Friday, September 26, 2014

2014.09.27 'Connecting the dots' Hamamatsu

I m finally feeling that drag when the communication I'd love to share begins to drag away day to day and the time in front of the keys to put my thoughts into words are further and further apart. A week later or so, I m in Hamamatsu. We just set up the show for Botanica Gallery in Japan. I am having a solo show, 'Connecting the dots', that opens today. I 'll be in the gallery prepping and screening shirts for the event and probably hanging around to talk to anyone who just happens by. That seems to be the plan. So, lets see what I can remember. I still do not have images to share. But you can follow me on instagram and post to that a bunch. Much easier and very immediate. @surfnuts195 After arriving in Singapore, Shingo Wakagi and I began our little 'look-see' of Singapore. We did about as much research as the original 'Lets Go For a Drive'. The conversation before arriving to the sprawling city/country pretty much goes like this. Shingo- where do you wanna go in Singapore? Mike- I did some google research on Singapore and there is are Skate parks and two aquariums! No surfing beaches, tho. Shingo- cool. I heard they raze graveyards to make housing for all the people they expect to move to the island. One of the last remaining graveyards, Bukit Brown might get the ax. I'd love to go see it before it's gone. Mike- Sounds interesting. They raze graveyards, huh? That sounds like Poltergeist and zombie movie scenerios... Shingo- Oh, there is a really cool book store in Singapore Housing Projects for young married couples. The government supports married couples who might be financially unstable to help them get up on their feet. They are cool asian buildings that was modern in the mid 1900's. I want to take photos of that. Mike- Housing Projects in Singapore for married couples, young and old? Don't they cane people in Singapore and arrest people spitting on the streets? Shingo- .... No man, they only kill drug traffickers. And you only get a fine for spitting. Mike- .... why are we going to Singapore again? Shingo- Its gonna be cool, man. I have a friend trying some new format gallery/store front at Robinson Walk in Robinson Quey. It is a concept store where they invite 'curators' to set up unusual or original one-of goods to a city whose citizens are thirsty for new things beside all those Mall Shop Shops. Something more personable. And we are going to curate ourselves an art show and revisit 'Lets Go for a drive' because we've been talking about it for awhiles now. Mike- Right. This is going to be awesome! Can we do 'Let's go for a drive' on motorcycles? scooters? Shingo- I got mad camera equiptment. Mike- Are we renting car? Shingo- Taxis are cheap and plentiful. We can avoid getting ticketed, getting lost and paying outrageous amounts for gas. Mike- .. uh.. I m gonna look at Singapore more on the google. Shingo- I got a history book with little excerpts from all kinds of writers from pre-british occupation times to modern day observances of Singapore and why Singapore is a big deal on a little tiny island of 5 million inhabitants probably smaller than the size of NYC's 5 boros. Mike- It's tropical down there! It's next to Indonesia and Malaysia! The other outward islands all surround Singapore from waves! Crazy. Shingo- yea.. I think it's going to be pretty hot. I was there a few months ago having a meeting and checking out the opening for the new shop, Edit Life. The food was really good. Mike- Sounds great. New York is cold for summer. I love the tropics and the humidity (not sarcasm). so on and on.. we learn a little bit about Singapore but nothing but brain fodder until we finally do arrive. It always feels like this to me. No matter how much I read about a place I ve never been to , I think I ve read enough to feel like I might have a handle on the situation only to be pleasantly surprised by all that slips out of my grasp of control and find myself immersed in it.. head first, kinda. The first day, we did the graveyard in the jungle. we did the aquarium. we went to Malaysia's Johor Baru by bus across the one bridge that separates Singapore, which was once a Malaysian City from the Country of Malaysia, so that we can take a photo of Singapore insted of taking a look at Malaysia. The difference from one side of the water to another was overwhelming. Felt like an iron fist controlled Singapore whose PR makes her look super pristine with no problems to the I-didn't-bother-to-fake-my-appearance-what?!-Malaysia. I could write a lot about this but you should just ask me. I m pretty sure your eyes will glaze and I ll have ate up a lot of your life filling it with third person baggage. It is a fascinating dichotomy. Two countries, pretty much with similar roots, two completely different peoples.. separated by a bridge. I guess like Brooklyn and Manhattan.. or maybe more like any of the five boros from the other five boros. Same city. Different attitudes. Terrible comparison. The second day felt more like what we do. Get up and eat 2 plate full of breakfast. Fill up and go travel all day long. First stop was the Extreme Skatepark. SUPER FUN! all concrete. At 82 degree Fahrenheit and humidity real feel index at 102 degrees and sunny, sounded like a dream! An hour later, 10 pounds lighter without the water weight and my pants looks like I peed all over myself, we moved on. We went to check out the housing units and it was a cool part of town. Tight little streets and housing units that look like small city housing in chinese art house films of Wong Kar-Wei of yore. Singapore is also a hugh hub of asians from all over asia living together for many generations. They are not only their ancestors roots but also Singaporean! Complete with Singlish and a local dialect made up of at least 4 chinese dialects, malaysian, indonesian, indians and english. A very religiously tolerant city with temples next to each other and lots and lots of vegetation! even the modern building they build boasts of gardens and trees growing in and on and part of the architecture. We had lunch from recommendations of our japanese ex-pat living in Singapore for the last 6 years at Colburn, originally british housing but currently asia housing neighborhood complete with a local Singaporean rice and meat dish diner~esque eatery who fields a futbol team for about a century, while we waited out a tropical storm.