7.30.2009

CALCULATED CASUAL CARELESSNESS



















(riding with the tall bike kids of Yogya)

We finally get to Yogya, and feel like we're home:

- Getting in to Yogya late at night and meeting up with friend-of-a-friend Maya, who lives at the Performance Klub house. She welcomes us and promptly sets us up to stay at her place, which is really nice (open courtyard/garden thing, guest room).
- We meet her cat, who first bites you and then sucks on the spot he bit. We can't remember the cat's name so it's promptly branded "Viper Suckle."
- The next day Maya takes us on a tour of some ruins and an animal market. There are some crazy animals for sale: large white owls, a hawk, snakes, mongoose, ferrets, tiny squirrels, lizards, tons of birds and fish. Ira first witnesses a writhing weasel having it's teeth yanked out with pliers, and then one of the small fierce-looking owls being fed to a mongoose. He is traumatized, Greg and Conrad promptly collect the left-over feathers.
- We go to the tourist-shopping street later to look for a hat for Greg. As soon as we get off our bikes a posse of punk kids on crazy tall bikes ride past. We yell at them, but they just smile, wave and keep going. Later we head out on our bikes and pass the same group of kids hanging out at the end of the street. We stop and tell them how we had heard of them and came to Yogya to meet them. They had heard we were coming, but didn't know when. We rounded up a posse and went for a long nighttime ride around town.
- The next day, Atom (one of the local bike gurus) helps Chloe make her mountain bike into an Indonesian-stye tall bike.
- When asked why I am not on a tall bike, I explain that it is for comparison reasons: to make them look taller.
- A bizarre call to prayer distorted through a messed-up sound system sounding like something out of a horror movie.
- There are a string of bombings in Jakarta at fancy hotels aimed at westerners. We are not in Jakarta at the time, but it strikes a strange chord with us because everyone we have met has been so friendly and welcoming, it's just sort of like "huh? . . . really?"
- Riding bikes outside of Yogya to the abandoned water bottling station which has turned into one hell of a swimming hole.
- Wildlife in Java: cats, bats, rats.

Learn Indoneisan:
"Bule" = Whitey (literally means albino).
"Bagus" = Cool.
"Sip" = Cool (in Javanese).
"Pit dhuwur" = Tall bike (in Javanese).
"Tongseng" = not entirely sure, but probably dog meat.

Cruising Yogya on tall bikes at night.



Greg and Viper Suckle the cat.





MP3:

• Gamelan Gong Kebjar - Ketjak: The Ramayana Monkey Chant

A band's place at last.

7.20.2009

FIRELIGHT FINGERS IN THE RICE















(photos from riding on the north coast of Java)

We hit some flat land, make some miles and a few friends along the way:

- Seeing Bin Laden's name painted on a rickshaw.
- Having a bus start to leave while I am still partially buried in the luggage compartment below fitting our bikes in.
- Barbed wire used as a clothes line.
- Roosters battling on the side of the road.
- Passing through dark countryside at night punctuated by bare florescent tubes and scattered trash fires.
- They decorate their fishing boats here as much as their rickshaws.
- Wiping my face after a day of riding and it comes away coated in sand/dust/grit.
- Meeting Tomas, another bike traveler randomly at a quickie mart while we are riding. He's from Poland and he is doing a three year tour covering the whole world. He already had ridden all of North and South America, Australia, and some other places in Oceania. Needless to say, he had a bit more gear than we did.
- Watching a garbage fire get out of control and spread to the surrounding trees/bushes.
- The crazy frogger-style way of getting on and off buses (local and long distance), only slowing down enough for people to run out into the street (through traffic usually) and jump on/off.
- A lot of the buses have huge airbrushed themed murals on them, ranging from barnyard animals to the NYC skyline to Batman.
- Having my first equipment failure of the trip: one of the p-clamps that attaches my cargo rack to the frame breaks. Luckily I brought spares, but they turn out to be a smaller size. I readjust and hope for the best.
- While Chloe is waiting along the side of the road for some of the crew to catch up one night, a policeman shows up and warns her that it is not safe to be there. He gestures that someone might come along, kill her, and throw her in over the bridge she was waiting at. He hangs out for a while and keeps an eye on things. We're not sure exactly what he was warning her about, maybe people with an issue with a female out alone at night?
- The next day Chloe has a guy riding in an ice cream delivery truck pull alongside and expose himself to her.
- The day after that, a guy directing traffic with a flag on a wooden pole gives Chloe a hard smack across her ass as she rides by. His laughing turns to surprise as Greg rides up following Chloe and kicks the guy in the chest from his tall bike.
- CDs as mud flap reflectors.
- A concrete deer lawn ornament, with a muzzle on it for some reason.
- We'd been lucky with the mosquitos while traveling, going from a dense urban center to the cooler mountains. But in the north coast they caught up with us. . . bad.
- Meeting a friendly couple who follow us for a bit on their scooter. They invite us back to their home to stay for the night and then show us around town the next day.
- The sister of our hosts turns out to be a school teacher, she invites us to visit her elementary school, with the tall bikes. We are treated to a gamelan performance by the students (see below), then Greg, Conrad and Ira ride their tall bikes around the courtyard and let kids take turns on them (with a little assistance). When we leave a small riot breaks out and a few kids get trampled. We heard later that they were okay.
- Afterward we go to the "beach" in town, which turns out to be a weird concrete pier thing you have to pay to go on. the surrounding coast is covered in trash and weird big black bugs. When we leave we are ambushed by a video camera crew from the pier who want to interview us about our visit. "We love garbage beach!"
- A friendly guy on a scooter dropping his wife off to drive around and help us find a place to stay for the night. He didn't want anything in return, just to help.
- Chloe gets bad food poisoning.
- The weird fish-bus-rickshaw.
- Our last stretch of the north coast gets a bit hilly, but every up had a down before it to gain momentum on.
- Equipment failure #2: Some genius thought it would be a good idea to put a set of six large speed bumps right in the middle of a very long and steep road coming out the hills. When I hit them (going pretty fast) it instantly turned my bike into a bucking bronco. I came within an inch of losing control and landing on my face. With my brakes squealing my water bottle launched out of it's cage and off into the oblivion.
- Greg almost getting left by the bus while he was in the W.C. We couldn't stop the driver from leaving, even though I was hanging on the outside of the back entrance yelling at him to stop.
- Pigeon is frequently featured among the animals painted on signs for roadside food stands, along with chicken, fish and duck.
- Favorite dish in Indonesia so far: Gado gado.
- New fruit discovery: Snake fruit.
- This month (Indonesia): Can a man survive on nothing but fried rice for a month?
- Next month (Japan): Can a man survive on nothing but rice balls for a month?

Learn Indonesian:
"Minuman" = Drink.
"Susu" = Milk.
"Jeruk" = Orange.
"Teh" = Tea.
"Poci" = Pot.
"Ikan" = Fish.
"Bakar" = Grilled.
"Goreng" = Fried.
"Nasi" = Rice.
"Mei" = Noodle.
"Telur" = Egg.
"Ayam" = Chicken.
"Kambing" = Goat
"Secang" = Some weird sweet herbal bark drink.
"Selamat jalan" = Farewell/we're hitting the road.

The elementary school class performing the gamelan for us.

An elementary class performs the gamelan in Indonesia.



A traditional Indonesian dancer busking around Semarang.

Traditional Indonesian dancer - street performer.





MP3:

• The Residents - Kaw-Liga

A band's place in myspace.

7.16.2009

PLASTIC PATHWAYS THROUGH THE JUNGLE





















(photos from the mountains and area surrounding a volcano in Indonesia)

From Jakarta we ride into the mountains to climb a volcano. Not a very relaxing way to start a trip:

- If they don't have exact small change at the quickie mart, they give you a little piece of candy instead.
- New euphemism for a "special friend" = live blanket.
- Seeing traditional muslim head scarves being sold next to t-shirts with Avril Lavigne on them.
- Sitting in an alley eating gado gado from a street vendor while a stray cat takes a shit in a gutter four feet away and stares at me the whole time.
- While climbing the volcano Mount Gede, we see monkeys!
- Sitting in a natural hot spring river under a full moon watching the steam rise in slices of moonlight cutting through the surrounding jungle.
- Our guide Frans doing half the hike up and down Gede in flip flops.
- Crossing over slippery rocks on the edge of a steaming scalding waterfall.
- To climb the volcano takes two days, the night we spend sleeping halfway up is freezing. We all huddle in our tents and try anything we can to keep warm. The ground is really cold and just saps the warmth out of you when you lie on it. I only have a fleece liner for a sleeping bag, I'm wearing my warmest clothes (shorts and a rain jacket), and stick my feet inside my messenger bag. I dream intermittently of people bringing me blankets in between many hours of tossing and turning on the cold hard ground.
- Before going to bed, Greg and Conrad spent most of the night trying to light a fire. None of the wood would burn, even when made into little shavings. Frans interceded and tried the "Indonesian way," which meant burning a bunch of plastic. Even that didn't work.
- Spending half the second day climbing the rest of the way up Gede, to the summit and ridge overlooking the smoking and sulfurous crater. We are well above the clouds, and they surround us like a lumpy white sea.
- On our way down we find even better hot springs.
- Our mountain guide Aba was amazingly cheerful and energetic. He literally ran down most of the mountain on our descent, and at the bottom was doing push-ups while we rested.
- Both guides, Frans and Aba, were smoking a couple packs a day on the way up and down the mountain.
- All of our legs are destroyed after the hike. For literally three days we all grimace any time we have to go up or down steps.
- Conrad gets sick. It takes him a week to shake it, even though his eye is still messed up.
- Chloe serenades us in the morning with her violin.
- Playing dominoes on the top of some weird diving platform as the clouds/fog rolled in.
- Little kids LOVE to have their photo taken when they get to see it on the camera afterward.
- Skeletons of kites caught in trees.
- A little kid who wanted a photo with Ira's "Kill Your Television" tattoo.
- Having a crazy time trying to disassemble our bikes and cram them into the backseat of the bus to get out of the mountains and down to the coast.
- The people of Indonesia have been exceptionally friendly and helpful, more than anywhere else I have traveled.

