America – Fuck Yes and Fuck Noes!

I never thought I’d be spending three and a half months of the last ten, in the United States of America (‘Merica, fuck yeah!)… and I certainly never thought I’d be covering all four corners of the country; going as far north-west as you can get (Alaska) to as far south-east as you can go (Florida), to as far south-west (San Diego, California) as you can get to, and as far north east as you can (Maine), not to mention a whole bunch of places in between.
I went to Alaska, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania again, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts and I’ve probably forgotten some! (Illinois too, but airports don’t count!)  There are lots of things I really enjoy about the US, but as per usual, there are plenty of things I don’t like too.
US – The things I like…
  • Food portion sizes are huge – you can often get away with sharing a meal.
  • They let you turn right on the red, when there’s no traffic.
  • Fun trying to pick accents – from the lady beside me at the MET Opera with her thick New York accent to the lazy drawn out Southern drawls.
  • Mardi Gras is absolutely unique and there’s nothing like it – best party ever.
  • American BBQ is awesome.  They say ‘life is too short to eat bad BBQ’ and our favourite was at Famous Dave’s BBQ… maybe we should open a franchise in Oz!
  • New England is beautiful, the scenery, the architecture, the history, the lobsters (could never live there though – too bloody cold).
  • Parades are fun – Mardi Gras Parades, St Patricks Day Parades etc, are a lot of fun, everyone is in a party mood.  Few too many marching bands, but small price to pay.
  • The Grand Canyon is truly incredible, I’ve been there twice now and each time it just took my breath away.
  • Love the political satire television shows.  For a country that is largely apathetic about their politics (less than 40% of the population turns out to vote), they sure get plenty of good mileage out of beating up politicians.
  • The US has some of the most incredible museums and art galleries with extensive and impressive world class collections.  I wish I could access them more often (Australia really feels like a cultural wasteland in comparison).
US – the things I don’t like..
  • Food portions sizes are huge – if we wanted to eat different things, we always ended up with way too much food.
  • Taxes are added after sale.  The sticker price is never the price – taxes are added in at the checkout.  Just add the damn taxes in and detail on the receipt how much tax was paid so people aren’t constantly forced to work out the taxes (the rate for which is different in every state!)
  • I hate all the beggars.  I know they are often disenfranchised and/or marginalised individuals, dealing with homelessness and other major social issues. But America’s inability to look after their most vulnerable is a bigger problem than my handling a $1 to a beggar can fix.
  • Pennies can get fucked, they aren’t worth what it costs to make them, they take up too space in your purse and a penny buys nothing.
  • Dollar notes can get fucked too. You think you have plenty of money left in your wallet and then discover they’re all $1 notes… but so long as you have this tipping culture, NO ONE will ever want to get rid of them because handing over $1 coins would feel cheap.
  • America needs to join the Modern era and use the goddamn metric system already!
  • You can not get a decent cup of tea ANYWHERE.  American’s love their coffee, but have no idea how to make decent tea.
  • Public bathrooms… I’ve had this rant before, but it still pisses me off.  Locks with ‘Vacant/Engaged’ are so simple and sensible. Why aren’t they more prevalent?
  • An American person may be lovely, but American people are just plain rude… there is a reason why they carry on like Canadians are obtrusively polite, it’s because Americans are generally quite self involved and often, very rude.
  • Ditto for situational obliviousness, Americans will just stop and have their conversation taking up an entire sidewalk, or get off an escalator and come to a dead stop, not even noticing the people coming up behind them.
  • Roads are a disgrace, especially in the north – most highways are pitted so badly it’s like 4WDing down the freeways with potholes as big as a pitbull.   Also, the four way stops are shit, no one knows who has right of way – put in some roundabouts and be done with it.
  • Tipping – it’s so fucked.  If staff were paid a decent living wage BY THEIR EMPLOYERS, then service staff wouldn’t need to rely on the social expectation that forces the public to pay just so they have enough to live on.
Next trip… maybe Russia/Scandinavia!

Always travel with your Parking Fairy.

