Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hungary - Siofok

Due to the late night on Tuesday, Wednesday got started later than we had planned. In fact, Roland had a case of insomnia and didn't get to sleep until almost 4:00 in the morning, so he was exhausted. I woke up and was down at the restaurant for breakfast at around 9:45 in the morning. The plan was for Csilla and Roland to call me when they were walking out the door and I'd get up and head downstairs at that time, but I didn't want to waste any time on such a beautiful morning, so I grabbed my soccer magazine left message with the person working at the front desk, and waited at the restaurant, drinking some tea and trying to tell the waiter that I was going to wait for them to get there before I ate. After about 45 minutes though, I wasn't sure if they would ever recover from the previous night's escapade, so I went ahead and ordered some food - scrambled eggs with some ham.

About a half hour after I had finished eating, Csilla arrived and gave me a look with a small smirk on her face. They hadn't planned on sleeping in so late, but the night was long and the draining of the previous day took it's toils on us, so it was excusable. Once Roland arrived, they ordered breakfast and I ordered a couple of Hungarian sausages to turn my breakfast into brunch.

Before we could depart for Siofok (say: She-oh-foke), there were errands that had to be run for the hotel. So after breakfast/brunch, I headed back to the hotel to pack and they headed out to get some supplies for the hotel, since we were going to be gone for a few days.

Once those were done, it was off to Siofok - this time I was sitting in the back seat. I seem to bring bad luck with Roland whenever I ride shotgun. I was riding shotgun in Bratislava the day before when the accident happened. And I was riding shotgun the first time I visited Budapest when Roland got into almost an identical accident, also caused by a sudden lane change. I won't forget that accident. After colliding with an SUV, we both pulled over and Roland got out to talk to the driver of the other car. He said some stuff in Hungarian and the guy stopped, looked directly at me and said "Do you speak English?" The way that the guy did it was funny to me, I won't forget it. In any case, we had only hit the other guy's tire and there was damage to his car, just to Roland's. So, no more shotgun riding for me, I was only going to be a backseat driver from that point on.

The ride to Siofok was an interesting one, a lot of the drive was on a narrow, two-lane road that had a lot of traffic on it. Normally that means that you have to slow down and drive carefully, but in Hungary, that means that you have to drive faster and pass more people in a hurry. Roland had told me about accidents that he had had on that road, which made the drive that much more comforting, especially when we made a wrong turn onto the wrong freeway, after which he proceeded to carefully drive in reverse on the on-ramp to get back on track. I had no fear - I was sitting in the back seat. So, if we were driving backwards, and I was in the back seat......I guess I had reason to fear after all. But everything turned out fine and we were Siofok-bound again.

I had heard all about Siofok and Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Europe before. This town was well known around Central Europe and had a Cancun/Daytona Beach Spring Break/Ibiza-type reputation. It was home to two of the largest discos in all of Hungary (Palace and Flürt), a multitude or restaurants, a thriving waterfront atmosphere complete with club music being pumped through speakers, elevated go-go dancers at the waterside bars, an armada of floating islands with music and parties that you had to swim to, waterfront clubs (Renegade), dancing, and sunbathing, human-sized foosball games, trampolines, sardine-packed beaches, sidewalks and cafes packed full of people, and other such things. So clearly my expectations for these two days put a smile on my face :o).

We arrived in town at around 4:00 and we were greeted by shuttered shops and restaurants, no traffic, and Main Street parking places. Arriving in late Summer, Roland knew that it could be a questionable atmosphere since many schools were in session already. But we couldn't have imagined it being THIS dead! There was literally no one around! Heading to the water, we found empty fields, closed bars, beached floating islands, only the pulsating club music purring forth from speakers remained. Having never experienced a crazy Spring Break-like atmosphere and never having been at Siofok before, it wasn't too bad for me, though I could only imagine what it would be like with so many people around. But Roland and Csilla were nearly speechless, as they'd been there many times before and had never imagined it could be so quiet.

Though we were down about the atmosphere, we decided to camp our bodies on some beach loungechairs nonetheless and catch some sun while it remained in the sky. By this time, it was closer to 5:00 in the evening and the lake had turned to glass. It was so pristine that we couldn't possibly come to grips with jumping in and unsettling the giant mass of water in front of us. Well, that and the fact that the water was freezing cold.

We had relaxed a bit by this point, so we decided to wander down to the one shack that was still open that was serving up snacks and some tasty beverages. Csilla dined on some epic sausages that she couldn't stop raving about and I munched on a few cinammon-sugar-filled crepes. We had really relaxed by this point and before we knew it, we had started to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and being able to share it with good friends like this made it quite special. We wouldn't be deterred from having fun as long as we enjoyed each-others' company, and we certainly were doing that.

Once the sun had receded into the western corner of the lake, we packed up and moved out. We had to find a residence for the night, and that wouldn't be a problem with such an empty city. We struck gold on a two bedroom pension that cost us $40 each a night. It came replete with a living room, kitchen, and a full bathroom. This place was a steal, so we unpacked, cleaned up, and headed out to dinner. We found a restaurant to check out and Roland and Csilla decided that I needed to have a real fish soup, so I ordered it again. This fish soup was also awesome tasting, but unfortunately the carp inside it was high maintenance and had too many bones, so I stopped eating it once Roland and Csilla had finished half of their entree before I had even started mine.

After dinner, we had some time to kill before going to the Flürt so we went down to an arcade area that was crawling with German tourists from the club/bar upstairs. Roland pony'd up some coins and it was battle time-Air-hockey, darts, and some other battle game challenges. We spent a few hours there while checking out the characters outside the club before we headed out of the tourist area towards the real clubs.

As we were walking out of town, there was a group of guys at an outdoor cafe and two guys on the street pushing each other. Sweet, drunk fighting! One guy couldn't hardly stand up, and the other guy was clearly in a better position. The more sober of the two hit the other guy and he fell like a lead brick onto his back. I have never seen someone fall like that before. He was going to have some bruises the next day, that's for sure.

After hiking for twenty minutes, we found out Flürt was closed for the season. So there we were, twenty minutes outside of town on a dead road at 1:00 in the morning. We decided we would take a taxi to Palace because we had seen signs for "Frei Bier and Sangria until 3:00am" and they had a free shuttle that ran back into town every hour. As we were waiting for a taxi, we saw the shuttle go flying by like a bat out of hell, so we ran and flagged it down, and we were whisked off several kilometers away to the Palace mega-complex.

