Sunday, September 16, 2007

Summer Summary

This was an extremely active summer for me. So active, I focused on my day job and having fun, instead of my other job (writing) I traveled almost every weekend, did plenty of things I’d never done before, and in the process, got a better tan than the Hispanic girl I work with. Here are some of the things that made this summer this summer.

This was the summer I actually used our Pocono house, twice. One time, I went up there with Licious and my sister and her friends just to hang out, play cards and such on Shabbat. The 2nd time I used the house as a hiking base. We got there at 1am Friday night, woke up at 9am, went hiking and drove back at by 4pm. The crazy thing is, that weekend was the same weekend as…

This was the summer of my cousin’s 30th birthday booze cruise sans booze. After hitting Driving back from the Pocono’s. I met up with Licious and my cousins and some other friends and we took a cruise around the Island. The boat was supposed to have beer, but it had lost its license or something, so we made it BYOB. I didn’t mind too much, about not drinking since this was the same weekend as…

This was the summer of my first (and possibly only) NASCAR race. After the cruise, I took a train down to Belmar to meet up w/Tom, Steven and some of Steven’s hick friends from Atlanta. We stayed up until 4am, boarded the 15 seat van at 8:30am and were back in the Pocono’s by 10:30am. This was a day of beer with breakfast, then BBQ, then beer, then beer and finally a race. And yes, as you can see from the pictures, we took the seats out of the car to use while tailgating. The race itself was really loud, and being somewhat drunk did not help my stomach. The vibrations made me a little queasy, the noise made me a little queasy and all the BBQ made me a little queasy. I kinda wish I’d stayed at the van and not actually gone into the event. Here’s a video of what it was like inside.

2 hours of this is tolerable. 4 hours, not so much. We drove back, hit traffic, and finally my long long long weekend was over at 10pm. Anyway, here are the NASCAR pictures.

This was the summer I went to Denver on Memorial Day.

This was the summer I spent a weekend in the Catskills. My rents rented a house for the weekend, and so I took the bus up to the Catskills on a Friday afternoon and hung out at that house till Sunday. We didn’t do much accept read and play on the lake and play stupid games. Great times. Here are a few Catskills pictures.

This was the summer I discovered Fire Island.

This was the summer of my first (and unlikely only) horse races. Licious and I went up to Saratoga for a weekend with her parents at their country house. We spent the drive there and back, reading HP out loud to each other, and hit the track on Saturday. It was amateur hour and I was ready to bet. We watched the horses saddle up, and liked one of the horses in the 2nd race who was a 12-1 dog. I put $5 on him to pace, and he actually came in 2nd. I then took that $20 and put $5 each on 4 huge underdogs to win. A 31.5-1 horse actually won and I was up 150. I then put $4 on 6 huge underdogs to win the next race. The winner was a 57-1 underdog and I won $200 more. At that point I had one more race in me, lost and took my winnings. Quite the beginners luck at the track.

This is the summer I finally got to Montreal. It was Adam’s bachelor party, and it was awesome.

This was the summer I actually spent July 4th on my own building’s roof. The irony of this, is the last 2 summers, there was no 25 story building directly next door blocking our view of the show. This summer, our new neighborhood building is almost complete, and though that means no construction noise, it also means really bad viewing of July 4th festivities.

This was the summer I went to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and never actually watched the episode on TV. Licious and I got free tickets (every ticket is free so it takes 6 months to get them). We waited in line for 2 hours and watched them tape the show in 45 minutes. That night, we totally forgot to watch the episode. Oh well.

And of course, this is the summer I went to France / Spain.

This was the summer I missed grandma’s club too often. I missed dinner on Memorial Day (Denver), Father’s day (Montreal), Labor Day (Europe), and a few others when relatives were in town and whatnot. I don’t think I’ve missed as many as I did this summer in the previous 5 years.

This was definitely the summer of Licious. She moved to my area for the summer, so I ended up hanging out with her almost ever day. We had a blast reading together, seeing movies together, getting away from the city together, talking trash about everyone we knew together and celebrating about 45 different anniversaries together.

