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Travelogue: Winston-Salem Pt. 4 – some Rain

We’ll see

We woke up on Easter and promptly went to a Starbucks to caffeine up.

The big reason why we went down to North Carolina was that a relative of the Firecracker’s had passed and the extended family was there to mourn and spread that relative’s ashes.

So, we did that on the last day.

I stayed in the car because I figured this was a private family event and this wasn’t really the time nor place to make formal introductions.

Afterward, we went to her aunt’s house where everyone celebrated the relative’s life as well as had Easter dinner.

Her extended family were also quite nice and I ate myself silly, taking a nap in her aunt’s sunny backyard.

Now, I’d been speaking to Rain this whole trip because he moved to a neighboring state down south.

Rain’s taken a huge 180 in his life and essentially changed from being the ultimate city boy to a farmer.

Legit, he’s a farmer now.

To wit, he wanted to give me some grass-fed beef from a cow he had slaughtered.

Him: This will be the freshest best beef you had in your life.
Me: Well, you already had me at free.

So, the Firecracker and I headed back to Walmart to get a cooler.

Gotta say that being in Walmart is a trip for a city boy like myself, who has yet to transition to becoming a farmer.

Literally, they had everything including guns and shotguns on display and various projectiles scattered about.

Me: I could live here. They have everything!
Her: Welcome to the south, babe.

We then went back and crashed, only to wake up a few hours later at the crack of ass to make the 12 hour trip back.

But we stopped off first at the parking lot of a Chick-fil-A where I met up with Rain, who arrived in this HUGE red pickup truck.

Me: You’re legit a farmer now.
Him: (taking sawdust outta his pockets) Yup.

He filled up the cooler with meat while the Firecracker and her kid went in to get some food. Presently, he and I went in as well and we shot this impromptu video below.

We chatted for just a few minutes before he had to get back on the road – I had to pick up my kid and we were still hours from where we needed to be.

After what seemed like forever, I got the kid…

Me: There you are! I missed you so much!
Him: Me too, papa! How was North Carolina?
Me: Good – but it woulda been better if you were there.

…and then made it home after being stuck in NYC traffic for a while.

She wants to do this trip every year and I’m not sure I can do that. But I see the appeal for her.

We’ll see.

Location: earlier today, stuck on 14th Street, waiting for mass transit
Mood: old
Music: Looking fine as hell in aisle four. Would you come over? (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Winston-Salem Pt. 3 – Stopping for BBQ

Hot damn, yeah!

We woke up relatively late to meet the Firecracker’s BIL and sister at a North Carolina BBQ joint called Lexington Barbecue.

Her: You’ll like it if you prefer dry rub to sauces.
Me: I like all types of BBQ.
Her: This is authentic southern BBQ!

I actually ended getting the fish.

BIL: Lemme get this straight, you come to a Carolina BBQ place and you get…fish?!
Me: I’m just gonna eat some of [the Firecracker’s] food – she never finishes.

Turns out she did.

BUT her niece didn’t want any of her food, so I ate that.

After we left, I took some pics outside when I heard a fella called out to me…

Him: Hey! Hey, man! You want some real pictures, come on into the smoker.
Me: Hot damn, yeah!

He was the pitmaster and also just a prince of a fella.

So were the two gents working back there as well.

The pitmaster pulled a piece of pork right outta the smoker and handed it to me.

Him: Whaddya think?
Me: (eating it) Jesus, that’s good.

We closed out the day having dinner with the Firecracker’s immediate family at the AirBnB that her sister was staying at.

The next day, we celebrated Easter and then headed back home but not before seeing an old friend.

I’ll tell you that part next, if you’re interested.

Location: A sunny playground, trying to not get hit by a baseball
Mood: irritated
Music: mountains, slowly they’ll arise before our eyes (Spotify)
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A night at hot pot, the Library, pizza, Criff Dogs, and (almost) a Speakeasy.

And we ran into another friend, too

The Firecracker needed to get some legal work done but it was outta my wheelhouse, so I asked my buddy Reed to take a look at it for us, which he did.

So, as a mini-thanks for the help, the Firecracker and I took him out to eat hot pot and get some drinks.

We started off at Hou Hot Pot; the Firecracker and I arrived first, and he came just a few minutes later and had on a pearl necklace, like the Firecracker.

Her: Hey, we’re both wearing pearls!
Him: Yes, yes, we are.
Me: Dammit, left out again.

We ordered a ton of food and just caught up.

