Birthday Excursion Part Deux – Sir Duke (Baltimore)

After the heavenly experience of Insomnia Cookies, my friends and I walked the square searching for any place that served food at 10 PM. Bars of Baltimore: please don’t stop serving food at 10 PM. Continue serving food until the bar closes. You’ll get more people in.

We found ourselves back at the hotel’s basement bar. Basement bar at a haunted hotel? Totally not creepy. There was one older fella drying up some glasses with a cloth. He looked lonely considering the place was completely empty. There was something eerie about the place. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like an old school movie meets horror film meets lighthearted fun. Does that make sense? The bartender was nice enough to smile for the picture at least. 🙂 Too bad he didn’t have food.

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He recommended that we tried the restaurant next door. We walked in, relieved it was only ten feet away from the hotel. Stomachs growled in frustration when the hostess told us the kitchen had closed. She did, however, provide us with a recommendation: Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store. It was not on the main square but on the side streets, about a block or two away from us. It was a bar and a liquor store. A part of me didn’t feel like walking in the 40-degree weather but it was my birthday and wasn’t going to stop then.

I ordered a grilled cheese with french fries. My friend ordered Breakfast Poutine for the three of us to try. I’ve had poutine only once in my life and that was at a French party/class assignment at St. Ed’s. The poutine was amazing. The gravy sorta stayed with your breath but totally worth it.

The grilled cheese was also good. It was cheesy, the tomato was fresh and the fries (more fries!) were crispy. What I liked most about it was the fact it was warm enough to heat up my body and protect myself from the chill that came through the door.

The three of us had grown happy with a pinch of homesick when we saw the Tito’s tins used as a receipt holder. We asked the waitress if she knew what Tito’s was and of course she did. We explained we were from Austin and she immediately replied “I love Austin!”. She tried remembering the sparkling water all the hipsters drank (Topo Chico) and says it’s her tradition to drink a bottle of Topo when she goes down to ATX. It’s funny to hear someone say they love Austin, let alone visit. After living in ATX for 11 years and seeing it when it was still sorta in sleepy town mode, you tend to forget it has become such a tourist destination. Nothing wrong with ATX being a tourist destination…just don’t move there (there are plans for a major I-35 overhaul so just warning you).

We headed back to the hotel with leftovers. On our way back we found a couple homeless teenagers outside a closed boutique sitting on a bench. I gave them my leftover sandwich, keeping my oatmeal cookie. My friend took a few steps before turning around and giving them his cookie. The guilt got to me when I saw another couple of teenagers near a lamp post. I gave them my cookie, feeling both bad that I didn’t get a chance to experience the oatmeal cookie, but happy to know I didn’t think of my stomach for once.

It was a great last night in Baltimore. A wonderful adventure full of unexpected people and events. Definitely a birthday I will not forget.

Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store is located in Fell’s Point at 701 S Bond St., Baltimore, MD 21231

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Downtown Travels Mixtape Vol. 4

The last Downtown Travels Mix Tape was about exploring different groups from around the world. For Volume 4, it’s more about traveling through time. We start off with a trip five years ago before high-tailing it to the 1980s with a song about an event that occurred in the 1960s after which we jump back to last year with the Avett Brothers who sing a cover song written back in the early 1910s. From there we jump around this decade and last century before taking a trip with the 1980s again (because who doesn’t want to be part of the 1980s music scene?). Enjoy!

  1. Now Is the Start – A Fine Frenzy

Got this song for free on iTunes around 2012-2013 [does iTunes still do that? I get all my music from the radio stations (Radio is not dead!)]. It’s a nice way to start a playlist, not because of the title, but because it’s fun and dance-worthy. It’ll get you in a happy mood by mid-way, not matter how hard you try to resist.

2. December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – The Wonder Who?/The Four Seasons

3. In the Garden (Charles Austin Miles 1912 cover) – The Avett Brothers

It’s a 2016 folk band singing a 1912 song. You can’t get better than that.