Learn Indonesian:
"Apa kabar" = How are you?
"Mantap" = Perfect.
"Air" = Water.
"Rasanya enak" = Taste's good.
"Tambah" = More.
"Selamat siang" = Good evening.
"Gunung" = Mountain.

A little video of us riding along the north coast of Java, more on that in the next post:

Riding tall bikes along the north coast of Java.




MP3:

• Eddie Ray - You Are Mine

A band's place at last.

7.10.2009

JOGGING ON THE BED

























(photos from the first leg of biking in Indonesia)

Riding bikes (and tall bikes) through Indonesia, and already thinking we are gluttons for punishment:

- If you are ever flying with a bicycle, avoid Japan Airways at all costs. They neglect to mention the $300+ fee for bicycles anywhere on their website, even though they go in to detail about surfboards and golf clubs.
- The penalty for drug trafficking here is death. And apparently the prosecution of pot is pretty heavy.
- The smell of raw sewage in Jakarta never really goes away, it just grows and diminishes in strength depending on where you are standing.
- Greg and Conrad climbing onto a rooftop to sneak into our hotel room on our first night in Jakarta because there were no other rooms available in the area. They wouldn't let us pay more to have people sleep on the floor.
- Sleeping four on a bed is easier if you all lay across the bed and let your feet hang off.
- Having all the neighborhood kids hanging out and playing with our tools while we are assembling our bikes in an alley. Until Ira put zip ties on one kid's wrists and the boy tightened them too much, so the family had to try to cut them off with a kitchen knife but were having trouble fitting such a large blade in such a small spot. Ira intercedes with leatherman scissors and they come right off, but the kids aren't allowed to play with us anymore.
- Giant rats to rival anything that NYC is purported to have.
- The muslim call to prayer adding a whole eerie dimension to the gray misty smoggy days and nights.
- Riding bicycles in Jakarta is. . . intense.
- At every intersection we stop on our bikes at it's a sea of helmeted scooter heads staring at you.
- "Wow. How to get instant asthma." (Greg after spending the afternoon riding in cluster-f*ck Jakarta traffic)
- Greg and Ira's tall bikes having a clever dual-chain set up to make it easier to use gears.
- Chloe joining us, without her tall bike (due to Japan Airways excessive fee). We are able to find her a decent mountain bike in Jakarta.
- We don't see a lot of bicycles in Jakarta, but we did see a bicycle-powered mobile children's ride.
- The river in Jakarta is so polluted and black it is opaque like india ink.
- People live under bridges and fish for garbage with nets on long poles.
- We meet a friendly guide, Frans, on Jalan Jaksa and he agrees to take us to climb a volcano. We were also pretty impressed with his tattoos.
- New euphemism for sex: "Jogging on the bed."
- Riding out of Jakarta is hot, smoggy, sticky, like being stuck in a river of traffic after you've lost your paddle and have no choice but to struggle to stay afloat.
- Passing street vendors who are selling a wall of plastic bags full of water with decent-sized live snakes inside of each one.
- Meeting a generous architect on the side of the road when we are nearing the end of our first day, he is curious about the bikes and buys us ginger tea from a street vendor.
- The Indonesian equivalent of a sleazy road-side motel is pretty gross, unsurprisingly. The bucket shower water was kind of grey, the toilet housed snails, ants, and a strong aroma, along with big ol' cockroaches getting in to your stuff. Oddly enough the adjacent matching building was vacant with waste water flowing through the bottom rooms creating a slimy swamp complete with flora.
- Our guide Frans grinds his teeth in his sleep, it sounds like one of those ribbed straws that come in sports bottles being pulled in and out. . . loudly. . . all night.
- Riding in Jakarta earns you a nice oily coating of exhaust fumes, stick a q-tip in your ear and it comes out black. The vast majority of vehicles with three or more wheels belch black smoke, it can almost be like smoke scree if they get close.
- As we ride up into the mountains on our way to the volcano (over 1500 meters in the first day), the hills start to get ridiculously steep and never ending. Teenagers pass us riding in the back of scooters and flash the devil's horns with a grin. The area once we near the peak is very similar to the cloud forests in Costa Rica.
- Some parts are so smoggy the street lights come on in the middle of the day.
- Being glad I brought my cycling hat to funnel all my sweat to drip off the beak in brown drops.
- People burn a lot of plastic here.
- A slight bit of "Engrish" gets us labeled "The Chill-engers" (challengers).

