Category: Travel

Adventures and Misadventures.

Dreaming of the Summer of Jon

Last night I dreamt I was in Vienna. Since I haven’t been in Vienna before I can’t really speak to how authentic my dream was. For some reason Vienna looks a lot like San Francisco in my dreams. There are older, fancier buildings and fewer people speaking English in my dream version of Vienna than the real San Francisco, but for some reason my subconscious is making a connection between Vienna and SF. Maybe deep, deep in my mind there is some little spark connecting my childhood fascination with Vienna sausages and Rice-a-Roni. (This reference will not make sense to most people, but my mind is trying to tell me something and I need to get to the bottom of it.)

So here is the dream: I arrive in Vienna by train. I hop on a little street car and meet a family of Americans. You can’t get away from those damn Americans even in Vienna, they are everywhere in my dreams. I talk to the family a little bit, pretend I know more about Vienna than I do. (I don’t tell them that I only thought about Vienna as the capital of little hot dogs in a can until a few years ago.) I take a picture of a large white building (it looks a lot like the TransAmerica Building in SF) with my iPhone. I get off the trolley at the next stop and head underground to get on a subway. Here is where the dream gets a bit confusing, I buy a ticket, but remember that I left my luggage somewhere. I head upstairs and start looking for my luggage where I left it in a big library/transit station. It is odd that I would have left the luggage there because I have not been in this building before. I stroll around looking for my luggage and when I say stroll, I mean I am lollygagging. This is where my dream brain gets itself into trouble. I would never set my luggage down and just walk away and if I did, I would be frantically running around like Tom Cruise. (Watch any Tom Cruise movie, at some point Tom must tell the director, “We need a shot of me running because I am really fast.”) Vienna may seem like a safe place in my dreams, but in reality there are Russian gangsters all over the place. So instead of dashing around looking for my stuff, I just walk around like I have all day. Eventually I end up talking to some bearded guy working at a North Face store (located inside the library/transit station) and telling him that I should probably cancel my credit cards. He is confused because I am speaking English and he is Viennese and speaks just a touch of the Mother Tongue. He finally understands what I need and then I wake up.

What an unsatisfying dream. First off, I don’t get to see much of Vienna. I would hope my brain could create a better Vienna than that, but I guess not. Second, I never get to cancel my credit cards. I would like to have the opportunity to close that loop so I don’t spend the rest of the day wondering if someone is out there spending my money. Third, why can’t North Face hire a more helpful employee? I understand that my dream lacks a little verisimilitude, but come on North Face, why can’t you hire an American to help me out in my dream?

I do believe that dreams hold importance, but I’m not so sure about this one. I have been thinking more about my trip now that it is less than 60 days away so I guess my brain is trying to tell me to be careful. Maybe my brain thinks it is unwise to wander around Europe for a month, but that is where my brain is wrong. It is very wise and it is time my brain got on board and understood that Vienna is a safe city even if it is filled with Russian gangsters.

I knew this must be out there. Cue Tom Cruise running.

Hey, Macklemore, can I come to your Pizza Party?

My son and daughter have grown up in a family of two English teachers so it is not unusual for all of us to talk about fictional characters as if they are real. My children have not suffered because of this phenomenon, but there have been times when it has confused my kids.  The tables have not only turned, the tables have been upturned as my children have gotten older. The world they exist within is not the same world I grew up in, but like any supremely cool parent (sarcasm intended) I have tried to allow them to exist within this alternative universe while doing my best to educate myself about this other place. It is why I have attended my first rap concerts, learned to text message, watched the stupidest television shows ever produced, and kept my fingers crossed that I wasn’t a terrible parent.

This past week I learned a few more things: 1. Each year Seattle rapper Macklemore has a pizza party for his fans, 2. There is always a contest to get into the pizza party, and 3. Columbia City is not a bad place to spend three hours if you have not been invited to Macklemore’s pizza party but your daughter has.

On Tuesday morning, I received an email from my wife (we still like to communicate the old-fashioned way) that informed me that Owour sent a text to my daughter and invited her to Macklemore’s pizza party. I knew who Owour was because my daughter talks about these Seattle rap folks by first name, and I have seen him on television several times jumping around with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as they played that “funky” music the children love so much.

