World’s Greatest (home) Tiki Bar

The Tiki bar, and Tiki culture in general, holds a very special place in my heart. Theme bars in general are my favorite; they transport you to a new world, hidden from the normalicy of pedestrian life and issues license to become someone else for the length of a drink (yes I was big in the swing dance movement of the late 90’s). Tiki however, takes this escapism to a new colorful level, and those that choose to coat themselves in a thick polynesian coat of cool tend to be the laid back friends you always wished you had.

Which is why when I drove half way into the desert to meet a complete stranger I knew that we were going to be fast friends. Adrian Eustaquio (who goes by Polynesian Pop on youtube) has built perhaps the most elaborate and beautiful home Tiki bar I have ever seen.

I found Adrian through another home bar lover, Caroline Pardilla (AKA Caroline on Crack) who wrote a series of articles about LA’s most exuberant home bars. After contacting her she said I just had to hit up Adrian, and “experience” first hand what taking a trip to Polynesia is like … 10 feet from his living room.

The rest is as they say history … Beside experiencing his amazing hand-crafted workmanship Adrian also pours a mean drink. He is the complete package.

As I delve into this amazing new world with a cold one in hand I look forward to meeting all sorts of new friends, and explore how the nectar of life makes socializing in your own home that much more amazing.

How to Travel like a Travel Writer (and not kill what you love).

The world is being destroyed by tourism and I am the cause. There are currently 1.4 billion tourists out there and that number is only growing at an alarming rate. The world is addicted to travelling and I am one of the many pushers out there on the streets giving them their fix.

I have been travelling seriously since I was 15. An only son of two Airline parents I would hop a companion pass and take off with a few dollars in my pocket. Back then there was no internet, not smartphones, and the only information you had about a destination was what you brought in with you, usually in the form of a bent and beaten Globe Trekker guide that had 4 year old outdated information in it. It was an adventure to survive a city with every street a new possibility to have your mind blown. Not knowing what to expect was the greatest gift to travel.

arctic wide
Not sure what I’m laughing about here … I’m lost in the Arctic Circle and near death.

I have watched the world, travel, and tourists change drastically over the last 20 years slowly building an acute awareness that we are destroying something that is not only a multi-billion dollar industry, but a true pure passion for most. Travel used to mean going someplace new, and more importantly, unknown. It meant discovery. It meant frequent bad meals, and quasi-dangerous hostels between getting lost, and very lost in places that simply had no use for another random person. However that environment yielded something that most travelers never even experience these days; discovery.

serrini_cambodia-101

Cambodian children seeing a drone fly for the first time.

For most travelers they have already taken the trip before leaving their laptop or cellphone. They have had a full blown case of FOMO from seeing it on instagram, they know what the best restaurants are and even what the food tastes like, they know all the cool spots, secret menu items, and wifi passwords before stepping out the door. At best they will be walking through a memory yet had, expecting everything, being let down often, and seldomly being surprised. They will fake excitement to everyone not watching them eat something online, and they will return unfortunately with all the satisfaction of finishing a series on Netflix. Paint by numbers travel is the status quo, and I have been doling out these colors for years. No more.

RS_Camaiore
Only getting lost let’s you find Il Matterello and the best tordelli you’ll ever eat.

I have extreme regret for what I did to destroy the world. Worse then what bankers did to our trust in economics, because I killed something living and breathing. There are so many voices out there forcing people to do this, see those, and eat that that we just seem to be running in circles of each other. Dreaded “top 10” lists are unnaturally formed, since most travellers only consider the most rated items on sites like Expedia, Kayak and Trip Advisor, which I have contributed nearly 1,000 reviews. I am the Baba Yaga of travel, and need to repent.

RS_Peru
Insert mandatory shot of Machu Picchu here.

Last year I experienced something that shook me to my core, how much I disliked Reykjavik, or rather, how much Reykjavik disliked me. A friend and I had won a contest to make travel films for the famed WOW airlines (which we single handedly took down) and part of the “prize” to work for them was living in Reykjavik for a few months. The experience was unlike any other, in so much as I have never felt more unwelcome in my life.

RS_wow_s
In the lobby of WOW HQ. Still not sure if this was meant to be ironic.

 

 

 

“We are drowning in tourists,” Guðmundur, one of the only locals that actually befriended me during my time there, passionately tells me over an 18 USD crap draft beer. “We can’t eat, we can’t drink, we can’t walk down the street. We are infested with tourists. And I hate you.” Harsh, perhaps a bit intoxicated words, but true nevertheless. Iceland opens its doors to over 2 million overnight visitors each year, which is 6 times the countries population if you can believe it. “The tourists are like locust. That are loud, and fat and only go to see the stupid waterfall or sit in a man made pool to take pictures.” Guðmundur clearly has had enough but his point is made. Iceland’s greatest export is tourism at over 40% of their GDP coming from travel. With the end of WOW air, the country faced yet another collapse in their economy, one that travel tried to save. It is wholly unsustainable however, and more gravely, destroys the exact thing people are coming there for, the culture. 

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See?! Culture!

