I remember walking up to this by accident. My girlfriend and I were actually looking for this amazing sandwich shop. (All’antico Vinaio, ask for Eugenio.) I was stunned by the intricate detail which comprised this enormous structure. I want my life to feel like this all the time.
After hours of walking around historic Roman ruins, she stood looking behind me at the ground we had just covered. The background was perfect and reminiscent of a picture I had taken of me the year before. At this point we had been away from home for three weeks, but our thoughts were not looking forward to that. Instead, we were looking to extract every minute detail out of every moment, to remember what it felt like to be somewhere where people had lived and died and lived and lied for 2,700 years.
We held onto one another as we made our way to the Metro. We sat close as we boarded and flipped through the day’s photos and lived it all over again. Our walk from the station near our hostel was quick and unimpeded and we were greeted by faces both familiar and new. Settling into a table of people we knew, we drank beers, smoked cigarettes and laughed heartily deep into the night. We didn’t want to go home.
I learned a lot on my tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. However, the thing that resonates the most with me is that the Romans were so advanced. The floor of the Colosseum was wooden, covered in Egyptian white sand and hid an elaborate underground system for the storing of animals which would pop up through trap doors.
I closed my eyes and I could hear the roaring of the crowd, urging warriors to battle on. I opened them to see the worn marble where wealthy men and senators would sit. I walked the many steep, angled steps where people were placed based on their status and looked down upon what was once the greatest spectacle the world has ever known.
This past week marked my third trip to the capital of being yourself, Amsterdam. This visit was a bit different than the last couple, in the fact that I was traveling with her as opposed to any other dude that I’m friends with. Also, for the first time, I was interested in being a tourist. While Sam, Pat, and I had seen this city many times before, none of us recalled actually knowing anything about the city. So with that, the four of us ventured towards Museumplein, where some of Amsterdam’s rich history resides. After catching glimpses of other museums, the Rijksmuseum and it’s quaint yet vibrant gardens called upon us and we heeded.
As we entered, we were given far too many options and decided to take it on in chronological order. In the 1100s we immediately grouped into pairs, with Sam and Pat venturing ahead while she and I took our time going over every subtle nuance available. We made our way through religious art, both graphic yet simultaneously beautiful and deep. We climbed the steps to the 1600s where beautiful stained glass marked the men who were so integral to the creation of a national museum and the rich art and educational culture of the time. The 17 and 1800s showed us the glories of the Dutch through war paintings, collections of weaponry through the ages and treasure both stolen and earned through battle. Hours passed as we made it from exhibit to exhibit with the only thing that prevented us from continuing our adventure into the 20th century was the closing of the museum.
To this point, my Dutch education merely consisted of pills, strobe lights and walking home at dawn. While a different brand of education altogether, the two seem to harmoniously coincide into a beautiful experience. I suppose it took traveling with a different person or even a different type of person to open my eyes to the many aspects that not only this city, but the world as a whole contain.
We are so often told that our hard work will eventually pay off. It’s nice when that gratification is seemingly instant. Climbing what seemed like hundreds after hundreds of steps, ascending to the top of Montmartre, she and I sat at the foot of Sacre Coeur and all of its glory. The real treasure, however, can be found if you simply turn around. The Parisian sprawl appearing to be so accessible, coupled with that instantaneous feeling that you can conquer it all, only to be reminded how truly small you really are in the magnificent eye of the capital.
The sky set a perfect blue opposite the still beaming 8pm sun. Clouds majestically sitting over the chateau, lined on each side by well manicured forests. There are no days like this anywhere else in the world.
Versailles, as vast and imposing as it may be, it warns you and cradles you like your own home. For all it’s grandeur and luxury, all you need to know about it is that in its little nooks, you are safe from the revolution.
