Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art Prize 2010

Some people have a cynical view of ArtPrize. I've heard it called "Art-Idol" a few times by the big-city papers on the coasts. They question the viability of leaving it up to the ordinary public (let alone us un-washed, back-woods midwesterners) to have a voice in art. It's somewhat of a pompous attitude, a sneer downt he end of the nose, a laughing scoff. Hell, when it was announced almost 2 years ago, a lot of people around here had the same reaction. A young Devos, heir in a multi-billionaire family was talking about art in the economic downtown. As Alex Nixon of the Kalamazoo Gazette described her feelings of what she felt was Devos's "out of touch" attitude. We were all soon proved wrong. The event was a smash hit beyond all expectations. More than 250,000 votes, downtown swarmed with people for days, and an economic booster shot to downtown Grand Rapids. As we saw, we got plenty of media attention around the country.

Art Prize 2010 is here and in it's final week. The event this year is longer, with more venues, more art and more everything. All indications are that crowds are up from last year as well. This year there have been almost double the votes for the top-ten, more than 450,000 total votes! We will have to wait on the economic numbers, and the estimates of crowd sizes over the two weeks but it looks like 2010 will shatter 2009's crowds. Downtown has been busier than anyone's seen it in decades, or ever for that matter. People 'get it' now, and are fully engaged. People don't just go once, people are going every chance they can get. There is so much, it takes almost two weeks to see almost everything. Why NOT just go and enjoy the crowd surfing and people watching in the beautiful fall weather we've had?

People are now starting to come from out-of-town to see the show. Furthermore, people from other states are now coming to see what all the fuss has been. When that starts happening, you know you've hit something. Why do they come? Because no one has really ever seen anything like this. It really does defy description, especially when you have tens of thousands of people jamming the streets and buildings of GR. It's almost chaotic and un-controlled. Two words very alien to the art conversation. Then again, this whole concept of letting the "layman" be the "expert" is alien to the art world. We won't let a panel of judges tell us what food we like, or what beer we ought to think is the best. Heaven knows we don't like others telling us what to believe, or how to run our country. So then, in response to the pompous voices in the high-class art world, why should we let you tell us what we ought to think good art is!? Good art is up to the individual person. Art is for everyone. The old and young alike, the rich and poor, the city-dweller and the farmer, and for any and all religions.

What I am really getting at here is that ArtPrize is OURS. There is a good chance we will see copy-cat events starting up in NYC, Chicago or LA soon. Will they draw larger crowds? Probably. Will they get more publicity? Without a doubt. Will the art critics hypocritically hail these new art events as "wonderful public successes" after sneering at ours, simply due to the "coastal bias"? Highly likely. What needs to happen is for Grand Rapids, and Michigan, to seize the opportunity now the cement this as OURS, the original, the one and only. The one that was sneered about and the concept laughed at. The one that in the end shattered all pre-conceptions and stereotypical molds of what should be. This should be OUR "intellectual property" as it were. We can't simply let this fade quietly into the night. Like Celebration, this needs to be a constant, annual event. The incorporation of a big-name concert at Rosa Parks circle was wonderful this year. I think there needs to be more concerts incorporated in the two-week span, as music is art just the same.

At any length, enjoy some visual aids, my arguement is done.

You've got until October 10th, so get downtown and fully enjoy the weather, the people and the displays before they are gone until next year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beer Review: Cow Catcher Red Ale, Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. (MI)

Hey Folks,

I found another brew from Mt. Pleasant I wanted to try out. I'm always a fan of red ales and ambers, so this one looked especially appealing to me. Kind of wanted to compare it to some of the others I had tried. As I am doing now, I'm starting you kids off with a picture, so you know what to look for and a little of what I am describing.

A- A deep, rich amber/ruby color pours from the bottle. This one isn't as clear as the last one and has more of a haze surrounding it, which I like. An off-white head rises to almost an inch high and then drops.

S- The smell on this one is fantastic! I can lots of malts, breads and some rye scents. There is a floral characteristic from the hops used which rounds out the nose on this beer nicely. The look and smell of this one make your mouth water in anticipation.

T- On the front I get a nip of delicious bittering hops. The middle of the sip the malt characteristics show up in full force. There's definitly a rye character in there that I love. The breadiness of the malts is very well represented and is played very nicely. On the finish I get a hop and malt balance which lingers pleasantly on the aftertaste. Just like the Autumn brew from Shorts's, this beer's flavor and scent are that of fall. Rich and earthy but bright and tangy at the same time.

