New York: 5½ Years (Covid Edition)
From May 8, 2020 to June 13, 2021. Over a year in real-time, but only half a year spent in New York — the rest was spent eating my way through the South!
Covid allowed us to work remotely and experience living in other cities. Living out of a suitcase while working full-time…during a pandemic. Hard mode selected.
P.S. The coolest part of all the cities were in the East. Correlation or causation?
Part I: New York (May to November, 2020)
Home, Hungry Ghost, Ft. Greene park, home, Hungry Ghost, …
Spoiled by Julia’s masterful cooking. Listened to 300 of the 1,001 Albums to Listen to Before You Die. Julia developing a green thumb with herbs and lilies in the garden. Palette couch. Tuning into virtual events, which are poor replacements for in-person. Home sanitization station. Melting N95 masks in the oven. Zoom calls with friends (games lasted about 3 weeks) and family (Nonna, Dad, Julia’s family call). Tuning into Governor Cuomo daily briefs. Hype around the Last Dance documentary and the collectable craze that followed. Domestic partnership.
Gradually expanded our bubble. Leaving for the first rooftop gathering, felt like we were breaking the rules by being on the streets. First trip into Manhattan felt weird, too. Risk-taking by taking the subway (cleanest its ever been, very few people). Uncomfortably running with a mask while trying to avoid everyone. Outdoor dining without masks, but clearly closer than 6-feet. The thrill of the first indoor dining experience. Awkward social interactions.
Grim US covid milestones: 100,000 deaths (May 27), 200,000 deaths (Sep 21), and 150,000 daily cases (Nov 17). Trump actively sabotaging the covid response (less testing, suppressing Fauci, making states compete with each other, no federal mask mandate) and comically getting it himself. Facetious relief through SNL skits and John Oliver rants. Freezer trucks for bodies at nearby hospital. Meanwhile Australia had zero cases for much of the time, and less than 1,000 deaths total!
Spending nearly every waking moment with Julia, forming a strange co-dependence but also carving out pockets of independence within a small space. Both working from home — Google very supportive (monthly day off, WFH budget, mailed covid tests), but still working too much (guilt? bored?). Julia transitioned to the travel industry during a pandemic!
The epicenter of New York BLM protests following the death of George Floyd. Sheltering at home and didn’t even notice the first protests nearby. Shocked to read the news featuring a photo of a police car on fire at the end of our street! Protests and marches at nearby Barclays Center and Ft. Greene park. Generally “normal” during the day, and “warzone” at night. Curfews. Tear gas solution and supplies left on stoops. Boarded up shops. Fireworks throughout the night. Public dedications. Ride to Coney Island bike protest.
A constant stress. Masochistic consumption of 24/7 media with too much time on your hands. Forcing through RBG’s Supreme Court position. Baseless election fraud claims. Four Seasons Total Landscaping! Wild celebrations (stopped traffic, all stores ran out of Champagne) and euphoria on Biden’s victory — relief. No peaceful handover. Capitol Riots. Second impeachment. Extreme partisanship.
Somehow endured four years of this flaming dumpster fire. Forever diminished the title of President. Longstanding harm on the world stage. Was 2016 peak America?
20% unemployment, eviction protection, and a historic $2 trillion stimulus package (socialism+). Yet record highs for the stock market, property, gold and crypto — before giving some of the gains back. Liquidated some of my shares and crypto for the market crash than never came. Worst trader ever (sold Tesla before 9x growth, Google stocks before uptick, BTC and GBTC on lows).
Detachment of money from reality with DogeCoin (pumped by Musk), WallStreetBets (GME, AMC, stonks, diamond hands), NFTs, and collectables (sports cards, video games).
Contacted by independent publisher Hagen’s Alley about resurrecting my Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! book. Agreed to publish and reached back out to the game experts for updates. Spent a lot of time on edits and getting the Kickstarter project ready. Commissioned artwork from the designer of the Mortal Kombat logo, Paul Niemeyer!
Bittersweet decision to not renew our lease if favor of migrating south for the winter. Visa restrictions limit employment to within 50 miles of a Google office, which just happens to include Puerto Rico (the office was technically an airport hangar where the only two employees on the island launched balloons, closed shortly after)!
Got the cheapest storage unit in the world ($9/mo) and gave away a lot of our furniture. Canceled trips (Montreal). Jayce leaving for Austin. Quinn and Meesh road-tripping. Tyler and Avaida leaving. Hard time getting covid tests for travel to Puerto Rico.
