I visited my cousin in Chicago over the Memorial day weekend. Megabus agreed to take me there for about 25 dollars. This was good considering that I don't get paid in dollars for being in the US on a business visit and no matter how much I scoff the convert-into-rupees mentality that immigrants have, I am forced to perform that teraflop conversion in my mind. Yeah, I know I am bad at maths - yes, even simple multiplication and addition - so rest assured that I merely calculate with the nearest approximation involving as many zeroes at the end as possible.

Anyway, after an overnight assault on my body, especially my neck, the bus let me out at the union station a full hour before schedule, early morning on Saturday. I shudder to think the crazy driving that must have happened as I contoured and flexed my body to find some posture that wouldn't tear me into parts. Did I mention that it was raining like.. well.. er.. heavy rain? Yes, it was pouring all over the place but fortunately the bus didn't leak - ok, the bus wasn't that bad except I am sure the buses back home, which I avoid at all costs, were better. For 25 bucks (though that's a filthy 900+ rupees, approximate of course), I shouldn't have expected too much.

My cousin insisted that I should do atleast some touristy things. I decided to play along :). Saturday was washed away by the rain. It poured like crazy and so I spent the time playing with my nephew, who has begun mouthing random words. He is a typical hyperactive busybody, running around all the time and turning things over. Seeing a brief let-up in the rain, my cousin drove me to the temple in Aurora. He knows that I am not a "temple-person", but he thought I should atleast see the place. Now this temple is sent in a sprawling campus featuring a small mound. The whole place is grassed and looks like a million-buck mansion. Further proof of the God's - none other than Venkateshwara or Balaji, as he is known - wealth was found in the almonds - yes, almonds - that were served as the prasad.

Sunday, I was on a river boat on an Architecture Foundation cruise. The boat, a large boat, took people through the Chicago river with a guide describing the major buildings that marked Chicago's skyline.

I picked some interesting bits of info about downtown Chicago. It was built over a marsh. The Chicago river was classified as toxic until recently, now it is labelled highly-polluted. Just like our dear old Kooum. Trump, of the bad-hair fame, is busy building a 99 floor structure in downtown. Chicago is called the windy city not because of the uncomfortably windy weather but because of its politicians of yore who could blow more hot air than anyone else. Downtown Chicago was burned down to the ground by the Great Fire of 1871. This was a blessing in disguise because it enabled the building of a new planned city. Some parts of downtown feature two layers both above ground, so you actually have two sets of roads and pathways.

After the cruise, I waited in a 2 hour long queue to get the chance to pee on the 103th floor of what was once the world's tallest building - the Sears Tower. The peeing experience was not as exhilarating as I thought it would be but my disappointment was more than healed by the awesome view from high up there (no not the loo, I meant the skydeck). You can see miles and miles of land stretching below. Skyscrapers around the Sears tower looked like midgets from this mammoth of a building. They didn't have any open windows though. Now that would have been mind-blowing.

Next day it was time to catch the bus back to Minneapolis. With a pretty girl for company, nope I didn't even bother to talk to her:( , I spent another agonizing trip on the bus. It wasn't too bad this time because being an afternoon bus I didn't have to go to sleep. So I spent the time gaping out of the windows. The driver stopped the bus twice on the emergency lane to check on something. I have no idea what it was but the bus didn't breakdown and so I couldn't care less.

10 in the night I treated my stomach to some gobbled up fish-n-chips before crashing into bed to save my tired body.

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Tagged: 8 things

<<8 things about me: tagged by Sunita>

1. On some days I wake up with my tongue twisted. That whole day I would end up making incomprehensible noises in place of words. I babble.

2. I like to nap in the afternoon but anything more than 1/2 an hour to an hour will leave me groggy-headed throughout the evening.

3. I hate using the loo in an airplane or bus, especially if I am not in the aisle. :)

4. Sometimes when I become hungry, my hands start shaking like someone with substance-dependence (political correctness unintended). Even then I eat lesser than most people. Sometimes I gobble up food like a hungry hyena and yet most people finish before i can.

5. My fingers are always shaking. I inherited it from my mom.

6. I hate going to doctors. :( I am no longer too scared of being injected, though. :)

7. No one ever believes that I am a mallu by birth. Most times I like it that way cos I hate being in groups made by region/language/etc.

8. I am clumsy and I bump-n-stomp people and things quite often.

I am tagging Skely cos I know he'll have a really hilarious list of 8 things about himself

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Eating Out @ Mpls - Part 2


I have nothing better to do in the evenings so every evening I open up and read through the list of restaurants in Downtown Minneapolis and visit them one a day. Let me list down the restaurants I have been to and what I thought of them.. I hope to update the list as the days go along. :)

9. Masa

This is a trendy Mexican restaurant. No, not another burritto/fajita/taco place. The ambience is chic and modern. Being right on the corner of the street, it offers a good view too. The waiter helped with recommendations and that too after asking your tastes, etc. Impressive. Standard issue torillas chips with two dips - one green tangy and one red spicy - was set on the table. The chips were actually very good and I gobbled up a lot of them.

I ordered the Roasted Pork shoulder marinated with lime, garlic, and chile ancho; cooked and served in a banana leaf (almost like the kerala dish meen pozhichathu). The pork was sprinkled with white onions and cilantro. On the side, poached pineapple and refried beans. For dessert I ordered the "Pastel de Chocolate". It's a mexican chocolate cake with a twisty, spicy undertone to it. Yes, you read it right - spicy undertone. :) It was quite different and thouroughly enjoyable.

