Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

New York City

Monday, May 9th, 2011

New York Downtown

Just a little glimpse of a story I’ll tell ’bout an East Coast city that you all know well…

At the end of April, Apryl and I took a trip to New York. We had actually planned the trip a few months back, but then this happened. Actually, it worked out better this way. The weather was far superior, making it more enjoyable getting around.

Hotel Indigo

We checked into the Hotel Indigo, which was nicely located in Chelsea near the Fashion Institute of Technology. Unfortunately, Apryl had to finish up some work when we first arrived, but it did give me some time to wander around the neighborhood.

I was fascinated by the parking lots in the area. Check out this lot below:

NY Parking Lot

I decided on a destination of a record store in the Flatiron District, which gave me plenty of sight-seeing opportunities like running into the district’s namesake.

Flatiron Building

After shopping, I randomly picked a route back to the hotel, and ended up walking right pass the infamous Chelsea Hotel, primarily known to me by the Leonard Cohen tune and the Warhol flick. There was a film crew on site, shinning a light down a stairway that led to the basement.

Hotel Chelsea

As soon as I passed the hotel, I walked right by Clearview Cinema where the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival was taking place. I actually worked on a film that debuted at the festival in 2007.

On the way back, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of these New Yorkers checking out apartment complexes for rent. The average price for a small, one bedroom unit was $2,500 – $3,000 a month. But then again, I suppose it’s all relative.

NY Apt Searching

That night, while Apryl and I were walking to dinner, we passed that same parking lot I mentioned earlier. Only this time, it looked like this:

NY Empty Parking Lot

After dinner, we walked up 8th Ave (pass Madison Square Garden) to Times Square. I had seen Times Square last year on a shoot, but it was during the day, which is like not seeing it at all. Here we are taking in the view:

Apryl Times Square

Hayden Times Square

I couldn’t get over how many taxi cabs were congregated in one place. I really got a kick out of seeing how many cabs could drive one after the other before a non cab got through.

And then there was also this:

Viewing Party

The next morning, I had my favorite breakfast of the trip, an everything bagel with lox spread from the Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company. Yummy!

Bagel

After breakfast, we made our way on the subway headed to Central Park. As soon as we got out of the tunnel, it started pouring rain. We waited for the rain to subside before entering the park. Here are just a few photos of the park:

Park and Buildings

Park Walkway

Alice

(I remember this sculpture because of this image.)

Before we could make much headway into the over 800 acres that make up Central Park, it started to rain hard again, and we retreated into the dry, Metropolitan Museum of Art:

AprylTheMet

We spent a good three hours at The Met, and yet still only scratched the surface of what it had to offer. A few photos from the exhibits:

Wall Art

WarholTheMet

Study

(This study of Sunday at La Grande Jatte is a bit smaller than the original found at the AIC.)

The Met Kid

After hours on our feet walking around, we started to feel like the kid in the photo above. Where or where could we rest our bones? A ballpark, perhaps?

Hey, it was my birthday. And the White Sox were in town playing the Yankees. Actually, we had this event planned for quite some time. All we had to do was get on transit and head on over to Yankee Stadium…

Only we got lost. The transit directions on the Evo were wrong because it gave us the wrong address for Yankee Stadium. Instead of the Bronx, we were spat out in East Harlem, utterly confused. Luckily, a helpful cabbie drove us to the correct subway where he ventured on a short trip to the Bronx.

Yankees Stadium

Now, I’m not going to go into detail about the game since I’m planning on writing a separate game post, but it was fun time. Even despite the lousy playing by the White Sox. I told Apryl that if the Yankees scored more than 12 runs on the Sox that it would stop be fun for me. The Sox lost 12 – 3. The highlight of the game was Apryl brought out my birthday card. Since I’m still not eating meat, it was my hot dog at the ballpark.

Yankees Card Dog

Next morning, we decided we would visit the Statue of Liberty. Before heading out, I got online to see what the procedure was for going on the tour. To my horror, I read that lines for tickets were 2 hours long and that once you obtained your ticket you were then diverted into a security line that took up to an hour and a half. If you wanted to bypass the wait, you could purchase your tickets online in advance. Way in advance. The next available advanced ticket was in June!

However, Apryl informed me that there was another way to see the Statue of Liberty…

Staten Island Ferry Entrance

If you only got a nickel, it’s the Staten Island Ferry.

Actually, the Staten Island is free! Before having such knowledge, I moved around the station looking for a ticket booth. Finally, I asked a security personnel where one could purchase a ticket for the ferry. He gave me a curious stare, and then proclaimed, “it’s free.” Forgive me, I am new here.

