One Week in New York City, Part II

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In our first two days in NYC, we had already seen more than enough to justify the trip. And we still had five days to go! Monday morning, after another outstanding breakfast at Penelope, we ventured toward Union Square. I decided I had to at least visit The Strand, after placing online orders with them for the past six years without ever setting foot in the store. On the way we walked through Gramercy, and visited two of my wife's favorite NYC stores (this was not her first time in the city), ABC Home and Fishs Eddy. Then, since it was a Monday, we had the fortune of stumbling into the Union Square Greenmarket, where we downed a bottle of fresh apple cider before moving on to the main event.

The Strand was... overwhelming. I did not really come to buy, but if I had I would not have known where to start. I can hardly believe I am saying this, but there were just too many books. I am glad we visited, it was great to see, but I think I will stick to their website from now on.

NYC-6.jpgWe had greatly enjoyed our walk through Greenwich Village on our tour, so we decided to spend the afternoon walking back through those streets and visiting all the cute shops we had seen. We also stopped for lunch at what immediately become our favorite New York pizzeria, Bleecker Street Pizza. Now this is what thin pizza is supposed to taste like! It was hot, delicious, and the crust was sufficiently crisp that when you held it in the air, it stayed in the air. No drooping, sagging, or sliding to be found. Top notch stuff.

But that was not the last of the eating that afternoon. Oh no. Because Greenwich Village is also home to the Magnolia Bakery. Fortunately we got there about ten minutes before a big tour group, so there was not much of a line for us to get our cupcakes, which were very tasty and which we enjoyed from the benches just outside the adorable Bleecker Street playground.

But wait, there's more! The final piece to the Monday afternoon food bonanza was a dish I am ashamed to admit I had never tried before: falafel. That's right, vegetarian though I may be, I had never tasted the Middle Eastern delight that is fried chickpeas. Short of actually visiting the Levant, New York City was probably the best place to start. And start I did, at a tiny hole-in-the-wall spot called Taim, owned and operated by Israeli immigrants. Fried to order, crispy but not greasy, served in a whole-wheat pita with hummus and Jerusalem salad, this was one of the most revelatory food experiences of my life. Not only did we return to Taim just a couple days later, as soon as we returned to Atlanta I found the closest falafel source (Olive Bistro) and a few days ago I actually cooked falafel at home (the patties fell apart a bit in the oil, but they still tasted great).

The only black mark on this otherwise fantastic day, and really the only misstep of the entire trip, was our visit to Broadway that night. We saw The Phantom of the Opera, which now claims the mantle of longest-running show on Broadway. Well, I for one do not know why. I thought it was terrible; it was boring, incoherent, maudlin. I think I bought the tickets because it was one of the few Broadway shows open on Monday, but we would have been better off saving the money and going to a movie.

Tuesday morning we decided to take a break from Penelope, as I had other plans. We woke up early and headed to Grand Central Terminal. Though there's not much to do there, other than catch a train, it was still a site worth seeing. And after that, we walked up 3rd Avenue for my first real NYC bagel experience, at Ess-a-Bagel. I placed my standard bagel order: plain cream cheese on a plain bagel and butter on an everything, and it was exquisite. This is what real bagels taste like! Stomachs full, we moved on to St. Patrick's Cathedral before making our way to the Top of the Rock, where we treated to the most extraordinary views of the city. In every major city, people seem to go to the top of the wrong structure. In Paris, if you go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can not see the Eiffel Tower! Go to the top of Montparnasse instead. Likewise, in NYC, do not go to the top of the Empire State Building for sightseeing, go to the top of Rockefeller Center.

That night we saw Billy Elliot, which will likely be crowned best musical at the Tony's on Sunday night. And it will certainly deserve it. This was a movie that we very much liked, and the musical takes it a step beyond. The sets were exceptional, the choreography even better, the performances by the children superb, and though no single song stuck in my head, the music by Elton John was wonderful and integral to the show's success. Though a sentimental favorite (see below) gets my pick for favorite show of the week, I can certainly say I thought Billy Elliot was the best production we saw.

