Last night, Friday, the start of the weekend, I decided to take a stroll around Shoreditch, which is the London neighborhood I’m residing in while I’m here performing. The area’s style is akin to Lower Eastside in NYC, Wicker Park in Chicago, Kreuzberg in Berlin or Södermalm in Stockholm. Part artsy, part hipster, with buildings plastered in graffiti. White people graffiti though, where it’s considered art, not colored people graffiti where it’s considered gangsta. Everything around here has a bit of an edge to it, and it captures the type of places and people I’m drawn to.
I don’t have many friends in London. I have more than most out of towners would, but not enough who I’ve made close personal relationships with. Since I’m only in London for a limited time I want to go do something whenever I’m free, but I find myself not having many friends here that would be down if I called. I guess since I travel a lot by myself it’s no different than most of the other cities I’ve visited. I’m used to it.
9 days. 9 damn days to get it fully out of your system. We don’t treat it like a drug, but when you are ready to leave caffeine at the barista counter, you realize how addicted you are to the physiological effects it produces inside your body. Coffee is a drug all right, and we’re it’s junkies.
Our dependency has made the coffee shop a $30 billion industry in the U.S., as Americans guzzle down an astonishing 7.5 pounds of that exotic yum yum into our tum tums. Our growing needs have made Starbucks and friends almost twice as much moola in 2014 as they garnered in 2004. I’m not even counting the caffeine industry as a whole. Add energy drink consumption and you have another $12 billion dollars spent by MMO nerds, EDM goers and suburban white boys who jump off of cliffs and call it Extreme “Sports”, chugging down their adrenaline boosting 5 Hour Red Bull Monster Rockstars. I should really learn how to invest in products before they explode in the marketplace.
My old roommate who has been residing in New York City for almost 15 years asked me, “So now that you’ve been living here for a while, how are you liking it?”
My face turned bitter as I looked at him and said, “UGH! Everyone has this shitty look on their face, like they are pissed off. They don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. They don’t walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Americans have a damn standard, walk on the fucking right! You’d think in a city of 8 million people with little space that everyone would follow it and make it easier to transit from point A to point B. Nope, no one gives a fuck! Even at 3 am, when there is barely anyone out, I’ll be walking on the right of a very large sidewalk and someone going in the opposite direction will find a way to walk on the same path as me, expecting me to move out of their way. There’s also the rats and garbage and how it smells dirty in the summer. The outrageous amounts of money I have to pay to live here…and ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
April 2011. After getting my order of a medium peppermint mocha at Starbucks, I found an empty table and setup my laptop and mouse in order to do some coding while I waited for my business partner to meet me up for some face to face and go through our weekly and monthly overview. It was a typical weekday for me: work on our company’s web application, reply to some e-mails and answer a few customer service calls. The only difference on that day was how stressed I was, but I wasn’t aware of it yet.
The entire month of March I rented a private AirBnB room in New York City. I lived and worked there as an exploratory measure to determine whether I eventually wanted to move to NYC to pursue stand up comedy. Known as the toughest city in the world in which to compete, I had to be sure that I wanted to battle in the madness while having to pay the highest cost of living in the states. It was an opportunity not afforded to most people, let alone my peers. Being able to telecommute for my job, which paid the bills, but still be able to chase my passion, which paid zilch.
Don’t say “I’m so sorry that you have to go through this!” to me after reading this. It’s not your fault. It’s actually not my fault either.
You don’t realize your mortality till you are hit with sickness. All my life (I’m 32 now) my body has been tougher than a F150. I rarely ever got sick, and if I did end up in the hospital it was due to a sport related injury, like a dislocated finger or a minor fracture in my foot. Compared to my observations of other people and their illnesses, I felt immortal.
In the last few years, I started getting sick for numerous different reasons, of which the causes I did not know. I collapsed a couple of times, out of nowhere, and needed to be rushed to emergency care. After a few episodes, I tried changing up my lifestyle a bit, but my habits continued to be cyclical. What do you change about your lifestyle, when you don’t know what is wrong with you?
