become not just your own boss, but your own royalty

Let’s face it, if you don’t try very hard, you can choose a career path that adds little to no value to your own self worth or to humanity in general. You could be a mandatory Jersey gas pumper, mime, day trader, second hand snake oil peddler, investment banker, or komodo dragon wrangler.

But studies in the past have shown that most human beings think that if they were appointed emperor of Earth, that the world would be a better place. Which says a lot about us as a species, because it’s patently untrue. But hey, just take a look at who just got elected to Congress, and it’s easy to conclude your next door neighbor’s four year old is both better qualified and a better person.

But now here’s a chance to become not just your own boss, but your own royalty. Per the BBC, an entire abandoned village in Salto de Castro, Spain can be yours for like $250K, or about 11% of the price for a one bedroom flat in Frisco. Here’s an aerial shot of your future kingdom:

Now my first thought is the village is on top of a mountain because like a lot of the planet’s villages they were built on hills for defensive purposes against [insert any human or natural calamity here]. And I was wrong. The village was built in the 1950’s by a power company to house workers building a reservoir. You can just see the water on the right of the above shot.

So it’s not like it’s an ancient village, but I’m sure there’s history there. The Iberian Peninsula has a ton of history. And you can make your own history, for after your purchase of Salto de Castro, you can just straight go ahead and claim independence and appoint yourself to enteral, divine rule. Any person on the planet can apply to become your subject, for a fee, of course. I mean, you’d be royalty, and need coin.

Why should Monaco or Andorra have all the weirdo small state fun? Get in on the action, while you can. What’s the Spanish Army [cue laughter] going to do? Attack? [cue even more extensive laugh track] You could even get some mercs on the cheap to act as your royal bodyguard.

I hear there are a bunch of mercs in a place called [shuffles through notes] Ukraine who are having a hard time with their current boss and looking for a new gig in which they are not cannon fodder for a failed invasion. You could get them on the cheap. Though it would increase your chances of regicide by 723%.

In all seriousness though whoever buys this place is a fool. For $250K you get the honor to have to plow like $56M just to make it livable again. And it’s all industrial strength faceless buildings from the 1950’s that I doubt are seeping with culture. Plus if you look at the above pic, you can see the high tension power lines running up from the reservoir past the town. How peaceful.

Someone will do it though. There are all kinds of idiots with big money out there who are looking to blow it on crazy projects or vanity ideas. And Salto de Castro won’t be the last. In 2075 due to crippling rural depopulation you’ll likely be able to buy an entire Korean or Japanese province for a pack of salted shrimp snacks. After all, it’s good to be the king.

absurdity of the week – apartment building names

As I ride into work on the subway I always see a lot of construction.  But much of it is coming to a close as all the newfangled buildings take shape.  Many of them are brand new modern city apartment buildings.  First off, all of these structures are glass enclosed, fake brick nightmares that have stale architecture, no style, and look like they were designed by a logical computer program.  Probably because they were designed by a logical computer program with the intent of providing the most efficiency possible.  Once upon a time, humanity built beautiful buildings with soul.  Even the post office was meant to have style.  Now we get buildings that are designed off spreadsheet outcomes.

Second, all of these new apartment buildings have the most pretentious names imaginable.  One I saw this morning is called “The Gantry”.  What?  According to Oxford, a gantry is: “a tall metal frame that is used to support a crane, road signs, a spacecraft while it is still on the ground, etc.”  So other than to sound fancy, snooty, and otherwise give the impression that this particular apartment building only wishes to house stuck up assholes, why would you name your building after a metal frame?  Of course, you wouldn’t.  What I’ve written above to me is a negative trait for a building, but to the building designers it’s The Point.

The Gantry in San Francisco (not my city, yes there are several The Gantry’s in the USA [shakes head in exasperation]) says this:  “EVERY COMFORT CONSIDERED.  The Gantry Apartments welcomes you with studio-, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartment homes in Dogpatch, San Francisco, all designed to meet your needs and desires for a carefree and luxurious lifestyle.”  It also uses the term “Luxe” on the website.  To steal a quote from South Park, in order to live in such a place you have to be in love with the smell of your own farts.

