Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – CANADA – Day 49/50/51/52/53 – On and On and On in Toronto, ON

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on May 6, 2010

WT2010 – CANADA
Day 49/50/51/52 – On and On and On in Toronto, ON
[On the iPOD] Pulp / The xx / The Beatles / Los Campesinos! / Gotye / Siouxsie & The Banshees / Le Tigre / Bikini Kill

Well I picked the time to leave Montreal! It went from a nice warm-sunny 20degrees (Celsius) to -2 overnight and I was met with SNOW in the morning (which is apparently very rare this time of year) The wind started to pick up and I started to worry. Sure I’d endured the worst Alpine-rainy conditions on the way to Portland, OR but this was SNOW and yet again I was in a front-wheel drive rental Nissan Versa (with questionable tyres) I quickly got the scope of driving on a freeway though; keeping the tyres in tracks made by large trucks hence keeping them slightly warmer than running your own lines on snow. The wind and snow picked up to the point where I had the wipers on full-blast and I was overtaking most cars. Even so it was a good 3hrs of snow-storm freeway before the clouds started to clear.

When you eventually get into the city-scape of Toronto, it has the same International-fresh feeling that Vancouver does, only better weather. My hotel was on the top floor of a shopping centre; I was slightly worried about this but it turns out it’s an advantage; you have access to the array of cheap fast-food buffets on-hand in the foodcourt and the room was actually rather brilliant (probably the best so far on this trip) No plans for day one after the tiring 6hour drive but what better way to learn your surroundings than explore aimlessly.

I headed for an Intersection which just happened to be none other than Queen St W, which is scarily like Newtown in Sydney, right down to its music stores, tattoo parlours and herds of hipsters on the streets. After walking one way down, I decided to head the other and towards the towers of the CBD. The shops change from vintage-used-hobo-sheak to the typical International labels with hefty price tags you’ll find everywhere in this part of the world. But theres also an array of cool bar-restaurants that give this part of town a really cool vibe.

Toronto has a tram network, how similar this makes the area look to Melbourne is uncanny. Exactly like being in Fitzroy in Melbourne. I remember thinking great I’ve travelled 15,000km to go to Melbourne. It was interesting to note driving in also that the pushy-rudeness of drivers in Montreal hadn’t transferred to Toronto. It must be a French thing.

Toronto has some amazing Architecture; besides an array of Modern-futuristic sky scrapers that fill the CBD theres also older style heritage sites. A stand out though is the College of Arts building which looks like something of out Samuel Youd’s series of novels; The Tripods.

Some night photography and thai food rounded out a busy day.

After sleeping in and some more wandering about on day two I decided to head to the CN Tower, which was a bad idea because it was like $36 to go up. This sounds expensive but doable but unfortunately I’d made the proper commitment to cutback on expenditure upon arriving in Toronto (tightass? Well I’m 2g over budget and haven’t even arrived in the UK yet) A view of Toronto is something I could pass on.

The weather took a turn for the worst later in the day so I headed back to shelter, later in the night however I met up with a friend Cathy I’d met in a New York city hostel, scarily although she’d been living in Toronto she is originally from a suburb in Sydney 15minutes from mine. You really can’t escape us Australians no matter where you go the world over. I’d heard Canadians in Japan talk about something called “Poutine” so I was promised a late night venture to one of the better vendors of this Canadian delicacy. It’s basically hot chips with a covering of cheese, which then melts when you cover it with shit-hot gravy! Your given a spoon and encouraged to dig-in. It’s an experience for sure (especially great on a cold day)

On Friday I decided to head to Toronto Island, yes there is an island off the coast of the CBD. You hop a ferry for $6.50 and in about 10minutes your staring at an amazing panorama of the Toronto city-scape. The island itself is a lazy playground of sorts. A huge park with places to picnic, a small amusement fair for kids, animal farm, port for yachts and some landmarks. One side even has a beach! the best part about the place however is there is a plethora of cement bike paths criss-crossing about the island. You can rent a bike for as long as you desire.

This will sound rather silly but I’d forgotten how much fun it is to actually ride a bike without purpose. Just for the sheer fun of exploring and the convenience of effortless speed. I literally circled the entire island, a beach view, a lighthouse, local bird life. People actually have holiday houses in certain areas. Pretty great considering it’s a 10min ferry ride from a bustling CBD and you feel like your on a sleepy-town beach-island. I decided to make like the locals and a bunch of tourists and laze around some on the grass. A good change of pace from days of doing anything and everything.

Quite tired from kms of peddling I was walking past Queen St W on my way back to the hotel when I saw some local BMX bandits kick over a parking sign and then use it to flip jumps off on the footpath in betweens gaps of pedestrians! This was too good to pass up so I brought out the camera for some action shots. Some of the photos are rather good as one of the riders was getting some serious air and even went on to jump 2 of his mates standing up!

Final day in Melbourne’s doppelganger sister city, what better thing to do than to hit Kensington Market. Basically a collection of backstreets just west of china-town. The hipster/hippy/alternative/antique/collectible/used/vintage crowd is all represented here. A stretch of the area is essentially people having all collectively decided to turn their front-yards into shop stalls selling their own clothing and wares! I hadn’t seen anything like this since Tokyo! pretty amazing.

One store had every conceivable novelty instrument, I pondered purchasing an accordion more than once. Another had oldschool toys such as an array of gaming consoles to easy-bake ovens (in boxes) Another a shelf of used cameras, some with film still inside! After getting some food I stumbled to a small park near the area and pretty much fell asleep. The long bike ride the day before catching up to me perhaps?

Later than night before heading out I decided to visit a store called “Ed Harry’s” which is the inspiration for an amusing scene in the comic series Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Unfortunately it was closed, so I didn’t get to experience it’s blinding brightness but got photos none the less. I had to call it an early night because I was up 4:50am the next morning for the drive back to New York and a stop off at Niagara Falls on the way!

Racing towards the border I made it to the Falls just after sunrise (the signs really don’t help you when approaching, a small 5minute detour into town eventually led me to the falls) You had to pay ridiculous amounts for parking; luckily it was just past 6am and there were no attends so I raced in for free, dodged the misty spray from the water and stood there taking in the sun clearing over some clouds. The area was also deserted, the average tourist not keen enough for 6am on a sunday morning luckily. The mist covered up half the view but it was awesome none the less!

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WT2010 – CANADA – Day 45/46/47/48 – Viva La Montreal!

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on May 1, 2010

WT2010 – CANADA
Day 45/46/47/48 – Viva La Montreal!
[On the iPOD] Metric / Hole / Brainiac / The Folk Implosion / Thom Yorke / Pulp / Thursday

A short drive to Montreal, less than 6hours but hitting standstill traffic when coming into the city wastes another hour. This is where I had my first interaction with drivers in Montreal. Horns beeping, people ignoring a lanes existence and driving at tight angles to cut you off; leaving you the option to stop or have them drive into you. Lunacy! I immediately thought of the chaos of driving in Paris. It must be a French thing.

The world is a funny place, obviously I knew they speak French in Montreal but it’s just odd when you drive from New York into Canada and go from Imperial to Metric and then English to French. I hadn’t really bothered to learn much, I was told everyone pretty much speaks English as a second language and that was exactly the case. Every store you go into your greeted in French but as soon as you say Hello people will switch to English. It does make you feel like an outsider though.

Much of late Friday night was spent wandering around looking for an ATM most of which were ‘down’ with no Canadian cash at all it’d be hard to get into most places with a door charge, nor buy anything in a bar. So Instead I wandered about getting to know the Mile-End neighbourhood. I’ve probably never seen anything like it, other cities might have certain ‘hipster neighbourhoods’ but to some extent they all seem fake compared to Montreal’s actual grittiness. Sure you’ll find punk kids with mohawks everywhere but in Montreal they’re actually homeless and cleaning car windscreens at a traffic light.

There’s a bit of everything in this part of Montreal, an underlying sort of seedyness but mostly just a string of really cool bars and restaurants. I wandered down a back alley to find some kids laying in the middle of the road drinking and playing guitar, then in passing I find groups of Americans on a weekend away by the sounds of it; a bucks night perhaps. That’s sort of the context you’d want to be in this neighbourhood, with a big group of friends and on a big night out. Needless to say without cash I had neither so after some more wandering to get to know the area I had to call it a night.

Saturday, as it turns out the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) ATMs are the ones to look for because they never fail. I eventually found one inside a small convenience store. The highlight of the day was probably walking into a ‘posh’ Sushi restaurant by mistake and then finding out they actually had all you can eat Sushi for $22. I don’t think I’ve eaten that much food in one sitting in awhile, Homer Simpson eat your heart out.

Montreal clubs love their electro and indie/newwave and alternative. Anything your after you’ll find in the Mile-End area of town. It does get expensive though, with Canada’s tax on everything not listed on the item price. More expensive than America!

On Sunday I headed up Mont Royal, which is a small mountain overlooking Montreal, a mere 6kms or so away from where I was. I considered biking it, Montreal has this brilliant rent-a-bike system throughout the city. Basically theres a long rack of bicycles and you swipe your credit card and it unlocks one and you have it for 30min for $5. Theres many of these ‘stations’ all over town and you can ride from one and leave it at the other. If you go over 30min you get charged $1.50 for every 30min you go over. It’s not that bad if you need to get somewhere quickly that isn’t a direction of the metro. Great for tourists exploring the city especially.

Luckily I decided to drive to Mont Royal however, It seems like a ‘large hill’ when you approach it and I was thinking “Im not going to see much from up there” but as it turns out it’s a rather steep climb and some bikers were struggling.

I parked up at the first lookout and a car was backing out, they stopped and walked over to my car and gave me their parking ticket which still had 25min on it. The view from the lookout is vast but kind of dull in away, mostly urban sprawl.

I decided to walk up the mountain further which lead into a forest trail of sorts. Within a couple of trees there was an open cliff top area, no fencing at all. You could walk right to the edge and just sit on the natural rock face ledge. I started to think about Sydney and Australias recent obsession with over-protective public safety. I couldn’t imagine an open ledge no fence clifftop in the cities main lookout. It seems the French Canadians just don’t give a damn. A kind of oldschool freedom far from the ideals of a nannystate. Or maybe the city just can’t afford to care, the recession in the 90’s is still prevalent in the terrible pot-hole riddled roads.

Whilst snapping photos a guy came over inquiring about my camera and asking what I was shooting, as it turns out he was a fellow Canon DSLR enthusiast. He was a local and showed me the way up the path to a better view of the city and then (although he was there with his girlfriend) he’d show me the way (by car) to the other side of the mountain where theres a lookout over the CBD which is the place to take photos. It’s pretty amazing how I always come across people willing to help me out (the world over)

The view overlooking the CBD was stunning and he even lent me his Canon wide-angle and zoom lenses! hence some of those photos look rather amazing! We bumped into a guy doing a plate-photo 5minute pinhole camera exposure of the scene also, pretty cool.

