Monday, May 24, 2010

If God is a DJ...Then God is Dead - Copan

Nietzsche meets P!nk.  That's right, I'm here to bring that deep philosophy/pop culture mash-up you so desperately crave.  Perhaps that title might make sense after you hear this story.  Or not.

I think my tangential writing style is best summed up by P!nk: "I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."  Or maybe that was Nietzsche.  Remind me again which one said "This used to be a funhouse but now it's full of evil clowns."

Anyway...back to the topic at hand.  There are many stories to tell about Honduras but I'll start with this one.

I was hanging out in Copan for two weeks, taking Spanish lessons.  I figured I'd be more likely to study Spanish and not goof off if I was staying in a small town (read: where there's nothing to do) populated by few people who speak English.  In turns out Copan was a bit more touristy than I thought but still fit the bill by my NYC chauvinist standards.  It was small and there wasn't much to do.  Yay?

Well, my newfound boy scout attitude got massively shredded that first night.  ¿Por qué?  Porque the tequila shots were only 30 limpiras.  I'll save you the trouble of actually finding a website that even bothers to do limpira to dollar conversion and simply tell you that that's less than $1.50.  Well, 13 shots later--another story for another post--the night was over but not before I made something of an impression.  It turns out, between, say, shot six or so and shot 13 I had a few things to say.  As usual there were my old drunken standbys: Brooklyn, radical politics, music.  Through some combination of English/Spanish miscommunication and liquored inventiveness it was agreed that I would DJ next Friday.

(Do I need to take a timeout here to explain that "this" means the upcoming and "next" means the one after the "this"?  No?  Good.  Let's continue.) 

The next day I woke up and thought no big deal, it's a small town, the expectations are low and I didn't think much about it over the next week or so, figuring that we'd probably all forget about it.  "Blessed are the forgetful: for they 'get the better' even of their blunders."  Now I'm almost positive that one's Pink.

A few days later I decided to drop by for a drink, or maybe two, but definitely not 13.  A few drinks, a few conversations, no mention of DJing.  I'm in the clear.

I drop by a couple of more times.  Again, nada.

I had practically forgotten the whole affair when I had my antepenultimate outing at the bar.  I mentioned I was heading off to La Ceiba on Saturday.  Then it happened:  "You DJ this Friday!"  There was so much excitement in this man's eyes, there was so much tequila in my stomach that I just couldn't say no.  I was already in too deep so I figured a few more drinks couldn't make things much worse. (Wait, isn't that how I got into this situation in the first place?).

To make matters worse by the time I left the bar I noticed a kid from the staff was re-chalking the big board outside.  In large colorful letters it now read: "Friday Night.  DJ Trece from Brooklyn!"

The nickname Trece of course came from the thirteen shots of tequila I ingested the week prior, though I have no idea if that tag was self-inflicted or a gift from the locals.

I wondered if it was possible for Brooklyn to un-represent and hoped that maybe a real DJ would save my ass.

When I showed up for my penultimate visit on Thursday I was greeted by that same sign.  Those letters seemed even bigger and more colorful somehow.  Worse than that, I got inside and the place was actually half-full.  A first in my time in Copan.

Now I need to back up for a minute to convey the significance of this half-full bar scene.  I landed in Honduras shortly after the political coup.  I won't go into all the political details here except to say that the majority of Hodurans (read: poor people) got massively fucked and the US isn't as innocent as it portrays itself.  (Read this, this and this for some brief background.)

Now it's my medical opinion that a lot of middle-class white people suffer from phobia-phobia--they're scared of being scared.  As a result tons of tourists canceled any vacation plans they had in Honduras even though I doubt few understood what was going on in Honduras.

*WARNING: Angry, dark-complexioned people, not speaking English can often trigger phobia-phobia in white people.  My prescription?  Read two chapters of Open Veins of Latin America and call me in the morning*

But getting back to the story at hand, since my arrival in Honduras the hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. were empty.  Parts of the country even looked like a ghost town.  Every time I was in a restaurant or bar and some new foreigner came in you could see the staff light up hoping that tourism had returned...but it never did, at least not while I was there.  In fact it got worse towards the end of my trip.

So on this Thursday night some random tourist group from Spain came through the bar.  The bartender was now even more excited for the big Friday night.  I felt a bit nervous but as I walked back I started thinking that the people of Copan deserved a good time and I was going to provide that soundtrack.  I was actually getting kind of excited now.  I did about four hours of preparation that night staying up way too late and showed up to Spanish exhausted the next morning.  No matter, this would be a night to remember. 

