Undergoing Home Surgery in my Vietnam Apt

namchickenIn Saigon, Vietnam, my roommate Sweet Chucky B is disinfecting a small razorblade. It will be inserted into my leg really soon. “I’ve done this before dude, I made it halfway thru Med school,” he says reassuringly. My foot hangs over the bathroom sink as he numbs the buldge in my leg with ice. I have some weird cyst in my leg, and we’ve spent the last 2 hours on Youtube studying how to cut it out.

Sweet Chucky B is a tall gangly white man from Iowa, and we are best pals/roommates in Saigon, Vietnam (circa 2012-2013). Chucky B walks the line of sanity, speaking his highly-intricate inner monologues out loud. The man is a human genius. He once went an entire year without masturbating just to say he did. I’ve also seen him stop 6 lanes of traffic in the middle of Saigon to fist-fight a crew of angry Vietnamese men who cut him off in traffic. The city’s intensity could drive Buddha to the brink.

Losing your mind is inevitable in Vietnam. No one speaks English, everything smells like fish sauce, and you are 9,000 miles from any fraction of normalcy. It is as close to living on Mars as we get. At this point, Chucky B had been in Nam four (4) years, so he was long overdue to go postal. “I hate Gary Glitter. What an ass hole. So glad my friend called the cops on that guy and got him kicked out of Vietnam. F*** that guy forever,” said Chucky B.

I trust Sweet Chucky B, always have. As his cheap razorblade dives into my leg, I should have more doubts than I do. Trying not to look, I observe a small Vietnamese lady machete the head off a fish out the bathroom window. As the blade wiggles around in my leg I hear, “sorry man, the cyst is too big, we gotta go to the hospital”. shit

We get on the motorbike, trailing behind a family of four on a $100 motor scooter thru the steaming streets of Saigon. The Vietnamese motorist is carrying two chickens and not even hanging onto his bike. Thousands of motor scooters battle for inches of space. I remembered what my friend Jackie once said, “It’s way too easy to kill yourself in this country.”

“When Nirvana broke up and Dave Grohl started the Foo Fighters, I was like ‘Jesus, what a pussy…about your leg dude, you’re gonna be fine’”, rages Chucky B as I wallow on the back of his motorbike. We walk into the “hospital”. Hundreds of frowning Vietnamese people wait in a cue. Chucky B hands the clerk 100,000 Vietnam Dong ($5) and he lets us skip the line. We are ushered to a back room and instructed to wait. My leg is pretty bloody. A man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans emerges.

sweetchuckyb“Hello, I doctor”, says a small Thai man. Finally I’m scared. This guy is barely dressed to drink Miller Genuine Draft at a White Sox game, much less perform surgery. No gown, no gloves, no uniform. I lay on a wood desk wrapped in plastic wrap. Sweet Chucky B provides commentary as the Doctor removes the cyst from my leg. “Okay B-rett, he’s cutting out some stuff, it’s pretty much all liquid….almost done…He’s awesome at stitching. There’s slime everywhere. This is sweet.” I get bandaged up and the nurse hands me an invoice for five dollars. Chucky B informs me that I could probably afford 1,000 colonoscopies in Vietnam. I have a new leg.

Check out more crusty adventures with Sweet Chucky B at: www.sweetchuckyb.com

How to avoid death at an Argentine Futbol Match

April, 2008 - Buenos Aires, Argentina Boca-Juniors-fans-celebra-007When the Argentina guidebook tells you to avoid “Boca: the most dangerous neighborhood in Argentina”, it kind of makes you want to go to Boca.

Boca is home to one of the most famous soccer teams in the world, the Boca Juniors. Unsurprisingly, Boca yields some of the most violent fans on the planet. We would later find out that a soccer fan died in a fight before this game. These are cheap thrills people. For just $9 USD, you can watch a futbol game behind barbed-wire fencing while opposing fans throw garbage and literally pee on you.

