Flip Flop Flying

Archive for July, 2008

Baseball (slight return)

with one comment

I had a nice relaxing day yesterday. Went to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Museo del Estanquillo. Arty stuff blah blah blah, so fuck writing about that. You wanna know about this, I’m sure: I went to see one more baseball game. Woo! Hoo! Only, it was béisbol this time. It had crossed my mind when I was on the aeroplane from San Diego, I wonder if Mexico City’s baseball team is playing in the next couple of days? Type type type click: yes! Diablos Rojos del México vs. Piratas de Campeche.

After a fairly pedestrian start, full of hitters swinging at pitches they shouldn’t've, los Diablos got a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 4th. Things heated up when the visitors came back level after loaded in the bases with nobody out in the 7th, but a fine rally by the Diablos in the 8th, coupled with some terrible pitching gave the locals a 7-2 victory.

It was a good game. Especially as I went with my friend Naomi, who was a baseball virgin. And good to see the differences between Liga Mexicana de Béisbol and baseball in the US. Firstly, the prices were cheaper for beer and snacks. A beer at the game costs less than in a bar in Mexico City, which is a nice change from nine dollar beers at MLB games. And you can smoke in the stadium. There’s even ushers walking around holding Marlboro and Marlboro Lights aloft, shouting “cigarros!” like the hot dog/peanut/candy floss ushers up north.

There’s no jingo jingo la of a national anthem before the game. They have cheerleaders with pom poms, satin jackets and short, short skirts. And instead of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” in the seventh-inning stretch, they played “Sweet Caroline,” a song that I really like, but is slightly tainted by being a favourite of fans of that team who wear red-coloured socks.

Throughout the game, to gee up the crowd, they played a song that I’ve heard a lot at baseball games all over North America: “Rock and Roll Part 2″ by Gary Glitter. How the heck the teams who choose to play this song haven’t heard about this, I don’t know, but he’s a convicted paedophile. Great song and everything, but he likes to fuck children!

Anyway, there were a couple of mascots that came onto the field between innings. One that looked like a some furry dog with devil horns, and another that was Winnie the Pooh. At one point, they both whipped off their furry heads to reveal lucha libre masks, and they did a little bit of wrestling. Frankly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen a mascot do.

All in all, a fun evening. It was great to see some baseball one last time. And rounded off nicely with a couple of excellent quesadillas.

Written by Craig

July 31st, 2008 at 11:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Hot Dogs USA

with 12 comments

Click here to see larger version. The best one? That has to be the appropriately-named “Magnificent Dog” from Gold Coast Dogs in Chicago (second row, third from left).

Written by Craig

July 30th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Blimey

with one comment

From BBC News.

An earthquake measuring 5.4 has caused buildings to shake across a wide area of southern California in the US. The epicentre of the quake was 29 miles (46km) south-east of central Los Angeles, near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County, officials said. The quake was felt as far south as San Diego, witnesses say.

I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger at this end of this clip. Or like someone who did a trump on a bus and got off at the next stop before it kicked in.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmIMifVPnFQ]

Written by Craig

July 29th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bye bye, baseball

with one comment

So, that’s it. My baseball stadium trip is over. Fifteen of thirty visited. Those of you with a maths degree will know that that is exactly 50% of them. Hopefully in 2009 or 2010 I will be able to come back and do the rest of them.

I’ve seen 15 Major League games (3 American League, 7 National League, and 5 Interleague games); I’ve seen 12 home-team victories; and I’ve seen 107 runs scored by 21 teams. It’s been fucking magnificent.

The game I saw earlier was at PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres. They were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team who I don’t really like, and have managed to see three times on this trip. Decent stadium. The best bit, though, is “The Park in the Park,” a nice bit that’s outside the actual stadium, where there’s some bleachers and a little grassy hill where people can put down a rug and have a picnic whilst watching the game. Yay for that.

I didn’t sit there, though. Being the last game of my tour, I decided to splash out and get a good seat; seven rows behind the Padres’ dugout. It was pretty good being so close. I enjoyed all the more for being sat next to two very knowledgeable fellows who were entertaining all the way through (“84mph fastball? That’s an oxymoron right there!”). I’ve had some good luck with seeing good pitchers, but it was nice that I got to see two of the all-time greats pitch for the Padres. The starting pitcher was Greg Maddux (below), ninth on the all-time wins list. And their closing pitcher was Trevor Hoffman, first on the all-time saves list.

It was a good game, too. A fine game with home runs, errors, bases loaded jams, and a few broken bats. Eventually, Hoffman got the final out, the Padres won, and, well, it was time to leave. I lingered more than I normally would after a game. I kept taking one last look at the field, one last look at the stadium, and vowed to myself that I would come back as soon as possible to visit the other 15 stadiums. Of course, by then, I’ll feel a tinge of completism, and will need to go to Oakland again to see a game rather than just taking the stadium tour. And there’ll be two new stadiums in New York to see, too. Hurrah for baseball: you’re a fucking magic sport.

