Monday, August 21, 2006

Keeping Busy

No major news to relay, but looking back on our calendar we do keep very busy with our social and cultural calendar. :) The biggest thing I got going on is preparing for a music show! It's going to be the PDI Halloween party of sorts, gonna do a half-hour set in the late afternoon. I'm putting together and recording some songs, it'll be a blend of ballads (I'm ready to sing), electronic loops and drum machines (just got a new drum machine and JamMan phrase sampler), and aleatory music with some other co-workers. I have no doubt we can get it solid to at least have an engaging set without too much noise and musical masturbation.
Other events - in no particular order other than how they come back in my mind : friends Scott and Beth moved back to Minneapolis (had bar night & got a viola!); caught Thai Brunch in Berkeley with Gen and Tom; Nicole's birthday (I made dinner); Shotgun Players 'Ragnarok' outdoors (fun take on mythology); Berkeley Summer Symphony played my #1 or maybe #2 all-time favorite piece of music - Bela Bartok's 'Concerto for Orchestra'(my only other possible #1 is Ravel's String Quartet No. 1); won tickets from KALX to Cal Shakes "Merchant of Venice" (very interesting multi-media and multiple role); Survival Research Labs at San Jose ZeroOne Festival(awesome fire and giant robots); Indonesia Day at Union Square (couldn't find any wayang puppets!); BBQ and movie night at Rex's; San Mateo county fair, with REO Speedwagon; caught 'Little Miss Sunshine'(amazingly funny and well-put together!) at the new Redwood City downtown cinemas; Shane & Missy in town, taking a break from the road, having a pool party in Napa; Sunday the 20th was the season closer at Stern Grove, Pete's band Crown City Rockers played, opening for Ozomotli. Great seeing them with a massive crowd!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Midwest Part Deux - Detroit and burbs

Bonnie and I just got back from a vacation, to Chicago (read this first or scroll down!) for a weekend, then off to visit friends and family in metro Detroit. Part two deals with time in metro Detroit :

