Write through the suck.

It’s a new year, and the reason why we even have such a thing is because as humans we really need to mark the changing of time to evaluate how the hell we are doing. I mention this, I take the time to write this post, for myself and for anyone that is taking the time to notice the time. We need time. It is how we judge our health. Health of body, mind and soul. Are we better or worse. Richer/poorer. More or less in love with people, things or ourselves.

With that, I think a lot of us should stop paying attention to time;)

It really isn’t there you know. It’s a construct we made up, today doesn’t know that yesterday happened, and tomorrow really isn’t a thing. It really is just one moment strung across an infinite amount of time. We break it down to years, days, minutes so that we can measure different aspects of reality. It’s good for some things, like keeping us on track, loosing weight, making sure we have enough money or food or love to keep us going, but for the creative, it can be a disaster.

With creativity, forget time. It’s not just useless, it’s creativities disaster.

I ran across this little video of “successful” screenwriters giving tips on writing screenplays. I put successful in quotes not to be shitty, but because I think it’s funny that we need people that are deemed successful to give us advice. All of these people had the same advice when no one knew them, and it was just as valid then, if not more so, then now. It’s what Im talking about; it doesn’t matter how much time it takes to “make” something … it is the “making” that is the goal.

 

It’s a great video … and it relates to so much more then screenwriting. It really is good advice for anything creative or passion driven in your life. If it’s the desire of travel, making of films, or learning to bake, this advice hits home. Now with this new year upon us, take a second to reflect that every day is a possible new year, and in reality no day is a start of something new. It is a continuation of all time, and if this moment in that great moment is when you start something, consider for a second that maybe it’s not an actual start, as it’s been in the mail so to speak since the beginning of time, and just happens to be now that is presents itself. That said, whatever it is, stay at it, and remember to “write through the suck” because the suck is part of all of it.

Happy 2019.

You are not original. (and that’s good)

This is a story about, well, stories. If you come here to read about travel, or maybe to get some technical knowhow about drones, chances are you are doing it because you love “story”.

This week, perusing the internets, as you do, I found a surprising amount of films about story, more specifically about the structure of stories. I hardly find it odd when the collective world (internet) unconscious swells together on a subject, in many ways it is the digital version of “A hero of a thousand faces” or in this case “A meme of a thousand blog posts”. Either way, it incited me to add to that unconscious, maybe waking up the three people out there that were not fully aware that all stories, are beautifully the same.

You may hear the positivity in my voice through the post that every story is the same. That wasn’t always there. When I was just a wee lad (of 19) I decided to study film, specifically Film Theory, because I really wanted a struggle when I left school. In so, I read a lot of philosophy, critique, and one book that is basically the bible of all Theory: Hero of a Thousand Faces, by Mr. Joe Campbell. (Side note: If HOATF is Batman Begins, then The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler is the animated series. Equally as good, perhaps a little more digestible)

Before I ever wrote, made, or conceived of a script I was told that my idea was not original, and if it were, it surely would not work as a film.

Kinda a dick punch if you ask me.

At first I was afraid, I was petrified. Thinking I couldn’t live without originality on my side. I thought to be anything in this world you had to be original, you had to break the rules. I mean what would Tarentino, Aronofski, Dan Harmon think about that?!

They would agree with my professors apparently. Here is Dan Harmon on the Hero’s Journey:

Why this ritual of descent and return? Why does a story have to contain certain elements, in a certain order, before the audience will even recognize it as a story?

Because our society, each human mind within it and all of life itself has a rhythm, and when you play in that rhythm, it resonates.

I mean have you seen some of Dan Harmon’s work? If this guy follows the rules, then shit, I gotta recalibrate my thinking.

After I got past my teenage angst I started to watch films like a scholar instead of an audience. Once I learned about the formula that went into story, it was impossible to unsee it, much like a trained chef can’t take a bite of food without dissecting its flavor element by element, even unconsciously.

What started as resentment gave way to security over the years. Being told to follow the rules with creativity was difficult, but after seeing how it functioned in the real world, over and over, something changes inside; you begin to become comfortable trusting the rules, releasing you from “changing the game” to “playing it differently” which is ultimately easier to wrap your head around.

So, be like everyone else. There is a skill in that too. Check out these two videos, they’re very well done, and will make you look at story a whole different way.Well, the same way, but you get what I’m saying.

 

And if you want more, here is a whole channel of videos devoted to the subject of story. And I paid 40k for 30 hours of free youtube videos…

Edmonton under the radar.

