Monthly Archives: December 2014

Thai Salad Re-examined; A little too authentic for me this time.

I am a lover of Thai and other Asian cuisines. You probably know that by now if you frequent my blog. But, I have become painfully aware of the differences in Thai cuisine authenticity. I live in Los Angeles, about 25 minutes from Thai Town. It is too far to go just to eat a small meal, but if it is on the way, or if I’m going with a friend, I’ll sometimes invest in a trip. Parking isn’t always that easy there either which further deters my visits. But, recently I’ve been going a lot.

Judge the quality & character of the food by the customers
If you go to Thai restaurants, you should first look at the audience before you look at the menu. Are the customers mostly white people? Are they mostly Thai? Or perhaps a little of both? You can judge the quality and character of food very well just by looking at the customers on a Friday night. Is the place packed? Do they have a line? Or are they able to seat you right away? Places that are packed typically have better food, although there are no guarantees.

A little too authentic
My favorite Thai restaurants in Los Angeles include Natalie Thai (there are several branches), Chan Dara on Larchmont, and Thai Patio which has a few branches. Thai Patio used to be in my neighborhood until Whole Foods took over their spot. They have a branch in Thai town and a few other branches.

What I noticed is that at Natalie Thai or Thai Patio, the food is spiced perfectly to my particular liking. It is spicy enough, but not too spicy or too Thai. Not too Americanized either, although it must be Americanized to a point. My acupuncturist told me that no American would eat completely authentic Thai cuisine. I’m not sure if she is correct, but that would decrease your market share by about 80% leaving you with a small batch of eccentric connoisseurs. I have another Thai restaurant I like near the beach. They cater to an army of happy white people. The food is very mild there especially the salads which have lime-chili dressings. Their pad Thai is sweet as well which is an unusual twist. You could say that this beach spot is very Americanized in their cooking, but the quality is excellent none-the-less, and they have a very loyal following. Well, I wanted to know what truly authentic Thai cuisine was all about, so I made a pilgrimage to Thai town.

Somebody I know who is Thai recommended Thai Pair. I had been to a few of the other spots in Thai Town, but found the quality of their food to not be anything to brag about. Thai Pair was the spot that she said was 100% authentic. I first ordered green curry. The only vegetables were bell peppers and bamboo shoots. I felt that there should be green beans and other types of veggies too. I guess that is not their style. The next time I ordered a shrimp salad.

Shrimp Salad – Thai Pair style
This salad tasted great, and very spicy. Usually Americans are intimidated by a little spice. After living in Pune, India, I am only intimidated by an overdose of spice. But, this dish was not as spicy as it was sour. They use a lot of lemongrass, fish sauce and lime juice, not to mention chili powder. I don’t know if the fish sauce is fermented, but it is strong. In any case, it was delicious, but a little too sour for me. My stomach found it a little uncomfortable to have that much sourness in me, and my intestines were not accustomed to this either. The most interesting part of this culinary adventure were the subsequent trips to the toilet a few hours later. My urine was so pungent, that you could smell it from far away. Seafood, asparagus, and shrimp always give me smelly urine, but that fish sauce or whatever they added to the salad really amplified the experience. Executing my #2 was a bit unpleasant as this dish was hot going in, hot going out. I commend this restaurant for keeping it real. Unfortunately, I guess I’m not as much of a trooper as I thought, and will settle for 30%, or 100% Americanized Thai food in the future. My body just can’t take it!

Duck Salad at Thai Patio
Across the parking lot in Thai Town Plaza, Thai Patio had a duck salad. Most restaurants either don’t have duck, or do a poor job with duck. This salad had onions, lime juice, chili, basil, and a few other vegetables. It was delicious. Not too spicy, but not too bland either. The quality of the meat was much better than other places, and I will remember that duck salad for a long time.

Summary
Thais have many types of salads. I recommend trying them all. If you like being healthy, salad is the way to go. But, salad can get boring — unless you live near a Thai restaurant. There are glass noodle salads, larb which has ground meat in it, seafood salads, papaya salad, steak salad, and salad with sate sauce on it which is my regular favorite. Some restaurants even have other salads that I didn’t mention. So enjoy your culinary adventure with Thai salads.

