Charlotte with Oniz…

ImageI left DC, regrettably, though I don’t think I could live there, I could definitely spend at least another month wandering around looking at all of the monuments and museums…

I spent most of yesterday driving from DC to Charlotte, NC, which is where I am now, staying with my friend Oniz and his dad and step-mom. His dad has a degree in chemistry, same as me, and has all sorts of nerdy gadgets all over the house, that I love. His step-mom speaks less English than I do Spanish, but she is really sweet and hospitable.

Charlotte seems to be quite the double-edged sword of a city. When I first got off the high way and stopped for gas there were homeless people begging outside of the gas station. Inside, the cashiers stood behind bullet-proof glass. There was also a minivan getting gas, a dent covering every inch of its surface that wasn’t plastered with computer print-outs of President Obama. There were flags hanging off the roof and coolers hanging out the back. I drove less than I mile from there and I’m staying at Oniz’s, in the ‘burbs, trees all around, in a single family house.

Tonight we went to Uptown Charlotte where all of the restaurants, and museums, etc. are. We walked around looked at all of the shops and Christmas lights. Then we met a man, who was probably a drug dealer, who smoked us up and basically gave us a tour of Uptown Charlotte. He recommended a place called The Common Market, which was a cross between a deli, a bar, and a convenience store. It was really cool, they played indy music, had tables to sit and eat at, and Oniz and I drank $2 forties and had deli sandwiches. It was definitely a place worth seeing, especially, if you’re trying to see Charlotte on a budget.

 

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Washington D.C.!!!!!

The dog-sitting gig ended Monday morning. It went by pretty fast, and was really good money, but after 4 days I was glad to get out of there, not smell like a dog, and get back to exploring. After leaving there I drove into D.C. and have spent the last two days wandering around and seeing all the touristy things to see in D.C. (and there are a lot of them!). I’m back at Minh’s, exploiting his hospitality.

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Me and Abe

The first day I went and saw the Washington Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, The Capitol Building, The White House, The American Art Museum and probably lots others that I can’t remember. The architecture is beautiful, just like you see on TV, but its crazy to see how big everything really is up close.

A misconception some have, or at least I had, was that all of these buildings and monuments are close together. That is false. They are miles apart, so I did lots of walking yesterday, but that was fine because it was nice out and there is so much to see everywhere!

Today was not so nice, it was cold and wet most of the day. Because of this I decided to do museums first. I went and saw the Freer Gallery of Art, because Minh recommended it. It was Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern art mostly. The Freer Museum is named after Charles Freer who was a millionaire American who died in 1923 and donated his collection, more than 8,000 pieces of art. The coolest thing in there was the Peacock room, which was a large room painted mostly deep blue and gold and with pottery lining the wall. It was very awesome.

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The Peacock Room!

After the Freer Museum I went to the Museum of Natural History, which was my favorite museum I saw while I was here. It had exhibits on the ocean, on animals, bugs, dinosaurs, and gems. The hope diamond is there as well, which was not as big as I thought it would be, but looks a bit like the necklace from Titanic.

After that was off to the National Zoo. Coolest bit was the pandas. No question.

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Panda!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Wilson Wang

The capital also has awesome happy hours. I went out and ate and drank both last night and tonight at happy hour. Depending on the restaurants specials last from anywhere from 2pm to 9pm and some places have half priced apps and drinks, so you can have 2 apps and 2 drinks for around $20, which is right up my alley.  Last night was Cieba, which had $5 apps and drinks. I had a couple mojitos garnished with sugar cane which weren’t huge, but were good mojitos. The food was not as good, I had crab meat jalapeño  poppers wrapped in ham. The concept was good, but there was WAY too much jalapeño so that’s all you could taste. I also had chicken quesidillas, which were good, but nothing special.

Tonight I tried the Uptown Tap House. For the same $5 I had a Bluecoat Gin Ricky that was twice the size of last night’s mojito. I also had half priced apps, boneless buffalo wings, which were coated in a really good hot sauce, and spinach-artichoke dip. Both were very basic, but really good and filled me up. My bill was less than $20 before tip.

