Tag Archive for 'chris kostrzak'

ASIA DISPATCH 5 // HOI AN AND HUE // NOVEL TIMES IN ANCIENT TOWN

After a bumpy flight, we met land in Da Nang

and had the luck of scoring (according to our driver) one of the few English-speaking taxi drivers in central Vietnam.

As he shuttled us past marble mountain,

Vietnam-era American heliport, barracks and artillery guns


and a grip of beachfront property that is being sold off to build $3 Million dollar luxury condominiums.

he told us how much he digs American, how the north (from Hue to Hanoi) does not, and that his uncle and father worked for the US Army. After the US split from Vietnam, his uncle fled for San Jose and his father was jailed for four years as a conspirator in the American invader and puppet regime’s plot to enslave the Vietnamese people with big cars and television.

He studied hard in school and did well in college, but still has a hard time getting a job doing anything other than driving a cab due to long-standing discrimination by the North of some South Vietnamese.

And though Vietnam is developing rather quickly and appears to be, at times, more capitalist than America these days, he says he’s over it. His cousin works at a factory in San Jose and he told me he’d rather work in a factory than stay in his homeland and deal with the bullshit. He has to wait 12 years to join the rest of his family in California and he’s got 6 left to go.

To be honest, I wasn’t super-psyched on Hoi An originally, and considered it more of a jumping off place to check out My Son and the surrounding areas. Every image on the web seemed to look something like these. Like scenic…

and quaint…

and old.

I kept hearing how “touristy” it was, but that “I had to see it.” Whatever that means.

So I went and it was pretty fuckin’ dope.

For instance… how naturally beautiful is the backyard of my hotel?

See those “farmers” in the distance maintaining the paddies? Well according to a local, the only reason these paddies weren’t drained and slashed to make way for another hotel is because the tourists love them, and the government pays these pseudo-farmers to maintain them solely for the sake of visiting westerners. Smart.

The nights are quiet here.

And so I had ample time to have dinner with friends
\
check out the local arcade

take a stroll down by the canal.

help out a crippled chair.

spy on a lonely old man

admire the work of a local pyromaniac

learn the craft of bespoke tailoring

look at lamps

watch nervous mothers watch their children drive head on into each other in tiny electric cars

consider what my life would be like as a teen soldier in the Vietnamese army.

sample buddhist offerings

and attend the local Buddha parade celebration party!

Hoi An - Buddha Parade from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

One of the best days of my entire Asian adventure was riding a couple of hours through the beautiful boonies out to My Son on this bad motor scooter. RUFF RYDAZ! (Check out the shadow of my man tits).

Beautiful

No?

Along the way, Katie and I made frequent photo stops, so that none of this was left to our fallible memories.

We snapped kooky gates

and kooky graves

river parties packed with ducks and moos



shanty farms

abandoned carnivals

weird churches

forgotten saints

and doom with a view.

My Son, much like a fat grandpa in summertime, was old and hot and sweaty.


Inside we found Buddhas and bombs.

The park workers there drive Jeeps left behind by the American Army

and the grounds are still littered with unexploded ordnance

so you have to mind the paths past rivers

and lizards

and roving packs of Vietnamese school children.

Back in town Katie attempted to charade/Vietnenglish order what ended up being the worst meal we had in country.

After lunch, I got a taste of the old days when I was attacked with a switch by this old man after I took this picture. It was so fucking crazy. He came a runnin’ and a swingin’ and I had to shut the camera off, back up and talk him down. And all I could think was that somebody who looked a whole lot like me did something very very bad to him or his family or his cattle way back when. I felt like shit. It basically still fucks me up when I picture his angry face in my head. The hate… so strong.

After the attack, I calmed my nerves with a swim at Cua Dai Beach, the beach just south of China Beach. You know, the one a bunch of people think was featured in a surfing scene in that movie about the war that that one guy did, the Italian dude with the daughter who bangs the singer guy from that French band. What’s his name? Not the singer, but the director?


Night fell, and with it came the insatiable urge to design myself a super sexy party suit. So, I went into Elegant Tailors and threw together a simple black pinstripe on black cashmere/wool, two button, black and gray silk lined suit in the 10 minutes before their 10 o’clock closing time.

On our way back to the hotel we stumbled upon a film shoot taking place just across this historic Japanese bridge.

There were like 7 Vietnamese twentysomethings rehearsing some poorly choreographed walk/dance performance. It looked like it was supposed to be for some music video, but they was a sound guy there, so who knows. What I do know is that the chaos on set made some of the American sets I’ve been on seem like boot-camps.

Everybody was talking over each other: the AD and the choreographer (whom I’d both previously misidentified the director), the real director, the video playback dude, the sound guy, and some random producer-type in the back who was yelling at me (the only white guy on set), to turn my camera off. There were looky-loos everywhere (myself included), people riding bicycles through set, neighbors walking out of their houses and into shots…

Hollywood in Hoi An from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

The rehearsal for what looked like a one take deal (actors in a line, boy/girl/boy, face the camera and frolic toward the camera) went on for a good 15 minutes, waking, and pissing off, the bats in the rafters of the ancient buildings which swooped down and began buzzing the set.

And the only people who seemed to notice the additional winged rat crew members were Katie and I as we ducked and shrieked and ran through over the historical Japanese bridge, where we spooked more bats and woke up the security guard sleeping there before we made it back to town sweating and scarred by the not so distant memory of our brush with foreign fame and rabies.

In the morning (12 hours after I ordered it), I went to pick up my suit from my lady Chu at Elegant.

The pants were perfect, but the jacket was a little tight in the shoulders.

They said they could fix it, but it would take 40 minutes. I told them “no deal,” my car was coming to take me to the train station in Da Nang in 40 minutes (at 11 a.m. sharp). And if we missed the train, we wouldn’t make it to Hue, and if we did make it to Hue, we might miss our later flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Looking panicked herself, she told me not to worry and all I could think was how stoked I was going to be when I left town with a half-finished suit.

Then she bolted out the front of the store and told me to follow her, so I did.

She jumped on her scooter, suit in hand, and told me to get on back. So I did.

And then she blasted through streets like some Angelina Jolie character in a rape revenge flick, one hand on the throttle, while I held on and pissed my pants.

We ended up in some back alley and she dashed inside this place,


the tailor’s home where two shirtless boys were waiting to accommodate me.

They sewed like motherfuckers and got the shit done as the tailor’s family and dog studied me from the stairs.

At 10:56. She dragged me into the bathroom and put the jacket on me. And it fit like a dream.

I said my goodbyes. She hustled me back onto the scooter.

I hopped on and I racked my nuts on the back fender as the tailor’s mother looked on and laughed her tits off. Chu zipped off down a maze of alleys, one hand on the throttle, as she pitched me on finding her a husband. He didn’t have to be rich. He didn’t have to be handsome. He just had to be a good friend.

At 11:01 I arrived at my hotel, suit in hand and driver waiting.

And two days later I sent her a man. Remember this guy?

(I still don’t know if he came back to the states with a suit or a wife or both.)

Our train ended up being late by an hour so I spent some time in this packed, green, 1,000 degree room

perusing the art collection

spying on super heroes

engaging in a staring contest with this weird looking fish

and watching this kid baller make shit happen.

I assumed that the ride would be much more luxurious than that of it’s Chinese counterpart and I was 100% wrong.

The place looked like the yard of Sanford and Son. Shit hanging from the rafters.

It was packed as fuck and 1,000 degrees.

I kept a panic attack at bay by playing my “I’m a spy in a spy movie” game in my head, the one I usually play in underground parking garages when shit’s deep and weird and there are documents to deliver and nuclear scientists to trail and killers lurking and the ground can open up at any second because we’re near a fucking fault line – but I’m a spy in a spy movie and spies don’t die while conducting countersurveilance in a parking garage — and the ceiling could collapse because the architect bribed the city, because this mall was built in the 80’s you know, and everybody was on cocaine. So how could this place be safe for people to park their cars in? Even assholes like me who are on their way to Lenscrafters, playing spy in their heads and destined to die, buried alive in the rubble of Forever 21, while drowning in their own blood?

On the positive side, the view was absolutely stunning.

We arrived in Hue, checked into our room just off the Perfume River

Just in time for sunset.


So we took a stroll through town


and headed North, over this bridge.

It was kind of freaky. We were two of the only pedestrians on the entire bridge besides the Vietnamese Army dudes who were posted chilling every twenty feet or so for the entire length.

Most of them stared. A few made comments in Vietnamese about us as we passed, a couple smiled, and one said something about taking a picture with us, or us taking a picture of him, or me taking a picture of the soldiers with Katie. I wasn’t completely sure, but neither one of us was feeling the vibe of the proposed photo shoot. So we played dumb and moved on, chuckling politely.

Now I hadn’t gotten any bad vibes in Hanoi, but like I said I’d heard from our driver in Hoi An (just prior to being attacked by a septuagenarian cattle farmer) that the North Vietnamese from Hue to Hanoi were a little less friendly to foreigners, particularly Americans.

Now I could be wrong, but I’m guessing it could have something to do with the fact that American troops pretty much leveled the entire city during the Battle of Hue.


As we strolled the darkened streets and alleys around the Citadel,

(many of the homes there occupied by the people old enough to have been there during the war), I began to feel the weight of my country’s history as a camera-strapped, wide-eyed reminder of the worst days of these people’s lives.

Their homes were open, but not to me. And as I passed, I felt their eyes look through me as they silently wished me away.

Point taken. We erased ourselves from their sight and got some Bún Bò Huế on a corner across from the Citadel.

The thunder of drums accompanied the close of our meal. So we strolled over to see what was up

and found some kind of crazy ass drum recital going off: Hundreds of Vietnamese in uniforms marching the length of the wall, waving flags and banging out a cover of “We Will Rock You.” Some in time. Some out.

Hue Celebration - Drum Parade from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

A crowd of mopeds gathered behind us to watch the spectacle. Bad ass.

After we followed the distant glow of party boats towards the river. Outside the Compact Disc café.

