PPP SGU Abroad Edition Part One: “I Want To Take… A Sentimental Journey” JAPAN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2012 by SLUTLUST

“…Not surprisingly, the rise of hip-hop music also hasn’t meant a rise in gangs or violent crime in Japan. But it has meant a rise in the crime of vandalism-namely graffiti. (Japan has a native word for graffiti, “rakugaki”, but this term usually describes simple etchings of the “yoko likes yuya” or “ichiro is a geek” variety.)”

Natalie Stanchfield.

A hacking cough wakes me up sometime late in the afternoon. I’m begging God it’s not the Swine Flu or a nuclear fallout cold I caught from dry humping the streets of Tokyo on my first night out. It had only been only 5 months since a major earthquake/ tsunami decimated the Japanese coastline causing a meltdown in 2 out of the 3 nuclear reactors. I pretty much felt my worries were justified. The air was humid with only an uneasy hint of fall making the simplest wardrobe choices terribly difficult. One minute you were glass cutting nipples chilly – the next minute you were clawing yourself out of your layers like you were on fire. My eyes were glazed and my face balmy as my hands reeked of cheap whisky and acrylic paint. I looked sick.

M**T was kind enough to let me sleep my stray dog antics off on his bed at the Cerulean Towers hotel while he put in a day’s work at this installation he was creating for “And A” along with S**F and LOVE ME. “And A” was a clothing/ lifestyle brand/ store that was hosting them for their 10th anniversary – and had something to do with the Sotheby’s enterprise. Sotheby’s sounded fancy – I recognized the name from Page Six when celebrities would buy stuff from other rich folk that they would then auction off for outrageous prices. We would later find out it was “Sasabee’s” which meant something huge in Japan but nothing to us in America. I needed to clean myself up. I was there to do important shit. I was supposed to be taking pictures and not sleeping off a night that started off with a 16 hour flight and ended at 9am running out of a Tokyo hand job shop.

“You pay now!”

That played over and over in my head as I blew a pack of cigarettes out of my nose. I never drank with such boorish behavior back in New York City. Apparently I snored. Something that’s always cool to find out when you’re bunking with other men. When I was approached about joining this fieldtrip a couple of months ago in truth I didn’t really want to attend. I had never did an all homeboy camping trip so my first one being on the other side of the planet had me a little apprehensive. I also remembered reading a story about M**T and S**F almost dying in a gang fight in Beijing so yeah I was definitely apprehensive. Japan, with its mystery dragon, lady boy, Yakuza, samurai shit – and these two certified wild boys? No thank you. I’ve gotten into violent boxing matches with my shadows that have ended in decision.

And then I found out Pablo “P3D” aka “The Kentucky Gentleman” himself, N**S, was going. Greg NAW and ZOOTED also agreed to come along with the guys from Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn. DJ Will Robbins also attached himself to the line up along with his girlfriend Tanya (who was the daughter of our host who facilitated the And A deal) and her best friend forever Kamaryn, who I swore were sisters until I befriended them on Facebook. I didn’t know LOVE ME, whose moniker was all over my city and easily spotted in the opening credits of Saturday Night Live was going till we got there. And then you have my very eager camera and 18 rolls of film – all just dying to go.

That decided it… If I was going to die out in Japan, this was going to be a very crowded and fun way to die.

I did the best (or worst) I could’ve to saved up enough money to cover my flight and a little bit of pocket change so I could feed myself. Our hotel room was booked in a 5 star hotel in the Shibuya district. According to The M**F’s – who had already visited Tokyo – the room was big enough to fit at least 4 people.  They set it up so N**S and I would bunk with them. A graffiti writer sleepover! I thought to myself. A graffiti writer sleep over scented with the fresh smell of Krink markers and spray cans, paint splattered sneakers and half empty bottles of booze. Our sleepover would also have the proverbial “loose cannon” (N**S), the crankiest Jesus Christ/ ZZ Top impersonator on the illegal side of a spray can (S**F), a human Smirnoff vodka bottle (M**T), and myself, a wide eyed Mogwai (from the movie “Gremlins”) minutes away from midnight and his next meal. I made sure to pack an extra liver and opened up a bank account with 2 separate ATM cards in case I lost one in this perfect maelstrom of a “working vacation”.

The room goes from dark and quiet to really colorful and busy. M**T and S**F entered the room from working all day to pick up a few more supplies and to wait for Pablo’s arrival. It’s around 6pm. I drag myself into the bathroom and peel off last night from my skin. My fingernails are caked with spray can fluid and my clothes are spotted with ink. I’m pretty sure the streets of Tokyo looked worst – our urban nicknames scrawled on anything not neon or florescent. The quick shower I took does little for my composure – just enough to allow me a legible word in between my disruptive coughs. After I brush my teeth I use a shot of whiskey and Red Bull as mouth wash. The jolt to my system shakes me like a battered woman. When N**S finally arrives I throw up a little in my mouth out of sheer excitement. After exchanging pleasantries we each grab a bag with supplies and head out to And A.

Our walk through Shibuya is all anticipation with no expectations greater than more drinks and more painting. Every intersection was four more roads we could travel and vandalize. As we turn the corner to the store we are confronted with a huge M**F wheat pasted on the side of a 2 story Japanese version of an Urban Outfitters – but neater. The inside of the store was all glass, mirrors, and wood grain shelves combined into some post modernist concept only a nerd into architecture, design, and fashion could love. Everything down to the drink coasters they sold had this feel of “New York won’t be seeing the likes of this until next year” vibe. Even the T-shirts they sold had more technology than most of our inner city public schools. The staff was extremely pleasant and disarming to the point where we felt uncomfortable trusting them. Our sarcastic jokes fell flat and our bravado felt dated amongst their honorable posture– Japan is where egos go to die under the wrath of manners.

On top of the huge fill-in that decorated the outside of the store the crew was given a separate room inside of the store to defile. This would be the room that kept most of the products illustrated with the vandalism that used to be exclusive to the concrete walls and delivery trucks of a city in urban blight. From coats to a coffee mug with a velvet handle and high tech head phones, this was graffiti meets Skymall. The LOVE ME/ M**F tag had went from being blackbook scribble to an actual brand – as if tagging your building wasn’t enough these guys wanted to tag up your home interior and everything in it. The room was filled with a repetitive LOVE ME written over and over on a mirrored wall and glass with the M**F fill-in painted over it. A huge “Peter Pan Posse Forever Young Having Fun” was painted over everything complete with the ink drips that turned the room into an acrylic forest. Standing inside the room felt like you were watching the store form the point of view of the painted walls, trapped inside a black, silver, and red doodle.

The guys wrapped up their work for the day as our host in Tokyo arrives to the store. Her daughter (Tanya), who was supposed to have arrived in Japan with us the night before but had to spend a day in Alaska with Will and Kamaryn due to airplane trouble, finally arrive. Everyone applauds the fact that they are not shrapnel scattered all over Canada in some horrific engine malfunction. Our New York City in Japan crew is now a basket ball team with a full bench. Our host, in a celebratory mood – invites us all to a few drinks and food at a nearby restaurant. This turns out to be my first meal in Japan, interrupting was felt like a 24 hour alcohol binge. Before we leave the store we snatch up a few cans of paint at the behest of a suspiciously animated N**S. He repeatedly keeps telling us of this wall along some train track he wants to hit. It was like he wouldn’t shut up about it. Our host warns us of any shenanigans and advises us not to go bombing. Of course we agreed, while filling our pockets with an assorted collection of markers and mops. N**S blatantly grabs an entire box of spray-paint. This is when we learn that he’s already downed 3 bottles of sake. He’s been in Japan now for about 3 hours.

The dinner was cozy and jubilant – an authentic Japanese fare with a dash of western curiosity. Any place where you have to remove your shoes and sit on an embroidered cushion is automatically humbling. Our boisterous “happy to see you alive in Japan” vibe was muffled by the ambiance into a quiet scream. Everyone was on their best behavior outside of a formal dinner with your parents. As the foreign food and sake flowed our respectful apprehension turned into a welcomed familiarity. This is when I first started to notice N**S’s voice. It went from gentle giant to ardent politician. It got worst as the wood chip he was given that held the key to the cubby hole that held his shoes went missing:

“Come on guys, who got my piece of wood?”

“Hahahahahaha! Pause, N**S…”

“No I’m fucking serious who got my block of wood?”

“Shhhhh chill did you check where you were sitting at?” I say, trying to weather the tempest.

“Yeah it’s not there come on guys give me my block.”

By this time our host and the others had already filtered out of the restaurant, M**T and S**F couldn’t contain their laughter at Pablo’s growing temper tantrum and skipped outside leaving me to deal with it. This only agitated the situation.

“Are you fucking guys kidding me COME ON GUYS GIVE ME MY WOOD.”

“N**S I think you put it in the box with the paint did you check it?”

“YEAH I DID IT’S NOT IN THERE!”

(This was the 1st time in Japan I felt slightly embarrassed – and I ran out on a hand job the night before.)

“No I don’t think you did, let me check it” as I go reaching for the box of paint.

“NO!” he pouts like a spoiled child in a day care.

“N**S, just give me the box.”

“NO!”

I passively wrestle the box out of his hand and after a few moments he reluctantly lets it go.

Of course the wood chip in question was in the box. I had to bite my lip to keep me from exploding with laughter.

We all exchange goodbyes with our host and plan on meeting the other kids later on in the evening for some Tokyo nightlife. We leave them under the guise of returning back to our hotel room for a disco nap. They all stress again for us not to do anything stupid informing us that the Tokyo police doesn’t take kindly to vandalism. We adamantly agree not to, nodding our heads in agreement as N**S is climbing on a garbage can to catch a tag in the foreground. There is no taming him now. No one noticed this incredibly loud and sloppy move but me.

