Tag Archives: travel

Foundation Room: worth the dry cleaning

Every now and again​ Yelp serves up more than you expect. I picked the Foundation Room because it was the closest thing to my location with an acceptable number of stars.  What I got was almost enough to inspire an arson laden revolution against Olive Gardens world wide. But do not fear, as I think your endless bread sticks are at least one Yelp dollar sign into safety. I don’t think I could rile up the masses for anything past 2.​

The Foundation Room is the restaurant lounge attached to the back of Houston’s House of Blues. I guess this makes it a chain establishment, which should offend me, but it didn’t. The decor could be best described as South Asian rock n roll in red and orange, the service was casually attentive, and the food was the best I’ve had in Texas. I would need to investigate the locations in Vegas, Chicago, or New Orleans to see if the ambiance is dictatorially scripted, but after testing Texas I might be up for finding out.

I chose to eat in the lounge with the live music, versus the back room with booths, making it my own fault that the table was at knee level. Moving sauce covered chops from plate to mouth without dripping on your suit is hard with a table that low. My scientific testing says it is impossible.

But whoever that no-name, or maybe not-yet-name was, up there singing Jill Scott and D’angelo covers, made the suit splatters worth it.

 

 

Yelp didn’t tell me I would hang out way past my bedtime, or long after the check was paid, just because I liked being there. I’m not sure I have ever loitered past paying at an Olive Garden.img_1069

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Texas Toast: and brisket

When asked about food I easily fall into an oft repeated diatribe against chain restaurants. Occasionally I wonder if I am being unfair. But then I remember that I have not once, not ever, seen a pickup unloading stacks and stacks of mesquite logs at a Chili’s, or T.G.I. Friday’s, or any other of those other places that list “smokehouse” items on their menus.

So when I recently visited Texas I did not eat at Texas Roadhouse, but rather my brother took me to an actual Texas roadhouse.

Ribs and brisket, side of slaw, potato salad. The food was great, the company was even better (because it was my brother), and while we comfortably ate outside in November, two guys were adding mesquite logs to the stacks that surrounded the building. At the Pit Room in Houston, the wood decor isn’t decor, it is fuel for the fire. No shtick, just barbecue.

So moving forward, should you want to know how I feel about eating out, just know that I no longer have any reservations about my explicit, overt, stated-up-front, bias against those share-holder liable staples of mall parking lots nation wide with their dispassionate standardized menus and liquid smoke injected ribs.

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Kicks, Cars, and the Green Book: Route 66

I first knew the song thanks to Depeche Mode, my Dad probably knows it thanks to Chuck Berry, most kids today probably know it from Pixar’s movie Cars, but the song Route 66 first hit the charts in 1946 thanks to Nat King Cole.

I live on Route 66.

I get both my kicks and my groceries there.IMG_0374

Touted as Americas first interstate, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to
Santa Monica. Oddly enough, for a road that stretches across so much of the country, most of that road goes through nowhere.IMG_6160 My particular stretch of that old road is the kind of no where that filled up with people yet never quite became a place. There isn’t a solid there here.

When driving through nowhere you best mind the gas gauge.IMG_6165

Back before the Prius cars needed lots of gallons for very few miles and this meant pulling over and filling up in places like Cucamonga California- or Barstow. Because of that long gone need, or maybe somehow in honor of it, my little stretch of this road is frequented by all sorts of cars you don’t see every day in other places.

I live where old cars go after they die.IMG_1699

When me and my little one stopped by the only museum in my city, they had one artifact that surprised me. They had a Green Book. I had heard of it, known what it is, but never seen one. It wasn’t in great shape and was framed.IMG_6153

The Green Book was something like a AAA travel guide for Black people. This was necessary because, much like planning out where to plug in a Prius, in those days you had to plan out your pit stops, and only certain pits would do business with Black people. The Green Book listed the places a Black family could fill up, eat, or stay the night.

Which I knew but didn’t really think about in California. Not that California is immune to that sort of thing entirely, but sometimes in my mind, back when stuff like that was in its hey-day, California didn’t even exist.

Sometimes my mind is wrong.IMG_3176

Anyone out there know where I can get my hands on a copy of the Green Book? That little museum (which has the friendliest docents I’ve ever met) could use a better copy.