Amongst sampling restaurants, bars and shops on the last day I figured I’d head to the ‘biodome’ which is on the site of the old Olympic stadium. Parking was $12, the biodome was basically a reconstruction of eco-systems from around the world. For the entry price I thought it was a bit steep, especially since I’d already seen this at the ANHM in New York so I decided instead to wander around the stadium.

The stadium and its surrounds have really ‘let themselves go’ It does seem like a bit of a pariah at least since the Olympics came and went. It’s one big empty desolate concrete jungle, with the tell of being built for the 1976 Olympics, the stadium still looks modern but overall the area is showing its age in a bad way. Interesting for photo ops though.

Between the rudeness of the traffic, the traffic jams themselves and the rundown nature of certain parts of town, Montreal still has an upside (surprisingly) you have to do to some digging to find it though.

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WT2010 – USA – Day 42/43/44 – New York, NY (Antiques, Art, Memorials & Alcohol)

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 26, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 42/43/44 – New York, NY (Antiques, Art, Memorials & Alcohol)
[On the iPOD] Brainiac / The Replacements / Sparklehorse / David Bowie / The Libertines / New Order / Pink Floyd / American Football / Dizzee Rascal / The Whitest Boy Alive / The Thermals / Johnny Foreigner

Heading over to Brooklyn for the last time, I wanted to see if I could find some more bargains in the excellent shops around there. Wandering into an antique furniture store for no real reason. It’s really interesting checking out antique stores in foreign countries because their cultural history is so dissimilar to anything you’ve experienced back home. Amongst the furniture were toys, instruments, trinkets and nik-naks. Something that stood out in this particular store was a huge collection of ‘Life’ magazines dating back decades. Flicking through them is like stepping back through time.

Another interesting collection near the vinyl music section of the store was a collection of photos, literally in a huge pile in a 2metre wide crate, you trawl your fingers through them finding snapshots of memories people had shared and mattered at some point in time. It’s funny how you can discern what era a photo was from by the style of print of the photo and fashion/style of the subject. There was something from every decade from the 20’s and 30’s I’d say. Another area had boxes and boxes of postcards; used and new dating from as far back as the 1920’s. I flicked through them reading the messages from sender to recipient, one dated 1917 another 1946 and another 1974. I literally wanted to read them all but it would have taken days.

Wandering onwards to a used clothing exchange, a cool shirt for $10; perfect. My stomach rumbling I wandered back to the main strip and a Pizza place. Have I mentioned New York’s obsession with Pizza? It’s utterly ridiculous, there is one on every corner and that’s not an exaggeration. This particular store had an amazing selection and was probably the best I’d had in NY. I was then staring down at the wall eating my bbq marinara ranch chicken with pineapple! when I noticed a banner reading “Welcome new recruits” and the logo reading “DHARMA” hold on…

An Internet link flashed straight into my mind. Over a year and a half ago I came across an Internet link where someone had blogged about being in Hawaii and roaming around in-where they somehow stumbled on the shooting location of the TV series “Lost” and found a whole bunch of props from the show unattended and started taking photos. I linked everyone I knew to this blog because I thought it was rather amusing (and I loved the show at the time)

I was all set to ask the attendant where the hell he’d gotten the banner but then overheard people in the booth next to me talking about it first hand; “So a guy who worked here was in Hawaii and…” (long story short It was the same guy!) and apparently he decided to take the banner as a souvenir. Here I am, having traveled 15,000km and I randomly stumble into the guy’s Pizza place staring at the very sign I’d seen online.

Got back to my hostel and spoke to a dorm mate Bryan who was going to see a movie with other pals, I ended up tagging along (the movie being Kick Ass, which is an apt movie title) Afterwards they all decided to head for drinks in Lower-Manhattan so I tagged along. Next thing I knew we were putting cool songs on the jukebox and ordering pitcher after pitcher and approaching 3am (on a tuesday mind you) we decided to grab some food and call it a night.

We were wandering towards the subway when Bryan spotted an Art mural being posted up. As it turns out the mural was this The Artist being none other than Shepard Fairey (he was actually there finishing it off) The name sounded familiar but it didn’t click. I’d soon realise it was the same artist responsible for the world-famous OBEY works. Bryan knew his work a lot better than me (I think a friend had mentioned him in passing a few years back) But it didn’t click immediately. It was quite the experience, seeing this being worked on whilst tipsy drunk in New York and actually meeting the Artist there.

The Following day and I’d been pondering visiting the WTC site. I didn’t initially want to do it, because I knew it’d effect me profoundly and I’d be on a downer for the rest of the trip which is not to be disrespectful but In the end I decided I had face up to reality and do it. I hopped a train down to the financial district and wandered about there first. I came across a man bowing down before a giant bull-statue (the symbol for wealth/wall st? I’ve been told?) I’m not sure if it was performance art or simply some poor disgruntled American whose lost his home thanks to the recent Crisis’ (He was yelling at it; “Are you mocking me?”)

I’ve always laughed off banking conspiracies (you know the ones about the major banks of the world knowingly plotting in some clandestine/cult-like fashion to control everything; a tip of the hat to the empires of Rome) It all still sounds like utter crap, except for the Architecture and sheer money put into these buildings. They do almost to some extent look like ‘holy’ shrines to a bankers/traders money-fueled way of life.

The WTC site is huge, the footprint of the area below where the towers stood is probably two regular city blocks. My first impression of the people around was one of ‘We’ve got work to do” the cranes and construction workers scaling cast-steal beams in the far distance directing the pieces of a new tower in place. Signs around me point you in the direction around the site though I stopped short at a fire-station memorial with a placard of the faces of some 100 firefighters who scrambled as fast as they could to get into the towers to help people only to give the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.

Around the corner was a permanent memorial cast into the walls of the building. Some personal effects of one of the family members hung off it along with flowers and a flag nearby. The area was mostly tourists and school kids visiting, learning about the scale of what happened and what the future of the site will hold. The plans included a few things; from a new tower, to a park, to a memorial to two huge receding 2-tiered-level square ponds (which occupy the original footprint of the two towers) which will look amazing at night I think. For now the area is a buzz with construction. I tried taking some long-distance photos of the construction workers erecting steal only to have one walk past me and whistle at his buddy 50metres up as if to say ‘look good, your on camera’.

The vibe of the area is one of reserved pride. All the workers minds are on the job; getting these plans built whilst all the tourists stand solemnly in remembrance gawking at the new constructions forming before them. I will visit this place again when it’s completed. I think it’ll be a fitting tribute, you can always trust Americans for that. America is a country built on a secular constitution and I believe this place is holier than any place of religious worship.

Wednesday night was a trip back to Brooklyn and a venue by the name of the Brooklyn bowl to see Portland’s finest The Thermals with the best Jerseygirl ever; Molly. The band played a solid set which numbered something like 16songs-18songs. It was the second show in two days (the show the night before sold out) The crowd got treated a huge selection of songs spanning all of their albums with songs from The Body, The Blood, The Machine and last album Now We Can See seeming to get the biggest crowd response. Lead singer Hutch Harris exclaiming they were playing a longer set than yesterday because It was the last show of the tour, he also mentioned their new album is finished and being mixed by Chris Walla and will be out soon. For me; “Here’s Your Future”, “We Were Sick” and “I Called Out Your Name” were stand-outs. The band also played the song off the split 7″ vinyl they’ve released with The Cribs (which I hadn’t heard yet) amongst other new material which sounds rad overall. Full of energy, but plenty of room on the floor. The Brooklyn bowl is amazing; It’s a bowling alley and a restaurant and a venue in one. And you can see the band no matter what your doing! They even had projection screens above the ten-pins so you won’t miss anything if you’d rather bowl and drink and have the music as a live soundtrack.

Thursday, Last day in New York. I was considering visiting The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) because people have said it was ‘good’ but I kind of felt “museumed out” but after hearing Bryan and Ed rave about some of the installations there I knew I had to go. Luckily it closed 8:45pm on a Thursday. Little did I know what I’d run into…

I was expecting another run of the mill gallery, instead I got 6 levels of wow. Ill quickly summarise some of the stand out moments. Marina Abramovic is a performance artist who uses her body as her medium. She’s been doing this since the early 1970’s (in installation form) and MoMA just happened to be showing a retrospective of all of her ‘works’. For the first time, her older works were being performed by other people whilst she was present in a new piece which struck me as soon as I walked in.

It was a room with a square painted on the ground; A table in the centre and 2 chairs, one with Marina sitting there in an eye-catching red ceremonial style gown and the other free for members of the audience to participate in. People queued around the square watching on as Marina and a member of the public stared each other down. There was no time-limit for a person to sit there, some took 5minutes some an hour or more. I actually walked through other exhibits and came back to find the same women sitting there. For some it was too much, they’d leave with tears in their eyes perhaps recalling sad memories or successfully having read some in the blank stare of the artist herself. The performance was filmed and streamed on the Internet live and a photographer took photos of the participants which you can find here I overheard an array of comments from; “How completely lazy” to “I don’t think I could go up there” and “This is intense”. My interpretation of it was a commentary on the interaction between people on a daily basis, the distractions of speech and meaning removed.

I wandered through the works of Picasso for sometime then eventually moved on to more modern works like those of Kentridge. On my way up through the levels of sculpture and design I reached the second last level and walked in to find Van Gogh’s The Starry Night staring me in the face. I kind of froze, In the single art class I’d failed in high school we were made to re-draw this painting. It took me awhile to adjust to realise I was actually looking at the real thing (I wasn’t aware it was hung in America let alone the museum I’d just wandered into on a hunch) It is one of my favourite paintings to this day. Nearby were other Van Gogh works as well as those by Munch, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Dali. What can one say other than wow.

I’d missed some of Marina Abramovic’s other retrospective works however I think they had closed for the night. They were being performed by other people one of which an interpretation of her 1974 work entitled “Rhythm 0” was chillingly retold to me by my mates at the hostel it goes like this;

A woman was in a room by herself, only accompanied by a table with 72 objects on it; including scissors, markers, a whip and knives and a gun with 1 loaded bullet. The audience was instructed to use the objects on the women as they saw fit they were also allowed to put her limbs in any position. Initially people used the markers to draw on her and put her arms in certain positions but as time went by people started to use the knives to cut her (on the face) and it all slowly culminated to the point where an audience member, grabbed the loaded gun, placed it in the hand of the women, moved her arm and pointed the gun towards her own head and began to pull the trigger only to have the audience gasp in shock horror and head to pull it away.

