||Midnite's Global Journey of Spiritual Discovery*
Joined: Nov 12, 2002
From: Huntikington Beach
|Posted: 2009-06-13 08:19 am  Permalink|
I wanted to see it done in Vegas, done well and executed properly. I saw the bearded clam mug and thought, "Uh, wrong. Wrong in so many ways." Thus, I had dismissed Frankie's out of hand and did not keep track of the place whatsoever. Well, I am in Vegas, might as well give it a try.
Wrong, so wrong...I was. Frankie's is a real winner. Treated well by the friendly bartender, we were able to sample a few cocktails while taking in the swell decor and design elements.
Never Doubt a Bamboo Ben Tiki Bar!!!
Glad you enjoyed.
Tiki Bars I've designed/built. Hale Tiki, Kona Club, Forbidden Island, Kon Tiki Tucson,
Don the Beachcomber, Tiki No, Tong Lei Room, Tiki Iniki, Longitude, Pacific Seas, etc
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2009-07-21 12:54 pm  Permalink|
CHICAGO '09: HIRKI LAU II
Oh, we're going to a Hirki Lau...and we're gonna get married!
Take a deep breath, come back in off the ledge. No, no, NOT midnite getting married. Marriage is to me like that other four-letter word: job. Not the groom, Magumbo, just a guest. Yes, it is time for the best little tiki event in the land, Hirki Lau, and number "due" was held in midnite's favorite American city: Chicago. Bang bang! Good food, some baseball, a lot of drinking, some exchanging of vows and one less suave oily bo-hunk is available, ladies.
Chicago is, to me, the most American city. I love it, even if that low-rent U of C Law School deemed me unworthy twenty years ago. Baahhh, 'eff them, the slugs. No, I am not bitter. Slightly sour, but not bitter. I still love the city and have visited enough to have a ready-made hit list of things to see and do that make me one happy traveler.
The food, the great architecture, the friendly and warm Mid-Western hospitality. Chicago has it all, plus now a new Trader Vic's. Oh yeah, and club sandwiches, thems too. From our Mag Mile hotel base we ventured off and hit all the best spots. While I am much more of a North Sider when it comes to baseball allegiance, the Cubs were away so I was able to visit the new White Sox stadium and take in a game. That is one more MLB park for me, close to visiting about half of them by now. It was also free admission night, who said free!?!, at the Art Institute so we took in some culture along the way to the ballpark. I dig the Gauguins, the fair Michelle is more a fan of the miniature rooms. She's wee, ya know.
Food-wise Chicago is one of the best worldwide, I say. Of course, we consumed some Giordarno's deep dish and made a pilgrimage to Harray Caray's. Harry's surprised me when I first visited over ten years ago, and I've made sure to go back each visit since. The fair Michelle had to order the classic Chicken Vesuvio, while I had some pasta to go along with my "Old Fashioned" lunch. Midnite needs his medicine, kids. Wow, I would love to live here, but I'd probably gain fifty pounds and go to rehab twice yearly.
Speaking of imbibing, this is me we're talking about, were you aware they put in a new Trader Vic's? I, I did not know that...maybe I will go see it...every night we are in town!
Yes, let's get to the tiki aspect of this year's Hirki Lau. While last year's inaugural event visited multiple locations, Hirki Lau II was based solely at the new Chicago Trader Vic's. Fine choice overall I'd say as it is Mai Tai month all July. Our first night at Vic's was partially spent hosting the beginning of Hirki Lau co-founder and this year's groom to be, Richard's, bachelor party. A group of his brothers, friends and soon to be brother-in-law came around for a pre-party cocktail or two. It was a very special treat for me to see those four at Vic's. There they are in the photo, from the left: Trader Vic's Grog, Zombie, Tiki Puka Puka, Tortuga. Oh, I love them nephews too! Seriously though, my four boys enjoying my favorite libations: priceless memory for an old rummy.
The bachelor party was off to partake in activities I cannot divulge publicly as the bride surely reads these pages. Meanwhile, the fair Michelle and I stayed and dined at Vic's. My filet was a bit overcooked and that was about the sole negative during our visits to this new Vic's. The cocktails, so many many cocktails, were virtually without fault. I ordered some tougher ones too (see above, Tortgua) and the bartenders did a great job. As Hirki Lau is primarily an exercise in drinking I'd say number two was a huge success. While I'd like the decor to be a bit more "more" and the atrium is really lame I liked the new Chicago Trader Vic's. It is not the old Palmer House, but life goes on, ya dig? We had great service, from the bartenders, the manager Adam, to Erika, our favorite waitress. Great times, we were treated very well, indeed.