Halloween 2014; Haunted mazes, and more

This year, halloween was somewhat fun. I was so upset last year that I didn’t do anything. So, this year I made it my business to go out and enjoy myself at some haunted attraction. My housemate wanted to go with me, so off we went. I researched some places, but unfortunately, the places I wanted to go to were not open on a Thursday night. Curses! So, I did a little more research and found a few choices that were open, and we picked the best choice.

We went up into the San Fernando Valley which is North of Los Angeles. The attraction was near a college on a huge suburban farm. I’ve been to dozens of these Halloween attractions. They are very predictable. You go through a maze, and high school students dressed in very fake looking costumes act eerie, and scary and jump out at you trying to scare you. But, sometimes it is unusual or fun. This attractions had a haunted corn field, a corn maze, a factory of horrors, and an insane asylum. We went to the haunted corn field. We walked through and all types of scary creatures jumped out at us. My housemate was so scared and screamed bloody murder each time someone jumped out. I had to put my fingers in my ears it was so loud. I explained that these were high school kids and that this was not real. Her response was, “But, what if it were real?” My response is that we could be driving home and a maniac from hell could come out from nowhere and have a deadly collision with us — but, this was not real.

So, after twelve sessions of her screaming for 45 seconds straight each time (I think the staff appreciated her genuine terror) we got to the point where the guy with the chainsaw singled her out. They didn’t bother me, (that much) because I wasn’t afraid. I knew there was no chain on the saw! But, this was actually fortunate, because the next attraction was much more scary — even for me.

The Factory of Horrors
I don’t remember the exact name, but the name is approximately what I titled this paragraph. I waited in a very short line. During the weekend this line is much worse by the way — 20 times worse. They let me in and I was greeted by a very eerie looking guy in a bell-boy outfit. He ushered me into the elevator and said, “You are very brave…” I wondered if he said this to all the guests or only to me. After all, I entered this horrific and dark place — alone! I prefer these attractions alone. It is scarier that way, you interact more with the scary staff. I don’t remember the order of events that well, but here we go. The elevator shook, the dim lights flickered. I wondered if I had made a mistake in coming there and how bad it would be. I started having serious second thoughts. Then, the shaking stopped, and I was escorted into the maze which was not there when I went into the elevator. This elevator didn’t go down. It just shook while they rearrange the walls. So, I proceeded down the hall. A guy jumped out at me and actually rammed into my leg. I was not hurt, but he hurt his knee on the ground. There was a guy being electrocuted screaming very loudly. A girl told me how she cut her boyfriend into pieces and that now she wanted to cut me with her knife. I walked by them and then there was this huge slamming noise of wood smacking into wood. Another room had the sound of metal drums crashing to the floor, and a loud engine which is kind of a scary sound in itself. I went through a tunnel that was circling around which made me very dizzy. I like that part the best by the way! There were all types of other creatures who jumped out at me and I just wanted to get out of there after a few minutes. Finally I exited the maze, and was relieved. I was so glad my friend hadn’t come with me, because she never would have made it. If she thought the other attraction was scary, this was ten times as bad, especially since it was so dark, and had such realistic sound effects.

Afterwards
We got some funnel cake with apples which was just top-notch. Then, we went home. On our way down the highway, something happened. A crazy guy in a Mercedes raced past us, he cut us off with only inches to spare, and then took off ahead of us. It was time for us to take our Laurel Canyon exit. There was a long light. But, then there were sirens on the highway. We decided that the crazy Mercedes driver had gotten into an accident and that the cops and hopefully an ambulance were there. Neither of us were scared, but I explained to my housemate that the situation two minutes ago was actually life-threatening even though we were not slightly afraid while the scares at the haunted attraction were not real. Interesting!

The good part is that I did not have any nightmares!

Halloween 2014: The Corn Maze and eating corn for dinner!

I wrote another Halloween blog about my experience in the haunted corn field attraction and the Factory of Horrors. Well, I have been to 30+ Halloween mazes and attractions. They are all sort of similar, but each with their individual touches. This time I wanted to try something different. I bet it is common in the Midwest to go into a corn maze. But, if you live in Los Angeles, we don’t have a lot of this type of attraction for obvious reasons. So, I tried it. I was a bit afraid of getting lost in there for a long time. But, the night was young, and we had eaten and had plenty of water to drink, so I figured I’d last an hour. The staff told us it would take 40 minutes to an hour to get in and out of there. From the outside, the cornfield didn’t seem that large. And you could see by the lights and the music which end the exit was. So, we were not in that bad shape.