The minute our host got into a cab – once again – we were climbing over everything to like ants at a picnic leaving our names as evidence of our infestation. Somehow, in what was the ball dropping move of the trip, N**S became our Peter Pan and we all blindly follow him.

This is when the deal goes sour.

It’s about a 20 minute walk from the restaurant to the dearly coveted, and oversold, wall. N**S leads the charge – like a pirate declaring anarchy against clean surfaces – with M**T and LOVE ME in tow. S**F and I hang back, slowed down by his need to tag every 3 seconds, my taking a picture every 3 seconds, and our paranoid need for caution. Soon enough we reach the train track which is outside and down a steep ditch several meters away from an entry to an underground tunnel. While walking along the outside of a track we notice a large team of train workers sorting out their equipment and getting ready to start their shift – complete with flood lights and a video camera. For a minute I thought the workers were being interviewed by the media about their DEVO’ish (80’s nu- wave band) work outfits. You would think this would have been seen as a major red flag – but no. We address it with a wise crack and proceed to walk another 100 or so yards before breaking into the Tokyo transit system

I’ve always loved graffiti. Since I was young I would change my name over and over again till I found a moniker easy enough for me to write and connect all the letters with a respectable street penmanship. I never went bombing. I always kept my vandalism to art blackbooks and whatever desk I was stationed at in public school. By the time I was old enough to move around the city without my mother chaperoning me the train era of graffiti was over. The first time I actually grabbed a can of paint was in my senior year of high school while attending night school at Washington Irving in lower Manhattan. My friend at the time, FOCUS RFC, took me right after class and we tagged the entire length of 14th St. from the West Side Highway all the way to Avenue D on the Lower East Side. Mind it you was 9pm and a very different New York from the homogenized metropolis it is now.

I would tell you the feeling was better than sex or drugs but I couldn’t – being that back then I was still a sober, wide eyed virgin. 18 years later and every conceivable vice I could get my hands on and try at least one confirmed it – nothing beats seeing your name up on a wall or when other people tell you that they have seen it. Nothing would ever beat the fear of getting caught or the feeling of paint shooting out of your hands like a super hero blasting a complex signature from his palm onto someone else’s property.

Nothing.

In.

The.

World.

And now I was all the way the fuck over in Japan about to do the same with some of the most infamous writers ever to touch a fat cap. And tagging in a train yard? My inner child couldn’t stop masturbating to the thought.

We find entry to the train track at a part of the gate with not that much barbed wire and next to a wall making it easier for us to scale it. Once over the gate and through some bushes, the trench dipped at an angle for about 10 feet before touching a ledge and then it went down for another 20 stories. I was the last one to hop over. By the time I reach my motley crew LOVE ME and N**S where already on the train tracks decorating the holy grail of walls. M**T and S**F were still on the upper ledge changing spray can caps. I readied my camera. This was going to be my film version of Video Graf (a graffiti video magazine from the 90’s that showed writers bombing all of existence), Ryan McGinley (a well-known NY based photographer that started with photo’s of street art) moment. In my excitement I take a photo of S**F catching a tag with the flash on – forgetting everything I had learned from watching Mr. Brainwash fumble around in Exit through the Gift Shop. This wins me a resounding “What the fuck are you doing!?” quickly cooling my first time at an amusement park experience. The bass in S**F’s voice reminded me of how tense and dangerous everything we were doing was and how I wasn’t on the other side of the gate looking in, I was a now a co-defendant.

Before I could allow the thought to settle in and cement itself into common sense we are met with a running and out of breath LOVE ME. The train workers who we had seen earlier had started their shift and were make their way down the track in our direction. He quickly scurried up the wall and hid with us under the shadows of an over pass that was near us on the upper ledge. We could only assume that N**S was still hiding somewhere on the track. This was it: my “Locked up Abroad” moment. I refused to allow the guys to see me shake in fear and instead of going with my better judgment of leaving I stayed in the shadows with my team.

We laid still under the silent Tokyo darkness with only our heartbeat and gasps for air as our conversation. Each second felt like an hour. Once the track maintenance train shuffled passed us without incident we relaxed and waited for its light to fade into the tunnel. The minute the coast was clear M**T and LOVE ME slid down to the rail road to finish what they started while S**F stayed with me on the ledge to work on the fill-in he started. N**S came out of from whatever whole he was hiding in and continued painting. The worst was now over.

Or so I thought.

The last few paragraph repeated itself exactly 3 more times.

Back at the hotel room we kept trying to figure out where we went so wrong. The consensus was that if this had been NYC we would have never entered the tracks after seeing all of those transit workers idly standing by. Not only did we walk right by them we broke into the tracks only a couple of feet away from them – basically the equivalent of holding the door for them. If that wasn’t enough of a bad omen how did we even conceive it was of a sound mind decision to stay in those tracks after the first maintenance train rolled by? Did we believe that a police force in Tokyo was nonexistent? We definitely acted as such that the first night we arrived, ragging any surface without care as to what property it was or who was watching.

Things we never would have done in NYC…

Well that’s all not entirely true.

So we blamed NEWS, who was so drunk we are all still experiencing his hangover till this day.

LOVE ME scaled back up the wall in what appeared to be one hop. M**T followed like he was still in communist Russia trying to fly his way out of Siberia. All I heard was that there was someone with a flash light on foot. Cops?! We didn’t wait around. One by one we flew over the gate like it was an Olympic hurdle and we were all going for the one gold medal. In my anxious escape I scraped half of my shin off but didn’t realize it until several days later as the adrenaline masked any pain I should have felt. I looked back once to make sure N**S was following but I only saw the guy with his light saber of a flash light screaming like an extra in a Godzilla movie. N**S was nowhere behind us. We quickly spot a cab and pile into it. I keep yelling at everyone to wait for N**S but I was in such a frenzied shock I couldn’t even hear myself. This gave me my first lesson in graffiti: every man for his motherfucking self. I didn’t even have my door shut before the cab pulled off into the neon city – as if our driver knew he was our getaway car. I look back towards the scene of the crime to see N**S face finally appear over the gate. I try to get our car to stop for him but my voice is lost amongst the commotion. I closed my eyes in exhaustion and quietly pray he finds his way back to our hotel.

We pour out of our taxi and into our lobby in an exhilarated rush of “we fucking made it”. Everyone picked a corner of the room to nervously giggle off almost being caught and “Locked up Abroad”. I grab the lukewarm whiskey I had stashed behind the window blinds and do a shot straight out of the bottle like it was a much needed sedative. I’m so pumped up my hacking cough is no longer. Everyone catches their breath and the room starts to fill up with everyone escalating and elated gibberish. This was normal shit to the others – it was a moment of an entire lifetime for me. I was no longer playing it safe, taking pictures from afar, I was in the story. Shit I almost was the story. My common sense and need for adventure collided at the bargaining table and the negotiations fell apart. Everything was one big “what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck???”

Soon M**T’s voice cuts through our slowly settling rabble; “Yo call N**S’s phone.”

I scrolled through my Black Berry until I reached his name quickly like my fingers just remembered it had some chores to do and our mother was almost home. I even didn’t care about how much I’m was being charged in roaming fees my main concern was The Kentucky Gentleman’s safety. Each ring had my finger crossed and an offering to the God of Overseas Vandalism. By the 4th ring he picks up.

“Yo you ok?”

(Obviously.)

“Yeah yeah I’m good where are you guys?”

“We are at the hotel, come to the hotel.”

“Yeah but how do I get there?”

“Just grab a cab any cab tell them the name of the hotel they’ll take you.”

“Nah fuck it I’m gonna walk.”

“NO DON’T WALK, GET IN A CAR!”

“Ok ok I’ll get a cab, but where?”

“THEY ARE EVERY WHERE!!!”

“Ok ok”

The phone hangs up and the room explodes with life again. S**F stops with the doomsdays scenarios and M**t stops hiding all of the evidence that littered our room, LOVE ME starts laughing. I go on a 20 post twitter rant about what had just happened to us. The last thing any of us needed was N**S getting arrested and starting some huge international incident and getting us all into major trouble with our host. Everyone relaxed and the next few minute are filled with the congratulatory jargon and the “what if’s” every graffiti writers showers each other with after a great escape.

Once again this was common place for them but for me – this was now Heaven.

Fifteen minutes have passed. We all collectively stop with our bullshitting and wonder why N**S hasn’t arrived yet. I call him back. This time he answers in one ring:

“Yo I’m getting arrested…”

That’s followed by a bunch of inaudible screaming in Japanese.

“What?!” I yell into my phone, eyebrow raised and the smile dripping off my face.

“yeah I’m getting arrested I’ll talk to you la…’

And the phone goes dead. And the air leaves our room. Our jaws drop and everyone starts frantically hiding paint and stickers again and I start erasing tweets. This was only my 2nd evening in Japan – N**WS 6 hour in Tokyo – and the deal has gone extremely sour.

…as told by Killah Priest and Instagram.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 by SLUTLUST

“Old and new kiss everywhere in Africa”

John Gunther, “Inside Africa”.

“Peace Killah Priest”

“Peace, wassup man?”

“Chillin baby”

“I’m with you”

“Yo.. I wanna know what’s goin on? Ever since that Basic Instructions Before Leavin Earth I wanna know what you gonna do for us right now. It’s been a while baby, we waitin!”

“I’ve just been chillin, been chillin I been in the lab writin and stuff y’know? I just been on my, ya’ know, knowhatI’msayin? On some…”

Guns, shootouts and crack sales.

Black males who pack jails, trapped in hell.

No peace, cold streets, surrounded by po-lice this whole week.

Buildings with no heat.

No lights, the gas pipes with slow leaks.

Dog fights and lowlife throw dice the whole night.

Thieves, creeping in the midnight evenings, we soar through the misty regions.

