It was only 10:30 a.m., and I was suddenly wearing someone else’s underwear on my face.

There were no rules here. None worth mentioning, anyway. Any sense of civilization and order were thrown to the wayside. The numerous tents all lined up across the fairgrounds were innocent-looking enough on the outside, but crossing the threshold revealed their true nature. Drunk Australians teemed the long tables, waving huge steins full of freshly-tapped lager and spilling it on the bench. A crazed apish brute clamored up on one of the tables and began to chug the stein he was holding, getting a roar of approval from the onlooking crowd. He finished the stein’s contents in what couldn’t have been longer than 10 seconds.

But none of this was considered strange or rude during this time of year in Munich. This was, after all, the 200th annual Oktoberfest, where rabid hordes of beer-swilling maniacs come from every corner of the earth in pursuit of an experience so unforgettable that nobody will be able to remember it afterward.

I had only arrived in this chaotic hub of debauchery 48 hours ago, but my Lowenbrau-soaked indoctrination to the customs of Oktoberfest was a crash course in crazy.

But back to the underwear. I had been paying a large-breasted barmaid for a pair of beers when I suddenly found myself immersed face-first into an Oktoberfest tradition — the pig. Oh, the mighty pig, and woe to anyone foolish enough to stand under this great edifice of debauchery. Apparently, festival-goers have developed an unstoppable habit of throwing their underwear over the large pig statue that hangs overhead inside the Hof Brau Haus. Since the pig slowly rotates, the none-too-infrequent slip of the trousers occurs, if you will, and Mr. Pig has zero consideration for whoever might be standing underneath him at the time.

The underwear hit me as though somebody threw them directly at my head.

“Jesus fucking god!” I exclaimed as I instinctively threw the foreign object away from my face. “What the hell is going on here?!”

My friend Tashina looked on in amusement, making no effort to hide any of it. Fortunately, she was beautiful enough to get away with things like that.

“That….was someone’s underwear,” she said, accepting the beer I handed her. “And it came from up there.” She pointed above, just in time for the oompa band on the stage in the foreground to play another celebratory tune, prompting 2,000 people to raise their glasses in unison and sing together. The chorus sounded something like “I’m rosy,” but it was German and I couldn’t make out the rest. It didn’t matter, though. Understanding the words wasn’t half as important as understanding their communal intent.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” I said. “Seriously. This is chaos on a whole new level. This is unprecedented.”

“No kidding,” Tashina said. “And it’s only….11 a.m.”

Most of these brutes inside the building had already been drinking here for two hours — or more, depending on how much they decided to throw caution to the wind. One thing we were warned about before coming in was to pace yourself at all costs. However great of an idea it might sound like at the time, one does not simply…pre-game Oktoberfest.

Just then, there was some kind of noticeable commotion going on to our immediate left. And it had to be considerably raucous to stand out in this claustrophobic sea of drunk humans. The large brute from earlier on the table had apparently gotten into a shouting match with a much shorter, smaller man, who was speaking Italian. People had backed away from the pair of them in anticipation of something physical,

I made sure I was standing in front of Tashina as the shouting and posturing between the two men increased. The larger man was sounding as though he didn’t want anything to do with the smaller one, and just trying to avoid anything nasty. I didn’t speak German, but voice inflection is universal.

I braced myself for things to suddenly erupt, but right when the confrontation looked as though security would need to separate them, the large man took what was left of his beer and poured it onto the Italian’s head. A free beer shower.

This was when I really expected a violent outburst, but the smaller Italian just stood there looking extremely displeased, saying nothing. He took his glasses off, wiped them down with his soaked shirt in an effort of total futility, and did not react. He simply shrugged and walked away from the scene.

Incredible, I thought. Potentially earth-shattering violence just evaporated at the blink of an eye, and any dangerous ripple it left behind was swallowed by the great ocean of chaos quicker than it even began.

“That went….well?” I said.

“Could’ve been worse,” Tashina replied, taking a large swig of the huge beer in her hand. Half of her drink was already gone, and I’d barely made a dent in my own. She indicated this with a furtive glance at my glass.

