Thursday, June 26, 2008

streets of madrid::thursday night::26 june 2008::11:17PM

Spain has just defeated Russia in the semi-finals of the EuroCopa, three to nil. The temperature outside is hot, about 90 degrees hot. The streets erupt. People fill the fountains in the plazas dancing in red and gold and in the flag of Spain. The sound of car horns fill the streets.
The streets are mobbed, and many young testosterone filled boys play toreador (bullfighter) with the cars passing by, using Spanish flags as the lure for the bull...or in this instance, the car.
Trash cans are tipped over, and beer bottles are being smashed. Not on purpose though......more by accident from passing cars. I think it's a crime in the European Union to waste beer.
And what am I doing during all this? Celebrating with a friend of mine, and singing 'Viva España' along with hundreds of others (for the most part, I'm lip syncing). We're also taking photos, although on her cell phone, they're not the highest quality. We're also just observing the crowd of testosterone filled youngsters. As their celebrations start getting a little more aggressive towards cars going by (rocking them back and forth, and playing drums on passing cars), and some kids start jumping on garbage trucks passing by, then in comes the riot police. It looks like the start of something, so my Spanish friend says we should go.......really? Go now, it's just getting interesting.......Police helicopters circle overhead, so we walk to a different celebration, a more mild mannered one.....even though I'm curious to see what's happening in the other scene, I guess I should always listen to my Spanish host in her home country.
antes de la policia....Ole!
The entire city is celebrating making it to the finals. What's it going to be like if they beat Germany in the final on Sunday? Unfortunately, I won't be in Madrid to find out, but at least I'll be in a small village in Spain to report it to you once the story breaks out.
Good night, and good luck.
I think he's in Germany, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

East Berlin

Fete de la Musique. Every summer solstice is celebrated in Berlin with music. Music everywhere, in all different genres, in various venues, from street corners to churches to parks, performers from all over come and play for the public. And the best part, it's all free.
Architecture here is astounding. The new Berlin train station is a marvel spiderweb design of glass and steel framing, and it's enormous.

The biggest event by far, in Germany, and probably most of Europe, has been the Euro Cup. It's a strange sensation, after watching one or two soccer games every single day since June 7th. It really does become an obsession, and it makes sense why everyone else is glued to the games. It's drama. It's passion. It's your own identity within the context of something greater, La Vida Eterna....
i wish i took photos of the German and Portugal match. after watching it at one of the many outdoor public viewing areas (which includes beer gardens, and post-war abandoned factories) the underdog Germans claimed victory, and the result was the biggest party on the street i have ever witnessed.
It is interesting that this is sort of public display in Germany is considered to be a fairly new phenomenon, starting two years ago during the World Cup. Since the post-war, Germany has been living with an enormous guilt complex from the atrocities committed upon millions of different ethnic groups, and any overt display of passion for their country, like flag waving and chanting, has been shunned upon and considered taboo.
But now, there has been a backlash, where all over Germany, people are refusing to hide their feelings and letting themselves go, like the Spaniards, the Italians, like most of the soccer-world, by identifying with great pride in who they are and where they come from; they are proud to be German.
But, i'll have to say, as much as i find this exciting and intriguing on a sociological scale, when walking the streets after the victory, i did have some strange postmodern-like nostalgic flashbacks, with images in my mind of old German nazi propaganda, as hordes of people chanted their country's slogan, with mighty fists in the air and synchronistic claps, all performed with near violent intensity.
On the other hand, this is not much different than how people react in other parts of the world. The fact is, my own reaction is a bit biased, coming from the history books and modern films about the nazis i've seen growing up in America (ironically, another form of propaganda). These images, based on historical events that no one should ever forget, are now inundated in my mind, as they are in much of the world. For me, the most important thing to keep in mind is: put anyone in any group in any part of the world, and things can get a bit frightening. The nazi mentality is not uniquely a "German" thing. And for me, this is one big reason why I am so fascinated by soccer. You see the way things are on a global and local scale. It reveals mankind's great artistic capabilities, as well as a country's cultural achievements. And yet, it also exposes mankind's weaknesses, like the harsh realities of racism.

