Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Spectacular song, spectacular video. Beirut. Check em out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SavedScribbles has a new baby brother...

His name is Teacherontwowheels. I'm still going to post to SavedScribbles, but lots of my energy lately has been devoted to the other site.

Check it out, bookmark it, tell your grandmother:



Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Baby!!!

Here she is folks! This is the bike set-up I'm going to use for my ride. The bike is a Novara Safari. I bought the bike used for $425 at an REI garage sale. She's outfitted with Avid BB7 disc brakes and Sun Rhyno Lite 26 inch rims. I'll be swapping out the seat and changing the tires before I leave, but the rest of the bike will remain as you see her here. The trailer is a BOB Yak and has a 70 lb. weight capacity. I'm hoping to fit 99% of my gear in the yellow bag pictured. The trailer attached to the rear axle of the bike (not hooked up in the picture to the left.)

First two pictures--click to enlarge.

Portland Wedding

left: View that the audience had at the ceremony. Couple is in the lower right. (Click to enlarge)

My friends Gregg and Amy got married in Hood River on August 11th. It was, hands down, the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to. When they said their vows, Mt. Hood loomed off in the distance directly behind them. The food was spectacular and was all locally grown. Thanks for a great time Gregg and Amy!! Best of luck in the future!!

left: Not from the wedding, but the sunset as seen from Gregg and Amy's porch one night.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Portland and Hostel Company

left: Pics in this entry were taken in downtown Portland and the Hawthorne area.

I flew out to Portland two weeks ago for my friend Gregg's wedding. I had never visited Portland before, so I tried to skate/bike around as much of the city as possible to get a feel for it.

If Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Noam Chomsky, and a bum ever got together, pooled their assets, and designed a city, they'd come up with something like Portland. It's progressive, it's bike-friendly, it's peppered with dozens of brew-pubs filled to their rafters with fabulous beer, it's home to hordes of bums who love its year-round temperate climate, and it's a sanctuary for roaming packs of bespectacled intellectuals who hold the latest literary releases in their clutches just as soldiers hold their shields. If you're interested in being interested, a lover of beer and beer-related things, and into being active, Portland is your Mecca.

I checked into a hostel on Hawthorne Street, a place made famous by its single-story storefront buildings that sell everything from veggie burritos to leather bondage suits. Looking for pedestrians without tattoos on Hawthorne is like trying to catch a glimpse of a spotted owl in Manhattan. Cafes and brew-pubs with outdoor seating spill their guts onto the sidewalks and snag unsuspecting passerbys with menu hooks. The street is the main artery of a funky residential area populated with people who paint their houses bright greens and purples and grow corn in their front yards. Surburbia beware: Hawthorne will eat you.

The hostel I stayed at on Hawthorne had a style of its own that both welcomed guests of all walks of life while also preserving the funky vibe of its host street. Out back, where I stayed, sits a quaint "tent yard", an area filled with hostel-owned tents that guests can rent for about $15 a night. The communal kitchen is connected to a communal dining room where guests can sit on long wooden benches around a single table to eat and shoot the shit. An "eco-roof" made of live mosses and grasses covers the first story of the hostel and makes everyone under it feel like some sort of garden gnome. The place is cool and it attracts just the type of folks you'd expect to be interested in tent yards, communal eating, and eco-building: travelers.

Melvin and Bean (names changed to protect the funny) were sitting on plastic chairs on the hostel porch and staring bleary-eyed out into the street when I sat next to them with my breakfast. Like drunken lizards, they lounged in the sun on plastic lawn chairs and tried to rub their eyes clean of the bloodshot capillaries that made them look hungover. Their efforts were futile. They both wore faded thrift shop T-shirts that advertised someone else's corporate picnic, someone else's local basketball championship team. They looked as if they were skinny not by choice but by circumstance and wore their patchy facial hair with pubescent awkwardness. After a few moments, Bean spoke up.

"Hey, can't beat this weather, huh?" He pointed up at a spot in the sky as if all the day's weather was seeping from a hole above us.

"Yeah, it's as good as it gets. The past few days have been great," I said.

"I'm from Alaska and I'm just happy to be in a place where the sun sets when she's supposed ta' and the sky gets black when she's supposed ta'! You know what I mean? Where you from?"

And so it went. We introduced ourselves, talked about Greyhound buses and what it's like to sit next to someone with "40 lb. arms" when they get sleepy, and we eventually decided to meet at a bar across the street later that afternoon for happy hour. "They got $1.50 Buds and the place has bar stools shaped like thrones--we figure it can't be that bad!" Melvin explained. We shook hands and parted ways for the day.

left: Hawthorne Street

At 4:30 p.m., I pushed open a heavy, vinyl-covered door and stepped into a dank, bare-bones bar that draws in some of Hawthorne's weirder, more pot-bellied visitors. Sure enough, the bar stools were teal, throne-like seats complete with pillows and arm rests. Every "stool" was filled with a red-faced guy with dirt under his fingertips. A tired bartender with saggy breasts in a tank top watched the football game on the overhead TV. Dusty neon beer signs lined the walls; some were lit up, some were not. Circular pool hall lights hung like discarded halos in the smokey air and lit up the faces of clusters of seated men below. The few female customers that were scattered amongst the groups of men had hearty laughs, smoked, and wore too much make-up. I spotted my two new friends and made my way over to their table.

