Category: travel diary

The Sunset Beach Diaries, 2013, Pt 2

Well, we made it back. Sigh. I have to take a few deep breaths. Seriously. A week on the beach is hard work. Another deep breath. I’m going to convince you that it’s hard work, and then you’ll see why I’m taking so many deep breaths. Breathe. And then maybe you’ll also see why I am so happy to be home, while at the same time looking forward to going again next year. Deep breath. It’s very hard work. And I didn’t even take my laptop this year!

Historically, I have traveled with only the bare necessities when it comes to technology and electronics. For instance, my laptop backpack would have in it only the things I needed for the week: computer, netbook, tablet, SD card case with several spare SD cards, an SD card reader (or two), two of every kind of cable I might possibly need, spare styli, a couple of blank CDs, a USB light, screen wipes, my 3G hotspot and every possible dongle, cable and connection I might ever need or want to plug into my computer while I’m there. Seriously, what happens if I take a bunch of pictures on my D-SLR and didn’t bring a card reader to transfer them to the computer, and I lose the camera? Well, simply put, I lose the pictures.

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The Sunset Beach Diaries, 2013 Edition

We got up at 3:45 yesterday morning. That’s not the impressive part though. We had gone to bed at close to midnight the night before, and then lay mostly awake through those very few hours trying to sleep through the sound of the dog clock in the neighbor’s yard. This dog literally barked once per second for over an hour. A true canus tempus. I wanted to kill him in the face. But we were energized by vacationalistic excitement, and thus were able to get up with no problems. Then I set about to making Bloody Marys for all of the day’s travelers. Well, except for the kids, of course. Duh. They drink whiskey sours.

By 5:15 we were on the shuttle (all seven of us) heading for the airport. At the end of the three-hour flight, the stewardess announced congratulations for Bret and Danae who are getting married on the beach. I know. Copycats, right? They’re even getting married on the same slice of beach as we did nearly four years ago. Major rolleyes. But then the flight attendant had us do the wave. Very nice.

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The Weekend in San Antonio

My red-haired wife and I spent the last weekend in San Antonio (or as my daughter says, “Sanny Tonio”) at the ISTE conference. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a conference for the International Society for Technology in Education. And as you all know, my red-haired wife and I both work for an EdTech company. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know what the ISTE was. Neither did I, until I found myself working it.

Since I started working in Design, I’ve found myself in a lot of situations like this. Travel situations, that is. Design has already sent me to New York and Minnesota. And there’s a lot more to come. My boss and I were running the Lounge section of our booth, where we were demoing our new dashboard we’ve been designing. There were several other sections of our booth where other products were being shown, and my red-haired wife was working the welcome desk, as seen in the picture below. So let me tell you about this conference center.

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The Year of Travel

When I was a child, my greatest fear was falling. I would dream about falling from a building, or a tight-wire stretched between buildings. I don’t know why I should have these dreams. I would never consider actually walking a tight-wire, but there you are. Now that I’ve grown up, my greatest fear has evolved. It’s no longer a selfish fear – a fear for myself. It’s now a fear for the safety of my children. I guess that’s every good parent’s greatest fear though. It makes me shaky and sick to think of something happening to them. I am, therefore, necessarily opposed to taking my children to New York.

It’s not that I think it’s that much more dangerous than anywhere else. Right now I live in one of the top five safest cities in the United States. So yeah, I feel pretty comfortable where I am. But it’s just that I don’t feel like I have control of anything when I’m in New York. Number one, I don’t drive a car, and probably never would in Manhattan. It seems to me to be a place where you live close to work and either walk or take public transit to get there. There aren’t a lot of parks and playgrounds for the kids. At least not where I was. It just doesn’t seem like a very kid-friendly environment. I guess maybe Queens or The Bronx would be better than Manhattan.