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Mojito @ Cieba

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Bluecoat Gin Ricky @ Uptown Tap

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Boneless Buffs and Spartichoke Dip @ Uptown Tap

People say D.C. is so expensive to visit, but I disagree. The metro (which is awesome, very convenient and easy to use) is not expensive and will take you anywhere in the city that you need to go. There is street food all over the place, which is good for lunch and not expensive. Almost anything that you could want to do during the day is free! All of the monuments are free to visit, all 19 Smithsonian Museums are free, and there is no possible way that you could even make time to visit them all unless you were here for more than a week. If you stick to happy hours for dinner and drinks, which is easy, it can be done in a cost-effective way. Almost every place has a happy hour and its easy to find what you’re looking for using www.dchappyhour.com, which was very useful to me during my visit here. I’m sure hotels are expensive, but you can save money everywhere else.

I am exhausted tonight from all the walking so Minh and I are staying in and drinking Henderick’s with blueberries, our own little invention, which is really good.

So many pictures of buildings and monuments…

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Thanksgiving Weekend

After leaving Lili in Newark I drove to Philadelphia and spent the day wandering around there. Its a very cool city full of lots of history and well-maintained historical buildings. However, it was the day before Thanksgiving, so there were lots of field trips and people around, and some of the monuments had very long lines.

The City!

The Consitution Center

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

After I spent the day in Philly I headed to Arlington, VA right outside DC. I was surprised, but thankful, that I didn’t hit any holiday traffic on my 3 hour drive. In Arlington I stayed with my friend Minh at his apartment. He made Sangria for my arrival and then I made us some delicious Hendericks martinis. Naturally, we feeling pretty alright so we decided we should spent the night before Thanksgiving at a restaurant/strip club… which was very odd (as was one of his room-mates). The restaurant ran like a normal restaurant but with strippers on the side… very odd, but fun. The food was good and I was drunk, so it all worked.

Thanksgiving morning I went and interviewed for a gig I found on Craigslist to dog sit for Thanksgiving weekend. When I arrived, the gig was not as I originally expected, but its good money so I took it. Since then I have been staying in a woman’s house is DC helping her care for 30 dogs for Thanksgiving weekend!! She runs a cageless kennel, so there are literally 30 dogs running around this house right now. And she feeds me. In fact, her mom came over and cooked a huge thanksgiving dinner, which was awesome.

Thanksgiving Dinner!

After Thanksgiving Dinner!

Since then I have been here, just outside DC. I’ve been taking care of dogs, lurking the internet and hanging out. Its a very relaxed gig that includes free wine and getting smoked up a couple of times a day. This place reminds me why I would not want to own a dog, however, there is one dog, Seve, who I would really like to kidnap and take on the road.

Seve!

Every night I sleep on a huge leather sofa surrounded and covered by dogs. Most of them are pretty cool though. Here are some more of the dogs… mostly for Katy Harrington

Wandering around New Jersey

I shipped out of Hopatcong yesterday morning, leaving behind Kara and Craig and they’re zoo of animals. I will miss Paisley though… we became buds. Image

I spent yesterday wandering around Morristown, which is a nice town full of restaurants, churches, and historical sites. Morristown’s claim to fame is that it is where George Washington spent two winters during the Revolutionary War. But they have some big, beautiful stone churches as well. It was cool to just walk aroundImage

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I finished up in Morristown in the middle of the day and headed towards Newark, where I am staying with my friend Lili. She worked til nine last night so I went to Jersey Gardens, which is the biggest mall I ever seen. Its an outlet mall and it has EVERYTHING. I’m trying to be frugal and I was good, only bought one thing, a sick Quiksilver duffel bag, which I needed anyways.

