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Thoughts Upon Leaving Hong Kong

Monday, October 31, 2005
My first thought is this:

How did I get here ridiculously early (almost 4+ hours) and this dude is telling me that not only can I not PAY for an upgrade to business class, but that only middle seats are available. You heard me, MIDDLE SEATS! For 14 frickin hours! This is absurd. This is torture. This will not be tolerated, unless I have no option, which I don't, so I'll eat some more noodles.

Secondly:

I've consumed more sodium in the last 2 1/2 days than I will for the rest of my life.

Thirdly:

Now that everything is coming to a close, I find myself having hilariously deep moments such as this... I'll be sitting drinking my "pepsi light" and eating my chili beef noodles and suddenly come upon the revelation... "yes, ah yes, the two things that are vital FOR ME before becoming a parent are Patience and Perspective. I have all the other qualities, but those two I need to develop..."
I mean seriously, that's awesome that I'm realizing that, but this sodium and the depression of spending 14 hours wedged between a chinese guy and an indian guy are making me a little nuts.

Lastly:

I cannot stand other people. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm just tired of travelling and ready to be home. But never before have I realized how well mannered Americans are. Chinese toss massive, I MEAN MASSIVE lugies constantly, Europeans talk too much and are just too socially uninhibited (in a bad way), Indian people smell really really awful, Asian people are always behaving as if on the floor of a stock market and spend too much time touching me and not acknowledging it. (In lines, in subways, in crowds, when it's just me standing at the atm, then suddenly SHIZAM! Asian man creeping over my shoulder, rubbing against me. I get it asian man, you are behind me, I'm aware, very aware. Every time I yawn, I cover my mouth, like a decent person, yet due to the lack of manners elsewhere, I feel as though I'm some dilitant.

Lastly, Lastly:

I like being the only American. When other Americans, or worse... Canadians, show up on my turf (aka anywhere I may be visiting at the time that is outside the US), I get territorial and offended that they are intruding upon this uncharted region that I am blessing with my authentic and interesting American ways. Besides, the last American I saw had a wierd bierd and when we let them in on our beach volleyball spent the entire time screaming at his girlfriend "SET IT CAITLIN! YES! NICE SPIKE! RIGHT ON! THAT'S YOU!"

Next you hear from me, I'll be on American soil, if I'm not jailed for freaking out on the plane.

P.S. Last night, I shared a dorm with a young girl and a guy, they had met earlier in the day and decided to go get beers. I said to go without me cause I was spent and was just gonna crash out. To aid this, I took a sleeping pill. In the middle of the night I had some seriously steamy dreams, then awoke to hear some whispering. I thought it was like 5am, but who knows, perhaps it twas not. Anyhoo, when I got up in the morning to shower, they were in seperate beds, but the girl was most definately das nuda and exposing a singular breast unknown to her sleeping self.
(for some reason, I'm going to refer to myself in the third person in the next sentence, it will never happen again, ever.) Keegan thinks his room mates did the nasty while he was sleeping.

The Weather Man: Verbinski's Flawed Masterpiece

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I’ve thought long and hard before saying what I’m about to say. I’ve searched my memory for something to disprove it, but I can’t think of anything. Here it is: The Weather Man, the new film directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Steve Conrad, is the most relentlessly pessimistic mainstream American film that I have ever seen. I don’t simply mean that it’s depressing. There’s plenty of depressing films. There’s plenty of sad films. There’s a lot of films where a single tragedy or series of tragic events leads to a painful downfall. That’s not the case here. The Weather Man seems to be telling us that over time you become a shell of the person you once were and a pathetic, ever decreasing fraction of the person you one day hoped to be. You will squander potential and become incapable of giving meaningful love to anyone you care about. This doesn’t happen as a result of some huge disaster or tragic mistake, no, this happens as a result of hundreds of minuscule failures every day. As you might imagine, this is excruciating to watch. But that's far from all The Weather Man has to offer. In creating one of bleakest portraits of contemporary American life you will ever see, Gore Verbinski also creates a film that is shockingly humane, funny, and beautiful.

Nicolas Cage, who I don’t always like, gives a fantastic performance as David Spritz, a Chicago TV weather man with no degree in meteorology. The thing that makes him great in The Weather Man is that he consistently plays the part in earnest. There’s plenty of opportunities to ham it up or play it for laughs, especially because David acts like such an asshole so much of the time, but Cage never falls into those traps. One feels at every turn, no matter how disgraceful his behavior, that he’s just a guy trying to do what seems right to him in that moment. At one point he drops his daughter off at his ex-wife’s house. When his ex-wife, played with terrific subtlety by Hope Davis, remains outside for a moment he suddenly decides to throw a snowball at her, which hits her in the face and cracks the lens of her glasses. Rather than playing it like it’s funny, which it is, Cage seems like he’s making a sincere attempt to connect with his former wife in any way he can.

In concert with the film’s persistent negativity is a sense of humor. There is something hysterically spot-on about Cage’s obnoxious weather man catch phrases, particularly the “Spritz Nipper”, which indicates the coldest day in his extended forecast. Also, random people on the street throw stuff at him in retaliation, he supposes, for his irritating TV persona. For some reason this never gets old. At one point, after getting hit with a McDonald’s hot apple pie, he muses, “They’re not kidding, it really was hot.”

I wish with great passion that this film was truly great, but unfortunately it’s just inches short. Nine out of ten times Verbinski hits the mark. From the very first shot he deftly creates a world of an ice bound Chicago during the winter months. His most impressive feat though is managing to craft a film that is in some ways highly stylized, yet instinctually feels like the human experience. He has a wonderful and surprising sense of composition. One finds the characters in disconcertingly angular frames with vast expanses of empty space above their heads. In tandem with this he uses a fantastically chilly color scheme throughout. He also triumphs in his insistently measured pacing. In contrast with such a harsh statement about life, the pacing serves to lend the film a strange gentleness that allows for us to feel the characters are truly human. The pacing is absolutely vital and absolutely brave in a Hollywood film. Along with the performances, it makes one feel that the characters are being not being tortured out of gleeful spite on the part of the filmmakers, but out of profound empathy and understanding of our shared human weaknesses.

Verbinski’s trouble comes in just a few isolated areas; nevertheless they are important and significantly damage the film as a whole. The ugliest problem is a woefully ill-advised quasi dream sequence in which Nicholas Cage sees himself happy and well adjusted as the grand marshal of a parade. The whole thing is presented as if his hotel room window is like a TV on which he is seeing himself. It introduces us to no useful ideas and is an immensely distracting stylistic departure. I’m really puzzled by its inclusion in a movie that on the whole demonstrates a lot of restraint. Another issue is the handling of Cage’s son, who gets himself involved in a weird molestation situation with his drug counselor. This subplot is painted in the broadest of strokes, rather than with the painstaking specificity one finds elsewhere. Every time we return to the plot with the son the film begins to feel bogged down and uncharacteristically unsure of itself. Some of the blame for this surely must be shared with Steve Conrad, the mostly solid writer of the film. One wonders why Conrad and Verbinski shy away from the unbending frankness they are generally so willing to dole out. There are a few other troubling mistakes, the blame for which I have to rest on both of their shoulders. Most notably the film relies too heavily on voiceover. While some of it works very well and all of it is delivered with sincerity from Cage, there is at least twice as much as is necessary. Similarly, there are a couple flashbacks that work, but just as many that are unneeded. Also, the handling of Cage’s father, who is played with solemn dignity by Michael Caine, rings a little false. He is written as a noble and stalwart man devoid of any flaws not only in Cage’s mind, but apparently in real life as well. On the whole this actually works much better than it should, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a note missing.

The aforementioned issues aside, The Weather Man is a rare achievement and one of my favorite films of the year. In an industry where schlock and melodrama are passed off as great statements about us as humans The Weather Man is monumentally refreshing. I have nothing but respect for Verbinski and Conrad for having the nerve to make a film that on the one hand is crushingly negative, but on the other endlessly humane.

