Hot Damn, Hotlanta!

First night in Atlanta, GA

First night in Atlanta, GA

A week or two ago, I headed to Atlanta to work on a webseries called “Getting Out“. I had just finished working as a Stylist on a music video by musical artist Sean Cooney down in Savannah, and to keep myself awake driving from Savannah to Atlanta at 4 am for my 9am call time in ATL, I decided to write a rap. A few days later, I posted it on Youtube. Check it out below.

I was kinda going for a “cute and sweet” face before busting some rhymes, but according to my brother, it “just makes [him] uncomfortable”. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. I’m planning to post another rap soon-ish. Maybe this week. You’ll know when it happens.

Getting Out…in Atlanta

I arrived in ATL barely ten minutes before call time and feeling slightly like death (but just slightly). Luckily, there was a little bit of down time during the shoot, and I napped on whatever was available to me (mostly chairs, the floor, face down on a table…). I did try napping standing up once. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The webseries is a college-y comedy about 3 roommates + a girlfriend (my character) who are just trying to get out of college. In the first episode, the guys get a new (female) roommate, and shit happens.

We made a promo where Connor, one of the roommates, tries to show us how to “Dougie”. The results are pretty hysterical. Plus I’m super awkward in it, my favorite thing. For your viewing pleasure:

On Set of “Getting Out”

It’s not a film project without a few bumps in the road, and “Getting Out” was no exception. But somehow we made it through a week of filming (plus a pickup day the following week), and I even got to do a little bit of makeup. I created a black eye for roommate Ian after a raucous party episode, and did Riley(new roomie)’s basic makeup on one of our shoot days. And I have to say, I do enjoy acting, but I think I get more out of the artistic/creative side of things. I love creating a character through their clothes and makeup.

Heath's black eye on Getting Out

Heath’s black eye on Getting Out – still need to practice making black eyes, but this is what I came up with on short notice.

Coincidentally, our boom operator/sound mixer/entire sound department, Bryarly Bishop, has a vlog and made a behind-the-scenes video for Getting Out. It’s mucho entertaining. Have a look:


Days off…Enjoying Atlanta

We’d planned to get all five episodes done in a 5 day week (a little ambitious, I know), and we ended up a little bit behind. So we made the following Tuesday our pick-up day, and I had a few days off to check out the town.

Midsummer Music Festival

I crashed on my friend Pam’s couch, and she, her roommate Broek and I headed to the Midsummer Music Festival in Candler Park, about a 5 minute walk from Little Five Points. On our way there we grabbed a beer at a pub, and Pam and Broek tried “Poptails”, alcoholic popsicles. When we got to Candler Park, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was celebrating their 35th anniversary, and we had a great time dancing along to their New Orleans brass.

MidSummer Music Fest in Atlanta, GA

Midsummer Music Fest

Indian Lunch Buffet at Chopaati

On Sunday, I met the cast and crew of Getting Out for lunch at Chopaati. According to Broek, Decatur is the best place to go for Indian food around Atlanta. Many of the crew had never had Indian food before, so I sort of became the “expert” even though I had no idea what any of it was. My whole reasoning behind going to a buffet instead of a sit-down Indian restaurant is so I can see the food before I put it on my plate! But everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I must have done something right.

Delicious Indian Food Meal at Chopaati in ATL

We attacked this meal. And it was delicious.

A Different Way of Riding

Later that afternoon, Pam and I went horseback riding, and I learned a few things about endurance riding, a very different style from what I do (hunter/jumper). In endurance riding, you ride for long periods of time – as long as 24 hours. Everything from the tack to the horse’s gaits are different, but it didn’t take me too long to figure it out, and we spent a lovely afternoon on the trails.

Touring Historic Oakland Cemetery

Pam & Broek suggested I check out the Historic Oakland Cemetery, so on Monday, after somehow failing to locate the High Museum of Art, I had lunch at a deli in midtown, then drove over to the cemetery and managed to find free parking.

Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

I wandered around for a bit, then got a phone call from a good friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while and spent the next few hours chatting with him. And let me tell you, if you ever want to have a private conversation in a city where you don’t have any privacy, go to a cemetery. There’s usually only a handful of other wanderers, and they’re generally respectful enough to leave you alone. Plus you probably look like a crazy person talking to your dead relatives…or something.

Secluded path in the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

There is something about cemeteries that is so peaceful and calming that I absolutely love. Maybe it is how expansive they are compared to the number of wanderers there. Or maybe it is the absolute stillness that makes me feel connected to past generations. It is the only place that is simultaneously empty and crowded, and I love being alone without feeling alone.

Shadow-girl in the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

Dorn Brothers Photography Art Show

On Tuesday, we finished our pick up shots for Getting Out then headed to IHOP for some red velvet pancakes (not everyone in the cast is 21, so grabbing a beer was kind of out of the question). Afterward, everyone went their separate ways, and I had a little time to swing by the Dorn Brothers‘ “Ghost of Old Highways” Art Show wrap party at the Carroll St Cafe to say bye to Pam and check out some pretty incredible photography.

