(Taking Back) Taking Back Sunday

Is it too early to get nostalgic about emo?

Mentioning the album Tell All Your Friends to anyone who had a semi-serious interest in early 2000’s pop punk is sure to elicit a response that’s dually earnest and self-mocking.

Emo bands of this era are rock and roll’s feral children. Taking Back Sunday, who released the album in question, are part of a larger group of bands like Brand New and Thursday who shared the same reliance on angular riffs, obsessively wordy hooks and a penchant for inter-band and inter-scene drama that makes the Beatles breakup seem lazy. (For a more thorough history lesson, this explains the controversy surrounding the split and feuds the band had better than I could condense in a few sentences.)

The ‘classic lineup’ of TBS fractured only a year after the disc was released, and they’ve gone through a ‘Spinal Tap’ number of musicians since. For some reason, they reformed for a short tour and a forthcoming album this year. Fickle babies.

A confession: I’ve never listened to it. Until now. I don’t know why I missed it the first time around. I liked Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon and Thursday’s Full Collapse, so it seemed like a logical move. It just never happened. I assume it was indifference or the fact I was way too caught up listening to Incubus and Dave Matthews Band and didn’t want to be bothered.

Times have changed. For the past few weeks, I’ve finally given a few hard listens to this totem. Let’s discuss.

“We were such magnificent liars,” sings Adam Lazzara. “So crush me baby, I’m all ears/ so obviously desperate/so desperately obvious.” That’s the sound of my sophomore year of high school, watching those girls – long haired waifs who wore Abercrombie and Fitch threads – transform overnight into thrift store junkies with choppy haircuts. Obvious. Desperate. Like them, it seems. There’s something uncomfortable about that notion. Like this song. Like those lyrics.

The layered, overlapping vocal style in use here has become a genre hallmark. A propulsive opener, but not exactly memorable. That shows up a few songs later, with “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From The Team)”.

It’s my favorite cut on the record, with a late-80’s college rock jangle recalling faint memories of the Smiths. The sharp notes punctuate and break away to an anomalous chorus: ‘And will you tell all your friends/you’ve got your gun to my head?’. Silly, but it works. Lazzara and guitarist John Nolan exchange heroic vocal interplay, and it conjures a memory I never had: driving to Steak and Shake late at night in Lake in the Hills with the windows down on my red 1996 Ford Taurus. My friends and I would be shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs before our milkshakes. When we were done, we’d go home and post snippets of lyrics on our LiveJournals among photos of Jordan Pundik.

There’s more of the same with “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” which, to my disappointment, was not about basketball, nor was “Great Romances of the 20th Century” about love. Well, a healthy love, at least.

Of course, these lead up to one unforgettable moment. One lyric to define an entire genre of music, and it’s right in “You’re So Last Summer”.

The truth is you could slit my throat
And with my one last gasping breath
I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt

This is the moment you hit the water after being thrown into a pool with all of your clothes on. It’s shocking, uncomfortable and really wet, like the audience this song panders to. Also, it’s totally hilarious. At the time, the lyric was relevant to many disilliusioned teenagers, but as they’ve grown up, gotten over and moved on, the song has morphed from an anthem to weighty, melodramatic trash. If emo karaoke ever catches on, this is it’s “We Are The World” – well, that or any U2 song.

I suppose it’s this, really: Tell All Your Friends isn’t a bad record, but it’s not a good one either. Many mediocre genre records somehow transform into well loved classics simply because they refined the formula before others could. This is the case for Taking Back Sunday. They set the template for so many copycat bands to follow. Some are still chasing that dream too long after it can be taken seriously.

I can see why some may find that last statement unfair. I’m twenty-four. I’ve got close to ten years of music listening and analysis behind me. I’ve fallen in and out of love with many bands. Maybe I’m too old, and my moment with this record is eight years too late. If Taking Back Sunday were the first to the dance, then I arrived right in the middle of the last song, when I probably should have stayed home in the first place.

Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday

Illustration by Ashley Elander

Some kids grew up loving cartoons.

I was not one of them. Okay, maybe a handful, but I couldn’t sit there all day and watch them. Still can’t, and that’s probably why ‘Adult Swim’ holds little appeal to me.

