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Oh Say, I Did See (the Flag at Fort McHenry) (Day 80, Part 2)

October 8th, 2009 No comments

I liked Ft. McHenry better than Freedom Hall in no small part because it wasn’t entirely swarmed with people. I’m guessing having to figure out how to drive through the huddled masses of Baltimore thins out the crowd a little. Certainly the lack of useful signage doesn’t help a lot either.

Nice fort, though.

ft-mchenry_gate-and-flag15 stars, 15 stripes.

ft-mchenry_inside-gateIt was at half-mast because it was national dead firefighters day or something. I think the flag’s at half-mast more often than full-mast these days.

ft-mchenry_cannonsAll cannons should be this black.

ft-mchenry_exteriorOutside the fort — on the land side.

I guess early 19th century forts are more exciting to run around than look at pictures of. (Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. It was easier that way.) Still, it’s a cool fort. It’d have been even cooler if they’d preserved the truce ship out in the harbor that Francis Scott Key was sitting on when he wrote the poem. And the flag they have there only had 15 stars on it even though there were like 18 states. Looks good with 15, though — maybe we should go back.

bkd

Maryland Welcomes You (Me), Enjoy Your (My) Visit, Signed [Wasteful Opportunist] (State #28)

October 8th, 2009 4 comments

Seriously, how vain do you have to be to spend tax payer money in order to put your name on every welcome sign in the state? That’s just crass. Hope you lose next primary.

welcome-maryland (1)At least they *have* a sign — but at what cost?!

As an out-of-stater, let me attest to the fact that I did not feel any more welcomed into Maryland by the fact that the stupid governor put his name on the sign. Such arrogance.

Man. “Public servant” — hah! The public’s money serves him.

bkd

Categories: northeast Tags:

My One Trite Photograph of Philadelphia (Day 80)

October 7th, 2009 No comments

The horrible part is that these dopey posts about big, unfriendly east coast cities are keeping me from blogging about Antietam, which I actually liked. I mean, in a solemn, respecful way: “liked”. Or anyway, I like the photos I got there.

Problems with Philadelphia:

  • Badly planned streets.
  • Expensive parking.
  • Bad signage.

Otherwise seemed pretty nice. The downtown penitentiary was an unusual touch, but… Nah, I wasn’t all that impressed with Philadelphia. The historical area seemed overrun with tourists, but there wasn’t all that much there to hold anyone’s (anyone’s = my) interest. I would’ve been more excited by a memorial to Santa Claus booings or something that I more readily associate with modern Philly.

independence-hallChillin’ at Freedom Hall.

I’m guessing if Benjamin Franklin were alive today he wouldn’t live in Philadelphia. He’d live tax-free in the Caymans.

Oh, I also looked at the Liberty Bell, but I decline to post a photo since, well, it’s a bell with a crack in it and it’s not like you can get a clean frame showing the bell and less than fourteen tourists. Eh. Plus I was over Philadelphia by then so I wasn’t into trying real hard. I paid a total of, like $27, to park during the total of 2.5 hours I was there. Sort of my bad, but sort of Philly’s bad also. That never would’ve happened in Bemidji.

I’ve also noticed that the entire eastern US is a usability nightmare. No helpful signs anywhere. At Liberty Hall, the first corner I approached had a sign saying “No Entry”, but it didn’t say where I *could* enter. So I walked around the building counter-clockwise finding “No Entry” signs at everything that looked like it should have been an entrance until I got almost all the way back to the spot where I started. Once there, I saw the sign saying “Enter Here — Ticket Required”. No, the tickets were not available there. You had to walk two blocks away to the Visitor’s Center. And don’t get me started on the road signs.

bkd

Rouge Burger (#4) and the Near-Term End of Ground Beef

October 7th, 2009 3 comments

The whole reason I went to Philadelphia was to knock off another hamburger. I could have knocked off two there, but man: I’m kind of tired of too-fancy hamburgers. One in Philly: sufficient.

IMG00133-20091004-1234The cheese is so fancy I can’t remember what it’s called.