This place had multiple levels, outdoor discos, restaurants, everything! They had lounges, Latin music, trance music, etc. - but not tonight. We were very disappointed to find out that only the lounge had music, and we walked in there to the sound of the Grease soundtrack, not exactly what I had in mind for the evening. Very disappointing. The following weekend there was going to be a grand-finale, two-day party at the club, but not during the week. Bummer.

After some visual entertainment, we went to the lounge area, which wasn't really loungy, and danced for a while while trying to avoid the spilled sangria everywhere. We actually had a fun time in the lounge as the music became a bit more festive than Grease! But we had to go home soon, so we caught the bus home at 4:00am to avoid the rush of people leaving at 5, when it closed. Once we got home, we chilled out on the patio at the apartment and listened to the trains coming into town. Glad that I had the room on the other side of the apartment ;o) !!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Slovakia - Bad-Luck Bratislava

Tuesday morning, I woke up bright and early at around 8:00 to go down and get breakfast at the Hotel's neighboring restaurant. I got a call at about 8:45 from Roland saying that they would meet me down there for breakfast. It's nice knowing the owner of these places, I get to order whatever I feel like and not have to worry about how much things cost. Roland was pretty much my sugar-daddy on the whole trip, which was amazing. It made it much easier on me as far as converting my greenbacks from one currency to the next! I ordered a plate of Gypsy Toast, which is very similar to French Toast here in the States, as well as an order of sausages. It was a hell of a lot of food, but I managed to get it all down my throat, though it would keep me full for the whole day pretty much.

Roland and Csilla had decided that we should go to Bratislava for shopping and shifting Siofok back a day. I have the utmost respect for Roland and his style, I tend to like the things that he likes and he seems to always have a better eye for things than I do, so I have been looking forward to shopping with him for years - especially regarding shoes. So that was my sole goal (no pun intended) - getting a pair of Euro shoes in Bratislava.

I have talked to a few people that have visited Bratislava, but it seems to be an unloved city when it comes to tourists. All I hear about are the communist style buildings and lack of a unique atmosphere. I was okay with that as long as there was good shopping. I mean, I wasn't there to visit museums or anything like that anyway.

We took the city streets to Bratislava with Csilla manning the wheel since Roland is an insomniac and hadn't slept much the night before. The Germans have a saying, "Frau am Steur ist immer teuer" (Girls behind the wheel are always expensive), but I trusted Csilla when she said she was a good driver and I was in safe hands. After my experience in Poland, I was pretty sure that my trust couldn't be shaken.

When we arrived in central Bratislava, I couldn't believe how beautiful it was, with cafes and restaurants lining the inner city and lovely Moravian architectured buildings everywhere. Where were the Stalinist, grey buildings that everyone talked about? Certainly not in the city center. We parked downtown without a problem and I immediately realized that I had forgotten my camera. No problem though, Roland had his with him. So when we got out into the center, we took out the camera - but there was no battery, of course. I had done the same thing in Warszawa, but at least my friend had his then! Oh well, I guess there would be no posing and fake smiles on Tuesday!

After cruising around laxidasically through town and window shopping, we found a store called Alize that I wanted to check out. I was surprised at how many stores in the city sold formal clothing like suits and what not. That must be the look in Bratislava, like it is in NYC. I realized that the styles in Bratislava were much more along the lines of what I would wear than what I found in Warszawa, so that was good news. Inside Alize, I found a shirt that I knew I had to have, and it was on sale as well, which was good news. I was surprised at how expensive clothes were there, certainly people wearing these clothes were not making the average Slovak salary!

After walking around some more, we decided it was time to dine, so we sat down and had a beer and ate at a Hungarian restaurant. This was like eating Mexican food in NYC - it may be made by Mexicans, but it's not legitimate Mexican food like you get in California. I had been told about Fish Soup (Halaszle in Hungarian) by Eve, who worked at the hotel. It is something that you have to try because it is a dark, thick soup that has a little paprika kick to it. I was told that it was not "real" halaszle, which was a sign that this place wasn't legitimate Hungarian ;o) . I still liked it and it did the trick for me.

Afterwards, we strolled casually back to the car to head to the mega shopping centers ("plazas") for some more realistically-priced shopping. As we left the city center, we suddenly had a police car go screaming by us and pull in front of us and point to the side of the road. I guess their cops don't tailgate you like they do in the states. Given the fact that there was a freeway exit between them and us now, I considered encouraging Csilla to make a sudden exit and get the hell out of dodge, but her judgement superceded my thoughts and she pulled over to find out what was up. According to the cops, she had run a red-light, but I hadn't been paying attention and she insisted that she hadn't. Roland decided to get involved at this point and asked the policemen to provide proof that we had run a redlight since everyone in the car said we hadn't. I was getting involved, but he could use my name, why not; I figured this was common Euro ticket protocol.

Or I guess it was not common Euro ticket policy as the cops were pissed off by the accusations and started searching the car for more problems and they found out the car hadn't had its registration renenewed since February. Oops. This meant they could have the car impounded and we would have to walk the two-hour drive home. Roland and Csilla pulled the ace card our of their pocket, however (Csilla started crying) and we got lucky and walked away with just a ticket for running the light. The cop told Csilla "Nice boyfriend you've got there (wink wink)". I guess all those bluffs that Roland practices on the poker tables don't always work so well in real life ;o).

We hit the City Centre shopping center, where I struck gold with shoes and Roland found an awesome pair of casual/professional Euro "elf" shoes. It was exactly what I was looking for and Roland's stamp of approval gave them immediate legitimacy. Later on, I found a new wallet (since my faux-Hugo Boss from China was falling apart) with a radical new system for holding cash. And, most importantly of all, Csilla found a DKNY watch that she searched high and low for and got it as a birthday present from her sugar-daddy Roland ;o) .

We did some more shopping at the Aupark plaza, which had some more cool stores like Mexx, before we decided to have dinner at Roland's recommended restaurant called Robinson. It had a jungle atmosphere inside and advertised that it had mojitos as its specialty. like mojitos! So we hung out inside the jungle and ordered our food and drinks, but I was sorely disappointed with the mojito - it was made with a mint syrup rather than real mint leaves! Bummer! Roland had caipirinha and our designated driver Csilla had some coke. I had a traditional Slovak meal of some pork in a sauce with dumplings, but I found the meat very questionable and extremely dry, which was disappointing. Roland's pepper steak and Csilla's fish were apparently more edible, however. But the food was nothing to really write a blog about. Well, I guess it was ;o).