I don’t have a Parking Fairy, truly wish I did, but alas… I do not.   I do know plenty of people who do seem to have a Parking Fairy, and I am constantly jealous of these blessed people.  Mr K has a Parking Fairy – always gets that perfect park right out front at a packed event, finds money in the street to buy lunch on a day he forgets his wallet, stumbles onto the perfect widget for any given purpose with ease!  I am firmly of the belief that the Parking Fairy can be a fickle bitch, but her fondness for Keith was totally working in my favour this trip, so I am totally not complaining!
15 Reasons to Travel With Mr K and His Parking Fairy
  • Mr K always got the cabs whenever he needed one in New Orleans.  The town would be packed and people going in every direction and he always seemed to turn the right corner and flag down a cab immediately.
  • When it came to finding seats to watch the Mardi Gras parades, Mr K would choose a spot and it would turn out to be the best spots for seeing all the toasts and highlights.
  • Wandering around Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday, and the need to pee gets the better of you… I’d be wandering around for half an hour looking for a place, but Mr K walks straight into what turns out to be the best little bar with great food and great music and we end up there for an hour!
  • Mr K decides that we should go to the Kennedy Space Centre and we get there and the place is half empty!  No queues, no waiting, no problems… the day before however, was a madhouse.
  • Mr K scores a free car upgrade for our drive from New Orleans to Orlando in Florida – bye bye crappy Ford Focus, hello fancy town car.
  • Things go a little awry and we find ourselves running late to check in for our flight in Orlando… I get a bit panicky, but Mr K chats to the check in staff and suddenly they are putting us in expedited queues and throwing our luggage in without charging us!
  • Things like this never happen to me – somehow Mr K scores a spare seat between the two of us from Orlando to Washington, giving us a heap more space and comfort for the flight.
  • We get to Washington and find out that the Richard III run at the Folger Shakespeare has been extended.  I enquire on the phone and get told that they are sold out.  Mr K tries the box office and gets the last two seats in the house for our preferred night.
  • We find ourselves standing around in the cold outside the National Archives freezing our tits off, waiting to go in… when out of nowhere a teacher from a Kentucky school group of high achievers who have a booking come up to Mr K and offer to let us tack onto their group and jump the 45 min queue!
  • I have no idea how he does this – but he gets us another free car upgrade in New York, so instead of driving around in a Ford Focus, we are driving around in a VW Passat with a leather interior and all the bells and whistles (for ‘bells and whistles’ read: seat warmers, which were very much appreciated up there!).
  • We decide to go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on a rainy Sunday and it seems half of Boston figure that was a good way to spend the day too.  All the on street parking is taken, the parking garage is $22 for the first three hours and we go ‘eek!’.  Mr K decides to do one lap and ‘lo and behold, finds *the* closest park available and it was free.
  • Go to check in at the Bellagio for the week, and Mr K has a chat with the reception staff resulting in a free room upgrade… from a resort room to a Spa Tower fountain and strip view room! Awesome.
  • For the hat trick, Mr K goes to pick up our third hire car in Las Vegas and, you guessed it, somehow manages to get us another free car upgrade from a cheap compact to a Chevrolet Impala (how does he do it!)
  • Then in a stunning use of the omnipresent Parking Fairy, Mr K finds a hat.  Now this one needs a bit of explaining.  When we were in New Orleans, he found a nice New Orleans Saints Hat that he liked in a hat shop however, it’s not in his size.  Not to worry though, they have them everywhere in a chain called Lids, which are in Washington, New York, Boston, and Las Vegas and well everywhere really… but not a single one of the probably 10-12 Lids stores we try has the ‘right hat’.  As we are getting ready to leave Vegas, I spy a small little sports store at the airport terminal and suggest he have a poke around to kill some time while we are waiting for our flight.  Wouldn’t you know it, after weeks of looking the first racks Mr K walks over to have the hat he wants and in his size.  Unbelievable.
  • And just to put the icing on the cake, he managed to score us four seats to ourselves on the flight on the way home so I got to lay down and try and sleep!
goth parking fairy
The moral of the story is… if you have a Parking Fairy of your own, make sure you get good use of her, and if you don’t – always travel with someone who does have one!


I Heart Las Vegas… or not.

Las Vegas – the (+)ves

  • It’s home to all the cool Cirque du Soleil shows.  This is sufficient reason to visit IMHO!  I’ve seen Mystere, Ka, and Zarkana; and now ‘O’ and Zumanity twice!
  • Hotels and Casinos are fabulous, they are all hyper-real and over the top, and tend to have their own interesting themes in an attempt to stand out from the pack.
  • There is lots of stuff going – on all the time.  24/7
  • Shows, restaurants and shopping choices are wide and varied and to suit every taste and budget – awesome sauce all round.
  • Easy gateway to the Grand Canyon, you gotta do the champagne helicopter tour thing, if you ever get the chance.
  • You can find more ugly carpet in Vegas than anywhere else in the entire world!  It’s really quite spectacular.  🙂
  • There’s a oddity on every corner, from showgirls posing for photographs to cookie monsters handing out cards for hookers.
  • The local constabulary don’t seem to have a problem with open containers in the street, so people are walking around with yard glasses full of margaritas!
  • There are weddings everywhere you look… 60 yr olds in formal bridal wear on a Sunday afternoon… 20 year olds in cheap costumes wedding gear on Friday nights.
  • There is plenty of parking – all the casinos provide free self parking for guests, so getting around is really easy.
  • The Thunder from Down Under billboards make me smile every time I see them, apparently they are really quite popular with all the hens nights (sorry, bachelorette parties) that hit Vegas every weekend.
  • The Breakfast Red Bull Margarita is practically the State Drink.

