30 December 2005

youth hostel madness

Youth hostels in Morocco are dirty and disgusting places. The bedsheets are sort of dirty and damp, the rooms are huge, drafty and noisy. Breakfasts are simple and one need not even try to ask for more coffee, because you won't get any.

That said, I plan to continue to make use of these dungeons and their lumpy beds, because in many ways they have provided me with great luck in my travels.

Last night after wandering around the ancienne ville for a few hours, I returned to the hostel, tired and dehydrated, and ready to read, write, munch on some figs and almonds and go to sleep. I have done a good job of sleeping here, but I am still somewhat jetlagged and I was looking forward to a quiet, early and anonymous night.

Nonetheless, plans are easy to make and hard to keep anywhere in the world, and much harder indeed outside of the Western World. As fate would have it, I returned to the hostel to find a group of young guys playing guitar, drums and some sort of guitar-ud mix. --The ud, i believe, is merely a Moroccan lute--

I was invited to join them, and so I retrieved my guitar and offered it into the mix. I was soon asked to play, and I obliged. Their response was beautiful--they played along and sang and hit the drums and would not let me stop playing...as each song finished, they requested another...

I was soon invited to go along with three or four of them to some sort of theatre...I really didn't know what the hell was going on, but they were locals and friends of the hostel employees and so I jumped at the opportunity.

We ended up at some sort of youth center or something, a big building that they used for meetings of their Music and Theatre Club. We joined up with some others--women included, which surprised me--and I was again handed the guitar and asked to play. Soon enough, an older man entered the room--he was about 45 or so, but quite wrinkled, with a big old mustache and a very serious face. He quickly demanded silence and proceeded to lecture everyone in Arabic. I obviously had no idea what he was talking about, and I still have no idea...

After an hour or so at this place, we began to leave, and stopped outside to say goodbye. At this point, one of the girls turned to me and shook my hand, saying

--It is very nice to meet you. Do you know that Mustafa--the older man--has said that you are a very gran personage? Do you know why?
--No, I replied
--Because you sing with your heart and much soul

Mustafa nodded and I became embarrased and surprised that this serious looking Muslim guy would see fit to compliment me so freely, especially as I had been singing songs that were certainly not in the vein of Muslim thinking and practice...

Having finally said my goodbyes to all, I went home with plans to meet up in the morning and walk around the city, which I have done...I've also met a German girl --this morning -- with whom I've found a hotel room {the hostel is full and I don't think that I can take another night with shitty sleep due to the noise of a bunch of hooligan, homey rapper wannabe Moroccan highschool students} and with whom I'll probably head south tomorrow or the day after...The Sahara awaits me, camels and sand dunes included.

For now, I'm off to meet up with Mekhless and Simon, my new Moroccan pals, for a walk around town or something...

I hope that all are well.

29 December 2005

Stop playing that song, Sam

I have left Casablanca...The place isn't bad--in fact it's quite cool, but also one of the most European of Moroccan cities, as it was largely constructed while under French rule...So basically much of the place looks like a dirty Southern European city (ie Genoa) with very few Euros and a whole lot of Arabs...

I was planning to head directly to Fez, but I took the advice of the owner of the hotel in Casablanca and stopped along the way in his hometown of Meknes.

The train ride was pleasant, only about three hours long, through beautiful countryside (grapes, oranges, grain) and small villages. I rode in the car with about three old women, some kids, and a couple with a three month and ten day old baby named Hamza (isn't that also the name of an Arabic letter?)

The husband was a cop, and we spent a great deal of time talking along the way...Strange that I had to come all the way to Morocco to find out that not all cops are assholes...In fact, here they have been some of the nicest people that I've had the pleasure to meet.

Meknes is a crazy place, and for the first time in a long time I'm feeling totally culture shocked...I am mentally in that interesting, intellectually stimulating, exciting, and sort of scary zone in which I don't really know what's going on...It is literally dizzying to walk through the medina and the markets within--I feel like young Indiana Jones (Indy to friends) or something...Carts fly by me loaded with fruits, meat, nuts, sawdust and people. Old men sit in tents selling freshly crushed salt, the raw rocks before them. People yell and sing and hawk wares of all types. Old women haggle, shopkeeps sell 20 different kinds of dates that pretty much all look the same to me. A butcher sells camel meat, and his advertisement is a severed camel head.

