Travel

Reason #1: Why It’s So Hard to Leave LA

Posted on January 12, 2010. Filed under: Family, My nephew Sam, Travel | Tags: , , |

My nephew Sam.

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Playlist of Awesome: California Road Trip 2010

Posted on January 8, 2010. Filed under: Random, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Thanks to the miracle of satellite radio (included in my rental car), I became reacquainted with some great songs during my recent trip up and down the coast of California. Many of the tunes were ones I had either completely forgotten about or never knew the titles and/or artists. But thanks to satellite, which gives the title and artist for every song, that is no longer a problem. (Note to iPhone users: I know Shazam does provide that information, but sometimes Shazam isn’t practical. Or you just don’t hear the songs. Ever.)

Special props go out to the Sirius First Wave channel, which has shows hosted by Richard Blade and Swedish Egil, two awesome DJs who specialize in the 80’s. This channel is essentially a recreation of LA-based KROQ 106.7 in the 80’s which for better or worse, was the soundtrack that I grew up with in LA.

Richard Blade's Flashback Favorites are AWESOME

Every time a new song came on the radio, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was like listening to junior high and high school all over again. In other words, it was awesome. I wonder if anyone on Highway 101 saw a brunette rocking out in a white Hyundai Elantra and thought, “That chick is crazy!” And you know what? I don’t care.

The songs on the California Road Trip Playlist below are inspired or rediscovered thanks to the magic of satellite radio.  I also threw in a few favorites for old times’ sake. And don’t worry, it’s not entirely 80’s. There is some stuff from post-2000. I believe the 90’s are entirely absent. And rightfully so.

If you like any of them, they’re all available at iTunes. I should know, since I dropped at least $20 downloading most of them.

1. Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters

2. Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) – Glass Tiger

3. Kiss Me – Stephen Tin Tin Duffy

4. State Farm – Yaz

5. Shy Boy – Bananarama

6. New Song – Howard Jones

7. Sowing the Seeds of Love – Tears for Fears

8. Fields of Fire (400 Miles) – Big Country

9. Feel the Love – Cut Copy

10. Pacific Coast Party – Smash Mouth

11. Strip – Adam Ant

12. Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

13. Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters

14. Sausalito Summer Nights – Diesel

15. King for a Day – Thompson Twins

16. New Direction – Echo & the Bunnymen

17. Kiss Me – Robbie Williams (excellent cover of the Tin Tin song #3 above)

18. What Do All the People Know – The Munroes

19. I Hear the Bells – Mike Doughty

20. 1234 – Feist

21. Buildings & Mountains – Republic Tigers

22. Big Mess – Devo

23. Shattered (Turn the Car Around) – O.A.R.

24. Just Another Day – Oingo Boingo

25. Lovers in the Backseat – Scissor Sisters

26. It’s the End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.

27. Laid – James

28. Life is Long – David Byrne & Brian Eno

29. Forever Young – Alphaville

30. Six Months In a Leaky Boat – Split Enz

If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to listening to my awesome new playlist. Again.

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Que Syrah Syrah: Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara County

Posted on January 5, 2010. Filed under: Family, Food, My nephew Sam, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I was all set to do a complete blog post about my great day wine tasting with my brother Eli, my sister in law Becky and my nephew Sam on Saturday (January 2, 2010). The weather was perfect (yes, it was actually 72 degrees and sunny), and the wines from the Central Coast are wonderful. We really could not go wrong.

Wine Tasting at Zaca Mesa with Eli and Sam (photo courtesy Rebecca Stanek)

But wait – there’s more! As a bonus, this was my nephew Sam’s first wine tasting. Since Sam is 2 1/2 months old, that’s not saying much, since pretty much everything that takes place outside of Eli and Becky’s house is Sam’s first time doing anything.

So here I was all set to write about all the wines we tasted. And I couldn’t wait to use my favorite awesome wine pun: Que Syrah Syrah. But then Becky went ahead and wrote about it at their blog, The Beckyan Deli, before I had the chance.

And since I am nothing if not practical, why reinvent the wheel? Please check out Becky’s reviews of all the wines we tasted at the Zaca Mesa Vineyard and the Qupe Tasting Room in her post which you can find right here. I do want to mention that the Zaca Mesa 2006 Estate Syrah was by far our favorite wine of the day. But before you race out to buy some, you should know that it was just released three weeks ago and isn’t available anywhere except the winery.  Sorry.

