Tatzu Nishi’ sDiscovering Columbus exhibit:
So in 2011 our baseball spectating percentage was a torrid .559. Not so much for 2012, a year where we saw the Phillies take on the Mets (4/14/12), then the Cubs (4/29/12), then the Diamondbacks (8/3/12), then the lowly Rockies (9/9/12). The one team with a good record we saw the Phillies play was the Braves (9/23/12). In Phoenix we saw the Diamondbacks play the Giants (4/7/12), who ended up winning the World Series, so there was that, but back in Queens we also saw the Diamondbacks play the Mets (5/6/12), both of whom were solidly mediocre-to-terrible in 2012.
So the final standings went as follows:
San Francisco Giants: 94-68
Arizona Diamondbacks: 81-81
Colorado Rockies: 64-98
Chicago Cubs: 61-101
Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81
New York Mets: 74-88
Atlanta Braves: 94-68
A combined 549-585 record translates to a .484 winning percentage. And to be honest, were it not for the novelty of taking Mr. Baby to his first baseball games, I think my satisfaction level would be right around 48 percent — low enough not to get reelected, you know?
Anyway, here are some highlights:
Game 1 (4/7/12) — Diamondbacks vs. Giants in Phoenix — opening weekend/no more “Uptown” this year:
Game 2 (4/14/12) — Phillies vs. Mets in Philadelphia — cleaned up what was left of the Spectrum/still holding on to the glory of 2008/the debut of the Phanatic Dangle Hat:
Game 3 (4/29/12) — Phillies vs. Cubs in Philadelphia — more of these blasted Dangle Hats/the Phanatic’s birthday/Hunter Pence era, not yet ended:
Game 4 (5/6/12) — Diamondbacks vs. Mets at Citi Field — no attendance troubles here/”Foam God bless America My Home, Sweet” (also, more impressive scoreboard ads than in past years)/did anyone really expect Dickey to be so solid in 2012?/changing Lower Manhattan skyline:
Game 5 (8/3/12) — Phillies vs. Diamondbacks in Philadelphia — SEPTA sold the naming rights to the station on Pattison Avenue/more fun with bootleg T-shirts/sellout streak nearing the end (I don’t think I’d seen it below 44,000 — including standing room tickets — for some time; the streak ended 8/6/12):
Game 6 (9/9/12) — Phillies vs. Rockies in Philadelphia — beautiful day/but subpar attendance/ivy creeping to the top of the batter’s eye:
Game 7 (9/23/12) — Phillies vs. Braves — memorializing the Spectrum/we’ll call it — it took eight years for the ivy to reach the top of the batter’s eye/”with white foam, God bless America my home”:
We got to visit the relatively new Elmhurst Park on the former site of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks, the gas holding tanks that sat next to the LIE until Keyspan began to dismantle the tanks in 1996.
If you make a reference to the greatest bumper sticker of all time, of course I’ll title a post accordingly. I’m guessing the language for this interpretive sign came from the top:
I don’t know if the mounds come from remediated gunk or what, but they are a fun homage to the site’s former use:
I say that because if the tanks were still there, the one thing you’d want to do would be to climb to the top of them to see the view. So you basically still can in a way:
And I think that’s what the designers intended — it’s the only way to interpret the periscope play toys located around the park:
Christ, look what my life has become: I’m deconstructing a playground.
A final note — I’m pretty sure one of those huge boulders around the park came from Fort Greene. This one looks like it matches the picture in the Times article:
Sunday, July 1
It’s always a treat to get a rental car because then you can go get good coffee on the way out of town. The place we wanted to go in Long Island City didn’t open until 10 a.m. — who ever heard of a coffee place not open early? — so we went to Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint instead, mostly because Goober is such a huge Lena Dunham fan. So anyway, we got a later start than we hoped and things became complicated when an exit on the Thruway was missed, which meant that we went the long way to the Finger Lakes, but which also meant that we got to drive through Seneca Falls.
A word about the car we got: We were initially very skeptical about being saddled with a Ford Crown Victoria. I went cheap with the car rental and got some “super secret” surprise upgrade for the price of a compact or something, but that car ended up being a Crown Vic. When we saw it we were like, oh hell no, but then part of me wanted to cruise around in a Crown Vic, no matter what its gas mileage. As it turns out, the gas mileage wasn’t terrible — maybe low 20s MPG — and it did cruise along like you were rolling between Tampa and Orlando — but the true value of a white Crown Vic was that it looked like a police cruiser, so it wasn’t long — maybe east of Syracuse — where we finally realized that people were actually slowing down when they saw us in the rear view mirror. Never mind that the plates were from Florida and there was a giant baby car seat in the back with two women flanking it — in the rearview we apparently totally looked like the fuzz, which gave us a huge thrill: “You’ve been Crown Vicked!” we’d guffaw as we passed some would-be scofflaw going 72. It was hilarious.
