An L.A. road trip off the road. – YouTube http://ow.ly/uqRSK
Literally within the past few days a tweet has turned into reality. LA times reports Amtrak starts writer’s residency after a tweet about it caught their interest. The Wire calls it Absolutely Awesome. It was Jessica Gross who got the first trip, but it was Alexander Chee who dreamed the whole thing up.
So the whole thing is happening. Twitter is abuzz over it. Every writer within a mile of a computer is asking for their turn on this wild, slow ride, train from one place to another. It’s truly one of those things that could turn Amtrak from a struggling, in debt, company into a Social Media wunderkind.
As a writer myself, I’ve dreamed of long train rides, and long pieces of writing. Dream and done. As a traveler, I’ve traced a few dotted lines across European fields on trains. Even took a 16 hour train from Mongolia to
China (just for a visa renewal) and then swiftly returned on same 16 hour train back. Traveled joyfully in Japanese commuter trains. But Amtrak leaves nothing of Joy on my memories.
But a writer’s will is to sit in a solitary space for a while, come out of it and let the world know what the product of that was. The folks on the train have no idea what’s going on. Maybe it’s some 30 something who returned to college and is finishing up a term paper. Maybe it’s a handsome model trying his lick at the old pen and paper. Or it’s a weird bearded fat man who keeps farting and giggling to himself.
This Writer’s Residency is not scalable and not conducive to meeting up. Writers want their privacy. They want a few hours alone. Not to be bumped into by a sharp elbow, or a drunk stagger. A residency on a train may be better for those who are accustomed to hostile work environments, entertaining, and talkative.
How about Amtrak send a couple of comedians on their trains. Brighten traveler’s days, and provide a few odd, weird notes about the surroundings. A quick chat with the conductor will provide a comedian with enough material to entertain for a half hour set. Sometimes he’ll just make it up as he goes. A comedian is used to performing on their feet and jabbing when needed.
Let’s make it happen Amtrak. Let’s do this thing we call awesomeness. Amtrak, I’m ready for you to turn from that stubborn old coot into a new media darling.
New Yorkers are accustomed to a Jewish Deli. Floridians too. (because it’s all former New Yorkers) But I’m not sure there is a large population that knows what kasha is, or kishka, or Kugel.
It’s funny that most of the menu’s items start with the letter K but it’s true. Enjoy this video I produced about what exactly is on the menu at a Jewish Deli.
And when you’re done, you’ll know what to … or not to… order next time you walk in.
We’re all bloggers, writers, connesieurs. Even if we only use Foursquare to say “I’ve been here” or use Facebook to show the close tight shot of this morning’s coffee. The world is being innundated though, with promoted tweets and photos of places asking us to “retweet” “share” “post”. Some of the places we love, we remember, we tell our friends about don’t have ambassadors. They don’t have someone telling you it’s important. It’s merely a friend explaining their night’s crazy adventure which started or ended at a gay cowboy bar.
There is an answer in a mostly textual website. It’s an experiment, literally. It’s New York all the way but able to take on any place, any time. idontwanttogotoabar-whereshouldigo.com allow anyone to showcase that odd place which has tweet length meaning.
The best thing about the site is it’s merely a mapping tool. It’s begging you, pleading with you, to go check it out for yourself. Make the journey all the sweeter with a stop at one of these places. See it on the map. If you’re in New York (at the moment) it’s probably on your way home, or on your way to the harbor or park or theatre you’re going to tonight. And if during your travels you find something interesting. let others know what to look for and where to look for it.
Travel for the fun. Travel for the stories. Travel for the halibut.
There are gods among men. Those few who can constantly morph a hunk of meat into a delicious sandwich with but a bit of steam, and herbs. Norm Langer goes to work every day doing exactly the same thing over and over again. He makes sure in fact that not his recipe is kept up, but his Father’s recipe.
Norm is a dying breed and I’m saddened by that fact. This is a man who’s entire life is devoted to a single type of food. This particular old Jewish Deli sits on the edge of Koreatown in Los Angeles. An auspicious place for a Jewish deli, but it’s been here through thick and thin, through tunneling and riots. It sits across the street from an infamous inner city park. But every day Norm comes in and unlocks the door for the hungry masses.
Next time you’re hankering for a piece of fork tender meat, remember it’s just a plane ride away to Los Angeles. There’s no haute cuisine here. It’s just tried and true best practices. It’s a bit of heat, in the right place at the right time. It’s not weird, it’s not bizarre. It’s just darn good. no. it’s not good. It’s great. the best. ever. I’m not the one saying that. It’s the ones who vote, the counters, the determiners, the judges who know what they are talking about, those are the ones who have deemed Langer’s to be the best Pastrami EVER.
Can you guess where the below tourism ad is trying to make you go?
If you read the caption and said South Australia, you would be correct.
If you guessed Post Apocalyptic Mad Max realm.. I think you’d be half right.
If you guessed mind bending reality where “they can’t tear us apart”… I think you’d be half right.
I found this ad through Skift.
The best question is: What exactly is it promoting? I believe it’s promoting some kind of dream like walk through a city, with an astronaut’s suit on. It’s definitely telling a story, a stranger in a strange land kind of story. But it also tells the classic “A stranger comes to town” story. There are a lot of David Bowie influenced themes. A man falling to earth, a well dressed man/woman kicking pigeons. Glitter.
At the end of this “music video” I’d rather see the movie that it’s promoting instead of the city it’s promoting. South Australia: a strange astronaut lands and a love story blossoms from their destructive, or rather healing path.
Reminds me of Brother From Another Planet, American Astronaut, Mad Max 2, The Man Who Fell To Earth, and not a tourism ad. But maybe that’s what makes it a great ad, that it doesn’t come off as an ad.