It's really almost too much to take in all at once (or all at twice or thrice for that matter). I reckon that I'll stay here tomorrow as well to get a better feel for the place, or perhaps I'll take a day trip to Volubulis (Roman ruins) --

A couple more things:

What I've had to eat so far:

Kefta (spiced lamb meat patties)
Tagine (Moroccan stew)
Fried fish
Gallons of Green Tee
Lakes of Coffee
French Bread

Only rude thing to happen to me: (besides the hostel business)

Today a boy burped in my face, sort of. He was about 13 and may have just been joking around, or perhaps it was just good timing on his part. Either way, I laughed. It was funny, and the burp was full and well-developed:

28 December 2005

Morocco, Land of No Straight Answer (with update)

Setting: Hostel in the Medina of Casablanca. Dirty, moist and cheap. Breakfast counter.
Time: 8 am; Moroccan Time (same as London time; 5 hours ahead of EST.)
Characters: Me and the Hostel Employee (owner?)
Language: French

-I would like to pay for another night
-That is impossible
-Do you have a hostel card?
-Then you cannot stay
-Those are the rules
-Whose rules?
-(angry now) Please go to the reception desk. You will be attended there

The hostel employee, the man with the crippled hand, puts down the baguette and tea that he is holding and follows me to the reception counter. He proceeds to walk behind the counter and stare at me, a smile on his face, seemingly friendly now...

-Yes? May I help you?
-I'd like a bed for tonight:
-Do you have a youth hostel ID card?
-No, but I don't see what this matters
-And if someone with an ID card comes and there are no beds? What do you think I do then?
-But there are plenty of beds...
-Plenty of Beds!? (snort)
-Yes, my room was nearly empty last night...There were six empty beds...
-You think that you can come here with a guitar and play and stay here? No! Leave!
-Oh...the real reason comes out now.
-Yes, the real reason comes out now. Now you must leave.

(Note: The previous evening (last night), I had met the French guys with whom I shared a room. We played guitar for approximately 15 minutes. These actions were okayed by the same man, who informed me that there was no problem as long as we stopped at the time of curfew (11 pm), which we did.)

Back to the scene: I rush back to my room, pack my bags in less than a minute, leave the room and slam the door angrily. The man rushes over to me, livid.

-Why did you close the door like that?
-Why can't I stay here?
-Why did you close the door like that?
-This is ridiculous and I am very angry!
-Leave now before I call the police! Allez-vous! Allez!

Never before have I so easily pissed off a business owner or hostel employee...Never before have I so easily burned a bridge. This would all be perfectly understandable if I was a stupid, drunken American returning home past curfew to jam out to Freebird with my 'bros. On the contrary, the strongest drink I've had in Morocco has been a mint tea, and the French guy playing the guitar was quietly and skillfully playing gypsy tunes...

Apparently I am fertile soil for cultural misunderstandings...Let's hope this does not continue...

Luckily, I found a new place in 5 minutes with an Irish guy, also pissed off at the hostel employees (who are apparently famous for being assholes...I had read this in Lonely Planet but figured that it couldn't be all that bad)

Still, I am up to this point loving the place...Friendliness is the norm in the street, the sights and sounds and smells are exciting, the coffee is strong and delicious, everything is cheap, and the girl next to me in the cyber-cafe just offered me dates...A fine combination, and good omens for the voyage...

More soon...Hopefully photos, although I'm still in culturally shy mode...Au revoir.

UPDATE (in answer to questions)

dates, in the above passage, refers to the fruit, not to numerous amorous encounters. However, depending on how one interprets the offering of fruit, this could be code for something else.

the guitar that I have brought along is a Martin Backpacker guitar and is not in the least encumbering.

I have heard the words 'welcome' and 'hello' more times than I can count.

27 December 2005

arabic keyboards blow (and other news)

the a is in the wrong place, as is the w, as is the question mark and the m and just about everything else...
if i touch type, it comes out like this:

so i qrrived in ,orocco todqy; qfter q very long journey....


Besides this small annoyance, things in morocco are great to fantastic (as opposed to fair to middlin'

I arrived in Casablanca this afternoon after a very long journey, somehow made it out of the airport without getting a taxi (although i was offered at least 15) and made my way to the youth hostel, which is located in the medina (old city).

I immediately put down my bags and headed out for a glass of Moroccan tea (a delicious and often sickeningly sweet green tea brewed with mint leaves). In a funny mixup, I spoke French and ordered a 'cha' (tea in portuguese)...the guys laughed at me, and when i pointed to what i wanted, let me in on the secret French word for tea.

It is 'te'.

The coffee shop was filled with men of different ages playing card, gossiping and drinking tea or coffee. A very small number of the patrons sat quietly, sipping and spacing out, but for the most part, people didn't seem to stop talking...