Overall, East Berlin is probably the most interesting place i've visited in the past two months. My only regret: not coming here fifteen years ago, because it's changing, fast. It currently feels like how San Fran was back in the day: once a thriving and engaging place to be, with cheap rent, and a surge of artistic expression. But now, you can see the tattoo hipster culture rising, embracing liberal ideas and creativity via capitalistic endeavors. Talk about a group mentality. But who knows, Berlin is definitely not S.F., and it's coming from a totally different crossroad. And the most importantly: it's still affordable and cheap to live here (relatively).The radio tower was built and designed by Swedes, who were smuggled in secretly. Why Swedes? Not only pioneers of design ala IKEA, the commies just didn't have the resources to build, nor the architects to design it. All their best artists left for better living in the west. What is not shown in the photo, is the Pope's revenge. Despite the anti-religious sentiment from the government, a huge cross forms everyday as the sun hits the round ball on top.
What would Marx and Engels think now? As great theorists, they would say "I told you so", or "typical religious zealots!"

The old commie parks are pretty antiseptic when it comes to aesthetics and planning. Again, there was no money to pass around for art projects. And whatever art was to be made, it usually had a propaganda slant for the communist drive. Here's some equal opportunity work for women.
Most of the wall that once surrounded Berlin has been dismantled. There's one section, "East-side Gallery" that's still intact, with art murals all over it, worked on by artists from all over.

Yo, wassup Che!

Spanish Pride

Sunday night was a big night for the country of Spain. In the EuroCopa 2008 (fútbol tournament that takes place every 4 years), they defeated Italy in penalty kicks to advance to the semi-finals. I've been following the EuroCopa every night (not that I have any other entertainment options out here) and have been routing for Spain throughout the tournament. But for Spaniards, this win is especially sweet since they've had a long history of collapsing in the quarterfinals, and in soccer, Italy is a perennial powerhouse and are the defending World Cup Champions.
Cesc Fabregas celebrates after scoring the winning goal in penalty kicks
But what was more interesting for me was witnessing the game with a friend of mine in a small bar in Piedralaves. It's interesting to see how people from a small Spanish pueblo react while watching the game. For one thing, there were a lot of exaggerated hand and body gestures when the call didn't go there way (I'm guilty of this as well....quite fluent actually), and of the 25 people in the bar, only 3 were female, yet they were the most vocal and expressive of the bunch. They also looked like they were missing a few teeth and could easily kick my ass. There was one old, smelly guy who was supposedly the millionaire of the town who was in love with my friend. He tried to woo her by saying sweet little nothings, but since she doesn't speak any Spanish, his pick-up lines were wasted. I understood most of what he said, but he wasn't my type.
Iker Casillas making a save during an Italian penalty kick
The guy standing next to me kept praying and kissing his necklace. I thought it was a cross he was kissing since catholicism dominates here, but it was actually the coat of arms of Spain as his pendant. He was so used to Spain self-destructing that during the penalty kicks, he couldn't bear to watch the TV. But everytime Spain scored, he gave me big high fives, then started kissing his necklace again and praying. When Cesc Fabregas scored the final goal, he gave me such a big hug, that his perfume of eau de countryside farmshit transferred onto my clothes. But it was all good. Everyone left the bar happy, and it's always a highlight to be in a country when their national team does well. Especially watching it in a small town where everyone knows each other. So next up is Russia on Thursday, and if they win that, it's off to the finals on Sunday. Podemos! (We can! is the slogan that the TV channel broadcasting the EuroCopa came up with). Just for the record, they've been saying Podemos! throughout their broadcasts with annoying frequency. The only correlation I can think of is when people in the Bay Area say hella. Me molesta la palabra hella.

Puede! (He can!), Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Che has your back, Ren

You'll never walk alone amongst the politically incorrect brigade.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hey you....yeah you. Read this article I wrote on Antarctica last year. It was finally published by South American Explorers (Thanks Lucy!) on page 42 and 43 of this month´s edition. Obviously, after writing this great piece of literature, hundreds of offers from publishers everywhere will be rolling in the door.........obviously.
iceberg = cold
you can download the actual magazine here once they update to the latest issue - currently last month's issue is still up. ((south american explorers))

But don't try to book a trip with this boat. It sank last November.
The M/S Explorer during happier floating-on-water times, right before we took off for the icy continent
he's the captain of the SS Smoothness, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