It got worse. I have been having digestive issues (it’s going to get graphic throughout the article) and this continued for almost a year and a half. In mid 2013 while visiting my sweet home Chicago, after living in NYC for several months, I was finally able to meet my General Practitioner (GP) and he stated that the issue might be lactose intolerance. I immediately started cutting out all dairy. I started feeling better.
We left Barcelona (read all about it), arrived in Marrakech and headed to the immigration line to obtain our visas. When we reached the front, the next available officer made a gesture with his hand asking us to step to his booth. Both of us approached, and then he motioned to my girlfriend to step back so he could chat with me.
He requests my passport and entry card, and starts looking through the paperwork. He looks up and asks, “Where your grandfather is from?” I take a moment to think, “Pakistan.” Right after I said that I realized that my grandparents were probably from India, because that’s where my parents were born, even though my parents eventually moved to Pakistan and conceived my brother and I. Plus, when my grandparents were young, Pakistan and India were both one country. I never knew any of my grandparents, so answering a question about them wasn’t something that I was quick with. It didn’t matter anyway, it’s not like he could check.
He then stares at my passport picture, glances up at me, then back at the picture and up again. “You look mad in your picture, but in person you are smiling.” I chuckled and responded, “You’re not allowed to smile for your US passport photo.“
Then out of left field, he says, “You're Muslim?" "Yeah I am". Now, I was raised Muslim, but technically I’m an Atheist, but I wasn’t going to say that to him. How would that look, “Nah man, I’m an Atheist. Fuck God!” I wasn’t going to just say that to the immigration officer, in a Muslim country. I’ve read what they do to Atheists.
I saw at least 6 pairs of boobs in one day at Barceloneta beach. I didn’t exactly go scouring for them with a set of binoculars, they were just out, getting a tan. In Spain, the culture is a bit more lax than what you may be used to in the states. If you’re at the beach, chances are you’re going to see a few topless women. Don’t just start staring though, that’s rude, asshole!
People seem much more open minded and the pace of life is slow, making someone like me, who lives in New York City, very antsy due to the lack of speed. Once you synchronize yourself though, with the sun shining every day, your mood quickly turns to bliss.
Every time I told someone I was going to Barcelona, they responded with “You’re going to love it! Barcelona is awesome!” People talk about how fantastic certain cities are, but the enthusiasm surrounding Barcelona was much louder than usual. I was hoping it didn’t create high expectations that Barcelona couldn’t live up to.
When we landed we turned off our cellphones, so we had to find out how to get to our destination the old school way, by finding a map and talking to people in information services. Originally, we were thinking of taking public transportation, but since we had our bags and didn’t want to end up getting lost, we figured we’d take a cab. It cost us around €35 ($45) to take a cab to the Barceloneta neighborhood, which is right off of the city center. For reference, you can take an airport bus straight to the middle of the city, near Plaça de Catalunya, and then take a train or a bus to any part of Barcelona for about €7 total per person. That’s the method of transportation we used when going back to the airport at the end of our trip.
Location: New York, NY
I've biked, rollerbladed and even went ice skating once, but have never tried skateboarding. My eXperiment for June took me on a journey to understand skate culture, learn about skateboards, purchase one and take a class to learn how to ride. Besides the ride itself, there was a bit of a surprise when I took the class as you'll see in the video.
Location: Chicago, IL
This is what you end up doing when you want to be silly by parodying a national trend known as the #IceBucketChallenge. Though, it's not a bad idea to donate to colon cancer research too!
Location: London, England. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Berlin, Germany.
My first time doing a EuroTrip through London, Amsterdam and Berlin for the first month of the eXperiment. My feedback for all my travels, including Piccadilly Circus in London, to cycling in Amsterdam and the East Side Gallery in Berlin.