Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Luck Be A Lady

Summer sure is coming in like bridezillas at a gown sale this year!

Was going to do my usual woe-is-me-I'm-getting-older-and-still-a-total-failure post on my birthday Sunday. Thankfully a late night of boozy and delicious fun with friends and a World Cup brunch prevented that. Which is good, because for once, I'm actually feeling lucky.

I'm lucky because I had six amazing friends, John, Jason, Stephanie, Rob, Malaika and Ricardo take me out for a fantastic Brooklyn howl. It was a warm, but dry and comfortable night. We started on the roofdeck at the Rock Shop in Park Slope, pretty chill and roomy, listening to the unknowing crowd squished around Mission Dolores beer garden below. From there we went to dinner at one of my new favorite places, Palo Santo, a Park Slope neighborhood sleeper on Union Street that specializes in local ingredients turned into eclectic Latin American fare with a well selected list of South American and NY state wines to match. After that, a breezy walk along the fragrant Gowanus Canal to my local, the Jakewalk. Then, perhaps ill advised but who's counting, kept the momentum going at Boat until we emerged at last call around 4am. People wrote me really heartfelt cards and I was overwhelmed by the amount of Facebook messages wishing me happy birthday. Jack Benny was so right. If that night was any indication, "The best years of a woman's life are the 10 between the ages of 39 and 40."

Here's me (taken via Hipstamatic iPhone app) at dinner. I always like to have a bday flower in my hair.

There's John (front), Rob and Malaika on one side.

Stephanie (front), Jason (hidden, but he'd be happy about that) and Ricardo on the other.

One of the top two great pics of John and me ever taken. Second only to us in our furry Kimpton hotel robes from a couple of years ago in Portland, OR.


Malaika gave me this book. She knows me so well.

The following day, I awoke around noon, magically hangover free, and it all started again with a margarita brunch watching the World Cup Brazi vs. Ivory Coast with Rob downstairs at the Lobo. Then my parents came in for cocktails with some of the mischpucha at Clover Club before dinner at Saul, then post parents back at Clover Club, rejoining the group for one more before plotzing.

The luck continued next day with a Summer Solstice/extended bday treat to a Brooklyn Cyclones vs. Aberdeen Ironbirds game with John and our friend Norm. And the Cyclones won!

Moon over the Parachute Drop with the Hipstamatic setting again. I thought I heard Norm, a contractor, say it was a "good height" when in fact he said it was "bright." So for the rest of the night, we joked about whether the moon's height was correct.

John and Norm.

The field and Cyclone-themed score board. Great seats!

But the biggest bit of luck came yesterday. Cue song from "A Chorus Line." I need this job. And I got this job. I start working in the NY Philharmonic Archives Monday! Will have to get used to an early morning, long commute and crap pay, but it'll be worth it. Cheers to new beginnings. And hopefully my karma keeps a wide birth around the ladder for a while.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hank II is Dead, Long Live Hank III!

This is something you NEVER want to see when you turn on your computer.

Now, I KNEW this was going to happen someday soon, but still. As you might have read last year in a previous post, I did a bad thing. I accidentally spilled water on Hank II and, in a panic, called Apple, which you just should never do in such situations. Once they know about the exchange of fluids, so to speak, your Applecare is toast. Luckily the machine came back on OK a couple of days later, but without knowing for sure the extent of the damage to the hard drive. My friend Max, a.k.a. The Mac Whisperer, had been able to restore him on a couple of occasions and extended his life by many months. But last week, as I was cooking a fab dinner of whole wheat penne with fresh pea and mint pesto, while listening to music from iTunes, Hank just up and quit. Froze solid. After a hard reset, the above is all I ever saw of him again. That blinking question mark.  Like he'd been possessed by The Joker. Max did what he could, charged paddles, but we couldn't bring him back. Luckily I'd done a major Time Machine backup just that day, and almost everything has been saved. Small favors, right?

So Max built a nice, new, shiny, metallic machine for me online and we went ahead and ordered. It was an incredibly sultry day, so Stephanie was over too for some A/C and margaritas. After a couple of really excellent home made ones with fresh lime juice and agave syrup (thanks, lady!), Max left and we moved on to the Lobo downstairs. I was gulping tequila and the resignation of impending, massive debt pretty hard. It was all I could do.

Well, here's the new toy, stacked redneck style over the other ones, with all my various wires everywhere. So far he's pretty rockin'. Long may you live (please?), Hank III. Don't worry. This one comes with a restraining order. No fluids within 6 feet.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scotland Part Four - Edinbra

I didn't get much time to see this beautiful city, but what I saw really won me over.

I had one full day there between our visit to Auchentoshan and our road trip to the Highlands, and again after being on the road before I headed home.

The day we went to Auchentoshan, we passed this scene on the way to the train to Glasgow. Someone had a drunken laugh the night before!

The weekend was atypically warm, dry and sunny. The locals are used to rain and cold, so everyone was tilted to the sun like plants. The view from Dan's apartment, looking out onto the lush garden and letting in the warmth.