Back at the hostel, we contemplate the pros vs the cons of making this trip. The innkeeper recommends we wait until there is a daytime game to avoid added danger. Our crew of four young men (myself, Mick Fallon, O.D., and "The Other Brett") comes to the following conclusions…

Cons: Getting heckled, robbed, stabbed, nunchucked, injured, dead. Pros: Probable fun

We pick up Jerseys of the hometeam to decrease the chances of getting shived. The sun is falling behind the skyline, leaving the neighborhood in cold darkness. An opposing fan begins to heckle my pal O.D. as we are pushed like cattle through a maze of barbed-concrete walls. O.D. talks some shit in Spanish as the natural density of the crowd separates the two men before an altercation presents itself. Shoulder to shoulder with hostile drunk strangers, we do our best to cover our pockets and keep each other’s backs. After 15 minutes, we are still being herded through concrete barriers toward the stadium. It feels like a zombie apocalypse film as the infected city is being evacuated.

We arrive at the holy gates of Boca Junior Stadium. The stadium resembles that of a prison playground where Ving Rhames would make Hell’s Angels his twinks. Tall, baren walls keep the compound surrounded as Boca fans in blue are kept on separate grandstands from opposing fans in red. Construction fencing topped with barbed wire separates the insane fans from the field. In South America, soccer is as much of a religion as it is a game. Due to violent Boca Junior support groups, Boca Stadium is one of the more dangerous places to see a match. Fireworks are commonly smuggled into the stadiums. Subsequently, “Football Hooliganism” has been added to Wikipedia. Noting the following about Argentine soccer…

In 2002, the Argentine government announced emergency security measures because football violence continued, with three people dead and hundreds injured in two weeks. Argentina also deals with three of the most dangerous organized supporter groups in the world, which are Los Diablos Rojos (from Independiente), Los Borrachos del Tablón (from River Plate) and La 12 (from Boca Juniors).

In March of 2011, Colombian soccer fans dug up the coffin of a deceased friend who was also a huge fan of the local team. The group of hooligans carried the 300 lb casket past “security” and into the stadium, passing the dead teen like a crowd surfer as the game played on. Authorities commented that they “didn’t know how the men got the (8 foot) coffin past security.”

Recoleta Cemetery / Buenos Aires / 2008In the stadium there are no seats, only large concrete steps covered in old gum and sandwich wrappers. It's a grand dirt nest of true futbol glory. As the game goes on, our friend Mick Fallon complains about having to “push a Harris”, college-code for the need to poop. As it is not a good idea to go the toilet solo, we urge Fallon to wait until the game is over. Fallon goes dead silent for 10 minutes, fighting the good fight against an oncoming turtle head. A fart cloud surrounds our vicinity. Smelling quite poorly, “The Other Brett” and I urge Fallon to use the toilet regardless of the risks. He agrees. I go with. Like two schoolgirls, we squirm through the crowd towards the toilet area. Fart clouds are trailed every step of the way as I take them straight to the face.

The Boca Stadium restrooms are the apocalypse. Fire code doesn’t exist and there is no plumbing. A line of soccer fans forms behind a small floor drain in the restroom, which fits only a third of the patrons in need of relief. The remaining people pee in the hallway stairwell. There are now more people urinating in the stadium hallway than the restroom itself. Void of options, I wizz in a corner next to a bearded gnome guy and proceed back to the game, leaving Fallon in line to wait for the only toilet stall. I climb stairs as rivers of urine run onto my shoes. Rivers.

Boca_diego_retroThe score is 3-0, Boca. With only six minutes left in the game, we begin to worry about Mick Fallon, who has been gone for almost an hour at the toilet. With 60 seconds left in the match, Fallon returns completely shirtless. There was no toilet paper. He grins a little. You might say it was a shit-eating grin.

The final horn rings. Boca wins 3-0. Fans of the away team begin to rampage on the upper deck directly behind us. I look behind me to see opposing fans unzipping their pants, dicks are everywhere. Piss pours down upon us. Ive never seen so many cocks. Argentine peckers hang over the guardrail as golden showers pour from the sky. Garbage and dirty water complement the gold streams. We pull our shirts over our heads. Shirtless Mick Fallon takes yellow rain directly on the shoulders, comic relief to the demoralization consuming us.

May we never speak of this again...