You will undoubtedly recognize Richard and the lovely Kylie from previous trips, and of course last year's Hirki Lau. Well, it was time for them to...gulp... tie the knot, take the plunge, jump the broom, get hitched...married? Yeah, said Donger, MARRIED! Now, I don't think we'll make this a regular activity in future Hirki Laus, but it was a special evening. The arc of life is a neat thing, sometimes. I recalled his parents wedding (on the very same date 28 years earlier), little Ricky's birth, splashing about with him in the kiddie pool out in the yard, seeing him grow from a goofy teen to a college grad and now....now...married.
There's the happy couple during several portions of the festivities. I wish I took better photos, but I was sobbing and shaking quite uncontrollably. Sure, some emotion from the service but mostly an allergic reaction to being "that" close to marriage vows. Another close call as I undertsand the stuff can be contagious. The ceremony was brief and the reception was a fun time for all. Kylie is now a member of my family and you know what that means. Uncle midnite has another to assist in my dotage's round the clock care!
Congrats to Kylie and Richard. I think they will do just fine, thank you very much.
Sandwich? Oh yeeaaaahh, the club. From the Chicago Inter-Continental Hotel comes their room service offering. Not bad, great view of the river from the room, but just so-so on the sandwich. A bit too much mayo and the serious error of using packaged deli sliced turkey. Fresh sliced, oven roasted, say it with me.
Hirki Lau II was a resounding winner. We increased the attendance by like 300% year over year and the revenues were up considerably. Things look A-Ok for number trois. Kylie is now legally one more "Hirki" for next year's Lau.
For better or worse!
Joined: Mar 04, 2009
|Posted: 2009-08-22 10:16 am  Permalink|
On 2008-06-06 07:17, GatorRob wrote:
On 2008-06-05 19:32, Haole'akamai wrote:
Did you get to see the ladies room?
Judging by the above photo of the two of them waving from the ladies room, I'd guess they got to see the ladies room. I'll tell you what, the Thorntons made sure the ladies would have a space to powder their noses and tweak their beehives in style!
The men? We just get a dark, dank place to pee. And we like it that way...
[ This Message was edited by: GatorRob 2008-06-06 07:21 ]
But WE get PABLO!!!
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2009-09-29 12:00 am  Permalink|
ORANGE COUNTY 9/09
Orange County? Orange...eff-ing...County? Is it me or are my travels getting lamer than...? Wait a minute now, Orange County is the birth of cool. Okay, maybe not the birthplace, but it is the wellspring, the hothouse, the adolescence of the midnite meme. Yes, it is time, after but a mere fifteen years away, to go back. Huntington Beach: my old home, my refuge. I grew up on your shores, you made me what I am...now bugger off.
Ha ha, no, I love Huntington and my decade and a half absence was only partially intentional on my part, really. Allright, in all honesty I am a firm believer in what I call the first rule of Slovak-British living. To wit, "What is behind me does not matter...and it is dead." So, I sort of stay away from the past, if I can. Alas, the fair Michelle and I had an engagement down Newport Beach way and I took her around the old stomping grounds. Some melancholy, some "Wow, that is gone?", some "Whew, glad I am gone", mixed with not a small amount of proper sadness. Life goes on though, and some times it involves a righteously good club sandwich shared with an old friend, as it were.
After the white knuckle trip down memory road we took in lunch at the hangout of my teen and early college years, the Harbor House in Sunset Beach. I do believe I have taken more meals there than any other commercial establishment. Invariably, any night out or social gathering during those years ended at Harbor House and almost assuredly when there I had the Seafood Combo. Not his time Magumbo, nope. This time Michelle had the combo, I had the club sandwich! It was sublime, so good in fact I would gladly come back and eat many more. However, you cannot go home again can you? Those days are gone and shall remain just that...history. I got to take my favorite gal there though, so that was a BIG plus. Will it be my last visit, who knows? If it is, it's appropriate I got to share it with Michelle.
After lunch we motored down PCH and made it to Newport Beach for our appointment with disappointment. That's a long story but not as long as going back to Newport's Fashion Island to, sort of, play in the Japanese Koi pond that first held my attention some forty years earlier. Thus ended our trip back in time from the late 60's to late 80's. For actual duration this was the briefest of excursions but for pure emotion and history...unbeatable. No really, I tried beating it many times, those memories still haunt me. Ergo, the drinking.