After a long day of shopping and touring, it was time to head home so that we could get back at a reasonable hour and head to Siofok early the next day. One problem - we missed an exit and were suddenly on our way to Brno, Czech Republic. We made a couple illegal turns (risky, considering we already had one ticket that day) and made our way back towards the city center. Driving was chaotic because we didn't really know where we were and there were no signs pointing us towards our destination. Turn here, no turn there, wait go back, etc. etc. Suddenly, we (they!) had figured out where we were and made a quick lane change to get going in the right direction when.....BOOM!

Watch out for that car. On the last quick lane change of the night, we had collided with another car. The damage was not significant, but it was enough to cause our passenger door not to open and to leave a big scratch along the other guy's car. This is not what we had in mind at 9:30 at night. Proper protocol for a traffic accident is to call the police and have them write a report so that an insurance claim could be made. Apparently all the police were in the donut shops at that time, so time ticked and ticked and ticked and....ticked. Two hours later, the police pulled up - luckily not the same ones from a few hours earlier ;o). I guess I wouldn't want to be mugged in Bratislava. A half hour later, all the forms were filled out, all the fees were payed, and we were off to return home to Komarno. Thank god they didn't ask to see the car's registration papers ;o) !

Driving home at under the speed limit, we got home at around 1:00am that night, all of us exhausted and ready for a night's slumber in my hotel bed!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Welcome to Slovakia

Monday morning, I did my tour of Warszawa with Kevin. After seeing all the action going on in town the day before, I had high hopes that this would be a great city to wander around and check out. The road, Nowy Swiat, between my hotel and the Hotel Bristol where Kevin was staying was lined with cafes and beautiful buildings, so I figured I'd hit one of them up at 7:30 in the morning, get some tea or coffee, and eat some pastries before starting the day. To my amazement, the street was totally dead! It had been packed the night before, so I was totally amazed about this. Few of the cafes were open, and the ones that were didn't have any bakery goods (again, a common theme in Eastern Europe). I managed to communicate with someone inside and they pointed to a grocery store down the street where I was able to get some bread, but I still couldn't believe that cafes don't open so early.

Nonetheless, I walked down to the Hotel Bristol, where they got FREE breakfast, and Kevin and I headed down towards Old Town. There were cafes everywhere down there, so surely we'd fine a good spot to do people watching there. Wrong again! It too was dead, and it was 9:30 by this point. Where had all the tourists gone from the day before? I guess we figured out that most of the people must have been tourists from nearby areas and had left town on Sunday after spending the weekend there. We actually didn't find any life in any cafes around town until the afternoon, just before we left.

Like I typically do, I figured out a general direction or loop that I wanted to see in the city and we walked around at a leisurely pace soaking it all in. Everywhere we went there weren't many people around, so I'm not sure where it is that everybody works and things like that. We made it back to the main drag (Nowy Swiat) at around 1:00 and had lunch at a restaurant there before we split up and went our seperate ways. Kevin was going to Kracow and then returning to Warszawa later in the week while I was flying to Vienna later in the afternoon.

After packing up and high-tailing it to the airport in Warszawa, I made it to my terminal and, much to my surprise and delight, I found out that they had free wireless internet access there. Since I was a few hours early for my flight, that was perfect, I could catch up on the news, on my email, and do some blogging. Of course, that didn't really happen, mostly because I've become addicted to the three series of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the DVDs lent to me by Paul and Cathy. It stars Larry David, the guy who wrote Seinfeld and it is very similar to the show. Highly Recommended.

Anyway, I decided to check in to MSN Messenger and see if Roland was online, since he was the one picking me up in a few hours - or so I assumed, since I hadn't heard from him. Meeting up with Roland always proves to be interesting ever since he left my home in Los Gatos nine years ago. I've met up with him five times since then, four times in Europe and once in South America. And every single time, meeting up with him has turned into an adventure.

The first time we met up, in Italy in 1997, he had gotten on the wrong train and instead of ending up in Torino, he ended up eight hours south in Rome. Somehow he made it to town before me, however, during my disasterous trip down to Italy.

The second time, in 2000, I took a train to Budapest to meet up with him for a week while I was working in Germany - my first trip to Eastern Europe. I got off the train at Keleti Pu train station in Budapest and he was nowhere to be seen. I started walking towards the front of the train and just as I was about to greet the masses of people, he came running in and met me. Close call there.

The third time was in 2001 when we were travelling through Europe after graduation from college. We had visited Berlin and Prague and decided to go out of our way to visit Vas in Budapest, since most of the group hadn't been there before. We didn't hear from him for a while before the trip, which worried me, and sure enough, when we got to Keleti Pu train station in Budapest, he wasn't there. But this time, we never could get ahold of him. We were in town for three days and didn't hear from him once. Turns out his car had been stolen, his dad had gotten sick, he had failed some important University tests, etc. etc.

The fourth time, we met up in South America. His plane was supposed to arrive fifteen minutes after hours in Lima, Peru, but when we made a connection in Houston, he had left a voicemail saying that it was very important that I call him, he had some news. But he left no details, of course. So we walked off the plane in Lima and couldn't find him. We made our connection to Cusco a few hours later, still no word from him. We arrived in Cusco, spent the whole day there with Vanessa, still no word from him. That night he called and said that his flight from Vienna to Amsterdam was delayed, so he missed the two other connections he needed to make it to Peru and wouldn't arrive until a day later.

The fifth time, I met him and his girlfriend in Prague when I was visiting Alex and Germany for Christmas in 2003. I had made all the arrangements for accomodations (as usual) for youth hostels (as usual). But the one I had wanted to stay at was apparently full, so I booked a different one in town. Then I emailed the one I wanted to stay at to see if they had occupancy and, sure enough, they did. So I sent another email to everyone saying that I had changed our youth hostel and went ahead and cancelled the other. So when they arrived in Prague, we got a call from Roland saying the youth hostel had cancelled our reservation. WTF? So he went and got a hotel nearby the youth hostel. There was mass confusion for over an hour until we arrived in Prague and went to the youth hostel. I asked the guys at the desk what was up with our reservation and how could they cancel our reservation and where did they send my friend etc. etc. He got annoyed and said "No, your reservation is set and I haven't seen your friend". Uhhh...turns out Vas somehow missed the email that I had sent that said we cancelled the first reservation and was over at the first youth hostel. Mass chaos.