Some Vietnamese teen scrambled out of the trees and asked us if we’d like a table. But he didn’t take us to the café, he took us back between the trees, through some knee high weeds, through some bushes

and down to a bank just east of the café where a few other locals were chilling on a spread of tiny seats watching the boat parade portion of what turned about to be the annual Hue Festival!

No menu, no kitchen in sight, the kid asked us if we’d like to order anything. I went with a Coca Cola. He asked for the money up front and disappeared into the bushes. Strange. I was sure the kid was gone forever. Whatever.

Look at all the pretty lights!

But before I knew it, homie returned with an ice cold Coke in hand! And my fucking change!

And that’s when I realized that the dude, utilizing about fifteen plastic stools and the resources of an adjacent restaurant, had put together a pop-up restaurant of his own on the bank of the river to specifically cater to celebration hangers.

Now how’s that for communism, Captain America?

At the close of the celebration we headed for the bridge. It was packed. Like tragic bridge-collapse packed.

Shit was hot. I got dizzy and prayed to Uncle Ho for strength.

I felt his spirit…

And hearing my call, he talked me out of a happy ending

and delivered me, by the light of the moon



back to my hotel, where I got naked and tried on the complimentary shower cap.

Next day, our electricity was out. The hotel’s was out. Everybody in Hues was out. Apparently the energy it takes to illuminate all those pretty lights doesn’t grow in paddies, so the city government literally shuts off electricity in the entire city for 20 hours a week, even when it’s 90 fucking degrees.

Lucky us!

So we hopped on our scooterbike (check the “Mickey” helmet)

and headed to the Citadel and the not-so-Forbidden City



Inside we found lilys and bridges

dragons


ancient gates and scooters


opulent rooms

cool old buildings and trees




imperial tennis courts

and this whacky ass chair some eccentric powerful guy used to sit on

At one time trespassing in the Forbidden City was punishable by death, but now dipshit tourists can take a picture in traditional emperor garb to send to their friends back home! My how times have changed.

Signs of the Battle of Hue are everywhere you look


and much of the Citadel and Forbidden City is under constant (re)construction

After our trip back in time, we headed out for some grub and happened up this little slice of heaven.

At first we were attracted to how progressive the scene was there, their catering to interracial couples and all,

but the food this old broad cooked up was bonkers.

After Katie was guilted, by some twentysomething dude posing as a restaurant worker, into buying a painting to benefit some starving orphans that lived under some bridge some where, we zipped off for the Thien Mu Pagoda.

Outside I found some counterfeit money.

and a pet monkey.

My traveler doctor, the one I paid $300 to vaccinate me and educated me on everything that could possibly kill me in the whole of Asia, had warned me about these monkeys. In fact, she specifically told me NOT to engage in photo ops with random monkeys, for fear I could be bitten, for fear I could get rabies or worse. And of course, I was like “Try not to get your panties in a twist. I have zero intention of “engaging” any monkeys.”

And then this furry little methed-up fucker took a leap at my scooter as I pulled into pagoda parking.

I nearly shit my pants and then he just laughed at me and went back to selling hats.

After narrowly escaping another horrific end, we hiked past some of the monkeys customers

up the steps

past a local troublemaker

through the graveyard

a magic forest

some sleeping monks


and stumbled upon this tribute to Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Đức (the Mahayana Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in Saigon on June 11, 1963 to protest the horrific and stupid Vietnam War), which features the car he rode in on his way to the scene of his self-immolation.

Being too a big of a pussy to set myself on fire in the name of peace, but totally agreeing with Hòa thượng Thích Quảng Đức’s view, I went to the temple to meditate and cry a bit.

Afterward, our driver “Hong Kong” picked us up at our hotel and we were off to Da Nang airport. The view on the drive was stunning.

The topic of music came up and as bad modern hip-pop blared from the crappy minivan stereo, Hong Kong asked if I thought Lady Gaga was sexy. I dodged that question and he asked if I liked hip-hop. I said sure, the good stuff, golden era stuff, Wu Tang Clan, Tribe, Public Enemy, etc.

Hong Kong told me he’d never heard of any of them and asked if I could put some on his thumb drive. So I took out my laptop, banged some “36 Chambers,” and Hong Kong, not impressed, and without another word, turned up his stereo to drown it out.

When Hong Kong (with the clock ticking and the shorter, tunnel route to Da Nang blocked by a traffic accident) decided to put it all on red and take the longer and more dangerous mountain route to Da Nang, I decided it would be better to upgrade his name to “King Kong.”

But then “Ding Dong” came to mind 3/4 of the way up the mountain when shit got hairy and I realized Hong Kong was nearly out of gas…

ASIA DISPATCH 4 // HANOI & HALONG BAY // POSTCARD FROM THE EDGE

So after downing another fabulous mystery meat sandwich and a properly aged jelly cake, I landed safely in Hanoi, met my driver…

and checked into my hotel with the crazy ass view of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Fuck yes! I love this city.

And I’d tell you all the reasons why, but then of course you’d have to read them all.

So let’s do it this way… If you were looking for search terms to enter into my brain to extract an explanation, here are a few that might strike gold: bun cha, Xiao mian, pho ga, pho tai boo vien, pork ribs, steamed chicken with lemon grass, unidentifiable genius, doughnut, beefsteak, seafood, fruit, pastry, coffee, coffee street, deconstructed fruit smoothie street, gravestone street, silk street, lacquer street, ice cream parlor, analog electronics, makeshift business, street life, carbon monoxide, chaos, propaganda, ho chi minh, hoan kiem lake, cruising, $6 massage, $30 room, scooter fashion, scooter physics, elderly women thwart scooter thief, death ride, child vs. truck, French colonial, art of the hustle, honor, pride, resilience, resourcefulness, revenge, war, forgiveness, art copyists, construction, shirtless old dudes, elderly pickpockets, mystery streets, labyrinth alleyways, feral light, soul.

onward ho…

so as I let on before, I hit up the Hanoi Fine Art Museum which was impressive, not because the collection was housed in this gorgeous french colonial mansion that was built in the 30s for the daughters of French colonial rulers’ throughout Indochina who came to Hanoi to study

or that the art itself was necessarily groundbreaking or stunning, (some of it was of course) but because most of it, aside from this nazi Buddha

this rural business

and “this guy”

was just dolled up war propaganda. Peasant farmers and guns. Flowers and guns. Babies and guns. Uncle Ho beaming knowledge with wise eyes into the minds of possessed, frolicking children… and guns.

Much of the “modern art” collection, in fact, is dedicated to the revolution, the Vietnam war, random battles that I’ve never even heard of, or of Uncle Ho himself. And I would’ve taken more photos, but I was escorted a female security guard throughout the museum after getting busted by the electric eye snapping (non-flash) shots of this piece…

The remainder of the “modern art” collection isn’t very modern at all. In fact, every 20th century art movement appears 20 to 50 years behind its western equivalent. For Vietnamese artists, cutoff from the influence of the western art world, cubism appears to have started in the 70’s, abstract expressionism and surrealism in the 80’s, and so on.

What’s even weirder are the Vietnamese artists who chose to build an entire career on biting a legendary western artist’s style. Looking across the gallery, I swore I’d spotted a blue period Picasso, but upon closer inspection found that some Vietnamese dude had actually painted it. There was an early Magritte, an imposter Klee, all doing original stuff, but painting it in somebody else’s style decades later.

Crazy…

In the afternoon i dropped through a wormhole to the innocence of the 50’s and landed in this the very Lynchian ice cream shop.


The streets here are a tangle of tires and flesh. Thin bodies darting between whizzing scooters, and street vendors hawking anything and everything you could ever want. Like fake art…

gravestones

killer vintage analog stereo gear

Hanoi, Vietnam // “Musics Before” from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

strange beasts dropped from the bellies of alien space ships

Scooters or mannequins or ladders

the best food on the planet


and other stuff (when somebody’s awake to sell it to you)

This dude was posted outside my first hotel. Didn’t see a press pass, but I’m pretty sure he’s still shooting a war, maybe not “the war,” but some war.

Rented a scooter and headed over to Hoa Lo Prison aka “Maison Centrale” aka “Fiery Furnace” aka “Hell’s Hole” aka “Stove” aka “The Hanoi Hilton.” Unlike the scooter thief who attempted to steal my rental while I was showing off my ball stash money belt over a bowl of pho to a professional pickpocket, the ones stationed outside the prison were nice enough to tell me they’d snatch my shit if I didn’t park it inside the gates. So I did, right here, in the scooter parking hall of the prison.

Inside, you can see models of actual cells where, during the 30s and 40s, many of the future leading figures in Communist North Vietnam were imprisoned,

tortured with bottles and electrical generators, beaten with canes,

and killed by the french.

Conditions were so bad at Hoa Lo in fact that 100 of them somehow escaped down this sewer in the prison yard between March 11 and March 16, 1945.

I was starting to feel bad for them until I saw that the prison bathrooms were actually nicer than those at my regular coffee spot

You can also see how, in the very same prison, American imperialist invader prisoners of war, including the bitter and crazed failed John Mccain (flight suit picture here)

were treated like visitors to Club Med.

Here they played chess, volleyball, basketball, pool and guitar


and provided only the absolute best medical care the North Vietnamese Army had to offer.

Ho Chi Minh even sent them a handmade New Year’s card!

Don’t believe me? Just read the sign. It’s in a museum, so it must be true.

After my visit to hell on earth, I took a stroll through the gift shop where I found a wide variety of collectible items for sale, including creepy buddhas and “Good Morning Vietnam” beer cozies.

The Hanoi nights are magical. Just take a look for yourself…






So as I did in Hong Kong, and in my casket bunk on the Chinese train, I set up a portastudio on the roof of the City Cafe, channeled Aaron Miller and the Gods of thunder and war and composed some new jams for NIGHTSlikeKNIVES which you will soon hear…

Back at my room, though it was comfortable enough (for $30 a night)…

sleep did not come easy. This is the construction crew that kept me awake as they poured cement and drilled rebar into my bedroom wall all night for four fucking nights straight.


