Tag Archives: bars

Memories of the Costa Concordia

As almost everyone knows, Costa’s Concordia ship, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, had its hull ripped open when it hit rocks late on Friday the 13th, just hours into a Mediterranean cruise. By tonnage, it is the largest passenger ship to ever sink, even though technically it’s only partially sunk.

Captain Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the Costa Concordia before evacuation was complete. Dickhead.

He’s now saying that he tripped into the lifeboat and couldn’t get out. If the Italians hadn’t already given themselves a horrible reputation for their soccer players feigning fouls and diving to get free kicks, then maybe we could believe that. But we’re onto them. Nice try.

I have different mental images of that ill-fated vessel than the ones I’ve seen this week. I’ve only been on two cruises in my life and the first was a 7-Day Western Mediterranean cruise on the Concordia starting in Rome with stops in Savona, Barcelona, Mallorca, Tunisia, Malta, and Sicily in 2007. I loved it, it was one of the best weeks ever.

I’m trying to figure out if the same dude was the Captain back then. I saw him at the Captain’s dinner one night and he looks like the guy in handcuffs on the news, but who knows. I’m pretty sure it’s him, but maybe I’m discovering that I think that all middle-aged Italian guys look exactly the same. 2012 is certainly a year of self-discovery. The SOPA blackout/boycott is slowing down my research efforts, but I fully support it.

In the next few months that ship will slowly be removed and God only knows what will happen to its remains. I made several friends who worked as waiters, chambermaids, and card dealers on that ship that week. I don’t know if they’re still employed there or not, but I really hope they’re safe.

This is the way I’d prefer to remember the Concordia. A little trip down memory lane.

My friend Kenny a few minutes after we realized that they gave us a full bed instead of two twins. The problem was being fixed while we toured the ship.

Didn’t feel like doing the safety demonstration so we skipped it. It was going to take way too long since they had to do it in seven languages.

Our favorite Romanian casino girls. Oh, so many Euros went into their pretty little hands.

The most patient waiter I’ve ever met, he had to deal with the only table of Americans. I tried to recruit him for my airline.

Kimma, who kept our mixers full and our illegal vodka a secret from The Man.

Mimi playing with the slots

Me ripping up Mimi’s room-service breakfast order after a disagreement. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told her that I did that. Hee hee, sorry Mimi ūüėČ

The Kings of the Roulette tournament

The big winners of the Black Jack tournament, Kenny was the only one on the ship that made both finals! Yes, he has two of those cheesy shirts.

Kenny winning over the mother of the one young hot chick in the disco on Singles Night

The best part about cruising with an Italian company, the kick-ass all night pizza

Fun at the ports- kickin’ it in Barcelona

And while we were on the La Pedrera roof, we saw this photo shoot going on next door! Every male on the roof took this same photo.

Pulling into Savona, a view from the top

My first taste of Africa, a very watered down taste in Tunis

Poor Kenny got talked into buying a rug. I call this photo, “Buyer’s Remorse”

Beautiful Malta. While I was taking this photo a big wave came and captured all the groceries I’d just purchased, along with my favorite pair of pink/gray checkered Vans that I’d kicked off for a sec. The barefoot walk across town back to the ship was very painful, emotionally and physically.

A glimpse of the gladiator’s life at the Coliseum. And of cats, many many cats.

Whenever accidents happen it’s so easy to let it go in one ear and out the other. Every single day something horrible happens on some part of this planet and because of the internet, we hear about every single one, often while it’s still happening.

We’d all be suicidal if we took the time to really care about all these things going on in our world. It’s just not possible to give a shit about every single thing you see flash on your newsfeed on Facebook or on the evening news.

To be honest, I didn’t think too much about the cruise ship hitting rocks and going down, even after I heard that there were fatalities. It was just another depressing news story. In one ear and out the other.

When you have a personal connection to the tragedy, however, everything changes. Once I found out that it was my Concordia, I gave a shit. I remember that holiday like it was yesterday, even though we all admitted Costa was pretty low-budget. I hope all the people I met on that trip are ok.

I guess I should also realize that in every depressing news story I choose to ignore, that there are people who are personally connected and it’s ruining their world. I’ll try to work on my sympathy/empathy in 2012 as well as this apparent prejudices against middle-aged Italian men I seem to have.