The invitation was an unexpected and generous act that caught us unprepared. The party started a 6PM and was in an area of Seattle that my wife and I were not familiar with, so that meant I would be going. I get to venture into the unknown because I am taller than my wife and don’t mind getting lost.

We live a bit away from Seattle so it was a dash to make it to Columbia City in time, it didn’t help that the Mariners were having a game downtown, but we made it to the pizza party in time for my daughter and her invited guest to stand in line for a few minutes before being swept in through the VIP entrance. It was a little like taking her to the airport and dropping her off for a three-hour trip to some place fantastic. I know enough about the band to know that she was in a safe place with some great people.

Here is what her evening was like:

The line to get into the world premire pizza party.

The line to get into the world premiere pizza party.

Em, Jon, Ray

My daughter with the director of the Thrift Shop video (Jon Jon), and Ray Dalton.


Macklemore’s shoes. I believe those are Ryan Lewis’ shoes to the right.

same love

Macklemore, Mary Lambert and Owour performing Same Love.

While my evening was not as glamorous, I did manage to survive. I ate an entire pizza in about ten minutes. Wandered down to Starbucks and watched some old ladies knit up a storm.


This is before Charlotte arrived. Once Charlotte showed up some serious knitting went down.

I found a great eyeless gnome.


My son was afraid of gnomes when he was younger, so I took a picture of this guy and sent it off to my son with this message, “Is this under your bed?”

I ate a small plate of nachos.


After the pizza, I could not finish the entire plate of nachos.

After the pizza, the coffee at Starbucks, the discovery of the gnome, and the plate of nachos, I still had about an hour to waste. So I wandered aimlessly around the streets until it got dark. I did discover a “Gentleman’s Club” just down the street but decided that even though I am a gentleman, I should probably skip that one. (I did not have my top hat and tails with me.)

My daughter eventually emerged from the party and by all accounts had a great evening. She saw the world premiere of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ new video, met lots of people, witnessed a mini-concert, and most importantly had an experience that she will remember forever.

If there is one thing life has taught me it is that experiences are priceless. My greatest regrets are when I passed up opportunities to do something because it was slightly inconvenient or cost more than I was willing to pay. I look back on those handful of opportunities with the knowledge that the $40 I saved by not seeing Pink Floyd in Auckland was wasted someplace not as memorable, the $75 I didn’t want to spend to rebook my flight to include a Fijian stop-over probably got spent on rice and beans in Spokane, and the chance to drive to LA to see Linton Kwesi Johnson in concert would have made me tired for work on Monday, but it would have created a memory that I still have today. It is those moments I regret, but those are the moments that help to remind me that driving to Seattle on a Tuesday night and getting back late was worth it even if the only thing I got was heartburn and a great big hug from my daughter.

Here’s the new video if you were curious.

I’m not panhandling! I’m holding a three ring binder!

I have reached a new historic high in grumpiness. The other day I found myself yelling at someone across one of the wide sidewalks in downtown Seattle. It didn’t happen just once in my little stroll, it happened three times. The first time was when a young lady dressed in a blue ACLU shirt and holding a three-ringed binder yelled to me, “Would you like to help gay rights?”

I yelled back, “No!” Now if I were walking down the street in the bible belt I might have gotten a bunch of slaps on the back, but in downtown Seattle that kind of attitude is not widely accepted. My son thought it was pretty funny because I sounded like a homophobic jerk, which for the record I am not.

Two blocks later it was a young man wearing a Save the Children shirt holding a three-ringed binder, “How would you like a tax break?”

Well, I would like a tax break, but I yelled at this poor young man anyway, “I would like a tax break, but I’m not going to give out my personal information to some stranger on the street holding a three-ringed binder.”  I’m sure he didn’t hear my whole rant because I didn’t slow down to give him the pleasure of my company.

Two blocks later I ran into a dancing three ringed binder guy, I don’t know what charity he was supposedly working for because he was dancing like he was at a Grateful Dead concert and all the spinning around made it hard to read his shirt, but this guy wanted a fist bump. I did not give him the pleasure of a fist bump, but I did give him a very angry look.

