Midwest musings

Okay, how glad am I that this didn't happen while we were in the arch?

Seeing that article reminded me to post about something else, though. For whatever reason, lately I seem to have been involved in a lot of conversations as to whether or not Ohio is actually in the Midwest. At the time, though, the only other option for Ohio was to be in the East. Ohio is definitely not in the East. I lived there for 26 years and now live in Maryland and, yeah, definitely not the East. At the same time, there are clearly a lot of states in the Midwest that are way more Midwestern than Ohio

So I have been doing some thinking about this and I think the issue is with trying to take Ohio as a whole state and stick it somewhere. Because really there are two parts to Ohio.

There is the area up around the Great Lakes. Let's call it the Great Lakes Area of Demarcation, or GLAD. It actually extends pretty far south, even into the Akron area, which is where I grew up. I would venture to say that the GLAD extends west at least into Michigan, if not through all of the Great Lakes border states. Chicago is definitely in the GLAD.

There are some easy ways to tell if you live in the GLAD. If you get lake effect snow, can see seagulls, and know at least 25% of the words to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," then you live in the GLAD. You get extra GLAD cred (and possibly cancer many years from now) if you have not only been up to the lake frequently, but have also swam in that nastiness.

The GLAD helps explain things like why everyone in Northeast Ohio thinks the state stops below Canton. Also, why only some people in Ohio will get it if you make a joke about the gales of November coming early.

So that leaves us to work out the rest of the state. That part I would call the Southern Midwestern Unidentified Shit, or the SMUSh. I am taking suggestions for something better that starts with Sh.

If you live in the SMUSh, you definitely not in the GLAD, or the Midwest, or the South. You are in some odd middle ground that has characteristics of each, but no true identity. Cincinnati falls squarely in the SMUSh, but the SMUSh extends south through Northern Kentucky, until you get into the true South.

The only part of this theory I can't really reconcile is Columbus. Columbus is a freak.


If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a jacket

Especially if you are me. Because I am cold all the time. Why am I going on all these vacations to places colder than where I live?

So it's occurred to me that if I don't get to blogging about San Francisco, I may never get around to it, with trip #2 (family cruise) approaching rapidly. So here are the highlights that come to mind.

We kicked off (after a trip to Whole Foods for wine and Smartwater) things with a boat trip that took us under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was nearly open ocean and the boat was rocking pretty good, which was fun. I've only ever seen the bridge in pictures/video, so it was really cool to be so close to it. I love art deco, so San Francisco was just full of eye candy. We also rode past Alcatraz, which was really just enough Alcatraz for me.

We ate a lot of really good food while we were there, but one of my favorite things was sharing a loaf of super-fresh sourdough bread after the boat trip. Combined with espresso, it was yummy. Side note: I have to love a city where you can get an espresso every 10 feet.

We went to a Giants game the next day, had lots of beer and food, and watched the Giants win like 13-0. AT&T Park or whatever corporate sponsor it's named after now is really beautiful, but the giant Coke bottle in left field really bugged. Kind of ruins the classic look...

This was the night we went to Cafe Vesuvio and drank too many shots of Fernet. Eileen had read it described as like drinking Robitussin and getting punched in the nose. I think that was pretty accurate. Cafe Vesuvio was really cool, though, and we managed to write some haikus (previously posted) while drinking.

On Monday, we drove out to Berkeley to visit the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory. I was feeling a little funky from the Fernet, but massive amounts of chocolate samples definitely helped with that. There were hairnets involved, and I spent a whole lot of money on chocolate at the gift shop.

After Scharffen Berger, we had planned to go to 826 Valencia (aka the pirate store), but they were closed for inventory. Arrrrrrrgh! So we went to Lombard Street instead, where Eileen and Josh serenaded us with their rendition of "Mr. Jones" as we drove down the crazy-crooked street. I have video but I can't seem to get it to work with any program on my computer. One of these days hopefully I will post it. Then we ALL proceeded to rock out to "Electric Avenue" as we drove through Nob Hill. That probably sounds totally bizarre if you were not there, but trust me, it was freaking hilarious. Sadly, no video of that.

We then went to Haight-Ashbury for patchouli smelling, record buying, and drinks at yet another awesome hip bar that Eileen had heard about (how does she DO that?). Turns out, a friend of Josh's was working there, and he invited us out to karaoke that night. It was a totally random thing to do, but we are totally random people. There was much singing, including Eileen's first-ever karaoke appearance to ring in her 30th birthday -- with a shot of Fernet in hand.

Tuesday, my last full day in San Francisco, was hangover day for quite a few of us, but not me. I have my mild disagreement with Fernet the day before to thank for that, I think. It made me take it a little slower. Heh. We went on another tour this day -- this time the Anchor Steam Brewery. It was cool to see a brewery on an entirely different scale from Budweiser. And the samples, again, were excellent.

We did make it to the pirate store again, and this time it was open. I like to think that I showed good self restraint in only buying as much as I did. Heh.

We wound down the day with a delicious birthday dinner for Eileen, and yummy drinks up on the top floor of our hotel.

It was an awesome trip, and once again made me grateful to have friends who like to do things like fly to far-off coasts to party it up and rock down to electric avenue.


Out of the Fernet fog

In today's installment of the San Francisco catch-up, I give you...pictures! I'll explain what's actually in the pictures later. Maybe.