So needless to say, I was worried about him being in Vienna to pick me up. But he insisted he was leaving really early and would be waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane. Well, he had good intentions, at least. My flight was delayed an hour due to operational difficulties, so I knew that was a bad sign. Once we got airborne, though, it was all good and the flight was half as long as they said, so we must have made up some time. The flight was on the Polish airline LOT (insert Polish joke here ;o). But, actually, all the seats were a comfortable faux-leather and there was lots of space, so it wasn't too bad.

I got off the plane, gathered my luggage, got another passport stamp, and exited to a small terminal where Vas was waiting. Or supposed to be waiting. Where he wasn't waiting. So, working on autopilot, I pulled out my credit card and made an expensive call to his mobile phone to find out where he was. "We'll be there in a half hour, the drive was a disaster". But, really, what did I expect? It wouldn't be right if Vas was there on time :o).

Lucky for me, Vienna had free wireless internet as well, but I opted to relax and watch another episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I wasn't there very long before Vas arrived with Csilla, who was about a foot taller than I remember her being. I thought she was short?!? Did she get height implants? Nope, just high-heels :o) ! It was great to see them and I soon met their "child" (dog) Bennie, a black American Spaniel puppy who was waiting in the car for everyone. The drive home, through three countries, went without a problem and I was soon checking in at their hotel Banderium Pension, which Roland has been managing for two years now.

Although I wasn't given the presidential suite in this luxurious 8 room Pension, I was setup with a room that had a balcony with a table and chair overlooking the neighboring cafe. Kind of hard to complain about that! Roland and Csilla have good taste in hiring staff to work at the receptionist desk, I had a great time during my stay with discussions with Agi, Eve, and Danissa (sp.?).

After checking in, I went over to Roland and Csilla's apartment, which was a seven minute walk away (I guess they've made it enough times). It was a beautiful apartment with an awesome entertainment center and a very comfortable feel to it. Roland and I kicked back and had some good Eastern European beer (Pilsener Urquell) before going on a walk around town to try to find some cafes still open (at midnight). Unfortunately, we had no luck on a Monday night, so we called it in early (1:00am) and decided to meet up the next morning to possibly take a trip to Bratislava to go Euro shopping! If the stores weren't open (due to impending holidays), we were going to go to Siofok in Hungary to relax for a few days.

I noticed from walking around that, though they are related, Slovak is much easier to at least try to pronounce than Polish. At least they use vowels! Plus Slovak is similar to Czech, which I knew a few words of - well, one word, really - so I had a bit of a head start with this language at least....

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Poland - Warszawa or Bust!

The day after the wedding was a rough one for a lot of people. Despite agreeing the night before to meet up with some people at 10:00 that morning to go into town before our departure, I managed to sleep in a bit until about 11:30, so I had just enough time to pack up my gear, eat some of my remaining bread from Day 1, and get myself down to where the buses were gathering at the hotel. Brendan and Ewa orchestrated the logistics very well on this trip and had arranged for a bus to take everyone back to Warszawa before everyone went their seperate ways. When I checked out of the hotel, I was amazed to find out that for two nights it only cost me $30! Wow, I can handle those kinds of prices :o)

After a long trip back to Warszawa, the bus dropped everyone off at the prestigious, five-star Le Meridien Hotel Bristol, situated near Old Town and next to the Presidential Palace (their version of the White House). Well, everyone except me! I didn't know that everyone was staying there, so I opted to save a few bucks and had reservations for the Sheraton Hotel, which was about 15 minutes away walking. Ewa was going to be taking everyone out to eat some Polish pierogis in a bit, so I hopped in a cab and headed to my bastion of American capitalism, the Sheraton. Usually I hate staying at these places, but I do enjoy using my points and earning more free stays. Plus, there were very few Americans in Warszawa I had gathered, so that would ease the pain a bit.

At 4:30, I had walked back to the Hotel Bristol and met up with the group again. We headed towards Warszawa's beautiful Old Town (Stare Maisto) and stopped into a restaurant along the way. There were about fourty different types of pierogis, but Ewa told us there were only three "traditional Polish" types. After the table had spent about fifteen minutes trying to organize all twelve of our orders for sharing and what not, the waiter then told us "oh, we don't have these mushrooms or this cheese", etc. In true Ewa-style, she went ahead and gave the waiter an earful about how he should have told us before, but he didn't seem to care. Customer service just isn't the same thing in some of these places! In any case, I got a combo plate with all three traditional pierogis and the Russian-style, which had sounded the most boring to me (onion and potato filling) sent my senses into orbit! They had a serious onion kick to them and were fabulous.

After dinner, some of the people headed back to the cocktail party at Brendan's parents' suite at the Hotel Bristol and some of us headed further down the road to Old Town. Much like Prague, Old Town is brightly colored with lots of yellows and cobblestone streets. There was a castle at the edge of it that we hadn't even noticed because there was so much going on there. Apparently the original Old Town had been destroyed, like most of the city, during WWII, but had been reconstucted using pictures of the old city. We actually came across a monument later on during the day that honored the Polish Uprising of 1944. With the Soviet Red Army across the river and the Germans on their way out, Poland gathered about 50,000 troups to form an army to try to kick out the Germans once and for all and setup a stable national government before the Russians occuppied the country and installed their communist ideology over the Poles. The uprising soldiers had expected the Allied army to help them defeat the Germans since they were just across the river. Sure enough, the Russians decided to stop their forward movement and let the Polish duke it out with the Germans alone, with no support of any kind, including weapons, bombs, ammunition, etc. So the Germans quickly dispatched some Panzer tank units and SS special forces to the city and swiftly defeated the Poles. Hitler was so irate about the uprising that he ordered the whol city to be razed and all civilians to be killed. 85% of the city was destroyed and 180,000 citizens were killed. All of this on top of the fact that 50% of the population had already been sent to concentration camps because they were Jewish.

In any case, we enjoyed or little stroll around Old Town, visiting the square, eating ice cream, and exploring a city that none of us really knew anything about. We leisurely strolled back to the hotel to meet up with everyone for one last time at night in the hotel lounge to have a few cocktails, find out where everyone else was going, and say our goodbyes. I checked out early and headed back to my hotel so that I could get up at 7:00 the following day and tour the city with Kevin from Cleveland a bit before my 5:00 flight. Besides, I had a busy week ahead and I needed some rest!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Poland - Wedding Day

After getting home decently late on Friday after travelling and eating so much food, I thought for sure I would have a problem getting up in time for the 1:00 wedding on Saturday morning. Normally I would not hesitate to set my alarm clock in my room and ask for a wake-up call, but I found it interesting that this hotel, like all the other hotels I stayed in during the whole trip, didn't have a clock in it! What gives?? My cell phone didn't work there, so I was scratching my head about how I should wake up. Luckily I had a fully charged Palm Pilot so I set the time zone and had myself an alarm clock to wake up at about 9:00 on Saturday morning. In fact, not having a watch or a cell phone meant that the Palm Pilot was essentially my only clock for the whole time in Poland!