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The Bar Harbor Diaries, Vol. 3

What I didn’t consider when I wrote volume two was that it was Memorial Day. I mean, of course I knew it was Memorial Day. But I hadn’t considered that the breweries would be closed. So in short, what this meant was that we could take our time getting to Portland. There was no need to rush to make sure we had plenty of daylight left to hit as many brewhouses as we could. And you know, that worked out after all, because we were able to have a nice leisurely drive back. What should have taken three hours took almost six. And it was completely cool.

Cadillac Mountain was very nice. Gorgeous views. It was a little cold up there, but we had a great experience. Then we sat at Jordan Pond and had a brunch of popovers and lobster rolls with coffee. One of the most excellent brunch experiences of my life, right there. Completely worth the drive, friends. The wind was cool and fresh off the lake, as we sat outside at a picnic table staring out over the water while we ate. So beautiful.

These popovers are apparently the latest craze up there. The bake a muffin until it gets huge and just sort of explodes. So it’s a gigantic muffin that’s hollow on the inside. You put butter and jam on it, and – well, let me back up. You know those spherical scoops of butter they give you in breakfast diners? Yeah, I took that whole thing, sliced a hole in the pop and stuffed the entire butter sphere in it. Then poured the entire cup of jam inside, and sort of mashed it all around. Dear sweet WOW.

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The Bar Harbor Diaries, Vol. 2

We ran into a couple of hikers the other night, and hung out at the Dog & Pony with them, then ended the night at Leary’s Landing (the Irish Pub) listening to a guy play the guitar and sing songs we all know. Well, we helped him out a little bit. And being at the table closest to him, I asked him if he knew certain artists occasionally. “Do you know any Bette Midler?” I would say, for instance. Or, “Hey, can you play any Barry Manilow? Air Supply?” Unfortunately, he was more of a modern rock guy. It was fun.

The church we attended Sunday morning was very old-fashioned. It reminds me of my childhood. The same tired old songs from the hymnals, the same tired old sermons repeated every Sunday from the same tired old preacher. He was actually reading his notes the entire time. Not very dramatic. He’s no Chris Seidman, I said. But it was good. It was nice to stop down and be reminded of why we’re here in the first place. Spending a little time in worship was pleasant before we hit the streets and bars again. Which we did in short order. The Seaside Grill serves an awful Bloody Mary, by the way (though their haddock popkin is pretty remarkable).

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The Bar Harbor Diaries, Vol. 1

You can fly into Bangor and drive the hour into Bar Harbor, which is what we should have done. Don’t get me wrong, the drive up was absolutely gorgeous. We counted more trees per square yard than we could even believe actually existed. But a five-hour drive is pretty taxing when you’ve gotten up at 0400 to be at the Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport by 0625. Yeah. They don’t even serve bloody marys that early.

So flying into Bangor will save you the five-hour drive, but costs you a couple of Franklins. Well, next time I think we may do that. We, instead, flew into Boston / Logan and drove up. Now that was a really nice drive through all those bay towns, including Portland. We plan to spend a day in Portland Monday, actually. We’ve decided to knock off out of Bar Harbor a day early to cut the trip in half so we’re not rushed on the day we fly out.

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I Saved the Planet, Dudes

Minnesota Chronicles, Vol. 3

No seriously. It has been made clear to me that alls I have to do is leave my towels on the rack instead of the floor, and it will save the planet. Well, friends, I am happy to announce: the planet is SAVED. You can thank me later.

I’ve done many things for you guys over the years, but none of them probably had the impact that this one single event did. I’m just wondering though… instead of printing up this cute little sign and going through all that trouble, couldn’t the person who placed the sign just left the towels on the rack? He could have saved the planet back when he hung the sign. Oh well, it’s really no sweat to me, and I’m happy (and honored) to have gotten the opportunity to perform such a magnanimous, philanthropic detail.