-Aaron

Message From The Underground

Currently, I'm writing you from the Central Subway Station in Hong Kong. I went to go check out the Mong Kok Ladie's Market this morning, but alas, it is not open until 4pm. Now I've made my way back and plan to check out a "people mover" (ya know, like in the airport) that stretches longer than any other "people mover" in the world. Appartently ever morning they make it go one way (into downtown), and in the afternoon the other (to the suburbs). This supposedly solves the congestion problems. This morning I got up and had some crap dim sum (I'm still looking for some really good dim sum) for breakfast. I then went and sat in Victoria Park and watched all the old people doing Tai Chi. There were also some awesome guys doing Kung Fu! "BOW TO YOUR SENSAI!" um..... I plan to go back into Kowloon before the Mong Kok market todat to a place called Kung Fu Corner, where, you guessed it, they do a ton of Kung Fu and us white people take photos and marvel. Today is my last official day of travelling. I get on a plane at 11:30 here tonight and arrive in LA at 8pm, the same night. Crazy! I get that day back that I lost on the way here. Anyhow, sad to be leaving Hong Kong, it's an incredible place and only fuels my interst in travelling througout asia and indonesia. Perhaps Thailand, Vietnam next year, or even more... TOKYO! Bring it. Alright. Good bye.

p.s. Get a load of this craziness. There is an airport express train that runs from central station, and I can check in, get a boarding pass and leave my heavy bags, at central. Then ride the train or do whatever for the day before going to the airport. That's like being able to check into your flight at Penn Station at 9am, then catching the train (express and fast mind you) at like 6pm get your flight. Pretty sweet eh?

A Long Day

It'd be tough to describe how exhausted I feel right now. Last night I went out and got osme noodles, then some pints with a scottish kid from glasgow. We watched the Tottenham Spurs beat Arsenal in the pub, then I had to head back for an early night to bed. The bed is perhaps the hardest, most uncomfortable thing I've ever felt. I got up at 6:30 because of it and layed in bed finishing my second Lance Armstrong book, "Every Second Counts". I've really loved both his books and read them both in two days time. So, this morning I got up, went and got a coffee at starbucks (oh yeah they've got them here), then went and had a breakfast of "Mushroom Congee", which is basically like noodles with mushrooms, so basically the same meal for breakfast dinner and lunch. I then headed out to what I thought was Kowloon. In case you don't know, Hong Kong is a country unto itself now, and consists of a mainland (containing Kowloon), Hong Kong Island, and I think... Lantau Island (where the airport is). So Nik & Jez had spoken highly of Kowloon and the history museum. I ended up not so much in Kowlood, and more like the industrial district outside of Kowloon. I should have known not to get off at the KOWLOON station. Anyhow, I proceeded to get lost for almost 3 hours looking for "Glenville Road", until I finally bought a map (they are really ahrd to find apparently), and found GRANVILLE ROAD (stupid me) and made my way there. Although Nik & Jez said that this is where the shopping was, I found it to be unsatisfactory in the shopping department and knew I had better in Causeway Bay (part of HK Island, where I'm staying, an amazing district). SO, I went to the museum, which was good, not incredible, being from New York, I'm spoiled, but it was still very very interesting and a good use of time. I then made my way down to the water front and checked out lots of stores and saw the ferries and the harbour, before purchasing the new Cardigans album, which I'm sure is not out in the states. (Even if it was, it'd be impossibly expensive or hard to find.) I then came back and went into Hong Kong Park and made my way to the Peak Tram, which takes you up a near verticle mountain face in a cute (and really scary) little trolley, so you can see the incredible vieew of the entirety of Hong Kong from the top of the sorrounding mountains. This was wonderful, and I celebrated that fact with ice cream. I then came back down and realized I was dying, noodles and an abundance of walking and just the overall stress of being in Hong Kong was already really wearing me out. But alas, shopping. I found my way back to Causeway Bay and went into Causeway Plaza. The best way to describe this palce is like Times Square, but then you go in some small doorway and it's like 4 stories of wierd tiny hallways with tiny tiny shops that consist of like 2 racks of clothes or whatever, and there are billions of people. It's like being in a funhouse for midget asian people with great clothes and great prices. I got something like 3-4 jackets, some jeans, a t shirt and some other stuff for what amounted to $250 american dollars. Unbelievable. In NY or LA or Portland it would have cost almost 500 bucks, easy. And it's all one of a kind and really original and cool. Very cool. I then brought my loot back to the hostel and made my way out for some dinner. I sat down at a noodle spot (surprise surprise, seriously, it's all they have here) and got some deep fried chiekn noodles with two Kirin Ichibans (beer). There were some really interesting high school kids (i guess) next to me and it was interesting to watch them interact. But then something wierd happened. I asked my waiter for the check, then moments later this younger waitress girl comes over to give it to me, she looks really upset. She's just standing there holding it. I take it and get my money from my pocket, then she just really subtely starts crying. No noise, just tears, then she kind of hides her face. It was really heartbreaking. I gave her my 100 to break ($710 HKD = $100 approx) and when she came back she was still teary-eyed and upset. I gave her $30 HKD and she looked confused. The girls next to me motioned for her to take it. (They don't tip here). Maybe it was really crass to give her money, and not that much when you do the math (i didn't at the time), but I just really felt for this girl and her face was so sweet and sad. The girls next to me were discussing it, saying under their breath ("give me money"). Jokingly, I was like, "you cry, I give you money"). They then all faked crying. It was kind of funny. Anyhow, I left, and all the girls were cute and said "BYYYYEEEEE!". I walked home, bought a duffel bag for my new clothes on the way, and now I'm back. Not sure about my plans for tomorrow.

holy pants on fire, we're in hong kong people

Saturday, October 29, 2005
this place is nuts. so nuts that i have not the time nor the mental capacity to use capitals. so deal. um, got off the plane, and immediately had to commence dealing with huge crowds, tons of walking, wild asian people after sitting and not getting blood to all pieces of my lower extremities for 12 hours. yikes. worked my way through customs and figured out a train pass to get me around. got my backpack, very happy to not have the surfboard anymore, and got on the air express. a bunch of beeping, then the moving commences. all of a sudden... bam, you are shot out of a cannon, huge rolling green hills and mist and huge buildings and tons of motion, then more tunnels, then BAM, you are freaking out, trying to take all of it in, it's industrial and crazy, like jersey but clean and efficient, darkness, BAM, huge apartment buildings, amazing water parks, strange things stretching into the hills, darkness, you get off at central, make your way around, huge throngs of people everywhere, you get to your stop, so many exits you have to look for the specific one, "e". You find it, directions say take a left out the door, but before you can do that, three crass (parents beware) come to mind. "holy fucking shit". there are people everywhere. it's like being in the middle of a battlefield, but the bombs are flashing signs and the bullets whizzing past are people. total insanity. like new york times one thousand. anyways, you make your way down a street, find some crazy address system that you soon decode and find a small glass door which matches your itinerary. you spend 5-10 minutes trying to figure out the intercom box, people exit, you try to talk to them, they speak mandarin. finally, you get in, the door man directs you to a cramped 3rd floor where you drop off your shit, take a breath and try and use the internet. this is a dingy apartment complex, i'm in some room on a cot, but it's safe, it's home for two nights, then the states again. total madness. time to go out and enjoy hong kong.

