Reflections on the Holy City

Charleston, South Carolina

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I’ve finally got a couple of minutes to jot down some thoughts on a great trip down to Charleston over Labor Day weekend. After an early morning flight there on Saturday morning, we were met with some overcast skies – but nothing that brunch at Hominy Grill and some shopping at M. Dumas & Sons, the preppiest, most amazing store I’ve ever walked into, couldn’t take care of.

After a quick nap, we geared up for cocktails at Social, before a fantastic dinner at Slightly North of Broad, locally named the Restaurant of the Year. SNOB had an awesome grilled peach salad, with arugula, walnuts, a hunk of goat cheese and a maple vinaigrette. It rivaled the main entrée, a sautéed squab breast with cheddar cheese grits and asparagus.

Post-dinner, it was time to visit the Silver Dollar, for a Playboy.com bar review. It was a true dive bar, packed with college kids. The owner, Steve, and his dedicated staff, took good care of us all night before we headed back to our room at the downtown Holiday Inn.

The next morning, after a quick and tasty breakfast at 39 Rue de Jean, we met with the world-acclaimed concierge, Kevin McQuade. He did not disappoint, offering a great walking tour that brought us through the Charleston historic district (but not before some shopping diversions on King Street — again) and then along the Battery and White Point Gardens, with views of Fort Sumter and the harbor.

We checked into our new hotel, the gorgeous Charleston Place, hit the gym (needed it) and took a swim, before changing for dinner at Coast (try the lobster and shrimp penne dish). Afterwards, on the suggestion of our pal Kevin, we met for Ed Macy’s ghost tour, which, believe it or not, wasn’t as cheesy as it sounds.

We got up early on Monday morning for an 8-mile run across the Cooper River Bridge (still hurting). Next, with the sun shining, we gathered the cooler for a couple hours at Folly Beach. And then, there was nothing like a barbecue feast at Sticky Fingers (had to grab a bottle of the Carolina Sweet sauce) to cap off a fantastic weekend.

I’ll post photos and a link to my bar review here as soon as I’ve got a chance.

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Back from the Final Frontier

Anchorage, Alaska

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I’m on my way back from a week-long cruise along Alaska’s inner-passage. The very impressive Final Frontier.

First of all, Regent Seven Seas Mariner is the bomb. I’m not that big of a fan of cruises: the masses, the eating schedules and the unauthentic travel experience (hey, get out the cameras, there’s another t-shirt shop!). But Regent is the exact opposite. It’s a small boat (around 700 passengers), with a fantastic level of service (nearly 1:1 passenger to staff ratio).

We visited ports that larger ships might not have been able to get to. The day trips were well planned and organized. And, the unlimited Alaskan king crab legs, trays of smoked salmon, delicious shrimp and free-flowing drinks never got old (well, except towards the end, kind of).

After a day in Vancouver, we hit the seas and visited the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Seward and Anchorage, Alaska. We scoured trails on Israeli-made ATVs, took helicopters to an isolated dog mushing camp on Mendenhall Glacier to race with huskies being trained for the Iditarod, went kayaking in a pristine lake after a ride on the White Pass Railroad, hiked in Tongass National Forest, spotted sea otters, humpback whales, brown bear cubs, seals and bald eagles on a wildlife cruise and watched in awe as huge pieces of ice calved off of Hubbard Glacier.

Alaska is rugged and vast. The terrain reminded me of Maine on steroids. If given the chance, it’s certainly worth the visit. The state is a reminder of the awe and beauty nature can instill in us all — and the importance of taking whatever steps we need to preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

I’ve just put up a small sampling of photos on Facebook. Enjoy!

Mergers & acquisitions

Washington, D.C.

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I’ve just finished a great book by Dana Vachon, a blogger turned novelist, who was born in Greenwich, raised in Chappaqua, and had his first stint at JP Morgan after graduating from Duke in 2002. Mergers & Acquisitions isn’t what you think it is — not a business school textbook, but instead a roman a clef. Think Devil Wears Prada or Nanny Diaries but with eyes set on Wall Street.