People in Edinburgh seem to be optimistic about the weather despite the usual wet reality, lots of flowers planted everywhere, and many people with convertible cars! On days like this, they can finally break out the shoe pots.

We wandered around town and sat in the park as we contemplated our next move, eventually heading to the Royal Mile for some whisky shopping. See that winding hill on the upper right? Yep, we walked straight up it on a path.

Winded, here is the view we were rewarded by at the top.

We had a stroll down the Royal Mile, stopping into Royal Mile Whiskies and Cadenheads where I did some damage. Here is St. John's Cathedral, which is also where all the city ghost tours can be picked up.

The Royal Mile is called such because at the top is Edinburgh Castle, and a mile down the same road is Holyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots lived. I was really jonesed to go into it after being shut out of Stirling. Alas, this is all I was going to see of it. There was a "royal visit" till mid June and the Palace is shut to visitors. I mean COME ON. They open the White House when the First Family is around... Man, this trip is all about the timing, isn't it? Well, maybe this just means I'm meant to return for another opportunity to do some Mary geeking.

That evening, Dan and I set out for some pubs, starting in the Grass Market (former square of public hangings, now a thriving, mostly Irish, bar and restaurant scene) and had another long walk. Dan's girlfriend, Yvonne, lives in Marchmont near the Meadows Park. That was my home base for most of the trip. That night, everyone was still out enjoying the weather. Lucky students had just finished exams and were ready to party. The town was thumping! And it would stay light till after 10pm.

A pretty high stone walkway on the way to the park.

The Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book, is in Greyfriars. Here is the school that was the inspiration for Hogwarts.

I spent a lot of time in Greyfriars cemetery, both that night and when I returned to town a few days later. Wish I'd had time for a ghost tour like these people in the distance with their be-caped guide. 

Stone relief, one of many.

Here's a skeleton relief taken on a different visit.

This is the tomb of Greyfriars Bobby, who was a Skye Terrier who, legend has it, spent many years protecting the grave of his owner, John Gray, until his own death in 1872.

This is the legendary pub near the entrance. Keep walking up the road to the right and you'll hit the George IV Bridge and then the Royal Mile, just past the pub and down and you're in Cowgate and the Grass Market, so this was also my landmark corner that guided me.

As I mentioned, I unexpectedly had Tuesday night and all of Wednesday to myself since Dan had to tend to Yvonne and her family for her grandmother's funeral. I ended up having a fab chippy take away near Yvonne's, then took a long walk and eventually ended up back in Marchmont at the Argyll pub, watching Tom Jones on Jools Holland and understanding how much better Guinness really does taste across the pond. Here's a shot I snapped on my walk. The little chapel in the far distance has been converted into a theater. Wish I'd been able to see something there.

The following day was spent shopping in my new very favorite store of all time, Marks and Spencers and taking a haunted underground tour in the South Bridge vaults. This really cool company called Mercat puts together these very clever ghost and history tours around town. Our guide, Kimberley, was a pip and so much fun to listen to. There were just three of us in all. And I have to say, there were a couple of times I was pretty spooked down there. I kept expecting someone to jump out at us during the tour (someone who worked there). When that didn't happen, I swore I felt drafts and smelled wafts of things like leather polish that weren't really there. When I emerged, I was definitely needing something to calm my nerves. Luckily, the Albanach pub was right there.

The Royal Mile looking down.

Looking into one of the many ornate "Closes" (corridors) up and down the Mile. One could spend a whole day, and get a good cardio workout, wandering up and down these.

And here's a city view taken from the George IV Bridge.

That evening, under Dan's recommendation, I decided to take advantage of the pre-theater dinner special at Sweet Melinda's in Marchmont. Gooooood call. Really fresh and delicious seafood, great ingredients, excellent preparation, super cheap deal. I was one happy Jew. Especially after rhubarb and vanilla custard tart. A couple of night's prior, we had gone out with Dan's roommate, Dave and his friend Nick from Inverness. I decided to revisit the couple of places I really liked that night in Stockbridge, Hector's pub and the Raconteur cocktail bar, and take a long walk and snap some photos getting there.

Here's Edinburgh Castle as seen from the Grass Market.

Now looking up the Royal Mile.

And now farther up.

Walking on the pedestrian bridge by the National Gallery, I saw this scene. The Scott Monument and the Balmoral Hotel clock tower.

This is from Princes Street looking toward the Castle, that's Royal Scots Greys' statue.

Here's a cool shop window on Deanhaugh Street on the way to Hector's pub.

After a pint at Hector's and a couple of cocktails at the Raconteur (which well lives up to its name. Great place for someone on their own to hang out and chat), it was back to Yvonne's. Couldn't believe I'd already be heading home the next day!

A parting, moonlight glimpse up Marchmont Crescent, which had been my home all week. Fare thee well, Edinbra. Can't wait to see you again!