The only alarm clock I really needed, though, was already set - jet lag. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning with my esophagus and chest on fire with terrible heartburn or possibly acid reflux. Whatever it was, I couldn't lay down without it killing me but I was still really tired but I couldn't sleep. I guess rich food and beer the night after travelling for 24 hours with no food in your system isn't the best way to get the stomach plumbing started right. After downing some water every few minutes, I somehow managed to sit up in bed and fall back asleep with the hard edge of the headboard leaving a dent in my cranium. I woke up a bit later and laid back down and fell asleep until the alarm woke me up.

I had planned to meet some of the others at 10:00am to go down into town and check it out before the wedding, but I guess they got stuck with a few extra beers the night before and ended up taking shots of vodka and going to the hotel's club in the wee hours and were no-where to be seen on Saturday morning. Undeterred, I took the high road down into town, which was about a mile and a half away down some hills. I came across a lot of little markets in town, mostly artists and antique dealers hawking their goods, but I had no zlotti's on me yet, so I began the fruitless journey around town to find an ATM, checking out various sites while I was walking. I had planned on eating some pastries for breakfast but I soon realized that there were no bakeries to be found here, which I found interesting. Since most of my trips to Europe have involved Germany in one way or another, I guesss I've been spoiled with the plethora of freshly backed goods that can be abundantly found there. Seemed to be a recurring thing in Eastern Europe though.

Parched with hunger, I decided to stop into a random restaurant and use my credit card to get me some breakfast. Afterwards, I asked for the cash machine and they showed me where it was. Of course, like right across the street. It didn't matter though, because I showed up and the thing wasn't working at the moment.

It didn't matter though, I had to head back to the hotel and get ready for the wedding. On the way home, I stopped at a memorial wall that had been built out of Jewish tombstones that were crushed by the Nazis in World War II. The area had had a rich Jewish history before they were sent to the death camps when the Germans over-ran Poland. In front of the wall there remained some fragmented tombstones and behind the wall was a wooded area that still had some of the large tombstones in place. It definitely brought home the reality of one of history's saddest moments.

Anyway, back at the hotel, the people began their gathering. The bride and groom were picked up by a horse and a wagon that were to be driven down into town with the guests following them in other wagons and taxis. We met up at the Franciscan church atop the hill that overlooks the city, where a full Polish (or Latin, like I can tell the difference!) mass was given. I pretty much just followed everyone else since I had no idea what was going on. At one point of the ceremony, Brendan read his vows - in Polish - much to my amazement. Let me tell you, I've heard many languages, but this is probably the hardest one to pronounce and read that I've ever seen. Try pronouncing chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie. Yea, it's up there with Hungarian, and it's a scrabble player's dream language - few vowels, lots of C's and Z's.

After the ceremony, everyone greeted the married couple and then headed back to the hotel. More Polish customs were performed in front of the hotel, where Ewa was formally handed over to Brendan by her parents and they were blessed with rice and breaking of bread. Brendan then broke a glass by throwing it over his shoulder then picked up Ewa and carried her into the building to start the celebrations.

Walking into the dining area, I was amazed to see all the food everywhere. The tables were literally covered with plates of dishes. But this wasn't even the start of what was to come. These were just the snacks to be eaten between the meals and the drinking. Vodka toasts with beer and water as a chaser came every few minutes by someone from the wedding party. Before long, everyone was sipping the vodka rather than taking a full shot because there were so many toasts. The Polish band came into the dining room and played some traditional folk music that the old Poles sang along to. There were three full meals throughout the night, capped off with the magestic bigos, a Polish mixture of cabbage and sausage that was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten.

Of course there was also the Polish dancing on the dance floor that everyone was involved in and the wedding games like musical chairs and the blindfolding of the bride and groom to see if they could figre out which leg was their new spouse's. I was most amazed by the older Polish crowd, who partied more than anyone else and could be seen dancing on the dance floor the whole night. Check out the videos to see these folks in action!

Needless to say, everyone went home that night in a foggy state. Ten hours of gluttony tends to do that to you! I think that everyone should experience a wedding so full of tradition, it's definitely worthwhile.

J. Riley, playing catchup

Friday, August 26, 2005

Poland - The First Day (with Pictures!)

Time has been at a premium here in Poland. I've been meaning to log onto my computer and jot down some notes on my trip thus far, but just haven't been able to do it. Seems like the standard story!

Friday I arrived on-time at the airport in Warsaw. My friend who's getting married, Ewa, had arranged for me to be picked up at by one of her friends who would then drive us out to Kazimierz, the small village where she was getting married. As I exited the terminal, I looked around for someone with my name on it and caught a few glances from people, but didn't see any, as I was expecting him to be upstairs. So I headed to the restrooms to change into something a little more proper for the wedding reception dinner (or whatever the dinner before the wedding is called) that was later that evening. I figured my torn jeans and tight t-shirt would be acceptable for the event, but just before I headed in, I heard my name called and found that another friend of her's, Gjosza (I have no idea how to spell it), was there to pick me up and drop me off at another friend's place. She was a nice yound lady who had a 2.5 year old child like my friend Nina, though I didn't meet him until Sunday.

So I was dropped off over at Michael's (I'll use the American version of his name for practical purposes) work, where he was a risk consultant of some sort, though he used to work at E&Y, my previous employer - more on this later! In any case, after he finished up work (and I checked my email), we headed over to his apartment in his little VW Golf (sweet - same smell as my car...err, my former car!) which had an amazing view of Warsaw from his wall of windows. I asked about prices for apartments and his, which was a two bedroom, spacious place that came fully furnished and was in a very nice, new building, was around $150k. Still quite a lot of money, but according to him prices were climbing quite quickly as their economy has done well
the last few decades.