Beer is 18 dollars a glass. A $5 foot long Subway sandwich is 25 dollars. Renting a car requires a down payment of 300k dollars. That last one isn’t true, but that’s the feeling you get. When I tell you it is easier to rent an apartment in NYC then go out to eat in Reykjavik I’m not kidding.

Worse of all the people don’t want us. They don’t like us. We make everything expensive for them, we crowd the streets, and we are consuming disposable culture. “We are only interested in the 5 year friend, not the 5 minute friend.” Guðmundur tells me is the reason why no one even wants to talk to me at a bar. They know I’m just passing through. 

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Making many new mates in Mindanao

In all my years of travel I have never felt so disgusting in all my life. Despite always trying to be a model tourist, there was no salvation here. It was a wake up call, that my love in life was threatening to implode on itself, and there is no way of stopping it.

There is, however, a way to avoid it. 

There is a way to bring back the discovery, a way to bring back that original, irreplaceable feeling of wonder that I have been trying to maintain for 20 years. It takes a little work, and definitely courage, but it for the most part will ease the pain of an over-touristed planet. People are going to be irresponsible. They are going to take the easy road and top-10 themselves to death never to know the true beauty of being a professional traveler. We can only lead by example, so here are my 5 commandments to being a good traveller.

1. Be nice.

I start with this as it is the most important tool in your arsenal. Niceness will always get you the most out of any situation, period. Flight oversold and you’re stuck? Don’t yell at the poor human that is in front of you. Be nice. They’ll help you out if they can, or they won’t, but yelling is never going to make the odds of that any better. Someone purposefully trying to be a dick to you because they don’t like your accent/shoes/man-bun? Be nice, because it’s an opportunity to open their world to a new perspective, or at the very least you’re less likely to get shived if that was their plan. Just be nice. In general everyone around the world will open up to you if you show genuine interest in who they are and their culture, and if you’re nice about it, they’ll want to share. Don’t be afraid, be nice.

2. Be different.

I love Instagram. I love Trip Advisor. I love AirBnB. They tell me exactly the places to avoid writing about at all cost. If a country, a city or an experience is part of a top 10 then there is no reason for me to write about it. It’s had its moment in the sun, and I guarantee you there is better amatriciana, a better little museum, or a better secret bar just waiting to be discovered, mainly, because it will be yours, and the people there will be so happy to see you. SPREAD TRAVEL AROUND. That is your job as a travel journalist, to find NEW experiences for people to have, not to regurgitate well tread garbage. Sure some things need to be seen like Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia or Machu Picchu, but don’t leave out Amsterdam’s Cat Museum or a visit to the oldest lightbulb in the world. 

3. Be honest.

No one fails at vacationing. Or do they? I think failing is one of the most important parts of travel, yet, you would be hard pressed to find some of the most popular instagram accounts with anything less then impossibly perfect travel shots. This is garbage. Travel is hard. Bags are heavy. Communication can be difficult. Jet lag is real. Be honest. Be honest with your travel, and you will get so much more out of the experience of sharing it. If everything is so damn fabulous then how do you know it’s actually fabulous? Share bad experiences, and more, just be real with your audience about what is happening. Do they really have to eat this donut? Will it really blow their minds? I hundreds of reviews on Trip advisor, you know how many I’ve given 5 stars to? only 3. It’s no secret people find bad reviews more telling then good reviews. 

4. Be ready.

If you like to make things to make things while you travel like me, you know that having the right gear is key. Too much and you’ll weigh yourself down, too little and you’ll be cursing yourself for not bringing “that lens”.  Be ready. While technology changes constantly, I have a pretty solid set of tools I like to bring with me on any job. Here’s a quick little film I put together before my last trip:

And here is a rundown of the gear. Mind you I’m not sponsored by any of these brands. This is just my honest opinion from my experience as a traveller.

Sony A7rIII – light, fast, proxies on the fly, dual slot, sees in the dark.
24-105 Sony lens – great zoom lens, one lens to rule them all.
Zeiss CP 50mm macro – for the fancy stuff. great for portrait and food.
Sony A6300 – small B cam – great for incognito, also underwater.
CCTV lens – slap this on the the A6300 and you get some rad art shots
Lowepro camera bag – the greatest low-fi, heavy duty camera bag out there.
Travelpro Carry On Bag – low profile, indestructible, cheap and good.
Mavic Pro Drone – I’ve shot over 30 films around the world with this little guy.
Rode VideoMicro – super compact on camera mic
Sony URX Wireless Mics (lav) – expensive, but necessary for good interview audio.
BEATS wireless headphones – don’t know how to fly without them.
Holdfast Buffalo camera straps – hipster lingerie for photogs.
Bungee Strap – this 3 dollar hack that will save your back and give you smooth pans.
iM Corona Old Boy Lighter – the ability to start a fire is what separates humans for beasts.
Manfrotto 930 tripod – light, easy, small, nuff said
BANDANAS!!! – see the film. they have 1000 uses.
Eceen bag – great portable bag that’s good for day trips
Global Entry – a must if you don’t want to spend half a day at customs
Alka Seltzer – a must if you want to not worry about what you’re eating.
Moleskine Notebook – portable, never fails, and batteries never run out.
Belkin USB Powerstrip – you got gear, you gotta charge it, you need this.
TSA locks – probably useless but good piece of mind.

