Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Land of the Frozen North at Summertime

Right then.

As you have probably already learned from Rawbean's Rant I was in Winnipeg this past weekend. I was thinking about posting about my travels earlier in the week, yet found myself without the time to sit down and actually write it all down. This has been my first moment since returning home with the time and energy both to give a faithful account of my travels. So, without any further ado, here we go.

Outside of stories, one's life doesn't so much work in circles. Granted there are cycles that occur in life (as we all know history does repeat itself), but I am speaking more in lines of the circles one finds in works of fiction. The fact that I can bookmark this story, giving it a strange circular quality, both pleases and concerns me.

Regardless, it starts:

Seven fifteen Friday morning at LaGuardia airport I saw a woman who shouldn't be allowed to dress herself and then go out in public. Maybe five feet tops, wearing bright pink, yellow, blue and purple socks with "cute" cats and dogs sheathed in black rubber sandals. Her black pants, seemingly Capri, would fit like regular pants had she not worn them pulled up to her ribcage (thus making her ass seem as if it was the same length as her legs). Into the those pants she had tucked in a light pink cotton shirt. She was skinny, with short cropped grey hair, no older than sixty-five, no younger than fifty, with a very severe face - as if she was both frustrated and confused, not so much by anything specific but by the world around her - and all the time. I'm guessing she was a hippie back in the day and is now frustrated that the world has passed her by and who has yet to learn how to dress like a person.

This woman, who was taking her sweet time trying to figure out how to use the electronic check in machine, bothered me to no end. Each time she touched the electronic screen she hastily withdrew her fingers to her bosom, as if the machine would bite off the tips of her fingers if she lingered too long.

I just wanted to check my luggage and sit down. It was an early flight, and I'd been up since six thirty. I was already in a bad mood as I had been the day previous; J_ was already up in Syracuse for school having left Thursday morning. I figured this to be the start of a very long, long weekend.

The trip itself is uneventful otherwise. From LaGuardia to Toronto, and from Toronto to Winnipeg. We land (we = me and my mom) and we walk over to a different gate to meet up with my friend Jason. Then we (we=the three of us) walked over, picked up our rental car, and drove into the city.

Then the eating commenced, and it didn't end until my departure from Canada. First there was a dinner at the bride's house hosted by her parents. It was a small affair, the bride's immediate family, the groom's immediate family, and any other out of town guests (said out of town guests consisted solely of myself, Jason, and my mother). Dinner consumed, we realized it was time to drive to the Rabbi's house before the Sabbath started (my mother is more religious than I am and won't drive on the Sabbath).

Brief interlude: I was scared I'd be spending more money than I had on travel and accommodations. Luckily, however, there is a bond among Rabbis. My father was in the same graduating class as the local Rabbi in Winnipeg back when they both graduated from rabbinical school. Though they weren't ever really close, and though they hadn't really spoken in about twenty years or so, after receiving an e-mail from my mother he said "Of course you can stay with me." End interlude

The Rabbi's house was a bit of a mess (by bit read "extremely messy") but it's understandable, as he had just returned home from vacation and his children were both in the midst of getting ready to go back to college. In any case it was but the Rabbi and his eldest son home that weekend. They waited until the Sabbath to start the Sabbath meal and once again we ate dinner (that's two dinners on Friday night).

Saturday we went to services at the synagogue for the ufroof (a Jewish tradition where the groom - and now our more egalitarian times bride and groom - are called up to the the torah and say a special blessing on the Sabbath before their marriage) and stayed for the luncheon afterwards. It was nice, a few salads: egg, tuna, and Caesar; with of course the needed (it was a Jewish affair) bagels and cream cheese. I don't want to insinuate that I'm some sort of bagel snob, but I was very disappointed with Winnipeg bagels. They tasted less like bagels and more like regular bread just cut to look like a bagel. Still the bread they tasted like was good bread and I enjoyed my lunch. Unbeknownst to Jason, and me the Rabbi was having a lunch afterwards at his house and invited over a few more guests.

So back we went to the Rabbi's for a second lunch. I ate less of this lunch being it was Chili with Italian sausage. This second lunch ran long. The rabbi, a very friendly man, is also a man who enjoys a ritualistic formality. Before the meal we made kiddish (the traditional Jewish blessing over wine before Sabbath meals) over scotch instead of wine and took our time sipping our drinks and shmoozing. Then we moved onto a course of turkish salad, humus, and pita and Challah (a jewish egg bread which if you've never had, you're missing out). From there, when we finished those appetizers, we moved on to the main course, the previously mentioned chili and salad.