Instead, what fascinated me was the news. Those people were my super heroes. Allison Rosati. Art Norman. Brant Miller. Any of the WMAQ anchors, really. They were also the appetizer for the main course – The “Today” Show.

That’s irregular for an eight year old. As was reading books about the Presidents of the United States. The only real ‘normal’ thing I liked was Power Rangers, and if that wasn’t on, I would focus my attention on the forced camaraderie between the bubbly Katie Couric and the dour Bryant Gumbel. They didn’t seem like they particularly liked to work together, but it was still so inherently watchable. Maybe it was them, or this young news desk anchor – Matt Lauer, or the weather guy, Willard Scott. Instead of talking about the temperature, he seemed to show more and more pictures of centenarians.

My heroes had a lair. It wasn’t secret though. You could see it from the street. Studio 1A, Rockefeller Plaza, New York City. Just peering right in like a fishbowl.

Fishbowl. What was that like? I was already in the bowl, with the anchors, looking out. They’d talk, and I’d listen. But what was it like out there?

I’d been to New York City on several occasions before moving here. I’d visited the studio on several occasions, but never when my totem program was broadcasting. I’d had chances before – but I’d usually be too tired from the day before or plans would run in to each other.

Then I moved here. I willed myself out of bed to get to go a few weeks ago.

It was early when I reached Rockefeller Center that morning, roughly six-thirty. Manhattan was oddly quiet, a few business types shuffling here-and-there, street vendors just setting their carts up, and the Radio City Music Hall neon sign to my left an unfamiliar grey. It was so early that they had yet to turn it on.

Arriving at the studio was disorienting. There weren’t that many people waiting. The square made with barricades was peppered with high school-aged girls on class trips, middle-aged midwestern moms with homemade pastoral prints on their shirts and impossibly upright haircuts – these people, severely midwestern – not like where I’m from, and the older men behind them holding their bags as they scramble to take pictures of some no-name newspeople shuffling in and out of the studio. This seemed a far cry from the show’s Couric-Lauer heyday, or whenever a ‘Summer Concert Series’ event takes place.

This was disappointing. It’s hard to explain what to feel after you’ve been waiting for something so long, and then it suddenly happens. It’s as if every reflex or predetermined decision you’ve made just falls like a Jenga tower, and you’re processing so quick that you completely forgot what made you want to do it in the first place. It’s awkward. You’re hyper aware of your surroundings. Even though you were so excited, you suddenly feel wrong about being there. That was my ‘Today’ experience.

Minutes before the show was about to air, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira showed up on a live feed doing camera tests. It felt voyeuristic. These were natural movements by people that my brain was not accustomed to seeing in this way. On my television, they move for the benefit for the camera. Here, watching them perform something innocuous, like satisfying an itch, seemed downright strange.

When the show went to air, I was deflated. I’d waited nearly two decades for THIS. Standing out in the heat with a bunch of strangers, hoping to catch a glimpse of these people that inhabited my screen every morning. They finally came out around 8 am – first Al Roker, then Matt and Meredith. Lauer played it cool with the group of high school pixies in front of me, small talking about where they were from (Iowa), and one woman screamed as she had her picture taken with Lauer. Another scrambled to get her camera out and babbled about it being her birthday. He made a show of faux enthusiasm. Then a few minutes later, they were gone.

I made it about an hour before the heat got the best of me, then I tired and returned home. By then, the city had come alive with people. The signs were on, and car horns were honking ad infinitum. As I boarded the subway, I thought, “These people weren’t my heroes. They really were just like everyone else.” What made them special is that they were in that fishbowl, separated from the rest of us. Isolating them from the weirdness outside.

It also made me think: it takes a particular type of person to have that job and then have the energy to give time to people who, like me, just see them as talking heads on a television screen. They don’t consider that these people have lives, families and other things to do outside of a television studio. Instead, they are designers, tailoring a reality for us each morning.

I don’t think I need their services anymore.

New York Groove

Illustration by Ashley Elander

It’s been two weeks since I moved to New York City, and taking the time to write this feels like the first stretch that I’ve been able to focus on one thing in quite some time.