5. Be lost.

Perhaps the most important tip is to get lost. Getting lost is the only way to really discover anything about a place, and about yourself. If you research everything before you go, your experience will be predetermined. It is what is plaguing the world right now, channeling millions of people to the same city to eat the same meal in the same restaurant. How very boring, and dangerous, to the travel industry. Instead, be lost. Put the phone away, turn off the internet, forget the top 10 places and explore. Try talking with people that live in the city. If you are going to use social media, then reach out to locals for their advice. That’s what we did when we made films for WOW airlines  and while TripAdvisor, Travel & Leisure and Culture Trip are great resources, we wanted what locals knew best about their city in hopes to give intrepid travellers a more authentic experience. If you are running into other tourists at places on trips, you may want to rethink your strategy.

solo signs italy
Stay lost my friends.

They are simple guidelines I like to follow that hopefully will not contribute to the pandemic travel malarkey that is shrouding our world. I have always believed that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” but unfortunately it’s becoming less effective. Hopefully this is a growing pain of a world getting smaller, and people will become more savvy looking for real experiences other then just virtual instagram moments.  Finally, because I love “top 5” lists, I’ll answer the top 5 questions I get.

Q: Do you ever have any trouble with the TSA with all that gear?

A: Depends. There is no rhyme or reason when they will stop and search a bag of mine, despite literally packing it the same way for a decade. I do have TSA pre and Global Entry which helps a ton, but overall rule number one of “Be Nice” seems to be the only real salvation in a TSA situation.

Q: What phone carrier do you use? Is it not really expensive traveling as much as you do?

A: Google Fi on a Google Pixel. Before Google Fi I had AT&T for my iPhone, and yeah, it sucked. I did buy a cheap Samsung that I could pop a local SIM card in, but that was a pain too. Google Fi changed all that as I can literally go anywhere in the world and my phone works for the same data rate. It’s a game changer.

Q: Do you need a permit to fly a drone in all those countries?

A: Yes. You do. Legally. Drones are amazing tools that really take travel filmmaking to a new level. The key with them, as with anything, is be professional. I am FAA and IAA certified and licensed. I never fly in dangerous areas and don’t break laws. More importantly I don’t ever fly if I’m going to annoy someone or ruin their experience. Drones are loud, and people don’t like them, so be invisible, be quick, and be safe. 

Q: Are there any specific clothing brands you like?

A: Socks I like Stance. PrAna also makes great travel gear that looks swank, great jeans and pants and shirts that don’t wrinkle. Buck Mason makes great lightweight clothes that look good dressed up or down. Duluth makes great tactical underwear. Yes tactical underwear.

Q: Do you know any travel hacks?

A: Hmm… well one thing I do is always keep an old hotel key with me in my go bag. Reason being is that most modern hotels these days require you put a key in to get the outlets to work, and if you’re charging batteries, then you best leave a key in while you’re out. 

Lady Liberty

You know what really pisses me off… what is making me so disappointed right now… there was a time that we were gifted a giant statue of a woman with a torch. Gifted. From another country. Like a 300 foot tall trophy for being the best at taking in everyone. All the wretched, poor, tired garbage, we didn’t care, come, and try your luck. We not only handled that, we fed off of it.

Now what do we have? Half a country scared of what made our country truly great. They act so tough, so brave. Such bullshit. Cowards, really. Let’s not let in people, because there are surely some there that want to hurt us. Guess what, we’ve been letting in murderers, nut jobs, and assassins for over 200 years, and it never bothered us before.

Some of these people say New Yorker’s live in a bubble. I say it’s the opposite. We’re the raw, open wound. We’re the ones they collapse our buildings on, and we don’t flinch. We’re the ones they gave the lady to, cause deep down I think they knew we were the ones that deserved her. We’d keep her legit.

I think you all are afraid, and you’re showing your ass. It’s sad, and I feel sorry for you. We’re all going to die you know. You can’t really stop that. The only thing you can do, is choose how you want to live.

Personally, I want to live under that lady’s shadow, no matter how dark or scary it gets, because it’s freedom that is casting it, and it’s how we shine that makes it so.

 

#truth #america #freedom #trumpsamerica #newyork #nyc #love#notscared #notmyamerica #statueofliberty #newcolossus

Medical Marijuana Card Done Easy.

So, I moved out to Los Angeles because NYC winter. Also it was time to open an LA office. Looks good in an email signature.

So of course besides changing your address, registering your car, and joining a gym, I had to get a medical marijuana card. Cause you know, LA.

I’m not an avid pot smoker. Sure, I went to college (sure, there were a few plants grown) but I wouldn’t say I smoke on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Pot makes me cripplingly creative, which might sound great, but its exhausting. That being said, I really just was more interested to see how getting a card worked. It’s 2015, and I have the feeling that I’m living through a pretty significant change in society. The legalization of pot may (or may not be) something my kids ask about as they eat their morning marijuana cereal. “You mean pop pop that pot was… illegal?” Thats right little Gian-Carlo… once pot was illegal.

