Monday, December 21, 2009

New Jersey Meadowlands

I'm not talking about the football stadium. This summer I decided to explore the natural estuary of the Hackensack River that is part of the New Jersey Meadowlands: the wetlands just outside of New York City, criss crossed with highways, factories and parking lots. A tidal area filled with all sorts of wildlife in addition to the pollution and garbage. I've spent a lot of time in New Jersey over the years and every time I would take the train into town I would pass through a beautiful dichotomy of nature vs man. Serene marshes and meadows bumping up against rotting industry.

It was a great short trip, very rewarding. The NJ Meadowlands Commission is doing a lot to raise money and awareness to clean up the water and preserve thousands of acres of land for the wetlands native wildlife.

First of all, anyone visiting the area must first be aware that you will get lost. I have a very good sense of direction and I haven't driven through New Jersey once without getting lost. Roads criss-cross every which way with confusing signs and little logic to layout. With all my preparation and map reading I thought my companions and I would be fine, but unfortunately the main road leading there was closed. Much confusion ensued.

Our first stop was something I've been meaning to visit for many years. The WMCA relay station. You pass the relay station while driving south on the NJ Turnpike. It is an old, run-down art deco building, done up in white tile with curved edges and a large, red neon sign. I've always fantasized running a pirate radio station from here. On the way over we passed a giant, squished rat. No one works in the building anymore. It's just used for equipment storage and trasmitter boosters.

Finding the entrance to the park area was tricky too. You have to pass through the strip-mall soaked town of Kearny and take a small access road called, seriously, Disposal Road. Then you have to veer around a recycling center and go down a road that says "no trespassing" until you get to the main gate of Richard DeKorte Park. This is a 110 acre reserve with over 200 species of birds. It's quite amazing, because you are walking through this beautiful marshland, but with the horizon dotted with electric lines, airplanes flying over head and Manhattan looming in the background. I loved it.

It must've been low tide because much of the area between the reeds was cracked mud, revealing the footprints of the area's natural inhabitants. Birds, frogs, etc. You walk along these earthen dikes, surrounded by water. Great photo opportunities. One thing I didn't find that I was looking for was an old house off of one of the area's service roads. Like WMCA, you pass it when traveling along the turnpike. It's an old, 3-story house from the early part of the 20th century that stands all alone in an area with no trees and no neighbors. Just an old, barely used service road. I want to find this house.

Let's Talk Cereal

On to a lighter topic.....let's talk cereally folks.

There's a problem with organic cereal that a lot of people don't talk about. The thing people usually complain about is their small packaging and expensive price tag. But there's another, more nagging problem that I've discovered. You can't properly open them!!!

I bought this organic cereal the other day, you know, to try and be healthy or whatever...but I could not open it! I attempted to pry open the top, but it would not budge. The glue was too strong! I wound up tearing the flap. Then, the plastic bag inside was even more of a brute. The seal was glued so tightly that I wound up tearing the thing into shreds. Now I get reminded of my frustration every time I try to pour the cereal into a bowl and it goes all over the place. This is not the way I want to start my day. Just look at the pics below!

Bad organic cereal packaging..

Now, compare to your average Kellogg's brand. No problem. Just flip open the top, tear an even, small opening into the plastic and yummy breakfast is yours for the taking! Health is not just what you put into your stomach. The mind must also be a healthy place and the stress of opening a faulty cereal box at the start of one's day is not a risk worth taking in my opinion.

Now that's what I call breakfast!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


OK, so I know very little about this band. But that's probably part of the reason why I like them so much. Mystery is half the love. At any rate, I was walking through an old junk store, picking up some old post cards and marbles, when I heard this bizzare music that sounded like Mozart on acid. I asked the long hair behind the register what he was playing on the turntable, and with a grin he nodded, "Sparks."

I went to the ol' youtube and found some outrageous videos. These guys not only have the original sound from way back, but possess looks to kill pigeons with. The two are apparently brothers and come up with hilarious album titles like, "Kimono my House." In all their videos the singer flamboyantly struts around the stage, wagging his finger at you while the keyboardist makes you piss your pants with his moustache looks of randomness.

This is one of my fave songs and videos. Love the mittens!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Culture & Consequence - the third Francis Friday album

click HERE to get to Francis Friday's "Culture & Consequence" bandcamp page!

