Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brothels in Lucerne

So according to Sitemeter, at least 5 different people have found this blog by googling "Brothels in Lucerne".

Why you wonder would my blog pop up?

Well, I wrote an entry about my trip to Lucerne, Switzerland and I've mentioned a brothel exactly 1 time (I believe) on a trip we took to Idaho.

Not sure what to make of these people searching for brothels and finding my blog. But I'm guessing they were disappointed. lol

BTW, the other big search terms that people find this blog are
  • 1 million pounds of trash
  • bum camps
  • phrasal verbs
  • cameron que se duerme que lo lleva la curriente (the shrimp who sleeps gets carried away by the current, or in English, you snooze you lose)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Geezer Bandit Strikes Again!

So the so-called "Geezer Bandit" has struck again and knocked over his 7th bank in San Diego county. I gave an earlier shout-out to this retirement age rebel a few months ago but thought that would be the end of his Ensure fueled reign of terror. Was I wrong.

Authorities are now offering a $16,000 for this octogenarian baddie.

However, a spokeswoman for the FBI was on TV this morning and they think they've caught a break since this time the geriatric ne'er do well used a day planner to conceal an automatic handgun with which he threatened the teller.

She didn't really explain why this was a break. Maybe they're trying to supersize the still photo of said day planner to read any contact info The Geezer Bandit may have been imprudent enough to have written in.

Who knows? She did say that one of the reasons he's so successful is that he blends in with the rest of the crowd both when he's in the bank and when he shuffles away with his loot after the hold-up.

Interesting theory. Now every bank teller in San Diego is on the lookout for old men who might try to rob them.

All I have to say is Go Geezer Bandit, Go!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grand Canyon!

In our effort to conquer as much of the great Southwest as we can while we live here, we recently took a trip to Sedona (you can read the entry here) and the Grand Canyon.

We made our home base in Sedona and drove up to the Canyon one day. It’s about a 1.5-2 hour drive. Very easily done, but eat in Flagstaff if you’re hungry because the pickings get pretty slim the closer you get to the park.

On the stretch of road that leads to the park there are only 2 restaurants, a Wendy’s and some sort of pancake and spaghetti shack. I wish I had taken a picture. Sigh.

You can pretty much just follow the signs into the park and then park your car and get out to walk. Unless you’re pretty hard-core, you’ll probably want to stick to the Rim Trail. Which is actually more of a stroll than a trail just along the rim of the canyon.

But the most popular trail is Bright Angel. However, we didn’t pack decent shoes, there was snow and ice all over the trail and we’re not that motivated, so Rim Trail it was for us.

When you first walk up to the first overlook for the canyon, it will literally take your breath away. Literally, because you’re something like 7,000 feet in the air and oxygen is pretty thin up there.

It really was amazing. Not visit a second time amazing, but glad I saw it once in my life amazing.

One thing that really surprised me was that there are a couple houses in the canyon. They were variously used as artist/photographer or park ranger houses.

You can rent rooms or rustic cabins in the canyon but you have to book months in advance. I didn’t want to try this because I didn’t know there was a restaurant/bar on the hotel premises. I’m definitely not into rustic living. The restaurant/ice cream parlor area was packed with tourists, but I can imagine what the scene would feel like at night with no one there and the wind whistling through the canyon.

There are several buses that will take you to various drop-off points throughout the park. It was hard for me to find exact info on the Internet before we went, but trust me, if we can figure it out so can you.

Again, it’s something I’m really glad I saw, but once is enough.

Oh, all the sites I read said the famous mule trips weren’t worth it (even though the Brady’s did it and it looked like so much fun). Plus, they took the whole day and were expensive, so we skipped it. Not to mention, I have a deathly fear of heights and the mules go down some very narrow roads.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ghetto Dog

I was out walking (or rather, being pulled by) Maude this morning when we crossed paths with another lady and her little dog.

The dogs stopped and sniffed each other--well Maude sniffed and acted the fool--while the other dog shied away.

The other dog was a little poodle mix named “Princess Leia” and was so calm, while Maude was jumping all around acting crazy.

The lady and I started talking and she had adopted Princess Leia from the same shelter we got Maude from and the lady was telling me how great her dog was and how she took her to the groomer’s for the first time the other day and the groomer had said what a wonderful dog she was.

All the while, Maude was still jumping around and basically embarrassing the hell out of me.

I felt like the parent who had the slow kid in the class. While everyone else is bragging about how smart and talented their kid is, all I can say is my kid is very unique.

And in Maude’s case, read ghetto not unique.

