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 Eternal Mixtape Project

This is a project that I have been working on intermittently for years. Now, it’s something I want to put in action.

It’s called The Eternal Mixtape Project.

From when I was in elementary school up until the eighth grade, I didn’t have much use for music. However, when I got “Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix,” when I was thirteen, my world completely changed.

I turn twenty-five this year. I feel that’s a good time to take stock of what’s happened in my life as I hit the quarter century mark. Why not look back on it with the songs that shaped me?

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to assemble a list of every song that’s meant any significance in my life thus far.

I want you to do it too.

Send it to us. Let’s hear your story. That’s the only catch. There needs to be a substantial story (at least a paragraph long) attached to each song that you must write along with it.

They’re due Saturday, March 20 Wednesday, March 31 by 12:00 AM CST. Sign up by placing a comment below, and when you’re done, e-mail the list to eternalmixtape@obviatemedia.net. They’ll all be listed on the site, and a prize will be awarded to the person who best exemplifies the idea of the project.

One more thing. There’s no song limit. It will be as long as it needs to be. Your life can’t be dictated by just a number. It’s all about the experiences you have.

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!

Rockers East Vancouver…and a bunch of other places

I recently returned from a two week, four city trip out west. I spent time primarily in Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis. In order to get there, I took an Amtrak train, since I don’t generally prefer to fly. Also, because it’s awesome.

Here are the first few days of my journals and photos.

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1/21/10 10:58 PM CST – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The sleeper car room is actually pretty cool. I don’t know how else to explain it other than it’s an oversized closet. There’s two seats on the bottom, then a top bunk that pulls down, a table in the middle that folds out so you can set drinks, computers or even play checkers with the checkerboard pattern built in. There’s a nice set of toiletries in a bag – soap, shampoo, etc, and and a box of Kleenex. It’s private and quiet. Happy to be in here.

1/22/10 7:24 AM CST – Rugby, North Dakota (approx.)

So, turns out a sleeper car is not entirely conductive to sleeping. I took a Tylenol PM last night to help aide me in napping, and instead, it just gave me these wild hallucinations you get from staying up too late with night time cough medicine. I just ended up tossing and turning a lot, and compulsively checking my phone and trying to find music on my iPod. I think I tried to turn on Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” on several occasions. I don’t remember a lot of it, and that’s probably because I was really tired.

I dared to look out the window in the morning. If there’s one thing about the Dakota’s – at least North – there is absolutely nothing but land. Hardly any trees in site. I’m looking forward to Montana, seeing some mountains and feeling like we’re getting somewhere. The Midwest is like one big vacuum. I always thought it was special that Illinois didn’t have mountains. I always wished it did. It was always kind of a treat to see them. I haven’t seen any substantial western ones since I went to visit my grandfather in New Mexico ten years ago.

It being nearly seven thirty without a sunrise sort of freaks me out. I don’t really ever recall it being this dark out ever so late in the morning. It doesn’t even look like it’s coming up anytime soon.

Eating on the train has been an experience each time. To conserve space, they group you into fours at a table. Last night for dinner, it was me, two Minnesotan women in their fifties (likely) and a slightly larger college freshman girl going to visit her friend at Winona State University. The Minnesotan women were returning from a ski retreat in Michigan, and it seemed that they were generally interested in hearing about my Minnesotan girlfriend. The Winona girl tried out for American Idol in Chicago, making the second cut before she got eliminated. She attends UW Milwaukee.

This morning, I sat with two older men and this completely green-behind-the-ears kid traveling to Minot, ND from Fayettville, NC. He asked a lot of questions about politics, the underwear bomber and other stuff people don’t generally bring up in a conversation. The man next to me – whom I’ll call Jerry, because I don’t really remember his name – was a former band teacher in Manhattan. We talked about jazz and he told me about Gene Shepard and some other radio guy I can’t remember the name of.

Both the Minnesotan women and this man Jerry were very interested in talking about Apple. The man across from me was a machine parts repairer or something. He was from near Milwaukee. Nice enough people.

1/23/10 1:52 AM PT – Sandpoint, Idaho

I’m way past the expiration date on this train as we accidentally took a two hour break due to some wheel trouble. This was doubly aggravating, considering that no one was available on the train to talk to about this particular incident. I think I freaked myself out awake because of it.

Either way, I’m likely in Idaho now, waiting for one last stop before the final one hour and 45 minute trek to Spokane. I don’t anticipate being there anytime before 4 am, which means it’s about six am my time. Ugh.

There is one cool thing about this whole situation though. Being insulated by the mountains in this train car. I can’t necessarily see anything outside, mind you, but I feel like we are the pigs in a very big blanket. That’s kind of cool.

This woman that I met on the train along with this guy Liam who I met in Chicago (he effectively drank all the way from New Jersey to Montana.) Anyways, the woman wanted me to call her MA (for Mary Alice or Mary Ellis?). I don’t know. She had a new white MacBook and the first two Beatles Anthologies. She said being on this train was like it’s own little town. I liked that.