“Now you know how the ham feels,” the young kid behind the bar with the Shaggy goatee said over my pour, “you’re smack in the middle of it.” It is perhaps the closest way to explain how it feels to be in Edmonton, a city so smack central in a continent not many people make the trip to, or escape from. While it’s wholly inconspicuous remoteness might keep Edmonton off travelers radars, it was exactly what was attractive to me to her. What I came to find is that little ol’ Edmonton holds the record for some of the largest and most prolific attractions of any city, in the world. Where is the largest mall in North America? What city has the largest urban parkland? What city has the most music festivals? What major city has no rats, whatsoever. Always Edmonton. As a native New Yorker, I needed to see this ratless, wunderland for myself.

The first thing you notice about Edmonton is a strange dichotomy between city and nature. Here you will find two diametrically apposing wonders of the world; the largest shopping mall in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest natural reserves in the country.

As the morning weather was perfect, I headed to Elk Island National Park which is ironically chock full of wild buffalo that practically overrun you as soon as you enter. Thankfully they were Canadian Buffalo so they were very polite and allowed us to watch, photograph, and even say hello through the open window of our car. The rest of the park with its long hiking trails, lakes and public areas is a fantastic way to spend a morning, and brings you into the raw and beautiful Canadian wilderness instantly.

Having gotten my full of nature I was excited to see what the largest shopping mall in North America would look like. At first glance of the West Edmonton Mall, I was wholly unimpressed. Roosevelt Field in Mineaola, Long Island. The Dauphin Mall, in Kendell, Florida. Fox Hills Mall in Sherman Oak, California. These were Malls. Mecca’s to commerce, Cathedrals of capitalism, temples of teenage angst. From the lifeless, beige exterior I was so far not impressed.

Until I entered and fell gently to my knees.

Edmonton the mall10

This mall isn’t just huge, it’s epic. Epic like a very long poem written by a beardy Greek fellow. Epic like being sent on a ship to a continent that doesn’t exist yet. Epic like a Jerry Bruckhimer film. Yes. This was the Independence Day of malls.

55 city blocks long this small city of stores houses hundreds of shops and restaurants, and more then a dozen bathrooms. That’s over 120 urinals, which is more then the population of some Swiss towns. This might all be impressive but when you realize there is a full beach with wave park, amusement park with roller coaster, mini-golf, a full scale pirate ship and a seal tank you basically realize you are no longer in a mall, you are in the worlds most entertaining city. I mean there is a live seal, in the mall, doing tricks for you, as shop. Oh Canada!

Strangely I did not see a hotel in the mall, or I would have stayed there, so I closed my gaping jaw and headed back to the city center. As dusk settled in I found myself in Old Strathcona, the wonderfully hipster historic center of Edmonton. Strath is full of funky shops, crooked bars, and artsy scene that echo Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Skateboarders and kids in need of showers give this bohemian center a charming, relaxed atmosphere, which is a perfect place to wind the day down. Strolling through the streets you can see some fantastic murals, a few antique trolleys, farmer markets, and street music. Best of all no matter what time of year you come you will always be treated to some epic event, as Edmonton has over 30 music festivals a year, and one of the largest Fringe festivals, which is more then any other city in the world.

A few pints of the local Yellowhead lager in me I headed back downtown over the High Level Bridge, where I ran into a nice lady who was painting on the walkway. “This bridge use to be completely dark. We put lights on it. Now it shines all year round.”

“Who put lights on it?”

“We did. The people who live here.” And it was true. Maybe in the best sign of proud city unity the inhabitants of the city funded to have LED lights placed on the bridge, by themselves. I thought having a co-op in my neighborhood was cool. This was next level hipster, on a city scale.

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Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Journal

Famished from my walk, I marched directly to the Hardware Grill, where Chef Larry Stewart transforms the traditional into the sublime. There were cocktails that leave you elated, lightly battered KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) that floated down from heaven, and a piece of Bison that was so tender, I completely forgot I saw these majestic beasts just a few hours ago wandering alive and free. It’s a fantastic place definitely not to be missed.

Sated beyond belief, I opted to walk back to see what Edmonton had to offer the night owl. I was pleased to find a bright and colorful city, fully of youth, gourmet poutine food trucks, and lively bars. Passing Churchill Square I stopped to watch a bit of a free screening of Pitch Perfect 2 that the city put on, with hundreds of people out enjoying the open-air theater, laughing together like it was a bunch of friends over someone’s basement. Edmonton had the feel of a small town packed into a modern city, as if you become instant family by just arriving there.

It was so friendly that it was hard not to strike up a conversation every time I stopped moving for a minute. People were chatty and excited to offer suggestions of what’s best in the city. I had already seen so much and been unexpectedly impressed by this unknown metropolis that I found it truly surprising to discover what was possibly the only reason to come to Edmonton: The Green Onion Cake.