But don’t worry!  TAP is here to help.  We’ll take care of apartment naming from now on.  If building designers disagree, they’ll be sent to a Russian conscript training camp near Rostov-on-Don and their buildings destroyed by my Guests.  Let’s go.  Let’s fucking go!!!

1) The Gambler – We see to your every comfort, unless life’s dice roll against you, in which case we will immediately evict you

2) The Wreck of the Hesperus – Where your pride is summarily & forcefully removed via our constant vigilance towards your misery

3) As We Like It – Your every comfort is not considered, if this is a problem, you don’t have to live here

4) The Cat Burglar – All pets (particularly cats) are more than welcome at our fine establishment, just realize we will occasionally rob you for your own amusement

5) The Acolyte Politico – We have no available apartments, please kindly descend into our boiler room to tour our fine building, it is recommend your will is accurate prior to your visit

6) The Coliseum – We built our beautiful building to match Rome’s finest architecture, we also host blood sports in the penthouse every Friday and Saturday

7) Gulag – The finest of pre-revolution Imperial Russian architecture provides a backdrop to our mandate that any abject pretension detected in the building will result in severest punishment

8) The Olympian – Sports, every day, competition, we’re for the strong of all, and our building carries the boon of classic Greek architecture

9) The Hopeless – We seek to provide our residents every opportunity to consider the pointlessness of their corporeal existence, also free gym membership!!

10) The Lunatic – Why did I write this post?  Someone, please help me!  They made me do this, I need rescuing!  Please help pay my ransom.  Please kindly send cash, money order, or gold bullion to:

The Arcturus Project – Apartment Architecture & Naming Reclamation Project

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

Nagasaki – Confucius Shrine

Not sure why I ended up at this Shrine, it’s not entirely popular but I’ve got pictures of it so I guess I went there for a reason. I guess?

Constructed in 1893 by Nagasaki’s Chinese residents the place has 72 statues of Confucius. It’s a reminder that Nagasaki was always the ancient gateway into Japan.

Note the differences in architecture from Japanese shrines from some of my previous posts.

Osaka – Shitennō-ji

I just didn’t take as many photos back then, I guess. Go to a temple, take only two shots? I’ve talked about how this can be a good thing. But when I don’t remember all that much about the visit, I guess it can also be a bad thing.

About an hour’s walk from Sumiyoshi-taisha is Shitennō-ji, another very old temple with a long history. It’s beyond my memory, but this is an excellent summary.

Shitennō-ji is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan but sadly all the buildings date from a 1960’s rebuild. Still worth a short visit.

Ōsaka-jō – and why building expensive castles usually doesn’t work

So you want to build a castle. You’re a powerful man but you have a boss. And his castle is awesome. So you want to build one that’s even better than his. So your tower is taller, you throw some gold leaf on there, and you probably think you’ve done an awesome thing.

Problem is, your boss dies, and you’re left hanging with this big, huge, expensive castle while your enemy instead has a massive killing machine of a mobile field army. Oh, and sorry, fixed defenses are generally of only limited value during a long running military conflict. Just ask China how well the Great Wall was at keeping out those dastardly Mongols.

Ōsaka-jō was built from 1583-1597 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who wanted to mirror the digs of his boss (at the time, everybody’s boss) in Oda Nobunaga. But then Oda died. And soon the son in Toyotomi Hideyori gets Ōsaka-jō.

Then one day in 1600 this ordinary, average, nondescript guy named Tokugawa Ieyasu wins arguably one of the devastating and decisive battles in military history at Sekigahara. Toyotomi loses badly, but it takes Tokugawa until 1615 to acquire enough balance of power to finally settle the score. Tokugawa’s army of several hundred thousand men overpowers Ōsaka-jō, burns it to the ground, Toyotomi dies by his own hand, and Japan’s history is essentially written for the next two hundred years.

Tokugawa rebuilds the castle, because of course. In the subsequent centuries it does what a lot of wooden buildings do throughout history, it burns repeatedly. Gets rebuilt. Then burns again. Then the castle is rebuilt with public contributions. Then during the Boshin War it’s taken and burned again. Then it’s rebuilt, but this time as an arsenal. And so the the Americans carpet bomb the place into oblivion in August 1945.

