Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back Again

I know what you're thinking. The road trip is over, how dare I post again. Well I never got around to posting this final post. (Unless we decide to reunite for a greatest hits tour in a few weeks). So without further ado I present to you the exciting conclusion of Road Trip: The Lost Days.

This time I will use neither bullets, nor numbers but funny symbols.


!- Another great modern stadium where the seats are designed to give you a much better, closer view no matter where you sit. The ushers all wore goofy black hats with the D-backs logo. At Angels stadium they wore those goofy white straw hats with a red sash like old timey steamboat operators.

*- Confusion sets in approaching the stadium because it isn’t visible from a few miles away like most stadiums in America. The reason is because it isn’t so much a baseball stadium as an indoor baseball field that seems like it’s in a small mall. The building is composed of the same boring red brick as every other downtown building. Instead of factories, offices or stores inside there are bright lights, and uniformed men chasing a little white ball. (Butch's note. JJ Jansen's pops confirms this. He is from Arizona and finds it strange as well. Though, he adds, inside it is a wonderful stadium. JJJ is the long snapper for the Panthers. We sat behind poppa Jansen, and the rest of the Jansen clan, sans Cam, at the Giants pre season game. which was awesome. Look for 44 to have a huge impact this year)

Phoenix ---> Tulsa

%- I had another first today, - using cruise control. At first I hated it. It felt like cheating because I wasn’t really driving. My main problem with cruise control was that I couldn’t figure out what to do with my feet. Eventually it grew on me. Great story I know.

#- Isotopes Park, home to the Albuquerque Isotopes, which was actually so named because of the Simpsons episode, was the only stop we made in a full day of driving. I’ll never be like Av but 13 hours was fun. I got a great backhanded compliment from the one guy in the store, who was folding T-shirts the whole time. He told me I wasn’t telling the worst jokes that he had ever heard.

&- We left a little late and forgot about the two hour time change, so my sorrow was great that we drove through OKC and missed the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

+ - I overheard a woman eating breakfast at our motel talking to a Navajo Indian woman say “I love Indians. My son is Creek, and I have another kid that is half Cherokee.” So, what, does this woman troll the country trying to seduce Indian men of various tribes? Is she Playing Native American Baby Bingo?

St Louis

^ -Anheiser-Bush Brewery Tour. The Miller tour was so much cooler than this place. Though this place was way bigger. Staggeringly huge. If not for chilling with Greg this place wouldn’t have been anything too special.

@- Key differences- No video about “Budweiser Time” The gift shop basically just had T-shirts. A backgammon set and a billiards ball set were the only interesting variations. The Miller gift shop was like a branded Ikea. They had couches, and chairs and coffee tables… You could have made your apartment into the coolest bar ever. Until six months later when you realized you were a tool.

*%$- It seems like George W. Bush consulted with the brewery to name the 7 Augustus Bushes that ran the place since 1889. First came “The Originator,” followed closely by his son “The Preserver,” then his son “The Re-organizer.” Next in the alchoholic line of succession was “The Modernizer,” who was also our beer nation’s fattest, shortest, and youngest president. Despite the Bush family’s vast wealth he was also born in a one room log cabin.

(-)-(-) -The arch- If I spent more than ten minutes in and around it I would have more to say. It was a very very cool view from the top to be sure. The three minute tram ride breathing recycled hot air closely resembled the experience of being jettisoned from a space ship in an escape pod.

$- Busch stadium- Now this is a ballpark. This is a tremendous temple to the baseball gods, a place you can see from miles and miles away that dominates the downtown landscape. Since Wrigley and Fenway don’t count in normal stadium conversations I can safely say that this is the nicest ballpark out there. There is no comparison to the view from behind home plate with the Arch in right center. And they love their cards here. Everything is red.

!-Pujols hit it a shot to left so hard that it bounced off the ad of the second deck.

The Last Leg

=-We stopped at a TA outside of Columbus so that I could stop driving and write a draft of this post. Matt from London, OH approached us and asked if we could help him out. You see, unfortunately his truck broke down a few miles down on I-70 E and he needed to get back to it. Well is this a road trip or is this a road trip? So we got to talking, or as Matt preferred to phrase it, “conversatin,” which he preferred to listening to music. Though if he was to listen, he preferred some real good country Like Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and his favorite, Conway Twitty. You know, any good down home Kentucky Bluegrass. If Matt could stress one thing it would be this. Don't do tons of cocaine

End Notes

* I was 4-0 on the road trip. (Since it was already 4-0 D-backs by the time we got there I can’t in good conscience count that game. Obviously I would have been rooting for the Mets in that game. And I was rooting for the Rangers over the Angels cause F$#% the Angels). Though sadly the walk-off streak ended at two.
* Wal-Mart beat out Target 18-13 on this trip. It wasn’t even close until LA. At that point it was 11-5 for the biggest employer in the world until the big red dot tied it up. But Wal- Mart just could not be beat.
* I wish that I had kept track of McDonalds also. It would have been nice to begin a concluding paragraph/monologue with “All told we drove for 7,250 miles, passed 962 McDonalds, ate 9,400,231 bags of Funyuns and drank 1,490 bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper..."
* We bused through NY, NJ and drove through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and a few miles of West Virginia. 20 states. Not bad.
* Every single state of the Union performs road work on their freeways in the summer, but only New Mexico really had their act together. Everybody else closes lanes randomly and doesn't appear to do much work in the designated zones. Other states- take a lesson from New Mexico.
* Colorado is by far the nicest looking state in our country. Just driving through the Rockies was awe- inspiring.
* Western states have Speed limits as high as 75. Though Ushi goes 90 no matter what, so what's the difference.

* This is the part where I am supposed to say what I learned form the trip. How I will be a better person that leads a more fulfilling life because of the valuable lessons I learned from this trip. I would even use that speech format about McDonalds from earlier. Sadly It's too soon for meaningful perspective. While on the trip I had an uncontrollable ear to ear grin talking about the stops we made, yet when I got back to New York describing my travels seemed hollow and perfunctory. Falling back into old rhythms was shockingly easy. I guess the lesson is to live every day like it is your only day.

Bored again in New York,

'till RD11,


Thursday, August 13, 2009

There and Almost Back Again

Sorry for the delay. As always I prefer numbering over bulleting.

La Brea Tar Pits.
1-Sciency and fun all at the same time. There was a humongous white board above Pit 91 with fun facts. Here are some: It is a common misconception that Dinosaurs are found in the pits. Dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago (sometime in between minute three and four of the third hour of the sixth day of creation) The tar Pits only formed 50,000 or so years ago. They do have tons of cool stuff though. Full Mammoth skeletons, over 150 bison. Thousands of wolves.
1-The tar isn't hot.
1-They find about 2500 full skeletons each year
1-If I may think aloud for a sec, I have a dumb question. Why do only bones come out? Shouldn’t most of the bodies be intact because there’s no oxygen or anything to cause decomp. The bodies are basically in a black sludgy vacuum.