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Wednesday was a bit of a lazy day for us, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, wandering through shops in SoHo, returning to the Village for falafel, and squeezing in a couple hours at the MoMa before it closed. But that was all just a prelude to the show I was most excited about, the new revival of Hair. My love of Hair traces back to a two-part episode of Head of the Class in which the students perform the musical. In high school I had a CD of the soundtrack that I listened to constantly, especially as I drove to Salt Lake City in the afternoons to intern at the ACLU of Utah. As my wife can attest to after sitting next to me through the show, I know all the words to every song. Seeing it in person was an experience to treasure.

Thursday morning we decided we needed bagels one more time. As we were headed to the Met, it was not out of the way to hit H&H Midtown Bagels East, which is rightly regarded by many as the best bagel shop in the city. My wife certainly thought so. I am glad we carb-loaded, because we were on our feet most of the day at the Met. Without taking anything away from the British Museum, this is one awesome place. In fact, we spent so much time with the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, the Arms & Armor, and the Modern Art (hey, that is what they have on the first floor), that I did not even get to the second floor.

NYC-7.jpgOur last NYC dinner was enjoyed at a lovely Indian restaurant called Dawat, and for our last show we saw the revival of Guys and Dolls. It was, we think, the only show we saw that was not sold out. It was very cute, and as Gilmore Girls addicts we were sure to enjoy anything with Lauren Graham. But Oliver Platt's performance was rather stiff and the show has just not aged well. It was pretty tame stuff; as my wife pointed out, there's a reason it is produced in high schools across the country.

With a half-day to spend on Friday, we had one last breakfast at Penelope before we decided to venture out to Battery Park and see if we could get on a ferry to Ellis Island. The lines were not too bad, so we made the trip. The ferry docks first at Liberty Island, and we got some great photos of Lady Liberty because my wife was smart enough to ask which side of the boat the statue would be on as we approached (it's on the right). We did not have a lot of time to spend at Ellis Island before we headed back to Manhattan, but it was enough to take the Park Service tour and then wander a bit through the exhibits. There is a lot of history packed into not a lot of space on that island.

Unfortunately, we saved our biggest adventure for last. Based on the ease of the cab ride into the city, we figured budgeting an hour to get back to JFK would be plenty. So with a 4:40 flight, our plan was to get back to the hotel at 2:30 with a cab waiting. Well, we did get back to the hotel at 2:30, and there was a cab waiting. But when we told our cab driver we had a 4:40 flight out of JFK, he did not seem very confident that we would make it. And he was almost right. The traffic was awful. It was breathtaking, and this is coming from someone who grew up in Chicago, has driven the San Diego-Los Angeles circuit a number of times, and has lived in Atlanta for the past four years. This was something else.

But our cab driver knew we were in a hurry, and he was completely mentally unstable, so a combination of daredevil maneuvers and side street navigation got us to JFK at about 3:45. There was just enough time for us to check our bags, make it to the gate, and go home. Lots of excitement, which made the arrival in our home and the sleep in our own bed that night all the more pleasant. It was a wonderful trip. I do not see myself ever living in a city as crowded and busy as New York, but I certainly plan to return.

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One Week in New York City, Part I

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Though I lived in Boston for four years, have been to Paris on four separate occasions, and have traveled as far abroad as Japan and Poland, until the 8th of May, 2009, I had never been to New York City. For the past several years, my wife and I have tried to take at least one week-long vacation, despite the difficulty of meshing the schedules of two practicing attorneys (one of whom deploys back and forth to the Middle East). In 2005 we took our honeymoon to Jamaica. The year after it was the Bahamas, then England/Scotland, and last year we revisited by old college haunts with a week Boston.

NYC-1.jpgWhen we started planning our 2009 trip back in January, the prices for foreign travel were atmospheric. It was going to cost nearly $3000 just for the airfare to get us to and from France. Suddenly NYC, which always seemed so expensive before, looked like a bargain. Airfare for two was under $400, and we got to spend the rest on a nice hotel and, most importantly, Broadway. Though I am a recent convert to the joys of musical theater (we saw Mary Poppins in London, and Wicked in Chicago and Atlanta), Broadway was probably the NYC attraction about which I was most excited.

