Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm sitting at my desk at work

I thought about this moment the whole trip. And here I am. My body's in the wrong time zone but otherwise it's pretty interesting not having to figure out what I'm doing today. Everyone speaks English here too.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I can't believe today actually happened. It was so intense the fact that I'm back at the same hostel I started at in China - in the same room - is kind of lost on me. I'm back. For the second time I can say I'm back in Shanghai. Incredible.

I shouldn't have made it. Taxi was picking me up at 4:30 AM in Saigon. Set my alarm for 4 AM and found an online alarm clock and set that too. My alarm is too quiet and only lasts about 15 seconds so I've only been waking up to it 50 percent of the time. So 50 percent of the time it works every time.

I woke up on my own and could tell it was the middle of the night. Looked at my watch. 4:26. Shit.

Somehow my computer shut off during the night. Still can't figure out how.

So much for taking a shower. I scrambled to get my things together and made it downstairs by 4:38. The driver was agitated for having to wait 8 minutes.

So I almost missed that flight. I got in to Shenzhen around 10:45 and immigration wasn't too bad. My big plan was to run into Hong Kong on my nine hour layover, so I started asking around for left luggage stations. Had to check all three terminals before someone could point me in the right direction. Then I had to figure out how to get to Hong Kong. Bus seemed to be the best option.

Hong Kong may be part of China now but crossing the border is a pain in the ass. The bus trip was about an hour and a half but half that was just standing in lines. But then lo and behold the buildings got denser and the bridges got bigger and I was in Hong Kong. Amazing!

The bus stopped in a mall. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to escape the concrete commercialism but could not FIND AN EXIT. Not even joking. I only had three hours in Hong Kong and I was stuck in a mall.

I finally got out after asking like five people and realized I wasn't where I thought I was. I had to walk a ways to a metro stop and after wasting one of my hours I was at the ferry terminal at last.

Totally worth it. I rode the ferry across causeway bay on a perfect day in Hong Kong. It rained most of the time during my first visit. I found a great kebab place in the ferry terminal on the island and ate at a table with a great view of the entire harbor. I did some writing. It was awesome.

I went to the IFC mall nearby and ate a McDonald's ice cream cone (it's only 30 cents!). Then I headed over to the old stomping grounds around the BP (not British Petroleum) Hotel where my Dad and I had stayed. The hotel was all spiffed up for Christmas and looked great. I got some photos of the surroundings since I had forgotten to do that the first time. And then I headed back to the mega mall via the metro.

Luckily I found the bus lounge (across from Starbucks) easily. But I didn't count on the buses being full. The next one available was at 6:15... my flight was at 7:45. They put me on a standby list and I got right on the next bus.

THANK GOD I DID. Exiting Hong Kong at the border was easy, but on the Chinese side they had one damn line for all foreigners. It took twice as long as it did on the way there, meaning I didn't get to the airport until 7:20. I raced to terminal B. I asked how to get to the arrivals level and found the escalator. I grabbed my baggage from the business center. I raced back up and couldn't find my flight listed on the board. I didn't know what gate I needed to get to since my boarding pass had been printed in Vietnam. A woman at information helped me. I had had to check my big bag on the flight to Shenzhen since - ta da! - I had bought a guitar in Saigon the day before. But I didn't have time to check anything. I just went through security which thankfully only took 10 minutes. I made it to my gate in time. I tried to relax.

The plane was boarding but when I handed over my boarding pass the girl told me there was a problem. "Wrong one!" I noticed everyone else had a different looking pass since they no doubt didn't have theirs printed in Saigon. "How do I get another one?" I asked. She didn't understand so I had to wait until every single passenger boarded before she dealt with me.

"Flight 1894" she said, pointing at a sample pass.

"Yeah, 1894, that's me" I said, pointing at the number on my pass.

She took my ticket, made a call, then apologized. She had looked at a different number and thought it was the flight number.

So I made it on that plane too and even found space for my guitar.

And then I was in Shanghai for the second time on my trip.

But this time the maglev was closed. So was the metro. It was only 10:15. What the heck?

I saw a sign for the airport bus. One went to LongYang road, which sounded familiar. It must be the one by my hostel.

Got on board and paid for travel to LongYang (although the woman couldn't understand me at all). I didn't have a seat but it was fine. Exited the bus and found myself in the middle of nowhere. This was not what I had expected.

Again I was lucky, and I was right next to a metro station. Should be easy enough. But as I was trying to buy a ticket a guy came over and told me the metro was - you guessed it - totally closed. Apparently it had been open late my first time here due to the world expo. Not anymore.

I was screwed, but I got lucky yet again as there was a taxi right outside the metro. He used the meter and I directed him straight to my hostel.

And then I went to bed. It was one of the longest and most stressful but greatest days in my entire life. I still can't believe I made it happen.

Boo ya.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heading Home

Gotta wake up at 4 AM for a flight to Shenzhen China, just outside Hong Kong. I have a 9 hour layover so I'm gonna shoot for the stars and go through passport control, immediately exit China and enter Hong Kong, take the long metro into the city proper, have lunch and run around, have an early dinner and a drink, shuttle back to the border, exit HK and enter China and catch the second leg onward to Shanghai.

And I just bought a $25 guitar. No idea how I'm going to carry it around.

I get into Shanghai around midnight and have three nights total before I'm back in the USA.

Vietnam has been better than expected. I got a haircut and pro shave (in
cluding mustachio trim) for $1.50 today and the people there gathered around to watch because my hairstyle is a little unorthodox to the Saigonese. Saigoneers?