Q: So, what does it take to get access to buy pot?

A: about 20 minutes.

ecmm

After doing a paranoid amount of research on the internet, I decided to go to ECMM (the evaluation Center for Medical Marijuana… “A Professional Medical Corporation” … ah America!). Located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City this is a pretty innocuous looking business happily sharing the street with a dry-cleaner and a coffee shop. You walk in and a nice kid behind a desk, who also obviously has a serious affliction that requires (an ample dose of) pot medication, gives you a questionnaire to fill out as you give him your driver’s license (mind you I have a NYS driver’s license… DOES NOT MATTER). The questionnaire is pretty basic; address, any medication you take, and what ails you. In my case, as a filmmaker and editor, I deal with sitting and working at a computer for a long time and holding a camera in weird positions that cause muscle ache. Oh the woes. After an 6 minute wait, a nice tall man with a clipboard walks out and calls “Roberto S.?”. I walk back into the depths of the office.

He is the doctor. 

I walk back to a little exam room. There is an exam table/chair so I hop up on it. The doc goes “oh, no need for that. Come sit down with me at the desk.” … I like this already. He asks me, “so what ails you?”. He actually says the word “ails”. Like an apothecary. I like this. I tell him I’m a filmmaker/editor and have headaches and pain from sitting editing at a desk for a long time. Then we start talking about films, my career and where I live (apparently the South Bay is a secret place to live and I was very lucky). We talk about that for about 3 minutes then he asks “do you use marijuana now to help ease the pain?”

“Sometimes…?”

“Ok. Great. Are you familiar about the laws regarding medical marijuana?” he asked… “yes. I am.” I said. I definitely was. Being neurotic also made me a very proficient student. “Great,” he said “just stay away from cops and the DEA basically. Come with me and we’ll get you your card.” – that is exactly what he said. It was the kind of warning said so cool and casually you totally disregarded it, but it ends up haunting you later. Then again, I generally stave away from activities that get me involved with law enforcement so, no prob.

That was it. 11  minutes later I was back at the front desk paying $45 dollars for a certificate stating that this doctor determined that I had one or “more of various ailments that required the medical use of marijuana” to treat said condition.

America.

“You want a card for your wallet? It’s an added $20 bucks?” the kid asked. “What does it do?” I asked. “Not much. You can use the certificate. Some places don’t even take the card.” he said. “Then… no. Thanks.”

The up-sell. America.

That was it. While I was there at least 10 people walked in or was in the waiting room. In 12 minutes I had permission to buy pot. Is this a cash cow? Hard to say Dr. Pasteur… Hard to say. On the wall was about 60 business cards. All dispensaries. The nearest one was around the corner.

Walking into Green Dot on Lincoln was like walking into a day spa. Tastefully decorated, soothing earth tones and potted plants, I was greeted by a nice girl who took my newly laser printed certificate and my ID and put me in the system. “Oh. ECMM. You went to the right place. They’re great.” Yes. Yes Jasmine they are. After a hot minute I was being buzzed into the “safe room” where she tells me “mention you are a first timer and they’ll take care of you.” – all in all things were going smooth.

The safe room feels cool. It’s basically a small box of a room, with an L shaped counter filled with Pot. Two tattooed and cute girls greeted me.

“It’s my first time.” I felt like I was about to have sex with a prostitute for some reason.

“Ok cool. So up here is our menu…” she pointed up at the biggest sign I’ve ever seen. 60 varieties of marijuana, broken into three categories (Setiva, Indica and mixed) with prices by the gram and by the ounce. Or was it a “eighth” and an ounce. Or a gram and a parcel? Whatever, it was like 18 bucks for a small amount and 60 for a larger amount.

“Can you give me like a starter pack? Like a little from each variety of your favorites?” I asked. See back in my day there was only one variety of pot. It was called “pot”. And it was a shade of green, and you smoked it, but that was pretty much it. It was like 1978 in a wine store. Red or white?

The wine revolution was happening before my eyes.

She takes out three bell jars and starts to rattle off “This is X998 from hum bolt, definitely more nutty than your other herb. Nice after effect, and smooth head. This is Green Machine coming from Kuchoo Oregon, small batch distributor with a citrus train that brings you at a higher altitude…” or some shit like that. Quite frankly I only heard the first two words as I smelled the jar and had my mind blown. First, When she opened the jar and presented it I held back the desire to laugh out loud. She was a pot sommelier and I was going to test the cork. Where the hell was I. So I did. Hoping that’s why she opened the jar in the first place. I had the urge to tip the jar back in my mouth, swoosh a few buds in there, then spit them out, just to see what she would do.