How I Became Friends with "Buzz" from HOME ALONE

BUZZOn October 3, 2010 I became Facebook friends with Buzz from the film Home Alone. I’m not talking about the “Buzz Fan Page”, I mean the actual dude. His real name is Devin Ratray, a 35-year-old huggable round man who has since retired from acting to pursue film production. Buzz is best known for eating the last slice of cheese pizza coveted by Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), leaving McCallister to sleep on an empty stomach with bed-wetter cousin Fuller. Below is the only exchange I ever had with Buzz/Ratray, which was clearly a ploy for him to accept my “friendship”. Brett Newski: “Devin, thanks for the autograph last weekend. You’re the man!” Devin Ratray: “No problem. Anytime!”

Ratray has since “unfriended” me from Facebook for reasons unknown. I did not find this out until today, after spotting a bootlegged copy of Home Alone at a Vietnamese DVD stand. It was a reminder that my only online celebrity friendship has fallen from glory. On this day, I too feel to have fallen from glory.

AGENT ORANGE is probably the greatest travesty in US war history. The War Museum in Saigon is brutal, but you don’t have to go there to see its effects on the Vietnamese people. Children and grandchildren of Vietnamese exposed to Agent Orange in the Nam War are born with deformities to this day. Short, crippled arms and legs are a common sight around the city, using a skateboard as a wheelchair. Sorry, I know it's a BUZZ kill.

After two hours of intensity at the Vietnam War Museum, I joined a tour group to the war fields of suburban Saigon. On the bus, we were briefed on the history of the Vietnam War in broken English over a broken Karaoke system that cost about 1,000,000 Vietnam Dong ($48).IMG_20150527_111249

Having a tour guide you cannot understand is like having an overweight personal trainer. I slumped back in my seat, hiding my headphones under my hoodie as not to offend Joe, our 4 foot nothin’ Vietnamese tour guide leading the bus to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These tiny, underground holes were the Viet Congs base of operation for the Tet Offensive in 1968. They are about the size of an ass crack. Not even half an American person could fit in some of these tunnels. Since the war, the tunnels have been widened to fit Cheeseburger shaped American bodies for tourism purposes.

As you know, tourism gift shops are generally tacky, overpriced, and encompass Webster’s definition of “terd.” But not this one. In the Cu Chi gift shop you can forget about novelty T-shirts. Here, one can literally buy tickets to the gun show. For just $1.50, you can shoot an AK-47 or an assortment of other Rambo artillery from the war. (In Cambodia, you can blow up a cow with a Bazooka for $200). One can also buy sandals made from a Goodyear tire for $2 (USD).

We complete the tour. Our guide Joe is pumped up about his job, rattling off his war knowledge at 300 mph in Vietnamese English. I try to concentrate, but can’t look away from the four-inch long solo grey hair dangling from his chin (it's bad luck to cut your mole hair in Vietnam) Despite communication barriers, I love this old guy. Joe informs me that his two favorite bands are CCR and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, both of which he discovered during his time as a hippy intellectual during Nam. No fightin’ for Joe. Truly a fortunate son.

Vietnam Sexual Relations: Stalking Bill Clinton

In the summer of 2010, I urinated next to Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys at Lollapalooza. Since there were only two Port-O-Johns for ten patrons, I waited in that toilet line for six minutes next to the Keys guitarist. Auerbach is the most down-to-earth celebrity I’ve ever met. He is almost permanently stone-faced, but mini shit-eating grins present themselves if you look closely. He cracked tasteful jokes about Lolla representatives slacking on the personal hygiene component of the media tent.  Waiting in line is a mundane event no one looks forward to, except Dan Auerbach. For once in his day, Auerbach is able to dodge the frenzy of media tape recorders and tight-jeaned reporters that ask him the same question in 100 different ways, “tell me about your new breakthrough album ‘Brothers’.” At this moment, I am happy to talk about portable toilets with Auerbach, and so is he. If I didn’t slam that Blue Gatorade just 60 minutes prior, I would have never met Dan Auerbach. Blue Gatorade is essentially melted cotton candy, but on this day the aftertaste was that of the nectar from God’s balls. This was the highlight of last summer.