Part II: Puerto Rico (December to mid-March)
Flew during the pandemic with only a single checked back between us. Uber ride arrived in what looked like a sketchy neighborhood. Strict lockdown measures (9pm curfew, closed Sundays, no alcohol sales on weekends, no beach recreation). Relatively low covid rates (everyone wore masks inside and outside). Many things also shut on Mondays. The Arecibo Observatory spectacularly collapsed the day after we arrived.
Beautiful, spacious historic villa with Santos museum below. In the nightlife area of Santurce (“crab”) close to Miramar (the Bushwick of Puerto Rico) and Ocean Beach — one of the best beaches on the island. Perfect weather almost every day and lush tropics (plant varieties). Warm water and fun waves right near the beach. Everyone friendly and felt safe (violence limited to drugs and relationships). Living next to a recording studio (droning rock, opera). So good we extended…twice. Excellent working time difference (NYC 1 hour behind) allowed for staying up way to late (NBA until 1am) and sleeping in and/or morning beach swims amongst the kite surfers. Beautiful and historic Old San Juan. Gritty charm.
Found fresh vegetables through PRoduce CSA boxes, great coffee shops and decent craft beer scene (Mikkeller at Lot 23). Low taxes but US prices. Many run down and abandoned buildings. Drinking in public (during covid). Island efficiency. Traveled to all most parts of the island (El Yunque, Fajardo, Ponce, San German, Old San Juan, Rincon, Arecibo), with insurance more than the cost of the car rental! Unable to visit Vasquez due to lockdown. Canceled San Sebastian Festival and Three Kings Day. Amazing street art in Miramar. Stayed at Hacienda Siesta Alegre (horse farm, stunning open-air layout, deafening frogs, family meal). Immediately off-path in El Yunque. Paddle-boarding Condado laguna. Crashing the El San Juan Hotel pool party. Instagram bridge (Puente Colgante de Villa Pérez). Visiting coffee farms, sunflower farms, salt flats, hidden beaches, walking along cliffs, visiting forts. DJ in an abandoned plane (very Burning Man). Bacardi tour (heavy drinking). Bad Bunny. Teagan visit (surfing in Rincon), Julia buying box of fireworks, first NYE at home (due to lockdown), lots of rum (Ron del Barrilito tour, shot of 5 star for $50), Julia not improving her Spanish, really great facial treatment, group of models in robes burning sage at a restaurant, fattest (inedible) oysters, bioluminescent swimming at night by ourselves, window cave, pig highway, food (mofungo, bacalaitos, lechoron) and snorkeling near private islands. Tsunami alerts while at the beach (in a Tsunami shirt). Rum ham! La Perla (Carmelo basketball court, swimming pool, party after curfew no social distancing, long walk home)!
Constant lines for ATMs (why? $6 charge when they work), cars giving way to pedestrians (even when it’s their green light), locals selling produce from trucks, selling lottery tickets on street, tiny market, general lack of vegetables, crazy-loud cars, mosquito bites, skin freakout, beach pipe spewing sludge into ocean, lots of stray cats (some dogs), roaming chickens, pet pigs, people hanging out drinking while sitting in their car trunks (at gas stations), drinking while driving (popular), cars blasting music at all hours, boats blasting music on pristine beaches, legal fireworks (on certain dates), paddle tennis on the beach (very popular), red lights on beach (for turtles), no recycling, no spicy food, not much seafood but lots of pig (settled by Spanish pig farmers), weed dispensaries, loud protest of trucks/ambulances/firetrucks, A MILLION JEEPS, lizard guys, scooters, drug blimps (really), steel bars on houses, local metro to “nice” downtown, very narrow two-way country roads, sidewalk snake, outdoor community “libraries,” art vending machines, full moon beach party, cars driving with hazards constantly on, stores with “open” signs permanently lit, major intersection without working traffic lights for entire 4 months, and beloved coqui (“ko-kee”) frogs!
Julia caught dengue fever (incredibly rare). Language barrier and lack of doctors searched everywhere for a GP. Ended up checking in at a local children’s hospital! Squabbling over insurance during patient intake made me so angry at the fucked up American health system. A/C on full blast and no blankets (BYO)?! Nurses screwed up drawing blood. Limited English. Left in the ER for one day, had to fight to get administered (worse conditions upstairs so maybe purposefully keeping her there, but never communicated such). Shitty TV playing Outbreak and bad Spanish melodramas. Blackouts. Julia super-low white blood cell count, very concerned — especially with covid and me going in/out of the hospital. IV fluids and heavy painkillers. Food boxes stacked up. Unicorn mac-n-cheese and aloe vera drink care packages. One week in hospital, full recovery.