My time in the United States is also over; bar a few hours of sleep, my morning ablutions, a cab ride, and faffing around in the airport. It’s been an excellent two months here. I’d only ever been to the East Coast before coming on this trip, and I’ve loved exploring different places. Chicago was excellent, Milwaukee and Denver, too. But, for me the West Coast states – Washington, Oregon, and California – have been the highlights. It’s pretty special out here. Can I have a green card please, Mr Obama or Mr McCain?

Mexico City, here I come.

Written by Craig

July 29th, 2008 at 12:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

San Diego Zoo

with 3 comments

Apart from ZOOMAT in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico, where all the animals are indigenous to the region; the San Diego Zoo is the best zoo I’ve ever been to. I can almost forgive their bragging on the posters around the place proclaiming it to be the “World Famous San Diego Zoo.” Nobody likes a braggart, San Diego.

Of course, to men of my age, San Diego Zoo means one thing, and one thing only:

Wherever that photo was taken, it doesn’t seem to look like that any more. Either that, or I’m a dimwit who didn’t find it. Anyway, that’s just dorky Beach Boys stuff. For the rest of you, here’s some pretty aminals.

Written by Craig

July 28th, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Quarters

with one comment

While I’ve been travelling across the United States, I somehow found myself collecting the State Quarters, the 25 cent coins with each of the state represented on the back of them. Alaska and Hawaii – the freak states – have yet to be released, so there’s currently 48 of them. With a little bit of help along the way – thanks Marta, Lisa, and Rebecca – I’ve managed to collect 47. Fucking Michigan…

Written by Craig

July 28th, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The siren that broke my heart

with 3 comments

I resisted your charms for such a long time. Sure, we had a fling now and again. It’s what we both wanted, it was right for both of us at the time. But this time, it felt more serious. It felt, well, real.

I’m not gonna pretend that you having two fish tails wasn’t a bit weird at first, but I came to love you for it. I envisaged us laughing like children, living like lovers, rolling like thunder under the covers. I wanted to explore those fishy bits, and see if you had a vagina in each one, or just one in the middle. Even though your crown is a little bit twee, it suits you; what with your lovely, cascading locks that just about cover your nips. I thought we might start a family. Maybe we’d have twins, a boy and a girl. And you could teach them to swim, and I could teach them to draw Minipops.

It was all going so well, but something, some little thing, has destroyed my feelings for you, girl. I tried to look past it, but I can’t. We’ve travelled from New York to San Diego together, but this is where we must part. We’re through, we’re done. I’m going to Mexico. I just can’t be with someone that never gets my name right. Sorry, petal, but it’s over.

Written by Craig

July 27th, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Superheroes, etc.

with 4 comments

There’ll be plenty of porn websites unclicked-on this weekend: it’s Comic-Con International in San Diego! I’m not really a big comics fan. Like classical music, I kinda like the idea, but where the heck does one begin? My comic buying is pretty much restricted to Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes stuff. But when Ren – a lady who fairly regularly comments on this here blog, not him out of N.W.A. – offered me the use of a pass, my eyes popped out a bit, and I thought of all the potential for blog-worthy photos to be taken. Like a tit, though, I forgot to charge the battery, so didn’t get to take many pictures. I got a few though…

Written by Craig

July 27th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Dodger Stadium

with one comment

Well, we have a winner. Best baseball stadium I’ve seen so far. Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s beautiful. Truly the most wonderful-looking sports venue I’ve ever seen. I mean, Wrigley Field is older and very lovely; Yankee Stadium is great (I’m a bit biased, though); but Dodger Stadium is sublime. Even the words you can say when describing its location are fantastic. For one thing, Dodger Stadium is a great name. It sits in Chávez Ravine, and the address is 1000 Elysian Park Avenue. How wonderful is that? You don’t often get to use the word “ravine” in life, so that always a joy. And “Elysian,” the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous.

I got there a couple of hours early, and I’m glad I did. It gave me time to take photos, and to see the massive expanse of car park virtually empty (Link to Google Maps view of the stadium and car park). And once the gates opened, I got to take photos in a fairly empty stadium. I can only really imagine a baseball stadium being more beautiful if Oscar Niemeyer designed one. (Craig drifts off into a fantasy world where baseball is popular in Brazil and Niemeyer designs a stadium in Rio, giving me just one more excuse to want to move there.)

I had a good chat with the guy who was checking no-one was sneaking in through the gate that was open for us smokers, so we could go outside, do our tobacco thing, and return to the game. He was happy to hear that I thought Dodger Stadium was the nicest. He told me how he loved it, how he would love to visit England (“The Hispanics love you Brits!”), but not as much as he’d like to visit Amsterdam. Insert his wink and laughter here.