I don’t like these people. It isn’t that I don’t like them personally, it is that I don’t like what they are doing. I am certain that charities are looking for new ways to get money, but this is just stupid on multiple levels. The first time I ran into someone doing this guerrilla fund-raising was in London about ten years ago. She was wearing a green tunic with Oxfam printed boldly on it and I was still young and naïve enough to be interested in what she was doing on the street so I stopped and had a 30 minute discussion about her charity. They were trying to help homeless kids get off the streets and back in school. I like Oxfam, I think it is a great charity, but in the end I told her that I would not be giving her my credit card information. She was disappointed, but are there really people stupid enough to give a complete stranger their personal information just because they have a three ringed binder and a t-shirt? I can get a t-shirt made for about $10 and I could also print off lots of colored pages from websites to make me seem to be working for those organizations. I could even get a plastic badge made to look even more official.

Seattle, like many cities these days, has laws against aggressive panhandling. Homeless people are not allowed to loiter and  aggressively ask for money, but if you wear a t-shirt and dance around like you are on acid, you can be as aggressive as you want. Charities like the ACLU should know better. Are they really expecting people to give credit card information to complete strangers? I can’t imagine that this form of “fund-raising” is successful, and I can only imagine how personally damaging it is to the poor saps that have to deal with jerks like me. I felt bad for two whole blocks after I told the ACLU girl that I didn’t want to help gay rights, because I really do want to help with gay rights, I just don’t want to help Russian gangsters steal my credit card number and go an a vodka spending spree.

The Summer of Jon: There’s an App for that

I am one of those annoying people who love Apple products. My first computer was an Apple IIe and I have never strayed. My nerd friends have given me grief over my loyalty to Apple because they are nerds and knew something about the flux capacitor that Dell Computers used. “Did you know that the Apple III uses a processor that can only push 10 megabits of information every 10 seconds, but the new Dell can push 12? And it costs $100 less than your Apple III.” (I don’t really know how to express nerd talk because it annoys me so much that I don’t really pay any attention to it. I listened to three guys arguing about X-box 360 verses the PS3 the other day in a pizza place and it ruined my day. It wasn’t like I was eavesdropping, they were just loud and so stupid they could not be ignored.) Anyway, I have taken my fair share of shots back at the nerd crew who disdain Apple products, but in reality, I know nothing about computers and my criticisms are not effective. It’s like trying to explain why you bought a new car to a gear head. “I wanted to buy a car/computer that worked. I like the way it works. I like the way it looks. I know it is more expensive, but I just want to put gas in it and then drive it. I don’t need to know how it works.” These responses usually drew lots of honking laughter sounds from the nerds/gear heads.

My only effective arguments about Apple products verses any other computer company come down to this: Would you rather have an iPod or a Zune? If you said Zune, there is no hope for you. You will soon be meeting in a church basement with 10 other people in what I will loosely call a “support group.”

My second argument revolves around Microsoft’s stupid use of two spaces between paragraphs as a default setting in Microsoft Word. Why Microsoft? Why? Why? Why? I have learned to live with it, but I hate it. I even hate how I have given up the fight on my blog. I don’t even try to indent my paragraphs anymore. It is a sad state of affairs, and it is the main reason I like Apple because it has always been a computer company that thinks of form as much as they think about function.

As I approach the countdown to The Summer of Jon I have scoured the App store looking for the right travel Apps and various other pieces of software for my trip. I have a few favorites, but my new all-time favorite App for travel is TripIt. TripIt is one of those programs (Do we still call them programs?) that manages all of your travel details. My Summer of Jon trip is going to be more complicated than other trips I have taken. I’m hitting multiple cities over a longer period than I have ever done before. I have to keep track of a bunch of hotel reservations, flights, and stuff I want to see. In the dark ages, I would print out reservations and pack five travel books for every city I’m hitting, but during the Summer of Jon I will be keeping all that information in my little TripIt app. Each time I make a reservation for a hotel or flight, I get a confirmation email that I forward to TripIt. TripIt magically (nerd magic I assume) puts that reservation into my little file. If I want to visit the penis museum in Iceland then I just add that to my itinerary on the date I want to go. If I have an address for the penis museum, I can add that and the app will map it for me. (Yes, there is a penis museum in Iceland. Why would I go there? I’m not sure, but weird stuff like that is what the Summer of Jon is all about.)

