Smashed Pennies

You've all seen them around. They are at just about every hardcore tourist place you can think of: Disneyland, the Space Needle, Maryland rest areas. Penny smashing machines are practically ubiquitous these days, but also offer a great, cheap way of tellin' 'em where you been.

I really like having a mission when I am traveling, something to aim for when I am out meandering so I can objectively say that I had a successful day. Finding penny smashers in the various places I go has become that mission for me. In some places, it is all too easy*. Other places, it is quite a task*.

What do I do with my wallet full of smashed pennies when I get home? Just like any good souvenir, I pass them off to an unsuspecting family member. Jule's collection is actually pretty impressive. Perhaps I'll frame it all up as a photo shoot one day. Until then, I'm off to go find more penny smashers.
Friday November 12 2010File under: misc

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Quote For Monday - Yum


One of the great things about traveling is the access to (and an excuse to eat) great food. On this trip, I've been in some of the best cities for food. I've eaten sushi in San Francisco, Korean food in Toronto, poutine in Montreal, possibly the fanciest meal of my life at a Jean George* NYC hotspot, real Southern food in D.C., and, of course, ice cream all over.

Experiencing (and greatly enjoying) all this great food doesn't need to be only for vacations. So I post this quote as a reminder to myself to eat well whenever I can because food is one of life's greatest pleasures.
Sunday November 7 2010File under: quote, food

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Me in Front of NYC Stuff


I'll admit I have a nasty habit of always mucking up an otherwise good view when it comes to picture taking. But what other way can I prove I've been somewhere? So here's me in front of a bunch of stuff in New York City.

Friday November 5 2010File under: travel, USA

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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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Rally to Restore Sanity

What happens when you gather a lot* of people together in a small space to rally for the cause of sanity? Well, it gets a little insane, but in a good way.

Today, I attended John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington D.C. Let me tell you, it was an experience. Here's my bulleted pointed review.
  • The crowds - we are talking a lot of people. When leaving the mall, we pretty much claimed the streets of downtown D.C. as our own, because there was no way the sidewalks were going to contain us
  • The energy - sane people from all over gathered to enjoy being sane together*. Goofiness with a good dash of passion and purpose is the best I can describe it
  • The special guests - Kareem Abdul Jabar, Yusef Islam*, Ozzy Osborne, Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow, Sam Waterstien, Father Guido Sarducci, the Mythbuster guys* , and more
  • The message - mostly over the top parody (very funny) but ending on a heart-felt serious note of really working together, approaching politics more level-headedly, and tuning out fear-mongering mass media
  • The music - besides those listed above, there were a bunch of famous people that I didn't recognize because they are from a different era, but my cultural translator Saxtor filled me in on the importance
  • The witty signs - Make English (muffins) law, Frustrated Arizonans Rejecting TEA, Give Quiche a Chance, [citation needed], You may have a good point but all this yelling makes it hard to understand, BIG SING IN ALL CAPS, Down with toilet seats, ALL CAPITAL LETTERS MEANS I'M SERIOUS, I support this sign, and so many more. Sign spotting was almost the highlight of the day
Although we pretty much watched the whole event via huge t.v. screens set about the lawn because of the immense size of the crowd, just being there to support the cause, feel the energy, and, well, say I was there made the day a great experience, one like I doubt I'll ever experience again. After all, how often in one's life does one get to gather with 150,000+ people on a beautiful day in a beautiful place and have a bunch of fun?
Saturday October 30 2010File under: misc

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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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