Jesse Malin Opens October Residency with a Wild Memorial Night

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Jesse Malin play, at benefits, at festivals, as an opener, but last night was the first time I’ve seen a proper Jesse Malin show, and it was proof that I should have done this years ago. Coming off two wildly successful Joe Strummer tribute shows and a European and UK tour, Jesse and his band were tight and on point for the full 2 hours, even as Jesse was climbing through the crowd to sing from the bar or going off setlist.

The show was the first of Jesse’s residency at his new club Coney Island Baby. Nestled on Ave A in the spot that used to be the beloved HiFi bar, and Brownies before that, Coney Island Baby is one of those magical places where the band melts directly into the audience, in no small part because the stage is at ankle height. The front row often found itself on catching-the-falling-mic-stand duty, while Jesse got lost in the swell of the crowd.

Malin pulled from all eras of his solo career, including new tracks that are currently being prepared for a new album. The 20-plus song set included such Malin staples as BrooklynAll The Way From MoscowYou Know It’s Dark When Atheists Start To PrayTurn Up The Mains, and more, and covers of The Ramones (Do You  Remember Rock N Roll Radio), The Clash (Rudie Can’t Fail), and The Lords of the New Church (Russian Roulette).

The night wasn’t entirely a party, though, as Jesse was also reeling from the death of his father last week. Like the best memorials, the show swung easily between somber and celebratory. He peppered in stories about their relationship (often taking on a “Bronx” accent that sounded more like a muppet than a New Yorker) that moved the audience and were clearly cathartic for the punk-rocker-turned-troubadour. One such memory was of Jesse’s father saying “I’ll come see you when you get to play The Garden” when Jesse told him that his band was playing three sold out nights at CBGBs. “He didn’t quite get what was going on there.” Jesse explained. “He was an accountant. He liked the swag, he liked the merch.” 

Jesse’s residency has him and his band at Coney Island Baby for the next three Tuesday nights. As Jesse said last night, “things are great, we’re playing Tuesday’s at Brownies!”

Listen to Mozy’s Jesse Malin playlist 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!

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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