CFP Mash #1

The inaugural visitation of Alcalde’s new mansion-chateau (aka Casa Fancy Pants) was a smashing success, as measured by total calorie count and whatever the opposite of cinematic artistry is.

Al, of course, had failed to show up, and sent a hogshead of popcorn as penance. The ricin made the flavor a little odd, but we got used to it.

Sitting Around

Lobo arrived Thursday, and he and Alcalde sat around all day. But when I got there on Friday the party really got rolling as Lobo and Alcalde shoved me into the back seat of the Taco and we crossed the state line into exotic Idaho. We had lunch at the Daft Badger in Coeur d’Alene, where Lobo got a half order of pulled-pork nachos which seemed to constitute at least 20% of world nacho output and allowed Lobo to eat increasingly congealed breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.

Nachos, Day Two

Nachos, Day Three

While in the Coeur d’Alene area, we investigated the mysterious happenings in the erstwhile town of Dudley. Alcalde claims that there was no collusion regarding either Dudley or nearby Cataldo, but we haven’t been watching him the whole time, so who knows what he gets up to. And we didn’t find Dudley, exactly, but we did find Dudley Heights, which is either a real place or a sign that someone put up as a joke.

As a housewarming gift, I brought a package of brightly colored cocktail monkeys, a beloved memory for anyone who had anything approaching a normal childhood in the ’60s or ’70s. They were put to good use as bunting, as well as flair for what were apparently pharmaceutical-grade mojitos. Memories of the rest of that evening are a little fuzzy.

Monkey Bunting

A Minimum Amount of Cocktail Flair

But up and at ’em the next day! Alcalde made us some excellent frittatas, although Lobo just chipped away at his nacho clump. After that, a little “hair of the limón” by way of limoncino shots, followed by panther cookie chasers, and we were off to get a mediocre lunch at the English Setter Brewery.

Limoncino and Panther Cookies

A drive up Mt. Spokane got us not quite to the top, as the road was closed due to inclement weather. We stopped in a nearby parking area to walk around and saw a group of people training rescue dogs. One of the trainers would hide under some camouflage netting, sitting out in an open area and looking absurdly obvious. Then one of the dogs would run around while some of the other trainers would shout encouragement. If the dog found the camouflaged lump that was right in front of it, everyone would cheer and congratulate the dog. If the dog appeared to be having trouble, an arm would reach out from under the netting and squeeze a squeaky toy. Sometimes the dog would still have trouble. The dogs all appeared to be having a good time, but I don’t like the chances of anyone who needs to be rescued by one.

Rescue Dogs

That evening Alcalde provided some excellent steak, grilled to perfection by Lobo on the ostensibly indoor grill. However, we had to open the door to let the smoke out, which really makes it sort of an indoor/outdoor grill.

Things were a bit touch-and-go, moviewise, as Alcalde couldn’t figure out his own audio/video equipment. Luckily, he was able to kludge together a workaround that allowed us to continue with what after all is the central feature of any mash.

Over the course of three evenings we watched Birdemic, Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, Wild Guitar, and The Choppers, the last two featuring Arch Hall Jr. Alcalde fell asleep for all four of them.

   

On the last full day, after Lobo finally finished his nachos, we went patrolling on Alcalde’s estate grounds. Much of it consists of scrub and deer doots, but it’s still well worth visiting, especially after the taxidermy animatronic show and boat ride goes in.

On Patrol

After a warm-up like that, there was only one thing left to do: Visit downtown Spokane. This centered around the Riverfront, which is, it turns out, along the river. We saw a tower, and a big wagon, and a trash-eating goat, and–as the pièce de résistance–the Riverfront SkyRide, which is like the Disneyland Skyway except that it doesn’t go to Tomorrowland. (Technically, neither does the Skyway, because Disneyland removed it years ago. The SkyRide has the advantage of still existing.)

Then we had a quick lunch at a downtown brewpub that had TVs on every available surface, all showing football games. There were even three TVs in the restroom.

