Archive for July, 2009

Zumanity, A Cirque Review


I have learned something new on our little foray to Vegas — Cirque du Soleil acrobats and dancers are really sexy until you put them in a burlesque show with costumes that feature cut outs for women’s breasts. Then, we just found ourselves distracted by tiny boobs and didn’t really get the context of the acrobatic routines.

For the ladies out there, the show sports lots of hunky men with padded packages, often with a zipper running over the crotch of their outfits. Sadly, feeling like we were watching a Thunder from Down Under show really subtracted from the traditional Cirque experience as well.

The show’s saving graces were the comedians, who were very funny, and the male contortionist, who grossed out the crowd, much to everyone’s delight. If you’re going to see this spectacle, and you don’t enjoy being the center of attention, avoid the first few rows in the front of the theater! Poor Tom, this was a lesson he learned the hard way, as we were interviewed (which means put on the spot) by the transvestite mistress of ceremonies and the opening act comedian (who gave us the autographed post card you see above).

All in all, the sexy Cirque show — not so erotic. Our favorite is still Ka, which is a must see if you are ever in Sin City.

Viva Las Vegas Baby!

“What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” You can’t escape that tag line. So rather than fight ’em, we decided to join ’em and are now losing money in this neon lit inferno of a city! (Don’t worry, we didn’t bring the kids, we left them at home with my awesome parents — thanks for watching them Mom and Dad.)

We are staying at the Encore, which is the smaller cloned version of the Wynn hotel. (They were offering a very nice deal on a suite with some resort credit you could use on food or spa treatments.)

The room is kind of a trip…in a good way. Pictured below is but one of the many mothballed construction projects we can view from our 53rd floor windows to the north on Las Vegas Boulevard. I also love our rotating television, which is shown below as well. When sitting on the bed, the TV is framed by the backdrop of the city, and you can swing that flat screen around 180 degrees so that when you are in the living room/office, you can watch the TV as well.

The suite also comes with a TV in the bathroom, separate shower and bath, A/C that works in 109 degree weather, a roomy safe, the crazy expensive sensored mini bar that charges you if you remove anything for 60 seconds, and teeny tiny bathrobes. (I think they all must be modeled on Steve Wynn himself, who is not strapping, by any means.) Misc. thoughts on the Encore: fabulous service, they make you pay for wireless Internet access, the casino has natural light (very disorienting), the casino doesn’t smell like an ashtray, the casino is totally dead (may be why it isn’t smokey), the hotel charges extra if you want to use the gym, and their room service is awesome.

On the latter, we ordered the following, with a straight face, on our first night: grilled asparagus, pork pot stickers, chicken satay, a greek salad with chicken, and two root beer floats! Everything was quite good — pictured below.


Some Say Brave, I Say Crazy!



For some reason, my brother decided to let the girls work on his hair and buzz his beard with electric trimmers.

(Yes, more summer hijinks on the Oregon coast.)

Aside from Zelda accidentally removing too much of one of Ian’s sideburns, he came out of the experiment remarkably unscathed.

The girls, of course, had a delightful time.

In fact, Zelda was having so much fun, she didn’t want to relinquish the electric buzz cutters and got into a minor skirmish with Ian over who had a right to their possession. I’m happy to report that Ian came out on top and Zelda was not allowed to create any additional hair havoc.

La Salamandra Versus Mark’s Deli

While Mark’s Deli in Palermo Viejo is an institution, I implore you, if you’re in the neighborhood, skip those misbegotten sandwiches and head over to the dulce de leche/mozzarella bar instead!

(I know a lot of people love Mark’s Deli, so I waited until our little vacation out of the country to post this!)

La Salamandra is a company that produces high quality dairy products (hence the caramel/cheese theme for the restaurant) that can be found throughout stores in Argentina. Happily, they also own a little cafe and coffee shop.

This is my go-to place for a healthy delicious lunch that also features an exquisite dessert at the end! On the lunch side, they offer a variety of hot savory quiches and tarts as well as sandwiches. But, where I go crazy, is the salads. My favorite is the greens served with grilled vegetables; I order it time after time, I can’t stay from it, no matter how hard I try…I think it’s just general vegetable withdrawal that does it.

The salads feature very fresh, crispy lettuce that is actually tossed with a simple dressing (I know, don’t faint).

