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January 31, 2007

Photo of the Day: SnowCross

IMG_2225.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

A new feature here at ultraclay.com. Everyday I'll post at least one of my photos from my ever-swelling Flickr stream.

To start off, here's a bit of lunacy from The X Games.

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All things considered...

baggage, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

At least I got home on time. My bags took the scenic route.

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January 29, 2007

Aspen: Las Vegas in the Mountains

Because 'Goodfella's' would be too ethnic

Whenever I travel, I like to seek out the local foods. I look for food that either I can't get anywhere else or that is fresher or more authentic than anywhere else. Aspen has nothing like this. Every restaurant, high end or low, serves food that is culturally or physically imported. Fancier places offer lobster, sushi and oysters while the cheap 'dives' sell pizza and cheesesteaks, or facsimiles thereof.

Great effort has obviously been put into making the place look like the old mining town it probably was 100 years ago - a little too much effort. Aspen is up there with Vegas or Times Square in terms of pure artificiality. The historic aspects of the town are played up to the point of caricature. A walk through downtown Aspen reminds me of the town in Northern Exposure, except it's spotless and the shop windows sell art and discount furs for $5000.

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Flicks: The Philadelphia Story

I love Cary Grant. I’d never known much about him. He was just a name from old movies to me. Then I actually saw him. First Notorious. Then Charade and North by Northwest. I was blown away. Only Houseboat repelled me. I couldn’t deal with those annoying kids. People talk about the old days when a leading man was someone that men wanted to be and women wanted to be with, but it never made any sense to me. There was no one like that when I was a kid. The leading men of my childhood were just a bunch of schmucks who ran around yelling between explosions. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger? They have nothing on Cary Grant. Maybe Harrison Ford or Tom Cruise had some personality, but they were never as smooth as Grant. At once comical, clever and virile, regardless of the role or setting, he’s everything the modern male star aspires to, but rarely approaches. According to imdb, Grant turned down the role of James Bond way back when. I was really surprised until I thought about it. Each Bond has only ever tried to be Cary Grant: the confidence, the wisecracks have all been an attempt at the only personality Cary Grant ever projected.

I really enjoyed The Philadelphia Story. Katherine Hepburn was great, I’d never seen any of her films before. She and Grant and Jimmy Stewart made a great combination. It was a typical classic comedy with all the twists and turns one would expect. All the standard characters are there, too. Hepburn plays the sassy rich shrew and Stewart plays the skeptical journalist weary of his tabloid day-job and disgusted with working the high society scene. Also on display are the precocious kid, the old philanderer, and the sardonic assistant (or photographer in this case). Cary Grant, as usual, was Cary Grant.

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January 28, 2007

Getting there is half the pain


It took 30 hours to get to Aspen.

The highlight was spending a couple hours in SF with guyvera eating tacos and hanging out. The rest of it wasn't so much fun. The visibility in Aspen had gone from 7 miles to under 2 miles. No landing for us. We circled the airport for an hour waiting for it to clear up using all our 'holding fuel(!)' The pilot told us we'd have to head to Denver and try again tomorrow.

The rest of the story after the jump...

When we landed in Denver, the attendant had no idea what we were to do and directed us to the counter. The poor guy behind the counter had no idea what to tell us and tried to balance out answering our questions while investigating how we were to get to Aspen. This was only mildly chaotic for two minutes, then another flight came in after attempting to land in Aspen. Suddenly there was a swarm of 50+ passengers asking, no demanding, to be told everything right that moment.

He didn't know when our flight was going to be, he didn't know how we were going to find out and he didn't know what was going to happen to our luggage. All he knew was that we weren't getting it that night. He gave out 'vouchers' for discount rates at the airport hotels and tried to calm us down while he figured out what was happening.

Finally, he let us know that they had managed to get 2 unscheduled flights in the next morning. He issued us new boarding passes and we got to go to our hotels.

I'd never be rerouted like this, but as a rule I keep everything I value in my carry-on. This means that my messenger bag usually weighs about 80 lbs. I knew that when I began rushing through the airport looking for the hotel shuttles. What I had forgotten about was the elevation. Denver is called the Mile High City because it is 5280 feet above sea level. I got 10 gates away when I started losing my breath.

That sucked.

I slowed down and made my way through the airport to the shuttle. A group of pilots and an attendant were raucously talking and laughing in the back. The attendant was cozied up flirting with one of the pilots. "Do you like it when I call you Captain?" she asked him.

At the hotel, Stewart from Brooklyn, was not making the home team proud. This guy was either drunk, sleepwalking or dumb as a rock. It took him half an hour to check in the two people ahead of me. He told the couple before me that they would need to catch the 4:55 shuttle to get to the airport by 7pm, then he said that the 5:55 should get them there by 5:30... After they left he told someone else that the shuttles run on the 25 and the 55 and that the ride was about 30 minutes.