In short, it’s been a rush, but completely magnificent.

Really, this is a hell of a place. I understand I’m still wide-eyed with the newness and excitement of being in a different place, but I think that’s something that even the most hardened New Yorker doesn’t actually forget. This place feels endless. It’s like a theme park with all these different rides, and even if you have been on them a million times already, they never get old.

Most people from back home approach me here with a bit of tenuousness about my experiences here thus far – and that’s understandable, because I have a less than stellar track record when throwing myself into a new situation. This time, though, I’m not writing to detail my feelings of nervousness or anxiety, mainly, because they have been minimal. Since I got situated here, I’ve really felt one thing.

Fine.

Besides the initial first-day “WHAT DID I JUST DO?” after I moved in to my apartment, it’s been really fun. In my free time, I’m constantly moving about Manhattan and Brooklyn, learning the subway lines (and all of the transfer points, natch), stopping at bodega after bodega for water (the heat wave here has been totally insane – moving day, it was over 100 degrees out) and any pizza joint that looks remotely decent. I’ve had arepas from an Argentinian restaurant, taken advantage of being geographically close to a Pinkberry, and devoured Tastycakes Kandy Kakes that are available at Duane Reade.

I don’t think I truly understood how much of a cultural melting pot this is. There is really an insane division of people here. Chicago, it’s more or less black and white (literally and figuratively) but here – I don’t think I’ve heard so many different languages in an enclosed space.

There’s something about New York City that separates it from any of the other cities I’ve visited. It feels so huge, so self-contained, like it’s completely independent from America and operates as it’s own country. I don’t know how to explain it other than recommending a visit here. You’ll feel it soon as you hit the ground. It whacked me in the face when I was sitting in one of the pedestrian plazas in Times Square last week. It’s weird to feel so alien and so home in one place.

We’ll see where it goes from here. There’s still a lot of this story that has yet to be written. I’ve found plenty of things to do, may it be shows that pop up, places I want to visit for the first time, or people to see that I’ve met through my various travels over the years. I’m excited for what’s to come and I think that’s the best attitude to have going forward.

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Visit Ashley’s site here.

Six shows, Five days, One car

Things are a little less cloudy and my ears have stopped ringing. It turns out the pain I was experiencing was actually a developing ear infection and it’s slowed me down considerably until I went to the doctor and got some nifty antibiotics. I’m just going to ramble here, so if that’s not what you expected, it’s probably best to hit the “BACK” button on your browser right now.

The last week of the tour was probably the most fun I’ve had traveling to see The Hold Steady since I started leaving the region in summer of 2008. The band was incredibly, impossibly tight every night (I’ll admit, the addition of the new dudes left me having some doubts), but as soon as they kicked in with “Sweet Part of the City” that auspicious Tuesday night in Cleveland, it was GAME ON.

The song is a prelude. Think about it. “We were bored so we started a band. We’d like to play for you.” It’s a totally brilliant “welcome to the rock show” introduction.

Day 1

Cleveland, as attendees have previously reported, was a bit out of control. To point fingers – there were a group of kids (allegedly close to two-dozen) at the gig to celebrate their friend’s 21st birthday. No one really seemed to inform them that extreme, belligerent drunkenness pre-show may not be the healthiest decision for anyone. They didn’t respect personal space before the music began, which was the first issue, and the fact that they were openly antagonistic to bystanders was just too much. I can understand the lack of personal space while the music is going on, but before is a big no-no in my book. People were hit. There were the police. The band stopped. Craig said “It can’t possibly be worth it that much”. He was right.

Day 2

My first impressions of Pittsburgh: It’s a city with an east coast mentality featuring an impressive array of subcultures. To name a few: Hip-hop heads, crust punks, goth kids, indie rockers, and a hell of a lot of Penguins fans. I had plenty of time to people watch outside while I waited for doors to open. The venue, Diesel Club Lounge, was most certainly a dance club, and I couldn’t help but crack Wayne’s World jokes, as it reminded me of the place where Crucial Taunt played that revved-up version of “Ballroom Blitz”.