A Follow Up

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Alright, alright, I'm not moving to China. For now....
That is the really tough part of all this travelling. It sounds cheesy or stupid, but each step into a direction you haven't travelled, you see about twenty more paths that are available to you. I've always had trouble really making the most of the path I'm on BEFORE hopping to the next.
So that's been my largest lesson, learning how to give myself some time to let things work. Give LA 6 months before freaking out and going back to New York, giving myself a year before I up and go to China for 6 months, so on and so forth.
The trip is coming to it's tail end, I've really had a wonderful time here, and I think that it's helped put plenty into perspective. It's also helped me realize what a special time I had in New York, sorrounded with really indredible people, whether it was at work with Mark and the Twins and James and Jen and Tamara, or at home with my really close friends Aaron and Marc and Andre. It's also made me miss Tucker a good bunch. You heard me buddy, I miss ya. I was thinking about when we first moved into our apartment, and how we met at such similar times in our lives, it was a really great time living with him. I also was really happy about getting to spend my last month with Aaron and Marc, remembered going to MIA. I was really happy about my going away party, debauchery and all, and meeting AShely (the ballerina) and Jen. It all turned out to be such a lucky thing, and it's hard not to sit here and be like... shit, I wanna go back to New York, RIGHT NOW. But then, just like the China thing... I let it simmer a bit, and realize that, first of all, you new yorkers are headed for winter (very dark, very depressing), and I have an equally amazing group of people waiting in Los Angeles. So, worse case scenario is, I get to LA, hang out with amazing people till June, then I'm back being obnoxious and playing Civilization with Aaron in New York. We'll see, either way, the big lesson for me is figuring out how to really enjoy each thing, let it be it's own isolated experience, without always looking onto the next thing.

China

Saturday, October 22, 2005
So I'm considering going to China. Perhaps. I guess they are really desperate for Westerners to come and teach English. You don't even have to speak Mandarin, you just speak with them, and use associations or whatever to help them get a grasp of english. Also, the supply you with the visa, accomodation and a salary and you can do it for as little or as long as you see fit. It's really tempting and my friends Nik & Jez will be doing it as well. It's gonna be tough to figure out how to get to LA, especially with a car payment, and then leave to go to China. I've got a lot of thinking to do, but the possibility of China seems very exciting. It seems like everytime you make a decision to go in one direction, you are presented another. Like when I was gonna move to North Carolina from SUNY PURCHASE, but then had to choose to go to Portland, or from Portland back to New York, and now whether to go to LA and make the China thing work, or to not go to LA at all or... arg... it's all very stressful. Especially when the car gets involved. But now I have Nik & Jez driving my "car" down to LA, and I've commited to living at 2310, and heck, I'd like to live at 2310, but then China... China.... dang it... it's frustrating. Then there is the possibility of my new record, and if it turns into something, that could be an entirely different direction. I'm sure this is a situation that you look back on fondly, but to be honest, to have to balance these different avenues is really a pain in my ass and it's tough to make it not ruin the present situation (fiji). What to do.... what to do....

This Is What I Had Hoped For...

Friday, October 21, 2005
It's tough to keep up here because the internet is slower than molasses, there is no phone, and well shit.... i'm too busy surfing, playing volleyball, trekking to water falls, drinking kava, reading the davinci code and applying sunscreens while waiting for meals. Either way, this place is truly wonderful and paradise. There is a reef break that is within paddling distance from the beach here and I usually wake up and go there first, then come back and have a late "brekky". I then hang out in the hammock maybe, or today, I did a 3 hour trek into the jungle to swim in a waterfall. Not too bad right? The volleyball gets pretty ridiculous and competitive around here and today we have a England vs. The Rest Of The World match planned. Things should get heated. "SPIKE IT! YOU GOTTA SPIKE THAT SHIT! DAMN IT! GET IN THE ZONE! EYES ON THE PRIZE!" A couple nights I was lured into a drinking game called "Fubar" by my friend John & Ruth (Tasmania), Carol & Kevin (Ireland) and Nik & Jez (UK). This game involves a bunch of cards on the table, you draw, and for each card there is some result, as in "new rule" where suddenly, no one can point, or refer to another by name, or must end every sentence with "'cause I'm an asshole". This leads me to a really important piece of advice, don't drink with the Irish or you'll spend a good amount of the night in the bushes. That was grimm. Yesterday I spent the whole day being hit by waves of total nausea. To fix this, obviously, I had a full body massage, as ya do. Um... then we had dinner, some kava, got real sleepy, couldn't feel our faces for a good while, then hit the sack, only to wake up, paddle out, do some surfing, have brekky, repeat the whole cycle again. Okay... that is all for now.

Paradise Lost... then found.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
So Fiji. I survived my 3 different flights, three different airlines, 3 different continents, 3 different countries and arrived in one piece (along with my board). I smiled real bag immediately stepping from the plane, it was night, it was warm and it felt amazing after the rainy spells in New Zealand and Australia. I got to baggage claim and hoped and prayed for my stuff to arrive... after a grueling 15 minutes, it did. I then went to the courtesy phone and called my resort for a ride. She told me to get a cab and they'd reimburse upon arrival (hmmm...), then she asked me to buy her two bottles of rum duty free (hmmmm....). Anyways, I made it to the hotel and it was more than charming. Very clean, the room was nice and the atmosphere was great, a pool even. I had a couple beers and got ready for bed. The next morning I checked out at 8am and took a taxi into down town Nadi, a total zoo, and got set up with a minibus(minivan) that would take me down to the village of Korivisilu, where I would go into the general store (a wood stand on the roadside) and call the resort truck to pick me up. At the city center, I left my bags in the van (very reluctantly) and went into the market to pick up food, it was real possible that this would be my last glimpse of anything even remotely near civilised. I got some oatmeal and pb & j supplies and got back to the minibus. We waited about an hour, just standing, waiting for more passengers to show up. Finally, we depart, me squished in the bitch in the front seat. I had to move my legs every time he changed gears. We slowly drove through town, then came full circle, back to the bus stop. We were just buying time, there were more people standing, they were shoved into the minivan, we were now totally almost 12. We begin our hour and a half trip, my lower extremities quicly became numb, the wierd indian fella next to me kept falling asleep and hitting his head on me each time he woke up. ANYWAYS, then we arrive in Korivisilu. There is the shack, I call, the car comes. We then head 5 kms down a road more archeaic than anything I've seen, drastic ups and downs, no pavement, 5 KILOMETERS. This was wild. I had a feeling this could be amazing, I was totally removed from everything. I finally arrive, and before I can even check in Nikki runs up to me and explains that the place is very very grim and just wait till I see what they are calling a "dorm". I go into the "dorm" and it's a bamboo shack, tipped to one side in some bad night of storminess and left that way forevor. There are mesquito nets hanging over each "cot" and a central table in the middle of the room. It looked like a picture of an old native american lodge from the turn of the century. It was a dark dark place. Also, they knew they had us stuck here, so it was 40 bucks a day for meals, no personal food allowed, all electricity went off at 10pm, all trips out to surf reefs cost 25 for local spots and 55 for world famous frigates. So... we decided we had to stay one evening, Nik and Jez had gotten a nice suite, so I crashed on a small extra bed, while paying for a "cot" in the dorm. We enjoyed it the best we could, reading shit novels and playing ping pong on the make shift table. SO. The next morning the surf dude wakes me up and says they are going to Frigates. I decline, 55 bucks is ridiculous just to get pounded by huge surf, I suck, it's a waste. Then I think, I'm only here once, to hell with it, I agree. BUT HEY, forget that, turns out that this resort is SO CHEAP, that you can only go if there are atleast 5 surfers on the boat (frigates is 25k out to see), we had 4. Amazing, so you can't even go, even though YOU CAN'T DETERMINE how many guest will be staying at any certain time. This place was hellish. So we take the boat out to a local spot called Pipe. The water was unbelievable, you could see straight to the bottom, the weather was stunning, the landscapes unbelievable. We arrive at this frightening reef break and everyone is remarking about how small it is, only 1 meter. Well how about this, it was frickin huge, I mean scary. And only 3-4 feet of water over reef. You get your ass handed to you by these monster of waves, breaking inside and out, all over. So I paddle out, I watch, I watch, I paddle in to my first wave... and for the first time of the entire trip, on my first wave in Fiji... I get up... I ride it a bit, too shocked to make any turns on my tiny advanced 6'9" board and I fall off, flat of course, and make sure my board isn't savaged on the reef. Unbelieavable, I was beside myself with joy. THEN OF COURSE, I proceeded to be torn lifeless by the rest of the set and spent the next 2 hours paddling out, being humiliated by huge waves, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, some snorkling, lovely, then repeat thrashings and so on. Either way, it was joy, and worth the price. Just crazy to think that they make atleast two trips a day, and you pay 50 fijian for each trip, then 40 a day for food, and atleast 80 for any accomdation that doesn't equate to a dank cave-like bungalow/shack. Anyhow, we got the crap out of there as soon as I returned from surfing and moved to a place about 20k up the road, where Nik & Jez had been before called "The Beachhouse". It's lovely, the dorms are great, the beach is great, there is plenty to do, and best of all... a small break that I can paddle out to. Lovely. Things looked really really bleak there for a moment, but as we pulled into the beach house, all was saved, we had hammocks, telephones, email... it was lovely.