Lunch was a good two hours long, if not a bit longer, when my mother and I had to excuse ourselves early. The rehearsal dinner was at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Forks, about three and a half miles away, and being that my mother won't drive on the Sabbath we decided to walk there, leaving at 3:30 an hour before the event was scheduled to start.

We were all warned that to walk from the Rabbi's house to the Forks we'd be walking through the bad part of town. The "dangerous" part of Winnipeg. Jason claims this is just me and my mom being NY snobs (something I took to offense being that I haven't even lived here a year, and regardless how long I live here, I will never really consider myself a New Yorker) that we thought comparatively, how dangerous could Winnipeg really be? I can't speak for all of Winnipeg all the time, but this particular "bad" area on main street through which we walked, was not dangerous at all - at least not at three-thirty in the afternoon under a clear blue sky and bright hot sun.

We got there a little late, but still before many people who were only staying in the hotel across the street, and about two hours after we finished our second lunch, began to eat our dinner.

After dinner we hung out in the forks until sunset (when the Sabbath ends) and then drove my mom back to the Rabbi's so she could meet up with friends she has in Winnipeg. At the Rabbi's house I then, feeling a bit nervous and awkward called Rawbean. And so we met at the Second Cup coffee shop in Osborne village. Osborne village = the small hipster area of Winnipeg.

For the record (specifically to those who do read Rawbean's rant): My name is pronounced pretty much how she said, only it isn't a soft H but a hard one, as if you had something caught in your throat. A bit guttural, very hebrew/arabic sounding. It's not that I prefer "Ami" (Ah-me) rather it's much easier for people to say. I can't really think of a single person who calls me by my first name, family included. I just generally sign my name "Amichai" because too often if I just write "Ami" people think it's a strange spelling of "Amy" and assume I'm a girl. I am not a girl (though I do enjoy watching "The Gilmore Girls" and "Grey's Anatomy"). And I don't have an accent, everyone else has an accent, I speak just fine. And I'm living in Queens, not Brooklyn, but that is really neither her nor there (well it's actually Here and not There, but you know what I mean).

Rawbean was nice, and it wasn't strange meeting her. Every so often it was odd realizing that this very nice Canadian girl behind the blog I read so often. But other than that it was a very pleasent evening, and a very chill way to spend my time after doing so much the previous two days.

The wedding the next day was nice, though Jason and I were seated and the strange cousins table. The wedding and reception both were held in the synagogue and was about 96 people total. There wasn't a lot of dancing going on and most people there were family, the bride's family to be specific. The groom had his immediate family there, an aunt, and me and Jason and my mom (and two of the groom's mother's friends who were also friends with my mom, all from the same town I grew up in).

And again we ate. And ate. And ate. There was a lot of food going on. We hung out, felt strange at the awkward cousins table, made more polite small talk than we ever felt we'd be capable of, and then retired to our hotel room. The Rabbi was off driving his son back to college so for our final night in Winnipeg we stayed at the Hampton Suites hotel on the recommendation of Rawbean (and it was very nice, so for that I must take this moment to thank Rawbean for her advice).

Jason and I were exhausted and we just dropped into our respective beds and watched Canadian television. Well actually we stopped on TBS and watched the Mummy, but it was in Canada so I'm gonna say it was Canadian television.

Four hours pass and it's time once again to head to the bride's family's house for a smaller after party for those who couldn't make the wedding (ie. weren't invited due to monetary reasons) and the out of towners who were still in town. We knew left overs would be served, but said left overs turned out just to be the desserts. Not so bad, so we ate dessert with out a dinner. It was a very nice time. The Brides' father grew up in some small farm in Saskatchewan and his whole family's idea of a good time is to sit around, pull out their instruments, and play bluegrass and country music. I'm told someone even yodels in Yiddish, but either it never happened or it only occurred after I left.

Still, for some reason feeling we needed to eat some more, Jason and I went back out to Osborn village and got some food at the Billabong.

Again, woke up early the following day to catch my flight. Delayed transferring in Montreal and finally arrived home around five o'clock on Monday afternoon.

There I stood, next to my mother waiting for our luggage to go around the little carousel at LaGuardia. My mother on her cell phone telling my father that we finally arrived. Bored, tired, cranky, lacking the constant flow of either food or activities thus reverting back to the missing of J_, I turned around. Who did I see standing behind me? None other than that strange woman who started the whole thing.

