justin adler, blog, buenos aires, bahia blanca, university of arizona, brooklyn, basketball, travel, paul mcpherson

Friday, August 31, 2012

Part 16: Santa Uxía de Ribeira

Who's that playing? Rasheets Wallace.
I don’t imagine I would enjoy a car ride in which I was blindfolded and taken to a surprise destination. Mainly because the element of middle-of-nowhere execution seems to be the most-likely outcome.  

But our roadtrip to Santa Uxía de Ribeira gave me hope that I might one day enjoy the blind-folded car ride concept. 

As we made our way up from Guimarães, we hit the type of weather I always feared driving through in a SmartCar. A vicious rainstorm reduced visibility to nothing and constantly tried to tug our car off the road. As I drove blindly through the country highway, I gripped the wheel, attempted to correct for every gust of wind, and focused on not dying. 

The next morning we woke up and realized that we were in a breath-takingly beautiful forest. We climbed a stairway to heaven that was actually a stairway to the top of a boulder that mildly resembled a frog and took in the 360-degree views of Galicia. Then we drove to the top of a higher lookout and absorbed even crazier views. 

There's no point for me to try to describe how pretty the stuff was, so there's a ton of pics at the bottom of the post.

I Only Rent Tents and Bounce Houses
As I sat on the patio of a roadside bar, I sipped a beer to dull my frustration that the bounce house shark I was staring at was anatomically correct. 

It was during this moment of faux stress that I came up with the idea for an art exhibition I will never put into action. Bounce houses as a medium of art. 

To my knowledge, nobody’s ever done this before and it seems to make perfect sense. The art would be interactive and it would represent my triumph over the only serious injury I ever sustained in my life: When I once worked at a children’s bounce-house play place, I ran down a giant slide and sprained my wrist. I would say severely sprained my wrist, but the fact it’s just a sprained wrist is pussy enough, without me pussifying it further with the word “severely.”

So if anybody has access to a ton of vinyl and generators, let me know if you want me to curate a bounce house gallery. 

If you're a hiker/cyclist who endured the elements and thousands of kilometers of St. James Way, the feeling of arriving at the finish line of Santiago will be incredible special.  

If you're a deeply religious person who believes the apostle St. James was buried in Santiago, visiting the town will be a moving experience. 

If you drove about an hour from Santa Uxía de Ribeira, and your only connection to Santiago/St. James is that it enables you to make a shitty "I'd rather pray to St. Durant" joke before a pivotal game 3 of the 2012 NBA Finals... Well the city is likely to disappoint you. 

Because I was obviously in the comical mood, I also took this picture. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Part 15: Aveiro, Mealhada & Guimarães

Here’s my list of cities/things that resemble/actually are Venice:

1. Venice, Italy: I’ve never been but based off my experience with New York New York and actual New York City, I’m going to imagine that I’ll like the real city a lot better than the Vegas hotel version. 

2. Aveiro, Portugal: It’s like a micro version of Venice. It’s got some pretty buildings and most importantly I fell in love with this sandwich. Aside from that donut sandwich and the pretty canal(s), the city doesn't have much to offer.

3. Venice Beach, California: I once saw an And 1 Mixtape game filmed there, so naturally it will always have a special place in my heart. 

4. The Venitian Hotel, Las Vegas: I remember being really impressed with that painted sky thing. 

Near Aveiro is the tiny town of Mealhada, which is famous exclusively for is leitão (suckling pig), which is Portugal’s version of Segovia’s famed cochinillo asado. Not wanting to miss out on baby pig twice over, Sarah and I decided to splurge and try a platter. Unfortunately, we dined at the wrong time of the day and had an underwhelming, unproperly cooked pig. 

Guimarães is the birthplace of Portugal as indicated by that wall and a t-shirt I bought that has a cartoon of the baby Portugal spitting out a pacifier as it’s cradled by Papa Guimarães.

The shirt is kinda dumb and I’m still not sure if I liked it, but it was an impulse buy to try escape the depression I sunk into once I realized that I missed a Hype Williams concert in Guimarães by a mere 26 days. 

Granted until the day before I arrived in Guimarães, I didn't know that it was the 2012 European Capital of Culture (or that Europe even had a constantly rotating Capital of Culture), which was Hype reasoning for appearing in the Northern Portugal town. I still have no idea what Hype Williams "performs" and after a hefty amount of Googling I’m still not sure what a Hype Williams concert would consist of. 

But judging by Hype's track record the show most likely featured seizure-inducing lights, rappers spitting Cristal next to caged white tigers, and potentially a greased up-DMX.

