Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Strangers have the best candy

Hello all,

I am still alive, having a blast. Internet is impossible in Italy, but I have been taking notes of my adventures and will update you all soon.


(with kegan in Sicilia)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Gonzo

I`ve had some of the best riding and camping experiences of my life coming into Swtizerland.

We would climb a single mountain all day in the beating sun. Going UP UP UP. We would climb along the edges of cliffs, most of the other riders in thier lowest cog. I would zig-zag across the road in order to get the best power-distance ratio from my little fixed gear.

Compared to the blue ridge, these mountains are young and jagged, but every bit as beautiful, often more so. Catching glimpses of the Alps in the distance is quite intimidating, knowing I will be crossing them shortly. This is the first time I have had an experience that rivals the motorcycle trip I took with my father through Montana and Wyoming, through beartooth pass, and the Tetons.

We would climb so high in the summer heat, finaly reaching our camp site in the evening: high enough to have a snowball fight before dinner. My first time in the mountains since leaving Boone; a weight has been lifted, pressure released, I feel at home again.

After climbing all day, there is but one way to go in the morning: down. And down, and down, for hours. At ludicris speed, down. Picking bugs out of my teeth, down. Darting round corners, pedaling all the time, passing cars, down.

Down down down, lake Geneve in the distance. And eventually we made it to town, we went swimming, we washed the salt and sweat from our skin.

The caravan kids were able to reunite with some good friends that used to live with them in Lappersfort and I was able to meet some wonderful people for the first time. These people are what made Geneve worth seeing.

The group stayed at a small community garden just outside of town. It was a nice break from the city. We were able to continue our nightly routine of cooking dinner over an open fire and the space allowed us some much needed R&R. We spent alot of our time simply reading, playing music and backgammon. Lots of backgammon; the game has become a slight addiction among the caravan when there is any sort of downtime.

I finished several books durring my stay. One was called Stardust. It gives an account of how the heavier elements in the universe came into existence long after the big bang, created in the hearts of stars and scattered across the universe in many generations of supernovea (more specifically, the elements that are required for life on earth, and potentially elsewhere). It is not a bad read, if you don't already know elementary astrophysics or just want a refresher on who discovered cosmic background radiation or how the triple alpha process works. But if you already know the basics there is nothing that will really stretch your noodle, it might be worth just skipping ahead to the last two chapters.

I also read another Harukami book called Dance Dance Dance. He is a fun author. His books are surreal, entertaining, and can often be read in a day.

But I think my favorite was Kafka, I haven't read his stuff in years and someone on the caravan happened to have a collection of his short stories, The Great Wall of China, among others. I could read these over and over again.

We didn't spend our entire time in Geneve sitting about though. We had several mini adventures durring our stay. One day we all went swimming in the river, some of the kids climbed to the top of a building at waters edge (used for loading cargo onto boats). They brought climbing harnesses and ropes with them, and repelled off of the roof and onto one of the platforms extending from the building. Usually this platform would be used as a crane to lift the cargo, but that day it became a thirty foot high diving board. Although I have jumped off of things twice this high into water, the last couple times I have dislocated my shoulder (and once chipped my tooth). The last time I dislocated my shoulder was playing capoeira six months ago. This is the longest time I have allowed my shoulder to heal in the past eight years. I didn't want to push my my luck so I decided to withhold the urge to jump with the rest of the group.

That day Tovio and his friend Sarah spotted us swimming, they had just hitchhiked in from France. It was a pleasure to have them for the remainder of our stay in the city. A few other members of the caravan have left, at least for the time being. Kayne ended up heading back to Lappersfort, Gonzo to Austria, and Loki went back to the UK. They have all been missed and always remain a topic of conversation when good memories are shared.

We were all involved in two Critical Masses durring our time in Geneve. The first one was alot of fun. I would imagine close to two-hundred people turned up. There were some agressive motorists which is generally expected at any Critical Mass. Including one gentleman who climbed out of his Porshe to knock cyclists off of thier bikes, started hurling the bicycles midair into a crowd of people, and then pulled a self-defense baton out of his car door to provoke those left standing. I think he threatened to bust my teeth out, but my french still isn't good enough to tell. The gentleman's ego was finally subdued by a bit of pepperspray courtesy of a concerned bystander. So no serious injurries, no arrests were made, and we were able to have a relatively peaceful demo.

Afterwards, hundreds of cyclists and other human powered vehicle fans gathered in the local park for a night of good music and endless free pizza. Amazing pizza, made fresh on the spot by a team of cooks, working at a trailor the had been converted into a wood-fired pizza oven.

The second Critical Mass we were not so lucky. Bob, one of the girls in the bicycle caravan, was struck in a head on collision with a motorscooter. She was knocked unconcious for a few seconds, and eventually rushed to the hospital, leaving behind only a pile of daisies and a puddle of blood on the concrete. Bob is tough though. she recieved several stiches on her head and her face was swollen so much we could't tell if her nose was broken or not. But she was up on her bike again in a few days and ready for the road shortly thereafter.

By the way, I am really not trying to discourage anyone from participating in a critical mass. The demos are generally quite safe and I have witnessed all types of people participating, including very young children, and elderly folk. Just keep your wits about you and stay with the most dense part of the mass (this was part of what made Bob vulnerable). These are two relatively extreme and rare incidents that have happened and should not be taken as the norm.

And then one of the most exciting things happened in Geneve: Kegan & Connor, brilliant friends of mine from home and two of my favorite people in the world, found me in Geneve at a Voku one evening. And gave me a hug that felt something like being swallowed by a jabborwoki.

I was able to spend the next wonderful days with them. A few days in Geneve before hitchhiking to OffPride in Zurich (a queer/trans conference durring europride). Despite having a cold from hell, (my first time being sick since finals) which caused me to miss some of the more exciting events that took place (I recomend reading Kegan's blog and checking out pictures for more on that), I still thouroughly enjoyed the time to catch-up with old friends. And I even made some new ones: the wonderful people who offered to accomodate us while we were in Zurich were one of the best parts of the trip. One in particular who goes by Valorie (sorry for the possible mis-spelling) has a quick wit, is down to earth, and is a fantastic cook. She really made us all feel at home, and not only put up with our antics but joined in on them.

We said our goodbyes. Now Kegan and Connor are heading up to check out Lappersfort in Brugges and then woofing in Ireland: Have a blast guys. The bicycle caravan carried on ahead of me while I went on my detour to Zurich. So now I am going to try to catch up to them in Milano. I was planning on leaving on my bike imediately after getting back to Geneve, but I was welcomed in by some of my friends here and three hours has turned into three days. But I have been having an extraordinary time... in fact the past three days have been some of the best in Geneve so far: Skipping tons of food, learning french, climbing trees, having portuguees food for the first time, working in the garden all day. But best of all has been really meeting the people that live here one-on-one and experiencing thier community firsthand.

So that's it for now... I know I need to get another Camera, riding through the Alps I am starting to regret not having one, but that is the way life works out sometimes.

Miss all of you dearly.
For those who just graduated: Congratulations & I can't wait for the next time we will be having beer together... hmm, why not put off getting a job and come join me for one here!
For everyone else: Happy Summer Vacation

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Has been a while hasn't it? My appollogies, but it seems that paradise is lacking internet connection. Also, once again I am on a French computer with no English spell check, so please excuse any typos.

Where did we leave off, ah yes, travelling with a band called The Caliope Of The Future to Brugge, the starting point of a bicycle caravan to Italy for the G8.

I stayed in Brugge for about six days in a forest occupation called Lappersfort. A forest occupation is basically a group of people who live in a forest to prevent it from being destroyed. The Lappersfort camp has been occupying this particular forest in Belgium since October of 2008 in order to prevent it from being clearcut, in order to make another industrial complex for a corporation called Fabricom. Currently, there is more land in Belgium that is now industrial complex territory than there is of actual forest; naturaly many locals are concerned and motivated to preserve the little natural land that they have left.

Being a temporary resident at Lappersfort was nothing short of a dream come true for me. The place itself is breathtakingly beautiful and the people there are insatiably dedicated to the preservatrion of the land, animals, and plantlife that currently reside there. The members of Lappersfort are responsible for organizing this bicycle caravan, which I am currently a part of, and so the occupation itself was used as a meeting place for all of those spearheading the trip. I came a few days before the day of take off, so I had the opportunity to live alongside the residents here, fixing up bikes and exploring the camp.