Tashina is no ordinary woman. She is no ordinary drinking buddy, and certacoinly not a boring travel partner. Her spirit of adventure is rivaled only by her exotic facial features, highlighted by eyes that hold a sensual gaze that could render any man’s legs to jelly. She had extraordinarily soft skin, shoulder-length brown curly hair, and one of the most positive and optimistic outlooks on life that I’d ever had the pleasure of encountering.

We had been friends for a few years, but never what you’d call close — not until we discovered a mutual love for world traveling and finding ourselves at the epicenter of random insanity, anyway. Back home in Seattle, she had been looking at getting her master’s degree for some time, and she had been fairly certain that it wasn’t going to be in America. Part of me envied her, but a different part of me had always wondered why her sense of wanderlust would carry her so far as to live on a completely different continent than anyone she loved; let alone knew.

But a few months ago, she had decided her education would take her to Glasgow, Scotland, to pursue a degree in geothermal energy. School would begin for her in a few weeks, providing ample time to take a little vacation through mainland Europe first. My travel plans for this backpacking trek turned out to conveniently mesh with hers, and what better place to bond in celebration of life, love, traveling and insanity than on the inaugural weekend of the longest-running beer festival in the world?

Before I knew it, I had finished my liter of Lowenbrau, and she had done the same. The barmaid from earlier was nowhere in sight, and hadn’t been for the past several minutes.

“This is gonna be futile, I think,” I said, already feeling the effects of drinking in Germany on an empty stomach. “I recommend a relocation.”

Tashina nodded in agreement and took my hand in hers. “This way,” she said, advancing into the crowd behind us.

This would normally be me taking the lead and blazing the trail, but girls who look like Tashina tend to get a path cleared quicker than anything with a penis in this place. As I followed her, hand in hand, I made eye contact with an amused-looking guy who had been making no effort to hide his thorough scrutiny of my female accomplice. He grinned drunkenly at me.

“Well-done, mate!” he said in a thick Scottish accent, nodding at Tashina. “Well-done!”

I laughed. “Cheers,” I said as I passed by. He called out something unintelligible after that. Even after spending the past week in Scotand, I still didn’t understand 50 percent of the garbled hilarity that came outta their mouths.

We came to the main entrance, and I immediately felt like like a salmon trying to swim upstream in a river of beer. It was everywhere — flowing like a river on the ground, splashed across the walls and on people’s clothes, mugs in the hands of large-breasted barmaids…there was no end to it.

Finding our way out of there was no easy task, but once we did, we stumbled into a smaller beer tent that was significantly less crazy than Hof Brau. Then again, the plot of “The Hangover” was less crazy than Hof Brau.

This tent served a deliciously different, darker ale that was a nice break from the norm. I could tell it was stronger, too. And at this point, stronger wasn’t necessarily better. We’d both had three liters apiece at Hot Brau, and I was beginning to wonder when we’d both hit the Wall. It would happen, no doubt, but stories like these are always so amazing that nobody ends up remembering them in the first place.

We started talking to a group of Canadians at our table. There were a couple of Spaniards there too, from what I recall. What I don’t recall is the conversation we had, or the point at which Tashina and I looked at each other and silently reached a mutual agreement that the Wall was fast approaching.

The last thing I remember is stumbling around the metro, asking some stranger where the hell the Tent was, and having him return a glance that said “good god, this town is full of savages and drunken swine.”

I woke up later in bed at the Tent, not entirely sure how I got there or what was going on; let alone how long I’d been out. The only thing I was entirely sure of at that point was this: Oktoberfest is a place where only the professional drunks have any business attending, and nobody lasts the entire day without either puking or passing out. Or both – preferably in that order.


Sept. 8, 7 p.m.

It had only been two hours since I landed in Scotland, but it was already beginning to feel like I had been transported to another dimension; a parallel reality.

I looked around my strange hotel room — a cramped space with a TV and desk, separate tiny chamber for the shower, a sink, mirror, bunk beds, and a narrow room with a toilet that redefined the term “water closet” — and thought “fuck this, I’ll come back and sleep here tonight eventually.” No point in surveying this domain any longer. There was a world out there I’d never seen.