The plan was to fly to Austin, but a trifecta of bad tidings (Texas Cold Snap, Jayce ACL surgery, Texas no mask mandate) had us switch our plans and go to New Orleans first. Great last week. No TSA pre-check, a pre-screen line (what’s the point?), and a trainee on the X-Ray machine (every bag flagged) had us literally running to catch the plane.
Part III: New Orleans (March/April, 1 month)
From one hurricane-devastated area to another (not on purpose). Stayed with Julia’s boss’ sister in Mid-City — including access to her bikes, cat and car. Everyone was extremely friendly and said hello, the food was delicious but decadent. Small enough to get around on bike easily. The Boyou reminds me of the Yarra River in Melbourne. Weather was overcast, stormy and humid.
The greatest quality is the playfulness of adults — the Burning Man spirit from Mardi Gras (costumes, krews, flats, balls, doubloons, house decorations) to jazz funerals. Bucket list to attend the Rex Ball.
Crawfish season (plastic gloves, mountains of bodies), twister weather warning (normal there), beignets (need less frosted sugar and more jam), colorful houses with decorations, working out the Ace Hotel (the best), beancoin (local business “currency”), lots of rollerskating, tons of antique stores, pralines, po’ boys, big crows, raised houses (flooding), singing tree, Frenchman Street (bohemian), trams (with reversible seats), voodoo (touristy), expensive Ubers, lots of sidewalk construction, great buskers, open container (every place sells booze) and “be nice or leave” motto.
Fewer covid restrictions than Puerto Rico, but people still wore masks — except for Bourbon Street which was a shitshow (people on horses, passed out, children drumming, tits shown for beads)! Unexpectedly Louisiana opened up vaccinations for all adults on May 30, so we went down to the convention center (barely anyone there) and got jabbed.
Experienced our first live music since the pandemic (band at coffee shop, jazz in courtyard), with the first indoor music venues just starting to open by the time we left. Julia got a great mask at a popup. Carl visited (working with Julia, jazz cruise, Dookie Chase, Treasure Chest casino, tiki bar, giant vagina) and ended up overstaying by 5 days!
Found a tiny pearl in my oyster. Not as much focus on the Sazerac as I expected. Skilled piano player who could learn any song in 30 seconds. Caught a Pelicans vs Thunder NBA game on the first night (Zion, pelican noises, PeliCant’s). Stung in the face by a wasp. Backyard easter egg hunt. Punch-Out!! book fully funded on Kickstarter in 47 minutes! Julia birthday (second vaccination, pin dollar to your shirt).
Intermission: Joshua Tree / Santa Monica (April, 1 week)
Between cities we flew to the desert with a bunch of fellow New York ex-pats for a reunion. Stayed at the Ace Hotel (ticket booth bar, morning rooftop swim) and went costume shopping in the morning. Got picked up and driven to our Airbnb in Joshua Tree. Excited to hang out with friends we hadn’t seen in many months, but genuinely surprised at how magical Joshua Tree turned out to be. Still not a fan of LA.
Great Airbnb (remote, under the stars, hot tub), Joshua Tree coffee, Frontier Café, sunset picnic in the park (secluded spot Quinn picked out), party at the house. Strange arty Burner people live out there — Bombay Beach! East Jesus! Salvation Mountain! Slab City! Pioneer Town for dinner (Pappy + Harriet’s), drinks at Quinn/Meesh super hip Airbnb, campfire under the stars. Cactus Mart on the drive to Santa Monica.
Stayed at the Samesun Hostel right on Venice beach. Cold weather and broken wifi at the hostel made for frustrating work days. Deus Ex Machina — Emporium Of Post Modern Activities (Aussie coffee shop), Duke’s Malibu (tacos with a view), homeless tents everywhere, Great White (coffee), beach run down past the pier (shut for covid), Gold’s Gym (outside setup), La Isla Bonita (taco truck), Aviator Nation (daylight robbery) and dinner with at Sarah’s sisters’ house.
Part IV: Austin (April/May, 1 month)
Stayed at Jayce’s house with his roommate in the gentrifying East Austin suburbs. Spacious, but still tight for four people to WFH. Brought a specially engraved Bacardi bottle as rent payment. Trapped in the suburbs, but able to borrow an old bike for some freedom. Landed an immediately set about a brewery tour. Hung out with his Austin crew. Quiet days and busy nights — aggressively shown the best of Austin.
Two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine felt safe. First packed bar without masks was the White Horse…and the unofficial end of covid. Learning to two-step while drinking Lone Stars and playing pool. Didn’t mind it, actually. First signs of my body breaking down after months of excess — but pushed through (for better or worse).