See they all look the same to me! Am I wrong? And to make things equal, some girls to look at too. Something for everybody. Have a nice day.

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My Anti-Bucket List

Everyone talks about what they would like to do before they die and yeah, I have a mental list too. But how about stopping for a second and appreciating the badass stuff you’ve already done? Stop living in the future (which will never come) and take a moment to appreciate the things you managed to do thus far, just in case you don’t wake up in the morning.

I just went to the doctor today and let’s just pretend that she told me that I’m not going to survive the night. Here are some things I’ve done and places I’ve gone that I’m really excited about and proud of.

I’m so thankful that I had these experiences. So glad that I…

Took a year off of work to just travel and be with my family during the holidays. I didn’t get another job, I just went to California, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and spent many weeks in Austin and Oklahoma City with family.

Went to the World Cup. I saw the US play Ghana in Nuremberg, Germany in 2006. I still think it was a bullshit penalty call at the end of the first half!

Went to Stonehenge.

Experienced the back room at a strip club. I was in WAY over my head back then. I’d do much better now.

Floated in the Dead Sea.

Got a degree. I was even on the Dean’s List my last semester! somehow.

Saw the Grand Canyon.

Published both photography and some of my writing, and both have won contests, not that winning a contest was a goal. Still, it’s nice to be recognized. PS, writing award came when I was in high school.

Lived in New York City. And not just for a little while until it got the better of me, I left on my terms after more than a decade.

Won at a proper Bingo game with 100+ people in attendance. I don’t know if you know what it feels like half a second before you yell out BINGO to 500 people, but it’s a whirlwind of emotions, mostly fear that you messed up and don’t really have a BINGO and you’re going to be utterly embarrassed.

Saw the Sistine Chapel. Briefly. Then I got kicked out for taking pictures. Ditto with the Last Supper. And Mona Lisa. And Birth of Venus. And Starry Night.

Sat in the Kop at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool for a soccer game.

Saw Morrissey in concert. Though that first happened when I was fifteen and has been done several times since then.

Saw a Beatle in concert. Thank God it was Paul.

Took a road trip across America. From Los Angeles to Austin and all the way to NYC.

Saw a Dallas Cowboy game in person on Thanksgiving Day. It was in 1987 and Minnesota beat Dallas 44-38 in overtime with the backfield of Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker. It’s one of only two NFL games I’ve ever been to.

Went to a big time, legendary, 3-day music festival in Europe. Every year now I do the Reading Festival outside of London, but only one day of it, while I’m on the job and getting paid at the same time.

Had a cliché, yet crazy week in Amsterdam. Ditto for Vegas.

Experienced the Great Barrier Reef. The first time is always the best.

Saw a live show at CBGB’s. They were all amazing, but the last one I saw was the best because by then we knew it was going to close down in a couple of weeks.

Visited a country where I understood none of the written or spoken language, yet managed to get by. Hand gestures and smiling goes a long way.

Well, I ran out of things so I did a google search for other people’s Bucket Lists and here are some of the things I’ve done that are on theirs. It’s amazing how EVERYONE has Swim with Dolphins on theirs! I’ve never done it and don’t really care that much to. They also all have Learn to Surf. That’s probably on mine as well.

Anyways: feed a koala, attend a high school reunion, test drive a car I cannot afford, stomp grapes, go to a Peter Gatien club in NYC, see a taping of David Lettermen, visit the Eiffel Tower at night, throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, watch a show on Broadway, see the Shire, successfully bluff a stranger in a high stakes poker game, play strip poker, and see Michael Jackson in person (at the Disney Store in NYC)

It’s both inspiring and heartbreaking reading other people’s Bucket Lists. You see the same things over and over again and a lot of them are so obtainable! I don’t understand why they don’t just take a deep breath and give it a go. Some would take just a day to complete!

I guess people would say the same thing about the dreams I have though. My favorite lists that I came across today were the ones that would have check marks next to the ones they’ve done. There are some really young people out there who have done some amazing things. It was motivating. It really made me want to get off my ass and make things happen. Then again, there are some messed up things people consider goals and ambitions. Their priorities are WAY out of whack i.e. Get Someone Fired.