After changing into my wedding reception gear (I went with the tight jeans and button up after much internal debate), we headed across town to pick up his lovely girlfriend Martina, who was very sweet and had a perma-smile on her face and was quick to laugh when talking. One thing that struck me as we travelled to Kazimierz was the fact that they were cordial enough to speak English to each other the whole time, even when they weren't talking to me. Michael's English was better than mine (he lived in the US for many years) and Martina's was also excellent, though she had learned all of her's through the education system and also while living in Belgium for six months with many other foreign students. I thought it was great that she was so comfortable talking in English with me around.

The trip to Kazimierz was long and slow since it was a Friday evening and Kazimierz is a big destination for Warsaw-based tourists. It's a good two hour ride, though it took something like two and a half to three hours thanks to the traffic. Michael made up for it by pressing the Golf pedal to the metal and doing nearly 100 MPH while passing cars on the country roads and making Martina and I wonder if we'd make it there in one piece :o) . But, he was well composed and promised us that he was driving "carefully", unlike a few years ago. Makes me wonder how he's still alive :o) !!

The terrain across the countryside in Poland is much as you would expect it - many fields growing grains and fruits, but all of it as flat as a board. This is one of the reasons for Poland's sad history of being conquered - the lack of natural barriers and protection. Our drive was very scenic however, especially as we were greeted with a nice sunset over the fields after a few hours on the road.

We made it to the dinner about a half hour late, not too bad considering the traffic and the late start. I was still in a slightly hazy state, having been on a long flight and into my second day without significant, decent sleep. Not to mention that since lunch the day before I had only eaten about five pieces of greasy salami and an orange bell pepper (gotta clean out the fridge before I leave!) and a few more pieces of cold cuts and a piece of bread for breakfast. I was starving! But when I went upstairs to the restaurant, I was greeted with the most welcome smells possible! I wasn't sure what kind of food to expect (cabbage and kielbasa?) since the Poles don't have a renowned reputation for their food. But this meal was amazing. We started out with a small salad, followed by soup, the main entree, and then dessert. All of it washed down with ample piwo (say: pee-vo [beer]) and white wine. I thought about hydrating myself instead of drinking booze, but I caved to the peer pressure from my table and joined in the festivities. Considering the fact that people bag on Polish a lot, I have to say that this was one heck of a good meal. Gotta give it a chance, it was absolutely delish!

My table was laden with former E&Y workers and their significant others, some of them I'd known and some of them I'd known only by their names from Ewa. Kevin still worked at E&Y and Anju and her husband had left EY to move to London. It was interesting talking to them about their experience since they had previously lived in California as well and had considered living in New York before deciding on the move across the pond to London. So compared and contrasted the two cities quite a bit for the following few days. I have never been to London, though I have to say that it sounds intriguing and would be great to visit them sometime out there. Matt Randolph worked for E&Y in Denver and now works with them out in Tokyo. He brought along his Austrian girlfriend who now lives in Frankfurt, so I got to throw around some German with her and talk about Dreieich and Langen, where I lived and worked in Germany a few years back. They are suburbs of Frankfurt, so we were speaking the same language, so to speak. Kevin works with E&Y in Cleveland and is moving to Seattle next week and has been with the company for over ten years now. He's been lucky in the sense that he's been travelling across the globe for the last few years. He's a pure Pole and remembers a lot of the things we ate from what his grandparent's cooked when he was a child.

J. Riley

Poland - The Flight

I am flying over the city where my friend Alex is studying at the University (Bamberg) on my Austrian Airlines flight. The plane departed a few minutes late, but thus far it's been a decent flight. When I got on board, I was greeted with some flack from the stewardess about having a carry-on, a personal item, AND bringing my suit, which I needed to have hung up. Hello, nice to see you too! I'd asked about it when I checked in and they assured me it wouldn't be any problem, but I guess it was for the stern-faced Austrian stewardess. Oh well, what can I do. I was tired, so I just kept on walking and pretty much ignored her after I told her the check-in said it was fine. I also signed up for an emergency row seat for the extra leg-room. They gave me the emergency row alright - except it was in the middle section of the seats (it's a 2-seat aisle 3-seat-aisle 2-seat formation) and had zero extra leg room. Things were looking bleak - until I realized that the flight wasn't full and I had the whole middle section to myself! Hello luxury row! That was very conducive to napping, as I sprawled and passed out on the seat, waking up somewhere around Ireland five hours later. The plane was decorated in traditional Euro motif - flourecent greens, reds, purples, etc. Ahhh....I feel at ease with these colors around me.

I've got a long day ahead of me, but the sleep should get me through it just fine. I have also been honored by the fact that the (cute) stewardess has been speaking German rather than English to me. I guess I've got that Euro look going on. Either that, or I look like a tall, blonde German...

J. Riley, Looking forward to my imminent arrival in Wien

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Party foul: I forgot my

Party foul: I forgot my neck pillow. For my red-eye flight. My neck will soon hate on me...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Setting the Record Straight - Literally

For some reason, my coworkers were confused about me. I don't think it could have to do with the fact that I do Yoga and Pilates, take cardio classes, don't lift weights, visit Fire Island, like to dress budget-consensually fashionable, don't sleep with five girls a weekend or with every girl that comes to visit me, have some ounce of respect for women, stretch my hamstrings at work by touching my toes, have girl-like handwriting, have a minor lisp (this will be fixed by my impending braces), have friends around the world, come from "San Francisco" (apparently they haven't been to California), rollerblade in Central Park, wear a pink shirt on occassion, blog, listen to electronic and Latin music, like to dance, like to cook, watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, don't like (American) football or basketball, and eat organic when it's available. Where's the confusion here? Metro? Questionable. Straight as an arrow? Affirmative. There's a guy we work with that used to be in the Navy and is a major homophobe and so I guess they decided to scare him by telling him that I'm gay so that he walks with his back to the wall whenever he's around me. What a bunch of hustlers ;o) ! I guess I have to talk about how hot the girls in the building are more often. Once they found out that I am straight, they attributed my zen-like, laid-back attitude to the fact that my job is so stress-free and I have outside interests other than computers.Haven't these guys been to California??

Anyway, I am giddy-excited about my trip to Eastern Europe. I depart on Thursday night at 10:00pm on Austrian Airlines flight 86 from JFK to Vienna and then on Austrian Airlines flight 623 from Vienna to Warsaw. On the 29th, I'm on Lot Polish Airlines flight 225 from Warsaw to Vienna and on September 4th from Vienna to JFK on Austrian Airlines flight 87. I'm bringing my laptop with me and hope to blog the entire trip in J. Riley granular detail, so stay tuned! I'm planning on coming back single, but there are no promises that I won't have a beautiful Slav (female!) with me ;o)

The J. Riley,
Do widzenia przyjaciół i rodzina!

