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Posts tagged as “Vacation”

I’m back from Tulum and here’s what I’ve learned.

Sarah and I recently revisited Tulum, Mexico and, as with any good vacation, I learned a few things. In no particular order, here they are.

It’s probably too dang hot by April. Coming off a particularly nasty New York winter, walking straight out of the plane into 95°F weather was a bit of system shock. There’s a reason our Airbnb hosts kept referring to April as the start of the off-season. It’s because the Yucatan turns into an arid, sweltering hell pit. And that was just in April. I cannot even imagine the place in June. To be fair, if I had been acclimated to the heat before going to Mexico, it probably wouldn’t have been that bad. I mean, what’s a 98°F (Real Feel™ 107) day when you’ve already been sweating through your clothes for six months? Most likely not that bad.

Taqueria El Carbonsito. A perception exists that you can walk into any taco joint in Mexico and order the most delicious tacos of your life. That is patently false. You can no more walk into any Mexican taqueria and have your brains blown out than you can walk into any American burger joint and have the sort of burger that makes your reality quiver. Luckily for you (and us), we are adventurous eaters with a nerdy tendency to keep notes on where we’ve eaten. We spent three nights canvasing the various hole-in-the-wall taco places in Tulum centro and can unequivocally state that Taqueria El Carbonsito is the best. Get the al pastor tacos. You’ll probably need 5 of them, but at 7 MXN a pop, or about 45¢ at the time of this writing, you can probably afford them. Plus, the place is jam packed full of locals and you can’t get a better recommendation than that.

A thousand-piece puzzle is really too much for two people over the course of a week when there is no bad weather. Trust me on this one. We were defeated by the dragon. If you stay at Casa Tuluminus, it’s in the Marlin Room. Go nuts.

Most ceviche pescado is really just fish salsa. I am fine with that since, for the most part, it was delicious fish salsa. I mean, imagine a lime-y pico de gallo with chunks of citrus-cured white fish in it. It’s good. We ate a lot of it with a lot of chips. However, there was one ceviche pescado we had that transcended fish salsa status, but more on that later.

All the beers taste the same. Hot places are not good at beer. If you want interesting, powerful, nuanced beer, you need to go to a place that is cold, or, at least, one that has a cold season. Hot places don’t make the sort of sobriety-punching beer that cold places do because who the hell wants to drink a 9.5% ABV double IPA when it’s 98°F (Real Feel™ 107) out? No one! NO ONE. Mexico is no different. All the beer you can get in all the bars and restaurants and hotels tastes exactly the same, especially once you squeeze a lime into it. And you squeeze a lime into every single one. It could be Tecate, Tecate Light, Sol, XX Lager, Modelo Especial, León, Negra Modelo, Corona, or basically anything else. They’re all interchangeable. If I were forced to pick the one that stood out above all others, it would be Montejo. It is just slightly better than everything else, but in no way so superior that it is worth seeking out when the other options present themselves.

I don’t really like being in boats on the ocean. It scares me. I keep imagining the boat capsizing and all of us being swallowed by the waves and eaten by some colossal squid angry that I ate his cousin Marty for lunch the day prior. It is a thoroughly irrational fear, but one I’ve never had to face since a vast majority of my life’s boat-time has been spent on lakes and rivers. I like lakes and rivers. They are relatively known quantities. But who knows what lurks in the ocean dreaming beneath the waves?

The octopus at Hartwood. I was real hesitant about the Hartwood hype. Who needs to stand in line to get a reservation for a place that doesn’t even have a roof? Seems kind of dumb right? Like, maybe this place is just so hyped because it’s the only half-decent place to eat in the whole area. Or maybe it’s because the chef is another highfalutin Brooklyn chef who’s worked at some prestigious NY restaurants or some bullshit. Or maybe it’s because Eater/Gothamist/The Internet/our peers just love to suck Hartwood’s metaphorical dick.

I was wrong. I was very very wrong. Hartwood was amazing and well worth the hassle of dealing with their unorthodox procedure for securing a table. We ate the best, spiciest, most delicate ceviche of the trip there. We had an incredible, tender piece of pork. And we had another appetizer that I can’t even remember right now, but which I am sure was wonderful. But the real star of the dinner was the octopus, grilled and served on a bed of pickled red onions and potatoes. Get the fuck out it was so good. I wanted to flip the table over. Octopus is a difficult type of meat. Undercooked it’s kind of weird, and overcooked it’s like eating rubber, but when you prepare it to that exact perfect sweet spot it is wonderful. Hartwood’s octopus was almost worth the trip to Mexico alone. Seriously, just pack your bags right now and camp out in front of the restaurant until you get some. It’s totally worth it.