Spokane Falls

Trash-Eating Goat

For reasons that are not clear, Lobo scheduled his return flight for 6:30 in the morning, so he got up before 5:00 and spent some time stumbling around and singing songs from Wild Guitar. Then Alcalde and I dumped him at the airport and had a leisurely coffee and pastry at Rocket Bakery on the way back.

On the drive over on Friday I had hit a pothole on the 90 and damaged my tire, so driving back was a little iffy. My sport jalopy has run-flat tires, which means that it can run for about 50 miles at 0 psi, but also has no spare. That’s probably useful if I’m fleeing foreign agents or random ladrones who have shot my tires out, but the trip from Spokane Valley to Redmond would be a little far in the event of a blowout. Fortunately, I made it back without incident and I can get the tire replaced for only $362.

Sport Jalopy in Front of CFP

The one disappointment of the weekend was the lack of fossils in the floor slate. They’re supposed to be there, but Lobo and I did a thorough investigation of the slate and found no fossils at all. That’s undoubtedly going to reduce CFP’s Zestimate.

Sonoma Fourth

Fourth of July in Sonoma. I received a warm welcome.

Some family members explored new fashion frontiers.

Others preferred a more traditional form of celebration.

In the evening, some of us watched the fireworks from a field adjacent to a cow pasture. A nearby group of people sang such holiday favorites as the national anthem, God Bless America, one or two Irish folk songs, and Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid. There may have been some wine involved. There was also a dog with a glow-stick collar who barked at the fireworks.

Final Notes

I made it back. Walk to tram, tram to bus, bus to airport, long check-in line, walk to gate, fly to Heathrow, go through seemingly endless labyrinthine hellscape at Heathrow, fly to Seattle, go through Customs, walk to shuttle, shuttle to car, drive home. Roughly 21 hours. I think 19 of that was in Heathrow, although BA upgraded me and let me pre-board for no apparent reason. Maybe they liked the cut of my jib, although honestly my jib was looking pretty rumpled at that point.

Some final notes:

  • I learned to say seven things in Czech: Dobrý den (good day), prosím (please), pivo (beer), káva (coffee), pokladna (cash register), papriková klobása (paprika kielbasa), and trdelník (trdelník).
  • Danish trucks don’t make a beeping noise when they back up.
  • On all the local transportation I rode (trams, subways, buses, etc.) in Copenhagen, Berlin, and Prague, I don’t think anyone ever checked my ticket. I’ve read that Prague spot-checks riders and will fine you 700 Kč if you don’t have a valid ticket. But a three-day ticket is 310 Kč, so if they check less than once per week, you’d come out ahead by paying the fine.
  • Thai massage seems to be a thing in Prague. They’re all over the place. One aspect of Thai massage involves putting your feet in a fish tank so that fish can nibble them. This takes place in the front window so that you, the idiot tourist, are on display to passersby while fish nibble your toes. I did not do this.
  • I now understand the line from the 2013 David Bowie song “Where Are We Now”.
         Had to get the train
         From Potsdamer Platz
         You never knew that
         That I could do that
    Meistersaal studio, near Potsdamer Platz, was where Bowie and Iggy Pop recorded in 1977. Potsdamer Platz was one of the ghost stations of the U-Bahn. It was in the east, but the stations on either side were in the west. Trains were not allowed to stop there and guards were posted in the station to make sure they didn’t. West Berlin had to pay the DDR for the privilege of passing through.
  • I walked a total of 118.44 miles over 18 days, for an average of 6.58 miles per day.
  • I really need to bring less luggage.

Final Evening in Prague

I went back to the apartment to rest and pack, and when I went out again, it had snowed, turning all of Prague into a magical slushscape.

Slushy Wonderland

Near the tram stop is an artwork that I kept meaning to go look at, and this afternoon I finally did. It’s a Memorial to the Victims of Communism. I had to wait to take this picture because there were people taking selfies with the statue in the front. I guess they didn’t read the plaque.