1-The Paleontologists work in the middle of the museum behind glass. The pressure must be intense. I for one would never have been able to consult on bank taxes if snot- nosed kids and Japanese tourists were knocking on the glass in front of me.

1-The LA Jewish community is so much bigger than I thought. Also so much frummer.

1-Biggest pet peeve about LA- The sidewalks are two feet off the ground. Try as I might I couldn’t open the car door without it getting stuck on the sidewalk or grass. This is why nobody in LA carpools. It’s impossible to get out on the passenger side

Shabbos in Hancock Park-

1-Some firsts. I tried my first piece of herring. It was slimy and weird and I felt like I was eating Flipper. Nothing is sacred anymore.

1-Somehow there are enough Yiddish speakers in LA that Rabbis give shabbos drashas in Yiddish.

1-Saturday night I had my first Chimichanga, a fried burrito. This was followed by my first morning of not sleeping and being sick as hell.

Angel Stadium

1-Now this is a nice new classy ballpark. It was one of the first to have the now ubiquitous and mandatory dark green seats. It gives a fan the opportunity to walk completely around the park and chill in the Budweiser Patio in the outfield above the bleachers (which I sat in on Achva west on what can be considered road trip part 0. I think the Indians won. I remember Jim Thome having a huge Homer.) and more efficient terracing of all seat are effectively closer to the field than in parks of yesteryear.

1-There was a 60 ish woman wearing all red angels gear cheering on every play. She even yelled to john lackey after each inning as if he would acknowledge and wave back saying something like "thanks for shouting my name so much and encouraging me. Otherwise I just might not have had the strength to come out to the mound each inning." What made this better was that traditional roles were reversed. Her husband was absolutely disinterested in the game. He had headphones and was reading the newspaper. He also had a page of the paper on his head to block the sun. I don't think he looked at the field for one pitch.

1-Oh and did I mention that our tickets were free? We were very late and were negotiating with the woman behind the ticket window when some guy just taps Ushi on the shoulder and hands us two tickets. No white board required. I try to repay him with a beer or some such inside, but he says he's not drinking today.

Huntington Beach
1- Ran for a while on the beach in the morning. It should go without saying that, it was unbelievably amazing. I tried to cool off with a dip in the ocean. Only the water was zero degrees. Did not expect to freeze on a beach in CA in August. Happily, this also allowed me to fulfill the mandate of this trip by making it a legit coast to coast trip.

1-The garbage trucks here are from the future. They have motorized arms that pick up the cans and dump the garbage into themselves.

1-I was privileged to have front row seats to another spectacular performance last night. I sat on a beach chair and watched the sunset listening to some Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam, and other chillaxingly awesome songs. Sadly no stars came out because of the famous California smog.

So close and yet so far.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Wherever I am is where amazing happens

I will now pick up where AV left off. Though it is a hard act to follow.And I am still recovering from Vegas.

Again I number. Because bullets kill people.

And Math is good for your brain.

More Vegas.

Man, so much happened. So much of it was insane. So much of it was stuff I would tell people about for the rest of my life. But unfortunately I am bound to stay mum. We were supposed to leave the morning after Av left. We extended the trip for one more night. Because Vegas is Awesome. Pretty self explanatory really. Now some random thoughts on Vegas.

  1. Penn & Teller- Way lamer than I expected. Though I have never seen them perform live I had seen half of the act in other places. Notable examples included the “Teller smokes a cigarette while Penn plays the bass like a jackass” and “That thing we did on the episode of the West Wing with the flag” bits. (Don’t be surprised by a WW reference in every post. WW is like torah. Kulah bah).

  1. Mystere – Way more jaw dropping, eye bulging, heart stopping, and “how the F^&$ did they do that” inducing than I could have ever imagined. Truly an unreal experience. To say more would rob you off the pure joy you’ll experience seeing it as I did. In the front row and not sober.

  1. The Wynn- Our faithful followers already have heard of my utter disbelief that the swankiest hotel on the Strip doesn’t get HBO. Well I’ll tell you something else they don’t get, Economics. Paying extra money for the luxury of They Wynn should entitle guests to exclusive perks unavailable at other hotels. Instead it grants guests the opportunity to pay even more ludicrous sums of money for things that are complimentary at other hotels. Access to the fitness center for one day was $30. It is complimentary with a $75 spa/salon treatment, but the cheapest one was $150. Also I hated the toilets, too high off the ground.

  1. The greatest trick the devil ever played was tricking people into paying money to vacation in a desert. You roast just walking across the street. Matzoh Balls are kind of the same. It is being served in gourmet restaurants now. Like the Village Steakhouse in Vegas, or Abigail’s in NY, as Jeff Nathan famously publicized when he beat down Bobby Flay. This was barely even really food back in the day. It was made with the mushy detritus from real cooking because people had nothing else. Now it costs 8 bucks a bowl.

So we drive to LA.

  1. Went to Pico Kosher Deli. I have heard rave reviews. I thought it was pretty good. But it’s hard to screw up a turkey sandwich.

  1. Off to the Dodger game. In reverse order let me tell you what happened and then my impressions of the stadium and its fans. Please keep in mind that 11 days ago I was present for Soriano’s walk off Grand Slam at Wrigley.

  1. The dodgers won. And in very impressive fashion I might add. Down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Pierre leads off with a weak infield single that the pitcher can’t handle. Furcal singles so it’s first and third. I now realize that if Ethier walks. Manny would be up with the bases loaded , nobody out - giving me an opportunity to witness my second consecutive walk off Grand Slam. Alas - history was foiled because Ethier didn’t walk. He ended it himself with a walk off three run homer. 11 days ago I saw Soriano hit a walk off homer, and tonight I witnessed a Soriano surrender a game winning walk off homer. Though in a way Ethier’s is more impressive because Soriano only needed a single.

  1. In the eighth I mentioned to Ushi that Chipper Jones was a triple short of the cycle (he walked, making him still a triple short of a mega cycle) and Ushi said that Chipper hits them all the time. This seemed very wrong to me, as I pointed out how rare they are and how few players have hit multiple cycles. Elias and Wiki later confirmed my understanding. Only three players have ever hit the cycle three times. About a dozen more have done it twice. Chipper Jones has done it zero times.

  1. Going off on a rant here. ChaCha sucks big time. Sucks bigger than Tommy Tammisimo. They answered my Q about Jones’ cycle as follows “Chipper Jones has had 7,337 hits altogether in his career Cha Cha On! So I texted back that nobody could ever have that many hits. And please keep the answer to the topic of cycles. They responded “Chipper Jones has appeared in 2119 games with a .309 average…” Cha Cha sucks, sucks big time.