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Another story about the awesome LES neighborhood that I frequent. I know I've taken some people to this cafe when they've visited....


I'm going to let everyone in on a little secret. I've had a picture up on my blog for the past year and a half ("About Me" on the right -->) and no one has actually asked me about it and I've never really volunteered any information about it. I think there is only one person who knows the background on that picture, and he rarely reads my blog. It's kind of an inside-joke picture. Much to my amusement, I've heard rumors that people think that it is a picture of me. It's not! But after I put the picture up there and laughed at it, I looked closer and realized that, coincidently enough, that guy could almost be my twin. He probably needs braces and jaw surgery as well. I actually got the picture off of the website and it celebrates the business-up-front, party-in-the-back haircut of my childhood in the 70's and 80's. But, I repeat, it is not me. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a big enough fan of RATT to wear a t-shirt :o) . I have never had, nor will I ever have, enough hair to grow a mullet.

J. Riley, still laughing at the picture.

Diamonds in the Rough

A few years back, Paul scored some of us some killer tickets for a Jimmy Buffet concert back in Mountain View, CA, after which I became a big fan and a wannabee "parrot-head". Concerts seem to do that to me, you know? Well, Paul's back at it again, this time scoring tickets for a Neil Diamond concert at Madison Square Gardens tomorrow night. This causes everyone to reflect on Jason Biggs, Steve Zane, and Jack Black's performances in "Saving Silverman", possibly one of the best movies of all time. If you don't agree with me, you're wrong. That's all I can say about that. But tomorrow night's concert is going to be great and I look forward to starting a busy weekend.

It's been a busy week for me, though not in a traditional sense. Usually my Wednesdays and Thursdays are filled up with going to the gym (and eating sushi, if Alan calls), but this week I've been at New Team Leader training for New York Cares, my volunteer organization of choice. It's pretty basic stuff and I actually enjoyed some of the stuff that we did last night. Fun team-building exercises like the game "Traffic Jam". Anyone ever played it? Plus, they throw in free pizza - which is nice, but I think I'd rather stick with sushi on these nights of the week. I'm watching my figure, as usual....

I'll be staying busy this weekend as well. Paul still has a rental car from his work upstate, so the plan is to go up to the outlets outside of town and do some mega shopping at the mega shopping center. I haven't bought new duds in months, so this is my final chance to freshen up my wardrobe with a few new items at stellar prices before rental cars become a figment of my imagination (once Paul and Cathy leave and go back to California). That should keep us busy on Saturday.

On Sunday a friend of mine is having a Chilean barbeque fund raiser down in a garden in Brooklyn. Latin music, Latin wine, Latin food, (Latin girls?) - you better believe I'm on it! I've been dwelling on what kind of meat I should bring and what I should marinate it with. Tenderloins are always good, and I've got some chicken breasts in the freezer. I've volunteered to be delegated the position of chief photographer, so stay tuned for some pictures on ye old website...

J. Riley, finally got to bed early last night (first time this week).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I'm stoked, my medical insurance is going to cover my jaw surgery in circa 2006! That's cool!

There's some interesting characters who "live" on my street. I've already talked about the white trash appearance and actions of some of them, but did I mention the nomad? If you've visited me during a reasonably-temperatured time of year (i.e. not winter!) you may have seen this character. Shoulder length blong hair, tan work boots (NOT Timberlands, which are fashionable among certain ethnicities), jeans, flannel shirts, he has all the attributes that a construction worker has. But does this guy work? I don't think so. Every single morning I walk out the door, I see him sitting on a stoop leading up to one of my neighborhoodly buildings. And every single day I walk home I see him sitting on a stoop leading up to one of my neighborly buildings (usually plucking his guitar)- but it's always a different stoop!! I have no idea where he lives because every day he's on a different stoop. I've considered unplugging my headphones and asking him what's up, but he's kinda scary looking, like he might be a psycho (gee, we don't have any of those in New York, do we? ;o), so I usually opt to continue listening to that last Def Leppard song before I get home.

There's lots of stuff with kids going on these days, what with my future niece/nephew being born soon and friends and cousins having twins. And I wonder about these kids, especially the twins. How closely can you correlate their childhood behavior (as babies) to their character when they grow up and mature? For example, my cousins' twins each have very unique personalities, one of them being very mellow and quiet, and one being, we can say. I would expect that as they grow up, one of them would be more shy and the other much more outgoing, but I don't know if that is necessarily the case. So someone should start blogging about their kids so that in 15 years we can look back (like a journal) and have some sort of case study on this.Just a thought....

J. Riley, No I'm not going back to school to become a childhood behavior major.

Monday, August 15, 2005


An interesting article on the use of blogs by soldiers who are serving in Iraq:

Some of the blogs are interesting because you don't have to deal with the media's bias and editing. You can hear it - or, rather, read it - from people's mouths (fingers) on the frontlines....

I have a stye on my eyelid today. It's painful and I know what's going to follow after the swelling goes down. I guess my eyelid health issue hiatis is over now. Hopefully I can deal with it before I go on vacation in two weeks....

J. Riley, my eye hurts.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Brace Yourself for Brace-Face

After talking to the oral surgeon and my orthodontist, I am going to make the plunge. My dental railroad tracks are going to be installed on September 10th. I guess all the good food that I eat here in NYC will be that much better since it can now stay in my mouth for a few extra hours until I have a chance to water-pick it out. Ahhh....water picks, sore jaw, open wounds on the interior of my lips and mouth - reminds me of my youth. Guess I'll have to be more careful with the beer bottles this time around, though. And I really feel sorry for my fellow diners, I can't imagine that this will speed up my record breaking eating patterns....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Snap, Crackle, Pop

So yesterday I suffered a horrific rollerblading injury. Well, that might slightly melodramatic, but I did get injured somehow. And I'm pretty sure it was rollerblading, though it could also have to do with having your standard male bad-posture at work. I had a terrible "somethings wrong with my spinal cord" feeling in between my shoulder blades. Of course, having worked for chiropracters in the past, I Am a big fan and dug up my referral that Summer's chiro gave me a few months back. Of course it's a long haul to get from the Bronx to mid-town Manhattan, but I made the trip later in the day and got the full assessment done on my back. It's confirmed - I'm a mess. But I got fixed up and now I can actually move my neck more than 20 degrees each way. Sweet!