The town also has weird baby pictures.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Part 14: Porto

Porto: If you think it’s fun being unemployed in Spain, just wait until you spend a week coloring birdhouses in your Portuguese garden.

Again Portugal has brought out the wanna-be-tourism copywriter in me. Granted that pitch above is slightly faulted because, generally speaking, people who are unemployed probably don’t have money for vacation… And maybe the guys who hang out all day in Barcelona’s parks have tried painting birdhouses in Portugal and they prefer their do-nothing-in-a-park routine. 

But either way, that’s just a bizarre segue for me to launch into a story about our hosts in Porto, who enjoyed their unemployed lives much more than any of the other unemployed hosts we stayed with. 

“If you think you’re having fun collecting government checks in Spain, meet Arnold!”

Sure he wishes he was still running his restaurant that didn’t survive in Portugal’s brutal economic crisis, but now he spends his days sitting in an unkempt backyard, using a compass to make intricate designs on the side of a birdhouse. After three days of making circles, he fills them in with colored pencils. 

“But aren’t his culinary skills going to waste while he colors bird houses?” you may ask.

No, he still makes a tasty soup, and if you’re lucky enough to catch his 1am veggie medley, we’ll you’re in for a real treat.

“If you think you’re having fun applying for jobs in Spain, meet Tiago!”

We’re still not sure what Tiago does. Some days he hosts jam sessions in his backyard. Other days he meticulously combs the garden for broken mosaic tiles. Then he puts them back into the soil in moderately pretty patterns.

Every day he has an awesome beard.

He’s also really good at playing mixtapes comprised of swing-versus-electro beats.

“If you think you’re having fun wondering how you’re going to put food on the table, meet Rui!”

He doesn’t quite fit in with this bohemian hippy house as he’s roughly 20 years the senior of all the other residents. He’s extremely knowledgeable in all things Portugal. He may or may not be sleeping with Arnold.

The fact that all these guys were so happy really toyed with me as I need a silly freelance copywriting job as much for the feeling that I’m doing something productive in life, as I do for the money. These guys don’t give a shit and are awesome for it.

Casa da Musica
Not my picture
Dustin sends me a lot of New York Times articles with slideshows of beautiful architecture. I click and view these slideshows. Other than that I don’t know anything about architecture. The Casa da Musica (designed by Rem Koolhaus) was amazing though. I felt like I was in the not-so distant future sitting in a meteor-shaped theater with gold-leaf digital tiger print on the side walls.

I also think that if you name your kid Rem Koolhaus, he’s going to be an architect, and probably a badass one.

Is it true that Porto’s landscape architects are a little stand-off-ish?
Not so much so, but they’re not the warmest people in the world based on my encounter with one landscape architect named Sara (Tiago’s girlfriend) who kept a landscape architecture book on a music stand in the bathroom which was weird. But her own backyard was such a mess that maybe she needs all the inspiration she can get.


Sound-reflecting bubble above Casa da Musica stage

Astor Place Cube rip-off

My rough attempt at a panorama

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Part 13: Lisbon

Belem Tower
Note: I'll be taking a vacation from writing about my vacation, so there probably won't be a post on Thursday or Friday. 

Few people in life have baffled me as much as our Lisbon airbnb host, Maria Teresa.

Upon our arrival the septuagenarian welcomed us into her ornately decorated home and prepared us two cups of tea. As we sipped our tea, we tried to make the usual small talk. How long have you lived here? What do you recommend we see first?

She didn’t answer either question but instead asked Sarah aka Dara* about her MacBook. MT then told us she had a Hewlett Packard and that her previous airbnb guest also had a MacBook and that she thinks MacBooks are great computers.

When we told her we were living in Barcelona, she said, “I was there recently for the Olympics. There were a lot of trees lining the street, but I think they removed most of them? Are there still a lot of trees there?”

Barcelona held the Olympics in 1992 and I’m honestly not sure how the foliage has changed in the city over the past two decades. Because of both of those facts I was unable to answer any of her questions, so I guess we were even in getting to know each other better.

Within my first hour of meeting her I had so many questions.

How did she find airbnb? I theorized that it was perhaps a similar situation to a kid helping their parents get on Facebook, except that instead of gaining digital friend requests, this old lady was set up to have foreign strangers stay in her home. 

She didn’t seem to need the money as her place was massive and covered in fancy-looking junk.

Despite the fact that she spoke English fluently, she wasn’t all that conversational, so I don’t think she was doing it for the company.

