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Midnight Express, Part 2 (Istanbul, 2012)

One night in Istanbul, Doug and I joined our friend Tarik Bilal and his buddies at a bar in Beyoglu. Bilal is a prototypical hip Istanbul sociaite. He knew all the ins and outs of the nightlife and took us along. The bar was really divey and reminded me of San Francisco.

Doug started feeling sick and left, while I messed around in the bar with my shitty English. I talked to Doug later that night and found out: 

He asked some guy if he had weed. The guy invited him into the bathroom to smoke some hashish. The hashish extremely harsh and nasty, and Doug was scared he had to give up some sex “in exchange” for the hashish. (This may or may not have been Doug’s first gay experience. We’ll never know). I was extremely, extremely jealous of Doug for having found the elusive marihuana in Istanbul (despite Bilal’s protesting that it’s really easy to find, that was definitely not our experience). He kept saying it sucked, that the hashish sucked.

After I left Istanbul, Doug stayed for another few weeks. Apparently our other friend Kacper was good friends with a grower, so he was all set.

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Midnight Express, Pt. 1 (Istanbul, 2012)

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If there’s one movie I’m glad I didn’t see before going to Istanbul it’s Midnight Express. “The true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.”

Doug and I went from smelling Cali Tree on every block in San Francisco to the Morrowind-esque foreign trade city of Istanbul. We missed our cali tree, so in usual space cadet fashion, we tried to get our hands on some. After spending the day exploring Old Istanbul, we were wandering around near the golden horn when a man approached us. “HASHEESH?” he grunted at us. Doug and I shared a glance and were like “yeah…”. We gestured and used our rudimentary Turkish. The man looked disgruntled and asked us to follow him.

We followed, he walked away from the main street. Told us he could get us some weed for 100 Lira, and kept raising the price. Then he told us we’d have to get into the car to go with him somewhere to get the weed from his friend. We kept getting further and further away from the main street. Ok, fuck that. Shit was getting really weird, and I hadn’t even seen Midnight Express! We turned around and started walking back.

The Man followed us and shouted at us: “WHERE IS MY WORK MONEY? WHY U FUCK ME?” I just kept power walking, and we went into some 5 star hotel to ask them for directions and escape from this crazed fool. The hoteliers could tell we was scurred, and they helped us out. Finally, we got back to the tram and booked the fuck out of there.

In conclusion: watch the fuck out when buying marijuana in Istanbul, or you’ll end up in a Turkish prison, and that does not sound fun. However, our journey to find the elusive marihuana in Istanbul does not end here…

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French Night (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2013)

As our stay in the magical land of Bariloche drew to a close (AKA the night before the trio was supposed to head back to Buenos Aires), Doug let on that he was done with city sights; he wanted to bus into Chile and explore more natural wonders while Girish and I spent another week in the Argentine capital. Lucky for us, while Girish and I took the 22-hour ride back to  Buenos Aires, another partner in crime was en route from New York City… my college roommate, John.

As soon as the dude arrived, Girish and I realized that we needed to pick up our drinking game. Up until now, we had been content to share a bottle of wine or three at dinner. John’s arrival meant finding amazing liquor deals at the grocery one block from our Centro apartment. Seriously, I mean like a handle of vodka for tree fiddy. A 40 of beer for a dollar. I had a strange time talking to the owner (having grown up in the US, I blame part of my struggles on cognitive dissonance from conversing with a Chinese man in fast Argentine Spanish – of course, Chinese people are far more common than South Asians in the country, so I don’t know what he thought of our group… probably assumed we were Israeli), but I finally understood that the recycling discount for returning used beer bottles was 50% of the retail price! Our minds melted when we realized that four dollars would eventually buy us seven 40s of beer.

John and Girish set to work sifting through nightlife options (after all, this was Buenos Aires). When John discovered French Night at La Cigale, the premier hotspot on Tuesday Nights, we were down. After dinner, we started taking shots and whatnot at our apartment. The volume of John’s shots actually doubled with each round. I had learned not to imitate this behavior after a few disastrous nights in college, but Girish was game and didn’t suffer too much, come to think of it. Soon we were rip-roaring drunk and having trouble locating La Cigale.

We finally found French Night, and it was… practically empty. Three floors of thinly populated, extremely loud club. John and I ordered beers. John asked the waitress where the hotspots were, and she desperately replied, “Here! Usually here!” Girish then got up and had a blackout conversation with some guy in a dark corner… we have no idea what they talked about since Girish, after returning to our table, couldn’t remember a thing, except for the phrase, “Somos la gente.” Girish then bought a bottle of water, downed it, and repeated and repeated… in total, five bottles of water, back to back at the bar. Meanwhile, I had begun to talk to some chicas. I suppose I was sporting some hardcore goggles,for when Girish finished his camel-at-the-oasis impression, he arrived at my side and told me these girls looked like birds of prey. I did a double-take and determined that they were indeed some of the least attractive women we’d seen in the capital.