After the anthem, the Dodgers came out to the sound of “Where The Streets Have No Name.” I like that song a lot. But hearing it when I’m not expecting to gets to me. I’m fine if I’ve selected it on my iPod or put the record on, but when it’s on the radio or something, it comes rushing up through me. It reminds me of my Dad. I’d been to see U2 just a couple of weeks before he died, and, well, it just reminds me of him a lot.

The game got off to a fairly frustrating start for the home fans. I felt sorry for Andruw Jones, the Dodgers’ centre fielder. Not only for having his name spelt wrong, but also for getting such a bad reception from his team’s own fans because of his poor form. Still, he earns a shitload of money, so I didn’t feel that sorry for him. But even after he came this close to a home run, they still booed him.

I got to see something I’ve not seen at a game before, too: someone in the crowd being hit by a bat flying out of the hitter’s hands. Nothing too serious, but it flew through the air at a decent clip, so the guy was pretty lucky. He got to keep the bat. Not sure about his teeth, though.

Eventually, the Dodgers scored a few runs, winning the game 3-2. I left the stadium to the strains of another song I love, Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” I took the free sample of Axe deodorant from a pretty lady in very short shorts, walked to the bus stop, knowing that I’ve only got one more baseball game left on this trip. On Monday in San Diego, which is where I’ll be heading on a train early tomorrow morning. Anyway, there’s more photos of the stadium on my Flickr, should you be interested.

Written by Craig

July 26th, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Getty was a rich man

with 2 comments

I went to the Getty Center yesterday. A load of art in some fancy buildings in the hills above Los Angeles. Maybe I’m museum-ed out, maybe I’ve just seen too much art on my trip so far, but I breezed through the place, pausing in front of the odd thing here and there, but mainly trying to work out where in the hell I was, because the buildings all seem to connect, but the map thingy makes it tough to know where you are. The buildings are quite nice. I didn’t like them as much as a couple of people I know thought I might. I dunno, there was something weird about the place. From the tram that takes you from the road, up the side of the hill to the museum; to the subduedly showy nature of the architecture. When all of that $1.2 billion’s worth of stuff is there in front of my eyes, my brain can’t help but get a bit Daily Mail about things and wonder if, for example, the J. Paul Getty Hospital or J. Paul Getty School wouldn’t have been a better way to spend the money. Still, the view of LA was pretty sweet, and the soap in the restroom smelled like marzipan.

Click here to see a big version of the picture.

On my way to the Getty, on the air-conditioning-less bus, plodding along down Sunset Boulevard, past all the big, gaudy houses in Beverly Hills, there was this young woman. She was sat a few feet in front of me, on one of the seats that face inwards onto the aisle. She sat down next to a woman with big hair, so I couldn’t really see her face. But, I could see her trousers and shoes and the back of her hair. From those pieces of the jigsaw, I put together a hot chick in my mind. But she spent the whole journey jabbering on and on on her cellphone. Blah blah blah for about twenty minutes. I got the occasional glance of her profile, and yes, she was a fox. On and on and on, though. I dunno how the woman sat next to her put up with it. She was talking about how she likes motels, cos she can stay there for a week or so and move on, “I think I fear apartments.” And that she “can’t do that unless Jesus… unless Jesus and God say it’s okay.” She then asked the bus driver if Marilyn Monroe ever took this bus. Rather than waiting for an answer, she said “she must’ve done,” before getting back to her phone conversation. Then, at the same stop where I was getting off, she looked behind her, out of the window, and then at me, and said, “this was my high school… why are we here?” She got off the bus after me, and I noticed she didn’t have a cellphone or a Bluetooth headset. She’d been talking to herself the whole time, and continued to do so.

Written by Craig

July 26th, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Warmth of the sun

with 4 comments

Public transport here is, well, it’s not stunning. It took me two hours to get from Hollywood to Venice Beach. As the crow flies, it’s 12 miles. Two hours. But it was worth it. I walked along the boardwalk, and after 10 minutes or so, decided that I should dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life. And, it was wet. But something else happened. I got a lump in my throat. This isn’t the first time this has happened on my trip, as I’ve mentioned before. This time, stood there with my feet and rolled-up jeans getting wet, looking around at the pretty girls, and the surfers waiting for their waves, it hit me. Hard. This is it. This is where all that music that I’ve loved for so long was born. This is what The Beach Boys were singing about.

Their music has been so important for so long. There is no better music out there. And there I was. “Surfer Girl” in my head. Lump in my throat.

I walked along the beach for an hour or so. It’s nice there. Then I went to Marina del Rey. As the name suggests, it’s a marina. Lots of expensive boats. I headed for Basin C-1100. Just a regular Tarmac pavement alongside the jetties. Now and again, I’d see a rich person on one of the boat or a Hispanic person cleaning a boat. The numbers got closer to 1100, and before too long I was stood there, where on 28 December 1983, Dennis Wilson drowned. (Here’s a news report on YouTube.) Maybe it was because I was still a bit, err, fragile in the head from being where I was, but the lump in my throat came back, and, well, my eyes welled up a little bit too. Perhaps it’s because I’ve wanted to visit this place for many many years now, and I was finally there. It’s nothing much to look at. It’s no different to all the other jetties around there. But it is different. One of the Beach Boys, one of the good Beach Boys, the only one who surfed; he died there. There’s no plaque. There’s a bench nearby, though, so I sat down for a little while, had a smoke, and left.