The corn maze
We walked into the maze. There were other people mulling about. We decided to go to the far end which was not difficult to get to. At the far end we saw a map of the maze. I never knew that these mazes had maps, but I’ve never been to a maze like this before either. Luckily I brought my keychain flashlight with me so we could actually see the signs. The sign was a map of the maze with a you are here dot. I decided it would be fun to walk to the other side of the maze just to see what it was like. We had to walk almost all the way to the front, and then to the right and then all the way to the back. We saw another sign in the back. It was fun, and now it was time to leave. Little did I know we would get stuck. We walked for a few minutes to the front of the maze. We got to yet another sign. There was a small circle in the corner of the field where we were and four paths that diverged from a spot twenty feet behind where we were standing. The problem was that each of these four paths branched out and got twisty and confusing. As an experienced navigator and road trip taker, I figured I would just look at the map and get it right the first or second time. Each route I took led us the wrong direction. Then, I tried a third approach being very careful this time. That led us back to the circle. My last attempt was the fourth attempt and did get me out of there to the front where we easily found an exit. We were only somewhat lost for about ten minutes, and it added to the excitement.

Grilled Corn
After the maze, we waited in a two hour line to go back to the Factory of Horrors that I wrote about in another recent blog. The Thursday line was 10 minutes, the Saturday night line was close to two hours. So, we decided to have a discussion about all the countries in the world. My house mate had been studying up and knew almost all 192 countries. I didn’t know that Trinidad was not a country. The name of the country is “Trinidad and Tobago.” Well, excuse me! The discussions we had were very interesting and probably never would have happened if were were not stuck somewhere for a long time. It reminded me of an adventure we had had in 2001 when we went to the Grand Canyon together and we were imitating all of the different languages on the headset for the tour guide of an air tour we signed up to take (which was really expensive for 45 minutes.) We had a lot of fun on that trip, and were having a lot of fun on this adventure too. The Factory of Horrors was a lot different with all those people going in at the same time. There was no more elevator, and I already knew what the scares were, so I was not that scared. Oh well. You live and you learn.

So, after the mazes, we couldn’t figure out what to eat. Should I get a hot dog? No! I’ll get corn. There were some older ladies grilling corn. I bought one for $3 and she showed me all the seasonings. I love cajun, so I put some on. I bit into the corn and said, “Wow, this is the best corn I’ve ever had in my life.” It was very fresh since they are based in a cornfield. It was so good I got a second piece, and my housemate got an ear too. This time the lady recommended I try the “Slap ya mama” seasoning — in moderation because it was hot. Wow! It was excellent. I’ll remember that simple pleasure of eating fresh corn for a long time. She mentioned that her son created the mazes. And then out of nowhere her son appeared. He was about 50-ish. I talked to him for about 20 minutes about the business aspect of running a haunted attraction since that is one of my goals. He told me the realities, the costs, the profits, and market segments, etc. I wanted something more realistic and scarier, and he said that would appeal to a smaller market segment and would be harder to find a following for. It was great talking to him, especially since I’ve been dying (no pun intended) to talk to someone who had a haunted attraction about ideas.

Halloween: instead of the typical attractions, what about this?

I’m a little worn out of the typical Halloween attractions. You go through a dark and twisty maze and people in weird make up and outfits jump out at you. It is too predictable. The sound effects are predictable too. There is the boiler room, the train, the chainsaw, eerie music, and then techno beats to go with flashing lights. My favorite part of the last attraction I went to was the room with the white strobe light. It was so bright, you couldn’t see anything in front of you. You had to cling to the wall. It was very interesting and a little scary.

I like the idea of haunted mazes, but I would like more interaction with the actors. I think that I would prefer if they would be scary without trying to be scary. They should just give you the creeps, and let the feeling of terror build up in you until you reach an apex! Unfortunately for me, the haunted attraction industry specializes in catering to the 19 year old market segment which is the largest. High school kids don’t go as much to these attractions because it is expensive, and they often don’t have transportation. Adults seem to not go so often to these attractions. So, it makes business sense to appeal to 19 year olds in particular, but that is not interesting for me. I am 45, and consider myself to be a connoisseur of experiences.

A haunted bar?
There are many interesting and perhaps cost effective alternatives to the traditional haunted maze made of plywood sets. The thing that makes the maze interesting might be the sound effects or your interactions with the staff. But, at a haunted bar, you could really interact with some very creepy people without a lot of sets.