No, like into my bedroom wall, for serious…

Every night (b/c it’s hotter than a motherfucker during the day) at 10 or 11pm they’d begin their assault, and drill and smash and bang and chisel directly into my brain until morning. And every morning, I’d come down with bloodshot eyes, politely interrogate my hotel manager (the Vietnamese one with the fake French accent. huh?) as to when the construction would stop. And everyday he would lie to me.

He’d dissuade me from checking out and say something like “no, not tonight. Tonight it quiet” or “They stop early.” So knowing Katie was checking in and we were checking out shortly after that, I powered through and went to check out the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra at the Hanoi Opera house…

This wicked violist played straight up Yngwie Malmsteen shit while the ancient gin-nose Brit conductor whipped up a flurry of classical delights…

Hanoi, Vietnam // National Symphony Orchestra from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

The sounds were inspiring to say this least. This dude even did some calisthenics during intermission.


I’ve actually been obsessed with static furniture and moving bodies lately…

But I’m not sure why you’d care.

Morning started with a cup of Joe at my usual place.

My peeps asked where I was going and when I told them to see Uncle Ho and they replied “gangsta!”

I dropped “Al Capone.” They rolled “Lucky Luciano,” and let me know in broken English that they thought Uncle Ho nothing more than a corrupt piece of shit.

As in most countries led by charismatic cult figures, it seems the least educated with the most to gain (though they rarely do once their hallowed leader takes power) are the most apt to believe the hype, while the educated city folk with decent lives going into said revolution, tend to lose the most, including (in many cases) their lives.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to the weirdness and my expectations were gladly met.

We arrived just moments before they closed for the day and locked us into the mausoleum grounds.

Old farmer ladies pushed their way towards the front of the line like cougars at a Josh Groban concert as soldiers herded us into a single file line full of believers, tourists and weirdos. We were relieved of our cameras and I watched as a young Vietnamese soldier abruptly silenced some guy’s three-year old son and jerked him into line by the arm as we headed inside.

Now that’s some shit that would never happen in America. Can you imagine if some random rookie soldier at the Lincoln Memorial manhandled some vacationing Pennsylvania Millworker’s son and told him to shut his trap? All hell would break loose. There’d be a fracas. The press would pounce. There’d be lawsuits. It would never happen.

Apparently Uncle Ho’s wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered around Vietnam, but thankfully the agenda of the party outweighed that of it’s leader and so I had the morbid luck of being able to stroll into the dark, marble, air conditioned chamber past a four count of rifle-armed, statue-still soldiers to check out the psychopathic revolutionary legend who’s been col’ chilling in a glass box for forty fucking years! How awesome is that?!

Dude looked like a porcelain figurine, smooth, white, like one of those Hummel collectibles gathering dust in your grandmother’s China cabinet. Would be pretty cool to have a set of communist leader porcelain collectibles actually…

But even cooler to have Uncle Ho himself standing guard at the entry of your house, like a gargoyle or something, or in the corner of your rec room next to the pool table. What a conversation piece that would be…

“Oh, Bill, I just looooove what you’ve done with the basement. What’s that in the corner?”

“Oh, just Ho Chi Minh?”

“Really?”

“You betcha.”

“Where’d ya get him?”

“Auction at Christies.”

“Nice…”

“Stalin’s coming next week along with a case of ‘53 Clos de Vougeot.”

After checking out the corpse, we headed over to the Ho Chi Minh Museum.



The first floor was standard shit, a big Ho statue, war propaganda, archival photos, Ho’s wax collection…

but upstairs looked like it was set-designed by a member of some fringe communist contingent of Cirque de Soleil.

There was this red tent room

and another dedicated to Guernica, or modern art, or the modern artists he was into or something.

And then there was this crazy ass installation that was supposed to be Coc Bo Cave aka President Ho Chi Minh’s revolution headquarters “presented in the form of a human brain.” WTF?

The guards started shutting the museum down (with us inside) before I could get a handle on what the fuck they were actually trying to say with the whole mess. And “weird” as a word is generally a cop out, but I’m feeling fairly typical today, so let’s just say floor number two was just plain fucking weird.

Outside we saw a real life character from Aeon Flux (though I thought that was Korean American thing)

We shopped for Caucasian Barbie dolls at the gift shop…

and picked up some frozen novelty treats.

Frozen novelty treats. They’re everywhere. The Vietnamese gather on the street to eat them. In crowds to savor and lick them. The whole thing’s very 1981. The yogurt place is dead, but who wants yogurt when there’s no chance of you getting fat.

Only saw one American-style, super-size girl in all of Hanoi, on a scooter no less, and was mesmerized, like “how did that happen?” not b/c I’m plumpphobic, but just b/c she was like a fucking unicorn or something in a country that weighs an average of a buck twenty soaking wet.

Whatever…

After downing my creamy pistachio or coconut somethingother I was mobbed by teenage girls.

No, really. I was full on mobbed “Twilight” style.

Here’s Katie trying to act like she’s not totally jealous of the rowdy group of Vietnamese teens’ incredible interest in me. (But why shouldn’t she be?)

Look at them! Dazed by my luminous presence. (Is it me or does the one on the right look like she’s about to faint?!)

Maybe I should start a religion? Or a revolution of my own? Maybe I should be president? Or king of the fucking world?! Who knows…

Hanoi // Kostrzak Mobbed by Teenage Girls at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

Whatever the case, it was obvious to me that I would have to start some shit in a big way to take power of whatever, so I went to the Military History Museum to do some research where I saw some guns

a movie about how violent and generally fucked up America was during the Vietnam war

this iron bowl that “army hero” Chu Van Mui drank his own urine out of so he could “refresh himself” and “keep on fighting.”


and a stone some gun-deficient soldier captured an American imperialist invader with.

Outside I met some future recruits…

Does this feel kind of pervy to you?

No. well then how about this?

I picked a place to raise my flag.

and took in the view of the museum yard from my new stronghold.

The place already has a crazy modern sculpture collection

and a salon right down the street

The following morning we got up at the crack and boarded a bus bound for Halong Bay, an easy three hour drive from Hanoi through rice and fog

past factories

and graves

through old vietnam and new…

Our bus arrived at the bay and we boarded a feaux junk for our first of what would be many boat rides

Guess I should preface this Halong bit with by saying I wasn’t super gassed to go there. From what I could gather off the world wide internets and information I’d gotten from peeps who’d been there, the place is a total tourist trap.

I’m not really interested in scenic beauty for the scenic beauty’s sake. if I wanted to hang out on a beach and go swimming, I would’ve just stayed home.

I want soul, but Katie REALLY wanted to see the world famous “Descending Dragon Bay.”

And so, being the altruist that I am, I sucked it up and opened my mind to embarking on what I knew would be a completely fabricated adventure.

This is our tour guide. He told us to call him “The Rooster,” but I prefer to call him “The Cock.”

Here’s another boat!

A floating AM/PM!

And here’s Katie drinking it in.

She really loves the beauty…

Some lunch squid, straight from the polluted bay!

No really. The water’s straight up Gulf-style shit.

And look! There it is! The bay!

Stunning… Just stunning. Isnt’ it?

So we parked, boarded another boat and boated over to a fishing dock, kayaked for twenty minutes in the blazing sun, returned to the fishing dock and then boated over to a large rock where we visited a really big cave.

Here I am in the cave under hot golden shower lights looking like a distended belly monster from a lost episode of Star Trek. Tapeworm? Who knows… (Apparently everybody on the boat got food poisoning a day prior so I wouldn’t rule it out.)

This blurry South African guy’s a jockey in Dubai. He was super cool and one of the most interesting features of Halong Bay for sure.

This Anthony Bourdain-type on the right asked me for hash.

Another boat, some more trees and a mountain-type thing coming out of the water!

And here we are happily splashing about in the green death.

I won’t lie. After being subjected to kayaking and hiking and frying on the top deck of the boat in the blazing sun and 95 degree heat, diving into the luke warm toilet water was actually one of the highlights of the Halong trip.

Halong Bay, Vietnam // Kostrzak Boat Jump from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

The other highlight was confronting death, which Katie and I did when we arrived at the Cat Ba Island docks bound for “Monkey Island.”

Most tourists on our trip opted to stay the night on the boat. Some decided to stay on Cat Ba Island. Knowing we only had one night to really take in all Halong Bay had to offer, Katie decided that it would be a better idea to take a hell bus over crumbling mountain passes, across the length of Cat Ba Island to the opposite end where we could then (well after dark so we could truly enjoy the subtle nighttime beauty of the place) take another boat to Monkey Island where we could make out, and make sex, and do all that stuff couples are supposed to do when they go on a romantic island getaway.

When we arrived at port in pitch black, Mr. Phuk (Fook), the owner of our hotel, met us at the “boat.” After telling us how luxurious our “special” room would be, he presented us a 10’ X 5’ tin flat boat with no lights, no seats and loose 2X4’s for a floor, and instructed the non-English-speaking “captain” to take on our 20 minute journey across the pitch black bay between limestone cliffs to our luxury hotel room on Monkey Island. Mr. Phuk courteously explained that normally he’d be heading back with us to the island, but he had some business to take care of in town, so we were on our own.

The engine wouldn’t start and the captain shooed my leg back so he could lift up the floor and choke the engine. After a few angry pulls we were ready to go and we set out across the choppy black water for Monkey Island, waves lapping up over the lip of the death vessel.

All we could see was seen by moonlight alone, which wasn’t much. And Katie and I were unable to openly discuss the depths of our peril as it appeared before us as the engine was too loud. So we were left to enjoy the rising terror in our skulls autonomously…

First thought. Life jackets…

No dice. They were sailor-knotted to a metal pole supporting the plastic roof tarp.

Second thought.

Untie my boots. Surely they’ll be the death of me.

Third thought. Think positive.

Thought four, survey the tides and shore and attempt to guesstimate the safest landfall.

Big waves = bad. Sharp rocks = bad. Slippery rocks = bad.

Sinking here = bad.

Here Katie and I are silently considering what’s truly important in life.


And here we are finally arriving at Monkey Island. Awesome.