Afterward, we went to the Library of Distilled Spirits

….where we chatted with the bartender, who also starred in Drunk Shakespeare.

Me: Is it always the same person drunk each time?
Him: Nah, we take turns.
Me: Seems sensible.

Reed ordered a Paper Plane variation, while I had my old standby, the Old Fashioned…

…and a rum drink that I’ve never had before.

Bartender: Have you ever had an Old Cuban?
Me: Nope, but I’ll have one now.

It was honestly, pretty good – but nuthin could beat that first Old Fashioned.

We got pretty lit there and I got snacky, as I’m usually wont to do.

So, we got some pizza.

Her: Whenever Logan drinks, his “no carbs” rule goes out the window.
Me: You sold me out!
Her: But it’s true!
Me: That’s not the point!

It wasn’t enough.

Reed: Let’s go to Crif Dogs and get cheap beer and some dogs.
Me: Sold!
Him: We can also check out the speakeasy there that’s hidden behind the phone booth.
Her: What? Wait, is this Please Don’t Tell?

It was.

But the line was waaaaay too long so we just got dogs and beer.

Turns out the guy running the front desk grew up in Ithaca, where I went to college.

Him: My family owned Rogan’s.
Me: For serious? Man, I haven’t had that in ages.

We just ended up chatting the night away.

Him: Oh, I was engaged once.
Me: No kidding?
Him: We’re still friends. Her daughter visited the city not too long ago and I showed her around.
Me: You’re such a mensch!

It was late when we headed back, and we ran into my buddy Lau who had just finished up a private show.

A lot more happened, but I suppose this is all I wanted to tell you.

Location: in bed almost all day
Mood: sick, send soup
Music: Lethal poison for the system (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Vienna 2023 Pt 6 – Marie Antoinette, Schönbrunn Palace, Fake Ruins, Home

Can’t tell you how disappointed I am

Her: You know what’s wild? The same time we were in the room where Marie Antoinette was born, my sister was in Paris in the room she was in right before she died.
Me: That *is* wild – and so sad to me for some reason.

The last day we were there, the Firecracker had us heading out to the Schönbrunn Palace, which was where the Hapsburgs summered.

Coincidentally, her sister was in Paris at the same time, leading to the conversation above.

Now the Firecracker just likes going to castles in general, but I was super jazzed to see the Roman ruins – more on that in a moment.

Beforehand, though, we enjoyed some of the Christmas market outside the castle before heading in.

Just like the Hofburg, it was opulent and impressive.

While there was a glass cutaway in the palace showing the Roman ruins, I wanted to see the more impressive ruins on the grounds…

…and they were super impressive…

Me: I’ve never seen such nicely kept ruins, ever!
Her: This is amazing!

…and super fake:

Me: Holy cow, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.
Her: Man, that stinks!

To assuage somea that disappointment, we headed to the next town over in search of a traditional German joint that was less than 550 years old.

We stepped into the first nice place we saw and ordered a Diet Coke and another Radler…

…along with a traditional Weiner Schnitzel and Beef Goulash.

It was all pretty good but definitely not American-sized portions, so I was still pretty hungry afterward.

Her: You’re always hungry.
Me: This is true.

There was one last castle that the Firecracker wanted to check out before we left but, because I was still hungry, we hopped off the tram early to check out a bar right before it called Cafe Prinz.

Me: (to owner) Zwei bitte. Und gibt es Apfelstrudel und Wurst?
Owner: I’m sorry, do you speak English? My German isn’t so good.
Firecracker: (surprised) Are you American?
Owner: (shaking head) No, I’m from Czech Republic, moved to Canada decades ago, and was on my way back home to the Czech Republic when my friend convinced me to stop here in Vienna and we ended up buying this bar.

She was super nice, and we ended up taking a picture with her.

The Firecracker wrote some postcards for her parents, and I offered to drop them off at the post office for her.

It was “only” two blocks away but each one of these blocks were like three NYC avenues.

Firecracker: I thought you got lost!
Me: I didn’t but…man, they don’t fool around with the blocks here.

After we had some food and drink, we headed off to the last castle.

There was another Christmas Market there, so I ended up buying more Glühwein with this cool mug.

We ended up just enjoying the market for a bit before heading back.

The next morning, we took off for home.

It was pretty uneventful except for the fact that we had to board the plane from the tarmac…

…and the food was pretty atrocious.

Her: It’s not good.
Me: It tastes like they saw a picture of a pizza and decided to make it based on the picture.

We got back to the states and missed the train back into the city by just two minutes.