Imagine that you sign up for a haunted tour, or maze. But, before the tour begins, you sit at the bar. It is more fun if the scares are unexpected. The bar turns out to be way more scary than the maze (perhaps.) You talk to a seemingly normal bar tender. You order a drink. Since liquor licenses are hard to get, your drink might be a non-alcoholic drink. The bar tender drops to the floor after a ghoulish guy with haunted make up murders him with a huge ax from the 1400’s and then says, “I was sick of him anyway.” Your drink comes. There might be blood dripping down the side of the glass, or perhaps not. If you ordered tea, the spoon in the tea cup starts moving around on its own. That would scare the daylights out of me. Next, some very creepy girls with horror movie make up sit next to you. They look like they had a throat operation and have sharp metal objects surgically implanted into their lips which are a costume of course. They can tell you about their former boyfriend and how he did something they didn’t like and how they took care of him. Then, they come right next to you and say, “Want a date?” After they leave, some other creepy characters would sit next to you at the bar. When you turn around, the entire bar could be filled with creeps. What an experience — if done right.

The Star Wars scenario
What if on your way to your haunted maze, you had to walk down a series of long hall ways. Imagine if these long hallways had Star Wars characters walking past you in perfect outfits. I’m not talking about inexpensive costumes. Professional quality costumes that might cost $2000 or more per piece. They could be making small talk with each other about how the Federation raised taxes or why making the jump to light speed is overrated. It would be really fun to go to a Star Wars bar with that kooky music in the background. You could meet Jaba the hut and other creatures from outer space.

The Victorian House
What if you went into a house, and there was a small party in one of the lower rooms. Perhaps wine and cheese. Perhaps spooky organ music. But, what if you were to take turns moving around the house alone? Strange footsteps, odd sounds, cold spots, heavy breathing when nobody is there. There are ways to creep people out, and I wish people who ran haunted attractions would go for more subtle scares rather than assembly line people jumping out at you. They do a lot of slamming sounds in commercial haunted mazes, but there is a correct way to use slamming sounds. According to the classical haunted tales in Victorian houses, it is absolutely silent, except for the creaky sounds of the floorboards below you. You walk in darkness, or perhaps go up the stairs to an eerie second floor. You open a door — then all of a sudden there is a huge crash, and the sounds of glass breaking, pots falling, or other abrupt noises startles you. If it happens again and again it is not an authentic Halloween scare, but only a cheap commercial imitation.

With a little imagination, people could create very interesting haunted attractions. Unfortunately, this industry is only active one month a year and you have to make whatever profits you can in that limited time. It makes it kind of hard to do anything artistic in that time frame.

The Starr Pass Marriott in Tucson – the best hotel of my life!

The Starr Pass Marriott Resort in Tucson is no ordinary hotel. It was the most pleasant hotel I’ve stayed at in my life. I would never have guessed purely by looking at their website. The grounds look beautiful, and their website is beautiful too. But, by being there you see what they are about.

The downside
There are very few downsides to this amazing resort, but, I’ll fill you in on them first. They have free parking which is an upside, but it is on the far end of the huge building. It takes about six minutes to walk from parking, go up the elevator and go all the way past the conference halls, spa, stores, and more to get to reception.

The upsides
On a brighter note, the entire staff at this resort are the most helpful and fastest on the draw of any hotel I’ve been at in my life. They answer the phone on the first ring, and there was no waiting around in line. Good service is not only convenient, but it makes me feel good. The service in the restaurant was equally good, and they even threw in a few free items to my happy surprise.

Prices
The price tag at this resort is not cheap. It is usually in excess of $200 per room per night. But, in my opinion, it is a pleasure to enjoy at least once per year. If you book two weeks in advance they will give you 20% off, plus sometimes they have packages with meal coupons or spa treatments thrown in. Personally, I want both. Don’t be fooled by the prices, because there is a $29 resort fee tacked on for internet, golf courses, and other amenities — and they have the prettiest golf courses at any resort I’ve ever seen.

The bathroom
It was love at first flush. This bathroom had a sliding wood door which is wonderful. Other places have doors that open into the hallway, or into the cramped bathroom and you have to crawl around the door. Sliding is the way to go. The bathroom had a bath as well as a shower. I liked this concept very much. But, I mentioned to the staff — what if I want to take a “Sbath” or a “Bshower?” Alas, it was not possible. But I really worked that bathroom to the max as I took not only a shower, but a few foot baths. And I enjoyed every minute. The little soaps were cute too and were a nice finishing touch.

