It was Christmas Day, my last day in Thailand, and I was looking for something to make my trip extra special. I roamed the streets of Chiang Mai, listening to Drake’s “The Motto” on my iPod, and I thought about how great those last few weeks had been, and how great the last few months had been in general. After four years on and off in New York City, I had made the decision to move to South Korea to teach English. Making the decision had been rough, and I had a hard time coming to terms with leaving the city. Brunches on Saturdays, partying in the evenings, smoking [...]
All I had to do in Albuquerque was rent a car and drive away from the place. I had asked the people at the rental car place for the smallest, cheapest car possible, and the attendant described my choices to me, stressing that one of them was bigger but got better gas mileage, and so I said, sure, that one is fine, why not. When he handed me the bill to sign, I discovered that the car he had led me to choose was in fact $150 more than the other one. "That," I said, pushing the list of charges back to him over the counter, "was so fucking lame." [...]
It's always delightful to read about places that one has no temptation to visit and will never, ever see! So today's travelogue of Kazakhstan and its 16-year-old capital, Astana, is fantastic, and as you are a subscriber to the New Yorker, you will have no problem reading it online or in the magazine, yes? Plus there are some excellent and blunt surprises—if, I suppose, corruption and horror and vast wealth going hand-in-hand are ever a surprise—mid-tale for those who are similarly and happily uninformed as I. Gosh, I hope I never live to see this frosty new hell-hole in person.
I love Latin America. I'm not sure if it's the food, the people, the culture or its vibrant collection of knockoffs.
I'm also not sure why I'm so passionate about fake things. Maybe it's the mockery of consumer capitalism, or the satisfaction of the common man owning something he could never afford. I own a fake Adidas jumpsuit from La Paz. A pair of Phony (brand) headphones from Bogota. And a copy of Avatar filmed during a 3D screening.
And so I was delighted the other week, when I went to Mexico City for the sixteenth time.
It's hot out! And this is the unofficial start of summer. Hence our series of essays this week: Here Comes Summer!
My friend Sarah [not her real name!] and I were wandering the streets of Nice, wearing 60-pound backpacks. We needed a place to stay. I hadn't made a reservation. I hadn't thought you needed to make reservations at the kind of cheap youth hostels I'd been planning on staying in. My Lonely Planet guide hadn't mentioned that part, or at least I hadn't paid attention. Let me tell you, should you ever plan on making such a trip, to a vacation destination like Nice in the middle of [...]
As I turned on to City Island Avenue, the first thing I noted was a series of magnificent trees, all eviscerated so as not to interfere with the almighty power lines. 'Can't Bloomberg do something about this?' I asked Stephen and we both laughed, knowing that the mayor has only been north of 96th Street ___ times during his 10,000 years in office, much less to any part of the Bronx beyond a 500-foot radius of Yankee Stadium.
The man was sick, or had been for hours. When he rose, finally, it was bright out and hot, and he determined that he would not be making it to the conference that day, and instead he would ride the train that went around the city. The way he figured it was, to sit upright, indoors, and work at looking interested was more likely to bring back last night’s nausea than the train. Getting sick in front of people he knew would be embarrassing. This way, if he did puke, it’d be with strangers he would never see again. And trains calmed him.
He packed a big bottle [...]
Because I had only planned to stay in the Berkshires for less than a day, my friend suggested we go on a hike up Monument Mountain. I agreed: New York City has a lot going for it, but mountains are not included. I was also happy to take my mind off of a reading I was scheduled to give that night as part of a local arts festival. My slot was between two bands, which when I accepted the invitation sounded great in theory but felt more problematic as I saw myself talking to a bunch of drunks about opera, German Romanticism and the challenges of being a non-heterosexual writer [...]
SXSW Interactive is the convergence of utopian techno-futurism and base primitivism. Men hold screens in front of their faces as they ride down escalators. These devices work the best that they ever have. Instead of Tweeting into a void, they’re communicating with people on the other side of the convention center. People use their location-based applications to tell friends which bars they’re at. Women that meet in passing can follow each others Tweets and reunite an hour later, better-informed. These technologies are working exactly the way their developers say they should. Human beings connect to one another.
But Austin during SXSW is not a good test-case for “real world [...]
When Hunter S. Thompson used to make the quick trip from his home in Woody Creek to downtown Aspen, he would stop at the J-Bar, the ancient watering hole that has soused up the tenants of its adjoining Hotel Jerome since 1883. "Right over there," the bartender at the 19th-century artifact said, as I ordered a Stella. "Hunter would always sit in that corner." The bar even has one of the iconic "HUNTER THOMPSON FOR SHERIFF" posters hanging there. And, yeah, it's a genuinely classy place. It has a classic rust-bruised tin ceiling that would be "trying too hard" if it weren't, well, real. Yes, Hunter might like this place. [...]
On a recent trip to Vero Beach, I was interested and a little dismayed-in a way that's probably unavoidable in Florida when you consider the ongoing clash between the lush vegetation and strip-mall civilization-to learn that my parents' condominium is situated on the former site of a large botanical garden. Originally called Jungle Garden, it was built in 1922 on land purchased by Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton (an engineer and a citrus grower, respectively) who like many of today's rich-ass motherfuckers financial leaders were obsessed with orchids and water lilies, and brought rare specimens from around the world to showcase to the interested public.
A day and a half after meeting at Moose’s Saloon, Jude and I boarded a raft with his pit bull and began floating down the north fork of the Flathead River.
He called himself a mountain man, and was eager to guide a city girl on life in the outdoors.
“We’re going down the river, going to have a Montana adventure today… because we’re craaaZAY!” he sang loudly, as other people sailed by.
I hadn’t showered in three days because I was sleeping in the car to save money, but Jude didn’t seem to care. Neither did his dog, who kept leaping into my lap. Jude grinned, turned up some [...]
"On the floor of one cavern, officers discovered an ominous metal container. The object was fat, festooned with wires. The police called in the bomb squad, they evacuated the surface, they asked themselves: What have we found? They had found a couscous maker." —"When I say secret society, you imagine, I don't know, like, in Eyes Wide Shut."
The port-a-potty situation is universally humbling. The brand is Honey Bucket, which is so gross and psychosexually radioactive a name that the excreta deposited and vacuumed out of them gains a strange and terrible power over our imaginations. Retching sounds and maniacal laughter alike drift from the banks of plastic shitboxes scattered throughout the camping area. A mysterious chalk homage to the waste receptacles appears at the venue gate. Legends spread of Honey Buckets where the filth rises above the level of the toilet seat. Pissing in the thick heat of one, I'm suddenly able to hear, from some far-off stage, the distinct and chipper chorus of Avi Buffalo's [...]
From time to time, The Awl likes to explain to Internet denizens what the world beyond the great inside is like. Here is one such explanation, describing a recent trip to locations on the Eastern seaboard of the United States.
We had missed the parade. Or maybe it was somewhere else. The sidewalk was packed with bad faces. A guy had his pants down and was trying to walk. The cops were wearing long leather jackets. I grew up in Jersey, and I remembered bad faces, but I couldn't remember cops ever wearing jackets like that, leather and big gold buttons. Every bar had a line out the door. [...]