Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blame the White-boy...

Last night, I was rushing out of my apartment to get back down to Manhattan and there was some sort of public event in the park across the street from my new apartment. I heard funk-style music and stuff and it would have been cool to check out, but I had other events planned. As I walked by some "locals", one of them said to her friend "Oh, there's even white people coming up for this, no wonder I can't get no seat!"

J. Riley, my Time-Out New York event magazine this week was about Races and has writers of different races go to local communities like this where they are out of place. Funny co-incidence! More to follow...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm Just, I'm J. Riley from the Block

I'm moved in! I need to post pictures of my new apartment sometime soon, maybe
this weekend. Thus far, I'm pretty happy with my new situation - with a few
exceptions of course. It seems like every day that I commute (which has been
extended by 15 minutes to a 45 minute commute) I have something interesting to
write. So I'll start now. Well, to kick if off, within 10 minutes of starting
to move in, I heard someone say under their breath "ohh, looks like there's
white folk moving in now". Ha, that should give you an idea of my
neighborhood's demographic. I'm totally out of my comfort zone here and I'm
LOVING it!

First of all, the living situation is great. My room is just big enough for the
items that I moved up there, though I do need to do some closet organizing
(ladies? Any volunteers to help me organize? Mom?) because I'm worse than a
chick when it comes to the amount of shoes and clothes that I have. A think a
trip to the Container Store (a former fetish of mine) for research is a good
idea, though I might just copy Melissa's (one of my roommates) arrangement in
her closet. One of my roommates? Yes, apparently her boyfriend is moving in at
the same time. Good thing we get along and he's really into bluegrass and
hipster folk music, tatoos, and works crazy work hours like Melissa (same
employer), so he's gone before I wake up usually.

My apartment is stocked with every cooking utensil, tons of different sized
pots, pans, accessories, tupperware, DISHWASHER(!), all with more cabinet space
to spare in her recently remodeled kitchen. Melissa is an OCD organized, cleaner
which I find somewhat comforting because when a roommate is very clean, it makes
keep things organized and clean as well. As far as food sharing, it's not a
problem yet and we're just going to buy and share stuff for each other (except
big items like meats). Which brings up my first story: the grocery store across
the street literally has NO organic/luxury items that I typically purchase. I
can almost taste the hormones in the non-BSE-free milk. I did manage to buy
cage-free eggs, however!

My morning routine has been forced into Magnitude 7.9 changes due to the lack of
TIVO. But that's not a bad thing since I can download all the Daily Shows. I am
trying to refrain from TV watching in the mornings though because it just takes
too much time, but at least I can get caught up on my news when I have some free
time. Without my cheap natural food store nearby, I've pretty much stopped
eating cereal in the morning, so I'm looking for interesting combinations to
eat in the morning, prefferably stuff that I can take with me and eat on the
subway. Yogurt with fresh fruit, string cheese, whole wheat bread, bananas,
cottage cheese, and other stuff is all considered, depending on the amount of
time I have before I need to leave the house. There's also the
bagel/doughnut/muffin guy in a food cart right outside the subway for a last
minute purchase before boarding.

Speaking of my commute, an interesting event happened yesterday. The conductor
made an announcement that all men who are sitting down should do the "right"
thing and stand so that all ladies can have a seat. Where am I, in the south
now? Hey, I got to the seat first, it's not my problem! Actually I was standing
anyway, but I didn't see any men jumping out of their seat to let any ladies
sit, but hopefully gave some of them something to think about.

With my additional commute time, I need to start bringing reading material with
me to keep myself entertained. There isn't a proliferation of free newspapers
like there is in Manhattan, but today I did find an AM New York stand on my way
to the subway so I can read something. I was a die-hard Metro newspaper reader,
but AM New York is okay I guess. Just a little more ghetto (not a bad thing I
guess).

I am actually considering apartment shopping in this area. For some reason, the
Bronx doesn't have the Harlem/Brooklyn/Queens hipster draw yet, but with
rock-bottom prices and the Manhattan-growth north, I can't imagine it lasting
too much longer before prices start to grow. I mean, these prices are like half
the price of ANYWHERE within an hour of Manhattan. Nice two-bedroom apartment
like Melissa's for $150k, it's actually affordable. Might be worth a long-term
real estate investment.