Arrived in Westland in the evening on Monday, July 24. My niece and nephew were staying at my parents' house, as my sister-in-law was going in for surgery early on Tuesday (not too serious as I understood it - wasn't too much worrying by anyone and she was in good hands).
TUESDAY, JULY 25 : My mom took the big dog into visitation. Through the Pet-a-Pet program, she arranges to take her bullmastiff to nursing homes, convalescent centers, hospice, even classrooms and special ed programs, for animal therapy sessions. Bonnie went along with her, and while I wouldn't say she enjoyed it, she got a lot out of it. They came back, we decided (after much much discussion) to take the kids to Cranbrook Science Museum (part of the whole Cranbrook Institute) - they had never been, and neither had my dad! The museum currently has a load of mastodon bones which were excavated at a freeway construction site, they had people cleaning them, available for questions. The other hilite was the Bat Zone - Cranbrook is home to the Organization for Bat Conservation. Then, trying to coordinate dinner. Alison was still not in her hospital room, so Gordon was stuck there, and then I was trying to settle on a time with Ron & Khris. Finally made it out for Mai Garlic Thai food (quite good for the area!). And in the evening, with no call from Ron (actually, never heard back from them the whole week), went on a long drive downriver with Andy & Becki to Stroh's for ice cream and a walk on the Wyandotte waterfront.
WEDNESDAY July 26 : Took my parents on an excursion to Trader Joe's (they got em in Michigan, even had some things different than Cali!), talking them through the organic food and sushi. Drove around the neighborhood, seeing the few standing pieces of Wonderland Mall (soon a super-Walmart) - Bonnie was really into hearing neighborhood, and life stories. Afterwards, went on a nature walk around Hines Park (not for long, had to get away from the mosquitoes). Then hit the pool over at my brother Gordon's place, then met up with Keith and his lady Nicole, went to dinner at East Side Marios (neat decor - replicates a city street scene), and out for a walk around Royal Oak.
THURSDAY July 27: Went with my dad on Captain Jack's river tour along the Detroit river (near Ren Cen, around Belle Isle, skirts the coast of Windsor and under the Ambassador Bridge), weren't sure of the restrictions on crossing the border, plus you have to wait 24 hours to shop Duty-Free! And there wasn't enough time in the week, but that was Bonnie's first time in Canada. After the boat ride, we went on the People Mover, and grabbed lunch in Greektown. Then went to Second City comedy club in Detroit, since we missed it in Chicago, and it was easy to get to (the highlight was getting them to sing a song about a giraffe!). Then decision time - I found that a band that was around when I was at MSU - Calliope - was having a gig in Lansing at Mac's Bar (or whatever it's called now, if it even stays open). An hour drive, plus waiting for who-knows-how-long for them to go on. On a whim, we decided to go for it, and it was totally worth it to see Calliope play, and catch up a bit with the guys in the band, I encourage everyone to visit their web site! They'll have a new album out later in the year, I'll update when it's released! We stocked up on snacks and caffeine, then on the road back to Westland.
FRIDAY July 28: Eased into the day, went to Ann Arbor (missed the art fair by 1 weekend). Trying to find a breakfast place proved tough - finally found one, Bonnie got potatoes and eggs, I got a $2 cheeseburger, can't beat that. Checked out some of the best Ann Arbor shops and locales - Encore Records (where I got a local compilation), Dawn Treader bookshop, Crazy Wisdom books and new age, walked by the Ark (folk-blues-rock club) and State Theater. Afterwards, went to Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum (a fun arcade + classic games and sideshow replicas of Cardiff Giant, and some Ripley's exhibits), then a stop at Awrey's Bakery before HQ. In the evening, had a party of sorts over at Andy's place, not a lot of people but good times.
SATURDAY July 29: Last day! But we didn't have to leave for the airport til 4. Made a trek to visit my brother on the 'Telegraph Cruise' of classic cars, then headed to Hitsville, USA - the Motown museum in Detroit. I freaked out on time a bit - it was a guided tour, and since the place is just a house, we waited in line for about an hour. Once we got in, it was rushed - we only stayed for the intro movie, one room of exhibits, and the the gift store. But it was enough, and we made it back in time for a family luncheon over at Gordon and Alison's. Then onto the airport, smooth return of the car and exiting Detroit. Smooth transition to Denver, then our troubles began. A 15-minute delay in the electrical turned into an hour-long wait and deplaning. As we waited, they announced they wouldn't have a maintenance update for another hour. Bonnie was told by one person United would put up people in a hotel, then the customer service desk said no, only if the flight cancelled, they'd help you *find* a hotel. More like 'customer disservice' - granted, they deal with a lot of angry, confused, worried, stressed people, but the company should be prepared for problems like this, and the treatment we got and we saw directed at other people was shoddy. Minutes away from us rebooking on a flight in the morning, they announced the plane was ready and reboarding. Bonnie expressed her fear about going up in a plane that minutes before they didn't even know what was wrong with, but we worked it out and were on our way. Let this be my warning to anyone thinking of flying United - think twice. At SFO, Nicole (much gratitude) was there to meet us - almost 3 hours later than scheduled - and we were home!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Midwest Part Uno - Chicago & road trip

Bonnie and I just got back from a vacation, to Chicago for a weekend, then off to visit friends and family in metro Detroit. Part one deals with Chicago :

