Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What's Been Going On?


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You've probably been wondering what's been going on. Or maybe not?

It's been a while since we last spoke, so I will catch you up anyway. 


Leyla A in the dining room at Canal House
Sitting in the dining room at Canal House in Amsterdam


I haven't had any time to write as the days go by, instead I've written a short recap of what's been happening. I'll start with a recent trip to Amsterdam and try to write another catch-up later. No promises, of course.  


Amsterdam 
I visited Amsterdam at the end of February, here are highlights from that trip. Feel free to read more about my travels of yesteryear in my nostalgic travel post about Amsterdam. On this trip, we stayed at The Canal House Hotel - a boutique hotel in the Jordaan, on the Keizersgracht.


Amsterdam Boutique Hotel - Canal House
Someone was getting room service next door - Canal House Amsterdam


Main Room at Canal House Amsterdam
Canal House Amsterdam - main sitting room


Dali & Banksy & Ren Hang
As per usual, we visited many museums (if you don't like museums, you would not like traveling with me). Hit all the mainstays, including MoCa where we saw the Banksy and Dali exhibits.

MoCa Banksy Exhibit
Banksy 

Dorothy in Amsterdam via Banksy
Banksy



Dali in Amsterdam MoCa
Dali


You may, or may not, know that I'm a Dali fan. I've been to multiple Dali his exhibits around the world but my favorite always remains his museum in Figueres, Spain. It's so impressive and I hope to one day go back. 

We also visited some lesser popular museums, like Foam photography museum. We were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Ren Hang exhibit - on the day he died, by happenstance. 


House of Bols 
In between museums we made a stop to the House of Bols (imagine a Chicago accent while saying it, "Bols", now say it again and hold the "s" for a second longer than you should). 


leyla in Amsterdam - House of Bols
House of Bols - Cocktail & Genever Experience in Amsterdam

House of Bols - Cocktail and Genever Experience - an interactive tour that explains the history of the product how to make a great cocktail. When you enter, they hand you a vile of booze and ask you to hold onto it until the sensory booth. Once inside the booth, you're exposed to music, lights, and then different fragrances. The audio tells you when to sip from your vile.

The lights, sound, and smell change the way your booze tastes - significantly. You're drinking the same fluid but each sip tastes different from the previous sip. 


This video is my favorite part of my trip to Amsterdam. It's from the sensory booth at the House of Bols



While inside, you know you're being recorded, but it's a small booth and feels very private. When you exit, your video is displayed on the wall, along with everyone else's. 

As you can see above, I look completely lost. I look downright frightened. However, my companion had quite the opposite experience, as demonstrated in the video immediately to my right. 


One Last Coffee Shop Stop 
On our last day, I visited one of the coffee shops I had written about in my journal (and in a blog post) when I was in Amsterdam last - 20 years ago! 

Take a look at the bathroom situation at Hill Street Blues Coffee Shop...  



Very Leyla circa '90s
Very un-Leyla circa now


Red Light District Amsterdam 
On our last night, we had dinner at Blauw aan de wal -- a fancy schmancy place smack in the middle of the Red Light District. "Discreet décor, simple and tasty modern cuisine, good wine selection..." as described by Michelin. Thanks to my friend Chico for the recommendation. 

Walking back I took some random photos of the Red Light District on my EZVIZ Five Plus... I just let the camera go, here are some highlights. 




Red Light District in Amsterdam

(Disclosure: EZVIZ supplied me with this camera some time ago, however, I use it and post about it because I like the camera.)


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yesterday, I Dyed The River Green - Literally


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St. Patrick's Day in Chicago is a thing... a BIG thing!


Dyeing the river green is part of what makes it a big thing, this year, I was lucky enough to not only take part but actually dye the river green. 



St. Patrick's Day Chicago
This one is my favorite photo
Setting out to #DyeTheRiverGreen


What Do You Mean You Dyed The River? 
You're probably wondering what I am talking about... Well, I'll tell you. On Saturday, March 11th, I was a guest of COUNTRY Financial for the St. Patrick's Day Parade which included a ride on the boat that dyes the river! For realz tho!

I Dyed The River Green, Literally
This was when I realized we were dyeing the river
You can see it flowing out behind us #DyeTheRiverGreen

Sure there are other boats that dye the river, the little tiny, little dingy-looking boats that you see buzzing up and down the river, but they're helping fill in the blanks. The big job was done by this massive dyeing machine that was attached to the boat we were riding on. The boat that COUNTRY Financial, along with the Plumbers Local 130, was hosting was the boat I was on. So, you see, that's how I LITERALLY dyed the river green!