This summer is different. The highlights present themselves in different shades. I am sitting in a Saigon, Vietnam alleyway stealing Internet from a wireless hotspot labeled “Dang Dung”. It rains fat cats and un-neutered dogs against the sheet metal roof as I attempt to drown out the noise with my iPod (playing the “Brothers” album). The alleyway runs just 6 feet wide. I catch whiffs of “Black Menthol Marb Cigs” from the Vietnamese shopkeeper across the way. He smells like cabbage, but I don’t mind. There has never been a better moment in time to inhale cabbage and cigarettes in unison. 

Lugging my guitar halfway across the globe, it became time to hack away at this 6-string. Setting up in the alley, I fake a Bob Dylan tune on harmonica. A small Saigon crowd gathers in mild amusement. A middle-aged deaf woman takes particular interest, placing her hand on the neck of my guitar. She stays here for nearly an hour, feeling the vibrations up her arm while I adlib one of the seven something verses to “Hurricane”. She can’t hear a thing, but feels every song. Her enthusiasm is exciting, motivating and heartening. After the jam, we communicate simple questions via notepad and she invites me to lunch at her restaurant next door, Pho 2000. I look at a framed photo on the wall. I’ll be damned, it’s Bill Clinton eating curry at this very eatery back in 07’. Nice. I hope he sat in this very chair. My Vietnamese date smiles at me from across the table. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. 

Vietnam: Life is 1/4 over; "Back when I was in Nam."

Bangkok Airport Sleep - 2012

It’s three days after the demise of my band, my life’s work of the past 4 years. I’m in between jobs with a small travel fund set aside from playing Beatles covers in Midwest suburban pubs. Time is on my mitts. Time to do something weird. At the moment of this documentation, it’s 3 a.m. I am sitting in the Bangkok airport, typing next to a peg-legged man from the slums of Narnia. The airport looks like a state-of-the-art NASA space station, but the clientele is less flashy. His teeth are scurvy ridden, his vision is cockeyed, and his raspy broken English cuts in a shivering dialect. “Yu gimme da goola money freela,” says the Goonie monster. I would be scared if I wasn’t sitting across from the tourist police office.

“Sorry man, I don’t have any goola”, I reply. He looks pissed. This man is one eye patch away from a Captain Blackbeard that would make Ferdinand Magellan pee in his skirt.

There are 3 more hours to kill before my flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. On my budget, getting a taxi to a pricey airport hotel would be pointless. I opt for the airport bench for some shut-eye. Clutching my baggage I zonk out for no more than 30 minutes, too pumped up to sleep. Traveling the developing world with no itinerary, I’m elated.

The flight to Bangkok was primo. I ate eel next to a cute Chinese girl from Beijing. She was grouchy. Her sister had pawned off her 6-year-old boy for the second time to visit his relatives in Chicago. She spoke minimal English, but I could comprehend it was a chore of a trip for her. “I sick of lil kid,” Chinese girl says. I laugh. She laughs. We talk about American rock n’ roll. Trying to find common ground, I ask her if she has ever heard of Arcade Fire. “No. Who dat?”, she responds. I counter, “you know U2? The Bono Man?” Notta. I rattle off the 5 most popular bands I can think of. Nothing. China is definitely a shielded world, and the following quote says it all. “I like you but we can’t be friends because the Government no let us have Facebook,” she says. We exchange laughter over our language barrier. Somewhere along the line I must have said something right, and she offers a back massage. I realize the chronology of my dialogue doesn’t yield the charisma suave enough to deserve a back massage, but I got one. I wouldn’t believe me either. We land in Beijing and she departs with her sister’s kid. “Bye! Miss you later,” she says.

Back in the Bangkok airport, I hop a plane to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The flight was rather uneventful except for one remarkable element; there were footprints on the bathroom mirror. Footprints on the bathroom mirror?! Did someone just get laid? Who joins the MileHigh Club on a 90-minute flight? Glenn Goulia maybe? Outrageous.

Completely cracked out from lack of sleep and excess of 7/11 fish-flavored snacks, I arrive at the Bee Saigon hostel in Nam to stumble upon my best amigo for the next three days.