Found out I had the name of that hackey sack shuttlecock game wrong. It's da cao. Sounds like da gao. But I kind of like 'hackey sack shuttlecock'. Might be the name of the next album.

I taught a couple impromptu English lessons last night in the park. Afraid I don't have time for much more than a couple beers tonight. Three new videos nearly finished too.

The guitar is awesome. The guy I bought it from built it by hand.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Super Amazing Things

My girlfriend's blog and well worth reading. She's great.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This is my last new city. It started off perfect. Took a while to find a guesthouse but once I did I took off down the main boulevard. I was looking for a new guitar but didn't find much. Then I met a buddy of mine (who I met in Cambodia) and we set off for dinner. Stuffed ourselves on goat hotpot - very good - at an outdoor eatery as Vietnam pummeled Myanmar in the Asian Games on tv. 7-1 was the final score. We had our first green label Saigon beer there. Everything to thing point has been red label Saigon Export.

While walking back we came across some dudes playing... I think it's called Goa. It's like a cross between hackey sack and badminton. Like the sac crossed with the shuttlecock. All you do is kick it around like hackey sack, but they play a tennis version too. You really need to see a picture. Anyhow the things these guys can do with the goa is astounding. No-look behind the back heel flicks are standard fare. And they're kicking the goa 30 feet or more. You have to see it to believe it.

Anyhow... we stopped and watched and I started laughing when funny things happened and such and pretty soon we were invited to play. Invited to sweat is more like it . But my soccer skills kicked in and I did ok. We played a few doubles games, then headed off for frozen yogurt and beer.

I had bought a goa earlier in the day since I was blown away by the game since first seeing it in Phnom Penh near Wat Phnom. So after a couple beers - and after watching roughly 1000 scooters and motorcycles stream by with hammer and sickle flags celebrating the victory - we headed over to the nearby park where some real pros were kicking around the goa. It's like playground basketball here, everyone is doing it. We sat down and watched the greatest goa display we had yet seen and started 'talking' to three locals. Really just making gestures and pointing at the ridiculous displays of skill going on. A woman was trying to sell us another goa relentlessly. I kept showing her I already had one and then started gesturing to the locals and asking if they played. One asked in hyper-broken english if I meant 'did he want to play with me?'. Of course I did. The next 1.5 hours were some of the most fun ever. The five of us (4 guys one girl) formed a circle and within 15 minutes it nearly doubled. I think the foreigner novelty was a big draw. My buddy took off pretty quickly but I had an absolute blast. I finally had to end the game (since it was my goa to begin with) and get to my room (where I am now) to skype with family. And write this. But they talked to me a bit after playing and we all agreed to meet up again tomorrow at 9 PM. That's after we meet the first group of guys at 7. Saigon is awesome.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Else' by Built to Spill is playing on the hostel bar's stereo right now. One of my favorite songs ever.

This thing was pure evil. The monkey, not his monkey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Phnom Penh Tragedy

Yesterday some 348 or so people were crushed or electrocuted to death on a bridge during the water festival. It's all over the international news and I was about a mile away when it happened.

I was in a massive crowd for about 20 minutes around 7:30 PM. It was chaos - I couldn't really move, people were pushing me from behind - a lot like what happened on the bridge 3 hours later. But of course nowhere near as bad. I still had some anxiety at times because there really was no control over anything.

The King (I think that is the head of state) is saying this is the worst tragedy since Pol Pot's regime... which I witnessed today at both Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison and the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek.

Messed up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Phnom Penh

I'm trying to add pictures to this post the but internet is so slow here I can't even get one uploaded (oh, just got one). The door to my hotel room the first night here opened up into the middle of a cafe/reception area. The driving is back to Chinese intensity after a (sort of) small reprieve in Thailand. But it is awesome.

I stayed in Thailand a few extra days to see an incredible festival - it's three days long and I was there for Day 1. I showed up in Cambodia to find that they have almost the same festival here - also three days long, so I just experienced the final two. Out of control. Tonight I saw the greatest
fireworks display in my life and ate a bunch of street food (but not the bugs... or spiders... or snake on a stick you see in the photo above).

So in other words I lucked out big time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I don't have a whole lot of the trip left. Less than three weeks. Honestly, I don't mind the thought of coming back at all. As fun as this all is I realize I just kind of hit the pause button on life. I miss a lot of the people and things I have back home. The only thing I don't miss is work.

Pai is a tiny town in the extreme Northwest of Thailand. I took a scooter out into the countryside today and it has to be one of the most fun things I've done on the trip. Everything was beautiful. It made the 2.5 hour trip winding up and down mountains worth it, even though I was a little hungover and only got 4 hours sleep.

Oh yeah, last night in Chiang Mai was great too. I took an all day Thai cooking class and became friends with the instructor's son. He picked me up on his motorcycle (a real one, not a scooter) and took me out to local bars. It was awesome, miles better than all the tourist bars I see lining the streets on the walk from my guesthouse to the night market, full of 50 year old men and 20 year old Thai girls. Do the math.

Anyhow, at one point I took a sip of Chang beer and turned my head to see the eye of a baby elephant looking back at me. A guy was leading it around, looking for money to feed the elephant with. This on a packed street of open-air bars. No one batted an eyelash, except me.

I'm back in Chiang Mai tomorrow for the lantern festival, then it's back to Cambodia.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ko Samui

I already mentioned how my Dad and I made a snap decision to go to Ko Samui (island in the south of Thailand) this past Wednesday. What we didn't realize - as we flew through massive storm clouds on our approach - was that this is monsoon season for Southern Thailand. Whoops. Whole streets were flooded, the beach at our resort (yeah we stayed at a resort, deal with it) had been washed away, bungalows on the property next to our had collapsed into the sea... so, great job.