Brisbane Isn't Awful

Sunday, October 16, 2005
So today I took some time to walk deeper into Brisbane and have a look. It's built around a series of rivers (or maybe just one, who knows) that run through the city, and they use it well. There is a cool river walk, a pretty bridge, and the architecture of the larger buildings is really nice. The center of the city is based around an outdoor mall-type situation with lots of shopping. The city is nice and looks nice at night, but is definately nothing to brag about. Either way, tomorrow I leave here bright and early (5am) for Fiji. But I get to do this via 3 different airlines, spanning three continents and a lot of pains in the butt. I have to check my surfboard and back pack for my brisbane to sydney flight, get it in sydney, transfer to the international terminal, check in, get my surfboard and backpack in auckland, go through customs, go back upstairs, check in, get my surfboard and backpack in fiji, then get the bus to my hostel. Needless to say, this has huge potential for sucking. Here's hoping it's not TOO painful. In Fiji, I'll be fairly isolated, since there is no phone card that really is worth the money to call from there. So I'll be relegated to internet, if they even have that. I'm excited. Also, I'll be meeting up with Nik and Jez and the ruckus will be brought full stop. Also, I've been meaning to tell everyone that there is a crazy bird here that people regard as regular as the pigeon or something, but has this huge, narrow foot long beak. Scary. Also, there is this black crow-like bird that's caw sounds something like a small 5 year old possesed by Satan. It is unnerving to say the least, especially when they are gather in a place and all making noise.

Sad News

Saturday, October 15, 2005
Jason Collier, the 28 year old former Georgia Tech center, who played for the Atlanta Hawks, died of a heart attack in his house. That is really, really sad. 28 people. You can read about it in the hawks blog.

In better Georgia Tech news, as I totally frickin predicted, Jarret Jack is gonna be a star, and prove to be better than Sebastian Telfair. Go check the article at OregonLive. And even better, Nash won't be able to totally take credit, cause he admitted, on draft night, when the trade was offered for that extra pick and Jarret Jack, he was like, uh... sure... Jarret Jack... sure. But little did he know he was drafting a fiesty, cagey, amazing shooter with tenacity and a strong dose of the ACC in him. He totally knows how to win. Go Jarret Jack.

P.S. I returned my rental car this morning in the pouring rain, then had to pay 15 bucks to get a cab back to the hostel. Last night I walked into my room and it was filled with like 10 english kids, all drinking. So I went with them to the sports bar around the corner and got a thorough explanation of Cricket and Rugby while watching Wigan beat Newcastle in the premiership. I love basketball, I love baseball, but Rugby is ridiculous. I mean, these people have lost their minds. And I think this english kid put it best (and it's kind of hilarious when you think about), that cricket is just a more "civilized" form of baseball. I'd argue that it's maybe for sissies. Rugby, on the other hand, is not. Today I will do laundry, buy a new book, prepare for my long trip to Fiji tomorrow.

Todd Has Everything Taken Care Of... Relax

So this morning I made my way to the bus stop to go to the car hire place. I get on, he says "2 dollars", I take the money out of my pocket, look at it, only a small brass piece, crap... He looks at my change, I look at him, I say "I guess I have to get some change... crap." I get off the bus. Eitherway, the driver was a douche and not very helpful, because as I realized as soon as I de-boarded the bus, in Australia the small brass are TWO DOLLARS, it's the opposite in New Zealand (big is two). Anyhow, I wait 15-20 minutes for the same jerkface to come back and pick me up, here's your two dollars asshat. I then go to my rental place, "Rent-A-Bomb". The first thing the dude says is "Drivers License", I'm like.... uh... yeah, listen... a rational person would have brought that, but nope, I left it in my dorm. He's a nice gentleman and understands the virtue of forgiveness, so he lets me take the car (what a dumb move really) and swear I'll be back. They pull a 1980-something Ford "Falcon" from the back and pop the hood, the mechanic checks it in 10 seconds flat, cigarette hanging from his mouth, the other guy tosses some trash from the drivers seat into a bin. She's ready for ya! I get in, the ashtray is filled with cigarette butts... I mean... of course it is... obviously... like most rental cars. Anyways, I go to BUNK (my hostel), grab my stuff and head back to the rental place, again proving my mind boggling skill to instantly know my way around foreign places like nobody's biz. I give him my id, he takes down the details. I'm off. I quickly name my Ford Falcon "Todd" and me and Todd head off to reap hell upon the world in front of us. We head about an hour to "Surfer's Paradise". The swell is next to nothing, it is obvious already that there will be no surfing today. This is a road trip, not a surfing road trip. Perhaps it worked out better in the end, I got to cover more ground that if I had surfed. I then head down the gold coast highway to Palm Beach, Miami- wait a second... all the names sound like florida, and ya know what!? They looked like Florida, or Boca Raton, or some crappy beach town. Pretty basic really, I'm sure it's a totally different story when there is world class surfing breaking for miles, but today was not the day, and to be honest, the entire trip... well the towns were a bit shabby. Either way, I then hit Coolangata, a nice beach, very North Carolina-like. There I had a big and expensive breakfast at the beach and enjoyed the view and a strong coffee. Here they only have "Long Blacks", not drip coffee. Basically a "Long Black" is an Americano (espresso and water) doubled. So all the coffee, or Americanos more specifically, put you on your booty. I then made my way a bit further to "Snappers Rock" and "Point Dangerous". Now here there was some surf, slight slight surf, maybe 1 foot to 2 foot at moments. There was some clothing company desperately trying to put on a comp, and everyone knew it was a bit absurd. I thought, hey why not, I'll hop in the water. That was when I was very glad that it was a poor surf day, cause I forgot to borrow a screwdriver (as a had at all the cities before) from the backpackers and attach my fins. A surfboard with no fins is pretty much useless. Anyhow. I decided to drive to Byron Bay, another hour south, where you can view the eastern most point of Australia, emphasized by a lighthouse (Yesssssssssssss). The terrain that followed looked much like the stretch coming from the beaches in Oregon, just before you hit Hillsboro. Lots of rolling green hills and farmland. Different trees pretty much. Oh, and if you were wondering, I'm totally amazing at driving on the wrong side of the car, AND the road. I invented it apparently. Only once did I turn into the wrong lane, scaring the oncoming person shitless. Beyond that, I was a champ, eating gummy worms, drinking soda, trying to fix the broken stereo, all left handed. High five me when you see me next. I was a natural. Anyhow, Byron Bay is very cool, very cute, a great little town. Very Sisters-like, but imagine a beach theme instead of rodeo theme. Cute stores, canon beach-like, but classier. The beach was pretty and the girls were cute and there were a lot fo people my age watching the national Australia cricket game. Cricket = I have no idea what it is, how it's played, any of it. It's a mystery to me. I then made my way all the way back, and Todd continued to get a whopping mileage of somethign like 10 kilometers to the liter, therefore making me spend more than I had spent on the actual hire of the car, on gas ($60). Ridiculous. I finally made it back to BUNK, parked our loyal Todd, gave him a pat, and had a pint of Stella along with my ramen noodles (50c). Now I write to you loving people. Tomorrow, a day of emptiness in the stinky city that is Brisbane. Here's hoping we find some silver lining to this grey cloud of a city. Either way, I will not complain, in two days I'll be tanning with tons of naked chicks, covered in cash and booze in Fiji. That was all lies, except for the Fiji part.