Only in the late 1990’s is the castle itself restored. But in typical Japanese fashion, it’s done in concrete and not wood. Every time, it still gives me a lack of understanding chuckle at the lack of authenticity and reverence the Japanese have for historical sites and buildings. Nothing quite like the calm, religious experience of a glorious temple, when you can buy hello kitty right inside the door from one of my merchant stalls.

This was a neat visit, it’s cool to look at and the ground themselves are beautiful more as a garden or a park. The tower is interesting, but it feels stale and not real. Probably because it’s concrete and not real. It’s not one of my favorite Japan locations, by far, but it’s worth a short trip if you’re in town.

And also, if you have a Bond style villain demi-god level of power in your future somewhere, don’t build a castle or a god-like evil lair. Building expensive castles usually doesn’t work, see Ōsaka-jō. Or Bond will blow up your lair. Focus on mobile field armies or goons instead.

what’s within the ‘big void’?

Great news, everybody!  There’s a front page news story that doesn’t involve politics, sexual assault, destroyed human flesh, or politics.  It’s the question of what’s up with this supposed big empty space discovered inside of Khufu’s giant ode to human waste, aka the Pyramids.

For the uninitiated, the Pharaohs built the Pyramids as giant teleportation chambers that were intended to take their souls to eternity as gods.  The structures took decades to build and cost countless human lives.  But as I’ll always say, who the hell are we to say this was stupid and didn’t work?  For all we know Khufu is indeed seated upon his throne in Valhalla swilling barley wine from a highball glass shouting, “Foools!”

So basically a bunch of scientists have used new technology to look inside the rock of the Pyramid and have determined there are two empty voids inside the Pyramid, as shown in this diagram I ripped from the BBC:

the void.png

Oh my, what the fuck could those be?  Who knows.  But we’ll speculate here, because why not?  We’ve got nothing better to do.

1) These voids don’t actually exist, the technology is wrong, and instead these areas are just solid rock.  Human hope and adventure are destroyed in agony as we realize all the breadth and scope of the human spirit still can’t develop technology capable of scanning a five-thousand year old piece of stone.

2) The bigger void is actually the Valhalla Purgatory Sexual Assault Branch Clinic.  It was established by Pharaoh Apophis II after his demise in 2867 BC at the hands of an aggrieved female attendant.  Weinstein, Spacey, Trump, and Clinton are all bound to do time there.  They all get there down the road, and they find Louis XIV is seated in a wicker chair at the entrance.  Louis pulls on his cigarette, and wryly states, “Welcome Gentlemen, pull up a chair, you’re going to be here for a while.”  [pulls on cigarette]

3) The rock in the voids has crumbled for some reason due to the Pyramid settling, or natural erosion, or through mistakes by the original builders.  In ancient times these weren’t voids but solid stone, but now they’ve emerged over the thousands of years since construction.

4) The voids were created in 2008 in secret by Jeff Bezos.  It houses the “Arcane Division” of Amazon Web Services.  Held on the bank of servers within is the hopes, dreams, fears, and buying habits of every man, woman, and child on Earth, to include whether the most destitute man alive wants to buy a comb or not.  Bezos figured the Pyramid was the safest place to build this as, “No matter how crooked I am, how many politicians I bribe, or how hated I am, they can’t possibly blow up the Pyramids, right?” [lights cigar with Ben Franklin; puffs on cigar]

5) Khufu had a handball court built in there, just because he could.  3K slaves died to make it happen.  It was sealed inside the rock.  He never played on it once.  This amused him every time he thought about it.

6) It’s where the aliens hid the bomb.

7) The Pharaoh’s builders made the voids to account for star fluctuation based upon their astronomical measurements (yes, they did this) and mathematical calculations.  The intent to was to mass accelerate the Pharaoh’s divine journey into oblivion.

8) Beer repository for the afterlife.  Khufu had 9K years of beer stored in there so he could swill in Valhalla with glorious abandon.  What happens after the beer runs out in 4K years?  Khufu hasn’t thought that far ahead, it makes him sad when he does.  And in any case, all things being equal, Khufu never thought humanity would last this long anyways without blowing ourselves up.

9) Khufu had the chamber built just to mess with people’s brains.  They’re entirely empty.  They serve no purpose.

