Met some new friends. Went on a hike.

After cruising around Malaga on the back of a motorbike this morning, I was able to get in about 2 hours worth of work before having a blind friend-date. The guy who's place I am staying at is hooking me up all over town. This afternoon I met with 2 of his college friends and we walked around town eating tapas, drinking cervezas (th-erve-tha), and having ice cream, desert + cafe americanos.

We also went on a long hike up a massive hill among ruins of an old Moorish fortress and Phoenician temple. Pretty good day, but still have a few hours of work to do and I'm beat.

Some Music I'm Listening To

Got a crapload of music before I left NY, here are a few tunes I recommend:

Day Glo - Brazos
Fangela - Here We Go Magic
Comfortable, Comparable - Hooray for Earth
Wo Xiang Tanbai - Immaculate Machine
Rex the Dog - The Knife
Relator - Pete Yorn & Scalett Johansson
Home - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Of Moons, Birds & Monsters - MGMT
Oh No - Andrew Bird
And The Boys - Angus & Julia Stone
Kill This Low - Twin Berlin
My Denial in Argyle - Woodpigeon
Let's Go Surfing - The Drums
Swim - Surfer Blood
Ciao! - Lush

Also listening to a lot of Grizzy Bear in general, but Two Weeks might be one of my favourite songs right now.

Playground for Active Humans

We're all used to the concept of public playgrounds for children - swingsets, monkey bars, teeter-totters, etc. Well check this out: a bunch of outdoor gym equipment along a running path in Malaga. I know the photo is kind of shitty, but I felt like a creep photographing people working out - so deal with it. But the guy behind the bicycle is on a rowing 'machine' and the girl behind him is on some sort of elliptical equipment.

I'm not a runner, so this might exist along all the running paths in Calgary, but it blew my mind. It's a simple concept for staying fit and having fun!

I guess I need to be careful with my words...

I have been trying to learn Spanish. After 2 days, I'd say I'm no further ahead. It is especially tough when the people you meet are eager to speak English.

But I just met someone who didn't speak English and, although there was much translation going on between us, I started to learn quite a bit. As she was leaving she said "Encantada", which I was told meant "nice to meet you"... so I repeated back "Encantada" to try and get the accent right. There was then much laughter and it was explained to me that a man would never say "EncantaDA"... it was "EncantaDO" - unless I was talking to another man and wanted to have gay sex with him.

I hate to have my words twisted at the best of times but "nice to meet you" vs. "i'd like to have gay sex with you" on a vowel? Terrifying.

I suppose most people would realize its an innocuous comment or mistake and just move along... but just to cover my ass (pun intended) I'm in the process of downloading a new Spanish-English dictionary.

Days 1 & 2 of Malaga

So I arrived in Malaga at noon after traveling all night. I was pretty wiped, but I am staying in a great place for the 6 weeks I'm here. I arranged something with someone who was going to be out of the country when I was here, so he had his brother let me in to the place and show me around. I am staying in a converted attic/penthouse in the middle of Malaga's main town square. It's a pedestrian-only area and is beautiful. The entire area is paved with marble, which is notable especially as I have a friend who marveled at the marble door footers in my NYC apartment. It's a little less notable because everything in the area seems to be 100% marble.

After showing me around the apartment, my new friend (David) took me on a tour of about 5 different little restaurants around town and introduced me to the tapas culture. Basically we would sit and have a beverage (coffee, wine, beer, Malaga's famous 'sweet wine') and share a small plate of food & then leave and repeat elsewhere. The specialty in Malaga is fried fish, which was great. We toured around for about 4 hours and then he realized he was supposed to run some errands for his girlfriend so he had to go (I caught a pic of his change in mood when he realized he had to go).

It gave me a chance to nap for a few hours. When I woke up it was midnight and I went out to find some dinner. It was a Saturday night and the streets were packed with people. Of course they all spoke Spanish and I was still pretty tired so I ducked in to a small place and got a giant bowl of paella. Just like everything else I've eaten here it was amazing. Then I tried to find my way home and got lost. I still hadn't got the internet working properly on my iPhone after getting a new sim card from a Spanish carrier.

I got home and was able to sleep in this morning. At lunch, David and his girlfriend (who's also great) came by the place and took me around some more. Malaga is the birthplace of Pable Picasso and, although its a cliche, he's my favourite artist (The Old Guitarist is probably my favorite work of art, which I saw in NY years ago). A lot of surrealist stuff came out of this area as well, including a lot of Dali's work. Anyways, we went to both Picasso's birthplace and the Museo Picasso, which sits on an old Roman ruin (the ruins are on display in the basement where you can see 16th century structures built on top of 6th century structures). We also did a lot more eating and drinking.

An interesting side-note: I took up yoga while I was in NY (an ex of mine would probably shit herself to know this as she tried so hard to get me to go. While in NY I met someone who said I was too much of a pussy to go... that pretty much did it). Anyways, I actually kind of enjoyed the yoga but thought I likely wouldn't take it up again at least until I got back to NY. Turns out my new friend is a yoga instructor. Go figure.