Dennis was my favourite Beach Boy. No matter how great Brian is, Dennis was the best. He looked the best, he had a superb beard, and he wrote some beautiful music. Back at the hotel, I put together a mix, if you’re interested. It’s got nine songs on it. Some Beach Boys songs that he wrote, and some solo stuff. As with other mixes, the Dennis Wilson mix will be online for a week.

Tracklisting: Brian talks about Dennis (Hawthorn, CA)/ Lady – Dennis Wilson and Rumbo (single)/ Be With Me – The Beach Boys (20/20)/ Barbara – The Beach Boys (Endless Summer Soundtrack)/ Moonshine – Dennis Wilson (Pacific Ocean Blue)/ Be Still – The Beach Boys (Friends)/ Carry Me Home – Dennis Wilson (unreleased)/ All Alone – Dennis Wilson (Bambu (The Caribou Sessions))/ Cuddle Up – The Beach Boys (Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”)/ Forever – The Beach Boys (Sunflower).

Now is also a good time to recommend the re-issue of his splendid solo album Pacific Ocean Blue. If you’re in any way interested in the Beach Boys, you won’t regret buying it.

I went back to the bus stop at Venice Beach, got on the first bus and went as far as Venice and Crenshaw. I knew the name Crenshaw from some hip hop songs. When the second bus came, I found that, aside from a clearly mental woman who was ranting, I was the only white person on the bus. But, I’m from the hood (Lincolnshire, motherfucker), so no worries there. I was sat next to a middle-aged guy who reeked of booze. He turned to me and asked, “Are you a redneck?” Gulp. I put on my Prince William-est voice, “No, I’m English.”

He smiled, pointed to my neck, and said, “Cos you got a red neck!” He held out his fist for a fist-pump. We then shook hands, he introduced himself as Aaron. He was from Memphis and we talked about the music from his neck of the woods. After every artist I mentioned, he sang a snatch of a chorus out loud. The woman across the way joined in and asked me about British music I liked. The Beatles? Yes. The Stones? Yes. Elton John? Yes. George Michael? Err. Kenny G? (Not sure that he’s English, but) No. It was a fun bus ride. And a good day.

Written by Craig

July 25th, 2008 at 2:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Hollywood

with 4 comments

I’m not sure if you know this, because they seem to keep it on the so-called “down low,” but Hollywood is where they make a lot of movies. And if you make the effort, go out of your way a little bit, you can see some stars on the pavement with the names of famous entertainers in them. Here are some of them.

Of course, I’m messing about. It’s Hollywood. Woo hoo! There’s the Capitol Records building. There’s that Chinese Theatre. There’s a crap load of red carpet ready for The X-Files premiere. There’s some blokes dressed up as superheroes, Star Wars characters, and Johnny-Depp-as-a-pirate. There’s some tramps stinking and sleeping next to a tipped-over wheelchair and a brown-paper-bag-wrapped bottle of booze. Yay for Hollywood.

You go into a Starbucks and there’s a couple of dudes with a laptop going through the lines of a script they are writing, and at another table, a dude with a legal pad writing a script of his own. You see that Hollywood is a sponge that sucks up a vast amount of the USA’s beautiful women and has them all walking around in clothes that make one go a bit weak at the knees.

It’s just an amazing headfuck of cultural references. It’s all so familiar, but to be in the middle of it all, blows my mind a bit. Something as simple as seeing the street sign for Vine Street makes me giddy with joy, being as it is, the title of a Randy Newman song, that’s also been covered by two of my other favourite artists, Harry Nilsson and Van Dyke Parks. Lulu also did a version, apparently, but I’ve not heard that one.

There’s chaps selling burned CDs of their rapping. One guy asked me what kind of music I liked. Not wanting to be hassled, I told him “country and western.” He wasn’t put off, told me I had style (ha!), and he had one of those smiles that probably gets him out of trouble. I gave him a couple of dollars for a CD, and he told me that when he blows up, I could tell my friends I’ve met a real life rap star. So I’m telling you now. If Troof Serum (I assume that’s his real name) does indeed “blow up,” well, I met him. Here’s his MySpace page.