The entire place was filled with a dense cloud of smoke, the majority of which seemed to come from Moroccan hashish. The red, slitted eyes of a number of the people inside gave away the the cloud's creators, although to be honest, nobody seemed to have the least interest in hiding their extracurricular activity, and walked around rolling joints and smoking out of long, thin pipes.

The contrast inherent in everything that I've seen here so far are striking: Smart dressed women sit beside old scarved, one=eyed women, the man before me in the cafe, elderly and fez=bedecked, chats casually on his cell phone. The card player to my right is wearing a jacket decorated with images of 40-oz. bottles of malt liquor. The labels on the bottle read 'korn', a band that I'm sure he is unaware exists.

The only tension that i've felt so far has been created by my own over=fertile imagination, and i don't sense the often ubiquitous tension often felt between tourists and citizens of third=world nations. In my short time here, I've been smiled at and talked to more times than i can count. I've been invited to a New Year's Eve celebration in Marrakesh. I've been asked about my family and my home and my friends, and I've only been here two hours.

Still, Morocco does seem to be a place where people will rip you off with a smile on their face; yet good=naturedly accept defeat when you refuse to be taken: My taxi=driver to the hostel is a good example of this...He was a great guy, but my taxi fare doubled in the course of the ten minute drive. When I laughed at him and refused to pay the new fare, he laughed back and gave me my change. Not two minutes later, the guy running the hostel short=changed my 100 dirham (twice the price of the room). Again, when I called him on it, he chuckled and returned my money...I've got to keep on my toes it seems.

Anyway, that's all for today. My brain and hands are tired from the trip and the battle with this keyboard. I hope that you are all well and that you have a great New Year.

More to come soon...and sorry for any typos or strange characters;

25 December 2005

bon voyage to me.

Tomorrow afternoon I leave for Casablanca, Morocco. Unfortunately, I am not flying the way I would hope to fly (due west), but rather the way that my Delta Air Miles allow me to fly (all over the frigging globe).

First I head from Newark to Detroit.
I wait a little while in Detroit.
I then grab a flight from Detroit to Paris.
I wait a long while in Paris.
I then hop on a flight to Casablanca, finally arriving at my final destination late on Tuesday.

I've arrived here in New Jersey in a similarly roundabout fashion. Fortunately, the curving path that I took to get here was much more pleasurable that I imagine the flights will be.

On Wednesday night, my friend Sturd and I took a trip to Princeton to visit another old friend (Jason) and his wife (Liz). We ate dinner, drank some great beers and headed back to our Jason's house for cookies, coffee and a truly inspiring glimpse of Liz's ultrasound. What a strange thing to see a ghostly image of a childhood friend's son. Beautiful.

From Princeton, I headed to Villanova, PA (just outside of Philly) to visit friend Caroline. We had a great time babysitting her nephews (see playdough snakes below), hanging out in PA Amish markets, watching Deadwood (I've never heard the word c*#ksucker so much in my life) and playing barroom shuffleboard with friends.

From Princeton I took a ton of trains to arrive in New Brunswick, where I sat around with my brother and had a great time watching dumb television.

And from New Brunswick, back up to Northern NJ to celebrate Christmas with the family.

And now it is late at night. I am tired and going to bed. I'll write as often as possible from Morocco. I hope that everyone had a great Christmas (or other holiday) and may you all have a happy New Year.

20 December 2005


"Millions of New York commuters are battling their way home in freezing temperatures during a strike by transit workers, which Tuesday afternoon was ruled illegal by a judge. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lashed out at the union for "thuggishly" turning their backs on the city, adding the strike could cost more than $400 million a day."

--CNN.com, December 20, 2005

I woke up this morning early. Way early.

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, everybody else seemed to feel quite differently about the looming transit strike. I tend to see minor disasters and inconveniences as chances to escape the ordinary, slow down the daily grind, and tie the members of a community together in a way in which they were previously unbound. Obviously, for people that actually have to go to work, it's a little more difficult to see things in the same light.

Unfortunately I missed the 2003 summer blackout. Fortunately I missed the events of September 11, 2001. These were both experiences that shook New York to its foundations (in varying degrees, obviously), but that had the positive result of fostering a sense of togetherness among the city residents. I was, fortunately, living in Columbia, South Carolina two years ago when the state was struck with a freak ice storm. Sub-tropical trees were covered in ice, branches fell, and power lines came down. Thousands of houses (including mine) were left without electricity or heat. For days, "sleep overs" were common among the University faculty (where I was working at the time), which immediately led to group dinners, drinks, and late nights. It was beautiful.