There are treehouses which have been constructed throughout the canopy of the forest, I do not know exactly how many but I would estimate at least a dozen. Some are the size of small houses, all have full size beds and are completely sheltered and insulated from the elements. In order to protect the trees, none have been constructed using nails, but rather lashings of rope which are soft on the bark and can be completely removed, leaving not a trace of evidence that they were there at all (which is exactly what will happen once the camp has served its purpose).

Each night when it was time for bed I would put on a climbing harness, tie a prusec knot and slip my foot in, and begin the 60 foot ascent to my bed for the evening. This took some getting used to, but luckily due to lots of rockclimbing experience, it was not long before I was able to do this in under five minutes, seven in heavy rain. Sleeping 60 feet off of the ground is an amazing experience, as the wind literaly rocks you to sleep, swaying the tree to and fro. Each morning I would sit atop the tree canopy and enjoy the sun rise over Brugge, which I could see from two miles away. Then I would slip the rope into a figure-eight, hop off of the house, and repel down to the earth in all of four seconds. Who needs coffee in the morning after that?

The camp is filled with splendid people from all over the world, all with their own talents, idiosynchrasies, and different types of humor. This was a great opportunity to share stories, games, and skills. We would have knot tying workshops, juggling sessions, they have an extensive bike workshop on the ground, had I stayed a day longer I would have had the opportunity to learn to weld (although I am sure this opportunity will arise more throughout the trip). There is one English fellow (very English) who has more than a slight obsession with making perfectly golden-crisp fish and chips in a vat of oil over open fire, an obsession which I encourage greatly. Each night we would sit around the campfire and make dinner consisting of skipped food and indiginous plants that we picked that day.

You know Nettles? Those trecherous little stinging plants... they really aren't too bad once you get used to them. They are even quite beneficial for you blood circulation, and you can even eat them if you throw them in boiling water for a few seconds. As far as nutritional value goes, they are on par with spinach. They surround the camp and have been a staple on the ride as well, you can make everything from salads, soups, teas, and tinctures. One of the caravan mates even recomends an annual nettle bath:

"yeah man, just get naked and roll arround in a thick patch of them for a few seconds, that's all it takes."
"AHH! Doesn't the toxin get you high?"
"Sure man, that's half the fun. You kind of buzz for about twelve hours and trip a little. It starts on the skin and then it really gets your heart going. It's a brilliant cure for arthritus as well, sometimes I just sweep my hands through fields of Nettles. I wouldn't recomend a full on bath more than once a year though, I am not quite sure what the prolonged effects are."
"You're fucking crazy, you know that?"

... later on the bicycle caravan I had the extremely interesting opportunity of watching a few of my riding buddies take a nettle bath before we all went skinny dipping in a nearby stream. I was not up for it that eveing, but maybe one day. Who knows... I'll try anything twice.

Travelling with Tovio and Kayne from The Caliope of the Future has been an experience itself, each of them are extraordinarily tallented and have been skill-sharing as we move from town to town. Tovio has studied traditional Capoeira Angola for over a decade and has been giving me mini tutor lessons whenever we come across a green piece of grass; quite a blessing, as he is a great teacher and I have really missed playing these past few months. Plus I am able to explore Angola, a style and history that I have always been fascinated with but hardly exposed to in school. We have also been playing quite a bit of footbag, walking slacklines, and I am finaly learning to juggle. I am actually starting to get the hang of three clubs, though I still wish I had brought my diabolo from the states. Kayne and Tovio are fantastic performers as well; I had the opportunity to see them perform at a squat in Bruxxels called Puma one afternoon. They are each Velophiles, they provide good company in each bike workshop we stop in, we all tend to gravitate to the garages almost immediately. And between the two of them, they know more languages than I can count on my hand, Kayne has been helping me with my french as we ride down long roads that seem not to end.

We set off from Brugge on the first of the month and quite a bit has happened since then. The days tend to blend into one another, dates, times, and days of the week slip from conciousness and relevence when you are on the road. You simply start measuring time by the amount of sunlight left, and like a child on endless summer vacation, forget all esle regarding traditional calendars.

Compared to the pace at which I usually travel, the caravan travels VERRRRRY slowly, on average about 50 Km a day (a little more than the distance between Raleigh and Chapel Hill but with more hills). To give you an idea of this difference, Kayne and I decided to ride ahead of the group a few days ago to reach Dijon ahead of schedule. We set off at seven in the morning, and arrived at seven in the evening the next day. We rode 240 km (a little more than the distance between Raleigh and Charlotte but with more hills) with two-hour lunchbreaks and a lengthy nights sleep. Not bad for two kids on a fixed gear and a tall bike. But with 13 people in a caravan the odds of a bike breaking down increase exponentially (especially when all the bikes have been skipped, scavenged, and completely homemade). There are also quite a few new riders and some with quite a bit of stuff that they are carrying (guitars, juggling gear, cookwear, xylophones, clothes, etc...). I must say though, overall I am quite impressed with the group as a whole, everyone has eachothers back, the newer riders are perservering very well, and the assortment of bikes that people are riding (including trailors) is a spectacle that will turn anyone's head (for those of you who know Vicky Grube, she would fit in perfectly with this group). And so long as I am able to stretch my legs occasionally and speed up once in a while, I certainly do not mind the slower pace. Riding with a group is alot of fun, especially this one.

We have lost one rider, who may or may not rejoin the group when he is feeling up to par: Tovio from the Caliope of the Future has tendonitis and had to split off from us in Liege. So we are one good friend and one tall bike down, but hopefully it will not be long before he is feeling better and we meet again as I miss him quite a bit already. After one long day of riding he was not able to pedal anymore and walked the last 33 Km, arriving at the squat at 5 am the next morning, with tendonitis: badass.

memorable skips include: 7 750ml bottles of top quality Belgian beer, Gourmet Belgian Chocolate, a full wheel of brie, caviar, bottles of wine

We spend almost no money while on the road. We skip every chance we get and recieve quite a few donations from generous and curious shop owners along the way. When we stop into towns in Belgium which famous belgian beers are named after, we almost always find a small pub willing to donate beers to the group: Orval was by far the best. We have one guy with us with a particullarly cute and sympathetic face. He is notorious for recieving more donations than any girlscout I have ever come across. He has gotten us more bags of bread, bottles of beer, plates of chips, and even bike parts from local shop owners who, after taking one look at him, just want to give us anything to help us out... the tall bikes help too.

One of the best things about riding alot everyday, is that you can eat anything and still not gain weight. I easily eat 4500 to 5000 calories everyday of all the important food groups: fat, sugar, chocolate, bread, and alcohol. Of course protien and veg is important too, but we usually save those for the evenings when we have a campfire to cook on.

Camping on the road is great (of course it has its hard times as well, there is still frost some nights, and one morning I woke up covered in ticks and leaches, but overall it is fantastic). We swim when we can, have a bonfire everynight with a good dinner and beer. Each morning we have a full breakfast with coffee and tea. One night we had some open space on a farm and all of those who have experience juggling fire brought out the torches, poi, and fuel and gave a half-hour performance for everyone else. There are some truly marvelous jugglers in this group and for sure the best fire-poi artist that I have ever seen. Certainly not a bad way to celebrate a long days ride (and a great resource for picking up more street performing tricks to turn a few euro later on down the road).

I am staying at in Dijon (the squat is called Les Tanneries. As the name implies it is an old leather making factory, ironically now with a vegan kitchen, as well as lots of other fun stuff to play with, and more incredible people to meet). Last night there was a concert here, I had the extreme pleasure of hanging out with, and seeing the performance of, Defiance Ohio ( as well as a girl whom I only know as Madeline (but you can see her play here I am sure many of you already know these artists, but if you don't check them out because they have some really kickass folk.

Well it is a long entry, but it has been a while. I will try to update as often as I have internet connection, but right now the group just cought up to Kayne and I and are walking in through the door of the squat as I type this. So for now I must say goodbye.

The group likes to play word games and tell riddles while on the road, so I will leave you with one: There is a little red block in the middle of the road. There are houses and a car. If you run into the little red block you owe someone alot of money. What is the little red block? You can ask yes or no questions only, but I was able to figure it out without asking any, so give it a shot.

