Category Archives: Travel

The MTA and the Odyssey

The cover of this week's Village Voice featuring a great and maddening story on the MTA.

The cover of this week’s Village Voice featuring a great and maddening story on the MTA.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 58 titled “The MTA and the Odyssey” highlights my train ordeal this morning, in the wake of a Village Voice cover story about the subway system’s shortcomings.

In this morning’s wee hours, after attending a dud rap show featuring hacks, wacks and lame MCs, I boarded a train from Manhattan’s Lower East Side returning to Astoria, Queens, unaware I had set into motion my own epic henceforth known as “The MTA and the Odyssey.” My six-mile trip northeast lasted longer than most feature-length films, as garbage on the tracks, a Queens-bound subway line ending its route prematurely in Manhattan and a Times Square station clusterfuck conspired against my desire to pass out in my bed. At least my ride included a drunk white guy dispensing invaluable knowledge on why ordering chicken fried rice is a pro move. Gotta look at the bright side while waiting for the MTA to investigate why gigantic chunks of filth litter the train tracks.

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Prompts: “The City I Most Want To Visit In 2014″

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays.

Montreal's Biosphere is among the Quebec city's Epcot Center-themed attractions.

Montreal’s Biosphere is among the Quebec city’s Epcot Center-themed attractions.

The City I Most Want To Visit In 2014 – Montreal

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Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100: “No Drive City”

This is the 23rd installment of Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100, a periodic look into life as a new New Yorker from yours truly. Today’s dispatch is called “No Drive City”. You can read previous installments here.

On New Year’s Eve I met a native New Yorker in his twenties who informed me he did not know how to drive a car. He’s never had to learn because he lived the majority of his life in New York City. I told him I was the opposite, having grown up in rural parts of south Louisiana. My entire adult life has consisted of driving experiences, both short and far. Just this August, I drove more than 2,000 miles from Portland, Ore., to Chicago to south Louisiana. The open road is an enticing mistress.

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Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100: “Mardi Gras In Jersey/Clapping For Rutgers”

This is the 10th installment of Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100, a daily series chronicling my experiences and observations as a new New Yorker. You might have noticed it’s been a few days since I posted one of these. I have been without Internet this week. Translation: Sucks to be me.

Surrounded by the kings, queens, princes, and princesses of New Brunswick Saturday morning in the parking lot outside Rutgers’ football stadium, I did what any self-respecting Cajun would. I declared “Mardi Gras in Jersey” and poured myself a concoction I will call “Cran Drank”. Then I poured myself another.

I arrived at High Point Solution Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, a stone’s throw from New Brunswick, around an hour before the kickoff of Rutgers’ football contest against Syracuse. My friend, Robert Zullo, a self-proclaimed King of New Brunswick persuaded me earlier in the week via text message to partake in the “full Zullo experience” before the game’s noon kickoff.

Alas, “Mardi Gras in Jersey” and the “full Zullo experience” collided to create a perfect storm.

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Playing Cat And Mouse At The White Stripes’ Final Show

A few of my Chicago friends had the good fortune Sunday to see Jack White play a record store gig. I felt a twinge of jealousy when I learned of this, even though I am not a huge Jack White fan. I respect his work more than I enjoy it. My friends’ enthusiasm made me reflect on the time I caught Jack White and his former missus, Meg, play a show back in July 2007.

It wasn’t until years after I saw The White Stripes play an amphitheater gig in Southhaven, Miss., that I learned I had witnessed their final concert. I like some of their songs, yes, but the idea that my friend Rob and I drove nearly eight hours to see The White Stripes … in a car with no air-conditioning during the middle of summer, well it seems absurd. And that I, a so-so fan, was there for their final show? Just a bizarre coincidence.

I only remember two things about the show. The first: I didn’t enjoy Meg White’s drumming. Perhaps, that’s an understatement. I felt as if I was watching a virtuoso (Jack White) play with a fifth-grader handed drumsticks for the first time. As I recall, Rob had kinder words about Meg’s drumming, particularly how her no frills style complemented Jack’s guitar-playing.

The second memory? Well, let’s just say I probably should have been kicked out of The White Stripes’ final concert.

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My Lollapalooza 2012 Spotify Playlist

Bow Down To America, Lloyd!

Lollapalooza is fast approaching. That means one thing: I need to sell my festival bracelet and recoup the hundreds I invested. I could go on a rant about how my friend Lloyd, a Chicago resident, is the worst person of all-time for promising to buy my bracelet and then backing out like a big Hungarian baby. But the thing is, I don’t know what Hungarian babies look like (except for him). So I will skip the rant.

