May 31, 2008
May 30, 2008
Lights of the cityscape? Not exactly... this is the skyline of El Segundo, the town that borders my home of El Porto in Manhattan Beach. The skyline is the Chevron Oil refinery that dominates the sky in El Segundo. In fact, the city is named because of the refinery - or more to the point - it exists because of the refinery. El Segundo means "the second" - at the time Chevron (then Standard Oil) opened their refinery here, there was nothing else here. It was their second oil production facility, after their first and home plant in San Ramon, thus, they decided to name the town "the second". My friend Mike is visiting for a couple days - we grabbed some dinner here at a local tavern last night. The town is a lot like a little Mayberry - quaint, quiet, hidden, so it gets the nickname Mayberry by the Sea. It fits.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:17 PM
May 28, 2008
After a long day of canceled and delayed flights in Dallas yesterday, I'm back in LA today playing some catchup with work. We landed the "wrong way" last night - our plane landing over the ocean from the West instead of the more common way from the East. I've written about seeing the planes come in that way, but its the first time I've been in the plane for one of those reversed landings. It was kind of cool - though a little disconcerting when I saw a plane taking off from another runway the opposite direction! Every time I've watched from the ground, they always had both runways going the same direction. Nonetheless, its always good to back to the familiar warm orange glow that the light casts here. It doesn't hurt that today was one of those brilliantly clear days here with perfect weather during the day, and one of those nights where the waves are crashing particularly loudly tonight.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:31 PM
May 27, 2008
So, to step back to Sunday for a bit... we started the day headin to a new mom-n-pop/dive for lunch we had driven by before, but it was closed. After looking around fruitlessly for something new and running out of ideas, we finally ended up at Cattleman's in the Stockyards, an old dinner favorite that turned out to be pretty good for lunch too. After spending the rest of day at the rodeo, we headed down to Moore to try a place that Myron had found on the net - the Royal Bavaria, a German Brauhaus and Restaurant in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. We were really excited about this find. It was pretty cool, though not everything we had hoped. The food and the beer was fine, but not great. (We wondered later if the fact that Oklahoma beer is only 3.2% alcohol had anything to do with the beer seeming so flavorless - but the flavor of beer doesn't come from alcohol content does it?) I was naturally hoping for some German schlager music in the beergarden, but it was a band playing classic rock. I'm sure that's more of a crowd pleaser, so I can hardly complain - but it definitely didn't feel like Munich! Monday it was back to the road to head back to Dallas, but not before stopping at one of our favorite places of all - the Original Fried Pies place at Turner Falls (Exit 51 on I-35). They were packed, even with road construction all around their place. Myron went for the Chicken Vegetable pie while I had the "comfort food" one - polish sausage/cheese/potato - and we attempted fruit filled ones too, but hardly had room for them. Word is definitely getting out about this place. And rightfully so. Though we were sad to notice that the Sinclair dinosaur no longer watches from the top of the gas pump area's roof. Still, we ended up back in Dallas full and tired, another annual pilgrimage completed, and probably 20 pounds heavier.
Posted by Jon Berry at 10:28 AM
May 26, 2008
May 25, 2008
The view from Oklahoma so far... I'll go into more detail later on this, but most of these are traditional stops of this weekend pilgrimage that we take every year: The fried pies place was closed on the way up - hopefully it will be open on the way back... Humongous Chicken Fried Steak Sandwiches at Del Rancho... The rodeo of course (and my requisite photos to show Dad that there really are animals at these rodeos)... A stop at Bricktown Ballpark to catch a little of the Big XII Championship tournament... Its hot and muggy, but thats typical. And so far, the tornadoes have stayed an hour or two away... just another Memorial Day weekend in Oklahoma City!
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:38 AM
May 22, 2008
So my friend Myron told me the other day that they had a new minor league baseball team in Dallas (actually in Grand Prairie - a Dallas suburb) in case I wanted to catch a game while I was in town. Their name is the Airhogs. Airhogs!! How could I say no to that?! So Myron and our friend Michelle and I ventured out to Quiktrip Park (yeah, Texas has a thing for truly awful sports venue names) to catch the last game of their first ever home stand. And to top it off, it was Thirsty Thursday! $1 beers. Does it get any better? It turns out that Airhogs is a World War II term for pilots so dedicated that they "live to fly," and is meant as a connection to Grand Prairie being the home of many aviation companies over the years. The ballpark really plays that up in some fun and clever ways - from the facade resembling a hangar and control towers, to tarmac markings and lights on the cement walkways. Like most minor league parks, its small and intimate, and nothin fancy. There are no bad seats, which, like the concessions, are cheap. Still best of all is one of the things I miss most about Texas - the warm breezy nights that are just tailor made for a baseball game. I just wish there was time to also catch a match of the new Assassination City Roller Derby league. (I'm not making that up!) That'll have to wait for next time.