“You haven’t had a Green Onion Cake?!” the girl in the Canadian flag wrapped folding chair said looking at me as if I said I never heard of Justin Bieber. “It’s our national dish! How long have you been in town?”

“About 8 hours.”

“What have you been doing?!” Apparently the largest mall, a natural Bison petting zoo, and a meal I will judge all other future meals against was a huge waste of time when facing the Edmonton Green Onion Cake. “Go to The Underground. Right now. It’s around the corner. No sign. That’s how you know you’re there.”

There are some foods whose origin are truly shrouded in mystery; bird nest soup of south east asia. The Surströmming buried Fish of Northern Sweden. The Chicken McNugget. This was another mystery that I was hoping to solve at The Underground, a gastropub that indeed doesn’t look like it should be there. Inside a commercial building and down a very poorly lit escalator you are birthed into a warm, dimly lit cavern of beer heaven. More taps than members of parliament, I saddled up to the bar and lent in close to the barkeep. “Do you have…” I paused… for dramatic effect, “Green Onion Cake?”

“Yep. With Pork?”

“If that’s what one does.” He nodded. It came. It was not what I expected.

Edmonton underground85.jpg

Basically a what a New Yorker would call a Scallion Pancake at a Chinese restaurant, but much larger, and with a large bialy like hole in the middle. It is then stuffed with tender pulled pork and special sauce which you then immediately shove into your face as if it were air, and you had been trapped underwater most of your life. It is delicious, but was a dish with an origin as unique as Edmonton itself. I was entirely confused. How was this Edmonton’s National dish, I queried my new friend behind the bar.

“Well, it’s hard to say. Lots of people have different stories, but I think the consensus is that there was this Chinese couple, from China, that made it originally. They have a restaurant that’s been around since the 70’s. They were the first. But I read that the restaurant just closed down. Like it closed today. A real shame. History. Gone. But hey, at least we still have the Green Onion Cake, amairite?”

In a way Green Onion Cake is a perfect symbol for the city of Edmonton; here is something foreign, that has traveled a very long way, and has not only been accepted into Edmonton life, but Edmonton made it its own. Be it the shopping mall, nature, or even it’s own heritage, Edmonton seems to have the wonderful ability to take whatever it has, and truly make it an original article unlike anything else out there.

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

Japan: Next Stop Nara.

Nara is a beautiful little town. Quiet, out of the way, and not murdered by tourists, it really is a beautiful retreat where you can experience ancient Japan in the modern era. The train here is a quick hop from Osaka, and getting around by foot is a breeze.

Arriving at the station we didn’t know what to expect; it really looked like any other town. As we walked down the main street, just off the station, we started to notice the shops were a bit more geared to antiques and writing utensils. It took us a good 20 minutes to get Nara Park. Lemme tell you something, this place is magical.

First of all… deer. Everywhere. It’s like a Disney movie. According to legend, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. They also love these deer biscuits that guys with carts sell. Don’t try to ride them thought. They do not like to be ridden, apparently, if you are not a god.

The park is magical. There are several shrines and museums, but the most fantastic part is just walking the paths. Stone lanterns line green paths, there are gardens pretty much everywhere, and you truly feel at total peace. At the end there is a small “love” shrine, where you can get a “magical” piece of paper that when soaked in the sacred water will show your love’s path. I can tell you this, my love’s path was the one that led me to Nara because I simply am in love with it.

Once you had your full of nature, the back roads of Nara are equally enchanting. This is an ancient city, and was the capital of Japan in the 700’s. Not too shabby. Wandering around here you will find little shops and artisans selling this and that, and some fantastic spots to eat that will make you cry tears of miso.

One thing that was super interesting were these yellow raised tiles (see above). You will find them everywhere in Japan, in the train stations, in the streets, everywhere. They’re for blind people. Yeah. So blind people can get around Japan, easier. That’s the kind of place Japan is.

In any case, blind or not, Nara is definitely not to be missed. Easy to get to, walk and see in a day. We had lot’s to see though so …

Next stop… KYOTO!

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

denver. how to buy pot in three easy steps.

So, Denver. You go away for the summer and come back a cool kid? Looks like someone discovered American Eagle and leather wrist bands. Good for you.

On our last post in a series about Denver, we take a good, hard look at pot. Marijuana. Mary Jane. Buds. Chronic. The Cheech to my Chong. I went to Denver to find out really what the deal was with dealing, how the processed worked, and if it was, at all, interesting. It was, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

Without further adieu, how to buy pot in Denver in three easy steps.

Step 1) Find a pot dispensary.