The show itself was certainly unique – a smattering of old jams and an abnormally high number of unreleased b-sides – “Criminal Fingers,” “Touchless” and for some, the why-isn’t-this-on-the-record WTF of “Goin’ On A Hike”. The first few rows of the crowd seemed to contain most of the jumping up and down and singing – while the back rows seemed to watch almost pensively.

Highlights of the evening – my buddy Whiskey Daisy finally hearing “Arms and Hearts” after close to twenty shows – totally special.Also, that ridiculously great steak sandwich I had at Primanti Brothers, post show. Oh my word. Steak. Cheese. Tomatoes. Cole Slaw. French Fries. ALL ON THE SANDWICH.

Day 3

The next morning, we headed for Morgantown, West Virginia. Our drive there was encumbered by an hour and a half long shutdown on I – 376/US 22 Monroeville. Turns out that there was a pretty bad accident where an SUV had flipped over several lanes of traffic. I found it easier just to blame the Canadian that was driving our car. Actually, that was our excuse for a lot of things that week.

Anyways: Morgantown. Very unique place. I made some cracks about meth-heads and Mountain Dew on Facebook, and got an earful about them before I got there. I now regret that. The show at 123 Pleasant Street (not surprisingly, on the street of the same address) was one of those tiny club shows that stick with you for ages. It was so small that rumor had it that there wasn’t a ‘traditional backstage’ area. The instruments were packed in so tight that Bobby had to jump over his drum kit to get behind it. My thoughts of this intimacy and closeness hearkened back to the Iowa City show at the Picador last April. The crowd was jacked that a band of THS’s caliber was in town, and everyone was excitable and great to be around. No brutality, just a lot of high fives.

These super small shows are where the Hold Steady really thrives. The energy is so concentrated and infectious and there’s an entirely different sense of togetherness compared to that at some of the larger shows.

A friend of mine wondered out loud if the band would play “Girls Like Status”. Some of us were skeptical. When the band unleashed in in the encore, it was great to see his face light up at the sound of the opening chords. It’s nice how things work out like that.

Day 4

Earlier in the week, someone mentioned to me “Jersey Mike? Mike Van Jura? That dude seems to know how to throw a party.”

Yes.

I remarked that I hadn’t been so excited for a music-related event since prom like I was for Harrisburg. That’s kind of the truth.

The family reunion vibe to this gig – the fact that so many US-ers had come in from all over the map and were mostly at the same hotel heightened the excitement. Jersey really pulled all the stops out for this one – the “Steadheads” flyers he dropped off in the hotel lobby – the “Stay Positive” symbol entrance stamp, the confetti cannon that didn’t quite work (no fault of his own). All totally silly and totally great ideas that led to the “THIS IS A BIG DEAL” feeling surrounding the show. We felt it. The band knew it, and they killed it.

To exhaust a tired statement: the bar band was back in the bar. It needs to be said. “Barfruit Blues,” “Most People are DJ’s,” and “The Swish” – all AKM era favorites, all perfect, sounding totally and completely infinite. Everything seemed to pop. (Download the recording of this show from the archive. Essential.) So sweaty, so much confetti, punctuated by a divine version of “Killer Parties”. Catching up with and meeting new people post-show was awesome. It makes me wish that more shows I attended were more like that. I’ll never forget that night. One for the ages.


Photo courtesy of Rich Tarbell

Day 5

New York was the perfect postscript to the storybook week that preceded it. Dually, it was the most ambitious day of Hold Steady show-going that any of us had undertaken. Why? It’s simple. Two shows, two venues in one night. One Hold Steady show can be a throughly exhausting physical and mental experience. Two, well, getcha’ Gatorade ready!

So, um, let’s call a spade a spade here and say that I’m ‘particular’ about when to arrive for shows. The fact that there were two shows at two different venues, (and that the doors for the second venue opened before the first show was even over) was a logistical nightmare. How could we possibly wrangle get close up for both?

By the time we arrived at Bowery Ballroom, I was shocked to see that there was a line of people that had arrived over an hour before us. I was astounded, and to tell you the truth, kind of impressed.