The Dorn Brothers were also the photographers on a music video I worked on called “Black Curtain” by the same musical artist, Lovett, and there seemed to be a handful of people at the art show who’d worked on both. So it was pretty cool to see some familiar faces.

On Wednesday I passed through Columbia to see my fam, then headed back to Wilmington for my next adventure.

Hometown Tour Pt II: Wilmington’s Arboretum

The other day, I was driving past Wilmington’s Arboretum for about the 12th time after a meeting that ended sooner than expected, so I decided to stop and enjoy the free (!) garden.
Arbor over greenhouse in Arboretum Wilmington, NC
As I mozied through the unattended gates, I noticed an art class painting the scenery directly to my right. Nice to see that the community is taking advantage of this free space!

Japanese rock garden Arboretum Wilmington, NCI wandered past the painters, spectators, and children running underfoot toward a section of the garden that immediately caught my eye. It was a Japanese rock garden directly in front of a small hut built in the Japanese style, with large red wooden ‘gates’ in the same style on either side of the path. You may or may not be aware of my obsession with all things Japanese, but suffice it to say that this part of the Arboretum made me very happy.

Japanese style hut Arboretum Wilmington, NCI played with the sliding doors to the hut for a little while, then moved on to other parts of the garden. It was not nearly as large as Airlie Gardens, but the space was well-planned and had plenty of secluded areas where I could envision myself reading or drawing or simply soaking up the green space for use on a rainy day.

Pencil Cactus in greenhouse at the Arboretum in Wilmington, NCI toured the two greenhouses, observing some really neat types of cacti. Then I read about rainwater irrigation techniques and learned that this urn-like fountain was more than decorative. It was recycling the water collected from the roof of the greenhouses.

Rainwater Irrigation System Arboretum Wilmington, NCEventually I made my way over to the Ability Garden (Horticulture Therapy Program) where a myriad of flowers and herbs were for sale for the meager price of $3.00. Better than anything I’ve seen at Lowe’s that’s for sure. They even had planters for sale full of various greenery that had been assembled by kids in the program.

Ability Garden Arboretum Wilmington, NCI walked back to the final space (as it turned out, it was supposed to be the entrance) which appeared at first glance to be a community garden. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that all the vegetables grown in this garden were donated to a charity that helps people in need. I think the Arboretum is my new favorite place!

big old tree arboretum wilmington, ncOn my way out, I grabbed a couple pamphlets about volunteering with the Arboretum and peered through the locked doors of the gift shop. Guess I’ll have to stop in next time!

Wilmington, NC: touring my new home

A few days ago, I did my first touristy thing since moving to Wilmington

I was feeling the need for some greenery and decided to seek out a Botanical Garden. The idea was planted (ha) in my mind a few days after I’d arrived when I drove out to Wrightsville Beach and passed a sign for Airlie Gardens. It wasn’t until I’d spent two days confined to my apartment doing some copy editing for a friend of mine that I finally snapped. I needed green and I needed it now!

I’d finished my work around 2:30 – Airlie was closing at 5:00 – just enough time to soak up the ‘wilderness’ for an hour and then come back to get ready for my yoga class (I’ve started attending yoga classes at The Wilmington Yoga Center…$15 for 15 days!).

When I was living in Montreal, I was spoiled with a number of amazing parks and green spaces close by. The Botanical Gardens was one of my favorite places to go, and I went quite a few times. I’ve also grown up going to Brookgreen Gardens outside of Myrtle Beach, another incredible green space. I’ve seen Kew Gardens in England, Versailles in France, Elizabeth Park in Hartford, an entire city of parks in Ottawa, High Line Park in NYC, and plenty of other beautiful green spaces that I haven’t mentioned here. Needless to say, I have pretty high standards when it comes to parks.

Airlie Oak in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

The Airlie Oak - estimated to be over 400 years old

 

I paid my $5 admission, nodded as the man at the desk explained the self-guided tour route, then walked out the door and stared at my map. Cautiously, I followed what appeared to be the correct path, passing by a miniature version of a train station not quite small enough to be a doll’s house and then emerging onto an open lawn. There was a crew of workmen busily erecting big white tents, wiping sweat from their foreheads as they hammered 3-foot long metal stakes into the groomed terrain. This was my first impression of Airlie: an open space perfect for weddings and special events. Not much different from anyone’s backyard.

I passed through the ‘Tranquility Garden’, a butterfly house with a handful of monarchs and a huge tacky sculpture hanging from the center surrounded by ‘donated’ private spaces. One of these spaces even had a sign hanging above its cascading pebbles listing the name of the landscaping company that created the monstrosity. I felt more like I was on a tour of homes in a newly-developed neighborhood than in a botanical garden. Despite my aversion to the layout, I did absolutely adore one of these ‘private spaces’. Check it out below.

