A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Rudolph the Farting Reindeer

Did you ever hear? The story of a little deer Who lived in constant fear? Of uncontrollable explosions escaping from his rear?

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As they landed gently on the roof of 75 Snicklefritz Lane, Santa released the reins and stepped out of the sleigh.

“I’m getting too old for this,” he said while he held his back with one hand before beginning to do stretches and lunges.

He wandered around to the back of the sleigh and started mumbling names and fossicking though a pile of presents for the one he was looking for.

“Mrs Clause said these were in order but I’ll be darned to know what her system is”, he grumbled as he pulled out a beautiful red and green present with a big red bow.

“Take five gang”, he said as he walked over to the chimney, climbed to its edge and jumped inside. He temporarily caught his belly on the edge, gave a wiggle, dislodged and disappeared into the house.

The reindeer took the opportunity to loosen ranks and Prancer started talking to Dancer about the latest episode of the Bold and the Beautiful. It was one of the downsides of Christmas; they had been so busy over the past few weeks it was hard to keep up with their soaps.

Santa popped back out of the chimney and landed with a perfect gymnast landing beside the sleigh. He gobbled up the last bit of a sausage in bread which had evidently been left for him, and washed it down with the rest of his beer “ah, the food is the best part”, he said with a sigh of satisfaction as he turfed the empty can over his shoulder and into the neighbour’s yard.

He took some carrots out of his pocket and threw them in front of the reindeers. Blitzen pushed forward and almost swallowed one whole.
While the other eight reindeer crunched on carrots Rudolph hanged back.

“What’s the matter Rudolph, are you not hungry?” Santa asked as he walked closer, “Are you tired? We only have 128 more countries to go, we are almost done”, he said cheerfully. Rudolph smiled and nodded his head.

Santa climbed back into his sleigh, pulled out his list and scanned it for names. He mumbled as he read the list carefully, before rolling it up and putting beside him.

He leaned forward and typed 106 Strawberry Lane into the computer GPS in front of him. The computer collected the data and created a map to his next destination.

“We can hear it beeping Santa”, groaned Comet, evidently quite irritated

“What?” said Santa, as he coughed to disguise the noise.

“We are reindeer we know the way, it’s darn right humiliating,” said Comet

Santa smiled. “I was checking for shortcuts, did you know that if he took the freeway we would save 7 minutes?” he said matter-of-factly.
Comet shook his head.
“Yeah and an extra $20 in tolls”, Comet grumbled. You see it had always been Comet’s job to chart the yearly Christmas course. He had been working for Santa a long time and knew all the best ways to fly and how to get there the quickest. He didn’t need any navigation system telling him what to do.

Santa checked his iPhone to see if Mrs. Clause had text. She hadn’t, but his mate Steve had submitted a scrabble word in their Words with Friends duel.

While the reindeer stood in position, ready for take-off Santa was pressing buttons, eventually the phone let off a triumphant beep.

“Yesss”, Santa whispered “66 points for taxi, put that in your back pocket Steve”.

With a nod from the fat man in red and a tug on the reins off they flew across the night skies. There was nothing much to do while they flew, Rudolph lead the way and had to watch out for anything in their path. He was a bit younger than the others and took his job very seriously, though there was nothing much to watch out for save a few stray birds. Dancer and Prancer gossiped about everyone they knew and what was happening at North Pole in the lead up to Christmas. The Yule Tide stress usually created the juiciest drama. Donna had recently had a birthday and received a new iPod and was listening to the Best of Madonna on repeat which was fine, only she had a terrible habit of singing over the music. Blitzen was located right in front of the sleigh and had shared a few of Santa’s beers. He and Santa had known each other the longest and by the end of the night would usually be singing Christmas carols in their sultry, deep baritones.

At the next house Rudolph once again stepped back as the others all ate the carrots and lapped up the bowl of water. Santa pulled the young deer aside

“What’s the matter Rudi?”

“Nothing sir, I’m just not that hungry. My mum cooked a roast before I left so I’m pret-ty stuffed”, he said as he rubbed his tummy.

“That was a long time ago, I can’t have you getting worn out we have a lot to do. Now I want you to have a little nosh”. Santa had recently taken to Yiddish slang.

According to his oft shared philosophical views, it was his way of bridging the cultural gap in making Christmas universal. It was his hope that he could visit the houses of little Jews and little Arabs and give them presents. Everybody no matter their faith could unite to celebrate “X-mas”, as it would be officially known in the postmodern, technological world of the future. Santa does have a tendency to go on tangents.