Friday – This was the big day of my trip in my eyes. The three of us started out hopping on the subway to head to Williamsburg. Lunch was decided upon way in advance as we headed to Pies ‘n’ Thighs. This is a southern style fried chicken place in the heart of hipster heaven. (Or hell, depending upon how you feel about it.) We walk in and though they are not overly busy, their servers seem a bit overwhelmed, or maybe they just don’t care, either way, everything seemed a bit hectic for the amount of people in the restaurant. We walk up to the counter and ask what the wait would be for three people. As the words passed from Halley’s lips, the guy behind the counter comes around and asks a gentleman sitting by himself if he would mind moving to the back area of the restaurant, to which he kindly obliges. A few moments pass before our server, Cody, approaches the table.
Cody: “You guys ready to party?”
Halley: “Uh, sure.”
We place our order, which consists of Fried Pickles, Hush Puppies, and for each of us, their Chicken Box. This came with three pieces of their fried chicken, a biscuit, and a side. I opted for the Mac & Cheese. We ordered Micheladas, which are a very interesting combination of hot sauce and beer. A bit like a Bloody Mary, but on crack. The first sip stings your palette with an indescribable bite. I’m not sure how to explain it, but you should just try one. The building was reminiscent of a house that had been gutted years ago and then transformed on interior design tips from the Beverly Hillbillies. We waited for about 30 minutes before we got curious about what the hell could be taking so long to get our appetizers out. We tried flagging Cody down a few times to no avail. Five minutes later, a girl server brings us the Fried Pickles. She placed them down, smiled and then walked away. We were so happy to see food at this point that we all immediately dug in. The pickles were crispy and salty which made them quite delicious. Not worth a half hour wait, but satiating enough.
Roughly ten minutes later, our second appetizer (that we ordered at the exact same time, mind you) is on its way to the table with the same female server that delivered our first round. She is also carrying a basket of the Fried Pickles that we just enjoyed. Our server, Cody abruptly stops her letting her know that we’d already gotten those, and to only deliver the hush puppies. Between the three of us, I think that Brandon had the most incredulous look on his face when this happened. Honestly, I was so stunned by this that I don’t remember how this part of the meal went.
Between fifteen and twenty minutes later, our main course arrived, much to our pleasure, but once again, not delivered by our server. We were more than annoyed at this point, but still enjoyed each bite to the best of our ability. The chicken lacked the desired crispness, and minus the hot sauce, my side lacked a certain flavor that you would look for in macaroni and cheese. Not to mention the gritty consistency that it held. In fact, upon finishing our meal, the only really good part about this visit was the pie that we ordered after: one slice of Chocolate Pudding Pie, and one slice of Banana Cream Pie, the latter of which was a true ten-bell piece of dessert. I can’t say that this saved our wholly underwhelming experience at this establishment, but it certainly gave hope that I would someday have a reason to return.
After heading back to the apartment for a couple of hours of relaxation, Brandon and I departed to go to the concert I’d been waiting for since I bought tickets over a month ago. British hardcore outfit Enter Shikari were playing at Irving Plaza, and I couldn’t have been anymore excited. This however, is far from Brandon’s style of music, but being the good friend that he is, he agreed to accompany me. We got to the venue as the second band was going on, and they were absolutely awful. Brandon ordered a Beck’s and within a few moments of walking towards the middle of the pack, the band started and their ravenous fans started a huge circle pit right where we were standing. Some scenester whose parents clearly didn’t love him came barreling towards us, knocking Brandon’s beer out of his hands before getting run completely over by a total behemoth of a man. Instant karma is a bitch, too. After about 45 minutes of a wall of sound, this band exited and the real fun started to begin. Chants for favorite Enter Shikari songs started almost immediately. Brandon and I settled about four rows of people in front of the stage. I don’t remember this from going to hardcore shows when I was younger, but apparently it is appropriate to not shower the month before going to a show.
Brandon: “Dude, it smells like the inside of a locker room in here.”
Me: “I think you’re putting that a bit lightly.”
We were standing right in front of the olfactory offender, and we made sure that he could hear everything that we were saying.
Brandon: “I’ve stepped in dog shit and not cleaned it off for days and it’s smelled better than this.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure my room didn’t smell this bad when I threw up on my floor.”
Brandon: “ I think I’d rather sleep in a pig sty right about now.”
Me: “No, you know what it really smells like? You know how fat kids in elementary school always had that distinctive awful smell? That’s what it smells like here in our general vicinity.”