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New York Diaries, Vol 2

The first order of business upon arriving in a foreign town is to locate a good place to drink. Well, maybe that’s not a rule or anything, but it seems to work well for me. I’ve had almost one-hundred-percent success in using this little scheme when I visit new towns. I want you to look at the inset picture here really closely, without clicking on it yet. There. Right in the middle. Do you see it? Okay, now click it.

Now you see it, don’t you? Yes, friends, that is indeed a BREWERY. Sorry for the shittastic image – there were raindrops on the window through which I took the photo. {aside} When I checked in, I played some charm on the cute clerk and said in my best Texas accent, “I’m from Dallas. I’ve never been here. Can you give me something really high up?” She smiled and said yes, then upgraded my room to the 43rd floor, so I got a pretty good look. So yes, I walked into my room, dropped my crap on the floor and immediately walked to the window to have a look at the world below. Once I spotted the brewery, I was back down on the street within three minutes. My suitcase was still on the bed, zipped up tight.

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New York Diaries, Vol 1

I’m finally changing career paths. At almost forty years old. But they say it’s never too late to learn something new, right? I’m tired of fixing computers for a living. I’m pretty good at it, and I’m almost never stumped by a problem for too long anymore. I mean, there are perhaps an infinite number of things that can go wrong with a computer or a piece of software, or a printer… But a lot of them start to look alike – and certainly have the same solution. And I’ve been doing this a really long time. Yeah, it’s time for a change. So my company sent me to a three-day training course in New York City. So this is it, huh? I finally get to go to New York. Well let’s do it!

You see, all my friends have been. Well, most of my friends anyway. My red-haired wife has been. My dad has been. And everyone says you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street. Well, I’ve been here for four days now, and let me just say this about it: you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 5

Part Five: Dancing in the Streets

When you think of vacation spots, you probably don’t very frequently list Panama City as one of your choices. It seems – to me, at least – to be one of those spots like the Roman Coliseum. It’s beautiful, and you’d love to see it, but you’re not going to lie out and catch some rays on the theater floor. These seem more like educational spots. Culturally rich locations where you go with a history team, or a college class for a field trip. And certainly if you’re staying at Playa Bonita on Diesel Beach, it’s not a great place to catch some sun. The pools are fine for it. Amy (“I’m not getting any sun! I need to wash this crap off my back!”) burned like an unconscious lobster left on a grill. While the fire was lit. On high. And people threw cigarette butts at it. While laughing. Even my red-haired wife caught a little too much sun, and when her skin started peeling it really made a picture of her new Embera Ink tattoos.

But a large part of me is glad we didn’t get to choose the vacation spot for our getaway. Panama is literally the last place on the planet I would have chosen. Ireland? Turkey? Germany? Canada? Kansas? These are all places that sound reasonably like good tourist spots for a nice week away from work. But the company chose for us. As they do every year on their Presidents’ Club vacation. And this unlikely spot made for a fantastic, and life-changing experience I won’t soon forget. Yes, even I – with my terrible memory – am not likely to forget this one.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 4

Part Four: The Tribal Village of the Embera

We’ve come a long way with technology. This to me is science. I like to stay at the forefront – the leading edge, and all the other buzzwords you can think of that have to do with technology. I sometimes buy devices and gadgets with the full intention of returning them within the fourteen-day window just so I can become familiar with them, learn all about them, and be able to speak intelligibly of them. I would never personally own a Windows phone, but I was quick to hop on my mother’s for an hour or two when she got it, just to check out what they’re all about. I have more gadgets and technology in my house than a Best Buy distribution warehouse. Well, one that’s very small and only has like five laptops and three tablets in it.