Unfortunately I’ll never know the answer to any of my questions because when I asked her if the tap water was OK to drink, she walked in the kitchen and began to show me how to use the ironing board.

After a night of bopping around in Lisbon’s buzzing Baixa barrio, I set my alarm for 7:40, because MT told me the parking meters began at 8 am on Saturday. 

I woke once in the middle of the night by the blaring of MT’s television. I checked my watch and it was 5 am. Damn you Maria Teresa. 

Then I got up at what had become the ungodly hour of 7:40 to roll out of bed and feed the meter. As I walked outside I noticed a lot of cars illegally parked and several others who hadn’t paid their meter. I suspected that MT had given me incorrect information, just before I confirmed that meters were not checked on the weekends. I then shook my head and told the sidewalk that I hated Maria Teresa and hated myself for not double-checking her.

Other anecdotes I want to have written down to frustrate/amuse myself in the future:

 In the center of every doorway hung a windchime that would hit you square in the face if you were over 5 feet tall and weren’t paying attention. 

 While her house was old-lady-cluttered, it was noticeably absent of anything resembling a family photo. In her laundry room, above the machine there was a large photo of a 6-year-old girl deadpanning the camera while wearing a 1960s-ish-era dress. Above that photo, hung a framed advertisement for Cool Water Cologne by Davidoff, showing a black-and-white shot of a bare-chested male laying on the beach. 
On our third day in the house, I asked MT what was the significance of the photos. And with the first mention of her children, she responded, “That’s my son and that’s my daughter.”

 During a brief moment when MT was giving appropriate responses to my questions, I asked her how she got on airbnb. She told she found it on Google. And that is a prime example of when search engine optimization goes bad. 

 We had this conversation:
MT: I’m watching this really funny movie with this hilarious black guy (pointing to The Rock, in Journey to the Center of the Earth II). It’s a very imaginative movie. Americans love using their imagination, don’t they?
Me: (Considers correcting her that The Rock is Samoan**, not black. Decides to let her live in a world where The Rock is black.) I guess we do. 

*Sarah introduced herself as Sarah. Maria Teresa said, “I’ve never met someone named Dara.” Sarah said, “Actually, it’s Sarah.” MT said, “That’s great Dara.” And it was Dara the rest of the trip. 

**Wikipedia actually tells me: "His father is of Black Nova Scotian (Canadian) origin and his mother is of Samoan heritage." So I guess we're both right.
Dara Sarah loves Chili’s. A lot. It’s her Samurai Sams, except she had the pleasure of working at her favorite restaurant. 

Therefore, when we realized that one of the two Chili’s in all of Europe was located in Lisbon, we had no choice but to go. 

We had our jackets on and were halfway out the door when MT offered to show video of Portuguese bull fighting. We told her we were on our way to dinner. She told us to sit down. 

She then cued up a documentary that showed bulls running through a field. She pointed out which bulls were black and which ones were brown. The DVR denoted that the program was an hour long. We were screwed. 

We tried to get out of our mandatory Portuguese Bulls 101 class, but the best we could do was skip to the actual bull fighting. 

MT actually knew a lot about bull fighting, much more than she let on with her narration of the bulls’ colors in the documentary. However she made us sit through the opening ceremonies and a few minutes of Portuguese color commentary, until I told her that we couldn’t understand a word and that we were really hungry. 

Thirty long minutes later we were out of the house and on our way to Chili’s. It looked the exact same inside. The menu was nearly identical, except everything was a lot more expensive. The Pepsi still came in an over-sized mug. 

Dammit, all these posts are just about wacky airbnb hosts. Here’s some stuff about the actual city we visited. 

If the Lisbon tourism board ever said, “We need someone with one year of copywriting experience and 0 years of tourism industry experience to come up with a new slogan for our city.” 

I would be very suited for that loose job description and I’d give them “Lisbon: Just as many iconic landmark replicas as Vegas, but without any of the Vegas shittiness!”

Then I’d present these photos: The Golden Gate Bridge | Ponte 25 de Abril 

The Christ the Redeemer is hiding in the cross-beams
(Interesting fact: Many people will tell you it’s built by the same company who built San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s actually built by the company who built SF’s Bay Bridge.)

Christ the Redeemer | Cristo-Rei
Ever wondered how Rio de Janiero’s Christ the Redeemer statue would look against a faux Golden Gate Bridge? The answer is not so bad. 

Arizona Water Tower | Water Tower behind LX Factory
I’m not sure there is one water tower in Arizona, let alone a famous one that bears the state flag. But still I appreciate these guys’ homage to a landmark that only exists in my head.  