Best. Airport. Bar. Ever

I actually planned a five-hour layover in London Stansted airport on my way to Austria for the sole purpose of going to the famous bar at the Radisson SAS Hotel right outside the airport. I was going to have to go through some airport in some city in some country in order to get to Graz, but when I looked at all my options, Stansted was the obvious choice.

The tiny, low-fare carrier-dominated airport which is way too north of London to realistically be called a “London” airport had one thing none of the other airports had, a thirteen-meter tall wine tower.

You expect to see stylish, gimmicky features such as that in flashy places like Vegas or New York, but not in some random regional airport that even some Londoners can’t point out on a map.

I heard about it though and I went straight over after I got off my flight from JFK. I was worried that the “airport” hotel wasn’t really that close to the airport, just maybe in the vicinity. Some JFK airport hotels are a ten minute van ride away. This wasn’t like that though. I walked outside the terminal that was about the same size as my high school gymnasium and walked maybe 40 meters. Then I was there.

The ultra modern hotel’s lobby did not disappoint and in the center of everything was the fabled wine tower with one its¬†angels¬†doing her thing, flipping and climbing her way to the very top of the tower. I later learned what a treat it is to see the angel fly so high, the cheapest bottles are at the bottom and the most expensive are at the very top. That is just brilliant planning on their part. I was planning on ordering a random bottle near the top, not caring if it was red or white or blue or French or Chilean or from some hick’s little slice of bayou in Louisiana. When I heard the prices I realized that my budget caused the angel to actually bend down to retrieve the bottle, while standing firmly on the ground that is.¬†So I was thankful there were some Chinese businessmen in the house that had a corporate credit card. That saved me some precious poundage.

I had over three hours to kill and I had the best time all by myself just watching the show. Not only was the acrobatic girl fun to watch, the patrons were as well. Everyone was taking photos and videos and you really felt like that was THE place to be in England that Monday afternoon. Even the stuffy ol’ businessmen watched liked starry-eyed children at the circus.

It was so surreal. If I drove just two minutes in any direction I’d see rolling green hills with little bushy sheep but not in the oasis of the Radisson.

I just sat and watched the scene. I wrote in my journal and got more than a little bit drunk before I continued my journey to where my holiday was supposed to start. If anyone has to pass through England to get to a European destination, for God’s sake, forget the bland insanity of Heathrow and go through Stansted instead.

July 19, 2011 Madrid, Spain

Just got back from the obligatory outing for food. ¬†I was out of my hotel room for only half an hour, then right back in and I don’t feel bad about that. ¬†I need to rest. ¬†I need to recover. ¬†I’m on Day 8 of 12 in a row of flying and I was very sick on Day 1. ¬†I blame the Charlie Sheen/Amy Winehouse weekend we had on the Guadalupe as to why I was sick to begin with. ¬†I’m not a teenager anymore and I really need days to recover from things like that, not working a stretch of 12 days starting the very next day. ¬†It was the absolute worst time to be sick but there was nothing to do about it. ¬†I need money.

I could’ve taken it easy on the layovers but I had plans for three of the four and they were set in stone. ¬†This Madrid one is the only one I had free for R and R. ¬†I have it highlighted on my calendar with a big smiley face and exclamation marks.

The first trip was to London the same night that I left Austin. That was when I was really hurting.  I ached all over with a fever and sore throat.  But I had a date to go to Ghost the Musical in the West End with two lovely co-workers followed by an after party with the cast and crew.  That day included way too much champagne before, during, and after the performance and not enough food, but it was fun talking with the actor that played Willy Lopez, the thug-life killer.

I don’t even remember what I did when I got back to New York but the night probably started and ended with NyQuil, again with no food. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be starving or feeding this damn thing!

Next day was Paris and I was surprised to find that I was starting to feel a little better. I really thought the London layover would take its toll and send me back to Square One. We were a bit delayed getting to the hotel because of a flight attendant and an asshole passenger getting into a fight and having the police meet us at the gate, but I still got a decent nap in before meeting my Aussie friend and her mom at their hotel just off the Champs Elysees.

I blame the stew just as much as the passenger for that whole mess. The drunk girls in the row behind the PAX didn’t help matters at all. ¬†Everyone even the least bit involved made it so much worse. I didn’t think it was worth it to get the police involved; nothing was going to happen to the guy. Sure enough, they scared him a bit and then let him go on his way like nothing ever happened.