Tulum is not a place to go if you want to party. Sarah and I had no interest in late night parties on either of our trips to Mexico together. We were more than happy to get up early with the sun, spend the day outside, retire when the heat of the day became overbearing, take a nap and chill for a bit, head out for dinner just after sunset, and end up back where we were staying to read or watch a thing or whatever early. Rinse. Repeat. If we’d been looking for the late night Ibiza-like party scene, we’d have been disappointed because it just isn’t there that we saw. Sure, there are bound to be isolated pockets of people going balls out with the fiesta, but they’re neither obvious nor plentiful. If you want that, go somewhere else.

That’s about it for now. I think that is probably plenty. Tulum is nice. You should go there.

On the topic of vacations

I’ve recently felt a very strong urge to vacate on a solo mission. I want to just go by myself and get the fuck out of Brooklyn for a minute and see what sort of adventure I can have when I’m all by myself. I have solo missions here all the time and I quite like them, but I’d like to try doing it somewhere totally foreign to me. The only thing limiting me is my inability to speak anything but English. OOPS. So where do I go?

Reykyavik, Iceland – Seems pretty awesome and I should be able to get by. I’ve wanted to go and I think the opportunity to eat puffin and sheep’s face is pretty attractive. The country is beautiful and getting there is not difficult.

Berlin – Jesse has been harping on me to go to Berlin for about a hundred years. The model of efficiency he says. Everything’s on time he says. You can drink beer for breakfast he says. They have metal bars all over he says. These things all seem good to me and it will come with the added bonus of never having to hear him tell me I should go to Berlin ever again.

Italia – This was on the docket from late last year but I am not sure it’s going to work out. I was going to go visit someone, but it seems like there won’t be time for it which is very very disappointing and I would have a hard time wandering around trying to understand what the hell people are talking about.

Japan – I am convinced that this would be like visiting the future, and what better place for The Space Pope than the future? This is easily the most expensive of the ideas I am throwing around right now and as such probably the least likely.

Vancouver – I’ve always heard that this is the coolest city in America’s Hat and I would like to see it. I love Montreal a lot, and though they are very different, I would like to explore it and the nature surrounding it. I would watch a hockey game and sit on the beach and read with a parka on. Sounds lovely to me.

Buenos Aires – I can probably fumble through my shitty Spanish down in Argentina. I just want to eat red meat and drink red wine.

Thoughts, Black Laserites? Where should the Space Pope venture off to by his lonesome?

Montreal – 07/25/2009

Montreal is awesome. Only there for 36 hours, our trip felt much to short, too rushed, to get a good feel for the city. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. It’s funky. It’s French as hell. It’s got a thriving metal scene. And the motherfucking Portuguese lady who took the chicken I ordered and chopped it into bits with the meat cleaver? I was in love. And I had an insta-stomachboner.

There’s nothing too special photographically about these, but they’re good and I feel like they captured the essence of our brief, wild trip in the great white northern wastes of Canada.

Here’s a link to the gallery.

The North Country, Minnesota – 9/12/2009

I few weeks ago I went up to Minnesota with my friend Mikey W for a week in the woods of uninterrupted, extreme relaxing. The goal was to get some work done, which happened to a lesser extent than desired, but we also trekked through the Minnesota State Fair, accomplished a whole lot of drinking beer, made some fires much too large for the tiny little fire pit we had, fished for tiny little guys not worth eating, and rocked the hell out of the Indian Casino in Walker, MN. Not bad at all. And, of course, I made a bunch of photos. I have some thoughts on the development of these afterward.

Here are a handful of my very favorites.