J. Riley, I guess I need to change my blog title and details soon!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It's a Small, Small World

So I've been selling all my apartment assets over the last couple of weeks (sometimes more successful than others!). I have a toaster and a blender that I don't care to keep and they aren't even worth trying to sell, so I put them up on Craigslist as free items, which is how to get rid of things FAST. I got some nibbles and a girl called me, saying she could come by in an hour to pick it up and look at my other for-sale items. She asked if I was from the Bay Area (because of my phone number) and said she was from the area too. Cool, I wasn't really interested in having a conversation, just wanting to sell my crap.

She came by later and, making smalltalk, I asked where she was from. She said the Bay Area and asked where exactly I was from. I said Los Gatos, she said "no way, so am I!". Crazy, crazy small world. She asked if I went to LGHS and I said of course, as did she. She asked what year I graduated, I said 1996. SO DID SHE! Holy crap, turns out I went to school with this girl! I pulled out the yearbook and there she was! We talked about all the people we keep in contact with and there's a ton of people from LGHS out here now.

She just got her tonsils taken out and was hopped up on codine, though she said it wasn't working very well. I had my mega-pain-killer vicadin from my surgery left over so I gave them to her to try (is that illegal? Probably). I also donated my Ensure to her (she hadn't heard of it, but it was perfect for her). To top it off, she took my free blender, bought all my dishes, bought my useless mugs, and almost bought my bed. So it was definitely a successful visit for her and me!

J. Riley, now I get to go to barbeques that she has in the East Village! And she's one of those crazy New Yorkers who has four rabbits and two cats in her apartment. Typical Los Gatos mountain girl :o)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Earthquake in Peru

A large, 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Lima last night, rocking the city for two full minutes. Thankfully, Erika and her family are fine, there was no damage to their house or anything. Some of the worst damage was in Ica, the city I visited with her in April, where the main church in town collapsed from the quake....

J. Riley, thank goodness for earthquake-safe building codes!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Republica Dominica

I've got a few minutes, so I blog about some stuff. First of all, according to my car rental reservation, I am moving to the BX this weekend. After the massive Liverpool v. Chelsea match on Sunday of course (priorities, people!). Did I mention that the soccer season started? Yes, it did. And Liverpool, for the first time in five years, won their first match of the season. Why is it I always pick teams that suck in the beginning and then get better towards the end? Well, this year the A's sucked in the beginning and sucked in the middle and the end, but I digress. In any case, to celebrate Liverpool's win (and since I'm moving next weekend), I went to the soccer store and bought a new pair of indoor soccer shoes. But NOT Pumas! I actually bought Nikes. Yes, it's true. Before you crucify me (and I hate Nikes too, btw), these are red Nike Air Ronaldhino Rivals, complete with the Ronaldinho signature and all. And red shoes? That'll fill a void in my shoe department.

I've gotta visit Erika soon, but I didn't really want to go to Peru again because Latin America is huge and there are so many places to explore. So, she told me to pick our next destination and I have - Dominican Republic! Home of awesome beaches, awesome package deals, awesome direct flights for cheap, and Merengue (my favorite Latin dance!), here we come! I'll be heading out there for four days at the end of September. I will also be brining lots of paperwork with me because I plan on helping Erika get a visa to visit the U.S. so that everyone can meet her and we can see if we get along as we do right now for an extended amount of time together in person. I have very little doubt that this is the case, but I just need to confirm that this is the case. She will probably come up here next year, possibly around February, when I am going down to Lima to attend their annual Salazar family reunion party. Her dad has about 14 siblings, so that should give you an idea of the size of this party. That's going to be awesome!

J. Riley, that's two blogs in one day and hopefully I'll continue to get caught up this week!

Roland's Wedding: Days 3-5

The wedding day was a nice lazy day that began with Roland barging into our hotel room and telling us to wake our lazy butts up and complaining that our room was "worse than if gypsies were staying there" ;o) . We headed down to the cafe (which is also owned by the Vas mob clan) and had a nice full spread of food waiting for us along with juice, waters, coffee, and anything else we could possibly want for a Euro breakfast.

