Friday, April 29, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 15

-Eat Fish and Chips at a Pub in the United Kingdom.  Difficulty Rating 6 out of 10:
I LOVE FOOD.  I love all kinds of food and I don't understand how others can live in this world, so full of incredible flavor combinations and spices and textures and not become at least a little obsessed with glorious food.  I've talked about my interest in eating food from the places where it was created or perfected before and this is no different.  I want to eventually eat my way around the world, so expect to see more entries like eating Pizza in Napples, Borscht in Russia and curry in India.

Despite establishing the largest empire the world has ever seen, colonizing America, and spreading their language and culture far and wide, British cuisine seems to be virtually non-existent here in the States.  I have never encountered a restaurant that serves 'English Food'.  I'm guessing because most of their food is quite terrible, but I don't know I've never tasted any.  If most of it is terrible, perhaps it's because they spent all of their time perfecting one nearly flawless dish: Fish and Chips.  After perfecting Fish and Chips, perhaps they simply had no need to create anything else.  Whatever the case may be, I can't wait to visit the UK and try some Fish and Chips and also some tea.

Homemade Fish and Chips I Cooked
copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-Catch a Wave on a Surfboard.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
I love the idea of a thrill ride powered by something as simple as the ocean and the moon.  And surfing seems like a wonderful way to enjoy a day; surrounded by the ocean, learning a new skill and enjoying the simple thrills of life.  Surfing seems easy enough to learn since I've learned how to skate on solid ground an wake-board behind a boat and I can't wait to feel the ocean push me so fast that I get that feeling of butterflies in my stomach.

Entrance to the Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-See the Olympics in Person.  Difficulty Rating 7 out of 10:
Who doesn't love the Olympics?  People from every nation putting aside their worries to play and compete at all kinds of games, what a fantastic idea.  Although I wish they were broadcast in a more balanced way, it seems like all I ever get to see are American teams when I watch them from my TV.  I love the home team as much as anyone I suppose, but I also love the rest of the world so much too that I want to see what they're up to and hear their stories of triumph and effort.

I can't wait to see the Olympics with my own eyes, to feel the excitement in the air.  I want to be surrounded by fans of every nation, cheer for the underdogs and marvel at the incredible feats of human accomplishment achieved by peoples from every nation.  I'm almost certain I won't make it to London in 2012, but perhaps I'll make it to Russia in 2014 or Brazil in 2016.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 14

I'm still flying pretty high about the news I got last Friday and clearly Japan has been on my mind a lot.  So I thought I'd present another edition of bucket list items that I want to accomplish while in Japan.

-Watch the Sunrise from Japan's largest Mountain.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
Mt. Fuji is a majestic sight.  It's not only Japan's largest mountain, but also it's most beautiful mountain.  Last year I bought my wife a Japanese hiking guide for her birthday and it has wonderful things to say about hiking Fuji-sama, the ceiling of Japan.  Many people hike up the mountain during the night so they can see the sun rise from the peak.  Just thinking about it sends a shiver of awe down my spine.


But once you've hiked to the top and watched the sun begin it's journey, the fun isn't over.  Apparently theres a route down the mountain that feels like moon walking.  I guess the combination of soft cushy gravel and downward pull of gravity allow you to make giant leaps through moon like terrain without injuring yourself.  I can't wait to hike this beautiful mountain, slurp some noodles at a checkpoint along the way, see the sun rise from the ocean and then bounce back down the mountain.

-See Monumental Sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival.  Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
Once a year in Hokkaido (the Alaska of Japan) a grand festival celebrating snow and ice is held.  Sculptors representing many different countries, companies and styles use snow as their medium to create massive towering displays.


We've all tried to turn snow into art, whether it was a snow person or a snow fort or a snow angel.  But I never had the kind of success these artists do.  I don't know why temporary art captivates me so, but I just LOVE it.  Tell me there's a chalk art festival or sand castle competition and I will be there.  Perhaps that is why I am so fascinated by the change of seasons; nature quickly erases the beauty of one season to temporarily replace it with another.  All I can say is that the Snow Festival in Sapporo fills me with excitement.