  • She farts all the time (including sometimes when you pick her up to give her a hug) and they do not smell like fresh mountain breezes
  • When I walk her, she tends to go to the bathroom on the sidewalk rather than on the grass, even though I try to pull her over onto the grass
  • She pretty much destroys at least one thing everyday (or makes a concerted effort to)
  • She dug a hole under the fence last week and made a big break for freedom (the lady who grabbed her off the street and called me literally told me she was “dancing” through all the car lanes
  • She’s got some perennial hairball or something that she’s always trying to cough up
  • She’s got an old lady name (yes I know this one isn’t her fault). One time we were out with one of Leo’s friends and when we told him what her name is, he pulled a face and said, “Oh, did someone pass away and leave you a dog?”
  • Half the time when she pees, she raises her leg like a boy dog. Although, perhaps this isn’t ghettoness but gender confusion.

As I stood there contemplating my ghetto dog and the lady’s “perfect” dog (did I mention I was in a track suit and flip-flops looking pretty janky while she was all dressed and ready for the day) I realized I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her dog, although better behaved, was boring. Maude is interesting. She’s also frustrating, nerve-wracking, a huge pain in the behind and a general all-around pest, but she’s our pest.

Sometimes, I think ghetto is what makes life a little more interesting. That little spice of life if you will. Plus, she's so darn cute.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Military Commissary (aka the grocery store on base)

One of the things that’s very different about military life is that you now get to use all the amenities on base like tax free shopping in the department store and the grocery store, free movies at the movie theater and a cheap bowling alley (which often has Bingo nights. It may be senior but I love me some Bingo).

The Exchange (aka the department store) is nice and carries tons of name brand stuff just like Macy’s, Dillards or Nordstroms.

The strangest thing for me are the commissaries.

Let me try to describe it.

First of all it’s only open from 9 or 10 in the morning (0900 or 1000 hours) until 6 or 7 at night (1800 or 1900) so there’s no late night shopping.

There are no club cards but they do accept coupons.

You don’t pay taxes on the food but you do have to pay a surcharge, which supposedly goes to fund MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) programs on base or to build more commissaries. I’ve never been able to determine which exactly.

Some of them are HUGE! Like Costco on crack huge. The one here on 32nd Street Base is the biggest in the world.

They are insanely crazy busy on all days but please learn from my mistakes and don’t go on a payday (the 1st and 15th of the month) or on any major holiday. I accidentally went last year the day before Thanksgiving and almost ripped my own eyeballs out I was so frustrated.

They aren’t super veggie friendly but they’re getting better and there is a lot of ethnic foods for all the different nationalities who are in the armed forces.

There are a million old Filipino ladies running around shopping there and they will push your cart aside to get what they want.

One time I came back to find my cart sailing down the middle of the aisle after some old lady decided she wanted to get at whatever my cart was parked in front of.

They also have no problem literally breathing down your neck if you happen to be in front of what they want.

To me, this is just rude. When there is someone trying to pick out what they want, I don’t step in front of them and grab a can of beans or whatever. I wait until they have finished and moved on before I go to that section. If I can do a little other shopping in that area, great. But the key is, I wait until they’ve finished.

Apparently, I’m in the minority on this one though.

How different cultures deal with the issue of personal space is always interesting in theory, but not so much in practice, especially when you’re in the middle of it.

When you go to check out, you line up and a person will direct you to whichever cashier is open. This is this person’s only job. All day.

You have to show your military ID in order to be able to purchase anything.

Someone will bag your groceries and then take them out to the car for you (this is mandatory) and you have to tip. Technically, you don’t have to but the people bagging the groceries don’t get a salary, they work for tips only. So I can’t imagine people not tipping them, but I’m sure there are many who do. Shame.

The commissary claims that you save about 30% compared to other stores. But I’ve always wondered if this is true.

The prices on the produce are very cheap. But the produce isn’t always the best and they have virtually no organic.

I don’t buy meat or dairy but I’m guessing this is where the big savings are.

However, the Amy’s Cheeseless pizzas that are $10 in other stores are $5.55 at the commissary. And dog rawhides that are $5 other places are $1.89 there.

On a recent shopping trip, I spent $146.88 (I stocked up on a lot of staples). Add in a $7.33 surcharge and a $2 tip (I helped bag the groceries and didn’t have the person carry them to my car. I tip higher if they do).

So my total was $154.21.

I did get a lot of stuff, but after the add-ons I’m never 100% sure that I actually saved any cash.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Price was Busted!

After much discussion with friends and co-workers, we decided to leave for our Price is Right trip (see previous entry here) at 6 a.m. in order to make it to LA (hopefully) by 8:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, we hit traffic (everything you’ve ever heard about LA traffic is true and then some).

By the time we got to Hollywood and parked, it was almost 9:30.