People are VERY serious about classifying their bud. That is a sign of a higher more sophisticated practice. Don’t believe me? Check out Leafly sometime:

Anyway, I stuck with just smelling them. I’m glad I did because pot, and the smell of it IS FUCKING CRAZY. What was really crazy was that all three of them SMELLED WICKEDLY DIFFERENT and unlike anything else I’ve ever smelled. So after some nodding and “oh, yes”ing as if I understood what the fuck she was saying, she put a few nugs of each in individual sealed bags and sent this noob on his way. She threw in a hash cookie, and I grabbed some gummy candy to play with. Then she said “84 dollars all together”. Oh right. It’s cash only. I remember (vaguely) from my trip to Denver that this was a cash only business. I still don’t know why the government doesn’t want in on this. Seems ridiculous.

“Shit. So sorry. Totally forgot. Where is the A-”

“Right behind you hun.”

Right. All figured out. I’ve been to Supermarkets that aren’t this well-organized.

“Here is a free joint for happy hour. Happy hour is every day between 4:20 pm and 6:20pm. If you shop with us at that time you get a free joint. Thanks and see you soon!”

A free joint. I mean, this was amazing.

19 minutes later I was in my car with a little brown bag full of week things and a certificate that says I’m allowed to have them. Kinda incredible. I felt accomplished in a weird way, like I took part in a movement that was happening. Mind you it was an amount of weed that would seem minuscule to the adverse user, but would last me at least 3 years. That wasn’t the point. The point was that this was an excercise of freedom, of living in a country that was embracing (however slowly) change.

And it felt good. America.

Coming home I took everything out and looked at it. It was all so nicely packaged I didn’t even want to use any of it. I was amazed to see that each jelly was 150 fucking calories, like a can of coke, and thought “that has got to be a mistake” or… the diabetes council has their hands in this somehow. Regardless living in LA wouldn’t be complete without having your marijuana carry card, and I can now call the Left Coast my home.

PS

For information on how to use pot, this was a good place to start since none of this crap comes with instructions. Honestly, there should be instructions, a nice little panflet with pictures. Ikea style. Just cartoons. Right?

happy michael king jr. day.

Today, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a day that hopefully we all celebrate equality of all Peoples. Today, we also celebrate the man who this holiday is named after, who was also considered “the most powerful Negro” by the FBI. Here are some other interesting facts, brought to you by our friends over at Today I Found Out:

• MLK’s birth name was Mike King Jr.

• MLK tried to commit suicide at age 12.

• If MLK wasn’t a smoker, he may have not been assassinated. (smoking kills kids.)

• MLK graduated COLLEGE by age 19 like a holy Doogie Howser.

• MLK spent his honeymoon in a funeral parlor. Kinky.

• MLK’s mother was also assassinated.

• Utah is officially the most racist state being the last to recognize MLK Jr. day in the year 2000.

These are just a few interesting facts. Of course T.IF.O. does a great job explaining all these interesting curios of history, but you’ll have to go over there to find out more. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day everyone. Remember to love one another.

Rs

finally. i can masturbate in my car.

Good. Got your attention. Problem is, I think we’re gonna loose it.

Here’s something new; a car that drives itself in traffic. I mean, we’ve all heard stories about car’s that drive themselves, but even your early adopting uncle Jack (you know, the dude that actually owns a Roomba) doesn’t have a self driving car.

Well this thing… exists. And works.

Dope idea right? Sorta. I may be an old fogie at 32 years old, but I like my drivers forced to control their vehicles. While I hate traffic as much as the next poor slob, them’s be the brakes, so to speak, with owning a personal combustion engine that portes you to work. Boo hoo, you gotta hit the break, then the gas, then the break. Walk, or better yet, take public transportation you lazy fuck; there’s no traffic in the club car, and you can drink on the way to work.

When I watch this asshead with his hands behind his head, I immediately think he’s dreaming he’s getting felacio from a down-and-out Lisa Whelchel (look it up). While texting and driving caused 23% of all traffic incidents last year, I cant help but wonder how long he can hold out from checking grinder. Or tinder. Or Furrier (Tinder for furries. trust.) 18 seconds, max, then, whamo. Right into the back of a bus caring child nuns with rescue kittens on the way to the hospice. Nice, real nice.

While I’m all for technology helping make time for us to masturbate more efficiently, like being able to make love to my iPad, or remotely able to get my partner off at Chipotle, I never want a device that allows me to masturbate that has the potential to kill. I mean, if it was a Lambo, that would be a different story, but Audi’s just aren’t that sexy.

Put your hands back on the wheel bro. Lisa ain’t coming around.

happy…birthday?

Yes. Happy birthday.

Another year. Another regeneration of cells, another set down for the final count. The earth has swung its fat ass around the flaming hydrogen ball one more time, there’s another grey on my chin, and France is another year older too.

Birthdays are great, mainly because I love to celebrate. Flag day, National Hotdog day, shit, I would even celebrate National Disobedience Day (July 3rd) … if that wasn’t against the rules.. Celebration is the desert of life, and pitfalls is the plate it is served on. So eat up folks, it’s fat free.

For point of Reference, July 14th, besides being my illustrious day of escape from the womb, is also Bastille Day, Pandaemonium Day, and National Nude Day, which really should all be one holiday really.

