The holidays are coming up and you know what that means: time to plug my book again. It’s been weeks! WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED is that one stocking stuffer you have to have – even the ebook version. The Kindle/Nook/iPad/Sony Reader version is still only $2.99. Go here for all formats. Go right here for Kindle. It's currently the number one travel book in Tennessee!
WTHAM? TIHS is a collection of humorous travelogues culled from ten years of curmudgeonly sojourns. What follows today are brief excerpts from several of the entries designed to make you want to order and read more. Number ONE in Tennessee, people! Laugh and enjoy.
BIG SUR October 2007
Twice a year my wife has to go up to Berkeley for an academic conference, so we took the opportunity to have a romantic night in Big Sur, visit our son in Silicon Valley, and have a leisurely weekend getting lost thanks to the Avis GPS system.
Rented my first Prius at the San Jose airport. For an extra $10 a day you can get one with Oregon plates so you’ll really look like you’re going green. It would’ve been nice if Avis had included an owner’s manual. Questions I never solved: why did the little exclamation point warning light come on? What does it mean? And how do you get the car out of reverse?
Big Sur is absolutely breathtaking. And the drive to it on winding single-lane California Highway 1 offers spectacular views if you can just get by the traffic, gusty winds, septic tank trucks, construction, vertigo, panic attacks, drizzles, car sickness, and bikers.
Since the area is so stunningly gorgeous they take their New Age star gazing, crystals, plain-aired painting, scented candles, and Yanni very seriously. That’ll change when Walmart moves in.
Stayed at the Ventana Inn & Spa, which is my idea of “roughing it.” A plasma TV and wireless internet is a must for this hearty outdoorsman. Sure the fireplace wood was pre-chopped, treated, and in a convenient burlap bag, but I had to light it. Well…actually my wife lit it.
Did not sign up for the mushroom hunting expedition, which reminds me, lots of old hippies still make Big Sur their cave. They can all show you Bobby Darin’s former trailer and where Jack Kerouac – all hopped-up on espresso – wrote his greatest novel (until it was explained to him that someone else had already written Little Women).
The drive back up to the Bay Area was equally treacherous/lovely.
Swung by storied Pebble Beach golf course in Monterey. I could almost hear the ghost of Bing Crosby saying to his caddy, “Hey, hand me a five iron, willya? Think I’ll beat Gary senseless with it.”
Drove past Santa Cruz. Lovely woodsy area. In California anytime you have a region with more than one hundred trees it is required by law that there be a Santa Claus Lane.
There is not one Coffee Bean in the entire South Bay. However, Matt says there is one in Shanghai.
Unfortunately, I was one week too late for the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. The Folsom Street Fair is a celebration of leather culture and sexual fetishism. There were the usual couples leading each other down the street with dog collars and leashes, public floggings, men in thong underwear playing Twister, women dressed in teeny silver dresses shaped like martini glasses and bra cups decorated like green olives, and for the shoppers, stalls selling such must-have items as baseball caps reading “Master” or “Slave,” silk ropes for being tied up, and a book entitled Dungeon Emergencies and Supplies.
It was a hectic but fun four days. And to answer your next question: 40.3 mpg. But I understand you get even better mileage if you’re in drive.
MAUI February 2009
Another exclusive feature is their Grand Spa where a massage is just part of the package. Unfortunately the other part is not a "happy ending". It's an absurd beginning. You're invited to go through a series of kelp baths, loofah sponge baths (administered by a guy named Thor), sea salt exfoliation treatment, and a Japanese Furo bath. You're then offered a selection of massages. My favorite: they pour hot oil on your forehead. All this for only five times what a normal massage would cost (with a happy ending). Plus, there is a handout on "spa etiquette". Among the entries: "ladies on their menstrual cycle are asked not to utilize the Terme.” That’s actually good advice for anywhere.
The hotel’s thatched hut tropical lagoon restaurant is actually named Humuhumunukunukuapua's. Annie says when she goes on Survivor that's going to be her tribe's name.
You can’t walk ten feet in any direction without some jogger calling out “on your left!”
Every time I return to Hawaii I am more convinced it’s the most spectacular place on earth.
Imagine the beauty of Lost without the polar bears, mysterious smoke monsters, the “Others,” abductions, explosions, killer force fields, flying spears, illegal medical experiments, and that annoying couple they buried alive.
Do you like great pizza? Then go to Hawaii. Matteo’s on Maui. The reverse is not true. You can’t go to Italy for scrumptious poi.