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014.09.19. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It's 5:30 am. I'm not really a morning person and I'm not getting ready for a surf session with good friends. I'm in a hotel half way around the world from my home in Brooklyn. It's been a few days away and I find myself in the hot, humid climate of Singapore. It all started at 5 am in Brooklyn on september 15. Last minute packing is becoming one of my fortes. I'm never ready to leave for a trip because somehow in my brain, I know I am going to travel but the preparation of packing always gets put off to the end. Somehow the idea of going to the trip always makes me feel excited that some new adventure is waiting for me around the corner and the part that I love to ignore is the logistics of actually packing and getting myself on board and sitting and waiting and sleeping and getting off and doing it all over again after I've managed to drag myself off the subway to the airport. This trip has been a big journey adventure in so much that I wanted to/ had to travel on the cheap. I took my overweight carry on luggage, two rolled up 10'x 5' canvases and a backpack that carried all the extra things my luggage wasn't big enough to carry and rolled out the door at 10 am for a one o'clock flight from JFK. I arrived at the terminal at 11:30 and proceeded to check in my bag and enter security. Of course, in my haste to pack at 5 am, I did forget one very important aspect of air flight security. I made a mental note while packing to make sure I absolutely do not forget to pack my OLAF two bladed Cutter in my check in bag. What I did forget was that my Leatherman which was neatly packed away in the check in bag was suddenly re-packed into my carry on bag because I wanted to make space for other items. Mind you, the leatherman was actually packed in another smaller bag that contained soft goods and nothing of danger. Had I checked more carefully initially in that smaller bag, I would have easily just taken the tool out and repack it to my check in. Here is where an old wise saying sticks to my mind... measure twice, cut once. Yes, this is not carpentry, but yes, it is about not being hasty. Let that be a lesson for all my traveling friends who are hasty in their packing. The next few hours on the plane is me replaying the loss of my tool. It is a big deal for me and I still reflect on it. A very hard lesson to learn indeed. I see that security guy's face light up and his poker expression giving away to success when I realized I had not enough time to exit the security and re enter... or did I? This little moment in my life replays itself over and over again... 14 hours later I arrive in Incheon, Korea. This was all part of a brilliant plan, but I won't let you in on my secret until the proper time. At 7pm Incheon time, I board another vessel for my destination, Narita Airport, Japan. The 2 hour flight is without incident and during the travels I am in between sleep and restlessness. So far, I've clocked in 4 movies and had another travel epiphany! I like to put my overstuffed backpack under the seat in front of me because somehow I think I am going to need access to the bag during transit. It is kind of a security blanket issue for me. I want that bag there under the seat so I can get at it in my whim but I've begun to notice a trend of not going for the bag in my past few airplane travels. On the plane, I want to just sleep, eat, watch movies and zone out. And anything I want from the bag, I can easily take out and put it in the pocket in front of me. This is a revelation! Apparently, there are lots of little lessons being taught me in all kinds of different scenerios. But they are all kind of the same lessons. I've never been a very quick learner even though I like to think I am. Give me directions on a map and I'm pretty good at finding my way back and forth after once though. Different skill sets, I bet. My final destination is Yutenji, Tokyo, Japan. My friend is very accommodating. While he is on a business trip, he lets me crash at his flat. Getting out of the air terminal one at Narita takes an hour of waiting on line at the customs/immigration window. After getting my luggage and rolled canvas, I quickly make my exit without incident and plow through the gates. At 10 ish, there are no more limosine buses to Shibuya/ Ebisu, taxis are like $1,000 rides (of course, I am completely exaggerating but it is still expensive.) and the metro is a great option. I've been to tokyo a few times and I know the train to tokyo is pretty fast. Dear reader, I am not sure if you know that in tokyo, metros and subways all stop after midnight for a daily maintenance that sees the trains sleeping for a few hours. Arriving at 10 pm might not seem so bad but tokyo is big and where I needed to be was going to be at least a couple hours away. So in my haste, again, I buy a ticket for Tokyo Station and board what I think will be a 60 minute express ride to Shibuya. Incidentally, Shibuya Station is a 30 minute train ride from Tokyo Station. The train I jump aboard on, although heading to Tokyo is not the express I was hoping for. I get on the 'RAPID' Service train from CHIBA to Tokyo. Rapid in this case means, if you live in Chiba, which is like living in New Jersey to New York and your daily commute is from say 2 hours from the border, your train probably can skip some of those smaller residential stations and try