Arrived late on Friday (12:30 AM), and finally found where to pick up the Wyndham shuttle - 2 15-minute checkpoints passed (despite the assurances from the desk jockey on the phone), more hotel guests congregated for the wait. Finally arrived and got over to the lobby. Um, sorry, no non-smoking rooms available. Bonnie did her best to get one, but we settled for the room - and realized how spoiled you get in Cali sometimes. She went back to negotiate and they found a non-smoking available. We had to wait for them to prep, so we chatted with the clerk who was now friendly and helpful with tourism tips. Eventually settled into the room ~3:30 AM.
SATURDAY JULY 22 : Got the shuttle out to the airport ~9:30, picked up a 2-day transit pass (any train/bus only $9!), and off to the heart of the city. Famous Lou Mitchell's for breakfast (donut at the beginning, ice cream at the end); an hour wait to get to the deck of the Sears Tower; the bus over to Field Museum for the main reason for our trip - the King Tutankhamun exhibit! More on that later. A quick scamper thru the rest of the museum in the 15 minutes before closing, then a walk thru the new Millennium Park (the bean, the bridge, the fountain). Then an attempt to make the closing ceremonies of the Gay Games (it was at 3, we got to Wrigley Field at 7), and further north to check out the Green Mill Jazz club (great ambience, but I was feeling wretched, it was $20 for the show, and SRO). So we hopped back on the train, and after a digression on my part to switch from the RED line to the BLUE, we were back to the Rosemont stop, and grabbed a cab back to the hotel (got some martinis and ate too much pizza).
SUNDAY JULY 23 : We scuttled an idea to leave superearly and return to the Field. Went on the architecture boat tour - very informative and entertaining, now I know why it's called Second City! We made it to the Museum of Surgical Science, the beach (the waves of Lake Michigan crashing on a concrete slab), and off to the Wicker Park summerfest, a 6-block avenue blocked off with food, vendors, and a stage at either end. Had a bit of a disagreement - I was wanting to rush through and check out a couple stores in the area - Quimby's Books, and Reckless Records, Bonnie wanted to sit and enjoy the summer neighborhood ambience. We worked it out, and made it to Reckless after all, as the sun went down (I struck up a conversation with a guy wearing a KFJC TShirt - his band, Plastic Crimewave Sound, had trekked from Chicago to the Bay Area to perform on the show and do a minitour. I got one of their discs at Reckless, neat noisy soundscape stuff but rather un-outstanding. Found out Second City comedy show was sold out, but we went over to Nomi restaurant (nice 7th floor terrace), on the recommendation of Mayor Daly's press secretary herself! Perks being with a journalist are great! Then over to Exit Chicago club, to see what their Voivod CD release party was all about, plus it's my favorite 3-story punk-rock dive bars in Chicago (though only the first floor was open on a Sunday night). Got a giveaway copy of 'Negatron', and some fliers, which I forgot to pocket when we left. Headed over to the bus stop, to the Blue line to the Rosemont stop, a cab back to the hotel, and we were in for the night.
MONDAY July 24 : Caught the shuttle to the airport, picked up the rental car (a couple companies we called wouldn't let us return at Detroit Metro!). Then on the road, heading for Detroit! Got out of Illinois, thru Indiana, into Michigan - stopped at the Welcome Center. I was surprised at the amount of promotional materials! So much to do - canoeing, festivals, crafts, ag tours. We got what we were looking for - a wine country map, and Cereal City USA. (I had neglected to print out maps before we left). Stopped at Round Barn in Union Pier (had a large assortment of fruit wines and demi secs, and a very interesting cherry wine), then there was a stretch of em in Paw Paw - St. Julian's (MI's biggest), Warners (specialty in sparkling), and Black Star (which was closed). Pretty good wine overall, most don't distribute, though. After that, got over to Battle Creek - host of the grave of Sojourner Truth, and home of Kellogg's, and Cereal City USA (not actually part of Kellogg's). Silly fun, we got through on the last 'tour' of the fake factory, so they were anxious to boot us out. Missed meeting up with my friend Derek in Grand Rapids, but called him on the road to Lansing. We got into town ~6, we were able to get into the CommArts building, so I showed Bonnie around where I had most of my college classes! A drive around campus (including a stop at the Dairy Store for ice cream!, and people watching the early frosh); a cruise along Grand River and Albert Ave (very different than last I saw, but not as deserted as I was lead to think); then around 8 PM onto the I-96 for the Detroit burbs!