Monthly Archives: October 2010

How to Stock a Home Bar, Part 1

As some of you may already know, we recently furnished our dining room here at the Chophouse. We’re exceedingly pleased with it, as it turned out looking and feeling even better than we thought it would. Thanks to the invention of the 180 degree flatscreen, we can even see the television from the head of the table, which means we might actually take meals in there more than once or twice a year.

Quite honestly; comparing furniture, installing lighting, trying to match napkins to placemats, and deciding from among thousands of paint colors can become a tedious chore after a while. There’s only been one step of the process which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way… building the bar.

Every house should have a bar. Even if that house is a tent.

Well, not exactly. We already had a very serviceable home bar set up in the kitchen. But moving it into the dining room means it’s still a good opportunity to step things up an extra notch, and a good excuse to buy (and sample) a few new bottles.

As luck would have it, we also just picked up a copy of Jason Wilson’s Boozehound; On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits and after the first 60 pages or so, we’re finding it pretty good. It’s conversational in tone, and Wilson is someone we’d definitely have a drink with. Still, he manages to fall into the same traps that virtually all drink and cocktail writers fall into.

People who adopt drinking as a hobby are almost exclusively of two types: Nerds and Frat Boys. Frat Boys (of any age) are pretty much self explanatory. Cocktail Nerds are a little more nuanced.

There are several things that nerds of all stripes will have in common, and one of them is that if you ask a nerd a simple question, you will get a very complicated answer. Ask a Star Wars nerd on which planet the rebels hideout was, and you’re likely to get an answer which includes the prequels, a full explanation of the rebels guerrilla structure, and the particulars of the Lucasfilm soundstage in the 1970’s.

So it is with Cocktail Nerds. Even something as simple as “What goes into a Manhattan?” will earn you a lecture on the merits of rye whiskey vs. bourbon, the type and ratios of vermouth, a lesson on the prohibition era, and a full discourse on bitters. Plus a snarky remark about cherries. On top.

This is the exact pitfall that catches Wilson in his book. Open up any mixing guide or bartender’s bible and you’ve got to sort through scores of pages of ridiculous recipes featuring arcane ingredients, endangered brands and preposterous combinations. Even modern guides and books talk about things like egg whites, grenadine, and Lillet with a straight face. It’s 2010. When’s the last time you saw anyone drinking a cocktail with grenadine?

By the same token, these books, as well as virtually every website out there will give you just plain bad advice on how to stock your bar. Most of them will just assume that you’re going to have some kind of huge party (and that you have them all the time) and that you’re going to be wowing your guests with your extensive knowledge and skill on the history and practice of bartending. Give us a break! Even fairly social people are usually drinking alone when they’re at home. When company does come over, they usually come just a few people at a time. It’s rare to meet an adult who hosts more than 2 medium-to-large scale parties at home each year. One or none is the norm.

This is why the Chop knows people with cabinets full of wedding booze that gather dust years after the wedding; because they followed bad advice on bar stocking when they threw the biggest party of their lives.What should be a source of pleasure and a point of pride becomes little more than a dusty, clangy, expensive eyesore.

So tomorrow the Chop is going to explain exactly how to build an impressive home bar to suit your own tastes, without all the nerdistry. And when we say impressive, we mean it. By the time you’re done you’ll have 30 bottles. There will be no sour apple pucker, no ancient bottle of sherry to impress Grandma, and most importantly: no Red Bull.

The best part? Building a full bar is cheaper and easier than you think. Stay tuned.

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P.S.- If you want to read writers who manage to talk about drinking in an interesting, engaging, and entertaining way, check out our drinking blogs blogroll, especially Modern Drunkard, NY Barfly, and Boozeblogger.

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The Five Worst Halloween Costumes of 2010

Year in and year out, we’re always surprised that people don’t just take the easy way out and dress for Halloween in a giant Summer’s Eve box, because there’s no shortage of douchebags running around Fells Point, Federal Hill, etc.

