Musings on music and my life as a Midwesterner in the beloved nation of New York City.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Polyphonic Spree in a Synagogue
So I went down to DC on monday to see a show. I saw the polyphonic spree play the sixth and I historic synagogue, oddly enough the second time I have see the Spree play a synagogue, but this is the first time it was a in use synagogue. This was a fantastic place to see a show, the venue led to a level of respect or care form the crowd. As you can tell by the pictures the place was gorgeous. clearly confetti drops that might be normal at a Spree show are not OK at a place like this.
The Polyphonic Spree are one of those bands that I have no understanding why people wouldn't like them, and at the same time completely understand it. Their orchestral pop infused with gospel flavor and robes is so uplifting I would imagine that anyone who doesn't like them should be immediately prescribed some prozac. At the same time the spectacle of the band, which I view as completely sincere and unironic, could be seen by others as just plain silly. But again if you don't like silly, you should probably take some prozac. I understand that gigantic joyous pop music isn't for everyone, but if it was I think we'd all be a little happier.
Seriously watch them take a depressing Nirvana song and turn it into a happy spiritual.
To remind anyone who might happen to read this that despite being a fine director, Roman Polanski in fact drugged and anally raped a 13 year old child. Art does not excuse this crap. Hopefully, Mr. Polanski can spend his remaining years in prison where he should have already served a sentence in the past.
a link to a article about Hollywood idiots who can not remember that Polanski is a child rapist.
We got up early for our trip to Machu Piccu. We waited in the cold for a half an hour or so by the Iglesia de San Blas (San Blas Church) to get picked up. When we finally get picked up we start to get to know our tour group. Our fearless leader and guide: Justino. What seem like a couple of 30 something lesbians from St. Louis, one is ex military and spent a time working in Antarctica, there is a gaggle of four Asians (sorry C I stil have trouble telling folks apart) from LA there’s a freckled one, one who carries around a gigantic camera, and two whom I could not tell apart if my life depended on it, rounding out our group is Justin a muscle-head from Venice Beach working in advertising and is eager to pose for photos with his shirt off. Justin was interesting… normally I hate dudes like this, but this guy had a ease about him, nonjudgmental, and funny as shit, I begrudgingly had to admit I liked the guy in spite of myself.
The Trail Group
On the trip to the train station Justin talked about getting sick repeatedly cause of the bad food in Peru, which both Rachel and myself found humorous considering how well we hd been eating. We got to the train station and had to wait a while… so I asked Justino, our guide, what was up with the rainbow flag. He told me it was just the official flag for Cuszco and it had fertility significance. The conversation turned to homosexuality in general and his theory (Not sure if this was just Justino or if it is a common belief in Peru) was interesting. He said there weren’t so many gays in Peru four five years back, but then Peru got the cell phones and other up to the minute technological do-hickkeys. So the technology makes the gays. I’m guessing this theory wouldn’t hold up to scientific study, but it is an interesting bit of logic.
The Train to Machu Piccu was fairly uneventful as the Asian girls spent most of their time taking pictures of a gummy bear in various paper made clothing and vehicles. We got off the train @ km 106 of the Inca Trail, our original disembarking location was meant to be km 104, but due to a fire plans got changed. The hike was rigorous. From 104 the path meanders up to the Inca trail proper, from km 106 the path to the Inka trail is straight up a bunch of switchbacks. It was a beautiful view but also it kicked the shit out of me. I’m happy to say I wasn’t the last to make it but I was far from the first.
Rachel on the Inca Trail, you can see the burnt mountain side on the right.
When we got to our destination a sort of clubhouse on the side of the mountain I was soaked clear through. I couldn’t help but got bare-chested I was so soaked through. I figured I’d earned a cigarette. And all the ladies out there will be happy to know that Rachel got this damn sexy picture of me.
Before lunch we caught a farming ruins that was fairly impressive. The most interesting bit was how the Inca farmer would slowly move crops up the steps preparing the plant for colder and colder climates. They used essentially used natural selection on the plants breeding plants that were more and more capable to grow in colder temperatures.
Inca Farming Ruins.