Check out the whole gallery here:

The North Country, Minnesota Gallery – 9/12/2009

On this set of photos I really spent a lot time making local adjustments within Lightroom. The light during the week was very difficult with lots of hard shadows, reflections, areas of wide dynamic range. It made getting good exposures right off the cuff fairly difficult. Add severe haze to the mix for the few days we were at Lake Superior just north of Duluth and you’ll understand the conditions. While shooting I aimed to get a balanced exposure, not too hot in the highlights, not to dark in the shadow, so that I could extract as much detail as possible back at the computer. I think I did a pretty good job on these, especially at making my local adjustments fairly seamless. What do you think? Is there anything glaring here that you notice? Do you notice at all? Thoughts?

So… I did it.

Hi everybody! I’m back from the great wild northlands of Minnesota where and tremendous time was had by all. But that is not what this post is about. I have photos and thoughts and anecdotes forthcoming. Now, I am here to let my readership know that I took the previously considered plunge into the deepest pools of computational mystery. I placed the order just before leaving for my trip and everything arrived safely and soundly at Juli’s work the week I was gone. On Monday, I called Herr Jesse Allen up to borrow him (and his car) to help me move the boxes home. It would have been a total shit show otherwise.

The breakdown of the system purchased is as follows, with notes describing any alterations to my plan:

  • Mac Pro Quad-Core 2.93 gHz refurbished — I went for one higher on the processor scale than my original 2.66 gHz plan since a) Apple didn’t have a refurbished 2.66 in stock when I went to purchase, and b) the refurbished 2.93 was only 50 dollars more than a NEW 2.66. Done and done.
  • HP LP2475w — This is what I had planned to buy and I couldn’t be happier. An excellent monitor. I will definitely be adding another at some point. And, regardless of sketchy reviews online regarding its color accuracy, with tweaking and my hardware calibrator I was able to reach my ideal 6500K / gamma 2.2 / 120cd/m^2. That’s good.
  • 12GB RAM
  • EVGA GTX 285 – Awesome
  • Edirol MA-15DBK powered monitors

A savvy reader will notice to omissions from this list. The first is the new Final Cut Studio. I decided at this time to hold off at least until Apple releases a round of bug fixes for the brand new software. I do have Final Cut Studio 2 already. The new features are seriously tempting, but tacking an extra grand onto an already serious expenditure was unnecessary. Perhaps when I get toward the end of The Frontiersman’s Wife I will take the plunge since I am particularly excited about the changes regarding the integration of Final Cut and Color.

The second is that I went with the much less expensive Edirol MA-15Ds instead of the Focusrite Pro DSP 24 and a pair or KRK RP5g2s. This was a financial decision also. Initially I didn’t buy any speakers at all, but after using the system for a few days with just headphones, I recognized that this was no way to go about working. I went to B&H today (tied with Adorama for best place in the world) and picked up a pair and an optical cable so I could enjoy direct digital output from my computer. I am not displeased. After getting them about 1 and 1/4 inches off the desk (thanks 2 identical copies of Crime & Punishment!), they sound fantastic—much better than the 179.00 price tag would lead you to believe. There’s something really nice about good stereo separation that makes my ears feel nice. Also, these things will get much louder than I would ever need them too. If zero volume is at 7 o’clock, I currently have them at 8 o’clock with iTunes at 75% and I think it’s a pretty comfortable listening level.

Really, this has been such a tremendously positive new computer experience I’m almost afraid. The only hiccup I experienced was using Migration assistant to move my old data from the laptop to the MacPro. It seemed to transfer fine, but my system was just totally fucked afterwards, so I wiped it clean and started over. One bonus was that I had expected to have problems with the EVGA card since it’s not the card that ships in the tower. EVGA’s tech support had confirmed my fear that if I needed to reinstall the system from scratch that I would need to reinstall the original GT120, install the system, install the EVGA drivers, and then reinstall the GTX285. But, when I tried to install the drivers for the first time, I noticed that it told me that the system was already compatible which I thought was weird, but just went with. And when I wiped the hard drive clean, I was able to install 10.6 without replacing the GTX285. It just worked fine right away. Awesome! I guess I should tell EVGA about that.

Anyway, that’s it for now. More thoughts later as I continue hacking away on this thing. Now it is time for tacos and dailies syncing.

