2 Festivals and a Road Trip in Less Than 48 Hours

The last few weeks have been more physically and emotionally draining than we'd prefer; cleanup week at my work, extra long days at Lucie's work, me spraining my wrist (while it's true that one doesn't forget how to ride a bike, I'm living proof that one can get pretty rusty on that whole stopping thing that goes with it), various amounts of stress from several sources, and a general lack of sleep that's been getting worse... so this weekend I really want to get the hell out of Dodge.  We don't want to spend a huge amount of money by going to a casino (though that *was* among the first ideas we tossed around) so we end up deciding on taking a day trip out of town and spending some other time doing something fun.

We've been looking forward to Nikkei Matsuri, an annual celebration in San Jose's Japantown that's scheduled for this weekend.  We'd originally thought it was for the full weekend, but it's slated for Sunday only; as luck would have it, however, Cupertino is having their Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend as well, right across the street from our alma mater De Anza College.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual festival celebrating the gift of 200 cherry trees given to the city by its sister city of Toyokawa, Japan, in 1983.  The trees were planted in Cupertino's Memorial Park, and there's an arts and crafts festival held there every year celebrating the Japanese culture (and, apparently, kettle corn.)

This sounds like fun.  This also sounds suspiciously like a lot of walking around, which sounds suspiciously like exercise, but it also sounds better than hitting the treadmill at the YMCA, so we're in.  We cruise into Cupertino, home of Apple Computer and World Domination Headquarters, and manage to find a parking spot -- in the shade, no less -- pretty close to the park entrance, which we take as a good sign.  We wander in, poke through the stalls, and spend a little money.  We get Japanese themed bookmarks and have our names written in Japanese calligraphy; we stop by a pottery stand where Lucie buys me a coffee mug and I buy a present for someone in the family; Lucie gets a nifty jade bracelet; I buy some homemade jalapeƱo fudge and some mocha fudge that gives me the caffeine jitters just by smelling it; I buy a Barbie-sized kimono for my niece Elizabeth's dolls; and Lucie buys some new bling, a shiny new ring with peridot, onyx, and diamond for $30 (which makes me suspect that the stones might not be real, but it still looks nice.)

After a while of wandering through the park, we start thinking about dinner... and if you've driven all the way out to Cupertino, it's only a couple more miles to Monterey for dinner, right?

Yeah, well... I sucked at geography.

It's been years since we made a trip to Monterey, and we miss it.  It's still early enough to get in a nice walk along Fisherman's Wharf once we drive down there, so we head over the Santa Cruz mountains and cruise south along the Pacific Coast Highway.  We make a quick stop at the Thistle Hut in Castroville where we grab snacks and some fresh strawberries, and get into Monterey around 4 or so.  We take the time to drive down Cannery Row, seeing if anything's changed since our last visit, and nothing seems amiss; our favorite winery, the chocolate store, the chili pepper themed store, the Del Sol sunglasses store, and of course the Monterey Bay Aquarium have all managed to withstand these harsh economic times propped up on the mountains of money thrown at them by tourists such as ourselves.  We head back to Fisherman's Wharf and find good parking.

We spend an hour or so wandering aimlessly down the wharf, sampling various recipes of clam chowder (well, *I* sample the chowder; all that cream based soup isn't something that agrees with Lucie) and getting rid of what money we have left over from the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I find a cool silver ring with abalone inset that actually fits me, so I buy it -- I've developed a rule to live by that says if I like something and it actually fits me I don't try to talk myself out of it too hard.  You don't often find a size 16 ring that isn't a simple printed band or something festooned with skulls, so it's a rare find indeed.

We eat dinner at the Old Fisherma's Grotto, our favorite place to eat in Monterey -- their calamari is some of the best we've had, and I haven't tried something there I didn't like.  I'm temped to return to what I had last time, the parmesan and pesto salmon which was outstanding, but I go for something different and order the seared ahi plate and Lucie goes for the macadamia nut crusted halibut and coconut shrimp.  I also feel a little wild and order the Grotto Pineapple, an obscenely large drink consisting of rum, rum, orange juice, ice, and rum, served in a large hollowed-out pineapple and topped off with rum.  And maybe some rum.

It's strong.

We stop by the candy shop on the way back to Meg, where we get some caramel apples for us and a huge bag of salt water taffy for my co-workers; we make a quick detour into the coffee shop and I grab a double mocha for the road; and we head on back home.  Traffic is a little more unnerving coming back into town (for some reason the inland-bound direction along Highway 17 has always seemed much more winding and dangerous to me) but we make it back safe and sound, and call it a day.