So after much eating and drinking, David and his girlfriend passed out here. And my sense of time is still pretty messed up, so I'm up late and now with this blog posting I'm finally caught up to present day. I'm going to bed.

(a note about my pics: I know a lot of them are crap but I'm only posting iPhone photos here. I'll get around to posting my other photos on Flickr eventually)

So long NY! Hello Malaga!

Some final notes which will bring me up to my first Malaga post:
  • I ended up #89 on the foursquare top 100 for NYC when I left on Thursday. I know I couldn't sustain it through Fri/Sat, so its a good thing I left when I did.
  • One of the final places I visited was Washington Sq. Park with a Mamoun's falafel... a good send-off.
  • They served Nanton water on my British Airlines flight from NY to London.
  • When I asked for wine & expected to get charged $20 for a very small bottle, they gave me 2 full serving bottles at no cost, as well as 2 great full meals (and I was in coach)

The Colbert Report

On my actual b-day I went to a networking event where I met a couple of people, including a very cool person who I met up with again at another event and hope to hang out with when I'm back in NY. I also went to Of Montreal, which was fantastic and included several Of Montreal'esque antics.. including 2 fighting pigs (fake) that got spanked by Susan Sarandon (real). Ask me about it in person if you're interested in hearing about it.

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So another thing on my to-do list was to go on a talk show. I will admit here that I love TV. I don't often make time to watch television anymore & rarely turn on the tv at all... nowadays I typically get my fix by getting obsessed with a series and then watching it via rental or online in a ridiculously short time frame. The last few series where I have done this are: The Office, Battlestar Gallactica, Mad Men, Lost, Dexter & 30 Rock. I abandoned Weeds and True Blood... they didn't really hold my interest. I have the Wire queued up.

This behavior is not very unique, as most people I know do this. However the exception I make is the Colbert Report, I will regularly stay up to watch his show and to say that I'm a huge fan is an understatement. He's awesome, and I have a bit of a man-crush on him.

When I went to NY, I did a bit of research to see what you needed to do to get tickets for the show. Much like SNL, the Daily Show, Letterman and Late Night - tickets to the Colbert Report were given out months in advance and the few seats available were given out on a standby basis which involved waking up early and standing in line all day. I thought I would have plenty of time to fit in a day of line-standing but it turns out that 10 weeks in NY can go by pretty quick.

In a last ditch effort, I went online again to see if there was another way. It turns out there is. In many cases, the VIP tickets that get handed out months before become available, because traveling plans get changed or something comes up, etc. VIP tickets are non-transferable (to prevent a black market for the free tickets), so when that happens the Daily Show and Colbert Report post the ticket openings back on their web site. Because of their popularity, normally they go extremely fast (4-5 mins). The good news is that some guy made a twitter feed that alerts its followers when those tickets become available. On Jan 27th, I had tickets for that night within a couple of hours of following the twitter feed. If you are in NY and want to see Colbert or Jon Stewart... follow @dailytix.

So enough about getting a ticket. The whole Colbert experience was excellent! I won't go in to the detail displayed above for the rest of the post but here are some highlights:
  • they let you in to the show based on your arrival. I was #83 (the number of Ales Hemsky - my favorite Oiler);
  • before the show they lead you in to a room where you go through security and watch Colbert highlights as Colbert himself rehearses in the studio;
  • once in the studio all cell phones and cameras have to be off & there was a security guard right behind me. I got a couple of shots, but bad ones;
  • I sat beside a guy who looked like a guy I used to work with named Mac (my 3rd such encounter in NYC - see him in the photo in the security room);
  • we had about 45 mins of stand-up from a warm up comic before Colbert came out to do his deal with Jon Stewart. At the end of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart does a little chat with Colbert to end off the one show and lead in to the other. Stewart was on closed circuit TV, so after Colbert sat down they had a warm-up/rehearsal which lasted about 5-10 minutes where they chatted about topics from the day. This included a fairly in-depth conversation about what the guest on the Daily Show was talking about & Colbert's opinions on it. Of course, when the actual taping for the segment happened, Colbert took Stewart completely off guard by pretending not to know who the guest. The old bait and switch. I don't know if that was set up or not, but Stewart seemed genuinely dumbfounded, which was pretty hilarious;
  • Colbert then went off-set and they brought back the warm-up comic, who told us it was rare that Colbert went off again (apparently go right in to taping the Report) & also thought the bait & switch was hilarious and odd... so maybe it wasn't set up;
  • Colbert finally came out again and did an out-of-character Q & A. He's equally hilarious out of character, but its obvious just how much of an informed genius he is when he can talk openly about various issues. Of course most of the questions were pointless (like 'would you rather kill Bambi or Winnie-the-Pooh?'), but he gave great answers for those too;
  • before the taping he launched a bunch of Wrist-Strong bracelets out in to the audience. Both people beside me got one & I did not;
  • the taping was great... if anyone wants to watch it go online for January 27, 2010 at comedycentral.ca (Canada) or comedynetwork.com (US);
  • I expected lots of jokes about the iPad, but he kept it rather light on that, which is fine because I'd heard it all by that time. His focus was on Justice Roberts' decision to allow corporate financing of political campaigns... he was genuinely fired up of camera as well. He talked a lot about it off camera as well, mentioning his run for President in '08 which he had sponsored by Dorrito's Nacho Cheese. He said that when they were doing it, they tried to come up with some of the most ridiculous things they could think of... and now it's actually not a joke;
  • his guest was a mathemagician, who basically was this uber-nerd savant who used magic to make math fun and interesting. I'm usually not a huge fan of Colbert's live interviews because the guests usually have a hard time navigating Colbert's persona (the editing done in the taped interviews makes them wayyyy more funny). However, this one was pretty good and the guest was probably already used to people not taking mathemagics seriously;
  • after the taping was done, he did a bunch of high-fiving with the audience (I was near the back so couldn't partake - but got a blurry pic where he's on the left of the shot);
  • then he sat down on the ground in front of the audience and started singing Kumbaya. The audience joined in and I got another blurry pic, but his head is barely visible at the front center of the audience.

