Part I-

June 14, 2009 by

The honorable Prince Zaw

            I am typing this on the laptop of an elderly polish immigrant named, Strychacki Zbigniew. We call him Stanley for short. I am using his laptop for two reasons:

1) I made a scene at the Starbucks at Times Square a week and a half ago when I moronically dropped my Macbook, then subsequently dropped my “iced venti, sweet (indecipherable word), leche,” after trying to catch my beloved computer on its unfortunate way down to the stone floor. I bit my lip. Hard. After gravity was done yanking three years of pictures, documents and progress out of my hand and down to the ground like a fucking tractor beam, I bent down to pick up the now defunct laptop. It was still in one piece and I was shattered. I grabbed all of my belongings and high-tailed out of there, never looking back. I will never see those people again.

2) I have accepted the task of locating and getting in touch with Stanley’s good friend and prominent homosexual, the honorable Prince Zaw of Dubai. Downloading Skype onto his computer seemed like a good place to start. Apparently I’m doing this in exchange for two Marcepan candies made by Poland’s own famous Mieszko candy company. What joy! I didn’t expect the candies, but they were sloppily taped to a tattered note with my name on it in the bag with the laptop. They tasted like sugar coated with pure shit.

This is not fiction. 

It’s 3 am during the graveyard shift at The Manhattan House and I need to get some rest. I’ll explain everything tomorrow.

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Three pages a day

June 14, 2009 by

So.

            I am writing this at the recommendation of a young, New York film student clad in designer, suede leather shoes. He’s most likely terrifically well-to-do, as most, if not all tenants of The Manhattan House tend to be. The middle to lower classes of society do not fare well in the Upper East Side. Full pockets and stiff necks are a must.

            “Three pages a day,” he told me. A slim task, given the breadth of the laziness that seems to have clouded and infected the whole of western civilization; myself included. As he was making his way beyond the spotless (thanks to yours truly) stainless steel doors of the elevator, we wound up in a short, hurried conversation as the doors kept trying to shut between incessant and annoying beeping noises. I asked him about film school and discovered that he too, was interested in writing as well as directing and producing. When I told him that I was studying writing, a dim, yet apparent enthusiasm emerged in his eyes. “Three pages a day is all you have to do. Do it until it’s a habit—something automatic,” he said with the calm, laid back certainty of any good teacher. I knew he was right. Every textbook in every writing class I’ve ever taken said to get into the habit of writing on a daily basis until writing is no longer a task, god forbid a burden, but a part of your routine. It should be like brushing your teeth or masturbating (never been more sexually frustrated).

            Maybe it’s because I knew he was right that I am writing this now. The idea of writing every day had been mulling around in the deep, nearly forgotten recesses of my mind for quite some time. Every day I did not write, I went to sleep with a small shard of relative guilt in my conscience somewhere. Like the pinnacle of splinterdom, I could never really put my finger on it, but I knew it was there. Somewhere. Recently, everything has been slowly coming into perspective. A new and growing light has been revealing my life to me, day by day. The clouds around my head have been dissolving into the atmosphere. The weather is a beautiful 70 degrees and sunny in my airspace and take-off will be any minute now. Maybe it’s compensation for the fact that I’ve hardly seen the sun in the better part of a month. The engines are primed and the last throng of expensive Samsonite luggage is onboard. An excited little boy points from a terminal window in a tarmac somewhere.

 Somewhere.

            For the longest time, I’ve known that I was passionate about writing, but I lacked any direction or motivation. I was thinking of giving up on writing and assuming my unfortunate position in one of many dead-end jobs that in no way applied to what I really longed for in life, as many Americans do. It’s the summer before my last year of college and I’ve never looked for an internship anywhere. Maybe it’s because I had no idea what type of writing job I was looking to get. It seems that any successful young adult should have an internship during the summer before the last year of school. -That’s just what people do-. It’s like looking both ways before crossing or putting milk in your cereal. -That’s just what people do-. Every year seminars are given and mile-high stacks of handouts and flyers are given out, blowing around and littering college campuses around the globe. They practically shove it down your throat. So much time is devoted to the concept of finding this coveted “internship” that it seems to take on a mythical aura; like the banshee or the clitoris. It has become a requirement for success, much like a pristine academic record or a wallet bursting at the seams.

Fuck internships.