So today was exciting for me. I wanted to see how the whole strike situation panned out and how people reacted.

Early in the morning I headed out to see what was going on. All cars going into the city were forced by the city to have at least 4 riders, which led to people at the bridges and tunnels searching for extra passengers to join them in their vehicles.

Scenes like this were common, as people pulled over to let others in and in this way both help stranded commuters and fulfill their own four-person minimum (the mix of people in the cars was interesting in and of itself). Traffic around the Williamsburg bridge, down the street from my house, was terrible, as the cops had to hold up all cars passing through in order to check the number of occupants in each vehicle.

Within the city , things seemed oddly normal. People were walking around the city of course, but people are always walking on the New York streets. The streets did seem a bit less crowded than they normally do, especially a few of the avenues that were completely empty of normal traffic. Beyond these small differences, however, things were fairly normal.

The only place in Manhattan that was noticeably affected was Penn Station. The Station was filled with angry and annoyed (and annoying) commuters screaming at the Penn Station employees, yelling at eachother, pushing people (me) and generally freaking out. This is understandble, I guess, judging from the number of people riding Jersey transit and the LIRR today (something like 45,000 more than usual), as well as the general bedlam at the station. Still, it seemed like people were really freaking out and blaming the wrong people. I felt badly for the workers at Penn Station.

At the end of the day, after walking for hours, checking out the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, visiting FAO Schwartz with my friend Lauren and her son, I headed down to meet up with my roommate and figure out how to somehow get home.

At the Williamsburg Bridge we got to see examples of both extorting conniving bastards as well as true examples of altruism. We met a cab driver on the Manhattan side who demanded $20 for the ride across the bridge.

$20 PER PERSON for a 3 minute ride! Theiving, highway robbing punk bastard taking advantage of cold, tired people! I met others that took the same cab ride for $20 total, a price that was divided among four riders. Well, he's the sucker. He pissed us off, as well as everyone around us, and lost the chance to make any money at all.

Luckily on the Brooklyn side we met up with the nice guys--the Red Cross was there handing out hot chocolate, tea and hot water (weird that they didn't have coffee...) to everyone forced to deal with the cold in their commute. They were smiling, and everyone that approached them was smiling too.

I enjoyed a hot chocolate.

19 December 2005


Cold air and blue skies today. A perfect day for a walk around New York City.

I love to head downtown on days like this, slowly moving back in time as each step southward brings me closer to the initial Dutch settlements. Arriving at City Hall, I realize that I've once again lost myself in the downtown streets and completely overshot Chinatown. I ask directions of a security guard, something I hate to do in a city that I live in, and follow his advice to travel down Worth Street (also known as Avenue of the Strongest--"Strongest" refers to NYC Sanitation Workers, which is a bit strange).

My friend Meg and I move down the street (was it clean or dirty? I honestly don't remember). We reach Chinatown and in a moment of urban serendipity, stumble upon the only restaurant with which I'm familiar in the whole neighborhood, Joe's Shanghai.

Joe's Shanghai is one of most well-known restaurants in Chinatown, and is generally filled with Chinese people, which is always a positive omen. They are most famous for their "soup dumplings," which are delicious dumplings stuffed with crab meat, pork, and a savory broth. Best of all, they're not only delicious, but eating them is fun and slurping seems to be encouraged.

Beyond sucking down dumpling broth at Joe's, Chinatown is also a fantastic place to merely stroll around and check out the local produce and watch the buyers and sellers do their thing. It is also great fun to check out the names of restaurants and read the menus, which never fail to provide a source of amusement for even the most casual of readers.

18 December 2005

Homing Pigeons

On the train ride back from Jersey today, I found myself wondering what I would I write today. As my father told me, if you want people to read your stuff, you've got to maintain a certain regularity. Nobody is going to read what you write if it only comes out sporadically and infrequently.

And so, I wondered, what would I discuss today?

I considered speaking of the family celebration I participated in this weekend, but seeing as I've already written about one family party, and also considering that most people aren't that interested in knowing that I had an early Christmas in New Jersey with the maternal branch of my family, which was attended by my aunts, uncles, cousins, and immediate family, I decided against it.

As I ambled down the streets of Brooklyn, coming home from the train, I continued to think about what I'd write. I realized that nobody really wanted to know that I got a lime-green sweater for Christmas, or that my cousin enjoyed my gift of "Gray's Anatomy" accompanied by two burnt-cds featuring Lhasa de Sela on one and Caetano Veloso on the other.