May 21, 2008
Back in the air again today. I'm in Dallas to see my friend Myron for our annual pilgrimage to the Oklahoma City Rodeo this weekend. And no, I didn't get sick on the plane. But today American Airlines became the first major American airline to announce that it will charge a fee for any checked bags. Yup - any. So allow me a travel rant... Several months ago, United became the first major airline to charge for a second checked bag, with USAirways quickly following suit. The rest quietly added the same charge later. While I was annoyed at this, it wasn't that big of a deal. What I usually carried in two bags fits just fine in one, its just nice to have two lighter bags instead of one heavy one. But charging for the first bag is tougher to swallow. It seems counterproductive. The obvious solution for passengers is just to carry their bags on, meaning the long and arduous boarding and unloading times will now be even longer, decreasing the airlines ability to turn planes around quickly and make their on-time departures. I fly a lot, and the very best days I ever flew were immediately after the liquids scare, when for a few days, no one could take any carryons. I was shocked at how quick and easy boarding and deplaning was. Ever since, I've wondered why airlines don't do more to discourage carryons. Instead, its the opposite. But, its a way for American to make a few bucks to account for fuel costs. And they know as well as the rest of us, that we'll keep flying whoever has the lower fares when we search and compare. And you can count the days before the rest follow suit. And to be fair, Virgin America, who I have nothing but praise for, has always charged for a second bag. Perhaps that didn't sting as much because they did so from the start. Plus, the quality of flight and level of service and comfort that you find on Virgin America is beyond what American or the other majors could ever come close to. So be sure to check the baggage policy next time you fly and be prepared to carry it on. It seems they're just not gonna put up with our baggage any longer.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:44 PM
May 20, 2008
Some shots of rowhouses I took while in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. A few of the ones in these shots are on the streets that border where Memorial Stadium used to be. (My sister drove me to the site, but having only been to the stadium 2 or 3 times, I really didn't remember anything of the surrounding neighborhood.) Its hard to imagine that these houses were right on the street facing the stadium. Rowhouses are so often stereotyped as working class mediocrity, but it was the variety of styles and how ubiquitous and how nice many of them were surprised me, and made them all that more intriguing.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:38 PM
May 19, 2008
I don't know this cat's name, but he seems to live in the neighborhood. He's incredibly friendly and has no fear. You may remember him from last fall when I babysat my next door neighbors dogs and was sleeping in the pot of one of my plants on my front porch as they walked by without noticing him (link below). Today I was sitting on my couch, and he strolled right in the front door. Now keep in mind that I live on the top floor, so he had decided to climb the stairs and see what was up where I was. I didn't say anything. He wandered over to me, sniffed, and brushed up against me for some rubbin, and then went off and wandered through the place. I found him in my closet in a pile of boots. (Puss in boots?) When he saw me, he jumped out and continued his wander, then eventually made his way back out the front door. Maybe he's just making his rounds making sure I'm okay... I may not be the biggest cat fan in the world (watch it), but I like his visits.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:37 PM
May 18, 2008
I don't know if its a California phenomenon, or if its the case everywhere, but liquor stores in California seem to often have some really great old neon. This sign is in Long Beach. I've passed it many times without noticing that each letter is contained within a keg (or maybe a wine barrel?). But tonight as I walked under it, I noticed for the first time that the top of the sign says "Wine Mess". At first I thought that must be a play on words resembling 'fine mess'. But a Google search of Wine Mess brought up this headline from a 1914 newspaper. So maybe a wine mess was a naval term for something like a bar on a ship? Its a term I hadn't heard before, but given that Long Beach used to be a Navy town, that connection could make sense. Kind of interesting to think how terms disappear from our language. Then again, maybe I'm thinking too much about some random neon sign...