Mark’s Deli, by comparison, is the restaurant you want to love when you have a hankering for that good old American sandwich, but it really doesn’t deliver in terms of execution. The bread is poor, the deli meat pretty flavorless, and the usual lack of spice, condiments and sauces dooms these bread and meat creations to mundanity.

In the war of the mint lemonade bebidas — I’m afraid the winner is also La Salamandra.

Both places are overpriced and they sport a bit of a scene, but if you are looking for “over the top,” then Mark’s Deli is the place to people watch, no doubt. La Salamandra will turn your table if it’s busy, depositing your check before you ask for it, which is a bit of a shock in Argentina.

And lastly, if you need to pick up gifts for home, La Salamandra carries their dulce de leche with a convenient little cookbook in English to accompany the wickedly tasty sweet sauce.

Every Child Should Have a “Coast”


Roasting marshmallows, making smores, catching frogs and salamanders in the pond, walking in the creek (“It’s a good way to get your feet clean, Mom!”), playing stick ball on the lawn, helping abuelo with “the pit,” shoveling gravel, burning brush, pulling stumps, stacking firewood (they are too young to split wood, but give it time…), playing in the sprinkler, helping to wash the car, going to the dump (always exciting), baking bread, making hot dog buns from scratch, borrowing DVDs from the library (“Escape from Witch Mountain is awesome, Mom.”), picking blueberries, picking raspberries, getting grass stains on every article of clothing, smashing abuela’s flowers with the soccer ball, walking to the beach…every kid should have a wonderful place to escape with their grandparents, who believe that hot chocolate with marshmallows is an appropriate way to greet each and every morning (at least when you’re under 12).

Bountiful Berries and Cherries


Since arriving a week ago, I have had a mixed-berry crisp, a piece of marionberry and peach pie at my conference, I have picked blueberries at Mom and Dad’s place (the early bush is really productive this year and the berries are sweet sweet sweet), harvested raspberries from the bushes at the parental unit’s house as well, consumed blackberries obtained from a local farm (garnished with a little vanilla ice cream), and positively inhaled so many Bing and Rainier cherries that I get a little woozy just thinking about it.

Fresh, amazing berries and cherries are one of the reasons that there is no place I would rather be when it comes to eating than the Pacific Northwest in the summer.

Mayors Rock!

I just fell back in love with the United States of America, and not for the reasons you might think. It was thanks to some amazing, hard-working, and dedicated city Mayors that I had the pleasure of getting to know this last week.

You see, my jetlagged, broken-backed, congested self just wrapped up an amazing and affirming professional experience as a part of the The Mayor’s Institute on City Design. For three days, we (a panel of architects, designers, planners, and real estate professionals) were locked in a room together with 8 mayors to discuss their cities and address their issues and concerns about their home towns.

I was energized by these leaders — they are willing to act as lightning rods on tough land-use issues that might be unpopular in the short term, but could improve their communities for decades to come.

This country was built on the backs of public service such as theirs — they generally make little money while often serving “part-time,” when in reality, they work full-time for their constituents. My interactions with these mayors showed me, in a tangible way, that livable places are the result of good governance, which is the result of ordinary people working hard and caring for their neighbors and families.


Was There Reentry Culture Shock?

As I’ve tweeted a zillion times, which, yes, is a reflection of my excitement, I upgraded my flight home using miles because of my back and rib injuries. I mention this, not because of the aforementioned delight, but because the lounges for zee upper class passengers in Buenos Aires and Atlanta were the first places that I experienced a real cultural shift.

At the EZE airport, the upper class waiting area featured a ton of families, complete with kids running around, TVs blaring soccer…frankly, it was a bit raucous. (One American woman stomped out in a snit because it wasn’t to her liking.) What is interesting though, is that the prevailing attitude of the Porteños waiting for their flights was one of cultivated leisure. In Atlanta, on the other hand, the inhabitants were nearly all businessmen, with very few families, and most were trying to pose with a sense of importance and imperative.

Which made me realize, in Argentina, one really doesn’t witness people rushing about with an urgent awareness that they have to be somewhere.

More culture shock came upon emerging from immigration/security and the bowels of the airport tram in Atlanta. Where did the escalator deposit me? Straight into a food court, complete with the requisite long line of people at Dunkin Donuts for their morning coffee.