Back in Frisco and the next morning I am up bright and early for much more enjoyable activities. It's time for the second, or is it third, Trader Vic's Warehouse Sale and Trekker Convention. Notice I said Trekker. Whatever, my cool years were left in the sand and tennis courts of Orange County, now I am grown up and my self-confidence is strong enough to handle my tiki weirdness. Also, at least I did not get there at six-thirty in the morning!
The sale was a great time indeed. The warehouse girls and guys were there and putting up with us even better than at last year's sale. I really think they're warming to us. We all headed over to Vic's for some cocktails and camaraderie. Now, if Emeryville Vic's could make a half-decent seafood combo I could virtually go back to the 80's: put on my linen jacket, wayfarers, slick my hair with...ok maybe not.
We added to our meager collection of Trader Vic memorabilia and this sale's special acquisition was one of the holy grails for yours truly. No, not the Senor Pico chicken bong. Already got one of them. It's great to visit the warehouse, learn some new history about the company, just take in the sights. No matter how many times I have been (What's that Kier?, "Way too many!") a visit there is sort of like being a kid in a, for me, Bonsai Tree store.
The weekend ended with a special birthday celebration for my fellow Vic fan boy and Quicksand teammate, Mai Tai. Check out the near immolation bowl drink photo, I think I am due for a Pulitzer. We wrapped up the baseball season with a final game at ATT watching the Giants finally win against my otherwise favorite Cubs. Caroline and Rob flew all the way from Wisconsin to enjoy the ballgame and warehouse sale. Due to the game's scheduling she was unable to attend the FI Parking Lot Sale. So, all you tiki fiends owe me for that.
For a number of reasons the midnite travels have been backburnered a bit. I promise to rectify that condition in the near future and visit the wild and exotic locales I am known for visiting. Then again, going back to Huntington is, psychologically speaking, one of the more dangerous trips I have ever undertaken. I am up for some place less stressful, maybe I will finally book that flight to Port Moresby?
Who am I kidding? A super fine club sandwich at dear old Harbor House, my best girl by my side, showing her where much of it all started for me, then some baseball and Trader Vic's collecting with good friends? That's a smile, a big smile.
Gnarly good times, dude.
Grand Member (first year)
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
|Posted: 2009-09-29 4:37 pm  Permalink|
Don't keep us in suspense, what holy grail did you acquire?
Joined: Nov 12, 2002
From: Huntikington Beach
|Posted: 2009-11-19 8:18 pm  Permalink|
did the club sammich from h house kill you?
were art thow 12:00 ???
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2009-12-04 12:08 am  Permalink|
did the club sammich from h house kill you?
were art thow 12:00 ???
The club did not, but recently a bad Vietnamese muffin came pretty close to deep sixing me.
I am on foreign soil and safe for now. This place has decent sandwiches. Some have argued it also has the best tiki bar in all the world. That much I would not dispute.
Signing off for now from a remote locale via remotely viable technology...
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2009-12-15 1:31 pm  Permalink|
MUNICH-STUTTGART-PRAGUE DECEMBER 09
Our Christmas trip came a bit early this year. That timing may have been off by a few weeks, but the trip was years in the making. As the year ends, and with it a decade, it can give one a sense of place and time. Perhaps even a chance at some personal assessment. Life is a journey, and sometimes, as those wacky Germans say, it's a sort of bildungsroman. Uh, well, they do make a mean automobile.
Just two short years ago I visited Munich and found it somewhat lacking. However, I adore the Munich Vic's so it was an obvious choice to return with Michelle for a few days before our trip to Prague. Last time in Munich it was June, this trip was literally six months later on the calendar. I'd counsel visitors to see Munich during warmer months. So much there is geared to outdoor activities, drinking included, it is a shame to be stuck inside. Unless, of course, you are stuck in the basement of the Hotel Bayerischer. Then the world is your oyster and a Tahitian Pearl would be a nice aperitif.
Ahh yes, Munich Trader Vic's. I prefer to call it by another moniker: Heaven on Promenadeplatz. The old London v. Munich debate raged, until now. I can declare Munich Trader Vic's my favorite, and also the most outstanding, of all I have visited. If one wishes to compare the host cities then Munich is no match for London. However, if strictly which Trader Vic's to see if you could visit but one? Munich.