My thoughts were interrupted by the unusual sight of a group of generally aloof, too cool for looking at stuff hipsters all standing on the sidewalk, looking up in awe at the sky, and occasionally remarking "Wow! Look at that!". Wanting to know what could possibly interrupt the heroin-chic, disinterested pose of so many locals, I crossed the street to join them in their looking.

Gazing up, I saw a sight that was familiar, but that I had never really consciously noticed. A huge flock of pigeons was circling around the sky above Grand Street and Bedford Avenue, splitting apart and then joining together again, painting huge, and diverse oval patterns against the azure sky.

Each time that they would reach a certain point, the sun would reflect brilliantly off their whiteness, creating an incandescent orange color that would flicker and glow. It was beautiful, although honestly somewhat less so for the realization that these could very likely be homing pigeons, and not a purely part of a natural phenomenon.

Homing pigeons, as I learned from my father (who used to have some), are pigeons that one trains to return to a specific place. This isn't that hard of task, as pigeons seem to like to return to one place (see, for instance, any major European landmark or plaza), but it does involve the clipping (or tying) of wings during the pigeon's young life in order to inspire a sense of home in the pigeon.

In some movie with Denzel Washington, I saw homing pigeons used as a warning in in a South Central neighborhood that cops were entering the area. I've also seen in some other movie that Mike Tyson is a big collector/breeder of homing pigeons. Apparently shaking a stick at the pigeons makes them fly away. They make a big circle in the air and return home. If you keep shaking the stick at them, they keep tracing circles in the air.

So, I'm thinking that maybe these pigeons were circling around because somebody was shaking a stick at them. Maybe it was a natural path for them to take, who knows? It was really nice to see, though, and it was great to see a bunch of kids in a neighborhood that tends to seem jaded looking up at the sky to see pretty birds fly around in sunlight.

15 December 2005

Who are you all?

Hello All!

No information or observations right now, Just a few questions. I've noticed in my "research" that the most popular searches that land people randomly on my site are:

1. head shave
2. jamaican meat pattie
3. bond
3. trota el mundo

This got me thinking: Who reads this stuff? Who are my virtual friends? What other searches make people land randomly on my site? Who are my regular readers? And finally, why are people looking up things like "jamaican meat pattie" and "head shave" on google?

I'd love to hear from anyone reading my blog or checking out my website. Feel free to write me at chris_m_bond@yahoo.com if you like (or dislike) what you read here.

Have a great day.


14 December 2005

Smoking can Kill (and other news)

We all know that smoking can kill. What the Surgeon General and the State of California failed to prepare me for was the inevitable, and very Bronx experience of being asked to bum a smoke by a possible killer.

A bit of history/information:

According to an article on the website wikipedia, a teardrop tattoo "is said to indicate that the wearer has killed or a friend of his was killed in prison. It is worn by the eye." Teardrop tattoos can also express a less ironic sentiment--a recognition of the dehumanizing experience of prison and the mourning of an inability to shed real tears.

Here's an example of a guy with this kind of tat:

Anyway, traditionally the tattoo means that you're a killer. And so, while walking down the streets of the Bronx today, I had a very large man with not one, but TWO teardrop tattoos, ask me to bum a cigarette. Reflexively, I said no, and kept walking.

As I walked down the street away from him, I realized that I had just denied a cigarette to a man that may have killed two people (not one, but TWO). I quickly looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was following me, but he seemed to have taken it in stride. That's a good break.



This is a short little note about a cool little place.

Walking around the Lower East Side the other day, I stumbled upon a store that sold lamps. Tons and tons and tons of lamps. They had old lamps and new lamps, houselamps and industrial lamps, books on lamps and catalogs on lamps. The place was tiny, but filled with nooks and crannies and seemed never to end. And everywhere I looked, there were lamps!

It was a fascinating place, the kind of place that you'd expect to find a crotchety (yet wise) old man, the kind that is constantly losing his glasses and giving all sorts of awesome sagely advice. It was also the kind of place that you'd expect to find ancient dusty tomes filled with magic spells.

Unfortunately, my friend was waiting for me outside (I think she was scared), and so I had neither time to meet the Yoda figure that surely worked there nor to learn any magic. I guess that's for next time...

Here are some photos of the place:


This evening I was reading the New York Times while waiting for the L train at Union Square. I stumbled upon this short article, and was so amused that I sort of chuckled out loud. The cute girl standing next to me looked over at me, curious and friendly.

I gestured at the newspaper, making sure that she didn't think that I was just some crazy guy. She smiled, and I took the chance to talk to her. I approached her and showed her the article, reading out the funny parts. She laughed and I chuckled again. Then we took the train, I got shy, and I didn't talk to her at all.