M- Less noticable carbonation but it is not "under-carbonated" and "flat". This beer is certainly thick and mouth-coating. If that is something you like then this beer is for you. Personally, I really enjoy that in an amber/red style ale, it tells me they've used generous proportions of high-quality ingredients.

D- Perfectly sessionable anytime of year. I might change my mind about which beer I brign to tailgating next weekend! Hmm, maybe three of each? Back to the topic, this beer is a perfect pair for lunch, dinner and just on it's own for it's own sake! Go find some, I got mine at Siciliano's on the West side of GR.

Beer Review: Autumn Ale, Short's Brewing Co.,Elk Rapids, MI

Good Afternoon craft beer bretheren! Yesterday I enjoyed a college-football roadtrip for my alma-mater and an amazing fall bonfire afterwards. Today is a relaxing day and I decided to break out a new fall-themed beer while I watch some NFL. I saw this beer from Short's over at Siciliano's and it describes itself as an "Extra Special Bitter Ale-Lore of the season captured in ale." Hmm, so this is either a pumpkin/spice ale styled like an ESB? I don't want to go to Beeradvocate.com to find out before I try it, because I don't want to skew my thoughts and opinions before I try it. Okay, let's pop this top.

A- The beer pours an amazing amber hue with quite a bit of clarity. Lots of carbonation bubbles can be seen rising and clinging to the inside of the pint glass. A small half-finger head rises and quickly falls, with an off-white appearance.

S- This one smells deeply of malts of all sorts! I can smell some kind of spice in there as well. I could definitly characterize the nose as that of an ESB or an amber. Great malt scents, slight hop character on the front. Apple spice, clove, and nutmeg? Hmmm, interesting. Let's take a sip!

T- Wonderful floral flavor! This one is in no way an overly-spiced pumpkin ale. This is a wonderfully balanced, yet very rich ESB that tastes sort of like an american style amber ale. There are the smooth, rich flavors of malts and bready, biscuit-like earthiness. To furher compliment such a nice malt addition they have generously rounded this one out with floral hops. It tastes sort of like Cascade hops due to the slightly citrusy/floral twange, with a hint of Centennial hops in there too? This beer looks and tastes like a crisp fall afternoon in a park full of the glorious color of the season; very rich, but still refreshing.

M- Mouthfeel is similar to that of a Bell's Amber, in-fact almost to a tee. Definitly not too light and watery, but gives you a good, full mouth-coating beer with very pleasant after-taste.

D- This is a session beer and I plan on picking up some more for tailgating next weekend. This is one amazing beer from the best beer producing state in the country, Michigan! Love it!

Go get yourself some of this beer. Even if you only stick to the light American adjunct-lagers (and why the hell would you do that in the first place?!) you will enjoy this.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beer Review: Steam Engine Stout, Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co.

Well hello there again friends and fellow beer enthusiasts...and those just bored looking for something to read. So I've neglected a Michigan brewery that has been bottling for a while now and it's high time I recognize her. I grabbed a bottle of Steam Engine Stout from the Mt. Pleasant Brewery recently and here is my reflection on the brew.

A- A nice dark body pours from the stubby 12. oz. bottle. An off-white/tan head rises to a two-finger height and really sticks around. The head looks nice and thick, almost like a nitro-stout.

S- Any nose on this beer is slghtly masked it seems. It's shielded...I don't know why. Slowly it comes out; roasted malts, cocoa, coffee bean...vanilla?? The nose actually isn't so bad after a while. It's certainly no imperial stout but it does well.

T- The taste out-lives the nose. This one is a creamy, wonderful coffee-ish stout. Another sip and I can sense the roasted almonds that seem to be there...and there again is that vanilla flavor that I got in the nose. Slight bitter chocolates dance around on the back of the pallet and on the finish. The beer certainly almost leaves you with a coffee-like experience. They've done a great job capturing the ideal of "roastiness" in a stout. Well done Mr. Pleasant Brewing!

M- Mouthfeel is amazing. This one isn't cloying like stouts can be, but it also isn't too watery (you all know I hate "watery" craft beers!). This one is a heat-seeking missle for the "Goldie-locks syndrome", it's just right baby. Great body on this beer and they balanced carbonation with flavor and consistancy to perfection. Good luck finding something with a better combination.

