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No snowflake is the same…

January 8, 2010 1 comment

Categories: About Me, Travel Tags:

Huh?

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Ladies and gentlemen… fresh from the honeymoon island of Jeju, South Korea… I present to you… RAPE HONEY!

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Half Smoke

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Every great city needs its signature eatery.  This should be a place that takes all comers, including the tourists – on whose to-do lists it firmly rests.  It should be greasy, cheap, and preferably have a link to the city’s history.  In short, this restaurant should be a physical summation of what the city is all about.  New York has Gray’s Papaya, Philly has Frank’s Cheesesteaks, and Washington D.C. has Ben’s Chilli Bowl.  That it took me 24 years to be amongst its peeling walls is truly embarrassing.

Ben’s is significant on many fronts – it served as a safe-haven during the ’68 riots, it was the first D.C. establishment visited by a freshly-minted President Obama – but mostly so for what it represents.  Nobody has profited from Ben’s sizable reputation in a way that’s out of step with its essence.  Thus, you won’t find an outpost amongst the polished pillars of the downtown/mall area.  You won’t see Ben’s Chilli Bowl t-shirts being hawked at regional highway rest stops.  It’s not marketing ploy.  It’s just a restaurant where people go to get half smokes (half beef/half sausage link in a bun, most likely smothered in homemade chili and onions) and take in the ambience of the city that birthed it.  Furthermore, Ben’s remains a black establishment.  Sure, we’re all welcome there, but while its quickly-gentrifying U-st neighborhood becomes devoid of color, Ben’s stands proudly as a reminder of what once was.  For better or worse, Ben’s has not seeped beyond the seams of what it is at its core: a humble, neighborhood greasy spoon that has lined the stomachs of Washingtonians, poor and rich alike, free of vanity or pretense for the better part of two generations.

Like most cities, D.C. is beginning to disappear under a thick sludge of classless, race-less, corporate cafeterias – whose only defining characteristic may be as basic as the gaudy, cartoonish sign that rests above the entrance.  Joints like Ben’s are in the fight of their lives.  And as buyouts from Coke and McDonalds become more and more appealing in these trying times, original taste-makers are becoming fewer and far between.  Indeed, my generation stands at the cusp of what could become the great suburbanization of independent gastronomic destinations.  But like all generations at the outset of a potential massacre, we are all now in a position to fight.

Remember, the Chipotle on Beacon Hill is no different than the Chipotle next to Wrigley Field.  We must not forget that a dollar spent at the independent haunt, is a dollar donated to the overall identity of that city.  We may not be able to bring down the giants of corporate America, but we most certainly can keep our mom and pop’s around to remind them of how it’s done.

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Washington D.C.

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

dc

Washington D.C. is a cool place, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.  It is a place filled with interesting, smart, and generally friendly people.  There may not be the thriving art scene of, say, New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, but come on, there’s only 800,000 people!  Furthermore, there’s an implicit trade off to be made when comparing DC to large cities such as the three above.  They are just that – large, both in size and stature.  DC has small buildings – maybe only 5 or 6 stories – many of which are old.  Thus, as a city, it has a very lived-in, cozy feel.  It’s an attractive city, with an attractive subway system, and, dare I say, attractive people.  Of course, you really have to get away from ‘The Mall’ and all the known and discovered DC to really know what I’m talking about.  But the great part is, that’s not really hard to do.  Just get off at the right Metro stop and spend 40 minutes walking around.  No neighborhood in the city is so big that you can’t get a feel for it in an hour, at most.  Some would say that’s confining, but I don’t think so.  It’s true that the city won’t give you the urban rush that the big boys will, .  Few people know, though they assume – in my opinion – that DC is like a little brother, thirsting to catch up.  It’s not.  It’s a city completely at home with its being, and in that, I find it to be a very comfortable place to be.  Here’s my message: to anyone who visited the city on a school trip in elementary school… come back.  Let me show you the more humble, better parts of the city.  To this day, I’ve never escorted an out-of-towner through DC that left unimpressed.  We’ll drive by the White House and all that, sure, but then we’ll head up to Dupont and some unrivaled people watching.  Or we could shoot over to Georgetown get some shopping done, and maybe walk along the canal.  Or perhaps we could walk down embassy row and bump into some diplomats.  Or maybe bump around Chinatown and grab some lo mein.  There’s always the option of hitting up Ben’s Chilli Bowl where we could happen upon Bill Cosby, who would of course be eating for free.  Whatever the case, we would have to end our day in Adams Morgan, where hopefully we’d be eating a slice of pizza bigger than our heads.  I’ve probably left out some great adventures as well.  In any case, if all else fails and you’re really bored, there’s always Baltimore just up 95, where you could easily stave yourself over with famous Maryland crabcakes and crack cocaine…

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Vietnam – Saigon, Nha Trang, Hanoi

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

At the very tail end of my time in Korea, I took a fantastic, life-altering trip to Vietnam.  Let me first say that South East Asia is THE place you want to be as a young person and a traveller.  It’s exciting, it’s cheap, the people are friendly, the food is unbeatable… just go there.

Anyway, Vietnam won me over and then some.  I’ve never been in a place that made me so excited to wake up in the morning.  Every morning I felt as if I stood on the border of a day that could have very well changed the way I felt about people, the world, food, and even myself.  It was a heady feeling to say the least.  Ironically – considering its checkered history as a tourist destination – I found Vietnam to be an incredibly romantic place.  I felt as if I was a character in some novel by an author with a really exotic name, and that’s not my imagination speaking.  Vietnam is just inspirational like that.

Obviously these pictures will not do it justice, none really could.  Regardless, here’s a bit of this marvelous country through my lens…

Read more…

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