No Adventures Here

Moments before we purposely missed our train at the Pico Blvd Metro Station.

As of this morning I’ve been back in Chicago for two weeks. The majority of my time has been spent working on some unfinished design projects, editing photos, polishing up the portfolio, backing up data, and generally eradicating tons of useless junk from my life. I’ve also been making up ten-fold for two months of no bike riding and (almost) no Mexican food.

I also came across an outstanding written record of a particularly derelict adventure from last August. Below is the copied and pasted version direct from text edit. Please excuse the blatant lack of capitalization.

I heart LA: The story of yesterday (August 18, 2008)

after waking up a bit disheveled from the night prior and indulging in a chorizo scramble at potholder, we decided to catch the metro to downtown LA to ride some hills and shoot a few photos. an impulsive decision to jump off the train at pico blvd left us chasing after a train that still contained a bag with my camera as well as the keys to billy’s apartment and car. as the train left, i was able to sign my phone number to a younger lady and her kids who we’d sat next to, hoping they would take the bag and proceed to call me to pick it up later.

half an hours worth of eavesdropping provided us with the knowledge that they would be catching the red line up to hollywood for an afternoon of shopping before eventually catching the gold line back out to pasadena. at this point, we could wait around and hope she called, or we could take off on our bikes and try and beat the redline from downtown to the hollywood and vine street station where we would catch her.

without much debate, we took off up the hill on figuroa and headed west on sunset blvd through echo park and silverlake, splitting lanes and bombing hills and landing ourselves in hollywood about 25 minutes later. billy manned the station while i wandered around the neighborhood looking for them. after about an hour of no luck, we decided that i would hold down the hollywood and vine station and billy would cruise over to hollywood and highland in the chance that the could end up there. just as we’re ready to give up, billy spotted her at the elevator heading back underground. it turns out she gave the bag to a metro employee at the 7th street metro center station back downtown.

the mood was celebratory while riding the red line back downtown to claim our bag. after all, we had chased down a random woman in a city of over four million people. we’d go downtown, acquire the bag, and salvage what was left of the day. suffice to say, the mood shifted when we got downtown to discover that there are no actual employees working at the station. our chase led us to all ends of the station, as well as the surrounding blocks at street level downtown. a maintenance worker went out of his way to help us out, and even called the offices to check on the lost and found. apparently nothing had been reported and lost and found claims take three business days to register.

after another hour or so of wandering around the station looking for figures of authority, we’re ready to give up again. finally, while i was outside being transfered from operator to operator with the mta, billy went back underground and got the attention of a subway conductor. to do this, he had to fight off a crackhead who claimed the front car to be his own. the conductor responded to the commotion, and when billy informed him of our situation, he simply went into a little office and came out with our bag. as i’m outside arguing on my phone with the mta, billy walks up with the bag and brian unexpectedly cruises up 7th street in his pontiac. all is well and then some. we celebrate with sandwiches.

brian took off after dinner in typical unannounced fashion. billy and i found ourselves on top of a parking garage downtown, debating whether to call it a day or to head out to west hollywood to meet some friends for a drink. we decided that the best option would be to do neither, and ride out to silverlake to have a beer at a bar called good, which has a beer list that puts both jerry’s and the yardhouse to shame. at good, thirteen dollars buys you one beer, but when that one beer is a 22 oz triple ipa with the same alcohol content as some wines, it’s more than acceptable. so relatively drunk off of one beer each, we decided to acquire sparks for the metro ride back to long beach.

we rode back to 7th street station downtown before deciding that we’d rather wait above ground for the train at pico blvd and drink our sparks outside. by this time, it’s about 10:45. while drinking in an abandoned lot, the train appeared from nowhere, causing us to drop our beverages and sprint to the station to buy tickets. after we missed the train, we joked about riding the our bikes through south central, watts, south gate, and compton all the way back to long beach. somehow it became less of a joke over the following fifteen minutes. as the next train approached, i told billy it was his call whether we get on the train or get on our bikes. the doors opened, then closed, and we were still on the platform, laughing uncontrollably at the fact that we just purposely missed another train and would now be riding our bikes 25 miles through the hood of south central LA on a sunday night.