D- This beer is not only perfect for a cold winter's day, but could be downed in summer too if you've got the stones to man-up. If you don't like coffee, this one you might want to steer clear of. Otherwise, pour a pint and sit back, kick your feet up and turn on your fav. tv show or some good tunes that get you in the mood to enjoy a top-rate beer.

Until Next time, here's to beer!

Beer Review: Moose Drool Brown Ale, Big Sky Brewing Co.

Evening All! It's been far too long since I have done a proper beer review on here and I found one I really wanted. It's Moose Drool Brown Ale from the Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula, Montana. My friend Meg told me stories, as well as BeerAdvocate.com and I had to get my hands on it. So here it goes!

A- Nice dark, ruby brown color. A thick off-white head rises to a two-finger height and slowly falls. Slight lacing clutches the inside of the glass as I drink. Definitly not bad for a brown ale!

S- This one smells earthy to me. I've got dark root branches, raw caramelized malts and other dark bits. There is a slight twinge on the nose that I can't quite place that is almost of something that has been burnt. Okay...now on to the real part.

T- Mmmmmm dark roasted malts galore! This one is a flavor-packed pinata. It does have a root/earthiness to it that I can't place, and there still is the ever so slight burnt twinge on the end. As a brown ale should be, there is no evidence of hop flavor anywhere. Caramalized goodness encases and coats my mouth...ah, yes! I know what that burnt snap reminds me of! Real bar-b-que. You know, the stuff that's been sitting in the filthy pit for 10 hours now and is melt-in-your-mouth amazing? Yeah, right here. This beer would pair with that soooo well it would almost be wrong.

M- Mouthfeel is very nice. Not overly carbonated and it certainly isn't too watery. You can just sense the appropriate amount of density in this one that you know a good amount of quality ingredients have been used.

D- The drinkability is amazing. I can session this all afternoon tailgating or sitting on the porch on a sunny fall day.

I found this one at Siciliano's on Lake Michigan Drive. If you like brown ales, get there and grab you some. This stuff is balanced, but it is NOT boring. I am really enjoying this one and I know you will too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fifth Third Bank, Klingman's/Isreal's and the Local Effect

Now I'm not an economist or banker and I won't pretend to be. I do know however that the economy for premium products is at dismal levels and has been for months. If you're a premium retailer, you're likely bleeding ink. Anyone seen a Jos. a. Bank ad lately? Do you think they want to sell some merchandise?! Premium retailers, most of whom are local and family owned businesses around the country are being systematically eliminated as they die slow and painful deaths. Big-box retailers are doing well on the other hand. Look at Men's Warehouse as opposed to any local men's shoe or clothing store. Van Hoek's in downtown GR had to cut in half it's retail space a few years back. It's survival is in doubt in my mind.

If you've grown up in West Michigan you know the big furniture names. You also know the local retailers. They've been around for a combined 171 years. Both Isreal's Designs for Living and Klingman's have long had an amazing catalog of very high quality furniture products that you simply could not get at the big-box stores. A lot of this furniture was locally made, or at least made in the United States. In the past decade, both companies struggled. They then combined several years back in order to strengthen financially. Klingman's moved from it's old location at the Woodland Mall to the empty Roger's Dept. Store (that's another sad economics story of premium retailers) further West on 28th Street. They made a wonderful renovation of the building from it's 1960's appearance to a glassy, modern showcase store.

Well this weekend we learned that those 171 combined years of history in the quality furniture industry are dissapearing. Fifth Third Bank called-in it's loan and has taken over the local furniture retailer. They will be liquidating all assets in an effort to get what they can in cash value. Robert Isreals, the owner, has stated his sickened reaction to the news, "It's heartbreaking for me; this is totally heartbreaking." he told the Grand Rapids Press.

People from all over the region come to both stores to find quality products they simply can't get at a big-box national retailer. The day the GR Press was there, there were people from metro Detroit shopping the selection, as they knew of the store's legendary quality. Soon there will really only be one choice left in Michigan. Art Van.