Will this little app prevent me from making stupid mistakes? No, I will manage to make at least 100 mistakes during my trip, but that is what makes travel great: getting lost, going to the wrong hotel, eating the wrong thing, watching television in a language I don’t understand, and being confused by the norms of another culture. I can’t wait.



Just Because You Call it a Rembrandt Exhibit Doesn’t Make it One

I am no Art expert. I have never taken an Art Appreciation class, but I do have opinions about Art. When it comes to paintings I know what I like and have read enough about Art to discuss paintings like someone who knows what they are talking about, but there is some Art that I just don’t like or understand so when I went to see the traveling exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum recently I had some high expectations. First off the exhibit is called: Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London. The title of the exhibit might lead one to believe that somebody cleared out the Kenwood House and brought all the Rembrandt’s with them, but the title of the exhibition is a little deceptive in my opinion. The real title should have been this: One Painting by Rembrandt and a Bunch of Other Paintings Nobody Really Cares About: The Stuff the Kenwood House Won’t Really Miss. 

In an effort to fully disclose, there were lots of Rembrandt sketches there, most of them the size of a gum wrapper, but when you title an exhibit “Rembrandt…” you should be doing so because of the alphabet or because of the number of paintings. You don’t just get to name a traveling exhibit whatever you want, there has to be some honesty left in museums.

Now I like Rembrandt and a few of the other Flemish guys, and I know that he is the “master of light” and all that stuff, but most of the art from Rembrandt’s time period bores me. I usually race walk through sections of the museum with all the “dark paintings” as I call them. Sure it’s interesting to see how an artist can use color to deceive the eye into thinking there is a light source, but those paintings usually depress me a little bit as I consider how happy everybody looks to have one tiny candle lighting up their table. I end up thinking about how it must be Winter and how it probably smells like mold in the little house where everybody is gathered around this tiny candle, and then I wonder if there is a good café in the museum where I can get a warm cup of coffee.

My next beef with the exhibit is that is says: The Treasures of the Kenwood House, that would lead one to believe that the Kenwood House’s treasures are visiting Seattle, so I went expecting to see a Vermeer. I know where most of the Vermeers are in the world (yes, it is a little crazy, but he didn’t crank out a million of them like Monet) and I know that the Kenwood House has one. Why? (Warning: Nerd alert) Well I heard the author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring talking about visiting the Kenwood House while I listened to NPR, so I went to SAM expecting to see a Vermeer. Unfortunately Vermeer’s painting did not make the trip, maybe there was trouble with the painting’s Visa, or the dude running the Kenwood House figured those bumpkins in Seattle wouldn’t know the difference.

Rembrandt - Self-Portrait - WGA19221

Rembrandt – Self-Portrait

The one Rembrandt painting they did get was a good one: Portrait of the Artist. Most of us have seen it at some point, it’s the one where Rembrandt looks like he just woke up, tossed on some clothes and looked in the mirror and was not happy with what he saw. He has on a little baker’s hat, some kind of house coat, and is holding his painting gear. It is not a flattering painting, which I like because it is real. I get the feeling that Rembrandt rolled out of bed, put on his goofy hat and looked in the mirror and went, “Meh, I guess I’ll paint myself today.” I’m not sure if he is unhappy with his painting or what he looks like, but I like his attitude which seems to say, “This is as good as it’s going to get ladies. I’m a famous painter so I’m not going to get all dressed up this morning.” Almost all the rest of the paintings in the exhibit were portraits where the ladies were all dolled up looking elegant and lovely. I am not a fan of those eight foot tall paintings of rich ladies and their dogs. If I wanted that kind of Art I would turn on the Bravo channel and watch one of the 100,000 shows about housewives.

There was one other painting in the bunch that I did like, it was a Turner painting of some sailors on the beach. There were two boats on the sand and one in the middle of the breaking waves. The boat still in the water was turned up and looked to be having a tough time of it which is what I like about Turner. He gives his paintings lots of action. All of the seascape paintings I have seen by Turner are awesome, but he doesn’t get his name on the marquee.

So, if it is a rainy day and you want to see one Rembrandt painting and a bunch of forgetful stuff from the Kenwood House, I would suggest shelling out a couple bucks and checking out the SAM exhibit. If it is sunny I would suggest finding a park and pretending summer is just a few months away.