Despite everyone warning me that Newark was this very dangerous place, I haven’t seen any of that at all. I will admit, I’m one of 3 white people that I’ve seen since arriving, but everyone has been really nice. Lili tells me that its because we’re in Ironbound part of Newark, the nice side. The city is really nice though, nice architecture,  and they have lighted wreaths on every street light for Christmas. Image

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After my busy day of wandering and taking photos I arrived at Lilis where she informed me that it was her duty as a hostess to take me out and get me drunk so we went out in Little Brazil and drank Caiprinhas, the national drink of Brazil, which are made from a very potent sugar cane rum called Cacharas, lime, and sugar. We had passionfruit flavored ones, and they were freakin delicious. Naturally, we also had many shots. Image

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However, the best part of the night was after we were nice and toasted we went to this little Brazilian diner that’s open all night and Lili ordered us (because I don’t speak Portugese) 2 X-Tudo sandwiches, which translates literally to X-Everything. It was one of the top 5 best things I have ever eaten in my life.

This sandwich came out on a bun as big as my face and on it was a hamburger, a thick-cut slice of ham, a fried egg, bacon, a slice of tomato, lettuce, corn, mayo, and potato sticks. It was 8 inches thick and so delicious. Actually, I’m going to go eat the second half of that sandwich now…

I might be crazy, but thats not the same as insane, and I’m scared but that’s not the same as being afraid

HEY! 

I made it to NJ and am currently in Hopatcong which is in the northwestern part of the state and am staying with my friend Kara and her fiance Craig and their 2 great danes, jack russel terrier and two cats. This house is awesome, its like a petting zoo. All of the animals are so drastically different and all get along with each other and with people. 

They live in a neighborhood where all of the streets and houses are very close together and although my friends were lucky during Hurricane Sandy, not all of their neighbors were as lucky. They just got power back 2 days ago and when I went out for my run this morning there were many houses that were being patched up from trees falling through them. Other properties weren’t as damaged but many still have trees down in the yard, fences down, siding off, etc. 

Last night after Craig and Kara went to bed I stayed up and hung out with one of the danes on the couch and watched The Bourne Identity for the first time, which was quite good, and I was in bed by 2am. Today, I woke up at noon, which surprised the hell out of me. I think its because I’m sleeping in a very comfortable full bed whereas in PA at my aunts I was sleeping in an ancient, very lumpy, tiny, old bed. It was nice to sleep in though. 

Tonight we went to Craig and Kara’s friends for Friendsgiving, which is a drunker predecessor to Thanksgiving, but with just as much delicious food. And the food was both delicious and plentiful and, I drank lots of beer and hard cider. 

Monday I head out of here and am off to see Lili Patelli in Newark NJ, which everyone I have met here so far has warned me either that I am “too white to go to Newark” or “not to make eye contact with anyone”. Several people have also told me that I should not go because I will undoubtedly be shot. However, I’m going to brave it just the same. 

Pictures of my time here in Hopatcong (mostly of the danes) to follow!

Why Traveling is better than not traveling

  • First of all, I must say, after years of working in restaurants and eating standing up, or on the way to work, or at 11:30 at night it is so nice to sit down and eat 3 square meals a day. I do not rush, I do not eat fast food, and best of all, at my Aunt Doris’s no one leaves the table until after we eat dessert
  • Secondly, waking up without an alarm clock. I have no schedule, I have no job, I have no commitments. So, I sleep with the blinds open, and usually between 8:30 and 9:30 I wake up on my own accord and sometimes I jump right out of bed, and sometimes I lay there for an hour, but its up to me. Things I never do include rising before the sun does and sleeping for less than 6 hours.
  • Having time to take care of myself. When I was working or in school I was always racing the clock. More time in the shower meant less sleep, cooking a full meal meant less time to relax, etc. These days, when I wake up fully rested I go for a run every morning and it doesn’t cut into my sleeping time or my showering time. Furthermore, when I return from my run I take a nice long hot shower, and I floss daily, and I shave everyday. Every guy on the planet has looked in the mirror, rubbed their scruff and said, “I can go one more day without shaving.” Sometimes this happens days in a row, mostly caused by the snooze effect, where you hit the snooze button 12 times, then take a 3 minute shower, dress, grab a granola bar and run out the door. 
  • Going to bed early. When you start your day at 9am and you don’t have anything to do all day except for things that you want to do, you find by the end of the night, you’re tired. And you don’t have to meet your friends at 11pm just so you can see them once this week. You’re not using the late night hours to have a social life. Early evening I usually text people or go online and I do that for as long as I want and I still am in bed by 11. 
  • I get to see places that you people don’t. DUH!