Lunch was a little scary… I think I was the only person in the tour group to clean my plate. Then it’s off to the sun gate and Machu Piccu. We had like a two-hour walk to the Sun gate which was much less difficult than the hike up the side of the mountain. Rachel and I took it easy and found ourselves at the back of the tour group where our second guide “eddie” walked way to close to us with a walking stick…. Annoyingly going click, click, click at my feet. Rachel was walking behind me so eventually I just let her get in front of me and I walked especially slow to give her some separation.
Steep Stairs on the Trail.
The Sun Gate gave a beautiful view of Machu Piccu, but the sun was not in the right spot for a good picture. The walk down to the bus gives more views, it’s all pretty awesome. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
View Walking down from the Sun Gate.
We spent the night in Aguas Calientes a beautiful and romantic little tourist town at the foot of Macchu Piccu. We wandered the streets as much as our very tired feet and legs could take us, and enjoyed the nightlife as well as these two adorable dogs fighting.
They look snarly but they were definitely buddies.
We had to get up early to go to the city proper of Machu Piccu. Again it’s just so stunning. Here are some pictures.
The Mist Rolls in During the Morning
A Tree grows in Machu Picchu
Our Fearless Leader Justino
Machu Picchu in the morning
After wandering the site for three hours or so we headed back into town for lunch. Rachel was unimpressed with the group diner the night before so we went out for lunch. Most of the restaurants in Aguas Calientes (or anywhere else in Peru for that matter) have someone out front with menus begging you to come it (it’s off putting). We stopped at the one place that didn’t have that person hounding you in the street. We ordered and then we found out why this particular restaurant didn’t have one, they had a parrot. “Hola” “Hola” the bird says “Comida Bien!” “Tomas bebitas!” It was adorable. Close to the end of the meal it fell off it’s perch and cam scrambling on the ground, the waitress tried to pick it up but the parrot was having none of that. After scampering up a chair and getting onto our table the Parrot finally got what it wanted all along… Rachel’s Pizza.
After saying bye to the group we headed off to our fancy train… “The Vistadome.” At first we were none to impressed the car we got in was stuffy and it just had these glass windows. The menu seemed spectacular (garlic and herb bread sticks, pork tenderloin and farmer cheese sandwich, mini banana cheesecake) but when they brought us our food it was teenny tiny portions of bad food. The disappointment grew the views were nice, but the entertainment… the entertainment was the most surreal experience of the trip. A guy came out wearing a ski mask, some traditional clothes, a rectangle hat and began touching people with a sheep puppet. He did that Russian dance where he kicks up one foot after another with folded arms. Then there was a fashion show where the two attendants the steward and stewardess changed into different articles of clothing and walked up and down the isle while the riders clapped. Rachel and I just about completely lost it, I remember turning to Rachel and asking through tears of laughter “why are we clapping”… through the same tears of hysterical laughter Rachel responds “I have no Idea”.
When it got dark they turned off all the lights so you could see the stars above you trough the ceiling windows. The experience of the Vistadome was well worth the extra 30 or 40 bucks we paid. So if you go, go in style.
This is the entertainment on the Vistadome.
Why are we clapping?
When we got back to Cuzco it was fast and furious taking a bus to hotel to pick up are bags, then to another van, then to the bus stop. We sat on the front row of a double-decker fancy bus and watched a movie about a boy and his cheetah (Duma). The ride was fun but scary, luckily I had one Xanax left over to help me get through the terror of driving through mountains on a bus going 45 mph. We also become very aware that we both have colds by the time we hit the bus and tissue becomes one of our top ten concerns.
We had to drag ourselves up by 3 AM to get a ride to the airport. The flight was pretty packed, but uneventful. As soon as we got to the airport the vibe was different. It was cold, there were musicians serenading folks (and selling CDs of course) waiting to get their luggage from the carousel. Cuzco was both charming and repelling. Charming in the sense that it was beautiful old city filled with culture, repelling in that it was filled with western tourists and folks were economically driven to push their wares, their water colors, their alpacas, and their children on them for survival. The charming won out but their was always a sense that the place would be a little better if everyone would just leave (not true, it would fall into economic ruin).
The Narrow Streets of Cuzco.