The ferry makes the trip every thirty minutes, so we only had to wait about ten minutes before the the boat docked. While we waited a scrolling text above us congratulated the newly wed Prince William and Princess Kate. Apryl turned to me and asked, “Are they suppose to be able to read that?”

The ride over to State Island is quite nice with plenty of photographic opportunities. And you float right by the Statue of Liberty. The statue was smaller than I imagined, but it was still an awe of a sight. Some photos of the ferry ride:

Downtown from Ferry

Statue of Liberty

Coast Guard

Ferry and Statue

When he didn’t spend any time in Staten Island, but instead took the ferry right back over to Manhattan. We walked around downtown, spending the most time a the Trinity Church cemetery, Wall Street, and the future site of One World Trade Center. Below, photos:

Trinity

NYSE

One World

For dinner, we went to a gluten-free restaurant I had read about in the West Village called Risotteria. The restaurant was very good and had the best tasting gluten-free bread. Below, Apryl is amazed at all of her options:

Apryl Menu

And, the food:

Breadsticks

My pizza

When we were done eating, we noticed that the restaurant sold bags of their gluten-free flour. We were very excited until Apryl noticed on the package that the flour contained gelatin from animal protein. Disappointing.

After dinner, we went to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge

Check out this website that gives a detailed list of every known worker killed during construction of the bridge.

Another view from the bridge, including the traffic below:

Bridge and Traffic

And, how about a photo with the both of us?

Us

Despite being extremely tired, we pressed on into the evening…

Mister Rockefeller sets up as high as a bird, Old Mister Empire never says a word.

I had read that the lines were extremely long for the Empire State Building. And that they weren’t as great as the view from Rockefeller Center. So, we decided to give it a shot. In fact, the line was almost nonexistent. After having to watch a poorly produced video, we were shuffled into an elevator and taken to the top of the Rock. Check out this video of the elevator ride which allows you to look up at the clear ceiling as ascend:

Unlike the observation towers at Willis Tower and the John Hancock, Rockefeller Center’s viewing point is at the actual top of the building. You right out there in the elements. For safety, they have plastic walls around the building, but there are slits between them so you can put your hand right out in the open and feel the stone ornamentation. Below, the view:

Rock View

We topped off the evening by celebrating the Grizzlies victory in our hotel room!

Grizzlis Win

The next morning, we decided to check out a popular breakfast spot called the Clinton Street Baking Company. Unfortunately, it was too popular, and we told we would have to wait an hour and an half for a table. We left and found the Remedy Diner, which wasn’t anything too special but it did give me the opportunity to have my first egg cream.

Egg Cream

It was okay. Thankfully, it didn’t have a worm in it.

After breakfast, we only had a little time left in New York before we had to get to the airport. Apryl suggested that we go Grand Central Station. We had arrived only a day before something really big happened. If we had visited just a day later we would have seen images like this. Thankfully, we had visited when we did and got this photo of us together:

Hayden and Apryl Station

We then returned back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and hailed a reluctant cabbie to take us to LaGuardia airport. There were a lot of things we didn’t get to see in New York, but yet we saw more than I ever imagined. Without a doubt, it gave me a better understanding of the city that is a part of every American. Goodbye, New York.

Goodbye NY

When I leave New York, I’ll be standin’ on my feet.

End of the Year (Better late than never?)

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

It is hard to believe that we are almost done with the first month of 2011! And, I never even posted my 2010 end of the year list. For shame. Well, here we go:

Top 10 Concerts of 2010:

10. Rhythm Devils at House of Blues
9. Railroad Earth at House of Blues
8. Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Millennium Park
7. LCD Soundsystem at Pitchfork Music Festival
6. Panda Bear at Pitchfork Music Festival
5. Caribou at Millennium Park
4. John Prine at Ravinia (from Prairie Home Companion)
3. Pavement at Pitchfork Music Festvial
2. Furthur at UIC (both shows)
1. Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang at Lincoln Hall (early show)

– Being a new Deadhead was the direct result of #10, #9, and #2 being on this list.

Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2010

10. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
9. Gil Scott-Heron – New York Is Killing Me
8. Woods – Suffering Season
7. Deerhunter – Helicopter
6. Phosphorescent – It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)
5. Beach House – Used to Be
4. MGMT – Someone’s Missing
3. Avey Tare – 3 Umbrellas
2. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked
1. Atlas Sound – Untitled

– While I might have listened to a lot of older music (especially the Dead) last year, I still got around to checking out a few new stuff. Most of it didn’t excite me that much, but the these tracks sure did.