Julia getting to know Jayce better, crypto and card manias, lots of churches, cars with dangerous hubs, moon towers, Punch-Out!! Kickstarter campaign ended with 200% funding (celebrated with Punch-Out!! beer), Julia buying boots, Congress Avenue Bridge tourists ignoring beautiful sunsets (and almost causing car accidents), Julia’s parents visiting, sotol (yuk), pickleball, needing a reservation to go anywhere, Julia’s amazing parking luck (100% success rate), and stressful Zoom calls from Australia. Home of Titos and Deep Eddy.
Austin is probably the most livable American city I’ve been to — maybe because it reminds me of Melbourne so much. Great food, cool bars, lots of nature (a water city) and a relaxed attitude.
Part V: Nashville (May/June, 2 weeks)
Spent our first night at the Dive Hotel — the coolest and most hipster place there is. Swam, relaxed, drank, watched Eurovision, and made liberal use of the room’s “party switch.” Hot weather.
Checked into a beautiful converted church hotel, where we randomly bumped into a former workmate who moved there. What are the odds? Space was great for co-working and walking distance to Five Points and all the cool spots. Had trouble finding a decent Airbnb for the entire time, so had to go with hotels — making the costs much higher.
“Crashville” had the least covid restrictions so far. A few mask requirements for shops, but otherwise nothing — except everyone (saw an 80-year-old) gets IDs for alcohol. LOTS of bachelorette parties: in bars, on busses, pulled by tractors, etc. Saw at least one divorce party.
Austin FC vs Nashville FC, Bicentennial Statehood Day, Broadway (honky tonk bars), sketchy walk past strip joint to get to Chestnut Hill, Taco Bell with live band, lots of donut shops, Dolly Parton tributes everywhere, porch swings, free coffee/drinks with proof of vaccine, BBQ, historic houses, shitty Uber car with driver and passenger (!), and lots of young people with diabetes skin patches. Carl flew in for work (again), Julia working out of Margaritaville. Country rock capital (every bar overflowing with talented musicians).
Received some bad family news from home. Moved to a city hotel for the last few nights (unrelated). Lobby was nice enough, but hotel for people coming in to party — not live and work out of. All doors controlled by an app. Weird smell. Almost missed our Greyhound bus to Memphis, but Julia quick-thinking got us two seats next to each other. Lucky.
Part VI: Memphis (June, 1 week)
Stayed in a quirky Airbnb in an historic neighborhood and walkable to downtown, but nobody on the streets and felt sketchy (near public housing). Trams in that area not running and the main street blocked off for construction.
Music history (Elvis, Cash, Lewis), not musicians. What Reno is to Las Vegas. Ghost-town on a Friday night, except for Beale St where you had to line up and go through security (and pay $10 after 11pm)! No major stores (e.g. BestBuy, Whole Foods) downtown. Sports stadiums downtown for second-division (baseball, soccer) teams.
Gong sound therapy session, best barbecue ribs, trams, horse carriages blasting hip-hop, 100oz bucket drinks, bar blackout and smoking inside (Alex’s), lack of Ubers (“no cars available” WTF), “haunted,” waiting a literal hour in the heat to get shuttled to Graceland (empty theatre, empty busses), run to Mud Island, and Peabody hotel (run down).
Only reasons to visit are: National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, Bass Pro Shop (!!!) and Graceland (save an hour and get VIP ticket). Crosstown Concourse interesting too (great co-working spot). But those spots (plus a couple of great bars) are worth it, so even though it was our least-favorite it was still worth checking out.
Appendix A: New York Detail
- Bear Mountain (hike), Industry City (rooftop garden, Captain America statue, Japanese village), Governors Island, One Hanson Place (walked in as prepping for film shoot), Do The Right Thing corner (on anniversary)
- Bronx. Crack is Wack mural, City Island, Johnny’s Reef Restaurant, dying cat fright, crazy statue house, Botanical Garden, Dominick’s, Artuso, Bronx Brewery.
- Queens. Los Primos (toxic), Austin Ale House, Rodney Dangerfield square, bystander rule, random train car, saffron candy at Carmel grocery, Ramones mural, Lemon Ice King of Corona, Han Ma Um Zen Center temple, Spa Castle (no rules, fake BJs), Nam Xiang Xiao Long Bao.
- Staten Island. Fort Wadsworth, South Beach, Richmond Town, Egger’s Ice-Cream, suburban lighthouse, The Crimson Beech Frank Lloyd Wright house, trespassing at Farm Colony, Stone House, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Killmeyer’s.