“Donna, if I see you eat one more thing I will call your fat supporter at Weight Watchers and tell them everything, don’t think I won’t”, Santa bellowed across the roof top without even turning or breaking his gaze with Rudolph. Donna guiltily dropped the old Toblerone she had found in the bottom of the sleigh and burst in to tears.
“It’s just that sometimes I feel so alone”, she wailed before collapsing in a heap on the roof top and sobbing.

“Oops”, Santa said, “women”.
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He had managed to grab a carrot and handed it to Rudolph. He stood there while the deer sniffed at it. “I am not going to leave until you eat it”, Santa said matter-of-factly.

Embarrassed, Rudolph stepped awkwardly from side to side. “Ok, it’s just that carrots, carrots give me...” he hesitated out of embarrassment, “they give me... gas”.

“What?” said Santa a little taken aback.

“Gas, they make me gassy”.

Santa continued to look at Rudolph dumbfounded, like he was just, not quite, understanding.

“The fluffs”, Rudolph rephrased. Sensing Santa was not quite on the same page he continued, “The farts. The pop offs. Break wind. You know, play the butt trumpet. Carrots cause me to let fluffy off the chain and as I am the first in a line of 8 others and then your good self, Sir. I thought it would be polite if I declined the supper”.

“Nonsense”, Santa bellowed, “You’ll be fine, it’s a breezy night it will carry the smell away”

Rudolph reluctantly ate a carrot; he had forgotten how much he loved the crunchy orange root and quickly gobbled up the entire piece.
Santa patted him roughly on the head and returned to his sleigh, “We’re late, at this rate we will not be home before breakfast, and I’ve been promised blueberry pancakes so let’s haul ass”.

With a crack of the reins they flew high up into the skies and well above the rooftops. The few house lights sparkled from below. It was a pretty view and peaceful in the night skies especially when every now and then Santa would stop humming, talking or singing and doze off.

As Donna had not read the instructions to her iPod when her playlist ended so too did the high pitched squeaks of Like A Prayer. With no idea how to restart it the night sky was quiet. All of a sudden a rumble erupted across the skies shaking Santa from his quick powernap. He grumbled and fumbled and looked around to get his bearings. He checked his GPS and the weather hadn’t forecast for any thunder until they hit China.
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The sound came again. Rudolph coughed at the same time.

“Rudi,” Santa shouted from the back of the pack, “Can you see anything up ahead? Storm clouds? “

“No, it’s pretty clear”, Rudolph shouted back, his voice getting carried in the wind

“If I get rained on you lot will be stuffed and mounted on my wall. This red suit is not colourfast, and I do not want to end up with pink furry trims, not so long after Mardi Gras”, Santa grunted as he pulled a plastic emergency poncho out of his glove box and put it on.
The rain never came but the rumbles across the sky continued. With each new burst the sleigh would jolt forward like it had been given a boost.
Another giant burst and this time a terrible smell wafted over the sleigh, causing the reindeer to panic slightly.

“What is that?” Rudolph could hear Comet shouting from behind him.

“Rudolph can you see anything ahead?” shouted Dancer.

With a surge of confidence Rudolph turned his head slightly “ah there’s a cheese factory up ahead”.

“Well that explains that”, he heard Prancer tell Dancer, “gruyere”.

The sky was lit up particularly bright, Rudloph’s nose was red but his whole face was glowing red which was illuminating the path.
Unfortunately the cheese factory smell lingered causing a bit of confusion as to why so many towns across the western outskirts of Moscow had cheese factories and why the hell were they making cheese in the middle of the night?

“I’m starving”, yelled Comet.

Glad for a subject change Rudolph nodded in agreement.

“The next place better not have milk, who the hell told these children reindeer drink milk, I mean hello, some of us are Lactose intolerant”, Comet continued to rant. “Is a nice glass of soy too much to ask….”

Once again the sky rumbled. Donna who was second in line started choking on the air and coughing. The sleigh jolted forward like a rocket and Blitzen spilt the eggnog he and Santa were having from a Thermos.

“Jesus Rudi, watch where you are going I almost spilt”.

“Sorry Santa must be turbulence”.

Embarrassed he looked back at Donna who had regained her composure.

“The air sure is stale tonight”, she shouted to him as she patted dry the spit that had erupted from her mouth during the coughing fit.