So remember this; plans change, people change, you might find you don’t have any change in your pocket. Find a reason to celebrate, and if you can’t, get some friends that make it impossible not to. And in the words of poet-philosopher Dean Martin, “put your worries away for tomorrow. If you’re lucky, someone will break in tonight, and steal ’em”. He drank a lot. But the message is there.

Artist's Rendition of the Birthday meal of 2014
Artist’s Rendition of the Birthday meal of 2014

Today, I celebrate all my friends, near, and far. I love you guys. You’re the reason for all the good shit;)

All my love,

Rs

 

PS – I hate you all:

cobble hill. stay away.

Seriously. Do not move to, or even come visit Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. It is the worst place on earth. Earth. Flint Michigan? Please, more like Daytona Beach. Detroit Michigan? Palm Springs in comparison. Hell, anywhere in Michigan is better than Cobble Hill. You should definitely go to Michigan. Here are some cheap plane tickets, check them out.

Why on earth would you want to come here? I mean, it’s minutes away from the rat infested city, and most places here actually have a backyard, or, dare I say, a veranda, that have bugs and shit. Ew. Nature. I mean, sure, there is one Starbucks, but most of the businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood are family owned. I mean, that’s just un-American! Where is my Olive Garden? My Spice Thai food? What do you mean you Italian and you are a butcher? I thought we got rid of all you people!

Yes, Cobble Hill, this family orientated, classic Brooklyn neighborhood, with strong Italian ethnic roots, and food direct from the old country is definitely a place to stay clear from. I mean, people here talk with an actual NYC accent? I thought we did away with that in the 1990’s with Sex in the City?

So, here are a few of my most hated places. Please. Do not come here, under any circumstances, unless you like disappointment and cultural shock. For reference I created a Goggle map so you can more effectively navigate your way away from these sinkholes of despair.

Eats:

Henry Public

Perhaps the lamest bar in Brooklyn with a terrible menu. A Turkey Leg sandwich on fresh-cut, thick sliced bread? I usually order two because I can’t believe how much I hate it. Also it’s not like they have the best mixologists in the city there, happy to make you a delicious, garden fresh libation. Who’s got time for that crap? PBR for me friends; none of this ice-cold Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, thank you very much.

Brucie

Dear God. How many times do I have to come here? Seriously? They keep changing the menu. And I keep clearing the plate, literally taking the fresh-baked bread and wiping it clean. Obviously the portions are too small, obviously. Thank God for Alka-Seltza which should come standard with the meal. They keep creating new dishes, (“market fresh and seasonal” they call it. “Communist” I call it.) each one more disgustingly dynamic then the next. And how cheerful does a place have to be? And the damn staff, I mean, it’s like they’re my friends. Who needs that? What are they trying to hide? A full bar, and an eclectic wine selection is the icing on the cake for this dump. Do not come here.

Prime Meats

Germans. Who need them, right? With their farm fresh meats, amazing beer, and dear God, what is the deal with the bread? It’s like warm, oven fresh bread with butter is some sort of religion for these people. Every time I come here I regret it. It’s usually for brunch and they usually shove one of their “specialty” bloody mary’s in my face. Then another. German’s right? So pushy. And them I’m like “Oh, you made me eat too much, now I can’t walk home” and they “happily” call me a cab. I swear, this place is a nightmare.

Frankies Spuntino

People actually get married in this dive, if you can believe it. Just because they have A) a farmhouse in the backyard and B) they have “amazing” food. Yeah, apparently they won some sort of award for the food and service, but I just don’t see it; this place is always crowded so to me that just says that they are as slow as shit. And how hard is it to make Italian food? I mean a red-head dude called Mario (fake) can do it, and I bet he’s from Ireland. Don’t waste your time here folks, make it a Di’Giorno night.

River Deli

This place is so lame that it doesn’t even have a website. Hows 1982 of you my friends. Are those parachute pants working out for you? Cash only and about the size of a thimble this joint serves up what they call “Sardinian Fare”. Please. With it’s “charming” rustic interior, and actual Italian staff this place is about as un-American as you can get. Not even a basic hamburger on the menu! How they stay in business I do not know.

Lucali

The last time I had to wait outside for a pizza was in 1984 in Moscow. Wait. I’m American and we have Domino’s. I don’t wait for pizza, ever.

Ted and Honey

More like “Meh and Run-with-your-money”. Casual seating with room for kids, and artisan breakfast sandwiches? Free newspapers and large lattes? No thanks. I take my breakfast like an American; wrapped in plastic while riding the F train.

Drinks: 

Henry Public – See above. Or not. Don’t care.

Bar Tabac

French people, am I right? With their cheese, their Saison beers, and their Goddamn joy du vive or whatever they fucking call it. Going to this place is like hanging out at some shack in Marseilles. That’s like the Detroit of France. Viva l’Americans. Dont go.

Clover Club

What is with people, prohibition, and pool? What was fun about prohibition? Nothing. Super un-American. So this “speak easy” with a “rousing attitude” can just go suck it. I mean, craft beer and hand crafted cocktails? Um… MGD thank you very much.

61 Local

All I’m gonna say is look at the name of this place. 61 Local? UNIONS!? Please. Should be called 61 Communists.