the policy on the ride from downtown was no eye contact and no yelling back at cars. we planned to ride washington blvd east to alameda, and alameda into compton where we would cut over to long beach blvd which would get us most of the way home. we rode fast and paced ourselves as to not get caught up at stoplights, and breathed a collective sigh of relief as we crossed under the 105 freeway out of south central proper. as we rode through el segundo blvd, we noticed “city of compton” printed on the street sign, and collectively giggled the type of giggle that could only come from two midwestern kids who grew up with an unhealthy appreciation of west coast rap music. soon our glee was shattered yet again, as billy realized he was rolling on a flat tire down a particularly ominous stretch of alameda in the center of compton.

we found ourselves at a gas station, trying with very little luck to refill billy’s tire. we decided to retire to the inside of the gas station to buy snacks and use the bathroom, but found the attendant locked inside behind a wall of bulletproof glass. instants after we realized we weren’t getting inside, we caught the attention of a middle aged couple, and the guy proceeded to utter what may go down in the books as the greatest sentence ever directed towards me- “it’s awfully late for you guys to be all bright white riding your bikes up in the hood.” he went on to elaborate about how we were in the “real” ghetto and we needed to get on the train and get ourselves back to LA before we get dead. we soon realized that trains were still running to long beach, and got ourselves to the station as the train was rolling in.

three stops from compton and we’re at willow street where we started our adventure earlier that day. four more stops and we’re at first street in downtown long beach. after a short jaunt down broadway on a flat tire and we made it back home in time to celebrate with beer and animal crackers.

When I wrote that I figured I’d be living back out in LA by now. I’m still telling myself I would given the right conditions (good job and living situation), but who knows.

Nonetheless, I’m driving back to New York this Friday for the ADC Review of graduating student work on the following Monday. Columbia is sending four of us from the graphic design program, as well as four from advertising art direction, and putting us up for the week at the Four Points in Chelsea. I’ll be spending the weekend before the review at my home-away-from-home-away-from-home at the Salon of Abundance in the always festive Williamsburg, where things will be even more festive than usual due to a pending Saturday night house party.

The ADC Review will be followed ten days later by Industry Night in Chicago. I’ll be spending the rest of this week finishing the fine tuning of my portfolio, updating my website, and preparing myself to act like a professional. I should probably get an oil change too, but you know how that goes.

This entry was written by brett, posted on April 27, 2009 at 9:21 pm, filed under Chicago, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

Time Travel in the Age of the Ironic Lunch

It’s been two weeks since I’ve updated. The previous post was made from the backyard of a historic mansion in Santiago, Chile and this one is being made from my desk in my bedroom in Chicago, where I impulsively Expedia’d a flight to Rio de Janeiro almost three months ago. I can’t really tell if that feels like last week or last year. It is strange how being in constant motion plays with perception of time and distance.

My camera battery died while on top of a hill in Valparaiso, and the voltage converter used to charge it died in my kitchen in Buenos Aires, therefore I only managed to shoot about 20 photos (and about two worth showing) since the last update. In addition to this, I don’t so much care to go day by day through my last days in the southern hemisphere and my return to Chicago. Instead I’m going to talk about food.

As an avid eater, I will chart the ups and downs of the past two weeks by analyzing particularly notable (for better or worse) meals.

Just over two weeks ago I enjoyed the menu del dia (four courses with a drink for about six dollars) while reading a book outside at a small cafe on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Valparaiso, Chile. It was seventy five degrees with sunshine and a slight breeze.

A few days later I dined on home cooked pasta in the backyard of a huge red house in Santiago, Chile with friends from four different continents on my last night in South America. We drank Escudo and listened to New Order, the Stone Roses, and Oasis on the patio until sunrise.

The next evening I ate undercooked pasta in an American Airlines 767, 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru.

The following morning, I chewed on a piece of salty bread and sipped a glass of orange juice in the same aircraft, this time while looking out my window at Cuba and the Caribbean Sea.

Less than two hours after arriving in New York, I found myself in the company of six friends at the Olive Garden on the corner of 23rd and 6th, where I enjoyed a mixed grill for lunch in what I later realized was my most expensive food purchase in the past two months. April 9, 2009 will go down in history as the beginning of the Age of the Ironic Lunch (it will end when the Sizzler goes out of business).

Easter Sunday was spent in delightful company in Brooklyn, where a trip to the C-Town Market and the adjacent produce market motivated a home-cooked egg, chorizo, and vegi scramble with fresh tortillas and guacamole. Although revenge is a dish best served cold, brunch is not. Rest assured- this shit was hot.