Apocalypse Last Night

Thursday, October 13, 2005
So ya know the beginning of Apocalypse Now, when Martin Sheen is all cooky and loosing his shit? Yeah, last night kinda felt like that. Checked the bank account, way less money than I anticipated seeing in there. I had to lay out the budget for my trip and I'm just not sure it's feasable. That really got me good and stressed. Then I went up to the dorm, set the alarm, tried to get to bed around 10, but then it began. The non-stop parade of each person, one by one, into the room, the light flipped on, tons of noise, tons of ridiculousness. It killed me, from 10pm to about 1am, I'd almost fall asleep, only to have one of the 10 other people in the room come in, just to get something from their bag, or to get ready for the shower, or for bed, or any of that, and each time it woke me up. I've always had trouble getting back to bed after being woken up, so this was especially obnoxious for me, especially cause I had to catch a plane at 6:30am. Anyways, I got so stressed about getting woken up, and I think the money situation really helped, that I had to get up and go for a walk twice, just to kind of breath and come back to try and sleep again. It was killing me. Anyways, I got up and caught my plane and made it to Brisbane where I was shafted again by the local transportation companies. They had me pay for a return ticket, only to find out that the return train doesn't run early enough to get me back to the airport for my 6am flight on monday morning, so that's 15 bucks down the toilet, and another 20 I'll have to spend on a special taxi. Arg. Anyways, I got to the hostel, and it's really beautiful. Brisbane, is a crap hole, as previously said by anyone I told I was coming here. BUT, I sat down at the travel desk and quickly decided to bypass my previous idea of going out to North Stradbroke Island to surf. It was a 2 1/2 hour trip, via 4 transfers and all public transport. Instead, I decided that debt is debt, lets get the credit card out, don't be stupid, but you're only in australia once, you need to enjoy this. I was letting the financial aspect really ruin my time thus far, especially last night and this morning. I rented a car for 56 bucks Australian, a steal really, and I'm gonna spend tomorrow driving (ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! YIKES!) down the gold coast, touring ALL the surf spots and beautiful beaches and scenery. That's so much better than the previous plan. And all for only 80 bucks australian after petrol. This may just turn out to be one of the more outstanding oppurtunities I've had while here. Ah how the world turns. (knock on wood) Now I'm gonna go scope the pool, and apparently the bar here (cause brisbane is such a heap) is like THE place in town, and will be rocking. I guess that's good news, again, don't think about the money, spend spend enjoy enjoy think later. Only bad news is, the girls here are very UN-Sydney-like. We're back to the snaggle-toothed, bad hair-having, witch-nosed red heads I had expected upon arrival. Eitherway, less distraction.

Today, Today

This morning I awoke, got myself some breakfast, enjoyed "7th Heaven" in the common room for the second day in a row (what a treat that crap-heap of a show is). I then checked the surf report (nothing much to speak of, weather just okay) and started to gather my stuff. I headed out to Bondi and made my way into the water, this time being strict with the sunscreen and wearing a hat anytime I wasn't surfing. I spent another 2 hours getting humbled by the sea, no matter how small the swell may have been, then had some lunch by the sea. What a beautiful place. It is really nice to be sitting on your board in the water, looking around at this incredible setting, this beautiful blue water and just kind of revel in it. I then hopped the bus and subway back to the hostel where I changed and headed back out to the area by the harbour bridge called "The rocks". This was once a very important of Sydney's harbor at the turn of last century, and now it holds a lot of cool old buildings, filled with Polo and Louis Vitton stores. Kind of retarded if you ask me, but a good excuse for a walk. I found Kali a little present and began the walk back to the hostel through Pitt St and the financial district, up through the fashion district and back home. Sydney is a very cool city. I know I've said it a lot, but I'd love to have some friends here and some residency, then it would be paradise. I then layed down and listened to X/O by Elliott Smith. I am so totally blown away by not only the songwriting, but the guitar playing, the piano playing and the overall production of this album. This is the album during which I saw him play about three times, once a very private show at Music Millenium on 23rd in Portland. It's this double realization I have, how incredible of an artist he was, and how it is such a horrifying loss that he's gone. Not in some cheesy way, but the sheer fact that he was perhaps one of the most skilled song writers Í've ever listened to and someone who really took the time to listen to what the Beatles were doing, and bring that into his own stuff. All of that on top of the fact that he was dealing with so much tangled up crap going on in his head is kind of amazing. It's like when you think of how the beatles did such amazing stuff just mucking about writing songs for "Magical Mystery Tour", and still, it's amazing. Well to think that he could find the clarity to create some of his music while dealing with the abyss of emotional problems he was constantly wrestling with seems equally astounding to me. Either way, Elliot Smith is amazing. Tonight I'll pack my stuff and get ready to leave for Brisbane bright and early in the morning.

Dogville vs. North Country Posters

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


So I'm sure this isn't new information to anybody, but the North Country poster is really fucking similar to the Dogville poster. I have posted them both here so you can compare. I don't understand. I can't imagine they figure on bringing in that HUGE audience who loved Dogville. I guess I'm left to think that they like the aesthetic of the Dogville posters and they figure nobody will notice or care if their poster is, in essence, identical. I'll bet if you asked them they would say that it's totally different, but, clearly, that's absurd. Having Charlize Theron looking straight ahead rather than to the side does not qualify as totally different. Nor does putting the title on the bottom instead of on the top. Anyway, what the fuck?

I Caught You A Delicious Bass

I just almost got hit by a bus cause I keep looking the wrong way when I cross the street. It's tough to get the hang of. Went and caught "Wedding Crashers" for something to do. That movie is sincerely amazing, I die each time I see it. It's quite the gem. Then had a panini and long black at the cafe in Town Hall Square. Tomorrow it's surfing and trip across the harbour bridge most likely ending in beer in the district referred to as "The Rocks".

I Have A Lover: Her Name Is "Natalie"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Today I got up freakishly early because, hey, other people in my room were up and strangely loud. So I messed about till the "Continental Breakfast"at the hostel at 8am. I went down, and was a bit thrown off by the lack of a place to pay and the copious amount of food. I wandered out, a bit confused, then turned my butt around as soon as I realized that I was in no position to be questioning free food. I ate heartily and checked the surf reports. Manly Beach had a 1 foot swell and it was raining. I decided to leave the surfboard behind. I headed, via subway, down to "Circular Quay"(pronounced key, and used in many cheesy business names like 'Quay To My Heart Jewelry'). This is where all the many ferries head out from. I hopped on my ferry and caught many great photos of not only the Opera House, but the Harbor Bridge as well. It may have been a rainy day, but the view was still stunning. A half hour later, I was in Manly. I made my way down the main drag, filled with surf shops and your pre-requisite "Billabong", "Rip Curl", and "Quicksilver" stores. I got to the beach and was relieved to see zero surf, just some small little things licking at the beach. I hadn't made any huge mistakes in leaving that bastard inconvenience of a surf board behind. The weather will be better tomorrow, and I'll head back to Bondi, this time with sunscreen, tomorrow. On my way back to the ferry, I spot a shoe store, I head in and notice their outstanding array of Asic "Tigers". The sales lady, yet another beautiful Aussie, asked me if I'm okay just looking. I say Ï'm just looking for this... they're called Çlarks'. She says "We've got Clarks". I say "But, yeah- I realize but- nobody has this one-" They totally had them. Genius. Perfect. God had briefly shown his light upon me and there they were. Amazing. I quickly purchased them, the "Natalie"in brown with a tan sole running up the front and back. Mission accomplished. I began talking with the girl, she had mentioned her family was from Brisbane and I mentioned I was going. She remarked as to what a boring crap hole it was, and told me about 30 places (maps and everything included) that were totally better and pretty much, both financially and tactically, out of my reach on this trip. That brings us to a pretty big reality about this trip: Australia is amazing, and requires a car, and more money, an open schedule, and time. I hope to come back very soon, but it goes without saying that I am missing out on massive amounts of beauty and character in so many different locations, but I simply don't have the time, or the money to change tickets to get to all these places. I'll do my best and not complain about what I get. But in the future, it'd be nice to be back. Now, I'm considering seeing a film. I almost made a gruesome mistake and saw "SHARKS 3D!" at the Imax (at the moment it seemed healthy to connfront fears head-on) but then I saw that it was 17 bucks Aussie Dollars, roughyl 12.50 American, and that did the deciding for me. Off to see something else, sans the IMAX, 3D and very real predators that eat surfers, especially bad ones.