Our three evenings spent at Vic's were the highlight of the trip. I was able to again trade stories with my favorite Trader Vic's bartender, Joe. He's still going strong but do get there and visit him soon as the word "retirement" is popping up in conversations. Any serious cocktail enthusiast should have Joe prepare a few for him/her. Now, for this recreational imbiber "a few" means...well, they use the metric system and with the conversion I am not sure how many it equates to in pounds, or dollars for that matter. I had a litre or two. Some new faves were discovered (Hello, Hinky Dink's and Siboney) and some old friends revisited (Ahoy, Tortuga and Tiki Puka Puka). One interesting side note for you cocktail fans would be Dr. Funk's Son. I asked Joe what the natives were drinking and he mentioned Funk's Son is a popular choice. A neat thing about Munich's presentation of this cocktail is they still retain the classic ice vessel. I have had a Dr. Funk's Son served this way only twice before. To see the cocktail come out encased in its own ice jacket: so cool! However, I still don't much like the Son...better to go with Vater Funk.
Vic's was not all potent potables; we also ate quite well. Getting a table was rather a pill though. It was holiday season and the place was hopping, packed full of revelers. No table was available until 10pm! Now, as an American I find late dining to be as appealing as European plumbing. In a spot of brilliance I considered the time difference back home and the new fangled wireless device at my disposal. In what must stand as the ultimate manifestation of my Trader Vic's fanboy status I called in some "air strikes" from Vic's HQ to help me secure a better table. Help from the corporate cavalry was on its way. Still, while I waited I tried the ole midnite charm on our server, Susan. It worked, go figure. She set up a four top for us in the dining room near the bar. Susan was a real sweetheart and we were treated very well by everyone at Munich Vic's.
The three days in Munich were not simply spent waiting for 1700 hours. No way, Hans! One day we took in a couple of the Pinakotheck Museums and enjoyed some very fine art, except for that glowing green installation that got us all Hulky. Those wacky German artists! Better yet, the days in Germany were also a way for me to make the Pilgrimage, my own Car Haj. A good trip was about to get epic. Next stop: Zuffenhausen.
Munich is home to my cocktail haven, nearby Stuttgart is birthplace to another object of my religious devotion. In a stroke of pure genius the fair Michelle came up with the idea to visit Stuttgart and more precisely the new Porsche Museum. See why I love her? Porsche, Trader Vic's, my best girl. Could things get any better? Well, they could serve a club sandwich at the museum cafe. Still, in the realm of personal happiness, this day was way up there. I was able to stroll amongst the most famous efforts from my favorite marque, including one special model which played a prominent part in my own life. It was an exhilarating trip down memory lane in all its top-down and air-cooled glory. I got to touch "Number One", the first ever Porsche. Michelle had to drag me away before I signed papers at the dealership across the street for a Guards Red beauty and took European Delivery right there and then. I had to settle for a nice photo book. Plus, you know what they say about red cars anyway.
As my travels continue I face the dilemma of expanding my tally of places to revisit while simultaneously maintaining a long list of destinations I have yet to see. Prague was until this trip on the latter but it won't be on the former. For over twenty years I wanted to visit Prague. I recall when the Soviet Union fell and I entertained, for a brief time, the notion of going there like so many other young Americans and starting a business. Prague was the beautiful capital of the country where my Father was born. It was, in a sense, the homeland. In some manner it held a spell over me. I had looked at many photographs of her beautiful cityscape. My international travels started, in earnest, a decade ago. Yet, Prague was backburnered, always the "next place." Years went by and it never was the next place, until now. Oh, the anticipation.
Well, Pip, I'd say those great expectations bettered me. Prague was just, how do I put this, shallow and unfulfilling? More beautiful than all but a few places I have seen yet a city to which I could not warm. She's a beauty, but past the facade it's ugly and somewhat venal. I've known pretty girls like her. Girls from my earlier, and pitifully immature, days. The beauty she possesses will make your heart go arrhythmic. She's the one relying on her looks, playing off her physical attributes, and unable to go beyond that which people have said about her for so long. "So gorgeous, the Paris of Central Europe, a gem of a city, a dreamscape." She transacts in that currency, knows how to please, if only temporarily. You get a little glimpse, a look-see. Pay the price, be with the beautiful girl. "I'm yours" she whispers, "All yours, really." Ahh yes, Prague is that tall blonde with the pale blue eyes and I so want her to be mine.