Go to your house, take a vial for the demons.

The moons in – the lunar eclipse

Prophets stand in the midst of the seven candlesticks…

I can’t take it, beauty that was once sacred-

Is now gettin facelifts, fake tits, and fake lips.

Cold embraces…

Memory erases, from the slave ships.

My princess, I used to spot her from a distance –

Holding my infant,

Burning incense –

The moment intent…

For her to step into my white tents.

Now we step in precincts –

For your ebony prince.

The small of frankincense; once treated like a pharoah.

With royal apparel, annointed with myrrh and aloe.

We used to wallow, amongst the mallows.

We had herd sheep and cattle, now we battle.

Used to pass over Brooks of Qe’ron.

Towers of Lebanon.

The Pool of Gechron.

We used to sing songs, upon Mount Hebron.

How his gold turned to bronze.

And shhhhhh….

 

How is gold turned to bronze.

We was the wisest and the richest.

Now we’ve turned to snitches…

Women turn to bitches, in the time of harvest.

We was the smartest, worshiped wisdom like the Goddess.

Now we act retarded.

Forsook the Wisdom of the Fathers…

We use to have a thousand flagons of wine…

In Palestine,

Now we drink Ballentine…

And raise up in the violent mind.

We used to have a hundred measures of oil,

Eighty measures of wheat and barley.

We live Godly…

Listening to Bob Marley,

Before the devils robbed me,

Chasing us through the African safaris…

From Then Till Now.

What goes up must come down.

What goes down comes back around again.

Where it all began…

Singing holy anthems,

lampin with all my handsome grandsons,

hair long as Sampson.

Inside my gold mansion, they used to wear purple Pampers.

But now we Black Panthers,

Some are actors and dancers.

 

It’s funny how the dollar bill have my seeds holler for meals.

Mother swallow a pill.

Roads seem hollow but still,

Grab a bottle to heal…

It’s like a noose of seventh seal over Brownsville.

What’s the difference between the ghetto and death row?

I’m trapped up with cleptos, the tec blow.

I’m left in seft low, where the cries echo and echo and echo and echo and echoes…

From the Crystal City, near Getti.

Children used to grow on lillies, now they roll up Phillies.

But the pyramids of Cheops,

Is my weed spot.

Sometimes I eavesdrop in the books of Enoch.

We went from studying The Epistles of Paul

Beneath a waterfall,

Rubbing crystal balls…

But now we spray paint initials on the wall…

Africa and London. 2012

Killah Priest “From Then To Now”

Heavy Mental.

1998

(*A special thank you to James Sheffeild-Dewees for the inspiration and Marcus Hedgpeth for his trust.)

How Not To Smoke Opium: Cambodia Part 3 The Lotus Flower Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2011 by SLUTLUST

“I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”

Zhou Dunyi
In science class you learn that heat turns water into steam which makes some cloud then rain then this huge circle of life that occasionally involves lightning and thunder. Basically a process you can’t tell that’s happening creating something you can see, feel, and hear. Weird. As I sat slumped in my tile covered bathroom I wondered if that’s what was going on in my lungs – the fire hitting the blunt creating the smoke that bounces out the air from my insides replacing it with a lake full of ideas your brain can fish from. Add the vacationer’s hangover and those ideas become low brow philosophies born out of dehydration, regret, and what was I saying again? Kara is rushing me out of the bathroom – again. The weed I copped two days ago was stronger or was my tolerance to drinking breaking down? What the fuck is wrong with me? I was late to Kara’s “Make OJ Cry Cambodian Tour 2011”. I grab a pink Claw Money tank top with a cheeseburger as the logo – blaming that accidental arrogance on my last-minute five minutes ago. An American cheeseburger. This was my last full day in Cambodia and we were going to tour The Floating Village and The Killing Fields.

“The floating village of Chong Kneas is a living reminder of how significant water is to Cambodian life. Archaeological evidence suggests that even 3,000 years ago, people in the region lived in houses built on stilts and subsisted on a diet of fish and cultivated rice. Still, it is in the realm of mythology that perhaps the most powerful connection between Cambodians and water is made: Legend tells that the Cambodian people descended from the union between an Indian Brahman and the daughter of the king of the Naga, the snakelike water spirits. The Cambodians, it seems, once born of water, will never be far from it.”

 

Carolyn Gramling

The drive towards the village is quieter than a pot head 10 minutes after his last toke. Well, it was 10 minutes after my last toke and in between heavy breathing and my rinse cycle of a poisoned stomach I had nothing. I was psyching myself up for the hot air balloon ride we were going to take before we got to the village. We could only go at 9 am and I was turned all the way up. The Balloon would take us over the temples and I’M MOTHERFUCKING AFRAID OF HEIGHTS IT’S A BASKET IN THE SKY. When I was younger I saw my childhood dreams go from astronaut to air force pilot to artist the first time I remembered begging to sit near the window on a flight. Kara spent the entire ride making fun of my phobia in these cute little giggles that had me convinced she caught a contact high. To my – returning the air to my face – relief it was too windy and the hot air balloon couldn’t launch. Mind you, a windy day in Cambodia felt softer than the breath a whisper leaves on your ear.

The hustle outside of the dock where the tour for the Floating Village took off reminded me of the South Street Seaport minus the mobsters and modern technology. Our driver lets us off to what becomes a shouting auction of people trying to get us to join their tour in butchered English. Everyone sounds like Donald duck without the auto tune. We quickly pay 20 bucks to someone in the crowd giving us a moment to breathe. Our tour guide turns out to be a teenager with scars older than his physical existence. All of the other boats where full and that left us with another private – I guess I’m going to have to pay attention and cram to understand and answer this guys questions – expedition. I roll my eyes at Kara. A little Cambodian boy, fascinated by my dreadlocks, decides to join us. This little boy, barefooted and treated like some corner store alley cat, is as old as my son. Maybe younger.

The water is brown. Brown like the runoff water you would find in a pottery class. Children were playing in it and old fishing couples did their daily chores in it. For a minute I couldn’t tell if we were in a shallow river heading towards the lake or in a sewer heading towards the East River. The air was definitely thick and pungent with the odor of dead sea life. Our tour guide goes into some explanation of the water but the only thing I could gather was that we were less than a month away from the rainy season and the summer drought had all but dried the entire river. He then pointed out the blue and yellow polls with the crossed out arrows pointing up and told us that during the rainy season the water level increased up to the bottom of the sign. All of the houses that ran along the bank where temporary and every year at the end of the rainy season the river would drain the fisherman would build them back up again. From where I was on the boat the tip of that sign was at least 5 stories high. So yeah basically I was at the bottom of the East River.

After some minor digging ourselves out of a shallow part on the floor of the bank we enter the lake leading to the village. The lake looks like an ocean with nothing in sight for miles and miles. Several times I asked myself if the putt putt of a motor on our junk boat had enough power to get us back to land safely in time or if anyone would even find us out there.  Sure enough we were found – one boat with an old lady and her child selling snacks and a boat with an older man and two children offering us a picture with their snake for a dollar. I opted out of touching the snake due to some weird rotting scab it had and grabbed us some snacks instead. Kara does not pass on this photo opportunity and tosses kisses at the diseased reptile. The little stowaway that accompanied motions me for a soda and I gladly oblige, earning the scorn of our eagle-eyed tour guide.  I assured him that it was ok and of no consequence but that brush off did not satisfy him one bit – and he went into the saddest thing I’ve heard to date:

“These children, they are bastards. Some of the mothers are young whores who have sex for money or girls that get raped and have these kids and don’t know what to do with them, so they are children of the gutter, no family to take care of them. They feed off the land and the kindness of strangers; some raise each other from bay as they are babies. The older kids use them to labor and that’s how they live their lives. They know better than to not beg tourist though, we are proud people and we don’t want them annoying people so that they don’t come back and spend money. They are like animals; we try to be nice but, no respect.”

Once again, this child was as old as my son.

Or younger.

Shanty towns are amazing. The ingenuity used to build a shelter out of sheet metal and wood – everything tied together with rope and a determination born out of survival. Now imagine this on bamboo sticks and tire parts floating in a lake. It reminded me of the tent village that used to occupy Tompkins Square Park before Mayor Giuliani evicted everyone – but with a real blue-collar dignity. They had a school and a police force. There was a gift shop with an alligator farm and a system to get rid of garbage. These were poor people, some Thai and Vietnamese expats, who dedicated their life to fishing for a living. The raining season would destroy most of the houses along the river so a floating village was the obvious step in their evolution. The fish caught there would take care of all Cambodia but the money the fishermen made from it was nothing – victims of vendors that prey on the uneducated. That didn’t mean they weren’t savvy. They would save on gas by living and working from the middle of the lake the entire season and when the raining season would start they would tie together and buoy most of the village so it would float safely in the center of the lake while they sought refuge in the hills.

This.

Fascinated me.

The deeper we went into the village the more my fascination turned into morbid curiosity. I would looked into the houses to see the families all tanned and bored – everything  slow like the hour hand on a clock. Maybe I was in the suburban part of the village? No, these people were too poor to be bored. Soon children came from everywhere, one even using a pot as a boat with a huge wooden spoon as an oar, everyone asking for a dollar. My hands couldn’t go from my wallet to their tiny hands fast enough forcing Kara to smother my lucky man guilt with a pillow of financial honesty. This was our vacation, not our charity. By then it was too late, our guide – the grim reaper of all tour guide – started to tell us about the school as he docks into a general store:

“The school is for the poor people here, most of the children are orphans, a lot of their parents die when they are fishing and it rains. Most of the kids here are afraid of water and can’t swim because they are afraid that they will die like their parents. We take these kids in and teach them and they live at the school. We don’t have much money so we depend on tourists to help buy them supplies and food. Then they grow and they also become fisherman or help work for tour to make money for family. We are all family here. See the kids with the candy and on the boats? Everyone works.”

