Archive for May 2009

Competing bathroom visions

May 28, 2009

I was casually enjoying our local Kinokuniya bookstore in Japantown the other night, when my heart leapt to my throat … um, my life flashed before my eyes … um, my world came crashing down around me … well, I saw this:


“An Illustrated Guide to Panoramic Privies”?!?!? That’s *MY* idea. Well, almost. As I have told some of you, *my* idea for a lovely coffee table book has always been one featuring interesting restaurant restrooms. Thus the project on this blog.

At first I thought someone had stolen my idea. But a look inside reveals that Mr. Barclay doesn’t have to worry about a lawsuit from me … hopefully, if this book catches on, there will be a new market for bathroom photography books.


It's really more about the view *from* the bathroom than the aesthetics of the bathroom itself

On a related note, it seems that some people who are looking for a “very special toilet” are finding our site (see the blog stats below for recent internet searches that landed people on our site). BTW, it seems that ever since Dan’s account of our last day in Kyoto, we get hit by people searching for info on Sanjusangendo’s 1,001 Buddhas every day. And no, we do not publish the Mormon temple floor plans on this site in some secret easter egg or something. I have *no* idea what that is all about.

Search Views
mormon temple floor plan 1
sunlight in a jar 1
sanjusangendo 1
1600 square foot house interior 1


Search Views
sanjusangendo 2
17th century kyoto tea house 1
japanese castle 1
very special toilet 1

Happy birthdays!

May 25, 2009

Two very cute nieces have birthdays in the next week and came by with their parents today for a casual party. The grandparents attended via laptop connection and we enjoyed pizza, salad, cake and ice cream. We actually don’t have a lot of toys for, or things of interest to almost-6 and almost-3 year-olds in the house, but inspiration struck minutes before party time: online coloring books and connect-the-dots that you can print up! Fortunately, we do have some crayons in the house. Tossing the ball down the hall and playing with the penny stash were still fairly popular.


After the successful extinguishing of the candles


How old are you guys?

Breaking ground soon…

May 21, 2009

In today’s mail:  A brochure about the future home of the Starfleet Acadamy:


the before pic

New in New Mexico

May 18, 2009

Thank you Brent and Scott, for hosting us in Santa Fe. We promise to visit more often!

The highlight of the week (besides sleeping in and hanging out on their porch for hours on end) was our field trip to the site of a 15th century pueblo, made possible by Brent’s research –ancient pueblos are not publicized anymore, due to scavengers. But Brent spent hours in the library and on Google Earth, and thanks to his GPS system and four-wheel drive truck, we were able to visit and roam around a site first explored by Mr. Bandelier himself. Although we can’t give you the coordinates of this well guarded secret, we can report that it was amazing to walk around the ruins of a 15th century Native American village and stumble onto shards of their pottery at every turn:


in the middle of nowhere- Brent and Dan


a few sherds we found-- don't worry, we put them back


nearby petroglyphs

Every time we visit, we come away wondering why we don’t visit the boys every month. Much was familiar: Sunsets, comparing cosmo recipes, political talk, soaking at 10,000 waves. But there were new aspects to the visit: Dan learned to enjoy an espresso –homemade by Scott. Scott apparently succeeded in minutes where Troy has failed for years, bringing Dan around to the joys of coffee beverages. Troy was able to put his years of pediatric experience to use in an emergency –when a moth flew into Dan’s ear canal and refused to leave. I was able to extract it with the boys’ tweezers despite its desperate attempts to hide against Dan’s typmanic membrane. And a new cocktail was coined –see the “Cosmo Bonito” on our newly updated list.

Japan in a nutshell, Pt. 11

May 9, 2009

Day 11. Arrive in Tokyo. The last leg of our trip began with this scene (remember last night’s snowfall):


… and we caught the train out of town well satisfied with our Nikko adventure. This was really supposed to be a simple day, not much more than a train trip and a fancy dinner (more on that later) but Troy had done his homework, and had some plans for us when we got to Tokyo.

After checking in to the Century Southern Tower hotel, located right over Shinjuku Station, and admiring our view from the 28th floor, we headed out into the metropolis, seen here from the men’s bathroom on the lobby level (~2oth floor):


Troy took us to the Ginza, a fashionable high end shopping district that I had previously rated as … well, overrated. He used his guidebook to point out a variety of historical and/or interesting buildings, like this:


… or this:

Mikimoto #2

Mikimoto #2

The pink building above is a jewelry store, etc., with a restaurant called Dazzle on the top floors. Although we didn’t dine there, the staff were extremely friendly and showed us around even though they weren’t open yet!

By the end of our tour, I was quite impressed. Troy had changed my mind about the Ginza. Of course, we had an “only in Japan” experience along the way. The Hermès Building, wrapped in textured glass, was good enough, but Troy knew to go to the back and take the elevator to the top, where there was an art gallery.

As we stepped onto the 8th floor we were surrounded (literally) by loud, glorious choral music. The artist had individually recorded about 40 singers singing a 16th century composition in a church in England, and set up 40 speakers in a circle around the room. You could hear a separate person in each speaker, and felt surrounded by the choir, as their harmonies ebbed and flowed about you. It was almost a tactile musical experience. And all of this in a translucent glass room!

We also checked out Roppongi Hills, with its massive mall/lifestyle center … but we weren’t that impressed, especially after our charming tour of the Ginza. After all, we’d seen malls before:

Could be anywhere ...

Could be anywhere ...