Secluded garden in Tranquility Gardens of Airlie Gardens Wilmington NC

After the Tranquility Garden, I followed the path to the Pergola Garden. This was more like what I had envisioned – decades-old growth over a pebbled pathway that led to a small pond in one direction and an unknown grave in the other.

walkway in Pergola Garden Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NCPergola Garden in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

Unknown grave in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

According to legend, this is the grave of one of Napoleon's former generals. How he ended up in Wilmington, NC I don't know.

I wandered past these landmarks and into the Camellia Garden with its 150-foot (barren) rose trellis. Maybe it’ll have blooms in the summertime.

Tulips in Spring Garden Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

I continued to the Spring Garden, where tulips bloomed around a fountain, and then on to the Mount Lebanon Chapel, which was built in 1835 and still in use today. I meandered through the cemetery behind the chapel, marveling at the new graves built around the centuries-old decrepit ones. I’ve always felt most at peace in cemeteries, so I stayed here for a little while, trying to decipher the names and dates on the old grave markers, imagining how each spent his or her life. One grave, covered in seashells and beach sand, I imagined was that of a light-house keeper, in love with the sea and all its creatures.

Mount Lebanon Chapel view from cemetery in airlie gardens wilmington, ncSea Shell grave in cemetery behind Mount Lebanon Chapel in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

Finally, I moved on to some beautiful marsh-side views and circled round to the Garden Services Center where I started.

Bradley Creek and Airlie Lake Airlie Gardens Wilmington NCThough off to a rough start, my trek through Airlie Gardens was not disappointing. Definitely worth the $5 and 10 minute drive spent to get in. Not a must-see on your first trip to Wilmington but definitely a pleasant additional activity for any nature lover.

My next stop in this town will hopefully be the Arboretum, a free-to-the-public 7-acre “horticulture laboratory”.

[musicmonday] Flogging Molly in Charlotte

So last week I went to a Flogging Molly concert.

A few months previously a friend of mine told me she liked Mumford & Sons. It’s hard for me to hate on them because I’ve never really listened to their music, but she played me a few of their songs and explained that she loved their “folky sound”. She also mentioned that she loved their accents and accordion. “Laura,” I said, “I know a band you should listen to.” Two months later I drove up to Charlotte, NC and we went to see them live at the Fillmore (for only $25 I might add).

Before the concert, we indulged in Irish cuisine and Harp (because I didn’t want to sip on Guinness all night) at Ri Ra Irish Pub. If you like lamb, get the Irish Stew. You’d be doing yourself a disservice getting anything else, although the Bistro salad was also delicious.

Flogging Molly Live in Charlotte, NCWe got to the venue just in time to see the last song or two of the opener, and squeezed into the center of a packed house. Even though it was a Sunday night, the place was crammed full of concert-goers. Mostly the good kind, too – you know, the ones that are always holding a beer, wearing a big green hat, and grinning ear-to-ear as they bounce back and forth in the crowd. As I’m sure you can imagine, Flogging Molly is an awesome band to see live. Lead singer Dave King tells entertaining stories about their songs and has a great camaraderie with the crowd. You can tell everyone onstage is really enjoying being there, and all of their songs have such upbeat, dance-and-sing-your-heart-out rhythms that it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

Flogging Molly in Concert in Charlotte, NCAt the end of the night, amidst chants of “Olé, Olé, Olé, Oléee” the band came back for an encore and played a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are a-Changin”. Check out the video below.

On the way home, Laura and I snagged a cab with another guy headed our way. The cabbie had house music playing, so, naturally, I started beat-boxing (or trying to, anyway), and our new friend tried his hand at freestyling. “I don’t think any of that rhymed,” I told him. “Was it supposed to?” he asked.

Flogging Molly Concert in Charlotte Feb 26

River City: Richmond, VA

It seems as though with every new blog post I write, comes a new apology for not writing! This stretch between posts has been particularly long (I’m sure you all missed me very much). This time, though, I actually have a more legitimate excuse – I was working as Wardrobe Supervisor for a short film, and we worked 12-14 hour days almost every day! It was a great experience, though (you’ll hear more about it in later blog posts for sure), and I can’t wait to get started on another film project.

In the meantime, though, here is the wrap up post for my September 2011 road trip: Richmond, VA. Since I have been back and forth to RVA a few times since September, this post is really a conglomeration of my recent experiences there. Enjoy!

My final stop: Richmond, VA (AKA River City)

It’s hard to decide what to write about this city in which I lived throughout college, and of which I have so many fond memories. But I think I’d like to start with a video that will give you an understanding of what the city’s all about.