- Broadway (80km). Entire length in Manhattan. Protest Shirt Show, Vita Coffee, Tom Otterness sculpture park, George Washington bridge, Inwood park, Harlem steps, Columbia University, Lincoln Center plaza, Times Square, Grand Central, Bryant Park, Korea Town, Wall Street bull, Two Bridges.
- George Washington Bridge. Cloisters, keeping up with Quinn.
- Randals Island. Socrates Sculpture Park, Château le Woof, Rockefella, Times Square, Proletariat.
- Rockaway. Jamaica Bay, Shirley Chisholm park.
- Roosevelt Island. Octagon tower, Lighthouse park, Tom Otterness sculptures, Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Blackwell House, Four Freedoms Park, ferry home.
- Staten Island (63km). Ferry, Richmond County ballpark, 9/11 memorial, Snug Harbor, cricket in the park, Marie’s Gourmet, Deree park trails, Todt Hill greenbelt, Moses’ Mountain, deer, Richmond Town, Egger’s, Conference House park, MTA ride, Craft House.
eat/drink: Threes (Octoberfest), Hungry Ghost, IXV, Coffee Project, Farmacy, Devocion, Gold Star Beer Counter, Ice and Vice, Brandon’s Donuts, Court St Grocers, Companion Cafe, Gueveras, Cafe Grumpy, Steeve’s Key Lime Pie, Strong Rope brewing, Beer Street, Sweatshop, M&M World, Russ & Daughters, Little Roy, Crown Heights Cafe, Bluestone Lane, Venieros, Ivan Ramen, Scarr’s Pizza, Fifth Hammer, Partners Coffee, Lot Radio, Tino’s Delicatessen, Joomak (popup), Attaboy, Pilot, Bushwick OuterSpace (anniversary), Barley Disfigured, Finback (popup)
events: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (drive-in movie, Bel Aire Diner), kayaking (Brooklyn Bridge Park), Manhattanhenge (overcast)
friendship: Amelia zoom birthday call, DJ party on Tyler’s rooftop (the best party in the city at the time), Friendsgiving at Corbyn’s, game night with Quinn/Meesh, backyard movie night (Disaster Artist), Aussie Xmas in July (in September, cricket and footy in park, BBQ kangaroo meat, Tim Tams, Cherry Ripe, Mint Slice, Shapes, Aussie playlist, Bundaberg, Mr. Black, outside tree decorated with ornaments and presents, DJ Amelia), Halloween (leaving party, combined apartments, pumpkin carving, skeleton in front yard, BQE costume, Tyler getting the date wrong but we’re all there crafting, backyard tent and heaters, projector, DJ, hallway streamers, going to bed at 5am with strangers still in the house!).
misc: Acupuncture (first time), Al Hirschfeld (amazing house tour), Atlantic Ave Art Walk (meh), bathroom haircut (Julia not bad!), Cumberland Hospital (Jordan born on our street!), discovering our apartment had a secret basement room, Google garden consultation, Häagen-Dazs (original store), Julia LASIK (eye drops), month of vitamins (two pints of water with Celtic salt, MNM, Resveratrol, magnesium, melatonin) with no discernible difference, Naval Cemetery Landscape (joke), Nintendo Store, Park Slope Halloween houses
museums: Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Museum (Studio 54, KAWS), Fotografiska (first museum to open, members opening, New Visions), Guggenheim (Countryside: The Future), Met, MoMA (JUDD)
played: MTG: Arena (literally addicted), Scythe, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary, Ticket To Ride
read: Clean Room (comic), Dune
shop: beer (Other Half Banana Latte stout, Stillwater x Evil Twin Surf and Turf, Three’s All Together, Grimm Tessaract, Singlecut Hop Sounds), bike (Craigslist, $300 bargain), Defcon badges, Eames chair (fake), FitBit (sleep tracking), Four Pillars Off Broadway gin, projector, running shoes (old ones falling apart and very smelly), speakers (street treasure), Street Fighter III vinyl, Tony’s Chocolonely (the best), turntable
- Boston. Harpoon Brewery, Bunker Hill, Freedom path, Paul Revere statue, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, trophies under bridge, Samuel Adams Grave, Boston Common, MIT, Harvard.
- Long Island (Memorial Weekend). Teagan’s, Stew Leonard’s, Claws seafood, Montauk lighthouse, Montauk Brewing, Levain Bakery, rose drive-through, beaches, fancy houses, Rockaway, Fire Island, Frank’s All-American Burgers drive-thru
- Paradox Lake. Paul’s cabin weekend, Scythe, sleeping in tent by water (i.e. not sleeping because scared of noises).
