Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's Sunday, 9am and I am back in San Francisco,

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
re-adjusting to civilian life. I've unpacked most of my stuff, done the world's largest load of laundry, started organizing photos and videos, caught up on my sleep and ventured a few times into the "real world," for groceries, a haircut and dinner at Scott and Joe's. I have tomorrow off, but go back to work on Tuesday. Uuuugh. I wish I could say it's great to be back. You'd think after 27 days living out of a suitcase, sleeping in beds other than my own, (hold your jokes, please,) I'd be glad to be back, to be in my routine, to be reconnected to my life here in SF. Well, I'm not exactly "happy" to be back. Somehow, someway, my fabulous home town of San Francisco seems, well, smaller than when I left. It feels a little constricting, a little provincial. My job that I head back to on Tuesday seems a little silly. The news on TV and in the paper, well, inconsequential. Uuugh. Having amazing experiences in places worlds away from home has changed my perspective on the every day life. Not sure what to do with it now, this perspective, other than to acknowledge the world that interests me extends beyond the city limits, beyond the boundaries of my regular SF and NYC worldview. Now what do I do about it? This beautiful photo of the sun setting in the Atlantic off the coast of Cape Town reminds me that today, and this feeling, will pass and tomorrow will dawn new and potentially, if I'd like, different. And I guess, that feels pretty damn good.

Today's Daily Evil Baboon shot

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
On our trip, we joked a lot about how michievious, naughty, wicked, goofy, funny, human-like the baboons were. But it sends a bit of a chill down your spine when you see one actually trying to break into a car using two inch long canine teeth. We read in the paper, while in Cape Town, a story about a five year old girl attacked by a baboon while on a hike with her family on Table Mountain. Leaning out the window, a few feet from this guy, I snapped this photo with one hand on the camera and one hand on the window crank.

At the ol' mud hole

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
In Chobe National Park in Botswana, the last wildlife stop on our safari, we encountered a giant heard of elephants (fifty? sixty?) playing in the mud. This shot shows a youngster getting cool in the ol' mud hole. We watched them for about thirty minutes, shooting pics and video, as some weren't just rolling around but a few were actually wrestling with each other, pushing and shoving in groups of two and three, getting down and dirty in the mud. There was definitely one of the most human behaviors we saw in these anaimals, having fun, keeping cool and being exceptionally outwardly social with each other.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority building

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
Scott says that four of the top ten tallest buildings in the world are in Hong Kong. He has to be right. It was surreal walking around at night. Not only were they externally lit to the top in creative multicolor fashion, but they were also still very much occupied late into the night. Floors were bright with lights with people at their desk, late at night! A beautiful sight. (The buildings. Not the people working late.) You couldn't ever feel alone in this city. It just teemed all night long. And never felt unsafe. Or saw unsavory types. (and there is not homeless. I think we saw a total of two homeless people.) No thuggy loudmouth kids or rebel types. On the subway, at late night bars, walking around past midnight, it felt safe. I say this about the communists: their trains run on time and no one gets mugged.

At our table at Aqua

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
The moody, evocative lighting, the sensory-stimulating, tactical design to the furniture, and view-from-every seat layout of this multi-tiered restaurant Aqua (thanks for the lead on this place, Mister Castanon!) was spectacular. It was perched on top floor of a towering shkyscraper with floor to ceiling windows at least three stories high. Like most of the high-end commercial establishments in HK, it was brilliantly, indulgently, over-the-top executed. (If this is the future of communism, sign me up!) The food was amazing, too. Thinly sliced steak wrapped around torandos of chopped eggplant, then grilled. Crab fried rice. Tempura vegetables. Heavenly.

a view of the Hong Kong Skyline

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
From our table at the restaurant Aqua, we had a spectacular view. This is looking back across the harbour at Hong Kong from the restaurant which was in Kowloon. (Scott took me out for a fabulous dinner for my 37th birthday...)

That's smog. Not precipitation.

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
This is the view from the funicular as we climbed the hillside to the peak. Rising higher and higher above the Hong Kong island's towering skyscrapers, we could see Kowloon on the otherside of the harbour. Our hotel, the Hotel Nikko is on the point opposite, a little over midway up the photo, and about halfway across the photo from the left. We paid 30 cents to take a ferry across the harbour and maybe 80 cents to take a subway back. They had every kind of mass transit and aside from cabs, they were all super cheap.

Onboard the Peak Tram

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
Taking the funicular to the top of the Peak on Hong Kong was a trippy experience. A rail car, pulled up a steep STEEP hill by cable, afforded a spectacular view. (When I say steep, imagine if the NYC subway, or BART for that matter climbed from station to station at a 45 degree incline. The whole way!) As we rose above the towering skyscrapers packed around the harbor, you got a tremendous sense of the scale of this jam-packed island. These folks behind me, who clearly did not consent to being photographed with me, look excited to reach the top, none the less. We would soon discover why: shopping. Yes, at the very top of the tallest peak on Hong Kong Island was a mall. A shopping mall.

Beer. Noodles. And attentive service.

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
Not far from this little outdoor bar near our hotel, (which served fantastic noodles and fried rice, by the way,) late in the evening, I was approached by an attractive, well dressed older women leading a gang of comely young lasses who stealthily locked her arm into mine, and walked with me as I crossed the plaza. She kindly asked, "You need girl tonight?" I said "Uh no." She unlocked her arm from mine, faded away, tackling Scott a few steps behind me. I should have inquired about any young brothers she might have had...KIDDING.

Isn't it time for our eleventh meal of the day?

Originally uploaded by alexanderdavidgrossman.
Isn't this just what you expect to be hanging in a window in Hong Kong? But it's a lot cleaner than I expected. I'd actually eat here. (You know my issues: Food. Cleanliness. Coming together as one...) Everywhere we looked, there were a million places to eat. Do these people ever cook at home? I guess not. Like NYC, no one has room. or time. The dim sum was spectacular. The baked goods were heavenly. (That fabulous British heritage of delicate frosted cakes and crumbly buttery gorgeous things lives on here in the ex-colony.) The delicacies we spied in shops, at the malls, even in the airports ran the gamut from quaint old world goodies like smoked meats shown here, to fully prepared meals for takeout, packaged in beautifully designed, bright graphic containers boasting spectacular french, america and indian goodies. These people know how to eat.