            So I write this now—three pages, size 12 font, one-inch margins, Times New Roman, double-spaced. A part of me wants to find solace and confidence in the routine, the other part hopes it will be the easy way out to success—a way to gain lost ground and fast. Writing every day is the difference between being a writer and being somebody who writes. I don’t know why this has taken so long, or why I am finally getting serious now. It seems like a good time to begin, as I’ll later explain. I want to write fiction. Maybe I’ll write a book. I want to be a writer and I have to start somewhere, so I’ll start here:

Here.

Lets pat ourselves on the back.

May 9, 2009 by

I’ve never blogged before and I don’t think anyone in this group has. All in all, it was a worthy experiment and I think I might actually keep maintaining this blog. If not, it would be a waste of a great .wordpress name. 355 hits, people out of this class actually reading our work, 2 real authors leaving comments, me getting ripped apart by expert archaeologists for a poorly researched blog post on stonehenge… priceless.

In Search of Bacchus

May 7, 2009 by

For my final entry, I thought I would share with you all an eccentric hobby of mine. While I travel, I am always on the lookout for Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and theater. Allow me to share with you a very small bit of my collection of images documenting my encounter with the god. These are from my Florence and Paris collection:

One of the statues is that of a Maenad, one of Dionysus’s followers.

This is a fun little hobby, and I suggest you try it out.

Well… I guess I’d better get back to packing.

Cheers,

-Michael

A Scene from Gubbay Hall

May 7, 2009 by

We spend all of our lives trying to move from one place to the next. Or at least I have so far. I cannot be satisfied where I am. I move in to a place, I unpack, I sit in the chair. I stare out the window. Make a cup of coffee. Sigh. Go outside. Have a smoke. Watch the sun set behind my new neighborhood. The next day, the room is a mess, I’ve accidentally blown out the power, and I need to get the hell out of there.

The dorms over in Middlesex University in the northern suburbs of London were called halls. I know the difference in language is slight, but the little changes in terms added up over time. I found myself constantly jingling from the large amount of change that the British use in their currency system. I was not sure what the difference was between one quid and one pound; it turns out they meant the same thing.

Simon cracked open another tall can of Stella and looked at me with a dim twinkle in his eye. The room was a chaotic mess of rubbish, bitter, and wankers (which was our lot). I was finally starting to understand more than three words at a time that came out of Simon’s mouth; his accent was thick, but not nearly as indecipherable as Alex’s, who was from Manchester. We were discussing the differences between American and British slang. I was trying to keep up with the Brits as they spewed out talk in their strange code.

“Yeahp, Alex is a chav,” Simon mumbled, smiling.

Alex hit him on the arm. “Ye best not listen to this bloke,” Alex laughed, reaching for another beer. “He’s a bloody tosser.”

I frowned. “Tosser?”

Alex laughed. “Ye know. A wanker.”

I was still confused. Alex, sensing that his insult was lost in translation, made a vulgar gesture with his free hand. “Ye know, when there’s no tart around, ye have a wank. Yer tossing. Simon is a tosser.”

I nodded. The room erupted with laughter.

It turns out that a chav is a derogatory term for someone of the lower class. Chav seems to be the British equivalent of the American white trash. When I was hanging out with that crowd, generally I did not hear them refer to each other as blokes or chaps. But there were a hell of a lot of tossers and chavs. Oh, and of course, I was the token yank of the group. They flattered me.

Selective memory, I suppose. Paired with some wanderlust.

-Michael

And On That Note…

May 7, 2009 by

The semester has ended. The blog will probably not be updated or read for a while or ever again, which is sad 😦 but it’s okay. For those of us who are taking the summer off, don’t forget to write! You’re going to be doing crazy things–getting a mean sunburn while on a yacht, poison ivy while hiking up the Palisades, maybe getting burned after your friends dare you to jump over the bonfire at  a party… either way, crazy things make great stories. 

So, not to sound like a Mom, or a nerd, or your sophomore English teacher, but enjoy your summers! Read some wonderful novels, and write anything; if not for educational purposes, then just simply to soothe your soul.

Ciao!

Crimes in Cyberspace

May 7, 2009 by

A news article posted by the Wall Street Journal got me thinking, who woulda thought? The article discusses internet privacy in the workplace, apparently two co-workers at a New Jersey location, and countless other employees around the country have been getting in trouble, suspended from their jobs, or even fired because of something they posted on MySpace of Facebook. 