Now Art Van is an in-state product thank God, but it is a regionally-large big-box retailer who's quality certainly dips below that of Isreal's and Klingman's. The feeling that you are buying something locally made, from a local family that has been an insitution for so long is a feeling that is simply so difficult to replace these days in this country. We are now a world of Wal Mart's and IKEA, conglomerants with no face, no identity, no personality. You're certainly not buying local from them. The demands of the public have in large-part forced this change. People have been drawn to cheap, disposable products. Look at it just like the low-cost air-carrier phenomenom in a sense. Things change, and sadly the quality niches that we always think will be there and love (that we occassionally use) suffer and dissapear.

Now on to Fifth Third Bank and it's history in the West Michigan landscape. 5/3 Took a LOT of heat when it took over locally owned Old Kent Bank around a decade or so ago. Scores of Old Kent employees were laid off while the ex-owner and CEO made off with millions in a buy-out. Many people locally switched allegiances based on this fact and there still is a sense of resentment over 5/3. Now with this news, some people are raising cane over what they see is a rash and heartless decision on behalf of the bank, which is no longer locally owned. Instead of working to re-structure debt, they want to cash-in liquid assets. "...Banks want to get cash liquid and they certainly don't want retail in their portfolio," said Isreal's of the decision by 5/3 and the economy.

A cold capitalist would simply say "Well, that's economics and business. Everyone knows the rules and what can happen." That is very true and to a point one can not fault that line of thinking. This economy is about survival. On the other hand you have people more set in the tone that due to the local institution's importance to the local landscape and history, the bank should have worked this one out on principle of doing what was right. They see it as a non-local company buying a smaller local bank, laying people off, and now killing the local economy, history and landscape of a town that they have no ties to.

In the end, this will directly eliminate around 150 GR-area jobs at the two stores. On a broader scale this will impact even more jobs, on the side of suppliers and other retailers who benefited from the traffic generated from these stores. This development hurts everyone, especially when it comes to quality and choice. This is a sad, sad reflection of the times we now face not only her in GR, but around the country. Fifth Third would not have been hurt by extending the loan and re-financing.

MLive has a great article from the Press written by Chris Knape. Please take some time to read it! http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2010/09/robert_israels_heartbroken_ove.html

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver

In my last year of college I became interested in exploring the world of craft beer. As my enthusiasm and interest and knowledge base grew, I began to search out sources of information on the subject. I found amazing websites, magazines and books.

One such book that stood out to me was by Garrett Oliver. Garrett is the head brewer at Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, NY. He's been writing about beer for years and is a highly respected authority. In the past couple decades, he's done research all over the world on craft/real beer's relationship to food and everyday life. He has de-bunked countless myths about beer's relationship with quality food, and he has created a massive movement in the culinary world.

The best part about Garrett's work, is that not only can you pair craft beer with high-class cuisine, but you can also pair craft beer with everyday home-cooked food, like grilled and BBQ'd meats and seafood. Craft beer it turns out, works marvelously with spicey ethnic foods from all over the planet too.

I dare you to go give the book a try. It will make your life far more interesting and adventurous. Oliver really is a beer ninja.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to the Grind!!

Good Evening Friends,

Well, it's been waaaay too long since I've updated this bad boy. Well, I am back to work subbing and man, does being back to work doing something good for society feel awesome, despite the pay!!

Also on the recent agenda has been college football!! More importantly, GVSU football!! Oh boy, what a season it has been so far. If you missed the last two games, you MISSED OUT, FLAT OUT. Go check out my reviews at GVFootball.com!

So, an interesting phenomenom has occured at the last two GV home games. Anyone who follows GVSU Laker football knows the students tend to be quieter, and most leave at halftime for parties. We've become acustom to these habits and cynically joke about it. Well, a strange thing has happened these past two weeks. The GVSU student section has not only been loud, active, and INTO the game but they have stayed right until the end. Have pigs begun to fly?? Has hell frozen over?? Not so much.
We've had a couple astoundingly exciting games against the very top comptetition in Division II. Hopefully this has proven to some of our students that not every game is a a given, and ANYTHING can happen.

At any length, the next game is this Saturday the 18th against U-Indy. I'm out for tonight.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Laboring on about Labor Day

So for a couple months over this summer some friends and I started talking about how we wanted to go up North and walk the Mackinaw Bridge on Labor Day. Well, plans got put in the "let's look at it again when we get closer" category. Sure enough, lots of things happened and half the four people interested couldn't go anymore. Well, I still wanted to go, and so did my friend Lisa who would be hosting us at her parent's house in Boyne City. So now there was just two.