I got to the Hotel Powers just after 2pm and at around 8pm we finally left the room, but only to go back to the liquor store because our three bottles of wine were gone. This time we got champagne and some random drink called Desperado that infused beer and tequila and red. ¬†I think red may have been the healthiest thing in there. It’s the sort of purchase you make only after drinking three bottles of wine without any food. ¬†We did think about food when we were getting reinforcements but it was all for show, God knew it didn’t matter at that point if I ate or not. ¬†By the time I left the hotel after midnight I had only eaten 7 little pickles and about 30 crackers with hummus on it.

Again, I was hoping to finally get some rest but plans get in the way. ¬†My Swedish friend is getting kicked out of our country in two weeks so I’m making sure I hang out with her and her boyfriend as much as possible when I’m in New York. ¬†I got in from Paris, watched the World Cup final, and then headed straight out to the Brooklyn Bridge to meet my friends. ¬†We walked across the bridge, took some pictures, stood in line at Grimaldi’s for an hour, ate a ton of pizza, and then called it a night. I resisted the urge to stay out and watch a movie. ¬†I knew I needed the rest. I promised we could have a big night very soon, just not that night. I was proud of making the right decisions regarding my health.

So now I’m in Madrid and the weather is beautiful out there. ¬†People are having amazing, memorable days in Spain and I could not care less. ¬†I don’t feel bad at all about not doing anything. ¬†I have a stack of Netflix I’ve been carrying around for three weeks and now more than ever I need to be good about getting those things watched and back to whence they came. ¬†I think I’m going to cancel my membership.

An hour or so ago I washed the jeans I’ve been wearing everyday for the last week in the sink with shampoo. They needed it, though I’m not sure they’ll be dry by the time I need to leave in nine hours. ¬†I didn’t think of that.

Tomorrow night in New York there are more plans to hang out with my soon to be Departed Friends and I’m hoping we can keep it substance free. ¬†The big night out I promised will NOT be happening tomorrow night if I can help it.

My final trip of this ungodly stretch is back to London and there are more plans with my favorite people there. Even though I intend to sleep before going out, it doesn’t really happen there for some reason, too many distractions. ¬†Then finally, FINALLY when I get back to New York from that London trip I can head over to Blue Jet and take the last flight out of New York back to Austin. ¬†Just thinking about being in my own bed sounds heavenly.

The pillows here in Madrid are horrible, as they were in Paris. ¬†I don’t get why they’d make pillows like that, all long and skinny and hard. In Paris they’re just way too fluffy. ¬†When they sit on the bed they look so big and full but when you put your head on them they deflate so that your head is practically touching the mattress, no support at all. They look like tortillas when you microwave them.

I can sleep really well in the beds in London, when I’m given the time to sleep.

When I went out for food I forgot which city I was in until I saw a juggler in the middle of the intersection, working for tips from the people stopped at the red light. ¬†I saw some very pretty girls with horrible bangs and ugly frames around their glasses, then it was obvious that I was in Spain. I think I’m going to see if the pant presser can do anything about drying these jeans.

Straight Guy Lesson #17- Worldwide Good Times

If you’re a new hire flight attendant you’re going to have to work all major holidays. ¬†Even if you’ve been flying for several years, you’re going to have to work on them. Just get used to that fact right now. Tell your family to schedule Christmas a few days before or after.

Sometimes it’s not that bad though. ¬†Some hotels really go all out to give crew members a good time on important days. ¬†The New Year’s Eve party at our layover hotel in London has become legendary. ¬†July 4th is a pretty big deal there as well and they don’t even celebrate the damn holiday. ¬†In fact they’re helping us celebrate the fact that we don’t belong to them anymore. ¬†Hmmm, maybe they’re happy about that?

I don’t mind working some holidays because I know I’m going to have a good time. ¬†That got me thinking about certain dates I like to be in other foreign cities throughout the year. ¬†Here is a list of events and festivals to shoot for in all twelve months. ¬†I threw a few American ones in there too for good measure.

January

  1. Chinese New Year in any city in China though a watered down version can be experienced in many large cities world-wide.
  2. Australia Day in any major city in Australia.  As if the Aussies needed an excuse to go crazy and drink a lot of beer. Lots of great beach parties.
  3. Republic Day in India.  Why not?
  4. Big Day Out music festivals in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast, and Melbourne
  5. The featured weekend of Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey. ¬†Haven’t done it/seen it, but apparently the best matches are in January.