This was the summer of Harry Potter. I attended the book release party at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in my “Voldemort Votes Republican” t-shirt. There were 10,000 people there, and a line outside that was sidewalk thick and extended 5 blocks. Of course, I went to Duane Reade and purchased it for $10 more w/no line. I spent the next 24 days reading the book slowly, to savor the experience for as long as possible and not rush though and miss things like I’ve done with other books I’ve really enjoyed. Wow, what a great book. I really, really love those books and I am really, really sad there won’t be anymore. We also had the release of the 5th movie, which was shown in IMAX 3-D (only the last 20 minutes) and was awesome. (See the 3-D glasses picture below) And my shirt, also seen below, is really a hit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Postcards From Europe:

Since I didn’t send any post cards on my trip to Spain and the South of France, I figure I’ll send some now.

Of course, here are the pictures.

And here’s a visual of our Itinerary (click to see bigger):

Dear Mom and Dad:
Last night we left for the airport at 4:30 and had to sweat it out to make our 7pm flight at JFK. While the plane left the gate on time, we sat in line to take off, and I barely lost a $5 bet, taking the over at 8:45pm. I didn’t think the Ambien I’d taken was working, but after saying to myself “this isn’t working, this isn't working, this isn’t wor…,” we were landing. We arrived in Nice this morning to a beautiful day and “stole” the rental car from the rental agency. I say “stole” because it was under Amy’s name, and her flight was a good 8 hours late. Tom, Steven and I decided to hit nice for the day, trying to figure out if Amy’d made her connection that she was on standby for. When I couldn’t get the information I wanted, I had to spend the time convincing Steven and Tom not to take the car and drive to St. Tropez w/o her, since this is where we were supposed to spend the first night. At 6pm we’d received a call from Amy at the rental agency “Did you steal my car?” We picked up Amy at the airport and are now headed down the coast to St. Tropez. It should be about a 2 hour car ride, on which we’ll likely stop to pick up some groceries (beer and wine).

Dear Elana and Ariel:
Last night we arrived in St Tropez at a little hotel about 2km outside of town. The decision to stay there saved us about $1,000, as hotels in the city are absurd. We stayed at hotel for about 2 hours, showering, having some wine, and sitting by our pool, before catching a 5 min, 16 Euro cab into town. We had a nice $300 diner at a small restaurant and bar hopped for a bit after getting rejected (as expected) from The Cave at Hotel Biblos, the hottest club in the world (Tom Cruise got rejected last month). We arrived at our 3rd choice, club VIP, with a rotating dance floor/DJ boot in the middle. I grabbed 3 beers for the guys for $62 (15 Euro each). Tom met a girl and decided it would be a good idea to get glasses of champagne for 25 Euro each. A bouncer breaking up a fight spilled them and he wasn’t given refills. Amy and I went home early (5am), because she wasn’t feeling well, and the 5 min cab ride was 30 Euro. I hope last night was the most expensive of the trip, because I can’t handle much more, and I know Amy can’t. Steven and Tom headed back to the Cave where Steven convinced the bouncer that his sister was inside. By that time it was mostly empty, but Tom had to get a drink there. I mean, how could you not go to the hottest club in the world and not get a drink? Today we woke up at noon and drove ourselves into town. We walked the port, looking at all the $2+ Million yachs and boats and dreamed about care free lives on the open seas. We walked up to the top of the Citadel, which was an old fort that had random art (burnt spread eagled girl) and a blocked view of the city below. Currently, we are having ice cream on the coastal road back north/east toward Cannes. Google said it should take only and hour, but its already been 2.

Dear Daniella and David:
Last night we arrived in Cannes around 8pm, unpacked our things, and squeezed into our moderately priced, slightly too small hotel room. I booked the room before Tom, and his high class needs, were coming on the trip so I don’t feel bad at all about the tight accommodations, though we are here for 3 days. While the others napped, I found an internet cafĂ© where I read hardly legible conversations you are having w/mom over Skype, But most importantly, I found a hot crepe w/Nutella; I know you guys are jealous. I woke Steven, Tom and Amy around 10:30 and we were off to dinner by 11:30pm. Steven really likes playing the whole “Europeans eat really late” card, however, some restaurants kitchens had closed. We found a suitable one b/c it had the word “Brasserie” in the title and then hit up an Irish pub for an after dinner drink in search of non French people. We walked toward the other side of town, where I’d heard there were clubs and found one when we luckily heard noise from the main street. Twasn’t anything special, except for the fashion show on the TV’s around the club which could have been considered soft core porn in the states w/the amount of nipple being shown. Amy left early at 3 and we stayed until our eyes and noses and ears couldn’t take the thick smoke and loud base of the venue. Currently, I’m writing you from the beach in Cannes. Today, Sunday, most of the country is closed, so we walked along the beach, paid a hotel $24 Euros each, to sit in their beach chairs for the day. The public portion of the beach is small and crowded, as most of the hotels control their own beachfronts (even though they are across the street). We would have needed to purchase towels, chairs and umbrellas, to enjoy the public portion, so we just sucked it up a little. My head is still ringing from the club last night, the alcohol last night, and my special alarm that’ll likely be going off all anytime I’m on the beach this trip. Hope you guys are having a great time in SE Asia!