I liked the burger better than Peter Luger’s — the cheese, whatever it’s called, could be tasted, for instance, and the patty didn’t break in half, although it’s the lumpiest hunk of meat I’ve seen in my life and too large to be consumed at one sitting. For as stiff as the bun looks in the photo, the bottom half disappeared pretty quickly And the potato ribbons fries were silly — I think maybe you’re just supposed to look at them. Sure they’re whimsical, but they tasted like over-used cooking oil.

Service was about 6 degrees south of indifferent. Maybe that’s how the waitress thinks service in France is. Or maybe it’s just hip in Philly to avoid eye contact. I should probably just be happy I didn’t get any batteries thrown at me.

And with that, I’m done with the hamburger list until New Mexico (where it’ll make a surprisingly strong resurgence — just wait). So, here’s my ranking of ranked hamburgers that I’ve eaten — the, uh, bottom half is filling out:

  1. Miller’s Bar – Dearborn (#8 in GQ)
  2. Houston’s California Burger – Santa Monica (#6)
  3. Le Parker Meridien Hotel Burger Joint Cheeseburger – New York (#9)
  4. Western Cheeseburger, Carl’s Jr. — Western U.S. (Not Rated)
  5. Red Mill Double Bacon Deluxe w/ Cheese – Seattle (#17)
  6. Poag Mahone’s – Chicago (#18)
  7. J.G. Melon — New York (#14)
  8. In-n-Out Cheeseburger — California/Nevada (Not Rated)
  9. Keller’s Drive-In #5 Burger – Dallas (#10)
  10. Rouge — Philadelphia (#4)
  11. Peter Luger’s — Brooklyn (#2)
  12. Burger Joint – San Francisco (#16)
  13. The Counter – Santa Monica (#15)
  14. Louis’ Lunch — New Haven (#20)

I threw in a couple of “control burgers” just for reference. I’m probably underrating the Western Cheeseburger, depending on which burger chef is on the line at Carl’s that day.

bkd

Delaware (State #27)

October 7th, 2009 No comments

Another state that didn’t give me a sign to photograph. Oh well. It’s not much of a state. And their toll roads are annoying. In lieu of a photograph, I wrote a haiku:

Twenty-five mile road:

Toll booth line took ten minutes.

Your state is sub-great.

Didn’t say it was art. And of the 50 states in this country, Delaware’s the one I’m most likely to forget exists. Sorry, it’s just true.

bkd

Categories: northeast Tags:

Luger Burger (#2!) and a Brooklyn Photo (Day 79)

October 4th, 2009 No comments

The PATH train always seems so convenient until you’re under the Hudson, at which point you realize that it takes a long time to get from Jersey City to NYC. Like 10 minutes, but still. Anyway, here’s the #2 burger in all creation:

luger_burgerCheck out how thick that bacon is! (It’s the white and slightly pink thing at the bottom, the last layer before you hit bun.)

  • The burger fell apart too easily.
  • It was better once I pulled the bacon out.
  • Not as expensive as I thought it was going to be ($13 burger, $4 fries, $3 drink — yes, that’s less than I expected).
  • I liked the fries — they were solid.
  • The burger came sans condiments and this time I went with the flow and kept it pure. Maybe I should’ve used the steak sauce tureen they brought out with the bread and water at the outset, though.
  • The saltedness seemed appropriate for the burger at hand.

It was good, but I liked the J.G. Melon one better. Peter Luger’s is world famous for its meat, but I was disappointed when my hamburger patty broke apart and fell out of the bun. I think they knew I wasn’t local. Maybe I should’ve just ordered the porterhouse after all. (No! I must complete the burger list!) (But I won’t on this trip regardless!)

I haven’t spent much time in Brooklyn, but I liked looking around. The restaurant is in Williamsburg, which is about 50% gentrified, 50% Puerto Rican. Interesting combo. The streets aren’t packed with people, so it would probably afford some nice, somewhat-rundown cityscape photography. It’d be gritty and cool — but all I brought was my cell phone.

I want to go back some time so I can re-take this photo with a better sky (and better camera and hopefully better light):

williamsburg_bridgeI like how flat it is.