We alighted in Prague at the infamous Central Prague rail station, Hlavni Nadrazi. Now there's a joy to behold! Dig the Czech train station scene if you can. I cannot. Alarmingly dark, dilapidated, leaking buildings do not warrant my affection. This inglorious beginning to our stay continued as we unduly labored to get across the city to the Mala Strana neighborhood. This is not going as I had envisioned. Why are you treating me so poorly, Prague? Finally, a sanctuary of sort was found at our hotel in the embassy district, right across from the U.S. facility. A bad first impression is all, my love affair with Prague will soon blossom.
Time to eat, time to get this trip moving back in a positive direction. Of the many dining options I found for our stay in Prague one was a well regarded small French bistro near our hotel. We came for the delicious steak entrecote but the cocktail menu had piqued my attention. Not unexpectedly, I heard the siren call of a tropical libation. Could that be the salve to this ghastly introduction to Prague? The gruesome main rail station, the surly locals, the never ending bloat of tourists? Zombie will make it all better. The sweet and familiar nectar of a favorite cocktail will surely soothe this increasingly savage traveling beast. Go forth and find thyself a well-made beverage and its spirits shall lift thou. Yes, that cocktail cometh, and it will be good and...
It's blue. It's a blue drink. A...blue...drink.
Jesus weeps. I had to laugh. I also kept an eye out for errant red cars the rest of the trip.
Prague was not all bad news, hardly. We were quite pleased with the Alchymist Grand Hotel and our walks through the Lesser Quarter. The Charles Bridge in the early morning was a pleasure. Likewise for nearby Kampa Island. I enjoyed the Pilsner Urquell from a Tankovna pub. The small Mucha museum was a treat. By fits and spurts Prague offered contentment, in jerks and fools Prague suffered from too many. Her vistas are beyond spectacular: the red roofs of Mala Strana, the Art Nouvea of Old Town, the Vltava and its many bridges. She is so stunning, yet the city seems evasive, distant. I want to love this place, but am unable. Why? Clarity arrives late one evening as fog crawls over the cityscape. Ethereal light illuminates the gates of Karlov Most. The allure of this moment is breathtaking. It is a scene from centuries ago, one that has captivated so many before. Here it is, repeated again, just for me. Now my thoughts are familiar. I lived this moment years ago whilst under the spell of a similar beauty whose affections I so dearly wanted to recapture. "Say you love me, say I'm the one." was my plea, "Say it one more time." Ahh yes, I remember how that one ended. That was a lesson learned. Only this time I stop her before she can respond, "Forget it." I think, "I don't wanna hear it, not this time, not anymore."
Prague, talk to you later. Save it for another guy.
Sandwiches? Oh, I ate a sandwich or two. Worthy of note was the club sandwich at Pusser's in Munich, home of the Painkiller. I wish they had a lighter touch on the mayo but it was still quite good. More surprising was my affection for the house cocktail. It warmed my dodgy heart on a cold night in Munich. Spicy, yummy, rum goodness. On that positive note we end the travel year 2009. For many reasons this year's travels fell a bit short of expectations, great or otherwise. Good times were still had though, from Central Massachusetts to Central Europe. The past was a recurring theme in my trips this year and others. I suppose there was some personal searching amongst all the miles, a retracing of my history. Perhaps I was trying to assess what was lost and why. A decade of travel ends. I retire a well-used passport and recognize it's what can still be that truly matters. Looking backwards is really no way to travel.
I do think it is time to close the chapter on Europe for now. Let's look west, and go east.
Rote Autos, Blaugetränke und Blonde Frauen...sind schlechte Nachrichten.
Joined: May 17, 2006
From: Oakland, CA
|Posted: 2009-12-15 4:36 pm  Permalink|
Hmmmmm....think i enjoyed Prague a little more than you did
I was there in the spring before 9/11
80 degrees every day, and the dollar was still strong
Let's compare notes at the Cove.......
Joined: Jun 26, 2003
From: the birthplace of the Mai Tai
|Posted: 2009-12-15 11:10 pm  Permalink|
Welcome back, Midnite! Great read!
I'd dig to hear more sometime soon. It'd be great to see you guys!
Joined: Mar 21, 2004
From: Exotic Isle of Alameda
|Posted: 2009-12-17 2:33 pm  Permalink|
Midnite, Porches and Tiki...hmmmm. I think it's time to start a new trend. Oh and by the way, I was confused for a moment because I saw Ms. Midnite in the Princess Chair...and mistakenly thought it was FI. Oh silly me, wrong country. Oops. CL Out.