MoMA really is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. My last stop before closing however was the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition. Basically he is the original intrepid exploring photographer. Starting in the 1930’s. As you enter the walls are plastered with maps of his journeys, he literally travelled everywhere before the average person knew what ‘there’ looked like and he took a huge array of photos being published by magazines such as Life, he also helped establish an photographers right to own his work. India/Indonesia during Independence / China during the revolution / USSR and the death of Stalin / The American post-war boom. He covered everything from the average shot of the everyday person to portraits of icons. I kind of got inspired after seeing his work and travels. Just thinking about it all logistically (how one traveled the world with camera gear in the early 20th century) It was utterly impressive.

I wandered around towards the Apple store on 5th Ave and that was pretty much the end of the day, my last set of photos in New York were black&white of random people interacting on the sidewalks of Midtown Manhattan some sort of pathetic attempt or homage to Cartier-Bresson? I don’t normally focus on strangers but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Later that night involved vodka, beers and generally a good time at the hostel (a hostel party of sorts)

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WT2010 – USA – Day 41 – The Bridges of the East River

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 25, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 41 – The Bridges of the East River
[On the iPOD] Joy Division / Interpol / Foals / Babyshambles

I was wondering ever since I got here where the best spot to view the bridges of New York would be, this is why staying at a hostel is a such a great thing; you can ask people. A dorm friend mentioned that High St in Brooklyn is the train stop to head to. The station leads you a hundred metres or so from the pedestrian entry to the Brooklyn bridge.

The Brooklyn bridge was built in 1883 and is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA. It links everywhere I’ve mentioned thusfar in Lower-Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River. I was all set to walk across it except then I noticed a ‘tourist placard’ highlighting some areas of Interest on the foreshore around the western side of the bridge.

I only ended up walking to the first pillar and then turned back to get some proper photos of it from below and checkout the area of parks known as ‘DUMBO’. Which is apparently an acronym for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’.

Right beside the Brooklyn bridge to the North is the Manhattan bridge though also linking Lower-Manhattan and newer it’s just as pretty in my view. Dumbo and it’s surrounds have all been gentrified lately which brand new parks and a foreshore walking area (construction is still going on) and a small group of restaurants peppered the area. No doubt it’s going to become popular when complete. I wondered what the area was like before all the new shiny buildings ‘moved in’. One old building was still in a derelict state with rusted cast iron doors. I peaked inside a crevice between a door to find random plate scraps about; probably the home to many a homeless person.

I snapped some photos of the Manhattan bridge, walked the shoreline towards the Brooklyn bridge and then to the extreme southern point of the newly constructed park. You could see The Statue of Liberty in the distance as well as a nice panorama of East Manhattan.

Joggers were already taking over the area, though I did share a hello nod from a fellow wannabe photographer. It’s good to see this area in this transitional state I think, though I would’ve loved to explore it awhile ago.

Some food points of note were; ‘a home made ice cream factory!’ and further away from the shore an amazing store obsessed with chocolate of all sorts.

I probably spent a good half-hour sitting on the foreshore though. It’s actually quite amazing, or discerning even; that is what New York does to a person. For whatever bad things people might have to say about America, New York is the answer to all that crap. For all it’s crime and violence, social and homelessness issues and other problems It’s so big and encompassing you just get pulled in and before you know it your a part of it all. It’s as if it’s size gives it it’s own gravity.

It feels like I’ve been lazy in New York to some extent, every day in every other city I’ve had something planned but with the scope of the city you just feel content to wander around and feel you’ve achieved something. The subway is probably my favourite on this journey thus far, it’s grimeyness, noisiness and generally the rattling state of the tracks don’t detract from the fact its laid out fairly well and the trains run bang on time.

I think a fair comparison of the A C E line to Brooklyn is to that of; one of those ‘ghost ride’ trains you used to get on as a kid in dodgy theme-parks. Theres a section where you can see the walls 20cm either side of the carriage as it seems to be topping out at max speed and the carriage itself is banging left to right testing your grip on the railings until finally the conductor locks up the brakes probably seeing how quickly he can pull up at the station ahead. But it all runs like clockwork.

I had many a discussion with different people, some say New York is a hole to live in; it’s traffic the ‘general rudeness of people’ make it a nightmare. Others say it’s better to live here than to visit. I still haven’t made up my mind. In a way you can find everything New York has in other cities; it’s even better in some but it just has this vibe of a modern-cultural-melting-pot-juggernaught that’s been doing it longer than anyone else and it’ll keep on doing so no matter what you think or do. It’s vastness is totally welcoming, alluring even.

My first site of it in the taxi from the airport was simply ‘wow’, after two weeks I’m no longer ‘wowed’ but just feel like I’ve always lived here. It’s probably because most other cities in the world have copied what New York has to offer and I feel a comforting familiar similarity.

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WT2010 – USA – Day 37/38/40 – Midtown Manhattan and Beyond

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 23, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 37/38/40 – Midtown Manhattan and Beyond
[On the iPOD] The Stone Roses / The Buzzcocks / Faker / The Cure / The Wombats / Bertie Blackman / Red Riders / Cut Off Your Hands

Thursday rolls around; In anticipation of big night I thought I’d take it easy during the day. First up was some house-keeping in which my case was actually getting Internet access somehow and organising things amidst plates of salad and servings Sencha tea. I found a restaurant that was happy to oblige for a good 2-3hours. Next I thought I’d get in some quick mid-day shopping (Thankfully I now own Iggy Pop’s – Raw Power on vinyl) Upon wandering back I came across Washing Park, a small park in Greenwich Village. It’s a big hangout for students and people were lazing around on the grass to the point of saturation. I got a beverage and decided to do the same for a while. A few random buskers including a guy in a gorilla mask give the park a nice background-sound tamborine-vibe. I kinda lost track of time just lazing about and people-watching in the park. It’s probably the first time I’ve just chilled out with no goal for the day in over a month.

I went to checkout a few bars in the night-time with the target being a pub/club in the Lower East. It was surprisingly quiet, the music was spot on but it was basically just a small pub and it had that relaxed vibe to it. I’d hazard a guess people were at a few sold-out venues watching bands that night? Who knows but I decided I’d throw in the towel and make up for it with an all-nighter on friday (hopefully)

Friday in New York! I made plans to continue the Seinfeld-themed spot visits from the random black and white cookie incident two days before. The ‘Soup Nazi’s” original kitchen has closed and he has since started a franchise called “The Original Soup Man” with a few locations in New York and elsewhere. I went out of my way to visit two such locations only to find that they’d closed down as well? This was all too much walking and train hopping for soup so I headed somewhere that I knew was open. ‘Tom’s Restaurant’ is the diner used for the ‘outer-shot-view’ of the diner that the cast would gather in daily in the show. The interior is obviously different though but the cafe/restaurant does tip its hat to the show and has some memorabilia inside. It’s an average day-to-day burger/style cafe restaurant. Nothing grand (and no I didn’t order the big salad)

On the way to Tom’s I did however manage to stop in the New York public library. Which just happened to currently be surrounded by scaffolding for cleaning/renovation? So much for that. I did go inside though (Free high-speed WIFI) which I thought I’d use to organise where I’d be going at night. The library basically looks like a museum inside and has endless halls and reading rooms full of art and the like. You could probably spend half a day looking at the art about. I decided I was all ‘museumed’ out and just bunkered up in one of the many grand reading rooms using the time to upload a backlog of photos. Upon random roaming around I also stumbled on an outdoor ice-rink, rad.

Dinner and a club/venue called Webster Hall in Lower-Manhattan. Just like back-home the place doesn’t really pickup till after 12am. The music was questionable for an “Indie night” with lots of 80’s mainstream hits being played I was having flashbacks at being at dodgy ‘retro’ hotels back home but thankfully there were a few different DJ’s and eventually they played as advertised. I’d ceased to care though because as it turns out it was a ‘birthday bash’ for a whole group of people that night and before I knew it I was being offered shots and drinks left right and centre. An utterly memorable night, I basically got no sleep at all, even after leaving circa 3am.

Saturday was spent nursing a sore head and swimming in a sea of blankets amongst other things.

On Sunday I was switching to a hostel because it’s cheaper and you always meet some cool people. Oh and I had to do laundry, ugh laundry day. After the menial tasks of life, I decided that since I was now in a new part of New York to go for a bit of a wander. Madison Square Garden, tourists, busy shops and people handing out flyers. I ducked for cover into a Macy’s because the name is an Icon for American shopping. It’s apparently the biggest store in America? 8 stories and two city blocks! I was just taking in the scope of the store rather than looking to buy anything, not that I’d spend $500 on a jacket anyway.

The weather was getting rather cold though, what better excuse to duck into a one of the many specialty stores peppered along 8th Ave for a browse? I wanted to leave buying a coat for the UK (since I’ll be facing winter back home in Australia) but found a really helpful attendant and the store had a huge range of rad (though pricey coats and jackets) I found one I loved and bargained it down 10% so hence had to buy it. Besides you have to spend on something whilst in NYC, my crowded suitcase is not going to like this one bit though.

Sunday night was amazing times with an amazing person. Sushi at a Japanese restaurant in the Art Gallery District, a spot of bowling, drinks and hanging out in time square only to witness an on-the-spot wedding proposal amid a cheering crowd. New York what am I going to do with you?

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CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR

WT2010 – USA – Day 33/34/35 – SF to LAX and onwards to New York

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 17, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 33/34/35 SF to LAX and onwards to New York
[On the iPOD] Cut Copy / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Sonic Youth

Okay time-schedule showdown time. How long’s it take to drive from San Francisco to L.A (according to my GPS 5hours 40minutes) the plan was; set alarm to 5:40am, leave at 6am, arrive at LAX to return rental car and hop a plane to New York which left at 1:35pm. Basically left myself 1hour for messups. I woke up at 3:50am for some reason so went back to bed and then the next time I’d look at my clock; 6:49am! OH SHIT! (alarm failed) I then ran down stairs to find that the valet would take 20minutes to get my car. Eventually left at 7:15am, front-wheel drive rental car drift on the streets of SF. I ended up tale-gating a honda civic over bumpy roads and in my half-woken daze could have sworn it was NFS: Underground for a few minutes. Anyway onto the freeway in no time at all and then calculating in my head if I’d be able to make it with fuel stops and such.

Long story short; I made it and I was checking in for the flight as it was boarding (returning the car took some time also) All good though. I was flying Virgin for the first time and was utterly blown away. The planes basically looked brand new interior wise (obviously recently refitted) You have an LCD touchscreen where you order anything you want (and swipe a credit card to pay for it) so you get custom food, movies and… Internet! WIFI on a plane and it was pretty damn quick, they also had charging sockets under every seat. My friends were in a spin when I was chatting to them live whilst flying across the USA. Radness.

It’s funny how quick a 6hour flight goes when you’ve got access to your own laptop and the net. I think I’m over my fear of flying too, well it never was a fear of flying it’s more fear of crashing into a mountain at 860km/h but that stems from not being in control of the plane I think. What’s this? JFK airport, New York!