Dear Steven:
I know you’re on this trip w/me, but I haven’t really seen you in the last day. Last night while I came back to the hotel to nap, you and Tom stayed at the Hilton Hotel bar to booze a bit. Then we all headed to dinner around 11pm for a low key night. Amy hit the local pub while we had a really good dinner up on the hill on the south side of town (Duck, Steak and Lamb, yum). Our small talk with the waiter paid off because he told us about the closing night at this massive club. We had originally figured it was a low key night, but we were up for changing those plans the second we saw all those people outside of the Palais. We were almost giddy at the site and we ran back to the hotel, changed, did a shot of absolute, and got back out there. The cover was 30 Euro, included 1 drink, and was totally worth it. I’ve included some videos from the night below, dancers and an old guy. While we met almost no girls that night, the place was insane with people; even table service was sold out. Amy left only 30 minutes before us because even though she was impressed, she’s still not club girl. Today we jumped into the car in the morning and headed to Monoco, you and Tom split from Amy and I as we traversed the small country in groups of 2. Amy and I hit the casino, the Palace (From the outside) the Prince’s absurd car collection (check the pictures), walking up and down steep hills too many times and enjoyed the day with out you! The whole town is packed with tourists groups wandering the city. I took a video of the forest fire you also likely saw, but its no good on youtube, so I'll email it you to you later. We are currently waiting for you back at the car, with ice cream pass the time. Amy’s trying to get me to play a trick on you by moving the car and leaving a note saying “enjoy the bus.” A little revenge for your almost leaving her behind in Nice, but I told her to give you until at least 6:25.

Dear Licious:
Happy Birthday! You would have really enjoyed last night with us. First, on our way back from Monaco, Amy took her vacation driving test. That means, she needed to back up several 1 way streets which I directed her into. If you were driving, you would have freaked out, as most of us experienced panic attacks. The rest of the drive featured teasing of Amy about her new boy of 2 weeks, and how he is current visiting his 22 year old ex girlfriend. When we got back to Cannes, they napped and I called you and emailed you and woke Steven, Tom and Amy up and headed out to another 11pm dinner on restaurant row. Tom and I had amazing cheese burgers that you would have died for. Steven broke out lines like “rock out w/your cock out” and “hang out w/your wang out” while we discussed the waitress and her decision to go braless. We stopped at a few smaller bars that looked somewhat lively, and met some foreigners who were touring the world as luxury boat workers (someone has to work on these $2+M boats, obviously the owners can’t drive them). Amy took off a little early, but we all followed pretty close behind. This morning we got up reasonably early, packed and then waiting 45 minutes for Steven and Tom to get the car. Yes, they forgot where Amy parked it. Apparently, I was supposed to do something during those 45 minutes, namely, pay for the hotel. OOPS! (I called them a week later and paid). Today, we headed to a peninsula between Cannes and Nice which features 2 towns, Antibes and Juan Les Pens (Juan Loves Panties as it would end up being called). We first stopped in Antibes, took in the old city and local market (I got you a present) before heading to an old fort. Steven fell inlove w/our fort tour guide and took various pictures w/her but forgot to close the deal when she gave him the “email” opening. Oh well. His life will never be the same. We headed into JLP this afternoon, because we heard there were only 3 things to do in the town; drink, shop and beach. We booked a $500 suite for the evening, for kicks, and headed to the lighthouse (which you aren’t allowed inside) and a Napoleon Naval Museum (which was terrible with a view). The boats in the port in JLP were as big and gaudy as any we’d seen. Currently, I’m writing you from our hotel room, sitting outside on the porch, while Tom’s shopping and the others are napping and showering.