I never dreamed I could part with my tech so easily. And maybe I can’t. I brought my tablet and my D/SLR camera with me on this trip to Panama. And my cell phone. And my wife’s laptop, her cell phone, a pocket camera, a 3G wireless hotspot, a GRUB analyzer, a Trip Socket spectrometer, and a bag full of cords, cables, chargers and SD cards. I came fully prepared. Our phones, however, remained off the entire trip. It was nice to be disconnected. Sort of. Not sort of nice. Sort of disconnected. Of course we still fired up Lync and Google Talk to video chat with the kids in the evenings, and I checked my email on my tablet and sent my drawings to my game mates on Draw Something. But we were more off-the-grid than usual. Especially when we went to see the Indians.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 3

Part Three: The Heart of Panama City

Panama has three beers to offer us. There’s nothing special or fancy – they’re all golden beers, light in flavor and body, and all pretty similar. We tried them all, of course, and actually wanted to venture out into the city to pick some up to keep in our hotel room. Those Panama nights get long, and that balcony that overlooks the Diesel Beach just seems to call to us like the crickets of the jungle. We longed to sit out on that balcony and enjoy a few cold cans of Balboa. Alas, here now we sit in our comfortable leather couches back in Dallas, Texas, and can say we not once sat in those chairs on the balcony.

We did do plenty of sitting and drinking though. I met some really great people on this trip. Certain people with whom I’ve spoken and supported many times were there, and it was great to meet them. But they also brought with them their spouses, and that really rounded out the vacation for me. Tom and Jeremy and Sean – these guys were the perfect compliment to the Suzanne, Shana and Kacy I’ve already come to know and love. Though I’d not yet met Suzanne and Kacy, I was already very fond of them from my dealings with them on the phone. The nights we spent out by the pool crowded around a table drinking beer we had bribed a waiter into serving us were as memorable as the tours and experiences we were talking about around those tables.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 2

Part Two: Back in the Jungle

This was my second trip to Panama but it was so markedly different from the first in every aspect that I’m beginning to replace negative feelings and emotions about it with positive ones. Where my first trip was dark and unkind, frightening and unforgiving, this one was healing and rewarding. This was my opportunity to change some of my thoughts and feelings on a second-world country and turn an exotic vacation into a therapeutic session and personal growth. Being granted the opportunity to see the jungle again from a cable car, and the safety of a boat, I’ve been able to calm the sense of dread and anxiety that seems to boil up in my gut when I think of the darkness that dwells in that little strip between the Americas.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 1

Part One: Man Versus Murphy

As our tour guide for the Panama Canal said, “Murphy isn’t just a part of our daily lives here in Panama, but he was also born here.” He spoke of Edward Murphy, the Panamanian native who coined the phrase we all know today as Murphy’s Law. Well, we met Mr. Murphy before we even got to the airport.

State Highway 121, which is perpetually in a state of construction, almost caused us to miss our flight. They had blocked the exit to the airport. I don’t know who ‘they’ is, but I’d sure like to have a little chat with them. Yes, they blocked the exit. How can they do that when there are literally thousands of people every day who depend on that exit to get to the airport? Well, you’ll have to ask ‘them’.

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Saturday Night Star Party

Here we are, Two-Step and a couple of friends and I moseyed out to Alpine, Texas to see the stars. They say Alpine is the best place in the continental United States to see the stars. And boy, they’re right. Zero light pollution. No street lights, no bright signage, just perfect darkness and a hundred billion stars in the sky.

Our first night we stayed in Brownswood at a budget inn type place, just to knock a few hours off the nine-hour trek to Alpine. That was a good experience in itself though, as we all sat outside around a wire-mesh table and had some drinks while we talked to some other travelers who had just arrived on their motorcycle. It seems that everyone you meet at a hotel is always so friendly. It almost restores your faith in humanity a little bit. Everyone we’ve met so far has been great.

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Four Wake-ups ‘Til Florida

It’s finally here, friends: that time of year when we leave for the Big Penis. That’s right, the continental fallus we like to call “Florida”. My red-haired wife and I have gone every year for the last three years. This will make our fourth trip together. And the only difference between this trip and the previous three years is that we aren’t taking the kids. I figure they’re old enough to stay at home and take care of themselves.