One of the guys in line got my attention immediately. A precocious young guy – ‘hollywasahoodrat’ on this board – had some seriously infectious enthusiasm. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the fan of the future – a total encyclopedia. One moment still has me rolling: During the J. Roddy Walston and the Business set, he turned at me after he saw bassist Zach Westphal’s trademark mustache and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s delightful!”. Absolutely perfect.

Oh – a note about J. Roddy – there’s something richly authentic about them. From the piano rave ups, the huge choruses and the totally unbridled sexuality of their performances. No matter which way you swing, you sense it. They creep up behind an unsuspecting audience and shake them until they’re a bunch of believers. There’s no reason even try to fight it. Drink the Kool-Aid. It tastes good.

Back to the Hold Steady – it’s astounding how night and day different the show at Bowery felt compared to the show in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The Bowery show was very relaxed and the crowd seemed to ruminate every note. It’s rare, but that crowd seemed like they were there to appreciate the music more than participate in it. That’s fine. The setlist was conducive to that, especially starting with a stellar “Positive Jam”, the pleonastic (and that is not a complaint) “Cattle and the Creeping Things” to the sedate roll “A Slight Discomfort”.

Not to give the false impression that the show consisted of slower numbers, but they seemed to leave the most lasting impression at the first event of the evening.

We made the decision to split before the encore of the first show. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like going from rocking at maximum intensity to turning on your heels, wading through a crowd, running down two back staircases in the venue then right out into the street. We somehow flagged down a cab in under two minutes, have him be apprehensive about going into another borough, then spending another three minutes convincing him to drive us to Brooklyn to the show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. There was very little time to think about anything else then the task at hand. The five of us had a goal. Six minutes later we arrived at the venue, made it indoors, and to our amazement, found hardly anyone occupied the front area. At this point, you’re probably scoffing. That’s understandable. I don’t care though. It was a lot of fun. Another mission accomplished.

The Oranges Band opened up the second show, as they had all week for the Hold Steady. If you have not heard them, they are a really great, totally underrated group out of Baltimore. Lots of fun, hooky pop songs, including one called “Open Air”, that’s stuck in my head nearly two weeks later. Well worth checking out.

Just like that, The Hold Steady were suddenly on stage again to the strums of “Sweet Part of the City”. With the additional lighting on the stage and the energized crowd, it felt cinematic. I don’t know if the cameras there to capture the event were able to harness that feeling.

The set was peppered with old favorites – I’m assuming “The Swish” was there was a wink to the days when the band played there when venue was known as North Six – to unreleased tracks like “Goin’ on a Hike” and other nuggets like “Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night”. My favorite moments came with the flashes of guitar interplay between Koob and Steve. The synchronized solos during “We Can Get Together” were Allman-esque (that’s meant to be complimentary) and the the double acoustic guitars to start “First Night and “Citrus” were a nice twist as well.

With one more set closing “Hoodrat,” it was over. I don’t know what else to say other than what I already said above. It was an amazing week with some great music, excellent friends, and some nice new faces.

I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Young Hearts Spark Fire (Part III)

Entries logged on Saturday, January 30, 2010 6:36 PM PST – Seattle, Washington
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Friday, January 29, 2010

We left for Seattle late Friday morning in hopes of pretty much having most of the day to waste. Our residence for the next few days was to be Hotel Max, a sister hotel of Hotel de Luxe. Think sort of the same idea as the de Luxe, but in black and hot pink. also, the bathrooms are tiny for a slightly larger guy like myself.

The doors at Hotel Max all have full door images like this.

After check in, we beelined it to Pike Place Market. The week before, Kelly had fallen in love with a Pastrami sandwich at “I Love New York Deli”, and conversely, I enjoyed the California Roll that a sushi place kitty corner to it had. This experience allowed me to really soak in the market. It’s hopelessly diverse. Foods, textiles, flying fish – everything everywhere. I love it.

I guess what’s so nice about Seattle is that it sort of feels like home, without the cold. It’s friendly, comforting, has a lot of record stores and a lot of great food. The way it’s laid out – almost everything we wanted to do was either in walking distance and reachable all together by car within five-ten minutes. Just great. Looking out on the water at the mountains? Breathtaking.