This may seem like an obvious step, but trust me, it isn’t. I thought there would be shops that sold weed that you would walk in and buy said weed. Not exactly. It’s not like “hey, I need a new pair of sunglasses, let me go into this sunglass shop and buy a pair of said sunglasses”… apparently it depends on what kind of eyes you have. (long way to go for a visual metaphor, but I’m the kinda guy that’s willing to do it).

First thing to do is go to your trusty ol’ smartphone and download an app for finding weed (read that sentence again, then think back 10 years and realize that half the words in said sentence wouldn’t even make sense … dear God the future is bright). I chose Weedmaps because I trust reviews. It’s a great little app, and it does the job. For your consideration:

You can see that Denver has a few more dispensaries then NYC to buy weed (my guy delivers though, so, sorry Denver, suck it.)

Now you’re saying “Rob. You just said that it wasn’t that easy to find places to buy weed. It looks like it’s easier to get some El Chronico then it is to get a Starbucks Espresso.” Well, yes and no. What I didn’t realize is that there are different types of dispensaries; some are medical, some are recreational. These, for instance, are not places I cannot buy pot:

2) Get freaked out.

Number two is a fun one. Not everyone has to do it, but you’re going to want to. Once you actually find a pot dispensary you can legally purchase the goods at, it is important that you get a bit freaked out. The process is in no way what I would call refined or even enjoyable. I expected something more along the lines of my Brooklyn cheese monger, who goes over the particular characteristics of each variety, where it is from, and what wine is best paired with it.

None of that here.

Entrance into the shop is nothing less than what you should expect from an underground rebel base in Eastern Europe. You have to hold up your ID outside a generic, steel reinforced door, into a tiny camera with a key pad. You then state your name. You then wait for the longest 5 seconds of your life, and be greeted by the grating rattle of a buzz as the door is electronically unlocked. Inside the shop everything is super clinical. White on white on white. Super organized, devoid of any character or personality. It kinda looks like Phillipe Starck opened a head shop, sans oversized flowerpots. What really got me was the staff; they don’t want you in there, or at least, it seemed like that to me. Although it’s “legal” they have a hurried air about them that makes it feel like you are doing something totally shady. Mind you, this is before we got high, so paranoid we were not. This was real.

Now, there are dozens of products here. Dozens of strains. Dozen of edibles. Asking questions about them went something like this:

me: “Hey. could you tell me a bit about the different varieties you have here?”
them: “do you understand the difference between sativa and indica?”
me: “sort of…”
them: “well this side is indica, and this side is sativa.”

Great. Thanks.

In the end we chose one gram of indica named Peaches and Cream, and a gram of sativa named White Truffle Hush, plus some cherry drop edibles. We paid cash, as this is a cash only industry. Here is something very interesting about legally buying pot in Denver; you see it’s totally illegal.  The federal government still considers it a drug, so things like credit card companies and banks cannot lawfully take money in from the businesses. Therefor everything is done with cash; you buy goods in cash, they pay their employees in cash, they take bags and bags of cash from the store to the banks. I guess that’s why they are so fucking up tight. It reminded me of that scene in Lock Stock if Lock Stock and THX 1138 had a film baby (Ill let you all draw your own comparisons between those films. THX George? Did you know something we didn’t. No, of course not. Go fuck up another Star Wars will ya).

All in all the total was 70 bucks, which isn’t bad, but for once NYC wasn’t the most expensive place on the planet. One of the reasons is because of the tax, a whopping 28% that garnished about 2 million just in the first month for the state. Amazing that while federally the sale of marijuana is not legal, it is legal to tax it. Taxation like that would surely lead to tea party riots, save the fact that tea is caffeinated, and pot heads couldn’t rally if they were giving away free churros.

3) Find a place to smoke it like you still live with your parents. 

So you’ve found a place to buy it, you’ve legally purchased your buds, and now you want to smoke it. Good luck! Denver, as far as I can tell, is a super clean, conservative city. You hardly see people smoking cigarets let alone lighting up a J on the street. We didn’t find any cafe’s like they do in Amsterdam, and I smell someone smoking weed on the street way more often in NYC then I did in legalized Denver. So, where to do it?

Denver_serrini-3287

Yup. Like we never left college.

The thing about the whole process, besides having to find the right place, and the clinical/cold method to purchase, is that there really is no reason to smoke once you have it. That may sound weird, but I’ve been to so many other places in the world where smoking weed enhances your experience; the butterfly sanctuary in Santa Barbara. The Vondelpark in Amsterdam. The Natural History Museum in New York. For me at least, there is a recipe for life, and certain ingredients can be added to make a perfect meal. Denver, as a city, didn’t need pot. It had clean public spaces, fantastic breweries, and lot’s of great restaurants. While you can make the argument that pot could enhance all of these places, it’s kind of like adding Sriracha to any meal. You can do it… but… should you? Some things just go better together, and Denver with pot seemed like Yoga and Bowling. Sure they’re both fun, I just don’t see why you would do them together.

did we ever leave college?