Two Stories

First, I went to have a peaceful coffee at the corner, and instead was approached and spoken to for almost a half hour by some totally hopped up gigolo. He had some sob story about how he hooked up with Kate Blanchette at a club in Berlin, has pictures to prove it, and his life has never been the same. So he's been taking acting classes, hoping their paths will meet again, and wants my opinion as to whether or not he should pay a P.I. a grand to hunt her down, cause "how could she refuse." Yikes.

Then, walking back to the hostel, I walked through a huge mass of people my age, doing an acting exercise called "Repitition" in Sydney Square. It's based on the candid observation, like "you're nervous", then the other person has to repeat you "I'm nervous", until the behavior changes. This brought up a bunch of feelings for me. First off, I'm glad to see people doing this, a "Meisner Technique" instead of balling up and crying on the floor james dean-style. Secondly, It made me miss acting school and fear that I may have shut the door on my oppurtunities to pursue it by leaving New York. And three, it highlighted a feeling that has been present for a while for me, this feeling like I'm seperated from my peer group.

I always considered it a good thing that I seemed to get on better with people atleast 6-7 years older than me than people my own age. Sadly though, this results in me either having little to no friends, and also missing out on a lot of the silly comradaree of my peers. I feel like I've spent a lot of time by myself because I've chosen to move to New York, then travel to Europe, then move to Brooklyn, then travel to Aurasia, then move to Los Angeles, and so on. Obviously, it's a worthwhile trade to get such a vast knowledge of the world and spend most of my time with people who have their priorities straight. But at the same time, it can get a little isolating too.

Just a thought.

Also, two side notes:

1) Asian people are cutters. A bunch of fuckin cutters. They'll be 10 miles behind me in the customs line, then SHIZAM! They are through customs and partying at baggage claim while I sit 20 minutes in line. F that.

2) I'm insulted when people here ask me if I'm Canadian. Of course I'm not. Canadians are ridiculous. I'm not ridiculous. How dare you.

What goes with deep dark red?

Monday, October 10, 2005
Have you ever tried to accesorize the clothing you are wearing to your sun burn? I have. Have you ever spent some time trying to decide whether that shade is dark sexy tan or embarassing cringe-worthy sunburn? I have. Have you wondered if burn-tan are considered cool by the many really hot women in Australia? I totally totally have. I am pretty sure the answer is.... no.

So Much of A Good Thing

Last night I took a walk through Darling Harbour, what a beautiful little place. I'm finally slipping into a routine of travelling alone, which helps. The only times it really bothers me is around 8 or 9 at night when everyone is hanging and I'm kinda off on my own. But that's good, it's what I asked for, some time to put my head in order and sort things out. After Darling Harbour, I walked out past Hyde Park, also an amazing place, and around throughout the evening. Finally I made my way back and set in for bed. I got up at around 7:30am and had my breakfast and checked the surf reports. It looked like Bondi beach would be nice and have the lockers I'd need to store my board bag and clothing. It's strange, Australia and New Zealand really are meant to be travelled by car, in every way. It's tough to manage things without one, but I figure it out. So Bondi beach is merely 15 minutes from the city and unbelievable. They call it busy, but when I saw it atleast, it was about Waikiki-type busy, but never obnoxiously so. The water is kind of crowded, but what do I care, I suck ass, I can't tell the difference. I'm sure things would have been crazier if the surf was bigger. Again, I didn't really manage to catch anything, but I'm getting more and more comfortable in the water, paddling more efficiently, figuring out the rips, reading the breaks and just generally becoming much more mobile. That makes it easier. I can feel myself learning with each time out. I went out in three different legs, and layed out in the sun in between. Only problem was, I forgot my sunscreen in my hurry to get out of the hostel and meet high tide. So after about 4 or 5 hours, I knew I was gonna be in pain, so I had a bite to eat and got out of there. I'm really really drained. It was like 70 degrees, but the water was frigid, so I wore my suit. Also, let me address the hot girls once more. It's ridiculous. There are so many, it makes me angry. I've lived in New York, where supposedly the streets are filled with amazing girls (only sort of true), but this is absurd. I've seen atleast 10 doppelgangers to Gisel, Mallory from Real World, Naomi Watts. They are everywhere. It's insane. All colors, all types, every which way. If God truly, truly, truly loved me, he'd find me an Australian wife so I could get some citizenship. Cause I'll tell you this much, family listen up (yoú lucked out big time here), if it weren't so difficult to get residency, I'd move here in an instant. It's hand down the most incredible place I've ever been. Ever. Go Sydney.

Buy some residency, only $100,000!

Sydney is easily the most incredible and beautiful city I have ever been in. If you or someone you know wants to give me a job, therefore securing me a work visa, feel free to let me know on that one. Otherwise, it's gonna be pretty much impossible for me to stay here.... unless, I want to invest atleast $100,000 in government assets. Yeah.... that's not happening.... unless government assets means beer or something. I've otherwise considered spending some of my time over the next couple days sending out my resume to some boutique hotels around here and maybe even going on an interview or two. hmmmmm. don't get worried yet. they make it pretty impossible to immigrate here. (mom)

Sidenotes Re: Sydney

Sunday, October 09, 2005
I walked through the botanical gardens and down to the opera house. Very impressive. Then made my way back searching for clarks. Apparently they don't sell them here and everyone I ask has a very negative reaction. I guess they used to be issued to kids for school each year, so they all hate them. Not the wallabees, they hate the old man version of Clarks, but when I say "Clarks", they have bad memories.

So Lets Talk About Some Sydney

So yesterday I was happily awoken from a mid-afternoon nap by Nik & Jez. I showed them what I had found of Auckland and we hunted for some Clarks. We then acquired some Subway, which is everywhere, and enjoyed it thoroughly on the rooftop, looking out onto the Auckland harbor. Nik & Jez plan on moving to Auckland, or the sorrounding area, so it was cool to look around and explore what would soon be their home. We then resolved to see "The 40 Year Old Virgin" which started out rough, but soon redeemed itself in full. We then headed back to the bar at the hostel and to Jez's delight. It was quiz night. They then proceeded to stretch a 4 round quiz into 6 pitchers of beer and a 3 hour contest. It was also perhaps THE MOST bogus quiz night I've ever been part of. They said that the Wright Brothers plane was called "The Flyer". That sounds like some European double-talk to me, last time I checked it was the "Kitty Hawk", although, I first tossed my quiz guess out as "Think it's the tittyhawk." No. Kittyhawk it was. This proceeded into the wee hours, upon which I returned to my room and pulled my bag togethor, barely, and set my travel alarm, only to awake two hours later and be picked up by the airport shuttle. I then went through all the shinanigans of flying to Sydney, a 3 hour sleep fest. I'm always that asshole who falls asleep at the beginning of the flight and wakes up JUST IN TIME to miss breakfast, but shift around restlessly and finally request it once it's good and inconvenient for everyone involved. Eitherway. I would say that the customs situation at the Sydney airport is one of the worst I've seen and took nearly an hour. I also was rudely awakened to the city when I had to purchase my 50 dollar transit pass. Granted, that is unlimited for a week and gets me unlimited ferry access to all beaches. Still seemed a bit steep. I then proceeded to get thoroughly lost within Sydney's more-than-impressive transit system. I finally came above ground to the "Kings Crossing" neighborhood where my hostel was. I knew that this area was the "Red Light" district and a bit trouble, but I had also heard that this was where most the backpackers were. Well, needless to say, my hostel was down a back alley, covered in heavy brush and seemed to be a small house that was locked. I quickly decided to make haste out of there, past the homeless woman peeing into milk containter. Cheers. I simply have to much stuff (i.e. a surf board) that relies on trustworthy roomies (too big to lock up really) and this was not the place. I had stayed at a place called "Base" in Auckland that was fantastic, I knew they had a spot here in Sydney. I tried not to panic too bad, found an internet cafe, got the Base number, made a call, they had availability, got directions, took the train here and checked in about an hour later. I called and cancelled at "The Palms" in the ghetto. Thank you very much. Now, onto the positives. Sydney seems beautiful and busy and amazing. Many people my age, all very stylish and quick-moving. And may I also say, that without a doubt, Sydney is filled with the most beautiful array of women I have ever layed eyes on. Jez had mentioned that there were some pretty girls here (I had said I didn't see many pretty Kiwis), but this is ridiculous. It's like some strange universe of hotness, everywhere you look. I look east, Bam, ridiculous, west, shizam, more hotness, north, Giddy-up! there's some hotness. Everywhere. Tough to put words to. But also as Jez said, when there are so many young attractive people "sharking eachother up", it either makes you feel old, or in my case, a bit exhausted. Either way, I've just sat down at my nice hostel and now plan to go find some food. All this has happened and it's only 11am here. Crazy. Í'm off.