It was an amusing read, with its frequent Westchester references and an insightful and over the top look at the world many of my friends now inhabit. The book’s main character, Tommy Quinn, is a your typical Rye prepster:

“I didn’t go to Portsmouth Abbey, or any other such private institution. I went to Rye High School, which was decent, and in this way a good match for me: I made decent grades, dated decent girls, played decently at junior-varsity sports, and go into Georgetown, a decent school.”

And Rye Country Day actually gets a mention too:

“After Chaim and I failed first grade for the first time, our parents had signed us up for summer school at Rye Country Day. Chaim made loud noises, yes, and fine, I couldn’t subtract, but we didn’t really belong in this class. It takes a real moron to fail first grade, is what I mean, and that class was filled with every hopeless case in Westchester. There were paste eaters and kids who pissed themselves and kids with incredibly thick glasses and kids who bit other kids. There were kids who had been born weighing too little, and kids who had been born too early. We spent that full summer with them, and let me tell you, it was no place to be.”

Check out the book for a stereotyped — yet really kind of intriguing — view of life on the Street and in the suburbs. Or, if you’d rather see it on the big screen, that’s fine too. The rights to M&A have been optioned to the producers of Babel.

Summer senses

Washington, D.C.

Every year, as the weather warms and the days grow long, I’m immediately reminded of my old summer camp, Indian Acres. It’s weird. I’ve not visited Fryeburg, Maine for at least a couple of years — and the last time I was there with camp in session might have been during a reunion 4 years ago. Either way, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the impact that the experience there has had on me: if only in just the fact that I’m writing about it today.

Now that we’re in the heart of summer, I’ve found that there are lots of little things that remind me of camp. They’re really just small senses, but for an instant, I’m magically transported back.

  • Smell: Every morning, at around 7:15 a.m., I’ll head over to the Sports Club to workout. Stepping out of my apartment building, still groggy, and breathing in the morning’s fresh air, I’m immediately returned to the dew-covered upper soccer field. It’s a smell that gives me flashbacks of trudging to the field office for flag raising — not running on an elliptical for an hour.
  • Taste: I’m a big fan of Diet Dr. Pepper and usually have one each day. My initial sip is always a reminder of lazy afternoons spent in the Alumni Lounge, drinking Dr. P’s and catching up with friends — and, more than likely, skipping an activity period (or two, or three).
  • Sight: In early June, at around 6:30 p.m., turning onto California Street was the summer’s first firefly. There was something surreal about it because, for a moment, I wasn’t coming back from a long day at the office. Instead, it was Sunday evening and we were heading down for campfire. There were shouts from an impromptu soccer match on the upper field. And a hum of conversations down by the Saco.

These are my summer senses. Some might think it’s crazy that at 25 years old, a silly sleep away camp is still so entrenched in my memories. But for some reason, I’ve got a feeling that come this time of year, I’ll always be reminded of a place that gave me so much.

Crabs at Cantler’s

Annapolis, M.D.

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Finally got a chance to head out to Cantler’s this weekend for their notorious crabs. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing since first moving to D.C. almost 2 years ago. We got crab cake sandwiches, onion rings and iced teas at Cantler’s, walked around the historic downtown and sat on the wharf eating ice cream from Storm Bros. A great day.

We also attempted the “Dine & Dip” at the Omni Hotel on Sunday in Woodley Park. The brunch was pretty good but by the time we had finished, our waitress informed us that with 175 other parched folks already at the pool, the “dip” had sold-out.

We got a rain check for this week and will be back on the 4th.

An Indian Acres embarassment

Washington, D.C.

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In a sign that the apocalypse truly is upon us, my beloved summer camp, Indian Acres, was just ranked the 9th most expensive sleep-away camp in the country. How embarrassing. It now costs a mind-boggling $8,500 for 7-weeks of cabin-living, freezing cold instructional swim and 5-star cuisine from acclaimed chef, Don Wentworth. At least we can all take solace in the fact that it’s not Camp Laurel.

Tuition there runs $10k.

Three Sheets, a dream job

Washington, D.C.

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One of my favorite shows on television might be one you’ve never heard of.