When Batman came out, you all had to be Batman. When Batman came out again, you all had to be the Joker. And frankly, few people can tell the difference between this vampire and that vampire and whatever zombie-come-lately the nerds have a nerd boner for this year.

This was played out 3 years ago. Don't keep making the same mistake.

But Some costumes cross the line from bad to worse; and then there are these. If you wear one of the following costumes out in public this year, you pretty much deserve to be socially shunned and never get laid again. You also deserve the dozens of photo tags that are bound to pop up in social media years from now, like when you’re looking for a job or being googled by your girlfriend’s parents. Have fun living these down.

5. Ben Roethlisberger The Chop is no fan of Ben Roethlisberger, that’s for sure. But you know what? Donning a black and yellow number 7 is in especially bad taste the way it’s done in Baltimore. It wasn’t funny when you showed up in a Steelers’ uniform with a bloody mangled knee, and it’s not going to be funny when you show up this year as Roethlisberger with a mug shot, or worse, with a giant erection. Don’t do it.

4. Mad Men The good folks over at Something Awful hit the nail on the head when they said “Even if you’re a handsome, suave dude it won’t work, because you don’t live in 1962. Your context sucks. Don Draper does not request extra corn salsa for his Chipotle burrito.” The rules don’t change because it’s Halloween. Just because you pawed through Salvation Army for an ugly, ill-fitting polyester suit doesn’t mean you look like Draper. It means you look like a moron.

3. The Jersey Shore There’s a reason the show is only 22 minutes long. Running around all night doing guido schtick in a bad Jersey accent is going to get old very quickly. There’s no subtle irony to the Jersey Shore costume, it’s just a douchebag dressing up like another douchebag. Besides, do you think you can do a better job of making fun of Jersey than South Park? You can’t.

2. Terrorist This one is now in perpetually poor taste. Whatever you do, do not don Arab dress, and wear a beard and bomb vest. It’s not going to impress anyone, and it’s going to piss a lot of people off. You may well even end up in a fight or in central booking, and you probably deserve it.

1. Chilean Miners Put away the hard hat, take off the sunglasses, and don’t you dare wave around a Chilean flag. Don’t ever forget that those workers were victims, and were being exploited by mine owners. This is one of the very rare instances where the whole world watches and cares about something important (i.e. not the Olympics or World Cup) at the same time, and your lame ass Halloween costume is only going to cheapen that.

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Top Five Cheap, Quick and Easy Halloween Costumes for Adults

We’re going to let you in on a little secret of etiquette, Baltimore. When an invitation says something is optional, that thing is damn well mandatory. A good host or hostess will be reluctant to push their guests around, even on paper. There are firm conventions in place though, and if you’re planning to attend a party or event that is ‘black tie optional’ and ‘gifts optional’, you had better show up in a tux with a nicely wrapped gift. You’ll look like a boorish clod if you don’t.

The same is true of ‘costume optional’ Halloween parties, whether they are a private affair or being held at a bar or some sort of festival. Halloween is now less than 2 weeks away, and if you’re still lacking a costume or are dropped a last minute invitation to a ‘costume optional’ party, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Nothing says Halloween like raging alcoholic clowns.

Fortunately, the Chop is here to help. We’re happy to give you five solid costume ideas which can be assembled with a minimum of effort and expense, and which can easily be shed when the party ends, or if your plans include something that does not require a costume.

5. Priest The priest outfit is really nothing but black on black with a little white cardboard collar. You probably own most of it already. It can be good fun to do the priest schtick too: blessing people, taking confessions from ‘naughty schoolgirl’ costumers, and breaking out your crucifix or holy water to ward off anyone who may be dressed as a devil. Plus, people like the irony of seeing a priest get totally faced on hard liquor.

4. Fisherman Think fishsticks. This guy has the right idea, and he’s really selling it with the beard. If you forgo the beard, you can accessorize with a little green netting or manila rope. Yellow foul weather gear is available cheaply at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and of course, you can wear normal clothes underneath.