  1. Dodger Stadium is unlike any other stadium. It sits at the base of a ravine or valley. The entrance is on the third level, which is built into the hillside of the rim surrounding the field and you have to walk down to the field and main level seats. It’s so 1950’s there. It just looks weird. The seats are cheap plastic in garishly bright yellow for the main levels. My seats on the third level were aquamarine.

  1. Despite the stadium only filling to more than 30% capacity between the 5th and 7th innings, they really do love their Dodgers out here. A lot of Dodger blue, and it gets crazy loud, and never more so than for Manny.

  1. This shows you one of the main reasons why it is better in life not to be an A-hole than to be an A-hole. A-rod took steroids but did not miss games. He is routinely booed. Manny missed 50 games and they cheer for him as if he single handedly defeated an advancing army.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Arizona, Vegas, & Parting Thoughts

We spent most of the day on Monday in Arizona.

- We spent the morning in Sedona, AZ, home to the famous and beautiful Red Rocks formations. First, we drove up to a looking point that also serves as the site of a church that is built into the rocks. We then hiked up to the top of one of the Red Rocks, from which we got a stunning view of the vista in all directions.
- We spent exactly 0 seconds searching for the non-existent "vortex." Suck it, Craig.
- While we were hanging out on top, a family that we had seen along the way reached the peak near us. When they decided that they had seen enough and it was time to turn back, their young daughter was exasperated that this was it. She couldn't believe that they had come all this way and there wasn't even anything at the top. Apparently, one of the most magnificent views in the world doesn't excite an 8 year old, so I told her that if she climbs a little further, that at the top of the next peak there's a roller coaster and a castle.
- Desperately needing to cool off, we headed to a nearby creek, where people can chill and go for a swim. Additionally, the creek runs alongside a cliff that has a spot about 15 feet above the water that you can jump into the water from. It was incredible.

Grand Canyon
- The Grand Canyon was either carved by the Colorado River over a six million year period or by Paul Bunyan when he walked through the area and dragged his axe behind him.
- Words can not properly describe the magnitude and sheer awesomeness that you see when you look out into the Grand Canyon. The view and scenery are so surreal that you have to keep reminding yourself that you're actually there.
- We were next to two Israeli girls who we tried talking to, but they for some reason didn't believe us that we actually knew Hebrew. I decided that the one word you can drop to prove that you know Hebrew is "hitpael." If you know what "hitpael" is, you know Hebrew.

- We then proceed to my final stop, Las Vegas. We stopped at a rest stop to get gas and while chatting with the clerk, I mentioned that I had actually also been to Vegas a few weeks ago. She replied "I thought I recognized you. You passed through here a few weeks ago! That's where I saw you!" I informed her that last time I flew.
- Butch called the front desk at the Wynn to complain that our TV didn't have HBO. "Are you sure you don't have it? I'm just confused because every other hotel I have ever been to in my life has had HBO." Apparently, this was an homage to his brother.
- As for everything else we did here, ...

Parting Thoughts
I sit here in our hotel room, getting ready to leave to the airport to catch my flight back home. (Incidentally, because I booked a one way flight to NY through Vegas, for the last week they have been sending me emails with suggestions of activities to do during my visit to NY. Idiots.) Before I pass the blogging baton on to Butch -- who, with Ushi, will be completing the cross country drive as they continue on to Los Angeles tomorrow before driving back home over a few days next week -- I would like to share some parting thoughts on this trip as a whole.

Last Wednesday night, when we were at Mount Rushmore, the park ranger who led the presentation told us that when she worked in the Peace Corps in Africa, she was often asked "What is America like?" and spent a great deal of time trying to articulate an answer. Over the past few days, as we ventured across this great land and seen a good deal of it, I have given some though to this very question. Here's my answer:

America is a land that is both demographically and geographically diverse. It has places that are hot and places that are cold, regions that are flat and others that are mountainous. It has forests and parks, snowy peaks and deserts. America has a little bit of everything because its people come from everywhere.

America is a place where you can come to escape where you came from or to find a community of others that came from the same place. America is a place where people of different religions, ethnicities, and nationalities can become Americans without shedding their culture or heritage. Of all the verses in the Bible, the one that to me most defines the American experience is Deuteronomy 10:19, which reads
וַאֲהַבְתֶּם, אֶת-הַגֵּר: כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם --"And you shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." America is a country of immigrants. With the exception of Native Americans, every single one of us is from somewhere else.

America is a beautiful country. Many of you spend a great deal of time traveling all over the world and you should. The world is full of many incredible and exquisite destinations. But don't forget about the beautiful country of ours we have right here at home. To spend your entire life living here without taking the time to really travel it would be a tremendous shame.

Thanks to all of you for following along with us on our journey. Even more so, thank you to Butch and Ushi for joining me in what was an unforgettable two weeks. I made it to places I wasn't sure I ever would and it was truly amazing. Good luck on the rest of your trip.


P.S. Who the fuck is Matt?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let's Take The Scenic Route

We spent the previous few days in the Denver/Boulder area. After driving through Wyoming (where there is nothing, not even trees on the side of the road or anything of even remote interest in the state capital of Cheyenne) we moved on to Denver. We spent a few hours there on Thursday afternoon, checking out the downtown area (most stuff was closed) before heading to Boulder.

In Boulder Friday morning, we climbed Mount Chautauqua. Or at least most of us climbed most of it. I made it about 85% of the way before calling it quits. A tragic combination or heightened Colorado altitude and heightened Av stomach weight collided to prevent me from reaching the peak. Still, from where I made it, the view was incredible and the atmosphere was sublime. And if pain and suffering builds character, I am now one hell of a guy.

We also spent a little time on Pearl Street, a gorgeous pedestrian mall filled with both mainstream and uinique shops, as well as a wide array of talented street performers wherever you look. It was the perfect central location for a thriving city that other cities should attempt to emulate. I'm looking at you, Manhattan.
After returning to Denver for a lovely Shabbat and a Saturday night viewing of "Funny People," we were ready to make our way towards our penultimate destination, the Grand Canyon.

John Elway, Joe Montana, and Peytom Manning can all take a lesson from the incredible drive we completed yesterday. Last Sunday, we worked to redefine the words "loud" and "fast." This week, let's work on the word "scenic." There are "scenic routes" and then there is the route we took yesterday from Denver to Sedona, AZ along I-70W in Colorado and down through the Moab region of Utah. It was extremely long but it was breathtaking and was far and away the most enjoyable route I have ever driven in my life.