10) The chambers were hand carved from the bare rock by one time Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, closet Bayern Munich fan, amateur bridge player, and perverse sexual deviant Zahi Hawass.  Within the confines of the void he toils on a daily basis to supplement his meager millions of previous income with his own line of Indiana Jones custom hats, archeology lectures, commentary upon the Jewish race, boom mike operator temp assignment business for the National Geographic, Discovery, and History Channels, and his own independent line of male perfume “Pharaoh’s Shaft”.  None of this is a lie, just ask the great man himself!  @ZahiHawass “TUTANKHAMUN – HIS TOMB & HIS TREASURES is in Sweden! Come to my lecture on Jan 31st at the Oscarsteatern, Stockholm”  [Editor’s Note: the ALL CAPS is ALL ZAHI! ALL THE TIME!]



Milwaukee – Pabst Mansion

My Grandfather was so into Pabst beer that he named his dog after it.  This supposedly scruffy little mutt had a sharp personality.  So he fit well with his originally rough Milwaukee based namesake brew.  I think this also explains much of my obsession with all things beer, much to my detriment at times.

I suppose both my Grandfather and his dog would be rather troubled to see what’s become of Pabst now.  For you see, the tale of Pabst beer and of Frederick Pabst himself is a winding journey.  I think it emphasizes some of the best, worst, and weirdness of modern America.  I don’t know why all this fascinates me but please bear with my degenerate mind for this post is going to be a long one.

The man

Pabst was born in 1836 Prussian Germany to a poor local farm couple.  When he was 12 they immigrated to the American Midwest during a time where nobody was checking papers at the border.  This was still a time where America was a harsh, dangerous, and backward place.  Within a year Pabst’s mother died of cholera.  Pabst spent his teenage years working menial odd jobs just to survive and eat.  Somehow, he ends up with a lucky gig onboard a Great Lakes vessel.  Without an education or connections, he works his way up the maritime ladder and by 21 he’s a steamship captain with a name people know.  If you want yet another example to understand how American economic mobility is different nowadays, imagine what it would take for a 16 year old high school dropout waiter to become a ship captain within five years.

Pabst remained close to his roots and the German émigré community.  He spoke German at home his entire life.  He thus meets a fellow German in Phillip Best, marries his daughter, and ultimately uses his equity in the steamship trade to buy half of Best’s brewery.  From then on, Pabst is a brewer, though he maintains the title “Captain” Pabst for the rest of his life.  Thus proving once again that it’s awesome to be a captain, just ask Patrick Stewart’s ghost.  By the end of the Nineteenth Century the brewery is one of the planet’s most successful.  Pabst is Milwaukee’s leading citizen, he owns properties, resorts, banks, a theater, and on and on.  Though he came from nothing, he’s literally at the peak of American society.  He checks out to the next realm in 1904 as one of the more respected men on the planet.

The beer

By 1874 thanks largely to Pabst’s genius the brewery was the largest in America.  You could likely make the argument that by volume this meant they were the largest in the world.  Though I’m sure this is not provable given the dearth of statistics at the time.  I’m positive some dude in Bavaria was brewing ten times that amount in his basement closet alone.  In the traditional American style Pabst maintained their signature lager which ultimately became known worldwide as Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).  Of note, they never won a blue ribbon or anything.  Pabst being the businessman he was just put a blue ribbon on the beer bottle as a marketing gimmick to indicate quality.  This gimmick has survived over a century and a half so I guess it worked.  It is also for this reason that if your local mayor or councilor tells you they’re solving a problem via a “blue ribbon” committee that you should immediately impeach them.

The PBR name and style survived prohibition as well as the post war era.  As the light American lager that it was, you can count on all the goods and bads that come with that designation: reliability, consistency, quality, safety (which was a big deal back then), but ultimately a relative lack of taste and variety.  In our new modern beer era folks tend to hammer this style of beer.  I don’t go that far.  It’s good for what it is.  It’s my preference for drinking on weeknights.  And it’s important to remember in our over-hopped, lunatic beer world of today, that once upon a simpler time folks were just happy to have decent, quality beer before they had to wake up in the morning and clock in at a tire factory.