We went to CBS studios and talked to one of the ticket takers who basically told us that even if he gave us Order of Arrival Passes (which show when you arrived and hopefully get you in to see a taping) he would be wasting our time.

He said when he got there at 5:45 a.m., the line was already around the block.

So future Price is Righter’s, learn from my mistakes and get there at 5 or 6 a.m. (for a 4 pm taping). Unless you have a group of at least 15, you don’t get guaranteed seating.

My illusions of grandeur and spinning the Big Wheel were effectively dashed.


We decided to make the best of the day and since we were so close to Hollywood, we headed down there and were going to do a star home’s tour. Since we had a “found” day we wanted to do the cheesiest thing we could think of.

After negotiating with a tour operator outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, we decided to do Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum instead. (The tour would probably be great if you a.) don’t know the area at all and don’t know where to go or b.) if you don’t have a car and can’t drive around yourself.

Hollywood isn’t too hard to negotiate and find the tourist things.

I’ve been to the London Dungeon before and I think that had wax sculptures, but my friend never had and she was super excited.

However, the highlight of the trip to me was Santa Monica. This is my favorite part of LA.

They had a pedestrian only street with great restaurants and shops. Street performers are everywhere. Then there is the world-famous Santa Monica pier.

I LOVE this pier. It’s tacky and kitschy but so great. They have a Ferris Wheel and a roller coaster, as well as about a hundred vendors who will either do a caricature of you (why God why do people do this?) or write your name on a grain of rice.

So classy! (said with tongue firmly in cheek). It's also the end of Route 66 (2447 miles from Chicago to LA).

There’s also a carousel and an aquarium, as well as a huge beach. You can also learn how to be a trapeze artist (no joke).

A lot of people fish off the end of the pier and it’s been shown in a lot of movies and TV shows.

In fact, the opening sequence of Three’s Company, was shot here (not the one where they were at the zoo).

We had a beer at one of the local beach bars and just hung out.

So nice. It made not getting on The Price is Right, not so bad.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Earthquake!

Wow! I just experienced my first earthquake! We've had 2 others since I've lived here but I couldn't feel those.

I was sitting on the couch watching "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and all of a sudden all the pictures on the walls started rattling.

Nothing really registered until after a few seconds when the chair started moving side to side. Then I was like, 'ok this is an earthquake!"

My first thought was to get the dog but since she wasn't freaking out (nobody ever said we have the world's smartest dog) I ran to the door and shouted for Leo. He had been sitting outside working on his car, so at first he didn't feel it. But then he looked up and saw his huge truck shaking and realized it was an earthquake.

He's shouting at me to run outside, so I grab the dog and head outside in my socks. It was the weirdest feeling. The ground was still shaking. You could feel the sidewalk move under your feet.

The only way I can describe it was it was like the moving sidewalk in a carnival or fair.

Our new neighbor from Nebraska ran out of her house shouting, "What the hell was that? Was that an earthquake?"

That was pretty funny but the whole thing was a little scary.

Even though this was a tiny earthquake compared to what the people of Haiti and Chile went through, I got a much better idea of how terrifying an earthquake can be.

It sounds scary when you hear about it from afar, but to experience it (even in miniature) is crazy.

The first thing I did was call my parents in Michigan, who were like, "You need to come home. We don't have earthquakes here, only crazy militia people."

One of those nutjob Hutaree people was captured in the little town near where my parents live.

Mmmmm. Earthquakes or crazy right-wing apocalyptic Christians hell-bent on killing cops and starting an anti-government war. Not sure which is easier to live with

Sedona and the Wild West

Driving into Sedona is truly amazing. The scene sort of opens up before you and you see all the red rocks gleaming in the sunshine.

We had decided to take a mini-break and visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona since we’re so close (a 1-hour flight to Phoenix or 8 hours driving). We picked up our rental car and drove the hour and a half north to Sedona.

Along the way you also go through Flagstaff which is beautiful and home to Northern Arizona University. It’s so funny because I never think of Arizona as having snow but there was plenty in Flagstaff (and driving out here from the East Coast we got caught in a straight-up East Coast style blizzard in Arizona).

We just got a room at the Super 8 but you can get super-fancy rooms at all-inclusive spas if that’s your kind of thing.

Sedona is famous for a few things:

  • The amazing red rocks (due to their high iron content)
  • New-Age stuff (ie. vortexes, palm readers, crystals, etc). Trust me you will very likely get annoyed by all the peasant skirts, fringed Robin-Hood style boots and incense but that’s Sedona.
  • I thought there was more but actually that’s about it

We did, however, go on the Pink Jeep Tour. You can go 4-wheeling out in the desert but we can do that at home (if so inclined which I’m not) so I chose the Ancient Indian Cliff Dwelling tour.