In one instance, a supervisor somehow hacked into the account of two employees and read a private conversation of the two bashing their workplace. The emplyees were fired and now the supervisor is being charged for invasion of privacy.

“While private conversations might be covered under those laws, none of the statutes specifically addresses social networking or blogging,” (WSJ)

There are privacy laws in our country, I’m sure of it. They are what prohibit some snoop from reading your snailmail. But with the accounts of internet privacy, and the comotion it’s causing, where is the line drawn? If someone can’t read your mail, but they can hack into your Facebook account and read your inbox messages, is that okay? I don’t think so, actually I think most of us have a more personal connection with our inboxes than we do with our mailbox.

Packing, packing, packing.

May 7, 2009 by

Well, the time has come, my friends, to saddle up and hit the dusty trail. One thing a backpacker needs to know more than almost anything else is how to pack. This is a skill I still need a bit of work on.

Being an aspiring travel writer, I usually wind up packing way too many guidebooks and notebooks. This is silly. It is impossible to get lost in Europe, as long as you stay in the main, touristy parts of the city–and that’s what the guidebooks detail, anyway. But if I am going to become a real travel writer someday (I hope so), I have to go off the beaten path. I think that the most valuable resource you can have with you is another person.

I’ve always valued traveling alone, but if I am really going to sink my fingers into my destinations, then I’d better grow a pair and skip the changing of the guard (overrated). I’ve done a lot of bizarre things in my travels, and I’ve noticed that simply being with another person gives me the strength to venture into so pretty unusual situations and places. Fortunately for me, I will not be traveling across the continent on my own this time.

This list is a good starting point for any aspiring traveler. My advice, however, is to pack what you can–and cut it in half. The sage wisdom of my fellow backpackers is finally starting to rub off on me. My biggest problem my first few times around was that I packed like I was going off into the wilderness. Like I said… it’s Europe. In some ways, they seem a lot more civilized than we are. I may have to bring a few Moleskines with me, though. I can’t resist.

Can’t wait to go make some stories.

-Michael

Kaboom

May 7, 2009 by

I am going on a trip with the Geology department out to the West over the summer to get a “hands on” experience with geological formations. Today, I spent a whopping 7 1/2 hours with the Geology professor getting a crash course in Geology 101. It was intense, and a little excessive, but the information I learned about the cool places I am going to see was worth the time.

The National Geographic has reported that a volcano underwater is spurting out highly toxic levels of molten sulfur. The interesting part is that two species of shrimp thrive on the chemicals being belched out into the water, even as the body count of other marine life climbs.

Here’s the story from the National Geographic.

From the National Geographic

From the National Geographic

I learned today that volcanoes are responsible for massive amounts of land growth, most notably in places like the Hawaiin island chain. As tectonic plates shift, the volcanic “hot spots” stay put underneath the Earth’s crust, creating the chain of islands over time.

-Michael

In Bruges

May 7, 2009 by

My trip back to Europe is only two days away. A city I am staying in, but know absolutely nothing about, is Bruges in Belgium. For a bit of relaxing piano and a neat little tour of the canals, check out the video below. Can you spot the horse and buggies?

It comes across as very Medieval. Rapture!

This is from the Wikipedia page. Nice, huh?

This is from the Wikipedia page. Nice, huh?

According to Wikipedia, it is called the “Venice of the North.” I can see that, but those canals, along with the architecture of the buildings, reminds me of Amsterdam more than anything else.

When I stayed in Amsterdam, I decided to do something a little different. I was getting pretty tired of staying in cities, so I booked a hostel that had an interesting twist: every room was its own caravan. I spent my days biking the countryside and kayaking through the canals, but at night, I slept in a caravan somewhere in the middle of the Dutch countryside. It was pretty surreal, but definitely worth the commute back into the city.

The Lucky Lake Youth Hostel outside of Amsterdam

The Lucky Lake Youth Hostel outside of Amsterdam

Unfortunately, it looks like I am going to be flying out on Friday into some thunderstorms. I’m not afraid or anything; flying is the safest way to travel. But I don’t like the idea of my flight being delayed eight hours. Oh well. On one of my flights, the wing practically scraped the ground during landing.

-Michael