So here goes. Francis Friday album #3. This is my first digital-only collection...12 new songs written and recorded in my Brooklyn home-studio. As usual, I played all the instruments myself and recorded it on a combination of multi-track cassette and pro-tools.
Although 3 of the songs are a year or two old, the other nine were all written and recorded this Spring. Recorded and mixed in about a months time, it was the fastest album I ever finished.

The closing track, "Let Me Be It" is one of my favorite Flaming Lips songs, and I've always wanted to cover it. I admit it's pretty much a facsimile of the original, but I didn't feel the need to reinterpret it. It's more of a tribute to the brilliant mind of Wayne Coyne and I wanted to end the album with an upbeat track.

Here's the tracklist:

1) Heaven is a Mighty Good Reason
2) She Loved Lavendar
3) She Was the One

4) Something in the Way
5) Lonely Girl
6) No One
7) Love You to Death
8) April Song
9) Hope (original)

10) Natural Pet
11) Gutter Song
12) Let Me Be It

I hope some of you get the chance to listen to it sometime...let me know if you have any trouble with the download. Thanks!

The entire album is available for free. Download the zip file below.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dances With Wolves

While in Montana, and knowing this was big sky country with beautiful scenery that Lewis and Clark traveled through, I thought it would be a funny idea to do a Dances With Wolves Shamus and I put it together real quick, just as a laugh. To my surprise, I discovered that Kevin Costner is rolling into Missoula in a couple weeks to play with his band, Modern West. Hopefully he'll see this and Shamus can get his autograph (ha, ha)!

My Trip to Montana

In June my friend Rob and I took a trip to Missoula, Montana to visit our friends Shamus and Jess who had just moved there a year ago. What a country! Beautiful hikes and wonderful people. They live in the cutest house, right by the train tracks, that reminds me of the shotgun shacks I saw in Mississippi. Shamus attends and teaches at the university and I met a lot of his fellow TA's. We drank at the local bars and breweries and shopped at the farmers market.

I met a jovial guy wearing a beret who sold hand-made sausages. When he found out I was from Brooklyn he said he had spent a good amount of time there himself and proceeded to impersonate the accent, which I informed him sounded a lot more like a Boston accent. Rob bought a hand-carved flute made of walnut from a local guy and I bought a mandolin. The mandolin was bought at a pawn shop, there are a bunch around town, and I also checked out the gun collection he had. The guy approached and asked if he could help us, and I asked, "what can kill a bear?" He said a lot of people use the 44 handgun, which is a beautiful antique-looking revolver. As I held it in my hands he explained that the 44 is more of a deterrent and if you wanted to really take care of that bear he suggested a much bigger gun displayed on the wall. It looked like a sawed-off shot gun, much like the one Rico Tubbs used in Miami Vice. He said I wouldn't be able to take the big gun back to nyc anyway, so I just walked out with the much cheaper mandolin.

We went on a day hike through Glacier National Park, and because the week before a man had been mauled by a Grizzly, we bought a can of bear mace. This is some major mace, not be used on a human being. To our surprise you only get one shot on this thing, so if you're attacked you better aim well or no second chance! Mountain Cats supposedly attack people too. Their tactic is to creep up behind you, jump on your back and bite your neck! Luckily the only large animals we saw were deer.

What a great place.....Missoula, I shall return!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cast Iron Gates

This was the second music video I did for Francis Friday, this time with my good friend Jarred Alterman of Fly Away Films. We've worked together several times over the years, but he had never done a video for any of my Francis Friday ventures. The pieces fell into place and in April of '08 we got together one evening, just before sundown. Jarred had a great camera with a lens that's in focus in the middle, while the edges are blurry, which is a great effect! Miguel Drake-McLaughlin handled most of the camera work, while Jarred directed. It was entirely Jarred's concept....use old 8mm footage (from my family's archives) interspersed with the hazy, in-out-of-focus material, to give a dreamlike, whistful image.

We shot some footage by the cemetery near Greenpoint, which had some old iron gates (more wrought than cast though) and did the rest in his house. Besides the lens, the other effect he used was to project images onto my face while I sang along to the song. After the shoot, Jarred bunkered down in his editing room to cut it together with the 8mm footage. I don't know how it happend so fast, but in a couple days it was done and on the web.