Dear Beth:
Thanks so much for the advice on going to Antibes, Juan Les Pens, and Provence. Last night we partied up in JLP. Tom got 3 bottles of wine for the room, w/some cheese and crackers and though we weren’t hungry at 11, we headed to dinner, split a few pizzas and 3 more bottles of wine. After “dinner” we headed to Pom Pom, which had a live band, dancers, and tropical drinks galore. Amy left Steven, Tom, and I at that point, and the 3 of us headed towards a club. After asking around which one to go to, we decided to hit up the club with the really young crowd, as opposed to the club with the young crowd. This place was packed with 20 year olds, who weren’t drinking or hooking up. In fact, we realized that after all this clubbing in the South of France, we’d hardly seen any public displays of affection. Unfortunately, it was 4am before we had this revelation and decided to pack up our things and head home. Having finally adjusted to the time change, we were up at 9am. This may have had something to do w/telling Tom that if he wanted beach time today, he’d have to prove his desire by hitting the beach before 9am. Lucky for us, it wasn’t sunny out. We took your advice, and finally made some headway toward Barcelona, heading to Aix En Provence, a small college town that has inspired many artists over the years, most notability Cezanne. We walked the streets, split up, found a place to sleep, ate some lunch, not at all in that order. We also hit up Cezanne’s old house, which is the setting for much of his famous paintings. We also went to the natural history museum, which was comprised of ½ a dinosaur, 3 rooms, one of which was dedicated to the artic. I also took the video below of some kid dancing to his Ipod. Currently, its nap time here again as everyone is napping for the 4th night in a row. I’ll wake them for dinner at 11.

Dear Saba:
Currently, we are in the midst of a 4 hour drive from France to Spain. Last night we spent the night in Aix En Provence, deciding on an early night after sending some ladies some drinks and getting no response. This morning we woke up early and headed to wine country, or a town called Chateauneuf De Pape. We drove to the first winery, talked some wine shop, purchased a bottle and headed into town. When in town, we realized that all the wineries, while they had tasting centers in the fields, they also had “caves” in town, where you could taste and purchase. Considering no one wanted to drive, we decided to walk the town, stopping at every “cave” for a taste, and to make a purchase. Though we could only bring 2 bottles per person home with us on the airplane, we had 4 more days to drink the extras. After about 5 caves, we got lunch at a little pasta restaurant. Its amazing how much of conversation is non verbal because we read the menu, ordered, ate, and paid with no knowledge of French and w/o a French speaking waitress. Amy decided to stop drinking so that we could put some miles behind us instead of spending the night in this little small town and driving to Barcelona tomorrow. You would have really enjoyed tasting all the wines today as I know how much you enjoy them. Tonight, we just decided that rather than going straight to Barcelona, we’re stopping in a little town about 50 miles outside of Barcelona on the coast called Tossa Del Mar (Tossa De Salad).

Dear Atara and Lilah:
Last night we stayed in a small town on the beach in Spain called Tossa Del Mar. The town is really lively, full of tourists from Spain. Our 2 start hotel room had no air conditioning, but luckily it was not that hot out. Steven, Amy and Tom took naps while I found the internet and called Judy. While the busy season in this town ended last night, we found a small bar with salsa dancing after dinner. We did not stay too long, and decided to climb up the old castle instead, to see what the bright lights were at the top. It turned out to be just a lighthouse. (check the pictures). I know you are only 3 years old and 3 months old respectively, but it was very very cool up there. This morning Tom and Steven went to the beach, while Amy and I climbed the castle, learned that the lighthouse was also a museum about lighthouses (kinda like a coffee table book about coffee tables) again and went to an art museum. I’m sure you would have chosen the beach. At 2pm we started to drive to Barcelona and Amy found our hotel very easily. We dropped off our stuff, and dropped off our car for good. I just got to our hotel room in Barcelona at a really really nice hotel. There is a big bath and a big shower, with side jets. There is also a view of the beach and the pool.