Top 10 Favorite Songs I Discovered In 2010 (Not including the Dead)

10. String Cheese Incident – Land’s End (1997)
9. Jorma Kaukonen – Song for the North Star (1974)
8. Van Dyke Parks – John Jones (1972)
7. Railroad Earth – Storms (2004)
6. Harry Nillsson – Jump Into the Fire (1971)
5. Béla Fleck – Somerset (1986)
4. The Staple Singers – I Had a Dream (1959)
3. Elizabeth Cotten – Shake Sugaree (1967)
2. Moondog – Do Your Thing (1978)
1. Crosby & Nash – Southbound Train (1972)

– Admittedly, I was late in the game on these amazing songs. I suppose better late than never. See a theme going on? Anyway, a few notes here: 10) Yes, I did include a String Cheese Incident song here. Feel free to make fun of me. The truth is that I tried to get into other jam bands but to little avail. SCI was one of the few that kept me interested, especially “Land’s End”. 9) Jorma Kaukonen was always my favorite Jefferson Airplane member. 8) How did I go so long without listening to Van Dyke Parks solo albums? 7) Another “jam band” that I got into was Railroad Earth. Best seen live but their albums hold up quite nicely, too. 6) I am new to Harry Nillsson even though “Everybody’s Talkin'” is one of my favorite songs. I had only know “Jump Into the Fire” as that wonderful song in Goodfellas where Henry is driving around paranoid, looking up at the helicopters in the sky. 5) Have you listened to Béla Fleck’s early albums? They are so lovely, especially “Somerset” which comes off the Inroads album. 4) I love the Staple Singers but had not dived into their early recordings until last year. Boy have I been missing out! 3) I have the Dead to thank for introducing me to Elizabeth Cotten. Easily, one of my favorite guitar players. So unique her style is called “Cotten pickin'” 2) I finally sought out more from Moondog, and I am so grateful that I did. “Do Your Thing” just might be the best song ever recorded. 1) I don’t know what it is about this Crosby and Nash song I love so much but I probably played it more than any other song last year (includes Jerry Garcia on pedal steel).

Top 5 Movies Watched On Netflix Instant Watch (That I Hadn’t Seen Before):

5. Phantasm (1979) – I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this! For years, I skipped it thinking that I had. Big mistake!
4. Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart (2008) – If you are a fan of music, I think you will enjoy this musical adventure.
3. You’re Gonna Miss Me (2005) – The sad tale of whatever happened to Roky Erickson. Very reminiscent of The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Both could make for a fascinating yet depressing double feature.

2. The Cove (2009) – Another depressing documentary but extremely well done and meaningful.
1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) – The biggest surprise of the bunch. I was expected a lighthearted documentary about video game obsession. Instead, I was treated to a morality play between good and evil. Or something like that. Highly recommended.

– We just got Netflix for our Wii a few months ago so expect a few more recommendations in 2011.

Top 5 Places I Visited For Work

5. New Orleans, LA – I didn’t get to spend much time here. Just enough to enjoy an oyster poboy. However, not enough time to get a beignet. How sad.
4. NYC – I worked with Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi at the House of Blues in Times Square. More importantly, I got to hang out with my friend, Brad.
3. State College, PA – I worked here twice last year. Once, we drove there. I never imagined that Pennsylvania was so pretty. The second time we flew, and I had the best crab cakes I have ever had in my life. And I got to meet Joe Peterno.
2. San Diega, CA – It was hard having to leave paradise to return to the harsh, Chicago winter.

1. Dyserville, Iowa – Actually, it was a detour stop on the way home from a shoot with The Weather Channel. Details aside, I got to run the bases at the Field of Dreams baseball field.

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Random food photos from 2010:

FrenchToastDixieQuick

Tasty french toast from Dixie Quicks in Omaha, NE.

SuperFrenchys

The Super Grouper at Frenchy’s in Tampa, FL

PeachyPaterno

The Peachy Paterno on campus at Penn State.

A half-eaten Rickwood Dog at the Rickwood Classic in Birmingham, AL.

BirthdayPie

My favorite pie! Baked and decorated by Apryl.

The cinnamon buns at Ann Sather.

homemadegoatcheesepizza.jpg

Homemade pizza with spinach and goat cheese. Yummy!

aprylhomefries.jpg

Apryl makes amazing home fries!

porkchops.jpg

Unbelievable tasting pork chops! The waiter sold me on this when she told me that if she was only allowed on food for the rest of her life, this would be it. Too bad this is off the menu for me at the moment while I’m still practicing vegetarianism.

