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Archive for August, 2008

Too tired to blog. It’s been a long 3 days…sorry.

You can check out three days worth of pictures here.

I’ll narrate them tomorrow or so.

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Well we did it. We checked Brooklyn off the list and we visited all five boroughs. We actually didn’t see very much of Brooklyn as we headed straight to the south point of Coney Island. It’s kind of a long trip and because we were meeting Yong and John’s friend Brenda we couldn’t stay very long.

The main reason we were visiting Coney Island is for the hot dogs. More specifically Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. We wanted to see where it all began. I mean, you can get Nathan’s hot dogs in other places, but we wanted to see the place where they first sold them. According to legend, Nathan wanted to be the first place a person saw when they got off the train to Coney Island. As they say in the biz, it’s all about location, location, location. And true enough, it was pretty hard to miss as we exited the subway station.

Overall, Coney Island is kind of an old place. While it is a throwback to the old-timey boardwalks, it is also kind of sad. Our friend, Pete, who’s from New York told us not to bother going there because it wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that it doesn’t offer much. Mostly eateries, gift shops, games and a small amusement park that reminded me of the 50th state fair.

There it is right on the corner

It’s a little more than the original price of 5 cents

I guess they go through a lot of hot dogs!

Here’s what $3 got me

They even sell hot dogs (not Nathan’s) out of vending machines!

Like I said earlier they have a small amusement park. One of the more interesting things we saw was the “Shoot the Freak” game. Basically you get a paintball gun and you can shoot at a dude holding up a shield. Interesting concept. It was pretty popular too. I saw at least three people ponying up $3 for five shots or $5 for fifteen shots.

It would have been more impressive if he didn’t have a shield

After eating some food we wandered around and I noticed the large wooden roller coaster dubbed the Cyclone. This is one of more famous wooden roller coasters. Now, I usually don’t like to ride wooden roller coasters because they are pretty rickety and jerky. The last one I went on was the Ghost Rider at Knott’s Berry Farm on my honeymoon. After riding that one I felt like my fillings had been jarred loose. But since this was such a historical roller coaster, I felt I needed to ride it.

It costs $8 a ride with the option of a reride for $5. Yup, I pretty much hate wooden roller coasters. It actually wasn’t that jerky but I took my preferred seat in the last car in the train and there was apparently a bar under the seat cushion. We went up and as we were going down the first drop all the jerking made my butt come up off the seat and then land hard on that bar over and over again. My tailbone was so sore after that first drop I dreaded every drop after that (and there were many). By the time the ride ended I was in so much pain (even as I’m writing this, my butt is still sore!).

The world famous Cyclone

After walking around for a bit, we spotted this candy shop. Another thing that Coney Island is famous for is their salt water taffy. But as I was in line I spotted this sign for an interesting treat. Since I’m such a sucker for gimmicks I decided to try one. Actually John and I both had one.

After reading this I had to try one

I bet you were wondering what the heck I was talking about

I think John like it too!

After returning from Coney Island, we had to turn around, find Yong and head straight to New Jersey to meet up with John’s friend Brenda. For dinner she took us to Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse. Of course, since we had so much beef yesterday (see: Carnegie Deli and the Old Homestead) what did John and I both order? Shrimp of course. We had 24 shrimp for $12.99. Very reasonable. In Hawaii that would be at least $5-6 more expensive. Maybe Keao and I should move to New Jersey.

Doesn’t that look delicious?

Here we are post meal

After that we headed over to Giants Stadium. The game itself was rather uneventful as it was the last preseason game of the summer and that meant that many of the starters were sitting out resting. That meant no Tom Brady and no Eli Manning. It was pretty boring. We watched for a while and then we left sometime during the fourth quarter.