The balcony
I enjoyed the fact they gave me a room with a view of the golf course. I’m not sure how wonderful the other room’s views were, but mine was excellent. I guess if you go during the slow season, you get a better pick of rooms.

The room
The bed was comfortable, and the room was spacious enough. I really enjoyed the fact that I had a huge square table where I could do my work. I felt very motivated to do work at this hotel. The feng-shui there is very work-oriented which makes sense as they have serious corporate conferences there daily. When I go on vacation, I take some work with me so I don’t get behind. This location is the best work location I have ever seen as I just feel like overworking the minute I walk in the building.

Meals & Deals
Then, it was time for dinner. I called to make a reservation. As always they answered on the first ring. The French restaurant I wanted to eat at was closed that day, but the other place was open until 10pm. Yay! So, I finished my work, and waltzed downstairs for a late dinner. I enjoyed tasting some of their wines. The local wine unfortunately didn’t work, but I had a very satisfying zinfandel. After that I had green chili cous cous with salmon which was the best cous cous I’ve ever had. For desert I tried their churros with a Mexican chocolate and fruit sauce. I enjoyed taking turns dipping my churros into the various sauces given to me. It was a very satisfying evening and a very satisfying stay.

A parting hike
The last part of my trip was a short hike around the local hills. I was foolish and hiked in my flip flops, but I was careful and didn’t incur any injuries. It was rocky and steep in some sections. But, it was fun to see the local desert terrain and get some healthy exercise. I don’t know of any other hotels that have on-site hiking trails except in wine country, CA.

I look forward to my next trip to the Starr Pass Marriot. I hope I enjoy it as much the second time around.

This Halloween I got a real scare that was very creepy and real!

I wrote two other quick blog posts about my Halloween. It was actually interesting since I got to meet the owner of one of the attractions. But, going to these predictable Halloween events is a bit unsatisfying year after year. I always complain that the scares are not authentic Halloween scares. They are disturbing, but not eerie like they are supposed to be. Having people in cheap costumes “trying” to be scary jumping out at you gets old very quickly.

Well, it was Halloween night. I had my steak at Wood Ranch. I walked home and saw some people with great face make up. One girl had Avatar face make up on and it was shiny blue. How professional looking and impressive! I saw a stormtrooper on my afternoon walk and talked to him about how he put together his outfit. But, it was later on when the real action took place.

I was doing my work on my computer as I usually do. I took a break to watch television. They had a 1980’s Halloween zombie movie playing. Eight people were trapped in a house and zombies were slowly walking towards to house trying to break in. Their eyes were white. They were dead, but perhaps possessed, so they could still move around. The people were boarding up the house and the music for this movie was eerie. If you ask me, the month of October is creepy in general. I tend to get a chilling feeling quite easily, and certain parts of town are just plain spooky.

So, as I was doing my work, a spirit came behind me. For those of you who don’t know, I see spirits quite easily. I generally only experience the spirit of my guru who comes to give me spiritual help. But, this time it was a very spooky and creepy spirit. I felt a sudden chill which is an authentic reaction to being near a ghost. This was a spirit, not a ghost, but then what is the difference? You can physically see a ghost, while you cannot physically see a spirit. I felt afraid, and that cold spot got me to close the windows and crank my heater up full blast.

But, after that experience was over, I said to myself — this is how Halloween is supposed to be, and that was an authentic eerie, spooky, and creepy Halloween scare! That is the one thing these haunted attractions never give me no matter how much I pay, or how many reviews I read!

Four Corners part 3: The return home

This blog entry is in three parts. The first few parts were published a few days ago. Please scroll back to read them before you read the ending.

Westward Ho
On my way back from New Mexico to Los Angeles, I decided to go via El Mapais National Park. There are many spirits there who do healing work. The last time I was there, I hiked, and a spirit guarding the place was a little bit disapproving of my presence. This time, I didn’t sense any spirits during the hike. There was only one spirit on the road this time. He was an older Indian spirit — one of the same ones who had worked on me the last time. It might be disconcerting to you readers to think about having weird spirits doing healing work on you while you are driving. But, over the last several years, I have gotten used to this providing that the spirit doing the work knows what they are doing which is not always the case. A few can be very rough. So, the spirit helped me for an hour and I thanked him.