The hotel was situated right on the edge of the Glasgow city center, in the middle of a group of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues known as The Quay. There was no discernible way across the river and into the city center aside from a couple of bridges that could only be accessed on foot. Seeing that it was already 7 p.m. and I hadn’t slept in what felt like weeks, I wasn’t planning on venturing in that far.

Fortunately, this was Scotland, and I was still within drinking distance. You are, by definition, always in drinking distance when you’re in this country.

There was a street behind the hotel that led to some shady-looking neighborhood that wasn’t even a five-minute walk. Deciding the lack of obstacles and visible proximity of a “Guinness” sign in the distance looked more promising than any other options around, I wandered in that direction.

The sign turned out to be in the window of a place called “The Old Toll Bar.” From the outside it looked like a dive bar; something you’d see in Pioneer Square in Seattle. And probably in one of the shadier areas. Sensing no better thing to do than saunter into an unscrupulous bar after being launched halfway across the world in the past 24 hours, I shrugged and went inside.

Once inside, I noted the bar had the unmistakable vibe of being one of those places you’d go to if you’re a) on a budget, b) wanting to get drunk before yougo outto get drunk, c) a travel-weary foreigner who has no idea where he is, or d) both.

The wall was plastered with signs advertising a variety of drinks that were £3 or less; most of which being shots or shooters. The floor creaked with each step, and the atmosphere was somewhere between a half-empty pub and a particularly rowdy library. Taking a seat at the bar, I ordered a local lager that I can’t recall the name of and settled in. The bartender immediately noticed “my accent,” which I always find to be a hilarious observation when traveling abroad.

“An American,” she smiled. “Where are you from, darlin’?”

“Seattle,” I said. “First time in Scotland. Got off the plane earlier today.”

“Well, welcome to Glasgow,” she said as she walked by, bringing another patron their beverage of choice. “It’s a great town.”

I smiled and nodded, taking a big gulp of the intoxicant I’d been served. It reminded me a little of the over-marketed crap beers in the US — Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light — but with substantially less of the bland piss-water taste that so often characterizes them. This was real beer, not the redneck swill used for kegstands at frat parties.

The beer was gone quicker than I usually drink. I ordered another. Hot Scottish Bartender, Lisa, was more than happy to bring it my way and chat me up a little more. Then I noticed a sign on the wall for an assortment of cocktails and shooters of which I’d never heard of before.

“What’s a ‘flying Scotsman,'” I asked Lisa. “I’m intrigued.”

“Let me show you,” she said, grinning suspiciously.

Mother of god, I thought. I could see the can of worms opening right before my eyes. My gaze met hers, and I could read into what she was thinking: “Let’s play ‘Get the American fucking drunk.'”

She poured me the drink and I took it in one shot without a moment’s hesitation. The unmistakable flavor of Jager was in there, but I couldn’t make out the rest. No matter, I thought.

“Want another?” Lisa asked  on her way back to the register.

“Tuborg for now,” I said. “It’s important to pace yourself, after all.”

She shrugged and poured the beer. I looked around the bar for a moment — not many others had trickled in; it was just me and a few other wary-looking lads in a sleepy bar in the middle of a sketchy neighborhood in Glasgow at 8 p.m. on a Thursday. I felt distinctly American, but not with the expected sense of embarrassment that came with it. I felt comfortable, and not exposed or vulnerable. It was a good feeling to have on the beginning few hours of a two-week trek across several foreign countries.

I flagged Lisa down. “I’ll go for another shot,” I said.

“Ah, why not, eh?” she said as she grinned that same goddamn grin. Even though her accent was thick and the dialect a far cry from what I’m used to, sexual tension is a universal language.

She poured my shot and passed it over to me. I noticed she was also holding one of the same drink.

“Oh, joining me then?” I asked.

“Cheers,” Lisa said, holding the drink up in front of me. Our glasses touched and we gulped down the contents.