So off in our room we smoked our weed and got high. The weed was good and did the job, and riding around on bikes all day was a pleasant experience. I personally really liked the edibles, because you’d have one in the morning and all day you just floated through the city. I guess what I missed was stimulus. Pot, for me, always makes me hyper aware; my mind works faster (at least, different…), I run down streets of thought versus stroll down them. Denver is a pretty laid back town, spread out, with a pretty common pallet of culture and color. Maybe I’m used to NYC, but it wasn’t frenetic enough to energize me, nor was it laid back enough to sooth me. Pot just seemed out-of-place here, and while it was legal, I don’t think one person spoke about it, smoked about it, or even bothered about it.

I asked one kid at the bar what the deal was with legalizing pot; if they noticed any change in the city, or the people. She said, “you know, it seems like its been legal for a decade, because you could get medical marijuana for so long. Making it legal “recreationally” just was another day in Denver”. I guess that’s what I didn’t expect. In another city, the possibility to capitalize on a new market would be evident; new restaurants that were pot-centric, special pot-head movie nights, and of course, pot mini-golf. From the outside Denver looked like any other quiet city in the world, who’s mini-golf had 9 holes just like it did in the Bible. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something different, the only thing that is really different about Denver these days is how much it was like yesterday.

Rs

P.S. Upon leaving we threw out our pot, most of it unconsumed, and we felt horrible about it. We wondered how much pot goes wasted for travelers who cannot bring their goods home with them. Our cabbie (who was ethiopian, and apparently, so are most of the cabbies in Denver, which I found super interesting) told us that we should have brought the pot with us back to New York, because, if they do find it they just take it away, no harm no foul. Of course this is not a recommendation under any circumstances, nor do I know if that is even remotely true, but he said that it happens all the time. He also said that most people give it to him before they leave, to the point that he is planning to open up his own shop outside the airport for people that are laid-over or snowed in. Now that is the American Dream if I’ve ever seen it and I wish Abdel-Alim the best of luck.

denver. city of suds.

So, apparently, Denverinos (surely not what they call themselves) like beer. A lot. A whole fucking lot. 

This is good because I like beer too. I like beer so much, I actually invented a TV show. That’s right, invented. It’s called the Brewhaha and I’m still waiting for a call from Esquire apologizing for Brew Dogs. I’ll wait.

Right, beer. Denver. Back on track.

I like to think being from New York Fucking City that we have the best of everything. Beer culture in NYC is amazing no doubt, with Pony Bar, Alewife, and my fave, Jimmy’s No. 43 bringing it’s A game, but I never, ever, have seen something so amazing as the beer culture in Denver. Let’s put it this way; if beer was venereal disease, then Denver would be a 18th century cheap French prostitute named Rose-Marie. It’s got it all.

There for 3 days, I was on a mission to see some of Denver’s suds stars and sample some of the more unique nectar they produce, with my compatriot, Tom Taddeo, who is no fool in the subject of beer. Tom is owner of VBGB’s, Charlotte’s premiere craft beer house, and suffers no sappy suds lightly. It was like going to the movies with Roger Ebert, rather, like being at the Tribeca Film Festival with Roger Ebert. Shit was about to get critical.

In all we visited about 15 breweries. Let that sit in. 15. And that’s casually just walking round town. Everywhere we went, there was a brewery. Of course you hit the “famous” ones; Epic, Breckenridge, Great Divide. Then you just start running into them, tucked into corners, in residential areas, even in the back of bookshops. Everyone, everywhere, seemed to make beer. Even the DMV (although you had to wait in line for an hour for a pint).

While each had its own flavor (especially the Death Metal breweries we went to. Yes, that is plural, as in there was more than one Death Metal brewery), but one above all was my favorite by far … I give you…

EPIC BREWING COMPANY

Tucked away outside the pristine stuffiness of LODO (lower downtown Denver… stop trying to be NYC will’ya?) you will find this mecca of brew. Epic is vast, shiny, and new. The staff there are super cool, happy to chat, and what’s more, happy to leave you alone to sip your suds. It’s a quick ride from downtown on one of those little red city bikes, and there are some cool places to eat around the area, making it a win-win. Here are a few one phrase reviews of the selection we had:

Double Skull Double Boch (8.5%) • Butterscotch wool sweater with shorts, fireside. Fucking Rad.
Blackberry Saison (6.7%) • A sour citrus funky mistress.
Brainless Belgian (9.2%) • Um… sorry dont remember.
Brainless on Peaches Belgium (11.5%) • more like a Pilsner Noir.
Brainless Belgium IPA (6.6%) • A Creamy Capt’n Lawrence.
825 State Stout (5.6%) • Drinking fucking chocolate velvet.
Oaked Belgium (11%) • A luden’s lapdog by the fireside.
Coffee Baptist Imperial (10.5%) • Starbochs.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other great breweries in jolly ol’ Denver, but Epic was just the cremdelacrem receiving high marks all around. So you know who was in our little competition, lets run down the rest of the greats in Denver:

GREAT DIVIDE

There wasn’t much of a divide between Epic and GD truth be told. Awesome beers like Collete and Hoss are hard to come by, and they are served up proper at the source. It’s also located in a funny part of town, surrounded by interesting little shops, dispensaries, and more pawn shops that I’ve ever seen in my life, so it’s a great way to spend a boozy afternoon.

WYNKOOP

Another cool brewery, except for that Bubba Gump corporate atmosphere it’s got going on. A little too polished and a little to clean, but the beer is damn good with some interesting concoctions like Patty’s Chili Beer, which was actually fantastically drinkable. Added points for the girl who looked topless across the bar while she watched the game on the TV.

BRECKENRIDGE

Breck suffers the same fate of Wyncoop, but in spades. First, it’s more like a Cheesecake factory for beer inside this mega-brewsteraunt. Second, their website makes you answer if you are above 18 to enter (which I think is the equivalent to asking a murderer if he killed someone. Useless), and third, well, some of their beers really, truly suck. One note I have is “like accidentally pouring your stale morning coffee into your warm beer” and another is “most likely something that goes into the car”. That’s not to say that some beers weren’t good, they were, but it was definitely hit or miss here, kinda like waking up the morning after a rave meeting the person lying next to you in bed. Could go either way.

BLACK SKY

When you think beer you obviously think death metal, right? Of course… Danzig and doublebocks, Sepultura and saisons. Black Sky was one of TWO metal breweries we went to. The irony? All their beer was extremely light. I mean like O’Doul’s light. Still, points on the cross-over factor, and still waiting for a French Ya-Ya brewery. Investors call me when you’re ready.

CROOKED STAVE

Crooked stave is an interested lil brewery located way outside town, literally on the other side of the tracks, in a strange lil complex called “The Source“. It’s kinda like a pop-up destination; a modern strip mall, if strip malls were built by community conscious hipsters. What is different about Crooked Stave is pretty much everything. I’m sure it said “beer” somewhere, and the word “brewery” was outside, but this was not “beer” per se. What we had was an “infusion of brew” with … kombucha. Sit with that. Kombucha beer.

Let’s just say it was not for the faint of heart.

I tell you this… after 3 days we couldn’t touch another beer. Of course we did … our last night we went to the Chop House which was awesome, and yes, they too were a brewery. Like most places have ATMs inside, Denver seems to have breweries, and you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. Keep brewing the liquid gold my Denverinos… and we’ll keep drinking them.

Except you Breckenridge. You know what you’ve done.

Rs

dear cops. I bought pot.

That’s right fuzz. I bought pot. Lots of it. Pot you can smoke, and some you can even eat. And what’s more… I smoked it. In my face hole. Yup.

So whatchagonnadoboutit?

Nothing. That’s right. Mainly because it was legal, as I bought it in Denver, Colorado; the new pothead’s playground.

bud

This is the first of a series of posts about the adventure I’ve had out mid-west. It was an eye-opening experience, and anything but sobering. I’m going to break it down into a few different chapters:

• The Beer
• The City
• The Food
• The Hotel
• and of course, The Pot.

First, a prelude.

Beyond just going to the mile high city to get stoned (yep, dodged the pun. You’re welcome) it was my yearly boycation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Tom Taddeo. Tom and I lived with each other in a slick little Hell’s Kitchen apartment back when you could still smoke in the city. Since then we’ve been married, and some of us divorced, but  every year we set a long weekend aside to check in and check out a place we’ve never been. The choice to go to Denver went something like this:

Tom: “So where do you wanna go this year?”
Me: “Donno. Preferably somewhere with good food and beer. And pot.”
Tom: “So. Denver it is.”

And it was.

sxsw

It’s important, perhaps more than anything, to make the time to take the time in life. The younger version of me would be proud that I do that now, cutting out a few precious days to reconnect with an old friend who’s seen you drink your share, make a decent amount of bad decisions, and has become a ring in the trunk of your existence.

So I crossed the great divide to meet up with ol’ Taddeo and watched the fabric of the country roll out its quilt 30,000 feet below me. 29,000 feet later I was on land, but frankly it could have been the moon.

