Category Archives: Travel

The Simpsons are going to Australia!

Well kiddies, it’s about that time of year. Sassy and his dear wife are off for a much deserved vacation.

This year’s trip: Australia.

8/9: Depart LAX
8/11: Arrive Sydney
8/17: Sydney -> Melbourne
8/19: Melbourne -> Brisbane
8/21: Brisbane -> Port Douglas
8/25: Return LAX
See you in 2 weeks with a full report and pics.

LA Weekly Detour

This weekend I headed up to Los Angeles for the LA Weekly Detour Street Festival. Saw a bunch of bands including Beck and Queens of the Stone Age.

Check out the pics and enjoy the bullet points below!

Highlights include:

  • Paying 30% over face value on tickets for processing fees, reservation fees, and a $2.50 charge to email the tickets.
  • Riding the LA Metro from Long Beach to Downtown LA via Compton,Watts, and Slauson district. That is one big-ass ghetto! Cholos were throwing signs at the train as we rode past. We were joined by some actual gangsters on the way home.
  • The youngsters are sporting some seriously ridiculous 80’s gear these days. Leggings, hotpants, vests, spray-painted gold shoes? One chick was looking straight off the set of Little House on the Prairie. I don’t understand the steez… what is it supposed to be? I could bust out my Bad Boy Club jams and OP shirt with my gradient-tinted aviator glasses… would that be cool?
  • Beck had a video of the entire band playing.. as puppets. That was cool. Did you know Beck also has songs that aren’t just incoherent gibberish?
  • I was surprised at the number of people making phone calls and texting during a rock show. Best was the hipster doofus with the crackberry… can’t afford anything but thrift store clothes yet he’s rocking the $70/month service plan?
  • Queens of the Stone age put on a good set. Also saw a band called Nortec Collective which was cool trippy techno. Their stage show consisted of three guys with laptops. What were they working so hard on up there… checking their email?
  • It’s really get hard to get drunk on $6 beers… next time we’re bringing some tequila.
  • Hyperactive waitresses before coffee are not funny.
  • After not hearing it for easily 5 years, I heard Extreme’s `More Than Words` twice in two days!

NYC2K5 – THE SAGA

View the Panoramas
View the Pics

Well, we’re back. Our excursion to the East Coast went off swimmingly, and fun was had by all. Beer was drunk, clams were fried, steaks sliced, streets walked, hoods navigated, photos popped. It was a blast.

As I had mentioned earlier, the wife and I were there not only to recreate, but to check out the semi-affordable areas for real estate, and get a flavor for some of the areas I’ve never really visited.

Today, I will present to you my findings, loosely grouped by area in the order which we visited. A word of caution – especially to the NYC natives out there: just because I didn’t like your hood doesn’t make it a bad place. Just realize that one man’s paradise is another man’s Cleveland, and everyone has different comfort levels.

So, let’s start up top – in the BK.

There was this moment, where I was sitting in a cafe on Brooklyn Heights, drinking OJ, thinking: “I could do this”. Sheer beauty, the promenade, unbroken blocks of grand 19th century buildings… It’s a time machine with a view of the future. Unfortunately for us, this area is virtually unaffordable.

Cobble Hill / Boerum Hill / Carrol Gardens was also rad. Smith Street is a solid mile of restaurants. Park Slope was amazing, rows and rows of primo brownstone rowhomes. DUMBO was a complete trip, but I can see the appeal.

I had really high hopes for Fort Greene / Clinton Hill. But my views are mixed. I did not feel unsafe in these areas, but the reality is that these neighborhoods… and for miles beyond… is a predominantly Black area.

Crossing Flatbush and heading down Myrtle, on a hundred-degree afternoon. The projects are bustling with activity. People all over the street.. all over the park… lots of action. Followed Myrtle all the way to Bedford or so… it’s Bed-Stuy now… the houses are looking shabby and some boarded up ones too.

The south side of the park is an excellent area, especially in Fort Greene. However there are spotty blocks throughout this area. The main drags of Clinton Hill have a bit of a ways to go. The borders are fairly wide, maybe 20 blocks, although the reality seems that I would have to be on one of the landmarked blocks. I think the same thing applies to Prospect Heights, although the blocks with proximity to Grand Army Plaza seemed perfectly safe to me.

We liked Ditmas Park and much of the Victorian Flatbush area in general but it is spotty. The main problem here was that the local commercial district is really
filthy and really packed, this was kinda true of most of Flatbush. Windsor Terrace, Prospect Park South, Ocean Parkway… it’s really kinda hit-or-miss.