After an extraordinarily late Friday night, I had contemplated skipping the trip to just chill. I decided that I needed to go based on a simple premise. I had never done the Mackinaw Bridge walk before. Plus, I had heard a quote that stated that when we stop doing new things, we stop growing as a person. With this in hand, I had made my decision and I'm very glad I made the trip. Sadly I only have photo's of Monday's bridge walk.

Saturday, September 4, 2010.

We left Grand Rapids about 11am Saturday morning. On-and-off sun which was mixed with random rain showers escorted us almost the whole way up to Boyne. It was a smooth ride and not long after 2pm we were entering town. First stop was the house where we off-loaded our belongings. After watching The Fifth Element and dozing off, we decided to make a run to some stores to get ingredients for a drink Lisa's mom was making. We also stopped by the high school to say hi to mom and dad who were helping cook for the DALMAC riders. Well, no one in Boyne City had apple cider, so we had to drive up to Petosky and visit Meijer to get some. We also stopped by the Odawa Casino so I could be given a quick tour. I had forgotten that tribal casino's don't need to follow the state smoking ban...BLECH!!

After the tour our stomach's were rumbling. It was time to visit the high school again to get some dinner! Fried chicken, pasta, salads (fruit and regular), baked potatoes, apple cobbler dessert and more were on the menu, all of it delicious! After stuffing ourselves to the brim, we listened to some of the event organizers speak to the DALMAC riders before heading home. Once home, there was only one place we wanted to go; to the hottub! Beers in hand, we sat through two cycles while a cold light rain fell from above. We then decided to meet her friends Becky and Neil at 220 (a local bar) downtown. We hung out, had a beer and listened to a cool jam band play upstairs while I was introduced to more cool people from Boyne. A good couple hours downtown and it was time to get some sleep. We both had a long night the night before, so sleep was on the menu.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We awoke around 9am, and her parents soon returned home from making breakfast for the DALMAC riders earlier that morning. They walked in the door carrying giant trays of scrambled eggs and sausage, we couldn't eat it all for sure. We slowly got ourselves together because we planned to go hike Deadman's Hill with Hecky, Keith and Neil at 11am. Well, 11am got pushed back and we didn't end up getting out tere until 12:30. It was all good though, the weather was perfect! Not hot or humid, with some nice sun. It was nice to not sweat a ton for once. We completed about four miles of course in a couple leisurely hours. We then got back on the road home to get ready for one amazing barbeque. I helped Ray load the grill onto his truck, and then Lisa and I took off seperately from her parents and got there first.

*Background* Lisa's parents have some good friends who have a cottage about 5 miles West of Boyne City on Lake Charlevoix. Absolutely beautiful place with a great waterfront.
Sweet Baby Ray's helped the cook make the best ribs I have ever had, and I think a few other people would agree with me. ;)
We stayed and socialized until dark, but knowing what un-Godly hour we would have to get up at in the morning, we departed to get some sleep. After little sleep we arose sometime after 4am, got packed and got in the car to pick up Becky on the way. The ride to the brige from Boyne is only an hour. To avoid traffic hassles, we crossed the bridge and parked in St. Ignace. As the starting line was in St. Ignace it made sense, and sure enough it took us only a couple minutes to find a spot, which was only a five minute walk from the starting line at the bridge approach.

The starting time to walk was 7am, and we heard the countdown and starters guns as we walked over. We ended up starting about 7:15am, with 42,000 new friends.

As we walked, what has started as a cloudy, wet morning gradually cleared up for the walk. We were amazed at the ease of the walk, except that we had to dodge a few people who decided they wanted to walk as slowly as possible. We reached the finish line with a time of JUST over an hour and a half!

We ended up walking around Mackinaw City for a few before catching the shuttle back across the bridge to the car. From the car, we crossed the bridge for the FOURTH time in one morning. Pretty impressive I would say! Arriving home we ate a small lunch, and after naps it was time to head home. Three days passed by far too fast as this week it's back to reality, and work.
I need to give a special thanks to the Zavesky's for all their warm hospitality!
It's always a joy to do something for the first time, and to add a notch to the list of things you've experienced. Having a routine can be nice, but you need to consistantly step OUTSIDE of that routine in order to make life interesting. After all, what's life without a little discovery?

So, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Trip Report: From the Mitten to the Golden Coast-Part 4

Good Morning! Let's finally get to the conclusion of my trip, the ride home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010.