On the way out we had one of those “you-had-to-be-there” moments. As we were walking down from the upper tier we had to walk down a big spiral. Sometime during that walk Brenda got the hiccups. Yong made some comment about the way she sounded and then out of nowhere he yelled and lunged at her! Brenda jumped like three feet in the air and screamed (and then she promptly hit Yong). While we were all laughing hysterically Yong tried to explain that that was his way to stop hiccups. He just had to scare them. And you know what? The darn thing worked! Now, I’ve tried that technique many times, but that was the first time I’ve ever seen it work.

John and I between the legs of a giant Giant

Brenda and John

Yong and I before we left

Lastly, one of the things that we wanted to do before we left New York was to eat a hot dog from one of those street vendors. I don’t know why I thought they would be better than a normal hot dog, but John and I did try one out before we got back to our hotel. I must say, it was pretty ordinary. Basically I could have done the same thing at home. There’s $2 I’m not going to see again. Oh well, you live you learn.

Well that’s one more thing we can check off the list

To view the rest of the day’s pictures click here.

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So today we did something that we hadn’t done before. We didn’t venture to another borough. Although we are staying in Manhattan, we’ve been going to baseball games and other things so we really didn’t have a chance to see the borough we were staying in. We’ve been catching the subway so the only part of Manhattan we’ve seen was the walk between the hotel and the station.

Now we thought about taking one of those bus tours but at the last minute Keao‘s friend Yong came to our rescue. Like many kids from Hawaii, Keao went to the mainland for college. But instead of going to the west coast like so many people, she decided to pick a college on the other edge of the country, Boston College. There she befriended a great guy named Yong who happened to grow up in New York City. It was Yong who would guide us through the city.

For the most part, Manhattan is built on a grid system. That makes it fairly easy to get around and navigate through the city. Today our tour (on foot) traversed an area at least four blocks wide by almost fifty blocks long. When we figured it out using Google maps, we must have walked at least 6 miles today (before getting on a subway and then walking some more). No wonder we’re so tired!

But it was a very great tour. We started by going to Madison Square Garden, then heading through the fashion district to Times Square, then up Broadway and then finding lunch at the Carnegie Deli.

The home of many New York Knicks heartbreaks

You know you’re in the fashion district when you pass by Parsons

Look at all the billboards and lights!

John and I outside the Ed Sullivan Theater

At long last we break for lunch

The Carnegie Deli is one of the most famous deli’s in New York. They have a shirt in there that say, “if you finish our sandwich, we must have done something wrong” They weren’t kidding. The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once said that he hates the sandwiches at New York Deli’s because they put so much meat in them. He said it’s like, “an entire cow with two crackers on either side. They ask you if you want anything else, yeah, a loaf of bread and more people!”

As we were getting ready to order, our plan was for me to order a corned beef sandwich and for John to order a pastrami sandwich. But Yong implored us to order a Woody Allen (with waitress, who called us “Lovely Hula Hands” warned us that it wouldn’t come with a fifteen year old girl). That’s a sandwich with both corned beef and pastrami. Big mistake. The sandwich was so huge we could barely pick it up with our hands!

At the end, only Yong finished his sandwich. John tapped out first (even after answering, “it’s done” to the question of whether or not he could finish). I didn’t do much better. I would say it was a tie (okay, maybe I did have the slight edge).

Looks so innocent doesn’t it?

That’s the Woody Allen!

It’s as tall as a can of soda and that’s only half!

Yong, the champion of the Carnegie Deli

Yong said John and I deserved to be on the Wall of Shame

That’s what was left after I completely stuffed myself silly!

After lunch we decided to walk off our lunch and walk we did. The Carnegie Deli is somewhere around 55th Street. I wanted to see Strawberry Fields in Central Park which is on 72nd Street. If you do the math, that’s almost 20 blocks! Whew, no wonder our feet were so tired afterward.

We got to Strawberry Fields and got there just in time to hear some dude give a little speech about the area. I don’t know why I thought it would be a bigger area, but it’s really the only thing to see was a little tile mosaic with the word “imagine” in the middle.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace”

There’s a tour you can take that will show you famous places in New York’s film and television history. Yong helped us see a lot of that for free.