“I’m kind of going through a quarter life crises,” explains Griffin Randolf, a 24-year-old garage rocker from Brooklyn, NY. This seems to be a common theme among travelers. They are either in-between jobs, addicted to travel, dodging reality, or more commonly, a combination of the three.

I get this kid. He too is in between bands and work. He offers travel tips and gives me his albums for free. Randolf’s coolness goes beyond the blessing of a great stage-name on his birth certificate. He has a conservative hipster combover, but lacks all the arrogance of trendsetter majesty. “I got a massage yesterday. This tiny Vietnamese lady was walking all over me like a sexy ninja. I tried to fight off the boner, but dude, it was impossible. Pretty embarrassing.”

His honesty is commendable considering that’s the third thing he ever told me. Randolf had recorded an entire album on GarageBand before having his laptop stolen just 2 days prior. We grab food down the block and talk about our rock n’ roll hopes and dreams.

Here’s an idea of how far your dollar goes in Vietnam (in $USD)… • Restaurant meal - $1.50 • Accommodation w/ air con - $3 to $9 • 1 bottle of beer from 7/11 - $0.60 • Haircut - $2 • 30 minute massage - $3 • Hand job - $4

I’m not condoning HJ’s, BJ’s, or TJ’s for monetary compensation, but it gives you a better grasp on the sliding scale of Vietnamese goods and services.

Ho Chi Minh City is a sprawl of controlled chaos. Motorbikes dominate every inch of road and sidewalk while cabbies mêlée for your business. Stop signs are generally disobeyed and crossing the street becomes a thrill in itself. Children sell fake Lonely Planet books for $2 (In past travels I met a young kid who worked for a business of selling these pseudo books on Ebay. The US Government caught him and destroyed his credit score, but spared him prison time since he was only a middleman).

The buildings are tall and slender, stacked close together like Dominos. Copious signage hovers over the sidewalk. Mobile venders watch your every move. In one block’s walk, a tourist is  hounded by 3-4 dudes selling sunglasses, lighters, and/or marijuana. The best part about Vietnam is that crime is extremely mild. Despite the hectic nature of the beast, it’s generally safe to walk anywhere at anytime of day. I love it here. The food sits atop the totem pole of culinary goodness (as Anthony Bourdain would attest). I recommend everything on the menu, even the cooked dog.

Proving my manhood, fueled by Ramen.

Nicaragua 2011

I've been hanging out with fake Colin Farrell for the past few days. This kid is a dead-ringer for the Irish movie stud; long-flowing locks, Enrique Iglesias-quality scruff, and dashing charisma that would turn the straightest homophobe into an avid penis enthusiast. Colin is a travel all-star, managing to live off $10/day, all day everyday. Colin is from Santa Monica, California and is thoroughly homeless, using his boyish charm to live on the couches and beds of salty females when he is home in Cali. He is the Wilt Chamberlain of backpacking.

The last two nights Colin and I have rounded up successful jam sessions in the hostel. I hack the battered 6-string, while Colin forms a drumset with a tin water bottle, 3 Ramen cups, and a pen and fork for drumsticks. A few folks gather around the circle to share in some 90's sing-a-longs. such as "No Rain" by Blind Melon. The crowd builds in density and the songs swell in volume as more and more people join the circle. Chris Ginger, a sunburned 35 year-old surfwaxer takes the guitar and unleashes the greatest one-hit wonder of all-time; "Save Tonight" by Eagle Eye Cherry. The place goes nuts and everyone is singing in harmony despite language barriers. Percussion roars. Germans are banging on trash cans with spoons, Aussies are clanking their rum n' cokes, and Hungarians are stomping to the beat in wooden shoes. The jamboree completes, and the masses head out to suck down some piss-poor rum.

"Ron Plata" is the choice rum of Nicas, and it tastes exactly how you'd expect a $2 bottle to taste. Picture rum and monkey ball sweat with a shot of "Colt-45" double malt on top. Siff. It's the Gatorade of the homeless. I partake in a shot, as a "bitter beer face" is plastered across my mug. My German friend Peter Eader drinks the bar out of house and home, as the putrid swill runs through the gaps where teeth used to be.