3. A Mexican Is this racist? Yeah. Probably. A little. But if you dressed in lederhosen or a kilt, no one would say boo, so why not. Besides, you can claim the moral high ground by claiming to be the (Colombian) coffee man Juan Valdez, or just by yelling “Do I look illegal?!?!?” directly into the face of anyone who questions you. A sombrero, a poncho, and a fake mustache and you’re pretty much good to go.

2. The Sheet It’s old hat on TV and in the movies, but you actually see very few people rocking the sheet-ghost costume. It’s the easiest thing in the world and good for a laugh every time. A sheet will also double as a toga with very little modification, so it’s basically 2 costumes in one. Why not?

1. Clown Okay, so a clown may not really be that easy. Makeup is kind of a commitment. Wig, shoes, gags; a lot goes into being a proper clown. We believe that the return is worth it though. Don’t underestimate the scariness of a clown outfit. More people than you think are totally freaked out by clowns. Besides, clowns are never so funny and awesome as when they’re out of context. Drinking heavily, making lewd remarks, and threatening violence are what takes the ordinary clown costume above and beyond all others. If we see you out on Halloween and you’re a clown, we’re totally going to buy you a drink.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, in which we’ll be discussing the dumbest costume trend ideas of 2010. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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The Chop’s Veracruz Cocktail Recipe

A lot of you may be scratching your heads on this one. You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘October is a great time for spiced cider drinks and rich, strong cocktails like Sidecars and White Russians. Why the hell is this blog giving me a recipe for a beach bar type cocktail? And you’re not wrong. But remember, we just returned from the desert. And it was hot in the desert. Even in the last week of September, it was hot enough to put us in mind of tequila.

A Veracruz vacation. Now available in a glass.

When you’re sitting out in a hot, dry desert during Ramadan, there’s nothing more natural than daydreaming about booze, which we did frequently, and which is exactly how this recipe came into our head. We had to wait until our return to gather the necessary ingredients, and it took a full 2 weeks of mixing and sipping to get this one down. The end result was certainly worth the wait.

The Veracruz

2 parts tequila

1 part pear juice

1 slice jalapeno

1 drop bitters

Cut a strip of jalapeno as thick as your taste will allow. Muddle it lightly in a few drops of pear juice, just enough to open up the flavor. Transfer the muddled pepper to a cocktail shaker full of ice and add the tequila, juice, and bitters. Stir thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass.

*If a garnish is desired, a slice of fresh pear will work better than a slice of jalapeno. The drink should taste like a spicy fruit, and not a fruity vegetable.

*We’ve found that for one drink, a slice of pepper about the size of a nickel is just right. Be sure to remove the seedpod entirely. Having little pepper seeds floating around in your cocktail is less than appealing. Also, be careful not to slice the jalapeno too thin, lest tiny pieces of it end up in your glass.

*Pear juice is delicious, but it can be hard to find. We used Gerber brand juice from the baby food aisle, which is 100% juice. Pear nectar from the Goya aisle will not work in this recipe.

*Go easy on the bitters. One good drop really is quite enough.

*Finally, something like Jose Cuervo or Hornitos will work just fine for this. You always want to stay away from generic tequila, but for this drink, there’s no need to reach for the expensive stuff. Enjoy.

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Warhol: The Last Decade @ the BMA Today

Could it be true? Could it possibly, actually have happened? Have we finally found a place to go on Sundays where no one is wearing purple, drinking Miller Lite and yelling ‘Caw Caw’?

Yes, it’s true. While the rest of Baltimore is watching the Ravens and Patriots (and no doubt continuing to curse the Steelers), we’re going to head over to the Baltimore Museum of Art to see the new exhibit on that most famous of Yinzers, Andy Warhol.

10/17/10 - 1/09/11

The BMA’s website has a pretty good write up on the exhibition itself, so we’ll spare you the details, and say only that it opens to the general public today, running through January 9. While general museum admission is free, this traveling exhibit will run you $15 unless you’re a member, and at a mere $50 a year for an individual membership it’s a pretty tempting offer.