But 36 hours later it was an island paradise. Granted, a soggy island paradise teeming with mosquitoes, but a paradise nonetheless. We hit the beach (not at our resort), played pool at what may have been a front for a brothel (then again what isn't in Thailand?), rented motorcycl... motor scooters, got lost three times trying to find a 'view point' that may or may not exist and did some champion bargaining.

And I got sick too. Probably from the whole red snapper (very tasty variety...) I ate for dinner.

But it was awesome.


I'm back in Bangkok. My Dad flew out early this morning so I'm on my own again. I was supposed to take off for Chiang Mai tonight, but yesterday at the train station I learned all seats were booked, and I just snagged one of the last ones for tomorrow night.

It ended up being a good thing - I moved into a cool new guesthouse in a completely different part of the town and got to see new things... and then just now I randomly stumbled onto a huge street festival with some of the most insane acrobatics in the history of acrobats. It was the coolest and I would have missed out had I left today. Problem is I can't figure out what the festival was for. I asked a few people and while they could tell me the name in Thai they couldn't explain what it was in English. My guesthouse manager (100% ladyboy) conveyed that it's a religious thing for a god, not a holiday. But I need to know for sure.

I was really sick a couple days ago. I'm in Thailand so you know what that means... no not VD jackass. A little too much street food. Probably too much Chang beer too. I'm convinced Chang is the Modelo of Thailand. I love it.

I don't have an accurate count for various reasons, but I've taken well over 2500 pictures and video so far. That means I spend a lot of time transferring, uploading and organizing pictures. Which is what I'm doing tonight as I recover.

I don't have a whole lot of time left. Well under a month. I don't know where I'll be after Chiang Mai. Maybe Laos, maybe Vietnam or Cambodia. I might go back to China early before catching my flight home from Shanghai. We shall see. That's half the fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


One week ago I woke up on a night bus from Yangshuo, China to Hong Kong. Since then I flew from Hong Kong to Bangkok; Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia; Siem Reap to Bangkok and then onward to Ko Samui, where I am now. Insane.

My Dad has been with me this whole week (well since Hong Kong) and before meeting me he flew from Ohio - LA - Beijing - Hong Kong.

In three days I'll be back in Bangkok (for the third time) before taking a train onward to Chiang Mai.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The good thing about traveling with my Dad is that he flies by the seat of his pants. I didn't know where I would be tonight just 18 hours ago - now I'm about to hop on a couple flights to a Thai island for three days. Hilarious.

Spent only a couple days in Bangkok but I will be back there a couple more times on this trip, just as I'm in Cambodia (Siem Reap) right now and will be coming back to this country in a few weeks.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Only a Month Behind...

So I'll just talk about today. I'm in Bangkok now and my Dad is with me. We saw a couple temples and a palace today, so we're gonna balance the culture out by seeing Thai boxing tonight. I'm keeping a daily journal, plus working on videos, so that's why I'm so far behind. But I have virtually no plans for the next three or four weeks so I'm hoping to catch up on a lot of work in some cheap Cambodian and Vietnamese towns.

I was excited for Thai food and it has not disappointed. Super hot and super good. This is the Mexico of Asia.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's November 4th, so here is another video

This is HuangShan Mountain, the coolest place I have ever seen:

Shanghai :: Metric - I'm Alive

I am in Hong Kong and a new video is done:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tokyo, Day 3


Hard to believe this all happened so long ago. Well I guess it's only been three weeks, but it feels like 3 months.

We started the day intending to head out somewhere relatively close for a few hours, then regroup at the hostel and figure out a plan for the evening (not to mention find a place to stay in Kyoto, the next stop after Tokyo). We walked down to the train station and got coffees at mcdonalds while we did some more planning.

First up was lunch, and I was pumped to finally eat at a MOS Burger, a place I had heard about that sounds like the In-n-Out of Japan. We ate at the one we saw the day before in Akihabara. They were small burgers but they were good (not at good as in-n-out though), and I had another melon soda. Those things are genius.

Made a snap decision and decided to just metro over to the west instead of going back home. We visited Roppongi Hills, a mega-entertainment and luxury living complex in the heart of what used to be one of the seediest parts of town. The Mori Art Museum is at the top of the tallest building in Roppongi and we paid about $17 to ride to the top and check it out.

The views from the observation floor were rad. We could see all parts of the city, many of which we hadn't been to yet. It was just city all around, like a carpet of buildings. We found the best way to spend $5 and got a great picture from a photo booth. I noticed they were selling Holga cameras in the art museum store. Interesting.

The museum was pretty cool too, especially one installation where you walked 'underground' and then stuck your head up through holes to see trees and landscape 'above ground'. Everything was in white. It was cool, but later my camera somehow corrupted the pictures and video from the best exhibit. Thanks panasonic.

Walked around a bit after that but it was all malls and expensive shops. So we said screw it and went to Ebisu, a supposedly more hip and cool area. And most importantly - the Yebisu Beer Museum.

The museum is a poor excuse to have a bar, but the bar is pretty great. You can get snacks and try all four of Yebisu's brews - the regular lager, the BLACK, the amber ale and the stout. We ended up trying all four. The Black was hands down our favorite, followed by the amber. These were really standout beers that had been freshly brewed on the premises and the prices were totally reasonable. Wish I could use them in an upcoming beer tasting.