Anyway, I like this Mayor's style. Those Brazilians really know how to make a point.

12 December 2005

Conversational Snippets

Author's Note: This is the conversation as best I can remember it. I overheard this today, around 4:30 pm on East Fordham Rd. in the Bronx. Funspot is an establishment located in the same area. I'm assuming that it's an arcade of sorts.


Girl A: "Look at that place Funspot. I went there on my aunt's funeral."

Girl B: "On your aunt's funeral? She's dead and you're having fun at Funspot?"

Girl C: "Yeah, whaddya mean?"

Girl A: "That's the thing--I don't think she's really dead."

Girl B: "Whaddya mean? Not really dead!?"

Girl A: Yeah, I think that they mistaked the body or something...


Huh? I'm not sure that I have any clue what they were talking about, but it's certainly weird. Is this some weird girl obsessed with conspiracy theories and the like, convinced that her aunt is off living it up on some Carribbean island? Or is there a really messed up story behind this? Was the body horribly mutilated?

I should have stuck around and listened in on a bit more, but it was cold and the walk to the subway is sort of long....But maybe it's better to keep this a mystery.

One more thing: A quick plug on the Bond "Products" that you can find at www.theworldofbond.com --
Here's a quote from a very satisfied recipient of one of the t-shirts.

This one:

"just wanted to let you know the t-shirt arrived... I'm not sure if I should wear it or frame it."

(real quote)

Have a good day!

08 December 2005

Holy Water and a Close Shave


Every day I walk down Bedford Avenue on my way back from the subway station. I'm always dumbfounded by this poster I see that reads "Kaballah Energy Drink." Apparently this is yet another in a long line of energy drinks, riding on the coattails of such beverages as Red Bull, etc. Now, for those not so well versed in Jewish mysticism (which, in the age of Madonna, is probably impossible), Kabbalah is:

"a doctrine of esoteric knowledge concerning God, God's creation of the universe and the laws of nature, and the path by which adult religious Jews can learn these secrets. . .Kabbalah teaches that every Hebrew letter, word, number, and accent of the Hebrew Bible contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for ascertaining these meanings."

And so, imagine my surprise to see this advertisement. At first, I'm thinking that perhaps this is a joke. This is, after all, Brooklyn, and it seems that tongue-in-cheek comments on Judaism (by Jews) are the norm in this neighborhood. Take, for example, this sign that one sees upon leaving Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge:

After months of passing this Kaballah sign in a bodega window, I finally decided to go in and see if the stuff actually exists. And guess what? It does. I bought myself a can, although I have yet to try it, so I can't give any indication of how the stuff tastes. It must be good, though, since it's infused with "kaballah water." What Kabbalah Water is, I have yet to understand. Perhaps I'll have to taste the stuff first. Maybe I'll be enlightened...(better than growing wussy wings)

What I can't stop but think is: What's next? I mean, we've got Rap Snacks, we've got the Kaballah Energy Drink. Perhaps we'll see this in stores next:


I've been really into neighborhood barbers lately. After months and months of refusing to cut my hair (I looked like a homeless vet), I finally got a haircut about a month ago in Little Italy (in the Bronx). The experience was so interesting and fun that I've decided to keep on repeating it--hopefully changing barbers each time.

This time, I hit a neighborhood joint run by Dominicans. I've always been amazed by Dominican haircuts. What's incredible is that, even after my suburban eyes figure that a haircut is long done, these guys seem to keep working for at least another half-hour. They do all sorts of things that to me seem confusing and fascinating. They use weird roller brushes and straight razors and a whole bunch of other equipment that completely confounds me.

Usually when I'm confronted with any options that involve weird tools, I bow out, preferring to stay within my boundaries. This time, however, I chose to give my hair (what's left of it) up to fate and let the barber decide. And strike me down if this man did not pull out all sorts of razors and implements of destruction and "sharpen up the borders" and whanot. And, surprisingly enough, I love it! It's the greatest head shaving I've ever had--clean and shaped and just perfect...

The only sad thing about the whole thing is that nobody seems to tell a difference. Nobody can even tell that I got a haircut, let alone recognize the cut for the perfection that it emobodies. This man worked like a master on my head, and nobody even notices! What a bunch of sad crap...

And so I leave some photos here to show off my straight lined cut. Maybe nobody can tell--but when I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I like my sharp lines, I like my razor sharp edges, I like my newly cleaned cheeks....And that's all that counts...

06 December 2005

Subway Violinists

Subway performers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles and levels of quality. Some are wonderful, glorious performers. Others, quite obviously, are terrible.