Bay Ridge was nice. No surprises. Given what I can afford, If I was going to buy in Brooklyn that’s probably where I’d be. Nice skatepark, NYC. People complain about the commute – but the reality is that even today it takes me a minimum of 30 minutes to drive 12 miles to Sorrento Valley.
Had high hopes for Sunset Park, but alas it is a barrio neighborhood, and as a frequenter of Barrio Logan here in the SD, I say ‘nay’. Saw some great blocks down here too.

Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuy Heights… no way. I know the ghetto when I see it. Saw some amazing houses in there!

Williamsburg, Greenpoint … not my scene, man. Saw some decent hoods but overall just not pretty.

And so we crossed the bridge into LIC & Hunters Point, Queens.

The area is going condo real fast… 2 big towers and a nice waterfront park in place. The whole area is a clean slate.
To the north is some generally blighted industrial areas and some waterfront projects, but a few more blocks and you end up in Astoria

Astoria, busy, crowded, great energy, some ugly-ass houses, some cute ones. Not sure how I feel about Northern Queens in general at this point.

We liked Jackson Heights a lot. Queens is just a different vibe, a little country sometimes. Contrast the Woodside Houses with Farragut Houses on a hot sunday .

After figuring out how to get across Queens Boulevard, we headed into Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and related. Forest Hills Gardens is especially verdent this year.
Like Bay Ridge, this is a nice area, that is still affordable, just very far out. I would probably end up here too.

Ok, so we moved on to Jersey the following day.

Downtown Jersey City is a very interesting place. A small city with a historic but somewhat unkept downtown, this seems like the best value for the money in the NYC area.

We did see some crappy blocks, some projects and indeed JC is somewhat self-contained by the Hudson on the east and the NJ Turnpike on the west. They have a brand new modern downtown, and there are new condos going up on former industrial sites every day.

Hoboken is a pleasure. Great waterfront views and lovely brownstone blocks. It’s as expensive as a nice hood in Brooklyn, and I’d probably prefer Brooklyn.

Union City was pretty much a bust, and most of the area north is either riverfront condos on the riverbank, or suburbia up on the palisade. So we crossed the GWB into Northern Manhattan.

From GWB/180th north, west of broadway, all the way to the tip of Manhattan is a very well-kept neighborhood which resides on one of Manhattan’s few real hills.
The area is called Hudson Heights south of the Cloisters and is called Inwood further north. Given that this is a relatively affordable area, this was the surprise of the trip. Inwood is lower on the hill and a bit less
isolated but still very nice, esp on on Park Terrace E / W. The basic problem with this area is that it is basically surrounded by the rest of Washington Heights and the Bronx.

We wrapped it up by checking out Riverdale, which was pretty much mansions overlooking the Hudson river, and a couple of huge co-ops.

So, that was it. 4 days of driving, map navigating, searching for blocks.

Later in our trip, we visited Boston, which we completely loved. I could do a whole other post on Boston.

I guess the final question is “when are you moving back?” – the only thing I can say is “probably not this year”. I feel I have some stuff to do, some money to make, and it’s going to involve me being here for a couple more years at least.

There is a part of me that feels as if I will always return, and eventually live somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. There is an energy and excitement in the eastern cities that just can’t be matched in the West.
I guess I will just have to settle for being a tourist for a while.

But, if I could line up a job and was able to buy a place, here’s a stab at my preferred list of hoods in order of preference.

Cobble Hill / Boerum Hill / Carroll Gardens
Hoboken

Forest Hills
Bay Ridge

Hudson Heights
Downtown Jersey City
Fort Greene / Clinton Hill

NYC 2k5

Sassy & the wife will be visiting the Eastern climes in late July. This time around there is more than just R&R as a motive. This trip is a critical fact-finding mission.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sassy, what the hell are you talking about?”. Well, here’s the deal: Sassy and Wife are strongly considering relocation to NYC.

Now you’re thinking: “NYC? Are you nuts?”. Well, of course, but we already knew that. Truth is, after 10 years in San Diego, yours truly feels restless and bored in the beautiful and very laid back city of San Diego. Missing his family, missing the bustle and history of the city, Sassberto has decided that NYC is an option which must be considered.

Another reason – Sassy is a sucker for pre-war apartments, and if I’m gonna spend 2500 a month to own a 1BR, it’s gonna be in NYC, not San Diego (sorry Dago!). The stucco 70’s shitbox will not cut the mustard.

Anyway, the itinerary is just coming together. The plan is to rent a car and hit up all of the spots of my short list nabes. For fun, y’all NYC’ers can critique my picks.