Oh, one more thing. During our drive back down the coast to Santa Barbara, this is how we ended the day:

Not a bad way to end the day

It did not suck.

To see all my photos from our day of wine tasting, check them out on Flickr

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And now for the real Thanksgiving treat!

Posted on November 27, 2009. Filed under: Family, My nephew Sam, Travel | Tags: , , |

Me and Sam on Thanksgiving night

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Perfect Weather and Baseball: Is that Something You Might be Interested In?

Posted on November 19, 2009. Filed under: Baseball, Sports, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Is perfect weather and baseball something you might be interested in? Yes? Well then welcome to the Arizona Fall League!

I must confess that I didn’t know much about the AFL (now in its 17th season) until many of my baseball friends on Twitter started tweeting about it. And it sounded fantastic – top prospects, great weather, small spring training ballparks and cheap tickets. How could you go wrong? Short answer: you can’t.

National Anthem at Mesa

Last week, when I had a chance to extend my trip to Phoenix an extra day, I decided to spend it in Mesa for the Phoenix Desert Dogs at Mesa Solar Sox. Yes, I know that the Yankees prospects were in Surprise, but that was just too far to drive. Mesa is just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix (without traffic). Guess I’ll have to come back next year.

Scouting on Twitter

Strasburg wasn't pitching

I didn’t know much about the teams I was going to see or the players (except Washington Nationals’ #1 draft pick Desert Dogs pitcher Stephen Strasburg), so I reached out to the baseball experts on Twitter.  I learned that the Solar Sox had the Twins, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels and Marlins players, and included top prospects Starlin Castro (Cubs) and Jose Iglesias (Red Sox). The Desert Dogs, the top team in the AFL, had prospects from the Nationals, A’s, Orioles, Rays and Bluejays, and included Josh Bell (Orioles) and Grant Desme (A’s).

Hohokam Park

I arrived at Hohokam Park at around 11:45 a.m. for a 12:35 pm start. Hohokam is the spring training facility of the Chicago Cubs, and Cubs’ logos are everywhere. The first of many retirees greeted me at the box office and I paid $6 for my ticket. $6! Just like Yankee Stadium. I stopped by the gift shop to pick up my lineup ($1), program ($2) and media guide ($12). Again, just like the major leagues.  Armed with all the information I needed, I headed into the park and staked out a prime spot in the sun in the first row behind the Desert Dogs’ dugout. Again, just like Yankee Stadium.

Starting Lineups

Let’s Play Ball!

I wandered around the park a bit, took a lot of photos of the Solar Sox warming up (you can check out all my pictures from the day at the game on Flickr) and then settled in for baseball. I’m not going to get into any details about the game itself (Phoenix crushed Mesa, 11-1, to advance to the AFL Championship game) or detailed scouting reports on the players I saw. I just wanted to write about the experience of being there. And I loved it. With the announced attendance of 316 (yes, 316 people) in the house, it just felt small and intimate, in a good way. I felt like I was experiencing a pure form of baseball, where it really was about the game and the hope of success. A far cry from the big leagues.

Up Close and Personal

With my seats behind the Desert Dogs’ dugout, I could hear the manager and pitching coach talking. Players hung out at the railing. The snap of the ball in the catcher’s mitt. The crack of the bat, all right there. It didn’t hurt that the weather was absolutely perfect and the sun was beating down (my right arm got sunburned, and I did not mind at all). Ah, the sun. It will be a

Danny Espinosa on deck

while before we see you again in New York City. But I digress. Every player for the Desert Dogs was on deck just feet from where I sat. I love seeing the players in the on deck circle. It’s fun to see their routines and, of course, as a female I can’t really complain either. If you know what I mean. And I think that you do.

Ok. Fine. A Few Player Notes

I know I said just a few paragraphs ago that I wouldn’t provide a scouting report, but a few guys definitely caught my eye. From a baseball perspective, of course.

Josh Bell

Let’s start with Josh Bell, the third base prospect for the Baltimore Orioles. I admit that it was Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com who first tipped me off to Bell, but even if I hadn’t received the inside info, I could tell this kid is going to be special.