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge — I don’t think I’ve ever been on it. Can’t really remember where in Manhattan it takes you — Bowery? I could look it up. Could.

One of the things I like about NYC and that this trip to Brooklyn reminded me of is that the city seems infinite. You could spend your life walking around it and still not see everything (maybe). ‘Course, there are parts you don’t want to explore, so maybe check those out during daylight hours and while you’re young enough to fight back.

bkd

PS, Went to dinner with Felice from my Michigan State month on Day 78. Was cool, good food, fun night.

Oh, Sweet Liberty, Let Your Bright Flame Shine the Heck On! (Day 78)

October 4th, 2009 5 comments

If I weren’t still sick, I would probably hold back, act circumspect, and shine bright, happy lights on the events of Day 78. But I *am* still sick, therefore: visiting the Statue of Liberty is the national monument equivalent of waiting 45 minutes to get fried meatloaf on toast.

  • You need a reservation to see the crown or pedestal.
  • Crown reservations must be secured two months in advance (the next available was December 11th).
  • When you get to the boat, you have to go through TSA-style screening.
  • Then you have to wait for the boat.
  • When you get to the statue, there are no signs telling you where to go for your pedestal tour.
  • When you ask the Parks Service person where the line is, he’ll ignore you because he’s just seen someone he would rather talk to.
  • Then you get to wait in line.
  • The first line takes about 15 minutes, and then they’ll open up the cordon and let people into the next holding area.
  • This line takes probably 45 minutes to wait through.
  • At the end of this line, you go through airport-style super-security, where they blow air on you for some reason and act all serious about it.
  • Then you get to enter the statue — the stairs to the pedestal take about ten minutes, and a self-tour of the pedestal itself deserves about five more.
  • Then you go back down and get in line to get on the boat to go back.
  • The boat is slow and, if it’s heading to Manhattan, very crowded.
  • And it’s taken you six daylight hours just to get about five minutes of good part.

If I weren’t sick, I’d probably talk about the spectacular views during the boat-ride over, but since I’m sick: it was cloudy, the sun’s in the wrong place for half the trip, and, on this day at least, there were no Sully landings to break up the monotony. The best part was seeing European tourists at Ellis Island and wondering whether they understood that it’s a monument to people who said “Europe sucks so bad that I’m gonna live somewhere else” and then acted on that sentiment.

Meh:

sol_docksThe docks at Liberty State Park. You can choose to depart from NJ or Battery Park. This is NJ.

sol_giant-pigeonA giant pigeon swoops in to attack the Woolworth Building. (He’s already missed the Woolworth Building — next pass, maybe.)

sol_unfed-birdA bird, unfed.

sol_from-boatDoesn’t look so big when you compare it to the *sky*, now, does it?! (Actually, it doesn’t look that big when you’re anywhere near it, either, IMHO. It’s barely even taller than the Colossus at Rhodes was.)

sol_statue-of-liberty-backThe backside of Liberty.

sol_statue-of-liberty-bookLooking up her skirt reveals little of interest.

sol_statue-of-liberty-slant-skyLean into it.

I also took about 30 or 40 photos of lower Manhattan and the SOL with some sort of aircraft in the frame so that I could make (more) jokes about stuff crashing into other stuff. It *is* amazing how many aircraft still buzz around that place (mostly helicopters and MD-80s).

And this is the house I used to live in:

10-hanoverI was in apartment 9-V — you know, like the battery.

But most importantly, I can check the Statue of Liberty off the list. And to all a good night.

bkd

PS, The worst part of the SOL experience is that it stole so much of my available NYC time (and virus-depleted energy). I blame the French.

The J.G. Melon Hamburger (#14) in NYC

October 3rd, 2009 4 comments

I was expecting to go to Louis’ Lunch the day before, but it turns out that they don’t serve dinner — well, except on some days. Not that day, though. So then I went there for lunch on Day 77, but then by the evening of Day 77, I was in Manhattan and kind of got happy about the idea of going to J.G. Melon since I wanted to walk a long ways and they were open until 2. That’s 2 AM, just for clarification’s sake. The dinner rush is later in NYC.