PS- The boy with the cute face just told me that on the way here he was talking to a pizza shop owner. He told the owner that everyone was on the way to Italy, but before they got there they would like to try the wonderful pizzas that France had to offer. The owner gladly gave him two large pizzas and a bottle of wine fore the group to split.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

graffiti language

Well, stayed in Brussels longer than I was expecting yesterday and ended up casually wandering around the city looking for a friend to meet with a couch to share (not that I couldn't have stayed at Matarcar another night, but I had already said goodbye to everyone and was ready to start a new adventure). This city is starting to grow on me more and more, I suppose it is an acquired taste.

I spotted some graffiti in the part of the city I was in, among other tags was an anarchist sign and the ubiquitous international squatter symbol: good signs of good people. Sure enough, what used to be a squat but is now (from what I have understood) a type of social housing collective, was close by. The people outside spotted me first, called me over, and offered me a place to stay (I had my bags loaded on my bike and looked like a traveler at the time). They seemed like good people, and I was of course looking for a place anyway, so the offer ended up being the first of many serendipitous happenings of the evening.

The house, 123 Rue Royal, offers residents (i think about 25-30 people estimation) a place to stay based on a very reasonable sliding scale rent. I also understand that they occasionally take on people, like myself, for half-week periods for free, and then ask for a small monetary contribution for each day after that. There are hot showers, a bike workshop downstairs, a full kitchen, and I think about five or six floors in the building, mostly residents I presume.

I was given a tour of the house by a local political figure and activist by the name of Réginald de Potesta. He is extremely hospitable and a wonderful conversationalist. I think we ended up staying awake until three in the morning just talking and watching films.

During the tour of the facility, I met some familiar faces: A couple of other American kids whom I met a few weeks ago at Under the Bridge in Amsterdam. Their names are Kayne and Tovio and they are part of a band called "Calliope of the Future" (myspace/thecalliopeofthefuture). They are meeting up with a bicycle caravan starting in Bruges (a town in Belgium I have come so close to several times but have always missed) in a few days and casually riding through France to Spain and finally ending up in Italy in July for G8. I was planning on meeting Kegan to backpack in the Pyrenees anyway so I decided to join the caravan as well for at least the first leg of the trip (and potentially even join up with them later on down the road closer to G8, after traveling with Kegan and Connor).

Anyway, these two kids are uplifting and lighthearted and it is a brilliantly random and happy occurrence that we have crossed paths again, especially with the opportunity to ride together. As much as I am in love with my little black fixie, I must say I have a bit of envey, as they are each riding on tall bikes which are loads of fun and quite a spectacle rolling down the street. I never imagined that anyone would ride across a continent on a tall bike but as they rightly pointed out, I am the crazy one on a fixed gear. They at least have brakes, multiple gears, and lots of vertical stacking space for luggage, street performance & juggling equipment.

So that's the plan, I am going to spend another day tuning my bike in Brussel, then it is off to Bruges for the start of a bicycle caravan to G8... really could life get better? how did I get so lucky?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Here is a link to a film called Surplus:

I am not trying to advocate any particular viewpoint made in this film, but am presenting it because I think it is worth seeing. So if you have an hour and you are in a Koyanisquatsi kind of mood then check it out and let me know what you think. This link is a ten part series that takes an hour, but i think somewhere on the interweb is a full version.

I cannot get enough of the sun, and I keep humming Polyphonic Spree

Back in Bruxxels, still not my favorite city in the world, but it has some little hidden treasures here and there as well as some fantastic people, now good friends.

I stayed at Matarcar again, I really love this place and all of the people here. The morning I came in everyone was sitting around a banquet size table eating brunch and rehearsing lines for a film that they are about to make there (from what I understand, it is a modern remake of an old french play, I believe 1600s. It is in a style similar to the new remake of Romeo & Juliet, you know the one with Leo). Everyone was wearing a big smile and invited me to join when I came in that morning, so I grabbed a baguette and looked over someone's shoulder to follow along the french script as best I could.

Truth be told, I was a little worried when I did not see my bike where I had left it. It took some searching around the massive laberynth downstairs to locate it, but after a bit of hunting I felt my heart flutter a bit when I finally laid eyes on it again. I cleaned up my beautiful machine and took it for a ride around a sunny Brussels, blissful.

Falafel bars are everywhere in Brussels, most of them are ok, but not as good as Neomandes or most places in New York. I finally found one that I have fallen in love with and will be going back for lunch today. It is called Mr. Falafel, it is a completely vegetarian place. They only have one thing on the menu: a falefel sandwich for 3.50. Handed to you across the small counter comes pita bread with 4 fresh falafel, you are then directed to the salad bar chock full of traditional middle-eastern salads, fresh vegetables, and sauces to pile on top. Simple, independent, cheap, healthy, delicious, authentic; can't ask for much more.

The middle-eastern community is one of my favorite things about this city. The people are colorful and friendly. Everyone pours out onto the streets in the late afternoon to talk to neighbors, play football, and visit the markets. Everyone seems quite tight-knit, I imagine that a lot of people spend their whole lives on the same block.

So my plan is to finally ride into France. I am going to try to stay with a friend of mine in the city tonight if he is available and then head out early in the morning. Riding in this weather is going to be fantastic, no more putting on shoes that are covered with frost first thing in the morning, I might even get tan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

moddern art = i could do that + yeah, but you didn't

I mentioned that I was taking part in some squatting actions, one of them went like this:

Approximately 70 people gathered in a squat one morning to discuss the following days events, which focused around the goal of opening a new squat.

One of the topics discussed was how the laws about squatting work here, this is how I understood the discussion: In Amsterdam all squat openings are done in the middle of the day because they are legal. So long as a building has been unoccupied for a year, people have the right to then inhabit the building. However, in Amsterdam, you can be evicted from the property if the building has been occupied more recently than a years time, or the new residents (squatters) are not "properly inhabiting" the building (according to Dutch law, a building is properly inhabited when each resident has a chair, a mattress, and a table in their respected rooms).

So the door is opened. With help from others, the ten new occupants each carry a chair, a table, and a mattress to their respected rooms (this is all organized before the opening so it takes less than two minutes to carry everything in).

On a really good day: No cops, no problems.

On a good day: Concerned neighbors call cops, cops come and simply find a properly inhabited building (hence the reason for the hasty entrance, all tables, chairs, mattresses, and residents need to be in place before the police inspect the property), police explain to neighbors that "actually this is legal in Amsterdam and that there is no need for alarm." Police leave, no problems.

On a not so good day: Something goes wrong, that was this day.

A good action is well planned, researched, and organized. This was a good action. The building was checked out and was indeed empty for a year, people were informed about what could go wrong, it was made clear what to do if you chose to be arrested, and if you chose not to, everyone wrote down the lawyer's name and phone number on their arm, we had media reps in place to talk to press that might come, we had police liaisons, we had a medic, food, and letters in several languages explaining to neighbors that we meant no harm and what we were doing.

The first part all went to plan, but when the police came they did not inspect the residence as usual. They claimed (incorrectly) that the residence had been occupied in less than a years time. They were determined to get us out.

A football game was taking place in Amsterdam the next day. Riot police had been brought in to the city to help control the event. They ended up getting some early action when the local police called them in to evict us.

Most of the day was spent sitting, waiting, and prepping. The doors were barricaded, food was brought. If the police were able to break in, all those inside would knowingly be arrested (which they were, I believe 20 in total). Naturally I chose to remain outside the building, not having any status in the Netherlands.

Once the riot police came, we realized we were going to lose the squat. They outnumbered us, had armor, shields, giant beating sticks, and horses. Quite a few of our members put up resistance, staying together in a tight mass in front of the door. This prevented any single person from being arrested (which is a much bigger hassle than a large group being hauled into jail. Police do not like lots of paperwork, but one or two people taking a fall is no big deal to them) and also kept police from immediately breaking through the barricade. This group put up one hell of a fight and gave us good publicity with the media, but were ultimately displaced (beaten and pushed) by lots and lots of riot cops. Those who could not afford to get arrested had opportunities to show support in other ways, and to remain at a distance (which is what I did).