Right across from the check in desk, taunting me, was the bar. All I needed after all of that was a beer, but Stewart was not helping me out. In the bar was a group of cowboys in town for the rodeo -seriously.

I slept for a couple hours and headed to the airport early in order to avoid the crowd from the night before. When I got there, my flight was not on the board and there wasn't a United staffer to be found. I looked the flight up online and found out the gate and that the flight had been moved back 45 minutes.

Boarding and loading our luggage took almost an hour, then we pulled out of the gate to get de-iced(!).
Then came the message from the flight deck. Visibility was still low in Aspen. We have to go back to the gate - except it was a different gate.

The new gate had no jetway, so we had to walk down to the tarmac. A lady in a fur coat scoffed, "We have to walk out in the snow?!?" Imagine that!

When we got inside, no one knew what to do with us. I got to play spartacus and walk up to a gate with 50 people behind me and introduce us, the roaming passengers of flight 6001. After attempting to send us back to our original gate, Patti, the attendant looked up the flight and figured out where we were supposed to go. When we got there, the guy there told us we weren't supposed to be there. I told him Patti sent us and asked him to look it up. When he did, he told us that our flight was ready to (re)board and sent us back to the plane.

We landed at 1:30, 16 hours late. Good times.

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Zane's Tavern

Zane's Tavern is the closest thing to down to earth I've found in the Aspen area. I came here last year when I spent a lot more time in snowmass.

Zane's is divey in the best way. It's not hipstery, self-conscious divey or chichi $50 pink trucker hat divey. It's neighborhood bar divey. The bartender knows the regulars - and there are regulars, because the patrons aren't just vacationing visitors - the folks who come here are as likely to be wearing name tags as snow gear.

I'm hardly the slummer who glorifies the 'simple' blue collar life as so much more 'authentic.' I think that's condescending bullshit. Given the other options in the area though, it's the most refreshing beer you're likely to have.

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Aspen, the winter home of entitlement


Aspen is surreal. The aura of raw, unabated entitlement emanates from every corner. I've never seen anything like it. I grew up surrounded by white folks with money. But I had never experienced anything like Aspen before. Conspicuous wealth abounds and no one seems concerned.

This is my second trip here, so I knew what to expect. It's still jarring though. The sense of entitlement is pervasive. It's implicit in the full length furs hanging off of so many of the women here, it's in the expensive snow gear everyone wears and the unavoidable giant SUVs. It's there in every interaction you have with anyone who doesn't work here. Whether they aren't slowing down at the intersection for you to cross the street or they aren't getting out of the way when they're blocking the sidewalk. It's there when a bunch of teenagers are yelling at the driver to take an overcrowded bus faster down a steep icy road so they can get to their snowboarding.

I'm here for business. I don't ski or snowboard. I hate the winter, truth be told. That said, I do enjoy exploring new worlds and Aspen is definitely that. I've been here for a week now, which has been plenty of time to observe. I'll put in some more posts about my experiences and observations in the next day or two.

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Flicks: Bullitt

An interesting cop story with some good twists. I had only seen one other Steve McQueen movie, the Great Escape, which I enjoyed. McQueen is the strong, silent type. At least in the two movies I’ve seen him; he wasn’t much of a talker. I can’t think of many actors who have a similar style. Maybe Paul Newman, but I haven’t seen many of his movies. Certainly no contemporary actors are quite so subtle.

Someone had told me how great the car chase was, but I was pretty disappointed. I admit I enjoyed watching them take some of those San Francisco hills at high speed. But the camera spent too much time in the cars. The point of a car chase is not to watch the people in the car glowering at each other, it’s to see them do crazy shit and cause major property damage. I also got very tired of hearing the engines humming. For 10 minutes the whole soundtrack was: “Vroom. Vroooooooom. Vroom. Vroooooom” as they switched back and forth between cars. It was kind of unnecessary, I thought. The French Connection has become my gold standard for car chases. This didn’t get any where close to that to me.

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The Flicks Project

This is not my first blog. I had one ever so briefly a couple years ago. The concept was basically that I'd use my new netflix membership to see famous and influential movies and react to them in the blog. Now that I have a site that I hope to actually update, I figure I'll try again. Below is the introduction to this 'project' I wrote back in ought-five.

The Flicks Project
For years people have been asking me, “you haven’t seen…?” Whether it was the Godfather or Citizen Kane, people have been amazed at my cultural illiteracy. There are dozens of movies in the national culture that I have never seen. I can quote lines from some of them or give you a detailed synopsis, but I’ve never seen it first hand. And I’m the only one. So, I started polling my friends and co-workers. I asked people what movies they generally expected everyone had seen and began my list. I limited it to the 20 year period between 1965 and 1985 to make it manageable. Stars I’ve known for some time did their best work then. Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson have all starred in films I’ve seen. But their earliest, and often best, works were entirely unknown to me. The list started out representing some of the most important and influential works in film in the last 40 years. Then I saw a couple older movies. Classics. I’ve come to realize that no list of movies to see would be worth a damn unless I also included Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck… So, the list grew. I worked on it gradually. I saw the Godfathers that mattered, I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But it was only every now and again. The list had grown but I wasn’t getting around to watching them. Now I’ve joined NetFlix. I’ve got 83 movies in my queue and it’s still growing.