Halong Bay, Vietnam // Welcome to Monkey Island from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

After being treated to a buffet of cold food, we were led to our room where Katie passed out from exhaustion and I read a book about the siege of Khe Sanh.

How romantic.

Morning came monkeyless…


So I entertained myself by snapping surveillance photos of the main generator shed

and a resupply op that was taking place outside our room.

Shortly thereafter, we boarded the supply boat.

and then another bus and another boat and another boat and then I worked on some more music to distract me from the mild case of sun stroke and malaria pill poisoning that was gradually robbing me of my sanity.

Back at the bus, some visitors to Monkey Island the night previous told us a story about how Mr. Phuk threatened to hold a couple hostage on the island over an unpaid $6 bar bill and then stole some girl’s ipod and camera. Apparently some sort of dust up occurred and a crazed Scot, one of the ipod girl’s friends, ended up somehow punching Phuk in the face through the window of his cabana.

The following day the camera and ipod magically appeared in the theft victim’s room. But before leaving the island, Mr. Phuk’s henchmen forced the Scot to pay for the window and attempted to make him sign a letter of apology to Mr. Phuk for dishonoring him.

How “old school” is that shit? Wonder if it was written in calligraphy?

Anyway, the Scot (being true to his nature) refused to sign the letter, and the whole thing ended in some sort of armistice.

All I can say is I’m happy I made it back from Monkey Island with my Ipod and honor in tact.

Back in Hanoi we checked into our new room…

with a new view

We strolled around the lake and took glamour shots

of artists making shit happen
fearless babies

hot imports

white mannequins

basket heads

half shirts

and more scooters breaking the sound barrier.

The next day we were treated to our very first motorcycle vs. cow crash on our way to the airport



where we passed over some construction on the runway…
through a tube like a paraplegic’s food…

and boarded a smoking plane bound for Da Nang.

ASIA DISPATCH 3 // LAOS // THE AWAKENING

Apparently, as you might have guessed, that middle of the night stop in the middle of nowhere China where those cocksucker Chinese flexers grilled me and scanned my shit, was their way of performing some sort of border shakedown sans border. (Previous to boarding the train, I was made aware of only one such stop which was to occur at the China/Vietnam border). But it sounds like I got off easy, as the Italian couple I met

got tossed of their train the night previous by the Chinese army for getting on the train a day earlier than their Vietnam visas were supposed to begin. The Chinese authorities apparently decided to take Vietnams’ border control into their own hands and the Italians were left in some random ass town in the middle of nowhere with no money (the banks were closed) and no place to stay. How nice.

Anyhoo, the Vietnamese border guards were pussycats compared to the Chinese grunts and our arrival in Hanoi at dawn happened without incident.

So we got some dong

and checked out another early bird, pseudo-communist workout… sunrise tai chi at Hoan Kiem Lake

My 1st breakfast bowl of pho was the best i’ve had in a lifetime hands down.

here, the crouching dragon worked magic on ian’s century old shoes

the coffee was dope here, but the john made the toilet in trainspotting look like a crapper in an upper east side starbucks. it was basically a moldy wall in an open-roof closet of sorts with some sort of gutter ditch thing sending the stream to god knows where

puff puff pass

after a trip to the Hanoi “fine art” museum (more on that later), i headed to the airport, decided against smuggling a feral anteater/armadillo thing out across international borders

and took mad props to Laos

I tell you, nothing makes me fee more secure, when floating 16,000 feet above rugged jungle terrain in a dodgy, Southeast Asian-run charter aircraft, than a 10 day old piece of jelly cake and a mystery meat sandwich on stale white bread.

after a short white knuckle flight, I touched down in the most bombed country in the history of the planet

more specifically in the small, scenic, former capital of the Kingdom of Laos and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang

A place that ended up being as close to paradise as you’ll find on earth.

A land of pretty flowers

rolling hills

dramatic mountainscapes, midday fog

jungle and palms

classic french colonial architecture


kind and gentle people


like this 10 year old who hustled me for a buddha bracelet at double the going street value before it broke 24 hours later.

of two-legged orange, umbrella-toting streaks.

who smoke and drink beer at noon

checking out 20 year old brit tourist honeys as they roll past the wat

of midafternoon naps

and seemingly random shit (like this motorcycle tire strategically attached to the concrete foundation of a leveled home)

which actually turned out to be a fairly effective advertisement for this scooter repair shop

of old people making unidentifiable objects out of bamboo

retro hair metal

and tennis soccer.

all of this being a nice surprise considering the fact that the first thing the headlights of my taxi caught as they drove me to my hotel was a dude squatting on the side of the road in the dark taking a shit.

Soon after that mobile dump spotting (the only one I witnessed in Laos thankfully), I checked into my hotel.

It was straight up “Shining” (substitute beat up French colonial mansion for Colorado Rocky Mountain hotel).

A couple of cats, a fish, some frogs and I were the only guests.




Would I like breakfast? My laundry done? A coffee? A motorcycle? An elephant ride? A massage? Would I like to eat some shrooms?

Being the sole guest, the staff was amazingly attentive, but by the 3rd day I was wondering if they actually existed at all or if they were in fact (like the bartender in the Shining) ghosts when I noticed while chatting with him, that the night manager wasn’t showing up in his area’s delegated feed from the security camera on the bank behind the desk. I was showing up in the lobby, but according to the cameras, I was carrying on a conversation with a couple of plants and a calendar.

The only proof of my specter staff theory being this photo one of them apparently snapped of me while I was col’ chillin’ in my skivvies reading Michael Herr’s “Dispatches.”

These guys are awesome.

The guy on the left is a little slow, but totally sweet and a ball of positive energy. Hung out at breakfast with me every morning asking me questions that a 10 year old would ask, the type of thing that would normally annoy the shit out of me, but for some reason, I would find myself totally happy to see him. I sense Laos has a way of de-assholing people like me. Maybe you should check it out.

The guy on the right tried to get me to go to the go-go bar out of town where the locals hang. Made a last minute decision to join him and ended up getting back to the hotel too late to join in on the filthy local Laotion fun. Bummer.

Met this guy selling ice cream.

He saw my Palladium boots and asked if I was American.

Yes.

In the Army/Marines?

No.

Regardless of my civilian status, he was excited to hear I was from the States and told me proudly about his part in the not-so-secret US/CIA war against the North Vietnamese in Laos, in which he became a member of the American Army in 1957. So when America’s Laotian campaign failed and they bolted, this guy fled for fear of prosecution from communist forces, and only returned to his native home recently where he now sells coconut ice cream bars to stay alive. (Way to take care of your outsourced vets US Armed Forces). Yet still his sense of borrowed American pride appears to overwhelm him when talking about his time in the service. Weird.

Some monks started rolling past and the proud vet encouraged me to follow them and check out where they were headed.

So I did and ended up hanging for a while at their chill spot down on the Mekong.


After some odd silent conversation with the boys in orange I followed this power line into the jungle

and happened upon a small village where some locals greeted me.

their hood was a hodgepodge of rudimentary tin and bamboo shacks

converted, wood-plank shanties

abandoned french colonial mansions

and the occasional newly-built mcshanty

with hot import cars in the driveway

I saw some kids and dogs eating ice cream and watching TV together

and found a nature trail

that led past a local fishery


to a wat hidden in the trees

where they had a wide variety of offerings for purchase

a sleeping monk

and a bunch of dead ones.

On the way back I found a place to get my hair did

and do my laundry

this lady invited me into her house for water and then we had a charade conversation about the coming storm. I offered to help her tie down the canopy roof over her patio and she wouldn’t let me.

instead she gussied herself up and wooed me with her loom skills.

“Thong” here offered to get me drunk on rice whiskey and take me on his boat up river to Pak Ou caves. After, he told me his old lady (pictured here showing off her milk duds) would make us dinner, but suspecting some sort of Inuk of the North, “laugh with my wife,” hidden agenda, I decided to take a rain check.

Instead, I climbed five billion dragon-wrapped stairs in 100 degree heat to check out Wat Chom Si




killer view up there, peaceful as a motherfucker

even the buddha’s take naps here.

At the top, you can check out the Supreme one’s footprint. It’s like the size of a small tuk-tuk (So you can imagine the size of his dong.)


Found this artillery cannon at the peak and saw this flower (prepare yourself for sophmoric war analogy), like Laos itself, caught in the machinery of war


and tears filled my eyes as I took in the beauty of Luang Prabang, wondering how anybody could litter in this country


let alone drop *260 million bombs on it. (note: Unlike the rest of the country, Luang Prabang was actually spared much of the devastation caused by U.S. bombs during the not-so-secret part of the Vietnam War).

After my mini-breakdown, I took a picture and accidentally bumped the swivel on the artillery gun so it swung around and jacked me in the gut. I nearly fell down the mountain and then spent a good ten minutes trying to get it to stay in place again, all the while wondering who was going to catch me in the act of totally fucking up this historical monument.

And then this monk started banging a drum inside this screened room behind me, ominously, as if to tell me Siddhārtha Gautama himself was witness to my foul.

Luang Prabang, Laos // Artillery and Monk drum from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

can I get another wat wat?



why sure you can. they’re everywhere, along with buddhas, dragons, monks… sitting…

and snarling…

and reading Danielle Steele romance novels down by the river.

This town is such a Buddhist hot spot in fact that celebrity guest monks even drop by on occasion!

Feeling my inner Buddha, I took a boat trip down the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves


with this dude, Sam.

Sam’s studying neuroscience and stem cell regeneration at Cambridge next semester, but all he could seem to talk about was the fact that his girlfriend shaved her head that morning. He was freaking the fuck out and I don’t blame him.

It wasn’t so much about the fact that she would be considerably less attractive. He could handle that (at least until it grew into some sort of cuteish pixie cut.) And it wasn’t so much the idea that he’d have to lie through his teeth and tell her that it looked good in order to keep the peace and continue to get sexy.

His fear was based, and I think reasonably so, on the fact that maybe this rash act of beauty suicide was just a glimpse of things to come, that this seemingly innocent attention-getting tactic was in actuality the thread in that goofy ass Weezer song, a turtle head of insanity, the precursor to what would be a long series of bat shit crazy “prove to me the depth of your love” testing gags.