My buddy Christian is in town from Omaha, and has been staying with us since Saturday. So he’s gonna hang in the house until we get back. Works out perfectly. You see, I like having someone stay in my house so I won’t feel bad about leaving the fridge plugged in and the air conditioner running.

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The Sunset Beach Diaries, 2010

We made it back. It took twenty-four straight hours on the road, but we did indeed make it back. Man, that’s a lot of driving. We never stop into hotels or anything, what with having several drivers to switch out, we can just catch up on sleep a couple at a time while the others are pulling shifts. We even let the kids drive for a while when we all got too tired to carry on. The closest we came to actual stopping down was this morning around 04:30, we pulled into a rest stop and just leaned the seats back for a few hours. Tampa Bay to North Dallas is just under 1200 miles though. And like I say every year, next year we’re flying.

We had a great time. We got rained out the first few days, so a lot of our time was spent up on the deck at mom and dad’s, or at Ka’Tiki Bar, where you’re basically outside, just covered with palm fronds. It’s nice, the Ones are Cold and there’s always live music. Not all of it is great, but it’s all at least tolerable. Not like the guy who plays the keytar at Caddy’s.

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The Sunset Beach Diaries, 2008

Lonely UmbrellaRemember how I told you I was going to The Boot? Well actually it’s more like A Used Condom, but whatever. The point is, I went. I snorkled on the beach (actually in the water near the beach), I sat under umbrellas and watched the ocean, I drank cold beers and I looked at women. Did you know you can get Corona in a can? I thought that was pretty awesome. I got some pretty good shots while I was out there. Click on that picture and you can see the set. I put nine photos up in the set.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about my return flight. Because no one cares about what happened on my vacation. Nothing exciting. I got in several fights on the beach, beat up an entire team of muscle-bound volleyballers because they pissed me off, got bit by a shark and ended up dislocating his jaw for him, got so tan that I got discriminated against at Ricky’s All-White Bar and Lounge… Like I said, nothing interesting.

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Heading for The Boot

Tomorrow I’m flying out for the sunny Sunshine State. I’ll be leaving at around nine in the morning, which, of course, means I need to arrive at the airport tonight around six o’clock. The Boot!Florida is the Sunshine State, right? It could be Montana – I can’t remember. I also can’t remember if anyone actually calls it ‘the boot’… I guess these details aren’t really important. Irregardless, I’m heading for sunny Tampa Bay tomorrow morning, and let me tell you how excited I am!

I am excited.

So I’m leaving tomorrow morning and getting back some time on the 7th. Trust me when I say that when I get back I’ll be darker than a Mexican hiding in a closet. Not like gay like someone would come out of a closet, but just rather to illustrate that it’s dark in there. You know what I mean. Anyway, yeah I plan to lie on the beaches sipping my ties and watching hula girls um… You know, I really don’t know what happens on the beach, but I will be there. Maybe not with my ties and stuff, but maybe a Corona? There’s another Mexican reference for you. But actually, you know what? I won’t really even be on the beach. Because I’ll be SCUBA diving. To you lay folk out there, that means I will be self-contained underwater breathing apparatus diving. I will be under water.

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International Affairs

When I was still in the service of the Service, back in late 1996, I was sent to Germany for Operation Joint Endeavor. Basically, we stationed ourselves in Germany for 90-day-tours and handled their aircraft maintenance while the permanent party there flew into Bosnia several times a week. Bosnian women are hot, by the way. I don’t really care too much about color of skin or whatever when I’m on the prowl. But I for some reason thought they were a brown people. No. They’re Scandinavian. White, blonde-haired, blue-eyed snow bunnies. Cute little gorgeous cuties. Anyway, I digress. The point is not the hot Bosnian women. The point is that I was sent to Germany.