Three Sheets, on the 100% hi-def-channel MOJO, features comedian Zane Lamprey. This guy essentially travels around the world, sampling regional beers and booze and the unique local customs that surround the drinking culture in different countries. Now rounding out its second season, Zane has traveled through Europe, Asia, South America, Caribbean and the U.S. Some of his greatest moments have come at Oktoberfest in Germany and while visiting Champagne, France although I’m also pretty excited for his upcoming Season 3 episode in Mendoza, Argentina. Can you believe he gets paid to do this?

Three Sheets is on tonight at 9 p.m. For those in the DC-area, MOJO is channel 226.

Mika rips on President Bush’s house (literally)

Washington, D.C.

Lucked out big time yesterday and was able to score two tickets on craigslist to the sold-out Mika show at the 9:30 Club. (No cameras were allowed inside, the photo above is from his concert in Hong Kong although he was wearing the same outfit last night.) For those not yet in the know, Mika is a British pop sensation – trained by a Russian opera professional – whose single “Grace Kelly” reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in January. His debut U.S. album, Life in Cartoon Motion, released a month later.

And last night, Mika proved himself as truly a performer to those of us in the nation’s capital. It started with girls from the audience handing out lollipops by the box office and later included a Big Girl dancing on stage during “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful),” Mika banging on trash cans during “Love Today” and a confetti, balloon and dancing-bunny-costumed encore of “Lollipop.”

Along the way, he reflected on impressions of his first visit to D.C. “We did some sight-seeing today and saw the White House,” he said. “It was very small. I thought a man that powerful would have a bigger house.”

And then, barely audible, Mika gave one last compliment to the roaring crowd. “I don’t know if you all know how cool it is to show up in a place and see people like you,” he said. “It’s like nowhere else on the tour.”

Diagnosing Severe Netflix Anxiety (SNA)

Washington, D.C.

It was pretty exciting when Netflix sent me “Walk the Line last May. Not having gotten a chance to see it in the theater — and reading rave reviews from all who did — I was pumped to see it right away. But something came up and “Walk the Line” stayed in its little red envelope that week. And the week after that. And the week after that.

My Netflix queue came to a halt and I was torn: do I send it back or hang onto it? I chose the latter. So, there it sat. When November rolled around and I moved to my new apartment, Reese and Joaquin still sat on my nightstand. After all this time though, I couldn’t just send it back. I had to watch it. So, I threw it in a box and brought it with me.

Fast forward to February of this year. I’ve now had “Walk the Line” for 9 months. And, believe it or not, I’m finally in the mood to watch it. And you know what? It was pretty good.

I was thinking about this whole incident last night and came across an old Newsweek article discussing the same “disorder.” In the story, it’s given a name: Severe Netflix Anxiety. And, it made me thankful: at least I’m not former Netflix employee, Crystal Trexel. Trexel received the indie flick “Maria Full of Grace” in December 2004.

She finally returned it 20 months later.

Who’s more obscene?

Washington, D.C.

Dave Attell put on a hilarious show Friday night. But I left wondering a perplexing question: Who’s more obscene – the notoriously offending comedian … or the foul-mouthed HBO employees running his tour?

When we got to the Lincoln Theater around a half hour before the doors open, my buddy and I marched to the end of a line already stretching down the block. Ushers assured us though that there would be enough seats for all of us. They were right and soon we were filing inside, where there was the typical buzz that accompanies taped events like these (i.e., sound guys checking mics, camera cranes getting in position, etc.). Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary.

But no one could’ve prepared me for the army of headset wearing producers, running up and down the aisles, barking orders at anyone in sight. A group sitting next to us was told by one particularly pleasant lady that since they were sitting in front of the cameras, they would not be allowed to stand during the show. When they objected and asked to be moved, the producer asked them where they thought they were going.

Another real loon was just uttering every possible obscenity into thin air (or, her little headset), while most of the audience looked on in bewilderment. We thought she might be part of the opening act. Alas, none of it really mattered once Dave got on stage. He was a truly class(less) act and brought the house down.

For those not there, hopefully, the HBO special will be out soon. Unfortunately, for those watching at home, it’ll only include the obscenities from the comedian — and not his traveling sideshow.