… and this one was nothing special. Unlike our dinner, which was nearby in Roppongi, and follows after the break …


Art, wine and Denmark

May 6, 2009

Which is another way of saying, “road trip to L.A.,” the purpose of which was to attend the opening of Susan’s show in South Pasadena.

We stopped halfway down the coast at Morro Bay, which has a lovely rock in their harbor, but all Troy can think about is that @#&! coffee he ordered while I ate my squid and chips. The beautiful country around San Luis Obispo helped cheer him up, as did a stop at the certified organic Sunstone Winery.

Sunstone Winery

Try the merlot ...

Of course, the highlight of our day’s drive was a visit to Solvang, a little slice of Denmark located in the heart of Santa Barbara county. In case you don’t know, the whole town looks like this:


… which could have been really bad, honestly, but we thought it was delightful. And apparently, we’re not alone. It won this award from Via magazine a while back:


But there’s nothing guilty about giant donut balls dipped in powdered sugar and doused with raspberry jam is there? Just ask for Æbleskiver … they’ll know where to send you.

Our hotel in downtown Los Angeles was a renovated early 20th century building, done up in a sort of orientalist melange … Frida Kahlo meets Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Our room had red concrete floors, an alcove with an African animal mask on the wall, knitted fabric as wainscoting, and a vaguely harem-esque canopy bed … among other things. But it was dark, so we slept well.

Brad, Susan and Andrew took us to a fabulous pizza place in “SoPas,” as the locals say, recommended by the New York Times (!) and we all had dessert in another NYT-approved, straight-outta-the-seventies diner that served some most excellent pies. “Sao Pasa” has a groovy scene, man!

And, thanks to Susan, we spent part of Saturday at Olvera Street, the oldest street in L.A. and the site of a bustling market, etc. (But no thanks to our guidebook, which shall remain nameless because it didn’t even mention this place). They got the guayabera shirt they were looking for, and Troy got some nice photos of me:

Welcome to Los Angeles!

Welcome to Los Angeles!

"The pueblo was founded in the late 18th century ..."

"The pueblo was founded in the late 18th century ..."

We also visited the Central Library (which is yet another main library that’s better than SF’s) whose garden was hosting a commercial shoot (gotta love LA) but Saturday night was Susan’s big night. She’s the featured artist in the show, “Mothers and Others,” and there was a large crowd at SPACE for three whole hours. We enjoyed meeting many of Susan and Brad’s friends, and seeing her work displayed.


Here’s a sneak peek at one of our new favorites:


What a wonderful way to spend the weekend!

p.s. If you’re ever in Silver Lake on Sunday, stop by Cliff’s Edge for brunch. Sit in the bamboo garden … the food is excellent, and it’ll put you in a good mood, especially if you’re about to embark on a 5 hour trip on I-5.

p.p.s. And when you’re done with your 5 hour trip on I-5, stop by Heaven’s Dog, in SOMA in SF. Have Jackie make you a drink based on a spirit of your choice. It’s an excellent way to unwind.

Japan in a nutshell, Pt. 10

May 4, 2009

Day 10. Nikko. Rain was forecast today, so we took some snazzy yellow umbrellas from the Inn. In an early morning drizzle, we started our tour of the World Heritage Site (they’re very proud of that designation in town) with Rinnoji Temple, noted mostly for its “Three Buddha Hall,” one of which is a Kannon (Boddhisattva of Mercy) with a horse head. You view them from below in a darkly lit hall, and it’s all very interesting, but photography was prohibited inside and this is the best photo of them I could find:

Of course, the horse is on the far left

Of course, the horse is on the far left

We didn’t linger, because the main attraction was outdoors and just up the road. The shrine complex dedicated to the first Tokugawa shogun (circa 1600) is one of the most gaudy and ornate in all of Japan. Remember how Nijo Castle in Kyoto was built to impress? Well, Toshogu does it just a little bit better …

Go to the left of this photo and turn right ...

Go to the left of this photo and turn right ...

... and you'll be impressed

... and you'll be impressed

That there is the “All Day Dreaming” Gate, so named because you could spend hours just looking at it. The shrines in Nikko are known for the intricate carvings on their facades …


… of which the most famous (in Japan) is a sleeping cat. But they wanted an extra ¥500 to see it! So we skipped it. Luckily, the best carvings are still free. Do you recognize this scene?


I believe it has something to do with “evil,” but I’m not sure. Anyway, there’s a whole series of monkey allegories carved on the stable near the entrance:


We were lucky to have the place mostly to ourselves on a cold, chilly morning. We wandered into the rooms they’ve opened to the public, to see more art, including the “Crying Dragon,” which is a fearsome ink-drawn monster on the ceiling of a room that echoes when the guy at the door strikes a pair of clappers:

Look up!

Look up and listen!

We pushed on, as the rain held off, to the mausoleum of the third shogun, who built the complex. It’s supposedly not as “showy” as the shrine to his grandfather:


Not even close, I know. Peter’s favorite moment of the morning came at Futarasan Shrine, dedicated to the gods of the mountain. He particularly liked this vista:


… but he was even more tickled by the holy water for sale. So tickled he decided to spend ¥300 on a plastic bottle, so he could take some home.

Good for what ails ya

Good for what ails ya'

We left the World Heritage Site behind for a simple ramen lunch, and a cold, cold walk down to the river, which I’ll describe below the fold. But before we go there, check out this photo, taken by Troy:


Nikko lends itself to these kind of scenes. Next up … we count the uncountable Buddhas!