Sitting in Kuwait in January, planning the trip, I went a little crazy. I figured that if we were spending six nights in NYC, that was six nights we could spend on Broadway. Sure, the tickets ended up costing as much as our hotel room, but so what? If you're going to do New York, do it right, right? And we actually got quite a deal on the hotel through Expedia, staying in a deluxe queen at the Hotel Chandler in Murray Hill, which got excellent reviews on TripAdvisor (my one-stop for finding hotel reviews).

Our itinerary had us taking a mid-morning flight on Saturday into JFK, staying six nights until Friday, then flying back late Friday afternoon. That gave us the following weekend to relax and recover before heading back to work. It is just too much of a shock to the system sometimes to get back from a vacation on Sunday night and have to return to the office the very next morning. Saturday's flight was very smooth, and the cab ride from JFK, while not cheap, was extremely fast. We got from the airport to our hotel in no more than 20-25 minutes (which gave us a warped sense of how long the return trip would take; more on that later). After checking our bags at the hotel, we decided to wander a bit before our 3pm check-in. We made our way over to Broadway and walked toward Times Square, stopping for some mediocre pizza at a tourist-trap along the way. We knew Times Square was not the place to find great food, but we were just that hungry. Times Square, in the daylight, was mostly just crowded. It was not until we returned later that night for our first Broadway show that I got a real sense of just what an experience that place can be.

NYC-2.jpgWe had made reservations for dinner that night, but last minute we found out there was going to be an investors' tasting at the restaurant one of our law school friends has been working on. We put in some money last year, and though the project has been almost interminably delayed, it sure looked good when we saw it. We then hopped up the subway and headed for the Marquis Theatre to see Allison Janney in Dolly Parton's 9 to 5. I think the New York Post review summed it up well:

The star can barely sing or dance, the composer's never written for Broadway before -- and the whole thing's based on a 1980 film some think is outdated.

But since we're talking about Allison Janney, Dolly Parton and "9 to 5," what could have been lethal problems turn out to be assets in this goofily entertaining show.

We certainly had fun; I kept whispering to my wife, "That's the Allison Janney!" We walked home humming the theme song and got a good night's sleep before our big day. Months before, after visiting TripAdvisor to research a hotel, I saw that the #1-rated Thing to Do was a walking tour from a company called Real New York Tours. We love walking tours, but don't much like traveling in crowds of tourists, so the notion of a 6-hour private walking tour for $200 was a revelation. I e-mailed the proprietor, Luke Miller, and he signed us up for a private tour.

To fuel our engines for the day ahead, we had breakfast at a local restaurant I had found online called Penelope. Located on the corner of Lexington and 30th, just a couple blocks from our hotel, this became our go-to breakfast place. We loved it, going back at least twice (three times?) before the trip was over. Everything we ordered was delicious, but I'll highlight the "Penny Egg Sandwich," consisting of scrambled eggs with american cheese & pesto on a croissant or english muffin, plus fake sausage or bacon (or the real thing for the carnivores). Well-fueled, we returned to our hotel, where lo and behold, at 10am on Sunday morning, Luke walked into the lobby of our hotel and we were off.

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I could try and describe everything we saw during the six hours we spent with Luke, but it's easier just to cut and paste the tour description from his website:

From the pastoral serenity of Central Park to the gritty back streets of Chinatown, this tour covers it all. The Big Apple Tour is for people that truly want the full perspective of all New York City has to offer. We'll explore the history, architecture and pop culture of many diverse neighborhoods.

Sites include: Times Square, Central Park, The Dakota, Strawberry Fields, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Ground Zero, and Saint Paul's Chapel.

NYC-12.jpgAnd aside from Times Square, which we'd already seen, and Ground Zero and St. Paul's, which we were a bit hesitant to visit, we really did cover all that ground. We stopped in the Village for pizza at Luke's favorite place, Joe's Pizza, of Spider-Man 2 fame. Very good pizza. The highlights for me were Greenwich Village and the intersection between Little Italy and Chinatown. As Luke took us down Mulberry Street, he told us that when we we turned on to Mott, it would be like walking in to Beijing. As the photo above indicates, he was right. All you could see or hear was Mandarin. Other than the overwhelming scent from the fishmongers, it was awesome. Of particular interest were the hidden tunnels that were apparently dug as part of the Chinese gang wars, but now house some of the shadiest businesses I've ever seen (including a dentist... an underground dentist!)