Green Book

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Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: aptly named Antelope Island

To my knowledge there are no homes where this buffalo roams and I did indeed see antelope play.IMG_8952

The best part was I didn’t have to go far to see these animals. I didn’t even have to get out of my car- but I did get out of my car. My wife and children were screaming, “What are you doing? You are going to die! That thing is going to eat you!”

None of those things happened (the dying that is. I really did get out of the car).IMG_8969

They didn’t happen because while I can be categorized as a tourist, I’m not exactly the kind you call stupid. At least not when it comes to interacting with wildlife- though I have been known to metaphorically poke bears.IMG_8877

First, I know both bison and antelope are herbivores, and second, I didn’t try to touch anything while staying far enough from the animal and close enough to the car, to run if I had to.

I’m not new to this game.

Though I did see some guy in a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off creeping up through the grass toward the buffalo. he didn’t die either though I did think he was stupid. I didn’t say it out loud, just in my head, which was still not nice despite its truth.IMG_8917Antelope Island is out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake but you can drive there on a causeway. You can see it from the city but not many people go there. Which makes it kind of nice.

If you don’t want to be around a lot of people.

I don’t mind people but I love expanses. Vistas. I love being in the center of everything or the middle of nothing. It is those in-betweens that I don’t like, speaking geographically not ideologically.

Though the extremities are where you normally find sleeping bears to poke.

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Seven Magic Mountains

It is as if they sprung up from nowhere. Unnatural bright colors in unnatural formations framed by the natural vastness of Nevada. You can see them from the freeway. You almost can’t not see them.

Ten miles south of Las Vegas, in that stretch of nothingness between there and LA, is an art installation only planned to be there 2 years. It opened May 2016 and is now more than half way over.

It is worth a trip to nowhere.IMG_8998

It was built by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone with a commission from the Nevada Museum of Art. I like it more than I like Vegas.

Which isn’t saying much thanks to how I feel about Vegas, which was kind of the artist’s point.IMG_9011

The installation, called the Seven Magic Mountains, is a human construction in a completely unnatural place for no other reason than human entertainment.

It is a pile of rocks and I think it has ten times more meaning than Vegas.IMG_9004

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Statues are Not About Yesterday, They are About Right Now

Let me state up front that I have indeed, seen Confederate monuments that I feel are appropriate. I admit they exist.

I have seen a lot of statues in a lot of places over the years. While standing in front of them and looking, I have learned that statues are much less about then, than they are about right now.

You can see it when you look at them.DV IMAGE

Some are majestic, others are humble. Some mark a spot, others glorify an ideal or occurrence. But what almost all have in common is that they appear to be built to communicate something. They tell those before them something about where they are. They address the viewer and try to make tangible through stone or bronze something the artist, or community, or someone, feels that person standing there right then needs to know.

They communicate. That is their job.

So, to me, they key is in discerning what it is they are saying.

Some spell it right out. Others are more subtle.

 

carthage

I have stood at the feet of a giant Abe Lincoln and considered the “most fearful ordeal”. In that spot I turned around and looked at the marks in the marble spelling “I have a Dream”. Both of those things were put there for me to consider in that moment.

As a Seventeen year old I stood outside a jail in Carthage Illinois where Joseph Smith was murdered. That statue of Joseph and his brother Hyrum, together, in the place where they both died helped me feel something. It was more than a text could provide.

I have read some make similar statements about when they first saw the statue of liberty from the deck of a ship.

I have been to the battle fields of Gettysburg and Antietam. There in those grassy peaceful places I looked up at pillars marking where soldiers stood, fired, and violently died. I would not have experienced those places the same way without the aid of monuments. I am glad they were there.IM001537

But I have seen some others too.

We once lived in a charming small town called Greenville. It had an accessible downtown with shops and a square. At one end, the official side with the courthouse, there was this.confederatepoem

Up top was a confederate soldier and down below was this message.

“All lost but by the graves

Where  martyred heroes rest

He wins the most who honor saves

Success is not the test

The world shall yet decide

In truth’s clear far off light

That the soldiers

Who wore the gray and died

With Lee were in the right.”

