16 June 2008

Going to East Africa?

If any of you are thinking of a trip to East Africa, particularly Tanzania, I recommend you get in touch with a friend of mine, Renson. He is very kind, speaks English, and is having trouble keeping his business going this season because the flow of tourism is so low. I assume this has to do with recent violence in neighboring Kenya. In any event, if you're planning a trip to that part of the world, please contact him. He does tours of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, and all of the safaris.

Here's his business site. (http://www.africaadventuretreks.com/) Or e-mail him at info [at] africaadventuretreks.com.

Quick Swahili lesson: safari=journey, rafiki=friend, simba=lion.

That's him in the picture above.


08 June 2008

Rodeo Disco: the circle of life

OKLA CITY -- Country bars and gay bars are like 4 millimeters apart on the great wheel of nightlife.

This is based on a recent visit to Club Rodeo, where, as you'll see in this video, a bunch of dudes in cowboy hats and nut-hugger jeans jump around beneath a disco ball to "YMCA." If you listen closely, you'll hear my boyfriend say, "Oh, goddamn!" in the middle of it all.

The line-dancing bar is seriously a two-step away from being a gay disco. Everything's about the clothes: who has the coolest cowboy boots or the biggest hat. The urinals are closer together than any straight person (or me, for that matter) could possibly be comfortable with. And guys are the center off attention on the dance floor: they wear pastel colored shirts, twirl around and whip their heads from side to side like they're in a tango competition.

The music isn't too far off, either. Club Rodeo is as big as an airport hanger, and while people wait to see live bull riding, they dance to everything from Kenny Chesney to Kanye. There's a laser light show, obviously, and the tracks that hold the lights lowers down close to the floor for the hip-hop, and pulls up high for slow country tunes ... kind of going into roller rink mode.

Of course, while women dance together openly, waiting for some cowboy to step in, you'd never see two men dancing together. But plop some of those homeboys down in a gay bar, and I'm sure there'd be a few boot heels clickin.


And they call the thang (club) rodeoooo

OKLA CITY -- Sometimes the best exploring is done in your own city ... especially if you happen to live in a weird-ass place like Oklahoma, where you can find a country dancing club that hosts live bull riding next to its dance floor.

No, not mechanical bull riding, which you might find in bars elsewhere. LIVE dust kicking, ball pinching, arm breaking bull riding. On Friday and Saturday nights, Club Rodeo has it on the half-hour. Everyone stops dancing to come watch a bunch of amateur dudes compete for $300 ($600 on Saturday because no one had scored Friday).

It's insane.

At the 11:30 ride on Saturday, some guy took off on a bull named Lickety Split. Watch the video to find out how well he did, but let's just say that he was holding his arm so tightly after the race that it looked like he needed a trip to the ER.

Which brings up a good point my friends made: What's $300 compared to an ER visit?

I want to know more about these guys who put it all on the line for some sliver of glory, or a piece of their rent check. Maybe they're trying to make it onto the big, pro rodeo circuit. Maybe they just get a kick out of it.

Either way it's pretty fascinating.

(Tip if you go: only drink beer in a bottle, and put your thumb over the top when the bulls are jumping. They kick up a lot of dust ... and since said dust smells like manure, you don't wanna drink that.)


01 June 2008

Switchbacks in the concrete jungle

SAN FRAN -- The hills in San Francisco are crazy steep. Like ski hill steep. Like tear an ACL muscle/strain a quad steep.

The hill where you'll find Lombard Street (the famous "windeyest" road in America), drops at a 27 percent grade, for example. Neighborhoods are named things like Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill, mostly so idiot tourists will know to walk around them rather than pass out during the climb. Property rates on Telegraph Hill were supposedly super low before the automobile, because only poor people were willing to walking up and down it. Take the dramatic city hills and valleys, and thrown in some serious Pacific fog, and you get a range of micro climates in the city based on the topography. One resident told me neighborhood temperatures can vary by as much as 20 degrees, just because hills hold the weather.

Sometimes, these hills have little stair steps to help you out with the climb, but often you're left to make your own path.

John and I figured out the hills are easier if you take a little tip from skiing and hiking -- and cut the grades down with some switchbacks. It makes you look a bit like a fool, but hey, I was already carrying a camera around my neck and a big yellow backpack. Not much to lose.

And I guess that's the exact technique that makes Lombard Street tolerable for cars. The hairpin curves of the road dilute the grade down to 16 percent, according to a National Geographic travel guide.