All Sorts Of Events

Friday, October 07, 2005
So following my surf lesson the other day, I really took advantage of the rest of my time. I hiked up to KiteKite (kitty kitty) falls, then also made a hike up Lion Rock, the large, towering rock at the center of Piha beach. Both of these hikes were needless to say, wonderful. I then had the pleasure of meeting a brilliant English couple who I've spent the majority of the last two days with. They sold their house, they are roughly 35, and have bought "around-the-world" tickets and have been travelling since December. They have all sorts of amazing stories, and we get along very well. They got a surfing lesson from Phil for yesterday and I rode nearby. I finally got some pop-ups and rode out some vicious white water and small breaks on the terrifying beach here. Either way, my confidence is up and my excitement for learning is back after a couple days of humbling dissapointment. Yesterday, after surfing Nik and Jez and I road into the nearest town (20 minutes) named Henderson to get some cash and groceries and beer. Henderson is a very cool town and I had the pleasure of hearing a song that will hopefully remind me of my time in Piha and Auckland. It's a song called "Too Young" by a band called "Phoenix", very cool. We then came back to the house and prepared dinner and met our two new lodge-mates. One of them was a woman named "Biggie" who was very German and only spoke some sorted english. She will factor into this story in a bit. We finished up our meal and decided to head down to the R.S.A. which is a sort of Rotary or Elk's Lodge where all the locals hang out. We walked down there and had drinks, watched some cricket and talked. I started to notice more and more that this "Biggie" character was sending some troublesome "vibes" in my general direction. She kept inviting me out onto the porch while she would smoke. The first time I was like "wonderful, interesting german person, conversation will be delightful". After the second and third time, and after she let me in on the fact that she had come to New Zealand engaged, and was no longer engaged, I decided I should let Nik and Jez know that "trouble was a' brewin'". So for the rest of the evening, this "Biggie" girl, who was like maybe 30 mind you, would approach me or start to talk and Nicky or Jesse would serve as a buffer, coming along on any sort of trip outside or any of that. Anyhow... I later excused myself and went off to bed. Well, get a load of this amazing crap... I awake in the middle of the night, to Biggie at my bedside, and she's asking me "You want me to sleep in your bunk?" And in a moment of half-asleep genius I reply "Oh, no, I'm good." (I sounded as if she had asked me if I wanted a cup of tea) Now, this may sound somewhat standard, but imagine that crazy German accent and it all seems a bit surreal. Anyways, then she says "Do you want cordials?" (which in crazy euro-speak means cocktails or drinks) I say, again a half-asleep genius "Ahhhh, nah.... I'm good. Thanks though..." She says "Oh, okay, sorry to wake you..." I give a nod and slowly turn into the fetal position and begin fearing for my life. Perhaps Germans don't take rejection well. Maybe rejection leads to beheading in some cases. Better safe then sorry. Either way, wild....

Today I leave Piha, sadly, and go into Auckland for two days before leaving for Sydney and Brisbane. Good news is, Nik and Jez will be in Fiji when I am there as well, and hopefully we can meet up again, sans the german who awakes you in the night to proposition sex.

Lemons Turn To Lemonade

Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I'm trying to type and it's hard cause my finger tips are numb. The weather in New Zealand is wild to say the least, one minute it's totally sunny and beautiful, the next it's horizontal rain and totally gray. That's what you get on an island in the pacific. Anyhow. Today was really quite amazing. I'll try to explain why. I got up early and had a solid breakfast in the lodge and watched some NZ news, which is totally interesting. I got all my gear on and went down to the beach to meet up with Phil who had saved me the day earlier and was now gonna teach me some surfing. The water was, as Phil put it, about as bad as it gets. Very choppy. To give you an idea how scary this place is, forgetting the huge rip tide all togethor, you'll be wading out, and a swell will come in, and instead of being knee high, you'll not be able to touch bottom all of a sudden. Very scary. Anyhow, he explained everything to me, from how swells work to popping up, to riding tubes, all of it. Very cool. And he's just simply the coolest fella. He's maybe 40 and so cool. You'd think that people here would be like "Oh New York, wild, crazy, what's it like." Instead you tell them you are just moving from New York and they are like "Yeah, why wouldn you live there in the first place, New Yorkers are a bunch of softies..." It's awesome. Anyways, Phil took me all around for 2 hours, dragging me out, pushing me into waves, all of it. He's got three sons, two who are roughly 10 or 11 and both going pro as surfers. He's got a beautiful wife, an amazing dog and a baby son. He drove me home from the beach and invited me up for tea later. Either way, this was an amazing family, and an amazing way of life. Being around people like that, you start to understand what this place is about. It's not just about being laid back and interested in nature, it's about having a really sweet family, getting by on just what you need and really appreciating the day to day things. As Phil was saying "New Yorkers think they are hard, but they are only hard if they've got a gun. People here are out getting wet when it rains, paddling 'round in this tough surf, all that, that makes you really tough." I couldn't agree with him more.

After You've Gone


Check out Fiona Apple's recent performance of "After You've Gone" at the Virgin Megastore. The camerawork is not so hot, but the song itself is amazing.

After You've Gone

The Piha Beachstay


People have requested pictures, the best I can do is link you to the website for this cool lodge I am at, The Piha Backpackers. If you go to the "local info" link you can see pictures of the cute little grocery (which sells coke and pastries and that's it) and the art gallery.

"We Thought You Were Gonna Die, Bro"