Yay, trees

So, the other day a lovely gift was left in front of my window. Oh joyous, arbor, a tree! This cute little thing and a couple others just like it, was planted only a few weeks ago to spruce up the old street. My block is full of old brick warehouses, as well as an ugly new glass addition across the way, and at certain times of the year gets very dusty and dirty. I think to myself, if there was only some greenery. And now there is! Welcome, tree. You are my friend. I look out my window and see you there, sun glistening in your leaves. You are small now, but someday you will grow up big and strong. Things are just a little bit brighter.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hello new tooth!

A couple of years ago my back tooth started to hurt. Everytime I bit into something hard I would suffer from a severe and sharp pain. This would be most disconcerting, especially when I least expected it. Many a good meal was ruined by this troubled tooth and I became overly cautious as time went by, often only eating on one side of my mouth.
When I saw the dentist about it he saw nothing wrong and could not find the route of the problem. He saw that I still had 2 wisdom teeth remaining and suggested they might be the source. I didn't do anything about it right aw
ay and lived with the pain for another year. Eventually the pain increased and one day it hurt so bad I realized I could no longer put off the inevitable and I made arrangements to have my wisdom teeth pulled.

The last time I had my wisdom teeth pulled was in college. I only get local anesthetic and I remember it being a violent and painful process. Finally when it was over I wrapped my mouth in gauze (I was bleeding a lot) and went home to rest. My cheek was swollen and I felt pretty awful. However, in the elevator ride down a girl actually started coming on to me. She kept on flirting and asking me questions and I simply could not pay attention. She must've thought I was playing hard to get, but I just wanted to g
et out of there! The next day a guy from school saw a post in the "missed connections" column of the local city paper from this girl looking for the shy architecture student she met in the elevator. Everyone knew it was me and my girlfriend at the time got really pissed off, thinking I was the one that was flirting!

Well, the next time was just as painful. The dentist actually dug his knee into my body to leverage out the tooth. One tooth was stubborn and wouldn't come out. I felt all the pain and I thought he was pulling my whole jaw out! As
I moaned in pain they kept shooting me up with more anesthetic and finally had to break the tooth and pick out the pieces.

After a few days of healing I realized that the 2 wisdom teeth removed were not the source of the problem and my tooth still hurt! I get frustrated. More time goes by. Then, a few months ago as I'm eating cereal, a huge chunk of my back molar falls out. It kind of freaked me out at first, but then realized the pain was gone. I went back to the dentist and he told me I had to get a crown. But then I switched jobs and it took a while for my health insurance to kick in. A few months later with a broken tooth and I finall
y get it fixed. They file down the actual tooth to a little nub, then cover it with a temporary metal plate until the porcelain cap is ready. A few weeks later and I've got a new tooth! This has been a long time coming and I'm so glad to be able to eat freely again with no anxieties!!! I'm gonna go out and buy the crunchiest cereal in the aisle.

Left: temp metal cap, Right: the porcelain chomper

Jerzy Kosinski

Kosinski was a Jewish Polish-American novelist and survivor of nazi-occupied Poland during WWII. He is known for such dark and twisted humorous novels such as The Painted Bird and Being There. I am currently reading Blind Date and below is one of my favorite passages from the book. A perfect sample of his perverse humor:

In the lobby, Levanter saw the woman's daughters playing. He went over to them and asked their ages.
"I'm eight," the older girl said, "and my sister is six."
"What are you going to be when you grow up?" Levanter asked her.
She looked closely at him and, without hesitation, said she wante
d to be an actress.
"I know many actresses," said Levanter. "Do you want to audition for a role?"
The girl nodded.
"Let's pretend I am your husband and I have just returned from a trip abroad. While I was away, our dog Frecky died. We loved him very much and you didn't write to me of his passing because you didn't want to upset me. Now you have to break the news to me. Ready?"
As her sister watched with envy, the girl assumed the pose of an anxious wife. Levanter approached with arms outstretched in greeting.
"Darling, how I've missed you. But where is Frecky? Frecky, Frecky! Come here, you master is home."

The girl was flush and perspiring. She took Levanter's hand and patted it. "Sit down my love," she said firmly. "I have something to tell you."
Levanter pushed her aside. "In a minute, darling. Let me find Frecky. Frecky!" He shouted.
"Sit down," the girl insisted. "It's about Frecky"-tears welled up in her eyes-"Frecky is not here."
"Not here? Where is he?"
She moved closer. "If I tell you the truth about Frecky, will you love me just the same?" she whispered.
"Of course I will. You and Frecky are all I have!" exclaimed Levanter.
"Now you have only me," she sobbed.
"because Frecky--Frecky is dead." She covered her face.