Eventually though, things began to fall apart for this legendary company.  In a timeline of horrors not uncommon to other Midwestern businesses, in 1985 Pabst is bought in a hostile takeover by another self-made man turned beer baron Paul Kalmanovitz.  One can imagine that Kalmanovitz would have run the brewery well, but instead he died two years after the sale and it appears his trust made a true hash of it afterwards.  Sales plummeted and by 1996 in a nightmare haze Pabst brewing enters the contract brewing stage and the original Milwaukee brewery is closed.

For those unfamiliar with contract brewing, this is where the brand doesn’t actually own the brewery and hires some guy outside their company to actually make their beer (usually under the supervision of the brand’s brewmasters).  Lots of companies do contract brewing well, such as Sam Adams or various Japanese brands for their American sales.  But it can also be a true descent into frat boy style poor quality.  For example, at the recreational football league I play in somebody brought a 30 pack of Kirkland Light Beer (read Costco) as their contribution.  This was made for Costco by a contract brewer in Wisconsin and was awful.  Though beer being beer, and football being football, we did drink it.

Many will be well familiar with Pabst’s recent return to prominence via the hipster rage of going back to do things which were once cool.  This bizarre trend has enabled PBR to become somehow high quality whereas say Budweiser is perceived as not.  I don’t entirely understand this way of thinking but acknowledge that it does exist and has a somewhat legitimate feel to it.  After all, if my Grandfather loved this beer and named his dog after it, why not me too?  But it’s important to remember that Pabst basically isn’t in touch with the roots that the hipsters worship.  PBR circa 1968 is not PBR today.  What Pabst exists as today is its own independent LLC, headquartered in Los Angeles, financed by a private equity firm, and still only a contract brewer.  One wonders what Captain Pabst would think about this arrangement?  Where it has essentially no ties to Milwaukee, no basis in the self-made path he walked, and only a facade of the identity it once had.  And yet, still immensely popular.

Pabst Entry.JPG

Pabst Mansion Entry.

The house

In 1892 at the pinnacle of his life Pabst decided to build his retirement home.  After two years of construction he moved into Pabst Mansion still located at 2000 West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee.  In Pabst’s day, Wisconsin Avenue was called Grand Avenue and was home to the dozens of mansions that housed Milwaukee’s elite.  The other mansions are gone now and most of this stretch is home to Marquette University.  The Pabst Mansion remains intact largely due to its purchase by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which bought it from Pabst’s children in 1908 and occupied it through 1975.  Following that, a bunch of truly dedicated and scrappy historical preservationists put their time, money, and reputation on the line to preserve the mansion.  These same people are mostly at it today.

The house itself is not fully renovated and in many ways isn’t quite the pristine piece of history that one wants when visiting such a place.  But they do a mostly great job of making it happen given their limited financial resources and the actual state of the house.  The Catholic Archbishops made extensive changes during their time including the painting of all walls, bathrooms upgrades, repurposing of rooms, and so on.  In order to acquire cash to progressively reconstruct the house back to its original condition, they’re forced to do some weird things like host weddings and receptions on the second floor in the old master bedroom area.

Photography isn’t permitted inside the house.  If you want to see what it looks like, the Internets offer you a variety of clean images.  I’ll roughly paraphrase here.

The tour begins on the ground floor reception hall with its adjoining parlor and music rooms.  There’s also the kitchen (tiny by today’s standards), dining room, and Pabst’s own office.  They advertise the mansion as 20K square feet of space.  I don’t think this is an accurate number unless you include all the closets, basement, and attic.  I think the true amount of livable space is less than half that.  My first impression was how relatively small the place is.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a massive house, but the dining room would barely seat a dozen folks in tight quarters.  The parlor about the same.  Pabst’s office is only slightly bigger than my cubicle.  I get the idea that this house reflects the style and temperament of Pabst and his family.  He came from nothing, so he wanted a tight, intimate existence.  Not the massive, airy, aloof nature of say a British country house of this era.  The wealth is instead displayed not in the house’s size but in the way it’s decorated.  The painting of the walls, the trim, the intricate wood carvings, the touches of silver or gold all give each room an immensely unique character.