Josh Bell crushed a 3 run shot

He’s big, strong and plays a solid third base. The Orioles are going to have a good third baseman for a long time with this guy. He also absolutely crushed a pitch for a deep 3-run home run to right field that had everybody oohing and aahing in wonder.

He made such an impression that I actually did some research (gasp!) on him. And found out that he was a top third base prospect for the Dodgers, who dealt him to the Orioles in the George Sherrill deal. According to one of my Twitter followers, Jacob Larsen, the Dodgers thought so highly of Bell that his nickname was Matt Kemp Jr. And you know how much I love me some Matt Kemp.

Danny Espinosa

Another player that stood out (and whom I had heard about from my Nationals’ fan friends – yes they do exist), was Danny Espinosa. He was the Desert Dogs player of the game, going 3 for 4 with a triple, 4 RBIs and a run scored.  Rays’ prospect pitcher Mitch Talbot went to 3-0.  He allowed just 1 unearned run on 3 hits with 2 Ks and 3 walks in 4 innings pitched.

Adam Loewen

Adam Loewen, OF/1B Prospect

I also have to admit that I am really rooting for Bluejays’ OF/1B prospect Adam Loewen. Hey, isn’t that name familiar? Wasn’t Adam Loewen a pitcher for Team Canada and the Baltimore Orioles? Why yes, yes he was!

After a stress fracture in his elbow forced him to give up pitching, he’s reinventing himself as a OF/1B, and signed with the Bluejays. Sort of like Rick Ankiel, only without the nervous breakdown and meltdown on national television. I really hope he makes it, since I like a good comeback story.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s Canadian and fairly adorable. For more on the Adorableness Quotient and its importance, check out my friend Sarah of Oh It’s THOSE Girls.

Final Notes

A few more quick observations about my experience at the game. First, the entire park is run by retirees. Is this a retiree baseball mafia? Every single person working there had to be at least 65 years

Retiree Mafia?

old. Including the ball women. Yes, they have ball women. Women who pick up the balls and retrieve the bats. There was one classic moment I overheard from the Desert Dogs’ dugout after a foul ball landed between home plate and the backstop, closer to the dugout. The pitching coach turned to one of the other guys in the dugout and said, “Hey, why don’t you get that ball. Don’t make that lady run out there to get it.”

Also, I met several people there who go every year and know each other from Arizona Fall League games. These were not professional scouts and MLB personnel guys, but fans. Fans who love the atmosphere. Fans who love to say, “Hey, I saw that player when.” Fans who make this an annual pilgrimage. Fans who just love baseball and their teams.

After one game, count me among those fans. I’m definitely interested and can’t wait for next year. Will I see you there?

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Stephen Strasburg alert! Photos from my day at the Arizona Fall League are on Flickr! #AFL

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Baseball, Sports, Travel | Tags: , , , |

What could be better than perfect weather and baseball? It’s the Arizona Fall League! Monday’s game featured the Phoenix Desert Dogs at Mesa Solar Sox. Enjoy!

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#PodcampAZ 2009: Tale of the Tweets

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Tale of the Tweets, Travel | Tags: , |

As you no doubt know by now, one of my main reasons for heading out to Phoenix this weekend wasn’t just to enjoy Cardinals’ tailgating and Arizona Fall League baseball, but to partake of PodcampAZ 2009. Want to know more about what a Podcamp is? I could explain it to you, but I’m lazy and the good people of PodcampAZ already did it for me. Just click here.

PodcampAZ 2009

I was going to put together a full overview of my day at PodcampAZ, but again, I’m feeling pretty lazy. And since I live-tweeted many of the sessions that day, I am going to rely on the Tale of the Tweets. If you’re interested in finding more Twitter chatter from both days, as well as links to presentations, just search #podcampaz.

Overall, I give it a big thumbs up. The content was compelling and engaging, and of course extremely on-point for me, as I embark on my next adventure. The only downside was having to choose between so many great presentations on so many topics I wanted to learn about! Blogging, podcasting, social media, tips, tricks, dos, donts, and everything in between. Guess I’ll have to come back next year.

I have to give some special shout-outs to some of the coolest, friendliest and warmest people I’ve met in a long time. Thanks to everybody who made me feel at home and welcomed me to Phoenix, but especially Tyler Hurst (my host), Katie Charland, Bubba, Jay Baer, Clintus McGintus, Ms Herr, Brian Shaler, Kevin Gawthrope (even though he’s a Red Sox fan) and countless others, including the organizers. Thank you thank you thank you.