Turns out, the squat had been legal all along, the building had been empty for a year, and the squatters were illegally evicted. The next day the mayor held a press-conference. He even almost apologized for illegally evicting the squat and for the extreme measures that were taken by the police force. While in jail, the arrested were able to enjoy a hot shower, free food, and tetris. All of those who were arrested were let out without charge; upon leaving one person even had his weed returned to him by an officer.

...something tells me it will not be long before the property is squatted again.

So, onto new topics...

Under The Bridge is now in the process of transitioning from an occupying stage (recruiting people to live in a newly squatted building after it is opened) to a social center (more operational, focused more on events and less on housing). This means that it is time for me to move on from Amsterdam, luckily I have also reached a stopping point for the Copenhagen website.

Amsterdam has been a blast. It is a great city, but almost a little too much like Boone. It is time to travel again. I am really looking forward to being on my bike, especially in the nice weather. I should be in Brussels by tomorrow morning, as I have found a ride there which is leaving later today.

I also have a bit of disappointing news. I know I promised photos to everyone, but after the last big party we had at the place several cameras turned up missing. Despite keeping mine quite well hidden, and searching all over for it, it appears that it was among those taken.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

life is a sand box, dig it.

*abjuration: for those of you who still may be unaware, my last post was fabricated in the jestful spirit of April Fools Day, April First. I am not married, I do not frequent the club scene, and I most certainly do not (and never will) work for Nike.

I am finding quite a comforible niche here in Amsterdam (a sign it may be about time to head on soon). I spend alot of my time reading, most sunny days dangling my feet over the edge of a canal with a cheap beer and a good book. The author list includes, but is not necessarily limited to: Haruki Murakami, Hunter S. Thompson, and Viktor Frankl, Edward Tufte.

This city is relatively small; it is nice to see familiar faces and friends randomly about town, this reminds me of Boone in a reassuring way. One friend of mine is starting a bike workshop in town (similar to BBI or 56A) and has tons of scrap bike parts lying around his basement. He invited me over one afternoon. I found a frame, some wheels and cranks, added some handle bars and a chain, inflated the tires, and was able to ride back to the squat that eveing with a bike. He simply asked that I return it before I leave so that he can recycle it into the community, and invited me to be a part of the workshop if I stick arround town for a while.

Under The Bridge is coming along quite nicely. We have a billiards table now (I do not really play here though, I have been spoiled by playing on really nice tables) and a ping-pong table (which is what I am really excited about). The squat now has a free-store that a few of the members worked hard to get open this week. We still do voku almost every night, and I am pretty sure there is a band playing this evening. I am really growing to like this squat and the people here, but that is not to say I don't find myself jonesing for the London group now and again. I miss them quite a bit and haven't heard news back from them since G20, so I am only hoping that everything is ok.

The MKZ (I am told is an abreviation of a dutch play on words for "mad cow disease") is another squat (now legalized) in south-west Amsterdam. They are quite active and have regular events. They also have their own infoshop, bike workshop, and get this... a sauna. The squat even has an industrial restaraunt-quality kitchen for voku, which I had the pleasure of using last night. Two friends of mine from the office I do design work in (who are also activists) and myself cooked a fantastic vegan meal for about 45 people: ginger-squash bisque, salad, black bean chili, vegetable tempura, and an apple crisp topped with vanilla yoghurt.

It is hard to eat healthy when you are riding. Vegetables are expensive, heavy, and take up lots of space. I usually end up eating alot of bread & peanut butter on the road. So I am taking advantage of being in one place with plenty of access to free vegetables. I am eating an entirely vegan diet again, which is very refreshing. Most mornings I start with a breakfast tea, whole wheat toast, tomato, avacado, apples and tahini. I even started doing sit-ups again.

The website is coming along nicely too, it will not be too much longer before I have a pretty solid prototype that I can send out for critique and/or approval from the web team that I am working with.

I have also been involved in a squating action that took place last weekend, and will be participating in another tomorow. For security reasons I would rather not discuss those here, but if you are curious let me know and I might be able to explain further at a better time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just Do It

Wow, that was one hell of a night. I went out to this club and just got lost in the trance music. Everyone around me was rolling hard, but I just stuck to the occasional redbull and vodka. I met this girl who I recognised from a simmilar club in Berlin. We started talking and joking about the scene a bit. Turns out she is actually from Amsterdam and her name is Mirjam. Neither one of us had big plans for the rest of the evening so we decided to stop by a mini-chapel in the red-light district. I imagine it was similar to one you might find in Vegas, but a bit more quaint. Probably more like the mini-chapel on the way to blowing rock, but more drugs. Anyway, it was a nice place. Getting hitched was mutually beneficial; Mirjam is able to get a tax break from the government, and I can eventually apply for dual citizenship. Plus Mirjam's Dad works for Nike, she says he can totaly hook me up with a design job, or at least introduce me to cool people like this guy:

Monday, March 30, 2009

I have spent my last few nights sleeping under a bridge

made it to Amsterdam.

This city has a lot to offer, for starters it is absolutely gorgeous. One of the best cities to just get lost in and explore. The streets are hills and bridges of cobblestone, twisting alongside an endless conduit of canals. House-boats line the edges of every street. Cyclists, vespas, and pedestrians zip over old bridges and through back alleys at every hour of day and night.

It rains here everyday. Puddles dance atop the cobblestone and capture romantic colours of diffused light; the kind of light only revealed through a filter of heavy slate clouds. I thoroughly love the viscous atmosphere, although I take pleasure in seeking out the first seldom rays of sun to occasionally grace my skin in the early day.

I literally have been sleeping under a bridge the past few nights. One of the best social spaces to ever be squatted in Amsterdam was opened last Saturday. It is called "Under the Bridge," and for good reason: I imagine that the vast majority of passers overhead have not the slightest clue that the space below their feet becomes alive every night with music of all kinds, masses of people, laughter, and good food. The bridge is enclosed by a modernest warehouse structure with massive walls of glass on each side; it is a bit like living in an aquarium, except most people cannot see in and we have a brilliant view of the harbor. It is prime real-estate, and if laws here are as pro-squatter as I hear, the space will not be evicted for quite some time. Every night there is voku (I am not sure if this is a colloquial term or not, I have heard it used in Germany as well. It is basically a vegan dinner ideally prepared from skipped food. Anyone is welcome to come and partake, but donations of a couple euro are strongly encouraged), and beer is only 50 cents a bottle. Any wall in the place is considered open canvass for spray paint, except one which is used to project presentations or films onto. On various nights there are lectures presented on a range of interesting subjects (from the origin of money and what it has become today, to securing online information, to forums on the Israel/Palestine conflict, etc..). There is a solid group of programmers and hackers that have been making good use of this space. Some of the work that they have demonstrated to me is very impressive; they are sure to be a great resource for learning more about coding, hacking, linux based systems, and various web design and animation skills.

I have also been spending time with another group of generous people who let me crash at their place my first few nights in Amsterdam. They are a wonderful group of people, all very optimistic about life. And they are fantastic cooks. I have spent quite a few mornings in their living room drinking tea and delving into various books in the house library.

...And to answer the question you all have been waiting for: Yes, the hash is quite good. Most of the coffeeshops are pretty lame though, filled almost exclusively with tourists and soon-to-be-frat-kids set to get stoned out of their skulls before going into the first year of college. I have stumbled upon a few coffeeshops that appear to have intelligent life inside, and are perhaps even worth checking out, if only for novelty's sake. Novelty which I imagine will wear off shortly as I spend more time getting to meet people here: most locals have either grown out of smoking... or simply started growing their own. Criticism aside, I can say that one of the best sunny days I have spent in Amsterdam started early one morning with a double shot of espresso and a banana-nut-hash muffin.

That is it for now. I have found another place to stay: with one of the friends I made in Copenhagen. It looks like I will be staying in Amsterdam for a little while, working on a website for the Copenhagen group among other things. So I will let you know how it goes, I just wish I had my bike here, that would be fantastic. Maybe I can pick one up somewhere temporarily. Anyway, cheers, I miss you all and will talk to you soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ah, the sweet smell of anarchy in the morning

Copenhagen has a HUGE active anarchist scene, as does Berlin. I spent my last week or so exploring some of the infoshops, social centers, and autonomous spaces that cover the city streets. Here are a few:

Goodbye EU, Hello Christiania:

Christiania is a completely autonomous town in the center of Copenhagen, basically a small self-governing community which, for lack of better terms, seceded from the rest of Denmark.