I felt the first rising vibes of intoxication creeping over me. My head began to swim a little. I laughed at nothing in particular. Maybe it was the booze, but then again, maybe it was the giant blast of pure, unfiltered freedom that I was getting high off of. It was too early to say.

Lisa came by with another drink for me. I didn’t order it, but that didn’t seem to stop her from giving it to me anyway. I don’t remember what the hell it was, but I do know I chased it with another Tuborg.

The thought occurred to me that I could somehow crazily drag Lisa back to my nearby hotel with me, but I doubted she was off anytime soon. I wasn’t going to last much longer here anyway, as I recall swaying a bit on my bar stool. Part of me said “why NOT drag the hot Scottish bartender back to your room with you?!” and the rest of me was saying “no, you stupid drunk fiend, go gorge on some bad grub somewhere and pass out!” Ah, to be a conflicted drunk traveler.

As if to interrupt my train of thought, Lisa came back my way with yet another shot. I almost didn’t accept it, but I’d have hated to refuse such unrivaled hospitality. I raised my glass, said “Hell with it” and took the shot.

I won’t say I instantly regretted it, but it was a close call.

I walked downstairs to the head, where a pack of younger-looking dudes were convening inside. They were apparently waiting for the guy in the stall to get out, and becoming impatient about it. None of them said anything about needing to take a shit, so I assumed they had nowhere else to snort whatever they had on them. Whatever it was, I didn’t care.

“Tell him to move,” said one of the pack to me abruptly.

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m just here to piss, don’t mind me…”

“Ah, that motherfucker!” he lashed out.

The pack engaged in some energetic shouting that I couldn’t quite make out. Understanding these bastards is hard enough to do sober.

I zipped and washed up and mumbled something indistinct. One of them asked me what I said, to which I responded by mumbling louder.

“HORHKFHSKHDA,” I said. “Just…just trying to fit in, you see.”

This resulted in more yelling, and one of them kicked in the stall door of the poor bastard who was sitting in there taking a shit. I didn’t want to see how this one ended.

I told Lisa what was going on once I got back upstairs and paid my tab. She shook her head. “Assholes,” she said. “I’ll go down there and see what’s goin’ down.”

Before she had a chance to go down, I asked if she’d be working tomorrow night. She said no, but that she’d be back anyway to party and meet up with a bunch of friends before hitting the clubs downtown.

My intuition from earlier about this bar had been spot-on — this was a place people went to pregame.

“I’m meeting two friends in town tomorrow night, also from Seattle,” I said. “Mind if I bring them along?”

“Oh, of course love!” she said. “Bring ’em on by.”

I tipped her heavily and thanked her as I stumbled out the front door. The bar had rapidly filled up, drawing in a rowdy crowd full of rugby fans. The music had gotten louder, and it looked like the night hadn’t even started yet for most of these people. I, meanwhile, was sauntering out of the place after hauling ass across half the planet for the past 24 hours.

Christ, I thought. It’s only been one night and this is already shaping up to be a true test of my endurance — in more ways than one.

Somewhere off in the distance, sirens pierced the silence of the night. Fucking Glasgow. It had only been one night, and I could already tell it was all downhill from here.


So, I’m writing for a living again.

I know, I can’t believe it’s happening either. It only took four goddamn years of twisting in the wind at various jobs I was only average at to make it to this point, but it’s finally reminded me of some things I needed to be reminded of:

-I can write damn near anything you ask me to, no matter what I know or don’t know about the subject, the format, the style, the tone, the voice, the whatever. I can do it.

-I’ve proven to myself that I have value in the professional world. My last stint at Microsoft made me feel worthless and obsolete when it abruptly ended through no fault of my own. Before that, the job at Amazon was overwhelming and intense, and ultimately over my head. Customer service? No, I kind of suck at that.

But I have no regrets about any of it. People like to grade out losing a job as equal to the loss of a family member. I’ve got news for all of you: They’re jobs. There are plenty of them out there, contrary to what you might’ve experienced, read or heard about. You’ll find another one.

But that’s a different topic. What I’m doing right now for Scout Analytics – writing case studies and press releases as a founding member of the company’s marketing team – has more inherent impact on my career and overall outlook as a working professional than anything has in the past four years.