He was about to pretend to faint when the younger girl ran over to him and pulled at his sleeve. "I can play it better than she did," she said. "I'm a better actress." The girl jumped up and down excitedly.
Levanter repeated his routine. "Frecky, Frecky, where are you? Where is Frecky, my dear little dog?" he exclaimed.

Under the critical gaze of her sister, the little girl searched for the right words. She hesitated, then came closer, focusing her gaze on Levanter. "Frecky won't come," she said tensely. "He's in our bedroom. Upstairs." She stressed each word.
Levanter frowned. "You were supposed to tell me that Frecky was dead. Instead, you said he was upstairs. You forgot your lines."
"I didn't forget my lines," said the girl firmly. "If I'm your wife, I love you too much to tell you just like this that Frecky is dead. So I'm telling you he's upstairs. You'll go upstairs and find Frecky there--dead!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Taxi Cab TV crime!

All new yorkers know that for the past few years yellow cabs have installed tv's in their cars. One of their uses is to swipe credit cards, which I still have never done (I'm a cab-cash only kind of guy). But the other annoying thing they do is play really stupid info-mercials and puke-inducing tv clips from all the worst shows. The first thing I do when I step in the cab is hit the OFF button in the top right corner of the screen. I'm not a tv watcher and I certainly don't want it in my face when headed home from a long night of revelry.

Well the other night something horrible happened. I pressed the off switch and it didn't go off!!! The tv kept going the entire cab ride home. Although I hate tv, when it's on it commands my attention. I tried to look out the window, but my eye kept drawing me to the illuminated screen in front of me. This is the reason why I won't go to bars with tv's either. It was one of the worst cab rides home ever (although not as bad as the time I got into a fight with the driver and he tried to kill us both by driving 100 miles per hour down Ave C).

I thought the screen was perhaps broken but then just last night I stepped into another cab and the tv did the same thing! It stayed on the whole ride! After I press the OFF switch the tv continues to play and the OFF switch disappears. I tried touching the screen all over the place and nothing would happen. I told the cab driver of my dismay, but he had no idea why it was doing it. Is this a city-wide pandemic? Is this the future of cab riding? Will we, the citizens of new york, be forever subjected to watching late night with Jimmy Fallon while crossing the Williamburg Bridge?

Has anyone else experienced the OFF switch nightmare???

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ode to a Post It note

Oh Post It note. How I need thee. I keep you close to me at all times. On the table, by the bed, in the kitchen, at work. When a thought pops in my head, you're there for me. You've rarely let me down. There was that one time that I thought of something, grabbed you to jot it down, then thought of a few other things that I scrawled on your yellow surface first, only to realize I forgot the original thing I needed you for in the first place. But besides that, you've been beautiful. My favorite is the canary yellow 3x3, but occasionally I'll reach for the 2x1 1/2. I don't understand why you offer yourself in an accordion stack since I'll never use it, but I appreciate the effort. I write down that song idea, my favorite stores to shop at, grocery lists, quick reminders of what I need to do that day, a girl's phone number, and the occasional doodle. You tickle me yellow, Post It note!

You were invented by Art Fry at 3M in 1977 and have always been made in Cynthiana, Kentucky, although you were first tested in Boise, Idaho. You're the perfect size to fit in my pocket and the quality of your adhesive is just right! Sometimes when you get down to the last few notes on the pad, I get a little sad. You look much better when you're fat and fresh! I can't wait till the next time I think of an idea and scratch it onto your soft smooth surface.

Stick with me Post It note. With you by my side I have confidence to take
on the day's challenges. I won't forget because you won't let me. Thank you, friend.

Someone else who loves Post It notes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Louie Louie

I listen to so much music and have a passion for a wide variety of styles. There are so many great bands out there, from so many eras, that it would be impossible to think of a favorite. But if somebody asked me what my favorite song of all time was, my instant reaction would be “Louie Louie”, by the Kingsmen.