1/25/10 10:26 AM PT – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

As Friday bled into Saturday and the train trip continued, we made a scheduled stop in Libby, Montana and ended up not leaving for over two hours. Turns out there was some issues with the wheels or the engines on the train that resulted us dropping an engine in Montana. I dozed off for an hour when we had stopped. When I woke up, I was slightly delirious, trying to find a conductor or an attendant for no luck. I was with this older woman named Nancy who was coming back from her mother’s funeral, and some older headstrong guy who claimed to be a former conductor. He was wearing a brace on his arm.

We got to Spokane two hours late. Kelly picked me up and we got to the hotel where we talked for a bit then got ready for bed. I was so amped up from the ride that I didn’t end up falling asleep until 5 AM PT (7 AM CT). Needless to say, after a few interrupted hours of sleep, I was still pretty tired.

With that, we set out on the road for Vancouver. First was a stop at Jack In The Box where I got a decent chicken sandwich and curly fries.

I’m amazed at how “not present” I feel on this trip. It was no different on our way back up to Vancouver. I found myself constantly in awe of the mountains, how big and frankly, perfect they looked. They weren’t like those on the east coast – these had more definition – pine trees, rockier cliffs. In the decent towards Seattle, these mountains bordered the water (which was impossibly blue) and were punctuated by great blue and grey cloudscapes. It’s truly Pacific Northwestern. There’s something so inherently free and open and goddamn clean about the whole thing. I just consistently can’t believe that this is my life at this moment.

Also, we stopped at a Starbucks on the way and i had my first London Fog, which was absolutely terrible. Subsequent ones since then have been much better. Don’t trust a Starbucks in it’s home state, it’s bound to disappoint.

After four hours of driving, Kelly and I decided to stop in Seattle for lunch. (This was a decision we weren’t sure we were going to make, as we had a scheduled White Denim concert at the Media Club that evening. Because of our 8 + hours of driving later, we didn’t end up going, but that didn’t deter us.

I don’t think that there’s a much better place to go for an introduction to Seattle other than Pike Place Market. It’s incredible. Kind of like a flea market on steroids, with fresh food. Also, it’s a complete sensory overload. Fresh fruit and veggies everywhere. The seafood is at every corner. I saw enormous shrimp for sale, so fresh that I just wanted to pick one up right off the ice. I saw the guys throw the fish at the Fish Market. There is so much going on in every corner of the market, it’s like a different world with each space. I’m excited to go back this weekend to discover it even more. With this little bit, Seattle seemed very, very livable. Hopefully next weekend does more to persuade me in that direction. Note:

It’s here I have had the biggest and some of the best sushi I’ve had. HUGE California rolls with REAL CRAB MEAT. Not the imitation stuff. Delicious.

(I should note, when we parked the car, we accidentally parked next to human feces. It’s very clear that it indeed was human feces, mainly because the person used a paper plate or some sort of paper product to wipe. It was pretty gross. It also prompted my mother to send me an email saying she saw some people doing crack by the market when my parents were in town there. Hilarious.

I took some of my best photos by the market – the sky seems tailored to for really vibrant photos. The colors are amazing at sunset.

After a few hours in Seattle, we decided to head back to Canada. This, on the last few trips I’ve made has always been my favorite thing: Crossing the border. This trip, it seemed a bit more labored. We were both kind of concerned crossing the border with an American passport and a Canadian one. Lucky for us, we didn’t have a lot of trouble.

First impressions of Vancouver: It’s probably the least Canadian city of the three major Canadian cities I’ve been to. Perhaps I feel like it’s more of an extenuation of what I saw in Seattle – but with a different flag and kilometer signs. It’s still pretty, but not in the ways I thought when I was entering. It seemed kind of ho-hum, but after the Sea To Sky Highway drive on Monday (more on that later) I got shut up pretty quick.

Sunday, we went downtown. First stop was a place called “Honey’s” that Kelly swears by. They have these gigantic, homemade donuts that were unlike any other donuts I’ve had before. They’re more mini cakes than anything. Delicious. We also had the “Coveman” breakfast, which was your standard eggs/bacon/potatoes with some amazing potato bread. Well worth it.

Going downtown on Sunday was cool enough. I liked the Hudson Bay Department Store with all of the Official Olympic Merch – kind of reminds me of a Canadian Marshall Fields – not Macy’s, natch.

We visited a couple of lackluster record stores, Gastown (nice steam clock), dodged into some decent coffee shops, stopped by the Amsterdam Cafe (The legal weed cafe. You can’t buy it, but you can smoke it there.) Not that it mattered.