One of the reasons I left Richmond, though, was the feeling of non-movement I got from the city. It is very much a city whose inhabitants seem to get stuck in time, to stagnate in their mundane job/happy hour/lamenting about life cycle. Don’t get me wrong, Richmond is a great college town. There are a ton of hip cafés, bars, and hang out spots. There is an amazing park system, and Carytown offers a number of great shops, activities, and even a dollar theater (home to the largest French Film festival in the US)! But when you live in Richmond for a while, it’s hard to get over the feeling that you’ll never get out.

The other day, my feelings were proved legitimate by an article by The Atlantic : The 10 Fastest Growing (and fastest declining) Cities in the World. While it felt good to have my sentiments validated, I felt a pang of sadness to see Richmond listed as one of the 10 fastest declining cities in the world. There’s still that part of me that would love to see Richmond flourishing, to be drawn to return there, to relive the best of my college years in the city I loved. (I know, I know, this is starting to sound uber dramatic. Give me a sec to wax nostalgic. I promise things’ll get funny in a bit).

To be fair, I love visiting the place. I love lounging on the rocks at Belle Isle, and returning to our local haunts to indulge in $6 pitchers of PBR (with friends, of course), tots with hot sauce, and some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted.

When I arrived in September, my first stop was Chipotle. My friends and I used to go here often after class, and Richmond was the first place I ever really ate here…so it seemed appropriate as a first meal in the city.

Chipotle in Richmond, VAI snapped a photo and sent it to a few friends who weren’t in Richmond to make them jealous. It worked.

I spent the rest of the visit just hanging out. After so much constant travel, it was nice just to be with friends without much agenda for a few days before heading back to Columbia.

In October, I returned to RVA for UR’s Homecoming Football game. My friends Kim, James, Sung, Bailey and I took some lawn chairs, a cooler full of homemade salad and wraps Kim and I assembled the night before, drinks, and a beer coozie necklace (courtesy James) to tailgate before the game. Eventually, we decided we should get some tickets, so James ambled over to the ticket office and somehow commandeered some for free. Our tailgate was cut short by campus police kicking everyone out as the game started, so we moseyed over to the stadium and got settled in. A minute later James had produced a hipflask, and we were receiving glares from more prestigious alumni as we loudly discussed James’s new book/light idea and how to sell it on Etsy.

Later that evening, we headed to a pub called Patrick Henry’s. It’s in a basement off E. Broad St and is the kind of place that feels full with ten people in it, the bartender lets you choose the music off her iPod, and the instant you walk in, you feel like the other patrons are old friends of yours. We sat at the corner of the bar, ordered drinks, and chatted about the day.

An hour or so later, James was talking about the Clash with his new best friends, and the rest of us were taking bets on whether or not James would break his two-week no smoking record tonight (OK, maybe I was just taking bets in my head). All of a sudden this guy appeared at my shoulder, “I like your headband,” he intoned, in what I assume he assumed to be a suave manner.

“Uh, thanks,” I said, not sure where to go from there.

“I’ve just been staring at you across the bar for the last hour,” he continued, “I just think you are beautiful.” He smiled at me vacantly, “I’m Albert, by the way.”

“Oh, uh, thanks. Nice to meet you,” I said, looking around for a little help, “Have you met my friend James?” I motioned to James, who was singing a Clash song with his new buddy. He waved cheerily. I turned my back on the two and returned to chatting with Bailey.

But my admirer was not to be thwarted so easily. He made a snide comment about my iPhone, and ten minutes later we were in an argument about whether or not social media is good for society. Or rather, I was arguing. I’m pretty sure he thought he was flirting.

I argued that though social media can reduce personal interactions with people, it also greatly increases the number of relationships one can maintain. How else would you be able to find little Billy from 3rd grade 15 years later and then maintain a working relationship? Yes, I’m a little biased because I’ve worked in Social Media Marketing and am extremely “plugged in” as they say, but think of all the connections people couldn’t have made in any other way. When I moved to Montreal, I knew no one, but somehow I left feeling like I knew the whole city. How? Social Media.

Albert’s argument was that he’d rather meet people “organically”. He said that social media creates a false, half-assed relationship with someone that is little more than voyeuristic. “What happens when I graduate from VCU med school [he made sure to mention he was attending med school about 10 times throughout the course of the night] and get married and move to Chicago and never see any of my old friends again?” he asked.

“That’s what social media is for!” I protested, “So that you can more easily keep up with the friends you no longer live near, and if it so happens that someone you know has also moved to Chicago, you can look him up and see him in person!”

Albert continued down his contradictory path of confusion, “But see, I’d rather just run into that person at a bar or something than look them up on Facebook first.” I wanted to smack his smug, idiot grin from his face. There is very little I detest more in people than a condescending tone, and very little irks me more than a man patronizing me. Especially when he’s wrong.

I barred my teeth at Albert’s steepled fingers and practically spat into his face, “Chicago is a huge city. The chances of you just-” I made quotation marks with my fingers, “- running into a friend passing through the city are slim to none. Social media is an enabler. Yes, plenty of people use it to live vicariously through others, but when used properly, it can enhance your current relationships rather than deplete them.”