And with that I try not to drop a tear as I dropped around 70 American dollars for some notebooks and noodles to donate to the school.  Of course the grim reaper then takes us to the school so we can personally deliver the supplies because I needed a shot in the face in case I was still alive. Kara can’t leave this exploited scam of a place soon enough.

The ride back to the main dock was quiet. All I could think about was how poor my mother was growing up in the Dominican Republic and if she never had the courage to run away to the states how I could have been one of those kids. Bathing in that same brown water with my bastard friends, hustling some tourist for a dollar while posing with my fingers making that stupid peace sign. My father denying me at birth went from being the worst of my history to the greatest of my blessings. The little stowaway was there in our boat playfully massaging Kara’s sun beaten back. That wasn’t my son. My son was safe in America. I guess that’s cool, right? How long was I stoned for?

We get back to the dock under gradually graying skies. Kara spies what we think is a sweet sixteen or a wedding on the other side of the parking lot. I spy some land beggar children shouting at us from the other end of the lot trying to get our attention – adding fuel to my emotional exhaustion and Kara’s annoyance. We run to the colorful Cambodian affair and hop around like we are some of the locals mingling in to whatever traditional south Asian pop that was coming out of the speakers. After a few awkward moments we decide leave before our driver sends out a search party and our antics cross the line into racism. What happened next will forever remain as one of the most wonderful moments in my very high life:

As we approached the parking lot where our driver was one of the beggar kids ran up to me with a bag. Kara, tapped out and tired of the constant begging – implored me not to pull out another dollar. The little girl became more persistent and kept shoving her bag in my face. Kara let out an exasperated “OH MY GOD” and walked away from me mumbling something about a vacation and how I couldn’t save everyone.  I gently tell the girl I didn’t have any money but she insists that I look into the bag – and I did.

Right before I came to Vietnam I was working on an art project about food. I created a piece I called The Vietnam Diet. The Vietnam Diet was supposed to be at first a typewritten record of my day-to-day diet before my trip; self corrected in red ink and printed on a plate. For two weeks I couldn’t find anywhere in New York that would print my images on a plate without me sending it someplace and waiting a month for it. In the end I wound up using cups – a pretty good substitute – but none the less not my original idea. Now here I am in Cambodia calling Kara to come look into this bag this little girl who is probably an orphan is eagerly shaking at me. Kara takes one look in the bag – and we give the girl 10 dollars. What I couldn’t find back in the states I was holding in Cambodia. Somewhere when we were entering the tour someone took a picture of us and developed the photo and printed them on collector plates within the 3 hours we were on tour.

Two American burgers, each with their own plate.

In retrospect you get the same thing when you get off the Cyclone in Coney Island, but you knew that souvenir was there waiting at the end for sale. We didn’t even know this was on the table – so to us it was a pretty cool hustle, magical in fact. And then we got to the Killing Fields, where the magic quickly wore off:

“The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970-1975). Analysis of 20,000 mass grave sites by the DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University indicate at least 1,386,734 victims. Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a population of around 8 million.”

Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“I searched for a bed, but that was wishful thinking;

I felt so helpless. Two midwives materialized –

one squatted over her abdomen and pushed,

the other reached up my wife’s womb and ripped the babies out.

The midwives choked the babies — children were often regarded by the Khmer Rouge as a burden who interfered with adults’ ability to work.

Cringing as if I’d entered Hell,

I took the babies in my arms

and carried them to the bank of the Mekong River.

Staring at the moon, I howled.”

U Sam Oeur, he was a captain in the army of the American-backed Government of Gen. Lon Nol in Cambodia who wrote poetry writing about the death of his twins in one of the labor/ death camps in the Killing Fields. October 1975

Someone asked to take a picture of me and my girlfriend standing next to the monument built in the victims honor – I politely declined. You don’t smile at Ground Zero in NYC and you don’t cheese for touristy pictures at a God forsaken place like this. I have nothing to write about it.

We sit down for some street pho along Pub Street back in Siem Reap around 2 in the morning. Monday night was quiet with bars only doing brisk business. We were well lubricated, hoping the alcohol we drank would kill whatever food poisoning we were eating. Our last day in Cambodia was long and see saw emotional. We saw the real life water world and the field of not anyone’s dreams. We got to visit a real Buddhist temple and picked real lotus flowers, danced in a mini rain storm – marking the end of the summer drought – and swam in a 5 star hotel pool favored by Jackie Onassis. I (sort of) learned how to ride a bike and we got to eat at a traditional Cambodian buffet with real Khmer dancers performing for us. Our last day read like a Siem Reap travel brochure. Street meat was the last thing on our Cambodian bucket list, well sort of: We wanted to try opium.

We’ve learned nothing from the millions of hours spent watching locked up abroad

@Scarlettsmithin

Opium was consistently pushed in my face the entire time we was there, only to receive a sharp “no” and what I can describe as a football stiff arm of an “excuse me”. We learned when we first arrived in Cambodia that the punishment for drugs was serious and wanted no parts of it. We were rude as they were persistent and it felt like it paid off, by that time no one bothered us anymore – except for the little girl from a few nights earlier with the infant who forgot that we brought her a huge can of Infamil. Kara used that moment to teach the little girl a thing or two about being busted by a digital camera. Whatever. I left her to her moment to take a quick walk along the strip. There I saw the guy that sorted me out with the weed from a couple of nights before. Poking his head out of a dark alley, he was every cliche I could have imagined for a foreign drug dealer. After some light bargaining I take off with a bag of what appeared to be dried motor oil. I grab Kara and we run to our hostel giggling like a pair of school children that stole something.

I smoke proof the entire room. Of course, none of us know how to smoke opium. The first thing I do is rub it on a cigarette; this causes the cigarette to peel as the black tar on it makes it impossible to pull any smoke. Our room smells like a bunch of auto mechanics at a cigar party. After a half an hour of looking at each other with “do you feel it?” faces we try to put it in a blunt along with some weed. Kara isn’t a pot head so the weed instantly puts her to sleep. I’m awkward.

The sunrise was only 1 hour away. Everyone kept telling me how I shouldn’t leave Siem Reap without witnessing a Cambodian sunrise so I forced myself to stay awake. While Kara slept I Googled how to smoke opium and realized we were doing it all wrong. That explain the nausea I had in place of the anticipated euphoria. I peeled the remainer of the drug off the baggie it came in and rolled it into a ball as per instruction, placing it on the tip of my key. I then lit the ball and took a deeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppppp hit off the fumes.

For about 20 minutes I saw myself doing stuff then actually doing them. I was holding a beer before I reached out to touch it. I was sitting outside of my room on a balcony before I left my bed. I was smoking the rest of my weed clip before I even sparked it. And I saw the sun rise, feeling its warm bliss on my face before it actually rose.

Bob Marley & Anna Wintour Exposed! The Lost Halloween Night Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2011 by SLUTLUST

“She was “riveted” and acted as if she’d “met God,” one friend tells Oppenheimer, who reports she “virtually disappeared for a week” while notorious womanizer Marley was in town, spending all her time backstage. “When Wintour finally resurfaced, she looked utterly worn out from her exertions with the rasta legend, but denied to friends she’d spent the week in Marley’s bed. Pals didn’t buy it and assumed she merely wanted to keep him to herself. “

Page Six.

Bob was excited to be back in New York City. His one millionth joint didn’t prove to be any more of a downer than his several sold out shows he had scheduled all throughout the city. This feeling was better than being fired off a tour by Sly and the Family Stone for “hogging up all of the adoration”  or the Germans naming a car the BMW after “Bob Marley and the Wailers”. This feeling went deep into his loins, like the tingle a child gets after his first wet dream. This was Bob – in lust – with someone he would have never imagined he’d ever be in the same room with. A woman as powerful as she was sexy – a lion in a paper cage who was ready to pounce and maul an entire industry at the first sign of rain on her Manolos. He was having a secret rendezvous with the Athena of modern day fashion: Anna “The Ice Queen” Wintour.

Anna had a reputation to keep. She couldn’t be seen running around town with some Rasta-ruffian lead singer from the other side of town – or the ocean for that matter. Those are things you did after your 5th Mai Tai on a resort where you get those stupid beads in your hair, not in NYC. She was a woman of high powered couture and a low tolerance of flaws.  She was the heralding editor of the most powerful fashion magazine in the known universe and her power to make or break a brand or model was legendary. Designers groveled on the asphalt she walked on while models played intern to her madness and succumbed to her every whim. This was a woman who got as many marriage proposals as she did resumes. A diamond without the need for the rock, London had definitely unleashed its weapon of mass destruction on a concord jet and 9/11’ed 5th Avenue.

She gave her assistant an itinerary, and then gave her trusted friend the real one. She had her many minions believe she was going somewhere exotic to look at some new designer that was begging for the mercy of her eyes when in fact she was going to a small 1 bedroom apt in Brooklyn. She couldn’t risk a 5 star hotel or a no star hotel because he was Page Six fodder and everyone read the Post. Her trusted friend was instructed to leave her finest fur and a copy of the new November issue of Vogue at the cramped lower class abode and to leave the keys with the bodega on the corner. She couldn’t afford to be seen with her, or anyone for that matter. She was going out with Mr. “Bob Morley”, and she wanted him all to herself. It was Halloween that Sunday, and everyone was going to be in costume – they could go out as themselves and nobody, not even the all seeing eye of Page Six, would notice.