And haikus written in Cafe Vesuvio amidst shots of Fernet by various members of our troop:

You want a haiku?
Here's your fucking haiku, bitch
Sorry, that was mean

Fernet shot hits my nose
Wow that really packs a punch
Let's have one more round

Arnold's in the 'Nati
There's no air conditioning
That's a damn bitch, dude

We're out of haikus
I throw a flag on that play
Get rhyming, bitches


The Ballad of United 218

I am back from San Francisco, and it was outstanding. There will be photos and haikus and all sorts of other awesomeness shortly, but I decided to begin with the end. It is freshest in my mind. Also, photos are going to be uploading to Flickr for like an hour because there are A LOT. I'm sure that comes as a surprise to you all.

So the first four hours of my flight back were pretty uneventful. Well, except for realizing that the BART doesn't start running until 8 a.m. on holidays, and that was not going to be an option to get to the airport for my 10 a.m. flight. I ran back to the Marriott all, help!, and they directed me to the Super Shuttle, which was only $16, and left shortly thereafter, so that was not too bad. (Dearest blog readers, if any of you are going to SF and want a $5.15 BART card, send me an email and it's yours...first come first served).

So I got to the airport with plenty of time to buy the refrigerator magnet I had not yet managed to buy, and also some post-security wine (I was not about to pack wine in my checked luggage). And all is well until right before we should be landing, when the captain announces that there are storms over Dulles and we can't land yet, so we're going to circle around about 70 miles away.

I am sitting in the aisle, because I have in my United profile that I prefer aisle, and United almost always delivers. It is about at this time that I began to want to smack the woman in the window seat of my row. She asks the guy next to her, whom she's traveling with (brother? husband?), what happens if they circle so much they run out of fuel.

Yes, you know, it really sucks when they just let the planes run out of fuel. It's why you read about them dropping from the sky all the time.

So after we've been flying in circles for awhile, the captain announces that we will indeed be going to Pittsburgh for refueling. We land there and taxi over to a gate, and wait for the refueling truck. It takes awhile for it to get there, but it does eventually, and we get fuel.

We were actually at a gate, and it was my understanding that we could get out of the plane and go shopping in the Pittsburgh terminal, which has a full mall. I opted not to, because with my luck I would have missed the flight. We took on a bunch more passengers whose flight to Dulles had been canceled.

We sit there for a long time. The captain announces that they're having a hard time restarting the right engine. They are going to get a mechanic to come along and do a "stick start", which apparently means they will stick some part into the engine and wiggle it around and start the engine. I am mildly concerned about flying back to DC in this plane, but I figure they know what they're doing. The woman in the window seat is pissed and whines a lot. Dulles is still at a ground stop, so we are not really losing any time that could be made up.

Somebody asks about food, and the United attendants come around with another round of pretzels and water. The mechanic shows up, and doesn't have the right part.

The mechanic comes back, and still doesn't have the right part. I do not fully understand how they do not have the right part for a Boeing 757, but since Pittsburgh isn't a hub for them I don't think United regularly flies anything this big in to that airport. Dulles is still at a ground stop.

The woman in the window seat begins whining in earnest. I really really really want to tell her off but I bite my lip. Seriously. They EVACUATED THE CONTROL TOWER at Dulles due to the tornado threat. Regardless of what is happening with our plane, the amount of chaos that had to cause is not going to be something that airport recovers from quickly. It's going to take time to get planes going again and work out priority for who takes off.

The captain announces that they've borrowed a part from US Air. Ground stop at Dulles is lifted. We make the 35 minute flight to DC, and all in all we lost about 3 hours.

The fight attendants ask the people who are trying to make connecting flights to raise their hands. They ask everyone on the plane to look around at the hands and let these people get off the plane first. I specifically asked the guy next to me if he's trying to make a connecting flight. They're not.

The plane lands and comes to a stop. The connecting flight people start pulling down their carry-ons and rushing out of the plane. Window-seat woman suddenly decides that she has been on the plane too long and cannot wait another 5 minutes to get off. She says she's been sitting there this whole time and she wants off this plane NOW. Sitting there that whole time is her own damn fault, since I've gotten up multiple times, and guy with her has gotten up, and she's never asked to get up, which I do not mention.

Instead I just stand up and open our overhead bin and pull out my wine and other bag of souvenirs very very slowly, primarily to piss her off. Then I sit back down and wait as the connecting flight people continue to file out.

But window seat woman is GETTING OFF THIS PLANE RIGHT NOW. I try to tell her that I'm trying to let the people with connecting flights try to make their flights, but she barges through her traveling companion, and I have to pull my legs up onto the seat so she won't bruise past me, too. She cuts in front of the connecting flight people, yanks down her giant carry-on suitcase, and leaves.

I was kind of totally flabbergasted by that level of assholishness. I took heart in the fact that she has damaged her karma so significantly that at some point in her life she WILL miss a connecting flight and will probably end up sleeping on an airport floor, miserable and no doubt whining the whole time.

I thanked the flight attendants as I left and told them they did an excellent job. They did as well as they possibly could, particularly as people got cranky. A lot of people were mad at United, but it's not United's fault there was a thunderstorm.

I did learn some important things during the whole ordeal. One is that they're not kidding about being prepared to sit on the tarmac for a long time. We were at a gate, but I was still very very glad that I had bought a water before I got on the plane, and that I had a nice supply of Kashi bars and other snacks. I was also very glad that I had thought to pack an extra book, even though I wasn't sure if I'd finish the one I was reading. I did, and I ended up reading a good chunk of the extra book while we were sitting there, which may be one of the reasons why I was much less cranky than some of my fellow passengers.

The other thing that was reinforced for me is that if you cannot easily lift your carry-on over your head and keep it in control, you should not be carrying it on. Aside from window bitch, I've seen a number of people struggling with massive carry-ons. It's bad enough when you're just trying to get off the plane with no huge rush, but if you are in a situation like the connecting flight people, being able to whip your carry-on out in seconds and start walking helps you get off the plane faster, not to mention the people behind you.