SmellyKid: “Yeah, you guys are totally right.”
You must be kidding me. Brandon and I looked at one another with a shock reserved for seeing someone fall from a fifty-story building.
They opened with “System…” which segued into “…Meltdown” which were played with such an intensity that the entire crowd were ebbing and flowing like the Atlantic Ocean. Within the first two songs my shoes were coming off and I was holding them in my hands. In between tracks, I would put them back on, only to wind up holding them again mid song. After replacing them once more, the band’s most intense track “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” started. Before the end of the opening rant of my song, I had actually lost one of my shoes. No more than thirty seconds l lost my other shoe. And no more than 15 seconds after that, a crowd surfing girl came flying over the top and kicked me in the head. I lost one of my plugs, and had to result to changing which ear I would wear an earring in for the rest of the evening. Brandon had gone missing sometime around this time, but I was having so much fun thrashing about that I hadn’t really noticed. After that, lead singer Rou Reynolds told a story about how the rest of his band mates had asked if they could play the song “Sorry You’re Not a Winner”, which he wasn’t really up for. But he continued on that they used their powers of persuasion, namely placing their balls in his face until he relented.
A half hour of moshing, crowd surfing and searching for my shoes, the closing track of their set, the namesake track “Enter Shikari” was played. I was immediately tossed up by some huge guy, and barefoot, was walking atop the other fans. This allowed Brandon to spot me and he worked to make his way back to the front. The band came back for their encore, playing “Return to Energiser” from their first album, and one of my favorites from their new one, “Ssssnakepit.” Reunited, I screamed every lyric into Brandon’s face.
The show let out, and we were going to the coat check to grab our things. Dripping in sweat when we got to the bottom of the stairs, the line was out the door, to which we said “fuck that” and went to the nearest Duane Reade for refreshments. It’s a funny thing about being completely soaked from sweating and cold weather outside. They don’t really mix. At all. We began our trek back to the venue only to find it closed. Like front door gated, bands in the lobby loading their things closed.
Brandon: “So, my keys are in my jacket.”
Me: “So, I’m really fucking cold.”
After about ten minutes of shivering, a gentleman directed us to the side door so that we could get in to reclaim our things. Thank goodness for that, because I’m pretty sure I would have died.
Hunger setting in, Brandon and I made the five block walk to where he works at the Momofuku Noodle Bar. Looking properly disheveled and exhausted, we sat down at the bar in front of the open kitchen. We had the Pork Buns (Sorry, Halley!), which are the item that made this restaurant famous. Brandon settled on Chicken Wings, while I opted for the Pork Ramen. We also had another appetizer of Roasted Rice Cakes, which were absolutely phenomenal. Which was spicy in all of the right ways, bits of whole pepper and crispy duck skin delicately planted throughout the dish.
The two of us reminisced on how varying, yet overall incredible forays into different restaurants throughout different areas of the city had left us for the most part –outside of a horrendous display by some hipsters in Brooklyn- satisfied. The train ride home was quiet and sleepy. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve actually deemed a picture too embarrassing to share, I’d post the picture of Brandon passed out on the shoulder of an incredibly intimidating black woman, who had happened to also enjoy her subway slumber. We made our way through the sullen streets of Prospect Park, back to his place, where I claimed my rightful place; sprawled across the couch with a cool pillow over my face as I slowly nodded off.
-Sidebar. FUCK YOU, CODY! There is absolutely no excuse for how awful your service was. I know it’s the cool hipster thing to do to act like you don’t care, and probably fortunately for you, mommy and daddy are still paying your bills and for your probable bullshit attempt at being an actor or whatever an asshole like you thinks that you have some semblance of talent in, but that isn’t cool. Especially at a table of people who work in the industry, and are honestly as laid back as it comes when it gets down to service, you dropped the ball in an astounding way. That’s why for the first time in any of our lives, we did not tip a server. It was that bad. In addition to this all, the clever bastard that he was, added a 23% tip for himself after the fact, which Halley caught, and rightfully disputed. People like this absolutely make me sick. –