Louie Louie was written in 1955 by Richard Berry, which he recorded for the Flip Label in a somewhat calypso-meets-doowop style with his band, The Pharaohs. It’s a great little tune, with a wonderful baritone singer holding down the rhythm, but thank the lucky stars that he needed some money for his wedding and sold the publishing rights. For whatever reason the track really took hold in the pacific northwest, and countless bands from Washington and Portland covered it throughout the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. But no version out there can top the 1963 single by The Kingsmen. It rocks with such wild abandon, with its compressed, punchy delivery, and it’s drunken-style vocals hiding within the chaotic mix of drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. This short-lived band created to me the song that helped define what rock n roll was.

Richard Berry, the songwriter

The Kingsmen formed in 1959 while in high school and consisted of Jack Ely (vocals/guitar), Lynn Easton (drums), Mike Mitchell (guitar), Don Gallucci (keyboards) and Bob Nordby (bass). After playing a few years at local dances and talent shows, they recorded Louie Louie at Northwestern Recording for $36 as a demo to get better gigs. The gigs didn’t come and the band split because of a rift between singer Jack Ely and drummer Lynn Easton. This caused a bit of confusion after the song became a nation-wide hit, as both Jack Ely and Lynn Easton formed their own versions of the Kingsmen to go on the road to take advantage of the single's success.

Jack Ely's version of the Kingsmen

They keyboardist starts it off with 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2 and the rest of the band joins in, strong and loud. You can hear the singer at the very beginning give an off-mic rebel yell. My favorite instruments are the drums and the bass. The drummer is out of control; playing hard with fills all over the place, (in a good way!) with lots of echo bouncing off the walls around him. The bassist is playing with a pick, and is one of the loudest instruments in the mix. The lyrics are raucous and unintelligible which later got the band into trouble with the FBI. My favorite part is right after the guitar solo, when the singer comes in with the verse, then immediately stops because he thinks he’s come in at the wrong spot. The drummer then covers the error with a delightful fill and the singer starts again. The whole band seems to follow this flub except for the keyboardist, who starts playing the chorus a stanza before the rest of the band. The guitar solo is blistering too, dry with no reverb but cutting through with mid-range twang (much lower in the mix behind him, the drummer is playing a non-stop solo….give it a listen!).

Lynn Easton's Kingsmen

In 1964 an outraged parent wrote to Robert Kennedy, then attorney general, alleging the lyrics were obscene. The FBI investigated the complaint, and studied the song in their labs for 2 years before coming to the conclusion that you can’t understand what the hell he’s saying.

It's one of the most covered songs ever (about 1,600 recorded versions now). Simple, 3 chord rock n roll. A song that just can’t be beat in my opinion.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Subway Violin Guy

I was taking the subway today when I spotted this guy. Amazing...

Saturday, March 14, 2009


When I was in college I discovered the bizarro psychedelic comedy film that is The Monkees Head. Written by Bob Rafelson & Jack Nicholson, Head came out in 1968, just as the pseudo-mop-tops were waning in their popularity. Sure they're a "fake" band, but that doesn't really matter. The movie is great and full of so many twists and turns with flashbacks galore, you don't know where you are and enjoy getting lost in its tom-foolery.

I have turned on many a friend to this film, and it even has a few good songs in it (courtesy of Carole King, Nilsson and a few of the monkee-boys themselves). When I lived in Philly, this was the sort of go-to movie we'd watch when we didn't feel like going out. I still have it on good ol' VHS.

Here's one of my fave clips:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Architects Unite!

My first music video for Francis Friday happened quite by accident. It was directed by my good friend Chris Bagnall in the sunny streets of Greenpoint, shot in October of 2006 and edited and completed in March of 2007.

It started out as a photo shoot for the myspace page I was setting up. My beard was particularly thick and I wanted an old-timey look with bowler hat and dark-pressed suit. Chris, ever-prepared, brought along his high definition video camera to get shots of me playing some of my songs live on the streets of waterfront brooklyn. I played about 4 songs, one of them being Architects Unite, from the Streets Are For Keeps album.

A few months later I asked him to burn me a dvd of some of the songs we recorded and he invited me over to pick it up. As we were going through the raw footage, Chris came upon the idea to make a music video out of one of the songs and post it on youtube. We picked Architects Unite for its catchy choruses and proceeded to paste the best shots together to form an entertaining 3 minute collage. However something was missing, and I decided it would be great to put in some actual footage of architects, buildings and vintage skyscraper construction footage from old New York. I went down to the local video store, Photoplay, and picked up a few movies and documentaries I thought would work.

