Saturday, April 26, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 5

One vs. Many
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Cloudy happy days in Istanbul. Yesterday Karis and I, admittedly exhausted from taking in so much of this city during the past week, stayed in and watched "Children of Men" and Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," which I was mildly disappointed by. Not nearly enough suspense.

Today was maybe our best culinary day, punctuated by yogurt, potatoes, and waffles (see the Flickr page for more details). Istanbul is the only city I know where certain neighborhoods are closely identified with certain culinary delights. Kumpir in Ortakoy, yogurt in Kanlica, borek in Sariyer, ice cream in Moda, boza in Vefa. Can you imagine L.A. having only one neighborhood known for its tacos?


OK, so don't freak out, but our cruise was canceled. We were deeply bummed out by this a few days ago, but now look at it as a blessing in disguise: We've received a full refund AND a free cruise anytime between now and 2009. Score.

So instead of taking the cruise, tomorrow Karis and I will fly to the resort town of Bodrum (what was to be our port of call) and then make our way back up to Istanbul over land. Our rough itinerary includes stops at classical sites, coastal towns, and cultural areas. We won't have regular Internet access during this time, but something tells me you guys will have no problem repeatedly watching the video of Maggie June crawling. I certainly don't.

OK. I want everyone on their best behavior while we're gone, got that? And if the Tigers could continue straightening out their season, that'd be great. Am I reading right that the bullpen is doing better than the starters? I can't tell what's crazier: baseball or international travel.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 4

Best Food in Istanbul
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
After a grand time in Sultanahmet, the historic district that counts as Old Istanbul, Karis and I returned to her apartment, where we broke bread for two consecutive nights with her neighbors Gem and Yasmin. On the second night, the Upstairs Turks put on an amazing spread consisting of about a dozen dishes, few of which I know the name for: a sweet bean dish in a light tomato broth eaten with yogurt, a mountain of bulgur with parsley and other herbs drizzled with pomegranate sauce, salads, olives and white cheeses (there are always, always olives and white cheeses), the most excellent almonds I've ever munched, and more than enough raki.

Raki is the Turkish national drink. The anise-flavored liquor, which has an angrily high alcohol content, is served in narrow cylindrical glasses — three parts water to one part raki. Raki is clear in the bottle, but turns milky opaque with the water. It's meant to be drunk slowly, so it's Turkish custom to always have food on the plate during a raki session. This was an impossible custom to follow, as every time my plate was replenished, I cleaned it in short order.

Dig the Flickr page for an explanation of this nice man with the mussels and for shots of me and raki, the fishermen of Istanbul, and more images from this consistently amazing trip.

Tonight: a ballet preceded by ayron and lahmacun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 3

Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
We've traveled a few miles and thousands of years in the past few days. Karis and I have been in the historic district of Sultanahmet for the past couple days. We've toured the Hagia Sofia, part of the Blue Mosque, a mosaic museum, the Archeology Museum, and the Basilica Cistern. And the food we've eaten! Kebap, various forms of fish, street food, stuffed mussels (my new favorite), mezze (small plates), raki (the black licorice flavored national drink), Turkish coffee, tea, killer baklava. Holy Toledo. Today we're off to more of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and an art museum. Tonight some neighbors are hosting us for fish and raki.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 2

Brain 2
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Karis's friend Audrey is in town doing art research. She's also doing some culinary research, and I agreed to join her on an expedition last night: eating sheep's brain. How'd it taste? Go poke around the Flickr page to find out. Yesterday was spent checking out an art museum, walking around bazaars, sitting in the courtyard of a mosque listening to the call to prayer, and eating with gusto. Today it's off to a historic district (which sounds funny to me, because this whole city hits me as a historic district).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 1

First Breakfast
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Mer habba! Karis whipped up an amazing breakfast today. Not sure why all meals aren't like this. The trip in was butter smooth, even through the feared Heathrow T5. Heading out in a bit to take in the river and visit the Istanbul Modern.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Today I mark another notch in the stick that measures the transformation in my life since leaving Cleveland. I’ve made quite a few since 2005: departing from Ohio, moving to Los Angeles, helping create Hudson & Gaines, working at the L.A. Weekly, quitting the Weekly for my freelance business. I consider each of these events seminal moments in that Buddha path that my uncle wisely described for me a few years ago. Collect them all, and they help describe the point I’m at: the happiest, most creative time in my life. Never have I been so excited to learn what happens next.

And so it is that in a few hours I’ll begin a flight that will end in Turkey. Along with great chapters of mystery, awaiting me in Istanbul will be my very own breathtaking girl. The thought of seeing her for the first time in months conjures only images, no words.

Yesterday Hud and I drank the city’s best coffee under blue skies. A musician casually plucked a Django Reinhardt tune. My sister called to wish me a happy trip. Kids and dogs and cars went by. The surrounding particles arranged to give me a clear view of the trail already walked, and a bright light on what awaits.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

H&G: THE BIG 2-3

The media barons of WBFK are back! Near-defunct social-networking sites ... a drunken radio producer ... fantasy role-playing games ... small-town fear of the unknown ... a very special Shakerbrau spot ... Jeffrey "The Starchild" Starmichael ... Saladtron ... swords and maces ... a Hudsonian attack on dorkism ... geek jambaroos ...

Or search "Hudson & Gaines" on your very own iTunes machine!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When Bad Coffee Happens to Good People Who Love Great Coffee

If you're like me, and you subscribe to the Los Angeles Times and live in Los Feliz, you were subject to a marketing assault by Starbucks yesterday. That is, if you consider a billboard across the street and a card for a free cuppa Joe included in your morning paper a marketing assault. And I do. The subject of this awareness attack was the 'Buck's new brew, Pike Place Roast. As the advertisement notes, it's the coffee for people who love coffee.

