Theres a reason why I like living in the country side. It's quiet and theres a bunch of natural stuff surrounding me. It makes me feel right. It's where I feel most comfortable. Big cities on the other hand, well they can frustrate me. Visiting the big boys in America was always going to put me out of my comfort zone. Thankfully I had a team of people who put their hands up and hosted me with genuine fervor. When I left Camp Wandewaga it was on. Down a busy interstate we speed in Fidel's trusty Outback, passing chain restaurants called 'Outback' wondering where the actual outback was in America. That afternoon Max and I wandered through a farmers market somewhere in Chicago, talking with producers and shakers.
Later that afternoon I did my talk for folk at Longman and Eagle. But I did it with a twist, they'd organised a rabbit for me to gut and skin. The theory talk transformed into a practical demonstration. I love being given the opportunity to share skills, that are my everyday life, with people that may not normally have an avenue to be exposed to said skills. After the rabbit was cooked beautifully by the chef at Longman & Eagle, we headed downtown and feasted on more amazing tucker at Nellcote. Man I was eating so much good food I was gaining pounds by the day.
I dragged my now bulging bags to the subway, off to another airport, for another flight, New York City beckoned. My mate Matt Hranek had fishing plans for me along with a tour of his city. Not one tourist attraction was on the cards, it was more important for Matt to share his favourite places and me to be shown them. Places like McSorleys for a few ales, Russ and Daughters for a mega cured fish experience, a rad vintage shop for some new old boots, and an army surplus store in China town for a military duffle to fit all my new Americana in for the trip home. So a mega day right? Well it wasn't over.
I then headed out to the Bedford Cheese shop to hang out with the cheese dream team. They were great hosts, providing a mega platter for this travelling cheese lover. In fact they gave me some mind blowing american salumi, re-highlighting that great food can come from within your own country, if not local, you just need to make the effort to explore. And lets face it, who doesn't like to explore?
The following day was mega. Bryan, one of Matt's fishing buddies picked me up and we headed to Jamaica Bay for Blue Fish and Stripers. With some emergency roadside coffee and breakfast in our bellies we bobbed our lures above the water, working either side of Bryan's boat as 747's approaching JFK screamed above us. What an experience. I was just taking it in, loving the contrasting worlds, the almost obscurity of fishing with Manhattan in the far distant view. Later in the morning we braved the swell and headed for ocean, and above us the gulls danced and dived, an indicator of small fish, that's what the Blue fish feed on. We fished that water with some luck, bagging a few, enough for Matt to make his famed Blue Fish Fish Cakes. Not before we downed a few cold morning ales at the timeless Tamaqua pub in the storm ravaged bay in Brooklyn. Talk about jamming in as many experiences into 24 hours.
Matt runs things on New York time, which means no time to waste. After a quick taste of some horribly good NYC hot dogs we rushed over to Matt's place where he whipped up some fish cakes in panko at his Brooklyn residence. Reluctantly I accepted that my time with Matt was almost at a close. It was a real pity we didn't get to go country for a few days. I've been admiring Matt's blog for some time now and meeting the bloke in person, like all the other of my favourite bloggers has been a real experience that I'll forever cherish. Maybe next time we'll head out of the city in the Landy and I'll see Matts country world. On the busy road into the city I lamented we lived so far away, but I had to focus as I had an event booked at Best Made Co in Manhattan. I gave my talk to a keen bunch of people, then I showed them how to gut, skin and fillet sea bass. I could have walked out of that store with a bunch of useful stuff, axes, hatchets, enamel, tools it's all useful stuff to me, so I was happy to be a part of their story for even just a short moment.
Another early morning saw me lugging my now MEGA bulging bags to Penn station for the Amtrak to Philly. It was to be a short stay, in fact I wasn't even booked to stay overnight, it was a trip consisting of a handful of hours and a late night departure. The busy stop over started with a visit (and delicious cocktails) at Art in the Age in old Philly. Man I loved that snap. I loved to just be able to chat and sip sweet booze before meandring down the street to Fork restaurant where an amazing meal was in the works. It's rare for me to eat out at places like this, it's just no longer withing my lifestyle's fiscal means. But I enjoyed the tucker and the way the Chef Eli had set the menu out based on my books structure. With a full stomach I was whisked away by the midnight rider, Joe Gannon (below).