Other Photos

It may appear that I’m standing atop this amphibious Portuguese navy vessel and saluting the nation’s capital, but really I’m gathering intel… just in case Portugal attacks the States.
Below is their version of DUMBO, which technically is Down Under the Ponte 25 de Abril, except nobody calls it DUP2A. 
Hipster cafes, check. Hipster flea market, check. Front Street pinwheels, Dammit. 

I’m still not sure if Lisbon’s street-art asses are the 1% of street-art asses or the 99% of street-art asses. Either way, #Occupy4Life.
This street art isn't very applicable to anything
A cool letter C
Ferari & Flowers
Not Shuttleworth

My cool shirt from the flea market
Even when I’m on vacation, I’m thinking, “How can I make Janiga’s timeline cover photo better?” That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Part 12: Silves

If Lagos is where Brits go to blackout and enjoy their youth, Silves is where Brits go to blackout and enjoy their twilight years.

Since Sarah and I are not retired Brits or Portuguese mountain men, we really had no business being in Silves and we never would have got there if it weren’t for 1957 hippie truck house calling our name. Actually it called Sarah’s name. When I saw the weird bus with a weird picture of a weird woman sitting in its weird “dining room” I said, "nope," and continued my airbnb search.

Yet Sarah insisted we stay there, so we made a reservation, they accepted, I was kinda pissed. My faux-hippiness has a hard limit, and hippie buses on a hippy commune are way past that limit.

After a drive through a winding mountain road, we arrived and were greeted by the hippy kingdom owners: a pair of British ex-pats Jason and Kaye. Jason was a stocky, soul-patched bloke and Kaye wore a tapestry as she just finished skinny dipping in their lagoon.

We were shown our “home,” the hippie bus named Shambhala (after the mythical Tibetan kingdom of pure Buddhist land). Upon trying to open the house-truck door, Jason accidentally ripped the door knob off. Once we got in, we looked at three barely single size beds that were just behind a narrow, non-operational kitchen. We lied,  “These look great...” before Jason told us those were his childrens' beds, and pointed us toward the  “master bedroom.” In the family room there was a tree-trunk table, surrounded by a bench. The table doubled as a step up to the  “ master bedroom” which was positioned over the truck cab. It really was a beautiful creature and our first set of accommodations that didn't require house keys, due to the fact that it was situated in the middle of nowhere and there was no keyhole in the door.

Shambhala kitchen

Shambhala interior. Pics of ATVs and their specs provided by Jason's son when he was 5
We happened to arrive on Jason’s birthday and we took him up on his offer of heading to a bar with cheap beers. Before we drove off, Jason, the kind man that he is, gave us gifts on his birthday. We leerily looked at the crackers slathered in his homemade magic butter, but ate them of course (this was our peak of three consecutive airbnb hosts giving us free weed). 

I’d like to say that everything got Fucking. Crazy. Man. as I chased Jason through the hills on a road bordered with steep drop offs that made me feel like I was on an insane roller coaster. But really I death-gripped the steering wheel at 10 and 2 as I tried to shadow his late 80s Ford Fiesta as he burned through the mountains while I rode my brakes.

After we all survived and made it to the bar, Jason made his royal entrance, strutted up to the bar and asked for a “extremely large gin and tonic.” 

Curious how one comes about owning a 1957 gypsy bus, I asked Jason how the Shambhala came into his life.

“It’s quite an interesting story actually,” he said.

Well. I imagined it would be.

“I knew I wanted something different in my life, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I was looking online and I stumbled upon the listing for the Shambhala which at the time was called ‘The Ritz’ and was being sold by a fellow named Rob Romaine.

“I told my wife we were flying to New Zealand to get it. While I was there I happened upon a gypsy fair in New Zealand. I saw this guy selling tickets for children to enter a mini matchstick mansion where kids can step in to see rats running around. The matchstick mansion owner wore a bowler’s hat with three mice running circles around the brim (note: maybe my favorite character detail of all time). I had a feeling it was him, so I said ‘Rob Romaine?’ He confirmed it was him. I told him I wanted to buy The Ritz.

“He said you don’t want The Ritz, you want this one, referring to another custom-made bus-home with a crankshaft that opened a cocktail bar.” (note #2: in my head I’m picturing some kind of hippy-alcoholic transformer.)

Jason insisted he wanted The Ritz and shortly there after it was his.