Mt. Evans
We left Denver at 6:15 MDT. Our 1st stop was Mt. Evans, host to the highest paved road in the United States. In order to reach the 14,000 foot high summit, you must first drive along a narrow windy road, mostly without a guardrail at any time, instilling you with the fear that death is nearby. When we finally reached the top, we opened the door only to have it slammed shut by a freezing gust of wind. Despite being over 80 degrees on the ground, it was more like 40 on top. Also, there was snow. Snow in the summer! Is there a snowball in our cooler right now? Maybe.

Glenwood Springs
We continued along our route and stopped off at Glenwood Springs, home to a natural hot springs pool. I thought it looked pretty cool, but we rebuffed the venue's demand of an $18 entrance fee. If Rubby is reading this, he is shaking his head disgustedly right now.

The drive through Western Colorado
Literally, the most beautiful road I have ever been on. You wind along the Colorado River at time, where people are rafting below, and cruise alongside glorious mountains with different color schemes and different formations. It's absolutely glorious.

We then proceeded southward through Moab, which has an array of indescribable craters and rock formations. I had never heard of this place before Thursday, but it is now near the top of my list of places in America that everyone should visit.

Four Corners
I am not referring to Dean Smith's UNC basketball offensive scheme or to the types of garmnents that require tzitzit. Rather, I am referring to the only place in America where four states meet. We got to stand on a monument in the "exact" location where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet.
The pro: When you go to the gift shop in "Colorado" you can negotiate by citing "lower sales tax in Arizona."
The con: When Butch or Ushi inexplicably disappear, there are now 4 possible states they might be in.

One of the aims of this drive was to once and for all determine whether the sun does indeed set in Flagstaff, AZ. We raced the sun towards Flagstaff, but our efforts proved inconclusive. We were about 100 miles East of Flagstaff when the sun disappeared from our view, and although it looked like Flagstaff was indeed its final resting place for the night, we couldn't be sure. As we drove through Flagstaff, there was no sign of it anywhere, leaving us further bewildered.

We finally stopped for the night in Sedona, AZ at 11:00 MST (idiots here don't observe daylight savings time), ending the longest and most beautiful drive I have ever been a part of. All said the trip was 17 hours (approx 15 of which we were in the car) and 800 miles. And oh ya, I was at the wheel for every minute of it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

North Dakota, South Dakota, Marilyn Monroe

Mitchell, South Dakota

  • We had our first bad weather day as it rained most of the morning and early afternoon. Classic South Dakotan rainy summers.
  • We visited Mitchell’s “Corn Palace,” a tremendous building first constructed at the turn of last century and the brainchild of two men with awesome mustaches designed to serve as the centerpiece to an annual corn exposition that would promote South Dakotas’ corn production. A huge sign when we walked in declared it to be the “world’s only corn palace.” We were shocked to learn that there weren’t many other corn palaces scattered across the globe.
  • The palace was littered with puns everywhere we turned. Snacks were sold at “Corncessions,” an event was described as “a-maize-ing,” and our guide referred to a “cornparison’ between two murals.
  • The exterior of the building has murals from previous years depicting incredible pictures and scenery. The murals are made entirely out of corn. Other murals hang in the auditorium inside, which is also used to host basketball games and concerts.

Kimball, South Dakota

  • En route to the Badlands, we stopped when we saw a sign for a tractor museum on the side of the road. The museum was made up of 3-4 buildings, which mostly contained old John Deere tractors.
  • Our tour guide asked Butch and Ushi if they were twins.
  • The highlight of the museum was a small, one room schoolhouse. They had two old gradebooks from the 1940s still intact with names and grades. I love the potential of being able to confront someone with the knowledge that they got a C in math in 3rd grade.
  • Ushi asked our tour guide if he could buy a book from the schoolhouse because he likes “vintage stuff.” They negotiated a price of $5. Classic New Yorkers it starts with a $5 book. By this time next year, we’ll own half the real estate in South Dakota.
  • She asked us where we went to college. When she didn’t know what Yeshiva was and we explained that it was a Jewish college in New York, she made a quizzical look that implied she had never heard the word “Jewish” before. And I supposed we all look the same, too, right?

The remainder of this post was authored by Butch. It is presented to you in its full, unedited form with several “Av’s notes” where indicated.

The Badlands

As always I prefer to number than to bullet. And not just to be different.

  1. Like most days of my life I was automatically reminded of The West Wing today because of Mount Rushmore. Let me say this in very definite, certain terms. There is no competition between North Dakota and South Dakota. It is not merely a relative temperature or geographical discrepancy that favors the southern state. Nor is it because the word South inspires more fun. South Dakota is the only Dakota that matters because of the vastly entertaining nature of its landscape and the good humor of its people. (Av’s note: Of course we haven’t been to North Dakota, but we rightfully assume that it sucks.)
  2. Imagine a mini version of the Grand Canyon that possesses tall sweeping crags that rise seemingly into the clouds, and also has the dramatic, beautiful chasms. Now also imagine Av's face when we passed one of many "Beware- Rattlesnakes" as we ambled up to a small peak. (Av’s note: It is still extremely unclear to me why nobody else was taking these warning signs seriously.) Imagine also that a duo of New Yorkers that had driven to the Badlands in 33 hours straight asked us for ways to enhance their trip. Of course we knew they were Jewish because they were from New York. The Chai necklace also helped. But the best part is that the US Government was good enough to build a highway that loops through this wonderland of the Dakota prairie which has glorious viewpoints every few thousand feet and offers spectacular views in all different varieties of elevation, and easy access to many walking/hiking trails. Woe was us that we didn't have time to camp and hike more.
  3. The first hundred or so signs for Wall Drug on I-90, beginning way back in Mitchell, were ignored. The next hundred or so got us curious. By the third hundred we had no choice but to research the early drug store whose claim to fame was that it offered Mt. Rushmore visitors free ice water. The small drug store from a town of 231 in a town "in the middle of nowhere" (as quoted by Mr. Hustead, the owner, and most genius marketer in the history of the world) became popular enough to spawn a restaurant and second coffee chop. Then the restaurants and coffee shops got together and had little souvenir shop babies and adopted all manner of cowboy themed shops, banks, art museums, hotels, an 80 foot dinosaur replica, and a chapel. I think Wal- mart stole its business plan from Wall Drug. They sell everything and they have an entire town of stores. Needless to say we created a photo album of the fourth hundred Wall Drug signs. And the coffee was only a nickel. A Nickel!