After getting some great views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the South Street Seaport and visiting Wall Street, Luke dropped us off at the City Hall subway and we said our goodbyes (until next time, Luke!) I can echo all the great things written about the tour on TripAdvisor, and highly recommend it for anyone visiting the city. We got back to our hotel with just enough time to rest for a few minutes before we grabbed a quick meal at Trattoria Trecolori (which defied the standard warning against Theatre District food) before heading to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for In the Heights. I very much enjoyed the show, which won best musical and best original score at the 2008 Tony's. My wife, on the other hand, loved it. I think it was her favorite of the six we saw, and the soundtrack CD is on its way to us from Amazon.

I'll have more on the rest of our week in NYC on Thursday.

Merry Christmas From Kuwait!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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New Kitchen Appliances

This weekend I had one of the most extraordinary shopping experiences of my life. Last year, my wife and I remodeled the bathrooms in our condo, replacing the Hollywood-style light fixtures and mirrors. Several months ago, we decided that our next big home improvement project would be to replace the cabinet doors in our kitchen.

We arranged an in-home consultation with a local "kitchen refacing" company to do this work, and we realized this would also be the ideal time to install an over-the-range microwave. This got us thinking that new cabinet doors and a new microwave would make our old appliances look pretty dingy. We still have the 10-year old base-model white GE appliances that the builder put in every unit in our complex, and the refrigerator in particular has been getting on my nerves lately. With one eye on our own happiness, and another eye on resale value, we decided to make the move to stainless appliances.

The biggest limitation on our shopping was the size of the refrigerator. This is only a 1200 sq.ft. condo, after all, and the space for the refrigerator is only 30" wide and 68" high. No side-by-sides or French Door for us, and even the bottom-mounts in that width would not work well in our space. So that narrowed it to stainless top-mount refrigerators in the 18-19 cu ft. range, with the hinge on the left (or reversible).

After loads of online research, particularly using the wealth of information and photos available on the AJ Madison website, we found the Frigidaire PHT189JKM. It has everything we could ask for in a traditional top-mount fridge that we don't have now: adjustable half-width shelves, adjustable door bins, a freaking deli drawer (don't ask me how we've lived without one of these for three years), and a left-hinge option:

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Once we'd become excited about this refrigerator, it seemed a simple matter just to go out and get eyes on it, make sure it looked as good in person as it did online. Easier said than done. We went to Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, HHGregg, all with no success. These stores seemed to recognize, reasonably enough, that those looking for fancy stainless appliances probably had room for a side-by-side or French Door model. The stainless top-mount selection was modest at best. They all said they could order the model we wanted, but we really hoped to see it in person first.

brandsmartusa_ad.jpgMy wife mentioned that a friend of hers got a good deal on appliances at a discount Southern chain called Brandsmart USA, but I was skeptical. Just look at their print ad. Does this seem like the kind of place that is going to have a refrigerator that no other store carries? Their television ads are even worse. I figured it would just be a low-rent operation that made its money with high volume sales of closeout models. But frustrated with the other stores, I relented and we headed up I-85 to the Doraville location.

Almost impossible to miss from the highway because it is so big, this store is also nearly impossible to describe. It is as if you are actually inside that advertisement. Everything is crammed together, there are bright neon signs for everything, it is highly disorienting at best. Ramps take you one way, stairs take you another. Once the first wave of nausea passes, however, you notice something remarkable: this store has an incredible selection, and the prices are amazing.