I spent my last couple of nights in Copenhagen at Umgdomshuset (translates literally to "youth house"):

Mention Umgdomshuset to anyone in copenhagen and expect extreme mixed reactions; love them or hate them, this place has one hell of a history and is worth checking out. Personally, I found the people here to be some of the nicest, most helpful, and most politically educated that I had found durring my stay in Denmark. This is a badass place, and an awseome resource for the youth culture here.

Folkets Hus is a great place in Copenhagen to have a cup of coffee or beer, have a Vegan dinner priced on sliding-scale/donation, play some kicker ("fuseball," extremely popular in denmark and germany. Every person here has mad skills at this game), and discover the local radical community:

I made a friend from Finland in Umgdomshuset my last morning there. We discovered we were each hitchhiking in the same direction and so decided to make the trip together. Her name is Laura and she is good people. We made it to Berlin and spent a few nights there with some friends of hers. I was able to borrow a bike (mine is still in Brussels), ride around to different design studios and art galleries, and just check out the city in general. I love Berlin, it is like a mini New york, but more colorful. The people we stayed with were all kinds of incredible, some of them even took me to the local climbing gym one evening.

Some other things we did in Berlin included attending an anti-fascist film documentary and an anti-fascist march (Nazism is still very prevelent in certain parts of the EU, and they frequently target activists, hence the massive backlash). We went to a gender-queer bar one night after climbing, and also a gender-queer disco preceded by a vegan dinner.

After Berlin, we Hitchhiked to Utrecht, A town in the Netherlands just south of Amsterdam. We have been staying in the oldest squat in Utrecht. The building was originally constructed in 1878, and has been squatted, I believe, for several decades. The people here are fantasic and are doing everything they can to preserve the building and maintain the original structure.

So yes, that is it for now. I am volunteering some of my time and design skills to the climate activist group based in Copenhagen, they have asked for any help they can get in regards to the design of their website. They have set me up with a place to stay and work in Amsterdam so I should be there for a little while and probably have more frequent access to the internet.

I promise, pictures are coming. Thanks for being patient, and thanks for reading. I miss you all!

(and sorry for typos, I will have to edit those when I am on a machine with English spell-check).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Kobenhavn" in sharpie on soggy cardboard

I had been in Bruxxels for two days at this point, and by eight o'clock in the evening I decided to finally head to the rendezvous point that we had all agreed upon. The directions consisted of a torn-up brown sheet of paper smaller than a business card: scribbled upon it was a triangle indicating three streets somewhere in Bruxxels, some railroad tracks, an orange shop as a landmark, and a blue door that I was supposed to find and walk into. Out of mere coincidence, I arrived at the blue door no longer than fifteen seconds before the squat mates from London spotted me. At this time, hugs were exchanged; then many of us not knowing what to expect of the place where we would spend our next five days, stepped through the blue portal. A few members of the group that we were staying with greeted us at the front entrance, we all shook hands with the twenty-somethings who spoke mostly french and continued inside to examine the space. We spent the next two hours picking our jaws up from the floor, discovering a new brilliant surprise around every corner.

The entire warehouse is two floors, each floor about three times the size of the Nth Gallery, or about a quarter Acre. The Ceiling in each is at least twenty feet high. The artist collective has been renting out this warehouse for three years in order to live and work. In that time they have each contributed enormous amounts of work to the space.

We immediately were lost on the first floor, as it had been transformed into a multi-level labyrinth and indoor treehouse. Sofas and lounge tables periodically scattered throughout each of the rooms, a bar was also present (this is where the collective invites bands to hold shows, bringing sometimes hundreds of people with them; our group actually came to help in preparation for one of these gigs) one massive geodesic dome constructed out of two-by-fours opens up to house two stages, and a dance floor surrounded by an amphitheater comprised of dumpstered sofas. Every inch of this labyrinth is literally covered with art made by the collective.

Once we found our way upstairs, we discovered the kitchen, living areas, bedrooms, and the main social room. The main social room is really just a huge open part of the warehouse. There are sofas about, a ping-pong table, instruments, and many of the residents are studying circus performers so a large part of the space is dedicated to juggling, diabolos, many unicycles, a slackline, rope acrobatics, trapeze, and general circus stuff. Naturally I felt at home.

By the way, the collective calls themselves Matarcar.

There were anywhere between 15 to 25 of us living in the warehouse at any one time, the place is so large you could often go for hours without seeing very many people. We spent the next few days cooking meals for one another, painting, getting to know one another, going out to shows, playing with all the cool circus stuff, watching films, and prepping for the show that would be held downstairs. All in all we had a fantastic time.

The show went off without a hitch, a post rock band called 52 Commercial Road came with the squatmates from London. I had the chance to meet them throughout the week, but they have been friends with the squatters for years (52 Commercial Road is actually the name of an old squat in London). There were a few other bands that played that evening, as well as our friend Tom (who lives with us in London) who did a solo act on acoustic guitar.

I did not stay up too late. Olli (also from the London squat) and I planned to hitchhike to Copenhagen the next day. Turns out we would need our sleep, we hitched nonstop for about 36 hours and met some very interesting people. One guy offered us 100.00 Euros after only knowing us for 15 minutes, drove us way out of his way to get us to a good spot, and then could not understand why we did not want to take his money. We eventually convinced him that we were trying to make the trip for free and he accepted the bill. One guy, who did not speak any english, dropped us at a random point on the autobahn at 2 a.m. Olli and I spent the next several hours walking very carefully back to town. The autobahn is crazy by the way, we went well over a hundred miles an hour in some places.

After a lot of cold rain, a lot of walking, a lot of work, and quite a few interesting characters we made it to Copenhagen only to find out that we were not allowed to crash at the residence we were expecting. Luckily another helpful lady kindly took us in (she is involved with the conference that Ollie and I came up here for). At midnight we crawled into bed and slept for the next 14 hours.

Ollie and I came to Copenhagen to begin involvement with an international group that is planning an action for COP 15. There are three days of meetings that we are attending, but also plan on seeing the city while we are here, and hopefully either find a lift back towards Bruxxels (I had to leave my bike in Bruxxels) or find another cool place to stay for a while. When I find out more about the conference and the action, and IF it is information that I am encouraged to share, then I will let you know. But for now just know that I have a warm place to sleep, food, I am meeting some really cool people, and we are planning something big.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Belgium Hearts Velos, I Heart Belgium!

I now have time to finish writing this post, so here is the new and unabridged version:

So I decided to postpone Paris and start riding towards Brussels instead. I had planned to meet some of the flatmates here today, on the sixth, and wanted to take my time traveling Belgium instead of riding through France and then rushing my trip up here to meet them. So here is how I managed to get from London to Brussels:

The first day of riding was entirely through english countryside with beautiful weather. I slept behind a pub right before entering Canterberry, they had a nice field back there and the owner said he would be more than happy to let me camp on the property. The next day I rode a bit slower and took my time walking the streets of Canterberry for a little while (Yes, the same as the one from The Canterberry Tales). There are plenty of old buildings, churches and ally-ways to get lost in here, It is one of my favorite towns that I have found in England. I have discovered that the best way to ride a bike on cobblestone is to try and hum a favorite tune while riding, it comes out all jarbled and fun.

I was able to make it all the way down to Dover and catch a ferry to Calais on the coast of France. I took a later ferry in order to stop into my last English pub for a while and share a pint with the locals in Dover. Consequently, I arrived in Calais a bit late and ended up sleeping behind a hotel, no one even noticed I was there. It was on a small patch of grass, tucked behind some trees: a small hide-away in the middle of the city. I didnt quite make it out of bed at sunrise, but about the time all of the owels decided to go to sleep that morning (there are a surprising amount of owels, or at least what sound like owels, in Calais).

I spent Saturday morning walking around Calais. I should have just kept riding, as I quickly grew board with the place, especially after experiencing Canterberry the day before. Calais kind of reminds me of the Jersey shore, except everyone speaks french. I left that afternoon for Dunkirque. I spent the night on some farmland there.