"Jesus, you guys sure picked a dive!" I whispered. "I like it, but christ, we're the only ones in here who aren't drunks, over 50, and/or divorced."

Bean smiled and looked over at Melvin. "You might want to speak for yourself on that one, buddy!" He elbowed Melvin.

"What--you're drunks? Well, you know what I mean, I---"

"Not drunks. The whole divorced thing, ask Melvin about it, right Mel?" Bean laughed and blew a cloud of cigarette smoke up into the skirt of the light above us.

"You guys are only 21. Mel, you've been married and divorced already? Are you serious?"

"Well, not really. Well, kinda. You see this?" Melvin held out his right hand so I could see the thin, black band of ink tattooed around his ring finger, a tattoo I hadn't noticed until that moment.


"Well, this is the result of a drunken night in Vegas. I went there six months ago for my 21st birthday party. To make a long story short, I met a chick, a friend of a friend, and we got wasted and decided to get married at three in the morning. We went to a chapel, paid our $45, got married, and headed straight for a tattoo shop to get these. I wasn't even attracted to the girl, I just figured it would be a fun thing to do."

"No way. Did you regret the tattoo thing the next day?"

"Oh yeah, I regretted all of it the next day. But, listen to this," Mel leaned in close. "So, I waited to get the divorce started because I had to save up the $200 I needed to get all the paperwork done. A month ago, as I start getting all the divorce stuff in order, I get a call from this chick's mom. Don't ask me how she found my number; I guess she looked me up on the internet or something. She says that her daughter has gone missing and that she's filed a police report. She wants to know if I've seen her, if I've seen my 'wife'. When she said the word 'wife', I got scared."

"Holy shit."

"Yeah, all the sudden it hit me: My wife has disappeared and I could easily be a suspect. Honestly, I don't want to date any girls or even hook-up with any girls until they find this chick. Some eager rookie cop somewhere would love to close a case like this by spinning some young-love-triangle-gone-wrong story."

"Holy shit, man. What are you going to do?"

"Keep prayin' she turns up somewhere. Alive."

Bean started laughing and put his hands together, closed his eyes, and started praying to the dusty light above us. After he ended his prayer, he picked up his glass, and with a smile on his face stretched taut from ear to ear, he declared, "Cheers to Melvin's missing wife! May she be found alive! May he never be contacted about her whereabouts again!!"

The pitchers of beer flowed the way they always do when served up with good conversation: fast and cold. The guys smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and shared each and every one they lit up. "We only smoke when we travel together, and even then, we smoke maybe 10 a day." Bean explained as he exhaled and passed a roach-sized butt to Mel.

Mel corrected him. "No, not even 10 most days. And, actually we each only smoke four or five at the most because we share each cigarette." Mel's cigarette went out and when he noticed the cherry had lost its glow, Bean reached up and relit it for him.

They had a friendship that could deflect the fallout of even the strongest of arguments. They quipped like everything they said had been rehearsed ahead of time. Had they been a gay couple, they would have stayed happy and grown old together and made other couples, straight or gay, jealous.

We got drunk, closed our tab, and wobbled back across the street to the hostel.

"Later tonight, after I take a serious nap, we should go see a band at a bar somewhere," Bean suggested.

"Yeah, I'm up for it. A nap sounds good. Wake me up," I said.


They climbed into their narrow two-person tent that was pitched next to mine, and within moments, snoring filled the tent yard.

Later that night, we took the bus into downtown Portland to see a band we read about in the local paper. After the show, after learning we had missed the last bus back to Hawthorne, we started walking a few miles uphill to the hostel. As we walked, as two guys I just met earlier in the day cracked jokes and talked about their plans for the coming year, I couldn't help but smile. I thought about how many other nights like this might be in my future, how many other people I'd meet before I died. How learning the stories that illuminated other peoples' lives helped illuminate mine. How stories were these recycled bundles of energy that people drew from and passed on so other people could absorb them.

I said goodnight to Mel and Bean and laid down in my tent. With my face flushed from the middle-of-the-night uphill walk and the beer I drank, I stared up through the screen window in my tent at a cloud of insects circling the street light above. Moths and beetles and flies of all sorts cut through the chill of the night without a peep and waved me into a deep, dreamless sleep that seemed to end just moments after it started. I opened my eyes to bright sunshine.