-Attempt the 'Ninja Warrior' obstacle course.  Difficulty Rating 9 out of 10:
In Japan there's a TV program called 'Sasuke' where contestants from all walks of life try to complete a four stage obstacle course.  It must be pretty hard, because of the 2,600 people how have attempted the course, only three people have actually finished.  It's aired on G4 here in the states as 'Ninja Warrior' and I've always wanted to put my ninja skills to the test by facing the course.

I have no idea how to apply for the show, but I will do everything I can to learn how.  How hard can it be? There use to be a replica of the course at a theme park in Tokyo called Muscle Park, which I was planning to visit.  But while writing this blog I discovered that the park closed down last year and I had to adjust the difficulty rating for this entry...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bucket List Accomplishment: Ohanami

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Friday was one of the best days I've ever had.  I spent the morning with my wife cooking in the kitchen.  I love cooking with someone else, it's like a wonderful dance that ends in a delicious meal.  This time we tried out two new creations that were both very successful, wasabi deviled eggs and beef gyros.  I grew up in the south, so deviled eggs always bring me back to my childhood.  And of course the wasabi gave my comfort food a spicy punch.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Beef Gyros
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After our morning of culinary jazz we packed up our food and headed off on a picnic.  We drove to a park and sat below some gorgeous blooming cherry blossom trees next to a river.  We filled our afternoon by devouring our food, reading poems to each other and watching the world drift by.  Somewhere between my fifth and sixth deviled egg, my wife read to me my favorite new Shel Silverstein poem:

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

After I finished consuming food and poetry, I watched so many people wander around the park.  It was wonderful to see so many people out with their loved ones taking pictures.  I especially loved watching them take photos, because people stop to capture a picture are saying, 'this moment is so beautiful or wonderful that I want to return to it again and again every time I look at this photo.'  They are so in love with the moment that they want to hold on to it as long as they can and share it with others.

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Reading my favorite poet: Anne Morrow Lindbergh
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After our picnic, I walked through the park and eventually ended up exploring the nation's fifth largest Cathedral.  The Cathedral was breathtaking and beautiful, but it was a completely opposite sort of beauty than the simplicity of fresh spring flowers.

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After we returned home I checked my e-mail to discover news that I've been waiting much of my life to hear: I had been accepted into the JET Program to teach English in Japan!  I can't describe my excitement other than to say it was too much to feel all at once.  It was a bit like graduating high school and a bit like winning the lottery. (or I imagine it's like that, I've never actually won the lottery)  I've been working towards this goal for a long time, and now that it's finally here I'm relieved, shocked, excited, nervous but mostly full of joy.  It was about as close to perfect as a day can get.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 13

I usually post new bucket list additions on Friday, so I'm sorry this is two days late.  But I received some unexpectedly great news Friday night and then spent several hours calling all my family and sharing my excitement with them.  The good news? I am officially a shortlist candidate to teach English in Japan through the JET Program!!

-Find and Explore 'Wall Drug'.  Difficulty Rating ??? out of 10
I've recently been issued a challenge via postcard.  (Postcards are now one of my top 3 favorite ways to issue a challenge, along with slap to the face using an empty glove and shouting while holding a fencing sword.)  My friend sent me the postcard below with the following message scrawled on the back: "I thought you two would enjoy the mystery postcard.  Maybe you will find Wall Drug on your travels one day."

I've never heard of Wall Drug and my friend used a marker to black out all the identifying info on the postcard. He left only one sentence: "Wall Drug is the Gateway to the Badlands National Park ...where you learn 'How the West Was Fun!'".  What IS Wall Drug? Where are the Badlands? Why are they called Badlands and how did they make the west fun?  Was it with frogs and puppies?  These are questions I must answer and so my search for Wall Drug begins.

 My adventure already has a great beginning: a hilariously odd postcard with a challenge to find a mysterious location.  To make sure it has a good middle, I've decided to search for Wall Drug the old fashioned way, with no internet help.   I'm sure I could type Wall Drug into Google and read all about it on Wikipedia in a matter of seconds.  But this time the journey is more important that the destination.  I love random adventures and this sounds like a fun one.

