Las Vegas Birthday

In 2005 we revisited the old Vegas stomping grounds again, this time for my birthday. This trip held a series of firsts–my first time dining at Nobu, and first time staying at THEHotel at Mandalay bay. Firsts of many times I hope!

Ever since a few friends of mine got me the Nobu cookbook a few years ago, I’ve wanted to try the restaurant. They say that the Original in new york is the best, but the vegas one was pretty good in my opinion. the “new style” japanese food reminded me of some establishments in SF like kabuto A&S, but will hipper ambience and little details like how they served their house sake in a frozen bamboo container. Cups too! The one problem with eating at a place like that is that you have to have a lot to get full, which gets expensive pretty fast. That said, we did see Dave Navarro, guitarist for Red hot chili peppers & janes addiction, eating with his crew (minus carmen electra).

i LOVED TheHotel at Mandalay bay. Somehow my friend d with his infinite knowledge of the inner workings of las vegas got us good rates for the room and I’m spoiled for life. There were a total of 4 flat screen TV’s in the suite–a huge one in the outer “entertainment” room, one in the bedroom, and two(!!) in the bathroom. I took a luxurious bath in the lovely bathtub while watching TV–a great way to pass time. Speaking of water, the best thing about Mandalay bay is the pool area complete with tidal wave, multiple hottubs, waterfalls and the lazy river–a circular pool complete with gentle current–on which I could have spent hours drifting around on the pink innertube I bought for $8. Unfortunately the pool area’s only accessible to hotel guests so I’ll have to wait till the next time we decide to stay a bit off strip to enjoy it again.

n and m also took us to a special tour of old las vegas, which had a decidedly different flavor than the flashy strip. Reminiscent of Reno, the two focal points were the enormous light display which put on a show coordinated to music every 15 minutes, and binions, where the world poker tour is held. It’s always cool to see a place in person that you’ve seen many times on TV. although we seemed out of place walking among the Vegas locals, old vegas had a charm of its own and would be worth a repeat visit.

Viva Las Vegas!!!!!!!!!

Despite the fact that I don’t gamble hard, drink hard, or party hard, I actually love las vegas. Which is good because given its proximity to the bay area, a group of friends typically make an annual weekend long trip there. This trip included a tasty trip to Samba, the brazilian barbecue place and a trip to the ghost bar. In case you’ve never been, the ghost bar is on the top floor of the palms casino, and the balcony has a glass floor. You know the glass is really thick but it’s a trip to walk on! As usual, I also spent a lot of time in front of the bellagio fountains. those fountains take my breath away, and every time I see them, I’m impressed with how thoroughly we Americans understand entertainment. Want to see more pictures? And, the bellagio fountains.

I heart NY, Part 2

The thing I love most about new york is the abundance of character you can find in the simplest of things. While gentrification is a fact of life and encourages efficiency and sets expectations, I find that New York is one of the places where the lack of standardization is mostly delightful. For one thing, some of the best ethnic food I’ve had, including even chinese, I’ve found in New York. it’s almost as if they took the best of what the world has to offer and stuck it all in one city for me to discover and enjoy.

My second trip was also characterized by an abundance of walking, and it was during this trip when I discovered the “video” function on c’s camera. Magically, both the sights I encountered as well as the sounds were captured in small new york moments to share. highlights included:

– discovering some new boundaries of chocolate, and trying to keep it unmelted in the hot july weather
– the complex simplicity of the guggenheim, the speechlessness of the media exhibits at the whitney
– “documenting” the purple couple and our antics trying to do this while being surreptitious about it…
– Seeing one of tony bourdain’s old haunts
– the cheezy, buttery, sinful corn at cafe habana, fresh pita bread, olive oil gelato and the best pearl tea ever
– seeing s and “Sacha’s Castle” which she’d always told me about
– Running as the clock ticked down, off the commuter rail, and towards the water, through crowds, and eventually finding a spot behind an overpass near the united nations to watch fireworks!