The sun had set and so we trained to Shibuya, the mega shopping and pedestrian area. 'The crossing', maybe the busiest intersection in the world, was pretty cool. So was the two story Starbucks. I think Jacquie was in heaven.

We checked out a Tower Records (they still have those?) in hopes of finding some band fliers so we could see a show. No dice. They don't really have places like Spaceland in Japan.

Jumped on the subway yet again and went to a district on the outskirts of town called Shimo-Kitazawa on the most packed subway care yet. We weren't sure how to get out. Jacquie had read that the town was a more bohemian place and we hoped it might be as cool as our little neighborhood in LA. It did not disappoint. After taking a wrong turn out of the station (a thrice-daily habit for us... I mean me), we found the really cool area stuffed with nice little boutiques and restaurants. Took a couple laps to pick out an appropriately 'cute' restaurant bedecked in Halloween decorations. Have I mentioned how nuts the Japanese are for Halloween? I think I did. They'll do anything if it makes money.

My Indonesian friend rice was solid and my peach (!) beer was surprisingly good too. There was real peach mashed at the bottom. And Jacquie's amaretto ginger ale was pue genius. The ginger ale is better than what we have in the US too, and you can even get it with wasabi if you want.

Had dessert at a place unfortunately named Moco. I finally got something I had been waiting to try - a melon float. Let me tell you something. Go eat a melon float. My god those things are pure candyland.

It was a long train ride home that night. We were dead tired but couldn't believe how much we had done, and couldn't believe it was only our third day in Japan.

I'd love to have photos along with these posts but I'm still behind the Great Ass of China and can only access blogger via a proxy I recently discovered. I'll try to pimp these out when I'm in the free world again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I am in China. I can't access blogger or facebook because the government doesn't allow it. It's very strange because it's not like I need to watch my back or anything. People are people, they have lots of KFC's and Starbucks and McDonald's soft creams (for like 35 cents!) and I can go pretty much where I want when I want. But if you're reading this before Nov 3 it means my girlfriend posted it from LA after I sent her the raw text.

Also my internet has sucked in China. In Japan we usually had high-speed internet. This was crucial because I quickly found that my memory cards for my camera were nowhere near as big as what I needed - I haven't been on a truly long trip since I got my HD shooter. I had two 8 GB cards and I bought a 16 GB for the trip... and I blasted through them in a few days. So I signed up for a flickr account and have been uploading everything there. But I can't do that here because my connections have been so slow. It is becoming a big problem.

This is also why I haven't posted other videos. I have a good 4-5 more Japan ones to create but all the video is on flickr and not on my hard drive. I need a high speed connection to batch download them. I think they will have to wait until Hong Kong.

Japan feels as far away as LA did when I was in Japan.

Everyone pushes to get on trains without letting people get off first. Traffic follows evolution - the bigger you are the more right-of-way you have. Green pedestrian walk signs mean virtually nothing if anything larger than a unicycle is coming your way. When pointing at menus what you 'hope' something looks like is never what it is. I am 90% sure I ate rat my first night (it tasted ok but seeing a small spinal column gave me pause). Beer is laughably cheap, and Budweiser is laughably premium. I have eaten street food several times and have not gotten sick yet. (Watch what happens after writing that...). Bus and subway drivers slam on both the accelerator and the brake for no reason I can think of - people constantly fell into me on the Shanghai metro. I saw a toddler pee on the floor of a train station and the mother laughed. Then a cleaning lady came by and swept it up. And I haven't seen a taco truck anywhere.

But. The Shanghai skyline is one of the most impressive I've ever seen. When I smile at people I get genuine smiles back, even though I really only use two words of Chinese. Well three. I know a few more words but no one ever understands them except for 'pijiu'. Which of course means 'beer'. I'm seeing less and less English the farther from Shanghai I go but the more difficult it gets the more rewarding everything is. I am not that far at the moment - I'm only in HangZhou, but tomorrow I have to catch a bus to a main station and then another bus to Tunxi, near HuangShan mountain. I am not sure how I am going to find the station from the first bus, and once at the station I don't know how I will find the bus to Tunxi. But I'm willing to bet I'll get there. And on Tuesday I will climb the mountain. And I might do it again Wednesday, or I might move on to the deep South.

Quick story. My current hostel gave me directions to it for my arrival. I was taking a taxi from the train station, which they told me should cost 11-13 yuan, but when I got in I couldn't find any taxis. I was starting to get frustrated. I finally found one, but when I told him my destination (Gulou) he just shook his head and said something while making a hand gesture. Another guy stepped in and said the same thing. Then another guy. A small crowd of taxi drivers was forming. At first I just thought the first driver was off duty. I had no idea what they were telling me. I repeated the word they kept saying, and they nodded. I didn't have a clue what it meant. I kept saying "Gulou" to no effect. I tried deciphering the hand gestures they kept making. A map? No. Writing maybe? They wanted to see it in writing?

Luckily I had written the characters for Gulou in my notebook. "Ok, just hang on a moment there boys!" I said. I pulled out my notebook and they nodded. They understood the character. "Gulou!" they said. Yes, I had said that 10 times already! One guy said "one hundred", then typed it in his phone and showed it to me. Highway robbery! I laughed and shook my head and gave him my "what do you think I am, an idiot?" look.

Another stepped in and typed "40". I laughed at him too. He put the phone in my hand so I typed "12". His eyes got wide and he looked at me half like "you are killing me!" and half like "oh you are not stupid!" He typed in 25. I gave him the same look. 20. I made the universal hand sign for "a little bit lower". I made the number '15' with my hands.