Then of course we ended up needing the trunk space in the end for all the hooch we bought:
I will always love the Finger Lakes because it was the first place that we ever really tasted wine. That said, it took me a while to figure out that listing the “residual sugar” in a wine is not a common practice, and it was kind of funny this time noticing that people pouring first sized you up by asking whether you like “sweet” or “dry” wine. They don’t ask that one at Opus One.
We got into Ithaca later that afternoon, had dinner at Bandwagon Brewpub, showed the baby some sights around around downtown Ithaca (where none of us went to school) and hit the Wegmans to buy beer to drink back at the hotel (since we don’t really go out at night nowadays).
Monday, July 2
We got breakfast in Ithaca before heading out to Seneca Lake, driving up New York State Route 14 through Watkins Glen, hitting Wiemer, Shaw Vineyard, Miles Wine Cellars, Anthony Road Wine Company and Red Tail Ridge Winery. The west shore of Seneca Lake may be my favorite part of the Finger Lakes, wine-wise, what with Wiemer and Miles especially. Miles might be my favorite New York State wine, though I’m speaking out of turn for the rest of the group. Plus, it’s pretty there:
We got into Geneva late that afternoon, settled into the hotel (we’re now big fans of Microtels) and went to dinner at Beef & Brew before heading over to the Wegmans to get more beer for the evening. You may be wondering, “Why all the beer?” Honestly, after a day of tasting wine, that’s kind of what you want to drink. That, and Wegmans has a bomb-ass beer selection:
Also, this was around July 4th:
Tuesday, July 3
The next morning we drove down New York State Route 14A toward Penn Yan:
Also, I was curious about the griddle used to break pancake world records (see, for example):
From there we went to Ravines Wine Cellars where we came face-to-face with our own mortality:
Then to McGregor Vineyard where they are super-nice and where we tried the super-weird Rkatsiteli-Sereksiya wine they make (Sereksiya is some Eastern European grape that they figured out grows well in the Finger Lakes). Then we drove through Hammondsport toward Dr. Frank, where they were celebrating their 50th anniversary (and it’s still good!). We were running out of day, but we made it back over to the east side of Seneca Lake via Tyrone . . .
. . . in time to visit Finger Lakes Distilling, which makes really good alcohol, especially whiskey (and offers quite a tasting, just so you know).
It took a while to get back to Ithaca no thanks to the Crown Vic, which got us into a slow-jam when some Honda saw it behind him/her and decided to slow down to precisely 54 MPH on State Route 79 until he/she eventually pulled to the side. We made it back — eventually — and had dinner at The BoatYard Grill:
And then dessert at Purity Ice Cream:
Wednesday, July 4
In case you’re wondering, wineries are open on July 4. We started the day with coffee from Gimme! Coffee (which started in Ithaca but which has expanded to Brooklyn and Manhattan) before driving out to the east side of Seneca Lake via Trumansburg. There are some great wineries on the east side of Seneca Lake, too — maybe we should just say that Seneca Lake has many good wineries — and we began at Standing Stone Vineyards before heading up to Lamoreaux Landing. One thing the east side of Seneca Lake has going for it is the striking beauty — I don’t know that there are many other wineries we’ve been to that are as picturesque as Lamoreaux and Standing Stone:
Farther down toward Watkins Glen is Red Newt Cellars, which in exchange for not having “estate-grown” grapes (the land is too far up the hill apparently) has the flexibility of making excellent wine that never suffers from bunk growing seasons. That was a great place to end four days of wine tasting. (Also, the baby crapped up a storm while we were in the middle of a tasting, and while I don’t totally know whether the lady pouring caught wind of the stink, we were very lucky there wasn’t a total blowout; for months since then we’ve compared poo-splosions on the “Red Newt Scale”; I somehow avoided soiling the driver’s seat; suffice it to say, it was probably a good time to wind down our trip.)
On the way back to Ithaca we stopped at Taughannock Falls State Park. Speaking of which, I’m forever grateful to the nice young lady at McGregor who hipped me to the correct pronunciation of “Taughannock,” which, if I remember correctly, sounds like “tuh-cannock” and not “tuck-a-nuck” as I was led to believe. Anyway, it was kind of dry this year, I guess:
The mighty Susquehanna:
And did you realize that’s where the store got its name?
And then the signs about restricted parking at the Roscoe Rest Area suddenly made sense:
The Tappan Zee is still there:
As is the Major Deegan:
And 13 wineries, one cider place and one distillery later, we were home.