Shops:

Paisanos

Listen, Italian’s, we get it. You like to eat. Stop shoving it in our faces with your fresh meats like hand-made sausages, veal and something called a “porchetta”. If I want to eat pig, I do so with a chop. Like an American. And congrats for being family owned for over 150 years. Making your kids slaves does not sound like freedom to me.

Staubitz

Another one. Immigrants. Where are all the Americans? This one puts photographs of 4 entire generations of his family on the wall. Here’s the kicker, the old guy behind the counter expertly cutting your meat? He’s the young guy in the first picture. Right? Like way to move up in the world buddy. Sure their meats are top quality, and you can’t beat their “service” but seriously, if I wanted to go back in time I would watch Back to the Future on Betamax.

Pacific Green Gourmet Food

Hand on face slap. Gourmet Food? C’mon people, we call this a bodega here in NYC. It’s the kinda place you go when you need toilet paper or scratch-offs. Sure they have some cheeses from around the world, fresh fruits and veg, and yeah, orange blossom water in case you’re making a Ramon Gin Fizz, but really we’re only looking for the post-nightclub Red Bull and wishful thinking pack of Trojans thank you very much.

Trader Joe’s

I swear, didn’t I leave California to get away from this hippie crap? The only saving grace with Trader Joe’s in Manhattan is that there is a 3 hour line to pay for your two buck chuck and bean dip. Here though it’s, like, empty… all the time. Balls.

Cobblestone Catring

Broccoli Rabe in garlic and chili? Sweet Yams glazed with honey? Roasted Chicken with sautéed wild mushrooms? How lazy do you have to be to pick up a freshly cooked dinner. Not to mention their fresh-baked Pretzel Croissants? Didn’t you get the memo? People like cronuts idiots, not your flakey delicious pretzel Frankensteins. Lame.

Brooklyn Wine Exchange

When did America stop making things? Wine from Aruba? Ruhm from Canada? Bitters from the Marshall Islands? I mean give me Carlo Rossi American Wine and stop with this eclectic serving of drunk juice. No one wants it.

Cafe Pedlar

When did Starbucks lose its grip on the coffee industry? Why would I possibly want a fresh, hot, ham and cheese croissant that didn’t come from a factory and was lovingly swaddled in a cellophane wrapper with my fresh brewed coffee? Why?

Court Street Pastry Shop and Caputo’s Bake Shop

Jeebus! What is it with Italians and food? Thank you for the Olive Garden, you can go now. I mean TWO bakeries right next to each other? And neither one of them has a web site? It’s like they expect word of mouth to keep them in business for over 100 years. One word idiots, “groupon”. Look into it.

Esposito’s and Son’s Pork Store.

Pork Store. What a joke. This place has all kinds of fresh-cut meats, Italian goods, even arancini’s. I mean way to mislead the public. There should be a law.

First Place Provisions Beeeeeeeeeeeer

Um, really? There are children around. Do I need your world-class selection of beer, cheese and coffee? Is this an Istanbul market? What do you mean “don’t worry about the coffee, we got it, come back soon”? What kinda cult is this?

Mazzola Bakery

Please. Look at all these old Italian types hanging outside drinking coffee eating brioche. Mafia. All of them, Mafia. They should raid this place.

Court Street Grocers

Specialty items? Cheeses from New York? Pickled rhubarb? unpasteurized Milk??? Communist. Where is the Key Food?

Bookcourt

Oh brother. A bookshop. An “independent” bookshop no less. How “neighborhoody” and shit. I mean, first of all, if I want a bookshop, I want it to sell toys and mugs, like a Barnes and Nobel, mainly because I have to use the bathroom and they have one. Sure this shop is extensive, and if the don’t have it, then they can order it. They call you even when it arrives (hell, one guy actually brought the book to my house because it was “on his way home” as if the people who work here aren’t homeless – psssst…. no one buys books anymore, we have the internet now. Cat videos).

Video Free Brooklyn

Do I really need to even write anything here. I mean a video rental shop? It’s 2014 people. Heard of Netflix? Video is dead my friend, and no one wants to watch any of your funky foreign films are art house crap. We want Michael Bay and we want it pausing every 12 to 17 minutes to buffer.

That’s it, and honestly, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Tip. Cobble Hill and its adjoining nightmare Carroll Gardens are just chuck full of these un-American, socialist sinkholes, that only exist so hippie communists can take honestly earned American Dollars. I swear, it’s neighborhoods like this that make me wonder where our future is going.

Rs

 

 

crumbling clients.

So I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of visionary brands (and yes, this is where I list the best of them so you can see my net worth. Deal with it.) Victoria’s Secret, Reebok, Lincoln, you know, the big boys (and girls). No matter who the client is, and this is absolutely true, I approach the job the same way; that it is not a job. I enjoy what I do so I bring that enjoyment on set with me.

See, I used to have “a job”. I used to work in hotels. As in a “hotel manager”. I choose that job because it afforded me the ability to travel, and to pursue my passions as a filmmaker and writer and all that good stuff. Well, passions were pursued, and eventually I caught up with them, and now their my bitch. People ask me what I do in my free time. I either tell them “I don’t know what free time is” or “the same thing I do in my not free time”. The reason is if I wasn’t doing this for money, I would still be doing it, so I can’t really call what I do a job. Shhhhh. Don’t tell my clients.