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2010-02-18 12:00 am  Permalink|
Get Back, Back to Where I Never Belonged
The 2010 travel season begins and although I have received my new passport it wasn't needed for this quick trip out to Arizona. A few days out West (East, really) to hang with family and take in some of the state's best tiki offerings. I have spent many months, a year or more, in the Phoenix area and I had never really visited Tucson, never went to Kon Tiki. Time to change that. Road trip!
A few months ago when this weekend was planned I realized the magnitude of my oversight in never making it down to Kon Tiki. Sure, it is a veritable time capsule of tiki, but there was more, something more significant than a few wood carvings and some bamboo. Kon Tiki serves food, more precisely a...club...sand...wich. Oh. Oh, yes.
Over the years I have heard much of Kon Tiki and when we arrived I was surprised at the location and setting. I expected a larger property, a bigger building, not wedged in like a small book on the shelf next to larger tomes. That bit of disappointment was quickly remedied by the "No Firearms" sign on the door and the few old timer rummies taking in the waters at about 11:45am on Saturday. My kind of place: serious drinking safe from any ricochet danger. I prefer my gun play in a brighter room anyway.
Kon Tiki was fairly empty and therefore primed for the random tiki fiend, moi, to take it all in and capture numerous snappies. A friendly regular even turned on the lights in the empty rooms for me, a nice gesture. We settled in for some lunch and a few cocktails. Is it afternoon yet? I started, and stopped, with the new classic mai tai Kon Tiki is offering in their souvenir highball glass. Ten dollars, five bucks for refills. Me likey, me drinky three-ey. A very solid mai tai, much better than the other mai tai on the menu which my Sister ordered. The fair Michelle took a random walk through the drink menu, with varied results. Starting out great with the Hawaii Five-O (a suggestion from a fellow Tucson TC'er) after it things went downhill fast. I was happy with my mai tais and a solid club sandwich.
Yes, a club in a classic old tiki bar. This place is about as close to "mine" as I have come across in my travels. To say I dug it would be a serious understatement. While the sandwich would garner only passing marks on its own the fact it was served in a forty-seven year old tiki bar moves it to the head of the class. Kon Tiki's club sandwich is valedi--hic--torian! Think about it. The world's perfect club could be served at the local Renaissance Faire or tractor pull, but I ain't going to enjoy it. Vintage tiki and a club sandwich, hallelujah.
Tucson's Kon Tiki is now one of my favorite spots on Earth. I'd move out there, but where would I boogie board? The decor is much better than I imagined, even with a few too many painted tikis. I know we are blessed with some nice tiki destinations up here in the Frisco area, but you Tucson folk have a real gem. I am particularly happy I got to introduce my niece and nephew to this place as their first exposure to tiki. I will be back to Kon Tiki, and not just because of those five dollar mai tai refills, although that really really helps.
TRADER VIC'S SCOTTSDALE
We had three nights out Phoenix way so were only able to make it to Trader Vic's twice. Bummer. Still, we did make the most of our stay with introducing my niece to the Trader Vic's universe by taking her there for her early birthday dinner. Fulfilling my duty to recruit new initiates into the fold I figured it was time, she's seventeen now, to start showing her the ropes. I think it went pretty well, perhaps she will become a tiki connoisseur like one of her cousins. If not, I have other nieces to take over her MFN (most favored niece) status.
Dinner at Vic's was good, solid, respectable. Not quite on par with the food at Munich but much better than what continues to be served in the dining room at our local Emeryville. I do like the Vic's out there in Scottsdale. It's not classic decor by any stretch, but I can appreciate the modern design desert aethestic as appropriate for a Trader Vic's in Arizona. The place does well merging some new sensibilites for the local market to the traditional Vic's menu, both dinner and cocktail. We were there on Valentine's Day so maybe things were skewed due to the holiday, but the place was hopping.
It was good drinking all around. Mai Tais a la old fashioned and a cocktail server who made the ingenious, and much obliged, decision to bring me a "side" of grog with my ever present Navy Grog. One of my bright line drinking rules is the groggier the better. Also, one little known codicile to the midnite life guide is multiple sugar sticks always work better than one.
We maximized our tiki fun for such a short trip and found a new pearl of a destination in Tucson's Kon Tiki. The weekend allowed me to cross off one more old time tiki destination that I should have visited years ago. I got to spend some time with family, introducing them to places their uncle always rambles on about. Plus, I furthered my role as good uncle, passable musician, by gifting my very first Fender Strat to my nephew "Ringo", a burgeoning guitar player.