They’ve only been together eight months. Four of which he’s spent traveling the world. When I found that out, I told him he was more than just a little bent himself for getting into a serious relationship at his age, especially four months prior to what could easily become the sexual adventure of his life.

Traveling Southeast Asia single and solo at 22! Come the fuck on, man! What is wrong with you?! Now I’m not your typical, borderline gay, American white dude with a bad case of yellow fever. I mean I dig Asian chicks, but I also dig white ones and black and mocha ones too. But Southeast Asia’s cookoo, a total booty wonderland and the babes over here, especially in Laos, are some of the hottest on the planet, hands down.

So I told Sam to buy a box of rubbers and dump his chick ASAP.

And I think it was good advice, as there are many fish in the sea… or river…

and half naked monks too (if you’re into that sort of thing)

The Pak Ou caves contain over 4,000 Buddhas




placed there throughout the centuries by locals and pilgrims and crunchy, new age white tourists.

Got back from the caves just in time for a Mekong sunset dinner

where the Mekong jesus next to me systematically downed every vegetarian dish on the menu, all the while have an animated conversation with the imaginary dinner guest seated across from him.

here’s my dinner guest…

smelled the fried amok as it hit my table and came out to join me, which was better than having dinner with these girls

who like many foreign girlfriends roaming in packs of two to five, apparently traveled half way around the world to get drunk on wine and bitch about guy friends that have no interest in dating in them but might someday make great husbands if they’d just settle down and commit. Huh?

but these whiny, lonely chicks weren’t nearly as lame as the multiple couples I encountered that apparently traveled half way around the planet to bicker over everyfuckingthing. like this couple…

it started with them arguing over the location of the table the host picked for them, then over the drink order, the food order, whether the restaurant itself was too dark to eat in or not, and the more they drank the more personal it got. I was about five seconds from going over and telling them to end it for the sake of everybody else trying to digest their food.

Dear fighting couples, if you think a vacation, buying a puppy, putting a “ring on it,” or popping out babies is going to save your failing relationship. TRUST ME, IT WON’T. How the fuck old are you?!

Check the stats. Break up, rebound and if you’re still listless and lonely, attach yourself like a barnacle to the next passing ship in the night and see how long you can hang on.

Did I tell happen to mention how paradise-like Laos is?!

I rode a fucking elephant while I was there. Her name is Mae Cot

and she happens to be 61 years old and half blind in one eye. (I suspected something was up when Mae Cot chose to stroll within centimeters along an exposed stretch of razorwire down to the river instead of traveling the safer path a few feet up the trail.)

She was rendered this way while working in the logging industry. The place I rode at basically takes private and government investment in order to pay loggers off and acquire their aging female elephants (male’s are too aggressive) so they can spend the rest of their days chilling in a beautiful natural setting and giving a couple of rides a day to sucker tourists like me who want to feel like they’re getting in touch with mother earth.


Luang Prabang, Laos // Elephant Ride from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

Another day I ordered a “motorcycle” from the slow kid at my hotel, “a big one,” I explained and illustrated the size by climbing high up onto the imaginary seat and gunning the throttle, “enduro, 250cc or higher.” I was going to ride to the Plain of Jars, but what showed up was a brand spanking new scooter

so I made lemonade and rode through rural Laos


out to the Kuang Si waterfalls instead




where I climbed them shirtless like I was a character in the “Blue Lagoon”

jumped off while strangers took pictures of me for you

shot video of strangers jumping off

Kuang Si Waterfall Jump // Luang Prabang, Laos from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

had close encounters with wild bears


penned in behind unsuitably short fences

with a sleepy dog

more emo farmers

and sex tourists in matching his-and-his Venice gondolier shirts

On the way back I went shopping for a retirement home

and found a place that just might work

with convenient access to the main highway

and chill neighbors

Just watch out for packs of roaming water buffalo when driving any vehicle. (I nearly ended my life on the horns of various herds like four times.)


Luang Prabang, Laos // Water Buffalo Crossing from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

later, got a $6 massage (not the best, but worth every penny)

and some grub at my usual spot…

bumped into the Brits, the Swede and the Canadian I met at the waterfalls there. this guy, Rob, studied physics in college, and formerly worked writing code, but what you don’t know is that he spins travel shit yarns like nobody’s bizzo. watch closely as he captivates the UN dinner council…

the nights are quiet here.

the whole town seems to go to sleep at 11:30

except for hair salons workers, internet/video game cafe patrons and rookie tuk-tuk hustlers who roam the streets after midnight propositioning wandering whiteys with marijuana, hash, speed and “boom boom.”

the city itself has a sedating effect. it definitely mellowed me out, to the point where I literally lost track of the days and ended up at the airport for my flight back to Hanoi a day early.

where I encountered dwellers of a lonely planet

and a hippie chick masquerading as a grape

before my tiny prop plane, loaded with jelly cakes and white bread, growled and clawed its way above the bomb-scarred mountains into the milky blue Laotian sky destined for Hanoi.

ASIA DISPATCH 2 // SOUTH CHINA // THE GREAT LEAP BACKWARD

Took the train out of Hong Kong, through the New Territories that just seem to go on

and on

and on

across the fairly fortified Chinese border

through the “special economic zone” of Shenzen

and Dongguan

past monotonous state-built housing


empty factories

unfinished buildings

rusty bicycles

and 1,000 stories of drying skivvies

and rooftops that double as garbage receptacles

past shantys in the shadows of tenements

through swamp and hill and fog.

the deeper you go the weirder it gets

and the disrepair more all encompassing.

muted pink and blue withering hues

farms and factories side by side

pollution a certainty

you see the abandoned factory squats


and smoke rising from random shit burning on the periphery between buildings and palms.

the sadness travels from your gut to your head.

and that’s before you begin to imagine what it must be like to live here.

Aside from the black couple (look really hard and you just might see them)

I was the only non-Chinese on the choo choo.

On the ride I sat next to a Chinese Hong Kong businessman.

He asked me where I was from. When I told him, he asked me why I was there,

“Tourism,” I told him. He sat on it, and then looked at me strangely, “why?”

So I offered one of my classic long-winded explanation of why I’d come, perspective, truth, inspiration, etc. and he eyed me with a look of confusion and pity, took a moment and broke it down to the basics.

“So you just want to see it for yourself.”

I said something like “yeah, basically, sure,” and he nodded back lips twisted with uncertainty.

Turns out he lived in Torrance for two years after the ’97 handover of Hong Kong from the Brits to the Chinese. Works in transportation, setting up what is basically a Chinese version of the Super Shuttle.

Our conversation wasn’t easy necessarily, but comfortable enough that I asked him about his feelings on the handover.

He thought for a moment and then said something like, “it was scary to see communist soldiers in green with guns streaming across the border,” in a very matter-of-fact way, and left it at that. And it felt very much to me like I should leave it at that. So I did.

And then his 60 year old business partner’s Rihanna “Umbrella” ringtone went off.

When I asked how Hong Kong and Shenzen’s governing structures differ, he explained that Shenzen is under China law. “They have the death penalty in Shenzen, but not in Hong Kong,” he told me, knowing brow raised, and the example he picked wasn’t curious at all.

And even less curious when a cute little drug beagle attacked my bag at the Guangzhou East Rail Station. I nearly shit my pants.

Back in the day when I was stupid enough to do something as crazy as bringing a little somethin’ somethin’ over an international border, they never bothered me. Now I do nothing and I’m going to get questioned because a smell-challenged beagle decided that my underwear smells like cocaine. Just my luck.

Ended up just being some melon caramels I picked up in hong kong.

So after I peeled the beagle off my bag, I went to the nearest information counter and asked for a taxi to Guangzhou Central Rail Terminal and they told me I could buy a train ticket to Nanning from them. I asked the price. They jacked it up. I told him it was high and they told me it was the right price. I asked them what their commission was and they told me nothing.

Time was a wastin’, so I politely thanked them and told them to keep their ticket, but I’d take a cab. And this is when they told me that if I didn’t buy the train ticket from them my taxi driver, the one standing two feet from me as they told me this, would be unable to get me to my train on time.

By the time I got in the taxi I could already feel my face changing, my smile sloping down to save me.

Here’s a picture of my shady taxi driver extortionist.

on the web, the bourgeoning industrial city of Guangzhou looks like this…

but the part of town that Guangzhou Central Railway Station calls home makes the Greyhound Station in Cleveland look “It’s a Small World.”

A big, mean, ugly, old school archetypal communist utilitarian monolith

10 Zillion people everywhere.

Everything written in Chinese

Ubiquitous voices booming instruction/explanation from giant invisible PA speakers, inside and out.

Little green men everywhere and an angry police officer dragging a metal barricade howling across the marble floor, shouting down random people on cue for whatever reason as they skitter out of his path.

This is not a sports book (unless you’re an American betting on when your trains going to leave).

Desktop.

Crash.

Some of the vibes I was getting, including the cop that left his post to follow me for five blocks into various buildings and over a bridge, temporarily scared the camera back into my pants. I know they’re pretty hardcore about taking photos of government buildings and will snatch your shit for taking a picture of a bridge if they feel like it, or worse.

But I had a day to kill so I headed into the ugly to kill some time and found filthy people emerging from overpasses, a con man in the fake cast begging for change and this hot “communist” shopping hot spot “time square,” mall design inspired by a coke-dusted 70’s Persian disco nightmare, marble and gold and mirrors everywhere.

where new evil meets old, a sort of capitalist/communist gang bang of shoppers, soldiers, con men and aimless impoverished loiterers.

Here’s the food court where everything I ate, the wilted vegetables, the dry rice, the rotten chicken, had a faint flavor of pesticide. Yum.

After eating shit, I got lost in a mall that doubles as nuclear bomb shelters (apparently the government offered incentives to mall builders in the 80’s to make their buildings “mixed-use”).

I re-emerged into the afternoon smog to somehow ended up in this place.

like the standard Guangzhou or something. It was the only place I could find internet service.