-Find a good home for my books.  Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
I'm moving to Japan.  I'm gonna say that again because it feels so good.  I AM MOVING TO JAPAN!  As a result I have to condense my personal possessions down to a few boxes.  My wife and I recently bought a Kindle so we can read English books in Japan.  So there's no reason to spend hundreds of dollars shipping big, heavy boxes full of books to Japan.  I've been weening myself off physical books for years now and using the library for all my reading needs. (Did you know that your library will get you any book you want, you just have to ask!? If you want to read some obscure comic book, they'll find one at a library in the middle of Kansas and ship it to New Jersey!)  So I'm giving away the majority of my book collection. Most of these books have brought me great joy and wisdom and I'd like to find a good home for them.  I'm not sure how to do that yet, but I know I'll figure something out.

-Eat dinner served by a ninja.  Difficulty Rating 3 out of 10:
In New York City there is a restaurant know simply as NINJA.  Hidden somewhere in Manhattan, Ninjas use their mastery of the martial arts to create culinary masterpieces.  The restaurant is decorated like an ancient castle, everyone dresses like ninjas and the dishes have swords that must be removed before you can eat them.  THAT is my kind of restaurant.  I've wanted to visit this restaurant for awhile and getting accepted into the JET program sounds like the perfect excuse to celebrate with a meal here, I can't wait.

A Lego ninja hides quietly in a cherry blossom tree, ready to attack
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Date Night: Art and Guacamole

Date night is my attempt to create a joyful habit, to make an effort to spend a night with my wife with the sole purpose of seeking the simple pleasures of life.  Habits have a great deal of power over our lives.  Once we meet our needs for the day (food, sleep, money for the bills) it is our habits that often take control.  So I do my best to try and establish healthy habits, like taking walks along our beach, asking my wife about her highs and lows each day, and flossing my teeth.  Date night is my latest attempt at a new healthy habit.

There are a few rules I try to follow for our date nights:

1- No Movies:  There's nothing wrong with movies.  But date night isn't about entertainment, it's about pleasure.  On date night, I don't want to sit quietly for a few hours while my mind is transported to another world.  I want to be as present as I can be in this one.  I want to taste decadent foods, make something with my hands or find new adventure.

2- Food should somehow be involved:  Sharing a meal with someone creates such opportunities for closeness and sharing.  I think a lot of problems could be solved if people spent more time eating together and  listening to each others lives.  And food is one of my most basic joys, so having a date night without food just seems silly.

3- We should try at least one new thing:  Maybe this is as simple as trying a new dish at our favorite restaurant.  Maybe we visit a town we've never been to before.  Date night must have an element of exploration to keep life fresh, to help us appreciate the moment and not let it become a predictable event that doesn't require our full focus.

For our first date night we decided to make some art!  There's a wonderful shop (called 'A Time to Kiln' how cute is that?) in a nearby town that has dozens of clay and/or ceramic objects to decorate.  After looking over all the possibilities, my wife and I both decided to paint tea cups.  Since we love to drink tea our art will have both form and function.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After carefully picking out six colors each from the wall of colors and browsing joyfully through their selection of stencils and stamps, we got down to the business of imprinting our personalities onto our our new tea cups and saucers.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I love the way my cup came out.  Every time I go for a drink, I'm reminded that the goal of all my actions should be to help me find my bliss.  Also, I love to guess how many sips it will take me to go from 3/4 a cup to 1/2 a cup.  Oh yes, and the saucer says, 'Howick's Drink' in Japanese because of course I love Japan and felt I had to have a connection to it somehow in my creation.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011

After finishing our creations, which left us both excited and a little tired, we tried out a local Mexican food joint.  We both went to college in southern Arizona and have been sincerely missing the Mexican food that can be found with such ease and high quality there.  The atmosphere was lively and the guacamole was fantastic, although I don't believe I've ever had bad guacamole.

copyright Jeff Howick 2011
copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I think our first date night was a wonderful success. Many pleasurable moments were had and I'll have a fantastic tea cup to remind me of that night for many years to come.