This time dressed far more sensibly. I couldn't help but smile and wave hello.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I kinda wish I had a camera so I could post pictures

Princess Pessimism once remarked that my life, i.e my blog - to her - reads like a movie. I don't know exactly how I feel about this, but now that thought is in the back of my mind as I write this post. (if you are curious why she thinks this, I believe said notion was derived from this post)

Movie or no, this weekend I took a trip with J_ to Boston. First because I missed the darn place, and second because J_ had never been to Boston previous. I had no car available to me that weekend thus we took the Chinatown Fung Wa bus. Simply put it's a bus that goes from Chinatown NY to Chinatown Boston (well South station Boston, though it used to go direct to Chinatown). It's reletivly nice, and it's only 15 bucks one way, cheaper than any other bus line that I know.

Once again traffic sucks. It took us five and a half hours to get from city to city, which is at least an hour and a half too long. Damn you again interstate 95 and your incessant construction. But we were smart enough to take the noon oclock bus and still arrived before dinner time.

The Plan: stay with my freind Jeff. Jeff's plan, help his freind Jim move into a brand new house (Yay for Jim, first time home owner!). Jeff wouldn't be back into the city until later that evening giving us ample free time. J_, having hated being cooped up for so long, insisted that we walk around for the next five and a half hours to make up for the five and a half hours spent on the bus.

I love Boston, I really do, which is why I had no problems walking around downtown and into some other neighborhoods. I decided she'll get a nice walking tour of my old stomping grounds, where I used to hang out.

Ok, we started at South Station, which is kinda where the big Route 93 icon is above Chinatown. We walked down Boylston through Chinatown, around and through the Commons and the Gardens, down Beacond street to Berkely, then back up Beacon, walking down Charles street through Beacon Hill. We then took Cambridge street up to Government center (City Hall) and through there to Faniuel Hall/Quincy Market. That was about two hours of walking so far. I shared stories about my dorm life at Emerson College (I lived at both 80 Boylston St. and 132 Beacon st. - which they don't have a picture of on their website for some reason). Told her the story and pointed out the spot where I was mugged on the Commons my sophmore year (it's actually a funny story, remind me to tell it sometime if I haven't already). I showed her my favorite Pizza place (Nino's on Charles St.) some of the really nice apartments I'll never be able to afford on Beacon Hill, and the various different spots in China town we used to hit (i.e. the ones that wouldn't card us before we were of age).

We kinda stalled out in Quincy Market. J_ was hit by sudden dehydration and felt miserable. Thus, we hung out in Quincy market for quite some time, watching the street performers, sitting down, while J_ drank many bottles of over priced bottled water, and I managed to get a little food in her (a fruit cup and some samosas).

From there we worked our way up into the North End. For those of you not familiar with Boston, the North End is the Italian neighborhood. I didn't normally go to the North End back when I lived in Boston only because the T (the subway system in Boston is called the T) doesn't go directly there.

As we walked down North street we heard music coming from up ahead. We suddenly found ourselves in the midst of the Fisherman's Madonna festival in the North End. The streets were blocked off to cars, and were lined with countless booths selling pizza, italian sauseges, fresh canoli and other italian pastries (though mostly canoli) and games and other odds and ends. In the center of it all, a big Italian cheesball and his band, playing all the favorite Frank Sinatra standards, and other modern jazz classics (I believe he covered a few songs by Harry Conick Jr. and a decent Cherry Poppin Daddies song as well). The streets were lit up, the music was up tempo, and it really was very nice. We completely lucked out.

We strolled the booths, J_ ate a very rich canoli made by a woman who goes no other name save "The Canoli Girl"; leading me to believe she is some sort of superhero, though at the same time forces me to wonder who her arch nemisis is, Marzipan Man?.

We walked around, ate, and (yes this is corny) even danced to the music of "Sweet Caroline" on the street. I wish I could say other people were also dancing, but we were the only ones that I saw. We were just fooling around, having some fun. It was pretty sweet. Good times, Good times.

We adjurned to Jeff's place, taking the T (the B green line) from Government center to Packards corner (on the map below it's where Brighton Ave grows out of Commonwealth Ave).

That really was the best night. The next day we walked around cambridge. I'd relate it to you, but it's pretty uneventful and I'm too lazy to go into details now, especially reading over what I have so far, I realize that this is pretty boring if you weren't there with me. Still, we walked around harvard, down then across the river, walking up Storrow Dr. Then back over the River onto River street straight to Central Square. From Central we too the bus up Prospect and down Hampshire to Inman Square and got Dinner at Buckowski's (good eats, great beer selection). Then we took the bus home.

The end. I had a great time and even though I did a horrid job relating it to anyone who might be reading (and if you've even got this far I'm sorry to have put you through all this).