So fucking bizarre. The AC’s got the room down to about 30 degress, they’re jamming Dolly Parton and Sting soft pop classics and 20 feet away, there are children selling their souls for food (more on that later.)

I roll out after taking a quick shower in the hotel sink and happen upon a quaint tree-lined street that could be in the West Village (if it had more rats).

And then in this gorgeous park

where everybody was smiling and getting their exercise. They were playing badminton

and ping-pong

working out on calistetic machines.

and pacing in circles like this fit old fellah

It was hard to tell if this was default contentment (Happy the way things are b/c there’s no other way to stay sane) or if it was the real deal. It looked real enough.

Whatever it was, I found myself immersed in it long enough that I started thinking, what I’m sure many people put-off by the U.S.’s greed-fueled, consumer-obsessed culture think regularly, but most definitely after spending time on the lighter side of communism.

That maybe it isn’t so bad.

That maybe we’re the ones that are fucked up, sacrificing our souls, our entire lives to chase some dwindling “American dream: big everything and too much of it, work, work, work, want, waste, death.

And of course, I started asking myself questions like, what’s so wrong with having only what you need? Do you really need a 15,000 square foot house, a 72 inch TV and a fucking $80,000 car? For what?

Because you’re that insecure or lost that you need to make you feel better with “stuff?” What’s wrong with doing a job and being a part of something bigger than yourself? What the fuck is wrong with sharing?

The answer of course is there’s nothing wrong with sharing and everything wrong with greed, but it’s also bat shit insane to starve 20 million people (as Mao did during “the great leap forward”) to even the playing field.

But soon after my frolic in the park the darker side of communism reared it’s ugly head again. In fact, about forty five seconds after I got the best stir fried rice I’ve ever had in my entire life from this guy…

I sat down on the curb to eat and somewhere down the block somebody starts blowing a traffic whistle and instantly all of the street vendors in sight tore off down the street, terrified, as if it were a nuclear air raid siren going off, into alleys (some taking their shit, some leaving chicken still sizzling in the wok). The street emptied instantly and the only people left were me, and curiously enough, another white dude.

I shrugged like “what just happened?” and he shrugged back like “who the fuck knows?”

He asked me where I as from. I told him. He was from Argentina, on business. He asked why I was there. I told him traveling and he spun the invisible wheel around his ear very deliberately with his index finger and said “you are fucking crazy, man,” and stalked back off into the night.

About a block after that, and about 30 seconds after I snapped a shot of this sign

a young girl, no more than 12, came up to me and asked if I’d like a “massagey.” It didn’t register at first, and then she asked again, more desperately this time, reaching for my hand and I was like “hold up. Am I about to be on “To Catch A Predator? WTF? Isn’t this shit only supposed to happen in Cambodia and Thailand?” and I’m like “No, Jesus Christ! No!” My heart sank. i wasn’t sure whether I should run or cry or scoop the kid up and save her. But from who?

Her mother, that’s who, mommy dearest who rolled up a millisecond later as I was holding my head and muttering “no, no, no,” and shoved a newborn baby in my face, pointed back to her daughter and begged me to take the little girl up on her offer.

Holy fucking shit! What the fuck?! Get me out of here right now before I throw up, break down in tears in the middle of the street or snatch the baby AND the kid and take them to the nearest something… police station, shelter? Where do you take a child prostitute at 8 o’ clock at night in industrial China when you want to liberate her from her intensely desperate and insane mother?

Who the fuck knows.

So I bolted, like any ignorant western pussy would do, made my way to the nearest mototricycle driver and got a ride back to the train station. I would not advise this mode of transportation for anyone who does not have a sever death wish.

Guangzhou, China // Motortricycle from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

At the end of the ride, the driver asked me for what sounded like 15000 or something so I handed it to him. he shrieked, shrank back like a dude in an old school kung fu movie and slapped the money out of my hand, offended that I would try to rip him off.

Apparently he was trying to say 50,000. My bad. So I handed him the proper dough and he screamed at me and tore off on his bike.

Now back at the luxurious Guangzhou Central Railway Station, I posed for a photo op forced upon me by some curious 13 year old Chinese girls and their brother who wanted to know if I knew Yao Ming.

Now remember how I paid the shady travel service a stupid price for a soft sleeper and a cab ride ride the Guangzhou East Rail Station? Well those motherfuckers ended up baiting and switching me and handing me a hard sleeper.


and I ended up with the top premium casket bunk in a cabin with five other passengers, complete with filthy sheets, filthy pillow, filthy blanket, and the entire cabin, just like much of china it seems, was covered in a layer of dirt.

Beat to shit, unable to keep my eyes open any longer, unable to sleep, and unable to take a crap without falling into the toilet,

I grabbed some nasty grub in the dining car then sat up and watched scooter gangs roam black and desolate streets of dilapidated ghost towns, anonymous shadows carrying out secret operations in crumbling factories and farmers working fields under xenon lights as they piped crazy music pop muzac and jubilant classical anthems through the train’s PA speakers.

Guangzhou // Train Soundtrack from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

Around 10 o’ clock, some ticket taker types appeared and started shutting all the curtains in the entire car (excluding mine) and began ordering everybody into their bunks (except me) and then they did a bed check, gently interrogating people in any cabin that had an empty bed. Trying my best to fit in, I made for my bunk, but was urged by the interrogators to relax and enjoy the ride.

It wasn’t easy, but at some point, I lay my trusty Mickey Mouse towel down, climbed into my rolling casket, complete with funeral home curtains, talked myself out of a panic attack as the BO rose from the bodies of the travelers sleeping below me, fell asleep and woke up a few hours later to this:

Holy scenic rural China! Rolling green hills dotted with bamboo and tin shantys and tents and cows and water buffalos and roosters and rice patties and people hunched over working in them who’ve somehow miraculous escaped having their bodies evolve into a horseshoe-shape over the millennia of days they’ve spent as picking that rice.

After a short ride through the beauty, I got off at Nanning Station, a much more pleasant and cleanly a train station than that nightmare in Guangzhou.

Basically Nanning looks like what I’m assuming Guangzhou looked like 50 years ago.

a sprawling pseudo city with a handful of buildings over 4 stories, zero identity, and dodgy infrastructure.

I specifically traveled this route so I could stop at Ya Mai Te, ancient city. But when the only person at the train station that spoke any English had no idea where it was, I assumed i was probably shit out of luck finding it.

But that’s never stopped me before.

The only thing I knew is what I read, that it was only 30km away and I had a full day to get there and back, so I wandered the streets until I found a woman who claimed she knew where the bus station was. She wrote the name of the ancient city down on my pad in Chinese characters and then pointed me in the wrong direction. Many people, in fact, were extremely helpful as I drew pictures of buses and terminals, engaging in what I’m sure was a wildly entertaining, one-sided games of charades, and gladly pointed me back and forth in the wrong direction.

I ping-ponged like this up and down the same streets, never seeing a bus once. I gave it one last shot at an off-site train ticket office. And they pointed me back in the exact same direction, I’d just come from.

So I plopped down on my ass and called it.

Fuck the Han. Fuck the Ming. Fuck the Quing. Fuck the Chinese, fuck me and fuck public transportation.

Seeing this made me feel a little better though.

And that’s when some old lady rolled up with a bike and simply said “you.follow.me” and took me gently by the hand and led me back the way I’d just come down the street, down a narrow dirty alley between two crumbling buildings with no windows, to the “bus station”: 3 empty airport buses and a small office…

That was padlocked fucking shut.

And now the gentle old lady’s gone. There’s no driver. No clerk. It’s 100 fucking degrees, 150% humidity, and I’ve just lugged my shit 2 miles in Dante’s undiscovered 10th circle of hell.

And then some librarian-looking lady popped out of the station bathroom. “You need?”

“Sure.”

Some dude appeared from behind the bus and motioned for me to follow him…
led me into the unmarked men’s bathroom, and turned to me with a big smile.

What do they think I want? A piss, a shit? A handjob? You can never be sure in these parts. And I was just offered a “massagey” by an 11 year old less than 24 hours ago. So I bolted, found the librarian and showed her the name of the ancient town.

She motioned me towards an idling 3/4 empty bus and told me it would take me there and back. I told her I had to be back by 18:45. She said the bus returns at 17:30 (enough time? probably not.) I tell her I have to be back earlier, and she now says, without discussing it with the driver, that the bus will be back at 16:30.).

Huh? Deal is, if I miss the bus or the train, I miss my flight out of Hanoi into Luang Prabang, Laos and I’m kind of screwed.

Whatever. Fuck it.

So I hop on, thinking the drive to Yai Te Me, at most, should be, what? 25 minutes? Because, in my head, a kilometer is less than a mile, and buses on the highway do 60 right? 60 miles an hour, I should be find right?

Wrong.

What I didn’t consider was that maybe the ancient town wasn’t accessed by well-paved highways, alone, but by a fairly complicated route of dusty dirty, muddy jungle

flooded, rocky, pseudo roads through flooded gorges, over suspect bridges and through damn near abandoned towns

all the while picking up locals (including these emo farmers)

along the way to take them god knows where.

We arrived an hour and a half later and the town was amazing. 2 square miles of straight up dynasty construction.


authentic shit

like this Ming statue

this Han Dynasty graffiti

or this authentic MIng basketball court from the 11th century

and the First United Bank of the Quing Dynasty (founded 1616)

it was so authentic in fact that most of it was falling apart

And many of the old dynasty homes are now occupied by villagers, their bicycles and motorbikes

and veal

parked outside.

As if the Quing moved out and they moved right the fuck in.

It was hot as shit and I had a ton of fun carrying my 150 lbs. of luggage and gear up and down the authentic stone streets and steps, observing river life


and leering at young Chinese girls while they sunbathed.

Some things you might want to consider when visiting rural China:

bird flu

cobras

malaria

food poisoning



rabies

hep A, and the fact that angry cows hanging out in narrow alleys are still angry cows whether they’re on tiny leashes or not.