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 12

Spring is here and rebirth is in the air.  Spring always makes me think of joyful celebrations.  This week, I'm adding things to my bucket list that fill me with a sense of childlike joy.

-Have an Ohanami.  Difficulty Rating  2 out of 10:
In Japan, they have a springtime tradition know as 'ohanami' or 'flower viewing party'.  When the world starts to bloom, everyone gathers together with friends and family beneath the beautiful Sakura trees for a picnic and they celebrate life.  During ancient times, I hear they would also have poetry contests. Ohanami picnic parties are so popular that the news in Japan reports the cherry blossom forecast every night until the cherry blossom front sweeps through the whole country.

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I love picnics and spring.  I think this is a wonderful tradition from a culture I already love, so it should be no surprise that I want to make this one of my own families' traditions.  I've already made plans to have my first ohanami next week and I hope to continue the tradition every spring.  For the Japanese, the Sakura blossoms are a metaphor for live: beautiful and fleeting and a reminder to make the most with the short time we all have here.

-Visit Harry Potter World.  Difficulty Rating 6 out of 10:
I remember the first time I read Harry Potter.  I was at the beach during a family vacation and I borrowed my sister's copy to see what all the fuss was about.  I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything other than read day and night until I had finished that book. I love the magical joy of the Harry Potter series.  But perhaps even more than the story, I love how excited people got about reading.  Anytime people get dressed up for a midnight release party celebrating a book, my heart fills with joy.

My Book Nook
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

When I heard that Universal Orlando was opening a theme park zone dedicated to Harry Potter, I knew that I would have to make a journey there to pay homage to a series that revealed the joys of reading to so many people and to live in Harry's magical world one more time.

-Kiss my wife in a hot air balloon. Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
Who doesn't want to make out in a hot air ballon?  Drifting slowly over beautiful landscapes, held aloft by heat and passion.  If I could only travel by bike and hot air ballon for the rest of my life, I think I'd be pretty happy.  Hot air ballons are pure romance and I love seeking romance and finding it with my wife.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Chronicles of Our Beach

Living in a small, simple town by the shore has forever changed my relationship with the beach.  Before living here, the beach was always a busy, crowded place that tried to burn my skin, put salt in my mouth and leave sand in my pants.  But living at the beach, I've been able to see that the beach has many different moods.  The beach, like all things famous, gets stereotyped.  And there is certainly a bit of truth to most people's expectations of my beach, but like most stereotypes, there is also so much more.

Welcome to my Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

The beach, like everywhere, changes drastically with each season.  In the summer, great crowds of frolickers come to play in the sand and sun and sea.  They bring their umbrellas and their beach towels and they decorate the beach with their excitement and joy.  The people find so many things to do on the beach:  swim, surf, read, build castles, search for buried treasure, play sports, take naps, I even saw someone film a TV show.  It seems everyone loves to do something different at the beach.  Quite solitude is very hard to come by during the summer. But it can be found, especially after the sun goes down when, like most of the world, the beach gets much quieter.

The Beach decorated with People
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Filming something for HBO
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Children Playing
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Searching for Treasure
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

In the fall and spring, the crowds mostly leave and the fishermen come out to play.  They are most present during the twilight hours, I think because that's when the fish are hungriest.  Some of them have great big poles the size of two men.  They throw their lines out beyond the waves, shove their poles into the sand and wait for animals of the sea to bite.  Others have simple fishing poles and stand on the edges of piers and jetties dodging waves and searching for fish.

People fishing at daybreak
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Giant Poles
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Exciting Discovery
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Winter is certainly the quietest time at the beach, but people still try to surf in stormy waves or plunge into the freezing water for charity.  But mostly people seem to take peaceful walks along the beach during winter, especially with their dogs.  Dogs aren't allowed on the beach during summer, I guess because tourists and dog poo don't mix very well.  If you want to be alone with the beach, winter is the best time to do it.