- Rhode Island. Camping, hike, Kimball Wildlife Refuge, abandoned building, secret beach, Mystic River drawbridge, Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough.
virtual: Atlas Obscura trivia, Bang on a Can, Bill & Ted Face the Music Q&A (Kevin Smith), Bob Moses, Harry Potter at Home, Life in a Day (YouTube), Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Mister Sunday, Princess Bride reunion reading, Ringo’s Big Birthday Show, TrekCon
watched: Console Wars, Dune (1984), Last Week Tonight, Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, Lower Decks, Picard, SNL, Space Jam, The Last Dance, West Wing special, Westwood, What We Left Behind. EPL, Nathan’s hot dog eating contest (basement), NBA (bubble), Cats v Tigers Grand Final (4am, loss), Tour de France (amazing last time trial). SpaceX launches.
Appendix B: Puerto Rico Detail
eat/drink: Abracadabra, ARTe (rooftop DJ), Bar La Unidad (speakeasy), Barista Squared (only place with Oatley milk), Barrachina (overrated), Birra & Empanadas, Bohemia, Café Comunión, Café con Cé (favorite spot), Cosecha (perfect breakfast spot), Don Rey Cigar (cigars and rum like a baller), Don Ruiz, El Bar Bero (barbershop by day), El Rancho (pork playground), El Tap (lots of local beers), Gustos (fancy coffee), Hacienda Tres Ángeles (views), Kasalto (Obama sandwich), King’s Cream, Kudough’s, La Boulangerie, La Casita Blanca (amazing local food, tree in restaurant), La Estación (amazing meal, models waving around sage), La Factoría (labyrinth), La Placita (drinking on the streets), La Preñá (cervice arepas), La Taberna Lúpulo, Lot 23 (Mikkeller), Ocean Labs (planes taking off), Osis, Pals (ice-cream), Qué PezCa’o, Rincón Beer Company, Round Eye Ramen, Ruben’s Café (big sangria), Sandra Coffee Farm (homely), Señor Paleta (ice-creams), Sushi’n good (gas station), Te•Qui•La, The Cannon Club (self-playing piano), Uma’s (beach bar)
events: Casa BACARDÍ tour (drinking > history, Uber dead zone), El Hangar en Santurce (popup, gummies), El San Juan Hotel (crashed the nightime pool party), Pública (popup shops, Radio Red DJ), Miramar street art walk
historic: A2Tiempos AyS (historic B&B), Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud, Castillo de San Cristóbal, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (huge lawn, random free entry), Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista, Ceiba de la Libertad (liberty tree off the beaten path), Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi, Iglesia Porta Coeli (inside closed), Cuartel de Ballajá, El tunel de Guajataca, Faro Los Morrillos (lighthouse on cliffs), Fortín San Gerónimo de Boquerón, Parque de Bombas (firestation), Puerta de San Juan, Villa Herencia Hotel (self guided tour)
misc: Cancha Carmelo Anthony (cool outdoor basketball court), El Avion (abandoned plane, DJ inside), Muelle de la libertad (Instagram pier), Piramide Cataño (random pyramid), Puente Colgante de Villa Pérez (suspended bridge), street art of Miramar, The Conch Shell Bar (covered in shells)
museums: Casa Blanca, Cruceta del Vigía (inside giant crucifix), Jardín Japonés (Japanese garden), Museo Castillo Serrallés (Don Q rum), Museo de las Américas, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (peaceful garden at back, snake), Museum of Contemporary Art
nature: Aguadilla Beach, Cabo Rojo (pristine beach), Condado Beach, Condado Lagoon (paddle-boarding), Crash Boat Beach (jumping off piers, locals spot), Cueva Ventana (stunning view, fogged up shortly after), El Yunque (Jurassic park, waterfall swim, getting lost, Torre Britton), Finca Girasoles (sunflower farm), Isla Verde (empty, jumped fence), Luquillo Beach, Ocean Beach, Peñón Amador Beach, Playa Jobos
played: Curse of Monkey Island (finished), Myst (finished), Super Mario 64 (120 stars), Super Mario Sunshine (120 stars)
read: Read Puerto Rican Tales, Rum Diaries, Dune, Dune: Messiah
shop: Backdoor Vintage (streetwear), Flower Market (huge, walk-in fridge), Frutos Del Guacabo (organic farm), Ron del Barrilito (3-star rum), Santurce Pop, Sixne (street clothing), Too Many Friends (t-shirt)