Denver, I would find out soon enough, is a very strange place.

Rs

plane

drinking where you shouldn’t.

Well at least you look good doing it.

Last week I checked out the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. For those of you interested in going next year, let me tell you, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR HARD EARNED MONEY. WORST TIME EVER.

That is all.

Garbage! Dont go!
Garbage! Dont go!

They gone? Sure? Ok… for those reading on not planing to ever go and risk changing it in any way, it was the most fantastic place to get shitface in the history of getting shitface.  King Tut getting pissed atop of a pyramid yelling “I’m king-tut-of-the-world bitches!!!”. Boring. Caesar doing a backstroke in a golden vessel filled with fine Roman wine? Snooze. Napoleon getting trashed with Marie Antoinette, panty-less, atop the Arc de Triomphe? Lame. (Lame but count me in.)

Let me explain how epic this event was by saying this: it’s the New York Public Library. You know. The big one. On 5th Ave. With that amazing reading room. Ghostbusters? Yep, that one. All 4 floors of it. All the rooms. Open… with open bars. 

Marinate on that for a sec.

First, I love the Public Library. Besides Grand Central Terminal it is, by far, my favorite building in New York. It’s massive, sprawling, heavy, and with such  tremendous history and such opulent design that I have walked straight into small children, trampled them really, because I was so engrossed looking anywhere but where I was walking. It’s a siren in a sea of concrete, and she calls you in and steals your heart.

And now your liver.

The event is nothing short of Gala status and seemed as if Fellini was the event planner, Hemingway the caterer, and everyone you know within 3 years of your age was on the guest list. For me, it’s the perfect storm of parties. First, the building itself is so entertaining, that you literally are walking through a conversation. You are able to explore rooms, and floors, that I’ve never seen before. Touch fireplaces and mantlepieces, gawk at exquisite chandeliers. All while boozing it. 

Next, you have mad crazy cool music. In every nook, hall, and room you will hear something. A funky jazz band, some old-timey bluegrass, or even, I donno… maybe… The Outkast? Sure why not. And yeah, Quest Love stopped by to spin for us while we were rolling around on a mirrored dance floor. All while boozing it.

Then you have food. Everywhere. Taffy, meatballs, little dumpling in little dumpling sauces. A perfect balance between ambrosia and nectar. In a building where a diabetic usually can’t bring a candy bar, you’re graciously dripping meat sauce down your tux like a maniac. All while boozing it.

Finally, it’s the people. Usually events are ruined by the people who go to it. In New York it can be hit or miss; over publicize and you got amateur hour. Too under the radar and you don’t know the other 4 people in the room. This was perfect across the board; people, pretty much around the same age, and more importantly all with the same agenda. To booze it up.

Not convinced? Here are a few “facts” from the event:

– over 25,000 drinks served (all in proper glassware, of course)
– over 7,800 lbs of ice
– 700 origami birds
– 400 lbs of pulled pork sliders
– 300 lbs of shrimp
– 200 lbs of Ora King Salmon sashimi
– 50 king palm trees 
– 10 feathered dancing girls
– 2 flashers
– 0 cocktail glasses left in Party Rentals’ tri-state inventory

You getting the picture here?

Sure it was a celebration of the grain, but there was something even more magical to it then just trying over 80 specialty cocktails from over 150 of the worlds best bartenders, er, mixologists. Libationists? Inhebriator enablers? Bartenders, whatever. There was a perfect energy, as if someone gave us all a second prom where we all knew we were getting laid later on. There was no stress, none of that pubescent frenzy, but all the innocent energy and hell-or-high-water bring it on fun. Everyone looked stunning dressed in that gown you have been saving since you cousins wedding 6 years ago and that suit you never found a good enough reason to wear after your court appearance. It was like we were in the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby if it were directed by Noah Baumbach instead of Baz Luhrmann (I would totally watch that Noah, just saying.). We all chatted, were friendly, let people cut in line with us, and shared the secret location of the 80’s dance room. We weren’t in a city anymore, we were floating down a river of best friend juice toward an ocean of sublime alcoholic solution.

So yeah, whatever you do, dont go. It sucked. I can’t believe it cost as much as it did, and I’m in a horrible legal battle trying to get the amount refunded, and I think I got hepatitis from a dirty glass. Quite possibly the worst night ever. Dont go. Please. Please dont.

Rs
*all photos taken with my trusty iPhone. Thanks Steve Jobs.

miranda_dancing

 

phuket, I’m outta here.

Finally. Paradise.