The rest of the night was spent talking to Jason’ gang of retired British ex-pats, many of whom told me the bought their house based on how accessible it was to roads that didn’t have DUI checkpoints. 

Once you’ve retired, your house's location really should be predicated on drinking-and-driving accessibility.

Every Brit in attendance was wildly liberal and conversations ranged from hate on Bush, to hate Blair, to hate on Halliburton. Jason was like a newly-converted liberal who just discovered the internet as he kept citing YouTube videos and “things he read in an email” for his sources. 

Somehow I swung the conversation to Concorde jets, and Thom (I’m not sure if that’s how he spelled it, but let’s assume he had a proper ‘h’ in there), the most talkative Brit in attendance gave me a lengthy rundown of his experience riding in the supersonic airliner.

His explanation included a reenactment of the afterburners firing, in which he got all the sagging skin on his body to jolt back, while he sat in a patio lounge chair. Clearly this was not his first time delivering this reenactment.

It was also at this point that Jason’s butter cracker kicked in, so Thom’s tale of riding a Concorde was the most fascinating thing ever.

The guy who ran the bar was named Kev, a half-Irish-half-Tanzanian former Hell’s Angel, who Jason described as looking as if he’d been chewed up and spit out. Jason’s description was rather apt.

Although he had the body of a 140-year-old, I’d guess Kev is somewhere in his 60s. Somehow his wife is a cute looking girl that appeared to be in her 20s.

I never got her back-story, but I really would love to know the home Kev's wife came from.   

A Far From Death Experience
The next day Sarah and I hiked through the surrounding hills. After three hours we realized we had little clue where we were as each hill looked identical and they were all just tall enough that you couldn’t see more than two hills away.

We’d stayed on trails, but switched trails many times over. Because I’m a huge pussy who is far from being an outdoorsman, I began to freak out a bit in my head.

In case you're not convinced that I was a pussy, here's what was in my backpack while my mind was starting to race:

- A working cell phone
- Cherries and almonds
- Water
- Sandwiches

In case you're still not convinced I was/am a pussy, consider this fact: 
- We had seen the house in the distance from a hilltop 40 minutes prior to my worries.

Despite knowing all that, my anxiety increased after I ascended another hill only to not be able to see any semblance of our homebase.

I began to do that whole “God, if you let me live, I’ll…” but I quickly realized the situations weren’t that dire at all.

Twenty minutes later we found the correct trail back and within the hour we were back in Shambhala. Best of all I didn't owe God shit. 

Back at home after my not-so-near death experience, I talked to Jason about life, drugs, and travels. Jason told me that all you need is enough money for food, drink, and travel, and seeing how happy he was, he sold his point well. 

When the subject of financial savings came up, Jason shook his head and contorted his face into the physical definition of bewilderment, “Pfff. Savings?! Why would you?!”

Just hiding, not hunting
Summer Camp
It took me a bit to realize that we were staying at a summer camp, except we were the only campers. He had a pedal-power go kart, a concert venue, outdoor kitchen, roundhouse, saunas, fire-burning baths, teepees, fiji style hut.

At night the stars were so close it looked like you could reach up and grab the little dipper.

Getting It
Our airbnb guest review from Jason and Kaye reads: 
"Lovely guests.who totally "get" what its about to stay here.They actually turned up on my birthday and were able to come and celebrate with me.They left Shambhala spotless.like they had never been in there.Really hope to see you again soon"
I think my parents would be proud. 

Festi Kids
Jason and Kaye's kids grew up living in Shambala and attending any festival they could navigate the bus to. Having been to 1.5 festivals in my life, I was always fascinated by the little kids surrounded by the weirdest (and arguably lowest) form of humanity. One day I'd like to make a documentary on festival-raised kids – and by that I mean I'd like to watch that documentary since I will never make a documentary in my life. 

Unfortunately I never got to talk to any of Jason’s three kids, which is exactly why I need someone else to make this documentary for me.

Jason said that at the festivals, Kaye would sell arts and clothes, while Jason would juggle fire. That got me thinking about Jason's résumé and how truly awesome it must be.

He also told stories about the mini-festivals they’ve hosted at their own house, which featured an anecdote about one hippy losing her pair of dentures.

Jason then segued to a conundrum he’s having with his 13-year-old daughter, who like most teenagers – and first-world humans – is becoming interested in clothes and material items. In order to get his daughter's values back in focus, Jason is moving the whole family to Sri Lanka for the next six months. 

What's going to happen to their property while their gone?

Don't worry, Jason already has plans for a spiritual dance troupe to watch the house.