Our cab driver had some trouble finding our hotel The Casa de la Gringa. It was a new agey place with fairies painted on the wall and a clear connection with some natural healing guru who can apparently get you really fucked up on some homemade hallucinogenics. Not exactly the perfect place for Rachel and myself cause on top of all that the room and bathroom sucked (it had 20 seconds .
Colorful clothing of Peru
As soon as arriving in the hotel we were off to find breakfast and we ate at this delicious bakery place called Cirrcolina. It might have been one of the most delicious smelling places I‘ve ever entered. Rachel had a cornbread, eggs and guacamole thing that was insanely tasty, as well as the tastiest beverage of her life, a hot chocolate that had 9 types of spices in it… yum. While we were having breakfast and writing postcards we first noticed the altitude sickness… which I dubbed Space Madness from the classic Ren and Stimpy cartoon (is that old enough to be classic?). Rachel wrote a post card and the text reads as follows:
Peru is real. I likes. A lot. Hot chocolate is
best $3 I ever spent.
Cusco is here - I am
I added: I think Rachel is losing it.
From breakfast we headed over to SAS travel who we scheduled the trip to Machu Pichu through. We had to pay the remainder of our balance and they were informing us that a bunch of trips were canceled for the two days before we were going due to a nationwide strike over Peru taking the water supply private (Coca-Cola assholes making water too expensive for the average Peruvian to afford to water their crops) but that we should be fine. In the process of discussing the money we owed and the possibility of getting shut down entirely, the Space Maddness really hit Rachel and she just had to sit down (we didn’t know it yet but she was also developing a cold) while I ran out to get cash.
After taking care of that trip Rachel headed back to the hotel for a nap while I wandered about town. Cuzco was a very pretty town and they also have an interesting flag.
What a Fag...! I mean Flag!
After Rachel got up we got a coffee and a tea at a café. In front of the café were a shit load of tourists from the US and Europe, ya know the type 20-27, they don’t bathe cause they have to prove how much they can “rough it,” they talk whit about how worldly they are cause they spent the last 4 weeks in a foreign country (you have to read between the lines to add, in the most touristy place in the entire country, and a place where you can get laid and weed real easy). Well anyway this gaggle of youth was amusing to say the least but after a half an hour we were off to find a drink.
Dirty Young Tourists Take in the View
We ended up at Norton’s Biker Bar. The place was kinda empty, which was fine with me. We had a few drinks, discussed one of our favorite topics to argue about, religion, and tried to name the many flags that were attached to the ceiling.
The Ceiling at Nortons
After that we went to Pacha Papa for dinner, we had Potato Cream Soup, Papas Rellenas (mashed potatoes wrapped around beef, raisons, carrots, and peas then deep fried), and a delicious alpaca steak skewer. I felt kind of odd ordering the alpaca after noticing how cute the little buggers were, but it was god damn scrumptious. After dinner we slipped off to bed early to our freezing bedroom with a window overlooking a path with constant loud drunk jackasses on it. It’s so cold that the room has at least 5 blankets and it’s still cold (partially cause Rachel keeps stealing all the covers.)
Cuzco, like Everywhere in Peru, has more than its fair share of Stray Dogs
The next day we take breakfast back at Norton’s and then go back to SAS as we have decided to plan out the rest of our trip with them. We then checked out an Inca ruin that Spanish monks built their monastery around. It was quite nice. Most of the day we just relaxed. I sat on a balcony overlooking the main square writing notes about the trip while sucking back cappuccinos and smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes. Rachel ran around and hunted down some lovely jewelry.
Pictures of the Central Square of Cuzco Taken from the Cafe on the Second Floor.
There were also the most absolutely adorable children playing with pigeons in the main square.
And of course we had to take a picture with the alpaca, only cost us a fiver.
Diner was another fantastic experience, we ate at Tanka Panka and had a potato dish with a peanut sauce, an unforgettable Avocado a la reina (avocado of the queen… which was avocados with the most delicious chicken salad flowing over the sides of it) and an alpaca tenderloin in a mushroom sauce. The highlight of the evening was the fact that these dogs were constantly playing around the table where we were sitting (well actually the one of the dogs was desperately trying to mount a smaller dog while a third dog watched) but this scene was broken up when a mule came burling around the corner and what I must assume is top mule speed (at least on narrow stone walkways) and sent everyone scattering.