Her: Wait, the train’s delayed, we didn’t miss it after all.
Me: Awesome! Well, that’s a good way to end this trip.

And that’s our trip to Vienna.

Back to our usual nuthin in the next entry.

Location: home all day, after a night of drinking with Mr. Read
Mood: sober
Music: Even though I love the road, I’m missing home (Spotify)
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A Week of Birthdays, Pt 4: Tasting like regret

A last birthday and street party

The Firecracker and I thanked Fattah and his friends for the hospitality and got up to leave when two guys recognized me from Scenic Fights and insisted on buying us drinks.

The drinks turned out to be a round of shots.

Me: I think I had…(counting) four drinks? Five?
Her: Same, I think.

It was a gorgeous night, so we took the long walk to train station more suitable for getting home.

She stopped a few times along the way to admire some stores and such.

We just barely managed to catch one train uptown – the next train wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 26 more minutes.

Getting outta the station in the UWS…

Me: What are your thoughts on 1AM pizza?
Her: Yes! Let’s do it.
Me: Dammit, I shoulda had those churros.
Her: Food always tastes better after midnight.
Me: Yes, but in the morning, it tastes like regret.

There was a bottle for ranch that I wanted to put on my pizza but it was empty. I figured it was fate telling me to not go overboard but then the fella behind the counter insisted that I take a new bottle and I ended up dousing my slice with ranch dressing.

Me: I didn’t even know that was an option!

We both crashed pretty hard – I don’t think I woke up until after noon the next day.

Her: I went out, ran, and went shopping. I was gonna break into your room if I didn’t hear from you after I was done shopping.
Me: Blargh. I hate myself.
Her: (laughs)

It was actually her sister’s birthday that day, so I grabbed her sister my favourite bottle of rum, and we went down to go see her.

Along the way, we walked past another street fair but I was still digesting the pizza from the previous night.

Me: God, that was such good pizza.
Her: Nah, you were just drunk. Everything tastes better when you’ve been drinking.

There were actually a couple more birthdays after that, but those stories all belong to someone else.

So here are just some more rando photos of the street fair.

Location: all over NYC and Brooklyn in search of pawpaws
Mood: exhausted
Music: Burning bright in a dark sky (Spotify)

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Four bars, one night, and a free TV

Using useless information

I’m really behind in alla my posts, sorry.

But I’m trying to catch up.

The Firecracker’s kid and my kid were away, plus she was in the middle of moving, so I ended up helping her schlepp her stuff here and there.

Her: We have to bring this TV to my new place so I can give it away.
Me: What?! That’s ridiculous. It’s gonna rain soon. Just slap a sign on it that it’s a free TV and someone’ll take it.
Her: Are you sure? I’d hate for it to end up in a landfill.
Me: Trust me.

It was gone in a few hours.

After a full day of that and a million other errands, we decided to treat ourselves afterwards to a drink at a local bar.

We got some appetizers…

…and drinks.

But the night seemed super early yet.

Me: Do you wanna go someplace else?
Her: With you? Sure!

We soon found ourselves at my old bar Malachy’s – which just had a major face-lift – where we had some rum and diet coke.

But I was, of course, still hungry.

Her: I know a place near my old apartment with board games and $6 burgers.
Me: You had me at $6 burgers.

She was looking for the perfect game and found a trivia one called, I should have known that!

Her: Who wrote Robinson Crusoe?
Me: Daniel Defoe. Hey, did you know that it was based on a real person named Alexander Selkirk? Just before he died, he dreamt of being back on his island.
Her: You know a lotta useless information, Lo.
Me: We’re using it right now!

Of course, I ended up spilling hot sauce all over the cards.

Her: LOGAN! I can’t bring you anywhere.
Me: (sighing) Evidently not. I’ll get some paper.

After several drinks and food, we walked outta the bar.

Me: I want more food.
Her: We can get some chicken sandwiches and a pina colada over at Tiki Chick.
Me: Sold!

While the Firecracker went to the restroom, I chatted with the manager.

Me: Where in Africa are you from?
Him: Sengal.
Me: Oh. I loved a girl once that worked in Dakar.
Him: Really? That’s so great. Was that her?
Me: (shaking head) No. No, that’s my girlfriend. The girl from Dakar was…someone else. She…got sick.
Him: Oh. (gently) Your girlfriend is very pretty.
Me: (nodding) I think so too. Thanks.