Without further ado, let’s get to the PodcampAZ 2009 Tale of the Tweets:

Hello #podcampaz! Why must you start so early in the morning?

Thank you thank you thank you to whomever brought the magical mini pumpkin cupcakes to #podcampaz.

OH: “So is WordPress a website editor?” #podcampaz

Hey @dawkblitz, there’s a dude with a Dawkins Eagles jersey in @jaybaer‘s #podcampaz session.

Coolest. Business card. Ever. From @jaybaer #podcampaz http://post.ly/Cbu3

OH: “Oh yeah. I remember you. The taint!” #thingstakenoutofcontext #podcampaz

Agreed! RT @azbubba this session may not be the most informative, but it’s definitely the most fun! #podcampaz

Spotted @chuckreynolds riding in the bed of a black pickup truck. #podcampaz

Lunching with the Tempe Nerds. Yes, that’s a group here. Love it. #podcampaz

It’s so easy to stalk @brianshaler at #podcampaz

“If you build it, they will come.” To your site/community. Nice use of Field of Dreams by @brianshaler. #podcampaz

Me either! Panic! RT @azbubba social media question: I still don’t have a digg user account. How bad is that?

Personal branding lesson from @brianshaler: keep control over your image and brand. #podcampaz

Session morphed into awesome jokes about @brianshaler‘s Movember mustache. With sunglasses to complete the look. #podcampaz

Must. Have. Pillow. RT @azbubba because @brianshaler pimped the site, I made it relevant. http://bit.ly/13tN8G @chuckreynolds #podcampaz

Hey @throwboy, can I have a #podcampaz pillow? Pretty please? It would be great for my flight back to NYC.

It’s not about the tools, it’s about the community you build with the tools. And what you do with it. @gawthrok at #podcampaz

“Eat like a bird. Poop like an elephant. #channelingguykawasaki #podcampaz

I’d like to call out another outstanding presentation: Jay Baer’s 11 Must Dos for the Serious Blogger, which can be found here.

I must confess that I skipped Day 2 of PodcampAZ to go to the Arizona Cardinals game.  As Clintus said, I’m more of a sports fan than a geek. This is true. It’s a choice I don’t regret and my experiences at the game (particularly the insane tailgating) will be the subject of a yet-to-be-written blog post.  If you want to check out the photos of my experience at the Cardinals game, you can find them on Flickr.

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Ode to a Chevy Lumina (or Why Your Rental Car Should Not Inspire Memories of 1996)

Posted on November 17, 2009. Filed under: Comedy, Random, Rants and Whines, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

It’s not often that I’m prompted to write about a rental car. But then again, it’s not often that I rent a car as full of unintentional comedy and fail as the gem I rented for this trip to Phoenix.

The Rental Car Saga Begins

Let’s start at the beginning, which is both logical and necessary. One thing I didn’t know about Phoenix is that it’s next to impossible to rent a car here during the peak months of October-March. And if you do find one, it will cost at least $500 for a multi-day rental. One of the main culprits behind the extremely high rates is the insane (dare I say usurious?) airport tax that’s assessed on every car rented at the airport.

Would you care to mortgage your home for a rental car in Phoenix?

Given my recent change of career plans (i.e., lack of income), I could not spend that kind of money on a rental car, so I looked for alternatives. And I found one. From the good people at Phoenix Rental Car.  When I called them last week to book a car, they were happy to help and quoted me $287 for 5 days. And as a bonus, no airport tax, since they are located about 2 miles from the airport. Great! Sign me up. I didn’t ask what kind of car it was, feeling relieved and lucky to get one for a fairly decent rate.

I was delighted when the rental car place sent Bruce to pick me up at the airport. When we arrived at the lot, it was a random storefront on some industrial street and there were a lot of pretty beat-up looking cars in the lot. No problem, I thought, I’m sure I’ll get a car that’s clean, runs and has an AUX cable for my iPod.

You Get What You Pay For: A Chevy Lumina

Bruce showed me to the car. A dirty white Chevy Lumina. I tried not to hide my surprise at the fact that not only was this car old, but it was dirty. At least wash it so it looks better. But I digress. This was a good one, Bruce said. It drives great, he assured me. So I got in, started it up and drove off the lot.