Bobs first stop was at a trap house in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Everyone there was readying their “party favor” shopping list for a night of impossible to recall wickedness. The blonde temptress that owned the apartment opened the door with her sexy smokers’ accident and her just got out of bed East Village  hotness.  Bob was shocked to see his good friends M***, and S*** already comfortable and pre-partying it up.  They all trade pleasantries and hug like explorers just arriving home from an expedition.  They ask him about his manager, who they had read in the local tabloids had been robbing him. Bob refuses to mention Don Taylor by name, only stating that most of his money is tied up now and “dem no worry we” due to the fact he beat him within a inch of his life.  They ask him about his family life, Bob laughs proclaiming he’s glad he’s not an American citizen because with his 20 plus kids and child support he would have killed his manager. Exchanges are made and handshakes are given and they all agree to meet later on that night.

Bob and Anna meet at the Lorimer L train station in Brooklyn. They assumed no one would ever suspect them on a train. Every car service in New York had trained their eye to spot and report whatever Anna was doing and Bob’s rising star was shooting through the stratosphere like a meteor. Two of the biggest stars in media on a pheasant train? Who would imagine? The local yokels with their vintage fair and their fresh from Tennessee smell knew none the wiser. Everyone thought Bob and Anna’s costumes were “ironic” and while the older “hipsters’ didn’t bat an eyelash the younger “I just moved to Brooklyn to slave at being cool” crowd hooped and hollered and offered high fives like they were free AM New York newspapers.  Bob and Anna didn’t mind, Bob was still catching a contact high from his clothes and Anna was already hype off the disco dust that was in Bobs tiny jean pocket. Also they weren’t in love; that was for their respective families and people they lie to – they were in LUST – an all consuming emotion that could only be described as a mongoose and a cobra locked in a cage for a death match.

They followed the West Village Halloween Parade around 20th street and 6th Avenue then made their way down to West 4th Street. Besides the actual marchers with the elaborate group costumes and creative floats blasting the dance music of the day, the streets where littered with the underbelly of New York’s “classiest”. From the project mom with 7 kids in tow all wearing half costumes to the NYU undergrad flasking some trust fund whiskey in her smuttiest get up. Fraternity brothers and their “I just blew my credit limit” on storm trooper outfits to thugs and criminals on the run from police who would be hiding on any given day except that today it was normal to walk around with a hockey mask. Black butchy lesbians who you would think were wearing a “hot rapper of the day” costume sexually harassing Puerto Rican girls doing their best “slutty bumble bee” impression. The night had the frenetic pace of an oil and water milkshake. By the time they had reached Christopher Street neither Bob nor Anna wanted any part of this fiasco. Anna claimed she hadn’t been around so many poor people since that one time NYC had a black out and she had to take the stairs from her offices at Conde Nast.

They make a quick left off Bleeker Street and have a quick drink at Delicatessen. By then Bob’s cell phone starts to go off with all sorts of party invitations demanding his required presence. Already intoxicated by Anna’s snobbery and her sheer black stockings, Bob started thinking of uncharted parts of the city in where he can tear them off with his ganja stained teeth. He makes a sexual joke about banging his balls against the paddle of her ass: because he’s a great ping pong player. She tells him she was hoping something along the lines of a tennis ball banging against her racket: because she has a thing for Roger Federer. They look at each other awkwardly -giggle- kiss like teenagers in a backseat of a lemon – and decide to go to a loft party in Chinatown instead.

Outside of the packed event was the collective of underground nightlife and graffiti goons known affectionately by Bob as “The Peter Pan Posse”. They were trying to rush the door of the party but the crowd was too dense for anyone to get near Ian, the overwhelmed but tragically cool door guy. Someone jokes to Anna that she could get a prime seat at the US Open but couldn’t get into this party.  Bob sneers at the “bro”. Anna just offers her trademark icey stare and the patience of a tarantula. Being that she really couldn’t blow her disguise – as herself- she does something no one would ever suspect the real Anna of doing: SHE WAITS IN LINE. Bob – happy to be around his NYC crew – starts hopping around and skanking like he was doing a parody performance of himself. The both of them are lost, officially mocking themselves on cc  tv.

Bob spots S*** and “Captain Black in America” smoking what looked familiar but smelled oddly chemical and without haste he steams it till the ashes hit his lips. A total lack of better judgment on his part. By the time Anna got the ok to walk pass the unpopulars waiting in line, Bobs Peter Pan partners had peeled off in a Masserati  and…

everything started…

to go..

reaaaaaaaaaallllyyyy…

slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

Bob had just cropped dusted himself.

When he finally snapped out of his walking coma, he was surrounded by his friend T**** and his S**** crew family. They all looked like wrestlers which confused the re awaking Bob. Anna was in good spirits but a little annoyed by Bob’s walking nap.  In true Wintour fashion she demands a drink and Bob starts jamming his way towards bar. It’s a full time job for him to hold his surrounding reality together as all the costumes start to disorient his already smothered brain cells. He finally finds a spot near a reptile and orders.

“Ya mon, me gwan need dem two jaques of de rocks..”

“Excuse me?”

“Bombo rast me need dem two jaques on de rocks!”

“Oh, I’m sorry; you don’t have to stay in character the entire time “Bob”. Here, that’ll be 24 bucks”

Bob rolls his eyes and beams a confident smirk, the one that got to warring faction of Jamaica on stage and made them reach a peaceful accord, and goes for his wallet…

He checks the front pockets.

Then his back pockets.

Then all of the pockets on his jacket and shirt.

He repeats this 3 times.

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaraaaassssssssst me lost dem boma clot wallet wif mi money Jah man wha fuckery in Babylon!!!”

(Photo provided by Nick Gallo)

Bob, in his dusted haze, lost over 500 dollars. Anna sensing Bob was taking too long goes to bar to find a Tasmanian Devil of dreadlocks in a tizzy. “Don’t worry darling, I’ll take care of this” she said, rubbing her fingers on her black Amex like it was the finest of silk. “I’m not used to taking care of men this way, but for you I’ll make an exception.” She then rubs her hand over his crotch and whispers “mmmmm feels like The September Issue…” and closes her soft lips around the tip of his earlobe. Bob closes his eyes and responds “girl flex, time to have sex…” but before Anna can respond they are whisked away to Kenmare where they find the Peter Pan gang and S*** in the exact same predicament Bob was in earlier. The walking nap was huge that Halloween.

After countless hello’s and getting highs in New York’s answer to the now defunct Beatrice Inn, Anna decides she’s over the fake disco and indie rock being played and decide she wants to hear some Morrissey at Sway lounge way over on the west side. Bob thinks she wants to leave because someone else showed up to dressed as her and she didn’t want her cover blown. She reminds Bob that he doesn’t like this music either and that he’s just too wasted to realize it. He laughs and as they get into a taxi he goes into this rant:

America is pure deviltry, dem t’ings dat go on there. Dem just work with force and brutality. Dem lock out the punk thing because they see something happening. So the oppressors bring another man to blind the youth to the truth, and dem call him-John Tra-vol-ta.”

This makes Anna’s pussy moist to the point it ruins her Agent Provocateur gifted panties.  After a brief accidental meeting with the emperor of Zamunda  and a few rolled up brown sticks of illegal gardening power Anna and Bob escape into the night to the tune of Morrissey’s “International Playboy”. They have their last drink around 6 am on the Rooftop of FatBaby on Rivington Street surrounded by people who the last thing they need in their life is a mention in Page Six. One of them organizes a car for them to take them back to their one bedroom love den in Brooklyn. Free to be themselves, they fucked in a fashion that would only rival a David la Chappelle photo shoot or something you could only do if you possessed Terry Richardson’s little black book. The apartment wasn’t big enough for their carnal desires so every inch of wall was covered in musty and illegal in several states lust. They collapse on a hardwood floor littered with dirty laundry and broken furniture. They order in using Spanish accents. Their only thought being “how do we explain this mess?” and “how do we leave here unnoticed after that?

Happy Halloween guys.

How To Ride An Elephant: Cambodia Part 2 The Tomb Raider Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2011 by SLUTLUST

 “I am a child of the universe.

 I deserve total recognition of this in the light of God.

 Being a child of the universe,

 I want to live in a world without war

 I want to live in a world without starvation

 I want to live in a world without pestilence

 I want to live in a world of love, peace and harmony

 Because I am a child of the universe.”

 The Cambodian Poem inscribed on Angkor Wat

 I get up a little earlier so I could forward my mother a Mother’s Day prose which I then posted on the internet*. The 12 hour time difference made 6am the time I knew she would see it. I was still processing the humanitarian education I received the night before. The rude – almost locked up abroad – Cambodian awakening from the previous night seeps into my overly grateful writing. All I kept thinking about was that haunting little girl with her infant brother hanging off her bony frame, the beggar children, and the teenage prostitution I had witnessed. My letter to my mother looks like a tear filled handkerchief folded into some dinner table origami – morose and yet magical.

 I hit send on my laptop then return to my room to smother my emotions in a wake and bake. Kara is already dressed and is rushing me to be done before our driver arrives to take us to the temples. I make fun of her “traditional” Cambodian MC Hammer pants/ tube top.  She responds with a borderline racist head nod. I veto wearing chucks and decide on my Jordan’s assuming the day was going to be filled with a lot of walking and climbing – I blamed the counter intuitive white jeans on the weed.

 Another day in the orient – another weird-looking fruit and grease breakfast.  My stomach is having a track and field day with no winners. Phanna, our hired driver, can’t come soon enough. I speak too soon; he was already waiting for us outside with a couple of bottles of water. How generous. His smile is as radiant as the sun and very anti hangover.  We drag our bodies into his car and unravel in the kind air conditioning. Our ride begins with us trying figure out the history lesson he’s giving us through his thick accent and our uncooperative ears. The only thing I gathered was that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed there. He picks up on the vibe and turns his eagerness to teach down a notch. This guarantees him another day as our driver.