We had so much fun putting this together and I hope you like it (the silly dog just happened to be walking by with his owner as we were shooting). Incidentally we both spelled 'Architects' wrong on the opening titles (and the youtube posting itself). I know perfectly well how to spell architect and I'm not sure how the mistake wasn't caught earlier. Oh well. The video compression is a little pixelated, but Chris' old computer died on him and the original file has unfortunately been lost.


Defrosting Chicken in a Jiffy

So who wants chicken??? Yay!!! But the delicious chicken breasts are in the freezer and I just got home from work and am hungry NOW! In an ideal world you're supposed to take out the chicken and let thaw in cold water, which would take hours. I don't recommend microwaving because it thaws unevenely, leaving parts over-cooked and tough.

Well, I discovered a great way to do it and it came out perfect. Take the frozen chicken out of the freezer and wrap it in tin foil. Preheat the oven to 200 deg. When it reaches 200, turn off the heat and throw the foil-wrapped chicken in the oven for 20 minutes. This will thaw the chicken without cooking it. You'll find it well thawed out, ready to cook!

Chicken time!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

RIP Lux Inteirior

I heard the news while in Singapore. Lux Interior, born Erick Purkhiser, lead singer of The Cramps, inventor of psycho-billy, shocking garage-punk rocker godhead...was dead at age 62. The reasoning was an existing heart condition, which is quite a vague description. This is really sad news....I especially feel bad for Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) who's been married to Lux for almost 40 years, the 2 of them forming the heart of the Cramps.

I first discovered The Cramps in 1992 while on a shopping spree in little-five points, Atlanta, searching for bootleg vhs footage of The Velvet Underground. After a blurry-bleached out copy-of-a-copy of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable movie by Paul Morrissey, the video suddenly skipped to a primitive music video of The Cramps' Garbage Man. I was captivated by their gothy, reverb-drenched sound and Lux's horror-film visage (as well as Poison Ivy's gold-lame leggings!). Fortunately, I saw in the paper that they were rolling through town in a few days! My sister and I went to the show and were pummuled by their morbidly sexy sound. He stood tall in a black leather body suit with high heels, sliding around the stage screaming into the microphone, while Poison Ivy stood stoic, looking hotter than ever, playing her hollow-body electric to the primitive beat.

He was a great frontman, a great record-collector and a lover of vintage kitch that will be impossible to duplicate.

I'll miss you Lux. See you around.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Trip to the Far East

I have just returned from my travels through Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It was my first time to Asia since I went to Thailand almost 10 years ago. I went for work and flew business class. I must say, business class is the only way to fly when going that distance. It's a 15 hour flight, but I was situated in my own little cocoon that turns into a bed with a tv that plays music, over 50 movies and tv shows, and food and wine to die for. I slept for about 5 hours at a time, drank Grand Cru Bordeaux and watched Batman Begins, Back to the Future and Raising Arizona. Funny, I don't remember it ever making me sad in the past, but I cried when Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter return Nathan Jr to his crib at the end. God, the Coen Brothers are great.

I had only one day to myself and that was in Hong Kong. Most of the day was spent looking at shops (not for fun, it's work related), but I did get to experience a lot of the local color surrounding me. I woke up with only a little over 4 hours of sleep (I don't seem to sleep much these days), and ate from a large breakfast buffet in the cathedral-ceilinged dining room of my hotel. Natural light from an overcast morning softly washed over me as I ate an omelette and fruit to the sounds of Brian Eno's Apollo soundtrack playing from the speakers above. Pretty much everyone around me is here on business as well. Lots of suits and power breakfasts. I hop in a cab and take it to the pier where I hop on a ferry across the harbour to Kowloon. The ferry was a lot like New York's Staten Island Ferry, but not as long (and super cheap-about 25 cents). I'm fortunate that almost everyone in Hong Kong speaks english. In fact, my entire trip language was not an issue. Lots of english speaking peoples in that part of the world.

I split off from my work-related route to walk down Nathan Rd for a bit. Only one block from the area's high-fashion district, Nathan Rd is a strong contrast with its crowded, neon-lit vendors, twisting alleys with dirt-smudged buildings towering precariously above. This is a big migrant area with people from Pakistan, India, and West Africa. Everyone's trying to hustle me, selling watches, cell phones and cheap suits. Even though I'm a tourist trying to observe my surroundings and taking pictures, I can't stop for long for fear of being accosted.

