New York City Subway

Each time I ride the New York subway, I gain a little more respect for this vast vast system. At first, the grittiness and intimidatingly large stations and maps had me put off. But that grittiness and complexity are so very representational of the city that lies directly above it. And just as getting to know the city leads to more comfort with being in it, so it goes with the subway. You quickly learn that if you miss your initial transfer station, there's another route to get where you're going. You learn what time of day which trains will be packed and running behind and know which ones to take instead. You learn the pre-walk, positioning yourself in the correct car so as to most easily access the exit at your final station.

For being such a vast system, it strikes me by how inexpensive it is. It's a one-far system, rather than tiered by distance (like D.C. or Tokyo). Just $2.25 gets you underground or there are all sorts of passes and extra deals for multi-riders. If you had just a day in NYC and only $2.25 to spend, seeing the city's underground might not be a bad option.

Of how many cities can one say that every one of its residents has a shared bit of culture? In New York, people don't not use the subway. It's not really an option. That culture—knowledge, etiquette, opinions—creates a bond between New Yorkers, one that I can't say I've seen in cities like Seattle or Denver. This wide usage also makes for trains full of everyone imaginable, from $900 suits to children in soccer outfits, the nanny with a double stroller to the guy just looking for a warm place to sleep.

I could go on and on about the variation in the modernity from one line to the next, the lonely one-line station vs. the mega transfer ones, the lore associated with the A-train for example, or anecdotes about the random people I see down there, but the only way to really understand is to get to know it yourself. A city's public transit says a lot about the city itself, and it is one of my favorite ways to get to know it.
Tuesday November 2 2010File under: travel, transportation

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Thoughts on Pay Phones

As most of you know, I'm one of those stubborn holdouts that refuses to get a cell-phone*. This makes for some tricky planning in today's "I'll call you with the details 15 minutes beforehand" social culture, esp. when travelling. Because of this, I find myself using pay phones now and again, enough to start to notice a few things.

For one, finding a pay phone is hard. There are occasions where I've spent almost half an hour looking for the nearest pay phone. And presumably because of the reduced use, many of them are in disrepair. So even if you find one, there's no guarantee that it will work.

Secondly, you probably didn't notice, but the price of pay phones is no longer a quarter. Occasionally you see a $.35 one, but most of the pay phones these days are $.50 for local calls. Long distance, of course, is much higher. (And long distance is usually what I need because a person's phone number no longer relates to where they are, what with cellphones, etc.)

Pleasantly, though, I've found New York City to buck both of these trends. Public phones are plentiful and [mostly] functional and, to my utter surprise, only a quarter for local calls. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, who would have thought pay phones would be so cheap. As silly as this sounds, this little fact boosts my opinion of NY more than I should probably admit.     I <3 NY (pay phones!)
Friday October 29 2010File under: travel, USA

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Autumn in New York

If I was to ever write a list of 1001 things that someone should do or see before they die, one of the first things I would add is Autumn leaves in someplace like New England. In its peak and the right place, you are just surrounded by the beautiful colors. It's not often that I have this feeling of being so engulfed by such an incredible phenomenon.

Luckily, this trip has taken me exactly along the path of the changing season, it seems. It was in the parks and along the streets of Toronto. The drive from Toronto to Montreal was possibly the most epic I've ever seen...until the drive from Montreal to NYC. Now, as I meander around Manhattan and Brooklyn, while peak leaf-peeping has come and gone, there are still some truly awe-inspiring vistas.

Wednesday October 27 2010File under: travel, USA

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Flying Karamazov Brothers in NYC

Being in New York means seeing a show, right? Actually, let me rephrase that: being in New York means seeing a show.* And while I would go see the Flying Karamazov Brothers any time I could, seeing them on stage in New York was really a treat. To further sweeten the treat, I got to hang out with the gang before the show, watch them warm up, and even toss a few clubs around with them, all a real treat for a geek juggler like myself.

The new show at the Minetta Lane Theatre, which used to be called 4-Play but is now just called Flying Karamazov Brothers, was great. Lots of music, juggling, juggling while playing music, playing music through juggling, and some unexpected hilarious comedy. It's my hope that the show catches on and gets big not only so the group flourishes, but because the more people that see this hilarity the better. To that end, go see the show! It's reasonably priced, a totally great experience, and unlike anything else you'll see here in New York.

Also, it is worth pointing out that Steve and Amiel, who stood in for some travelling members of the group, did a spectacular job on stage. So not only did I get to see a great show, hang with the gang, and be inspired by some creative juggling, I got to see 2 friends hit the big time! Chalk one up for New York!
Sunday October 24 2010File under: juggling, travel

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Canadian Crosswalk Guy

Canada and the U.S. are pretty much the same, right? Well, there's that whole health care thing, and everything having to be written in both English and French, and the foreign policy thing, and well, almost everything governmental. But when it comes to actually being there, the similarities outweigh the difference.

