Dream trip Day 140 DC to New Orleans by train, last stop on Dream trip

I’d woke up to hard rain again, but for the final time on this trip. No chance to get out and explore DC further.

Adding to my day’s frustrations was it had been my final paid night in the hostel. Jeff was out-of-town for the weekend.

I had a vague idea of just heading south, staying in a major city each night. Like Atlanta, Birmingham, whatever was on the way.

Reality slapped me, I was no longer in Europe. 3 hours did not get me into a new country. Hell most of the time, 3 hours was the halfway point from city to city in the US.

No place to stay within a 2 hour radius, well not hostels anyway. I was out of options that didn’t include an expensive hotel.

I did find a 26 hour train to New Orleans.

I had the notion of buying a hop on hop off train pass. You know, train it to a city, get out, stay a night, hop on a train the next day or evening.

That was a staggering price for a ticket, as was snagging a bed on the train, a roomette. $400+ for both options vs a ticket just over 100$.

I had a moment, sucked it up and got a train ticket. It was well over half cost of airfare. Plus this trip was to see the countries as they really are after all and I was going to see quite a bit of America.

I fortified myself with coffee and beer before walking to the depot. It was an early evening departure, 5.

Once at the train station I figured I should check off Shake Shack on my best burger list. I do enjoy a tasty burger and these guys were highly ranked and not an option in Texas.

Good juicy burger, should hold me through the night. I wasn’t anticipating much sleep.

I walked and lapped the depot several times. I’ll always remember this LA candy store, where they were selling sugar, candies but for models. Why?

I suppose around the 2nd lap the thought occurred to me to buy some fruit and maybe a pastry roll for the trip. Wrapped them up in some napkins, I had a snack and small meal.

You just never know about train food options. The pickings were pretty bad on the St Louis to KC line, all pre-packaged options.

I still don’t get why they make those plain, disgusting plastic container sandwiches which pervade gas stations, trains and bus stop in the US.

Not that I didn’t see similar packaged sandwich options in Europe, I just don’t get how hard it is to have a few handmade options at a place. Have someone make them in the morning and again mid afternoon.

At last the call was made and we passed through the 1st ticket check. Before you got into the car, another conductor took you to your seat after checking your ticket.

I was lucky that my seat was on the 2 seat row of the train. I had a neighbor already.

He was a nice enough guy, heavy accent.  Sounded like a rural Carolina drawl. It was during the 1st 2 hours of my train ride I learned this guy’s story.

He’d been in jail for a while, was returning from visiting his ill mom in NY and was well into a bottle of Jack.

This was not his 1st long train ride, he had small bottles of cola he had pre-mixed.

I’m not sure why I say bottle, they were plastic. Is there another name for a plastic vessel other than bottle? I just feel bottle means glass is all.

He went through 2 of those loaded colas on our journey and they looked tea colored, heavy on whiskey.

Every time a conductor passed he asked the same question, ‘smoke break boss?’ then cackle like it was the funniest thing he’d ever said.

The train stopped a lot in small towns, those weren’t smoke stops. Big cities we stopped 20 minutes so he had enough time to smoke.

We also stopped a few times in the middle of nowhere to let a freight train fly by too That is truly infuriating.

In the US freight is given priority over commuter trains on rails.  Humans, who can sense the passage of time, have to wait for stuff, for things to pass.

What I am saying is whatever you are shipping is not more valuable than another person’s time. You can wait for that cheap razor of the month.

Thankfully he was getting off in S Carolina, his bitch had best come to pick him up soon too per his flip phone conversation I overheard.

I waved at him as he left the car, it was about 9pm. I had just enough room to lay down on the 2 seats, provided I didn’t have legs.

All the ladies around me reclined their seats as far back as they could go, they all had neighbors.

You know planes, train, options society pays to travel, could be and used to be a lot better.

I sure wish any transportation executive and family has to take the cheapest option on a long journey at least once a year. If nothing, they’d experience it.

Take a look at any pics of plane or train travel from the 60’s or 70’s. Everyone has leg room, smiling, smoking, etc. The food looked edible even!

Instead seat and room are minimized and prices go up! Thing is we think competition levels the playing field but really if every option does the same thing, is that competition?