The further we drive away from the hostel the deeper we get into the jungle. I look out the window anticipating Tarzan to appear swinging from vine to vine or a carjacking by the Planet of the Apes.  All I see are children frolicking naked in the river along our route while the natives carry the work of the day on their motor bikes. This reminds me of being really young in the Dominican Republic. Kara keeps a look out for the elephants. She’s really excited about the elephants. Back home, our friend Suzan told us about the elephants and attached a rant about the abuse of animals worthy of a PETA Christmas newsletter. Kara, who wasn’t a fan of the lecture, promises to send her a picture of us on top of one. Not one to deter a determined woman, we make a bee line to the temple with the elephant ride first.

 “Angkor Thom – also known as the “Great City”- located in present day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII.”

 “Angkor Thom was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII’s empire, and was the centre of his massive building program. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride.” (Wikipedia)

 My “bride” handles the elephant better than I could ever, while she confidently feed the mammoth beast and pets it without fear while I squirm and bite my bottom lip into stale chewing gum. I’ve watched enough “When Animals Attack” to know that showing fear around any animal never ends well so I keep a comfortable distance. I only get lost in Kara’s youthful and playful giggle and the overpowering smell of elephant shit. We climb the steps to the pachyderm mounting tree house and steady balance ourselves on the massive beast. With one tap of a bamboo stick we were off on a silent tour of Angkor Thom – silent because the Cambodian that rode the elephant with us didn’t know any English at all.

 “The last temple known to have been constructed in Angkor Thom was Mangalartha, which was dedicated in 1295. Thereafter the existing structures continued to be modified from time to time, but any new creations were in perishable materials and have not survived. In the following centuries Angkor Thom remained the capital of a kingdom in decline until it was abandoned some time prior to 1609, when an early western visitor wrote of an uninhabited city, “as fantastic as sustained a population of 80,000-150,000 people the Atlantis of Plato” which some thought to have been built by the Roman emperor Trajan. (Higham 140) It is believed to have sustained a population of 80,000-150,000 people.” (Wikipedia)

 None.

 Of.

 That.

 Shit.

  Mattered.

 To.

 Me.

 As beautiful and epic the view was from atop of the elephant along with the weather and all of the mysterious and exotic energy this ancient site contained I was really excited for my next illegal act that was gently hidden in a box of duty-free cigarettes. The second Kara turned her head to take a photo I light up my joint and let the bad ass’ness of my punishable by many years in jail act envelop me. I was halfway through my wacky tobacco when Kara noticed I wasn’t smoking a cigarette…

 “YOU’RE A FUCKING CHILD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”

She scolded me, but not before she took a picture of my guilty as charged face. The elephant navigator, along with not knowing what English sounded like, didn’t know what weed smelled like either.  Thank Buddha.

 BUCKET LIST.


There are over 200 temples that have since been discovered in Cambodia, Some small and in ruins and some inexplicably – maybe some aliens helped build this – large. Most were created between the 6 and 12th century, totally backing my E.T. as a celestial contractor theory.  Angkor Wat was first built as a Hindu temple city but was then converted to Buddhist when it was taken over by the Chams, a tribe that was the traditional enemy of the Khmer, in the 11th century. The walls dictate the epic battles between the two like some ancient graffiti beef with rock chiseling technology doubling as spray paint. It’s one of the better preserved temples due in part of the large man-made moat that surrounds it, long preventing the jungle from reclaiming it. The moat was once home to over a million alligators, but because of the booming illegal leather goods trade odds are if you are wearing a vintage alligator belt or wallet it came from that moat in Cambodia.

 The French explorer once wrote of it: “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo—might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.” I found that funny, considering they wouldn’t let Kara enter any temple with her shoulders exposed. So much for being barbarians.

It was beautiful, but we were tired. You see one temple, you‘ve seen them all.  Ohhh stone face here, aaahhhh weird mythical creature over there… We were the typical fat ugly American tourist. So after three hours of fancy rock climbing we met our driver and had him drive us to the on site market for food. The beggar children waited for us like they were paparazzi. We breezed pass them by leaving a trail of one dollar American bills and “I’m sorry I don’t have any more” smiles. They chase us all the way to the restaurant but stop short of the restaurants owners’ silent scowl, almost like there was a force field.  I wonder about the blood this understanding must have been written in.

We order one of those traditional Indian fares that you have to eat with your hands and guaranteed to give you a 5 alarm fire on its way out of your asshole. Thank God every single bathroom I’ve encountered in Cambodia has a water hose for your butt. For a “barbaric culture” the farts out here must smell like Irish spring. We pay our bill then ask our driver to take us back to our Hostel. On the way out we spot these monkeys trying to steal fruit from one of the vendors. They chase them off with what appears to be slingshots. I wonder if this is what they do to the beggar children. The minute we step outside they all reappear out of nowhere like poverty ninjas. One of them calls me Michele Obama. I assume it’s the education and not a diss.

“Gimme dolla…”

“I’m sorry, no more money – finished”

“ohhhh come on juan dallaaaaaa…”

“Love you’re beautiful but I don’t have any more I’m sorry…”

“I no want to be beautiful – I want dolla…”

And with that, I closed the door to the air-conditioned Altima and sunk into the leather seats in a profound sadness.

We return to our Hostel early in the afternoon and book one of those 3 dollar 1 hour massages as a couple while trying to convince myself that I’m on vacation. Before our driver left he told us how some of the fancier 5 star hotels in the area allow you to use their pool for a small fee. Our hostel doesn’t have a pool and the brown water the little children were playing in earlier was never an option. We keep that in mind as we dress into spa appropriate clothing. The mini spa is a replica of our Hostel room with the addition of the stereo playing traditional rub down music and the Buddha be praised incense. Ok this should be relaxing…

 WRONG.

 What followed was 45 minutes of the worst massage ever. First of all it was a tiny Cambodian lady with the hands the size of a toddler. Although she did put me into some weird positions and cracked a couple of bones I didn’t even know existed – everything about the massage felt like a medical examination. It was got weirder when she turned me on my back and started pressing my upper thigh in what I considered an attempt to feel out the size of my dick. My girlfriend was only a few feet away! Her Cambodian banter with the other masseuse that was attending my girlfriend started to pick up in a mischievous fervor the closer her hands got to my junk. Is this bitch talking shit about me?!  But I didn’t draw the line there – I drew it when she grabbed my toe in what I interpreted to be her pointing out the corn on my pinky toe, dropping it like she touched something gross,  and making fun of it. I left like an American tornado after a “relaxing” 45 minutes to their faux protest.

We wake up later that night after a long and much-needed nap. By the time we are ready for the pool only one of them was open. We opt out of calling our driver and decide to take a Tuktuk (a carriage pushed by a motorcycle) or a motorbike there. We hit the corner of our Hostel and once again are instantly drowned in people trying to hustle us every and anything. One guy is really persistent. It takes me several – I’m really stoned out of my mind – seconds to realize it was my pot dealer from the night before. You would think after last night’s escapade I would avoid being around this individual, but no. After minor lost in translation small talk he gets one of his friends and they both take us to the hotel on the back of their motorcycles.

 Maybe it was the weed or the arrogance that comes from being from New York City, but by this time I felt all too familiar with the dark alley ways our drivers kept turning into. I wasn’t afraid, neither was Kara. We waved our hands in the air taking pictures of each other while our flashes cut through the blinding and humid Siem Reap night. We were both sober, but drunk with the power of us mastering this strange and exotic land. I was on the elephant that was Cambodia, stoned, with the one I loved, lost in this world, and I didn’t give a fuck.

 We arrived at the hotel and scheduled our motor cabbies to come pick us up in a couple of hours. The pool is nothing like I expected, littered with cigarette butts and a few empty beer cans. We assume this was all probably left over from last night’s action or some douchey European get together earlier. It’s dark and far from the Hotel receptionist prying eyes and no one else was there, we had that chlorine filled playground all to ourselves…

We jump in.

Whiskey comes out.

Clothes come off.

I go in.

We get off.

We get out.

And this time no European ravers were seen spying on us.**

Our drivers drop us off at the corner of the mini mart from the previous night. I’m too drunk to even pay attention to the hookers and beggars and make my way straight to the bar. I am on vacation I am on vacation. I don’t know what constitute a perfect day but the adrenaline pumping inside of me decides this is very close to one. Something about doing what you’re not supposed to do turns me on. Cambodian street cred? I’ll take it. I’m an international bad ass. Holy shit.HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

I looked at our underage bartender and she’s wearing the same outfit from the night before.  I no longer saw someone being exploited anymore. I saw a young beautiful girl doing whatever she has to do to help her family survive. I grew up in dirt poor crack-cocaine Harlem and the burned down then gentrified Lower East Side of New York City. I never saw my friends as people who needed a humanitarian Dumbo drop of food from the U.N. or as props in a Save the Children ad – these were my friends. We lived and died in those streets and if you made it out the hood or not that didn’t matter as long as you didn’t snitch and tapped the bottle when the 40 ounce came your way. If you had a little bit of money to help pay for it that was cool and if not you better be a funny story-teller or you are going to the store for us forever.

 This was, and still is, the hustle. I mean hey, what do I know? In the middle of trying to keep the vomit down from my umpteenth shot of Jack I ask the bartender for a photo, and she finally cracks a small and humbling smile…

 And so do I.

“I am a child of the universe. I deserve total recognition of this in the light of God…”

Mothers Day

** The First 72 Hours in Miami

This Story Has Nothing To Do With: Trouble & Bass 4th Anniversary Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2011 by SLUTLUST

I arrived to Martignettis on Broome Street about an hour late. It was the opening night of the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” party I was co- hosting with Brendon James; a good friend and a well known “Door God” based in Downtown Manhattan. My 7am hang outs with the Upper West Side rap group known as Team Facelift had introduced me to Carolyne, a designer/ socialite type from Texas, who was convinced we could throw a party better and exclusive enough to compete with Butter’s world famous Monday night party. Back then I was soooo high (and art struck) I’d follow any girl that owned an original Andy Warhol… or four.

