Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gary, Indiana 5/30


Ok, so my Midwest on $25 trip sort of petered out at the end.  I was supposed to go to Cincinnati last week and I'm supposed to be in Des Moines as we speak.  Why am I writing about Gary?  Well, unfortunately last minute work things came up and I had to let go of my tickets.  But still, I visited 8 cities for less than $25, that's pretty good right.  I went...

Kansas City
Iowa City
St. Louis

Ok, Gary, Indiana.  I came here for two reasons: Michael Jackson's home, and the song from Music Man.  You should do this and then get the hell out: there's nothing to do in Gary.  It's like Detroit junior. It was Murder Capital of the US a few years back, and it deserves the title.   All these facts might incite you to come to Gary, but trust me, there is nothing else to see.  The architecture is crumbling from decades past: particularly the 50's and 60's.  However, if you do go to Gary, check out Indiana Dunes at least.  Only twenty minutes away and quite nice by Indiana standards.
Boyhood home of superstar Michael Jackson

Go ahead, they're out of business anyway

Well, this is it

You have a car?  GET OUT OF GARY!

About stand-up.  There is no comedy club in Gary.  There is no laughter in Gary.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tale of Two Cities: STP/MIN 5/17-18

Hey all,

 Here's the city that I've been aching to go.  Does it live up to the hype?  Yes.  Unfortunately, since I'm at the mercy of $1 tickets, I only had a day and a half to split between two decent sized cities.  But I've been trained to make the best out of very little (hence, $1 trips).  Here we go.
Yes, you can ride it.  And yes, I did.

Famous diner in St. Paul.  It was in Mighty Ducks!

On the side of Wabasha caves.  Fun, huh?

The Landmark in St. Paul

Minneapolis is the bigger (yet younger) brother of the Twin Cities.  It's very modern and filled with great art and interesting neighborhoods.  You must check out the Walker Art Center, home to the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry, the Walker library, Nicolet Mall, Hennepin Ave, and any lake you can find.  Lord knows there's 10,000 of 'em!  Yuck yuck!  Minneapolis is notoriously cold in the wintertime, so much of the buildings downtown are connected by a skyway, these 2nd story lanes connect buildings so you can walk everywhere downtown in the wintertime and never have to step outside.  Genius!  They also have a greenway: a biking network that avoids downtown traffic.  Ingenious.  Minneapolis in the summertime is a treat: great weather, festivals, and beautiful scenery.
Go ahead, figure that shit out.

Dinner party.  Just me and some ladies.

Reunion: I forgot my towel in KC, Nicole brought it back.

The chickens: the black one is named Angela Lansbury.

St. Paul is the older of the two and the capitol is located here.  Not as much to see/do, yet only 30 minutes from Minneapolis so why not?  Check out Wabasha street caves: apparently they have a cave system that has been hollowed out to serve as a restaurant, disco, and now gangster tours.  Unfortunately, the caves weren't open when I went, so I just climbed the mountainside of the cave for excitement.  Looking back, it was pretty dangerous and I don't suggest it to anyone (who's a wimp).  However, neighboring St. Paul we have Bloomington: home to the Mall of America.  I don't care what anyone thinks, I loved this place: roller coasters, unlimited stores, comedy club, and no tax on clothes/shoes.  Definately worth going to if your in either city.  There is a light rail that takes you right there, and if you're crafty, you don't even have to pay.

My company:  I actually stayed with a couchsurfing girl who check into my hostel in Chicago a few months ago.  She had 5 roommates (10 counting the chickens) and she hosted a dinner party where I actually brought a guest too: the same girl I couchsurfed with in Kansas City.  The cycle is complete.

Lastly, (sorry this is long), the comedy scene.  Up and thriving (Mitch Hedberg was a native).  Unfortunately, I just happened to be in Minneapolis the wrong day, and the only open mic I could find was in Lilydale.  It was a rough crowd, but here's the best I got.