One of my favorite meals of 2010 was this crab cake in State College, PA.

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Top 5 Favorite Personal Photos of 2010 (in no order)

icewater

DowntownBuildings

BaronsBaseball

SoxBaseball

sledge church

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011!

RIP Miss Shirley

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Recently, I found out that Miss Shirley, the bartender at one of Memphis’ most infamous dive bars The Lamplighter passed away after a battle with cancer. Shirley was one of the kindest individuals that I have ever met, and the news of her death is very hard to take.

If you have never step foot in the Lamplighter, imagine someone’s dingy basement, and you get a pretty good idea of the interior. There is a dusty couch, fake panel walls, and lots and lots of smoke. The beer is cheap, and the jukebox is stocked with actual `45 records. The pool table is a steal at only 50 cents, even though there is a rule of no trick shots. There are only about three beers available, with Pabst the only one on tap. The bar is truly an unique character of it’s own, but without Shirley, it will seem quite empty.

For me, Shirley was the heart of the Lamplighter. When you entered the bar, Shirley would always greet you with a smile and immediately serve you your beer before you even had time to ask for it. No matter how many people came through those doors, she always remembered which beer you liked the best. It was more than a parlor trick. Shirley knew her clientele and treated them as friends, happy that they had stopped on by.

When I was single, the Lamplighter was like a second home. My buddy Brad and I would head to the bar, order a burger, and watch the Memphis Grizzlies on their cheap television set. When it was halftime, we would play game after game of pool. Sometimes we would have too many beers and start acting a fool, but Shirley was not the judging type. She understood the faults of her customers and yet she always greeted them back with a smile.

Shirley was a large person. Sure, size wise. But, more so because she could command a room without saying a word. You always knew that you were in her world. She was quiet, but when it was slow, she could always be steered into a conversation. My favorite story was when she threw out legendary photographer William Eggleston on the street for being unruly. When she told us the story, she wasn’t bragging. She didn’t even bring it up. Brad and I had heard the legends and wanted to know if it was true. It was. However, when she recalled the evening, she didn’t seem angry just a sense of disappointment. Still, what a sight that must have been!

Shirley had rules. In fact, there was a plaque over the bar with “Shirley Sez” guidelines. Most importantly, you did not cuss. I suppose Shirley figured that once you started cussing, you became agitated, and there was no good in that. If someone did start swearing, Shirley would pull out a hard stick from behind the bar and smack it on the counter, letting the patron know that when you are in Shirley’s bar you better play by her rules. I never saw her use that stick on anyone, but I never doubted that she would have.

One of the best kept secrets of Memphis is the burger at the Lamplighter, known better as the Shirley Burger. I don’t know what she did, but Shirley never failed at making the tastiest burger I have ever tasted. It was the perfect mixture of flavor, juice, and grease. I took a photo of it on one of my last trips to the Lamplighter:

The only thing about ordering food was that Shirley would have to go to the kitchen in the back room. Even though she could still see the front door from there, she would have to give up tending bar since her shift was always a lone one. So, we would feel guilty and often delay ordering even though our bellies were rumbling. When Shirley found out that we really wanted food but didn’t say anything, she would shrug us off as being silly and proceed to get out the ground chuck and buns. Before it was done cooking, she would bring over the condiments getting you more and more eager. When the food finally arrived, you tried to pace yourself because you always knew it would be gone too fast.

My most memorable night at the Lamplighter was when my buddy Brett got married. His first stop after tying the knot was to pay Shirley a visit and share the good news. Instead of sitting at the bar, we got a table. Later, Brett told me that Joaquin Phoenix, who was in town filming Walk the Line, was hanging out one table over with his entourage. I was so caught up in the moment, I didn’t even notice. Shirley brought us over a round of beer, and said that the first round was on her. I got up and put a quarter in the jukebox. The happy couple danced in the middle of the bar as Shirley watched on with a smile.

While I was at the bar one night waiting for Brad, I was suddenly brought into a discussion with with a few of the patrons around the counter. One of the regulars pointed at me and stated, “He knows. He’s a regular.” It was at that moment that I figured I might be spending too much time in a bar. Not long after that, I started dating Apryl, and I didn’t have the same desire to hang out in a dark, cavernous room. Even so, I’m happy to say that I did take Apryl to meet Shirley. Anytime I visited without Apryl after that, Shirley would go on about that cute redhead.

One of the last times I saw Shirley was when I was back home visiting from Chicago. She was very excited to hear that Apryl and I had gotten married. Even though she was never one for pictures, she did amuse with the photo you see at the top of this post.