In London I spent a long time researching bicycle routes on the computer that would take me to Dover from London. I didn't have a map, but if I stayed sharp I could generally follow the route, losing track at somepoints but always finding my way back quite easily and without much detour at all. Once in France, I didn't have a map or any real idea of the routes here. All I had was a compass, which is what I quickly discovered is all I really need to get around. If I stay on small roads and head in the dirrection that I generally need to go, by the end of the day I start seeing signs that take me to the town that I set off for in the first place. I really enjoy travelling this way, it is not technical, I do not have to check a map every hour or so; I just ride towards the sun in the morning, and away from it in the evening, and check the compass when it's cloudy.

Sunday I spent riding through Norhern Belgium. Belgium is bicycle crazy! There is a bicycle shop in everytown, and everyone loves cyclists. EVERY major highway has cycle lanes alongside of the road, If you want to cover alot of ground fast, this is a great way to go. If the weather is nice and you would rather take your time riding in the countryside, there is an entire unofficial, cycle specific, mini-highway network that covers almost all of the farmland of northern Belgium. All of the paths are extremely well maintained, have bridges, traditional road signs, and signs at every intersection telling the towns in each direction and how many kilometers away they are. Cyclists and walkers use this mini-highway system everyday to commute to work or school, go to the store, or see friends several towns away; it is a fantastic system.

Sunday night I walked into a family-owned Belgian pub, it was quite a cold night. I explained I only knew English and where I had riden from. Within minutes I was presented beer and hot soup, and a warm place to sleep. After much thanks, I started off early the next morning. I was determined to get a lot of ground underway, but as chance would have it, I punctured a tire a few kilometres down the road.

I walked into the local bakery in Zarren and asked where I could find the velo-shop. Of course there was a bike shop just a block away, the lady at the counter told me how to get there. On my way, I passed a man named Jim who was out walking his chuahua. We started talking, he said that his father fixes bikes for a hobby and would gladly fix my puncture free of charge. Of course I could not decline his offer and followed him to the house.

Forgive me for not remembering her name, but upon arrival a woman presented to me coffee and bisquits and asked me to have a seat in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Silveer, her husband, was fast at work in the mini bike workshop he had in the garage. Curious to discover that I was riding a fixie, and impressed that I had such an old bike in good condition, he had patched the puncture within a few minutes. The woman, Jim, and myself were laughing and exchanging stories in the kitchen. As my second cup of coffee was being poured, Silveer had noticed that my crank was slightly loose, as I had slightly stripped the inside when riding. Without saying a word, he had attatched a new crank to my bike and transfered my pedals before I had finished my second cup of coffee, completely fixing the slight wobble that had been getting worse over the past day of riding!

We all took photos of one another (which will be posted soon), exchanged hugs, and then I was on my way, with a smile on my face. I am still marveling at how a punctured tire could turn into one of the best highlights of my day! That night I camped a little east of Ghent, on the side of the road. I made some couscous, lentils, and vegetables on my little stove (which is still on of my favorite things that I carry). I even had belgian beer with dinner! I went to bed early and woke up early, a man named Raf was walking his young one in a stroller on the road when I woke, He invited me to his place to warm up with coffee and breakfast. Belgian people are incredible! Raf and I talked for a bit, let me use his computer, and offered me a place to stay if I was ever back that way.

I spent most of that day in Ghent. I love Ghent. It is a university town, so there are young people everywhere. There are tons of good places to eat, lots of very old buildings, and bicycles have completely taken over the town! There are more bicycles in Ghent than I have ever seen in one place in my life. In one market square, you will see THOUSANDS locked up or just sitting there. One person I talked to said that it is best not to own a bicycle in Ghent, most people just find one that is not locked up, ride it to where they need to go, and then leave it for the next person to take. The streets are literally flooded with them.

Aalst is a midpoint between Ghent and my destination: Brussels. I decided to spend that night in Aalst. I rode into town, found the first two guys that looked about my age and asked: Hey do you happen to speak english? -A little bit - Would you happen to have a floor I can sleep on tonight? - One sec... phone call... My friend's parents are out of town for 3 weeks, you can stay with him.

That night all of us met up to play poker and hang out. I tried my best to stay up late with them, but I was now accustomed to waking with the sun, after my first hit of a joint I thanked them all and they let me retire in a back room. Late the next morning I woke, it was sooooo nice to sleep-in, especially in a warm bed. The awsome guy I was staying with let me take a much needed bath at his place, we cooked some food, and then I was off to Brussels. Before leaving Aalst, the guy I was staying with (he asked me not to share his name) set me up with a student to stay with in Brussels for a couple nights: Toon is his name, he is also a cyclist and a wonderful person. He let me sleep on his couch the last two nights, cooked me a chicken dinner, and told me places to check out around town while he is at school. Today I am off to hopefully meet again with some of the flatmates from London (whom I still promise to introduce you to), they should be ariving in Brussels shortly.

...and that is how I got here!

I have pictures that I will post soon, the computer that I am at now will not let me do so.

Miss you all & Much Love

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The bicycle must be one of the most beautiful things ever invented

I have spent the past few days fixing up my bike. I disassembled the bottom bracket and replaced all of the bearings, fixed some damaged links in the chain, cleaned the whole bike up, added a small rear pannier, and touched up all of the paint. The bike looks and rides beautifully, almost too nice. I'm sure I will convert it from a fixed-gear to a single-speed eventually, maybe even get fancy enough to add a derailleur and multi-geared cassette. For now though I am enjoying riding fixxy, it adds a whole new dimension to riding and is super low maintenance; I may change my mind however, once I leave behind the flat London streets.

Check out this alley cat race to get an idea of what it is like to ride in London: ride hard, be aggressive, stay sharp!
..and mind the Maserati driver's.

I was preparing to leave for Dover today, but due to the party we had last night I woke up a bit later than I should have. Oh well, early to bed tonight to make the 113 mile trip tomorrow! If all goes well, and depending on how late I arrive, the cycle ride should end with a trip across the English channel by ferry.

I will miss the kids from the squat more than I could ever put into words here. They have been loads of fun and infinitely generous. I will see them again I am sure, we are actually hoping to meet up again in Bruxelles in a few weeks. As a departing gift they presented me with a bag of couscous and a jar of marmite ( ); the gift could not have been more perfect and left me with a smile for the rest of the night.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about heading to a country of which I can barely introduce myself properly, much less speak the language fluently. All I can do is hope for the best and try to learn as much French as I can in as little time possible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gotta dig the fregans

Woke up early a few days ago to go skipping at New Covent Market: Where beggars can be choosers. New Covent Market is a facility where all the local produce is prepped to be shipped to restaurants around London, I think they also have a market on premises as well. They throw away a lot of food each morning and leave it on skids to be hauled away later. The place is a fregan utopia; It's near impossible to go skipping without running into at least twenty other people out there at the same time, stuffing fresh veg into rucksacks and panniers. Each time we ride out to New Covent Market we come back with what would be hundreds of pounds worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, all thrown away, all free, and all very heavy to carry on a bike.

Later in the afternoon two of the squat mates and I went to get free Indian food, courtesy of a the hare krishna folks who set up a cart full of food and invite anyone who might be interested to come partake. We played some hacky-sack in the sun and then took a visit to a fantastic zoological museum nearby.

I spent almost all of yesterday riding my bike around London in a t-shirt. It was by far the warmest day we have had so far, sunny and absolutely gorgeous. The squat wanted to end the day in the most light-hearted way possible; we made a large pot of soup and gathered in the living room. We used the projector to watch an old beefcake film from the seventies while we ate, laughed, and talked about the day's events. Obviously, it did not take long before we were projecting gay porn from the second story window onto the outside brick wall of the flat next door. We surely turned quite a few heads from passers by; luckily no accidents were caused by rubbernecking.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Merci de la bière

Waiting for the bus after capture the flag, we used the leftover chalk (we had for designating prison areas a few hours prior) to decorate the sidewalk and scribble messages for onlookers to decipher while in queue. One of the flatmates stumbled upon a broken pair of sunglasses without lenses or arms. On the ride home, still with the whimsical spirit of street art in the air, she plucked a thin thread from a garment and tied the frames to the overhead handrail. She carefully positioned the glasses to stare into the cyclops eye of a CCTV camera mounted three inches above.

I met some kids from France last night. They bought me a drink at this pub called The Toucan (it has almost exclusively Guinness on tap). The college age boy and two girls are in London for a short vacation. The four of us began attempting to communicate the best we could; I must say their English is much better than my French has ever been. We talked for a couple hours and had a great time. I even had the opportunity to learn a bit of French before crossing the channel in a few days.