The musem featured in Night at the Museum is the American Museum of Natural History

The Plaza Hotel, home of Eloise

The piano from Big can be yours for only $250,000

The store that inspired Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The home of the Apprentice

Live from New York it’s Saturday Night! and other NBC shows

Then after our walking tour we headed over to the SoHo district. SoHo is short for South of Houston Street. Once it was kind of a hippie area, but now it’s a lot of high end stores and other expensive things. My brother wanted something from a Diesel outlet and the only Diesel store I went to was in SoHo. When we first walked in there I looked at a t-shirt and noticed it was $110. Then I picked up a polo style shirt and that was $130. Definitely not a discount outlet. I called him to tell him that I couldn’t find anything cheap and as I was telling him, “I don’t think there’s anything discout here” I guess I told him kind of loud because this woman actually turned around from walking to see who made such a comment and to laugh at me. So shame.

After SoHo we went to dinner. Now John and I were both really full, but since we had reservations at the Old Homestead we decided to honor that and go. Like the Carnegie Deli, this was one of the most famous steakhouses in Manhattan. I must say it was pretty disappointing. Since we were so full from lunch we ordered a salad and a steak to share. We ordered a ribeye, which is a pretty hard cut of meat to ruin. When it came out, it was rather flavorless and somewhat warm. I think it would have been much better had it been hot and a little more tender and flavorful. Either way, it wasn’t that good of a steak.

Serving steaks for 130 years

The roasted garlic was the best part

After that we headed back to our room or an early night.

To view the rest of our day’s adventures click here.

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It’s late. I’m tired. Don’t let the time stamp fool you, it’s really around a quarter after two in the morning, but if I don’t write down my thoughts now, I’ll never be able to remember them, so on with the show.

You know, whenever you travel people always ask you how your hotel room was. Usually, I mention that it’s not the nicest, but at least it’s clean. Well, this hotel is something else. In addition to smelling like an ASHtray, it is also small as well. Then last night I took a shower and the darn tub wouldn’t drain. I felt so bad…not because I broke the tub, but because John-John still had to shower after me and since we had traveled for like 18 straight hours and then we still had a full day, we were pretty dirty. So instead of making John bathe in my wastewater, he decided to shower in the morning. This is what greeted him in the morning.

Whoops, sorry about that John…

Also our toilet had some pretty permanant stains (it wasn’t as bad as the toilets at Yankee Stadium though)

Pretty gross eh?

Sorry if I ruined any appetite, but if I told you about the Yankee Stadium toilets you’d probably retch so I’ll just leave that one alone.

But anyway, despite our hotel room, the trip is wonderful. For the most part getting around has been pretty good as well although I gotta say, the subways in Japan are much easier to navigate than the subways in New York. You can’t tell what’s a local line and what’s an express. They don’t announce the next stop so unless you’re by a window you can’t really tell where you are. The maps aren’t very clear and it smells…just like everything else in New York (we discovered a new smell while we were waiting with a thousand of our closest friends in a subway station without any ventilation or cooling system in the Bronx). But still, they are the easiest way to get around.

He kind of blends in doesn’t he?

So far probably the highlight of the trip was taking a tour of Yankee Stadium. It’s kind of a behind the scenes thing. We entered the stadium through the press entrance and were greeted by this sign:

Look, God answered two of Joe’s prayers (the other being his marriage to Marilyn Monroe)

But we got to walk through the stadium before anyone else was there. Very cool. The first place they took us was to Monument Park. This is an area behind the outfield that is a tribute to past players and other dignitaries that have visited Yankee Stadium. They even have a few plaques commemorating a few masses that a few Popes have done.

This is where the players can come to relax

The Babe

Yogi Berra and his mentor, Bill Dickey, both wore the same number

Casey Stengel is the only person to have his number retired by both the Yankees and the Mets

Here’s a picture from last night, notice the 37 there too?

Ever wonder where the Yankees got their logo?

This is for a mass held in 1965

Here’s one for 9/11

One of the neatest things about this tour was that they let us walk on the field. We got to walk all along the warning track from the outfield to the dugout. They wouldn’t let us walk on the grass field, but when they weren’t looking I snuck my foot on the Kentucky Bluegrass.

That’s my foot on the warning track

As I said earlier, they let us go into the visiting team dugout too. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but I would have thought that the dugouts were more lavish. They were quite spartan. Basically there’s a padded bench and some steps and that’s it. It’s quite narrow too.

Me, John and a water cooler cruising in the dugout

After that we went up to the press box. It literally has the nicest view in the house. You can see everything in perfect clarity. There were rows of work tables and telephones where reporters can work on their stories.

Here’s the view

Here’s where I sat. Can you guess what BBWAA stands for?

Here I am calling in my breaking news story

Keao’s not the only artsy photographer in the family!

After the stadium tour, we went to a couple of shops that sell Yankee merchandise. I was in there and I asked the guy how much a hat cost. Get this, just because I look Japanese, he automatically assumes that I’m from Japan. He answers me in Japanese! I mean, I did ask him in english and I kind of expected an english response in return. Oh well, I guess I should be impressed by his language ability.

After that lesson in race relations we decided to go to Staten Island. There’s a free ferry that goes there so the price was definitely right. If you’re keeping score at home, so far we’ve visited four of the five boroughs, Manhattan and Queens last night and the Bronx and Staten Island today. But back to the ferry ride. It’s a short ride across New York harbor and there are some really cool views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Here’s where many immigrants crossed before coming to America

The famous Statue of Liberty

These waterfall things were pretty cool too

By the time we got to Staten Island it was pretty late so we decided to get some food. We saw a few places that looked interesting but in the end we decided to go for the safe bet…pizza.

This looked good until we looked closer and spotted the word “organic”

The Popeye’s looked good too, but we figured we could get that back home

The buffalo chicken pizza on the right was excellent!

You know the food’s good when they don’t even try to be polite

After lunch we went to the Staten Island museum. As far as museums go, this one was okay. It was small and somewhat interesting and it was only $2. They said no pictures so that means I only took two (it was so cool I couldn’t resist).

These rocks are glowing under high intensity ultraviolet light

Then, of course, we had to head back to the Bronx to go to the game. It was the Yankees v. the Red Sox. One of sports most intense rivalries. We all expected a great game full of dirty plays and nasty fans. Maybe it was because the Red Sox dominated this game or maybe it was because we were so high up, in either case, it was pretty tame. The worst part of the whole thing was entering the stadium and missing the sign that said, “”. What that means is if you’re in an even section go left and if you’re in an odd section go right. We were in section 36, but since I missed it I went to the right. We’re talking the complete wrong side of the stadium. We were in the last section, in the third row from the top. I felt so bad for John because I made him walk from one side to the other.

Recognize this shot from Seinfeld when George works for the Yankees?

We were so high up we were above the foul pole

See how high the lights are?

This is how close we were to them from our seats!

Here we are after the game

So after this very full day, we were heading home on the subway and this guys asks John if he ever fought in a UFC. He then explains that in the 90’s there was this guy that beat up this sumo dude. I guess because John is Japanese and, um, you know, he thought John was that guy. Nah, he thought John was the another guy that fought the dude that beat up the sumo guy. Maybe John has a career in ultimate fighting yet.

To view the rest of the pictures from Yankee Stadium and Staten Island click here.

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Whew, we finally made it. A while ago John-John and I heard that UH was playing the Florida Gators at the Swamp and we decided that if all possible we should go to that game. Well, one thing led to another and we also decided that since Shea Stadium (home of the Mets) and Yankee Stadium (home of the Yankees) were being torn down at the end of the year to make room for new ballparks we only had one chance to see baseball games at those legendary stadiums. So here we are in New York.

Now, I have never been to New York before so I was very excited to come and see the sights. But before we could come to New York we had to get there (right?). Unfortunately for us ATA went bankrupt and we were forced to make some pretty crappy flights. By crappy, I mean we left Hawaii at 3:00pm and arrived in Phoenix at midnight local time. Then, we had a 6 hour layover and we had to sit in the airport for 6 hours. But wait, it gets worse. There’s no real place to lie down and the air conditioner was only partially on (by which I mean it was really hot). So as we suffered in the heat we were also tired. Then we caught a 6:00am flight and arrived in New York at around 2:45pm local time.

Then it took another 45 minutes to get our bags. Don’t ask me why it just did.

So here are my first impressions of New York:
1. There are many differences in the way things sound.
2. There are many differences in the way things smell.

Seriously. If I had to say what the two most notable things are, it would be the sounds and the smells.

Firstly, everyone says that Hawaii is a melting pot (and it is) but New York is a completely different type of melting pot. I’ve heard more different types of accents and languages today then I’ve heard in my entire 32 years in Hawaii! Also everyone looks really different. In Hawaii there is a lot of brown skin. Over here there’s white all the way to dark. It’s kind of like a black and white cookie (which incidentally I had today, it was very good), with every shade in between.

Secondly, it’s the smells. From the moment we landed at JFK, to the taxi, to our hotel room, to our hotel bathroom, it all smells. And it doesn’t smell good. But wait, it gets worse. We go outside and it’s even stinkier! New York is full of unpleasant aromas. Oh well, that’s the breaks I guess.

But anyway, we did see some really cool things. Shea Stadium is right across the street from the USTA headquarters which is hosting the US Open this week. That means it was really crowded near the stadium.

Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the US Open

I think the first thing I noticed about Shea Stadium is that it’s really big. I mean I’ve been to RFK and Petco Park, but Shea seems mammoth.

Home of the Mets since 1964

At the end of this season, the Mets are moving to Citi Field, which is being built right next door. In fact there are only 16 more regular season home games left (I know because they do a countdown before every game)

Shea is to the immediate left

There are sad reminders everywhere

The game itself was rather unexciting. The Mets jumped to an early lead and they never looked back. Carlos Delgado hit a pair of home runs. Guess how they honor him?

Who knew they speak Japanese at Shea?

Well, I’m exhausted due to a lack of sleep and a funny sleeping schedule. I’ll try to update everyday as we go along. Tomorrow we head to the Bronx (we’re actually trying to visit all five boroughs) so we’ll see you on the flipside!

To view more pictures from today, click here

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So after my brief encounter with Barack Obama at Olomana Golf Links we had our very first Couples Game Night. Now I don’t know about you, but I love board games. It brings out the competitive side in me. Rob and Kelli were the ones who organized this event and they brought the lion’s share of the games. They had so many games (and so many that I had never even heard of).

Check out that spread!

Notice in the lower left hand side of the picture there’s a game called Carcassonne Big Box? That’s one of Rob and Kelli’s favorite games. Keao and I tried to play it a few weeks ago and let me tell you, it is a fun game, but it really does make you feel like a geek! Without giving you too many details, there are these little humanoid figures called Meeples (rhymes with peoples). They can farm, rob, occupy cities and the like. So your goal is to get as many points using these Meeples to farm, rob, etc. The game goes round and round until you run out of tiles and then all the points are added up. Like I said before, it is a fun game…just a little nerdy πŸ™‚

Look at that intensity!

Now it looks like they’re having fun

But Carcassonne wasn’t the only game we played. We also played one of my all-time favorite games, Scattergories. Basically Scattergories is played with a die that has different letters on it. You roll the die and whatever letter is on top is the letter for the list. What that means is that you need to answer every item on the list with a word or words starting with the letter. For instance, if your letter is L and one of the items on the list is “villians” you could answer Lucifer or Lex Luthor or any villian that starts with the letter L (it doesn’t matter if it’s a first name or last name). The catch is that you cannot have the same answer as anyone else or they negate each other. When you play with people with big vocabularies and a large knowledge base this game can be really fun and exciting (for instance, John John pulled out Djibuti City as a capital starting with the letter D). I don’t want to brag or anything, but I pretty much owned everyone at Scattergories. That’s right, you read that right. I pretty much owned everyone. If you think you can take me on let me know. I’m always willing to send someone home crying!

Despite their spanking, the other couples still managed to smile

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Whew what a crazy weekend! I think I’ll probably have to do three posts just to cover Saturday alone (actually Sunday was rather mundane so it was really only Saturday that was very exciting).

The day started out fine and dandy. I had several events scheduled so I knew it would be along day. It started with golf outing at Olomana, then a couples game night and then lastly, Jenny‘s surprise going-away party.

My day really got exciting at Olomana. Now I know what you’re thinking, “what’s so exciting about playing at Olomana?” and the answer would be nothing really. Olomana is a nice course, but I would daresay it’s not very exciting. However, I’m not really sure if you’ve been following the local news here in Hawaii, but there’s a certain Presidential candidate that’s from here and is here on vacation. So I guess what do Presidential candidates from Hawaii like to do whilst on vacation in Hawaii? You guessed it, he likes to play golf at Olomana. Of course, the “he” I’m referring to is Barack Obama.

When we first got to Olomana, my bonus dad, Pat saw a news vehicle and thought out loud, “I wonder if Obama’s playing here? He did bring his golf clubs and he did say this was his favorite course.” But we thought, what are the odds of him being at the same place as us? Apparently they’re pretty good. By the time we found a parking space and got our clubs we noticed in addition to the Junior Golfers, there were also some Secret Service around! Pat went into the pro shop and jokingly asked when Obama would get here. Much to his surprise (and delight) the lady answered, “he just called and he’s on his way.”

So much for a quiet round! Right after we left the pro shop he walked right past me and went in to pay for his round (I’m guessing). I was on the phone with John-John at the time and I explained to him that I needed to hang up and go meet the Presidential candidate! Alas, there are no pictures of him and I because when I asked him if I could take a picture with him, he politely declined stating that if he let me take a picture with him then everyone else would want a picture too. I guess he was right, but I think I could’ve done it on the sly as not to draw attention to him (although he would later attract plenty of attention).

Here’s the Senator signing autographs

As luck would have it we were in the group right in front of him. We were hoping he wouldn’t be in a rush and bomb us with balls (he didn’t). In fact, it was just the opposite. His group kind of played slowly and we eventually pulled away. It was a bit unnerving having the Secret Service constantly coming up to us to clear the fairway and make sure everything was safe.

The Secret Service (notice there golf clubs are nonexistent, just like their senses of humor)

Of course the media was there too. They were very polite as the golf course wouldn’t let them on the property. They just had to wait by the 10th tee until Obama came around.

They told me they would put me on the news…they lied

We did have lots of fun though. Bob jokingly asked if there were more Secret Service around. I told him a surefire way to find out would be to start throwing golf balls at Obama or riding straight toward him in a menacing fashion and then wait to see who jumps out of the bushes and takes him down. Unfortunately no one was willing to try (not even Mikey). Because he was playing pretty slowly (and we were thankful for being in front of him and not behind) he didn’t even finish his round.

Bob snapped this shot of him with his cell phone as they were leaving the golf course

Just think some people waited for hours just to see Obama at Keehi Lagoons when he first arrived. Also, tonight is a major fundraiser for him. The cost to go to this private sold-out fundraiser is $2300 a person. If you want to meet him in person you’d have to pony up another $10,000! For the small price of a round of golf, we got to meet him (shake hands, chat, etc…) and save $12,300 in the process! That’s why I love golf.

Even though I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of him, I did end up on the news. As you watch the video look for Pat, Mikey and myself. I appear at around the 45 second mark. I’m the dude with the white shirt with blue sleeves patting him on the back. And no, I didn’t get tackled by the Secret Service…I love America!

To view the rest of the pictures of the day click here.

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