Somehow, despite my best efforts, Albert refused to acknowledge the soundness of my argument. But the bar was closing, and we were being shooed outside. James was still chatting with his new friend – who turned out to be Albert’s wing man – and was smoking a cigarette in front of the bar. He turned to me, “Hey, these guys-” he motioned to Albert and his friend, “-live a couple blocks from here and have invited us over for a bit. You coming?” I rolled my eyes and looked at Bailey. She shrugged. “Yeah, okay, whatever,” I said, following them down the street.

The evening finally ended with Albert telling me various times how attractive he found me and me telling him that “too bad you won’t ever see me again because you can’t friend me on Facebook [and I wasn’t about to give him my number].” Apparently Albert saw that as a challenge. The next day, I had received not one, but two emails from Albert to two different email addresses (neither of which I had given him) that read simply:

Hey,

I want to talk to you . . . sorry that I didn’t get your email.

Albert

There was also an attachment. Scanned in on VCU med school stationary, was a handwritten ‘poem’.

Instead of adding my own commentary to this poem, I’d like to share with you a friend’s reaction to the whole situation. Unfortunately, she has requested anonymity, so I can’t give credit where it’s due. But please, enjoy the following.

Thank you for forwarding this; it pretty much made my week.

The bad rhymes, the back-handed compliments, the misspelled and sometimes straight-up fabricated words, the MCV letterhead – it’s all perfection.  

Also, can we talk about the body of “Albert’s” e-mail?  Why the ellipsis? Why no mention of the poem attachment?

Good thing this guy’s a med student and not a poet or in grad school for creative writing.  Yikes.  Also, where is he getting his tips on picking up ladies?  Wearing ‘biz cas’ to a bar, having a noticeably more attractive wing man, using “I like your headband” as a pickup line…it was all so bad, and yet so right.  

Maybe James gave him your e-mail address to be a troublemaker.  Otherwise “Albert” did some serious google research.  Did you tell him how your name was spelled?  

Oh Hail Storm, you come to Richmond for a few days and leave behind a trail of broken med student hearts.  Argument for moving back to Richmond: readymade med student boyfriend with a first name from the 19th century.

New York City: A Park, A School, and Stackable Cars

DAY 1: Welcome to New-effing-York

After parking in White Plains, I headed over to the train station that was connected to my parking deck. I was only able to pay to leave my car for 24 hours, but I noticed they had a call-and-pay system, so I could pay again from my cell without leaving NYC. Good news, since I planned to stay in the city a few days. Just as a side note to anyone who decides to park their car for a few days in White Plains – the deck I left my car in was only universally available after 10am on Friday through 5pm on Sunday (or a similar weekends-only schedule). So don’t go parking your car there during the week.

Grand Central Station New York, New York

The I'm-doing-the-weather-green ceiling in Grand Central Station threw me off a bit too

I waited an hour for the train, jumped on when it arrived, and rode the rickety thing 30 minutes to Grand Central, where I transferred to another line and met my friend Evan. The transferring was pretty easy. If you’ve ever used a subway system consistently before, you shouldn’t have any problem.

I dropped my stuff off and we headed downtown to check out all the happenin places (i.e. the Mac store on 5th ave where Evan works as well as Dubspot, the music production school he attends). The school, located in New York’s meat-packing district, had just opened some new labs and built them around an ultra-modern style mixed with beautiful exposed brick walls. I also noticed a number of African tribal masks lining the walls.

Dubspot Expansion Labs

Dubspot Music School (not the best pic, but you get the idea)

After checking out the school, we made our way to the Chelsea Market, and admired some of the cute shops and restaurants there. Ended up getting side-tracked by cool books (typical) in Posman Books, and spent a good half hour there before moving on.

Chelsea Market in NY, NY

After the market, we walked over to the High Line Park and walked along the bridge. The bridge was built in the 1930s “as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district” (High Line Website). There haven’t been any trains running on the bridge since the 1980s, and in the early 2000s, the High Line was transformed into a beautiful park stretching from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

Cool Windows in High Line Bridge in New York, New York

It was fashion week in New York, and there seemed to be some kind of photoshoot going on on the bridge and around it. I actually almost walked right into it – and the security guy wasn’t going to stop me! Evan had to tell me I was going the wrong way before I turned around. Guess it just goes to show that if you walk like you know where you’re going, few people will question you.

Fashion Week Photoshoot From High Line Bridge in New York City

Strangely, there was a plant in all of the planters on the bridge that smelled overwhelmingly like cilantro. But it definitely didn’t look like cilantro. For those of you who don’t know, cilantro is my one and only food allergy. Weird, huh? I tolerated the smell as long as possible, but we left the bridge sooner than intended (but not before snapping some cool shots of local architecture and signs!).