I took advantage of wi-fi, so at least that worked, that was a good thing.  I watched several movies, eventually falling asleep around 3am but since I’m next to a window, as soon as the sun is up so is everyone else.

Pro tip, keep in your bag earplugs and eyeshade. You never know the situations you may find, someone snoring in your room. Maybe you find yourself at a rock show or perhaps you have to sleep in a room with no window covering.

I am pretty much a night person, which isn’t helping, so everyone around me is clearly morning people, all excited about breakfast, coffee and life.

It added an extra punch to the long train ride. Just knock the chipperness down a couple of notches, ya know?

One lady’s godson had just died, another was convinced his boss was after him, and another lady just kept on saying ‘uh hu or uh nuh,’  whichever was the most appropriate aside based on the conversation.

What can I say, it was a busy morning on the train. I can say I did feel a certain kinship with everyone. We were all, some literally grinning and bearing our hours long journey.

Without question, the people in coach smile a whole lot more than those in 1st class.

I took an occasion to procure a cup of coffee, incredibly cheap coffee beans as well as incredibly hot coffee to go with the pastries I’d picked up in DC.

The landscape wasn’t as green as I’d seen previously. The smaller towns here weren’t nearly as quant and beautiful as some I’d seen.

In Europe the towns were pretty similar to the bigger cities just smaller. In the US, the towns just look poor, run down, like everyone moved away.

The scenery and car population changed even more once we passed Atlanta. It was like out of a dystopian film.

I started looking for Mad Max style cars or at least some Deliverance style bow hunters to reveal themselves between the trees.

Somewhere in Alabama sleep overtook me, I completely passed out for over an hour.

A much-needed nap. I had been watching videos most of the time. DRAM and Lil Yachty mostly. DRAM is so great.

Soon we were in the bleakest place I’d encountered thus far, Mississippi.

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Dotting the countryside in Miss were shacks, not houses. Some even just constructed using a group of trees as a frame, with pallets and other pieces of wood or metal as a roof or wall.

The US is rich but you wouldn’t know that looking at the rural places. Europe looked like paradise by comparison.

No occupied shacks that I saw overseas. Sure there were many abandoned structures but they didn’t look lived in like the dilapidated shacks in the US.

Where’s the money going? Some politician or their friends’ pocket most likely. Or building a new plane.

All countries are corrupt its just the level of corruption was the difference. It was like ok, we get it, you will steal, just drive a Mercedes vs McLaren.

Don’t be blatant with your graft, you dig?

I wrote 5 of these posts on the Atlanta to Mississippi leg of my journey, in my seats, alternating based on the position of the sun.

Pro tip, buy prescription sunglasses. Big difference walking around on a sunny day and being able to see writing on signs.

Before too long we were in Slidell, next stop New Orleans.

I confess, a tear dropped from my eye as we crossed Lake Ponchatrain. The sun was setting and I couldn’t believe I was here.

“Welcome to New Orleans, whoot whoot!” came the call from the conductor. Everyone out, final stop.

I called a car and I was swooped to my friend’s house. You forget just how pretty the houses are until you return to the city.

My friend and I sat on his back porch, beers in our hand. I took a long pull and gazed at the stars above.

Beer  NOLA Blonde

Song    the Meters    Talkin’ ‘Bout New Orleans

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Dream trip Day 138 Philly to DC by bus, beers with Jeff

Leaving is always hard, I am not good at it though I do it all the time.

The day began at Grindhouse for coffee and pastry. I still am not sure how they make vegan sweets or ice cream. I’m glad someone figured it out though. It’s good.

We hugged it out and then I queued up for the line to DC. This time I had a ticket.

Had just enough time to snap a pic of Philly’s Chinatown gate, a new thing I’d been taking pics of since I arrived to Boston.

 

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Another pretty quick bus ride and I was in DC. I was soon walking to one of my favorite hostels. I’d stayed here on a couple of other DC visits.

It’s in a good location, sort of close to a few subway lines which made getting around easier. Plus I knew the neighborhood.

Not much had changed at the hostel. Take off your shoes in front, bunks in the back. I decided it was time for a rest. Long night ahead.

