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Archive for August, 2009

Part 1 of 3

When in the course of random events, it becomes necessary for someone to embark on a road trip, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind require that said someone should declare the highlights of said road trip in writing.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men need vacation, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are attending baseball games, drinking beer and the pursuit of hot chicks. That to secure these rights, Road Trips are instituted among Men, driving their full power from the consent of the driven, and blah, blah, blah.

As is my every right, I instituted a road trip through the states of Ohio and Michigan. What did I hope to achieve? A fine question.

First and foremost, to see Major League baseball games in three cities. Second and segundo, to imbibe as much of the local beer offerings as could be reasonably stomached. More on those in later posts.

With only three games to attend over 10 days and an inability to drink beer ALL the time, I needed something else to keep me busy. So here is a sampling of the more interesting sights and tastes during this ‘epic’ 2,197 mile road trip.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Three-Way Chile

Three-Way Chile

Cincinnati chili – two fluorescent yellow dishes were placed before me at Skyline Chili. As I contemplated the larger dish, a strange assortment of mile high grated cheddar cheese, spaghetti noodles and the famous Cincinnati chili (a thin meaty sauce with cinnamon) known as a Three-Way, I mildly wondered how such a thing could come to pass. The smaller dish, a tiny hot dog slathered in the same chili and grated cheese known as a Coney, seemed almost reasonable in comparison. Enterprising immigrants brought this chili recipe to Cincy and it took off with a vengeance. You can add additional ingredients, like beans and/or jalapenos, to get a Four-Way or a Five-Way. Warranty not valid if you try too many more Ways. Worth eating? Sure, but don’t stare at it too long!

Northside – a small, trendy little neighborhood with a few restaurants and pubs. I peeked into a funky little coffee shop called Sidewinder for a read and a mocha then devoured an excellent sandwich at Melt, which has been voted the best sandwiches and best vegetarian food in Cincy for two years running.

Spring Grove

Spring Grove

 

Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum – a sprawling mix of huge grave stones, winding roadways, ponds, vaults, mausoleums, and statues that turned out to be a pleasant setting to drive around (and get lost in).

 

 

Newport, Kentucky – just across the Ohio River sits Newport, almost as an extension of Cincinnati. With numerous restaurants and bars with live music, its a fine place to spend an evening. A huge shopping centre across the street and some sort of annual seafood festival along the river made for an interesting afternoon as well.

Ann Arbor and Michigan

Ottawa Beach

Ottawa Beach

Lake Michiganit’s big, let’s put it that way. Like an ocean. Get out a map of the US if you don’t believe me. A 3-1/2 hour drive from Ann Arbor to walk along Ottawa Beach (surprisingly big in its own way) and to stroll through the small, quaint town of Saugatuck is a perfectly good way to get some sun.

 

Carrot cake a small restaurant en route to Lake Michigan claimed to have The’ Carrot Cake. The cake was certainly good, maybe even The’ worthy, but the frosting I could eat all day.

U of M Arboretum

U of M Arboretum

University of Michigan Campus sadly class was not in session, but Ann Arbor has a small town feel with the U of M campus as the centerpiece. Beautiful landscape, unique architecture, a fine business district with good food and drink and an idylic Arboretum with a river running through it, almost made me not reminisce about the time that the University of Washington football team crushed Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl. Almost.

Zingerman’s Delicatessen – it took a couple mile bike ride, zipping through Ann Arbor traffic, to arrive at a ‘packed’ sandwich and cheese shop. This popular destination with the locals, though pricey, is a worthwhile lunch spot. The setting includes the main building and a large coffee house, with a huge courtyard in between. You order (after waiting in a long line), get in another line to pay, go find a seat, then the servers come outside with a tray piled high yelling your name as you wait eagerly in the courtyard. Of course, my friend had to put our name in as “Beyoncé”…

Cleveland, Ohio

Stuffed Cabbage and Pierogies

Stuffed Cabbage and Pierogies

Sokolowski’s University Inn– this gets a shout out in all the guide books and even Anthony Bourdain went there for No Reservations, so why not find out what all the fuss is about? It’s a small, family-owned and run restaurant in the Tremont neighborhood that serves Eastern European food cafeteria-style. Stand in line, grab your dessert, pick up a bottle of beer (or pour a fountain drink, but why?), then order your food from the myriad of steaming options. Stuffed cabbage and pierogies! Tasty!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum – yes, this is in Cleveland. Yes, it’s filled with memorabilia and facts and music and history and everything you could want to know about Rock and Roll. Especially interesting were the Jimi Hendrix collection and the displays showing the music scenes in different cities for different decades. Seattle in the 90’s display right next to London and New York display in the 70’s and 80’s!

Case Western Reserve U.

Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University – a small research university just outside downtown Cleveland (about 10,000 students), this has a surprisingly picturesque campus and boasts the Cleveland Botanical Gardens nearby if you’re inclined to check it out. I wasn’t. The campus was enough for me.

 

 

Warehouse District – where all the Clevelanders seem to hang out on a Saturday night. Aside from being crowded with people, restaurants, bars and clubs, I liked that there was a restaurant called the Nauti Mermaid…I’m easy to please.

to be continued…

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Top Movies To See in Fall 2009

As a long-time subscriber to Entertainment Weekly, there are two issues I look forward to and enjoy more than any other. The Summer and Fall Movie Previews. The Fall Preview arrived fantastically just in time to take on my road trip. Not that I read and drive…

Are you ready for 112 new movies this Fall? Like me, probably not, but here’s my quick and handy list of the ones I’ll try to catch over the next four months.