Melting Architecture in New York, New York

Garden Terraces in Apartment Building in New York, New York

Bicycle Sign in New York, New York

The spot where we got off the High Line Bridge was right next to a bizarre site. It was the strangest parking deck I have ever seen. Take a look.

Car Shelves in New York, New York

Umm, yes, those are cars stacked on top of each other. And they are not in line to be impounded or on a truck being shipped from one state to another. These are literally electronic car shelves, and they remind me of the system in the home of Pixar’s robot Wall-E (if you haven’t seen that movie, don’t worry about it. It’s not really that great). Regardless of how difficult it is to find a parking spot in NYC, I’m surprised by how many Beamers I see in this shelving unit. Although I suppose it pretty much guarantees your car won’t be broken into.

Empire State Building Sign in NY, NY

Looking at this plaque makes me think of Steampunk since it has been so popular on Etsy lately.

We wandered around a bit more then grabbed dinner and decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building (“Don’t go to any high-risk areas this weekend since it’s September 11th,” Evan’s dad had told him. Clearly we took that advice seriously).

It was dark out by the time we got to the top of the building, so we had some beautiful views of the city. There was even a saxophonist playing! Unfortunately, it did cost a good bit to climb the tower – $20 or so. But there were some perks to going in the evening. It wasn’t crowded so we didn’t have to wait in line very long. It was sweet passing through all those ropes that had been set up in case the line got extra long, like we had a fast pass. Also, the nighttime view is incredible. The wall surrounding the lookout is high enough that you can rest your camera on it like a tripod and get some pretty sick photos. Here are a couple of mine.

Nighttime View of the Hudson from Empire State Building in NY, NY

Nighttime View from Empire State Building in NY, NY

Next, free yoga in the city and my brother-in-law’s MLS game.

Hartford, Connecticut: Elizabeth Park, oldest rose garden in US

On my way down the coastline, I decided to make a stop in Connecticut somewhere because it was the only remaining state in the Northeast that I had not visited. Of course, I didn’t research very much ahead of time and while I was in Portland waiting on a response from my host in Boston, I researched places to stay in Connecticut. And wouldn’t you believe it, there are no hostels to speak of in the entire tiny state! Also, the majority of the Airbnb rooms on the coast were out of my price range or poorly located. So by default I ended up in Hartford.

It ended up being a good choice, though, as I discovered later that there were a number of old, beautiful gardens and parks surrounding the city (who knew?). Since I spent a while in Rhode Island, I arrived in Hartford a little after dark and decided to stay in for the night. The next day I headed to Elizabeth Park, the oldest (and one of the largest) municipal rose garden in the country. Check out my pictures below. (Keep in mind that it was mid-September and had been raining all week, so just imagine how the garden must look in the summertime!)

Afterwards, I wasn’t feeling too great so I skipped the other parks on my list and headed to White Plains, NY where I parked my car and hopped a train to NYC.

Providence, RI: Artsy Fartsy New England

Capitol Building, Providence, RI

Have you ever been to Providence? If not, you should plan a trip there, now. This is one of the most unique, quaint little towns I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Unfortunately, I only had about 2 hours in the rain there and my camera battery died after only an hour or so. But I still managed to get a few pretty sweet pictures.

Quaint Square in Providence, RI

The town seems like a cross between New England Port town, Portland, ME and artsy-fartsy Asheville, NC. With its quaint, beautiful New England architecture and carefully-planned squares, as well as its narrow streets, Providence reminds me of a magnified version of Boston’s Little Italy (minus the good planning).

Mural in Providence, RI

At first glance, Providence seems like your typical homogenous New England town. But after wandering around for an hour or so, I began to notice little artsy stores and cafés run by people with tattoos and alternative styles of dress. I spotted murals like the one above scattered around the city, their designs far from the pleasant unassuming murals of many NE towns.

Flags in Providence, RI

Later, I mentioned my observations of Providence to a friend, “Well, I guess that makes sense what with the Rhode Island School of Design located there and all…” Huh, right. Then I remembered that Brown is also located in Providence – arguably the Ivy League with the most alternative methods of education.

Pretty Square in Providence, RI

Thinking about it now, it actually makes a ton of sense that Rhode Island would be a more liberal/free-thinking state. It was, after all, the first state to truly embrace the concept of religious freedom.

Small Point Café in Providence, RI

After wandering a while, I ducked into a coffee shop called Small Point Café, ordered a latte and set up my laptop. Later, I headed to the bathroom before leaving and was surprised by the artwork that greeted me.

Bathroom Creatures in Small Point Café in Providence, RIBathroom Creatures in Small Point Café in Providence, RI

Bathroom Creatures! How cool! There were about 6 of them scattered around the bathroom, each with a unique space-robot look to it. At this point my camera had died, so I had to bust out my cell phone because these guys just could not go undocumented!