And Some more of Cuzco:
Saddest Desert Ever
Nothing like a Lactating Virgin Mary
Hope I don't Catch It
When you're Walking down a Narrow Alley and looking to Your left you See This... it's Creepy
We got up the next morning hella early to get into a cab and go back to the airport to pick up the rental car. The cab driver had the weakest vehicle I’ve ever been in… good thing too cause the guy thought he was Mario fucking Andretti. He had some interesting evil looking bobble head jobbies on his dash.
When we got o the airport it became clear that the airport was not where the Car Company was. After quite some help from a friendly gentleman (can’t say enough about the folks of Peru they wee wonderful) and some spilt coffee the Car Company came to get us. When we got to the Budget/EuropCar place they seemed very confused. I booked through a third party and they definitely had issues with it. “No drive Mechanico?” was repeatedly asked of us. I had arranged through a 3rd party cause I needed and Automatic with unlimited mileage… so after some conversation and an hour or so of waiting we set off in an automatic Toyota Yaris with the worlds most annoying alarm (kept going off at inopportune times). In total we estimated the drive to be 6-8 hours.
Driving out of Lima was not nearly as harrowing as we thought… we found our way without much trouble… The construction in Lima was spectacular. Entire four lane roads were closed off and they shunted the traffic off through dirt parking lots. Then we got to the Pan American Highway and slowly but surely left Lima behind. We climbed up a mountain shortly out of Lima and got to drive through clouds rolling in off the Pacific driving through clouds is surreal to say the least.
Clouds are down and to the left in this picture.
As we got out into the countryside we started to get stopped by police officers. They wave us over and usually get a little smile out of our poor Spanish, but they are friendly and nice, offer us directions (“Huarez?” picture me pointing further down the road,) and seem sincerely surprised that these Americans are attempting to drive in their potholed country.
We turned off the Pan American Highway and meet our last officer who was especially nice and set us on our way. We began driving steadily in an up hill direction. And drove that way on switchbacks for roughly the next 2 hours. The first item of interest we came across was fields and fields of chili peppers... which was stunning against the colorless stone backdrop.
We stopped at a place that was clearly a pit stop for buses and let me tell you every one stopped to get a good look of the Americans in the rented car, It was one of the few times that the people of Peru made me feel uncomfortable in their country. Traveling up into the Andes mountains lead to some fantastic views, but the construction habits of the Peruvians leaves something to be desired… Instead of having cones to signal construction they just leave large rocks in the road. The first of which I hit with a loud “ka bam” as my wheel apparently just bounced up and over it. There were several stretches of one lane “road” (by road I mean pile of dirt) where their was being construction done to improve the road conditions.
After driving steadily in an assent to the top of the first mountains of the Andes we hit a plateau. Hungry we stopped in a town with a slew of paces with signs that read Queso… so we stopped and bought some bread and farmer’s cheese. It was delicious… It got dark quickly as a storm rolled in and delivered the only rain we experienced while we were in Peru. Rachel took a nap as I completed the last hour to Huarez, swerving to make a herd of sheep jump over a barrier, swerving around potholes and folks with various farm animals and just enjoying the views.
After arriving in Huarez Rachel and I probably had our tensest moment on the trip as we attempted to fin our way to the hostel in the poorly marked city. When we finally get to the place it is quite beautiful. We have a view of the mountains from our little balcony, and there is a fantastic roof top view. We had some difficulty securing secure parking for the car but eventually our hotel hooked us up with a lady who’s walled backyard was available for overnight parking for what amounted to a buck fifty. We had dinner at Hotel Andino where Rachel ordered our first Pisco Sour and I had a delicious chicken stuffed with a Mushroom sauce.
View from our balcony when we arrived in Huarez
The next day we got up early eager to drive to Lake Llanganuco in the National Park of Huascaran… the power was out in Huarez, something that is fairly common, but we had a nice breakfast regardless. There is a clearly independently wealthy fella from Minneapolis running the place who is kind of a doutche. It’s odd that we come 6000 miles from home and the idiots we meet are most likely to be other Americans.
