of biking and running. Between each leg is an obstacle like a balance beam or a cargo net. The last obstacle was a 30 yard mud pit that you had to crawl through. There was so much mud that almost everyone had to throws out their shoes and socks afterwards, if you even made it out of the pit still wearing them. In retrospect, we probably didn't have the right kind of bike for that kind of off-road, outdoors hilly turrain. My roommate Alicia lent me her bike which was likely designed for traveling on the smooth sidewalks of a city and not through the dirt of a park. Ernest and I knew about the race for months and as the date crept closer and closer we both knew we should have probably been training more than we did. I rode the bike occasionally, but rarely ran. Ernest said he ran but had not been on a bicycle in a couple of years. We eventually ran out of prep time and just bit the bullet and went to the race. It was a real fun environment, lots of people in costumes, raffles, free stuff and a bunch of people ready to get muddy. I'd like to mention that almost every time Ernest had the bike there seemed to be a nice paved road for him during part of his leg, including a smooth downhill road, where I had to take the bike over a beach through the water and down steep hills. I'm not complaining; I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. It truly showed me that I could accomplish a lot more than I thought I could.

Reno 911 (Feb. 2007) & Tenacious D (Nov. 2006)

The small town kid in me came out in full force for these two movie premieres. I had been to advance screenings before, but I never knew that in Hollywood they gave out extra tickets to the actual premieres at the famous Groman's Chinese Theater. Sure, I may have shown up over cautiously early just to guarantee I got in, but I did and was able to sneak in my camera. I took the camera out of my pocket and held it in my hands with my keys as they wanded my pocket area which was horribly stupid and brilliant at the same time. One of the strangest aspects might have been that the stars were intersperced among the regular ticket holders. There were special reserved sections for the movie, but nothing was to stop you from being at the urinal next to Seth Rogen or waiting for popcorn along side John C. Reilly. A lot of them even hung around after to take pictures and even to just talk with the fans. At the time of these events I would consider myself a true resident of L.A. Celebrity sightings would rarely phase me, I would see a lot of famous people at work visiting the park, or sometimes just randomly out at the store. It's just a part of living in southern California. Everyone who comes to L.A. has the same first celebrity sighting: Dennis "Mr Belding" Haskins at Dimples Karaoke in Burbank.

Sidebar: Top 5 Random Celebrity Sightings
  1. Neil Flynn (Janitor on Scrubs) at Dennys, reading the newspaper
  2. Norm McDonald at the Sunset 5, seeing Broken Flowers
  3. Andre Benjamin from Outkast at LAX, waiting to go to Atlanta
  4. Jessica Alba at Costco, buying baby supplies
  5. Mike Tyson at Studio Yogurt, eating only toppings
‘The State’ Live Reunion Show - March 2008

Quite possibly one of the hardest things to get into that I actually ended up being barely able to get in. I heard about the show after it was already sold out, which wasn't hard, because the small theater apparently sold out in under 30 minutes. When I heard there was going to be a small amount of people let in on a stand by list I knew I would go there incredibly early in order to try and be one of the lucky few. I ended up getting lucky, barely. We were standing along the side of the aisle near the back of the theater, but it didn't matter. We were in for the second show added due to demand. The rumors were that these shows were in preparation for a special they are making for comedy central this fall. It focused on an interesting view of United States history. The show was very funny, and getting to see such a rare show is something that could have only happened in L.A. I even made friends with the people in line based on our common interests, so the long outside rainy wait was worth it. It was also a big event in terms of my quest to have every member of the State sign their book. I’m now only missing Michael Showalter, who I hope will be easier to get now that I’ll be living on the east coast.

Red Sox vs. Angels ALDS Game 3 - October 2007

I saw games in all six west-coast baseball stadiums (including Seattle), but this one stood out among great experiences at a visiting park. It was one of many Red Sox games I’ve seen from the visitor stadium in the past four years – and only a tiny bit better than the L.A. Coliseum exhibition game against the Dodgers. It was great to drive down with all my Boston guys. The stadium and surrounding areas were overrun with Red Sox fans for this deciding game 3 of the series. Even the bar around the corner from the park was crowded with Boston fans watching the Patriots game at 10:00 am. Things started looking good as from the beginning - as we walked in, the Pats scored a touchdown and the building erupted with cheers. One lonely Anaheim fan yelled "Boston Sucks" but was instantly drowned out by boo's in his own town. In the game, the Sox prevailed 9-1 on a brilliant pitching day from Schilling and back to back homers from Papi and Manny. Aside from the game working out in our favor, we made friends with the other Sox fans in our row and even saw other people we knew who had driven down for the game.

There were a lot of other great things that I’ll always remember. Hiking up to the Hollywood sign, building a house for habitat for humanity after Hurricane Katrina, being on the last ever ride for Back to the Future, working out of a talk show green room, and many others. I will always remember being able to take advantage of living in close proximity to Disneyland (as my facebook albums will attest to) and can't understand why other people don't go as much as I did. Working at a theme park gave me super human park navigation skills which I often put to use with people who had never seen them before.

The people out here have made such a difference in my life. I know that the ones who matter the most are also the ones who I'll never lose touch with. It will take some adjustment but I'm very excited for this change and know it's the best thing for me right now. Living in the city I love with the woman I love, closer to my family and being able to experience seasons changing once again are all things that let me believe that this is going to be great.

I'm excited to leave but I'm sad to go. Los Angeles, you've been great to me. I'll truly miss you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gino Time

The Celtics clinched the NBA title last night, culminating the season of the "Big Three" with a championship. Everyone was well aware of the Big Three, but I think I was most impressed this season with Rajon Rondo. Being the young, unknown point guard on a star studded team like this could have caused any player to buckle under the pressure, but he held strong the whole season and put up an impressive stat line last night. It was great to see Ray Allen, my favorite player since middle school, finally win the big one. For all the talk of his slumping during the playoffs, he ended up shooting 7-9 from three point range during last nights game. I lost count of how many wide open shots he was given last night. The answer: too many.

As happy as I was, nobody is happier to have that trophy than Glen "Big Baby" Davis:

I'm sure there are people who are happier, but nobody has a funnier picture with the trophy. Davis has been a great player to watch, always giving the biggest hustle whenever he is put in, despite not looking the part. He often reminds me of the Mike Myers SNL character who isn't allowed to have chocolate because when he eats it he can dislodge the entire jungle gym and pull it down a city street. Glen Davis is a little kid who can summon super human strength when the time comes, and if he's given a snickers bar.

There you have it. Your 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Beginnings

I've had several attempts at blogging in the past. Most of my previous entries came on myspace, and having googled my name, I came up with a few other ones, including these gems: and

Since I'm debating getting rid of myspace, I thought it would be worth it to set up a new one that I might actually update on a frequent basis. And it's not just because I forgot the log in passwords and e-mail addresses that I used to set up those two. Well, partly because of that.

This year is all about new beginnings, and not just on the blog front. I'm packing up the car and moving back east to Boston, MA. My girlfriend Lindy and I have a nice apartment in Brighton and neither of us have jobs. It should be an adventure.

I just got a new (used) camera for the road trip. I have four days of work left and seven days left in Los Angeles total. It's funny to think about all the things you try and cram in to the last couple of days that you spend at a place. In four and a half years I've had plenty of time to do everything that I wanted, but now that time is winding down, it's just a little more urgent.

I guess I'm trying to fit in more people than places, but it's not a big deal. I know I'll be back.