2005-04-10 :: Snail Season
As I was saying before the Portugal trip, if there's a time to
visit Livermore, it's during the winter when the hills are green
and fresh from the rain. Along with the rain comes something else
that was a bit of a surprise for us East coasters- snails. Yep, right
now the snails are loving life. There's water everywhere, and they're
all coming out onto the sidewalks like it's some kind of
snail mardi gras. Personally, I'm fascinated by the little guys. Where
are they all going? What's so great at the other end of the sidewalk?
How exactly does the snail's propulsion system work? Can they bite?
I think about these kinds of things while helping them cross the
sidewalk at work, knowing that I really don't want to know
Oh yeah! This one's all mine!
Amy's got a different take on the matter. Sure they're interesting,
but to her, they're little bandits that raid her garden at night and
attack helpless plants. They also have a tendency to hang out on our
back door step, and make terrible crunching noises when you step on
them on your way to change laundry in the garage.
Rather than fight the little invaders, I've been trying to think
up ways that we could polish them up a bit and make them more
presentable. My first thought was that we should get tiny little
chariots, attach them behind some of the bigger snails, and then
have some races. Maybe some of the smaller snails would get to ride
in the back, yelling out gladiator things. My second thought on this
has been that we should make a bunch of tiny little hats, and make
the snails all wear them. Everybody loves hats, right? And it's
hard to hate something that's just so cute..
Yeah.. it might take a while, but I think that's my great calling
in life. Tiny hats for little pests. We could branch out and work
into different markets.. Hats for Rats.. Short Pants for Grasshoppers.
Maracas for cockroaches.. There's just and endless pool of ideas here,
and thousands of pests to dress. I'm going to be super rich.
2005-03-23 :: Dirty Danny Glover
Things have been picking up for Genevieve lately in San Francisco
(yes, she's still crashing at our place, but she's been making
progress in the SF theater community). Recently she picked up a job as
a stage manager for a controversial new play called
Guantánamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'.
As the name implies, Guantánamo is about the
US prison camp
in Cuba where enemy combatants are being held and interrogated.
The play is particularly heavy because the dialog comes entirely from
statements made by the prisoners, family members, and government
officials. The SF production is using the same actors that put on the
NY Broadway production, so it's a fairly high caliber deal. While
looking around on the web for some links, I came across
this review, which actually references Genevieve by name. Go
As the stage manager, Genevieve was able to hook us up with a free
pair of tickets for the opening night. Amy and I took BART into the
city, happy to be escaping from suburbia and getting a little culture
for a change. Along the way, we stopped off at Union Square to have
dinner and to pick up some fancy soap at a yuppie store called Lush
for a friend of Amy's. After dinner, we caught a cab to the theater in
the mission district (ouch, $20), picked up the tickets from will
call, and found our seats. The theater
(Brava) was pretty cool. Their
website has some
of this old, renovated theater. It's like an old movie house, but with
soft, velvet seats. cool.
Anyways, one of the things that they're doing for this play is have
a special guest celebrity come out and do a monologue at the beginning
and end of the play. Gen told us that different celebrities would be
doing it each night, such as
Tim Robins, and
(basically, all the actors they made fun of in
The special guest for our night however was..
(you may remember him from such gems as
Lethal Weapon 4).
Mr. Glover stumbled through his lines like he was William.. Shatner..
reading something.. for the first time. After he finished, Mr. Glover
returned to the audience and took a seat that was just a few rows
behind us. Wow, never before had we been so close to part of the
So.. during the intermission, Amy and I wandered down the hall to
the lobby to see if there was any mid-play hubbub to listen to. Amy and
I were sort of chuckling to ourselves about how funny it would be if
Mr. Glover had personalized the introduction with his Lethal Weapon
tagline "Gunatonamo: I'm getting too old for this shit". Then it hit
me- now was our chance to do something for Mr. Glover. Thinking about
the fancy soap we had just bought, I turned to Amy and said "Amy, you
know what we should do? We should go up to him, hand him the gift bag,
and say, 'Danny Glover, here's some soap. Thanks for coming out.'" It
was at that point that Amy said (rather loudly) "Craig, you know that
Danny Glover's standing right behind you now". Doah. He may
not have heard me,
but I know he heard Amy. In any case he gave us look that I
interpreted to be "Soap? What the hell do I need soap for?".
Rather than take the opportunity to tell him that we did in fact
have some fancy soap that we could give him, we decided to just
scamper off. I like to think that Mr. Glover will ponder this odd
remark for a while, until it turns itself into a story of its own
that gets told on some late night talk show interview. Yep, that's
how I plan on changing the world. Plant the seeds of "what the
hell did that mean" in the heads of famous people, in hopes that
one day the stories will blossom into party conversation on
2005-03-03 :: Zig-Zagging Home
So.. That about does it for our Portugal adventure. The trip
back home was terrible. The day started at 4:30am when we were
woken by the dancing pandas on our alarm clock ("Hello!"). A cab
driver rushed us through the empty streets to the airport, where
we somberly waited for our flight home. Or rather, for our flight
to Frankfurt, which is nearly 1,200 miles to the East. We milled
about the Frankfurt for something like three hours before our plane
to SFO was ready to go. Heh, that flight was kind of interesting
because there was this rowdy block of French people in the middle of
the plane. They only spoke French and were bewildered that the
German flight attendants couldn't understand what they were saying.
It was like they (the French) were Americans. As we were leaving,
I heard one slowly recite some phrases from a guidebook. "Halllo."
"thank...you...very...much". Heh.. good luck, buddy.
