Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Can't Take That Stuff to Canada.......

Now I am completely and utterly behind, as I'm sitting at San Francisco airport waiting for our flight to Auckland, but let's just pretend I'm still in New York about to go to Toronto.......

Our last day in New York involved a huge solo walk around the Lower East side, as T was keen for some quality time with some record stores and his credit card. 

Pink & Red by you.

45 Bleecker Street by you.

Danger Hollow Sidewalk by you.

This walk yielded several vegan delights. First up:

Babycakes I by you.

Red Velvet I by you.

Vegan cupcakes from Babycakes, like this red velvet one.  

Alert Cat by you.

Sleeping Cat by you.

Vegan shoes from Mooshoes - I bought some ace new boots completely made from recycled materials, and some green and black striped flats. I haven't taken any pictures of these purchases yet, so some cat photos will need to suffice. 

I then visited my most favourite building in New York, the Chrysler. I still can't believe that it was constructed in 1930. 

Chrysler II by you.

The night then passed in a blur, as we met T's friend Rob and his partner Leanne. Rob and T met each other as summer camp counsellors in upstate New York 9 years ago. We had a great night drinking in various locales around Washington Square. This included one huge silver bowl filled with gin, PBR and lemonade with 4 snorkel type tubes for each of us. Ouch. 

The following day we headed up to Toronto. We were quite delayed on the way up, which meant we didn't get into Toronto until after 11pm. Brad and Joanne were waiting for us with lots of vegan snacks, and Stan & Kirsty and Al arrived soon after. We had a great time catching up, laughing, feasting and enjoying Brad's vegan chocolate raspberry cake that he made for our wedding. It was amazing!

Cake by you.

Kitchen by you.

We had such a great time that we didn't leave for our hotel, the Metropolitan, until 5 am. I found it quite amusing that the guy on reception asked me if we wanted a wake-up call for the morning. Once we got up to the room, we discovered that we had been upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite, which indeed was suite!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We arrived in NYC in the early evening of Wednesday 1 October (yes, I'm even further behind now!) Dinner was at Zen Palate, a vegetarian restaurant focussed on Zen temple food, was just a few short blocks away. Dinner was fairly ordinary, but we did try the vegan banana creme and key lime pies for dessert. I am still dreaming about that banana creme pie - T and I talked about it for days after the event. We took a stroll around midtown with some pear and chocolate vegan sorbet from NYC Icy before heading back to the hotel. It was like walking around a quiet small town before we had to cross the hubbub of Times Square to get back to our hotel. 

Our next day in New York started with brunch at Blossom, where we got to talking with a lovely couple from Los Angeles. They struck up a conversation with me while T was inspecting the cake cases by asking if I was from London. We ended up talking for over an hour - it was so nice to talk to a couple who had very similar ideals to both T and I. 

Finishing Up by you.

We worked off (at least some of) our lunch by taking a huge afternoon walk in Central Park. I have always enjoyed wandering around and seeing what you come across there. I experienced some severe dog-envy when going past the dog runs and seeing the millions of dogs being walked by their human companions. We also checked out the GuggenheimStrawberry Fields and the Dakota building together, as we had both been to these places individually but not together. 

Guggenheim IV by you.

Imagine by you.

Dakota Building II by you.

I do find it quite peculiar and macabre that people have their photo taken outside the Dakota building smiling and laughing where John Lennon died. We happened to go past where Heath Ledger died downtown, and people were doing the same thing there. I guess people want to mark that they have been to these places (see this photo, here's the proof!), but it does make me feel quite weird.  

Dinner was at S'Nice in the West Village. I particularly enjoyed my vegan Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich, which included brussel sprouts, gravy, roast sweet potatoes and tofurkey - Wow!! Grabbing a vegan cupcake each to savour on the walk to Irving Plaza, we stopped at various street corner bars to join the throngs of people crowded around televisions to watch the Obama - McCain debate. We reached the venue just in time for Atlas Sound aka Bradford Cox from Deerhunter come on stage. He was supporting Stereolab (who I am not a fan of at all), and T treated us to tickets given we had missed out on Deerhunter in Oakland when we saw NIN

Bradford Cox' voice totally and utterly makes me lose my mind. I have never heard a voice that is so beautiful, vulnerable, fragile and strong all at the same time. There were moments during his set that I cried it was so beautiful. And afterwards T managed to nab Bradford to talk for a few minutes. I was so gushy and throwing out superlatives like there was no tomorrow, but he seemed genuinely happy to talk and he hugged me twice. Not one, but two huge bear hugs! Plus, Bradford told us that Deerhunter are coming to Australia early next year! Thank you so much T for getting us there, grabbing Bradford and then suggesting we escape Stereolab. You know me so well!  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pittsburgh to the Electric City

Following our Frank Lloyd Wright fancy, we drove to Pittsburgh for a pitstop. The nature of our pitstop was lunch at Quiet Storm, a vegetarian/vegan coffeehouse. As usual, I loved the mismatched crockery and furnishings inside. The coffee wasn't bad either, as was our lunch. T had a build-your-own-burrito, and I had an amazing marinated tofu sandwich with tortilla crisps and potato salad.