February

  1. Mardi Gras or Carnival parties in New Orleans, Trinidad, Rio, or Venice.  Try them all!
  2. The Naked Festival in Saidai-Ji, Japan though it’s more loin clothes than naked people
  3. Tango Festival in Buenos Aires.  Nearly 100 free shows and concerts and the perfect place to be in late February/early March
  4. Late February- early March is the ten-day Rondy celebration of Alaskan life in Anchorage. ¬†Dog-sled races, human-sled races, elk hot dogs, frost bite foot races, snow ball fights, mobile outhouse races, and more fur than you can possibly imagine. ¬†PETA hasn’t heard about this one yet I guess. ¬†Just check out the website athttp://www.furrondy.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207:lets-rondy1&catid=80:rondy-rokfeature

March

  1. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. ¬†do it. ¬†DO IT!!!
  2. SXSW Music or Film Festivals in Austin, Texas.  Lots of free events and the atmosphere spreads over the entire city.
  3. March Madness in Las Vegas.  Gambling at its finest and most tragic.
  4. Holi or Doul Jatra Hindu celebrations of color in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. You get bonfires as well adults throwing colored powder and water all over each other.

April

  1. Queens Day in Amsterdam.  must see.  Must See.  MUST SEE!  Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange.
  2. Hana Matsuri (flower festival) in Toei, Japan .  The highlight is the Dance of the Demon
  3. Cherry Blossoms in Japan. ¬†If you can’t go to Japan, check out the Brooklyn Botanical gardens.
  4. Coachella Music Festival in southern California, still obscure enough to be respected, but go soon.

May

  1. Indianapolis 500 weekend in Indy.  Very underrated place to spend Memorial Day.
  2. Life Fest in Dublin.  Techno heaven and rated one of the Top Ten festivals in all of Europe.
  3. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico or anywhere with Mexicans.
  4. The International Clown Festival. Every year clowns from throughout the world congregate in Denmark for Svendborg’s International Clown Festival. I’ve got to see this before I die!
  5. Kentucky Derby.  Go all out, get yourself an outrageous hat and enjoy those mint juleps.

June

  1. Gotta see Wimbledon in London.  For cheap tickets wait in the long queue and get the afternoon pass.  Have some strawberries and cream.
  2. Portugal Day celebrations all over the country.  Off the hizzy.
  3. Bonaroo music festival in Tennessee. ¬†There’s something there for everyone.
  4. Cheese rolling in Gloucestershire, England.  Again, why not?

July

  1. Get in Paris for the last leg of the Tour de France. I’ve never done it but I’ve been trying for years.
  2. Bastille Day- anywhere in France. ¬†Especially fun right after the French win the World Cup but that probably won’t happen again in our lifetime.
  3. Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark. ¬†there aren’t many times when it’s pleasant to be outside in Denmark, but this is surely one of them.
  4. Running of the Bulls AND Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain.  Yeah, PETA has a protest that involves naked Spaniards.
  5. And of course any layover in the USA will be fun for July 4th

August

  1. Reading or Leeds music festival in England, though it’ll make you feel old
  2. Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium.  see note above about Reading/Leeds
  3. Fringe Arts Festival in Edinburgh.  Often duplicated, never replicated
  4. La Tomatina tomato festival in Bunol, Spain. ¬†You’ve seen videos from this I promise. It’s kinda like a wet t-shirt contest but with tomatoes instead of buckets of water, and it’s co-ed.
  5. The Highland Games in Argyle, Scotland.  Where men are men.

September

  1. Burning Man in northern Nevada.  It now costs you over $200 to get in, but worth every penny.
  2. Oktoberfest in Bavaria, Germany.  The grandaddy of them all. Try to squeeze in the festival celebrating the onion in Griesheim as well.

October

  1. Anniversary of the “No!” ¬†Greeks¬†commemorate Prime Minister¬†Metaxas’ rejection of the¬†ultimatum¬†made by Italian dictator Mussolini. ¬†Celebrations all over Greece.
  2. Though not solely an American holiday, it may as well be.  Halloween in any city, town, village in the United States is a great night out.  The warmer the weather, the skimpier the costumes!