At 6:50 in the morning, heading to work, awaiting what will surely be a packed subway car, a bad performer can be the bane of my existence. Only one coffee into the day, to listen to some trumpet player howl away over an insipid, previously recorded background track can be a rough experience.

On the other hand, there are certain performers that can literally turn my bad mood around, wipe a frown off my face, and leave me smiling and laughing as I enter a subway car. I particularly enjoy a musician that plays the musical saw (usually at Union Square), as well as the woman that plays a small (we're talking tiny here) keyboard and sings along with a voice that just begs to be heard at the Metropolitan Opera (I generally see her either at the Bedford Stop or at Union Square). My favorite musicians, however, are a strange pair that I've only seen at the Bedford Stop (on the L train).

This pair is comprised, oddly, of two people. They are both middle-aged men, one a violinist and one a guitarist (sometimes vocalist). They are playful musicians, occasionally waltzing out as they play, approaching listeners to stare at them, sort of dancing and giggling before them. The music they play is great too--well polished but improvised, sort of a strange mix between Caribbean rhythms and Eastern European solos....
Which brings me to what truly fascinates me about this musical duo:

The guitarist is a Latin American guy, short and stout. The violinist is an Eastern European, Russian perhaps. I've barely spoken with the Russian guy, but the other guy (Dominican maybe?) doesn't seem to speak any English at all. (I know this because I once translated a conversation between him and another musician). So, what I wonder about these guys is: How did they meet? How do they talk? When and where do they practice?

Isn't it strange to think about these two guys, a Russian guy and a Latin guy, presumably unable to communicate with each other, that somehow find each other and end up playing underground in New York City? I guess that these things happen every day, but every time I get a little sick of living in the city, of breathing in pollution (see this article--apparently there are schools in NYC where up to 20% of students have inhalers for asthma), being pummeled by noise, jockeyed around in subways, I realize that there are few places in the world where friendships like this exist. There's something really great about that.

Anyway, I ran across the violinist today--here a picture of him (he seemed to really enjoy posing, although I'm not sure that this picture proves that at all):

05 December 2005


Strange urban-themed product I found in my new roommate's cupboard. I haven't had the chance to eat any (they're being saved for posterity), but it's almost better just to see the full bag staring me in the face all the time.


04 December 2005

Home again...

Back in Brooklyn, after a too long journey. Funny--I've come to realize that even after years of traveling, many road trips, etc, I absolutely suck at driving. I don't mean just the actual driving--to anyone who's ever been in the car with me, this is apparently a foregone conclusion. What surprised me, however, is the realization that all the planning necessary for a succesful, fast trip is somehow impossible for me.

Take for instance, the following: I'm moving along 95 at a fast clip, enjoying my pace. Suddenly, I've really got to urinate, so I stop. I take note of the quantity of gas that remains in the tank--a little over a quarter tank. I'll wait, I figure, and fill up a bit later--I don't feel like stopping for long. Of course, I soon learn, a quarter tank isn't that much gas. And so, within 20 minutes or so, I've got to stop for gas, which involves leaving the highway (for quite a bit--one of those bullshit, supposedly conveniently close gas stations that turns out to be something like 4 miles off the highway). I pull off, get gas, pull right back on...GOING SOUTH!!! I'm heading back to Baltimore after I've just passed through the damned place! What a loser. So finally, I'm driving fast again, full tank of gas, and I get really, really, really sleepy. I'm having visions of driving into oncoming traffic, slowing down a bit, figuring that I'll be less dead at 60 mph than at 75. So, once again, I pull off the road for a coffee. I run in and run out, get back in my car, and get driving again. Now, fully caffeinated, I'm once again pushing 80, enjoying the feeling of eating the asphalt that remains between me and home. And now the coffee runs straight through me! It's like I'm drinking this delicious milky, hot beverage, and I'm enjoying it so much that in my excitement I forget to let it hit my stomach and instead choose to bypass all organs and tubes and stops along the way and deposit the stuff right in my bladder.

And so now, I'm nearly peeing in my pants, my bladder is sore to the touch, I'm bloated and uncomfortable. I pull off, pee, grab a bite to eat, and hit the road again. Moving again, I'm starting to get sleepy....

The cycle repeats itself too many times to recount on these pages. Needless to say, the drive was long and slow and a bit silly. I did however, get good NPR coverage, and I got to hear most of Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, which was fantastic as usual. I also stopped (on one of the many pee/eat/gas extravanganzas) at Maryland House, which is probably the best rest stop (I'm not sure why I love it so much) on the whole trip.