See for yourself–
Day 1: images, washington square park,
Day 2: images, inside the guggeheim, about that carpet: article & video,
Day 3: images, fireworks 1, fireworks 2, fireworks 3, fireworks 4
What lightning looks like from 30,000 ft


Somewhere about 40 minutes north of SF on highway 1 is an other-worldly small chapel, plucked and dropped suddenly next to the highway in the middle of a grassy field.

The chapel was built by a stonemason, architect, woodworker, and tile-layer–I think it was one person–and it was an expression of his or her love for the sea. the place is resplendent with curved, asymmetrical lines of constantly changing waves, blues and greys of its depths in all seasons, satiny polish of wood tossed about in rough and fickle surf, and unyielding edges of stone which have been the demise of so many foolish enough to disrespect its power and grace.

Words are inadequate to describe the way I felt sitting inside the chapel. peaceful, awestruck, overwhelmed, and illuminated all at the same time. And these pictures really don’t describe the beauty of this place. you should really just go and see it with your own two eyes, hands, and ears, you’ll know what I mean.

lovely arizona

The last time I was in the grand canyon it was as part of a field trip for the “Olympics of the mind” national championship I went in 5th grade. Aside from some vague memories about the actual championship, I can remember that it was my first trip to Circus Circus, and that we drove for hours in the boiling hot desert, in a car lacking air conditioning, with me and Rachel Weiner crammed in the front seat. Finally, we stayed for a grand total of about 2 hours before heading to the next destination! In any case, The grand canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world, and given that it’s relatively close to us here on the west coast, c and I decided to pay another visit.

We went by way of Scottsdale, where we saw Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd wright’s Winter Home. I loved Taliesen west. It was my first visit to a FLW official site, and a good way to get some more insight into the way of life of the man and his apprentices. Although I really don’t have the attention to detail and the capacity for tremendously difficult, and oftentimes unrewarding work that is expected before being able to stand on ones own as an architect, I had a fleeting interest in being one when I first started school. That small flame was rekindled–briefly–when the docent was talking about the apprentices living in the wilderness, and the evenings of culture and performance that were inherent to their time there. It sounded fun!

After a beautiful though hot afternoon there, we sped over to the Grand Canyon where we were just in time to catch a sunset. We then spent the next day hiking up and down the elementary levels of the canyon, and taking a guided tour of the flora and fauna in the surrounding area, collecting some breathtaking views along the way. There really is nothing like a 20 mile wide gorge to give you a better perspective on how truly small you are in the world. Anyway, check out some pictures, and make sure to take a look at the captions which are crammed with lots of info.

My first trip to middle America

Having been born in NY, raised in Boston, and now living in San Fransico, I hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to travel of the parts of the US bordered by shore. Although Chicago can’t really be determined as a true part of middle america…it was a good place to meet j, r, and e who were in Boston and Detroit respectively.

Since it was the first time in chicago for many of us, we spent a good portion of it just walking around and getting a lay of the land. a few things are big in chicago: sports, and beef. These two interests sometimes co-incide as we found many of the restaurants had sports themes, or sports-related owners, two of which we tried: Mike Ditka’s, and Harry Caray’s. Portions in this town were in general huge, and well prepared. We also had deep dish chicago pizza in the original Uno’s! Unfortunately one place we missed was the restaurant of charlie trotter, c’s favorite celebrity chef. Just an excuse to go back for a repeat visit–hopefully when the weather is a bit warmer.

Chicago is certainly a windy city. Temperatures were in the 30’s to begin with, but the windchill made it worse, cutting through my clothes and swirling around my nose and inside of my ears. There weren’t that many trees so sometimes walking across those unprotected fields and plazas brough up images in my mind of eskimos crossing tundras in the snow and blowing wind. I probably fared the worst out of all of us, though–the bay area really has made me soft! Anyway, check out some snaps!

Adventures in San Diego

Memorial Day 2003–c and I took a trip down to the warm and beautiful San Diego, by way of Tijuana, Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island, and finishing off with a lovely dinner at Cliff House in the ritzy town of La Jolla. The trip was a bit spur of the moment–the weekend before memorial day c and I realized we didn’t have any plans for the vacation and took advantage of a last-minute travel deal on yahoo travel.