The second floor houses the rooms of Pabst’s daughter and granddaughter, the family sitting room, and the Pabsts’ master bedroom.  Almost all of this second floor is renovated as well, though because of their renting requirements the master bedroom area is almost entirely empty.  In a shocker for the 1890’s, but what we’d mostly take for granted today, the house was unique in having a bathroom assigned to almost every bedroom.  Hot water and heating came via natural gas.  However air conditioning was a long future invention, the house is designed to funnel heat up and out an intricately designed trap door in the attic.  In a uniquely American touch that would appall the British counterparts of the day the servants quarters are toward the back of the house but on the same second floor where the Pabsts slept.  The third floor is populated by a series of bedrooms that were meant for the guests and for Pabst’s grown sons who would occasionally stay there.  Most of the third floor is not reconstructed and there’s just not much to see up there yet.  Though they have a vision for how it’s all going to look.  They said it’ll take years if not decades before the house is entirely reconstructed toward its original look.

Pabst Back.JPG

Pabst Mansion from the back.  The backyard (where the coach house once stood) is now a hotel parking lot with satellite dishes from the local ABC station.

The present

What are we to make of Pabst?  If a man’s primary purpose in life is to provide for his family’s future Pabst wins that unreservedly.  His children, grandchildren, and ancestors never had to struggle the way he and his parents did.  There’s not much to read on the current Pabst family.  Though if the tour guides were any indication they all seem fairly well off and help maintain the Pabst mansion with occasional support and the return of old artifacts.  Even if Pabst’s descendants aren’t at the pinnacle of society anymore, you can surely count it a success that the family rolls on.

The beer company is entirely different.  Its legacy is nothing along the lines of what he’d imagined except for the blue ribbon.  One of things that capitalism engenders is the idea that nothing is sacred.  Companies, brands, names live and die like it’s nothing.  It’s why the companies that have been around for centuries are so special and held with such awe.  But for the other 99% of brands or ideas, they’re all going to eventually die.  Pabst’s beer was a vessel for the success of his family, and then he and his family moved on, and now only its shell remains.  Not as a means to perpetuate the Pabst brand or ideas, but as a means for an LLC and private equity to make a ton of money off an identity somebody else created.  This is the reasoning that forced me to conclude that if I ever started a business of my own, that I had to have in mind to discard the sucker in a heartbeat without losing my mind.  Modern capitalism means you have to essentially not give a damn because you or your neat brand or cool idea will almost always eventually get bought out, you sell out, or it dies or fails.

I wonder, if because of this, a great amount is lost to the American ideal though.  The distance of modern capitalism to the ideas of Pabst’s day goes a long way to explain in my mind why we have such a disconnect between the elite and everybody else.  Pabst had a global brand, but was a Milwaukee man.  He had business and charitable interests throughout the city.  He helped improve the town and make it modern.  When he died and his brand left the city, a connection was lost.  I sincerely doubt the current Pabst LLC gives any damn whatsoever about Milwaukee from their LA headquarters.  Corporate tax methods, overseas profits, quarterly earnings, leveraged buy outs, faceless private equity firms & hedge funds, and whatever do not lend themselves to the type of community capitalism that Pabst practiced.

It’s one reason (among many, many) why so many of the Midwest’s businesses have failed in the last fifty years.  It explains why Pabst is no longer brewed in Milwaukee.  And, I dare say, it also explained (at least in some part) the black lives matter protest that was walking down the street as a exited the Pabst mansion tour.  I couldn’t help but think that if Pabst had been alive looking out his own window and seen that?  That his reaction would have been to tackle and battle the problems afflicting the city that he lived in, built, and loved.  That he would have had the temperament and clout to bring all the sides together, to forge a tough compromise, bang heads, to put his name and effort on the line to move the needle of society a little bit in a better direction.  We could do with some more of his kind today.  I think we desperately need it.

Pabst Front.JPG

Pabst Mansion from West Wisconsin Avenue (with the protest behind me).

This is Pabst’s letter to his children, read after his death.  It gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.  They hand these out on the tour.  Well worth it.