The Things I Didn’t Really Need to Carry

I have read several hiking books where the author lists off the ridiculous items that they decided to carry in their backpack. Bill Bryson spends time in his book A Walk in the Woods describing all the gear he thinks he will need on his hike. Cheryl Strayed does the same thing in Wild. Carrying a huge bag loaded to the brim is a mistake for the rookie hiker. Most hikers spend time trying to lighten their load and some hikers go to extremes to save an ounce here or there by sawing off toothbrush handles and shopping for the lightest tent.


The first backpacking trip I took included some really dumb items that no experienced hiker would ever consider carrying but what I discovered was that carrying a 70 pound pack around for 20 miles helped me think about what I really needed. Not only does it clear your mind it hurts your whole body. It turns out that carrying wet clothing in a plastic bag does not make them lighter, in fact you don’t need two extra pairs of jeans, or any jeans because cotton fabrics don’t dry unless you put them in a dryer or hang them on a clothes line for 10 hours. These epiphanies usually do not occur to me until I am waist deep into some trip, but I try not to make the same mistake more than once.

When it comes to international travel I tend to carry too much stuff but during the Summer of Jon I am limiting myself to one carry-on bag. This limitation has more to do with being cheap than anything else, but it has me considering what I should take along and what I should leave behind.

My greatest vice when it comes to travel is books. I like to take several books with me, but I never read them. I just lug them from place to place. I carried four books with me the last time I was in Europe. I didn’t read a single one. I just carried them like idiots do. This summer I will be taking zero books. I will be taking an iPad which can carry a bunch of books inside it and it doesn’t weigh any more. I already put a few books on the iPad which I have every intention of reading but I think once I am rolling I won’t be digging into Moby Dick again.

Another book related vice I have is buying museum guides. I just can’t help myself. I buy the guide (usually the big one with all the paintings listed and described) bring it home and put it on one of my bookshelves. The guides look nice and I do look at them once every 15 years, but carrying 10 museum guides around Europe is just stupid when I can probably buy the same guide from Amazon and have it brought to my home without carrying it around Europe.

The most difficult decision for this trip is whether to take a rain jacket or not. If I take a rain jacket I am certain that Europe will experience the warmest July in the history of the continent. If I leave the jacket behind there will be rain everywhere I go. It works that way. The hottest summer in European history was the summer I spent in hotels without air conditioning. There is a pretty good chance I will see poor weather in Iceland and Norway, but should I take a little rain coat or a big one? It isn’t like my big jacket weighs 50 pounds, but all it takes is a serious of poor choices and the next thing you know you are carrying wet jeans in a plastic bag for 90 miles.

Good thing I have four more months to plan.


When the Planning’s Done

The epic travel adventure story never includes a section titled: Over Planning. Why? Because all epic travel stories are about what went wrong, nobody cares about a perfectly executed travel story (unless it is a travel story where Navy Seals are involved.) What most people like to read about are trips where a multitude of things go wrong. Shackleton’s trips to cold places, the Donner Party, Cheryl Strayed’s novel Wild and almost every story written about mountain climbing are examples of how we like to read about other people’s misfortunate mistakes. Some of this fascination probably revolves around the fact that we like to avoid painful situations, but we also enjoy reading about other people’s pain, especially if they are bragging about their great trip to Europe and things went a bit wrong.

I am not immune to these mistakes, almost ever trip I have ever been on has had something go wrong. As I have aged (some people get older, I age like cheese or wine) my expectations for a perfect trip have disappeared and I have begun to embrace the things that will inevitably go wrong.

Now that I am almost done with the planning stage for the Summer of Jon, I have begun wondering what will go wrong this summer. The internet has made planning for a big trip much, much easier. You can read reviews of hotels, you can look at pictures, and you can even use Google Earth to see if the hotel actually exists. In the olden days, the days before electricity and such, I would do extensive planning by looking at a map and deciding where to go. Then I would go. Sometimes it worked out just dandy and other times I ended up sleeping on a pool table, or drinking water from a large cistern with a dead animal in it.  Internet planning is not idiot-proof though, I still am able to make dumb mistakes, just ask anyone in my family they can regale you for hours about all the mistakes I have made.