I knew better than to stay out too late and that the doors would be double locked when I came home, but I had lost track of time due to the wonderful company at the pub. (In fact, I had such a good time learning a bit of French that I was not about to let a little thing like not having a place to sleep ruin my evening) So I made the best of what could have been a lame situation and went to the snooker club. I observed other players until about 5 am when I decided to pick up a cue for the first time and feel the physics of playing on a 12 foot by 6 foot table. Not to my surprise, I found Snooker to be a very difficult game. Anyone who has mastered the sport of snooker should find 9-Ball as simple as Chutes & Ladders. I only played for an hour before the club had to close up, but my first taste of the sport has had me longing for more time at the table ever since.

Rock Steady Eddies had not opened yet; the sun was just beginning to show its face. So instead of a cup of tea I decided to catch a bus and have a warm place to sit for a while. With the soothing hum of bus tires rolling upon London streets, I was beginning to doze off. But a sharp smile was forced upon my face as I lifted my eyes to the sunrise one last time, only to find a pair of plastic glasses with the lenses missing, still suspended by a thin piece of thread from the overhead rail.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sweet Boonies

So a member of the group that I am squatting with has been posting flyers for the past few weeks. We have been spreading the word to all other squats and infoshops in the area: Valentine's Day, 9:30 PM, Capture The Flag, Meet at Trafalgar Square. 

We had approximately 60 people show up. We shouted out rules of the game over a megaphone and gave boundaries marked by streets in the SOHO/Covent Garden vicinity, containing an area of a few square miles. Each team marked their faces with warpaint of corresponding colors: Pink Hearts VS Blue Lightning Bolts. And we marched through the streets to our designated areas of the city, waving two massive hand-stitched flags complete with our appropriate crests of honor, feeling as if we were the kids from The Sandlot who had just been transported onto the battlefields of Braveheart! We ran through the streets for hours defending our land, dodging taxis and rickshaws, leaving people holding flowers and heart-shaped balloons in a trail of dust and bewilderment. That was one hell of a Valentine's Day!

Our legs ached the next morning, but we all slept well that night. Sunday I took the walk up to brick Lane to search for a bicycle. Fearing I had gotten there too late and that all the decent bikes would be sold, I wandered around in hopes of finding even a good frame that I might be able to fix up. When five o'clock rolled around and drizzle was beginning to mist the air I realized that it was about time to give up and begin the walk home. Wet and not looking forward to the long walk I had ahead of me, I hung my head low but happened to notice something out of the corner of my eye. A good find, but I imagined out of my price range.

How much? I inquired. Forty Quid, he said. Thirty, I replied. Hell No, but I might do Thirty-five only because I'm in a hurry. Done.

So I was able to ride a beautiful black fixie home, just my size, and at an incredible bargain. Actually the price was too good and I suspect it may be stolen. I am posting on the London fixie-forum, if anybody responds with an accurate description of the bike I will return it to the rightful owner. But otherwise, I have an amazing bike, and fast too. I have really missed riding, and have been logging tons of milage all over the city for the past few days, jumping on any opportunity to go skipping (colloquial term for diving) with the flatmates around London.

I am an official member of the Camberwell Snooker Club now, and unless something else comes up tonight I will go play for the first time. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Never knew I would like Vegimite so much

I have been unsuccessful at finding wifi these past few days, hence the lack of a recent update. Turns out, my little pub across the street not only has the cheapest guinness in town, but also the most  reliable internet access; so here I sit taking advantage of each, yay for The Joiners Arms.

So all of the flatmates decided that I should refer to them by “super secret code names.” I have a feeling this is probably more for novelty than security, nevertheless, spending a bright sunny morning in a London flat, passing around a sheet of paper and trying to figure out a witty name for the person sitting next to you is not at all a bad way to start the day.

It is very easy to spend a lot of money in London. Luckily it is also very easy to spend next to nothing while having the time of your life. Many days my total expenditure does not exceed 50p for a cup of tea at Rock Steady Eddies, a small diner much like Wimpy’s in Lexington. A few of us from the group went to a show the other night, not knowing if we would have to pay a cover. Upon arriving we were stopped at the door and each given a wristband, good for free admission and up to 5 free drinks. We spent the first ten minutes awestruck and perplexed, simply trying to comprehend the serendipity of the situation.

Gordon’s Wine Bar is a must-visit for any oenophile who happens to be in London (Scott & Chris, you would love this place). I had the extreme pleasure of sipping a couple glasses here a few nights ago. A narrow stairway in a side ally leads down to a barely lit doorway, the only evidence hinting at nightlife is a sign about a square foot in size, stating simply: Gordon’s Wine Bar. I recently learned that this may be one of the oldest wine bars in London, if not the world, check out the history at: Upon opening the door, I was quite surprised to find nearly one-hundred vivacious, candle-lit faces chatting amongst themselves and sipping all kinds of vino. The space has arching stone ceilings and a cold dampness in the air; the 17th century vault is now reminiscent of an old catacomb. A helpful and cute staff, as well as a fantastic wine list (including several wines and fortified wines made on site and kept in large casks behind the bar) top off the astonishing atmosphere. Gordon’s amontillado is highly recommended.

Continuing on the theme of secret niches beneath the streets of London, Shunt is possibly the most romantic space I have ever experienced. Last night some of the flatmates brought me to the London Bridge Underground station. Here is once again an unassuming brick entranceway. Stepping in is like passing through a portal from the hustling London underground station back in time to a world of chamber music, art installations, and nooks of artistic performances. Echoes of stringed instruments and performers are amplified by labyrinth of cobblestone and brick, the exoskeleton of a now dormant Tube corridor, seemingly designed for its acoustic luster.

Shunt is more than a special place; it adds a quality and diversity to the character of London that is inimitable. Sadly, in about a month it will be demolished for the construction of another strip-mall and supermarket.

The flatmates and I shared several glasses of wine and exchanged conversation until just before closing time. Several times throughout the night I found myself asking how I am so lucky to have found this group. Their individual personalities, as well as the group dynamic as a whole, are becoming increasingly apparent as I have been spending more and more time with them. I am looking forward to introducing them soon (through super secret code names of course).

Oh yes, and we have electricity now! We are now able to do such fancy things as make tea without the use of an alcohol stove, see eachother's faces at night, we even used a projector on the wall to watch a film last night... and (ghasp) I was able to take my first hot shower today!

I have also managed to find a good coffee shop: Flat White. I will need to sample more to determine if their spro is up to par with espresso news, but their latte art is world class. They have traditional drinks, and on the menu board give you the option of a ristretto shot vs. standard: something I have never seen another shop do. They don't roast their own beans however, that may be a fragrance I will either have to either create myself or wait until I return to Boone to enjoy. There are one or two other shops I need to check out, but for now this seems like a winner.

Pictures will be coming soon, I have been out of batteries but will be picking some up tonight. There are a lot of wonderful things planned for the next few days, but I do not want to give anything away. Check back in a few days; in the meantime, happy Friday the thirteenth, and I hope your Valentine's is looking as good as mine!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here's to good times

Margaret and I had a truly fantastic time on Saturday. We ended up seeing a musical in the evening called la cage aux folles, which you can find out more about here: . The show was positively the best musical that I have ever seen, and one that had kept us each laughing through the entire performance.

Later in the evening I went to a drum & bass show in SW London. The pub is super underground and anything but official; they have a secret entrance in the back after you hop a chain-link fence. The scene inside was quite intense, lots of people crammed in to a low roofed space, dancing with sweat flinging in all directions.It was one of those places that had it caught fire there would be a news article about it the next day reporting how many people had died. Joints were being passed around the space, and there was a makeshift bar to order any beer of choice. Sadly, the music was more reggae than drum and bass; I was hoping for something that differed from what I could find in Boone. Nevertheless, I had a fantastic time, met some good people, danced a lot, and hopped the 4 am bus home when I had had my fill.

Last night I had a Guinness at the local pub. It was rainy outside and the drink was a good excuse to warm up a bit. The barkeep's name is Jon, this is the second night I have stopped in and met him. He seems like a nice guy and makes good conversation, so I am sure to go back.

On the walk home I found a members only snooker club and stopped in. Apparently membership is free. Judging by the size of the tables I may have found a challenging new addiction to feed. I'm now in north London, posting this blog from the Apple store, and about to search for the closest bookstore that wold have a section on snooker.