Come Friday evening I showed up with my laptop.  I hooked it up to the sound system, pulled up the DJ software and the playlists and I was ready to go.  DJ Trece was in la casa!  To quote that 19th century German philosopher: "I'm coming out so you better get this party started."

I started with a little Thus Spake Zarathusa appropriately enough, blended Biggie's opening from "Biggie/Tupac Live Freestyle" and went into Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."  Brooklyn would be proud.

And we had fun.  All nine of us.  For a little while...and then it felt really, really awkward, especially when a couple of people left after an hour and then two more an hour after that.  Aside from the bartender and I seven people came out that night.  At one point, the bartender and I looked at each other.  We both knew it was time to pull the plug.

That was the end of my very brief DJ career.  I went from being DJ Trece to DJ Siete.  It seems thirteen was luckier than seven.

But to look on the bright side, as Nietzsche is so famous for doing, a couple of people did get get up and dance.  And as Nietzsche himself once said, "We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once."  No, seriously he said that one.

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
the Hi-Tech Vagabond

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Frosted Flake for Breakfast - Amsterdam

Watch out!

I was unsuspectingly drugged while traveling in Europe, but fear not I still have all of my vital organs...and most of my liver.

I'm sure you're wondering how innocent little old me got caught up in such a nasty piece of business.  Well gather 'round the spliff fire and I'll tell you a story.

I'll skip the boring bits and simply say that I had to change to a second hotel a couple of days into my Amsterdam trip.  Why?  Because the original hotel was booked up for the next few days (see, I told you it was boring).

This second place had the typical free continental breakfast.  You know the drill: some bland, often stale, breads put out on a table.

*On a sidenote, if you were an Aztec and you were told that your god gave you maize and then these dudes came through your hometown proclaiming their religious superiority and they brought stale bread, whose god would you believe in?*

But I digress.  Back to the story at hand.

I had woken up early that day and was the only one at breakfast thus far.  This place had a little eating area, not unlike the first place I stayed.  A woman came out from the kitchen, said hello and put a tray of baked goods on the table, not unlike the first place I stayed.  She then returned to the kitchen, not unlike the first place I stayed.  I step up to partake in the staleness but this is where we diverge from the previous script.

Do my eyes deceive me?  (No, that would come a few hours later.)  There are delicious goodies as far as the eye can see, provided one is near-sighted and cannot see past the rather small table.

Muffins abound, cakes overflow, brownies deluge, and cookies do something that is a synonym of the prior three verbs.

The night prior I made the mistake of partaking in local Dutch food.  (For the record, Dutch cuisine is the worst cuisine I've ever tried.)  I was left a bit hungry from not finishing my meal.  A meal that left me wondering "Is there anything these people won't put mustard on?"

So I grab as much food as I can and start inhaling it.  I'm like some bizarre hybrid from Candy Land and Kolyma Tales

At that point, the woman returns from the kitchen and says "[Something in Dutch, probably a curse word] What are you doing?"  I retort "Um eebink bekfest" which Babel Fish informs me roughly translates from the MouthFullafood language to English as "I'm eating breakfast."  She then goes on to tell me that those goods are for sale and are most certainly not for breakfast.
Well, it turns out that this hotel's breakfast area doubles as a smoking area at night.  And I don't mean cigars and cigarettes.  No, I mean drugs!  (The kids call it the marijuana.)  I know dear readers, I was as shocked then as you are now.  I'm still reeling from the fact.  What has this world come to?

Now hold onto you hats guys because you're not going believe this but they even put drugs in the food!  Have you ever heard of such a thing?

So the woman puts the remaining baked goods in a glass case with their corresponding labels which were as follows:
  • Space muffins
  • Space cakes
  • Pot brownies
  • Hemp cookies
Clearly, I was duped and take no responsibility for my actions that morning, nor for any actions I may performed the week following that breakfast.

In the end, we worked something out financially (since I was staying there for a few days) and I went on my merry away around Amsterdam (and it was very very merry).

One thing I did learn that day?  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
The Hi-tech Vagabond

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Never Kiss a Christian on the Mouth - Kiev

I'm sure with a title like that you're expecting a Catholic school girls joke.  Sorry to disappoint...and get your mind out of the gutter.  No, what I'm referring to is the creepiness of the kissing worshipper.

Every now and then some church tells people that some inanimate object is really, really important (and yet those same Christians had no problem wiping out other peoples who worshipped different inanimate objects, go figure).