As I wait for July 1st, my temptation is to over plan. I have the basics down (flights, hotels, and a few attractions) but I have to fight with myself to avoid planning each day like I am invading the continent of Europe and not just merely visiting it. Should I find out what traveling exhibits will be at the museums I want to go to? Should I decide today what type of food I will want to eat for lunch on the fifth day of my trip (answer: something cheap)? Should I learn a few phrases of German to help me when I inevitably end up in a bakery getting yelled at? Or should I just arrive and let fate take over? Right now I am comfortable with fate.

Looking back on all my travel, the days that are most vivid are the ones where everything went wrong. There was the British Airways strike that grounded my family in London for two extra days, there was the wind storm that cancelled my train ride to Bacharach and took my family on an epic sojourn that only Ulysses could truly understand, there was the day we went to a water-park in Paris only to be turned away because I refused to wear a Speedo, and there was the day I took a bike ride to Versailles in a Biblical, Noah and the Ark rainstorm. I hated those days, but as I look back on those days I am reminded why those days are so valuable. Those bad days make the great ones that much better.



I saw the sun in Seattle one winter day

Mount Rainier enjoying a sunny day.

Mount Rainier enjoying a sunny day.

I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle. I love Seattle, but I hate paying for parking so most of my trips to Seattle are on foot. I don’t walk all the way from my home…I drive to a ferry, walk onboard and then stroll the streets of Seattle. On a sunny day this walking thing is a pretty good idea, but when it is raining I will sometimes pay the cost of parking because I am a wimp and don’t want to get my shoes wet. Recently I had to drive into Seattle and it was a sunny day, this convergence of opposites is sometimes known as a miracle, but I like to think of it as a coincidence.

That's not smog, that's called mist.

That’s not smog, that’s called mist.

Once we (me and my two favorite ladies) arrived in Seattle we headed for the Fremont area. Fremont calls itself the “center of the universe” although I believe Galileo said it wasn’t. It was one of the reasons he was excommunicated. The church may have forgiven him, but Fremont still hasn’t. Fremont has a troll that lives under a bridge, a rocket, a large statue of Lenin, and an annual naked bike ride.

We were a little early for our scheduled appointment, so we headed for Gas Works Park.  Morning frost covered the ground and there were icy patches in the parking lot. As we walked through the parking lot  I was surprised to see a little girl with her dad and a sled.

Sledding Seattle style: a hill, some frost, and no fear.

Sledding Seattle style: a hill, some frost, and no fear.

They climbed to the top of the hill in Gas Works Park and she took off sledding down the hill. It is a steep hill, a dangerous hill, and the little girl loved it. I was envious, but I was not dressed for sledding, so I did what most adults do, I stood around wishing I was younger.

On top of the hillside is a cement solstice calendar and one of the best views of the city. My daughter poked holes in the ice of the solstice calendar and I took pictures like a tourist with an itchy trigger finger.

The top of the hill in Gasworks Park.

The top of the hill in Gasworks Park.

The old gas works area is now surrounded by an attractive, aging, rusted, barbed-wire fence to prevent lawsuits or injuries or to give homeless people a challenge. I’m not a historian and I don’t want to look up information on Gas Works Park so the next few sentences are going to be fiction (lies). Gas Works Park was originally a set from the Mad Max movies. The Australian government gave it to the city of Seattle as a gift of goodwill (like the French and the Statue of Liberty.) Today the gasworks are used to form a pocket of rust in the downtown area as a metaphoric reminder of the approach of death that we all face.

Gasworks Park. Famous for looking like a zombie movie set.

Gas Works Park. Famous for looking like a zombie movie set.

Seaplane approaching landing.

Seaplane approaching landing.

The Olympic Mountain Range hiding beneath the Aurora Bridge.

The Olympic Mountain Range hiding beneath the Aurora Bridge.

After about 20 minutes of winter sun and cold, we headed back to Fremont for coffee and our appointment. Fremont is a great little pocket of Seattle. American neighborhoods could learn a lot from Fremont, but I think most American neighborhoods don’t understand Fremont’s ironic sense of humor. While some neighborhoods line their streets with Neighborhood Watch signs, Fremont went out and bought an old rocket. The statue of Lenin was probably picked up on eBay (this is a lie, the statue predates eBay) and the Troll is just cool. The message of Fremont is perfect: Dude, take it easy. Why you all stressed out?

Fremont's own rocket.

Fremont’s own rocket.

