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TRAVEL DEALS, NEWS, TIPS & STORIES
October 13, 2004
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Greetings! Last week we left off in Grand Haven, Michigan, during our lovely weekend getaway. Afterward, in the early afternoon, we drove back to Chicago. Our host (my cousin Sasha) talked us into eating lunch on the way home, rather than around the corner from her house. (Thatís not a good sign. Hmmm -- maybe she wanted to make sure we split town?) Sasha and her husband Mike raved about a restaurant called Redamakís. They said their burgers are worth the few extra miles (and the wait). So we put our hunger on the back burner for 90 minutes and drove to New Buffalo, Michigan. Redamakís wasnít the easiest place to find, probably because I was driving and didnít pay attention to the street signs but rather the directions I was given by my cousins. (What fool does that? I am such a jackass sometimes). But we found it, and were surprised to see that Redamakís looks like an oversized log cabin. The place was huge and packed Ė always a good sign. After sinking our teeth into one of their tasty hamburgers we were relieved. Our cousins didnít just want us out of town; they actually hoped weíd eat well. Redamakís: 616 East Buffalo St., New Buffalo, MI; tel.: (269) 469-4522.

I spent a few extra days at my cousinís house in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I love Chicago -- especially this time of year, when itís neither too hot or cold. Besides, whenever Iím in these suburbs I feel like Iím in a John Hughes movie (he filmed many of my favorite movies there). The most eventful thing we did was go to dinner at Joy Yeeís. Joy Yee serves all kinds of savory PanĖAsian dishes, but what sets this place apart from other Asian restaurants are their fresh fruit smoothies. Boy, are they good! If I lived nearby, Iíd go there every day. They have almost every flavor possible, including lychee and jackfruit, which I thought could be found only in Asia. They come with those big thick straws, which I love because I can suck my smoothie down that much faster. Joy Yee: 521 Davis St,, Evanston, IL; tel.: 847-733-1900.

I flew back to L.A. on United. I sat in Economy Plus, which was very comfortable -- especially because the plane was half empty, and no one sat next to me (not that I donít like meeting new people; I just love my space). The flight was uneventful, which was good, but I did notice some unusually nervous behavior by the pilot when he used the lavatory. We all know that flight attendants (FAís) on U.S. carriers block the aisle with the food cart and watch the cabin carefully while the pilot relieves himself. Often the pilot comes out and chats for a couple of seconds with the cabin crew, but not this time. Our pilot moved so quickly back and forth between the bathroom and cockpit that he slammed the doors and didnít say a word to the FAís, or take his eyes off the aisle. It was crazy. I didnít know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand it was comforting to see an alert pilot; on the other hand, it was frightening because he acted like he knew there was a terrorist on board but just had to use the restroom. He had me so nervous that for the rest of the flight I sat straight with my hands on my seat belt, ready to jump up and tackle anyone who dared rush the cockpit. Now that I am on the ground, Iím happy a flight attendant didnít run by my seat from behind Ė Iíd be in jail!

Back in home in L.A., life was good -- and so was the weather (isnít it always?). I spent a lot of time catching up on work, and dining out with friends and family. Since I ate out so much I canít name all the places I visited -- but I will tell you about the most unusual place I went to. Itís a garlic loverís paradise. Not only is the restaurant worth mentioning, but so is my ride over.

My good buddy Kevin invited me to dinner with his wife and a gang of friends (most of them are actors or comedians, so theyíre hilarious and fun to be around). Kevin is a freak when it comes to his cat. He and his wife used to walk the cat down the Strand (a path along the beach) in a baby carriage. When Kevin picked me up, guess who was in the passenger seat. Thatís right: Princess, the cat. Can you believe Kevin wanted me to sit in the back seat while the cat sat in front? I was like, "What?! There is no way Iím driving around town in the back while your cat is in the passenger seat. Do you realize if we run into anyone we know I will NEVER hear the end of it?" So I shooed the cat out of the seat, but it didnít jump to the back seat. In fact, I donít think itís ever set foot back there. Instead, it scrambled down to the floor by Kevinís feet. Believe it or not Kevin is one of the smartest guys around, but his love for his cat leads him to some dumb decisions (like letting his cat sit on the floor by the pedals as he drove). When I freaked, Kevin said, "Relax! She sits there all the time." When we arrived safely, I jumped out and told him to remind me that next time, I drive.

The unique restaurant we went to is called the Stinking Rose. What a name, huh? This place has everything garlic -- from the art work and decorations to the martinis. Have you ever had a Garlictini before? Judging by my friend RJís face, I donít think you want one. Iím not a huge fan of garlic, but the food was pretty good and reasonably priced. My chicken lasagna actually didnít have much garlic in it -- but it did have whole green olives (yuck). They serve mostly Italian dishes, but they offer other cuisines as well. Hereís a link to the menu, if you want to check it out. The Stinking Rose: 55 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA; tel.: (310) 652-7673. (They also have one in San Francisco).