He nodded with approval, smiling and laughing like I just took him for a ride. Then he mimed someone riding a scooter...

And that's what he had. A tiny scooter. It was raining and I had my large backpack on. I immediately thought of D-1 (only a few people will get that reference). I wanted a regular cab... with a roof... but had gone through too much already. Plus I figured it would be worth the story.

I couldn't stop smiling as to wove in and out of traffic in the rain on that tiny lawnmower of a vehicle, me with a huge backpack hanging off the back and clutching a tiny Asian man with my knees. I talked to him the whole way there, saying things like "ok buddy, don't blow this!", "oh man, the guy driving that car is a complete moron!", "you should really get a windshield on this thing!", "why did that horn sound like it was inside my skull?", "boy this place sure blows when it's getting the remnants of a super typhoon, huh?". Et cetera. He replied to everything and I'm convinced he knew exactly what I was saying by the tone of my voice, and context (ie he just cut off a tour bus, he almost ran over a small child etc).

Finally he stopped. "Gulou" he said, pointing toward a stone wall. I only had a 100 yuan note and figured there was no way he'd have change, or admit it if he did, but sure enough he had the change and gave me 85 back. I gave him 5 more even though you don't tip in China. It was worth it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 2, Part 2

While still in Akihabara we walked through the loudest pachinko parlor ever - it was like a rock concert. Then we played some video games in an arcade including the one with giant drums (it's shown in Lost in Translation).

We avoided the girls dressed as french maids who were handing out fliers for 'maid cafes' all around town. You literally go in and pay excessive amounts for coffee or whatever so you can have girls fawn over you. It's a completely alien concept to westerners, especially since they girls all try to look like they're 15.

Then we took a short ride over to Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. It was getting late so the gardens on the palace grounds were closed, but we walked around the moat a bit, noting that with all the runners the area was like Central Park. We found a huge fountain area and took some pictures there in the dusk as bats flew overhead, then jumped back on the subway and went all they way out to Shinjuku on the westside. It's kind of like Santa Monica assuming that where we were staying was Los Feliz.

Shinjuku is insane. A large part of Lost in Translation was filmed there, as is the hotel the characters stayed at. According to the guidebook there was a crazy alley full of yakitori restaurants - tiny shops that served pretty much just skewers of grilled meat and organs. And beer.

It was hard to find. We wandered around the station and huge department store areas until we found some thick crowds and finally some small alleys. We walked into one and thought we had found the spot... then I looked to my left and saw an even smaller alley. It was swathed in red lanterns. This was it.

We must have passed through the alley eight times. The places were so small, and either they were totally packed or the proprietors were trying to get us to patronize their spot. No way, we wanted the popular spots, but just when we found the balls to sit down in such an intimidating spot someone always swooped in and grabbed the available stools.

Finally, out of desperation, Jacquie squeezed into a tiny spot in between some Japanese businessmen. One of the cooks pointed to a picture of an eel on the wall - apparently that's all they had. Whatever. We ordered four eel skewers to start. And a giant Kirin.

Immediately three wasted businessmen started hitting on Jacquie. Sort of. They probably didn't know telling a girl "you are very sexy" and "you are 15!" is considered a creepy come on in America. But it was hilarious. We gave them a lot of "Kampai's!!!!".

One of them could barely function when he left. Later a guy literally fell off a stool next to me. He tried to stand up and fell over again. No one batted an eye. Public intoxication is totally acceptable, but you have to behave perfectly during the day.

We learned that we were in the coolest yakitori spot by far - this particular bar, with only 12 seats, had been around for decades. The combined age of the three cooks confirmed this - one looked like the son of the other, and the son was not young. And they've only ever served eel and beer. There was a thick coating of eel grease on one of the lights above the grill, kind of like the McSorley's of Tokyo (for my New York friends).

We got more and more skewers. You'd think skewers of eel and beer would be cheap but 13 or so skewers, plus 2.5 giant beers ended up costing us over $60. Oh, by the way, Japan is ridiculously expensive, and the dollar to yen is at its worst in like 20 years. Awesome.

Anyhow, for the second night in a row we took a risk and came up spades. It was a great time. We walked around the insanity of Shinjuku some more and bought a crepe. Not what you're thinking, crepes in Japan are incredible. Ours had whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate syrup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a slice of cheesecake, all rolled up to look like an ice cream cone. Sheer genius.

We tried to get a beer at a British Pub (a chain called Hub) that advertised Guinness for 500 yen. Upon sitting down we realized that got you a 'mini pint', a full pint cost 900 yen (over $10). Bastards. We left.

Good thing too cause we had a long train ride back to Minami-Senju and I was falling asleep standing up. But it was a great night.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Outside L.A.

The first video is done.

Right Now

It's 10:05 PM Tokyo time. Jacquie left for LA last night and it was very hard. Tomorrow is my last day in Japan. I'm ready to move on, but this is an incredible country.

Fun fact #1 - they are enamored with Halloween. Stores have been decked out in orange and black since the moment we arrived... on Oct 3.

You can walk into virtually any restaurant and have success, both in ordering and in food quality. We literally never had a bad meal, and usually the food was incredible. Servers will bend over backwards to serve you regardless of language barriers. This is the most polite society in the world, I am sure of it.

I will probably end up missing melon soda more than anything. Grape soda is a close second. Melon floats are tied with grape soda.

They have the easiest to use and most efficient transportation system I've ever seen.

Their TV mostly sucks. It's not all Ninja Warrior, MXE and Iron Chef. On average it seems worse than ours (but it's hard to tell).