    Mount Rushmore

  1. With just minutes of daylight left we first glimpsed the perfect blend of natural wonder and man made art for the first time. You don't really need to keep reading because there are no words. But then you'd still be bored at work, so I'll just throw some up here, you know, for the kids. With time to burn before the lighting ceremony at 9 we visited the museum. All museums would be more fun if they had displays that allowed you to mimic blowing up parts of mountains by pushing old school dynamite plungers. We learned many fun facts. For example, the mountain was named after Charles Rushmore, some lawyer from NY that visited the site in the Black Hills Mountains some time in 1885 (Av’s note: more national monuments should be named after lawyers from NY.) Apparently he just asked for it to be named after him. It seems that nobody until then had thought such a dumb move could work. It took 14 years to build and cost $1,000,000. Which back then was still a lot of money. The actual work only took about six years due to constant funding problems and political battles. Washington's head was completed in 1930, but Lincoln's was completed in 1937.
  2. Classiest Park I have ever been to. A park ranger spoke to us about her experiences in Africa during her time in the Peace Corps. Having to speak about America every day to try and explain American life to the natives helped her gain a deeper love for the vast differences all Americans bring together to weave the beautiful tapestry of our country.
  3. Next there was a video giving an overview of American history, stressing the importance to the nation of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt- because the 4 Presidents chosen were meant to personify the growth of our nation from Revolution and infancy, to vast western expansion, to renewed strength and unity, and finally to a national will exerted on the global stage. (Av’s note: We learned that at 21 inches, Washington’s nose is 1 inch longer than the other 3 presidents. Perhaps a certain incident involving a certain cherry tree caused George’s nose to grow slightly longer than Honest Abe, Tom, and Teddy.)
  4. A Boy Scout troop ceremonially took down our star spangled banner and folded it up so that all the military servicemen present could place his or her hand on it and tell us in which department of the armed forces they served. After the video we sang the National Anthem as the lights gradually illuminated the sculptures atop the mountain. It was touching and felt patriotic. Since I'll clearly not have to opportunity to defend Freedom my next best option was to practice the capitalism so dear to our hearts. So I bought a T-shirt at the gift store with a big eagle on it.
  5. Before the ceremony began we had a nice round of presidential trivia with a park ranger. Some were obvious. Taft was the biggest, Lincoln the tallest, Madison the smallest. Adams and Jefferson died on the same day... Some were interesting. Clinton never met his dad, Teddy Roosevelt, not Kennedy, was the youngest president. But the best question was indeed the trickiest. Who becomes president if the Vice President passes away? Most, but definitely not all, of the people in the amphitheatre shouted out "The Speaker of the House.” They were all wrong. The president would still be the president. He wasn't dead in the example. Better Shtick could not have been had.

Av's note: We departed Mount Rushmore and drove southbound. We stopped for the night to spend Tisha B'av in a small town 2 hours north of Cheyenne called Douglas, WY. Next year in Jerusalem...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Non-Heaven to Somewhere in Middle America


Dubuque, IA
  • We spent the night in Dubuque, IA, which rests on the Mississippi River. At breakfast, the news was on and Nancy Pelosi was speaking on TV. The woman sitting at the table next to me called her a "maniacal woman" who claims to know what Americans wants but clearly doesn't because "you don't live in my house!" Glad to be in red-state America.
  • We found a local attraction called the Fenelon Place Elevator. It is a mini-tram that you can ride about a hundred feet up and down a mountain, at the top of which you can see a stunning view of the Mississippi River and into Wisconsin and Illinois. (The elevator was originally built to accommodate a local state senator who didn't want to have to climb up.) The address we had for the place was at the top, though, and since we already had access to the view, we didn't see any point to pay them $1 to go down the mountain, where there is nothing. We think someone in their marketing department should change the official address of the attraction to the bottom of the mountain, so that people have a reason to use their service.
Dyersville, IA
  • On Monday afternoon, I was somewhat down on baseball. As one of our commenters alluded to, it was a confusing and embarrassing day to be a Mets fan, with the debacle that was the Minaya press conference still fresh in our minds. I needed to be inspired. First, I got word of a dramatic Mets win on a huge Tatis grand slam, a win so eloquently described by Faith and Fear in Flushing: "The intrinsic beauty and joy of the game of baseball is asked to redeem a lot about the sorry and ugly business of baseball. Sometimes the asking seems like too much. But incredibly and improbably, baseball often manages to pull it off. Nothing about the Mets' team coming back to beat the Rockies makes the Mets' organization less of a mess. But for three hours, somehow, the Mets made me forget about the Mets. And for that I'm grateful." (hattip Binny.) This feeling was amplified by watching in person as the Cubs won on a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 13th and a near full crowd poured out onto Waveland Avenue singing "Go Cubs Go" in unison. The icing on the cake, however, was the Field of Dreams.
  • The Field of Dreams is located on a farm in Dyersville, IA, and was constructed in the summer of 1988 for the filming of the legendary Kevin Costner movie of the same name. It is wondrous to see in person.
  • We spent the next hour or two running around the field like little kids: playing catch, taking batting practice, watching families take the field and run the bases. For that short time, I was brought back to a place in my life that was pristine and pure and untainted by the havoc of real life, a time and a place where "Field of Dreams" was the defining piece of culture in my life and baseball was the only thing in the world that I truly cared about. (To those who might claim not much has changed, I would respond that now I also care about Pearl Jam.) For two hours yesterday, I was a child again.
  • In the words of the great Terrance Mann: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
  • They built it, we came. You should too.
Des Moines, IA
  • Des Moines was a decent looking city and definitely much better than we expected (sometimes your impression of a city has much more to do with your expectations than with its actual qualities - see below), but there wasn't too much going on.
  • We found a central monument area that contained the Iowa State Capitol (a beautiful building) as well as monuments to those Iowans lost in Vietnam, Korea, and at Pearl Harbor.
  • We found a local bar to try to get a sense of the life there. The bartender was holding a one year old baby behind the bar. They don't have that in bars in New York.
Omaha, Nebraska
  • The image I have of Omaha, Nebraska and of any person that is from there was radically altered by the 2 hours or so that we spent there. A locale that I envisioned as a tiny, farm town is, in fact, a stunning city with parks, arenas, and stunning architecture. We were shocked.
  • We walked across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which is the only purely pedestrian bridge in the US that connects two states. It was opened to the public on Sept. 28, 2008. One day, I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I walked across the BKPB (that's what they'll call it then) during its inaugural year.
  • The bridge spans the Missouri River, which we were surprised to learn, at 2,341 miles, is the longest river in the country. We had just assumed it was the Mississippi, which it meets in St. Louis. It must be a crazy party when the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers get together.
  • There were signs on the bridge that identified the Missouri River as "a river of hope", "a river of change", and "a river of the people." Hmmm, hope and change...where have I heard that before? And once we thought about it, the words "Obama" and "Omaha" kind of look and sound the same. There's definitely something going on here. From now on, both will be referred to as "Obamaha."
  • Butch: "This is a bridge to nowhere. Why doesn't everyone get all up in arms on Nebraska's case."
  • We then visited Heartland of America Park, which is adjacent to the Old Market, a lovely part of town filled with bars, shops, and ice cream parlors. It might sound crazy, but Obamaha would not be a terrible place to live. Just saying...
  • Obamaha may have the highest graffiti per capita of any state in the US. Unsure how to verify this.
We had planned to drive up to Sioux Falls, SD to spend the night, but when we called to book a motel room, we learned that literally every room in the city and nearby area was booked for the night because of some massive softball tournament going on there today. We had to venture an hour deeper into South Dakota, where we found a gorgeous, affordable motel in Mitchell, San Diego. We passed the Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the "Little House on the Prairie" series) home about 20 minutes outside Mitchell on the way here, but assumed it would be closes at 3am. Today we will find out what else South Dakota has to offer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Fell In Love Again, All Things Go..