That was Wednesday. In the evening I went to The Comedy Store on Sunset Strip. Another cab ride, another fascinating driver. This time an Armenian guy who was once stationed with the Soviet army in East Germany. The Comedy Store has a fair bit of history, being a place that has seen the likes of Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Andy Kaufman, Gary Shandling, and Jerry Seinfeld perform there. I went on a night when the biggest name was Pauly Shore. And aside from the first couple of not-very-funny comedians, he was kinda the worst one of the night. His act seems to be “I’m Pauly Shore. I like to fuck women. I’m not as famous as I used to be.” But, there were some funny people, and, of course, the more I drank, the funnier some of them seemed. What I learned: comedians think that German accents are funny. Comedians like to fuck women. Comedians would prefer not to use condoms cos they suck. Obama. McCain. Gay accents are funny. Drunk people are asking to be insulted. Thankfully for me, I’m a quiet drunk, and I was sat near the back, so didn’t once get asked where I was from. I pitied the poor Moroccan woman in the front row. Several comedians took a shine to her – she was pretty – and seemed to use the stage as a place to begin the courting process. I felt a tad uncomfortable at times, but still, what a job, eh? Standing there in front of people who’ve paid money so they can laugh, and it’s your job to make them laugh. Balls of steel, those comedians. Anyway, I enjoyed Dov Davidoff (he did some nice, clever, more thoughtful stuff, as well as dick jokes), Chris D’Elia (does a fine impression of a deer being shot), Ari Shaffir (does some good stuff about blow jobs which I’ll not ruin by mis-remembering here), and Mike Faverman (who just laid into the drunk people with a nice amount of venom which had my shoulders chuckling like crazy being, as they were, out of the firing line).

I stumbled out, past the comedians who all seemed to be gathered outside the club chatting amongst themselves, got a cab, got some Thai take-out food (in one of those white boxes! like! in! the! movies!), and felt a bit sick after shovelling egg rolls and noodles down my neck. Serves me right, really.

Written by Craig

July 25th, 2008 at 1:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Stupid stupid stupid

with 2 comments

The idea amused me, anyway…

Written by Craig

July 24th, 2008 at 1:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Los Angeles

with one comment

After a lovely few days in San Francisco, it was time to move on. So, rucksack packed, backpack packed, headphones on, Coldplay pumpin’ (cos I’m from the streets, bitch), and through security I went. I’d remembered to Odor-Eater my trainers so I didn’t worry about stinking the place up with six-months of traipsing wafting into the precious nostrils of my fellow travellers. A coffee and a sandwich later, and I’m up up and away on the back of a flying ostrich. I was a bit surprised to see that I’d be flying on the back of a flightless bird, but, I trust Delta to do me right, and they strapped my backpack onto his back, and I held on around his neck. He was called Clive, and the flight was lovely. Getting a bit thirsty, we looked at a map, and saw Soda Lake and agreed that a Dr. Pepper would be spot on. Damn it if it wasn’t an alkali lake; all salty and not at all refreshing. So we detoured to Lake Cachuma, and gulped down the water and played Hungry Hippos with some real life hippopotamuses that had fallen out of an aeroplane on their way from Africa to a zoo in the Arctic Circle. We used cabbages as balls. I beat Clive, but he’d never played Hungry Hippos before, so I tried not to gloat.

We said goodbye to the hippos, put on our dust masks, and flew into smoggy Los Angeles. I gave Clive a hug and a tip, and got on the shuttle bus that would take me to Hollywood. The driver had two cell phones. One or other seemed to go off every couple of minutes. He didn’t answer either. They both had incredibly annoying ringtones. And through the dirty window, and through the blanket of smog, I could see the Hollywood sign. I’m in Los Fucking Angeles! The bus dropped off six of its eight passengers before me. I said goodbye to the last guy in there, and he just glared at me, obviously miffed to be the last guy. Anyway, here I am. In the rather basic Hollywood Inn Express on Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States of America, North America, Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, the Universe. This really is the kind of hotel you see in the movies. A two-level U-shape around a pool with a moody fucker behind a glass pane in the reception office.

One of the big changes I’ve made to my life since I’ve been travelling is mentally finding myself doing stuff rather than thinking about it. I felt like going out and seeing a baseball game, and rather than wait until today – which I’d originally planned to do – I worked out that I’d kinda have enough time to make it to Anaheim to see the cumbersomely-named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play the Cleveland Indians. (In retrospect, I should’ve waited; having seen a 3-2 game, instead of today’s 14-11 game.) Fairly soon, I’d begun to regret my decision to not hire a car for my time here. By the end of the night, I’d spent over $60 on taxis and trains. Bugger.