Nothing says “Back in America Baby” like a good old fashioned food court stuffed with fat Americans.

My flight was processed through security and immigration concurrently with a planeload of colorfully garbed families from India. While trying to make my way through the police-state measures now instituted to gain entry into my insane country, I found myself in the midst of a sea of Indian women with permanently affixed metal bracelets and rings attempting to pass through the metal detectors together with their cute smiling Indian babies crawling underfoot through secure TSA areas as authorities screamed “PICK UP THE BABY, PICK UP THE BABY.” All was chaos about me, but I had a wonderful tranquil feeling of relief that I wasn’t the one in a foreign land causing the hold up because I was screwing up unknown bureaucratic procedures.

When I arrived in Portland, I was greeted by mom-made Rice Krispy Treats (I’m so spoiled) and had a huge bowl of cherries waiting for me as well (which my intestinal system is not too happy about this morning as I over-indulged, which I am wont to do with cherries). Anyhow, as I went to toss out a few cherry stems and pits yesterday, I had to stifle a gasp when I opened the cabinet under the sink.

“My God, that kitchen garbage can is huge!” I wanted to say. But I tamped it down because I had some sense of awareness that the statement would be weird. It’s the little things, I guess — like paper towels that are huge and don’t fall apart when introduced to liquid — that make me realize I’m not in Kansas anymore. (Wizard of Oz reference for you non-Americans.)

Well, the little things and the fact that everyone in this city wants to eat at 6:30 pm too! (I went out with a friend (Thanks Steve!) on my first night home and the establishment in question had a waiting list for the evening meal at merienda (tea time)…talk about weird!

I’m used to being the only person among tens of millions that wants to eat dinner at 6:30 pm.

Trip to EZE in Lincoln Town Car


I love Argentina.

Where else would you find a guy from Long Island named Fred, who has gone to the trouble of importing a Lincoln Town Car into the country (when we all know that bringing anything into Argentina is never easy), all with the express intention of becoming the best native English speaking driver for hire in BA?

I used Fred’s services to get to the airport today and can recommend him highly. He was 15 minutes early (something to remark upon in Buenos Aires), he had drinks in a small cooler (water and a soda), the car was wonderful, and I didn’t feel that I was participating in a Grand Prix while trying to get out of the country! Also, if you are traveling with a big family, everyone fits. He even called Tom after we arrived to let him know I got here okay.

His Web site features a nifty online interface for reserving his services.

Quick BA Airport Notes For people flying out of Buenos Aires this winter, know that the airport is really hot because they overheat everything in the winter here. Wear layers so you can strip down! It took 21 minutes and 37 seconds to get through security and immigration for a night flight (8:30 pm scheduled departure) on a Sunday.

Packing Eve, Leaving Eve, Whatever…


I depart on a long trip to The North tomorrow. What last minute rituals am I completing?

Well, first I had to watch a video of casting on for my next scarf knitting project, which you can see pictured here. (I don’t knit often enough to remember how to cast on, how lame is that!) Everyone cross your fingers that they don’t abscond with my lovely wooden knitting needles at security. (I’ve traveled successfully with them thus far, but one never knows.)

Next, I had to download some trash novels to my Kindle to temper my Infinite Jest reading, which is taxing, to say the least.

Then, there was the joy of finishing two presentations for the Mayor’s Institute on City Design in the midst of a complete break down of the ever-sucky Windows operating system, which was running on a virtual machine on my Mac, and resulted in my being unable to print, and limped along when I was working with PowerPoint…well, let’s just say that was a nightmare.

Arranged transportation to airport. Check. Trying out Fred at Silver Star Car! Will report my findings after what I hope is a smooth ride.

The travel socks, crap, I can’t forget the travel socks! I am going all old lady and will be bringing a pair of cotton compression socks with me for the flight that are supposed to improve circulation and therefore comfort on long hauls. (Tom and I both bought a pair and will report back as well!)

My God, between the knitting and the socks, I’ll have to order some hot water with lemon and I’ll be set — granny all the way.

And now, they are saying my flight is going to be leaving 2 hours late, but I still have to get to the airport at the original time, even though they changed my connection in Atlanta to reflect the later departure. *BIG SIGH*

I feel weird leaving before Tom and the girls — I am going to miss them! (I’m going back a few days early for the conference.)