Pabst Letter.jpeg

Boston Harbor – sort of

I’ve developed this weird trend lately where I show up new to a place I’ve never been before, but somehow end up with a schedule that allows me only a few hours to initially see places before I’m on my way again.  It happened recently in Milwaukee and Detroit, and now Boston.  I’m not complaining mind you, because all it means is I have to go back.  Oh darn.

In any case, the family only had a few hours before a wedding west of Boston.  So we went down to Boston Harbor and walked around a pier or two and then toured Harpoon Brewery.  Incidentally, as much as I worship beer, this was my first brewery tour ever.  I’ll probably write about that later.  Maybe.

But whatever, here’s some random shots of Boston Fish Pier, right down the road from Harpoon.


Boston Fish Pier is still very much operating.  All the boats there are small craft, as in not the massive trawlers that are literally raping the oceans.  You can tell from the material condition of everything that they’re owners not necessarily swimming in gold.  It all felt very classic, except that the pier itself had been renovated from it’s original creation in the early 20th Century.





The Exchange Conference Center – Located at the head of the pier.  If you’ve heard me whine about the awfulness of modern architecture, here is an example of a new building I’d consider a great job of creating something that’s not a faceless glass enclosed wonder.



I have discovered the fattest seagulls I’ve ever seen in all my global travels are located in Massachusetts.



A lightweight anchor casually discarded on the pier.  If you look you can see why.



Detroit – because work said so

Someday somebody way smarter than me is going to write a book where Detroit is a metaphor for all of America. You can trace the tale from the earliest French settlers, to British rule, frontier America, transition from an agrarian to industrialized economy, full blown dominance (Detroit probably single handedly out produced Nazi Germany), followed by collapse & depopulation, followed, by what?

Well, one would hope rebirth. Rather than continued slow decline. Since 1950 Detroit has lost almost 2/3 of its people. A similar trend stalks Cleveland, Milwaukee, and countless other Midwestern cities. Literally, Detroit used to be the center of the world alongside New York and London. Will it ever return to its former glory? Is it even possible? I’m not sure. So much of what drove this greatness no longer exists. What America is and does is so very different than in 1950.

Maybe I’ll try and write about it later on. But for now I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Or at least to also offer that Detroit has some of the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced, which says a lot considering the parking lots I’ve driven in (Tokyo, Washington, New York, LA, etc). And also Detroit’s suburbs have some of the best Lebanese food on the planet, truly legit awesome stuff.

Work sent me to Detroit for all of three days. I only ended up snaking a few hours to drive around. Sadly I didn’t get to do anything reasonably fun. So I guess that means I’ll have to go on back on my own dime.

Woodward & Guardian

One Woodward Avenue (left) and the Guardian Building – One Woodward was completed in 1962, note its applicable stale awfulness.  Guardian Building dates to 1929 and is apparently beautiful inside.   Also note the weirdo sky bridge which linked the two since the 1970s.  In 2012, Rock Ventures LLC bought One Woodward.  Rock Ventures owns Quicken Loans, a bunch of sports teams and casinos, and about a 100 other companies.  I suppose it’s an example of the types of companies that Detroit has to attract in order to rebuild.


Ambassador Bridge.JPG

Ambassador Bridge & Downtown Detroit – The busiest border crossing in North America, the bridge carries 1/4 of all trade between America and Canada.  The separate Detroit River Tunnel carries rail traffic.  In a bit of weirdness the bridge is actually privately owned by a guy who appears to behave like an evil monopoly man cartoon caricature.  A second bridge is scheduled for completion by 2020.



Detroit River & Windsor, Canada


GM Building.JPG

GM Renaissance Center – appropriately enchained behind a fence for GM’s cheating death off the backs of the taxpayer


Packard Plant.JPG

Ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant – Completed in 1911, it built cars until 1958.  By 1966 Packard had evaporated as a car company.


The next three shots are of ruined houses just a few blocks away from the Packard Plant.  Once upon a time, an American farm worker could move to Detroit and get an entry job at the Packard Plant.  Thirty years later he could retire as a supervisor with a decent pension, and go buy himself one of these beautiful houses to live out his days as a grandfather.  Now it’s all gone, the Plant, the house, and this very concept of employment as part of the American Dream.  I wonder if they could have ever imagined how bad it would get?  Understanding why this all came about, and where to go from here, is central to Detroit’s future.  And perhaps America’s as well.