February was a familiar dip in the travel pool, April awaits with a dive head first into the deep end.
I really think so,
Joined: Mar 25, 2002
From: 37? 47' N, 122? 26' W
|Posted: 2010-04-15 12:02 am  Permalink|
Hakone - Kyoto - Tokyo
Part One: Big in Japan
The naughts are over, a new travel decade awaits. After nearly ten years touring most of Europe's capitals it's time to explore the East. Team midnite is off to the "Land of the Rising Sun". We'll visit the Hakone region, historic Kyoto, and modern Tokyo. Japan will be our initial venture into Asia, a first time visit to a new continent. Why go there? I'm big in Japan.
What, you were expecting some allusions to a particular song from The Vapors? Nah, I like my 80's pop, but I am more of a Tom Waits fan. I really think so, think so.
The Fuji-Hakone-Izu region of Japan is a large national park area popular with the Japanese for its natural beauty and hot springs. We stayed at the historic, if a bit quirky, Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita. It's the sort of place that could easily find itself in a Stephen King novel. It is actually more akin to an elderly aunt way past her prime yet with some of her charm still intact. It was a smile.
What was not a smile was the "typhoon" that raged during our first night in Hakone. Our purpose in visiting the region was to take in the natural wonders of the hot springs, the nearby Lake Ashinoko, and the breathtaking views of Mt Fuji. However, the worst rain I had seen in years put a real kibosh on those plans as much of the area was temporarily shut down due to very high winds. The weather finally cleared a bit and we visited the Owakudani hot springs area. They are not kidding about the sulphur vapor danger. That stuff will kill you, if the black eggs don't get you first. Even with the inclement weather Hakone was a nice entree to Japan. We got our feet wet, so to speak. Also, the fair Michelle tried out her chopstick skills. She did much better after learning one holds both sticks in a single hand. We left Hakone after two days, riding the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Kyoto. Hey, look there, it's Mt Fuji!
As we researched Japan tourism one constant recommendation we encountered was to visit Kyoto. The former longtime capital of Japan is the historic center of the nation. It's all there: Buddhist, Shinto, Zen, Geisha! While the cityscape is not compelling, the surrounding hills with their temples and shrines are amazing. We spent two full days exploring many of the best known sites. A few were particularly captivating: Myoshinji Temple Complex was a quiet and relaxing oasis set amongst the hectic metropolis. Ryoanji Temple contains the famous stone garden, a thought provoking arrangement of fifteen rocks next to the temple's Zorokuan Tea room. One is supposed to see only fourteen rocks from any perspective, but Zen masters know a trick to view all fifteen at once. So, I got that going for me.
The too popular Golden Temple is a waste of time for anything but a few pretty snappies. It is beautiful, but Michelle noted the actual gold facade is so contrary to what we perceived as the Japanese aesthetic. It's all Liberace glam in a sea of restrained and tempered sensibilities. A pair of others were much more inspiring. The Silver Temple (not silver at all) was a gem with the nicest gardens, the Eikan-do Zenrin-Ji Temple was my favorite. The guidebooks somewhat dismiss Eikan-do, but it is incredible. Between these two runs the "Philosopher's Walk". One strolls along a canal under countless cherry trees, perhaps thinking of how incredible Kyoto is and why one would ever leave it.
Japan can be more beautiful than any country I have encountered. This was especially true during Cherry Blossom season. We did our best to pick the optimum week; the cherry blossoms were in full bloom during our visit and prettiest in Kyoto. When the wind picked up it "snowed" petals, something the large koi fish in the ubiquitous ponds seem to enjoy as a treat. Kyoto is an amazing city; we barely scratched the surface of this charming place. That means another visit someday to see the temples we missed and to again wander its many small lanes and alleys full of restaurants, bars, and strolling Geiko. Sigh, that's a burden I will have to endure. Next up was a ride on the super fast Nozomi Shinkansen to Tokyo and the "future today" lifestyle of that modern megalopolis.
Perhaps some back story is in order. Much like Prague, Japan was a place in which I have had a keen interest. Two issues were prominent in my thoughts about this trip. Firstly, I anticipated I would feel connected to, and truly like, the Japanese people. This was mainly due to my hobbies/interests and how they often mirror those of many Japanese. Secondly, my Father fought a war against this country. It may seem strange to you but it was something I contemplated before the trip. Nothing more than that, just a realization which was unique to this place, these people. That said, my Dad visited Japan many times on business and always seemed to enjoy the country. I certainly was growing fond of the place.