You can’t help but reflect on December 7th, especially if you’re in Hawaii. When our kids were little we took them on the U.S.S. Arizona tour. Annie pretty much summed it up. “You look down, you feel sad, you go.” I would only add: “You remember”.
I know this is an awkward transition but you MUST try Sansei in Kihei for the greatest sushi this side of our former enemies.
During one of the many beautiful weddings at the Grand Wailea’s too-cute-for-words chapel, the gorgeous bride walked down the aisle, heard the organ music, the applause from her beloved friends and family, and a guy yelling “on your left!”
This is not a big selling point to me: Alex Air –the only DOORS OFF helicopter tour company on Maui.
Did not see the sunrise at Haleakala. But did get a report from someone who did. A bus picks you up 2:30 in the morning. You drive an hour and a half to the top of this massive shield volcano. By top I mean 10,023 feet. You get out in your shorts, flip flops, and aloha shirt -- it’s pitch black, and 22 degrees (literally). When the sun comes up (two hours later) it will rise to 37. Finally the dawn. It’s breathtaking, awesome, and your teeth are chattering like castanets. You don’t want to even think about the possibility that there’s a YouTube video of this. You get on the bus and either go home or into shock.
For more fun you can bike down the outside of the volcano… like a rocket on a two-lane winding road that hugs a cliff that’s steeper than those in Road Runner cartoons. Bikers must also negotiate tour buses, vans, and tourists in unfamiliar rental cars. In 2007 there were three biker fatalities. Bike tours (when they’re not suspended) are $100 - $150 dollars. Bring a parachute.
Makawao is another quaint attraction. Up country, it’s a little cowboy town, specializing in glass blowing – just like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid used to do. I kept looking for the jail and saloon but alas they’ve given way to art galleries and a market that makes fresh donuts. But get there early. They go fast. There’s usually a shoot-out in the town square for the last cruller.
There’s no longer a sheriff, but Makawao does have two hypnotherapists and a certified colon specialist.
Every restaurant in Hawaii serves ribs. Even the vegan ones. I bet that colon specialist does a bang-up business.
I wonder how many vacationers think “wi-fi” is a Hawaiian word.
Every lounge singer on Maui thinks she’s Norah Jones. I miss the days when they all thought they were Joni Mitchell.
Attention criminals! Stay out of the Foodland shopping center! Right between the Rainbow Attic and Aroma’s Italian restaurant is the Kehei police department. My guess is all three close at 10.
Maui onions cost more on Maui than in Los Angeles.
On the other hand, you get some pretty good deals on wine at Longs Drugs.
PHILADELPHIA October 2009
Philadelphia is also one of Hollywood’s favorite locations. It’s been the setting for Mannequin, Rocky, and The Sixth Sense. The Philadelphia Story however, was filmed in Hollywood.
Meant to get out to the Mutter Museum, founded originally to educate doctors of the 19th Century and current HMO’s. Big attractions include conjoined twins and a catalog of foreign objects removed from bodies. Bring the kids!
The first few nights a Nor’easter blew through town and it was colder than a witch's mooseknuckle. But then the sun came out and temperatures rose from 30 to 70 degrees. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, but when it is. it’s glorious!
I love that the area has regional delicacies – hoagies, soft pretzels, Goldenberg’s peanut chews, Tastykakes, and the most famous of all: Philly Cheese Steaks -- thinly sliced slippery gristle and melted cheese whiz on a long roll, yet somehow it tastes great. But only in Philadelphia. Everywhere else it’s a grease trap on a bun. There is much debate over who serves the best cheese steak, but many locals contend it’s Jim’s.
And then there’s Scrapple. This is a mush of all the pork parts not used elsewhere. Considering what they use in hot dogs, that pretty much leaves the sphincter, doesn’t it?
See the Liberty Bell. Yes, it’s a real touristy thing to do, but it’s worth it.
This is the birthplace of two major revolutions – the American and shopping. It is in nearby Westchester that QVC is located, which is why I thought I saw Marie Osmond at baggage claim waiting at the carousel for 42,000 dolls to come down the chute.
For some reason taxis, and even buses, have the right-of-way over ambulances in the inner City of Brotherly Love.
The Phillies had a great slogan last year: “Why Can’t Us?”
People say L.A. is weird, but in Sunday night’s Phillies/Dodger playoff game the Phightins’ former catcher, Darren Daulton, threw out the first pitch. He currently talks to lizards, preaches unconventional theories regarding human existence, and time travels. Even Lauren Conrad from The Hills doesn’t do that.