House 3.jpg

Milwaukee – for just a few hours

I’ve pretty much gotten to the stage where I’m beyond planning anything for travel not dictated by those who employ me.  This is just about the exact opposite from a decade ago where I had a tour book, ledger, and a timeline.

I wish I could say this was part of some kind of mystical theoretical journey where I’ve cast off the toolbox shackles of a younger age, but truly it’s just because I don’t have enough energy to care.  It’s the mentality of, eh, it’s just for fun, whatever.  Show up, and see what happens.  I like this, it takes less effort.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be a regular reader of this degenerate blog, I now end up traveling to Chicago regularly now.  But I usually fly into Milwaukee for this is cheaper to the bottom line.

A hint perhaps, for those of you looking to head to Chicago.  If you fly into Milwaukee both in terms of flight cost and rental car, you’ll save at least $100.  And your trade is about $8 in interstate tolls and an extra hour’s drive.  You decide if this is worth the tradeoff.

Anyways, I usually have zero time, and so turn south from Mitchell Airport bound for Chicago.  This last week though I had a few hours since I got there very early in the morning.  So instead I turned north and decided to spend a few hours in Milwaukee.

With zero upfront planning I ended up in downtown, parked, and just walked around for a few hours.  This was a good idea.  However, it didn’t help that I felt terrible that entire day, but there was nothing I could do about that.  So I decided to carry on.

First I walked around like a lunatic until I could find breakfast, I ended up at a local Greek diner:

Mykonos Gyro & Cafe

1014 North Van Buren Street


This was a wise, fortunate, rendezvous.  They do two things I’ve never seen before, they put gyro meat in an omelet, and you get tzatziki in a squeeze bottle.  Both of these are wise decisions.  But be warned, for about $8 you’ll get enough food that you feel compelled to walk it off for hours.  So in other words, this was a huge win.

Then it was few blocks east down to the Lake.


Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan from the bluffs of Juneau Park.  As is typical for Eastern or Mid-Western cities, those damn highways are in the way of water views.  If you didn’t know, this was a deliberate decision of city designers in the early car era.  Highways, or parkways, were put along the water to give casual driver’s a good view.  This is the lunacy of getting fully dressed up and going on a drive in the 1930’s, because that was considered recreation.  My Granddad used to chuckle about that, you would go on a drive for fun.  So back then, having the road along the water was an advantage, now they just kill our view.


Soloman Juneau

Soloman Juneau.  First mayor of Milwaukee, and it seems an all around decent guy.  An explorer, trader, and trailblazer of the American West who seems to possess a rarity in that he has little or no blood on his hands.


Bad Day

At the base of Juneau’s statue.  At first I was like, “is this some type of weird local offering to Juneau’s ghost?”  But in reality, I came to the conclusion that this was somebody’s really, really bad day.


Then it was  a short walk to the East Side of downtown, separated from the West Side by the Milwaukee River.

Milwaukee Federal Building

Milwaukee Federal Courthouse.  Once a regular federal office building, is now a place where dreams are destroyed.  A classic piece of late 19th, early 20th century city building architecture.  I hate new office building designs, all glass, all stale awfulness.  At least back then they built things they looked like they actually cared.


The Pfister

The Pfister, one of the oldest hotels in Milwaukee.  A broader American hotel icon, and recent setting in Space Cop.  An interesting note is the property on the right-side street corner is for sale.  Their pitch in the window is it hasn’t been available for purchase since, “The Dow was at 500 points.”  I don’t know what year that was, but that’s a pretty awesome sales pitch.


Milwaukee River

Milwaukee River.  It wasn’t as cold as it looks, but it usually is, apparently.


Milwaukee Public Market

Milwaukee Public Market, in the historic Third Ward.  An awesome place.


At this point, that I felt horrible, and that stole the rest of the journey out of me.  So I briefly had lunch at this place, another win:

The Wicked Hop

345 North Broadway


And then I had to basically get out of there, drive south, and find a way to get to bed early.  It helped because I felt better in the morning for work.  But it’s only left me wanting to go back to Milwaukee again soon, and get more in depth, to a city that has a lot of offer, but who’s surface I’ve just barely scratched.