Learn Indonesian:
"Ya" = Yes.
"Bucan" = No.
"Trema kasi" = Thank you.
"Sama sama" = You're welcome.
"Berapa harga" = How much?
"Sepeda" = Bicycle
"Tinggi" = Tall
"Apakaba" = How are you?
"Rasanya enak" = Taste's good.
"Selanat siang" = Good evening.


A little video of some of the less-intense parts of riding in Jakarta (during the intense parts there was no way I could only have one hand on the handlebars, sorry):

Riding tall bikes in Jakarta.





MP3:

Muslim call to prayer

7.08.2009

LOVELY FACES IN CERTAIN PLACES









(a few portraits of the crew of the Swimming Cities of Serenissima)

Finishing up the european junk raft adventures, here's a few links to more photos/etc from the Swimming Cities of Serenissima:

- Full photo gallery
- Portrait gallery
- Slideshow and exaggerative article in New York Magazine
- The group's Flickr account



MP3:

• Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship? - Clapping Song

A band's place in myspace.

7.06.2009

CRUISE SHIPS ARE LIKE PRISON WITH UNLIMITED SOFT SERVE













(photos from the performances that took place in various parts of Venice on the rafts)

On our way out of Venice and leaving life on the rafts:

- Our time is up on Certosa, so we move across the channel to Lido and camp on the beach. There are actual king sized beds on the beach covered in plastic for some resorty thing. We think we are totally set until some guys show up to kick us out. They are really apologetic about it, but will lose their job if they don't get us out. We move down a bit and scatter among the weird beach umbrella stands. We wake up at dawn and head to the boats to make our 6am departure time to make it to our deconstruction site.
- We limp slowly past Venice and over to the mainland due to Maria's barely-fixed bearing issue. With Paul da Plumber's departure I am filling in for him as the captain of Maria. It's slow-but-steady going, and we pass an island with an abandoned hospital on it that catches everyone's eye.
- We land in the town of Fusina at a boat yard in the middle of an industrial sector. The guys running the yard are constantly freaking out on us, convinced we are going to take too long to dismantle the rafts, are making a mess, etc. It is ridiculously hot and people get sunburned and heat sick.
- We end up staying at the hostel/squat La Revolta in Marghera, the main road of which it's on is lined with tons of prostitutes, about 2-5 on every block.
- Fusina/Marghera area = Newark, NJ but in Italy.
- Ending up at a church fundraiser fair in a square in Venice. Orien gets some new threads from the rummage sale.
- Bonfire/BBQ/camp out on the beach on Certosa, until it gets shut down by the fire brigade, who appeared from the woods as a mass of flashlights.
- Giving the Director of Publications and Special Projects from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum knuckle tattoos with a paint marker during a game of "knucks."
- "We're not pirates, we just come in and break everything."
- Going out wheat-pasting all over Venice in the little skiff boat, ending at dawn on an island graveyard.
- Exploring a huge abandoned aluminum factory.
- Getting a dawn ride to the bus station in the skiff boat, with a pit stop for some wheat-pasting on what's left of a house crumbling into the canal.
- Swat-team-style cops stop and search me in London as part of terrorism prevention. I was standing around in front of a desk at the checked luggage drop point too long, apparently. I was waiting for the guy on duty to come back so I could be sure my bag wasn't left there unattended.
- Complete cluster-fck trying to get home: no night bus = expensive cab, no ticket on express train = local train that stops for an extra two hours causing me to miss my flight, Luftansa won't rebook me till my third try hours later = ALMOST miss the last flight to NYC and have to sleep in Heathrow airport.



MP3:

• Dark Dark Dark - The Hand

A band's place in myspace.

7.04.2009

WELCOME TO THE S.S. WHAT-THE-HELL-YOU-LOOKIN-AT?

