Yesterday I bought tickets to come home for Christmas for a few days. Unfortunately, I won't be able to stay in town long enough to see my dad's half of the relatives thanks to the skimpy vacation policy offered by my employer. But if anyone else is in town, let me know in six months and we'll meet up :) .

Not only did I buy plane tickets yesterday, I also made a major, crucial purchase to help me deal with this impossible weather. Just like BSD is considered God's OS by geeks, I purchased God's Umbrella from Hammacher Schlemmer in midtown. This thing has a whopping 58 inch coverage area, dual-ribbed metal supports (for his and her pleasure), and a patented vented mesh wind dispersal system along with the lifetime warranty. This puppy could keep any geek and his pony-tail and sandals dry in the worst weather the city has to throw at him or her. Oh, and it's a compact design, just 22" long. Bring it, Mother Nature, I'm ready.

Friday I have an interview with my volunteer organization so that they can validate that I'm not some strange, anti-social, neophyte person and am capable of becoming a team leader for a monthly activity. Actually, based on that definition, I might have some problems passing the test!!! ;o)

J. Riley, bringing you up-to-the-minute coverage on my midweek activities for once!

Monday, August 08, 2005


Friday night was supposed to be a grand soiree of unimaginable proportions - music and drinks at the National Design Museum right up the street from me. The weather has been nasty this summer, very hot and humid. However, we have had some great weather as well - but not on Friday. Instead, the weather forecast told us that our outdoor event was going to be blasted with rain, thunder, and lightning. As cool of an effect as that would be, I didn't exactly have that in mind when I planned the event. So, after loitering down to the museum and taking out our umbrellas to protect us from the elements, we decided to postpone at the last minute and wait for a more pleasant Friady. Which was actually okay, because there was only going to be like three people there anyway :-\ . So much for a grand soiree of unimaginable proportions! We'll get there eventually, though.

So instead of that event, a few of us decided to go get some sushi at one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants in my neck of the woods - Poke. There's enough space for about 15 people and it is a BYOB job, so Paul and Cathy got to free up some space in the refrigerator by sacrificing their Sapporos to the sushi gods. For that, we were grateful! After eating our little hearts out, everyone was going their seperate ways, so I headed downtown to meet up with Sean and his friend Arianna. I met them down at Local, which was a standard mid-town bar full of standard mid-town folks celebrating TGIF. It was an okay scene, but nothing too special. Standard would be a good word for it. Afterwards, Sean and Arianna got some dinner at a diner called Madison while my stomach gladly digusted the rolls I'd devoured earlier. Arianna took off to go back to Jersey in her sweet Jetta GLI (6-speed!) and Sean and I cabbed it home for an early night back home - or so we thought....

Back in our neck of the woods, we decided to have one more cocktail at a place across the street called Uptown, which is one of two places on the Upper Easy Side that is sort of trying to do the downtown scene. It's really not too bad of a place, kind of loungey and dark and lots of red colors. While Sean went to use the facilities I kinda wandered around to see who was there and I got into a conversation with a British girl. Then her friend came back from the bathroom and I found out that they were twins - even though I couldn't tell. I insisted that they weren't twins cuz their hair was too different and stuff and they were very appreciative. I guess everyone had been coming up and asking them if they were twins (and blaming them for us being in Iraq, Tony Blair, bla bla bla, etc.). They were stoked that I didn't think they were twins. In any case, Sean came back and we all got into some nice discussions - me talking about how I hate Manchester United soccer (they were from Cheshire, which is a Manchester suburb) and Sean taking the sister outside to smoke a few dozen cigarettes together. I found out that the girl I was talking to is, naturally, getting married - on WEDNESDAY! Typical luck for me! She kept apologizing for the fact that I got stuck talking to her rather than to her sister, but it was all good. Her fiancee was out at his bachelor party that night so they were at Uptown drinking a few cosmos and chilling out. The sister (Christine) had been in town for a few days from England, while Michelle lived a few blocks away with her fiancee. They were very friendly lassies and we all got along well but Christine had had a few too many cosmos by that point and, against our better judgement, we picked up their tab (ouch! A few cosmos? Try a few more!) and sent them on their way home.

Half of Saturday was spent recovering from our late night on Friday, but around 1:00 Sean and I went to get some greasy food for breakfast and reflect on stories from the night before. Afterwards, we wandered a few miles down Third Avenue so that Sean could pick up his metrosexual supplies at Aveda. It was a wonderful day outside (of course, a day after my soiree was planned for) and the temperature was perfect.

Saturday night I went to the New York Liberty basketball game at Madison Square Gardens with Paul, D, and D's mom. D's got season tickets right next to the players and had hooked Paul and I up with some free tickets and managed to get seats right next to them thanks to some strategic seat-hijacking. Smoothe one, and thanks for the tix D! Being that the New York Liberty is a WNBA team, the players were all females who could kick my butt any day. And one of them, from Belgium apparently, was basically my twin. Same face shape and profile, blonde hair, tall(er than me), it was pretty funny. And strangely awkward!

Sunday was a domesticated day for me, doing loads and loads of laundry, grocery shopping.....and watching football (NOT American football). Arsenal was playing Chelsea in the Community Shield game that marks the start of the English Premiership so of course I had that DVR'd so that I could watch it later in the afternoon. And, thanks to a combination of factors, I got hooked back into some geeky stuff and spent a significant amount of time administrating a few FreeBSD servers back in California for some friends of mine. If you think Windows is a lot of work, I have a new OS to introduce you to ;o) . I also fell in love with some music that I have, though I didn't realize it until Sunday. Those of you who have access to my music would do well to download my Stan Getz collection. It's all Brazilian/Samba jazz music and it is unreal! Check it.

J. Riley, 17 days before liftoff to Eastern Europe!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pita Bread

If you ever find yourself wandering in my neighborhood and have a massive craving for some pita bread so that you can make yourself, I don't know, an organic pepper-turkey and swiss cheese sandwich, I highly recommend you checkout Likisatkos (don't worry, I can't pronounce it either) grocery store on Lexington between 87th and 88th Avenue. They sell bags of 4 Damascus Bakeries whole-wheat pitas that are resealable and extremely soft and fresh for the low price of $1.99 . I just made myself a pitawich with organic pepper-turkey. And swiss cheese.

I've been thinking about adding a new feature to the right-hand-side of my blog - things you might not know about me. Might be kind of fun to add random tidbits about myself there....

Not much has gone on this week, just been studying a lot....

The J. Riley, I may go make myself another organic pepper-turkey pitawich. With swiss cheese.