We hammered down the highway with Waylon, Willie and the boys keeping us awake on the late evening haul. Now it's true for anyone that's met Joe, he's a lovely bloke, and I reckon by now I can call him a mate, but there's something you should know about him. He's pure evil. Well not evil, more mad. Just like his partner in crime Mad Max Wastler (more on that later). The two blokes have a project called Made Right Here, and I really hope it gets off the ground. It's all based around featuring people and business that make within America. Max and Joe love made in America for many varied reasons, pride, economy, local, tradition. I'd love to see a movement for that in Australia. Unfortunately for those that may not be aware, most of everything we consume here is made in Asia, mostly China and India. Would be great if we could get some industries back in country and reduce a bit of those miles stuff travels.
Anyway back to evil Joe … so he took me to an 11:30 Brewery tour at Dogfish Beer, which of course had free beer samples of delicious beer. After the tour, he took us to eat raw oysters and clams with more beer on the table. Then I was shipped off to the orginal Dogfish Beer joint to do a talk and you guessed it, drink. The day turned to night, and the night time had some sort of bar fiasco, one bottle of water and some much needed late night pizza. The morning was rough. And it was then I realised that being a band on tour would not be so rad. Was I now too old for this? Probably. But a fun experience none the less.
Delaware looked a lot like this …
and more of this …
The flight to Boston seemed pretty short. I'm pretty sure I dozed for most of it. When I arrived I was greeted by the familiar face of James Fox (10 Engines). One of the 'hub' bloggers in the states that's lead me to so many great sites. We had many hours ahead of us heading north to to visit his Dad in Peru, VT.
Road trip poser.
I've always loved New England from afar, but now here I was in a place I could relate to. A beautiful climate, great natural resources and scenery to make Ansel Adams turn in his grave. Straight into a book shop for a talk then a drop off for a drink and to meet his rad Dad, the town doctor. We dined back at the beautiful family home of the Foxes, where I have to admit I was in seventh heaven. The place was just magnificent, and I'm very fortunate to have been invited there. A real family residence loaded with lifetimes of travel, exploring and experiences.
The Foxes. Father and son preparing yet more oysters.
You guessed it. More oysters.
I struggled to stay awake after a heavy dinner, wine, sherry and port. I slept like a log in the sweetest little upstairs room with my favourite type of old celling, a sloped one. I could have stayed there for a week just taking it all in, BBQ'ing oysters and corn. But there where people in Boston that wanted to speak to me, well more like me speak to them. On the drive down to the city we found an amazing/potentially scary dead animal shop. The guy makes dead things look good. I'm fascinated with taxidermy, just not the mindless killing to stuff things on walls but more so the preserving nature's beauty. I hoped all the animals stuffed on the walls had been killed for food, but when I saw the sign on the wall I kinda figured what's the point in asking. Seems like he's a good shot. Better not bother him.
After a brief visit to Walden Pond to make a mini pilgrimage to David Henry Thoreau's cabin site, we made a whistle stop tour of Boston hot spots. The best camping store I've ever been to called Hiltons Camp Store so big that they found a bunch of old stock locked away, brand new vintage. Well made gear, and I couldn't go past a Woolrich jacket and some new boots for the girl. We dropped by the Barbor store as they'd been kind enough to sponsor my event (big thanks), and then a flash visit to Ball & Buck an all American mens store. Come on it's America, I want to drink it all in. Later that evening I did a talk at a great co-operative design studio called Fringe. A big crowd came for the fundraiser put together by James and the friends of the Sommerville Library. The trip has been full of great events, this one added to the growing list of special moments for me. Only a few more flights to go and I'd be in the arms of my girls once more, but not without a stop off at LA for an event that turned out to be a real surprise.
Via the connection of one blogger to another (namely Joe Gannon) I was invited to talk at the Apolis Headquarters in downtown LA. Here in the middle of one of the largest concrete jungles sat a small shop built on the foundations of ethical ideas. We all wear clothes right? Most clothes are built in poorer countries with not a care for the people that make them especially in fiscal terms. But here at Apolis two brothers (Raan and Shea) changed that with the idea of advocacy through industry. Best to read about it on their site, but the idea is really what will drive future industry (hopefully). That night in LA was great. I stood in front of a huge crowd of people, the gallery so full people spilled onto the footpath. I talked with Chef Marcus Sameulsson and Elvis Mitchell, at Apolis, in Los Angeles! What a blast! How did this happen? No questions just roll with it Ro!
It was nice to finish the trip in LA on a high note. By the end of the whistle stop three week tour I was exhausted. My beard was out of control and I'd picked up some American hospitality kilos. It had reached that perfect time of a trip. Where you've had plenty of amazing experiences, created a bunch of memories but youre ready to return home to loved ones. It has been an amazing journey, one where I've met beautiful people, been welcomed with open arms and have now fallen a little more in love with the good old America. Where there is hope.