So while the rest of the city is hoping that Ray Lewis can successfully decapitate Tom Brady, we’ll be walking through Wyman Park, watching the leaves change, and probably, for personal reasons having to do with Warhol and the BMA, feeling very melancholy and nostalgic about love affairs and the Fall. We might even wear a tie.

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The BMA is at 10 Art Museum Drive in Charles Village.

Wednesday through Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

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Puerto Rico Flowers, Pfisters @ Talking Head Stage Tonight

The astute among you will quickly notice that the shape of the graphic below is not Puerto Rico, but is in fact Australia. It’s Australia because that’s where John Sharkey III fucked off to after Clockcleaner. Sharkey returns to the US tonight with his new project Puerto Rico Flowers for their only 2010 US date at Sonar‘s Talking Head stage. Welcoming Sharkey back tonight will be Fan Death Records label-mates and unfuckwithable local trio Pfisters as well as DC’s Screen Vinyl Image.

Puerto Rico Flowers plays the Talking Head stage tonight. 9 pm Doors.

We’ve got the feeling that Puerto Rico Flowers is going to be one of those bands for whom there is no middle ground at all. Anyone unfamiliar can slap on headphones and listen to about ten seconds of their 4 ep and decide instantly whether they want to listen to it on repeat all day, or whether they want to run screaming at its mere mention.

The Chop is squarely in the former camp, and we predict the forthcoming full length will be going into heavy rotation on the iPod for late drives home or nights out on the back deck. Sharkey has always been the sort who makes a very particular sort of music. It’s the sort that he wants to hear, and he makes it precisely because it doesn’t yet exist in the world. Whether anyone else listens or not seems to be irrelevant. PRF represents what has become all too rare in 2010… something entirely new.

That said, the influences are immediately discernible. The 4 ep easily conjures the best work of Joy Division, the Damned, Bauhaus, et al, and will become seminal listening for fans of those stripes.

The next time you hear someone staunchly defend Baltimore’s music scene as being better than DC’s and more genuine than Brooklyn’s don’t dismiss it. Shows like this one tonight stand as proof.

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Sonar is at 407 E. Saratoga Street downtown. Doors are at 9 pm, all ages.

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The Chop Endorses Conflict-Free Diamonds

The Director is in town. More than a year ago, the Director decided he was sick and tired of using his film degree to edit bureaucratic training videos and pick up a little freelance wedding work and he took himself out to Hollywood to pursue his art and seek his fortune in the movie business.

Tonight we’re going to get to see the result of the first year or so of the “Hollywood Period” at what was supposed to be a screening party for the project he’s been working on.

We say supposed to be, because all indications are that tonight is to become more an engagement party than anything else. After a lifetime of being shy and awkward around girls and women, the Director fell ass backwards into a random roommate-as-girlfriend situation out there which as far as we can tell is all to the good. He got himself engaged last weekend.

The wrong ring can make a bride very angry. And bad things can happen when brides get angry.

Time was, this happy news would have been announced over a toast, and genuine surprise and elation would have been the tone for the rest of the evening. As it stands, it was announced via Facebook. Not quite the same.

Thanks also to the magic of Facebook, we got a chance to have a look at a picture of the ring, and, well, it’s fugly. There’s no two ways about it. It’s made of onyx, for Christ’s sake. We understand you both like horror movies, but come on… you’re only a half step above this.

It could be worse though. During our trip overseas one of our co-workers called us over to see his cousin’s engagement ring on Facebook. It was made of Moissanite, that magical meteorite matter that’s “even rarer and stronger than a diamond!!!” It had been bought with a coupon and it was maybe the ugliest piece of jewelry we’d ever seen wrapped around a chubby little unmanicured finger. Everyone in the place had a field day laughing, and that still stands out as easily the most entertaining thing we saw in 3 months.

So what have we learned, Baltimore? We’ve learned that this is the way things are done now. If you give her that ring, gentlemen, you can count on it showing up on Facebook the same day, and judgment will be swift and severe if you botch the purchase. For better or worse, diamonds are the standard in tradition and good taste. That said, blood diamonds are never in good taste. The Chop has been to Sierra Leone, and believe it when we say that there is not one person, building or road in that country that is not scarred by war.