So, all in all, the trip home wasn't too bad. The thing is that trips home, well, they're all a bit melancholy, ambiguously emotional and all that. And so, I guess having to stop a lot for coffee and pee and eat and gas up isn't all that bad in the scheme of things. At least I got to hear some good radio.

03 December 2005

C-Ville Part Deux

Charlottesville is sort of weird.

I like the place, but some weird stuff goes down here. Like take yesterday, for instance. I went with Michelle to a work party. The theme, honest to God, was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and all attendees were invited to dress up as their favorite kind of candy (or to somehow fall into the candy theme). It's not like she works in a candy store, either. She works in a group home for troubled kids. There was a lady dressed like cotton candy (see below), a guy that was meant to be an M&M, a woman dressed like Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp style, not original), some guy (her boss) was King Candy (apparently from the Candyland game). I was wearing brown, so I claimed to be a tootsie roll just to win some free candy.

The people there were all very nice. Just weird.

A few other strange things...Nothing all that weird, just things I see along the way. The photos are below. Now, again, none of these things are all that weird, but rather images that just beg for a story to be told that describes their provenance. Like, for instance, the photo below that contains a pumpkin and a Christmas tree stand. Here's what I'd like to know:

--Why is the pumpkin so fresh and new looking?
--Why hasn't it spoiled at all since Halloween (presumably when it was purchased)?
--Why have these people had the pumpkin so long?
--Why choose to throw it away today?
--Why are they also throwing away a Christmas tree stand? And why now? (isn't it weird that it would have become useless since last Christmas?)

I guess that it's not that weird, but it just struck me....One of those everyday things that I'd just like to know the story behind.

The other thing begs fewer questions, but probably has some sort of drunken story behind it. Why a cupcake atop a small pillar? Who put it there? Was the cupcake that bad?

That's all for now. Tomorrow I'm on the road again, heading back Jersey way.

Be well.

02 December 2005

Chilling with TJ

I've made it to Charlottesville, VA...Home of the University of Virginia (designed by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States). Even though the University of Virginia denied my acceptance into the University (many years ago), I've always loved this town and the school, and I love the chance to come down here.

Last night Michelle and I headed out to dinner at a place called Mas. The food was great (Spanish tapas), the atmosphere was pleasant, and the waitstaff was super friendly (I was convinced the waitress wanted Michelle. She was convinced that the waitress wanted me). I have only two problems with the place--their T-shirts and the restaurant's name. Now, the place is called Mas, as I said. That can mean only two possible things:

a. The want to be known as "but" -- the meaning of the word mas.

b. They meant to be convey the idea of "more" (mas with an accent over the A) and failed to write the accent.

I tend to believe option number two, which bothers me to no end. I mean, if you're going to start a restaurant that serves Spanish food and has a Spanish name, can't you at least spell it correctly? This is like going to Spain and checking out a restaurant called "Grete food" or "Moor" or "Hambuergur Heavan." Maybe I'm being overly-critical.

The only other problem I had with the place was the fact that the back of the staff's t-shirts were emblazoned with completely nonsensical quotations. Like this one guy's shirt said "Definitely more cow bell." When I asked him to explain the quote, he told me that it came from a Will Farrell sketch on an episode of Saturday Night Live dealing with the song "Don't Fear the Reaper." Connection the restaurant theme? None at all.

Nonetheless, I was able to overlook these obviously glaring problems in light of the fact that the chorizo was delicious, the manchego cheese was pretty good, and the dates wrapped in bacon were divine. (Don't get me started on the imposter that they tried to squeeze on the menu with the name of Serrano Ham. What they gave us was most definitely NOT cured, delicious, salted, wonderful Serrano Ham from the sierras of Spain.) Still, all in all, I give the place two pretty enthusiastic thumbs up.

Have a great day.

01 December 2005


On Tuesday night I left NYC and headed to Jersey to take my Dad's car (I have no car). I had the luck to join my brother and some of his friends (also friends of mine from long, long ago with whom I've recently reconnected, thanks to my bro) in their Tuesday night Montclair, NJ bar tradition. We all enjoyed some brews, PJ and I headed home, and PJ made me one of his famous grilled cheese sandwiches (they deserve the fame).
I'm headed down to Charlottesville, Virginia to see my friend Michelle. I decided to make another stop along the way in Mechanicsburg, Virginia, where I also have some old friends. My one buddy Tico has been away for nearly four years in the Dominican Republic, where he was working with the Peace Corps, so it has been ages since we've seen each other.
Anyway, nothing much more to say. It's nice to be on the road, nice to be seeing friends, nice to know that I'm not working...
More soon.