It’s funny, by the way, how German women love Texans. Garret and I wore our cowboy hats and boots and the whole getup while we were over there. Every time we would walk into the Irish House (in Germany), the women would immediately flock to us. Have you seen me? I’m not that hot. I guess Garret was. But meh. They loved my hat. And this shitty German rock band that did 80s American Rock covers was playing “Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi when we walked in one time. And every time he would get to the part where he says, “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride”, he would point to us during the ‘I’m a cowboy’ part. Sigh. Yeah it was pretty gay. But every single time he’d say it, he would point, and every time he would point, everyone in the bar would turn to look at us. So we’re standing there just sort of waving. Every time. I might have gone home with a brown woman that night. Anyway, that’s not the point either.

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Weekend in Houston

A buddy and I are heading to Houston this weekend, formally so he can golf in some charity event (he’s an executive at a pretty large corporation here in Dallas), but additionally so we can catch a Texans football game. So it’s a road trip, all the way. I understand he watches the wrong football team, but at least they’re from Texas. I don’t know how to feel about all that. It doesn’t matter who’s playing when you’re in the stands though, I suppose.

Anyway, during this golf charity event he’s playing Saturday morning, I’ll be running around Houston by myself. All the gir- um- people I used to know who lived in Houston, well – they no longer live in Houston. So I’ve been scouting my links and contacts and myspaces and facebooks, getting in touch with everyone I used to run with back then, trying to find a friend of a friend who still lives there. No such luck.

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Minnesota Chronicles, Vol. 2

It’s Monday now; I’m heading back home tomorrow. I’ve taken quite a few pictures, but I don’t think I need to share them with you. How many pictures do you really need to see of a snowy hillside with snow-covered trees? There’s really just not a whole lot else to see here. It’s pretty, but it’s like some certain races of people. It just all looks the same.

I went to Guitar Center the other night just to get some play time in. Being out of town without one of my guitars is deafeningly shitty. I can’t stand not being able to pick one up and play it whenever I want to. I long for it. Like a junkie needs his heroin, or a nymphomaniac needs good hard sex – I need my guitars. I have to feel those hard metal frets and tight copper and steel strings beneath my fingertips. So I went to GC to play for a while. To get my fix.

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Minnesota Chronicles, Vol. 1

What’s there to say about the fine state of Minnesota? Uh, well we’ll see if we can find anything worth saying. I flew in this morning to visit a friend, and – having never been here before – wanted to see the sites. Or is that sights… Either way, there were some things rhyming with “ites” that I had come to see. Let me back up a little though.

I’ll start with the plane flight. We were delayed in taking off by almost an hour. Sigh. Okay, I don’t mind sitting in the terminal. I started a paperback my friend Jim had given me. Called Jupiter. By Ben Bova. Have you read it? Well it may be the kind of book you only read in airport terminals, I’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, I had my iPod playing and was making eyes with a couple of honeys, so I wasn’t terribly upset. Fifty minutes late, we finally boreded. (Boarded. Yeah, I’m full of it today.)

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To Travel In Style

What’s up Rita. Welcome to Texas! We’re excited to have you. Though it’s beginning to look like it’s gonna change course and head for Louisiana. Thank God! I hear they need the rain there in New Orleans.

So I was standing there watching the news today, showing pictures of the traffic on I45, deadlocked from Houston to Dallas. Now that shit is whack! But it reminded me of a story from my early twenties that I thought I should share with you.

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The Burbank Chronicles, Vol. 1

I flew out to Burbank last night for an early morning appointment today. I’ve never been to Burbank, so the experience has been unique. I have been to California many times, but never this far south I guess. Anyway, a couple of things that have happened have been journalworthy, so I’ll write about them here.

I got to the counter at the Burbank Hilton and they gave me my room key – a 200-dollars-a-night king on the seventh floor. Yeah, that’s right. Two hundred dollars. Yawn. I’m not terribly impressed. The bed was nice, but the room was warm and smelled like fresh possum ass. It didn’t look all posh like I’d expected. I mean come on. It’s a Hilton. Anyway, when I got out of the elevator to go to my room, I didn’t pass Paris Hilton in the hallway.

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