I forgot to take photos of Union Station, but I’ll be back there on Sunday, so I’ll do it then. It’s a lovely-looking place. And the guy at the ticket desk was a lovely fellow. I asked him how close the train station was to the ballpark, and he gave me the answer and wished he was going to the game. We had a nice little chat about the Angels’ season so far, and I was away, on the 40-odd minute journey to Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

I’ve seen this place on telly (well, the Internet) many times. I’ve always hated it. And it was good to see the stadium for real, because that hatred got the rubber stamp of authentic criticism. It’s a pleasant place to watch baseball, don’t get me wrong. Decent food (the milkshake at the Ruby’s Diner there was ace); nice views of the field; great views of the, err, freeway; by far and away the best-looking women I’ve ever seen at a sporting event; and you can walk around the whole stadium without missing any action on the field; but, grrrr, it’s that bloody rockery, with it’s dumb water features. It’s so Disney. And it really really bugs me that they let off fireworks when a home team player hits a home run. So I was glad that the first home run of the night was by the first Cleveland batter, Grady Sizemore. A chorus of groans and boos was lovely to hear, especially compared to the ostentatious, showy, shoom-bang of fireworks when the Angels’ Jeff Mathis scored one later.

The national anthem was sung by some lass who had her eye on a singing career with all the Mariah-ish dancing around the notes that she did, and it was sung a good ten minutes before the game actually began. Seems weird to me. Aside from the rather clanging indoctrination of national pride that it seems to represent, I would think that it should be the signal that the game is about to start, not a signal that the big screen is gonna show a big compilation of past Angels glories to a soundtrack of “Enter Sandman,” especially as that song, people of Anaheim, quite clearly – in the baseball world – belongs to Mariano Rivera.

But like most other stadiums I’ve been to, of the people I talked to, they were all nice. An old fella who came along when I was smoking in the designated area, and asked if this was where we could smoke before seeing the big white-on-red DESIGNATED SMOKING AREA sign, and doing a “duh, I’m a doofus” face. We had a great chat with him mainly talking about how the modern world is too cushioning: you can’t smoke anywhere, kids gotta wear helmets on their bicycles, etc.

There was the couple next to me who had a tiny baby with them, and all the people around us, who seemed to also be season ticket holders, greeting the couple and their new ‘un passionately. And just in front of me, there was a father and his two pre-teen daughters. The eldest of the two might have some sort of mental illness. She was cute as an especially cute button, she didn’t talk much, but she yelped and screamed excitedly a lot, and had wandering hands. I had to alert her dad to the fact that she kept turning around to eat the peanut shells out of the spilled beer puddle near my feet. And when I came back from buying the milkshake, she grabbed it off the floor to take a sip. Another time, she put her hand flat on the head of a bald guy directly in front of her. I nearly choked on my milkshake with laughter.

What with not knowing much about the public transport in Los Angeles, I had to leave the game with an inning to go so I could catch the last train, at 10.18pm, back to the city. I stood on the platform, with the floodlit stadium across the car park in front of me, listening to the roars of the crowd as the last three Indians hitters were got out. Then I watched the fireworks that saluted the home team’s victory.

It had been a long day, what with the ostrich flight and rushing around the sprawl of LA. I hopped in a taxi at Union Station, and spent the next 15 minutes with Tim, the chattiest cab driver I’ve ever known. Within a minute of the journey he’d shook my hand and introduced himself. And he spent way too much of the journey with his head turned around as he jabbered away. His opening salvo was that “sometimes when you’re right, it ain’t right.” Meaning, if you know you are right, but don’t want to embarrass the other person, it’s not a nice feeling. Then he went on an odd tangent: that people try to trip you up in conversation, “like, they ask where the cameras are in your bedroom.”

What. The. Fuck?

He went on, “because they know you’ve been masturbating in bed while your wife is asleep.”

I repeat: What. The. Fuck?

His explanation for masturbating was, biz
arrely, that “you don’t always wanna give your shit up, knowhatimean? That shit is expensive!” By “shit” he meant “semen.”

I nodded, laughed, and got back to wondering what the hell he was talking about. We took a wrong turn along the way, but he stopped the meter a minute or so before we reached my hotel because he felt bad about it. I paid up, we shook hands, and he wished me a great stay in LA. Back in my hotel room, I gulped down some red Gatorade (I’ve given up trying to work out what flavour the various Gatorade colours are), and I slept the sleep of someone who needed lots of sleep.

Written by Craig

July 23rd, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Brian and Mike were right

without comments

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZDlnU5zwwE]

Written by Craig

July 23rd, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

San Francisco

with 8 comments

San Francisco is lovely. I’ve spent the last few days hanging out with Vicky and Wade, and being a bit touristy, and, err, not blogging much. I’ve seen Coit Tower; saw a stone staircase dedicated to Falco, yes that Falco; drove down that hill (see previous post); ate wonderful pizza at Golden Boy; had a look around City Lights Bookstore, and resisted the urge to buy “Howl” even though I’ve not read it; had a beer in Vesuvio where yer Beats used to drink; and that was just my Thursday evening.

Here’s Coit Tower in all its building-on-a-hill glory.

Here’s Golden Boy Pizza’s neon sign. It’s one of the mysteries in life – for me – that somehow some people can make bad pizza. I mean, how difficult can it really be? Anyway, the pizza here was super duper.

And here’s the Falco Staircase.