I took the Metro to the stop near the capital, Jeff worked for the gov though I wasn’t 100% clear on what he did. I knew he helped a Congressman from Texas for a few years.

I’d know Jeff for over 15 years by this point. We’d seen radiohead together on The Bends tour, drove to Cali from Denton after graduation. We’d seen a lot.

A couple of transfers and we were at his car, parked at a station. This was sort of my dream commute situation. I just want to avoid traffic and downtown DC is pretty bad.

Initially we discussed checking out a punk show. I feel we both realized we couldn’t talk if we were in a loud place so we hailed a car to take us to a pub.

Jeff’s wife was actually Swedish, as in she spoke the language and had lived there for a time. That is a cool way to see a city and country.

He told me bout their honeymoon or maybe she just goes home every year and Jeff joined. I haven’t explored Scandinavia yet, looks fun but cold.

We caught the ballgame that was on. I ventured that maybe we could see a Nationals playoff game the next night. They had just won their division.

After sharing travel tales, his wife arrived to collect him for the night. She too is a cool kid and it was nice to get to know her at their wedding a couple of years ago.

Marylanders they were now. Ocean City for the summers.

I had to negotiate the Metro late and half sauced. I didn’t have a lady to pick me up.

It was fine, just sliver to red, head north and I was home.

Safe inside a roomful of strangers, snoring.

 

Song Fugazi   Kyeo

Beer  DC Brau   Corruption

Dream trip Day 137 More Philadelphia history, dog park, Saint Vitus

Jodi had to go to her workshop early so if I wanted a ride into town, I had to wake up with her. No problem, I can roll with it.

Her shop was near the Italian part of town so that was fortunate. I strolled through the fruit veg and meat booths that lined a few blocks.

I stopped in a shop and got a real Italian coffee, not an espresso but the guy who made it swore it was the same beans and method he’d seen ‘back home.’

Tasted fine to me but I’ll bet a real Italian coffee experience would be an espresso, just pure black coffee. Sipped in 1 go while standing.

Since the city was a grid, literally everything was just down the road. It was just some roads and destinations were longer than others.

My route today would take me through downtown.

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I was en route to another cheese steak joint, this one inside the Reading Terminal Market.

I had to keep up checking out city markets, I’d seen several overseas, let’s see how US does by comparison.

Market looked how it should, though every stall had big advertisements for their brand. I didn’t see much of a marketing budget on stalls in other countries. Sometimes a sign or logo, maybe business card but certainly not a full banner.

The place I was checking out today was Carmen’s Cheesesteak and Hoagie’s. You do have to know some lingo to understand the sammich.

Hoagie is a long piece of bread, not round or square like some places. Also roast beef, pork, shaved meats are used inside a hoagie.

This time I skipped the whiz and went with their cheese sauce. I hoped they used real cheese.

Gooey hot and delicious!

I kept on walking until I found a square with some statues.

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I soon met up with Jodi and her dog at a nearby dog park. It was so fun watching the dogs interact with each other.

It reminded me of the 1st day of school. Lots of free dogs who just ran, others cowered under seats. Why I had a couple pooches under mine. I coaxed them out so they can join in the fun.

Back to Jodi’s to get a bit to eat and freshen up before the show. She made me an awesome avocado toast with tomato soup. Easy to be vegan if this is what you eat.

Jodi seemed to know everyone in Philly. We didn’t have tickets but she ran into some friends as we walked in who had an extra one for her. I bought a  fairly expensive ticket,  so I could support the scene.

I was intrigued by the openers, the Skull. They were heavy, sludgy. The singer chain smoked the entire show. I mean he lit up after maybe every other song. Other times he walked off to the side with a bev an a cig while a solo or groove was going on.

Then it was time for doom! An older guy with long grey hair strides up to the mic ‘We’re Saint fuckin’ Vitus!’

It was so awesome to see someone in their 60’s maybe 70’s just tearing it up on guitar as well as shouting expletives in the mic between songs.

They were great, really groovy, great singer. I needed to check out more of their stuff.

The singer kept looking to his left the last couple of songs.

‘We’ve got a special guest on this next one, Wino!’ the singer cried as a viking walked out from backstage.