Memorial to the Victims of Communism

Then I took the tram to Wenceslas Square and had a nutritious meal of chicken skewer and trdelník while wandering around the square.

Wenceslas Square

There are three really large bookstores on the square. I went in all of them. I don’t really know why, since I don’t speak Czech. They were just really nice bookstores.

Now I’m going to finish packing and go to bed early.

Wandering

Nearing the end of my trip, I’m starting to wind down. I’m getting torpid and sluggardly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get a five-shot latte and a trdelník at the Christmas market in the Old Town Square, and then go wandering.

Trdelník

Whilst wandering, I found these statues.

This Exists

The powder tower is the only remaining portion of the old city walls, dating from the 1400s.

Powder Tower

The Museum of Communism is somewhat critical of 40 years of oppression.

At the Museum of Communism

Commie Selfie

Franz Kafka was born near this church. Nothing to do with the picture, really. I just thought I’d mention it.

Church of St. Nicholas

This is the oldest synagogue in eastern Europe, built in 1270.

Staronová Synogoga

On Sunday morning, I thought I’d had enough of wandering by foot, and decided to wander by tram. The individual routes go back and forth, so I would take a route until the sights became uninteresting, then get off and take a different tram in the other direction. This worked until I got off the #17 tram in front of a junky-looking dollar store (actually 50 Kč, or about $2.30) to wait for the #24.

I waited for about 20 minutes until I figured out that the notice “V sobotu a neděli linka nejede” means that the line doesn’t run on the weekend.

Thinking quickly, I got on a different tram and returned to town.

Junky Dollar Store

Waiting for a Tram on an Uninteresting Street

Castles, Cathedrals, and Towers

Today I went to the Prague Castle complex. The guidebook recommended arriving early to buy a ticket as soon as they opened at 9:00, which would provide 15 minutes or so in the St. Vitus Cathedral without crowds. It probably would have worked out, were it not for the large Japanese tour group that apparently already had tickets and were ready to go in at the stroke of 9:00.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert

Thronging Throngs at the St. Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus, according to legend, was boiled in oil along with a chicken. Probably with some onions, too, and maybe a little dill, although the legend doesn’t mention that specifically.

St. Vitus and His Chicken

The bell tower required a separate admission, but if there’s a bell tower to go up, you can’t not go up it. So I did. 287 steps.

The Bell Tower, What I Went Up

View from the Bell Tower

This gargoyle is dribbling water from its mouth, although, sadly, it does not show up in this photo.

Dribbling Gargoyle

Afterward, I bought some mead in the adjacent Christmas market, and walked down the old village street adjacent to the palace. There was a guy playing Christmas songs on the recorder and flatting the same notes over and over.

Guy Playing Jingle Bells and Greensleeves Off Key

Not far from where I’m staying is a funicular, and a funicular is another thing that must be gone up, so I went straight from the palace area to the funicular, via the #22 tram (310 Kč for three days of unlimited use). At the top of the funicular line is…a completely bogus Eiffel Tower! Petřín Tower was built in 1891 and it looks exactly like the Eiffel Tower as long as you’re not looking very closely. But it is generally Eiffely, and bogus Eiffel Towers are near the top of the list of things that you have to go up, especially if, as in this case, you can pay an extra 60 Kč to take the elevator.

Petřín Tower

The Palace from Petřín Tower

Charles Bridge from Petřín Tower

After the tower, I took the tram downtown, intending to go to the Museum of Communism, but instead I just wandered around looking at things and getting food from Christmas markets along the way.

More Thronging Throngs

Eventually I walked back over the Charles Bridge and caught the #22 tram back to the apartment.

Statue with a Seagull on Its Head

Today in Prague

Charles Bridge in the Morning

15th Century Clock

Trabants are everywhere!

Al? Is that you?

“The St. Vitus Cathedral is over there.”

After 103 beers, you have to start a new tab

Prototype for Pirates of the Caribbean

Al would ring like crazy fool, and then want discount.

Charles Bridge in the Evening