On the road aching

I hate airports. All two dozen of them that I've had the distinguished misfortune to visit. The brazen employees, rushed businesspeople and Suburban Mall aesthetics of the typical American airplane-depot are all the worst things, condensed. Trains are so civil; you just step onboard and away you go. None of the hassles associated with flying, like taking off your shoes. How revolutionary! And you can bring your damn toothpaste too. So after twelve calming hours on an Amtrak train, Cascade Mountain scenery, and a few days with friends, I brace myself for a cross-country flight. But I do enjoy flying. Here's a photo taken using one TurboProp plane and one point-and-shoot camera. This shot was helped by the fact that only two people filled the 3-seat-wide jet. Mount Hood is in the distance, with a light snow grabbing the logged areas in the foreground. Next stop, rural Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Morocco Revisited

This post is 2 months in the making.....well no, not really...but I just received some great photos from my friend Pamelas who I met in Marrakech. These are photos of the traditional Moroccan custom of buying rugs. Buying rugs can be an all day event as you'll see in these photos....The amazing thing, is that this dude Mohammed, remembered me from shopping there a year before. He gave me such a big hug that I thought he was trying to give me a wraparound.
I don't think this store has a website, but if it did, this photo would be on the opening page. Everyone looks so overbearingly uncomfortable.
And it would be one of those old cerca 1996 webpages with lots of blinking action and extra-crappy dual-color graphic presentations. The headline of the page would say 'Many Happy Touristical Memaries! Shopping Carpets Marrakech for Your Big Vacations Funs! Also Touring Guides for All Touristaical Highlights of Deserts and Adventours! Best Pricing! As recomendid by Lonely Planit and the Rough Guys' It would make no sense, but that's what the actual signs in English, would say in Morocco.
There is no acting done in this photo....we were seriously exhausted after about 3 hours in the rug store of doing 'many happy touristical shopping mamories with big funs'
this is a poster on one of the juice stands in Marrakech that we drank from. I'm pretty sure I'm banned from entering Morocco again....or possibly any Muslim country.....I might also be banned from returning to San Francisco by the Politically Incorrect Brigade...and definitely banned in Berkeley, but it be pretty neat to have a protest march dedicated to me. (btw, I mean no offense by this photo. It was just to hard to resist, and the juice guy thought it was funny)
speaking of happy touristicial menmorys, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Anoche, Vè 'Cabeza del Radio' en Barcelona

Yesterday, I took a day off from my life as a country peasant, and headed to the big city to see traditional Spanish Music. After a bus ride from Piedralaves to Madrid, I caught one of the high-speed AVE trains to Barcelona.
Photo on the AVE as I'm getting close to Barcelona, with Montserrat lurking in the background. You'll remember Montserrat in one of my postings a month ago because I know you read this blog religiously,......right?
On the train, there was a tv screen that played the traditional Spanish movie, Sueñas Chicas, or Dreamgirls in English, starring Jaimè Foxx and Eduardo Murphy. The movie was all in Spanish, but fortunately for me, the songs that were sung in English were subtitled in Spanish. I appreciated the simple dialogue since it's easy to follow, but I noticed Jaimè and Eduardo had trouble with their lips when they spoke....but anyway, that's not important. What's important is that I saw the traditional Spanish ensemble called 'Cabeza del Radio', or Radiohead in English. They played at the Daydream Festival along the Mediterranean Coast in Barcelona. Here's photos from their Spanish Musical Performance:
Cabeza del Radio just as they took the stage
The light show got better and better.....
They played all ten songs from their latest album En Arcoiris (or In Rainbows for our English readers). the show progressed
The lead cancionista, Tomás Yorque had a lot of energy as he belted out other classical Spanish tunes such as El Himno Naciónal, Optimista, and Androide Paronoico. But my favorite part was when they played Suerte, or Lucky in English. I was singing the line in the song that goes 'cause I'm your suuuper heeero...etc.', when a Spaniard standing next to me corrected me by singing the proper verse of 'cause I you sooopa hieeelooo', or to translate, 'I you soup-ice' in English. Ahhh, I stand corrected. Because everyone knows that Gazpacho is a traditional soup served cold in Spain. This is why it's so special to see a Spanish band play in a Spanish country amongst the Spanish people. Obviously it's an enlightening cultural learning experience. Because on a hot Spanish day, what would be better (or 'Lucky') than to have a friend nearby who was a bowl of cold Gazpacho soup. Now that I'm corrected, the whole song finally makes sense to me.
Suerte!, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


been stayin with friends in Würtzburg. A lot of biking and working on art, and a new song about a desert rider who accidentally shoots himself and starts driving as blood pours on the floor to get to Truckers World Saloon to meet his girl waiting in a leatard (spelig?) . Also, soccer! Euro cup is the 3rd biggest sporting event in the world (World Cup, Olympics, and then Euro). Matches have been great. Spain just assaulted Russia, something they could never do in war. but soccer....the sun is actually shining in Spain, so Ren is doing fine.jesus, it's sooo hot here in Germany.
but it's still nice to walk into the wäld via the farms.