(photos from our night time excursion through the Grand Canal of Venice)

Venice gives us some magic moments:

- "Dangerous Hippies."
- We are invited to the vacationy island of Lido for a spaghetti dinner. What ends up happening is a wine-and-opium fueled co-ed bath party that eventually ends up skinny-dipping under a full moon in a very cold ocean.
- Alice breaking her prop on a dock and Maria, Doyle has it fixed the next day.
- Invading the Arsenal art fair by coming in through the back door to the inner lagoon by water. We circle on all three rafts while Dark Dark Dark performed (fully amplified) on the top of Maria. It was pretty amazing, and definitely seemed to be a crowning moment of sorts... sailing into the heart of these large impenetrable art institutions and presenting an alternative to the over-thought empty art filling the cavernous hangers. My favorite part was the guy on shore who hastily made a hand-made sign that said "Take me with you!" Unfortunately the whole thing turned kind of sour after we docked on the edge of the lagoon to hand out fliers for our performances and give Ben his birthday cake. An employee of the Arsenal suddenly appeared and cut the rope holding Maria. Luckily there were fast-acting crew there to keep her from drifting out with the band on top. We took the cue and left.
- Going to visit Chicken John in Bologna and having my best meal in Italy so far, thanks to his recommendation.
- Harrison and Mortimer getting arrested while distracting cops that were headed for Adina after she did a performance in San Marco Square. They were booked for resisting arrest, which seems odd considering that you should need to be getting arrested for something to resist in the first place?
- Getting a tour of Mateus' boat building workshop.
- The skiff reappearing one block from where it was "stolen" (aka lost while drunk).
- Some crew finding an abandoned orphanage by pressing the wrong button in an elevator while visiting some Biennale exhibits.
- Old Hickory broke the bearing-collar on its prop shaft. Paul da Plumber made a stand-in with some random collar-ish thing and heavily greased rope to act as bearings.
- Taking the Grand Canal of Venice at 3:30am on Saturday night. It was silent and empty except for a few sulking night acqua buses. The rafts barely cleared the bridges, Old Hickory even scraped the underside of the Rialto a bit. Seeing the rafts slinking along framed against the aging and murkily lit buildings on the canal was possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Our return back out of the canal came just as dawn was breaking.
- "Did we just go through the Grand Canal with a bearing made out of rope? Today was so fucked up."
- After the Grand Canal ride, we made a pit stop on Lido for coffee and french fries.



MP3:

• Donovan - Season Of The Witch

A man's place in wikiland.

7.02.2009

LOVE + BULLSHIT





















(photos from in and around Venice)

Venice and living on floating art-islands:

- "It's that moment of: We're going to regret this... let's go."
- On our first night in Venice a group of the crew heads into town in the little skiff boat. On the way back late at night they sink due to too much weight and have to swim for it. Soon after sinking a fishing boat comes to help them, and Orien (the captain of the skiff) promptly yells out to them "Take our women to shore!" And somehow in all of this, Tony Bones is able to keep his bag (with his digital camera) dry.
- After Robyn Hasty made it back from the unexpected swim, she went to take a shower, only to find that there is only cold water. After that she came back to the boats to find that someone had "appropriated" her sleeping bag for the night and she had to tough it out with some garbage bags.
- Cold showers, you get used to them.
- Infected eyes, again.
- Ending up docking on the beautiful island of Certosa just across from Venice. It's full of overgrown abandoned buildings and feral goats. Venice's version of Governor's Island, but with a boat building school, design school, and a cafe/restaurant + hotel. Really a nice place to spend a couple weeks.
- Dark Dark Dark playing in a field on the island of Certosa, just in front of a giant abandoned building with trees and vines growing in/out of it.
- Crashing the Icelandic Biennale party with the full crew.
- Wolf falling thirty-five feet off a building while checking out some B&Eing after the Biennale parties. He landed flat on his face. We got him to the hospital and he was out a week later in neck and knee braces.
- Going to bed as the sun came up, again.
- Due to language issues, I drew pictures of all the items I needed for the lighting for the performance at the electrical store. The guy was obviously annoyed as hell, but patient nonetheless. I never did figure out how to draw a fuse though.
- The worst food of the entire trip = a cafe in Venice. And that's being compared to thrice-used leftovers.
- So many mosquito bites on my face from sleeping on the rafts.
- One morning Orien wakes up to find that the skiff has disappeared while parked near an apartment we were staying at in Venice. The cops tell us it is most likely stolen. We start to notice that everyone locks up their boats.
- Chicken John decides he needs a break from the project. I end up taking over as the engineer on Maria for a while.



MP3:

• Beck - Lost Cause

A band's place in myspace.