Dear Grandma:
Last night was our first night in Barcelona. You would love this city, the culture, the language, you would fit right in. Our hotel was built for the Olympics in 1992 and is amazing. (Hamburgers are 24 Euro and a breakfast platter is 98 Euro). We went to a terrible dinner around 12pm before going out until 6 in the morning. I know you think we are crazy, but there was a line to get into the Jamboree club (which was packed w/Americans) when we left at 4am (so it’s not just us). We then headed up the hill to a castle/museum/club which had some very strange looking dancers (check the pictures). While the sun was almost rising when we went to sleep, in our room, at noon when we woke, it was pitch black. I’ve never seen window shades like this. Today, Steven, Tom and I split up (Amy was staying w/her friend for the rest of the trip), to explore the city on our own. I heard the Guell Park with a Gaudi museum up on the hill was the best thing to see, so obviously I did that on my first day. I also went to the Picasso Museum, which has almost 3,000 pieces of his art. I took the train back to La Rambla and walked the 2 miles through the city to our hotel, just taking in the atmosphere. Currently, I’m at the hotel next door to our original one, the AB Skipper, waiting for our luggage to arrive, since we had to move here today due to a poker tournament at our original Hotel Arts.

Dear all my other friends who always ask me for a post card when I’m away:
Last night after walking around the city all day, I stopped and sat on the beach during my usual nap time. This was the best beach I’ve ever been on, and I’m not talking about the water or the sand. We decided to make reservations at a really nice tapas place. Unfortunately, the place was so nice that our cab drivers had never heard of it and we drove around for 30 minutes before ending up at a different seafood/paella restaurant near our hotel in the Marina. The marina was hopping, but Steven, Tom, and I watned to meet Jesse and Amy out, though we were pretty beat. We took a cab to the Tibidado, at the top of the hill, and after a few red bull vodka’s, we were set to stay out well past 5am. We dance, and the DJ played some old American music mixed w/some Spanish music. We were in such a remote area that Tom and I had to sweet talk some locals who agreed to drive us home while Jesse’s friend took Steven, Amy and Jesse home. Today we woke up around 12:30 and headed separately into the city. We took in the Gaudi church, which is still unfinished after 100+ years and is still 20 years away from being done. If I’ve learned anything about Gaudi on this trip is that he’s not very good at finances and not very good at finishing a task. I purchased some local chocolates, to share w/my office and my parents, and purchased a F.C BARCA towel to wear around my shoulders for the Soccer match tonight. That’s right, we’re going, and we’re scalping tickets too! Actually, we’re leaving the hotel right now for the match, gotta run.

Dear Mom and Dad:
I’m on the plane home right now. I just took an ambient, so I’m not sure I’ll finish this and I could pass out at anytime due to lack of sleep. Last night, we went to the FC Barcelona soccer match. It was only an exhibition, which actually made it better, because the players were showing off, and actually scoring goals (Barca won 3-1). Afterwords, we grabbed dinner and then kept it as a low key night. Thought, I think Tom had a pretty good time during the 30 minutes that Steven and I were walking around the marina. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Amy, but she found us at the Airport. I can’t wait to get home to see you guys, and tell

Things I learned that I didn't know before:

I learned that Spain Spanish and Mexican Spanish (that I learned in HS) are very different. In fact, the people I met in Spain, don't even call it Spanish, they call it Catalan.
I learned how often you are supposed to call your girlfriend when out of town.
I learned that FC Barcelona will be the Football team I root for in the future.
I learned I could live in Barcelona.
I learned that I don't really like French people that much.
I learned that sometimes, it is really nice to be served by a 5 star hotel, and sometimes its really over the top and uncomfortable.
I learned that its time to rejoin my gym, or just go to someone else's gym.

Things I learned that I may have known before:

I relearned that I am way behind in my knowledge of men's underwear and cologne. I'm supposed to know that I should burn my boxers and that cologne is seasonal? Seriously?
I relearned that Amy has a tattoo on her foot.
I relearned that my Spanish is good enough for almost anything, though my vocabulary is terrible
I relearned that my French is good for almost nothing.
I relearned that I want to start taking Hebrew classes.
I relearned that my handwriting is terrible, the D I got in 4th grade was warranted and that I handwrite more on my summer trip every year than I do the rest of the year combined. I relearned that writing is not like riding a bike.
I relearned that student ID's can save you money at museums, even if it's your cousin's ID.

Next Week: Summer Summary (yes, I hardly wrote this summer, so there's much to dish)