Good-Bye Japan

It's a little late, but here are some pics from good-bye parties I had before I left Japan.

I tutored these 4 guys while out in Japan. All in their 30's, all hoping to visit America and use their hard-earned English skills.

left: All my co-workers from the high school.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Home. Busy.

I've been really busy the last few weeks--too busy to think about adding posts to the ol' blog. Here's what's been up:
My parents came out to Japan for 2 weeks in mid-July. We hit up Kyoto, Obuse, Karuizawa, Tokyo (they went there on their own), and my adopted hometown of Ueda. I think they dug Japan: my dad loves ramen more than he loves me, my mom spent over $100 on cell phone charms throughout the trip, and both folks think Japanese people are "cute".
It was awesome having them out here so they could finally see the country/school/friends that have cradled me for the past two years.

After the folks left, I spent three stressful days cleaning up my apartment and packing my bags. Do you know what it's like trying to clean out an apartment and throw things away in a country that expects you to remove labels and bottle caps from plastic bottles before you throw them away? I do, and let me tell you something: you NEVER want to leave an apartment in Japan...ever. It's horrible and requires impressive amounts of ingenuity when dealing with garbage disposal.

My friend Rich called me a few days before my flight and asked me to take his little dog Brooklyn back to Jersey for him because his airline sucks and wouldn't let him take it. I agreed. It took me 24 hours of traveling and about 3 quarts of sweat, but somehow I made it back to Jersey with a dog carrier, a 50 pound snowboard bag, a 50 pound suitcase, and a big backpack.

Since being back in Jersey, I've done the following stuff:
(Disclaimer: Some of what you'll see below are notes to myself to help me keep track of what I still must do to prepare for the bike trip. If you hate notes or hate lists, turn away now.)

1. Purchased 80% of the camping gear I'll need for the trip. This has been going on over the past few months, but I've picked up a bunch of stuff since coming home.

2. Purchased a bike. I ended up buying a Novara Safari and I'm having a bike mechanic outfit it with 36 spoke Sun rims and disc brakes.

3. Sorted out my banking bidness and found an on-line savings/checking account that will pay me 4.5% interest on my savings while I'm away. ING Direct--check it out, it seems pretty awesome.

4. Visited friends and family in north and south Jersey.

5. Mailed off my passport to get 48 extra pages added.

6. Made an appointment to get vaccinations for the trip.

7. Ordered tires from Schwalbe, the tire company that's sponsoring me for the trip.

8. Unpacked and re-organized all of my shit at my parents house. It's really not that much, but it took me a good two hours to unpack the five or six boxes I have stored in my parent's basement so I could squeeze in some Japan things.

9. Consumed vast amounts of spectacular food and dark beer. This has taken a while to do and I'm still not finished with it.
10. Sorted out my travel insurance for while I'm away on the trip.

Stuff I still need to do in the next two months:

1. Meet the Delaying the Real World crew to talk about my blog writing obligations while away and pick up my check. Wooohooo!

2. Ride the bike allllllllllll over the damn place to brake in the saddle and work out any kinks in the bike set-up.

3. Take the bike maintenance class at REI in September.

4. Visit the schools in Jersey I'll be working with while on the trip. I still need to meet classes, brainstorm with teachers on possible project ideas, and create a Powerpoint presentation to accompany my speech (to be used when speaking to both American and non-American students.)

5. Get maps. Outline route to at least the U.S. border.

6. Buy the rest of the stuff I need for the trip.

7. Talk to Landon about camera/film stuff.

8. Talk to Bill about website stuff. Set-up website.

9. Read more. Write more.

10. Ride more.

11. Keep convincing myself that this is in fact a good idea and something worth spending my life savings on.

OK, so that's it. I've been busy. I'll be busy for the next two months. I'm going to try to keep posting on here regularly, but keep your eyes peeled for news of the start of a new website/blog that I will use to document the trip.

If I haven't seen you in a while and you think I might not have your contact info, send it to me.

peace through cheese,

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sending Kids to War

I just talked to a co-worker of mine about the current teacher's union in Japan.

After World War II, the country was so traumatized by the poverty and despair that had gripped the nation that the forced propagandizing of students by teachers, one of the main catalysts that brought about violent Japanese nationalism, was banned. The current motto of the teacher's union today translates to, "Never again will we teach our children to go off to war."

Has America not lost enough of its citizens yet to assume this mentality? Granted, we don't promote the same type of nationalism in schools, but why haven't our politicians stepped up and started preaching this message? What is the death/pain threshold that must be crossed before a country changes its course of action in regards to its foreign policy?

If, as history suggests, a country's future survival is partly related to its ability to reflect on its behavior, its ability to change when its current methods of operation fail, America is facing a dismal future.

Fresh to Death

left: Street art, Kyoto

Sorry, I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy.