...Drove to Chicago...
  • We got into Chicago on Sunday night and having not eaten any real food all day, found the only kosher place known to be open late at night. We saw it in the distance and parked in front, only to find that the door was locked. There were people inside who all motioned that they were closed. We were too hungry to give in, so we called the number on the door and after some pleading and relaying our sob story, we were allowed in. We then proceeded to gorge ourselves with pizza, fries, and nachos, and in Butch's case, pea soup and tuna.
  • Monday morning, Butch and I went for a jog along the shore of Lake Michigan. They have a "dog beach" there. Humans are permitted provided they are kept on a leash.
  • We spent the afternoon in downtown Chicago, which is a positively beautiful city. I immediately noticed the very different and what I thought was very cool architecture of many of the buildings downtown. Ushi later informed us that Chicago is known for its modern classical architecture. I was very impressed with myself for noticing this on my own.
  • We visited Millenium Park, which is host to a bunch of various large tsatskes, including an awesome inverted reflecting metal statue thingie that turns into an amazing fun house mirror when you get close to it. Butch and I thought it was insanely cool. Ushi deemed it to be trite and artistically insignificant.
  • We then visited the adjacent Grant Park, where we celebrated Obama's election victory. (We repeatedly yelled "Obama!" and "change!" while pumping our fists in the air.) It was awesome. I asked a park employee if Obama was there now and he said "No, but he was there yesterday." Unclear if he was actually there or if this guy was so high on crack that he thought it was still the day after Election Day.
  • On our way out of the park, we saw a group of people playing what appeared to be softball, only they were playing with a ball double the size and much softer than a softball and none of the fielders were wearing gloves. It looked incredibly fun. I inquired about it and was told that this was "Chicago-style" softball. I would love to organize a game of this as soon as I get back...who's in?
  • If you are interested in hearing the plot to a movie Ushi and Butch devised in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the lone loyal secret service agent amongst a corrupted agency intent on framing him for an assassination attempt against Barack Obama that in fact is being planned from inside the secret service, please consult one of them. It didn't make any sense to me. (Also, he may be from the future. Butch and Ushi disagree on this point.)

Wrigley Field- Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros

  • We got 3 bleachers seats but weren't able to find 3 seats in close proximity until the 3rd inning. I brought a sandwich and ate it once I was seated. I heard the people next to me whispering and snickering, saying something to the effect of "is he here for dinner or
    for a ballgame?" They had a similar reaction when I checked my blackberry. Ok, fine, so they are real elitist baseball purists, I get it (although I think eating is a normal activity at a baseball game, but that's just me.) This is what I assumed until 2 innings later when the
    cheesy Cubs photographer came around and they posed for a picture together. That could have been excusable if not for the fact that an inning after that, I heard one of them politely explain the strategy of intentionally walking the 8th hitter with the pitcher on deck and 1st base open to his confused friend. WTF?
  • In the 4th inning, Derek Lee hit a solo HR to left field. By standing on my seat in the last row of the lf bleachers, i was able to see the ball clear the fence and land on Waveland Avenue, where it was retrieved a young child. This child has already led a more exciting life than most human beings.
  • In the top of the 8th inning, Aaron Heilman entered the game as a relief pitcher for the Cubs. I booed loudly for most of the first at bat he pitched. Nobody else seemed to join in. I assume that some time this fall, Heilman will ruin the Cubs' season and those fans near me will say "ah, that's why that guy was booing 2 months ago."
  • In the bottom of the 8th inning, Astros' pitcher Latroy Hawkins was tossed for arguing balls and strikes. As he exited the field, the crowd chanted "you suck" as Astros' leftfielder Carlos Lee danced along to the beat.
  • At some point, the left field bleachers started chanting "right field sucks," ostensibly taunting their fellow Cubs fans who were seated in the opposite bleachers. I don't think I have ever seen anything like this at a sporting event in my life.
  • In the bottom of the 9th, the Cubs had the bases loaded with 1 out and Mike Fontenot at the plate. Piniella called for the suicide squeeze, Fontenot waived at it, and the runner coming home was a dead duck. Fontenot then hit a deep fly to center that would have easily won the game, but it was caught to end the inning. Same 'ol Cubs, but free
    baseball for us.
  • If the Cubs ever build a new stadium (and they will one day, traditionalists
    be damned), they should incorporate the adjoining rooftops into the
    structure of the new park.
  • Speaking of those rooftops, one of the roofs in right field has a sign that reads "eamus catuli" and below it "AC0063100." Through a little research, we learned that the former is Latin for "go little bear" or more simply, "go cubs." The latter stands for "after championship" and the subsequent numbers recount the number of years since the Cubs last won a division (0), pennant (63), and world series (100), respectively. Will we see "AC000000" in our lifetime?
  • In the bottom of the 11th inning, Alfonso Soriano hit a weak grounder down the 3rd base line and thinking it was foul (he said later that it hit his foot), did not run. He was easily thrown out and was booed loudly for his lack of hustle. So we see that Cubs fans know how to boo, just not how to boo Aaron Heilman.
  • Soriano got a quick chance to redeem himself, however, as in the bottom of the 13th he blasted a walk-off grand slam to give the Cubs a dramatic 5-1 victory...Hey Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today!!! Go Cubs go!!
The only downside of the free baseball we had been awarded, is that it resulted in us arriving at our next destination -- Dubuque, Iowa -- very late at night. We crossed the Mississippi River at 3am, reminiscing about the days of yore, a time in this land's history when doing so was genuinely a historic accomplishment, yet still being thoroughly satisfied with ourselves for making it this far.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

We have experienced our first act of spontaneity and with it, our first change in schedule to our road trip itinerary. As you may have inferred from the end of the previous post, we were supposed to go to Detroit on Sunday, where we planned to attend a Tigers game and perhaps buy some real estate. However, over the course of our Shabbat in Beachwood, we were informed that there would be a Nascar race taking place in Indianapolis on Sunday, a mere 5 hours away. We quickly agreed to ditch Detroit in favor of what we anticipated would be a once in a lifetime, real American experience.
  • We spent the night in a small motel in Richmond, Indiana, about an hour away from Indianapolis. We were warned on the phone that it was going to be very loud there because a baseball team was staying there for the night. We were a little excited for this for about half a second until we remembered that this was a $70 a night motel in the middle of nowhere Indiana. The baseball team staying there was probably not going to be the Cubs.
  • We awoke to a continental breakfast of cereal, coffee, and not much else. The following conversation actually occured...
    Ushi: What type of milk do I normally use?
    Me: How should I know? What color is the carton usually?
    Ushi: I think red.
    Me: Well that is typically whole milk, but that surprises me...
    Ushi: Oh, well I think it might be some type of organic brand, but I'm not sure
    Butch: Are you serious? How can you not know what type of milk you drink at home?
    Ushi: Oh, well I'm sorry I'm not some sort of milk expert like you guys.