On another note, the shirt J_ had made for me (the one I'm wearing in my avatar) is up for Neighborhoodie of the week at You should all go to this site:
Right now and vote for it. Remember, vote early and vote often and we just might have a chance for this meaningless title. Tell your freinds.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I am a mother pheasant plucker

I'm all for a cease fire, and for peace in the middle east and all that Jazz. I really am. I am not going go all Political here - mostly because I don't have access to the sources I want to reference, and I can't put out any info without the proper sources to back said info up.

Thing is, and this is the part that is really fucking my shit up, in all the talks for a cease fire, and all the war protests I've read about in the papers, why is no one even talking about the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers that blew up this powederkeg?

And what ever happened to that kid (yes I know he is a soldier, but I don't think he's even 20 yet) who was kidnapped in Israel and is being held in Gaza?

What the fuck is wrong with the world?

But good. There is now a cease fire. But what's the next step?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Things that amuse me

This is not photoshoped. These melons do exist. They're real, and they're amazing.

Oh those crazy Brits. Honestly I just don't get the idea of royalty. It just seem so anachronistic.

Because everything's funnier when it involves testicals. Don't try to deny it, you know this to be true.

And speaking of testicals, if you don't believe me about the melons then you are definitely not going to believe this.

And last but not least, for your viewing pleasure (and yes I know this has been around for a while, but I just learned about it) I give you my new Hero:

That is all, be entertained, and be happy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


This past weekend I took a short trip just to get out of the city with J_. I took my folks car (with their permission of course) picked J_ up from Starbucks and off we headed from Douglaston, Queens, up to Mystic, Connecticut.

First off, traffic sucks. We got a late start and managed to leave around 2 in the PM. First off, the mix CD I made didn't work. I accidentally made an MP3 CD which wouldn't play in my regular CD player. So that blew. And then J_'s iPod decided not to work and that also blew. J_ doesn't so much like a lot of my CD's because my music isn't very happy (a good deal of indie rock, and we all know how happy Death Cab or Neutral Milk Hotel and the Dresden Dolls really are).

I shall list the tracks of the mix CD here as I put some time and effort into it, and, though it isn't the best mix CD, it is happy music (mostly) and I want to share. If I knew how to upload the music itself I'd do that, but I don't know how, you'll have to be satisfied with the song titles instead.

1. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - The Flaming Lips
2. Mambo Sun - Eszter Balint (covering the Marc Bolan original)
3 ? (I don't know, it's some ska song I stole from my brother's computer, it was untitled)
4. Lupin the 3rd - The Tokyo Ska Jazz Orchestra
5. Circles (live bootleg) - Soul Coughing
6. Comfort Eagle - Cake
7. The Peter Gunn Theme song - Henry Mancini
8. Jaan Pehechan Ho - Mohammad Rafi (from the Ghost World Soundtrack)
9. Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained - Huang Sheng Yi, Raymond Wong, Lin Xi (from the Kung Fu Hustle Soundtrack)
10. Summer: III Presto - Vivaldi
11. Coin-Operated Boy - The Dresden Dolls
12. Angle with an Attitude - The Ditty Bops
13. God is a DJ - Pink (Don't judge me people! It's happy music)
14. Soft Revolution - the Stars
15. I wish I was a Punk Rock Girl (with flowers in my hair) - Sandi Thom
16. (Love is) What I Got - Sublime
17. Stuff that I like - Brak (From the Brak show on Cartoon Network)
18. Rockin' the Suburbs - Ben Folds
19. Dreaming of You - The Coral
20. Someone to Watch Over Me - Ella Fitzgerald.

So instead we listened to some Israeli 90's rock I had (a great band called Monica Sex which has since broken up - boo!). Then the radio. The ride, which really shouldn't have been more than three hours, took a little over four hours of bumper to bumper traffic. Grah interstate 95!

When finally got to our hotel (Cedar Park Whirlpool Suites - our room was not as nice as those pictured) I was a little nervous as the exterior really isn't the nicest in person. But it turned out to be a really nice, cozy place to stay. The staff was great and friendly, and even the other guests were nice. So that was a nice surprise.

We wanted to walk around Mystic but alas, it was raining, thus we we went straight for dinner.

As I hadn't done any real research on where to eat or anything like that, we just stopped at the first nice place we saw. This happened to be the "Seaman's Inn" (and because you are all upstanding readers I shall refrain from all the horrible dirty puns I shot, rapid fire, at J_ while we were parking). It was right by the Seaport, and had Tofu Pad Thai as the vegetarian option.