It wasn’t until recently I learned that the song The Avett Brothers sing was a hymn. As in gospel music. It totally makes sense when you actually read the lyrics. I’m not one for gospel music, but I will happily make an exception for this song.

4. Hourglass – Catfish and the Bottleman

Hourglass. Time. Think about it.

It’s a great song. A sad song when you think about it (he wants his girl to come back), but sung in a pretty catchy tune.

5. Closer – Tegan and Sara

I think of the pilot episode of Young & Hungry where Gabi (Emily Osment), the feisty chef, and Josh (Jonathon Sadowski), the ridiculously rich tech guy, sing their own rendition. It’s adorable, it’s funny, it’s amazing.

6. Bitter Heart – Zee Avi

The time aspect with this one comes in the second verse where Zee Avi says “it’s been two hours now / and you’re still somewhere in town”. It’s an angry song (not even angry…more like annoyed) sung in a such a catchy, sunny tune you can’t help but sing along.

7. Bend & Break – Keane

Going to the early years of the millennium with this Keane hit (at least I consider it a hit. It’s the best song on that album). Timothy James Rice-oxley said back when the song came out that “Bend & Break” was about getting past the darker state of mind and into the light. It’s a song of overcoming the paid and suffering and meeting on the other side where peace is to be found.

8. Wild – Royal Teeth

Royal Teeth, a band from New Orleans, came out with this song in 2012. It’s one of my favorite songs on this mix tape. It’ll put a smile on your face and lift you into a blissful state. The song, though it’s open to interpretation, is about the band leaving their normal routine to pick up their instruments and heading on tour. Rather than growing up, it’s about living in the present and enjoying everything that is heading their way.

9. Run-Around – Blues Traveler

Let’s jump back 18 years to 1994. Since this mix tape is time-themed, it would be rude not to add a song that is from the year I was born. I could have put CĂ©line Dion or Mariah Carey, but they just don’t fit the rhythm of this mix tape (or my music taste in general). Hence, the Blues Traveler! Have you heard of them? Yes? No? They’ve been around for over 20 years. I think they’ll make it. xD

10. Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well – A Silent Film

Yes, there are a lot of songs from 2012. 2012-2013 was the enlightenment period for my music taste. New group of friends, college, and the ability to break the spell that trapped my head in the “super big corporate radio” (yes I mean you KISS-FM!) were all big influences in exploring the not so mainstream music (and the classic hits).

This song goes through a passage of time. It starts off with two kids who have feelings for each other but the boy never admits it. They grow up and grow apart and somehow find each other years later. It’s a great song. It’ll make you dance and feel sad at the same time. Gotta love the Brits.

11. Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears

Of course everybody wants to rule the world! Power and money and control? I find this song fitting to be at the end of the playlist since it was the last song on Tears for Fears’ album, Songs from the Big Chair. According to the Take Two podcast, Roland Orzabel, the band’s co-founder, thought the song was too “light” for the album, wanting to change the lyrics to “everybody wants to go to war”. Luckily for the band (and us fans), he was convinced out of that idea.

Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints

It’s here! After months of patiently waiting, the list is finally here! Texas Monthly, the National Magazine of Texas, unveiled it’s “Top 50 BBQ Joints” today as part of the release of their June 2017 issue, aka The BBQ Issue. Theories have been swimming around Texas BBQ joints as well as around the office since forever. For those of you who are Franklin fanatics, you are in for a treat.

(Read the full article at http://www.texasmonthly.com/food/the-list-the-top-50-barbecue-joints-in-texas/)

But wait. There’s more! Yes BBQ lovers and connoisseurs there is indeed more!

Local ATX favorite YETI partnered up with Texas Monthly to create the beautifully designed wormhole of everything Texas BBQ related: the YETI BBQ Passport. This includes short notes from Texas Monthly staff members, including BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn and everyone’s favorite Texan, the Texanist (aka David Courtney). There’s wonderfully created map and challenges brought to you by YETI to complete for your chance to win YETI prizes (coolers and mugs and hats oh my!). You can grab a passport by buying the June 2017 TM issue at your local bookstore or grocery store, visiting one of the Top 50 BBQ joints on the list, or, for any of you Austinites, at the YETI Flagship store in Austin.