At some point in that process some churchly guy decides that said object should be shown respect by being kissed and if they really want to show their love for god they should use a little tongue.  Okay that last part isn't true.  If you want to show your love for Jesus every priest knows you have to go much further than first base.

So in my travels I've seen a few of these incidents, mostly it's crosses and statues.  Kinda gross, a little creepy but not too bad.  However, Kiev takes the take cake (and then vomits it back up).

There's a section of Kiev that is known for its churches.  There's so many goddam churches down there I can't keep them straight--there's like churches within churches once you walk through the gate, it's madness--but I'm pretty sure this one is called the Kiev Monastery of the Caves.  It definitely has caves in the name...I think.

So once you get past all the onion domes, paintings of saints, and gold, well, everything, then there's these caves that link the monasteries.  You go down into these narrow, dark caves and at some point you come across the devout.  You may recognize them by they way that they kiss the filthy glass cases that house the decomposed skeletons of former priests!  Very gross.

One isn't allowed to take pictures down there so I had to pull a photo off the web of this hunk hunka rotting flesh.  Let me just say this picture doesn't do justice to the disgustingness of these religious make-out sessions.  For one, there is no light down there, you need to take a candle to see anything.  And I know what you're thinking, that the candle light really sets the mood for some heavy-petting necrophilia action but you're wrong.  It's filthy down there.  Quite dank.

And to watch one person after another line up and kiss one corpse after another is truly disturbing.  They don't just kiss the case but they line up face to face so it's really like they're kissing them on the mouth and these corpses reveal a lot more skin bone than is shown in this picture.  It's not appropriate for children to watch.  Hell, it's not appropriate for me to watch.

I suppose this is the problem when you have a religion where dying leads to the most "awesome of awesomeness" (that's a Bible quote look it up), you see a dead holy priest and you just want to get it on.

So class, what did we learn today? Never kiss a Christian on the mouth.  Why?  Because you know where that mouth has been!

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
The Hi-tech Vagabond

Monday, April 26, 2010

I've Been Busy Doing Nothing

Well that isn't true, traveling the world not working is harder than it looks. Pity me dear readers.

Still there is no denying that I have failed you in my blogging responsibilities over the past year. My saving grace? The laziness that led to me not writing any updates is the same laziness that led to me not bothering to alert y'all that I was writing a blog in the first place. Hurrah for inertia!

But no more. I have turned over a new leaf...and under that leaf I discovered my super-competitive side. My girlfriend--Dewey Decimate--has started a travel blog since she now roams the world by my side (more on that in my next blog in 2011...just kidding). Now begins the great game of one-up-manship. Did I mention she's also going through her second draft of her novel? Damn her initiative, it makes me look bad.

So over the next few months prepare to be titillated by stories from foreign lands, told as best as I can remember them (contrary to what you've heard vodka and rum are not memory boosters). There will be writings, photos, videos, maybe even 3D holograms.

So dear readers stick with this blog and I promise you one thing: as boring, inane or annoying as this blog may be, it's still better than doing whatevathefuck you're supposed to be doing at work.

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
The Hi-tech Vagabond

P.S. Check out my girl's blog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Backstory Thus Far...

Previously on The Hi-Tech Vagabond...

I got laid off in January 2009 (which was fine with me). The job, which I really liked at first, had become unbearable. During that time I took inspiration from one of the great poems of the last century:

Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold one for one more day

Those, of course, are the words from "Hold On" written by the poetry collective Wilson Phillips. (Wilson Phillips was a trio of poets who lived among the mountains isolated from the rest of society until one day they emerged on Venice Beach wearing nothing but black to symbolize the death of modernist poetry.)

Long story made short: I lasted long enough to get thrown on the Laid Off Pile and got the company severance, which felt like winning the lottery to me.

But wait, there's a M. Night Shyamalan-like twist to this deceptively simple story.

The government took almost half my severance via taxes! (Was that twist a let down? Then it truly was a M. Night Shyamalan-like twist.)

At that point I decided I was going to go the rest of 2009 without working and get that money back come tax season next year...I mean that's way better than working and not getting that money back, right?

Following that I decided to not renew my lease with my slumlord. I paid February rent, told them to use to use my deposit for March and I was gone...many boxes later. Instead of storage I scattered my belongings among my friends' places throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan and began my quest of traveling the world, willing to go wherever in the world I could get a cheap ticket.

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
The Hi-Tech Vagabond