Upon reaching Youngstown, Ohio, which is the halfway point on Interstate 80 between New York and Chicago as well as my ritualistic point of consumption of a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich with fries and a Hi-C, it became apparent that things were about to go downhill fast. The meal that I’d been anticipating for the past three hundred miles of Pennsylvania was shot down by a 10 PM closure. Instead I had to opt for two Burger King hamburgers at a turnpike service station outside of Cleveland (For those unfamiliar with the unfortunate 800 miles in between New York and Chicago- the dining options are about as varied and healthy as the food court at the O’Hare Oasis). FML.

Dinner with my dad at Geja’s Cafe in Lincoln Park was outstanding- but that’s a given. I quite enjoy lobsters, prawns, beef tenderloin, melted cheese, liquored up chocolate, fruit, and wine. Geja’s excels in all of these areas.

Today I ordered pad khee mao, cucumber salad, and a thai iced tea from Noodles in the Pot. The delivery guy once again inquired as to my absence and I ate at my desk while working on a project. This meal signifies the return to banality and the end of a particularly excellent era of my life. Tastes like chicken.

Oh yeah. Valparaiso is beautiful.

This entry was written by brett, posted on April 20, 2009 at 11:02 pm, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.


View Larger Map

Since leaving Buenos Aires a week ago tonight, I’ve spent no less than twenty seven hours on buses- ten from Buenos Aires to Cordoba (in a crowded semi-cama bus), ten from Cordoba to Mendoza (in a luxurious and empty front top seat in a coche-cama bus), and seven from Mendoza to Santiago (maybe an hour less if you subtract the ridiculous out of bus formalities at the Chilean border).

The past week has been an eventful one to say the least. To recount it chronologically and entirely would result in a novel (perhaps a choose your own adventure novel in which any decision you make still results in your being stranded in south-suburban Santiago, Chile after a KISS concert in a moderately famous soccer arena) slightly more infuriating to attempt than Gravity’s Rainbow.

Rather than risk having my bag re-appropriated in the gauntlet that is the two blocks from the Subte to Retiro Bus Terminal (at 10:00 on a Sunday night at that), I decided to take a taxi. The driver was in a rather shitty mood until I paid the eleven peso fare plus a four peso tip entirely in one peso coins, at which point I received a “muchas muchas gracias.”

Saving a few pesos by taking semi-cama to Cordoba was a mistake, as the ride was long and crowded. Nonetheless, I was able to sleep for about half of the ride and woke up in a new city where I enjoyed breakfast at the bus station before dragging my belongings across the city to Baluch Hostel.

Cordoba is cool. It’s the second biggest city in Argentina (1.3 million) and home to a slew of universities, as well as the bookstores, music, clubs, and kids that come with them. It’s also at the base of the central sierras and a launching point for pretty much any type of outdoor adventure (skydiving, swimming, skiing, mountain biking, etc). It’s also way cheaper than already way cheap Buenos Aires. My time there was fun but relatively uneventful- fell asleep in a hammock on the roof of the hostel, wandered the city while consuming massive amounts of strawberry ice cream, enjoyed a traditional Israeli dinner with some guys from Tel Aviv who were staying at the hostel, and went out in Nuevo Cordoba with a big group of people from all over the place.

The roof of the hostel.

The city from the roof.

The city at night.

A cheap cab from the hostel had me on a bus five minutes before my 10:00 pm departure for Mendoza. This time I was riding in a coche-cama bus, with the entire front row of the second floor to my self. While this provides for a great view of the road ahead, it also provides for a petrifying view of oncoming traffic in the (highly likely) case that your driver decides to pass on the left without ample room. A warm dinner and complimentary malbec left me quite sleepy, and I was pleased to wake up to the lights of mendoza and the pre-dawn shadow of the Andes Mountains in the distance.

Ample legroom and red wine.

Kind of dreamy to wake up to this.

After consulting a map and a police officer, I decided it would be safe and cost effective to walk the fifteen or so blocks from the bus terminal to the hostel, only to run into a friend from Stockholm (who I’d last seen in Buenos Aires four days prior, as well as Sao Paulo a month before that) who was out for an early morning jog before a day of rafting in the Mendoza River. Needless to say, I had not even checked into the hostel before I was crammed in the back seat of a renegade van heading up into the Andes to go rafting.