Apparently they weren’t feeling my umbrella. I’m assuming that this is because folded up it looked much like a cattle prod. I’d pass and they’d rear up and moo crazy, snort… scary shit. So I folded it up and hid in my backpack and that seemed to calm them slightly.

Anyway, I made the train with 15 minutes to spare and checked into my sexy soft sleeper, decorated in neutrals this time and fitted with moderately clean bedding, electrical socket, a window I could see out of, and a “me” (pronounced (may) and slang for white westerner in vietnam/laos) bunkmate, (one of four of us total (besides the two Italians I later met) on the train.)

We’ll just call my bunkmate Strasberg for now, because listening to him was like watching an episode of inside the actor’s studio. It was like he was testing out personalities on strangers to see which one fit.

That is until we got pulled off the train in the middle of the night by Chinese army. Then he played it cool.

Prior to this, Strasberg was telling me (all the while rolling his eyes and grinning smugly, overwhelmed by the sheer grandeur of his own knowledge) about how he intended to open up his own language school in Ghiang Dao (though most were doomed to failure), how chill China was, telling me how there were two China’s: poor and middle class, but that the only kids that gave the government any real worry were the kids born in the 80’s and 90’s who want it all and never knew a hard time.

Very cool kid, this Strasberg was, and seemingly insightful, just very strange.

So basically we’re in our 1st class car with the first class crapper

and the 1st class dining car

with the 5th class food

freely talking China junk, the good, the bad and the ugly of it, getting ready for bed when the train comes to an unexpected halt at a darkened way station in the middle of nowhere China, and a crowd of little men in green, the one’s the Hong Kong businessman told me about, appear in our doorway.

They ask for our passports and without asking why (because they’re the Chinese Army and they have guns and according to international law if they want to detain us immediatley, they don’t even have to let the U.S. consulate know about it for four days) we hand them over.

The soldiers pass our passports back and forth between themselves, inspecting them, pointing at certain pages and nodding emotionlessly, chatting in very official harsh, hushed tones.

They tell us we look alike, as if to insinuate some sort of identity fraud shenanigans on our part and we explain that we both just met on the train. And from the soldiers there is no response.

Strasberg’s response to the soldier’s presence and demands, at this point, has gone from surprise, to confusion, to semi-flexing, and back to courteous. Because, of course, he’s the seasoned alien here and has been an English teacher in some pretty city and so old school, hard ass “you’ll go to prison for a few days or forever because we said so,” communism is just a figment of some melodramatic xenophobic modern U.S. travels imagination (i.e., mine).

But I can tell he’s just as freaked as I am, because he’s shapeshifting with every second that goes by.

So this freaky soldier business goes on for what feels like a genuinely uncomfortable amount of time and then they leave.

With our passports.

Awesome.

Strasberg and I chit-chat about what’s going on. I’m hoping he knows something I don’t, and he knows absolutely nothing.

He’s never had this happen before.

The little green men return to our cabin and tell we have to get off the train.

Huh?

I double-check that we are indeed to get off the train, just me and Strasberg it seems, for no apparent reason, in the middle of the night, while the soldiers hold onto our passports and confirm my questions in no uncertain terms.

So I’m a little freaked out, and I can tell Strasberg is because he’s a completely different person. He speaks differently, his voice sounds different and his grand facial gesticulations have come to an abrupt halt.

So Strasberg and I rise and begin our disembarkment and the little green men stop us and tell us to get all of our luggage and bring it with us which sends the whole scenario into “what the fuck“ land.

And then Strasberg’s like “I hope this isn’t because of me,” and before I can say something like, “and why would that be?” I’m thinking who the fuck is this Strasberg really?

Some black market hustler?

A drug dealer?

Did he stash some opium in my bag like in that movie “Transiberia” while I was in the shitter?

What will life be like spent inside a Chinese prison?

Or is this shady motherfucker really CIA in training? Being inserted into Chinese society as some rich kid English teacher who’s come to “find himself” abroad?

Spy cocksucker!

Am I going to end up in front of some semi-retarded fucking firing squad with heads full of propaganda, itchy trigger fingers and shit aim?

Fuck that!

Give me the gun. I’ll do it.

And he tells me that his visa’s expiring tomorrow or today or something and that’s all I get before we’re out the door and heaving my bag across darkened railroad tracks, up onto the platform and into that empty station, where the guards from the train are standing, staring me down.

Inside, there are two luggage scanners that looked like they were purchased at an Eastern Airlines liquidation circa 1991. The little green men tell me to put my luggage through and I do, Strasberg does, and still we’re the only two in the station.

My luggage doesn’t set off any alarms thankfully (I polished offf the melon caramels on the train from Guangzhou just to make sure), but there’s still a lot of whispering and pointing and bad vibes going round.

I separate myself from Strasberg and this point and he does the same as I’m not about to take one for a team I don’t even belong to.

And then they start making everybody get off the train.

And I begin to breathe a little easier.

But when the other passengers arrive, the little green men don’t hassle them, and as they call Strasberg and I to the window to point out our passports, the Chinese passengers are now beginning to whisper and point to like “what did the stupid white kids do?” and the little green men are crowding around the desk going over and over and over our passports.

And then they load us all back on the train.

Strasberg and I head into our cabin and I take another breath.

But they’ve still got our passports and the train’s jerking and groaning like we’re about to depart.

Strasberg picks up a book and I stare down the floor and Strasberg’s like “you alright?” and I’m thinking “listen, you smug sonofabitch. Where’d that crazy, eye rolling, so impressed with my tales of “bringing education to the people” attitude go when those fucking Chinese soldiers rolled into our cabin? When you mumbled some shit about hoping this wasn’t “because of” you?

Again, Strasberg’s not a “bad” guy, just an genuine fucking weirdo, subtle in his brand of strange maybe, but batty just the same.

A few minutes later the little men returned our passports and I changed my underwear, turned out the light and sang “America the Beautiful” until I was rudely awakened in Hanoi.

This time by the Vietnamese army.

ASIA DISPATCH 1 // HONG KONG // OBSERVATIONS & SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS

A tough nut

less than 200 years old and would probably take at least a 1/4 of that to long to crack it

so I’ll keep simple

and help you avoid getting sucked into the spin I’m in.

Wan Chai // Great barbeque and dope old buildings

Admiralty // Whatever

Tsim Tsai Tsu // Tourists and the primarily Arab hustlers that prey on them. If you want to buy hash and a Rolex, I know just where to take you.

Central // a billionaire dog and pony show. Lamborghinis and douchebags courting models with helicopter rides and Fendi. big yawn.

Crib’s in Mong Kok.

That’s where I spend most of my time.

where people float inside cubes stacked like dilapidating jenga blocks, a kind of inside physics joke.


The walls are liquifying. The air is 3 feet thick.

Some streets smell like a drug even I’d be scared to try.

Why don’t I see any bugs?

At night, the neon light turns the bay fog into cotton candy clouds.

Decay and crumble…

steel and glass.

The wind is electric. Open your mouth and get the tip of a Duracell.

Why hasn’t the whole thing burned down yet?

Motherfucker’s on fire.

The young they gather in mass in public places practically 24/7. Mingle amongst their own.

Kowloon // Midnight from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

They are engaged.

This is action.

There is a sense of contentment

pride

autonomy and class I get from Chinese Hong Kongers

family, honor, respect,

good conversation is held sacred.


the men

I see…

ancient ones, froggering out into traffic. they don’t have time to wait for a break to get to the other side.

sitting and watching, but not waiting.

whatever it is I’m looking for, they already seem to have found it.

16 year olds in 3,000 suits that probably cost 200 here, who speak better English than me and drive shit I’ll never afford. I see skaters, punks, Goths and rockers, preps and lots of shirtless old dudes who look just as cool as the kids.

I see women, old and frail. some in masks. some limping and smiling. Some smoking while they cook up a typhoon in a wok.

Pictures of wisdom in wheelchairs and slippers.

many of the young ones

hold hands

some dress like sailors when they go to school

others dress like young American women - lot’s of tits and legs, and not for you sir.

I can’t count the white dudes on one hand that I see in the course of a day here.

And by us, these chinese hong kongers want to be left alone, because it seems just when they get comfortable, motherfuckers come and stir up shit.

the brits

the japs

the brits again.

and then the Chinese.

gotta hold onto what the few things that never change, the things that truly matter, and we don’t fit into that category.

the only people who seem to be remotely interested in the gawkey white dude in the palladium boots and perv stash are teenage girls who’ve seen nothing and 90 year old men who’ve seen it all.

but for the most part I am a ghost here and it only makes me feel more at home.

videos for this trip are scarce so far, but the pictures plentiful as I stumbled upon an episode of this asshole bobby chin

null

taking a restaurant tour around india while annoying the shit out of the locals – he thought he was hilarious – them not so much - and decided to put the video on hold in an attempt to blend better.

this is about how well I did.

laundry day

is every day here.

i visited a flesh peddler
\

but opted for a banana instead

watched a show where people play video games and afterward. a live human does a post-game interview with the avatar of the winning gamer about their performance during the game.

saw a Chinese trampolene competition and two men use another man as a human jump rope, but this guy was more interesting to watch

null

midnight snack

and midnight lunch ladies responsible for making it

just like hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy says: “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” (It was either this or a baby blue one with Chinese cartoon teddy bear on it. )

I did not go here.