Location: earlier tonight, walking all over LIC so the Firecracker could see the fireworks for the first time.
Mood: full and tired
Music: Come along, baby, we better make a start (Spotify)
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A celebration and then karaoke

So funny and great

After the Hudson Yards, the Firecracker invited my brother and his girl to a celebration that she was having.

I got there first, where I met a whole buncha her friends, including another lawyer.

Him: …Yale. You?
Me: Cornell. Which, in the original Algonquin, I believe means, “Couldn’t make it into Yale.”

It was a pretty low-key thing at a local bar that I’d been to tons of times before.

Had my fill of bar food. Well, I had bar food. I coulda eaten more.

The Egyptian boyfriend of one of her friends and I got to talking about food.

Him: It’s not Egyptian but if you like shawarmas the best places are in Astoria.
Me: Way ahead of you, man.

I would honestly go to Europe just to eat shawarmas/gyros everywhere.

It was fun and everyone was nice but then it was time for us to leave.

I expected to head home afterward but my brother and his girl wanted to go to karaoke so who was I to tell them not to?

Brother: Wait, do you wanna come?
Me: Well, I don’t *want* to come but…
Firecracker: Karaoke!
Me: Yes?

So, the Firecracker and I went with them to midtown.

After just a few minutes, we found ourselves at a joint called Duet 53 where everyone sang a song and I tried to finish a huge bottle of sake.

Couldn’t do it.

My brother and his girl hung out until 6AM – hoo-boy – but the Firecracker and I called it by 1AM.

Although, she would probably had stayed out if given the option.

Her: Ready to go home, old man?
Me: God, yes…

Interestingly, on the way back home – in the middle of the night – met another couple who saw my cousin’s show on Broadway, Shucked.

She raved about it.

Woman: You have to see it now, before it wins a buncha awards and tickets are sold out everywhere.
Me: Oh, that’s high praise, I’ll definitely need to tell my cousin.
Her: And watch it! It’s so funny and great.
Firecracker: We should go see it!
Me: (laughing) Ok, ok, I’ll try to get us some tickets.

Like I always say, New York City’s like a small town a lot.

Location: Janovic paints, buying new paint for my apartment.
Mood: grateful I survived another May
Music: I’ve never lived a simple life (Spotify)
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Catching lunch at the Hudson Yards

A last-minute get-together

Her: At least you can drive.
Me: Drive? I’ve been driving for 35 years.
Her: (laughing) I was barely alive when you started driving! (laughing harder) I’m dead, I’m dead.
Me: (grumble)

My brother was in town again with his new girl…

…so, the Firecracker and I met up with the two of them at Hudson Yards, along with KTO.

It was a very last minute thing since we weren’t planning on meeting up until later in the week but everyone just happened to be free that day so off we went.

Haven’t been to Hudson Yards in a while for a buncha reasons but I was looking forward to going for the first time in a long while.

We met up at Mercado Little Spain there and had some tapas, again.

I’d never been before but it was essentially the entire basement area in one of the buildings so that was surprising.

Ended up having some mussels

…and a killer mushroom, onion, and date sammie.

Afterward, we all piled into a bus that brought everyone to another restaurant directly across the street from the Firecracker – which was totally by happenstance.

Later on that week, the Firecracker had a small celebration of her own for personal reasons and my brother and his girl came out for that.

But I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

May’s almost over. I’m relieved.

Location: My basement, taking measurements and hoping for the best
Mood: hating today
Music: I will love you until my dying day (Spotify)
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A trip to Queens, Pt 1

Lu Rou Fan

Firecracker: Wait, you didn’t mention that I was the one who thought you might have left your phone at Dark Bullet, called them, and found your phone for you?
Me: …no?

The Firecracker really does love to cook.

Mentioned to her that I’d not eaten Taiwanese food in a while so she ended up making me a dish I absolutely love called lu rou fan.

Her: I’ve never had it before so I didn’t know what it should taste like.
Me: (shaking head) It’s still good though. And these endives are killer – how did you cook them?
Her: I blanched the shit outta them.

What she made was good, but it didn’t really taste like lu rou fan – I think the recipe she chose wasn’t the best so I wanted to take her out to try the genuine article.

Now, I’d been meaning to see my mom and sis for a while now but my sister’s the most peripatetic person I know; trying to see her and her kids is a lesson in scheduling.

Mom: You know your sister – she’s like a horse, always running around.
Me: Isn’t that the truth!

But I figured that it was time they met The Firecracker and my sister just happened to be in town last weekend, so I grabbed the kid, met up with the Firecracker, and headed out to the wilds of Queens.