 

The Secret is out... how can you call this work?
The Secret is out… how can you call this work?

So it doesn’t matter if its capturing bodies for Victoria’s Secret or cam shafts for Victor’s auto body, the work, the actual work I’m doing, is always enjoyable.

That’s why, when a client suddenly doesn’t call you back, you cry. (well I cry.)

Unlike in the hotel biz when a guest doesn’t return, you feel a tinge of pain, but you know that you’ve done all humanly possible to make their stay better than they dreamed, or remedied any situation beyond their expectations. I secretly loved being a manager, because I love people, and I love fixing problems, and people problems are the best kind to fix. If the filmmaking thing didn’t work out I was going to become a Jewish mother. There comes a point though where there really is nothing you can do to help a person because they have decided that there is nothing that can be done. It’s a two-way street with people, and I guess, that’s what makes it interesting.

With clients though, because you are doing what you love, because it is not a job but an extension of you, you take it very, very personally.

About a year ago I used to photograph cupcakes for Crumbs Bakery. It was a fantastic time; sometimes in the morning I would have to shoot a Victoria’s Secret model, then in the afternoon, about 3 dozen crazy cupcakes. I used to call it “panty and pastry Thursdays” and all my friends hated that, and me, subsequently. The cupcakes were ultimately much more exciting, mainly because you got to eat them at the end of the session, something that would never happen with the models.

crumbs cupcakes
I loved the plus sized models….

Things were going swimmingly. Each week a new batch. Flag day cupcakes, Halloween cupcakes, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Boxing day, Woman’s Suffrage Day. Crumb’s came up with new flavors and design for nearly every little note on the calendar. We had a great time building dioramas, getting creative with cream and sugar, and it didn’t ever seem it would end.

But then, it did.

They just stopped calling. We called them, asked, “anything this week?” they would reply, “No. Nothing this week. We’ll see next week.” but next week was the same deal. Soon we would ask, “did we do something wrong?” and they would say. “No. It’s just some restructuring.” the client equivalent to “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Well, I can’t tell you, this happened months ago, and I don’t pass a Crumb’s bakery, or even have a slice of birthday cake and not think of those beautiful days I spent with my Crumb’s cupcakes. I wonder where she went to, who she was hanging out with, and who was letting her beadboard light off of her. I would be jealous some days, others, just sad, wondering what was it I did, or perhaps, didn’t do, to make her stay with me.

Today I saw the news. Crumb’s is to close all its stores. They are totally bankrupt.

I can’t say I am happy. It’s not like the girl who dumps you, then you see her 15 years later at a cousin’s wedding and she’s fat with some sort of a mullet and a boyfriend named Ted who’s in “finance” (sells auto insurance over the phone. Nice try Ted). No, it’s not like that. It’s more like you found out your love had a terminal illness, and instead of telling you, she let you go, as to not bring you down. Or it’s like, “damn. So that was it.” and you might be able to eat a slice of Cookie Puss now without that sinking feeling in your stomach (you’ll still get that feeling. I mean, its Carvel after all)

The point (is there one Rob?) is that when you do what you love, it is impossible sometimes to separate your emotions from your “work”. This is the real challenge; to be able to give yourself fully to what you do, but have the restraint to be able to make cold business decisions when need be. I am constantly guilty of doing more than what is budgeted mainly because it doesn’t bother me. When you’ve listened to Hollywood hipsters complain about how they can’t get into the SkyBar for 5 years, and how it’s ruining their lives, then any request from a client asking to do something that you love just seems like heaven.

First world problems I suppose. Good luck Crumb’s. You will always have a sweet spot in my heart.

Rs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bad ass bike for good reason.

Exhibit A: John Varvatos. A Rock and Roll, bad ass designer.

Exhibit B: Black Motorcycles. An Underground, road rash motorcycle shop.

Well they got together and had a child.

A while back I was asked to direct a film for Varvatos about a very unique project he was organizing; a one of a kind John Varvatos motorcycle. The bike was being built by the motorheads at the Black Motorcycles in Brooklyn. It was going to be a mean cafe racer, tricked out and styled by Varvatos himself. The motorcycle was then going to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Road Recovery who takes at risk teens and keeps them off the street by giving them the gift of music. All in all a pretty sweet project, and oh yeah, Slash did the music for the film. I got to put on his hat. One more off the bucket list.

slash's hat

Here is the vid we did … a simple piece where Vavatos speaks casually to camera. My favorite types of interviews.

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Well the bike is finally done… and it is mean looking. Surely it will go for a pretty penny, and it definitely should, considering all the proceeds are going to a great causes. Also because it’s tax deductible. double down ya’ll.

 

Here’s some stills from Varvatos’ office in the city… such a beautiful space… it’s exactly how I wanted it to look, with bits of fabric, leather and metal all around… like a junk box for creativity. Love ya John, you make cool shit. Keep doin’.