We made our way up to the appliances, and as we stumbled amongst the hundreds of refrigerators that line the entire second floor, what did we find? The exact Frigidaire model we wanted; it was even the left-hinged version. It was beautiful. And so was the price, more than $200 less than what Lowe's or Best Buy wanted. We fought off a few hungry salesmen (the only downside to the experience, but what do you expect?), and looked to see if they had the Frigidaire range, microwave, and dishwasher that we wanted to complete the kitchen. They did:

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Of course, not only did they have the GLEFZ384GC range, the PLMVZ169GC microwave, and the GLD2445RFC dishwasher, the prices were lower than anywhere else we had seen. As we were browsing the dishwashers, a soft-spoken salesman asked us if we had any questions. My wife asked about delivery and installation, and we were stunned to learn that it would only cost about $100 total for delivery and installation of all the appliances, and they could deliver as early as Tuesday (today!). This salesman noticed that we were looking at Frigidaire appliances, and he pulled out a rebate form that would entitle us to more than $100 in rebates based on the models we were looking at (I'm usually skeptical of mail-in rebates, but if I'm buying anyway, it's worth a stamp to try). We decided to pull the trigger, and as the salesman was ringing up the purchase, what did he do? He summarily dropped another $20 off the price of each item, for no reason that we have been able to figure out.

Now I'm happily waiting at home for the delivery and installation of our new appliances, just a couple of days later. When the cabinet refacing is done next month, and the new microwave installed, I'll post before and after pictures for everyone to see.

UPDATE: Delivered, installed, wonderful.

Chattanooga

When my wife woke up Saturday morning, she decided we should take advantage of this extra weekend together (I was supposed to be back in Kuwait last week) and go on a spontaneous vacation up to Chattanooga. Neither of us had ever been before, but we had heard good things, and the city is just two hours up the road from us in Atlanta. I went online, found a room available in the Courtyard Marriott downtown, and we hopped in the car. The ride up I-75 is pleasant if dull, like most interstate highways in the Southeast, and we would have made it in under two hours if we had not been waylaid by an outlet mall along the way. Once we got there, however, it did not take long to see why people have been saying such good things about the city.

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A few caveats: our hotel was right by the Tennessee River, and we did not stray much past the two or three blocks closest to each bank This is where most of the museums, shops, and restaurants are. We did not go into the business district or any other neighborhoods, so I can't speak to the metro area as a whole.

But the riverside downtown area is just lovely. The centerpiece is the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the world after our own Georgia Aquarium. There is also a children's museum, a river walking path, and more than a dozen restaurants within a two-block radius.

Once we dropped everything off at the hotel, we began our quest for the first of two initiation rites I undergo each time I visit a new city: finding local pizza. For whatever reason, I love eating at little, locally-owned pizza parlors, and have made that a must on each vacation. We did it when we went to Boston, when we went to Key Largo, when we went to Chicago (the pizza mecca in my opinion). In Chattanooga, my hunger was satisfied by a visit to Lupi's, just a few blocks down Broad Street from our hotel and the museum district. An order of bruschetta and two slices of cheese later, I was a very satisfied tourist.

After lunch we wandered over to another picturesque area of downtown, centering on the Hunter Museum of American Art, the modern addition of which was built atop the edge of a bluff overlooking the river. In addition to the museum, the Bluff View Art District includes several restaurants and shops, an art gallery, and an inn. From there, a short pedestrian walkway takes you to my favorite part of Chattanooga, the Walnut Street Bridge.

This bridge, first built in 1890, connects the downtown area to the North Shore. Unlike the Market Street Bridge, it is closed to automobile traffic. It is a purely pedestrian bridge. It is wide, well-maintained, with lots of benches to sit on and enjoy the river scene. As we crossed this bridge the first time, it led us to Coolidge Park, where a Saturday night swing-dancing festival was underway. After poking our heads into a few of the shops on Frazier Avenue, we found a shady spot in the park and enjoyed the music for an hour before heading back to the hotel.

In the morning we discovered that not much is open in Chattanooga on a Sunday, and almost nothing is open early. Even after 10am, we wandered past closed coffee shops, walked across the river, passed closed restaurants, but fortunately persisted until we stumbled upon the Stone Cup Coffee House on Frazier Ave. One iced chai and an egg bagel later, I was ready to start the day. We had a riverboat tour scheduled for the afternoon, so we decided to spend the morning hiking the Guild-Hardy Trail on nearby Lookout Mountain. It was a very pleasant trail, and I loved how quickly we could transition from downtown Chattanooga to a mountain forest trail.