Failing possession of a family heirloom, we say make sure your diamond is either lab created or certified conflict-free. And most importantly, make sure your diamond actually is a diamond. Anything less is, well… less.

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Belle and Sebastian @ Constitution Hall Tonight

Yeah. You read that headline right. It’s Belle and Sebastian. It’s in DC. It’s tonight. And as Joe the Biden might say; it’s a “Big Fucking Deal.”

How big of a fucking deal are they? We bought our tickets months ago. We had to order them online from a primitive computing machine in the middle of the desert. We had to deal with Ticketmaster, break out a credit card, verify our stupid change of address and everything. It got us to thinking: this is the first real life, bona fide concert the Chop has ever attended. We’ve seen thousands of bands, and they’ve all been in small spaces where you pay at the door and get a hand stamp.

Belle and Sebastian play DAR Constitution Hall tonight. 7 pm Doors.

But Belle and Sebastian is such a big fucking deal that the last time they played the area was also at Constitution Hall, and we said to ourselves we said; “Chop, it’s a big fancy concert. It’s at DAR, where freaking Morrissey plays. Those tickets are going to cost a fortune and sell out and yadda yadda yadda.” And we were right. But when we found out they were touring again, and coming back to DC in support of their new record Write About Love, we said “Fuck it. They’re from Goddamn Scotland. When are they coming back again, eh?” Yeah. It’ll be a while.

For our money (and these tickets ran to money), Belle and Sebastian is the best thing to come out of Scotland since whisky.

If that sounds like we’re drinking the Kool-Aid, well, maybe we are. B & S are something of a cult band, and after a few good years of casual listening we are definitely in that cult. Not since that other cult band, The Smiths, has a group of musicians so elevated pop music to the level of high art. We’re sure that Ke$ha is going to come back and shit all over pop again any day, but for now, for today- October 14… pop is exciting, whimsical, and wonderful again.

Don’t believe it? Go ahead and stream the new album courtesy of National Public Radio and tell us if we’re wrong. (Hint: We’re not wrong.)

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DAR Constitution hall is at 1776 D St. NW in Washington DC. Tickets for tonight’s show are sold out.

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Bi-Weekly Political Roundup: Democrats We Hate Edition

It’s about to get interesting folks. The midterm elections are a mere three weeks away, and with the gross injustice of the Citizens United decision in full effect, the RNC and Karl Rove along with his secret billionaire friends are about to start slinging mud faster and more furiously than any of us have ever seen mud slung. Believe it.

So what’s a good old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool Baltimore progressive to do? Show up and sling a little mud of your own. Or better yet, sling a few pitchers of Dogfish Head with the Baltimore Chapter of Drinking Liberally at Joe Squared tonight.

Baltimore Drinking Liberally meets at Joe Squared tonight. 7 pm - ???

To a regular reader of these roundups, it may appear that the Chop is little more than a hopeless cheerleader for the Democrats. This is not so. At the end of the day, we’re really only lukewarm on the Dems. It’s our true, white-hot, pure unvarnished hatred for the Republican party which keeps us riding the Donkey. After all, way back when we voted in our first presidential election, even then we weren’t stupid enough to waste a vote on Nader.

In any year, there are going to be some Dems we love, and some we don’t. This year though, there seems to be quite a few we don’t love. In fact, there are some races out there in which we’d go so far as to outright endorse the Republican. This may seem an extraordinary measure, but the candidates mentioned below are extraordinarily terrible.

Richard Blumenthal has been running around Connecticut using the phrase “when I served in Vietnam”. Problem is, he never did serve in Vietnam, but was in a cushy stateside reserve post instead. He has yet to admit that he’s a bald-faced liar, and his apologies for ‘misspeaking’ fall flat and ring hollow. As tired as we are of the politics of Vietnam, this is beyond the pale and unforgivable, and Blumenthal has no place in the US senate or in any other position of public trust.