watched: A Recipe for Seduction (YouTube), Ashes, CNN (Capitol riots, Inauguration), Coming to America 2, Games Done Quick, Goldeneye, Jeopardy! (Austin Rivers), Jurassic Park, NBA, Pirates of Caribbean (1–4), Pirates XXX, Rum Diaries
Appendix C: New Orleans Detail
culture: 1850 House, Contemporary Arts Center, Dueling Oak, Faulkner House (bookstore), Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve French Quarter Visitor Center (tiny), Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture (tour, dressing up in all the costumes!), Mardi Gras World (huge, 3D printer), National WWII Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art (beautiful outdoor sculpture garden), Saint Augustine Catholic Church (slave tomb), Sazerac House (tacky, not enough free booze), Southern Food and Beverage Museum (run down), St. Louis Cathedral (clam shell pulpit), Studio Be (incredible), The Cabildo, The Historic New Orleans Collection, The Presbytère
eat/drink: 504 Craft Beer Reserve (great selection), Antoines (so many rooms, long wine cellar to street), Auction House Market (upscale food hall), Baldwin & Co (black bookstore), Bayou Beer/Wine Garden (50/50 split), Cafe du Monde (beignets), Cherry Coffee Roasters, Commander’s Palace (fiercely bright sign, overrated), Coffee Science, Dat Dog (sexy hot dogs), Dooky Chase (institution, mini-tour after dinner), Fharmacy (divey, mini meat pies), French Market, French Truck Coffee, Golden Lantern Bar, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz (really good), Hey! Coffee (sweetened oat milk), Hi Volt Coffee, Lafitte’s Blacksmith (piano bar), Loretta’s (pralines), Lovage, Miel Brewery, Napoleon House (muffaletta), Nola Brewing, Old Absinthe House, Parkway (po’ boy), Pax Treme (coffee), Piece of Meat, Port Orleans Brewing, St. Coffee, Parleaux Beer Lab, Shaya, The Country Club (pool), The Joint (BBQ), Tiki Tolteca (tiki speakeasy), Urban South Brewery (nice design), Zony Mash Beer Project (taco truck war, great space)
events: Food Battle: Aarón Sánchez vs. Southerns (Zony Mash), Mardi Gras house decoration show/sale, Natchez steamboat ride, Pelicans NBA game (stupid pelican noise), Royal Frenchmen Hotel and Bar (jazz in courtyard, watch from second level), Sounds and S’mores (Ace Hotel rooftop, cold and windy), The Broadside (trivia, Fabulous), The Music Box Village (Burning Man area)
misc: Ace Hotel, Eiffel Society (old Eiffel Tower restaurant!), Harrah’s (Julia won $100 on roulette), New Orleans Athletic Club (plaster arm), New Orleans Healing Center (hippy/spiritual, art), Piazza d’Italia (weird courtyard), St. Ann’s Shrine, Treasure Chest Casino (docked steamboat, Carl won big at the end)
nature: Bayou St John (nice path), Coliseum Square Park (live music), Crescent Park, Louis Armstrong Park, Jackson Square, Mississippi River
played: Super Mario Galaxy (100 stars)
read: A Confederacy of Dunces (entertaining)
shop: Dr Bob Art (meh), Euclid Records, French Market, Modernist Cuisine Gallery (food porn), Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo (touristy, long lines), M.S. Rau (museum-quality antiques, incredible), Peaches Records (huge, like SF), Rare Finds (antiques), Royal Pharmacy, STNDRD ATHLETIC CO (streetwear), The Bargain Center
watched: Champions League, Classico, The Last Blockbuster, Twister (during a twister warning)
Appendix D: Austin Detail
culture: Blanton Museum of Art, Bullock Texas State History Museum, Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, Texas Capitol, Texas Toy Museum (and arcade)
eat/drink: Ah Sing Den (cocktails), ATX Cocina, Better Half (coffee), Bouldin Acres (rich people, pickleball), Churo Co., Cidercade (only cider, yuck), Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, Casey’s (snowballs), Easy Tiger, El Alma Cafe y Cantina, Flightpath Coffeehouse (study spot), Here Nor There (speakeasy), Floppy Disk Repair Co. (speakeasy), G’Raj Mahal, Hold Out (excellent beers), Home Slice (great), Houndstooth Coffee, Hula Hut, Jeni’s Scoop Shop, La Barbecue (best brisket ever had), La Holly, Lazarus Brewing, Medici Roasting (great work spot), P6 (rooftop), Palomino Coffee, P. Terry’s, Quickie Pickie, Southern Heights, Spokesman (Gatorade on tap), Still Austin Whiskey Co., Suerte (high-end Mexican), Taco Flats (hibiscus frozen margarita), The Brewtorium, Torchy’s (queso), Uroko (sushi), Wanderlust Wine Co. (self-pour), Voodoo Donuts, Whisler’s (upstairs sotol bar)