We find a phenomenal bar with a local Nica band kicking ass. They play traditional Latin songs, sprinkling in Cranberries covers wherever possible. Seriously, every third song was a Cranberries cover. I'm not sure what it is about "Zombie", but this song is a smash anywhere you go in the world. All hail chick rock.

I head for home early, stopping at a local hamburger stand and shamelessly stuff my face with White-Castle caliber “meat”. Mistake. I make it back to the hostel. Not feeling so well, I clog the hostel can without even trying. Water and poop soup come flowing to the top of the toilet as “Noooooooo!” comes out from my lips. Everything is in slow-motion. My life flashes before my eyes, all the good times, the bad times, the triumphs & tribulations of my 24-years. I pinch myself. Nope, not dreaming. The water inches to the brim. It all comes down to this. “Zombie” rings in my head like a broken record. I don’t even wait to see what happens to the terd. I run from the John, literally scared shitless. Juan, the prison-inmate hostel manager sees my ghost-faced stare and looks more pissed than suspicious. He can smell my crime. I hide in my room like a bitch. DSCN0974 Morning comes quickly. It’s a big day. Today I will do what I came to Nicaragua for; climb a volcano and slide down it on a sled. “Volcano Boarding” is the top attraction in Leon, Nicaragua. Marco, the tour guide, takes us up “Cerro Negro”, a massive volcano of evil black-ash rock. Marco is a French-Canadian who spends 6-months each year running tours in Nicaragua. He lives in a house on the beach that he bought for $3,000. No joke. You can purchase an acre on the beach for three G’s. Foreign investment is booming in Nicaragua, so check it out before it’s flooded by the white devil. DSCN0978 “Cerro Negro” is probably best known for daredevil Eric Barone’s legendary wipeout at 107 mph. He lived, but barely. See here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=67d_1222971493

Good news for me is that I will be going down on a sled, so it’s totally safe. Well not really. I witnessed a few people at the hostel with Freddy Krueger-like scars from falling onto the jagged ash-rock. According to Marco, no one has died in 5-years of volcano boarding. This reassures me, but barely. I’m not a badass. I’m actually a huge pussy when it comes to extreme sports, so this is a big deal for my manhood. DSCN0985 We get to the top. No one is within 10 miles of us. To protect me, Marco gives me an orange spacesuit that looks like Diddy’s getup from the “Mo Money Mo Problems” rap video. I peer down the 40-degree incline of the cano. I pee a little in the spacesuit.

Wooooosh!!! Away I go at 50 mph down Satan’s mountain as dusty rock sprays every inch of my body. 45-seconds later I’m at the bottom with dust on my face and rocks in my butt. I look like a Chilean Miner.

Wandering souls and non-sensual shoulder massages

Nicaragua 2011 

After wandering solo for the first few days, I teamed up with 2 Dutch girls to go to Ometepe Island. I´ve been traveling with Lynn Von Dutch and Elle Hollandia for about a week now. They are both 26. Their philosophy is ´¨travel, party, and marry a rich guy at some point.´ I can´t tell if they are kidding or not, but I have started to lean toward the latter when they asked to adopt me as their little brother. In Holland, it is the little brother´s role to find their sisters rich men to marry. These girls crack me up. Recently, I have been playing wing man for them while they hit on chiseled Chilean dudes. They ask that I protect them from making terrible decisions and in return I will recieve non-sensual shoulder massages. It´s overall a pretty nice deal. No complaints. DSCN0827 DSCN0837 We arrived in San Juan Del Sur, the burnout capital of the world. It´s a sleepy beach town full of gringos and little surf shops with hay roofs.Arriving at the hostel, I walked in on 2 people having sex in the 14-bed dorm. To avoid any awkwardness, the three of us started talking about good restaurants in the area. I dropped my bags and went to lunch with the Dutch girls. Here we ran into Kevin Queef from California, who we had met before in Ometepe. This time, Queef had a black eye from a sketchy drug deal he had partaken in the night before. Queef publically announces ¨does anyone have any weed?¨ whenever there is a large group he wants to impress. He told us the story about his night in jail and proceeded to nap in his unmarked white van. Sketchfest. DSCN0850 Nighttime arrived. I went down to the beach to find Canadian Adam and Mikka Ishfin from Finland. These 2 guys are the most unlikely travel duo. Mikka is a 43 year old bachelor who speaks zero english, while Canadian Adam is a 31 year old surf guru traveling the entire world in 14 months. The only thing they have in common is their love for Hockey, which is enough. These are my 2 favorite guys on the trip so far. We sat on an upside down row boat and sipped rum until 2am. Canadian Adam is going to show me how to surf, so I´m off to meet him and punch some sharks in the face. DSCN0894