I barely watched any of the movies from the Summer List, but there weren’t that many good ones in the end.

Must see…

  • The Informant! (September)
  • The Invention of Lying (September)
  • Extract (September)
  • Where The Wild Things Are (October)
  • Shutter Island (October – moved to February?)
  • The Road (October)
  • Nine (November)
  • Invictus (December)
  • Broken Embraces (November)
  • 2012 (November)
  • Avatar (December)
  • Sherlock Holmes (December)
  • The Lovely Bones (December)

Might see…(if time)

  • The Men Who Stare at Goats
  • Amelia
  • Whiteout
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Unmade Beds

Make me see…(if you can)

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (really???)
  • The Stepfather
  • Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself
  • The Princess and the Frog

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The Baseball Project

As I’ve told anyone that will listen (and even those that won’t), I have goal to see a baseball game in every Major League Ballpark in North America. Why? Because I can.

It’s not a goal I can do in a year or even two, but it will build over time. As long as I go to 3-4 new stadiums a year, I’ll be happy with the progress. And with 30 Major League Baseball teams out there waiting for my dollars to line their coffers, let’s call the task epic. Or crazy. Or random. But never impossible.

I’m still a bit away from accomplishing my goal. This year I’ll do a mini-road trip to three Mid-West cities (Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland) to add a few more to the list.

As this is a long-term goal, I’m going to create a new page on this blog called “The Baseball Project” (see along the top) to track progress. Mostly for my own amusement. Feel free to also be amused. Or bemused. Or confused.

So if anyone wants to organise a trip to one of the remaining cities for a game, or join me on one of my trips, I’m listening…

Play Ball!

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Okay, it seems Hollywood is hell-bent on destroying all of my not-so-precious childhood memories. I say, stop it already!

My brother and I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s very much in tune with the toy industry. We were Hasbro’s and LEGO’s and Mattel’s best customers (well, our parents anyway). We had all the good stuff. Star Wars toys and action figures? Check. G.I. Joe toys and action figures? Check. LEGOs of all kinds. Check. Plastic Army men? Check. Transformers? Oh yes, check. If you can think of it, we probably had one. And there is a good chance it was chewed (by dog or sister) or broken or both.

The cartoon and movie industries provided sound motivation for much of what we wanted, much of what would make us cool, and much of what we just HAD to have. Our parents, with fingers poised over the purse strings, didn’t stand a chance.

So, it is with some chagrin that I look at the recent crop of movies that Hollywood is churning out, and feel a twinge of despair rather then the intended nostalgia. Okay, some of the things we liked back then weren’t worthy even then (He-Man, you’ve been warned), but some things just need to stay as a somewhat fond memory. It all started 10 years ago with the new Star Wars movies:

Star Wars Episodes I, II and III (1999, 2002 and 2005) – the most anticapted movie (The Phantom Menace), probably ever, turned out to be a whiz-bang wow shiny, noisy, turd that tried to pander to kids. Were any of them good? Nah. Boo to George Lucas. The new toys were VAST in number and so lame in comparison to the originals we abused. The new Star Wars trilogy can never replicate the joy that many of us shared oogling the original three movies (thank you, Princess Leia as Jabba’s prisoner). Or inspire us to re-stage crucial battles with our armada of toy space ships and action figures. These skirmishes always ended in tears, as my brother didn’t quite understand that I always win.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – we really didn’t have toys from the original Indiana Jones movies, but we did have copius amounts of collectable trading cards. And lunch boxes! There are so many stories you could tell with the Indiana Jones character, and George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had to tell the lamest one in this new, uninspired movie. Indiana survives a nuclear blast! Aliens! Rebels without a cause! Boo again! It did ‘fit’ the 1950’s setting, which they both grew up in, so maybe it meant something to them, in which case maybe we should give them a pass for trying to re-live their childhood. No!

Land of the Lost (2009) – haven’t seen this re-make yet, but I can tell you that it doesn’t look at all worthy of the ultra-cheesy, poorly made original TV show (1974-76). The original Sleestacks were freaky! The original dinosaurs were laughable! We didn’t have toys for this show, but I remember watching it every Saturday. There is no justification for re-making this as a movie, it wasn’t even all that good to begin with.

Transformers (2007) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – explosive dreck from Michael Bay (but then again, what isn’t when he’s involved?), the two latest Transformers movies would not have compelled me to seek out the original set of toys that were so much more then meets the eye. Some of the most interesting toys available (look Ma, a fighter plane that turns into a robot!), Transformers were exactly the right kind of action for young boys. Bendable, changable, breakable, frustrating puzzles that turned into cars and random assortments of cool things (planes, guns, animals). We retired our Rubik’s Cube after this. And sorry to say, but the Decepticons were much cooler then the Autobots.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009) – haven’t seen this movie, but it sure doesn’t remind me of the G.I. Joe I remember. Flying soldiers in suits of armor? Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander? Marlon Wayans? I hope Cobra wipes the smile right off those flying ironjoes. A real American hero, my ass. Playing with my old school G.I. army would be much more interesting.

Next movie pitch: Bring on the Smurfs!!!

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