Israel has the Iron Dome, Freemont has this.

Israel has the Iron Dome, Fremont has this.

After our visit to Fremont we decided to head to Capitol Hill area. I really hadn’t traveled to Capitol Hill much before a year ago because I was an idiot. I have begun to remedy this situation by visiting this little hipster enclave whenever we are driving in the city. I am clueless about Hipsters and so I will make some wild generalizations intended to be funny and not offensive. If you are sitting at a cafe reading this in jeans that you stole from your sister, don’t get your pant legs all rolled up.

As far as I can tell being a Hipster means wearing clothing that looks used, is two sizes too small, and if you are a guy you must have some type of strange facial hair. The male version of Hipsterdom confuses me a great deal. In my opinion there is nothing more uncomfortable than a tight pair of jeans. I am not suggesting I never wore tight jeans, but that was the 80s and the jeans were paper-thin and soft. Today the jeans look like they have been dipped in starch and are so tight and small that I am certain hospitals in the area have to have special scissors to cut them off when a hipster ends up at the hospital after falling off his one-speed bike. (Come on kids, put on a helmet when you are on a bike. This isn’t Breaking Away, I believe that movie was shot in Indiana.)

It was lunchtime so we went to Oddfellows.

Hipster food place on Capitol Hill.

Hipster food place on Capitol Hill.

See, I told you it was a hipster place. That is Oly beer in there.

See, I told you it was a hipster place. That is Oly beer in there.

Now you don’t need a PhD to eat at Oddfellows, but you do need to pay attention. So here’s a guide so you don’t look like an idiot: 1. Stand in line, 2. Read the big menu on the wall, 3. When you get to the front, order your meal, 4) Don’t pay anything. Don’t take out a credit card. Don’t give the person working a CASH REGISTER anything resembling money. Why? I don’t know, but most often people nearest the CASH REGISTER are the ones you pay, but not in Oddfellows. In Oddfellows you get a little table number from the person working the CASH REGISTER. 5) Go sit at a long table with the other hipsters. You can talk about things like hair gels and where to buy the best child sized suit vests. 6) When your waiter brings you your food looking like he just stepped off a farm (gumboots? really? I am super confused about this whole thing) eat. 7) When you finish eating, pay the waiter.


Hipster foodies: Communal tables, order here, sit there, waiters in gumboots.

After our meal, the food was good, we strolled next door to Elliott Bay Book Co. I like Elliot Bay Book Co. and I like books, but it is sad to me that the bookstore is about half its old downtown size, its like it moved to Capitol Hill and lost 100 pounds. It does have all the elements of a great bookstore in my opinion: books, and odd smells.

My favorite side street in Capitol Hill. Elliot Bay Bookstore and hipster food.

My favorite side street in Capitol Hill. Elliot Bay Bookstore and hipster food.

Our final stop was at some cupcake place. I ran into my first cupcake shop about five years ago in San Francisco. I never really gave much thought to cupcakes until then, but these days if I want something sweet, cupcake shops are a good place to spend too much money for a little snack.

Bacon and Bourbon cupcake? Thank you, may I have another? Also located on Capitol Hill.

Bacon and Bourbon cupcake? Thank you, may I have another? Also located on Capitol Hill.

The sun was dropping and we had a good day, so it was time for the long slog home. A ferry ride, a drive, a few stops along the way and then home. Thank you sunny Seattle.

The Summer of Jon: How Many Times Can I Search For Flights?

My home computer is probably sick of me lately. I have spent most of my time at this keyboard looking at two things: Flights to different cities in Europe, and pictures of Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). Neither of these activities is getting me any closer to my trip this summer, but I have begun narrowing down the possibilities.

The first big change came when I got tired of trying to figure out how to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. Those Russians are still making it difficult to visit their country. Do I want to see the Hermitage? Not any longer, cross that one off the bucket list. According to my sources, the interwebs, the two most expensive cities in the world are St. Petersburg and Moscow. When did this happen? This is a country that eats beets and turnips at every meal. (According to my stereotypes.) So, because of the expense and the difficulty in figuring out the Visa requirements, I have taken a trip to Russia off the list of possible stops during the Summer of Jon. Someday, when I am 70, I may want to go to The Hermitage, but any place I have to visit on a cruise ship is off my list during my summer.