We drive about an hour north dodging potholes… and thus driving on the shoulder, in the middle of the road, pretty much anywhere there is actual road to drive on. We stopped in a town looking for a snack and Rachel met a nice lady who sold her bread and because she liked Rachel apparently, gave her the stalest croissant ever. After a little trouble finding the right road we were off up the side of the mountain in our automatic Toyota Yaris. The road was made of dirt and dust, and was clearly not leveled in ages…and thus it took us nearly 2 hours to go 25 kilometers up the side of the mountain. We got to the entrance of the park and got some corn con queso from a lady just sitting up at the top of the mountain. After another 15 minutes of driving we reached these two lakes, set at an elevation of 13,000 ft, surrounded by glacier-covered peaks. It was one of the most serene views of my life. We got the rowboat rental guy to let us take the boat out ourselves and we rowed around as Rachel took pictures of me trying to be funny.
The road was a little quicker going down and soon we were back in town. We headed out for some Pisco Sours and some Pizza. I can say that the pizza for the most par in Peru sucks… but Rachel is addicted so she made like 4 or 5 attempts. We also came across a bunch of places advertising Sex Burgers, which is essentially a cheeseburger with over easy eggs on them.
The next day we were heading back to Lima. It was uneventful, but even more fun than the ride up cause there was no longer a worry about getting lost. We got stopped by one of the same cops who stopped us on the way up who seemed sincerely happy that we were unharmed and still in good spirits. We attempted to stop several times for lunch but the section of the Pan American Highway between Huarez and Lima has quite a few places that as Rachel would put it “smell like death.” Eventually I had some delightful chicken at the Universal Restaurant.
AIN'T Rachel CUTE
Driving back into Lima was an absolute blast, Rachel seemed anxiety ridden but I was like a Pig in Mud. The Folks at the car rental place seemed surprised and a little ticked off that there was nothing wrong with the car when I brought it back, so they charged us $25 for cleaning the car cause it is filed with dirt road dust. A van takes us back to the Hotel Espana, and of course we head back to our new favorite restaurant where the nuns serve us more food. Rachel gets the same she had before and I get some delicious rabbit. We head home early cause we have to get up at 3AM to head to the airport for the next leg of our journey.
So I saw Walter Schreifels last night. Walter has been around for years in bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Rival Schools mostly gaining fame in the hardcore scene. He's been one of my favorite artists for ages... especially in the way he has aged. Last night he played as a four piece with himself playing an acoustic guitar. The guys 40 what do you expect?
One of the great things about the the show was the fact that he played a little something from every band he's played in so it was a little bit of a time warp for me. The Quicksand stuff in particular was fantastic for me, he played thorn in my side and delusional, as Quicksand was the first real rock band I ever saw live (Genesis and Jon Melancamp don't count). They were opened for Helmet and I remember sending away to Revelation Records to get this little EP they had out. I was beyond thrilled when I got it.
But it's more than that... because Walter is not someone whom I listen to all the time like many of my other favorite acts it's weird to be transported back to different moments with the different songs. Good Things by rival schools brings me back to the early days of living in NY for me. Hands Up can take me back a few Summers to the time I moved to Astoria. Hell they even covered the Smith's Ask in a medley, which is a sure way to make me thing of my freshman year of college.
Regardless of all that... the guy also rocks live. Just the fact that he takes old hardcore tunes and turns them into acoustic pop ditties is freeking awesome. If you haven't heard him give one of his many bands a shot.
So this is another vacation section. Hope everyone enjoys the telling. click on the pics to see nice big versions. I will re date the entries so everything is in trip order later but here it goes.
Rachel assures me it was my idea to go to Peru, I don't recall coming up with this idea but I'll happily take credit cause it was a fantastic trip. We decided to take red eye flights cause quite frankly what else can you do on an airplane but sleep. Especially considering that this is the second time in the last 7 years I went anywhere without my mac. One of my favorite parts of any trip comes right at the beginning. It's when we take the AirTran, Rachel's eyes light up like a kid at Chucky Cheese's when she's in the front on the AirTran to JFK airport. We did our usual... put down a couple of pints and then stumble to the gate. The flight was nice... the people at LAN airlines are delightful. The only problem is that when we landed (way earlier than scheduled) we were in Ecuador. Seriously I was all delightfully asleep and then was woken up by "...fog, we will be landing in Guayaquil, Equador." It's a little disorienting to be told, when you're just out of sleep, that instead of landing in the completely and totally foreign country that you've made arrangements for you will be landing in a completely different totally foreign country.