I would share in hosting duties while she and this kid named Varick would DJ whatever the electro dance hit of the day was. Our door would be tighter than double knotted shoe laces on a pre-schoolers sneaker. Our party was located underneath Martingnettis in a speakeasy designed club aptly named Bella’s, complete with a dance floor and wide booths perfect for “who has the bigger dick” bottle service. Our bartenders looked like blue blooded Hamptonites that had more money than the people they served. Everything about the venue screamed “exclusive”- including our doorman – who took 30 minutes to let me into my own party and only after burning the letters off my Sidekick cell phone keypad in an attempt to find a resolve.

By then my 1st guest, who was entertaining a bunch of vendors from her fortune 500 company, had left. No one wants to be first in an open space with more staff than clients. She apologized over the background noise of her co- workers riding the mechanical bull at this other bar called Mason Dixons. Fuck. My chain smoking was now a Cuban Link of anxiety. Is anyone going to even come to this party? And if so will the black Cerberus (3 headed dog that guarded hell in Greek mythology) with a walkie talkie let them in?! My fingers were cramped from trying to re-invent the mass text message in order for them to sound personal (or conniving). By the time I send my 200th text I was halfway through a Jack Daniels on the rocks and trading horrible one-liners with my bottle girl who kept asking me for a “twenty”.

His build was slim and angular like a sketch a fashion major does. He wore all black with a little chain hanging on the outside of his buttoned up collar. He matched his European cut suit with a black tie and a gold capped smile that could only say Brooklyn. He was known in most music circles as Drop the Lime, but I knew him as Luca. He arrived with Vivian – known as Star Eyes – a DJ and a member of the internationally known Trouble & Bass crew Luca headed, and Giselle, his absolutely stunning girlfriend at the time. Both of them wore all black in these unique neo-gothy fashion get ups that complimented him like a prostitute’s outfit compliments her pimp in any blaxploitation movie. Years later I would see this style copied by indie retailers such as Oak and Seven. There was no way the door hound wasn’t letting them in. If they would have showed up with a fog machine then that would have completed the look and made it perfect for the runway or an 80’s video depicting fashion in the future.

He doesn’t wait for me to order a bottle and buys us a round of drinks. Coolest motherfucker on the planet I tell you. By then Carolyne is train wrecking on the turntables (she gets better, eventually) and people are slowly starting to trickle in with a confused look as to what they were supposed to be experiencing. I hide my humbling anxieties behind my sporadic conversation skills. Soon Luca is telling me about touring Europe and the rest of my 7th grade social studies map and we joke about when he used to wear street wear clothing back in the Brooklyn House days at the Mckibben Street Lofts in Bushwick. We knew each other before in small doses from around “the scenes” but by the time my bottle came we had become pretty good friends. He promised to DJ my party one day and I promised to do mushrooms with him and his girlfriend.

Oh, yeah – during our conversation I learn that they knew someone with mushrooms and could get me some. Earlier that year I tried them for the first with my friend Frog and my only complaint was that we couldn’t find someone immediately to get me more. My opening night at Bella’s turned out to be a huge success but fuck that shit I was getting mushrooms.

Our party held its own against Butter for pretty much most of that summer of 2008. I managed to annoy Steve Aoki and several other celebrity DJ’s, Lydia Hearst made out with Varick and forever broke my cocaine enlarged heart, and our party got the coveted Page Six mention. The Page Six mention alone got my dick harder than using rubber cement as a sexual lubricant. Soon everyone wanted to be a part of our little Monday night venture. My wallet started to explode with business cards of people I would never ever call unless we had the exact same number and I was checking my voicemail, and I never checked my voicemail. Personally, my name went from “I’m on the list” to “I don’t need to be on any list, you tried to get into my party”.

By the middle of September everyone was clamoring to get on the list for the Mishka 5 year anniversary party during New York Fashion Week.  Mishka is a street wear brand that did amazing things with an eyeball logo, seducing Hipsters and Hip Hoppers with the same look book without compromise. The RSVP list was closed a week before the event which had everyone sucking off whoever was close to anyone organizing the event in order to get in. I didn’t have to; Lucas – who was headlining the evening with Diplo – invited me to walk in with him.  Alright-y then. This was also the summer I learned how to walk by my friends waiting on any line when I knew I couldn’t persuade the door people to allow them in with me. So chic.

The Red Bull Space – located on the west side of Canal Street where Tribeca meets the Holland tunnel – was showroom bright with nothing but a small makeshift stage and a catered bar. It was also the location of the party, with an area holding over 1,000 goodie bags and floor to ceiling speakers. Although the sun didn’t shine down there, the bass shattered the walls of your asshole. The music, along with the fashion snobbery “cool people” exude, filled the room like a foam party in a snow globe.

The crowd was a mix of Williamsburg lumberjack school drop outs peppered with the Reed Space/ Supreme/ Nike Dunks sneakers street wearing enthusiast. After a few moments of my eyes adjusting to the color blindness of everyone’s outfits I found Giselle standing next to the DJ booth near all of my Never Scared Brooklyn Kick Ball teammates. We all traded pleasantries then traded baggies followed by currency.  Then we all simultaneously checked out of Hotel Reality together, one gross bite of fungi after another. After 30 minutes of gagging and several hours of Diplo and Lucas trying to out-bass each other, the entire event turned into one gently shaken snow globe – with colorful garments floating and haunting the white rubber room of a location we all were dancing in like maniacs in slow motion.

Here’s a trick Lucas and Giselle taught me that night– at psychedelic gunpoint: If your friend is tripping balls and it’s obvious, make him look at you directly in the eye then put your palm on your face and drag it down – like your face is melting. Be sure to add mummy noises for added freak out effect. You can repeat this over and over throughout the night, it’ll never get old, no matter how prepared you are.

The night was one uncontrollable laugh attack. Everything fluctuated in and out like someone was pressing their fingers on and off an old lap top screen or a 3d movie of 1000 party people sitting on rocking chairs. For some reason I remember a lot of dry humping  and face licking but I’ll assume that was  Brooke – one of my kick ball (and best) friends- making my high as tenderly awkward as possible.

Then FUCKED UP got on to perform. FUCKED UP did rock & roll/ punk like loud stereo feedback can ruin speakers. Everything went from a calm strawberry vanilla frosty swirl in a cup to a strawberry and “what the hell?!” daiquiri chopped up in the most violent blender ever. Beer, then beer cans started flying from one end of the room to the other as the event security slipped and fell trying to control the free alcohol charged and “ironic” mosh-pitting crowd. Even the girls dressed in delicate heels and outfits they wouldn’t drink red wine or eat chocolate in jumped into the middle of the fray like it was a sample sale at Marc Jacobs. The speakers screamed obscenities at me, intensifying my trip into an uncomfortable paranoia. I no longer felt safe, it was no longer fun, and I hid in the bathroom – that kept melting before my psychedelic eyes – until the band was kicked out by an exhausted security team.

I stepped out of the bathroom to a party that collapsed under the weight of its own excitement. Everyone I knew was trying to figure out how to get to Brooklyn for the Flashing Lights party Jess Jubilee (who up until this point I swore she hated me, hindering my cool points) DJ ayres, and DJ Catchdubs was throwing at Public Assembly (a venue on North 6th Street in Williamsburg). This is where my memory gets blurry. By the time we all found each other in the middle of the chaos outside of the Red Bull Space our group had ballooned up to 13 people.  Yellow cabs only take 4 at a time. The scene outside was a frenetic pace of everyone up streaming each other for cabs making the yellow more coveted then the last napkin at a BBQ. Never mind the riot controlling tactics of the police who had arrived on the scene after several fights. We needed at least 3 cabs. We had the price gouging Lincoln Town Cars circling us like sharks near an underwater blood bank with a BP oil type of leak. Yeah we weren’t taking one of those. Then my warped mind comes up with what I felt was a brilliant idea. I persistently tapped Luca on the shoulder like a curious child…

“Yo let’s get a limo…”

“A what?” the group universally responded.

“A limo, we have enough people, let’s grab a limo!”

“Ok.” Responded Luca, “Let’s grab one of those…”

“No…”

“Why what’s wrong with that one?”

“We need a navy blue limo.”

“A what?! OJ we are not going to find a navy blue limo, this isn’t the 80’s”

By this time the mushrooms had fully devoured whatever remained of my perception and my stomach was completely poisoned.

“Yes we will, watch…”

“Can we take that white one, get it? White. Limo. That’s cool right?”

“Hahahahahahahahaha. Nope.”

“How about that one then?”

“It’s black.”

“OK you’re bugging out dude, everyone try to grab a cab…”

All I remembered from that moment was Luca’s gold teeth gleaming under the pulsating street lights as he vetoed my idea and all of the girls darting in different directions through the movie premier levels of traffic on Canal Street.  I never wavered. The mushrooms had given me a conceited amount of confidence no man should ever entertain without being a billionaire or a magician. The first group had finally found a cab and was halfway inside when they heard my “STOP!!!” crack open the midnight sky…

The insides were a worn grey with jagged cracks in the leather that had foam and a spring or two creeping out of it. The décor had hints of fake mahogany wood grain and antiquated/ broken machines to match the smudges of dirt and desperation. The side doors had and empty bottle of champagne and a few dirty glasses that probably weren’t washed since Mayor Dinkins was in office. The door handle on the left side was sagging under its own weight, poorly held up by an overuse of silver electrical tape. The rest of the inside was filled with glittery Lisa Frank stickers and perfumed like stale cigarettes or a cheap 70’s coke dream.

“This is like the limo he takes his family to Costo!”

“Or to drive around Craigslist hookers…”

“Not even Craigslist, Hunts Point!”