Sandwich by you.

Squares by you.

Quiet Storm by you.

Obviously that would not be enough to satisfy our appetities, so we stopped by Oh Yeah! as we had heard that they did vegan waffles. Both of us were however quite taken with their ice cream mixing contraption. I ordered vanilla soy ice cream, with fresh cherries and chocolate pieces mixed in. This was the delicious result: 

 Cherry & Chocolate II by you.

Our journey then began to Scranton...what? The Electric City. For those of you who are not fans of the US version of The Office, this may be a good time to stop reading, as this is what our trip to Scranton was solely about. Highlights of our scouring the city were: 
Opening Credits by you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright Appreciation Day II

No one could say we aren't dedicated - we drove for about 8 or 9 hours in the pouring rain from Chicago to Pennsylvania (about 90 minutes south of Pittsburgh) to get close to Falling Water, the house Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to build for the Kaufmann family in the late 1930's. 

Our guide Susan walked our small group through the expansive gardens down to the house itself and gave us all the details of the house as we walked around. Both T and I were gobsmacked by how the house had been designed and built around the river, trees and boulders naturally occurring in the area. I was also very taken with the interior furnishings, a lot of which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. Instead of writing about it, I think I'll let the photos do the talking: 

Levels by you.

Living Room V by you.

Guest Bedroom I by you.

Up by you.

Round by you.

There's a stack more photos on my flickr page

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright Appreciation Day I

We went on a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural splurge today (ok, really on 28 September, but I'm running really behind) in Chicago's Oak Park. There are a stack of FLW buildings in this area, including: 

Robie House by you.
Home & Studio I by you.
FLW's home and studio, where he worked for the first 20 years of his career.

Unity Temple I by you.

I have been a big fan of FLW since I saw a documentary years ago spanning his career, although I can't remember what it was called. I find it amazing how contemporary his work looks even now, despite a lot of it being designed in the first half of the 20th century. 

By this time, we were ready for dinner, and T had tracked down just the place: El Faro, a Mexican place with vegetarian and vegan options. It was a great little place with vinyl booths, and I think we were the only gringos in there. We then had tickets for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Riviera. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the show. Yes, they performed well, but it all seemed a little.......flat. The main problem I had with the show was the setlist - he doesn't seem to have any courage at all when it comes to putting a show together. No surprises - Deanna, The Mercy Seat, Red Right Hand, God is in the House (why this one keeps being trotted out is beyond me). I just don't understand why with such an amazing and voluminous back catalogue, the same songs keep getting recycled at each show. Maybe it is just me (and T), as the rest of the audience were loving it. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Big Day - The Celebration

After getting out of our wedding duds at the hotel, we drove down to South Chicago to do what any newlywed couple would do - go to Veggie Bite, a solely vegan fast food joint. We ordered the works - chilli "cheese" fries, chilli "cheese" dog, a burrito and vanilla and chocolate shakes. I did get a little concerned that we had in some ways inadvertently recreated the Sex and the City by getting married at City Hall then eating/celebrating at a fast food place, but I swear any similarity was totally unintentional.  

Wedding Feast I by you.

We went back to the city, Wicker Park to be exact, to see Growing do a free instore at Reckless Records. They played one long track for about 45 minutes that would reinvent itself again and again. They were just as good as they had been at ATP a few days before, and we told them so afterwards. 

We spent our wedding night enjoying celebratory cocktails on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building. It is free to go up to the restaurant and bar, as opposed to the Sears Tower, which costs about US$20 a piece. We had to wait close to an hour to be seated, but it was totally worth it - the panoramic view over Chicago was amazing. 

Chicago Lights by you.

Betrothed Blue Martini by you.

We hadn't been hungry due to our enormous lunch at Veggie Bite, but by now we were both quite peckish and a bit tired. We picked up some Thai takeaway on the way back to the hotel and had a picnic on the bed in our robes watching The Office. Some may think that is a silly way to celebrate getting married, but for us, it was just right. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Big Day - The Ceremony

Just Married I by you.

Saturday 27 September 2008 was our wedding day. Things started off early (and painfully) at 7 am with me having to head out to get my hair and make up done. I had a great stylist called Maggie, who was incredibly enthusiastic. Everything was "fun", for example: 
  • Loose and more flowing hair is much more "fun" than sleek hair. 
  • Raspberry tea lip glaze is much more "fun" than regular lipstick. 
She was very cool, really listened to me and made helpful suggestions. She gave me a big hug when I left and told me to "have fun". 