Apparently there is always fog in the morning in Lima and this happens regularly, so soon we were in the delightful Guayaquil airport eating free breakfast and admiring the frozen shrimp to go place. I took this picture of the "Camaron to Go" place shortly before security (all in surgical masks made it clear that I shouldn't take pictures of it... apparently the methods of shrimp transport in Ecuador is a national secret). Finally the plane took off and headed to Lima. The view through the little plane window was amazing as we flew above mountains that stood above clouds. These white capped mountains stood everywhere with clouds just rolling around them. Lima is a desert city and it was stunning to watch the abruptness at which the mountains turned from green and forested to the dull brown of the desert.
When we arrived in Lima the accommodations Rachel made immediately paid off cause despite out 4 hour late arrival a person was there holding up Rachel's name on a dry erase board. As far as Lima itself, I must admit I was completely taken back by the foreignness of it. The streets were packed with mopeds, small cars often of clearly old design from makers I'd never heard of, big cars, Vans driven like buses and buses driven by normal civilian owners. The cars were packed 5 across a three lane road. I must admit I must have laughed in that giggly sort of way I do when I find something odd or strange 10 times in the 40 minute trip to our hotel. Rachel said that it reminded her of Cairo, (not the one in Illinois) but for me it was completely new.
We arrived in Lima to one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip. Our hotel was the Hotel Espana and it was in a beautiful old colonial mansion. The center of it was very open all the way to the roof. It was directly next to one of the sites (the Cathedral de San Fransisco) and the views themselves was stunning.
View from right outside our room.
The Cathedral de San Fransisco, and a Hill as seen from the Hotel Espana.
They also had a series of odd things in the hotel, from oil painting reproductions, classic sculpture reproductions, human skulls, to a myriad of animals that roamed the common spaces. The cutest of which was this here turtle.
We got out and took a walk around and we tried out the local ice cream bars (not terribly impressed with Peruvian Ice Cream choices). That done we headed to the Cathedral de San Fransisco for a tour of the building and the catacombs. Our guide spoke little English and we speak little Spanish so together we pieced together as much as we could about the place. There was an 400 year old library with gigantic books made out of leather that was really quite stunning. The intricacies of the woodwork were also quite impressive, as in a seemingly plain chair from a distance, one could see little beasties carved into it when one got up close. The catacombs were... well catacombs, bones piled up in neat stacks (Human remains are not my thing).
After the Cathedral we went out for a beer and then back for a nap and a shower. Dinner would be served to us by nun's in a place we found in the Lonely Planet Peru travel book, L'Eau Vive. The door to the colonial mansion the restaurant was in so huge they had to put another door in the door so the nuns could open it. The place was astounding architecturally, cavernously large and built to capture the natural light of the day. The nuns asked if we spoke Spanish (un poco is the answer we always gave), then oddly, after finding out we were from Nueva York, if we spoke French. The nun who ran the joint was clearly an old French woman, and several of the other nuns I guessed were from the Western region of Africa as they seemed very accustomed to the French language as well (I later discovered one from Senegal). The food was as heavenly as the atmosphere. Rachel had a crepe stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, cream and hunks of gigantic thick bacon. I had the beef tenderloin with Roquefort cheese that came with these wonderful little fried potato puffs.. Oh my god just thinking about it makes me fatter. Speaking of fatter... we also had a ridiculously thick and delicious chocolate mouse. To top off the perfect meal the nuns came out and sang a beautiful version of Ave Maria in French. The whole dining experience there was the greatest I've had.
After diner we walked about the main square of town trying to help the digestive process. We saw some cool fountains, buildings, bridges and the like. But what struck me the most was the people. People in Peru are much more touchy and affectionate in general. The main square was filled with lovers and families, touching and hugging and kissing. It felt good to walk arm in arm around that city.
The next morning we were up early to go back to the airport an get our rental car to drive to Huarez. I will leave you with the ridiculous art that was in our room... I desperately wanted to draw a horn on this horse to make it a unicorn.