Since Russia bit the dust so did Helsinki and Tallinn. Finland looks like a great place to visit, but those damn Scandinavian countries are surrounded by mountains and water, and I don’t want to spend all my time on a long train ride or day and a half boat ride with a bunch of drunk Norsemen. Rumor has it, interwebs again, that alcohol is so expensive that people in Sweden and Finland take cruises just to drink cheap, duty-free alcohol. So the day long boat ride from Helsinki to Stockholm is generally filled with a bunch of drunk Vikings.

My next problem was that I looked at a picture of Pulpit Rock.

Preikestolen ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Preikestolen

Preikestolen ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Preikestolen

Look at this place. How can I not try to get there?

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock (Photo credit: Today is a good day)

Pulpit Rock is in Norway and is a tiny bit off my original path, but come on, look at this place. What could possibly go wrong with trying to get there? Okay, I am scared of heights, but I read that no one has ever accidentally fallen off of the rock so I figure I’m safe as long as I can walk and chew lutefisk at the same time. There is also the possibility that I might spend two days getting there and then the weather would suck. I doubt pictures of Pulpit Rock in the pouring rain are as breathtaking, but some risks are worth it.

One of the mysteries of the world has opened up to me as I have searched for flights. How can a flight that goes from Seattle to Frankfurt and then on to Oslo be cheaper than one that goes from Seattle to Frankfurt? It makes no sense. I can fly from Seattle to Oslo through Frankfurt for $1300, but if I fly directly to Frankfurt it costs $2000. I didn’t do especially well at Geometry in high school, (there are plenty of reasons for this: not studying, staring at Mrs. Hearn for long periods of time, and having a half-developed brain) but I do think that the shortest route should be the least expensive.

So now the Summer of Jon is looking like this: Iceland, Norway (Oslo, Fjords), Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich.

The Summer of Jon

Picture of George.

I am a George. There are Kramers, Jerrys, and a few Elaines out there, but I am a George. Now, I don’t mean that I act like George Costanza or want to be George Costanza, I simply mean that I enjoy humor that is uncomfortable. Kramers are people who like slapstick, Jerrys like observational humor or situational humor, Elaines are…I’m not sure of what Elaines are but I just started drinking coffee this morning and my iTunes update has me in a bit of a tither. (What happened to my interface? I am now going to have to spend ten minutes figuring out where everything is again. If you are reading this from a work camp in China my problem probably sounds minor, but let me assure you iTunes updates take a toll on the human soul.)

The Summer of George is one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld. George freed from all of his responsibilities, plans to spend the summer in self-indulgent activities. It is the fantasy of many adults and a fantasy that I will be living for a month this summer. I have taken on a few additional work responsibilities at the old salt mine and will be getting some extra cabbage at the end of December. I should take this money and invest it in green energy or find a PO Box in the Cayman Islands to send it to, but instead I am going to ramble. By yourself? Yes, by myself. Don’t you have a family? Yes, and they are encouraging me to go which either means they love me or they can’t stand me.

Where am I heading on my Summer of Jon? Well, since I don’t have airline tickets yet I will give you a rough outline: Reykjavík, Oslo, Norwegian Fjords, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Munich. I have been to a few of these locations before, but this time I will be able to travel “Jon style”: Cheap hotels, getting lost without getting in trouble with my family, eating occasionally, walking fast, spending zero time looking for bathrooms, and seeing at least ten sites a day. (You might see why no one wants to travel with me.) While the details are still up in the air, I did receive the first real evidence that this trip will be taking place: my suitcase.

I will be traveling for about 30 days and taking one carry-on bag. Is this foolish? Maybe, but it isn’t like I am going to be attending the Opera in Vienna in coat and tails. Now if someone wants to meet me in Vienna and take me to the Opera, I would be happy to send along my measurements, but what I want to see in Vienna hangs on a wall and isn’t going to care if I wear shorts and a T-shirt. What I want to see in Oslo is a painting of a dude holding his face standing on a colorful bridge. You don’t need to dress up to order the best hot dog in all of Europe. (Reykjavík if you were wondering. There are three reasons to stop in Iceland: the hot dogs, the Blue Lagoon, the countryside of Iceland.) This trip will be an informal, come as you are , event.

Let the planning for the summer of Jon begin. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

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