I was off the plane in no time and had a cabbie come up to me asking me where I’m headed. I was a bit weary, in alert mode even when he lead me to his ‘taxi’ which was a 4WD with no taxi logos on it and New Mexico license plates. So right away I asked for ID. I was put at ease though when he conversed with the ticket-booth guy about a slow-night of work (they knew eachother) As it turns out he uses a 4WD because he aims to pickup families and such but was having a really slow day. I was still weary about being ripped off so I fired off questions; how much will the fare be, how long will it take to get there. He did mention “plus tolls” and there were no tolls on the way aside from the $18 cabbies pay to park at the airport. Should I be paying this? It didn’t seem right. But we got to talking and it turns out his family had moved from India and we discussed Cricket, America, Australia and the Melbourne racist attacks. In the end he was really knowledgeable and was weaving in and out of traffic like a madman (which is good when your in a rush) And he waved the $18 toll with whatever I had. Still felt the fare was steep (NOTE: I’ve talked to some locals and basically always go for yellow cabs as other ones such as the one I took charge a lot more) I checked into my hotel at 11pm! (you lose 3hours flying LAX to JFK because of the time difference so It’s a 9hour flight) So quickly showered and was keen for the following day.

The last two days involved 15hours of driving, a 6hour plane trip and dealing with a 3hour time difference which is probably why I woke up at 1pm! I’m using the internet and google maps a lot to plan out my day, this is bad because my current hotel has the worst Internet I’ve come across in years. It’s like 28.8k speed and drops out every 3minutes for long periods. It’s utterly frustrating when your trying to look at maps and get a scope of where to go. It took me over an hour to get moving. But oh well I decided to just leg it, roam around and follow my nose as usual.

I’ve got my eye (or ear) set on some albums I’m after that I know you can buy in America, ones which I couldn’t be bothered ordering back home. I went to three different music stores in Lower-Manhattan to no avail! On first impressions Midtown to Lower-Manhattan is a little bit like (for all you Australians) Newtown in Sydney, Fitzroy in Melbourne and The Valley in Brisbane but it’s also so much more. It does vary as you move through certain areas (it’s broken up into several sub-areas such as East Village / Greenwich Village / Tribeca and so on) which vary from the trendy to the arty to bluecollar and that’s just below the Midtown line (which is determined by the L-train that goes over the river into Brooklyn) Oh and of course it’s so much bigger than any of those places in Australia.

Instead of being one ‘main strip’ of cool shops and restaurants it’s basically all over, the shops and restaurants only broken up by blocks (off the ‘main’ roads) by blocks of old-style brownstone rowhouse villas (would you call them Victorian? I’m not sure) Before I knew it it was dinner time and I was utterly done in by the walking (and perhaps still getting over the past few days) Planning a big day tomorrow I called it a day.

11am, dusty road. I’m gonna walk ’til it burns my bones. But before that my first encounter with New York’s subway on my way to the American National History Museum. You can buy a Metro card (the cheapest of which is $27 for 7days unlimited use, perfect) It’s so easy to navigate New York in general because of America’s love of ‘numbered streets’ that is in Manhattan you’ll find 1st st run parallel with 2nd, 3rd and so on all the way into the 100’s and they generally run East/West and are denoted by E on the East side and W on the… and then they have 1st Ave etc run North/South. So basically if someone gives you an address like 42nd / 5th Ave you know exactly where it is, how to get there and how far away it is. Likewise the subway stops are named after the streets they stop at. Simple.

The subway itself is grungy and dingy in areas and the entrances can sometimes be pretty hard to find, they’ll be the size of 2 food card stands around a corner with no signs directing you there. If you have a map your set though. Once in the subway it feels safe and the trains seem to run pretty on schedule (better than Sydney’s timing at least, but not as clean) I was at the Museum in minutes.

It was somehow already 12pm and I stood staring at the map of the museum kind of in disbelief, 4 levels and a few city blocks in area. It closed at 5:45pm and even then I knew it wouldn’t be enough time so I set off double-time. It has everything on show in such detail that I honestly don’t know where to begin, nearly 300 photos on my flickr page is only a fraction of what was on show. I was literally walking into areas and taking photos of 1/20th of the stuff on show and had to skip taking photos in other areas all together. I was determined to see it all and vowed not to stop and loiter but at times it’s just too hard you want to know all about the exhibits and you find yourself standing there reading explanatory captions.

I booked one of the ‘shows’ in the 3D dome which was ‘Journey to the Stars’ narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. It was rather awe-inspiring but too short! Entertaining though, Carl Sagan would have been proud. In the end I was being told it’s closing time but I’d ALMOST done it. I’d missed 2 areas of the Museum and my legs were dead tired but no time to whine it was time to try out an iPad!

I walked over to Apple’s newest store (not the famous cube which was too further a walk) but the store is just as stylish (basically a glass cube set in a building, check out the photo) I walked in to find many tables filled with iPads and literally a customer and every single one, there were one or two free and I quickly hopped in a spot to pick one up. Mini review/thoughts to follow;

From the photos I always thought the desktop looked empty, but I quickly realised this is just because I’m used to my Iphone with everything packed in tight. I first clicked on iTunes, the processor and memory is FAST. Displaying 4albums wide and scrolling down yields no lag at all. Next the iCalender, very easy to navigate and view, basically a dream for you organisational nuts like myself. Then photos and movies and a few games.

I couldn’t stop playing around with it, I noticed I was mostly using it in sideways (wide mode) but you need to put it down to type that way. When you’ve got it in Vertical mode the keyboard is perfectly spaced for thumb typing, just like you do on your iPhone but SO much quicker. I’ve heard a few reviews comment that the keyboard is retarded in those mode but it’s quite obvious, its meant to be held in this mode and perhaps put down to type in the other. The spacing is perfect and I found myself 2 thumb typing almost as quick as I qwerty typed in horizontal mode with no errors! Most of the people near me were older folks asking questions to the staff and then being awed with how simple the replies were in this machine doing what they want.

In the end when I walked out and took out my iPhone it felt completely wrong, like my world had shrunk and this miniature machine was unusable! To call the iPad ‘just a bigger iPod touch’ is utter utter lunacy. It’s like being a graphic designer and comparing work on playing card sized screen compared to a dual-display widescreen 24″ lcd. Size matters! It opens everything up and lets you do so much more. I think apple has built all these little apps into iPhones and Ipodtouch’s that we’ve become accustomed to organising our days on miniature devices. In reality you can’t get much done on them and the iPad is proof and parcel of it, everyone should wakeup and realise this. I was already thinking I’d chuck away my iPhone for one, but then realised hold on; it’s not actually a phone. So is it better than my newly acquired macbook pro? For what I’m doing right now (traveling the world and using a macbook mostly for Internet / Maps / Emails / Organisation / Blogging) I think it’d serve me just as well. The only place it’d fall down would be multitasking things. OS4.0 is apparently going to change this. The other reason I didn’t get one on the spot was lack of 3G thusfar, I’ve been in the heart of Tokyo, L.A, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, New York and utterly struggled with WIFI on my phone. There are not enough reliable/fast and open! WIFI connections out there. It’s just that simple. The device with 3G capability will be killer though. Using the GoogleMaps App to direct me from the Apple store to the Empire State building was utterly ridiculous in how easy and great it is.

A short walk and I was standing at the bottom of the Empire State Building, something everyone in New York has to do apparently. An elevator takes you to the 80th floor and then another takes you to the 86th (good number) where I walked out to be gobsmacked at the site. People are right; everyone in New York should see this view once. It was getting right on dusk so the sun would be setting soon and I walked round ‘n round looking to all points of the great sprawling city. You can see both rivers either side of Manhattan and into New Jersey and North / South as far as the eye can see. It’s kind of a ‘Sim City’ feeling because your literally above everything around you. You hear a siren blaring in the distance and try and spot it down the traffic lanes that curve off into the horizon to be swallowed up by rows of skyscrapers. Yellow taxi cabs herd and graze at traffic lights. Several bridges cross the river either side of you and you wonder where they lead and who is on them.

It kind of eerie how calm it was up there, I was expecting an unnerving wind that would push you towards the edge but it was completely calm no wind at all and I happily lent against the fence vying for a good vantage point for a photo opportunity of the sunset on the horizon. Crystal clear skies also, I’d fluked the perfect weather to head up! The perfect end to a day exploring NYC.

CHECK OUT MORE PHOTOS AT FLICKR

CHECK OUT MORE PHOTOS AT FLICKR

WT2010 – USA – Day 31/32 – Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 16, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 31/32 Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / The Thermals / Phoenix / Animal Collective / Blur

Driving a short trek from Vancouver, BC in the morning to Portland, OR. Six hours of freeways ugh. Funnily enough I got pulled up at the boarder because the people at LAX (when I arrived initially) hadn’t stapled/stamped my customs declaration (they stamped the passport only) and the guys at boarder control were rather confused with this; they thought I was entering the U.S for the first time. I sorted it out in 5minutes though and was on my way. Not much fun but getting into Portland felt kinda weird, like oddly familiar in a way as if I’d been living there for years some time ago and I needed to catchup on things.

I got a late lunch at Wendy’s. I’ve made it one of my points to try every dodgy fast food place America has to offer. From comparing the major chains to ones back home and new ones serving up generally the same rubbery burgers. Wendy’s was rather dodgier than the rest though. It was also kind of funny being in there as a tour bus or something had formed a queue before me. Nothing like experiencing the American dream; the rush and commotion of orders being yelled in a Wendy’s burger queue.

I was trolling through The Mercury (Portland’s free street-press equivalent of the DrumMedia in Sydney) It’s odd how similar they are actually. Jotting down some things to do on my last night in Portland (the next day would mean a long (10hour) drive to San Francisco, I was only half interested in some of the stuff going on so I decided to call some contacts from the previous visit. Portland know-it-all Noelle (knowelle) gave me directions to a house party where another mate Clint’s band was playing a gig.

The house was in SE Portland and was utterly rad, it had no plasterboard on the walls so it was just timber framing inside but had heaps of character and was very welcoming, I got to talking to one of peeps who lived there about a few things such as the random art on the walls and some of the band equipment in one of the rooms. They apparently just picked up some equipment and jammed when they felt like it, weren’t really in a band or anything. When I got there however “Jackalope Saints” were about to kick off their set to an intimate room of locals swilling IPA brews and the odd home-made concoctions mixed in jam-jars.

Straight from the get-go I noticed that lead singer Clinton Herrick’s vocals are spot on for the vibe of the band; a 4 piece with double-bass / acoustic gtr / with lead mandolin-banjo to boot! For all your Australians think; Xavier Rudd but less beach-bogan with didgeridoo and more Pacific-Northwest American refinement. The set swaggered from slow songs with cool picking to upbeat strumalongs with impressive lead mandolin. With folkrock influences like Paul Simon this relatively new yet fairly tight band has a bright future beyond their native Portland, Oregon.