Sure, working at the Seattle Times had its disadvantages, and I won’t claim to have some distorted view of the past or deny that I wasn’t always happy there. But when I got laid off, I didn’t realize it wouldn’t be until 2012 that I’d have another job in writing. If I had been told that at the time, I probably would’ve moved to Norway and become a troll hunter.

So, here I am. I’m in a world surrounded by smart people, all united by a single goal, and I am the voice of the written content. The voice – I am the only one doing any writing for the external portion of what we do.

And I’d take the time to explain what it is we DO here, but it’s…kind of complicated. And you probably don’t want to read the entire description anyway. It’s OK, you don’t have to lie…no, really, I won’t be offended….

…oh, for fuck’s sake, just read this:

There, now you know. Or, at least, you have a vague idea. Assuming of course you aren’t a lazy TL;DR-worshipping fart dumpster and took the time to check it out. IT’S A LINK! I PROMISE IT WON’T CORRUPT YOUR HARD DRIVE AND SET YOUR HOUSE ON FIRE AND LOOT YOUR CORPSE! Har har….

I have been ruthlessly productive in my first few weeks here, and it’s thanks in large to Keenan Conrad for the nod in this place’s direction. He got brought on as a marketing manager, and I got subsequently brought on board to be his evil twin in marketing. He’s tackling marketing automation; I’m taking care of the collateral. Salespeople have already walked by my desk and said “HEY, MIKE, HOLY CRAP, GOOD JOB, I CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW THIS TO BLORGUS VON RUMPLEMINTS AT GLOBAL FINANCIAL!”

So, yes, I’m doing good things. And the other good things right now include planning another jaunt off in the direction of Sweden, Denmark and Iceland; ideally sometime in May or June. Except this time, I’m not going alone. That’s right, kids, Parker found a partner in crime – and she’s amazing.

Did I mention it’s awesome to have a significant other who’s as insane about traveling as I am? Great jumping Jesus, I never thought I’d find anyone who’d love the idea of a Scandinavian vacation; let alone someone who could keep up with my frenetic pace of planning the whole thing.

The rough plan, as of now, is to hit Copenhagen first, and then hit Sweden at some point, since it’s literally 20 minutes away from Denmark’s cozy capital. The possibility of meeting up with Mr. Pete McCollough in Stockholm remains likely, and stopping over in Iceland on the way back home for 3 or 4 days is something I probably won’t be able to say “no” to.

Who the hell am I kidding – blue lagoon, midnight sun, northern lights? No, no…no way in hell would I want to be there for any of that. Especially not with that amazing woman I love so much. I must be crazy to think such wacky thoughts, AHAHAHA….

Okay, that’s about enough of a brain dump for now, I think…more on this later, no doubt, but I felt an update was in order, especially with the recent decommissioning of my LiveJournal. (It was time, what can I say.) Be well, you animals.

Aside  —  Posted: February 2, 2012 in Travel

Part of living in a social amusement park like Capitol Hill is the nonstop excitement. This is sometimes a very entertaining part of this neighborhood, but also a repulsive, brutish reality that would make the average person run screaming in the other direction.

Or, in yesterday’s case, make someone run towards you moments after emptying his bladder on the side of your housing complex.

I turned the corner just in time to see the haggard-looking drunk making no effort to conceal the fact that he was pissing on the back door of the downstairs bar.

“What the FUCK are you doing?!” I blurted.

“Urin…ating,” he said.

“But you’re pissing on the side of our fucking building, you idiot,” I said, realizing that confronting this guy would’ve been a foreign concept to me a couple of years ago.

“Yeah, well, it’ll wash down the storm drain dude, it’ll be….just fine,” he said while swaying back and forth.

“No, ‘DUDE,’ you’re pissing on private property in broad daylight. I’m gonna call the cops and have them haul your ass away so you can show your dick to everyone downtown.”

“Leave me alone man! LEAVE ME ALONE!” he wailed and turned around, giving me a view of more than I ever wanted to see of him.