The Finger Lakes 8/27/2009

Last week, as I mentioned previously here on The Black Laser, Juli and I took a much needed vacation up to the Finger Lakes which are in the western part of New York State. We stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast called The Fox & The Grapes in Lodi, NY, which, as it turns out, is right smack in the middle of New York’s wine country. Who knew? And being relatively close to Ithaca, there were the expected, yet utterly exceptional, gorges to experience. It was a lovely trip, one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a couple wanting to get the hell out of the city for a few days. Check out The Fox & The Grapes. We were easily the youngest people staying there by two generations, but don’t let that deter you. The owner, Jim, is fantastic and will give you a discount if you stay for more than three nights. Go! Now!

Anyway, while up there we hiked around a couple of state parks, Taughannock and Watkins Glen Gorge, went to a weird military museum in another, played tennis with rain threatening, kayaked, ate buffalo wings so hot that I had an endorphin reaction and got high, and then liberally sprinkled wine tasting throughout. Since only two of those outings were picture friendly and dry, my photos are quite hike-centric. Here are a few of my favorites. Thoughts on the photos afterward.

Here’s the whole gallery—Finger Lakes, NY Gallery 8/27/2009

Yeah yeah, so photos of waterfalls are cliché. Whatever. Fuck you. I like them. I think they’re nice. What’s wrong with nice? Nothing. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I am not, nor shall I ever be, one of those totally edgy photographers that makes even the most mundane things look super intense. I just don’t see the world that way. I appreciate that type of photography and sometimes think, “Man, I’m going to try and shoot some, like, really edgy, intense photos or something,” and then they just end up coming out pretty. Even when I want to shoot that way, I can’t help but just making things look nice. Oh well. Fuck it.

On the topic of the way I see, I was playing with shooting things on this trip to match my eye sight. I’ve noticed that I see at about 73mm equivalent—probably why I like the 85mm prime so much, it’s close to the way I see normally—by opening both eyes while zooming until what I see matches. Of course, not everything in this set was shot at 73mm, but it was something I was cognizant of as I composed my shots. It was an interesting exercise to crop such a limited rectangle out of my normal field of vision. For example, the first shot of the four above was one of the 73mm-same-as-Joe’s-eyeball photos. Feel free to dig through the gallery on Flickr to see if you can find more 73mm photos.

I have returned from Eugene, OR

I have returned from my trip in the wild, wooly western frontier. I was privvy to some of the best of what Northern California and Southern Oregon have to offer. Here are some highlights of the trip.

The Beer Stein, Eugene OR – Any serious beer fan owes it to themselves to check out this place if they are anywhere near Eugene, OR. They have precisely 1 million beers for sale from all over the world. Oh, did I mention their prices? Rock bottom. Charlie and I were dancing back and forth along their massive refrigerator walls trying to decide just how we were going to punish our livers next. This place is fucking amazing. It puts my beloved Brouwerij Lane here in Brooklyn to total shame. I even called stupid Jesse to tell him how awesome The Beer Stein was, but he didn’t pick up. Sucker.

Wolf Creek, OR – Though we only stopped in Wolf Creek for a few minutes to stretch our legs and get coffee on the long drive between home and Portola Valley, I was fortunate enough to see not one, but TWO men with knives on their belts. Wolf Creek is the kind of town that can be found anywhere across our great nation where the city fades out and people are left to fend for themselves. We could have been in Alaska or Alabama and Wolf Creek would have been exactly the same. The United States is not its New Yorks and San Franciscos; the United States is the Wolf Creeks across our land.

Black Bear Diner – You can find Black Bear Diners up and down I-5, between Washington state and the southwest states. I put it here not because the food is good (it isn’t), but because no where else have I seen so many awful puns in one place. I kid you not, I saw a waitress with a nametag that read, “Ambear”.

The maybe 3 good photos I took – They’re not ready yet. Be patient.

Amazing roadtrip games – These include, but are not limited to “3 People You Would Take On A Roadtrip”, “10 People You Would Invited To A Pool Party”, “I Like My Women Like I Like My…”, and “If You Had To Get A Phrase Other Than ‘Exit Only’ Tattooed On Your Lower Back Right Above Your Ass, What Would It Be?” One of my favorite answers for the 3 people on a roadtrip game was Charlie’s “Helen Keller”.

Troy pouring himself a beer in the closed hotel bar – That’s it.

Andy Stearns – Yes.

That the whole trip to Oregon can be summed up in these three photos –




All in all, I would say that it was a successful trip and that a good time was had by all. Keep your eyes peeled for some photos I took while up there.