Bathroom Creatures in Small Point Café in Providence, RIBathroom Creatures in Small Point Café in Providence, RI

After only a couple hours in this cool little city, I unfortunately had to continue my journey – staying in Hartford next! Can’t wait to make plans to actually stay in Providence sometime!

Park in Providence, RI

Boston, MA: Following the Freedom Trail

First, some updates

OK, yeah, you caught me, it’s been a week and a half since I last posted. Well, I have been busy…painting walls, and…horseback riding, and…going to the beach, and…accidentally insulting people on facebook. That last one may be a lie (give or take a word or two). In any case, I have returned to South Carolina to resume my rather busy boring life. The one useful thing I have done is sign up for the GRE and start collecting words off my study cards for a romance novel that I shall inevitably write when I am old and gray and on welfare (if I’m lucky). My favorites so far are: prowess, impetuous, inveigle, raffish, imbroglio, and lubricious.

Oh yeah, I’ve also completed a prototype of the yoga mat bags that I would like to sell. BUT you shall receive updates on all of this at a later date (hopefully in the near future…pending my ability to get my butt in gear).

Now, back to THE FREEDOM TRAIL

On day two in Boston I find myself downtown wandering aimlessly. Somewhere around Park and Beacon streets I notice something strange: a thick red line that has been painted onto the sidewalk. My first thought is, “Where’s the construction?” But to my surprise, I spot not a single orange cone (clearly I’m not in Montreal anymore), and the red line continues beyond my view. Here I am with no idea what to do in a big city, and then there’s this thick red line. Clearly a sign from God. So I follow it.

The Freedom Trail Boston, MA

After about five placards that have “The Freedom Trail” engraved on them, the line becomes inlaid brick in the sidewalk – fancy schmancy – and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am currently following said Freedom Trail. I’m feeling triumphant, of course; finally, following a random red line on the ground has led me somewhere that’s not sketchy (unless you count the Charlestown Navy Yard).

Along the way, I stop at King’s Chapel (built for the King’s men who occupied Boston to enforce British law) Inside King's Chapel in Boston, MAand Burying Ground whose most famous grave is that of Joseph Tapping, a Boston shopkeeper who died at age 23. The grave is known for its “elaborate carvings depicting a skeleton and Father Time battling over the eventuality of death” (Freedom Trail Guide).Joseph Tapping's Grave in King's Chapel Burial Ground in Boston

I also stop at the original location of the Boston Latin School (America’s oldest public school that has been torn down and moved elsewhere), try to find the Old Corner Bookstore but get sidetracked by the Borders closeout sale down the street, leave an hour later with two new books for $6 total, and meet back up on the Freedom Trail at the Old State House.

It has begun to rain. Luckily, I have my pocket-sized umbrella tucked away in my backpack. Unluckily, it is about the size of a hat. But I am not to be thwarted. I duck inside the Old State House, which has been turned into a museum. There were some neat exhibits in the museum:
• interactive maps with buttons that lit up different important buildings
•an audible interpretation of what happened at the Boston Massacre and subsequent trial of Captain Thomas Preston
•the supposed cane that SC senator Preston Brooks beat MA senator Charles Sumner with (I don’t know why our state has such a bad rap!)Charles Sumner Preston Brooks Cane used in Caning

After checking out the museum, I brave the rain once again and follow the Trail past Faneuil Hall (closed for repairs),Faneuil Hall Boston, MA the North and Quincy Markets, through Little ItalyLittle Italy Boston, MA

Little Italy Boston, MAand to Paul Revere’s House. I wonder if he’s expecting me.

Paul Revere Statue Boston, MA

It's hard to tell if he's going to high-five or back-hand you...

Then I pass some cute pubs and taverns,Pubs and Taverns in Boston, MA pop in the Old North Church (which looks exactly like the King’s Chapel on the inside) and head toward the Charlestown Bridge in the rain.

Charlestown Plaque

Cute Charlestown New England Houses

Not wanting to miss out, I head to Bunker Hill first,Bunker Hill Monument Charlestown, MA then make my way over to the Charlestown Navy Yard to see the USS Constitution.Charlestown Marina The museum there is unfortunately closed because I spent too long in Borders. Oh well. Onward with my next quest: locating a bathroom.

That night I grab a beer with my friend Kelly then head back to my hostel (Revere Beach host had only one night available). I ended up staying at a place called The Farrington. It was nice, in a very musty, no-wifi-unless-you’re-within-ten-feet-of-the-office kind of way. My room was clean and it had a lock on it. Surprisingly, I even got a double bed and had only two roommates. The common area was large and the kitchen was nice and usable. I’d recommend it if you’re not planning to be there all day (which I wasn’t, so it worked out). Their check-in/check-out system was a little weird, but they did have parking for an extra $5 – a small price to pay to keep your car in a private lot tucked away from harm (especially when you’re hauling your entire life in said car). I was told the place can get pretty rowdy on a weekend, but I was there in the middle of the week so didn’t get to witness that phenomenon (whew).