The sky ahead lit up even brighter again and Rudolph didn’t dare look back but focussed on the task ahead. He led the sleigh forward into the night, Blitzen and Santa had begun a duet of Santa Baby, Santa trying to emulate a Marilyn quality to his voice. By then it was Blitzen’s 4th eggnog and he was quietly sozzled. Donna had given the iPod the flick and was now just singing Vogue and doing the hand actions. Stranger still she had managed to find a gold cone bra mid-flight. Dancer and Prancer were back to bitching this time about the new Polar Bear in town, apparently walking the streets of the North Pole like she was all that and a bag of potato chips. They were pretty sure her white fur was nothing more than cheap hair plugs.
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Another Christmas was nearly over. With the added turbo boosts they had managed to scrape 23 minutes off their time, a new Christmas record Santa attributed to his great navigation skills. Santa then threatened to replace all the reindeers with computers for next Christmas because as he put it, GPS navigation one – Comet the know-it-all reindeer – zero.

It was a raging success for Santa and his reindeer, especially his farting, red nosed one, who thanks to the sheer stupidity of his peers and the ability to blame Russian cheese factories, had managed to keep his secret another year, and contribute to a Christmas record which made him shout out with glee and go down in historrrrrry.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 03:39 Tagged christmas reindeer rudolph Comments (2)

Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown.

I have never been to China, and it barely interests me other than to see The Great Wall en-route to Mongolia and Kazakhstan where the real fun's at. Why you ask? Well, I have been to Chinatowns all over the world and if China resembles them in any way, I want no part in it. It always smells like rotting shrimp gizzards and wilted dog testicles and it’s really hard to ignore that.

I do like to stroll through them and wonder how this entire sub-culture can exist within a city. You could literally live in an awesome location in New York’s Lower East Side and not realise you weren’t in Shanghai. In fact I bet there are old people being Goodbye Lenin fooled on these streets,

“nah Nan, its Beijing, crack a window can’t you smell the freshly slaughtered toad tongues? It’s a shame you are too old to go out, Mao's doing a tap dance show in the square”.

Not many things will get me to Chinatown. It might be filthy and assault all your senses with grot but I, and many others, will still follow our stomachs to Chinatown for the food.

Australia does amazing Asian food, and rightly so. A veritable feast of various cuisines from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and even Nepal and beyond. It's one thing you miss eating from home, the delicious Asian food that they just don't quite do well everywhere else.

In one of my in depth discussions with strangers that I have had on this trip one fellow foodie, not the fancy style, the 'if you add marshmallows and pecans to pumpkin and then brown sugar it tastes great', kind. She doesn't rate this Asian fusion food hoopla, she tolerates Chinese. But then again one of her other cooking secrets is to add hard liquor to cupcake icing so…

With its history similar to our own America does have some great Oriental cuisine, the only other place I have had delicious Vietnamese food outside Vietnam and Australia was New York.

Chinatown New York is on the grow, much like China itself, gradually worming its way in to every aspect of our being. Even Australian koalas these days are probably just dogs wearing koala fur jackets made in China and bought for a special wholesale price.

Little Italy is located to the north and you would struggle to find a pizza for all the Peking ducks. As with all Chinatown’s the world over, it is a very good place to buy junk. Chinatown's specialise in junk stores. I am no economist but I'm pretty sure China's entire economy is 98 per cent made up of products sold for $2 or less. To be fair I am not sure where we’d be without them, imagine having to pay fair prices for things like mops, soap holders and spray paint. Barbaric.

What bought me into the depths of New York Chinatown on this particular occasion was another neighbourhood speciality, their bus links. You can take a Chinatown bus between New York and Boston for $15. The train costs about $70.

If you make it alive it is such a saving.

One day in the future I might look at that and say, "wow, the train is only $70" but in the mean time, it was to Chinatown I was headed.
This was my second time taking Lucky Star bus. The first challenge is finding the depot in the midst of the maze of Chinatown.
You can sit inside the painted garage on plastic chairs and wait. There is a bathroom that was cleaned back in 1993 should you need it. You have to ask for the key because they are trying to preserve its filth for paying customers only.

I chose to sit out on the side walk on top of my backpack which was stuffed with last minute items and bad packing so it made a good solid seat. I nick next door and pick up a Bubble Tea and wait for the bus. There is no reminder that you are in fact in Manhattan as you try to avoid your backpack sitting in congealed discarded special sauce with extra cat meat on the pavement. That and not choke on slices of tapioca coming up your bubble tea straw like a bullet.

When the bus pulls up to illegally park by the curb to load passengers it appears battered and bruised, missing half of its rear bumper and pumping out gases into the atmosphere. It looks like it’s had a rough day. Much like you probably look having ploughed through the streets of China with all your worldly possessions looking for Lucky Star's oddly inconspicuous shop front.