So that's it for now. I miss you all and hope all is well. I will be in touch soon, Cheers!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The revolution is in your pants, now dance!

OK, so far my only complaint about London is the lack of good coffee shops. Coffee shops are everywhere; it’s hard to even walk into a building without spotting a shiny new espresso machine. It’s a pity that either all the baristas suck and/or the shop itself is the epitome of hipster bullshit. So, next on the list of things to do: find an indy shop with a barista who can pull a double that will make my tongue dance.

Other than that, London kicks copious amounts of ass.

I left Aunt Margaret’s place after most of the snow had cleared, or at least had time to melt into a beautiful slushy mess. I had an absolutely wonderful time there and was sad to leave, yet excited to get into London. I had a contact set up that I could potentially stay with for a night or two, but didn’t want to burden him if I could help it. So I started a hunt for a new possibility. The first place I found with wifi after stepping off a train was a McDonald’s about a block away from Victoria Station (I still can’t believe that one of the first places I sought out in London was a McDonald’s, but hey it had free internet). I didn’t order any food, but I must say, It was by far the nicest McDonalds I have ever been inside of in my life. It looked more like a modern spa in Tokyo than a cheap burger joint; there was designer furniture everywhere and fresh cut single tulips in slender glass vases on every table… double U tea eff? There was even a lounge downstairs.

Anyway, I went to 56A’s website (an infoshop whom I have been in contact with for a few months now, they have a list of radical contacts and collectives around the city) in hopes of finding a promising place to stay for the evening. I stumbled upon something similar to a food not bombs meal taking place that evening. It was a benefit dinner for Sri Lanka at a squat in Southeast London called The Library House. Forty-five minutes later I was knocking on a door behind a public library with a Section 6 taped to it, the lights were on. The people I met were extremely nice, one girl was from Georgia (in the states), another girl I think was from Italy. I was a little early so I offered to help cook, they put me on brussel-sprout duty. Before long people were trickling in, everyone from a different corner of the world. Soon some gentleman from Sri Lanka came and brought some native food as well, which I must say is quite choice if you ever have the opportunity to sample it. There was a presentation given about the genocide occurring in Sri Lanka now and the government’s silencing of any free media trying to cover the situation within the country. About 25 people attended in all. Afterwards we sat around and discussed, among other things, the presentation. I managed to inquire about potential squat opportunities, as most people there were squatting somewhere in the city. Eventually a group of three offered me some floor space for the evening. They are part of a group of fifteen who had only the previous night found a four-bedroom flat in SE London and were able to escape the snow. (I may introduce some of the fifteen at some point, but for privacy’s sake it will only be with their permission. For the time being I will refer to them in general as a group, or perhaps use pseudonyms). The group, with rotating members, has been hopping squat houses in London for three years now. Their last squat received quite a bit of (unwanted) press coverage, as they were residing in a £1.2M house in a posh part of North London, I had actually read an article about it a few months ago in the states.

The group is all kinds of incredible, they are so generous and in that way remind me of all the people I love to interact with in the states. They are worried about being a little over-crowded in the house, but for the time being have allowed me to stay for as long as I like, or until a better squat situation turns up. They are trying to find another house to spread out a bit. As it is, there is really never any more than about eight staying in the place at a time (with the others staying at satellite properties), and as a new squat, it must be occupied by at least one person at all times, so having a surplus of people is not necessarily a bad thing. We will have electricity in a little less than a week, but for now it isn’t bad at all. We spend most of the day in the city and really only use the house to sleep, there are a ton of extra blankets and plenty of people, so we stay quite warm in the evenings.

So this is who I have been staying with for the past few nights. These people are loads of fun and have been showing me all over the city. Yesterday we attended a free cinema showing Italian films. In the evening we attended a guerilla radio show, in which several of the mates were invited to come and discuss squatting in London. One of the members works at a vegan café and brings home extra food in the evenings for the rest of the mates. Every Saturday there is something like a cattle auction in one part of the city, except for bicycles. A few of the mates are attending that today, I have other plans so will be attending that next week.

That’s it for now. I am about to meet up with Margaret for falafel, as she has come into the city today.

For more info on squatting:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aunt Margaret's Cottage

Kegan and I made it into East Grinstead without a hitch. Margaret showed us around town a bit and around the property as well. It is so beautiful here, she lives next door to a piece of National Trust property which she also volunteers at to help maintain, lots green rolling hills and far reaching views. On Saturday Margaret, Kegan, and I went to the Millenium Seed Bank and surrounding gardens: more gorgeous property and wildlife. We have made quite a bit of Indian food and more tea than I have had in years, which is fine with me as I enjoy every bit of it. On Sunday Kegan and I took a train into London and said our goodbyes, shortly thereafter ze hopped a plane to finish out the semester in Spain. I wandered around the city all day and had a wonderful time. I eventually me up with the nice folks from 56A infoshop, they offered me a place to work and even potential places to live in the London for a while. Later that evening Margaret took a train down from East Grinstead as well. She took me out to dinner and a play for my birthday.
Monday morning Margaret and I went to Tai Chi, and then hopped a train back to London, walked around the City for a while, and saw a free contemporary dance show. When we took the train home later in the afternoon it started to snow.
Today the BBC is calling it "arctic conditions," and the most snow that the country has seen in eight years. Most transportation systems have been delayed or canceled. I just laugh because it is only about 3.5 inches or so! Margaret and I walked a couple miles into town to get groceries and just finished lunch.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It Starts

Hello there everyone. My name is Evan, this is my blog. I am keeping this as a current journal; I have reached an interesting period in my life, which I would like to document and share with family, friends, and whomever else may be interested. Please feel free to read it at your convenience and comment if you feel so inclined. I always enjoy hearing what others have to say and will do my best to respond in turn. I will try to keep this blog current, but please bear in mind that I am quite unsure how accessible the internet will be for me during the upcoming months.

With the exception of passing through Canada once or twice on my way to Michigan, I have never really traveled out of the US. Fresh out of college, with a degree in Graphic Design from ASU in Boone, NC, my first realistic opportunity to travel abroad presented itself. I have no job, no educational responsibility, and certainly no desire to sell myself into slavery to work within the dark walls of a cubical.

I would eventually like to travel the entire world, but as a starting point, Europe seemed an obvious decision. So tonight, December 28, 2009 I boarded a plane from JFK in New York to Heathrow airport in London with a small amount of money and sixteen pounds of gear in a backpack (not including the laptop sitting on the pull-down tray of the seat in front of me).

I spent the holidays playing pool with my dad and friends at the pub, eventually saying goodbye to my family and friends in North Carolina. I visited the town I grew up in, Stanfordville, NY after the holidays with my Mom and stayed with some old friends there. After giving my Mom a big hug I boarded a train to NYC to meet up with my friend Kegan there.

I spent about two weeks in the city with Kegan and we had a blast. We frequented bookstores, went out to several concerts and dance performances, visited with friends and saw copious amounts of priceless art. We actually had the pleasure of meeting and sharing an afternoon with one of my favorite artists of the past decade, Alex Grey. Kegan and I went to visit his studio in Manhattan only to find that he is relocating to a space upstate. Everything was being packed up so we offered to help and found ourselves spending the afternoon moving his art to the truck downstairs (including one beastly 700 lbs. sculpture of bronze). Kegan and I also signed up for daily Yoga classes with a Bikram studio (hot yoga: the room temp. starts at 100 degrees F and steadily increases for the next 90 minutes). It was a real treat to continue my practice with a challenging style that I have never experienced. We visited a warehouse called five-points, the building is about an acre in size and four stories tall. Every inch of the structure is covered with work from the best graffiti artists in the world. We ate out at falafel shops, several fantastic Indian restaurants, a Pakistani tea-house, and a gourmet restaurant that specializes in raw food. I was also lucky enough to have my friend Chan come up to visit during my last few days in the city.

So that’s what I have been up to so far, the plane should be landing in London in a few hours. My aunt Margaret will be meeting Kegan and I in the morning. We will spend several days visiting and staying with her in the countryside. After that Kegan will catch another flight to start a new school semester in Spain, and I will be moving towards downtown London with my house in a bag on my shoulders. Beyond that, I do not have much of a concrete plan.