    Apparently Butch and I would be wise to switch career paths and tap into our vast milk expertise and take that show on the road. More importantly, we learned that Ushi has never purchased a carton of milk in his entire life.

The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard

  • I am sometimes jealous (at least in theory, but not really) of the people that live in smaller cities. They have one or two sports teams and when they host events, the entire city gets taken over by it. In New York, if a local team is a contender, half the city is probably rooting against them, and a good portion of the city is too preocuppied with other activities to care. Yesterday was probably one of the 3 biggest days of the year in Indianapolis and the race's presence was felt in every square inch of the city that we passed through.
  • There was limited parking in the actual Speedway, so the people who lived nearby, starting 2 or 3 miles away in both directions, converted their front lawns into parking lots. The prices ranged from $50 right across from the Speedway to $10 a few miles away. We opted for a convenient, but not too pricey $20 lawn.
  • Perhaps the best aspect of this experience that puts these races way ahead of other events in this regard, is that they let you bring in your own food and drinks, and as much of it as you want. People wheeled in giant coolers filled with beer, sandwiches, and who knows what else. We entered with bags of chips and cheese curls and a 12-pack of PBR.
  • The first thing you notice as soon you walk in is the sheer vastness of the Speedway (we had to take a tram to get from the entrance to our seats because it was too far to walk) and the incredible volume of people that are there. Officially, the capacity of the venue is 400,000 people. Attendance was evidently way down from last year (apparently even Nascar races aren't recession proof), but still, there is something about 200,000 or so people joining together in a common purpose that gives even things you might think are dumb tremendous cultural significance. This is what we were there to witness.
  • We made it to our seats moments after the green flag was dropped by Indiana Pacers' rookie Tyler Hansborough. As the cars came around the corner, they seemed to be moving pretty slowly and nobody seemed that excited. I asked the guy next to me if this was some sort of practice lap. He told me that they do 3 warm-up laps before they start the actual race. "Don't worry," he said. "You'll know when they're going for real."
  • And we did. There are two basic words in the English language that you can't fully comprehend until you have been to one of these races.
  • The first word is "fast." When they kicked into gear and came around that first corner, those cars were moving faster than anything I have ever seen moving in my entire life. The official gun in the center of the track clocked them ranging from 130-150 MPH, but our quick math (average of about 50 seconds a lap on a 2.5 mile track) yield a speed upwards of 170 MPH. The official qualifying speeds corroborate our version.
  • The second word is "loud." I have been to loud football games, rock concerts, airports, on 96th street at night, you name it. But when those cars pass by it gets so loud, not only can't you talk, you can't think. Initially this wasn't a big deal because of the 50 seconds that comprise a lap, the cars zoom by for about 15-20 seconds from the leading car to last place and then you have about a 30 second break before they come around to you again. However, as the race goes on and the pack spreads out, this break is eliminated. There is a constant loudness as literally every 2 seconds another car zips by.
  • Laps 30-130 (of 160 in total) are pretty boring. We moved into a grass area in the center of the track, where you could lay out about 15 feet from the track. We wanted to fit in, so we removed our shirts for a little bit. For Butch, this was normal procedure for outdoor events.
  • When the race was nearing its end, we decided to move to the stretch of the track near the finish line so that we could watch the exciting conclusion live and in person. I was a little surprised that we were able to do this so easily, as there were plenty of open seats. I was more surprised that nobody else was trying to do this. Evidently, people in Indiana don't know about "moving to better seats."
  • Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, winner of the 16th annual Allstate 400 at the Brockyard, and the 1st racer to win it in back to back years. We learned in the parking lot on the way out that he is also a very prominent child molester. We have no way of knowing if this is true.
  • If you ever find yourself in a position to attend one of these races, do not pass it up. It is an extremely fun and cool experience that is worth doing once in your life. I don't plan on ever attending another one in my life but making it to one was very worthwhile and was an experience I don't think I will soon forget.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cleveland Easy Listens

Yes, that's right. See, Cleveland does not rock. That expression is a misrepresentation. Now, it's not terrible, but "rocks" is a stretch. We thought "Easy Listening" was a more accurate musical metaphor.

Our main stop in Cleveland was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Among the 1st things we saw when we walked was a newly furbished memorial/tribute to the late Michael Jackson. And here I thought one of the primary purposes of this trip was to get away and avoid all things Michael Jackson for at least one day.
  • Part of the tribute was the following quote from Usher, who like Jackson also sings musical songs: "I would not be the artist, performer, and philanthropist I am today without the influence of Michael." First of all, fuck you Michael Jackson. Secondly, philanthropist? Michael Jackson's influenced Usher to become a big philanthropist? Are you sure you meant "philanthropist"? Are you sure you didn't mean "child molester."
  • We wondered where the term "rolling stone" originated. We were able to identify 4 uses off the top of our heads: 1. The Rolling Stones 2. Rolling Stone magazine 3. "Like a Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan 4. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," by The Temptations. So, where did it start? Are any or all of these referencing each other or are they each referencing something else entirely or are none of them referencing anything?
  • Featured in an exhibit about the decrying response to the rock movement and its counterculture was the following quote, attributed to a San Antonio councilman: "The 1st Amendment should not apply to rock and roll." Which is weird because rock songs are probably the main things shouted in crowded theaters. The craziest thing about this quote is when it was said. You would probably guess the 60s, right? You would be wrong. 1985! Way before Nirvana! Hadn't people given in and accepted this whole "crazy kids with their loud music" by 1985? Apparently everyone but one San Antonio councilman had.
  • One of the exhibits had juxtaposed pictures of Chris Brown and Rhianna performing in concert. Problem #1: Chris Brown and Rhianna= rock stars? I think not. Problem #2: Seems the R&R HOF missed the whole Chris Brown beating the shit out of Rhianna extravaganza.
  • I liked this Bob Marley quote: "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." Now, Chris Brown, on the other hand...
  • We watched a 40 minute movie that had excerpts from Woodstock. This movie was terrible and made the festival seem very bad. Every other movie or feature I have ever seen about Woodstock has made it seem like the most amazing 3 days in the hisotry of the world. I can only conclude that the title of this movie was "Woodstock: The Worst 40 Minutes."