The statue was of no specific person and nothing remarkable in history happened there. I read the inscription and looked over at the official government building and thought, “Wait… Lee was right? How was the Confederacy right? I realized I was standing in a place where those in charge wanted it to be quite clear, to me, that they believed that those who died with Lee were right. Not Grant. Not Lincoln. Lee.

It made me feel I didn’t belong in this place, and that was the point. I am just me and my words are hot air- these words were stone.CIMG0415Charleston is a gorgeous city. The food and architecture are both worth the trip. Colonial era homes line the shore with manicured grass and mossy oaks between their columned front porches and the water. Multiple eras of history happened here and the monuments reflect that. There is a marble plaque explaining that here they hung pirates. There is also a statue of George Washington. But the tallest of all and the grandest, is the one built for confederates.

I know enough to know that they did not use shields or fight naked. I also knew that there was no event that included a Greek Goddess. Yet that is what was built. Here on the spot where America’s bloodiest war’s first shots were fired, the biggest monument is a celebration of the ones who started it.

This was not about history, it was about glory. I found that idea disappointing.yalenathanhaleOn the campus of Yale, right next to a dorm, stands a statue of a young man about to die. Nathan Hale, once a student at Yale, was executed by the British for spying. He is depicted standing tall and proud, not whimpering or afraid. It was meant to inspire a respect for ideals, possibly learned in this place, worth dying to uphold. I was inspired, maybe a tad bit intimidated, and that was the point.monk statueAt Boston College, in front of some classrooms, is Saint Ignacius. I am not Catholic but this depiction was contemplative and reached down to me. As if he intended to lift me up. It was both inspiring and inviting. And that was the point.roberteleeAt the center of Duke’s campus stands a cathedral. It was built in 1930 and its entrance is flanked by statues. Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and Robert E Lee. No matter my denomination, I understand the religious reverence expected of any figure placed at the front of a church. I also understand what Lee fought for. He did not just own black people as slaves but he led a war to keep doing it. He did not fight that war on campus, or in this church, and by 1930 the war was long over, but standing there in that moment- I understood how the officials here felt about him. And I understood how he felt about black humans. In that moment I knew this place was not meant for me.

The point.

In looking at the statues we need to consider what they are saying and to whom. We need to know that these figures and plaques make statements that last and have meaning. They are indeed endorsements. what are we collectively endorsing?

I despise the confederate flag like I would a swastika. It has no place in my life. But there was one time, while visiting a graveyard in Greenville, that I saw that flag as okay. There lay buried the remains of men who had died in a war. Those flags marked both who they were and where they are in a way that had meaning. I endorse that.

I also endorse that the ideology of that war, that a whole segment of humanity is inferior, should be laid to rest in those graves with those men and that flag.

So let Mr. Lee come down.

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Taste in Provo: a compliment despite my best efforts

I have never been kind to Provo. I have no intentions of changing my attitude or moving there ever, but gosh darn-it if Provo doesn’t keep serving me up surprises.

Good surprises.IMG_8695

Not that I recommend anyone visit that city, but if you do, go to Taste.

They make, and sell, chocolate. Good chocolate.IMG_8778

Surrounded by pseudo French styled decor you can sidle up to the bar for an $8 chocolate and balsamic tasting. Or you could spend just a touch more for  afternoon tea, Friday night chocolate and cheese pairings, or, because of where you are, non-alcoholic wine.

I am a bottom dweller so I ponied up 8 bucks.IMG_8735

For that I got a square of 6 different chocolates, 3 balsamics , and a taste of the stuff Nutella is trying to be. The chocolatier explained as we went a long what it was we were eating and the process of its production.IMG_8760By far the best was called Karamelizalt Levendulaviragok Csillaganizsos Tejcsokoladeban. Those are real words. I didn’t make that up. This stuff won a silver medal at the Academy of Chocolate and it is the only milk chocolate I like- because it also has caramelized lavender and anise- and my heart. It also has my heart.IMG_8771What I walked away with is this stuff made in Portland called Pok Pok Som. It is a drinking vinegar with ginger and I think I swooned.

Swooned? In Provo?

Aw-shucks.IMG_8749

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