The next day, I head back downtown to grab lunch with a friend. Let’s not talk about how lost I got trying to navigate the highway system in Boston. I’m pretty sure my GPS would have been cursing me out if it could say things other than its programming; that or it was intentionally shouting EXIT NOW at the last minute to get back at me for leaving it in the glove box with a pine-scented cushion I bought in Vermont (all my electronics smell like Christmas now).

Portland, Maine: I’m on a boat

After another long day in Quebec City, Kim and I jumped in the car and drove 6 hours to Portland, Maine. Our original plan had been to stop by Bangor, ME to see Stephen King’s house, but we ended up driving through a little late and didn’t have the time to stop. We did, however, see a moose. And it wasn’t just chillin like moose do, eating a branch or something, it was galloping alongside the highway – no joke. The customs guard told us that it’s their mating season, “The moose have been going craaaazy lately!” He said, “they’ve just been runnin all over the highway, so make sure you keep an eye out!” For some reason, he was amazed we’d seen one in Canada, despite all the moose crossing signs, “Yeah, I only ever see ‘em in Maine! Never hearda somebody catchin site of ‘em cross the border.” Maybe it’s because you never cross the border, I thought.

Econolodge in New Brunswick, Maine

We arrived a little past ten at our comfy Econolodge one town over (we quickly found that it’s not easy to make last minute reservations in a vacation town over labor day weekend), spent the night and headed into Portland the next day.

We decided to take a cruise on a sailboat at 1pm with Portland Schooner Company and headed down to find some Maine lobster before getting on the boat. The cruise suggested we bring a picnic or bottle of wine to enjoy on board, so we stepped in the wine shop across the street from the pier. On our way out, we asked the cashier where the best place to get lobster was. “You see that guy dressed up in a lobster suit across the street?” We nodded. “You should go to his place.”Three Sons Lobster in Lobster Suit Portland Maine

“His place”, Three Sons Lobster and Fish, was a dingy, dirty looking place with a few inches of water gathered on the cement floor. It wasn’t a restaurant, it looked more like a mini fish warehouse that sold whole, live lobsters, and frozen lobster tails by the pound. Three Sons Lobster and Fish in Portland, MaineIt looked like a cool local place, but not exactly a sit-down restaurant, so Kim and I moved on. After another swing and a miss, we ended up at this little place called J’s Oyster. J's Oyster in Portland, MaineIt was exactly what we were looking for. We just barely beat the lunch crowd and ordered, were served, ate, paid and left in less than 45 minutes. Definitely try the lobster roll.

Windameer with Portland Schooner CompanyWe made it to our cruise with time to spare, and waited around until the launch. Finally, we got on the sailboat and were off! The crew found some adorable little kids to help them hoist the sails, and then wandered around talking to people the rest of the time. Kim and I pulled out our bottle of wine and I went in search of a wine key. Turns out there was no bottle opener to speak of on board (either that or the crewman I spoke to didn’t feel like going through everything to find one). That was a bit disappointing, since they had advertised on their site and brochure to bring wine or beer. The group next to us had the same problem.

Our inability to partake of our wine did not prevent us from enjoying the scenic views, however. It was so calming to be on a sailboat cruising around the beautiful bay for two hours. It wasn’t exactly a historical tour – there wasn’t a tour guide or somebody dressed like a pirate, but it was exactly what we wanted that day – relaxation and some pretty things to look at. That’s what vacation should be, right?

Scenic Views on a sailboat in Portland, Maine

After the cruise, I drove Kim to the airport, and she went home. Then I headed back to the Econolodge where I had left my camera charger. On my way back to Portland from Brunswick, I stopped on a whim at this cute little diner called the New Brunswick Dinerand had dinner there.

Historic Brunswick Diner in Maine

Photo Cred: Spoon & Shutter

I ordered the Lobster roll – which is apparently what they’re famous for – and it was delicious! I asked for some cocktail sauce on the side for my french fries and the waitress scolded me, thinking I was going to put it on the sandwich, “And what exactly are you going to put the sauce on?” she demanded. “The fries!” I squeaked, a little intimidated. “Well OK then,” she said, and brought me the sauce. In the end, I did sneak a little onto my sandwich when she wasn’t looking.

Eventually, I made it to my airbnb hosts’ house in Portland and spent the evening doing a (much needed) load of laundry. In the morning, one of my hosts, Martha, made incredible scones with blueberries and yogurt for breakfast. As it turns out, she is a fiber artist, and she gladly answered my questions about her work, even going so far as to demonstrate how to use a spinning wheel!

Streets in Portland, Maine

After completely repacking my car in Martha & Joe’s driveway, I headed back downtown to explore, then took off to Boston, my next destination.

Streets in Portland, ME