vegas sign Las Vegas – the (-)ves

  • CIGARETTE SMOKE indoors everywhere. It makes you feel sick.  Literally.
  • Drunk chicks all over the place.  There is little that is less becoming than well dressed, but excessively drunk woman falling down at barely 2pm in the afternoon.
  • Beggars are in your face where ever you look… it already feels like the entire town is trying to put their hands in your pocket, but that goes double for the beggars, hawkers and solicitors.
  • Weird arse dress standards – girls on the town are all in low cut, tight dresses and stupidly high heels, while the guys they are hanging out with are in daggy cargo pants and sneakers?!  What’s with that?
  • There are signs in most bathroom warning people, not about the dangers of gambling addiction (like we have here), but instead warnings about alcohol and pregnancy… is this a bigger problem than gambling away your house here?
  • One step back off the strip is totally Skeezy Town, ramshackle strip clubs and tired looking streetwalkers.
  • Freemont Street, once a focus point is now a shit hole that attracts people willing to half strip in ridiculous outfits, to pose for photos with tourists for a $1 (think large black woman in a nuns habit with massive boobs hanging out and pasties covering her nipples… or guys dressed up with KISS make up, fake instruments, studded belts etc, and g-strings and no other items of clothing!).  It’s nothing more than creative begging.

freemont street costumes

Famous Dave’s BBQ

Last day in the States and had to hunt down some BBQ to slake Mr K’s new found appetite for ribs, ribs and more ribs!  Can’t blame him though, nearly every place we’ve been to has been excellent for it’s BBQ compared to what passes for American BBQ in Australia (it’s the whole Chinese food thing all over again).  We found a Famous Dave’s not far from the Gun Show and sort of near the airport and it seemed like a good place to hole up for a while, and grab a decent meal before being faced with the horrors of 13 hours stuck in a plane and nothing but airline food.famous dave's bbq


Just getting out of your car near this place makes you salivate, you can smell the smoke and BBQ meats from the car park.. add to that, Happy Hour beers for $1.99 or $2.99 for a pint… and you got a lot of happy campers inside.  Not a great photo – but first thing that greets you is a case full of trophies for their award winning meats, and a claim to have the ‘World’s Best Greatest Ribs’… that’s a pretty big call.  🙂award winning ribs famous daves

worlds greatest ribs famous daves

I loved the menu with the picture of a very happy porker, showing both what is inside the piggy as well as the best cuts that come off them.famous dave's cuts

Apparently this is a chain/franchised restaurant, and the decor kinda reminds you of a Hog’s Breath Cafe (without the over clutter), the red check table cloths, and the faux indoor iron patios make for an interesting ambiance, well as interesting as it gets for a place that uses license plate in their decorating!  I thought their ‘Recipe Vault’ was kinda cute though.  🙂famous dave's decor 1

famous daves decor recipe vault



But the decor isn’t really why you turn up – it’s all about the BBQ.  We order and appetiser to share – Famous Dave’s taster platter of awesome!  It contained, chicken tenders, fried catfish, naked traditional buffalo wings, onion rings and four dipping sauces from blue cheese dip to hot and spicy BBQ sauce.  Delicious and plenty to share – this was just an appetiser!image

Knowing full well that the appetiser was likely to pretty full on, we decided to share it, and to share a meal as well – can’t imagine how you’d fare if you ordered appetisers and a meal each!  This was a 1/3 Rack of St Louis Ribs served with two sides (potato salad and mac ‘n’ cheese), and cornbread.  The ribs are served rubbed and there are six different sauces of varying levels of hot, sweet, mild, chipotle etc for you to drown them in.  Tasted bloody awesome!  image


famous daves bear

At the end of our meal, Mr K took the time to compliment the owner/manager and next thing you know we are walking out of there with a bottle of Famous Daves most popular BBQ sauce – the Rich and Sassy, as well as a dozen little taster sachets to take home.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) Mr K had already bought FIVE bottle of various BBQ sauces to bring home as he is intending on becoming a master of the American BBQ.  We are very much looking forward to sampling his efforts in the coming months.   🙂famous daves sauces


Famous Dave’s was pretty fucking good… if you get the chance, you should check it out, and definitely try the baby back tips.   Delicious!