“How about you leave our front doorstep alone?” I said. “Jesus christ…”

“Dude, DUDE….I live right down the street, I’ll go home! I’LL GO HOME!”

He began to approach me, waving his arms around frantically and almost dropping his huge can of Icehouse in the process. Thank god the bastard finally zipped, I thought.

At this point, my building’s maintenance guy came out. He saw what was going on and didn’t even hesitate. He grabbed his phone from his pocket and asked if I knew the non-emergency number for the police.

“NO COPS!! NO COPS!!” the drunk shouted. “I’LL GO!!!”

“Go?! You already WENT, you stupid bastard!” I shouted after him as he began to walk away.

“Aaaargh!! I just wanted to empty my bladder!!” he said, accompanied by more flailing. ”

“Shut the hell up, or I’ll follow you home and piss on your rug!!! I’LL DO IT!!!!” I said.

Sensing I had hit my own threshold of Crazy, I ended the conversation by opening the front door to the lobby and walked in. No sense in riling up the locals and risking him shining the Crazy Piss Bandit signal in the sky. He might bring backup, and soon we’d all end up drowning in a sea of raw urine that would no doubt reek of malt liquor.

“What the FUCK,” said the groundskeeper. “Now I have to go out there and wash that off.”

“Want help?” I asked. “I could at least stand guard and poke his eyes out if he comes back.”

“No,” he said with a laugh, “that’s OK. Thanks, though.”

“No problem. Maybe there’s a job for me in security,” I said.

He shrugged and went to the garage for a bucket and mop.

Maybe I’m missing my calling, I thought. Maybe there’s a future for me like Phoenix Jones, except with fewer headlines, trials and pepper spray. Or, maybe my future will be professional writer by day, and masked piss-stopping superhero by night. Wherever there is piss, I SHALL APPEAR.

What would my name be? CockPuncher the Mighty, fighting an eternal war against Piss Bandits of the Urin-nation?


At last, I’m in a comfortable place.

Last weekend was intense. Many emotions, many discoveries; some pleasant, others jarring. San Francisco is not a good place to be on a night like New Year’s Eve. It’s a ravenous, spastically violent city that is unapologetically loud, and always seemingly on the verge of a total psychotic break. For someone who is usually a casual observer, it had quite a profound effect on the typical camoflauge I use when blending into new surroundings.

I have been to San Francisco many times. Growing up in Sacramento, it was pretty hard to avoid a weekend trip there with family or friends, just for a change of scenery if nothing else. Downtown has plenty to do and plenty to see — Union Square, the waterfront, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 — but that just seems to be the disguise the city shows the tourists. There might be some lingering curiosity about places like Haight-Ashbury that still draws in some lingering interest from those familiar with its roots in the middle 60s, but any trace of true wonder that the once-iconic pillar of counterculture had is now gone.

It’s a sad sight to behold. Somewhere between the peaceful Hippie-fronted social upheavel of the 60s and the New Digital Frontier of the current millennium, Haight-Ashbury descended into a crime-ridden slum. None of the love, peace and feeling of unstoppable unity that once defined the district is present anymore. It’s now home to a host of street kids who prey on unsuspecting tourists like vultures circling a freshly-mauled bison carcass. They’ll pick your pocket while you’re busy taking a cell phone-camera picture of the “Haight Ashbury” street sign or hustle you for so much as asking for directions. The tye-dye patterns and head shops that were paramount to the area 40 years ago are still there, but they now only serve as a grave to what once was.

While my recent visit there was only a few hours long, I witnessed what would not have been tolerated there in its prime — a group of white street kids and turf-defensive Asians got into a full-on brawl in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, in full view of the public in broad daylight. There had been some tension brewing as I stepped out of the neighboring Amoeba Records, but I didn’t immediately think the situation was imminently exploding.

“You got a fucking problem?” asked the skinny Asian kid to the white teenage street kid. “What’re you doing, steppin’ to me?”

“Dude, fuck you,” said the white kid. “Get the hell away from me.”