I tried snapping photos in vain; it was a living room in a house after all and there were no front-facing stage lights but I did snap a few that captured the mood; people dancing along with beverages of choice in hand. After the set I explored the house some more until it was suggested we move on to a cool bar somewhere in the NE, when you’ve essentially got a tour guide you don’t pay much attention to where your going. I then got roped into trying something called a hot-totty (or something) which was hot whisky with lemon and honey and some other stuff. Noelle bet her life on it’s sugary allure but I couldn’t stomach it! Not so much the taste but the hot-ness thing. I have heaps of trouble putting down hot sake also so maybe I’d like the iced variety? After some food and whatnot we headed to meet another pal of Noelle’s and talk shit at another bar. This led to us eventually deciding to hit a strip-club.

Noelle and Brett knew one of the dancers, which Brett tells me isn’t unusual. Have I forgotten to mention that Portland as a city has the most strip clubs (per capita) in the world?! (I thought it was only in the U.S) But Noelle corrects me triumphantly. Fuck Vegas, who needs it? Essentially Portland isn’t anywhere near as seedy as Vegas nor does it have any of the fakeness of diva-esque neon lights haphazardly ram shackled onto anything that will support them. The clubs and scene is there but it’s more understated. It’s there if you want it. Anyway twenty or so $1 bills and a few drinks later and it was closing time. The girls at Sassy’s work pretty damn hard and put on a rad show, Brett/Noelle’s friend was probably the best there and came for a chat later on. She mentioned wanting to travel around and to Australia even but like anyone else, it’s hard to get some savings together. It reminded me how long it’s taken to get mine together to be doing this.

Saying goodbye in the early morning and then driving out of Portland left me with a feeling of sadness, as if I were driving away from well known and loved surroundings/people evan though in reality I’m no local. I haven’t really felt that way at all on this trip so far (apart from leaving Tokyo) A few droning hours on a freeway sorted me out though. Got into San Francisco late again, great.

Saturday night really isn’t the night to be out in SF it seems, It was basically the same deal as last time round. Cheesy club nights. I got dinner and roamed around a bit, random pubs that weren’t playing anything interesting and this was in the Mission district. I don’t know if I’ve somehow unluckily missed all the cool places or something but SF just doesn’t seem to be my kinda town. Which is odd because everyone I’ve talked to has spoken fondly of it. It is the place to be if you like “cutting-edge” hipster electro-dj nights and r&b and soul and the like. It reminds me a lot of Sydney in that it has it’s gorgeous tourist sites (if you take away the two or three half-deascent club nights that is) Ouch, scathing! huh?

As I mentioned before though, a lot of the places I wanted to visit have literally closed in the last month so maybe it’s going through a change of guard in regards to Indie venues or whatnot. Who knows, all I know is I’ve managed to sniff out amazing places in every city I’ve visited thus far including ones where I can’t speak the language and San Francisco wasn’t speaking mine. Not enough time I guess! Roll on New York.

CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR

CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR

WT2010 – CANADA – Day 27/28 – Vancouver, BC

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 10, 2010

WT2010 – CANADA
Day 27/28 – Vancouver, BC
[On the iPOD] The Undertones / The Go-Betweens / Johnny Foreigner / The Hives

Vancouver is only 2.5hrs drive from Seattle (or less even) Its like Sydney to Newcastle. Crossing my first border was Interesting. It doesn’t feel like your in a different country at all at first. But then you start hearing French on the radio. I was wondering where the hell the mountains were, I couldn’t see anything in the distance at all and then the freeway obviously changes direction and your staring at these Mordor-esque HUGE mountains in the distance, they literally cut out of the flat landscape like giant city-wide pyramids the top half of which just completely disappears into fog/clouds.

Soon you cross a bridge and your driving through suburbia and then downtown Vancouver jumps out at you with mountains visible in the background like some fake backdrop on a stage performing a Shakespearian play. Snowboarding snowboarding where for art thou snowboarding. It’s quite an amazing site, the freeway/overpass gives you this oversight towards the mountain and the cityscape buildings build themselves up either side of the road you enter on.

Vancouver looks modern and ‘internationale’ no immediate visibility of any history but it seems so cutting edge you don’t care. My initial plan was to go snowboarding right away but it was a tad late and I was pretty tired from the night before. So instead I was on a walkabout around downtown Vancouver. The main strip Granville St is home to many bars, restaurants and shops of all description. It’s a long street though so I ended up walking awhile. I came across some cars tipped over in the middle of the road?! As it turns out they were shooting scenes from the series “The Fringe” and a host of series crew members were making the scene look like some sort of explosion had occurred, they were piling car parks and junk out of the back of pickup trucks and randomly throwing them on the road.

My goal was a much talked about record store on W Hastings St. It was vinyl only but the prices were kind of ridiculous, exactly what you’d find back home. Used albums for $50? No thanks. I’m regretting not buying a heap more in Japan, am yet to come across those sort of bargains. I’m hoping maybe the UK will have some bargain basements.

I found an amazing Sushi place and spotted some amazing backstreet graffiti. Further down W Hastings the neighbourhood gets distinctly dodgier. The street is littered with homeless people all congregating around one block really. Offered bud and shrooms twice whilst walking past. It’s probably only a matter of time before the gentrification of the city turns this area into brand new apartments and all these people are shoed away somewhere out of site, it seems like Vancouver is aiming to be that kind of city. But the area near the water has that old-historic vibe to it (called Gas Town) I unfortunately didn’t get to explore any further as the weather started to get pretty bad. Headed back to the hotel and whilst out looking for dinner I found a place called Morrissey’s. Of course I headed straight in, it does seem to be named after the singer with one of his albums displayed proudly near the stereo. They play really good music at this trendy bar/restaurant (when I say trendy, I mean modern but not wanky) you can even make requests. I had probably the best Steak/Salad I’ve ever eaten and then headed back to my hotel for an early night (up early for snowboarding!)

I somehow woke up late with my head feeling not so-great. Too many drinks at the pub the night before perhaps? I was worried about Cypress Mountain. There was the debacle at the recently held olympics (it was an official venue for several of the events) and apparently they had to ‘cart in’ snow because there was such a lack of it up there. Everyone I’d spoken to said I have to go to Whistler (a real resort with big mountains about 2hours drive North) I’d already driven 3hours from Seattle the day before however and it’d be a 4hour round trip, add to that the fact I’ll be driving a total of about 19hours over 3days after I leave Vancouver and I’d decided against it. I’m not an all-mountain pro boarder anyhow and besides I’d already experienced big stuff in Japan.

Thirty minutes from my hotel to the carpark! Like a quick scoot to your friends place and your in the Cypress Mountain lodge carpark. That is fricken awesome! No fees to park and all day lift tickets are $47. The lodge is at the base of two mountains (Black Mountain and Mount Strachan which literally go in opposite directions like a valley) You only have to walk about 100m to either lifts. I opted for Strachan first up. Canadians have an interesting idea of “no snow” Snow depth was at 4metres and nice and soft and utterly better than anything you’d find in Australia. The only lack of snow was on the road on the drive up the mountain (which I was happy with having no snow tyres) It’s probably people being picky, sure Cypress doesn’t have 10minute lifts and dozens of trails but it’s perfect for beginner/intermediates like myself. I don’t think a 4hour roundtrip to Whistler is worth it frankly, though it probably would be if your pedantic and an experienced boarder. This is only my 9th day on a board after all. My head wasn’t all there so I had lunch before I headed up. I’d hired a 2009 Burton Custom so for the first time ever I’d be on a really good Burton board.

The thing turns on a dime, it took me the first part of the day to get used to my new settings, switching from 0 at the rear to 6-out. It’s effortless to turn but takes some getting used to, as your mostly always turning too much but I eventually settled in. The green run is nice and long and doesn’t really have to be green, you can cut in down trails that are blue halfway down and the run itself had a nice ‘ditch’ area near the end where you could drop in/down and then get some good air off jumping back out (like a mini-halfpipe/gutter run) I ended up staying on this run all day practicing trying to get air and mostly falling on my ass. Still have a long way to go.

I ended up meeting some cool people and even though I’d had an allday pass (which runs to 7pm) I had to call it a day at 5 because I was ready to fall asleep. No more beers the night before! I was looking forward to the next day though. Also on the way down the mountain there is a viewing point which overlooks Vancouver and the ocean. Stunning views! Of course I didn’t have my camera! :s The storm clouds brewing on the horizon wasn’t a good sign though and that night it started raining heavily, which meant no getting out and taking photos of Vancouver at night unfortunately. I again headed to Morrissey’s for good food and some tips on where to go in Vancouver at night. Roll on the next few days!

CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR

CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR

WT2010 – USA – Day 26 – Seattle, WA

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 8, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 26 – Seattle, WA
[On the iPOD] Nirvana / DFA1979

A 3hour drive to Seattle, WA. Surprisingly up until this point, I hadn’t listened to much American radio but forgetting to charge the iPod I was furiously channel flicking on the short drive into Washington. You do not know bad music until you listen to American radio. Twenty channels of Country-Pop-Rock… think acoustic Nickelback with a country accent, endless different ‘artists’ in this vein. My ears were bleeding.

I finally got into Seattle, much later than I had planned unfortunately because I was only effectively staying one night I’d have to get out there and do something. When I began planning this trips months and months back I had to move dates around a few times, which makes this all the more spooky. I had planned to do a small site-seeing Nirvana/Kurt Cobain tour thing but as it turns out the date I’d be Seattle was in fact April 4th and staying overnight of the 5th (The anniversary of the day Kurt Cobain died) I wanted to detour 1hour into Aberdeen (1hour from Seattle but I’d left it a little late) Instead I apprehensively decided to visit Cobain’s “Graceland” or the last he bought and lived in.

It’s not a proper Indication of Cobain, because he only lived there for a short period (after Nirvana had become successful and he had the money to buy such a place) even so the house itself is completely modest. It’s in an expensive area on Lake Washington Blvd (it overlooks a lake with Ice-topped mountains behind it) It’s an amazing view but the house is secluded behind many trees. It looks like a large very-homey lodge.

Next to the house is a small (1 house block-size) park with a park bench. The story goes the last place Kurt Cobain was seen alive was by passing residents as he sat on that park bench. It’s kind of funny in a way. It’s this small, understated park where you effectively stare at some trees and the road where yuppies pass by in SUV’s. I can totally picture Cobain sitting there with a smirk of contempt on his face, wholey aware of the irony of him living there.