Popular music is godawful.

(drunk) Japanese businessmen loved Jacquie. Popular comments include "you are very sexy", "i like you", and the ever popular "you are 16!"

Skype is out of control cool. I know I'm late to the party, but I'm talking to my Mom as I type this. It is insane.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 2, Part 1

Oct 4

Woke up in our virtual cubicle and navigated the shared showers for the first time. You had to hold down a lever with your foot for the shower to work so I got some calisthenics in.

It had rained overnight and the day was very overcast. Just a white blanket of clouds (much like China was for the whole trip in 2007).

Our first stop on our first full day in Tokyo was the nearby Asakusa district. When we bought our Japan Rail Passes in Los Angeles the woman at the travel agency asked us where we are staying. We said "a-sah-KOO-sa", and she repeated "a-sah-ka-sa" super fast... no accent on any syllable at all. It couldn't have sounded more different. Almost all Japanese pronunciation is like this (so it's not "ar-ee-GAH-to", it's just "a-ri-ga-to").

Anyhow. Asakusa is a not very built up area (and therefore cheaper) with an old temple and not much else. We bought rechargeable PASMO cards for the subway en route since there are a few different subway companies, each with their own tickets, but the PASMO works on all of them.

The walk up to the temple was paved with souvenir shops. A lot of crap but Jacquie bought a rice cracker to go with the coffee and rice ball-filled-with-something-red she picked up from a convenience store (also the place where I saw a candy called "Crunky Ball Nude").

The temple was pretty, there were people tossing money into a box and praying and there was a big cauldron of incense burning out front. A five story pagoda was next door and had a nice little garden outside with a koi pond. I stepped out of the way of a dude trying to take a picture and he said "shia shia" - Mandarin for "thank you", but I didn't think fast enough to reply with the Mandarin for "you're welcome", which I do know because I'm such a relentless badass.

Wandered around some side streets with 'cute' architecture - just small shops and aesthetically pleasing colors and stylings of the second stories of each building. Found a ramen shop and went for it.

Ramen is one of Japan's biggest selling points. I hadn't had much of it but I recognized that ramen shops were the taco trucks of Japan - cheap food that people just can't get enough of because they are mind-numbingly delicious. Suffice to say they are not the cheap ramen cups from days of college past, but are large soup bowls filled with piping hot pork bone broth and various noodles, pork, shallots, bamboo shoots, vegetables, 1-up mushrooms and the like. And this place was delicious. To top it off I paired my pig cocktail with a secret weapon, something I had been waiting to try - melon soda.

And yes it is as good as it looks. It tastes like sweet honeydew mixed with Kool Aid Man. My new favorite drink (until I tried melon soda floats and Yebisu BLACK).

We walked off the porcine swill by crossing a bridge over a river and then back across another bridge. Found the subway and jumped on the Yamanote line, which circles the city. It was recommended as a good way to get an overview of the city but it was sort of a waste of time - even though it's above ground you can't see too much.

So before completing the full circle we hopped off at the geek mecca of Akihabara. Not sure why we went since we're too cool for school but it was on the way.

Neon madness... and we hadn't even hit the mega stops of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ginza yet. And it was daytime. I had looked up this area before we left LA and wanted to find one spot in particular. I trusted my spider senses as we navigated side streets until we gazed upon the 8-bit wonder of the world: Super Potato.

I won't lie - I could have spent a day wandering through the four floors of 8 and 16-bit systems and games in their original packaging. It was like an archeological dig of awesomeness. The Pompeii of pixels.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 1

As always, traveling reminds me how easy traveling is. 11 hours in the air and you're suddenly in Japan. It doesn't feel like a big deal no matter how much I tell myself it is.

Jacquie and I had separate planes on account of me getting mine for $250, a feat I pulled off by using reward miles (I signed up for a few credit cards and checking accounts a few months ago for the bonus miles).

My sister and her boyfriend drove us to the airport. My flight was 2 hours before Jacquie's, which sucked. We sat around the airport lobby until I had to head through security. It felt all wrong saying goodbye to her before such a long flight.

But it was fine. The flight couldn't have been more uneventful. I had a window seat and to my surprise NO ONE sat in the middle seat next to me. This is the first time I've been on an international flight that wasn't completely full. It was a nice trade off for the fact that the entertainment 'system' was circa 1991. Just old school drop down TVs in the middle of the aisles, not even above the seats. And the first movie was J Lo's endearing The Backup Plan. I'm telling you, no man was involved in the making of that movie. It's not possible. Even the leading 'man' must have been a woman in disguise. That's what happens when you fly an old school 747.

Food came around and the three Japanese guys ordered beers. The stewardess asked if they wanted American beer or Japanese beer. Score! The information booklet said the flight would only have American. So I drank a couple Kirin to get the trip started off right.

Got to Tokyo, went through customs, and waited for Jacquie's flight by baggage claim. Saw her as she reached the top of the escalator and started taking video of our 'meeting' (footage is already in a video I'll be posting soon).

Followed our guidebook's advice and followed signs to the Keisei railway and bought tickets to Ueno station. Got there without a hitch (all signs are in English too) and figured out how to buy tickets for the subway to Minami-Senju, the stop near our hotel. Being in New York just two weeks ago (!!) was a huge help to us here. If you know one subway you know them all (LA's subway doesn't count).

The hotel directions were sufficient and soon we were at the New Koyo Hotel. This note was at the front desk:

Hell yes we said we'd do it. The show's coordinator had just put the sign up so the hotel manager called her and she came right over to meet us. We were set to film on Wednesday, three days later. Awesome way to start the trip.