(Don’t have access to a print copy of the mag or passport? Click here to get your own passport: http://features.texasmonthly.com/sponsored/bbqpassport/)

Also, don’t forget to check out the stories in this month’s issue. There’s an inspiring personal essay from John Nova Lomax about his son joining the US Army (“The Green Machines”), an interesting story on Dallas Police Chief Brown during the moments of the Dallas shooting (“The Empathy of David Brown” by Michael J. Mooney), and a story on a hippie Catholic Church in Southeast Austin. Yes, you read that right, hippie Catholic Church. I’m talking a priest who has a hubby, women being ordained and the awesome feeling of being truly all-inclusive (“Critical Mass” by Robyn Ross).

If you need me, I’ll be in my car driving all the way Lexington, Texas for some amazing ass BBQ (hint hint cough cough :D).

Share and comment below your experiences with these BBQ Joints and don’t forget to follow Texas Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

The 30 Most Colorful Beach Towns Around the World – Harper’s Bazaar

For those of you who want to take a breather from American and now French political madness, check out this cool article from Harper’s Bazaar on 30 colorful beach towns around the world. Anybody else want to take a plane to Tunsinia?
https://apple.news/Au7uj0zayPF-k4yeBPub9_A

“Beg-packers”

Daily Mail came out with an article a few days ago detailing the “rise of ‘beg-packers‘”. Yes, that’s right: beg-packers. Basically, people (ahem, Westerners) who sit on the side of the road and beg for money while they are traveling through some of the world’s poorest regions. It’s becoming an increasingly insane problem, especially in Southeast Asia where truly needy people are in pure survival mode, not “look at me with my ukulele and Patagonia backpack that I spent wayyyyy too much money on hence me playing with the ukulele and asking you for money.”

 

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People begging on the streets of Bangkok. From DailyMail.com

I am not condemning backpackers. I myself would love to backpack the world someday, preferably Europe. I am simply calling people for their poor financial skills. So here are a few tips to manage your money while going on these excursions.

  1. Do your research! Google exists for a reason. Check how much plane tickets are during the time period you want to go, average cost of room and board (whether it be Airbnb, friends or even a campground), average cost of food, and entertainment.
  2. Once you have done your research, start saving! I take 15% of my paycheck and transfer it to my savings account. Here I further allocate what goes to the emergency fund, what goes to the retirement fund and whatever is left, the vacation fund. Sure 15% sounds like a lot but if you’re a lucky duck who makes $1000 per paycheck, you’re saving $150 every two weeks. That’s $300 per month and $3600 per year. You can do more or less. Up to you.
  3. Hit the bargain bins when you’re shopping for equipment. You don’t necessarily have to go to REI to get the fancy schmancy Patagonia coat or top of the line insulated to-go thermos. Check out TJ Maxx or even your local Goodwill. You’d be amazed at what you find there.
  4. Learn a thing or two from the locals. How about bartering? Don’t really need those extra pair of flip flops, but really need enough food to last a couple days? Try trading if it’s common culture wherever you are at. I’m pretty sure they would appreciate the clean Rainbow flip flops.
  5. Don’t have enough money to go on your own? Try going with a group, whether it be your church or your friends. Everyone pitches in so the burden is not entirely placed on your shoulders.
  6. Probably the most important rule: once you’re there, balance your books! Spent $10 on jewelry? Expense that from your “entertainment fund” to get an accurate total. Gained $5 from winning a mini contest? It’s revenue in your pocket so add it to your total. This will give a clear view on how little or how much you are spending or gaining throughout the trip.

Please remember the needy are needy. They are in pure survival mode. You the begpacker? Well, you should have read this post first. 🙂