There was a flash of more raised voices and scattered movement, and then the swinging started. The Asian chased the white kid while both were swinging and frantically grabbing at each other; neither clearly knowing how to fight. The white kid’s friends, who were standing at the bus stop we were waiting at, jumped in and managed to separate the combatants. A crowd of people stopped and watched, but nobody said anything. in a situation like that, there isn’t much anyone can do if two conflicting groups are involved. Some were shocked, some stood and gawked with morbid curiosity.

The two groups were eventually separated by members of both trying to maintain peace, but the damage had alreay been done. It was enough to fuel the fire of the white kid’s friends, who were suddenly crazy with bloodlust.

“Where the fuck are they going?!” shouted one of the dreadlocked white kids with a pit bull on a leash. The dog had gone almost hysterical during the exchange of blows, making ferocious sounds that you’d likely hear from behind a fence adorned with a “BEWARE OF DOG” sign.

“I don’t know, but we’re finding them. He fucked with me out of nowhere, and next thing I know, he’s swinging and I’m on the ground,” said the combatant.

With that, the troop of about six or seven white kids tromped off around the corner, in search of the offending Asian gang.

“Jesus…” whispered Kathryn, my friend I’d come to visit over the new year weekend. “We should really get out of here. I’ve had enough of this place.”

I agreed. This was not the Haight-Ashbury I had heard so much about. What was once a haven for those seeking freedom at 10 bucks a hit had been turned into a slum. It was a sad sight to behold.

Once the bus finally came, some of the street kids also jumped on board, bringing their mildly-infuriated pit bull with them. They appeared to have gone elsewhere, but that wasn’t the case after all.

They sat in the back, still talking angrily about “those wack-ass Asians” who had apparently instigated the earlier confict. My hope of escaping the situation and not having to hear about any of it wasn’t happening.

At the next stop, the bus driver turned around as more passengers were getting onboard, looked towards the back and said mightily, “GET THAT DOG OFF OF MY SEAT!”

“It’s a plastic seat,” said the owner. “Why the hell should I get my dog off of it?”

“Get your dog off the goddamn seat,” the bus driver repeated. “The hell you think you’re doing?”

“I don’t need to hear no bus driver authoritarian crap from you,” said the kid. “Fuck this.”

The dog had been moved to the floor, but that didn’t stop the owner and the group of kids from having an awkward cliche’ of a conversation about “the man bringing me down” and “this isn’t a democracy anymore, man.”

Those words were the closest thing to what I remember hearing about the “true” Haight Ashbury. But even those came across as immature and misguided. It was like the kids had a script they kept in their pockets, but hadn’t rehearsed it very much. Or as if they were trying to breathe life into a 40-year-old corpse.

Nobody is nice to each other here anymore. Even in the shadiest parts of Seattle, people are still usually decent to each other. There’s assholes anywhere, but for an area that once was a so-called hub of peace and understanding, this was quite a departure.

Haight-Ashbury can now be called The Hippie Graveyard.  It has cannibalized itself completely, and there is no end in sight. Maybe it started slowly, after the acid wave of the 60s dissolved and made way for “Just Say No” in the 80s. Or maybe it happened because the tourists became too curious and the locals were eventually driven out. Whenever it started, the results are there. I’d say visit for yourself, so you can see it with your own eyes….but I don’t recommend it.

Earth Porn and a Note from Uncle Mikey

Posted: December 27, 2011 in Travel

Seriously, everyone needs to go look at this site and tell me it doesn’t want to make you go travel the world, right now. ALL OF IT.


I’d also recommend looking at these while listening to “Reports from the Threshold of Death” by Junius. Trust me.

I don’t know about you, but I get a serious case of wanderlust just looking at those pictures. It’s insane. The music helps, too. And then it reminds me that the only thing I want for my birthday this year is another trip Iceland, with at least a week to roam around that beautiful island country. The whole music-combined-with-awesome-pictures thing is a definite way into the depths of my brain. You might have to get past the perpetually-frustrated editor who sits frantically typing all day while occasionally screaming “FUCK” and pounding on the typewriter, but I promise it’s a pleasant place outside of that….yes, yes, come on in, there’s room for you in there…..