Saturday, May 12, 2012: San Francisco
The great thing about traveling with an infant is that you see the country during daylight:
The not so great thing is that you are often limited to getting take-out for dinner, although burritos from La Espiga De Oro in San Francisco’s Mission District were nothing to whimper about:
Sunday, May 13, 2012: San Francisco
The parking lot at Rincon Center is ridiculously tight and I’m not totally sure why, though this time I thought to take a picture of it:
Until now we haven’t paid much attention to playgrounds, but Dolores Park‘s new playground is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen, and a four-month-old strapped to your chest gives you the cover you need to explore it:
Dinner was take-out bread bowl from Boudin, which was purchased while the baby slept in the back seat and I took a long (turns out unnecessarily long) detour down Columbus Avenue:
Gas in San Francisco cost $4.59 a gallon that day:
Monday, May 14, 2012: San Francisco to Pacific Grove
Stanford looks like a resort:
And Mountain View was a hoot:
But really, the whole point of driving this way was to see the “beautiful . . . but bizarre!” Winchester Mystery House (the YouTube video at the link is intended to capture that phrase, which you hear over and over when you visit the house; it became a trip meme):
But we did get to see artichokes growing in the fields along the side of the highway:
Tuesday, May 15, 2012: Pacific Grove to Paso Robles
After waking up on the not-as-early side, we left the hotel and started driving down the coast, beginning with Ocean View Boulevard and Sunset Drive in Pacific Grove, then connecting to the 17-Mile Drive through the Del Monte Forest and Pebble Beach:
(An aside: Even though they tell you how long it is, it’s not a great idea to drive 17 miles on an empty stomach.) (Another aside: I assumed there was some connection with Del Monte and the food people, and there sort of is, but it’s not as interesting as I thought it would be, meaning no aristocratic family farmed the land there and built a forest or whatnot.)
We had breakfast in Carmel before setting out on the prettiest drive of the trip, Highway 1 between Carmel and Cambria, through Big Sur. Yes, that sign warns of families wild boars crossing the road:
Gas that day cost $4.35 a gallon at the Arco on Ramada Drive in Paso Robles:
Wednesday, May 16, 2012: Paso Robles
Goober says that the high point of the trip for him was breakfast at Margie’s Diner in Paso Robles:
It was a great breakfast (we ate there twice), but I think he thought that it was especially nice because it evoked a sense of promise for the rest of the trip, and probably a little because we were filling up before going out tasting wine around Paso Robles.
Now “Paso Robles” means something along the lines of “oak tree pass” or something like that, so it was cool to see actual oak trees out on Chimney Rock Road on our way to Justin Vineyards (baby’s first wine tasting!):
A word about how people in California pronounce Spanish things: “Paso Robles,” I didn’t learn until much later in the trip, is not pronounced “Pah-so Robe-less,” like you’d expect from three years of high school Spanish, but rather “Pah-so Row-bills,” like you’re specifically trying to mangle the accent. It sort of sounds like how Bugs Bunny mispronounces “Los Angeles” with a hard “G”, until you remember that “Los Angeles” itself is mispronounced, and then all names everywhere in California, and especially Los Angeles, start seeming ridiculous. Los Feliz? No, try “Los Feelies.” “La Cienega” is not “La See-en-ay-ga” but rather “Lahsee-en-uh-gah.” Same with “Sepulveda.” It’s like a city full of folks who talk about how crazy Eye-ran is being while they eat Eye-talian food made by a guy from Vee-It-Naaam (i.e., rhymes with “Sam I Am”).
We took Vineyard Drive to Turley Wine Cellars just south of Highway 46, then hit Niner and the Dr. Suess-sounding Windward Vineyard before heading back to Paso Row-Bills where we had dinner at Thomas Hill Organics downtown.
From Hearst Castle, Highway 1 driving into San Luis Obispo:
The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo was recommended to us:
The baby needed to stop, so he had another nice meal overlooking the ocean at Spyglass Park in Pismo Beach:
We stayed at the Days Inn Windmill, which is also featured in the film, not so much because we’re fans of the film (though we are — and I watched it again after coming back from the trip) but rather because if you spend a night in Buellton, it’s likely going to be at the Days Inn:
Friday, May 18, 2012: Buellton/Lompoc/Los Olivos/Solvang
After breakfast we drove out to Babcock Winery, Foley Estates and Melville Vineyards & Winery in the Lompoc area. From there we went up to Los Olivos to visit the Qupé, Alta Maria and Dragonette tasting rooms (with lunch at R-Country Market):
There are many Pea Soup Andersen’s billboards along US 101 as you approach Buellton:
Saturday, May 19, 2012: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
We drove down to Santa Barbara and had breakfast at the original Sambo’s Restaurant on the beach there. I assumed all the Sambo’s had closed, and they mostly have, but this is the one remaining restaurant, the one that began the chain. As for the name, it’s supposedly misunderstood (the owners were “Sam” and “Bo”), although it seems odd that they still use imagery that evokes the controversial connotation. But the food is good:
We dipped the baby’s toes into the Pacific Ocean at East Beach, though he did not like it much:
We then got back on US 101 and spent hours stuck on the Ventura Freeway. Just when you start to think California is magical, you get stuck in traffic.