My tummy has gotten the best of me. I spend too much time reading about food, and reading about ethnic enclaves in Los Angles. But it’s all in good fun right? Last weekend I went to a Cambodian restaurant with my food buddy and host of the travel show I’m shooting. He was lecturing me on durian, the stinkiest fruit in the world. I said well it looks like we spent too much again. He said “we’ll never regret a new experience.”
(author’s note: Honestly I don’t remember the quote. It had something to do with never regretting trying something new. It was a Cambodian restaurant and neither of us had ever had Cambodian food before. Have you? It’s not the most common of foods and of all places it was in Long Beach, CA. It was Cambodian Town. I’ve been to Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Chinatowns in five countries, but never Cambodia Town.)
The money went away, the food digested, I slept well that night and woke up later than usual, not because of the meal but because my alarm reset itself after a blackout in the middle of the night. But that wasn’t the craziest things I’ve ever eaten.
The craziest thing I’ve ever tried has been literally called “Crazy Chips” or Tostitos Locos. They serve them downtown in the fashion district. I overheard a small group ordering them and then saw the small lady run around and throw together all the ingredients. When she delivered them in a popped open bag of Tostitos I wondered if this was in fact something I just never heard of. It was indeed a cultural icon, a favorite in a large community just not my own.
Hope you enjoy our trip into the heart of the Fashion District, not for a new pair of pants but rather for a belt buckling culinary adventure. What’s the craziest food you’ve ever eaten?
I’m engaged to the Girl Who Travels. We met somewhere out there. We haven’t seen each other for spans of up to months. It’s been heartbreaking every single time we leave, she leaves, or I leave. We dated for years, engaged for years, and we’ll be married for years once we figure out when and how to get married. Maybe more importantly we need to figure out where to get married.
I’m not sure where she fell in love with me. But I fell in love with her in a hill-top town in France, in an Italian trattoria in Cagliari, on a 2 and a half hour train ride from Barcelona to a Dali museum and a sleep ride back, swimming a deserted Caribbean beach, while eating Jamaican patties on the side of the road, while skyping from a cafe in St. Martin, and it goes on and on that I fall in love with her every single day. While star-gazing one night I fell in love again. I spent more time looking at her than I did the stars, I’m sure she noticed.
Even though I’ve traveled and lived abroad at times, she’s done it more. A year in England, months in Canada, weeks in Australia. I’ll never win a battle of been there, done that. But that’s fine by me. I’ll always be a 2nd place to her winning smile. I can’t wait until the day I have known her more than not known her in my life. That truly is when I will grow up. It comes to a point every few weeks when I need to tell her I can’t do this anymore that I want to be with her all the time and I will do anything to do that but we are on different paths at the moment. In a few years this will only be a moment. Now it seems like eternity.
We both travel, we both move about. She there, me here. The next month she’s there but I’m way over there. I’m trying to keep still, create a sort of landing runway for her, and me, us.
Now it’s my time to be here, for as long as possible. She will find me. My coordinates just need to stay still for long enough to build a home for her to return to. It’s not easy if we both travel. It’ll never be easy. A future garden might have it’s paths named after Greek streets and English avenues. Our walls covered in maps instead of family pictures.
Once we met at my cousin’s house in South Florida for a BBQ for 2 hours. A week together in the Caribbean, her at work. Once we met in Yokohama for a couple weeks. There will be those times again. I’ll never forget them. She’ll never forget them. The stuff stories are made of.
It’s a moment of my soul waking up, when I see her after so long. It never gets old. She’s a new person every time. I’m a new person every time. Our commute is not an hour each way, it’s a couple days.
A ship at sea seems so lonely from far away.
We won’t settle down until this is out of our system. In fact I lie, there is no settle down. Settling down means we’re dead in the ground. I think we’ll travel to our hearts content. No matter when, no matter how, no matter where.
Valentine’s day doesn’t happen once a year. We celebrate our life together, apart, every single day.
Don’t date the girl who travels. Marry her.
If you’re staying at a hotel, chances are you can use their outbox to send a letter. Not many people do today because this email thing is so darn awesome. For essentially free I can send a note, attach a photograph, to a friend a large distance away. Tell them how I’m doing, how the wife is, how much I ate at that Spanish tapas bar, how much I drank and how many people I stepped on while trying to dance. But what fun is that? Okay I admit that is fun to write, and report. But sending a postcard is also fascinating. It makes me feel like an old man, corresponding with my old friend from many years ago, our friendship held onto like a taut string between two tin cups.
There is something interesting that happens when I decided to forgo the email, forgo the hotel’s outgoing mail and venture forth into the world of Italian post offices. The first thing I realize is that I have no idea where a post office might be. The tourist maps, the signs, none discuss of a post office. We ask locals, some know, some can’t tell us with out playing charades. When I produce a letter, it helps. Also “Post Office” is not the hardest of foreign words to figure out, it turns out to be Poste.
The best thing happens on the way to the Post Office. Only a couple of blocks away but a world away since it’s past the tourist signs, past the menus in English. It’s next to a typical cafe. I can get a cheap espresso before the walk back. The girls can check out real Italian clothing shops. We also pass by the offices of the local musicians union. And many other offices of normal workers. The Post Office’s building also happens to be a beautiful structure, seemingly centuries old itself. A grand edifice to gaze in front of.
We return a couple times since our ship docks here every two weeks and we happen to have some packages to send the next time we arrive to Cagliari. It’s a fun walk, and almost a walk into the present. The tourist parts of town will exclaim how old and how amazing their heritage is. The regular parts of town, are just that… regular. They breathe and live just like any other town in any other city, almost like your home town or home downtown. A few blocks away are residents who don’t participate in tourism, but rather live off a solid day’s work doing something.
Morning dawns on all the same.