For many, Miss Shirley was seen as a motherly figure. So with her passing, it’s like losing a member of the family. I completely understand that. On top of that, I feel like it’s a closure to a part of my life. Even though I can step foot in the Lamplighter again, it won’t feel like I’m coming home. Shirley made that possible.

Read the Commercial Appeal article. (If you note that I didn’t read this article before I wrote this post, you’ll realize that Shirley made lasting impressions on others that were very similar to mine.)

Mom’s Visit

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Mom Chicago

Last week, my mom visited us for the first time. Even though she had visited the Windy City when she was a child, she hadn’t seen Chicago as the modern, world-class city it is today.

Since she was arriving at night, I knew I had the perfect opportunity to show off one of the best views of the city at the Museum Campus. If I had a wide angle lens and the ability to use a long exposure, this photo would look quite impressive:
city at night

Afterward, we had a nice meal in our neighborhood at Feast, where I forewarned her that tomorrow we would be doing a lot of walking. I wouldn’t be kidding.

The next morning, we fueled up before our big day at our favorite breakfast spot, Toast. My mom went with my recommendation, the pancakes with mascarpone and toasted pine nuts. Here she is about to enjoy them:

pancakes toast

So good. And since Toast is so filling, we were good until dinner time. We proceeded to walk off our meal, first checking out a garage sale near the Damen Blue Line, and then getting on the train to venture downtown.

The next few hours were spent shopping on State Street. Apryl had some ideas, including the massive Filene’s Basement and the beautiful interior of the once Marshall Field’s:

Marshall Field

One of the biggest hit, though, might have been my mom’s finding, Loehmann’s. My mom has a strong devotion towards this department store. When its branch closed in Memphis, she was one of the last to leave before they locked up the doors for good. She told me it had been seven years since she had stepped foot in one. So, she was a bit excited when she looked up and saw the Loehmann’s signs beckoning her in from the cold (did I mention there was a chill in the air?):

Loehmanns

Inside Loehmanns

However, as much as my mom loved rediscovering an old favorite, she might have been the most impressed with Apryl’s favorite downtown spot, the Chicago Cultural Center. It is here where one can see the awe-inspiring, world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome:

Tiffany Dome

There was also an interesting Louis Sullivan exhibit:

Louis Sullivan

After hours of shopping and sight-seeing, we finally regained our appetite. And, you know that we couldn’t show off Chicago to my mom without a little pizza from a certain place:

Pizza

After stuffing ourselves, we walked down Michigan Ave and to the John Hancock Observatory:

John Hancock

And here are some views:

View 1

View 2

View 3

View 4

The last image captures the fireworks going off at one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions, Navy Pier.

FrancesDeli

On Sunday, my mom and I went to breakfast by ourselves at France’s Deli, which I believe serves the best pancakes in the city. My mom thought they were quite tasty.

Since it was cold, we decided to skip out on a boat tour, and instead checked out the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest conservatories in the United States. It is quite impressive. I would love to check it out again in the summer as well as in the winter, especially when there is snow on the ground. I took a lot of photos so here are just a few:

Mom at Garfield

Hayden and Apryl at Garfield

Mom at Garfield 2

On the way back home, I took a detour to show my mom Harpo Studios:

harpo

That evening, my Mom and I went out by ourselves to dinner at Buona Terra in Logan Square. Great food. Great company. We had a nice conversation about our family history over some tasty Italian food.

The next day, I took my mom on a driving tour of Chicago. We started on the South Side in Hyde Park neighborhood, home of the Museum of Science and Industry. I found a rare parking spot on the University of Chicago campus, and we walked around checking such places as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel:

Robie House

Chapel

Leaving Hyde Park, we drove out to the far North Side to Evanston, where one can find Northwestern University and many, many beautiful homes.

On our way back to the city, we stopped in at the Chicago History Museum. Here my mom is in the Chicago Jazz and Blues exhibit:

CHM

That evening, we rejoined Apryl and took in the sights of Millennium Park:

Bean

fountain

PP

Afterward, we walked across the street and had a wonderful meal at The Gage.

downtown night

As we retired for the evening, my mom got a kick out of seeing the street workers watering all the downtown plants. I didn’t get a shot of their watering trucks, but here is a freshly watered pot:

plants

The next morning, we had some Dunkin’ Donuts before heading out to Midway. It was a bit sad seeing my mom go, but we had a nice visit. I’m glad that she got to see where I live and work. Perhaps next time, she will visit during the summer, and won’t have to worry about layering up. We could even go to the beach.

mom and i

For photos from my mom’s trip, click here.