Long blonde hair flowing, tan work books, it was Wino from the Obsessed, another early doom metal band. He had started out in St Vitus so this was a homecoming moment.

He sang a couple of tunes while clutching a beer. It was a great show. Philly has a thriving music scene. Do check out a show if you are in the city of brotherly love.

There was a pub a short walk from the venue so we checked it out.

It looked very much like a diner, house of waffles type place. It has one of the best jukeboxes I encountered on my trip.

I think I pissed everyone off playing Velvet Underground Neil Young and Television. Oh well, best to play long songs I think.

He came dancing across the water

Cortez, Cortez

what a killer

Wicked cool night in Philly!

Song   Saint Vitus   The Walking Dead

Beer Old Tankard Ale

Dream trip Day 136 Cheesesteak, Yards Brewery, Rocky moment

Jodi is an artist + she had to work in her studio during the days, which was cool with me. I located a vegan metal coffee shop a couple of blocks from her house. It is wicked cool!

I had cheese steaks on my mind and I knew there were several options. I’ve heard to avoid the big name cheesesteak joints that are featured on food shows, find some older spots.

There was a highly rated spot called Jim’s that sounded good. Cash only, usually a good sign, let’s check it out.

A nice stroll, about a mile. I passed by a kitty, coffee place. I’d just read about this new coffee shop that had cats roaming around.

The cool thing is you could adopt any cat if you liked it. Only since making friends with rescuers I learned that buying a pet is hard.

Too many places just churn out animals and don’t take care of them. You really have to research where your animals came from and buy responsibily.

Jim’s isn’t crowded yet. I just beat the lunch crowd. I get the original which uses cheese whiz, not real cheese.

It is super hot gooey and great. What you want in a sandwich. Very filing.

The place was soon packed and they gave everyone to go bags. Many left to eat in one of the many parks all over the city.

William Penn designed the city into a grid which included 4 squares of green space.

Throughout my time in town, I’d visit most of the squares. Its one of the easiest cities to get around in due to the grids.

Next stop was Ben Franklin’s tomb. While there is a free side view of this slab for 2$ you can go into the cemetery which has several Declaration of Independence inside.

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After strolling through some squares I met Jodi and we went over to Yards Brewing for a couple pints. It is a cool spot worth a visit.

They have appetizing looking food too, not just bar food. I had good time in their taproom.

A couple of their beers were based off Presidents Washington and Jackson’s home beer recipes.

After Yards, we went driving around the city, talking a long walk near the library, where the famous stairs are located. You just have to run up them.

 

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Another unexpected life goal achieved! I’d always been inspired by the Rocky story, now I’d seen where it had gone down.

We walked around the grounds a long walk. Jodi is great, cool person to talk to about anything. I was fortunate to know her for many reasons, much less a couch to crash on.

Another dive bar near her house for a couple. This was a spot Jodi used to go to a lot.

It was in the middle of a neighborhood so it took awhile to find parking. There were lots of old, neighborhood pubs around this part of town.

This pub was tiny yet very cool. I enjoyed hanging  out there. Even had a convo with some of the local guys.

After an hour or so, couple of beer time, we headed out to another bar, a rock bar I was told. And it looked like rockers too.

Just metal dudes and pin-up chicks all up in here. Loud and heavy soundtrack.

I was having a great time! Philly had a thriving metal scene. I overheard several conversations about small local shows that everyone agreed to go, to help the scene.

Big rock show tomorrow night in fact!

Beer   George Washington Tavern Porter

Song  the Roots with John Legend   Wake Up!

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Dream trip Day 135 NYC pizza, bus to Philly, beers with Jodi

Natalie had to work and I had to hit on the road. Southbound to Philly today.

I was told to hit up Roscoe’s for a good pizza experience. I definitely wanted to get some NYC pizza to compare to some of the places I went in Dallas.

I got plenty lost and turned around walking the quarter-mile to the pizza joint. Oh well I got to see some cool parts of the city.

It was a by the slice affair at Roscoe’s. You ordered, they threw it in the oven while you paid and it was done shortly after.

Good pizza, sauce, and of course that crust! Another one please, nice and hot.