We sort of dilly-dallied around the city the rest of the day, ducking into the GAP, Urban Outfitters, and a bunch of places that we could have easily went to at home. Dinner was Ivar’s Seafood bar, the fast food version of the more famous seafood restaurant. Fish and chips was pretty good, but probably not worth the six bucks I paid for it. I sort of wish I budgeted it a bit more to truly appreciate the fish in the area. I guess I can’t always win.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Today we were pretty much dead set on accomplishing as much as possible. I had a very hard time sleeping last night and didn’t get to bed until after four AM. I woke up before my alarm a little after 8, and was pretty cranky. Kelly and I set out for Capitol Hill for breakfast, It was probably about a mile away in the rain – wet, and we kept getting lost. Not happy. Kelly ended up finding this great little breakfast place called Glo’s. For $5.45, I found myself with a scrambled egg, hash browns, bacon, and a biscuit in the shape of a muffin. Good stuff.

After our Capitol Hill breakfast, we went to the Space Needle (just to look, not go up) and to the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum. The EMP’s architecture is pretty wonderful – it’s a really colorful Frank Gehry design. The EMP itself? Thorough, for what it was, but sadly, somewhat underwhelming. There’s only a handful of exhibits – the Hendrix one was especially thoughtful. The interactivity was fun as well. I found myself at a mixing console, creating my own mix of “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics.

The EMP is kind of a big mass of crazy. This was my best attempt at a full photo.

Lunch was at the “Man v. Food” cited Red Mill Burgers. Burger was above average for 4.39, and their onion rings were pretty much some of the best I’ve had. They’re also the reason I got sick later on.

Red Mill onion rings. So good. So bad for me.

The Fremont neighborhood was next up. Probably my favorite of the ones we’ve been to so far. Tons of places to find old rock records, vintage clothing and grab a bite or get some coffee or something to drink. I picked up a Bob Dylan 1992 tour t-shirt at some junk shop. Not too bad. We grabbed a London Fog and headed to Gasworks Park, which feels like some Steampunk drawing come to life. Really cool to see all the gas rigs set right on the water. It’s too bad that they were all graffitied. I got some great pictures of the Seattle skyline. We made a quick stop in the U-District at few stores, got bored, then decided to come back to the hotel.

Dinner was a bit of a struggle tonight. We walked around for a good 45 minutes trying to find a place before settling on Palomino’s. I got the worst Tomato Basil soup ever. I promptly came home and got sick, and since then have been sitting here. Kelly brought me back from a cupcake shop, banana with chocolate frosting. I ate when it felt better. Not bad.

I’m ready to head to Minneapolis tomorrow night. It’s been nice out here, but I think I’m ready for yet another change of scenery. Overall though, I guess there’s just three words to sum it up perfectly.

It’s been great.

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View over 200 photos of the entire trip here.

The Boys are Leaving Town (or Part II)

Monday, January 25, 2010 10:26 AM PT – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

This is easily the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen in my life. Nothing can beat it.

The Sea To Sky highway contains the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced. It makes you appreciate things in an entirely different way. I cannot believe what I am seeing.  The mountains are impossibly huge – it looks like some serious “Avatar” CG, but then you’re snapped back to reality and that this is all actually REAL. The pine trees roll forever, the water is impossibly so crisp and blue. Nestled at the end of this majesty is downtown Vancouver. I can’t figure out how to capture this in words, but it’s so unbelievably huge and majestic, I just want everyone I’ve ever cared about to magically be transported there, right by the point where we stopped the car and got out in the rain.

Whistler is a ski town with an incredible amount of snow, considering it’s relatively temperate in Vancouver. It took us two hours to get there, ten minutes to walk around (we weren’t skiing) and then went down the mountains and stopped at Tim Horton’s (the Dunkin’ Donuts of Canada) and McDonalds. McDonalds BBQ sauce in Canada is VERY different and still delicious. Also, I somehow got charged $119 for gas in Canada despite spending $31.02 Canadian ($29.11 USD). Called the bank, we’ll see how that pans out in a few days.

We attempted to go Granville Island (a market similar to Pike Place) but it was closed, went back to the sushi place, got my roll, then we went and got cupcakes and headed home. Pretty action packed day.