I awoke quite early, around 3:30am PST. My flight out that morning to Atlanta was due out at 10:15am PST. I know what you all are thinking now, "why the hell are you up seven hours before your flight!??!" I had some simple math to watch out for. Last year's trip to LA I went through terminal five at LAX for the first time, as Northwest had moved over there from T2 in merging with Delta. That time I also had a mid/late morning departure as well, and the lines for security were longer than anything I have ever seen. Winding through the land-side terminal in a confusing rope maze, then outside down the sidewalk almost to terminal six. It took me well over two hours last year to get through security. A couple weeks before my trip this year I consulted with some travel experts on Flyertalk.com, these are experienced frequent fliers who can usually point out tricks and short-cuts, as well as give you accurate information as they fly all the time. Reports back from those who use T5 fequently did not instill any confidence in me, as it was said to be efficient some days, and a mess others. I prepared for the worst.

My shuttle picked me up at 4:45 as I bid farewell to people, and it wisked me to LAX in minutes. As I walked in the terminal check-in area, it was crowded, but I found an open self-check in kiosk. A minute late with boarding passes in hand, I nervously looked over to the security area....EMPTY! Wow, I was going to have a lot of time to kill at LAX today. TSA took only 10 minutes, and just after 5am PST I was air-side and in the secure area. It seems LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports) and Delta have been working on the issue of increased traffic at T5 in terms of TSA efficiency.

Hungry, I proceeded right to McDonalds and grabbed a McGriddle sandwich and large coffee. After downing my greasy breakfast, with my coffee cooling, I wandered around terminals 5,6,7, and 8. Lots of people watching and plane watching ensued. Terminals 7 and 8 at LAX are used solely by United, and it's interesting to see how they do subtle things differently than Delta. Just as after the merger I watched how Delta did things differently than Northwest.

LAX always fascinates me. It's the second busiest airport in the United States when it comes to international passengers, and it's really cool to see planes from all over the globe, even some very rare and exotic places, converging on one airport. It's also not just a massive hub for one airline, like ATL is with Delta, or Denver is with United. LAX plays host to almost every US airline and is a focus city/mini-hub for American, United, Southwest, Alaskan, Delta, and Virgin America. The variety of languages spoken at LAX is amazing and a testament to the diversity of the Los Angeles region.

LAX in the morning: Our Boeing 767-300 to ATL

T5 in the morning:

Boarding commenced shortly about 9:30 and we had a full flight today.
Delta 101 - Los Angeles,CA (LAX) - Atlanta GA (ATL)
Depart 10:15am PST
Arrive 5:30pm EST
Equipment: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 33A - window
As we boarded as I spotted the little circular device on top of the aircraft that indicated she had been fitted with AVOD in all seats, so I would have my own personal live tv for the flight to ATL. Soon enough, we were all on-board and they pulled the jet bridge back, and we were doors for departure. As is Delta, they played "Delta-lina" as we pushed out and taxied.

We were number two in line for takeoff and had a great view on climb-out as the marine cloud layer was receding.

Santa Ana Mountains

Palm Springs, CA in the middle of the desert.

Out over the moonscape of the Mojave Desert, the hottest place in the United States.

A glimpse of my in-flight entertainment and refreshments:

A smooth, un-eventful flight led us out over mid-Arizona, New Mexico and over the barren panhadle of Texas (below):

Soon after Oklahoma, it clouded over and remained that way for the duration of the flight. We glided into a cloudy ATL five minutes ahead of schedule and quickly de-boarded at 5:30pm EST. I had a couple hours to kill and wanted to stretch my legs, so I wandered ATL again. I hopped on the train below and rode to the T concourse, and then walked the underground passage all the way out to D concourse where my flight to Grand Rapids would leave from. Atlanta Hartsfield, while interesting and extensive to explore, is really nothing too exciting. It's exterior looks like a tin shack and it was obviously put together without any asthetic fore-thought.
Soon enough it was time to get ready to board my ride back home.