to hit the major residential stations insted. In this term, a local train from Tokyo to Narita is about a 2 hour plus train ride is cut down to an hour and a half. Again, a little bit more research might of put me on the right express train but what I think I know and what I know often conflict and my what I think I know unfortunately gets louder when I am tired and just want it to be done. After arriving in Tokyo Station at 11:30 ish, now it is starting to be a scramble to try to get to Shibuya/Ebisu for my full metro journey to Yutenji. I make my way to Yamanote Line, which is the big circle line that travels around Tokyo. Not the shortest distance by a long mile but the most convenient as I have an over weight luggage with , did i mention that my top handle strap broke as soon as I stepped out the house? Of course not, I try to forget all the uncomfortable memories! For convenience sake and avoiding walking through very long station hallways and staircases, I go for what I know. By this time, I m pretty sure I will not make the last train from Shibuya to Yutenji and use my 'local' knowledge to bridge the distance I have to travel to Yutenji by exiting in Ebisu, one station away. I come off the very close to last train and stumble to the taxi stand for my last transfer for the day...uh.. night. The taxi ride is about 15 minutes and without incident. Although I kept telling myself the flat was in Jiyugaoka, another station away, I know by sight where the flat is and it is actually in the neighborhood of Yutenji. Final time of arrival? 12:30 am, Tokyo time or 11:30 am NYC time. I stay up for about an hour and crash out, only to wake up at 5 am. I have hard Jetlags. When I travel, I don't acclimate at all and time has her way with me. It s not so bad when I am on my own time, but not so cool when I am scheduled for meetings. At 8:15 am, I start out the door to go see my sister in Ginza Section of town. On the yamanote line, it s about a 30 minute ride from Yutenji via Ebisu, but on the subway through long hallways and lots of staircases, it is a 20 minute trip from Yutenji. I see my sister, we hug it out and we catch up briefly before she heads to work and I , some wifi. After about an hour and a half in Ginza, I head back to Shibuya to meet up with my art collaborator friend, Shingo Wakagi. About this time, I m pretty hungry but don't really realize it. We meet up and discuss our up coming trip to Singapore and a couple art projects we are planning to do while I am in Japan. Always good to see my friend. He is very successful and is a model for me in how to make it. Like a book I ve often read or a theory I ve often studied, un-applied, means absolutely nothing. UGGHHH. We go eat burgers for lunch and just chat up on what we've been up to and what we've done. I've been on a very loose GAPS diet since January of this year, 2014. It is very strict and eating out is almost nonexistent. In Japan, although I have access to a kitchen, most people do not cook and supermarkets are not plentiful. It's work to get it together in a foreign place and so, I try to do what the roman's do in rome. I order the double cheese burger with fried eggs and avocado, no buns (grains) and french fries (starch). I am positive in New York, this could fly. I eat like this at home, no problem. In Japan, an hour later , it is giving me big problems. I think the meat is seasoned with something other than salt and pepper, which , I will season my burgers or meat with only salt. The combination of seasonings, the kind of cheese and oils used to cook the food makes me feel like crap. I tried to go to Ukiyo-e Museum in Harajuku. A MUST FOR ANY Ukiyo-E FANS. SERIOUSLY!! Amazing. But with my stomach not agreeing with me and my body trying to eject the food, I spend more time in their very well maintained bathroom trying to throw up and .. so, we skip a few hours and I m laying down in my flat. I ve been sweating bullets and my stomach/body is slowly starting to recover. I was hoping to use this sleeping time to work things but have only managed to just put out fires and keep it contained. I am supposed to fly out for Singapore the next day and all I am doing is trying to rest. Crazy. I get up and check emails and go back to sleep at 9 pm. I finally wake up at 5 am the next day and in order to not repeat the last day's eating experience, I preemptively go to the convenience store and pick up some vegetables, fruits and eggs for breakfast. I make a nice conservative eats and get my self ready to fly out. I get picked up at 8 am and we make our way over to Kaneda International Airport. Our flight leaves at 11 am and it is a 6 hour flight. I take my carry on bag, stuff it in the overhead bin and make myself comfortable. 6 hours later, one meal and 2 pieces of movies later, we arrive in Singapore. Phew.. we jump in a cab and arrive at our hotel. This is the weekend of the F1 Racing. It is supposed to be crowded with crazy loud sounds of formula one race car engine sounds screaming through Singapore at night. We eat in something Quay and stroll back to the hotel. It is tropics here. Feels familiar but the government sounds a bit spooky. They are very much into censorship. There are punks and anti censorship groups here but they don't get far out of this country and their protests gets muffled by the government. Not sure how I got to this point but, Vice should do an article about modern day Singapore... Which brings me to now. If, dear reader, you have managed to keep reading this far, I thank you so much! I am proud of having traveled a bunch in such a short frame of time and I am hoping that I can get myself to doing some art! That is really why I am doing all this travel in the first place. And, although there are no images to accompany this post now, I will get some images uploaded very soon. I am also on instagram and I seem to post up there pretty frequently. Check me out, @surfnuts195. Okay, Over and out!!