No one could stop laughing. No one in the car could believe it… but I did. Years later I would wonder if Oprah’s “The Secret” worked like this as I would ponder the astronomical odds.

But yeah, I got my navy blue limo.

The Long Walk Home The Day After Tuesday (SGU WTC Re-edit)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2011 by SLUTLUST

September 12th 2001 started with a hangover – and my usual unemployed search for loose change in the couch so I can buy a newspaper, coffee, and buttered roll. I started every morning that way since I got my working papers at the age of 15 -minus the hangover – well, most of the time.  I was 25 and recently laid off from some internet company that promised high end fashions and a digital concierge with more computer bugs than actual worth. I was also a brand new father – unemployed with a baby mother in the New York City shelter system – riding it out until her section 8 came through so I could pretend I was a family man.

Every day of my life was me trying to stretch out my unemployment benefits to cover whatever needs my son had and my selfish need to pot smoke myself into complacency. I didn’t want this life. I was sleeping on the top bunk I grew up on back at my mother’s apartment. I had a girlfriend I was pretty convinced didn’t love me and was only playing the role of a responsible person with an unplanned pregnancy. I matched her with the crazy Latin boyfriend routine from the projects, acting out whatever he learned about relationships from the blunt guts and 40oz covered benches in his communal backyard.

Needless to say we didn’t last long.

I woke up on September 11th at exactly 9:03. My baby mother called me to let me know she would be late because of some activity at the World Trade Center. I adored my son, and most of my days were spent with them until their shelter imposed curfew was up. It was a beautiful and yet tedious time of my life. There I had this woman making the ultimate sacrifice in order for me to have a chance to be a doting father and all I wanted to do was walk away and go to sleep. She gave up a private and exclusive university – I couldn’t even give up smoking. Her eyes reminded me of every single thing I hated about myself. Every disappointing decision I made compounded itself in every diaper I changed and every bottle of milk I made. I hung up the phone and prayed she would be late forever.

Then I turned on the TV.

The shelter was nice enough to allow my baby mother and son to spend the night with me at my mothers.  We all slept together in a twin size bed. It was the first time since my son was born that I wanted the both of them so close to me.  No one could have imagined something so amazingly catastrophic. When you grow up in NY the first thing you do it look up at the sky scrapers. You have a trust in them. The steel behemoths of success and power filled with the white collars that run them and the blue collars that maintain them – they don’t fall on you, they won’t. Trucks can’t knock them down. Planes don’t run into them. The city as one living organism – somehow works. Planes don´t hit buildings, they wave hello and goodbye as they surf the clouds and dance around the sun and the moon.

The skyline loves you.

My corner store was on edge. The streets of the Lower East Side where empty and eerily quiet. From every open window all you heard was the news blaring the same rhetoric over and over in a million different languages. Every newscaster in the world was trying to win a Peabody award or an Emmy, putting the events of yesterday in some sort of poetic and defining context. I just wanted to buy a news paper.

“Mafeesh (some derogatory arabic word we would shout at eachother) where’s the Post?”

“No Post today”

“What do you mean?”

“It didn’t come, no deliveries”

“So let me get a coffee light and sweet and a roll”

“My friend nooooooo deliveries”

Then the reality started to hit me. There was no traffic outside minus the fire trucks, police cars, news trucks, and ambulances. Then the tanks started to roll in, and those big military trucks that you would only see in a episode of MASH or whatever war movie that might have been on HBO. My deli guy, a young dude from Afghanistan, was holding a bat. He was visibly nervous. Every Puerto Rican junkie with a brain cell left to watch TV was entering the store and throwing sly and loaded threats at him. Some were funny, others were too real. We knew this guy all our lives and everyone was looking at him like he was the enemy. The air in the bodega was suffocating with this newfound xenophobia aimed at Muslims, or anyone with a tan not brought on by rice and beans or the sun. I left him in his paranoia and proceeded to walk north in search of a newspaper.

When the first tower collapsed I cried. I thought about the day cares that were in those building for all those working moms. I didn’t even know if there even was a daycare there but for some reason that thought took me from smug educated Palestinian sympathizer to a wounded New York City father.  When my baby mother and son arrived I did the whole cliché-ish touched their faces to see if they were really alive thing then ran outside once assured they where safe. I wanted a rooftop. I wanted to see the most amazing thing ever. The first thing I saw was my best friend Cynthia – Covered in ash – crying hysterically. She would later tell me of running from downtown as the tower collapsed and how the plane flew right over her head and into the south building that was right across the street from where she worked. She would tell me of seeing people jump, some on fire, all of them with no hope for survival.

I never told her how jealous I was of her.

After her one by one everyone I knew started to show up. Even kids that I hated or could never get along with came around – everyone with an excited bewilderment about the day’s events. No one could believe it and everyone had a theory. After the initial shock and awe we all stopped talking about it, like a life changing secret no one wanted to share because of the consequences. Everyone just wanted to get fucked up, smoke a shitload of weed and drink a beer or 5. We all had found each other in front of my building on  5th street and Avenue C when the block could no longer carry our curiosities or vices we all went to a rooftop on East 4th. By then the 2nd tower had already fell and lower Manhattan looked like the boiling top of an erupting volcano.

I never saw the towers on fire, and secretly envied everyone who did.

As I arrived to 14th St. I realized what was going on. My entire neighborhood had been quarantined. Anything that needed to be carried and couldn’t fit on a bike wasn’t making it pass 34th St. The police combined with the M-16 carrying military was asking for ID’s from anyone trying to return home or going and ogle the wreckage. If you worked downtown you needed to show a work ID and if you were visiting someone they had to meet you at a checkpoint and come and get you, frustrating everyone.

And then the military tanks… So many tanks. The only time I’ve ever seen a tank was when I went to the Smithsonian in DC. There they where, armed and ready and on my street.

The mood on the rooftop was oddly festive. Everyone from my 501, PTA graffiti – and strong arm any Chinese person with an orange bag crew – days was there. We were a motley bunch of cantankerous frenemies, and there we were, breaking bread like we had never decorated our own backs with knives. No one dared to mix politics and religion about what had just happened to our city. Everyone just smoked and drank until their walk home became an amnesia filled stumble. Some of us brought our dogs while others had their roller-blades on. We all laughed and shared. Everyone hugged. Everyone called their families and told them they how much they loved them. No one even looked at the smoke rising from the pile of rubble downtown – except for a set of brothers sitting near a ledge comforting each other.

This was their rooftop. Their sister had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and if it wasn’t for her alarm clock mysteriously failing that morning she would have been in one of  those towers. A week before that, we had our annual BBQ in our backyard and I met several of her co workers. The story was that they all had made it to work on time that morning – and were never to be seen again. How do you thank God and curse the Heavens in the same breath?

By the time I found a newsstand with a newspaper to sell I was well over 34th street. By the time I was walking back to the Lower east side the first of the missing person posters started to go up around Union Square and Bellevue hospital. My entire city started to look like a ride share bulletin board on a college campus – except sadness was the only passenger. Random strangers were comforting each other in the street and everyone was lighting candles and organizing vigils. The crowds near the check points became bigger and bigger as the day grew longer it started to resemble the opening bell at the stock market. Everyone claimed to have known someone who died that day. The entire city had the same tragically romantic heartbeat. That, for some reason, had me increasingly jealous.

I started to compare the event to the story-line in the graphic novel The Watchmen – Some ruse by our current dimwitted President to get the people of the world to like him or some power move by his Illuminati filled family. Pure hate and envy on my part. All I had was the day’s historic newspapers and a gallon of milk that I was hoping wouldn’t spoil on my long walk home.

The closer I got to my house the quieter the streets became – minus the noise of emergency services and the smell of burning asbestos or whatever those building where made of.  The streets somehow became a playground due to all of the missing traffic. Children riding blissfully on their bikes while the drug dealers hugged their corners and the junkies shuffled along . It was a beautiful summer evening. The neighborhood drunks got drunk and the old ladies that gathered in front of stoops had a new fever to their eternal gossip. I walked my baby mother and my son to the train station as the shelter wouldn’t allow her another night out. I didn´t want to let them go, but I had too. Poor me. Everything was always so fucking  unfair. I had my family, and a beautiful sunny day with every single friend that I grew up with and a mind that could sleep at night because it didn’t witness 9/11.. and there I was, Mr. “Unfair”.
Several months would pass before my baby mother finally get her Section 8 (we were due an apartment that October but because of 9/11 our paper work was lost in the chaos and had to wait longer) and I scored a job at New York Filmworks running the Audio/ Visual department. Once in a while I would peruse all the scraps thrown out by the photo department. Here is where I found all these random photos taken by people in or around Ground Zero. In that pile were a couple photos of Arabic men, armed and proud to be on the front line of whatever cause they where fighting for. I wondered if the see-saw of middle eastern politics and the harsh realities of every sunrise could harden a soul to the point that you could walk away from your entire family and die for a regime.  then I brushed it off… I was living in America, and never had to make that choice. As beautiful as it is to stand for something… I did not envy them.

Due to pro tools and other new technologies, my department didn’t have much of a workload as it used too – so I would help out by doing local photo pick-ups and deliveries. One of my stops was the Chief Medical Examiners office. By then what was a small building next to Bellevue  looked like something out of a horror movie where the government tried to quarantine an outbreak or kidnap E.T.. After going back and forth for a while I asked my boss what was in the black containers I kept picking up and dropping off and why was he on my ass every time I was a half hour late to that one place.

I wished I didn’t.

I was responsible for picking up and delivering the slides that countless 9/11 family members depended on to identify their loved ones remains for burial. Every single workday was another face I saw loaded with hope twisted in deep sadness and despair. A sadness buried in confusion and anger with questions even god shied away from.

I no longer envied anyone.