When you climb on board the smell of rotten cabbage smacks you in the face and takes your breath away. You see the Chinese girl opposite put her bin bag over the seat headrest and you consider that she’s probably on to something and this bus probably isn’t hygienic as such and make a mental note not to look at the toilets and just hold on until Connecticut.

As you take off out of Chinatown and across the Manhattan Bridge, shaking, speeding, swerving and rattling along you can understand why the side of the bus is damaged and why this trip costs a mere $15.

The Manhattan skyline disappears into the horizon as does any personal standards subcategory, transport.

Zài jiàn New York City.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 02:45 Archived in USA Tagged new_york chinatown Comments (1)

I Heart NY

As you all know I love to travel. I love new places. I love so many places and will tell you many things, about so many places for hours on end but sometimes I just love a place so much I want to marry it and bear its children.

Sometimes I just have a good experience there, sometimes I want to live there, it’s a myriad of reasons, but I’ll be talking about this one country or one place for weeks, my journal entries will be pages and pages long because I have so much to say.

New York is one of these places for me. The US was never high on my travel agenda, but then neither was Asia and I’ve managed to do both this year, but I always knew I wanted, nay needed to go to New York.

Big cities are my favourite, the bigger the better, I like being one of the masses and piling in to subway trains and pouring back out of them onto busy streets. I love not knowing anyone and no one knowing me.

New York is tough but cultured, rough but rich. Its arty and sporty, it’s massive but you can go to parts that are like little villages. You have so many different social levels and cultures in one place. People act like they are awesome because they are a New Yorker, and I have to agree, I’d give a limb to live there and walk around like I’m awesome too. Jogging along fifth avenue in my expensive designer leggings because I’m the shit and I live somewhere within running distance to the most exclusive street in New York.

It’s a buzz you walk 60 blocks, from sun up to sun down and wonder why you are exhausted every night.
After my first visit I went on the internet to try and work out how I could move to New York. I wanted to study there, so I looked up universities but already got a couple of those course things so I couldn’t do that. I looked up internships and apartments I can’t afford on Craig’s List. Found a few rough share houses in Devil’s Kitchen I considered applying for.

I fancy myself living down the Lower West Side, I couldn’t pull off the East, not rich or hip enough. I’d have a wicked apartment with a stoop. I’d have a cool job in mid-town (ie. At NBC in Rockefeller Centre or on Broadway as a lighting rigger) Life would be sweet.
It’s an unrealistic dream, in reality I would probably be working at Tom’s Diner and living above a Polish restaurant in Queens. But one can dream.

I could spend so long in that city and not get bored. Why this last stay was only 4 nights is beyond me I was originally going to spend a good few weeks on my return. The city makes me happy, I walk the same blocks and never tire of seeing those massive buildings tower over me, can walk through Time square every night and still enjoy the neon. Admire those beautiful art deco New York buildings that pepper the skyline. It is an amazing skyline. Eat and hang out and wander, three of my favourite pastimes. Someone sponsor me to live in New York, I’ll nanny your spoilt little monsters on the Upper East side if need be.

So I really do, heart NY.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 14:08 Archived in USA Tagged new_york love Comments (2)

Food GLORIOUS Food

American Food Safari

In my informed and educated opinion the term “foodie” is being grossly misused in today’s urban hipster society. This ‘foodie’ is one who enjoys dining on small, weird little objects on a plate and no change from $100. However, I would say I’m more of a foodie. I love to eat. I know you probably cannot tell by my slight figure but I really like food. Really, I just physically enjoy the act of consumption whether it’s expensive steak or two day old pizza.

The United States isn’t perhaps well known for its cuisine but it is known for its fat people and these people get fat because of the super-size me menu America has on offer. In fact a recent study showed that travellers gain an average of 8lb in two weeks on holiday in the USA. So I had a good 16 odd pound goal to work towards.

New York is one place which is considered a foodies paradise, but foodie used in the hipster nonsensical way. It is full of fancy restaurants and cupcakerys where people line up around the corner because Carrie from Sex And The City pretended to eat one on camera once (then spat it out). Thankfully, New York is such a melting pot of cultures that for every super rich Upper East Side noshery there’s a poxy Halal King Kebab street stand. So it caters for one and all.

Last time I was in New York I ate myself stupid and this time was to be no exception, only this time I wasn’t weighed down with a busy tourist calendar, I was hitting the big apple with the simple aim of wandering aimlessly, pretending I live there and eating.