So I started the week off strong...

My friends left on a Tuesday. When they left I was in 82nd place for all of NY on foursquare for the week. Like I said, I'm a nerd... but being in the top 100 was something I'd never accomplished & NY is massive with tons going on (goes without saying), and foursquare was originally developed in & for NYC so the userbase is pretty solid. I got a massive geek high when I saw that.

Visitors!

I was in NY for about 10 weeks, and I was very lucky to have 3 sets of visitors from home and seeing some familiar faces is definitely something I'm going to miss on my European leg.

It was my birthday last week and I was especially fortunate to have a couple of good friends visit so we could celebrate Alberta-style. By the time they made it down, I was already a well-seasoned tour guide, so I was able to become the mayor of several places on foursquare... something that gave me a lot of nerdly pleasure. I was also able to knock a number of things off my to-do list, including: have a NY bagel, skate at Rockefeller Center, have a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery, visit the Guggenheim Museum, go to a fancy NY nightclub, eat NY cheesecake, and go to Tom & Jerry's bar.

The last thing on the above list was the first thing that we did. Over the course of my trip Yelp! had become something that I'd come to rely on to find great places to go. The reviews for Tom & Jerry's was pretty much the kind of pub that I was looking to find in NYC. It delivered. There were several large animal heads on the wall, which I found interesting, and had an atmosphere similar to the Black Dog in Edmonton. We did a lot of bar hopping that night and 2 of us got good and drunk... my other friend is pregnant, so she is an unbelievable saint to let us be hammered well in to 3 of their 4 nights there.

My b-day is Jan 26, but since they flew out that day we celebrated on the 23rd. This was basically the day:
  • went to square diner for breakfast (my Phil's equivilant in NY);
  • went on the Staten Island ferry to see Statue of Liberty (was a great day btw);
  • walk through West Village and along High Line Park;
  • Chelsea Market where we rested up from an afternoon of walking and drank some tea (they had Roibus & I mention it because they are Roibus connoisseurs and I have another friend who has an unreasonable distaste for Roibus which makes me laugh... anyways, I had Yerba Matte);
  • Magnolia Bakery for a delicious cupcake - although I think Crave might make a better one;
  • met another mutual friend who was in town visiting some Torontonians who were in NY on business. It was one of their birthdays as well so we all had a great birthday dinner at a place called Malatesta Trattoria. I got a chocolate mousse with a candle on it brought out for me, which was very nice;
  • went to a place called the Sullivan Room, which I call "fancy" because the cover was $25 and it was a normal night. I'm the opposite of a "club" guy as I don't dance, but every once in a while it makes for a nice change of pace and I at least wanted to experience it one time in NY. Turns out the guy from TO that shared the birthday was a DJ and knew some people to get us in the back door. The cover was waived for me and him, reduced for everyone else and we got a private table with bottle service, including a complimentary bottle of vodka and champagne. I don't think the champagne ever showed up and we went through enough vodka that we'd worked up a $700 tab by the end of the night... but was a great time. There was a mural of 2 wolves painted on the wall, and I think that was what I needed to get my dance on;
  • moved on to a little establishment called Cafe Wha? where they were finishing their final set;
  • ate a falafel at Mamoun's... which was my second home in NY.
At the end of it we realized that we lost their camera at Cafe Wha? so it meant that most of the evening was lost with it (although I got a couple with my iPhone which I've posted below). The next day the camera woahs continued as I fell while skating at Rockefeller Center & broke my zoom lens (the rental place only gave out figure skates... the toe picks are my excuse). Aside from the camera mishaps the rest of the visit was solid with a trip over to Brooklyn for some Grimaldi's pizza and a pub find in the Lower East Side that topped Tom & Jerry's: 2A.

Below are a couple of the photos from my iPhone.