Solitude at the Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

I've seen the beach change more than just moods while I've been here as well.  It seems the constant assault of waves is carrying the sand from our beach away to some unknown adventure.  To keep the beach from washing away, the government trucks in several tons of sand.  But instead of dumping the sand evenly all over the beach, they built a 10 foot mountain of sand.  Perhaps it was to help shield the town during the stormy season, but it also makes a great new vista point.  I love walking along this new mini-mountain range and soaking in the beautiful view.

Erosion of our Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Restocking the Sand
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

My wife rests atop a temporary mountain of replacement sand
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

It seems there is always something new at the beach.  Nothing ever stays the same, even somewhere as simple and enduring as the beach.  I'm so grateful for the chance we were given to spend a year living on this beach.  I have learned a lot about the place I once disliked and I have come to love the beach.  I never know what I'll see or find next at the beach, which is all I really want from life anyway.

New York City as seen from our Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011 

Some Locals at the Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 My Wife's Footprints
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Strange Object Found at the Beach
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Pieces of Wisdom

 Last week I went to a prayer group that my wife organized and for one of the activities we had to draw pictures of whatever images flashed through our minds.  The first picture that I drew was actually the second image to whisper through my mind, me and my imaginary future family.  I'm not sure why I drew a family, I'm not even certain I want children.  I may never be completely certain.  But I guess family has been on my mind a lot recently and I felt guilty drawing a future with no kids, so this is what I drew:

I'm pretty sure Misty and I can't conceive black haired Asian, black haired African or blonde haired Caucasian kids, so it looks like we adopted in this imaginary future.  I don't think I'd be comfortable choosing a child to adopt (or making any decision) based solely on skin color in the real world*, but when you draw a pretend family on paper you've got to pick.  Every crayon is a conscience choice and I'm almost always in favor of more diversity rather than less.  Areas where I think diversity is most important: food you try, weather, ideas you listen to, hobbies, who you give love to and the cultures you try to understand.

Would I like to pass my genetic code on to the next generation?  Sure, I think most people have a biological and emotional desire to do that, and it's entirely possible that I will do that one day.  But I also have a desire not to over-burden our already-low-on-resources world.  I think adoption is a wonderful way to help children in need while also passing my wisdom on to the next generation.  Currently, I think the two most important pieces of wisdom I've acquired are 1. Love everyone equally (regardless of their religion or what their eye/skin/hair color is... and even if they hate 'Star Trek'.)  and 2. Find and then Follow your Bliss/Dreams/Passion.  And from my experience if you want your kids to learn something, you have to show it and live it.  You can't just talk about it, kids will follow your actions not your words.  Which is why my bathroom is so messy? Anyway, what better way to show my children that all people are equally deserving of love than to grow up in a loving household surrounded by brothers and sisters of different ethnicities?

My second picture is much simpler I think.  It is the Japanese flag with my heart at the center.  This was the first image to flicker through my mind and the second one I drew because I don't want it to look like I've only got one track in my mind, thinking of Japan 24/7.

I recently had a long-time friend ask me about the spark that ignited my love of Japan.  Where did it all begin?  As long as I can remember, I've been interested in Japan.  As a kid I remember watching anime and the Nagano Winter Olympics and wanting to know more about the culture and the place.  I think Japan is the first culture I encountered meaningfully other than my own.  But my love of Japan really began in college.  I had just lost a girl I was madly in love with and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future.  Because of these two things my grades were floundering and I was in a general state of depression.  But a new semester was starting regardless of my feelings, so I signed up for Japanese 101 to meet a language requirement.

Studying Japanese carried me far away from my problems to another place, another culture where the language was beautiful and I didn't even know the word for heartbreak, literally.  I was a happier Jeff in Japanese class.  Japanese gave me a feeling of joy.  Maybe it was because I was getting closer to my dreams; dreams that weren't even a thought yet, they were only a feeling.  Don't all dreams start with a feeling of joy?  There's a song from the movie, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' called 'The Call' that I feel captures my love of and journey to Japan.  In it, Regina Spektor sings, "It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope, which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word.  And then that word grew louder and louder, until it was a battle cry!"  You should really just listen to it below, it's better that way.  Why do we really love the things we love?  I don't know, but Japan has always and will always hold a very strong and very special place in my heart.  So it's no wonder this image burst into my mind.