Delta 2888 Atlanta, GA (ATL) - Grand Rapids, MI (GRR)
Depart 8:35pm EST
Arrive 10:25pm EST
Equipment: DC-9-50
Seat: 9A-Window
Ahh yes, a night-time flight. Hadn't had one of these in a year. We departed ATL and quickly banked North, doing almost a full circle pass over downtown Atlanta at night (very cool). We then proceeded on our Northerly heading, as the last gleams of light in shades of blue dimmed on the Western horizon over the clouds. The cloud broke somewhere over Kentucky, as I had spectacular views of Louisville and then Indianpolis at night from cruising altitude. Sadly, due to ambient cabin lighting, I couldn't get a good shot of either. We then cruised in over the South Bend/Elkhardt region and started descent over Kalamazoo, MI. Soon enough we saw Grand Rapids appearing on the Western horizon, and a hard left bank brought us in line with the main East-West runway in Grand Rapids. Touchdown occured at 10:10pm EST, an early arrival.
I waited for everyone else on board to get off, and then I approached the captain to see if I could get a picture of the flight deck of our classic airliner, which was nearing fourty, yes 40, years old. Still in spotless condition. To my surprise, our captain said certainly, take a seat and check stuff out! I was given a full tour of the flightdeck!! Complete thrill for someone who loves aviation, and I have to give a really special thanks to the crew of DL2888 for making it happen. True classiness, from start to finish.
Well, that was it. I wandered through the terminal and caught the shuttle to the express lot to my car. Weary and tiredness growing, I drove home and crashed immediatly. These trips always go by far too fast, and I need to shedule them longer.
Delta did a great job once again, and I will continue to fly them in the future.
I will leave you with a photo from DL2888's DC-9 flight deck.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trip Report: From the Mitten to the Golden Coast-Part 3

Saturday, August 28th, 2010.

On Saturday morning I arose at the normally shocking hour of 5am PST. However, I had been sleeping since 8pm the night before, and seeing as I had gotten up at 2am the day before, 5am was sort of sleeping in! As I woke, I looked out my window for a while at the still dark skies, with a somewhat quiet LAX beneath me. A few cargo movements, but nothing much to note at that hour. After a shower I headed downstairs to the Palmira Restaurant in the Radisson for breakfast. I loaded up on a great Belgian waffle and assorted pastries. They serve some very good coffee there I might add. Around 6:30 I wandered back up to my room, and grabbed my camera for a little stroll through the terminal complex drive (World Way). The grey skies and cool air didn't make for the best pictures, but I got a couple decent shots.

It was however after snapping this third picture of the control tower that out of the corner of my eye I noticed an LAPD motercycle flying towards me. The officer pulled right up in front of me and beckoned me over. Usually not a good sign of anything. "Whatcha doing??", asked the officer, sort of playfully. "Taking some pictures." How else was I supposed to respond?! He proceeded to question me for about 5-10 minutes, occassionally re-asking certain questions to check for story consistancy, looking at my ID and looking at the pictures on my camera. I was slightly worried he's delete everything I took from the past 24 hours! In the end, he obviously did not. He turned out to be a really cool guy, simply doing his job at a major international gateway. In this day in age, it is understandable (so long as you don't make tourists feel like criminals). We BS'd for a bit on everything from sports, to the economy before we went our separate ways. Looking back, I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo-op with him, as he bore a striking resemblance to one Erik Estrada (Ponch) from the classic show CHiPs.

I continued my wandering, and soon enough it was time to meet the folks I knew coming into town that morning at arrivals. After our hello's and some talking,they grabbed a rental car shuttle to get their vehicle (as they would be staying a whole week in Manhattan Beach). I wandered back to my room, packed my stuff and grabbed another Ocean Express ticket. The house they were renting was a mere half-block away from a stop along the route, so why not?

A half hour later, I met them at the house. By now to my great appreciation, the clouds were burning off and the sun was shining!

By now it was nearing 11am, and the day at the beach spread out before me! I threw my stuff inside the house, and with a few others, grabbed my camera again and headed back out to wander up and down "The Strand" as it is called, wander the shopping and commercial districts, eat and jump in what was a rather chilly Pacific Ocean.

We had a great dinner on the deck, grilled out of course. A few beers went with to wash down the amazing food in a beautiful place. Long periods of chatting, laughing and catching up were had. We headed back down to the beach to watch the sunset on what was an astounding day that went by far, far too quickly.

Sunday would be my departure day, and my trip back to reality. I really need to schedule these trips longer in the future. Perhaps though a longer trip would make it harder to go home? Either way, I plan to return next year. I will leave you with a poiniant parting shot from Saturday night, and pick up Sunday as part four of this report.