To call our room in the hotel/hostel 'tiny' would be an understatement. With the futon pulled out we had roughly 3 square feet of usable space. But it was dirt cheap for Tokyo, the most expensive city I've ever visited. Maybe the most expensive in the world?

Set out back down the street for dinner. There were not many options in our neighborhood, and we almost just grabbed some pre-made snacks from Family Mart, a 7-11 type store (speaking of which, there are tons of 7-11s in Japan).

Jacquie wanted a real meal though, so we picked the 'cutest' one, which had no English anywhere within 100 feet. All the restaurants here have curtains and other obfuscations, but we could see in just enough to know that there were three other patrons at the tiny bar. We slid open the door and walked in.

It was a sushi bar. There was a hostess/waitress, the sushi chef, and the three patrons. No one spoke more than a few words of English. We sat down and were brought a Japanese menu. We talked it over and decided we'd just point at something. The chef and waitress tried to be helpful but there was a little bit of a language barrier.

Finally one of the other patrons spoke up. "You speak Japanese?" Uh, no. "English?" Yes. She spoke enough English to communicate, and she and the waitress and chef (who she seemed to know fairly well) started talking rapidly. Eventually they offered us an 'off menu' option - a plate of nigiri sushi for 1500 yen each (around $19). Sounded good to us. We got some tea and soup and waited.

The chef then laid down a plate of utterly incredible-looking sushi in front of Jacquie. And then he gave me one.

Massive score. The sushi was incredible. Best squid I've ever had (the one in the upper right).

We talked some more with the English speaker, and then some with the chef and waitress, who we learned was his wife. They were more comfortable with us by now and knew a few more words than it at first seemed. After learning the chef's name I pulled out a 'doy itashimashite' (nice to meet you) and got a solid response back from him, including a deep bow. Pretty happy about that. We took a picture of the couple and then took another of Jacquie and I with the chef. Then he presented me with his card and wrote the name of the restaurant and its contact info in English (really Romanji) on the back for us. Incredible experience.

It was pretty much the best possible way to start our trip in Tokyo. The night receives a perfect score of 18 palm fronds (out of 18).

Tokyo in 5 days

Madness is a pretty good word to describe it. So is orderliness. Somehow these two ideas make sense together in Tokyo. By day the subways (the incredible, timely and omnipresent subways) are nearly silent apart from the creaks and whines of the trains, black-suited businessmen and well-dressed women simply stare at their phones and type. By night the same businessmen are literally falling down drunk off of eel-skewer izakaya stools... on a Tuesday... as neon blasts vertically in every direction. It is (New York) times (Los Angeles) squared. It is exhausting, and it is awesome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We are here and our days have been packed. Most free time has been spent desperately trying to find accommodation for the weekend (we just succeeded this morning). I could live in Tokyo in a heartbeat... but there aren't enough drinking bars. You always have to eat when you drink. But even old businessmen (especially old businessmen) can be found drunk as college freshmen any day of the week. Talk to one of them and hilarity ensues.

The train system is a breeze. New York two weeks ago (I was in New York two weeks ago?!) was the perfect primer for Japan. We are pros.

Yebisu beer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The 24 hour countdown is about to begin

I've been loading up my computer with the various programs I'll need to work on music and video while I'm in Asia. I'll be gone for 2 months so I better find the time to make something happen. I guess I'll take a timecard with me.

Doing day job work for the last time today (well until Dec at least). I'm in San Francisco to see one last client, then it's back to LA tonight to do final packing. I cannot wait.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting Close

I don't think I've ever been so busy. The number of things I've gotten done in the past two weeks is mind boggling - the past three days even more so. I want to finish up three songs very badly but realistically I'll only be able to get rough mixes out. Oh, and I've been trying to finish up videos for two of them too. Those are rough as well (one is about 10% done).

On top of that I'm in San Diego right now. I have to do 'real work' here tomorrow (Thursday). Then on Friday I fly to San Francisco for the day, also for 'work'. The following day I fly out of LAX to Narita. This is insane.

All I want to do is music though. If I had it my way I'd work on nothing else until my flight. But it's better to be massively busy than not busy at all.

Monday, September 13, 2010


It's official. I bought my tickets on Friday. Oct 2 - Dec 8. Fly into Tokyo for 18 days, then onward to Shanghai. From there I make my way around China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (maybe elsewhere) before returning to Shanghai for my flight back.

The song Tombs ( is about my brief trip to China in 2007. The line "I came and went//I'll be back again//A lie to a friend" is about my desire to one day return to Shanghai, a city I loved but barely spent any time in. I can't believe I'm actually doing it three years later.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've had this song, it's over a year old now. Actually the backbone, a little arpeggio progression, is probably well over three or four years old. But the SONG came about two Mays ago.

Then it just sat there. I really liked the song. Figured it could be a single. I liked it a lot. I didn't want to mess it up. So I got scared, and whenever I tried to work on it I'd get frustrated. Then I stopped working on it altogether.

I almost finished it last night. I got sick of wanting it to be perfect. I just wanted to finish it. I want to move on to the next thing. So I worked and worked and tried a whole new direction. And it sounds great. I can't wait to finish it, and I know exactly how the rest of it is going to go. This is huge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This whole time I thought it was laziness, but now I realize I just have no time. I'm constantly making lists of Things I Need To Do, and constantly failing to get them all done because something goes wrong or I don't have enough time. And then there's the business of writing and recording songs...

