Nevada County, California

California arguably offers more for the intrepid explorer than any other state. Though populated by those rushing west for gold, it now lures visitors and immigrants with its colossal economy, Hollywood, liberal politics, and diversity in land and culture. The gold rush has long been forgotten in the metropolises, but in some parts of the Sierra foothills, the mining industry survives. Though not the thriving business it once was, its presence in Nevada County is unavoidable. Many mines have been converted to state parks and are now open to the public (Empire Mine), some sit disintegrating into the hillsides, and some are still operating (Underground Gold Miner’s Museum). Wooden sidewalks, gaudy facades, and fur and leather shops give these towns an old-west feel. But if you peer into the shop windows, behind the faux shutters, you’ll find hookahs, didgeridoos, incense, and hemp garments. Nevada County has become a conglomerate of conservative individualists and progressive eccentrics. Gun carrying cowboys live beside bumper sticker flaunting hippies—happily. Continue reading


Goat Hill Pizza

The person snapping this photo for us (a fellow Goat Hill customer waiting to be seated), said with mild odium as he handed back the camera, “You just want street cred, huh?”  Well, if my reputation on the streets of San Francisco can be built by gorging on cheap pizza, then I will willingly strive for local infamy.  I disagree with this guy’s opinion of the place anyway.  Though Goat Hill Pizza is clearly a neighborhood favorite, I doubt it is well known the city over, even by long-time locals.  True, Monday nights you’ll find a moderate crowd gathered outside the front door, but should the restaurant be of such high repute, I’d imagine locals swarming the place in higher numbers.  Now I don’t mean to say Goat Hill is not deserving of such swarms, especially on Monday nights, when you pay only $10.95 for all-you-can-eat pizza and salad.  The salad is served buffet style, but the pizza is served like Dim Sum by the friendliest staff in town.  And though pepperoni and cheese pizza is available, you’ll see plenty of unconventional toppings: feta, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, scallions, red onions, chicken, anchovies, and even clams. Continue reading

Randy’s Negril

The trouble with traveling is finding that balance between seeking cultural immersion and indulging in vacation luxuries.  Often, the two are mutually exclusive, particularly if you classify yourself an anti-tourist.  It’s not that places like Hawaii, Cancun, and Majorca don’t appeal to us, it’s that we know these places have sacrificed native customs for glittering hotels, cheap baubles, and overpriced (sometimes even chain) restaurants.  Jamaica—a quick, affordable flight from Miami—is among the ranks of these sellout vacation hotspots.  But in Negril, one man has managed to reconcile the divide between local and visiting populations.  His name is Randy, founder of La Bella Italia Ice Cream.  His shop provides three primary services: ice cream, internet, and air conditioning, essential survival tools for the modern vacationer. Continue reading

I Left My Home in San Francisco

Amongst breathtaking views, architectural marvels, streets lined with mouthwatering cuisine and abuzz with nightlife, live San Francisco’s derelicts—a raucous, dirty, and rank collection of hoboes, a pockmark on the otherwise flawlessly beautiful landscape.  San Francisco, with its reputation of liberal and compassionate policy-making, cannot solve its homeless problem.  But these down-and-out are as outrageous and innovative as the city in which they live.  Though lacking the four walls and roof we know as home, each man has his own turf, where after a good night’s sleep, he loads up his buggy (shopping cart) and trundles off to work. Continue reading

Finding Religion in Budapest

A religious notion I’ve never had. I contently live my secular life without the burden of weekly rituals of devotion. But even the most unshakable atheist cannot gainsay the tranquil splendor inside God’s house. Civilized man worships his god in elaborate architectural masterpieces. The Vatican, Notre Dame, The Sacred Mosque, The Golden Pavilion, and many other religious structures attract hordes of reverent worshipers and ogling tourists alike. The attention is well deserved. These structures are magnificent, both to look at and to be in. But not until my visit to Cave Church in Budapest did I understand the real allure of these places of worship. Continue reading

Helado in Bayamo

Socially acceptable gluttony deserves celebration.  Where else in the world can you stroll through the park, four ice cream cones in hand, licking ferociously, and maintain an air of dignity?  Fidel Castro, that ominous and malicious dictator, has allowed his citizens this great indulgence.  Perhaps because he has created a health care system capable of handling the side effects of this unhealthy habit, he lets this absurdity continue.  Being the vain, prim, and politically correct Americans that we are, we sat at Plaza de la Revolución in Bayamo (south east Cuba) in awe of the daily helado frenzy.  Hobbling old men, hip youngsters, and suited businessmen—no one can resist Cuba’s helado.  In no time, we too could pound down 5 or 6 ice cream cones a day. Continue reading

The Nevada Desert

No place on earth is lonelier than the desert, its arid, desiccated soil starved of life.  Though the colorless sandy hills almost look picturesque against a dazzling blue sky, the silence and emptiness are too excruciating to enjoy these aesthetic snapshots.  The Nevada desert is no kinder to the senses.  The silence is absolute, the air is dry and hot, and the breeze plays tricks with your mind—without a scent of life, but ricocheting sounds of ghosts from rocky crevices.  But if you’re looking for an escape from your busy life (from any semblance of life), I suggest a drive along Highway 50 through central Nevada.  Continue reading