Although not what I was expecting (I thought we were going to climb up ladders to get to some crazy cave fortress set high in the cliffs—don’t ask why I thought this), we had a lot of fun.

The cliff dwelling was about 700 years old and from a group of Indians called the Sinaguans” which loosely translates to the “Without Waterer’s” in Spanish.

The term cliff dwelling was a little misleading to me (see above reference) but I guess technically you could call it a cliff dwelling since it’s built alongside the foot of a cliff.

We saw some cliff paintings which were pretty cool, including one of a Kokopelli. I have always hated that stupid Kokopelli guy.

I think it all stems back to when I lived in Atlanta in 1997 and a new pizza place (called Kokopelli’s and with tons of pictures of Kokopelli’s opened near my house). I had never really known what that little guy was before, but now I started seeing them on every hippy and new age-wannabe. They’ve plagued me ever since.

However, our guide told us that most modern depictions don’t show what I can politely call the Kokopelli’s huge male member. He is a fertility symbol after all and he used to travel from village to village knocking up various women in order to prevent interbreeding among the village people (or so the myth goes).

A kind of Don Juan of the Desert if you will.

The best part of the Indian dwelling for me was that someone had painted a picture of their hand on the cliff side (like those tracings of your hand you made in kindergarten except this guy didn’t turn his into a turkey head).

It was pretty amazing to imagine some Indian guy 700 years ago or so, tracing his hand on the wall for posterity. It’s such a human thing to do that it made the experience so real. You could also see people’s fingerprints in the mud they used as mortar in some of the buildings.

In Sedona there were a couple of vegetarian and vegan restaurants (yay!) but we really only had time to visit one. D’Lish (and it was!). I had a seitan BBQ sandwich which Leo tried also and loved. Although I wouldn’t get their falafel. Leo got it and it was way too dry. I think they tried to make it too healthy and you can’t do that with falafel. I also had some sort of vegetable power drink with cilantro and a bunch of other stuff. It was good but tasted like pico de gallo in a glass.

Also in Sedona is Tlaquepaque, a centralized courtyard of shops designed after the original Tlaquepapue artist village in Guadalajara, Mexico.

I’ve seen them both and the one in Guadalajara is definitely better. But they’re both tourist attractions which means, at least for me, they’re nice to stroll around in and get a coffee or something but not to buy anything, unless you like paying 3 times what’s you’d normally pay for a souvenir.

On our last day, everyone told us we had to go through this old mining town Jerome which is about 20 miles away. At one time it was one of the biggest towns in the West and in 1903, The New York Sun dubbed it “the wickedest town in the West” because of all the prostitution, gambling and drinking.

When mining died out, most people moved but eventually hippies and artists moved in and revitalized the town. The interesting thing about this town is that it’s literally perched on the side of a mountain. It looks like it could tumble down at any moment.

The streets of the town are narrow and there are stairs everywhere so that pedestrians can get to the higher portions of the town and businesses. Unfortunately for us, we drove through on Sunday morning so not much was open, although it looked like a great place to have lunch and walk around. Definitely an interesting side trip from Sedona.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

California Vacation Wasters

Another strange thing that Californians do is that they chose to vacation in places that are exactly like where they live already.

For example, a colleague, who I consider to be an extremely intelligent and well-rounded man, recently told me of his latest vacation.

Me: Oh, where did you go?

Respected Colleague: Oh we went down to Cabo (San Lucas, Mexico) for the week.

Me: Oh, that must have been fun.

RC: Yeah, my wife got a great deal on the Internet. $500 per person for 4-days at a resort down there.

Me: What did you guys do?

RC: We went surfing and hung out on the beach.

Me: Wow, that sounds like a blast (said while thinking, WTF? Can’t you do that in San Diego without even leaving home and spending any money let alone vacation time?)

RC: Then one day we went into town for a little bit to see all the touristy stuff but mostly we just hung out at the resort.

Me: Hmmm

I don’t get it. Cabo is a 1-hour flight and not even “real” Mexico. More like Spring Break Mexico.

Why bother spending the money to go to a place that looks and feels exactly like where you live?

However, it’s not confined solely to the West Coast. Back in Philly most families would spend their 1 or 2 week vacations, “down the shore”. AKA the Jersey Shore (and no, I’ve never seen that TV show nor plan to).

I didn’t understand that either. You wait all year for your vacation and then you spend it approximately 1 hour away down the NJ Turnpike.

Although truth be told, I guess I have to side with the Philly people here since that city doesn’t have water, so getting away to the sea side is kind of a big deal.

Why San Diegans would bother spending money to go down to Cabo is beyond me.

When I travel, I want to see places that aren’t like the place I live.

But that’s just me I guess.