The park bench has become a make-shift shrine. Courtney Love (his late wife) apparently scattered his ashes in the trees behind the bench. The bench itself it covered in dedications from fans. As I walked towards the park there were three guys sitting before it, writing messages. It turns out they had hitch-hiked across the USA and it was the first time in Seattle and first time at the spot. We exchanged stories of our little minds being blown growing up; ages 11, 12, 13 listening to the sludgey raw, gravely sounds of Cobain and then expressing dismay at how the many artists of today (and following) have failed to ever comprehend Cobain’s message of a world of anti-rockstar, anti-masochism, anti-cockrock and sexual equality in music. We sat there on the bench, the four of us quietly.

One of the guys Adam lent me his iPod to listen to a b-side I’d never heard. Loud and bright LIVE, just like many of the bootlegs I listened to as a kid. People had already left flowers and candles there. There were messages of solidarity from all over, the UK, Poland and Japan. I contemplated for awhile what I’d write. I eventually went with a quote from one of Cobains loves; a song from a band called The Vaselines, Nirvana covered two of their songs on their album Incesticide. Kurt loved them so much he FORCED them to reform so they could open for Nirvana when they were in Edinburgh, Scotland (The Vaselines hometown) The chorus of the song titled “Son of a Gun” is “The sun shines in the bedroom when we play, the raining always starts when you go away”. I went with the latter part of that.

The guys were genuinely shocked when I told them what day it was (the anniversary of Kurt’s death) turns out they hadn’t planned it either. Later on they went to knock on the door of the house and then heard someone playing basketball out the back. They walked up to the fence and asked “Hi, just wondering are you a Nirvana fan?” this was met with a stern NO! and the guy sounded like a yuppie tool. Quite amusing, though understandably he probably has to put up with constant harassment.

Later on I went for a wander around Seattle, it’s an Interesting place. Not really smoking-metropolis but not really quiet and dull either. Somewhere in between. No bands were playing on a Sunday night a the Crocodile Cafe unfortunately (a popular venue in the 90’s) so I stayed in at night and decided to leave early the next morning!

Theres probably more to Seattle than half a day can uncover, unfortunately I’ll have to leave it to another time! I’ll leave you all with a small Cobain tribute… or the two sides to Nirvana (the loud and raw and the soft and humble)

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WT2010 – USA – Day 24/25 – Portland, OR

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 7, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 24/25 – Portland, OR
[On the iPOD] The Libertines / The Sonics

Sunny sunny Portland! I’d found something out from the locals, they discern who ISNT from Portland by the simple fact they carry an umbrella. Apparently the done thing is everyone wears hoodies to fend off the rain and rain it does in Portland (a little too much this week) It is the most bizarre weather I’ve ever seen. You could compare Portland to Melbourne but the fact of the matter is it never rains more than 5minutes, not sure if it’s the way the landscape surrounding Portland is organised but those rain clouds roll in and roll away before you’ve had a chance to get our umbrella wet. Mostly it’s sunshower drizzle and a trusty hoodie will get you through the day.

I headed over to the Portland Craft Museum, it doesn’t sound very enticing does it? I had my doubts too but I was running out of options in the rain. Some interesting subversive ‘hack-art’ mostly surrounding clothing. A local artist had modified two bicycles and rigged them to a sewing machine to faux canvas clothing. It was a human-powered production line, perhaps protesting modern production line clothing or the hours it takes to produce such clothes using human power in protest of sweat shop labor. I’m not too sure frankly, its rather subjective. Interesting none the less. Another display featured giant blanket with the Nike swoosh which was collectively sewn by hundreds of people around the world and then delivered to a CEO at Nike in protest of their sweat-shops. The piece I liked the best however was a bunch of letters stuck to a wall.

They were letters written by a former gulf-war marine address to various heads of organisations such as America’s ambassador to the UN, the secretary of Defence and so forth. Next to them were the replies. Basically they were short and to the point letters (half a paragraph) praising efforts of the recipient on sticking to their intended goals re: the current wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and mildly suggesting an opposition to it. Enclosed with the letters were home-made pots with Army-inspired themes as gifts to the recipients. It’s kind of jading reading the robotic replies. The last was addressed to the representative of China to the UN praising China’s efforts to oppose to the war, next to the letter was the pot (returned to sender unopened) It’s funny how American politicians are happy to play the game and be all smiles whilst the Chinese just don’t give a toss. No photos of most of the exhibition (not allowed)

I later headed to a popular music store called Jackpot Records (bands play in-store showcases frequently) See The Cribs doing so right here I was after an album by a local band called Yacht and found a cheap used copy but they couldn’t find the CD! So I asked if they had The Cribs latest album on vinyl which they didn’t. The guy felt genuinely bad for me leaving empty handed so he ended up giving me a Cribs T-shirt which were made specially for the in-store appearance (a limited set) for free! Radness. I also picked up a present for a friend.

The rain was picking up so I again headed to the only point of comfort nearby The Powell’s bookstore. I’m not sure if I put into perspective what this store is to Portland, it’s more than a bookstore it’s like a meeting-point and hangout for all of Portland it seems. The place is ALWAYS packed they have a cafe in there which serves epicly good coffee and tea and the independent feel of the store and it’s selection of new and used books make it a place you can keep going back to without getting bored. Did I mention it has 4 levels and spans a city-block? I stayed in there reading The Zinesters guide to Portland. Written by a local bunch of Zinesters (A Zinester is someone who makes Zines; home-made, photocopied magaZINES which usually contain creative writing on topics of sub-cultural themes which are mostly autobiographical) That’s a poor description but you get the jist.

The book apparently started as a zine itself, with a bunch of ‘cool places to go and see’ in Portland written for out-of-town zinesters visiting for a zine symposium. If I say zine one more time i’m going to explode. But anyway it’s now a 100+ illustrated book, its quite amazing actually. I learnt a few things like theres actually 5 quadrants to the city (NW, N, NE, SE, SW) and Portland has 12 bridges! (8 in the immediate city area) Bridgetown indeed. Sipping Japanese sencha tea I totally lost track of time.

No cool gigs on Friday unfortunately though the night before I’d headed to see a band at a venue called Holocene. “The Morning Benders” out of San Francisco. They’re opening song was brilliant kind of an oldschool british post-punk vibe to it with working up rhythms. But then they settled into the ‘sound of today’ or falsetto folk-pop. They’re ultimately a soft folk-pop band along the lines of Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend. But not as memorable really. If only they’d stuck to that post-punk opener instead of conforming to what’s cool right now. I kind of left not really that interested. Good venue though.

Saturday involved getting out to “the real portland” on my own. The NE and SE. Basically these quadrants all have ‘suburbs’ or areas but when someone asks where your from people usually reply by the quadrant. In the NE it’s Alberta St that featured a bunch of cool little shops and restaurants, it was a shame about the heavy rain or I would’ve explored more. I settled for lunch however and next headed to SE Hawthorne Pde. This place reminded me most of home, or that is Newtown in Sydney. Not as big or as crowded but good original stores and restaurants. Theres the best damn used clothes store I’ve ever seen called Red Light. I tried on two jackets, 1 of which was too big and the other too small (DAMNIT!) because they were an utter bargain and totally cool. Theres racks and racks of vintage used t-shirts. Girls would probably go insane in this place. There was only a small section for mens clothes with the rest of the store for women. A Madonna album played in the background whilst I flicked through original run Simpsons T-shirts. Early 90’s flashback much! Ack.

I tried to go to a park East of Hawthrone Pde but it turns out it was a damn Forest again, PDX likes its inner-city forests. After shopping around for a bit I ate and then headed back early to relax for a big gig that night.

A show at the Doug-Fir (a snazzy newish-looking venue) I don’t like that “new-polished-bar” venue appeal but I’ve gotta say they have the best sound tech/setup I’ve probably ever heard. Utterly perfect. I say ‘big gig’ because headlining was current hyped “IT” band “Surfer Blood” from Florida. Even JJJ back home has been sprucing them loudly. They’ve got a sort of Surf-Pop 60’s vibe to them, but not in a raw-garage way. More in a Beach Boys kind of way (minus the keys and multiple voice harmonising or epic genius layering) I’d like to say they were all that, but they looked about 17 years old and though they were tight they pretty much had the appeal of a young band. IE; Not much. They have some stand out songs but overall it’s a bit too simple in parts. The venue was packed (near sell out) but no one seemed to be dancing to it. All hype? No, there are some points to write home about, but they’re no Arctic Monkeys (and look where they’ve gone) Time will tell I guess.

But but but the band before them by the name of “Turbo Fruits” from Tennessee were wholey entertaining and in parts; a flat out riot. This is probably due to the fact they have a former member of “Be Your Own Pet” It’s raw 60’s garage rock/pop meets a Southern-knee-slapping good time. At times a little too much so (I almost mistook one of their songs for Kings Of Leon) but thankfully the vocals sound nothing along the lines of that accent. They played two covers; CCR – Bad Moon Rising (in a garage style) and then The Undertones – Teenage Kicks, which was spot on. If anything the band doesn’t have the songs as yet (a short set with two covers) but they’re one to look out for. I met some cool people later on and then stumbled home. Just like that Portland came to an end. Farewell Bridgetown, Beervana, PDX, Stumptown and The City Of Roses.

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WT2010 – USA – Day 22/23 – Portland, OR (Through rose coloured glasses)

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 2, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 22/23 – Portland
[On the iPOD] Comet Gain / Yacht

Wow, what a busy two days. I was feeling pretty lazy in the morning so didn’t get going until almost 12 (which is fine because a lot of stores in Portland don’t open till 11am, they’re apparently not morning people just like myself) I missed breakky so decided to get lunch and wandered across a place called “Red Robin” which is basically a cross between outback steakhouse and burger king. It has ‘to be seated’ service like a proper restaurant and makes gourmet burgers. It’s pretty much like burger kings big posh brother. They cook the burgers as you order them and have an array of toppings and stuff. It was fairly good. So with energy to meet the day I headed off and decided to explore East Burnside Ave. Which is the ‘truer’ Portland that is; more Suburbia than Inner city new urban buildings. Vintage clothing, Art Supplies, Comic Store, Coffee Shops, Home-made clothing labels. You’ll find all this on Burnside Ave amongst peoples houses though, its fairly spread out and you have to walk a bit.

I was wandering kind of aimlessly in and out of places with intent to find a music store right up the other end. I walked into a store that I’d later find out is pretty popular here called wholefoods where it’s basically a mini supermarket based all on organic produce, they actually have a cafe where you can eat your food within the store. Free WIFI too.

Eventually found the music store after a long wander but nothing of interest that I didn’t already own in their used section. Prices for new albums were moderately okay ($15ish) But still too much to go on a shopping spree for.