Because I am a urban hipster I was staying in Brooklyn. Once a shithole now New York's 'it' area. The cool kids hang out drinking organic fair trade anything and eating micro greens. I had a sandwich with turkey, brie and sliced apple. So Indie it hurts. Later I sat outside reading a cinematography magazine (reading about 30 Rock and skipping over anything that mentioned lens or film stock) and drinking my coffee on Bedford Ave where the guy next to me was wearing a bow tie and bowler hat smoking on pipe like he’s Sherlock sodding Holmes. Hipster nonsense.

I don’t want Wagyu beef on my American food safari, it’s not the American way. I want TV food, all that salty, sugary, cheesy, oily food that is possibly not made with any food items just chemical agents and colourings. America has it in spades, and I shovel it into my pie hole. (Punny)
On my eating holiday there are many things that stick out as amazing, gross and challenging here are some of my culinary treasures.

I watch a lot of TV and movies so another food objective is to sample the width and breadth of the candy aisle. There’s your standard candy fare but then there are a whole bunch of things with peanut butter centres. It a whole candy sub-category. Peanut butter m&ms, peanut butter Snickers, peanut butter cups. They love a bit of the p-butter. On the candy front it’s nice to stop by and pick up some Twizzlers and a Swedish Fish from a Duane Reade, the coolest name for a drug store ever. That's just a street snack, sometimes Twizzlers are a breakfast food but technically they shouldn't be. Duane is also a staple stop for my 2011 goal of trying as many iced-tea flavours as possible.

Of course New York has all your American fare, hot dogs (hawt dawgs) burgers, fries, pizza. I will give credit where credit is due, they make an excellent burger in the States. a little trivia that took me a long time to figure out, and a few “what the hell, where’s my sandwich” exclaims, if it’s a chicken or turkey it’s called a sandwich. ie. McChicken sandwich.

At one point as I zeroed in on the burger section of the menu I asked if it was okay to have a burger for a 3rd night in a row. It kind of wasn’t though I was fully aware any other choice would be a bad one. The highlight of my burger travels was in New Orleans. A beef burger with peanut butter and bacon. Oh the deliciousness of the gooey peanut butter and the crunchy bacon ghllllllll – drool sound.

The burger came ‘dressed’ which is a term that still cracks me up. Especially when referring to sea critters.

“Would you like the crab dressed?”

“Yes please, in a mini tuxedo and a top hat if you can”

New York is built on migration, early settlers were Irish and Italian then came the Russians and Jews then a dash of practically everything else imaginable. The delis became a big thing, cured meats, pastrami, corned beef, brisket, tongue, sausage, bologna etc. The two most famous, the Carnegie Deli right in the heart of the busy part of mid-town and Katz in the lower east side. Katz is also made more famous by When Harry Met Sally and the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.

They were nuts with people and while I’m not a great lover of meat especially in such massive portions as they come here I took a seat and ordered a pastrami sandwich. They do that weird thing where they seat solo eaters together. So I stared at the man opposite me and felt like I should chat but sensed he would have put headphones on if he had of thought to bring them. Pickles come with most things over here, so I gnawed on my pickles while I waited. I never used to touch them but I’ve grown to really appreciate a good pickle having visited Poland, Germany, Czech Republic prior. Some taste great some taste like what they are, salty cucumbers.

A pastrami pile arrived. As the New York marathon was being run a block north I pulled up my sleeves and began my late lunch. After breaking out into meat sweats momentarily I was soon licking the last bit of delicious mustard off the plate. I got through it, it was a challenge and I just approached it like a sporting event. Focus. Determination. Stopping and pretending I needed to do up my shoes laces to sneak in a wee breather.

New York has the largest Jewish Diasporas outside Israel and it is important to keep kosher and sample all the delights Jewish culture has brought to the city. As well as the aforementioned delis there is bagels and knish, a delicious potato ball thing and I had one with spinach from a Jewish bakery sitting on Houston St since 1910. Just quietly I then walked 50m to Katz and ate a corned beef of rye.

Oh the food. Oh the calories. A combination of all the above meant I needed a bowl of vegetables and fruit upon return to the UK as much as I need breakfast that wasn’t stale rye bread when I returned from Eastern Europe. Detox. And I made a mental note to eat more pickles once normal life resumes.

Fat wrapped in bacon and deep fried then wrapped in sugar? I’ll take one, does it come with pickles.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 07:34 Archived in USA Tagged food new_york burgers deli hipster carnegie foodie katz Comments (0)

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