10. Solera

A friendly neighborhood place, solera is an independent restaurant and not a franchisee of a chain. Solera serves Tapas - Spanish small plates. Food is served in small portions and thus enables you to enjoy a wide variety in a single place. This place lends itself to hanging out with friends. Staffed by ever-smiling people, Solera sets the tone right. The dining room was a little too dark and loud for me and so I shifted back into the lounge.

The menu is divided into three sections - Seasonal, Nuevas or Modern, Traditional.The food I tried: 1) Octopus Ceviche glazed with hot pepper and cumin - the octopus was cut into thin circles and was surprisingly firm, the glazing lending a great taste. 2) Roasted Chicken with potatoes and garlic - well-cooked chicken with a sauce that doesn't overwhelm. Ideally one person could consume about 3 to 4 dishes, but I wasn't up for it that day.

11. Fogo De Chão

Fogo features a "continuous service" concept. This translates into unlimited servings of various roasted meats. You use a two-sided disk to control the servings. Red means that you are on a break or are done. Green indicates to the servers to bring the meat on skewers to your table. Of course, you can choose the meats that you want. Yeah, ok. It's mostly all about meats at the Fogo. :) but did I mention the humungously varietied salad bar? You have everything from artichokes, lettuce, exotic veggies and a variety of dressing. Alright anyway, in the meat department there's sirloin - top/bottom/middle/everywhere, filet mignon, rib eye, beef ribs, pork ribs, pork sausages, pork chops, lamb chops, lamb legs, chicken legs and some more. All the meats are fire-roasted and everything I tasted was extremely juicy. For dessert, I had an incredible creme brulee.

If you have a healthy appetite, this is the place to hit. For about forty bucks, you can eat all you want. With the red-green control disk, you have the luxury of time too on your side. :)

The waiters are very polite and quite friendly. A nice place to chill, especially if you are with a group of people.

12. Rock Bottom Brewery

As the name suggests, this is a brewery. If you are a beer lover, the rock bottom features some of their own brews. I am not, so I was there solely for the food. :) Food is good, not out-of-the-world - r'ber it has brewery in its name :). I have tried the grilled mahi-mahi on one instance and "Herbed Lemon Chicken with Asparagus" on another. The fish was pretty good. The chicken was excellent, except that I didn't quite like the white-cheddar mashed potatoes - there was too much of it and frankly I didn't like the undertaste of the cheddar. By the way, I should mention that both instances were for a quick bite at lunch, so my taste-bugs could've been fuddled by my sleepiness. :D

13. Origami

This was my first attempt at sushi. The server recommended the novice's choice - the california roll, but I was feeling a little more adventurous. I ended up ordering the Regular sushi entree. It featured a miso soup, a salad, six nigiri sushis - striped sea bass, shrimp, mackerel, octopus, yellowtail and salmon, two maki sushis - cucumber and tuna. On the side was the gari (sushi ginger), soy sauce and wasabi.

First off, wasabi is pungent but not spicy. Even a large dollop of sushi merely flares up your nostrils. It is not the tongue-burning kind of spicy. :)

I was a little apprehensive of diving full length into sushi but except for the mackerel, none of the other sushis had the fishiness. Even the mackerel was not overwhelming. It could be that the rice more than compensates for the rawness of the fish or perhaps that the green goblin had subdued my taste buds. Sushi is pretty good as a dining experience. Small bites that are sufficient enough to fill.

Overall, the experience was very good. I am looking forward to the next trip to Origami, which should happen soon enough and without the green goblin. :)

14. Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

The pagoda-style building welcomes you into a very good setting inside. You have the option of sitting at the sushi bar, the teppanyaki or the tempura. I decided to try the teppanyaki. The chef cooks on the iron gridle or plate, right at the table. You get seated along the sides of the table with the hot plate in the center. This is also a nice way to meet people, with the drawback of a lot of ambient noise.

At my table were two families both celebrating birthdays - one of a 10 year old kid who was quite anxious to see his gift. The chef displayed some really awesome maneuvers while cooking, though he was a little subdued because this cute little girl at the table got scared of the fire. :) You can choose from a number of meal combinations that include shrimp, filet mignon, baby lobsters, scallops, chicken and vegetables. I chose the imperial dinner with fried rice. It included vegetables, filet mignon, baby lobsters and chicken. The dinner combos come with a soup and a choice of dessert.

Food isn't the centerpiece at a teppanyaki. It's the chef's skills and tricks. The showmanship is great and being a sort of communal dinner, you get to have someone or the other to talk to. A must visit. I am sure to be back for more teppanyaki and also to try the sushi.

Special Mention (Update) :-)

"The Fivers". Five awesome cooks try their hand at cooking up, delicious food. You will find them in an apartment in Franklin Avenue. The specialty I tried out was lemon rice with sambar. The unique feature of this lemon rice, of course, was that the rice and the lemon-mix are served separately. You can mix them to your taste and create the perfect tasting lemon rice.. The Fivers specialises in sambars, so much so that the menu almost always consists of different sambars. Potato sambar, radish sambar, beans sambar - the list goes on and on. You must try the food!!

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sometimes when the eyes
close their lids
to meditate; looking for peace
that no waking moment has.
Foraging in mind's attic
for a missing piece
to set right the current puzzle.

sometimes when the senses
go dreamy, will-less
to feel the passing of time.
Wishing away all
- both pain and joy -
for a minute of stillness.

sometimes when dark
is all you want to see.
The numbing cold
is welcome to hug
To freeze the thoughts
that are running away.

sometimes when ennui
is a soothing balm.
Temporal yet divine -
a junkie's wad of weed.
bore into mind's layers
to drain out the pus.

To feel empty
is fulfillment.

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