Here are my perceptions of the ‘list’ movies as I see them. As a warning, there may be spoilers. These aren’t reviews as such and sometimes I’ll go on and on about striking features of one movie only briefly touching on the plot. One aspect I’ve been interested in lately is the leading man. It’s changed a lot since the 40’s. The idea of what it meant to be a man in the movies and how certain actors worked within those confines is fascinating to me.

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I suppose the best way to start this entire enterprise is to explain myself.

Right now I have no idea how personal this blog will be or even if it will ultimately be a single blog or a collection of blogs, so I'm not sure what information is relevant. I might as well include as much as I can and go from there... More will come out as I write more and eventually I'll actually have a bio collected.

My name is Clay, I live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York City and I have for the last 20+ years.

I like to enjoy the pleasures of life, particularly eating, drinking and traveling (mostly to places where I can eat and drink new things). I'm an explorer at heart and live to try out new experiences.

My various obsessions, beyond food and drink, are photography, writing, music, graffiti and the random little details around us everyday. I write the occasional piece for Brooklyn Record, mostly on the above topics.

My day job is to perform Mac geekery for an unnamed media company that leads sports world wide.

That's as good a start as any, I suppose. Pardon the inconsistancies while I sort everything out.

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I'm assuming someone will ever read this blog. I guess that's a start. My plan is to start with things I've written and never published, posted and work my way up from there.

Hopefully by the time this is public, I'll have settled on a design and a format, but for now, don't be surprised if things get switched around regularly. On the top of the list of things I need to figure out before too long is a name. Blah Blah Blog is already taken, it seems. I guess a subject should work itself out pretty soon too.

I imagine travel, food and beer will be pretty prominent, but who knows? Politics, technology, graffiti, music and New York City are all likely topics as well.

Here's hoping I can get this going quickly and smoothly.

Read on....

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January 7, 2007

SF: Rogue Public House

This post is backdated to back when I was in San Francisco in early January.


When I found out that Rogue had a pub, I knew I had to go check it out.

The pub is in a corner of North Beach a few blocks away from the bigger tourist attractions of Beat bookshops and Italian restaurants. The space is pretty big, with a smaller second room used for game nights and parties. The vibe was very laidback, I didn't run into any hardcore beer geeks eager to sneer at anyone's beer choice. Despite being owned by an out of town brewery, the place had a decided neighborhood feel. In fact, while I was there, I ran into a former co-worker who had just moved to SF. He and his roommate had been getting settled in and decided to go to the local for a round or two.

I sat at the bar on a quiet Sunday afternoon, while everyone else watched the game, I delved into the tome that listed all the Rogue Ales available. They have 44 taps, pouring mostly Rogue ales, but also nearly a dozen guest brews. I stuck with the Rogues myself, but I appreciated the option.

The beer I tasted after the jump...

Here's what I tasted:

Imperial Pilsner: Strong, despite its light color. This was the first I had and it gave me a pretty major buzz on its own. It was like a light, strong IPA.

Younger Special Bitter: Rogue's take on the ESB. Amber in color with a deep, rich flavor. I bought a bottle of this one to take home.

Honey Orange Wheat
: Rogue's take on Blue Moon apparently. A little too light for me. Tons of citrus, with what tasted like coconut to me. Very light bodied.

Chipotle Ale: The bartender warned me about this when I asked about it. I just had a taste. That was more than enough. I applaud experimentation in brewing, but this was just not my thing. I'm not a fan of rausch (smoked) beers, the flavor reminds me of lox, which is just not what I want to taste when I have a pint. The Chipotle had that same unpleasant smokiness, but with a chemically flavor attached to it, presumably the pepper. Abhorrent.

I also had a few of the Stouts, the Imperial Chocolate Stout being one of my favorites with its malty richness.

Before I left town, I took a couple friends there for a round or two. It was a good escape from the conference scene.

Rogue Ales Public House 673 Union Street, San Francisco

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January 1, 2007

2006 Travel Recap


(This entry is backdated.)

2006 was one of my better years for travel. I saw 2 new countries and 6 new cites. I tried to get a fresh look at the places I'd been before, exploring new neighborhoods and seeing new things.

I hope to find a way to include all or most of these trips in the blog one way or the other. For now this will have to do.

After the jump, my photo rundown of the places I went last year.


Snowmass, CO
Aspen for Winter X Games.

(Chapel Hill, North Carolina, no pic)


Los Angeles for X Games.

San Francisco


Chapel Hill, NC.

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Colonia, Uruguay.

Miami Beach.

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