Yes, that 1996 Chevy Lumina is my rental car

Just how old was this car? I’ve confirmed that it is a 1996 Chevy Lumina. How did I confirm this? Because my friend Tyler (with whom I’m staying) actually owned this car years ago.

Yes, I rented a car in 2009 that has been on the road for 13 years. To put this in perspective, let’s take a look back at the year 1996 in sports:

MLB:

  • The Orioles and Rangers both made the playoffs
  • Derek Jeter was Rookie of the Year
  • Ken Caminiti and Juan Gonzalez named NL and AL MVPs
  • The Yankees won their first World Series since 1978

NFL:

  • Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore and became the Ravens
  • Tony Dungy replaced Sam Wyche as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach (I’ll let that sink in. Sam Wyche was coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  • Jimmy Johnson became the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins
  • Barry Sanders led the league in rushing
  • Steve Young led the league in passing
  • Not-yet-retired-and-unretired Brett Favre and the Packers beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl (those were the days)

NBA:

  • Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls went 72-10, en route to another NBA championship

    Jordan and Pippen celebrated an NBA title in 1996

  • Magic Johnson came out of retirement only to retire again
  • Boston Celtics played their first game at the Fleet Center
  • The Knicks were competitive

Not to mention that the city of Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996. That was a long time ago. So, what I’m trying to say is this: this is one old car.

The Fun Begins

For starters, the gear shift was on the steering wheel. What? I’m not sure I’ve ever driven a car with that set-up. But ok. Then when I turned for the first time, I noted that the steering wheel squeaked and creaked in a way reserved solely for the doors of haunted houses. Not to mention that it may have once had power steering, but that damn thing was hard to turn. But wait – there’s more!

I wanted to put on the radio to listen to some music. I don’t need to tell you that there was no AUX input to be found. But there was a cassette deck. A cassette deck, ladies and gentlemen! And to top if off? THERE WAS AN ACTUAL CASSETTE TAPE STUCK IN THE CASSETTE DECK! I can’t even imagine how long that damn thing has been stuck in there.

I wish I knew what cassette it was. Just a couple of guesses for fun: The Macarena? Alanis Morissette? Perhaps some classic Celine Dion or Whitney Houston?

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that every time I turned on the radio, the stupid stereo would try to play the cassette tape. Which was stuck in the cassette deck. So I had to press eject every time to convince the stereo that I wanted to listen to the radio instead of the tape. Good times.

 

Was this 1996 hit in the cassette deck?

Let’s Talk Performance (or lack thereof)

If you’ve ever been to Phoenix, you know that you can’t survive without a car. Which means you drive everywhere. And spend a lot of time in the car. So this is not based on a small sample size. I’ve been in this car a lot since Thursday and two things about it have become the source of frustration (and amusement).

First is the turning radius (or lack thereof). This thing handles like a freakin’ boat. 3 point turns become 5 point turns. Think you can turn into that parking spot? Think again. Want to make a U turn in one motion? Good luck. I’ve taken to parking facing out if at all possible, it’s that bad. And no, this is not about me being a New Yorker who’s not used to driving. I grew up in Los Angeles. I know how to drive. And over the past year and a half with ESPN, I drove frequently to Bristol, logging many hours in the car.

And how about highway driving? No need for the Phoenix PD or highway patrol to worry about catching me speeding. The car actually starts to shake when it hits 65 MPH. Seriously. The last time I drove a car that shook when it hit 65 MPH was my 1984 Honda Accord (RIP).

It’s Been a Good Run

I know that I’m lucky to have a car at all so I really shouldn’t complain. But after four full days with this baby, I just had to write about the entertainment value it’s provided me during my visit. And how many rental cars can do that?

Now watch – it will break down on my way to the airport tomorrow.

P.S. It didn’t break down. But with the 18.55% tax, the car cost me $391 for 5 days. A 1996 Lumina.

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Nice view of Cardinals-Seahawks from Section 115 (my actual seat)

Posted on November 15, 2009. Filed under: Football, General, Sports, Travel | Tags: , , , |

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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Hate me if you want to. This is where Phoenix WordCamp is. #phxwc

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: General, Travel | Tags: , |

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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