This morning, I awoke and slowly tip-toed my way out of a tremendous hang over with some careful tea drinking, sandwich making and a little nap in the early morning. I awoke and decided that it was almost 11 and it was time to make my way down to the beach and forget about my shitty first day of paddling (it can't even officially be called surfing). So I get all my gear on, booties as well this time thank goodness, and walked down to the beach. The wind was ridiculous and nearly knocked me on my butt about twenty times along the way. The waves were choppy and it was high tide, so the break was further in towards land and the waves were smaller. It looked like I could easily find some white water/small breaks to test my humble talents on. So I paddled my way out, diving under some waves and trying to pay attention to where the other two surfers were headed. I got about 50-75 feet out to where the medium waves were cresting and decided to paddle for a few. I kept missing them, and was blaming it on my poor paddling, but then I realized my situation was much more serious. I was stuck in the rip. I acknowledged this by saying outloud to myself, "Fuck, I'm stuck in the rip. I'm fucked." I'm a genius. So... the Piha rip is really famous apparently, I knew this to begin with, and in fact there is a show on Australian TV (reality) that is called "Piha Rescue". Sweet. I had been using the rip to get myself out yesterday, but what I hadn't thought of was that this was HIGH tide, yesterday was LOW. So the rip had moved in and was almost three times as powerful. So, back to me, stuck in the rip, totally fucked. I tried to remember that there was no way to paddle against the rip, and that you should paddle 45 degrees into the breaking waves as hard as possible. I'm a shitty paddler, needless to say, this did not help me. I kept retreating further and further out and more and more around the bend, away from the beach and down the shoreline into an abyss of rocks and scariness. I remember thinking "I don't want to end up in Fiji." I spotted a surfer back where I had first tried to paddle into some waves, now almost 50-75 yards away, I waved to him. I decided I'd try my best to paddle into the rocks and Gerry my way up out of the water, trying not to get too beaten. Thankfully, a man on the beach spotted me as well and began to Gerry his way out onto the rocks to guide me in to safety. Finally, he arrived, along with the surfer, and they yelled instructions to me, eventually getting me into a rock field where I was pummeled by breakers and had to get off my board and swim. I remember being astonished at how fucking tired I was, so tired that even though I knew my life was in serious danger, I couldn't do anything to aid myself. I was just so damn tired, I was floating helplessly, paddling like some injured dog. Anyhow, I made it onto the rocks and Gerry'd my way to safety, bloodied and a bit shaken. I was SO THANKFUL that no damage was done to my board, a miracle really, because it was a rental and I would have had to pay for it. That would have sucked. Anyhow, this guy, Phil (a serious hero of mine) walked me back to the beach and explained that, hey, he taught surfing. Hehe. So he was telling me that I could go back out, just not to get near the rocks blah blah. I said goodbye to Phil and stood on the beach, staring out, bloody and a bit breathless. I went to put my leash back on, and spotted my hand, ripped up and covered in blood. I then decided that although it might be sweet to bring that SHARK MAGNET with me into an already perilous ocean, I'd save that for tomorrow, and call Phil to help me. So that I did. I came home, called Phil and we're gonna go out tomorrow for 70 bucks NZ cash for 2 hours, not bad really, more like 55 bucks American to save my butt in the future. Once home, I thought I might do some trekking up to some waterfalls, but it had rained all night, and in my drunken stupidity, I had left my shoes on the deck. Cheers. So today was a day of rest, whether I liked it or not. So I laid about, listened to Thad's new songs, re-read some of "Heartbreaking Work..." and considered myself lucky to be alive. Surf lesson tomorrow morning at 10am.

Today: Ass Handed To Me By Many Waves

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I left Auckland at 8:30 yesterday morning and made my way to Piha, which is roughly 40 minutes outside the city on the western coast. The views are really really amazing. Piha is one cove over from the beach where they filmed "The Piano", think "The Piano" sans Harvey Keitel's ass, then you've got Piha, sort of. Anyhow, I met the man who runs this amazing lodge where I'm staying, Geoff, and he offered to take me into town with him so I could get some food supplies. There is no store or post office or bank or anything in Piha, hence, the hitching a ride. So we went into one of the sorrounding towns and I got some groceries, we then decided to go into Auckland so Geoff could buy a belt. This was great for me, I ended up getting a driving tour of the entirety of Auckland City and some of it's suburbs. Very cool. We then had to head over to Geoff's parents house so he could pick up something from them. They live in a town called Titirangi. This was a really cool little town that lays mostly on a hill side. His parent's driveway looked like a hiking trail, it went down into the bush like half a mile and wound down all these crazy turns. At the very bottom, there is a little drive where you can turn around, and the house. The house was very beautiful and looked out through the bush and onto the cove area of Titirangi. One we were done there, we came back and saw that after a stormy day, things had cleared up a bit and the waves were surfable, in fact, some people were surfing. I got all my stuff togethor and went down to the beach and began to paddle in. Needless to say, these waves were huge, like 4 meters, like 12 feet. Um, are you kidding me? Let me give you a little something to chew on: I'm a horrible surfer. Those things mix into a little trouble cocktail. So I had to figure out how to use the dangerous rip currents in Piha to get me out past the waves. This is much harder than it sounds and I kept ending up trapped in huge sets of waves getting my ass handed to me over and over. I did this for like 30 minutes. Just getting pounded and pounded. Finally I got out to the line up, and hung around, thinking to myself "Fuck, these waves are gonna tear me in half, besides the fact that I'm on a board 3 and 1/2 feet shorter than I usually ride." So I then proceeded to get surprised by outside sets and beaten and pounded all the way back into the shallow water. This experience repeated itself 4 times. I'd get throttled, then curse to myself a lot, then decide that if I didn't atleast paddle into one wave, I'd be very upset with myself. 2 hours later, and after my fifth time of paddling the long way out, I decided I could not feel my lower extremities and my arms were useless. I floated my way into shore like a piece of drift wood. First day of surfing, over. Cheers. I then walked myself back to the lodge, sans booties cause I'm retarded and did not wear them. Ouch. I made it back, washed all my gear, showered up and made some food. I spoke a lot with Catherine who is German and "woofing" her way through New Zealnd. Working On Organic Farms, employs these kids who travel round and get food and a room for working 4-6 hours a day on organic farms throughout the area. She was at the tail end of a year. Very crazy. Geoff then came over to the lodge and brought us down to the RSA which is sort of like an Elk's Lodge for retired service men. We proceeded to drink and play pool, before closing the place and continuing on on to one of Goeff's friends house. Kiwi's talk so crazy I could never quite figure out his name, Nigel? Malcom? Greg? Oh yeah, that was it, Greg. Except it sounded like Greeeiiiiggg. Wierd. The party continued onward and I excused myself and walked down the hill homeward to the lodge. Long first day. Today, It is very windy, raining on and off, my body aches badly, and I have to muster some guts to go paddle back out.

So... that happened.

Sunday, October 02, 2005
Well. I have arrived in Auckland. Literally, just arrived. It's a rainy day of about 70 degrees here, even though they keep insisting on using that ridiculous celsius bullshit. (crazy people). I departed early saturday morning at 7am from portland, hung out in lax with chad briefly while he was frisked by a police officer on a motorbike, then I boarded a bus to my plane. It took us way out ont he tarmack and up to a special boarding room for the huge plane I was about to ride on. I got on, seat 50k (who knew it went to 50, wierd), then continued to watch movies, take sleeping pills that did not make you sleepy but just made you act retarded once asleep, and briefly listen to my ipod (crucial battery rationing). I arrived in Hong Kong at 8:35pm on sunday night, and was immediately greeted by some small asian woman from Cathay Pacific who obviously wanted to make out with me so we got along splendidly. Her job was to escort us the long, long distance between our arriving gate and our departing gate. I explained to her that, in the states, they'd just say "fuck'em" and let us wander around lost. This seemed crazy to her. Thank god for this woman. I then literally walked from one plane to another, with my small asian mistress, and boarded my plane to auckland immediately. Hey! Sweet! Another 10 hour flight. Bring it on. I awoke mid-way through this flight and could not feel my legs. I had to awake the man next to me who had a shaved head and had been reading a book entitled "A Year In The Merde (shit)", I thought this was kind of hilarious/scary. I then continued to eat wierd food they served for meals (chicken and fish congee?). Anyways, I'm here in Auckland now, went through customs, the customs dude was like, where are you going. I said "Piha, how far away is that?" He says "an hour maybe". I say "Oh sweet, easy, and there's a bus and stuff, worse case scenario right?" He looked at the other dude next to him, laughed and was like "Who knows, I don't think so, talk to information." So..... yeah... that's always good. Tomorrow I try and whore myself onwards towards Piha. Good day.

Gorgonzola Picante

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Gorgonzola Picante is a style of cow's milk blue cheese that uses Penicillium Glaucum, whereas most blue cheeses use Penicillium Roqueforti. It is regulated in the EU such that only the few provinces in northern Italy where it is traditionally made are allowed to produce it and label it as Gorgonzola Picante. Initially the Penicillium Glaucum is added, the curds are put into canvas-lined molds, and the cheese is salted. About a week later holes are poked through in order to allow oxygen to enter and the mold to develop. It is aged for about a year. There is a similar type of cheese called Gorgonzola Dolce, which is aged a much shorter time and is therefore much milder. Gorgonzola Picante is fairly strong in taste, yet creamy and somewhat smooth in texture. There is a hint of a sweet and tangy Brie-like taste. I bought some yesterday and couldn't get enough of it. You don't need anything else but some bread or a cracker, although I imagine it would be very good in any recipe that calls for blue cheese. It is currently available in NYC at East Village Cheese for the amazing price of $2.99 and pound.

-Aaron