I got back to the hotel room and T was ready and looking gorgeous in his suit. I whipped on my dress, shoes and jewellery and we took a cab over to City Hall. I didn't want to break my neck on the way to our wedding on account of my shoes!

The Marriage Court is in the basement of City Hall, differentiated from other court rooms (traffic court, criminal court) by heart stickers on the door. Ceremonies are able to take place there conducted by a Judge between 9 am and 12 pm on Saturday mornings (and longer hours during the week), as long as you show up no later than 11.45 am and present your marriage licence and the $10 ceremony fee. 

We arrived at about 11.15 am and registered with the receptionist. There was a huge crowd in the small waiting room, so much so that a lot of people were spilling out into the hallway. It was wonderful how there were such a variety of people waiting to get married - couples on their own like us, couples with lots of family members and friends and everything in between. There were couples in jeans and t-shirts through to couples dressed up like us. 

We took a seat, and only had to wait about half and hour until the receptionist called our names and took us through to the door of the Judges' chambers. The Judge came out a few minutes later and ushered us into a very sparse office with a desk, computer and American flag. She went crazy over my dress, saying how much she loved it. She wanted to know all about it, and was very excited to hear that it was my Mum's wedding dress from 1969, and that I had shortened it myself to wear today. 

She then ushered us over behind the desk next to the flag and told us how marriage was the biggest commitment that we would make in our lives, and that it needed to be taken with the utmost seriousness. She then asked us to each repeat the vows after her, and then place the rings on each others' fingers. We were both quite close to tears by this stage. The Judge then pronounced us husband and wife and that we could kiss. 

Wedding Kiss by you.

She then offered to take some photos of us with our camera, and that she was happy to oblige if we wanted our photo taken with her (taken by the next couple waiting to get married). 

The Three of Us by you.

We then had a chat with the Judge about all manner of things - what we like about Chicago, what Australia and New Zealand are like, and most importantly to her, sharks. She wanted to know all about sharks in Australia as she is obsessed with them - there is a "shark week" on TV once a year in the States and she watches it continuously. The whole conversation was really lighthearted, and she really seemed to care about the couples she marries and wants to find out a bit about them. The whole atmosphere down in that basement of City Hall was wonderful - everyone seemed excited and happy to be there, and to give their best wishes to other couples. 

We then headed down to Millenium Park, and took some photos of ourselves reflected in Cloud Gate aka The Bean. Some other visitors offered to take photos of us, and luckily for us, one of these volunteers was a photo journalist. 

Cloud Gate  by you.

 Happy I by you.

It was then time to go back to the hotel and get changed so we could head out and enjoy the rest of our wedding day. More on that shortly.......

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Marriage licences & Calexico go well together

Our first priority when we arrived in Chicago was to apply for a marriage licence. We decided to get married here as both of us love love love the city - a river running through the centre, gorgeous old buildings that are still incredibly futuristic (lots of Frank Lloyd Wright designs), the loop train running alongside apartments and offices 3 or 4 stories up, great vegan food and an ace music scene. As luck would have it, our hotel was very close to City Hall, where we needed to apply for the licence. 

We trotted down to the office on the morning of Thursday 25 September with our passports, ID and $35 licence fee and got in line. I couldn't believe how friendly everyone was, as previous experiences I have had with bureaucracy have often been a little sour. A guard directed us to the line for marriage licences with a big smile, and then we got to talking with a lovely American couple behind us. They were having a big wedding on Saturday 27 September, the same day as we planned to get married.

The process to apply for the licence was really easy. The woman that was processing it super nice, got us to check through the drafts, we handed over the money and it was all done:

Licence by you.

We dropped the licence back at the hotel, and headed over to the Chicago Diner to have a celebratory lunch. T then kindly obliged me by taking me to a shoe shop in Wicker Park/Bucktown that I knew stocked synthetic Melissa shoes that I wanted to get for the wedding. It took barely 5 minutes to pick out the ones I wanted, try them on and buy them.

Another stroke of luck was that was that Calexico was playing for free as part of the Chicago World Music Festival at Millenium Park. I'm not normally a huge fan of Calexico, but I really enjoyed their show. They were playing with a full Mariachi band, and their happy, sunny music was quite infectious. The sun setting and lights coming on in the skyscrapers surrounding us were just perfect. 

Night by you.

We had to leave the show early, as we had to be back at the hotel for the premiere of Season 5 of The Office. We picked up some snacks on the way, hurried up to our room and made it in perfect time to catch the start. I won’t write about what happens in the episode here (no spoiler alert here!), but I will say that it was a cracker – heart warming, hilarious and horrifying all at once.

Michael Gary Scott I by you.

Basking in a post-Office glow, we decided to head out at 11 pm to see a movie, which I have to admit was Lakeview Terrace, and which I also had to admit was rather good - the tension mounted very well, and there were a few points where I jumped in my seat.