Sunday, May 20, 2012: Los Angeles
I had never seen the La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park and it was as strange and wonderful and as stinky as I’d hoped it would be. I saw people relaxing there, which seemed relaxing in the way that hanging out behind an asphalt truck might be relaxing:
From there we walked around Santa Monica and passed by the Natural Resources Defense Council building which I discovered later seems to be the real-life spot of one of the semi-autobiographical side plots in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.
I know it’s my own damn fault that I always think of Sheryl Crow when we’re on Santa Monica Boulevard.
I wanted to drive down one of those Beverly Hills streets with all the palm trees. This is Bedford Drive; I don’t know if it’s the one they always show on movies:
I love the billboards on Sunset Boulevard:
And this is the Canadian section of Hollywood Boulevard:
This was the day of the eclipse, and people gathered across the street to look at the sun:
I don’t know how they were looking at the sun (it was really bright) or how they were taking pictures, but you can see the eclipse refracted somehow in this image:
I’m afraid to go to the eye doctor now. For dessert we got a slice of cheesecake to go from Canter’s.
Monday, May 21, 2012: Los Angeles
We dropped off the car at LAX and flew home. Final tally, 879 miles driven:
If you stare deeply enough into your drink, messages appear:
Even though we missed the scheduled tour, one of the park ranger people let us into the ornate Collector’s Reception Room:
Back in June, the Freedom Tower was still short enough to fit into the camera frame:
I already talked about visiting Yankee Stadium.
The awesome Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens:
I could watch the exhibit showing how they produce a live baseball game for for hours:
Block Drugs on Second Avenue:
The remnants of Mars Bar also on Second Avenue:
We already talked about seeing the Phillies play the Cubs.
There’s a lot of stuff behind fences in the East Village. Albert’s Garden:
And the New York Marble Cemetery:
They were even using St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery for some sort of film shoot.
Prince Street in Lower Manhattan:
(Funny detail: The Google Street View up right now is from right around when I went walking around there — theirs is from July 2011 — so all the billboards look the same . . .)
There’s a great view of Union Square from the Whole Foods cafe on the second floor. They also have a bathroom you can use:
Astoria Park at dusk on the longest day of the year; this is at 8:40 in the evening (I knew there was a reason I took this but it took a while to remember):
Staring out the front door at Coppelia on 14th Street:
There’s nothing more depressing than an emergency room entrance at an abandoned hospital:
Well, OK, maybe some things are less depressing . . .
I honestly don’t remember what interested me about 60 Spring Street:
Was it because it was a blue jean store or something? Who knows . . .
The Astoria Market at the Beer Garden:
It took me two years to get two pictures of the San Antonio Abate Festival on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria. Maybe in another year I’ll put a link up to the page:
We were up in the Rhinebeck area for a wedding during Memorial Day 2011.
Market Street, with its requisite iconic wooden Indian and Doughboy:
The A.L. Stickle store on Market Street is hard to describe — other than totally awesome, that is. It’s a time capsule of sorts what with all those Revell model car kits (do you remember Revell model cars? do kids still sniff model glue?) and vintage display cases. I remember huge zipper displays in our local supermarket — what happened to all that stuff? I haven’t thought about some of these things in years. So wonderful . . .
We bought some herbs and various plants at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market for the backyard.
Mill Street and Montgomery Street both comprise U.S. 9 around Rhinebeck; one is U.S. 9 north of Market Street and the other is U.S. 9 south of Market Street. The Rhinebeck Reformed Church is on Mill Street, just past the Lions Club Eyeglass Drop Box:
The wedding was at Camp Rising Sun in Clinton.
Chief of which is Brooklyn Bridge Park, which was a lot more elegant than I expected, especially considering how ugly/utilitarian the piers used to be:
It’s like, where did all that dirt come from?
There’s a staircase thing-place that overlooks Lower Manhattan, which is just stunning. Propose here:
Grimaldi’s has since moved from its longtime location, just down the street at 1 Old Fulton Street:
I really, really want to start a “I [Heart] Unicorns 4-Eva” meme:
Remember when they thought the world would end on May 21? And people spent their life savings on subway ads? Why did they do that? Not because they weren’t right (they weren’t), but what difference would it make if you saw this ad on the subway beforehand?
One day they’ll finish the East Side Access project. For now, it’s kind of a constant thing:
Vacant spaces are so strange looking, like repeating a word over and over until it sounds completely foreign:
I sat outside a bar one night in May 2011 staring at the bright lights in this space, just sort of pondering how weird it looked. Now I know that it’s a “cursed” spot, only recently occupied by a somewhat stable business.