Hayden the Vegetarian

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

lisa_the_vegetarian.png

Few know, but I have been a vegetarian for a month. Yep, that’s right.

Now, I have flirted with vegetarianism in the past, most notably for a few months in college. But at the moment, I am giving it a real shot. Part of my reasoning came from the fact that I don’t eat that much meat anyway, since Apryl is basically a vegetarian. More importantly, I saw Food, Inc., which made me really feel guilty about buying into a system of abuse and neglect. If you haven’t seen Food, Inc., I highly recommend it, although I’ll warn you that it is a film that will stick with you. I saw it months ago, and it was strong enough for me to make a change in my diet months afterward.

While I am going without, I want to stress that I am not making a judgment on those who eat meat. In Food, Inc. there is a farm highlighted that treats their animals with respect and without feeding them an improper diet or injecting them with hormones. If I could find a farm like that around here, I would be happy to rejoin the meateater team. So until then…

My dad’s winter visit.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The Bean

Typically, we don’t get guests during the winter months. But, for my dad, who actually enjoys the cold weather, it was the perfect time for a visit. Now, usually when my dad comes up, we attend a sporting event. But this time, we stayed clear of the arenas, and instead entertained ourselves with a series of tourist stops and dining adventures.

Below are some photos from my dad’s visit:

My dad shows off his Chicken Parmigiana from Da Luciano, a small Italian restaurant that known for having a separate, gluten-free kitchen.

Dan's Tackle Shop

Here’s my dad at Dan’s Tackle Service, an oddity of a fishing store found right in our neighborhood. My dad and Dan had a nice conversation about Arkansas fishing.

Art Museum

During the entire month of February, admission is free at the Art Institute of Chicago. As you can see, we took advantage of it. My favorite thing my dad said, while staring at Grant Wood’s American Gothic, was “this is the only one? This isn’t a copy?” Nope, it’s the real deal.

Bayless

We finally ate at a Rick Bayless restaurant. The above photo is my chicken chorizo tacos from Frontera Fresco, located on the 7th floor of Macy’s (once Marshall Fields) on State Street.

Chicago Cultural Center

On the left hand frame, you can see Apryl sharing information to my Dad about the Chicago Cultural Center.

WIllis Tower

Towards the end of our day on Saturday, we went to the SkyDeck at Willis Tower (better known at Sear’s Tower). This was our visit after the inclusion of The Ledge. My dad would not step foot out there for nothing. But Apryl and I did…

And, a short video:

Oh, and, I suppose I should share the view:

On Sunday, my dad and I visited the Chicago History Museum. Below, my dad points to where his seats were when he attend a White Sox game during a business trip in the 70’s at Old Comiskey Park.

Good seats!

Later that day, my dad and I ventured over to Montrose Harbor and caught this amazing view:

We also saw a few ice fishers:

That evening we watched the Saints win over the Colts while eating Chicago deep dish pizza from Lou Malnatis. Sorry, no evidence of this taking place.

On Monday morning, before my dad’s flight back home, we enjoyed a Chicago breakfast institute, Ann Sather. Below, their famous cinnamon rolls:

As always, it was nice spending time with my dad. I was hoping we would have snow blanketed over the city for him, but most of it was melted. There were a little flurries on his first night in town, but nothing compared to the 14 inches we are expected to have tonight, or the 8 inches expected when he arrived back in Memphis. Until next time…

Check out all the photos here.

End of the Year (Decade)

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

It was great seeing everyone during the holidays! Hope everyone has a fun, safe New Year’s Eve celebration. Seeing as it will be 13 degrees outside tonight, I feel like we’ll be hanging out in our cozy apartment. Goodbye, Decade!

Top 10 Concerts of 2009

10. Ingrid Filter at Millennium Park (open rehearsal)
9. Nomo at Millennium Park
8. Josh Ritter at The Metro
7. The Feelies at Millennium Park
6. Junior Boys at Wicker Park Festival
5. The Dirty Projectors at Millennium Park
4. Lou Reed at Lollapalooza
3. Various Artists at Pitchfork Music Festival
2. SHELebration (with Bobby Bare Sr., Bonnie Prince Billy, Bobby Bare Jr.) at Millennium Park
1. Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theatre

As you can see, we really like to take advantage of the free concerts in Millennium Park. And if you remember, I merely caught the Lou Reed set at Lolla from outside the gates, and we won two free tickets for the Ritter one. In fact, the only shows that we actually paid for in 2009 were Pitchfork and Leonard Cohen. Worth every penny!

Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2009

10. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – The Tenure Itch
9. Akron/Family – River
8. Bill Callahan – Too Many Birds
7. The Dirty Projectors – Two Doves
6. Great Lake Swimmers – Pulling On A Line
5. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home
4. Cass McCombs – Harmonia
3. Junior Boys – Dull To Pause
2. Elvis Perkins In Dearland – Doomsday
1. Animal Collective – Taste

My Top 5 Favorite Risk Taking Records of 2009

5. Sufjan Stevens – The BQE
4. Oneida – Rated 0
3. Julianna Barwick – Florine
2. Yonlu – A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre
1. Jim O’ Rourke – The Visitor

UPDATE – How could I forget Charles Spearin’s The Happiness Project?

While I was working in Shreveport, I listened almost excusively to jazz records. Below is a list of albums I listened the most (without listing multiple albums from one artist):

Top 10 Jazz Albums

10. Dave Douglas – Keystone
9. Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert
8. Herbie Hancock – Fat Albert Rotunda
7. Phineas Newborn Jr. – Harlem Blues
6. Craig Taborn – Junk Magic
5. Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser
4. Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans
3. Sun Ra – Sound of Joy
2. Charles Mingus – Right Now: Live at the Jazz Workshop
1. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

Top 5 Places Visited (work and non work related) in 2009

5. Cleveland, OH (Because of work I can now say that I have been… twice.)
4. Arlington, TX (The last baseball game I saw of the `09 season, Ranges vs. Mariners.)
3. Birmingham AL (Rickwood Classic!)
2. Salt Lake City, UT (Breathtaking…)
1. Fountain City, WI/Wabasha, MN (3rd Anniversary!)
Honorable Mention: Shreveport, LA (After spending two months working there, I have a bit of a soft spot for it.)

Top 10 Tourists Stops of 2009 (in no particular order)

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago History Museum
John Hancock Observatory
The National Eagle Center
Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium
Great River Bluffs State Park in MN
Rock in the House
Garvin Heights in Winona, WI
Rickwood Classic
Harry Potter Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry

Top 5 Favorite Food Photos of 2009

Mushroom Soup

5. Our anniversary main dish was okay. But this mushroom soup starter was amazing!

Pizza

4. Giordano’s – What would a food list be without Deep Dish pizza?

Sox Dog

3. The Cell – This is what baseball tastes like!

BBQ

2. Bar B Que Shop – The best BBQ in the world!

pancakes

1. Toast – When I die, I hope these pumpkin pancakes are waiting for me.

Top 5 Most Memorable Jobs 2009

5. Public Enemies junket at Union Station
4. Food Dude at Lou Malnati’s
3. Oprah interviews Charlie Nash
2. Bulls vs. Celtics Playoffs
1. The movie in Shreveport, LA and Salt Lake City

Grandma Jackson

Most Memorable Moment of 2009
Easy. Grandma Jackson visits Chicago.

Top 5 Favorite Personal Photos of 2009 (in no order)

Ryan Field

Hancock View

Lock and Dam

Utah

The day I met a Malnati.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

I worked on this segment of Food Dude where I learned the art of making a Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. The best part was that they fed us pizza for lunch!

Brad visits Chicago.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Brad in Chicago

Did I mention that my good friend Brad came to visit last week? I first met Brad in Memphis where we spent many hours watching the Grizzlies, playing pool, and hanging out here. Brad now lives in Nashville. We make every effort to see him whenever we’re in the Music City area visiting my sister. When we saw Brad last, he told us he was planning on paying us a visit real soon. True to his word, Brad was checking into our guest room three weeks later.

Since he was only here for three days, we were only able to scratch the surface at what Chicago has to offer. But nevertheless, we had a lot of fun. And since Brad is a professional photographer, I was able to use the opportunity to be the shutterbug that I am. Here are a few photos from past week:

Chicago Skyline

One of the first places I took him was the Museum Campus where one can catch an amazing view of the Chicago skyline. I’m posting my photo but it doesn’t compare to the panoramic one Brad created in Photoshop.

U of Chicago

Afterward, we headed south on Lake Shore Drive towards Hyde Park. I knew that he wanted to check out the Museum of Science and Industry. Not for the exhibits but for the building itself since it was a part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. While we were in the neighborhood, he also wanted to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. We also explored the beautiful University of Chicago campus. Check out the overgrowth on the buildings in the photo above!