Remote Territory
I drove through some very remote parts of Western New Mexico in the mountains and then crossed into Arizona. I drove on a very narrow windy road through grassy fields for a very long time. Then the road went down hill and I had to drive through a flooded area. Fortunately, nothing bad happened! That night I stayed at the Starr Pass Marriott which is the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. I wrote a separate article all about it. The following night I stayed in Oro Valley where I learned that I meditate really well. I slept well there too, but I didn’t really enjoy staying there.

The Hyatt
On my way home, I had a late lunch at the Hyatt in Scottsdale, AZ. It was very luxurious, and it was fun to get great service and see how the other half lives! I enjoyed having a hamburger and black bean chili there not to mention a great almond chocolate cake! Yum. I took a walk around the hotel and the pool was packed with people enjoying themselves. After that, it was back home. It took seven hours to drive home from there. I took surface streets to the Western part of the 101 to avoid rush hour traffic. It had been a very bizarre and magical trip. I hope I have other trips like it in the future.

It’s funny, but the silliest part of the trip happened in Taos. I started taking a poll. If someone lives in Taos, are they a Taos dweller, a Taotian, or a Taoseno? The latter is the correct answer, but the other answers are fun too.

Four Corners part 2: New Mexico

I started writing about Four Corners in a blog published a few days ago. I suggest you read that before you read this part!

Onward Ho!
I didn’t spend long there, but I appreciated the art work and hearing the Navajo language on the radio they had playing there. They have a very different culture from anything I’ve ever seen, and I appreciate them and the stillness of their land and their way of life. I drove on my way to Chama, NM where I had decided to spend the night after a long day of driving. I got a chocolate bar at a gas station and then was back to my journey. But, there was a noise.. The noise kept getting louder. Finally I decided I might have a flat and pulled into a store. I was very lucky that that store was there, because where I was driving there was nothing for 20 miles in a row. I think my guru must have been watching me. He asked me to inform him before I left for my trip and I did. Some nice native people helped me change my tired and I drove to Chama on a donut tire which was low on air.

Chama
Chama is a picturesque little town in the mountains of New Mexico near Colorado. The only attraction of the town is a little narrow gauge railway for tourists that goes once per day to Colorado. I didn’t want to waste a whole day on a little train, but I drove the same route the train takes. It was a little different than the view from the train tracks, but the color scheme was amazing, and I enjoyed the trip. But, before that, I had to get my tire changed and engine light looked at. There was a gas station run by a nice older guy. He sold me a new tire and did some quick diagnostic work to see what was wrong with my car. It was the catalytic converter. But, did it need to be changed or was it just bad gas? We started out with some fuel additive to clean up whatever was in the tank. If the check engine light came on again, then it was not the gas, but an expensive part that would need to be changed. The interesting part of this quick trip to the gas station was that my psychic said that the guy running the station was my son in a past life! Wow! And I really liked him too. He was just like me. He worked all the time, and then would take a few days off per month and go out of state. That is exactly what I do too.

The Drive
The mountains of Colorado were wonderful with the leaves changing from light green to dark green, orange, red, and there were yellow colors too in the hills. The little town the train ends at in Colorado was not a pleasant place and I got out of there fast without finding a place to eat. Then, I drove East to the 25. The sky opened up and the land was flat. I felt like a sandwich between the ground and the sky. It was such an odd feeling and at such a high speed. Finally, I got to the 25. I drove South and then investigated the town of Trinidad. There was a historical house there that I wanted to see. Trinidad is a very old town with many historic buildings and perhaps a few ghosts too. I was disappointed that the house I wanted to see was part of a museum that was closed for the season, but I enjoyed the house. After that I drove down to Raton after crossing into New Mexico and took the road to Taos. Raton was a little town with older homes. It was not too fascinating, so I got back on the road to Taos. The scenery unfolded before me on the highway, with amazing desert mountains that eroded so gradually into the desert floor. I kept driving until I got to this tiny artist town of Cimarron. I had an ice cream shake and chatted with the lady who ran the place. She was a few years older than me and told me how she worked hard on her business and made pretty good money in that tiny town. She sold art, hot dogs and ice cream. An odd combination. But, it is fun to meet other entrepreneurs who work hard and do well, especially if they are friendly. After that it was on to Taos.