Las Vegas Gun Show

Well, our last day in the Vegas and our last day in the US… what to do? what to do? The South Pointe Casino and Convention Centre is hosting a gun show, what could be more ‘Merican than that?!? I mean, we can’t take anything home, and even if there was stuff I wanted to buy there’s no way I can fit anything else in our over stuffed luggage, but, what the hell. Seems like a good way to spend a few hours. 🙂

Las Vegas gun show ticketsWas a bit weird wandering about and seeing so many firearms that are either, A) completely illegal to own in Australia, or B) legal in Australia but so much cheaper than what we have to pay, or C) being worn on someone’s person in a social context or D) a combination of the above! imageimageimageimageI know right! Doesn’t everyone need one of these for, err home defence or something.
imageimageimageimageOh dear, made the mistake to point out to a friendly sales guy that ‘This, this, this, this and this, are all illegal in Australia due to their diminutive barrel length’… which wouldn’t have been a huge problem except that started a discussion about how Australia has strict gun laws and I mentioned that even if I wanted to buy something at the show.  I’d have a process to jump through with the Qld Police Department and the Federal Customs that could potentially take months.  Again not really a problem, except a woman standing nearby joined in the conversation with the pithy observation: ‘See that’s what could fuckin’ happen here if Obama has his way and they take away all our guns’.  Now, I probably should have said ‘Too right, you gotta watch out for that’ and beat a hasty retreat… only I stupidly responded with ‘Well, the government is not trying to remove all firearms from the population, just restrict certain firearms that are capable of mass shootings, and introduce better background checks, for things like mental health issues, so that shootings – like this one that happened just this week in Texas, stop occurring.’  Next thing you know there are three people standing around telling me that the ‘gummint ain’t got no right to go telling me what type of guns I can have, or how many guns I can have.’  Not even a little bit unexpected.  I might have inadvertently started the conversation, but I made a tactical extraction and left them there getting all worked up in a 2nd Amendment circle jerk as they vociferously and aggressively agreed with each other on the matter.  ‘MERICA! FUCK YEAH!imageimageGrrr… $20 each.
imageimageSafes for sale is encouraging, most states have no enforceable storage requirements for firearms. imageLittle further on, and a guy is asking me if I’m interested in a little Sig P238 that I picked up, (Fark, is a frogs arse watertight?  Of course I am!).  So, I am playing with this cute little Sig and thinking, it is so not useful for any comps, it is not a target shooting handgun at all, it’s primary purpose is to be as concealable as possible for self defence, but it feels just my size and I likes it!  He then starts to say that, “That purdy little gun is perfect for a purdy little gal like you,  ‘nd I can probably knock a few bucks off the sticker for y’all.”  At which point, I dejected explain, again, that I am flying home to Australia tonight, and even if I could get it in the country, I don’t think that the barrrel length is legal, it’s too short.  This time the response was, “Oh, that’s right, y’all have them damn strict gun laws Down Under don’tcha.  So tells me, has it cut down the murders, ya think?”, and then ensued a discussion about homicide rates, general gun related crime and gun related suicide… all stats in Australia of course, point to, less guns = less deaths.  He was quite impressed and said that ” ‘sponsible gun ownership is something ‘Merricans need ta get a grip ownnne.”  Well, that was the last thing I expected to hear at a gun show in Nevada!  imageimageimageimageWhy do concealed carry purses have to be so ugly? And as a side note, I am now somewhat alarmed at how many of these sorts of ugly purses I have seen during our travels!imageimageimageimage


I’ve seen these little Double Taps in handguns magazines and on the interwebs, and thought it was an interesting concept.  Very neat and compact form, designed to be as flat and concealable as possible.  Of course because they are not legal or available in Australia, I had never seen one or handled one before and as soon as I picked it up I thought, ‘Urgh… feels like crap in your hand.’  Not because the make feels cheap and nasty or anything – it seems really well made and obviously precision manufactured, but it is not in any way shape or form ergonomically designed.  Even the guy selling them admitted they were a little gimmicky and the only people buying them were women wanting to put them in their purse without the bulk, or because they like the unusual design.  Apparently they shoot well, but they’re never going to sell well because they feel like crap to handle… even in my little hand, they’d feel worse for men.
imageSo, with all these cool toys in the room… ahem:  “I went to the Las Vegas Gun Show and all I got was this lousy ‘Merican flag card case.” Sigh…image