After we got back to the hotel and showered, it was time to board the Southern Belle riverboat for a 90-minute sightseeing cruise. This was the only real disappointment of the trip. The portions of the river that the boat cruises are just not very interesting, and the combination of loud music piped through the speakers and a lot of bored children (and bored adults) made for a rather desultory affair. A lovely river breeze, but we could have enjoyed that sitting on the bridge.

That night, still full from a late lunch at an excellent Thai restaurant (the only place we could find open at 4pm on Sunday), we relaxed in an IMAX film about dolphins and whales and then fulfilled the second of my vacation initiation rites: local ice cream. On Frazier Avenue on the North Shore we found Clumpies, and I happily ordered my standard Cookies & Cream milkshake. We took our treats down into Coolidge Park, much quieter than the evening before, enjoyed dessert, and watched children at play. We took a ride on the Coolidge Park Carousel before crossing the bridge to our hotel.

In the morning, we decided we wanted to spend most of the day at home in Atlanta, so we make an early crossing of the bridge, had breakfast once again at the charming Stone Cup, and hit the road. We made great time, and were back home in Atlanta before noon. It was an excellent way to spend a weekend.

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday, so no extended posts today. I'll be too busy eating Fellini's Pizza and watching the Olympics. I did want to take a moment and thank Barack Obama for the birthday gift: picking Mark Warner to be the keynote convention speaker. I can't wait to hear his speech, and to vote for him for President on November 8, 2016.

Bahamas

For some reason, the Bahamas is one of those places that even as a child I could close my eyes and envision. I saw white, sandy beaches. Warm, crystal clear water. Palm trees and a calm ocean breeze. I have no idea where I got this idea, whether there was a particular movie or just a piece of our general cultural lexicon. Whatever the source of that expectation, it was absolutely accurate:

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The trip was much needed, much deserved (at least for my wife), and much enjoyed. We slept in, we swam in the ocean, we ate way too much, and we read by the pool sipping Kalik and mudslides. We were sorry to go.

My Best Friend's Wedding

My best friend from college is getting married this weekend in Dallas, so I'm heading out there tomorrow and will be off the web for a few days. Hopefully I'll have time to finish off Flaubert's Parrot, which is probably the strangest, most innovative novel I've read in some time. My wife is reading it as well, and it will be interesting to see where our reactions to the book align and diverge.

Quilts, Chuck Close, and the Gilmore Girls

Of course the thing about blogging is that you have to, you know, write stuff. There's no denying that while I've been doing this for more than three years now, I have yet to fully escapefrom having too much to say and no sense of how to say it. So I'll try and go a bit more free form for a while, and see how that goes. I'm shooting for one entry a day, with no requirement that the contents of the entry be internally consistent or relevant or interesting.

At least some credit for this burst of written perspiration is owed to the High Museum of Art, which played host for my wife and I to take a whirlwind two hour Sunday afternoon tour of the latest special exhibitions: The Quilts of Gee's Bend and Chuck Close: Self-Portraits 1967–2005 (As an aside, how exciting is the upcoming 3-year Louvre Atlanta project!?!). Being immersed in art left be longing to be an artist, or at least to create, or at least to throw something of myself out into the world. I've flirted with writing, and the blog has survived its intermittent lapses. I've flirted with photography, and sooner or later I'm going to put that Nikon D50 to good use. I also dream of woodworking, though that may have to wait for the post-condo era.

Visiting the High was also a big help in my continued recovery from last week's catastrophic season finale of The Gilmore Girls. Alright, alright. Yes, I watch that show. In fact, it was the only thing I watched on television until I found Fox Soccer Channel on my new cable system. My wife got me hooked during our last year of law school, after years of my having derided the show mainly on the basis of the concierge's French accent. That said, the show has been on a crash course for most of this season, and the season finale was as awful as we all feared. Television Without Pity has the gory details for those fortunate enough to have missed it. Good riddance to the show's creators who are leaving after a ridiculous contract dispute, and let's hope that somehow the 7th (and likely last) season redeems these characters and give them the finish they deserve. I demand it, and will bring the full wrath of A Handful of Sand to bear on anyone who fails to satisfy this demand.

Off to See the Wizard

I'm off tomorrow to scenic Roanoke, Virginia, where I will join hundreds of fellow lawyers-to-be in undergoing that most famed test of will: the bar exam. There will be much relief and merriment when the sun sets on this experience.