Criteria:
– We are looking to buy, not rent
– 1 or 2 BR sub 400k
– prefer pre-war brick
– prefer low-rise
– Co-op or Condo
– prefer quiet and safety to nightlife and restaurants
– sub 1hr commute to Manhattan

Anyway, here’s the short list, by Boro, in order of consideration

Brooklyn
— Clinton Hill / Fort Greene
— Bay Ridge (concrete skatpark!)
— Red Hook
— Prospect Heights / Prospect Park South
— Ditmas Park / Lefferts Gardens

Queens
— Astoria
— Jackson Heights (Landmarked District)
— Forest Hills / Kew Gardens / Rego Park

Manhattan / Bronx
— Riverdale
— Hamilton Heights / Inwood

Jersey City
— Downtown JC / Paulus Hook / Hamilton Park
— Hoboken
— Weehawken

Chime in, kiddies!

Great White North Summer 2k4

This year I decided it was time to do a proper vacation. Don’t get me wrong, Long Island is great, but I yearned for a real road trip, like those of my youth.

The ‘rents were doing the Trans-Canada rail tour, which would terminate in Vancouver for a 4-night layover. I had visited Vancouver before and knew it was the shizz,, so plans were hatched for a road trip from sunny SD to the wiles of the Pacific Northwest, via the 101 – 1.

In order to max out fun time, I decided to rent a car on the way up and fly down. We would camp along the way and then spend 4 nights in a hotel in downtown Van.

Day 1: Friday, July 9
Task one was procuring the rental. After a few false starts tracking down ‘rental car access road’, I wheeled into the bustling Hertz rental mecca.

I had reserved a sporty Ford Focus, knowing that twisty roads would be the norm. I was pleased to be upgraded as a freebie to a ‘sporty 2-door’ Chevrolet Monte Carlo for the same price. The Monte is a somewhat cumbersome lummox with big wheels and shiny gold paint. The V6 motor had plenty of power, and the leather seating was comfortable, by most accounts.

The Monte handles like a bicycle in 6 inches of water. The hyper-assisted poweer steering and ultra plushed out suspension make the car dip and push under accelleration. At 80-90 MPH the Monte had the distinct sensation of a boat swooning.

It actually handles most of the twisty sections admirably, but a smaller car would have been crisper in the turns.

Anyway, leaving SD, our first destination was Montana De Oro state park in Los Osos, California, near San Luis Obisbo.

Ruthless traffic in SD and LA caused us to question how anyone could tolerate living in Los Angeles. 8PM traffic jam on the 101 South (into the valley). Huh?

After a brief pitstop for fajitas in Santa Barbara, I barely was awake enough to track down our campsite, pitch the tentin the dark, and crawl in for some z’s.

Day 2, Saturday, July 10
After a somewhat chilly but not uncomfortable stay in the oceanside state park, we headed into SLO for bagels and coffee.

Unable to find a bagel spot, Starbucks was located, and bathroom routines commenced. Unfortunately for me, a homeless nutcase with the shits practically knocked down the door, interrupting my leisurly morning rituals. Coffee in hand, we hit the road again.

We hit Big Sur, checking the sights and putting the Monte through it’s paces on the turns. SUV drivers ran for the turnouts as they tried to lumber their monster trucks through 140 degree hairpins.

We were continuously amazed at the amount of people who actually live up there, houses clinging to the cliffsides, with not a Target in sight.

Next stop was Moneterey, CA, for some clam chowder on the ol’ stinky pier. We managed to sit next to a white trash family who’s normal volume of speech would be considered by most to be yelling.

A heavy jam session by a toupee & tuxedo-clad entertainer was goin’ down as we split the scene.

Next stop was the great SF city with a nice cruise through good ol’ Silicon Valley. Dreams of the Sand Hill road fluttered through my head as we drove through. “ooh, there Oracle – look that’s Seibel”.

Our accomodations were the luxurious Marriot in downtown SF. Thank you Priceline! Although we were toasty from the road we managed to hit up some shopping and tool around the city for a bit before turning in.

Day 3, Sunday, July 11
THe AM started with a crosstown jaunt to the Haight for some cafe and bagels.

The Haight is still asleep at 10AM on a Sunday, so we grabbed some coffee and checked out a few of the freaky shops. I stopped into FTC skateshop’s new, boutique-style location and got plenty of attitude. “yeah bro, we got exclusive rights to photograph the whole thing…” was overheard as we departed.

We fueled up, and grabbed the 101 as we headed out of town and over the Golden Gate.

Our next stop was good ol’ Ukiah, California, a mildly decrepit outpost of civilization in the the pre-redwoods. Alas, the entire town was closed, so we stopped into a CrackDonalds for a piss and some fries before heading up to the Redwoods.

Within a couple hours we were on the Avenue of the Giants, chillin’ with the big trees, enjoying the quiet, and commenting on the abundance of broken down school buses in people’s front yards.

That night we camped in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, just at the entrance to the treacherous and desolate Mattole Road, gateway to NorCals’ ‘Lost Coast’.

Stay Tuned for more!