I shared space with some tough looking construction workers. Chowing down on some sweet ‘za. A classic NYC scene.

I am always surprised by how long it takes to get around via subway in NYC. About an hour to get over to the west side to a bus stop.

There are several lines for the bus, each for a different destination city, so you have to ask someone to make sure you are in the right line.

There are conductors and people who walk around keeping order. They know what to do and can sell you a ticket.

One held a portable swiper/printer device. The receipt was long as it was your ticket too.

I filed in line to board, throwing my backpack into the baggage hold. I’d discovered the top compartments weren’t large enough for my backpack, which is also too big to stow under the seats.

I kick back and watch the city fly pass me through the window.

I’d never been to Philly, so it was important that I make it down for a couple of days.

I’m a huge history fan especially US history, how the country was founded. A lot of action happened in Philly.

Luck was on my side as I had met someone on my trip who lived in Philly. She didn’t mind me crashing on her couch for a few days. Finally going to see Philadelphia, PA!

I spoke to my friend Jodi, and told her I was near city hall, specifically a large paperclip art installation.

To my amazement I was able to locate her truck as she passed on the busy road in front of the clip, I threw my bag in the back, get in the cab and slammed the door shut.

I was greeted by Jodi’s dog who is super cool. Only surpassed by Jodi who is the coolest!

She showed off a bit of Philly while it was still light, passing by a few landmarks I could take pics of.

We walked her dog around these sites, too. Lots of dogs in Philly.

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We soon arrived at the port. We were looking at the Delaware River, Trenton NJ was on the other side of the river.

Lots of military ships out here.

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We saw another large ship sail out to sea before getting back into the truck.

Her house wasn’t too far. In fact Philly isn’t that large, maybe 5 miles in any direction. Buses seemed to run most of the days, I certainly saw them whenever I was out.

We were hungry so we walked to a bar that served pretty good Mexican food. Had a couple of beers too.

It was a cool neighborhood pub, full of characters too. A guy at the bar had just been released from jail and they were celebrating.

Apparently this was a normal event and celebration here. Shots poured. I guess I am lucky or maybe square but I ain’t never been to jail.

Another baseball game I was able to catch, just being out and about I found a TV.

More pints, some food and we snake our way through the neighborhood home.

Everything feels old and out of a film. Just wonderful brownstone houses, walk ups, older corner businesses, the way it was, you know.

Tomorrow I’d fully explore the historic side of the city!

Beer  Philadelphia pale ale

Song  Hall and Oates   Method of Modern Love

Dream trip Day 134 Brooklyn Bridge, downtown NYC, haircut

We had a day to explore. The plan was to meet up with Nick later, for a haircut. He was a barber in training.

I so happened to be 6 months without a beard or hair trim so I was in.

We strolled the neighborhood to a juice spot that was indeed quite hipster but they did have good coffee.

There was an open door across the street so we heard bits of songs and a sermon from a church while Natalie chatted up her friend who worked there.

Sunday morning coming down.

We took the subway downtown, checking out judicial spots to see.

 

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Made it to the Brooklyn Bridge even. Always fun to make the walk across however it is so busy, crowded.

 

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We walked all over the area, found the bench from that Woody film, ate some pastrami, got into someone’s way, NYC things.

I guess NYC is really just a lot of cool places a few blocks away no matter where you are.

Same thing with foods. You didn’t just have 1-2 places for a type of food. It was like, 1 block that way is Indian, another block Pakistani, another block northern Indian style.

You could really explore another culture’s foods very easily.

On 1 of the subway transfers, I noticed the lines were J and Z so it made me wonder if that is where he got his name. The J Z transfer.

We stopped at a brewery for a pint, waiting for Nick to give us the ok to stop in. He had some appointments so once he finished, he would be alone for a hour.

There was an ally cat stalking just outside the brewery’s open garage door. If this guy got in, he was taking out a bird or 2. Crouching sneaking lurking kitty.

The new thing in barbershops is beer. Sometimes in cans, sometimes on tap like tonight. I had a couple cups of beer while getting a nice trim.

After my cut he had to clean up so Natalie and I found a sweet old guy pub that kids were taking over. They were open til 4am. Dang!