The Taos Burger.
I stopped at Martyrs Steak House to use the bathroom. I was really hungry and didn’t know the town well. I wanted to eat. So, I decided to try their green chili burger. Green chili is the state food of New Mexico, so it is common to find it in all types of dishes that you might not associate it with. This burger had a delicious charred and rich flavor. It could have been the best burger I’ve had in my life. After that, I went out on a stroll to see what the other restaurants were like. None of them appealed to me, so I’m glad I ate where I ate.

To Santa Fe
After my little driving adventure, I wanted to see Santa Fe more closely. I had been there before and “done” the major tourist attractions. But, I wanted to do more walking, and try more restaurants. I had to take the car to Beaver Toyota and got to know the people there well. But, I had to go every single day to order parts and get my work done. They drove me downtown where I did my sight seeing. I enjoyed Tapas at several places, and took a leisurely walk around town many times seeing art galleries with native art, Spanish, Peruvian, and Tibetan art. I had a fun time, and met some fun people. Of course, no trip to Santa Fe is complete without a trip to Kakawa Chocolatiers for the best hot chocolate in the world. They have a revolving menu with over a dozen types of hot chocolate with Mayan and other flavor schemes which are completely unique and masterfully executed. I tried an African place too and enjoyed some African curry chicken. Walking around got more interesting when I met a drum dealer from Africa and sampled his goods. He was a professional and did a little drumming for me. I met a guy from Jerusalem who told me his story and he had some of the best Indian jewelry I had ever seen. I met a very spiritual guy at one of the tapas places and we talked about life, spirituality, the universe, and sustainable practices which is something he specialized in. I also took a drive to Chimayo and sampled some local style New Mexican food at several places including a lamb burrito which is something I’ve never experienced before. I enjoyed my mini food tour, but honestly, tapas place #2 where I met the spiritual guy is my place. I had a rabbit sausage sandwich with a harissa spiced salad. I long to return there. The bread was soft, and the people were warm — it was perfect.

Albuquerque
After a few days, my intestines sent a message to me. The message was that eating too many pinto beans in the same day just gives me too much gas. I also noticed that my health had not gotten noticeably better in Santa Fe. My psychic later told me that a lot of very important health work had been done on me by the spirits in Santa Fe, but the results were not immediately noticeable. I noticed from earlier trips that certain places make me feel happy, sad, relaxed, or desirous to work. Albuquerque scored high in the happiness department. I stayed for three nights at Comfort Inn. I tried some various restaurants there and enjoyed a daily hike in the mountains East of the city. The hiking was very happy, and I started feeling better right away. But, by day three I was really happy. I tried Nepali food, more tapas downtown including “blood sausage” which was interesting, and visited a few other restaurants. My favorite restaurant — Street Food Asia had closed down for good which was very sad. But, since Albuquerque is happy for me, I was happy anyway — in a disappointed way.

My trip to Four Corners Part 1: NV, UT & Four Corners

I take trips to the Southwest regularly. I love the desert, and love the scenery and the feeling. Arizona and New Mexico are favorite destinations for me, even if the weather is not the best. I still love it. I often take the Southern route from Los Angeles through San Diego to Yuma, Tucson, and Southern New Mexico on the 10 Freeway. But, this time, it was the end of Summer and I wanted to do something different. So, I took a route through Utah and down into Four Corners.

Mesquite, NV
I started driving at night and made it to Mesquite, Nevada. I enjoyed a wrap at McDonalds. It wasn’t that great, but wasn’t that bad either. I stayed at a Best Western and enjoyed a comfy night. The next day, I drove through Utah. I wanted to see Capitol Reef National Park and experience parts of Utah far from the highway. So, I stopped at Panda Express in one of the towns along the highway. Whenever I go to these inner states, I am always amazed at how American everything is and how white everyone is. There are always minorities, but in Utah — if you are a minority, you are really a minority. It’s not like Los Angeles where the minorities are the majority!

Capitol Reef
So, I got off the highway and started driving on the smaller roads. I got to Capitol Reef after a while. I went hiking around Chimney Rock for half an hour. It was picturesque. But, I got this feeling of suicide. I wanted to end it all. But, why? I had been feeling sad for a month or two before this trip and I thought the trip would cheer me up. I was right, but not about this leg of the trip. I missed the opportunity to have rattlesnake cakes with aioli. I’ll have to go back, because that is too much to pass up. But, I arrived in a little town called Hanksville. That is where things took a turn in the wrong direction — literally. I had dinner at a nice little place. I got to talking with the locals. They warned me not to stay at the hotel across the street which they thought was like Bates hotel. Thank God they told me otherwise… who knows! In any case, I enjoyed my brisket dinner.