I’ve stopped starting my posts with the first paragraph, but now I think I’m starting with a paragraph that belongs between the first and second paragraphs and should therefore just not exist.

Whatever. I have a cold. I had it when I went to J.G. Melon. I’d also already eaten dinner at 6 (folded-over pizza from that place on University Place, which isn’t that good any more). But it was 8:30, I’d been to the Apple Temple, and J.G. Melon had seats available outside (because it was 50 degrees, but whatever — inside looked like the Tokyo subway during the morning commute (but with white people)).

IMG00121-20091001-2105One bite down, several more to go.

The potato chip fries were weird, but pretty good. The hamburger wasn’t ridiculously huge — I’m guessing it started out at 6 oz. before cooking, but was solid. They only had Grey Poupon available, so I kind of went mustard-free. But for a hamburger eaten while sick, un-hungry, and freezing to death on the Upper East Side, it was really good.

(Er, it was also expensive — the massive feast pictured above came to $20 before tip. Also, the place only accepts cash for some reason. I guess b/c they can get away with it.)

I was a bit concerned, though, to see that, in an updated article written by the dude who wrote the original 20 Hamburgers piece, J.G. Melon isn’t even in the NYC top five any more (because the guy doesn’t like the service there any more (?!)). Oh well — it’s all about the 2005 reality for me, I guess.

bkd

(PS, If you’re calculating along at home, it’s Sprite in the glass, not water. Refills are not free.)

Categories: northeast Tags: , ,

New Jersey –> (State #26)

October 3rd, 2009 No comments

I don’t really know if there was an arrow pointing after “New Jersey”. The sign was in tile inside the Holland Tunnel, kind of like at a subway stop, and I didn’t really expect to see it there. And then it turns out that there *is* a “Welcome to New Jersey” sign, but it’s about eight blocks into the state and I’d already given up on seeing it (I only saw it once I left town heading west — that’s what I get for my unwillingness to go more than a quarter mile away from the Hudson).

holland_tunnelDrivin’ under the Hudson.

Most especially, though, I’m proud of finding my way from New Haven to Jersey City without having to pay a toll by staying above the Tri-Borough Bridge (and then the Holland Tunnel is only tolled when you’re going *into* the city). Also, the hotel I stayed at in Jersey City (Holland Motor Inn) was a pretty good deal — free parking!, big rooms, seven-minute walk to the PATH, and $30 cheaper than the shared-bathroom places in the city.

Anyway,

bkd

Categories: northeast Tags: ,

Great Hamburger #20 from Louis’ Lunch and a Photo from New Haven (Day 77)

October 3rd, 2009 3 comments

A couple Great Hamburgers ago, I kind of asked for more gimmick-burgers to counter all the straight-up normal burgers that seemed to be on the list. New Haven provided, and I’ll always remember that.

IMG00119-20091001-1253Look at it sparkle!

Truthfully? I liked the Indian food the night before a lot better. Here’s the experience in bullet points:

  • They don’t open until noon.
  • It took 45 minutes from the time I ordered to the time I got my burger.
  • They cook it in a weird iron contraption, kind of like a sideways waffle iron, four burgers at a time.
  • Then, yes, they put the meat on toast.
  • You’re not allowed to have condiments. They’ve singled out ketchup there as their true enemy, but I didn’t see any mustard either.
  • The burger comes with onions and tomato (if you order “works”).
  • When you give them your name as you order, they repeat it several times.
  • At the end of the day, the experience is kind of like waiting a long time in a crowded bar before eating meatloaf on toast.

And because I took the photo, here’s what the gaping maw of Yale looks like:

yale_gateIf you look hard enough, you can see Geronimo’s skull!

Also, at my cousin-in-law’s suggestion, I visited the Museum of British Art. I sort of like British art — they’re serious about their landscapes and, as someone who aspires to be a high-amateur photographer, it was particularly interesting to see how they composed their subjects. My favorite painting there was one called The Deluge, which depicts people getting swept up in the (Biblical) flood. Maybe I’ll get a chance to photograph that somewhere along the line here.

bkd

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