The wedding was in the afternoon and would take place at the church near our hotel. A few of us went for a late-morning walk through lovely Komarno and took pictures, did a little bit of shopping, got some sun, and ate some ice cream. Komarno is a nice, picturesque Euro town with some shopping, many cafes, cobbled streets, and not too many people. The kind of town you would want to have a wedding in. Interestingly, we ran into some Americans in one of the stores who were also in town for a wedding. Damn, I thought we'd be the only gringos in town!

The wedding started with a reception in a small gathering room at the location of the wedding party. They had tasty appetizers and served drinks while we mingled amongst ourselves and talked to Roland and Csilla, who just finished their wedding pictures.

After a half hour or so, a procession led by the best man and Csilla walked down to the nearby church for the official ceremony, which I presume was like a mini-mass and included the signing of the documents and a few songs from the organ and opera-style singer.

After the wedding itself, there was a greeting of the guests that had Roland and Csilla with perma-smiles plastered on their faces as they exchanged greetings with everyone who attended the ceremony before we followed them to the ballroom where the festivities would be held. Outside the entrance, a plate was broken and Roland had to sweep it in to a dustbin that Csilla held. I hope Csilla doesn't always expect Roland to clean up messes like that in the future ;o) .

The party was great - we had wonderful ethnic cuisine from Hungary for our main course, there were about fifteen different cakes, most of which weren't even touched because of the sheer volume, there was a band that played traditional Hungarian music, there was eating, and there was plenty of booze on tap. Because I was planning on stuffing myself with the awesome food, I shied away from the beer and stuck with Vilmos, which is a pear-flavored liquor that can be sipped and enjoyed throughout the night. Stefan, in his infinite wisdom, told me I should just stick with one drink for the whole night, for example the Whiskey & Coke cocktails he recommended. Not being a fan of whiskey, I told him to have fun and sure enough a few hours later, when the second meal was prepared, he could hardly eat anything (imagine that!) and was complaining about his stomach because he had too much sugar from the coke. Glad I stuck with the Vilmos, which allowed me to maintain a nice, even buzz the whole night - and early morning as the party went on until almost 6:00 in the morning!

Roland and Csilla had a handful of friends at the event that kept to themselves for a while at the party, but we knew eventually they would break out of their shell. Sometime around midnight the booze caught up and they started rallying and socializing more. They tried to talk Stefan into partaking in a Hungarian wedding tradition of kidnapping the bride and taking her to a bar and buying everyone there from the wedding the most expensive drink available, then going to the next bar, doing the same, etc. until the groom finally catches up and takes the bride back. It would have been pretty crazy to do that, but I guess Roland had it banned beforehand because it was a pretty big wedding and they didn't want the older family and kids to miss out on the fun.

Naturally, most of us had a pretty lazy morning on Sunday, some of us not even waking up until the afternoon :). It was nice to have an easy-going schedule that allowed us to do this. Roland had planned on going on a winery tour in Hungary tour on Sunday and, though the idea didn't initially seem too appealing considering it was the day after a wedding, but nobody got too out of control the night before and at about 5:30 at night we departed for the Hilltop Winery across the border in Hungary.

The views from the top of the hill down into the plains of Hungary and Slovakia and the Danube River were absolutely awesome. We took a quick tour of the facilities and then sat down to eat a wonderful dinner and taste about six bottles of wine, one of which (a grapefruity Sauvignon Blanc!) I bought. Actually, Roland bought it. Thanks Vas, it was great - as was the delicious dinner.

Monday was the last day together with the whole crew as the Great Danes were going home on Tuesday morning. Roland decided on a day trip down to Hungary's Great Lake - Lake Balton and the city of Siofok. It was once a burgeoning vacation city that attracted people from all over Europe but I guess it's not as popular with the youth anymore. But the weather was still great so we drove down (getting the other car lost somewhere along the way, thanks to the traffic lights) and eventually made it to town. We found a shady spot in the park along the water, setp camp, and enjoyed the warm, shallow water with the kids. Marcus had an asthma attack because he was laughing so much and having so much fun while Lucas ended up with a bloody nose after getting body slammed in the water by Stefan one too many times. We ended the day renting a couple of paddle boats with slides to take the kids for a cruise around the shallow lake. Stefan fully utilized the slide himself and I made sure none of the kids were underneath it in case the fiberglass slide collapsed under the weight :). We capped the late afternoon with gelato, doener, or anything else that we felt like eating along the shopping district, vowing to return at night later in the week to see if the nightlife was still as fun as it used to be.