games: Super Mario Galaxy (120 stars)
misc: 6th Street (quiet weekday), Castle Hill (graffiti), Crux (bouldering), Draper Startup House (coworking, Chamelon Coffee popup, flower arrangement, massage), Whole Foods (original)
nature: Barton Springs (giant pool, topless sunbathers), Congress Avenue Bridge (nice sunset, no bats), Lady Bird Lake Trail (ride), Lake Travis (boat day), Mayfield Park and Mount Lonnell (Meg), muddy run, Nature Preserve (swimming hole, cliff jump), Town Lake (floaties, barge), Waller Creek (canals), Zilker Park (views of the city)
party: Cinco de Drinko, Coconut Club (lots of rooms, rooftop), Outer Heaven (Bushwick-y club, claw machine full of dicks), Rainey Street (college vibes), Tropical Summer Kickoff Party™ (Jayce’s), White Horse (no masks, two steppin’)
shop: Big Top Candy Shop (old school), Monkey See Monkey DO, Waterloo records, Yeti HQ
watch: Austin FC (first games, no stadium), Champions League, Dazed and Confused, Kentucky Derby (bets, finished last), DFINITY (launch), EPL, Mortal Kombat (gory), SNL (Elon Musk Doge), Yasuke (Flying Lotus)
Appendix E: Nashville Detail
culture: Country Music Hall of Fame, Printer’s Alley, RCA Studios and BMI (outside only), Tennessee State Capitol, Tennessee State Library & Archives, Tennessee State Museum
eat/drink: Americano Lounge (late-night coffee, great cocktails), Barista Parlor, Bastion (metal ring swing game), Bearded Iris Brewing, Bongo Java East, Dino’s Bar (hangout spot, babes), Five Daughters Bakery, Frothy Monkey, Living Waters Brewery, Lockeland, Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., Monell’s (family-style, midnight brunch), Mother’s Ruin (staff swinging lights?), Nicoletto’s, No Quarter (pinball), Pearl Diver, Pharmacy, Pinewood Social (bowling, food, coffee), Urban Cowboy (Roberta’s popup), Yee-Haw Brewing Co. (giant screen)
events: Black Dynasty Ramen (Scarface, DJ), Champions League Final (Fleet Street Pub, standing room only, good atmosphere, Chelsea won), House of Cards (magic show under the Johnny Cash museum, given jacket and shoes to wear), MOCAN (art party)
nature: Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Scarritt Bennett Center, Two Rivers bike ride, Walk of Fame Park
party: Dive Motel (“party switch”, mullets and stashes, smoking and drinking in the pool), Nudie’s, Redneck Riviera, Rosemary & Beauty Queen (in a house), Sid Gold’s Request Room (arrived too late), Tootsie’s
watched: Cruella, Eurovision final (Italy!), Friends reunion, NBA
Appendix F: Memphis Detail
culture: Graceland (theme park, house, jets, collection), National Civil Rights Museum (powerful), Rock n’ Soul Museum (meh), Stax Records (Isaac Hayes gold car), Sun Studios (tour), Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum
eat/drink: Alex’s Tavern (dive), Arcade Restaurant, Central BBQ, Comeback Coffee, Crosstown Brewing, Dyer’s (100-year-old grease, free burger), Earnestine & Hazel’s (super dive bar, great upstairs vibe), Gus’s Fried Chicken, Hammer & Ale (cupcake tins), Old Dominick Distillery (fancy fit-out, ok spirits), Other Lands Coffee, Rec Room (arcade), Rendezvous (artifacts on walls, upstairs room), Sunrise Memphis (biscuits, very busy), The Beauty Shop, Wiseacre Brewing (huge space)
events: duck parade @ Peabody (Duckmaster, rooftop), Sound Journey @ Memphis Gong Chamber
misc: B.B. King’s Blues Club, Central Station (hotel), Memphis Chess Club (events, library, cafe), Overton Square (overrated)
shop: 901 comics, A. Schwab (mini-museum, soda fountain), Black Lodge (video store, arcade, events), Lansky Bros. (dressed Elvis, lots of signed guitars on the walls), Memphis Gong Chamber (huge, memorabilia, Snare vault), Nerd Alert (arcade)