Serious.

meat

fruit

waves

offering

pig out on reclamation street

the action as it happens

Hong Kong // Pig Out on Reclamation Street from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

my morning plum connect.

same contractor as the flintstones

lunch

scout’s honor

my savior. the reason you can read this. in the spirit of globalization, he provided the necessary tools to daisy chain electrical adapters to run a current around the world and right back to my mac in hong kong.

double dragon

stoked to be getting a fabulous deal on knockoff ed hardy.

kind of like an all-you-can-eat sea world

shapeshifting

captain phil’s replacement?

he’s already got a local fanbase.

some guys just got it.


his

hers

logistics

lunch break

I did not write this in the guest book of my hotel.

for dr. hughes

vader’s crib

Now why didn’t I think of that?!

what I’ll be riding after this trip.

dinner two

these guys are wild. must’ve seen them eat 5 pork bowls and a drink a six pack each in my short time there.

this is the small. people watched and laughed while I attempted to conquer it (out of respect) with a big stupid shiteating grin on my face.

a futile and valiant attempt

this chair deserves to have a song written about it by r. Kelly.

picasso

chicks with dick

babies and gas

sitting room only


kickstand

candy men

round house

black guys in skin

dicks in robes

here they are getting into a fracas with the singer of Sum 41

Untitled from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

went to the hong kong history museum. it was like me and this dude.

no really… it was just us and security.

inside there was a lifesize model of a “boat person’s” junk

with some pasty old lady inside.

some crazy looking gods

an freaky opra scene

some creepy puppets

a towers of buns

and a scale model of the good/bad move that got them colonized for realz

hong kong history lesson hint: the hubbub started over something you smoked it in this.

the original dicks…

me and the muslim chillin’ in Kowloon park post-history


wong kar wai – tsi tsam tsu

Kowloon, nevada


everything looks familiar

nothing looks familiar

banksy found

this dude is everywhere

last supper – by bourdain’s suggestion (notice the mask on the chef)

Lemonade. Mad respect.

The reincarnation of Buddy Holly (and his magic 1/2 purple dog)

symphony of lights: as stunning as it is terrifying. a crazy laser show put on by corporate titans of the world to distract you while they wrap the chains around your shopping zombie hands.


and all of this exists because a long time ago some power mad man boys started a scuffle over some dope.

crazy, no?

onward ho…

kostrzak

Listening to: Caribou “Swim,” MIA “Kala,” Radiohead “Hail to the Thief,” tribal drums, loud chinese, The Beatles “Revolver,” soft chinese, The Horrors “Primary Colours,” my order being shouted out, Julian Casablancas “Phrazes for the Young,” bad Chinese pop, Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” the neighbors building and walling a city inside their apartment at 5:45 in the morning, Love is All “Two Thousand and Ten Injuries,” horns, lots of horns, definitely not silence, and LCD Soundsystem “This is Happening”

Happy Monday Show and Tell

The photos below were IM’d to me Saturday by filthy Croat genius, 2001 Brooklyn Karaoke Grammy runner-up, and Buchla tech supreme Mark Verbos during the course of a V.O. session I was attempting to direct (from L.A. via IM) and he was supposed to be recording (in NYC) for the super awesome Butcher’s Daughter pilot we shot recently.

In addition to the steady flow of cocks and monstrosities that Mark dropped in my IM receptacle, Julia (on the NYC side) also discovered as she re-entered the studio (kitchen) from the sound booth (bathroom?), that Mark, while conducting the recording, and plying me with photos of awesome weird shit, had somehow also been engaged in foreplay with a young lady on yet another open IM conversation.

According to eye witness accounts, the conversation with the anonymous co-ed actually began with the classic “What are you wearing?”

No, really.

Anyway, here’s the pix…

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

Coachella 2010 Report Card // Too Much Bro

Pushy people.

Rude, ugly, mean, sweaty, angry, retarded people.

Everywhere.

Shouting and spitting.

Laughing and crying.

Pushing and shoving.

Some dressed up like Indians and Amsterdam whores.

Wearing tribal tattoos and navel suns.

Stepping on people and calling them names.

This is what we’ve come to.

This is us…

and we’re fucked.

This is a version of the loop that swirled in my head all weekend long in the midst of the oversold (by more than 15,000 tickets, not counting illegal entries, according to press reports), and poorly organized, clusterfuckfest AEG sold us as Coachella.

Lines for hours. Garbage everywhere. They ran out of wristbands. They ran out of water. According to reports, 65 people were carried out on Friday alone due to heat exhaustion and security guards were allegedly manhandling festival-goers in the campground.

The term of the weekend “Periodic table” which I defined with the help of Lawbreaker and Nate Doughnut as “exposing a hired prostitute to ALL the elements” (not Ununnilium or Califnornium, nor the wind, rain or snow, but other wet, nasty things if you catch my drift), instead became a term to describe perfectly what Coachella had exposed me to.

That being said, I somehow managed, between dodging full water bottles, Red Bulls cans, shoves and the scissor elbows of angry meatheads, to enjoy a pocketful of moments for my $300 throughout the weekend.

The Specials. B+

Living in L.A. (aka dangerously close to the OC) as a rule I avoid ska, but these guys are legends for a reason. Just one more example of the old guys running it, and in fucking suits! In 90 degree heat! Nuts…

Passion Pit C –

Singer Michael Angelakos is really just El Debarge with laryngitis and a beard. Catchy tunes, but not sure why the singer chose to sing an entire album in an unreachable register. Sounds like: Somebody needs a vocal coach.

Don’t believe me? Check it out…

Is it just me or do you feel like you’re watching a junior high talent show?

Them Crooked Vultures. B+

Relief. If anything, a perfect anecdote to El Debarge. Sounds like: Jumbo’s Clown Room capacity 50,000.

LCD. A

Big boner. By the end I was levitating.

Vampire Weekend. A –

These guys are dicks. Once I got over the fact that these Ivy League pussies are smarter, more charming, handsome and talented than I ever was, I had a great time.

Fever Ray. C –

Battlestar Horrorlactica. Drug sex. Nap time.

PIL. ?

Apparently we’re both too old for the revolution because he was sucking and I left early.

Jay Z. ?

Sounds like: 80,000 white kids in sports sandals rapping about shit they can’t afford.

SATURDAY

Gossip. A+

The band killed it and the most charismatic front man at the festival was a woman.

The XX. D

Snoozefest. This is music to make out to, not to perform for 750 thousand million people in 100 degree desert heat.

Hot Chip. B-

Snore. Think it might just be that they’ve gotten better and I’ve gotten bored. Maybe a roof, more volume and a better light show would help?

MGMT. A

Pleasant surprise. I feel like everybody I’ve ever spoken to about MGMT before this told me they sucked live. The only song they seemed to have trouble with was the big one, the catchy one all the kids were dancing to — but not “Kids” the song — the other one, the one that’s supposedly a tribute to, or about, Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone or something (or so I read somewhere). They killed it on everything else, especially new shit. Voice found.

Major Lazer. F

Did I really spend money to watch some retard in a yellow Mohawk climb and jump off of a ladder and scream “We party ever day!” into a mic over Benny Benassi tracks? Or is this his “thing” and I just wasn’t informed? Guess I expected too much from the man who gave us the booty-quaking greatness that is “Pon De Floor.”

SUNDAY

Julia Casablancas. C

Saw him at the Downtown Palace Theater and he was amazing. Guess I was too busy berating the 15 year old that clocked my friend square in the face with empty can of Red Bull to enjoy it much this time. Good times…

Spoon. B

Lots of leg room. Sounded great. Kinda boring.

Phoenix. A+

Killer sound. Great performance. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Flawless execution of new stuff as well as classics made it easier to ignore the flying water bottles and scissor elbows.

Thom Yorke. A

Before he went on I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. Bros were pushing through. A fight broke out. I had to check my GPS to make sure I hadn’t fallen through some wormhole and ended up at the Woodstock ’99 Limp Bizkit set. But then Mr. dancing machine came on and blew my mind. Again.

Thank you, Mr. Yorke for sending me home on the verge of good tears instead of bad ones.

Gorillaz. D

This year’s answer to Paul McCartney and Roger Waters, from the back of the crowd (aka Pomona), looked like a snail-paced, budget sucking snore.

Fuck you very much Coachella,

Kostrzak

Geriatric Disguised As Frozen Novelty Treat Pleads Case to LADOT

Fig. 1 (Notice the fancy but practical pooch purse. )

Fig. 2 (Side View/Game Face)

THINGS I DID Y DID NOT DO IN SAYULITA, MEXICO LAST WEEK

I did not pee on the floor of my lavish rental home or get caught in barbed wire.

I did not make out with somebody other than my girlfriend or attempt to finger a friend’s husband.

I did not vomit off the side of a sailboat, though it looked like really a fun thing to do.

I did not fall down the stairs and tear the ligaments in my leg.

I did not get stung by a dismembered jellyfish.

I did not save a dog, though I was part of the three man/woman team that discovered it.

I did not give anybody a foot massage, nor did I request one.

I did not buy a pound of Mexican ditch weed and smoke it in less than a week.

I did not obtain a “legal” prescription from a shady doctor for oxycodone, hydrocodone, xanax, darvocet, percocet or valium, though at times I wish I had.

I did not grab a Mexican gangster’s cock.

I did, however, witness a big red cock chilling with an iguana in the overgrown front lot of an abandoned shanty.

I did get dressed up in matching outfits with other men and drink the Kool Aid.

I did shapeshift into my disc jockey persona…

and learn the secrets behind all of Chris Holmes’ magic tricks.

I did introduce wary children to the world of music, contrary to their parent’s wishes.

I did celebrate my birthday with Keith Mack and howl “Silencio!” before opening up a portal to another dimension where pork tacos are an intoxicant.

I marched around with cake on my face.

I danced with my arms above my head and partied like it was 1979.

I got dressed up in seersucker and partied with some party boyz.

I sat sentry on siesta…

and enjoyed quite moments alone with the internets

I posed for the “Angry Faces of Sayulita 2010” calendar…

and interviewed small local dogs about their views on small dog/big dog segregation in Sayulita.

I discussed (then current) Puerta Vallerta weather conditions with my motley crew.

then went sailing (and got the shit kicked out of me by waves that, at times, felt like they were composed of liquid nitrogen rather than highly-polluted Mexican sea water.)

I snorkeled (and my penis turned into a vagina.)

I was adopted by a puppy Doberman.

I went to a video arcade in town and met the regional Halo champion.

I slept at a castle in the sky

then opted for a mansion on the beach.

I drove an ATV through the jungle.

I took part in a burrito revolution and confronted a dear friend about his unhealthy past relationship with world renown “down tempo” group St. Germain.

I had my first close encounter with an crazy freaky Unidentified Flying Object and made a pact not to tell anybody about it.

And I lied.

FUNERAL


*Thanks to Tammy and Chris for this.