Dye The River Green - LIterally
Spot the green behind our boat? #DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial
Taken on my EZVIZ Five Plus Camera 


Despite the bone-chilling weather, everyone had a great time. Upon arrival, we were given a scarf, a pair of Ray Ban Sunglasses (green lenses), and a green selfie stick - which came in super handy! After we dyed the river, we headed to the parade. COUNTRY Financial had a "VIP" area for us in a heated tent (rejoice!) with a fancy port-a-pottie (which we all appreciated) and corned beef sandwiches - naturally.

St. Paddy's Day with Leyla
Hello! From the COUNTRY Financial Tent at the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Taken on my EZVIZ Five Plus Camera -- I'm still mastering this thing!

We had premium seating for the St. Patrick's Day parade. Watched the from the COUNTRY Financial bandstand area. And after the parade there was more! We were escorted to Smith & Wollenski's for lunch - more corned beef and cabbage + a carving station. We also got to meet the parade queen. I didn't realize there was a queen of the parade but now I know.

St. Patrick's Day with COUNTRY Financial

COUNTRY Financial St. Pat's Day After Party with the Parade Queen(s)
Parade Queens - Bag Pipes
St. Patrick's Day festivities were a success!


More Photos of St. Pat's Day  
COUNTRY Financial organized a day of fun festivities. We had bag pipe players on the our boat, drinks, scarves and sunglasses!


 #DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial

Chicago Fire Department #DyeTheRiverGreen 


#DyeTheRiverGreen 
Taken on my EZVIZ Five Plus


#DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial


#DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial


#DyeTheRiverGreen 


Here I am in my new Ray Bans (courtesy of Country Financial)
#DyeTheRiverGreen 

 Dave excited to be on a WARM bus after a COLD boat ride
#DyeTheRiverGreen 

 There was a Ghost Busters thing going on
#DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial

  There was a Ghost Busters thing going on
#DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial


 There was a Ghost Busters thing going on


 There was a Ghost Busters thing going on at the St. Pat's Day Parade in Chicago





Chicago River #DyeTheRiverGreen
One last look at our beautiful city - Chicago St. Pat's Day Parade
#DyeTheRiverGreen COUNTRY Financial



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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Country Financial. The opinions and text are all mine. From local farmers markets to children’s education initiatives and Chicago’s local plumbers union, COUNTRY Financial is committed to supporting events and programs that grow and enrich communities and local businesses.


I also mention my EZVIZ Camera, which was provided to me by EZVIZ to use in exchange for posts. But, as always, you can trust that my opinions, my pictures and my words are my own.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Amsterdam Then and Now - A Nostalgic Travel Post


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Amsterdam: my fifth time but my first time in a long time. 

I'm going to Amsterdam for the first time in a long time. A very long time.

 

travel to Amsterdam
Amsterdam photographed by me in 2017

After a year-long travel hiatus, 2017 kicked off with two nostalgic trips. In January, I visited Disneyland for the first time in nearly 40 years. In February, I returned to Amsterdam for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Below, I transcribed an entry from a travel journal I wrote eons ago when I backpacked alone in Europe for three months. I always throw in "alone" to reinforce the cool factor. In reality, I don't think I was cool. The truly cool girls traveled alone for a year, or more. How I envied them, how I still envy them.

The version below has been edited for self-preservation. One day, when I'm independently wealthy & my parents are dead, I'll share the ACTUAL version. In the meantime, use your imagination.


Let's take a ride in the way-back machine and get this 90's Dutch party started...

Monday, November 27th. My days are closing in on me! My trip is coming to an end.

I've changed hostels - thank god! I am now at the International Budget Hotel - four beds in a heated room with a decent view of the canal, and it's not far from the bars. A dream in comparison to my last hostel. I swear if I had to stay in that other hostel, The Last Waterhole, one more night I may have left Amsterdam.

Last Waterhole Hostel circa 1999 - I was there around the same time
Photo is NOT mine, it's from Doug McClean's blog 
(Side note: I looked up International Budget Hostel it's still there. Last Watering Hole exists but it has moved, I think.)
4:15 PM … I'm at Hill Street Blues. Two people across from me are sleeping on the couch and I’m just staring across the canal... watching as the people come and go. After this I have to carry my things to my new hostel, a 20 min walk or so.

Hill Street Blues in 2017

(Side note: I visited Hill Street Blues on my recent visit and the second I walked in the door, I laughed. It was so typically mid-90s, post-grunge-era Leyla... but not so much current-day Leyla.)
I just came from a tattoo parlor. As I exited the tattoo parlor I was asked in for drink at the bar next door, so I accepted. Turned out it was a Hell's Angels Bar. So I had 2 drinks and smoked a cigarette. I had a drink with "Hank" and watched a Hell's Angels bowling tournament - mentally noting all the Harley Davidson memorabilia that decked the walls.