Shopping By Satellite

If anyone else happens to be in the market for a new home, or just likes the voyeuristic aspect of aerial views of the neighborhood, Google's satellite map feature is pretty nifty and very easy to use.

Atlanta

My wife and I are safely in Atlanta. The move itself went very smoothly, though we were somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we've managed to accumulate in our combined 52 years of life. Once we got to Atlanta, things got a bit trickier. We had the misfortune of moving into a very nice townhouse that is one block south of a recently broken water main which has restricted Peachtree Road to one lane in each direction (though we have water), and several blocks south of the crane man who shut down Peachtree completely. And it is Memorial Day weekend.

So traffic, which I have a phobia about and was already concerned about in Atlanta, has been nothing short of awful. The 3.3 mile trip to our home from the Target next to the Lenox Square Mall, which Mapquest says is an 8-minute trip, actually took more than 80 minutes. Our initial inclination to buy a condo within a half-mile or mile of our offices has become an absolute necessity. It is now my top priority that I be able to travel from my home to work with ease without ever stepping in my car.

I am writing from our local Panera since Comcast will not be coming around until Wednesday to put in our cable and Internet. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there are still television broadcasts that can be picked up by those little bunny ear antennas. It is like the Dark Ages around our home right now. I may come back here to check email before I start work on Wednesday, but if not, you'll hear from me later next week.

Wedding Photos

Our wedding photographer (Rob Garland) did an absolutely amazing job, and gave us a proof-book with more 600 photographs. A dozen of our favorites:

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Wedding, Jamaica, the Last Two Months of School

Our wedding went absolutely perfectly. We were prepared to deal with a few things going wrong, even after all that planning. But then nothing did. The location was beautiful, all the vendors were prompt, professional, and damned good at what they do. The guests all arrived on time, there were enough chairs, etc. The ceremony itself went beautifully. It was performed by George Bailey, who was sheriff of Albemarle County for 37 years, and who has written a gorgeous civil ceremony combining historical elements of colonial-era Virginia, Kahlil Gibran, and traditional Irish weddings. It was a very moving ceremony that touched all the important traditional elements we wanted, without invoking the cliches that we've all heard hundreds of times.

Dinner was delicious, and our first dance was a major surprise. Without telling anyone, we'd taken a few foxtrot lessons. So all of our friends and family expected us to just get up and sway, and instead we did the foxtrot! I think that impressed people as much as anything else. The rest of the night went by in a flash, with lots and lots of dancing, a lot of cake, and plenty of smiles and laughter. We had a wonderful time, and it seems like all of our guests did as well.

We got home after midnight, and peformed the traditional wedding night ritual of promptly falling asleep in preparation for our 4:45 alarm. As some cosmic joke, our flight to Jamaica left at 6:40 in the morning the next day, so the wedding barely felt over by the time we were on our way out of the country.

We spent five nights at the new Sandals Whitehouse resort. It was a perfect vacation for a honeymoon. I am not generally a fan of just sitting by the beach or pool for several days in a row, but I'm not sure we could have handled anything else. It was Wednesday before we actually felt normal again. So in that sense, it was very welcome that we didn't have to worry about where to eat, how to pay for things, etc. We just sat by the pool, sipped pina coladas (well, virgin pina coladas for me), read our books, and enjoyed being able to look at each other and say "You're my wife! You're my husband!" (sidenote: it pretty much defines what a dork I am that on my Caribbean beach honeymoon, I brought, read and enjoyed Kafka's The Trial, Borges' Labyrinths, and Nabokov's Pale Fire).

We don't have the wedding photos back from our photographer yet (a couple more weeks still), but here's a few shots from the honeymoon. The first three are the different angles off of our balcony (the third one shows the French village pool). The next two show the main pool and its swim-up bar, where we spent a lot of our time. And the last photo shows a first person view of what we were doing 90% of the time we were there. It feels good to be back, and great to be married.

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With This Ring....

The day is finally here. I'll be getting married around 6pm this evening, enjoying a wonderful night with friends and family, and then rising bright and early for our flight to Jamaica. 84 degress, sunny, and married: here we come.