J. Riley, there's much much more to come (eventually)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Social Life is at Risk

Paul, Cathy, and I are so awesome. We are the coolest people I know. We just spent last evening - Saturday night - playing Risk. Starting at around 10:00pm, we played for a long time. We saw the sun come up. We saw the neighborhood wake up. We saw the sun fully in the sky. We saw the clock strike 9:00am. Yes, it was a Saturday night, and a legendary one at that.

J. Riley, I haven't stayed up all night for a long, long, long time. Maybe once in college.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Roland's Wedding: Days 1-2

Yes, it really does take hate mail to get me back into the mood to blog again. My sincere apologies! It's summer, I'm lazy and lack motivation, and there's too much to write about. So I'm going to try to write a quick summary of what I've been doing the past...month!

First of all, my vacation - which was awesome. The trip to Europe was quite eventful, actually, when I found out in Quebec that my flight to UK was canceled because of a security threat at Heathrow. Having two *long* layovers is bad enough, but throwing a canceled flight into the mix? Not cool. Actually, I got put on an Air France flight through Paris and arrived in Vienna six hours early so this little issue turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

After arriving on Wednesday afternoon and waiting for everyone else to show up with my parents (who arrived the evening before), amazingly we all managed to find the hotel and arrive roughly ontime - Roland being the exception. But Roland is always late so arriving at night rather than in the morning or afternoon is close enough to give him the benefit of the doubt ;o).

Our hotel was in the outskirts of Vienna in an area populated with diverse international residents from places like Turkey, Balkans, Russia, etc. It was very quiet and the kind of neighborhood that I like to stay in when I visit a city because you get the true flavor of a place when you eat at places that have menus in Russian but not in English :) . We ate at a totally local restaurant the first night. I've been studying Spanish and haven't used my German in a while when I was suddenly with a group of eight non-German speakers with a waiter who spoke no English and I had to somehow translate the menu and take orders to give to the waiter. I had a really rough time! I said "Esta bien" to the waiter a few times, asked for "Agua", and through out some other Spanish words that had to be rescinded. I've heard of Spanglish, but I guess a combination of Spanish and German would be called....eewwww, figure that one out yourself ;o).

Thursday we spent the day in Vienna, meeting up with Leif and old friend of mine from Germany who lives in Vienna now. He gave us a wonderful guided tour around Vienna and then took the boys to a local brewery, where we met up with another pilot friend of his. The tasty, fresh beers flowed forth and we finally went back to the hotel to meet the ladies in a very happy mood :) . Later that night we went to the "fancy" dining establishment for dinner and then Stefan, Roland, Leif, and I took him out downtown for one last time before his wedding. We pretty much checked out a few places but ended up going home relatively early because some of us were dying of jet lag - and feeling a little old to be hanging out with college kids!

After another wonderful breakfast on Friday, four of us headed to the airport to get a rental car while the other four headed to Slovakia so Roland could help Csilla out with last minute preparations for the wedding the next day. Those "cross-border" charges on the rental car were pretty steep but necessary, unfortunately. We headed down the smoothe highway into Hungary and finally to the Slovakian border. Thus far, my domestically abused passport hadn't raised any eyebrows at all but we were given a tongue lashing at the Slovakian border by a guy who clearly had a grudge to beat against US residents (like most of the world does - thanks Bush!). He asked me what would happen if he went to the US with a passport like that and told me to go back to Budapest and get a new one. After his chest-puffing speech, he told us to get going and let us go through to Komarno, our final destination.

After reconvening and backing into Roland's car while trying to park (car accidence are obligatory whenever Vas and I meet up - every single time!), we went to a Wellness Center outside of town that had a big pool, hot tub, and various saunas. We totally chilled out there and even took a nap after lengthy steaming before heading back to the hotel. We went to Roland's brother-in-law's restaurant Cleopatra for a wonderful dinner and drinks. The kids certainly had fun at the restaurant, donning Jack Daniels bartender outfits and clearing off our tables (and the tables of other diners!), playing in the bar, etc. Very cute and they were devastated when it was time to go home!

J. Riley, there's plenty more to come!

You can find evidence of the above all at my picture site.