At dinnertime, we met up with Kelly’s friend Tess, someone I have been a casual acquaintance with through messaging for a couple of weeks now. We went and got late night sushi at Shima Sushi. It was a great hole in the wall place that Kelly and I visited the next day after. I must put a Negitoro roll (Tuna belly and green onion) on my list of favorite rolls. Hopefully I can track it down when I get back. Probably – definitely – won’t taste the same.

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

St. Vincent at Metro, 2/18/10

St. Vincent is for lovers.

Or, that’s what it seemed like Thursday night Metro, a post-Valentine’s smattering of pairs, tall and short, black and white, fat and skinny. To the guy behind me: I swear, if I overhear you again telling the obviously bored chick you’re with about how awesome your music collection transitions from Billy Holliday to the Dead Kennedys, I’ll smack you. The stench of your smugness discussing your Yo-Yo Ma jams was equally disgusting.

St. Vincent at Metro, Thursday February 18, 2010

All asides, Annie Clark’s nom-de-plume return to Chicago was nothing short of gorgeous. By that, I mean both the tunes AND the performer.

Her two albums – 2007’s Marry Me and last year’s Actor are two gems of strangely damaged pop music. They’re lush with jagged, uneven soundscapes, nestled with her delicate falsetto. It’s like an angel narrating your nightmares.

I suppose that’s part of St. Vincent’s appeal. She’s pretty, diminutive even, and she makes a lot of noise. Big noise.

What’s great about her music is that is contains a “this-could-go-off-the-rails-at-any-moment” energy without entirely deviating from conventional song structure. The arrangements on her records are meticulous. That insularity doesn’t always translate live.

Quite the contrary. It was striking to find how wide open each song seemed to be. They were airy and almost malleable. This was put to the test very early on.

Her band, (four scruffy dudes) started with a diaphanous version of “The Strangers”, where Clark struggled with the volume malfunction of her guitar during the song’s midpoint. It didn’t really seem to matter though, as the swell of brass instruments easily compensated for the guitar’s absence.

One of the night’s best moments was “Marrow,” a stomp full of guitar squalls and an uneasy, audible tension. Clark’s plea of “H-E-L-P, help me, help me”, followed pounding her guitar’s body during the song’s breakdown showed some of her uncharacteristic wickedness.

Unexpectedly, she eventually abandoned her guitar in favor of keyboards during a gentle version of “The Bed”, a mellow ballad. It was quiet enough to hear the conversation of those inconsiderate enough in the back of the club.

Clark’s music commands seriousness, it’s a relief to find she has a sense of humor. As her band left the stage briefly so she could perform solo, she explained her love for “It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube, which was the song that proceeded her on stage. She gave a quick narration of the song, then played another song she considered similar in theme, a sterling version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days”.

St. Vincent at Metro, Thursday February 18, 2010

The breadth of Clark’s powers were on display with the encore of “Your Lips Are Red”. A tension filled mess of guitar, bass and brass instruments, Clark attacked her guitar with the same gesticulation Gena Rowlands displayed during one of her psychotic episodes in John Cassavetes’s “A Woman Under The Influence”. Both were unnatural, unorthodox and generally terrifying.

I suppose there’s another parallel between those two. In the film, Gena Rowlands is a woman who looked crazy and tried to convince everyone she wasn’t. Here, St. Vincent is a woman who doesn’t look crazy and wants to convince everyone she might actually be.

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View more photos from the show at our gallery.

The End of the Beginning

This is a brand new decade. It can’t be any newer. The one that ended yesterday seemed to go at a traumatically brisk pace. The 1990s seemed to exist way longer than they actually were. This, in part because there was a mélange of cultural moments, styles and ideas that shaped each year and still make them easy to define. This decade? Not so much. Every cultural phenomona seemed to hit at once, and then linger. There were so many things happening, they packed every square inch of calendar space.

The two-thousands are the first decade I can remember from beginning to end with clarity. Most of my formative years- the things that shape your life and set you on the course you’re on now happened. It was a unique time to be growing up, because instead of the glacial change and relative peace of the decade before it, the world seemed to rise and fall just as I hit highs and lows as well.

This decade was a hyper intense cycle of life and death, war and despair, hope and loss and and an overwhelming amount of information coming all at once. So much, I’ve struggled writing this because I don’t know exactly what to include.

It was an insane time to grow up – both good and bad. The wars, the endless stream of controversies, the first two presidential elections are some of the least proud moments – but at the same time, there was the music, the movies, and the people who worked to make this world (and my life) a better place.

I feel privileged to have had a front row seat. I got to form my opinions on a world that was experiencing growing pains just as I had mine. I learned nothing was easy, dreams can die, and things don’t always turn out the way they’re supposed to.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit fatalistic. If I’ve learned anything else: there’s almost always second chances. There are ways to get the things you want. There are ways to better yourself and the world around you.

There’s always the time to dream bigger and make them a reality.

I now know more than ever, this is my chance to.