Last week I wrote that I had a surprise visitor. The mystery man was my dad. Yeah, he came out to California at the very last minute. On Friday morning I talked him into visiting me for a week. A few hours later he was on a plane, and 5 Ĺ hours after that he landed at LAX. When I greeted him at baggage claim, he had only one tiny gym bag and a newspaper in his hand. He followed me to baggage claim, and as we stood there he asked what we were waiting for. I said, "Your luggage!" He lifted up his tiny bag and said, "This is all I have." I opened it up and saw just a couple of pairs of underwear, socks, a pair of shorts and a shirt. I asked where the rest of his clothes were. He said he didnít have time to pack, so he figured heíd just borrow mine, or buy some. What a clown!

Itís always a treat when my dad visits. He is not only a loving father, but is really funny Ė heís always the life of the party. He canít hear too well, but he uses that to his advantage. For example, the next day when I was standing by the front door about to tell him to hurry up and eat his apple so we could go to my annual lacrosse game, he said, "I heard you!" I said, "You heard me say what?" He said, "You just yelled Ďletís goí twice." I said, "I didnít say a word! What you heard was the neighborís dog barking!" He simply said, "Whatís the difference?"

And about that apple: My dad handed me a slice. Just before I popped it to my mouth I wondered why I was eating something that was just given to me. I donít eat things straight from anyoneís hands, because I have no idea where theyíve been. But I remembered he had just showered, so his hands had to be clean. Sure enough, as I was chewing the apple I not only smelled but tasted the cologne I seldom wear. I asked if he had used my cologne. His eyes became big, his mouth dropped open and he nodded his head like, How the heck did you know I was going through your medicine cabinet? When am I going to learn!

The reason I got my dad to visit me at the last minute is because I was playing in Loyola Marymountís annual alumni lacrosse game. Iím lucky, because when I was in college my dad and mom used to fly out a couple times a year just to watch me play in big games. I warned him it would not be pretty -- I havenít thrown a ball in a year, and neither have my ex-teammates. But I discovered that playing lacrosse is kind of like riding a bike: Itís easy to pick it back up (though running up and down the field isnít). Surprisingly, the alumni game was exciting and hard-hitting. Us old-timers lost to the young bucks by only a goal, which is quite remarkable because they have a great team this year. I was just happy that I put a ball in the net and walked off the field with only bruises -- nothing broken or torn.

We had a sports-filled weekend, because I surprised my dad with tickets to the San Diego Chargers. He was excited, because they were playing his favorite team: the NY Jets. A friend hooked us up with great seats, and we had a fantastic time. A ball game is a great way to bond with your pops (especially if his favorite team wins). BTW: If you go to a Chargers game, bring a hat and sunscreen. The sun is brutal. Also, check out this handy website that shows seating diagrams of stadiums all around the country.

When it was time for my dad to fly back home to Connecticut, I walked with him inside terminal 7 at LAX. When he checked in I told the agent he was hard of hearing, and that I wanted to escort him to the gate. My dad is perfectly capable of traveling by himself, but I wanted to see him off. The agent had no problem giving me a security pass. Speaking of security, United lines at LAX have been really long lately. Add an extra 20 minutes if you are flying them out of LAX.

It was sad to see my dad leave, but I knew I would see him again in a few days. Iíll tell you about that trip in my next newsletter.

Before I go: How about them Yankees? How great will this League Championship Series be with Boston? I canít wait! Iíve always been a baseball fan Ė in fact, I was going through a box the other day with some old memorabilia, and found a custom-made t-shirt I used to wear as a kid. I might wear it again as a good luck charm, even though itís 20 sizes too small.

Speaking of the playoffs, I went to the Dodger game on Saturday and watched them beat the Cardinals. If youíve never been to Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium) and like baseball, make sure you go there the next time youíre in L.A. during baseball season. Itís my second-favorite stadium for watching a game (My favorite is Yankee Stadium). I get a really nice feeling every time I am there. I love the location and the architecture Ė and besides, those Dodger Dogs are so damn good! Thanks to my cousin Dennisí friend we got styled with amazing seats and food. We sat in a luxury suite, which was too cool. When they came around with the dessert cart, I thought for sure I had died and gone to heaven.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet
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TIP, STORY OR JOKE OF THE WEEK
Some great tips on how to spend 5 glorious days in Monaco...
First, don't miss the helicopter ride from Nice airport to the helipad in Monaco. Sensational views of the Mediterranean coastline will take your breath away. Le Meridien Beach Hotel is perfect is you want access to crystal clear blue private beach and stunning pool. Privacy and beautiful bodies abound. A small glitch during our stay resulted in a chilled bottle of champagne and apologies from management. The most romantic dinner you will ever have can be had at Zebra Square. Dine under the stars while you enjoy one of their fine cigars. A perfect 10 in every way. Look out for the sommelier's attitude at VistaMere at Hotel Hermitage. He can turn your $400 gourmet dinner into a real heart-burn. Finally, if you can afford it, "go to heaven" for the evening by dinning at Le Louis XV. There is no other place on earth like it...well maybe the main dining room at Las Ventanas in Cabo San Lucas comes close.

Thank you for the chance to share this experience with you.
Claudia Freed

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