Rafting was outstanding. The all you can eat asado (so much steak) at camp at the end of the trip was outstanding as well. I will post pictures from this when I get them from the Swedes.

The hostel in Mendoza was full of drunk high school kids from Cordoba who were on some sort of chaperoned trip. While this was funny to an extend, it also provided ample motivation to leave the hostel and go out elsewhere in the city after dinner.

The following morning began early, as check out was at ten and our bus to Santiago half an hour later.

Paper work for immigration to be filled out on the bus.

The drive over the Andes is unbelievable. Pictures do not do it justice. The Chilean border is at the highest point of the pass, and I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the thin air is somehow responsible for the ridiculous immigration process that takes place there. After getting off of the bus to be stamped out of Argentina and into Chile, you are asked to re-board the bus, only to drive about twenty feet into a sort of garage wherein the entire busload of luggage is unloaded and thrown through a series of machines while the passengers turn over signed paperwork swearing that no fruit or animal products are being brought into the country. In addition to this, the workers who move the luggage expect monedas (coins, but in this case “tips”). The Chilean border is also apparently sponsored by Nestle, as the Nestle Flavor flag blows proudly as you approach the building.

Looking out the front of the bus at the Andes.

The desert and the mountains.

Some sort of Argentine military base.

This is a bus station somewhere in the high desert where we stopped to pick up more people.

Still in Argentina.

Dry river beds.

A rest stop just before the border.

The actual border between Argentina and Chile.

The Nestle Flag.

The decent into Chile from the border is jarring. I’ve never been on a road that offers such a great drop in elevation in such a short distance. The switchbacks are sharp, steep, and entirely free of guard rails. I imagine the top front row is the place to be on this bus.

Next time I’m on this road I swear I’m going to be in the driver’s seat.

Sketch city.

These partial tunnels are incase of rock slides.

Santiago appears abruptly after a few hours of coasting through the Andean foothills and Chilean wine country.

Wine country on the way down to Santiago.

Santiago suburbs.

I’ve been in Santiago for about five days now and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. It’s big and sprawling and somewhat of a disaster. The people are really friendly for the most part, but in a way the whole place feels like it is still shaking the effects of the dictatorship. I’m sure the influence of the catholic church plays quite a role in this feeling as well. A walk through Barrio Brasil or Bellavista on a weekend night however makes it very apparent that the younger generations have moved on.

The geography of the city is very confusing. In addition to the fact that there seems to be no actual downtown, there is no body of water to serve as a beginning or end to the city. I managed to walk straight through the center without even realizing it. Geographically speaking, Santiago is the LA of South America (culturally, the LA of South America would be Caracas).

This is somewhere in central Santiago, from on a hill in a city park.

Same park.

Telefonica and the Metro Red Line.

I learned after I was here that this is actually considered downtown.

There are some beautiful old buildings here.

Weird open spaces.

The way the highway runs below street level through the old neighborhoods reminds me of the BQE in Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

Santiago’s buses are all green.

A Salsa Club in Bellavista.

I love this mural. It’s a few blocks long.

I hiked up Cerro San Cristobal, which is the big hill just outside Bellavista. There is a tram and a gondola to the top, but I was feeling in need of a good hike.

The view of the statue as I near the top of the hill.

Looking out over the city from the top of the hill.

Some guy drove this to the top. Totally jealous.

Generation gap.

This entry has been written in five minute intervals over the past few days. It’s now Tuesday evening and I’m flying back to New York tomorrow night. I went to Valparaiso yesterday and my camera is now dead and my voltage converter exploded. Today I hung out at a pool and ate some excellent guacamole. I’m finishing up this post while having a somewhat infuriating conversation with @marksteffen concerning my Thursday morning transportation from JFK to my home away from home in ever-festive Williamsburg and finally to the 23rd Street Olive Garden to feast on unlimited breadsticks, salad, and strawberry lemonade at the reunion lunch of the NYIC. I’ll driving back to real life (Chicago) after dinner on Easter Sunday. For the sake of my well-being (blood pressure in particular) I really hope I don’t have to look at snow when I get there.

This entry was written by brett, posted on April 7, 2009 at 3:02 pm, filed under Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.