Sunday arrives, and it's time for the Nikkei Matsuri in Japantown.  We manage to find parking that's not too incredibly far a walk and wander through the small setup, perusing the various arts and craft booths (we're fairly sure we recognize the same lady from whom I bought the Barbie kimono from yesterday's Cherry Blossom Festival), I'm both entertained and frustrated by a stall showing Japanese theme T-shirts (a Sumo wrestler shirt with the logo "no gut, no glory" that doesn't actually come in the sumo sizes I need, a shirt with the slogan "miso soup for the soul"), and we admire the origami crane earrings and Christmas ornaments that must have taken hours of work to make.  We hit the food booths and sample the wide variety offered -- tempura, teriyaki burgers, BBQ beef short ribs, teriyaki chicken, udon soup, gyoza, pork and shrimp yakisoba, lemonade, and sesame chicken salad.  Some of it's very good; and some of it's average, but nothing is worse than that, which is always a pleasant surprise for food stalls manned by youth groups and neighborhood charities.

We find some open seats in the shade (we've been amazingly lucky when it comes to finding places to park and/or sit this weekend), enjoy the live music followed by the San Jose Taiko demonstration, and finally head on back to Meg.  I make a quick detour into the Hawaiian shave ice place where I get bubble gum and grape shave ice that matches the tie dye I'm wearing, and we head on home.

As the weekend comes to a close, we end up with little to no work done around the apartment but a much better outlook on life.

Works for me.


1.5 Bites Away From a Coronary... From Kentucky Fried Chicken

So this is a break from the usual "I did this" or "we went here" or "I remember this" post... but I'm still posting it because I would definitely put this in the "I really really want (and yet don't want) to do this" category, if I had one.

I'm talking here about the new KFC "Double Down" sandwich, with bacon and two kinds of cheese and a mayonnaise-based sauce, slapped between two pieces of fried chicken instead of a bun.

This is horribly unhealthy. This is proof that most Americans are overweight for a good reason. As one comment online I saw said, "food should not look like a hate crime." It's anywhere from 540 calories (according to KFC) to 1225 calories (according to the UK's Daily Mail -- but maybe that's a metric conversion or something), 10 grams of saturated fat, over 1300 milligrams of sodium, and carries with it a large amount of shame in addition to the wedge fries and large soda as part of a meal deal.

And yet, it's still healthier than a Wendy's triple Baconator or a personal pizza from Pizza Hut. Go figure.

But I digress... back to the sandwich at hand.

I know this is unhealthy. I know that thinking about actually taking a bite of one is foolhardy, and wrong, and frightening, and greasy, and fatty, and tasty, and intriguing, and it's just daring me to try it, and you need to understand that this is coming from ME, someone who once ironed a shirt while I was wearing it (although in my defense, the iron was on low and it was only to get rid of a few wrinkles I noticed after I had already struggled getting the cufflinks in, and I was wearing an undershirt which worked as a buffer, and it worked, thankyouVERYmuch) so maybe the urge to eat healthy and do things that are in my best interest just isn't a very strong one. But man, can I type some awesome run-on sentences.

So yes, I know it's wrong, but I so want to try one.

Or at least maybe a couple of bites of one, because I think everyone can agree it's pretty much a heart attack waiting to happen. But I am strong, and I have a cast iron stomach, and I've developed an amazing tolerance for all things deep fried, and I already managed to survive eating a "Texas Tommie" bacon-wrapped and deep fried hot dog from QN4U so my arteries have already shown their nonstick attributes, and I plan ordering the Double Down while riding an ER crash cart through the drive through like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove anyway with the defibrillator paddles already duct taped to my chest so all I have to is fall onto the power button with my convulsing body to get my heart working again, so really... what's the worst that could happen?

Well, for starters... I could actually like it.

Oh, man.  Let's hope not.


9.5 Hours of "Willpower" in the Silicon Valley

So it's Saturday, April 3rd, and the iPad has been on sale since 9 this morning.

...And I haven't broken down and bought one yet. I just got a bonus at work so we could theoretically afford it, but I've resisted. I've held strong and refused to cave to the little inner geek in my head screaming at me to get it GET IT GETITGETITGETITNOWWWWW...

But no. NO.

Not me.

I've got WILLPOWER, dagnabbit.



And, uh, they were sold out when we stopped by the Best Buy.

Oh, man; I'm so weak.

This is gonna hurt...