Anyways, Amy and I had a pretty good time in Portugal. It's good to
get away, especially to a place where the people have such a strong
devotion to pastries.
2005-03-02 :: Sintra
Wednesday was our last full day in Portugal. While we were a bit
worn out from all the traveling, we made a valiant effort to visit
Sintra for the day
Sintra is a small town just outside of Lisbon
that Portuguese royalty used to call home. It was a short ride on a
commuter rail out to Sintra. Along the way you'd periodically see
parts of this incredible aqueduct system that moved water between the
two cities. While some of it was overrun by weeds, the whole thing
still looked pretty solid. Let's hear it for engineering.
Once in Sintra we made the wise decision to purchase an all-day
tourist bus pass. As our bus zig-zagged up the mountain to the
castle, we caught glimpses of worn out tourists whose faces were
covered in regret. We rode all the way to the top to see Pena Palace
(many of the other famous buildings along the route were closed for
Pena Palace is basically Portugal's version of
(Pena Palace supposedly influenced Ludwig's castle, which is the
one in Germany that looks like something from a Disney fairy tale).
PP was kind of fun- it had all sorts of ridiculous towers, pathways,
and castle walls for you to explore. I'm not sure the place would
be all that practical if you had to live there, but I guess you have
to find something to spend your money on when you're king. Amy and I
wandered around the castle for a while before deciding to call it
quits. We planned on walking down the hill, but we took some wrong
turns, got severely lost in the garden, climbed back up the hill, and
then waited for the next bus to do the job right. There's a lesson for
you- if you're going to walk down a mountain, make sure you wind up on
the right side of it.
We were cold so we took a quick ride around town in our tourist bus
and caught the next train back into Lisbon. At the rail stop in
Lisbon, you could see part of the giant aqueduct system, crossing a
deep valley. Unfortunately, it was too far away to walk to or
get a good picture of
It was starting to get late so we made our way home to our
Americanized hotel. Along the way we picked up some food from a
corner grocery store, as well as a kitschy alarm clock (that has
an lcd sequence of panda bears playing, and saying "Hello!" for no
apparent reason). Ahh yes.. Nothing is more European to me than eating
blocks of cheese on ripped-up bread slices in a quiet hotel room. If
only the Kellegous had been there to trade us some of his Captain
Jacques snack cakes.
2005-03-01 :: A Proper Lisbon Tour
Ahem.. Where was I? Oh right, Coimbra, windy, odd Chinese food. Tuesday
we got up and caught the train back into Lisbon, the city that had
intimidated us just days earlier. We still had a bit of the fear when
we rolled into the train station, but this time we were equipped with
a hotel reservation that guaranteed us shelter and a reason for being,
provided we could find the hotel. Our public transit knowledge brought
us within 10 blocks of the hotel, to a park where lots of older Portuguese
men were playing unseen games (chess? dominos?) on stone tables. A cab
driver stalked us and we were on our way. After a brief scare where the
cab driver announced that he couldn't see any hotels near the address
we'd given, we located the place, checked in, and happily collapsed on
big beds meant for business travelers.
We could have just stayed at the hotel for the rest of the night,
but oddly enough a phone book caught my eye. On the cover of it was
a silhouette of that famous Portuguese castle that comes up when people
mention Lisbon. "Hey, let's go there. What is that thing?" Amy consulted
the guidebooks, found the place on the map, and warned me that they
might be closing for the evening soon. We hurried down and grabbed a taxi,
which was driven by a guy that seemed to take the rush hour traffic
rather personally. He zipped us around to the waterfront, to a park with
big monuments. Ah. There it was, the Torre de Belém (the Belém Tower).
In addition to being on the phone book, the Torre de Belém is famous
because it was built in the river as a lookout tower in 1521.
Since then, they've extended the river banks so you can just walk up to
the thing, but it's still a cute place that looks like a miniature
castle. We bought tickets and wandered about it until closing
From there we walked along the river bank until we came to the
Monument of Discoveries. The MoD is a gigantic stone thing with a
bunch of statues of Portuguese explorers (Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Henry
the Navigator, etc) that are all lined up single file, looking towards
the water. To us, it kind of looked like they were all taking a
walk down the plank. The nice thing is that the queen and church figures
are at the back of the line, giving everyone a good shove. We thought
about getting behind the queen and giving her a push, but one thing we've
learned is not to
another country's monuments.
Next we crossed the street to check out the
The books say it was a large monastery built near the river during the
16th century, and that it was financed through Portugal's spice tax. I assume
the inside is all fancy-pants purty and what not. We got there after the
doors were closed, so the best I can give you is this shot I took through
the keyhole. Yep. It's a church.
It was starting to get a little dark, so we started looking for a place
to eat in the area. As luck would have it, Amy spotted this cool kebob kind of
place that looked like a college kind of hang out. They were super friendly in
there, one of the cook guys was impressed that we had come all the way from
California (aha.. there's our next travel tip. Don't tell people you're from
the US, tell them you're from California. Ca is somehow much cooler, and not
associated with US politics). Amy and I were overjoyed to be eating at a
college hangout kind of place, especially since they had vegetarian options for
After dinner, we wandered down the street to
Pastéis de Belém, which is probably
the most famous Pasterias in Portugal. They've been around since 1837 and
still have a secret recipe for their amazing pastries. The cafe was a
labyrinth of oddly shaped rooms (try taking the tour on their website).
I downed a lot of café com leite and several pastéls de nata. It was so good
it made you think about quitting your job, learning Portuguese, and moving
there. Ahh well. We strolled back to the bus stop, charted a route through
the bus map, and caught a cross town bus that dropped us right by
our hotel. Not a bad day at all..