Friday, I went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s nice. Like most bridges, it connects two pieces of land so that people don’t have to attach their cars to some rope and drag them through the water. That was swiftly followed by nice little jaunt along the Pacific coast (I’ve still not dipped my toes in that ocean; must rectify that in LA) on our way to Haight-Ashbury, to visit the touristy hippy street. Not much evidence of real hippies left, I’m afraid; just a more tie-dyed hash-pipe postcard version of it’s past glories. Still, it had to be seen, and it duly was.

Don’t you look nice, pet?

The damn thing was closed. Bugger. Still, it’s pretty.

Just a street sign.

On Saturday afternoon, I got to be a part of one of those Hollywood things you hear about all the time when studios are bragging: the opening weekend box office receipts. I paid my $8.50 to see The Dark Knight, so, y’know, Hollywood would’ve only made $154,999,991.50 without me. Buying the tickets was easy on a little machine, but when we got up to the area where the cinema itself was, there was an enormo queue to get in, because of the United States’ weird lack of assigned seats. I wonder why they do this here? Everywhere else in the world where I’ve been to a cinema (UK, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina) you get a ticket with your chosen seat number on it, but not here. And it was by far the fullest cinema I’ve ever been in. Which, of course, meant it also broke the record (in my personal life) for the most horrendous conglomeration of food smells in a cinema, too. But, credit where it is due: no cell phones went off, and there was bugger all talking. Although a couple of people were sending SMSs in front of us. String ‘em up, I say. Plus, there was one guy at the end of the row who seemed to be high on laughing gas. He found things funny which weren’t really chuckle-worthy. Eventually, at a point where something on the screen blew up, a neighbour of his had a go at him, “Dude, what the fuck is so funny? Jesus Christ!” After that I never heard his laughter again. Even when stuff was funny. But anyway, the film is great. A tad long for my buttocks, not that the film had any saggy bits, it was just quite long. And, well, without wishing to be too sentimental or owt, he is magnificent in it.

We had a nice wander through Chinatown after the film, and ate at a place called Brandy Ho’s. Snigger. Good Hunan food. I had the General Chicken which despite sounding like it might be a) quite vague, unspecific pieces of chicken, or b) some sort of cartoon army cockerel, was actually very very tasty. Food needs washing down, so we went to two lovely places afterwards. Tosca Cafe is a beautiful 40s-ish type place (I took no photos so here’s a Flickr link), and Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum, a little bar where, so they say, them same boozy Beats used to booze, and – when we were there – some dude was playing a piano.. just like in the movies! After all that, we returned to Vicky and Wade’s house and, err, watched the telly.

Well done on reading so far. There’s no prize for carrying on, but know that I appreciate those of you that do. Especially considering we’re hitting the baseball section of the post which I’m sure must bore the skin off you Europeans.

Another Major League Baseball park named after a company. AT&T; Park. Home of the San Francisco Giants. Who aren’t playing too well this season. But, one held out hope because their young, cutie, ace pitcher, Tim Lincecum was, ahem, on the mound. (I still feel like a dick saying slang-y baseball stuff in an English accent.) Wade and I had good seats courtesy of Vicky. The place where she works has a bunch of tickets, so we got to sit in some quite-near-the-field seats with the rich wankers. The food was good, too. Expensive, but good. A nice bratwurst hot dog, garlic fries (fucking hell, they were tasty), and a beer: all for $25 when you throw in a couple of dollars tip.

The opponents, the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t realise that I liked seeing home teams win, and only went and beat the Giants. I felt sorry for Lincecum after the week he’s had. I wanted to see him win. Pesky Brewers. And it doesn’t take much to make me a bit sour about a team, especially when the handful of Brewers fans sitting in the same section as me were being a bit obnoxious about their three wins over the Giants. Still, I did get to see a game in which two pop stars played: Corey Hart and Brian Wilson.

View from my seat.

Prince Fielder. Great baseball name, that.

A wedge of baseball.

Baseball guy.

The NL West flags.

Wisconsin guy.

McCovey Cove, j
ust beyond the right field of AT&T; Park, where canoe weirdos sit and wait for home run balls to splash into the water. To date, there have only been 47 “splash hits.” So, one can only imagine that the folks in those canoes are losers with way too much time on their hands.

A nice view of the Bay.

Sunday evening, after the game, we met up with one of Vicky’s friends, a restaurant critic. Thus we got free food. Hooray. But it was Ethiopian food. Boo. (I’ll give you a moment here to do the Billy Crystal joke in your head …….

……. done it? Good, let’s carry on.) The deal, when one is dining with a restaurant critic, seems to be we all have to order something different, and they get to taste it all and then the expense account pays for it. I’ve not eaten Ethiopian food before (okay, I’m biting my lip now, trying not to do variations on the Billy Crystal joke), and it comes on this enormo tray (…) with a kinda bready mat on the bottom and some other rolled up bits of this bready stuff. It looked like a beige sponge. It was a bit weird. Not sure I like it. The chicken-y stuff I had was nice, though. Can you see why I’m not a restaurant critic?