Blood sucking sort of a dream

 Nicaragua - 2009

DSCN0824 So I'm sleeping in my bunk at the 'Bearded Monkey', when I feel what seems to be a large paperback book land on my back. I wonder if I am sleeping or dreaming, Rolling over in bed, I find a black mass lying with me. It is dark and my eyes are crusty, but I punch the black mass with a fist. I am not dreaming, it is a giant vampire bat that flops off my bed and into my face, eventually making its way back to the ceiling where it hangs above my bed the rest of the night. I wake up my Dutch neighbors with a few startled 'holy shits!' and resume sleep. A sweaty french guy slays the bloodsucker with a tennis racket the next morning. DSCN0826 I take a day trip out to Masaya by myself. It's a run down town with a market that runs for miles. After drinking muchas Gatorade, I really have to piss, so I squeeze through the cluttered isles of meat, trinkits and humans. A kind old man points me to the 'bano' to the back of his food stall. I go into the back room where a stumble upon two Nicaraguan homies watching a raggaetone music video, featuring a jacked and tan Latino man in a Kobe Bryant jersey, undressing his secretary. I laughed hard and peed a little in my pants.I wandered Masaya a bit more and had a questionable ham sandwich with ketchup and mustard. I added some pepto bismol to be safe. Getting lonely, I took the bus back to Granada to meet some gringos. The local transports are called 'chicken buses', which are old school buses coated with house paint.

The bus ride back was amazing. Remeber the elementary school buses when there was sometimes a little TV mounted in front, but the driver would never turn it on no matter how much the kids begged. This bus did have that TV...on...with a scrambled Latino version of Prison break playing on it. DSCN0928

Grand departure from Gordo country

Nicaragua - Feb 2011 I Took the bus down to Chicago where I met up with my Cousin Abby and her boyfriend Master Chef John who took me out for some whiskey with Scott Lucas from the 90´s grunge band LOCAL H. 

The next am, I hopped on the airplane to Nicaragua, where I sat next to a Nicaraguan girl who called me ¨´Brett Pitt´¨. Though I have a fairly generic look, I graciously took the complement with a shit-eating grin. She made fun of my rusty Spanish for most of the ride and slept on my shoulder the rest. I dont deserve such luck.DSCN0794 When we landed in Managua she introduced me to her giant family and they put me in their economy sized white van with 6 kids, 3 grandmas, and a few random uncles and aunts. I busted out the shoddy guitar I brought and we sang through ¨´I wanna Hold Your Hand´¨ by the Beatles. The van was driven by this intimidating dude we called ¨´the GODFATHER´, who drove us to his brothers house (Uncle Sanchez) becuase Sanchez too played guitar and wanted to shred some ´¨Juan Bon Jovi´´ with this goofy American. I pretended to like Bon Jovi and sang along with Sanchez. His English was broken, which made ´Living on a Prayer´ way better than the original version. We exchanged hugs and the Godfather dropped me at the Hostel.

I walked to the bus the next day to get out of Managua, as it is a total sketchfest with ´many gangbangers who shiv gringos for George Washingtons´, according to this Canadian named Johnny Gonzo I met on the bus. Gonzo is a wandering soul studying in Nicaragua, but he´s completely legit. He gave me his number and offered a place to crash if I ever needed. Sweet dude.