I see Chungking Mansions (they call the projects mansions here), depicted in Wong Kar Wai's film, Chungking Express. I wander through its halls that are filled with transitory occupants setting up shops and money-exchange booths. As I escape a tall man asks me when I was born and if I wanted my palm read. No thanks.

One funny note; although the sidewalks are jam-packed with people pushing and shoving without regard, once they reach the crosswalk they stop. They wait patiently for the light to turn green, not even jay walking if there are no cars coming. Chaos and order.

Later that night I ride the Peak Tram. The tram was built by the British (well, designed by the British, built by the back-breaking Chinese labour) and climbs at a maddingly-steep slope up to the tallest peak, towering over the city below. This tram has been running continuously since 1884 with few accidents. The pitch is steeper than any roller coaster I've been on. I was amazed. Once atop the peak, the view is overwhelming. Imagine looking down on New York City from a mountain top perched in Central Park. That's what it's like. And then, a few steps behind me you look on the other side of the peak and witness a beautiful, tree-filled valley, pouring into the sea below. I stay until dark and Hong Kong sparkles below, silent and mesmerizing.

Hong Kong from the Peak

The other side

Back in town, I eat at Tsui Wah restaurant, which is essentially a diner, and eat curried pork. Unfortunately I must note here that restaurants don't serve water. They only drink tea and if you ask for water they give you hot water (which tastes like bath water, gross). So I'm eating this spicy, salty food with no water. Something else funny that happened, and I don't know if this is a cultural thing or if this guy was just rude, but a man joins his friend's table next to me and just grabs my other chair without asking. I didn't mind, but noted how back home the person would probably politely ask if my chair is taken first. The lights are bright and leave a sickly green tint to my skin, so I finish my food quickly and leave.

Ok, skipping to Singapore. Flying over Singapore I gaze at the harbour below and see hundreds of super tankers and cargo vessels scattered across the water. I've never seen so many large ships in one place before and am informed that Singapore is the most active port in the world. Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a very international city with people from all over Asia, America, and Europe. By the way, a lot of hot women waking around in the skimpiest outfits. I was with work colleagues so I was trying not to be too obvious looking. Although later, after having experienced more of Singapore I wonder how many of these women were 'professionals.'

Soon I learn that most Asian countries work 6 day weeks (Saturday is usually a half-day). Man, I mean, I work a lot too, but that sucks. I really like having two days off in a row. Seriously, how do you have time to relax? Most of the men there have a wife and kids, but they also have a girlfriend or two on the side. It's almost expected. Weird. And a lot of men in Singapore grow their pinky fingernails long. I'm not sure why, but someone told me it was to pick earwax out of their ears. Uh...yeah.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

One hard days night I went downstairs to get a drink. I couldn't find the bar at first, but then a woman about my age asked me if I would walk her into the club downstairs because, as a guest, I could get in for free plus one. Sure, why not. I let her in and then she asked where I was from and I said New York. She excitedly exclaimed she was going to New York in a couple months and could she have my email address and contact me when there? Mmmm, "no", sorry.

Confused, I walked up to the bar to get a drink. The bartenders are rude and it took me forever to get a drink. As I turn to look around it dawns on me. About 90% of the women here are prostitutes. Preying on all the western men that
make up the other half of the club. I got approached a couple times, but sorta made friends with a girl from Thailand who went by the name of Rose. She probably named herself after her dress, which was covered in black-knit roses on a white backdrop. She was cute and we just talked and flirted. I think she just enjoyed talking to me and not having to worry about 'working' because I made it known at the beginning that I wasn't there for that. I also talked to the band, who was hired by an agent in LA and was in contract to play at hotels and clubs around Singapore and Hong Kong for 9 months. They were from the US and Canada and had only just met after arriving in Singapore a few days before their first gig. It was really great hanging out and talking to fellow musicians from the States and I think they were happy to see me too. They had only just arrived a few weeks before so their journey had only just begun. I wonder how they might change if I were to return 6 months later.

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

By the time I was in Kuala Lumpur I was getting a little sick and tired. Besides, KL wasn't as nice as Hong Kong or Singapore. It's just hot and, being a Muslim country, conservative. Although it was cool to hear the call to prayer every morning and evening. Such a beautiful, almost sad style of singing. I think Malaysia is known for its beautiful tropical islands, not its cities. Although the food was really good. Another time I'll hopefully be able to see the beaches.