Except …

… it’s kind of like the final scene of Breaking Bad’s Season 5 premiere. I am Walter White and Lloyd is Skyler. “I forgive you” are the words I am supposed to say. Except I veer off-script. “I DON’T forgive you,” I whisper into his ear and the credits roll. The audience screams, “Oh, shit!” at the exact same time.

Basta! Lollapalooza is happening Aug. 3 through Aug. 5 in Chicago. Here, in no particular order, is my Lollapalooza 2012 Spotify playlist. Enjoy!

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@Sweden: An Unpredictable, Off The Cuff Twitter Experiment Worth Following

I’ll be honest: I know almost nothing about Sweden except their soccer team’s jerseys are blue and yellow, the insanely popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book originated there, and their citizens rule at crafting pop earworms (i.e., Robyn, Peter Bjorn & John, Icona Pop, etc.). Among the items I know nothing about, regrettably, is a binge-drinking Swede’s perspective. But I am learning from the comforts of my laptop/cell phone this week.

I first heard about @Sweden from my former roommate/unpaid social media adviser Scottie the Genius several weeks earlier. The Pride of Newberg, Ore., repeatedly informed me I needed to follow Sweden’s Twitter. “It’s amazing,” Scott said, unable to hide his mischievous glee.

Sweden’s Twitter account is a tourism bureau vehicle to promote the country to yokels like me who know next to zilch about it. A different Swede manages the account each week. This leads to ridiculous tweets like the one I posted from the current handler, as well as offensive ones like a string of anti-Semitic tweets from a previous user. You take the good with the bad and you get Sweden, according to the country’s tourism bureau.

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Where To Travel Next? 10 American Cities At The Top Of My List

Tonight I am suffering from the sort of carlag that comes from driving a total of 22 hours across two days. My calves feel like lumps of coal and my brain feels like mush. I am thinking about making ramen noodles. I might fall asleep first.

My journey to San Francisco this weekend marked the first time I visited the Bay Area. I enjoyed its gorgeous water, rolling hills, and classy bohemian vibe. It was a city I had high on my list to visit. Now that it’s been scratched off I am asking myself which American cities that I have never visited do I most want to experience.

This is tough. To date, I’ve visited New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle, Las Vegas, Memphis, Dallas, Houston, and Austin, just to name a few. Plus, I’ve lived in New Orleans and Portland.

Where should I go next? Should I slip a blindfold on and point at the map? Or should I look both ways before I cross the country again? Here’s my list of possible cities next in line for a visit.

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A South Louisiana Native’s First Take On Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild in theaters now.

WARNING: Spoilers below. If you haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild you probably should wait to watch the movie before reading this.

As I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, I swelled with pride at the sight of my south Louisiana homeland and its residents portrayed on the silver screen in an accurate manner – perhaps outgunned by Mother Nature and other manmade forces but resilient and awash with joie de vivre to the bitter end.

I also marveled at the realization I had never seen anything like Beasts of the Southern Wild inside a movie theater, or a home theater, for that matter. Not only did it portray bayou people in a responsible fashion, instead of bumbling buffoons with cartoonish accents, but it starred a young black girl as a heroine and focused on the underwritten dynamic of a single black father “raising” his daughter. I used quotation marks around the word raising because at times it appeared Hushpuppy was the one raising her dad.

Eventually on-screen events snapped me out of my proud stupor. Specifically, images of glaciers breaking off into the sea set off alarms in my head. I heard prior to seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild that it had a global warming tie-in but did not know to what extent. Well, it’s hard to miss. The point director Benh Zeitlin tried to get across – global warming is destroying the Bathtub – failed to resonate with me. That’s being too kind. It felt wrong and slanted and hit with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the head.

Louisiana’s coast started eroding well before global warming became a political hot potato. Yes, I realize the idea that global warming has been the driving force behind erosion provides the film its zeitgeist appeal but it’s an appeal that is rooted in falsehood. Gradually disappearing barrier islands don’t make for a sexy film, I realize., but the heavy-handed global warming associations served as unwelcome distractions.

Zeitlin and crew got a lot right, though. It should also be noted my expectations for this movie were in the clouds. Therefore, if it reads like I am overly critical of this film it’s because I wanted this movie to be every bit as good as film critics declared it, and then some.

Pieces of it were.

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Cajun Tomato’s Favorite 2012 Concerts (Halftime Edition)

At the Drive-In

Last week I ranked my favorite albums and favorite songs of 2012 so far.

Today it’s time for a quick list of my favorite concerts of 2012 (so far). For comparison’s sake, here were my favorite concerts of 2011. That list notably left off my favorite show of 2011, which happened after I compiled my Top 10.

Below are my favorite concerts of 2012.

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