There was a Spanish type place they wanted to try a dish at so we walked over to a little spot. I think it was like an empanada they wanted to try at this place.

It was on to another dive bar, so great. You really appreciate a good jukebox when you can find one. It helps when the bartender loads it with 5$ and tells ya to play what you like.

Another great evening in NYC!

Beer  Other Half  IPA

Song  Television  Torn Curtain

 

 

Dream trip Day 133 Providence to New York City by bus, West Village house party with friends

If there is one thing I enjoy for breakfast it is corned beef hash. This is more of an east  coast treat and well, I was on the east coast!

Sure enough a couple blocks away was a diner. I didn’t even have to look at the menu. 2 fried eggs, over medium, corn beef hash, coffee.

I was served by a cute gal, long hair, young though. It is always nice to have those movie notions of saying something like, ‘I can see it, You hate it here. Why don’t you join me on this journey I’m on…’

Alas no, I just sat and calmly drank my coffee until my food arrived.

So good! Nice runny yolk is the sauce for the hash. Great way to begin the day, especially after a night of shots.

There were only a couple of buses to NYC so I had to rush a bit. I was only able to say farewell to one of the people I went out with the night before.

She thought I was rushing to leave, but I was at the mercy of the bus schedule, that and traffic once I hit the City.

I would be getting into town around 7 as it was. I wasn’t sure about my friends schedules, what time they would be ready or if they had to work.

Once again I played with fire not buying a ticket, just headed out to the bus depot. I was likely sore at the fees imposed when buying online. I can assure you, they levy them at you in person as well.

I made it all the way to the ticket counter where I see a hand written sign reading ‘Out to Lunch back in 10 min.’

The bus left in 10 minutes! Sure enough this lady wanders in at the time of departure, munching on chips. I give her a head nod and she meets me at the window.

‘1 to NYC, for now please. Has the bus left?’ I ask.

‘There it go now, you can take that one.’ she replied and handed me a ticket while pointing behind her at a bus that had just pulled into the depot. Crunch.

That’s how they rolled in Providence. I was heading to the big apple, New York City!

I hardly believed it as we drove through the wet, soggy afternoon.

I wore a huge smile on my face the entire ride down as we lurched through borough after borough until we arrived @ 41st & 8th St.

Now I know what the sound of 10+ horns blaring at the same time sounds like, thanks everybody.

I found the route to my friend’s part of town, not even thinking about taking the subway, I was walking the mean streets of NYC!

I just kept on walking through Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village. 41 gorgeous blocks just like Holden walked.

You just feel more alive in New York I cannot explain it.

Plenty of time for a hot dog, something I so rarely ate. Had a nice thick fruit beverage with my doggers too.

Fortified, I continued my assault on the city. Walked on Bleeker St, past CBGB’s, now a salon that sold clothes. Sell merchandise, not the dream.

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My friends would meet me out later. They were going to a housewarming party. I was assured it was cool I tag along.

I posted up at a pub and got some beers while I waited. Beer was about 8$ a pint or what I paid in Oak Cliff for a pint. Dang!

There’s usually a ballgame on at night in the fall so I caught a bit of a game before my friends arrived.

They they were! So cool to see an old friend. Natalie and her husband Nick. I’d gone to college with Natalie, sort of.

Denton has 2 universities so a lot of people who live there work or attend college. I can’t recall which one Natalie went to. We didn’t have any classes together, she was art major and knew several people I hung out with.

She was a teacher at NYC school #832. It was great to see her!

We got pints and hit up a booth where I filled them in on my travel story. I think Natalie said I should write a book. I think that may be what I am writing now.

Soon we finished and hit the subway to a party across town, in the West Village.

It was a little awkward as I parked my bags into a nook of the room which was filled totally by a couch.

These were some of their friend who had actually lived in Denton for a time when I had moved away.

Sometimes I think about living in Denton again.

They had plenty of beer, a fire escape/balcony that overlooked the street. It was such a cool experience just having a beer out there watching people walk by.

I am fairly sure we took the subway a couple stops to my friend’s apartment. It was nice, air mattress sort of night.

Sirens howled in the distance.

Beer  Yuengling Oktoberfest

Song  Parquet Courts  Human Performance