November

  1. El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead in Mexico. ¬†Grab your sugar skulls and¬†Catrina dolls and suddenly realize Tim Burton isn’t as creative as you once thought.
  2. Monkey Worshipping Festival in Thailand. ¬†I tried to have an NYC event in the Bronx Zoo for those who couldn’t make it all the way to Thailand but it wasn’t the same.

December

  1. Dickensian Christmas in Rochester, England.  Get your Oliver Twist on.
  2. These aren’t just in December but my list for this month was short so I’ll mention the Full Moon Parties in Thailand here.

Being able to work trips to different parts of the world and experience events like these and get paid at the same time is what it’s all about. ¬†Seeing Japanese men in diapers might not be the best way to spend your day but it’s a pretty fun thing to do on the clock. ¬†Think of what you’re usually doing during the work day, isn’t watching men roll wheels of cheese down a hill sound like more fun?

Straight Guy Lesson #16- How to Dine on Layovers

Thank You to DinnersFromHell.com for featuring this entry on your website.

It was my first Paris layover and since I don’t speak a lick of French I decided to stick with my crew.  Usually I like to venture out on my own in a new city, but I knew dinner was going to be a massive problem if left to my own devises.

In addition to being a vegetarian, I’m by far the pickiest eater I know and I could see myself accidentally ordering all kinds of horrible things without outside guidance.  Even the most popular items on the menu could be something disgusting and I wouldn’t even realize it.

For some reason I’m incredibly shy about trying to order food in strange countries.  I’ve heard horror stories about Parisians giving major attitude and scorn to Americans who don’t at least try to speak the language.  I’d love to try but I just can’t.  I really don’t know the language whatsoever.  That bluff would be a miserable fail.

The pilots and five of the other flight attendants (including our French speaker from the flight) agree to meet under the Eiffel Tower at 8pm.¬† I spend most of the day running around with my camera, trying to capture as much as of the city as I could on film in the hours given.¬† I made sure I was at the Eiffel Tower at 8pm though.¬† In fact, I was there at 7:00, just in time to get yelled at in French for stepping on some grass where apparently there‚Äôs a ‚ÄúKeep Off Grass‚ÄĚ sign.

We find an Italian place in a not-so-touristy area just across the Seine.  If I’d been smart enough to think of Italian food I wouldn’t need to be with the crew, I can read the names of Italian dishes no problem.  Oh well, I’m here now so let’s roll with it.

I’m a pretty light eater and I like to save money when I go out.  I think it’s ridiculous to spend 12 Euro on a single glass of wine, especially if you’re just going to have the one glass and not catch a buzz.  What’s the point?  I don’t do appetizers or salad unless that’s going to be my entire meal.  I never take dessert or an after-dinner drink.  All of that is just a waste of money for me.  I can have some drinks at a bar before dinner for much cheaper.  I can eat an ice cream from a street vendor after we leave the restaurant at a fraction of the cost.

So the crew orders and I watch it happen.  A couple of people want this appetizer and a couple more want this other one.  It’s decided that the table will order three apps and everyone will just share them.  I don’t object.  I let it happen.

I’m drinking soda but everyone else gets wine with sparkling water on the side.  Again, it’s decided that three bottles of each is good for everyone to share.  I think that’s a smart decision on their part and fail to recognize how and why I’m being a complete idiot.

I have one basic pasta dish while everyone else gets some soup, salad, antipasti, and second course.  I marvel at the appetites these people have, even the skinny girls and waif thin gay boys I’m flying with.  The wine runs dry and the flight attendants order more.  I wonder if I’m getting paid the same amount as they are, the tab is really adding up in a hurry!

If I knew the pilots were going to be paying for the meal I might partake in some of the extras but I know that’s not going to happen.  There are two gay boys with us and the pilots very rarely treat guys to dinner, especially the gay ones.  I’m not willing to bank on that possibility that my dinner will be free.  I order sensibly and thriftily.

Everyone finishes and they ask us if we want desserts, cordials, or coffee.  All three are ordered.  I think about it but look at the prices and decide against it.  I can get a latte for a third that price at the coffee shop just around the corner from the hotel.  Again, I think I’m being so responsible and smart.  I’m about to see the error of my ways.