Today I had my kiddies write on the following prompt:

Imagine you are writing a letter that will be sent into outer space. Your letter must introduce Earth to aliens (aliens speak English, of course). What will you say?

As we walked to class, I asked my Japanese co-worker how to say "creative writing" in Japanese. She said, "Uhhhh, I don't know. I don't think there is a word for that."

After I explained to the class what creative writing is, I took a survey. I said, "Raise your hand if you have ever done any creative writing for school before."

Not a single hand went up. 30 kids. No hands.

Until we ask them to write to aliens, to dream about frog conversations ribbited during downpours, to flesh out the words creaked and ground out during the marital break-up of an iceberg and an ice sheet, to write conversations they'll have with their future selves, and to flirt with Shakespeare in a love note that will never be read by the master himself, we can't expect them to do anything other than what's already been done. We can't expect them to be fresh, to cut a path from the towering elephant grass. We can't hope as much.

left: Kids and Wonder in Kyoto

Making your kids fresh to death. That should be the motto of every school.

I'd love to slaughter the motherfucker who invented standardized testing. Those tests have soiled the soil. Our plants are reaching not toward the sun and sky, but toward the nearest bank, safe job, or car dealership. We've managed to fuck up education to a point in which kids worry about points and acceptance instead of their true intellectual worth. Passing smoothly, ripple-free, through the educational seas as a fool is valued over making waves and nearly drowning as a creative individual.

I think I know why creativity is down-played in schools here and everywhere else:

If you're creative, you're harder to grade.

If you're creative, you're more likely to ask "Why" questions, as creativity is intrinsically linked to curiosity.

If you're a creative kid, you don't buy as much shit as an adult, and you don't buy the Buy-shit-or-else life cycle pitch made by societies far and wide. It's all too silly and simple if you're creative because buying lots of useless shit requires a deficiency in critical thinking, that stubborn type of questioning stabilized by the buttresses of creative problem solving, curious doubting.

Creative people are dangerous in their ability to find boredom and blahhhness in the things non-creative people love and find interesting.

Creative people smell bullshit the second it leaves the asshole of government.

Creative people are the cowlicks of society that refuse to be greased down by the hand of banality.

If we ain't fresh to death, we ain't.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Random Pics

left: Me with the two kids I tutor at my b-day dinner.

left: Hakuba area, 1.5 hours away from my apt.

left: Hakuba

left: Sunset in Himi (click to enlarge)

left: Start of sunset

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Let's Enjoy Hiking Time!

left: Me at the top of Unomaru, about 2,000 meters. Thanks Patti! Click to make BIG!

I went on two awesome hikes this weekend as the weather was absolutely perfect. On Saturday, I went up to Unomaru with Mike, Patti, and Kaden. On Sunday, I hiked up the mountain that is a hop, skip, and a jump from my apartment, Taroyama. Here are some pics (if you want to see more pictures and in larger sizes, go here.)

left: These three kids played video games on the summit of Unomaru. Look at the view they're neglecting!!

left: Japanese hiking fashion for older people. Same hats, same gloves, same packs, same pants, same everything.

left: View looking west toward the Japanese Alps.

left: Mike, Patti, and the little man

left: Start of the trail up Taroyama

left: Japanese Alps off in the distance

left: Ueda, where I live

left: Some fool

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm Officially Delaying the Real World

After a few stressful days of answering questions via email about my bicycle trip and one 30-minute phone interview, I just found out that I won the 2007 Delaying the Real World Fellowship. The award pays $3,500 and is provided by Perseus Books, a publishing group that publishes a book called Delaying the Real World. The book is a manual for 20-somethings that describes how to delay (or completely avoid) getting some mundane cubicle job by following their passions.

! I'm stoked!

Make Your Own Media

left: Saddam post-hanging

Whether you realize it or not, everything you see on TV and read about in national newspapers concerning Iraq and Afghanistan is strictly filtered by governments and media executives. The bleached images we see, images devoid of bloody details, don't accurately represent the horrific realities of war. The articles we read from journalists embedded with troops are censored and sterilized before they are authorized for print.

This website hopes to fill in some of the gaps. Soldiers post videos of what they see on the ground. Insurgents post videos of tanks and vehicles being attacked with IEDs and rockets. Check it out now while you still can--it will only be a matter of time before soldiers and insurgents alike will be prohibited from posting graphic video like this onto the Internet.

Monday, June 04, 2007

4 Hour Workweek?

Rolf Potts recently interviewed author Tim Ferriss about his new book, The 4-Hour Workweek. In the book, Ferriss gives case studies of people he's met throughout his travels who have managed to break away from the standard 35 or 40-hour work week. He explains that some of the wealthiest people monetarily are some of the most time poor people on the planet. By controlling how you use your time and how mobile you are, you can do anything you set out to do. Check out the interview here.