Met the girl at the airport. I love moments like these. They are so very rare. Travelling for me has always been a solitary activity. Perhaps being an only child with flight benefits from a very early age made me love to go forth with reckless and lonely abandon. I love travelling alone; it’s really the best way to discover a new place. It forces you in many cases to get into the sort of good trouble that you wouldn’t normally within the comforts of a familiar partner. I suggest it to any wayward college age kid to buy a ticket and just go. It’s kinda the same advice I give people who want to get into film; pick up a camera and shoot. Hemingway once said “The secret to life is living. It’s just that simple.” Alright, I’m not sure if Hemingway ever said that, but it is certainly possible. It sounds like him and there are no adjectives, so, yeah.

While travelling alone is a magic way to discover yourself, it is also not surprisingly the only real way to get to know a person which is why I was very excited see my girl on the literal other side of the world. Here we were two new animals, unclassified from the concrete jungle that normally defines us. It’s like the Hunger Games IRL. (I called Katness if anyone is wondering.)

Let the games begin!

We spent a mere few hours in Bangkok, cruising the airport terminal amazed that they had a Boots of all things for us to pursue (no sausage rolls, damn you Bangkok). We then hopped a short flight to Phuket, gateway to Thai Island Paradise. Hopping a snazzy cab in Phuket we made our way to the Indigo Pearl, which to me sounded more like a Battlestar Galactica spaceship then a hotel, and, I came to find out, t’was. I can’t really say enough about the Indigo Pearl. It’s the kinda place that can only exist in a generally lawless and beautiful country like Thailand. The resort rivals most small towns in it’s mere size. The lobby wasn’t so much a lobby as it was a port for people. Open and vast, dark wood and pretty blue jewels and everything with a steampunk edge. Built on an old Tin Mine (c’mon, that’s awesome) every corner of this luxury resort linked back to its roots with an industrial flair. Tin I-Beams holding up thatched roof, comically large industrial valves for faucets, and even wrench and screwdriver silverware in the restaurant. This place was a designers wet dream, and a welcomed sight to a guy who has been in the bush for ten days.

 

You need provisions to go from the check in desk to the concierge desk.
You need provisions to go from the check in desk to the concierge desk.

 

Taking a private golf cart to our room (is there anything other than a private golf cart I have to ask?) my jaw was open most of the way; a giant stretch of pools, restaurants and bars as far as the eye could see. Grounds so immaculate and imposing you thought a gay Druid wedding planner was given free reign to do his worst. It was, from an architectural standpoint, inspiring.

Then the room completed the dopeness.

Wood, and concrete, and tin. Glass and rock and fauna. Huge Ghengis Kong-esque bathroom doors that any father would feel epic behind for a morning ritual. It was wild. And then… the balcony. Can you call it a balcony when there is a huge two person onyx tub on it? No, I didn’t think you could. We’ll, when I asked Miranda if she wouldn’t mind booking the hotels for our leg of the trip I had no doubt that this creative director/producer would come through. I just didn’t know she was gonna make me question if she should have become a private concierge for the rich and famous.

This was an exquisite treat, and we could have easily spent a week there in happy solitude. We decided to slide out to the beach and see what southern Thailand had to offer. Bathtub waters, orgasmic sunsets, stiff cheap drinks, and basically paradise on earth was the answer.

It was a fine first day, fine indeed.

thailand loves cocaine…

Well, I should say Thailand loves Kratom, which is their version:

kratom leaf. Better then your cup of joe.
kratom leaf. Better then your cup of joe.

At least I found out why the crew moved so fast. We would start the day this way, chewing on this bitter little leaf like you would sip your morning latte. It’s nothing too crazy; I mean, no one was having a craving for strippers or heavy techno dance music, but it definitely gets you focused and on track. All in all a better and more natural substitute to Adderall. Funny thing is that it is illegal, and has been so for round 70 years because it’s sale was interfering with the Thai governments tax revenue from opium.

But why stop there. Thailand, as you may or may not know, is home to everyone’s favorite liquid cocaine, RED BULL. Ray, our resident German, was only happy to explain to me the interesting story behind Red Bull’s success. The story goes that it was created in 1975 by a chap named Chaleo Yoovidhaya (rolls right off the tongue) and originally called Krating Daeng, which sounds like something that happens in you shorts after a long hike through a swamp. One day an Austrian dude named Dietrich Mateschitz (seriously whats with the names here), who I can see wearing a piano neck tie and really loving MTV Party To Go Volume 2 mix of Missing by Everything But The Girl (you love it, you know you do) basically bought the recipe off Chaleo and gave douchebags around the world a liquid mascot.

Of course, being Thailand, Red Bull is super different then its western counterpart, and yes, you put it in beer.

red bull and beer

You’re welcome New Jersey.