Friday, January 29, 2010 12:09 AM PT – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The last two days in Vancouver were relatively low key – the first I spent the morning and Lonsdale Quay, a marketplace about three blocks from Kelly’s. Aside from the standard tourist fare of t-shirts and other assorted trinkets for two floors, the bottom floor is your full-fledged market with just about anything you could ever want. For me, this meant sushi. I tried a BC Roll (BBQ Smoked Salmon) and then just kind of piddled around the market. Also, I tried an overly icy green apple smoothie from another stand in the market and it was ok at best. Then, I found ANOTHER sushi place called “Little Toyko” and found another Negitoro roll. Probably my favorite sushi roll of the moment. I spent the rest of the afternoon home on the internet, and staring out the window.

Seabus

After that, Kelly came home, and I took my first ever Seabus ride. The Seabus is pretty cool. It’s like a high speed….water bus. It’s a ten minute ride on Burrard Inlet where you can see a variety of ships on the shore. Really pleasant ride and makes for nice pictures. Anyways, we headed downtown to go to Earl’s for dinner. It ended up being ho-hum. In the meantime, we did some shopping at the Hudson Bay Company and I picked up my official Team Canada shirt. It’s pretty rad.

Olympic Countdown clock

The next day, I woke up an headed down to Little Tokyo for my last few sushi rolls (or so I thought at the moment). Then I took the Seabus by myself downtown. I spent a good part of my day locating “Sharks and Hammers,” a store which had a really great t-shirt that one of the dudes from Japandroids was wearing on Fallon. Ultimately, I decided I could not spend 35 bucks on a shirt, with my trip funds already dwindling.

Either way, I found my way around with a map and was proud of the fact that I’d successfully navigated a city, considering I’m terrible with maps. I darted back in forth between sushi places and Waves coffee, each of us getting nanaimo bars and a London Fog. Kelly and I ran some errands and ordered a really bad pizza, then got some snack food at the local grocery store for tomorrow as we’re off to Portland.

Saturday, January 30, 2010 6:36 PM PST – Seattle, Washington (Concerning Portland, Oregon)

Portland seems like a cool place to hang out, but no one really seems to live there. It’s got an incredibly small-town feel for being a major city. Kelly and I got up at 3 in the morning to depart for Portland from Vancouver – it’s approximately a five hour drive. We made crossed the border at about five, (relatively hassle free by our border guard who only asked a few questions). The drive felt really long, based on the fact that I only slept about two hours previous to it.

The city is remarkably quiet. We stayed at Hotel de Luxe, a renovated old place converted in to a golden age of Hollywood Boutique hotel. It’s unique in the fact that it’s one of four Provenance hotels – Boutique places with a major focus on customer service. The bed was great, super comfortable – and probably the only reason I’ve slept decently on this trip.

After checking in, we went to Powell’s Bookstore, a massive store that takes up an entire city block. Rooms are color coded by genre of book, and since I had a particular title in mind, I beelined it upstairs to find John Sellars “Perfect From Now On,” which to my understanding is an indie rock memoir. Kelly and I were pretty hungry, so we tracked down Portland’s premier (at least to us) Jewish Deli, Kenny and Zuke’s. The Pastrami was pretty great (albeit a bit dry), and the “South West Hominy” soup was pretty decent as well. A nice meal.

The crowning moment of our day in portland came with Living Room Theaters, a movie theater that specializes in smaller independent movies as well as older classic films. Kelly has been imploring me to watch Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest” for some time now. As it so was, the theater was actually showing an HD projection of it! The theater itself had nice, large reclining chairs, and gourmet food that you could eat in the theater. We settle for some chicken skewers, pita and hummus, and Kelly got a cheese plate. Well worth it.

The ODB and I.

Of course, Portland would have not been anything unless I talked about our trip to Voodoo Doughnut. Voodoo Doughnut is a sort of hole-in-the-wall punk rock donut place. They make more traditional fair like “The Marshall Mathers” (Cake donut with mini m&m’s and white frosting) to the ODB (Oreo cookie crumbles, frosting, drizzled with peanut butter.) Some of the best donuts I’ve tasted. So, so good.

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View over 200 photos of the entire trip here, and check back for more entries from the trip!