Tokyo, yes, where to begin? I am not sure, but wherever it is...keep moving! The Gods favor those in motion, especially in Tokyo where the alternative is to be overcome by the flood of people coming from all points, going to....well, everywhere. I was beginning to understand the Japanese focus on the singular, the precise, the calm. I could see why they strive for that one perfect moment or object. Such sure-minded focus on the small and the serene has to be an antidote to the "Blade Runner" cityscape of Tokyo. There were moments I thought I had left 2010 and somehow ended up in 2110. As Hakone was natural beauty and Kyoto cultured history, Tokyo was in your face modernity fueled by caffeine and noodles, illuminated by more neon and bright lights than a hundred Times Squares. One can cross a single Shibuya street with literally thousands of locals. Pull up your socks, tie the shoes a bit tighter and get going. This is Tokyo, and life here? It goes to "eleven".
Our goal for Tokyo was to forego the conventional tourist destinations and simply experience Tokyo as much as possible like a native. Well, a "native" who can read three Kanji symbols and understand about six Japanese phrases. What the heck, just get out there and ride the wave. That was the idea, it worked pretty well. We actually shopped quite a bit. In my travels I rarely pick up souvenirs, I haven't the room if I purchased but one item per trip. However, Japan is home to Sun Surf shirts and they are rather difficult to obtain in the States. They are, however, big in Japan. I came back with a suitcase full of amazing reproduction 1940's-50's Hawaiian shirts. We also shopped, make that browsed, at Mitsukoshi, the oldest and most posh of the huge Tokyo department stores. Arriving before opening time we were able to take in a very Japanese shopping experience. The many employees stand at attention at their respective stations and "welcome" the first of the day's clients. It is quite a treat.
What else would a Tokyo local do? Maybe grab some Takoyaki (octopus dumpling) and watch the Yomiuri Giants play baseball at Tokyo Dome. Baseball in Japan is almost identical to the States. Cheering for Japanese baseball teams is a whole other matter. The fans do not stop chanting while their team is at bat. The seats are really small, too. On our last day we took a spell from the Tokyo hustle and headed a bit North to the Omiya section of Tokyo and visited the bonsai tree nurseries and museum. I've liked Bonsai since I was a child (yes, really) and to see the trees in their homeland was special. They're wee little things, just like Michelle.
Tokyo was at times infuriatingly complex and aggravating. The metro is an abject exercise in Darwinian survival. Being head and shoulders taller and many pounds larger than virtually all Japanese did help me. Still, getting around is a serious test of directional skills. The city's pace is frantic. Tokyo's sights, sounds, and overall cacophany of life race in fifth gear all around you.
Notwithstanding that sentiment my time spent in Japan lent itself to one unique conclusion. In my travels I always get to a point where I count the days remaining to departure. Sure, I may love the place but I am always ready to go home. I started counting the days left during our stay in Tokyo, too. However, it was not to await my return home. No, I counted the days until I had to go home. I did not wish to leave. I liked the people, their approach to life. I dug the sights, the sheer beauty of Japan. It is simply my favorite country I have visited. At times it was as exotic a place I have been, but I felt quite comfortable, at home. Take away the language barrier and I moved, acted, lived like I was not in a foreign land but in my own.
I thought I might like Japan, its people, and places. I ended up falling in love.
Nippon wa saiko desu!
PS What of tiki, club sandwiches, and cocktails? The "life midnite"? Ah, yes...that awaits in Part Two.
Joined: Mar 25, 2005
From: Boogie Wonderland
|Posted: 2010-04-15 09:15 am  Permalink|
I was tempted to leave your post uninterrupted and patiently wait for Part Two but it's too good not to let you know it was good and that I can't wait for Part Two. So you can can read three Kanji symbols and understand about six Japanese phrases? Jeez Midnite, you really are Big in Japan.
Joined: Aug 20, 2004
|Posted: 2010-04-15 1:39 pm  Permalink|
Oh no, there goes Tokyo
Go go mid-midnite
(Can you change your TC name to Godzilla please? Sure goes better.)
From what I understand, this started the whole Japanese love affair with baseball:
So they should thank us.
Excellent report there, midnite-san. So excellent, you should be writing for Condé Nast, not us slobs. I bet their readers don't drink rum through a straw though. Cognac maybe.
Deadline's approaching. Wrap up part 2 already. Golden Girls is about to start.