I headed back the direction I came and wandered into an underground Comic store (literally) that had boxes and boxes of comics and graphic novels and the like. The store keeper was really helpful telling me about anything and everything but I was just browsing. I later listened to him and a friend/customer rant on about things like something out of Kevin Smith movie. Pretty funny

I then really didn’t have a goal because when I got back outside it started to rain again, total bummer. I was thinking of heading back to my hotel heaps early for the first time on this entire trip! But I wandered past a coffee/tea house and then for some reason decided to walk backwards towards it and inside. Something to eat/drink to recharge a bit.

I got to talking to a local by the name of Noelle in there about Portland and certain Issues, she was working intently on her macbook so naturally I had to find out what about. It turns out she’s investigating Improper imprisonment of people on a case by case basis completely on her own time to try and shine some light on things and perhaps set things right and see justice done. It made me feel kind of selfish, my wandering about the world totally absorbed in all things me and heres someone actually doing some good.

Anyway we got to talking music and other things and next thing I knew I was riding in her trusty volvo on the way to meet her friends at a bowling alley. The entire gang were totally rad people and I petty much got a tour of Portland the rest of the day and night including a bar and some local brews to a place called “Voodoo Doughnuts” It’s a place I took a photo of on my first days wanderings (there was a queue outside) but I didn’t go in. Noelle’s good friend Clint explained their an uber dingy doughnut place that is so bad it’s good. Think BACON on a glazed donut. The place they took me too had a queue at like 9pm at night and they were playing oldschool thrash metal full blast in there whilst waiting to get served. Awesome (in a funny kind of way) Checkout the photos, It’s the ultimate late night diabetes-inducing-snack. I piked out on finishing my second doughnut though. I couldnt do it. I’ll try the bacon one next time I promise (with photos)

Oh I actually won one game of bowling, which was pretty surprising I normally gutter a lot. Anyway we finished the night chilling with beers watching the Portland Blazers totally school NY. It was pretty entertaining.

I started thursday with a sugar hangover. Ugh. Today was a warm day with no rain forecast so I decided to head to Forest Park. But first it was lunch. Portland has great restaurants but apart from those, another thing loved by the locals are certain areas within the city that have ‘trailer-style’ food service. There will be a carpark area and a line of trailer restaurants. Now I know what your thinking (In Australia this is associated with dodgy food) but do you really think they’d get away with serving bad food with the amount of good restaurants around?

I went for a trailer/stall called Nong’s Khao Man Gai and ordered the Chicken and Rice (Chicken is from a local farm) and then dodged the people lining up for their share at all the other stalls. You’ll find every nationality represented in one area or another. Thai, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese and I even spotted a Czech one called Tabor. I’ll try that one another day, apparently it’s great. Anyway I wanted to head to forest park pretty quick cause the food was hot.

As it turns out the park entrance I was aiming for was only 3km away. So I was there in less than 5min and parked on a bench at the entrance digging into the most amazing chicken/rice I’ve ever had anywhere. I love Thai food but have never had anything as good as that.

I should explain at this point that Forest Park isn’t a regular park but more a ‘National Forest’ type park in that it has 100’s of different trails and different entry points and spread acres and acres. Some are opened to bikes and pedestrians, others just pedestrians. I wasn’t knowing what to expect but soon I was following a river upstream and just totally surrounded by green old growth forest.

The photos speak for themselves. For all you Twilight fanatics this is the style of forest they shot the movies in. I walked on and on finding lots of hikers along the way. You’d see HUGE trees crashed across the path but parks services had been in with huge chainsaws and cut them open so you could still use the path it made for great photo opportunities, these massive trees cut open exposing ring-growth and sometimes hanging suspended over water as make-shift natural bridges.

I eventually stumbled onto something unexpected. An old stone hut on the forest trail. It looked about 100 years old or so. No timber left. You could walk up the stairs and inside. I then noticed a ‘downstairs’ entrance that was near pitch black inside. I wandered in and then out and then thought there is missing space. A hidden basement? No as it turns out in the dark area they’d bricked up the room (with modern bricks) probably to stop homeless people from living in there. There was also a map of the area and surrounding hiking trails. I’d walked close to 2km I’d say but this was just a small fraction of the park, it was amazing. It would take you weeks and weeks to explore it all I think. I headed back down towards civilisation.

Next I drove to Portland’s International Rose Test Garden. Mostly because I’ve heard it’s the best spot for photos of the distant Mt Hood (An 11,240ft peak making it the tallest in Oregon) It’s actually volcanic and is apparently the most likely volcanic mountain in Oregon to erupt. I caught a glimpse of it in town (just the very peak) in the sun and it looked awesome. Unfortunately the clouds had completely covered it up in the distance. It’s also too early for the Roses. This garden was established during WW1 as a sanctuary because it was believes the war would destroy many species of rose, since then it has accumulated over 7,000 different species. It must be some sight to see when they’re in bloom. They looked to be a few weeks off though. I’ll hopefully stop back through here either before I leave or on the way back down (I want that shot of Mt Hood!) even though I don’t have a good enough zoom lens.

Next I drove back into town for dinner at a bar/restaurant and again tried a different local brew. Then walked to a store by the name of “Compound” which had a bunch of cool art and design toys, art and clothing. Inspired a bit by Japan I think, but the local work on show was really good. I didn’t buy anything though. Nowhere to put it!

I’d heard about a ‘local’ 3D Museum. A private small one but I thought I’d check it out anyway. It was really interesting. On show were a range of ‘Viewmasters’ (remember those things you’d play with as a kid, the red goggles you’d put wheels in and spin them to see 3D images?) It turns out the guy who invented them was from Portland. The lady who ran the museum was very knowledgeable in ALL things 3D. A total buff. Apparently the man who invented the Viewmaster intended it as a serious scientific tool and spent a years with an anatomist dissecting specimens and taking stereo-photos. In the end it ended up as a cheap toy for kids!

I overheard a man enquire about how 3D stereo-photos that were hung on the wall that we were using a large custom made box to view worked. Basically if you looked at the photo it looked like a regular arty hung photo but there were 2 identical ones side by side (or so it seems) but they’re actually taken by two cameras a certain distance apart and when you use this box to view them (a box with mirrors in it that widens your point of view) you end up looking at this regular photo on the wall in amazing 3D; everything foreground is leaping at you. Remember I’m not talking an image that is blue/red overlaid. It was a regular photo.

Apparently you can do it at home; from memory the ratio of distance between the cameras is 1/30th to that of your subject. So if your aimed at a flower 30inches away, your cameras should be 1inch apart (centre focus point of lens that is) Then you just hang them side by side and buy this viewing tool online or make your own (its 4 mirrors, very easy) One photo was of a fountain, you could see individual splashes of water in the foreground. It was pretty enthralling. The Museum had a 3D movie showing and a bunch of Viewmasters and other 3D stuff for sale. It’s pretty good value.

Oh also the address of the Museum is on ‘Lovejoy’ Ave (ring a bell?) (Reverend Lovejoy) one of the gang from yesterday told me that a lot of the characters from The Simpsons are named after places in Portland (Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons is from Portland) You’ll also find Flanders Ave as well. The Nuclear power plant is based on one that was once powering Portland (it was knocked down years ago) It had cooling towers and everything. Springfield is a city in Oregon!

A long non-stop day. Hopefully the weather holds out tonight for night photography and hopefully seeing a good band or two. Photos below!

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WT2010 – USA – Day 20/21 – Portland

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 1, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 20/21 – Portland
[On the iPOD] The Thermals / Radiohead

Probably the first time I’ve left my hotel in an organised fashion since hitting the states. I woke up, was out the door and in the car within 10minutes. I had a big drive ahead of me; Portland, OREGON was 1023km away according to the GPS. American highways still amaze me. You’ll have 5 lanes and then you’ll see a sign saying carpool lane up ahead and they’ll just build another lane, they have the space. You have 6 lane highways for miles and miles. It doesn’t stop congestion though, at one point leaving San Francisco I swear it was 8 lanes wide (when some lanes joined for a bit. The American solution to everything ‘build it bigger’) or add more.

Anyway there was traffic for the first hour and then it started to fade off (it was never as bad as L.A though) and eventually I’d left San Francisco behind and was staring amazing hills/mountains in the distance. This opens up to flat plains and a 2 lane freeway (all dual carriageway) which is immensely safe. You’ve gotta hand it to the Americans in this regard. Nothing like the 1lane v 1lane accident-waiting-to-happen roads you find in Australia.

Eventually you start to notice the temperature start to drop and rolling plains start turning into alpine forests and you start climbing hills and then theres fog and rain and more fog and rain. Northern California is beautiful. I was making good time but I’d still be arriving 7:30pm so I kinda didnt want to stop. Weather was getting worse and the rain began to pickup. A few hours from Portland and the drive becomes rather intense. You get huge lumber trucks carrying these creaking huge trees crammed on the back of them. They kick up a 5metre high wall of spray as they climb the hills and wind through the S-turns.

I’ve driven a fair bit; the entire East Coast of Australia in fact (in various directions) but never anything like this. Perhaps in parts for an hour or so. But not 4hours + of hill climbs and hill descents and S-bends in the pouring rain. There wasn’t a bit of flat straight road to be found! I was kind of loving it but also very very weary of being in a FWD car with low quality tyres and the amount of water on the road. Aquaplaning on one of those bends at that speed would be tough to counter.

Eventually the Alpine course gave way to the final stretch into Portland, normal freeway. It was a foggy night and you first spot a few building and think Oh its Portland! Rad! But then as you round the bend on a certain highway the first thing you spot are amazing bridges, six of them to the left I believe and one out of view. The bridges cross the river that splits the city down the middle but it bends a bit so you get this contrast and elevation of bridges and the city lights and the fog below and the river and it’s amazing on first sight. I don’t know if it was the fact I’d had to put up with harsh conditions for 10hours to get there that made me so awe-struck.

I leaped for my camera and fired off shots only to have the view go out of sight quickly. I told some friends it’s better than Paris but perhaps it was just the Winter equivalent of a mirage in the desert. Portland and it’s bridges sticking out of the fog after hours of roaming the forest highways. I got to my hotel and was so tired and it was literally 2 degrees outside and pouring rain I didn’t go out at all.

Sunny sunny Portland, I awoke to drizzling rain and gloomy conditions. The forecast is like this until Thursday. I begin to layer-up; a long-sleeve shirt, a long-sleeve flannel, a jumper with hoodie and a jacket with a hoodie. Walk outside; COOOOOOOOOLDDDDDD BACK INSIDE! I don’t know what it is about this town but it feels colder than being in the snow. Perhaps it’s the fact the sun is obscured by immense clouds, Im not sure. I cross my first bridge heading to the “Pearl District/Old Town” to roam around rather aimlessly. Eventually I try and find gloves (yes it was that cold) but I was after the fingerless variety to no avail. After taking a few shots the rain started to pickup and I needed to head somewhere indoors.