It's nice to know that keeping music on my mind every day for the past month has made me aware of this, but not nice to know that I still barely get anything done regardless.

However, last night I made significant headway on a new song AND new video.

This is why I need a vacation, and this is why I'm taking one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This picture has nothing to do with anything I'm writing.

I'm taking a trip. It will begin in early October, and end in late December. I have a lot to do in the next month.

One of those things is getting a new album out. Honestly, I don't know if I can do it. But I have to try. I'm already more than halfway there.

I have roughly 52 songs and demos in various states of completion, any one of which could end up on the album. Sometimes you can have too many options. This is what I've been struggling with all summer.

I have been doing more writing recently, and I've been working on a live set with the second official member of Lost on Purpose. We have a couple songs down and the harmonies are sounding incredible. We will start playing shows when I return. But for now I need to record this album. I need to make schedules. I can't afford to waste any free time. On top of this I still need to make several small trips for work, and will probably go on a small tour with my other band (The Ross Sea Party). I probably only have 35 days in Los Angeles from now til October.

Such is the life of an unknown musician.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Neistat Brothers

My buddy told me about this new show on HBO that has zero publicity. It's about two brothers who film pretty much everything that happens to them - on iphones, point and shoots and 'real' movie-making cameras. Then the edit it together. They got their show in HBO. Incredible.

What's even more incredible is how inspiring the show is. I consider myself to be a pretty DIY artist - I've done everything on my own. But they put me to shame. Just watch the show if you have the chance. I flew through the entire first season in 24 hours.

Then I wrote another new song.

I don't really need new songs. I have dozens of old ones that are pretty good and deserve to be recorded. But I need to get in that zone. I need a new approach. I need to get crazy.

When the time comes I will be ready. And that will be soon, since I'm leaving the country.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I wrote one song yesterday. And I actually quite like it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Futility Quest

I still haven't written those two damn songs. Something always comes up. Last night I decided to make bagels on a whim. Not toast bagels... actually make them from scratch.

It's not about the songs, it's about the discipline. It's not easy. I'm a musician, yet I feel like I hardly ever write and record. Then again I've released six albums.

Today I have nothing planned except for seeing a show later in the evening. I'll have a couple hours free right after work. I already baked bagels so I can't use that as an excuse. I do need to work out (I might be running the Ninja Warrior course on Saturday... that's a whole other story) but that shouldn't take very long.

Oh, and then there's the issue of the next album. I've had a few songs finished for months, but then all my recording mojo flew out the window. I have a song that is a guaranteed single... and it's been in the same unfinished state for OVER A YEAR. I just can't figure out the ending. Then again I haven't sat down with it for more than 30 minutes.

So it goes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good and Bad

Well, the show on Wed night went really well considering the somewhat odd mega-Hollywood crowd. But I didn't sit down and crank out two songs like I had planned. There's always tonight...

But last night I got together with a possible new member of Lost on Purpose and ran through some songs. It sounded good. I consider that just as good, if not better, than writing something new. It's a step in a very positive direction.

I haven't recorded anything in a long time. I have over 50 demos to work on but I've been pushing the recent release of A Knight at the Crossroads too. Between those two things, the live version of LOP, my other band (The Ross Sea Party) and, oh yeah, LIFE, I find that my days are pretty packed, and times spent in front of the tv are a memory and luxury.

I'm at work now, making money so I can live in Los Angeles and occasionally work on music, and for once it looks like I might be stuck here well past 5 o'clock. If that doesn't happen I will have an hour and a half of 'free' time. I am putting it out here: if that happens I will write a couple songs. They won't be good, but I need to stay sharp.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No... Yeeeeessss...

So the other day I said I would sit down and write two songs. I didn't. I had a bunch of other things to do (clean my room, do laundry etc) aka the least cool reasons possible.

However, I had a band practice with my other band (The Ross Sea Party), and afterward a few of us stayed behind and worked on new songs, played around with a couple other ideas and generally had a great time just playing and experimenting... so much so that I didn't get out of there until 1 AM.

That, in my book, is just as good as writing 2 songs.

We have a show tonight in Hollywood and I still have tons to get done in my personal life, but I'll see if I can find a spare 40 minutes.

Oh, and I have to factor in training for the upcoming Ninja Warrior tryouts in LA.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the life of an indie rock star.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two Songs

Last week I got really frustrated with myself and my lack of musical production. I have dozens of partially-recorded songs that just sit around until I have the time and motivation to work on them, but it seems like nothing ever gets done.

So I decided to just sit down and write three new songs. I wanted them to suck - I didn't want to care and spend too much time on them, because what usually happens when I like a song is I stop working on it as soon as I hit a wall. Maybe I can't figure out the chorus, or the middle eight, or I can't think of good lyrics for the second verse. If it's not perfect I tend to quit. I wait for a moment of inspiration, often months or even years later (literally).

That's why I wanted to write three crappy songs. Just sit down and write without a care in the world. Finish the songs at any cost.

I did it once before, like five years ago. I wrote three songs in a day. One became Ophelia, on the Anniversary album.

Long story short, I did sit down and I got two songs out before losing steam. I like one of the songs a lot. I consider it a success. A very small success, but a success nonetheless. At least I did something.

I'm planning on doing it again tonight. This blog is going to be my motivation.


I'm going to start blogging regularly, I hope. I want to focus less on Lost on Purpose news, which is now primarily being done on facebook, but on the process of being an indie musician. I will focus on songwriting, or in many cases the lack thereof (too busy), of navigating PR, getting albums made, etc. The nuts and bolts of being a musician. We'll see how it goes.