I love coffee, so I figured I'd try a free cup of black gold designed especially for me. Card in hand, I walked down to the neighborhood shop and obtained a "tall" order of this Pike Place Roast. After a few sips, I thought I had made up my mind. But I downed a good three-quarters of the stuff before making my pronouncement:

It's terrible.

Pike Place Roast has overpowering notes of chemical and Styrofoam. It lacks the rich complexity good java is known for. It in fact lacks any complexity. It leaves a wet, bland, vaguely burned aftertaste. It smells like the coffee you'd get in a diner or at a banquet, but withholds the contextual charm: I'll gladly drink a bad cup of coffee with a good slice of pie in a bustling restaurant. But none of that is present with Pike Place Roast. It's just bad (expensive) coffee, on the go.

That said, I encourage you to get a free cup of your own. Tell Rocket Fever if you agree with this review. And while you're at the 'Buck, dig the new old naughty-mermaid logo. Cross your tails, you hussy!


In less than a week, I'll be flying to Istanbul. That is, if the plane actually gets off the ground. How perfect that I'm planning the trip of a lifetime just as the global airline industry is in full meltdown. Oy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

RF Roll Call

Dad wasn't the only notable guest in town lately. The First Family of Greenville, Mich., the Steve Davises were present, along with the Sultans of Saginaw, Bill and Diane Baird.

Steve and Erin were in town to serve as Maggie June's godparents at the baptism and, I guess, henceforth. No word on if this makes Annie and Will Davis godsiblings. What I do know is that Will is tough enough to bounce back from a spill on stone pavers one day and a high-speed inflated ball to the head the next, and that Annie kinda sorta likes animals. But just a little bit.

And there honestly are no two better folks on this planet than the Bairds. Bill is always good for talking sports and other manly topics, and Diane wears the name “Grandma” as gracefully as she wore that smashing blouse the day of the baptism. And they both are crazy about their granddaughter.

This post can’t end without special mention of Sparrow Hospital’s Employee of the Year, Oscar Dan Mazariegos, another Greenvillian in for the weekend. Dan hit the road for a drive up the West Coast right after the baptism, but it was still good to see him for a couple days.

Steve, sporting the ’stache, and Erin, loving every bit of it

Grandma Baird, finishing one of the best cakes I’ve had in ages

Bill, showing off his new appreciation for Jamaican beer

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

March Dad-ness

I have now had two consecutive perfect parental visits. After Ma's bravura performance last month, Dad came in and knocked it out of the park. Pop said he wanted to eat tons of good food on this trip, and I think we accomplished that: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Vermont, Farfalla pizza, Thai food, Neptune's Net, Allegria, Grandma Baird's cheesy potatoes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


On Wednesday, as we were about to begin our perfect drive up to Ventura County, an elderly lady with a flower in her hair knocked on the passenger's side window as we sat at the stop light at Hillhurst and Franklin. "Are you going straight?" she asked. I was about to inform the nosy frau that the gentleman sitting next to me was only my father when I realized she was referring to the direction of our travels. "Uh, yeah," I said. "Could you give me ride, at least up to Vermont?" she said.

I thought about it for about three seconds, which is all the time one needs to decide whether it's advisable to allow a strange woman into one's car in the middle of Los Angeles, when I said, "Hop on in!" She did, just as the light turned green. I asked her where she was going, and she said she was catching a bus in Hollywood, so I agreed to drive her up to Highland, since this is where we were heading anyway.

Now, I hold the opinion that if someone invites herself into my car, many of the normal rules of civil conversation fail to apply. So for five minutes I peppered this sweet woman with question after question about her life. Pop mostly looked out the window, quietly mortified at what his firstborn had wrought. Here's what I learned:

She was heading to an Armenian church near Universal Studios to see about selling some paintings either by her mother or once owned by her mother. She moved to New York from her native Lebanon in the mid-1960s and then to L.A. in the 1980s after her business was robbed. She has no one anymore, except for her church, her city, and her God. Every morning when she wakes up, she has a new perspective on life. There's nothing that she doesn't feel in her skin. When I told her that I let her into the car because she seemed trustworthy, she said it was evidence of a strong spiritual force inside of me. She wishes Dad were her dad; she misses her father very much. She has a strong handshake. She didn't steal anything out of the back of the car.


Dad and I are avid fans of synchronicity, so we had a good laugh when we heard Chris Webber was retiring. We were at the NBA draft on the day Orlando selected Webber and then immediately traded him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway. Fitting that the Gaines boys were together again when news of Timeout's departure from the game hit.


The rest of Pop's visit was anchored by the basketball tournament, which was largely disappointing save for that wonderful Davidson-Kansas game. We banged around Hollywood one day, helping his co-worker's son with a homework assignment, which had us taking pictures of a paper doll of the kid next to landmarks. Another day, we returned to the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, which we had visited two years ago but had to leave early because we had Dodgers tickets. If you've never been to the museum, you must go, and make yourself sit through the entire presentation on Geoffrey Sonnabend's Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.

The last day was a first for the both of us: We attended Margaret June Hudson's baptism. Maggie performed like a champ among a group of about 10 babes on the first baptism held at the immense Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in downtown L.A.

Afterward, we partied down at the Hudson compound in Glendale, snacking on ham rolls, meat balls, cheesy potatoes, cake, and fruit salad, all lovingly prepared by Diane Baird (and don't forget the barbecue chicken served up by Red Stripe beer's newest fan, Bill Baird).
After we said our goodbyes, Dad and I headed back to room 309 of the Best Western Hollywood Hills, where we finished the trip by eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and watching basketball highlights.