Managua is the most dangerous city in Nicaragua. The rest is completely peaceful, the people are friendly and very passive. Now onto Granada, which is the oldest colonial city in the hemisphere. Don't quote me on that. But it is old as balls. You can quote me on that. DSCN0798 DSCN0800

Legends of the Hidden Temple (Cambodia 2/2)

Cambodia - 2010

Remember 90's Nickelodeon hit show "Legends of the Hidden Temple"? I loved that show and everything about it. BUT the one thing that always bothered me was the limited play time the child contestants got in the fun-zone obstacle course that was the show's set. What a huge waste of a bohemian Chucky Cheese playland that had rock climbing walls instead of crowded tubes and fake quicksand instead of puke-crusted ball pits.Today I fulfilled a childhood dream of mine. I climbed through the set of Legends of the Hidden Temple. Not the actual television set, the REAL DEAL. Ancient stone buildings of Anchor Wat (in Siem Riep, Cambodia), with Tekken faces and secret blowguns that shoot at you when you try to replace the golden relic with a bag of sand. I have to believe Harrison Ford spent some time here to get into character back in the 80's. These temples were constructed by some mighty men around 1250, and remain in prime shape. DSCN0469We rented a Lewis (cabby) for the day who took us to an assortment of cool temples. Vanessa was wearing short shorts, so the staff would not allow her Buddha-disrespecting smooth legs into the holy fortresses. We are on lunch break now, on our way to a floating village outside of town, with streets of water that flow like...swill water.

Domestic Disturbances and Hospital Needles

Thailand, January 19, 2010

The white devil has turned Phi Phi island into a proper rat hole. The island was majestic enough to film "The Beach" with Leo DiCaprio. But the word got out, and is now overtaken by drunk white frat guys gulping down red bull vodka out of buckets. Vanessa (gf at the time) and I head to Krabi, a small poor coastal town. We stumble upon a bar with some Thai musicians covering American rock n' roll. We find out that the band for the night makes 3,000 baht ($90) split 5 ways. They are also under contract exclusive contract with the bar to play no where else. Thailand is not the place for aspiring musicians.

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We try to catch up on some sleep, but become awoken in the night when a British couple next door goes into a domestic disturbance rage (beyond anything I saw in the Vince Vaughn/John Travolta film). The fight goes as follows (in British accents)...

Woman:  Give me the god damn key Hector! Hector:  no. (Scuffle with loud screams and thuds) Woman:  Now look what you've done! You have a bloody nose! (Hector crying, more scuffling and the loudest screaming i've ever heard) Woman:  You turned me into a physco!!!!! You knocked out my tooth and I forgave you! You make me want to kill myself! Get out of my life!

-END SCENE-

After the domestic, I awake in the morning to a pounding headache, chills, and body aches. I decide to ride it out, but do not improve after 2 days. We go to the hospital, a small Muslim medical building in little Krabi town. No one speaks English. Arabic pours out of the loudspeakers around the hospital yard. DSCN0354

I see the doctor who looks like an Asian Fred Savage. I explain my symptoms. He explains in broken english that may I have "Linky Fever", a DEADLY mosquito transmitted disease. He barely speaks English and the only words he seems to know are "Disease", "Permanent", and "dead"...

Doc: "You have symptom Linky Fever. It make you dead." (He looks terrified when he speaks)

I freak. My eyes roll back in my head and I pass out from dehydration. They take me backstage to the lab where chicks in shalls are pouring blood into vials, I immediately think of Val Kilmer in "Island of Dr. Moroeu", where Kilmer breeds humans with hyenias for Marlon Brando's twisted viewing pleasure. I get some blood work done. They keep me overnight and give me strange medicines, which I decide to take, giving me bizarre vivid dreams, unlike anything i've experienced. Dreams such as....

I'm bar hopping with Danny DeVito, having great time until he gets hit by a mountain bike crossing the road & explodes, END OF DREAM.

We check out in the morning after I feel a bit better and my blood work shows no deadly disease. We get to a hotel. I continue to feel weak and headachy for days (symptoms like Mono). We fly to Bangkok and go to the best hospital in Thailand where they draw more blood and determine I do not have linky fever, denge fever, or AIDS, just a giant case of being a pussy. Turns out I have a nasty viral infection/flu. DSCN0357

So after 7 wasted days, I am attempting to shake off this curse and make it to Cambodia with Vanessa. She has spent her whole trip taking care of me in hospitals and hotels. I am in great debt to her. We'll salvage these last few days and hope the fun-meter explodes.