Too slizzered to be dejected by French Night’s letdown, we caught a cab back to the apartment. The cabbie left us a block away due to the configuration of one-way streets, and as soon as the vehicle departed, Girish pulled out his wang and started peeing RIGHT in the middle of the street. At this moment, both John and I got a call from our own bladders. John started peeing on a dumpster, and I found a wall. Except for us, the streets were deserted, and glancing around with our pants down, we shared a moment.

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Pedro y Ana (Lima, Peru, 2013)

This one’s serious.

It was our last night together in Lima and our last night traveling together outside of the US. Kenny and I finished up a food binge and were walking through one of the parks in Miraflores (perhaps with the ulterior motive of finding marijuana) when we saw and heard a man and a woman on a bench beckoning to us. We walked over, and both of them excitedly asked us if we were “Hindi.” (After being mistaken for Israelis all over Argentina, this was welcome). They told us they loved music, and that they loved Indian music.

Pedro and Ana introduced themselves. Pedro — about 5’8″, paunch belly, wearing capri-like pants. Ana — a little shorter, jeans, t-shirt. Both had weathered faces and laughed a lot. They invited us for a drink at a nearby bar.

We were hesitant, pussy travelers, but we went along. I stumbled with my Spanglish when we came to a little hole in the wall bar (I don’t know if it’s even fair to call it a bar). Pedro was friends with the owner/family — a small, squat woman who brought us 40s. We sat on the second floor and some salsa videos were playing on the TV. We giggled and talked and laughed, drank many beers. They told us about Peru, about Peruvian women, about having fun, drugs, life, music, faith.

We noticed the way Pedro and Ana talked. A little jittery. A little crazy. We noticed them sneaking off to the bathroom one at a time, and coming back with renewed energy and optimism. They seemed sad but hid it beneath this veneer of gaiety. Ana brought out a joint for us. “For the cute Indian travelers!” she said. It was shitty, welcome weed. Ana kept telling us to be happy, to pick up some Peruvian girls. We all were getting progressively more drunk.

Ana told us that Pedro was doing cocaine in the bathroom. That he did a lot of cocaine. Pedro told us he was a professional musician. He gave us his CD. Ana taught us to salsa dance — we were awkward ostriches, they made fun of us.

Ana broke down crying, and pressed into our hands some twined necklaces and beads. “Charms from the sun,” she said. She said she didn’t have long to live, that she was suffering. Pedro was talking, and talking, and laughing, and disappearing to the bathroom.

I paid for all of our beers. We walked down the street while Kenny comforted Ana. I was really drunk, and I didn’t know how to feel. I kept it inside. They found us a cab back to Guadalupe’s hostel (Kenny had a flight to catch in a few hours). I still don’t know how to feel.

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The Sensory Deprivation Experiment (New York and San Francisco, 2013)

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I don’t have many words to describe these experiences other than that I would highly recommend it and that it basically feels like laundry for your brain. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

I attended Blue Light Floatation in New York a few months back and it was awesome. Sam is a great guy and guides you through the process. It was expensive but worth it. I was pretty shaken up after and just took a long walk in NYC.

In SF, I got a Groupon for Zazen. Smaller tanks and a bigger scale process than Blue Light and good vibes.

People have asked me about going whilst high on weed or something. I personally wouldn’t recommend it, but some people might have a better experience that way. If you tend to get paranoid or flip out on weed, don’t do it.

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Fifty Shades of America (Santiago, Chile, 2013)

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Typical morning in Santiago: Kenny and I were really late to a guided walking tour of the city. Luckily, we had the map of the sights with us, so we planned to just surprise the guide on the route.

We arrived a big square in the center of Santiago and promptly got lost. There was a lady standing at the corner offering free eyeglass cleanings. I got my sunglasses cleaned by her, and stammered to her in broken Spanish asking for directions. 

She asked me if I was from America — I’m like yeah. The next words out of her mouth were “Ahh… cincuenta tonos de gris?” I’m like I have no idea what that means. Kenny comes over and translates for me. “Dude… she’s asking if you’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey”

LOL

That’s how Chileans know America. Through a BDSM sex novel. Whenever I’m down, the world never ceases to make me laugh with its sense of humor.

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The Mystery of Chilean Legs (Santiago, Chile, 2013)

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(Photo stolen from the Internets)

Chile and Argentina sit on two sides of a dichotomy in many ways. Argentina has a reputation for beautiful women, good airs, and a shit economy. Since we decided to fly to Santiago after bussing around Argentina for a month, our Argi friends sat us down (cue sense of foreboding) and warned us about the, um, “ugliness” of the women in Chile. We had to see for ourselves…

OK, so there was some truth to what our Argi friends claimed, but the most interesting thing was the Chilean no tapered legs. Seriously, their legs don’t taper down into their shoes. Yeah, it’s weird, and no, I’m not making this up. I really wish we had some photo evidence but that pic above was the closest I could find.

The weirdness of Chilean legs is just not talked about. But the mystery pervades every aspect of Chilean culture. They even have cafes con piernas, which are coffee shops where the main draw is just that the waitresses don’t wear pants (they show off their legs). They sell (non tapered leg) sex appeal. 

ImageBut the legs don’t taper.