Even I’m bored of doing this blog entry now, so three cheers for you, dear reader. But, it’s 3.10am, and I’m determined to finish before I turn in for the night. I’m sleeping on an air mattress here, and, well, it’s bloody comfy. I’m amazed, really. Whenever you stay with a friend and they say, “I’ve got an air mattress!” your heart sinks, doesn’t it? It’s like they’re saying, “Sleep well, sucka!” But this one is like what the Care Bear version of an air mattress would be: a nice comfy mattress of air.

So, Monday came and knowing it was my last full day in this Sanest of Franciscos, I wanted to get out and about and see some stuff. Got on the BART train and went to a museum… oh bugger, it’s Monday. Museums the world over are closed on Mondays. So, a big chunk of my day went for a Burton. I had a walk around where all the piers are, though, all the way to the rather-tacky Fisherman’s Wharf. Aside from a cracking Double-Double at In-N-Out Burger; Musée Mécanique, a nice museum full of old penny arcade machines; and a ride hanging off the edge of a cable car; apart from those three little things, I felt sight-seeing fatigue. I know: you’re playing the world’s smallest violin right now, huh? Less than two weeks left now, and, well, I guess it is about time I went back to some sort of normal life. But not before I go to Los Angeles. Yay for me.

Written by Craig

July 22nd, 2008 at 3:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Jesus Christ loves you

with 3 comments

If you’re planning on standing outside a baseball stadium holding a sign telling people that Jesus loves them, you might want to check what is painted on the pavement before you decide where to stand.

Written by Craig

July 21st, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Clouds

with 3 comments

Here’s something that was very cool: seeing the clouds hitting the big column-y thing (what’s the proper word?) of the Golden Gate Bridge.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orodJgtKzJM]

Written by Craig

July 20th, 2008 at 11:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

That street

with 2 comments

This is me going down Lombard Street on roller skates…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpNtobPmRUA]

Oh, alright, I lied; I was in a car.

Written by Craig

July 19th, 2008 at 11:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Coliseum

with 4 comments

Baseball stadium number 11: the McAfee Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics (and football’s Oakland Raiders). Sadly, I’ll be seeing no game here. The A’s schedule meant that I would’ve had to leave the Oregon Country Fair early to get to see a game. But, I’ve kinda convinced myself that going on the stadium tour is an acceptable alternative and does count as an official part of my trip. Maybe it needs an asterisk, but, it still counts.

It was a bit of a worry that I’d actually get on the tour or not, though. I emailed them several days ago regarding a place on the tour, I got an automated reply asking for my details, and then, err, nothing. It was a bit of a worry because the website clearly says “no walk-ups on Tour Dates.” Undeterred, I walked-up. Well, I got the BART train, which, to me, is a fantastic-looking system, with its chunky, angular trains that look like airbrushed sci-fi depictions of a better world.

At the stadium, I went to the ticket office, and, well, the no walk-ups thing was easily got around, seeing as though there was only one other person on the tour. And it was a fun tour. I’ve only been on one other stadium tour, and that was way more polished, mainly, I suppose, cos it was the Yankees, and their tours are understandably very popular.

Donnie, our tour guide, began by giving us a calendar with pictures of A’s players cuddling up to puppies, and took us around the restaurant area, the expensive corporate boxes, and then into the guts of the stadium. That was pretty cool.

We got to see the indoor batting cage that the teams use, and he gave us each a ball from the big tub in there. Yay! I’ve got me a baseball that Real Life Proper Baseball Players have hit and scuffed up! Onwards, and we’re in the visitor’s clubhouse. That’s “changing room” in English.

That place must be a bit stinky on game days, and the DVD selection is, well, it’s not gonna be stimulating many minds, let’s put it like that.

They have a kitchen area, just like any regular office, too. Except this one has a crap load of water, Gatorade, bubble gum, candy, ice cream, and enough sunflowers seed to, if they were planted, make North America look really yellow on Google Earth.

Donnie, being a relaxed kinda tour guide, took an ice cream, and offered us both one. Yes please. Mmmm, Choco Taco

Onwards, and we’re in the seats behind home plate, and then, sitting in the dugout.

There was loads of bubble gun stuck underneath the bench. And one rather grim-looking toilet there. OMG! OMG! That’s where Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi might’ve one day done a poo! *Flappy hands near face*

We sat there having a chat about the A’s and baseball in general, then went up to the press box, and that was about it. An enjoyable tour. The other tour-taking person then revealed herself to be a journalist from San Diego on a trip taking in the stadium tours of California’s five MLB stadiums. Donnie’s brain seemed to visibly have its cogs clicking over what he’d said during the tour, and she and I bid farewell to the fella and chatted about this and that until we were back on the BART train.

Written by Craig

July 19th, 2008 at 4:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized