Saturday, February 28, 2015

Best Ballin' Out of Control

Because she's the best, and because she works for the Association, Aubrey (you follow her on twitter, right? No? What? You hate clever?) gave me a couple of tickets to the rookies game during All-Star Weekend for me and Christian (my friend/kid I tutor) to use. 

The seats were pretty dope, 13 rows back and behind one of the hoops. I'd never sat so close to a game before.

We were well within striking range for mascot antics.

During the game Aubrey texted me that she was going to move us to a better spot at the half. I saw empty seats a few rows ahead of us and thought "Oh that's pretty cool." BUT actually what she meant was she had some courtside spots for us! Courtside!

Like sitting right behind these guys!

Still plenty of mascot time down there, too.

I was watching the game on the big screen instead of right in front of me most of the time. I couldn't help it.

Christian wanted me to take pictures of lots of people who I didn't know who they were.

The only person I saw that I recognized was Rick Fox. He must be a coach now or something.

Being right there, I liked the basketball a lot more. They just kept running back and forth dunking. I think there was an agreement between the two teams that they'd just be taking turns dunking on each other. (p.s. I know this isn't a picture of a slam dunk. I know what a slam dunk isn't, guys!)

On the left, way over on the left, there's my hands and nose! I was on TV all night.

I love basketball! When it's real close.

Christian and our generous benefactor talking basketball details (such as player names) that I just couldn't keep up with.

The sad Rich Get Richer truth is that if you're sitting court side it's pretty easy to score a t-shirt or mini-basketball when they're getting tossed out.  

One last picture, this is the "Can You Believe It" feeling a nice court side time will give you.

Oh, and after the game? I learned from Christian what a chop cheese sandwich is. That's the strength of Street Knowledge.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Best Rollin' with my Homies

So when I went to California last month I spent that Friday night eating tacos with old New York friends, old college friends, and old friends who went to college the same time as me but I didn't meet until after college. 

Cher was kind enough to pick me up and we pre-gamed at an East LA roadside stand known as "the Taco Man". 

Went in kinda light with two real nice tacos al pastor because I had an idea of what was ahead of me. But what a beautiful way to start.

Next we headed to south central to eat in the parking lot of a used tire store. Here we met up with the rest of our party, who I guess I don't have any pictures of yet. 

I had a carne asada taco and a carne asada vampiro-a vampiro being a crisped tortilla with cheese melted on top of it, then the rest of your taco stuff on top of that. 

This was a real chill and special place. I'd like to come back sometime before the sun sets, order myself a few plates of food, campout and make a night of it. 

Then we went around the corner and down the block to try out the Tortas Estillo DF Torta Wagon. Word was this was the place in LA to grab a Torta Cubana and, well, you know I always want my friends to know about Cubanas.

Oh here we go, some of our characters. 

In that beanie: Former New Yorker Jenn, who I hadn't seen for a good number of years. Left hat: That's Keith, I get to see him every now and then. On the right: There's Cher, I'm fortunate to see her with a kind of regularity.

Watching them griddle up the Cubanas.

The finished product. Pretty dope. They had a lot of different giant Tortas by a lot of different national names, some of them tempted me with their ingredient combinations, but for a first visit, to the Cubana I had to be true.

Pals having a laugh and trying to figure out how to eat their giant sandwiches. That hat on the right, that's Jared. He was in town for a family gathering or something.

After tortas we headed up to Leo's Tacos, a place I already know and love. I feel like it's the easy answer and that my experience is limited, but for the time being, this is my favorite taco spot in LA. I like the energy, I love the food, and I like the sense of "local taco truck hitting it big" there. 

Tossed back another couple Tacos al Pastor. On one bite I caught a little extra grease sliding off the tortilla as I was pulling the taco from my mouth and, when the flavor it my tongue, in my mind I was all "Oh yeah, that's what I like." That's what I like! The right kind of taco meat grease!

 I didn't realize I was taking pictures of Keith and Jared over and over. Where's Chaz? Where's Mike? I don't know! I was too busy taking pictures of Keith and Jared!

Cool how they've got these Burger King trash cans there.

One last glance at Leo.

One last stop: Drove up the street to El Chato, it was my first visit. I got their famed chicken quesadilla, I could only manage to take a few bites then but it was a great treat for my flight home to New York a couple of days later. Funny how El Chato is less than a mile up the road but the scene is totally different. Lot more people who are out on the town. 

Then we wrapped up the night with a visit to SK Donuts, a magnificent 24hr donut establishment we had stumbled upon a year before.

I got a maple bar because they'd just come out from the kitchen and they tossed in a couple of donut holes with it. This is just how things are at SK's.

Oh, finally. Chaz.

So it was a great late and long night of tacos and stuff. This is the way to live. Rolling around with your pals, eating and talking and laughing. (photo borrowed from Jenn's Instagram)

It's very worth mentioning that High School friend Lucas had given me the scoop on Taco Man, the tire shop, and Tortas DF. He's written about the last two for Eater here and here. Check it out! He says more than I did and you can figure out the addresses from his post if you want to visit yourself and don't feel like googling "tire store tacos Los Angeles".

Monday, January 26, 2015

Best Return to the Kingdom

The week before last I flew out to California for a few days. I did a bunch of stuff, but a big thing I did was go to Disneyland with Collin. So this is a Disneyland post. In the past I've shown I can have a lot to say about Disneyland. I'm going to try to keep things under control this time, but anything could happen.

Now here's the thing. I wasn't just going to Disneyland with Collin. Kristen was in town from Utah with Walker and Ellie because Ellie's dance group was going to be dancing at Disneyland. 

And also my Mom was in town. So I was going to Disneyland with my mom, my sister, my niece and my nephew and Collin. And we weren't just going to Disneyland, for the first time ever I was Park Hoppin'! 

We started the day with California Adventure because none of them had ever been there before and I had been once.

We were there for the opening because we don't miss openings at Disneyland in this family.

Even if that means some waiting.

But them Bam! It's time to go in. I had come up with what I thought was an ingenious plan of attack for California Adventure which involved Collin grabbing us Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses while Kristen dropped Ellie off at rehearsal and Walker, Mom and I got in line for Midway Mania--because Midway Mania is GREAT but does not have Fast Passes. Which is INSANE.

The plan worked perfectly.

Walker and I rode together on Midway Mania. I am a late-bloomer in the delighting in the nieces and nephews game...ok, I mean, I always liked them, I always liked all of them, but of my siblings I've logged in the least amount of time as a present Aunt or Uncle because of New York but these last few years I've been putting in more time and making better impressions and ever since Walker jumped on my head a bunch the time I babysat him things have been going pretty well between us. So this means: Sat by Walker on a lot of rides. His choice. Word.

Anyway Midway Mania is super fun and everyone liked it and Collin had never been on it before and that's a shame but I'm glad I could give him something new that day (as he had just done Disneyland about 5 days before with Mallory for her birthday).

After Midway Mania: We walk over to the Tower of Terror where the line is very under control. And here's the thing: We think we can get Walker to go on it and Walker says he wants to go on it and there are other kids his age in line for it so we take Walker on it. He's 3.  Close to 4. But 3.

Neither Mom nor Kristen had ever been on it either so many parties were not certain how this ride would go for them but everyone was able to channel their energies into telling walker "This is just pretend, this is all for fun, this is all for pretend" (except for, you know, the part where you fall 13 stories over and over again. That part is very real.)

I sat by Mom so we could watch Walker ride in front of us. He kept his cool and held hands very tight but from the back of his head it was clear he was wondering what we had gotten him into those spooky minutes before the drops start.

All in all, he did pretty well. Wasn't in a mood for a victory photo afterwards, though.

After Tower of Terror us grownups went and rode California Screamin' (this was the ride that Mom got brave for) while Kristen treated Walker to some cool-down rides in the Bugs Life little kid ride part of the park.

And then we met up again in the incredibly-themed Cars Land (it wasn't open the first time I went) to go use our Radiator Springs FastPasses.

At this point we were rejoined with Ellie as she had finished her dance rehearsal. They gave her ears at it. So this is an ears portrait. But Walker ruined it! Walker!!

All that stuff I was saying about Walker earlier applies to Ellie, too. I feel she gives me good uncle appreciation. I'M NOT SAYING BLAKE AND RACHEL DON'T! But they weren't there. Ellie was. And I felt appreciated as an uncle.

There were a lot of poor chumps without Fast Passes waiting for the ride.

It's pretty remarkable and beautiful. Also, you know what? I don't think Cars was such a bad movie. Same with Cars 2. Not a bad movie.

Collin told us he had never won the big race at the end of the ride. His record is intact. 

Something incredible that happened: Collin's iphone fell out of his pocket at some time during the ride. And when he went back in to look for it, they had it waiting for him. Collin's iPhone was missing for 4 minutes and that was it.

Family photo.

Then for lunch we had Corn Dogs.

The Happiest Meal on Earth!

Collin had a chili verde cone, though.

Some people rode this while Mom and I went on Goofy's Flight School.

Then we all rode the Ferris Wheel.

We took one of the sliding-cars which, you know, can be kind of scary.

It was not poor Ellie's cup of tea.

But while we rode it she was saying that she really wanted to go on those swings that hang on the long chains and twirl around far and although this totally did not strike me as an Ellie-positive ride, we went on it and she loved it. Kids! They're just so surprising and incredible.

Can you see me? Flying with my arms out?

Then we had to get out of California Adventure and get over to Disneyland because our day was halfway done at this point.

Ran into Oswald on the way over, couldn't get out of getting a photo with him.

Didn't get a Disneyland grand entry picture. Oh well.

Pretty cool Olaf balloons.

I came into Disneyland with a very casual attitude because there were just two things I needed to : Ride the renovated and updated Star Tours and Thunder Mountain. Somewhere around the end of the first half of my giant Disneyland post from four/five years ago I go deep on my feelings for/relationship with the original Star Tours. I was very curious to try out the new one. The main idea is there are new videos and there's various different paths you can take so no two rides are alike. It was good, it was cool, but it was very much a Star Wars Prequels vs. Original Trilogy experience. I definitely missed the practical feel of the first video. It wasn't tremendously different from Midway Mania in a way. Only went on it once, wish I went on it more (in spite of all I just said). Next time!

We went on Autopia while waiting for our Space Mountain FastPasses to mature.

I rode with Walker. When his sister was his age I rode with her. 3'ish/4'ish year old kids love going on Autopia with me!

See! (although the ride did begin with a pretty physical fight [NOT started by me!] over who would drive)

Still a little more time before Space Mountain, we went to Astro-Blasters. Mom killed us! Her score was twice as high as anybody else's. 

And then it was Space Mountain time and it turned out to just be Kristen and I that went on it.

That ride is just relentless. It really doesn't let up. It did a number on my when I was 3 and I'm still not totally at ease on it.

After Space Mountain we reunited with the group for Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean (both kids handled that ride real well but I sure had to answer a lot of questions about whether or not the pirates were mean), Thunder Mountain (which Walker rode with great enthusiasm and not a drop of fear)(the ride has a great new ending, too, by the way). Really I should've gotten some pictures from those two rides. Oh well. It had been a long day.

Then we went on the Casey Jr. Train (pretty crazy to have been at Disneyland all day long and not set foot in Fantasyland until the end of the day) and Collin and I rode Alice in Wonderland (because, you know, it had been a while. And I figured I should ride at least one Fantasyland dark ride)

Then we found everyone on the carousel  

And then it was time to leave!

Family photo from the back alleys of Mainstreet USA. 

Goodbye, Disneyland! Thanks for having me! 

Let the record show: Mom and Kristen and the kids came back the next day for another full day of rides and to see Ellie's big performance. I did not come back. I am a one day of Park-Hoppin' kind of guy.