Stumbled across a bookstore which looked a good a place as any. As it turns out it’s apparently the biggest used book store in America or something. It’s a fricken city block with 4 levels! Awesomeness. A quick dip into the magazine section before I decide what I want to find; I spot a magazine called “Giant Robot” about Asian Pop Culture has some interesting articles on Music and Film and Art and Anime so this one is coming home with me. I then browse the Music section and there are a heap of interesting reads but I already have a book for this trip for cold days in. So I head to the photography section and find something I’ve been after since L.A. Perfect! $50 later and Im out in the cold again.

Really needing food I instead find a record store. Theres an ok selection of stuff but nothing I’m after. I do get a good tip theres a Sushi joint nearby though. So I head straight there, finally some Sushi in the states and it was pretty damn good. After lunch the weather calmed down a bit so I got to roam a bit more. I ended up somewhere or other North of town, I pretty much explored the entire Pearl district and areas nearby. Portland is basically split into four quandrants, two either side of the river. So I guess that’s one down three to go? I didnt get to the major park west of the Pearl though because the rain started to get really heavy. Luckily by this point I’d purchased an umbrella. Somehow I was still cold though with 2 hoodies on my head.

Back at the hotel taking the second most northern bridge (second tallest?), which I don’t know if it was the lack of food but I got vertigo on. For those that don’t know I HATE heights. I know it’s completely illogical to get the shakes on a bridge built to withstand a few thousand tonnes of automobile but the stairs up had space between the steps where you could constantly look down whilst climbing, ugh. Plus the wind and the rain blowing you around. Not very pleasant. I crossed the bridge though. Two down six to go? (I’m not sure if you can walk across all of them)

Portland during the day has the feeling of a working class town in places; theres the obvious Port and Industrial areas up the river. In the Pearl district however you find this perfect blend of brand-new modern urban development and old and original buildings converted into cosy bars and restaurants. It’s kind of like Melbourne but not as Multicultural (though it is) but more Old-American. You look at one bar and think; back in the 1920’s this would’ve been the secret hip hangout to get a drink during an era of prohibition. Then on your way across the road you see an ultra-modern light-rail system with simple and well organised stations and theres a few different lines with different coloured trams. Next you’ll see a modern urban art space for hire, a gallery, a great book store, a craft store and so on. A Victorian-esque park with a statue of Lincoln.

At this point I started to wonder, hold on where is everyone? And wheres all the traffic? Theres people on bikes and a few cars parked in the streets. A lot of people on the light-rail. It seems like this mid-sized city that has everything except congestion (2pm on Tuesday) As it turns out Portland only has 580k people. It’s smaller than it looks and all the cars are pretty much using the bridges and freeway network that bypasses the city itself to the south/north. That’s why it’s so endearing; you’ve got all these tall buildings yet the city retains a small-town yet cool-inner-city vibe all in one.

The people in charge of planning really know what they’re doing. The mix between heritage buildings and new ones looks grand though slightly yupified down a certain part of the NorthWest it’s only a small part. Portland is apparently the most environmentally friendly city in the USA and according to wiki second in the world. I’m not sure about that but It seems totally feasible after a days walk through one part of it.

I found a place for dinner at night and ordered pecan stuffed ravioli. Utterly amazing, best ravioli ever. Portland actually has many nicknames from “The City of Roses” to “PDX” to “Beervana” the last of which is because it’s home to many smaller beer brewing companies. The restaurant I had dinner at tonight had 7 different beers brewed in Oregon on the menu! Radness. I then headed to a show at a venue which was advertised as noise-rock. The bands were tight but just wasn’t feeling it at all so I left after 2 drinks and a few songs. I decided to headout and take some night photos of the bridges before I got home. Headed to the east side of the city only to get onto a road shared with lightrail. In Melbourne you can drive over the tracks, its a shared area and you treat trams as other cars unless indicated.

I was a bit weary about what lane to take but A car infront of me drove in the track lane so I followed him, he later turned off and then a cop car turned onto the street and pulled me over. Apparently it’s lightrail only in that lane. It was a female officer who was extremely helpful and nice. She asked me where I was going and where I was staying and explained I can’t drive in that lane at all, also advised me to go straight home because she smelt alcohol on my breath. So I decided to call it a night and when I got back there were 2 officers at my hotel making sure I was staying there. Pretty thorough huh.

Probably better to get those night shots on a clearer night, its still foggy and raining. Anyway enjoy the day shots;

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WT2010 – USA – Day 19/20 – L.A to San Francisco

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 30, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 19/20 – L.A to San Francisco
[On the iPOD] Weezer / The Strokes

Off to San Francisco but first a quick favor for a friend. I wanted to drop into a venue to drop some zines off in the city so I headed in there at 10:30am only to find the council had closed off like 6 city blocks exactly where I needed to get to, this caused a traffic disaster and I got stuck for over one hour. Not cool. So then the rush was on to get to San Simeon a pretty big detour to check out a place called “Hearst Castle” basically it’s what it says… A castle built buy a millionaire over decades in the early 20th century.

After leaving L.A too late and then the traffic jam, I decided to throw in a missed turn which left me 30km until the next exit. Basically I was then taking this 300km detour with a chance of the damn castle not being open. Rush rush rush. I got there 4:40pm and all the inside tours were soldout but they luckily had one last ‘self guided’ tour (which is apparently a new thing) which was great because that’s what I would’ve chosen anyway. Words can’t describe how awesome this place is. It was basically built in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain with one side looking towards the ocean and the other the rolling hills of Northern California. All the art/sculpture on the property is the real deal, theres millions of dollars worth of marble there. The views are stunning, check out the flickr photos which is the only way you can really describe the place. The other amazing thing about being able to live there would be the drive up the hill; its basically a winding curving WRC tarmac coarse, its unreal. The bus drive up (they have shuttles) would have been unnerving but for the 1940’s swing music coming through the P.A.

I ended up getting lost taking photos, lost for time that is. I looked at the clock and it was 7pm, oh yeah thats right I STILL HAVE TO DRIVE TO SF! (350km+) So I hopped back in the car, the road approaching San Simeon (the highway on the coast) is regarded as one of the best drives on the Eastern Coast of the USA, it has amazing views. I had no time to stop unfortunately. I started to get seriously tired circa 10pm and I was still 2hours away. I was trying everything to stay awake and then put on some Weezer full blast for a memorable all out singalong which got me into SF close to 12am. I’d missed band gig times so I was on the laptop pronto after a quick shower trying to find some bars or clubs to head to only to find literally everything I’d penned in had closed down or only ran midweek. Literally every club listing was dance or r&b. Hmmm. So I went for a wander.

I found a Pizza place nearby that sold GIANT pizzas, new york slice style or perhaps bigger. I watched a drunk guy repeatedly ask the guy at the counter if he took credit cards only to be ignored so when the guy turned his back the drunk just grabbed a slide of pizza and ran out.

I found a bar nearby playing 1960’s pop/swing/soul which id much rather than all of the dreck listed online (think r&b nights with cheesy cheesy wank flyers, ugh) anyway the place had cheap drinks so I ordered 2 or 3 and just got a chance to sit down and then the place closed, at 2am! With nothing open nearby I headed to sleep. Talk about disappointed.

I fired up the camera with a fresh battery and went walkabout first thing in the morning, A thai place for brunch was good value and then I headed off. Coming from L.A one would think I’d seen it all as far as homeless people and people begging would go, then again I wasn’t in L.A’s “bad” areas but SF is just something else. I started to think if the creators of the South Park episode where they compare homeless people to zombies roaming around crying “change, change” instead of “brains, brains” had used San Francisco for inspiration.

Three people in the first block outside of my hotel and this continued as I walked on; I’d eventually pass a few people having crack ‘footpath sales’ where a scattered array of items are placed on the footpath “for sale” I started to worry about the looks these guys would give my DSLR but didnt really worry that much. If anything it’s kind of more disheartening. What do you do? If you gave everyone change you’d end up walking 10 blocks and have no money in your wallet.

I was on a bit of a downer about it actually, It seems it’s bred this lack of empathy in everyone in town. I later observed this first hand. I was at a park just taking a break and an old guy walked up to the couple next to me (who had a daughter) and he said ‘ain’t that the cutest little girl you’ve ever seen’ and then busted into an old school 1950’s pop/rocknroll song about a cute little girl, he was pretty good. He then did it to the next person and asked for a dollar. And the next person then told him to “go sing your song somewhere else buddy” and later heard him explain the guy asked him for $5 last time he sung it to him.

I headed into a 4 storey music store “Rasputin Music” which had some pretty cool people but the prices were pretty much the same as Amoeba’s and used vinyl wasn’t a bargain or anything so I moved on without buying anything.

I went to look at a map, and promptly a guy came up to me and asked me where I needed to go, he gave me directions and then said; look buddy I’ll level with you I’m homeless and need cash to get buy, you gotta dollar? So I obliged, he then replied “got another, so I can eat today?”…

The difference between L.A and San Francisco at this point seemed to be that at least L.A was sparse and spread out but SF has everything more concentrated; including it’s social and homelessness issues. Within an hour of being in San Francisco I’d started to notice I was turning into a local for survivals sake. Drop all empathy, ignore people, get witty and be on your guard. I thought, this is bullshit. So I decided to set a goal somewhere far and headed for the ocean. I walked and walked, hills and more hills. At least if you lived around SF you’d be fairly fit. There are some beautiful houses around. I found Lombard st or (the crookedest street around) and then headed to the piers. It’s basically a tourist bonanza in between those two spots. I’ve wanted to minimise that on this trip but in SF it seems almost impossible. I guess you just have sacrifice going to those places if you want to avoid it.

I then bought a cable-car ticket for the ride back. They seem great on first site and add a lot of character to the place. But because of the way the cable system works you literally have to wait 40minutes in a queue to ride one, even then they’re loud and rattley. They’re more a tourist attraction and gimmick rather than a form of transport. Everyone also had to stand and listen to the worst busker I’ve ever heard. Playing electric guitar covers of blues songs really really badly. Everyone around me was saying let’s pay him to stop. We had to put up with it for 40min while waiting for the cable-car!

It took a good 15minutes to get back and by this time it was getting late. I decided to head to The Haight for dinner and found an amazing Greek place, great food and good value! Way too much walking though.

It started to get dark and I had some people start commenting on my camera on the walk home. This is fucked. It was sunday night and there was a long drive tomorrow so I stayed in that night.

Overall I didn’t get to checkout the Mission or SOMA area that well, but driving through them on the way out I’m not sure what the hype is about. I’m going to be stopping back through for a night on the way back down so I should reserve my opinion on San Francisco for then, or at least after I give it a few more days (2 isn’t enough) but on first impressions it seems pretty complicated and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. Roll on somewhere else.

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CHECK OUT MORE AT FLICKR