Sometimes I feel no greater release than getting on a plane and getting the fuck out of my element for a few days. Any length of time, really…it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s enough time for me to go have an experience somewhere new. Somewhere near, somewhere far, somewhere I’ve been, somewhere I haven’t….it doesn’t take much to engage me when it comes to traveling.

Speaking of traveling, I just got back from Sacramento for the holidays, and I’ve officially decided my niece is the cutest child on the planet. I may be biased about all that, but still. Oh, hell, see for yourself:

I was helplessly attacked by a rampaging adorable baby while lying on the floor. (Don't worry, I wasn't quite drunk yet.)

She’s a doll, and being an uncle kicks ass because I can play with her and teach her how to turn into Godzilla and charge into a wall of delicately-balanced Legos, but as soon as it’s time for her diaper to get changed or something horrible like that, I can just give her to my brother or sister-in-law and say “Here.” While smirking openly.

It doesn’t make me want to rush into having one of my own, that’s for sure. It’s been more of a lingering question lately, like “Do I want more absinthe?” or “Should I show up to a job interview without pants?” Y’know, those burning questions that you can never truly answer with a solid “yes” or “no.”

I do enjoy being an uncle. It’s a pretty sweet job so far, and I’m looking forward to a lifetime of it. It’s like a combination of being a parent without all the annoying gross parts and an older sibling with ALL of the fun parts.

Now then, where DID I put my pants, anyway!?….

Homage to the Vikings: Why I Love Iceland

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Travel

If you’ve talked to me at all in recent months, you’ll know I love Iceland. I recently rounded off a two-week backpack excursion across mainland Europe with a three-day stopover on the mystical island country in the North Atlantic, and it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.

(And this time, for much longer.)

Well Mike, you might ask, why the hell do you love this place called Iceland as much as you do? Isn’t it just a huge freezing chunk of ice floating around in the arctic? Don’t ships disappear up there? Isn’t that where the Titanic sank? Jesus, isn’t it just one hulking blizzard, 24/7, like that gigantic Earth-sized storm in the middle of Jupiter?

Exhibit A:

(Full-size image is breathtaking:

Yes folks, even though it looks like a scene from a Ray Bradbury novel, that’s somewhere ON EARTH.

I’ve been dreaming about going back ever since I came home. Hell, I woke up for three straight mornings in my bed here in Seattle thinking I was still in Reykjavik. Something about that place stayed with me, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is ever since. Something is definitely calling me, and I’ve never felt such so increasingly magnetized to anyplace ever before.

I’m probably part Viking. Maybe in another life it was home. Maybe I was born of fire and brimstone in the heart of a volcano when I was born and got launched into a glacier, only to go Wolverine-berzerker on the huge block of ice and set myself free. And then resurfaced in….Sacramento.

No, probably not.

Landing at Keflavik airport feels like landing on the moon. I’ve said it before to pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about the experience, but the landscape, geography and feel of the place upon first glance is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before on this planet.

Despite the abrupt and turbulent change my life has currently taken (nothing new for me, really), I am making a plan to return there on my 31st birthday in March. That’s my only birthday wish for the year, and even though the timing might be such that it’s still winter, still cold and still under eight hours of daylight per day, I don’t even care.

Some places I’m going to hit this time around:

The Golden Circle - a huge set of waterfalls and geysers near the center of the island

Hekla, the "Gateway to Hell" as described by explorers

Vatnajökull Glacier - if you look on a map of Iceland, this is the source of the huge white spot in the middle. It's breathtaking from a plane, but I want to see it on the ground.

Eyjafjallajokull - no, it's not a bad Scrabble hand, it's a HUGE volcano on the east coast of Iceland that causes flight delays out of mainland Europe whenever it blows its top. No, I can't actually pronounce it either.

Northern Lights, aka Aurora Borealis - they eldued me last time, but this is priority #1 for the next trip. Probably priority #1 of anything I'd like to see in the entire world.

Downtown Reykjavik - and of course, downtown Reykjavik. Spending time here made me feel an almost Nirvana-like state of pure peace.