The Ghost & Suicide at Chimney Rock
But, when I went to the bathroom and opened the door, the towel machine started churning out a towel. I asked them about the ghost in their bathroom. They said that they had a ghost, but not in the bathroom. The towel machine was sensitive to the light. The ghost was in the back room that none of them dared to go into. Apparently there had been a brutal murder there over 100 years ago in the other side of the restaurant at a particular table which they pointed out to me. A lady was killed there. Her ghost inhabits one of the back rooms and has for decades. They also told me that many people had committed suicide in that town during historical times. No wonder I felt so suicidal at Chimney Rock.

No Hotels
Since there were no hotels, I made my way up 55 miles North to the highway where there was a Ramada. They were having a melon festival in town, and I got their last room. Lucky me. It was not the most well kept hotel, and not cheap either, but it got me through the night. The guys running it were young and had saved up their money working hard and invested in the hotel with their parents! It’s nice to see that I am not the only entrepreneur in town!

It rained the whole day
I drove back down to Hanksville, fueled up and was off to my next top. I wanted to drive through the canyons. It was pouring rain the entire day, but due to my incredible luck, the rain stopped every time I got to a scenic viewpoint. I drove to the lookout for part of Glen Canyon and it was a very unusual view. Maybe not my favorite, but the texture of the rocky landscape was like no other. Then, it was off to Four Corners. I had a lot of driving to do that day and it wasn’t going to get done by itself. So, I drove further and noticed my check engine light was on. That was not a good sign. But, was it serious or not? I knew I shouldn’t have gotten gas in Hanksville.

Never buy gas in Hanksville
So, I went to a gas station in Blanding Utah. That is a little town in the middle of nowhere. I always feel that in that part of Utah, the spirits blow with the wind. The metaphysical atmosphere is thin there, and strange things happen. I started chatting with the blue-eyed lady at the gas station. She was very friendly and told me all about all the interesting places she had lived in her life. I met some local Navajo folks who were also very friendly. But, the guy had a wild look in his eye. Not a scary one, there was just something crazy about him. I fueled up while I checked the engine. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. The oil and fluids were okay. Maybe it was that gas I purchased in Hanksville. Maybe it was not filtered. Three days later I learned that it was not the gas I had bought. It was my catalytic converter. It was ten years old and needed to be changed at great expense.

Strange things started happening.
While I was fueling up, the Navajo guy yelled, “Your gas is overflowing!” Normally gas stops when your tank is full, but not in Blanding. Small towns in the middle of nowhere don’t have big city standards. So, I ran and pulled out the nozzle. I had lost more than half a gallon. But, how did this happen? In this part of the country, spirits roam wild and like to play tricks on the living for fun.

Four Corners & the dogs with the crazy eyes
So, I enjoyed meeting these nice people at the gas station. You never know where you will meet the most interesting people of your life. Normally I meet them at ashrams or ice cream places, but gas stations could be a good spot too. I was off to Four Corners. On the way, I made a wrong turn on the wrong highway. It had a very similar number to the one I wanted. 262 vs. 162. So, I turned around. Then, a few minutes later I got to 162. I drove a little bit, and there were two doggies sitting in the middle of the road. I was concerned for them as I didn’t want them to get killed. They had no sense. But, they had the same exact crazy look in their eyes as that Navajo guy had. I wonder if there is some karmic relationship between that man and those dogs. People can sometimes be very related to animals as we evolve out of animals spiritually! So, I went around the dogs and made my way to Four Corners. I parked in the dirt parking lot. The first thing I did was to get a Native American taco. They are made with fry bread, seasoned beans, diced tomato, lettuce, and hot sauce. It was wonderful, and it had been a decade since the last one I had. Then, I stood at Four Corners and jumped from state to state like a child. I chatted with the Navajo art dealers. It was fun to see their perspective. One lady said she had traveled to Pennsylvania, but everything was so close, that she couldn’t get used to it. Over there you can see for miles with the wind blowing in your hair.

To be continued in a few days…