That moment arrives soon enough when the bill comes.  It never occurred to me that paying for what you ordered wouldn’t be an option.  My crew, now wasted on wine and Sambuca, insist that if we just divide by eight then we’ll be set.  Everyone is okay with that.  It’s at that point that I realize why the flight attendants were ordering more than the pilots.

They knew this was going to happen.  If the pilots are going to order all these extras and then make the crew split the bill, the only way to come out ahead is to top them and order more yourself.  Well played flight attendants, well played.

There’s nothing I could do but pull out sixty Euros and think about the fifteen Euros worth of Coke and penne alla arrabiata I had.  I grab the last bottle of wine still standing and empty it into my pristine, virginal glass.  If I’m paying for this I may as well get as much out of it as I can.  I grab a fork and shovel the rest of the Tiramisu into my mouth.  Lesson learned, but at a price.

Now I avoid eating with the crews as much as I can, at least in that large of a group.¬† Smaller groups will let you get away with paying for what you order but never a group of eight.¬† Never after that much alcohol.¬† The only way to ‚Äúwin‚ÄĚ is to order the appetizer, and the soup, and the salad, and the wine, and the third bottle, and the fifth bottle, and the dessert with Cognac, and anything else you could possible want.¬† Hell, get a souvenir shirt and hat thrown on the tab too while you‚Äôre at it!¬†As long as you‚Äôre eating and drinking more than everyone else, you come out ahead since the bill is getting split evenly.¬† If you don‚Äôt play the game like that, it‚Äôs going to be a dinner from hell.

Straight Guy Lesson #15- New York City

My inexpensive, off-the-beaten-path, Must-See spots for food, drink, and entertainment for visitors to New York City.  You know the big landmarks and sites, so here are twenty-one things you should do after you cross those staples off your list.

1) ¬†Museum of the Moving Image- Astoria Queens. ¬†Interactive museum with a ton of movie and television memorabilia and props including Freddy Krueger’s glove and some Huxtable sweaters (the show was filmed next door.) There’s even a room that traces the history of video games, and you get to play with everything from Pong to Dance Dance Revolution!

2) ¬†The major sporting events are obvious and all fantastic but US Open tennis shouldn’t be missed. Staten Island and Coney Island offer great minor league baseball experiences as well. ¬†Catching basketball games at Rucker Park in Harlem is a one of a kind experience. ¬†Before they went to the NBA, guys like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Vince Carter, Dr. J, Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest played picked up games at Rucker. ¬†Some even come back to play at the height of their careers as NBA all-stars like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.

3) Rock-n-Roll Karaoke at Arlene’s Grocery. ¬†Lower East Side. ¬†They certainly have their favorites so it’s hard to get on, but it’s still fun to be there. ¬†Karaoke with a full band to back you up and a very energetic audience. You can live our your dream of being a God Rock for five minutes. ¬†Celebs are seen there often.

4)  High Bar rooftop bar- great midtown views.  I usually nurse one drink for as long as I can and then head to somewhere cheaper.  Great for photos.  Also good rooftops- Hudson Terrace and Gramercy Park Hotel.

5) ¬†Vazac’s Horseshoe Bar (7B)- indie dive bar in Alphabet City with a great jukebox and film/tv history (Godfather 2 and Sex and the City scenes.) ¬†If the photo booth in the back is working, that’s must, if you can get past the hipsters playing Big Buck Hunter.

6) ¬†Grimaldi’s Pizzeria- ¬†It’s not just the pizza that’s fantastic. ¬†Enjoy it after a nice walk/bike over the Brooklyn Bridge. ¬†You can tell your friends that you left the city and you’ll seem edgy.

7) ¬†The Frying Pan- outside on the water at Chelsea Piers. ¬†Great place for drinks, first dates, meeting hundreds of young people, sunsets, and views of Manhattan. Oh yeah, you’re on a huge ship and the drinks are very reasonable.

8 )  Hudson RiverFlicks-  Forget Bryant Park.  Real New Yorkers know the best place to go for outdoor movies in the summer.  At Pier 54 they play better movies and have chairs. Show up on 14th Street before the sun goes down on  the Hudson River.

9) ¬†Barcade- yes, just like it sounds. ¬†It’s a bar and it’s an arcade with classic 80s games. ¬†And yes, it is right where you thought it’d be, right in the middle of Williamsburg.