Note to anyone traveling anywhere. Maybe it's because I'm spoiled having lived in Boston, and now in NY, but I'm used to good Pad Thai. For future reference, don't order Pad Thai from a New England pub known for it's fresh seafood and chowder. It's just a bad idea. Pad Thai should only be consumed from real Thai restaurants, and that's all I'll say on that matter.

We managed to find a Starbucks (every time I think I'm out they pull me back in) and found they had all sorts of pastries we don't get. We ordered our drinks and then took a walk around the very small shopping center where the Starbucks was found. I lucked out and found a Van Heusen store with a huge sale. I got a really nice shirt and tie for only twenty bucks total, which is pretty outstanding in general, and even more so compared to most sale prices I see here in the city. NY is so freaking expensive.

We drove back to the Hotel, watched the end of Monk, and the new show Psych on USA. Psych is really a poor man's Monk. It's cute but not nearly as good.

Anyway, aside from the fact that I'm horrid in bed, there really is nothing more to tell you about until the following morning.

We slept in and missed the complimentary breakfast, which kinda sucked as I didn't want to go out and try and find a good breakfast place somewhere else.

We spent the morning in a huge tourist trap of sixty shops in an area set up to look like an old New England Village. If you ever go to Mystic it isn't worth your time.

Then it was off to the Mystic Aquarium. Here is what I learned at the aquarium (which really is pretty nice, though a bit small, on the plus side most of it is outdoors):
- Poison Dart Frogs get their names because natives would rub darts on the frogs to get the poison mucus secreted by the frog onto the darts.
- Sea Horses use their tails to grab onto seaweed and such to prevent being washed away by the current.
-Sea Horses have a series of rigid circular bones that keeps them upright as they swim.
-Many Bats aren't blind; some even have better vision than humans.
- The Electric Eel can release an electric charge with enough energy to bake a pie and do a load of wash in the dryer simultaneously.
- Beluga Whales use the weird dome thing on their head to make the many sounds they make to communicate.
- Sea Lions are a lot bigger than I though they were (weighing up to 2500 pounds).

I think that might be it. Also, if you are walking around under the sun for a long time, wear sunscreen. Technically I knew this already, but I wasn't wise enough to actually use said knowledge to my advantage that day.

After the Aquarium we headed straight to Friendly's. Why Friendly's you may ask instead of say, a local restaurant? Well screw you! I don't need to answer your questions. Stop Judging Me!

Really though, I grew up on Friendly's, it was a huge part of my childhood, and J_ had never in her life been to one. Thus, Friendly's - at least in my mind - was an imperative.

Full of ice creamy goodness, we headed towards the seaport, which we then learned closed at five (the time was 4:40).

Since we had plenty of time to kill (we were in no rush to go home) we headed into downtown.

Gosh darn if that isn't what we should have done first. For some reason I thought the cheesy faux New England village was the downtown. I was wrong. The Downtown was much nicer. We walked around, checked out the shops, hung out at a park by the docks on Mystic River, and walked around some more through the general neighborhood checking out the old (well mid-1800's old) houses. They were really nice.

The neighborhood goes up a hill from the river. At the top of the hill there is a nice senior retirement community. Actually, I don't know how nice the community really is, but it sure looked nice. So nice we thought about cutting through the "emergency" path located on the side downwards, just to check out the nice lawn and such. We opted out of the shortcut in order to see more houses as we snaked our way back down towards the river.

We ambled further down the hill and saw a nice family owned funeral home. I thought to myself it would be funny in a movie or something if the "emergency" path from the retirement home led down to the Funeral Home. It's a bit dark, but J_ thought it was pretty funny. That is until we learned the truth: the "emergency" path really did lead down from the retirement home down to the funeral home. It was marked clear as day on the funeral home side. Feeling really bad, and cracking up at the same time, I wondered if the person was already dead, why was the path labeled "emergency"? It seems like once they are dead there are no emergencies anymore. Emergencies are the privilege of the living. Once you're dead, you have all the time in the world.

We almost got a slice at Mystic Pizza just because it was Mystic Pizza, even though J_ had never seen the movie Mystic Pizza. Sometimes I forget how young she really is. But we were full and went without.

Sun set, it was too cloudy to see stars, so we drove home.

The drive home took two hours.

Unrelated; I don't know if any of you have heard, but apparently it is rumored that Heath Ledger will play the Joker in the next Batman movie. I haven't figured out how I feel about this yet. Thoughts always welcome.

That is all, you may now resume your lives.