(Side note: I go on a wild tangent about fame and becoming a "media martyr"... I call Kurt Cobain a "cheap legend" and "not a hero." Remember, this was written in the mid 1990s, I thought it was relevant to mention.)
Morrissey and David Bowie will be here in January, how sad am I!? They played in Glasgow on November 22 and 23rd. Bowie did the Music Awards on the 23rd. (BTW, I’m really buzzed but at least I’m not asleep on the couch!) And... if they don't turn off the Warren G I’m going to DIE - at least put on GOOD RAP!

Bathroom at Hill Street Blues - taken in 2017
I am way too old for this shit!

Another girl has fallen asleep, I patiently listen to "Whiter Shade of Grey." There's a guy, let's call him Boy Wonder,  he is not American. Which I had assumed when I saw his shoes. Ankle high, brown, fashion biker boots are not all that popular amongst male, American youth. He has an accent but the one-and-a-half words he uttered to me weren't enough for me to make out from where his accent hails.

Now, from the rear of the room, we have some annoying stoned people who decided to play percussions to "Ride Around Sally".

When I was at The Budget Hotel we watched The Blues Brothers and had a few laughs. It was 8 guys and me (shocking), one of them is well into his 40s. Anyway, when the Allman Bros tape went in (to the VHS!) and I made my exit. So now I'm here.... all over again.
(Side note: I can't imagine ever sitting around watching a recording of an Allman Bros concert, ever!)
Amsterdam Hostel
International Budget Hostel - Current Photo

It's well after 9PM. I only ate once today. A mere slice of pizza was all the nourishment I had - unless of course you want to include that cheese toast I had for breakfast. My stomach growls and I decide I absolutely MUST have some tandoori Chicken. 
(Side note: I go on another tangent about "Hank" from the biker bar I met earlier in the day. I write a fictitious story about being chased through the red light district - a short story within my journal entry. I'll spare you the details, but this quote made me laugh: "Middle-aged Middle Eastern men gawk as I run past their mustached faces.."
So what to do? Go out for tandoori Chicken or do I go downstairs and drink another beer and deal with the Allman Brothers? 

It's probably 1:30 AM now. Ate a fallafel and a Lion Bar. Lion Bar is kind of like a Nestle Crunch on the outside and a Kit Kat with carmel on the inside. Which makes it more like a 100 Grand Bar (what a creamy chewy bar you are). 

Lion Bar
Lion Bar - not the one I ate in the 90s
(Side note: I think it's hysterical that I described, in detail, my candy bar. I still do this sort of thing.) 
That guy, I think his name is Allen, is thoroughly annoying me (his name was not Allen, it was Ron). He is loud, a liar, tells bad jokes, scumbag... and he's with his 19-year-old son. Classy guy. This guy has rolled at least 12 joints and told five bad jokes for each joint! I've got to go to bed!

Wednesday, November 29th 
All the guys who were here for High Times Cannabis Cup left today - home or Europe abroad. I scheduled my flight today, I depart Sunday from Zurich. I’m excited in a way. I want to go back to Carbondale but I don’t know if can make it. But I already said I'd go. I don't know... I'm really... I’m going to take a shower.

Leyla circa 1995 - backpacking in Europe
Taken on film, by me, on a point 'n shoot with a timer

I'm back! I'm downstairs again, in the very room where I spent hours on end.... listening to Ron tell stupid stories. And I don't know where Andy is? He's supposed to be here but he could be in the kitchen. I've been wanting to describe him for quite some time now. I haven't had the chance. He looks tall but it could just be that his head is SO LONG.
(Side note: who is Andy? And I WISH I had a photo of him somewhere! I'd like to see this man who looks tall because he has a long head?!?)

December 1… train to Switzerland
Swiss trains ROCK! Clean as hell! But you pay $3 for a 1/2 cup of cereal and about $4.50 for a coke - oh the INSANITY of it all!

Leyla in Europe
This was taken on the train from Spain to France - not Switzerland
Two fellow backpackers and I, we're drinking wine from empty cans

Amsterdam is extremely beautiful and should be appreciated for things other than drugs and prostitution. It was a little disappointing for me. Maybe I expected too much? Maybe I just got unlucky with the people I encountered. If you want to sit around all day and smoke pot - stay home!

I'm not knocking Amsterdam, I'm knocking the people I surrounded myself with in the hostel. All they ever wanted to do was sit around and smoke, they never went anywhere or did anything. Whatever the reason, if I go back it will be in summer with someone fun. And from a Thursday through a Sunday. No earlier than a Wednesday.

Back to my time in Amsterdam... Lee was the name of the guy I spent the majority of my time with. At least the majority of my accompanied time. He was from Ohio and went to school in Madison, Wi., living in New Orleans. He spoke very slowly...
(Side note: it goes on like this for a while... many tangents, many stories, many memories... What I wouldn't give to revisit that time, if for only a day. Even an hour.) 


And for the record, I did go back to Amsterdam some 20 years later... with someone fun, from a Wednesday through a Sunday. Just like I said.


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