After the Hall of Fame, we did everything else fun there was to do in downtown Cleveland. This took 0.08 seconds. Actually, that's an exaggeration. Those extra 0.08 seconds were totally fabricated. Hence, the whole "Cleveland does not rock" declaration above. We walked around aimlessly looking for something cool to do or look at. We even asked a local "is there anything fun to do in Cleveland?" She responded without any words, but rather merely with a bemused facial expression that implied she had never heard the words "fun" and "Cleveland" used so close to each other. Turns out we are not the first people to realize that Cleveland is lame. These guys filmed an elaborate documentary on the subject. Then, they filmed a sequel. "Cleveland: we're not Detroit!" Can't wait to visit Detroit on Sunday!

Update on our battle with law enforcement: we visited the Beachwood municipal court to see if we could expedite the process and find a way to take care of the ticket without appearing before a judge. We left a message with the magistrate judge, asking for leniency. We got back word that the judge was so horrified and offended when he heard that we had been speeding 30 miles over the limit, that he could not accept a plea that didn't include the following terms: Butch would have to pay $300 and accept a suspended jail sentence of 2 days that would be enforced against him if he is caught speeding any time in the next 6 months. Butch did not accept this deal. We will keep you updated as events continue to unfold.

Argument of the Day

What makes a game a "perfect game"? Should it count as a perfect game if a pitcher throws 9 perfect innings but is then pulled when the game goes into extra innings? Is pitching 9 perfect innings a perfect game or do you have to finish the whole game? If so, what if a pitcher comes in at the beginning of the 2nd inning and then pitches 9 perfect innings? How about if someone pitcher 5 perfect innings in a rain-shortened game?


  • I am always amazed at how despite planning for hours, days, or months leading up to a trip, it seems like we always find ourselves running late and scrambling at the last minute. We were planning to take a 3:00pm bus out of Port Authority to Scranton, PA (more on that later.) The bus company advised being there 30 minutes before and we still had to buy tickets, so I figured it made sense to leave no later than 2:00pm. At 1:50pm, Butch was in my apartment, saying he was going to just “run back home and take a quick shower” and then he would be ready to go. Wonderful. At 2:02pm, I received a text from Ushi, saying “running a little late, can we do 2:10 instead?” More wonderful. We ended up getting a ride to the bus station with Ushi’s lovely wife and made it to our bus with minutes to spare, Butch running through the streets of Manhattan with a cooler propped up on top of his rolling suitcase and Ushi laughing like a drunken hyena, for the home stretch.
  • The area where tracks 1-50 in the Port Authority Bus Terminal is located looks less like New York than any other part of New York
  • Butch brought a “deck” of cards for the trip. It was missing 3 cards.
  • Right before we departed, I noticed that we were on bus # 815. All I’ll say is that if we disappear for 3 months and they claim they found us at the bottom of a trench in the ocean, don’t believe it for a second.
  • Butch ended up seated right behind me next to a girl from Stroudsburg, who engaged him in a long conversation as soon as she sat down. I only heard bits and pieces of what they were discussion but to me, she seemed extremely dumb. (Butch later confirmed her dumbness.) 43 minutes into the trip (how do I know it was exactly 43 minutes? You’ll find out soon…) a man a few rows behind us begins shouting at Butch and his lady friend that he was trying to sleep and that he didn’t “care where you went on vacation or when you went to Papa John’s.” (For the record, I also didn’t care about these things, I’m not just not mentally unstable.) He said that he had been up since 5 in the morning and that the last thing he needed was to hear her “yakkity yak for 43 minutes.” When the girl replied that she had been up since 3am and was just fine, the man suggested that perhaps this was because of her cocaine use. Many profanities were exchanged back and forth, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the bus passengers.
  • Several minutes later, the emergency exit window that spanned the rows Butch and I (and the girl) were sitting in, flung open as we made a wide turn. We suspect the involvement of the crazy man from the previous bullet point.
  • Oh ya, why were we on a bus instead of driving? For some reason, renting a car from Scranton is about $600 cheaper than renting one from NY.
  • When we got to the car rental place, Ushi tried to pay for it unsuccessfully with two different credit cards, both of which were declined. We can expect many jokes over the next couple of weeks about Ushi being poor and unable to pay for things.
  • In Scranton, we visited a couple landmarks from the hit TV show, The Office. One of these was the “Scranton Welcomes You” sign that is seen in the opening credits. Surprisingly, this sign is located not on the side of the road but in a mall. Apparently, this is because too many people were getting into accidents as they attempted to take pictures of the sign as they drove by, so the town moved the sign to a mall. Apparently, Scrantonians are idiots. I really hope when I get back to NY, the Empire State Building hasn’t been moved to inside a mall.
  • Last road trip, it was not until a few days in that we got pulled over by law enforcement. This time, it took the better part of the day. The worst part of it is that we were about a mile from our final destination, about to exit the highway, when it happened. The asshole cop even took the time to point out the irony of this situation. Were we speeding? Probably. Did the officer have to be a total douchebag about it, though? Certainly not. The worser part of it, is that after giving us a citation, he made it seem like if we had merely owned up to speeding and shown some contrition, he would have let us go, but since we made excuses and said we didn’t realize how fast we were going, he had no choice. In my opinion, this man was an asshole. (Butch’s note: This was in fact my first ticket ever. The one other time I had been pulled over for speeding I acted real dumb and pretended to be lost and the guy felt bad and let me off with a warning. Tickets were the one exception to me extreme disbelief in superstitions, I never ever mentioned the fact that I had not yet gotten a ticket because I was sure that if I did I would get one that very day.)

Argument of the Day
This is the 1st in what I hope will be a recurring series on this trip, entitled “argument of the day,” in which we will share the best argument that occurred that day on the trip. As road trips naturally lend themselves to lively debate and discussion, we expect to have much material to include in this segment. We would love this opportunity to take our arguments to the web and let our readers weigh in.

Was Elaine a slut?

Points to consider: She is not as bad as Jerry, but she does seem to have a revolving door of men in her life. How long, on average, are we supposed to assume she has been “dating” these men that we are introduced to? On a larger scale, how long of a period of time is the show purporting to represent? Is she in relationships with most of these men or are any of these “flings?” Does the facts that she “yada yadas” sex tell us anything about her attitude towards it? To what extent can we assume sex is taking place off screen when we don’t see it or are told about it? What should we make of Jerry’s offhanded remark about her, when he says “who are any of her guys?” to George? What about her co-worker’s labeling of her as a “floozy?” (Just so you know, this argument lasted close to two hours and who knows how much longer it would have lasted had we not been pulled over.)