10) McSorley’s- Abe Lincoln and John Lennon had a beer here so you think you’re better than them?!? ¬†Drinks come in pairs (both filled half way) in either light or dark but don’t hesitate when ordering, they run an efficient operation and don’t have time for questions or delays. ¬†Get the cheese and crackers but breathe through your mouth in the bathroom.

11) White Horse Tavern- 11th Street and Hudson.  Famous in the 1950s and 60s for writers and musicians.  Dylan Thomas famously drank himself to death here and Jack Kerouac spent many alcoholic nights here as well. Other notable patrons: Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg (who once got thrown out for circling the room and chanting Hare Krishna.)

12) Tom’s Diner on 112th Street and Broadway near Columbia University. ¬†First popular in Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner” then immortalized as the facade for Monk’s Diner in Seinfeld. ¬†The interior looks completely different from that used in the show so don’t get your hopes up. ¬†Still though, you’ll be surprised how excited you get when you turn the corner and see that familiar neon sign. It’s a good random thing to check out and very close to the amazing cathedral of St. John the Divine.

13) If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan check out the Physical Graffiti buildings on 96 and 98 St. Marks Place near First Avenue. ¬†It’s the facade they used for that album’s cover. ¬†Even if you’re not a fan of the band you’ll recognized the building, there’s a second-hand clothing store called Physical Graffiti on the ground floor. ¬†The song “Stairway to Heaven” was supposedly written about the apartment on the top floor, where their heroin dealer lived. ¬†I’m not sure if that’s true but it makes sense. ¬†Have a kick ass outdoor brunch across the street at Yaffa’s, but expect to be judged by your uber-cool, 22-year-old Israeli hipster waiter.

14) Astoria’s Bohemian Hall Beer Garden. ¬†Traditional Bavarian beer garden just over the bridge in Queens, very near La Guardia. ¬†It only seats 800 so get there early on a warm weekend afternoon. ¬†If you’re still too scared to leave Manhattan then just go to Zum Schneider on Avenue C for a watered-down, indoor experience.

15) Fourth of July, spend the afternoon eating hot dogs and watching the freak show at Coney Island (if it’s still open) and then get yourself to a rooftop in the city for the fireworks. ¬†Now they’re shot off on the West side of Manhattan so kiss up to your Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen friends to get that party invite. Warning: every other firework experience the rest of your life will seem somewhat lame after a rooftop party in NYC.

16) Art galleries in Chelsea. Yes, of course the Straight Guy loves Chelsea!  This is an obscenely cheap way to kill an afternoon and see some great art in every medium imaginable.  Often times the stuff you see in the cluster of galleries between 20th-27th Streets/10th-12th Avenue is better than what they have in the museums.  Try to go when the new cycle of exhibits are opening all over the neighborhood, lots of free drinks and food.  En route walk the High Line and stop by the Chelsea Hotel and try to figure out where exactly Sid killed Nancy.

17) The Bronx Zoo. ¬†It’s a clich√© and everyone knows about it but no one ever goes, same with the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Hit the gardens in April when the cherry blossoms are out. Yes, flowers and trees really do grow and thrive in NYC.

18) Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  Lower East Side.  The most culture you can get on asphalt.  Admission is free.  Intermissions occur when someone needs to get their car out.  Only in New York.

19) Steinway and Sons Tour. ¬†Astoria. ¬†The manufacturer of arguably the best modern pianos in the world, offers a tour of its headquarters and factory, showing how the treasured instruments are made. Tours take place on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon from September through June. I actually haven’t done this one yet, but it sounds really cool.

20) East River Park- Lower East Side.  Fifty-seven acres along the East River for biking, soccer, tennis, jogging, baseball, football, barbecues, picnics, and general laziness.  The tennis courts are right on the water, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. Live music is performed at the amphitheater. The crowds go to Central Park for unnatural nature, you can come here and watch the dead bodies float by.

21) Marathon Day. ¬†Don’t run it, it’s much more fun to attend a marathon party hosted by someone who lives on the race route. ¬†Popular spots include balconies and fire escapes in the Upper East Side along First Avenue, though there are many options in Queens and Brooklyn as well. ¬†If you’re banking on a photo finish get to Central Park and wait patiently. ¬†I lived on Mile 19 for a while so I didn’t have to get up early to see all the action. ¬†If you’re an early riser, get up and watch the start on the Verrazano Bridge, it’s amazing.