Plans got adventurous when we decided to take our love for tacos to the next level and seek them out in San Diego’s close cousin, Tijuana. After tickets were booked, we started to figure out ways to get into Tijuana and were a bit alarmed to find that all travel guides were adamant that under no circumstances should Americans drive into the country itself, due to the high probability of car accidents and insurance scams! The recommended approach was to part one’s car in “secured” parking lots just outside Tijuana (on American soil) and walk into the country.

Tijuana had a rough and somewhat desparate feel that border towns often do. I definitely got the feeling that people were always trying to make a buck off us. I’d been to Tijuana once when I was young and remember my parents and I finding lots of interesting things to buy–ponchos, marble chess sets, agate wind chimes carved in the shape of a bird, lots of pretty silver jewelery, and mexican jumping beans! but things had changed in the 15 years since I’d been. I wasn’t that interested in many of the seemingly mass produced knick knacks that were available, for the most part devoid of craftsmanship.

c and I still managed to have fun, though. We were determined to find a local market we’d read about in our research, the mythical Mercado Hidalgo. armed with a not-to-scale walking map, and the solitary spanish phrase we had between us–“Donde esta mercado Hidalgo?” we set out on an ambitious plan to walk what turned out to be a multiple mile journey, oftentimes with only the direction of a local pointing vaguely and reassuring us, “three blocks”. c definitely started to get nervous, and we attracted our share of attention from the locals, at one point even prompting a mexican police trooper to slow down and ask if everything was ok. But the destination at the end was well worth it. stalls of exotic and fragrant mexican fruits and spices, and the best tamales, fresh from what was sure to be a local woman’s kitchen–warm, sweet, and redolent with that distinctive masa flavor that I’ve grown to love.

After an uneventful return to US soil, historic Hotel del Coronado on San Diego’s Coronado Island was the next stop. Built in the late 1800’s, the hotel was someone’s grand vision to be the best resort town in the united states. We enjoyed a nice breakfast at a cute cafe in the downtown coronado area, and then spent the rest of the time prowling the grounds and beach.

We capped off the evening with a stroll around the lovely La Jolla, and dinner at the Marine Room. The restaurant is built so that the ocean comes straight up to the walls and windows of the restaurant! When the tide is up and the water is stormy, the waves will actually beat against the window panes. and the food wasn’t half bad, as you can see.

More pictures available
, although none of Tijuana–we pretty much didn’t bring anything of value, including a camera!

One of Many Ski Trips

March 2003, I was still learning how to snowboard at this time and getting tutored by someone with personal incentives in me picking it up. 🙂 A few of us hit the slopes together, staying close to Reno during one night of the two day trip so that we could follow a frustrating day of falling on one’s butt by the exhilaration of winning lots of money! It was during this trip that I hit my head so hard on a fall I blacked out for a few seconds, scaring the people around me (although it was sort of cool riding the snowmobile down the mountain into the infirmary). I swear my memory hasn’t been the same since…but maybe that’s just old age?

We followed the trip with a group stop at Claimjumper’s–my first time. They have humungous portions, as is evidenced by this large-portion lamb shank. But the food is not half bad–comparable to max’s, but bigger.

I saw it first

A few weeks after my 25th birthday, I took a trip to vegas with a few good friends of mine from childhood, who met me in this relatively central location from Michigan. We were tagging along with some avid gambler friends from the bay area who, found a us deal for $39 dollar rooms, something fairly unheard of these days. Among other things, I was delighted by my first trip to Bellagio, the lovely lovely fountains which transfixed me, and the better-than-average champagne brunch there…which featured chocolate dipped strawberries, a whole plate of them.

I also got to witness the pre-date “dance” of two said friends, who were by virtue of both being fans of autos enough to join the auto industry (for different reasons), getting to know each other better after having satellite circles of acquaintance through our childhood. “r, you should take e dancing. ” 🙂 Guys–if you’re reading–I saw it first.