This list may get added to as the trip continues. Image

I’m currently sitting in a book store in Lewisburg, PA writing this blog and a few post cards. I’m leaving now and headed to Hopatcong, NJ to see my friend Kara, whom I haven’t seen in far to long. Hope everyone is having a great Friday!

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

I really left! Tuesday morning, I finished packing the car, put on the sweet new road-mix, and drove 6 hours to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where I’ve been staying with my 86-year old Great-Aunt Doris for the past couple of days. My grandparents were also here visiting when I arrived, but left this morning.

It has been a rather relaxing couple of days. We went into town yesterday to a farmer’s market where all different types of people were selling all different types of food, meat, veggies, fruit preserves, etc. In this part of Pennsylvania there is a religious group called the Mennonites, who are basically Amish except that they are allowed to associate with the outside world, so they were all there selling their home-grown/home-made stuff.

We had the best sausage sandwiches for lunch, with just fat, spicy sausage and sautéed onions on a bun. They were so freakin’ good.

My aunt has no internet at her house so I’ve been relying on my smart phone, but today I’ve ventured out into town and am using the free wi-fi at Barnes and Noble. Lewisburg is a pretty cool town, like something out of the 1920s. All of the houses are ancient, but really well maintained. Bucknell University is also here, so there are some newer, more modern amenities, like free wi-fi.

Lewisburg is also my grandmother and great-aunt’s hometown, so I got to see the house where they  grew up. And though my grandmother moved out of Lewisburg a long time ago, my great-aunt has lived in the same house for 56 years! And now her children are gone, and her husband has died, and she still lives in this huge house all by herself. She told me that, “they’ll be taking her out feet first,” so I’m not thinking she has any plans of down-sizing anytime soon. She is a hoot though, 86 years old and still kicking, and sharp as a tac.

Tomorrow I head out to New Jersey!

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“Just fair warning that you need to fucking go”- Neal Trombly

Gee thanks Neal!

But seriously, I really am leaving tomorrow morning. I did laundry, packed my car, spoke to people I’m going to see and just created a sick road mix so I should be good to go. 

Currently its 830pm and I’m planning on being out of Charlton by 10am tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a little anxious. The car is packed, the route is planned, the gas tank is full. Tomorrow afternoon I will be in Pennsylvania so I’ll keep you all posted!!

SNAFU

So, despite excellent planning, life has gotten in the way and my travel date has been postponed. 

I moved out of my apartment before November 1st, as scheduled. I got rid of all my crap, friends took most of it, a good amount went to Salvation Army, my parents now have a closet full of my stuff and my car was packed as planned. 

My parents planned an excellent going away party and almost all of my favorite people were there, including some who I was pleasantly surprised to see. That was last Sunday November 4th. 

Then life got in the way. As some of you know, and some of you don’t, I have a strange sleeping disorder? No one seems to know what it is, the doctors best guess is petite mal seizures, and when I have one, I don’t know it, but for the week following I act like a total weirdo, have limited short term memory, and sleep about 18 hours a day. And that is what I have been doing since then, for the past 6 days.

I am not 100% yet, but I can feel myself getting better. And to be fair, this is probably one of the best times that I could have had this happen, because I’m not missing any work, and I don’t currently have any bills, so all that it cost me this time was a week of my time laying on my parents couch and sleeping. Though it did delay my start date, and meant that I missed seeing some of my family in PA I am planning to get back on schedule and get on the road as soon as my head is fully cleared, I’m hoping within the next 4 days sometime.