Wednesday, June 29, 2011
My Favorite Cities (Version 2.0)
"So, is [New York City] your NEW favorite city?"
The above inquisitive text came from Mrs. Bootleg at 10:30 AM this past Saturday morning. When I received it, I was sitting on a bench near the corner of 30th and 3rd, sipping a large black coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and taking in the relatively serene surroundings. It was my last day in New York City. For the first time in four days, I could see the sun. The humidity had eased up. And, the city's relentlessly frenetic energy was temporarily replaced with a smattering of dogs being walked and delightfully disoriented tourists.
My NEW favorite city? Well, I did have a great time. I caught ballgames at both the Mets' Citi Field and new Yankee Stadium. I discovered a chain cheeseburger that beats In-N-Out and Five Guys. I established a new personal record for highest per-beer bar tab in a single evening. I ate an enormous cheesesteak with extra Whiz and grilled onions at 3:30 AM. I was on the streets during the awesome aftermath of this awesome moment. And, for the first time, I met four of my favorite readers/former colleagues/Twitterers/New Yorkers.
I've sketched an outline for my travel diary and as soon as I've collected enough crossover New York-centric rap songs* for my opening lyric gimmick, I'll start working on it. First installment next week. Cool? Cool.
* -- It's 11:00 PM as I type this, but off the top of my head there's "N.Y. State of Mind" by Nas, "New York, New York" by Tha Dogg Pound, "Welcome to New York City" by Cam'ron, Diddy's verse on the "Welcome to Atlanta" coast-to-coast remix and "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. A weak and predictable list, you say? IT'S 11:00 PM!, I retort. Jerks.
I am, however, ready to place New York City within my list of top 10 cities I've visited. Several years ago, I wrote a similar piece, but (1) it was terribly written and (2) I wrote it just before my first trip to New York in June 2007. Since ret-cons and reboots are all the rage these days, let's just pretend that first post never happened.
(10) Boston, Massachusetts -- In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that I only spent one night here back in November 2005. It was an unseasonably balmy 60-degree evening and the memorable bar scene led to years of attempts to manipulate another business trip to the Hub.
(9) St. Louis, Missouri -- In May 2007, I agreed to a business trip at a customer's site in St. Louis based on the fact that my Athletics were playing three hours west in Kansas City. Naturally, I caught games in both of the state's MLB ballparks, but during my stay I was surprised by how friendly everyone is in St. Louis.
(8) Albany, New York -- I spent three nights here in July 2009 -- flying out for Rickey Henderson's induction into the baseball Hall of Fame. It featured the best elements of Boston's bars and St. Louis' hospitality. Locals offered me free drinks all weekend for reasons ranging from "You're from California?" to "You're going to see Rickey?" to "Thanks for not hitting on me." Yeah, it's all in here.
(7) Austin, Texas -- I visited for work in February 2002. Coincidentally, during their celebration of Mardi Gras. After I returned, my boss called me into his office, closed the door and said, "I heard some things about your trip to Austin...". After 15 minutes of half-hearted denials, I convinced him that I only enjoyed the jazz bars on Sixth Street and assorted barbecue restaurants. And, nothing else.
(6) Scottsdale, Arizona -- There aren't too many places that feature such stark demarcation lines between the approachably pretentious populace in North Scottsdale and the strip-malls and bars spirit of old Scottsdale. I'm fond of both scenes. Besides, if I'm in town, it must mean Spring Training is, too.
(5) Washington DC -- The assortment of famous landmarks and monuments are positively awe-inspiring, but I've been back there at least a half-dozen times over the past ten years. I've seen all of the touristy spots. Now, I'm hoping for a return trip to Nationals Park where I can enjoy another Chili Half-Smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl while watching pitchers hit and hitters bunt. Washington DC: Big government, small offense. Am I right?! Feel free to use that, Fox News.
(4) Seattle, Washington -- I've told this story before, but Seattle was the destination for my first business trip. The richly diverse population, cool weather and extensive microbrew community made for love at first sight. It was also the place where my co-workers and I discovered a small "oysters and cigars" bar on our first night in town. Later that evening, I discovered that two dozen raw oysters, two cigars and two glasses of scotch can turn a black man's stomach inside out. In 2006, two-year-old Jalen threw up on me as we stood atop the famous Space Needle. Such an implausible father/son accomplishment had only been seen once before in Seattle.**
** -- I know it was on the road, but I assume the game was televised back home to all of King County.
(3) Vancouver, British Columbia -- Easily the most beautiful city I've ever visited; it combines the man-made enormity of the big city while maintaining its natural and cultural identities. Although, admittedly, the highlights from my September 2006 vacation were my first taste of ketchup-flavored Lays Potato Chips and meeting rapper/actor Ice Cube in a small market while buying a birthday cake for Mrs. Bootleg. He was pushing his own shopping cart. This guy!
(2) New York, New York -- Second place!
(1) San Francisco, California -- I've championed their eclectic population, offbeat watering holes and TBG-appealing climate since my first visit in 1996. Before my son was born, I'd make two or three trips into The City every year. These days, I don't get up there as often. But, when we do, Jalen knows that an Oakland A's game is probably on the itinerary, along with an order of chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes at the diner by our usual hotel. He loves it, too.