Alvin Greene is retarded. He’s literally retarded. We’re only surprised that no one has yet exposed Greene as the practical joke that his candidacy is. It’s still a mystery where the hell he came from, and how in the world he managed to secure the Democratic nomination. Better choices than Greene for senator include; a golden retriever, a man in a banana suit, a magic 8-ball, and of course, a Republican. As much as we hate Jim DeMint, we’ll breathe a little sigh of relief when he’s reelected with 99.9% of the vote.

Blanche Lincoln made us very angry on healthcare. Blanche Lincoln is making us very angry on EFCA. Blanche Lincoln pretty much makes us angry every time we hear her name. We’re getting really sick and tired of the Democratic leadership trying to whip 60 votes by kissing these conservative blue dog asses. We’d rather lose that seat all together than try to plan legislative strategy based on what a few hicks in Arkansas are likely to approve of in an opinion poll. To hell with Blanche Lincoln.

There’s a few more with whom we’re really not impressed who don’t merit mention here. If the Democrats are going to be losing seats anyway, we say now is the perfect time for a little house cleaning. Take Minnesota as an example: sometimes you’ve got to lose a seat to a sniveling shit like Norm Coleman in order to ultimately fill it with a true-blue progressive like Senator Al Franken.

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Drinking Liberally meets the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at 7 pm. Joe Squared is located at 133 w. North Ave. All the above opinions are that of the Baltimore Chop Blog, and not of Drinking Liberally, it’s Baltimore Chapter, Chapter members or Joe Squared.

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On the Chop’s Visit to Diego Garcia

As you may know, we spent most of the summer working overseas, mostly in Bahrain and the Emirates. One of the highlights of our travels though was the couple of days we got to spend on the island of Diego Garcia.

For the unfamiliar, Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. It’s little more than the tiny outline of a footprint (literally, it’s footprint shaped) in a vast, vast ocean. The whole of the island is given over to a joint UK/US military base, and as such it’s not only one of the most remote, but one of the most unique inhabited places on earth. It didn’t take us very long to see that Diego has its very own culture, which is an odd mixture of naval regulation, British propriety, Filipino culture, and Margaritaville, which is wholly unlikely but highly functional.

This is a pic from our crappy obsolete cell phone taken outside the Diego Garcia USS. And it

The island itself is literally a tropical paradise. It’s a ring of pure white sand surrounded by bright blue waters which are swim-able every day of the year and which provide some of the best sport and recreational fishing in the world. Exotic crabs scuttle everywhere, and coconuts fall to the sand and lie undisturbed long enough to split and sprout. You can literally see new trees growing out of coconuts.

As beautiful as is the island, most of its buildings are equally ugly. The architecture is as drab and uninspired as any other military installation. Most of them are little more than a box of cinder blocks with a number painted on the side.

Outside the px downtown they have one of those mileage signs. Bottom line, you're a long way from anywhere.

A free bus line runs around the island, and will take you Downtown from any point on the road. Caution is necessary though, since a first time visitor may have a lot of trouble recognizing his destination as any sort of proper ‘downtown’. What passes for Downtown is just a few squat, nondescript buildings, not very close to each other. A hapless bus rider could easily miss it and see the bus turn around, and then miss his original stop again since the bus will not actually stop unless you yell “BUS STOP!” at the driver.

Once you get downtown though there actually is plenty to do, even if you can knock it all out in a day or two. There’s your choice of 4 different beach bars (although beach bars are less fun without any women around, but the drinks are surprisingly cheap), the Diego Museum, a couple of restaurants, the old sugar plantations and cemetery to tour, a bowling alley, paintball, a free movie theater, basketball, softball, etc. and of course, the fishing.

In fact, if we were to go there permanently and attempt to write a daily events blog, there’s be not shortage of material. The Navy has something planned for every day of the month, boat races, volleyball tournaments, dominoes, organized tennis, and so on.

Oh, the places you'll go!

Still and all though, we’re glad we got to see Diego the way we did… in 2 days. It’s the sort of tiny little town where once you’re bored with it, you’re really, really bored.

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