Slow News Day in Piedralaves

Things happen slow here in really, I mean slllooooooooowwwww. So there's not much to report here other than the weather has been complete shit.
Another cloudy day. I think I'm in Scotland.
Yesterday's biggest news was that I hit a rush hour traffic jam of about 100 sheep on the dirt road I was jogging on. It was bumper to bumper moving at about a walking pace, but cleared up just past the oak tree interchange.
In other news, I learned some Spanish colloquialisms. When you walk by someone's farm and say 'hola' or 'buenos dias', they usually say 'adios' instead of 'hello'. I remember someone telling me this earlier. But I'm still not sure if it's true or they just want me to keep walking and go the fuck away. Also, I've learned that Spaniards love saying the word 'coño' when frustrated. It's a deregotary term for the female genitalia much like the 'c' word in english. Everyone says it. I've even heard a few 80 year-old ladies yelling it. I guess old habits are hard to break.
Another thing I learned is that if you ask for directions, no one ever tells you exactly how to get there, but they sort of point you in the right direction and then tell you to ask someone once you get closer. One time I had to ask five different people directions for something two blocks away. And this is in a town of maybe 100 people....aye coño
token religious photo

token religious figure, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bolivian Threads Spotting

Pick up this month's Decline mountain bike magazine and spot the garb straight from La Paz. My buddy Zach and I have been working on a fun side project, which profiles bike riders who do much for their scenes and bike communities. So far we've gone through hobo camps in L.A., beaches in Santa Cruz and on up to the grit in Portland, Oregon. Oddly, Zach and I may have become the subjects too, as we're profiled in an upcoming issue of the mag.

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Baby Jesus rides a slip-n-slide

One thing interesting about the Catholic church is that through the power of art, vivid representations of the Bible are told. The German churches have amazing pictorial allegories. For instance, many of us have always wondered how the virgin Mary got pregnant. Well, it was because God, surrounded by little angels up in the heavens, creatively ejaculated his semen through his mouth into a long tube that stretches all the way down to earth and enters the orifice of Mary's ear. As she holds the Great Book, you can see in her face such a blissful satisfaction, (it is God's seed after all!). And, if you look closely, along the tube, you can see baby Jesus riding down like it's a slip-n-slide. Gotta luv it...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Rain Got Me Again

Well the weather is finally changing for the better. After a cold and rainy May, it's been mostly sunny the last couple of days, an I've started to fill the pool with water.
This photo was taken at the beginning of the week after an all too common rainstorm. The pool is being filled as we speak.
But Mother Nature had to show me who was in charge.....The other day I was walking home from the market after purchasing some groceries. On the way back home, a 2 km walk from the market, it started to drizzle. The skies ahead didn't look so promising, so I decided to run home through the countryside before it started to rain. It was a bit difficult running with my messenger bag filled with groceries, and also being tired from doing a run earlier in the day. But I made it home just in time before it really started pouring. However I was presently surprised to find the large container of yogurt that I bought exploded in my bag while running home. My bag now smells like a giant frutas del bosque (fruits of the forest) cheescake. Thank you Mother Nature for the freak weather patterns due to homo sapien global burning.

In the end, he's gonna get you, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Alex, still in Germany

I was walking in the English Gardens of Munich the other day and saw Morgan Stowe Paar catching some waves. Well, i thought it was him. Just some other surfer with a red goatie surfing three footers.

Subway in Munich. Damn, these Germans are clean...and they choose cool colors.

Can i just say: HOLY SHIT!!!? The alps are just an hour away by train. I took a trip to Innsbruck, Austria to do some hiking. A bit overcast, but nonetheless, happy to be far from San Francisco or New York.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The myth of sunny summers in Spain

Since I returned to Spain from Morocco last month, it has rained everyday in northern Spain except for the first week of May. So much for the myth of Spain being warm and sunny. This global warming thing that's screwing up the weather patterns of the world sure is throwing a monkey wrench in my goofing off.
Photo of the church in Piedralaves. I hope these women are praying for some sun.
The rain did give me this perfect rainbow on my front porch though. It be really nice if it gave me a pot of gold at one end.
He's a non-stop rainstorm of smoothness, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

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