Perhaps it is because of this that I find such incredible humor in a tiny little difference between the U.S. and Canada. I giggle every time I see the Canadian crosswalk guy. He just looks so awkward to me. When I try to explain to Canadians that never in a person's stride are both of their legs totally straight, they don't get it at all. Many U.S.-ians* don't either.

I guess it will have to remain my own little joke and will probably continue snapping pictures of the little guy whenever he really speaks to me...which is almost always.
Thursday October 21 2010File under: travel, Canada

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Careers 101 by Yours Truly

You never know what a day on the road will hold. Just last Friday, in Toronto, I got the chance to talk to a high school Careers class about my "career". Ha!

While I tried my best to tie stories about traveling, circusing, housesitting, etc. back to applicable information, making smart choices, and other "teachable" topics, after the kids warmed up to me, it turned into more of a Q&A with perhaps somewhat of a less teachable feel. I mean, the story of pooping in a cup in Guatemala can't have too much value in a Careers class, but it is a pretty good story.

Then, of course, it degenerated into a juggling demonstration. It's hard for me to say no to the request for a personal juggling show. The kids seemed to enjoy my impromptu mishmash of juggling tricks, although less so with the rope tricks. Oh well. Anyhoo, here's a brief clip of me throwing some balls up in the air. Hope you like it. (And if you want to book me to speak at your school, I come cheap!)


Sunday October 17 2010File under: travel, juggling

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Musee Mecanique

On a post long, long ago, former* BdW reader Jenelle suggested that if i was ever in San Francisco, I should check out the Musee Mecanique. Well, since I found myself in SF with lots of time to kill, I did just that and boy was I glad I did.

Imagine a room chocked full of row after row of old-timey arcade machines. Love testers, strength testers, laughing creepy dolls, elaborate scenes where everything moves when you drop in your quarter, player pianos, mechanical games, stereographic slideshows, and on and on. There are a few nods to modernity, like some classic video games*, skee ball, air hockey, penny smashers galore, and one "game" where you grab onto these two metal posts and it progressively shocks you more and more until you let go. The more shock you can stand, the more points you get. Oy.

Located at Fisherman's Wharf, the Musee Mecanique is quite a treat. Admission is free, with the only money you spend being on playing the various games and novelties. The attendant, at least when I was there, cruised around on roller skates and was glad to show off his skillz at the various obscure games.
Tuesday October 12 2010File under: travel

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I Heart Craigslist Rideshare

I, for one, love craigslist rideshare. While it isn't always the most convienent way to travel, necessarily the most comfortable, or the surest travel bet in the book, the environmental perks, the cost savings, and the interesting people I meet make it my #1 choice for flexible travel.

To those of you who haven't experienced a ride via craigslist before, let me share a few tidbits fro my most recent ride. I caught a ride from Portland to Sacramento. While the train ride would have been 18 hours and $100, it only took us 9 hours and I paid $35. Not bad. The best party, however, was the peolple. Folks who are inclined to take a chance on a stranger are typically more interesting than most. In our [2-door honda civic], I met 3 good, interesting people; a hiker just coming off 4.5 months on the trail*, a world traveler who, conveniently, recently traveled to my next hopeful destination, and a no-traditional-job/lifestyle-for-me-thank-you-very-much free spirit. The great conversations made the miles just fly by.

The catch of the whole thing, however, is that I wasn't going to Sacramento. I had to cobble together transport from Sacramento into the Bay area, a task more expensive and difficult than you might think. But thanks to a couple helpful good people, I made it in time for juggle club at the Vulcan.

All in all, chalk it up as another positive craigslist rideshare experience!
Saturday October 9 2010File under: travel, transportation

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Sleeping Around 2009-2010

Of all the various projects I have going on here on this blog, the Sleeping Around schedule is by far my favorite. Essentially, it is a graphical and statistical look at where I sleep*. Last year about this time, I posted about it, and being that I've just completed my second year of record keeping, I thought I would do a little summary post about this year's sleeping around.

Overall stats
Nights spent at home:79 (21.6%)
Nights spent housesitting:122 (33.4%)
Nights spent travelling:164 (45%)
Travel Breakdown
In-state travel:50 (30%)
Domestic travel:83 (50%)
International travel:31 (19%)

Other stats worth noting: I slept in a tent or under the stars* 39 nights—that's over a month! Also over a month (34 nights) in hotels/hostels. I spent almost a month's worth of nights (24) sleeping in cars, trains, or planes (but mostly cars, for that stat).

Being able to look back on a year to see where I've been and get a clearer picture of how I've spent my time is so interesting and beneficial. I'm so glad I started the habit of keeping track. I hope I keep it up (and that it stays as interesting and diverse) for years to come.
Wednesday August 4 2010File under: stats, travel

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Tuesday Thoughts on Happiness

Happiness is...
     :-) Last minute, on a whim travel
     :-) Free airport WiFi
     :-) Fancy breakfast in bed
     :-) Unexpected gems that I would never find in a travel guide
     :-) Candy
     :-) Good friends
     :-) Seeing something I've always heard about.
     :-) Being reminded that we had the right idea long long ago
     :-) All around us
Tuesday July 27 2010File under: travel, misc

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