Usually, I can take the train straight to see them but, because of construction, we had to transfer in Woodside.

Her: I think we should be on another track.
Me: Nah, it’s gonna be this one.

It was not.

So, because I didn’t listen to her, we missed the transfer and waited half-an-hour for the next one.

Me: Oh man, I’m so sorry. I was wrong and you were right.
Her: God, I love how that sounds!
Me: (grumble)

Because I screwed up so badly, and because I’ve been dreaming of Taiwanese food non-stop since the Firecracker made me the lu rou fan, I brought them to a Taiwanese restaurant literally right across the street from the Korean joint that Pac brought me to, years ago.

Neither of them ever had Taiwanese food before so I did all the ordering.

I got the classic pork chop on rice with lu rou fan, some pork stuffed crepes, soup dumplings, an egg scallion pancake and a soy milk.

The boy didn’t like the soy milk but loved everything else.

Me: How is it?
Him: Sooooooo good!
Her: Everything is delicious – you’re five-for-five, Lo!

Afterward, my mom came by to pick us up and bring us over to her place for dinner but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Me: Hi, mom! This is [The Firecracker].
Firecracker: Hi! Thank thanks for picking us up!
Mom: Of course, get in!

Location: earlier today, a schoolyard, introducing myself to a parent and asking them what they thought about a school I was thinking about for the kid
Mood: plants are trying to kill me and I don’t like it
Music: I know I always come and go but it’s out of my control (Spotify)
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A Story, on the West Side

Seeing the blue sky again

It’s been a super busy week with work and life.

This past weekend, the kid had his first “school party” without me.

Basically, the PTA threw a party where the parents dropped off their kids so the kids could spend three hours running around the school, playing games and dancing and such.

The kid was so thrilled, I was excited for him. But he’s growing up way too fast.

Him: You’ll really let me go?
Me: Of course.
Him: You’re the best dad, ever!
Me: You’re not wrong.

The Firecracker and I took the opportunity to grab a drink around the way at a local bar called Jake’s Dilemma.

Her: You got carded! The night’s already off to a good start. (later) Look at us, out at a bar without the kids.
Me: It definitely feels weird.

Because we were both actively dating when we met, she and I chat about dating in NYC in general and our recent history.

Me: …so, that was the end of that.
Her: Well, compared to my last date, you’re definitely an upgrade.
Me: (laughing) I would hope so.
Her: Oh yeah, it’s like moving up from a Pinto to a Ferrari.

If nuthin else, she’s good for my ego.

The next day, the kid went to a Holi festival at the Seaport and I grabbed him over at Lincoln Center before heading back downtown.

Me: See that brown building over there? This entire place used to be fulla buildings exactly like that. But you can actually see exactly what it used to look like before it became Lincoln Center.
Her: Where?
Me: The original West Side Story. It was shot when this was all residential walk-up housing. They literally bulldozed the entire neighborhood the day after shooting stopped.

The kid and I met up with the Firecracker and her kid to come with me to the Surgeon’s place for a little party after his Holi party.

Me: They live in a converted department store. The ceilings are like 15 feet tall.
Her: I can’t wait to see it!

She was impressed.

The surgeon made rum cocktails while I cooked up some Korean pork dishes that I got from H Mart near the gym.

Her kid was a huge hit with the Surgeon’s daughters. It was nice that everyone got along well.

His brother, Steel, had another engagement but everyone there was really cool. We met the most interesting fella who worked at Google…

His Wife: (proudly) He invented Chrome.
Me: Wait, for real?!
Him: (sheepishly) Yeah. I led the team that wrote Firefox and Google hired me to write Chrome for them.
Me: Oh man, I have so many questions. (later) BTW, lemme tell you about this hack that happened to me because of Chrome…

It was super late when we all left.

The next day, we all met up with the ABFF and her kids as well and everyone seemed to get along well there too.

Her: Shoot, I don’t have any alcohol.
Me: It’s like you don’t even know me.

I feel like my life’s been on hold for years now.

I either didn’t go out or went to things solo. It’s nice to have a companion that wants to do things with me.

You know, the scaffolding on my block came down and I can see the blue sky again.

The last time I saw the blue sky around my pad, Alison was still alive and we were waiting for the boy to come.

I’ve been in shadow ever since.

So, it’s nice to see the sun and sky again.

It’s been so long that I’d forgotten what it looked like.

Location: yesterday, looking at the sun from my son’s room
Mood: ruminating
Music: I can see the bright blue skies now (Spotify)
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