The Call by Regina Spektor

Other lyrics I like from this song: "Just because everything's changing doesn't mean it's never been this way before." and "Just because they can't feel it too, doesn't mean that you have to forget.  Let your memories grow stronger and stronger until they're before your eyes."  Although I wish she would replace 'memories' with 'dreams'.  

I think it's interesting that my two pictures relate to the two greatest pieces of wisdom I currently believe to have found, love everyone and follow your heart/dreams/bliss.  I didn't even realize this until I finished writing this blog.  Until now I had no idea what the title of this post should be, but it seems clear now.  If you had to draw a picture of whatever was on your mind, what would you draw right now?

*Is it possible to adopt a child without discussing race?  Can you just ask, "Dear Adoption Agency, please send me 1 child between the ages of 0-7 that is most in need of a loving family." or do they show you pictures and profiles and you pick someone that looks like a good fit?  And how do you decide on an adoption agency in the first place?  Do you pick one from a country where the children are most at risk of turmoil?  Do you look at your finances and find one in your budget range?  The act of offering a child stability and love seems so life affirming, but the process itself seems very bizarre.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Week's Bucket List Additions 11

The last three years, which I've spent living on the East Coast of America, have been very exciting.  I've been whale watching off the coast of New England, seen nine Broadway plays, danced on stage during Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and rafted down the Delaware river.  But there are still several adventures that I'd like to have before we leave the East Coast. This week's bucket list additions are all things I want to do before we leave New Jersey in June.

-Visit Niagara Falls.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
I've been to the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania, but I have yet to see the real thing.  I love waterfalls, the dance of water and the chaos of sounds they make soothes me.  I hear that at Niagara, there's a boat which takes you so close, you have to wear a rain coat.  Also, along the way to Niagara I want to visit Buffalo, NY birthplace of buffalo wings and taste some at the restaurant where they were created.

From a journey to Bushkill Falls, PA for one of our anniversaries
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-See New York City from above.  Difficulty Rating 3 out of 10:
I've had pretty much all of the classic New York City experiences since we came to New Jersey in 2008.  I've been lost on the subways, visited the Statue of Liberty, purchased a fake designer handbag from a locked basement in Chinatown, had a picnic in Central Park, woke up at the crack of dawn to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, and ice skated with my wife at a park.  But I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building or any other observation deck.  NYC is a city full of beautiful buildings and beautiful parks.  It has a great skyline and I'd love to see the city from the top of the Empire State Building or another equally high place, like Top of the Rock.

The Skyline of New York City
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-Eat Lobster in Maine.  Difficulty Rating 5 out of 10:
We took a trip to New England last year for our third anniversary, but we never made it to Maine because the timing belt in our car broke.  We were stranded in Provincetown at the tip of cape cod for a few days, which is not a bad place to be stuck, and we ended up having a very relaxing vacation.  But I never got to visit the beautiful coasts of Maine or see if they really do serve lobster rolls at McDonalds in Maine like the rumors I have heard.  I hope that I'll have a chance to visit this quiet, pristine state before we depart.

A lobster roll I had in Cape Cod
 Copyright Jeff Howick 2011

-Walk along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.  Difficulty Rating 2 out of 10:
If you've ever played monopoly, then you're familiar with Atlantic City's Boardwalk.  It's literally a walk made of boards that winds along the beach with a row of shops and fun alongside.  Like Park Place, Marvin Gardens and every other property in Monopoly, it's a real place in Atlantic City.  Although I do think a handful of the Monopoly places have been demolished over the years to make way for new malls or casinos.  I want to stroll along the wooden planks in Atlantic City surrounded by happy people with the beach on one side and salt water taffy vendors on the other and soak up the feeling of summer before I leave the beaches of New Jersey that have been my home for the last year.

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