The way we make our living, the financial backing that supports the life we love, has us traveling away from home on an average of once a month. We do not go to very exotic places to work – mostly in the United States, cities great and small. Each city has its own unique character in its architecture, its environment and of course, its people. While we are a guest in these cities, taking up hotel room night and sometimes for no more than 72 hours we try to absorb as much of that city as possible. We do it through food – we break out the camera and try to capture the “what” about a city that speaks to us, that we can look at later and without knowing can say for sure. Sometimes that’s no more than a view from our hotel window but every view from every hotel window in every city is most definitely unique.
Atlanta – hot. Now, I’ve been in Atlanta in June. I’ve been in Atlanta in September. Spring and fall – both times…hot. The first time I worked in Atlanta the downtown area right near the Georgia World Congress Center was pretty inner-city. Housing Projects dating back to the 1930’s sat falling apart, its residents as in decay as the building itself. Then, Atlanta won the bid for the 1996 Olympics and downtown Atlanta, like so many Olympic cities before it, was transformed. The projects were razed and in their place Millenium Park was built. The coolest feature of this park is what I like to call a dancing fountain and while I’m in Atlanta at least, its Atlanta’s children that dance in the refreshing water. Everywhere you look in that area is a reminder that fourteen years ago the eyes of the world were upon Atlanta and upon that piece of real estate where athletes from all over the globe converged.
Boston – Lobster. I know, I know. It’s one of the oldest cities in the United States. The entire city, including its “interesting” road patterns are steeped in deep American history. But for me, give me a good ol’ 1 ½ pound New England lobster and you have my heart.
Cleveland – Rocks. The Ian Hunter song, the theme song to the TV show WKRP in Cincinatti. Years after the song was written and the TV show cancelled Cleveland finally DOES rock – with the addition of the country’s only Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I worked in Cleveland once – and I visited the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately we got lost getting there so we did the speed through version but still – to see John Cippolina’s rig in their great care was as special as seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Oh yes – I’m quite serious about that.
Chicago – the “second city”. I guess my overall impression of Chicago is that it’s a city that has grown on me. For years its been know as the second city – second to New York that is. I can see that and it had always been my impression that Chicago was trying to “be” New York. I now see that its not – it simply is the New York of the Midwest. Booming financial center, rife with culture and art and with that comes a variety of food. I don’t have to look too hard for a vegetable in Chicago, even in the dead of winter. Speaking of which – it is the Windy City. If you’ve ever stood anywhere near Lake Michigan in February you’ll feel exactly what I’m talking about.
Las Vegas-from my perspective, as someone who works there and stays on the strip – Las Vegas is contrived to fit every venal desire on the planet. It’s a 24-hour playground. Its one Hollywood mega-set built one upon the other. Its lights, its grit, its seedy and its playful. It’s a contradiction of itself. Ketchup is the official vegetable.
Denver-high. The first time we worked there one of our colleagues did get altitude sickness. We all learned right then the dues and don’t of being a mile high. Denver is a nice city. From my limited experiences there I find its vibe to be cowtown meets metropolis. Quite a bit of recent work has been done to pretty up downtown but there’s still enough grit around to let you know you are in urbia.
Los Angeles-seedy chic. Now, this is a CITY. It’s the perfect melting pot of ultra-glam and urban grit, sometimes separated by no more than one block. It’s the place where dreams are made and dashed. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy nestled in a valley coated in a brown haze. I love LA but could never live there.
New Orleans-well, this would have to be my favorite city to work in. It has all that romantic appeal…great food, great music, awesome architecture and brutal history. I walk the streets of the French quarter and no matter how many times I walk on the same block I am mesmerized by the architecture – so old, so Spanish, so southern. If its not fried its not food and that’s can easily be the truth but my favorite thing to eat are Mississippi Mud Oysters, served in haste over the bar at Felix’s or Acme. I love walking down Bourbon Street, live and loud music emanating from every doorway. I love browsing in the voodoo shops, the aroma of Patchoulli wafting through my nostrils. Top off my evening with a plate full of Fried Chicken livers and Jalapeno Jelly from Miss Pralines and you’ve got one satisfied customer. Now, I haven’t been back to New Orleans since before Katrina. And, in light of what British Petroleum has done to the Gulf, I’m wondering about those precious Mississippi Muds…but it tops my list of places to go “just for fun”. Yeah, move it out of the “on the road” column. I just want to go and absorb more of this magical place.
New York-well, let’s put it this way: New York is in my DNA and there’s no getting it out. Born and bred there, I’ve spent half my life living three thousand miles away. Still…when I step out onto the sidewalk there’s a familiarity that wafts over me, as familiar to me as if I stepped off my front porch in Bodega or into my yard in Negril. I can’t call New York home anymore but I don’t approach my visits there as a stranger in a strange land. Sure, I can wax poetic about food, culture, and energy. It is the most energetic city I have ever been to, bar none. New York brims with life, even after the disaster on September 11, 2001, you cannot keep a good city down. Her people are brusk, she moves fast and you best get out of her way.
San Diego – warm, educated and Republican. It never fails, I always have a marvelous time when I’m working in San Diego. I have easy access to one of my favorite cuisines – Spanish Food. There are two Tapas Restaurants that I know of and I’m sure many more just within the Gaslamp District. My movements so far have been restricted to this very touristy area but I don’t mind. I get the vibe of young people surrounding me even amongst the tourists and conventioneers. San Diego to me is the keeper of all things wild – Marine World and the San Diego Zoo are known all over as some of the best Wildlife Parks Wildlife is the name of the game – hey. The tiger ate Roy, and a killer whale, well…killed somebody. Buzz Kill.
I’d have to say that Seattle is the dark and rainy cousin to San Diego. Its another young city, but the youth of Seattle are not nearly as well dressed or apparently interested in higher education as the youth of San Diego. Seattle has a vibrant music scene for sure – grunge was born there, grunge lives there. Kurt Kobain is remembered as the poster boy for Seattle’s youth.