After we spent several hours in Hyde Park, we ventured downtown for dinner and a free concert a Millennium Park (see post below). Afterwards, along with Apryl, we walked Michigan Avenue to the John Hancock Observatory. Between the Sears Tower and the Hancock, the Hancock is my favorite in that it provides a grander view of the city.

However, Apryl and I were a bit shocked at all the additions since the last time we had been to the Hancock with Apryl’s mom. Now, there is a free audio headset provided where as David Schwimmer gives you a tour of the many sights. Also, there is a coffee shop with even a few tables. And at all times, you are being serenaded with bad pop music through the speaker system. Still, you can’t beat that view. See below:

Chicago view

I have to say, I was proud of my new camera. A shot as sharp as the one above wouldn’t have been possible with my previous Canon Power Shot.

LSD

Here is a shot looking north at Lake Shore Drive.

On that first day, we did a lot of walking. On our way back home, we walked through Millennium Park once more and I grabbed this shot from the garden.

garden city

Not only was there a lot of walking, but there was a lot of heat. This was literally the first week of summer and it felt like it for sure. For Brad’s entire trip, the highs were in the upper 90’s. As I explained to him, though, the next week’s highs might be in the 70’s. Sure enough, that’s just what happened.

hot dougs

The next day I took Brad to one of my favorite places to get a hot dog, Hot Dougs. I have heard of folks waiting hours in line to get their hands on a Hot Doug dog. There was a line when we arrived but we luckily made it through in less than twenty minutes.

Brad and Hot Dougs

I believe it’s safe to say Brad thought the dog was worth the wait. What’s funny about this photo is that he’s holding a ketchup bottle in his left hand. Putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog is a real no no. And I can assure you that Brad followed the long Chicago tradition, and used the ketchup only for his fries.

Chinatown

The White Sox happened to be in town playing against the number one team in baseball, the Dodgers. So I got us some upper deck seats, and we headed out to he ballpark. But first, we made a pit stop at Chinatown. Chinatown is only one train stop from the Sox stadium, so we took in some sights and grabbed dinner.

sox and dodgers

At the game, Brad confessed to me that this was his first attended Major League baseball game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a well played one for the Sox. When Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked, after the series wrapped up, why the attendance was so low for the Dodgers games, he responded “because our fans are not stupid like Cubs fans. They know we’re [insert expletive here].” Still, after that loss, the Sox have won 6 out of their last 7 games. And as amazing at it sounds, the Sox are currently in 2nd place in the AL Central Division.

Sox view

This is the view you see as you’re leaving the Sox stadium.

That night we lived up old times at The Map Room. So much so, that we slept in on his last day, and barely got in a lunch before we had to head out to the Midway airport. Still, it was a great time spent with an old friend.

You can check more photos from Brad’s visit here.

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 2: Birmingham and Nashville

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Hayden had to get out of Memphis a second time, for a day trip to a baseball game in Birmingham. A few days later, on our way back to Chicago, we all stayed the night in Nashville with Hayden’s sister Paige and her family.

Birmingham

On Wednesday, Hayden and his dad got to cheer on Hayden’s favorite baseball team, a mere 650 miles away from U.S. Cellular Field. The fates must truly support Hayden’s love of the White Sox. Somehow the stars aligned so that my mom’s surgery was scheduled the day after Memorial Day, putting Hayden in prime position to get to Birmingham the following day for the Rickwood Classic. Only once per season, the White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, play at Rickwood Field, “America’s oldest ballpark.” Even being hoarse from his sore throat, Hayden couldn’t help feeling in heaven.

Rickwood Classic Ballpark

Exterior of Rickwood Field, the oldest operating baseball park in the United States

Rickwood Field Hayden up to bat

Hayden up to bat at Rickwood Field

I won’t relate all the details of the stadium and the game, only because Hayden promises to write a full recap later. More photos and video are here.

Nashville

On Sunday, we headed to Nashville—followed closely by Ashley, Sydney, and Clayton—to see Paige, her husband Mike, and their kids, Jackson, Andrew, Reid, and McKenzie Hayden. I don’t know what could have made their dog, Greer, think of making a brief escape. Hayden and I also went out that evening, not for escape, but to see our friend Brad. Fortunately, Eva had plenty of distractions to keep her from wanting to leave Paige’s house.

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige by the pool

Drew Greer and Sydney

Andrew, Greer, and Sydney after Greer’s escape and capture

Eva on the "Get it" rug

Eva on a maize, aka “get it” rug

On Monday, we packed up the car and had a smooth drive back to Chicago—except for half an hour of bad thunderstorms in Indiana.

A thunderstorm on I-64 in Indiana

More photos and video are here.