Just two more cities to go.  See you soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Madison on a bicycle built for two 5/11-13

This was on my bucket list.  Mission accomplished.
What's new?  This week, (7th city, FYI) I went to Madison, WI: the capitol and largest city Wisconsin has to offer.  The twist is I'm not alone: the missus has come along.  I wanted her to come along in Lafayette, but the chains of occupation brought her down.  The Couchsurfing hosts we had were a blast: both doctors; delivering babies at midnight, hubbie played the banjo too, and they showed me how to finish off the Rubik's Cube I've been working on for 3 months.  They also had a tandem bike, unicycle (which I can ride), two turtles, and my lady and I had our own guest room.  Could you really ask for more?

View of Capitol Hill, tailored after DC.

Paul's Bar.  Yes that's a tree.

Beer-Battered Cheese Curds.  If this doesn't say Wisconsin...

Anyway about Madison.  Cute, very cute.  Go there and you'll know what I mean.  Again a college-oriented city (University of Madison-Wisconsin) and the city is very much aimed toward that demographic: bars, sports, shops, art, etc.  Madison is a bit of a rarity because the city is located on an isthmus, which means it is situated between two large lakes.  You are never too far from nature here; you can be in rush hour traffic, say screw it, and take your canoe instead.  What to do and see:  The Capitol (poor man's Washington, DC) take a tour and learn how politics "work".  Modest yet impressive art museums the Chazen and MoMA, and the historical museum of Madison (featured exhibit Odd Wisconsin, very cool).  And you know what's best about all these?   THEY ARE FREE!

The stand-up scene.  The club here is called the Comedy Club on State.  (By the way, what's nice about State Street is that no commercial vehicles are allowed.)  It's a great room and luckily my girlfriend and I both got to perform, and no, we did not do a duo act (though, in retrospect, it might have worked well.)  I got 4 minutes and I gotta say, this might have been the best crowd yet.  Thanks Madison for believing in me!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis 5/3-5/5

Whoa boy!

I loved St. Louis. Finally back to a big city (with a comedy club) where I had just enough time to get my fill (Phil) of all the attractions.  St. Louis has a lot to offer: I'm going to go ahead and say it's the biggest city in the Midwest with the exception of Chicago.  In fact, be careful when mentioning you are from Chicago: the locals can pretty testy with Chicagoans: just go ahead and say you're a Sox fan anyway and you agree that St. Louis was cream of the crop until Chicago stole all the glory.          

Forest park, where the 1904 World's fair was held.

70's space pod to the Arch.

The belly of Budweiser.

Masha, my wonderful CS host.

Toasted or "T" rav's.

These to do: the Gateway Arch.  Just get it over with so your friends won't be disappointed when they ask why you didn't go.  It's quite fun and the ride up is a treat.  Also, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery is worth the tour.  Frankly, that's because it was free and you get two free beers at the end (three if you're crafty like yours truly).  Take that buzz and get some toasted Ravoli, and please please please go to the City Museum.  It's an adult playground, and to encourage this notion, Friday and Saturday nights are open for adults until 1am.  They serve beer and kill all the lights; you need a flashlight to navigate.  Needless to say, singles line the door for this event.
Cave of wonders. City Museum

Hamster Wheel.  Jump In!

This is a real pencil, #2.

The big comedy club is called Funny Bone, they have a great reputation and they bring in some major names.   I was lucky enough just to perform the open mic:  there were 40 comics competing for 15 slots.  Being a first timer from Chicago combined with shear luck got me in the #5 slot, a good place to be.  Needless to say, their was a healthy crowd and it was wonderful to perform in a real club again.

Lucky me.  I walked into a famous bar there called Blueberry Hill.  Almost immediately I was asked by two girls:
Them: "Are you going to the Social Distortion tonight?"
Me: "Umm...no."
Them: "Do you want to?  We have two extra tickets.  They're free."
Me: "Yes!"
Blueberry Hill.  A celebrity mecca in Del Mar loop.

Am I any luckier?  $2 round trip bus, free accommodation, and free Social Distortion concert.  Coming up: Madison (with the missus) Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and Des Moines.